Prayer and bad days

June 21, 2007 | Conversion, Daily Spirituality, Motherhood, Prayer | 12 comments

My purpose with this blog is to honestly chronicle my experiences as I attempt go grow in my newfound faith (new readers are thinking, “I thought this was a blog about scorpions!”); and on that note, I have a little story to share:

This weekend I felt particularly inspired about the upcoming week: I would make sure to say the daily offering every morning, to grow in my patience, to seek the peace of Christ in all frustrating situations. I planned to be all Benedictine and calmly, prayerfully work through my daily tasks, accomplishing much both physically and spiritually.

Each day I have started the day with the morning offering. Throughout the day I have kept my thoughts close to God and prayed for the grace I need to handle any challenges that may arise…And I have had a terrible week.

Not terrible in the “my children are starving” or “my house has been leveled by a natural disaster” sense, but it’s been one of those weeks where one little thing after another has just worn me down. Now that I’m in the third trimester I often find myself exhausted and short of breath. This is like throwing gasoline on a fire since I have a natural tendency toward laziness and procrastination, and the result is that I’ve hardly gotten anything done at all. I’m overwhelmed by clutter and disorganization (as some other moms are discussing as well). The best I can say is that the house is “a mess” instead of “a disaster area”.

Combine all that with my toddler and the baby having a couple days of extreme fussiness, that nagging question of “how on earth am I going to do this when I have a newborn?!?!”, and the typical financial stresses of trying to live on one income, and I’ve been left feeling pretty overwhelmed.

Though it’s definitely been a worse week than usual, I’ve reacted to it all worse than usual as well. It really didn’t feel like I received any grace or help from God this week — it was just Jen and her bad attitude left to deal with the milk spilled on the couch, the clothes tumbling to the floor in the closet because it’s so disorganized, and the baby who prefers screaming as her main method of communication. In fact, I actually joked to myself that maybe I should stop offering up my days to Christ since everything has been going to badly since I started doing so. 🙂

The culmination was last night when my toddler threw a fit about going to bed and woke up the baby and I had two over-tired little ones screaming until 10:45. It had been a loooong day, and this was a frustrating if not apropos way to end it. I sat on the edge of my bed, asking God for the grace to see how minor this all was in the grand scheme of things, to better appreciate my blessings, and to even see some humor in it.

None of that happened. I grudgingly consoled the inconsolable baby and told my toddler that he needed to settle down and go night-night through clenched teeth, all the while with a laser focus on how inconvenient it all was for me. I felt overwhelmed, upset, unhopeful about what tomorrow would bring, and not at all peaceful.

I’m not sure what to make of a week like this one. Perhaps God is testing me to see how serious I am about the whole offering all my sufferings of this day to him? Perhaps it’s shallow of me to expect instantaneous results, to be filled with grace simply because I actually took thirty seconds to say the morning offering?

Whatever the reason, I do feel better today and am more hopeful about the rest of the week. I offer this story not to whine (OK, a little bit to whine), but because I think stories like this are often left out of tales of conversion. Coming to the belief that God exists didn’t make all my worldly problems go away. Attempting to live by his rules didn’t make me a living saint. I still have bad days — sometimes really bad days. But I’ll take the worst day with God over a good day without God any time.

12 Comments

  1. Jeron

    I’m single w/out kids so I won’t even attempt to identify, but I will just offer something my spiritual advisor told me last night. I pray the Morning Offering each day (if not the Morning Office) and this week I’ve started going to daily Mass (which is HUGE for me). But I’ve still been a big ball of anger & wondering why I’m not all patient & grace-infused. My confessor/advisor said that in praying for God’s Will to be done, I shouldn’t just stand by and wait for it to be done. I have to participate and work to bring His Will to fruition, and to not look for spiritual consolations. And oddly enough (maybe not too odd), today I’ve felt a lot better about it. (The whole not-looking-for-spiritual-consolations thing). If sharing in God’s sufferings draws us closer to Him, I should be piggybacking by now. Hang in there.

  2. Anne Marie

    Hi Jen. I love your blog, thanks.

    When I feel that old familiar desire to swear like a sailor rather than thank God for his blessings in my life I usually simplify the whole thing down to basics by praying “Jesus help me”. Sometimes over and over and over because I need to.

    Also, prayers to St. Michael help a bunch too.

