Unanswered: A Prayer

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

~Garth Brooks

I wouldn’t say Garth Brooks is exactly a theologian, but I agree with him on this one point. Unanswered prayers are quite often blessings in disguise.

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For as long as I can remember, my son Joel has been my daily weatherman. Even as a five year old, he would look at the morning newspaper to find out the weather prediction. During his younger childhood days, he would watch the Weather Channel the way some grown men would watch ESPN.

During the winter of 2008-2009, all Joel wanted was for it to snow. At that point in his life, Joel had never really seen snow. Louisiana didn’t really offer many opportunities to get a snowfall either.  Still, Joel diligently prayed for snow every night starting around Halloween.

And then, the unexpected happened. Snow came to Louisiana. Close to five inches! But, it was two hours to our SOUTH. His cousins who lived two and a half hours to our south were building snowmen in the rare Louisiana snowfall, while all we saw that day was lots of typical Louisiana rain.

You can’t begin to imagine poor Joel’s disappointment. He was absolutely distraught. “Mom, I don’t understand why God won’t answer my prayer. What’s wrong with a little bit of snow? God can make it snow anywhere, so why won’t He make it snow here?

All I could do was give my son a hug and say, “I don’t know, Joel … but I know God heard your prayer and for some reason He didn’t answer it the way you hoped that He would.”

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Around the same time Joel was praying for snow, I was in the midst of a divorce. My husband had walked out on our 14 year marriage, leaving me and our three children for reasons I didn’t understand. I don’t know how many nights I cried into my pillow, praying for God to restore my marriage. While I never doubted God heard my prayer and was with me in the middle of the storm, I couldn’t understand at all why He wouldn’t answer my prayers of desperation.

A few nights after the unanswered prayer for snow, I tucked my younger son Nathan into bed. I sat on his bed, stroking his head and said, “So, Nathan … what should we pray about tonight.”

“Pray that Daddy won’t divorce you.”

Of course, my heart nearly broke all over again. The pain of that particular prayer request reminded me of how deeply my children hurt over the situation, and it was a pain I couldn’t spare them. It seemed like every day, at least one of my three kids was asking me to pray to God and ask Him to stop the divorce … and while this prayer echoed my own private prayers, deep down I knew the answer was not going to be what we were praying for.  Eventually my pleas to God turned to asking Him to protect my children’s hearts so that they would not grow bitter or turn away from God because He didn’t answer their prayers.

That night, I prayed with my boy, hoping God would answer us and somehow knowing the answer was not going to be what we wanted to hear. As we finished praying together, the most amazing thing happened.

Nathan said, “Mama, you know that God doesn’t always answer our prayers with a yes. Sometimes He says no. And when He says no, it’s okay … sometimes their is a reason for no.

I was kind of stunned to hear such wise words from my little guy. After all, he was only six years old. I patted his head, and said, “Nathan, that’s a very wise thing. Many adults don’t understand this, even though it is true.”

Nathan said, “Well, I learned it from a story I read. There was this girl named Amy Carmichael,  who was born a long time ago. She lived in Ireland. Everybody else in her family had blue eyes, but Amy had brown eyes. She prayed that God would change her eyes to blue because she wanted to look like everyone else in her family, but God said no and her eyes stayed brown. When Amy grew up, she became a missionary in India  … and you know what? She needed brown eyes to help the people there. She couldn’t have helped them if her eyes were blue because the people in India weren’t used to people with blue eyes. So when God told her no when she was a little girl, it was for an important reason.

As I kissed his sweet blond head and turned out the light, I wondered at God teaching me through my own little boy to trust Him even when it seemed like the only answer I was getting from my prayers was just unanswered prayers.

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There’s a lot of prayers in my life that haven’t been answered. The snow didn’t fall that winter. The divorce I didn’t want still happened. My passport remains unused.

