A few times a week lately, I've caught myself trying to "do it all" -- I've been especially cognizant of this trap since reading my friend Judy Dudich's new book I Surrender: Thoughts on Making Christ the Center of Your Daily Life. I've known Judy and her writing for a few years through her wonderful contributions as a contributor at CatholicMom.com, so I was happy to rejoice with her at the publication of this, her first book.  I Surrender is the type of book I love -- designed to be more than a "read once and file on the bookshelf" resource, this is a working book. For those of us who endeavor to keep Christ at the center of our lives, I Surrender offers not only inspiration, but also practical resources that will help you in the areas of marriage, family life, friendships and more. Judy has formatted the book in such a way that it invites the reader into a deeper analysis of her own situation and encourages her to take proactive steps to "surrender" -- in doing so, we move ever closer toward the ultimate prize we all seek: eternal salvation.

I'm happy to share the following conversation with Judy Dudich and encourage you to "surrender" your life and your work by reading and sharing I Surrender: Thoughts on Making Christ the Center of Your Daily Life.

Q: Judy, thank you for being such a faithful contributor to CatholicMom.com and congratulations on the publication of I Surrender: Thoughts on Making Christ the Center of Your Daily Life. Would you please introduce yourself and your family to our readers?

A: Thank you, Lisa! It is my pleasure and a great blessing to be part of the CatholicMom team! Thank you, too, for sharing in the joy of my new book, I Surrender.  I am blessed to reside in the beautiful woods of Pennsylvania with my wonderful husband, Tom, and 8 of our 10 children who are still home with us and with whom I have the pleasure of learning along-side each day in our home schooling endeavors. We are also blessed to see our 4 grand-babies very often,  as our two eldest children are both married and living close-by. Tom and I own the Homeschool Faith and Family Life Website online, which reaches out to families all over the world in an effort to uplift and support them in their daily life journeys. I am also an online speaker for the Ultimate Homeschool Expo and enjoy ministering to women who are seeking enrichment and encouragement as they tend to their families each day.

Q: What prompted you to write this book and how would you describe it to readers?

A: Without a doubt, I know that it was the Holy Spirit who prompted me to write I Surrender. As God often does, He whispered this calling to my own heart and reiterated it through the voice and hand of others as women from all over the world began writing and calling me to ask me to “write a book”. As I am sometimes slow to recognize God’s callings, this was His way of assuring me that I was, indeed, being asked to do this. I Surrender is  a message of love for women who are seeking to make Christ the center of their daily lives. It builds upon the Scripture verse of Joshua 24:15 (“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”) and discusses the idea of “surrendering all” to Christ and how that applies to marriage, family life, friendships, busy schedules, personal faith life, and more.  It is meant to provoke deep thought and personal reflection so that the reader can both analyze her own particular state in life and seek ways to enrich, strengthen, and increase their relationship with Christ as it applies to her relationships with others.

Q: I Surrender is aimed primarily at homeschoolers, but I do think that many of the concepts covered in this book could benefit any mom and her family. Could you share a few of the tips you offer for prioritizing family time together?

A: Although I Surrender does have a chapter on “the home schooling day” and is written with that particular perspective (since I am a homeschooling mother, myself) it most definitely is written for all women; not just those who educate their children at home. We have had very positive feedback from women in all walks of life; even some who have no children and are not married. The messages in the book are quite easily adapted to any state-in-life and are written with all women in mind. Having said that, a few tips for prioritizing family time together might be:

* Implementing a family reading time; whether stories are read together and out loud, or silently and individually. Gathering around the hearth, a campfire, under a tree, on the front porch or patio, etc… spending a half hour or an hour this way creates memories that your children will treasure when they are grown.

* Go outside together! Take a walk, go for a hike, or enjoy some physical exercise with one another. Embrace the beauty of God’s creation and breathe fresh air. Being outdoors together is something that is waning in our modern society as most activities have become centered on electronic media. The blessings of outdoor time as a family are many.

* Create an inviting and comfortable atmosphere in your home so that family members want to be there!
Employ some of the same things you might do for guests; scented candles, a tray of snacks, good books and magazines strategically-placed, some lovely music, etc…so that “home” is the best place to be and your family will want to be there together.

* Play “old fashioned games” together. Get the board games off the shelves or play games such as Charades or Twenty Questions. Which game you choose is not so important as the time you will spend lightening up the mood, sharing laughs, and enjoying the presence and company of your own family. Again, the typical modern family seeks its “play time” individually; apart from family members with hand-held games or computers as the main medium for entertainment. Family bonds are strengthened by sharing good old fashioned fun and games with one another.

Q: I loved Chapter Five "Surrender in My Schedule" -- what are some of the tactics busy moms can employ to prioritize their days and ensure time for their spiritual lives?

