Searching for Prayerables

A few weeks ago I received a package from My Aunt Genie.  She included a few books that belonged to my grandmother, all full of underlining, and notes in my grandmother’s hand.  These little pieces of her are precious to us.  I picked up one of the books this week, a small paperback published in 1967 called “Prayerables.”  From the back cover:  What in the world is a “prayerable?”  Thomas a Kempis said that “if only your heart were right, then every created thing would be to you a mirror of life and a book of holy teaching.”  This then is a prayerable:  “An eternal truth and helpful insight for living, gleaned from the most ordinary events of the day.”  The book contains short meditations written by Irene Harrell, a “homemaker.”  They are short and sweet, brief stories from her days, and the ways that she has translated ordinary events into spiritual insights.

My grandmother’s name, written in cursive on the first page, and a line drawn across the top of each page in addition to color being added to the illustrations are evidence that she spent time with this little book.  And now, I find myself spending time with it too, only doubly touched by the messages within and my grandmother’s presence throughout.

I can’t say that I am good at finding the message or the meaning in the mundane, the everyday.  I am better at the big picture.  As far as the little events of the day go, I am not sure I can even form coherent thoughts about them, much less deepen them into meditations.

We went fossil hunting this afternoon, the only truly warm afternoon we are predicted to have this week.  Gabe and I found ourselves ahead of the others at one point, walking along the shore of the river.  We passed a man out with the same intention as us, to hunt for fossilized shark’s teeth, a man we’ve chatted with before.  He asked if we had found anything good, and since Gabe is very shy with strangers, I answered, “Nothing good, just a few small teeth.”  He smiled broadly and pulled a nice large tooth from his own bag and offered it to Gabe.  Not knowing better in that moment, Gabe refused the gift.  There is pride involved in hunting shark’s teeth for the older kids.  No one wants a tooth that he didn’t find on his own fair and square (I am almost positive that my other two older boys would have declined the gift as well for the same reason.)  Embarrassed, I told the man that I would love to have the tooth for Beatrix, my four year old.  He handed it to me and I thanked him, exclaiming over it’s beauty and his generosity.  He then headed on down the beach.  I gently explained to Gabriel that it isn’t polite to refuse a gift, even if you don’t want it.

I ran over to Beatrix and handed her the tooth telling her it was a gift from “that man walking down the beach.”  She was delighted, and I suggested that she go thank him (With the exception of Silas, Beatrix is my only outgoing child, unafraid to talk to anyone.)  She had to chase him down, but finally got his attention.  I couldn’t hear what she said, but saw her hold four fingers up in the air after a few seconds.  There were smiles, and then she was running happily back to me.

Later, as I walked with Jonny and explained what happened, I realized that so few situations are black and white, and it can be very hard to teach a child, even an older one, how to behave in unfamiliar social situations.  There are just too many variables.  As I told Jonny what I had said to Gabe, I began to worry that I had given him bad advice.  I was already doubting myself.  “Never refuse a gift” could be followed with many exceptions such as, “Never refuse a gift, unless it’s from a stranger who seems unsafe and is trying to lure you into their car with the gift.”  But saying that would just be confusing and maybe somewhat alarming.  Sometimes you just have to do your best, and then hope for the best.

I did find a “prayerable” today.  It’s pretty simple, but I think that’s the point.  As Jonny and I and the big boys all searched for the “next big find,” Beatrix exclaimed over every bit of “treasure” she came across:  a tiny shark’s tooth, or just a broken bit of a pretty shell.  She’s easily pleased;  not like the older kids and adults, always hoping to find something bigger, something better.  Beatrix can find something beautiful nearly everywhere she looks.  Four year olds can be great teachers, and the unintentional inspiration for “prayerables.”  My prayer is that I would always be able to find not only happiness and contentment in small things, but actual and sheer delight.


