The Secret of Finding a Mentor! Working diligently at friendship.

photo Phyllis sally Lemon

Phyllis Stanley, my dear friend and mentor, and me!

(In Italy at Mama Agata’s cooking class.)

Yes, these lemons were real and came from the trees around us.

Deep, dark loneliness was a constant companion of my heart for many years. I ached inside for a friend, or someone who cared for me–someone who would even notice me. As a friend-oriented person, I had known deep friendship, but it seemed that once I became a mother, no one was there–and no one reached out to me.

The illusion that if we moved to a new town or joined a new church or group kept us, even as a family. searching for kindred spirits, like-minded friends.

We faithfully attended many groups, meetings, studies, but we were mainly the ones reaching out and often we just didn’t seem to fit the mold of other people’s expectations.

I remember once when Sarah was washing dishes, again, she said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if some time someone would invite our whole family over for dinner and we wouldn’t have to be the ones who cooked, cleaned and washed dishes–again!

Even as a then 12 year old, she wondered at the seeming loneliness of our family as a group.

The kids often made friends over the years as we would move from place to place. And we always had people we “did stuff” with, but very few kindred spirits.

God had made our family exceedingly idealistic, artistic, verbal, and a very close knit family. Our family felt close to each other, but it was hard to find a “match” with someone else.

As I would tearfully pray one more time, God began to speak to me very gently.

“Two are better than one. Woe to the one who has no one to lift him up.”

That was me–no one to lift me up. And then there was the Titus 2 verse about older women teaching the younger about motherhood, marriage, and all the rest.

But, it seemed I did not know any older women who wanted to spend time with me–and let’s be honest–very few women, that when I observed their lives, I wanted to influence me. And there were not many my own age, either, who seemed to draw me to the depth I wanted to live from deep inside of my heart.

But, I knew and felt that I desperately needed a friend–someone to share my burdens, my doubts, my insecurities, my fears, my struggles.

I wrote in my journal what kind of mentor I wanted:

1. Someone who was spiritual, excellent, deep, idealistic. I wanted someone who when I was with them,  made me want to love God more. I wanted someone whose life and the expression of their lives, would inspire me.

2.  Someone who “got” me and my ideals and actually liked them. As a mom with 4 children, homeschooling, discipleship oriented, it was hard to find others who were ahead of me–it seemed I was always the one ahead of others and I didn’t always know what I was doing!

3. A real friend, someone with whom I could enjoy life and have fun–a must.

4. I wanted older, younger and same age in my life–someone ahead, someone behind, someone where I was. (A mentor does not have to be older–just kindred and responsive.)

But God put on my heart to seek friends as a hidden treasure–that it was for me to find and cherish and not to sit around and wait.

I have found that the best friends are those who perceive themselves to be “givers”

–people who are seeking in some way to invest their lives in others for the kingdom. Givers and servants are already on the move and so are open to being a friend.

 I joined some Bible studies over the years, and I would keep my eyes out for someone committed and excited about their spiritual life–perhaps a missionary, a mom who loved her home, family and children, a leader. Then I would ask them if I could spend time with them.

This whole concept of “keeping my antennae out” has helped me so much over the years. It meant looking, actively seeking for that person who was giving of her own life,  or who had a heart need that I could meet and also someone engaged in some kind of ministry or leadership, someone who had “life” about them–that now I define the “life” and the “light” of Christ.–or a hunger to have that life.

Where Jesus is, there will be a sparkle, an excitement, a burning to want more out of life.

And so, I would almost always have to be the one who would make it happen–with many women–I would host lunches, have different women over for tea, meet women for coffee, looking searching for “excellent” women who would draw me to the best of spiritual ideals. I have started small groups in my home, over and over and over again.

But often, it was in the reaching out to others and building small groups, that I found my best friends–sowing the threads of our lives together by serving in mutual ministries we loved. And then, our children would also become friends–serving along side us in purposeful ministries in which we were involved. And so began the community–husbands met husbands, traditions started, history has been made.

I realized that if I wanted godly friends in my life, I needed to look for them, cultivate them, love them and encourage them as I would want to be encouraged.

