Shaped Through Breath Prayer by Leslie Konhaeuser
I came into motherhood like so many women do-- hopeful, joyful, spiritually idealistic, grateful. After trying to get pregnant for longer than expected the journey to motherhood was wrought with seeking the Lord even from the beginning. A series of "unexpected" experiences brought me deeper in prayer, self-reflection, surrender than I ever had been. In pregnancy, I developed deep convictions and ideals
about how I would parent, and how I would remain connected to my faith as a mother. I was nervous, but I was ready.
And then my daughter came in all her wonderful, beautiful, exhausting, and overwhelming glory. My ideals faded into the background as I struggled to learn self-sacrifice on an entirely new level, as I realized what it felt like to truly reach "the end of my rope." The daily tasks of nursing, changing diapers, laundry,
and navigating baby sleep overwhelmed my system, and I found myself lost and disoriented-- in a fog of mothering, losing grip on the way I had always defined my spirituality. My relationship with church changed, my flexibility in engaging with community changed, my morning routine changed.
When my daughter was 5 months, the positive sign on a new pregnancy test rocked my world. I dove a little deeper into my fog as I wrestled with the dynamic tension of joy and grief, wondering how I could invite another tiny soul into our already chaotic dynamic. Already feeling emotionally disconnected, a global pandemic hit and finished the job of severing ties to what once defined my faith-- church community, early morning bible studies, meeting friends for coffee, long and deep phone conversations.
It was at this place of disorientation, frustration, and overwhelm that I met the breath prayer. I sort of happened upon the breath prayer by accident as my daughter grew from infancy to toddlerhood (in the blink of an eye)! My spiritually exhausted heart met tantrums with frustration, anger, and guilt instead of kindness and compassion, as my ideals had anticipated in my pre-mothering lifetime. Too overwhelmed to pray, but sure that responding to my daughter's tantrums with a fit of my own was counterproductive, I began whispering small truths to myself when I felt my emotions rising to overflow in the midst of the long and exhausting days.
"Time is passing, Lord."
"Be with me."
"Give me grace."
These one-line statements were like anchors to hold my heart in place when everything else seemed to be crashing around me. As I reflected on what it means to develop spiritual endurance, I remembered learning about the actual practice of the breath prayer and latched onto it as a practice that would sustain me through these early years of mothering. As a licensed counselor, I am well-acquainted with the calming effects of breathing on the central nervous system but connecting that breath with prayer allowed me to find moments of peace in the midst of my every-day chaos.
As my children grow, and as this new identity of "mother" grafts itself into all of the other aspects of my image-bearing self, I find my spiritual life re-forming, re-shaping, bending to the new needs of this new life. The season of disorientation is not over, but I have found life and peace by learning new ways to connect heart, mind, and spirit. The breath prayer is just one of those practices, but if I had to identify one that was most life-giving, I believe I'd land there. The breath prayer is not where I find the most
depth of insight, it's not where I grow in my knowledge of spiritual truth, but it is the practice that anchors me to the truth that already resides in me. It's my "rubber meets the road" practice that brings my faith from the mountain tops, into the valley of the shadow of death. When we remember the Lord in the midst of the hard things, we realize that he is present and capable of bringing us further than we ever thought possible.
I have found the grace to respond to my toddler in kindness. I have found the grace to keep teaching my son how to sleep. I have found the grace to lean into my relationships despite exhaustion and frustration threatening to further drive a wedge between myself and others. The spiritual practice of breath prayer brings my faith into the everyday, and because of that, I don't think I'll ever stop doing it or talking about it.
*Photo credit goes to nine koepfer at Unspash
Leslie is a follower of Jesus, wife to Christian, and mama to two beautiful children. The aim of her message is to shine the light of God’s kingdom to women who are in the thick of it in life. You can find words of comfort, camaraderie, and encouragement on Instagram at @faith.in.the.thickofit or on her blog at motheringbyfaith.com.