Spiritual Practices


Mothering

 

 

So…Christine Sine of Mustard Seed Associates has been doing a series on Spiritual Practices this entire summer. It has been fascinating to read (and be challenged by) how others connect with God in their everyday lives. I have resonated with quite a few of the writers and have enjoyed their eloquence as they expressed a practice we share in common. I’ve been reluctant to join the conversation however, partly because of my insecurity of a piece of writing being “good enough” but more often because every time I go to write something…I am interrupted by two fascinating creatures called “my children”.

 

You see, I am often asked what I do, and that is tough to answer. I am a photographer, I have a background in education and tutoring, I am always in the process of working on some artistic project, but when it really, really comes down to it…I am a mom.

 

(Excuse me for a minute…I’ve just been interrupted by a little boy in need of a morning hug!)

 

And it dawned on me this morning that my mothering is a spiritual practice!! Though much of what I do on a daily basis is mundane, tedious and repetitive (and will never get its own reality TV show), everyday those repetitive actions lead me into a deepening of my walk with God.

 

As I watch my children from a distance, I smile at who they are becoming and am amazed at their creativity and abilities. And so I enter into the delight of a Parent Whose eyes sparkle at the very sight of His children.

 

As I feed, clean, touch and hold my children, I surround them with the security of a love that will always take care of them. And so I am reminded that I too have a Love that is very present to take care of my even little everyday needs.

 

(Wait another moment…I need to go make morning conversation and laughter with my pre-teen…a sometimes daunting task!!)

 

As I discipline my children, I do so not to crush them, but to help them grow up into healthy habits of thought and living. And so again, I enter into the work of God as He becomes the Master Gardener who prunes our lives and trains the branches to grow in the direction of His pleasure.

 

As I stop what I am doing when I am interrupted (as I am thousands of times a day), I send a message to my children that they matter, they are listened to, and they are important. Does not God do the same for me? He is never annoyed by my “interruptions”, but rather calls me to come to Him with any care, question or concern I might have.

 

When I ask them questions and have conversation with them…when I do their laundry…when I remind them to pick up after themselves…when I take a lunch to school after it has been left at home…when I help a procrastinating child finish a school project…when I remind them to be nice to each other…when I say no…when I say yes…when I cook food that is good for their bodies…when I go to school performances…when I remind them to take their vitamins…when I comfort tears…when I celebrate victories…when I love their dad…when I tuck them into bed at night…(did I mention all the “when I remind them” phrases??) all these things teach them what it means to live as a family, belonging to one another. And it leads me on a journey with God into His family and as a member of the tribe. As I mother, I am lead into the rhythms of God, the grace of God, and the unstoppable parent-love of God. And as an added bonus, He calls me to co-labor with Him and help continue the rhythms, grace, and love in this world.

 

Now…if you’ll excuse me, there is toast burning in the toaster, kids need to eat breakfast, and we need to get out the door in about 3 minutes!!! Ahh…that all sounds so spiritual doesn’t it??

 

DelkeskampBlogPics05

We’ve just had our second round of summer visitors to our house – although this time our visitors were actually stangers when they arrived.  That is right…we had never met them before they, (with three children in tow), showed up on our doorstep.

Now, in all fairness, I had connected with Chamie over a couple of phone calls after she purchased one of the calendars.  She is part of an organization called Raising Micah which focuses on faith formation and family spirituality.  During one of our conversations, she talked about the sabbatical journey that she and her family would be going on this spring/summer and I offered our house as a place to stay should they make it to the Seattle area.  (Chamie wrote a great story about our connection here at their blog.)

So what did I learn about welcoming stangers?

1.  Jesus comes into my house through the stranger.  I was reminded of one of the Rules of St. Benedict…”All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for He Himself will say:  I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt. 25:35).  It also brought back the encouragement of Mother Teresa to find the face of Jesus in each person.  As the Delkeskamps were with us, I saw and heard Jesus in new ways.

