Annalise has had a prayer for as long as I can remember her talking… She has prayed for her cousins to live by her. Sometimes it makes her so sad that she cries. “Mommy, I just don’t understand. Why do some kids have their cousins live in the very same town, and my cousins live in another state and on the other side of the world?!? I might never even get to go to their house ever!”
It breaks my heart when her little heart is broken.
We’ve had discussions about it. God sent her Uncle John and Auntie Ko-Ko and her same-age cousin Ellia that she loves just so much, and Jacob’s same-age cousin Alyssa, all the way to Indonesia for a purpose. He has them there to do the job He wants them to do. So we pray for the job they’re doing there, reaching unreached people, building churches in jungles where people have never heard of a savior, being the hands and feet of Jesus in a land we’ve never seen.
And right now, God has her Uncle Ryan and Auntie Ky-Ky and cousins Riley and Mason in Nevada. And she loves them so much, too. So we talk about that God has a plan for them, and right now the plan is to be where they are. And that even though we miss them, too, we’ve been blessed to get to visit their house every once-in-a-while.
And we talk about how blessed we really are, that even though her cousins are so far away, we’ve been able to see them lots. And sometimes we get to Skype with them when they’re home. But right now, they’re here! And they even get to come to Annalise’s 6th birthday party, the first one since she turned one!
Just the same, Annalise still prays that she’ll get to have her cousins live here, just like other kids. And I don’t have the heart to tell her that I don’t think that’s going to happen, to just give up on that big request of hers, because God has Ellia in Indonesia. That is where they live now.
The truth is, some days it breaks my heart, too. Because while I didn’t always grow up with my cousins in the same town, we were just on the other side of the Cascades, and we got to see them often. They were a big part of my life, and one day, my prayer was answered to live by my cousins. We lived in the same town and went to school together for the last 5 years. I even lived in their house for a while during college. God answered my prayer in a bigger way than I could imagine. I loved the blessing of them in my life, and I have longed for Annalise and Ellia to have a similar experience.
Well, it just so happens that one of the cousins that I prayed to live by and graduated from high school with and lived with in college, moved last year from Eastern Washington back to Whatcom County.
And it just so happens that a week ago, he became the head pastor at the church he grew up in right here in Ferndale.
And it just so happens that his middle child is Jilly, another same-age-girl-cousin that Annalise loves.
And it just so happens that when that cousin of mine got his new job as a pastor, they moved into the church parsonage in Ferndale. Which meant Jilly and her big brother Josiah got moved to a new school this week, which just-so-happens to be the same school I teach at, and more importantly, the same school Annalise attends.
Annalise was already bursting with excitement when she found out Jilly would be at her same school. And then, the unimaginable happened. Josiah was put in my class, and Jilly was placed in the same kindergarten class as Annalise.
Leading up to Jilly’s first day, it suddenly hit Annalise exactly what was happening, that this was not an “it-just-so-happens” event. “Mommy! Do you know that God is answering my prayer? I prayed for a cousin to live here. I really meant Ellia, but God answered my prayer in just a different way. And I never even thought about having a cousin in my school or especially in my class. God answered my prayer, but even better than I thought, because I get to have a cousin with me every day!”
And then, Annalise became sad again. Because, “What about Ellia, Mommy?” Ellia has the same prayer. She loves her cousins just so much. She wants to live in America, to be by her cousins, too.
God has not forgotten Ellia. Several weeks ago, He answered her prayer, too, also in a different way. First, He brought her here for 5 whole months, enough time to make lots of American memories, from the Northwest Washington Fair, to cousin’s birthday parties, to starting kindergarten, and she’ll even be here for Thanksgiving. But there’s more. While she has been living here, God called her aunt and uncle and a same-age-cousin for both her and her sister to Indonesia, to the same church she is a part of, in the very same city. She will likely attend school with her other same-age cousin.
God couldn’t move Ellia here to Annalise. But He gave Annalise and Ellia different same-aged cousins to not just live close by, but to be in their same school and same class. At the same time He did this, God brought two churches a new pastor, one in Ferndale, one in Indonesia. (And by the way, that church in Ferndale was in need of a pastor because the former pastor had moved with his family to a place God had put on their heart… Indonesia.)
Answered prayer… Two little girls pray for a cousin. Two churches pray for pastors. Two families pray for guidance on where the Lord wants them.
Strengthened faith… An impossible prayer answered. All those prayers answered, all at once.
God’s word lived out… He who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine… I could have never imagined.
Here is what I’ve been reminded of:
1. Ellia and Annalise, your prayers have been answered, and God has big plans for you.
2. Pastor Elis and Pastor Andy and your families, your prayers have been answered and you have followed the Lord’s leading, and God has big plans for you.
3. Whatcom New Life Assembly, you have been given a new pastor, one you poured into as a child, and God has big plans for you all.
4. Indonesia, you are a land being blessed by two more wonderful families, and God has big plans for you, too.
5. God has not forgotten this land, or these families, or even the hearts of two almost-6-year-old girls. And God has not forgotten you or me, either. He knows the desires of our our hearts, and He knows our greatest needs. He has big plans for us, too.
Jacob has this little saying that melts my heart. Whenever I say “I love you,” he responds with, “I love you more than that.”
“Jacob, I love you more than the moon and stars.”
“Mommy, I love you more than that.”
“Buddy, do you know I love you more than all the waves in the ocean? And farther than from here to Indonesia and all the way back?”
“Yep. And I love you more than that.”
“Hey kiddo! Come here. I love you so much!”
“I love you too, Mama. I love you more than that.”
I love that boy so much more than I can describe. But even if I could, he’d just say with his joy-inducing, heart-melting, God-awing smile, “I love you more than that.”
He still answers prayer. Even prayers of little girls.
He still amazes with his creativity. Two girls, impossible prayers, answered in ways I never imagined. One boy, with a big smile, and even bigger words that melt every time.
He still can do and does immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.
And when His plans are carried out, and are far beyond what we could imagine, it’s almost like He is saying, right to the heart of my almost 6-year-old girl, “I love you so much Annalise. But I have different plans. I need your cousin where she is. I’m not going to give you just exactly what you ask for. I’m going to give you more. Because I love you all more than that.”
Remember His promises. Pray big prayers for His purpose and glory. But keep in mind, His plans might be a bit different, because He loves you more than that!
“14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” ~ Ephesians 3:14-21