Untold numbers of people, with confused or broken hearts, from the homeless to the wealthy, have climbed the steps to a small, cream-colored house and knocked on the door.
Lula Mae has counseled and prayed people through, what has seemed like, hopeless situations. One of her favorite expression has always been, “But God...”
“I may not know what’s going to happen, but God knows and God can do anything. Never forget that. He is Lord.”
Lula Mae witnessed her mother’s unwavering reliance on a sovereign God when her father walked away from his family, a wife and four children. He took his lady friend, a bookkeeper from his meat market business.
Lula Mae’s mother gathered her children. “Your father was good to you and to me. I want you to always remember him like he was when he lived with us. If he were to walk in that door and say he was sorry for what he has done, I would welcome him home. We must pray for him no matter what happens.”
The years went by. Lula Mae often wondered where her father might be. Her mother thought he might be in California, but they had lost all contact. He never asked her mother for a divorce.
The family struggled. Lula Mae often wore skirts her mother fashioned from her brother’s worn-out jeans. An uncle provided them a house to live in and a job in his meat market for the oldest, a fourteen-year-old boy. Lula Mae clerked in the local five-and-dime.
Later, two children married and left home. Then the son, who had always been a father figure to the other children, succumbed to mental illness and had to be committed. Lula Mae grieved for her older brother.
One day she met Johnny Briggs, a young man, who not only loved her, but his future mother-in-law. When the couple married and moved to the small, cream-colored house, Lula Mae’s mother joined them.
Lula Mae continued to wonder about her father. She asked her boss’ daughter, a military wife whose husband was stationed in California, to do her a favor. “When you’re out there, look in the phone books for my father.” She wrote down his name.
One day the unthinkable happened. Lula Mae opened a letter containing her father’s phone number.
She said, “I’m going to call him right now.”
Her mother said, “Don’t think I’d do that. We’d better pray hard before you pick up that phone. What if he has another family? They may not know about us.”
“What difference does that make?”
“I’m not going to allow you to break up another home. Now that we know he is alive, I truly believe that he will come home some day. I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but God knows.”
Lula Mae didn’t understand her mother’s reasoning, but she put her own deep-felt desire to contact her father on hold. After much prayer and reading her Bible, she found a verse in Habakkuk 1:5, a promise that she memorized.
“For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe, even if you were told.”
Six more years went by. Then Lula Mae’s aunt, her father’s favorite sister, died. Lula Mae and her mother agreed that he needed to know.
She dialed his number. Her mother whispered a prayer. When a man answered, Lula Mae gave her father’s full name and asked if she had the right person.
A gruff voice snapped, “What do you want? Who are you?”
“I’m Lula Mae, your daughter.”
Afraid he might hang up, she quickly told him about his sister. Then she added, “Why don’t you come home?”
He cleared his throat. “No one would want to see me. I’m the black sheep.”
“I would. My door’s open to you any time.”
He made no reply, but Lula Mae asked if she could write to him. He agreed. That night she composed forty pages to fill the thirty-year space between them. After that they corresponded back and forth.
One day another miracle happened. He invited Lula Mae and her family—she and her husband now had three boys—and her mother to visit him in California. The woman he left with had died years earlier.
The reunion was especially tender between Lula Mae’s mother and father. He told her that leaving her and the children had been a terrible mistake, and he was sorry he had done such a thing. After a couple of more visits, he asked if she would stay. She agreed, happy as a new bride.
One afternoon, many years later, an SUV screeched to a stop in the driveway of the cream-colored house.
A young woman ran up the steps and fell into Lula Mae’s arms. “He said he doesn’t love me any more,” she sobbed. “He wants her! What am I going to do?”
Lula Mae eased her friend inside to sit at her kitchen table. Through many a Kleenex the woman shared how her world was falling apart. She asked, “What’s going to happen to me?”
“I can’t really answer that,” Lula Mae said, “but God knows. Never forget that He is Lord.” Then she added, “Do you think you could ever forgive your husband?”
“What? Are you kidding?”
“Impossible? Maybe so, from our human efforts. But God can do the impossible. Have I told you the story of my mother and father?”
Have you ever prayed for what seems like to you a reasonable request, one that you think ought to be a part of God’s plan, only to witness your life falling apart like pieces of shattered glass?
You ask yourself what in the world happened? And why? I can become bitter when things don’t go my way. Or I can rest (abide) in the Lord and choose His peace and even joy.
Our pastor recently gave some examples of unanswered prayers.
Paul prayed he could travel to Spain with the Gospel message. Instead, he lived out the last years of his life in Rome under house arrest and tethered to a guard. Does that make any sense? If you examine the facts, it does.
Paul’s guards were changed every six hours, and they held high positions in the Roman government. Did Paul lament his situation and pine for Spain? No, he talked to these men about Jesus—for hours on end. And that became one reason Christianity spread to people from all walks of life.
Take a look in your Bible at the lives of Peter, Moses, Joseph, or David, just to name a few. God used them in mighty ways, but they didn’t exactly live on easy street in the process.
In Gates of Splendor you can read about Jim Elliot who didn’t get what he prayed for—to witness to the Auca Indians of Ecuador. Also read Living Like Lions by J.R. Duren to learn about twenty men, past and present, who gave up everything to God in complete submission. What became the most important thing in their lives? Not their own happiness or what might make them comfortable on this earth, but to live close to God. Duren included Jim Elliot as one of twenty men who lived like lions.
Another example comes from Haiti and Steve and Judy Revis, missionaries who have served there for over twenty-five years. In addition to his drilling wells for clean water, they ran a school for deaf children outside Port au Prince, a daunting task, but one they loved and bathed in prayers. Then one day they found themselves in the middle of a “takeover.”
Some of the teachers wanted the school for themselves and they enlisted some of the older students to join them. An ugly situation developed, threats ensued, and this missionary couple fled for their lives.
The school has since dissolved and is no more. But God had a plan. Now teachers, those who had no part in the uprising as well as new, godly teachers, go out to the surrounding villages to teach the deaf children. And because they do, the families are learning along with their children and there is far greater acceptance of the deaf ones by the community. This could have never happened if the school had continued to operate.
You or I may not always understand, but if we can trust our heavenly Father that is a huge step forward. He does have a plan, but delivering happiness to my doorstep may not be a part of that.
This page is dedicated to my inspirations and those who have enriched my life along the way.