It is amazing to me that it has already been 5 years since I first felt the sting of loneliness so sharply that I wasn't sure I could ever be happy here. As a new stay-at-home mom living in a community I hadn't really put down any roots in I was so lost. Sometimes, I actually remember that time with a sort of fondness. Don't get me wrong... it was a painful time. Yet I felt such a deep connection with my Lord and Savior and there was also a sense of peace in that solitude. I am sure if my husband reads this he will think I have lost my mind, because I was so often in tears and frustrated... how could that be a time I treasure? But it is.
Like any part of life, my relationships here seem to move in cycles. Sometimes I feel like I have found an amazing community and finally "fit in" here. Then there are times when I still struggle with feeling like an outsider. I can remember a particular point in time when my frustration and longing had given way to anger instead. I would see a photo on Instagram of a group of women with great spiritual relationships and support and it would make me mad. I remember once commenting on a post admitting that I wondered if relationships like that truly exist. It wasn't that I was questioning the honesty or integrity of the person who posted about their awesome girls' retreat (and, for the record, she understood that and encouraged me and prayed for me along the way)... it was just that I had worked so hard to try to build this kind of relationship that I had hit a point where it just didn't seem fair. I started questioning what it was about me that kept me from building these relationships. And I was angry at myself for not being good enough.
I have had these times of frustration and despair, but I have also continued to push forward and keep trying to do things my way. I have yet to let myself sink into the solitude and accept it. Partly because I know that I do indeed have relationships that are treasures to be appreciated. Mostly because it is a scary thought. I worry that I am going to lose ground. That the work I have done will all be lost. As much as I love growing in my relationship with God, no one really jumps in to uncomfortable situations by choice... right?
I feel God tugging at my heart over and over lately. I listen... very hesitantly... but usually by the time my quiet time for the morning is over and the day rushes forward I have lost my focus again. When my word for this year was "fellowship" I thought it meant I would be once again struggling to build relationships and gain ground. Now, however, I find myself wondering if that is true. I am starting to think that instead God intends for me to focus more on fellowship with HIM right now.
I am not talking about becoming a monk (can women be monks?) or running away to be a recluse in the woods (although the thought is occasionally appealing!) but instead I am feeling like maybe I just need to stop trying so hard. That is kind of the story of my faith life. God is often having to remind me to stop trying so hard. Stop trying to earn the gift I have been freely given. Stop trying to be better so He (and everyone else) will love me more. No matter how much things change, this message remains a constant in one form or another. And so here I am again... this time feeling it in how I handle earthly relationships and what that means for my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
I am (still) studying 1 Peter, and I was so convicted by this passage in a commentary I read recently:
"Persecution and suffering can have the beneficial effect of stripping away sinful distractions from our lives and strengthening our trust in Christ. Suffering can be a harsh but effective cure for materialism."
I feel like it is entirely possible that this desperate desire for community has become a sinful distraction. What started as a genuine longing for Christ-centered fellowship has become more of a stumbling block as I spend so much time worrying about what is wrong with me and why I can't find the relationships I crave. I also see how this is something that has become an issue of trust for me as I transition into being an "official" homeschooler in a circle of friends where I am the only one. I am realizing that I have let myself feel pressured to find new relationships to fill the space that will inevitably appear in our lives during this season. And I know for a fact that when I start feeling pressured to fill space things quickly fall apart. Matt and I have chosen this path for our family because we believe in God's design for families and our ability to give Aiden a solid foundation at home. One of the very reasons we believe in this homeschool journey is that it will create space and time that we would not otherwise have. We desire a slower pace for our family, and so why am I trying to fill that space (or better yet I should use my favorite word: margin) with other things?
I feel a definite calling to trust in God's plan and stop trying to "fix" things that aren't really broken. Margin is unnatural in our hectic world. Silence can be scary, because it removes the distractions that keep us from tackling the tough questions of what we believe and how we live those beliefs in our everyday life. But, as I learned during that time when I first entered this SAHM world, quiet is also beautiful as we learn to draw near to God for fellowship and love instead of constantly seeking it from earthly sources.
Yes, this will be a time of transition, which means figuring out a new way of living and a new way of thinking. Yet even as relationships change, I am blessed with a very dear local best friend who was clearly sent by God into my life (through 2-year-old Sunday school and our boys' shared desire to move more than listen, ha!) and that is such a huge change from where I was 5 years ago that I know I won't go back to that intense solitude. I also have learned how to study the Word and connect with women online through my Instagram studies. While I still desire face-to-face fellowship with a group like this, God is definitely reminding me that His plans are better than mine and He has sent me these incredible women to learn and grow with. My group there has been strained this summer, and I can't help but think that it is partly because I have failed to truly appreciate it. I keep getting so focused on what I think I want that I lose sight of what God knows I need.
So, I guess I am kind of giving myself permission here to stop trying so hard. I need to stop chasing ideas and focus on what is in front of me. I need to trust in God's plan for my life as a homeschool mom, and let go of the pressures I feel to do things in a way that makes sense to the world. I need to thank God every day for the friendships that have thrived, and spend some time pouring into those relationships. And I need to keep praying about my role in our current congregation and figure out how all of this applies there. Because I can't even go there today...
That is enough "blogging therapy" for one day. Can't use up all my margin for the day at a desk after all! Off to enjoy some of that quiet time while Aiden is at Tae Kwon Do.