This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Well, hey guys! Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. Today, we’re so excited to have Elizabeth Woodson on the show talking about how moms can love women in different life stages—in particular, singles. She shares so many wonderful truths and tips on how women in different places can love one another and have flourishing relationships. We talk about the hard conversations, the ways to find common interests with one another, and what expectations we can have (and shouldn’t have) for one another. Elizabeth is a Bible teacher who loves to teach the truth of scripture. She’s a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary with a Master’s in Christian Education, and she currently works at The Village Church as the Institute’s Associate Minister, where she writes, teaches, and helps to develop leaders. She also serves on the Lead Team of the Sparrow Conference as the Director of Resources. The Sparrow Conference pursues racial harmony by equipping women on various topics. The conference is coming up on March 29-30th in Dallas, TX. We’ll have links to everything I mentioned in our show notes at risenmotherhood.com, if you’d like to check anything out. Okay, let’s get to the interview with Elizabeth, Emily, and me.
Laura: We’re excited! I have Emily Jensen, my sister-in-law, here as usual.
Emily: Yes, hello!
Laura: And we’re interviewing Elizabeth Woodson today and couldn’t be more honored to have her on our show.
Elizabeth: Oh, I’m so happy to be here with you all.
Laura: We’re actually recording today from the Proclaim Truth conference, which is so fun, because we’re in person. I’m looking into Elizabeth’s eyes. [Laughter]
Elizabeth: Yeah, this is great. [Laughter]
Emily: It’s so fun. Most of the interviews we do are over Skype or video. We hope this is a really great conversation about how singles can be in community with moms, some of the tensions that surround that, and we want to apply the gospel so we can think rightly about it.
Laura: We want to dive in with the basic question, How does it feel whenever you’re single to be around a lot of moms? Give it to us straight, because it’s all moms listening, so this is your chance. [Laughter]
Elizabeth: Hey, moms! [Laughter] When I’m in community with other moms, I feel that I’m not a mom. I feel that I don’t have kids, I’m not married. I think part of that weight comes from this cultural expectation we have—inside and outside the church. I’m in my 30s, so I’m supposed to have kids and be married; that’s what we raise little girls to from birth. We say, Your goal in life is to be a wife and mother. And it’s a beautiful thing—I don’t want anyone to ever hear me say I don’t think it’s a beautiful thing. But when it’s the crux of identity for women, then you feel this really big hole like, Something’s wrong with me, I’m missing something. I don’t know how to relate. I’m sitting with moms talking about vaccinating their kids, and I’m thinking, I don’t have kids! I don’t really know! [Laughter] It feels like I’m not a part of this in a way that’s more significant than being with a bunch of people who play sports when I don’t play sports. It’s like I’m not where I’m supposed to be as a woman. I think if single women were honest, they’d say they feel like they’re not fully able to participate in all the culture has for them, because they don’t have a husband or kids. It can be painful for some singles, because for some of us, it’s a wound.
Emily: I think that’s a really good word. There’s the culture at-large, but there’s also the church culture. And the church sometimes centers events and conversations—maybe so much—around it. It makes motherhood and marriage the crux of identity. I can’t imagine wondering, Well, if I’m not in that season of life, how do I get fed or enter these conversations? I appreciate you sharing that, and hopefully every mom listening can think, Oh yeah, I want to think about those things. I think we need to be reminded sometimes that not everyone is in this season, and where are we putting our identity?
Laura: Just to play off of that, how do you think deep friendships can be formed? If there’s an isolating bubble at times, how can we burst that and form relationships? What can we talk about?
Elizabeth: The reality is we have a lot more in common than we give ourselves credit for—both singles and married. Especially for women; we’re women. We got that! [Laughter] And that’s a lot. We got a lot to talk about being women! [Laughter] I want to say this with great kindness, because I’m not in this season, but I think sometimes my married friends lose themselves. All they talk about is their kids, because that’s their life—you try to keep four or five little humans alive! I can barely keep myself alive! [Laughter] So, I think to be able to talk about what you have in common is not to not talk about your kids or not to not talk about your husband or the reality of being married. I do think singles need to be in community with people who are in a different life season and learn what family looks like and the complexities within that. I think a great starting place, though, is to talk about what you have in common and build this bond not based upon life seasons. You’re human, I’m human. You’re a woman, I’m a woman. You love the Lord, I love the Lord. How do we fight this battle together in life where I can sit in your sorrows and you can sit in mine? You can rejoice with me and I can rejoice with you? I think it’s being sensitive about talking about the things the other person doesn’t have. And singles do the exact same thing with massive amounts of freedom and independence! I can talk about all the wonderful things I’m doing, which can make a mom feel uncomfortable or that she’s missing out on something because she’s not in that space. I think it’s being sensitive to what we have in common and talking about that in order to build, so we can share the rest of the pieces of our lives.
Laura: I think that’s so important because sometimes, it may not feel natural and that’s okay. We need to put the extra effort in, seeing the single is our sister-in-Christ and wanting to love her well. It could be having a conversation about topics you have in common. I think relationships are so tough, because we all dance around things and don’t want to talk about the hard things we’re struggling with. But to say, I love you, sister, and I want to know you. We’re fellowshipping, so how do we do this? Literally saying that to one another might be appropriate in some relationships.
