Jarred, in a Good Way.

I am not great at praying. I find it difficult to totally quiet my mind and, especially with prayers I know by rote, find myself prone to wandering thoughts. In all honesty, I can’t say the daily prayer circle I have sustained with my sister and mother since the dawn of this pandemic has afforded much correction in this department. It is still a daily struggle to completely hoist myself into an appropriately prayerful and receptive mindset. There are mornings where I must make multiple attempts at the prayer, unsatisfied with those previous. It is often easier for me to just talk to God — which I know to be its own kind of prayer — or to find that centered mindset when I am in a Church or, better yet, looking out across the majestic Rockies, or on a remote monastery nestled in their alpine embrace. My home, by contrast, especially in the morning, is a den of distraction. Chores, children, coffee, the crash of Duplos, the surging desire to get the day going, the imminence of our must-get-out-the-door-to-get-to-school-on-time deadline vie for my attention.

I wondered the other day whether my contextual preferences around prayer — these conditions that enable me to “pray on my own terms” — are in their own way a selfishness, or a symptom of lassitude? Rare, after all, to find perfect conditions for any undertaking–a subject of recent discussion with Mr. Magpie as we burn our way through the Netflix series “Queen’s Gambit.” We were both struck, in episode three or four, by the interplay of the game’s rules; the player’s agendas, skillsets, and preferences; and the various “extra-curricular” interruptions that, together, mean that much of chess is played off the board. A similar lesson emerges from Mr. Magpie’s disciplined culinary maneuverings in the kitchen: the recipe is merely a fraction of the battle. Then you have ingredients, measurements, skill, quality of cookware, temperature (both ambient and in oven) to contend with. A good cook (like Mr. Magpie) agonizes over the specifics: “what qualifies as a small onion?” “but does he mean a mince, a dice, or a rough chop?” “should the protein be brought to room temperature prior to being placed into the pan?” “my oven runs cool — how to adjust for that?” Etc, etc, etc. In short, being technically good at anything requires constant renegotiation with often unanticipated realities.

So though I do try to pray with some measure of mindfulness, I must try harder. In the meantime, one beneficence of my spotty prayerfulness is that some days, the words of the prayer positively leap off the page at me in a way they did not just 24 hours prior. And I am jarred — in a good way — by that radiance.

I prayed these exact words every morning for nine days straight —

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

— and on the ninth, something clicked, profoundly.

Thought I’d leave those words here for you if you need them today.

Post-Scripts.

+The picture at the top of this post reminds me so much of my First Communion, which I wrote a little bit about here.

+A beautiful sentiment for the Advent season.

+Another prayer I love.

+We’re coming down to the wire on Christmas gifts, but this set of name crayons ships quickly and is such a sweet personalized gift for a little one.

+Now this is a dress.

+LSF just launched the most perfect grandmillennial towels. Eat your heart out, Laura Ashley.

+I’ve mentioned these in posts past, but these Yumbox snack boxes (also available in a full lunchbox size) are truly an excellent little investment for your child. They are leak proof, have just the right sized compartments, and mini for some reason loves it — I think it just makes lunch more fun for her somehow.

+J’adore these cards!

+WOW – this sweater!

+Things you might have been looking for lately

+So your mini can match you on NYE.

+This velvet dress is gorgeous, and on sale.

+Speaking of velvet magic — this top is only $22.

+This sweater, in the white!!!! On sale for well under $100 and the perfect way to pack a style punch with minimal effort.

+Too cute for an itty bitty girl.

+Great rainy day gear.

+My favorite hand soaps.

+A couple of star-print Native shoes still left on sale here! Perfect for next summer (FOJ!)

+Did anyone else’s husband freak out over the baseball mitt chair in the boy’s room in the HBO show The Undoing? Mr. Magpie commented on it no less than five times. I found one like it here. Now on my lust list for micro’s big boy room…

+Big girl room inspo here.

33 Comments

  1. Thank you for posting the serenity prayer here, Jen! This is something I strive to keep in mind, but in the high anxiety I’ve been feeling this year, it isn’t always at the forefront of my thoughts. I appreciate reading about your thoughts on prayer.

