Hello again, my friends. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Though absent from the blogging world, I have been quite active in the “everyday life” world. Indeed, thanks to an unexpectedly restful month spent at my parents home, I have found myself finally managing to blend my grandiose ideas into the nitty-gritty of everyday life. Truly, the past two months have been a time of feasting for this (once weary) mother.
You see, in spite of all my contemplating on the need for something other than practical pursuits, I was used up. Wrung out mentally, emotionally and physically, with only my own needs and broken dreams overwhelming every moment of my days, I lacked any strength with which to enact change. I had lost all perspective, wandering in some lost land and terrified that I would drag my children into it with me.
But thanks to my many gracious and wonderful online friends, and their wise pursuit of better things, I was able to realize that I had lost all perspective. So one day my sister called, and I spoke honestly about the things I was struggling with. Quick decisions were made, and I found myself at my parent’s home, resting. Suddenly I had help in the middle of the night. Suddenly I could rest and my children were still tended to. Suddenly my family was surrounded with love and care, and all I had to do was recover. Suddenly I realized that I had never been created to face such things alone, that others stood ready to pick up the burden I could carry no longer. Suddenly I understood why God tells us we need each other.
The biggest change began with a book I purchased on a whim a while ago: The Book of Not So Common Prayer. Written by Linda McCullough Moore, I had never heard of either the book or the author. I can not remember the last time I purchased a book without having some inkling of what the pages would contain. But purchase it I did, and in those early days at my mother’s house I began to read it.
Somehow this book seemed to address the issues at the very heart of a mother’s need to feed her mind and soul. How can we expect to really know God, to benefit from His guidance, if we are unwilling to take disciplined steps to ensure we spend time with Him? She wrote as a busy author and mother, one who had learned to allow the transformation of self that came when one purposefully determined to spend time with God. Not because it makes us holier, or because it earns us “good points. As Mrs. Moore says, “Prayer changes our lives, but prayer is not a self-improvement project.”
“We will find that just the effort to pray is very instructive in itself. When we try to be good, we see exactly how bad we are. When we narrow the channels in our lives, in the sense that we impose certain boundaries on time and activity, this heightened focus means we bump more often into the sides, the constraints, and these often serve as wonderful correctives. It truly is a holding environment, a space in which to ‘live, and move, and have our being.’ (Acts 17:28)”
“In the end, instead of being confined, we feel only more expansive and free. This freedom comes from living with restraints conforming to our nature. A little boy is given goldfish in a bowl but wants his fish to be free, and so he scoops them up and puts them on the floor, where they can play unimpeded by the glass container. We are no wiser than he, confusing freedom with a lack of limits. The discipline of regular praying times frees us to fit with our design and know the harmony of living as we have been created to live.”
As I read these pages and wrestled with the ideas contained within them, I found myself pointed back to where I needed to be: at the feet of Jesus. One passage that I found particularly convicting was this: “Do we pray in order to know God better? Or do we pray in order to tell God what he and we already know in great detail about ourselves, our lives, our needs, our wants and wishes, our miseries and dissatisfactions, and the ultimate direction we would like to see things go, failing in the end to know the Lord to whom we pray?” This was exactly what I had been doing.
My first weak struggles back towards the land of the sane and capable were accomplished on my knees, a book open before me and my pen at my side. I began to copy out the book of Hebrews by hand. I finished The Book of Not So Common Prayer and I began another. I emerged from my daze and found that I had thoughts again, thoughts worth speaking of. I smiled at my children again, and gradually they relaxed in my presence as my constant tears subsided. I learned to first place my troubles at the feet of Jesus before I discussed them with others.
Now I’m back home, and those first few days I almost slid back. I cleaned and unpacked, and didn’t even step outside. At the end of two days I felt my temper fraying and my sadness increasing. But I heard something else, too. I heard my soul saying “What about me? You have been given a way to nourish your mind and feed your soul. Are these things truly worth starving?” As the eloquent Linda Moore says, “Prayer is not something we do in a vacumn. Prayer is affected by the hours in the day when we aren’t praying.”
So the next day I left my messy living room a mess. We went outside and spent all morning in His creation while we learned. Instead of panicking and scolding myself for oversleeping, I would waken and thank God for the rest He had allowed me to enjoy. I planted flowers outside my door, and I picked up a book, and I read for 10 minutes. Two days later a kind friend called and asked is there was any way she could help. So I swallowed my pride, invited her over, and she helped me clean that awful living room.
As I scribble these thoughts into an old, water-damaged notebook, I am reminded again of my need for balance. The blending of idealism and reality is not impossible, but it is difficult and requires discipline. Meals, tidying up, clean laundry: none of these things are less important than they were before. Rather I must continue to do That Thing I Hate: walk away from a task and move on to the next thing that must be tended to. Maintain rather than complete. Every time I choose to do something I am choosing not to do a hundred other things. Therefore the things I choose must matter.
That’s been my journey these last few months. How have you been? I’d very much love to hear about what you’re studying, learning, feasting upon.
Question: would you all enjoy it if I began to post a collection of links on this and related topics midway through each month?
Any posts on this topic are welcome. From practical to philosophical, from grand plans to nitty-gritty implementation, there is much need for this issue to be discussed.
This link-up will be open for a month: please feel free to add more than one link during that time.
Remember to link to a specific post and not your whole site.