Eileen Flanagan's God Raising Us pamphlet

Last summer I bought Eileen Flanagan's pamphlet God Raising Us: Parenting as a Spiritual Practice (Pendle Hill Pamphlet 396). I've been meaning to post about it ever since. Well, I just re-read it, really liked it, and would recommend it to other Quakers, whether they are parents or aunts or uncles or might like to be any of the above one day.

Eileen writes the blog Imperfect Serenity. I met Eileen and her children at the Friends General Conference Gathering in Johnstown, Penna., and we got to spend a little time together. Her son and my older son even played instruments onstage together during a participatory moment in one of the evening performance times. It's always neat to know an author. Actually, by reading Eileen's blog, I already have a sense of knowing her in a way that is much deeper than if we just spent that little amount of time together. That's one of the magical things about blogging for me.

Here's a sample from the beginning of the pamphlet:
God has continually used my two children to raise me out of selfishness and make me more self-aware. Through them, God has taught me about patience, surrender, and self-control, as well as the testimonies of peace, simplicity, and integrity. They have helped me find God, not just in silence and solitude, but in the midst of chaos and crying. While I still have much to learn, I have found that naming parenting as a spiritual practice helps me follow this path more consciously.
I enjoyed her description of family practices, such as evening prayers, or extended silence as part of their evening routine during Advent and Lent. I was also inspired by how, when her daughter was very young, she prayed to God to find another mother as a friend. Soon after, by talking to someone in a grocery store, she connected with a person who was just the kind of person she was looking for. An atheist, the other mother laughed to hear she was the "answer to a prayer."

Eileen addresses an important issue in the final section, "Supporting the Spiritual Lives of Parents." She cites the FGC Gathering as a place where parents can "deepen their own spiritual lives without cutting themselves off from their children." She names the challenge of finding and creating that kind of wholeness "closer to home and at less expense, so that all families can experience it."

For myself, I find Pacific Yearly Meeting to be another place where that wholeness can very often be found. Yet it's still a week away and not cheap. And besides, that wholeness is challenged mightily on an almost daily basis, as Friends fill up the business meetings with more and more discussion. Parents have to choose between being on time to pick up their children, and respecting the teachers (I was one last year myself), or staying in the meeting for worship with a concern for business. This is an especially painful choice when the business topic is staffing the youth programs, which it was at PacYM last summer.

In sum, I recommend the pamphlet God Raising Us. For me, it was even better the second time I read it.

In addition, Eileen's new book The Wisdom to Know the Difference: When to Make A Change–and When to Let Go will be published this fall. You can read more about it on her author website, www.eileenflanagan.com.

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