The Value In Never Giving 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.