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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

It’s All In The Start

On my knees, open hands, humble heart. That’s how I want to start out, but that’s not how I do start out. It’s one of those things I know I should do. One of those things that in conversation and reflection makes so much sense and there’s always a, “yes, I’m going to start doing that,” but I never do.

Instead I lay in the bed until the very last minute–until the cries of the kidlets can no longer be ignored, the requests for breakfast put off, the dirty diapers unchanged.  Wring the very last drop out of the last moment of the soft warmth that holds me, pretends to be a comfort to me, but really is lying to me–really is chaining me down, making me captive to my idleness.

She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Prov. 31:27

. . . and does not eat the bread of idleness . . .

. . . idleness.

It’s ringing in my ears this morning. How many idle mornings? How many lazy starts? How many days that drag along with the work piling up and my heart bogging down in this deepening pit that’s full of wasted moments, accusations and declarations of failure?

More importantly . . .  why?

It’s in the start. It’s in the way I keep my day in my hands and somehow believe that it’s mine to do with as I please, so that when I’m halfway through and haven’t lived it fully I can believe the lies that say I’m a failure and a sham. It’s fumbling my way through to 1:00 with the breakfast mess still decorating the kitchen, only one school lesson half done (and that fraught with discord), the mountain of laundry mocking me and lunch looming before I fall to my knees and cry out for help.

How else could these things get so big? It’s just dishes to wash and clothes to fold. It’s just living life with my kidlets and it shouldn’t take a saint right, because millions of moms have done it before me. I think that’s one of the dangers of the mundane. I get to thinking that it’s all so simple and I SHOULD be able to do it on my own. Navigating through my day isn’t like preparing sermons for thousands, writing legislature or presenting million dollar proposals. “Woman up!” I seem to say and I plow forward on my own, only making me feel more worthless when I fail or don’t have the motivation because, again, this stuff should be EASY.

It’s all in the start. There’s clearly this connection between prayer, or rather a lack of prayer, and idleness. I don’t mean that I’m beating myself up if I take a nap or sit down to read a few blogs instead of  cleaning something. It’s more an idleness of my heart. I feel like I’m just sort of rambling here and I don’t know if I’m making the connection clear. It’s just that I’ve been really noticing that these really crappy days when I sort of fall apart because everything about my life and my house seem overwhelming, I haven’t started the day right.

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Heavy

My heart is very heavy right now. It is a day of “bad news.” All around and close to me are so many broken hearts, so many broken people. Loved ones lost, prodigal sons and daughters, unforgiveness, lost souls, bitterness and regret. It surrounds all of us and I’m seeing it in so many lives that are connected to me today. It is a beautiful thing to mourn with those who mourn, but it’s not easy to accept that I can do nothing to fix the brokenness. Hard to accept that I have no skill to heal the hurting ones I love. Hard to remember that all will soon be put right, that joy will come and the broken ones be mended. I feel lost in a sea of “comforting” words that won’t arrange themselves into a coherent message of hope. I am so weak a counselor, so feeble a friend. My only course is to pray. To pray as the boy’s father did, his soul so desperately conflicted within him, “I believe; help my unbelief!” To pray for the faith to keep praying when praying doesn’t feel like it’s doing anything at all.

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I am reading Ann Voskamp‘s book One Thousand Gifts. I can’t fairly start heralding the book’s greatness without finishing her journey (I’m three chapters from the end), but I feel quite confident this will be a book I share, lend out, have to pester the borrower to return, buy new copies of and gift to as many people as I can. The practice of giving thanks. Naming gifts. Living Eucharisteo in every moment. Every moment is a gift. Every moment is the Bread. Every moment is Christ and it’s all grace. She says it much more beautifully than I, but that’s the gist and I’m loving it. I’ve started my list and am excited about my journey toward living fully right where I am. I will share more on it later.

This morning marked a first and a last. My first tentative dipping of the foot into this naming the gifts and giving thanks for the every gift that is in that moment (both the good and the seemingly not so good). Well, I guess i did it the first time here, but now I have a name for it. Eucharisteo.

