Today we sit down to talk with author and Editor Heidi Saxton. Heidi is the Editor for Canticle magazine and an adoptive parent columnist for Catholicmom.com and CatholicExchange.com. She is on a virtual book tour this month to promote her latest release, Behold Your Mother: Mary Stories and Reflections from a Catholic Convert.
Q: Before we get started, please tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been writing? Who or what inspires you the most?
A: I can date my desire to become a writer back to seventh grade English class when I decided it was more fun to write short stories than diagram sentences. (Mr. Burke was not amused.) So … that would be (shudder) almost thirty years now.
I get inspired all the time through chance encounters with ordinary people. If you ask the right questions, you can almost get an interesting story (since the publication of Behold Your Mother, my favorite question to ask people is, “Have you ever experienced an answer to prayer?”
Q: You’re also a wife and mother. Does your family support your writing career?
A: For this book, my kids were particularly inspirational. My husband Craig and I foster-adopted them, finalizing the adoption in 2005. Christopher is eight, Sarah is six. It’s a good age … old enough to feed me with cute little anecdotes, young enough not to care that I write about them.
My husband Craig is exceptionally supportive. He honestly believes I’m going to write a bestseller someday. He’s hoping for sooner rather than later, since he WOULD like to retire someday! But either way, he’s my biggest fan.
Q: How do you go about finding that perfect balance between your personal life and your writing?
A: (Falls off chair laughing.) Perfect balance? Does ANY mother ever find the perfect balance between her personal and professional life? Even SAHMs I know feel as though they are being pulled between home and church and work and school commitments. It doesn’t stop. If you don’t take care of yourself, that’s when the “Mommy Monster” comes out—which is the subject of my other book, Raising Up Mommy.
Having said that, there are some things that we need to do to stay strong—physically, emotionally, spiritually, and every other way. One way is to find good mentors, women whose parenting styles you admire. My younger sister is one of mine. The Blessed Virgin Mary is also one (though she was the perfect woman, and had one perfect Son … way out of my league on both counts). The other key ingredient is prayer. Time and time again, the best moms I talk to (the ones with multiple kids who still manage to maintain the semblance of sanity if not actual serenity) have a regular time of “soul maintenance.”
When Craig and I first brought our kids home in 2002 (initially we had three kids, including their older sister), I learned firsthand how important a regular time of prayer is. I was being awakened at all hours of the day and night and seldom had privacy enough for a shower let alone “tea with God.” So I fit it in when I could. A Taize tape here. A decade of the rosary there, along with a, “Help me, Mary … I’m gonna BLOW.”
It’s amazing how quickly heaven hears and responds, once that regular connection is established.
Q: How many books have you written? Do you have any favorites?
A: Including ghosted and co-written projects, I’ve done eight books. My favorite is the one I’m working on now (still in search of a publisher), on the heart of the adoptive parent. Most people when they’re focused on adoption are so busy looking for the child that they seldom stop to consider how the experience is going to change THEM. But I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that adoption does change you … hopefully, for the better.
Q: Tell us about Behold Your Mother.
A: Behold Your Mother is an expanded edition of a book that was originally published by Loyola Press in 2001. The first part of the book tells the story of how, as a new Catholic, I resisted the idea of thinking of the Blessed Virgin Mary as my mother until a broken heart and an unexpected gift made me rethink that. Then, when I became an adoptive mother, the experience gave me fresh insights into this. The second part of the book is a series of brief reflections on the life and motherhood of Mary, based on Scripture.
Q: Why did you decide to write about the Virgin Mary?
A: Mary is the Church’s greatest proof of their respect for women, for she is considered the embodiment of “Mother Church.” The late great Pope John Paul II wrote frequently about the “union of two,” an authentic complementation of the sexes that saturates his writings, as does his devotion to Mary. “Women empowered with the Spirit of the Gospel … do much to aid humanity in not falling,” he wrote in the introductory documents of Vatican II. By studying not only what the Scriptures teach about Mary, but what Christians for centuries around the world believe about her, we catch a glimpse of our own feminine potential.
Q: Is this book meant only for Catholics or can women of other faiths get something out of it too?
A: I think the idea of a spiritual mother who is looking out for us and caring for us is one that appeals to many mothers, especially those battling in the trenches of motherhood. Historically, Mary is honored by Muslims (called “Miriam”), and of course she was an observant Jew, so she is represented by all three of the major monotheistic religions.
Regardless of the tenets of our faith, however, the story of Mary is one to which many women can relate. Hers was a “hidden” life, just like many of us experience the call of motherhood. She endured great suffering and hardship, and was widowed very young. And yet her faith got her through those dark times. And she continues to reach out to us today, all over the world, reminding us that there is more to life than what we experience here. For those of us who have lost loved ones, this is a source of tremendous comfort.
Q: It sounds like this would make a great Mother’s Day gift.
A: Funny you mention it! I have a Mother’s Day special going on at my “Mary” blog. This little book is great for mothers and grandmothers, and not much more expensive than a card (sorry, Hallmark!). So I’m offering “Tea with Mary.” For the price of the book I will autograph it, insert a sample of my favorite tea (Black Currant by Higgins & Burke), and ship it in a beautiful rose-decorated envelope to any address in the U.S. Then after Mother’s Day I will draw from the list of people who ordered between April fifteenth and May tenth, and send that person a free copy of any of my books. Two books for the price of one!
Q: Where can readers purchase a copy of Behold Your Mother?
Q: What is up next for you?
A: Never a dull moment! In addition to the adoption book, I’m trying to wade through my Theological German text and finish up my Masters in Theology … I also have a novel in the works. But I’m trying to pace myself … my children are still pretty young, and I want to enjoy them while they’ll still let me!
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: I’d like to encourage anyone reading this who, for any number of reasons, is put off by the “institutional Church” to the point that they just avoid organized religion altogether. Unfortunately that’s sort of like throwing out the baby with the proverbial bath water. The human soul was created for relationship with God, and to relate to other people. When we turn away from these two life sources, part of us begins to shrivel up.
Church family is like any other real-life family—some parts are fun and engaging, others are there just because there’s no polite way to exclude them. You have to take the whole package to derive the benefits. We may not always like (or agree with) the words and/or actions of those who are “in the family.” But there is much to love, and much truth to admire and benefit from, for those who are willing to dig a little deeper.
We are more than just physical creatures. There is so much about life, such as love, that we can’t explain, but we know it’s real. God is like that, because God IS love. He is our Father, and the angels and saints are there in the grandstands cheering us on. There is SO much more to life than what meets the eye. Miracles happen all the time, if you only know where to look for them. In Behold Your Mother, I offer several such examples … but these things happen to people all the time. The first step of faith is the hardest.
Q: Thank you for joining us today, Heidi. I wish you continued success in all you do.
A: Thanks again for inviting me!