Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Mrs. N. has watched me grow from the time I was one-year old. She's in her eighties now, with short curly hair and deep smile lines, and though I don't know her well the way I knew my grandma, and though I've lived far from home these last 13 years, she has always remembered me daily in prayer.

I've taken great comfort in her prayers. When my apartment flooded, and then flooded again; when my car broke down monthly; when I trudged through doctors appointments, and suffered grievous break-ups, and watched friendships fracture under the weight of my illness, she prayed and sent me weekly letters reminding me she was praying. On late nights, when I laid awake wondering if I'd have the stamina to keep fighting my life's battles, I took comfort in the knowledge that she was fighting for me in prayer.

A couple of years ago, Mrs. N.'s memory began to fade. She started repeating herself and forgetting familiar faces, and when I learned of her deteriorating memory, my reaction was, I am sorry to say, quite selfish: what if she forgets to pray for me? What if the letters of reminder stop coming? The prospect made me feel lonely, like I was on the verge of suffering a profound loss.

It's been awhile since I've heard from her, so I assumed my fears had been realized. But then, last month, an envelope arrived with her familiar cursive scrawled across its front. A few weeks later: another letter. In both letters, she reminded me she was praying.


Two weeks ago a dear friend mailed me a bouquet of freshly-sharpened pastel pencils. Since then, I've been making lists with childlike fervor.


I am in the throes of a qualitative research project on grief among college students for one of my PhD classes. Last week, I hadn't yet started the project and I wasn't sure which direction to take it. I asked God for help finding direction, and he answered in the form of a classmate who stayed 45 minutes after last week's 3-hour class to help me process my project idea. 

I hadn't met this classmate before this semester, but I'd known of him. He almost died last semester of a heart attack, so all of us in the PhD program prayed for him and his wife. I mentioned him in a post last semester — you may remember. As he laid in the hospital, his people prayed for his kidneys to start working, and they started working. Then hundreds, maybe thousands of people prayed for other organs to begin working, and lo and behold: they started working. Prayer by prayer, his body came back online, and now he's back in the classroom, helping people like me process project ideas. 

I've never before had the privilege of praying for someone's life and then meeting them for the first time. It's a special thing. When you pray for someone you don't know, you pray because you value life and you know his loved ones think he's wonderful. But then, when you meet him you realize, Wow, this person is wonderful, and I can't imagine this class without him, and you're motivated to pray for lots of other people you don't know with a deeper sense of how wonderful they must be. 


I have a neighbor who occasionally dresses up like Darth Vader and cruises around the neighborhood on his scooter. He is five, and his Darth Vader days are some of my favorites.


Seventeen years ago my family traveled to Spain. While there, I forged friendships with a handful of girls, two of whom I am still in regular contact with. Recently, one of them invited me to come stay in her and her husband's guest room. I hope I can take her up on that one day.


Do you remember the American Girl doll named Samantha? She was the star of her very own chapter book series set in the Victorian era, and oh! I longed for a Samantha doll when I was a girl. American Girl dolls were expensive though — well over $100 — so I set to work earning money.

I washed cars and mowed lawns, but I made most of my money selling homemade Rice Krispie treats and Koolaid on the street corner. I topped the Rice Krispie treats with colorful sprinkles, which made them a hit with the neighborhood kids; and a very generous couple from church paid me to make them for their company's business meetings.

Eventually, I earned enough money to get my doll, and when she arrived in the mail, it was love at first sight.

Not too long after I got Samantha, I heard a Christian radio broadcast describing the plight of orphans in Russia. After that broadcast I decided my best friend and I would go to Russia to care for the orphans together. As I mentally planned for our trip, the staggering cost of the trip was undaunting; I already had a sure-fire business plan that would undoubtedly pay for the trip: I'd bake and sell brownies. Naturally.

I suppose I don't need to tell you that I have never been to Russia.

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