Contemplative Motherhood Podcast

Welcome to My Beautiful Chaos: An Introduction to Chelsea Whipple

May 23, 2021 Erin Thomas & Chelsea Whipple Season 1 Episode 1
Contemplative Motherhood Podcast
Welcome to My Beautiful Chaos: An Introduction to Chelsea Whipple
Show Notes Transcript

Listen as Chelsea dives deeper into why she calls herself a contemplative, what does that mean, what led her to desire this lifestyle, and what she has learned about being a contemplative mother.

Chelsea Whipple  0:01  

You are listening to the contemplative motherhood podcast. My name is Chelsea. I'm a teacher, practitioner, spiritual director and pilgrim.

Erin Thomas  0:10  

And I'm Erin, a creative homeschool educator, counselor and spiritual seeker. Listen in as we dive deeper into the contemplative lifestyle through hearing about each of our lives,

Chelsea Whipple  0:22  

you'll hear our triumphs, failures, practices and mistakes as we journey together. You might even hear a kid or two in the background.

Erin Thomas  0:31  

So grab some coffee, tea, curl up and take off your shoes. You are welcome here. Now let's get started. Hello, everyone, and Hi, friends. Thank you for joining us today. I am really excited. This is our very first episode of the contemplative motherhood podcast. And today on our first episode, I have the honor of sharing and being a part of this story of Chelsea.

I'm so excited that you are going to share today. And I am looking forward to hearing about your journey. It seems like it has been a million years. Like it has been just a blip in time. So I'm excited to delve into this with you.

Chelsea Whipple  1:31  

Yeah, let's get started. 

Erin Thomas  1:33  

Alright, let's do it. So tell me a little bit about your family friend.

Chelsea Whipple  1:38  

All right, well, I'm gonna give you the quick and easy version. So I have three boys. They are seven, five, and three. And I have been married to my spouse, Brandon for over 13 years now. And we live in the heartland of America the great state of Kansas.

Erin Thomas  2:02  

Yes, a good Midwestern girl.

Chelsea Whipple  2:05  

Oh, yes describes me completely.

Erin Thomas  2:09  

So in your bio, and our introduction of the contemplative motherhood podcast, you shared that you describe yourself as a pilgrim. And as a wanderer, can you share with us a little bit about what that means?

Chelsea Whipple  2:23  

Yeah, so if I thought, you know, why do I feel like I am a pilgrim. And I'm not sure this could be kind of an overall sense that everyone can relate to it, maybe it's just me, but I just feel on this eternal journey. And I like to describe it as feeling like I'm waiting in a stream, and kind of slowly making my way down. I don't know when it ends, but I'm not firmly planted anywhere, you know, it's as if I stopped somewhere, then my journey ends, or I missed something, you know, so it's just feeling like, I want to experience everything, you know? And really, maybe it is that I'm actually a seeker or a searcher. You know, I heard this Latin term, Magus, which means more, which describes me, you know, always looking for something more something deeper, you know, that perpetual question of, there's got to be more to this, in almost everything I've done in my life is always that searching for that more. And, you know, I, I see myself as a life made and molded by quotes. So I am a quote nerd. I love to use quotes, like the good songs that really grab your attention and bring memories to you or shape and mold you. For me, that's quotes. And the very first quote that I can remember that really probably has molded me up until this day was this quote, I got on this beautiful Hallmark card when I was 18 years old, and I had just graduated high school. It said, the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet. And which Frederick Buechner has this great books, really about vocation? In so as I was entering college, having no idea what I was doing with my life at 18 years old, is kind of where the pilgrim came out where I'm always like, what is my deep gladness and what is the world's greatest needs? Because there's a lot of needs out there and where do I find joy in all of that, I feel like I constantly been searching for that. But if I reflect back on my life, looking backwards now, and to this more contemplative lifestyle that I'll talk a little bit more down the road here today, but is just, I needed that quote at that time in my life. Because every time I've turned left, or I've turned right, or I've gone in circles, or backwards, or wherever, is all found its purpose. It's led me to right where I am right now. And the quote, you know, I also say in my bio, and this is something I will probably expand on in other podcasts of being a spiritual director. And as of right now, I'm just beginning that pilgrimage of becoming a spiritual director. And that was shaped by this other quote, it was by Lisa Hammond, sometimes on the way to your dream, you get lost and find a better one.

Erin Thomas  6:09  

I love that one.