So why does God say no? Why do some prayers go unanswered? Here are some basic reasons I think sometimes our prayers don’t get the answer we hope for:

1. A “yes” would bring us a harm we can’t foresee.

2. God has something far greater for us than what we are asking for.

3. God’s no is not a rejection of our request but rather a redirection.

4. God’s no may not be a punishment but perhaps a preparation for something different.

5. God’s no is an opportunity for us to have an adventure with God.

6.  Sin.  It’s true. Sometimes God doesn’t hear or answer our prayers because of our unconfessed sin and unrepentant hearts. (Psalm 66:18 is one verse that confirms this truth.)

It’s true. Sometimes God doesn’t answer the prayers of my heart. But oh, how many, many more prayers has God answered… simple prayers, deep prayers, unspoken prayers. His yes is always best.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. ~1 John 5:14

How has God answered prayers in your life? Which unanswered prayer has been the best no you ever received?

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

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Phone Calls to Heaven

Dad: Hello…

Me: Hey, Dad! Whatcha doin’ ?

Dad: Just talking to you on the phone.

Me: Seems like you were doing that the last time I called, too.

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This was the way 90% of the phone calls I made to my dad began.  It was our ritual and it played out often because I called my dad a lot.

I guess we must have averaged four or five phone calls a week, most of which lasted a good half-hour.  Perhaps you are wondering why I called home so much. Well, it wasn’t because I had so much important information to share with my father. Really, my life as a stay-at-home mom to five kids and two fosters isn’t that exciting. It’s really only rather mundane sort of stuff that goes on around here. (Obviously, if you read my blog often, you realize this is why I call it Tales From the Laundry Room. My life truly does revolved around a bunch of dirty laundry and hungry kids.)

Really, I just called home because I wanted to keep in touch with my parents … to find out what was going on with them and to chat about things going on in my home.

Regardless of the fact that I rarely had important or exciting news to share, my dad always had time to stop and listen. In fact, he seemed quite interested in hearing me ramble on about how my two teen boys eat me out of house and home, the ins and outs of trying to make my youngest memorize her multiplication tables, or how some days I feel like a taxi driver as I run my horde of kids hither, there and yon.

Sometimes Dad gave me advice. Other times he just empathized. But each and every time I talked to my father, I felt heard, understood, and encouraged.

I never felt like a bother. I never felt like a distraction or disturbance. It actually seemed as if he had nothing better to do than listen to me. In my heart, I know my Daddy enjoyed talking to me as much as I enjoyed talking to him.

And I miss it. I miss the crazy way we started off those chats. I miss knowing someone had the time to sit and listen. I miss hearing his rich laugh when I related some funny kid story or his gentle wisdom when I told about a small trial I faced in parenting.

Today marked a week since his passing, and all day long I’ve been trying to write this blog post. Of course, managing the activities of seven kids has kept me far from my computer much of the day, but when I did sit down at several points to write, I didn’t even know how to begin to say all that I feel or have felt in the past week. Such as:

~I’m proud to have been Malcolm Terry’s daughter. I couldn’t have asked for a better father. I’m grateful for the knowledge that he lives on eternally with God and for the hope of heaven during times like this.

~I’m overwhelmed at the outpouring of love from people in my hometown. Harrisonburg is a wonderful small community with a giant heart. I’m glad it’s where my dad chose to raise his family.

~I’m sad because my dad isn’t here on earth anymore and I’ll never hear his voice or laugh again. My children, all of them, have lost the only grandfather who was actively involved in their lives … and because my grandfather still lives, I feel a very deep sorrow knowing that they have lost this precious relationship at such young ages.

~I feel a little lost because for the first time in my life I have only one parent. Recently, someone shared with me that a parent is a lot like a life-line. When death cuts the tether, we feel as if we are drifting aimlessly. And yet, God is our anchor. He is our rock. In Him, life is stable  and sure and safe … even when the winds around us howl and the waves pound against us.

