I once knew a little girl who grew up in a family where both parents were alcoholics; she was the baby of three girls, all 5 years apart. The parents moved their family across the country away from all family support and oversight, so they were in survival mode and didn't make time to raise the girls. Their motto was, "children are to be seen and not heard". Frequently there was no money for food, and her parents were too proud to get the girls on a free or reduced lunch rate at school.
At the age of six, the Sunday before this little girl’s first day of school EVER, her mom walked her to school, explaining to turn left at the Jack-and-Jill Donut shop to get to school. Then she was instructed to "walk in through those doors tomorrow when you get to school, find an adult, tell them your name, they will help you get to your class." So, the next day the 6-year-old little girl dutifully got out of bed, got dressed, and walked to school in a very bad neighborhood.
The girls rarely felt welcome inside the home or safe outside in the bad neighborhood, and drama was ever present, as one would expect in that kind of environment. One night the parents had a Christmas party (there was somehow always enough money for alcohol), and the little girl got scared, so she asked her mom to come lie down with her until she fell asleep. But her father yelled at her, scaring her even more. One of the party guests came to the rescue, offering to lie down with the little girl, saying she was tired anyway because she was pregnant.
That sweet lady told that little girl that night all about Jesus and how, if she prayed, Jesus would hear and answer her prayers. Then she asked if they could pray together. The little girl enthusiastically agreed - she didn't have any other adults to help her, maybe this Jesus would.
She just couldn't stop thinking about that, so in all the infinite wisdom of a 6-year-old, she decided to test this out. She wanted a dog so badly, but she knew there wasn't enough food for the humans, what was the likelihood of getting a dog? But what did she have to lose? So, operation 'DOG PRAYER' began - and within a week the prayer lady and her family were moving and couldn't take their basset hound, Precious, and voila! PRAYER ANSWERED! Hmm, she thought, this Jesus is pretty cool and proceeded to pray for a bike - just as unlikely as the first prayer. Maybe even less likely, because her parents were both animal lovers. So, Operation 'BIKE PRAYER' commenced. It wasn't long before some of the neighborhood kids all donated pieces and parts from their bikes, and her dad put it all together and painted it and Voila! Another PRAYER ANSWERED!
"I will be forever grateful for that precious lady who stood up to my Dad, comforted me that Christmas season, and introduced me to Jesus."
Not long after that, the parents were "out" and their car got towed back to the home before either parent came back. There were two head prints busted through the windshield with blood all over everything. The dad ended up in jail and the Mom in the hospital that night. So, the little girl's prayers turned into some much more important topics than a bike or a dog.
But eventually she forgot about Jesus and prayer all together.
It wasn't until she was in her late 20's that she picked up a Science magazine that had an article about dogs that the Bible came into her radar - an unlikely source, I know - but that's just how God works! The article told of a study where they brought two sets of dogs into a clinic and tested to make sure they were all healthy. Then they cut into the dogs’ bones to make sure the bone marrow was good. One group of dogs were caged separately for two weeks and only their basic survival needs were met. No love, no interaction with the techs or the other dogs. The second group of dogs all got to live together, and the techs would love and play with them a lot. Then they cut into the bones again, and the dogs who lacked the love, affection, and companionship had the bone marrow drying up. The article then quoted Prov 17:22:
"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
That was enough to make me think, "If that's true, what else in the Bible is true". That little girl was me - and as I look back over my life, I can see - God was with me, watching over and protecting me the whole time - ever since that first prayer I prayed at the age of 6.
I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who takes the time to love and care for you own kids, and a very special thanks to those of you who love and care for your kids’ friends. You never know what they are dealing with at home. The kindness and love of an adult for a child is PRICELESS, and you never know what God's Plan for them is - I will be forever grateful for that precious lady who stood up to my Dad, comforted me that Christmas season, and introduced me to Jesus.
Merry Christmas Everyone!