sneak peek…a brand new Mothering Spirit!

Big news! The reason I’ve been quiet around these parts for the past few weeks is that Mothering Spirit is officially moving to a brand-new website: www.motheringspirit.com.

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As of June 29, 2015, the current Mothering Spirit blog will automatically redirect to the new website. Email subscribers should find that your subscription changes automatically, too. But you can change your bookmark / favorites OR Bloglovin’ / Feedly readers for Mothering Spirit now so that you don’t miss a post!

Thank you to all of you, long-time readers and many new ones, who have inspired me to take this next step. I can’t wait to show you the new look and features of Mothering Spirit…click here for a sneak peek!

a litany for father’s day

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God of love,
Today we ask your blessing on all who give their lives with a father’s love.

Bless new fathers and wise grandfathers.
Bless loving uncles and caring godfathers.

Bless fathers who await the birth of their child with joy.
Bless men who did not expect or want to become fathers.

Bless men who embrace fatherhood through adoption or foster parenting,
remarriage or single parenthood.
Bless men still waiting and hoping to become fathers.

Bless fathers whose work takes them away from their children.
Bless fathers whose work is with their children.

Bless fathers whose lives are shaped by war, poverty, or violence.
Bless fathers who work for peace, freedom, and justice.

Bless teachers and mentors who serve as father figures.
Bless priests and ministers who lead as loving parents.

Bless men who are separated from their children, by force or choice.
Bless families without fathers and all who love in abundance in their absence.

Bless fathers who have lost a child.
Bless families who have lost their father.

Bless all whose fathers were loving.
Bless all whose fathers failed to meet their needs for love.

Bless all who celebrate today.
Bless all who struggle today.

In the name of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – we pray.
Amen.

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For more posts on Father’s Day, check out:

Father’s Day From Far Away

Celebrating Fathering Spirits

Fatherhood: Relation, Obligation, or Vocation? (from the Collegeville Institute)

7 ways to survive a solo parenting week

Before I begin, please know that I use the language of “solo parenting” intentionally – because I know my experience is not that of a single parent. Plenty of people are parenting in situations much more challenging than my own, including single parents, spouses of deployed military personnel, or partners working shifts around the clock. I’m simply writing out of my own experience of learning how to switch between two different dynamics in our household over the past few years. I hope to learn from diverse perspectives beyond my own, so I hope you’ll share your own ideas and experiences with me, too.

We did it again! Survived another week with only moi in charge and my husband on the other side of the globe. (Slow clap for the win, Rudy.)

The last few times I’ve solo-parented, I’ve thought about my friend Nancy’s wisdom in this post about how to thrive when your husband travels.

I still feel trapped in survival mode much of the time when my husband is gone. But I’m starting to accept that this is our life right now. He has a great job that he loves, and this is part of what his work requires. My goal is to move our family towards thriving, not just surviving, even when I’m the only one here all week, day and night.

So here are seven tips that help me whenever my spouse travels. Maybe they’ll help you, too.

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1. Check in with yourself.

My friend Nell laughed when I told her this, but I check in with myself mentally every 10 minutes while solo parenting.

Self? I say. How are you doing? What do you need?

It sounds crazy, but it works.

Sometimes I sound like a cheerful waitress: Everything okay, honey? Can I get you another cup of coffee? Sometimes I sound like a wise best friend: You need to go lie down. For 5 minutes. And breathe. The kids will be fine. 

But this practice of checking in with myself has helped me back slowly off ledges (especially between 4-6 pm) because I catch my rising impatience/anger/frustration before it boils over. Like the unattended pot bubbling on the stove. Yikes.

2. Go easy on yourself.

No one gives grades or gold stars for parenting. So a slacker week of easy dinners, take-out treats, and skipped baths? It will neither tarnish my record nor scar my children.

At least once during every solo stretch, I must bow my head in gratitude to Trader Joe’s, without whom my family would not be fed. Because I have no shame in buying a freezer-full of frozen meals (the ones my friend Ginny brilliantly describes as the kind you “push around in a skillet for 7 minutes”) to feed hungry kids and give myself a break.

The smartest trick I discovered is creating a meal plan of super simple dinners that require only 2 pots that can be washed in the dishwasher. No need to scrub pans when you’re the chief cook and bottle-washer (actually the entire downstairs staff).

Click here for my super basic meal plan for solo parenting weeks!

