Prayers on My Pillow: Inspiration for Girls on the Threshold of Changeby Celia Straus
"Before I go to sleep each night Before I turn off every light Let me put away my fears Let me brush away the tears"
The heartfelt prayers in this luminous volume were originally written for the comfort and inspiration of a twelve-year-old girl named Julia. The author of these prayers is Julia's mother,
Inspiration for Girls on the Threshold of Change
"Before I go to sleep each night Before I turn off every light Let me put away my fears Let me brush away the tears"
The heartfelt prayers in this luminous volume were originally written for the comfort and inspiration of a twelve-year-old girl named Julia. The author of these prayers is Julia's mother, who wrote them because she was troubled that she and her daughter no longer talked as much as they used to. So each night, she left a verse on Julia's pillow. Julia shared them with her younger sister and with her friends, and the prayers moved outward in ever-widening circles.
Now everyone can enjoy and meditate upon these simple supplications, whose words, feelings, and perspective are those of a girl growing into womanhood. Nearly one hundred and fifty prayers encourage girls to look inward for the strength to heal hurts, calm fears, and reconcile with family and friends. They present the values of self-reliance and confidence, celebrating the gift of life and the unique pleasure and challenges of being a girl. Each prayer is a loving act of faith, and together they provide a safe and private space in which a girl can simply be and grow.
Best Friends Foundation
- Random House Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- 1st Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 5.69(w) x 6.78(h) x 0.82(d)
- Age Range:
- 9 - 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
Why I Wrote the Prayers
Why the Prayers Have Meant So Much to Me, by Julia Straus
The Courage to Be Myself
Looking in the Mirror
Confusion and Fear
Finding Beauty in My World
The Pain of Growing Up
Pressures in School
Getting Along with Family and Friends
Asking for Help
Living in the Moment
Making a Difference
When I'm Alone
Prayers for My Self
Prayers on My Pillow was written for my older daughter, Julia. I started writing the prayers in the fall of 1995, when, at age twelve,
Julia began experiencing many of the physical and emotional changes of young adolescence. A brave, happy, independent, and outgoing girl was fast becoming vulnerable, confused, and withdrawn right before my eyes. At the same time, as a self-employed writer for television, I was carrying a heavy workload. It seemed that, as the days went by, there was less and less time to talk with Julia, and more and more need to do so.
There also seemed to be new barriers to overcome every time we did talk.
Suddenly my previously valued and much sought after opinions,
observations, witticisms, and advice were off-base, outdated, and boring.
Suddenly I wasn't listening properly, was hopelessly "out of it," or
"didn't understand." And Julia, who up until now had been forthcoming and honest about what she was feeling, began responding to my inquiries with a
"whatever" or a silent shrug of the shoulders.
We'd had a tough summer. Julia had found few friends to hang out with at the beach, so she had spent most of her time alone. Then she and I were in a frightening car accident in which the car was totaled, though neither of us was hurt. We both realized our mortality at the same moment, and the realization stayed with us. I think we also both realized that our relationship, built on communication that was continual and close, one that had nurtured and supported Julia throughout her young life, was changing. The connections between us were breaking down. Even more important, the connections within Julia herself were breaking down.
Because of numerous factors including age, sex, society, school, and the accelerated pace of life in the nineties, Julia's sense of self, her very essence, was threatened.
As I think back, it was Julia who asked me to write the first prayer.
We're not a particularly religious family. I'm Christian, brought up Episcopalian, and my husband is Jewish. Like many interfaith couples who marry and have children, we dealt with our religious differences by pretty much avoiding the topic entirely. Not going to church or synagogue.
Celebrations of Christmas and Passover focused on secular rituals and family traditions, and observance of Easter, Yom Kippur, or Rosh Hashanah was nonexistent.
I had taught Julia and her younger sister, Emily, one bedtime prayer--the only one I ever prayed when I was a child. It's from a 1920 children's book called TThe Bam Bam Clock, by J. P. McEvoy. It goes like this:
Bless me, God, the long night through,
And bless my mommy and daddy, too,
And everyone who needs Your care,
Make tomorrow bright and fair,
And thank You, God, I humbly pray,
For all You did for me today.
It did the job for ten years. But during that busy, tumultuous autumn,
when I was preoccupied with work and Julia's troubles were mounting, she asked me to write her a new one. One that might help her go to sleep instead of staying up until one or two in the morning worrying about . . .
And so I did. The next day I wrote a prayer, in verse. I'm not a scholar of religion or a person "of the cloth." I believe in an Infinite Being whom I call God, an afterlife, and the power of prayer. I'm not a poet. I write television dramas, documentaries, and educational videos.
Occasionally, I've worked on a novel. But I do know the profound difference between writing from the head and writing from the heart. This first prayer and all the hundreds after it came from the heart. And that night I put the first prayer on Julia's pillow.
