Full of questions in a season of change

My eighth-grader and I started having conversations with the high school guidance counselor in January.  Emails.  Phone calls.  Face-to-face meetings.  Then another round of all of the above.

She has filled out forms and answered questions, made requests and submitted papers, sent  emails and then replied to the replies.

We’ve been prayerful, deeply prayerful.  When her plans don’t work out exactly as she wants, we’ve gone back to our knees, prayed again, and tried something new.

While she’s been prepping for her first year of high school, my son is on his own transition to a new season.  Last week  we walked into the elementary school with a folder of paperwork,  I handed over the form and just like that–he’s registered for kindergarten.

We’re praying over that, too, over teacher decisions and classmates and friends he’ll make.

Seasons of transition are seasons that should draw us into prayer and that’s me right now.  Praying my way right on through!

I read in the book of Judges this morning about a familiar Biblical scenario:  the Angel of the Lord visited a barren woman and told her she would give birth to a son.

He then gave her some specific instructions: don’t drink alcohol or eat anything unclean while you’re pregnant.  Never cut his hair because he’ll be a Nazirite from birth and “he will begin to save Israel from the power of the Philistines.”

The woman excitedly told her husband about the message from the Angel and her husband, Manoah, does something I’d probably do:

He asked for more information.

He said, “Let’s pray and maybe the visitor will come back and tell us more about how to take care of this child.”

The Bible says, “God listened.”  He heard their prayers and did indeed return.

I’ve had my own questions these past few months as I’ve prayed for my children, so I “get” Manoah.  I understand wanting to make sure we do this right., wanting all the answers to all the questions.

My daughter breaks down into tears a few times  in this process, and I realize she has this tremendous pressure to do it all exactly right, make every decision perfectly.  If she chooses one wrong class, if she makes one wrong course selection, then maybe it will mess up everything–college choices, career options, the timeline of her life.

I remind her  (and myself at the same time) that God is tenderly gracious.  He guides us and redirects us and when we seek His will, He helps us know what to do.

If she’s seeking Him, she’s not ruining her life.

And I think about what  this means for my own transition season.   At least a dozen people have asked me in the last few months, “What are you going to do when your youngest starts school in September?”

Maybe I’m feeling the same kind of pressure as my daughter.  To make every right decision so I don’t mess up the transition or waste the opportunity.  I have my own questions to  place before the Lord.

I realize today as I read, though, that Manoah didn’t ask the right questions.  When the angel of the Lord came back , Manoah didn’t ask the things he originally said he was going to ask.  He didn’t say, “What do we need  to do to parent our son well or help him follow the Lord or fulfill his calling?”

Instead, he said this:

 “When your words come true, what will be the boy’s responsibilities and work?” (Judges 13:12 CSB).

Oh, Manoah.  I totally get you.

He said he just wanted some details about what they should do as parents, but what he really wanted to know was the end of the whole big story.   Tell me the grand plan.  Tell me everything about what my son is going to do as an adult and what your mission and purpose is for him .

Lord, tell me everything. 

But the Angel of the Lord ignored that question as if it had never been asked and simply repeated what he said before: your wife shouldn’t eat anything unclean or drink any alcohol when she’s pregnant.

He didn’t tell Manoah what’s going to happen 20 years from now. when their son, Samson, became an adult.  Instead, he only told Manoah what needed to happen in the next 9 months.

I need this same redirection for my heart and I need it frequently–that when I need to know what the next step is, He will show me the next step.  For my children and for me.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track (Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG)

 

Keep On Keeping On

Lunches packed for the last time. Desks cleared, backpacks cleaned out and stowed away. Field day over.  Class parties celebrated.  Awards ceremony concluded and certificates photographed.  End-of-the-year pictures taken of each daughter and compared to the photos from the first day of the school year.

And now we collapse.  We did it.  Somehow it feels like a joint accomplishment, not just theirs.  Sure, my kids worked hard. So did I.  And somehow, by God’s grace, we made it here to this first day of 006summer vacation.

It’s only taken 15 months of prayer.  I started praying for this school year last March, praying for this teacher, this classroom, these friends, this school, these character issues, and these lessons.

On Monday, a friend and I bowed heads for the last time this school year and we gave thanks.

Thank You, Lord, for answering our pleas for our children.  Thank You for helping them learn, being with them in all of the struggles that have sent these loving (and worried) mamas to their knees.  Thank You for helping them with difficult concepts and friendship drama, bullies and mistakes on tests, report cards and forgetfulness. Thank You for these teachers You chose specially for our kids.

And we began again, just that quickly, one sentence to another, thank God for this year and then praying for next year: for classroom placements and teacher assignments, for the responsibilities of a new grade and for the friendships they’d make.

So it continues.

“Pray without ceasing….” that’s what Paul wrote (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

He meant that living prayer, that breathing in and breathing out of living life alongside God, taking in crises and handing them right on over to the Lord, receiving blessing and offering up spontaneous praise.

It means no more arbitrary separations between the sacred and the secular, between the holy parts of my life where God is welcome and invited and the dusty living rooms of our hearts where we try to hide away the clutter in corners.

Having kids, though, reminds me of this, too:

Prayer is perpetual; it’s insistent and consistent.

And sometimes I’m not.  I’m driven to the throne by need and I’m pouring out pleas of desperation until the need eases a bit.  Or perhaps I just grow weary or fall back into the coziness of complacency and apathy.

I’m not praying so fervently any more. It’s more like unemotional have-to prayers, perhaps performed out of duty, perhaps totally forgotten and not prayed at all.

We pray for that intervention, that salvation, that redemption, that rescue…for us or for another….and then slowly we cease the praying.   We need the reminder to keep on keeping on, to not give up asking God for that healing and to refuse to stop praying for a loved one’s salvation.

With kids, you can’t really forget, not for long.  Time just pushes you right through from prayer need to prayer need.  I’m not even done praying over one school year before I’m on my knees for the next.

I read the Psalms and here is the reminder anew:

“But I keep praying to you, Lord, hoping this time you will show me favor.  In your unfailing love, O God, answer my prayer with your sure salvation” (Psalm 69:13 NLT).

“But I will keep on hoping for your help; I will praise you more and more” (Psalm 71:14 NLT).

“We keep looking to the Lord our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal” (Psalm 123:2 NLT).

Keep praying….keep hoping….keep looking.005

Keep at it and when He answers, press on in more prayer.

With this fresh resolve, I flip through the pages of the neglected prayer journal.  What did I pray then….and what do I still need to pray now?

What have you neglected in prayer?  What have you given up on and long since stopped asking God for?  Who used to be on your prayer list but somehow slipped off?

It’s discipline to begin again.  And when we cease praying, which feels like the inevitable failing of us forgetful ones, we return again and resolve again to be insistent and consistent in seeking God and hoping in His deliverance.

What have you stopped praying about that you need to pray for again?  What prayers are you already praying for your children’s next school year?

Do you have a prayer journal?  How does it look and how do you use it?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King