3. Take care of yourself.

While it’s true that no one hands out gold stars for parenting (though sometimes I think they should? fill in your epic example here?), it’s also true that you have to reward yourself.

My sister, who has survived way more solo parenting weeks than I have, once gave me the wise advice that these long days are best survived by bookend treats: a cup of tea in the morning and a glass of wine at night.

Whatever your delight, some small glimmers of light on the horizon give hope for the day’s crazy moments. Sometimes I treat myself to a tall chai to-go when we’re out and about, or I sink into a hot bubble bath at the end of the night. Or I binge-watch something stupid on Hulu while folding mountain ranges of laundry.

Anything to restore spirit and soul after long days.

4. Plan ahead.

The weekend before my husband leaves, we try to clean the house so the chaos doesn’t overwhelm. I make sure the meal plan and grocery shopping are done (which includes stocking up on dark chocolate and wine, a mom’s basics).

But I also try to fill up our week with fun: play dates with friends, a special meal out, and plenty of trips to the park/library/indoor playground. The more we get out of the house, the faster the week flies.

We also make sure to plan something fun for the weekend when he returns. This gives a lovely light at the end of the tunnel. After his last few trips, we’ve been able to go up to his parents’ cabin on the lake and simply relax. It’s a perfect way for our whole family to reconnect, since the kids just get as wonky as I do when he’s gone.

5. Get enough sleep.

Easy enough, right? Sleep when tired.

Except my temptation is always to fill the quiet hours after children’s bedtime with a new project. Write! Blog! Bake! Clean the whole house! Start that belated baby book for poor #3!

NO. Do not do it. Get directly to bed. Do not pass Go.

Every time I choose sleep over the seductive allure of me-time-till-midnight? I am eternally grateful that I crawled into bed at 9 pm. Everyone wins when mom is well-rested.

6. Set expectations low.

Someone will get sick. Someone will wake in the night. A major appliance will break. Crisis happens like clockwork in life with kids. Now I simply plan for it.

So when the washing machine stops or the air conditioner dies or the dishwasher floods to the basement? Or the baby breaks out in a mysterious rash or the kids get the stomach flu or all three take turns like whack-a-moles popping up in the middle of the night?

I still freak out, but I expect it. And I can cope with it much better when I can laugh.

(And text my girlfriends 72 times a day to vent about it.)

7. Pray. Just to make it today. 

(You knew I was going to slip this one in here, didn’t you? It always circles back to God ’round here. #sorrynotsorry)

Like everything else chez nous, my spiritual life reverts to survival mode during these zaniest of weeks when I run the roost.

I wish I could tell you otherwise, that I pray fervently for my husband while he’s gone, that I make sure to get up extra early to fortify myself with prayer, that I offer up all my sacrifices with saintly serenity.

I don’t. I coast. I complain.

But I do make sure to call upon divine patience/love/forgiveness/compassion whenever I start to feel things spiraling away from me. I mutter the Jesus Prayer under my breath until I start to simmer down – Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner – and it always brings me back around to the right way. Even if it takes 27 repetitions.

And I do make sure to practice abundant gratitude throughout the day – for my kids (even when they’re going berserk), for my husband (even when he’s gone), for his good job (even when it takes him away from us for a while), for all the friends and family that check in on us when I’m flying solo.

Calling God into the craziest moments of my week is an invitation for me to dig deep and trust that love and patience and enough-ness will help us survive.

And trust that soon we will thrive, too.

What are your tips for surviving or thriving when parenting gets tough in your own current situation?

there is another way

All these things are in the way, I sigh. Shuffle and shove to make space again.

I am tired of working like this, I mutter.

I want to sweep everything aside – the papers and the clutter and the laundry and the bills and the books and the toys and the shoes – and stare at a vacant desk. A spotless office. A shining house of sparkling minimalism.

It will never be.

Call it the sacrifice of the mess. Call it the holy beautiful of right now. Call it life with kids. Call it our tired thirties.

Whatever you call it, call yourself to look upon it again.

I look again.

All the things cluttering my view? They accompany a full life. Piles of doctors’ bills. Art keepsakes from two more years of school. Photos of loved ones to frame. Books to read. Seedlings to plant. Work to finish. Newspapers to recycle. Bank statements to file.

It will never be done. It will never be clean. And this is okay.

This is another way.

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Somewhere between the trend to accumulate (more and more, bigger and better) and the trend to purge (less and less, sparser and lighter), there emerges a third way: finding peace in the chaos.

