Lindsey Mitzel contemplates the changes in her prayer life that have come with the worries of motherhood.
I sat in Adoration for the first time in months, for just ten minutes while my husband watched our kids play on the nearby playground. I had yearned to be with Jesus — to spend precious time with Him present before me in the most Holy Eucharist, and I was totally distracted. Finally, a question arose in my soul like a bubble, ready to pop. “Jesus, where is Your still small voice? I can’t come here every day.”
My days trend in the general direction of chaos. Having four entropic young children, I often find myself overwhelmed and feeling anxious about something. In previous eras, I may have followed this up with a sassy comment in defense of my pride, but the truth is, in the midst-of-a-pandemic world, I think feeling overwhelmed and anxious is trending towards status-quo for a lot of us.
At this point in my life, even with very young children, I am what many might call “a seasoned mother.” All mine are pre-school aged, and I live in obedience to nighttime wakenings, twice-daily naps, and my toddler, who decided a week ago to self-potty train (read: I should invest in carpet cleaner).
At different points in my season of motherhood I have lamented the change in my prayer life. Meditative prayer is much harder to come by as predictable quiet times are rare. There has been a shift for me towards memorized prayers of the church; I find it difficult to come up with my own words, even, to intercede for others. So much of my day is full of ejaculatory prayers (of which, “Lord, have mercy!” is most common).
I’ve spoken with enough others and read enough to know that this shift is part of a normal paradigm. However, the question on my heart in adoration didn’t come so much from wondering if it was okay to have a shift in prayer away from quiet, meditative prayer as a young mom, but more from a frustration that I still long for it so much. I do have times in my day, particularly after bedtime, where I can be silent and prayerful. In these times I am often tired from the day, eager to find a relaxing outlet, yet on alert for the somewhat unpredictable wake-ups of my infant.
That day in the chapel, I began wondering where in my chaotic day were any other pauses? Those moments of reset; looking to Jesus and hearing His still small voice amid the wind and the fire and the earthquake (as four little people can sometimes feel like). His answer surprised me, “In the moments [you] feel the most overwhelmed.”
I thought back to each of the times on a particularly rough day recently and tried to revisit how I felt in those moments. The passage of Jesus calming the storm came to mind. This story is told in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke. In all the passages, Jesus is asleep, a storm arises, the boat is in danger of sinking, and the disciples are terrified. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ response is slightly different. He calms the storm, “Quiet, be still” (Mark 4:39)! Then He asks, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith” (Mark 4:40)?
The words, “Be still ... Do you not yet have faith” weigh on my heart. So many times in the stressful moments of my day I ask Jesus for help, for ideas, for knowledge of what I should do. I am at a loss. I can not do [this]. So many times I don’t hear any answer. It’s not that I necessarily want to do something entirely on my own, but if I don’t hear an answer from the Lord, there are still things in my life that I need to take care of. I am still responsible for my children. It can feel, sometimes, like Jesus is asleep. What Jesus points to in this passage is the preceding passages in Mark, where He heals a remarkable number of people and does great miracles. Even after all these, the disciples do not trust Jesus to save them from perishing, even when Jesus is indeed in the boat with them while the boat takes on water. In the moment of crisis, the disciples become overwhelmed by the storm; anxious as they looked to what they expect to happen. These seasoned fishermen knew that taking on this much water in a storm meant sinking; death.
As a mother, I imagine what might happen if [things] do not occur as I expect would be best. What catastrophe might befall us?
A bit later I came across a passage from St. Faustina’s Diary,
O My God
When I look into the future, I am frightened,
But why plunge into the future?
Only the present moment is precious to me,
As the future may never enter my soul at all.
It is no longer in my power,
To change, correct or add to the past;
For neither sages nor prophets could do that.
And so, what the past has embraced I must entrust to God.
O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.
I desire to use you as best I can.
And although I am weak and small,
You grant me the grace of Your omnipotence.
And so, trusting in Your mercy,
I walk through life like a little child,
Offering You each day this heart
Burning with love for Your greater glory. (2)
“Only the present moment is precious to me ... O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.” As St. Faustina’s words burned in me, I recalled a quote I like from St. Teresa of Calcutta, “Yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
St. Gianna Molla also said, “The secret to happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.” This is nothing more than Abandonment to Divine Providence in each of my daily moments.
A few days ago I was driving two of my children to an event and came upon construction traffic. As we came to a complete standstill, my kids started peppering me with questions about why we weren’t moving. “Mommy, why aren’t we going?” One asked. “Can’t you just go faster? We’re going to be late!”
“Uh oh!” The other replied. “We can’t be late! What’s going to happen if we’re late?”
“We’ll be late.” I answered, trying to remain patient in my own annoyance at the situation (I’d even started off early to ensure we arrived on time, which is not typical for me). I tried to explain how we just couldn’t move at all — there were cars on every side of us. And while explaining this to them, I recognized the peace of the situation for myself. I was embarrassed, for sure, when we eventually arrived plenty late. However, whereas in another situation I may have been tempted to drive faster, anxiety rising in my perceived need to “fix” something not in my control, in this moment, I could do nothing but wait. The choice to worry or be peaceful was clear to me. What came to mind was reminding myself and my kids about all the blessings we were able to receive that day in spite of being late, and even because we happened to hit traffic.
As I write this, there is snow falling quietly outside my window. My cherry tree is in full blossom, the grass is a vibrant green, and instead of feeling frustrated that I had to unpack all our winter stuff yesterday (I really should know better; it has snowed here in June), I feel a bit grateful. There is peace in the quiet, steady, lazy fall of snow, which so often blankets the ground. Jesus is in control. No matter how things seem; no matter how chaotic and crazy and anxiety-provoking my life appears, God is with me.
Jesus tells us that He will always be with us until the end of the world (Matthew 28:20). The disciples literally ask Jesus if He cares if they perish, and His response is to ask them why they [still] do not have faith (Mark 4:39-40). The saints tell us that we tend to worry when we look to the future, but that happiness is in living each present moment. So where is Jesus in the moments of my feeling the most overwhelmed? I think He is reminding me that even if He seems asleep, He remains in control. I don’t have to be.
Copyright 2021 Lindsey Mitzel
Image: Canva Pro
About the Author
Lindsey Mitzel is a nurse practitioner and mom to four littles. When not wrangling with or reading to her kids, she can usually be found doing something outdoors. She appreciates dry humor, a good pun, and strong coffee. You can read more about her at Eight and a Half Months. Lindsey also occasionally writes for Be Love Revolution's Tiny Thoughts blog.