On Prayer

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These could be meaningless numbers. The code for someone’s debit card or garage door. These could mean a year of a birth, or death, or of some (soon to be) long retrospect. A blip in a progression of years. But not for me…

It began in 2013. That year I was struggling through the most difficult of my five pregnancies. I had constant nausea and gained 50 lbs., no doubt thanks to the constant snacking that kept the queasiness at bay. My two previous pregnancies had produced two lovely, healthy children who were now 1 and 2. (Let’s all pause a moment to breathe and reflect on that information…) And to top it all off I was depressed. The I’m-not-breathing-during-the-day-and-can’t-managing-normal-speech-patterns kind of depressed.

My prayer and devotional habits were as fragmented as my mental state. I would begin a study with an anxious zeal for change and burn out just as quickly. This is when I began praying a certain prayer that has come to define the past half-decade for me. “Lord, please help me to be faithful with the little things so you can trust me with more.”

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells the parable of the faithful servant. The explanation of the parable is “the one who is entrusted with much will be given more, and the one who has little all will be taken from.” This is a tale of lived faithfulness, and it inspired me to see the mundane day to day as the small blessing God has given me. If I could take the opportunity to live for him while doing the dishes, perhaps he would trust me with more of his purposes.

At first for me this meant just getting through each day. “Please help me to finish this load of laundry so I can do the rest.” As my life seemed to flow into another season, my meaning behind continuing to pray this began to shift to something a little more specific, “Lord, please help me to be a faithful wife and mother so I can expand beyond this.”

In the simple moments that you are living these things you can never imagine what a step of faith may mean in the eyes of God, and I was not even remotely ready for what MORE he would trust me with. I saw my prayer as a refocusing of my life direction to one in which great blessing, a peaceful family, and maybe a book deal came my way. God’s ways are not our ways.

Bear with me as I fast forward two years past the jaundice and gurd burdened baby. Past heavy eyelids, messy/beautiful days and nights of worry and faith. Right to the doorstep of the year that revealed Gods real vision for my prayer.

2015 dawned hard. My father in law had been diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease the fall before. We were deciding whether they should move in with us for the long haul. This involved moving. My grandmother got ill and did not recover. Then, on the eve of her funeral, I found out I was pregnant with baby #4. Two days of crying without stopping followed. For grief for my grandmother. For joy for Gods blessings. For fear of so much unknown for this next year. And through it all I prayed that prayer harder than ever. In this way the weeks went by.

Even now it flashes through as scenes and snippets of remembrance.

The entry of our split level with its tight walls and high ceiling smothering like a cell as I stepped through the door, once again holding my breath. The four members of my little family excitedly clustered at the top of the steps to greet me. A small chorus of “Mommy!” cut short by a deep “What’s wrong? I’m so sorry”. Strong arms around me, and the tears came.

After that moment my mind tracks to the moment shortly before that when the easy rise and fall of my breath changed to the short gasps held for as long as possible, released in a rush, then rapidly sipped from the air again. The dank and pregnant silence that pressed it from my lungs. The warm gel on my abdomen and the cold hands. The eyes that remained riveted to the screen, that refused to meet mine. The black dread that grew and enveloped me.

Then, I flash quickly past the long waiting to the days of pain. The hospital after hospital. The fear choked seconds peppered liberally throughout as if the cook in Alice’s Wonderland baked the tart of my life. “Stuck”, “Infertility”, “D&C”, “Emergency”.

Finally, waking from a dream in the recovery ward. Laying for a frenzied yet peace filled moment with no one else there but my doctor and nurse/husband. Both casually chatting as if we were all on a vacation. Skillfully concealing from me that amount of danger I had narrowly avoided. Laughing jovially at my dazed and medicated chatter.

The rest flows swiftly like cold shower, all merging and tumbling over each other. Catching a memory from all the others really depends on where it lands. Some are fine, most I could do without.

And all this time, praying the same prayer, “Lord, help me! Help me to remain faithful in this thing, so I can handle your more.”

There is so much more to this story. So many pieces of grace and faithfulness. So much hope. And here I pluck one drop from the cold torrent. I have learned what it means to pray this prayer.

It means that he will continue to teach me what HE values. When he blesses me it will be with the things that will expand me in greater ways than I can think of. I may never receive what I’m looking for here; the MORE of this world. It means that what I think are the small things I will learn to be proven wrong about. That what I think are the blessings he will turn on their heads. It means that as the years go by, I will see more beauty in my pain than ashes; less harm in my mourning than song. I will laugh and know that what I began as a prayer of simple survival has moved a mountain.

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