Do you ever put God in a box? By that I mean, do you decide before you even ask that God cannot accomplish something that you need or desire? I don’t do it as much as I used to, but even after all He’s done to show me His greatness, I take His power for granted. And yet, He manages to look past my small-minded faith and show me that He is still in control.
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Recently, God blew the sides off of a box that I had wrapped up tightly with layers and layers of emotional duct tape. What happened is surely proof that nothing is impossible if God has His hand upon it.
Ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you. Matthew 7:7 (NCV)
After my second back surgery in March 1992, I was never able to go back to my job as a public school teacher due to chronic pain and nerve damage. I was distracted from that because in December 1992, God sent us Martin and Steven. Motherhood helped fill the void somewhat, but there was always a part of me that felt like I was meant to do something more.
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In other posts I have shared that I’ve been a lifetime writer. From childhood, I have written poems and stories and kept journals. I was the editor of our literary publication in high school. I was a contributor to Facets, a creative writing publication at Fayetteville State University, my college alma mater. I’ve written for our local newspaper, The Fayetteville Observer.
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In 1998, I found a correspondence course outline entitled “Writing for Children and Teens” at The Institute for Children’s Literature (ICL) of West Redding, Connecticut. After much prayer and discussion with Kelly, we paid the money for the course tuition. The course materials arrived and that little piece of me that longed for “something more” was fulfilled.
I loved the fact that, within reason, I could set my own timeline for writing. This was perfect for me because I could not always gauge the kind of pain day I was going to have. (And to this day, I can’t gauge what kind of pain days I will have. My plans are always tentative, at best.) Once I started the course, the writing juices began to flow and I loved it. I had just finished my fourth assignment for the ICL when the proverbial hammer slammed against the anvil of my life.
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After almost seven years of chronic pain management, worker’s compensation decided to put me through what I can only call hell. They attacked my integrity and said I was lying about the pain. They abused my body by sending me to company doctors who never had my well-being in mind and put me through unnecessary tests and procedures. One doctor did surgery on me without ever looking at a single MRI or x-ray of my back…and he ADMITTED this to me. It was their job to send me back to work, whether I actually could do it or not. It was only after one of their hand-chosen doctors said, “Enough! This woman is who she says she is and she is suffering even more than she can tell you. Shame on you for making her jump through your hoops.” And with that little speech, the hell ended, but not before the damage had been done. I tossed my textbooks and other course materials in the garbage and sent ICL an email explaining that I was withdrawing from the course.
I stopped writing. I stopped singing. I stopped reading my Bible. I stopped praying. Basically, I just stopped living. And I blamed God for it all. Thankfully, God did not “stop” on me. It took me two years to come back to what I call a normal, responsive human being. With the help of a Christian therapist and a family that loved me unconditionally, the fires of that hell left only minor burns.
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Fast forward ten years.
Three weeks ago, I was sharing this part of my life with Claire. She said, “Mom, you should really see if you can finish that writing course.”
“They wouldn’t even have my files after twelve years,” I said. “I wasted that opportunity. Let that be a lesson for you — sometimes, you just don’t get a second chance.”
After she went to bed, I prayed and asked God to give me the strength to never waste another opportunity as a long as I live.
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Fast forward twenty-four hours.
I opened my email account and found an email from Judy Paige. I don’t know a Judy Paige and I almost sent it to spam without a second thought. Instead, I opened that email and find that Judy Paige is the student services coordinator for ICL.
I felt a chill down my back, as if someone had slipped an ice cube down my shirt, and I held my breath.
Ms. Paige informed me that she was reviewing student files who had withdrawn from the course before completion. Since my tuition had been paid in full, she wondered if I’d like to re-enroll and complete the course. ICL would even send me new course materials, if I chose to do this. If this was something I’d be interested in doing, I would be allowed to start with assignment five, having previously completed assignments one through four.
Yes, everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And everyone who knocks will have the door opened. Matthew 7:8 (NCV)
Don’t be afraid to ask. (But be prepared for answers that you could never conceive.)
Don’t be afraid to search. (But open your eyes wide so that you don’t miss what God puts before you.)
Don’t be afraid to knock. (But know that if God opens it to you, it is an opportunity not to be missed.)
Guess what? My new course materials arrived yesterday.