Several months ago, Gary Moon invited me to contribute to Conversations: Gifts From the Monastery. “Several writers will spend a week-long retreat at monasteries from various traditions; perhaps you could represent the evangelical tradition and visit a Protestant retreat house. See if it would work for you to go,” he urged, “and write an article about your experience—about the gifts you’ve received there.”

Ahhh. A silent retreat. Where do I sign up? I cannot think of a time in my life during which such an offer would not have been attractive. But the more I thought about it, with schedules and child care, I simply couldn’t pull it off. Most of us can’t get away for that kind of retreat, though many gifts admittedly await those who can. Our spiritual lives needn’t be dependent on these times, though; we can discover the rich gifts of a deep spirituality right in our own homes. I needed to learn how to care for my own soul right in the midst of my own life with the brothers . . . not monastic brothers, but the three active boys who share my home.

Finding space for quiet in the midst of many brothers is not a new thing. As the eldest of seven children in a very social home, solitude was a rare thing in my childhood. The McGarrys (my family) were loud, active, and social. Actually, I had five brothers. Then a sister, too! Did I mention our house was loud?

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