What that woman walking down the street taught me…

My friend and I were on the way to a coffee shop in town to catch up and reconnect. We’d tried several times before and either sickness or schedules prevented us. This particular morning I texted her knowing I didn’t have time for coffee but also trying to practice the discipline of biblical friendship. I texted and she said Yes.

So we’re about 1 mile into our short trip to the coffee shop (hello small town) when we noticed a woman a little younger than us with long blonde hair pulled to the side walking down the street in a bed sheet with very few clothes underneath. She was carrying a white plastic bag and she looked miserable as it was freezing outside. The whole thing just wasn’t right.

We both noticed her immediately and said something like, “She looks like she just left the hospital.”  We drove through several lights both uneasy with what we just saw. At the next light I looked at my friend and said, “We need to go back and see if she needs help, don’t we?” She said, “Yeah, we really do.”

We made a quick turn around and uttered a short prayer out loud of, “Lord, show us if you want to use us to help this woman today. Show us what this looks like.”

We pulled into McDonald’s and saw her walk in while we were parking. As we entered the McDonald’s we didn’t see her and decided she was probably in the bathroom. So we waited for her in the bathroom. Prayer pal stalkers gone wild. I was beginning to feel bad for the hospital escapee because we were about to pounce on her with some Jesus-lovin’ smothering grace. Lord help her.

As the woman came out of the restroom I cut to the chase ever so awkwardly and said, “Hi, we saw you walking and turned around not knowing if you might need a ride.” She seemed grateful and said, “Yes, but can you take me to “said town” about 15 minutes away?” We agreed.

We were all hungry so we all grabbed a bite and sat in a back booth.

As we listened we learned that she was battered by her ex-boyfriend and had a seizure. Stitches from a bite mark and a brace were only the surface problems she had at that moment. Suddenly I was thinking to myself, “Okay, we just committed to take this woman home and we know nothing about her, what’s in her little plastic bag or if “angry ex” is still on the scene.” I prayed silently and continued to assess the situation to decide if we could indeed take her home.

There was no question God was nudging us to take this woman home and so we did.

On our twenty minute ride there we talked about all kinds of things. She randomly brought up prostitution which was really wild because my friend and I are in a Bible study right now about a prostitute. Her name is Gomer and it’s all in the book of Hosea. For real – go read it!  So it was a natural lead in to talk about the things we were learning. How really – we all play the part of unfaithfulness to God. And in his love he is still there for us with the purest love waiting to buy us back.

As we pulled into her poverty stricken neighborhood she said, “Just look around at this mess. How will I ever get out of this?”

We told her she couldn’t do it on her own but with God’s help and practical steps forward she could do it. We told her about resources we knew about in her community that could help her and encouraged her to make one particular phone call.

My friend grabbed the woman’s hand and said, “Baby, I’m gonna pray over you before you leave.” And she prayed the sweetest prayer I’ve ever heard over a sister deep in pain. I’ll never forget it. We gave her one of our phone numbers and she left. This was two weeks ago. We’ve prayed for her ever since.

As I look back on this day a few things have settled in my heart:

  1. When I choose to do things I don’t have time to do (or don’t want to do in some cases) but do them anyway out of obedience God tends to show up in some pretty wild ways.
  2. When I think I’m in the front seat “helping” someone in the back seat the book of Hosea reminds me that we’re all in the same seat before God. We’re all spiritually unfaithful and messed up. Nobody is better or more loved than another.
  3. Although we’re all in the same seat before God sometimes he calls us to drive and take initiative. When we sense that moving from him it’s best we lean in and go with it even if it’s a little scary and uncertain. I think this might be what faith looks like.

Friends, look for God this week. You’ll most definitely find him in his word but sometimes you’ll find him in the lending of a hand to a girl walking down the street in a bed sheet.

Infertility, Miscarriage, Still Birth and Abortion Support

Infertility, miscarriage, still birth and abortion are hard topics with deep, unique wounds associated with each.

We have experienced infertility and miscarriage and those were difficult days. I had a miscarraige very early in a pregnancy that resulted from IVF. My Doctor explained early on that my HCG levels were not normal and that the pregnancy would end naturally. Instead my HCG levels kept rising after daily checks to the point that we had a valid 8 week ultrasound report. Two weeks later I miscarried. These were painful days.

