faith, homeschooling, hope, prayer

A Gift of Faith, 1993

Thirteen years ago I was regularly submitting to magazines and anthologies, receiving just as many rejections as acceptances. Though I kept paper copies of most of what I sent, this unpublished essay somehow escaped my printer. Until this morning’s search for another file in my old e-mail, I’d forgotten the details of the unexpected gift of a computer and the fact that my young children held such strong faith while mine and my husband’s wavered. I share with my readers the original essay submitted in February 2008 so that you might garner the same lesson I did in re-reading it today. Of course, I did doubt God’s providence in the ensuing years, more times than I care to admit. But this morning’s lesson? Why? Why would I ever doubt a God who cared enough about me to provide a computer just when I needed one?

Mary Potter Kenyon
3195 182nd St.
Dyersville, Iowa 52040
(319) 553-1162
Word Count: 1217 words

A Writer’s Gift of Faith

By 1993 I was feeling pretty confident about my writing, enough so to consider working on a book. I’d sold a few essays and was working part-time for a local newspaper covering school board and city council meetings. They’d even given me my own bi-monthly column. In between newspaper assignments and home schooling my children, I formed a rough outline of a book about saving money, targeting homeschoolers. Time was at a premium, however, and I didn’t get very far before I gave birth by emergency C-section in October to our fifth child. David took off work to care for our other children while I remained in the hospital a few extra days, regaining strength after a harrowing labor and delivery. When he returned to his job, he was unexpectedly fired.

Suddenly, I found I had a great deal of free writing time as David took over the bulk of the child care in between his job searches and interviews. In the first month of our new son’s life I wrote the initial chapter and a book proposal for what would become the first book on the market geared toward penny-pinching homeschoolers. My proposal was immediately accepted by the first publisher I contacted, a small Christian press.

The book contract arrived in late November. As I skimmed through it, my enthusiasm and elation quickly evaporated. According to the contract, I would be required to provide the entire manuscript on a computer disk. I was devastated. How on earth was I going to do that without a computer? We were struggling just to provide for our basic needs with nothing left for extras. That night at the supper table I relayed the crucial point of the contract to my family. My husband just shook his head in defeat, already feeling despondent about his unsuccessful job search and his inability to provide for his family. My two oldest children, however, were enthusiastic in their responses.

“Just pray for a computer,” my 13-year-old son, Dan, said matter-of-factly. His 11 year old sister Beth concurred. I was slightly taken aback by their simple faith in the power of prayer. While I‘d taught them to believe that God would provide for our needs, I’d never have considered praying for something as materialistic or expensive as a computer. At that time even a used computer was well over $500.00. I briefly considered explaining to the children that there was no way God was going to be able to bring us a computer but hesitated. Wasn‘t there a verse in the Bible that promised with God all things were possible? Who was I to doubt God’s providence? I looked at my children’s expectant faces and my husband’s skeptical one. What could I say? I lowered my head, folded my hands and prayed out loud.

“Dear God, please help me get a computer, or provide me with a way to get my book on a computer disk.” The children chimed in with their “Amen.” I figured I’d covered all the bases with that additional tag line. If it came to that, I could always pay someone else to type the manuscript onto a computer disk. I didn’t really believe I would have a computer to do so myself.

My children’s faith, however, never wavered. Each night their bedtime prayers included the plea for a computer for their mother’s book, their certainty in an answer buoying my own faith. I found myself torn between the desire to believe with their child-like faith, and a pervading sense of dread at explaining why this particular prayer might bring a resounding “no” from above. As David continued his fruitless search for a job, I spent more and more of my days working on the book, while my children discussed ways that they would make use of the computer they were certain was on the way.

Considering our dire financial straits, Christmas that year could have been very sparse. Instead, thanks to some generous relatives, friends, and church members, the children had plenty of gifts to open. But the best gift of all arrived later in the day as we gathered at my mother’s house.

My older brother, Lyle, asked me how my book was progressing. I told him about impossible requirement that was in my contract. A strange look came over his face.

“So that’s why I wasn’t supposed to sell it,” he said under his breath.
“Sell what?” I asked as a shiver went down the back of my neck. My children and husband were now paying attention to the conversation.

