the holy beautiful of right now

The sink is piled with crusty bowls from breakfast and crumbed plates from dinner. Four loads of laundry sit in the silent dark of our upstairs bedroom, waiting to be folded. Piles of Legos cover the coffee table. Two decks of cards are scattered across the living room floor. Half-broken crayons line the kitchen baseboard. Three pairs of boots are flung by the back door in a snowy heap.

And somehow it is beautiful.

I do not see it always. I do not see it often. But there is wild breathing beauty all around me. I cannot escape it in any cluttered corner. I fell in love with a boy in college; we got married on a bright blue day in July; now three more people exist in the world because of us. This strange stunning truth brings me to my knees.

Children plaster our walls with art, hide surprises in our shoes, throw their dirty socks over the balcony even though we’ve told them a thousand times not to. They tumble out of their chairs at dinner because they laugh so hard, and they run around screaming with glee whenever we chase them before bath-time. They tackle each other with hugs and loud-whisper naughty words in each other’s ears, and when all three stop to grin at each other, I feel like my humble heart could actually explode out of my chest.

Right now might be the most beautiful time in my life. And if I don’t notice now, I won’t remember later.

Sometimes I think all my problems are blessings. Too much good work, too many people to love and care for, too much living packed in too few hours. One day there will be quiet and peace and calm control once again, but there will never be the messy, joyful, puzzling delight that is right now.

There is holy beauty in this: a heart and mind filled to overflowing.

So I try to let myself stop. To see, smell, touch, feel, breathe it. All I can do – maybe all that any of us can do – is witness. Notice and delight in whatever goodness, whatever God-ness is thick around us, even in the midst of the heartbreak that is living in this mortal world.

I know tonight my children will wake me from sweet sleep and tomorrow they will drive me batty with whining and every day this week I will likely lose my temper. But I will never once take this grace-filled life for granted.

It is the humblest, holiest gift I have been given.

. . .

“Life is this simple. We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and God is shining through it all the time. This is not just a fable or a nice story. It is true. If we abandon ourselves to God and forget ourselves, we see it sometimes, and we see it maybe frequently. God manifests Himself everywhere, in everything — in people and in things and in nature and in events. It becomes very obvious that He is everywhere and in everything and we cannot be without Him. You cannot be without God. It’s impossible. It’s simply impossible. The only thing is that we don’t see it. What is it that makes the world opaque? It is care.”

– Thomas Merton

what is deliberate motherhood?

If you’d asked me this when I knew the most about parenting – you know, back before I had kids – I would probably have replied along these lines (if I answered at all, staring back at you strangely, wondering why you’d ask such an odd question):

Deliberate motherhood? I guess that’d be getting pregnant on purpose.

(Real deep. Also real naïve.)

But if you’d ask me now, just a few years into a ride that will last the rest of my life, I’d answer very differently (that is, if you can hold on just a minute while I refill someone’s spilled milk and break up a slapping squabble over trains and finish making breakfast so we can get out the door to school on time without flipping out over finding everyone’s shoes):

Maybe it’s mindfulness. Thoughtfulness? A desire to be intentional about the way I raise them. An awareness of how important this work is.

And maybe it’s not, maybe it’s none of these things, maybe I still have a long way to go to figure it out, but here’s the difference: I’ve thought about it. That to me is the heart of deliberate motherhood.

It’s the mission of Power of Moms to be a gathering place for deliberate mothers. When a friend first set me a link years ago to a story published there, it felt like a deep breath amid the frantic “what to buy / how you have to do this / why you need to worry” tone I felt from so many parenting magazines and websites.

I loved that Power of Moms was a gathering of different voices, a celebration of diverse perspectives, and a community of women who were trying to be mindful about what it means to approach motherhood deliberately.

None of us are deliberate all the time. Plenty of days I parent on auto-pilot. But the moments that we’re able to be mindful, that we chose to consider why our words and actions and attitudes matter, that we realize how much this journey is shaping us as well as our kids – these are the deliberate moments that make the rest worth it.

Power of Moms just published their Deliberate Motherhood book (and, full disclosure, sent me a copy to review). And my whole-hearted endorsement is that it echoes exactly what I love about the Power of Moms website. It’s a collection of diverse voices, it’s a positive approach to encouraging moms, and it offers just enough concrete tips to make me think positively about how I could bring a little more mindfulness into my life.

The book is organized around 12 “powers” of motherhood – deliberate practices or attitudes that can shape how we face mothering: acceptance, love, patience, individuality, progress, balance, priorities, organization, fun, optimism, and moments. Each chapter is written by a different mom who also draws in stories, insights and ideas from many other mothers who’ve written for Power of Moms. I love the collaborative community voice that emerges here, affirming that our backgrounds and beliefs may be different, but our love for these kids in our lives is fierce. So let’s think together about why it matters how we raise them.

Deliberate Motherhood inspired me to sit down and think about the “powers” that guide my parenting – the attitudes or practices that I want to cultivate and pass on to my kids. Without editing myself, I scribbled down my own list of 12love, forgiveness, faith, joy, gratitude, hope, laughter, curiosity, community, wonder, mindfulness, compassion.

Since then I’ve been sitting with my list, wondering what it says about the practices that sprang immediately to mind – whether I try to live them out or only hope to aspire to their ideal – as well as the ones that didn’t. (Note that perfection and competition never made the list. Neither did peace and calm.)

What about you?

