Praying with Your Feet

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Sometimes I make the mistake of separating my spiritual life from my vocation as a wife and mother. I see my children as distractions from prayer and spirituality, rather than an opportunity to love God. On a particularly trying morning with a very fussy infant at church, I spent almost all of Mass outside holding my crying baby and watching Mass through the door. Afterwards, I lamented to a friend about just how hard it all was. “I feel like I’m missing Mass because I’m so distracted! I can’t even pay attention enough to pray.” I said. She replied, “When you’re walking in the Narthex, you’re praying with your feet.”

By living out my vocation to love the children God has given me, I am right where I should be. My life is a prayer. I haven’t ever forgotten what my wise friend said and I think about “praying with your feet” not only during Mass with my squirmy, chatty kids, but as an image of how my work as a mother can be my prayer.

When we’re running late and I am rushing through the house trying to clothe the uncooperative toddler, put the infant in the baby sling, pack the diaper bag, pay the proper attention due to the preschooler’s latest megablocks creation, and try not to lose it with him when he’s too distracted by the fantastic caterpillar he found on the front porch to put on his shoes…..I’m praying with my feet.

When the baby is overtired and wailing while I try to make quesadillas for the big kids’ lunch and the toddler throws all her cheese on the floor and the preschooler starts crying because he wanted peanut butter sandwiches….I’m praying with my feet.

When all I want to do after getting the girls to sleep for nap is collapse on my bed, but I promised the preschooler special time with mama and that I would read him a chapter of a book …I’m praying with my feet.

Parenthood has a thousand tiny opportunities each day for me to offer this work of loving my children to God. But so often I miss those opportunities. I yell because no one has their shoes on and we’re late, or because there’s a huge mess on the floor and a crying, overtired child doesn’t appreciate that I’m doing my best. Or I tell my son that we’ll have to wait until after nap to read books and ignore the disappointment in his big brown eyes. I forget how important this work is. It is the path of holiness that He has called me to. And the work of loving and caring for these precious little people is the most valuable and difficult spiritual work of my life.

I was rocking my baby while trying to pray the Rosary the other day during my holy hour. It’s my one hour a week that I get to experience wonderful silence and only the nursing baby comes with me while the big kids stay with Daddy. She woke up in the chapel wanting to nurse and I thought, “Lord, can’t I even finish praying one Rosary without being interrupted?!” as I reluctantly started to feed her. I looked down at her little happy face, her tiny chubby fingers tugging on my shirt as I held her close. “This is your prayer,” a still, small voice reminded me. Don’t let me forget.

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Comments

  1. says

    Beautiful.
    This is a good post to keep in mind for the future (currently not even married, so kids will be a while) but also for now. I haven’t been as grateful for my new(ish) living/working situation and am frustrated when I can’t go to Mass whenever like before. You’ve reminded me to offer anything and everything I have as prayer.
    Thanks, and hang in there! :)

  2. Katarina says

    Lord of all pots and pans and things,
    Since I’ve no time to be
    A saint by doing lovely things or
    Watching late with thee,
    Or dreaming in the twilight or
    Storming heaven’s gates.
    Make me a saint by getting meals or
    Washing up the plates.

    Although I must have Martha’s hands,
    I have Mary’s mind, and,
    When I black the boots and shoes
    Thy sandals, Lord, I find.
    I think of how they trod the earth
    What time I scrub the floor,
    Accept this meditation, Lord,
    I haven’t time for more.

    Warm all the kitchen with thy love,
    And light it with thy peace,
    Forgive me all my worrying
    And make all grumbling cease.
    Thou who didst love to give men food
    In room or by the sea
    Accept this service that I do
    I do it unto thee.

    St. Theresa of Avila

  3. says

    Thanks so much for sharing this lovely reflection, Haley. Your point that motherhood is “the path of holiness that He has called [you] to,” and ” the most valuable and difficult spiritual work of [your] life” is one of the most inspiring descriptions of motherhood that I have seen in a long time. I am so delighted to start my day with these thoughts in mind.