  1. Ginny, that book sounds so precious! I have several books from grandmother as well and my heart just melts seeing her handwriting in them….the little notes and bookmarks throughout, it makes it seem as if she is just around the corner. I think you were right to tell Gabe not to refuse a gift, unless of course you aren’t around. In that case, whatever you have taught him about strangers would apply. I’m never sure I’m right, I am just like you, saying something, teaching something to my kids, and then minutes later, questioning….questioning….I question and doubt myself a lot. I came to the conclusion last night, through God’s gentle teaching, that it’s true…I really can’t do this. I can’t raise these five kids well. I really can’t. That is, on my own. And I realized I think there is a lot of time that I try to do this in my own strength. So when I woke up this morning, I confessed I couldn’t do this on my own, and I asked Him for help today and for wisdom. And I just have to rely on Him. I’m not saying this because I think you need to hear it. It’s just what he’s teaching me. I know we all struggle in similar ways and we all want the same things. Love you.

  2. this is such a beautiful post it made my heart ache. and your photos, you have such an eye, and yes you do see the small things. love, lori

  3. Beautiful

  4. I love that your aunt sent you this book of your grandmothers. My grandmother was my rock, and I have a paperback copy of her TS Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” which is my all time favorite poetry book. I love reading her handwriting in the margins!

  5. Thank you for the reminder.

  6. went over to Abe Books and ordered an inexpensive copy of Prayerables. I love little gems like that!

  7. Your posts are little prayerables to me…..there is delight and awe in most every one! Some times we are just too close and too involved to separate that awe from the routine!! Hugs to you and your family!!!

  8. I so love 4! Our Zoe is definitely a great teacher of being satisfied with simple things and finding the beauty in everything. Lovely post!

  9. Oh….my idea of ‘Heaven’ – being by the shore and hunting for rocks (my daughter says I’m a ‘magpie’ *grin*)
    What wonderful family time you had! And what a wonderful gift for you to receive – your grandmother’s books!

  10. So funny that you say you’re not good at finding meaning in the mundane, I would say you are a master! Your blog is called “Small Things”, after all! I think you’re great at taking the small things and showing how they are beautiful and meaningful! xoxoxo

  11. Laura F. says:

    Ginny, your blog is my copy of “Prayerables”. Thanks for sharing with us.

  12. Hi Ginny. I love your website and blog. I wish you spoke more about your adopted son or shared pics of him also. As a mother of four adopted children I can relate. Perhaps he is shy or doesn’t like his picture taken. Godbless to you and your family.

    • Gabe is at that age where he doesn’t care for the camera at all, and I honor that, but there are lots of photos when he was younger! My three older boys, Gabe included, aren’t often the subject of posts here, simply because of their personal wishes. They all read the blog so I can’t get away with anything 🙂

  13. Awww Ginny, that situation sounds so awful! It would be so hard to explain the different social situations because you’re totally right, what if there is a time that he should refuse a gift? But I’m sure Gabe understands what you meant. And that was so good that Beatrix loved it so much. She is so amazing! All your kids are, it’s so fun to see their different personalities. But I agree that it would be so cool to be able to greet the world with sheer delight!

    The book from your grandmother sounds like such a treasure! I have a book of my mom’s that was her favorite and it just has her name in it, but it makes me so happy to see evidence of her, even in tiny ways.

  14. Please share some more wisdom from your treasure (“Prayerables”). I’m sure ebay’s lighting up with that search.

  15. Wow, awesome! And I think it’s so cool that you find shark’s teeth! I never knew you could do that!

  16. Wow, I must show this post to my Gabe. He went through a serious dinosaur phase (right after the space phase) and will be amazed that there is a beach where you can find fossil shark teeth. One of his treasures is the fossil shark tooth we bought him online as a birthday gift, but so much better to actually find one yourself.

    I would not worry too much as both you and your Gabe’s reactions seem eminently sensible. Sometimes there isn’t a right or wrong decision.

