Answered Prayer: Clean Water!

My very first official race was a 10K that represented something immense, the achievement of a goal I had never even set out to accomplish. I believe that God blesses us and we should share our blessings. And because it was such a momentous symbol of God’s incredible transformation in my life, I wanted to do something productive through the race that would help others.

So, I started a fundraiser for WaterAid, an organization that helps provide clean water and sanitation to communities around the world that are suffering from fatal yet completely preventable diseases. No child should die from diarrheal diseases or parasites when it is possible to bring them clean water.  Anyway, I digress. I started out with a goal of $5,000. .

After a few weeks of very discouraging results, I realized that I had failed to incorporate God into this effort. I was doing it for him, so to speak. But I failed to ask him to bless my efforts. So, I posted a prayer request about my fundraising effort for WaterAid through every avenue available to me, including this blog. And boy did he bless me. The $5,000 goal I began with was adjusted to $2,000 when I ended up being the sole fundraiser. I leveraged every fundraising piece of knowledge I had gained in my career to try and persuade people to support my cause.

I had no idea how difficult it would be to raise even $10. Largely with the support of my church members, especially our priest and church secretary I was able to surpass my goal amount of $2,000. It was difficult and discouraging at times, but I praise God because it led to a sense of awareness in my church community. In fact, a year later, some of the members still ask me about it.

The power of answered prayer.

What is God’s answer?

There are times when I start to spiral out of control with my desire to know exactly what God’s will is. Even when I’ve gotten an answer, I want to know I heard God right. A friend once asked me what would make God’s will clear to me. What would tell me exactly what His answer was? I had no idea how to respond. I joked about wanting Him to write me a letter, but part of me was hoping something like that would actually happen.

Later in the day, I came across this article (Maybe God Doesn’t Care) and I was reminded that while there is no such thing as too much prayer, there is a danger in relentlessly pursuing a concrete answer. Why? Because it actually stems from a need to control; a desire to know exactly what is in store and when. Yes, we should submit to God and seek to do his will. However, we also need to trust in Him and his ability to direct us. We have to allow him to actually act and give him the reins. We can’t allow ourselves to get stuck in a never-ending cycle of doubt and worry disguised as seeking his will.

Image taken from: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-6FYom8sr5L4/Ty1zdliEQyI/AAAAAAAAITE/3_vVk0I_VWQ/s1600/proverbs+3+5+6+copy.jpg

Can an Unanswered Prayer be a Prayer Answered?

Have you ever hit a point when you can’t remember the last time you laughed wholeheartedly? When you’ve been so burdened, stressed, and frustrated that you don’t even know what to pray for anymore?

Maybe you know in your head that you’re supposed to wait on God’s plan and that he knows best. You may be aware that there are reasons that things don’t turn out the way you want. But that doesn’t necessarily make things easier.

My advice: Keep talking to God. Keep trying to get to know him and his will. Persist because it’s what you need to do and God will enable you to keep going. Sometimes he is pulling things together and he needs you to wait. Sometimes you were better off not getting what you asked for. Sometimes you grow and learn as you wait, and your prayer ends up completely changing.

Take a look at this man’s struggle to pray when he loses the ideal job; it’s a great reminder of God’s wisdom and foresight.

Disappointed by God?

What are the expectations we place on God? When things go wrong, do we grow distant from him? Do we question why he’s allowing us to go through so much pain and suffering? Do we get angry with him and rile at him? Do we ask ourselves why we even bothered praying about it when it looks like God doesn’t care?

Some advise us to keep our expectations low in life so we can protect ourselves against getting hurt. Does that apply to God? Perhaps we should be evaluating our expectations against the word of God. We need to look at our source of information on God – the Bible and our own connection with him – and then compare that to the expectations we have of God. Are we expecting his good to be based on our definition or his? When God says he has good plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11), do we take that verse at face value or do we think about in context of the God we know whose wisdom goes far beyond our perspective (Romans 12:2)?

When things are falling down around us and we want to rant and rave at God because he isn’t answering us the way we want him to, we need to take a step back and consider what we know of God.