    Pax Christi

  3. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for posting this. I myself have felt very discouraged in prayer lately, and your honest recording of your own difficulties has encouraged me. Hang on, cling to Christ, rejoice that He has given you these opportunities to unite your own sufferings and frusterations with His.

    God bless

  4. Ouiz

    There have been so many days when I have made an extra point to get up early, have my devotional time with the Lord, turn my day over to Him…

    …and then all you-know-what breaks loose.

    And when the day is over, all I can say is, “if that’s how good it was WITH Your grace, what would this day have been without it?”

    On days when I have been thrown to the wall, and I have snapped at the kids for every little thing, I’m reminded of something I read in I BELIEVE IN LOVE:

    “And if… you give Him your many miseries with great humility, but also with great confidence, then you give Him His great joy — His joy of being Savior.”

  5. Phoebe

    My husband and I have been enjoying your blog about scorpions. 🙂 He sent me the link to this entry to point out someone who’s in the same boat as me. 🙂 We have 4 children, ages 5,4,2, and 4 months. (This is slightly misleading because the 5 year old is almost 6, the 4 year old just made 4, and the 2 year old is almost 3. The middle two are a year apart.) We had our first three kids in less than 3 years. By the end of pregnancy, the stuff in the house is usually totally overcoming me. It’s totally impossible to pick stuff up off the floor, and the kids are totally putting it all over the floor in horrific ways at all times. Plus being in a state of complete exhaustion and even usually sleepless nights filled with hip pain and a variety of other discomforts such as indigestion and the inability to breathe. And endless trips to the bathroom. The last trimester of pregnancy isn’t my happiest time of life either. A nice warm bath (not too warm to harm baby of course), and a cup of tea and a book if my brain isn’t fried usually go a million miles to restore my sanity. Thanks for sharing this description of your day and helping us all feel less alone.

  6. Anonymous

    When my five children were young, I stopped praying for patience because it seemed God thought I was an experiential learner! 🙂 But, I think sometimes when we believe God is testing us, our sincerity, our intentions, what actually may be happening is that Satan is working harder because he doesn’t want to lose. So on those worst days, continue to ask for the grace to do the Father’s will, and know that His grace IS there but may be cloaked by the great deceiver.

  7. MICHAEL

    About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

    Peace Be With You
    Micky

  8. majellamom

    Hmmm…is it telling that my hubby left this post on the screen this morning for me to find???

    The discription of your two kiddos and bedtime is very similar to what went down around here last night (add in 10 hours of driving yesterday to and from my mom’s house to see her before she starts chemo) Baby screamed ALL night long…I don’t know how many times one or the other of us had to get up and rock her, etc. Toddler had a monster attack, so we had to make sure that her room was monster-free. Not to mention the crying jags feeding off each other in the car!

    Don’t have great advice for you here! Let yourself relax a little bit! You’ll be fine with the new baby as well! Take it a few minutes at a time, and don’t be too hard on yourself over your current housekeeping!

  9. SteveG

    Jen,
    The last two posts have been just wonderful! This line in particular..

    But I’ll take the worst day with God over a good day without God any time.

    …sums up so much.

    Anyway, I wanted to offer a note about the change that we experience in ourselves after undertaking the life of faith. This is an answer I gave to a non believer I was in conversation with who asked me to explain.

    To him I answered…

    I spent the better part of the first three decades of my life being a selfish jerk. I’ve spent nearly the last decade or so trying to undo the damage of that start.

    But even giving it my almost full effort every day, I am still mostly a selfish jerk about 85% of the time. But, it was 86% last year, and I hope and pray that it’s 84% next year. And MAYBE, if I manage to fight to undo that damage for the remaining 35 years or so I’ve got left on Earth, I might just barely cross the 50% mark and become a sincerely decent person (as opposed to just playing at it).

    I am having a bit of fun with the percentages, but I hope you catch my meaning. The change is gradual, almost imperceptible in the short term, but it’s there, and it’s very real.

    I’ve come to learn that one of the most powerful weapons of the enemy is discouragement. If we don’t keep the above in mind, it’s very easy to fall into it in regards to the progress we have made.

    In the words of Evelyn Waugh:
    “You have no idea how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being.”

