Tag Archives: religion

The February Prayer Project – Mottos and More

22 Feb

More than Mothers writer Lisa chronicles her thought-provoking experiment in faith and friendship in “The February Prayer Project.”  Here is the final part of her story.  Click here for Part Three.

During the course of The February Prayer Project—last year’s month-long spiritual challenge among Lori, Jen and myself—I interviewed my fellow MTM moms each Monday. I’d ask each about how they’d done on their week’s worth of prayer and meditation. Then I’d launch into a series of Proust-style questions, which gave me such fun and fascinating insights into my two dear friends. What’s your biggest regret? On what occasions do you lie? The moment you felt like an adult?

Among the most intriguing question turned out to be “What’s your motto? Lori, the born-leader in our girl gang, rattled off, “People over things” with the practiced efficiency of a military commander. Of course Lori would have a motto! (It wouldn’t have surprised me if she had a coat-of-arms, too.)

Jen’s answer held every bit as much interest:  She didn’t have a motto. Our high-achiever seemed downright flustered that she hadn’t ever considered the question before! In typical Jen fashion, she said she’d get on it right away. I know she devoted serious mental energy to the task. That’s Jen.

I’ve had plenty of slogans/mottos/catchphrases over the years. In high school, it was “prior planning prevents problems.” My group of gumbas in college would all say, “I suffer more than most,” a perfect reflection of our wry humor at the time; we’d start guffawing at the word “suffer.” As a mother, my motto morphed into, “Do what you need to do.” If Paige had a bad night, I’d sit up with her. (Now that was suffering!) If Chip had a tough day, I’d cancel evening plans without a twinge of remorse. I was doing what I needed to do.

During the February Prayer Project, I landed on the best motto of the bunch:

Believing is seeing.

I have always believed in God, usually believed in Christ, never quite understood the Holy Spirit but believed in him, too. I believe in lots more. The power of saying, “thank you.” That a great tailor can transform an inexpensive blouse into couture. A great novel is better than a vacation. The Mets will blow a lead in the 9th inning when their games are televised in Texas (my husband swears this is the case, too).

In soulful matters, “believing is seeing” makes my life so much richer. I actively look for the hand of God and have faith in His mysteries—that I may not understand His plans vis-à-vis my current situation, but He does have a plan for me. I no longer believe in coincidence, either. An old friend I dreamed about earlier in the week calls out of the blue. (Believe it!) A writing assignment I hadn’t wanted to take yields some great insight or contact. (Believe it!) My special-needs daughter’s disastrous 7th-grade year propels us into a new school situation—and it’s the best yet. (Believe it!)

I used to envy anyone who said, “faith sustains me.” For most of my life, my faith simmered in the background. No more. I have the zeal of a convert.

I believe.

And I see.

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The February Prayer Project – The Dreaded “N-” Word

15 Feb

More than Mothers writer Lisa chronicles her thought-provoking experiment in faith and friendship in “The February Prayer Project.”  Here is Part Three of her four-part story.  Click here for Part Two.

One notion haunted me the first weeks of the February Prayer Project, wherein I challenged Jen, Lori and myself to pray for a whole month to see if it mattered.

What if God was telling me, “no”?

I’d heard the dreaded “n-” in the past. And it hurts. Bad.

My daughter, Paige, was diagnosed with autism in the spring of 2000. Both my husband and I knew she had serious developmental delays. Paige made plenty of sounds but very few words. She made eye contact but couldn’t sustain it like a glancing blow. She rarely looked up when you called her name.

For months, I’d prayed—down on my knees, tears in my eyes—for God to fix whatever was wrong. After all, He’d parted the Red Sea for Moses, sent manna from heaven for the Israelites. Through His son, He’d given sight to the blind and brought Lazarus back from the dead. Couldn’t He—shouldn’t He—intervene on behalf of an innocent little girl?

If He did, I couldn’t see it. In April 2000, a pediatric neurologist with the bedside manner of a third-world despot informed us: a) Paige had autism; b) there was no cure; c) we should start saving now for institutionalized care.

A decade later, those wounds can still feel raw. And in February 2011, as my dearest friends were praying during a project I’d dreamed up, I kept mulling this singular, terrifying idea:

What if God says no?

Like a good parent, He could have plenty of reasons to deny a request. The heroin addict who begs the Almighty to win the lottery? You can see how a huge infusion of cash could lead to the winner’s demise. The freshman who didn’t study for her geometry exam? Giving her an easy A could set a bad precedent, ultimately hindering her growth.

But Paige?

All that’s to say I was gun-shy about asking God for much of anything. I didn’t think He’d ignored me where Paige was concerned. I thought he said, “Sorry, sister,” which somehow felt worse.

