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Archive for October, 2015

honesty in prayer

I’m not one for trite sayings.

I would rather face a truth, hard or easy, head on and dive in to processing it.

I internally, and honestly probably externally, cringe when people speak to others facing difficulties and offer up unhelpful, overused, or careless words. I would love to protect everyone I love from having to wade through the well-intentioned but poorly thought out words of others.

No matter my passion for preferring others to be straight up with me with ‘real talk’ over fluffy words, I still sometimes find myself believing in a type of personal mindset that leads me to speak unavailing words to myself when considering hardship and praying about it.

Last Tuesday I got word that the 3-day-old daughter of one of my closest “mommy friends” had an extreme shift in her health, and for the remainder of the week baby Autumn’s life was hanging in the balance.

I could never pretend to identify with how this week will forever been remembered by Toby and Melissa.

As a friend, I only wanted to speak real, meaningful, and truthful words – if I spoke them at all. I really felt (and still feel, though with some clarity)lost on how to walk through this type of hardship with friends. But in the depths of my mind I continued to consider if and when I spoke to Melissa, how and what could I say that would not be insensitive, sugar coated, glossed over, meaningless words. I wanted to love and love well. I found myself giving myself pep talks on what to say, when to say it, if to say it, how to say it, and what I thought about the words I was even considering saying.

I felt like continually the Lord was prompting me to be available to listen and honest and prayerful.

I got off the phone with Melissa early Wednesday morning and considered our conversation. I felt as if I had kept close to how I felt like God wanted me to conduct myself during our interactions. I was thankful for the nudging to listen instead of speak – because now I was truly aware of how she was doing instead of just trying to place myself in the conversation or offer her words out of my mouth to make my own-self feel better in some way for “saying something helpful”. I was honest in telling her that I love her and how I was just so sorry. I didn’t feel the need to say anything fake just to make the gravity of the situation less intense: the Lord allowed me to honestly say “this is awful.”

Now that we had hung up it was time to be prayerful.

I prayed throughout the day but knew that nap time was when I would be able to speak out loud to God in a more quiet and focused way. When I laid the kids down I went into my room, put my phone beside me because I turned on some worship music, turned the monitor on so I could hear the kids, and sat on my bed.

I’ve been reading a book about Holiness for a bible study I’m involved with and as I’m sitting on the bed somehow it clicks to connect the two: what does pursuing holiness have to do with me in this moment as I wonder how and what to pray?

This past week the chapter focused in on things that we are compelled to be drawn into which perpetuate a sinful state instead of a holy state. Pretty obvious examples being: sex, lust, entertainment, noise, food, activities, social gatherings, social media etc. These are all things that stimulate us whether physically, mentally, emotionally.

As I was considering all these things, I thought about what God says, and how that cultivates holiness: “Be still, and know that I am God…”, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” and other passages and verses kept coming to mind about being called to stillness and rest and seeking to renew – removing what stimulates the mind and the body, so that God can stimulate the heart.

And then it was pretty obvious that I was in over my head with distractions and not really focused.

So I turned off the kids’ monitor, turned off my phone, got off my bed, and went to my sitting area in the bathroom. My bathroom has a big window that I like, and if I have a few minutes to spend alone, I’ll sometimes spend it in the chair where I fix my hair/put on make up, and look out the window that overlooks the backyard from my bathtub.

So there I was, sitting on my make up chair, looking at the gray day.

And I felt lost on what to say again.

Although this time I am not talking to a mother – my peer – who has just as little control as me over their child’s life. I am talking to the creator of the universe, who knows and discerns my thoughts. Who, even if I was going to offer words filled without my honesty, would see right past them. Who has a power I don’t possess. And I felt a little frozen. Because that’s kind of heavy stuff, and I felt somewhat burdened to be really careful about what I was about to say – I was about to petition the Lord on behalf of a dear friend, and that was a heavy moment to dwell in.

Removed from my previous distractions in my bedroom, I began to see how God was speaking to me.

“Remember how I just told you how to approach Melissa? This is how you need to approach me, these same ways are effective for me. You have access to my presence, I am a Holy God but you come to me freely and I need you here without an agenda. If you are here to get your way or be half-hearted so you don’t feel bad if you don’t get your way, that’s not something that’s going to happen, if you are here to speak to me and believe in my power, I need you 1) available to listen 2) honest 3) prayerful.”

And so I felt free to shake-off my typical prayer over a serious situation and felt clarity on how to let the words start coming out of my mouth instead of just keeping them in my heart and fluffing up what comes out of my mouth so it sounds better.

So, instead of a typical “Lord I pray your will would be done” and not really meaning that because I mean so much more, I started to speak freely and honestly. Like I said earlier, sometimes even though I expect ‘real talk’ from others, I’m not as quick to be honest with myself before God about what I think about things – I put on a private show of good-intentions and “what you’re supposed to say” before God (you know, all the “churchy” things like: it’s all in your hands, your will be done, God’s got this, you have the power to do anything, etc). I have so much to learn in my prayer life, but this was a defining moment in my last week. After listening to God nudge me to be honest with him, I got painfully honest. It was messy, but genuine.

