I once loved reading. Like really loved reading. I could knock out so many books in a short span of time it was amazing.
Then college and grad school (round one) happened and the fire died a bit and I stopped consuming books like a hungry bear. The love of reading dwindles a little at a time when your homework is reading and more reading and then writing about what you are reading and getting tested on what you’re reading. blah. I have always been a lousy test taker when it comes to reading comprehension so the charm was lost on me after 4 years as an undergrad then another 2 years of grad school.
I took a break from school from 2009 to 2013 before starting up a 2nd masters program and was reminded both how much I love learning and reading and also how much school makes me dislike reading. The difference this time was that I was reading books that meant something to me and felt transformative in my life. One of these days I should type up a list of all those books from that season and pass those along, but for now I’m starting a new series about the books you’ll find on my bedside.
The season of life I’m in requires reading. Being new at everything means I have a lot of learning to do. These are some of the resources I’m leaning on these days (see picture above), plus a few digital books I have on my Kindle that I’ll chat about below. But let me get started on some of these titles.
(un) Natural Mom by Hattie Brittz
I stumbled upon this book randomly in the Bible App when looking for devotions about parenting. I saw one with this title and the picture and subtitle grabbed me and I dove in. Yet, I quickly realized this devotion was based on a book and not a stand alone study. So I paused the study and bought the book on Amazon and kept going with it after I started reading along. I quickly realized how much I needed to read this book! All the studying I feel like I have to do on this journey ofmotherhood also carries with it a weight of responsibility and duty to get it right and perfect and be all figured out all the time. This book really helped me understand a little more about my bent as a parent and let me off the hook a bit so I could relax into this role.
Mrs. Brittz uses the temperaments and assigns them a tree to describe the kind of parent they are to their kids. She spends the chapters givung examples of a day in the life of each kind of mom and gives you ideas of what her spouse would say about her as well as things her children would say about her.
According to the assessment that they encourage you to take before reading the book, I am a Boxwood Tree mom. I’m humbled by that in many ways and surrender to it in others. Her subtitle, “Why you are the perfect mom for your kids,” is really the gentle voice and tone of each type of mom being described. She reminds you that your kids need you as their mother which means God matched you for a reason. So, be gracefilled with yourself instead of shaming yourself for not being the mom you think your kids needs or the mom you wish you were.
This is a great read if your a perfectionist in any bone of your body. I’m one of those so it’s been a good read for me. Here’s a little more about the book and the types from author Hattie Brittz. https://youtu.be/RH0Ua1D5tcg
Journey With Jesus by Larry Warner
This book is near and dear to my heart for several reasons.
One, I know the author. I took a class with him using this book as the main text and guidelines for curriculum as we walked through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius (more on that in a bit). Larry was also my spiritual director during that season so he had a chance to meet me and walk with me through the exercises outside of the group class meetings once a month. It was a special time and it’s always good to see Larry when we’re giving direction on the same days.
Two, I have had significant and memorable times with the Lord that this book has fostered. I have one story in particular that I carry with me that I may tell another time, but I felt God’s with-ness in that moment and many others while going through the Exercises which earmarks this time of my life as a special one.
Three, I have learned a lot more about Jesus through the pages of this book. When you drop yourself into Bible stories and walk around with your imagination like you’re a character or on-looker, you can’t help but learn a thing or two about Jesus. Imagination with devotional reading is controversial in some circles, but I believe God gave us our imaginations for a reason and the Holy Spirit can lead them where He chooses to places of knowledge and understanding. This book helped me do that immensely.
Finally, four. This book has made me a better spiritual director. Meeting Jesus in these pages has helped me learn the heart of the Father through the experiences in the Gospels and also in my own story. It makes sitting with others a special time when I find myself relating to them in the ways I’ve met Jesus in the Exercises.
I should note that journeying through Ignatian’s Spiritual Exercises is not encouraged to do unaccompanied without a spiritual director who has been trained in the Exercises themselves. That is the recommendation of Larry and actually Ignatius himself. So, with that being said, I may not recommend anyone just grab this book and go through it solo because it’s something that has layers and depth and there’s a lot going on in those pages and most definitely in the hearts and souls of those being accompanied through them.
However, if you ever are given the opportunity to walk through the spiritual exercises in any of the forms offered (short term/intensive, long term/slower paced) and you have the time and energy and resources to do so, I would highly encourage you to do so.
St. Ignatius was one of the priests who began the Jesuit Order in the Roman Catholic church. It is through a long journey with Jesus that Ignatius came up with these exercises and started helping others through them. The Exercises themselves are encounters with Jesus through Imaginative Contemplation. That is a fancy phrase for putting yourself into Bible stories and walking around like you’re one of those characters using your imagination. The exercises are broken up into 4 weeks of study and each week has a pretty lengthy section in Larry’s book that takes you through a modern version of the exercises.
