From the opening pages of the Introduction, in which Moyer admits that she fails at mindfulness “about as often” as she succeeds, I am hooked. Already an avid follower of Moyer’s popular blog, I devour her book, reading it one rainy, Sabbath afternoon when my children are entertaining one another somewhere else in our unusually quiet house. I get lost in her stories of seeking a spiritual life amid the clutter and noise of parenthood. I am struck by the unlikely commonality of our experience of motherhood. We live 3,000 miles apart; Moyer is Catholic and I am Jewish; she is the mother of two young boys; I have two teenaged daughters and an eleven year old son; we have never met. Yet her essays are like the reassurances of a close friend.
Despite our different religious traditions, our prayer lives are quite similar. In the chapter titled “Talking to God,” Moyer describes her process of reestablishing a routine of daily prayer and discovering that sitting at her prayer desk allows her time to reflect: “Those quiet sessions help me recognize the grace that exists in all the frantic experiences of my life as a mom, gently training me to notice them more often, sometimes even when they’re happening. Those moments at the desk help me pay more attention to the Spirit that is always there, just waiting for me to sit down and listen.” Her language of faith is Catholic, but if I change the words “grace” and “Spirit” to Hebrew, I could be reading about my own life. When my children were younger, I also struggled to reassert the concentration and focus I had previously experienced while praying. Jewish tradition prescribes that we pray three times daily, preferably with a community or quorum of ten. Since women—especially mothers of young children—have competing commitments, we are exempt from this obligation. Now, if I achieve moments of quiet and solitude in prayer, my thoughts inevitably turn to thanking God for the daily joys I experience with my children.
Another chapter that is particularly moving is “Comfort Zones,” which includes Moyer’s account of the tests of motherhood and her “humbling realization” that she is not as patient as she believed herself to be before becoming a parent. She goes on to teach about biblical figures she admired as a child, such as Moses, Mary and Jesus, who “when confronted with new and challenging situations, found depths inside themselves that they did not know were there.” In writing about her recognition that she possesses a well-spring of love and strength, coupled with her newfound appreciation of these qualities in her biblical heroes, Moyer reveals both her intellect and her compassion.
“The Good and the Bad” may be my favorite chapter, because Moyer so deftly highlights the stark similarities between the toddler and teenage years. Moyer’s disorientation at being hugged by her toddler one moment and kicked by him the next is transformed into evidence that we must accept “that life will hold both the good and the bad, sometimes all at once.” Reading this chapter, I am reminded of the ancient, rabbinic dictum, “One is obligated to bless for the bad just as he would bless for the good…whatever measure God metes out to you, thank Him exceedingly.” (Mishnah Berakhot 9:5) Her apt summation of motherhood and life in general resonates for me.
I could offer countless examples, but I don’t want to spoil your experience of reading the book. Not your typical “Mommy Blogger,” Moyer qualifies as a true spiritual writer. She understands her role of Mommy within the context of her religious identity, and she communicates her depth of emotion and breadth of knowledge in every sentence.
Long after you finish reading her book, you will continue to feel uplifted by her words.