Dear God, Is it true my father won’t get in heaven if he uses his bowling words in the house? – Anita
Did you really mean Do Unto Others As They Do Unto You, because if you did then I’m going to fix my brother. – Darla
God: the bad people laughed at Noah – you make an ark on dry land you fool. But he was smart he stuck with you. That’s what I would do. – Eddie
Dear God, I bet it is very hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it. – Nan
Dear Lord, How do I know that you hear my prayers? Could you please give me a sign like leaving me a $10 bill under my pillow? – Gloria
I am reading Write His Answer – A Bible Study for Christian Writers, by Marlene Bagnull. Each short chapter focuses on some of the unique struggles that writers face, many of which apply to me. I find myself making notes in the margins and I spend time answering the questions at the end of each chapter.
The chapter I read this morning, though, fit better than most. Last month I decided to start waking up early, trying to get a hold on the day by starting it off right by reading and praying … maybe writing if I have a few extra moments. I knew I needed to get my priorities and directions straight before everything else started to struggle for my focus and attention.
This past week, I hadn’t been doing so well. I had only managed to get up early the first few days of the week, and when my son started waking up early with me, I gave up. After all, the idea was having time alone, not extra time with a son whose first words (within a nanosecond of waking up) are either, “Can you make me breakfast?” or “Can I watch something?” – not my idea of a quiet morning.
Yesterday evening, after my husband left for work, I was finding myself irked at the mess indoors, and overwhelmed at a few things going on in my life. I sat outside to just think and pray (outside being at the top of the stairs right outside the front door). The challenge of living in an apartment, for me, is having no place to let them “run amuck,” as my sister so aptly puts it. No backyard to be assured that they’re safe. So they’re either inside where noise is automatically ten times louder, or outside with you, meaning you’re not doing what you need to do.
Within minutes my youngest son noticed me. “I’ll just come outside and play down there.” He pointed to the area of dirt and mud at the foot of the stairs. I don’t mind dirt, but a neighbor recently managed to somehow spill oil from who-knows-where in that same spot, creating a mixture only too full of germs, which I tried to explain to my son. “I don’t see any germs,” he said. Within moments his brother and sister were outside as well, ready to get in on whatever action was coming.
“Let’s go into the pool area,” I suggested. They could play in the dry leaves at the edge of the pool and I could sit and pray at the far end, still keeping an eye on them. I forgot, though, that the lock to the pool gate had been changed and my husband had the key, on his keychain, in his pocket, on the way to work.
I took a deep breath. Why did everything I tried to do have to be so difficult? I just wanted a bit of peace and it was turning into a circus. The two older kids lost interest and went back inside. My youngest, ever-present shadow, followed me as I went back upstairs and sat down once more. He ran up and down the length of the apartment buildings, and then down the stairs at the far end. He didn’t come back up. Two minutes passed. I finally followed him. He had found dirt – his idea of heaven. This dirt wasn’t so dirty (if you’re a mom, you know what I mean) and pretty soon all three of the kids were making dirt piles, driving their cars through the dirt, or sliding their cars down the railing of the stairs where I sat, still trying to think and pray a bit.
Then a neighbor came outside, her son running to join my trio. The mom and I began to talk, and did so for the next hour until the sun had sat and it was time to de-dirt the kids in the tub.
That was the story of one evening, more like half an evening – a microcosm of a typical day, which is why this morning, when I forced myself to get up early because I need that time alone, the chapter I read spoke to me so clearly. It was titled, “First Things First.”
The prose-prayer at the end, I felt, was something I could have written yesterday. It goes like this:
Father, I have so much to do
and not enough hours in the day to do it.
I know that’s only partly true.
I do have enough time
to do the things you want me to do.
But, Lord, how do I sort out what they are,
when everything screams for my attentions?
I’m exhausted from rushing—
uptight and irritable.
Please forgive me and help me.
Help me to learn from your Son.
People were constantly pressing in on him.
He could have been consumed—burned out.
But Jesus took time to be alone with you.
He made you his top priority.
I must learn to do the same,
especially when I’m feeling pressured.
Help me to be still and know
that you are God.
Even as you created and hold together the universe,
you can bring order to my life if I will let you.
Thank you, Lord.
What a fitting prayer. What a fitting chapter. I have begun to understand why, when as a child I woke up early in the morning, I would see my mom sitting in her chair, coffee in hand, reading or praying. When I asked her what she was doing (as only a child would), she would answer, “I’m spending time with Jesus. I need this time to get me through the day.” I didn’t understand then. I’m starting to understand now.
