on being and breaking
Two big announcements today. (No, I am not pregnant!) But another kind of gestation.
A pair of twins.
For my work with the Collegeville Institute Seminars, I’m at work on a book of prayers, blessings, poems, and hymns on vocation – a collection for congregations to celebrate the callings of all their members. I’m so excited about the prospect of helping pastors and ministers to bless the work and relationships that make up the vocations in their communities, from childhood through older adulthood, across professions and ways of life.
And whenever I get the chance – in early mornings or late nights or Saturdays stolen away to Starbucks – I’m finally, slowly writing a book on prayers for pregnancy. The book that I’ve been dreaming of writing for years. The book I outlined two (!) pregnancies ago. The book that calls to me with each day’s emails from readers who ask for words of hope and peace in their pregnancies.
With these two books, I am called in two directions.
Of course there are lovely overlaps. Parenting is a calling, and one that churches should support and celebrate. Both books are full of prayers, so when I get in “prayer writing mode,” the poetry of this language becomes the rhythm of my thought.
But when you’re writing for two different audiences (pastors vs. parents), in two different ways (for professional vs. personal work), at two different times (during the work day and on the margins), you can start to feel disjointed.
Like you are pulled in two.
. . .
When I started writing the prayers for pregnancy book in earnest at the beginning of the year, strange things started to happen. In pairs.
Two women I know were shocked to discover unplanned pregnancies, within a week of each other. I found myself wrestling with them about what it means when our desire for control is turned upside down.
Two women I know confided in me, at different times, about abortions they had decades ago. I found myself grieving with them about this loss that had shattered them.
Two women I knew faced the prospect that biological motherhood might never happen for them. I found myself wondering how to walk with them down paths that may be very different from my own.
Two news articles stopped me in my tracks. One told the awful trend that pregnant women in India are increasingly malnourished, due to infectious diseases in unclean water and social norms that put them at the bottom of household hierarchies. The other described the horror faced by the Nigerian girls captured by Boko Haram, now pregnant from rape. I found myself reeling to figure out what it meant to pray about pregnancy globally, not just personally. (I believe this is the Christian call, after all.)
Twinned pairs of stories kept coming at me. All about the shadow side of pregnancy.
I felt even more convinced that I needed to write this book of prayers for pregnancy. A book that would not be simply a glowing celebration of “what to expect!” but an honest companion through a journey that is different for every woman – and filled with more spiritual complexity and questions than our culture often wants to admit around what it means to become a mother.
I want this book to embrace the light and the darkness, the joys and the struggles that are part of pregnancy.
I want to let my heart keep breaking open to stories beyond my own.
This week I’m honored to have a reflection published at NPR’s On Being blog.
It’s about all these facets of the same shimmering truth: light and dark, wholeness and brokenness, my children and the world’s children. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve written lately, and I’m delighted to “birth” it into a bigger world.
As is often the case with writing, my own words in this essay call me to task anew. I need to remember the power of letting my heart be stretched.
As I continue to gestate these twinned books day and night, I’m learning that being pulled into two directions can be a good thing. After all, ever since I have started working professionally in theology, I have done so hand-in-hand with my work as a mother. My callings are multiple, and I keep learning to embrace this truth as life-giving, even in the chaos.
So, too, for these two books. Writing them together creates synergy, cross-pollination, call and response. (Even if these twins will take much longer than nine months for their full growth!)
Because part of being is learning to break in two – to let your heart be shattered by the rough edges of hard stories. To let empathy build up around the wounds so that you remain changed.
And to embrace each encounter – the lovely light and the shadow side – with what it means to be and believe in this broken and beautiful world.
. . .
Thanks to all who have shared such kind feedback on the new Mothering Spirit website! Please take a look around, and let me know if you have any issues with your email subscriptions. Everything should be smooth sailing now…