Tag Archives: prayer

The Enabling Power of Prayer

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I recently stumbled across a quote that had an effect on my week and left me pondering its words for days after reading it. The quote was:

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As my children grow older and get closer to launching themselves from the nest I find myself taking inventory of what lessons have been sufficiently taught and what areas might still be lacking. This mental inventory covers everything from school concepts, to life skills, coping strategies, emotional stability,and spiritual tenacity. For their entire childhood I have had this long running list mentally laid next to a clock that is ticking down, forever calculating how much more time I have to teach all the needed life lessons that I want my children armed with before they take flight and face the world independently.

It is easy to fall victim to the sin of control, pride, or fear as I weigh what items have been crossed off the proverbial parenting checklist, while facing down the daunting number of tasks that remain.

I find this “one step forward, two step back,” “flight of the bumblebee” dance to become all the more frantic when you have adopted an older child. The list of lessons you want to teach are the same, but the time you have to teach those lessons is inevitably cut in half when a child enters your life at age 6, age 10 or age 14. Add to that the fact that so many of these lessons can’t even be addressed until there is a level of trust, connection, and stability, and you will find the hands on that already ticking clock moving at light speed.

It is easy to fall victim to the same plight as Peter in Matthew 14…

Peter was willing to put it all on the line. He and the other disciples had been straining against the waves and wind all night long when Jesus appeared to them, walking on the water. Wanting to prove his courage to Jesus, he made an amazing statement: “ Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.”. These were rough seas, and Peter was willing to literally step onto them because He was looking at Jesus. That gave him confidence and courage.

It went well for awhile until Peter started to sink. And why did he sink? Because he took his eyes off Jesus and put them on other things.

When my eyes are focused on the list and not on God, I sink. I am consumed with fear and scramble frantically to regain my footing, but the more I scramble the more quickly I sink.

BUT if I turn my eyes back to the Savior I rise above the pull of the waves. I rise above the worries, the stresses, the fear, and the need for control. I am untouched by the crashing waves even as the storm rages around me.

This is the dialog that has been playing out in my head as I look at my older children perched at the edge of the nest, ready to spread their wing and soar. As I consider what lessons have been sufficiently taught and what lessons God is calling me to teach in this final season of their childhood, I am working to keep my eyes on Christ and not fall victim to the sins of control, pride, or fear, but rather allow Him to guide the parental “to do” list of lessons to be taught.

When I stumbled across the quote above I was affected. Its message left me considering how effectively we have taught our children the power of prayer, not just the habit of prayer. I have a testimony of prayer’s power and hope that my testimony has been shared sufficiently with my children through my words, but also through the way that  I live my life…

But this lesson is much too important to hang on “hope” or leave to chance.

Because, of all the lessons taught at my knee, the most important one of all is this one. If my children leave my home with no other skill, no other life tool, no other testimony, I pray it would be this one…the knowledge they are loved by a Heavenly Father, they can have a powerful and intimate relationship with a loving Savior, and by keeping their eyes trained on Jesus through a relationship built on prayer, they can rise above the pull of the waves regardless of the storm raging about them.

This is the topic I felt compelled to revisit, especially in light of a recent trend I have seen playing out around our dinner table.

I’m sure none of you can relate to this but when Toby asks who would like to offer the prayer over the meal crickets can often be heard chirping. There is a noticeable lack of eagerness to pray, and while that doesn’t directly mean anything definitive, I want to make sure that it isn’t reflective of something more…

In addition to the crickets chirping I have also noticed a routine approach to praying that I find even more concerning. All of our prayers recently seem modeled after the same manner. They lack the depth and personal nature that should be seen in a conversation with Heavenly Father.  Add to that the fact that Tyler has recently refused to pray out loud, something that is definitely fear driven, the source of that fear yet unknown, I knew it was time to revisit the topic of prayer as a family.

With all this going on under our roof I was affected in a powerful way by this quote and felt compelled to make it the theme of this week’s Family Home Evening lesson. It was time to get back to the basics and look at how we could each individually strengthen our relationship with God through our prayers to Him.

I began by searching out resources that would teach the lesson that I was feeling called to present, in an engaging and safe way for Tyler so he didn’t shut down or walk out when he heard the topic for the night’s lesson.

I decided to use a lesson I found online that compared prayer to building a sandwich. It gave a great visual that I knew Tyler would respond to. As I prepared the lesson of making a prayer sandwich my mind kept pulling up the image of the cartoon character, Dagwood Bumstead from the old Blondie cartoon strip. He had a love for sandwiches and was well known for his culinary creations…

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Huge, multi-layer sandwiches that he created with creativity and consumed with enthusiasm.

sandwich2As I thought about the iconic Dagwood sandwich I thought to myself, “Now that is what I want my family’s approach to prayer to look like. I want us to eagerly anticipate the opportunity we have to build that sandwich,  meaningfully building layer after layer, and consuming it with pure delight”.

