How to take the air in {guest post}

Micha Boyett (aka Mama Monk) is someone I would choose as a mentor or spiritual director. Rooted in scripture, she is always considering the spiritual in the everyday. Her writing is compelling and digs deep. I’m excited to share her God and Suffering story with you here:

We’re at the doctor’s office (again) because this virus that hasn’t left the confines of our home for six weeks has now made its tidy home inside my twenty-month-old’s chest. Brooksie is coughing himself awake every two hours in the night. My husband and older son have the same cold, but their coughs are different, normal. And I recognize my baby’s cough. It sounds like mine.

Sure enough, when the doctor listens to his lungs she hears the wheeze.


I was never one of those asthmatic kids who got rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night. Most often, my asthma was good fodder for a joke, a nice reason to have to stop running lines in volleyball practice. My inhaler was something to carry in my hand and tinker with so I wouldn’t feel so awkward with the girls on my gymnastics team.

The worst moment came during some croup-like infection in middle school, or maybe younger, maybe 5th grade? My mom had gone to the store and left my 8thgrade brother with me. I started coughing and couldn’t stop. And then I couldn’t get the air in. I was breathing through some angry, invisible straw and I was losing. My brother saw the panic in my eyes and I saw it in his. That’s when I started crying. Crying and gasping and trying to take the air in. My brother, in all his 13-year-old wisdom, took me to our parents’ bathroom, sat me on the floor, and turned the shower on hot so I could breathe the steam. Then he left me and waited for mom to come home. I remember somewhere in that moment of terror hearing him say, “You know it doesn’t help to cry. You have to stop crying.” And I did. I sat alone in the bathroom, the steam soaking my skin and snaking into my lungs. And I breathed. I sat and I breathed.


He’s wheezing but it’s not a big deal, the doctor says. It’s small, she says. And I find myself sitting on a chair with my son in my lap, holding a mask connected to a tube, steaming out the asthmatic nectar. I lift it to Brooksie’s face. The doctor says, hold it till the steam stops coming. Then she leaves. One minute in, he’s crying. Five minutes in, he’s writhing on the floor and I’m writhing with him. Wherever he throws his body, wherever his red face rails, I’m not letting that mask off. He will breathe it in. I will make him breathe it in.

I gather him and kiss him and press the mask against him and he roars and kicks and tries to break my grip. Across the small office, my older son has imaginary conversations with the Mysterious Cheetah (his favorite invisible friend) and I mentally kick myself for not packing a toy for him. Every once in a while August clenches his fists and screams: “Stop Yelling Brooksie!” When August flies across the room to hit his brother, I stop him. But I don’t even try to reprimand. It doesn’t matter. I’m holding a terrified child, forcing medicine into his lungs.


I don’t think of that moment with my brother until after the breathing treatment. Later, at home, I show Brooksie my inhaler and let him watch me use it. “Look, baby! You have one too! Just like Mommy!” I hold it to his face so he can suck it in.

That’s when I remember how I couldn’t breathe. That time. That one time I couldn’t breathe.


This is supposed to be a post about suffering. What do I have to say about suffering? I who has never lost a pregnancy or child? I whose marriage is life-giving? I who wakes to a fridge full of food in the morning. and washes her dishes clean at night? Who am I to say anything about loss, about sorrow, about broken bodies or broken lives?

I was holding my son in the doctor’s office and after fifteen minutes, when the last bit of steam had puffed out, I let him go. He stood seven feet away from me, his back to the wall, and cried, his face red with betrayal. How could I? His mama? For fifteen minutes he had cried and begged me to stop this thing and I had held him tight-lipped and determined. Of course he wouldn’t come to me to let me undo his suffering with a kiss, a cuddle, a promise that he doesn’t understand now, but someday…


Don’t give me a parable about how God loves us and lets us break under his forceful hand, you say. Don’t tell me God holds the mask up to our faces and weeps that we don’t understand how This Is The Medicine. This is the air that our lungs must take in.


Don’t tell me you know what God feels when we lose the friend we most needed, watch his body waste while tumor eats his brain.

I won’t. I won’t. Metaphors always fall flat, don’t they? Nothing is as it should be. Everything is made for bright, free air but breathing is faulty here in this world. We are living in this undone place. We are mamas waking up the next morning, our right shoulders sore from the clenching, from the battle with our baby over steam and lungs and what it means for everything to be made right.

Because everything will. Everything will be made right.

Micha Boyett is a youth minister turned stay at home mom trying to make sense of vocation and season and place in the midst of her third cross-country move in three years. She is mama to two blonde boys and wife to a very tall Philadelphian. She is tinkering away on her memoir The Mama Monk and practicing prayer with her eyes open and her arms deep in sticky dishes. She blogs at Patheos about motherhood, monasticism, and the sacred in the everyday. Connect with her on Twitter or like her Facebook page.

Over to you:

  • Can you relate to feeling like that outraged toddler in relation to God?

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21 Responses to How to take the air in {guest post}

  1. Annie Barnett 5th December, 2012 at 5:08 am #

    Just today, I sat around at table of sweet young mamas, and one of them offered up, with much sincerity, “everything happens for a reason” and everyone nodded and someone chimed in about having the time and maturity to see the reason. (These women, they are jewels.) And I’m not one to argue about semantics, but I piped up this time, and said that I wrestle with those statements, because I can’t tell my late sister’s children I see a good reason for her death. I am learning what it looks like to trust God when I can’t see the reasons or the fruit of the suffering. I find He’s with me in it: Emmanuel, God with us – and that is grace enough. Thank you for these unresolved words, Micha, it’s mended my heart a bit here.

    • Micha Boyett 5th December, 2012 at 6:16 am #

      Annie, thanks. It means so much to hear that from you. Your wisdom always speaks to me. Yes, Emmanuel, God with us…

  2. Renee Ronika 5th December, 2012 at 3:11 am #


    I love how real you make this: how present, how tangible is future grace, redemption, and the everything-will-be-alright truth of it all–no matter how big, small, short, or long. Thank you.

  3. Janice 4th December, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    Micha – “Everything is made for bright, free air but breathing is faulty here in this world.” That is so beautiful and true. And how splendid and life-giving to know that one day we will breathe the bright, fee air.

    Tanya – this series is like a who’s who of the best bloggers! You rock for putting it all together. I’ve loved every one of them!

    • Micha Boyett 4th December, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

      Thanks so much, Janice. I’m honored to be included in your “who’s who”! : )

    • Tanya 6th December, 2012 at 11:18 am #

      I’m loving that you describe it as a who’s who! We clearly have the same taste in best bloggers! 🙂

  4. Bethany Bassett 4th December, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    I am just so grateful for the last part of this post in particular–no platitudes, no cliches, no tidy sermon points ringing with false cheer and conclusiveness. Suffering is such a huge and tender subject, and like you, I take the greatest comfort from my belief that “Everything will be made right.” Beautiful.

    • Micha Boyett 4th December, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

      Bethany, aren’t tidy sermon points the worst??? I agree. It seems to me that hope in suffering can only be found in the Christian perspective of all things being made new, of all of creation being restored, especially our broken bodies and spirits. Thanks.

  5. Jillie 4th December, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Yes, it’s true that sometimes we have to stop and think about the starving, suffering children in Africa, or the terrible plight of children in Syria, Israel, the Gaza strip. We have to remember those we know who’ve lost a child, or have an incurable disease. Or the one we know who lives his/her life in a wheelchair. All these things serve as perspective for our own problems and sufferings. But they don’t make our problems and sufferings any less real…to us. They don’t really make our problems any smaller to us. They don’t make our problems go away.
    An asthmatic child is in very real danger when an attack happens. Especially when that child is wee and doesn’t understand what is happening to them. Mom and Dad are the ones who have to fight for them and with them.
    I appreciated your post, Micha. It helped me to better appreciate what a Mom goes through in this situation. Your wee one’s suffering is very real…to him and to you.

    • Micha Boyett 4th December, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

      Thank you for the kind words, Jillie. I really appreciate that.

  6. Charity Erickson 4th December, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    What a powerful illustration–our God doesn’t break our will–but His invitation to enter into HIS will can feel utterly terrifying. You speak truth!

    • Micha Boyett 4th December, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

      Yes, terrifying is definitely the word for it. Thanks Charity.

  7. Diana Trautwein 4th December, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    Thank you for this, Micha. And thank you for not making it into a parable, but just telling the story and letting us reflect on it a while. Watching children suffer in any way is always hard – even when we know that what they’re feeling is diametrically opposite of what is actually happening. A dear friend who is a missionary in Japan just discovered his 2 year old has leukemia. How do we tell a 2 year old that the 14 weeks he and his mom must stay in the hospital and the treatments he will endure are for his good? Impossible. Even though it’s true, it’s still terrible, terrible. Sorry Brooks (and you) must wrestle with this one. But I know you’re not alone there, neither one of you.

    • Micha Boyett 4th December, 2012 at 11:41 pm #

      Oh, Diana, I really cannot imagine how you walk with a child through something as traumatic as cancer treatments. Or how a child copes with ongoing sickness and treatments. There’s never a tidy answer, is there?

      • Diana Trautwein 5th December, 2012 at 1:11 am #

        I’ll admit to wrestling hard with this story! These are such dear people – Tim waited until he was 40 to marry, then met Wakako in Japan. They adopted a beautiful baby boy, only to find themselves pregnant almost immediately. The two boys are less than 1 year apart and it is the younger one who is ill. They are calling him Hero online and would appreciate prayer for all of them. This is brand new news – and Hero is sick with an ear infection that is not responding well, which is what triggered the tests which found the leukemia. They are hoping to begin chemo on Thursday, but the infection must clear before they can start. The hospital is an hour’s drive across frozen, icy streets and there is never a parking place! Imagine the frustration of just that detail. So he has written to ask prayer for all of it – and I’m passing it along wherever I can on these cyber connection spaces. The older boy, who is desperately missing his mama and his brother, is called Mac online. He is just 3. Sigh. And no, there are no tidy answers. There is hope, there is trust and there is lament, thank God.


  1. God and Suffering - 4th December, 2012

    […] not letting that mask off. He will breath it in. I will make him breathe it in…Click over and read the rest at Tanya’s place?  /* /* Filed Under: Guest Post Tagged With: family, spiritual practice, suffering Leave a […]

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