Category Archives: Dealing with stuff

Attending

More from the book  In The Midst of Chaos

"Attending" is the sum of those acts by which we genuinely give ourselves to another by the many small acts that we do.  We watch out for, we notice another’s needs, we move to protect, we scan the horizon, so to speak, for danger to the ones we love.  Parents do this all the time for their children.

Attending to children not only changes the children, shaping their lives, it also shapes the lives of the adults who are giving their attention in care for their children.  Mothers ( and fathers too) learn virtues such as humility and patience, compassion, trust, etc. in the act of caring for their children.

I can attest to this.  I thought I was a very patient person.  Then my children’s needs and frustrations blew that notion out of the water.  I felt that I was back at square one learning patience all over again from scratch as I learned to deal with temper tantrums, homework, chores and the million little things that make life with children an adventure.  My attending to them grew parts of me that I didn’t know needed to grow. 

The author says:

Attentive love is part instinct, part effort, and part gift.  It builds on early, almost involuntary responses, as when a mother’s milk comes in on hearing a baby’s cry.  But it also involves hard work and constant discernment of what to look for, what to ward off, and how to scan the horizon for dangers. Yet for all this, understanding the other is never predictable or controllable.  One cannot command attention by sheer will power or muscular concentration.  Attention evolves out of joy, as Weil says, and its fruits come as a grace.  p.53,54

To close the chapter the author speaks of "pondering" as a way of seeking "renewal of faith within the ordinary boundaries of a day that is received as God’s gift."  Faith is what we do within our "normal time", not something we do in time set aside outside of our regular acts of living.  All the activities of living within a family "train our eyes to see God amid change and time" and are "formative of faith."

I really liked this chapter.  I guess you can tell by the two posts that I have taken to review it.  It reminds me a lot of Brother Lawrence’s way of practicing the presence of God as he went about his regular routines.

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Seeing God in hundreds of ways

I’ve been reminded this week of how much I need to stop and reflect on the places I have seen God in my day.  I have a tendency to just live without thinking.  Discouragement comes too easily if I do not look for God’s blessings in my day.  He transforms my routines into opportunities to serve him when I begin to pay attention.

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Pondering

More from In The Midst of Chaos by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore

Pondering – To think about something carefully over a period of time. To weigh things in your mind.

Mothers ponder.

We are not told details of Jesus’ early life through the eyes of Mary but we are told that she pondered the mystery and wonder of Jesus’ birth. Again, when she and Joseph must retrace their steps to Jerusalem to find their missing son, she must come to terms with an extraordinary child who has spent three days debating scripture with wise men at the temple and who then in obedience returns to grow to adulthood in her house. These were things that needed to be thought out. As the author states:

Here in the small word ponder is an image of a mother in turbulent spiritual waters, wading through the emotional swings of care, who…feels “stunned by wonder and stung by worry. (p. 47)

The author commends Luke for not trying to put words into Mary’s mouth. This was not a case of Mary being passively silent, just that there was too much to put it all into words. Instead Mary stored up the feelings and memories of these events, mused on their meaning, weighed the immensity of the events in her mind and sought a deeper understanding of them.

I like this bit:

Keeping thoughts in one’s heart means keeping them at the core of one’s being. Wisdom is located at the juncture of physical desire and mental aspiration – not when one transcends the body and world, as modern scientific rationalism and some Christians assume. Pondering connects thought and action. (p.48)

A bit further on she also observes:

Mary becomes one of the first theologians of the Christian tradition, turning over and over in her mind just who this child is and what God has to do with it. She does so in the very midst of her mothering – not when she moves away from it all. (p.49)

Essential to the way that mothers think and ponder is the way that mothers care for their children with “attentive love”. Parents attend to the needs of their child with a kind of “patient hovering” keeping the needs of the child at the forefront of their consciousness as they go about life.

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More from In The Midst Of Chaos

One of the issues the author addresses is our increasingly busy lifestyles and the inevitable busyness that children bring to our lives.  Some of her thoughts on how we use our time:

Sometimes managing the details of work and family life feels like putting together a thousand-piece interlocking jigsaw puzzle….

