Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Shopping for Time

Shopping For Time: How To Do It All and Not Be Overwhelmed. Carolyn Mahaney, Nicole Whitacre, Kristin Chesemore, Janelle Bradshaw. 2007.

Carolyn Mahaney is the mother. Nicole, Kristin, and Janelle are her daughters. Together they have written Shopping for Time: How To Do It All And Not Be Overwhelmed. Let me tell you something, I was skeptical of this book. You may be wondering, why did I request a review copy of a book I thought I may not like. I wanted to read this book for two reasons. One I wanted to judge such a book for myself. It's unfair to judge a book by its cover. Or in this case, to judge a book based on the title "How to Do It All and NOT Be Overwhelmed." It sounded unrealistic. It sounded like it would be one of those bossy little books that make you feel condemned and unworthy. Or perhaps to judge it based on the fact that I rarely have anything positive to say about "women's issues" type books.

Rarely. Elizabeth George. Not for me. Couldn't stand A Woman's After God's Own Heart. Besides the fact that I thought the title was misleading, I disagreed with much of what she had to say. For the record, my main problem with books by and for women are that they don't concern me. In 99% of these books if you are not a married woman with children, you're barely worth a mention at all. That was one of my biggest complaints against A Woman After God's Own Heart. It wasn't about being a woman. It was about being a wife. It was about being a mother. Being single obviously never occurred to this Elizabeth George as a valid audience to address. The book wasn't about growing closer to God. It was about being a stereotypical housewife. The book essentially told you that except for church, a woman should only leave the house once a week. It also said that you should never sit down for longer than five or six minutes. If you DID actually sit down and rest for longer than that, she condemned you as terribly lazy. It said things that the only answer you should give your husband is yes. That you should never express an opinion that disagreed with his. And that not only should you greet your husband at the door with a fresh application of lipstick, but that once he was home you were supposed to dote and hang on his every word. It essentially said that you were supposed to be with him and stay with him and wait on him. And that his hobby should be your hobby. And that you weren't allowed to be separate and individual. If he was home, he was to be your sole focus. Which I suppose is all fine and good to a certain extent. But seriously, people need alone time. I wouldn't want anyone to follow me around that much. Elizabeth George went on to mention that women should better themselves by trying to read one or maybe two books a year. Seriously. And I guess that's all you COULD read if you're not allowed to sit for longer than five minutes. I suppose I should amend that. You're probably allowed to sit down if and only if your husband is sitting down. Actually, I guess I should be grateful she doesn't outright condemn sitting and reading altogether. The sad thing? I bought five or six books by Elizabeth George based on my sister's high praises. So I now own a good collection of books--I've only read the one--that I wouldn't read for all the money in the world. (That's not true, I might read them for money and for the fact that I could make fun of them.)

Anne Ortlund. I honestly don't remember if I gave up on Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman or not. I know I hated what I did read of it though. Hated it. She actually said things like a woman should never pray or read the Bible UNLESS she was dressed, had her hair done, and was wearing make-up. Seriously. God doesn't love you if you're not all painted up, according to her. Never mind that he was a God that sent his son to die for us while we were yet sinners. Never mind that God sees us, hears us, knows us, and loves us at our best and worst twenty-four hours a day. No, you have to be "beautiful" to be loved and accepted by God according to Ortlund. That and the gagging fact that she thinks you HAVE to have a vaseful of flowers in your bathroom. And anything less than her definition of feminity is just that 'less than.' There's no allowing for personality or diversity here.

So I was all poised to dislike or disagree with Shopping For Time. Which brings me back to a second point. I know lots of women--including my sister--who would want to read a book like this one. So knowing that there is an audience out there who needs this kind of book, I wanted to review it.

First thoughts of this book. The good news is that Carolyn and daughters actually WANT women to spend a good deal of time sitting. That is always good news. the second piece of good news is that throughout the book, they actually say things like adapt our suggestions and make them fit with who you are. You don't have to do it just like this to be perfect. Be who you are. You don't have to conform to our definition, and play by our rules. I sensed no condemnation. No judgement. Which is always a good thing. Third, the book while mainly written for wives and mothers...does take a few sentences in each chapter to address those NOT in that particular "season" of their lives. They address single women, college-aged women, teenagers, etc.

