Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

For those who are beginning their journey into motherhood, Helen Good Brenneman provides tremendous encouragement with Meditations for the New Mother. Each of thirty selections includes reflection on a scripture and a comforting prayer.

Readers receive a reminder that empowers anxious mothers: our God is the same God who gave courage to Mary the mother of Jesus, and who answered the prayer of Hannah the mother of Samuel. Strength and comfort can be drawn from the knowledge that mothers throughout the ages have turned to God, and we can do likewise.

These pages brim with hopefulness and gentle encouragement. Helen Good Brenneman guides readers to notice that the tasks of daily caregiving provide opportunities to turn our hearts toward God, to lean on God, to offer praise. In one prayer we read:
“Dear God, in view of all that is expected of a mother, I would feel most inadequate were not my hand in yours. I thank you for entrusting me with a living soul. Help me to bring out the best that is in my child by teaching that above all things we are to live, move, and have our being in you.”

Some of the meditations would resonate best with mothers who have birthed their children and who are married. However, other titles in the meditations series, forthcoming later this year, will better meet the needs of adoptive parents and single mothers.

Herald Press also has reissued Helen Good Brenneman’s Meditations for the Expectant Mother and Meditations for New Parents by Sara Wenger Shenk (president of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) and Gerald Shenk.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received.


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As a parent longing for a more peaceful world, I find myself hungry for inspiration. Activist and author Frida Berrigan has written a soul-nourishing book, It Runs in the Family: On being raised by radicals and growing into rebellious motherhood. She describes her upbringing in Jonah House in Baltimore as the child of peace activists, and how her values and hopes inform her choices as a parent.

Reading Frida’s story we witness an unusual upbringing amidst a family dedicated to peacebuilding and social justice. As in any family, some things worked out well and brought joy, while other choices were more burdensome. Nothing is perfect, and hearing this story will help encourage parents who strive to raise their children to have a sense of our role within a global, human community. I do not want merely to talk about a better world, but for my daughter to witness and to work alongside me, contributing to a better world with our daily choices. As I strive to do this, honest stories from other parents brings tremendous refreshment.

Part of Frida’s story includes her exploration of the important place of religion in her life. I have experienced the need for a spiritual home that supports the call for peace and justice, and Frida’s words rang true for me:

“I’m not lapsed: I am a Catholic in waiting – waiting for the Church to remember the Gospels, to be a justice-and-peace-seeking community, to be fully inclusive of women and to be welcoming to people who are not heteronormative. Pope Francis is a step in the right direction, but there is a long way to go.”

While I know many activists find sufficient encouragement amidst a strictly secular community, that is not the case for me. I tried, but it was depleting. There was a crucial piece missing for me: a larger sense of love. I realized that my hunger for a more peaceable society is grounded in my belief that we were created to love one another and to help carry each other’s burdens. As I read It Runs in the Family, I witnessed that a sense of self, of connection to others, and of a loving God can weave together a fabric strong enough for building a joyful home.

Frida writes the column “Little Insurrections” for Waging Nonviolence, and serves on the board for the War Resisters League. I highly recommend following her work for a continual dose of inspiration and motivation as you parent toward a more loving society.

Disclaimer: This review is freely given, based on my own copy of It Runs in the Family. Frida Berrigan is a friend.

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Nourishing spirituality in everyday life allows one to be aware of God, and aware of abundant blessings. By cultivating attentiveness one can notice God’s work in all aspects of life, far beyond formal prayer time. Parenting, where a person receives the gift of caring for a child, can be full of awareness of God’s presence. Yet it also can be work that makes one tired to the bone. A parent can feel grateful and blessed, while at the same time wishing for a bit of breathing room and momentary peace. Parents will find an understanding companion in Rachel S. Gerber, author of Ordinary Miracles: Awakening to the holy work of parenting.

Rachel Gerber writes with honesty. She does not pretend that parenting is easy, or that finding God amidst a pile of laundry is easy, or that giving thanks from an exhausted heart is easy. She allows readers to travel with her, to experiment with a spirit of attentive thanksgiving. By sharing stories from her mothering experience, she opens a door to seeing God’s presence throughout the tasks of caregiving.

Ordinary Miracles carries a guiding story from Luke 24 in the gospels, when two followers encounter Jesus on the road to Emmaus. At first they do not recognize Jesus; rather, they are full of sorrow at his recent death, and see only a stranger. Later, when they eat together, the followers realize that Jesus had been present all along. As Rachel Gerber writes, “Love is present in our darkest hour of greatest disorientation, in our most mundane days, and in moments of exhilaration of joy and beauty when we finally awaken to the blessings of life. God surprises.”

If you have a book-loving new parent in your life, Ordinary Miracles would make a fine gift. The chapters are not long, and the book can be picked up readily in between the duties of caring for a young child. This book would make a wonderful discussion for a church parent’s group, or a mothers’ book club. There are discussion questions at the end of the book to help guide conversations.

I urge you to pick up a copy of this encouraging book, where you can read this heartfelt reminder:
You are loved just as you are, wherever you are, because you are enough. And this: You have people to love.”
Even though we cannot see the whole picture, we can see and love the person in front of us. God’s love and grace will meet us where we are, and will carry us.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received.

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Julie L. Paavola, mother and spiritual director, opens her new book with a beautiful description of the work given to mothers: “It is a mother’s work to honor the sacredness of the earth and of each new life given by God, and to keep believing in the goodness of creation for the sake of generations to come.” In The Mother’s Calling: Love in the heart of the world (Paulist Press, 2011), Paavola offers an inspirational discussion of mothering as a spiritual discipline.

Becoming a mother intensely deepened my spiritual life.  I stood before my daughter in amazement, and I felt a connection across time to the generations of mothers who have lived before me, trying to do right by their children. I was startled by the miracle of new life, and awed to have been such an intimate part of bringing new life into the world.

When a mother keeps her connection to this sense of awe, it has the potential to draw her closer to God. A mother knows that only through her Creator did her child come into this world, and that the love of her Creator also is the source of the mother’s love. This awareness can be a powerful aid when the daily tasks of mothering feel heavy. Paavola writes, “Our daily limitations and failures may sometimes make us feel powerless, but by our attention and love for the person right in front of us, we are put in immediate contact with the grace of the kingdom of God.”

I appreciated that Paavola emphasized the countercultural need to emphasize family and nurturing, in contrast to materialism. We strive to imitate God’s love when we offer our loving presence to our children. Acquiring material comforts, attending the latest classes, or pursuing perfect grades–these have nothing to do with it. We have to slow down in order to pay attention to our families and to God.  We must trust that God has equipped us for our  vocation, rather than worrying that we must “try harder” to keep up with an external, materialist standard.

Each of the seven chapters closes with a section called “Encounter and Practice,” which offers exercises for exploring themes from the chapter and applying them to one’s own life.

I found that Paavola’s voice was strongest when she focused on how God equips us for living out our calling, and when she encourages the reader to answer that summons with steadfast faith.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta famously remarked that if we want world peace we should go home and love our families. This is precisely what God has called mothers to do. Paavola reminds us that, by nourishing our spiritual life, we can live out this remarkable calling.

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