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Thoughts about the gift of prayer...



You would think that for someone who tends to overshare prayer would be the easy part of a relationship with God. In my Heavenly Father I have the most genuine listener who always cares about what I am thinking and feeling. He wants to be my closest companion, and I like to ramble on incessantly... seems like it would be a perfect fit. And yet, prayer is one area of my spiritual life that I have consistently struggled with. Sure, I frequently pour out my heart to God throughout the day, but I have often felt like there had to be more to it than that. After all, no real relationship is so one-sided.

I have focused most of my energy instead on learning how to study God's Word. Studying comes naturally to me, so it was the easy place to begin. I know that Scripture is the primary way God communicates with us, and I desperately crave direction and input from my Creator. Learning to dig in to my Bible has helped me start to really accept God's undeniable love for me. It is changing me in beautiful ways. It has also created an even greater desire for a more focused prayer life. Yet still, I didn't really know where to start. 

Like anyone raised in a Lutheran school, I had memorized a variety of prayers and creeds for classes. Somehow, though, I still had this idea in my head that prayer only really "counted" if it was my own words. I think that this belief is a big part of why I have struggled so much with prayer. I love writing... but extemporaneous speaking is not my thing at all. And that is kind of what prayer is. I want to honor my King with beautiful words, and instead I find myself stumbling. I know it isn't about the words to God, but like a little child bringing wildflowers plucked from the yard I wanted to offer something pretty to show my love. 

I have also been challenged by the question of the very purpose of prayer. I know communicating with God is important. I know He wants us to come to Him with both the good and the bad. I see this most vividly as I read through the book of Psalms. God listens when we cry out. This I believe to be true. But is there more to it? What does it mean to listen for answers to prayers? Does praying really change outcomes? These big questions, especially that last one, are not easy to address. And yet, I feel like I am being drawn in to this beautiful relationship and realizing what a precious gift prayer is. 

I feel like I have learned so much, and am so truly thankful for this gift of prayer, that perhaps I will take a leap and write about it daily in October. I have friends who do the #write31days challenge this time each year (like my amazing friend Faith who totally inspires me) and even though I know I stink at any challenge that requires daily effort maybe I will approach it with grace and see what happens. If nothing else, perhaps trying to break down what I want to record into smaller posts will help me not feel so overwhelmed when I sit down to blog. 

And so, I will abruptly end here. I must say... blogging sure doesn't come naturally like it used to! Maybe a challenge will help. 

Thoughts on Hope, Broken Printers, and Authenticity



Hi, I am Branson. I am that person who will share way too much of my life story way too soon in pretty much any relationship... and then spend days kicking myself and wondering why I have to always do that. As I warn on my social media bios... I am an "oversharer" in the strictest sense of the word. It's what I do. 

However...

I am starting to learn a thing or two (finally) about restraint. It has taken 36 years, but I am beginning to see a difference between being authentic and feeling desperate to be heard. I know that is a huge statement to make without digging in to what it really means, but that is not what is on my heart today. Or at least not primarily. Mostly because I am such a hot mess work in progress in that area right now. So much work remains to be done. I share it, however, because I have been writing a lot lately (in my journal, in my head, in unpublished posts) but struggling with this desire to share that is at war with my desire to take a cue from the mother of our Savior and ponder these things in my heart. 

I have felt a very definite push to share some of what I have been learning about prayer lately. Now, normally, I would sit down and write something and just hit publish without thinking. Again... it's what I do. Yet when I sit down to do that, my thoughts are so jumbled. I start feeling like I need to tell my whole life story, and then I get to parts I am not ready to share. And then I get caught up in this whirlwind of questioning how I can share positive parts of my life when I am in the middle of some huge struggles and I start feeling like a phony and basically I dissolve into kinda desperate text messages to my blogging BFF who patiently reminds me that it is okay to keep things private. 

In the "plugged-in" world we all call home now, it is so easy to get completely distracted from the very heart of things. When I sit down to write, there is this blinking cursor and huge empty space waiting for words, and I often fill the space before I even begin to focus on what I really want to say. My motivation is honorable when I first sit down, but somewhere along the way I find myself sucked into a pattern of wanting to be known and I forget that my goal is really to direct that focus to my Creator. How easy it is to stray. 

This weekend I set up a little prayer closet in our new home. Well, actually it was more like I asked my husband to clear out the amazing amount of stuff from our "junk closet" so that I could claim it for my prayer space. My intentions were pure. I wanted a place free from distractions to really focus on some things I am struggling with right now. As I learn more about the true gift of prayer, I crave it in such an intense way. I just wanted a little nook for focusing my thoughts and prayers. 