Oh, the last? This morning I nursed Eliot for the last time. To type it out and read it, it feels so insignificant. Big deal. For some reason though, with him, this last child that will come from my own flesh, it is harder to let go. The last intimate connection that bonds him to me and makes me his source of life. How arrogant of me really, to want to continue to be that for him. What disappointment he would find as he grows and I begin to fail him. Giving him milk was easy, now I must try to direct him to a much greater sustenance. Show him the real source of life. So thankful that the burden of his understanding doesn’t lie on my shoulders. Well that’s a post for another day.

Back to this morning’s Eucharisteo. It’s rather intimate, but I know that most of my readers are mothers and I wanted to share a beautiful little moment of thanksgiving and worship that sprang forth as I tried to cherish and remember every detail of Eliot’s “Last Supper.” (Ha! Was that a bad joke? That was a bad joke. sorry.)

Anyway.

Thank you Father for my boy. Thank you for these 9 and half months of food flowing freely for him. Thank you for his hands opening and closing, first caressing my skin, then patting my arm. The finger nails scratching then pinching, grabbing fiercely as he can’t drink fast enough. Thank you for the way he puts his fist above his head and gently brings it down again over and over to his eye unitll it’s not so gently and I swear he must be hurting himself, but it’s so cute and he continues to drink, so it must not bother him. It reminds me of silly seven year olds. “don’t punch yourself in the eye! don’t punch yourself in the eye!” The way his fingers wrap around one of mine, a vice, and squeeze as though that could make the milk run any faster.

Thank you for the feet, kicking and pushing against me like he wants to move but he has to stay and eat. The mundane act of eating when there’s so much to do and so many places to go.

Thank you for the perfect little mouth that takes it in. The slurpping and gurggling of this noisiest of my three eaters. The way the milk runs down his cheek and wets the sheets on the bed. Thank you for the biting, yes, even the biting of these teeth that mark growth and health.  The “manly” little grunts of fullness when he’s done eating followed by the cute little or not so little belch that in later years will earn him a scolding if not followed by an “excuse me.”

Thank you for the fuzzy little head positioned just so I can lay my cheek on it or give a kiss . . . or two . . . . or twenty. For the straight back to rub and the soft little bum to pat. The not-so-sweetness of the diaper I should have changed before I laid him down to feed him. The feel of his skin, so amazingly soft next to mine. The red cheeks flushed.

Thank you for a new season for Eliot. A new world for him as he grows.

Then I look over to the sleeping one, who seems to be waking up in our bed every morning these days. The one who’s infancy I wished away, wasted with a heart that was far from home and reaching out for forbidden things. I don’t remember much of her as a little baby, but the thanks still comes because even though I can’t remember her sweet skin on mine or precious moments when feeding her was a treasure rather than a task, I am reminded of the grace that brought me back home, mended the broken things and conceived so much more than just one more mouth to feed. Thank you. Thank you Jesus for so much grace and so many gifts!

The morning is slipping away. I would love to stay here, in the easy Eucharisteo, giving thanks for the lovely things, but time is pushing against me and the schedule, the children, the breakfast and grocery list don’t want to wait anymore. There’s grace in that too. Gifts to be named. Thus I begin my day, with my heart full, filled with the Grace-Bread that I’ve feasted on.

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Phil 4: 4-6 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

 

A couple of days ago, as I was lying in bed, literally dreading my day and all the tasks before me, I tried to get a hold of my thoughts and pray.  As I was following my routine of begging God to spare me from my typical circadian failures, such as, getting impatient with my children, becoming discontent with some aspect of our day to day provision or falling into frustration over my lack of control, a thought occurred to me.

With thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.

Now, to those of you who have counseled, stirred up and held me accountable . . . .  I KNOW!!!! This isn’t a new thought!  It’s just that, well, I suppose sometimes the Spirit waits until you are lying in your bed on a humdrum morning, kidlets crawling all over you begging you for breakfast, heart pleading for something before He illuminates for you a truth that you’ve long heard. I mean, how quickly, upon reading that first verse did your begin to hum the song quietly to yourself? Sometimes I think Sunday School songs lessen the impact of scriptural truths. We so quickly take a “yeah, I know that, I’ve known that since I was seven” approach and the truths become these cliche bits of our childhood that we don’t take very seriously. (Like “Read your Bible, pray every day,” but oh, don’t get me started, that’s for another day.)

