Infatuation is easy, but love—especially parental love—is hard work.
In a recent meeting with all the players in our foster daughter’s case—social workers, attorneys, birth parents, adoption experts, and my husband and me—I was asked to give a summary of T’s progress since our last meeting, three months previous. I told the group all of T’s recent successes: being promoted up a level in gymnastics; behaving well (for the most part) in school and at home; scoring on grade level in reading and math. Thinking about how far T had come in the past three years, I smiled.
The genius of faith is that it gives us strength to face suffering head on, says Brian Doyle.
I’ll tell you a story. My wife is an art teacher for kids who are really really sick, a job filled with hilarity and pain, a job she loves, a job that makes her shiver and go for long walks in the hills. She spent a lot of time recently doing art projects with a kid who got sicker and sicker and endured oceans of pain and grew more swollen and weary by the day, and one day I came home to find my wife sad to the bottom of her bones. I asked her what was the matter and she said some things that haunt me still, and I think you should hear them.
Forgiving has much in common with jumping into an icy lake.
On January 1, all over the country, people jump into freezing bodies of water in celebration of a new year. While “polar bear clubs” involve bravado, good cold fun, and sometimes too many Bloody Marys, they also have a more serious side. There is something about our human nature that appreciates a clean slate, a fresh start, a chance to wash away the past and begin again.
Baking bread can be a profound spiritual lesson.
I have a new living organism—for lack of a better term—to feed in my house. It is my sourdough starter, a beige and pasty mix of wheat flour, water, and yeast that lives in a glass jar in the back of the refrigerator. Once a week it visits the kitchen counter, where it is replenished with water, flour, and oxygen. I sometimes divide it and use half for sourdough crackers or flatbread.
Find joy in life's small moments of wonder.
For the times I line up the wheels of my car into the tracks that lead into the car wash tunnel without the guidance of an attendant. The thrill is akin to parallel parking with just an inch on either side, on the first try. I feel like I’m a pilot or an astronaut and if I do nothing else good that day, You will remind me, that night, as I lay my head down on my pillow, how I rocked the car wash tracks.
Advent can help us draw out the God-with-us moments from our regular traditions.
Keeping Christ in Christmas doesn’t need to be one more “to do” on a family’s already packed December calendar. Jesus was born to bring peace, not stress. The word Emmanuel means God-with-us, and the antiphon of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” that defines Advent can help us draw out the God-with-us moments from our regular traditions.
Write Christmas cards
Although some people dread the annual stack of cards, envelopes, and stamps, for Elizabeth and Franc the cards provide time for Advent reflection.
Interfaith families are celebrating the holidays in unique and meaningful ways.
Samira Mehta started studying contemporary interfaith families, she says, because of lunch with a friend. Her classmate, an Episcopal seminarian, had recently met a teenage boy preparing for both his bar mitzvah and confirmation, and her friend expressed frustration with the lack of resources available to interfaith families in similar situations.
To many mothers, Mary is a relevant role model.
Two years ago, when we were already busy with three young children, our family was blessed with Ezra. Right away we knew our fourth baby was the most go-with-the-flow of the bunch; he basically had to be, constantly consumed by the chaos of our busy lives. He was baptized on the first Sunday of Advent and we looked forward to celebrating the Christmas season with another child in tow.
Tell people you're thankful for them.
During this month that nudges us to give thanks, let me give a shout-out to people over the past year who’ve given me moments of joy and hope.
How to find God in a feuding family.
The visiting priest spoke fondly in his homily about his growing up. Then he said, “Aren’t we all so lucky to have such great, loving families?” My husband and I glanced at each other quizzically. Our parish domestic violence ministry is growing steadily; the divorce group is growing strong, as is the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
That makes us just like any other parish. Many in the pews were doubtless thinking, “I’m happy for you, Father, but that’s not quite my experience.”