Somewhere in the middle of thinking about all those phone calls I made to my father over the years, and how I knew my Dad really did love those as much as me and wanted me to call to check in as often as I could, it came to me.  You see, God’s like that too.

God loves it when I check in with Him often throughout the day, just to talk about the big or little or relatively mundane parts of my life. He loves to listen, and always has time for me. Even a world crisis doesn’t keep Him from bending His ear my direction, or offering comforting words or providing me with wisdom, insight and gentle direction. Spending time praying to God isn’t a waste of my time any more than my frequent phone calls to my dad were a waste of time. In fact, I’m better off the more time I spend connecting with God!

I’m finding comfort tonight in remembering that while I may not be able to talk to my earthly father again on this side of heaven, my Heavenly Father is still available at any time, day or night … and that’s more than I can say for my dad.

He wasn’t at all fond of phone calls after bedtime.

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Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually. ~1 Chronicles 16:11 

A Prayer for America

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As a Christian, I believe in the power of prayer. As an American, I believe my nation is founded on the greatest principles, and though we have strayed so far from what our founding fathers envisioned, America still offers freedoms which I cherish. Today is the National Day of Prayer, and I’m joining thousands of other Christians in prayer for my country.

Today I am praying the following:

~forgiveness for Christians who are unwilling to stand up for what is right in the eyes of God, who are quick to compromise, and who are blissfully unaware of how our American culture is drifting ever farther from God’s truths

~forgiveness for our national greed, our skyrocketing debt, and our attitude of materialism

~a revival among Christians, with hearts returning to God with a love for His word and His truth

~guidance for our national and state leaders

~and mostly importantly, heal our nation … may God build His kingdom here, beginning in my heart and in my home, on my street, in my city, in my state and my nation.

I am praying. I hope you will pray for America today, too.

 

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ~2 Chronicles 7:14

 

 

M is for …

M is for Moving.

LetterM

When I married Jon Hamilton, I loved everything about him. Everything, that is, with the exception of his house. And that, I hated.  

So hate might be a strong word, but the truth is I had no pleasant feelings about this home other than for the man who owned it.  A white brick, ranch style home in an older subdivision, it was small and run-down. Jon had bought it with his ex-wife, chosen mainly for its location and school district.  It needed lots of minor repairs, but we lacked the funds and skills to pour into these projects.

The worst of it was the way all seven of us were packed into the small space, like sardines in a can. Two of the children slept in the formal living room, which we converted into a bedroom. The master bathroom was so small that you could turn on the faucet for the sink while standing in the shower. The kitchen was nothing more than a ridiculously tiny box, unable to hold more than one person at a time. I felt like I was performing a huge feat of engineering each time I entered to cook for our family of seven, which was at least three times a day nearly every day of the week.

I wanted to move, but Jon didn’t believe it was possible.  “Paige, we cannot sell this house. It’s got too many cosmetic flaws,” Jon would tell me anytime I asked about the possibility. Then he would launch into his list of 3,492 reasons why selling our home was practically impossible.

However, his pessimism didn’t stop me from praying about it. And frankly, I prayed about that house a lot. Sometimes, I even did more than pray … I would look at local houses on the web, wishing I could find a deal so amazing that even Jon could not refuse. Mostly, though, I just prayed.

One afternoon, I got a strange phone call from a realtor in the area. He admitted to me that his company had captured my information from their website, and he was just calling to see if I was perhaps looking to buy or sell a home. I answered that I wasn’t in the market to do either at this time, but he was a typical realtor and didn’t take no for an answer. After a brief conversation, the realtor asked if he could come talk with me in person.

“No,” I said. “you can’t come speak to me about seeing this house. Truthfully, it belongs to my husband, so you’ll need to speak with him. I will tell him you called and give him this number. If he is interested in pursuing the idea of selling further, then he will call you back. Otherwise, you can assume he isn’t interested at this time.”

