Before kids, I don’t even remember praying. I know I did. I remember as a kid praying when things got tough. I remember seeking a deeper spiritual fulfillment, but maybe not always knowing how to find it.
My first born inspired in me an intense need for authenticity. I realized that I never wanted her to pretend to be something she wasn’t, or to do something that didn’t feel meaningful to her simply because she was “supposed” to do things a certain way. I wanted her to seek and find the things that mattered most to her.
Up until this point, I had tried to be “religious,” but because I had never taken the time to find what felt truly authentic to me, I didn’t really understand what it meant to be “spiritual.” But after feeling such a strong desire for her to be her authentic self, I knew the only way to teach that was to live it myself. So I began questioning everything I thought I knew. I explored religion in a different way, God in a different way, prayer in a different way. I found what felt true in my soul and, in doing so, connected with a whole new level of reverence and awe.
I found God outside in the bottom of a riverbed. I found God in the yearly migration of the sandhill cranes. I found God in the wide open sky and in fireflies and in the bare trees in winter. I found God in the people around me. And in my daughter. And in myself.
It didn’t always look like the same God other people knew and were comfortable with. And the way I worshiped didn’t always make sense to people. But it finally made sense to me.
My firstborn sent me off on a spiritual journey to uncharted territory. The birth of my second daughter brought me home. When my first was born, my heart began to crack open and expand and make room for things like God and spirituality in my core. When my second was born, my heart was already wide open to the tsunami of love that came crashing in.
I was and am so fiercely in love with these little people that sometimes I think my heart will explode. And I find myself praying more than I ever have, the quiet desperate prayers of a mama who knows she can’t do it alone. Who knows this world can be a big bad scary place, and that I can’t keep these sweet little hearts safe under my wings forever. It’s going to take me and God and the whole village to support them in becoming the beautiful, fierce, amazing women I know they will be.
I can’t do it alone. So I pray. I pray for my newborn to stay healthy through her first month of life that happen to coincide with flu season. I pray every time I send my oldest off to school or to her friend’s house or with her dad. I pray every time I hand my fragile little baby to someone else to hold. I pray every time I put them to sleep at night and every time I wake them up in the morning.
And not just for help. I pray with intense gratitude. Because I can’t believe what a blessing it is to be their mom. I can’t believe how blessed I am.
All day long I feel like there is a steady stream of hope and gratitude and requests for help and grace and guidance and protection pouring out of my heart. I read a Native American Proverb once that said, “Make every step a prayer.” I loved it when I first read it. Now, I live it. Every step to the bottle warmer in the middle of the night. Every step away from preschool when I drop her off. Every step a prayer.
I don’t remember how I prayed before children. I know it was a different kind of prayer. Just like it will be a different kind of prayer when I send them off to school. And for their first slumber party. And the first time they encounter a bully. And when I send them to college, or wherever they will go after that. It will be a different kind of prayer when they find someone they want to marry, when they choose to have children or not to have children. And it will be a different kind of prayer each year as I get older.
Parenting changes the way you pray. It doesn’t matter who you pray to or how you pray, children will change it because they change you. Not just once, but over and over again.