When You’re A Part of Something More

part of something more

When we moved here almost a year ago, there was a certain sense of excitement and freedom.

We had lived in #littleapartmentontheprairie for two-and-a-half years, which was two years longer than we had planned. Moving out of there, of course, brought it’s own degree of freedom, but there was a restlessness I wasn’t aware I had.

I had a restlessness that could really only be tamed by living here. Continue reading “When You’re A Part of Something More”

His Voice In The Prairie

His Voice In The Prairie

It’s been a busy week in our Little Apartment On The Prairie. Brent was gone for several days celebrating the 40th birthday of his best friend (we love you, Eric!), and I had an insane schedule and a long list of responsibilities that needed my attention. The kids and I had fun together, but they also got to do something they don’t get to do often: watch television. Thank you, Puffin Rock, for allowing me to get a few things done when I was under a crunch for time.

Most importantly, though, we’ve been praying those “listening prayers”, seeking what God has in store for us, and how we’re supposed to follow Him.

We’ve been busy dreaming, planning, and simplifying here. We’ve cleared out a bunch of nonessentials we haven’t used in forever. Our Tupperware stash got a big makeover. I rearranged the contents of my kitchen cupboards (because, who doesn’t?), and we’ve been testing our strength in grocery frugality as I’ve been making, preserving, and storing more of our own food. (Side note: it’s one of the most empowering activities I’ve ever participated in!)

Today, even, I’ve been dehydrating fresh veggies into chips and crunchy snacks. Kids love crunch, and it’s a good way to get them to eat their veggies. Who doesn’t love crunchy, salty snacks? Admittedly, I can’t stand kale, but when it’s dry and sprinkled with salt, I eat it like candy. Thanks, food dehydrator!

dehydrating

I also joked earlier today about having to go out and take care of the crops… so I watered the sunflower our daughter planted in a pot and we placed on the patio. I watered the petunias and impatiens, too. Hard work over here.

sunflower

Truthfully, this is the kind of life I can’t wait to live full-time. Always doing what we can do on our own, always working to make things (taste) better, and putting sweat equity into our own simple pleasures. One day, “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”, we’ll have a big garden. We’ll have fruits and veggies we will can or dehydrate or eat straight from the vine (and don’t forget the pies. There will always be pies.).

One day both kids will be helping me in the kitchen as we sort our veggie chips and canned goods and fetch food from the pantry to create yet another home-grown feast.

One day I’ll do more than read my Little House On The Prairie Cookbook, and I’ll actually put the recipes to use.

For now, though, we’re enjoying our Little Apartment On The Prairie venture. We’re scaling back, getting rid of what we don’t use or need, and finding we use (and need) far less than what we had convinced ourselves of.

Save for a lapse yesterday when I was completely sapped of all physical and emotional strength after a fruitless trip downtown, we haven’t purchased fast food. And let me tell you – when you go forever without eating it, and then you eat it – you feel sick. Yesterday’s lapse was not worth the yuck.

And I know I don’t have to tell you this, but foregoing the convenience of fast food is not only better for your gut, it’s also better for your bank account.

We’re being more intentional, more resourceful, and more disciplined with our choices, decisions, and plans.

We’re listening, and we’re working toward one day having the life we want, be it a little house on the prairie, or a little house in the big woods. (Personally, I’m holding out for pine trees. This girl needs natural air freshener!)

God has been so gracious to us, and He’s revealed a lot to me about how much our stuff and lifestyle has been crowding Him out of the picture. He needs to be more, and our THINGS needs to be less. We can be and do so much when we trust in and rely on Him more. (And let me tell you, cutting out Facebook has been a tremendous push straight into His arms!)

If that’s the only thing we take away from our Little Apartment on the Prairie, it’s been worth the experience.

When it comes down to it, it’s not about doing this for ourselves. It’s about following Him and hearing what He needs us to understand. It’s about hearing His BIGGER voice on the big prairie. I just happen to really like His lesson plan in this season of life.

