A Collection of Books for a Grace-Filled Mother’s Day

In 1914, when Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as a national holiday to celebrate mothers, there’s no way he could have predicted the century of retail hoopla and family angst that would ride on the coattails of his intention to simply honor mothers and their role in the family. Maybe you, the mother in your home, are already feeling the crush of your generational sandwich: the desire to make time for your own mother on that special day while entering into the plans your husband and kids have made for you. And while you’re pondering that, maybe there’s the question of how to best show love to the mother of your precious grandchildren! Then, there’s your mother-in-law . . .

The recipe for this Mother’s Day brew doesn’t even begin to account for ingredients like the heartache of infertility or the disappointment of generational dysfunction.  Maybe the path to a grace-filled Mother’s Day lies in the way we approach mothering as a way of life. What if we made a practice of celebrating year-round the women who have poured themselves into our lives? What if you began to value your own role in the body-and-soul nourishment of fussy newborns and fractious toddlers? How would your life be different if you embraced the high value of those hours spent in a mini-van and your prowess at getting the grass stains out of white baseball pants?

Rejoicing in the Spiritual Practice of Mothering

Catherine McNiel wrote Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline out of the experience of her own turbulence in the line of mothering duty. Well aware of the creaturely weakness that plagues her own journey, she offers life-giving practices and  perspective-altering insights. She invites busy mums to attend to the work God wants to do in their souls and to join C.S. Lewis in realizing that “the world is crowded with Him. . . The real labour is to remember, to attend.” (xiii)

Sometimes we need the reminder that motherhood is a window to a deeper understanding of theological truth about the incarnation; that pregnancy is a miracle in which “the unbelievable becomes tangible” in our own flesh and bone, and that we make it through the years of  mothering “one hour, one day at a time.” (149)

In a life that seems to yield not one minute for observing spiritual disciplines, McNiel urges mums to sink deeply into the practice of motherhood with its slow minutes and fast years and the multitude of mindlessly repetitive and yet very necessary tasks. Offered up to God with a heart of worship, the daily duties become a very spiritual practice, crashing through the artificial wall between the secular and the sacred.

When my four sons were all very young, I knew that my role consisted of the intensely physical routines of helping:  trimming 40 finger and toe nails, pulling shirts on over tousled heads, tying shoe laces, and making sandwiches. Now that all my boys are taller than I am (and in many ways more competent!), my role is different, but my offering to them is still the same. Mothering is the pouring out of a life, one drop at a time, in an often unseen sacrifice and surrender that captivates soul, spirit, and body. The relationships that were forged in those early mothering days are the gift that helps me to pray with knowledge as I fold towels for the son who is going to carry them off to college in a laundry basket. The heart connection is what makes family gatherings and frequent phone calls so precious as I hear firsthand fresh stories about the lives they are building in other places.

The life-giving practice of motherhood is carried out over a lifetime as we present ourselves to God and to our children, over and over again, in a multitude of offerings that bind us to our families and strengthen our connection with God.

More Books for a Grace-Filled Mother’s Day

Christina Morley likens the process of writing Happy Moms, Happy Homes: Empowering Moms to Live in Victory to the preparation of a 25-course meal. In bite-sized portions, she serves up twenty-five aspects of the mothering life, beginning with the need for empowerment by a God who pours His own love into our hearts.  Morley lays a theological foundation for mothering that discourages perfectionism, sets a course that listens for the voice of God, and focuses on relationship rather than rigid routines in the pursuit of God.

Because mums are “quick to take care of our kids and slow to take care of ourselves,” Christina shares her own journey of embracing self care and balanced living, and declares that Super-moms actually cheat their families out of the opportunity to learn and become well-rounded by performing routine tasks for themselves. (Amen!)

Gratitude and joy are the lubricant that keep the gears of motherhood from grinding and sticking. Happy Moms, Happy Homes takes readers on a whirlwind journey with the grumbling Old Testament people of God to demonstrate the wisdom of receiving God’s gifts without lamenting the things He withholds in His wisdom.

Mothers need a vibrant spiritual life based in “prayer without ceasing,” so they can do battle for their families in the spiritual realm where “the weapons of our warfare are mighty through God.” The investment of all our resources for the benefit of our family demonstrates faith in God to provide.

