God's Greatest Gifts

I have a confession to make.  It's not really that big of a secret, but I love country music.  My first tape player with headphones held a treasured copy of Garth Brooks' No Fences.  My granny gave it to me around age 6, and I regularly regaled anyone who would listen with amazing versions of I've Got Friends (In Low Places). There is a country song that I immediately thought of today that was on that tape.  It's nuances clearly weren't there for a six year old me, but they are now.

I was unpacking what Josh's friend Tom calls "The Dreaded Box of Misc."  Truer words have never been spoken.  These boxes of "misk" are filled with the most random items possible.

This box contained:

our iron,
two unmatted pictures from Ella's bedroom,
a musical toothbrush still in the box,
various medicinal creams,
a strand of Christmas garland,
two extension cords,
and a load of other "junk."

Among the junk, I found some envelopes that I had been looking for since last summer!  On January 30, 2013, I asked our homegroup to write a letter to themselves or write down some prayer requests that they have had.  The intention was to mail them the envelopes 6 months later, but somehow they got lost.

I've gotten sidetracked from the country song.  Anyway, the song is "Unanswered Prayers" by Garth Brooks.  Here's the track if you want to listen:

Many people I know reading this will immediately remember the refrain, which is sung after the writer sees an old flame at a football game with his family and realises all the ways that God has cared for him:

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.

It is a cheesy, cheesy song filled with double negatives, but it's also the truth.  Sometimes our unanswered prayers are the ones that God uses most.

I remember praying desperately from about age 14 until about 19 that I would be beautiful.  I wore glasses and had braces and terrible bangs that were always greasy from my pimply forehead.  I thought that being beautiful would solve all my problems.  A boy would fall in love with me, I would have more friends and no one would tease me that my trousers were always too short and my feet too big.  God didn't answer that prayer in the time I wanted, but one day, I looked in the mirror and saw someone who cared about inner beauty, which was even better.

When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and found myself in a mental hospital, I prayed that God would heal me of it.  I gave him the choice to either end my life or end my suffering.  He didn't do either right away.  It took probably 3-4 more years until I was well and medicated properly.  However, I have supported more people over the last few years with mental illness than I can count on two hands.  God didn't answer that prayer then because he knew that a decade later, some of my friends would need all the strength and help I could give them.

Sometimes God says "No."  He's pretty firm.  It's hard to see why when we are struggling with loss, grief or exhaustion, and it's even harder when he says, "Wait."

Which is why finding these envelopes in the The Dreaded Box of Misc was such a revelation.  Because in January 2013, I was tired of waiting.  I just wanted to find a place to live and find my "thing."  I wanted to know what God wanted me to do.  Surely even God would understand it's in the best interests of completing my purpose in life to actually know what it is?

So, here's what was in my envelope:

"Dear God, Here are my prayer requests for 30 January 2013 -

1.  Help us to find a home where we can serve you.
2.  Give me a mission either in church or the community.
3.  Help me to make more friends.
4.  Give Josh more wisdom and responsibility.
5.  Give the ministers of our church a vision and rest.
6.  $$ for Church Centre (we weren't sure how much we could give at that point)
7.  writing"

Here's how God answered them:

1.  We moved into our house a month ago.
2.  I starting working with both The Mars Trust and Evaluate helping young people in our local schools learn more about healthy relationships and sex.  I'd call that a mission!
3.  I've definitely found and made more lasting friendships since then.
4.  Josh helped lead an Alpha course last spring, and it resulted in us leading our own homegroup, and he is now coordinating the Video Projection team at church.
5.  Our ministers definitely got a vision, so much so that several of them are moving into bigger and better roles.
6.  We have been miraculously blessed financially.  Seriously.  I don't know how we make ends meet and still have some left over, but we always do.  So we give.
7.  Obviously, the writing is happening right now, and I feel more and more fulfilled every time I do it.

Here's the kicker:  if I had read that envelope 6 months after I wrote it, the majority of those prayers would have seemed unanswered and silent, despite the fact that God was answering them.  They've been answered and revealed now, but they weren't 7 months ago.  

God knows what he's doing, even down to the timing of finding miscellaneous envelopes.


  1. beautifully written, by an even more beautiful author; as always


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