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Surprised by Motherhood: A Review

Looking for a book on motherhood? We think you’ll love this one.

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I’ve been that mother who has cleared off four shelves of bread at the grocery store while on hands and knees, crawling, straining, grunting to reach her son’s lost Matchbox car that he “didn’t think would fall down there.”

I’ve been that mother who has run out of wipes at the fancy-schmancy restaurant with no changing table, and left her four-month-old baby on a cold tile floor so she could crank out some more paper towel to wipe away the oh-no-you-didn’t blow-out diaper, only to find a flowing pool of pee streaming out from the stall upon her return.

I’ve been that mother who has left the peed-on sheets on the mattress in the middle of the night, laid a beach towel on the carpet and called it a bed.

I’ve been that mother who has pushed a double stroller in front of me while pulling a grocery cart behind me, navigating aisles and lists and nonstop toddler grabby hand requests.

I’ve been that mother who has crouched, dripping in a bath towel, to scoop up goldfish from a wet hardwood floor, serenaded by the sobs of a distraught little girl.

I’ve been that mother who has lost her own mom and can testify that the burning sting of the bottomless hole never quite goes away.

And I’ve been that mother who never thought she could love quite as fiercely and unconditionally as she loves her children — those gifts on temporary loan from above.

And Lisa-Jo Baker gets that. She gets all of that, and so much more.

If you are a mom who feels you won’t survive one more dirty diaper, one more frivolous sibling squabble, one more “Mom? Mom! Mo-oomm!!” then Lisa-Jo Baker’s new book, Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom, was written just for you.

It’s for women who, like Lisa-Jo, spent much of their single years, as she describes, “strapped between an invisible sandwich board that declared in silent, capital letters to the men around … MY BRAIN IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN HAVING YOUR BABIES. A defiant sign to be wearing at a Christian college where marriage was practically a major.”

It’s for women who adore their children and would have it no other way, but would still agree in a heartbeat, “… who doesn’t want to escape for an afternoon into a realm where women go to the bathroom by themselves and don’t need to narrate what they’re doing while they’re in there?”

Lisa-Jo understands and is able to articulate so well the fact that:

Motherhood starts with such a bang — so many visitors, all that roar of adrenaline — that what comes next can be disorienting. Because after the high of childbirth comes a sleepless cycle of days that all run into one long, messy, nondescript blur. If there’s one thing that can defeat a mother, it’s the monotony. Get up, feed the baby, wash the laundry, change the diapers, do the dishes, make the car pool run, wrestle the math homework, figure out a new way to make chicken, change the sheets — times 365 days in a row. It’s hard to see the significance when you’re so weighed down by the mundane.”

Surprised By Motherhood is not a how-to parenting book. It is one woman’s story, told in profound, raw beauty. The journey of a woman who pushed against the notion of motherhood, then slowly, gradually, not only grew into motherhood with the familiarity of a favorite pair of jeans, but now sees those spit-up-stained jeans as standing on holy ground. Lisa-Jo writes:

In the dark and tired and the everydayness of those moments, I started to feel it — the weight of glory, the glorious ordinary that is a gift to us who are knee deep in a world where it can sometimes feel like we have lost all the parts of ourselves we used to know…. Slowly, being a mother became more than a series of moments connected only by dirty diapers, empty baby wipe bins, toy cars strewn all over the bathroom floor, and bum cream. There was a harmony rising from the eclectic collection of tasks every mother cycles through in a day — this sacred marriage of the mundane and the eternal. The small directly related to the massive; kids walking around like so much eternity with skin on.”

If you are a mom, this story will likely resonate deep within. Lisa-Jo writes with such relatable experience, she will leave you saying, “Me, too!” Her brave honesty and candid glimpse into the reality of her life thus far had me choked up with sentiment and laughing out loud almost in the same breath. Lisa-Jo’s incredible depth of insight will generate waves of grateful introspection and ultimately, glory to God above.

Take this book and let it seep like a bag of Five Roses tea into the hot water of your soul. Then pull a whiny, hungry, overtired toddler onto your knee, pull out a chair at your Play-Doh infused table, and pour a cup of this goodness for your sleep-deprived friend.