Chelsea Whipple  6:10  

Yeah. And that's like my waiting in the stream really, of not wanting to stop. It's as if my journey, I don't know what it is, which I enjoy. Sometimes, not all the time, I'd like to know, answers. But the questions really are what kind of pushed me through the water. And so that quote, really made me realize that I don't need to know that deep gladness is that answer. What I need to know is just that I'm on the journey. And the deep gladness is really found within. It's not found on this outward calling, per se. And so right now, my deep gladness that I enjoy, so much has to do with being a spiritual director. You know, and so

Erin Thomas  7:11  

I'm interested Chels did, was that something that you sort of fell into? Because when you say you get lost and find a better one? It's, don't you find that sometimes that's just falling into a dream that you didn't realize you had?

Chelsea Whipple  7:28  

Yes. Oh, man, Eron, you hit it quite perfectly, you know, spiritual direction wasn't something I had any idea what it was, or that, even if I didn't know, I needed it, or desired it in my life. It was really just one person who had said they were a spiritual director, they got me interested of what is a spiritual director, right, you know, and really, like was a year long process of figuring out what is that, you know, going to see a spiritual director and realizing, Wow, this is amazing, and exactly what I need and want and desire. And then discerning, do I feel called to that, you know, that ministry or you know, whatever you want to call it. And so that was the stumbling that was the getting lost and finding the better dream almost.

Erin Thomas  8:25  

It's so interesting, because I think so often we're focused on writing our own chapters, and being having goals specifically. And it sounds like in your journey, you fell into it, and you were waiting. And there you are, in, in a term using a term and defining spiritual director in a sense that maybe you were one all along.

Chelsea Whipple  8:58  

Yeah, I would like to say, I think it's always spoken to a desire I've had, you know, really listening to people and getting to know people in a different way. I did learn that listening is a very foreign concept. I won't put everybody out there as if it's a foreign concept to everyone. But it it was for me, and still is the art of listening because it really is an art. And there's some good books out there. If anybody's interested to learn more about just the listening to someone. Yes. It's not as easy as we think. It's not.

Erin Thomas  9:43  

So I mean, it sounds like that's part of your practice. And so let's delve into that a little bit and flesh that out and I'm interested how would you describe living your contemplative lifestyle

Chelsea Whipple  10:00  

Um, so first I'm gonna, I'm going to preface this that everyone lives differently. And there are days where I live it differently than I did the previous day. So I want to kind of think about what I would call where I was before kind of discovering, really spiritual practices. And what I define as contemplative lifestyle that that I won't get into is that I look at, I looked at my life after I had just had kids. And you know, if you have kids, especially newborns, if you have kind of more than one that are younger, is for me, you feel like you're on a hamster wheel. And I'm sorry, you feel like you're in a hamster ball. Okay, a ball. Okay, because it's very different than a hamster wheel. So just to give a good picture for everyone. If you had a hamster, or you want to Google it, Google hamster ball and hamster wheel. So the hamster wheel is where it's in its cage. And the hamster can get on this little circular kind of track. And it just goes forward, okay, and the wheel starts spinning because it's moving. It's grounded there. So the wheel ain't moving across the cage. It's just moving. You know, the circular purchase move with a hamster. Now the hamster ball is really what I felt like I was in in the hamster ball, is when you take the hamster out of the cage, and you put it in this clear ball. And now it's in its own clear ball cage. And the hamster can run anywhere. It can run forward, it can run backwards, it can just kind of get lost in the ball and just falling freely and the ball is it's moving. It can accidentally go down the stairs.

Erin Thomas  12:05  

I mean, that's happened. Yeah, sure.

Chelsea Whipple  12:08  

I only knew that because I might have as a child, what the hamster accidentally go down the stairs, even to my mom's shame that she completely warned us on. But

Erin Thomas  12:21  

I mean, I think that's sort of a childhood milestone in your defense. So yes,

Chelsea Whipple  12:25  

there really is. It really is. And so, you know, so I had, I had a couple kids, they were very young. My middle child was a preemie. And so he, it took a lot of attention, especially the first year, a lot of worries, a lot of stress and all of that. And I was just in a place in my life where it's like, the more there's got to be more to this. I love, love, love being a mom, but I feel like my life I don't even, like, I can't even remember if I ate that day. Which, that still happens. But it's different. You know, like, I don't, you know, we say stop and smell the roses, like I don't ever remember stopping. And it was just always this feeling, you know, deep down that kind of pilgrim that wonder like, you know, where, where I need it, I'm gonna need to grab on to something here. You know, I'm definitely flying down the stream at this point in my life, and I'm not liking it, you know. And it was at that point that there were some people that kind of came into my life that just kind of had a little bit of what I wanted in terms of Wow, they seem really grounded.