    Also, Mia, thank you so much for posting about the Examen! I went to a Jesuit university as well and hadn’t thought about this practice in a long time. Happy to reconsider it here!

    xx

  2. I can relate! On one hand, there are times when I like to think that I have a good routine. I read scripture, reflect and pray in the morning and get on with my day. Other times, I am “failing” at my routine, and can barely muster grace before dinner and saying the Lord’s prayer as I fall asleep at night.
    However, after having a baby and my routine be thrown for a loop, I’ve noticed that now I will utter shorter, more meaningful prayers in the moment. Help me, guide me, sustain me, etc. It can make me feel closer to the Lord than just “going through a list”, as it feels like sometimes. While I do like the routine and structure, there’s no denying the emotion in the shorter prayers. Will probably never truly arrive at a place where I’m satisfied with my prayer life (definitely thankful for God’s grace there!), but it helps to hear what other people are doing and continue to add, adjust and adapt.
    Love the serenity prayer and would like to incorporate it every day! Thinking of maybe tying it into a daily chore or something may help. My husband says prayers when he brushes his teeth, and I think I need to start as well!

    1. Hi Annie – Thank you for sharing so vulnerably (and inspirationally!) your thoughts around prayer. I agree that it has been encouraging to hear what others are doing and how they are tinkering with their own prayer practices. I love your observation that uttering shorter prayers in the moment can often feel more meaningful. One thing I’ve been aware of in rereading this post and absorbing the comments has been that I think I discounted the conversation I am always having with God — the brief “Please help me” type missives that I have thought as secondary to structured/formal prayer in the past. But they can be just as powerful!

      Thank you for your candor here, friend.

      xx

  3. Such a lovely reminder Jen – somehow knowing I am not alone in my prayer struggles is comforting! I have been slacking lately, but feel compelled to do better. Will take this post as a gentle reminder from the Lord 🙂

    1. Love that, Britt. So many of the helpful responses here felt like God gently correcting me / assisting me. Meant to be! xx

  4. Jen, I am with you on this! Largely also because I am somehow unable to (or I lack the discipline to) get up before my daughter does, and before the many distractions of the day start.

    Have you heard of the “examen”? I went to a Jesuit university and learned about it there. I wish I could say I practiced it regularly, but when I do, it helps me feel grounded and centered.

    https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/

    The website provides advent reflections as well: https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/advent/

    Sometimes having a framework/guide helps me… so I thought I’d share with you in case you would like to try it.

    1. Thank you for this, Mia!! I remember the examen from high school but it’d fallen out of my mind. Thank you for sharing this.

      xx

    2. PS: I’m swooning over that Emilia Wickstead! I was trying to recall where else I saw it, and then I remembered — on Nicola Bathie! I don’t know if it’s just me but I like seeing something on a non-model, or outside of a retailer’s website — it’s more realistic somehow? (although she’s lovely of course and she was modeling her earrings and not really the dress, but still).

      Speaking of which, her chinoiserie earring collection is soooo good! I had not too long ago bought a different pair from her. I know you’ve featured her designs here multiple times, and I finally took the plunge. It’s so much more of a statement than what I normally use, but they are truly so special! I’m anticipating they will go so well with my saris which I only wear twice a year (my husband is Indian and we celebrate the Hindu festivals, during which I LOVE wearing a sari!). I’ve learned about so many designers/small businesses like her from your blog — so thank you!

    3. Yay!!! I LOVE her earrings, and have amassed quite a collection over the past year or two. So whimsical and fun and feminine, and many of them at a reasonable price point. I also love the way she styles her earrings with so many fantastic and current-season designers! xx

  5. Faithful reader, first time commenter. Thank you for writing eloquently about so many facets of life, including the spiritual. Over time, I feel God has patiently taught me about himself by teaching me to pray. As a child: memorized (and then VERY dramatic) prayers reserved for special occasions; as a young adult: more public prayers as I learned to live in community with others; and now in my thirties, deeply personal, very colloquial prayers all the time. I still have a ways to go (of course) but am so so thankful that all of these ways are ways we can access the Divine. (Also, I am a runner like you, and often I pray while I run, allowing the distractions, and then returning to prayer with the rhythm of my steps. Maybe that might be a less distracted time?)

