A Chat With Sarah
"Hi Sarah! I'm excited to feature you as a mentor at HHH because you are Christian counselor, psychologist, and a mom of four. You must know the best tools in how to keep it together - (body, mind, and soul) - and if you share them with us we can keep it together too! haha! Tell us more about yourself, what is a regular day like?"
"A regular day for me completely depends on the day. If it is a typical Monday or Wednesday, I wake up early so I can get myself ready and have time to get 4 kids dressed and ready to go. It's not tough to get up early because my 2-year-old and 4-year-old are usually up by 6AM if not earlier. My newborn is a great sleeper--if only my other kids could catch on. :-) I drive to Hartford and meet my dad and load the kids into his car because I am blessed to have parents who watch my children 2 days a week. Then I go to my office and see clients until 1:00. I drive to Wisconsin Lutheran College and teach Personality Theories of Psychology from 2:00-3:20 (I've been doing that for about 10 years). Then I go back to my office and meet with clients until 8:00. This schedule varies greatly depending on how many clients I have in a day. If I have an hour or two off I go shopping or run home and do errands if I have the chance.
On Tuesday, Thursday or Friday it's anyone's guess. This year is completely different because my 6-year-old is in Kindergarten full-time. So we get ready and run to school in the morning. My 4-year-old also goes to Pre-K in the mornings, so 2 mornings a week I have only the 2 little ones at home. Naptime gives me sanity, so any children at home nap for a couple hours (I make sure to put them all down at the same time), which gives me time to answer emails, prepare or grade papers for the class I teach, or once in a while even watch an episode of Dr. Quinn (those are the reruns I'm watching right now. :-) Usually on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I teach piano to a couple students who come to my home. I had 7 students last year (8 including my son).
I see clients a couple hours on Saturday mornings, but other than that the weekends are usually booked with family get-togethers. My husband and I both have large families and everyone but my sister in Germany lives in the area, so we are able to see family quite often. My kids have 2 cousins on my husband's side and 3 on mine, so it's fun to get them all together once in a while. We also have different couples we have game nights with every month or so, so we are never really bored on the weekends.
Of course we attend church on Sunday--early service because the kids are much more well-behaved in that service--and then after Bible class (one of my favorite hours of the week--I miss it in the summer time!) we go grocery shopping as a family. That's my week in a nutshell. It sounds a little crazy in print, but in reality we lead a pretty laid-back life. My husband and I are both able to be home quite a bit, and we make sure we have time to talk to each other as well as time to ourselves once in a while to recharge."
"How would you describe your unique role as a woman?"
"I have two specific roles right now--mother and encourager. In this phase of my life with 4 small children (Carson-6, McKenna-4, Braden-2, Julia-8 months), I am constantly thinking about how I can show them the love God has for them. I do this by teaching them about what He has done for them, as well as by being an example of God's love in the way I treat them and my husband. I see myself as an encourager both in my personal life and professional life. People come to me, whether clients, friends or family, for advice about how to have a different perspective, or just for encouragement that life will get better and that God keeps His promises."
"Yes, a reminder of God's faithfulness during difficult times can give hope. What bible passage is your favorite?"
" Oh, I love Romans 8! There are so many great truths in that section. These are a few of my favorite promises:
8:18 - I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 8:26 - We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. 8:31 - If God is for us, who can be against us?
And the best verses are the last--
8:38,39 - For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It's funny because sometimes I worry about the little stuff in my life, but that last passage reminds me that not only does God have the little stuff under control, He's got power over the big stuff too, like demons, the future, and death. His love conquers all of that, and verse 37 reminds us that because of that, we also are "more than conquerors." "
"You answered that question like me. I can't pick just one verse - let's read the whole chapter! Who is your strongest Christian mentor?"
"I have been blessed with a wonderful family, and so many of them have been mentors for me. My parents are amazing examples of Christian love and service. My dad is a pastor and he has always given such powerful sermons, so I learned so much from him spiritually as I grew up with him as my pastor. He also is a police chaplain and shows God's love to so many people in that capacity. He ministers to people in prison, and he makes death notifications, so he comforts people during their most difficult times--when they have lost a loved one.
