For as long as I can remember, I prayed for things like: winning big in Vegas or passing a test even though I didn't study for it or not getting a speeding ticket as I sped past a cop that I didn't see until it was too late. I would also pray for things like: finding a better boyfriend because mine was cheating on me and to stop puking - promising never to drink too much again. Three years ago I decided to change my way of praying. I'm sharing this with you, not because I want to make you feel uncomfortable or hope that you will change how you worship. My reason for this post is personal: I want my family to read this someday to learn about where I have been and where I'm going.
When we didn't make it to the Super Bowl this year (I bring up this pain way too much), my mom said to me, "God didn't answer my prayers." I told her that she prayed for the wrong thing. I'm not sure how she took that reply since I didn't stick around long enough to have the discussion. Even though we are both Catholic, my mom's prayers are different from mine. My mom is someone I consider a professional prayer. If only she could get paid for praying, she'd be a millionaire! My mom says a prayer the minute she wakes up in the morning. Then she proceeds with her morning routine including breakfast and some light chores. She goes back to praying from about 1030am-2p. She breaks for lunch and then back to prayers from 230-4p. She ends the night with a prayer before she falls asleep. Every. Single. Day.
It was during a major fight with my mom that I chose to tell her why I didn't pray for us to win that last game leading up to the Super Bowl. When I pray, I do so with an open heart - praying to find all the connections between gratitude and blessings. Maybe I'm just imagining this but I think God rewards me because I'm not asking to win football games or to find a parking spot when I'm late. Not that there is anything wrong with praying for these things. I just choose not to test what God will do for me. I set Him up for success by keeping my expectations realistic. My prayers go something like, "If we win or lose this football game help me identify the blessings either way." Or if I'm late to a meeting because I couldn't find a parking spot, I ask, "Please help me find the silver lining for being late."
When my mom was pregnant with me I'm sure she prayed that I would have the best life: to grow up healthy, have a great education, find a good husband who would provide for me, have healthy children and have a successful life. These prayers have been answered so we can check off all the boxes. Except she wanted me to be a newscaster or a TV personality so that prayer didn't work out. Nonetheless, I'm glad that she is a pro at praying because my life is even better than winning big in Vegas. My mom and I pray differently because I stopped asking for tangible things. Nowadays, I pray to see all the blessings - the good, the bad and the ugly. The bad and the ugly usually find ways of revealing silver linings when I need them the most. I'm always so grateful when the light bulb goes off. Would my life be a whole heck of a lot better if we went to the Super Bowl? Duh, no brainer! But instead of thinking of it as if God favored the Eagles' prayers more than ours, I just say, "Ok, I get it. I'll just keep my eyes wide open so I can see the silver linings, the blessings." And poof!...Just like that, a wonderful, beautiful friend, who I love going anywhere with, asked me to go to the Super Bowl with her. Magic? Coincidence? Luck?
It's easy to be thankful for the good things that happen in our lives but I’m just as thankful for the mistakes, the loss of loved ones, the family fights, the poor choices, the missed opportunities, the game losses etc. I'm not going to lie to you, it takes guts* to do what I do because it is hard. Three years ago I figured out that it is within the failures, trials and tribulations, tests of faith, the "if only" moments that bring me to exactly where I am supposed to be. My gratefulness then, is profound and I believe my gratitude is the root of my happiness. These days, it’s hard for me to complain or hold onto anger - ain't nobody got time for that.
Even though I don't pray nearly as much as my mom, I'm still lucky enough to watch many of my blessings unfold. For example: I was a bit "over-served" on Date Night. Of course my daughter had to get to the ski bus by 8am the very next day, which meant I had to be up to walk the dog, get the ski stuff ready, make breakfast for her and be in the car by 745am. As I was walking the dog, breathing in the cold air in order to sober up, I was so grateful that my hangover was the result of delicious food, wine and good company. I was glad that I woke up with enough time to walk my dog because I care about him a lot. And I felt lucky that we have enough money for my daughter to go skiing. In other words, I was figuratively embracing the hangover, the chore of dog walking and the hassle of getting my daughter to an 8am bus so she can ski. This sounds a bit rose-colored glasses and Kumbaya right? But I'm starting think that I am a professional prayer too only with a different strategy.
Full Disclosure: I wrote this post before the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Because prayer is important during these times, I added an addendum post called *Guts: The Prayer Addendum.