Anyway, I’m lying there, asking and petitioning, but my mind is so buried in the everythings that I’m anxious about, that my heart is anything but thankful. So I determined that day, to make it a day of thanks. I didn’t really know how to “rejoice in all things” because I’m much better at complaining than rejoicing in the middle of a garden variety day, but I thought that maybe my requests for deliverance from my impatience, frustration and discontentment might be more effective if they were replaced or at the very least prefaced with thanksgiving.

Rejoice.

Rejoice in the Lord Always.

. . .  giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .

 

Sisters who are more mature than me, don’t laugh, but it was remarkable! What I found was that in moments of escalated emotions, giving thanks calmed my spirit and in moments of genuine thanks, the one thing I was thankful for spilled and splattered and swelled into something else until there were fountains of thankfulness flowing all over my day, running into a hundred different places all at once.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Col.2:6-7

I tried to take pictures throughout the day as I could, to give you just a glimpse of what the day looked like . . . . . .

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1-2. Thank you for Liam’s math. Thank you that he’s able to learn. Thank you for Nana’s commitment to teaching him and for Gillian showing an interest and “helping” him today. Thank you for the words he’s learned to write. Thank you that I am free to teach my children at home and that we are provided for on Andy’s income alone. Thank you that they are so healthy and so wonderfully made.

3. Thank you for the pears, brought by a kind friend, thank you for the baby food and juice I will make from them. Thank you that they look so lovely and colorful on my table. Thank you that Gillian loves to eat pears and other healthy foods.

4. Thank you for my diaper covers all being clean and sorted at once, as I usually cannot find a clean one when I need it. (I find a strange joy in a newly organized drawer or closet. I just kept returning to this drawer and opening it all day, taking delight in how neatly arranged it was.)

5. Thank you for the paint I found in the utility room to paint these clothespins for Anne Marie’s shower. (you have to come if you want to know what I’m using them for!) Thank you for unexpected found time to get that done. Thank you for the helpers I have for the shower. Thank you for ROSCOE!!!! Thank you for Mark and Bean.

6. Thank you for my cup of hot tea. (This was just after a particularly agitated moment with the kids in which I had to intentionally find something-and fast!). Thank you for Trader Joe’s and the $1.99 tea! Thank you that TJ’s has allowed us to continue to eat more organic foods on a budget. Oh, thank you for a full pantry. So ungrateful sometimes. Really thankful for our food.

7. (Prefaced with joyful dancing.) Thank you for 20 minutes in which every item of cloth in the house is either clean or in use!!!! Thank you for the new washing machine. Thank you for the ability to pay off the washing machine and for the counselors who’ve taught us how to better handle our finances. Thank you for forgiveness and second chances after stupid financial decisions.

8. Thank you for Eliot, who is now crawling around the house like a little soldier. He’s discovered that the playroom is a garden of delights and remembers how to get there on his own. Thank you for the three times now I’ve been able to fish the tiny legos and LPS accessories from his mouth before he’s choked on them. Thank you that he’s a healthy boy!

9-10. Thank you for the apples, also brought by above mentioned kind friend. For applesauce and baby food. For an unexpected activity we could do together. (There were lots of  “thank yous” going up during this project-not out of my own grateful heart, but to combat my sinful, impatient reactions. It was actually pretty comical to me the way I would start to yell at Gill for pushing the button too early on the processor and then just burst out, “thank you for the food processor!” The kids were quite confused.)

 

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Col. 1:11-12


I would love to say that it was the most glorious day and I’ve lived every day since in unending gratitude, but you know I would be lying. You know what it’s like on the “good days”,  that as soon Andy gets home and I tell him excitedly about all the grace we received, we’re going to be slammed with yet another opportunity to give thanks–one we might not take. This changing takes so much time, doesn’t it? For now anyway, I’m content to have had that day, and even though every day may not come out like that one did, it’s good to know that the Word is true and I can rest in it. For that I am most thankful.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Col 4:2

P.S. I would love, love, love if you would let me challenge you to pick a day this week to be your day of thanks. Replace your “God, help me to do or not do . . .” with “God, thank you for . .  ..” and just see what happens! Then come tell me about it.

