two hands holding on to each other praying

What You Can Ask When Your Prayers Seem Unanswered

Sometimes, you come home from an epic vacation road tripping 3,200 miles to Disneyland and all hell breaks loose. Or maybe not hell, but hell’s companions come to say hello. The first night we returned, we were having a family dance party on our porch until a neighbor gave us the stank eye. So we moved that action inside, but it was sooooo hot so we left the front door open to bust a move. All of a sudden something flew at my face and I dove into the couch. That thing looked a lil’ something like this:

Bella and I ran for the bathroom and hid until that pyscho bat quit out on us. Rob and Aidan chased him throughout the entire house laughing and screeching. I might never forget my son calling someone in a panic saying “Siri, how to catch a bat?!” As per the usual, Siri was not helpful, but a buddy came over with a fishing net and his presence did the trick. That man will have many treasures in heaven.

I had a sinus infection with cold sores going up into my nasal cavity and I had this lump that had been bugging me with pain shooting out from it into the right side of my head. I didn’t feel great and started looking into what was going on.

It was soon after the bat left our presence that we found out we got lice. We got lice, all of us! I couldn’t believe it. Turns out, the word on the street is that Disneyland is a great place to pick up the buggers. I kept thinking, I am a 40 year old with lice. Sadly, we didn’t even know we had it which makes us an even grosser family, right? Nooooo, we had to find out at a hair salon. We were those people. So the lice escapade took over our life spending our days at the laundry mat, bagging up everything and putting it in the basement, spraying furniture, changing beds on the daily, vacuuming the carpets, and doing lice checks three times a day per person. I felt like a monkey picking things out of each other’s hair. But I promise, we never ate them like monkeys would have.

We were cleaning like we had an obsessive compulsive disorder. And we cancelled everything. I wouldn’t have wished that on my worst enemy….ok, maybe my worst enemy, but no one else. So, we canceled all our plans so that we wouldn’t be thooooose people that give everyone else lice. No camp, no playdates, no dinner parties, no barbecues, no trips to the beach with friends. Social life over. Kids, we have lice.

The second day we were still cleaning obsessively and that was when I discovered a colony of maggots. So now I have cold sores, lice, bats and maggots. And I was thinking maybe Disneyland is the happiest place on earth…

To make the best of it, the kids and I went on a bike ride. It was a gorgeous day and we went to what was one of our favorite beaches. Bella wanted to go looking for crabs before we biked on to lunch. So we headed out underneath a boardwalk to this area that has these huge rocks you walk upon to get around and you can see crabs and starfish and if you are really lucky, seals.

As I looked at the world around me with the curious eyes my kids do, I got it. I felt a peace wash over me. I felt grateful. I felt so thankful for these beautiful kids and I said to the Lord, “I get it.” Maybe this is slowing me down and getting me to stop. To spend time, quality time with just them and no one else. And I said to Him, “I know I’m not good at this. I get this story you are writing here and I am reading it and I am ok with it. This, here, right now, this is good. This time with my kids is sweet. I will enter your rest.” 

It was a moment of gratitude in the midst of something I did not want. And seconds after taking this picture of my feet on a rock, I took a step onto another rock to follow my kids and that huge rock went out from underneath me. As it did, I extended my right arm to catch myself so that I wouldn’t fall on my head. The extension of my arm coupled with the weight of the rock coming up at it sent my arm bone out and up and it immediately went haywire and I fell into a bunch of rocks.

I yelled “Call 911! My arm is broken!” I have never broken anything but I knew this action was not right. I was almost afraid that I was in shock and that I would wake out of it in a minute or two and full on lose it. Initially, I hadn’t planned on bringing a phone, but has decided to so I could take pictures. Thank God. Aidan dialed the number and above me looked down shaking the phone and said “It’s not working!” 

Now timeout. We all teach our kids what to do in an emergency, but we really never know what our kids will do in an emergency until we have one. This was going to be interesting.

I asked painfully, “Is it dead?” Aidan said “Oh no! I dialed 611!” I now laugh at that hysterically but at the time it was not funny! We certainly didn’t need to know how many minutes we had used on our data plan in that moment. Aidan must have, in the midst of stress and worry, slipped his finger and touched the 6 instead of the 9. He called again. And he was so good to me. He was worried and he said to the dispatcher “My mom is hurt and we are at Zuanich park!” I yelled “No, we are at Boulevard park!” 

