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Recently, I’ve been reading the book Busy Lives and Restless Souls: How Prayer Can Help You Find the Missing Peace in Your Life. I started reading it because the Women’s Ministry in my parish was doing a summer book club on this newly published book, written by local author Becky Eldredge. In it, Becky shares many of the Church’s traditional forms of prayer while also highlighting man’s need for God amidst the hectic nature of society. This is done in a very personable, down to earth manner as she shares many of her own experiences as a wife and mother.
A more contemplative person by nature, I appreciated Becky’s honest take on making room for God as well as her many examples of different prayer forms. And it’s got me thinking a lot lately about my own prayer life. I’ll be honest and say that prayer is a continual struggle for me. In June, blog contributor Brooke DeVille wrote a post that touched the core of my heart: Prayer Life: Embracing the “Now”. In it, she shared about her post-motherhood struggles to return to what her prayer life used to be, and her later epiphany that she needed to return to the basics.
The Shift that Happens after having Kids
Like Brooke, I often look back on my pre-children prayer life days with a certain amount of longing. Responsible only for myself at that point in my life, I regularly spent time in prayer, adoring my Eucharistic Lord, reading Scripture, and enjoying spiritual reading. I had time to belong to a wide variety of ministries, even becoming a full-time high school youth minister while also teaching middle school ELA. To me, those were the “glory days” of my spiritual life, filled with uninterrupted moments of prayer and a tangible feeling of connectedness with the Lord.
Now my days are jammed packed with endless and often mundane activity. My encounters with God are much less mystical and profound, residing more in the simple things; a wild flower, a beautiful sunset, my children’s laughter. And there is great beauty in this. In many ways, my children teach me to return to a simpler view of life. To bask in the wonder of God’s creation and becoming overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude.
Yet my days are also long with a weary momma crawling into bed at night. Once a voracious reader, it takes me months to get through a new book. I’m too busy tending to my children, our home, and in the moments of quiet (namely, naptime and bedtime) completing my consultant work. And so I find myself in a spiritual tug-a-war, knowing that I need and craving quality time with the Lord and yet also knowing that my season of life makes this much more difficult to come by. I struggle to find the balance between complacency (where I let myself off the hook) and scrupulosity (when I’m far too hard on myself). To stop comparing the old Audrey’s prayer life to what it’s become as the married Audrey raising little people.
Comfort in the Little Way
That’s why in recent years I’ve fallen in love with St. Therese of Lisieux’s philosophy of the “little way.” Put simply, her theology rests upon the knowledge of her own imperfections while also trusting in God’s mercy and forgiveness. It consists in doing ordinary things with extraordinary love. Recognizing that she was too weak to do great sacrifices or works, St. Therese chose to devote all the little things of life to God. For example, one of her fellow nuns used to make a strange, cackling noise when praying in the chapel which used to drive Therese mad. Trying unsuccessfully to drown out the noise, she could feel her irritation mounting when she decided to offer that small sacrifice as a prayer to the Lord.
Doing All Things for God
Y’all, I can’t tell you how much this relates to my mother’s heart. There are so many moments each day when I get irritated by silly, little things; moments, when I’m tired and doing the laundry or cooking dinner are the last things I want to be doing. And if I’m not careful, it’s easy for me to get swept up in a cloud of self-pity and joylessness. But when I embrace Therese’s little way my day is transformed. Because suddenly, I’m not just folding a pile of clothes but I’m also using that mundane household chore to demonstrate my love for God and my family.
“Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others” (Colossians 3:23).
This doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t continue striving to find time for quality prayer with the Lord. But that busy-ness or motherhood should never be a barrier to my relationship with the Lord. Rather, each opportunity to die to myself in order to serve my family is also a new chance to demonstrate my love for God. And, in those moments when I inevitably fail I acknowledge my littleness, humbly asking for God’s forgiveness like a little child.
So today, dear mothers, I encourage you to embrace the little way in all the mundane, crazy and trying moments motherhood transforming them into a living prayer for the Lord.