Theme:
Conscious Parenting

Conscious Parenting

Summary: Sunday, June 23—Friday, June 28, 2019

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. [1] 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.

One minute.

Okay.

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. . . .

Muah.

Good morning, you whisper.

She giggles.

Morning, love, I say. Coffee is ready.

References:
[1] 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)

Image credit: The Child’s Bath (detail), Mary Cassatt, 1893, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God to a young mother: I’m watching you get up exhausted every morning, and I’m so touched that you want to spend this time with me [in contemplation]. Really, I am! It just means the world to me. The thing is, I just can’t bear how much I love you. It’s too much! And so at a certain point I rush into the [body of your child and wake her up] because . . . because I want to know what it feels like to be held by you. —James Finley
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Conscious Parenting

The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto
Friday, June 28, 2019

Does the heart have a narrow door?
Will it allow in just one more
of every beast and flower and bird
and every song it has ever heard?

Just one more child, just one more flower,
one more relinquishing of power
to that sane and sacred foolishness
of living by inclusiveness?

Does the heart have a supple, elastic latch
that makes it easy to dispatch
all pettiness and bigotry
and opens it to what makes us free?

. . .

You who can heal all wounds and hate
make my heart open, free, and great.

—Carol Bialock [1]

Researcher Brené Brown knows the importance of vulnerability and open-heartedness. In her book Daring Greatly, she offers a parenting manifesto that can serve as a touchstone when we feel afraid or resist vulnerability. You might read it aloud to a child, someone you love, or yourself:

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.

I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.

We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.

We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices.

You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.

I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude. I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.

When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.

Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.

We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here.

As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.

I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.

References:
[1] Carol Bialock, “Widening the Door,” Coral Castles (Fernwood: 2019), 87. Used with permission. Carol is a Religious of the Sacred Heart and author of the poem “Breathing Underwater” which inspired the title of my book on Twelve-Step spirituality, Breathing Under Water. Today is Sr. Carol’s 90th birthday and the release of her book of poems, Coral Castles!

Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (Avery: 2012), 244-245. Visit brenebrown.com for a copy of the manifesto and other resources.

Image credit: The Child’s Bath (detail), Mary Cassatt, 1893, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God to a young mother: I’m watching you get up exhausted every morning, and I’m so touched that you want to spend this time with me [in contemplation]. Really, I am! It just means the world to me. The thing is, I just can’t bear how much I love you. It’s too much! And so at a certain point I rush into the [body of your child and wake her up] because . . . because I want to know what it feels like to be held by you. —James Finley
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Conscious Parenting

God Interrupting
Thursday, June 27, 2019

Brie Stoner shares her experience in the Living School as a mother of young children:

I was sitting in the women’s bathroom between sessions and had exactly thirteen minutes before the next talk to pump and dump my breast milk. [1] Every woman walking by me would smile and exclaim how sweet it was that I was there, ask how old my baby was, and offer some kind of encouragement for the Herculean effort of simply being a mother.

I was so excited to have been admitted to the first class of the Living School and determined to somehow make it work even with a toddler and a nine-month-old at home. But as each day proceeded, the more uncertain I became: sure, I could have uninterrupted prayer sits here . . . here where the meals were provided for me and the dishes were picked up and cleaned by not-me. Here where I slept in a hotel bed (a whole bed to myself . . . just for me, with no one needing me, ever). Here where I had access to these wisdom teachers and a peaceful path through the Cottonwood bosque with a view of the Sandia mountains.

Finally, during one of James Finley’s sessions I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Jim, can we talk about how much harder all of this is when I’m back home? Because I get up sometimes at 5:00 a.m., desperate to have one prayer sit, and it’s like my kids have radar and inevitably one of them wakes up ten minutes later. I mean, where is the icon of the mystic with one baby on the hip, a toddler crying at their feet, cooking dinner with one hand, trying to finish work on a laptop with the other? Because that’s my real life.”

Jim said, “Ok, you be you and I’ll be God. And since I’m God, I’m watching you get up exhausted every morning, and I’m so touched that you want to spend this time with me. Really, I am! It just means the world to me. The thing is, I just can’t bear how much I love you. It’s too much! And so at a certain point I rush into the bodies of your children and wake them up because. . . .”