  1. God is a LOVING God. There’s no one else who loves you more.  But remember that he also loves ALL of us, even those we see as enemies.
  2. God is JUST. But his justice doesn’t necessarily look the same as it does in our minds.
  3. God is WISE. He sees a much bigger picture than we do and he knows what’s coming down the line.
  4. God is JOY and PEACE.
  5. God is PATIENT. His patience ties into his wisdom as well and that’s what we need to remember when we’re feeling impatient with him because his answer may take much longer than we think it should.
  6. God is FAITHFUL. If Jesus can die on the cross for sinners, don’t you think he will do everything in his power to honor his relationship with you?
  7. God is STRONG and ALL-POWERFUL. There is literally nothing that he can’t handle.

In addition to what we know of God’s character, we should also take into account that his plans involve us. He asks us to have the heart of a servant.

This isn’t a one-way relationship. God has a special role for each of us and in our service, people witness the love of of God. Sometimes what happens in our lives is not about us, it’s about the people around us who witness our relationships with God.

So, take a fresh look at your situation and try to see how God’s answer may tie into a greater purpose. That doesn’t mean he’s not looking out for you but it does mean he has a much broader perspective. I believe we shouldn’t lower our expectations of God, but adjust them to align with God’s character and his promises.

Read more in this blog post titled Expectations.

One Step at a Time

I Kissed My Date Goodnight

I survived a miniature family reunion this weekend in New Jersey. Relatives gathered from near and far — including both coasts of Canada, Texas, Argentina, and The Garden State itself. We spent several days riding the magical carousel of eating and talking, eating and talking, eating and talking. Conversations effortlessly (and loudly) filled every empty space with multiple languages, laughter and much-needed reminiscence.

pizzaOn my final night there, we ordered a few pizza pies from a local joint and gathered around the table for — wait for it — more eating and talking. (If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?) I found myself in a particularly heartfelt, honest conversation with my brother, his wife, and my cousin, Daniel. We talked about faith and how sometimes it’s hard to believe in God, sometimes it’s hard to understand his ways. We each had areas of faith we struggled with, yet all…

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A Request for your Prayer

Clean Water!

Clean water is something we often take for granted but for many people it means more than just a liquid comprised of H2O. It can help kids gain an education, allow women to earn a living, and ensure a steady income for families in dire need. How? It’s simple really. Have you ever been sick and felt completely incapable of functioning? Imagine repeatedly getting sick from infectious diseases because of dirty water. These diseases can stunt growth in children and prevent adults from being able to work for a steady income. Each year millions of children die from entirely preventable causes. Something as simple as clean water can transform entire communities! 

So, I have a very important prayer request for you. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m running my first 10K this June. I also decided to raise money for an organization called WaterAid with an ambitious goal of $5,000. I honestly did not think I’d face such difficulty raising money but the response has been almost nonexistent.

The other day I was thinking about what I could do to turn the tide and I realized I hadn’t asked God to help me – silly me! I don’t know why I didn’t think about it before! So, I prayed this morning asking God to bless my efforts and now I’m asking you to join me in prayer. I don’t want your donations, I just want your prayer. I know God is more than capable of making my measly efforts fruitful beyond imagination.

So please pray that God will bless me in this effort to raise money to save entire communities with a much needed resource – clean water.

Deuteronomy 15:10

New International Version (NIV)

10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

Answered Prayer: What a mess!

English: A stack of copy paper.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok, I know this analogy is a bit long but I think you’ll appreciate the perspective I gained today so bear with me. 🙂

If you’ve ever worked on a group project; you know how much frustration, mis-communication, and stress is involved. Although I’ve had my share of frustrations with people who didn’t write well or who were not as communicative as I would have liked, I have to say I’ve fared rather well with my group members in grad school.

However, this semester I was in uncharted territory. I was assigned to a group of three with one member (let’s call her R) who literally did not show up for meetings, failed to meet deadlines, and did not contribute to our project in any substantial way. In fact, the work this person did accomplish had to be “re-done” because they did not do it properly. My other group member has been (thankfully) very good about meetings and deadlines etc. While she would get upset with R, I was focused on getting our paper done and felt surprisingly calm about our slacking group mate.

