My Best Bit of Parenting Advice

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“Holiness is not about getting right and wrong perfected, but it’s about living in the Light, living without anything hidden.” Bill Thrall

I had a friend text me recently and ask if I would be her parenting mentor.

I laughed to myself and texted back, “Sure, but  it might be the blind leading the blind!”

Ever since her text, I’ve been thinking about parenting and what I could offer her, what I’ve learned, and what has been helpful for me as I do my best with my three babes. I’m not great at teaching and training my children, I get impatient and irritated too easily. I don’t spend enough time with them at bedtime, and I’m not as fun as I’d like to be with them. But there is one thing that God has impressed upon me that I try to impress upon them, and it is this:

Be in the Light.

Don’t hide; never hide.

Your ugly is never so ugly that you can’t be loved or forgiven. Also? I’ve got a lot of ugly of my own. You aren’t alone.

You’ve also got a whole lot of beautiful, because you were created in the image of God.

You are loved no matter what. Nothing you could do could change my love for you. On your best day or your worst day, I love you the same.

Nothing you could say or do could make me love you more or less.

You can always talk to me, about anything; approach me with confidence, because I’m on your team.

You are pleasing to me because you are my child.

You will mess up, and you’ll do it a lot, but that’s okay. I mess up a lot, too. We’re in this together; it’s why we need Jesus.

We need Jesus.

You and me both, kid. Because we will never get “it” right in this life. There will be loose ends and trouble and sin swirling all around us, but if we hold onto Jesus, we’ll make it.

And grace.

A million times you will mess up, and a million times I will forgive you. And please forgive me, too, for my million mess-ups.

If we carry on in grace, and stay in the light, we can do this thing called life. And we can do it fairly well.

So there it is, my big parenting advice. It’s really all I’ve got. But I think it’s everything, because it’s how the Father loves us.

“…to all who did receive him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”  John 1:12

Love, SM

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How to Lead a Women’s Small Group Bible Study in Your Home

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I know you’re busy.

Me too.

It’s been years since I facilitated a woman’s small group in my home. When I became pregnant with Caroline, I was tired and sick and didn’t want to have a small group in my home anymore (and I didn’t even want to go to one). I figured I could just pick it back up when I regained sanity and a got Care into a good sleep routine. Alas, things didn’t ever get back to the way they were. I never got over being tired, bedtimes became later at night, and I had no margin for one more thing. I had started to write, and that was my outlet; I felt like I needed it, so it was the only thing I made time for outside of my family. The problem was, I didn’t have any friends, and I thought I was fine. But you know, women need each other, and I had grown used to thinking I didn’t need anyone. I had convinced myself I was a loner.

This past winter I took a baby step and joined a woman’s bible study group at church. It was good, but it was in the church sanctuary and therefore lacked the intimate, inviting setting that {I think} only a home can provide. I love curling up on a chair or a couch with a some hot coffee in my hand and settling in for a good discussion. I miss having a women’s small group in my home.

I think it’s time to begin again.

If you’re thinking about starting a small group in your home, but aren’t sure how or where to begin, here’s a peek at what I’ve done (and plan to do)…

How to Start & Facilitate a Women’s Small Group in Your Home

Choosing to “Facilitate”

Notice that I used the word “facilitate” instead of lead. I say that because leading a study can feel intimidating, but facilitating one is just making a space where a study can happen; it’s being willing to get the ball rolling. As a facilitator my goal is to bring women together with a plan and to help (not dominate) the flow of the study and the evening. I’m making room for discussion to flourish by offering a warm, safe, and comfortable environment for women bring dark to light.

Figure Out What Kind of Study You Want to Facilitate

Do you want to read a book of the Bible, study a book, follow a Bible study guide, or have a topical study (one topic over a period of weeks, or a different topic each week)? It’s important to think through your limitations and count the cost before jumping in; pick something you know you can do with the time you have (this is so important so you can complete the study!).

Studies:

Reading a Book of the Bible: Pick a book and read through it together. Know what chapters you’ll be covering so everyone can read up, and then discuss it. This method is great for reaching out to your neighbors, those interested in learning more about the Bible, or new believers.

Use a Specific Method for Studying the Bible: One of my favorite ways to study the Bible in a group is by using the Inductive Bible study method. It is time consuming, but the insights you gain from the deeper study can be life-altering.