The dispatcher asked if I could walk and I thought I could, but I had to figure out how to get up with no arms. He was hoping that I could at least get to a place where the medics could see me as we were hidden from the visible eye. One arm was maimed on the inside and the other arm had to hold it up. So I wiggled my way up and had to maneuver through more rocks to get up on the boardwalk. I couldn’t see the medics so I kept walking toward the street. It turns out they couldn’t find me. They tried calling back, but Aidan was on the phone with Rob telling him what happened. I thought I was either going to puke or pass out and I had to hold myself together because it was just me and my kids.

We probably passed 20 people, none of which asked if I needed help. Maybe I looked crazy and people were afraid of me. So if you ever see someone who looks like they are in pain and they are breathing heavy and they seem scary, don’t walk past them! What is wrong with our world? I would never walk past someone who is clearly hurt. It’s almost frightening how our culture can see right past people. Frightening, I tell you.

Rob says I walked about a mile holding my arm up. I finally had to sit down because I thought maybe I was going to hit the deck. Our bikes were a mile away, my kids were upset and worried and I was in incredible pain. I sat on a bench and I prayed, “Lord, just please send someone I know. If someone I know walks by i can ask them to get the bikes and take care of the kids. Please just bring someone I know.” 

Nothing. No one I knew walked by and I know a lot of people He could have chosen. I waited. I hurt. Finally the medics found me and so did Rob, about 45 minutes later. I got to the ER and of course had to check in and got a room right away but I had to wait for what felt like forever. And I get it. Other people have way worse problems than this. I just wanted drugs. I literally wanted to scream “Just get me some freaking druuuuuuuggggggssss!” But I knew they might have thought I was a junkie, so I tried to keep my desire for pain meds to a minimum.

Finally the x-ray guy came to get me and as he wheeled me in I told him I knew I was a baby and there were people here with way bigger problems, but the pain felt unbearable. He said “Oh no, elbow injuries are the worst.” He was nice and probably thinking “this chick needs to calm down.”  On the way back from getting pictures snapped, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a lady I knew. I looked at her and waved slightly with my good arm. She was an ER nurse that came and spoke at a Collide event last year. She started an amazing non- profit that cares for doctors and nurses when they experience trials and hardship because they care for so many. The work God has called this woman to is impactful and amazing! And there she was, the day I landed myself in the emergency room. She walked in right away and asked what I had done. I explained. She then said that she wasn’t in the ER that day but was roaming the hospital giving out stints. She had just come down to say hi to someone for 2 minutes and then saw me.

Sometimes you pray and you think your prayers aren’t answered. But usually you pray and your answer comes differently than you expect. When I picture me alone on that bench honestly crying out for God to bring me someone I knew and He didn’t, that’s disappointing. I mean how hard is it to bring one person by that I know? But God did bring someone by I knew! He just brought the most helpful and effective person I know, an ER nurse when I most needed it, in the hospital.

She gave me an IV, hooked me up with pain meds, got me an ER doctor and like 6 people walked in that room shortly thereafter. She said “We are gonna give you Michael Jackson drugs and don’t worry we will be able to turn you back on.” I smiled and said “Oh good, thank you. I’d like to make a comeback.” She assured me that what they were about to do would hurt like heck, but I would never remember any of it because they were giving me some special drug that wipes your memory away. Now that I think about it, I could have used that drug for a lot of other experiences I have had in life.

I turned to Rob and said “When are they gonna get this thing going?” Rob said, “They already did it honey.” I was shocked! “They did?” Rob said “Yeah and when they put you under, the first thing you said was ‘I have some stories to tell!’ ” Apparently, I like to tell stories. I didn’t go onto to tell them anything scandalous, thank God. But I did say over and over again “Please be careful. Please be careful.” It turns out that the kind of drug they put you on brings out the real you. One doctor friend told me that every teenage boy he knows on the stuff comes out of surgery ready to fight. As you can see folks, the real me wants to avoid pain and tell stories.

But no good stories come without pain. They just don’t. All great plots have struggle. All victories, the ones we care about, come through loss. All healing arrives after sickness. All great triumph stands upon great trial.

The bats, lice, cold sores, sinus infection, lump, maggots, dislocated and chipped elbow that made cooking, writing, ponytails, hugs, driving, getting dressed and lice checks nearly impossible…were all followed by an old friend’s sudden death, rats, a yellow jacket infestation, a friend with cancer, my son having a shoulder injury that would sideline him for football and bring possible surgery and a lice comeback, all in 4 weeks time.

There were a lot of jokes about the plagues coming upon us by friends because everyday brought with it some disappointing news or another annoying pest or a prayer unanswered or a waiting. Just waiting.

