Prayer, Creativity & Faith

Your answer may already be right next door

I’m giving away one gift every week this month. Be sure to read to the end to find out how to enter this week’s giveaway!

It was one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given, and I’ve talked about it ever since. I even wrote a book about it.

But can I let you in on a little secret? I don’t think I began to know what the gift really was until about ten years after I got it.

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. Matthew 7:11, NLT

Many of you have already heard some version of this story. In 2007, my husband and I decided to buy the house next door to the one my sister lived in. We weren’t looking for a new home, but this old house being put on the market by her elderly neighbor was everything we hadn’t realized we wanted until we saw it. On top of that, it was cheap. It needed tons of work—all-new electrical, ugly shag carpets removed to reveal hardwood floors, lots of wallpapers stripped and walls painted. But we knew we could renovate it, sell the old house, and make a profit. So we got to work. My dad and I rebuilt the kitchen and everyone in the extended family pitched in in some way. This new house was so much better suited for our family of five and my home office, and we felt God’s peace there.

We were certain God was in this.

And yet the old house would not sell.

Our credit card balances rose steadily, as did my stress. I’d sneak downstairs in the middle of the night, unable to sleep because of the financial disaster we were facing, and I’d cry along with the Psalmists. The bank wouldn’t refinance our mortgage, but my grandmother had loaned us the money to buy the new house—and she decided we didn’t need to pay her back. It was a gift. The house was a gift. (Spoiler alert: as amazing as that is, this isn’t the gift this story is about.)

After many months on the market but hardly any showings, we finally had one scheduled. As I vacuumed in my bedroom, I got real with God. “Lord, I don’t know what we’re going to do if we don’t sell this. We are going to be in real trouble.”

And, without even a hint of hesitation, God spoke to me. “Pray for the woman who will someday buy your house.”

I sat down on the bedspread in silence and awe. I’d heard from God. I knew I could hold on a little bit longer to help her, whoever she was. So I prayed. As I wrote my mortgage check every month, I mentally gave it to God. “This is my offering. I’m doing this for her.” I knew I could manage to go a little bit longer without selling the house as long as I knew God was in it, that He was at work. I believed with all of my heart that was true. So I put more stuff for the house on our credit cards, worked more, and prayed more.

And yet nothing happened for a long time. So we moved. We were declined when we tried to refinance our first mortgage. We anointed the house and prayed for all who would enter it.

And nada.

As we neared the two-year mark, a woman who’d looked at the house earlier came back with an offer that, while low, was one we had to consider. Even so, we couldn’t make it work—until our realtor waived his commission, we got a first-time-ever tax refund, and my mom gave me the rest so we could pay off the bank, at least—never mind the credit cards. Less than ideal, surely, but we felt we had to say yes.

I was like a sulky teenager. Even though I should have been rejoicing, all I could see was that it hadn’t happened like I had planned. And then I saw what God had done during that time in the life of Rosanne, the woman who bought the house, and I realized that He really had answered me. He used our house to answer so many of her prayers. And because I was praying for her instead of focusing on myself, I got to be part of it . When I really looked at the situation, I got to see what God really did.

There’s a lot more to the story, and you can read a little more here; it also became the basis for my first book, Praying Upside Down.

For years, I’ve been talking about this—about how sweet God is, that He brought Rosanne and I together as friends, that He cared enough about her to go to such lengths to provide just what she needed. And how He used the experience to launch my writing career.

But you know something? I was wrong. Maybe not completely, but I guess it’s safe to say, at the very least, that my understanding was woefully incomplete.

In late June, my dad went into the hospital with what we thought were AFib issues. After a few weeks, with my sister and I flying down to Florida for alternating weeks of being with him, surgery revealed cancer—everywhere. It was bad, and Dad didn’t have long. I was in Florida when the surgery happened, but by the time we realized that Dad was likely not to recover enough to come home by means of a regular mode of transportation, my sister Kerry was with him. As a nurse, she understood the situation intuitively and she made the call to have Dad flown back to Indiana via a med flight.

Because I lived next door, it was easy for me to oversee the setup of a room at Kerry’s house and to coordinate with the doctors on this end. I met the oxygen delivery people, set up hospice care, and arranged for delivery of the hospital bed, rolling tray table, and so on. I bought privacy curtains and all the random things we’d need to care for him there.

When Dad got here, he wasn’t doing very well. He was trying to recover from his surgery, deal with a pleurex drain, and the cancer was causing him a lot of pain. From the beginning, he needed someone with him at all times.

