Sunday, September 30, 2012

Be The Mom - An Encouraging Shot in the Arm

As a mother who stays at home with her kids, I must admit, I have had these awkward moments when asked what I do for a living.  After answering “Oh, I’m a stay-at-home mom," I see the slight frown and the look of pity and then accept the abrupt shift in the conversation to the weather.

I also admit that in response to that question I have downplayed my motherhood and replied with  “I’m a writer”.  (So cool and bohemian sounding.)  Or, “I’m a youth group leader”. (Never mentioning that I’m a volunteer.)

 To be honest my full-time vocation is a mother to my children. But looking around at our culture, it’s not easy to find anyone who will affirm the importance of motherhood, a voice that will state, without apology, that being a mom is the grandest career a woman could have.

That’s why I so appreciate Tracey Lanter Eyster’s book, Be The Mom.  Overflowing with good-natured advice and encouragement, Eyster clearly communicates her love of motherhood.  Seriously, this book bubbles over with the kind of   “Hey-I- know-what-you’re-going-through-and-I’m-in-your corner” inspiration that will make you want to run out into the street and shout OH YEAH, I’M THE MOM!  Well, okay, I’m exaggerating somewhat.  But if you are a mom struggling with your momhood, this book is a shot in the arm.

Not that Be the Mom is a cover-to-cover pep talk.  Far from it.  Eyster, chapter by chapter, points out the traps that moms can fall into that can damage their relationships with their family and take the wind out of their self-confidence.  From the “Just a Mom” Trap to the “Supermom” Trap, Eyster analyzes those perceptions of motherhood that can tie moms up in knots and cause anxiety-induced thoughts of self-doubt at three in the morning.

Be The Mom is a book that could have easily become a study in maternal shortcomings - the kind of book that makes you not want to a get out of bed in the morning.  But Eyster has the gift of encouragement with a coaching-not-criticizing approach.

Sure she points out the pitfalls of the “Martyr Mom” Trap, but she makes you feel like she’s right in there with you, urging moms on to see the big picture – to see what a gift from God motherhood really is.

Although Be the Mom is primarily a book that encourages the stay-at-home mom, Eyster certainly does not overlook the mom working full-time out of the home.  She admits some moms do have to work, but being the mom should always be of primary importance.

Speaking from experience, being the mom has come with some life adjustments for Eyster, who shunned the corporate ladder in favor of Chutes and Ladders, but she makes it clear, even through the most frustrating and difficult times, it is worth it.

 Advanced reader copy from Focus publishing through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Reason - Deeply Moving and Thought Provoking

In a small Michigan town an enigmatic stranger appears.   Kind, compassionate, and way too insightful…he can look inside a person’s heart, see the history of hurt and, speaking a few words, hold out hope of something better.  Oh, and did I mention the miracles?  Oh yeah, he does those too.

Now before you roll your eyes and determine this is yet another modern-day, stonewashed jean-clad-hipster-Jesus novel, please hold your judgment.   The Reason, by William Sirls is much more than that.  Sure, it doesn’t take reading more than a few pages to realize who the drifter is, but he’s not the center of this story.  Faith is, or more specifically, what it means to “Believe”.

Pastor Jim and his wife Shirley love God, although they are a bit weary keeping a church going that has seen better days.  Their joy is evident even though Jim is blind and they are taking care of their mentally challenged adult son.  But they love the Lord, trust Him and proclaim his faithfulness even under the most dire of circumstances.

 Under Pastor’s care are Brooke and her five-year-old son Alex. Brooke moved in with Jim and Shirley a few years earlier when she was going through a difficult time in her life.  A fairly new believer, she is finally piecing her life, and her faith, back together only to discover that her son has cancer.

Doctors Macey Lewis and Zach Harmon are determined to see Alex through, but they are facing some spiritual issues of their own that the mysterious stranger is going to make each of them confront, even if it means digging up a past that is too painful to bear.

Sirls has populated his novel with authentic characters – solid believers who press on, followers who are struggling with what to believe, and those who think this whole God thing is a crock – all wrestling with belief at one stage or another

Alex’s cancer is the impetus for a lot of soul searching and not just within the characters.  Sirls forces readers to ask themselves “What does it really mean when God asks us to only believe?”.

The Reason is a complex novel holding up the subjects of faith and God’s love and looking at them from various angles.

Yes, the definition of faith is on the line here between the pages of this book.  Can it be that if we have enough faith that the tide can turn in our favor?  Or are we placing our faith in the wrong thing?  Should our faith be in the gift or the Giver, the miracle or the Miracle Maker? 

And is it possible to hear from God and yet totally misinterpret His message?  When bad things happen to good people, is it a sign of weak faith or an opportunity to trust in someone bigger than the situation?  
And when life falls apart, does God really love us?

Sirls’ The Reason is encouraging, inspiring, and challenging – and it’s a good read. And when choosing a book, who needs a better reason than that?