For the first time in a long time I began my day with morning prayer. Prayers at meals and at bedtime come easier for me--largely because in our house those are more public. The God bless and thank you God and help us God litany that ends our day are partially dictated by our two year old (and yes, we have given thanks for trains and dinosaurs). The meal prayers are sung--also, the preference of our two year old. And, given my extroversion and my own degree of showmanship, it is far easier for me to participate in these sorts of prayers. They are expected, they are demanded (the most rigid folk when it comes to ritual are toddlers!) and they are important to me and to my family.
But, I know these prayers do not demand enough from me. Discipline and contemplation are not things that come easily to me and I find that I need to find ways of working more of these qualities into my life of prayer. And, this morning I remembered that morning prayer, for me, holds these qualities for me. It is a private time accompanied only by my cup of coffee and the chattering of our most vocal cat (we have two).
Morning prayer, for me, feels incredibly personal. Yet, this is the prayer I find most communal in many ways. In my mind's eye, morning prayer evokes every sunrise Easter service I have ever attended. It reminds me of the dawning nips of mosquitos, endured for a moment of privacy, the summer I lived in an intentional community. It calls to mind the chant of monks and the smoke of incense. The memory of my travel mug, forgotten and found once again by friends, tucked into a corner on the way into chapel in seminary. Morning prayer opens wide the world.
And, it is beginning to be clear to me that the discipline of prayer (and as an Episcopalian, the discipline of using that found in the Book of Common Prayer) is MORE important now that I am primarily a stay at home mom. I need that connection to the wider community--the opening into something bigger and beyond the walls of my house and the streets of my neighborhood.
There are days, hours, weeks even, in which I chafe at the confines of the choices I've made. I yearn for the altar and the community building I love, and wait for the time when I will be called once again to parish work. Each service I attend as a parishioner finds me longing to genuflect behind the altar, rewriting sermons in my mind and swirling the chasuble about my head (altho' it is the rare parish that owns chasuble cut appropriately for those less height endowed). I miss hospitals and sick rooms, I miss meetings and committees, I miss leading prayer and preaching--and if I'm going to be completely honest, I miss feeling important.
But, in the economy of need (and the realities of geography and daycare costs), my son needs me more than I need to be serving a parish right now. And, I do hold that while the church has been around for 2,000 years...my son has only been around 2. In the grand scheme of things, this time will be a very short time--and all too fleeting.
So, the quandary is not the choice between being a stay at home mom (for now) and taking a call. Rather, the question is how to stay connected to the church (Episcopal) while taking the call that is my family and child. This morning, morning prayer was part of that answer.
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