Why I Won’t Be Making a New Years Resolution In 2019

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The New Year has never really felt like a natural time to make a big change to me. There are other rhythms in my life that personally make more sense – for example, Lent and the start of Fall have always been significant for me. The last “new year’s resolution” I can remember making was when I was 13, when I gave up soda for a year (and I haven’t really had any since, so maybe they aren’t all bad).

But, one thing I have always been drawn toward on December 31st, is picking a “word” for the following year. Some of the words I remember over the years have been: “expectancy”, “bold”, “growth”, “thrive”. It isn’t so much of a forcing of something new I want to have happen, but rather a theme that I have noticed creeping up over the past few months that I want to embrace and explore.

This year, I am feeling pulled toward the word “gratitude”.

This picture is of my first real tattoo (I’m not counting the small heart I got when I was 18 out of teenage rebellion that you can only see when I’m in a bikini): the word “eucharisteo”.

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I was on an Ann Voskamp kick back in the day, and read her book “1000 Gifts” with a group of women. The book is about her own inspiration by this word to list 1000 things she is thankful for. Much of this book would probably bother me now, but she shares her finding of this word in an account of Jesus in the Bible, where he takes bread, breaks it and gives thanks (this last part, “gave thanks” is translated from the Greek, “eucharisteo”). The root of this word encompasses both the Greek for “grace” (Charis) and it’s derivative, Chará, for “joy”.  Voskamp explains it as a sort of noticing and giving of thanks and finding the gift and the joy to be had in it all. It serves for me as an incredibly simple reminder of thankfulness and joy in the everyday and mundane. This practice, the remembering and giving thanks, is a central theme and regular practice of Christ-followers: to come to the table and remember.

There have been many, many times when I have not wanted anything to do with the church or God or religion. And probably, there still will be. But, over the years, I have come to realize something: it isn’t that I don’t believe in it anymore, but rather, that I believe in it too much.

I believe in hope and redemption and healing.

I believe in light overtaking darkness and love winning out in the best and worst of circumstances.

I believe in gratitude and joy in the midst of suffering and I recognize that I have never really experienced this, because while pain has existed in my life, I have been born with privilege. I grew up in a world wading through a culture full of messages encouraging consumption and greed and wondering why everything seems and feels so fake, including the Western Church. It turns out that a lot of this is just that life is kind of messy and we may always run into things not turning out to be what they claim. But man, am I hungry for authenticity.

And if the church – not the four walls, not the programs and robes and chalices and banners, but rather the people ignited with and walking the world together with hope and healing in their chest and arms, ready to embrace the most rejected in the world with truthful compassion – is really a city of light bringing love and restoration to a world aching from hate and greed, I want to be a part of that. But it takes work to really enter into it – being a passive bystander doesn’t cut it.

And maybe, this act of gratitude, has a lot to do with that. Because when we are so distracted with what we don’t have, what hasn’t happened yet, what is making our own lives complicated, we forget to look around and see what is actually going on in the world.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to live a life and look back and see how little most of it mattered and how little I did for others.

A life drenched in gratitude gives us perspective, and hopefully propels us toward whatever good is in front of us to engage in. Because maybe life isn’t so much about a measureable to-do list that some critical voice inside nags us to accomplish – but rather, entering into a way of living each day that gives us a greater capacity to really SEE and enter into beauty and bring some sort of healing to ourselves and the world around us.

Maybe this is being the church. Maybe this is embodying the message of a rabbi who broke bread and saw the gift and the joy and couldn’t help but walk the world with compassionate feet. Maybe if we can walk the earth with those feet, we will leave an imprint of love wherever we wander.

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the unbearable raw

Rawness is hard and tender.

There is a draw, a pull to stare and at the same time, a compulsion to avert the eyes and look away,

because how can you look at something so unbearably chaffed and not try to alleviate the discomfort, to help heal the wound, to apply a sweet balm and make all the coarseness go away? Either you must try to forget it or do something to help. So, we try:

“you will get through this.”

