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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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39

Tuesday 27th December 2011

God-Bumps & God-Incidences: Great Expectations

I found her in the church nursery, next to the toy bin. Her little hands gripped the edge of a rocking chair. She looked at me, eyes pooled with disappointment.

“Honey. What’s wrong?”

But I didn’t need to ask the question. I knew.

I pulled the door shut behind me, muffling the sounds of women gathering around tables — tables where my daughter had arranged the china, sugar cubes, tea cups, napkins.

She and a friend had planned a tea party as a fund-raiser for a mission in Haiti. They called it a “Hai-Tea.”

They had been preparing for weeks, taping posters to our church doors, standing up in front of the whole congregation to invite guests, publishing notices in the church bulletin:

 

“Hai-Tea Party — All girls — ages 1 to 100 — are invited to attend a “Hai-Tea Party” on Saturday, Dec. 17. We will be taking a free-will offering, with 100 percent of the money going toward Mission-Haiti.”

They asked church ladies to bring egg casseroles and muffins. They even arranged entertainment: an 8-year-old soloist, a 10-year-old pianist and a poetry reading by my daughter.

And they had done what every devoted disciple does before doing God’s work in the world: They prayed.

They set places for more than 30 women. But she’d counted, and that’s why she quietly stepped into the nursery before the event began: to hide her tears amongst the Fisher Price toys. Only 13 women and four little girls had come.

I knelt beside her, putting my hands on both of her knees. “It’s OK. It’s not about numbers.”

I groped for words, and on the inside, I scolded myself. I had miscalculated, too. Why had I suggested she hold her tea party during the Christmas season, busiest time of the year?

My heart broke to see hers splitting open.

“How will we ever raise $500?” She asked, sniffling. She dropped her head into her hands. “That’s what I’ve prayed for, Mom. Five-hundred dollars.”

I swallowed hard before I said what I needed to say. I knew there was no way she could reach her goal. I couldn’t bear to see her discounting her efforts as failure, or to watch as she accused God for being an unwilling participant in her well-intentioned prayer. Not yet anyway. She’s just a child. Dear God, just a child. 

Before I spoke, I prayed a silent prayer of confession: “Father, I’m sorry for my lack of faith.”

Then I spoke out loud: “Sweetie, You’ve set your goal really, really high, you know? Maybe a more reasonable goal?”

She crossed her arms over her chest, and widened her eyes with surprise. “No-oooo, Mom. It’s $500. That was my prayer.”

“But, honey …” Again, I asked her to reconsider. Again, a refusal.

I had said enough. I took her by the hand, and together we walked out of the nursery.

Lydia stood to welcome her guests, emotion tucked behind poise and a podium. She told the women about the free-will offering, pointing out manila envelopes in the middle of each table. And then, she announced her fundraising goal for the event: $350.

I sighed my relief, letting it out in one long breath. Somewhere between the nursery and the podium, she’d readjusted her high-flying goal.

She sat down next to me, and I patted her back. We ate eggs, and drank Earl Grey and, one at a time, all of us told stories of our favorite childhood dolls — just as Lydia had instructed. We watched as people slipped checks and dollar bills into the envelopes — but that didn’t seem to matter so much anymore, with all the laughter and storytelling. 

She turned to me, eyes sparkling. “This is the best party ever, Mommy.”

Yes, yes, it was a great party, I told her. 

Lydia rose to the podium again to read her poetry. Her last line: “Look around the room: You are the answer to my prayer.”

We closed the event with Christmas carols. Lydia and her friend gathered up the envelopes, and the money-counting began.

I watched. I prayed.

I noticed right away that several of the checks were large. And the dollar bills I’d seen stuffed into envelopes? They were actually 20s. I held my breath.

Another silent prayer: “Please, God. Let them reach $350.”

The tally quickly rose to $350.

Then to $400.

$450.

$475.

And then, just like that, the girls slapped down the last of the bills onto the table.

The final tally: $560.

Lydia looked at me, eyes wide with wonder at a God who is in the habit of doing immeasurably more. Immeasurably more.

She didn’t say what I thought she’d say. She didn’t say this: “I told you so, Mom.”