Jim paused. “Because I want to know what it feels like to be held by you.”

Yes, the interruption is the presence of God that I was so desperately trying to access in moments of stillness and silence. With or without the luxury of stillness and silence, God comes to us disguised as our very lives (as Paula D’Arcy has said). In my case, Jim helped me to discover how my path as an exhausted young parent was the monastery of my own transformation. If I learned to let my heart open enough, I just might begin to recognize each cry, each diaper change, every choo-choo play time request . . . all of it, as the startlingly stunning, diaphanous infusion of infinite love colliding into the small shape of my very finite and ordinary reality. There, at the intersection of everything, is God with us . . . wanting to be touched, noticed, nurtured . . . held by us. All we have to do is behold.

References:
[1] Breastfeeding parents sometimes pump breastmilk, for example, when they’re not with their child to maintain milk production, and may dispose of the milk if cold storage isn’t an option.

Article by Brie Stoner. Visit thejourneyofbecoming.com to learn more about Brie.

Image credit: The Child’s Bath (detail), Mary Cassatt, 1893, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God to a young mother: I’m watching you get up exhausted every morning, and I’m so touched that you want to spend this time with me [in contemplation]. Really, I am! It just means the world to me. The thing is, I just can’t bear how much I love you. It’s too much! And so at a certain point I rush into the [body of your child and wake her up] because . . . because I want to know what it feels like to be held by you. —James Finley
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Conscious Parenting

Becoming a Parent
Wednesday, June 26, 2019

If you’ve listened to the Center’s podcast, Another Name for Every Thing, you’ve heard the voices of Brie Stoner and Paul Swanson. [1] Both Brie and Paul are committed students of the contemplative path and are also parents. Today I’ll share some of Brie’s insights on being a mother, and Saturday you’ll hear from Paul. 

No one is ever ready to become a parent.

Even if the birth is long anticipated, planned, tried for . . . there is nothing that can prepare us for the transition into a life that is no longer about us, now entirely given for another. Our minds honestly can’t imagine it. Romantic love, as much as it begins to re-orient us to selfless love, doesn’t touch the incomparable sensation of experiencing your heart exit your body and become ensconced in the tiny vulnerable body of a child (adopted or birthed).

Fortunate as I was to be a biological mom, I was thrust into the experience right from the start: my body no longer belonged to me, it belonged to the very capricious growing little alien I was housing. Every glowing peaceful image of a pregnant woman became an absolute bait-and-switch lie as I struggled through terribly uncomfortable pregnancies carrying Viking-spawn-sized babies, which only served to underscore the perpetual discomfort of what love requires. This is my body broken for you.

It is precisely that vulnerability that becomes our path as parents. Suddenly we come around to recognizing what has always been true: we are not in control of our universe and never have been. But now that we are oriented toward wanting to protect the small life in our care, we delude ourselves for a while and nearly lose our minds trying to be in control. Our ego is certain that we will fare better, we will do this parenting thing right (not like our parents!). We obsessively read every book, taking every how-to-correctly-attach-to-your-baby class, . . . and live temporarily under the fallacy that we can control schedules, perfectly discipline behavior positively, and . . . and. . . .

Eventually, a pacifier hits the floor and we don’t wipe it off before sticking it back in our kid’s mouth. We adjust to the unpredictable ebb and flow of sleep and lack of sleep and meal times that follow no linear order. We soften to admit the non-wooden toy into our home. We begin to surrender to what was always bigger than us anyway.

Let’s be real: we’re never really ready for love to turn our world upside-down. Our egos prefer the idea to the reality, the Pinterest version of parenting . . . not the real thing. But Love loves us through the tectonic shift 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 our “before.” 

References:
[1] Explore the first season of Another Name for Every Thing podcast: https://cac.org/podcast/another-name-for-every-thing/.

Article by Brie Stoner. Visit thejourneyofbecoming.com to learn more about Brie. See also “Mindful Parenting: A Conversation with Brie Stoner” (April 2, 2019), https://www.spiritualparent.org/blog/2019/3/8/a-conversation-with-brie-stoner.

