Flowering Prayers

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flowers of prayer
source: Fatma M. via Flickr

In what now seems like another lifetime, I worked outside the home. In my very own little office, with a big old iMac and a filing cabinet and my trusty space heater for when it felt like 45 degrees inside.

Filed under “other related tasks,” I was occasionally asked to read a trade book and see if I thought it could translate into a Bible study. Strangely, one of these was Second Calling, which is about women in their 40s and beyond. When I “retired” from LifeWay, I was 27 years old.

As I’ve read a couple hundred books since then, I don’t remember much about Dale Hanson Bourke’s treatise, except that I really liked it, enough to buy a copy for my mother. But I do remember her talking about prayer.

She said she often had issues focusing when it comes to prayer. Do you? I certainly do. I don’t know if it’s exhaustion, trying to remember 100000 things at a time, or what, but my mind tends to wander endlessly when I pray.

But Bourke shared an image of her prayer life that has stuck with me. She said she imagined sitting with Jesus in a field somewhere and handing Him flowers and rocks. The flowers represented the praises and thanks from her. The rocks are the requests and troubles.

“In my basket are flowers that I give to Jesus with words of thanks and praise. … I picture Jesus smiling as I hand him the flowers. Then I pull off my backpack and take out the rocks. I give him my burdens that are weighing me down.  I give him the tiny, sharp stones that are irritating me. … I visualize handing these all over to Jesus.”

I just loved that idea, and I still do, and found myself trying to hone my mind on something similar this morning. Giving Him those things that were in my arms. Some are flowers – sweet praises, thankfulness overflowing. Some are stones or weeds – petitions for myself and others. Desire for understanding and knowledge.

It’s one way that helps me to pray with my full mind. Do you have any techniques for this you can share?

Quiet.

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the view from here

I listen, in the dark recesses of the morning.

There is quiet. Nothing but the hum of the refrigerator and the tick of the clock. The pages of the Bible turning, the clink of my spoon against the side of my coffee cup, the nectar of 6 a.m.

I need and crave this time, and yet some days I punch the off button on my phone. I do what I don’t want to do, world’s oldest tale, regretting it the minute my eyes fully open and children are jumping on me on the bed.

I am six thousand times more nice when I wake up on my own.

My Bible study this particular morning was a punch to the gut, as most of this study of Malachi has been. I am the teacher but I am also the wrestler. Teaching others to put on their singlets and wrestle alongside.

So clear this morning that I need Thee EVERY HOUR, but the hour I need Thee most is 6 to 7 in the morning. The hour of peace, of conviction, of learning, of writing, of packing lunches or drinking coffee or trying to make a quick breakfast.

In the quiet, He envelops me, and together we face the day.

Why We Don’t See into the Future

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WeddingPhoto

If you had told me on our wedding day, ten years ago this very July 31st, that we would live on a high-school campus with three small children, I think my head would have exploded.

There’s a good reason we don’t know the future. We think that’s all we want: to know exactly what will unfold before us. So we can BE PREPARED, the motto of everyone holding trust tightly under closed fingers.

If you’d told me we would foreclose on a house, I would have called you a liar.

I can think of a whole laundry list of moves and injuries and scares from the last 10 years that I absolutely would have said could never happen. After all, I had it all mapped out. The PhD, the four kids, the move back close to Richmond. Ah, the ability to know it all as a 22-year-old bride.

Last night we took a walk around campus. We stopped on the golf course and the kids all ran around gleefully, Joshua included. They lay with backs in the grass and stared at the sky. They chased and discovered and ran into one another. Joshua brought me one yellow leaf, perfect circles dug into it by an insect.

At one point I tackled David and tickled him. And then I lay down on my own back, feeling grass down the length of my arms. Seeing the bright blue summer sky and hearing the peals of kids’ laughter around me.

I used to lay on an astroturf field behind a dorm at my college with my best friend. We waited til night, when lacrosse players were long gone. Together we looked at the stars, did cartwheels and handstands, shared secrets, sang, and dreamed.

I don’t think any dream for myself could have been as good as last night was. Three gorgeous, healthy children; a husband who loves me way beyond what I deserve; living rent-free in a great apartment, with friends all around and meals provided for; having miles of campus to roam and play without fear or critique.

