I just loved Karen Edmisten’s recent post where she talks about mothers and prayer time, and shares a story of a prayer for patience that was swiftly answered:
One recent morning, I was awake long before my daughters. It was 6:15 a.m., and I settled onto the couch with my prayer book, relishing the thought of uninterrupted, fruitful conversation with the Lord….I began by asking the Lord to grace me, above all else, with patience on this day. “Give me the patience, ” I implored, “to be the mother You want me to be.” The next sound I heard was the unmistakable creak of someone coming down the stairs. My fruitful conversation was ending already! My four-year-old peeked around the corner and asked, “Mommy, can I have some pancakes?”
I laughed out loud when I read that because I had just had a very similar experience:
Last Monday, the day before I was to go to the hospital to have labor induced, I decided to take the time out of my incredibly busy schedule to go to confession. My nesting instinct had not been strong enough to overcome my laziness and procrastination instincts, so I had about a million things to do on Monday to get the house ready for the new baby. I hesitated to take the time to go to confession, but felt like it was a good thing to do just in case anything went wrong with the delivery the next day.
I arrived at the church ten minutes early, and there were already about 12 people in front of me in line. It was going to be a long wait. At that moment I realized with extreme frustration that I’d forgotten to bring a book or a rosary or anything to help me pass the time while I waited. Trying to make the best of it, I decided to see if I could remain in a state of prayer the entire time.
As I gazed at the crucifix and the tabernacle, I tried to simply open my mind and see where God might lead me in prayer. I was drawn to pray for patience, and for the ability to not let the little ups and down of daily life bother me. I pictured the analogy of sitting on a boat in rough water, being tossed around by the waves and getting sea sick; whereas if I could go under the water, I’d only barely feel the motion of waves as they rolled by. I used this odd little analogy as my prayer, asking God to grant me the grace to get out of the boat and go under the water where it’s peaceful and still; to not let the waves of everyday life make me sea sick. I resolved to remember that God has a will for us at each moment (I originally posted about that here), and when faced with frustration to turn to God and see how I might carry out his will in this sitation, rather than banging my head against a wall trying to get things to go the way I wanted them to go.
I had a full hour to meditate on this prayer since the line moved slowly. Finally, there was just one more person in front of me, and I was about to make my confession. It had taken forever but it was worth it. I flipped through my “How to Make a Good Confession” booklet and eagerly anticipated hearing those wonderful words that my sins had been forgiven.
And then the priest walked out of the confessional. He came over to those of us who were still waiting and said apologetically that he didn’t have time to hear any more confessions because Mass was about to start. I smiled and said, “Of course, Father. I understand.” And in my head I thought, “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?! I arranged child care and took an HOUR out of my last day before the baby arrives — an hour and forty minutes if you count drive time — for NOTHING?!”
As I walked to the parking lot I felt extremely stressed and muttered to myself about how I need to go to confession and what was I going to do now and how could I make up for all this lost time, etc. etc. And then I realized that perhaps this was an answer to my prayer. By insisting that I MUST go to confession TODAY and railing against the lost time on such an important day I was not trusting God. I was seeking to fulfill my will, not God’s. “OK, God, ” I said as I drove home, “I trust you. I’m not going to worry about the lost time, about not making it to confession. Just give me your grace to help me dive under these little waves, to stop letting frustrations like this distract me from being the person you want me to be.”
God gave me more opportunities to work on this later that day. But he also gave me the grace to handle it. When I got home I saw the TV blaring some graphic story on a cable news channel, and heard shouting and commotion coming from the kitchen. I walked in the kitchen to see my mother-in-law, who wasn’t supposed to arrive until the next day, scooping ice cream into bowls for the kids. I was starving so I went to have some donut holes I’d bought myself as a pregnancy treat, but she and the kids and eaten the entire box. As I got some pots and pans out to get dinner started she told me not to bother, that the kids wouldn’t be hungry after all the donut holes and ice cream.
I turned to God and prayed something like, “GRACE! NOW!” And, to my surprise and delight, I was actually able to respond by giving her a hug and telling her it was great to see her. I decided to go up to my room lest I have any more opportunities to practice patience, turning off the TV on my way upstairs, and as I lay on my bed I was able to cut through the frustration of the moment and see what a wonderful, loving person my mother-in-law is. I was able to appreciate the fact that she loves her grandchildren so much that she couldn’t wait to see them. I could accept that fact that she enjoys having the television on at high volume all the time as a little personality quirk that pales in comparison to all the great things she has to offer. I was able to dive under the waves, to not get bounced around by things that don’t really matter in the long run like the kids eating donut holes and ice cream for dinner.
Karen shares this lesson from her story of her interrupted prayer time:
The Lord, in His infinite kindness, quickly reminded me that our lives are not on our terms, but on His…He always knows best how to help me grow, even when I don’t care for His methods. What I wanted most that quiet morning was “my prayer time.” What I needed most was to make pancakes, and to do it with love and surrender. What did I need the next day? To get up again at 6:00, give it another try, and see what He had in store for me.
Little did I know, the lesson I learned that Monday was exactly what I needed. As I will detail in my next post, after the baby was born pretty much nothing went my way. The last week has been one frustrating, unexpected thing after another. I realize now that the best gift God could have given me last Monday, the day before the baby arrived, was a hard lesson in patience and trust. Unbeknownst to me, I needed that even more than I needed to go to confession. As Karen points out, God doesn’t always give us what we want; but he always gives us what we need.
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