The journey of marriage and motherhood, I believe, can do one of two things. One, make us into the women we were meant to be. Or two, make us lose ourselves only to find who we were meant to be in the first place. While it still leads us to the same place, I’d rather take the short cut.
As a person that needed to fail 252 times before I learned something in my twenties. These days I’d much rather take my challenges head on. I’m willing to fail but now I also seek out the right answers. As I look for these answers, I also have a strong desire to help other women learn from me. This desire to learn and lead with a God center, continuously takes me on new journey’s that surprise me all the time.
As a stay at home mom, I was really struggling with the fear of “not mattering.” I was exhausted trying to be a mom, a wife and a person that “mattered.” I overwhelmed myself day in and day out and everyone in my home could feel it. I was convicted about it but I didn’t know how to handle what was going on inside my heart. So I prayed and then sought out answers where God would lead me. This brings me to how I ended up at this interview.
During this period of conviction and confusion, the bible study Breathing Room showed up in my Instagram. The title alone made me exhale. This was also the exact time I was looking for the next study to do with my faith group, so I immediately bought the book. And as a shot in the dark, I reached out to the church’s resource department. I wanted ideas on how to best run the study, not really expecting a reply from such a big, well-known church. Much to my surprise, I got an email the following day saying they were going to send me leaders notes. But that wasn’t all. Jessica (the woman who received my email) also said she saw my blog and Instagram and wanted to know if I would be interested in interviewing Sandra Stanley for my blog. Wait, what? Initially just looking for more information about the book and a way to help my group, I ended up with an invitation to speak to the author herself! This is just another time in my life where God has shown me that He is faithful to those who seek Him.
Needless to say, I was so excited about the opportunity that God divinely arranged. I prayed that my questions would touch readers and give us the answers to the questions we were all struggling with. And as I sat down to chat with Sandra, she didn’t disappoint.
Me: So, my first question to you is about prioritizing being a mom and a wife but also having a career or passion on the side and how to find breathing room too?! Is it even possible?
Sandra: You know, Jill, I think sometimes in our effort to “have it all” or “do it all” we end up “missing it all!” (ouch!)
We have to decide what’s most important. And make sure we wrap our heads around what it means to be practical about keeping the most important things priority. If we have a marriage, kids, a household- we have to be realistic about what we can do in order to do family well. So, if you work and also have a family, there might be some things that you just decide ahead time, in this season of life these are “categorical no’s.” Like, lunch with a friend, because family will always come first.
If we could just change our mindset from trying to “fit everything in”, to realizing that our lives are made up of seasons, we can say no to some things now that we can say yes to later. A no for now doesn’t have to mean a no for always!
Me: I love that! “A no for now doesn’t have to be a no for always!” I always get caught up in disappointing others. But looking at it this way- it could change so much for my own struggle with finding breathing room.
Ok, so my next question is…There is “mom guilt” that can set in at times for us moms when we are focused on things outside of our own kids and home. How do you decipher if it’s God telling you to put down something that you are doing or if it’s the devil trying to stop something good?
Sandra: Jill, here’s something I know about God. He created us and He created communication. So, that leads me to believe that He’s the master communicator and will never confuse us.
When we are faithfully obeying the things we know He has called us to do, I think He will then give us clarity about the things we aren’t sure about.
Sometimes He speaks through the Bible. Sometimes He speaks to us through other people.
Two things to do when you are unsure:
1. Ask, “Am I being obedient to God in the things I DO know I should be doing?
2. Talk to someone a little further down the road in maturity in Christ to help guide you along the way.
If your family is suffering because you’re too distracted with other things, you can be pretty sure those distractions need to be looked at more closely.
Me: It’s so true. I remember a time when I was too distracted with something when I first got married and it caused real struggle. And it was because I was doing something I wanted to do instead of fulfilling the roles that God called me to do.
Ok, another Question…So when I asked my faith group if they had any special intentions for me to pray for, each of them literally said to pretty much “find time” to focus on God and have some self-care time in place as well. That was another confirmation that I knew the Breathing Room study was for us. Why do you think women struggle so much with finding balance? How do you find balance?
Sandra: We’re inundated with options – for how to spend our time and money. We’re also inundated with awareness of how everyone else is spending theirs! We see the trips, expensive shoes, picture-perfect relationships and it makes us strive for our own versions of those things. It’s a constant comparison trap.
But, also, we just simply wear more hats. We’re working. Some of us are moms. Some of us are working AND being moms. Many of us are wives. It seems almost a given that we ARE NOT ALLOWED Breathing Room. But the truth is, we DO typically have a choice about it. It’s just hard.
