It’s 11 a.m. and Toddler’s crying. Her brother kicked her.
I rock Toddler. And recap The Big Three with guilty brother:
- What did you do wrong?
- Why was it wrong?
- What are you going to do differently in the future?
And then, as always, The Deal: Is that a commitment? Can I count on you? He nods, shakes my hand, hugs sniffling toddler.
Then Daughter screams that Oldest Son stepped in her room, daughter whaps him in shoulder, Oldest Son falls to floor in Oscar winning performance. I ask daughter and son to recite memorized Phil 2:1-4. Third son wanders aimlessly around house looking for his tattered math book. Farmer Husband steps in back door asking if we can have lunch an hour early, Toddler’s paper snippets blizzard across the floor and the farm table’s buried deep under notebooks and phonics tiles.
I want to yell. I do.
Daughter shrinks back. And I can hear my mama’s voice echoing down memories halls: It’s not that you aren’t going to blow it. It’s what you do with it afterwards.
It’s 11 a.m. and it doesn’t look like I’ve done much. Comforted a Toddler, directed a few hearts. Tore a few bricks out of the foundation of my own house. Frustration wields a wrecking ball.
Some days it’s hard not to wave a white flag in surrender. Clean: And the papers, books, Legos multiply. Cook: And repeat, repeat, repeat. Wash the clothes; fold the clothes; stack the clothes. And watch them migrate back to the laundry basket. Direct, disciple, delight. A mother’s work seems like sand etches; gone with the next wave.
But don’t grains of sand carve stone?
It’s 11 a.m. and I do afterwards what I should have done more fervently before. I kneel in prayer, intentionally creating solitude in the multitude. Kneeling, I remember again Abba Paul, that desert monk who wove baskets. Abba Paul lived too far from the city to justify traveling to sell his handiwork. Nonetheless, each day he collected palm fronds and worked faithfully. And come the end of the year, when his cave overflowed with long months of toil, he took torch to the work of his hands and the flames cackled long into the night. Come morning, Abba Paul stood in the long quiet and the wind blew away even the ashes. It didn’t look like he’d done much.
It’s 11 a.m. and I’m Abba Paul, with nothing much to show for hard toil. But are the most significant things in our lives things we can tangibly touch? Won’t the majority of our work, the laundry, the housecleaning, the meal-making, while necessary acts of service, just too burn up?
God’s Word warns, “But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward” (1 Cor. 3:13-15).
That’s the kind of mother work to invest in: work that survives, endures. The kind of work that isn’t washed away with the next wave, isn’t tinder for the next match. But what work survives fire? Abba Paul’s baskets didn’t. But what he wove with the baskets did: prayer.
So a mother kneels. So a mother gets up and works and prays, prays and works. Because the prayers we weave into the matching of socks, the stirring of oatmeal, the reading of stories, they survive fire. Prayer is our real, enduring work. And aren’t the prayers of our days more important than the products of our days?
Jesus said, “My house is a house of prayer.” And that’s the only way I can keep mine standing.
It’s 11 a.m. and I kneel to pray.
©2009, Ann Voskamp