Prayer

The Road Between

There is so much that I want from life.

Recently though, I’ve boiled down my prayers to be pretty specific:

If there is one thing I do right in this lifetime, may it be my family.

My prayers don’t end there, certainly not – but each time I turn to G-d I let Him know that that is the key aspect of my prayers. That if He’s unable to grant me anything else I ask for, He still gift me with that.

If nothing else pans out, allow me to still be capable of a loving marriage and raising my children the way I hope.

. . .

I am a spiritual person.

Rosh Hashonah is a very spiritual holiday. Even as a kid, I would look forward to the familiar tunes and prayers said only on Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur. That excitement has not faded and has only strengthened through a deeper understanding of what the holidays represent.

Over this Rosh Hashonah, I was deeply connected and focused.

I was rudely awakened yesterday as assignment due dates and to do lists came back into focus, and I was reminded that I am not a spiritual being, I am actually so very human.

Our days are made up of so much, our world is made up of even more, and there is no end to the opportunities and challenges that arise each day.

In the end, our joys and our pains are oh so physical, not so much spiritual.

Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur are nice – and more than that, they are truly truly important.

But they are the spiritual half of our journey, and in a way, the much easier part.

I didn’t forget I was human on Rosh Hashonah – I prayed for all the parts that are human in me. But somehow, on Rosh Hashonah, being human was easier.

And yesterday, as I emerged from the cocoon of prayer and spirituality, it was a startling wake-up call to what being human really is about.

Because our life is not made up of enormous life-changing events, like the ones we pray for.

Our life is not made up of graduating college, getting the dream job, getting married, or having children.

It’s made up of all the tiny things in between, the tiny things that are easy to forget about when you’ve got your eyes on the big picture.

But when you face life, those tiny things are exactly what it is.
I prayed for the big things, because they are easier to pinpoint.

Today, I pray for the small things.

As I transition back into my world, suited up with spirituality, I pray that the small things go right. That our lives are filled with the small things that count.
I pray that the big things are so great that I get to appreciate and notice the tiny things.

. . .

At the end of the day, my prayer still stands – if I do anything right in this lifetime, may it be my family.

Yet I mean that in a thousand ways, as it filters down to real life.

All the roads that lead towards it – may they be brightly lit. May all the roads we take in life be brightly lit and filled with joy.

Because it is the road we’re on that that counts. The destinations are important, but it’s the rest stops that make it better. The music we choose, the snacks we eat, the people we put in our passenger seats.

It’s those tiny things that make up life that make life worth living.

And I look forward to G-d granting me these prayers. That ahead of me, I have a life filled with sticky fingers, dirty kitchens, late night deadlines, busy work days, hugs and kisses, aching laughter, days in swimming pools, and a heart filled to capacity.

On Rosh Hashonah, we pray.

And on Yom Kippur, may it be sealed.
break

Blog Post 51/52.

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To The One Who Made Me

Dear G-d,

In six days, I’ll be standing in synagogue, standing before You, a tiny speck before an all-encompassing, all-knowing creator. Before the big day, I’d like to write to you, so that I can explain where I’m coming from this year.
You and I, we have quite the relationship. I’d like to say it’s mostly reliable. I turn to You on a constant basis, and You respond. I may not hear Your words per-se, but You respond in other ways.
When I’m in a rush, and the lights work in my favor, I know that’s You.
When I wake up in the morning, energized and inspired, excited about my day, I know that’s You.
When the food I’m cooking comes out tasting exactly the way I was hoping, I know that’s You.
When I find things right before I lose them, I know that’s You.
When the concept I’ve been struggling with for a while suddenly clicks, I know that’s you.
When the little things and the big things seem to fall into place, I know that’s You.
Yet.
When life darkens, and things feel trapped, that is still You.
When the pain is greater than the joy, that is still You.
When things fall on the ground, when anxiety is rampant, when lives are taken, when the world seems to be falling apart at the seams, that is still You.
And it’s on those days that hurt the most that I am forced to recognize that the same You that brings goodness and joy to our world also brings pain and misery and mourning.
As a simple human being, I struggle to wrap my head around this, G-d, but the truth is I don’t want to understand.
I just want You to start choosing goodness.
Is there a cup that must be filled with tears to turn the tide? G-d, I am confident that it is overflowing.
You created me, You give me each thought, each step, each new day.
Sometimes I wonder, when You breathed life into me on that very first day, what were your hopes and dreams for me?
What did you hope I would do with the gifts you’ve handed me? What did you hope I’d say with the words you gave me?
And am I doing it, G-d? Am I following the path You painstakingly created for me?
Some days it feels like I’m walking my own path, all alone, so determined to do things differently. You made me this way, didn’t You?
What did You dream for me?
There are times in life, G-d, I just wish You would speak.
I’ll be in synagogue in six days, and G-d, I have so many prayers.
I have countless dreams and wishes for this world, for my future, for the people I love.
I’ll be bringing them all to You, every last one.
I am no saint, nowhere close, and I fail on a pretty consistent basis.
But I am Yours, aren’t I?
G-d, You’ve designed a glorious world. It is filled with natural sights that blow my mind on a daily basis, it is filled with billions of people who do their best every day with what You’ve given them. You’ve given us so much, yet you’ve also taken more than You need, and G-d, I pray that You see us worthy of so much more goodness.
We’re all just doing our best, G-d.
And as the Shofar blows next week, and our prayers are lifted to your doorstep, do Your best.
Do Your best to say yes. Give us our dreams. Give us our wishes. Answer our prayers in the way that we seek for them to be answered.
Please.
Allow the things I only dare dream about become a part of my reality.
Allow the work of my blood, sweat and tears to develop into something more real and more beautiful than I could have hoped.
In six days, I’ll be in synagogue, standing before You, my heart open, my words sincere. My whole self, with my past behind me, and my future that only You know – it’ll all be there.
G-d, You created me. Now You have to deal with me. And being that You created me, You should know better than anyone what that means.