I can’t begin to imagine the pain related to having a miscarriage later in a pregnancy, having a stillborn child or having an abortion.

By God’s grace in our personal situation of years of infertility we were surrounded by an incredibly loving family and church family. Both sets of our parents prayed for us, encouraged us and supported us in big decisions we had to make. In addition our church family prayed for us and supported us also. God also used his Word and the Holy Spirit to minister to us through this time in some of the most profound ways. This blog is based on a verse that God showed me during those years of pain – Job 2:10 “Shall we accept good from God and not adversity?” So while those years of infertility were so painful we survived without becoming bitter or resentful. We had hope in the painful process.

Recent stats tell us that infertility effects 1 in 7 couples. And 10-20% of women who know they are pregnant have a miscarriage.

This means that if you have any sphere of influence other than your own backyard then you most likely know a woman who is going through infertility, has had a miscarriage or had an abortion.

Maybe she’ll share her struggles with you or maybe you’ll stumble on them.

What will you say? How will you encourage her?

This is where we make things harder than they need to be all because we don’t know what to say.

And I get it. I’ve said untimely strange things to people in an attempt to express my love and concern during difficult times. If we’re honest we’ll admit we’ve all said stupid things before. But can we just put our big girl panties on and acknowledge it, apologize if necessary and do differently next time?

Refuse to let your past awkward words paralyze you in such a way that you decide it’s just better not to get involved at all for fear of saying the wrong thing.

Loving others will be flat out awkward at times. But it’s totally worth the risk. The more we do it the less awkward. Or perhaps the less afraid we become of being awkward in our loving of others.

The other side of this coin is extending grace to others when they say something to us that is well intended but wounded instead. It happens. The quicker we realize this the better we will love each other.

There’s a resource I’d like to tell you about that I have found to be helpful over the past 15 years in dealing with these topics. From receiving personal help to knowing what to say and what not to say to people during times of utter pain.

Caleb Ministries  is a Christ centered ministry that addresses what we’re talking about at LIABOW today. Rarely do you find a ministry that deals with all of these issues specifically and in such detail.

One of their many sweet resources is a P.A.T box – Providing A Treasure

It includes a handmade burial gown, knit booties, baby hat, and a baby blanket. Also included is a book called “Morning will Come” by Sandy Day, Founder of Caleb Ministries. It really is a beautiful treasure for a young Mom and Dad who have just lost their baby.

Maybe Caleb Ministries is a resource that could help you or a friend. Being aware of these resources is helpful because we never know when we or someone we know will walk through a journey that involves these painful things.

Have you walked through any of the things we talked about today? If so, how did God meet you in the midst of your pain? I’d love to hear. 

 

 

 

When Jesus wants us to act like a three year old.

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What a tender picture of these preschoolers laying a hand on their Operation Christmas Child box and praying for the child who will receive it.

One little girl chose to give her very first baby doll. An adorable doll with a yellow gingham dress with lace trim. Like cutey patootey put-in-the-cedar-box-and-save-for-your-great-Granddaughter cuteness. Mama was struggling about this one because it’s a bit of a keepsake (you know how we Mama’s are about the firsts). It would be easier and less heavy on the heart to just go buy a brand new one like all the other items being boxed up. But the three year old wanted another little girl to have her favorite baby doll.

I love that this Mama’s heart was trumped by her heart for God. She wanted her little girl to walk in that love and give selflessly. Who are we to mess with what God is doing in our kids hearts?

Have you been there before? We talk to our kids about loving God and others and how we should pray for the homeless man we see out our window and then our kids come back with, “Oh, I know what we should do Mama. We should invite him to come home with us!”

Errrr, well……and a slight laugh of “bless him he doesn’t know any better.”

My good friend had that conversation with her son last week. The three year old wanted the homeless man to come over to their house. The Mama’s heart has been burdened for this man for a long time. They see him on the streets all the time.

What do you even do with that?

I’m the first to say that fear would keep me from having a complete stranger in my home. I’m more street wise than that.

I regret not letting Sophie give ALL her money one time as a gift to someone. She was so little and didn’t understand the value of money but her heart is so very generous and I snuffed out her desired act of radical generosity because it didn’t make sense to me.  You don’t give ALL of it. Be generous but with limits. Be a wise steward which means it needs to make sense on paper and always leaving money left over.

