Living on a Prayer

Photo Credit: Caroline Hernandez

Photo Credit: Caroline Hernandez

I just attended my Grampa’s funeral in Southern California. He would have been 88-years-old this month.

It was a bittersweet moment when we learned of his passing, because just 48 hours earlier my youngest sister had her first baby. I like to think that in God’s divine timing these two souls passed each other entering (and exiting) the world.

My Grampa was a giant to me, and he often said he was made of steel. So you can imagine that when his mental and physical deterioration began it was painful reality, because he’d always been invincible in my eyes.

He had packed in a lot of life in the nearly nine decades he spent here on earth. I remember stories he shared about his early childhood and his young adulthood - serving in the army, getting married, becoming a father, and owning his own business.

I only have joy-filled memories of him throughout the 36 years I knew him. I loved the way he smelled, the strength of his hugs, and his contagious laugh.

His niece wrote and orated the eulogy at his funeral. She wove together anecdotal stories while also sharing his honorable life accomplishments. The last line she read gave the congregation an image I will never forget.

She spoke about the moment my grandfather reached Heaven and that one of the first people to welcome him home would be his mother. It was his mother who was credited for his own faith journey and for being a woman of prayer.

My mind drifted to my own children, especially my sons, and the prayers I have specifically prayed for each of them. I felt reignited to be bold in my motherhood. I was affirmed that the work my husband and I are doing to shepherd their hearts isn’t about raising children but raising men.

At the reception following the funeral I watched a slideshow of my grandpa’s life. There before my eyes streamed a colorful kaleidoscope of photographs and memories! That man was so loved, and he loved others well.

It’s funny that since I was his granddaughter, I only knew him as “old”. However, the photographs revealed other aspects of who he was - a brother, a husband, a nephew, an uncle, a dad, a friend, and a son.

I thought of his mother, my great-grandmother. I wondered if she too found herself lost in thoughts about who her son would one day become, just as I have done for my own.

I mused about my family lineage and all the generations of men and women who make up the branches of my family tree. The great, great grandparents who came before me. I thought of all the mothers whose fervent prayers for their children and their children’s children have paved the way for me and the life I am living right now.

Think about all the petitions our ancestors have brought before the throne of God for their family (and their family’s family). This is what it means to be living on a prayer - living on a legacy of prayer!

Someone once shared with me an analogy about the power of prayer; specifically the prayers prayed by mothers and grandmothers for their children and their children’s children.  He told me to imagine a road paved with the prayers, offerings, sufferings, and sacrifices from our ancestors.

As I imagined that road in my mind, I visualized all of my extended family members, including ones I’d never met, linking their arms together creating a human bridge just for me to walk upon - a bridge that represented their love and sacrifice for their children’s future - their prayers and petitions just for me.

Each generation stretching their arms out a little further making the bridge a little stronger for the next generation to walk across. And now I can see my own grandfather taking his place in this great chain of love - a linking of mothers and fathers who make up my family lineage, my family history.

My great grandmother and those mothers who came before her gave their lives so that one day the future of their family would be even greater than the one they experienced.

Every mother is like Moses. She does not enter the promised land.
She prepares a world she will not see.
- Pope Paul VI

When I find myself exhausted or completely defeated from the grind of motherhood, I am reminded of my why, my mission. I remind myself that the work I am putting in now will yield good fruit - even if I never “taste it” for myself.

...I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you
will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

If you, too, find yourself in a place where life seems impossible, I hope you’ll have the courage to persevere in those hard places. Just like the generations that have gone before us, we push onwards because there is no other option. So remain faithful, be hopeful, and pray without ceasing. Because like our great ancestors, it is prayers that help build the bridge-way between our children and the Divine.

Stef Blackwell

Stef Blackwell and her husband are raising their four kids and living the dream deep in the heart of suburbia, Flower Mound, TX. She’s a raging choleric and high functioning introvert, which some have said is impossible. But alas, here she lives to tell her tale. Her greatest strength is bossing people around; her greatest weakness is she bosses people around - and Jesus loves her just the way she is - today. She looks for the one mama who is standing alone and strives to bring them into the fold. God has given her a passion for marriage, motherhood, and living missionally.