Growing Yourself Up: How to Bring Your Best to All of Life’s Relationships, by Jenny Brown (Exisle Publishing, 2012), would be a great book to start 2013. I found myself highlighting and taking notes on dozens of pages, as much for my own reflection as for ministry use.

I love the title, and it is descriptive of Brown’s approach. She suggests, “Are any of us really at the peak of maturity? In my own life and in my years of counselling practice, I haven’t yet met anyone who wouldn’t benefit from maturing a little more to improve their effectiveness an health in life.” She asks the question “The overriding question for growing ourselves up is: Am I up for addressing the immature part I’m playing in my relationships?”

Brown addresses the opportunities for growing up at any stage of life, right up to and including the dying process. I like the way she looks at young adulthood, marriage, facing setbacks such as divorce, midlife, aging and the end of life. She uses engaging real-life examples of people responding to challenges throughout the life process.

The book is well-founded in Bowen family systems theory, yet accessible for a general audience and uses very little jargon. It is a great book to recommend to someone who may not know much or be very interested in systems theory. Brown is the is the founder and director of the Family Systems Institute in Sydney, Australia, where she has a counseling practice and trains mental health professionals and organizations. The Institute also has a “systems in ministry” program. See

The book is currently available in the U.S. for Kindle and other e-book formats, and in paper in large print only. (Even if you don’t have a e-reader you can get free software so you can read it on your computer.) Highly recommended.

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