Hickem, Catherine. (2012). Heaven in Her Arms: Why God Chose Mary to Raise His Son and What It Means for You. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. ISBN 978-1-4002-0036-8.

What do we know of Mary?

 What we know of Mary’s family is that she is of the house of David; it is from her lineage Jesus fulfilled the prophecy. Given the archeological ruins of the various places thought to have been living quarters for their family, it is likely the home was a room out from which sleeping quarters (cells) branched. As Mary and her mother Anne would be busy maintaining the household, with young Mary working at her mother’s command, it is likely Anne would be nearby or in the same room during the Annunciation. Thus Mary would not have had a scandalous secret to later share with her parents but, rather, a miraculous supernatural experience, the salvific meaning of which her Holy parents would understand and possibly even witnessed.

 Mary and Joseph were betrothed, not engaged. They were already married, likely in the form of a marriage contract, but the marriage had not yet been “consummated”. This is why he was going to divorce her when he learned of the pregnancy. If it were a mere engagement, he would have broken it off without too much scandal.

 Married but not yet joined with her husband, her mother would prepare her by teaching her all that she needed to know. This is further reason to assume that Mary would be working diligently under her mother’s eye when the Annunciation took place.

 We know that her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy was kept in secret for five months, and not made known until the sixth month when the Angel Gabriel proclaimed it to Mary. We know Mary then rushed to be at her elderly cousin’s side for three months (the remaining duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy), and that this rushing appeared to be in response to Elizabeth’s pregnancy (to congratulate her), not an attempt to hide Mary’s pregnancy. Note how all of this is connected to Elizabeth’s pregnancy rather than Mary’s circumstances. As Mary was married to Joseph, he likely would have been informed of the trip. Had the intent been to hide Mary, she would have remained with Elizabeth until Jesus was born, not returned to her family after the first trimester, which is just about the time that her pregnancy was visible and obvious.

 So we these misconceptions clarified, we can put Mary’s example within an even deeper context and more fully relate to her experience. We can imagine living in a faith-filled family who raises their child in strict accordance of God’s word. The extended family members may not understand, and certainly their community will not, so Mary, Anne and Joachim, and Joseph face extreme scandal as well as possible action from Jewish authorities. But they faced this together steep in conversation with God, providing a model for today’s family.

 Although sometimes scriptural interpretations are flavored with modern-day eye, overall this book will be more than just a quick read for a young mother (or new bride, or teen aspiring to overcome the challenges of American culture, or single parent losing her mind). It is a heartwarming reflection with many examples that open up conversation with God. As an experienced psychotherapist, the author’s examples are spot on and easy to relate to. We do not need to have had the same experiences to empathize, reflect, and pursue meaning; we see it around us in everyday life. As such, a reflective look upon these examples can help one overcome an impasse in their own relationship with God and also open the reader up to self-knowledge as His child. In the lifelong quest to see ourselves as He sees us so that we can better serve Him in loving others, this book can be a helpful step.

 The format of the book early on tends to present scripture + client example side-by-side. However, further on the personal meaning attributed to Mary’s experiences are deeper and more poignantly associated with the real-life examples given. Not only is Mary’s example explored, but the importance of women supporting one another and true community is also emphasized. Practical chapters such as the proper questioning of God are instructive. The best part is the manner in which the study guide at the end is designed, which helps to really make this an experience and not just reading.

 Occasional criticism in my mind arose in early chapters. For example, the author gives her own experience of questioning God as to “why” (regarding adopting, then conceiving, children). Later, a chapter devoted to Mary’s example of the proper questioning of God (and the healthiness of any proper questioning) is fruitful but I found myself wondering why she did not tie back to her own misguided “why”. Proper questioning of God, as we see in Mary’s Fiat, is “What” (what do you want of me?) and “How” (how can I do this for you?), never “Why”. Nonetheless, by book’s end I was moved :>)

 With subtlety, Hickem brings out important questions to ask, gently explains functional and dysfunctional behaviors (that bring us to or separate us from God), and talks about important truths that too often go unrealized. An excellent book for:

  •  Mothers of any age, particularly new mothers or single parents without a strong support network (family, friends)
  • Mothers of children who present additional circumstances such as gifted or disabled
  • Mothers who grieve the loss of a child
  • Teens still learning the beauty of their authentic femininity and fighting a culture bent on destroying it
  • Women who simply aspire a deeper understanding of their own Created beauty as mirrored by the Mother of God

 Pick up a copy for yourself or someone you love at our Litland.com bookstore.

(A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher through BookSneeze®. No remuneration has been received for this review.)

 

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