When Jon came home that evening, I told him about my phone conversation, trying to give an air of disinterest. Jon didn’t buy my act for a second, and immediately began to work his way down the long list of reasons why we couldn’t sell our home. At some point, my eyes began to glaze over … at least until I noticed Jon was picking up his cell phone. The next thing I knew Jon was setting up an appointment for the realtor to come take a look at our home.

The following day, I watched in wonder as the realtor put up a For Sale sign in the front yard. “Don’t get in a rush,” he warned. “Older homes are harder to sell. I expect you’ve got at least 6 months, maybe longer, to wait.”

Less than 48 hours later, we were under a contract for a cash sell on our home.

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When God’s ready to move you, get ready to move …

unless He’s not ready to move you and in that case get ready to wait.

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All along I had figured selling our home would be the hard part. Finding a new one was sure to be easy. I was wrong.

For two months we house hunted. We must have looked at 25 homes, maybe more. Nothing in our price range seemed to fit our needs. And when we finally found a home that did, we rushed to put a contract on it only to discover that we didn’t qualify for the rural development loan as we had been assured.  

As we neared the closing date for selling our home, the only solution seemed to be accept an offer to rent our old home from it’s new owner.  Of course,  the rent was going to be nearly $200 higher than our mortgage. If I thought I hated that house before I sold it, now I really hated the idea of renting that house for a bigger cost. I felt bummed at the situation and irritated with God as I tried to figure out what He was up to doing in my life.

It wasn’t long before a friend called me insisting that Jon and I needed to check out a particular home. “Paige, every time I go visit my friends, the Bellards, I just see your family living in this home. It’s not on the market, but I know they are wanting to sell soon. Would you mind if I told my friend Renee about you and gave her your number?”  Still feeling defeated about house hunting, I agreed she could pass along our contact information.

A few days later, Jon and I found ourselves walking through the door of the Bellards home. It was a stone’s throw from our old home, situated in the exact part of town where we wanted to stay. There were four big bedrooms, two full baths and two half baths, and a nice-sized home office located away from the center of the house. The kitchen was spacious and open to the living areas. And the backyard was completely fenced in, with enough space for our dogs and kids to play. Despite being centrally located, the neighborhood was quiet. This house had everything we were hoping for … everything, that is, except the price.

Jon and I knew it would take an act of God for us to purchase this home. Yet, somehow we felt encouraged to consider it carefully as an option. We spent quite a bit of time looking at the house, and talking with the owners. As we were getting ready to leave, Renee pulled us aside and said, “I just wanted to pray with you before you left. Let’s both ask God for wisdom about whether or not we should proceed. If He’s in the deal, it will be the right outcome, but if He’s not in the deal it will go wrong from the start.

It’s the first and only time I’ve ever been involved in buying anything that the seller asked me to pray with me before I decided whether or not to make the purchase.

A day or so later, Renee contacted me and said that she and her husband had decided to reduce the price of the home by $15,000. Now the price of the Bellard’s home was sitting squarely within our price range. But there was another problem. There was no money for a down payment. We had been hoping for a rural development loan, but had discovered earlier we didn’t qualify because I owned another piece of property.

Once again, a mountain stood in our way. A mountain only God Himself could move. After several days of praying and talking, there seemed to be no solution but to call the Bellards and tell them about our predicament. “Perhaps,” Jon said, “they will give us a year to come up with the $7,000 we need for the down payment, seeing as they hadn’t even listed their house on the market yet.  Maybe we could try to sell your house in north Louisiana. Or we could save my annual bonus and combine it with next year’s tax refund to come up with the money. If they aren’t willing to wait,  we will just have to tell them we can’t buy the home.”

There was a rock at the bottom of my stomach. I did not want to talk with Renee about this issue and yet I knew it was what needed to be done. As I pulled out my cell phone to call Renee, I heard my own ringtone. It was Renee calling me!  I answered, “Renee! I was just about to give you a call.”

“Paige, whatever you have to tell me can wait. I need to tell you something first.”