My mom is also an encourager. She encouraged and supported me so strongly as I grew up--I always knew and still know that I am loved. She also encourages the people around her. She is a wonderful listener, and can make people feel very comfortable which helps them open up to her.
I have had some wonderful conversations with various aunts and uncles and cousins that have strengthened me in my faith. And my paternal grandfather was an amazing Christian example. He had a beautiful voice and loved to sing for God, and it was so important to him that all of his family--his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren--would know and love Christ as he did. He got to go to heaven this past year, but the spiritual legacy he left here will go on for generations."
"Faith and love are priceless gifts to pass down to family. Look at all that love in action! LOL! You come from a very caring family, is that how you became interested in Christian counseling?"
"I became interested in Christian counseling for 2 reasons. My dad is a pastor, and when I was young I remember that people would come to his office (it was in our house) and he would talk to them and try to help them. I thought that was such a cool part of his job--to be able to give people help from God's Word during their most difficult times.
Also, when I was in high school and considering different careers, Jeffrey Dahmer was in the news. I thought it would be fascinating to try to get inside the mind of someone who could do such horrible things, and I at first pursued the idea of criminal psychology. That's not the direction I ended up going in with psychology, and it doesn't really appeal to me anymore (I think because I'm a mom now), but it opened the door to the field of psychology."
"What is a challenge you see most often from families that reach out to you for counsel?"
"The challenge I see most often in families is the result of the breakdown of marriage. Either I am helping couples fight to stay together, or helping children who are struggling with parents who don't get along or are divorced, or helping adults that carry scars from the unhealthy relationship between their parents."
"Is there anything specific from Titus 2:3-5, our blog’s inspiration, that you can comment on to encourage women?"
Titus 2:3-5, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
"That's an amazing passage! There is so much wisdom packed into such a short section. I could probably write a presentation on each phrase. I guess I would highlight the part about not being slanderers. I think women are especially prone to gossip and tearing others down, but it is so much more fulfilling and God-pleasing to find kind things to say about others and to build them up. In fact, that word kind is used later in reference to the home, and that is probably where we are the least kind. I think that kindness is such an important spiritual fruit to develop, along with the other two mentioned in the passage--self-control and purity."
"What do you feel is a threat to a woman’s faithfulness in her home? How can you encourage us to be alert against it?"
"I think our current culture's view of marriage is a huge threat to a woman's faithfulness in her home. Turn on any sitcom or drama and observe the way a wife talks to her husband. She'll criticize, nag, and do everything she can to be in control. The idea of being "subject" to your husband is considered offensive. And if you're not happy in your marriage, go off and find yourself and find a different man who can give you the love and excitement you deserve. I have been amazed these past few years at how many marriages I have witnessed being destroyed because the woman has left her husband and children to pursue a new relationship.
I think we can fight against this by turning the focus from ourselves to the people in our lives. Rather than looking at what you're unhappy with in your home, think about what type of woman God asks you to be. Strive to achieve the fruits of the spirit--kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, etc. Focus on the ways that you can show love to your family, instead of focusing on what they do wrong to you. It's pretty frustrating to try to force people in our lives to change in order to be happy. It's much more empowering to change yourself. The world says that as women we should make our happiness a priority. But as I learned in kindergarten, true joy comes from different priorities: Jesus, Others, Yourself."
"So thankful that Christ is in our hearts changing us from the inside out! I know that truly loving my family is impossible without God. Watch for another true SIGN of love tomorrow - I just hinted at it. ;) Can you share a time in your life that was difficult and God strengthened you?"
