Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Purposeful and Productive Prayer

The other day I had to break it to my naive little sixth graders - live does not get easier.  I tried to break it to them gently and without invoking a fear of the future, but the fact of the matter is......it's an important life lesson.

I remember growing up that I always thought things would be better once I got to that next stage.  Life would be awesome once I got my driver's license and could cruise out of my house whenever I wanted.  As soon as senior year hit I was ready to move out of the house, into the dorm and live the college lifestyle free of any parental restrictions.  But being broke and having my bank account at the mercy of my parents got old pretty quick and as graduation approached, I was dreaming of living on my own, buying lots of clothes and running around town in a shiny new car.  And that's what I did for two and a half years.  But the fun wore off and as I saw my friends finding REAL contentment as they became engaged, married and for some, even mothers.....I realized that I too yearned to be in that next stage of life where things settled down and became routine.

And here I am.  Married, a mother - the epitome of settled down and routine.

Except that it's not.

Life still throws us curve balls.  Things happen that we can't possibly plan for.  There is struggle and pain.  There is heartache and there are tears.

When God created me, he didn't give me a thick skin.  For whatever reason, a reason I have yet to figure out, he created me in a manner so that I FEEL EVERYTHING.  I am a sensitive person.  I take things to heart and I wear that heart firmly on my sleeve for all to see.  I love deeply and am handsomely rewarded by the intimate friendships that I have in my life.  But this sensitivity also creates intense hurt when loved ones struggle and experience pain or even when love is betrayed, damaged or rejected.

In the past I would cope with pain, worry, fear, unease, stress and all other negative emotions by drinking, shopping, and partying....among other things.  If I didn't have time to sit around my apartment letting my brain wander to things that were unpleasant, then it meant that those bad things and bad emotions didn't exist.  

Needless to say..........that coping mechanism didn't always work.

So now that I'm somewhat of a grown adult, I have been forced to find a different way of working through my anxiety and worry when it comes to the curve balls that life throws at us.  After all, anxiety is a sign that you're not trusting in God and in His plan.  If I can trust in God and pray for the guidance and wisdom that only He can provide, then my Earthly anxieties should be quelled because I have faith in His goodness.

The most surefire thing that I have found that adequately douses out all forms of anxiety and stress in my life is prayer.  Praying for the patience to get through the next five minutes or praying for the health of a friend's child.  Praying for wisdom, guidance and support.  Prayers to help me find the right words to use so that my message comes across clearly and with compassion.  A prayer to help me look beyond the surface and have patience with a struggling student.  Daily prayers that Natalie will grow up happy, healthy, secure and safe.  Continual prayers for the health and well being of all my family and friends.

There is so much in life that is completely out of my control and I cannot possibly protect myself and those that I love from bad things happening to us.  Babies will get sick.  Parents will someday die.  Friends will be in car accidents.

The only way I have found to deal with all my stress, my worry and my anxiety is to pray and truly place it into God's hands.  I used to think that meant giving up and being a sheep but I have found it to be so empowering.  It takes such a weight off of my shoulders that I can focus on being proactive and effective in my real life instead of spending so much time in the foggy haze of anxiety.

I have a dear friend Kate who in addition to being someone I have literally known since birth, she is also Natalie's godmother.  I chose Kate because she is the yin to my yang in a way that is lighthearted, carefree, spirited, mystical........characteristics I would absolutely love to have but find a hard time displaying in my day to day life.  In January Kate gave birth to an adorable little girl named Audrey and we were thrilled with the prospect of our two daughters growing up to be great friends just like we did.

Shortly after Audrey was born, Kate and her husband Karl had an epically rough night where Audrey refused to eat for several hours and subsequently went into a coma-like state.  Scary stuff with a newborn.  Long story short and after MUCH testing and debate, they were sent onto a specialist for more testing and the tentative diagnosis of VLCAD which is essentially a disorder where a person's digestive system cannot break down stored fat for energy leaving ONLY the food in one's stomach for energy.  Basically all of that meant was that for the remainder of Audrey's life she would never be able to have an empty stomach and would be on a very strict diet made up of foods that would maximize the amount of energy her body absorbed.  This also meant that for the time being, Kate and Karl had to feed Audrey on a very strict schedule of EVERY three hours with no rest.  

In addition to fear, worry and exhaustion, there was a sense of loss.  No cupcakes at birthday parties.  No Trick or Treating on Halloween.  And since this is a genetic disorder passed on by the parents....the possibility of no biological siblings as well.

All of this on top of caring for a newborn child and adjusting to the new roles of parenting.

It was a curveball.

And the only answer was prayer.  Lots and lots of prayers for a cure, a misdiagnosis, a lesser form of the disease.  

I prayed for their marriage.  I prayed for courage and strength for Kate.  I promised no sweet treats for Natalie when Audrey was around.  I prayed for the silver lining to the clouds that my friend was experiencing.  There had to be a greater lesson - something BIGGER that was to come out of all this.

I believe it was in April sometime when I saw the missed call and voicemail from Kate.  I listened intently to what she had said.  And then I had to listen again.  

And then I screeched.

All the testing that Audrey had undergone to clearly define and diagnose the extent of her VLCAD?  Came back negative.  She is one perfectly healthy and happy little girl.  

I was absolutely stunned.  Overjoyed and excited.  But stunned at the power of prayer.  Those results were better than anything I (or Kate) had allowed ourselves to hope for.  

There it was right in front of me.  The power of prayer and the evidence of a little miracle.  A little miracle with soft reddish fuzzy hair, big brown eyes that are always alert and skinny legs that are constantly moving.

I look at my own life and see the outcomes of my prayers - the character of my husband, the strength of my marriage, the health and vitality of my daughter, and the grace and wisdom I am gaining each and every day.

Life as an adult can get overwhelming.  At times it's hard, messy and ugly.  And for those of us that were created a little more sensitive than the rest, all that ugliness can be shattering and debilitating.  By giving up control of the situation and putting it all into God's hands and trusting the plan that He illuminates for me, I am actually able to feel more in control of my life and emotions here on Earth which make me much more productive and helpful during those stressful situations.  

I want Natalie to understand that someday......her life will get ugly too.  Things will happen to her that neither Craig nor myself will be able to protect her from.  And in those darkest moments (and then once back in the light as well) I hope that she will be able to call on God to help quell her anxiety as well.  My goal as her mother is not only to create a self-sufficient adult but a devoted lifelong child of God as well. 

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