Then, I decided I should print some inspiration to hang on the walls in this little space. I am a very visual person, and it made sense to me (and still does) to have visual cues for focusing my thoughts. But then I only wanted really pretty things to hang up. And then my printer (which I just replaced) turned out to be broken. And then... I got so caught up in my frustration with my printer and thoughts of decorating this little space that I completely lost any focus on why I wanted it to start with. 

Complete and total distraction. I feel like that is how I live (at least) half of my days. In my quiet, small-town life the enemy doesn't have to resort to big events as he roams about looking for someone to devour. He has the weapon of distraction mastered. And that is where this all comes back to the origin... and where I have found comfort in focused prayer. But, as you see, I have filled this space before I can even begin to share about that! Today, however, that was my plan. I needed to share a few basic things before I dive back in to blogging about what God is teaching me. For anyone who wants a concise bullet point list after all this rambling, here it is:

  • Words are my jam. Writing is so much easier than speaking for me, and it is also almost always the best way for me to process. However, I am learning to (at least start to) guard my thoughts and my heart from being constantly distracted and I hope to do the same with my writing. 
  • My life is not pretty. Right now I am battling some giants that are ugly and nasty. However, this is not the time for me to share about those things. So, as I write, I will seek to be authentic but also honor the need for some things to be kept between just me and God. 
  • I still have a tendency to veer towards being quite loquacious, and you will still have to bear with me as I ramble and get caught up in tangents. I just pray that as I do, my focus will remain true. 

Cornerstone Lutheran Academy - Weeks 4 & 5


The past two weeks of homeschooling have definitely had their ups and downs, but I feel like more and more we are finding our rhythm. We continue to add things slowly to our Morning Time, and it continues to be one of my favorite parts of each day. Right now, our morning routine looks like this:


  • Morning Prayer
  • Catechism (we are currently working on the Apostles Creed and its meaning)
  • Biography (we continue to work through the biography of John James Audubon at the moment)
  • Poetry (we are working on adding in some memorization here in addition to reading it aloud)
  • Plutarch (I did go ahead and order The Children's Plutarch after considering my options. At this age I think it is just right for us!)

We often also discuss the previous day's Bible reading, or we read a Psalm together. However, I love having that dedicated Bible study time at tea time in the afternoon and then our Psalm at bedtime, so I am not stressing about Bible time in the morning. We definitely make God's Word a part of many discussions, no matter the topic, but it is pretty organic. I still hope to add a few more things into the Morning Time routine. I would like to add in Shakespeare. I plan to start hymn studies this week. Then I also hope to add in picture studies and perhaps composers. There is so much to explore, and I am pretty proud of myself for not cramming it all in at once. Adding things gradually is working well.

One other thing I hope to change a bit this week is that I would like to go straight from Morning Time to piano lessons. Right now we go straight to math, and while I like how that flows I feel like we need more consistency in piano right now. So, we will see how that works this week!

Other highlights from the past couple weeks:


  • Chess club!! Aiden continues to LOVE chess, and excitedly asked us to join the chess club at the library. Now this is huge considering the fact that he has been hesitant to attend anything since we moved. I admit I had decided not to sign him up this year because I was worried about his ability to handle not always winning. I wasn't sure he was ready. However, after Matt visited with the librarian who runs the club we decided to let him try it out. Matt went with him (it is not normally attended by parents, but she understood our situation) and he had a BLAST! He can't wait to go back this week, and has transferred that excitement a bit to story time as well, so he will start that tomorrow now too! We adore our library, and it had been really hard on me to have him suddenly unwilling to participate in their programs. So this is a huge answered prayer!
  • We are getting more accustomed to our new kitchen, and Aiden has started cooking again lately. I enjoy having his help, and it doesn't hurt that he eats better when he helps prepare the meals! 
  • We "played hooky" one day last week, and I loved how much "school" there still ended up being throughout the day! He chose to make videos where he reviewed some science and history lessons from the year so far. That was his idea of not doing school, ha! Then of course there were chess lessons and nature study that ended up happening. And there is always reading. Lots of reading. But just saying we were not doing school was a huge break for both of us that was great.
Our weeks are not perfect. In fact we rarely have a day that I look back on as "ideal." However, what I do have is a continued confidence that this is absolutely right for our family and Aiden is absolutely learning and growing in pretty awesome ways. What an amazing blessing!