Gloria Furman is a mom, pastor’s wife, author, missionary, and ninth degree blackbelt (actually, not sure about the last one, but it wouldn’t surprise me). She recently wrote a book entitled Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full. She was kind enough to answer some questions about motherhood, ninja turtles, why she didn’t include 3-D pictures in her book, and why I should let my kids put Crayons in the microwave.
1) I haven’t read your book yet, mainly because I’m a guy, and it seems like it would be a little bit creepy if I was reading a book about motherhood. Or perhaps I’m just a terrible sexist. Either way, what is the main point of your book, and who is your intended audience?
The first intended audience is busy moms – and then anyone who wants some ideas on how to encourage the moms in their life. The main point of the book is how an eternal perspective changes the way we view motherhood.
2) Did you consider including any of those “Magic Eye” 3-D pictures in your book? If so, that might be a turn off to me, because I never could make the picture pop out, no matter how much I crossed my eyes.
I didn’t think about Magic Eye, but I did wonder if “Scratch N Sniff” pages would be helpful. I thought the sensory experience would really drive home my points about motherhood in the trenches. I had all kinds of scratch n’ sniff possibilities—juice box left in the car for a week, rotten strawberry in the couch cushions, all varieties of diapers, etc. But the publisher declined because this creative educational device isn’t cost effective for a trade book. Who knew?
3) To the best of my knowledge, you live in Dubai. To the best of my knowledge, Dubai is not in the United States (yet!). Based on your experience in multiple cultures, are there any challenges for Christian moms that are uniquely American, or Western?
Answering this question succinctly is kinda tricky. When we moved to Dubai (which is in the United Arab Emirates next door to Iran and Saudi Arabia), our oldest child was a baby. Our three younger children were born here in the UAE. So, raising my children in a global city in the Middle East is certainly shaping my own perspective on motherhood challenges. Sometimes I don’t even know how my perspective has been shaped by this place until I am standing in an aisle at Target disoriented by culture shock.
There are lots of challenges I could pick from, but one issue that comes to mind is food and faith. So much could be said about it, but here’s a quick summary: I wonder if this is a relatively new challenge for Christian moms in the West. It used to be that I was only talking with my local friends about their religious diets. According to certain religious laws they can only eat particular foods prepared in a certain way. Their diet is one of the labels they wear. If the food laws aren’t followed then they feel embarrassed, guilty, and dirty. (For example, I had to reassure the guests at our daughter’s birthday party that the marshmallows were made of fish gelatin and not forbidden pig gelatin.) Of course, I am delighted to get to speak with women about faith and food from a Christian perspective (ie. Deut. 8:3, Matt. 6:25, Matt. 15:11, Acts 10:28, Rom. 14:23, 1 Tim. 4:8, etc). And in our church, when a woman is a new believer from one of those religious backgrounds then I expect that the topic of food laws will come up often. But nowadays it seems like I am having that conversation with more and more Christian women from the West who are having faith crises over their diet.
4) Do you often find yourself saying crazy things to your kids? It seems like at least once a day I find myself saying something like, “No you can’t stick Crayons in the microwave!”
You know, you could let your kids put crayons in the microwave if the crayons are grated on a cheese grater first. Your kids will think you’re crazy cool like their chemistry teacher. Just don’t put the cheese grater in there, too. I do say weird stuff to my kids. But I think what’s weirder is the stuff they say back. One of my kids told a visiting pastor who was our houseguest, “Be careful in this bathroom. Some people in this family don’t flush the toilet.” The other day I had to send one of my girls to the bedroom to “think about what she had done wrong” and she called out from inside, “Yeah, I’m alone! But I’m alone and free!” (Thanks, Frozen.)
5) What advice would you give to a mom who knows she wants to pursue Christ in devotional times, yet is also in complete and total burnout mode? And by burnout mode, I’m talking, her son has the stomach bug and is vomiting everywhere, her daughter just remembered that she needs an organic, gluten-free, vegan snack for school tomorrow, and her dog just destroyed her best piece of furniture.
This is more an encouragement than it is advice, I guess. And I know it sounds backwards to say this, but I think burnout mode is one of the tenderest times when a mom can have communion with Jesus. We only think we want to look back on long day and say, “Nailed it! High five, Jesus. You and me make a great team with you being such a good cheerleader and all.” No, what we really want is to humbly trust in our loving Father who ordains all things, consciously give our burdens to Jesus, and walk by the Spirit who empowers us to walk in the good works God has prepared for us. Fellowship with God in the midst of burnout mode is an opportunity to say and believe: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).
6) When do you find time to write? Do you agree with Bill Cosby, that having kids causes brain cells to be destroyed? It seems like writing, taking care of kids, and being a pastors wife could be a bit tough.
What if instead of cells being destroyed, Mommy Brain is where your brain cells mutate into something more powerful and awesome? For example, turtles in a sewer are boring. But turtles who come into contact with radioactive goo and grow up to be teenagers… now that’s something special. Before I had children I didn’t have to use my brain for creative problem solving… like how to close a travel crib without using directions or dynamite. I also didn’t have to think about how I would talk to my children about how babies are made. And tell them about the persecuted church. Women have to flex their brains in different ways after they have children.
I find time to write because I find it be helpful and healthy for me. I guess I write all day long in some form or fashion. Before I had a smartphone with a notes app on it I would keep an index card and a golf pencil in my pocket. When the kids are in bed I have time to sit with my laptop and write full sentences.
7) Do you think that at times, Christian moms place unreasonable and unbiblical expectations on themselves? For example, feeling like all their kids need to be able to read Latin by age seven. Or something along those lines.
Even among moms who aren’t believers they can feel unreasonable pressure to have to be “the best mom you can be.” But it seems like the kind of pressure that a Christian mom places on herself has a spiritual spin: God is perfect so he demands motherhood perfection, therefore you have to be the best mom you can be. Also, the women in my faith community seem to be able to swing this particular expectation, so in order to keep up or fall in line with what is “biblical,” then I must, too.
One troubling thing that I’ve heard regarding unreasonable expectations is calling them “failures” that are accompanied by “guilt.” I’m not comfortable with putting things like human frailty and unreasonable expectations under the umbrella of things that require atonement. Do we really want to imply that things like failing to teach kids Latin have separated us from our Maker so that the sinless Son of God had to hang on the cross and suffer the wrath of God to atone for that sin and bear away that guilt? We need to be very thoughtful when we talk about expectations and striving for excellence in motherhood.
On a related note, I think as Christian moms we should spend more time wringing our hands about the things that separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, which are, precisely, nothing.