“things will get better”

“just give it time”

“don’t give up hope”

“be strong”

but what about when the rubbing doesn’t stop and months and years go by and you are still living with the rawness, reliving the crude spikes of tenderness, like waves splashing over and over against the cliffside, taking away a little bit more and more and more, barely noticeable, but then, one day, it all splits and crashes into the sea.

And you swear you hear the waves roaring with laughter at another bit of you worn down and snuffed out.  A fresh new side now exposed to begin the process again, and you’re not sure how much more you can take before there is nothing left of you at all.

You ask yourself all the what ifs and feel the rubbing and the burning feeling again. What if I had said something different?  What if they hadn’t left? What if this pain had never come? What if I had reacted differently? What if I had been more? Less? 

There are always what ifs – past, present, upcoming.

What ifs don’t solve anything, though.

They don’t patch up tears in our hearts or seal lost moments away for us to forget about. We ask them, even though we know we can’t change the past. We open up the wound again and again, picking at the scab until we finally decide we really shouldn’t be doing that and pull our sleeve back over it, hoping for no infection.

At some point, we need to stop asking “what if” and begin to ask, “what now“.

What now provides a path to healing and real change. It invites us to lift our chin a little and brush off the dirt and step toward a new path. We can look at our past choices and acknowledge what has happened, allowing our life to be seen for what it is, and then turn, steadily, little by little, and move – somewhere.

What now involves us in the present.

Instead of being focused on the past or the distant future, what now asks us to look at what is right in front of us and determine what good thing there is to do next.

A simple question and practice and one that helps tremendously when we are trying to be mindful and at peace with what is going on around us on any given day. It helps keep us focused on goodness and love, on slowing down and taking care of others and ourselves.

It requires sacrifice and an openness and awareness of new opportunities that might present themselves.

And it is so freeing.

-bec

the mystery is whispering

The mystery is whispering

something that feels deep and simple at the same time

if you stare at it too long, it begins to blur and make no sense

what does it mean

that you would lift others,

to rise yourself;

that strength is often found

burning in the eyes of those seen as weakest,

the least of our concern;

that in order to experience a full and rich life

we have to let it all go?

our achievements mean nothing,

because love is given on an even field

where we are all seen and treated as one –

“you” and “I” and “them” turn into “us”

and the light that gathers there

is glorious.

Who knew

that to hold an open heart and soul in this world

could mean looking so foolish

Who knew

that choosing less of what looks good on us,

the important things that earn awards

and recognition,

often leads to the very best of what this life has to offer.

This is how love shows the way :

by laying down and carrying on

and staying present and feeling small

and incapable,

while remembering what light and love and hope are;

by poking holes in the darkness,

even as it consumes us

and letting the light in

until the darkness is nothing but a porous and ugly place

that has no power –

and with a small and knowing smile

we begin to realize

that this is

perhaps,

the biggest act of love

we can be.

 

 

 

Taking Inventory

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This weekend, I got away for a little retreat. Our friends own a cabin only about 30 minutes away from our home and I stole away for a night on my own, before my family joined the next evening.

And it was much less restful than I thought, once the kids joined.

But there were these moments, sitting in this simple cabin, remembering when we lived with much less and I felt more responsible for what we did have, what we consumed. And I found myself listing in my head the things I no longer wanted or felt like I had room in my life for.  Things like Instagram and physical items and trying to impress others and being too distracted to really listen to my own children. I thought about the boundaries I would want to set for my kids as they get older and begin to have more independence, especially when it comes to technology, and how I need to be ready to model what I set for them, show them the standards we set are actually valued in our life.

Now, today, we are home, and I am looking around the house and wondering. What do I bring into our home? Why? What purpose does it serve? How can we be more intentional? What about our bodies? What are we being exposed to, soaking in, consuming? How do we find the space to slow?

I feel a deep purge is coming.  A physical one, like a seasonal change, of letting go and making room for something fresh and new and full of new energy, and an inner change, as well.  These are so thoroughly connected.

Don’t Limit Your Worth and the Possibility for Expansive Growth

 

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For most of my life, I’ve wondered.

Wondered what more there could be, how much more I could be.

