The Value In Never Giving Up

never give up

never give up

I’ve never really been a kid-person. With the exception of my own, of course, I’m not really wired to fawn over children. There are always exceptions to the rule, and over the years there have been many kids who have nestled their way into the folds of my heart. These kids I’m about to tell you about were – and are – more special to me than any could be, aside from the ones I’ve birthed.

I worked with their mom at the western clothing store. It’s a funny story about how we didn’t like each other and ended up best friends, but that will have to wait for another day. When I met her, she was a single mom with two kids. Shelby was the oldest at the ripe old age of seven. Tyler, the youngest, was two.

Eventually, my friend ended up married and in bowling league with her then-husband. I babysat the kids every week at the charge of being allowed to do my laundry at their house rather than in the coin-operated machines at my apartment complex. Every week was three loads: whites, colors, and jeans/towels. More than having the chance to do my laundry, though, was the chance to spend time with these kids. They stole my heart.

Shelby was sharp. She was athletic, smart, and the most compassionate soul I had ever encountered. Tyler was a charmer. I was his “girlfriend” and he was very protective of me. He told his mom he was saving money to buy a motorcycle so he could take me on rides. I treated him to nights at the rodeo. I would treat the kids to Dairy Queen for treats sometimes, and they even spent the night at my house a time or two, always with a pancake breakfast the next morning. I loved these kids as if they were my own.

I always wanted to take them to church, and for a few times I could. At the urging of my friend’s husband, however, I had to stop taking them with me.

Along came their younger brother, Jonathan. I was just as smitten over him as I was his older siblings. I held him in the hospital hours after he’d been born. I snuggled with him and made his brother – my little boyfriend – a tish jealous. He was a real lover, and here these three kids completely owned me. I would have given them anything, but all I could give them was my time, and my prayers.

As the years went on, so did the struggles their family faced. Every day, I prayed for these kids. I prayed for my friend. I prayed for their lives. One day at lunch with my friend she told me, “I believe in God, but it’s not like I’m going to live out the Bible word for word or anything.” My heart sank. That answer told me she didn’t really believe, or at the very least, she didn’t believe there was anything worth being accountable for. I had to keep praying. I couldn’t give up.

Shortly after we moved away, I had a terrible dream about the kids, my friend, and her husband. I emailed one of my dear, trusted pastor friends about it as I knew he had been gifted in translating dreams before. He shed some light on my dream, and it was as scary as it had seemed. What it boiled down to was this: I was fighting a spiritual battle for these kids. Prayer was my strongest weapon against everything life flung at them, and I couldn’t relent or retreat. Their mom, my friend, needed my prayers just as desperately, but she didn’t see the situation as dire, and would take her time in coming to safety.

One day at work, after we’d lived here for a few years, I got an email from my best friend, Tiff. She had just served at a Chrysalis weekend, and had a rockstar, completely faithful helper all weekend. She couldn’t believe the faith and compassion of this person and she was inspired and grateful to have served alongside her. She said in her email, “Val, it was Shelby.”

My eyes welled up with tears. Oh, God. Oh thank you, God… Eventually I couldn’t keep the tears from falling and had to excuse myself from my desk. I walked to a private room and called Tiff to ask her more about it, and hear with my own ears.

I had been praying for Shelby for ten years. Ten years, and my friend was calling me to tell me how this little girl who meant the world to me, now nearly a grown woman, was steadfast in Christ.

Ten. Years. I didn’t give up on praying for them. And I’m so thankful.

I still remember the feeling I had when I read that email. I had prayed for so long, I didn’t believe it was possible for it to have been answered. It felt like such a long journey, I couldn’t wrap my mind around it having a result.

Fast forward a few more years, and Shelby’s mom – my dear friend – suddenly was posting scriptures on social media. Not only that, but proclaiming Jesus as Lord of her life. Shamelessly. Posting pictures of her reading her Bible as the sun rose.

Oh, God. Oh thank you, God.

The kids are grown and Shelby’s married now. They’re not the three little munchkins I would tote around to rodeos and ice cream shops. I don’t know what God still has in store for them, but I know – and am thankful – He holds them in the palms of His hands. And now, they have their mama on the front lines in prayer for them, too.