Instead, she and her friend grabbed each others’ hands, ran to the altar, and knelt down, while giggling and thanking the God whose wonders depend not on a mother’s simple understanding of what faith can do.

***

Have you come by to participate in this Wednesday’s God-Bumps & God-Incidences? I’m so glad you’re here.

To participate:

1 — Write your story.
2 — Add a community button (found here) to your post.
3 — Come back here to link the direct URL from your post on this page (add it to the linky below.)

You are invited to share any life moment — big or small — in which you sense God at work. Together, we are opening our soul-eyes to see the God-incidences unfolding, and the ”God-bumps” growing.

Grace and peace to you, as you sense Jesus in your midst, my friend …

  • Tears over here. Thankful that we serve a God who prompts hearts to give, that we serve a God able and willing to give us so much abundantly more than we can imagine or ever deserve.

    • Tears here, too, Jennifer. God is good. So, so, so good. I was — quite honestly — a bit ashamed over my lack of faith. Yet, I know it came from a place of wanting to protect my daughter’s heart.

      Thanks for “being here” tonight. 🙂

  • So totally puddled here. In awe of our amazing God. And of this sweet girl who loves Him so. And her wise and wonderful mother.

    Immeasurably more.

    • I’m not so wise. But my daughter? Yeah. She’s pretty awesome. She teaches me what it means to live by faith, to walk by faith.

  • Oh I’m just teary-eyed! No words…

  • Praise God!

    • Amen, Carey! Praise God, indeed!

  • Dea

    I had thought that urge to be be Peter Pan was from God! 🙂 Why do we grown-ups try to figure out what a reasonable expectation is from our Great God?!

    Oh, to never grow up when it comes to faith!

    I love the lesson’s of Lydia! You are so blessed to live with her 🙂 !!!

    • That’s it, precisely, Dea. But it’s so hard. I know that some of it my own lack of faith — “Dear God, I do believe. Help my unbelief” — or if it’s more that I fear that my daughter’s faith will wane if she doesn’t “get her way” in her prayers. Which is dangerous parenting, really. Because maybe I’m raising her to worship the gifts, instead of the Giver. God is not a lucky rabbit’s foot to be rubbed, a star to be wished upon, a penny tossed in a well.

      God is God.

      Someday, when I really, really learn that truth in my heart, I’ll do a better job teaching my child what faith really is. Until that day comes, I’ll be the student, and my daughter will serve as teacher.

      Thank you, Dea, for stopping by. I am so enjoying your Haiti posts.

      • Dea

        I was buying tennis shoes for my Haiti Christmas boy. I knew he was a year younger than Luke. The paper I held said to get size 9. My spirit was disturbed. I prayed, “Lord, a size 9 seems too small for his age. What should I do? I felt impressed to buy size 10–the size Luke wears. So, guess what I did? I bought size 9 1/2.

        The girls measured his foot when were in Haiti and guess what size it measured? Ten!!!

        I have repented for not obeying.

        I asked God to help me know the size and then I do what I think is reasonable! I have prayed over those shoes that by a miracle of God, they would fit like tens when Joel put them on his feet! I even asked God to let them grow with his feet!!

        If He can move mountain, He can “grow” shoes.

  • Grateful for these amazing girls and their God-sized faith that teaches us all! And for a God bigger than we realize.

    • I am ever-learning and re-learning this truth, Cheryl. Thanks for your words here. Love you…

  • I don’t know who makes me cry more in reading this–this immeasurably-more God of ours, your daughter with her bigger-than-she-knew faith, or her mother who wrote the story so beautifully!! What a treasure this is Jennifer!! Thank you so much–I needed this story of faith and abundant answers today!

  • That is quite a daughter you have! Hai-Tea? Awesome!

  • Tears of joy filled my eyes. Oh how wonderful and amazing our God is. I needed to hear this beautiful story this morning as I trust God for His provision in my life.

    Simply beautiful, Jennifer.

  • Now you have me crying in my coffee this morning at God’s faithfulness!!!

  • Me too, reaching for the tissue as I read this.

