Pray first - ask questions later

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Welcome to part three of the series, "You Are Not a Victim, You're a Mom." Today we're confessing together that at some point, here in the span of these 24 hours, we're going to hit our knees - I'm simply suggesting that we learn to do it first.

Make sure to read this post all the way to the end because I'm offering a special challenge to help you grow into a woman whose mantra is simply:

pray first - ask questions later

VictimSeries-Banner
VictimSeries-Banner

My posture these days has been running, standing, and demanding. My posture is muscular and active - throwing people and priorities out of the way and out of my day. Though I love my little people dearly, the school bell is set to ring. "Let's go, let's go, let's go, let's go!" There's very little slowing down and kneeling down and falling down prostrate on the floor in quiet surrender because... well... life.

boots  graphic
boots graphic

Beauty within and beauty flowing out into the lives of our little people. We throw make-up on our faces at stoplights, but we can't cake it on thick enough that it eeks its way down through our pores and into our souls. True beauty doesn't work that way. It's got to start deep within, and work it's way up and out. But we're living lives that are much too busy for such things.

Hurried, harried, and horrible: they go together. But hurried and holy rarely co-exist.

Holy and hallowed and hushed, now those are true companions. They meet together in the morning hours before the sun steals past the beauty of dawn. That's when we need to join Him.

We need to fellowship with the Holy One before the day spins out of control - slowing down, sitting down, and coming down off our cram-packed agendas to seek Him on the floor.

On the floor.

Because that's where every person is going to end up, eventually. Either on purpose, intentionally in the morning hours; or at night in a tearful puddle; or, and this is a frightening thought, they're going to find themselves on the ground like the discarded branch that's not bearing fruit - cut off and cast down.  (John 15:4-6)

We're going to end up on the ground, on our knees, on our bellies, forehead indented by dusty carpet strands or pressed against cool linoleum. Prostrate.

Eventually.

And the choice of how we get there is what we call freewill.

[Tweet "You're either going to choose to start the day praying for His help, or end it, asking for His forgiveness."]

But here's something else to consider when you're tempted to rush past the quiet morning moments and into demanding days: we aren't the only ones who suffer.

The precious people in our lives bear the stretch marks of our stretched out hectic days. Hollering isn't Holy. But what else can we expect if we're not abiding, remaining, living in Him? And so, we throw retroactive prayers up after unholy mornings that whirl past us in a haze. "Lord, forgive me. Lord, don't let me screw this family up. Lord, transform me!"

We forget that transformation isn't a retroactive wave of a magic wand - transformation takes place preemptively and prostrate - first place and foremost. Transformation into a thing of beauty starts with this sort of proactive surrender to the God who promises to make all things beautiful in his time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11). But it takes our time too, on our knees and on the floor and on the offense... daily before dawn.

Because life... life is full of fragile beauty, cased in the soft skin of relationships. Our love relationship with the vine, and our love relationship with our people. We need to prostrate ourselves, therefore, in the hushed and hallowed hallways of our predawn homes, or we will end up flat on the floor in tearful confession for lacking beauty come nighttime.

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Feb9-WendySpeake

We try everything else first, don't we? Staying calm in our own strength. Arm-wrestling our way to patience and self-control. We are well-intentioned women. But the truth is simply this: Good intentions won't do a thing without Holy Spirit power backing them up. We simply can't push ourselves through to transformation unless we hit the floor and hit our knees first.

Because we're going to end up there, one way or another.

To start at the beginning of this series, "You are not a victim, you're a mom," go here.

Triggers-Mockup5
Triggers-Mockup5

If you struggle with anger in your home from the sheer effort of it all, if you find yourself yelling at your little ones, feeling like a victim, and weighed down by shame, you’re not alone. Authors Wendy Speake and Amber Lia have written a book just for you. TRIGGERS: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions For Gentle Biblical Responses addresses the things our children do, along with the internal pressures of motherhood, that trigger in us angry reactions rather than gentle Biblical responses. Order your copy of Triggers here

Do you think of prayer as a sort of magic trick?

Everyone's got their own idea about this great big thing we cram into one word - Prayer. I pray.

To me it's simple.  Simple like a woman talking to a living-breathing person, closer than any flesh and blood has ever been.  But it is also cosmic and overwhelming at the soul-same time.

Prayer.

