We have seen the transformation that comes from women of different generations learning from one another and we hope for this experience for each one of us. Our mentoring program encourages women to bravely step out in willingness and say ‘yes’ to mentoring those younger than them and encourages younger women to allow someone who has gone before them to speak into their lives and walk alongside them. We hope this blog written by one of the mentors in our program encourages you right where you are at in your journey…
When I began reflecting on how having a mentor has impacted my life, it initially felt impossible to conceive of an answer, because the impact has been so great. More than great. It has been varied and vulnerable and fun and sacred. There are three things I will always recommend to other women, because they’ve greatly affected my lifelong well-being: Brene Brown books, pelvic floor physical therapy (for you mamas out there), and having a mentor (or counselor or spiritual director), especially during any of life’s big transitions.
I will call my mentor Dawn, for like the light of a new morning, she has been a beacon of light during a brave new stage of my life.
I moved to Bellingham with my husband about four years ago from Missouri and did not know anyone here. Thankfully, being a ministry couple meant that we were automatically connected to a church. Through God’s good will and orchestration, I learned about Collide at church soon after the move. I went to a Collide “Day for Women.” I was so thirsty for friendship with these women I was mingling with, but couldn’t easily connect with anyone at such a big event. That’s what led me to look up Collide’s Next Steps classes. I signed up for one. And even though it got cancelled, the organizer (Dawn) said I was welcome to come to her house anyway and have a coffee and talk. That small, perhaps spontaneous, invitation and my courage to say “yes” to this stranger was the tipping point.
Dawn welcomed me into her home, listened to me, gave me a journaling assignment, and told me to come back in a few weeks. I have never stopped going back to her home. In fact, it feels like home to me now. Not every mentoring relationship goes long-term like ours, but that’s how it has unfolded for us. Dawn and I share a value for deep and meaningful relationship in an age of sound bites and bullet points and text conversations. She knows how to ask good questions and she is okay with the uncertainty that comes with following Jesus. She’s okay with us not having answers.
I am an old soul in my mid-30s; Dawn is older in years though her youthful spirit keeps me from taking myself too seriously. She provides quenching wisdom and humor just by being herself. Intergenerational friendship is powerful! When I moved to Bellingham four years ago, I was new to both marriage and the world of pastoral ministry. We, my husband and I, started new jobs here. We bought our first home here. We have had two children here. Throughout all of this, I’ve been in Dawn’s living room chewing through the struggles, the newness, running with her to Jesus, and seeing Jesus slowly change me and enlighten both of us.
Here are two big things I’ve learned from God, alongside my mentor Dawn:
1. Relax those too-high ideals.
Do you set standards for yourself that are way too tough to meet? Like, all the time? One day at Dawn’s house, soon after buying our first home, I was grieving about how I was receiving so many lovely house-warming plants, but that I didn’t know how to take care of plants, our garden is a mess, I just had a baby, I’ve never really planted anything…and so on. Where do I put the beautiful lavender in my garden so it doesn’t die in my office? I was frantically wondering how to plan out the front and back yards. To my spinning she casually said: “Maggie, just go outside, dig a hole, and stick the lavender in the ground. If it lives, great. If it dies, that’s okay too.” This was liberating for me in the moment. It loosened up the inner voice saying that I had to figure out my whole garden in order to plant one small bunch of lavender. This has become a life metaphor for me and my husband. We often say aloud, “lavender in the ground” to release ourselves from whatever thing we’re overthinking and wanting to be perfect. (Note: I did go dig a hole out front and the lavender did thrive.)
2. Strive to live in the Garden.
Speaking of gardens, Dawn and I have read a variety of books together, one being The Cultivated Life by Susan Phillips. This book emphasizes the metaphor of Garden life vs. Circus life. In my move West, I was beginning the slow pivot from the Circus to the Garden. Talking through this book with Dawn showed me God’s truth in Philippians 1:6: “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God began reforming me long ago, and I see that he won’t stop until all of creation is redeemed and made new.
I also see that I have to take part in this reformation. The more I try to live in the Garden, the less the Circus drives my thoughts and actions. For me this has looked like: caring less about my outward appearance and more about my health; less about my home interiors and more about how I provide hospitality; less about my professional accomplishments and more about my character and family values; less about how efficient I can be and more about how intentional I can be; less about how articulate I am and more about how well I listen; less about how I compare with that other mom and more about how I model for my daughters. What a WORK the Lord is doing in me. And I cannot do it without Him, and people like Dawn.
As we walk through and wrestle with life alongside one another – imperfectly but loyally, with grace and compassion – God makes impact with each of us in ways both obvious and imperceptible. Dawn: thank you for walking alongside me. -Maggie Ellis
It doesn’t take someone who has life all figured out to be a mentor, it just takes someone who is willing to walk alongside another. You can be an encouraging presence in the life of a younger woman, just like Dawn has been for Maggie. We want to help. If you have questions or are interested in becoming a mentor, please contact us at email@example.com.