Thursday, May 29, 2014

Aunts, Crones, and Meddlers

My great aunt recently passed away. She was one of my mother's many aunts: three on her mother's side and at least two on her father's side. Family holidays were all spent in the company of most of the siblings: even when family moved they came home regularly.
Growing up, I only had two aunts: one paternal, one maternal. They lived several hours away from us, and we did not see them regularly. As I was talking with my mother about the death of her great-aunt, she commented that she was sorry my brother and I hadn't had more aunts.
We didn't have a lot of biological aunts, that's true, but I did have aunts. There was the mom who lived across the street from us. She challenged me to look past some of my provincial beliefs. There was the mom who volunteered with my youth group, who held me in her arms as I cried over my boyfriend dumping me. There was my older coworker, who befriended me and partied with me but also showed me how to live a full life without a man.
Aunts serve a valuable role, one on par with crones and meddlers, in my opinion. What are crones and meddlers?
Crones are the wise women in our lives. Often our grandmothers, they have the freedom to offer us love and wisdom that we might not listen to if it came from our parents. It's easy, as a teen, to discount what your mom says, but harder to discount grandmother. They are teachers as well, formal and informal. Crones are not always cuddly cookie scented ladies though. They can be the grumpy old lady at the hospital where you volunteer, or the reserved church women who hush you during service. Crones are our prayer warriors, our witches, our ammas, our quietly powerful elders.
Meddlers? I can't think of a great word for this role. But these are the women who travel into our lives and shake things up. They love to stir the pot, ask the unasked questions, and push you to the logical limits of your argument. If she is your peer, she will ask you the questions about your faith that drive you to read the Bible again and again, trying to figure out the answers. If she is your teacher, she's the one who demands essays on all her tests, and is willing to allow a wrong answer if it traveled an interesting path. She is the woman who might make you angry now and then, but you will always go to her because you know she will be unflinchingly honest.
One of my life goals is to be an aunt, a crone, and a meddler. I'm already an aunt, both biologically and relationally, and I'm definitely a meddler! As I continue to meditate and pray and chant the psalms, I hope to grow into an amma, or a crone. What role are you filling today? And who are the aunts, crones, and meddlers in your life?

Monday, May 19, 2014

God is not my Fortune Teller

In January, I spent several weeks researching and visiting preschools, planning to send my daughter in September. Life happened, and she ended up in preschool in March, which has been wonderful. Unfortunately, I found out recently that her school is losing their location at the end of May and would not be able to offer summer programs. So I scrambled and found another program for my daughter for the summer.
But now I don't know what to do for September. It doesn't look bright for this school: they've been looking for a new location for a long time. And I'm nervous that they won't find one. In which case, I will go into September with no childcare.
As I was driving her home one day, musing on this issue, I prayed, as I often do. And the thought flashed through my mind, "Why doesn't God just TELL me what to do?" I mean, God is omniscient, so She knows whether this preschool will find a location by September. She could spare me a lot of anxiety by just telling me what to do. And after that thought came another: "God is not my fortune teller."
As Christians, it's easy to give into the temptation to treat God like a fortune teller. We exhort one another to pray when faced with decisions, and to learn how to listen to the Holy Spirit. And that's important. I certainly prayed when I was making the decision about when to send my daughter to preschool. But there's a fine line there: a line between seeking wisdom and knowledge of ethics and behavior and just asking to know the future. And my prayer was tip toeing right over that line!
We don't pray in order to gain secret knowledge of future events. We pray in order to stay connected to the One who loves us unconditionally and unlimitedly.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why Lose Your Life?

Motherhood and marriage are both hard. Sometimes we do everything right and are still considered failures: marriages end, spouses cheat, kids do drugs. Sometimes we do everything wrong and get lucky: 50th anniversaries, peaceful family reunions.
I don't think everyone should get married or have children. By the time I met my husband, I had decided that I was totally fine with staying single my whole life. Six months into our marriage, while I knew I had made the right choice in marrying, I also knew that I would never get married again. I can't imagine ever finding anyone else I would be willing to enter into marriage with, and I am very happily married.
Motherhood is even harder. At least in marriage you are loving partners on the same team. In motherhood, you are required to give 100% to a being who might or might not love you and certainly has no interest in being on your team. In fact, getting OFF your team is a primary development task for toddlers and teenagers.
I don't mean to discourage anyone. I do think we need to give much more thought to decisions about marriage and motherhood. My husband and I felt no pull to have children for years, so we didn't. We believed that it would be wrong to bring a child into our family unless we WANTED her. And then, six years into our marriage, we realized that we did want a child. We wanted to expand the amount of love in our family. We had a child because it was an expression of our love for each other, and it would be another person in our family who could receive love from us.
But there is one thing I have learned. There is only one path to success in life, especially in the difficult path of marriage and motherhood. That path is kenosis, a concept wonderfully explained by Cynthia Bourgeault in the Wisdom Jesus. Kenosis, to borrow her language, is the reckless and extravagant giving away of oneself. It is losing our own life (as Jesus taught us to do) by throwing it away with both hands, joyfully.
Some days I can do this with joy and laughter. Some days I do it with gritted teeth. Some days I cannot do it at all, and then my job is to reach out for help and accept God's grace and forgiveness.
But one thing is constant. The more I am centered in God, via meditation, prayer, and community, the more joy I find in the giving away of self. The more love and grace God pours into me, the more delight I have in pouring it back out onto my husband, child, and loved ones. Losing your life isn't about martyrdom or self-denial: it is about joyful giving out of God's abundance rather than your own.

Monday, May 5, 2014


I have a Pinterest board optimistically titled "Kid's crafts - realistic." Somehow I see ideas and think I'm going to implement them. On Saturday morning, I decided to give one a try. The game is simple: lay out colored sheets of paper and have the child put objects of matching color on each card. So I laid out six cards, purple, blue, green, yellow, red, pink, and encouraged T to do some matching. She did. She put one object on each card. I encouraged her to continue. She picked up three of the cards, grabbed a pen, and marched to her room to scribble on them. This is why I don't invest a lot of time in following Pinterest ideas. What if that game had taken me 20 minutes to set up? It would've been totally annoying! It's easier to just go with the flow and hope that Play-doh and markers and glitter glue will be enough for the day.

Later on, I had a victory using an idea from the Internet. I enjoy Aha Parenting, and do a lot of reading there. She suggested that a parent should engage in games that let the child feel powerful, especially to blow off steam before nap time. So before T's nap on Sunday, we went outside. She loves to run in a straight line back and forth across the driveway. So I challenged her to run past me without me "catching" her. I made a huge show of lunging towards her as she ran past, but never caught her. She found it utterly delightful, and ran so much in 5 minutes that she wore herself out! Success! Oh, right up until she didn't sleep at all during nap time. But that's another issue entirely.