What a gift it is! And yet this talking and thinking and hearing from the God of all creation can be absolutely elusive for many people.  So we're going to have a talk about it, right now, you and me.  Here on my couch we're going to sit together, hands reaching across knees and taking hold of one another as we go deep.

 

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You and me, right here - right now, because this stuff is more important that any simple how-to blog post you can read today!  I haven't got three simple things you can do to have a better life, raise better kids, or communicate more lovingly with your spouse.  This is a discussion we're having - talking together about prayer:

I'm a praying woman.

I have cried out to God for healing and help, I've prayerfully interceded for loved ones, and I have humbly asked Him to turn my sorrow into gladness.  I've lifted up my children, pleaded for wisdom and discernment, and talked intimately with the Lord as I've drifted off to sleep.  Last week I even prayed for our nation, smack-dab in the middle of a busy mothering day. In short: I'm a praying woman, and my motives, most often, are right pure.

Some of you would say the same, but others of you would ask me to back it up a bit.

You're not so sure about this whole idea of God and faith. Or maybe, you can get your mind around there being this Creator-God, but talking with Him like two old friends confuses and confounds you.

Yeah, I get that.

You know how I tenderly refer to this website as my Living Room?  Well, the truth is, it's just a page of 1,000 words, and sometimes I wish so desperately that we could really meet together in my living room and go deep.  Nevertheless, I try to hunker down on my orange couch, laptop on my knees as my littles build legos in their room down the hall, to work through these big ticket questions one at a time.

 

 

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29 days into this 40 day no-sugar fast, some of you are asking WHY PRAY?

 

I guess the short answer is because God told us to.  He specifically said that we are to come up close and have a sit down talk about it all with Him, believing. He said seek me out and you will find.  He said ask me and you will receive.  He charged us knock, and keep on knocking, though our knuckles get bloody, and He's going to open it all up to us... and open us up too.  Isn't that a conversation with any dear friend?  Open doors to one another, opening our hearts to one another.

 

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:7-11)

 

However, sometimes I forget about the intimacy of the giver who bids me come and knock and seek and find. Sometimes I forget the giver and focus solely on the gift.

 

th In these moments I remember that God is not magic that I can conjure, but a magic deeper still. A magic wild and unbridled, beyond my fathoming mind.  He is good and generous because it is His nature to be so... not because I have prayed a certain number of times each day, facing the east or the west, lying prostrate before Him.  God is everywhere, always working his will into the farthest reaches of boundless creation, throughout all mankind. Who am I to wield a magic wand that He obey me?

 

He is beyond my imagining!

 

"It means that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards." (Aslan describing the Deeper Magic, The Chronicles of Narnia, Chapter 15)

 

Prayer touches that deepest magic.  The white Witch of C.S. Lewis' Narnia wanted death for Edmond, who had most assuredly sinned.  That was the Deep Magic!  Though Aslan knew of a magic deeper still, a magic we discover as talk with Him and walk with Him prayerfully and in His Word.  God doesn't want us to die for our sins!  He died for us, as allegorical Aslan did!  And prayer, talking and hearing from God, allow us to hear and receive this deepest magical, we-don't-deserve-it, GRACE gift!  But after a while, we can forget about the deepest magic and think of ourselves as the magicians as we pray.

A magic trick, a little hocus pocus and fairy dust covered equation.  I pray = you answer, God.

But God tells us to stay clear of sorcery of any kind, and He's no magic trick for us to play with. Absolutely, we can never squeeze The Lord of all creation into a simple A+B=C equation.  Try as we may! But you and I both know how we hunger for equations, formulas, and promises that it will all go well for us if we just follow the plan.  Pray and fast and tithe and memorize scripture and sing in the choir and love on widows and orphans...  If I go to college, I'll be successful.  If I marry a Christian, we will have kids who believe as well.  If I eat healthy, I won't get cancer. If I am kind to others, people will be kind to me.

Sometimes, these things work out pretty well for us, but not always. I'm learning to be okay with that, because The magic that He conjures is love so pure I couldn't ever understand His purposes and plans this side of glory.

But still we knock and seek and ask and lift up our hands for healing, and I don't think there's anything wrong with it!  God's Word is FULL of Christian equations!  I'd even call them formulas...  