Use a Bible Study Guide: You can find Bible study guides anywhere. Beth Moore has a ton, and there is study for just about anything you could want to delve into. I usually do not like Bible study guides because the questions are obvious and the study can get boring real quick. However, there are some good ones out there (such as Beth Moore studies). Just make sure you leaf through it to make sure it has depth.

Discuss a Topic: You can do this by picking different topics for each week where you come prepared with your own thoughts, research, and scripture on the topic, or you can pick one topic to study the whole time, such as “marriage.” You can do your own research, or find a study guide to help you.

Read a Book: Sometimes it’s nice to just do a book club with other women. Get a hold of one of your favorites or one you’ve never read, and dig in together! If you’re doing a mom’s group, well, you know I recommend Desperate. ;)

Make a List of Women You’d Like to Invite

Think about the women around you that you think you would like to meet with over the course of several weeks. Do you just want some laid back girl-time with your dear friends, where you can talk super openly and have discussions late into the night? Or maybe you’d like to invite some women from your neighborhood or work or children’s school, and get to know them. Who is in your Oikos (those who God has placed around you)?

This time around for me, I’m going to invite some women from my neighborhood to study a book of the Bible together. I’m looking forward to deepening relationships that have begun, and watching to see how God’s Spirit moves during the several weeks we spend with one another.

Prepare for the Group

Depending on what kind of study you choose will dictate how much you need to prepare. You also need to figure out if your study will meet weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly (this depends again on what kind of study you’re doing and what your limitations are). As a homeschooling mom of three fairly little ones, I’m going to be doing the least amount of prep possible. I will read the chapter of the book we’re studying, write out a few questions or look some up, and that’s it. Do what you can with what you have.

Prepare the Environment

This is the fun part! Even if you don’t like to clean (hello, me), and you aren’t any good at decorating (hello, me again), you can still create a warm and intimate atmosphere where women feel comfortable and loved. It’s the little things, truly! Have a snack, some tea and/or coffee made, and have the living room picked up and comfy pillows around, and a candle or two lit. Let women know they can make themselves at home; let them know they can really settle in (naturally, this will take time).

Set Some Ground Rules

It’s a really good idea to have some ground rules ready to share. Here are the ones I use:

  • This is a safe, grace-filled place. Nothing said here gets shared with anyone else.
  • If you are an extrovert and have lot’s to say (that’s good, God made you that way!), keep in mind the quieter women of the group and give them time and space to share (rule of thumb for me as a facilitator is to count to 30 before answering – you could always pull your talkers aside privately and ask them to try that little trick as well)
  • If you disagree, do it kindly – we’re all on a journey figuring things out, and we’re all in different places with different histories and wounds, so be easy with each other (Life is hard, be kind)
  • Please try and be on time, and if you can’t make it, just call and let me know

What would you add?

Relax and Enjoy Learning/Discussing with Friends

Women like to talk, and if they feel safe, they’ll talk even more. Relax and let the night unfold! Have fun, think deeply (if you’re not sleep deprived with little ones), and enjoy the work that God is doing!

Bible Study Resources:

Studying Scripture Inductively 

How to Study a Book of the Bible

Printable for Doing a Topical Study

8 Questions to Ask Before You Choose a Bible Study Guide

Understanding Follow-Up of the New Believer

Desperate Small Group Guide for Moms

Keep on! -SM

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Be The Mentor You Never Had (Plus, Is Desperate Only For Those Who Can Hire Help? Addressing An Amazon Review)

desperatebook1-196x300Today is the last day of the book club here; Sally will write about the last chapter on itakejoy.com on Thursday.

There are two things I want to address from the chapter and from some of the reviews on Amazon. First, an excerpt from Chapter 14, Desperate…Not Defeated:

“If you go through this season of desperation alone and without help – though I pray that does not happen – then I want you to write down what you’re experiencing and how it affects you. Put in writing how you are going to be there for your children one day and the other young women God puts in your path and be the helper you never had. I want you to think of all the times you have said…

“I wish I just had someone to help me with _______.”

“Why don’t any of the older women ever volunteer in the nursery?”

“I’ve been praying for a mentor, but so far, no one has shown up.”

“It seems like the older women don’t want to invest in the younger women; where are they?”

“I have no money so I can’t go anywhere when I need to get away. I could really just use a night away alone.”

“I’m drowning in laundry! I wish I had some help!”

You have probably thought many of those things, and more. You recognize that you need help, you need time, and you need refreshment. I want you to commit right now that, Lord willing, you will be that person fo a few younger women one day.”

And there it is, the heart of Desperate – reaching out and helping/being friends with another woman so that we can persevere as mothers.

