If you ask about my favorite heroes, Mom will always top the shortlist.
Mom is fun and creative.
When our leap year sister turned 1 year old, Mom squeezed her birthday party kickoff into the moment between February 28 and March 1. Yes, she got the whole family up at 12:00 a.m. to eat Midnight Chocolate Cake and open gifts.
On April Fool’s day, Mom initiated us by suggesting an early celebration for sister-born-in-April. Surprise! It was a frosted cake pan that would’ve required a sawzall to slice up (initially disappointing, but we had more fun licking frosting off of our fingers than eating regular cake the next day).
Mom can do anything.
Mom finished her Ph.D. in Education in her 50’s, an M.A. in Theology in her 60’s, and now we’re waiting for her book to come out before her 70’s are over.
When Mom and I went shopping for my wedding dress, I was disappointed to discover that the “perfect dress” exceeded my budget by about $1,000. No problem. Mom examined the gown closely and was able to adapt an existing pattern to reproduce it–with a few special extras.
I won’t even venture to guess how many thousands of hours of empathetic listening Mom has willingly provided. She is still there when we need her, and she remains open to learning what “being there” looks like in the face of changing times and roles.
Now that I’m a mother myself, I have an infinitely greater appreciation for how Mom has remained a constant through the intense growing pains of her four third culture kid daughters.
I believe that this has been her greatest gift as a mother. So much of everything else hinges on her instinct and commitment to pray.
When I was around 6 years old, a neighborhood boy was killed by an oncoming car while pedaling home on his bicycle. I have vague memories of the funeral and can still feel a bit of the heaviness that filled the church like a dark cloud.
What I didn’t know, however, was that Mom was wrestling with how to talk to us about the tragedy. Her own mother, a reserved, hardscrabble immigrant’s daughter who died when Mom was just 17, hadn’t engaged in these types of conversations. Mom told me she didn’t even know how to teach us to pray, or even how to pray with us–only for us.
That was the beginning of a journey where Mom would step through the awkwardness of talking about intimate things, creating space for that kind of communication.
One Bible promise became as precious to her as if the ancient prophet Isaiah had penned it with her in mind:
“I will fight against the one that fights against you and I will save your children.” (Isaiah 29:25b)
Mom’s collection of prayer journals and promise notebooks has multiplied over the years. In my heart of hearts, I believe that her prayers have moved mountains, parted seas, and made a way.
It is good that we pray for our precious ones, that we reach out for help, that we read books, make lists, cry out in our closets, gather in groups, text and zoom, make prayer chains… there are so many ways to pursue prayer.
Are you up for one more?
Here is a radical, potentially paradigm changing way to pray for your child–one I’ll be you have never tried:
First: Write down your child’s name as a heading on a piece of paper, on an electronic device, or in your mind (although I find this exercise has greater impact if you actually write down the name and look at it).
Next, imagine that you are a scribe or a record keeper for whatever thoughts or images come to mind. Prepare to just write them down. If you agonize in reflection, trying to get the words just right, that’s OK. This isn’t a writing exercise and the only “right way” to do this is to let it come from you.
Now, it’s time to write/jot down/draw whatever comes to mind as you pray for your child. Here are a few questions you may want to consider:
*What would you like your child to be, have, do?
*What are you afraid of for your child?
*What are you thankful for regarding your child?
*What are you proud of regarding your child?
Optional: If you have any promises you treasure (or rely on) for your child, include those at the bottom of your list.
“I will fight against the one that fights against you, and I will save your children.”
Now for the radical part:
Take that list from Part 1, cross out your child’s name at the top, and write in your own name.
Read slowly through that list, praying each item for yourself.
If the request, concern, or gratitude doesn’t seem to relate to you, just do it anyway–you might be surprised by the connections that emerge.
For example, if you are praying for a child with addictions, consider possible ways in which you rely on something external to avoid or numb pain. If you are celebrating an accomplishment, remember what God has enabled you to accomplish, or how God enabled you to play a role in your child’s accomplishment.
Be aware of any worry or frustration–conflicting emotions are helpful indicators of what is going on inside. This awareness can open us up to God in new and life-giving ways.
I promised you a radically different way to pray for your kids and, I admit, it was a sneaky way to get you to pray for yourself. But, consider the possibility that:
An answer to those prayers for ourselves just might be the best answer to prayer for our kids.
For those of us with young adult or adult kids, this exercise also has potential to create the space needed for the separation that strengthens our long term bonds of love.
I’ll never forget the feeling of relief that flooded me during a conversation with Mom about the need to pray for a dear one we were concerned about. Mom said:
You know, I’ve realized that people make their own choices and live their own lives and I can only manage my own.”
The relief took me by surprise. I felt as if a gentle puff of air had blown the weight of the world right off my shoulders.
We want our kids to be OK, happy, healthy, successful. And all of that love and concern can put the burden on them to ensure that we are OK, draining energy that could propel them forward in their own development.
It’s not a new thought, but it’s a challenging one to apply. When Mom made that statement, I felt free. Free as a daughter and free as a mother. Free to focus my managing skills, worries and concerns on the only person I have control over: myself.
Even Mom’s promise speaks to this truth: God fights our enemy and God saves our children.
If I can find peace in my own crazy, wild life journey, what better gift could I give to my children than a mother like that?
Awareness and desire are a great place to start. It’s never too late and the best is yet to be!