In my years of running the Woman Alive book club, I’ve shied away from books on mothers, knowing that it can be a painful subject. But (writing to women here) whether or not we are mothers, we are all daughters (and yes, I know that too can be wrought with pain); not least, we’re daughters of the King. And this Father loves us mind-blowingly and unendingly.
So this spring in the book club I highlighted a sensitively written memoir that doesn’t fit the usual book on mothering – those “how to be the perfect mother in five easy steps” kind of books. Rather this story traces the author’s healing from the negative vows she made as a young woman when members of her fundamentalist church told her that the only reason for being a woman was to procreate. To be a mother. She, bereft of a mother, vowed never to become one.
But she married and slowly, slowly, the love of her man and her God softened her heart and opened her up to life. Three children later, she shares the journey from her childhood home in South Africa to their posting in Ukraine and finally to the Midwest and East Coast of America, where they landed as a family.
Lisa-Jo weaves her memories of growing up in the stark beauty of South Africa with the experiences of raising feisty boys and then a girl who helped her reconcile her feelings about being a daughter, and a mother. She writes as a citizen of the world; this is not an insular or American-centred book. So much of it is thought-provoking and moving. For instance, I loved learning about her prayer project with her mother-in-law about how to parent a child with a strong temper. She writes of her mother-in-law: “She reminded me that children are born of the Spirit as much as their parents’ DNA, and perhaps that’s where we should focus” (p.124).
Does mothering make you want to celebrate? Leave you with unresolved feelings? Whatever your reaction, we can ask the Lord to set us in a place of life and fruitfulness while praying for those mothers close to us, whether by geography or heartstrings.