I am hesitant to try to define the roles and relationships of mentoring any more closely than this, for Biblical mentoring is not a church program or a new fad which one must play in accordance with someone's prescribed set of rules. It is, in fact, a lifestyle - a lifestyle to which Christian women have been appointed by God. It is a lifestyle in which older Christian women invest themselves as servants of God in the lives of their younger Christian sisters, and younger Christian women, in humble, joyful obedience to their Lord learn how better to please Him in their calling within the home.
After many years of searching for a mentor, with limited success, the Lord used Titus 2:3-5 in my life to show me that I had a responsibility to mentor other younger women. I began to reach out to help and encourage young moms I knew in whatever ways I could. Eventually God gave me the privilege of teaching a Sunday School class for young mothers - we would bring our toddlers and nursing babies and meet together each Sunday morning. Finally I "graduated'' to one-on-one personal mentoring. The Lord began to show me that this relatively unseen and unsung form of mentoring was one He could use powerfully in the lives and homes of younger women for His glory.
We break into the talk as I begin to share about a personal one-on-one mentor/mentoree relationship I was privileged to be a part of in 1994.
There was a young secretary named Marilyn at my husband's work in San Diego. She had been married for a few years. We had her and her husband over to our home a few times and they seemed to enjoy our family.
Marilyn had a very untraditional childhood, very troubled in many respects. She admitted to not even knowing what a normal Christian home was like. She was always asking questions. She desired to learn.
After the first trimester of her first pregnancy she asked to be mentored by me, and I was honored to accept. This was an ideal time for Marilyn to experience mentoring by an older woman.
I could not stop my daily routine to sit down and just chat with her for long periods of time. The only way I could mentor her was if she were willing to pitch in and help with the daily routine as we talked. It turned out that this was where the real learning took place.
I have asked Marilyn to share her experience with us, via audio tape.
Neither my husband nor I ever craved having a baby. Each time in the first years of our marriage we thought "OK, this is it'', we'd look at each other and reassure ourselves that we'd be all right. I often wondered if we would ever be excited to hear those words, "You're pregnant''.
Looking to Scripture we knew something was wrong. The Word proclaimed that "children are a heritage of the Lord'' and "happy is the man whose quiver is full of them'' (Psalm 127:3,5). Our feelings were definitely not in line with God's Word, but all we could do was ask the Lord to change our hearts and leave ourselves available for Him to bring children forth.
As Providence would have it we had three and one half years before our first little arrow was conceived. Miraculously, we were happy and excited by the news.
I was soon feeling very sick and was forced to leave my job. Bedridden for weeks on end I consoled myself with the knowledge that all of this nausea meant my body was busily building a healthy baby. When the nausea began to fade at 12 weeks, our lives had already been dramatically changed by this little baby.
Many months earlier the Aardsma family had come to our attention. With seven children and another on the way, they were the largest family we knew of. It had been on my heart for some time to spend more time with Helen. I felt she had a storehouse of knowledge and experience that could save me much trouble and heartache. I wanted to get off on the right foot. She seemed like the best place to start.
To my surprise she was very open and excited about the idea of my coming to visit one morning a week. I called this my "Mommy Internship'' and I was very pleased to find it a real mutual blessing. Inevitably we would each come away feeling that we had the better end of the bargain. It was a "God-thing''.
Frequently people will comment, "Wow, I can't believe this is only your first. You seem to handle mothering so easily.'' I respond that I had very good training---a six-month Mommy Internship while I was pregnant. "Mommy Internship?'' they ask, "What's that?'' Let me explain.
Marilyn and baby Brooke.
Our days went something like this. I would head out of the house about 9:00 a.m., drive half an hour east to Alpine to my friend Helen Aardsma's home.
Mother of seven, with an eighth in the oven, I knew there would be lots I could learn and glean by participating in her household one morning a week. I wanted to learn all I could about how she successfully ran such a large household on one income, organized to get her chores done, home schooling, cooking, how she managed to keep such a tidy home, handled being pregnant again, kept her perspective on each of her little ones as being a special blessing from the Lord, submitted to and respected her husband, settled squabbles, disciplined, brought out the best in each of her children, and kept such a peaceful household.
