Wednesday, August 12, 2009

An Interview with Ann Kroeker

Today I am excited to have a guest on my blog!
I first "met" Ann Kroeker about nine years ago when I picked up her book, The Contemplative Mom. The subtitle of the book is Restoring Rich Relationship with God in the Midst of Motherhood, and I knew right away that I wanted to spend time learning from this mother!
In reading, I felt like I had a new friend who understood my heart's desire to draw closer to God. What a gift!
Years later, I discovered Ann's blog and we became acquainted with one another through the world of blogging. Just last year Ann supported me in my writing efforts by reading my manuscript for Finding Joy and writing an endorsement for me. And now I have the honor of welcoming Ann to my blog for an interview regarding her brand new book. This post is longer than usual, but I hope you are able to stick with us through the whole thing. This interview with Ann was a lot of fun, and there IS a giveaway at the end!
Let's get started!

First, Ann, would you tell us a little about your family? I know you’re a wife and a mother, so tell us about the people who have given you these roles.
My husband and I met after we were out of school, when we were bumbling through those first years of post-graduation adulthood. I wasn’t very capable in the kitchen, but I could make pretty good chocolate chip cookies and that may have done the trick, because he asked me to marry him. We’ve been married for 18 years, and he is my quiet, faithful, steady strength, fully supportive of my writing efforts all this time.
We have four kids: three girls and a boy, ages 15, 13, 11 and almost 8. They have a lot in common, yet are very different. They all devour books. They like imaginative play as well as card, board and electronic games. One is compassionate and articulate, while another finds it hard to express herself verbally but loves to write. Some of them seem to have inherited their father’s gift of service, so they are often eager to pitch in, say, at church to help move chairs or set up for a program.
They get along well, but arguments must be worked out. They mope. They drag their feet on chores. They grumble. That’s because, well, they’re human. And to be honest, I’m guilty of all of those same weaknesses, as well. So we live life together, pray together, learn together, make mistakes, ask forgiveness, laugh, relax, work, play, and do our best to serve and love by God’s grace.

Hmmm, they sound very similar to some kids I know!
Besides being a wife and mother, you are also an author with a brand new book release. Congratulations!

Thanks! As an author yourself, you know it’s a really big event in one’s life!

I sure do. And as an author myself, I also know authors like to talk about their books. *grin* Can you give us an overview of the new book?
Of course! For starters, all I really need to do in order to give people an idea of the topic is to say the title, Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families. Right away people know what it’s about at its most basic level. It’s about slowing down in our fast-paced world in order to experience deeper relationships with each other and with the Lord. But there are so many other benefits to slowing down, as well, such as reducing stress, gaining focus, discovering what success really means, learning what it means to rest, and giving our kids a meaningful childhood that is more rich than the rush and blur they experience in a hectic and harried lifestyle.

OK, I'm interested already! What led you to write Not So Fast?
We live in a high-achieving suburb of a metropolitan area, where parents are often pushing their kids to succeed … at least by the world’s standards. To achieve that end, these families are always on the go, rarely “settled” or content, often concerned that they aren’t doing enough to prepare their kids for the future.
When I talk with them, they might describe stress symptoms; admit that doing more seems better to them; and confess that fast-paced is the norm rather than the exception in their lives. When I interact with these folks at church and the soccer field, I hear some of them confess a longing to live differently without seeing a way out.
I realized that a lot of people share a frustration of desiring to experience a more peaceful, simpler pace of life while feeling obligated to spin that proverbial hamster wheel day and night.
Through writing a book, which can reach a wide range of people, I hope to encourage people that there’s another way to live. By sharing my story along with other research and insights, I want to point people first to Christ, the one true source of peace and rest. As readers seek the Lord regarding their frenzied schedules, they may gain confidence to experiment and risk doing less than the Joneses. And as they listen to the voice of God, if He indeed leads them to slow and simplify, I long for them to make bold, countercultural changes and begin reaping the riches of life in the slow lane.

Risk doing less than the Jonses? What a wonderful concept! I will openly admit to feeling pressure to keep up with "them." And here you are, giving us permission to do less! What are some of the topics you tackle in the book?
I try to explore lots of ways that our culture tempts or even pushes us to speed up. Then I provide an alternative approach, with simple suggestions to implement right away. For example, I talk about how our ability to show compassion and love is challenged when we’re in high-speed mode. There’s a chapter on rest, because not only do we cheat on sleep to fit more and more into our days but also families are being asked to give up their Sabbath due to sports and other activities being scheduled on Sundays. I talk about how we speed past creation, how consumerism speeds up spending, how messages aimed at our kids encourage them to grow up fast in inappropriate ways, and how creativity is often stifled when we’re always on the go. I think we underestimate how many ways the culture calls us to shift into overdrive.