A: I am glad that you enjoyed this chapter, Lisa. Truly, I have found that it is one that has gotten much attention from readers, as many share in a common desire to simplify their lives and are seeking ways to de-clutter their schedules; while remaining active in service and ministries to which they feel called.
One tactic I would suggest for busy moms striving to prioritize their days is to make a list of their current schedules, focusing on activities that they are involved in outside the home (or must do from home for a group/event/committee outside the home). Listing these activities in order from 1-10 with 1 being the activity that takes the most time, helps us to have an “overview” of our schedules. Once that is complete, I suggest that women re-write the schedule according to how it would look if they, themselves, had complete control over it; and then, re-write it once more as they think it might look if God had complete control over it. This activity requires us to be honest with ourselves and willing to recognize the need for change when it arises. I believe that someone who is truly wanting to “surrender” their schedule to Christ will benefit greatly from participating in an exercise like this.

Q:I Surrender is designed to be a "working" book, one that gently and yet in an organized fashion encourages women to prioritize marriage, family and their spiritual lives. Please discuss the reflection questions you offer in the chapters and the chapter by chapter study guide included in the book.

A: We wanted to create a book that women could write in so that they could enjoy keeping a personal journal as they read. I designed it to be large; 7 x 10, in size so that the reader could quite comfortably hold the book upon her lap and  write in it. I often tell women that I Surrender does not offer you “answers” as much as it offers the “right questions” so that you can go deeper and reach higher in your personal journey of “surrender to Christ”. Each chapter focuses on one aspect of “surrender” as it applies to the various parts of the average woman’s life. The end of a chapter includes questions to ponder so that you may journal your thoughts and refer back to them in the future. These questions are designed so that you can apply them to your unique and individual state-in-life. Thus, no two women’s answers will look the same as each will write in a way that is particular to her own walk with the Lord. I Surrender also includes an extensive Study Guide which can be used individually, or as a group. Many women are buying the book together and gathering once a week to work through the Study Guide portion of the book. We have an I Surrender Book Club/Discussion Group on Facebook which is thriving. We are reading and working through the book together online so that Moms can enjoy participation in a Book Club without having to hire a babysitter or leave the house! (…which, hopefully, helps them in prioritizing their schedules, LOL!) Currently, we are on Chapter 3 in our online Book Club Group; but anyone can join at anytime for the posts remain static and late-comers can “catch up” and comment where they like. We will also be starting over once we get through the entire book, so someone wanting to join at the beginning could do so at that time. The I Surrender Study Guide is meant to be engage the reader in further discernment and discussion with questions that pertain to the individual chapters in the book and how those ideas can be applied to the reader’s personal life experiences. There are also “Prayers of Surrender” at the end of the book that are written to coincide with each chapter.

Q: Judy, how did you benefit personally from the time you spent writing this book and what do you hope moms will gain from reading it and sharing it with others?

A: Oh my! I have personally benefited and have been greatly blessed in countless ways since writing the book! Each time I wrote the chapters of the book, I centered myself in prayer and asked the Lord to use my hands to spread His message of love to women. In doing so, I was able to open my own heart to hear and embrace the messages and lessons that God wished for me, personally, to know according my own marriage, family, faith, and home schooling journey. In participating and leading the online Book Club, I have been so richly blessed to meet women from all over the world (…literally, as we have members from Thailand, France, Spain, and more!) and have gleaned so much from the beautiful insights and wisdom that the ladies have shared in our discussions. I also have benefited in some very practical ways, since this is my first (but hopefully, not last) printed book. I have learned about writing and publishing and marketing and business in ways that I had never previously undertaken; and, quite happily, I have been able to share the things I’ve learned with my own children and have used this new knowledge and these new skills as supplements to our learning at home. I know, for certain, that my own “surrender in Christ” has come to a fuller fruition through my experiences, interactions, prayers, and lessons-learned in the writing of I Surrender. In reading the book and sharing it with others, I hope that women will come to a fuller understanding of how much God loves them and what a beautiful vocation “womanhood” truly is.
I hope that each reader will grow in her desire to make Christ the center of all she thinks, says, and does each day and that she will feel closer to God and to her family when she has finished reading.

Q: Congratulations on the publication of I Surrender. Are there any additional comments you'd like to share with our readers?

A: Once again, thank you so much, Lisa, for sharing our joy in the publication of this book. Thank you for taking time out of your own busy schedule to read it and to allow me to share my thoughts on it in this interview. I would like to encourage women, no matter “where they are” in life, to read I Surrender because I think it offers thoughts to ponder and practical ideas that will benefit all women.
It is an “easy” read and is meant to be thus, so that each woman can apply it to her own place in life.
I believe that it is possible to have true peace of mind and joy in this modern, often chaotic and hectic world. This peace and this joy come from being centered in Christ. He loves each one of you as though you are His only child and He wishes to “meet you where ever you are” along your journey to help you draw nearer to Himself and to know the blessings that He wishes to bring  to your life.

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