Over and over again I see them. Believe and be saved... call out to me and I will hear you and answer you... abide in me and I will abide in you... draw near to me and I will draw near to you... you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart... And on and on. We do something and the Lord responds in favor. But it's not a magic trick and we must be very careful to remember that. He is not to be played like a deck of cards that we can manipulate to do our tricks, to do our bidding.

But at its heart, prayer is no equation.  Prayer is coming and seeking.  And prayer is a funny thing -  equal parts boldness and humility.  Come boldly, He tells us to approach Him, and yet the prayers of little children are those He hears.  The veil was torn, that we might approach Him, but approach Him with meekness, lowliness, as a servant before her master.

Let us pray because He tells us to, but guard our hearts least we become formulaic in the offering.  

I will do this and You, Lord, You will respond like that...

So many Christians tend toward legalism for this very reason - and it happens naturally when we think we've made sense of God!  But God is a wild sort of love that cannot ever be understood until we stand face to face with Him in Glory. He is not bound by formulas just as prayer and fasting cannot ever be bound by rules. Bound by works. Though, remarkably, prayer and fasting does unleash the Power of God, it is not a cut and dry thing to be manipulated, but a taste of that deeper magic.

 

Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be full.

(John 16:24)

 

The Lord desperately wants us close to His heart, and he wants to give generously to His children, and so He's given us this thing we call prayer. 

Would you like for Him to come in to the living room, center most place of your heart? Is an unanswered prayer in your wounded past holding you back?  I dare you to step forward to the door and telling Him all about it.  He knows and He cares and He is there to open the door and open You up too.  Open you up for healing. Would you like this wild sort of love to come in and sit down and talk with you? Yes? Then start now, today, here.  Lift up a whisper confession, timid and soft. "Lord, I need to know you.  I don't even know about this knocking and seeking... but I sure need to find You now.  Open up and let me in, show me how to open up my heart and let You in.  I'm unsure.  Teach me Lord.  I'm crying out, just wanting to believe, Lord, help my unbelief.  Here I am praying.  Here I am praying, knocking, seeking, awkward about it all.  Here I am Lord.  I'm simply a weak person who has sinned and gone it alone for far too long.  I don't want to conjure up any magic trick, God, I'm not looking for lightening and a crash of thunder... but I want you to do a magic work on my heart with your Love.  Show me what that even means, I pray.  Amen."

 

Oh Prayer... a magic deeper still.

 

 

Praying for America - When a mom is already so busy doing everything else

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My hair was wet and cold, I should have dried it before I took the kids to school this morning, but my husband was on a conference call in our bedroom and I didn't want to disturb him.  Then my children were all out of sorts about the way I scrambled their eggs, and one child looked sideways at his brother when they were supposed to be brushing their teeth, so that was a whole other something to focus on this morning. Now here I am with a cold scalp, praying against the cold that always threatens to creep into a mother's heart.  

Today is the National Day of Prayer

 

Every morning I wake up and thank God for the day.  I do, I truly do. I greet my children joyfully, with loving touches and warm food.  Every morning I actively choose to practice grace here in our home.  But, friends, this constant inner focus can take it out of a woman!  Loving and caring, correcting and praying for the hearts here in the girdle of these four walls is a full time job! Sometimes there's nothing left over for anyone else. 

 

 Today is The National Day of Prayer

 

Driving to school we pass a flag raised high and I remember what day it is, halfway through a tongue twister at the time.  Working on tongue twisters on our way to school - tongue twisters to help my boys with their speech impediments.  Over and over again we practice: The girl hit the tiger with her purse... "Ouch,"said the tiger, "That hurt!" And then we go over our spelling words and a few multiplication facts and out they hop with a blessing to honor their teachers and be kind to their friends.

 

Today is The National Day of Prayer

 

I drive to the grocery store to get a gallon of orange juice for the other brother sick at home.  Miraculously I remember that this is teacher appreciation week, so I grab three thank you cards as well. A pit in my stomach forms hard and fast when I see the Mother's Day cards beside the thank you notes, and I realize I'd forgotten all about it - never sent cards to the three mothers in my own life. And now I remember again that I'm supposed to be praying for America as well.

 

Today is The National Day of Prayer

 

But I'm just hurrying home to get Vitamin C into the body of my eleven year old with bronchitis.

