I sit down and open my Bible, I read some passages. I close my eyes to pray. Woah. Did I just fall asleep? Better keep my eyes open. I reach for my journal and then remember I had wanted to light a candle. Wait. Where is the lighter? Bzzzzz. The laundry is done. Ok, I am (still) going to pray - I’ll just fold laundry at the same time. Mrrrr. Text message. Ugh. I’ve gotta check it, my friend was going to text me if she needed me to pick up her kid after school. “Mama?” Shoot! How is he awake already? Beep beep beep. Dang, that’s my timer reminding me my 10 minutes of intentional prayer time is over.
A beautifully manicured 50-something mother of two (grown, successful, & holy) children was giving an inspirational teaching on 5 steps to become the wife/mom God wants you to be (I dunno. Something like that.) and one of her wise tips was “just carve out 10 minutes a day… set a timer if you have to…”
I had scribbled down on the back of a crumpled GAP receipt, “Pray more. 10 minutes.” (Yes, an old receipt. And No, I didn’t bring my journal, people! I barely remembered to wear deodorant.)
And while I (mostly) enjoy listening to wise words from women, like the one I mentioned above, who get 8-10 hours of sleep at night and haven’t wiped a poopy booty in the past 12-15 years - I sometimes find myself feeling like perhaps I might scream! I’m in the trenches of toddler tantrums, dodging Lego land mines, navigating Kindergarten homework, and I still having to make dinner and time to be present to my husband.
Please don’t share with me one more “simple” way to incorporate Jesus into my (chaotic) life. Because let’s be honest, what works for one mama doesn’t work for all of us. And I already have enough guilt; my kids say the best part about going to church are the free donuts and (orange Tang) juice afterwards. You get what I’m saying. I do not use the restroom, take a shower, or drink my coffee without a 2 foot shadow lurking around me.
So here’s how I’d change that 5 step plan... Step 1, Jesus doesn’t have to be incorporated in your life. He’s already there. Don’t over complicate prayer. And...that’s it. Actually, my 5 step plan is just one step. You’re welcome.
He is right there - woven into your and into my messy, busy, chaotic life.
Prayer isn’t something that can only happen while sitting still in a quiet serene place. Your very life, the mundane activities of your motherly vocation, can be an offering - they can be a prayer. The good, the bad, the ugly parts… Jesus is found, in fact he was BORN, in the mess.
When Jenny gifted me my first copy of the MPC, I was in the midst of a painful year, and I still have the scars to show for it. New home, new job (for husband), new baby, first minivan… At the time I was a stay-at-home mama of a 3-year-old, 1-year-old, and an infant. I was anxious, stressed, probably depressed, and could barely stay afloat.
Remember I told you I’m a red hot choleric? Well, that makes me a fixer and a doer. While in this dumpy season, I started to believe that if I just started being more productive - you know, “more prayerful” - then I was going to claw us out of this place. Myself, three years wiser, looks back at that mama and is so sad for her.
When I got my MPC, I filled in every page and wrote up and down the margins. You better believe I was using that kitchen timer for my “10 simple minutes” of intentional praying. I was checking the boxes. I was spending time daily in the Word and praying with my MPC. The sad truth was I was paddling, but my boat wasn’t moving. I was s.t.r.u.g.g.l.i.n.g. We didn’t have health insurance at the time, and the pressures of my husband’s commission based salary was overwhelming to both of us. My prayer life sounded like a lot of begging - God! Change something, anything!
I remember thinking this is our valley. I had heard older married couples share about these. We were just in a (little) valley, and I just KNEW how these stories ended--victoriously! We’ll be outta here soon enough.
Skip ahead to a few months later, and my husband was offered a new job. This is it! We’ve arrived! Phew. This was “The J-O-B” he thought was going to be perfect for him, and four days before Christmas we got the news that the company had been sold and his offer (never signed a contract) had been revoked.
This was our new valley - our valley’s valley. I remember feeling personally, physically, and spiritually empty. That very same month we experienced painful changes in some of our friendships, I lost a grandmother, and my soon-to-be kindergartener and first born didn’t get into the school I knew God wanted him to attend. I cried myself to sleep many nights, ok I sobbed, like when I failed a course in graduate school (that’s a story for another time).
I was a wreck. So, I crawled back to my prayer corner and pulled myself up into my chair. Lord, I have nothing left. I thought you were going to help us. Did you not hear me? How did we end up here? I had no spiritual voice. I had nothing to say to Him. I was depleted.
And you know what happened next? I opened my blue MPC, and I just started to read aloud. I went through the motions. I remember thinking I have nothing else in me. It was here that I surrendered. It was here that I realized that I alone could not fix this, but that I had to cling to the One who could heal us. I was holding on by my fingertips, ya’ll… and now I released my grip and fell into His grace.
“From whom every family on earth derives its name…” I began reading those scriptures from the family page and then I’d flip to my husband’s page and pray aloud for him. The MPC gave me a voice when I had none. It warmed up my vocal chords, reminded my brain how to form the prayers and then my heart soon followed. This, y’all. This was the lesson that God had wanted me to learn months ago, He was showing me that I couldn’t pray my way out of a valley. In fact, He had created that valley, and He wanted me to sit there - for awhile.
This is the nugget that I hope you’ll tuck away and revisit throughout your MPC journey. Praying with the MPC cannot be found in a “5 ways to become a better wife/mom.” The MPC journey is not just about the doing, it’s about living the experience - about embracing prayer and time with Our Lord. The MPC is not an end in itself; it’s a tool, it’s a way, it’s a journey to deepen us in our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
I don’t wish our time in the valley away, I give thanks for it, because without that year I would never have had the eyes to see or the heart to feel the grandeur of the view from atop the mountain. And I’m not typing this from atop the mountain because we all know we can’t and don’t stay there our whole lives, but I do know that God wants us to find joy in the sufferings, in the valleys as much as we do when we have conquered the mountain!
My heart sings and I give thanks in ALL circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
My time in the valley’s valley gave way to my purpose - as a mother, as a wife, and took on an entirely new mission! I accepted the dignity of my vocation. I could now do something about all these worries and burdens. I could put them somewhere. I didn’t have to hold onto them. It wasn’t my responsibility to fix it all and make it better. I could stop white knuckling every “what if” scenario in our home. I could let it go. I could hand this off. I could loosen the grip. I could climb out of the valley without the weight of worry, I could actual allow myself to enjoy the hike to the top.