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Answered Prayer – Unexpected Grace
by Heather O’Hara
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
I grew up as an outwardly strong and independent young adult. Smart, successful, self-sufficient. A Naval Officer and then the “perfect mother.” I lived the American dream, but there was always something missing from my life. Even at my happiest, with a great husband, two small children and living in the tropical paradise of Guam 17 years ago, there was a terrible nagging knowing I was a hypocrite, not good, carrying guilt for every wrong thing I’d ever done.
My life was torn apart when our son Riley was diagnosed with cancer. I suddenly was faced with death for the first time, I’d never thought about life after death. What might happen to him? My first born son, the perfect one, would probably not survive. God was gracious, however, and showed us his boundless love over the next 10 months. We watched our child rebound against incredible odds, and felt the love, support and compassion of so many wonderful people. Many people were praying for Riley and our family. What we didn’t know was that those who had a personal relationship with Jesus were also praying for something much grander for us as well. They knew John 3:16 was true, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son so that whomsoever believes in him will have eternal life.”
At Riley’s memorial service, a friend sang a song she wrote for Riley and it spoke to me: “Run, Riley, Run; Run to the one who waits for you. Do not be afraid, Jesus waits for you, he will take you to a place where you can run and play.” Suddenly I believed it was true! Jesus did die for me, I was free indeed! Free from guilt and shame. Free to honor God with the talents he’d given me without worrying whether I’d be good enough, Jesus measured up to God’s standards for me.
After seeing God’s mighty hand in all of this, Romans 8:28-31 became real for me “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” I saw that Riley’s life and death had a purpose in bringing first me and then Pete and the rest of our children to faith. That God, through Christ, works all things together for good. We have children who rejoice that they will know their brother Riley in heaven even though three of them were born after his death. What a glorious answer to prayer!
But, as you all know, our lives don’t stop at our point of salvation – they start!!! And we learn how little we really do trust in the One who is completely trustworthy.
Our beautiful daughter, Grace, was born 14 years ago with eosinophilic esophagitis, a condition which required her to be on a special formula – she could not even tolerate breastmilk. We rejoiced that in God’s providence He chose to have her born in the United States, in this generation, where she would have the benefit of God’s common grace in medical advancement. Thirty-five years ago she might not have survived. She required a g-tube to receive her food because of its horrible taste. Pete and I said “Fine, we’ve done g-tubes, IV’s, and a whole lot more during Riley’s care, You’ve equipped us, Lord.” We were content that she was healthy, growing, and normal in all other respects. We saw the strong character God had given to Grace through her painful struggles as an infant and through coming to terms at an early age that God had made her different – different because He had a special plan for her. We praised Him as she was able to feed herself at age four and rejoiced at medical advancements that made the possibility of a cure something that she might see before she reached adulthood. I marveled and rejoiced at how God had appointed to Grace a great testimony as well, as an overcomer, and as one who trusted Christ for the full restoration of a glorified and perfect body some day in heaven. She knew, as did her siblings, that she may indeed eat at the banqueting table of our Lord. God showed our children another glimpse of heaven through her situation – A testimony that He will restore all things.
God revealed to me though, that my trust in His work on the cross, His promise of the future, and His providential care was lacking. He showed me that I was afraid to trust Him to answer BIG prayers. I was afraid to pray for what I most desired. So far had I shoved this fear, that I didn’t even realize it. It was a case of accepting less than what God intended. By praising the things He was doing, what He had done and what I knew He would do, I neglected to ask for that which He could do – heal Grace completely. I was accepting the answer “wait” without having asked the question. He showed me that He didn’t have to wait for me to ask…
Grace had been encouraged to chew and swallow bits of food in order to maintain the ability to chew and swallow and develop muscles for speech. When she was five she began snacking more and more, seemingly without great discomfort. I spoke to the doctor that we’d be seeing the next month in Cincinnati – is it okay to let her eat? He said that she may risk food impaction if her esophagus constricts, but other than that, no long term damage. Go ahead and let her do what she wants. Grace’s reponse? Great! – She had no formula for a month – she ate a full normal diet.
In August 2005 we went to Cincinnati. After her endoscopy the doctor showed me a picture of a normal esophagus. I waited for him to show me the disastrous image of Grace’s esophagus. It didn’t come. “This is Grace’s esophagus,” he said. I asked how often he saw this. Twice. She was the second. I asked, “Is she cured?” He said, no, no man cured her but it appeared she was healed. A child who was highly allergic to 40 of 72 food items skin prick tested when she was two, was now allergic to only two: English walnuts and pecans. We went back in December to confirm her healing and three days before Christmas 2005 we removed the tube.