Erin Thomas  13:42  


Chelsea Whipple  13:44  

And for this seeker, the word grounded with like, ahhh, I'm really interested in what that means, right now. I need that, you know, it's just like, I want to get out of this hamster ball. I'm flying down the stream. I need some grounding.

Erin Thomas  13:58  

the hamster ball is not conducive to grounding. It's not.

Chelsea Whipple  14:03  

Yeah. No, it's really not. And, you know, it's that time in my life, like, you know, I did a lot of stuff. You're constantly, you know, with these with these little ones that need everything in your life, you know, I was working, you know, involved in volunteer work and other, you know, projects that I'm passionate about and, you know, just thinking about all of the decisions you have to make as a mom and, you know, with your spouse's needs and, you know, there was all this and all I wanted to do was to not do anymore I just wanted to BE you know, I I craved that solitude, silence and rest. Like those were just like, even saying them now. Just like, you know, like, Can I have that?

Erin Thomas  14:57  

They sound like lofty ideas, right?

Chelsea Whipple  14:59  

Yeah Yes. And I didn't want them to be lofty. I wanted them to be real right. You know, it was as if I thought, Oh, I can get there once blink happens. So once my kids are older, or, you know, once I'm really grounded in my career, you know, and I'm a millennial, like, we change careers every time recessions hit, which we all know is how often now pretty often.

Erin Thomas  15:32  

There's a lot, there's a lot that goes on the resume of a millennial, right?

Chelsea Whipple  15:39  

Exactly. So, you know, I knew I was like, Okay, I can't wait for blank to happen. Like, I got to find this now. And I don't know if anybody's experiences if you have like, holler out. But it's at these points when you're looking around searching, that you realize what you want to need, and desire is right in front of you, like, all these things for, you know, the spiritual practices of what I do to kind of live that contemplative lifestyle was all of a sudden, like being offered to me. I just didn't know what they were or what that meant. That the craving of that solitude, silence and rest is how I describe the contemporary contemplative lifestyles. And it's really deciding that that's what I desire, and need. And so let's go after those. Right, oh, and I'll give you one such example.

That probably was right in front of me, that grabbed my attention. And that still really holds my attention. And that this is gonna sound silly, but really started off the journey was breathing fresh air after a storm. I still remember that. You know, in Kansas, we get lots of spring storms. In spring is my favorite season. And the smell of growth, like green grass. I mean, grass growing, flowers blooming. I don't have allergies, so I do enjoy those.

And yeah, the smell of fresh rain. Like, I stood there in a smell that it was as if I was smelling it for the first time. And I didn't want to stop. And that is really how I would describe a contemplative lifestyle of just being present and aware and seeing things new almost for the first time that have been there. Your whole life.

Erin Thomas  18:18  

I love that picture. Chels, I think of the the smell of the snow. When they say they can step out and they know that it's gonna snow by the way that it smells,

Chelsea Whipple  18:31  

uhuh? Oh, yeah. Yeah, I

Erin Thomas  18:33  

love that smell. We don't get that much here. I do not live where it snows much. But I love your perspective on that. Because I think also too, in a spiritual growth sense of a newborn, just like noticing, and responding. And watching them discover something for the very first time.

Chelsea Whipple  18:57  

Mm hmm.

Unknown Speaker  18:58  

is so profound. So yeah. I just wanted to say that because I resonate with you there.

Chelsea Whipple  19:06  

Yeah. Yeah. And that brings up a great example, like newborns could teach us so much.

Erin Thomas  19:12  

Right. Right.

Chelsea Whipple  19:15  

Their ability for most newborns, not all, but to hold eye contact. And it's like they're discovering the world as they hold eye contact with something. It's like if I could do that as well, and just discover the world through whatever I'm seeing at that exact moment. And be aware of that.

Erin Thomas  19:42  


Chelsea Whipple  19:43  

Yeah, just the perfect way to think about the contemplative lifestyle to me.

Erin Thomas  19:52  

And that's interesting because I think that that's very practical. When we have when we hear the words contemplative lifestyle so many of us sort of delve in to, you know, whatever history we have with those terms. And so it can often feel lofty. And maybe we think that that's for over spiritual people, or that's for those who are in religious leadership, or maybe it's just those who are really good at yoga, I don't know. I feel like we have a lot of sort of a working definition of how we define the contemplative lifestyle. So I'm interested to hear, where are you and say, You are now with a contemplative lifestyle, and what that looks like for you?