The way that says we do not need more; we need to care for what we have.

The way that accepts how a life lived with people will always be full – of clutter and conflict, yes, but also comfort and companionship.

The way that knows if cleanliness stands next to godliness, then messiness shrugs and smiles to take its place on the other side. God in the middle. All the rest, all around.

Because God is not found only in peace, quiet, polished, decluttered, 10 easy steps to simplify. God is also found in mess, chaos, muddle, question, oh help me everything is a disaster.

God is not confined to clean, sparse monastic cells. If God is present everywhere and always, then God is also present in a life lived in places, with things, among people.

This is another Way.

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Three months from now looks wide open on my calendar. It is an illusion.

The chore chart, the labeled bins, the meal plan, the synchronized schedules – they promise perfection. It is a lie.

Life will fill up then just as it fills up today. Love and work expand within whatever space we offer them.

And despite our best efforts, we continue to be mere mortals. We walk through grassy dirt, we cry hot tears, we breathe dusty air. Crumbs fall from our lips while we chew. The dog never stops shedding, no matter the season.

So we need this third way, the stumbling path that trips over sneakers on the floor and mountains of unfolded laundry. The way that invites us to see the miracle, not the drudgery, of sharing our lives with real, messy people.

(Even small people who leave push carts – a lawn mower? – on top of the sofa. I promise you this photo was utterly unstaged.)

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The same themes surface whenever I write these days. Letting go. Looking up. Learning to embrace the ordinary and the imperfect.

For a long time now I have felt a turning, and I can finally name it as the settling into mid-life.

My tired husband and I laugh about this a lot. We collapse into bed, and one of us mumbles back in college, we wouldn’t even be going out for another 3 hours. But we are happy here. A deep and satisfying joy, albeit exhausted and cluttered. I wish I could tell my younger, anxious, ambitious self that life could be this good while being so far from smooth.

This settling joy is what I wanted all along, and I only found it in the middle of the mess.

Bump, blemish, brokenness – we know ourselves by the edges of what we brush up against. We learn the limits of our being.

And a full life – bursting with people to love and things to do – it is a marvel even as it overflows. A to-do list that never shrinks. Work that keeps going. Children who arrive and grow and explore. A world that keeps needing our attention and compassion.

It will never be done. It will never be clean or easy. And this is another Way.

The way of peace and patience. The way of realism and release. The way of laughter and letting go.

(The way of remembering that we cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.)

And the way of gratitude to God right in the messy middle: of each day, of this life, of what we are becoming on the way.

. . .

If you want a deeper theological reflection on life with kids, check out Bonnie Miller-McLemore’s In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice. I can never bring myself to put Bonnie’s book back on the shelf, so I keep it bed-side during these wonderful, wiped-out years of so many small children. With three boys of her own, she makes this way through chaos seem possible and wonderful to me.

7 reasons I love the Eucharist {the feast of corpus christi}

Bodies. Blood. Bread. Brokenness. My children bring all of this into my life.

Care for their bodies takes up hours of my day: washing faces, changing diapers, giving baths. Boyhood brings bloodied knees, scraped elbows, tears and band aids and doctor’s visits. Feeding our family is nearly a full-time job in itself: planning meals, buying groceries, cooking dinner, baking bread.

And brokenness? Well, families don’t have to go far to find proof of faults and flaws and failings. We rub up against each other all day long.

The Eucharist has never felt more real than it has since I became a mother.

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This is my body; take and eat; blessed and broken – almost everything I have learned about the love and sacrifice of parenting is wrapped up this sacrament at the center of my faith.

So in celebration of this Sunday’s Feast of Corpus Christi (the Body and Blood of Christ), here are 7 reasons I love the Eucharist – and 7 favorite posts to explain why…

It re-members me back into the Body of Christ: What Your Kids Taught Me About God

It helps me notice the ones that the world rejects: We Care About The Crumbs

It changes how I understand my own flesh and blood: This Is My Body, Given Up For You

It reminds me that the ordinary is holy: Diapers and Chalices

It teaches me about forgiveness and reconciliation: On Bad Moods and Breaking Bread

It trains my eyes to see with deeper imagination: Start Seeing Sacraments: Eucharist

It inspired me to write this book! Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting

What do you love about communion? How has this sacrament shaped your faith?

mountains and horizons and kindergarten graduation

What I will remember is this.