You give a baby doll but not the one that means a lot to you. That’s too special to give to someone you don’t even know.

Sadly this is my thinking at times and when I say it out loud it makes me cringe and sick to my stomach because I know it’s not the perspective our God has on things. I don’t want this to be my earthly vision of things.  I want to have a three year old’s perspective when it comes to loving others. Perhaps this is what  Jesus was talking about when he tells his followers to become like a child.

I don’t know what it always looks like and I don’t always do it well but I’m learning and watching the radical generosity and love of our God through the Bible. And I love it. I want to extend this kind of love to others.

So the next time someone accuses you of acting childish – don’t necessarily take offense to it. Unless you like stuck your tongue out at someone or fell down on the ground and threw a temper tantrum in the church aisle because they didn’t use the hymnal or something. Yeah that’s not cool childish behavior.

Well, I’m off to go play in the sandbox.

Ya’ll have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

4 ways to help your kids minister to the elderly

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In a world where gaming, selfie-perfecting and Instagram following consumes our kids, as parents, we need to be proactive in helping them become outward faced.

None of us are born this way. Until Jesus comes in and rescues us from ourselves we will be hell bent on serving ourselves. And that’s the beauty of Jesus. He radically transforms. Whether or not your child has a relationship with Jesus at this point there are some things we can do to help them become more aware of people around them. And the nursing home is a great place to start.

Trust me, we don’t have this figured out by any means. Just ask me about the time one of our kiddos asked an elderly lady, “Are you going to die soon?” Oh dear. But we have learned a few things and maybe they’ll help you as you seek for ways to help your kids become more outward faced.

A great place to start is your local nursing home. You really can just show up and start visiting people. Going around 11:00am seems to be a good time because most of the residents are up but are not eating lunch quite yet. And just a simple knock on the door is fine – poke your head in and just say something like, “You don’t know us but we came by for a visit if you’re up to it.”  Most everyone is so welcoming of it. A few things to remember upon your nursing home visits with kids:

  1. Pray before you go. Ask God to give ya’ll a heart to love the people you come in contact with on that visit. It might mean listening to a long story. Or telling a story to a very lonely depressed soul, or going to the store to get something they need. Being wide open to what God has in mind – not what we have planned – will be well worth it even if it seems uncomfortable at the time.
  2. Embrace the uncomfortable. And there will be uncomfortable times. Like when you child says, “Ewwww, what’s that smell?!” upon walking in a room. You can’t prepare them for everything and so just take these moments as teachable moments for the ride home. And don’t let the uncomfortable moments keep you from going back. Like the time Ms. Linda gave me the card back that I made for her. She didn’t want it. My kids eyes were bugged eyed in shock and disbelief. Ha! It was pretty funny actually. Satan would love to throw anything our way to make us give up on being ministers of mercy and compassion.
  3. Speak Truth. There is nothing more powerful than giving someone the Truth of God’s word. Speaking, praying or giving a card of scripture is one of the greatest gifts we could give to someone. We have found that most people love a homemade card. I buy colored 4×6 blank index cards at Michaels or Hobby Lobby when they go 50% off and throw some stickers on there and print off a verse of scripture and glue on the card. Sometimes I’ll handwrite it. And I have a set of verses that I have found great comfort in during times of difficulty or just favorite verses that I go to regularly. These are the various verses I use. And remember we prayed before the visit so I feel certain the right person will get the right card with the Truth of God’s word they need to hear that day. This is how our God works.
  4. Conversation Helps. This is hard for kids. Early on our kids didn’t do much talking. They would give hugs and say Hi but now that they’re older we’re trying to help them move more into initiating conversation. So we talk about what questions they might could ask a person they’re visiting. Or what things they could talk about that would interest the other person. We certainly don’t have this figured out yet. On our last visit I asked this lady pictured above what her advice to Mitchell and Sophie would be. And she gave some excellent advice about minding your parents and finishing school. I want my kids to know there’s a wealth of wisdom in the older generation and we need them. And yeah, they might get some screwy advice if you keep asking that question to everyone you visit in the nursing home but what a great platform to talk about these things with your kids later.

Here’s a few more stories of our visits to the nursing home – some just plain funny and some really sad. Don’t spend too much time on our stories – go build your own and come back and tell me how it went. I would love to hear how it goes.

