Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Real Story

This week we gathered to learn the real story of St. Nicholas.  My favorite line in the story is,

Gifts of St. Nicholas

Gifts of St. Nicholas

“Nicholas was loved for one reason. He loved. He loved God and God’s people so much that he would do anything for them”.  Nicholas was known and remembered for his great love.  I arrived at class having assumed I was the storyteller and it quickly became clear that another teacher was also prepared to tell the story.  Love in this moment was me saying clearly that I would appreciate it if my co-teacher told the story.  I wanted to be the door teacher.  And love in the next moment was coming back to center and witness as I observed thoughts coming to me about how I might have told the story differently.  Love was letting go of the idea there is any right way to tell the story and instead watching and hearing how the story was told and listening for what was there.

This past week has been challenging for me.  I have ridden up and down on waves of real and made up stories.  I have felt fine and noticed that my behavior was indicating otherwise.  I feel very sensitized now to seeing multiple layers in the stories I hear and tell.  I am seeing very big moments reflected in very small moments.  Above all I am struggling to deeply align myself with Love.  I want to love that Mystery we sometimes call God.  I want to love all beings.  I want to be like St. Nicholas.  In this desire, everything feels important.  So when one child took a toy out of another childs’ hands during our circle and a fist was raised, I walked calmly over, held the hitting hand and said I would help.  I asked for the toy back.  The child refused.  I took a breath and repeated that I needed the child to give me the toy.  I felt the urge to copy the offending behavior and with my greater strength, power and authority, to take the toy out of the child’s hand.  And I stopped.  I asked for the toy again and it was given to me.  I asked the other child if I could keep the toy safe till the end of our circle and he willingly handed them over, an action he had earlier refused to do.  This was a good interaction.  We stayed safe physically.  I exercised facilitating restraint and held the tension of compassion for all three of us.  I also clearly stated what was ok and what I wanted to happen.  We made it through together.

This was a beautiful and difficult small moment, a blip of time in our class, but it reflects for me a larger story.  Who I hope to be in the world is a person who can enter conflict and hold all of us in love until a new way opens for us.  I want to take that extra breath when I feel anger or fear before I act in unskillful ways.  I want to bring trust and love into places of strain.  And it was challenging to do that with pre-schoolers.  How will I do out in the world?

I am wearing a safety pin on my shirt these days and let me tell you, it scares me a little.  I am wearing the pin because I want to live into an identity of being a safe person.  What might happen if someone truly calls on me to be that in the world?  What happens if I don’t take that extra breath in when I feel fear or anger rising?  What happens if I try to offer love, protection and safety and I fail?  What if the forces roll right over me?

I want to be like St. Nicholas.  I want to love us, all of us, so much.  I want a world of more love; real love.  The love that penetrates us so deeply that we blossom.  A love so powerful that we offer our service to others and for others.  How we do it matters.  This is what changes lives and changes the world.  And so I guess I’d rather wear the pin and take my chances than try to avoid risk.

My daily spiritual practice has been a lifesaver for me this week.  It brings me back into seeing things as they are, it seats me squarely in gratitude and ignites a longing in me to bring the fullness of our connections to light. That is what I want to live in the world.  One area of practice is with our children.  I know my own shadow emerges with them first and is a place to learn about my growing edges and reaffirm how and who I want to be.  I don’t know what happens next, but I want to go the way of love, so I’ll begin where I am and wonder what might happen next.

Perseverance

This week’s reflection starts long before the classroom.  I woke up Sunday morning and started my morning meditation.

The Rocky Path

The Rocky Path

When it was time to wake up my children, I called to them through the door to their room so I wouldn’t have to open it and disturb the blanket fort they were sleeping under, it’s corner wedged between the door and frame.  I started to get dressed and think about breakfast when I heard my children talking and then yelling and then screaming at each other.  I called through the door again hoping my voice would disrupt their anger and retorts, but it didn’t.  In fact, I could hear that the argument had turned physical and they were hurting each other.  It was time to come in, fort or no.

These moments prove to me some of the most difficult parenting situations I encounter.  I want to protect both of my children from being hurt physically or emotionally.  I want the yelling and fighting to stop.  I want to bring calm to the situation, but their anger tends to fuel my anger, especially when they are more intent on continuing their argument than in listening to me.  I found myself getting louder and louder and more frustrated and soon we were all yelling and unkind to one another.  Embarrassingly, the melee ended by me tearing down the blanket fort and separating the children.

As I prepared breakfast and took some time to calm down, I marveled at how fast that situation had gotten out of control and how disappointed I was in myself.  I not only didn’t manage to bring calm to the situation, I added to it.  That is not the kind of parent I want to be.  Parenting is a spiritual practice for me and it truly breaks my heart when I fall short.

I first decided I needed to apologize to my son, who had built the fort.  I told him that I wished I hadn’t taken it down and I would help put it back together.  I apologized to my daughter for yelling.  We ate breakfast.  And then I built the fort myself, fixing the blankets higher than they had been which was a welcome improvement according to the kids.

And then we went to church.  It was story Sunday so we all went to the Sanctuary together and sat down.  Even though I sat between them, they started to poke and pick at each other disturbing those around us.  I stood up for the first hymn and noticed they were drawing a line on the pew delineating whose side was whose.  And then they started drawing a line up my back.  This was a sad moment for me.  I don’t want my children to feel scarce with my love and attention so that they need to claim their part of me.  I want all of me to be for both of them.  Listening to Jessica’s sermon asking us to please have mercy on ourselves for our moments of failure was just the balm I needed.

Our lesson in class was about the Persevering Ant who goes on a pilgrimage to find what is biggest and most powerful, ending up in conversation with God who was everywhere and nowhere at the same time.  One child said that the piece of fabric under the story was the most important part because it held all the other parts.  All the pieces were included.  And it made me think about one of the greatest powers of Love, to hold all things, even the things that we sometimes find difficult or painful.  To have mercy on myself means that the power of love can draw me back to my center and give me the strength to apologize.  It gives me the desire to wonder why I behaved the way I did this time and what I might do differently next time.  It gives me the assurance that there is more than this;  more than my painful learning as a parent, more than the smaller forces of fear and tiredness and hurt.  There are more chances, more relationship, more love and more mercy than I can exhaust by my mishaps and missteps.  This is truly good news and worth practicing again and again and again.  What does the power of love call you to?  Where do you need to have mercy on yourself?