Wondered if I was wasting time, moment by fleeting moment

or investing in something, making deposits myself or someone else would one day cash in on.

12 years (almost) of marriage, 3 kids deep, 1 year into my thirties and I am still wondering.

I feel like my adult life has only really just begun.  That I am only now finding out what my strengths are and slowly discarding the parts that don’t serve me, that actually weigh me down.

It has a lot to do with expectation –

my own and others –

and the never-ending comparison of arbitrary milestones and lines we draw; a measuring stick.

But a measuring stick doesn’t leave room for growth. A measuring stick just compares to what we have known, a standard rule so we can all aim for something similar, because as humans we like order and to know how we stack up in society.

So we limit ourselves.

Instead of an expansive model of growth, one that knows no limits other than the ones we set against ourselves, we find ourselves bound to both inner and outer critical voices.

But I am learning to measure a little differently these days.

I’m inviting a new standard, an expansive one, like a never-ending ribbon

one that doesn’t say:

“you need to do more, be skinnier, be more beautiful, hold everything with strength, cover all your bases, live like everyone is watching your every move, never make a mistake, always find joy”

but rather,

“look at how you are growing” and “see the good ways you influence your circle” and “you made a mistake, but that means you are trying” and “you feel uncertain and are showing emotions that make you feel awkward, but that means you are being real with others and yourself” and “you don’t have to do it all”.

As we learn to extend compassion to ourselves, we create a new space in which we can flourish, where healing can take place and we can plant ourselves on a new trajectory toward unlimited possibilities.

I hope one day I will look back at where I have been and say, “I never could have imagined…”

Or maybe, I can.

-b.e.

 

 

The Inspiring Devotion to Nothing

 

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Are you familiar with the Chinese Bamboo Tree?

Once planted, it doesn’t break through the ground for 4 years.

During this time, gardeners tend to this seemingly bare spot of earth – water it, fertilize it, nurture it – with no visible display of what difference their care has made.

But then, after 4 years of “nothing”, in the 5th year, the shoot bursts through the ground and grows at an amazing pace.  In just over a month, it will tower over you at 90 feet high.

I feel like this relates to so many areas of life.

It resonates so deep within me right now.

Because sometimes, I give up tending to certain things I believe in.

Sometimes, we don’t see the outcomes of our kindness, generosity, patience, grace.

Sometimes, the grueling, gritty, every day work just doesn’t seem worth it.

Sometimes, we fail and instead of learning from our mistakes, give up prematurely.

Sometimes, we look crazy devoting so much time to something that gives us so little in return.

Sometimes, I look at everyone else’s bamboo trees and instead of enjoying their beauty and celebrating the hard work it took to grow them, I allow envy to settle in my stomach.

Then there are those moments – days, weeks, years – where incredible growth takes place.  It was happening all along, but you didn’t see it.  You couldn’t.  Maybe it is all timing.  Maybe you just weren’t ready.  Maybe someone else came along who believed in you and even did the hard work and tended to your garden for a time when you neglected it.  Maybe there are a slew of reasons.  Maybe you were so busy tending to that barren ground that it just sort of changed overnight and things are suddenly happening at a dizzying pace.

I feel like I have experienced these stages at different times in life.  Sometimes I give up and move on.  Sometimes I wonder and doubt and second-guess why I am even doing the things I am.  Or I am just lost and don’t know what is next or what I should be doing at all. And then there are times when I stand back and see the outcome and feel full and satisfied.

But you can’t skip the seasons and you can’t get the lost years back.

There is so much going on below the surface that we don’t see.

As a mother, this feels poignant.

I sense that many of us with young children feel like we are just getting through these early years with our kids.  We have lost ourselves somewhere along the way and feel like every drop of energy is devoted to their care and nothing is left. We just have to get through these years and things will change. It is both joy and hardship, but I have never found myself more than through the experience of having children.

It has loosened so many lies I believed about myself and others, about where I actually find my value and what is important in life.

Even those formative years in our children’s lives are like tending to a bamboo tree.  You might not see the outcome of what you pour into their every day, the sacrifices you make for them, for years to come.  And we bear the wrinkles and tired eyes from the laughter and frustration and sleepless nights and dim, early mornings.