Most parents today – single, married, divorced, women and men – work and care for kids….they do not live out their faith through one primary vocation…as might have been the case for their own parents. They pursue dual, triple, even multiple vocations, in venues more sharply divided from one another – the work-place and the home front – than during any other era in human history.

Our efforts to handle multiple vocations of work and family often force us to confront the terrible tyranny of time.

She goes on to say that we make changes in our life-styles to accommodate the fact that we are trying to “squeeze more in” to our lies in order to keep up with demands on our time. Then she goes on:

A chaotic family life can be a faithful life. But unrelenting, brain-numbing activity is not good for anyone. We have to be extremely careful about calling this spiritual.

…Some of our busyness is just that: a deadening busyness that distracts and destroys the capacity for joy and awe…

Rather than glorify all this running around as somehow spiritual and sanctified, it makes sense to question the pace at which we live and to consider how to slow down. We can and should change a life that is debilitating, scheduling less, facing our unhealthy addiction to an inhumane routine, and sustaining practices that help us discern how to say no to experiences and stuff that our culture says are essential for children….

Adhering strictly to strategies of simplification can impede the tumultuous richness of life by trying to clean it all up. Sometimes, realistically, it is impossible to simplify life with children. Instead we must find ways not to flee or control time but to live graciously within its entanglement.

From In The Midst Of Chaos by Bonnie J. Miller- McLemore Chpt. 3

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In The Midst Of Chaos

My mind has been captured by the book; In the Midst of Chaos by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore. It discusses the whole concept of raising children as a spiritual practice and I think she is right on, addressing how we live in families and how this needs to be an expression of our spiritual lives. Parents in busy families – “in the midst of chaos” – don’t get much time to develop spiritual lives in silence and solitude. But is everyone called to the practice of solitude and silence. Where is God in the midst of our busy lives, rushing to work and then kid’s activities? Unless a parent sets aside the responsibilities of the family to spend time in quiet and prayer, is there a way to connect with God? Does spending time with God take precedence over family duties, and if so, what does the parent left with the children’s care do to nurture their spiritual life? This author takes a different take on the subject. She considers the raising of children in a home where they are taught spiritual values to be prayer and not the cause for a hiatus in one’s “real” spiritual life.

To me this book gives legitimacy to the role of Christian parents and supports them in the often difficult choices that must be made about how to incorporate Christian practice into the chaos of family life.  Maybe part of the reason I like it is that the book does not tell what to do so much as why – what one should take into consideration into those many questions that arise over time management, choosing where to raise a family, where to send them to school, etc. 

Over the next few days, I want to share a few of the things that I learned or saw in new ways as I read through this book.

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Disappointed hopes

Sometimes hope is not realized. 

I was afraid to hope too hard.  Was this a premonition, or caution, or fear from too many hopes not realized in my past?  Or some silly lie that all things one wants too badly never come to be?

Whatever.  I am walking down disappointment street.  It is dark and I am tired.

Life around me still seems to go on as if nothing has happened so I guess I will get back on the treadmill and keep up as best I can again.

No – maybe I will not let the treadmill wear me down.  I will choose to keep on doing my best at my own speed on the path I am on now and see what the rest of life brings.  One hope unachieved can be replaced with new ones.  It will take some work but I think this suits me better. 

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Down South

I made it down to Regina in good time.  This time I took the #2 down through St Louis.  A high percentage of the road all the way down was very rough.  Lots of frost heaves it looks like.  And if this road does not get some repair soon, it will not be the shortest way to Regina – well, maybe the shortest but not the fastest. 

But the drive down was good.  The sky was pretty much clear.  None of this mornings snow seemed to be left; the road was dry. Saw lots of geese, some hawks and some ducks.  There were white tail deer in a field – far enough away to be no danger to me and my car – close enough to look magnificent.  

I needed the time alone on this drive.  I’ve been too busy lately and will be for a few more days I suspect.  Driving relaxes me.  I listened to some new music that I downloaded a couple of days ago  – Mozetich’s Affairs of the Heart – and so the time passed quickly.  And to be honest, I needed this time with God.  Out on the wide prairies, where even traveling through them in a car, exposes me to enough of their beauty that I find God there in ways that I just don’t when I am faced with all the busyness of home.

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