Healthy relationships within the family depend upon forgiveness and a working partnership between husband and wife. Parents who are “relationship builders” tend to pass that trait on to their children by example, and the Kingdom of God is advanced!

I’m still in the process of taking grace for this mothering gig, and one huge encouragement along the way is the shared experiences of others. Jamie Sumner is also a mother who walks on the tightly-wound side, and Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood is a memoir of her mothering journey in which she allows her own story to tell itself, while weaving in fresh re-tellings of the familiar life stories of biblical women. Read my full review here!

Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed is the product of Sara Hagerty’s collision course with the beautiful “waste” of a poured out life that hides behind hardship, disappointment, challenging circumstances, or the simple routine of an obedient following. We will never know the comfort of God as our “refuge and strength” until we come to a place in our lives in which we need to take refuge.  It’s clear that “our hidden places aren’t signs of God’s displeasure or punishment,” but rather places in which God intends to teach our hearts to sing. (33) I reviewed Sara’s book here.

Courtney Reissig’s personal illustrations and the vignettes shared from the lives of her friends encourage me to lift my eyes from the all-consuming “what” of my daily list and from the pervasive “how” (as in “how am I going to get all this done?”), and to fix my eyes on the one beautiful question:  “Why?” Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God (Gospel Coalition) serves up the truth that the work of home is the work of spreading God’s glory throughout the world.  By entering into the reality of that today, we leave a mark on those we serve and prepare our hearts for a future of greater work and greater joy when we will see that there has never been a mundane task without purpose in God’s incredible universe in which nothing goes to waste. You can read more thoughts on Glory in the Ordinary here.

In First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship, Shelly Hunt Wildman turns a laser focus onto the subject of parenting, inviting her readers into an intentional practice of envisioning the kind of family we want and then, by God’s grace, doing what needs to be done to make that vision become a reality. Fortunately, Shelly is writing from a place of self-awareness that prevents her from sounding off as a “parenting expert.” With honesty about her own shortcomings and failures, she shares her own goal of greater mindfulness with the voice of a fellow-traveler on this bumpy road of parenting. I happily served on the Launch Team for First Ask Why, so you can read my review here.

Gloria Furman celebrates both mothers and mothering in Missional Motherhood: The Everyday Ministry of Motherhood in the Grand Plan of God, and she immediately grabs her readers’ attention with the truth that there is so much more to this nurturing life than the quest for the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe and the indoctrination of perfectly-behaved children. The heart of the matter for all mothers is . . . our hearts.  Our brokenness, our mixed motives, and our innate selfishness get in the way of our ability to realize all that we dream of when we envision our call to mothering.  Missional motherhood is a term that embodies this “glad-hearted, life-giving” work of pouring ourselves into the life of another. I shared a full-length review here.

Somehow, Seth Haines knew the gift his wife needed for the Christmas following the birth of their third child — so he put out the word.  Friends, favorite authors, and bloggers were asked for a contribution of hope, a letter from the heart of a mother.  The response far exceeded Seth’s expectations, and he was able to present to his wife, Amber C. Haines, a collection of stories:  joyful accounts of tiny people and huge love; tales of grief and estrangement; recollections of disappointment and of celebration. Now the gift is being multiplied in The Mother Letters: Sharing the Laughter, Joy, Struggles, and Hope , an exquisitely bound and illustrated gift book that fosters community while it celebrates the beauty of borrowed strength. Here’s a link to more information about the book.

It’s a privilege to begin the Mother’s Day party with you here today! Thanks for reading, and may you find that a heart full of gratitude for the joy of mothering and the recognition that you have been mothered according to God’s plan for you fill your celebration with joy!

Blessings and love to you,

michele signature rose[1]

 

 

Each book in this collection has been provided by the author or by the publisher for the purpose of my review which is, of course, freely and honestly given.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the titles listed in this post simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

 

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered directly to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Advertisements

The Beautiful Hidden Life

When I learned in fifth grade that Helen Keller had graduated from college summa cum laude, I made it my goal to do the same. As it happened, those little Latin words that mean “with the highest distinction” did actually end up being embossed on the white parchment of my degree, thereby setting me on a course of high expectations for the “distinction” that was somehow going to be my destiny.