Not the way he flashed our I love you sign when the principal told the kids to wave to their parents in the crowd.

Not the way he snapped his fingers all cool-jazz-like to the peppy beat of the classic kindergarten songs, a happy hipster belting out tunes about flowers and sun and roots and wings.

Not the way he asked twice (twice!) for his picture to be taken with a friend, our shy guy now hamming it up for the camera with his arm draped around his buddy.

Not the way his teacher teared up at end of the ceremony and my husband standing at the back of the room, jostling the tired baby, said to me later that’s how you know she’s one of the great ones, isn’t it? That she still gets misty after 25 years of teaching.

I hope I remember all that, of course.

I hope I remember the moments wrapped around the milestone.

But what I know I will remember is the astonishing sky as I drove away tonight. Heavy grey storm clouds peeling away in layers. A giant, jagged line of blinding white thunderheads rolling onto the horizon, so thick and startling that they seemed like snow-capped summits, like we’d been spun around and set down in the middle of mountain country.

imageI drove west, into the faux white peaks, nearly careening off the road twice because I couldn’t stop looking up and around. Couldn’t stop seeing the metaphor stretching out in front of me.

Because what rushed over me tonight in the wave of emotion I expected as a first-time mom at a first-child milestone was not nostalgia for the meaning of the moment or a preview of future graduations or the wonder at the baby becoming the boy.

It was the dizzying realization that a whole year had whizzed by.

While I barely blinked.

Older and wiser parents love to tell we new ones this head-shaking truth, that the years fly by and before you know it, they’ll be graduating from high school and I can’t believe how fast it went. I thought they said this because that is what you’re supposed to say. That is the natural voice of nostalgia. That is the happy satisfaction of having parented.

But tonight I kept driving towards those billowing clouds, mountains of white rising on the horizon. And I realized the sadness caught in my throat was because I knew that each staggering summit that seems to rise before my eyes today, daunting and towering and oh-so-important, will become like every other looming line of thick clouds before it.

I will pass through. A new horizon will emerge.

Time will keep rolling on, thunderous and true.

I wanted the years to fly by then. When I would one day be the mother of sprawling teenagers or beaming college graduates or wondering young adults. I wanted to look back then and see time speeding up, picking up pace with each passing year.

But I feel it now, the days peeling by under my feet, the months lunging forward like storm-swept clouds, a whole year whooshing away with the startling speed of a subway train that never even slowed down at this station, that is racing on elsewhere and I am left staring at the empty tunnel as its shadow shrinks behind to nothing.

What I will remember from tonight is this startling truth mirrored in billowing clouds. That today’s mountain is tomorrow’s horizon. That milestones mark what we cannot bear to see every day. That time is already racing by. 

And that it is a still-startling gift that I get to be here. That I get to love these children. That I get to watch a whole horizon of beckoning unknown stretching out before all of us.

And he took one more step toward it tonight. Right before my eyes.

 

the easiest way to celebrate Trinity Sunday

Today is Trinity Sunday. How best to live it out?

Love your family. 

Yes, it is this simple. And this hard.

Because if God is a community of love, a trinity of persons, a three-in-one, then the very best way we have to celebrate this central truth of Christianity is to be a community of love. Which starts at home.

We Catholics speak the name of the Trinity every time we start to pray: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 

But how often do we stop to consider that with each quick sign of the cross, we are evoking the very essence of family? A parent, a child, and the love between them.

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Today as you love your family – in the everyday, concrete, hands-on ways that families love, over food and through tears and in quiet – think about what they have taught you of love. How it wakes in the night, how it keeps going in the dark, how it turns our faces toward light.

Today as you love your family – parents and grandparents, children and step-children, nieces and nephews, spouses and siblings – think about what it means that the Trinity is unity in diversity. That the dazzling force of creation itself springs from three different people loving each other.

And tonight, when you slip into bed with the day’s ordinary disappointments and failings still circling round regret, let yourself be forgiven by the mystery that our God is the dynamic dance of love itself. Every time we bow our heads and bend back toward each other to try again, we are stepping back into this Trinity dance that is the love of God.

The most important difference between Christianity and all other religions (is) that in Christianity God is not a static thing—not even a person—but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance… (The) pattern of this three-personal life is . . . the great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality.

–C. S. Lewis

Love your family. 

It will always be this hard and this simple. The people you are given to love are usually the same ones who lead you back to God, by their blessing or by their failing. They teach you what love is and is not and could be.