    Finally, I want to give a suggestion to anyone struggling with discouragement and the like. One of the most profound helps I’ve ever found is a series of talks done by Fr. Benedict Groeschel called ‘The Mountains and Valleys of the Spiritual Journey.’

    I just found that this has finally been put up on the EWTN audio library. It’s 8 30 minute talks, and I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who is serious about understanding the spiritual journey we are taking part in.

    Mountains and Valleys

  10. Jennifer F.

    Just wanted to point out that the Mountains and Valleys Groeschel series Steve G. refers to is available for free! Wow!

  11. P

    I hope you don’t mind, Jen, but I had to laugh a little at you here (I mean that in a good way!).

    Here’s a little story:

    There once was a soldier who was such a terrible soldier that the general never assigned him to any other duty than passing out food in the mess hall. Eventually, tired of this, the soldier asked to be sent back to basic training. The general agreed, and the soldier really applied himself, worked hard, and came out of basic such a kick-butt, gung ho hero that the general immediately assigned him to a unit on the front lines of the war.

    The soldier came back after a battle, mad as hell, walked up to the general and said, “General, I’ve worked really hard to become a good soldier!”

    “And you have,” said the General.

    “I worked really hard to earn your respect!” said the soldier.

    “You’ve earned it,” said the General.

    “Then why,” asked the soldier, “did you punish me for it?”

    “Punish you?” asked the General, confused.

    “Yes!” yelled the soldier, “You sent me to a place where everyone was shooting at me!”

    Beloved, suffering is what we’re for. Consider the book of Job. Job is a good man, minding his own business and being righteous. Satan is an evil angel, sulking in the basement like always.

    Suddenly, God yells out, “Hey, SATAN, check out this righteous Job guy! Bet that pisses you off, huh? What you gonna do about it?”

    Now Job wasn’t privy to this conversation, but if he was, I’m sure he’d be trying to think of the nicest possible way to tell God to STFU and let him go on living his life all “nice” and “comfortable.” But he would have been a fool to do so. God had His reasons for Job’s sufferings, just as He has His reasons for yours.

    You are right, btw – you would suffer less if you stopped offering your days to God. Is that what you want to do? You pray, “I offer Thee all my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day…” If you offered your day to God, why complain what He does with it? If you offered your sufferings, why not let Him decide their number?

    You say, “Perhaps it’s shallow of me to expect instantaneous results. to be filled with grace.” On the contrary, you have received instantaneous results. “And because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee.” (Tobit 12:13) Note the cause and effect relationship. The fact of Tobit’s being acceptable was the reason that he was tried. You *have* been filled with grace, the grace of being conformed to Our Savior Crucified. There is none greater.

    I would recommend to you a wonderful book – A Year With the Saints, from TAN (www.tanbooks.com). Here are just a few quotes, from the chapter on Patience:

    “If the Lord should give you power to raise the dead, He would give much less than He does when He bestows suffering.” – St. John Chrysostom

    “A holy old man who was very often sick was much grieved at passing a whole year without an illness, saying that God must have abandoned him, as He had ceased to visit him.”

    “Sts. Francis and Andrew Avellino entertained the same sentiments. They thought on any day when they suffered nothing for the love of God, that He had forgotten and abandoned them.”

    One of my personal favorites:

    “St. Teresa once received some money from a merchant who recommended himself to her prayers. A little while after, she said to him, ‘I have prayed for you, and it has been revealed to me that your name is written in the Book of Life; and as a token of this, nothing in the future will go on prosperously with you.'”

    How very different are the way of the nature, and the way of grace!

    Above all else, do not be discouraged. Suffer joyfully. It is absolutely impossible for God not to love you, and He will never ask more of you than He has decided to give you.

    And for what little it is worth, I love you also, and pray for you.

  12. Sarah

    I read this and had some major “ME TOO!!!!!” moments. Oh, Jen, I’m so with you! Even after a few years of going to Adoration, every.single.week (not to brag, just so you see that it is one of those tug of wars STILL with me!), I find that those days of Adoration can be my worst.of.the.week. I had a wise friend once point out to me how much worse I would do if I hadn’t had Adoration that day. Got me thinking. So keep on trucking, sistah. Keep on offering it to God. Probably, the trials won’t go away. But maybe YOU will be better able to deal, baby step by baby step. (Or something better. I’m just speaking from my own experience.)

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