 

Today is The National Day of Prayer

 

My child is resting now, under a heavy blanket in his dark room with the humidifier hissing soothing eucalyptus.  I take a moment to write those thank-you notes to their teachers, because I really am so thankful for them.  And, as I switch out another load of laundry, I think of how hard it is to tell teachers and mothers how much I love and admire and appreciate them, because I'm knee deep in tongue twisters - twisted all up in the rearing of my own children here in my own life.

 

Today is The National Day of Prayer

 

What to do then? What to do when you're a praying woman who's not been able to move beyond those prayers most immediate, for her immediate family?  For health in the home and faith down in their bones. Except to stop.  Stop.  Stop, if ony for a few moments. Stop.  And move beyond your needs and theirs, and join the chorus rising from mothers and fathers and children and grandparents and working men and women all around our country today.  What if we all just stop, all of us, from sea to shining sea, for just a moment, in the middle of the twisted up day and pray for our nation. One Nation.  One People. Twisted up and desperately in need of God today.

 

Today is The National Day of Prayer

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So Let's Pray:

Dear Lord, you don't only graft people into your family tree... you are willing to graft nations!  Nations of men and women, boys and girls, who recognize You as their sovereign ruler.  So graft us in, Lord.  Graft America in, I pray.  Graft us in through faith, and let us partake in the inheritance of your peace and protection as we turn to you!  One person at a time, one mother at a time, one family at a time.  Turning to you in the busyness of life, stopping to pray.

Lord, I lift up President Obama and our other leaders to you today. I pray that they sense your Spirit alive and guiding them.  I pray that You convict where conviction is needed, affirm and strengthen them where Your affirming strength is needed, and give light to the unknown dark corners of what to do in our fight against terror. Give our leaders wisdom in the face of terror Lord, faith in the face of every threat. Let them know, even now as ISIS takes their stand upon our soil, that Greater is the One living inside of us, then he who is living in the world. (1 John 4:4)  

And I pray for families, Lord, families that are praying families praying for one another, and families that do not know you, and don't know how to pray.  I lift them all up to you, Lord, for they are America.  By Your Spirit lead and guide each person today.  Bring them radically back to You - and in so doing, lead our entire nation to Yourself.  I pray all these things, here in my home, in the middle of my everyday life, trusting that You are faithful.  You are God.  Amen.

 

Blessed is the nation whose God is The Lord,

the people chosen as His inheritance.

(Palm 33:12)

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Prayer and Fasting:

For those of you who are journeying with me in this 40 day sugar fast, let us use this day to shift our focus off of ourselves and onto the world beyond our own needs, our own struggles, our own desire to exerience the nearness of God.  Let us focus today, and in the remaining 15 days, on those around us.  Fasting and praying for our husbands and children and neighborhoods, our schools, and even our nation.  What do you say?  Is the Lord prompting your heart even now? Is there someone specific you feel led to pray and fast on behalf of? Your husband? Your children? Or maybe beyond into the lives of your friends and neighbors?  Missionaries, pastors, those held in literal bondage today throughout the world?  Oh, to use the power unleashed through prayer and fasting for the captive releasing, bondage breaking benefit of others!

It's not easy, moms, when there are so many needs right here in our homes, but let's ask the Lord how He would have us fast and pray for these remaining days.  Amen?  Amen.

Today is The National Day of Prayer

10 Things we can do to make our mornings easier

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I recently wrote a post entitled, Grace-filled mornings, but it was actually more about hurried school mornings and the tendency to nag our way through all the sacred rituals at the start of each new day.  I heard back from some of you that I'm not alone in my angst; that you're with me in wanting more of Grace and less Law.  

The trouble is, I don't have a formula that's will work for every woman.  There's no one way to guide us through the practical aspects of our bed-making, teeth-brushing, lunch-box-grabbing, shoe-tying mornings.  So having a plan of action is key for every mom herding children out the door. Let's make a plan and teach our children how to be self-disciplined so that we're not tempted to discipline them every rushed morning. Discipline strangles grace when we're in a rush.  Therefore let's slow down, make a plan, and communicate it clearly with our kiddos.

Slowing down our morning ritual to make space for Grace. Because Grace needs room to breath and spread out and into hearts, and our hustle bustle pace makes her dizzy.

[Tweet "Slow down your morning ritual to make space for grace."]

 

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Here are 10 things we can do with our children to make our mornings easier.

