Sacred and mundane
I’ve written before about the tension I’ve felt as the primary caregiver of four young children while also being drawn to the thoughts and lives of the contemplatives, the mystics, the monks, and the cloistered. I’ve wondered often: how it is possible to live a contemplative life and also be present to the needs, distractions, cares, and joys of raising four children?
This tension is not, of course, unique to mothers and fathers. We all get distracted from spiritual practices (not that children are a distraction).
But authors like Joan Chittister, Kathleen Norris, and Henri Nouwen nudge against this tension, reforming it into something else altogether. Instead of feeling as though our spiritual lives will never measure up to that of the monks, Norris’ Quotidian Mysteries reminds us that even the seemingly boring or mundane parts of our day are actually opportunities to capture mystical connections. The more I’ve tried to be present with my kids, the more I understand that it is these very moments that are sacred.
Christine Valters Painter’s book The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing your creative soul with monastic wisdom offers a well of imaginative, monkish, artistic exercises in what sometimes feels like a creative slump. In twelve chapters, she offers creative practices that touch our spiritual hearts. In a chapter about the sacrament of daily life, she quotes the great Catholic writer Joan Chittister: “All of life is sacred. All of life is holy. All of life is to be held in anointed hands.” Every moment is an gift in which we can engage with God, whether that be in the savored bite of food, the clip of a piece of laundry on a clothesline, the kitchen dance with a child, or a conversation with someone in the home.
And we all have the opportunity, like the monks, to find the sacred in the mundane.
My own recent writings, interviews, and a book review:
At Good Letters: The lost goodbye in which I write about grief and the power of a good song.
An interview with Clint Sabom of Contemplative Light: in which we have a fun conversation about intentional community, the mystics, and, yes, vampire books.
Contemplative Light’s Marc Shaw also wrote one of my favorite reviews of my book. Check it out here.
Some things I’ve been reading or listening to from other people:
Laurus, a novel by Russian author Evgenij Vodolazkin is the strange and heartbreaking mystical journey of a holy fool.
Howard Thurman’s Deep River and the Negro Spiritual Speaks of Life and Death. I can’t even begin to unpack Thurman’s wisdom and mystical insight. I’m still thinking about his way of talking about death.
A Blade so Black by L.L McKinney is a YA modern reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. Angie Thomas, the author of the powerful YA novel The Hate U Give says of McKinney’s book: "Alice is Black Girl Magic personified."
Muse of Nightmares is Laini Taylor’s follow-up to her fantastical YA novel Strange the Dreamer about an orphan who lives through his books until he is allowed to journey to a city that he’s only dreamed of. Laini Taylor is one of my very favorite YA authors. Her novels are always beautifully imagined worlds that explore timeless themes.
Sister Sinjin’s Daughter of Jerusalem is the most beautiful and moving album. I mention their song “Goodbye” in my Good Letters piece, The Lost Goodbye (see above). Their melodies are wise, haunting, and mystical.
Ellie Holcomb’s Sing. I’ve been a fan of Holcomb’s music for a while now, and this album—written in tandem with a children’s book—is already beloved by my children, especially my preschooler. You know a true artist when she can write children’s music that parents also love listening to.
Last week my book turned six months old! To celebrate this milestone, I’m going giving away two books:
A signed copy of my book Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God Through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints (with a fun bookmark)
Christine Valters Painter’s The Artist’s Rule, a “twelve-week book journey” that encourages its readers into creative work that is both tangible and spiritual.
To Enter the Giveaway:
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Contest ends November 1, 2018 at which time, I’ll randomly select a winner and email you. (Only available in the U.S. and Cananda, I’m afraid).