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Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God

Imagine telling a newcomer in town that you love to make a lavish holiday feast. Now imagine inviting that newcomer’s family to such a dinner only to have nearly everything go wrong. After that you discover that the person you’ve served is a fabulous cook who will go on to get recipes published in Bon Appétit.

Imagine telling a newcomer in town that you love to make a lavish holiday feast. Now imagine inviting that newcomer’s family to such a dinner only to have nearly everything go wrong. After that you discover that the person you’ve served is a fabulous cook who will go on to get recipes published in Bon Appétit.

This isn’t a scene from Mary DeMuth’s new book. It’s a scene from early in my friendship with her. She was the gourmet chef; I was the cook who discovered the ambrosia still in the fridge after the dishes were done. And whose rolls came out overcooked. And whose gravy ran thin as lemonade.

With most people, I might have felt just awful. But not with Mary. She received my offering with characteristic grace, as if the Lord Himself had served her.

If you sat down with Mary for a cup of joe (her husband, Patrick, makes a mean latte), you’d be talking with a person of grace. You’d also be talking with the person who won Mount Hermon Writers Conference’s Pacesetter of the Year award for 2004. (And you’d be in the south of France, as her family moved there last year to plant a church.) After writing weekly columns for Star Community Newspapers and adding her byline to numerous magazines such as Discipleship Journal and Marriage Partnership, Mary went on to write a debut book, Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (Harvest House), which was released this past February. She joins us now to talk about it:

What inspired you to write this, your first book? What's the story?
It’s actually a result of relationship. My former agent, Chip MacGregor, was also agenting all Hearts at Home books (http://www.hearts-at-home.org/). Hearts at Home had been wanting a devotional, and he suggested I write a brief proposal with some samples. I did. And they liked it.

The inspiration for this book came from many of the columns I wrote. I simply piggybacked on the kernel of the column, ruminated on a spiritual lesson, and added a prayer. I am one who loves Oswald Chambers, so I wanted to create a book for moms that didn’t dumb down the language or the depth of spirituality. I wanted a meaty devotional for women, so that [desire] came through as I wrote it.

What makes Christian parenting unique compared to that of unbelievers?
We, no matter what our religious affiliation, want to impart our worldview to our children. We all do this through time spent together, purposeful teaching, and relationship building. Obviously, Christian parents also not only want to impart a worldview, we want to be examples of it.

What do you see as some of the main challenges moms face?
Expectations.
I struggle with this woman out there: the PCW (Perfect Christian Woman). She embodies Proverbs 31, is a homeschooler (or a room mom), bakes bread, exercises, teaches a Bible study, visits the prisoners, teaches Sunday school, volunteers for VBS, cleans toilets with a happy smile while singing praise songs, irons her sheets, eats tofu, and makes sure she is sexually ready for her husband 3.5 times a week. I know she doesn’t exist, but I am tormented by her! All those expectations drain the life out of moms. Why can’t we just be happy to be the way God made us? Why can’t we just be content?

Lack of Sabbath. I write this because this is my struggle. I will Energizer-bunny my way through life without ever stopping. The result is that I am crabby with my children if they don’t do what I want them to do (in my way, in my timing). I’m crabby with my husband who dares to rest when I’m in the midst of activity. I’m crabby with myself because even though I get a lot done, I never feel it’s enough. Moms need rest. We need Sabbath. We need time to “recharge our batteries” so to speak. We can only be Energizer bunnies for so long.

Lack of genuine community. Moms tend to isolate themselves, and in that, lose something of themselves. We need each other. Mary Pipher refers to [the solution to this need] as a tiopsaye, a native American word for a cluster of community around us that helps us parent and connects us to the larger community.

Lack of identity. Moms can become so engrossed in the beautiful and amazing children God has placed in their homes that they lose their identity. Instead of “lover of Jesus,” she becomes “mother of George.” And when the children leave the home, she may be faced with a real dilemma, wondering who she is apart from motherhood. One of the critical times marriages break up is during this empty nest stage. The husband and wife’s shared interest leaves and they are left with each other—virtual strangers apart from childrearing.

Any suggestions for meeting those challenges?
Expectations:
make a point to examine and study who you are in Jesus. This will help you become comfortable in your own skin.

Sabbath: read [Dr. Peterson’s comments on this blog] that follow about rest and quiet. Set apart one day a week as a day of rest. Don’t become legalistic about it, but honor the day. Choose to do non-work, life-giving tasks on that day.

Community: join a MOPS group or Moms in Touch. See what your church offers women in terms of community. Invite an intriguing family for dinner or dessert.

Identity: pray and also ask your friends what is one of the things God has gifted you to do outside of mothering? What gifting or talent have you used that completely energizes and jazzes you? Spend time each week doing that thing.

What is your primary message for moms?
We often want a perfect family with perfect circumstances. We think this will make us happy. But it's in the difficulties of motherhood and life that God does His best work in our hearts. Lean into the pain. Welcome it as a friend (the Phillips translation of James chapter one says to not resist trials as intruders, but to welcome them as friends). If I could add another: what is in your heart flows out into your parenting. You can read all the parenting methods and apply them with great diligence, but if your heart is far from God, that will translate to your children. The best way to improve your parenting is to lay your heart bare before the Lord, to allow Him to heal it.

What did you hope to accomplish when you set out to write Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God?
I wanted moms to have a book that they could relate to. I am just an ordinary mom. Just because I wrote a book doesn’t negate my normalcy. We are on this journey together and we all fail. But God is bigger than our failures and He offers mercy and grace whenever we need it.

How do you balance your life as a wife and mom and missionary and writer?
I don’t always balance it well. It’s taken me these ten months on the field to finally get into a rhythm. I realized I did my best brainwork in the morning, so I set aside my mornings for writing. I make sure I cook a meal most every night so we can be together as a family around the table. In terms of missionary-ing, I’ve had to be very cautious of my time. Church planting is an all-encompassing job that se undefined undefined undefined undefinedhttp://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/4540/562/1600/Mary%20D2.jpgeps into everything. To be honest, I’ve been pretty tired this year trying to figure it all out.


A favorite quote or motto that captures "Mary DeMuth"?

Current fave: “When God chooses to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible person and breaks her.” I’ve lived that this year.

For Mary's web site: http://www.relevantprose.com

Mary's blog: http://www.relevantblog.blogspot.com

Related Topics: Parenting, Women's Articles