All posts by Tania Alden

About Tania Alden

Tania is a wife, mother and watercolour painter (when she has the time and brain space). She currently lives in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania but holds a special place in her heart for Westville, South Africa where she grew up. She and husband Micah are delighted and exhausted parents to three young children. As the daughter of a minister, married to the son of a minister, New Church ideas have always formed a central and important part of Tania’s family life, but now as a mother, finding ways to communicate and teach these values to young children has given them a new meaning and power. And it is exciting, and daunting, to know that the journey of spiritual understanding is just barely beginning!

Ocean Thoughts

Until I thought of myself as the sea

I used to separate good days from bad until 
I thought of myself as an ocean. I used to 
split times I felt strong from when I felt weak 
until I imagined myself as the sea. Calm and 
rocky, wild and soft, still and powerful and vast 
and more than any one thing. In the ocean it’s 
hard to divorce one mood from another, one wave 
from the next. Now, on my worst days, I think 
of how good life is too, how I still can greet joy 
while swimming through grief. How fragile 
strength feels. How I’m not any one thing in any 
one moment on any one day. I’m all of it and 
all of it is me. 

– Hannah Napier Rosenberg

I came across this poem on Instagram and it resonated deeply. It feels like something that women in particular relate to, and need to hear. It led me to my frequent meditations on enough-ness and the struggle to be all of our feelings and experiences at once, not diminishing or canceling either side. 

Continue reading Ocean Thoughts

Little and Often

Watching my two and a half year old clean up can be a painful experience. Pick up two board books, try to untangle a third from a blanket, drop one, pick it up, free the blanket one and bend to pick it up, drop the other two, pick these two up, step forward to get the third, stumble over the blanket, drop one, bend, pick up ALL three, take two steps, drop one. On and on. As an infinitely more capable adult (or big sibling) watching this process can be torture. The desire to step in and make it smooth, efficient, painless can be almost impossible to resist. But the most shocking part of the whole process is that, ultimately, it works. The books end up on the shelf, and my little girl is slightly puffed up with pleasure at a job well done. 

Why does it work? Certainly not through efficiency, speed or accuracy. It works through continual, small (sometimes futile) efforts. 

“Little and often.” I first heard this quote from my mom, which she heard from another artist about making time for creative efforts, but I’ve been thinking about how it applies to any effort—particularly spiritual effort. 

Turn to the Lord: think of Him, take a deep breath, trust Him for this moment, utter a tiny prayer. Just do it, it doesn’t have to be big and certainly not perfect. But do it often.

For years I have been trying to make gratitude a bigger part of my life. For the last year and a half that has taken the form of writing a daily gratitude for my husband. It is sometimes very brief, sometimes left undone for a few days so I have to play catch up. It sometimes feels manufactured and pointless, and I have to force myself to do it. Yet because I do it, taken all together my book of gratitudes is not so little. 

Little and often. Does this resonate with you? It certainly helps me to remember (for the eightieth time) that growth doesn’t have to (isn’t supposed to) be fast or big, it just needs to be worked at consistently. What are the little and often spiritual practices that work for you? 

I like the thought of embracing my inner two year old who is at once so maddeningly inefficient, and so impressively persistent. And if she can get the job done, maybe I can too. It’s of course not the sweeping change I want, but it is powerful. Because after all, the Lord Himself told us that this is how He will change us: “Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land.” (Exodus 23:30

Growing Pains

I’ve been thinking a lot about parenthood: how much of it is about letting go, and how the early years so ill prepare you for this reality. Ultimately we raise children so that they can walk off into the world, equipped to meet whatever challenges they face. We don’t raise them to keep them in our arms, but I imagine a part of us takes a lifetime to accept how much they are apart from us. Babies are given to us, but were never really ours. 

It’s a bittersweet reality. On the one hand it’s so clear that this was the Lord’s design, and that it is beautiful and complete and the only way to true eternal life for any of us. And it’s also a bit of a heart wrench to accept that the child who was once a babe in my arms is now supposed to be walking further and further away from needing me, into independence and free choice. 

It can’t but make me think of the Lord and His relationship with us all. As the ultimate parent figure, this process of nurturing and letting go encompasses so much of His relationship with all of us. And it gives me a real pang for how that would feel: needing to let us walk away, sometimes very far away, so that we have the chance of one day choosing to walk towards Him. 

Continue reading Growing Pains

Poems on Motherhood

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:1

Motherhood is such a mix of blessing and labor. Mundane and ineffable moments are all wrapped up together in this daily grind and daily magic. And how easy it is to lose sight of the magic midst the grind! I wanted to share these two unpolished poems of mine which help me to focus on the bigger picture, and the gift it all is. 

Dimpled legs as you stretch
on tiptoe to the bowl placed carefully out of reach 
of your curious cocked finger. 
Your chortle, a babble of indiscernible gifts, erupt around
your two-toothed smile, 
and then you turn to me, and raise your hug-soft arms 
And your need is the easiest wish I ever could fulfill as I 
scoop you up to my chest and 
for a moment
your sweet-warm head rests beneath my face and I breathe in
And then you are wriggling down, away from me, to a ball, a cup, a block:
any of the undiscovered joys of today.

And I watch your supple body squat and crawl and stand and grab and reach. 
There is such impossible perfection in your tiny form. 
And I can only wonder that it is given to me–
this stumbling, seeking, striving me–
to witness
your being. 

I Said a Prayer Today 
I said a prayer today 
as I stroked the sick head of my first baby 
lying listless on the couch, 
her eyes watching me with solemn trust 
as her younger brother chattered at me from the kitchen 
certain that I can see and know and fix,
because I am 
All while their baby sister nuzzles warm head into my lap with small giggling grunts 
as if to burrow her whole being into mine. 
Lord, I pray, 
help me to catch these moments 
that are dropped 
as Gold
into my lap

If only I notice. 

“An atmosphere of innocence flows into little children, and through them into the parents so as to affect them… Little children have this innocence, because they do not think from anything interior; for they do not yet know what is good and evil, and true and false, so as to think in accordance with them. Therefore they do not have any prudence of their own, nor any design from a deliberate motive, thus are without any purpose for evil. They do not have a character acquired from love of self and the world. They do not credit anything to themselves. All that they receive they attribute to their parents. They are content with the little things they are given as gifts. They do not worry about their food and clothing, and are not anxious about the future. They do not pay regard to the world and covet many things on account of it. They love their parents, their nursemaids, and their little companions, and play with them in a state of innocence. They allow themselves to be guided; they listen and obey.
Such is the innocence of early childhood, which occasions the love called storge.” (Married Love 395)