When I began a personal relationship with the Lord at age fifteen, my older sister, Jane, also new in the faith, became my spiritual coach. She explained the importance of having daily devotions and learning how to pray. She challenged me to pray for something I needed.
Since we had no car, I needed a way to get to school and work. A bike would suffice. That would be my request. The litmus test. A couple days later, I learned about a bike for sale for $8. And It was a girl’s bike. Okay, so it had one red balloon tire, one black balloon tire, but it did have a basket. And I had $8. My first prayer had been answered, and the bond with Jane significantly strengthened. The next prayer request loomed when Jane invited me to be her maid of honor in her upcoming wedding. She was sorry she couldn’t provide a dress. I’d have to find my own. ‘Long dress ‘ was entered on my prayer list.
I loved sharing my new relationship with the Lord with family and friends and anticipated telling Aunt Violet. She was a church goer and would be happy I was sure. On the day of our visit she filled me in on herself and children, my cousins, and I told her the exciting news about Jane getting married and that I’ll be her maid of honor. She asked if I had a dress and I said, “Not yet, but I’m praying for it.” She looked over her glasses at me and commented “God helps those who help themselves”, which felt like a pan of ice water poured over my head and heart. Her response also indicated that she didn’t believe God was interested in providing dresses. Although her statement gave me pause, I prayed anyway. An impression.
Several days later when I saw our next-door neighbor, working in her garden, I walked over to say hello which was normal for me. I admired her flowers and asked about her family. Then I told her that Jane, was getting married the next month and that I was going to be the maid of honor. “Do you have your dress, yet?” she asked. “No, but I’m praying for one.” Then, Mrs. Lorbach said “I have a closet full of Mona Belle’s formals and you’d be welcome to look through them and see if there’s one that you like.” She took me upstairs and my eyes nearly bugged out when I saw all those lovely dresses hanging there. “Take your pick”. They were all my size. My second answer to prayer. My siblings can’t remember Mrs. Lorbach’s name but it’s etched on my heart. Her part in an answered prayer created such a sweet bond.
A couple years later, when I enrolled at Moody Bible Institute with the prayerful assurance that God would provide a job and finances, everything I earned was put in the school bank. Many times, when I’d go to pay my bill, the balance was more than I had deposited. “Someone has been sending money,” the bank clerk explained, “but she wants to remain anonymous.” I don’t know for sure but I was fairly certain the choir director from our church (I spoke about her in a previous blog) was responsible, because when I planned to major in piano, she lined me up with one of the best piano teachers and paid for my lessons. She also paid for voice lessons for me and several other youths. She always assured me that she was praying for me. The bond of her generosity and prayer support was very strong. I’ll always remember her for caring about me and treating me like a daughter. I learned years later from my brother that she also helped him financially.
In 1955, two months after graduation from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago on Friday night and marriage the next morning, we were setting up housekeeping in Waco, Texas in Mom Coble’s 2nd floor apartment, buying groceries, supplies, maternity clothes and baby needs. A friend from Farm Bureau gave us a crib and a high chair; their baby shower provided clothes, blankets, diapers, diaper pail, etc. We had been driving Jim’s parents’ 2nd car which needed to be returned to Odessa, 8 hours away, before college classes began. We needed a car to return their car. Prayers were answered with a 1941 one-owner Chevrolet for $400 with payments $25 per month. Now, we prayed for provision as we committed to our very first payments. The income from being a private secretary with Farm Bureau would be adequate for a few months. After reading last week’s blog a couple of my single adult granddaughters were examining the time frame. Yes, 9 months and 10 days! We were naive. A crash course in responsibility.
A tiny but memorable provision I’ve retold many times occurred when Kay was an infant and we no longer had my income, I was concerned that we had very little food in the house—two cans of tomato soup, a few crackers; no bread. I nursed Kay. I remember praying that morning about what we would have for meals that day. Two things happened. A knock at our door startled me because a person would have to just know someone lived up there to walk in a private house to the 2nd floor. But there stood a man holding two loaves of bread. “Would you like to try Mrs. Baird’s bread?” (a favorite bread back then). “I certainly would.” And he was gone. Then, a phone call from a college maintenance worker saying, “My wife wondered if it would be okay to bring some dinner to you tonight.” They brought other meals while we lived there. I have no idea how they knew we were in need, except that God spoke to them. I’ve never forgotten that couple.
While in Waco, we became good friends with a couple at church from Oklahoma who had a 4-year-old and a baby the age of Kay. Dan was an Air Force pilot who loved to fish. So, he and Jim developed a marvelous fishing-friendship bond. They invited us over many times. Gwen and I bonded strongly as we discussed the scriptures, prayer and parenting. One Labor Day I remember especially, they invited us to lunch. Gwen asked if I would mind staying with her two kids while she dashed to the grocery for a few items. She returned with three heavy bags of groceries--for us. Canned meats, stuff that lasted us for many weeks. She had no way of knowing how empty our cupboard was. The bonds with the Zachary family increased by leaps and bounds as their family increased to five and ours to four. We managed to visit each other at least once a year wherever they were stationed and wherever we served, even in Verhalen. Our friendship deepened over more than 50 years until their deaths a few years ago. Precious memories bound with love, prayer and bonding. Still vital today with their adult children.
One more story. I mentioned the empty freezer our first year at seminary when we were pretty well settled with Jim in classes, Kay and David in public school and me as a secretary at Seminary. One day, as usual, when Jim “gathered up” Julia Beth & Roger (Jim’s expression) from seminary daycare and I joined them for lunch, we noticed the freezer door was closed. I thought one of the kids closed it by mistake. We opened it and were astounded to find it full of meat. Back in 1963 few people locked their doors. I don’t remember even having a key, so someone could easily get in when we weren’t there. We never learned who did this, but we both suspected his Aunt Inez and Uncle Jim from Dallas, who were always very interested in us and considered our children their grandchildren. They often just dropped in. That was a provision that we didn’t pray about, but the bond with then nevertheless expanded. A wonderful relationship.
Just recently, in reflecting on how I learned to pray and tracing some early answers mentioned above, I was elated to discover a hidden bonus-blessing that quietly accompanies answered prayer—special bonding with the person involved. This week, whose prayer can you be an answer to?
Prayers for things like bikes, dresses, money and food are the beginning of prayer-dependence and merely serve as a tutorial to introduce the deeper magnitude of prayer such as healing, wisdom, direction and relationships. Next week.
If trapped in Covid restrictions, tight finances, loneliness, overwhelmed with childcare, youth, college kids, reflect when your needs were met; enjoy the memories with confidence that God is still the same.
Luke 13:10-17 records a story that “On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues and a woman was there who had been crippled by spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity”. Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. She didn’t pray; no one took her to Jesus; he saw her need and met her need.
Often, we receive what we need without knowing specifically who or if anyone has been praying. The Lord knows our physical, emotional and spiritual needs, so he may “fix us up” like the woman in Luke 13 just because we are in need and He loves us.
Nothing or no one could ever take Jim’s place, but the ministry and prayer involving presence, provisions and bonding have anchored my soul and provided me with joy, peace and comfort. Since Jim’s home-going, new bonds have been formed and former bonds strengthened all contributing to the fullness and contentment I’m experiencing. His blessings are new every morning. Lamentations 3:23
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