I don’t give up all too quickly.

Sincerely,

Etti

Blog Post: 50/52!

Featured Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The Pain of Growth

Growing pains.

That’s always what they were. As a kid, I’d come to complain to my mom about yet another aching part of my body, and the reason was always growing pains.
It gave the pain some purpose, a sense of pride. I was in the process of growing, becoming older, getting taller.
Eventually, we all stop growing physically, our measurements coming to a slow halt, leaving us at relatively the same size as our 16-17 year old selves.
The growing pains ebb away, and I imagine the reminder of them comes as our own children turn to us and ask us about their own pain.
Growing pains.
So easily explained, so easily understood, so excusable for the hurt we feel.
But as we reach milestones, turn corners, and fall over as we awkwardly grow into emotional adults, the growing pains are so much more unclear.
They feel more like failure.
As we grip our aching soul, the pain seems to have no purpose, for the growth is hard to see.
This week, it is my birthday. I say that not to get a slew of birthday gifts (although welcome,) I say it to clarify why growth is something I’m really focusing on this week.
For what is growth?
Do birthdays mark growth?
Do I look back at the past year, and measure myself? Using what as the yardstick? Amassed funds? Amassed friends? Sweet memories?
What proves that I have grown between last years cake and this years?
To me, it’s all about the growing pains.
Because I have had them.
And while I was aching, there were times I persevered, believing in the purpose of the pain. But there were times I surrendered to the pain, eyes shut, hands up, and let it overtake me.
This year I expanded horizons, worked harder, re-focused, trampled my comfort zone.
I have also cried in the shower, eaten too much sugar, given up, and allowed my self-made limits to box me in.
I’m tempted, on my birthday, to ask G-d to wipe the world clean of challenges, of obstacles, of struggles.
But I fear that I would be asking Him to remove the color, to silence the joy.
I prefer to ask him to allow us to see the purpose of the pain.
To allow us to look in the mirror and smile through the ache, because we know that through our pain, we are painting the world with vibrant colors.
Without struggle, without challenge, there is no depth of joy, there are no intricacies of beauty.
I ask Him to wipe the world clean of endless grief, of grief so deep that the beauty is too deeply hidden to be asked to reveal itself.
But I ask Him to continue to challenge us, challenge us with pushing past our limits. Challenge us with obstacles we can see over, obstacles we know we can overcome.
Allow the growing pains to have a purpose, allow the pain to be only a roadblock, not the end of the road.
Because without growth, we fail, and without growing pains, we don’t notice the growth.
May my growing pains paint the picture of my future, strengthening my foundation, allowing me to build up and up and up.
Even joyous occasions come with growing pains  – adjusting to married life, a new baby, a brand new home, a new career. But these are the growing pains we can handle, these are the growing pains that make us better. That give our world more color, make life richer, that give life more purpose.
And so as I welcome a new year of my life, I look back at my growth. And I mark my growth by the pain. Not by how many days I felt defeated, but by how many days I felt euphoric, having overcome the challenge that had held me back.
And I ask G-d that He give me more of that strength, more of the ability to jump the hurdles, to push through the pain for the most epic of results:
Glorious, colorful, invigorating, beautiful growth.

Blog Post: 25/52

Behind the Prayer

This poem is a journey through Shmoneh Esrei, the Amidah, in my daily morning prayer. It’s about connection, it’s about distraction, it’s about trying. Open up your siddur – follow along.

Three steps backward,
Three steps forward.
the same G-d that Avraham spoke to,
Yitzchak, Yaakov:
He’s listening to me.

Bend, bow, straighten,
May the winds blow
and the rains fall,
and the crops grow.
 __
May the ones we’ve loved,
yet unwillingly lost,
be returned.
 __
Can G-d really return them?
Will he?
There is an itch on my ankle.
 
You are holy,
Your name is holy,
Bless me with an ounce
of the wisdom You hold.
 —
Closed fist,
repentance
I am sorry for not being
the person I could be.
 
Heal us,
Heal me,
Heal the parts
that we don’t know

need healing.

I say these words every morning
Is He listening this time?
Can He hear me?
Did I say this paragraph yet?
Did I skip a page?
My lips know the words
better than my mind does.
 
