“Growing Into Motherhood"–Angela’s Story of Motherhood and Faith

 

This is the third post in our series of “Growing Into Motherhood”, and I am pleased to bring you this post by Angela concerning her journey into discovering a religious path.  Many mothers who read this blog have a strong spiritual and religious life, but some of you are searching and trying to figure out how to attain this, so I thought Angela’s experience might be helpful to you.  Angela’s story and her suggestion in the last paragraph for seekers really stirred my soul, and I hope it will stir yours as well.    Here is her story for your inspiration:

 

Motherhood and Faith

The strong desire to be introduced to the mysteries of God is often much stronger in small children than in adults. And if children are responded to in the right manner with no arbitrary force, then their joyful awareness of getting to know God and of coming closer to Him will be accelerated up to the most intensive thinking and living with him.”

- Edith Stein

 

When Carrie asked me if I would write this blog post, I was of two minds: immediately excited about the opportunity to help some fellow mamas on their journey, and also intimidated, because I’m such a work in progress on my own journey. But I’m hoping this might be just a bit encouraging or illuminating for someone,  that it might lead them to think about Higher Things, and that it  might help them nourish their children with a life of faith. Continue reading

Kimberly’s Story: “Growing Into Motherhood”

I come to you today with joy in my heart as some of my long-term readers have agreed to share with you, dear reader, their own unique perspective and journey as they have grown and changed and developed into being a mother. Our second story in this series comes from Kimberly.  This is her story and journey for your inspiration:

 

Last week I felt like a new mom again. I hadn’t given birth or adopted another child; I simply found myself parenting in a situation I had never been in before and  in the moment everything I tried to do was failing. Puberty has begun for my oldest and as I tried to help him through an emotional storm I found myself feeling every bit as helpless as I did when I first had a newborn in the house.

Later I sat and reflected and asked myself what my child needed from me and the
answer was the same as it always has been. Presence. Not just physical presence,
but emotional presence.

I used to think that the three most important things in parenting and homeschooling were environment, rhythm, and health, and I still think they are significant tools for peaceful and joyful parenting, but I’ve come to see presence as being the most important gift to give my children. It has also been the very hardest lesson for me to learn. Continue reading

“Growing Into Motherhood”–Tanya’s Story

 

I come to you today with joy in my heart as some of my long-term readers have agreed to share with you, dear reader, their own unique perspective and journey as they have grown and changed and developed into being a mother. Our first story in this series comes from Tanya.  This is her story and journey for your inspiration:

 

Growing up, I had always said I didn’t want to have kids.  It wasn’t that I thought children were loud or messy or inconvenient, I just had no idea how to deal with kids.  They confused me and left me feeling nervous.  What do I do, what do I say?  So I thought that meant I wouldn’t be a good mother.  After all, aren’t you supposed to have that innate mothering nature?  So my plans were to go to college and pursue a professional career, one that didn’t seem “suited” to having children anyways. 

 

Then I met my future husband and everything changed.  Continue reading

Three Books of Import–Christian Book Reviews

 

I am back doing less work and projects right now, and more reading.  I recently finished “Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home” by Fr. Anthony Coniaris, which was lent to me by a dear local friend.    Thank you, dear friend.

 

There is something so peaceful and soothing about this book.  When I get bogged down in “what is this all about – parenting, homeschooling, juggling all these balls in the air” – this book reminds me:  “the primary lesson for children is to know the eternal God, the One Who gives everlasting life” (St. Clement).  A balm for the mothering soul, and such a great simplifying thought. Continue reading

Gaining Clarity

I am back from vacation.  Did you all miss me?  I am feeling grateful and gracious these days (more about that in a later post), but I wanted to talk about what I did on my vacation:  I kept silent quite a bit, I prayed, and I thought.

It doesn’t sound super exciting, does it?  But it was, to me, a time and a moment to gain clarity over several issues that I have been wrestling with this summer.  In some ways, this summer has been a Summer of Muddled Thought, of transformation and growth to be sure,  but at times perplexing and challenging and just muddy.  I guess it really has just been an extension of “The Overwhelming  Year”, if you all remember that post and its follow-up post.

I had two things that really came together this past week and juxtaposed themselves on top of each other. I love it when life does that, don’t  you?

The first thing  was regarding this practice of silence.  Continue reading

Sunday Inspiration From “Beginning to Pray”

 

“Beginning to Pray” by His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony Bloom is a classic that I think really  should be read by anyone on a journey to draw closer to Our Creator.  Here is a link to read a brief description about the really interesting life of Metropolitan Anthony:  http://orthodoxwiki.org/Anthony_%28Bloom%29_of_Sourozh

 

Here is an inspiring quote from this book:

 

“What we must do is to collect all knowledge of God which we possess in order to come into His presence, but then remember that all we know about God is our past, as it were, behind our back, and  we are standing face to face with God in all His complexity, all His simplicity, so close and yet so unknown.  Only if we can stand completely open before the unknown, can the unknown reveal itself, Himself, as He chooses to reveal Himself to us as we are today.  So, with this open-heartedness and open-mindedness, we must stand before God without trying to give Him a shape or imprison Him in concepts and images, and we must knock at the door.