Chelsea Whipple  20:44  

Well, yeah, and just to go a little bit on what you just said, it's a great segue to talk about that. Because, you know, you have and you can read, if anybody's interested about spiritual practices, that just help you to kind of become that, you know, the present aware, you know, meditation, contemplation, if you've ever heard of centering prayer, those type of things, and it's just about bringing awareness. Really, for me, it's understanding that, you know, my spirit is a part of me. And just being aware of the ground that I walk on, you know, sometimes you hear like, take off your shoes, you're standing on holy ground, and trying to live that present in that, knowing that Wherever I am, is sacred. Whoever I meet is sacred. You know, I have I do have regular spiritual practices that I enjoy that I find enriching for me. But they also change, you know, according to seasons, right. So right now, for example, I am going through St. Ignatius, of Loyola spiritual exercises. And yeah, know, I, I do those specific practices in the morning. And then it's really teaching you how to carry that throughout the day. And what's interesting is I talked about the hamster ball here a bit ago, and how I was feeling like I was in this hamster ball. And because I was doing all this stuff, and I was flying down the stream, and I needed something to ground me. And what's funny is, I still do all those things. Right now, I still take care of my kids, am the decision maker and make sure they have appointments and make sure educationally, they're on track and support, you know, my spouse and his work, and I still work and

Erin Thomas  23:13  

you're still doing all the things,

Chelsea Whipple  23:15  

I am still doing all the things. But what's interesting is once I found something grounded, once I found a little bit, a way to slow down the stream, and maybe wade in it for a while and not feel like I need to move. The just being present is what has made me feel like I am out of the hamster ball that life isn't flying, that I'm not missing. My kids is everyday life. You know us. What's interesting is like, I feel this is a spiritual practice, but I am trying, I'm not great at it all days are just days, I need to get some things done and check off my checklist, right? But my youngest son, we call them Juju. He has this obsession where when he talks to you, you have to make eye contact with him and he will physically grab your face and turn it towards where he is. And if you look away, he will stop what he's doing and say, look at me, look at me, and he will grab your face if needed. And that is what I count as a spiritual practice is just staring at him and listening to him the entire way of whatever he's saying. And yes, he does go on and on. So there are times where I say Okay, tell me one more thing.

Erin Thomas  24:47  

I love when they do that though, right? They're tiny little hands on your face.

Chelsea Whipple  24:51  

Yeah, but that is such an in the moment thing of me being fully present to this little being. Yeah, as he discovers the world. Like, that is just something that when I was in the hamster ball, I would have never noticed. Yeah.

Erin Thomas  25:09  

You know, it sounds like you've gotten a float for your stream chels.

Chelsea Whipple  25:14  

Yeah, you know what, it's sometimes I grab a stick, you know, a little trunk that's in there, you know, I have to say, I'm in Kansas, and I don't have a whole lot of streams. So I'm kind of making up the stream image is, but I have been in streams.

Erin Thomas  25:29  

So we have us here.

Chelsea Whipple  25:31  

Yeah, I wish I wish, you know, and I do live in a city. So I'm not, you know, I know, in the more rural areas, there are tons of little, we have creeks and streams and stuff, I just don't hang out. Anyways,

Erin Thomas  25:45  

Can you guys tell that we like visual imagery

Chelsea Whipple  25:50  

If you guys could see my hands, they're going crazy. And they're drawing, you know, in the stream here a little bit, but okay, I'm not gonna we won't go down a rabbit hole here. But no, no, we can no more perspective is, you know, again, like, I'm still on this journey. And there are days where I can have spent kind of weeks in this hamster ball. But I recognize it now. You know, and I intentionally get out of it. And I think, and I have to tell myself, like, Don't feel bad. You got in the hamster ball for a while? Oh, well, let's, let's get out. Let's see if you know, if I need some more grounded practices, you know, just even acknowledging that I was in the hamster ball and letting you know, everything else go in itself. But in the best part that I have found about this, is that my kids emulate what I do. Like I have, I have a bit of a ritual. I do like my senses. And my you know, I like my smells and the touch. And so I do a lot of visual and some, you know, incense burning, as I kind of do some special concentrated prayer times in my kids, like, you know, I have a space where I call my prayer space, and they all recognize it. And they come sometimes curl up with me. And I try to get them not to talk. But that doesn't happen all the time. But they just kind of hang out with me. And, you know, they've really kind of see it as sacred space and to teach them that there are sacred spaces here. And have their brains really want to talk about what does that mean, you know, sometimes we do a lot of breathing exercises, because my kids can be really rambunctious sometimes. And you know,

Erin Thomas  27:43  

I can imagine, right? 

