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Practices: ways we attend to daily life that reveal and transcend our limits.


Practice is a way of knowing beyond language. Meaning lives in your body and relationships not just in your mind when you begin to practice something regularly. The following are posts I’ve written on practices, sacred and mundane, with the belief that the act of practicing shapes us spiritually. These practices come from the minds and hearts of great spiritual teachers in every tradition as well as the lives of those around me. Like the mustard seed that moves mountains, and the drop of water that smooths rock, no action is too small not to contain within it the potential to transform.


Each month I will reflect on a new practice. Look for future posts with titles like: The Practice of Parenting, The Practice of Delayed Gratification, The Practice of List-Making, The Practice of Praying for Others, The Practice of Meal-Planning, The Practice of Empowering Others, The Practice of Building Up (and Knocking Down), The Practice of Receiving, The Practice of Shifting Your Weight, The Practice of Charting Growth, etc. Have a practice you want to share? Please email me and be a guest blogger. It’s amazing how the everyday can transform us when understood with gratitude (even just a dose) and intention (more than a dose).



Posts from the ‘Practices’ Category

What’s in a Name?

Thursday, January 7, 2010 9:45 PM, EST

A note about our daughter’s name.

Many of you have asked about her name and what her middle name is. (How can you beat James’s “My middle name is Love” line?).  “Grace” has always been her middle name.  12 weeks ago when we packed a bag for an emergency admission to the hospital, we included a liturgy for a stillborn child, we also chose a name.  “Emily Grace.”  This was inspired by a poem by Emily Dickinson that my grandmother, Harriet, introduced to me in a letter discussing grief.  She used Dickinson’s phrase “a harrowing grace,” to describe what grief and challenges can do to us as they break up the rigid soil and make fertile ground for new plantings.  Receiving grace is not always an easy or calming process.  “Emily” was a tribute to the writer, Emily Dickinson, who knew so much of grace and of life and yet lived most her life in a small room as we expected our daughter would live her life only in the womb.  We later found out that “Emily” means “laborious” and therefore her name was “Hard-working Grace.”  She was definitely working hard to stay alive.

As much as the description of “harrowing grace” resonates with me,  I am glad that she is crossing over into “Amazing Grace” as so many of you recognized.

Many people helped us to help her beat the odds.  We recognize that our ability to give her a shot was strengthened immensely by the support systems of our family and especially, our congregations.  We are particularly grateful to my sister, Maggie, who was ready several nights to care for James during our emergency visits to the hospital and was present during the entire labor.  (Unfortunately, after her own “harrowing” experience of watching her sister wheeled into the OR with the doctors saying no time for anesthesia and then hearing me scream on the OR table (because they discovered the baby had come out partially breech) and imagining I was being cut open while totally conscious, Maggie may never want to conceive her own children).

We are thrilled and honored to now name our daughter,


In honor of the Margaret’s who gave her this life we hope she now embraces to the fullest.

For Beth’s beloved and late Grandmother Peg Waltemath and her mother Mina Margaret Brewster.

For David’s late, beautiful Grandmother Janet Margaret Clarke Widmer.

For Beth’s sister, Mary Margaret Lee Waltemath.

For Beth’s mentor, Margaret Renkl, who listened and counselled me about losing a pregnancy for hours in those first weeks.

For Margaret Riley, “Aunt Margaret,” Maggie’s roomate, who also stood vigil for night emergencies and took care of James to ease our burden.

For Margaret Wray, Beth’s lifelong friend who visited me on bed rest and sent Insomnia cookies and Kiehl’s body products to help me through.

For Margie Martin, Beth’s godmother, who with my other incredible godmother, Diana Alden, have always let me know that faith and prayer surround my life even when I was too young or too unsure to be aware of God’s presence in it.

“That’s a big name for such a small baby,” our doctor said today on Margaret Grace’s 1 week birthday.  Yes, and it is impossible not to make a diminutive for a 2lb baby.  So you will hear her nurses call her “Grace” or “Gracie” or “Maggie” or “Margot.” We may even one day call her “May” or “Maisy.”  We hope she has plenty of time to grow into and shape her own name.  From the beginning, she has lead the way asking us to be still, believe, wait and see.  So we will wait to see exactly whom Margaret Grace hopes to be.  (She’ll have to shorten it somehow for even this website said her full name had too many characters so we couldn’t update the title of this page).

For now, you can keep calling her “Grace,” for that is what she is to every heart she has touched.

With Love and Grace,

(There it is summed up in my children’s middle names, my theology in a nutshell.  Lucky for them, if we’d left it to David’s theology, they might have ended up with monikers like “Justice” and “Righteousness.”  Either way, they’ve got a lot of explaining to do on the playground.)



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