To Pray or Not to Pray: Miracles and Challenges

The thing about miracles is that they happen so that when you are called to tough it out, you can know that there’s a reason, even if you don’t get to see what it is in this life. I’ve experienced miracles, so you’d think I’d be cool when I’m facing a challenge. NOT! A spiritual counselor once told me that I have spiritual Alzheimer’s. I was very distressed over that at the time, but I have to admit, it’s true.
Life is hard. PERIOD! And different kinds of hard will defeat different types of people. Most of the time, when I’m faced with a serious life crisis, I pray, gather others’ prayers, then focus, rally my inner resources, and stay functional at least until it’s over. But sometimes when faced simultaneously with several challenges, I get overwhelmed.  I forget the answered prayers and the miracles of timing and want to curl up in a fetal position and suck my thumb. But writing down and rereading my memories of God’s visible hand in my life helps my mustard seed of faith to grow when new challenges come.

 I grew up living in apartments in large cities. From eight years old until I was thirteen, I actually lived on the seventh floor of a ten-story apartment building near downtown St. Louis. After I met and married a Tennessee boy at Rice University in Houston, Texas, we moved to Nashville where his parents had both a downtown apartment and a house in the country. As our own family grew, we spent many weekends at Birdsong, their lovely hundred-year-old log house that now had all the modern conveniences, but still radiated the warmth and beauty of a bygone era. It also had a two- hundred-acre rural setting of forests with a river like creek, a waterfall and swimming hole, fields of peonies, horses and barn, a pond, and a historic ruin of a civil war powder mill. At first, I had followed my mother-in-law on explorations to look for Jack-in-the-Pulpit and tiny wild Iris with a city dweller’s trepidations, “snakes and ticks and poison ivy, oh my!” But after experiencing the love of God, I began to see it in nature, from its obvious glories to its fascinating hidden world of tiny treasures.
When I was expecting my fifth child by Caesarian section which would include a necessary hysterectomy, my in-laws decided to sell Birdsong. They offered to trade us the main house, barn, tenant house, and thirty-five acres for whatever we could make from selling our house. Not only did I covet Birdsong, this was an incredible financial offer. Our home was a pleasant four-bedroom two-story house in an area of wonderful public schools, but Birdsong was twice its size, beautiful, historic, and unique with a wonderful thirty-five acre setting on a creek. After prayerful discussion, we decided this was the chance of a lifetime and we put our house on the market. While in the hospital on Thanksgiving recuperating from my surgeries, our house sold with the agreement that the buyer could take possession on the First of January. To say the least, it was a somewhat daunting prospect in my post-operative condition, with a new baby, and four other children under ten. But again, it seemed a miracle to sell so quickly and I wanted Birdsong more than I had ever wanted anything. To top it off, one of my husband’s brothers hired a baby nurse to help me several weeks, so it seemed meant to be.
Unfortunately my new son needed a hernia repair shortly after we had come home from the hospital. The night before his surgery, the doctor discovered that he also had a heart valve defect. The defect didn’t appear life threatening and it was one that sometimes is outgrown, so they only did his hernia surgery. The day we brought him home, my in-laws came to visit and announced apologetically that they had accepted another offer for the whole two hundred acres and Birdsong. So, we ended up two weeks before Christmas having to be out of our house in three weeks with nowhere to go. I was pretty much in shock. At that day and time there were no condos or apartments in our neighborhood. Checking the papers and calling realtors turned up nothing to rent until we could figure out what we wanted to do. I didn’t want the children to change schools unnecessarily, but there simply wasn’t anything available. At that time the house market in our area was no better. I sat on the couch after I had called the last realtor with tears running down my cheeks. The kind baby nurse, a middle-aged black woman with seven grown children, sat down beside me and put her arm around me.
“What do you need exactly?” she asked.
I thought about not being able to drive a car or climb stairs for another month and answered, “A five bed room, one story house in walking distance to our school to rent for nine months. That would give us time to decide where to live without our children having to change schools.”
She responded with a smile, “All right, we’ll pray for exactly that and a can of oil.”
“A ca-ca-ca-can of oil?” I stuttered.
“Yes, we have to take the baby back to the doctor tomorrow and I’d rather drive my car, but it needs a can of oil.”
I tried to not look incredulous, as she began to pray specifically. When she finished and we said “Amen” together, she smiled cheerfully and went to get me a cup of coffee. As I sat there stunned, the doorbell rang. It was Sarah, a woman I knew from our school’s Parent Association.
“Eileen,” she said. “I’m sorry to bother you, but my car has stopped running at the end of your driveway. Can I use your phone to get the mechanic to come?”
“Sure,” I replied, “If you’ll ask him to bring a can of oil.”
After her phone call, she joined me for coffee as we waited for the mechanic and the oil.
“I hear you’ve sold this house,” she said. “And you’re moving to the country.”
“Well, we sold our house, but moving to the country fell through. I’m kind of in a panic. I don’t want the children to have to change schools, until we figure out what we are going to do. But there’s nothing available to rent around here right now.”
“Do you know about the Keck’s house?” she asked.
“No. Where is that?”
“It’s one street over and two houses down. You can see the back yard from here. They are going as missionaries to the Philippines for nine months. They are supposed to leave the first week in January if they can find a renter. They are trying to do that by word of mouth, because they don’t want just anyone to move in since they are leaving all their belongings.”
“What is the house like?” I asked, holding my breath.
“It’s a one story with four bedrooms, a study, and a nice den. It also has a wonderful yard and patio.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. “We have a large basement at our office where we could store their belongings, “I said excitedly. “With our having five children, that would probably be safer for their furniture and happier for our kids.” It turned out we had mutual friends with the Kecks. Three weeks later, we moved a block away.

