Are you a mother with a tween or teen daughter? If so, my guess is you might be a bit like me and seeking ways to connect with her at the right level. Trying to bring God’s word to bear in a winsome way across the range of things you talk and think about. You know there are lots of topics you want to talk through and probably more you haven’t even considered yet, but you don’t want to only do so reactively. You want to think ahead with your daughter and help prepare her for the joys and challenges for a young woman growing into adulthood.
If that’s the case, Between Us Girls by Trish Donohue might be just what you are looking for. Donohue has done much of the work for us and has provided a readily accessible book for mums* and daughters to read together. Naming them ‘walks’: each is designed to be read with no preparation, anywhere you like – at home, in a coffee shop or indeed out walking together. All you need is the book and a bible. Donohue has 26 walks each covering a different topic, and each is split into 4 sections:
- The garden: what God’s vision is for us.
- The weeds: how sin has messed this up.
- The hill: how the gospel and what Christ has done helps free us from the grip of sin.
- The field: where we start putting these truths into action.
- Right away we dive into the foundation of what we believe with the gospel beautifully and simply explained. What Donohue does next is wonderful; after explaining God’s plan of salvation she simply states:
Without understanding this plan, the rest of this book will sound like this: “Be a better person, blah, blah, blah; don’t be like those bad girls, blah, blah, blah.”
My girls loved this, they thought it was funny but also understood the point: what Jesus has done changes how we live: not because we have to, but because we want to.
Without understanding this plan, the rest of this book will sound like this: ‘Be a better person, blah, blah, blah; don’t be like those bad girls, blah, blah, blah.’
Getting straight to the point, the question for mums is: “Describe how you realised your need for a Saviour. Was it sudden or gradual? What details do you remember?” For girls: “Have you repented of your sin and received Jesus’ gift of righteousness? If not, have you ever thought about it?”
So straight up, both mum and daughter can hear each other’s stories of faith to this point, which for many may be the first time they have explicitly talked about it.
Then we dive into the remainder of the topics covered, which include relationships (our families, our friends, our role models), insight into who we are (our feelings, our flair, our appearance, our design, our weaknesses), our spiritual life (our devotions, our prayers, our church) and considerations into how we live now and into the future (our work, our reach, our hard times).
We loved the comment in “Our Feelings”:
Believe it or not God created our feelings and emotions (….) Can you imagine Adam and Eve plodding around the garden of Eden stating in bland voices, “This. Piece. Of. Land. Appears. Adequate.” No way! They were probably splashing in steams, cracking up over the crazy animals, and oohing and aahing over that first sunset.
“Our Devotions” and “Our Prayers” point out how cool and surprising it is that the God of the universe wants to be in a relationship with us. Both mothers and daughters are challenged to consider whether they are more likely to tend towards legalism or laziness, and to encourage one other to continue to progress forward. Donohue is honest about the challenges of prayer, and encourages girls to practice praying the Bible.
“Our Design” introduces girls to how God has designed men and women differently and it was a good age-appropriate introduction to the topic: “Creation shows us that God made men and women differently with great purpose and design. The gospel shows that we each have dignity and worth. May our lives show that we trust his wisdom and delight in who he has made us.” “Our Flair” was a lovely introduction to the different ways God has gifted each of us, and encourages each girl to find delight in their own skills and gifts, and to find ways to bless and serve others with them.
Our Design introduces girls to how God has designed men and women differently … ‘Our Flair’ was a lovely introduction to the different ways God has gifted each of us, and encourages each girl to find delight in their own skills and gifts, and to find ways to bless and serve others with them.
Every single chapter was biblically sound, instructive and wise. Donohue’s writing style is very appealing: serious when appropriate, direct at points, and funny and a bit silly at other times. The sharing questions for mothers and daughters always extended the conversation further. With 26 walks outlined, even managing it only once a week, you could do it over six months. I read it with Miss 10-11 and Miss 12-13 over the last year and I can well imagine getting it out and reading it together again in another few years. We did it as a group of three, which worked for us, but there would also have been great value in me reading it with each daughter individually. Every time took about 20-30 minutes as we curled up in bed, read the chapter and Bible verses, chatted through the questions and thoughts raised, and prayed together. Each time we came away feeling closer to one another and knowing a bit more about each other.
Was there anything missing? A chapter on developing romantic interest and considerations for dating may have been helpful (although it is alluded to elsewhere). In addition, a conversation on some of the risks and allure of the teen years including wise choices with alcohol and drugs, as well as an awareness of potential mental health issues would have been useful. But these are minor because some of the other conversation topics could lead in this direction, and Donohue is honest about the book aiming to be a conversation starter, rather than covering everything.
While the language is written for mothers and daughters, it could easily be adjusted to suit other mentoring relationships, including a grandmother and granddaughter; godmother and god-daughter, or aunt and niece. It could even be adapted, with some care, for a small group setting.
Mother and daughter relationships (especially in the teen years) can bring great joy and great stress. There are tensions, words that are regretted, and worries that do not seem to cease. Yet there are also moments of wonder and awe at who our girls are becoming. While as mothers we continue to trust in our sovereign Lord’s good plans for our daughters, and we continue to work out daily what it means to cast our anxieties for our girls onto the Lord because he cares for us and them, we also want to proactively guide and grow our daughters in these years. This book gives us some great wisdom and help to do that. Highly recommended.
*Being American, this book speaks about “moms”, but I have written “mums” for our Australian context.