You will always hear me advocating for a real-life mentor: someone who knows you, who sees you on a regular basis, who can cheer you on in your struggles, and call you out on your sins. A mentorship is a relationship, and a good one takes time and trust to develop. I have been blessed to have several mentors in different life seasons, and I am deeply grateful for their investment in my life.
But what if you simply can’t find anyone who fills that role?
Order a Mentor-In-A-Box, of course! Did you know you can buy them on Amazon?
Okay, not exactly, but there are a number of wise women who can speak into your life by way of their writing. And like most friendships ebb and flow with the changing seasons of our lives, it’s likely that some writers will be more helpful than others at certain times. Elisabeth Elliot, Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth, Elizabeth George, and Edith Schaeffer have all shared their wisdom with me through the pages of their books; I count them and others as godly mentors and influences. For these challenging days of mothering young children, God has blessed me with another special woman: Sally Clarkson.
I’ve never met Sally in person (it’s certainly a dream of mine), but she writes in such a warm, personal style that I feel like we’re having a cup of tea together. Her books are like extended conversations on things that are important to me: loving Jesus, living by faith, being a compassionate mom, creating a welcoming home.
I can’t review all of Sally’s books in this post, but I’d like to share three that have had an impact on me in my current season of young motherhood.
If I could take a walk with Sally, I think The Mom Walk is what our conversations would sound like. How do we practically follow God’s guidance while “walking the path” of motherhood and shepherding our children along their own paths? How can we be involved in ministry while still prioritizing our families? How can we make time to recharge when we’re feeling burned out? Sally discusses these questions with humor and insight, and her stories make me laugh.
I love how real and honest she is, sharing special memories of where things were nearly idyllic (moonlight walks on the beach, delicious meals eaten by candlelight) but also stories of an exploded soda can in the car or being stranded on a mountain trail with her kids and a dead cell phone. Woven through all of it are so many good reminders to trust God, to have grace for others, and to believe that He is good. I appreciate her perspective from a little further down the path.
“I am merely God’s servant in caring for my children while they are on this earth. I must learn to wait for His wisdom, to set my heart to please Him. Doing this, I can rest, knowing that even when I make mistakes or seem to fumble through my life, He will be there to pick up the pieces and guide me through each season.”
(Sally Clarkson in The Mom Walk)
I’ve already read The Lifegiving Home twice. It is encouraging, practical, chatty. I absolutely love that it’s written by both Sally and her oldest daughter Sarah because it shows that Sally’s efforts were successful to make a home where God was glorified and people were loved. The book is laid out like a calendar, focusing on one aspect of “home” per month. For example, January focuses on planning and organizing the “bones” of a household. June focuses on play and creating great memories.
If you have read Edith Schaeffer’s Hidden Art of Homemaking (which I love), you’ll especially appreciate The Lifegiving Home. Sally reminds one over and over that you don’t have to do everything perfectly: just start somewhere and let traditions develop organically. With three children under five, I need the reassurance that my efforts to build a strong family culture are worthwhile!
“Every day in each inch of space, each rhythm of time, each practice of love, we have the chance to join God in coming home, in living so that we make a home of this broken and beautiful world all over again. Love is enfleshed in the meals we make, the rooms we fill, the spaces in which we live and breathe and have our being.”
(Sally Clarkson in The Lifegiving Home)
I’ve saved the most powerful book for last. I read Own Your Life a couple of years ago, and as I skimmed it to refresh my memory this week, I was struck once again by its grace and truth. Of all Sally’s books, this one reminds me the most strongly of Elisabeth Elliot’s writing. Sally doesn’t shy away from hard things, but they are said from such a loving heart that you feel encouraged and convicted, rather than condemned.
In a culture that seems to be sliding quickly into victimhood, self-pity, and irresponsibility, Own Your Life urges us to take responsibility for our choices, make the best of our circumstances, and choose to live by faith. She tackles fundamental ideas like finding our identity, exerting our will, resting in God’s work, taking risks, and overcoming hurts. I plan to read it every couple of years because those are all places I need to examine my heart. Having a wise mentor, even via the pages of a book, is so helpful when I am trying to get back on course!
“There is no single way to serve God, but the point is this: We each have only one life to live to tell a story about Him, about His ways, about His love. And if we are Christ followers, then God calls us to use our gifts, to exercise our faith, and to become salt and light right where we are.”
(Sally Clarkson in Own Your Life)
One more tidbit: Sally also has a podcast, so you can hear her encouraging words in her own voice. It’s not quite in person, but it’s close. She also holds conferences from time to time, as well. Now, I’ll let you go order her books. (I really wish every woman would read Own Your Life.)
While I’m so very grateful for my real-life mentors, I count Sally Clarkson as a key influence in my life. (If you happen to read this, Sally, thank you from the bottom of my heart.) God has used Sally to challenge my thinking and to encourage me as I seek to walk with Him. I’d definitely call that a mentor — even if she came to me in an Amazon box.
Photography: JenniMarie Photography