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Center for Action and Contemplation

Finding the Baby

Navigating grief when life offers you an unteachable lesson
November 3rd, 2023
Finding the Baby

Betsy Cañas Garmon (Living School Sendee 2023) is an artist, writer, and creativity coach. She hosts workshops and online makers’ circles at the intersection of creativity and spiritual practice and is the creator of the visual journaling course Soul Cartography. The parents of five grown children, Betsy and her husband Randy live in Atlanta, Georgia with their Goldendoodle Pax, and rescue cats Luna and Sol.

At the end of my thirtieth year, I gave birth to a daughter. She ushered in extravagant joy and the realization that I couldn’t raise her in the faith tradition of my youth. 

That religious construct funneled women into motherhood and service. I internalized messages of compliance and obedience and called my invisible labor holy. I wanted a different life for the little bundle in my arms. Then I heard the rushing wind of Holy Spirit say, “If it doesn’t work for her, then how can it possibly work for you?” Engaging with this question was the first thread I pulled from the frayed edges of my childhood. 

I entered the Living School with a loose objective of rebuilding a spiritual practice after more than two decades of pulling things apart. I was searching for the proverbial baby in the bathwater. What, if anything, would I keep? 

I was ready to explore the roots of Christianity and decolonize my spiritual practices by incorporating the sacred feminine and honoring our connection to the Earth and each other. I was seeking a faith based on Love rather than certainty. It was like being in school again, and I loved school! 

However, a few short months into my learning journey, life offered up different lessons. A dear family friend was killed by gunfire. My husband’s job changed, and our income dropped dramatically. I went from analytical learner and spiritual seeker to fiscally insecure griever. I begrudgingly applied for a scholarship. 

It turns out, the baby in the bathwater wasn’t where or even what I was seeking. I was deep in the curricula of my life, what author Carl McColman calls an unteachable lesson. Muscle memory called me to independence. I prayed desperate prayers, asking the Divine for more energy, work, and strategy — even as I write now, I feel the residual capitalism still alive in my body, throwing shade at the concept of a scholarship. I freely admit that my ego would prefer lessons as a Sacred Giver. 

In her powerful book “Living Resistance,” Kaitlin Curtice writes, “resistance is itself a living, breathing being.” Receiving as resistance is pushing against the internalized messages of do more and surrendering to the Divine abundance of a community that allows for provision without shame. Life handed me devastation and lack, and I was met with empathy, resource, and worth. 

I am grateful.

What are you allowing yourself to receive today?

This reflection appears in the Fall 2023 issue of the Mendicant, our quarterly donor newsletter.

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