What do we wait for when things go wrong? We wait for things to go back to the way they were. But life doesn’t ever return to the way it was. God is making all things new. Things move forward. Things change. But they never go back to the way they were. We wait for things to ease up and get better as quickly as possible. We wait for things to get good again. But rarely do we we sit in what is and ask “What story are you writing, God?” 

What story are you writing, God?” is the question I keep asking. If you believe that God is the Author of Life, of all story, of Destiny, then He has got to be writing something. He is writing pain because He is writing plot.  He is writing loss because He is writing victory. He is writing trials because He is writing triumph.He is writing a good struggle because He is writing a good story.

I have realized, you can sit on a bench and pray for it to all go away. You can pray for the answer you think you need. Or you can say “What story are you writing God?” And by faith you can believe that God is doing something beautiful, good, deep. And though you might not know what that is yet, you can wait and watch expectant that the Author is up to something.

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15 Comments

  • Karyn says:

    I love reading your words, experiences, and faithfulness. I was brought to tears and my knees reading this today, it filled me up. Thank you, it was the little kick in the butt I needed today. I am grateful for you.

    • woundedwillow says:

      Karyn,

      I am so glad that reading these words are filling you up…that is God meeting you in the place you find yourself and wanting to write a really great story! Blessings friend!

  • Kate says:

    There are many times in the last 6 weeks I’ve prayed for it all to return to normal but it’s never going to. We’re asking what is writing for us but also for E and how he is going to use diabetes in her life. I’m excited to watch it all unfold even though there is pain in the journey.

    btw — they gave that same medicine to Sam when he broke his arm. Thankfully, he wasn’t aggressive but super giggly.

    Can’t wait to catch up in person.

    • woundedwillow says:

      Kate,

      I know you have walked through a few chapters with great plot this summer yourself. My hope is that you will see God’s greatness be magnified in little Eloise’s trials. My hope is that one day you will see the story thread woven through her life and it will all make sense. I am so glad she has you as her mama:) Love you,

      Willow

  • Brian mankle says:

    You go Girl !! Seems sick, but I’m glad ya slipped on that rock, you are a good storyteller 🙂 And – ya Got Back Up 🙂
    I hope to see ya soon, Lice and all !!!!

    • woundedwillow says:

      Oh Brian,

      You have been on my heart and so in my prayers. Rob and I are praying for all you Mankle boys. We know the God who has endured pain and suffering is with you. He knows your pain and loves you dearly. I pray that His presence will overwhelm you with comfort. I hope He writes an amazing story and one day you can look back and see it. Much love ,

      Willow

  • Marcia Hestead says:

    Thanks, Willow. Good stuff, and good timing. I had similar thoughts this week as our family tries to figure out what’s going to happen next. Bottom line is every time I’m forced to trust Him I come to know Him better and love Him more; the real me emerges truer to the person I’m meant to be. Our stories will all make sense some day, but thank you for providing some clarity and laughs today. You’re still beautiful, inside and out, in spite of those nasty plagues. Thanks also for being a light in my daughter’s life–I’m very grateful.

    • woundedwillow says:

      Marcia!

      I have thought about you guys a million times! I hope that God is writing new stories and guiding new chapters that bring great healing! And thank you for sharing your daughter with us!

      Willow

  • vicki kammerer says:

    So good!!!

  • Val Lee says:

    This brought laughter and tears! Thank-you for sharing your stories…..

  • Alana says:

    I laid in bed this morning praying a familiar prayer. I’m in a long season of challenge, one that is clearly a long-haul. My prayer was less pleading for answers or confessing my fears and doubts today (though those were in there), and more about asking how to be alongside God in whatever it is He is doing in my life, and the life of may family.

    First thing I saw when I checked my Facebook this morning was your post which a friend had shared, with this part cut and paste:

    “What do we wait for when things go wrong? We wait for things to go back to the way they were. But life doesn’t ever return to the way it was. God is making all things new. Things move forward. Things change. But they never go back to the way they were. We wait for things to ease up and get better as quickly as possible. We wait for things to get good again. But rarely do we sit in what is and ask ‘What story are you writing, God?'”

    There was no question it was a loving answer to my questions. Praying to trust the Author of this epic story I am blessed to be a small part of…”Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders…”

    • woundedwillow says:

      Alana,

      Thank you for sharing your morning thoughts and prayers….I hope that God meets you in unexpected ways:)

      Willow

  • Janet Kennedy says:

    Thank you, our whole family needed this, right now.