No one should have to do motherhood alone. Which brings me to a comment on a couple of the Amazon reviews:

“Most of their ways to “breathe” are only possible if you can afford to hire help.”

I cringed when I read that comment, for two reasons. One, that is not at all what Sally and I were communicating, and the fact that a couple people felt that was what we were saying, well, it’s painful, and sad and wow, do I need to communicate better?. The second thing is, it’s just not true. The whole of the book is to encourage mothers that they are not crazy for how they’re feeling, and that they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings of desperation, and that they shouldn’t have to do motherhood alone – not by way of “hiring help” but by way of friendship and mentors! We mention that if you can you could consider hiring some help around the house, that there is nothing wrong with that if you’re able, but it was just a suggestion. I understand that many women cannot afford any help, but I also know there is so much guilt around the idea that if you hire someone to help you clean here and there you are somehow a failure or less than. I say boo to that! Also, I know what it’s like to not have the money to have some help; heck, I remember not having enough money to buy groceries some weeks! So for those commenters to assume that out of our whole book we are saying the only way to breathe is to hire help, well, I’m just honestly at a loss, but even more so I want to say: I’m so sorry you felt that’s what we were saying. We do not believe that to breathe you need to hire help, we believe that you need help, and we hope you find it in friendship and mentors, and ultimately in the One who loves you and guides and is there for you in every desperate moment.

In fact, here’s a little resolution I wrote up to encourage you in overcoming the desperate feelings that motherhood can bring on, and none of them have to do with hiring help (these are the concepts in the book):

The No-More-Desperate-Moms Resolution

(Get a pretty PDF version of this resolution to print by clicking here)

If I am a mom of little ones…

I will choose to celebrate each day with my children as gifts from God.

I will remember that I am not alone in my feelings of inadequacy.

I will remember to accept my limitations with grace.

I will remember that one day, this season of little ones will be over.

I will commit to making my relationship with my spouse (if applicable) a priority, knowing we are partners in the raising of the eternal souls in our care.

I will pursue friendships with other moms.

I will not feel guilty for taking time for myself to refresh my soul.

I will fill myself with good things in order to keep growing as a person.

I will talk to my children about the importance of serving others.

I will not compare myself with other moms, but instead be the mom God made me to be.

I will remember the hard years of raising little ones so that one day I will help a mother of little ones. I will do for another mom what I wish someone would have done for me.

I will remember to look my babies in the eye, nibble their toes, nuzzle in their necks, dance with them, giggle with them, and remember in whose image they were created.

If I am past the little years and my children are grown…

I will commit to teaching a young mom how to walk with God and read His word every day.

I will “adopt” a young mom who doesn’t have a mom, and I will mentor her and love her.

I will commit to take a mom of little ones a meal from time to time.

I will commit to offer to watch a mom’s little ones once a month.

I will commit to doing an act of service for a mom with little ones once a month (laundry, dishes, general cleaning).

I will encourage my older daughters to serve young moms.

I will remember to tell women to accept their limitations with grace.

I will remember that I am raising generations by helping and loving moms so they can persevere in the noble call of motherhood.

I will do for a young mother what I wish someone would have done for me.

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And there it is, the conclusion of the book club here at SarahMae.com. Please head over to itakejoy.com on Thursday to read the final book club post.

Thank you so much for sticking with this study, and I pray that you would find help and encouragement and resolve to overcome and be the mama I know you are. So much love to you.

SM

You can get your copy of Desperate at Amazon, B & N, CBD, or DaySpring.

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How Do I Find a Mentor?

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Jesus reached out to His disciples. He saw them, and he called to them, and He invested His life in them.

Titus 2: 3-5 says that older women are to teach the younger women.

I believe that older women should be reaching out to younger women. However, this doesn’t happen as much as younger women would like (busyness, insecurity on the part of an older woman, etc.). I’d like to offer some suggestions for younger women reaching out to older women.

Accept Humanness & Prepare For It

Sally isn’t perfect.

Many people believe that I found the perfect mentor. While it’s true that Sally is quite fitted to me, and she is my friend, advocate, and wise mentor, she’s still human! She struggles with sin just like the rest of us. When looking for a mentor, please don’t try and find someone who has it all together or has done everything right. Find someone who is humble, who loves the Lord, and is who is willing to do life with you. I love Sally because she is my friend, and she invests in my life, and we encourage each other; this is what a mentor does, walks out life with you, encouraging you and teaching you what they’ve learned throughout life. Remember, we all have sinful bents, and it is only Jesus who makes us beautiful and righteous. If you are looking for someone “perfect” you will never find them, or they will let you down. Accept the reality of humaness.

