Tag Archives: happy

Lots of changes, all of them good…

A very pregnant Micha (with Brooksie) and Ezra the Super Cat

Two and a half years ago, when I moved to San Francisco, I had a 15-month-old and I had just left the job I most loved in the world. I was lonely and anxious and I had this tiny little seed of an idea in my head. It had to do with the books I’d been reading about Benedictines and the possibility that mothers and monks had a lot more in common than I’d ever thought. I had this thought that maybe if I could find the heart of monasticism, I might find the heart of this motherhood calling as well.

So, I started writing a book, a memoir, about my life as a mom and my journey with St. Benedict. And, somewhere along that path, I started this blog, got pregnant, threw up a lot, stopped writing the book, had a baby and still didn’t write the book, and moved to Austin. About six months ago, I picked up that manuscript again and have been working hard on it.

I’ve never really mentioned it around here because I guess it felt pretentious to say, “Soooo, I’m writing this book.” I don’t know. I felt weird about it. But, a few weeks ago I sent a proposal to an agent I’d heard a gazillion wonderful things about. And–miraculously, beautifully, shockingly–(such grace!) Rachelle Gardner liked my proposal and is going to represent me.

That doesn’t mean I have book deal. But it does mean I have this amazingly bright and kind and talented advocate who wants to get this book published. And I can’t tell you how giddy that makes me, how honored I feel to join the ranks of the other writers she represents, how much I feel God’s good pressure on my back, pushing me into this scary and dream-like possibility.

At the same time, I’ve been making some choices about the beautiful little blog community we have around here. I have the opportunity to move the blog to a spirituality and religion site called Patheos. Several bloggers I admire, including my friend Amy Julia Becker, are there. Moving to Patheos won’t actually change much for you all. For me it will mean more opportunity to grow as a writer and more support in terms of having an intentional blogging community around.

We’ll make the switch on April 1st. If you have a subscription, you’ll keep on getting Mama Monk. If you go to http://www.mamamonk.com, you’ll be redirected to the Patheos site. This blog will be the same. Thankfulness will still happen on Tuesdays. Monks will still be admired. There will still be days when I talk about poetry and nobody reads it. (I kid! I kid!) The exciting thing is that I will actually change that picture on the header that’s five years old.

As I make this change, one other thing will be changing: my name. We all know that I have three pretty intense names. (By the way, did you know my first name is pronounced “MY-kah”? It looks like “Meesha” but it’s not.) The amazing Rachelle Gardner has given me some advice that two difficult last names are just, well, difficult. So, as we make the move over to Patheos, I’m making the move to a simpler name. It’s actually a classic from back in the day and I’m pretty attached to it: Micha Boyett. I feel a little sad to be dropping the crazy Hoho name, but I’m still Hoho in real life, and that’s the best way to be a Hoho.

Thanks for letting me go on and on about myself today. And thanks for celebrating with me. I feel like this is one of those rare moments when I can tell you what a gift you all have been in my life these past two years of blogging. I’ve always been a writer since I was penning dramatic journal entries about my 14-year-old life into my spiral notebooks. But, I never had readers until I found you. And you have challenged me and encouraged me and shaped me in the most wonderful ways.

So, we’ll just make some changes and they’ll all be good and I’ll keep being yours and you’ll keep being mine.

And, always, there will be grace,

Micha

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{Practicing Benedict} Your hope of fulfillment

Welcome to Mama:Monk’s weekly Wednesday series examining St. Benedict’s Rule and what it is teaching me about life as a stay at home mom.

“Your hope of fulfillment should be centered in God alone. When you see any good in yourself, then, don’t take it to be your very own, but acknowledge it as a gift from God. On the other hand you may be sure that any evil you do is always your own and you may safely acknowledge your responsibility” (St. Benedict’s Rule, Chapter 4).

What does it mean to be fulfilled? Etymological nerd that I am, I looked it up. It comes from the Old English word fullfyllan. The word “full” hasn’t changed. It meant then what it means now. “Fyllan” means to fill.

:What?” you say! Fulfill’s root words are, “Full and to fill? So…to fill to the full?” Ummm, exactly. (As far as I can tell.)

So now’s where I give you the definitions I’ve found (from freedictionary.com): To bring into actuality; to carry out (an order, for example); to measure up to, satisfy; to bring to an end; to complete.