I admit that even though I understood the practicality of my in-laws’ decision, I really resented what seemed like a very casual attitude about the predicament they had put us in. Facing our move and Christmas bills, I was trying to find money for a new coat for my no longer pregnant body. As I was pondering the problem, my doorbell rang and my mother-in-law came in with a large Dillard’s bag. She was running late for an appointment but as she handed me the bag she said,” You may not need this or even like it, but I was in Dillard’s and something just said, “Buy this for Eileen.”  It was the most beautiful coat I had ever seen and a perfect fit.  As I prayed that night, it seemed to me that if God could lead my mother-in-law like that about my coat, maybe God was in the whole house sale and unexpected move.  So, I was able to let go of my hurt and disappointment.  And after several months of looking for land in the country, we bought our own “Winnie the Pooh” hundred-acre wood. My architect husband designed a perfect house for our family. Nine months later as school was starting, we moved to a county with a much better school district than the county where Birdsong was. We lived there for twenty-seven years.

About Eileen

Mother of five, grandmother of nine, great-grandmother of five. 1955 -1959 Rice University in Houston, TX. Taught primary grades; Was Associate Post Director of Religious Education at Ft. Campbell, KY; Consultant on the Myers/Briggs Type Indicator, Was married for 60 years to an Architect in Middle Tennessee.

Posted on September 10, 2021, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. What a rich and interesting life you are leading.

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  2. berghane@optonline.net

    God is one amazing Gal! And so are you, Eileen. There are no coincidences if you have faith. All was part of the Plan. Thanks for sharing.

    Myra

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  3. Eileen, I love this story, and several others that I’ve gotten carried away by reading. You are a wonderful writer with amazing stories of hope, faith, love.
    My husband is Bill Sweeney from Unshakable Hope. I read one of you comments from one of his old blogs and wanted to thank you for the comment. You mentioned in your comment that you lost your husband. I’m sorry you had to go through that. It’s been almost 9 months since Bill left, and I am still struggling some. I know God has a plan for my life without Bill, but just finding out who I am is hard.

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    • Mary, I cannot imagine how hard it must be to go from being focused on caring for Bill all those years and then losing him. It must be like starting your whole life over. My Julian was only dependent on me the last year. There were times in and out of hospitals before that, but then better in between. I will be praying for God to meet your needs; mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual to become the person God created you to be at this point in your journey. I have found that the second half of life may have different challenges, but that we are developing new strengths. The hard part is the transition, when for a time we have to “die” to what were our natural strengths, so we can develop new very different ones. It seemed to me like a “dying to self.” It’s hard, but it helps to know it’s part of our journey. Ever since my conversion at thirty, the Scriptures had come alive for me and not only sustained me daily, but opened my eyes to so many new things. For a while I lost that. Reading Scripture became like reading the back of a cereal box. I panicked. But then friends who had never really related well to Scripture started loving it and feasting on it. And another friend who always felt God’s grace in traditional prayers and ritual, lost that gift and began to find new comfort in a sense of the presence Jesus. For a while, ritual and traditional prayers and a sense of the awesomeness of God kept me going during a rough time. The Scriptures have come alive for me again now, but more and more I find God all around me in nature and in finally focusing on writing about prayer in my journey with God. So don’t panic. I do find I still miss my husband and sometimes just have to let that heartache out by crying. Crying is not weakness, it’s an expression of deep sorrow. If Jesus wept, so can we. I find remembering love even when experiencing the heart break of missing our loved one helps me gather my faith and hope and get up and go on. It’s been three years for me, but experiencing sorrow is part of letting go of the past, so we can be open to the grace to grow into a new life. It isn’t easy, but sorrow and joy are two sides of the same coin. Joy will come again. You are in my thoughts and prayers. And thank you for letting me know that my writing speaks to you. It helps me keep on also. I love that about God making things work both ways.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Eileen, Thank you so much for taking the time to write these words of wisdom! They are a comfort and hope to me. The first thing that jumped out to me it when you said “we have to “die” to what were our natural strengths, so we can develop new very different ones.” I am struggling in this area, but I know what you say is the truth, and like you said, it’s a very hard transition. I felt God promoting me in this area so your saying this is just a conformation.

    “The Scriptures have come alive for me again now, but more and more I find God all around me in nature and in finally focusing on writing about prayer in my journey with God.” This is so beautiful, Eileen. God speaks to us in so many ways when we learn to be attentive to His leading. It’s so encouraging to hear your story. I know He will reveal His purpose for my life in time. I will continue in His Word and listen for His voice.

    “experiencing sorrow is part of letting go of the past, so we can be open to the grace to grow into a new life.” This is where I’m at now. Allowing God’s grace grow into what He has ahead for me. Joy will come again because it’s a promise from His Word.

    Thanks again for taking the time to pour into my life. I’ll be back to read more nuggets of wisdom from other posts you have here.

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    • Kind of you to share your confirmation with me. I go through dry times in my writing, but often they are times of focusing on being there for other people even just through a phone conversation. Then the spirit will awaken me again and I will write steadily for a while. I have realized that I can’t help everyone, but God sends those that are at a place in their life that my writing or my phone calls matter. Lifting you in prayer. Eileen

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