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May 10, 2017

Connecting with God

There is a vast difference between saying prayers and praying. 

It is morning and I am in my car, parked in the lot at my children's school, which is about 20 minutes from our home. That's 40 minutes, roundtrip. On some days, I wish they attended the school closer to our home, but I'm committed to the commute because I believe in the value of this particular school and in what they are learning there.

Each school day is the same. We start with breakfast, followed by the mad dash to get out the door. I help both Megan and Zach make sure they have what they need for the day as we hustle to the car to begin the trek together. I am thankful every day for that car ride—just me and my kids together with no distractions and beautiful moments of discussion as we zip through the winding roads of our Virginia countryside.

Sometimes when Tim is out of town, we use the car ride as a time to call and connect with him as a family. Sometimes we pray for the five children our family sponsors through World Vision and Compassion International. Zach, Megan, and I often take turns praying out loud in the car for those who we know need it.
After dropping the kids off at school, I turn off my cell phone, park the car, and sit in silence in the parking lot. The car is my sanctuary on wheels. I can open the Bible and read or write in my journal. I can bow my head in prayer. Sometimes, I just sit and listen for His quiet whisper in response to the pleadings of my heart. Some days, instead of speaking or listening, I simply read, letting other authors encourage me with what they've learned and are learning about God.

I know that this is the quietest my day will be. Once I put the car in gear and pull into traffic, my life becomes a rush of activities and responsibilities. I'm consumed with the desire to cross off all the items on my "To Do" list, even though I add items as I think of them throughout the day. Pick up the dry cleaning. Go to the grocery. Let the dog out. Start a load of laundry. Let the dog in. Take care of duties for upcoming Extraordinary Women conferences. Return phone calls. Take Zach to get new baseball cleats. If I'm not careful, I'll become consumed by the busyness of life—so much so that I might forget to take a look around in order to see who's on the journey with me and to notice their needs.

As I turn the key in the ignition and the engine springs to life, I often think the lives of pioneer women in this country. Instead of walking to the garage and hopping in a car, women went to the barn to hitch the horses for a ride into town. Instead of enjoying a smooth ride as I do, the women who came before me bounced along on a wooden wagon bench. Instead of relaxing in a temperature-controlled interior, they squinted through the dust that the horses kicked up. So much has changed since those earlier days. The luxuries we have now have made life immeasurably easier. You'd think that making time for a God connection each day would be easier, and yet as things have gotten easier, we've gotten busier. That's why my quiet moments are so important and why I sit in my rolling sanctuary to hear His voice before the day begins.

Some days are easy, but most days require a lot. When we talk to God before the day gets started, we're better able to handle whatever happens during the day. The connection doesn't have to be formal or lengthy. Even fleeting thoughts turned heavenward keep our connection with God intact.

God loves us and listens to us. He's never too busy or unavailable. Yet often we're too busy and unavailable for Him. That's when our imbalanced lives threaten to overwhelm us. The imbalance often leads to more busyness and less time for Him. When this happens, we can spiral downward. The busier we are, the harder we work to catch up. The harder we work to catch up, the faster we move. The faster we move, the less time for prayer. The less time for prayer, the more likely we'll try to handle things on our own. The more we try to handle things on our own, the heavier the burden. The heavier the burden, the more we need Him.

We can wait for the downward spiral of busyness to knock us down before we decide it's time to get back to God, but a much more sensible decision would be to let Him carry us through the imbalance so we don't get pulled into the resulting whirlwind to begin with. That way, we don't have to spiral downward before finding Him again; we simply rest in His arms as we tackle what’s before us.

In her book Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World Joanna Weaver writes, "'I can't spend time with God today,' I may rationalize. 'I haven't the time.' But the truth of the matter is this: The rougher the day, the more time I need to spend with my Savior. The more hoops I have to handle, the more I need to keep my center."1

God blesses the moments I take from my schedule each day and multiplies them before giving them back to me. My return on investment is divine, and somehow I always have enough time. Starting each day by connecting with God has another benefit as well: Once I start a conversation with Him, I don't want it to stop. As I pull into traffic after my quiet time, my mind is buzzing with thoughts, ideas, and questions. I know that the conversation I begin with Him in the morning will continue, and because of that, I know I’ll have what I need to get through the day.

1. Joanna Weaver, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2002), 102.

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