I want to get better at prayer. I just finished Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, by Anne Lamott, and I basically wanted to take a highlighter to every page. Although I found myself identifying with a lot of her thoughts on spirituality, relationships, nature, etc., her ability to be in the moment was both convicting and inspiring. Lamott points out that being present is essential to prayer, and I agree…but my thoughts tend to bounce around more often than I’d like. When I take the Myers Briggs or StrengthsFinder or any other personality test, I am always described as having a “rich inner life” or an “active imagination”. This can be a good thing, but at times, it manifests as anxiety. My nature makes it difficult to be still (mentally). Maybe this resonates with some of you. I want to get better at prayer, in part, because I know it will make me better at life.
My mother-in-law had some time off between jobs for the first time in many years, and she came to stay with us for a month. Last week, she, my dad and I went to a beautiful nursery while the toddler was napping and my husband was working from home. We explored and asked questions and chose a few varieties of flowers to plant. It was a perfect spring day, and we worked steadily through the afternoon—pulling weeds, raking leaves, spreading compost, sweeping mulch off the walkways and potting flowers. I left my phone inside. Ben woke up from his nap and joined us in the front yard, trotting around “supervising” and making commentary in toddler speak. I watched my dad and my mother-in-law enjoying him and smiled to myself. When we came inside I made iced tea, and we had it with leftover birthday cupcakes. I felt peaceful and invigorated and in the moment. That particular combination of atmosphere, activity and people really filled my soul with joy. It was a good day.
It’s important to remind ourselves not to aim for perfection. My goal shouldn’t be to live in the moment all the time, because that’s not going to happen. I have to give myself grace and celebrate good days and try to do more life-giving activities that make it easier for me to quiet my racing thoughts. Sometimes I look back with regret that I didn’t take advantage of an opportunity or appreciate the time I had with someone because I was distracted. Living in the moment, living prayerfully, means less regret and more peace. It means gratitude and awe. It means seeing beauty and potential in our messy, broken world.
At the end of the book, Anne writes,
“So we breathe, try to slow down and pay attention, try to love and help God’s other children, and—hardest of all, at least to me—learn to love our depressing, hilarious, mostly decent selves.”