So you’re a baby mama (or papa!) and you are looking for ways you can keep your faith alive through this sleep-deprived, something-new-every-day, emotional rollercoaster of a season? Here are my first two spiritual practices to help carry you through these crazy hard and wonderful days. (If you missed the Intro Post, I’d recommend going back and reading it first).
1. Practice the Presence of God
Back in the 17th century, a lay monk called Brother Lawrence developed an understanding of the Spiritual Life that has influenced many thousands of believers since. He came to realise that he could experience God just as closely, just as powerfully in the every day activities he undertook, as in the set prayer times.
“That we need only to recognize GOD intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him every moment, that we may beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful, and for rightly performing those which we plainly see He requires of us, offering them to Him before we do them, and giving Him thanks when we have done.”
― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
His idea is simple: rather than going about our normal life and work with the purpose of pleasing others, we should aim to do it only for the LOVE of God, recognising that God is present with us in every moment, and delights when we turn our thoughts to him, even if it doesn’t feel remotely “spiritual”.
So when I change nappies, when I feed my little girl, when I negotiate awkward arms into onesies and bounce on that pilates ball to calm a grumpy baby, I remember God is here, Immanuel. And as I believe that, I dare to believe I can simply live my day together with God. Sharing all the hard moments, enjoying all the good moments.
Brother Lawrence writes, “He talks with me and is delighted with me in a thousand and one ways”. We can feel that delight in this season, from the mother heart of God, who sees our struggles and our desire to do this well, and who comes and walks alongside us through our days.
Here’s what some other mamas said:
“I have found (as a working mom and clergy spouse) that the best way to be contemplative in chaos is to be in the moment and to see each moment as the blessing it is… poopie diapers, tantrums, short attention span, dishes, laundry, vacuuming – where do you see God in each task?” – Gay Getz
“It’s a great time to realise that God is in all the small things. Nursing, sitting looking out at the few other windows that glowed in the middle of the night and praying for them. As a mum you will soon realise that your whole life is a prayer.” – Gelli Ma
“I approach daily tasks of washing and cleaning as acts of love and mercy. And as I wash the dishes, I let the dishes wash me.” – Stephanie Dahl
“I think as with pre-kids busyness, try and see the spiritual in the ordinary. Find your rest in baking, reading a story, singing a lullaby, having a bath with Kaya and see the activity you’re doing as spiritual, as fulfilling your calling.” – Anneke Hudson
2. Singing and Music
Music is immensely powerful, and has the ability to impact our emotions, our spirit, release tension, improve memory. And it has been a key part of my spirituality these past months. I choose carefully the songs I listen to in the shower or first thing in the morning,because they so impact my spirit for the rest of the day. I have kitchen dance parties with a delighted and bemused Kaya when I am feeling down. And I sing to her, the songs of my childhood, simple melodies that remind me of profound truths.
In my singing and my listening and my dancing I feel God’s presence. I’m reminded God is there to be found, I’m reminded of who I am, and I am reconnected to myself when the day threatens to leave me floating.
What are the songs that lift you up or express your heart? Perhaps a chorus from your childhood or a recent song you’ve learnt. A favourite of mine is “He’s got the whole world in his hands” (I love Nina Simone’s version), which I adapt to include the names of our family and friends as an act of prayer. Gungor’s “Please be my strength” became a prayer when I was feeling overwhelmed.
“In the most trying times (tired, frustrated, lonely) I sang to my wee daughters. Not songs, but the sung words of my feeling or circumstance. It was, I confess, a bizarre libretto, often enough in a minor mode, but the music kept my heart out of hiding. Of course I sang a lot when we were all happy… but it was the difficult times that I now can see were my contemplation, the thread of sound I could hold onto.”- Leslie Crislip Nielsen
“I sang my prayers with my tinies. Lullabies and simple hymns comprised a good portion of my contemplation. It was such a blessing to me – even when they were sick, that in my arms I held an image of Christ.” – Michelle Stone
Tell me, how do you practice the presence of God as a baby mama? And are there particular songs that have become your prayers in this season? Leave a comment to add your thoughts, and then come back for the next three practices that have helped me hold on to my faith these past months.