Carried by Prayer, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

Carried by Prayer


July 27, 2010

by Stacey Noem

Two weeks ago on Josh’s birthday we learned that his grandfather had died.  On his birthday.  In Iowa. 

Joshua is the first grandchild on this side of the family and we are all very close.  There was no way he couldn’t be there.  I was hoping that I would get to join him as well.  Then – we saw the airline prices.  Absolutely undo-able for even one of us.  So, we found ourselves, late at night still on Josh’s birthday, sitting by a campfire in the side yard just staring.  Neither of us knew what to say.  We really couldn’t figure out what to do. 

We agreed: He couldn’t fly.  He couldn’t miss it.  He couldn’t take the car.  We only have one and there is only one of him.

Then we realized: what we lack in money we can make up for in time.  Thanks to our wonderfully supportive and flexible work environment we do have time to play with. So before we knew it we decided to throw all three children in the car and drive from Portland, Oregon to Iowa. 

OK, for the record: we don’t take road trips.  The longest we have driven with all three of our children is 6 hours to the Redwoods.  The Redwoods were spectacular but barely worth what we had to go through to get there.  And we have not even attempted something comparable since.  So looking down the barrel of 1600 miles (according to Mapquest) and around 24 hours of driving (one way) I was far less than optimistic.  But as soon as we had made the decision, we just seemed to know it was the right one and we jumped up from the fire and threw ourselves whole hog into packing and prepping the car (which was 1000 miles overdue for an oil change and in desperate need of two new tires).

Part of my job was clearing our work calendar.  To give you an idea of just how freaked out I was about the trip with the children this is an excerpt of what I wrote to our staff:

“So, with faith that God will provide we are undertaking the psychotic step of driving with the whole family to Iowa starting tomorrow morning. 

“Psychotic” is obviously an exaggeration, but I am completely uncertain and “un-confident” in our children’s ability to handle this amount of car travel.”

My boss wrote back one line that began: “Psychotic actually seems just about right” and ended with his blessings and promises of prayer. Most of our friends, family and colleagues wrote with their promises of prayer for the larger family and prayer for our journey. 

Turns out it is 1800 miles (200 more than we thought).  And the children…

…were a dream.  They were great.  They stayed occupied with the activities I brought for them. They were patient.  They did as they were told.  They napped.  They joined us in the rosary and they looked at the whole thing as an adventure.  And the car…

…not a problem in the world.  Smooth sailing 1800 miles there and 1800 miles back.  We are now due for another oil change which I am sure we won’t put off.

I don’t know if I have ever so fully felt like I was floating on the wings of prayer like I did for that 9 day trip.  Travel was almost completely ideal.  Not easy, but no problems or hitches with the car or roads, or food, or lodging, or family.  We would get calls or texts from folks checking in and letting us know they were praying for us.  When we arrived folks were so kind saying what a hard long journey it must have been.  But the truth of it is, I feel like the entire time we were in a state of grace, carried by their prayer.  It was amazing.

Reader Comments (1)

  • Sometimes those last minute trips are the best and most rewarding.

    Of course the reason for your trip was not a great reason, but the Lord does work in wondrous ways and He may have put you on the this trip for a very good reason. Enjoy the trip and God Bless!

    Jason

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Three Ways to Pray

Three Ways to Pray

I love the Jesuits! Actually that is fairly imprecise…I have had very little direct formation from Jesuits. More accurately I should say: I love Ignatian spirituality!

As I mentioned a few months ago, we had a pretty busy summer (see “Big Fish”). One of our big projects was assisting the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in re-writing their domestic Orientation program for new volunteers. It was a fairly intense process, but also very fruitful. The greatest personal fruit for me was getting to immerse myself more deeply in Ignatian spirituality.

[Quick cliff notes background: St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), developed the well-known Spiritual Exercises. The exercises and the prayer practices within them form the cornerstone of Ignatian Spirituality. For more, narrated by James Martin, SJ, watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4ZLuk_X8u0 ]

What I love about Ignatian spirituality is how it offers some clear structure to prayer. A priest friend of mine observed that in ministry we often tell people they need to pray. However, we infrequently TEACH them how to pray. This was not the case with Ignatius. He was very clear on how he encouraged his brothers in the Society to pray.

Here are some of the Ignatian practices Josh and I have found particularly useful in our family life of prayer:

The Examen – This is not the same thing as an “examination of conscience” one might do prior to confession. Rather it is a roughly five-step process to review the content of the day. It moves through stages of looking for moments of gratitude; to reviewing the events of the day; to calling to mind anything we regret or are sorry for; to deciding if we need to reconcile with anyone; to asking God to be present and give us the grace necessary for the next day.

I have heard the Examen described as “inviting God into our story” – consciously looking for God’s presence in the moments of the day and paying attention to them in a particular way. Joshua and I sometimes pray the Examen together after the children have gone to bed. One of us cues the stages of the reflections and then we share the fruit of our individual prayer with one another at the end.

Consolations and Desolations – We believe in a fundamentally incarnate God. The Jesuits further their awareness of this reality by “finding God in all things.” One way to do this is through identifying consolations and desolations. A consolation is any experience in which we feel consoled by God’s presence. These would be moments in the day when we feel particularly peaceful, joy-filled, hopeful, loving. A desolation is an experience in which we feel distanced from God. These would be moments of confusion, fear, or loneliness.

Consolations and desolations are not as simple as saying when you were happy and sad in a day—this is a deeper reflection than that. These are the times that we felt closest to God and farthest from God. Josh and I have been doing this exercise with the children for years. When Oscar was about five we started doing it as part of our family night prayer. However, we discontinued it there when Simon and Lucy came along, as they were too little to contribute to or really appreciate it. Then a few years ago we revived it at the dinner table as part of our family conversation. The practice helps us re-enter one another’s day and hold our experiences in common.

Imaginative Contemplation – This is a method of praying with Scripture in which we use our imagination to enter into the passage. Most often it is prayed with a Gospel passage that moves us toward an encounter with Jesus. In preparation we read the passage once or twice. Then, often with eyes closed, we use our senses to begin to enter into the scene described in the passage: what it must have sounded like, smelled like, felt like; what the people look like, wear, and how they sound; where we feel drawn to stand or sit, and how we participate in or observe the scene unfold before us…all leading up to a personal conversation with Jesus.

Contrastingly to the Examen where we “invite God into our story,” I have heard imaginative contemplation described as “entering into God’s story.” I am deeply drawn to prayer with Scripture and would like for our family to do more of it together now that the children are getting older. I have introduced this prayer exercise into our Sunday night family prayer using the Gospel passage from that day’s Mass. So far it has met with varying amounts of success. The children are not yet familiar enough with the process to enter into it easily. But I know that this is not a reason to give it up as much as be gentle with them as we slowly incorporate it into our routine.

It is often quoted that the “family that prays together, stays together.” Our hope is that in sharing a bit of the wealth of the deep Catholic Tradition of prayer, our children might discover the ways they communicate most easily with God.

 


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