The Sweetest Sunday

Joan

Joan

Sunday we had our first thunderstorm of the year, and the rain pounded the pavement as it descended from the clouds. It turned dark outside and the street lights turned on even though it was the middle of the day. Our afternoon and evening plans may have been hampered, but not before we had an incredible morning.

It was a typical Sunday morning for us as we packed up and headed to church. I’ve started reading another book (this one on God speaking to us through dreams) and nestled into the pew to read it while the worship team rehearsed before service. I know I’m not alone when I sit in the middle of the auditorium reading, but in those moments before church starts and the worship team plays their music as I’m reading whatever current book I’ve got before me, it’s one of my happy places. It’s one of my solitary worship moments. This Sunday, though, I was feeling slightly oppressed.

I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I started praying, “What, Lord? Why do I feel this way?” I couldn’t discern it, even as I read my book on all the ways God has answered other people in their dreams and visions. At one point, close to starting time, I turned around.

Sitting in her wheelchair in the back was Joan. The wife of our adult discipleship pastor, she recently was diagnosed with ALS and her physical function has been deteriorating.

Joan is one of the sweetest – no – she is thee sweetest human being on earth. She’s cooked us meals, prayed for us, given us caring counsel in our trying times. Her heart beats true love for everyone she encounters. Since her diagnosis, she hasn’t been able to make it to church on Sunday. It’s been weeks, months even, since we’ve seen her.

And there she was, surrounded by people who wanted to let her know how happy they were to see her. It wasn’t until after church I got my chance.

As we were walking out, I snuck in and gave her a kiss on her cheek and a hug and told her I was so glad to see her, and I loved her.

She looked at me, smiling, and said, “Hi Miss Val! I prayed for you on the 10th.”

Even typing those words, I’m crying. My eyes welled up immediately. “Oh Joan, thank you…” I started. She continued speaking slowly making great effort on each word, “God is using you. You’re ministering to so many people. I know sometimes we wonder why He can’t use someone else. But He is using you. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

I chuckled as I hugged and kissed her again. Here she was, in her church home for the first time in months. I wanted to show her love and appreciation and she was ministering to me. I couldn’t speak. “You’re a tender heart. Tender heart.” she said.

“I love you, Joan. And I won’t stop praying for you.” I managed to say. I started the morning feeling funky, as we say, but I ended it feeling humbled and honored. There was no oppressive feeling as I walked out of the doors of church.

This year was the first year I’ve felt I’ve been able to process things about losing Harlynn. The first year, I was in the hospital doped up on magnesium, stopping Little Man’s labor. The second year, I was working for several clients with several deadlines and had an 11 month old, and had about a 24-hour window to work through the emotions I needed to. This year, the anniversary of her death fell over a weekend. I was home, with my family, and able to work through and feel completely, everything I needed to. It was a tremendously different experience, and one I so desperately needed.

Working up to it, however, I was anxious. I wasn’t sure how I would feel or act. I wasn’t sure what the weekend had in store for me. I requested prayer each week leading up to the 10th, that we would handle it well. That we would be a good witness. That we could do what we needed to in grace. And Joan, from her heart and home, was praying for us. Everything she has been facing and dealing with, she went before God for us.

I love that woman. She’s helped us and nurtured us in so many ways, I’d never be able to repay her if I tried. I love her, and I won’t stop praying for her.

Her prayers were answered for us, I’m sure. I can’t cook as well and I’m not even half as sweet as her, but I can do one thing with confidence: I can pray for her.

And I’d love it if you would pray for her, too.

Pray Anyway

Pray Anyway

Pray Anyway

It was not long after we lost Harlynn when I got the call.

Losing her changed a lot about me. There was a time when I wanted nothing more than to talk to people – actually talk to them – on the phone. Now, even still, sometimes I hear it ring and my stomach drops. What do they want? Sometimes, with my hearing loss, I don’t hear my phone ringing. This particular day I did, however.

