I first met January Donovan in the DC area many years ago. As fate would have it, our paths would again cross years later, and those paths turned out to be somewhat similar in ambition. I recognized the inspiring passion in January, for transforming the culture through a particular ministry towards women. For me, this took its course through counseling, campus and youth ministry, and ultimately writing and family life.
January, who is a wife and expecting mother of her fifth child, is answering her call to transform the culture in many ways! She does this through her family example, virtual ministry, and in supporting other women through the many stages of being a woman.
Donovan shares her own inspiring personal story, recounting her turbulent teen years, in which she battled emptiness, trouble saying “no,” and two unplanned pregnancies. The pivotal moment of change and transformation finally occurred in her life, when a mentor asked her what kind of woman she wanted to be. As many who have been pulled into the depths of the culture have found, there is a need to “unlearn” falsehoods and embrace the truth. January Donovan has embraced that truth and is sharing it with other women through The Art of Being a Woman Project.
What is The Art of Being a Woman Project?
The ABW Project is a project geared towards transforming women, in order to elevate the culture. We do this through our ABW ACADEMY, which is a virtual training classroom for all women as they enter into the different stages of womanhood. The goal is transformation through formation – giving women the skills necessary to elevate the entire culture. In other words, training women to live the life they deserve, the life that God intends for all of His daughters.
Why did you decide on a Virtual Program?
Time goes fast, and so much is demanded of women today, often spreading us thin. Yet, we all need constant and daily formation; if we are not growing in sanctity, then we are falling into mediocrity. I remember being 22 years old and dreaming of a school where women could learn how to be women. It was a personal dream, because I didn’t know the first thing about being a woman of God myself. I just wished there was one place we could learn the practical, as well as the purpose of being a woman. I held onto what seemed to be an impossible dream.
The desire ached in my heart and I constantly gave it back to the Lord in prayer. God is so gentle and waited patiently for my “yes,” slowly leading me to the virtual classroom. I say that with conviction, because a technological project is not something I would have volunteered myself for.
I have learned that our Lord wants us to be creative and bold in proclaiming his love and mercy. Pope John Paul II opened our hearts to the divine inspiration of the Theology of the Body, and I believe we have work to do in spreading, manifesting, and sharing that beautiful teaching.
The Art of Being a Woman Project is my creative response to the Theology of the Body; to deepen our understanding of our own sexuality, so that we can live it with intentionality. The virtual classroom gives deep and practical training through video blogs. It is accessible through one virtual location, allowing the viewer to watch the trainings at her own pace. It covers the current crisis and the necessary topics we need to learn to prepare ourselves to enter into the many different stages of being a woman. The workload certainly seems huge for me, considering that I have 5 children under the age of 7! I have to remember that I cannot limit God.
Do women really need training on how to be…well, women?
After studying women for almost 18 years, I’ve realized that what we need the most is training. I define training as: AWARENESS, ASSESSMENT, APPLICATION, WORK, and PRACTICE.
Most of our minds are filled with information, which is not formation. I find that all of this information adds undo pressure that we can’t seem to apply to our daily lives. It is like knowing what to do without having the skills to do it, and feeling stuck. The world has changed dramatically; it’s fast, distracting, isolating, and celebrates the “doing” more than the “being.”
Women live in ‘reaction mode’ just to survive. We are expected to ‘figure it out’ as we go. There are so many expectations with very little preparation.
The desperation is quiet but palpable, and anxiety has become our norm. Training is our resilience against the contradictions of an exhausted culture, spinning its wheels, too tired to dream of the life God has intended for us. It is time we boldly claim the beautiful gift of our sexuality and live the abundant life that our heavenly Father desperately wills in our earthly time.
Living the fullness of our sexuality is our path to sanctity; women are called to elevate culture. I believe we are all called to transform this world!
Share with us some of the planned topics covered at ABW ACADEMY.
How to choose to be the woman you want to be (Foundation course)
How to treat men (Distilling confusion, vagueness, and healing)
How to be a peaceful bride (Letting go of the anxiety and embracing the peaceful, holy preparation of the sacrament; preparing for this beautiful journey)
How to prepare to be a wife (A lifelong preparation that is often unsupported. Can you imagine a surgeon operating without training? Without preparing, we prepare to fail).
How to prepare to be a mother (Shocking to many women who have longed for motherhood, yet not realizing how unprepared they are. Awakening the maternal instincts, beauty, sacrifice, and practical realities of motherhood must be taught.)
How to find quality friends, and be a friend (We are meant for community and need to learn faithful formation)
I have to admit that motherhood surprised me, in how unprepared I really was. I also assumed that instinct would kick in and lead the way. Does our culture lack maternal connection and support? What is it that we are missing?
Motherhood is meant to be a journey of preparation, not an overnight transformation. We shock our system when we have to go from 0-100 after giving birth. All of a sudden we are responsible for a soul – what a shocking responsibility!
Most of us who dream of being mothers focus on the joy that comes with having babies. However, the formation of a child also requires a “peaceful home.” We need to know how to manage our homes, anxieties, uncertainties, laundry, boundaries, spatial and mental order, joys, discomforts, wounds, insecurities, communication skills, time, and so much more.