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Have you ever caught yourself watching something you should look away from? Something you keep looking at, enthralled at the atypical-ness of the situation and before you know it, you realize you’ve been staring? I found myself looking in on a scene today between a mom and daughter (I assume) and wish I hadn’t. I was in line at the coffee shop, trying to contrive a mommy-date with Gillian (who wasn’t really cooperating–she would have rather gone to Frankie’s Fun Park for a date.) This girl could have been anywhere between 15 and 25, it was hard to tell through the window, but she was literally screaming at her mother. Her fists were clenched in rage, her face all screwed up, she even shook her fists at her mom at one point and grabbed  a hand full of her hair. It was a full out tantrum. Her mom sat there, still, taking it, then slowly wiped away tears as her daughter continued to rage. I was struck by the violence of her behavior, obviously, because (out of God’s kindness) I’ve never experienced that sort of thing in person. I should have looked away at least, and prayed for them at most.  Why could I not have prayed for them? Instead though, I sat there and took it in. Then, when I finally looked away, embarrassed, I took in my Gillian, who didn’t want to have a mommy date with me, who is arguing with me at every turn, who is consistently making choices that are opposed to my desires. I looked at her and I let FEAR speak to me again. He’s been hanging around a lot lately, using Gillian against me. He taunts me with visions of all the pain she can cause me, all the disappointments and heartaches that could come, telling me that she’ll never walk in the light with me as her example. I’ve been trying to fight his lies, trying to apply the gospel to Gill and open my hands, laying her down before the Savior, but there’s just so much of me holding on. As we’ve been talking about hoping in the Servant I realize how much of my hope lies in my kids and their future. I’d love to say that I’m having victory over this fear, but I’m really still struggling with it. I keep telling myself true things: Gill isn’t my girl, she’s God’s girl; God is sovereign, I can’t do the job of the Spirit; etc.  Yet, the thoughts linger and the fears eat away at my faith, keeping me awake nights and reducing me to tears at the slightest altercation between me and Gilly. It amazes me in a sad way that I’m mourning her failure to meet all my expectations and she hasn’t even done that yet! Incredibly, today it came to me, when I was no longer rudely eavesdropping on this highly intimate moment between these two people, that’s THAT’s my problem. EXPECTATIONS!  Sunday’s message was so for me. My misguided expectations are the enemy of hope, driving me into despondency. So that’s where I’m camping out right now. Constantly speaking truth to myself where Gillian is concerned, asking myself, what does God think of me? What does God think of Gill? What does the Scripture say to this?

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought,

but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who

searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the spirit intercedes for the saints according

to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,

for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:25-28

 

I know that Fear is not kept at bay forever and that it is each day I must mine for the weapons that will send him running. That is the nature of this war though, is it not? Always in need of new weapons to fight our crafty enemy. Each morning in need of the new and gracious mercies that await us at the foot of the cross. My dear friends who read, please pray for me and Gillian. Me for a better placed hope, and Gill for the illumination of her dark soul, both of which are found only in our good and loving Father.

 

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But I WANT it!

My kids have this tendency to keep asking for something even after I’ve said no.  I tell them that to keep asking after I’ve said no is arguing. If they keep asking after that, they’re in for it.  I was thinking about that versus this thing I’ve been asking God for for several years now.  I was trying to decide if they were the same.  Am I arguing with God to keep asking?  Now I know we are told to persist in prayer, but doesn’t that mean until we get an answer?  If God shuts all the doors and the Spirit impresses us with a “no,” then it seems pretty futile to keep asking. I guess what I don’t know is if God has said “NO,” or if He’s saying “wait.”  I kind of think that if He’d said no I’d know, right? It’s hard to pray for the same thing for years.  Part of my concern too is that this thing I’m praying for is pretty upsetting, so whenever the situation comes up, it’s hard not to be angry. It’s hard not to ask God why He isn’t fixing this problem and no matter how much I preach to myself about God’s goodness or His way being perfect, I can’t help but feel that I”m telling Him that I don’t like what He’s doing-that I would do it a better way.  It ‘s pretty frustrating when my kids don’t trust me, and God, being so much better a parent than I, must tire of my arguing.  I’m so thankful that he’s patient when I am not.

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