Thursday, September 20, 2012

On Prayer and Waiting - Spring 2012

On Prayer and Waiting    by Jan Nerenberg

A fifth Sunday always means a joint Relief Society and Priesthood meeting.  The day’s lesson focused on prayer.  As members participated, we listened to the words of President Monson, quoting from a talk by Richard G. Scott, The Supernal Gift of Prayer (see

“Prayer is a supernal gift of our Father in Heaven to every soul.  Think of it: the absolute Supreme Being, the most all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful personage, encourages you and me, as insignificant as we are, to converse with Him as our Father. Actually, because He knows how desperately we need His guidance, He commands, ‘Thou shalt pray vocally as well as in thy heart; yea, before the world as well as in secret, in public as well as in private.’
“It matters not our circumstance, be we humble or arrogant, poor or rich, free or enslaved, learned or ignorant, loved or forsaken, we can address Him. We need no appointment. Our supplication can be brief or can occupy all the time needed. It can be an extended expression of love and gratitude or an urgent plea for help. He has created numberless cosmos and populated them with worlds, yet you and I can talk with Him personally, and He will ever answer. …

My mind returned in time to the end of June 2009.  Having completed my undergraduate studies the previous month, I returned home from my first graduate residency.  It was overwhelming to stand in the foyer of our 110 year-old Victorian among boxes, upended furniture, and a scene of matter truly unorganized.  I stepped through the vestibule and feeling overwhelmed offered a simple prayer…

“Dear Lord, thank you for our blessings, for being home, for education and family.”  I paused and continued, “Please help us to restore our home, help us to gain the money we need to do so, and the patience to wait until it can be done.”  I realized as I prayed that I was rewording the famous prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  Smiling to myself, I set to work to create an office space where I could research and write my novel.

The following night, I woke to the panicked call of my husband and joining him in the upstairs bath, I stepped into two inches of standing water – the hot water pipe had burst in the night, spilling 3000 gallons of water throughout the upstairs, main level, and undermining the basement.  We lost family goods, the kitchen, two bathrooms, four other rooms and were forced to live in a hotel for weeks, then a rental, and finally an RV, loaned by my loving older brother, and now parked in our side yard.  We were home but not home.  I had just begun my master’s degree with all its attendant responsibilities. Two and a half years later, a lawsuit, mediation, countless hours on our knees, counseling with our bishop, children, and other family members and with my degree finished, here I sat in a joint meeting listening to the power of prayer in our lives.

I raised my hand and shared a small insight that sometimes the Lord allowed us the tender mercy of personal growth while waiting upon his answer.  In the nearly three years that had passed, we had lost not only home and hearth but also our life savings, my husband’s health and job due to a workplace accident, and I’d suffered a cardiac arrest but miraculously survived.  Somehow, in spite of the challenges, I had been given the grace to finish my MFA through a generous grant, a Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, and the fact that the Lord never let go.

I’d been angry, questioning, upset, searched my soul for the errors in my life, and offered tearful prayers to be relieved of these burdens.  Our marriage suffered as the pain of his injury turned my husband inward.  From the movie, Bambi, his new motto became “if you haven’t something nice to say, don’t say anything.”  Days could pass wherein he was silent unless I asked a direct question.  At times I felt truly alone in spite of impressions and blessings that told me that all would be well eventually.  Looking back I see that there were only one set of footprints in the sand and they were not mine.  I knew and believed the adage that, the Lord will give you no more than you can bear but He knew much more about me than I.  I felt broken, in freefall, my carefully planned life and retirement was in shreds.  Our food storage was compromised, our savings were depleted, our home was devalued and broken, and our income was not only severely reduced, its very existence was decidedly in the hands of others – yet another insurance company.

I plowed forward and applied for a PhD placement at four universities.  I was somewhat ambivalent about going forward as I was so tired of the struggle, fearful of the physical stress on my compromised health, but something inside insisted that I apply.

I got a letter of rejection.  My application to a low-residency PhD program, after consideration by their admissions committee, was rejected.  “I regret to have to let you know that we are not in a position to proceed with your application.”

Although sorry to make this decision, it was nonetheless a rejection, a not-good-enough, a poor fit, a set back, a dream misdirected.  I wanted to sit and cry, stomp my feet, flail my arms, give up, then, surprisingly I felt a sudden freedom.  I’ll show them and won’t they be sorry that they failed to see me as I am and as I will be.  Maybe they did see me as I am.  Maybe they just can’t see what I will become.

The cycle of self-doubt and recrimination crept back into my thoughts.  Did I try hard enough?  Could I have sent a more professional sample of my work?  Is it my writing that is at fault?  Is the genre of children’s literature not considered serious work?  Perhaps my writing should be directed toward elevating Young Adult literature.

My mind spiraled to a personally held belief and a reinforcing epiphany I had last week.  But first a mantra that helped me through the last five years of my life.  I’ve walked through a bit of hell but as Rodney Atkins says,

If you're going through hell
Keep on going, don't slow down
If you're scared, don't show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you're there

Now to the epiphany - Last week I stood in my basement and looked out through a deep pit dug in the back yard, which would eventually become home to returning family.  I realized that I had been mourning that which was lost (my home and my past life) and, as a child would, I demanded it be restored, not later, but now.  I was tired of waiting, exhausted by existing in cramped quarters, and querulous (that’s being generous) with my husband, who is going through his own difficulties.  But standing there as the sun poured into what had been 15 truckloads of heavy clay, I realized that I was being blessed with a home that would far surpass my limited ideas and dreams.

It would not be the same.  It would never be the same.  It would be better.

A day or two later, another moment of clarity blessed me when the sun streaked through the open walls, denuded of lath and plaster, in what used to be our living room.  For a moment, I could see the house finished, the glow of refinished floors, the sun shining through polished glass, the sound of laughter filling the rooms.  I stopped, struck with the realization that I had been given a gift – the gift of hope.  I could see and actually begin to believe that all would right itself. 

There will always be challenges in life.  There will always be something that needs fixing or someone that is unkind or the pull of being caught in the thick of thin things.  But just for a few blissful moments, I felt hope, peace, and, yes, even a tingle of joy.  The process spreads out before us and still must be gotten through but at least now I have this insight to treasure up in the secret places of my heart.  For a moment I saw and was grateful.

Update:  The house is nearly done; however, I've left on my next adventure.  Next week I will begin writing about my experiences in doing a Phd in Wales.  Watch for the latest.

No comments:

Post a Comment