Note to Self…Do As You Say

When I talk to kids about prayer – my own kids or kids in my ministry – I talk about the fact that sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers in the way we want or expect, and sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers at all.  Prayer is how we talk to God and build a strong relationship with him. If we pray about something, but don’t see the outcome we are hoping for, we have to remember that God is not our fairy godmother and prayers are not meant to be a wish list for the things that we want.

That’s what I say.

This is what I’ve been doing.

Everyday for the past 18 months, I have prayed for answers. I have prayed for resolution to problems. I have prayed for things to be easier. I have prayed for God to take away everything that is hard, uncomfortable, messy, painful and ugly in our lives. I have prayed a wish list. And God hasn’t answered those prayers the way I want him to answer.

In the months I have been praying those prayers, I have watched my son retreat further into his anxiety and pain. My husband and I have struggled to be the best partners and parents we can be, and haven’t always succeeded. My daughter has become increasingly confused about her relationship with her brother. In the months I have been praying those prayers, my family has been breaking, and I have had many, many moments when I have been angry that my prayers have gone unanswered.

But they were not unanswered prayers. What I was asking for was the equivalent of “Hey God, could you just make all of this brokenness go away? Isn’t there a magic wand you can wave?” He can’t do that. That’s not the way it works. What He did give me was strength and perseverance to keep looking for answers, hope that there won’t always be so much struggle, and people who love me even when I have been at my most unlovable. He gave me what I needed, not what I wanted.

When I stopped and looked around, I realized He had been listening all along. He had been listening, and answering my prayers in a way that has helped me to be stronger in myself and stronger in my faith. When I started actually DOING what I tell the kids to do, there was no doubt that God is at work in my life.



The Good

My job is hard on my son.

I am director of Children’s and Family Ministries at a church. That means at least one day a week, my family is “at work” with me. For my husband and my daughter, this isn’t an issue. But my job is hard on my son.

My son is an incredibly intelligent, sweet, compassionate and funny 10 year old. My son also has an anxiety disorder, a sensory processing disorder, struggles to access expressive language, and suffers from a moderate hearing loss. Places and situations with lots of people, noise and smells are challenging for him. Meeting new people is challenging for him. Being in large groups of people is challenging for him. Situations that are unknown or that he can’t control are challenging for him. Church is challenging for him.

On any given Sunday, my family arrives at church long after I do and after the service has already begun. It’s possible my son put on his clothes and then decided they didn’t feel good. Or maybe he was expecting pancakes for breakfast – because my husband usually makes pancakes on Sunday mornings – but we were out of the ingredients and he had to have something else for breakfast. Or maybe it’s raining and he’s insisting he “can’t” wear socks and shoes. Or maybe, he’s upset because he was in the middle of a book and didn’t want to stop reading. Or it could be that his sister was singing in the car and for some reason it upsets him when she sings in the car. Or it could be any one of dozens of unknown reasons or triggers, but it is almost always something.

So by the time time my family arrives at church, my son is already battling his anxiety and likely struggling with any one of a variety of sensory triggers. He’s been taught a wide range of coping skills he can implement when he begins to feel overwhelmed, but for some reason he often can’t access them in a setting like a church service, and that makes Sunday mornings incredibly difficult for all of us.

There are some weeks I have a hard time focusing on my job because I am so focused on my son. There are other weeks I have a hard time giving my son the attention he may need because other children in the congregation need my attention just as much. There are no weeks where I feel like I made it through successfully giving my son what he needs and giving my job the attention it needs. None. It is exhausting. It is frustrating. It can induce feelings of doubt in both my abilities as a parent and my abilities as a professional. It is a constant struggle, and it likely always will be. I do believe that there is some achievable balance in this equation, I just haven’t discovered it yet.

The fact is my job is hard on my son. But that’s not the only fact. It’s also a fact that I love my job, and my son knows that I do. It’s also a fact that even on his most anxious and miserable of days, my son loves church and is sad when he can’t attend. So even though I know most Sundays are going to be hard – I also know that the good far outweighs the bad.

The good outweighs the bad. The good is seeing the admiration on a Sunday School teacher’s face when my son comes out of his shell long enough to share an incredibly intelligent and insightful bit of information he has remembered about a Bible passage. The good is in the middle of the week when he suddenly asks a question about something he heard in the service or in his Sunday School class – even if at the time he heard it he was too crippled by his anxiety to look another person in the eye. The good is when he stands up with the youth choir to sing in the service, and even if he won’t look out into the congregation I can hear him singing strong and clear. The good is a day when he is calm and happy and able to enjoy being a 10 year old boy. The good is when I can share my personal experience as a parent to a “difficult” child with another parent facing a similar struggle. The good is a job that I truly love in a community of grace that is helping to shape both of my children into compassionate people. The good is the blessing that is my son.