But when I think about the bamboo tree and growing another year older and hearing the stories of others’ lives and the abrupt endings we can face…I also feel a broader call, an urgency.

Not to see change, but to work toward it.

Because sometimes, the work takes years and years and maybe I don’t even get to enjoy the shade that will one day come from the daily tending,

but

I can imagine who will.

And I wonder, what have I been tending to beneath the surface all this time?

-b.e.

we may be mothers, but we are still human.

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Knees curled to chest, I see her: a woman gone wild in the bedroom corner, fresh out of the shower and on a rampage of sorts, folding and throwing clean laundry into untidy piles, loudly speaking whatever angry thoughts she has been festering toward her husband, the man who sees this ugliness and always comes back and always loves and helps me to love this woman again, too. I see her – myself, mother, wife, woman – as the last t-shirt hits the floor and I feel the bare skin of my back fall back against the cool bedroom wall and there, my eyes seep deeply welled tears. In a moment, I am uncertain of why I am so angry, sad, alone. Where does this feeling of “not enough” and “incompleteness” come from? Am I going mad?

During the outburst, words erupt like “why am I not allowed to be angry?” and “why am I the only one who cares about this?” and “why I am always wrong and you aren’t?”. Inside, I wonder, who these questions are for. What is it that I want to hear? What is it that I want to accomplish? Is it really OK to just yell and cry and throw things and let it all loose? How do I react when my children do this? Am I still just a child? Aging, but still learning to sort out my emotions?

Yes.

I am still learning.

I may be a mother, but I am still human.

There is some strange and pervasive idea that as mothers, we should find joy in every moment – in the dishes and diapers and tantrums and PTA meetings and night feedings and stretch marks and and and and…

…but what about when you don’t?

I believed this as I transitioned out of my teen years, that finding joy in every situation was the secret to happiness and the favor of God in my life, an inevitable martyrdom I would be expected to endure and applauded for. The mother who somehow keeps a clean house, feeds her children food that isn’t primarily white, volunteers, organizes playdates, responds with gentleness at every childish outburst and tantrum, exercises, remembers to feed herself healthy food, helps by earning an income and keeping a balanced budget, and does this every day, all the time, smiling and saying how blessed and thankful she is, because, children.

Except, often the stadium is quiet, there is no applause. Just the feelings of failure and guilt and notice of where we fall short compared to some other mom or household. But what mother does not ask at some point, don’t you see my sacrifice?

And yet, there is tension, always tension; because I also know, choosing joy does make a difference. It is here, in the practice of willing surrender and seeing the goodness in the midst of uncertainty, where I actually find my truest self and soul. I give up the need for admiration and in the doing for others, I find something more fulfilling than I have ever known otherwise.

Maybe the problem lies in the idea that we have to keep up. All. The. Time.

I have been the “mom blogger”, going on about my health-nut recipes and how I got my kids to eat spinach by hiding it in their chili (as Jim Gaffigan would say, “you’re trying to impress me with KALE?!”), savoring the little moments and sharing our simple, little life as if the morning meets me with angels singing their heavenly chorus, a halo surrounding me, saintly mother, giving my all to create perfect growing conditions for my children, all while staying fit, healthy, sane and joyful.

Maybe there are no angels singing, but there are moments, days even, where I see my best self.

And there are many where I see the ugly and show it to my family.

Then we get to practice forgiveness and grace and second and third and fourth chances.

I also believe in joy.

I know the deep healing practice of stopping and savoring and giving gratitude for the little things.

I love being a mom – motherhood has broken me, put me back together, stretched me, challenged me, shown me my strength and taught me I can’t do it all alone. Children are an insanely beautiful gift to us and I ache when I think of all the children without a home or present parents or opportunity like we have. And I do believe we have an incredible responsibility to be present to our children, affirming that they are human and capable as they are now, and also, a seed of the adult they will become, one we are to nurture as best we can.

I woke up this morning feeling like a complete failure.

