"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." Titus 2:3-5 NIV
A few months after moving to Amsterdam I was faced with a problem that was completely foreign to me: I was lonely. If you know me, I am very outgoing and really enthusiastic about meeting new people, so you might be shaking your head in confusion. I have a huge network of friends and family, and a few very close friends. There are about four girls that I hold closest in my heart that I can share things with that are very personal. These are girls that I can have a crazy late night with, laugh at ridiculous inside jokes and still be able to call up in a crisis at two am. My best friends can speak into my life spiritually and I would respect their insights. But I had moved away from home, and so we were 1-4 hours apart.
At first I looked for someone just like me. Boy, I had a pretty specific list too. You would think I had a profile on match.com. I wanted someone spontaneous, someone who liked to go out or stay home, who liked to make messes and talk about our love lives, someone to shop with, someone to bake with and someone who wasn't afraid to tell me the truth. Mostly the girls my age that were around me were too young or too old and if they were my age they wouldn't be able to relate to someone who was already married and didn't party (I guess I'm pretty boring like that ;).
What God had in mind for me was so much better. He brought me women of wisdom. Ladies who had families, who had seen hard times, who had married young and survived, who relied on God because he had proven faithful to them. I started attending the events that my church held for the women's ministries and let me tell you I was the youngest there. Immediately I felt loved by these ladies who had so much to offer. They took me in and showered me (literally, with a baby shower!) with affection and attention and understanding. I also have some friends that I consider family here in Amsterdam. These people have blessed us during some of our hardships. I can rely on them to offer a washing machine when ours breaks, or transportation when it's a necessity. They are good for babysitting too!
There are about six women I like to visit and eight that I listen carefully to for advice. Throughout the week I try to visit at least two of them. Seeing them in their home environment teaches me so much. They share with me advice on parenting, discipline, baby care, marriage, love life, recipes, financial ideas, political concerns, and practical housekeeping tips. These ladies make me a better as a person, wife, mother, friend, and Christian.
Here are just a few things I have learned from them.
- Keeping your house clean and organized daily means that your family will be prepared to help others in need without being held back by the chaos at home. Wow. When I heard this I suddenly found the motivation to clean regularly. I want to be able to help others or to have people over and so many times I am held back because of the state of my house. I need to keep a higher standard.
- Never feel awkward about nursing your child anywhere. It is a natural thing to feed a baby and it used to be understood that way. I have a nursing cover and I always use it in public and I have no regrets.
- Help your baby learn good sleeping habits. You can never spoil a newborn, but when they become infants it is time to show a firmer pinky (the hand might be to heavy here ;) In order to learn how to put herself to sleep I put Mia down and let her cry for just a few minutes and she usually tires herself out and falls asleep. This is excruciatingly hard but extremely effective. Now she will sleep for anyone anywhere, and a baby who naps is a happy baby.
- Everyone should know how to make chicken soup. It's so easy, throw everything you want in it in a pot, add some bouilion cubes and fill it with water and boil away!! I don't know why I spent so much time researching this recipe because when I heard this I was relieved. It came out really good too.
- Make your home a sanctuary for your family. The home should be the one place where it is easy for your kids to make good decisions. It should be a place where you family can meet and communicate freely and openly. I want my house to be a place where worshiping God is natural. This means that I want to keep my home pure from all the evil that the rest of the world has to offer by making sure that the media is clean, that profanity isn't used, that whole and healthy food is offered, that responsibilities are shared, and where illegal activity, smoking, and drugs are frowned on. Im not 'sheltering' my family. 'Evil' is unavoidable, but it doesn't have to be in my home.
- Choose your battles. If you eat all of your husband's favorite snacks don't expect your stash of cookies to be safe.