Advent Lessons on Leadership

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Written on December 4, 2019…

Tomorrow is about my son, but today is about motherhood, leadership, and Advent. On this day, three years ago, I was in labor for 26 hours. For the past five years, I’ve been resonating with Mary during these Advent seasons. We had a miscarriage a year before getting pregnant with our sweet boy, and the Advent/Christmas season was especially hard that year. I was pastoring my church community, struggling with personal loss and grief, and having to attend family ministry Christmas parties. It was painful and hard. I found great solidarity and comfort in getting to know Mary that year and have been drawn to her ever since. As I recently preached, whether you lose a baby at 7 weeks like I did or at any other point in your life, you are united. Something in your womb cracks wide open and you are united with every woman who ever has known or ever will know the joy and agony of creating life inside her body.

Last year on this day, I happened to sign up (not realizing the significance of the date) to teach a 90 min prenatal yoga class that would be my final project for certification as a yoga and spirituality teacher through my M.Div. program at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. I first found yoga through Monday morning prenatal classes during my pregnancy. They were the most helpful thing in caring for my body, my spirit, and my anxiety after long Sundays on my feet. Sundays filled with pastoring and struggling with my fears, trying to gracefully lead amid the endless inappropriate comments that people make toward pregnant women.

Two years later, returning to yoga during this seminary season of my life was a reminder of this gift. Returning to my mat during those training courses became my personal space for worship during a hard year without a church community. For my final, I chose the archetypes of motherhood to anchor my teachings on this night one year ago. After going through a year of learning with my cohort of fellow, female yoga teachers-in-training who I somewhat knew had their own experiences with miscarriage, abortions, infertility and motherhood, I found myself surprisingly blessed by the comfort they found from sitting in the archetypes of motherhood with me that evening.

Today, in 2019, I hold with me a beloved friend who celebrates the third birthday of her first baby this week and whose life journey has been closely in line with mine for these past 7 years. I also hold a dear friend who celebrates the brief life of her child born on this day some years ago and the beauty her spirit has been birthing into the world ever since. I hold them all in my body this week and give thanks for the wisdom and love I’ve received from my own mother and all the mothers in my life.

And this year, I find myself drawn to Elizabeth. The miracle baby of John coming at such an old age. How incredible it must’ve been for her, hiding her miraculous womb for six months, scared of what society will think of her. Then she opens her door to see a scared, young, wonder-filled Mary, a sister in solidarity, a miracle herself. And she rejoices as she feels the baby inside her womb jumping with joy, filled with the Holy Spirit! Oh, what that moment must have felt like for them!

Womanhood is sacred. Whether we are mothers, whether we choose to be or long to be or grieve over not being, we are united in our sisterhood, our ability to shine deeply for one another and create life, love, and energy within us for ourselves and for others. We are divine.

May you believe this for yourself today. May you know that as you travel through your own path of leadership, the sacred mothers of our traditions are there for you. May you be blessed by Mary and Elizabeth this Advent season too.

Artwork: “Mary & Elizabeth” by Lauren Wright Pittman