I answered, hesitantly.

It was a friend of mine who was going through an incredibly rough time and intense personal struggle. I’ll never forget the words she said, “I know you’re a prayer warrior. I know He hears you.”

Internally, I scoffed. It had been weeks since I could muster up enough energy to even pretend to pray. I was wrestling with God continually after my daughter died, and the thought of turning to Him when I had felt so abandoned was almost laughable to me.

I felt like no prayer warrior. I certainly didn’t feel like He heard me. Yet here she was, desperate for me to pray over her situation, waiting on the other end of the line.

I stammered, trying to excuse myself out of this call of duty. I wanted her to understand I was in no mindset to call on the power of Jesus. She would have none of it.

I was humbled. And maybe a little bothered. In one of my lowest points in life, why was I being called on to rally the heavenly hosts for other people? I tucked my bruised ego away, and started to pray for her, over the phone.

It was the first time I’d prayed – really prayed – other than the guttural cries of my heart and soul after Harlynn died. At one point I thought to myself, “How am I still talking?” and realized it wasn’t really me who was praying, but God was saying and moving words from my mouth, to her ears, to His throne.

Eventually we got off the phone, but those words still ring in my ears today. “I know you’re a prayer warrior. I know He hears you.”

I still don’t know what she witnessed or understood that would lead her to believe that. I’ll have to ask her the next time I talk to her. Over the last three years, though, I’ve learned just how important – and powerful – prayer is. Even when I’ve wanted to do anything but talk to God, it’s the only thing that has brought results.

I can’t do anything apart from God or His power. But in Him and with His power, I can do anything. And I have.

I’ve prayed healing over others. Over myself even. I nearly freaked myself out when I’d been dealing with a skin irritation for months and finally thought to pray about it – and the next morning I woke up to no trace of it whatsoever.

I’ve prayed over broken relationships. I’ve prayed over broken hearts. I’ve prayed over meetings and tough conversations that have had to take place. I had a dear friend come up to me, sobbing, and couldn’t even ask me what to pray for. I just started praying, and she later told me it was exactly what she needed prayer for.

None of my prayers are powerful on their own. None of them are answered because I demand it so.

Prayer is a partnership. And it’s not one to be taken lightly.

I don’t know what makes me a prayer warrior now, other than actually praying. Even when I don’t feel like it.

After we moved to Fargo, my prayer life wavered greatly. The struggles in our marriage and in our new home created canyons of distance between me and my God. After Little Miss came two months prematurely, my prayers came back with rapid-fire urgency. When Harlynn died, I felt like I didn’t know how to pray. The thought of crying out to God and calling him Father after I lost my child felt foreign. I couldn’t do it.

Prayer is the only guaranteed communication I have with God, though. These years later I see that. For what we’ve walked through and been carried through, I know my only defense against the darkness of this world is to remain in constant communication with Him. I started to be intentional. First I wrote my prayers because I couldn’t bring myself to speak them. Now, I find myself praying throughout the day. Out loud. Silently. While I’m driving. While I’m working. While I’m sitting still. While I’m snuggling my kids. When I’m at the cemetery.

He hears you. You have to listen. Some prayers take years to be answered. The important thing is to keep praying, even when you don’t understand why, or aren’t sure it’s working.

There’s no time or place prayer is not appropriate. The next time you see me, I might be praying. I might even be praying for you. I pray all the time, because I know prayer works. Even (and especially) when I don’t feel like it, I pray anyway.

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.

You Have To Listen

Listen

You Have To Listen

There have been several occasions the Lord has brought someone to mind, and I sense in my spirit I’m supposed to drop everything I’m doing in that moment and pray for the person. Sometimes I have no idea what I’m praying for, or why that person has come to mind. I only know I’m to pray for them right then.