Image credit: The Child’s Bath (detail), Mary Cassatt, 1893, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God to a young mother: I’m watching you get up exhausted every morning, and I’m so touched that you want to spend this time with me [in contemplation]. Really, I am! It just means the world to me. The thing is, I just can’t bear how much I love you. It’s too much! And so at a certain point I rush into the [body of your child and wake her up] because . . . because I want to know what it feels like to be held by you. —James Finley
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Conscious Parenting

Many Paths to Contemplation
Tuesday, June 25, 2019

After recently visiting Mexico and some of the refugee centers along the Texas border and seeing so many children and babies with their parents, I was reminded that contemplative Christianity’s rather monastic, solitary, silent approach just can’t be adequate to describe contemplation for most people. It can’t be, or many of God’s children could never know God. Contemplation is simply openness to God’s loving presence in “what is” right in front of you—which is what I saw these parents do. This presence to Presence can be cultivated in many ways that don’t require sitting on a mat for twenty minutes.

Experiences of great love and great suffering can and will 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. I think Catholics have also over-emphasized the celibate path which is a “luxury,” it seems to me. I know I enjoy that luxury—the Franciscans provide for all my needs, but most people I know have a mortgage or rent to pay and food to put on the table. So, I think it is really important that we broaden the definition of contemplation to a Trinitarian understanding of God—God as flow—and learning how to allow and participate in the flow. It’s not really about detachment but healthy and unitive attachment.

If we expect the same disciplined practice of twenty minutes of silence twice a day of everyone—for example, busy parents of young children—I think we’re setting ourselves up for delusion. When you keep allowing love to flow toward you and toward others, that is a contemplative life. It is not as easy as it seems. Many laypeople are far more mature in the spiritual life than those of us who have all the accoutrements of celibacy, quiet, and protected solitude.

Those who have a long-term object of love, like a spouse or children, grow through their commitment. I don’t have an object of love like that. Now, I had Venus, my black Labrador, for fifteen years, and then she passed. I do have a wonderful staff who I think love me. I surely love them, but, I don’t have to love them. I can go home and shut the door. But if you are a parent or a partner, you can’t go home and shut the door to your loved ones. For all of us—whether we live alone or with others—the invitation is to open ourselves to the needs and suffering around us.

Hidden away in the middle of Parker Palmer’s recent book, On the Brink of Everything, is a wonderful, simple definition of contemplation: “Contemplation is any way one has of penetrating illusion and touching reality.” [1] I think that’s brilliant. There are things that force you toward a contemplative mind (for example, your mother’s death), because they force you to face reality, and that can free you from lot of illusions. I’m still grateful to the monastic and Buddhist teachers. But sitting in silence isn’t the whole enchilada. Life is the whole enchilada.

References:
[1] Parker Palmer, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Old (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.: 2018), 57.

Adapted from Richard Rohr in conversation with Mark Longhurst, “Universal Christ Interview with Fr. Richard Rohr” (March 2019), https://cac.org/alumni-quarterly-march-2019/.

Image credit: The Child’s Bath (detail), Mary Cassatt, 1893, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God to a young mother: I’m watching you get up exhausted every morning, and I’m so touched that you want to spend this time with me [in contemplation]. Really, I am! It just means the world to me. The thing is, I just can’t bear how much I love you. It’s too much! And so at a certain point I rush into the [body of your child and wake her up] because . . . because I want to know what it feels like to be held by you. —James Finley
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Conscious Parenting

Giving Ourselves
Monday, June 24, 2019

Can you let others convert you to the Love that you truly are? Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, in her book Nurture the Wow, asks:

What is love, anyway? And what does it mean to love? . . .

The feminist theorist bell hooks . . . claims [that love is] the “will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” [1] “The will to extend yourself”: to push past your comfort level; to . . . work really hard. That means doing things you never thought you’d do, and may not particularly want to. But you do them. You stretch and extend, because someone needs you to, so that they can grow. . . .