So I would:

1. Initiate with many women, somehow, some way in the midst of a very busy life with 4 children and ministry–I knew I needed it.

2. I made writers my mentors--and would search out books and writers who stimulated my ideals.

3. I would make it a priority to look for other women who seemed hungry for friendship, and because I needed it, I assumed others needed friendship and so I would “do to them what I wanted them to do to me” and

I would call them, send them notes or emails, intentionally tell them the ways I admired them, and I would invest in their lives and in our friendship.

relevant-bloggers114 Sarah Mae and Sally


It’s how I met Sarah Mae, my co-author of Desperate–I saw her serving and reaching out through her conference, and  as I was in the habit of reaching out, I reached out to her and she responded back.

You see, Jesus is the lover who reached out, initiated, poured out His love for our benefit. And so in friendship, I began to see myself as a giver of love, a builder of friendships and an initiator of life. 

In giving my life, I found that eventually God gave me the friends and board members and ministry partners and girl friends that I needed and wanted.

And now,

I have friends who serve side by side with me in conferences.

Friends who run leadership conferences with me here in Colorado.

Friends who write a blog network with me.

Friends who live all over the United States and the world, who meet with me whenever we are in the same place. Friends I call, email, pray with, play and adventure all over the world together.

We all sort of mentor each other because we are committed to each other’s well being.

Friendship–mentor relationships are an investment–and require intentional giving and planning. Even as a house that is built requires a plan and effort, so friendships grow out of intention and giving and cultivating.

But when I follow the pattern of Jesus–calling the disciples, meeting with them, “doing life” with them, teaching them, serving them, then I had His pattern of giving of Himself.

A personal example

 My friend, Phyllis, is my mentor and dear friend. She is 13 years older than me. There was an immediate connection between us because of our mutual commitments and value for ministry and cultivating a life-giving home.

Yet, because she is very busy and has so many friends, (She and her husband have been on staff with the Navigators for many years, in the States and Internationally.), I just made an assumption that she would be too busy for me. Too many people wanted her attention and friendship. How would she find time for me?

Yet, she was the kind of friend I knew would call me to the ideals I wanted to pursue. So when she had a Bible study, I would ask to join.  Cooking classes held in her home, would find me with my two girls participating. I pursued her as often as time allowed. I looked for every opportunity to be with her and responded to every invitation. And I also initiated times together. I honored the value of our friendship with my time.

She always constantly asked  women come over to her house for cup of tea and talking. And so I made it my habit to ask her if I could come to her home and share a cup of tea with her and also if she wanted to come to my home as often as I could work it out.

I tried to insert myself in her life as much as I could and sought to be of encouragement and support to her amidst her busy life. When I was with her, she almost always opened her Bible, she was always reading some new book. Always, there would be a cup of tea, a candle and flowers waiting for me to feel special in her home. She lived a life of integrity that always inspired me to want to be more excellent. I would copy her, a wise woman!

And so a few years ago, I told her that my life required  regular “Phyllis” time, and so we have loosely made a habit that when I am in town and she is in town, we would get together every week or two. And so making each other a regular commitment in the midst of very active lives, developed into a deep, loving friendship that now, after 15 years, has deep roots.

Three international trips, ministry together, her discipling my own girls, reaching out to other moms and friends together, prayer, meals, spiritual accountability, and more have come because we made our friendship something we would both cherish and invest in, amidst the thousands of demands of our own lives, because we knew that we needed each other.

The life of friendship and the influence of a mentor comes from initiating love and cultivating heart commitments.

And so it is true in life,

“Two are better than one, a strand of three chords is not easily broken,”

and so working diligently and pursuing actively a godly friendship is indeed a treasure.

Be sure to read Sarah Mae’s article today about mentoring, here.

