Christian Book Previews' founder, Stacy Oliver, interviewed Mary DeMuth about her book, Building the Christian Family You Never Had.
CBP: Iíd like to start out with you sharing your testimony with us; how you came to know the Lord Jesus Christ. A lot of your story is in this book as well.
Mary: I grew up in a difficult home. There was a lot of drug abuse, sexual abuse Ė not necessarily in the home, but outside of the home. I grew up just never feeling protected and was afraid of death all the time. When my father died when I was ten, something happened to me and I always thought, ďIím always going to die.Ē So I grew up in this very chaotic environment where I didnít have a father or my mom was divorcing several times so the fathers would come in and out of my life. There was just a real instability in my life. So I was very alone and afraid as an only child in the midst of this.
I was in a situation where I wasnít protected and I didnít feel safe. It took me a long time during that time to recognize that maybe there was a God. There wasnít anybody in my family that knew the Lord, but I had this conscience that the Lord Ė that somehow there must be something and eventually I assigned the word God to Him and prayed to Him, but I still didnít really know Him.
As I matured and headed into my teenaged years 7th and 8th grade, I was ready to take my life, because my mom was going through her third divorce at the time and I was going to lose another father and everything was chaotic and my mom was seldom home. I was basically managing our little ranch that we lived on by myself, and I just didnít have any advocates for me. Thankfully at school there was a counselor who allowed me this hall pass that would get me out of class at any time so I could come and cry in his office. I think that really saved me; having that person who actually wanted to rescue me and actually cared about me. I lived my life longing to be rescued and never was and making vows like, if anyoneís ever going to protect me, itís up to me.
So about that time, I had a really good friend who had a similar upbringing to me and in the tenth grade I asked her, ďWhatís different about you?Ē And she said, ďIíve been going to Young Life and Iíve gotten so much out of it, why donít you come along?Ē So I went and at the very end of every Young Life meeting they would share the gospel, or just a little bit; a little snippet of Jesus. I just remember my heart pounding every time I heard about Jesus. I didnít know who He was. I knew he came in a manger, but I really was raised in a non-religious home. So I would hear about him and just get so excited and wanted to know more. I was just so ripe; someone could have picked me from a vine at that point.
But eventually I went to a whole weekend camp where I heard the whole gospel from A to Z and I just gave my heart to Jesus. I think I came to Jesus more out of a need for a father than as a recognition of my own sin. I think the recognition of sin and the fact that He died for me came later, but initially I came to Christ because I needed a daddy, and this was the one daddy who would never leave me.
CBP: And, as I say, you share a lot of that in the book and itís very heart wrenching, but you give hope at the same time. I really appreciate that. In your new book Building the Christian Family You Never Had, you write thatyou struggled with what godly parenting is, because you didnít have that role model. So what was that process like for you to figure out how to be a godly parent?
Mary: A lot of prayer and trepidation, and I just read the Bible and tried to figure it out from there. I read a lot of parenting books. Probably the most important thing I did was watch people. Every time I saw a parent who was doing a good job, I would just watch them. And if I knew them, I would ask them questions and pursued mentors. For me, I needed to see it modeled. I didnít see it, and we learn so much more by seeing it than reading it in a book. Seeing these amazing godly Christian people raising their children really helped me to know that this is what it looks like and now I can go forward and try and do the same.
CBP: And you give encouragement because not everyone has lived that in their home life, and it doesnít mean they werenít raised in a Christian home, but not all Christian homes are biblical, god-fearing homes. Your book is not just for people who were raised in a non-Christian home.
Mary: No, and I make a distinction in my book that this is for someone who doesnít want to duplicate the home they were raised in. We can be raised in a Christian home, but maybe the parents were really pretty on the outside and everyone looked great when they went out to church, but on the inside you walk inside the doors of the house and there was abuse; their lives didnít match up with their words or whatever.
CBP: What did you find was your biggest challenge?