Extending the self is about the moment when the tantrum is going down right as you need to be getting somewhere and you realize you have to slow down and pull, from underneath your annoyance and your desire to just physically force the child out the door, some compassion to help dial down her out-of-control feeling. It’s about the willingness to get out of bed at two a.m. to be with the child who’s totally shaken by a nightmare. . . . It’s about enabling our beloveds to feel secure, enabling them to be able to do the work they need to do. It’s about enabling them to feel the warm rays of our attention on their skin, even when we kind of actually want to just zone out. . . .

Fred Rogers, the Presbyterian minister behind the TV show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, said once that “to love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” [2] . . .

That moment when we say, I accept you—even though being with you is awfully hard right now—that’s love. It doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences—we don’t have to accept terrible behavior. But part of how we love our children is in choosing, again and again, to take the whole child. . . .

If all our spiritual efforts are aimed at loving these people better—well, that alone is and should be enough. And, as it happens, if we’re able to go deep into that specific, aching love for these particular people, with these smiles and that laugh and that sweet face—something else might happen as a natural consequence of it. 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. [This is what I mean by accessing the universal through the particular. —Richard]

References:
[1] bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions (William Morrow: 2000), 4. This is based on M. Scott Peck’s definition of love, inspired by the work of Erich Fromm.

[2] Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember (Hyperion: 2003), 53.

Danya Ruttenberg, Nurture the Wow: Finding Spirituality in the Frustration, Boredom, Tears, Poop, Desperation, Wonder, and Radical Amazement of Parenting (Flatiron Books: 2016), 19-21, 45.

Image credit: The Child’s Bath (detail), Mary Cassatt, 1893, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God to a young mother: I’m watching you get up exhausted every morning, and I’m so touched that you want to spend this time with me [in contemplation]. Really, I am! It just means the world to me. The thing is, I just can’t bear how much I love you. It’s too much! And so at a certain point I rush into the [body of your child and wake her up] because . . . because I want to know what it feels like to be held by you. —James Finley
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Conscious Parenting

A School of Love
Sunday, June 23, 2019

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. Each container is as unique as the individual who shapes it. Whether or not you are a parent, I hope this week’s reflections will encourage you in the work of generous, generative caring. If you’re a parent of young or adult children, if you aren’t able to have children or have chosen not to, if you provide for an elderly parent, if you’re a teacher, social worker, or nurse, I hope you know that you are not alone, that our divine Father and Mother parents you as you nurture others.

True holiness and wholeness come when we allow God’s love and grace to unfold in the present moment and we respond to what is before us. Holiness is simply being connected to our Source. From such a place, our compassionate response to suffering and need is drawn naturally—without being contrived or forced—from who we are in love, not from egoic motivations or fears.

I think that’s why so many parents become such good and holy people, because that’s exactly what caring for children does for us. Of course, children can be treated as mere extensions of our ego, but we can’t control or always predict what they will ask of us. So they’re likely to make us less egocentric, a lot less egocentric!

I remember a family coming out to visit me when I first moved to Albuquerque. They had three little children who all had croup. For three days, the house sounded like barking dogs! The poor kiddos vomited on everything in the house. I did five loads of laundry. I don’t think we had one relaxing, enjoyable meal together. Having lived alone for much of my adult life, this was a shock. We vowed-religious, celibate folks sometimes think we’re making a sacrifice, choosing the harder path. But the energy, commitment, and selflessness that’s endlessly demanded of parents surpasses anything that has ever been asked of me.

It seems we must face unavoidable demands that require our response, even if we feel inadequate to meet the need right in front of us. We need these God-given reminders that we’re not always the central reference point. Giving of our physical, mental, and emotional resources in such a way isn’t usually ego-affirming, but it is a path toward holiness. It’s not what you do that makes you holy. It’s what you allow to be done to you that makes you holy.

References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 74; and

Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 1987), disc 3.

Image credit: The Child’s Bath (detail), Mary Cassatt, 1893, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God to a young mother: I’m watching you get up exhausted every morning, and I’m so touched that you want to spend this time with me [in contemplation]. Really, I am! It just means the world to me. The thing is, I just can’t bear how much I love you. It’s too much! And so at a certain point I rush into the [body of your child and wake her up] because . . . because I want to know what it feels like to be held by you. —James Finley
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