One night in 2004 or 2005, I was lying in bed praying for a member of my extended family. As I was praying, I felt a physical weight start to press me into my mattress and the name of another person appeared to me. I hadn’t seen, heard from, or spoken to this person in several years. I had no idea of their whereabouts, circumstances, or anything else about them. All I knew was I needed to pray for them. Right then.

As I started to pray, the weight grew heavier, and I sunk deeper into my mattress. Whatever was going on needed URGENT prayer. I started praying fervently for this person, focusing all of my strength and energy on their safety, protection, and healing. I didn’t know what else to do. I was almost frantic in my prayer for them. As I kept praying, the pressure lifted, then was gone.

I’ve never experienced anything quite like that since, though God has absolutely moved me to pray for specific people at specific times.

It’s been about 12 years since I prayed that urgent prayer, and I still have no idea why, what happened, or what the result was. I didn’t need to know any of that, though. I just needed to know enough to realize God was calling me to pray for them at that very moment.

Usually when I sense God’s direction to pray for someone or something specific, it’s not an especially comfortable situation for me. Once after a speaker shared with a group of women, I felt God calling me to pray for the speaker right there. I didn’t want to, though, because I didn’t want anyone to think I was trying to be super-religious during the event. It made me sick to my stomach, but I stood up and asked if I could pray over her right then. Because I knew I needed to.

Another time, still, I was at a women’s retreat. A dear friend had been having a rough go of it. I knew about 10% of what she was dealing with emotionally. During a lunch break, she was sitting down at a table, laughing and talking with others. I was doing my awkward thing and standing, turning in slow circles, trying to figure out where to go and what to do. I’m pretty much horrible at interactions in large group settings.

I stood there, slowly spinning, half smiling trying to look inconspicuous. During one of my rotations, I saw her sitting and enjoying her meal and conversation.

“Go pray for her.”

I heard it as if Jesus was standing right next to me, telling me what to do. Subconsciously I argued back, But she’s fine. She’s enjoying herself, she’s in the middle of a conversation, I don’t think I need to g—

“Go pray for her.”

Alrighty then.

I walked over, and in all my awkward suaveness, bent down while she was seated, put one hand on her arm, and one hand around her back, resting upon her head. I started to pray in her ear.

I didn’t say, “Hey, I feel like the Lord is telling me to pray for you, so can I do that now?” Nope. Queen Awkward here just grabs people and starts talking in their ear, calling on the Holy of Holies in the middle of their bite of breadstick. That’s how I roll. Thankfully this friend loves and trusts me, and was not at all weirded out by it. At least I don’t think she was.

After I was done, I gave her a little squeeze, turned, and walked away. I didn’t even stick around to ask her what was going on, or if she was okay. I just left. Awkward entrance, call on the power of prayer, awkward exit.

It was months later, we were seated together in a restaurant at an impromptu mom’s night out gathering. She started to tell me the story of the day I prayed for her.

She has dealt with chronic, debilitating headaches. Sometimes they make her so sick, she can’t move. She had started to get one that day and was going to have to leave early. She didn’t want to drive back by herself before it got so bad she wouldn’t be able to operate a vehicle. These headaches have been an ever-present struggle in her life for years. She’s seen doctor after doctor, and has yet to find permanent relief.

Sitting there at the table, while I was arguing with God about praying over her, her headache had intensified. I walked over and placed one hand on her head, having no idea she was under such physical duress. As I prayed for her, her head stopped hurting. She felt immediate relief. She had never experienced that before.

As she told me this, I started crying. In a restaurant. Because that’s what I do. But I was humbled and awed the Lord would prompt me to act in His power for her interests. I’m an awkward, sarcastic woman, yet He chose me in that moment to help her.

I don’t always know the reason I’m called to pray for something or someone specific. I sometimes don’t ever learn the results or the purpose of the prayers I pray. But I know enough to trust when I’m prompted to, I need to be obedient and pray them.

He hears us, absolutely. It’s also so important for us to pay attention and hear Him. He’ll tell us exactly what we need to pray, we just have to listen.