The book acknowledges that God is sovereign. It is His plans for us that come to pass. Not our own plans. We control nothing. We don't sit down and tell God what to do. This isn't a book about controlling one's life and accomplishing all our hopes and dreams in an effort to "have it all" according to the world's standards.

The book is organized around five tips.

1) The First Tip: Rise Early (Joining the 5AM Club)

I knew I would hate this book when I saw the phrase '5AM Club' in one of the titles. But I was wrong. The chapter is about how that time happens to work for them. But how it is perfectly acceptable to have a 6AM club or 8AM club. It all depends on where you are in your life. If you have a husband and family that need to be up and out of the house by 7 or 7:30. Then 5AM might make sense. If you're a college student whose classes don't start until 11AM, then 8 or 9 is fine to get up. The point wasn't the time. It was the fact that your supposed to change your schedule just a bit so that you can fit in time with God at the very beginning. Take an extra thirty minutes or an hour to give to him right from the start. And I noticed that if a wife and mother could best fit her devotions in right after the husband leaves for work and the kids leave for school...that that is "allowed." The point is to have alone time with Jesus where he is your focus. So because the chapter allowed for many variations and was nonjudgemental, I actually LIKED this chapter a great deal.

2) The Second Tip: Sit Still (Sitting at Jesus' Feet)

Closely related to the first tip, this chapter is all about spending time with God in prayer and Bible reading. It is about focusing on him. It is about loving him. It is about growing in him. For some people, this may mean making a plan or following a plan to study and read the Bible. For others, it may be more relaxed. It needs to be a balance of discipline and yet relaxed enough to allow for our humanity. The chapter is not about how to be legalistic. It isn't about how God loves us more or less. More if we're consistently disciplined, and less if we miss a week or two...or gasp....much longer. It isn't about working for God's acceptance. It isn't about working at all. This chapter is all about our need, our dependence on God. It is about grace. Not about guilt. Not about pride. Not about self-sufficiency.

3) The Third Tip: Sit and Plan (Taking a Personal Retreat)

The third tip is harder for me to relate to. The authors advise women to take one or two days out of the year to focus their attention on themselves and do an inventory of sorts. To assess what they want and what they need. To look for ways to change. To look for ways to improve. To make new goals. To make priorities. To get organized. To make lots of lists. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a list-maker. I don't do lists. I don't do organization. I don't do written goals. So this "personal retreat" would be pure torture for me. I wouldn't find it refreshing. I'd find it depressing. But I know many people in my life who DO make lists, who do have goals, who are ultra-organized. I know they're going to love this chapter. So I don't think it's "bad" by any means. Just not for me.

4) The Fourth Tip: Consider People (Evaluating Relationships Carefully)

This chapter is all about friendships and relationships. Again not so much for me. I don't have friends in all those categories. And I'm not in an environment to find and make those kinds of friendships. Even when I was surrounded by more people, I wasn't outgoing. I've never really sought to maintain twenty or forty friendships when three to five will suffice just fine. I would rather have a few that are manageable than twenty that I never saw or wrote. But again, I think this chapter will be relevant to many people. Many.

5) The Fifth Tip: Plan to Depend (Being Productive in Daily Life)

Despite how this chapter may sound, it actually is not about doing anything on your own. It is all about depending on God day by day, moment by moment. So while they spend a great deal of time focusing on planning and organizing and being efficient and all sorts of things that I would never actually do, they also approach it with the philosophy that they will get done what God wants them to get done. That by allowing God to shape your life and your priorities, that you actually feel at peace with what gets done and not be overwhelmed and stressed.

So the book does offer some practical tips, but it offers many spiritual tips as well.

So what did I think? I actually liked this book. I thought that it was actually realistic and biblical. I really appreciated the fact that it was not judgemental. That the women allowed for the fact that every single woman is different.