What made us the “nicest white people ever”

The other side of the window

31 Days: Day 7 – When outreach doesn’t go like you expected

On obedience

When she speaks you listen.

This woman is filled with wisdom, thanksgiving and a strong will to live. She’s in her nineties and still going strong. Today she gave Mitchell and Sophie some excellent advice.

“Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket.” Proverbs 25:11

And you just have no idea how timely this advice was. There’s a back story to this story and I won’t share it here but we almost missed our visit today because of an obedience issue. So her words were like freaky timely. God’s timing amazes me.

Oh and I love how she decided to “wear” the card we made her. So cute!

 

Dinner Parties & Alcohol – “you asked”

Occasionally I’ll get an email from someone asking me to address a particular topic on my blog and recently I received this question:

“What to do when you’re invited to a gathering you know alcohol will be served at?” 

The person who asked this question doesn’t drink alcohol and is feeling the tension of wanting to reach out to people but not wanting to be around the alcohol. The particular event this person is talking about is not a wild & crazy party but a simple gathering of adults and some of them drink. So your basic adult gathering with alcohol being served.

This is a very personal issue and I can’t answer for anyone but myself but maybe I can give some food for thought based on personal experience and observations from scripture.

We actually experienced this exact scenario recently. We were invited to a cocktail party for a new neighbor. New gay neighbors. We don’t drink. And we don’t condone homosexual lifestyles. But we want to love our neighbors well and it starts by getting to know them. So we went. Most everyone drank but us. Was it awkward? No, it really wasn’t. We didn’t make a big deal out of it and neither did they. They asked if we wanted something to drink and we declined. That simple.

We’ve been to a few other neighborhood type events where alcohol was served and we were the only ones not drinking. The first time it was a bit awkward for us just because we felt kind of out of place but walking home that night it just felt right. I can’t explain it other than we knew we were doing what Jesus would do – he would totally spend time with his neighbors. Right where they were. In their homes.

In order to be a light in our world, in our communities and in our neighborhoods we have to get on other people’s turf. And their turf isn’t going to always look like ours. And that’s okay. It will involve being uncomfortable sometimes. That’s also okay.

At first you might feel like you have to defend yourself and explain yourself – for instance, “No, I wouldn’t care for anything to drink because………”  But you don’t have to do that. Don’t make a deal out of it. If someone asks you why you don’t drink that’s one thing. Everyone has their right to drink or not to drink. If they ask, tell them why but try not to get into a debate about it. This isn’t your chance to turn people away from drinking. It’s your chance as a Christian to love people where they are. And that starts by simply getting to know them. Even when they have a drink in their hand. And it’s important to remember nobody is “better” or  “more free in Christ” because they do or don’t drink.

The other thing you might be worrying about is what other people will think if you attend a party with alcohol. What if someone sees you there or finds out you went and they don’t know you didn’t have a drink. What if you’re at the company party where there’s a lot of drinking and someone see you there and your testimony is ruined.

When we feel the need to put disclaimers out when coming along side people it tells us we’re more concerned with what other people think about us, our image, and our reputation instead of loving people right where they are. If we’re concerned about what other people think of us then we’re missing the point of reaching out.

I used to walk in fear of what others would think when they saw me with a neighbor who was having a glass of wine while we ate lunch in a public place. But it didn’t take long for me to shed that fear when I heard stories of women just like me in need of a Savior. They poured their hearts out and felt comfortable being themselves. Some of these women would later come to know Christ and some of them didn’t. One woman sat in our living room and cussed confidently in the middle of Bible study because she just didn’t know any better. A few months later on her self made prayer list was “help me not to cuss.” Had anyone asked her to stop? Yes. But it’s not what you think. It wasn’t me. And it wasn’t the ladies in our Bible study. But the Holy Spirit put that on her heart as she grew in her new walk with Jesus. And that stuff really happens when we simply love people the way Jesus loved.  And it’s beautiful. Messy sometimes but really beautiful.

When we look at Jesus in the Bible we will see that he didn’t care what other people thought about his testimony. If he did he wouldn’t have shown compassion towards prostitutes. He would have avoided the tax collectors house instead of partying there. We don’t even see him explaining himself to his disciples or religious leaders in these situations. It was through and through love for these people.