Only with me, it’s chai instead of coffee.
Chai with Jesus. It has a nice ring.
It was, as usual, a busy morning. In an attempt to get ahead of the game, I woke up early to have a bit of quiet time and then fit in a smidgen of work before waking my daughter for school. My two boys were both home with me, so after getting her off to school, I read them some Bible stories and then we did “school.”
Aiden was very happy with a new science activity book and we did page after page until midday—every project executed from the position of my lap. He didn’t even want me to get up to make chai. By lunchtime, I was starting to get antsy, thinking of everything I needed to get done within the next ten or so hours before the moment I collapsed into bed, too tired to even fall asleep.
After lunch, my son asked, “Mommy, come sleep a’ me?” Interpretation, he wanted me to lie down with him until he fell asleep for his nap. Okay, he was up early, I thought to myself. He should fall asleep pretty quickly.
I said a short prayer with him before his nap. Then he started quoting a verse that we often say after prayer time at night. I said it with him and then he looked up at me expectantly and said, “More God?”
I didn’t understand him at first and asked him to repeat himself. “More God,” he repeated.
“More verses?” I attempted an interpretation.
“Yes,” he answered confidently. I started quoting the Lord’s prayer and he said it with me.
He then repeated the other verse in his two-year-old lingo: “Words of my mouth and tation o’ my heart, cept’ a my sight, Lord, my strength and my adeemer.”
It took a little while, but he finally fell asleep. His words played again in my mind though.
As parents, we always have more than enough to do, bouncing from parental duties to work to projects to cleaning and back again, hoping to make some kind of lasting difference while we’re at it.
We try to teach our kids about God, about prayer, but it’s often on our timetable. There are those times, though, when our kids’ hearts are open and their mind hungry.
“More God,” they are asking.
Maybe not in those exact words. Maybe they express it in a question, sometimes even a complaint.
What they need in response is the same thing we, as busy adults, also need: “More God.”
More time with Him, learning of His Heavenly ways. More time sitting at His feet, partaking of His nature, imbibing peace, joy, love.
It is that one thing that can’t be taken away, no matter how busy or trying a day.
It might have been mid-winter, but my son was still asking for his usual: juice. I told him to get me a cup and I’d get him the juice. I knew that his two-year-old self wouldn’t be able to reach the cups in the dish drainer, but wanted to see what he would do. He first peered into the couple of mugs on the kitchen table, which bore remnants of my morning chai.
“This one’s dirty,” he observed, and took it over to the sink. As he reached up and put it in the sink, he noticed something: a cup! His favorite cup. It was there in the sink—dirty.
“That cup, Mommy?” he pointed to it.
“I’ll get it for you,” I said.
“No, Mommy, I get it!” He insisted. I paused to let him realize that he wouldn’t be able to reach it, so that he would let me get it for him.
“Pick me up, Mommy?”
He wouldn’t be outdone by the fact that he couldn’t reach the cup. He still wanted to get it, and to do it himself. The fact that it would have been easier for me to pick up a two-ounce cup rather than a 30 pound child didn’t register in his mind.
I picked him up and he picked up the cup, then, holding it tightly in his hand, sweetly asking once more, “Juice, Mommy?”
I wondered—as I poured the juice into the empty cup held by my expectant toddler—how many times we carry on similarly in life. “All by myself,” is the motto as we push full steam ahead with our plans and goals.
We see the little rocks in our path and feel that we are larger than life when we heave them out of the way, not realizing that Someone has lifted us and is helping us on every step of that path. And when we finally look around and notice Who has been carrying us all along, it’s hard to relinquish that “cup.” We hold it tightly—feeling we have to pull our share of the load.
Like the old farmer walking down a country road, carrying a heavy sack of rice. When a man driving by saw him struggling, he offered the old man a ride. The old fellow gratefully accepted and sat down in the vehicle, the sack of rice in his lap.
After a few moments, the driver said, “You know, you can put down your sack now.”
“Oh, that’s alright. You’ve been awfully kind to give me a ride. I’ll do my part by carrying this.”
All the while, Someone is waiting to lighten our load and lift our burdens, enabling us to reach our goals, live our dreams, and fulfill our destiny.
Perhaps we could stand to say, “Pick me up, please” a little more often.