Wake. Feed. Dress. Transport. Bathe.
Times five kiddos.
I was a childcare machine, and I do mean machine. I was a cold, unfeeling, maternal robot programmed for quick response. Our home had become an institutional parenting operation with gaping holes where loving discipline and nurture should have been. While everyone was being fed and clothed, the lack of individual attention was showing up in constant behavioral “episodes.”
I had been begging God for months to either change my heart or my circumstances. Over and over I went to His Word for clues about what I needed to do differently. Pray more? Pray better? Pray like the fervent person in the book of James whose prayers were powerful and effective?
I prayed, but the fervent prayer of a ragged woman doesn’t always sound so nice.
God? Don’t you see how badly this is going? Do you know how wrung out I am? Do you care these kids are dying for individual attention? I can’t give it to any of them because I have a logistics problem…a 1 to 5 ratio! The only mother-child activity I could possibly manage is to have them “help” while I cook. But my boys are interested in fishing, not cooking!
There was no answer, and I went to bed in tears.
The next day was more of the same. The gaping holes of individual attention still begging to be filled.
By evening, I had three of five in bed when my eight-year-old brought me a magazine with 65 full-color pages of perfectly decorated treats.
“Mom, can we make something out of here?”
It was a Christmas magazine. I knew every recipe called for peppermint oil, or crushed candy canes, or colored sugars. In April, I had none of that on hand. Plus, I was tired. With three in bed, I was more than half way to “clocking out,” and I had no desire to start another activity. So I answered, “I don’t have the right ingredients for any of those recipes.”
But he didn’t give up. “Can you just check?”
I flipped through the pages and noticed a recipe with only four ingredients. I had all of them on hand—including a half-bag of pastel mini-marshmallows left over from a failed craft. And lo and behold, it was a no-bake recipe.
We went to the kitchen and had a rare and uninterrupted 20 minutes of Christmas “baking” in April.
The next morning as I served him one of our little treats for breakfast (yep), I wondered if there was a tradition behind these cookies. I dug up the magazine and pressed it open.
I found no tradition behind the cookies. Only a beautiful name.
Through a four-ingredient, no-bake recipe, Jesus had filled that gaping hole with a cathedral window.
Not only had He answered my prayer for one-on-one time with my needy son, He had done it according to the schedule He knew I had to keep. He even acknowledged my veiled complaint about cooking. More shocking, He answered my accusing prayer.
“Yes. I see. I hear. I know, and I care.”
The apostle Paul urges us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
Sometimes fervent prayer looks like that righteous man in James. Other times it looks like the terrified disciples slipping around the deck of a lurching boat screaming, “Jesus! Don’t you care if we drown?”
When we pray with questions, we can be confident that God has not left us to figure it out on our own. He invites us to call on Him. His Son lives to speak to God for us, and His Spirit even helps us when we don’t have the words to pray.
When God answers, we can marvel at the undeniable proof that He hears the prayers of His ragged followers and fills gaping holes with grace.
Or cathedral windows.
Shauna Letellier is the author of “Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at the Faith of Unremarkable People” (May 2017). She is a self-proclaimed expert second-guesser but finds certainty in knowing Jesus Christ. She blogs about finding rest and relief in Him at www.shaunaletellier.com. With her husband Kurt, she has the wild and hilarious privilege of raising boys along the banks of the Missouri River where they fish, swim, and rush off to ballgames.