Desperate 3Dcropped

In Desperate – Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe, read letters between Sarah Mae 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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  1. says

    I really love this Sally. I want to pursue some new/deep friendships this year— and though I have 3 young kids who keep me busy— this encourages me to step out and make it a priority. With the talk of mentoring throughout Desperate launch week, I’ve been reflecting on the mentors in my life. Before I was married I had the chance to live or spend time overseas with a handful of missionary families and so much of what I learned about hospitality, motherhood, homeschooling, and serving others was sort of caught as I spent time in their homes. (Which is one reason I think your intensives are so neat— because those experiences are rare as most women aren’t inviting younger women into their homes.) Other than that I haven’t had a lot of real life mentors but have been mentored so much through good books (yours of course top my list!) I’m so blessed to learn from your wisdom and experience. Thank you!

  2. Suyai says

    This post made me all teary-eyed! Amidst the loneliness in serving in a foreign country, I can assure you your books, blog, and inspiration have made ALL the difference! Thank you so much for sharing your life with us, please know it is blessing people worldwide in deeper ways than you can maybe imagine. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you! xx

  3. says

    Sally, I just found your website yesterday even though I have owned your book Educating the Whole Child for years. Funnily enough, I’m also reading your book The Mission of Motherhood right now. I find your books encouraging. Thank you.

    I really enjoyed this post. It gives me ideas. You see I have been in this position for years. We are part of a small church but we also know many many people through the church, around the world. I have had (no exaggeration) thousands of people through my home over the years. How this happens is another whole story.

    Anyways, I have found hospitality to be a rare thing. People are uncomfortable with it, it’s too much work, etc. It is extremely rare for our family of 8 to be invited to other people’s homes.

    Like you, I find it so hard to connect with others when we have different standards and goals.

    I wanted a friend for years (close-by) and the Lord gave me one, but over time it seems like it has faded a bit because the way she and her husband was raising their children was something I could not go along with and of course, she probably felt like we were too overboard as well. I still love her, but our friendship isn’t as close.

    I love this post because my husband has always encouraged me to get with other ladies but since I’m such a homebody and have 6 kids, I haven’t make much of an effort. One thing I have learned over the years is that if you want change, you can’t wait for others, you have to begin with yourself. This post reminds me that I need to do that in this very area.

    Thank you for the encouragement and my apologies if this comment is too long and choppy. :)


  4. Amanda says

    Oh my goodness…you have just written my heart…AGAIN!!

    So, the first part of this blog entry was me about five years ago. Actually, the reason I am coming to your conference is because of how much it meant to me to find your blog. I call you my cyber mentor because you were JUST what I needed.

    Still, though, I wanted a close friend I could touch and feel. Honestly, it felt wrong to have some of the feelings you put into words above. (and I’m so glad you did it for me!) I did what you shared above about looking for someone who knows God and reaches for loving and serving Him (which wasn’t easy to find). Before I moved, I continued to reach out to this one woman who was older than me and finally before we moved, she was the one that supported me and was there for me . I adore her and we still keep in touch. She oozed Jesus and I’m so glad that we finally connected after so much time of me secretly trying to inch my way into her life. :)

    We have been in this new place for a little over a year and I am doing the same. Looking for those of all ages who just want to know , serve and love God, our families, and the world around us. I just initiated a mommy group where we will read your book and am hoping for encouragement and inspiration from these ladies. Even more, I am hoping for kindred spirits and connection. I need it! I have reached out to this woman who also has older children because of all the reasons you said. I continue to pray that God will give me exactly what you have described above. Like you, I have had these deep relationships in the past and I miss them and crave them. I deeply desire what you have described and have been fervently praying about it. Just yesterday, I was asking God to cross my path with just what I need. Your blog was so timely. Like you, even in church, it has been difficult to find. It’s almost like churches are becoming more like country clubs. I want true, authentic community! I want role models for my children. I want to love and serve God with a group that wants the same. You don’t always find that at church anymore. We have visited so many churches in the past year. We purposefully moved in order to simplify and start over letting God rule our steps. We see His hand so clearly in so many ways, yet this one seems so challenging to find. I have often wondered….is it a sign of the times? In reading your blog, Ann Voskamp, and the other Mom Blogs, I just pray and ask God to please send women /families like this into our lives.

