The first week of Hebrew required the skill of decision. Our professor asked us to pick names for ourselves; a common tradition in many language courses. Wow, that was easy, I thought. Hadassah. Yes, a character that holds many of my aspirations from one of my most beloved story series, The Mark of the Lion, by Francine Rivers. (Or, maybe it’s more familiar to you as the Hebrew name of Queen Esther.)
I was rather pleased with my unnaturally speedy decision until the moment it got shot down. Someone had already staked claim on the name! Disappointed, I scrambled to think of something as the professor made his way towards me. As I googled my brain and skimmed the OT pages of my next seat neighbor’s Bible, I prayed for something good, but nothing stuck.
In the eleventh hour, hope appeared (as it often does). I heard my new name slip straight from the professor’s mouth. “Eliana”, he said, was the name he’d given his middle daughter. He explained the Hebrew pronunciation has a long “ah” at the end, as the last syllable is emphasized. I asked him if I could take it and he agreed.
It was a dear moment as naming can be. I’ve dearly loved that name for years now. I dream and pray that God will grace me with a daughter someday to give it to.
See, Eliana means, “my God, He answered.”
Indeed He does. The very reason I was sitting in that class that day was because He did.
I’d like to share my story of just how I ended up in that seat. The story of His extraordinary answer to my years of prayer. Until this moment, I’ve hesitated to post it for the world to see and do so now for three reasons:
1) my wonderful friend and mentor encouraged me to write it down.
2) It means one more step away from the insecurity I officially said “so long” to last year.
3) primarily because it gives Him glory.
From the time I was young until well into my college years, I dreamed and held high hopes for a fulfilling career. For a long while I believed it would reside somewhere in the art world and was pretty sure God would reveal the position before I graduated. When several of my dreams lost their appeal or left me without peace, I began to doubt God’s plan for me. Or at my worst, if He really even had one. As I rode away from UMD and most of my friends, the disappointment was heavy. With no plan, a nagging dread began to seep in and I struggled to patch the crack.
Why are You silent?
At first, I assured myself not to worry that God would make it clear what He wanted me to do. Mind you, this meant to me that He would reveal it within a reasonable amount of time: a few months, maybe a year. However, a year turned into years. Several new dreams appeared but they were met with closed doors. A settled acceptance of my lot replaced dread as I learned to be more cozy with the phrase “I don’t know”. In my head, it seemed reasonable that God had a plan, but in the disappointment, my heart struggled to not agree with the lie that He was indifferent.
Initially, I wondered if maybe He had something else in mind. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to have a “fulfilling” career. Maybe He’d make another dream come true. The dream to be a wife, a mom, and do art on the side. It sounded quite appealing at first, and it still does at times. But by my late twenties, with no Prince Charming in sight, it no longer seemed realistic for me to hold out for.
These questions haunted me for the later half of my twenties: Did I miss the boat? Mess up somewhere? Why won’t You tell me what You want me to do?!? I don’t want to waste Your time! Are You indifferent? Then I’d play a few rounds in the destructive game of comparison. Why did You give clear direction to so many of my friends? Or at least provide them wonderful husbands (later) and kids?
In spite my faults and doubts, God mercifully stuck with me to see to it that I would grow and that my unhealthy perspectives would change. He graciously gave me wisdom and bits of hope, comfort and encouragement along the way. Especially when I needed it most. I clung to this: remember that His agape -love for you means He’s always acting on your best behalf. In the last few years, my longings have not subsided. But I’ve realized something important. Had God fulfilled them then as I begged Him to, I could have easily fallen prey to placing my identity and worth in them instead of where it belonged. The position He left me in ensured that I’d continually be compelled to find those things in Him.