I’ve already written a paper on Ignatius so I’ll stop there with the abridged version of his contributions before you start snoring while I teach :) But hopefully that introduces you to him a little bit if you’ve never heard of his ministry.
I spent 9 months going into the exercises every week and while I was not expected to complete the exercises in that time, I was personally hoping to get a lot further then I managed to. I was getting married in the process of taking the class so I let my busy take over a bit. I feel like I slowed down when I took breaks and at other times the slow down was because topic and questions were so big for me that I felt I needed to spent multiple days in the Exercises just answering that one question. I wasn’t as consistent with them as I would have liked which is why it’s back at my bedside. I want to dive back in a bit and pick up where I left off.
What To Expect: The First Year by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel
Well I don’t really know what first time parent doesn’t have a version of this book at their bedside while they walk through pregnancy and the first few years of their kiddos life.
I opted to not get “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” because I found I didn’t care so much about the pregnancy because I seemed to find plenty of resources to answer my questions via apps and websites. Instead I felt I need to help once the baby came! So, I bought this one and read it through my pregnancy and found it helpful to prepare our house, my brain, and my husband for what could be coming down the road.
It’s also been a helpful tool from one month to the next as she transitions. It gives me an idea of what topics I should be focused on that month or what issues we’re to begin having to work through or anticipate seeing in our daughter before they arise. There is quite a bit on breastfeeding in the pages and I imagine breastfeeding moms have found it to be a helpful tool in their tool belt while getting in the rhythm of feeding their kiddos. They beginning months it was also helpful for me and the formula feeding we were doing. They are not bias but resource you whichever way you go. Breastfeeding takes up more pages, because it comes with a lot more roadblocks and issues from one mamma/baby pair to the next, but I just skim those parts and settle in on the spaces that apply to our family.
I find it very helpful to normalize the things that you’re questioning or of which you are uncertain. They do a good job of taking the various sides of a topic and informing you all around so you can feel like it’s contributing to an informed decision for you child and family.
I think I will go ahead and buy the book that follows this one as we’re rounding the corner from year one to year 2. Miss Ellie is just about to be 7 months so I’ll be pulling this out this week to start reading about that to find out what’s next for us! Just taking a quick peak, it looks like I’ll be reading a lot about Homemade Baby Foods vs. Ready Made Baby Food, Weaning, High Chair Safety Tips, Room Sharing, Front Facing in Carriers, Back Carriers, Babbling, Baby Proofing the House (with sections for every room), and Teaching Your Baby to be Safe among other stuff throughout :) Oh fun…time to think about Ellie on the move!
Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., and Mary Hartzell, M. Ed.
This book was given to me by a friend from my life group who is going to school to be a psychologist. She said she and her classmates felt like this is a book that all parents should read if they have the chance. I have read and re-read the first section twice now because it was so rich in content an I haven’t gotten much further, but so far, it’s totally my jam.
I love learning about how we develop because to me, that’s the most helpful kind of parenting advice. Don’t teach me methods, teach me how the brain works, how we attach, how we imprint and make memories and what tid bits of my childhood development training fit into each of those and I think the rest starts making sense. Every kiddo is different which means if I understand how the brain works, then I feel like I can apply that accordingly to how my daughter is interacting with the world based on that science and I can accommodate to partner with her body’s natural development but customize it for the way she’s choosing to interact with the world because of that biological norm.
The section I keep going back to, attempting to absorb it all, is the section on explicit and implicit memories and how they are made. The basic difference is that explicit memories are made with a conscious effort (like attempting to remember a grocery list) and implicit memories occur without even realizing it (like deep emotional trauma as a child left memories for a person that resurfaces as anxiety/stress when various factors occur presently that resemble the same emotional trauma they experiences as a child). That also means that when we’re recalling implicit memories we don’t have that sensation of recollection like we do with explicit memories. Those pesky implicit memories then cause us to act and behave in particular ways because we’re remembering something….but we don’t know we’re remembering something….confusing right??
It’s also in those implicit memories where we are likely to muddle through some issues in counseling because somewhere along the way in our life we “learned something” that causes us to interact with the world a particular way and we are frustrated that we don’t always know why.
I’m interested in implicit memories because I feel like that’s the stuff I’m teaching my daughter to do and I don’t realize it. It’s scary to think about that as a parent, but there’s just no way around it. I’m already teaching Ellie things I would rather not and in many ways there’s nothing I can do to change it. The controlling person that wants to be a stellar parent feels panic by that thought! Yet, it’s also where I get a chance to pray for my heart and the work being done by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has His reasons why He chooses some areas to work on in me vs others and I suspect lately it has a lot to do with Ellie. I have the chance to do less harm (though I still believe it’s inevitable) to my daughter, the healthier I become. Yet, I see where I’m still in process and just throw up my hands and think…”Well….Lord. You have to heal this if it becomes an issue for Ellie. And help me to be humble when I’m confronted with it later on as her “issues” surface…..ooft.