It should come, then, as no surprise to anyone that I packed that philosophy of life into the diaper bag I traded my briefcase in for after our first child was born. (Am I the only one who was surprised to discover you can’t get a baby to adhere to a schedule by sheer force of will?) If only Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed by Sara Hagerty had been written 24 years ago when I embarked upon the ordinary days of unremarkable tasks and (often) mind-numbing routine that go with motherhood.

I am thankful that, somewhere along the way, it became clear to me that there is an unseen and un-celebrated beauty to everyday acts of service, that productivity can not always be measured in the short run, and that there is a chasing after God that happens in the dim light of a rocking chair session with a fussy baby that is completely unavailable in the spotlight of recognition and acclaim.

Unseen is the product of Sara’s collision course with the beautiful “waste” of a poured out life that hides behind hardship, disappointment, challenging circumstances, or the simple routine of an obedient following. We will never know the comfort of God as our “refuge and strength” until we come to a place in our lives in which we need to take refuge.  It’s clear that “our hidden places aren’t signs of God’s displeasure or punishment,” but rather places in which God intends to teach our hearts to sing. (33)

There are innumerable lessons from Scripture presented in Unseen for living in the secret places with the God who sees, but I have teased out five of my favorite insights to carry forward into these mothering years:

1. Productivity is not a pre-requisite for God’s approval.

He values intimate conversation, faithfulness in the repetitive duties, and humility in performing the unappreciated tasks that maintain life.  Sara found that she had “a harder time trying to imagine what He might be thinking about[her] during the hours of the day when [she] wasn’t doing anything tangible for Him.” (19) The god news is, He’s already on your side, and there’s nothing you can do or produce that will make Him love you more –or less.

2.  We are made by God to be seen and celebrated.

He has called us by name, and we love the sound of approval, but there comes a dissonance  when a “misplaced desire” for recognition puts us on a path in which acclaim and acknowledgement become the focal point, rather than the glorious by-product of a relationship with God.

Note the intimacy of Psalm 139:1-3:

“O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.”

3. When God hides us, His intention is that we will find Him in the hidden-ness.

Sara’s season of hidden-ness began with a twelve-year journey of infertility. She had never entertained the idea that her life would be anything but fruitful on every front. In her busy ministry years, she saw results with many lives impacted by the gospel. Finding herself in a dead end job with little human contact, she felt “sidetracked,” sidelined, and walked a completely unfamiliar path. As she stumbled along, she heard the voice of God whisper, “This is where you become great — on the inside.”

4.  Pain is a thin place where the glory of God shines through.

Sara’s pain drove her to a place of finding joy only in God. As she suffered and wondered, she lived her way into a deep belief that the love of God is real and valuable. Like the psalmist, she felt His nearness in her broken heart.

5.  What appears to be an absolute waste can translate into a beautiful, extravagant hidden gift to Jesus.

In Matthew 26, Mary of Bethany is criticized for her lavish love gift of scented oil, poured out on Jesus’ feet.

“Why this waste?” they asked, with judgment oozing from every pore.

Little did they know that Jesus was going to view this apparent “waste” as precious, pronouncing that her act would go down in history as the right choice at the right time.

Sara’s mothering heart has found its home with six children, four of whom were adopted from Africa — and two who came to her naturally! Learning to mother children with needs bigger than she can fathom has deepened Sara’s dependency upon God and heightened her realization that the real need of her heart will be met, not by greater discipline, but in friendship with God. She encourages her readers to cultivate a lifestyle of beautiful waste, poured out in love and chasing the only thing worth being concerned about: God’s deep and abiding pleasure in you.

//

This book was provided by Zondervan through the BookLookBloggers program in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Additional resources

Read more of Sara’s journey at her website, where you will also find her blog and resources related to adoption and her books.

Jamie Ivey interviewed Sara on The Happy Hour podcast in which they chatted about the way God built Sara’s family and her fight to believe that God sees her, understands her, knows her, hasn’t forgotten her – and how that truth is better than being seen by anyone else.

//

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.