Unfortunately, we cannot give what we don’t possess. In order to peacefully live this beautiful vocation of being mothers, we must have command of ourselves. Survival mode takes the focus off the privilege of the vocation. We cannot allow mothers to live in quiet blame, when they have not been properly prepared for the vocation.
How can we form familial communities when it seems that everyone is so busy and spread thin with their own kids? I often realize that I have no friends to ask for help because they are juggling so many hats themselves.
We need to be intentional with our friendships and focus on quality and depth. Being a friend requires a set of skills. We need to know how to nourish and be nourished, and to do so in the small stolen moments.
We need to be selective with our communities, especially when picking the location for our homes.
We need to be leaders. We cannot wait for communities to rise up, but rather lead the way as a whole family. Our homes need to become an apostolate. We must actively form ourselves, so that we can lead by example. When we exude peace and joy, we invite communities to form around us, creating a culture of love.
We need to do less, so that we protect our time and our peace. Less activities, less commotion, creating an environment at home that is nourishing to our husbands and children.
We need a circle of trusted friends; the women we go to for nourishment, processing, and perspective. God desires this friendship for us.
We have to invest time in our marriage first, giving honor to our husband. (Focusing on building a community apart from our marriage does a disservice to the domestic church.) Our communities must be filled with wholesome, thriving, and beautiful marriages rooted in the joy of Christ. This joy is contagious!
Pray for communities to form, begging God in adoration, contemplation, and asking our Lady to guide our hearts. Quiet moments with God are our first priority. Communities filled with prayerful hearts will become beacons of light.
We must use every creative means to bring life back into this world, drawing from the good in people, and managing our own fears and anxieties. We must do our part to eradicate judgment, competition, comparison, and anger. Competition is the biggest cancer of a woman’s joy. Conquering that wound in our hearts first will fill our communities with the joy of Christ.
What has been the biggest help in your own marriage and motherhood journey?
Training, training, and training. My husband and I actively train. We wake up early, we pray together, we actively study; training our minds and hearts.
My husband was not a practicing Catholic when I met him, but I have learned from him the value of constantly training. He is my inspiration. His mantra is that in order for God to make him an effective apostle, he needs to work diligently in training every part of his being. He puts God into everything, actively applying books that he has read. He is very intentional about everything we allow into our home. I laugh, because there is even intention in how we design the living room, and what quote or painting we choose to put on the wall.
Working on our formation together makes our nine years of marriage just get sweeter every day. We keep Friday date nights very sacred – making them a financial, spiritual, and emotional investment. We have a lot of fun together, we laugh, we dance, and we learn together. Training has made motherhood a real joy.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Time, time, and time. We are constantly protecting our time, and there is always the temptation to do more, or to feel badly for not doing more. I fight this temptation by bringing perspective into my day. I don’t allow negative thoughts anymore, like I used to. Negativity is an easy trap to fall into, and creates an ungrateful heart. We have to train our minds to interrupt the negative, and ask the Holy Spirit for protection.
How and when did you “know” for sure that God was calling you to your husband, Ryan, in marriage?
After the abortion, I couldn’t give my heart to any man; I didn’t know how to. I seriously discerned a religious vocation, believing that every woman should give God a chance first. He made it clear to me that I was not called to that vocation, meaning that I had to be patient with Him. Christ became my life, making it abundantly clear that my future husband deserved Christ’s love, and not just mine.
Preparing me for Ryan meant being filled with the love of Christ first. His tender invitation to fill my heart as I sat with him in adoration, is what I did through my single years. When Ryan came, it was the easiest and most peaceful decision of my life. We were engaged in six months and married in a year.
After almost 10 years of not dating, it was worth every tear and frustration to wait on “God’s perfect timing.” I knew it in prayer.
Why do you think that God has given you a special anointing for The Art of Being a Woman Project, and what is it that He hopes to share through you?
I don’t call it an anointing. I think God ‘calls’ us to do a specific work in our earthly time. Each call is equally valuable and part of a greater plan. This call is usually born out of our own wounds; a compass to something that God wants to do in our life. It is often a testimony to His love and mercy.
I have walked away from this project so many times, and He has been patient and tenderly persistent. He has placed this dream in my heart since I met him, and the ache to help women has always been there. Through prayer, time with him in contemplation, and my own preparation as a woman, He has revealed His call in time.
Sometimes, I get frustrated with God for asking this of me, since it leaves very little time to do the things “I want” to do. I have to be so intentional with my time in order not to compromise my vocation. Our Lord is so generous, however, and has given me much joy through this project. I wholeheartedly believe that we are on an exciting journey in our Church today. We are experiencing a transformation through the personal transformation of hearts! I believe it is time.
Please join January Donovan in The Art of Being a Woman Project, and pass this along to other women you know who may deeply benefit from this wisdom. Visit ABWProject.com for videos and information, and keep this mission in your prayers.
“We are going to keep going until we live to see the transformation of this culture. We will each do our part to contribute to this world and lead the way! Enough is enough with comparison, competition, and judgment; we are meant to reflect Christ’s light in this world. Join me in this mission! Do it for your daughter, for your sister, niece, mother, friend and for the men in your life.”
Copyright 2014, Kimberly Cook