August 27, 2012

Lesson 39: Girls ... This is the Most Important Post You'll Ever Read (Van Vlake Series)

Was it the title that made you click on the link?

I hope so, because what it says is true. This is really important.

If you've been reading for a while (or if you simply read the subtitle to the blog), you should know by now that I am "on a journey from grown-up adolescence into full-fledged adulthood." If you are wondering what that means, read here.

If you are on a similar journey, I sincerely have some of the most important advice you'll ever hear. (I understand this is debatable).

Find a friend, who is a woman, who is TEN years older than you!

I think this advice is so important that I increased the font when I wrote it, for the first time on my blog.

You may be wondering why I have decided to write an entire "Van Vlake Series" this week. I'm writing it, because my 10-friend used to live next door to me and moved. You can get the gist of it here. Writing the series is part of the grieving process of losing her (and her family). I'm really into grieving processes.

Good grieving requires reflection.

As I reflect, I am again and again amazed by the incredible gift I had of living next door to such a sweet, humble, godly, loving woman as Shelly Van Vlake.

Ya'll, the post started out funny, and just got sentimental.

Shelly is the wife of Marcus and the mother of four incredible children, 2 boys and 2 girls. Her oldest is 12. Her youngest is the same age as Samara.They are best friends.

Can you see why this is such a valuable friendship to have?

With age, comes wisdom. Though there are numerous ways of attaining wisdom, living life and having experiences is one way to do so. Shelly has already experienced the first years of a child's life 3 times. She's made mistakes along the way ... and all of her children have survived! What a reassurance it is to hear her stories!

Yet, because she is still the mama of a 3-year-old, she is not so high and mighty. She doesn't laugh at my struggles. She can still totally empathize! Her little shirtless, shoeless wonder can throw a tantrum with the best of them. Boy can she and Samara get into some trouble!

It's the best of both worlds. There's an understanding of the immediate situation coupled with the confidence that comes from knowing that things usually turn out alright.

A relationship like this is totally Biblical. Titus 2:3-5 says:

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior ... They are to teach was is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled."

The fact that Shelly has sought to honor the Lord in her life and marriage, enabled us to have fruitful conversation concerning these topics. She was able to offer insightful advice on a range of topics.

Our conversations included marriage, parenting, friendship, education options, cleaning, easy recipes, moving, seminary, church dynamics, how to mentor high school girls, pregnancy, choosing the right clothes for our age, gardening, facebook, magazines, future plans ... and a whole lot of decorating.

Most of it related in some way to being a faithful wife and mom.

Now, please do not go off about women's rights and all that to me. I understand that there are many opportunities and paths that women take these days. However, it is so crucial that those women, who end up as a spouse and a mother, understand the obligation to fulfill those roles well.

The Bible clearly indicates that relationships with older women is one way to do so.

I also think that this type of relationship is profitable across the board. Perhaps, you are not a wife or mother. There is always growth that can occur through a mentoring relationship with someone older than you.

Why 10 years?

Other than the fact that 10 is my favorite number, I think 10 years is a really good divide. When someone is 5 years older, their overcoming whatever you are going through is so fresh, there's a chance they have not yet processed it adequately. A 10-friend has lived, processed, and moved on!

My own mother has a 10-friend. She and Caren met in Bible Study when my oldest brother, Brandon, was 2. Caren's oldest was 12, and her youngest was 2. Sound familiar?

Her 10-friend has never let her down. Caren's oldest daughter went off to college long before Brandon did. But her youngest and Brandon both left for school the same year. Caren is the person my mom called as she sent her baby away.

Caren's daughter got married when I was in 6th grade. 13 years later when I got engaged, Caren knew to offer to help host the shower. She had already married off three children.

Here they are laughing ... and crying at my wedding.

These days, when my mom and Caren meet up, they attend Caren's grandchildren's high school football games ... and look at Hudson's baby pictures.

They've lost parents. They've suffered sickness. They haven't lived in the same state for twenty years.

Yet, they have remained friends! What an incredible blessing.

I hope my friendship with Shelly will last as long. But, even if it does not, the time I have had living near her and watching her live has been irreplaceable. I am so thankful for it.

I love you, Shelly!

Lesson Learned: Older women, find a younger girl to invest your time and life in. Younger girls, welcome her with open arms!

Keep Reading!

Photographs by Sweet Pea Photography


  1. Amen to the "10 friend"! Ideally, I like to keep a -10 on one side and a +10 on the other. I'm currently taking applications for both positions. :-)

    1. Erica, I like - and +. Super cute. I'm sure your positions will fill quickly!

  2. Totally agree! I have a 10 friend, too. She has SIX kids. And, she's actually made me want tons of kids, too (if God so desired). Her youngest is about a year older than Addie, so she also still relates in that "yeah-i-was-up-5-times-last-night-too" kind of way. We meet once a week and are doing a really challenging Bible study together.

    And in encouragement to others - we had a good relationship for several years in which I could ask every now and then for advice, but I had to unashamedly ask for it to be more regular in a once-a-week meeting kind of way (which is intimidating to do when the other person is obviously busy. Did I mention she home schools??). She was more than willing, but I did have to take the initiative. And like Erica above said, it has motivated me to mentor someone younger, which I'm doing for a HS senior once a week. Awesome post and reminder.

    1. Meredith, I've been thinking about what you said. That since your friend has six kids, you can now see yourself wanting "tons" as well. I think when all our friends are new moms, we spend a lot of time being exhausted and talking about being exhausted. And we think, "Seriously? Six? Two is a lot! ... One is lot!"

      However, when we are able to see how someone with six kids practically manages their lives, it looks less intimidating. You see, oh the older ones prepare lunch for the younger ones. Nice!

      Thanks also for pointing out that sometimes you have "unashamedly ask." That's really true and really good advice!

      Thanks for the comments.

      Also, your kitchen looks great!

  3. Hello newbie blogger - your VV friend looks like she is a wonderful person. I think any friend, no matter what age, is a treasure.

    Popped in from YWW.

  4. Maybe a 20 friend is good too ?

    1. Even one who lives in a different country ... !

    2. Thank you Katherine! I just "happened upon" your blog when I was on Shelley's FB page. What a beautiful tribute you have written about Shelley. Yes, from the short time I got to spend with her, she always exemplified such grace, and Godly beauty!

      I also agree with you about having a 10 year friend! God has blessed me with so many, most of w
      hom are right there in Clover, at Bethel. I am thankful for each of them and the ways they encourage me with their words and their lives, just living the Gospel every day!

      I am also thankful for you and for the time you have, and continue to invest into the lives of the young girls there at Bethel! They love you and look up to you for wisdom and counsel.

      Blessings my friend and keep writing!

      Tricia Lee


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