    • Haley says

      I’m so glad this post encouraged you, Jennifer! I wrote it down because I need help remembering these truths.

  4. Pam says

    Thank you for this post. With 5 young ones, the littlest being 7 weeks I can relate so much to this post.

  5. says

    Great post! My children aren’t little anymore, but I can still relate. When I’m driving a car load of giggling tweens to a movie, I’m praying. When I’m sitting through a two hour baseball practice in the heat, I’m praying. When I’m waiting up for my 17 year old to come home on a Saturday night, I’m definitely praying!

  6. says

    {Kathy} I want to post this in the Narthex of our church!!! You are right! Praying with our feet is what moms do all day long. Thank you for this reflection. God bless and keep you as you tend to your babies…..and pray.

  7. says

    Love this! I’m so in that season – due next wk with baby#3 — my 3rd baby in 3 yrs! I had such a wonderful uninterrupted spiritually disciplined life before marriage and children, lols. Thank you for reminding me that I haven’t stopped being a spiritual person – it’s just that how it happens looks different now. =) Love your blog!

  8. says

    What a beautiful reflection.
    I don’t have any children of my own yet, but I can definitely relate to the effort that goes into finding ways to see and serve God in the struggles of day to day life. When I am teaching it can be overwhelming to plan things that will not only meet the intellectual needs of all my students, but the various emotional needs as well. I’ll have to remember when I’m feeling stretched thin that my efforts are a prayer in and of themselves.

  9. says

    Haley,

    It is amazing how the Holy Spirit works. I’ve been struggling the last 8 weeks (my son was born about a week before your little Gwen) how to balance motherhood and an active prayer life. I no longer get my consistent prayer times every day, if at all and I have been so distracted at Mass. Last night, I was talking to my hubby about this and the words “I just feel so distracted…” left my mouth. So thank you for this beautiful and encouraging post! It gets me thinking about how many times our mama Mary “prayed with her feet.”

    Peace,
    Samantha

  10. Katrina says

    Thanks so much! This is so inspiring. After my first was born four years ago, I really struggled with the concept that, because life was all-of-a-sudden so ‘messy’, I felt further from the Lord than I had before, even though I knew the choice I’d made to have that little boy was the right choice.

    It took me a couple more babies to figure out how the two ‘conflicting’ lifestyles go hand in hand. And you still described it even more eloquently than I ever could have.

    Thanks for the happy tears!!

  11. kt says

    Thank you. I needed this in this season of my life. Always room for improvement, but it is beautiful to think that in these moments of feeling frustrated or unseen…it is our prayer. Thank you.

  12. says

    So beautiful. Thanks for this reminder that my spiritual duties are one and the same with those I carry out as being a mama and wife. Haley, this is put so lovely that I might just have to hang it on my wall as a reminder. =)

  13. Natalie says

    “When the baby is overtired and wailing while I try to make quesadillas for the kids’ lunch and the toddler throws all her cheese on the floor and the preschooler starts crying because he wanted peanut butter sandwiches….I’m praying with my feet.”

    I have had this EXACT situation (right down to the preschooler crying for peanut butter) so many times in the last couple of weeks, with children 4, 2, and 7 weeks! Thank you for this great reminder that caring for my children is a form of prayer, maybe the primary form of prayer I am called to right now.

  14. says

    Haley, this is absolutely beautiful. What a great reminder post for me to bookmark so one day when I am blessed with children I can pull this out when I am feeling overwhelmed. You are such a beautiful person both inside and out, I am so happy I found your blog. Also I wanted to thank you for the lovely comment you left on my blog, I was unable to respond to you via email but I wanted to make sure you knew how much I appreciated you stopping by. Thank you.

  15. says

    Haley, this is so beautiful! I love that phrase “praying with your feet.” The work of a mom can be so exhausting at times and patience can be hard to find. Sometimes a simple phrase like that can be enough to get you back on track when in the craziness of it all you forget what it’s all about.

  16. says

    Lovely! I will have to log this away! :)
    My mom always says to remember the prayer of morning offering, so that even if we’re too harried too offer up the specific events of the day, they’ve already been dedicated!

