faith, mama style (a review of found by micha boyett).

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I pray in fits and starts these days, mostly using prayer books to guide me. This is not because I don’t believe that prayer is valuable, but because I don’t always know exactly what I am asking when I pray for people who are sick or hurting. I am still trying to figure out whether I believe in miracles. And so I stick to the words of my prayer books, a communal script that feels safe and vulnerable at the same time.

There was one night last week when I was curled on Atticus’s bed as he was falling asleep. I listened to his breathing as it slowed and steadied, and as I stroked his forehead, I felt the urge to pray for him. We say prayers with him every night, but I have never related much to the stories of mamas who spend their middle-of-the-night nursing hours in prayer for their children. I spent my middle-of-the-night nursing hours in a lot of different ways: marveling at him, reading twitter, resentful that I was not sleeping. And there were certainly ways that I felt, as I rocked my baby, that the presence of God was near and sustained me. It wasn’t prayer in any traditional sense of the word, but neither did I feel the need to spell out what I was thinking and feeling. The love in my heart and the laughter on my lips and the pain when he is acting out, these are all prayers to me.

But I felt called–no matter how uncomfortable I am with that word–to pray for him the other night, and so I tucked myself in behind him and said things to God in my heart about how much help we need and what kind and the people I hope we three can grow to be. It felt good, releasing those thoughts in a deliberate way.

found cover

The next day I started a book by Micha Boyett, whose blog I discovered when Atticus was small. At the time, she was writing about the Rule of St. Benedict and how it related to parenting, which is of course right in my wheelhouse. Her book Found is about faith and prayer and feeling lost in motherhood. She comes from a place of big questions about God and sin the meaning of life, questions I have asked myself at different points on my journey. Is God mad at me? Is it possible like the preacher said to live an entire day without sinning? Am I supposed to be doing something more important than wiping noses and butts?

When I was approaching motherhood, I was so afraid of losing myself. For me, that mostly meant I was afraid of not having time for reading and spending time with Mike. Micha was anxious that she would lose herself in motherhood because she thrives on reflective time with God (which she was too tired for) and because she was afraid of an angry God. As she struggled again and again with the difficulties of waking up early to pray, I wanted to go and force her to get back in bed, because getting up early to pray when my baby was small never crossed my mind. In those blurry days, sleeping was my prayer, and making milk, and surviving. Micha and I were in very different places spiritually, but what we have both discovered is the way that relationships, like the seasons of the church calendar, can cycle. There are times to wait and hope and times to lament and times that are ordinary. There are times for prayer books and times to call out for help from the depths of your soul. I am coming back around to spontaneous prayer, and that feels right, too. We can be found in all of those places, just as we can find God in new ways as we change and grow with the years.

This is my story, the life to which I testify. I thought I was lost, but always, I was found.

Two quick notes. First, I loved that I have read Micha’s blog for many years but that the content of this book was not recycled from those posts. Instead, it seemed like the blog was practice and research for the book. Second, and I want to phrase this carefully, it can be hard to talk about being a woman who struggles with anxiety when you come from a place of stability and comfort, but I thought Micha did a great job sharing her story without coming across as self-centered. Recommended for: new parents who struggle with anxiety, people who are considering parenthood, people who like monkish things. Pairs well with: Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott and Cracking Up by Kimberlee Conway Ireton.

(Netgalley provided me with a copy of this book but my thoughts as always are my own.)

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