I don’t read many parenting books. When I sit down to read, it is more often to escape the realities of parenting than to learn about them. Just seeing the cover of author Catherine McNiel’s debut devotional, Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline (NavPress, 2017), made me want to grab a box of hand wipes and flee. On it, a smartly dressed woman in a crisp yellow dress carries a toddler whose muddy hands leave a smear of dirt across her mother’s back.
However, I was also curious about how such an exasperatingly common motherhood scenario might be an opportunity for spiritual growth. What I discovered in the pages of McNiel’s book, which is nominated for a Christian Book Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, was faith-based mindfulness to ease the challenges of motherhood – or at least make moms feel less alone.
Through eloquent chapters centered on creation, acts of service and solitude, perseverance, celebration and more, McNiel shares glimpses of her own mothering journey and gives specific steps to enhance your own. “It is not ease but challenge that shapes our character into strength and beauty,” McNiel says of the spiritual practice of perseverance. “Motherhood asks—demands—that we persevere for hours, days, months, years. Sometimes we see the relief, the reward, the fruit. Sometimes we release it into the universe, into God’s hands, and hold ourselves open only to hope.
“But just as our children struggle so desperately to ride a bike, form an apology, make a new friend—and finally overcome—we are going to make it through these years, one hour, one day at a time. We keep going.”
Perseverance is also the subject of The Power to Keep Going, an easy-to-read, self-published book of encouragement by life coach, professional counselor and author, Sharon Beth Brani. Not just for moms, Brani’s devotional centers around the lives of prominent men and women who endured catastrophic hardships with courage and hope. She also shares challenging experiences from her own life, including navigating the ups and downs of adoption.
“I often hear from people who are overwhelmed with life’s difficulties,” Brani writes. “Discouragement and depression abound. But it’s that same awareness of His [God’s] power to cover us in the hardest situations that changes everything. Knowing the One with whom all things are possible changes us and gives us strength when our human strength is depleted.”
This spring, if you or someone you know is looking for encouragement, check out these two books. Ironically, as I was writing about them, my 4-year-old son was down with a stomach bug. While I could have looked at this as an unwanted challenge, I instead chose to receive it as a gift. Rubbing his back, washing his face with warm water, helping sooth his aches with a bath, I discovered beauty in even this small thing. And instead of feeling frustrated or wanting to flee, I found the power to keep going. Free review copies of these books were provided to me by their publishers.
Meadow Rue Merrill, the Christopher-Award winning author of Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine.