Practicing Parents

Loving the Season

icy treeby Joanna Harader

I recently saw an article about artist Brent Christensen and the amazing ice sculptures that he creates. Sparkling walls of ice, up to twenty-five feet tall–the sculptures are beautiful.

But it wasn’t the sculptures themselves that most impressed me. It was this little bit of information from the beginning of the article: “The hobby first started in 2000, when Christensen’s family moved from sunny California to chilly Utah, and were looking for fun outdoor activities to do during the winter.”

Living in Kansas, I get the best of the hot AND cold seasons. But I imagine that–hypothetically speaking–if I were to move from sunny California to chilly Utah, my fun winter activities would include reading books by the fire and waiting for it to warm up outside.

I love the fact that the Christensens didn’t sit around pining for the time they lived in California or waiting for winter to be over. They decided to do new things in this new place–things they could never have done in California.

This is a principle I want to apply more to my spiritual life. Because I’ll tell you, trying to do spiritual practices with kids around doesn’t feel much like sunny California.

Those awesome week-long silent retreats? That spiritual directors’ program that involves a weekend retreat every month? A pilgrimage to Iona and Taize? Long stretches of morning silence when I can sip my tea and contemplate God?

These practices are not possible in my life right now. Not if I am also being faithful to my marriage and my children. I don’t get to run away from home (or lock the children in soundproof rooms every morning).

And if I am honest, I sometimes resent these limitations. I spend a lot of energy wishing I lived in sunny California. But what if I took a cue from Brent Christensen and simply asked myself what new thing I might be able to do in the place where I am–this parenting place of crowded bathrooms and homework and viola lessons?

Certainly there are spiritual practices that I cannot do right now because of my role as a mother. But there are also practices that I could not–or would not–do without children.

Reading stories out loud? Collecting interesting sticks and rocks? Listening to my daughter play viola for our church family? Sitting and listening to my children’s joys and concerns for the day?

These practices–and so many others–are possible in my life right now. I want to live more fully into this reality. I want to explore and better appreciate what it means to live a spiritual life in the context of family. I want to learn to build ice castles while I’m living this particular season of my life.

That is the longing behind Practicing Families. It is a longing that I know many parents share. And I am thrilled–really, truly thrilled–that so many wonderful, faithful writers have come on board to make this ministry a reality.

And I’m thrilled that you are here as well.

May you know God’s joy and peace this day–wherever you are, whatever the weather.


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