In Christian culture it’s sort of taboo to say that you’re not “fulfilled” because having a relationship with Christ is supposed to make you completely satisfied, right? That’s what all the worship songs say. The moment you threw your life in with Jesus, everything was supposed to fall into the correct categories: Things that matter (eternal) and things that don’t (earthly).

It took me a long time to admit that most of my Christian life I’d been pretending that I was fulfilled, that my contentedness was based only on my faith in Jesus and his faithfulness to me. Because, I don’t know about you, but I get confused between our churchy definitions of happiness versus joy (joy is there even when life is hard and happiness comes and goes). In some respects that’s true, but when I’m happy, when things are good and sweet and full of grace, joy feels a whole lot easier.

My friend Christina who is never one to pretend, told me last week that she had an entire conversation with her husband about whether or not Christians are supposed to be happy. She was shocked that he thought they ought to be.

For the record, I don’t necessarily think that the discussion ought to be happiness versus joy; I think it ought to be happiness versus fulfillment, or my new favorite word, wholeheartedness. When life is lived wholeheartedly, cynicism is weaker than earnestness, faith is braver than doubt, and hope trumps discouragement. I believe wholeheartedness is a synonym for fulfillment. To be whole is to be filled up, entirely filled—not with a passing sort of Happy or an emotional sort of Jesus experience, but with a deep-rooted belief that all is grace, that God is good to me, that this life is beautiful because it is a gift.

Benedict says we have a “hope of fulfillment,” not an automatic fulfillment like our Christian culture tends to imply. We have to learn to be fulfilled. Remember how Paul said he had “learned to be content in every circumstance”? (emphasis mine). So how do we practice the hope of fulfillment? How do we practice wholeheartedness?

Can I stop here and say I love how simple Benedict makes things? He doesn’t require more prayers or less dance party music. He doesn’t condemn his monks for not having had fulfillment by this point. Instead he points softly toward this notion: We should be centered on God alone.

In the midst of the crazy of every day—the demands in the office, using our minds too much or not using them enough, walking your preschooler to his room because you warned him if he joked about poop again there would be a time out, the exhaustion of life stood over the kitchen sink or life stood over the washer and dryer—there is something we can hold central, a gleaming orb in our chest, a light that seeps out into our fingers and touches all we touch.

Then, as Benedict says, we begin to recognize that the good in us is coming from that gleaming orb of light inside, because God’s goodness if filling and filling and filling us up. We recognize that the evil in us every attempt we make to snuff that light out and we believe the truth that we’re responsible for the snuffing. We are always responsible for the snuffing.

We have a hope of fulfillment, everyday. We get to choose what is central. And we choose it by what we hold in our minds. We choose it by grasping for gratefulness and recognizing grace and believing that God’s goodness is here in this moment. And then we hold out our offering—this baby’s sticky hands, these folded t-shirts, this sales-call, this lesson on prime numbers, this dinner made with love—and we believe there is full life in this, enough life to complete.

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College Thankful

Welcome to Thankful Tuesday on a Thursday. I hope that’s not terribly confusing.

The boys and I get our "guns up" at my Homecoming game. (Yes, those are streamers around August's and my heads.)

I spent the weekend at my college’s Homecoming for my ten-year reunion. Now, let me explain something to you. I did not go to a school known for its academic rigor, though I learned plenty. I didn’t go to a school that anyone has ever heard of, even in Texas, and especially not in the parts of the country I’ve been living in for the past decade.

But I went to the perfect school, the place where I was most able to be myself, where I was most loved and embraced and challenged to think and create. I went to a college that was kind and silly and small and full of music.

I could write something long about the ways that being in a Southern Baptist university brought me to a point of frustration and doubt and discouragement at the state of Christianity in our culture. But I can just as quick recount the rich kindness of my professors, the sweetness of the culture of the students, the safety I felt in that place.

I’ve taken Chris (Mr. Ivy League) to my campus before, but both times it was during the winter break, no students around, buildings locked. This past weekend I was thrilled at what he was going to see: my dearest college friends gathered in one room, my chance to serve as co-emcee for our reunion dinner. My emcee partner, Lex, and I were passionate (and ridiculous) karaokers in our former collegiate life so we made great plans to perform “Reunited” to kick off the class dinner. My husband was more than concerned. Every time I talked about it, he said, “I’m just not sure that’s a good idea,” while his eyes took on the look he saves for wanting to protect me from life’s scariest people. He just knew that when we sang our former classmates would stare back quietly in disgust and horror.