  5. heartkeeper says

    This could have been written by me Sally!!! Your progression is SO much like mine and reaching out is where I am right now. I feel that has been placed on my heart, and here you are affirming this same idea. Thank you for this message and the continuous message of them that comes from you. I know that choosing excellence and hard things has helped bring that about! You encourage me!

  6. CarrieC says

    My very best iron-sharpens-iron friend made a ministry move 15 hours away this week. I’ve never connected with anyone on such a deep level; actually neither of us had, because of the ministry positions we are in and always feeling like we had to have the facade in place. So obviously, my heart is broken. I need to know that distance can indeed strengthen a relationship and what in the world does a long-distance friendship look like?

    • heartkeeper says

      Carrie, this is also what I am finding with the two true friendships I have right now. They started out here, where I live, and both of them have moved LONG distances away. It adds to the loneliness at times, but they are still my best friendships by diligently maintaining connection. Sometimes I think I put all my leaning into them, and as Sally has mentioned, I think I must continue to reach out and find more that I can have here – shoulder to shoulder with me. My kindred spirits at-a-distance continue to encourage, guide and help me – but there are some things that are gained just by having a physical hand or watching/working with someone. (Though it is my prayer to physically meet up with them again when possible!) I am eager (after this post especially) to begin my prayerful “treasure hunt” of finding others. It makes me realize that reaching out may be crucial in finding them. I am thinking good friends are hard to find (indeed, that has been my experience!) and so I do not expect immediate success. I hope to continue in being grateful for those he has given me while “having my antennae out” and ministering to others while I do this. Blessings will come from the effort if I am ready to do what God wants, even if my “goal” is not reached.

  7. Deb Weakly says

    My Dearest Sally,
    I am so grateful for God putting us together! What a blessing it is to be your friend and to see your heart for your world. I am blessed beyond belief by our friendship!!
    Love you more than words can say!

  8. amy says

    Thanks for your encouragement Sally. My husband is a pastor and we have moved 5 times in the last 10 years. We often feel the lonely bug as we’ve had to leave close friends behind, and moving around makes putting down deep roots difficult. I’m also an introvert/shy person, so the “getting out there” and meeting people is not a natural part of me…it feels so very uncomfortable at times. ;) However, I do hope to apply some of the things you wrote about, and to keep my eyes open for women in my life who might be open to deeper friendships. Thanks!

  9. Marla says

    You don’t know me but your words always encourage me so much. May the Lord bless you in all you do. Keep on doing what your doing, and thank you so much!

  10. Ellen says

    Thank you so much for writing this! To be honest, I was PRAYING that I would win the mentor giveaway with you and SarahMae yet knew that whomever God allowed to receive that blessing would be in need of it. So, after reading this today, I am quite thankful that you wrote it as it definitely speaks to my journey in all of this because, from the sounds of it, I am walking through what you did in trying to start things up and asking other women out for coffee or anything and things just fizzle. I keep at it and still try to be an encouragement for these other women, but I SO desire to have someone pour into me and my husband and my children. Thank you for your testimony! I know that I need to keep at it and just be praying daily for that mentor and friend even if it doesn’t happen for years…..I know that God will bring that mentor and friend at the right time. Again, thank you so much for writing this as it has touched my heart more than you know!

  11. Julie says

    Sally, I loved how you talked about writers being mentors. You have been one of mine for so long – especially in the early homeschool days. Here in Asutralia there weren’t the people ahead like you speak of. This post about friendship and mentoring really touched my heart and reminded me to pursue friendship even if I don’t feel pursued. Does anyone else know they have friends and people around them but still feel lonely and isolated. Sometimes I feel like this. Yesterday I was walking through a shop having a little pity party about friends and it was like God popped this friend into my mind. I got this excited buzz when I thought of her and I smiled. So I texted her to tell her that I am so grateful to have a friend like her. She texted back straight away saying she felt likewise and that I had made her day. I love the way God breaks through my lonely self and warms my heart. I am praying for godly friends and mentors for my 2 daughters too!

