New books celebrate faith and motherhood in time for Mother’s Day

When sharing about the book she co-authored with the Rev. Kimberly Knowle-Zeller, Erin Strybis has heard The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years referred to as “just another motherhood devotional.”

Strybis, a Chicago-based writer with two kids ages 1 and 6, said she could see that. But she also sees motherhood — and parenthood in general — as “a pretty important story that we need to continue to return to as a society.”

“There are lessons that can be taught in these early years about unconditional love and support that I think the world needs right now,” she said.

Strybis has read books that have flipped traditional messages about motherhood on their heads and books connecting creativity and motherhood that became devotionals for her. She’s found healing in the words of picture books she’s shared with her children.

In The Beauty of Motherhood, she and Knowle-Zeller hope moms of babies, toddlers and young children will find honesty about the hard parts of parenting alongside the picture-perfect moments often shared on social media. And they hope — as they share reflections from their own parenting journeys alongside Bible passages, spiritual practices and prayers — others will be inspired to share their stories, too.

The two connected when Knowle-Zeller, a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and mom of two, was writing for Living Lutheran, the magazine of the ELCA, where Strybis previously was an editor.

As Mother’s Day approaches in the United States, here are a few books that celebrate the subject of faith and mothering.

Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings by Shari Zook

This book encourages mothers to be honest about their struggles.

Shari Zook, author of the blog “Confessions of a Woman Learning to Live,” is a mother of four and has also been a foster parent. Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings shares the challenges of being a pastor’s wife, mothering a difficult child, and living as a woman of faith. “It talks pretty honestly about my steep climb in learning to be uncomfortable and cracked open and in need of grace,” she said on her website. Published by Herald Press, this book has twelve chapters with practical advice “to reach for grace.”

Feminist Prayers for my Daughter by Shannon K. Evans

What words do you pray when your own daughter becomes a mother? Or when she experiences the loss of a pregnancy?

Shannon K. Evans, the spirituality and culture editor at the National Catholic Reporter and author of Rewilding Motherhood: Your Path to an Empowered Feminine Spirituality, puts words to prayers for things many women encounter in life in her latest book, titled Feminist Prayers for My Daughter: Powerful Petitions for Every Stage of Her Life. The prayer book, published in March, includes prayers for when she takes her first steps, leaves home or hits menopause alongside prayers for a just maternity leave, for moments when she is “mansplained” to and for leveraging her privilege.

So God Made a Mother by Leslie Means

Tender. Strong. Faithful.

Those are just a few of the attributes of a mother that Leslie Means, founder of the popular faith and motherhood website Her View From Home, focuses on in the collection So God Made a Mother: Tender, Proud, Strong, Faithful, Known, Beautiful, Worthy, and Unforgettable — Just Like You. The book, already a Publishers Weekly and Wall Street Journal bestseller after releasing last month, features essays by moms of children of all ages that they hope will speak to anyone who is, has or knows a mother.

Create Anyway by Ashlee Gadd

Looking for the perfect gift for Mom? Look no further than your nearest Target, which recently included Create Anyway: The Joy of Pursuing Creativity in the Margins of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd in one of its Mother’s Day gift guides.

Create Anyway, published in March, shares photos taken during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic alongside interviews with mothers about their creative work and reflections that include moments of faith by Gadd, founder of Coffee + Crumbs, an online community gathering mothers around storytelling. The book also includes journaling prompts and creative exercises.

Waiting In Hope by Kelley Ramsey and Jenn Hesse

Mother’s Day isn’t necessarily a celebratory day for everybody, including the 1 in 6 women who struggle with infertility.

Kelley Ramsey and Jenn Hesse of Waiting in Hope Ministries, a Christian ministry offering support to couples experiencing infertility, wrote Waiting in Hope: 31 Reflections for Walking With God Through Infertility with them in mind. The book, released last month, shares both women’s stories alongside reflection questions and prayers for those waiting to become parents. 

Dear Mama God by Daneen Akers

Like author Daneen Akers’ previous book, Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints, picture book Dear Mama God was funded on Kickstarter.

Dear Mama God, published last month, opens with a translation of Job 33:4 by Hebrew Bible professor and Episcopal priest Wil Gafney that restores what Akers says in a note to readers is its original grammar: “The Spirit of God, She has made me, and the breath of the nursing God, She gives me life.” The book continues that feminine language for the divine in words of gratitude inspired by prayers prayed by Akers’ youngest daughter and pictures God as a strong and colorful tree in warm illustrations by Gillian Gamble.

Anabaptist World added Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings to this book list. See Herald Press for more information.

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

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