So, how do we find balance?? Have a conversation with God, and if you’re married, with your spouse. Identify the PEOPLE AND THE THINGS THAT ARE MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU. Write them down. Then, spend some time evaluating the calendar to make sure it reflects those things and those people. What’s on our calendar, is what we actually do, right? So, make sure the people and things that are truly most important to you are ACTUALLY what’s on your calendar.
If it’s not, make the needed adjustments.
Me: I know if I wrote down my priorities and then looked at my calendar, I’d probably have some rearranging to do!
Ok let’s talk about marriage. Your marriage seems so amazing and your relationship with your kids does too. I want that relationship. Any advice for new wives and moms out there that has been the cornerstone to those relationships in your life?
Sandra: There is certainly a faith component in our marriage and in our family. We learned early on that “following Jesus makes life better and makes us better at life”. Primarily because of what Jesus modeled for us. Which was putting others first and honoring one another. When we do that, our marriages and all of our relationships are impacted!
If you think about the principle of honoring one another, what marriage or family problem does that NOT touch?? Honor changes everything.
Me: Such great advice. It’s crazy because the world has it backwards. Many of us look to our relationships for fulfillment. We look at our spouse like “what can you do for me today?” Instead of the other way around. And waking up everyday like Jesus did with the question “how can I serve others today” it would probably have the divorce rate at an all time low!
Ok now let’s talk about kids… Your kids also seem to have been brought up in a way that have led them on the path to God. As our kids grow up, that’s our prayer for them. Any advice as to how you led them to stay the course? And how you may have answered when they questioned their faith?
Sandra: Yes! Encourage it, Model it, Make it easy. Encourage a quiet time at home for them to sit with God. Model it by allowing them to see you doing your quiet time. And make it easy! Give them a bible and journals each year so that they have everything they need at their finger tips. My advice is also to make sure your kids are at a church where there is a strong ministry for kids – even if it means YOU are not at the church of your preference. You want your kids to have leaders in their life who are saying the same things you’re saying, but your kids will actually HEAR it from them. Lol.
And to the second part of your question, I know it’s scary when our kids tell us they don’t believe in God. But the truth is, everyone questions faith at some point. It’s so normal because it’s something we can’t see it. Tell them “it’s ok” and that you will be praying for God to reveal Himself to them. Trust God to take care of that part. But what you can do is be generous with your own story of faith. Tell them why you believe what you believe, and about the things that have strengthened your faith over the years. Every opportunity to share that with your kids, do it.
And pray with them! This is a great prayer we said with our kids on a daily basis from Proverbs:
Lord, give us wisdom to know what’s right and courage to do what’s right, even when it’s hard! Even if I’m the only one. Saying that prayer led to countless times our kids called us to come pick them up from a situation that didn’t feel right.
Me: I need to keep this advice as a constant reminder. Such good stuff!
Ok, last question…I know you are a health nut and being fit and healthy is important to me and a lot of the women that follow my journey. It can sometimes be hard for us to keep vanity out of it. How do you keep your health journey spiritual?
Sandra: Honestly, you don’t have to over spiritualize everything. It’s okay to want to look good and feel good.
It’s when our health and fitness hobby starts taking first place that we get into trouble. When we’re prioritizing that over the most important people in our lives, when we prioritize it over time alone with God in the mornings (or whenever our best time is)…that things are out of whack.
And, it’s when we fall into that unhealthy comparison trap that we get into trouble…
When we evaluate our success or failure against the success or failure of other people, we lose. Every. Single. Time. We either come up short and find ourselves discouraged, frustrated, and sometimes even angry. Or, we consider ourselves better than, and become prideful about our looks. Listen. This is a very subtle thing sometimes. All of the sudden we find certain relationships compromised, or something is just OFF, and when we really get honest, often it’s the result of comparison.
Me: I know the comparison trap all to well! Comparing myself to women on tv, social media and sometimes even women I know and think of dearly. That’s when it is dangerous.
Well Sandra, I honestly wish I had your number on speed dial. I can’t get enough of your wisdom and faith. I just hope to be where you are one day and really be able to give these answers from experience and coming out on the other side of it successful. You have been so wonderful to talk to.
Sandra: Well thank you Jill, you too and I hope I get to meet you someday, sooner then later.
Sandra asked if she could pray for me and that was how we ended our call. I felt so blessed by her wisdom, prayer and advice. My hope is that hearing her responses blessed you as much as it did me. I know that we all could use a friend like Sandra. Someone with knowledge and encouragement that there is a better way to do life- a life Jesus’ way.