Fast forward to this morning when I sat down to take my first look at our final paper due on Tuesday. As I read through it, I realized it would require a great deal of editing – particularly for the sections written by R. I spent the next hour and a half editing, or should I say re-writing, the paper and I sent it off to my group. After I came back from church, I checked my email only to get involved in a flurry of emails clarifying which document we should be editing. Finally, when that was all sorted out, our not-so-stellar group mate sent us her edits and I found that she had completely ignored my revisions to her sections.

Needless to say, I was angry. It wasn’t just a matter of writing style or even grammar; the content itself was incorrect and I had spent precious time fixing it and adding crucial material. I couldn’t even look at it anymore I was so upset; tears of frustration literally welled up in my eyes. How could I submit this as my final paper for the semester?

In the midst of all this, of course I couldn’t keep my emotions to myself! As I finished venting to my friend, she sent me this message – “I’m sorry! Sounds like a real mess of a situation.” My reply back was – “lol…yeah it is a mess but thanks for hearing me out and thanks for your prayer…God must feel this way abt us huh?”

I said it in a somewhat off-handed manner but then I was struck by the truth of that statement. When God knows better (as I feel I do in this particular situation), how frustrated must he be to see us mess it all up? When we’re running around in circles or being incredibly counterproductive and we refuse to accept his edits and additions to our lives; does he feel those tears of frustration? Not selfishly like I did, but on our behalf.

Can’t you just see him looking at us and saying “If you would just listen and acknowledge what I’m trying to tell you, I know things would work out. I love you and I only want what’s best for you!” (Jeremiah 29:11; Hebrews 12:11) Unlike me, he says it in complete unconditional love and patience.

In the midst of a whole lot of stress, anxiety, and frustration; I feel like I had a moment of connection with God that I treasure. Isn’t that an interesting spin on answered prayer?

Answered Prayer: A Healed Heart Part II

In my previous post, an answered prayer could be seen immediately (literally within less than half an hour). The reason I chose to separate out these two posts is because I see how God has answered my prayer in stages. In the years since my 2007 entry, I can see how my perspective has changed and my prayers have changed to openly acknowledge my desire for marriage.

In the past, I really couldn’t have a conversation in which I completely accepted my desire for marriage. I protected myself with my words. Either I brushed off inquiries with statements about possibly living my life as a single mother of adopted children (because I definitely wanted to be a mom) or I made comments about not wanting to open myself up to all the negative consequences I felt were inevitable. I continually asked God to take away my longing for marriage if it was not in his will for me, secretly hoping that it was in fact not part of his will for me.

The night I heard that direct answer from God in 2007 telling me to “Let Go and Let God” was not the “end all”. I struggled mightily with my fears and in all honesty, they continue to pop up every now and then. However, God has been working in my heart and nothing makes that clearer than the transformation of my thinking. I’ve shared some entries from journals over the past 5-6 years so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about.

January 30, 2008

…Lord, please help me allow you to heal my heart. Father, I find myself looking forward to the days I will get to share with “prospective him”. I look forward to dates and special moments. I look forward to sharing things I enjoy with him….I’ve often thought of these things but now I find myself impatient for them….At the same time that hopes of love, romance, and marriage swirl around in my heart, reality sets in and I chastise myself for so foolishly believing in romance. Lord, I’m scared to believe because I’m much too idealistic….I guess I’m a coward. I don’t know. I don’t know what to pray for…I just don’t know. I leave it all up to you, Lord, and ask that you guide me. I’ve given you my heart, Father, to guard.

July 24, 2010

…Father, I find myself once again wanting to meet “prospective him” once and for all. I’m not quite “longing” for him, but sometimes I do wish he were in my life already. At the same time, the thought of that scares me because its something I don’t feel prepared for. More like – it’s something outside of my control and outside of my comfort zone. The thought of being that vulnerable makes me nervous….The dream and the thought of “someday” is probably more what I want than the reality….As much as I long for the reality, I think I fear it more. Lord, I want to be powerful in you, not powerless. Please guide me, Father.

July 28, 2012

…Lord, I am excited to meet and be with the man you will bring into my life as a husband. (Of course, I’m nervous and worried and all that too.) I’m also impatient to know him and spend time with him….Father, please be with us both…Bless us with a relationship of honesty, love, integrity, loyalty, respect, understanding, and laughter. Help us inspire one another, encourage one another, and be a source of spiritual strength for one another….Help us build one another up.