He Hears You

Hears Prayers

Eons ago when I waited tables, I met a friend who made an incredible impact in my life. She was intelligent, determined, motivated, and hilarious. It was her sense of humor I admired first, but her drive and persistence are what I ended up admiring most.

I don’t remember talking about my faith while working at the restaurant, but maybe I did. I know when my favorite cook had to have surgery, he nervously asked me if I would “say some of [my] special prayers” for him.

I didn’t approach anyone about my faith, but I was always open to talking about it if I was approached. Other than a few prayer requests being fed my way, that angle didn’t prove entirely fruitful.

Until one night.

This girlfriend of mine came to work excited to tell me something. With a smile as big as the sun is bright across her face, she pulled me aside and said, “I prayed today.”

I feigned total shock and disbelief. But inside, my heart started to beat a little faster. She was not a believer, and often told me she had a hard time understanding why I believed as I did. To hear her admit she had prayed was quite a big deal.

She went on to tell me the rest of her story. In addition to working part-time at the restaurant, she worked part-time managing a liquor store. We had been trying to get our finances in order and I had introduced her to Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. Not only did she adopt the financial principles of the book, but she started to do way better than my husband and I at eliminating her debt and making wise financial decisions. I was in awe of her, really.

She had one major hurdle left, and it was something she was struggling with personally, as well as financially. She had to sell her jeep.

It was eating at her because it wasn’t selling. She was completely determined to gain financial freedom, but she couldn’t if she couldn’t sell her jeep.

That day at work in the liquor store, she reached a breaking point of sorts. She told me she leaned her head up against a case of beer on a shelf and prayed, “If you’re real, if you’re up there, help me sell my  jeep.”

I don’t recommend offering God ultimatums. I don’t even know how I feel about “prove you’re real” prayers, because of all I know about God, and all He has done to already prove not only His existence, but His love for us. But my friend wasn’t in the same spot as me. And for the first time in her entire life, she let her personal guard down enough to utter those words.

I tried to be encouraging at that point in her story. “I’m so glad you finally felt like you could pray!” I said. “Wait,” she interrupted, “I’m not done.”

She went on to tell me less than an hour later, a gentleman walked in and asked her about her jeep.

And bought it.

I couldn’t believe it. I stood there with my mouth open like a fish out of water and stammered for something wise and poignant to say. All I could rustle up was a big, hearty, “Wow!”

She was so excited, she was nearly jumping up and down in the hallway. She was excited she had sold her jeep, of course, but beyond that, she was excited that He had heard her, and answered. She was excited something she had resisted for so long was something she could finally embrace.

I did the happy dance with her. I was excited for weeks to come afterward. I thought the deal had been sealed.

I never talked with her anymore about it. I never prayed with her. I never asked her if she had questions, or what she was curious about. And she never came to me to discuss faith beyond that one experience.

She had a tremendous answer to a tremendous prayer, and she she didn’t allow herself to move to tremendous faith.

But I didn’t nurture it in any way either. God answered her prayer, and I stood on the sidelines and cheered. When another difficulty in her life reared it’s head, I asked her, “Have you prayed about it?” She made a face and said, “no, no, no, no, no….” as she shook her head. She didn’t believe in it anymore. “But your jeep!” I protested.

It was too late. She had chalked it all up to mere coincidence.

We moved away and so did she, and eventually we lost touch with one another, but I think about her all the time. I pray she finds her way back to that miraculous moment. The truth is, friends, He does hear you. He may not answer you in an hour’s time after that first utterance, but He hears you. And He believes in you way more than you’ll ever be able to believe in Him. He created you, He designed you, and He wants to rescue you.

I have so many stories. I want to share them all. Consider this a part one.

Don’t be afraid to pray, and don’t dismiss the answers that come as mere coincidence. He hears you.

Even If He Does Not

This past November, our senior pastor delivered one of those sermons you have a hard time swallowing. Not because of shady principles, or heresy, but because it’s hard to chew up a truth bomb that big.

