I get a glimpse of the clock while peeking over the massive load of dirty clothes I’m carrying to the washing machine.
Late again, I think. The kids should be in bed right now. I should be in bed right now. Instead, the oldest one is jumping on the bed singing “Let it go” for the forty-third time tonight and my toddler is running around carrying a plastic baseball bat wearing only a diaper.
I take a deep breath, dump the clothes inside the laundry room, and yell, “Bedtime!” The house goes silent for the first time in two hours as the children scurry like ants.
“Now,” I say looking at my husband. “Which one do you want – Elsa or Bam Bam?” He points at my son, so I walk into my daughter’s room. “Let’s go Ice Princess. Bedtime.”
“Aren’t we going to pray, Mommy?”
Oh yeah. Pray. I’m too tired, too drained, too desperate for 15 minutes of freedom to pray. But I feel the Holy Spirit in my heart.
Pray with her. Pray for her.
Our family has been talking – and yes, praying – a lot about prayer and especially how we pray. I’ve been reading Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson and really forcing myself to pray with a purpose. And to experience the power of bold prayer and even bolder faith, as Batterson writes.
I’m about half-way through the book and despite my deliberation tonight, I have learned a great deal. Mostly that the primary purpose of prayer is not to change our circumstances. It’s to change us – our hearts and how we love God. Batterson writes that regardless of whether we pray to get through something or to get to something, our chief objective should remain the same: to glorify God in every situation. That last part is hard for me. I struggle with thanking God for the difficult times. And I really have a hard time trusting God with the difficult times. Like many mamas, I want to be able to fix everything – dinner, boo boos, bed-head, you name it.
I want to fix everything myself. But really, I want to fix everything but myself.
This became even clearer to me tonight. While praying with my daughter, and really pushing myself and listening to the Holy Spirit telling me to pray with my sweet child about the things going on in our lives, I learned that my heart is not where my mouth is. I prayed for her, her teachers, and her friends. I prayed for my son and asked God to continue blessing him with his therapies each week. And I prayed for my husband and his job and the stress he faces each day. And like every night, I ended there. I said, “Amen,” sang a couple songs, kissed her warm head, and darted to freedom. Then I heard her quiet, muffled voice.
“Thank you God for Mommy because she never prays for herself.”
My knees went weak and I nearly fell to the ground.
I didn’t pray for myself. It wasn’t intentional. I just didn’t think to do it because I was worn out and ready to be done. Done with the day, done with the pressures of being mommy, daughter, friend, wife, employee, chef, chauffeur…
But standing there listening to my daughter pray for me spoke to my heart. I realized that my Father needs to hear me pray for His help. And I need to show my children that I cannot do this life on my own.
I need help. His help. And I have to ask for it. Regardless of how tired – or prideful – I am to ask. One of my favorite mom books is And Then I Had Kids by Susan Alexander Yates. She writes, “Fatigue caused by the routines of child care is quite different from the fatigue caused by extra hours of work on an exciting project. The former is accompanied by depression; the latter by euphoria. One fatigue has resulted from maintaining, yet never completing, a final product. The other fatigue has resulted from tangible work on a tangible product – thus producing a sense of accomplishment making the fatigue seem ‘worth it.’”
When I worked as a professional journalist, I would often spend an entire day chasing a story. It would require hours of interviews and research followed by even more hours of compiling notes and answering questions from my editor. There were many, many nights that I would drive home physically and mentally drained. But I knew that I had finished the work and I would feel a sense of pride the next morning when the paper was delivered on my doorstep.
Motherhood is different. I still go to bed physically, mentally, and emotionally drained but I don’t wake up with the same kind of satisfaction. As a mother, I am constantly writing corrections to yesterday’s story. (And every journalist hates having to write any kind of correction or clarification.)
The blessing is that the story isn’t finished. Each day brings new opportunities to learn something about myself. And spending those 15 minutes of my freedom praying with my daughter are nothing compared to the lesson my humility can teach her.