In the last five years, the ministry that has given me the greatest encouragement (not to mention, had a profound impact on me) was that of Beth Moore and Living Proof. Beth is a prolific writer, bible study teacher and speaker. When I did her study on the tabernacle, she shared something of great comfort and encouragement. She told us the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Their answer for a child came not after 7 years, but more likely a half a century! In ripe old age-well past the years for childbearing- God filled their empty arms with John (the would be baptist and cousin to Jesus). Beth made this point: sometimes what comes so naturally for others, and does not for you, might be the thing God wants to provide for you in a supernatural way. She also reminded us of Daniel and his prayers. The angel Gabriel came to assure him God had heard his prayers and He had answered. But the results of the answer would take some time to show.
We often say God hasn’t answered our prayers. But what if He has?! He knows our requests before we ask them. If we asked Him face to face- knowing the gracious gentleman that He is- would He respond with the silent treatment? I’d imagine if He wouldn’t give us the answer, He’d at least say “trust Me”. Yes, His answer may be at times “no”. But maybe it’s as Jesus told the disciples in John 16:12. If we had the answer, or had the whole story now, we’d not be able to bear it. As finite creatures prone to worry and wander, we’re nowhere near experts at handling a lot of-or simply, certain info- that far ahead of time. Whether it’s good or bad. God knows that. And I know that’s true for me. I never would’ve imagined nor would’ve been able to healthily handle-fresh off my college campus- what He was calling me to.
Early last year marked the identifiable moment where I finally heard God say more than “trust Me” on the matter. I confess I didn’t really recognize it at the time though.
A man I had recently met, wrote a message to me praising God for me doing something with young women’s ministry. Huh? I remember rereading the sentence a few times. Could he be confusing me with someone else?? I knew he had a prophetic gift, but I was almost certain he had his wires crossed. I was not involved in women’s ministry and it was nowhere- I repeat nowhere-on my radar. I tried to question him, but he did not respond.
Sitting in a coffee shop shortly after, he told me he could see me doing something like Beth Moore. I smiled. l love Beth Moore, I love what she does! Wait…what?!? Me?!? Do something like her?? God bless him for having been willing to share that with me. But again, not on the radar. I let myself wonder a little about it… I do love to share what I learn about God and I do have a passion to equip people…but…I felt silly. So I kept it to myself. My mom was the only exception.
She happened to agree with him.
Over the next several months, the circle of young women friends I had dramatically increased. A desire rose in me to start a bible study. A few friends started saying things to me that happened to align with a teaching gift. What that man had said no longer seemed so far off. I was still hesitant to talk about it though, so it stayed on the back burner. In the late spring, my pastor spoke a message on prophesy and that forced me to move it back up to the front. Maybe God really had spoken through him. I finally got up the nerve to share it with a few close friends.
Surprisingly, they too agreed.
I wasn’t sure what to do so I waited, prayed, and from time to time entertained some more doubts (I’m rather a good host). The next so called “nudge” came that summer when I happened to be reading one of Beth’s books, Praying God’s Word. In the introduction, Beth went on a brief tangent about how one might know they have a teaching gift: basically, when you learn something from God, and you find you can’t help but share it with almost every willing ear.
It was as if right then the text took on a fluorescent glow! What she said resonated word for word. I jumped out of my chair.
That’s me! And I know I can even be obnoxious about it at times!
Shortly after, I was talking about it with one of my best and dear friends, Jess. She suggested I start seminary. Woah. Hmm…not on my radar again, not to mention a huge investment and change of lifestyle. After a couple months praying and wrestling with the idea, I decided to test the waters with one class.
I enrolled in a winter night class and kept my day job. I had high hopes that God would make it very clear to me if He really wanted me there by the end of the quarter. He didn’t. So I took another class that spring, and as the quarter neared its end, my concern began to increase. Why aren’t You answering?? Am I just doubting too much?? At the end of May, I learned the specific track I was on in Masters of Divinity would be very difficult to accomplish in the night program. I came to a crossroads: quit seminary, or continue and quit my full-time day job.
