I have a habit of starting many books at once, and usually taking more than a year to finish them. I’d recently started reading Mary Karr’s Lit, Anne Lamott’s Some Assembly Required, Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine: How Creativity Works, Marian Roach Smith’s The Memoir Project and have a long way to go in most of them. This can’t be blamed on pregnancy or mom-brain. It’s always been this way.
But, when I ordered Katherine Willis Pershey’s debut book Any Day a Beautiful Change: A Story of Faith and Family on Kindle a couple days ago I couldn’t put it down. Like how I eat these days because of the twins – I inhaled it. I shovelled, gorged, and stuffed my face with it.
There are a number of precious nuggets in this, and the ones that spoke to me the most were the ways being clergy, mother, wife, and woman overlapped in meaningful ways. Nursing was a challenge in the beginning for me – namely enduring the pain without cursing anything and everything out.
That her blessing pained me for a time … well, yes. That’s how it works. Long after I first wrestled with those doctrines in classrooms and chapels, I’ve finally learned that there’s no way for the bread to be broken and the wine to be spilled without someone’s body and blood taking a hit. It isn’t that the pain is redemptive. The pain is redeemed.
I, too, have reflected often this year on the theme of communion in motherhood, and remember conversations with friend and fellow-clerywoman Erica telling me her first reflections on the words “take and eat” in conjunction with nursing Emma almost 7 (8?) years ago. Katherine says this perfectly for me.
Likewise, the season of Advent, and the thought of Mary as Theotokos, and being saved by/through childbearing is poignant:
I am one woman who has been saved – at least in part – by childbearing. Not just the childbearing that Mary undertook to bring the newborn Christ into the world, but the childbearing I did to bring the newborn Juliette into the world. Her birth opened something in me, and while that opening is a magnet for fear – and oh, what a risk it is to love so completely – it is also an invitation to greater faith, love, and holiness. But salvation will never cause me to be silent, not redemption of my soul by Jesus or the rescuing of my spirit by Juliette.
Something about this resonates so deeply, I think the way it embraces the birth imagery, which is undeniably a part of our faith, not only from creation and the “birth” of the world, and the birth of Christ, but re-birth in baptism, and birth in resurrection. It calls me to also courageously embrace this language for my own faith.
Finally, the theme of enjoying this life in a new way:
Practice resurrection (Wendell Berry). For me, this means forcing myself to be brave enough to enjoy simple pleasures with my family…I breathe…I invite the real God, the God of love, to banish my fear…
All of this came together for me in those words: practice resurrection. Practice overcoming. Practice struggling through hell and heaven. Practice fear conquering love. Practice a love so tangible the grave couldn’t drown it.
Please get this book! Whether you are clergy or not, woman or not, married or not, it is incredibly beautiful. And will be useful for your own reflection on being open to those beautiful changes in your life that happen any day.
Katherine Willis Pershey is the author of Any Day a Beautiful Change: A Story of Faith and Family and blogs here.
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