We recently had the opportunity to interview Elizabeth Foss, co-author with Danielle Bean, of the wonderful new book Small Steps for Catholic Moms and the Companion Journal to the book – both are recently published by Faith and Family Books. If you haven’t had a chance to enter our Small Steps contest or just look at the adorable photos, now’s your chance!
Our interview –
Elizabeth, thank you so much for participating in this interview with us.
Can you give our readers/customers some information about your background?
I grew up in a small family (I have one sister) as the daughter of a Naval officer. We lived up and down the east coast. I spent my high school years in Northern Virginia, where I met my husband. I’m a graduate of the University of Virginia. My husband and I have nine children from 1-21. And I am a cancer survivor.
Where did the idea for writing your new book come from?
Just before Lent in 2008, we both noticed a trend in our reader mail. There was a common theme of discouragement. It appeared that with the explosion of blogs and social media, mothers were comparing themselves to each other and deciding that they came up short. There was also the tendency to judge one another. We decided to write some short Lenten prompts to give readers a different focus. We offered three short items: Pray, Fast, Give.
Women (and some men) wrote to tell us how helpful these quick devotions were and it was suggested that we incorporate them into a booklet. As Danielle and I discussed the idea on the phone, it occurred to us to write a whole year of devotions and offer a book.
Our readers/customers are always interested to know how a book is written by an author. Can you tell us about the process you went through to write “Small Steps for Catholic Moms?”
After we settled upon a virtue to focus on each month, we set about writing the individual daily devotions. We had just gotten started, when I found myself on total bed-rest before the birth of my ninth baby. I spent those six weeks of bedrest lying on my side with a wireless keyboard, surrounded by books of saints’ quotations. That’s where the research happened for me and where I wrote a good chunk of my part of the book.
It turned out that Small Steps was a huge blessing personally. At a time in my life when my very life and the life of my baby were in grave danger, I spent hours and hours reading the words of the saints and focusing on particularly encouraging Scripture. I look back on that time with a fondness and gratitude for God’s provision.
After that, I wrote in the early mornings, before my family was awake. We used Google Docs and wrote each chapter as a shared document so that we could easily edit for each other and see where we were in the process.
For the companion journal, we actually wrote together, in real time. We talked on the phone and took turns typing. With Google Docs open, we could each see the writing as it happened.
The book is arranged for daily reading and meditation. How did you decide on that kind of format and how did you come up with the “think, pray, act” idea?
The Lenten meditations had a “Pray, Fast, Give” format. We needed something a little different for the whole year. We liked the quotes that had found their way into some of the Lenten prompts, so we started with quotes for the book. Those were the “Think.” Prayer and action just made sense.
What do you hope Catholic mom readers will take away from reading your new book – how can they “live the message” of your new book?
The message is so simple. Take a few minutes every day to be encouraged and inspired by the treasure of the Church in the saints and Scripture. Take a few minutes to pray and ask God to infuse you with Himself. And then do something—something small, but meaningful—to move closer to being the image of God you were created to be.
A journal is available to accompany the book. Why did you decide to offer a journal with the book and how do you see it being used?
The book is arranged by months. That made it impossible to insert that Lenten prompts that started this whole endeavor, because Easter is a movable feast. We decided to make the Lenten prompts an appendix. Then, we started talking together about the way we would use the book. The companion journal grew out of that discussion. It’s the fruit of our friendship and the way we would (and did) encourage each other. We offer a short essay—something personal we share from our own lives that has to do with the virtue. We ask ourselves how that virtue looks in our own lives and how, specifically, we want to grow in that virtue. Then we make a resolution for the month, related to growth in that virtue.
We build upon the discussion of the virtue. We offer a quote for further discussion and some specific prompts that ideally would be reflected upon in a group. We pull out scripture to share together and to apply to the discussion of the virtue. Finally, we encourage some personal reflection and journaling and the commission of a single quote to memory.
We see the journal being used in small groups. Ideally, women will encourage one another to take small steps. They can meet once a month to read and reflect and then dedicate a few moments privately each day of that month to the devotional.
If not in small groups, I can see the journal being a beautiful blessing for mothers and grown or nearly grown daughters to do together. And, of course, it can be done alone.
Catholic moms have lots of reading choices in front of them, why do you think they should read your book?
There are so many wonderful and worthy things to read! The beauty of this particular book is that each day’s reading is short and thoughtful. It can set an intentional tone to your day without really taking up much of your reading (or working) time.
We live in a troubled and confusing age where the challenges for Catholic moms seem greater than ever. What additional advice can you give and what other resources can you recommend for Catholic moms today?
I think it’s easy to be confused by the bombardment of information and the busy-ness of our lives as wives and mothers. The best advice I have is to heed the words of the psalmist: Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10). You don’t need to read everything available on the internet. You don’t need to be up on what’s happening on 400 cable TV stations. You don’t need to keep up with the Joneses, whether we’re talking clubs or scouts or sports or school. But you do need—every day, several times a day—to be still and put yourself in the presence of God. Empty yourself of you and of the world and ask Him to fill you.
Visit Elizabeth’s blog here.
You can buy Elizabeth’s books here.
He lives with his lovely wife and eleven kids in northern Colorado.