Laundry, Motherhood, Prayer

IMG_0007.JPGAs a child I daydreamed of monasteries and monks and what it would be like to cloister away all day to pray and read.

I love solitude, and I thought monks—with all their praying—were as close to God as you could get.

Ok, maybe I was a weird kid. But even as a child I saw prayer’s importance.

In junior high I scrawled my prayer needs into a journal, faithfully tending that list. By high school praying had etched itself in me, carrying me through two years of ministry training and then college.

I never really struggled to pray—not until marriage and motherhood, when diapers and dishes swallowed up my time. After kids, the question, “Have I prayed today?” quickly turned into “Did I remember to brush my teeth?”

On these days I appreciate the simple prayers—what Anne Lamont calls the “three essential prayers, “Wow,” “Help,” and “Thanks.”

Motherhood showed me how I complicated prayer. I treated prayer like an end itself—like a spiritual barometer—not the bridge to know Jesus.

I no longer see prayer like a subject we can master. It’s not a game we win or lose.

Imagine if we charted and measured how much we talked to our spouses or our children?

God doesn’t watch us from on high with a stop watch, calculating how many minutes we devote, just like I don’t carefully measure the minutes my sons spend with me.

But I do take note when they choose to snuggle up next to me. I notice their small acts of gratitude and love. God, too, notices when his children trust him enough to come—not out of duty—but out of love. God doesn’t judge us by the clock, but he does test our hearts for faith.

Sometimes we forget that mountains don’t move because of heavy-duty lifting in the act of prayer, but the faith behind the prayer—faith in the Mountain Mover.

We earth-dwellers so often forget that without faith we will never please God (Heb. 11:6).

As humans this confounds us. I can picture myself in that fanatical crowd after Jesus feeds the five thousand. They can’t wait to find out what they must do to accomplish God-pleasing work. Jesus’ answer still catches me by surprise.

He didn’t tell them to go to the synagogue to pray for hours or send them away pledging a laundry list of good works.

Here’s how John’s Gospel records it, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent’” (John 6:29).

Believing. The true work of God is not in doing, but believing.

Allow that truth to sneak into your heart and smuggle out the fear your prayers don’t matter or measure up. Allow the grace-healing power of belief to set you free so you can keep trusting and talking to the One who offers unending relationship.

And when we begin to remember that our prayer walk is really a love walk, we’ll run to prayer

Practical Prayer Help

  • Don’t wait for quiet to have a “quiet time.” Solitude may never come, but God can calm your nerves and anxious heart when the house pulses with the busyness of life.
  •  Plan it. Set your alarm and coffee pot. If you want to develop a workout routine, habit experts tell us to lay out our clothes the night before. In the same way remove some of the barriers to prayer. Get your spot ready, complete with Bible, blanket, pen, and notepad.
  • Carve out time. Make what Ann Voskamp calls “hard stops” to pray. I think of these as little mini vacations from work and kids—time to connect with God, if only for five minutes.
  • Get sleep. Sleep might as well be a spiritual disciple because without enough of it, all the other spiritual disciplines falter.
  • Walk. For me motionless prayer so often lapses into sleeping, so I pace around my house to keep myself awake and focused. If you’re able, quit the house for a prayer walk outside.

When God Serenades, Pandora-Style

My firstborn and I snuggle. This was taken about four years ago.

My firstborn and I snuggle. This was taken about four years ago.

I heard Sam trot down the hall and peek around the corner, grinning into the office where I sat.

Twenty minutes ago I snuggled him in for a nap. Now, my 2-year old looked high on caffeine and sugar.

This day was not going as planned.

My heart sank at the thought of a round-two nap. My mind raced and fingers itched to write, and I didn’t want to “squander” my next hour cuddling a toddler.

As I begrudgingly gathered my son close, pulling the covers over both of us, God reminded me how He so often gathers me close, persuading me to rest.

I consider how He tucks me into His presence and speaks in heart whispers, still and small.

As I lay next to Sam, I understood why the psalmist said God gives sleep to those He loves, (Psalms 127:2). Zephaniah 3:17 even paints God singing over us as we sleep.

Almost like God poured a bucket of love over me, I lay next to my son drenched, soaked by His compassion to draw me close. Then, I heard these lyrics stream from my phone’s speaker.

“When the rain is blowing in your face,

And the whole world is on your case,

I could offer you a warm embrace

To make you feel my love.

 

“When the evening shadows and the stars appear,

And there is no one there to dry your tears,

I could hold you for a million years

To make you feel my love.”

 

The words caught me off guard. Seldom do I feel God’s love. Love’s deficit, I know. Stress. Condemnation. Performance-ism.

Hadn’t I asked to feel the love of God yesterday? The tears sneak from my eyes as I realized the good gift given by a good Dad.

The O’Neil brothers continue to croon about romantic love, but I know Papa sings about agape love—a love I’m only beginning to catch a glimpse of.

“The storms are raging on the rolling sea

And on the highway of regret.

The winds of change are blowing wild and free,

You ain’t seen nothing like me yet.

 

“I could make you happy, make your dreams come true.

Nothing that I wouldn’t do.

Go to the ends of the Earth for you,

To make you feel my love

To make you feel my love.”

 

Sam looked at me with concern written across his face and asked why I was crying. How do you tell a toddler you’re weeping because of joy?

How do you tell him how grateful and stunned you are that God can serenade you through Pandora’s lullaby channel? That tears can be beautiful prayer to Jesus?

 

A recent shot. Too big to cuddle? I fear the day.

A recent shot. Too big to cuddle? I fear the day.

Finally, my Sam Man sleeps. *Sigh of relief*

Finally, my Sam Man sleeps. *Sigh of relief*

I’m beginning to see this crucible of motherhood as chance after chance to see with new eyes how God loves us. To see, how over the years, God keeps on loving us.

Beyond the cross, I can’t think of a better way to show us self-sacrificial love.

As parents, our days are chock-full of training and correcting. Most days, I’m so consumed being a parent, I forget how to be a child.

As I lay with my son, I remember whose child I am and marvel how we never pack up and leave this house of love Jesus built for us. God’s no empty- nester.

His father heart beats in the middle of all our moments, compounded throughout time. Until the day when we’ll step out of time—even then, we remain children of God.

The room is dark and still, now. My chest no longer heaves in sobs. Sam sleeps in the crook of my arms, and I know this feeling is fleeting. But I linger, hoping to keep the song in my head.

He stands over you singing too, friend. Listen, do you hear it?