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A lifelong evangelical, I once believed that daily quiet time dialed the only number God answers. In urban ministry as a young adult, I came to see the active life of service as another spiritual practice. My current church, a postmodern "emergent" congregation, encourages ancient Christian spiritual disciplines such as contemplative prayer and lectio divina. My faith has been enriched through these diverse practices, but they have never replaced my quiet times with God.

Becoming a mother, however, ruined my ability to be disciplined about spirituality. As I write this, my twins are two months old, and my initial sense of life with children is that everything is going to be rearranged, including the way I seek intimacy with God.

Spiritual disciplines that have been important to me are no longer possible, at least not in these early months of my babies' lives. I could only walk a labyrinth if its paths were wide enough for my double stroller. Anything approaching silence or solitude puts me to much-needed sleep. Pilgrimage? Only if I could bring along a pack-n-play, diaper bag, and washing machine. Even church gatherings have been crossed off the family calendar, because our boys were born prematurely and must avoid crowds for a while.

Many of the spiritual disciplines were developed by monastics who valued regularity and solitude; words like order and rule describe them. Family life, while no less holy than monastic life, makes consistent order impossible. The wild rhythm of parenting persuades me that monastic life cannot provide the only model for spiritual discipline. In fact, some seasons of life may be better suited to spiritual undiscipline. In contrast to the stability of monasticism, motherhood offers a catch-as-catch-can ...

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May 2007

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