The day I married began a greater unveiling of something I saw but didn’t understand. There were trips to the E.R., medications, doctor’s visits, therapy, the fear of unemployment… and shame.
If I didn’t understand, how could others? What would they think of me? What of my new husband? At twenty-three, I had high ideals and thought my happily ever after had begun. Instead, my life was falling apart at the seams. I mostly hid this most personal part of my newly married life. People can be critical, and the wound was raw and very deep.
No more hiding…
The next twenty-two years included highs and lows and the blessing of eight, beautiful children. Church attendance was somewhat regular, but also sporadic, in the season of little children and sickness, pregnancy, new babies, and exhaustion.
Our church encourages small groups for fellowship and community, but small groups, as I knew them, were often not possible. I was consumed with life’s struggles and fighting to survive. Calls to friends were rare because it’s really hard to carry on a conversation with babies screaming.
For four years, I had three children two years old and younger. The isolation and loneliness were very real.
After my life hit a desperate crisis point last year, I knew I had to change. I needed other women. I needed to invite them into my imperfect and messy life, and I needed to quit hiding.
Just come as you are
I couldn’t go it alone anymore, so I took a risk. I asked two women if they wanted to join me twice a month for a small group. These were two women whom God seemed to have put me on their hearts. They had shown care, compassion, and concern for me and were present in my crisis. I asked them if they wanted to meet and come as we are: unwashed hair, messy houses, pajamas. I told them I didn’t want to add one more stressful thing to their lives.
Small groups, for me, had often been exhausting and stress-filled. I didn’t have the life or desire for that anymore. I needed something that allowed me to be real and no longer alone.
I invited the two women to join me twice a month, with kids in tow, to do life together. Once a month, we gather at one of our houses and have a talk aimed at helping us in our lives as godly women. There are ten to eleven children present. And yes, just last week, I may have locked my children outside (with supervision) during the end of our time together.
Once a month, we meet outside with our children. I don’t like being outside, but I can’t deny how good it is for physical and mental health. Meeting at the zoo, once a month keeps me accountable to do something I know I should but don’t really like. Our outside gatherings are just for friendship. No lesson or preparation, just showing up.
Take the risk
I took a risk. It sometimes still feels too vulnerable.
What if they don’t like the real me?
What if I fall short in their eyes?
What if they judge me?
You may have asked yourself questions like this before too.
But I must remind myself (when I get stressed about my house or my hair isn’t clean!) that this is a “come as you are” group. It’s not about impressing or perfection.
Is it possible someone you invite into your life may not accept you or this format? There’s a chance, but I believe if you continue asking, you will find your people.
Love in action
Last month found me out of commission from a substantial shoulder injury. Basic tasks of life were difficult to impossible for me. And yet, my two small group friends came and took care of me and my family.
They put my toddler to bed, cooked dinner so we would have something other than frozen pizza to eat, and even washed my hair! I wanted and almost said, “No!” Vulnerability is not easy for me, but I felt God prompting me to let them help me.
My go-to response is, “I’ll be fine,” but it’s not always true. It was so humbling to have them care for me and yet so beautiful. Isn’t this a picture of the body of Christ?
Jesus didn’t come to help those who thought they had it all together; He came for the sick. (Mark 2:17)
I don’t fit into the typical small group or Bible study, but God helped me craft one that works in this season of my life.
Honestly, in the four-year season with all the babies, I’m not sure I could have even participated in a small group like this. But I wish I had asked a friend to come over to talk and pray with me once a week.
I began to change when I faced the fact that my life was not a fairy tale and became willing to ask others for help.
I had to open up my very imperfect life and home right where it is – not where I hoped or wished or wanted others to think it was. I would encourage you to ask God which two or three ladies you could invite to join you in doing life together. My life is so much better now that I’m no longer hiding and alone!
[verse reference=”Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NASB)”]And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. [/verse]
Sarah Shoe is learning to love Jesus instead of only following a checklist of Christian rules. She married her junior high crush over twenty years ago. Sarah is passionate about mothers and encouraging them in their high and godly calling, which often includes hard days. She daily lives this high calling as a full-time mom to eight children: ½ dozen boys and two girls! You can find her wiping bottoms, placing Wal-Mart pick-up orders, settling arguments, teaching math, always reading, finding bargains, and making so much food. She encourages herself that there will be no laundry in heaven! Sarah would love for you to join her Instagram friends where she shares her life and what God is teaching her.