That baby on the cover of "Why I'm Both Spiritual and Religious" is, yes, our son. William cried a lot as a baby, and he cried a lot in the night. Sometimes he screamed so hard I wondered if he might hyperventilate. And I remember one night, when I was traveling alone with him, rocking him for the third or fourth time, praying that he would go back to sleep. But all of a sudden my prayer changed. I simply prayed that God would be with me and help me get through the night with patience and peace. I prayed that second prayer from then on, because it seemed the more honest one, a greater admission of my own helplessness and my need for God's presence.
Again and again, arenting has brought me to my knees, both literally and proverbially. I realize that I am not self-sufficient. I can't do it all. I certainly can't be virtuous with my children on my own. I desperately need God's presence within our family. I need help.
God's presence comes in direct ways, and I'll write more next week about prayer as a way to receive God's help and comfort. Help also comes through other people. I'm going to write more about that next week as well–spiritual friendships and getting involved in a church community are on my list.
But the other way I've received help from God has been through books. At the end of "Why I'm Both Spiritual and Religious" I list a series of books that have helped me to "Be still and know God" in the midst of my every day life. I'm planning to write about a few of them in upcoming weeks, but I will start with Kathleen Norris' Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and Women's Work. I commend this book not only for the wisdom contained within its pages but also because it is VERY short (89 very small pages).
My life right now feels very ordinary and very repetitive. I am tethered to a child who needs to eat every three hours, who relies on me as her sole source of nourishment. And it is easy to believe that the quotidian stuff of life is the meaningless stuff, the stuff that gets done only to be taken up again, the stuff that gets in the way of "real" work or play . . .
This book offers me hope that the ordinariness of my life—both my life as a mother and housekeeper as well as a Christian — matters, that I am growing as a human being in and through washing dishes and sweeping the floor and reading through Genesis and saying the Lord's Prayer one more time. But Norris insists that the quotidian mysteries — the mysterious ways that daily life can lead to transformation — extend beyond the self . . .
The Quotidian Mysteries helps me remember that our God is a God of the everyday, a God who comes into ordinary life, into my ordinary household, into my ordinary soul. And who — through the commonplace activities of cleaning and caring for children and distracted prayer — does the extraordinary work of healing my soul.
So get some help today. Pray. Call a friend. Or pick up The Quotidian Mysteries.