THAT is what I want my prayer sandwich to look like!

Using this model of prayer we went back to the basics. This was primarily for Tyler’s sake but was a good refresher for all of us. I handed out 5×7 “prayer sandwiches” cards, framed in glass, and white board markers and let everyone build their own prayer sandwich. We then each took turns praying, using our sandwich as a guide to our prayer.

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We talked about how, like a sandwich, we all have the same top and bottom slice of bread. The top slice is our greeting to God and our bottom slice of bread is the closing of, “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

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But the filling differs for each of us. I

explained that if we were having sandwiches for dinner and I laid out all the fixings…different meats and cheeses, mayo, mustard, lettuce, onion, tomato, etc. we would all make different sandwiches based on what we liked and what our body was craving. In the same way our prayers differ based on what our experiences were that day, what worries are on our hearts, and what we feel compelled to petition God about.

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I took it one step further and pointed out that just as Tyler’s prayer will differ from Rusty’s, our personal prayer should differ day to day. Just like you wouldn’t want to eat the same sandwich for every meal, your prayer shouldn’t be the same rote words uttered day after day. They should be thoughtful, meaningful, personal and relevant to what is going on in your life.

I compared speaking to God that way to talking to their best friend on the phone…

“What would your friend think if every day you called him or her and had the exact same conversation…

“Hi Jane, How are you? What is your favorite color? Do you have a brother?  Thank you for my Christmas gift.  Talk to you tomorrow. Goodbye.”

I am guessing you wouldn’t have a real meaningful friendship. In the same way our relationship with our Heavenly Father can’t grow deeper if our communication is limited to:

Dear God, Thank you for this day. Thank you for my family. Please bless this food. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

Now granted, I think God is happy to hear from us in any form, even if it is that sort of  “text message of a prayer,” but if we are going to benefit from all that a relationship with a loving, personal God has to offer, we must really talk to him.

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 For the activity part of the evening we took this idea one step further by making prayer sticks. Using tongue depressors decorated with washi tape everyone wrote on the back of 5 sticks people or concerns we want to pray for more regularly and then we placed them in a jar in the living room.

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For family prayer time the family member that is offering the prayer will randomly pick 5 sticks and add those prayer requests to their personal prayer requests. These prayer sticks can be added to or changed over time.

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All of these activities will hopefully help us all to reevaluate our own approach to prayer and help us all to gain a stronger testimony of prayer and its power in our lives:

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We ended the night with a treat of gummy sandwiches…

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Because nothing says, “We are having a family night lesson on prayer!” like a bag of KRABBY PATTIES! 😉

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Guess who is turning 10?! (Part 2)

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When I woke early this morning I found myself facing the same choice I have had to make each morning this week…wake up and finish part 2 of this blog or curl up and sleep for 45 more minutes. I found myself hitting the snooze button once again. This week has been a tiring one due to a lot of extra meetings and more running than usual. We had a few trips into Pittsburgh, a co-op Valentine party, an IEP meeting, and two social worker visits on top of our usual obligations. As a result I have found myself fantasizing about my bed more often and choosing sleep over the other things I could be doing in the early morning hours. It is always a quandary, however, when the alarm goes off at 5:30. I know the blessing of those early morning hours, those moments of quiet and solitude before the rest of the family wakes. I know that my day ALWAYS goes more smoothly if I center myself and have that quiet time before the wild rumpus begins and yet even with that knowledge I have found myself hitting the snooze button all week-long. *sigh* So, now that Ozzie is on the bus and the kids are eating breakfast, I am determined to finish this blog entry. 🙂

Ozzie turned 10 on Sunday. When he was with us over Christmas break he told me that his only wish was that he would be able to spend his birthday at our house. On Sunday morning he excitedly exclaimed, “My wish came true!” As is our tradition, we snuck into Ozzie’s room early Sunday morning to wake him up with the family singing “Happy Birthday” and a cupcake with a candle to blow out. He was thrilled and loved being able to have cupcake for his birthday breakfast.

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After church we let Ozzie open his gifts while lunch was cooking. Each of the kids used their own money to buy Ozzie a gift so he had quite a pile to open. We start with the youngest giving their gift first and end with Mom and Dad’s gift. Tyler bought Ozzie a gumball pack with a matchbox car on top. Rusty bought him Lego stickers, Lego candies and a Lego car that he made him. Molly bought him a matchbox car carrier and Gracie bought him a Monster Truck. Ozzie was very happy with all his toys and kept asking, “Are these all for me?” He was very grateful but he did have to be reminded a few times not to ask the giver where they bought his gift and how much they spent. 🙂

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From Toby and I Ozzie received a membership to Minecraft, an online game that Rusty and Tyler play together. After lunch Rusty helped Ozzie set up his account. We had a quiet day. The kids played and we watched. My heart overflowed with gratitude.