That sounds great! I'm curious, have you always lived a “slow” life?
I grew up on a farm in a rural community, so my childhood memories are slow and relaxed with lots of solitude and time in nature. My husband grew up in a culture that knows how to flip on the pause button and take a good, long coffee break or a month-long vacation. So deep down inside of us is this history of living slower. When we put on the brakes, it felt natural to both of us.
Yet, when our kids were really little, I was so insecure that I thought we had to do it all. I wanted the best for my kids, so I would look to other families and if they seemed to be successful, I’d sign up for all the things their kids were doing. I let the culture influence our decisions and pretty soon, I was dragging my little girls all over town. I was stressed, and the kids would break down in tears from being on-the-go nonstop, but I kept on going. Our pace didn’t fit our personalities or our backgrounds, but I didn’t know how to change.
I thought I didn’t have a choice.
I thought that’s how everyone had to live.
In the middle of that, something dramatic happened that changed everything. I’ll save the details for readers of the book. But it freed us to boldly and confidently choose a completely different pace, flowing from a deeper relationship with the Lord. We’ve had lapses where we experimented and took on too much. But we recognized the stress symptoms and knew we had to direct our course back to the slow lane.

You'll save the details, huh? I definitely want to know the rest of the story, and I look forward to reading it soon.
Ann, I want to thank you for doing this interview and telling us about Not So Fast. It has been fun! But I just have to know, is it possible that the Contemplative Mom, who knows how to slow down and connect with God and her family, still has moments of irritability, when she contemplates how she’s going to survive motherhood?
How about a parting word of encouragement for all of the mothers out here who sometimes wonder how we’re going to make it?

Oh, my. Just ask my neighbor.
A few days ago, I was lecturing the kids loudly and irritably about not completing some tasks they left undone — tasks that I’d expected them to do, reminded them to do (two extra times), and really needed them to do. I was disappointed and frustrated and let them know about it.
We were outside at the time, mounting our bikes to head over to a book club. By the end of the lecture, we were all in tears. I turned and realized the neighbor was working in her yard and overheard everything, so I have a witness to my irritability.
As we biked down the road in silence, I was deeply convicted that I had gone too far. It was true that they had failed to act on my request even when it was reiterated calmly two other times. But I didn’t need to go on and on about it. About halfway to book club, I stopped them all and apologized for my overblown response. They were gracious and modeled forgiveness. They even apologized for their part. And when we got home, they completed the tasks.
So even the slow-paced, contemplative mom has her moments.
But you know, when I was in high-speed mode, those overblown lectures were much more frequent and were delivered at an even higher volume and in a more frantic tone. I do think that reducing stress is a good move for moms particularly prone to irritability. When I am living slower, I’m usually able to walk more intimately with God and experience a deeper, more profound and lasting peace. When I’m in that mode, keeping in step with the Spirit throughout the day, I experience more of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That’s all really good stuff to experience, realizing that it’s not me; rather, it’s the Lord working in me, forming me into the mom I long to be.

Thank you for your openness and honesty. You're speaking right to my heart, Ann. I know for certain that my irritability increases when I am stressed-out and frenzied. I do a lot of praying and deep breathing - trying to get my focus back on my Creator, and allowing Him to calm my spirit. But now that we've had this interview, I can't wait for my copy of Not So Fast to arrive. I am confident that my family and I will benefit from your words and work. Thank you!

I hope you enjoyed hearing from Ann Kroeker and learning about her new book. If you would like to get your own copy, you may purchase it from CBD or Amazon, or anywhere books are sold. Additionally, Ann writes about topics related to slowing down on the Not So Fast website. Check it out!

And, finally, the giveaway!
If you would like to enter to win a free copy of Not So Fast (Which Ann will sign for you, if you'd like!) simply leave a comment answering one of these questions: Which of the topics Ann mentioned above is of particular interest to you? OR How does increased stress and frenzy in your schedule affect your level of irritablity?
If you are a blogger, I will give you an additonal chance to win. Mention this giveaway on your blog and include a link to this post. Then tell me you did it and I'll put your name in twice!

Oh, I need an end time for this, don't I?! OK, thinking as I'm typing...How about midnight EST on Saturday? I'll draw the winner while I'm recording next Monday's video! So, enter by Saturday and tune in Monday to find out if you've won!

