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“How do we experience the spiritual disciplines when a mom’s day is the opposite of ‘disciplined’? Julia gives us ancient wisdom boiled down into doable steps so that we can experience our beautiful God in the midst of our messy lives.”

 

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How Motherhood Brought Me Closer to God

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Mom, I Don’t Pray

“I don’t pray,” my ten-year-old son said the other day at the dinner table, and my heart just about stopped.

“What?” I said. “What do you mean? Why not? What happened?” My head filled with even more questions. What had I done wrong? Hadn’t I taught and modeled prayer for him? Was he going through some sort of a spiritual crisis that I hadn’t noticed? When had this happened?

It turned out I had jumped to conclusions, something I’m sure has never happened before.

What he meant, it turned out, was that he felt uncomfortable praying aloud for all of us. He talked to God privately in his head, he assured me. It was just the praying out loud in front of other people that felt troublesome.

Whew, was my first reaction. And then understanding. I knew that feeling and knew it well. Since college, I had become my family’s designated pray-er at meals and family events, and I always worried that I wouldn’t say the right words or cover all the necessary topics or that I’d just plain not sound all that smart or godly.

Isn’t it awful when we pass on the things we don’t like about ourselves? How could I teach my children not to be anxious about prayer when I suffered the same anxiety?

I took him aside that night and told him what I think prayer is: just talking to God. That it was important to remember that God is our audience, the only audience that really matters. That sometimes adults make the terrible mistake of making their spoken prayers all about impressing the people listening, rather than speaking their hearts to God. That I’d rather listen to a hundred sincere and plain-spoken prayers from a child than the most eloquent and beautifully-phrased performance prayer from an adult.

I had to remind myself too. The only real difference between praying silently and praying aloud is the people listening.

Here as in so many other places I find my spiritual life hindered by concern about what other people think of me.

And what a shame, really. I didn’t want to discourage him from praying in front of and with other people. Far from it, I wanted to embolden him to do so. Because as much as I sometimes feel anxiety over praying aloud, some of my most powerful experiences of prayer have been shared with a small group. I have heard other people speak God’s truth so beautifully or ask for something with such passion it brought tears to my eyes. And it’s an incredible experience to feel surprised at the words coming out of your own mouth when you’re able to let go enough to let the Spirit take over.

The next time I feel nervous about praying in front of others or see this worry in my son, I’ll tell us both to name it for what it is: worry about what others think about us. And then I’ll remind us both of one of my favorite verses about prayer, which begins, Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

May that peace be with you today and with your children.

This post first appeared on www.1Corinthians13parenting.com.

When You Feel Like You’re Not a Good Enough Mom

I studied all the wrong things in school. Based on my daily life, I would have been much better off had I studied nursing, nutrition, defensive carpool driving, physical therapy, and child psychology. Some housecleaning and organization courses might  also have come in handy. Unfortunately, my degrees are in international relations, journalism, and theological studies. […]

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Cancer-Free: A Resolution of Gratitude

On December 28 I went to the cancer center for my yearly mammogram. Because my initial surgery to remove my breast cancer was in December, this anxiety-producing ritual now falls at the end of each year. It’s been 18 months since I finished treatment, chemotherapy and radiation, and although I now take tamoxifen to prevent […]

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Teaching Kids to Talk (and Listen) to God

I once shocked a bunch of kids while giving a children’s sermon. I told them it didn’t matter if they bowed their heads or even folded their hands when they prayed.  That they certainly could pray while kneeling with their hands folded and their heads bowed, but that they could also pray while lying in […]

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Daily Tasks Are Real Life

My daughter is 15 months old. What that means for my house is that there is no safe place to keep the toilet brush. That as I put the dirty dishes into the dishwasher, she is joyfully unloading them on the other side. And that she empties all the kitchen cabinets she can reach every […]

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One Easy Way to Simplify Family Life

This time of year many of us start to think about simplicity. Practicing Christian simplicity is about doing less or having less in order to focus more on God. I think many of us want to better practice simplicity in our family lives but find it hard to know where to say no. Something that […]

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Holy Labor

Childbirth is an exciting and terrifying prospect. For each of my three pregnancies, as my stomach grew larger, so did my anxiety and dread about the birth itself. Just as the marriage is more important than the wedding, the baby is more important than the birth. Yet at the same time, when you hit 8 […]

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