I’m rolling into my third Mothers’ Day 9 months pregnant, with frustration and tiredness to match my girth. I waddle after my willful toddler, less and less physically able to keep up. I’m less and less patient with him, too, as the muggy Tennessee summer sets in and these back aches and Braxton Hicks seem stronger than they used to be. I prep for the new guy, with much more peace of mind than the first time around, but it’s still feeling like a lot to keep track of midwife and chiropractor appointments, check-lists and kegels. I’m refreshing myself on Bradley birthing and tracking down numbers to call for insurance and daycare and medical leave after he arrives.
And all the while I’m still priesting and writing as hard as I can, trying to pre-plan and delegate 3 months of ministry into trello boards, fielding last minute requests from my book editor, and checking off revision requests from my thesis advisors.
So when Lauren Burdette’s little book of bite sized stories, wisdom, and prayer showed up in my mailbox a few weeks ago, it was like she had shown up in my living room in the flesh with a big hug and the reminder to breathe. This Life That Is Ours: Motherhood As Spiritual Practice has been inviting me to consider that the struggle and hustle and round ligament pain and potty training might hold more grace and power of Spirit than I can comprehend at this moment. “If God desires to meet us within our parenting,” she writes, “how can we experience that?”
Lauren’s call and gift as a spiritual director is all over this book, as she draws out holy encounter from the most ordinary moments. Her snapshots of daily life as mom of three, observations about the body changes after child birthing, and struggle to understand herself apart from the ever-expanding work of mothering had me chuckling and nodding along in understanding. But the questions and wisdom Lauren pulls out of this ubiquitous experience pushed me to see the mundane a little differently. She knows time for reflection and prayer is limited, so each reading is brief, but potent, with questions that point toward God’s heart and God’s presence in my own story.
Lauren gives her reader the practice of noticing (which she summarizes in instructions for the spiritual practice of Examen of Motherhood): noticing God, noticing myself, noticing my family. And the best part of that practice—of taking pause to really see what this life is doing, who these folks are, how God’s grace is saturating it even when, and especially when, we can’t feel it—the best part is that noticing begets loving. To journey through This Life That Is Ours, to wonder with Lauren what it means to see and meet God in the sweet and hard chaos of parenthood, is to fall in love with God a little bit more. It’s falling in love with our kids and partners a little bit more. It might even let us fall in love with ourselves a little bit more, too.