 

I'm learning to do much of this the night before another hurried, off-to-school morning.  Getting some of the logistics out of the way so I can smile instead of scold, and help instead of harp.  I realize I'm most impatient with my children when I'm overwhelmed with my own last minute rush. It's then that I grab and pull and push with words and hands and dishes, rather than encourage and help as we move out the door, hand in hand with Grace.

 

Here are the kids responsibilities:

Lay out clothes on the end of their bed.  Since two of my three wear school uniforms, this is paramount.  A scramble through a dirty pile of navy blue polos is no way to start the day with a song.  Our kids can absolutely be in charge of this task.  And if we find that something hasn't been cleaned, there's still time to do a stress-free load of wash before bed.

 

School bags packed and set beside shoes. At night I remind my children to get their things packed up and laid beside their shoes at the door. This is crucial if we want to be ready in the morning. Once again, this is the time for training. Our kiddos need to learn to be responsible for their things, but don't you agree it's much more comfortable to check on their school preparations at night, rather than point out all their flaws in the morning?  One smacks of help and the other criticism.

 

Breakfast table cleaned off and place-mats set. My oldest has kitchen duty in the evenings and this includes cleaning the table and sweeping up all the conveniently dropped pieces of broccoli on the floor.  He also lays fresh place-mats and napkins, so I'm not all jumbled bringing breakfast to a discombobulated table.  How that stresses my discombobulated heart!  And when I'm stressed... there's not much room for Grace.

 

In all the above points, there's much training to be done.  I'm definitely not suggesting we forego training and replace it with permissive laziness, we're just purposing a better time to do it.  A proactive parenting strategy. We can do this... and they can too! But expecting them to get it all done in the limited time we have each morning is simply an invitation for more angst!

 

Now here are Mom's responsibilities:

Breakfast. Muffins pre-made.  It's Sunday night as I am typing this out, and I have a dozen banana muffins prepped for the week, along with a batch of pancakes.  I tripled my recipe this weekend and set aside two mornings worth in the fridge for the weekdays ahead.   Scrambled eggs, cereal, and french toast are other easy staples.  Having a plan is key.  Here's our favorite gluten-free chocolate zucchini muffin recipe.

 

Lunches prepped.  Some of this can certainly be done the night ahead.  And many women include their children in this step too, but I choose not to.  I usually do this late at night and then shuffle to my bedroom, knowing my husband needs a little bit of my night too.  And then there's sleep.  Sweet blessed sleep.

 

Sleep.  A good night's sleep is an open invitation for Grace to visit in the morning.  When I've pushed the midnight oil a bit too indulgently, everyone pays the next day.  I know this is hard for you young moms, with littles at your heels each day; how those night hours stretch long with hobbies and books and social media... and we clamor for the hours because they remind us that we're more than moms, we're women with interests and personality and friends too.  But to over-indulge means to leave yourself filled up in one way, but empty in another crucial area.  We need sleep!

 

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 Set an alarm.  Getting up before the sun isn't necessary for me, but getting up before my children is!  A shower and a scripture and wet hair wound-up in a bun is more than enough to hand my day over to Grace.

 

First Fruits.  Coming to the Lord as the day begins is a tangible reminder for me to lift my eyes up to the mountains from where my help comes from.  And that helper's name is Grace.  So I look up expectantly.

 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains –

where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2

 

Whisper.  When the clock is ticking and I start to feel my blood boil, I want to snatch the shoe strings out of slow hands. But  when I'm tempted to holler about the ways they've all fallen short that morning,  I choose to do the opposite.  The opposite.  I whisper.  Not always, mind you, I'm learning too, but when I remember they all stop and look at me like I've got something important on the tip of my tongue.  And they actually hear me.  My loud voice is much less effective.

 

Pray for each heart of stone.  We tend to focus on the hard hearts in our children, and their desire to do their own thing rather than what's been asked of them.  I feel their wayward hearts of stone in the early morning hours.  But when I whisper and take their hands to lead them gently, I am reminded about my own need for a soft flesh heart.  And while we can purpose and reprogram some... only God can give us a totally new heart, and put His Spirit deep within us.  And Grace, Grace is so much a part of His Spirit.  We need it.  And we need Him.

 

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;

I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

 

This was a long note, and always unfinished as we are all works in progress.  How I wish we could jump through the internet and sit together to talk through these things.