It's Sunday and I’m sitting on the very last row of a jet moving thousands of feet in the air (Is that true? How high do jets fly?) on my way to New Orleans. I’ve never been to New Orleans before and this was not how I intended to get there. But, here I am, flying alone, on my way to speak about prayer to 200 high school students there this week for a mission trip. I’m not a slick speaker.
Actually, (who for some reason I’ve yet to understand asked me to speak), doesn’t know what he’s getting. He’s taking a big risk here. So am I.
I left my boys at my parents' home, where they will have a spectacular time. August and my mom have a calendar drawn out of how long I’ll be gone and what fun thing he will do with his cousins each day.
That doesn’t mean it was easy to leave. He cried all Sunday morning, making himself sick about my leaving. When I finally got in the car with my dad, kissed my happy, carefree 16 month old who was swinging in the back yard, my 4-year-old was screaming from his gut, falling on the ground, trying to tear himself out of his grandmother’s arms to come after me.
He may have inherited his dad’s stubbornness and opinionated nature, but my anxiety exists right alongside them. Leaving him was awful. Maybe there are some moms who would have said, I won’t do this to my kid. But, I did. I shouted that I loved him and that he would have so much fun. While he cried, I got in the car.
Later, my mom texted that he was okay, that when he asked again where I was going (we’ve talked about it over and over) and she answered that I was going to go talk to people about Jesus, he said: “Oh, I know all about Jesus. I can go help her.”
Maybe next time, buddy.
So, here I am. Feeling the deep ache of mommy guilt, even though I hear my Meemaw’s words in my head saying, “A mother should never feel guilt for leaving her kids with their grandmother. Kids having time with their grandmother is always a good thing.”
I believe Meemaw. Most of the time, when I’m not reliving August’s dramatic hurling of his body onto the lawn. And I know that what I’m doing this week is important, whether or not I’m a good speaker, whether or not I’m impressive, whether or not I’m ever asked to speak again. I love high school students. And I’m passionate about telling them the truth about prayer: How desperately God loves the worst pray-ers, like me. And them.
I’ve been sitting straight up in this back row, looking over my notes for Monday morning and thinking about the words I’m going to end on:
It is God who changes our hearts. I’ll say.
It is God who calls us to a life of honest relationship with him. Not just cleaned up words we say for 15 minutes in the morning, but a day of Everything.
God wants prayer to be everything: what you do with your hands, how your heart responds to the people around you. God wants to be invited into the moment you ride with your girlfriend in the car with the windows down. God wants to be invited into the awkward dinner conversations with your parents. God wants to be invited into your time online, your time doing homework. And, yes, God wants to be invited into the time you spend “praying” in the morning. All of it is prayer.
I’m reading those words and remembering. How am I inviting God into this flight, the smell of the airplane toilet fresh in my nose, as the door opens and shuts beside me? How am I inviting God into this moment—when I miss my husband, who I haven’t seen for the past week and I miss my kids, who I won’t see for four days? How am I inviting God into my speaking anxiety and the decisions Chris and I have to make this week and the deep unspokens in my heart?
God wants prayer to be everything, I will say.
Everything, I will whisper to myself, my eyes scanning the crowd of 16 and 17 year-olds.
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