And on a Sunday that celebrates the wild mystery that is God, what better way to humble yourself back than to share gratitude and joy with the ones you’ve been blessed by the Trinity to love?

All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that ‘God is love.’ But they seem not to notice that the words ‘God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love. Of course, what these people mean when they say that God is love is often something quite different: they really mean ‘Love is God.’ They really mean that our feelings of love, however and wherever they arise, and whatever results they produce, are to be treated with great respect. Perhaps they are: but that is something quite different from what Christians mean by the statement ‘God is love.’ They believe that the living, dynamic activity of love has been going on in God forever and has created everything else.

–C. S. Lewis

For more on the Trinity, check out these posts:

the trinity of family life

three for the trinity

a pentecost podcast

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I try to make it part of my Sabbath practice not to blog on Sundays. But before today’s feast is officially over, I wanted to sneak in and share a Pentecost podcast for your listening pleasure.

Thanks to the gracious invitation of my friend Mihee Kim-Kort (whose blog at First Day Walking is hosting a beautiful series on The Meaning of Children), I got to dip my toes into the world of podcasting.

And once I got over the deep-seated fear of listening to my own voice, it was actually fun. I got to ramble about finding God in chaos, making sense of conflict in churches, and trying not to lose my temper with the kids before dinner every night.

Here’s a snippet of my reflection on the holy fire of Pentecost at Mihee’s podcast, This Everyday Holy: Ordinary Living in the Lectionary.

I just finished reading Kaethe Schwehn’s memoir Tailings. The book weaves together a turning point in her own life as a young adult with the story of Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center high in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State.

At one point Kaethe is describing the way the community at Holden deals with contentious issues – even seemingly small conflicts – through their process of consensus building. And she writes:

“One of the first directors of the village…declared that the gospel lives through controversy. I think what he meant by this is that the work of Jesus, the political work, rarely gets done from a place of complicity or active passivity. I think he meant that the gospel is mysterious and contentious and if we get to a place where we think we understand it, we are likely to be in trouble. I think he meant that sometimes truth is found in the space where two ideas create enough friction against each other to make a kind of fire.

The kind of fire that, as we understand it here in the wilderness, is necessary for new growth.”

I love her image of fire-from-friction. I keep coming back to it – as I think about Pentecost, as I try to listen to the horrible news of the world as of late.

Because this is still our hard and holy work today. Dealing with fire and friction and tension and truth.

Learning to speak new languages. Learning to speak each other’s languages. Learning to let the Spirit burst into the rooms where we hide ourselves and blow wild wind around all the plans we had so carefully made.

Because God keeps showing up. This is the whole point of the season of Easter, and the whole purpose of Pentecost – that God keeps showing up.

Despite our closed doors. Despite our fearful hearts. Despite this maddening and frustrating work of figuring out how to live together in the world – as church or as family, as spouses or parents, as friends or strangers or enemies.

The Spirit rushes in and roars through, fills our mouths and sets us on fire.

And we start speaking in strange ways we never imagined…

Click over to This Everyday Holy to listen to the whole podcast! And let me know: are you a regular podcast listener? What are your favorites? 

feed, tend, repeat.

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(Meditations on today’s Gospel. Typed with one hand, lamb in lap.)

Do you love me?

I say the same things all day long.

Sit down. Use your fork. Don’t hit each other. Say please. Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t interrupt. Be kind. Say thank you. Hurry up. Take turns. Be gentle. Don’t yell. Watch the baby. Help each other. Say I’m sorry. Let’s clean up. I love you.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Feed my lambs.

. . .

Do you love me?

I do the same things all day long.

Feed the children. Wash the children. Make the meal. Clean the house. Comfort the children. Teach the children. Let the dog out. Let the dog in. Drive the car there. Drive the car here. Load the dishes. Unload the dishes. Wash the laundry. Fold the laundry.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Tend my sheep.

. . .

Do you love me?

I think the same things all day long.

I’m tired. I need caffeine. What time is it? We’re late. I should do that. I should clean that. I don’t know what to do. Help me. Deep breath. How much longer till naptime? Slow down. Try again. Love them. When is he coming home? I’m tired. Be patient. I love them. How much longer till bedtime?

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Feed my sheep.

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If he had cooked me breakfast, sat with me on the cold wet beach, stared up at the pale sky while we talked, what would I say if he asked?