Elizabeth: Exactly, yeah.
Emily: One of the ways I’ve seen this bond really form is in a Bible study setting in the local church. Sometimes when you’re talking about scripture together—we’ve moved beyond the intro discussion—and you’re hearing someone’s heart about the same passage, you make that bond and connection. That’s where I’ve really formed great topics of discussion that can really flourish outside of that environment, like after church on Sunday or at the store. We see we’re sisters-in-Christ first, and then you build on that.
Laura: One other thing I think of is even mom to mom, we find a lot of differences that make it hard for us to connect. Because we’re not similar, we can not want to connect—
Emily: We can do it in every relationship!
Laura: Yes, it happens all the time. I think one thing I’ve noticed in motherhood, and all of life, is there are common threads with things you’re going through. So even if someone faces a different suffering than you, like a woman is experiencing the loss of a parent and another is experiencing grief over a child with special needs, there’s a common element of grief. It may not be exactly displayed the same, but the hope of the gospel is the same. So those are areas to bond. We stop picking at the little differences (“Mine’s a little bit harder!” “Mine’s a little more difficult!”), and we say, I want to love you through this. I understand, I’ve felt that way before, without having the measuring stick.
Elizabeth: Yeah, we have so much more in common that we want to give credit for. Sometimes we’re looking for ourselves in other people, but we’re actually able to meet other people where they’re at. I think people have such beautiful stories; I’m a story person, so I love seeking out other people and learning their stories. When you enter into their humanity, those so much more than you thought. We size people up, like we see a woman who’s married with four kids, and that’s just who she is to me. But there’s so much more there, so let me learn her story, and learn her heart, and live in that space.
Emily: Look at all these other things God is doing in your life and in this bigger story that you’re swept up into. I love that.
Laura: Well, let’s just talk about the gospel for a second. How does the gospel bridge the gap between the different life stages women are in? What hope does it offer?
Elizabeth: I think about the gospel in this context: God wants to dwell with his humanity, so he’s bridged the gap of sin to be able to make that happen through Jesus Christ. So, we’re responding to his love by loving other people. We love what God loves, and he loves his creation. So how are we supposed to be in community? Singles struggle with being isolated, because we’re by ourselves. Community for us is harder, because we can be transient in ways that, in marriage, you can’t. We have to press ourselves into what it looks like for me to do life with people, to stick around when it gets hard. We have to have those real, honest, direct conversations like, When you said that, it hurt my feelings, or, Hey, when ya’ll were talking about vaccinations, I felt like… Because I have a wound about marriage, I don’t allow that to be pent up. I tell my singles—I used to do singles ministry—the same muscles you need to be married, you need while single, because you need them for relationship. We just get away with doing relationships poorly, because we can just run away. In light of the gospel, if we’re to love God’s creation, we’re to love all of who God puts us into community with authentically by reflecting the character of God. That’s not easy, but it’s beautiful. I think that’s why I love singles in homes, being with families, and knowing what that looks like; and families getting to invite singles into their space and knowing what that looks like. We should be doing life together, because that’s what our God does within himself as the Triune God. So to me, it’s loving people; loving is hard, but it’s beautiful, and it’s something God calls us to. It’s an ultimate space for us to be.
Emily: I think that’s such a good word. Even with this thought about strengthening our muscles in relationship and not running from ones that are hard just because we’re not tied in covenant to them. I think that’s something moms feel tempted towards as well, so we try to speak to that on the podcast: What do you do with the person you’re not as comfortable with? I think that’s a unified, shared feeling in different ways. That’s a good challenge.
Laura: With that, I like how you talked about the single approaching the married mom or woman with children. What if the roles were reversed? Is there a way a mom can sensitively bring up areas, or how they can improve? Do you know what I’m asking? [Laughter]
Elizabeth: Oh, yeah yeah. I think it’s all in depths of relationship. So the more you know someone, the better you can ask the deeper questions. It’s being able to relate to somebody with what you have in common and then building. As friends, we need to ask the hard questions. I had this happen the other day in my office. One of my co-workers came in and said, Can I ask you a friend question? Help me love you better. Who’s going to say no to that? Of course! I think sometimes it can be really scary, but the people we appreciate the most are the ones who told us the truth and who asked the hard questions; we knew they cared about us. I think it can be a fear of rejection or a fear of being misunderstood, but we need to push past that to love a person. You can say, I notice when I talk about these things, you get silent or don’t respond in conversation, does it make you uncomfortable? Help me to understand. I want to love you well. I think anytime you couch a conversation in a “help me love you better,” the answer is “sure.” What are people going to say? No, I don’t want you to love me better. They’re going to let you do that. I think we, as women, are better at relationships than we give ourselves credit for. Love well, take our time, talk about what we have in common, and allow the Lord to expand our relationship to the fullness of who we are. I love my married friends, being in the house with their kids, and I need to hear about their families and their dynamics. But we’ve grown into that space of being able to be comfortable with saying things are hard and walking through that. The Lord does beautiful things by making what’s broken new.
