Opening Hearts and Homes
I sat on the porch and looked into the starry night sky. The beauty and the solitude were usually comforting, but on that night it just seemed to magnify my loneliness and the weight of the burden that I carried for my children, particularly my boys. We had just returned from the “Back-to-School” party hosted by our local support group, and although I loved the families in our home school group and was excited about the large crowd that had attended the event, I felt isolated and alone.
The event was a time of sweet fellowship among home school families, at which parents and children alike were encouraged and edified by one another, but I was hungry for the more intimate fellowship of a smaller group. I also had a very heavy burden for my teenage boys, and as I watched them visit with the other teens, I noticed that they had little interaction with the men. I was blessed to see men attend the family event with their wives and children, and I was grateful to see dads encouraging one another, but I knew my boys needed men in their lives who would purposefully and intentionally mentor them. The interaction they had at these large events was simply not enough.
I realized that night that my children and I were in a new season in our lives, and while I thanked the Lord for the sweet friendship and fellowship that He had always provided for our family, I began to pray for men who would be willing to mentor my boys.
I am always amazed at the ways in which the Lord answers my prayers. Not only did He provide my boys with mentors, but He blessed us with the lasting friendship of two families who opened their hearts and their homes to us. When the Lord impressed upon my heart two families in which the men had already extended an open hand of friendship to my sons, I asked those families if they would be willing to have a Bible study with our family. We began to meet twice a month to share a meal together and spend some time studying the Word. We sang together, worshiped together, and ate together; these two dads walked alongside my boys and became surrogate fathers to them.
While our three families met together during that season, we also became regular guests in each of their homes and were quite comfortable fellowshipping with them as individual families–despite the fact that ours was a single-parent family. Although I had hosted many events in my home for our home school group, my friendship with these families gave me the courage and confidence I needed to open my home to the more intimate fellowship that is shared when two or three families come together to share a meal and fellowship. We were no longer a broken home that needed to hide behind the crowd of a large group so that no one would notice ours was a single-parent family. We were a whole family that was welcomed into the fellowship of another whole family. What began as a season of loneliness became a season of sweet friendship, rest, and growth.
There are seasons to all things, and families need different types of fellowship at different seasons. But, the saying we all heard as children still holds true: “To have a friend, you must first be a friend.” I have met many home school moms who are desperately lonely, just as I was during that difficult season in my life. Although social media may be a good way to meet other home school families, it is not a substitute for face-to-face contact, and although larger home school events fill an important need in the home school community, home school parents–especially home school moms–also need the encouragement and edification that is shared between friends.
Friendships are built when people share their hearts and their lives with one another, and as home schooling has grown and the world has become connected by the Internet and social media, every home school family knows at least one other home school family, so there are countless opportunities to build community and fellowship with one another. You do not have to have a large home, be a leader in the home school group, or have all the answers to every home schooling dilemma to reap the blessings of opening your home and your heart to another.
Every family–whether it is a two-parent home, a single-parent home, parents of many, or parents of one–can find ways to connect with others. Invite another family to share a meal. If you feel your home is not adequate to host even one or two families, do not let that stop you from fellowship. Invite one or two other families to a cookout in the park. Be proactive in your home school support group and help host events–large-group fellowships do fill a need! Be attentive to the needs of others within your group–perhaps your family is the one called to open their doors to a single-parent family or a family with younger children. Befriend a family with a special needs child and learn how to help them. There are countless opportunities for fellowship, so open your home—you may find that the Lord has opened wide the door of your heart and filled it to overflowing with the sweet blessing of fellowship.
Sheila Campbell began homeschooling in 1991. She and her husband co-founded Integrity Educators, a local home school support group in Plainview. Sheila continued homeschooling even after the deaths of her husband and a son. Now widowed and with the last of her four children graduated, Sheila pursues her writing, after being a valued member of the THSC staff. She and her children reside in Hale Center.
This article first appeared in the November 2012 Texas Home School Coalition REVIEW, a quarterly magazine published by the Texas Home School Coalition, Lubbock, Tex.., email@example.com, www.thsc.org. It is printed with permission of THSC and the author.