And if we can remember that we are “these people” then loving others in this way will come easier. You might not have had 5 husbands but the sin you were born into is the sin that Jesus died for out of his love for you. We all have the same universal problem – sin. And we all have access to the One who can redeem us from this problem. But some people don’t know this. Some of your neighbors haven’t heard. And how will they know unless we tell them? Are we seriously going to wait until they “stop drinking” or “start looking like us”?  I pray not.

So I would say to the Christian adult who doesn’t drink to still go to the party where alcohol is served. Go with the purpose of getting to know people who may not know the Good News. And by all means look for opportunities to love your neighbor well. They’re just like you – in need of the love of Jesus Christ.

Have a question or topic you’d like to see addressed on LIABOW? Shoot me an email. I don’t claim to have all the answers but I’ll share what I’ve learned if I’ve learned anything at all. 

 

 

 

 

Bible Journaling Workshop

So the last few weeks I’ve been preparing for a large Bible Journaling Workshop at our church. The process took over our dining room but how fun it was!

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There was a sweet Spirit among the group and ladies left feeling like they too could linger longer in God’s word through journaling. Therefore I feel it was highly effective and I know it was FUN!

Two ladies in particular have inspired me in Bible Journaling and I shared their stories with the ladies on Saturday. Lisa Ritter’s daughter Emma has Cystic Fibrosis and Bible Journaling has been a huge source of comfort to her during their hospital stays. Lisa’s faith is astounding. Find her on Facebook and Periscope because you will LOVE her. I’ve been praying for Emma and had to share a tiny bit of her story with the ladies.

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Erika Kosterlitzky is actually the first person that introduced me to Bible Journaling about 7 months ago. Her sweet little Libby went home to be with Jesus in a drowning accident and this woman’s faith will also encourage you and bless you. Their story was shared as well on Saturday. You can also find Erika at her blog Life After Libby

And then we sat around these cute round tables and watched live tutorials, talked about what Bible Journaling can look like and how really the point is just to spend time reading and responding to God’s word.

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One of our planning team members made these art pieces for everyone. She made four originals and we made color copies and laminated them for everyone. Such a gift! She is so talented.

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Work stations allowed us to try our hand at some of the new art techniques we learned thanks to Heather, Suzanne and Allison – the tutorial chicks. They were so awesome! They used a ladybug camera to do live tutorials. Stamping, lettering and prepping/painting a page.

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The tutorial trio – love them!

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Several Mother daughter duo’s came and I loved that so much.

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A friend of mine working on her first page. Her boyfriend gave her a journaling Bible for Valentine’s Day and she was waiting until the workshop to learn a few basics. Her page turned out so neat.

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Sophie attended the workshop with a few friends so that was fun for her.

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The planning team in all our maturity and godliness.

My man opened up our time and I was so glad he did. I asked him to share with us a few words because I wanted the Spiritual leadership of our church to speak and pray over our group. He reminded us that being women of the word can change everything. Spending time in Gods word is important and being creative in the margins of our Bibles can be a neat tool when our heart and desire is to respond to God.

It took many hands to make this day so productive and special and I just thank God I got to be a part of it.

 

31 Days: Day 31 – At the end of the day

Outreach involves so many aspects and I’ve only haphazardly addressed some of them. But really at the end of the day we’ve got to realize that our obedience to God is what matters. Hopefully it is our love for Jesus that moves us to want to obey him. If our obedience to God comes from any other source: guilt, fear of man, attempt to look good, etc. then it’s in vain and worthless. But when we obey God in love He will show us how to respond to people. He will show us how to love people and serve them. It is not up to us to produce results – only God can do that. We can’t change hearts and move people into complete freedom. Only God can do that but He uses us and at the end of the day when we obey Him we can trust He’s working it all out. We can relax and know that God loves people and His redemptive plan is in effect. It’s only by his grace that we get to be involved in reaching out to others. So friends, let’s rest in the fact that God is doing an amazing work inside of his people and he wants to do it in those around us too. Let’s be willing to be a tool in the hand of God for outreach purposes.

31 Days: Day 30 – Discernment in Outreach

Outreach will indeed call for the need to be wise and discerning. Typically I can discern a true need from the “I’m dressed up to look homeless and asking for money but really I’m just fine” kind of a person. I’ve seen enough of both to recognize the difference. Not every time but generally speaking.