What would I say if he kept asking?

God repeats. We repeat. It is the only way we learn. It is the only way we live.

Do you love me more than these? I hope I do.

Tend my lambs. You know I do.

. . .

Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength. Take to heart these words which I command you today. Keep repeating them to your children. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)

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he is one

When you are the third child, especially the third of three boys, nothing comes new. Clothes, books, toys – all are gently loved or well-worn-out by the time they reach your hands.

When you are still tiny, you accept this, of course. You don’t know the world to be any other way.

Your firsts are not earth-moving milestones. Your every move is not captured on video or preserved in photo albums. From day one your needs and wants cannot command complete attention.

This truth is hard and humbling and healthy. For you and your parents.

You are not simply a special snowflake. You are one among many. 

1stbirthday

One year ago we met for the first time. My memories of birth are fast and foggy, snapshots of scenes. The first flash of him, wet and purple, his radiant heat in my shaking arms. His wavy dark hair and deep eyes squinting to see. My astonishment at his existence, the breathing weight of him on my chest, still startling after I carried him for nine long months below my heart.

Twelve months later, he crawls, claps, chuckles at every silly dance his brothers perform to earn a smile. The tantalizing prospect of walking awakens as he reaches to pull himself up and learns to steady uncertain legs. Words slowly take shape within the babbles of his voice.

He is one for the first time. He has never been here.

. . .

Last week I crossed my legs on church basement carpet and watched his brother celebrate his summer birthday three months early.

He placed the Montessori mat carefully on the small table, set the candle for the sun in the center, and opened his hands to hold the small globe as his teacher told the story of seasons. How we are always moving around the sun, how we would never know time was passing if we didn’t stop to notice the changes around us.

As his classmates counted, he took almost-four trips around the table, circling the sun with the world in his hands. His teacher read the short story of his birth that I had written, a rainbow of markers telling his first day of life. Everyone sang the song he chose and listened to the book he brought as a gift. His face was squinched in a strange smile, equal parts proud and embarrassed to be at the center of attention.

Then he walked quietly around the circle again, tapping each child on their bowed head to send them off for the rush of shoes and jackets and lunch boxes.

A simple celebration, ended as soon as it began. Perfect for preschool. Maybe enough for all of us: to celebrate another whirl around this spinning sun, to remember our place in the world, to let light shine on us for an instant.

One among many. He could not have been happier.

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Christianity teaches these twinned doctrines of identity. Imago Dei: we are created in the image of God, each of us unique and unrepeatable, worthy and beloved in our own right. The Body of Christ: we are part of a larger whole, all of us interdependent and intrinsically connected, bound up in each other for the common good.

These two beliefs – that we are one and we are many – braid together to become two essential practices for my parenting. I want to teach these children that they are loved beyond measure for the individuals that they are, created and called by God to do their own particular good in the world. And I want to teach them that they are part of something much bigger than themselves, that their own joys and struggles are put in humble perspective within a world of seven billion others.

Let your light shine, but remember Who you reflect.

Build your life into worthy service, but remember you cannot do alone.

Trust that you are one and we are many.

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Last night we celebrated the baby’s first birthday. In such ordinary ways that I felt almost disappointed. Shouldn’t I have done more to make a fuss? Spread a feast or lavished him with bright bows? Would he know how wondrous his life has been in ours if we didn’t preserve perfect memories for posterity?

No. I see in the crumbs of this morning that all the love he needed was there.

Homemade carrot cake, the work of his brothers’ helping hands. Lilacs dripping out of the blue glass vase, picked proud by those same siblings. Hand-scribbled cards, a new CD, one book to replace the favorite he tore in half.

He loved the party hats, lunged for the candle as we sang, smashed handfuls of cake in his mouth. I stretched back to that exhausted, euphoric new mother I was one year ago that night, holding him and learning him and wanting nothing more than for him to be safe, loved, here with us.

And now he is: right here. This is exactly what we wanted.

It was what a birthday should be. A celebration of the blessing of a life, still fresh and unfolding before our eyes. And a reminder that all of ours are intertwined, that we are – thankfully – not the sun center of the universe.

I have to practice this truth each new morning, as I ready myself for another day. To remember that I am beloved but also beholden to others. To believe that I am called by the One who calls the many. To hold fast in the knowledge that my life is one small part of a much bigger story.

This truth is hard and humbling and healthy. For all of us, maybe.

He is one. We are, too.