    He is so good. And that heart of your Lydia’s? Amazing. Just like her mommy’s.

  • Kendra

    Oh..my..goodness! Tears and God-bumps the whole way through this post of yours, Jennifer!! My heart smiles and rejoices at your daughter’s faith that soars because of my God, who excels at immesurably more. 🙂

  • You know, I read this early this morning, the only thing I’ve snuck time to read, just because I’ve missed you. But I had to come back for a minute.

    Amazed at the way he stretches the loaves and fish at your place. Amazed at how he uses the childlike faith of, well, real children, to raise the bar for us grownups. There’s way more here than I can really comment on in this tiny box.

    Lydia: thanks for doing this. For believing big, for bringing your mom and the rest of us along on your journey to believe even bigger. And next time? You make sure that little flyer makes it a little ways north. I’d love to take that 14th seat and even (shudder) drink tea at your table.

  • Candice

    Amen. Tears over here too. O to have such a child-like faith. What an overwhelming reminder that God does hear our prayers–and answers them–when we come to him. What an amazing gift of God’s faithfulness in your daughter’s life as well as yours.

  • Deb Russell

    Oh that gave me goosebumps when I got to the part where they made $560! I can totally see myself saying the same thing to my kids that you might want to set your goal a little lower. So proud of your Lydia! We should all have her faith!

  • This is the faith I strive for, Jennifer! Thank you for this beautiful telling, and for your daughter and her friends who love so well. ~Lori Luke 18:17(NIV) “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

  • I’m not supposed to be blogging this week (taking a break), but I couldn’t resist.
    Tears here too Jennifer. I can barely see to type. How I love the God who hears and answers the prayers of little girls with such abundance.

  • If you combine the tears flowing from all of us here you’ll have an ocean of love. Wonderful reminder of God’s faithfulness and provision for His little ones and from His little ones.

  • Numbers do not matter when God speaks to the hearts of His people. I remember an incident where a minister was agast at the small crowd. He needed a certain amount of money for his project. One tiny old lady gave the entire amount. We worship a God of surprises.

  • I love this! Those doubt-gremlins creep in so easily with us adults and throw us off course. Your wee girl sounds amazing! Blessings x

  • Wow. Our God breaks bread, fishes, and hearts. And He multiplies such extravagant love every time. Now I wonder how He will multiply that $500 even further …

    When I get to heaven, this is one of those posts that I’d like to watch on the big screen. Because it sure sounds like His Spirit was there with a film crew.

  • Edge of my seat as I read…identifying completely with your words to her sweetness.

    It’s not that we doubt GOD’s ability…but will He? In this situation? Praising Him that He did!

  • Perfect. Just plain perfect. This story, your girl, our God. Wow. Thanks so much for this, Jennifer. I would have been right there with you, worrying over her tender heart and doubting that God would provide. It’s a hard line to find sometimes, isn’t it? Wanting to encourage faith in our kids, yet helping them see God for who God is, not some kind of cosmic fairy godmother/father? You found the line, jennifer. And then God crossed it. isn’t that just God’s way??

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  • To have so much faith and be so young! This story encouraged my faith. Thank you.

  • Jennifer, I am thanking God for this story of hope, joy and big, big faith today!

  • … and a child shall lead. May God bless her in mighty ways.

  • Wow! Thats all I can say, I am posting this to FB! LOri

  • The faith of a child and the grace-filled provision of our awesome God … perfect. 🙂
    Thanks so much for visiting Love Living Simply.
    Praying the Lord blesses you and yours this year.

  • Oh, Jennifer. You and that girl of yours. This sounds a bit like the spelling bee…when will they stop teaching us? And when will we ever learn? Sweet, sweet story. Hai-tea, indeed.

  • oh. wow.

    to have the faith of a child….

    jennifer… i want to cling to this post… thank you. for raising such beautiful children.

  • This tea party gives me chills.

    Didn’t realize you had a Weds link-up community. I’ll be back!

  • What a cornerstone of answered prayer this memory will be for your daughter!

"The world only needs a famous Christ, not a bunch of famous Christians." ~ Logan Wolfram, author and speaker