I am so incredibly grateful that God dreamed this for me. So amazed that I can be living something pretty different from my 22-year-old vision but way better for us, our marriage, and our kids.

Thank you, Mr. V, for putting up with me for the last 10 years (and years before that!). For standing beside me and dreaming together and comforting me when it seemed like everything was crumbling. I love you and these crazy kids we’ve made together. Happy Anniversary!

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A Prayer for You

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I found this in my journal today (which I write in, oh, every 6 months … despite all my best intentions). I felt strongly that I needed to share it, and I hope it will bless you.

Dear Lord,

I am the Queen of beating myself up.

Your grace is not an excuse to act poorly, but thank You for forgiving me instead of abusing me about my sin.

prayerforyou

Be near me today.

Lord Jesus, I want to live in Your power. Show me what must be gleaned from my life.

Amen.

The Big Story: Graham Cracker Cereal

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Everyone has hundreds, thousands, who knows how many stories. I think it’s why I am drawn to blogging. More than anything, I love to hear someone’s story. I love to hear how you met and married, when you decided to have kids, how the birth went. I love to hear about how in first grade you stuck a cheezball up your nose. Seriously. I think God loves Story. He created the most magnificent one, full of irony, foreshadowing, valiant characters, tragedy, and the most beautiful redemption of all time. I think He dwells in story.

So we all have stories. But then, we all have THE story, too. Our Big Story. The pit we came through and where we are now. And over the next couple days or weeks, I want to share with you my Big Story.

This is how I eat half a pack of graham crackers.
source: Mike Henderson via Flickr

I’m going to start in a strange place: with graham cracker cereal.

When I was a kid, we ate what my parents called graham cracker cereal. It’s just breaking up a stack of graham crackers in a bowl and pouring milk on top. Yes, I realize this is incredibly caloric. But for me, it was … and is … a comfort food.

I’ve only ever met one other person who knew what graham cracker cereal was, so I am guessing this wasn’t a popular breakfast choice around the country. But my sister and I thought it was SO good!

I made myself a bowl of graham cracker cereal tonight. And you know what? The graham crackers just disintegrate into the milk. It’s basically just high-calorie mush. It’s not very filling. It’s just … there.

Sometimes we can see our own life like graham cracker cereal. We think we have it all figured out, and it’s awesome. Nothing could possibly be better than our plan! But really, what we have before is is graham cracker mush when we could be having bacon, eggs, and homemade biscuits. We’re just not willing to let go of the mush to see what the other options are. That mush seems fine. It seems great! It tastes sweet!

You gotta let go of the mush. And if you won’t, God might have to yank it out of your hands.

To be continued.

Hit Me with Your Best Coconut

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dk_mountain_-_bridge_-_mario_kart_double_dash

Back in college, my husband and our friends played hour upon hour of Mario Kart – first for Nintendo 64, then the GameCube once it came out during our junior or senior year. (Yeah, we’re getting old!) I played, too, but not nearly as much as most of my friends, mainly because I was (and am) really, really bad at it. When playing in a big group, the loser of the race had to give up his or her controller to someone else … and I was almost always the loser.

There was a race for the Nintendo 64 version called DK’s Jungle Parkway. In certain parts of the race, when you went off course, monkeys threw coconuts at you, spinning your car out and slowing you down. (This Mario wiki says they are actually “natives” throwing rocks at you … but I’m pretty sure they are coconut-launching monkeys.)

I was praying last night and honestly asking God to give us speedbumps if our family is driving the wrong course. If we aren’t going where He wants us to be, I want to KNOW. And sometimes that knowing can be really painful. But without it, we can be driving off into nowhere, His glory fading into the background as we gun the engine.

It’s silly that this made me think of Mario Kart. But still, sometimes I wish God would just hit me on the head with a coconut rather than let me wander along my own path. I wish the turtle guy would flash the TURN AROUND arrow sign in front of my eyes when I’m aimless.

I’d rather run slowly and deliberately, learning lessons along the way, than be off in the jungle, hanging out with the “natives,” far away from God.

Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.

Psalm 119:35-37, NIV