Seeking the Small

Oh, friends.  I have missed you.  Summer break is finally here.  Life has been so free from writing that I’ve been twitching a bit.  We ended school in May, and I thought I could jump back in, but the kids were in swimming lessons, and the only time I could get for one of my kids was…during my normal sliver of writing time.   Swimming lessons are now over.  Curriculum is back on the shelves.  The garden is planted.  The winter jackets are finally in storage.  It’s time.

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I didn’t do even half of the things I was hoping to do during the break from writing.  That’s how it goes.

Sometimes people come up to me, acting very shy, and say that they promise they are not a stalker, but they read my blog, and they just wanted to say that they love reading my blog.  It’s always funny, because I think that’s how awkward friendships are in this day in age.  You may feel like a stalker.  I sure feel like a stalker to invade your homes like this.  I’ve missed writing you all.  Why must we feel like a stalker to take one step towards being in someone else’s lives?  That must be why we all get lonely.  We are too afraid of being a stalker to be a friend to someone who feels like no one notices.  Anyway…

Here’s some quick highlights of what has been going on.

I finally got to go on a retreat in March.  Since we started homeschooling 7 years ago, we figured out that I need a weekend away to regroup, because it is very taxing.  I usually go in January, which is perfect for the farm, and it’s perfect to help curb the typical February burnout that most homeschooling families face.  I wanted to try a different retreat this year, and it wasn’t until March.  That was a mistake.  I loved the actual retreat, but I had walked through the February burnout, and was so frayed that it was almost too little, too late.

But…I got to meet Ann Voskamp at the retreat.  Twice.  And the second time I saw her, she called me by name, and had a follow up thought to what we had talked about the first time.  She’s pretty much as kind and sweet as you would imagine her to be.  In fact, imagine what she’s like in real life, and the add thoughtfulness and kindness to that a bit more, and you’re a bit closer to her in real life.

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Something significant happened there, between God and me.  About 17 years ago, God humbled me deeply, and I lived in the shock of it for years.  I had my sights set on ministry which appears good on the outside, but it was deeply rooted in my pride and own religious accomplishments.  What followed was about a decade of me slamming into many doors that were not for me, until I gave up, and told God: “alright.  I’ll be still.  I won’t move until you make it clear.”  I knew that he wanted me to focus on my job of raising our kids.  He knew what we would face.  He knew we’d be dealing with some very high maintenance times.  He knew my family would need my full attention.

But sometimes being a wife and mother feels like it’s not enough.  It’s not enough for our ego.  It’s certainly not enough for other people’s expectations.  It’s lowly work, this job of changing diapers, spending so much time making food that at least one person complains about, and refuses to touch.  It involves lots discipline, and character training, which makes you “mean.”  It’s easy to think that these menial tasks are a waste of a life, like we are all meant for greater things than washing feet.

During these last months, I heard Ann Voskamp be interviewed on a writer’s podcast, and she encouraged other writers to seek the small.  Seek the little.  It resonated so much with my struggle to see the value in the grunt work that no one notices, to these little people who are most precious to God.  It made me wonder, in what other ways can the rubber-meet-the-road, so to speak, in areas of my life that are small, but important.

How many things do I skip over because they aren’t “big enough” to be worth my while.

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I have been studying and writing behind the scenes for quite a long time about the subject of mentoring.  Before I took a break from writing, I had the crazy idea that instead of complaining that there aren’t enough older women stepping up to mentor and support young mothers, I should be mentoring and supporting young woman.  It was hard to admit that I might be considered an older woman in some circles.  I’ve been slowly seeing it, as I see 20 year old, or even 25 year old, young married, or young mothers ask me advice.  It’s usually to the tune of them considering homeschooling, and they want to pick my brain since I’ve been doing it for 7 years.

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Has it really be 7 years already?  Really, that’s not that long.

I didn’t know who I should mentor.  I had no idea where to start.  I felt incredibly inadequate.  I had no time.  I would love to reach thousands of women, but why is it so hard to reach one?  So I went very local, and made a list of women who were roughly 10+ years behind me, either by age or stage of life.  I had a hard time coming up with women, and so those parameters became wiggly.  Every time someone new came to mind, I would just add her name to the list.

