The Best Prayer is “Thank You”

Anne Lamott writes in her book Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith that the best prayers she knows are, “Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

I don’t argue too much with Lamott. About anything.

It took a little child to show me, however, just how true the concept of simplicity in prayer can be. I was raised in the Presbyterian Church and had my child baptized there. While I grew up with many beautiful and meaningful family traditions around spiritual observance, I admit I have been less than focused on how I want those traditions to be passed on to my child. I knew I wanted to begin introducing her to the idea that she can talk with God, that building that relationship between her soul and something bigger than the meanness of this world is very important.

But like many in my generation, I can be a tad jaded. We’ve lived and worked in more than one community. We’ve seen in living color the downfalls and moral failings of “holy” institutions and church leaders. We’ve pondered the dark side of many things once taken for granted as the good. Simply put, we struggle with how to help our children embrace faith without blindly following the absolutely certain failures of humanity.

Can you see how hard I like to make things?

They really aren’t that hard. We need to do more to let our children lead us sometimes.

My child recently announced we would be praying together before each meal. “Hands in your lap,” she says. We dutifully put our hands in our laps. “Now raise them up, slowly, like this,” she says as she directs us in assuming the traditional prayer hand press. “Now say this with me: God made the sun. God made the sea. God made the fishes, and God made me. Thank you for the sun, thank you for the sea, thank you for the fishes, and thank you for me. Amen.” There are little hand motions that go with each image of sun, fish, sea, and self.

Sun, fish, sea, and self. The hands of God nurturing you through the basic elements of the world, if you will only let it happen.

You know, I should have probably said, “Help me” a little sooner. Today, I say, “Thank you.”

(This piece first appeared on January 16, 2013, on The Mommyhood, a blog of The Charleston Daily Mail.)

 

For the Love of Marriage by Lisa Lewis Smith

The writer's parents on their wedding day

My parents just celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary.  They have provided a good and sound model for my brothers and me.  A large part of the success of their marriage and our family closeness should be attributed to Lewisburg, and to our time at Smithover and the Greenbrier River.  Our numerous canoe trips,  picnics, and family car travels (during  which we put millions of miles under our belts) all knit us together. My parents devoted their time and energy to the meaningful things in life, and showed their children the true value of family and making memories for a lifetime.

The writer's parents, Thanksgiving 2011 in Lewisburg.

 

Lewisburg represents the simple life for me.  It represents not having to show anyone up and investing in the important things:  breathing fresh air, admiring sunsets with your children, soaking up starlit evenings, eating with pleasure and gratitude.  It represents committing to living life to the fullest, and to falling in love with as much as you possibly can.

Our wedding in late August of 2004 took place on this land that my dad always referred to as “sacred.”  That evening, all the things that were precious to me growing up merged together into one memorable occasion:  family, food, and music in the great outdoors.  The moon was full.  The stars were bright. Cousins Fred, Lew, and Will picked away at some of my favorite tunes.  My childhood was over, but my values for life were set.

Lewisburg and Smithover became a special place for me early on.

The magnificent fields, woods, and waters were the vital playgrounds of my youth.

It is a place that continues to transform me, continues to teach peace and harmony, and continues to bring calmness during restless times.

It is my sanctuary.

Through this exceptional place, I have learned how to take great pleasure in the fundamentals of a meaningful life.

I am forever grateful.

The writer and her husband on their wedding day in Lewisburg, West Virginia