He spoke on the passage in Daniel when King Nebuchadnezzar was going to toss Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego into the “blazing furnace”. They replied to the king, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Even if he does not.

Gulp.

Even if he

It was many, many months once those initial weeks had passed after we lost Harlynn before I was able to really pray again. I felt like I wasn’t heard. My prayers weren’t answered. God definitely “did not”. In my own hurt and heartache, I had to process a lot of things in a new way. It was painful to think I went around declaring miracles for other people and yet one was overlooked for me.

It still stings sometimes.

I remember several years ago, one of our hometown heroes was in a bad accident and life-flighted to another hospital. I remember getting angry with the people from back home for not believing God would heal him, or save him. Everyone’s report was hopeless. I prayed earnestly God would save him, because I knew He could. I knew He would. Then, the man died.

I was crushed.

Here I had been upset with other people for anticipating death when a miracle was in order, then death overcame. Were my prayers not enough? Did God not hear my pleas? I was rattled, to be sure. Then, when the doctor told us Harlynn’s heart had stopped beating, I gave up on praying prayers of faith. My faith was obviously being overlooked.

When Pastor Glen started in on this passage, I remembered the Bible story I’d heard as a child. These three refused to worship King Nebuchadnezzar, and were thrown into the furnace of fire to die as a result. They were not only saved, but didn’t even smell like smoke when they emerged from the furnace. Our children’s version skipped over this declaration from the three men. “But even if he does not….

Even if he does not, God is still able.

Even if he does not, God is still sovereign.

Even if he does not, God is still a God of miracles.

Even if he does not…I will still believe. I will still be faithful. I will still devote myself to Him. I started praying in faith again.

This past Monday, an old high school buddy was in a life threatening automobile accident. Driving to work on Monday morning, he was t-boned, suffered a traumatic brain injury, multiple other injuries, and was life-flighted to another hospital….to die. The outcome was bleak. Another hometown hero, not going to make it.

When I heard the news, I went to my room and began to pray. The first few verses of Psalm 41 are my go-to when someone needs miraculous healing. I read the verses, I put Joel’s name in and claimed those truths over him. I cried. I prayed. I believed God would heal him. “But even if he does not,” I also believed everything for Joel’s family had already been taken care of.

My best friend, Tiff, called me to tell me the update. It wasn’t good. There on the phone, I began to pray – to beg God – for Joel’s restoration.

Joel, right now, is sitting in his hospital room, talking to loved ones. He recognizes them. He’s speaking. He’s breathing on his own. He came back from the brink of death.

Joel is living testament we still serve a God of miracles. I couldn’t be happier. For Joel, for his family, for his friends – my heart is just full of awe and wonder and amazement at where he is today compared to what we were hearing of him one week ago.

And tomorrow, my own Little Man faces a big appointment. He goes in for one final ABR before his hearing aids. However, at his last appointment, after several prayers for total healing for him, he was (unofficially) downgraded from a moderate-to-severe (implication on the severe) hearing loss to a mild-to-moderate loss. I’m believing that was only a phase in his process to total restoration of his hearing. I’m believing his hearing will be completely and miraculously restored. I’m praying we can forego hearing aids altogether.

But even if he does not….I will still believe God performed a miracle in my son. I will still believe God has many more miracles in store. I will still believe Little Man’s hearing will be completely restored one day.

Even if we do not get the miracle we ask for, in the way we ask for it, I will still believe God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is still a God of miracles. I’ve seen enough of them to know it to be true. I will continue to pray for miracles.

And even if he does not….He already has.

A Mama’s Prayer

This morning, I spoke at a “tea and testimony” event for a Mom’s group at church. I love public speaking, but there’s something about sharing my personal testimony that makes me uneasy. How much of my life do I share, and what is relevant to my spiritual walk, and if people really know the mess I was before I became the mess I am now, will I have any credibility?