Soon, there were 7 young women’s names.  I have no time for a group that large, and I barely knew some of them.  Some of them were name recognition only.  But I started to pray.  I told God that I wanted to be his hands in feet in a small way, and I wanted him to teach me how to do this.

After praying for a good month or so, 2 names rose to the top of the list, mostly during a conversation with my husband when I finally caught him up on what I was hoping to do.  So I did the “stalker thing” and emailed each of these 2 ladies, and asked if we could get together for breakfast, individually, once or twice month, before our husbands went to work, early in the morning, and I would just like to “mentor” them.  Then I explained what I meant by that.  In my case, I would commit to praying for them every day.  I would just sit and listen and encourage them as they just talked about what was going on in their lives.  I would share what I have learned about marriage, as needed, or about parenting, as needed.  My main goal wasn’t to get them to do what I was doing, but to be a voice consistently point them to Christ, in whatever that looked like in their circumstances.

I was terrified.  Who did I think I was thinking I could do this?!?!

The response was pretty much a tear-filled “you have no idea how much I’ve been praying for something exactly like this!!!” from each of the women.

Surprisingly they didn’t call me a stalker. And I had no idea how much I would personally be blessed by this kind of relationship of meeting with someone (I barely knew either of them) who is newly married or has just little-little kids, with the sole intent of encouraging them.  It has ministered to my soul in a way that I could have never expected in my own life.

Then in March at the retreat, as I was spending time in prayer, it became very clear to me, that it’s time.

After 17 years, it’s time for me to step forward in more intentional ministry.  It’s time for my older kids to see me, and their father working in the church, and teaching them to serve others.  Knut already works a lot as an elder in our church, but I haven’t even been able to make it to a Bible study.  I just cover nursery from time to time.  I can’t even manage teaching Sunday School anymore.  It’s time to start stepping forward into the dreams God has laid on my heart.

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How did I know?  It wasn’t really audible.  God doesn’t talk like that.  His vocabulary is the Bible.  That’s his language.  I think that I knew mostly because this fear that was placed on my heart 17 years ago, like a child standing on the edge of a road, and her Father calls out to her to stop and wait for him to cross with her, just dropped.  It dropped and shattered like glass.  God has kept me in such a humbled position that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the power and glory and honor is his.  It wasn’t even that I didn’t care about getting honor and glory anymore, it was that I was so incredibly certain that I didn’t want a hint of it.  I wanted to be small, stay small.  I wanted to be so small that people only saw Christ when they saw me.  I couldn’t honestly say that 17 years ago.  Back then, I had dreams of people writing books about me.

It totally doesn’t matter anymore if the work he calls me to is big or small.  I know longer care if I reach thousands or 2.  I want to be faithful in what he has given me.  I don’t even feel the compulsion to charge ahead forward in taking on a lot.  It’s that I don’t have to be afraid to say “yes.”  The fear is gone.

I also gained some clarity as far as what I where I would be focusing my writing time.  I still intend to keep up this blog, though maybe a touch less.  Maybe just once a week.  I want to spend a significant bigger time working on writing Bible studies.  I keep putting it on hold because of how my family seems to get pummeled, spiritually speaking, whenever any one of us steps into ministry work… trampling on territory that Satan feels belongs to him.  I get a chapter written, and then I have to take a month off to tend to the wounds Satan seems to have inflicted on those in my house.  The same thing happened when Knut became an elder.  That first year was rough.

Writing every word of this Bible study thus far can’t be described as anything less than battle.

So I need to be more intentional on raising prayer support during this writing period.  I don’t know what will become of these Bible studies that I’m writing for small groups of women, but it really doesn’t matter to me anymore.  I just feel called to write.  God has completely shattered my fear in moving forward with that.

