Tuesday, August 11, 2009

“That’s What I Get for Praying”

Remember that line from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”? It’s what George Bailey said right after he got punched in the mouth.

I’m pretty sure it’s what I said after I took the phone call last Wednesday night.

“That’s what I get for praying.”

All summer, as I prepared to go to the She Speaks conference, I had been praying for several things. That my publisher meetings would go well. That I would learn a lot. That I would be open to whatever God had in store for me. That I would be obedient to whatever He wanted me to do.

Little did I know that my prayer would take a very interesting turn. . . .

Last Wednesday night, as I was sitting at the kitchen table, enjoying a few minutes talking with B after dinner, the phone rang. It was a woman from our church who had just heard that I would be driving to camp the next morning to pick up Maggie. She told me that a dear missionary woman from our church desperately wanted to go to camp to see her two children who had been there for two weeks, just like Maggie. Did I have room in my car to drive this woman to camp and then to bring her two children home with us?

My heart sank like a rock. I told my friend from church that I’d think about it and call her back, and immediately my mind began to conjure up every possible objection I could think of.

I had planned to take Abby with me on the seven hour drive to camp and was really looking to the time alone with her. Seems like we don’t get much time alone these days. I also knew that I would be driving one of Maggie’s friends home and really wanted some time to talk to the girls about their time at camp.

I didn’t even know this woman. I knew who she was, and I also knew that she didn’t speak English well. This would be a struggle.

And where would she stay? Had she thought about that? I mean, really. How do you just decide on a whim that you’d like to go pick up your kids at camp without doing the necessary planning?

But I did a mental assessment of the seats in my car and realized that I had just enough seats left—three—to accommodate this woman and her children. And I also knew that our hotel room had two queen sized beds in it—Abby could sleep with me.

B and I talked it over for a few minutes. Well, I talked; he stared at me. Finally in utter frustration I cried, “Why are you staring at me?!” He just calmly replied that he knew I knew what to do.

“Yeah, but I don’t want to do it! I don’t want to have to force conversation for two days. I want time alone with my own children, not someone else’s. I don’t want to do this!” I think I may have even clenched my fists and stomped my foot.

And then I picked up the phone and told my friend I would do it.

Sometimes you just know you have to be the answer to someone else’s prayer, and this was one of those times for me. But I also knew that she was the answer to mine: “Whatever you want, Lord. I’ll do it.”

This is a test. This is only a test.

Yeah, I get it.

So last week I stretched myself yet again and drove a complete stranger seven hours up to camp to pick up our children. And I welcomed her into my hotel room for a night. And I picked up her two children (who happened to be delightful) and drove them home.

Sometime during our drive home I asked her how she had met her husband and she laughed, saying that it was a very long story. “Well, we’ve got nothing but time!” I told her as I pointed to the road and the six hours of driving in front of us. And so she began the most interesting tale of growing up in Ethiopia, attending dental school in Russia, meeting her husband through the mail (!), moving to Sweden with him, and finally landing in the United States. It is the most amazing tale of trusting God to lead and of being willing to be obedient to Him.

I was fascinated. The story teller in me just listened (carefully, as I had a bit of a hard time understanding everything she was saying to me) and tried to take in the magnitude of how God led this woman all over the world, literally. A couple of times I think I even had to remind myself to concentrate on the road because I was concentrating so hard on her story.

The time flew, and pretty soon we were pulling into her driveway. Her kids jumped out, happy to be home, and she and I hugged. I felt like I had made a new, special friend.

So what did I learn? I learned that obedience isn’t always easy, and sometimes it’s pretty darn hard, but that there is a blessing in knowing you’ve done the right thing. And I also think there’s a certain joy that God gives you when you’ve done what He asked. I know I got a real kick out of hearing her story.

That’s what I got for praying.


  1. What a great story, Shelly! You're right on both counts - obedience is not easy, and it's always worth it.

    I would have reacted like you, I know - stomping my foot and not wanting to do it. But what a blessing you all got! Very cool.

  2. I knew there must be a story behind your traveling companions, as there was with mine. My mind went to precisely the same places your did -- awkward conversation, hotels, wanting time with my child alone. God brings along interesting and wonderful tasks, if we are open to them.

  3. How awesome that you simply obeyed, despite your initial reaction and worries. Sounds like you had a wonderful time getting to hear God's movement in someone else's life- and got to bless someone in the process!

  4. What an amazing story. I am SO proud of you. I can hardly think of anything I'd rather do less than what you described. But look at the blessing you received. Makes me wonder what blessings I've missed out on...

  5. I loved this story. And I know exactly what you're talking about. Including the stamping my foot part. That's not a proven method to move God as I should know.

    When you can, do tell more about your prayer request for the camp I saw on Facebook.

  6. Thank you for being so honest about your struggles, but showing us how God blesses when you obey. It's such a good lesson for me. I just love your blog!