Today I’d like to welcome my sweet friend Susan to the blog. It wasn’t long ago that she shared a great story with me, and I asked if she’d write it out to share with all of you. This is a great reminder for me as a mom…and as a child. Don’t you love how God can take such a little thing and shake from it truth like sand from a beach towel? So without further ado, here’s Susan’s story, in her own words.
Little Pillows is a children’s nighttime devotional book that holds a very special place in our family’s history. Originally published in 1875, it was republished in 1976 and given to my daughter, Paige, as a gift. Every night at bedtime, I would read one of the devotions to Paige and then we would end the evening with prayer.
Now, before I tell you the rest of the story, I need to tell you a little bit about our family in general and Paige in particular.
Paige is the middle child of three children. In 1977, at the time we were reading Little Pillows, she was six years old, her brother was eight years old, and their baby sister was three months old. Paige was one of those children who, from the get-go, had very strong opinions on just about everything. At age five, she had just come in from playing at a friend’s house when she walked up to me, put a hand on her hip, tilted her head and queried, “Why didn’t you ever tell me about REAL jury?” She couldn’t even pronounce the word “jewelry” correctly, but whatever she’d just heard about it, she knew she wanted to know more. I thought about the many pieces of metal and/or plastic rings, bracelets, and necklaces lovingly stored in her dancing ballerina jewelry box, fake gems glittering. So the two of us had a brief, informative discussion on the differences between costume jewelry and real jewelry. At one point, she lifted my hand, looked at my wedding band and said, “Is that REAL jury?” Yes, I told her, it was. After our discussion she looked at me intently and said – very sweetly and with great sincerity—“From now on, I only want REAL jury.” That is the exact quote and it will live forever as a part of our family folklore. Really? She was FIVE. What five-year old announces that?
So—back to our bedtime devotional. Little Pillows contains 31 short chapters, one for each day of the month. We were on Chapter 9 and we had happily made our way through such chapters as, “Come Unto Me,” “Accepted in the Beloved,” and “I Have Loved You, Saith the Lord.” I turned to the evening’s devotional, “Asking” and read aloud the Bible verse under the title, “Ask what I shall give thee.” (2 Chronicles 1:7)
I don’t remember clearly but I’m wondering if that chapter title and Bible verse gave me pause. Not sure. What I do remember is by the time I got to these sentences, two paragraphs in, I was beginning to get a little uneasy: “This is the message to you tonight, ‘Ask what I shall give thee.’ Think what you most want, and ask for that, for Jesus Christ’s sake.” Then there was another page and a half of explanation about the promises of God and the Holy Spirit teaching and guiding us to ask for the right things, etc. But that sentence was already out there . . . “Think what you most want and ask for that.”
I admit to mild panic at that point. We always ended the devotional with a prayer that referenced the devotional we’d just read. This was risky stuff. What would this adorable child of mine ask for in prayer? Did she fully understand that God is not like a gumball machine, where a person drops in a penny and out pops a treat? Did she hear the part about making sure our desires are in line with God’s will and that sometimes the answer is, “No”? We talked about that but did she really understand? What would she request? A new camper/trailer like her friend’s family just purchased? A baby brother? Real jewelry?
With mild trepidation on my part, we discussed things a little further and I eventually said, “Paige, is there a desire of your heart that you’ve always wanted but you’ve never talked about with God? If so, you can pray about it right now. Can you think of something?” She looked at me with her big hazel eyes and said oh-so-sweetly, “Well . . . I’ve always wanted a pair of shoe skates.”
Okay, this was news to me.
In telling you the rest of the story, I need to strive for full transparency but this is where it gets ugly. This is my true confession. The moment she uttered the words “shoe skates,” my very first reaction—my immediate thought—was, “YES! I CAN HANDLE THIS!” Oh, the joy of it. It was October, I would probably find shoe skates on sale sometime before Christmas—because that’s the way God works, right?—and then there they’d be on Christmas morning and we could remind her of her prayer and thank God for answering her prayer and YES, this was perfect. I love it when that happens.
So, with great confidence and joy (because I already had this one figured out before she uttered the words), I said something along the lines of, “Well, then, Paige, let’s pray about that because the Bible and this devotional tell us that God wants you to come to Him with the desires of your heart and God has promised that your prayer will be heard.” She looked at me, nodded her head, closed her eyes and prayed a very simple straight-from-the-heart prayer, asking God if he would please help her get a pair of shoe skates.
I kissed her good night and left the room feeling really good; the glow of the Bible verses, the devotional, her prayer, and the thought of finding shoe skates on sale making my heart sing.
A few days later I was baking cookies when Paige came tearing into the kitchen from outside, shouting with glee, “Mommy! Mommy!” I turned around and noticed she was holding something in her arms. A large shoe box. “Mommy! Julie Anne’s grandmother came to visit and she brought her a pair of shoe skates and they’re too small and she got them on sale and she can’t take them back and they said let’s see if they fit Paige and they DID and she said I could have them and God heard me and answered my prayer and now I have a pair of SHOE SKATES, just like I always wanted.”
By this time, I was on my knees, hugging Paige and the shoe skates, tears pouring from my eyes. I wasn’t misty eyed, I was sobbing—tears of shame, tears of remorse, tears of joy and awe. As we hugged, I could sense it wasn’t just the two of us in that kitchen. God was with us; loving Paige and rejoicing with her, loving me, and speaking softly to me with the “still, small voice” referred to in Scripture. In the years since then I’ve found that words are inadequate to express what happened in those moments, as I felt gently chastised and deeply loved all at the same instant. Feeling the presence and power of God, there was absolutely no doubt that God was communicating something important, directly to me. There was no handwriting on the wall nor was there an audible voice, but it was all excruciatingly clear, nonetheless:
She was talking to me.
I heard her.
I love her.”
And then there was one last message from God, tenderly engraved into my heart and soul and mind forever, no sarcasm, no edginess, no condescension, just something I needed to hear, even though the words hit me with a jolt . . .
“If I ever need your help, I will be sure to ask for it.”
Oh, the conviction. Oh, the shame. Oh, the love. Oh, the forgiveness. All poured into me at the same moment.
In the years following that special day, Paige and I experienced some rough times. She was a little girl with strong opinions who became a teenager with strong opinions and our opinions frequently clashed! Over and over again during those turbulent years, I would re-live the experience of that devotional in Little Pillows, Paige’s prayer, and those beautiful shoe skates. And once again, I would remember that God is in control, not me, and I would find comfort in that knowledge. God loved her as an adorable little girl, He loved her as an ornery teenager, and He loves her still. She has grown into a beautiful woman; a wife and mother; a woman who loves God with her whole heart. I’m so thankful Paige is my daughter and I still praise God for the valuable lesson I learned through her and that sweet pair of shoe skates.
God is good. God’s got this, whatever it is. All the time.
Guest Post by Susan Hornung.