I. Love. Books.
One author I have discovered and read much of in the last few years is Henri Nouwen. He was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian. His interests were rooted primarily in psychology, pastoral ministry, spirituality, social justice and community. The Lord has invited me in recent years into practices of silence and solitude, and Nouwen’s heart, style and writing has been inspiring and enlightening in a sweet way. Below are a few highlights from my latest read, Spiritual Formation:
Spiritual formation is not about steps or stages on the way to perfection. It’s about the movements from the mind to the heart through prayer in its many forms that reunite us with God, each other, and our truest selves.
When in contemplation we come to see all of life as a gift, we then recognize the people in our lives as the greatest gifts of God. No longer characters, they have become persons with whom we can form community and through whom God can speak. When we become persons for each other, we transcend the limitations of our individual characters and realize a greater purpose as the people of God. As persons uniquely created by God, we are called to be transparent to each other, to point far beyond our character to the One who has given us true love, truth, and beauty.
The discipline of prayer is the intentional, concentrated, and regular effort to create space for God. Everything and everyone around us wants to fill up every bit of space in our lives and so make us not only occupied people, but preoccupied people as well. When we permit the world to pack our minds and hearts with countless things to look at, listen to, and read about, and countless people to visit, write to, talk to, and worry about, how do we focus? … A life without a quiet center easily becomes delusional.
In solitary prayer we become aware that our identity does not depend on what we have accomplished or possess, that our productivity does not define us, and that our worth is not the same as our usefulness.
I first learned of The Whole-Brain Child because one of the authors was interviewed on my favorite parenting podcast, Raising Boys and Girls. It is scientific but easy to read, and is structured in a way that’s helpful to understand. I borrowed it from the library, renewed it an extra 2 weeks, and still think I want to purchase my own copy to reference as we go. Here are a few memorable quotes from TWBC…
As children develop, their brains “mirror” their parent’s brain. In other words, the parent’s own growth and development, or lack of those, impact the child’s brain. As parents become more aware and emotionally healthy, their children reap the rewards and move toward health as well. That means that integrating and cultivating your own brain is one of the most loving and generous gifts you can give your children.
Parents who speak with their children about their feelings have children who develop emotional intelligence and can understand their own and other people’s feelings more fully.
We want to help our children become better integrated so they can use their whole brain in a coordinated way. For example, we want them to be horizontally integrated, so that their left-brain logic can work well with their right-brain emotion. We also want them to be vertically integrated, so that the physically higher parts of their brain, which let them thoughtfully consider their actions, work well with the lower parts, which are more concerned with instinct, gut reactions, and survival.
As parents, we are wired to try to save our children from any harm and hurt, but ultimately we can’t. They’ll fall down, they’ll get their feelings hurt, and they’ll get scared and sad and angry. Actually, it’s often these difficult experiences that allow them to grow and learn about the world. Rather than trying to shelter our children from life’s inevitable difficulties, we can help them integrate those experiences into their understanding of the world and learn from them.
The key here is that when your child is drowning in a right-brain emotional flood, you’ll do yourself (and your child) a big favor if you connect before you redirect.
But at the same time, they are opportunities—even gifts—because a survive moment is also a thrive moment, where the important, meaningful work of parenting takes place.