He had no idea that my college experience was a lot more like youth group than like college. His concern was brought up many times and I did my best to alleviate his fears. But I still saw it in his eyes Saturday night…until Lex and I began to sing “Reunited and it feels so good!” There’s something about that place that allows for silliness. It was a wonderful night and my husband was all kinds of relieved.

So, here’s my list. Homecoming weekend thankful:

  • That I now live four hours from where I went to school so I was actually able to be part of my ten-year reunion (which would never have happened otherwise). That Chris got to experience what I’ve been trying to tell him all these years.
  • Staying up until 2 am (what?!) with old friends just talking Friday night. We were so proud of ourselves for our late night craziness.
  • How proud I felt of my friends introducing themselves at our sorority breakfast. This is a little silly but I just about burst every time my college roomies Jamie and Melissa introduce themselves as an attorney and pediatrician. They worked so hard for those titles.
  • The most significant teacher in all my life was my creative writing professor in college. Uniquely goofy (he did a puppet show with socks in my American Lit Survey sophomore year), his shoulders shake up and down when he laughs. He challenged all my thinking about poetry when I was an earnest twenty year old and he never fails to write me back the moment he gets an email from me. I got my graduate degree because of him. I learned to write poems because of him. I hate to use “and” after two commas because of him. And I have the warmest of hearts for him. He and his wife came up to campus Saturday morning just spend time with my family and me. So grateful.
  • Since we moved to Austin, August has become best buds with Jamie’s (see: attorney, above) little boy, Cameron. They have the same sort of quirks for unusual information, they talk a lot, and they have that sort of little buddy connection that I’ve only seen August have once before with his friend Alton in San Francisco. Saturday morning at the homecoming “Kids Posse Corral” (we’re the “Cowboys”), my son got to ride a horse, pet a pony, and slide down a blow up slide with Cameron. It was awesome.
  • Friends so dear that my heart aches when I’m with them because I want more of them in my life.
  • My amazing parents who drove four hours to Abilene to watch our kids Saturday night and then drove the boys and me to their house for a week of Halloween fun with cousins.
  • Getting to experience all my school traditions with my husband by my side. He watched a football game, sat through three hours of All School SING! with me, sang the school song with his hand in the shape of a gun, and videoed me singing outside with my sorority. It was sweet. Then we held hands and I walked him through all of campus, showing him where all the important conversations with boys happened, where I threw candy from my dorm window at smooching couples, and where I spent Senior year eating a burger every day for lunch (seriously). I’m thankful.

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We Need a Horse and how to be weirdly grateful

Yesterday, my dear friend Katie (in San Francisco) sent me a package with two letters, a magazine, and three lovely children’s books (I mean incredibly beautiful, you’ve never seen a book so beautifully made) in the mail.

Her husband works for McSweeney’s, the eccentric, progressive publishing house and magazine publisher. Really, McSweeney’s is a literary movement, but that’s beside the point. The point is that her husband has been working lately on children’s books. They’re named after Katie’s family, the McMullens.

One of the books she sent from the “McSweeney’s McMullens” series is a book called We Need a Horse, by Sheila Heti. (Did I mention it’s beautifully illustrated? Clare Rojas.) In it a horse finds a light that asks him what one question he has. The horse responds, “Why was I made a horse and not some other animal?”

The light answers: “Because we needed another horse.”

After befriending a sheep that isn’t content with his being a sheep (he wishes he were a human who could play tennis), the horse finds an apple tree and the apple he hopes to eat says, “I guess they needed to make this horse, so she could come and eat me.”

Though August was a little confused by the ending (after the ground sings a song to the horse), when the darkness of night invites the horse to “accompany” it so that it’s not so lonely. The horse goes, which I’m pretty sure is his death, “But now the horse understood everything.”

This is not a children’s book for the faint of heart, or for those who don’t like metaphor. And it’s totally weird.

But I secretly loved it. I love the light’s answer to the horse. They needed another one! And the apple’s celebration of the horse: For the apple, the horse exists solely to give the apple’s life purpose.