Oh, God. Oh thank you, God.

Don’t ever give up on the power of prayer. Don’t ever give up.

When The World Says “You Can’t”

You guys. This. Sometimes I sit down to read my Bible and no matter how many times I’ve read the passage before, it suddenly comes to life and speaks to me so very powerfully. That was the case with what I’m about to share with you. Some of this will probably end up in my book (that I’m stuck on, but still trying to plug away at ~ prayers and encouragement appreciated), but it was such a poignant illustration, I thought some of you may benefit from reading it today.

You Can't

First, the back story:

King Hezekiah. Ever heard of him? He became King of Jerusalem when he was 25 years old, and reigned for 29 years. He restored the temple in Jerusalem and led his kingdom under the will of God.

The king of Assyria, whose name I won’t try to pronounce but am more than happy to type out for you, King Sennacherib, invaded Judah and intended to make war with Jerusalem as well. This, obviously, didn’t sit well with King Hezzie, so he cut off the water to the land, making sure the Assyrians didn’t have any.

Hezekiah then encouraged his men by saying, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” A-to-the-men, Hezekiah. But it gets more involved.

Sennacherib sent a messenger to Jerusalem to have a word with Hezekiah and his people. This messenger taunted Hezekiah and his people. “On what are you basing this confidence of yours?” He goes on taunting them saying, “When Hezekiah says, ‘The Lord our God will save us from the hand of the king of Assyria,’ he is misleading you, to let you die of hunger and thirst.”

Say what, messenger man?! Oh, but his words get darker and more divisive.

He continues on, “Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of the other lands? Were the gods of those nations ever able to deliver their land from my hand? Who of all the gods of these nations that my fathers destroyed has been able to save his people from me? How then can your god deliver you from my hand? Now do not let Hezekiah deceive you and mislead you like this. Do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or the hand of my fathers. How much less will your god deliver you from my hand!”

Sennacherib had, in fact, annihilated every other nation he rose against. He was on a warpath that favored him greatly, and dared the God of Hezekiah to save him and make his story different from every other nation he went up against.

And that’s exactly what God did. Hezekiah called out to God after Sennacherib’s threat, and was reassured God was for him. Sennacherib’s army was laid out in one night by an angel of the Lord, and the king himself was put to death by his own sons. God had absolutely delivered Hezekiah – and all of Jerusalem – from the hands of this wicked warrior.

(Passages from 2 Chronicles 29-31 & Isaiah 36-37)

Sennacherib tried to shake the very core of Hezekiah and his kingdom. He called their faith into question. Publicly. He decried against any help they sought. He denied them hope. He denied them victory. Or so he tried to.

What are you facing right now that threatens to overpower you? What lies are worming their way into your heart, causing you to doubt or question your strength and power in the God who created you? What is the devil taunting you with? What is the enemy talking about saying, “you can’t”?

Look at these marriages failing! What makes you think your marriage will survive? You’re no better of a couple than anyone else, and God didn’t really join you together – you did that on your own and were destined to fail anyway.

You’re so inadequate! You had all these plans and aspirations, but you’re dreaming way too big! No one in your family amounted to anything, because it’s just not possible! You’re a chip off the old block, and you’re destined for average whether you like it or not!

You can’t accomplish anything in life because of your past! Everything you did back then will follow you for the rest of time! Every wrong choice you made discounted your worth, and no one will want to have anything to do with you if you try to rise above it and pretend like you’re a better person today than you were back then!

Friends. Stop listening to the enemy. As he taunts you from behind his lies, do not waver in your faith. He may have won a battle here and there, but your God has already overcome and claimed victory.

You serve a God bigger than any mistake you’ve made. You serve a God bigger than any hurdle you’ve come across in life. You serve a God bigger than any enemy you face.

When the world (or the enemy) says you can’t, you remember you serve a God who says, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

With God all things are possible.

Whatever you’re facing, whatever you’re battling, whatever is choking the confidence, strength, and power out of you – your God cares. Your God loves you. Your God will fight for you. And He has already won.