“God, I want you to heal this baby. I do. I can’t lie about that, I can’t act like it’d be nice if you heal her but I understand if you don’t, I want to be clear here I’m pleading for you to heal her, and if you don’t – it might take me time to understand that, but I will love you and trust you but I’m not understanding of your ways always, and so I’m just being honest: I want her to live a long life. I want her mom and dad not to hurt. I want her to become best friends with her brother. I want our kids to grow up knowing each other. I know that if any set of my friends would proclaim her healing for the rest of their lives, it would and will be Melissa and Toby, so don’t you see why this would be completely plausible that you choose to heal her?

So my heart is totally raw here and I am feeling stupid saying some of this but I feel like this is what you’re asking for, so here it is.

And if you don’t heal her in the way that I’m expecting, I’m going to be sad. But really, I know you have loved me in dark places and so I know you will be there for the shadows of my inability to understand, and I pray that you would be felt fully in what dark days come ahead for my friends, because I know you will be there – for anyone that needs you in the low places, so while I want you to heal her, I’m going to accept whatever the outcome is because I’m actually being honest here – and you haven’t called me to fix everything and everyone and make everything better, or to proclaim that that’s the type of God you are, I know that our full healing and understanding are not on this earth, but you ask that I come before you and be honest, so I’m doing that in hopes that I might understand what it is to be still before you, and be moved in your presence – despite the outcome. And I feel like if I wasn’t honest and just said the things I’ve grown accustomed to saying then I would look back on regret, but I just want to make the record clear here: I’m petitioning you for something I’ve never asked for, and so this is me doing all I can do, because what more can I do than pray? And not with hopes that you’ll answer my prayer because it makes sense to me to – but that you would continue to lead me to be honest with you and rely on you when I know that life may not look like what I expect it to look like and cause me to see prayer as not just something additional to do when hoping to help someone, but as vital and truly the only thing I can do.

I know what all you can do – that’s where the ‘you have the power to do anything’ part of this prayer comes in. And I’ve said that before, but today I believe it -fully- in this moment, and so thank you for allowing me to believe that so that I can pray this. And I can only pray that whatever the result of all of this is, that you would not let me forget that you beckoned me to be honest with you and I am being honest – help me to remember that my honesty before you doesn’t bring me closer to “what I want” but brings me closer to an understanding of the access I have to you – the freedom to be honest with you, and the magnitude of that access. Help me not to take that for granted by missing opportunities to pray honestly to you. Help me not to keep a closed mouth and heart for fear of sadness, when you give me the freedom to come before you completely vulnerable.

so I’m going to be available to listen now, in hopes that you will shape my thoughts on life and healing, to understand  what it is to even ask for healing and how to accept that healing (as understood on earthly term) may not come. Amen”

I wish I could tell you I felt fireworks go off in my brain in celebration of such a moving prayer time, but that wouldn’t be honest. I felt tired and emotional and depleted of any more words. I did, however, feel peace. I felt the stillness. I knew what it was to not just have a bunch of noise buzzing around me or out of my mouth in place of genuinely talking to God about what I’m thinking. I felt, in that prayer, I had given God my best, which was in turn the most I could give my friends – the best I could give my friends, to honestly pray for their baby girl.

Baby Autumn passed away last night at 9:33 p.m.

My heart was grieved the moment I found out. I will continue to grieve alongside my friends for who knows how long. Not in the same way and not as deeply, but in solidarity with them – I hurt as they hurt.

What is the point of me sharing any of this with you?

Well, I hope if you are someone seeking to support a loved one going through such a hard time, you would know that the best you can offer is not a bunch of fluffy words, or careless condolences, but to be available to listen to them, available to listen to God, honest in letting yourself hurt as they hurt, honest in your prayers before God, and prayerful – always.

There are so many days and weeks and months and years to come to grieve Autumn’s passing, no one can walk through that as fully as their family will. I pray that they receive support as they grieve in a way that no one else will be grieving, I pray they experience gentleness as people interact with them, I pray they feel comfort from the Only source of comfort, I pray that Autumn’s life will draw people closer to the Lord, I pray that my friends would feel comfortable finding people to be honest with about how they are doing and not afraid to let the hard moments be hard and not afraid to find glimpses of hope where they can be found.

It is no small thing to allow people into the hurtful places of your life. Thank you, Toby and Melissa, for allowing so many of us to pray for your sweet girl and for your family. We continue to pray for you and stand beside you.

For anyone that has asked “What can we tangibly do?” right now there is a Go Fund Me page set up to help with any expenses they may have in the coming days: here is the link.

 

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