On the drive to the church building, I rehearsed the few details I would divulge. I hyped myself up and felt like I was totally prepared.

I was wrong.

When I stood at the podium, everything I’d rehearsed completely  left my mind. I started sharing things I had no intention of sharing, and couldn’t stop the words coming out of my mouth. Trial after trial came spewing out, and I was headed down a fast-talker’s path of no return. Some things I shared today, I had completely forgotten about until I shared them. And the kicker? I can’t tell you 90% of what I said during today’s verbal vomit. I have no idea. I stood up to speak and God said, “I’ll take over from here, Val…” and my story was just a vessel for his purpose.

I was moved by my own story. As conceited as it may sound, when it was all out on the table, I realized how amazingly faithful God has been in my life through every kind of suffering. Every victory. Every hurdle. Every triumph. My life changed 1,000 times, but He never did. My path took 1,000 different directions, but He stayed firm. My choices could have led me to 1,000 different deaths, but He restored, rescued, and renewed me time and time again.

After this morning, it doesn’t feel uncomfortable to show my battle scars or even rip the bandages off my still-healing wounds. I no longer find it awkward to admit I’ve been broken time and time again. And in that brokenness, He is still completely capable of piecing me back together.

I came home this evening from leading a painting party and helped get Little Miss ready for bed. Little Man had already been tucked away in his crib. We said bedtime prayers, and Little Miss gave me good night kisses.

A Mama's Prayer (1)

I went across the hall to Little Man’s room to make sure he hadn’t strayed too far from his blanket, and carefully covered him up. I kissed his forehead, and began to pray over both our kids. Recounting the struggles of my youth today gave me a new perspective on the lives of my own children. I would give anything to prevent them from making the same mistakes I did, but I know the days will come soon, and be many, where they’ll do the wrong thing. It’s part of growing up.

As I know they’ll make mistakes, fail to think things through, or even to realize the consequences for their own actions, I can’t let fear of the “what ifs” or even of what I know to be true from my own experiences, hold me back from enjoying who they are right now, or from how I get to be a part of their lives this very day.

I reached over the crib rail and placed my hand on Little Man’s sweet little shoulder. I prayed for God’s provision for my children. That just as He has never left me, He would continually be by their side, providing for their greatest needs. Not just their needs, but allowing them to pour into the needs of those around them. Give them an eye for the suffering or those who lack what they can support, and give them the heart and provisions to care for themselves and others.

I prayed for God’s protection over my children. Not just from physical harm or ailment, but from spiritual deflections, peer bullies, evil, and deception. I have been deceived, played, and toyed with as a result of the selfish plans and desires of others. And let’s not overlook the selfish desires and plans of my own. I put myself in harm’s way far more often than necessary, and it’s quite by God’s protection I’m still here today. I prayed He would protect my kids, and not just in the way of physical security, but in the way that they would guard their heart against sin, and their desires would be worthy of pursuing.

I prayed His promises over my kids. The promises spoken in scripture are as true today as they were the day they were written down. I prayed my children would impress those upon their hearts – far earlier than I ever did – and live their life to realize the weight His promises carry. So much of my life was spent searching for the wrongdoing of others, so I could justify what I was doing “right”. I had no idea what God had promised for me, because I was focused on what was promised for those who didn’t know Him. I was focused on avoiding hell, rather than pursuing Christ. I missed out on so much joy. So much hope. So much freedom. I prayed my children would carve those promises on their hearts, and remember them daily. No matter what they face or have to wade through in life, God has made promises for and to them.

One thing I’m learning on a continual basis, is how our story really has very little to do with ourselves. Our story has to do with the One who writes it. My life, my trials, and my experiences are all part of who I am and who I’ve become. They’re also all part of who He’s allowed me to be, so I could realize His power and how He’s carried me along every step of the way.

I prayed my kids, one day when they’re asked to share their testimony, will realize it’s not their story they’re telling. It’s His.