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February 25, 2013


Give me the grace to be quiet, to listen for your voice in my heart.

For the past week, I’ve been fitting as much as possible into every waking moment.  There was a birthday party for a certain almost 6 year old boy that needed to be planned.  I signed up for a book group at church which started last week.  There was gymnastics for the little.  There was swim team and soccer practice for the oldest.  There was volunteering for 3 hours (one hour, three days) up at the bigs’ school.  There was the decision that if I am going to return to teaching ever, I should be ESL certified, and I should do that now.  There were parent/teacher conferences to go to.  There was singing a duet in our chapel service Sunday morning.  And of course, there was the ever constant laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, straightening the house.

Give me the grace to be quiet, to listen for your voice in my heart.

I’ve packed it in.  I’ve organized and made schedules and rushed through the grocery store so I could get home and start supper and make beds and bake the challah and pray all in a 45 minute time frame.  I’ve juggled kids and have barely sat down to eat other than at supper time.  I’m efficient and I’m staying on top of things.  I am managing.  I am great.

Give me the grace to be quiet, to listen for your voice in my heart.

Then, in the minute I took between caramelizing onions for supper (at 1:30 in the afternoon, planning ahead so the afternoon runs more smoothly) and spreading the clean fitted sheet on bed, I read my reflection on prayer for the day from Joan Chittister’s The Breath of the Soul.

Sinking down into the self where the Spirit resides and the waters run deep is close to impossible in a culture built on noise and talk and information and advertisements and constant movement and a revolving door schedule.  Silence and space and solitude are light years away from the raging list of unending activities we carry always in our heads.

Bother.  I wasn’t doing nearly as well as I had thought I was.  Immediately my pace slowed.  I stopped to breathe a moment and wondered if praying while I worked counted for anything.  I stirred the onions, then went upstairs to make the children’s beds.  As I made the beds, I thought of the Benedictines, who believe all tasks, no matter how menial, could be a prayer.  I prayed over each child as I made their bed.  I slowed down and remembered the quilts on their beds, who had quilted each one, each child’s particular love of that quilt.   I remembered my boy who sleeps without pajamas, needing an extra blanket.

I finished the bed, went downstairs, and stirred the onions again.  I smelled the bread baking.  I thought of the slow process that is caramelizing onions and making bread.  Neither process can be rushed, otherwise you end up with under-cooked or burnt onions and flat bread.  Time is of essence.  Time spent slowly bringing out the sugars in the onions to make them sweeter, time spent slowly letting the yeast activate and expand.   The change happens gradually. You can’t see the sugars being pulled out or the yeast expanding.  All you can see is the finished browned onions, droopy and sweet, the golden brown swollen braids.

But it is the voice of God within that brings calm and direction.  It drains the negative energy out of the present so that we can go on, calmly aware that there is nowhere we are alone….It enables us to respond to it in waves of trust that carry us far beyond the storms of the present to the fullness off the future.

What does that mean for me as a mom?  I remember Bonnie Miller-McLemore writing in her book, In the Midst of Chaos, that as parents we sometimes are told our spiritually has to wait.  Sometimes, it seems like the mystics and writers tell us that in order to grow spiritually we need to have buckets of time to spend in quiet prayer and meditation.  Lectio divina, the prayerful reading over a few verses of scripture at a time, is helpful.  Too many of us interpret that to mean that we can’t grow spiritually because we don’t have a lot of time to spend in prayer.  Our reality involves praying when a child is perched in front of Curious George.  We pray when we make beds, wash dishes, drop children off at school.  We fall into bed exhausted at night, meaning to have spent a little time doing a Prayer of Examen–our prouds and sorries for the day with God, but we fall asleep before we even remember our morning intention.  This is how it is as parent.

I used to think as my children got older, then I would have more time for all these things.  It doesn’t happen that way.  I’m starting to think that no matter what stage of life my children or I are in, I will have a to do list a mile long and the effective, organized day with little space to eat, much less pray.  To be honest, most of the time, I am happy like this.

But it’s not enough.  It’s not being fully human.  It’s not being created in God’s image and it’s not living up to my call as God’s beloved.  It is living my life as if I am in control and I am God.  I am not.

Give me the grace to be quiet, to listen for your voice in my heart.

While some days, I don’t have an hour, or fifteen minutes, to sit quietly with God, I need to pray nonetheless.  I need to quiet myself as I make beds, caramelize onions, and make bread.  I need to witness when the wonderful happens.   I can quiet my heart and turn off the noise that is around.   I can make my life a prayer.


all quotes are from The Breath of the Soul:  Reflections on Prayer by Joan Chittister

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