Nothing has pushed me to the edge like motherhood. I’m glad I was ignorant of the amount of work and stress involved in this adventure, or I might have declined my handsome prince’s offer of marriage and run straight to the convent. (Though, that said, I’m pretty sure it’s not easier there. In fact, it’s probably harder in a much different way.)
But here I am, married with three kids, completely to the shock of that small part of me who remains a rebellious teenager. I had embraced, rather completely, the notion that a liberated woman didn’t need to concern herself with things like dishes and laundry and cooking, but that was before the squalor beneath my feet and the grumbling of my stomach forced me to rethink my priorities.
I didn’t become different overnight. It might not have really happened until Kid Number Two made her appearance and shook my tenuous grip on reality more than my balancing act would allow. Or maybe it was the brush with mortality that came from losing a few close family members and some health scares thrown in on top.
Whatever it was, I began to become better at embracing—however imperfectly—my role as “home maker.” And in doing that, I began to see that there was one thing I could not do without: prayer.
If I believe the things my spiritual director and confessor tells me, then God loves me. In fact, he has only good in mind for me. If I believe the reality before my eyes, then the floor needs scrubbed, the toilet is a mess, and there is anything but order in my domestic castle.
These two things seem unrelated, but it seemed to me, in my brush with feeling theological lately, that they could not be. They HAD to be related somehow.
What does God have to do with my poor housekeeping?
Well, not much, if I don’t invite him in. It’s hard to have a conversation with a friend who’s never available, isn’t it?
In some seasons of my life, getting up early and beginning my day with intense prayer is possible and fruitful. It prepares me for the battle—even if all I’m fighting are little people’s backsides and my own chafing pride.
In this season I’m in now, though, I find that I need to pray all the time. I’ve tried to make a habit of saying a Hail Mary when I’m washing my hands or going up and down the stairs. If I’m in the car without any conversation, I try to whisper a Hail Mary or even an Our Father. While the computer boots up or the information downloads, I might pray a Hail Mary.
And there’s the secret: it’s not when I pray, it’s that I do pray. Prayer has to be a habit, something I turn to without even thinking. Just as I dry my hands when I’m done or take my car keys inside with me, I need to pray as a habit, all the time.
Praying without ceasing seemed impossible when I first heard about it. That was before I found myself stranded between a baby and a deadline, cornered by a family obligation and a sick kid, humbled by the generosity of others and my own limitations.
Prayer can be as much a habit as anything else, and once God is in the small moments of my day, I find it’s not so mundane. There’s grace flowing all around me, but when I’m so focused on myself, I don’t even notice it.
The other day, I was running up my mother-in-law’s basement stairs on an errand of some sort, and I caught myself praying a Hail Mary. And I’m pretty sure that God was glad to be along with me as I did my work, whatever it was at the moment.
This “Finding Faith in Everyday Life” column originally appeared in The Catholic Times.