Archive | Practices of Mothering

In which “My Practices of Mothering” is now an ebook


We had our three babies in four-and-a-half years. It was … rather life-changing. And right in the midst of it, I began to write through the stuff that I do (or tried to do) to enjoy day-to-day life with a houseful of tinies.

Three years later, it remains one of the most popular series of posts I’ve ever done at my blog. It’s a little bit practical and a little bit theological and a lot of conversational, non-expert “in-the-trenches” talk about what worked for me in that season of life. 

I call them Practices because that’s what us Christians have often called spiritual disciplines, but really they’re just things I do over and over again. Everyone has their own “practices.”  Most of mine come from my own parents but then I picked up a few others from books or friends or mentors.  And my practices may not work for you and your family.

As my tinies grow up, my practices have already shifted and changed and evolved, as they should. Life in our house looks differently now that our tinies are 7, 5, and 3 than it did when they were 4, 2, and newborn. I imagine that they will be completely different again when they are teenagers. Your own practices will do that, too.

The practices included in the ebook are:

  • speaking life,
  • attachment,
  • the big picture,
  • routine,
  • worth,
  • gentle discipline,
  • being a person,
  • play,
  • sleep,
  • abiding in the Vine,
  • community,
  • space on the margins,
  • realistic expectations, and
  • assigning positive intent.

Because it can be hard to click around a website searching for the right posts, I decided to edit the posts and put them into an ebook. My thanks to Dan King for his help with the tech side of things and to Andrea Levendusky for such a perfect cover. 

Check it out here: My Practices of Mothering for $2.99* on Amazon.

*It’s $2.99 in the US Amazon store. If you’re purchasing from Canada, the price may show up as $3.01. 

Continue Reading · books, parenting, Practices of Mothering · 4

In which I write a letter to you, mama

Dear Mother:

There is no perfect mother.

If there is one thing that has tripped me up most as a mum, especially in the early years of this, it’s the belief that somewhere, out there, was The Perfect Mother. Sometimes she was my own mother. Sometimes she was someone online. Sometimes she was someone at church or at the playground. I’d see one brief moment of her life, or hear her speak, or see her kids, and think, I bet she never resents wiping bums or feels bored, I bet she never feels so tired that even her eyebrows are aching, I bet she loves every single minute of this mothering thing and I bet her kids listen to classical music and never bicker. I bet she’s a better mother than me. 

That just isn’t true, The Perfect Mother only exists in the land of unicorns. And the sooner you realise that we’re all in this together, that most of us feel guilty  or inadequate sometimes, that most of us will freely admit to feeling overwhelmed or tired, you’ll relax that death grip of high expectations on yourself to be perfect.

My joy in mothering these small souls was restored to me when I was released from the prison of comparison. That yearning to measure up, to be The Perfect Mother, masquerades as selflessness but really, it’s approval addiction, it’s people pleasing and you won’t be the only victim of it’s poison and its bitter need for control. 
Darling, you are mothering for an audience of One, and that One, he delights in you
And joy will come to you when you simply let that woman be the mother that she is, perfect or otherwise, and give yourself grace to figure it out as you go. Let yourself be all of the mother that you are – when you yell or get frustrated, when you ask forgiveness, when you feel your heart straining against your rib cage, all because of how he looks asleep in your arms, all because of the sound of childlish voices laughing outside, all because of the quiet nights in the monastery of the baby’s room, just rocking in a time outside of time, it’s all real and it’s all you and it’s all okay. There is grace for it all, it all makes you a mother.
There is no one right way to be a mother just as there is no one right way to be a person or a woman or a follower of our Jesus. Your child is your child. You are you. Let those two truths exist together. And let the Spirit lead you, like a wind, like the Word, like prayer and hope, like traditions and rituals, like change and newness, like hope and grieving. 
Mothering is organic, embrace the free-range life. Exhale. Relax the death-grip of comparison on your own soul, it’s crushing, isn’t it? Look to our Jesus, look to how he made you, look to the child he gave you, look to your family’s values and callings and gorgeous craziness and embrace it all. Move with freedom and confidence because you, my luv, you are not alone. 
We’re all out here, figuring it out together. Give yourself the freedom, the grace, the wisdom, the love and gentleness that you crave from others, and then turn around and pour it out, lavishly, on the mothers around you, as a sacrifice of grace.
I honour you as a mother. In fact, I think you’re just about perfect at it.
With all of my love,
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This letter is part of the Mother Letters project. My friends, Amber and Seth, are leading this project and I think it matters, I think you’ll find freedom there.
You’re welcome to join in. Just write a letter to a mother and link up here
You can buy the Mother Letters e-book here. (There’s even a photo of me and Evelynn Joan in there. And that’s an affiliate link.)

Continue Reading · faith, parenting, Practices of Mothering · 13

In which I say thank you for being part of something amazing

I’ve been trying to find the words to wrap up our Practices of Parenting Carnival for the past week. It feels like holy ground, somehow. After all, we’re all still in the midst of this parenting thing. We’re not big important writers and thinkers in the eyes of the world, maybe, but here we are encouraging, clasping (virtual) hands and loving each other. We still have something to offer, a gift to give, don’t we? We still have wisdom to share and teachable hearts to receive from others.

I hope you feel loved, affirmed, encouraged. I hope you feel like you found a few like-minded souls. I hope you feel encouraged to press on, beloved, in the daily, relentless work of loving well.

I want to say thank you but I feel like it’s not enough. It’s all I have though. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. For participating, for writing, for coming alongside of each other. For letting me be a part of something amazing here.

Your tinies, your kids, are blessed to have you as their mother, blessed to have you as their father.

This entire Carnival reminded me of this Practice of my own, The Practice of Community.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in a stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light,
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair
Show an affirming flame.
– W.H. Auden

You need an affirming flame in your life, mama. We all do. Parenting is hard work and we all know it but it is holy work, joyful work, sacred and messy work when done in community.

This may seem an odd thing, I know, coming from an introvert like me, one that craves solitude and quiet. But it’s true: I need my village desperately to enjoy mothering. I need their ironic points of light against the dark sky to blaze out against the negation and despair of life, the warmth of their wisdom and laughter so that I can be an affirming flame on this life.

Find your village, find your tribe.  If parenting is going to go well for us, we need friends and we need community, we need sisters, both elder and younger, we need spiritual-mothers and spiritual-grandmothers for even the shortest of seasons and the longest of lives.

You will not freak out over little things if you have friends. You will have perspective for ages and stages. You will have someone to laugh at the ridiculous things, someone to hug and pray when you are struggling, someone to care when you come home from another well-baby check-up or you aren’t sure if you’ll ever be well-rested again in your life.

Light your own candle, too, and, don’t shove it under a basket, set it up on the tallest table, leave a light for them to find as they move forward to joy, too. And, then, watch for the ones just a bit ahead on the path to learn as you go.

My soul-eyes are always watching for the points of light in my life and I’ve found them in the craziest places. My sister, of course, my kindred-spirit-heart-friend. My mother. My father. My Auntie. My cousins. My friends from university now scattered across the globe. My friends from Texas. My neighbourhood. My churches. My short-lived-in-an-official-capacity-anyway former “Mums Group” when Joe was brand new. And, most surprisingly, social media – through message boards, Twitter and blogging, I’ve found my tribe of mamas, too, the ones that get me, understand my choices, affirm me and challenge me every day.  And of course, you, my friend, here (I never like the word “readers” – it’s just not enough for how grateful I am for your presence and voice in my life.) 

Mothering is too hard to do it alone. And it’s a practice of mine to cultivate friendships. To hang onto them, if I can, in some way. To make time and energy for them.  Because friendship – in many forms, in many ways, from coffee shops to living rooms to church basements to Facebook, some for years, others for a day or two – is a gift from God, cutting through the fog of isolation creeping up on your soul, telling you that no one understands. Because someone does or someone will always understand.

See, this, now? This is me, setting a bit of a light in my window for you, mama. I see you. I affirm you. I am also composed of Eros and dust and I am thankful for your light.