Pray

Yea, yea, I know, this is the obvious one, but it’s obvious for a reason: God hears us. Ask God to bring an older woman into your life. Ask Him who would you fit you as a friend, advocate, mentor, and life-walker.

Be Patient

You don’t have to fall in love with the first woman who asks you to coffee. Get to know them, and see if their is a commonality, a bond, a “clickness”. Don’t rush it.

Approach an Older Woman…or Two

Pay attention to the women around you, particularly in your church, and then one day ask them to come over for a cup of coffee. You don’t have to approach someone and say, “Hi, I’d like you to be my mentor.” Just get to know someone, or a couple someone’s. You’re not looking for undivided attention here, You’re looking for a real life friend, one who will sit with you as your kiddos are running around and needing fed and changed. You might not have a chance to get out for coffee, and that’s okay. A friend will meet you in the middle of your life, babies, cleaning, diapers, conflict, and all!

It’s Okay to Have More Than One Mentor

Sally is my long-distance mentor and friend, and Ginny is my local mentor and friend. I talk to Sally almost every day, and I have tea with Ginny usually once a week. Ginny also surprises me with Chai Latte’s in the morning, or washes my dishes, or makes hats for my kids and doll blankest for their dolls. She loves my children in person, and she cares for me (psst…older women, is there one young mama you can do this for?). I love Sally and Ginny, and both of them are gifts of grace to me from God. And just an FYI, the relationship that Ginny and I have began organically. We went to the same church, but didn’t even know each other. Her husband and my husband met for coffee once a week, and here and there I would talk to Ginny. Very slowly, over  a period of years, we finally get to know each other. It wasn’t until this past year that we really became dear friends. Relationships take time and effort. Make the time, and put in the effort, even if that effort is simply an open door to your life.

Don’t Forget Your Mother

If you have a healthy relationship with your mother, then you have a built-in mentor! Consider yourself blessed and reach out to her. Ask her about her life and her story and her offerings; get to know her anew. A mother who loves you and invests in you and is wise and godly is a gift! Don’t waste it.

How Other Women Found Mentors

I asked my FB community how they met their mentors; here are a few of their responses:

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Your Turn!

If you have a mentor, how did you begin the relationship?

What holds you back from mentoring a younger woman?

What holds you back from asking an older woman to get together?

Reading this in your email but want to comment? Click through to the blog!

Related:

The Secret of Finding a Mentor – Working Diligently at Friendship

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In Desperate – Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe, read letters between Sally and I and watch videos of the two of us discussing motherhood (every chapter has a QR code and link where you can connect with us!). Consider asking an older woman (or younger) to read the book with you. You can buy the book at Barnes & Noble HERE, or Amazon HERE.

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Emulating Wise, Professional Women of Integrity

Ann Voskamp wrote the forword to Desperate.

I’m telling you not because I think it’s completely wonderful (it is!), but because she wrote it while sitting in the ER. After I received her forword, I called Sally and said, “I don’t think I could have done what she did, writing this beautiful, thoughtful forward while sitting in the ER with a nasty bronchial infection. Heck, I can’t write if I have a cold!”

Sally replied,

“Ann is a professional.”

And I lost my words.

I always have a million “good” reasons not to follow-through with something I said I would do. I’ve gotten too busy, or I’m sick, or I just don’t want to do it anymore.  The word “professionalism” has never entered my mind. Wow.

Ann is an expert at her work. She not only has a gift, but she chooses to keep at it. Sally is this way as well, and so I have before me two wise women who refine their gifts day in and day out, and who keep their word. I want to join their ranks. I want to live out of integrity, because really, that’s what a professional is, someone who has integrity. They are an expert because they choose what to do and what they will be able to do, and then they do it. And they do it well, because they know their strengths and their limitations.

What I also know about those two women is that they choose to be “professional” in their homes first. They have spent hours and hours investing in their families, and I would say they are experts with their family puzzle (as Sally calls it). They have not offered crumbs, but feasts of their time and energy. I am grateful for their example.

I don’t want to be Sally or Ann or anyone else, but I do think it is prudent to emulate wise women.

Professional women.

Women of integrity.

What kind of woman do you want to be? 

Find wise women to learn from; watch them, invite them to coffee, get to know them. They are a gift.

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