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luvmy4sons said...

Thanks for introducing your friend. She sounds like someone with whom I could sit down and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and talk. I could realate to many of her topics. The bike ride at the end though hit WAY too close to home. Even just last night I went about as a martyr cleaning up and giving out occasional little lectures with disdain and dismay...OUCH! (Read my post today for a specific example of how I often do this!LOL!) Slowing down? Yes! Yes, let's do that!

Anonymous said...

Since my family is waiting for me to leave for a vacation I should probably make this quick! There is SO much here I am interested in. But one thing I know for sure... if Mom aint happy - no one's happy! My depression has taught me to pace myself not try to do too many things in one day. If my level of anxiety gets too high everyone suffers - even the dog! ugh! ok... off I go. Karen, if I happen to win, I may not have internet access next Monday - so save it for me when I'm back over the weekend, K? =)

Tamrah T. said...

Karen, your friend really had a message that spoke to my heart today. When Ann brought it all back to the basics,when I slow down I will hear the voice of the Lord more clearly, experiencing all the Lord has to bless us in. My prayer is to experience more of the fruits of the Spirit and draw closer to the peace we only find in Him. PTL.

Love in Christ Jesus,
Lord Bless

Ellen G said...

Slowing down is the topic that most interests me. I find myself snapping at everyone and miserable when we have too much going on, but I find myself returning to that place too often. Here is the link to the post on my blog:

Anonymous said...

The interview was so much fun, Karen, and it's a treat to meet your reader-friends here in the comments! Thanks for the opportunity--as you bring hope to overwhelmed moms, I hope to be a small part of that today by sharing your corner of the World Wide Web.

Jessica said...

Awesome interview! I really think a lot of moms could use this. I hate frenzied living and stay at home a lot, but I think it makes me less irritable. I get more chores done and the kids play a lot, which I think is good for them. LOL They'll probably do sports but I'm really hoping that as they start school I don't get caught up in the fast-pace, the crazy pace, of sports, activities, etc.

Your books sounds great! Thanks for the interview.

Proverbs 27:19 said...

The topic of neglecting rest, especially the Sabbath. I find myself staying up later just to "get a few more minutes" in my day to complete whatever I hadn't.

Then on Sunday, I tend to find myself fidgity while trying to sit still because I feel as though I just have to be doing something.


km said...

I definitely want to be living the 'slow life'. I think I just posted something about that recently. It's hard to achieve though. The 'slow life' needs to constantly re-evaluated for my family. If we're not careful, busy sneaks in. Usually, we discover we're too busy because I'm too cranky. This would definitely be a book for me.

Debbie said...

Tiredness contributes to irritability. I feel "I owe it to myself" to have time to do "my things" at the end of the day, which often translates to a much later night than I should be having - I suffer, and the kids do too, the next day!

Kristine said...

Well, obviously, increased pace leaves less time for my thoughts to go heavenward and too many "to-dos" that pull me straight from rising to my day without time in the Word. But we're just starting a new level of stress and energy around here with a kindergartner, so I'd LOVE to learn some ways to slow down before we get going too fast!

3 boys club said...

I'm intrigued to know what her catalyst for slowing down was. I found that no matter how much I tried, my to-do list never got done. So I set limits for myself, handed out chores, and then took a deep breath and went to bed even though everything wasn't done then put it on my list for the next day. Eventually it gets done and everyone is a lot happier to not have a nagging mom! It doesn't always work, but for the most part it does.

susan said...

"I do think that reducing stress is a good move for moms particularly prone to irritability. When I am living slower, I’m usually able to walk more intimately with God and experience a deeper, more profound and lasting peace."
That really speaks to me. I want to be a soft spoken, gentle mom all the time. I enjoyed meeting you, Karen, when you were here in Ocala. I have
finished "Confessions...", am reading "Finding Joy", and would love to continue to read along these lines!
Thanks for intoducing this author and for the give away!

Patricia/NYC said...

"When I am living slower, I’m usually able to walk more intimately with God and experience a deeper, more profound and lasting peace." Wow...this totally spoke to my heart!! Living in the heart of NYC, it is so difficult to slow down when the rest of the world is racing past! However, I am forcing myself to slow down these days & it has been making a difference! I found this interview very interesting & would LOVE to read the book! Thanks for giving us the opportunity to "meet" the author!
Have a blessed Sunday!
Hugs...Patricia in nyc