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It is such a funny thing when I consider that just a  few months ago we had no idea God was bringing this little boy into our lives and yet so quickly my heart is  full of love for him. That is not to say it is always easy. We have our fair share of hard moments, tough days, and meltdowns (his and mine) and yet there is no doubt he is my child, my son to raise. As I look back on the last decade of my life I can now see the path that God has been laying all along to bring Ozzie to Toby and I.  Like Tyler, this path of adoption was part of God’s plan from the beginning of time. He was meant to be my son, meant to be part of our forever family. There was a time in my life I struggled with anger towards God for closing the door to future pregnancies through a diagnosis of Myasthenia  Gravis, but I know now that he had to close that door for me to understand and embrace the calling he would lay on my heart…on our hearts…in the future. I had to let go of my plans so that God could show me the greatness of His plans. I had to surrender. I had to let go of the white knuckle grip I had on my own desires and turn my hands over so that He could place His good gifts on my open palms. These two little boys who have entered our lives are treasures…treasures that we would not have been blessed with had things gone “my way.” I quote the words of Nia Vardalos with some licence:

“If the standard route for creating a family had worked for me, I wouldn’t have met Ozzie. I needed to know him. I needed to be his mother. His is, in every way, my son.”

It is often through our greatest heartbreak that we find our most divine calling…that calling that God whispered on our hearts long ago…

“Before you were born, when God knit you together in your mother’s womb, He reached down and took your tiny heart in His hand and breathed on it in such a way to inscribe on it your calling- the reason for which you were being sent into the world to love and be loved and to be God’s love in the flesh to everyone you meet. Since that day, amid all the noise and distractions, your heart with every beat has kept whispering that calling. Sometimes it is hard to hear it. You have to listen closely. There are other voices, too, that you have collected over the years- voices of guilt and fear and shame and negativity. They say, “You can’t do that” and “You ought to do this” and “What will people say?”  But they all come from your head not your heart, and they never whisper, they shout, forever trying to drown out the one true thing you need to hear. Don’t listen to the bad voices. Listen to your heart. Follow your calling. If there is any art to living I believe it is that.” – Sharon Randall

As I tucked my 10-year-old treasure into bed on Sunday night I whispered a silent prayer of thanks for the blessings of long days, noisy kids, temper tantrums, dirty dishes, and unanswered prayers. For it is in the hardest, loneliest, most tiring moments of life that we hear the whisperings of God and remember our calling.

 

A call for prayers

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When I started this blog 1 1/2 years ago it was to serve a single purpose. I started recording the day-to-day happenings of my life so that I could share our life with family that lived far away. Its purpose was to keep our family connected with the people we love. At the time Tyler had just moved in with us and so by blogging I was able to introduce him to loved ones that wouldn’t be able to meet him for a while and help them to feel like they knew him before they met him. Since that time our life has continued to change and the purpose of the blog has evolved. It has grown from simply being a journal entry for loved ones to read into something more profound..

It has become a way to connect with old friends from my past and extended family members I had never met.

It has served as a form of therapy as I typed out my fears and discouragements with tears falling in the middle of the night after a long or particularly hard day.

It has been a way to encourage others. As we faced the challenges of adoption, parenting, loss of a pet, etc. we were able to reach out and encourage others facing the same challenges. At the same time this blog has been an incredible encouragement to me as others have reached out in love and reminded me that I am not alone in my struggles and challenges.

It has been a way to connect with faceless people around the world who have become virtual neighbors to our family as we have invited strangers from around the world into our home.

Today this blog serves another purpose, a more profound purpose, as I reach out to all of you and ask for prayers.

 On Friday I received a call from my parents, whom you have all met through our blog visits to the Homestead, and was told the devastating news that my dad had just been diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. It was unexpected. This Thursday he goes in for additional tests to determine whether the cancer has spread. The results of Thursday’s test will largely determine the prognosis and treatment plan. I am reaching out to you, the family that reads this blog, old friends, acquaintances, readers from across the ocean that we have never met, and ask for your prayers. We know the power of prayer and it is because of that testimony that we share this news with you and call on your prayers…

Prayers of wisdom for the doctors who will do the testing and the treating.

Prayers of peace for our family as we shoulder the burden of waiting for news.

Prayers of rest for my parents…rest for their racing minds and troubled hearts.

Prayers of healing.

Prayers for miracles.

Prayers for my Dad.

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 “The power of prayer has never been tried to its full capacity. If we want to see the mighty wonders of divine power and grace wrought in the place of weakness, failure and disappointment, let us answer God’s standing challenge, “Call unto me and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not!” – J. Hudson Taylor