Anyways, good book so far and I suspect it’s only going to get better!
Our Mothers Ourselves by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
Speaking of good books on parenting and self-care…this one I stumbled upon is a winner. I’ve already learned so much about my relationship with my mother and only a few chapters in.
So far I’ve learned the names of the different types of mothers out there as named by Cloud & Townsend: The Phantom Mom, The China Doll Mom, The Controlling Mom, The Trophy Mom, The Still-the-Boss Mom, and The American Express Mom.
I’ve also read about the 5 basic needs that must be met by a mother: Safety, Nurture, Basic Trust, Belonging and Invitation, and Someone to Love.
I’ve only read into the results of the phantom mom and I’ve learned quite a bit. Not just for myself and how I was mothered by my mom but also for those I’m giving direction to. This is going to tell me a lot and I really believe it’s going to help me be a better spiritual director as well. And of course we can’t forget the “me” factor and how I’m now a mom. So this applies as a learning source for me! I could probably write a really long post about what I’ve connect with in this book and this blog post is long enough! So, before I move along I’ll say this book would be good for you if you think you have some questions about how you were mothered by either your mom, grandparents, foster parents, adopted parents, etc. It might shine a light on some things for you and bring healing and encouragement. If you’re in a caring ministry or practice like counseling, mentoring, or spiritual direction like myself, this could be a helpful resource to add to your book shelf to get to know the individuals that you meet with.
How We Love by Milan & Kay Yetkovich
My husband and I have been reading through this book and it’s been a slow crawl because the content is so good, but also because we don’t always make consistent time for it.
If you’re in a relationship and wanting to dive a little deeper into each other’s stories, this resource is one for you. They discuss 5 different love styles: Vacillator, Pleaser, Controller, Avoider and Victim. They offer a free assessment on their website that can be used to learn more about your love style. You can also setup a profile and plug your partner’s love style in to find out what kind of
mess combination the two of you are :)
David and I are as follows…
- 79% Vacillator
- 36% Pleaser
- 29% Controller
- 29% Avoider
- 14% Victim.
- 71% Pleaser
- 50% Avoider
- 50% Victim
- 36% Controller
- 14% Vacillator
I read on our profile about our Core Pattern and it goes something like this:
- Vacillator Tension Builds: The Vacillator’s anxiety/tension begins to build
- Vacillator Vents: The Vacillator vents their frustration and anxiety, assuming their partner’s intent is to hurt them.
- Pleaser Responds: The Pleaser panics/freezes/ They may lie to avoid further conflict, or try to minimize the complaints or put a positive spin on them. The Pleaser believes that the Vacillator should be satisfied by their “niceness.”
- Vacillator Escalates: The Vacillator feels dismissed & misunderstood. They want “real” not “nice”, truth, not lies. The Vacillator escalates, protesting angrily.
- Pleaser Attempts to Appease: Anxious about Vacillator’s anger, the Pleaser scurries to do nice things to appease the Vacillator and stem the anger…but does so while avoiding the problem.
- Vacillator Escalates Further: The Vacillator feels abandoned, which intensifies their feelings. Strong language might be used, they may threaten to leave or divorce. Internally, they begin to devalue their partner and, over time, may feel contempt and disgust for them.
- Pleaser is Dejected: The Pleaser’s anxiety intensifies and they become frantic. They feel dejected, thinking “I can never do it right!”
- Vacillator Reflects: Ultimately, the Vacillator’s anxiety is relieved through anger. They may express their displeasure by pouting or sulking. Privately, however, they will review the event and assign motives and intentions to the Avoider’s actions. Eventually, they may privately feel shame over their anger and/or words, and may feel unlovable.
- Pleaser Waits: The Pleaser waits for the Vacillator to re-engage and is relieved when they finally do. The Pleaser redoubles their efforts to please, in the hopes of avoiding another outburst.
- Repeat: eventually, this cycle starts all over again or destroys the relationship.
I can’t even tell you how close this is to David and my relationship. This brings both relief and frustration because it’s good to feel understood but it’s also hard to see yourself written about because it’s very unattractive. Yet I’m hopeful for this book’s aid because I’m ready to heal from this pattern! There are some other dynamics that David and I have that don’t totally fit this, possibly because David has a few others that rank pretty high, but it does give us a frame work and a solid place to begin.
I hope you give this book a try! It’s a winner :)
Well that was long, but I enjoyed thinking through each of these books and what they have meant for me. I plan to do this a few times a year or as I notice more of my books completing and others being added.
Happy Reading Readers!