[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1617952168″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51zm3Fd25nL.jpg” width=”223″ alt=”Micha Boyett” ]Keeping Company with the Found:
Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer
Paperback: Worthy Publishing, 2014
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Reviewed by Jen Pollock Michel
Lauren Winner, in her book Still: A Mid-Faith Crisis, reminds us that “middles are often defined by what they are not: the space, the years in between that which is no longer what came before and that which is not yet what will come later.” I’m nearly 40, and having arrived at the middle of motherhood, I find it exactly as Winner describes: a landscape of the “vague in-between.”
The twins (comfortable shorthand for our youngest sons, Colin and Andrew) are six now. They feed and dress themselves with a fair degree of skill, wiping their own bottoms as required. (I only remind them to flush.) The formlessness of their earliest months—nurse, diaper, swaddle, rock, repeat—has become a dim reflection, a retreating shadow.
Our oldest daughter has just turned thirteen. Just this last month, she has abandoned a lifetime routine, insisting I need no longer tuck her into bed. One day last week, I wrapped my arms around her waist and, drawing her close, realized how suddenly, without warning, she had been growing womanly.
Two more are sandwiched between these, the twins and the teenager, and like I, this son and daughter are middled. They are notable for what they are not: neither oldest, nor youngest.
After more than a decade of imbalance—diaper bag, purse, library tote and lunchbox slung on any available appendage—life has righted itself and surrendered to a surprising equilibrium. In the middle of motherhood, I seem to be recovering the very thing I felt I had lost, the moment my husband wheeled me to our car in the hospital parking lot, a swaddled baby in my arms. I am recovering the balance of me.
“My first year of motherhood I lost prayer,” opens Micha Boyett in her book, Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer. Boyett, in words recognizable to every mother, new, old or middled, describes the tumult of change when she and her husband welcomed a baby into their family and disrupted all the consolations of familiarity, even control. Prayers that had earlier flourished by diligent routine were now numbed by exhaustion, and despite Boyett’s efforts to “fix [herself] into contemplation and prove [herself] strong and capable of loving Jesus well. . . . it never seemed to right itself again.” Prayer was a capsized ship, Boyett, the unlucky sailor, and the book charts these tumultuous waters of change and the terror of powerlessness. What can be done when we lose prayer, lose God? And if we lose prayer and God, won’t we ourselves be lost?
These questions haunt early in the book, and the crisis of motherhood (and its attendant decision to leave the ministry for a stay-at-home existence) forces Boyett to look for answers beyond the confines of her traditional evangelical practices to Benedictine spirituality—not because it “will be some magical answer to the spiritual sludge I’ve been trudging through. It’s just that all the answers of my evangelical past—read more Scripture, pray longer, try harder, serve more people—have become heavy burdens in my life. I can’t do enough to prove myself spiritually fit.” At her first Benedictine retreat, Boyett joins in the tri-tonal chants of the monks and discovers a freedom in the simplicity of their song. Hadn’t she thought ardor and effort and grand sacrifices were required by God? As it turns out, “three notes are just enough.”