I prayed and prayed. As the sand in my hour glass gravitated south, I was heavy with uncertainty. One night after praying with my mom, I picked up a book I’d been reading by another teacher, Priscilla Shirer. It was called, Discerning the Voice of God. My bookmark directed me to the next chapter: “His Challenging Voice.” I read through it. Nearly every point she made was either a crazy coincidence or a very clear answer from God. Too tired to decide, I went to sleep. The next day, tears rolled down my cheeks as I shared it with my mom.
She said, “Cara, you’re sitting on the fence.” I sat there. I didn’t even reply. Again, “you’re sitting on the fence.”
A few moments passed. Then grabbing the courage God offered, I jumped off the fence in obedience. I would continue with seminary.
My backpack of uncertainty, unfortunately however, did not fall off during the leap. I knew God wanted me in seminary, well…at least for now. The Doubting Thomas I can be was still not fully convinced about the overall call. They say hindsight is 20/20, so back then it was not clear to me that all of those “nudges” were evidence. I was very hesitant to make a conclusion about what God was saying, because I had been conditioned to years of closed doors. So I prayed again that God would give me clarity about the source of my doubts and lack of peace. Was the enemy messing with me, or did God have something else in mind? I had obeyed in the leap and so I decided to trust that He would eventually give me a clear sign.
God’s answer to my prayer was somewhere in the realm of unimaginable to me.
At the end of June, my wonderful friends, Khristina and Robin, went with me to see Beth Moore at Living Proof Live in Lincoln. The entire road trip and event was saturated in God’s blessings. I was sitting in my chair at the close of the event, when I noticed the front screen was requesting all of Beth’s blog followers “Siestas” to come stand below it. I was a Siesta and curious. So I notified my friends and we quickly squirmed our way to the front, said location.
A group of about thirty of us formed. After a few minutes without announcement of the purpose for our gathering, we got suspicious. But as they began to direct us behind the curtain at the side of the stage, everything in me wanted me to squeal. I was so amazed and began to feel God pour on me His very sweet loving kindness. I was almost swimming in it.
Then, they brought us up some stairs, where we passed a room that Beth was in. I heard her say that she needed to get her picture taken with us. Near tears, I kept repeating to myself: Lord! You’re too kind, You didn’t have to do this, You’ve already blessed me enough!
Backstage, Beth came out thrilled to meet us. She told us she was in a hurry to catch her flight, but she thought she’d have time to come around and hug everyone after the picture. Lord, really? This is way over the top. You’re too sweet! I was nearly beside myself. Never would I have thought I’d get the chance to meet, thank, or much less hug her in person! I’m not usually prone to being star-struck, but I would’ve been close to it, had God not stolen the show by saturating me with His sweet loving kindness. Did I mention it was sweet? Nothing or nobody compares to it. Not one.
When she came up to me, all I could say was: “I’m Cara. I love you Beth. Thank you so much!”
We gave each other a good hug and stepped back slightly. But instead of moving on to the next person, she looked at me in the eyes with the most piercing gaze. I went perfectly still as all of my spiritual senses went on alert. It was almost as if Jesus was looking at me in the eye, and not her. I had an overwhelming sense of His Presence right there with us and I knew He was about to do something.
Then Beth said:
“I just felt that God has spoken something over you, and the enemy has been trying to steal it.”
I stood there, tears brimming and speechless, listening to those words… all I could do was nod.
I was floored.
She had no idea the significance of what she had just said to me.
What’s above and beyond way over the top?
My sweet and wondrous God chose to answer my prayer by speaking through her (of all people!!) in person.
I let my tears run free after we got off stage. I was beside myself amazed at Him.
WHO DOES THIS???
Who but You.
WHY. ARE. YOU. SO. KIND. TO. ME?? You could have answered me and assured me of this in so many other ways!! And so much sooner, I might add.
After we returned home, I shared this story with a friend. She said, “yep, you got your billboard.” A large, very clear sign indeed.
I didn’t get a natural answer. I got a supernatural one. Because of that, not only was my foe silenced, but God erased every speck of doubt, incredibly blessed me, and got and continues to get all the glory.
He knows I like to share 🙂
I echo Hadassah: Oh, God, what a wonder You are!