Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Structure: Inviting a Framework for Healthy Living

Some days I miss teaching. Rather, I miss the rhythms and order of the school day. I crave the structure inherent in a formal educational setting, complete with an early rising, mapped lesson plans, the ringing of the school bell, and allotted time for lunch, further prep and recess. I marvel reflecting on the discipline required by this profession to have learning objectives and a curriculum laid out that guide each class of learners, and me as their teacher/ facilitator. I miss this kind of framework for my daily life, as well as my role in helping co-create this structure.

As a mom who works part time professionally from home -- and coffee shops-- I need this kind of structure for my sanity, productivity, and well-being. However, this marked rhythm of the day often eludes me. With a beautiful small child at the center of my priorities and focus comes the needs of this little wonder and her own body's growing, changing requirements and evolving temperament. Life changes from day to day. As the old adage goes: the minute you get comfortable knowing your child and their needs, he or she changes.

Marguerite is a good little sleeper by all accounts. There is no question we were blessed by a combination of her disposition and some intentional parenting advice that gave rise to a fairly healthy sleep routine. Kiddo goes down consistently between 7:30pm and 8pm and 9 nights of out 10 stays happily put until 7:30am the next morning. (I'll admit that 7:30am is even EARLY for her to wake, and it's more like 8:30am or 9am when her father or I lift her out of the crib.) It's that tenth evening out of ten, however, when baby girl rears her head towards sleep -- is so engaged in some new piece of learning -- that her spirit demands further awake time, or better yet, more contact time with mom, and things have to shift. My life and rhythms have to shift.

This is parenting, this is a role I have prepped for -- consciously, or unconsciously -- all my adult days. This life is hard.

Add that my dear husband's schedule has changed from week to week for the past 105 that we have been married, and you may begin to fathom my knee-wobbling, weary status. "When do you go to work? When are we having a meal together? Will I see you in bed tonight? Are we able to attend mass together? Do you think we might be able to go out on a date next week?" Nothing is ever really consistent. On Thursday, Mr. Kiemde learns about his Saturday's schedule. Planning ahead is virtually impossible. Add some rocking college courses to the mix of our lives and his schedule, and it all adds up to create a challenging life that invites me to live, most often, ungrounded, but in the present moment.

I hold the needs of my husband and daughter in the center of my heart, and respond accordingly. It's not unlike education in that regard, in that I find my priorities falling behind those of the dear ones that I feel called to be present to, and in the case of family, made a lifetime commitment to.

Enter: The Visitation Sisters. Enter these religious women who have also made a lifetime commitment to Love, to one another, and to God, but whose order of the day is grounded in prayer. Four times a day these nuns convene to pray the liturgy of the hours, to tune into what scripture is saying to them, and unpack their lives through the lens of Love, of God, of inspired Word. It's awesome. I believe this is certainly why I feel called, over and over again, to return to the monastery, to be among the sisters and pray.

Recently, I made a commitment to return to a weekly structured prayer time in the vicinity of the Sisters. The Centering Prayer group that convenes every Tuesday morning at 7:45am at St.. Jane House under the auspices of Vis Companion, Brian Mogren, has rejuvenated me.

I rise -well before my body normally wakes- to shower, dress in the dark, and creep out the door to make my way in early morning rush hour traffic from St. Paul to north Minneapolis, in order to join a group of 15 to 20 or so other friends in silent prayer. Some days I'm able to enter the space during a storytelling time, when a member of the Centering Prayer community is sharing a narrative about their faith journey; I listen and am inspired. Then, with the ringing of a singing bowl announcing the start of prayer, and some intentional words guiding our silent meditation, we enter into the quiet. For twenty minutes I breathe in and out with nothing save the goal to empty myself and make way to tune into the Divine Indwelling. I sit within this circle of aligned individuals from various faith traditions who likewise crave quiet, order, an emptying of all personal agenda, except to Love, Heal, Be. In a word, it's "awesome." At the end of twenty minutes (which goes all to quickly for this aspiring prayer-warrior), another bell rings, and individuals speak aloud prayerful intentions that have surfaced in their meditation. Together, we are joined as individuals in the world with all other prayerful beings around the globe as we give voice to what is in our hearts, or even silently, as we offer these thoughts to a benevolent Creator and one another. Together, we slowly recite the Lord's Prayer, and by 8:30am, we are standing to go on about our day.

And this weekly structured activity is like my salvation. This is where I am able to turn over any and all concerns that plague me and give voice to my heart's deepest longings and largest joys. I celebrate that this group exists. I celebrate all that is necessary for each person to convene to actually convene. I recognize that it is not without some significant conversations and intentional actions on the part of my husband and I to make this weekly activity a possibility for me. I celebrate the way that this experience helps ground me, at least momentarily, in world where I feel so wobbly and crave stability and structure. I celebrate the way that this one activity every Tuesday morning inspires me as a wife, mom, and writer, tuning into the many ways that I am called to love, create and serve in this world.

I wonder how you are making structure, or find such parallel experiences or activity in your world?

Peace, Happy Contemplating,