Reaching out in Suburban Chicago

Posted by  | Sunday, November 9, 2008  at 9:28 PM  
I am officially a "Stay at Home Mom" to 2 boys - a 2yo and a 7.5mo. Now, I know a lot of SAHMs who laugh at that term - they are hardly ever at home! This is especially true of mothers who have children in school. They are always running from one place to the next.

Well, I must say that I am truly a Stay-at-Home Stay at Home Mom. I spend the majority (read 80-90%) of my time in the home. Part of the reason for this is that my husband leaves for work at 3pm in our only car and doesn't return home until 11pm (truth: he does actually come home for an hour to eat dinner, but I only very rarely run out at this hour). That certainly limits the places I can go. Also, my baby's sleep schedule and the fact that he is exclusively breastfed at the breast only offers small windows of time to run out places. This has actually been a really tough phase of life for me to accept. I am a super outgoing person and I just love being around people. God is definitely refining my character through staying at home to care for my family. It is a very humbling experience, but a season of my life that I am slowly learning to appreciate.

All of this is to say that "outreach" for me has taken a whole new meaning. I have to be creative in thinking of ways to put myself out there for the Lord to use me. Often times this means involving my boys - which I have come to believe is precisely the way the Lord would have it! Here are a few thoughts I have on "outreach" as a stay at home mom.

1. Meet your immediate neighbors. We moved into our house in June. I have made it a point to get out and walk around as many days of the week as I can. I try to vary the times of day I walk so that I can run into more people from the neighborhood. Pushing a stroller with two smiling boys is the EASIEST way to strike up a conversation with people. My intention is to get to know my neighbors better and get them to know me better. (sidenote: please do this even if you are living in Seminary housing. We got to know our neighbors in our building - even the weird/quiet/fuddy-duddy ones - and it helped train us for meeting neighbors in the outside world.)

2. Call on your immediate neighbors. I take the boys to stop off for a hello at one or another of the neighbors' houses a few times a week. Nothing more than to say hello and see how they are doing. They often ask the same in return and I can tell them a little more each time about our lives.

3. Establish yourself in your local community. This is pretty much numbers 1&2 expanded into your community. We walk around our neighborhood, visit our local library, play at our neighborhood park. After doing this for the past 5 months, we have found that we continually run into the same people. We have made friends with two different families that we met while garage sale-ing. We also know/are known by the librarians in the childrens' section.

4. Volunteer in your community. A few months ago I was looking for a way to involve my boys in a volunteer project. I came up with the idea of visiting a neighborhood nursing home once a week. I put up a request on Mamasource (a website organized by locale that lets moms ask/answer questions - check it out - thanks Nicole for recommending it to me!) to see if anyone would be interested in visiting with me. I had two moms respond. Each Tuesday afternoon we meet at the nursing home with our four kids and sit around and play for about 45 minutes. The wheel-chair bound residents all sit around and watch the kids and chat with us. It is really laid back and just an easy way to bring a little joy to a widow or two and visit with two women I wouldn't have met otherwise.

The whole point of all of these things I do is to build a repoire with people. That way, when God has something to share with them, I have already established the relationship and can be used by Him to love them and/or challenge them. I keep building the relationships and keep praying for God to use me when He sees fit.

To be honest, that last sentence isn't completely true. My praying for all of this is where I really fall short. As I was writing this post, I was feeling really convicted about that. And it is such a simple thing to remedy! It would be so simple to pray for my neighbors and my community as I walk around with the boys. Even now as Samuel is learning to pray, I can teach him to pray for those around us. I will definitely be focusing on that this week as we go throughout our days.

Okay, ladies, that's my two cents. Please feel free to share!


Michelle said...

I find outreach is easiest at the park. First of all, the park is wonderful because it's free, fun, and it helps excercise the kids. Secondly, I have met the most mom's ever at the park! I start the conversation almost always through my kids. How old is your little one? What's his or her name? And before I know it I'm in a conversation from potty training and discipline to our struggles with parenting and what we do to socialize away from the kids (which is a wonderful time to bring up my MOPS group). The first few times I went to the park I never thought of it as a way to outreach...I know that sounds silly...I just didn't. Then after I started meeting people I thought, "whoa! God's putting SO many mom's in my path through the park!" Now, everytime I go to the park I carry a small notebook, a pen (because I almost always write down the MOPS website or other info for them), and business cards from my church that have church info on the them as well as the plan of salvation. I never imagined meeting people would be so easy!

Shannon said...

Thanks for the inspiring and challenging post. We JUST moved into a house, and I know we'll have an opportunity to meet lots of new families... if we'll get out there and do it!

And yeah, having kids is by far the easiest way to meet new people. I've especially been able to personally talk with SO MANY grandmas in the grocery store b/c they will ALWAYS stop and talk to me about my girls.

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