Lyle explained that he’d had a computer for two years and was ready to upgrade. He’d bought a new computer and intended to sell the old one to make some extra money for Christmas.

“Twice I went to the newspaper office to run an ad and twice I left without submitting it because I had an overpowering feeling that I wasn’t supposed to sell it. Now I know why, “ he concluded. “I was supposed to give it to you.”

My husband’s mouth dropped open in disbelief and the shiver I’d felt turned into a warm glow. My children cheered out loud. I couldn’t believe it. My brother was going to give me his computer? He hastened to add that it would likely take a little work to get it working correctly again, but I barely heard him. If God could provide a computer, he could certainly provide some money to get it repaired.

On the way home that night, the children couldn’t stop talking about the amazing way God had provided a computer, and the fun games they could play on it. My husband remained silent and thoughtful. I knew he was taking in all that had transpired that day, just as I was. That night he confessed to me how he’d lost faith in God the last few weeks as he searched for work. Now, because of the gift of a computer, he wondered it God had planned for his job loss all along so that I could complete my book. I told him I’d been wondering the same thing.

When my book advance arrived less than a week later we used $60.00 of it to repair the computer. Within a few months I’d completed my book and was able to provide the completed manuscript on a computer disk. It would take my husband nearly a year to find work. While stressful, those months provided me with the gift of time to complete a book. Eventually we used that same computer to hook up the Internet and open up a whole new world for my writing and my children’s education.

That generous gift of a computer meant much more for our family’s faith though. For my children, it was an answer to heartfelt prayers. To my husband, it was a renewal of faith. For me, God’s provision of a computer meant the beginning of a new way of looking at my writing. I felt humbled, and realized how God had been blessing my endeavors, guiding my writing and providing me with ways to use the talent he gave me.

I would never doubt His promises again.

the book that was written on a gifted computer

This is How He Does It

This is how he does it, and I know this to be truth.  God gave me a beautiful day that I felt led to write about into the night. I glorified him and basked in the warmth of his Care for me.

This morning I began the day the same way I had begun yesteday’s, thinking I am healing of the terrible grief I feel in my loved one’s absence.  I write to those who care about us, to those I am indeed so grateful for. The music plays in the background and I shed a few tears.

Then the idea that the only way I could honor David now is to get my book published as soon as possible is planted into my head and I check my e-mail to see what the agent who has been reviewing my manuscript says.  You must understand this; David encouraged this book. In March of 2010, he sat across me at the kitchen table and told me that the New York Times had a front page article on how couponing was the newest extreme sport. He asked me to pull out my old manuscript and begin on it again.  I resisted.  When I did pull it out, I got excited about it. Through the ups and downs of working on this book, David had been there all the way. He was most definitely “the wind beneath my wings.”

Something I had admired about this agent was that I knew her husband would have a say about acquiring me as a client and I respected that.  I had the same relationship with my spouse. He and I were true partners, in every sense of the word.  Yet when that e-mail informed me exactly that, my emotions went all over the place. Doubts about the book and myself as a writer assailed me. You will never get this book published, I heard. I panicked. I could barely breathe. My heart raced. I turned to my e-mail, where I knew a daily devotion I had signed up for would be there. It had been every single day since late November.  It was not there. I went to Facebook and messaged the woman, asking her if she was still doing the devotions. I confided in her about my fears and doubts.  My daughter, who is in the hospital with my grandson, messaged me, “Are you having a bad day?” and I replied in the affirmative, and explained. “It is Satan planting those doubts. He is working in you.”  I instantly knew the truth of that statement. I began to calm down.

Has not our Lord been leading me down a path, a path so crystal clear that I even felt a swift stab of fear two weeks ago? The doors that had been opening up to me opened  so swifly they were slamming against the wall. I looked over at my husband in the car with me one day and asked, “All these things that are happening, all these opportunities for me; You don’t think God is preparing me to be alone, do you? Because I couldn’t stand that.” My husband assured me he would be there, and I thanked the good Lord Jesus for the support of a loving and proud husband.

A good friend once asked me, “If you believe God led you to write this book, can’t you trust him to get it published in his time?”   I reluctantly agreed that God’s timing might be wiser than our own.  I am not a patient person. My husband knew this of me and worried over my impatience.

