During these past seven or eight days, I have spent much time in prayer. On my knees. At the kitchen sink. Driving from one place to another. Sitting still. Remembering. Wishing. Hoping. Sending out buckets and showers of love and light. Pleading for relief and peace.
I lit the pair of candles in the bottom right corner.
I never pray for myself alone. Ever.
For and and on behalf a friend and her daughter and their entire family.
For another one out on the west coast visiting family.
For another desperately seeking a job.
For another who began a new job recently, having to hand her son over to someone else to care for during the hours while she works.
For another watching her mother battle valiantly against that horrific monster of cancer.
For another who has moved back to the city of her upbringing, a place that holds both good and horrible memories.
For several sister-souls that are deciding whether or not to have children, fearful that motherhood may not be an option for them at all.
For another whose son was threatened at school - by a boy with a gun.
For another with a new granddaughter.
For another in a faraway country, still adjusting to life with a baby in her family's home.
For another whose son is entering the world of tennis, a demanding, expensive, time-ravenous world.
For another who underwent surgery yesterday.
For another whose refusal to rest and enjoy the simple pleasures in life both wearies and worries me.
And for so many others, that this list - and my time in prayer -
could, can, and often does go on for pages and hours and entire days.
I stood under this hole in the ceiling of the Pantheon in Rome for a long time.
I felt the ceiling of my soul open wide as I stood there looking up.
Love and light poured in. So did sorrow and pain.
I often recall Jen Lemen's words when the sorrow feels too big:
"Something healing this way comes."
Just now, when I sat down to think about and pray for the dear ones listed here and the many others that enter my mind and heart whenever I crack my soul open even just a little bit, I looked up at the wall above my desk and an email sent to me about a year ago caught my eye. My best friend from childhood back in Brooklyn wrote it at a time when my family and I, but especially my dear daughter, was heavy in her thoughts and prayers. I trust that she won't mind if I share part of that email here with you, my dear friends, who are often in my thoughts and prayers.
She wrote: "This morning in my little prayer closet (yes, I've actually transformed a corner of my closet into a little prayer closet) you and Kris were very much on my heart. I'm thankful for the progress made so far and all the great things God has done. And I hear the Lord saying, 'Am I not about to preserve and save? Am I not able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond man's greatest, most creative and cunning thoughts? This has never been out from under my control even though at times it felt as though it was. If I can hold the world together simply by the power of My word, shall I not surely hold you together, Kris together, your family togther and bring you through to the most powerful testimony you could have ever thought possible I would give you to share? I see your tiredness and I'm aware of how you feel. My grace, my grace is ever sufficient for you. Can I not multiply it so that it is enough? Just like fish and bread, there will be extra baskets full. And you can share it with, impart it to someone else in need of that same grace.'"
She was right. We have come through to a place we couldn't have imagined at that difficult time. Our family and my daughter and I have been held together - sometimes by the thinnest and weakest of cords. Frayed cords. But we are still together.
And now I am able to share grace and strength and encouraging words and stories of our experiences, my experiences with others at times when they are desperately in need of a listening ear and a helping hand. I can hold on to hope for others who are now facing and fighting battles that feel overwhelming, challenges that feel insurmountable, and mountains that feel both immoveable and unclimbable. I pray that each one will pay the prayers and support forward, to the mothers and friends and neighbors and parents and children in their current life situations - and in the future - who need hope and tenderness and mercy and forgiveness and acceptance to be held and offered to them.
Prayer on the wall in the basement of the National Cathedral, Washington, DC.
It has been a quiet week. Tear-soaked. Prayer-woven. Hope-full.
Day after day, hour after hour, I return to the same lines, the same thoughts, the same pleas:
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
All shall be well. All shall be well. All manner of thing shall be well.