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Continue Reading · community, gratitude, parenting, Practices of Mothering · 2

In which I feature 5 – okay, actually 10 – more of your Practices

Saturday morning snuggles: Evelynn thinks she’s one of the gang now.

These are a few more featured Practices from our carnival that stood out to me and have stayed with me. (The first Featured 5 are here.)

It was nearly impossible to narrow it down to another featured 5. I blame you people entirely for this (good) problem.

So here are a few more that stood out or were mentioned frequently to me as having made a difference to you.

The Practice of the Free Pass by The Extraordinary Ordinary

Yes, doing all of this will help you and you will feel freedom and peace. But, don’t expect to accomplish this if you aren’t getting any sleep and someone is tugging on you at all times. Then you get a free pass because implementing anything is impossible for you right now and you should just go ahead and expect very little of yourself in any regard. One day soon you will have a few more minutes here and there. I mean, mothering will never ever get easier, but in some ways it will, and then the whole mental and spiritual and emotional health thing will feel less impossible. I mean, who can possibly pray or meditate or read when the teething baby can’t be put down and the other children are coloring everything and fighting because you’re too otherwise occupied with not bathing or eating to stop them. Please just go ahead and get yourself from one end of the day to the other and let that be enough. Let your prayers be counted as butts wiped and mouths fed and floors swept and hours of sleep missed. Please go easy on yourself because some day you’ll be sleeping again and you’ll look back and see that you were doing all that you could.

The Practice of Creativity by Naturally Chic Mama

When I can, I love to squeeze in a home project or a little sewing myself. I try to resist the urge to wait until after the boys go to bed, and try instead to involve them in my projects. Or at the least, allow them to see me being creative.
I have learned to let go of perfection and embrace the act of creating together.

The Practice of The Whisper by Sorta Crunchy

When I feel those big feelings bubbling up – that frustration, that anger, that rage (yes, rage) – I force myself to go into “whisper mode.”  I make the conscious effort to lower my voice immediately and dramatically to a whisper. 

The Practice of the Paradigm Shift: Mothering is my Real Life by Anne with an E 

The turning point came when I realized that was no way to view my baby–as an obstacle to my Real Life.  Mothering was now my real life.  My temper is much slower to flare now than it was all those years ago (thanks to practice, practice, practice), but I still find myself getting snippy when my kids’ needs are interfering with my to-do list.   If I’m having a perceptive day, I can recognize my mistake for what it is:  I’ve made my agenda more important than my kids.  I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking my children are interfering with my Real Life.

The Practice of Trusting My Gut by Tumbledweeds

Ancient wisdom, tucked deep in the secret of my heart, mine simply for being a mother.  My intuition is mine alone.  Yours will look different, sound different, feel different.  But we are all fierce in our love for our little ones, and we feel that fire in our bellies.

The Practice of Sharing with the Community by Their Worlds

And so, our best parenting practice to date has been to allow our dear child to be a child of community – to meet and know and love others in the way that only a child can.  It has required some sacrifice on our part, to share OUR child – the one we have both waited our whole lives for – with others in a true and genuine way…to allow her to love them deeply.  We have had to relinquish jealousy and some measure of control, and we have had to be diligent when we are at home to create deep and meaningful time together with our baby girl.

The Practice the Mommy Cheerleader by Domestic Goddessing

So, I laid to rest the nag, and I resurrected the cheerleader.  Oh yes, yours truly and her white legs cheered in junior high and college.  I remember every cheer, every move, every dance and every stunt.  I decided to use this useless knowledge to motivate my little dude.

The Practice of The Messy House by Flathead Mama

Dear Messy House,
I know I grouch and complain about you more often than I should…and I take you for granted more times than I could number.  I shout, “I CAN’T. TAKE. IT. ONE. MORE. MINUTE!!!”  I’m sorry…please forgive me.  I want to take this opportunity to tell you thank you for all you do.