When I would arrive at 9:30 the house would already be in full swing. Helen had been up since six o'clock in the morning, chores were almost wrapped up and the last of the breakfast dishes were almost done. The two oldest were off to their jobs in town, the two youngest were usually playing together, and the rest were tending to their school work.
As I walked through the door, Helen would greet me as she bustled by and quickly bring me up to date on the morning's activities. Then she would inform me about any special projects she hoped to accomplish while I was there. With an extra pair of hands to help and lots of things on our minds that we wanted to share with each other, she would frequently save some larger project like cleaning out the garage, canning pickles or her spring cleaning of the kitchen for while I was there.
And then there were the ongoing tasks I would help with, such as sorting and hanging out the laundry, reading to the younger ones, or helping with the lunch preparations. And always she would take the time to answer my many inquiries: why this, how that, or when about the other.
We would visit in between assignments while she was breast-feeding, or whenever our paths crossed during our busy morning. Meanwhile a rhythm was developing inside of me as I drew alongside of her to help in any way I could. My passion for learning and hers for sharing made the work seem light. She would impart to me the years of trial and error and prayer that had culminated in her present system of doing things: from sorting socks to how she saw the daily little things as imparting spiritual and life's truth to her children.
At 11:30 a quick rally was made by all to wrap up their morning's responsibilities as final lunch preparations were made. By 12 noon food was on the table, laid out in the kitchen for a self-serve sit down meal, on paper plates and usually including fresh baked bread. After a prayer of thanksgiving by one of the children we would all sit down together and eat and continue visiting.
After the meal Helen and I would have a brief chance to sit and catch up on our conversations. Then she would slip off with her little ones for a nap, and I would stay on a bit longer to watch the kids swim or to sit with them while they read or listened to tapes. By 2 o'clock I would slip out and be on my way down the hill again with many new insights and much hope for the family the Lord would some day give me.
Over the course of six months, I learned much about what had brought the Aardsmas to make the choices they made to follow the Lord, to raise up godly seed, and to live a simple lifestyle pleasing to Him.
I had lots of firsts there: I made my first quilt, my first play-dough, my first pizza. I canned for the first time, and for the first time I saw spanking discipline calmly measured out. I baked my first bread. I attended my first home birth at Helen's eighth, and I received lots of practical tips like: baskets on the shelves are easier than dresser drawers for children's clothing; game pieces can be stored in plastic zip lock bags to be kept together long after the box has fallen apart; if you make a good list someone else can do the grocery shopping for you.
I learned many important principles as well. Free, unscheduled time is very important for children to build their own creativeness and talents. No television in the home equals no long want list at Christmas and birthdays. If you are up early and chores and school are finished before lunch, Mom can take a nap with the littlest ones while the older children look after each other.
Above all, Helen instilled in me a joy for mothering. It was clear in her life that there is much satisfaction available for those who choose to take on the traditional role of a full time mother---that the coming of a baby to the household could indeed be viewed as a privilege and not a burden.
Helen and her family have moved out of our area now. Yet, though hundreds of miles physically separate us, there is not a day goes by that she is not with me. Her commitment to her husband, her home, and her children; the easy way in which she scheduled her and her children's day; her availability; her speedy housekeeping; her readiness to share her wisdom, her convictions, and her insights; her sharing of her books and her resources.
I am most thankful to the Lord for this Titus 2 woman that He had prepared for me. I feel as though my time with her and her children was equivalent to graduate level training in a conventional education.
Because of this introduction I have been able to have a wonderful, smooth, and basically trouble-free transition into motherhood. The months since our baby girl's birth have been like a wonderful, extended honeymoon for us. I have never felt more right or more fulfilled in any role in my life.
I had a passion for the message I was giving, but as you can see, Marilyn was as eager to learn as I was to share with her. A great friendship developed. We just had fun together. As we worked we talked and the questions came up naturally.
She benefited me by being a good worker, by being a good friend to my children and even by mentoring my daughter, Laura, who was age 9. She was a great emotional support to me when my husband was away in Scotland for a week when my eighth baby was due any day. She helped tremendously at the birth of my eighth child, doing whatever was needed, knowing where everything was, and just being available.
I cherish the time we spent together and feel privileged to have helped Marilyn in her start in mothering. It was for sure a "God-thing''.