Where?  The Gospel tells us that the kingdom of God is within us first of all.  If we cannot find the kingdom of God within us, if we cannot meet God within, in the very depth of ourselves, our chances of meeting Him outside ourselves is very remote.”

 

Metropolitan Anthony has many wonderful things to say about prayer, living up to prayer, taking up one’s crosses, going inward and how to do this, and so much more.  Here is the link to this book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Beginning-Pray-Anthony-Bloom/dp/0809115093/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1310776866&sr=8-1

 

A lovely beginning to a day of rest –

Many blessings,

Carrie

What’s Frustrating You?

Sometimes we just yearn for peace and all we feel is frustration. Maybe we are frustrated with the developmental stage of our child – you know, that rough patch that we hope will pass soon, or maybe we are frustrated with our partners or spouses.  Our bodies, our lack of exercise, our homes, our less than perfect lives. Did I cover it all? Continue reading

A Review: “Ancient Paths: Discover Christian Formation The Benedictine Way”

I picked up this book at a local bookstore because I was very intrigued by the author’s experience as a Presbyterian minister who is also a Benedictine oblate at a monastery in Oregon.  I also have been recently interested in Christian formation from a contemplative perspective.  I feel myself drawn more and more to this path in deepening my own walk and am studying many of the lives of the Saints and the Desert Fathers in accordance with Anglican/Episcopalian tradition.  There are actually a number of Anglican/Episcopalian monasteries based upon The Rule of St. Benedict, and a number of Benedictine oblates who seek to live their lives in faith according to the Rule of St. Benedict within their own place in the world, whatever their job or marital status might be.

This book is divided into two main parts. Part One includes “Ancient Perspectives On Christian Formation” and has 7 chapters, including How Benedict Transformed the World, Benedictine Essentials for the Journey, The Path of Communal Prayer, The Path of Spiritual Guidance, The Path of Ordinary Spirituality, The Path of Lectio Divinia, The Path of Hospitality.  Part Two includes “Christian Formation As A Way of Life Together” and includes chapters on How Benedict is Still Transforming the World, Five Case Studies of Christian Formation, A Guide For Christian Formation in a Local Church, User’s Guide to Going on a Monastic Retreat,  and A Year of Tools for Christian Formation. Each chapter has a bullet-point list associated with it at the end with different activities and further reading to do in order to take steps into deeper Christian formation.  

The book starts with an apt description of private spirituality, antimomian spirituality and nomadic spirituality and moves into the inner and outer life of the Christian.  Benedictine formation begins with a commitment to stability in community, fidelity in community and obedience in community.  Then the author takes the time to talk about the life of Benedict, which was really fascinating in and of itself and he also discusses the impact Benedict and Benedictine monasteries had upon the world in the arts, literacy, health care and economic development.  Later in the book, the author writes, “In this efficient system of communal labor, Benedictine monks planted orchards and vineyards, hand copied hundreds of thousands of biblical manuscripts, founded and maintained most of the first libraries of Europe, created crafts guilds that birthed the artisan middle class of medieval Europe, dug wells, and built irrigation systems interlacing much of Europe.”

Chapter Two details the essentials of the Benedictine way of life, including spiritual leadership, shared wisdom, tools for spiritual formation, obedience and humility.  There are twelve steps in an ascending ladder of humility alone, which provides so much food for thought in how to live.  One of my favorite chapters was Chapter Three, which went through “praying in the dark”, morning prayer, praying through the psalms and The Divine Office.  I love how the author points out that “the Jewish people have always viewed the book of Psalms as their prayer book, the instruction manual for the life of prayer, both in community and solitude.”  Jesus prayed the Psalms from the cross,  and the early church prayed the Psalms, so it was fascinating to see how this is such a rich and important part of prayer life for so many.   This is probably one of my most favorite chapters in the book, along with the section regarding “Silence and Solitude” in Chapter Six and Chapter Twelve:   “A Year of Tools For Christian Formation.”  I think the chapters and sections on obedience are also important for thoughtful reading as obedience doesn’t seem to be a popular idea any more but  vital to living life in the Christian faith and I think also with  living peacefully with each other. 

I didn’t feel as drawn to the chapters in the book discussing how to implement a Benedictine Rule within your own place of worship; I guess I was reading this book and thinking more of this path for myself rather than for my parish. However, with the emphasis within the Rule of St. Benedict, of course this makes perfect sense.  Perhaps it is just the idea of bringing this into community and organizing that seems challenging to a beginner like me who is just starting to deepen my walk into contemplative practices.