For what? Having strong emotions, feeling alone and like my feelings didn’t matter, not getting to everything I wish was done, speaking in unloving ways toward my closest people, showing weakness, providing a gap for someone else to step into, for God to meet me with love – the love that is always there, but I don’t always notice.

Growth is important – I want to grow more to respond and communicate my hurt and feelings in a healthy way, and I believe I will always be a work in progress.

But in this moment, I’m sitting with this imperfection, the deep vulnerability and realization that I don’t have to keep everything together 100% of the time or maybe any of the time. Are we really meant to do it all alone?

We may be mothers, but we are still human.

Childless: The Unseen Mothers In Our Midst

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I posted this quote on Instagram this morning:

“Let us keep reminding each other to breathe, to smile, to treat ourselves and one another with kindness. Let us hold each other when we need support, and let us challenge and remind each other of what is truly important. Let us take care of ourselves so that we don’t hand down our unfinished business to the next generation. Let us laugh together, and never lose our joy…And let us take care of the children, our children, all the children. Let us mobilize our fierce and passionate mother energy on behalf of all beings on this little blue-green planet…” – Denise Roy, MOMfulness: Mothering with Mindfulness, Compassion, and Grace (emphasis mine)

A follower left the comment, “Although I am not a Mom yet, I want to read the book you’ve quoted! I believe I hold a strong mothering spirit with me everyday.”

And I caught my breath for a moment as I saw something I often overlook – the unseen mothers in our midst.

And I wonder, how do we be more present to those who don’t technically have children, but are mothers in their own way? There are so many women in this space for a variety of reasons – it may not be the right season in life, they haven’t “found” the right partner yet, fertility issues, health concerns, miscarriage, fallen through adoptions – this just names a few. But they still have this strong maternal spirit and yearning to mother.

And often, when someone is vulnerable enough to share this desire or their struggle in achieving “mom” status, we hurry to patch it up and instead of just sitting with it, helping hold a tiny corner of the weight of desire for motherhood, we offer unhelpful answers like, “trust me, you’re lucky to have your freedom!” or “you’re so young, don’t worry, you have plenty of time!” or “don’t give up, it will happen!” or even, “You just need to pray more”.  We might even begin to question their life choices or try to offer unsolicited advice and share how easily we slipped into motherhood.

How do we walk alongside each other and SEE one another for who we are and affirm the mother felt within each of us, even if our direct experiences differ?

Because maybe they are mothers also, but with a much different birth story.

I don’t have the answers to why.  Why some of us fall into our hopes and dreams and others don’t, why I conceived and birthed three children with relative ease, while others have losses upon losses and nights upon nights of prayers and tears and negative tests and enormous let downs and children they hold tight in their chest because they love them as fiercely as any mother would.

And I can’t speak to that experience, since it is not mine. I have watched friends give birth to their babies and I have seen them lose them and I have heard the hopes of trying and trying and trying and the piercing comments and heavy hearts and the joy and the sorrow all mixed together and it leaves me speechless with wonder at the heaviness of birth and death and motherhood.

And I have often not known what to say or do or how to be for those mothers.

But, at this moment, I see you.

And I am trying to look with wider eyes.

– b.e.

becca

Becca Ellis is an artist, writer, wife, and mom to 3 in Bend, Oregon where she works as a Director of Family and Children at First Presbyterian. One of her greatest joys is bringing women together and supporting mothers in all walks of life. This Fall, she will be facilitating Intentional Motherhood Circles in Bend, Oregon through the Mama Connect Bend community.  You can learn more about Mama Connect Bend here and follow along on IG: www.instagram.com/mamaconnectbend

 

 

 

When a Child Breaks You Open to Responding in Fullness

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Joy. Laughter. Simplicity. Light.

These are gifts, raw and beautiful, given so we can experience life in its fullness.

There is more, always more, like tears and rage and thickened heart beats that stir our souls toward something, all invoked by what? Words, sights, sounds, smells, nature, relationships, encounters with others or perhaps even something Holy.