I don’t always know someone to pray with, but I do know others are praying for me.  This morning I felt the power in prayer when I turned away from doubt and fear and anxiety and looked evil in the eyes and said, “NO, I will not let you have the satisfaction of winning in this, of using my husband’s death to your advantage and bringing me down; negating the beauty in God’s plan. I WILL glorify him in all things.”


Prayer Warriors

When a long-lost friend from my past contacted me through Facebook a few months ago and told me her husband was dying of the very same  cancer my mother had just been diagnosed with~ well, it seemed pretty obvious to me why God was sending her my way. I’ll admit, however, I was also afraid of another possiblity~ that the nodule spotted on David’s lung meant his cancer was back, and God was blessing me with the friendship of a woman who was about to lose her husband.  I never in a million years imagined that this friend would turn out to be my strongest prayer warrior in my grandson’s fight with cancer.

Because my mother’s death turned out to be a spiritual journey for me, I did not actually need the support of prayer warriors.  In fact, my one prayer was answered in that my sister Joan and the hospice nurse were able to keep my mother comfortable through her death and protect her from pain. Her death affected several family members in a similar way, including my son-in-law Ben. When he found out about Jacob’s cancer he told my daughter that he didn’t know how he could handle it without having gone through a faith journey of his own.

I feel somewhat like a “new” Christian, as if the preceding 50 years I had just been going about my business, living my life and neither being so good nor so bad as to draw the attention of either God or Satan. So when a seasoned Christian tells me how to pray or what to say, I grasp onto their words like a dying man searching for water in the desert. A good friend, Pam, sends me prayers through e-mail.  I wonder at her prayers; they are so beautiful. I envy the comfort with which some people pray aloud.  Unless it is scripted prayer, when I pray out loud I feel awkward.

When my husband was initially diagnosed with cancer there was a short period of time in which I could not bring myself to pray, I was so angry at God. I also wasn’t sure what to pray for. If I prayed for healing and he was not healed, I was afraid I would lose my faith.  I floundered around a bit, letting other people pray for us.  God showed himself to us repeatedly during that  time, bringing us what we needed when we needed it and showing us through other people that he had not abandoned us.  Our marriage is much stronger now and I can honestly say that through our journey of cancer I learned to really love my husband and see God in the ordinary.

When my mother was diagnosed, I had no trouble praying. Ironically, where before she talked incessantly of her faith, after her diagnosis she mostly lived it.  We never did have the talk I thought we would, where she would urge me to follow the identical path of faith she had forged. I didn’t pray for a miraculous healing; she was 82, an avid smoker and her family history of strokes left her with a fear of the same fate.  She was going to die of something and with a terminal diagnosis we all had the opportunity to tell and show her how much she was loved and appreciated. I only prayed that it wouldn’t be painful, and in the end, it wasn’t.

Now I don’t know what to pray for. An innocent little boy gets cancer and suffers through an invasive surgery. He faces chemotherapy and radiation. My daughter sits in his hospital room, all alone, and asks me to pray that the pathology report will show that this Wilm’s tumor is the one that responds well to chemotherapy and radiation, and not the other type with a much lower survival rate.

One person who has prayed with me tells me that God already knows the end result of this trial and the most I can pray for is that God gives us strength to handle what is ahead.  Another person prays for a miraculous healing. Someone else tells me that if I just believe, it will happen.

We all know of someone who has been given little chance to survive, and then survives. We have heard of tumors inexplicably disappearing between one CT scan and another. I want that to happen with this little boy, but I know better than to expect it. Instead, I shoot out random prayers, asking God to please let this be the “good” Wilm’s tumor, please help Beth and Ben handle this, please protect and strengthen their marriage through this stress, please surround little Jacob with your angels and give him comfort.  Please, please, please. I feel like a child pleading with their parent for something, and that is exactly what I am. The same God I asked to help a little boy pee so his catheter won’t be reinserted (and it wasn’t, praise God!) I ask for the extra hope a certain diagnosis brings. Let this be the “good” tumor.

And, not yet sure of the correct way to pray, but believing unequivocally in the power of prayer, I plead with my prayer warriors, “Keep praying. Keep praying for 5-year-old Jacob.”