Parenting as Spiritual Practice: Part I

And Jesus said to his disciples, "Come away by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  - Mark 6: 31

I have a long history of doing spiritual retreats. I have retreated at monasteries in New Mexico, and on the Big Sur coast. I have retreated in Sedona, Arizona, and in the Great Smoky Mountains, of Tennessee. But the retreat I just took in the much less glamorous locale of Lafayette, California was in many ways more special than any of them.  

It was special because it is the first retreat I have taken since my son was born, over three and a half years ago.  Before he was born, it was much easier to do a week-long silent retreat. Actually, it was much easier, to pray, sit, eat, sleep, retreat, and do pretty much anything- without a great deal of planning or thought.

You have heard me say many times that “becoming mommy” turned my life upside down. I had to become much less self- centered, and completely relearn the meaning of “self-care” in the context of taking care of my son. Everything had to be planned, and coordinated with Christy in a way that stretched and challenged both of us.  A “good night’s sleep” was often a thing of the past.  And I had to take a good hard look at my health and lifestyle- and make 80lbs worth of serious “sugar-free” changes.

I also had to find ways to nurture the part of me that needed to rest and find a quiet place to hear the voice of God. God was Still-Speaking of course. But my connection had been disrupted by my new life, and I had to retune to the Holy Spirit flow with a new kind of radio. How many times have our well-established spiritual connections been disrupted by our lives- by joyful changes, by life stretching transformation, by grief and loss? 

In the midst of the joyful challenging “mommy chaos,” I was being called to do a new thing. It was very clunky at first. But I learned to listen for God’s voice in 5 minute increments. I learned to come out of deep spiritual reflection quickly and resume it later. I learned to schedule naps, and baths, and quiet time. Most of all, I started learning that is possible to experience deep rest, retreat, and peace in the present moment, doing what I am doing- whether that is watching a butterfly, taking the dirty sheets off the bed, fixing quesadillas for my son for the 546th time, dreaming about our congregation’s future, or getting ready for a council meeting. It was much less glamorous. But I had glimpses of profound rest and peace.

This retreat was in a very un-exotic locale, which actually made it easier to rest deeply and do things that fed my spirit. There was no Wi-Fi (which as you can guess, for me, was life changing). So I spent a lot of time just being present- with the food I prepared, with the laundry, with my family who came to visit, with the turkeys, the foxes, the butterflies, and with Allan Eckert’s historical biography of my Shawnee great grandparents (x4) White Cornstalk and Chief Tecumseh.

But here is the even more amazing part- when the calls started coming on Monday morning about an urgent need in the congregation as my retreat ended- my retreat didn’t end!  It has come back with me, as I have jumped back on the fast train that is my life. The deep rest and spiritual connection has come back with me, even as I am being mommy, even as I have stepped into a busy week, sorting through several hundred emails, and being present in a stressful situation where a community member was transitioning into eternal life. I am more present, more rested, more connected to God.  But I am not in an exotic locale. I am being mommy, being pastor, moving, resting, being an adult, following my call, and living my life while God is Still-Speaking.  Absolutely miraculous!

I have missed you! I look forward to being with you this Sunday, and especially to sharing Holy Communion June 5th. May you tune in and experience rest and rejuvenation in the arms of God this week - whether it comes in week long silences, or five minute increments. 

– Love and Blessings, Rev. Jeanne