Perhaps it is because I had seen the good that God brings from bad as in Riley’s situation that I had been so willing to accept less than what He wants to give me or those I love. I had huddled under a blanket of my own fear and protection from disappointment, content reminding myself to be thankful, to look back at the marvelous things He has done with situations like Riley’s death which was less than perfect. Life in a fallen world will never be perfect, but oughtn’t I ask God for redemption? Is He not my Father? Doesn’t every good and perfect gift come from Him? Is not the Lord Jesus even now interceding at His right hand on my behalf?
I praise God for a covenant family that did pray for Grace’s healing. I am thankful for each of you who cared for her in the Nursery or Sunday School and for our care group and countless others who faithfully prayed that she might be healed. I know there are times when you see her now these years later when you rejoice in God’s providential goodness. God’s graciousness to heal her has encouraged me to be bolder in prayer and even today has convicted me that there are big areas in my life in which I struggle where I can change with God’s help.
Perhaps there is something in your life as well that seems so difficult to change that you’ve almost accepted that “this is the way it has to be, and with the Lord’s strength I’ll just make it through.” Praise God that you may be willing to accept His will in your life and in the lives of those you love. Praise Him more if you see His glory in the situation. But don’t be afraid to pray for healing or deliverance. Don’t be afraid to ask others to pray for you when you cannot. Is there an illness, addiction or idol that rules your life or the life of someone you love? Share it with someone you trust today. Are you aware of someone else’s struggle with illness, addiction or idolatry? Pray for them! This is a part of covenant community and caring for one another.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
Thank you Lord, that you know our hearts and hurts better than we know them ourselves. We thank you that the Lord Jesus intercedes on our behalf and that the Spirit groans for us when we cannot clearly express our thoughts or emotions. We thank you that you are faithful even when we are not trusting or knowing ourselves enough to ask for help. Remind us that we can’t ask wrongly if it is through the blood of Christ that we approach your throne. We thank you for the way that even the difficult situations in life work for your glory and our good. We thank you that we have the privilege of participating in prayer and the lives of our brothers and sisters… and we thank you for your unexpected grace.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
About Heather: Heather has been married to married to Pete for 21 years. They have 5 great kids: Chris (19), Sean (17), Michael (16), Grace (14) and John (12) – their family is easy to spot in the congregation as the “tall family.” Heather is thankful for the blessings of NLICC’s covenant family and enjoys serving the church. Her hobbies include driving to and from the pool, Women’s Bible Study, walking with friends in the neighborhood, and enjoying time at home with her family and their dog Mae.
Message from Kathryne Marple our Women’s Ministry Committee Chair toward the end.
Missions Banquet this Saturday, March 22nd at 6:30pm, doors open at 6pm
Rejoice in Missions together! Featuring Jack Beal from Mission to the World.
Last names A-L bring a main dish and salad
Last names M-Z bring a main dish and dessert
Singles bring a side dish
Help with morning coffee treats for Sunday mornings during Missions Month.
Please consider contributing a treat one Sunday morning in March. Sign up HERE.
Teen Ladies’ Bible Study –4:15-5:45pm Tuesday afternoons in the Youth Room.
Brenda Storms is leading teen women through Pastor Leon Brown’s book Words in Season. Contact her if you would like to join.
Church Work Day March 29th from 9am-2pm
All kinds of work available for all kinds of abilities – contact Craig Cuddy and let him know if you can help so that he can plan to keep you busy for whatever time you can share that day.
Baby Shower for Laura Heflin, Saturday, April 5th from 2-4pm in the Fireside Room
Plan to share a Bible verse or word of encouragement as Laura prepares for motherhood. Laura is having a girl and is registered at Buy Buy Baby and Babies R Us.
“Pounding” and Welcome for the Clark Family by April 6th – They arrive April 7th
Lucinda Lorei has created a list of food and kitchen items needed to equip the Clark’s apartment behind the church. Non-perishables can be dropped off in the apartment trailer closest to the church (key in the office). Perishables can go in fridge at church on Sunday, April 6th and transfer to apartment following service. Sign up HERE to let her know what you can bring. We’ll be adding a list of kitchen items and utensils to the signup soon.
