“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philipians 4:6
This is a familiar verse for me. And yet (as Scripture tends to do), some of the truths in this verse have taught me practical new lessons for my life lately. The most powerful of these lessons has been about being positive in my everyday life.
One part of this lesson that I’ve been living out lately is the “with thanksgiving part.” More and more I’ve been trying to be thankful first and foremost in prayer, even when I have an urgent or specific intention. And I’ve found that this practice really helps me get back in perspective, as well as often “save” a day.
Very rarely will you hear me say anymore, “it’s been a bad day.” Life is too short–and God has too much important work for us to do–to give up on a single day like that. I will concede that I can certainly have a rough morning, or evening, or night, but if we label an entire day as “bad” for reasons other than devastating medical test results, someone losing a job, or a terrible accident (you get the idea), I think that in most cases, within reason, we’re getting too wrapped up in the small stuff.
And perhaps we’re forgetting to be thankful for the small stuff.
Since I’ve been home full time for a couple of weeks now, I’ve started attending daily mass a couple of times a week with my 18-month-old son, Gabriel. Like almost any toddler, he’s an active little boy, and it’s been a struggle for many months now to find and maintain effective discipline in mass. While I am happy to report that he is behaving better and better in mass these days, especially in daily masses, I’ve noticed that my internal stress level about attending mass with him has calmed considerably since I started changing my prayer during my time in mass. Where I used to lift up constant prayers for Gabriel to “please, please behave today!”, I’ve started adding my special thanks to God for each moment of peace and good behavior that I do get during mass.
When I make an effort to add the “with thanksgiving” part to my prayers, I find that I tend to notice the little gifts and blessings in the situation.
For example, in morning mass this past week, I realized that Gabriel had been quiet and well-behaved through almost the entire Liturgy of the Word. He slammed his head into the pew during the Gospel when picking up his copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar off the floor. But that day I had been struck by the relevance and power of the Responsorial Psalm to a particular situation in my life, and I had actually gotten to pray through that part of the mass (for once) before having to take Gabriel to the back to cry off the bump on his head. I realized that and was given great peace by that as I sent up a quick prayer while scooping up my wailing son. Just a small gift, but a gift all the same. And just a small peace, but a peace that really did “guard my heart and mind” from getting angry or frustrated.
Being positive and looking for blessings in the midst of petition has also been helpful in other areas of my life. My husband and I just started a small business, and I recently quit my job to be home full-time. I’m also nearly seven months pregnant. We have a lot going on in our life right now! Good things, but new things. I’ve absolutely seen how being positive, trusting in God, and maintaining my peace (at least, mostly:) has really helped my husband and family make these transitions. Especially as a wife and mother, I’ve seen how being more positive has helped me, as the “heart of the home” to maintain a (mostly) peaceful home.
Yet again, God has led me away from myself in my search for peace. It’s not about tuning out the hard stuff, but looking for the little reminders of God’s interest and presence in our lives that shower us during the day. It’s having just enough wipes left in the pack to take care of the horrific Stinky (number 5 of the day!) you’re trying to dispose of. It’s having your husband get home in time for dinner, even though you burned the bread and over-boiled the broccoli because you had to nurse your impatient, hungry little two-month-old.
It’s this kind of small stuff that provides us with just enough grace to take our next step.
Mothers have a Get Your Hands Dirty kind of job. Our job isn’t glamorous. It’s not always fun. But God created marriage and families for a reason: He decided they were the best way to teach us about Himself. Keeping that in mind helps us lift up the mundane parts of our lives and give them meaning, purpose, and nobility.
I’ve only been a mom for 18 months now, but already I cling to the knowledge that everything I do for my children and family is truly aimed toward the divine in its own created way.