Chelsea Whipple  27:45  

We need some calming practices, and they love them. You know, sometimes they don't want to do them. Sometimes they do. And they teach each other meditation. My, my youngest Juju calls it medication.

Erin Thomas  27:59  

Sometimes, too. Yeah.

Chelsea Whipple  28:00  

So Juju says I got to do my medication. Yes. You know, that's okay. That's okay. All right. So, okay. And I'm gonna say, you know, doing this podcast and naming it contemplative motherhood. And really, you know, what does that mean to me, I'm going to describe something because that's what I've done a lot of. But I like to think a contemplative mother is like the lather, rinse, repeat method. So if you've ever read a shampoo bottle, it has lather, rinse, and repeat if necessary. And, again, when I was in the hamster ball with kids, it felt like feed kids get ready, clean, repeat feed, kids get ready, clean repeat. And that

Erin Thomas  28:53  

sounds pretty accurate.

Chelsea Whipple  28:55  

That is what our days consisted of so if I could put that same same into, you know, a contemplative mother. For me, it's breathe. Notice, respond, repeat. Breathe, notice, respond, and repeat.

Erin Thomas  29:24  

And it was simple as that.

Chelsea Whipple  29:25  

Yeah. Yeah. But I mean, man, as a mother, the first thing that I have to do is breathe.

Erin Thomas  29:33  

I catch myself holding my breath. Do you ever do that? Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Chelsea Whipple  29:37  

I take this deep breath. Yeah. Yeah, my husband's always like, what's wrong with you? I'm like, No, I'm just breathing. I just forgot. 

Erin Thomas  29:45  

I'm not angry. This is not a thing. I'm just taking a deep breath. Okay. Yes. Well, I appreciate that because I think that's a really important aspect of applying that to our motherhood. The journey, there has to be just something we can grasp on to, in a practical sense. And that brief I can do.

Chelsea Whipple  30:12  

Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's Yeah. And noticing, noticing that you're breathing, like intentionally breathing?

Well, you know, I'll wrap this up here on our discussion part of just for those listening in, you know, offering an invitation, if you relate to being in that hamster ball, or if you feel like you're in the hamster ball, looking for something grounded, you know, that is really kind of what I feel, Erin that we would love to offer, people that are listening is ways to live out that and to live through it. So I am just going to have us do some ending practices here. And, really, it's something that we're going to try to end all the podcast with. And that's just a little practice as you're doing it. If you're driving in a car, please take discretion on what you do with these practices. But right now, if you're listening, I just love for you to take the palm, it can be in a fist form, it can be open and just put it to your cheek. Really just notice the temperature? And let me know, you know, let yourself know. Is it hot? Is it cold? Is it warm? And just think about the palm right now. How many people has it touched today? How often have you used it to wave Hello, or goodbye or give high fives or fist bumps.

Just take a deep breath in. Since I said that my life is full of quotes. I thought we'd end with a good quote. And this quote is from Ajahn Shah, "is about this mind. In truth, there is nothing really wrong with it. It is intrinsically pure. within itself, it is already peaceful. Our practice is simply to see the original mind." And hopefully that will be a good launching point for us. So thank you friends so much for joining us and allowing me to spend the majority of the time talking.

Erin Thomas  33:20  

Thanks for sharing. I think it's really important that, you know, we get a different perspective and that we really get to know what it looks like to have this sort of lifestyle. And Chels, I think you've done a really good job of making that very personal for our listener. So I hope that that resonates with so many of you today, because I know it's definitely resonate with me. Yeah. So thank you so much for coming on and sharing and we will continue with I guess for Next Episode I'm going to do going to do a little bit of sharing. So we hope that you'll join us.

Chelsea Whipple  34:03  

Yay, Erin. All right. Thank you, friends. See you next time.

Erin Thomas  34:10  

Thank you again for joining us today on the contemplative motherhood podcast. With us your host Erin Thomas and Chelsea Whipple.

Chelsea Whipple  34:18  

To get regular updates on our podcast, hear new episode drops, interact with us about past and future episodes and find our show notes, make sure to go to our website,

Erin Thomas  34:33  

As always, we appreciate your support of this podcast and in helping us share our journey with others. So if you enjoy today's podcast, make sure to subscribe, rate and leave us a review. This helps us to cross paths with other pilgrim mamas across the board. So until next time,

Transcribed by