Desperate. As much as I don't like to talk about it, this, in a word, is how I would sum up many of my lowest moments in my motherhood journey. If you're a mom, especially to one or more small children at this very moment, you probably know all-to-well what I am referring to. This feeling often sneaks up on me at 6am when everyone seems to be up way-too-early or 9pm when everyone seems to be up way-too-late, or sometimes even at 2pm when everyone seems like they should be more than eager to take a nap...but won't. I've long been in search of a good "devotional" book for mothers, such as myself, who struggle with these feelings of desperation. Something that would speak to those moments and not condemn me for them. Something that would address these emotions and not present them in a "sugar-coated, everything is roses" sorta way but more from a "this is real life" perspective. Something that would build me up as a mother and show me how God sees me in that role. And I am thrilled to tell you that such a book exists.
Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson is just that book. While it is not necessarily a "devotional" per say, it can most definitely be used as one simply by working through the chapters at whatever pace the reader sees fit. The book is written in two voices: one younger mom who struggles with feelings of desperation (Sarah, whose children were 1 1/2, 3, and 4 1/2 years old when the book was written) and then her dear friend and mentor (Sally). Each chapter begins with a letter written by Sarah to Sally, exposing a part of her motherhood journey in which she is struggling. The letter is then answered by Sally. This letter exchange sets the stage for the chapter which follows. The chapter then closes with a "Your Turn" and then "Something to Do" section which gets a little more personal. Two verses from Scripture are cited and then questions are posed in regards to self-reflection in light of the chapter and these verses. The "Something to Do" paragraph then gives suggestions for ways to begin altering your perspective or the way you handle certain situations.
I knew I had found the right book when I first opened it to find that the foreward was written by Ann Voskamp, one of my most favorite Christian authors and bloggers (you should definitely check out her website and blog "A Holy Experience" if you haven't already found it). Then I turned the page and saw that the Introduction was entitled "I Can't Be a Mother Today." I smiled a little to myself and breathed a quick prayer of thanksgiving to God who had most definitely placed this book in my lap at just the right moment.
The positives of this book are so numerous they are difficult to even explain through the written word in a blog post. The book is divided into three sections, each more appropriate than the next. Section 1 (The Dream Life...Altered) focuses in on our ideals, all of the per-conceived notions of motherhood we may have had and all of the comparisons we struggle with as mothers. The section ends with calling out sin as the main culprit to why these ideals and lofty goals oftentimes are not our reality. The next section (Getting Real about Mama-hood) hones in on some of those specific struggles we have and how we sometimes deal with them -- whether correctly or incorrectly. The final section (The Redeeming) is by far my favorite, as it gives practical words of advice and encouragement which I could start putting into practice immediately.
Throughout the various sections and chapters, this book covers so many important topics for us as Christian women and mothers from mentoring to our relationships with each other to our view of ourselves. However, it always brings it back to one key element: our relationship with our God. Ann Voskamp perhaps sums it up best when she says in the foreward:
My kids don't need to see a supermama. They need to see a mama who needs a Super God...Godly parenting isn't ultimately a function of rules but having a relationship with an ultimate God. That godly parenting is fueled by God's grace, not my efforts.
And with this theme, the book begins.
If I had to say anything negative about this book, it would be that the length of the chapters sometimes can be prohibitive if you are looking for something quick and more "devotional" in nature. But again, as I stated above, this can easily be altered by reading just sections of the chapters at a time. For example, I oftentimes will sit down to read a chapter and then do the "Your Turn" part for my next "devotion", rather than trying to cram both the reading and the questions in the same sitting. I've found that this also helps to really make the chapter "stick" since I am in essence meditating on it twice.
The only other criticism I would have of this book is that at times, the voice of Sally (the mentor) can come across a tad "holier-than-thou" if you will. I truly believe that this is not the intent but rather, simply is trying to drive home the mentor-mentee relationship; however, I did have to remind myself of this a few times while reading. A little thing, but if you're anything like me, it may get under your skin just a bit.
This is truly the most spot on, encouraging, real, God-based book I have found since becoming a mother. I would highly recommend it to any mother, regardless of the age of her children. In fact, I have made it my personal goal to gift this book to any and all close friends of mine who are becoming a mother for the first time (and some who are already there). They may not be there right away, but thanks to our ever-present enemy of sin, they're bound to feel desperate at some point in the future.
Speaking of gifting this book...we'd like to provide a copy of Desperate to one of our readers! Simply post a comment below or on the facebook post and we'll chose one at random by noon tomorrow to send a copy to!