But we don’t always respond in a way that leans into the richness and fullness of life. As we grow, we learn through society to repress it, to distract ourselves, to not get too attached. We are stronger than all that, we say. We need to be. In our culture, strength is seen as success and emotion is often seen as childish.

When we were younger, it was all so much closer, this instinct to respond in fullness. When we saw a field dotted with flowers, we gladly flew through it, letting our fingers rifle through tall and wispy strands of grass, our hair wild behind us and dirt and sweat mixed with the joy found on the corner of our lips. We may remember and feel the same slivers of joy now, but it is more distant, less tangible.

And tears. Tears which fell in an instant at the smallest of offenses. All these emotions, big and small, mixing and taking over our bodies. But slowly, we learn. We learn to stuff it or to hide it or to cope with it or to rely on it or to use it to our advantage or to let it control us or to make us more whole of people.

It takes work. Deep work that has no timeline, unique to each of us. Sometimes growth occurs without much intention, but mostly, if we are to live life fully and not, as Mary Oliver wrote, “simply having visited this world”, there is a breaking we must go through.

The author and educator, Parker Palmer, writes about this breaking of our hearts into a “new capacity”. It is not so much a breaking that shatters our hearts, but rather one, that while it brings pain, actually expands our capacity for love and compassion.

And now, I wonder, how do we capture the heart of the young and set the child in our heart free? How do we allow this outer coating to be pierced so light can dance within us and we can join in the wonder again? How do we break open to this old-and-young-at-the-same-time capacity?

I sit in silence and then, I see it. In a form of a toddling child, who spotted me after walking around the corner. A simple and infectious joy radiates across his entire face and then, the running of his little legs, learning more coordination every day, to come and embrace and just be close to his mama. I am his everything. He learns trust and security and warmth first through the steady smile of his mama, the reassuring voice and enveloping arms that says just being in this world is enough.

This is what I am most thankful for, this reminding and this breaking open. A little nudge that interrupts and reminds me of the richness and fullness of life, that this work is important, too. Maybe the most important I will ever do.

Children. We need them in our presence. We need their insights and hearts and light to break us open and remind us of what it means to live life with fullness. We need to help them keep as much of that fullness and wholeness as they can. There was a famous rabbi who lived 2000 years ago, Jesus, who is recorded to have stood on the side of the smallest and weakest in his community, amplifying their voice and protecting them from being pushed aside and hushed up. Children were included. He saw their worth and affirmed it, even saying that we need to be more like children in order to be a part of this subversive and counter-cultural thing called the “Kingdom of God”. And I wonder if maybe he also knew he needed the refreshing reminder of the pure presence children bring.

It can be hard for a child, in a world so centered on adults – built physically for their needs and structured for their engagement, a society which tends toward thinking of children as just being “adults in training” – to know they belong. To know they have value here and now as they are.

Children are on a spiritual journey just like the rest of us. And they will have so much to sift through as they grow, just like many of us have. It is so important for them now, to be spiritually nurtured, to remain tethered and have a place of security to turn to when things begin to shake.  Because they will. And I know that as my own children grow, I long for them to see that the way of peace and radical love that Jesus taught is relevant and life changing and world shifting.

When we welcome them and allow our souls to be disturbed and shaken loose, learn to laugh together and remember that their noise is as much of a prayer as our silent reverence is, that we are all traveling together on this beautiful, messy journey, I wonder how much more vibrant and joy-filled our communities could be.

I wonder how much larger our capacity for compassion and love might be.

I wonder how much more we could respond in fullness to all that life brings us.

I wonder how much more our children will know who they are and how beautiful they are and how much meaning they can bring to the world.

-b.e.

Answer Their Questions – Even if You Don’t Have the Answers

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We all know this truth: the world is full of sadness and brokenness and atrocities our hearts can’t seem to comprehend. It feels like there is always another story, another group being marginalized and abused, another people displaced and suffering, another disaster striking and destroying everything a family has and knows.

Right now, with all the brokenness accompanying what is happening at our borders, I have been wondering, how do we raise our own children to stand for what is right and break the patterns history repeats? How can we help them understand their privilege and raise goodness within them?

