Mothering with Spiritual Power, by Debra Sansing Woods
Reviewed by Catherine K. Arveseth
A Keystone for Good Advice
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Mothering with Spiritual Power is Debra Sansing Woods’ first book. Woods is a full-time mother of five and part-time freelance writer whose articles have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. Despite a busy family life, Woods has made time to write and encourage parents in their efforts to raise a righteous family.
Her book is a thoughtful collection of essays that will speak to the heart of any mother. Using twenty-five carefully chosen Book of Mormon verses as inspiration, Woods shows mothers of any age where they can find the very best parenting advice.
Her message is sound because it rests entirely upon the great keystone of our religion ? the Book of Mormon. Skillfully likening the scriptures to our mothering lives, Woods reminds us that God is our one constant, reliable resource. He can endow us with heavenly power to do his work.
Woods does not write about principles she does not live. Readers will notice a pattern of living within her writing. Again and again, she goes to the Word of God, seeking answers to her most earnest prayers ? fully expecting counsel needed to guide her as a parent. She shares her mothering experiences in a conversational, easy-to-read style that comes from the soul.
Likening the Scriptures
It is Woods’ hope that her book will facilitate a dialogue among LDS mothers about the power of the Book of Mormon to shape their motherhood experience. She writes:
While raising children, I have, at times, found solid support and guidance within the pages of some terrific parenting books. But as helpful as some of those books have been, I must tell you that they do not compare in power and inspiration to the support and guidance I have found repeatedly within the pages of the Book of Mormon (1-2).
Let me give you a sampling of some of the verses she has likened to motherhood, followed by the title of that particular chapter. Her applications are refreshing as she examines familiar scripture in new ways.
- “And he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them” (3 Nephi 17:21). Calling Our Children to Us One by One
- “And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me” (Moroni 7:33). Seeking the Power We Need to Do the Lord’s Will
- “And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea” (Ether 3:4). Lighting Our Children’s Journeys
- “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of they children” (3 Nephi 22:13). Helping Our Children to Find Peace in Troubled Times
- “Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels?” (2 Nephi 32:2). Speaking with the Tongue of Angels
- “O Lord, I have trusted in thee and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm” (2 Nephi 4:34). Trusting in the Lord More than in the Experts
- “And now, I ask, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell?” (Alma 26:2). Remembering Our Blessings
Just reading these verses fills me with a sense of confidence in the Lord, a reassurance that I can do whatever the Lord has asked of me, if I will simply seek his face, his words, his voice. Who else would we want directing us in this most precious work of all time?
I think of my own three beautiful daughters and I am humbled, even repentant, when I consider the power available to me and my family. In every personal anecdote, Woods subtly reminds us that without personal revelation from the Lord, without the whisperings of the Spirit, without opening our scriptures, we live below an expanse of untapped power.
During an especially challenging week when Woods was six months pregnant, her husband was out of town, and each of her children, one after the other, became ill with the flu. She was surprised and relieved that she had the energy and clear thinking to take care of her children. “If I hadn’t known better, I would have wondered how I managed that week. But I do know better; the Lord was with me” (44).
“Even as we work and struggle to raise our children with their best interests at heart, the Lord has our best interests at heart.[He] is with us, giving us more than we sometimes realize” (60-61).
Mothers Have Big Hearts
This idea surfaces several times in Woods’ book ? the fact that we have big hearts. We want to give all we can do those who need us, our husbands, our children, our friends, our callings, anyone around us in need. But how do we do it all? Most women over time, I believe, come to the same conclusion. We don’t. We can’t. We must be selective with our time and “prayerfully prioritize” our days.
When I think of the Savior’s time on earth, I envision him . calm and unrushed, a healing presence as he diligently goes about doing his Father’s work. In contrast, when I envision myself and so many other mothers I know . I see in my mind’s eye, a mom who’s rushing to get it all done as she sprints headlong through her waking hours. Despite her best efforts, she never seems to arrive at the finish line where she can say, “I got it all done,” but she never stops trying. She wants to be a calm and loving presence in her home but sometimes ends up fostering an atmosphere of anxiety more than one of peace with all her rushing (117).
After prayerfully prioritizing her day, Woods comes to this conclusion:
Some of the things on my to-do list that had seemed enormously important weren’t really so important after all. What was important was the prayerful prioritizing of my children’s needs for physical, emotional and spiritual nurturance. I could, I realized, meet their needs without having to accomplish every last item on my to-do list. What a relief it was to realized this through the inspiration of the Spirit (118).
Have King Benjamin’s words come to your mind? “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength” (Mosiah 4:27)? Woods uses this verse as support for her message. She wisely explains, “We have big hearts . As long as we keep in mind the counsel to do things in wisdom and order, our big hearts will be to our advantage and the advantage of those around us” (119).
In fact, she says, “The Lord . can . help us recognize the times when less speed is called for rather than more” (120).
Sisterhood and Support
Woods’ essays send a strong message to women about sisterhood and support. She not only helps mothers feel understood and validated, but she also encourages them to accept and support each other. Less comparing, she says, and more embracing of each other’s spiritual gifts. “The more accepting we are of mothers who are different from us, the more accepting we will be of ourselves” (84).
Woods then writes about a mother she greatly admired. She was impressed with this woman’s earnest efforts as a mother. “What intrigued me so much about this mother was that she was striving to raise her own children with far more love and care than she had ever experienced in her own childhood. She has never shared much about her upbringing with me, but from the little bit I had gleaned over the years, there was enough emotional and physical abuse and neglect to break almost many mother’s heart. Given what I knew of this sister’s background, I had long wondered how she ever learned to be such a good mother herself. Finally, one day, after so many years of wondering, I simply asked her, ‘Where did you learn to raise your children with so much love when you grew up with so little?’ Her face immediately softened and she smiled as he answered, ‘I learned from the sisters in Relief Society.'” (81-82).
Mothers are Children Too
From “praying on your feet” to learning to revise your expectations (and revise them again!), Mothering with Spiritual Power offers all LDS moms tools and ideas that will help us tap into the divine power God reserves for righteous mothers.
Woods reminds us that the Book of Mormon is pertinent at every juncture in life. Its prophets continually point us to Christ and the Father, for they are there to nurture, care for us, and direct us. Yes, we are mothers, but we are also children, in great need of loving guidance from the heavens.
“I sometimes imagine what I must look like to my Father in Heaven ? perhaps a lot like a willful toddler who thinks she can do everything all by herself. And in some cases, she can. But, in other cases, she would do far better if she would surrender her will to seek the will, guidance, and help of one far wiser and more experienced than herself” (102).
Debra Woods caught a wind of inspiration when she had the idea for this book. I hope her window is open for another breeze to come on through.