Which one of the Deliberate Motherhood powers is most important in your parenting? Which is the most challenging? Leave a comment below for your chance to win a free copy of Deliberate Motherhood, generously offered by Power of Moms. (Comments must be left by Friday, September 20, 2013 at midnight, CST, for a chance to win; winner must reside within the U.S. to be eligible.)

Check out Power of Moms to learn more about their work (including another forthcoming book that I’m delighted to be a part of – more details to come!) or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. And as part of a special giveaway, for anyone who purchases Deliberate Motherhood in September and sends their receipt to, you’ll receive complimentary access to the Deliberate Mothering Podcast series (valued at $20). On October 4th, 10 Grand Prize Winners will be selected to receive the Power of Moms Premium Package (valued at $224)!

how i nurture my mothering spirit – maureen

As a mother to three young children, I am rarely afforded an opportunity to do something just for me. It seems like I always have questions to answer or mouths to feed or messes to clean.

But on chilly winter days I try to carve out ten minutes to brew a pot of homemade chai tea for myself. The kids never get in my way: they know if they are good they’ll enjoy a tiny cup, too.

Chai tea reminds me of India, a place I have visited more than once, before kids and grown-up life consumed my every thought. It was and is one of my favorite places on earth, and whenever I indulge my chai craving I fondly recall my time in a spicy and hazy and colorful land.

I brew the chai in a small saucepan on the stove, but I strain it into a beloved Irish tea pot given to me by my soulful grandmother. With every pot, I think about my relationship with her and the many Irish women who came before us. The tea connects me to my roots.

The tea pot is missing the lid (my son turned flung it across the room, cracking it in two). The spout is thoroughly chipped. It is tea-stained on the inside. In many ways, that tea pot is a metaphor for my life: haggard but enduring, dependable and beautiful, imperfect yet…perfect.

Homemade chai requires an array of exotic ingredients. While I’m sure my recipe is far from authentic, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Fresh ginger is one of my favorite flavors – I work it into many recipes on a near daily basis. I whisk raw milk and raw honey into the brew, simple ingredients that reflect my concern for the environment and my dedication to real foods.

Making homemade chai gives me a chance to nurture my spirit and reflect on things that matter to me. And sharing a cup with an eager 2 year-old makes it all the more sweet.

Homemade Chai

4 cups water
7-9 whole cloves
½ cinnamon stick
A few whole peppercorns
1-2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
3 black tea bags
A few shakes of ground cardamom
2-3 tablespoons honey
1 cup whole milk

Bring water, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns and ginger to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes.

Drop tea bags into the pan. Stir in honey. Shake in the cardamom. Let the tea brew for 3 minutes. Remove tea bags.

Increase heat and whisk in milk. Bring to an almost boil, whisk again, and remove from heat. Strain into a tea pot and serve.

 . . .

Maureen Smithe Brusznicki is a wife, mother and friend to Mother Nature. When she’s not playing with her kids, experimenting with homemade cleaning products or cooking in the kitchen, she likes to blog about living a healthy and simple life at Homemade Mothering. Maureen has also ventured out into the business world by starting her own line of cloth diapers called Terra Baby.

how to nurture your mothering spirit – a new series

We’re all full of resolutions today. To lose weight, to eat better, to quit a bad habit.

Whenever I read the list of popular New Year’s resolutions, I’m struck by the fact that almost all of them have one hope at their heart: to nurture a more mindful, healthy, peaceful life. We each admit there are ways we’re living that aren’t good for our body, mind and spirit, and we want to change.

I love the hope of 1/1. Everything feels fresh by flipping the calendar page. Hopeful and possible. Cynics sneer that the packed gyms will be empty by February, that we’ll all be gobbling chocolate by Valentine’s Day, that the chaos of clutter will once again demand spring cleaning. But each January 1st we resolve to do better, and I like that about us humans. We’re stubbornly optimistic.

I’ve ticked off three for myself again this year: one I want to do (get more serious about my writing), one I need to do (get our finances more organized), and one I have to do (get more sleep). (With a nod to Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow, I’ve dubbed my resolution mantra “yay! groan. zzzz…”)

As I’ve been pondering and planning my resolutions over the past week, I’ve realized that the last one, which seems the simplest, even the silliest, is actually the most important. When I don’t get enough sleep, everything in my life is affected: my mood, my energy, my relationships, my work. But when I prioritize rest, even when it means dragging myself away from a project or chore I feel I have to finish, then everything else seems, surprisingly, to run more smoothly. I’m more patient with my kids, more loving to my husband, more creative at work, more productive around the house. Getting enough sleep is an important part of my own self-care – an essential way that I nurture my mothering spirit.


This week I’m launching a new series called How I Nurture My Mothering Spirit. I’ve asked some of my favorite bloggers to share what they do to care for themselves and connect with God in the midst of parenting’s hectic days. And I can’t wait to share their words with you.

As their posts have trickled into my in-box, I’ve literally clapped my hands after reading each one, done the goofy happy dance around the kitchen with my kiddos. Because each thoughtful reflection is brimming with mothering mindfulness, just the kind of kindred-spiriting I crave in the hard work of parenthood. And each mother-writer, whether or not she explicitly names God as part of her practice, reminds me that we are all everyday theologians when we seek to care for the spirit within us and connect with the presence of the divine all around us.

Starting tomorrow, I’ll share one reflection each Wednesday. (Because we all need a lift by the middle of the week, don’t we?) I hope this series will help us to settle into a New Year full of promise and hope, that it will shine small lights in the winter darkness, that it will warm your spirit even in the bitter cold.

Here’s to nurturing our mothering spirits in 2013 – and thanks to each of you who lift me up with your words and presence here!