That I may know and understand.

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your servant who calls upon you, and grant that I may know and understand what things I ought to do, and that I also may have the grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. -taken from The Divine Hours, Prayers for Summertime

My copy of The Divine Hours for summer got packed at the very end of May, so I didn’t have it until we unboxed the books last weekend. Meaning I missed all of June. Which was kind of a downward spiral for me with the class I was taking, the stress of things possibly falling apart with the house, the end of school, and, oh, yeah, packing. Now that I am able to sit on my couch and drink my coffee and read my prayers, I can see how it might have been a good thing for me to have that in my routine, to read those words and say those prayers with so many other people. To have something solid to stand on when I was floundering in my own lack of belief. Because those are big prayers. That up there? That’s a big prayer. That cuts to the heart of many of my prayers: What am I supposed to do? Why is it that particular thing? There are times when I know what I ought to do: I should forgive, because it is one of the cornerstones of my faith. I might even understand why I am supposed to forgive: Because I have been forgiven, and because it will actually make me feel better not to be carrying those things around. Just to name a few. But sometimes I don’t understand how it’s possible, and I think that’s the kind of understanding this prayer is crying out for. Help me know what to do. Help me understand how to do it.

It resonated particularly with me this morning, because last summer we had an unprecedented streak of days over 100 degrees, something I can never remember happening before. It was miserable and unbearable, but, caught up in my haze of summer discontent, I continued to go to my car every day at lunch and read. I would read the Midday Office in The Divine Hours, and I would read my novel. You can look at last year’s list to see which books were read in July and August and then imagine me sweating it out in my car. I parked in the shade, don’t worry. And I drank a lot of water.

I remember talking to Andrea on the phone one day, talking about how I was so desperate to have the summer off, but I didn’t know what to do. There were so many classes I needed to take, and I didn’t really know how to get in the school system. I don’t remember praying this prayer particularly, but I must have, this same week, last year. Mike and I want a different sort of life, one where we are closer to our friends and where we have more time to be together. I do not think I can work another summer without going completely stir-crazy. I know what we want, but I don’t know how to get there. Help.

And now, I sit in my new house, with five more weeks of summer vacation. I have felt for so long that everything was piling up around me and I could not relax. But I am beginning to feel that relaxation settle in, that the restlessness that prevailed last summer is finally dissipating. There are many areas of my life where I still don’t know what to do and how to do it. But I can look back over the past year and feel as if we were guided in each of those difficult steps: applying for a new job, taking the new job, taking classes, putting our house on the market, and, finally, moving. I know that this prayer isn’t just about me and my own life, but also about God’s greater work in the world and how we can participate in it. But those are the things that were on my heart last summer, and (most of the time) I believe the things that are on my heart are part of the things that God cares about. I was lonely and restless, I believe, because he created me to be in community and to want to have time to spend with my friends and family. I can breathe deeply now, in a way I haven’t in a long time, because I have that time to rest, because Mike and I have time to work on our house and go on vacation. Because I have friends within walking distance (and one whose place of employment can be seen from my sunroom). Because I can see my mother and my brother more often. Because I was given the grace to take the next step. Because I can sit here in my sunroom with my coffee and feel as if many of my desperate prayers from the past few years have been answered.

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