"The fact that I don't have one clear answer to this question that stands out in my head is a testament to God's mercy in my life up to this point. One difficulty I struggled with was being single. My family moved from Colorado to Wisconsin a few days before I started high school, so I started not knowing anyone. I had never had to make friends before that, and I realized I wasn't too good at it. I was shy and self-conscious, and ate to comfort myself, so as I gained weight my self-worth continued to erode. I didn't have any boyfriends in high school, and though in college my self-worth started to grow and I actually had guy friends, I did not date then either. In my 20's I would go out on a blind date here and there, but nothing ever went anywhere. About a month before my 28th birthday, I tried speed dating and met a guy I thought was nice. We went out after that and had a wonderful time, but as our date ended he told me he was an atheist. I was so disappointed, and I wondered why God would have me meet such a wonderful man, when things obviously couldn't work for us. I met with my pastor and to my surprise, he told me that for some reason God put this man in my life, and that it was OK to just go out and have fun once in a while. So we dated a few more times, and as I stood strong in my faith, I was able to witness God working on his heart. As Dan was falling in love with me, he was allowing some of the walls he had put up against God to be broken down. He started taking Bible information classes, and eventually became a member. Dan and I got married 8 months after we met, and we recently celebrated our 8th annivesary. Not only did God show me that He saw and could fulfill my desire for a husband, He also allowed me to witness a very powerful conversion."
"What a great story! I'm glad to hear that your Pastor gave counsel to trust God's direction to work through you on your husband's heart. Adults, like children, learn from example too.
Is there another event that you saw God's hand clearly guiding or providing for you?"
"I can share two recent examples, actually. A few months ago work was going well for us, and my husband and I were able to save a little money that didn't have to be put toward bills (that's rare these days :-). I was thinking about different things we could do with it, when my mom called and said that my grandfather had died. His death was unexpected so we had not planned for a trip to North Dakota, but we packed up and took off the next morning for the funeral which would be 2 days later. After the cost of gas, a hotel room, and the few hundred dollars it took to repair our minivan after it broke down in rural Minnesota on our way home (whole other story), all of our extra money was eaten up. At first I felt disappointed, but then we thought about what would have happened if God hadn't provided that extra cushion of money. The trip would have been more stressful, knowing that we didn't know how we were going to pay for it. This way we didn't even have to think about money, and the trip instead was about love for my grandfather and good times with family.
The second example illustrates God's amazing protection. My children go to my parents' house on the two days a week that I work. They live about forty minutes away, so I drive them halfway and then my dad takes them the rest of the way. About a month ago, they were about to turn left onto the main road by my parents' house, when they were rear-ended by a car going top speed. My dad's car was totaled and his neck was a little stiff, but other than that no one was hurt at all. The kids looked at it as a great adventure, getting to see police cars and talk to EMS workers, so they weren't even emotionally hurt by anything. We don't often get to see God and his angels work so clearly, knowing that so much could have gone wrong in a situation like that. I'm so thankful for the many ways He works in my life, but that's on the top of the list right now." :-)
"Every day is a gift of grace. Thank you for that reminder. What’s next for you in ministry?"
"I plan to continue counseling in the near future, and I would like to work toward a specialization in Women's issues. I already work with many women clients, and I would like to get further education in that area, and make it the majority of what I do. I am also looking into the possibility of getting training in Distance Counseling, so that I can counsel Christian women all over the world using Skype. I love to give educational presentations, and I hope to do more of that in the future. I have been blessed to speak for many women's groups and retreats up to this point. This last September I was very excited to have the opportunity to travel to Alaska and lead a women's retreat there. I also switched from working at my own counseling agency, to working at Wisconsin Lutheran Child and Family Service as a Licensed Professional Counselor.
Apart from my public ministry in the realm of counseling, God has made it very clear by giving me four children that He wants me to engage in the ministry of bringing up a family to love and serve the Lord. That is something I am involved in every day, through the conversations I have with my husband and children, and through the example I set for them in the way I live and love them.
One other gift God has given me that I hope to use more in ministry in the future is the ability to sing. I love to sing in church, but I don't do it much because usually one child is crying over the fact that I'm not sitting by them, and crying and singing don't go great together. :-) So as my children get older I hope to serve in that way more often."
"Thank you for sharing your story, Sarah! Your example, like your family's, is an encouragement to care for others with sincere love. It is not easy to open the painful and intimate parts of life to just anyone and I can see how God is using you to bring healing and hope to others."
If you live in Wisconsin or Minnesota and would like counsel you can contact Sarah or other licensed counselors at Wisconsin Lutheran Child and Family Services.