Enter to Win a Copy of “Surprised by Motherhood”!


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We have one copy of Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom to give away. Enter below for your chance to win.

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Kate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa. She is married to a South African and together they have three children. Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and has contributed to several other online publications. She blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung.

20 Comments
  • What has surprised me about motherhood is the number of times I’ve said “yes” to things I couldn’t imagine – wearing pajamas to church because I couldn’t bear the fight, one more time, of getting dressed. Or, eating breakfast 3 times a day, because at least they’re eating somsething…! Thanks for the review of this book – I’m eager to read it and your review has helped!

  • Debbie T

    I’ve been surprised most by my feelings of inadequacy. I’m quite a capable person, but I feel like the most IMPOSSIBLE mother on so many days. That surprises me often.

  • erin

    I cannot wait to read and share with all the other mommy warriors!

  • Jill P

    Before I was a mother I never understood how much responsibility a mom has to deal with. I am learning to look at my children through God’s eyes and how perfect they are to Him. My agenda for my children is now where near his perfect plan for them.

  • Shannon

    One the things that constantly catches me off guard are situations I never thought I would encounter like having to take my child to the doctor for sticking a piece of cushion foam up her nose, telling a child that the cat litter box is not a sandbox, or cleaning out the fish tank after my son dumped an entire bottle of rinse agent into it to ‘give the fish a bath’. The list goes on and is always being added on to.

  • One thing that has suprised me in motherhood is when I take the time to just stop and look at my sweet child and take her all in, I get butterflies in my stomach. I didn’t know this was possible outside of romantic love, but it really is just a wonderful part of being blessed with a child of God.

  • The work–the hard, emotional work of raising children surprised me. It takes dedication, consistency (I’m not naturally good at that) and just plain old work. But it pays off and now I have two adult daughters that I’m proud to call my best friends :).

  • Jen K.

    Sounds delightful! Thank you for the review!

    What has surprised me most is how hard it is to be intentional; how easy it is to fall into a mode of just surviving each day. Maybe even more so now that most if mine are teens than it was in the toddler years…

  • Becky C

    I am surprised by how my daughters’ friendship goes beyond what I had hoped. They are such sweet sister friends.

  • The biggest surprise of motherhood for me has been having a new lens through which to see how much God, as a parent, tenderly cares for us as his children.

  • Dineen

    I expected the falling in love; I expected it to be hard at times; but I never expected to dislike my child and that surprised me. The times of intense dislike despite loving her.

  • Sheri

    How fast the years have flown by is what surprises me the most about motherhood? I would love to win a copy!! Thanks for the chance!!

  • I’m not a mom yet but this book sounds so interesting!

  • I was greatly surprised by everything in motherhood when my son arrived a year ago, but the most surprise I have had is the joy I have in him. It is a different kind of joy that I have ever experienced – different from marriage, my walk with God – but that joy brings me back to God because I am amazed and in awe of Him who made my little energetic, funny and delightful boy.

  • C

    The amount of energy it takes to being a mother of little ones has surprised me the most.

  • Lauren S.

    As a new momma I would LOVE to win a copy of this book, it looks wonderful.

  • What has surprised me is the intense love! But also how my relationship with my son is constantly changing as he grows older…he is 10 now. :)

  • Jessica

    I’m always surprised how God is teaching me more and more of Himself to me through my kids. It’s a beautiful experience!

  • Tiffaney

    One thing that really surprised me about motherhood is how much of my son’s personality has nothing to do with me, what I teach him or what I tell him. I didn’t know he would come into the world with so much personality all ready to assert itself even from infancy.

    • Tiffaney, you are our winner. Congrats! I’ve sent you an email.

Articles

When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Articles

Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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Articles

He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

As you read, we hope you consider us friends, the kind you feel comfortable sitting across the table with at the local coffee shop. You can read more about me HERE and our team of writers HERE.

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Surprised by Motherhood: A Review

by Kate Motaung time to read: 4 min
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