I don't normally wear my religion on my sleeve, but I thought I'd touch on a few spiritual experiences I've had lately. For those of you who don't know, I am a Beehive advisor in my ward. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Mormon-ese, that means I teach the 12 and 13 year old girls in the youth program in my local church congregation. As part of this responsibility, we are asked to guide the girls through a program called Personal Progress, which is a highly structured yet very individualized series of activities and exercises designed to help a young woman develop her faith in Jesus Christ, develop her talents, and overcome weaknesses. In order to guide and direct the girls through the program, the advisors are encouraged to participate in the program as well.
After much dragging of feet over having yet ANOTHER thing to commit to, I started on the first exercise; a bit of study in the scriptures concerning faith, a commitment to begin and end each day for three weeks with a prayer, and a few sentences written in my journal about my feelings about how my faith has increased with prayer. I admit I have been sort of hit or miss with my personal prayers for awhile, though prayers with the family and grace over the food have been a long time habit. I have also been known to utter "Lord help me!" when a kid is having a meltdown at the grocery store or I'm fishing another sock out of the toilet, but actual "on-the-knees" conversations with God have been few and far between before I started this Personal Progress thing. But, now that I'm involved, I have to say, it's been pretty awesome.
So, I'm coming up on the three week mark of this prayer gig, and I realized a few things:
My days go better when I start them with prayer. I feel more centered, more optimistic, more goal-oriented, and more enthusiastic about taking on a houseful of gangly, energetic kids.
I am more alert. Even when I've only had three hours of sleep the night before. Prayer (even if it's done eyes open, driving home from dropping the four year old at preschool) is better fuel for a tired me than caffeine (but I'm still hedging with a daily Coca Cola. What can I say? Bad habits die hard.) I notice things I haven't before. My eleven year old is more obedient and long-suffering than I give her credit for. (Ah, the blessing/curse of being the oldest child.) My nine year old is patient and hard working and is very in tune with my moods and eager to please me. My six year old a deep thinker behind all the comic book reading. The four year old is a natural leader. And I'm finally able to keep pace with my baby's shifting schedule.
I feel more spiritually "plugged in." I have been asking in my prayers for guidance concerning my kids' greatest needs from me, and I'm starting to get some answers. My oldest girl wants more than anything to be validated. My oldest boy wants to feel important. My middle girl needs to move her body around to focus and learn. My little boy needs consistency and clear-cut rules. The baby needed a break from solid food (she'd been cranky and not sleeping well until I laid her off the baby rice cereal.) These were all revelations that have come to me within the last three weeks and each one was so significant, I felt like running through the house, hollering, Eureeka!"
This prayer thing really works. I always believed in God, but I figured He had bigger things to deal with than whatever I might want to whine about. Now, it's clear to me that my little issues matter as much to him as anything else. That's a huge faith builder right there.