2.  Grace and Flexibility are the garments we wear when the stranger is with us.  Life is not “as usual” when we welcome the stranger.  Time schedules are different, kids do not always get along, agendas need to be checked, and tending to guests takes time away from other endeavors.  My time is no longer about me, it is about the “other” and so grace and flexibility become the clothing I must put on hour by hour.

3.  It is occasion for a Feast.  I have heard that in the ancient monasteries, when a guest would arrive, if the abbott was in the middle of a fast, he would break it in order to dine with the guest.  When others present themselves to us, it is an opportunity for being that “hilarious giver” from 2 Corinthians.  So we ate well and in abundance with dessert at each evening meal (to which my children shout a huge “hurrah”!!)

4.  We must listen and ask questions.  Because the stranger is not us (does not have our same background or history), we must be question askers and good listeners.  The Delkeskamps are a “luthodist” family (Tim is a Lutheran pastor and Chamie is Methodist minister) which is quite opposite my upbringing.  But I had a lot to glean from them – a lot of wisdom and perspective – so I tried to listen well and live in the form of a question mark.

5.  It is a great way to make friends.  I often wonder what would happen in America if we were not so mobile and you had no other options except to go to the truly “local” church.  If we didn’t have so many choices or see church through the eyes of a consumer, would we learn to live with one another in the bonds of unity?  When a stranger stays in your home, they cannot remain a stranger for long.  Neither person has any other place to go, so we must interact, talk, compromise, and live together…all of which grows a friendship.

I am blessed to have had the Delkeskamps here in our home.  I have new ways of seeing the world and of seeing God; I (hopefully) learned to love better and grew my heart in generosity; I got to see how God connects all His people to one another.  And I was able to see a transformation happen right before my eyes – that beautiful metamorphasis from stranger to friend!

TheOther

I have had a tumultuous relationship with the church over the last few years.  I’ve celebrated with her and I’ve been deeply wounded by her.  I have wanted to walk away from her and I’ve had to wrestle with God that He uses the word “Bride” to describe her.  It is a term of deep affection and commitment…and so, because I love Him, I am compelled to love the things He loves.  But, if I were to be honest, over the last few years I have guarded my heart from her and although I’ve “shown up” to gatherings, I’ve stayed on the edges – cautious and sometimes skeptical.

It is funny…at the same time that I hear God calling me back to deep community, I find myself in a local church that is quite theologically different from where I’ve come from.  I am with people whom I do not always understand and who are “strange”.  Yet it is within this context that God is telling me to re-imagine community (and in many ways, to re-imagine what it means to LOVE).

“Can community be a spiritual discipline?” is the question I wrote in my journal the other day.

And this question will not leave me alone.  It keeps bouncing around my heart like that ball in a pinball machine – bouncing off different ramps and targets – causing an explosion of light and noise.  It will be scooped up for a moment and all seems at rest until it is propelled back into game play.  Perhaps God is at the helm, using the flippers to shoot the question back into and around my mind.

So…can community be a spiritual discipline?  For me right now, I think it is supposed to be.  I am to choose to show up, to engage in the conversations, to ask questions, and to grow in love, understanding and forgiveness.  However, being in community is difficult because it is not just an outward practice but an inward process as well.  It exposes me for the liar that I am – that in my mind I totally agree with the call to “love one another” but when real people stand before me, I find a different modus operandi at work.  I find instead of love I have a guardedness, a defensive, distrusting posture, and a critical spirit toward those different from me.  (And really…isn’t everybody different from me???)

Jean Vanier writes, “Community life isn’t simply created by either spontoneity or laws.  It needs a certain discipline and particular forms of nourishment.  Some precise conditions have to be met if this life is to deepen and grow through all the crises, tensions and good times.”

What is this nourishment?  Perhaps it is to fully abandon ourselves to the will of God and to believe that in the Trinity we get an understanding of God-as-Community and an invitation to move into community.   The call then becomes to trust God and walk in ways that He says are part of this communtiy/kingdom life.  Risk, vulnerability, humility, weakness, poor in spirit and even dying are all part of this upsidedown and backwards Kingdom of His.

Now the question becomes, Do I trust Him enough to follow?