It was horrible. And yet it was the best possible scenario. I could walk across the driveway in my slippers, carrying my own coffee, and sit with Dad while he watched the Today show and dozed. While I was there, Kerry could shower and throw in some laundry. I stayed on the days she worked, and on her days off I came home to do my own work—switching off shifts to accommodate our various appointments. Our families shared meals, our kids could come see their Bebop in between activities, and Kerry, her husband Doug, and I took turns sleeping on a futon in Dad’s room each night.

For years, I’d believed that the whole story about selling my house was about seeing God’s answers to prayer, about a new friendship, about giving me insights and the opportunity to write about them. Still true. However, during those tumultuous and overwhelming three weeks before Dad died, I saw the true gift in it all: God was establishing Kerry and me next door to each other so that we would be able to care for Dad like we did. My dad kept saying, with a sense of wonder in his voice, “It’s so neat what you girls are doing here. Who would have thought it would work out like this?”

God knew. Ten years ago, He looked down the road and saw that the only way we could get through the incredibly exhausting and emotional time coming up was exactly the way we did. Side by side, helping each other out, seamlessly interchangeable.

Such a beautiful gift, and one that was planned years ahead of the need.

This is what is so amazing about our God. Nothing is wasted. He sees beyond our immediate needs and He puts answers in motion long before we even know to ask.

Sometimes it feels to me as though God has stopped answering prayers. And then He nudges me, points my thoughts in a new direction and lets me really see: The answers haven’t stopped. Some are still coming. Some look different than we expect. And some are only partially fulfilled—so far. There may still be layers yet to be revealed.

None of what is happening is a surprise to God. We just need to keep hanging on, confident that our God will keep giving to us good and precious gifts. And remember—we don’t necessarily need to look far and wide to find them—they may be waiting for us right next door.

To enter to win this sterling silver charm bracelet—hand-crafted by yours truly with blue and green stones and beads—leave a comment below. Tell us about a gift you remember that God gave you, a gift hidden within a gift, or simply leave a comment or prayer request. I’ll draw names to select a winner one week from today.

11 Responses to “Your answer may already be right next door”

  1. Claudia Schneider says:

    I LOVED reading the continuation of your story. I know the comfort you must feel in knowing the big WHY to your move! What a blessing for your dad to be right there with you all during that hard time. The knowledge of that plan that was set in place long before you needed to know is evidence of our awesome, compassionate God who gives us grace before we know we need it!
    When my husband was fighting his cancer battle–that came as a shock to all and was hard-fought–I continued my teaching job because we needed that financially. We were blessed by servant-hearted friends who took him to treatments ever day, brought us meals, sent us money in cards, and gave us many other gifts. While I was off for Thanksgiving break, I felt a heavenly nudge to take the time between then and Christmas off from school and be with my hubby. A good friend who wasn’t teaching offered to be my sub, and my principal supported us wholeheartedly. We spent those 2 weeks together, going to treatments and sitting together. My biggest regret is that we didn’t say much–we were so scared and overwhelmed. As Christmas approached we learned that the treatment hadn’t worked and that barring a miracle we would spend our last Christmas as a family of three together. Tom went into hospice care after Christmas and went home to Jesus before the new year began. Four years later, the holiday season is still difficult, but I will always be grateful for that gift of time we shared together.

    • Kelly O'Dell Stanley says:

      I’m so sorry for your loss, and sorry that you will experience it again every year at the holidays. I think we all experience our losses more strongly this time of year. So glad you responded to that nudge and had that time together. Being together says so much – words aren’t necessarily needed. I’m guessing you both got comfort from each other and showed your love by being together. xo

  2. Kate says:

    I love this. I find that I’m so envious that you have heard the audible voice of God. Some do, some don’t. But it certainly makes understanding easier when He gives you that gift as well! Love this, Kelly and so thankful you share your perspective.

    • Kelly O'Dell Stanley says:

      I think we all hear from God in different ways, and some people are more likely to trust their gut and believe it’s God, and some are more hesitant to accept it or acknowledge it because they don’t trust themselves. But I believe with all my heart that God does speak – in my case, it was like this sudden knowing – the words all were impressed on my mind in a chunk, and they had layers of meaning that I discovered over time. That’s the only reason I was able to believe that’s what it was and that I wasn’t crazy :-). Thanks, Kate! (Let’s plan to get together after the new year…!)