But in February 2010, I began seeing a bit more nuance in my daughter’s disability. How God has provided everything she truly needs—great teachers, skilled therapists, compassionate sitters, savvy doctors (minus the aforementioned neurologist, whom we never saw again). God has also used her situation to shape who I am. I listen better because when you have a child with such significant communication problems, you develop a keen ear. I have used her situation to vet my friends, too. If Paige makes them uncomfortable (or if that’s what I perceive), I’m far less interested in the relationship. She and I, in effect, are a package deal. Over the past decade, anytime I have asked God for strength or guidance in solving a Paige-related problem, He has shown me the way.

To that end, I began to feel gratitude for the gifts her autism has given me.

Sometimes a “no” turns out alright in the end.

The February Prayer Project – Questions and Answers

8 Feb

More than Mothers writer Lisa chronicles her thought-provoking experiment in faith and friendship in “The February Prayer Project.”  Here is Part Two of her four-part story.  Click here for Part One.

I worship idols.

Prior to our work in The February Prayer Project—whereupon I challenged Jen, Lori and myself to a month of prayer and spiritual pursuits in the second month of 2010—I thought that idolatry was one sin I didn’t have to call my own. Raised in a Christian household, I felt confident in the one true God. In college, I majored in Classics with heavy doses of Greek and Roman mythology. While I relished tales of Athena springing fully formed from Zeus’s head and the evil antics of Hades, never did I believe in anything beyond the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Additionally, I could see where a love for the trappings of modern life—fancy baubles, haute handbags, and the like—could morph into some kind of spirit-killing exercise. I may enjoy the occasional shopping excursion, but never do I bow down to the altar of Neiman’s or Nordstrom. My heathen-free self knows better.

All this meant idol worship wasn’t on my radar.

Until last February.

In our parameters for The February Prayer Project, I requested that The Bible serve as our only source for spiritual material. In other words, no web surfing in search of nirvana or flipping through self-help books on the quest for enlightenment. Someone once told me that every time you open a Bible, you initiate a conversation with God. That was precisely what I wanted: to hear from Him on how to live better and love better. I wanted details, Big Guy!

What I realized after reading most of Isaiah and the first chapters of Jeremiah was that I do often put comfort above God. I would suffer tremendously if, say, I didn’t have enough to eat or a roof over my head. Mature faith, I have grown to realize, means turning to Him to meet my needs without question. Like Job, if I lost everything, I should still have praises on my chapped lips.

As I spoke and listened to God last February, He also asked me to step out of my comfort zone by speaking about Him. I’m of the don’t-talk-religion school but am beginning to grasp how foolish and wrong that truly is. My God may have different nuances than yours (probably due to my ignorance), but if we never talk about Him, how will we know? I may know my best friends’ favorite color or movie, but do I know their views on the Almighty? Probably not, and that’s wrong.

I’m starting small, stepping out of my comfortable cocoon one post or conversation at a time.

And for that I say, “amen.”

The February Prayer Project – In the Beginning…

1 Feb

More than Mothers writer Lisa chronicles her thought-provoking experiment in faith and friendship in “The February Prayer Project.”  Here is Part One of her four-part story.

One year ago today, Jen, Lori and I embarked on a spiritual adventure, one that continues to resonate in my life.

Dread, I admit, sparked the idea for The February Prayer Project.  February has long been a tough month for me.  The gloomy skies, the cold temps and post-holiday blues inevitably made the second month of the year my personal least favorite.  I felt determined to break this unhappy cycle in 2010, but I feared I might have trouble doing it alone.  The practice of daily prayer—like a Pilates class—would be easier and more fun if I didn’t go it alone.  I figured the accountability factor would keep my motivation strong as well: if I asked my close friends to pray and/or meditate every single day for a whole month, I’d have an obligation to do so as well.

To my delight, Lori and Jen signed on to my quirky plan, agreeing to the following ground rule:

1.   To keep a journal throughout the month on how they prayed, where they prayed, what it meant personally (if anything at all);

2.   To refrain from consulting outside sources on how to pray, with the notable exception of The Bible; and

3.   To resist the impulse to discuss the project within our little group, with the notable exception of weekly interviews with me; I would call my friends and ask questions about their process, their challenges, what worked and what didn’t.  You see, I didn’t just want to pray.  I wanted to know if it worked.

Jen and Lori’s enthusiasm only added to my excitement.  I was rarin’ to go!  So imagine my chagrin when praying that first week proved no less than excruciating for me.  I swear I couldn’t keep my mind focused for more than 90 seconds!  Here I, a believing Christian, could barely cobble together a “Dear God…” without feeling overwhelmed, underprepared and full of doubt.

I persisted, though, and by the end of those first seven days had lost some of my self-consciousness and discomfort.  While I am hardly a morning person, I also discovered that I liked praying in the morning.  I had to get out of bed first, though.  If I woke up and tried to pray while all cozy between my sheets, I’d invariably fall back to sleep.  So I’d head to the couch (sans coffee no less!) and spend 5, 10, 15, finally 20 minutes praying.

And it was good.

Quite good.

Next week, I’ll talk about big questions, surprising answers and a weakness I didn’t even know I had!

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