Emily: Just today in our workshop, we were talking about how Jesus asks the harder question in relationship. So when we’re doing ministry to others, part of it is seeing that thing where they’re silent or knowing you need to press a little deeper somewhere. That’s really modeling the way Christ loved people. Obviously, we can’t do that exactly like the Lord does, but I think that’s a good challenge. It feels more comfortable for us to stay back, but who’s going to refuse the offer to love them better by understanding?
Laura: I think we could all ask that question a lot more, like to our husbands too. [Laughter] So I hear one thing I’ve heard you say frequently, and I want to press in a little bit: moms inviting women into their home. As a mom, I’m thinking about my house being messy, my kids being crazy and jumping all over her—
Emily: A new person to play with! [Laughter]
Laura: Right?! So I have all these thoughts about really wanting to treat her well and feel kind of strung out like I can’t give her this beautiful hospitality experience that I wish I could. So, what do you feel like, as a single woman, is your expectation? How can I extend an invitation and not be fearful because I have my own expectations in my head?
Elizabeth: I think we want to see—especially singles who come from broken homes—we want to see family. We don’t need to see the perfect house with the laundry put up and the food put out. I love when my friends do that, but when I come over, and there’s laundry over there and my friend is talking to me while stirring dinner, I love that. Because it’s real life, and we want to see real life. I remember there was a couple who had a single staying with them and they had a fight, and they had the single stay in the room. Which seems uncomfortable, but how do your work out conflict? They let them see it in real time. We want love and authenticity; we want you, we don’t want the perfection. I always give a disclaimer, because it’s a generalization and someone may have a different expectation. When you invite someone into your home, that’s a sacred space. You’re saying, Hey, come be a part of my life. That’s so valuable. I’m not going to judge you! My laundry’s not done! [Laughter] But I want to be in community with you, and if that means being there in the car, picking up your kids, that’s what we want.
Laura: That’s an encouragement for any mom listening! That removes the barrier of our excuse that we’re too busy, or running around, or feeling hasty and strung out. Just bring them into your life, exactly as you are. That’s a good word for all moms to hear, because that’s a hard spot.
Emily: So, shifting gears a little bit. In scripture, we have this call to pass on the gospel to the next generation and to have spiritual children in the faith. What do you feel like that looks like for you in your season of life? How do moms come alongside of you in that? How do you come alongside moms in that? I’d love to hear on that topic.
Elizabeth: For me, it’s making sure I always have someone I’m pouring into and just doing life with. Usually it’s a younger gal, and I’m walking alongside of her as she’s journeying in her faith—a sisterhood of an older sister pouring into a younger sister. How do we pour in good godly principle in real time? I had a conversation with a girl who’s a single mom about her child’s father coming back into the situation, so it’s that for me—those types of conversations. I think having women challenge me, Who are you pouring into? is helpful. It’s easy to get into myself as a single, because it is just me. So having friends who press me about who I’m pouring into and sharing the information God has pressed into me is important. The discipleship of an older mother and a younger gal is letting her see you go through life. For those in community, who are you doing life with? Who are you pouring into? My friends challenge me to do that. I stand on platforms all the time, and that’s beautiful ministry. But there’s also being in someone’s life, in their face, in their business, asking the hard questions. How am I being responsible stewarding the information God has given me?
Emily: A lot of time we’ll end the show with a last word. Do you have anything the Lord is bringing to mind? You have a captive audience of a lot of moms of young children. We know you’re a wonderful Bible teacher; you’re very gifted in that. How would you encourage them from the word?
Elizabeth: I think you’re in a season where you might not feel seen in the background, and you’re caring for lives, and maybe you’ve lost yourself in that. Remember nothing from the Lord is wasted, and the value of you being able to disciple your children—even though you may not feel it’s significant—is huge. For you to be able to shape them from the Word of God, and they know who God is huge. There’s only so much that can happen in an hour or an hour and a half service on Sunday morning. That they’re with you every day and you’re shaping children who will be warriors for Christ in this world is significant. You’re significant and God is making impact in the days that just seem crazy and you think, I don’t know where I am in all this. God is with you, and he sees you. What you’re doing is important. I think, to me, that’s always something I want to communicate to moms, especially young ones because I think they can feel overwhelmed with life. Nothing is wasted—even your dreams in your heart. You may not be living them right now, but God hasn’t forgotten.
Laura: That’s beautiful.
Laura: I felt like you were talking right to me! [Laughter]
Emily: Hopefully, that was encouraging to those of you listening who haven’t heard that from a single woman. We can speak biblical truth into each other’s lives without having necessarily experienced every single thing that person has experienced. So thank you for encouraging us in that.
Laura: Thanks so much for coming on the show today, Elizabeth! It was a joy to have you. I feel like you’re becoming a friend.
Elizabeth: Yes! [Laughter] I had a great time. Thank you so much!
Laura: If you guys want to check out more about Elizabeth, head over to our show notes at risenmotherhood.com. Of course, you guys can find us on all the social media platforms: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Thanks for joining us!