  3. Donna Cronk says:

    Thirty years ago, the night before my 11-month-old baby went into open-heart surgery, I was terrified, anxious, paralyzed. That night, this phrase fell into my mind and was repeated over and over and over, like an ear worm of a song you can’t make go away. It was this:
    “My grace is sufficient.”
    Although a Christian, I wasn’t much of a Bible reader. But it sounded like scripture. Sure enough, it was. I found the full scripture in 2 Corinthians 12:9: 2 Corinthians 12:9: 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
    This scripture came alive to me, the Living Word of God made real and personal in my suffering.
    This baby boy is now 31 and works in surgeries as a surgical tech in a major hospital. Thank you Lord, for your LIVING WORD.

  4. Jean Morgan says:

    Kelly, thank you for sharing your journey. It seems we think God is not listening to our prayers then it happens on HIS time….not ours. The miracle that happened in my journey is one that took much longer than I thought it should. Several years ago, I became ill with what Drs could not explain. Through many tests and many Drs, I was first diagnosed with ALS with the explanation of what was ahead for my loving husband and for me. We were in a world of shock, looking to when I might need help dressing, feeding and being put in a nursing home and finally death. My prayers were not only for me, but for my husband who would eventually have to care for me or have to make the decision for me to go to a nursing home. After going to many Drs, one said NO you do not have ALS…don’t know yet what is wrong but NO to ALS. After more and more tests, while I was in a wheel chair because I was so week I could not walk, we finally had a diagnosis. “Motor Neuropathy”. Very similar symptoms and over time, maybe the same results, but a more positive outlook. My mind began to wonder just what was ahead for me Now. The Dr. Explained to us that this was a disease of which had no cure… just a progression of the disease. With a joy that I didn’t have ALS and what I thought was my answered prayers led to many days, weeks and a few years of thinking my prayers really weren’t answered after all. I came to realize my fate would be a nursing home and a few years or several years of care. That was the unknown…We decided to go to Florida one winter to spend time with some dear friends. The sunshine was great, however overshaded by my lack of not being able to get around. The next winter, we went to Florida, again with sunshine. The disease was working on me and my prayers were for my husband taking care of me, not knowing what was ahead. After several winters in Florida I began to feel better. Oh my what is happening to me? Is this the prayers answered or is this a trick of my mind. As that winter ended, we started home, with a stop off at my husbands brothers home…about half way home. My sister-in-law and I had many discussions about my health. As we prepared to leave their home, she told me I should share my story with others about the miracle of my better health. I just wasn’t sure because was this indeed just a trick, maybe from the “devil” himself? The first Sunday, after we arrived home, the sermon was directed about sharing the miracles God has given you??? Ok, just a sermon…the next Sunday was on on being thankful for the miracles God had done in your life….is this Gods way telling me to share? On the Tuesday after that Sunday, I found myself in the preachers office telling him I had something on my mind and I was not sure what to do with it. After telling him my journey, he quickly responded….YOU have to tell your journey…will this coming Sunday work? Oh my, I didn’t know about that..but somehow I felt I really did have to, so the rest of that week I began to pray for the wisdom to tell my journey in a way that it was NOT about me, but about what GOD and what HE had done. Sunday came along and I began telling my journey during two services without hesitation and a calm peace. What a joy it was to share GODS journey through me. Since those two Sundays, I have shared with the congregation at the church we go to in Florida again with the same calm peace, again telling them it was not my journey, but GODS journey through me. Again today, you Kelly have given me an opportunity to share. I apologize for the length of this, however the words seemed to flow from my mind. I am so thankful for what GOD has done through me. Today I am free from most symptoms of the disease and am leading a life I never thought was going to be possible. Thank you, Kelly for sharing your journey and allowing me to share mine.

    • Kelly O'Dell Stanley says:

      What an amazing story— and what courage you showed in stepping forward with your story before you were completely sure. You trusted your instincts and you trusted what God could do. So inspiring! Thank you for sharing this here!

  5. Martha says:

    A gift hidden within a gift, my husband! Shortly after we got married, he became my caregiver, carting me to weekly hospital visits, learning how to care for me at home, changing my bandages, caring for the house etc. He did all the grocery shopping, cleaning and continued to work 8-12 hours a day. He never complained.

  6. Jean Morgan says:

    Merry Christmas, Kelly, to you and your family. My thoughts are with all of you especially THIS Christmas. As you are always GODS little girl, you are always your Dads little girl too. I am sure he has painted a beautiful picture of heaven and I most definately want to see it when I get there.
    Prayers sent your way.

  7. Terri says:

    Thank you for the offer of this gift. I’ve enjoyed your monthly prayer prompt calendars and your blog posts. Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.

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