Mary: I think for me it was this fear Ė I think all parents have this fear that they are going to make all the same mistakes their parents did or make better mistakes. And my biggest fear was that my kids wouldnít know that I loved them; that I would come away from parenting and send them out the door into the real world and they wouldnít have known that I loved them. Thatís something I really struggled with as a child, I just didnít know deep down in my gut that my parents loved me.
Godís been really good to help me along in that journey and Heís sent me really key people at key moments in my life. One time I had a friend come and visit me Ė I share this story in the book Ė she came to visit with me for a week and she had no idea that I had this fear. I had never voiced it out loud. Iíd never voiced it to my husband, never said it out loud. It was just this deep, unspoken fear that my kids werenít going to know I loved them. So my friend came to visit me and my children and husband, and as she was leaving she just said, ďMary, I just feel like God wants me to tell you something.Ē I said, ďOk, whatís that?Ē She said, ďYour children know that you love them.Ē I just knew then that God saw me because He read my private email, so to speak, and whispered in my friendís ear and then she said it to me. So I knew that God was aware of my fear and He was soothing me to say, ďNo, you are doing things differently.Ē
CBP: Well, you mentioned Pioneer Parenting and thatís a blog of yours now? Iím interested to hear what youíre doing with that.
Mary: I just launched that about a month ago and itís PioneerParenting.blogs.com, and I wanted a place for Pioneer parents to come and just be able to see that theyíre not alone. I post probably 3-5 times a week depending on my time. Iím also interviewing other pioneer parents. So itís a great place to go if youíre looking for resources. Thereís books listed along the right-hand side of books that are good for healing of the past and parenting today and all those kinds of things. And also personal profiles of people who have walked that road and what their journey has been in pioneer parenting.
CBP: Do you allow people to comment back too?
Mary: Yes, itís interactive.
CBP: I really liked that you had ideas for family prayer. Can you share one of your ideas?
Mary: One of the things that weíve done well, I think, is we went to a school supply store because I think Pottery Barn is awesome, but itís really expensive, and they have these really great chalkboards that are huge and I had coveted them. So instead I went to the school supply store and bought a chalkboard for $20 or something. We write down our prayer requests on the chalkboard and we date it and then we have a place for where God can answer. Itís just a small but practical way that the children can see that we are praying and they can pray and we can see God answer those prayers. Just physically seeing them answered like that.
CBP: And I forgot to mention that you did move to France because you have a burning for the European people who donít really see the light of Jesus there because thatís a really dead area spiritually. How is that going? Youíve been there two years?
Mary: Itís a really dark place and weíve seen some great things happen, but itís a relentless spiritual attack; itís been really hard. I would just encourage everybody to come over. We need so many more missionaries there. People donít think of Europe as a mission field, but itís probably the hardest mission field in the world today.
CBP: Are you working on another book in the meantime?
Mary: I do have another parenting book coming out next summer with Harvest House and itís tentatively titled Postmodern Parenting. Itís going to be about how do you parent in a postmodern context since our world is headed that way. What does that mean and what are the implications for parenting? I just released a novel called Watching the Tree Limbs and the sequel comes out in September called Wishing on Dandelions. So those are my upcoming books.
CBP: Wow, so you are busy!Ē
Mary: Yeah. So here Iím working on trying to get another contract so I can write another book.
CBP: Well, is there anything else that you want to share with your readers who happen to be our readers as well, or maybe people who havenít picked up any of your books yet and may not be familiar with you?
Mary: Well, they can always go to my website, Relevantpros.com and I would just encourage pioneer parents to really consider that parenting is not an outside-in endeavor. Pioneer parents tend to go to all these parenting books and try to superimpose methods upon themselves when their hearts are not healed yet from the past, and itís basically just kind of dressing up something thatís maybe ugly on the inside. And what is inside of our hearts will come out in our parenting. So if our heart isnít right, if our heart isnít healed, we will begin to duplicate those things that happened in the past because we havenít dealt with them. So the first thing to do with parenting is not necessarily to read a bunch of parenting books that have good formulas, but to go to Jesus and get your heart right and do the brave link of being healed.
CBP: Thatís excellent advice; I appreciate that.