  17. Beautiful post Ginny. Beatrix is finding God everywhere she looks, and she is rejoicing, even if she does not fully understand that. Sadly, we grow older and think God is only in the big and the wow moments.

    Thank you for sharing a part of your day with us.
    blessings, jill

  18. Perhaps a good way to clarify gift receiving with Gabe, is to tell him that one should not refuse a gift unless someone wants something in return for it – as in, “I’ll give you this if you…..” A gift is freely given from kindness or generosity without any strings attached. If I’m with my younger kids when something is offered (no strings attached) and they are hesitant about accepting, I usually tell them, “It’s all right. You may take it.” The giver is not usually offended because they know how protective parents need to be.

  19. It was such a joy to read this post, almost like it was my own prayerable. Thank you for the reminder to find beauty in everything around me. Such beautiful words. You and your children are truly a treasure.

  20. Very well said. Oh and what a treasure you have in your grandmother’s book.

  21. that book sounds like something so many of us adults could use. so often we get caught up in life we forget how to really see it, roll around in it and enjoy it. having little children i think is such a blessing because that seems to be how they still live. in the moment, not worried about this and that, not worried how others think, just happy to be here and now. <3

  22. What a neat gift to have your grandmother’s books!

  23. What an inspirational post – thanks. One of the reasons I started blogging was to help me focus on the little treasures of life that oftenget pushed aside amongst the chaos of everyday living. Unfortunately I got all wrapped up in wanting my blog to be bright and colourful and interesting to everyone and, as is often the way I think with adults, it became something to worry about and lost its charm (which is why I am taking a blogging break at the moment!)

  24. Amen.

    I think that is one of the blessings of little children, to attempt to see the world through their eyes. All children for that matter, now come to think of it. We do what we can to see the world as they do, remember what it was like to be 4, 10, or even 18.

  25. Thank you for such a lovely post! I have recently retired and have been reflecting on the past and future and wondering if I have really used the gifts God has given me to make a difference in this world. I have been praying about goals for this part of my life and the concept of “prayerables” is something I need to pay attention to in order to move forward and be open to sharing my gifts in a new way.

  26. Elisabeth says:

    What a beautiful post! How wonderful to be touched by prayerables by multiple generations in your family.

  27. I ordered the book! I adore old books and the words of wisdom we find . Now that I am home against with 4 grandchildren these ” prayerables” will find a place in my day!

    The pictures are beautiful!

  28. what wonderful gifts you have been given! thank you for sharing…I treasure the things I have of my two Grandmother’s as well… it is wonderful to feel the connection to them…

  29. Love this! Thank you so much for sharing!!

  30. Prayables …..are often in the eyes of a small child….we need to be more like them and find pleasures in the “SMALL THINGS”, in life…..

  31. Giving and receiving gifts graciously, like compliments, is something that takes practice I think. I am sure the man did not think he was being rude, though I think you did right to teach a lesson in the moment. Next time he will know and be better able to navigate the situation. I am always worry in these moments that I am making my children feel bad. It is hard to teach a lesson and at the same time not feel like you’re hurting their spirit in some way, when they had no idea what they were doing was impolite or wrong. Often it just depends on the child too I guess as to how they take the correction. Tougher to be a parent in these little moments, I think.

  32. I love this post, Ginny. It brought tears to my eyes. I want to be like Beatrix, and I am trying daily to find the beauty in the little things and grow a heart of gratitude. What a treasure to have some of your Grandmother’s books! I have just one and it means a lot to me.

  33. I love the sentiments of this post. It reminds me of our New Year’s eve when we all discussed our New Year’s resolutions. My older children, my husband and I all had a number of resolutions for the year, very specific things but when we turned to Isabelle, our 4 year old, and asked what her resolution was she said “to have a Happy New Year”. At first we chuckled, thinking her resolution simply echoed the catchphrase of “wishing you a Happy New Year” and it was only the next day it occurred to me that she had said it better than all of us in that one simple wish. 🙂

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