Answered and Unanswered Prayers

photo credit: Donna Lipsh, Treasure Portraits

The apartment was quiet and dark. I could hear the soft breathing of my husband and son from where I knelt as I began to speak with my Father in Heaven. Outwardly everything in my life seemed perfectly fine, but inside I was a mess of emotions.  Life was not going the way I had planned.  Any time I saw a way forward, some setback took that away.  At the same time, I knew how truly blessed I was.  The guilt I felt for not being simply grateful for what I had was almost painful.

Struggles

In September of 2014, my husband Jeremy and I had been married for over eight years. Six and a half of those years we had been parents to our sweet, energetic, little boy. We had been living in California, for three years, far away from our extended family in Idaho. Our income was not proving to be enough to meet our needs, let alone improve our way of life. We were in our thirties and hoped to someday move out of an apartment into a home of our own. We were also suffering from secondary infertility. Dealing with infertility is hard when you wonder if you’ll ever have a child. It is also hard when you hold your crying child trying to explain to him why he is the only kid he knows that doesn’t have siblings. Recently our little boy had just started first grade and every day after sending him to school, I faced an empty home, which only reminded me of my infertility.

The most worrisome of our troubles though, was our son was just diagnosed with a disease called Cholesteatoma. It was an abnormal, noncancerous skin growth in the middle section of his ear, behind the eardrum. This would require multiple invasive surgeries that came with risks and possible side effects, but the risks of not operating were worse and life-threatening. This was not a quick fix and would probably affect him for the rest of his life. Also within three and a half months, my son would no longer qualify for his low-cost health insurance. I was sad, scared, lonely and felt trapped in my current situation.

I had been praying daily, for my son and all of us, but I was hesitant to pray for all the things I wanted. I felt ungrateful. I knew others who were going through so much more. I was blessed in so many ways, how could I ask Him for even more? Regardless of these doubts, after days of pondering, I humbly knelt to pray. I don’t remember my exact words or the order of what I prayed for, but I will never forget that prayer or the response I immediately received. 

A Humble Prayer

I said that I was thankful for the opportunity we had to move California and that I knew that it was where the Lord wanted us to go at that time. I was grateful for the job that brought us there, the financial help it had been and the experience it gave my husband in his field.  I told him, I wanted to move back closer to family and have jobs that supported us and provided affordable health insurance.

  I told him how grateful I was that we had a nice apartment. I knew others were living happily in much more humble circumstances. Nevertheless, I asked that eventually, we would be able to live in a house with a backyard, so we could have the dog my son prayed for daily, even if we were just renting. I also asked that at some point in our lives, if we could own a home of our own, but I understood that would take many years.

I thanked my Father in Heaven for the wonderful blessing of being a mother to my son. I told him I knew there were so many out there who were still waiting to have one child and understood how privileged I was to have him in my life. Then I explained our deep desire to have more children and give him siblings.

I prayed for our son’s health as I had been doing for some time. I knew that there were other moms whose children had been diagnosed with much worse. That knowledge did not, however, ease the fear in my heart for my son. I prayed that the surgeries would go well and that the surgeon would perform to his best ability. I prayed that he would be strong enough to live with the effects of this disease and that it would not be a chronic condition in his life. Afterward, I was still and I waited before closing my prayer.

Promises

In the quiet, my prayers were responded to. For me, answers to prayers come as quiet thoughts and feelings to my heart and mind. I immediately felt the warm comfort of the Love my Father in Heaven has for me. I was told that I need not worry if my prayers are worthy enough and that he wants to hear from me. He knew I was going through a hard time.

I was promised that in time, all of my requests would be answered, but it would get harder before it got easier. I was warned that the next six months would be the hardest, but a year from then, I would look back and know that some of my prayers had been answered. Eventually, after some time, I would look back and know that I had received all that I had asked for in this prayer. I was promised that no matter how long it took; in hindsight, the time would seem small. I stood from that prayer feeling the warmth of the spirit and knowing that my life had a plan and though I couldn’t see all of it, God could.

After that prayer, I imagined my greatest desires would be answered first and the ones that were not as important to me, would take longer. I was wrong. Things did not come in the order I expected. Instead, they came in the order God knew was best, and just as I was told, the next six months were hard.