You know I’m always contemplating these things. What does it mean to be loved by God? Where do we find our purpose? And these answers are striking in their simplicity. God loves us. We were made because our life is meaningful. Our interactions are meaningful. The happy among us are those who are content.

And though I wish the grass would sing to me about how perfect the ground is, it doesn’t usually. Gratefulness is not natural, it’s learned. What I loved about this book is that gratefulness is the heart of its weirdness.

I hope that people will one day say the same thing about me.

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Off to Awesomeland!

There are some weeks (like this one) where I don’t post much because I’m utterly exhausted and I’d rather go to sleep at 10 every night. And I figure you’ll forgive me. Then there are some weeks when posting should be against Mama:Monk’s rules. Next week will be one of those weeks.

You see, not only did we just move and I’m recovering from a two-week tearfest, but my little family is going on a real-live vacation with two other families we love! To a place we love (Maine)! And my husband is actually not going to be working! And I’m reading an F. Scott Fitzgerald book with one of my favorite reading friends! And my kid is going to be playing with other kids! In grass! While I sit sipping lemonade on a porch! Plus, I’m going to eat a lot of lobster!

All that to say, I will miss you all but I’m going to take a bloggy-rest next week. I’ll see you back here refreshed and full of words on Monday the 11th. Until then, I’ll be reposting some Mama:Monk “classics” next week.

Don’t forget to be grateful on Tuesday. Happy 4th of July.

XOXO,

Micha

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A day to be thankful in a month full of grateful.

August cheering after a successful rock skip by Tomales Bay

After a week where I actually recorded all my grateful thoughts in a journal and now have apparently lost that journal. But, does that mean I’ve lost my Grateful?! By all means, no!!!

That’s why I will tell you about my sweet past week (in 7 thankfuls).

  1. Brooks laughed for the first time last Thursday night. It may or may not have been while I was singing “MmmmBop!” to him. Don’t judge me. What was sweetest about it was that we were all in August’s room together. Chris and August were wrestling on the bed and I was changing Brooksie. I loved seeing how excited August was for his brother’s laugh. He is really falling in love.
  2. I can’t get enough of this city. Every sound, every person on the street. It’s all precious and temporary and in need of being savored. Last Friday night was Chris’ good-bye party with his work friends from his old job. We went to his favorite bar in North Beach, our old neighborhood. Then, he and I walked down the street to Golden Boy where we used to grab pizza slices almost every week when we lived there. And we topped off the night by walking past our old apartment and up to Coit Tower. We ate our pizza there and stared at this city. It was a lovely goodbye.
  3. Yesterday was Chris’ birthday. All he wanted to do this past weekend was drive out of town up to Tomales Bay and eat ourselves silly with oysters. The 4 of us joined 5 friends by the water. Then we found some dessert and a grassy spot and lay in the sun. I’m grateful for friends, sunshine and the ridiculous goodness of San Francisco (and Bay area) food. I will never recover from how well I’ve eaten in this city.
  4. Yesterday August and I worked to surprise Chris with a homemade birthday cake. August tried really hard to spread the frosting and not just eat it and he was giddy to show it to Chris when he got home. I love that August is at the age when he can learn to love and serve his family. And I love how fun it is to see him learning how to celebrate. (A very important skill, if you ask me.)
  5. This past week, I have felt so challenged by the study on calling that I’m doing with my Bible study as well as the book I’m reading, The Missional Mom. After a season of feeling frustrated that my life doesn’t seem to allow for missional living, I’m feeling God challenge that notion in me. I’m excited to see where it goes.
  6. Yesterday, after picking August up at Vacation Bible School I drove past the most phenomenal view of the city. And I thought: I can’t believe we actually lived here once. I’m so thankful that God loves San Francisco and we got to experience that love for a while.
  7. It’s June and I can’t be thankful in June without remembering all the sweet things that were born in this month: my husband, my oldest boy, and my marriage…all of whom I will be celebrating over the next 10 days.

What are your 7 grateful things?

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August lists some things

What August thinks is crazy:

  1. The Weather
  2. Mater (the tow-truck from the movie Cars)
  3. Tow-Trucks

Wow, those things are crazy. Is there anything else you think is crazy?

4. No, just weather and Mater.

What August most likes to do:

  1. Read books
  2. And jump on my bed
  3. And read books
  4. And jump on my bed

It’s Friday, and I though you deserved some insight straight from the boy’s mouth.

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