    • Haley says

      I am not in the habit of praying the morning offering at all! Now I feel convicted to make it part of my day.

  17. says

    Thanks so much for this, Haley. I was having a rough night last night and this was a blessing. God knew what I needed to hear. Thanks for being the vessel.

  18. Adele says

    This is one of my favorite poems about breastfeeding and the divinity of motherhood.
    Saint Ite
    Said Ite: “I will take nothing from my Lord save that He give me His Son in fashion of a babe that I may nurse Him.” Then came the angel that was wont to do service about her. “‘Tis good time,” said she to him. Then said the angel to her, “That thou askest shall be granted thee,” and Christ came to her in fashion of a babe.
    The Comment of the Feilire of Oingus (sorry I forgot how to put in fadas)
    He came to me
    A little before morning through the night
    and lay between my breasts till daylight.

    How helplessly
    Lay the small limbs, that fallen head of gold,
    The little hands that clasped and could not hold.

    I spoke no word
    Lest sleep’s light-feathered wing should lift and fly
    From this low earth to that steep heavenly sky.

    And when he stirred
    And opened frightened eyes and called for rest,
    I set him wailing to my maiden breast.

    And thence he drew
    With Soft stirred lips and clutching hands that strove
    Sweet mortal milk of more than mortal love.

    When morning grew
    Far in the East and the world woke from rest,
    The King of Stars was quiet on my breast.

  19. renee says

    Brought tears to my eyes and warmth in my heart. It is so true. I sometimes feel distracted by my kids. When in fact, nurturing and taking care of them is one of the things that God has called me to do.

  20. Naomi says

    I’ve so struggled with this too. I need to get this in my spirit. Thanks for the post. Sometimes it feels like I am the only one struggling with things like this, it’s nice to be reminded that I’m not :)

  21. Jean says

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m 8.5 weeks pregnant with my first and having terrible morning sickness 24/7. At mass this weekend I had to make a beeline for the bathroom when I knew my breakfast was coming back up. I could hear the entire congregation praying the Our Father from my spot on the bathroom floor, and I couldn’t help but think, “Well, this is my own special prayer for the day, the prayer of a mother-to-be.”

  22. says

    This is a great post, and well worth reading for every parent! Having a new baby really CAN throw you out of routines. If your old way of spending time with the Lord included silent prayer, alone time at church, etc. then God is DEFINITELY calling you to something new in parenthood!

    The only thing I would mention is that this cultural attitude of “if I yell at my kids for not putting their shoes on” then somehow you are missing your opportunity as a mother of faith… I disagree with. It’s true that we are called to love our children and to introduce them to God’s love. However, I don’t think that some strong-worded discipline to get your kids to do what they are supposed to do means that you are not loving them, or that you are not “praying with your feet.”

    Because, every parent is ALSO called to raise their kids to be responsible and industrious members of society, for their own good and those around them! … and a two year old who knows it’s his job to put his shoes on NOW, is the beginning of teaching that type of self-reliance. Expecting kids to have discipline (and enforcing it, even with the consequence of lost tempers) is a crucial learning point of life. It also segues into to teaching apologies and forgiveness in the most concrete of circumstances :)

    • Haley says

      This is an interesting point, Marianne, but here’s where I disagree: if I am to model patience and self-control to my children, yelling and losing my temper is simply unacceptable. Does that mean that there shouldn’t be consequences to disobedience? Absolutely not! But when I feel enraged and irritated and upset because a distractible toddler is taking a long time at a task, I certainly don’t have a prayerful spirit. Truly I think it’s more a matter of my perspective in that moment. Am I firmly encouraging my children to obey? Or am I being impatient? When I yell I feel out of control and upset and that’s no way to model good behavior for my kids.

  23. says

    Love this!! I am just coming across your blog and have spent lots of time over the past 24 hours jumping from post to post. I am going to come back to this particular entry often to remind myself of this. I have three kids (10,7, and 2) and we live in the cry room at church. Sometimes it is me who is crying!! :)

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