Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mommy Time by Sarah Arthur, A Book Review + Author Q&A

Behind the catchy phrase of "Mommy Time" is a very simple idea: New moms are encouraged to take regular time for themselves and do something like have a manicure or lunch with a good friend. In Mommy Time, Sarah Arthur shows how new moms can find peace, joy, rest, and spend quiet time with Jesus in non-traditional and yet completely Christ-like ways by honing in on something they are already starting to do, namely motherhood.

"If you're anything like me, you're craving Mommy Time, time to be yourself, time to breathe, time to actually finish a meal... you put off prayer" but "motherhood is itself a spiritual discipline," Sarah writes persuasively in her opening. Her daily devotions show new moms how to cultivate an awareness of God in the little details of their day and as they care for themselves and their infants.

The devotion for each day is about a page (regular letter size) or two pages (6x9" approx. - the size of the hardcover copy I reviewed). Most are engaging short stories of the author's experiences from pregnancy, delivery, and the first 90 days of motherhood, experiences to which a new mom can relate. I'm sure every new mom has experienced something similar to Save the Baby Weird Diet Challenge even if she didn't call it that! I know I did! I especially appreciated the breadth of the Scripture and Christian references and stories, personal, biblical, and from the early church to mothers (nursing, pregnant included), the word studies, the authentic personal writing, and the honest questions asked (what is family?) and answers discussed. There are no explicit prayers but the strong faith of the author shines through - really, very inspiring - and each devo becomes the prayer for the day.

I loved that Mommy Time not only came with a Scripture Index, it has bibliographical Notes as well!
Mommy Time is a fun and thought-provoking devotional and I recommend it for new moms, grandmas, and indeed, anybody who is a mother or parent. I also recommend it for writers and readers of faith stories and spiritual journeys.

Arthur, Sarah. Mommy Time: 90 Devotions for New Moms. Carol Stream, Illinois, Tyndale House Publishers, 2013.
Sarah Arthur author of Mommy Time; 90 devotions for new moms
Author Q & A - Sarah Arthur on Mommy Time

1. What is your hope for this book, Mommy Time?

One of the best ways I’ve found to stay balanced during the crazy transition of motherhood has been to talk with other moms. And that’s what I hope this book is: a conversation, a story, one new mom sharing with other new moms what God is doing in her life. In that sense it’s less a devotional book than a memoir, or maybe a devotional memoir, tracking my spiritual reflections during the first three months of my son’s life.

2. Tell me about the personal experience(s) that prompted you to write such a book.
As a new mom, I felt totally overwhelmed by bringing a human being into our lives, not to mention all my bodily changes and the relentlessness of caregiving. Yes, there are lots of joys! But motherhood is hard. I thought it was important to be honest about that. So often Christians are tempted to sugarcoat their experience and cover it up with sentimentality. I wanted to open up a space for other moms to acknowledge their experience and say, “God is okay with the fact that I’m having a hard time. And God is here.”

3. How do you carve out time to spend in God’s Word in your busy life? 
I’ll be honest, whatever pattern of “quiet time” many Christians idealize was not invented by new moms. There have been seasons in my life when I deeply, intensely studied Scripture — through Bible classes in college, getting a master’s degree in theology, reading certain books, and attending certain small groups. But during this new season, I have had to draw from the well of those experiences rather than carve out new ones. I have had to tell myself, “Holding this child is what God has for me right now.” If I can free up one arm so that I can read a good devotional book, even better. 

4. How did you write this book as a busy new mom? Why was it important for you to do so?
A major shout-out to my husband and my son’s grandparents: I could not have written this book without them. When Micah was tiny, I didn’t write a thing. But writing is in my blood, in my bones. It’s one of the ways I connect with God. So in those early days, I couldn’t help thinking, “I’ve got to remember this moment, this thought. I need to write it down someday.” Once we finally settled into a routine, and I had childcare lined up, the writing began—and so did the opportunity to breathe, to spend time in God’s presence. It was a gift.

5. God is in control. Why is this truth so important for new moms?
We live in a culture of fear: fear for our kids’ safety, fear that we won’t measure up as parents, fear that our children will flunk life, etc. And retailers prey on that fear. So we are surrounded by magazines and books and websites that try to sell us things to give us a false feeling of control. But the truth is, every day I have to unclench my fist and release Micah into the care of the One who made him in the first place. And that’s hard. But if I can practice it now, I can do it when Micah walks out the door with the car keys. Hopefully.

6. What encouragement would you provide to the new mom who is overwhelmed and feeling lost?

You are not alone. Lots of moms, including me, fall into the trap of presenting ourselves as totally together— which just perpetuates that feeling of isolation, like you’re the only one flunking motherhood. But we are all there, sister. I’m sitting here at my laptop unshowered with no idea what to make for dinner tonight, checking my phone fifty-seven times a minute to make sure Micah’s daycare isn’t texting me about some crisis. So we’re in this together. And meanwhile, we have a God  who holds us and our children in the palm of his hand, who isn’t particularly concerned that the same load of laundry has been in the washer for three days. We rest in grace.

7. In your book, you say that “motherhood is itself a spiritual discipline.” What do you mean by this?

Christians often talk about certain spiritual actions or practices that bring us into the presence of God, that deepen our relationship with Jesus. We talk about Bible study, prayer, worship, serving others, etc. But through motherhood, I’ve realized that we can also seek God in the everyday ordinariness of caregiving. The working class,
the poor, the enslaved, and illiterate Christians have been doing this for centuries without ten minutes each morning to pray or read Scripture. It is not beneath us to pray while folding laundry. In fact, there is a sense in which having such focus requires more discipline. If we let God in, motherhood can help us grow stronger spiritual muscles and become more like Jesus.

8. You endeavor to help moms cultivate “awareness of God’s presence in the small things, in the daily tasks of caring for infants.” Can you provide an example of this?

It was my husband who began praying for my son’s body while giving him a bottle — since there isn’t much else to do besides sit there. He prays
for Micah’s little feet, that he will stand strong in the Lord; for his legs, that he will walk with Jesus all his days; for his stomach, that he will “feed” on God’s Word; etc.— all the way up. Rather than texting or talking on the phone or checking Facebook, we can take those moments and turn our thoughts toward God.

9. In your book, you say that the idea of being a new mother “both exhilarates and terrifies me.” Can you explain what you mean by this? 
Motherhood is exhilarating because it’s a new adventure, a new challenge (for those who like such things), a chance to do something deeply and eternally meaningful. But it’s also terrifying — for all those same reasons. Adventures are difficult. They hurt, they change us, and not always for the better. And what if we mess things up? A whole new generation of humans will have us to thank for their years of therapy. But even deeper, there’s the reality of loss. We don’t want to look down the years (or sooner) and see the inevitable goodbye. And yet we have a God who, as a Parent, knows all those joys and heartbreaks.

Disclosure: Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book and the Author Q&A. Thanks, Tyndale!

Related Resources: Sarah tweets @HolyDreaming and blogs at The God-Hungry Imagination. You can also find other reviews of Mommy Time at Megan's Pondersings and GoodReads.The Lansing State Journal also published an article on Mommy Time on May 11, 2013. Titled Dear Moms: You will make it there's a great picture of Sarah with her baby son Micah here.