I’ve been sitting on my reviews of a couple of books that I read a few weeks ago, trying to figure out how best to share just how encouraging they both were to me. Why is it that oftentimes the books I enjoy the most or find the most encouraging are the ones I have the hardest time sharing? I guess that means that the more inarticulate the post, the better the book is in my estimation. 🙂 That must mean that these two are really, really good. 😉
The first book I read is Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson. I purchased this book for my Kindle on just one such day–a day when I felt completely overburdened by the daily-ness of raising three children, with a fourth one being added to the mix soon. Beginning Desperate was one of those Proverbs 25:25 moments for me:
Like cold water to a weary soul
is good news from a distant land.
I had read Sally Clarkson’s Ministry of Motherhood before and been encouraged by it, and I’ve also perused the Clarksons’ Educating the Whole-Hearted Child. However, I had more or less dismissed that one as outside of what I really wanted academically for our homeschool. Now that I’ve been so encouraged by Desperate and also now that my girls are getting older (and I can see that not everything works out the way I expect it will, academically and otherwise 😉 ), I’m going to pull out Educating the Whole Hearted Child again and give it another chance.
Anyway, back to Desperate: it’s really not a book I’d expect myself to like. Each chapter is introduced with a letter from Sarah Mae to Sally Clarkson, which is followed by Sally’s response. The chapter that follows, then, is each woman’s thoughts on the “desperate” topic discussed in the letter. That’s just not the sort of thing I usually enjoy, and plus, I felt like I am already out of the demographic (women with young children) that this book aims most to reach. (Newsflash: I’m still in it and will be for a long while. I’ll have two groups: the Big Girls and the Little Boys. Heaven help me.) However, once I began reading Sarah’s letters, I realized just how often I still feel like this, even after almost nine years of mothering.
I’ll confess, too, that after reading Sally Clarkson‘s blog very occasionally and the aforementioned books, I viewed her as a totally different breed of woman than I am: always calm, always loving, and always patient. However, after reading Desperate, I came to realize that what she actually has is something that only time can give: years of experience and perspective. Now Sally’s blog, I Take Joy, is one of my first stops in bloggyland every day. If I could ask Sally one question that I didn’t feel was addressed adequately in the book, it is this: how does one balance the desire to get it done (homeschooling, housework, etc.) with the need to be the nurturing mom her children need? I’ll just bet Sally has some suggestions.
I read Desperate over the period of about a week, which is actually faster than I intended to read it. Each chapter includes a devotion at the end, and I really meant to do it slowly enough that I could really let it sink in. In the end, though, and also because Steady Eddie was out of town for a good bit while I was reading these two books, I just took it in in great big gulps. It definitely bears re-reading, and in fact, I’ve already started going through it again. I won’t even bother sharing quotes from the book; how could I choose which ones to share when I highlighted 136 passages from it on my Kindle? The bottom line is it has been the single most encouraging book on mothering I’ve read in a long, long time, and it also gave me a second (third? fourth? fifteenth?) wind for homeschooling. What else can I say? If you are discouraged in the very least regarding motherhood, this is a book that you can certainly glean something from. My only regret is that I didn’t buy a hardcopy of the book, though there is something to be said for having it delivered wirelessly to one’s e-reader when one is particularly desperate. (2013)
The other encouraging book I read quickly on the heels of Desperate is Mary Ostyn‘s A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family. While Desperate is mostly concerned with the emotional and spiritual, Ostyn‘s book is much more practical. I’ve long been a fan of Ostyn‘s blog, Owlhaven, and now that our family will soon be crossing the line to officially above average in terms of size, I felt justified in giving this book a go. (While I realize that to many people a family of six is not a large one, right now it’s feeling pretty big to me. Just trying to figure out the workload without going into fullblown panic is where I am right now. 🙂 ) What I gleaned mostly from this book was practical advice. Some of it seemed like just common sense stuff to me–i.e. limit the number of out-of-the-house activities you commit to, etc. However, some of her practical advice, especially regarding kids’ chores and just plain old accepting the fact that this is going to be work, produced several lightbulb moments for me. Ostyn is also a big believer in encouraging and making time for the individual child, even in a family as large as hers. This is definitely something I need to work on (note the previous parenthetical about the Big Girls and the Little Boys). I would think that any mom could glean some useful advice from A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family, whether she has two kids or twelve. (2009)
The bottom line here is obviously that I give both of these books a Highly Recommended, even if I can’t articulate too much what they meant to me at the time. In fact, I think they’ve both done much to encourage me as much in our homeschooling journey as in my mothering journey, and given the fact that I go through a homeschool panic phase approximately every month or two, that’s a big deal. Soaking in the collective wisdom of Clarkson and Ostyn has done a lot to give me a picture of what I want my mothering to be like, and while I’m far, far, far from the goal right now, I at least have an ideal in mind. (What’s even more important is that I’m not beating myself up as much when I fall short of the ideal, and that’s thanks to these two books, too.)
A couple of Sundays ago Louise was sick, so I kept her home from AWANA on Sunday night. I had some work I needed to do, but she was pretty downhearted about missing a pre-Valentine’s theme night at AWANA. I worked for a while, but I promised her we would do something special after I had gotten a few things out of the way. I had the bright idea to have tea time with Louise and her bear (the theme at AWANA was “Love Bears All Things,” and the kids were supposed to bring their stuffed bears). I brewed some peach tea, served her up a piece of Texas sheet cake on some of our wedding china, and I read aloud the next story in our shared-reading selection, The Blue Fairy Book. This definitely filled her bucket, especially since almost everything around here is done in a crowd. I’m pretty sure that without the influence of Clarkson and Ostyn, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to do this that Sunday night. I’m really glad I read their books. I’ll remember Louise’s sweet smile from that Sunday night for a long, long time.
Here are a few blog posts I’ve been encouraged by lately that have a theme similar to the one that so resonates with me through these two books: