Julia Roller remembers when she spent uninterrupted, significant time in prayer and Bible study and was able to practice spiritual disciplines as part of her routine. That was before the arrival of a baby boy who didn’t sleep much. And then another.
“Here I was, this person who’d been writing and editing Christian books and very much believed in these spiritual practices and had seen growth in my own life. Then I became a mom and it seemed to all go out the window,” says Roller, who lives in San Diego with her husband and two sons. “I wasn’t prepared for that.”
Roller came up with a plan to reclaim the spiritual practices she was missing--such as silence, fasting, prayer, and Scripture study--by focusing on one each month for a year. The result is Mom Seeks God: Practicing Grace in the Chaos, released by Abingdon Press in April. The book covers only 10 spiritual disciplines instead of 12, however, because Roller got pregnant with her second son and was sick for two months.
“I got derailed. Part of what happened to me is that I had set these goals for the disciplines—I approached it like I had approached being a mom, thinking I had to do this thing and that thing to be perfect,” says Roller. “But I learned that I can’t do everything and that everything can’t be perfect. I learned to give myself a little more grace about parenting and about spiritual practices as well.”
Roller is no stranger to the spiritual disciplines. She worked with Richard Foster-- founder of Renovare’, a community of Christians that promotes spiritual and personal renewal, and the author of a classic on the subject, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth--on a number of his books, including A Year with God: Living Out the Spiritual Disciplines (HarperOne, 2009). She also wrote 25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Spiritual Classics (HarperOne, 2011) as part of the Renovare’ Resource series. An editorial board including Foster, Phyllis Tickle, Dallas Willard, and other authorities on spiritual practices helped choose the classics she included in the book.
Roller had assumed her own spiritual practice wouldn’t be that hard after she became a mother. “People tell you about no sleep and that you’ll be covered with vomit, but no one says it would be a time of spiritual dryness,” she says. “I really struggled to find times of peace and silence and to be with God.”
While Roller admits to nervousness about her honesty in Mom Seeks God, the response to the book “has been wonderful. People are saying that it’s like reading their diary. I hope what I learned can help other moms feel closer to God, and to understand that the daily tasks of motherhood are spiritual disciplines, are ways to be closer to God.”
Roller is writing her next book these days; the working title is Mom Seeks Prayer. In the meantime she offers a free a book download on her website, The Real Life Prayer Book for Moms.