  12. says

    Timely! Our summer Bible study at Calvary Chapel Houston will be on friendship, and at this exact time in my life I realize I need to prioritize some face time with a dear friend and mentor that I haven’t seen much since I moved a little over a year ago. Thank you for your honesty and encouragement Sally!

  13. Audrey says

    Sally, thank you for this post. I have ALWAYS craved a spiritual mentor in my life and have never found one. But I can’t say I have actively searched for one either. But God has been faithful. My sister introduced me to your books and they have indeed changed my life. I find so many women I am around have no vision for God’s purpose for family and children and homemaking. They love their children dearly, but often see them as burdens and are just waiting for them to grown up so they can “minister” again. Without meaning to be, I was one of them. But now I have such a desire for God to use me in my home and in the lives of my children and husband. Thank you.

  14. says

    Oh Sally, I had to chuckle because I just commented over on Sarah Mae’s blog about how I’ve grown to view mentoring in the last 10 years or so and it mirrors your point #4 almost exactly #4. I always try and be at a place where I have close friendship with someone ahead of me (an ‘older woman’), a friend or two in a similar season and then someone who is a season or two behind me to mentor. I’ve been doing this since I was a teen and it works no matter how old you are. Even at 16, I could be the ‘older woman’ to some of the 12-13 year old girls I knew. From what I hear, you never outgrow your desire for a mentor! :)

    And I just love how God works. I started a ministry a few years ago to minister to moms of toddlers and preschoolers who wanted to homeschool, but had no support system. What started as a mentoring relationship blossomed into two of my closest friendships right now. They bless me so much.

    Thankyou for the wonderful encouragement. I could relate to so much that you wrote.

  15. says

    I can’t begin to thank you enough for this post. I, too, have sat around wondering why I feel like I have no true friends. Yes, I have mom friends, but they are mere acquaintances that I mainly see when we drop our kids at school. I have been wanting more deeper friendship with other women and felt “left out” most of the time. How silly of me to sit back and wait for them to come to me, when it should be me who gently seeks them out. I need to invite them to me, rather than wait for them to invite me to them. So thank you. You are truly a woman who is ahead of me, not so much in years, but in spiritual growth. Thank you for showing me the way to better and closer friendships by modeling Christ and how He reached out. I truly experienced a “Duh” moment! lol

  16. says

    Sally, thank you so much for this beautiful post. I can so relate to your words: “As a friend-oriented person, I had known deep friendship, but it seemed that once I became a mother, no one was there–and no one reached out to me.” It was in those moments a few years ago, that someone recommended your book, “Mission of Motherhood.” In it I found someone whose heart resonnated with mine. Then I found your blog, and have followed it since. I used to follow as Nancy@ChocolateInk, and now I have a new blog:

    Although we have never met, you have been a mentor to me through the pages and posts you’ve written. God has been faithful to bring me real-life friends who share my values and with whom I can “do life.” I still cling to your words and find encouragement in your ideals. Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s calling throughout the years. Many blessings!

  17. Kassie Lashua says

    I cannot tell you what a comfort your blog has been to me since discovering it last night during one of the darkest times of my life. I cannot believe how similarly that all the writings and thoughts you have flow with mine. I feel as though I could have written the beginning of this post. I have sought so many, gotten excited and attached and began many mentor/mentee relationships, but none have lasted—always because their end seems to get busy and fail to call me and I get tired of begging (or that is how I feel). I have never been as encouraged so quickly as I have been since reading your writings. I am so motivated to try to begin a Mom Heart group ( I have been praying for close, like-minded in Christ friends who can encourage me in my marriage and as a mom for years and years!), but I do not know how to start. I am constantly going back and forth from God being all I should need to desiring that deep friendship I once knew as well. I have been beginning to feel depressed. I cried out to God once again, and He encouraged me through your blog. I will keep initiating, pursuing, and praying. I am so glad you are there. I only wish I could know you personally!
    God bless you!

  18. Janet N Mbugua says

    Thank you so much for this post. It so resonates with me. Trusting God to answer my prayer for mentors and kindred spirits.
    God bless you Sally for being a great mentor through your books and blog and recently videos !

    Janet, Kenya


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