January 18, 2013

…So, here I am, with yet another birthday about to pass me by. And I’m still single. Still haven’t been on a date…Sorry, Lord, for complaining. Such a stupid thing to be upset about. I know I need to have patience. I know there is a man you’ve set me aside for. I know you know my heart inside out. Every desire, every foolish hope, every wish for the future. You know how much I long for my husband. And I do trust in your plans for me. I just have no patience for them. Please continue to help me through this struggle and please bless me with your joy.

I won’t lie, the fears and skepticism and protective cynicism remain. However, I trust in God’s ability to help “prospective him” and I build a healthy marriage relationship. The fact that I can even say I want to get married without placing conditions on that statement is a testament to how far God has brought me.

In 2007, God told me to give him my heart and he would take care of healing it. In 2013, I can see the scars fading.

Answered Prayer: Relationship

I am a woman (did I just use that word in reference to myself?!) who is idealistic and romantic, very aware of my own emotions, and incredibly focused on relationship. Relationship with family, with friends, with fellow believers, and thankfully with God. I started this post in reaction to this general sense of gratitude and well-being I’ve been feeling lately, directly in relation to the beautiful relationships I find myself enjoying right now.  In this moment, I feel so blessed.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t strongly value family and friends. As a girl growing up, I longed for the type of friendships you read about in books like Nancy Drew (my all-time favorite series of books at the time).  Not only did I long for them, I sought them out. When things weren’t going well with family, I would ask my parents why and I would ask them why we weren’t close to them. I had this deep ache to be part of a close-knit family and to have intimate friendships. I also really wanted a sister or brother; I used to wish for one  all the time.

Thankfully, as I grew older, I found that God had granted my wish but not in the conventional way. I grew up with two cousins that were as close to siblings as I was going to get and later in life, my friends became sisters. I felt that God had answered my prayer; I felt blessed.

So, I prayed for those friends and family. I prayed for those relationships and I thanked God fervently for them. But somehow, everything changed and it all seemed to happen at once. About a year ago, I sat in one of the upstairs rooms in our church and cried my heart out because I was so overwhelmed by grief. I’ll share some of my journal entries from that time:

“I’m feeling so disheartened. My friendships are falling apart. My [extended] family is falling apart….Everything…well, not everything…but the things I value and give me value don’t seem to exist anymore. The relationships I’ve invested in, at least quite a few of them, barely remain in place…”

“…I looked at “A’s” facebook page today and it made me so sad. How have I gotten to this place I never thought I’d be. The relationships I valued and count on are gone. As a person who loves family and friends, I don’t have much of either. It’s an isolating feeling. I can’t believe how little I know of their lives…What can I do, Father, to have those relationships a part of my life again? I know you’re here for me always. But it hurts, Lord. It really hurts….Life is so busy that I often don’t have time to think about these things. But when things slow down and I’m all alone with my thoughts…my heart breaks all over again. I know you love me, Lord. I know you faced rejection on the cross, Jesus. I know, Father, that we often hurt you by not maintaining our relationships with you. I guess I’m getting a small glimpse into what you experience. I’m sorry, Lord, for the times when I turn away from you or don’t invest time in our relationship. Help me, Father, to draw strength from you….”

I don’t mean to over-dramatize things. I still had friends and I still had family. However, it was a loss that somewhat felt like mourning and it lasted so long I wondered when I’d last experienced carefree joy.

Fast forward to today. Not everything has been resolved. But what’s miraculous is the clarity of answered prayer. Friendships I thought were lost are being renovated and rebuilt into something stronger and something purer – “refined by fire” as the song goes.  In addition, God has forged new relationships for me that enrich me, encourage me, and are part of his purpose for me.

I mentioned a struggle in an earlier post. During that week and since then, I felt convicted with a deep sense of appreciation not only for the relationships in my life but also the quality of those relationships. Why? Because, I am surrounded by people who could understand and accept me (not an easy thing when it takes me so long to fully be myself with people – the nature of an introvert). Add to that blessing the fact that they are wise people who have a relationship with God. Like I said, I am blessed.

I continue to pray over those relationships that remain where they were during that very painful period. It still saddens me but I plug on in prayer, I do my best to be what God wants me to be, and I hope that they too will be restored in a way that glorifies the grace and healing power of God.