When I thought about sharing the highlights of 2018, I knew I would share my favorite engagements, family portraits, and weddings…but I realized last year was also about so much more than just photography. Last year was the year I rediscovered prayer and began to dig into what it means in my life and the lives of those around me. It was a journey (still ongoing) that brought me to many highs and many lows, and since I’ve shared so much along the way I wanted to come full circle.
The truth is, I had a LOT of prayers answered. Prayers I never thought I would pray. Prayers I have prayed for a long time. Prayers that seemed impossible. Quick, almost thoughtless prayers that I know God still hears regardless. But the other thing about prayer is that the answer is so often not what we imagine. Even when I thought I had imagined every possible scenario, I realized later that He is far more creative than I am, which is good and sometimes a little painful. I could talk for hours on all the answered prayers from last year, but here are some of the best (and messiest) answers to what I asked God to do.
1) Let our home be used for more than just ourselves.
When we moved into our home, we knew it was a lot bigger than we currently need, and we were a little in shock that it was within our price range. So we prayed and talked about how we would fill the two extra bedrooms we have. Our long-term goal is foster care (we are still waiting for that one by the way!), but in the interim we’ve been able to use our house so much. On June 1, the first day we decided we’d be willing to start housing people, we had two interns come and stay with us for the entire summer. Just a few weeks after they left, we had a family stay with us for two months, which was completely unexpected! We’ve also been able to host a 20+ person Bible study each week, and we can’t wait to see how God will use our house this year.
The ‘messy’ part of this is that it’s not always the easiest thing to live with other people, or to have weekly commitments (at the very least) in our home. We prayed years ago that God would teach us how to be more hospitable, so it’s amazing to see two prayers answered in one.
2) Make me more flexible.
Oh, this just makes me laugh. When we started foster care training I knew I would need to release some of my Type A, scheduled self and be a little more flexible. As I mentioned above, we had a family come and live with us…who had three very young children. All of a sudden my life went from me, working from home with a toddler to me plus four other people during the day. It rocked my world. I didn’t always handle it well. But the blessings from that time are countless, and I am far more flexible now because I was bent on a daily basis. Truly, I believe there’s no other way I could have learned this lesson so well and so quickly.
3) Teach me patience (specifically with Willow).
I know someone who has stopped praying for patience because they don’t like the tests that come with it. I get it, I really do. But as one of the least patient people I know, I also realize that I need to press into my weaknesses and ask God to help me let go of them or they will affect my life and my family forever. So He answered, and Willow was sick with everything from ear infections to a very scary viral fever for 6 weeks straight. This meant a fussier child. This meant many sleepless nights leading to completely disrupted sleep patterns that have yet to be consistent.
I got mad. I raised my voice. I cried from frustration. I still have a long way to go. Yet, at some point in the wee hours of the morning when I again held a crying baby, I began to see how God was working a patience in me that will undoubtedly outlast this season. I will forever need to be more patient, but this year I took a big step in the right direction.
4) Give me wisdom for a lot of decisions.
Until this year, I’ve never really understood how to make wise decisions. That doesn’t mean all my choices have been foolish, but I didn’t have a consistent way to tackle hard problems. And in reality, I hate decisions - the little ones paralyze me, the big ones give me anxiety. I needed a way to handle all of it a little bit better.
So, completely by coincidence, I started encountering sermons and books that talked about just this. I’ve prayed this prayer for a long time, and over the last two years Nathan and I have been faced with some pretty big choices. Choices about jobs and school. Choices about adoption and kids and moving. Choices that impact the next hour, and choices that impact the rest of our lives. Slowly but surely, I have learned how to tackle these decisions. I don’t always know the answer right away, and I’m not always 100% confident at the end of it, but I know now that wisdom comes from the Bible, prayer, asking advice from people I trust, and even in the simple agreement between a husband and wife. This is a lesson I will carry with me forever.
5) Help me prioritize only the best things.
How did God answer this prayer? It’s simple. He took away a lot of the unnecessary things. I went through a season when all I could do was the bare minimum of what I had to, and I survived. It was ok. My life and my business didn’t fall apart even though so many other things fell off my plate. I’ve thankfully been able to pick a few things back up, but others I’ve left by the wayside…and instead of being bitter that I can no longer do this or that, I can say a grateful farewell and know that something better is on the horizon.
I could go on, and I know I have forgotten many. There are so many things that I asked for, big and small, and it is continually amazing to me that God hears my prayer and answers. What an incredible encouragement as I begin this next new year!