When I attended the Allume Conference in October, I heard Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson share their story — a story of one heart truly seeing another.
An older mother notices a younger mother.
Sally sees Sarah Mae. And in that moment, Sally chooses to extend her life to another. She begins a journey to share her life with a young mom who desperately needs a mentor.
And the blessing of an unexpected friendship ensues.
From the earliest of days, God has seen the struggles of young moms, especially the hardships of mothers without the support of an extended family.
When Hagar was still pregnant with Ishmael, she ran away. Desperate. But God saw her (Genesis 16:13). And He comforted her with reassuring words.
Then Hagar called Him El Roi, which means the God who sees.
After Hagar gave birth and weaned her son, she was sent away. Destined to raise her boy alone. This time, God opened her eyes. To see the water He provided. God showed compassion for Hagar — a young mom, desperate and alone (Genesis 21:14-21).
God designed the family unit, and He intended all along for the older generations to help the younger ones (Titus 2:3-5). In Desperate, Sally Clarkson says:
“Families were designed by God to include moms and dads, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, and a whole host of people who would walk alongside you, committed to you through the passages of life. Young moms were never meant to be without the advice and care of multiple women assisting them and advising them in their lives.” (19)
But we live in a broken world. Far too often, the extended family isn’t a unit at all. It isn’t united and doesn’t function the way it was meant to, which leaves many young families trying to navigate the terrain of parenthood without much guidance or support. Many young mothers are desperate for help, but unsure of where to go or who to ask. And Sarah Mae understands this struggle all too well. She says:
“If you’re a mom of little ones and you don’t have very much help, I know you’re struggling to breathe.” (xvii)
In Desperate, all moms — both younger and older — are encouraged to reach out. And this message is one I’m most passionate about. Because I know what it’s like to be a new mom without family or support.
I was only 21 when the doctor informed me that I didn’t have the flu. My “illness” would be cured in less than nine months. The news stunned me. My husband and I had just moved to the Bay Area. So everything was new for me. A new city. A new home. A new job. A new church. And now, a new baby too.
My husband had accepted the position as youth pastor at a small church. The church was comprised of mid-life couples with teenage children — hence, their need for a youth pastor. But this church had a huge generation gap. Besides us, there wasn’t one other couple in the same twenty-something season of life.
The nursery was used mostly for storage because there wasn’t a baby or toddler in the church!
So when I brought my firstborn home from the hospital, I didn’t have a single friend my age. Most girls my age were still living in college dorms while I was trying to figure out how to nurse a baby.
I knew of a larger church down the road, and I had heard they had a mom’s group. I longed to go. But in the 1990s, there was a certain “loyalty-to-your-denomination” that was expected of church members, especially from staff members. I was frowned upon for even thinking about attending another denomination’s “church events.”
All of this was before the advent of e-mail and blogging. There was no such thing as an “Internet” back then. I didn’t know how to connect.
So I stayed home.
The isolation and loneliness smothered me as I struggled through the realities of postpartum depression.
On Sundays, I sat alone in my husband’s church office, nursing my baby. I read the Gospel of Luke while breastfeeding, and the Word always brought me comfort. But I was still desperate for another human being I could connect with.
How I wished for someone like Sally to see me.
While reading Desperate, I reflected on my own journey through motherhood — with all of its inherent blessings, as well as its challenges. And I could relate to these words by Sarah Mae:
“When things got really bad, I tried to reach out for help in small ways, but I never wanted to put anyone else out, so I would act like I was fine. In reality, I was getting worse.” (18)
I needed a Sally.
Yet, my own desperate moments in motherhood have made me passionate about helping young moms. I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed and alone. I know what it’s like to face every single day without any support or help. And I believe, with all of my heart, the following words by Sally to be true:
“Surveying the many years of my own journey with the Lord, I see so clearly how the dark places are those in which God was shaping my very soul and conforming me to Christ’s image. He was stretching my heart to understand pain in such a way that I could exercise compassion for those who would need it in their own journey of faith.” (63)
Motherhood might have stretched my abdomen first and my patience next, but eventually, motherhood stretched my soul, to transform me into the image of Christ.
Eighteen years have passed since my first induction into the hall of motherhood. My baby girl is about to graduate from high school, and I have two elementary-age children as well. These days, I find myself becoming the older mom.
It’s my turn to become a “Sally” to someone else. It’s my turn to see young moms, to reach out, and to extend my life to others.
Has someone ever reached out to you
when you were in a season of deep pain and isolation?
Is there someone you could reach out to?
*I encourage women of all ages to read Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson.
It’s a message the Body of Christ needs to make real in our everyday lives.