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In the last few weeks I’ve talked about simple ways to bookend your days with God, reading Psalms in the morning and praying the examen in the evening. But God doesn’t have to be relegated to the margins of our day. We can find God in the ordinary, in-between times of our day too. While it may not come naturally (it doesn’t for me), we can train ourselves in “practicing the presence”. This practice teaches us how to live all aspects of our life with God.
What Does it Mean to “Practice the Presence”?
A monk named Brother Lawrence lived in the 17th century and wrote a book called The Practice of the Presence. He worked in the kitchen of the monastery, doing the ordinary tasks of cooking and doing dishes for his brothers. As he realized that God was with him, even in these mundane tasks, his understanding of life with God was transformed.
I learned about this discipline of practicing the presence a few years before I became a mom. But most of my efforts to practice the presence felt forced and contrived. Until one unsuspecting day, shortly after my second baby was born.
Surprised by God’s Presence
On this ordinary day, I found myself practicing the presence without even trying. I had just finished nursing my baby daughter, and as babies do, she fell asleep in my arms. I found myself lingering, rocking her for just a little longer than I usually did before I put her down. As I stared at her, I marveled at the life I was holding. I felt overcome with love and adoration. And then, I became acutely aware of God speaking to me:
How you feel about your daughter, is how I feel about you, Kate.
My focus shifted from my baby to God as I let that truth wash over me and penetrate me. I felt myself held in God’s arms and wondered at God’s love for me. I saw myself in my newborn baby: vulnerable, precious, and loved. His compassion, care and love washed over me.
After I let myself soak in the experience for several minutes, I realized that seeing God as a mother, and me as his child, is a powerful way that I can practice the presence of God in my life.
Seeing God as our Mother
We are so accustomed to calling God, “Father,” that it’s easy to forget that God is also our Mother. While Scripture may not call God our Mother outright, it does highlight ways in which God cares for us as a mother.
Isaiah 49:15 (MSG) “Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget, I’d never forget you – never.”
Matthew 23:37 (MSG) “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Murderer of prophets! Killer of the ones who brought you God’s news! How often I’ve ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn’t let me.”
Letting God Mother This Mother
Motherhood can be a lonely and overwhelming calling. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished for my own mother to be at my side in my motherhood journey. But because she lives miles away, she can’t always be there for me. Sometimes I feel so alone in figuring this motherhood thing out. I admit that as children cry “I want my mommy,” I too have inwardly cried for my mommy.
God can be a mother to us, if we let him. Seeing God as mother, and looking to him for guidance in this parenting journey brings so much grace and comfort. As these Scriptures and others show, He has a mother’s heart for us. If we pause and listen, he may even show up for some motherly advice.
God as Mother in Good Times & Hard Times
There was another time, shortly after my first encounter with God and my daughter, that my son threw a terrible tantrum. After several attempts of trying to reason with him (ha!), I began to feel the familiar surges of anger that tell me I’m about to lose it. On any other day I might have lost it. But today, by grace, I paused and wisely decided to take a time out.
As I stepped away, my control freak nature bombarded me with all the reasons why I needed to take action now! I felt anxious to make my son comply, or calm down, or whatever I thought he needed at the time. I decided instead to look for God’s presence and ask him for wisdom. Honestly, I can’t remember anymore if he gave me any guidance. But I do remember feeling his approval of my move to take a step back. I remember learning trust in Him in that moment. I remembered that he was present and that I could also trust him to be with my son for a moment too. Taking this moment in my day to remember God began to shift the way I disciplined my son. It began to teach me self-discipline for myself too.
More Opportunities for Practicing the Presence
Both of these stories reflect a taste of what practicing God’s presence can look like for us as moms. I imagine there are so many ways God wants to show up in our lives if we would slow down and let him. It’s not so much a practice to force. Rather it is a practice that invites us to slow down and remember He is already there. We may not always sense His presence. But as the word practice implies, we can improve our ability to discern His presence. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Here are more ideas for when you might practice his presence:
1. Doing dishes
A friend of mine who is a mom of six recently shared with me that the kitchen sink is where her primary connection with God happens. Sometimes I meet God doing dishes, but honestly, it doesn’t come as easy for me during this activity. I say this to show that God can show up in a variety of times and places. How He shows up for me may not be how he shows up for you. And that’s okay. Keep experimenting.
2. While nursing
Again, while this wasn’t the best place I found to connect with God, another friend of mine found this time ideal for memorizing Scripture and prayer.
3. While playing with your kids or watching them play
This opportunity is where I see God most. I see my kids through His eyes, and then I ponder how he takes delight in my delight.
4. Any activity in which your hands might be busy, but your mind is relatively undistracted
While these kinds of activities can tempt us to listen to a podcast or scroll through Instagram, it’s also opportunity to pause and find God. I don’t mean to guilt-trip or “should” all over you. But as you desire, try taking one minute, before you reach for your phone, to open yourself up to God’s presence. Simply remind yourself that he is there, moving and working in your life, and thinking about you.
Are there any times in your life that you find naturally lending themselves to practicing the presence? Please share in the comments below so that we can build on the list I’ve started here.