Hear me G-d,
listen to my prayer
Thank you, G-d, for every gift,
every blessing,
every right side up.
Allow me to strip myself of limits
Let me smile more
Let my dreams come true
May I find the man
Whom I will walk this lifetime with,
May we recognize each other.
Please, G-d, listen closer.
Let this life be one of happiness.
 
Bow, straighten.
Thank you for waking us up today,
For the miracles,
the big ones,
the small ones,

The ones we don’t see.

Please, G-d, let there be peace.
Please, G-d, let there be peace.
How many times can I say it,
How many times does it take,

for it to get to His throne?
 —

Three steps backward,
Bow to the left,
to the right,

forward.

 —

Blog Post: 18/52


2018 Can Be Your Year

Every year, since social media became a part of my life, I’ve noticed a yearly trend.
As each year comes to a close, the low parts rise to the top.
Social media is filled with memories of tough, crazy, miserable experiences we’ve had in the past year.
With the future year a clean slate, people begin to claim that this year will be their year. This year will be the one that goes right. The year they finally do everything they always wanted to do.
But this keeps happening every year.
Obviously, a year is much too long a time to be anyone’s year. Too many days, too many moments to make it an all around good year. And we tend to dwell on the negative, us humans, so chances are, no matter what, as the year ends we will remember the pain.
What a sad way to welcome a new year.
So much hope, so much expectation, so much belief goes into January 1st.
At some point this week I was upset about something. It’s been something I’ve been working for, and it was continuously being pulled away from me.
I was frustrated. I was tired.
Suddenly, I had this moment of shame.
I am so unbelievably lucky.
G-d has granted me so much – so what if I don’t have every single thing I want?
Like a spoiled child, I continuously noticed what I was lacking rather than recognizing the endless gifts.
So I decided to try to re-focus. To put my eyes on what was important. To step back, even if it’s a tiny step, and notice, appreciate and give thanks.
To spend some time each day really thinking about and appreciating the little things, the big things, the amazing things.
Because there are so many.
This coming year may not bring me everything I’m looking for.
This year may not be the year I become the person I want to be, or meet my other half, or make no mistakes.
But if I spend as much time thanking as I do asking, this year will be a step above the last one.
I pray He teach me compassion and empathy without giving me pain.
I pray that He helps me be more grateful for each thing I have.
2018 won’t be my year just because I don’t know what it holds yet.
2018 will be my year because I am alive, I am healthy, I have purpose, I have dreams and I have more and more each day to thank G-d for.

 

Blog Post: 15/52

 

Featured Photo via Unsplash

This year, I pray for G-d.

Dear G-d,

5,778 years ago You gently handcrafted each being, each blade of grass, each solitary piece of sand.
I know time means nothing for You. For You, space is as wide as it is small. I know that You have The Master Plan. But surely, even You could not have foreseen it getting…this bad.
Everywhere I look, there is destruction – if not of physical buildings than of people, families, values.
Those who are desperately desiring peace cannot get through to the protesters, the protesters cannot understand why there are people who seem to be passively allowing the world to crumble around them.
There is so much pain, so much hatred, so much of the ability for us to forgive has been lost.
Costs of basic necessities have skyrocketed, religions are mocked and looked down upon. The rushing oceans are thick with pieces of our lives we forget to be grateful for, beautiful animals are becoming extinct. The world quakes in fear of the next disaster, the next time mankind will strike out against their own.
Hurricanes ravage small islands, earthquakes split the very land we walk on.
It’s as if even the depths of the earth are crying out “enough! Enough!”
Our nation seems to be in shreds, never before so divided, never before so wary of each other.
It is a terrifying world to grow up in.
Yet when I shared this sentiment with a friend, who can always be relied on to see the glass half full, she shook her head.
She disagreed.
She said, “Look how far we’ve come!”
She said, “We have been dealt many unfair cards, yet we persevere as a people.”
G-d, this Rosh Hashonah, greeting You in synagogue will be an exhausted people. Your children are broken. Many have lost loved ones. Many have lost homes. Many are battling wars in their bodies and in their minds.
All are searching. All are searching for You.
You, G-d, who 5,778 years ago, handcrafted each one of us.
You, G-d, who lovingly wrote each word of The Master Plan.
Look upon us G-d, and see Your people. See how we still stand before you. See how we have not let the ravaging waters steal our faith, even when there was every reason to let go.
G-d, You came to us, You were in the fields. Have you not wept each day? Have You not tenderly looked at us, moved by our convictions, touched by our dedication?
As You leave the field, pockets filled with tear-stained prayers, as You climb upon your throne again, allow Yourself to be rid of whatever is holding You back.
Look down upon the earth You promised to never destroy, and stay true to that promise.
We are the people who You so desired.
We have given our all, we have scratched the bottom of the barrel.
We are here, G-d.
And doesn’t that just say enough?
With deep prayers for a better tomorrow,
Sincerely,
Yours.
Blog Post: 2/52

Featured Image: Photo by Jack Hamilton on Unsplash