The more I pray to be still, the more it seems, I am asked to get up and do. The more I crave the silence, the noisier my life seems to get. Not even a 4:45-AM alarm is doing the trick anymore because the downstairs cats have suddenly decided they want to be upstairs cats, which would be fine, if the dogs upstairs didn’t want to eat them. It is chaotic and loud before the sun even rises. I have contemplated leaving the house. Finding a chapel. Driving to a mountaintop. Becoming a hermit. But then there’s the whole couch-and-coffee thing.
And I have been thinking about this for some time now. Creating our own altars. Because as women, mothers or not, we are responsible for so many hearts, aren’t we? It is just how we are wired. We care to an extreme and we worry even more and we feel the weight of it all on our shoulders, and we must pray. We must intercede. We have serious soul saving to do: children to get to heaven, husbands to love right, community to preach the gospel to, Scripture to marinate in.
But we also have jobs to do, and kitchens to clean, and tantrums to ride out, and two-year-olds’ poop explosions to clean up, and laundry to fold, and dogs to let out, and parties to plan, and snow to shovel, and bills to pay, and bills to just look at because you can’t pay them, and teacher conferences, and more snow to shovel, and people to drive here, and people to pick up there, and oh my word … all that driving. And for sure, we can cut things out of our day, but the meat of it all, the stuff we are called to do, we must do. We can not ignore the season we are in, and we must do everything God wills us to do in His name and all for His glory.
And so I am thinking we need to create our own altars.
I am not talking about making a molten cow or worshiping false idols at false altars. Because honestly? How do you even make a molten cow? I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Melt gold? Do I need a furnace or an oven, a big pot to stir it in? Do I need a cow mold? Way too much work. So much easier to worship God.
Anyway … our own altars. What I mean is this. I hear so many women frustrated at the season they are in. The young, beautiful mom who just wants her kids to be quiet at Mass. The elderly widow who is tired and does not move as well, and finds getting out of the house difficult. The mom with the teens who was certain she would have more time when her kids got older and then realized well, THAT was a huge lie: Big kids need you more. Physically and emotionally. And so I am seeing and feeling a whole lot of frustration. How on earth can we be still and sit in silence when our lives are anything but still and quiet?
I think we need to make our own altars.
I think we need to accept where God has us, thank Him for the gift of the challenge, and take everything in and see it as blessing. I think we need to not focus on the where we pray and the how we pray but the simple fact that we desire to pray. That we can offer up the flood of texts from a child that interrupt your Bible study, or the whining of the toddler during morning Mass, or the grocery shop you have to do when you’d rather sit with your spiritual book.
We can take all the noise, take all the distraction, take all the get and up and go, and we can say, “This, Lord? This is all for your glory. It is not how I want to be praying AT ALL, it is not how I imagined my time with you, but you have willed this for me. This is my season. This is where you have me. It is all to be done for your glory, and even though it does not feel how I want it to feel, you are God and so it must be for my good. You are God, and so you know what I need better than I do. And while my couch and slippers and coffee and quiet are how I WANT to be with you…you are allowing the noise and the discomfort … the cats and the dogs … the early riser that joins me … you are teaching me something, Lord … you are working on me … and so this noise and these distractions? These are my altar. Right now, for now … please accept this as my prayer.”
I think it is hard for us to believe that prayer not on our knees counts. And that is not true. It all counts. With the right attitude, with the right intentions, it counts. And sometimes? Sometimes on my busiest, noisiest, least still days … if I reflect on my day … I can see how God showed up, despite my constant moving. I can see how prayer reached me, although I was always on my feet. A sweet gift handed to me in passing from a sister in Christ, a beautiful text of blessing from a friend as I sit and listen to a song that has me in tears, a desperately needed phone conversation with a friend who wakes up your heart, a husband who comes home from work and immediately begins to cook his family dinner. This is God. These are His blessings. These are prayers on foot. And for every blessing we recognize I have to believe there are a million we miss. But that is the key, isn’t it? Recognizing it. And then? Saying thank you.
And none of this is easy. To say thank you, Lord, for this illness, or thank you for the mound of laundry, or thank you for the bills we cannot pay, or thank you for this filthy house I can’t clean because there is too much to do, and thank you for the kids who won’t be quiet for 30 minutes, and thank you for this dog and his awesome instinct to devour the cat, and thank you for this problem that feels like a mountain with no way through or around it and and no time at all to drive to church and be with you so we can talk about what the heck I should do about it … and thank you for the child who just missed the bus and so I now I have to drive her to school and will miss Mass …. none of this is easy.
But it is God. His work for us. His will for us. And so we can fight it and continue to despair over how sad and unfair and challenging our prayer life is right now, or … we can receive it with an open heart … maybe not one that likes it or understands why it must be this way … but open, knowing and believing that this messy and noisy adoration is exactly what God wants from us.
My altar yesterday? My minivan and the laundry room. It is where I found the quiet. For just a few moments, but that is okay. Because I made them count. And that text from the friend, that spoke blessing to my heart? That was a more powerful prayer moment than all the stillness and quiet on my couch could ever offer.
Pray where you are, Sister, and know that it counts. Make the mess your altar, and pay attention to the blessings. Prayer is not about our comfort, but about His. Comfort Christ with your yes, despite the urge to say no. Comfort Him by entering into the noise and distractions without complaint, knowing that He will take whatever we have — on knees or on foot — and turn it into something beautiful. You might be in the same difficult season, but praise be to God, today is a brand new day. Go find your altar.
Copyright 2019 Laura Mary Phelps