All in all, a book well worth reading from Paraclete Press,  Here is a link to the e-book version so you can look at it for yourself:   http://www.paracletepress.com/ancient-paths-discovering-christian-formation-the-benedictine-way-epub.html 

Many blessings,

Carrie

Believe In Yourself

Part of the Collect for today, Easter Wednesday, invokes a prayer to “open the eyes of our faith.”  In a parenting context, I could not help but think about all the parents out there who feel they really are not good enough; that they should be more, that their children deserve more, that their house is not calm enough or peaceful enough, that their house is not clean enough or that they should do a better job feeding their family.

I think there it is one thing to think about improving oneself; to have in progress and at work the desire to improve something that is challenging or a weaker area in oneself.

It is a whole other ball of wax to constantly berate oneself for not being a different person or for not being perfect.  They need their eyes to be opened in order to have faith and belief and confidence in themselves as a parent.

I understand how easy it is to lose faith and confidence in oneself as a parent.  I can look to the fact that we are having small families in isolation from past generations as part of the challenge, and I can see where the societal  push toward “having it all” (whatever that means) and the use of technology and experts for “instant answers” has truly impacted parenting.  Perfectionism is a much-tossed about buzz word in many arenas of life.

Have you ever felt less than perfect as a parent?  Less than confident?  I am sure we all have!

However, I think really the only thing that can counteract what is going on in the life of the parent at this point in American society is an uprising of the individual parent’s consciousness and confidence.  There are so many mothers (and fathers) I see that berate themselves for not being it all, for not being able to do it all, and I wish that their eyes could be opened to having faith in themselves. 

Good enough is okay.  Children and life with small children is noisy, messy, full of conflict and growth and strife and frogs and wet kisses and squishy chubby bellies and mud. (Okay, I threw some of those things in to see if you were actually reading.  But the frogs and mud do co-exist with children quite nicely). 

Your children only have you.  Rise up and be the best you that you can be.  Don’t get mucked down in the “would have, could have, should have’s” of life but put that game face back on and jump back in the game.

“Whew!  Mommy got angry, but boy do I feel better!  Let’s go have some fun now!”

“I can solve this problem and see it as a gift!”

“I can choose this course of action to help my child and if it is not the right course I will think about it and try something different.”

“This is working great for my family right now and it fits in with what I know about childhood development.”

“I can control myself with my children even if I am angry or upset because I want them to grow up to be a parent who can do this with my grandchildren.”

Keep striving in a confident way; you really can do this!

Live big and love your children,

Carrie

Loving Yourself

I see so many mothers striving to set the tone for their families; mothers who are really working to create a family life that will nurture their children even if it means hard work and facing emotional growth on their part.  It is heart-warming and exciting to see mothers who are doing that!

I also see so many mothers who want to strive but don’t seem to have any idea how to take the bull by the horns and be the authority for their family.  For whatever reason, the idea of being the person who sets the tone in their home for their family is scary, or met with fear instead of joy.

I think the root of this may lie in that these mothers do not think they are worthy of being an Authentic Leader in their home.  I have a few words for you today, just for you.

To My Precious Striving Friend,

You know, you are worthy of setting the tone for your spouse/partner and your children.  It doesn’t matter if you didn’t have the best childhood, and have no memories of home-cooked meals or nightly routines and rhythms.  It doesn’t matter at all if you can find the will within yourself to rise up and to want to learn how to create a nurturing home life for your family.

The truth is, this process will nurture you.  It will nurture your family, and it will nurture the children in the neighborhood who come over to play with your children, it will nurture all those who come into your house.  Your house is more than a physical space, but it has an ambience, a feeling, and a  tone to it that you set and nurture every day by having a vision and what you do to feed the beauty, truth and goodness that lives in your home.

You are worthy of having this.  You love your family, and you are being drawn to this idea of being an Authentic Leader in your home for a purpose and a reason.  You, this very day, are helping to raise your grandchildren by the way you love and treat your children.  You are extending your values and beliefs through the generations to come.

You feel confused as to how to take on this role?  Don’t be afraid.  Authority is  not a bad thing; only misuse and abuse of power is…Authority is about making the right decisions at the right time for the children in the family who are not yet ready to do it for themselves.  They need all the lessons you have learn; you have experience in love and warmth to share.   No one will ever love your children more than you!

You don’t know where to start in practical terms?  Start with yourself.  Parents and homeschooling parents are not more patient or better than anyone else, but we have to be more persistent in working on our own areas of challenge.  Work on your courage, your patience, your warmth…pick one area and make a plan!  Read sacred texts, find inspiring verses to keep you on track, study, meditate, pray. 

Create warmth through the beauty in your home, through the truth and goodness you show your children, your partner, yourself!  Ask yourself, is this good, is this true, is this worthy, is this pure?  If it is not, what are you doing?  You deserve to be surrounded by these things.  Rise up and claim it!

To My Precious Striving Friend, you can do this!  Be an Authentic Leader in your home, do what is right!  It is not about perfection but the process of striving.  Overcome your own inertia, your own doubts, your own fears and make a plan to start somewhere.  The journey begins with the one step, and if you stumble, get back up and keep going.  Your family is counting on you.

Live big!

Love,

Carrie