Each day thereafter, whether we had had a chance to talk or not, I wrote a prayer for her to pray before she went to bed. Sometimes we read them together, sometimes she read them by herself, sometimes we talked about them. And I learned how important they were to her when, one night when I didn't write one, she asked me where her prayer was. I was careful to write the prayers in the words and voice that she might have chosen for herself. Some were tools to help her handle crises in her life; others were written as celebrations of her victories. Some were meditations on life cycles and the importance
of acting in faith and love; others were more lighthearted and emphasized perspective and balance in order to get beyond the intense self-absorption of her adolescence.
I wrote the prayers having been deeply impressed by Mary Pipher's
Reviving Ophelia and Peggy Orenstein's School Girls, books that stressed the need for parents to maintain connections with daughters during the early years of adolescence. I was also inspired by Larry Dossey's book Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine, all of Max Freedom Long's books about Huna, especially Growing into Light, Enid Hoffman's Huna, a Beginner's Guide, Thomas Moore's Care of the Soul, and the writings of Reverend Sandra Mayo.
The prayers are nondenominational and are based on a very basic three-part concept. First, they acknowledge the existence of an Infinite Deity or Absolute Being, who is addressed as either God or Lord. Second, they look at life from the perspective of the girl who is praying. And third, they acknowledge and respect the girl's inner self, or soul. Each prayer then connects and integrates the three. The process is simple and powerful. In the three-part concept there is a replacement of negative feelings or thoughts with a positive act of faith.
No matter what life issue a prayer addresses---a problem to be solved, an anticipated challenge, gratitude, celebration, awareness of the beauty of nature, despair, loneliness, boredom--the process is the same. An experience or perception of a young teenage girl along with her ensuing emotions is recognized and then put into the context of, or sandwiched between, Inner Self and God.
Within that loving and secure framework, the prayers gently remind the reader of what she is capable. They present truths and values she can trust and rely on, such as fearless faith, love, self-reliance,
self-empowerment, and ethical behavior. Many also express the benefits of courage, generosity, humor, creativity, and risk taking.
The prayers are not guilt-based. The word guilt is never used. Neither are they requests for what most people pray for--world peace, good health,
better grades, career success, or material goods. The prayers are not whiny or self-pitying. They encourage girls to look inward rather than outward for the strength to solve their problems. As a result, they help girls discover and tap their inner strengths to cope with changes.
The prayers are written in verse rather than prose, not because they are poems, but simply because that makes them easier to remember. They are practical, hands-on tools, like a makeup brush or a hammer, except they are tools of the spirit. They are to be used as very private, very personal, and very loving Acts of Faith. They work magic because they tap into our own spiritual energy, which is as real and powerful as gravity and exists in all of us whether we acknowledge it or not.
The prayers are loosely organized into sixteen sections or categories addressing different reasons for girls to pray. There's a prayer on each page because both Julia and I found that praying one new prayer each night was more than enough to think about. Not all prayers will prove useful to every reader. However, certain ones will strike an instant chord and become favorites. And a few of those can become crucial for handling day-to-day events.
Each prayer--or, for that matter, any word or combination of words within each prayer--can be used as a mantra, affirmation, meditation, thought,
chant, song, or daily reminder, either expressed out loud or not. The prayers are completely flexible. They can and should be copied out and personalized by the girls who read them. They can and should be wadded up into small squares and kept in a wallet, backpack, jewelry box, notebook,
diary, or locket. There is space in this book to write new prayers tailored to meet the different and new needs of each reader.
I believe the prayers have made a positive difference for both Julia and Emily. One indication is that both girls agreed to share these deeply personal prayers with other girls. I would like to think that this demonstration of their glorious inner strength and generosity of spirit was enhanced by my efforts, but then I can hardly be objective about my daughters. I am, however, deeply grateful for their existence and the opportunity I have been given by God to write prayers for them--and you.
I surround myself with toys at night Just like a little child,
And yet my dreams are different now With yearnings to be wild.
I pray to keep these two selves safe Each night before I sleep--
The child in me protected by The grown-up I'll soon meet.
It's hard to close my eyes sometimes When deepest needs collide,
The search for self continues strong--
It pulls me like the tide.
Put prayers on my pillow, please,
So I can tread the night And wake up as the girl I am To greet, with joy, the light.
Where can I run When there's no homeplace left?
Where can I hide When my parents "know best"?
Who can I turn to When friends turn me down?
Who can I trust When there's no one around?
What can I say When the worst has been said?
What can I feel When my feelings are dead?
How can I cry When God's love is right here,
Telling me, "Love,
You have nothing to fear"?
Today I woke up empty,
My soul completely flown--
As if my self had lost its way,
My song had lost its tone.
Today I woke up numbed inside,
My feelings paralyzed--
As if my mind had given up The light inside my eyes.
Today I woke dead-ended,
With no place else to go--
As if my life had come full stop With nothing left to know.
Today I woke no little girl But someone not yet here--
As if I'd lost the faith to grow In God instead of fear.
Meet the Author
Celia Straus is an award-winning writer for print, film and video. Her awards include eight Cine Golden Eagles, six Tellys, three Ohio State Awards for Excellence in Children's Television and numerous other awards. She is a graduate of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, and earned an M.A. in English literature from Georgetown University. She has taught English and drama to high school and college students. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two daughters.
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