At the end of September, I had the privilege of attending my first writing retreat at Laity Lodge, nestled in the Frio River canyon in the beautiful Texas hill country.
Among the many wonderful writers I met there was Dena Dyer, a Texas girl with burgundy hair and a ready smile. After a single conversation, it was clear we were kindred spirits.
Dena’s book, Grace for the Race: Meditations for Busy Moms, was re-released as an ebook in late summer, and we’d had a couple email exchanges about it. I knew that this would be a great book for many of my readers, especially those of you who are just a few months into mommyhood, with brand-new babies waking you every few hours and postpartum hormones raging through your sleep-deprived bodies.
The book is a series of short devotions (just right for a fuzzy-minded mom). Each devotion includes a funny or inspiring quote (these alone are worth the price of the book); Dena’s reflection on the topic at hand, usually telling a story from her life; and a handful of Scripture verses that hold it all together.
Dena’s meditations are honest, breezy, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. She writes with heart, and it’s clear her heart is seeking Jesus in the midst of being a mom, wife, writer, and postpartum depression survivor.
Even before she’d met me and realized we’re a lot alike, Dena had kindly agreed to let me interview her. Now that’s some grace for the race.
KCI: What was the catalyst for your writing this book?
DD: When I was first dealing with depression and fatigue (and a near-desperate “I don’t know what I’m doing” feeling) after having my first son, I looked for a devotional that was easy to read, encouraging, and most of all honest. I couldn’t really find one, so I thought I should try my hand at writing one myself.
KCI: You have the best quotes at the beginning of each meditation! Please spill: where did you find them?
DD: I am a bit of a quote-horse, actually. I found them everywhere—in my favorite quote books, journals I had been keeping, and online. It was fun to pair each devotional with a quote that set the mood and tone for the reading.
KCI: You write candidly about your struggles with depression. In one of the meditations you mention “things I try to make a part of daily life” that help you cope with and even thrive in the midst of living with a mental illness. One of these is gratitude. What are some of the others?
DD: I try to exercise regularly, though I admit I’m not the most disciplined about it. I’m trying, though, with God’s help, to make it a priority. It really does help my moods and my body—DUH!
Also, prayer and scripture reading/meditation are a must. I say it makes the crazies go away. It may be 15 minutes, or even five, but if I spend a bit of time with Jesus, the whole day goes better.
I also try, with my husband’s help, to keep our family’s schedule pretty simple. Being too busy wears me out physically and emotionally. And time with my fun friends and silly boys (I include my hubby) is a great balm for my soul.
KCI: Despite (or perhaps because of) struggling with depression myself, I confess I often expect people with depression to be, well, depressing. You’re not. Anything but. In fact, several times while reading a meditation, I laughed out loud. Tell me: how do you keep your sense of humor in the midst of chaos and fear and chemical imbalances? What practices have you embraced to help you learn to laugh when you’d rather cry?
DD: I’m so glad you laughed out loud. That makes me happy! I think God gave me a good sense of humor—and a husband and sons who are hilarious—to balance out my tendency to be an Eeyore.
I’m thankful that God’s also moved me away from sarcastic, dark humor (my natural tendency) to a lighter type of humor. Laughter is a true gift from God, and the scriptures portray some pretty absurd situations.
I have a lot of favorite funny authors and comedians, whom I read or watch if I start feeling really down. I’m also very ditzy and clumsy (maybe it’s my brain chemistry) so I’m always getting in funny situations, and I’ve learned to laugh, and write about it, instead of get frustrated. I never run out of material, that’s for sure!
KCI: My two favorite meditations are your paraphrases of Psalm 23 and 1 Corinthians 13. Would you talk a bit about the process of writing one (or both) of these? What inspired you? Why did you include what you included? Anything else you’d like to say about them (because they rock!)?
DD: Kimberlee, I grew up in an ultra-conservative church, and later in life, I discovered The Message (a paraphrase, from the original languages, by pastor and scholar Eugene Peterson). It was life-altering for me to hear scripture in a fresh, current way. Not that it had gotten stale, but I had let my familiarity with the NIV and KJV rob me of some of the joy of reading—and applying—the Bible. So when it came time to write devotionals for today’s moms, I wanted to show readers how applicable certain passages are to us, right now, where we live.
KCI: Finally (this is an obligatory question I ask of all my interviewees): if your book were a movie, who would play you? Your sons? Your husband?
DD: Hmmmm…I guess Drew Barrymore would be good for my role, ‘cuz she’s kinda ditzy like I am. Scott Wolf or Michael J. Fox would play my husband (he looks a lot like both of them); my youngest would be played by Johnathon Lipnicke, and the oldest by Spencer Breslin. Fun question!
The book is Grace for the Race: Meditations for Busy Moms by Dena Dyer. If you’re a new mom or a tired mom or a frazzled-where-is-my-child mom (or am I the only one who regularly asks that question?), I think you’ll enjoy this book. And I know Dena will enjoy knowing her words are going out into the world to point another mother back to Jesus.