There’s an acute heaviness in our world and the problems around us are so big, I easily feel helpless and like my prayers can’t even begin to make a difference. Can anyone else relate? So often when I do pray, I feel deeply conflicted. How can I pray for peace, for the safety of millions of refugees around the world, and then in the same moment pray for my struggles that seem so insignificant and trivial? I so often find myself praying for another person or situation, and then saying to God “if it has to be me or them, heal them God.” But this is GOD I’m talking to! The God who says, “Come to me, ALL of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
Just yesterday I was again deeply convicted by a call to prayer that I read in Dr. Denison’s Daily Article (which I highly recommend signing up for). https://www.denisonforum.org/daily-article/putin-puts-nuclear-forces-on-high-alert-the-latest-from-ukraine-and-a-biblical-call-to-courage/Our prayers matter. Our prayers change things. Our prayers move mountains. Our prayers bring protection, they bring healing…they bring peace! It made me go back and read my account of what God did last Fall amidst the crisis in Haiti…yet another miracle that happened amidst this stormy season. And my prayer is that as you read this, you will be convicted to pray for Ukraine, for Russia, for our world…with renewed fervency, renewed faith…and renewed expectancy at what God can and will do with your prayers!!
As most of you know, I had to leave my home in Florida quite suddenly the end of May when my health issues became so severe that I could not longer work or live alone, and I went to stay with my parents in Massachusetts to be near the laundry list of specialists I needed to see, and so they could help care for me. It took 5 months and a team of specialists in Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Maryland, Florida and California to finally diagnose the rare and complex issues I’m dealing with, and to put together a treatment plan. The first of which was a tethered spinal cord release surgery in Providence on Nov 17. I had a one week window of time in October between my pre-surgical clearance appointment in Massachusetts and my pre-operative appointment in Providence, and I flew back home to Florida for the first time since leaving in May, to get some winter clothes, tend to some things at my house (that my sister was so faithfully taking care of), and spend some precious time with my family there. The whole trip happened so quickly and last minute that no one knew I was in Florida besides my immediate family.
I arrived in Tampa, greeted by my sister and niece with flowers and hugs and kisses. And then the eerie stillness of my home…everything just as I left it, longing to be lived in once again, yet my knowing that it would still be several months until I’d be back home for good. I never told anyone this wish, but ever since I had to go stay with my parents, I’d wished that someone who needed a place to stay could use my home. The day I arrived in Tampa, my friend Leslie – the volunteer director for PEER Servants who I’ve volunteered with since my Boston days, got an email from her friend Kate, a fellow volunteer who lives in Haiti, that she was looking to leave Haiti with her young children, Samuel and Esther, until the escalating situation there was under control and it was safe for them to return home. She was looking for a place in Florida to stay for the next few months…
I woke up that first morning back home in my cozy bed, so happy to be home, yet with great angst over having to leave again. I opened my inbox and read my daily Denison Forum email in which he urged us Christians to pray for boldness and went on to talk about the ways in which God was emboldening believers all over the world to be a light and a blessing to those around them. He closed by saying, “If we will ask God for the courage to stand for biblical truth and serve with biblical compassion, he will answer our prayer. Then, whether the world knows our name or not, God will use us for his eternal purposes.”
In that moment I prayed for boldness, that God would use me however He wanted, and that I would not get in the way of His plans! I went back to my inbox and there was an email from Leslie, who knew about my situation because she’s been praying for my health and following my journey for quite some time, thus thinking I was up in Massachusetts, and she was kindly asking if by chance I’d want to lend my home to this family, or if I knew of another place in Florida they might be able to stay. I yelled out “YES” so loudly my neighbors could have heard! I couldn’t believe what I was reading…the answer to a silent prayer that had been on my heart for so long, that was also the very real answer to a prayer prayed in faith by this family as they feared for their safety and well-being. Once again, El Roi, The God who sees me showing His love, omniscience and presence in a remarkable and real way.
What followed was a flurry of emails and Whats App messages of introductions and shared joy and awe at God’s loving kindness and provision. And as I went to work unpacking and repacking and getting my house in order for this precious family to come and live, I had a whole new purpose for being there for that quick trip I squeezed in between doctors appointments. I felt my house come to life…in the same way it does when I’m entertaining friends or hosting family, and in the same way I’ve always imagined it would if I had a family of my own. Rather than leaving an empty home, I was welcoming new friends to come and make it their own. I pictured them stringing up Christmas lights and baking Christmas cookies…both of which came true! I’ve always wanted my home to be a place where I could extend hospitality…as modeled by my parents to me. Hospitality is a spiritual gift, meant to uplift others, and we’re admonished that whatever our gifts are…to be generous with them! For after all… “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’ James 1:17
God had me be back home at the exact moment I needed to be there, to make up beds and clear out closets, make up lists with WIFI passwords and security codes, and add welcoming touches that I couldn’t have done from afar. In additional to all the preparation, those days were spent in prayer as the situation in Haiti was rapidly deteriorating. Flights to the US were being cancelled and a fuel shortage was, amongst other things, threatening internet connectivity (hence all means of communication.) Kate and her family were trying desperately to make it to Florida safely, while her husband was (and still is) awaiting his visa so he could join them. I flew back up to Massachusetts on November 2nd in the afternoon and Kate and her kids landed in Tampa that very same evening! And what a precious blessing they have been to me! Their faith has been both encouraging and admonishing…to keep my eyes fixed on our God…our Mountain Mover and Great Provider…and not on our situation. And in the true power of prayer…what prayer warriors they are! I have been overwhelmed with their outpouring of love for me, their compassion and care as I underwent surgery, and the way they have delighted in my home and in my city. They send me pictures of my neighborhood as the decorations change for each season, of the Christmas tree in Vinoy Park, and the ice skating rink on St Pete Beach. Little things that make me feel like I’m back home. They love using my kitchen…something that of course makes me happy! And they delight in pictures of Spritz from afar (hence the photo shoot for Esther’s birthday!) And most importantly, they feel safe, they feel loved, they have reliable internet for school…the kids attending and Kate teaching on Zoom, and they have seen God’s hand as their Good Shepherd in a very real way and know that He hears and answers our prayers. I have come to love them all and this is a bond and friendship that will last our whole lives!
In those moments when I feel insignificant, I think of all the examples of El Roi, the God who sees me…of how fearfully and wonderfully we are made. That God knows the number of hairs on our heads; He knows what’s going on in every fiber of our being. He created the whole world…whole universe…calls out the stars by name, and yet knows mine as well, and cares about the details of my life. And now forever I will think of this story of our God who heard a prayer, prayed by a family in desperation and who heard my prayer for boldness; who met the very real physical needs of this precious family and who spoke to the silent prayers of my heart during a trying season. A simple prayer to be used by God and for a means to serve…was not only heard, but multiplied!
“I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalms 34:4-8 NLT
“Sometimes sorrow is the door to peace
Sometimes heartache is the gift I need
You’re faithful, faithful
In all things
In every high, in every low
On mountaintops, down broken roads
You’re still my rock, my hope remains
I’ll rest in the arms of Jesus
Come what may
There is deep joy that You give to me
Where hurt meets the healing is a holy thing
I see goodness, Your goodness
In all things
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
He makes me lie down in green pastures
The Lord is my shepherd, leads me to still waters
And He restores my soul”
@We Are Messengers, Come What May