Thursday, February 23, 2006

Building The Christian Family You Never Had

Where no one has gone least not in our family!

Today I'm talking with Mary DeMuth, author of Building the Christian Family You Never Had: A Practical Guide for Pioneer Parents. Mary's book is available now through all major on-line booksellers, and I'm sure your local bookstore would be happy to order you a copy.

I'm not one to jump into the latest self-help books or parenting fads, but when I first heard the title of Mary's book, it intrigued me.

If you've visited my blog, I talk not only about faith and writing, but my life as a thirtysomething wife and mom. You've heard of my adventures with the teenagers, and at this oh-so-tricky age I not only want to parent them right, but parent them better. I know my parents made compromises along the way. Maybe they did the best they knew how, but I have a running joke that my family puts the "fun" in dysfunctional. I don't think I'm doomed to repeating my parents' past mistakes. But I'm a believer in seeking wisdom, and I know this is one gift I'll receive.

Now for my chat with Mary:

Tell us about your background, Mary. What inspired you to write this book?
I was tired of parenting books written by experts who didn’t seem to understand someone like me—a mom who didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I wanted to offer other pioneer parents hope that they could build a new type of family even if they had no example growing up.

Pioneer parenting. What is it, exactly? I'm sure you've been asked this question already, but I won't assume everyone knows what you mean by a pioneer parent.
A pioneer parent is someone who doesn’t want to duplicate the home he was raised in. It’s a first generation Christian who longs to create a faith-based home even though a home like that was not modeled.

We've got Dr. Dobson, Dr. Phil, Dr. Kevin Leman, and others who've written parenting books and built entire careers on family life. What makes your book different from other parenting books on the market?
I admire all those guys, so I’m not saying my approach is better. I’m just a mom who has struggled. I don’t have a PhD in child psychology. I have simply clung to Jesus through the process of parenting and allowed Him to heal me from a very difficult past. So the book is unique because it’s about parenting from the inside out. What is inside us is what flows out of us as parents. We can decorate the exterior of our parenting with all sorts of methods, but it will mean little if our inside is still suffering from the past.

What would you say to the Pioneer Mama who's standing in the bookstore or looking at an online bookstore for answers, as her heart breaks for her kids and she feels inadequate? Why would your book be important for her?
Because she will know she is not alone. And she will hear from someone who’s walked that path of inadequacy. One thing I celebrate in the book is that pioneer parents actually have an advantage in that they are well aware of their own need for help. And that’s the place where Jesus loves to come in and be strong. So, our weakness is actually a stage for Jesus to dance His power through us.

Here's the billion-dollar question. How did you figure out what a Christian family should look like? What's the dream, and what can we do to make it a reality?
I haven’t figured that out yet. I think it looks different in every home. But I can say this: a genuinely Christian family is authentic. It’s not that we are trying to “look” Christian by adhering to someone else’s standard. A Christian home is a place where our children can be real, where grace is more than just a prayer we pray before meals, where parents live out the Christian life in reality. I’ve known too many families where the parents exude a sort of control over their children to try to make them look like the perfect Christian family, while sweeping away all the muck under the rug.

The Christian life is not easy. We do our children a disservice if we portray it that way, or if we spin our wheels trying to look a certain way when our hearts don’t feel that way. To make a home like this a reality, it’s vitally important that parents model humility and forgiveness. You will do more for your children by apologizing and asking forgiveness than trying to make them appear a certain way. A Christian family follows Jesus. And Jesus was humble and approachable and full of grace.

This is more of a personal question from me, since I know in a few years my teenagers will be spreading their wings. I've watched my friends' children "grow up in church," only to see their young adult lives differ very little from their unchurched counterparts--cohabitation outside marriage, unwed pregnancies, harmful habits and addictions, living emotionally bankrupt lives. Why do you think this happens? (I'd like to know, because I sure want my kids to live abundant lives!)
This relates to the question before. Children can spot a fake a mile away. If their parents are saying all sorts of nice churchy words in public but are yelling and screaming behind closed doors, children will hear the yells over the churchy words. One reason (and there are many other reasons) children rebel is that they don’t see authentic Christianity modeled. They don’t see parents voice struggles or work through difficult faith issues, so when one faces a teen, it’s easier to rebel and discount it than see value in the struggle.

What can we pioneer parents do to protect our children as we interact with other family members who aren't Christians? Obviously, they're family, and we shouldn't feel that family might "contaminate" us.
If at all possible, do everything you can to preserve the relationship with those family members. Don’t judge non-Christian family members. If, for instance, an aunt is living with her boyfriend, have your children pray for her—but don’t necessarily forbid your children to see her because she’s not making Christian choices. However, there are instances where you need to protect your children—like if a family member drives drunk or is a known sexual abuser. In that case, by all means, separate your children from the family member.

Give me seven adjectives that describe Building the Christian Family You Never Had.

Thanks, Mary for stopping by Slices of Life. If you want to know more about Mary DeMuth and her books, check out Relevantblog and RelevantProse.


Camy Tang said...

Awesome interview! Thanks Mary and Lynette!


Gina said...

How great to know there are other families out there like mine. As a mom I struggle with comparing myself to my friends who can quote scripture left and right and were brought up in church. Thanks for the reminder that God wants us to be true to ourselves and Him! Lynette, thanks for the interview and Mary, thanks for writing this book!