When it comes to motherhood, Shari Zook asks, “Why don’t we get more training for the hardest job of our lives? Why do we feel that we have to do it alone?”
Because she is so open and honest about the challenges of raising young children, this book can provide comfort and reassurance for others who are feeling inadequate.
In Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings, Zook reflects on her life, especially those years when her children were young. She invites readers to also consider their own lives, with questions for reflection at the end of each chapter. She admits her own mistakes and her own struggles, writing with warmth and empathy so that readers should feel encouraged to also forgive themselves and accept God’s grace.
Raised in a Mennonite home and married to a pastor, Zook always tried to live up to the ideals of the church. She wonders about her own mother, who “birthed and raised a whole houseful without breaking a sweat.”
Although Zook’s faith is strong, she finds it a struggle when things get very difficult, writing, “It has taken me forever to learn that brokenness and need are the believer’s intended posture.” She is honest about her occasional doubts and her need for grace. She ends her book with the statement: “To be honest, from this side of the story I think it best to crack as early and as wide as we can, and let the grace in.”
As well as the challenges of being a mother of four children, Zook also reflects on her struggles with being a foster parent, her miscarriages, her occasional bouts of depression, and the anguish of dealing with a child who is particularly difficult. In each case, she identifies her feelings about the situation and her prayers. She gives a very personal perspective; this is not a simple chronicle of events.
Zook also invites the reader to personal reflection. The questions are probing, but gentle, giving a sense of encouragement. At the end of the chapter in which she writes about her postpartum depression and seasonal affective disorder, she lists her personal strategies for coping with depression as possible tips for readers.
The title of the book is never directly explained, but Zook finds herself licking peanut butter as a way of getting physical nourishment while rethinking the relationship between spirituality and the physical body. She sometimes wraps herself in a special scarf that reminds her of a dragon’s wing. “When it is on my shoulders, I can feel [God’s] provision,” she writes. The peanut butter is a reminder that the mundane is sacred, while the scarf is a tangible reminder of God’s presence.
Peanut Butter and Dragon Wings is a kind of devotional book, in that it explores a mother’s spiritual journey. But it also tells a story. The writing style includes many questions that flit through the mind of a young mother and lots of self-reflection. Readers looking for an exciting narrative would probably not find this book appealing, but stressed young mothers should feel encouraged with the sense that others have experienced similar struggles.
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