The Practice of Becoming “Daddy” by The Crooked Mouth

My two girls are as different from one another as can be. One is sensitive and sweet, the other rough and tumble. One goes with the flow, the other needs order and structure. One will eat anything, the other turns her nose up at everything. Instead of trying to move each of them toward the other or toward some societal ‘mean,’ I celebrate their differences. They will spend the rest of their lives struggling with how their identities. The least I can give them is a Daddy who loves them as they are.

The Practice of Living the Questions by Walking to China

The life we have led has been hard for you sometimes. We have moved quite a bit. We haven’t had much money. You have seen your father verbally beaten up by people he has invested in. You have seen him take much criticism. You have often felt that our priority was the work we did, instead of you. You have struggled in deep and personal ways. We hope and pray that those are things you can process well and that you would grow strong in all the broken places.

I’m still trying to formulate my thoughts on this whole Parenting Carnival thing we just did here and right now I’m still in the “I have no words…it’s just….. awesome….” which, while true, doesn’t quite sum up what I feel it meant somehow. 
So I’ll keep trying and hopefully have something for us by tomorrow to wrap it up. Maybe let me know what, if anything, this Carnival has meant to you? 

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Continue Reading · Guest Post, parenting, Practices of Mothering · 8

In which I feature a few of my favourites from your Practices

I have been a reading, crying, laughing, loving, commenting fool of a woman these past few days. 

117 of us linked up, poured our souls out in wise-goodness for our Practices of Parenting Carnival.



I’d like to share all of your posts, give each of you a Guest Post of your own. But since I can’t, I’d like to feature 10 of your posts that truly stood out to me. (Five today, five more tomorrow.)

The Practice of Reading Aloud (And Doing The Voices) by A Daily Portion

Keeping reading aloud together as part of our family time keeps us discovering forgotten places together, keeps us all vicariously experiencing some of the same adventures and dreaming the same dreams. As my boys, now eight and eleven, grow into more discovery of themselves, their Maker and Creation, we have as companions characters who are doing the same, characters we get to know alongside one another.

The Practice of Assigning Beauty by The Not-Ever-Still Life

I am cultivating in my children an Uncritical eye. I want them not to define beauty by celebrity gossip nor by what some mean girl will one day say. I want them not ever to define their worth against an other; not their beauty nor their wisdom nor the measure of their hearts. So I assign beauty uncritically. I notice how tenderly a husband holds his hand against his wife’s back, and I say quietly to my kids, “that’s enduring love.” When I see them staring at a woman in a wheelchair, as small children will do, I point out the warmth of her smile. When they look on the leathered face of an elderly gentleman, I draw their attention to the way his wrinkles carve canyons, deepening and emphasizing his dimples. When one girl challenges me with a difficult question I praise her deep thinking and when the other draws a picture to give to a friend I praise her generous spirit and when my son is old enough I’ll tell him, too: these are the ways you love others, and your world — by dwelling not on flaws but on beauty. 

The Practice of the Mother Without Her Child by The Sacred Life 

so many of you mamas, you don’t know how i live through you. i see your babies and i smile here in the dark. i read your stories. i blow kisses and wipe my eyes. i’m a thousand fierce kinds of tender, and will you let me hold her while you sleep? we will snuggle gently, and i will read…

The Practice of the Apology by The Hippie Housewife

I can know all the right things to do and say, focusing on relationship and connection as I gently guide my children through life…but I’m going to mess up. And when I do the wrong thing, I need to fix it. I need to make amends and restore the relationship I have damaged.
I need to apologize.
And in doing so, I find such sweetness in a child’s ready forgiveness.

The Practice of the Village by Love is What You Do

Every mom knows it takes a village to raise a baby. But since my babies were little, our village has looked a bit different than we thought it would. Noelle was 10 months old the first time I ran into a group of Burmese refugees at a local fall festival. One of the women, Hela, had two little ones and was pregnant with her third. I was just figuring out the whole mom-with-a-baby thing. We connected at a frazzled fall festival chasing after our little ones. A few months later, we threw her a baby shower for her third baby, a son.

Five more tomorrow. And there is still time to link up, if you like.

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Continue Reading · Guest Post, parenting, Practices of Mothering · 5