“Okay. I’m listening,” I said.

“Well, we’ve been praying all weekend. Kerry and I are in agreement on this. We feel very strongly that God wants us to give you $7,000.”

How did she know? Jon and I had never told them the down payment was a problem or that it would be exactly $7,000 we would need in cash? I was stunned.

A month later, we moved into our new home … the home God Himself chose for our family.

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The God-story doesn’t end there. 

It wasn’t just a blessing for my family, it was a blessing for another family too …

actually two families that lived in Wisconsin.

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Exactly one week after moving, I left behind all the unpacked boxes to attend the Speak Up conference for Christian speakers, writers, and leaders. While there, I kept feeling a nudge from the Holy Spirit to talk to a particular lady.  I didn’t know her and had never met her, and yet over and over God pressed upon me to go speak to her. Mentally I bantered back and forth with God, arguing that I didn’t know what to talk about. I spent most of the weekend working to stay far enough away from this lady so as to give myself a convenient excuse for my disobedience.

Then on the last day of the conference, I saw her, sitting alone at a table, drinking a cup of coffee. Once again, I felt God urging me to go over and talk with her. After another short internal argument with the Lord, I decided the best thing for me to do would be to obey.  As I approached her and began to chit- chat about the conference, I could tell she didn’t really want to converse with me.

“See, God,” I said in my heart, “I told you this woman does not want to talk to me.”

“Ask her if you can sit down at the table.”

“What?”

“You heard me. Ask her if you can sit down.”

Grudgingly, I did … and to my surprise, she smiled and said she would love some company. As I pulled up my chair, I realized I didn’t have a clue of what I should say. I had already gone through all the polite conversation starters …weather, where she was from, children, etc.  This lady was not a big talker, and the last thing I wanted was a long, awkward silence.

And then I heard it, a loud whisper in my soul. “Tell her about your house.”

“Oh, come on! Really, Lord? You want me to tell a complete stranger about my house? I can promise you she does not want to hear about it.”

“Yes, she does.. Go on… tell her about how you got your house.”

“I really don’t want to. It’s obvious this woman has nothing to talk about with me, and I’m going to end up looking like a fool.”

“I’d rather you go ahead and obey Me, even if you do think you’ll look like a fool.”

“Okay … okay. I’ll do it.”

The next thing I knew,  my mouth opened and out began to pour the story of how Jon and I bought our new home. As I retold all the events of how my family was blessed with our new home, my new friend sat listening with rapt attention. Before I was done, she had begun to weep, tears streaming down her cheeks. I sat there silently, watching her cry, wondering what on earth was going on.

Looking up, she whispered, “You couldn’t have possibly known. Only God … He sent you to me. You see, I’m in the exact situation, only I’m the seller. I have a big old home, but my children are grown and gone. I’ve got my eye on this beautiful little log cabin. Really, it’s my dream home. I was wanting to sell quickly so that I could purchase it.  Last week my husband and I were approached by a young family  we know from church.  They have seven children, and live in a tiny house not too far from us. When they found out we were wanting to sell our home and downsize, they asked if we might consider selling to them.  However, they don’t have the down payment. They offered to pay half now and the other half in six months, if we are willing to wait on them to raise the money. To be honest, I didn’t want to wait, because doing so means I probably won’t be able to buy the log cabin I love so much. And yet, making that decision felt horrible. All weekend I’ve been conflicted as I’ve struggled to decide what to do, knowing when I go home tomorrow I would need to call and tell them what I had decided. Now I know … God wants me to bless them, just as your friends blessed you.”

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I’ve moved more than 15 times as an adult. While I don’t hate moving, it’s not exactly enjoyable either. Packing and unpacking, boxes piled upon boxes. I have to admit there is a part of me that never wants to move again. But if I do, I hope the Lord gives me another moving experience like this last one … one that has His fingerprints all over it, from beginning to end.

My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.

~ Isaiah 32:18