    1. Great tip – thank you, Ansley! I will try this myself. My mom goes on a 30 minute walk every morning that she dedicates to saying the rosary — I think she finds exercise similarly appropriate venue for prayer.

      And thank you also for your readership and kind words!!

      xx

  6. For the yumbox – do you then put it into a lunch bag? If so do you mind sharing which one for sizing purposes? So cute!

  7. The serenity prayer is one of my favorites as well – it’s the final one in my nightly, drifting-off-to-sleep, reflecting-on-the-day set of ten-ish quick prayers, that have roughly remained the same since the memorization (and ensuing tests) of catechism classes after church during middle school. It was only in high school that I was taught the full prayer (only a few extra lines beyond the popular ones you wrote out) but I find the complete thought so beautiful.

    1. Ooh, now I’m seeing a multitude of different “full” versions of it after a quick google search. The version I learned (and still pray) is:

      …and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking as He did, this sinful world, not as I would have it, trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and forever happy with Him in the next. Amen.

      Always find the “accepting hardship as the pathway to peace” part particularly comforting.

    2. Oh I LOVE this, Erica! Thank you so much for sharing it in full. I agree – that phrase in particular is reassuring in the face of adversity.

      xx

    3. EMM, this is beautiful — I had no idea there was a “full version”! Thank you for sharing this!

  8. If I may, some advice: you don’t have to try harder, ask God to help you. As with all things in life, we grow weary when we try to do anything in our own strength. Whenever my prayer life is not where I’d like it, I pray that the Lord would give me a heart that desires to pray more and a mind that can pray in a way that pleases Him. He will always give us more of Himself when we ask. <3

  9. Mindfulness and intention are truly hard to tap into these days… I’ve found I do better reading prayers in the morning and actively — mindfully — praying in the evening as I’m winding down. I take comfort that God already knows our prayers before they’re formed in our minds. Thankful for His goodness and mercy!
    Merry Christmas, Jen – wishing you joy and the peace of the season! xo Heidi

    1. Hi Heidi – This is so smart! I hadn’t even thought about splitting things up this way but makes complete sense. Maybe I’ll add a moment of prayer to my bedtime routine with just this intent.

      Merry Christmas to you, too, my friend! Your comments are always so kind and so helpful. I appreciate you!

      xx

    2. Heidi, this REALLY hit home for me: “God already knows our prayers before they’re formed in our minds.” That is so powerful — thank you for sharing, I’ll be holding on to this thought for a long time!

  10. I have similar experience with a lack of mindfulness when trying to pray silently or in my head. I have found lately that the best way for me to pray is by journaling it. There is something about the act of writing it down that allows me to focus and also to experience the prayer in new ways. Some days I simply write a scripture down in script. It’s a tiny meditative part of my day that makes a real difference.

    1. Oh I love this, Jessie! Thank you so much for sharing. I think I’ll borrow practice from you.

      xx

    2. I agree with you, Jessie, about the power of writing down the words! I went through a very anxious period and I remember writing down a few verses that gave me comfort, and I still turn to them years later.

  11. What wonderful musings on prayer. As difficult as it is some mornings, starting my days with a routine prayer has made all the difference amidst trying times. A morning offering, a novena, a simple Hail Mary- anything can be life-giving in that formative part of the day.

    1. Thank you, Connor! I agree that just making the space for that prayer, even if it requires strenuous effort for me to focus on the words, has really helped me frame my day well and start with good intention.

      xx

  12. My late grandmother had a small tapestry of that prayer hanging on her kitchen wall, and I grew up glancing over at it every time we visited, so it has special meaning to me. My grandfather still has it in his new kitchen. My immediate family’s younger interpretation is to not worry over the things you can’t control and my dad often reminds me of this when I’m getting a bit highly strung (which is often!). Thank you for the reminder today.

    1. Oh I love this, Amy! What a coincidence. (As I write that, I hear my own mother saying: “coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.”). Maybe we both needed to hear this today…

      xxx

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