Last night Sophie and I waited in the van while Randy ran into the store to grab something. While we waited a man came to the window and asked if I could “help a homeless man out” (his words).  I’m not sure what got into me – possibly it was being on day 29 of 31 days of writing on outreach or having just meditated on Isa. 58 the day before (all about helping the needy) or what – but I totally fell for this man’s plea. It went like this:

  1. Me: Well, what exactly do you need. Are you hungry?
  2. Man: Yes Ma’am that would be good.
  3. Me: How about Mc Donald’s down the way?
  4. Man: Well I really would rather have a loaf of bread, bologna and some cheese.
  5. Me: Okay, we can get all that inside this store right here. My HUSBAND is on his way out right now.
  6. Man: I really like a certain kind of bologna and they don’t sell it in there. They only sell it at the gas station at __________ (on the other side of the tracks in a bad area of town).
  7. Me: Ummm, well I really think the meat inside this store will be just fine.
  8. Man: I can’t go in there. They’ll think I’m soliciting and I’ll get in trouble. Can you just bring it out to me over there on those steps (in a dark alley).
  9. Me:  (still not clueing in to what was going on) Okay, sure, we can do that.
  10. **Randy comes back to the van.
  11. Me: We need to get that man over there some food. The one in that dark alley.
  12. Randy: What? Why? No, we don’t.
  13. Me: Yes, we really do. He needs it. (I tell him everything the man said)
  14. Randy: I can’t believe you’re falling for this. (Man walks over to van window)
  15. Me: Fine, you tell him we can’t get him any food.
  16. Man: Sir, can you take me to ________ to get a certain kind of bologna?
  17. Randy: No, but what about McDonalds next door?
  18. Man: Well……..ummm…..can you just get it and bring it to me.
  19. Randy: No I don’t think so.

Randy helped me see this dude really was fine. He was preying on suspecting people like ME. I’m usually the last to fall for something like that. Now that I look back on the whole thing I realize how bad the whole thing was. He couldn’t be seen by either store because he’d been there before and had been asked to leave. He wanted a ride to a certain place, in a bad section of town, for a certain kind of food that couldn’t be purchased at any of the normal grocery stores in town. HELLO!!! Wake up Melody.

I hugged and thanked Randy when we got home for helping me see and for protecting us. We’d probably all be dead right now….. with a bag of bologna next to us! Okay, not really.

So yeah, we must be discerning in our responses to people when they ask for food, clothing and shelter. God tells us to provide these things for the needy and the poor but we must rely on His Spirit to help us know who the needy and poor are. Be wise! I’m preaching to the choir.

31 Days: Day 29 – The lady behind the counter

People are hurting all around us. Going through things we have no clue about. When God gives us a glimpse into hurting souls count it a privilege and ask for His guidance in showing His love even to a stranger. It might seem weird, awkward and uncomfortable but it’s worth it. Today I met a lady who was bawling and could hardly get herself together to check me out. I asked her if she was okay and she said she was just having a hard day. Not wanting to be nosey or weird by asking her what was wrong but at the same time feeling so heavy hearted for her I decided to tell her I would pray for her. She thanked me and I decided to shop some more and pray for God to help this woman with whatever she was upset about. About 10 minutes later I went back to the checkout line and she was bent down working on a lower shelf crying her eyes out still. I said, “I want to pray specifically for you if that’s okay. How can I pray for you today?” She said, “This job is so hard. I can’t do it.” I asked if she was new and she said she was. I looked her in the eyes and said, “Have you heard of the verse Phil. 4:13 that says I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength? Looking down she shook her head yes. I said, “Look at me (pulled a bossy Mama move on this young girl) You CAN do this job with God’s strength. You’re right that YOU can’t do it on your own. But you CAN do it with Christ’s strength. You say this verse to yourself all day today and you ask God for his strength and He will give it to you.” It was a 45 second conversation that I believe was prompted from the Holy Spirit. I left and I will probably never know how God worked in this girls life today but I know He is. I texted my Mom’s In Prayer group and said I need you girls to pray for ___________ to know that she can do all things through Christ today. They’re all praying for her. God is interceding for her and I am reminded once again that we serve a God who cares about the details of our life.