Relationships are the primary school for love. For many people, parenting or care-giving serves as a container in which the soul, heart, body, and mind can grow. (Sunday)
Maybe, as our hearts overflow, we find that love can, naturally of its own accord, extend wider, until it encompasses caring for all things, and connection to everything—until our love becomes Love itself, the very flow and force of the universe. —Danya Ruttenberg (Monday)
Experiences of great love and great suffering can lead anyone to union. Every time you let your kids pull love out of you or when you let a relationship pull suffering out of you, you are present and surrendering to the flow. (Tuesday)
Love loves us through the tectonic shift [of becoming parents] anyway, because to love generatively is to join the dance of how everything becomes in this universe: chaos, re-order, a resurrected life that is completely “after” the version of your “before.” —Brie Stoner (Wednesday)
Interruption is the presence of God that I was so desperately trying to access in moments of stillness and silence. —Brie Stoner (Thursday)
Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions—the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself. —Brené Brown (Friday)
Practice: Making Coffee
Paul Swanson—one of the hosts for CAC’s Another Name for Every Thing podcast and a father of two young children—explores how contemplation intersects with day-to-day life.  Many Christian monasteries follow a rhythm of “Divine Office” or “Liturgy of the Hours.” Paul reinterprets “Lauds” (a morning service often chanted at daybreak) as a ritual of making coffee. Here is his open love letter to his wife, Laura. Listen to Paul read it aloud on his own podcast, Contemplify, or read an abbreviated version below:
I make you coffee every morning. You know this and I know this. But you don’t know how I go about this divine ritual, do you? It begins each evening before bed as you brush your teeth. The sound of bristles in running water is my invocation. I putter over to the kitchen and pull the coffee beans from the cupboard, grab the scale and measure out exactly fifty grams of coffee. . . . It takes near sixty cycles with the hand-crank grinder to complete the transformation from whole beans to a granular collective. . . .
Our bed is calling. The rite remains unfinished, but the scent of ground coffee lingers over the sleepy evening into the hope-filled morning.
Awake, O Sleeper!
Awakened by our daughter’s calling to the breaking of the day . . . she is tickled by new sunlight. Another magical hour of possibility. I put on my vestments, a bathrobe and spectacles. I take her to the kitchen: time to get the coffee started. I pour the filtered water into that fancy kettle that you thought was so funny that I just had to have it. . . . The Kiddo chatters about monkeys, breakfast, and waking you up.
Let Mama sleep. We’ll wake her later.
I pour her some cereal which she may or may not eat. The kettle whistles at me—pay attention! I pour this now boiling tap water into our pour-over coffee vessel to heat up the glass, and if I’m honest, give it a slight cleaning. . . .
Num-num, our daughter says.
Though there is no etymological basis for num-num meaning banana, I scuffle over to the bananas. I pull one off the bunch, cut it in half, and offer it to her. . . . I check the fancy kettle, still heating up.
The Kiddo is getting frustrated with the banana peel but refuses my help. That stubborn independence she gets from you, or is it me . . . no matter, I relish it. . . . I return to the coffee rites while singing “Hit the Road, Jack” as requested. She chimes in with, “What you say?” right on cue.
I empty the water from the coffee vessel (now slightly cleaner) onto any lingering dirty dishes in the sink. . . . I grab a recycled filter and pour the coffee grounds evenly into it. They await the near-boiling baptism to transfigure them from granular potential into the nectar of the gods.
I grab the fancy kettle with its precise pour spout, partnered with my astute marksmanship, to aim the water in circular motions, making the coffee grounds flower. . . . I wait and watch as the water settles the grounds into a concave shape. Waiting for the transformation from beans to brew tries my patience.
Cow’s milk? She wants milk.
The water seeps its way through the grounds, the essence retained and the quality deepened. . . . The Kiddo waits at the fridge with hands gripped on the door trying to pull it open with all her might. At two, the magnet of the fridge door proves to be beyond her strength. I open the door, and she scurries into the cool air, grabs the milk, and puts it on the floor. She hustles to her stack of glasses and locates the perfect receptacle for cow’s milk. I pour into the pink plastic cup. She puts her hand underneath the milk jug to guide my apparent unsteady hand. When satisfied, she lets go and takes a big gulp.
So cold! she shouts, bringing her balled fists to her cheeks, and then takes another swig.
I pivot back to the coffee. Again, I pour water from the fancy kettle in a circular motion over the moist grounds. I’m not quite drowning them, but I am filling them up with more than they can bear. The steady drip continues into the glass vessel.
When was the first time I made you coffee? It must have been 2008. Do you remember all of those glorious breakfast spreads we used to concoct before we were married, before we were dating, before we were us? Those memories are movie sets I visit at times such as these. I can see us clearly on that old checkered floor in the kitchen. I wonder, don’t they know they are falling in love? Can I tell him to hurry up and marry you? The stubbornness of that stubbled man so unsure of commitment, his capacity for love, or how love might transform him. Maybe I knew more than I realized. The questions were worthwhile, but it took time for me to see that the answers could only be lived into. Embodied. Breathed. My anxiety arose around the risk of commitment, for what if I were called to test the edges of my capacity for love? And I was petrified of the sweet wounds of love. I preferred the cheap veneer of infatuation. A preference which blinded me from those hidden caverns of love that teach the subtleties of the heart to see in the dark. When I thought I had all that I could bear in love, I found that love compels me to bear more, serve more, surrender more, and run my finger over the wounds of love. Who was it that said, “Love without sacrifice is theft”?
It is not only the depths of my being but in the shallows of my personality that this surrender takes part; I have found myself free to see my foibles as the aloof goof that holds imaginary arguments with you, doesn’t refill the soap dispenser, sulks when he is upset, and is a bull about locking doors. And you love me still. So another layer is peeled. In your presence, my vulnerability grows and my exposure to my depths and shallows are laid bare. Can I continue this way? To expand in the shape of our love? I see this question revealed in you too, you know.
You have taught me the fidelity of love. (I wonder what I have taught you.) This act of making you coffee is one of my practices in service to that fidelity. This process takes longer than an electric coffeemaker or walking to the coffee shop just a block away. But I like the idea of you starting the day with a creation of my love for you, whether I feel like it or not. The image of you heading out to your classroom with a roomful of students filtering in and you holding a mug containing the hand-ground, precisely poured over, slow brewed coffee that was born out of abiding love, particularly for you. Keeping your hands warm and eyes open.
I am running out of time! The coffee is close to done, but not quite. I pour another round of hot water from the fancy kettle onto the grounds.
Wake Mama up? she asks.
The coffee is slowly dripping to its natural fulfillment.
The drops stop. The coffee is done. I fill your thermos with the night black coffee made with you on my mind.
Let’s go wake up Mama.
The Kiddo jumps into my arms, bouncing up and down, and she anticipates waking you with a kiss. I plop her on the bed right next to you. She crawls up to your face. You are obviously awake, but to her you are in a deep sleep. She saddles up right on top of you and. . . .
Good morning, you whisper.
Morning, love, I say. Coffee is ready.
 Explore the first season of Another Name for Every Thing podcast: https://cac.org/podcast/another-name-for-every-thing/.
Adapted by Paul Swanson from “Lauds (of Coffee),” Contemplify (May 30, 2018), http://contemplify.com/2018/05/30/lauds-of-coffee/.
For Further Study:
Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (Avery: 2012)
Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019)
Danya Ruttenberg, Nurture the Wow: Finding Spirituality in the Frustration, Boredom, Tears, Poop, Desperation, Wonder, and Radical Amazement of Parenting (Flatiron Books: 2016)