Early Blessings and Harder Days Ahead

Within ten days, my husband got a call from a family member telling him of a job opportunity back in Idaho. We weren’t even looking for other jobs. My first reaction was, no, this wasn’t going to work. We couldn’t pack up and move when our son was supposed to have surgery in a month. The Spirit reminded me to have faith in God’s timing, even when it came sooner than expected.   After one phone interview, they offered Jeremy the job and allowed us to wait until after the surgery to move. They also got us in contact with the company health insurance representative to make sure our son would have coverage for his post-op care as soon as we arrived. Another blessing came that month when I contacted my former boss and learned that I would be able to be re-hired at the job I had left three years previously and earning quite a bit more money while working days when my son was in school.

October was a month of packing up our home, telling our bosses that we were leaving, saying goodbyes to friends, CT scans, and specialist appointments. I would not have been able to do it all without the help of loving friends and church members. I remember at one point staring at my calendar of all that I had to do and comparing it to my fertility tracking calendar. I suddenly felt I couldn’t do it all. I immediately felt the Spirit tell me, to put infertility on the back burner and to wait on seeking medical help. It was hard to be told to put one of the things you wanted most on hold, that it wasn’t the time, but I knew it was the right decision.

Our son’s first major surgery was in October, just days after Jeremy’s grandmother’s funeral in Idaho, which we were unable to attend. I felt the comfort of the Spirit as we sent our six-year-old, off into the operating room with practical strangers. After three and a half long hours, the surgeon came out and told us the surgery went well without complications. They did have to remove his ossicle bones due to extensive damage, which brought his hearing loss down from moderate to severe. Our son was still healing two weeks later when we moved almost 800 miles into my mother’s house while we got settled and looked for a place of our own to live.

As the months went on, life seemed to get harder for many reasons. My grandmother passed away. It was a long winter of adjustments, frustrations, minor illnesses, extended family trials, and financial stresses. Worst of all, our son’s happiness and confidence diminished rapidly as he struggled in school socially and academically. This was due to his new hearing loss, bullying and a lack of help and support from his new school. Those months were physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting for all of us. They were the hardest of my adult life.

Answered Prayers

Six months after his surgery things changed. It was like the sun coming out from behind the clouds on a dark day. We found a house with a back yard to rent. This house was also in the school zone for the elementary school in our area that housed the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program.  Within a week the new school had an academic 504 plan written, discussed and implemented. The difference was immediate and he began to do well again.

That following summer, our now seven-year-old had a second invasive surgery to check for any cholesteatoma regrowth. There was a very small amount, which was removed and a titanium rod was put in to replace his ossicle bones.  In September we learned that his hearing had improved to moderate loss.  It had been a year since my prayer and I could already see that my answers were coming, though out of the order I thought they would.

Eight months later, in May of 2016, we bought our first home, with a backyard for our son to play in with his new puppy. Something that years previously, I had thought might never happen for us. Later that summer, an MRI cleared our son from any regrowth. He was cholesteatoma free, happy, healthy and thriving. He had not had a single symptom in the two years since his first surgery and was managing better with his hearing loss. A few years later and we were able to afford a hearing aid to help even further.

Waiting on God’s Timing

By the fall of 2016, I was amazed by where my life had gone. I felt so incredibly humbled and blessed. It did not go unnoticed, though that I still had not become pregnant after years of trying. One day after praying yet again for more children, Heavenly Father reminded me of my prayer almost exactly two years prior. He reminded me that every other thing I had prayed for that day, I had received in the timing that was right for our family. Then he asked me why I doubted that this one would be answered as well. During that prayer, I felt a strong impression to go to the doctor about my fertility issues. No answers were found, instead, one expensive breast cancer scare later, Heavenly Father gave me a new perspective on life and new possibilities I had not considered before.

I wish I could tell you that since then, the final request I made nearly five years ago has been answered, but it hasn’t. We are still a family of three.  Some days it’s hard and I doubt. Some days I’m angry or sad. Some days I am filled with faith understanding and comfort. Some days are an emotional roller coaster of all of the above. I work toward having less angry, sad days and more of the faith-filled ones. I take comfort in my ability to bring awareness and help others in similar situations.  I try to walk by faith and know that whatever the outcome, Heavenly Father still has a plan for me.   I have a favorite quote, by Jeffrey R. Holland, that gets me through hard times, “Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come.”

I am grateful for my trials. I know I am not the same woman I was before them. I am made better by them. They are refining me. My greatest hope is that through it all I am becoming the person God knows I can be. As much as I wish I could go back in time and not experience these things and have life turn out exactly how I pictured it, I know my Father in Heaven sees what I cannot and I continually work to trust in his timing.