You are the hoping-to-be mother. You are dreaming of a baby, maybe for years. Every month you wait and hope. You daydream about nurseries and names. You envy other women's round bellies and glowing smiles. You chart days on the calendar and read up on ways to increase your odds. You promise yourself you will never take a single day for granted once it happens for you. I have been this mother, too. Part of my heart will always be here. . . . You are the expectant mother. You marvel at how your body is changing (and how hard pregnancy can be). You pour through books about what to expect. You wonder at the kicks and flips that keep you up at night. You count down to hear your baby's heartbeat and see their sweet profile on the ultrasound screen. You wash tiny onesies and snap belly shots and write a birth plan. You try to imagine how your world will be transformed in a few short months. I have been this mother, too. Part of my heart will always be here. . . . You are … [Read more...] about for all the mothers
I was 12 years old and away at summer camp for the first time. She was the counselor assigned to my cabin. I remember her long dirty blond hair, wavy and wild. Her weathered hiking boots and the lilac shirt she tied around her waist each morning. Her birch-bark name tag read Marion, but we all chose French pseudonyms for our two-week cultural immersions. So I never knew her real name. She was blessedly kind, with that standard-issue camp-counselor caring heart. She let me sniffle into her shoulder one lonely night when I was feeling homesick. She probably did the same for every girl in our bunk, though we were all too cool to admit it in daylight. She didn't care when we giggled our way through quiet time. She ignored our whispering in English when we were supposed to be practicing French. She laughed when we gossiped about the boys in the bunk next door. And every night she sang to us. Like a ship on the harbor Like a mother and child Like a light in the darkness I'll hold you … [Read more...] about like a mother and child
First, gather the flowers. At Mass a few weeks ago, my oldest boy leaned into my side while we stood to say the creed together. I recited the words on the projector screen, still prompting us with the new translation of the prayer after decades of The Version We Used To Say. Absent-mindedly, I stumbled as happens so often, tripping over clumsy words that once were clear: "...he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was born - dah! was incarnate! - of the Virgin Mary and became man." Without thinking, I rubbed the basketball of my belly in that unconscious instinct of expectant mothers. I thought about birth and babies and started to grumble about why we didn't say "born" anymore, why the abstract theological was deemed better than the concrete physical. Then I felt baby's quick jab to my right side, sharp enough to make me wince. And I felt my son's tired lean into my left side, heavy enough to make me shift my footing. And I realized. Maybe incarnate was a truer … [Read more...] about a bouquet of incarnations for mother’s day
This door marker greeted me on retreat last weekend. A small but important sign that I was in a place of hospitality, a hallmark of the Benedictines and their spirituality. Welcome. I thought about hospitality often while I was on retreat. When I saw the generous plates of snacks set out at every break. When one of the sisters helped me navigate their breviary books for evening prayer. When I noticed the basket of toiletries at the bathroom sink with a note to help yourself if you'd forgotten anything at home. Small gestures that convey a deeper embrace of the stranger as guest. . . . In his Rule for monastic orders, Saint Benedict writes that all guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ. I remember seeing these words engraved in stone near the Abbey Church at Saint John's when I first started graduate studies at the School of Theology. During the next three years of studying and then five years of working within a Benedictine community, I've learned plenty about … [Read more...] about my mom, my mother-in-law, and…st. benedict?