By Design Spring Women’s Sunday School Class beginning Sunday April 6th
“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
We are excited to have Men’s and Women’s Sunday School classes for the coming Spring quarter. It will be an opportunity to examine the distinctive plans and purposes of the designs stamped upon men and women at Creation and how they relate to our personal lives and the church.
The Women’s class “By Design [by Susan Hunt] is not about answering feminist arguments or exegeting biblical passages on traditional roles, submission, or headship. Instead, it is an uplifting and practical introduction to God’s wonderful design for women. It is a challenge to women everywhere to explore the significance of your distinctiveness and return to your biblical calling. And it is a plea to the church to equip and mobilize you to help a hurting world and capture a culture for Christ through ministries of mercy and compassion.” (from the back cover)
Books are available in the foyer this Sunday for $10 at the Women’s Retreat and Talents to Treasure table if you are interested in purchasing your book now. They will also be available in the class in April. Reading is not required, you will still be encouraged and challenged from the discussions in class. We look forward to seeing you and being together as the women of the church Sunday mornings this spring!
Baby Shower for Laura Scrivener, Monday, April 14th at 7pm in the Fireside Room
Please join us as we celebrate the upcoming birth of baby Noah! Laura is registered at Target, Babies R Us, and Buy Buy Baby. Contact Annie Page or Julie Root if you have any questions.
Talents to Treasure mini-conference, April 12th, 8:45am-1pm, lunch included – Sign up this Sunday in the foyer!
“As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
1 Peter 4:10
Learn something new! Join us for a fun time of fellowship and learning as we enjoy the talents of our sisters in Christ. Various small group sessions will be offered. You will preregister for 3 classes offered in 3 different time slots. The sessions include knitting, photography, jewelry making, healthy eating, gardening and more. No cost, but preregistration is required and will be held this Sunday. If you would like to contribute to the lunch, please sign up HERE.
Fall Women’s Retreat, October 24-26 at Blessings Lodge, Camp Overlook
“All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth
To those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.
The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him,
And He will make them know His covenant.”
Psalm 25:10 and 14
- Retreat theme: “Sovereign God of the Covenants“
- Teaching by our own Marcia Vastine
- $120 includes 6 meals and hotel style lodging with four singles per room, private baths
- Reserve your spot at the signup table in the foyer this Sunday with a $40 deposit to NLICC, additional $40 payments due in June and September
- Questions? Contact Connie Both
Shoe Drive (in any size or condition!) for YoungLife Capernanum
Younglife Capernaum is participating in a fundraiser for Camp scholarships that will benefit all of Fredericksburg! We are collecting old shoes that will be donated to a child in need or broken down into useable resources. These shoes that we are collecting can be in ANY condition. Our goal is to collect 3000 lbs of shoes. If you have any shoes that you would like to donate, please put them in the box in the hallway by the nursery. If you have questions, please contact Gale Puffenberger
Nursery Sunday School Opportunity
We’re looking for 2-3 volunteers who would be willing to commit to working in the nursery during the Sunday School hour. It’s usually on a 3-month committment and can correspond to the adult Sunday School calendar (because it would be every week), but if some are just interested in committing on a smaller scale (a month at a time), that would be great too. We have lots of babies on the way and can defintely use the extra arms and help! Contact Karsta Toscano.
Office Help Needed
Do you have a couple hours on a Friday afternoon you can spare? Sign up HERE to fold bulletins after 1pm some Friday. Takes about 2 hours (faster if you bring a friend!) Questions? Ask Pam in the office.
Note from Kathryne Marple, Women’s Committee Chair:
Lebanon Presbyterian Church, which dates back to 1734 in Greenwood, Virginia, was the little country church I was baptized in and grew up in through my early college years. I fondly remember family night suppers that featured traditional southern cuisine. I do not recall there ever being a missions banquet, but what does stand out in my mind was the joy of being with folks who were my covenant family and eating too much food! Would you consider joining your covenant family this Saturday evening for a “family night supper” that includes international foods, fellowship, and a special speaker from Mission to the World to boot? Hope to see you there!
Ps. 133:1 “How good and pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters) live together in unity!”
Do you have information you’d like passed to the women of the church? Let us know at email@example.com.
As you can see, I am out of testimonies to share and have used one of my Titus 2 stories (sorry about the length!). What is the Lord teaching you? How might you be an encouragement to another? Let us share.
in His grace,
Women’s Ministry Committee
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