There may always be suffering and people choosing to inflict pain and oppress others with their power in the world, but there is something deep in each of us that knows we can’t allow ourselves to just get used to it, to begin accepting it as part of life as long as it doesn’t impact us personally. It is easy and natural to want to shield our children from it completely, to allow them to keep their innocence and not have to worry about what is happening in the world. And while I agree that discretion should be used in determining at what age and how much is appropriate to share with a child, I also believe it is essential for us to be preparing our children to take a loving and compassionate stance as they age and enter adulthood.

Many of us, as we watch our children grow, have hopes they will learn to navigate life with good judgment, choose to stand up for what is right, defend the weak, and speak out against injustice.

But how do we even begin to grasp at such a large task and how do we do it in a way that honors their emotions and sense of security and current developmental stage?

I think one of the biggest gifts we can give to our children is to answer their questions, even when we don’t have the answer.

We have probably all been hit with that unsuspected moment when your child asks you a question like, “What happens to people after they die?” or “Why would someone want to shoot someone?” and for a moment eyes freeze and lips numb, as our mind races to come up with the “right” answer.   Many times, as adults, we bring our own baggage with us to these questions. Personally, I have had sift through many dogmas and beliefs I was taught growing up and have often responded hastily, distracting and essentially shutting down the question, out of fear of indoctrinating my children the same way.

Yet, many times, children just need to know you are listening and holding space for them. Lisa Miller, author of the book, The Spiritual Child, writes how often parents respond with “I don’t know”, when we dont know what to say. But this can actually halt the discussion and dismiss the question. What if you really don’t have words? She suggests responding with a “what do you think?” and see what comes next.  The important thing is to not cut off the wondering, invite the questions and be willing to sit with the unknown.

As a parent, I have felt at times inadequate and poorly equipped to answer these big questions, teach empathy and work toward instilling the values in my children that I believe will allow them to care for others, contribute positively to their communities, lead others toward goodness, and be the most amazing human beings they can be. It has taken intention and work and listening and trying again and having grace for myself as I take this task on, to nurture and encourage their spiritual development, as an essential part of raising my kids.

But often, I find myself surprised by how much depth and understanding even the youngest souls offer when presented with these big and hard and complicated issues that adults can’t seem to wrap their heads around or find solutions to. Somehow, they manage to find the simplicity, point out the profound.

So, when they ask the questions, I have learned to do my best to invite more curiosity, to help them find the answer, or at least, enough for now.

They might answer the question for themselves,

or

you might offer just the right words,

or

there might be no words at all.

Maybe You will learn something from them,

and

maybe you will have to look into the answer together and continue the discussion.

But, answer the question and affirm the importance of your child’s thoughts, feelings and curiosity.

I am in this journey along with you and have no claim to expertise or perfection (far from it!), but I have found that in our life, we are given endless opportunities to nurture our children’s spirituality. They are found in the margins, in the every day and ordinary moments, we stumble upon these sacred moments and spiritual encounters.

While the way these opportunities present themselves and how we each uniquely relate to our children will be different depending on our own family dynamics and values, personalities, and where and how we live, every parent, regardless of their beliefs and background, are the ones with the greatest influence on the development of their children. 

So, I may not have specific how-to’s to offer, step-by-steps or concrete examples – I am no expert.

I am just a parent, like you, trying to remind my children of their privilege and grow in them a heart of compassion through practicing gratitude and learning about other cultures and imagining what it would be like to live in different shoes and giving up something to help others and learning stillness and sitting in silence and staring up at the trees and speaking truth and goodness and love and praying and allowing our hearts to be broken and knowing we have a responsibility to do more and love harder and look with intention outside of ourselves.

So, remember to breathe and that

  • It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers
  • If it feels like you have no time for anything more, you are not alone, breathe
  • Try and look for space in the margins of the day, even if it is just a few minutes here and there
  • No one is perfect
  • Some days it will feel hard and like you failed
  • Some days you will have all the right words
  • We can only do our best in each moment we are given
  • This is such important work you are doing, don’t give up
  • You are exactly who your child needs

-b.e.

 

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