Please, please know that I would love an email, telling me what you have been up to the last 6 months that I’ve been off the blog.  I want to catch up.  You aren’t a stalker.  I’m inviting you in to comment, message, and let me know how you are doing.  I read every one.  I’m so excited to be back.  I would love your prayer support and friendship.  I’m so excited to dig in.

Comments

  1. Mom says

    So glad to read this post. I sure enjoyed spending time with you at that March conference and look forward to seeing how God will use you and flow through you with the wisdom He has imparted to you! Love you so much!

    • Rachel Paulson says

      I read your blogs with tears–blessed that God had our paths cross! Tim often talked about the “small”–“Whatever you do–do all to the glory of God!” Great ones are great because someone else is holding up their hands. Love and hugs–

  2. says

    I love all of your thoughts Gretchen. Please please please, consider writing something for Kindred Mom–one because your words are lovely and important and two, because I want to interview you on the KM podcast 😍. Prayers for you as you write!

    • Gretchen says

      I cannot tell you, Emily, how many times I composed an email to you, saying how much I wanted to support Kindred Mom, and ended up not sending them because I knew that I could not commit to all my good intentions. You have NO IDEA how excited I am about what is being built through KM. Believe me when I say that submitting to this site is on my short list now that my little writing time is back! Expect to see something soon!

  3. Annonymous says

    Welcome back Gretchen. Seeing your post put a smile on my face. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I seem to attract younger women (much younger…I’m already 70 y.o.) who like to talk to me and share things that are a burden on their hearts and minds. Topics include raising children, their workplace challenges, even infidelity issues. I don’t give advice per se, but I do ask questions that get them thinking…and they end up with their own ideas how to resolve their burdens. They’ve told me that I made them “see the light.” Even though I said above that I can’t put my finger on it, I actually believe God leads me to these particular women. Some have kept in touch with me for close to 20 years. I feel blessed. Again, welcome back to the world of blogging.

    • Gretchen says

      I think that what you are doing is so very important. Your questions and listening ear allows young women to consider things from different points of views, let’s them feel heard and understood, and brings them towards wisdom. Bless you!

  4. says

    “Why must we feel like a stalker to take one step towards being in someone else’s lives? That must be why we all get lonely. We are too afraid of being a stalker to be a friend to someone who feels like no one notices. ”

    Oh my…I hate the feeling, and know it all too well. I’m always so nervous about approaching anyone (in real life or online) because of that stalker thing. Just messaging you a few weeks ago felt like, “Geez! What is she going to think?!” And yet, I so love your writing voice, your family life, and your family…and want to get to know YOU better.

    I feel the same about the mentoring, both in wishing someone would pour into me and that I didn’t feel so scared and inadequate about pouring into others.

  5. says

    Welcome back, Gretchen! I have missed your posts immensely. I have enjoyed being able to follow you on Instagram during these past six months and see little glimpses of what you and your family have been doing. I too have ben taking a sabbatical from blogging and while I feel the occasional itch to write again, I just don’t feel like it’s time yet. There is just too much going on with our little family that I want to wait until things settle down. I’m glad that you have found a new path and look forward to “stalking” you while you are on your new, undoubtedly successful, journey.

  6. Joy says

    Lovely to have you back in this space again. What a great thing to offer those young women, i would’ve loved to have mentoring when my kids were young and i lived overseas from family and was the first in my friend group to have children. I just sort of stumbled my way along without the internet and certainly no blogs to meet like minded folk. Eventually you find your flow but it took more years than i would’ve liked.

  7. says

    Welcome back! I’m excited to read your thoughts again. I got tears in my eyes as you shared how you obeyed God’s leading, even though you felt inadequate, in reaching out to 2 women about mentoring them. That shows such humility and trust in God!

    I have been really struggling through how to reconcile my desire to write with having young kids at home. It just seems like there isn’t enough time in the day, and when I do have time, I’m exhausted and don’t feel like writing anything. It is so helpful to hear your story about having a deep desire for something, but putting it on hold for your family, and then circling back around it in a different season, with a more mature understanding of how to serve God in that way. I will be praying for you as you enter into ministry, and write your Bible studies.

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