How to See a Miracle

My car sputtered dead on the way to my first day at a new job—the kind you wear a suit to. A few years out of college, I hadn’t yet graduated from all my bad habits. I had run out of gas. Again.

My faith-walk was still in the fruit snacks stage, somewhere between craving spiritual milk and meat; I prayed hard. Being late on the first day would make an awful impression. Dear Father, please help.

The car died as I turned onto the access road, but I was able to coast down the hill, directly into the pumping station. A credit card swipe, a fast pour into the tank, the three-click-twist of the gas cap, and I was back on my way. A desperate prayer had been answered. It was a miracle.

olga-filonenko-29178-unsplashThere at that workplace I first heard it, a coworker’s flippant, “God has more important things to do than help me find my keys.”

The sentiment surprised me. Since when was the Lord too big to care about small concerns?  At what point did Holy hinder personal?

David was my biblical inspiration. From shepherd boy to mighty king, through exile, foolish rage, base sin, and rebellion, he poured out his everything to God in the Psalms. It was raw and messy. It worked.

David grew in faith and the Lord moved in miracles.

But sparing God our everyday troubles? When did we fill out the ballot to determine acceptable versus unacceptable prayers? When did the Lord ask us to? Why do we so desire to seem to have it all together? The man after God’s own heart danced undignified before the world.

I still hear it these days, even from people devoted to him, “The Lord doesn’t do miracles like that anymore.”

Perhaps the issue isn’t what God is doing, but rather the filters of our perspective: when we invite him in to move as he chooses, versus when we hedge him into the box of what we can understand. If Pharaoh hardened his heart against the miraculous hopping, flying, and crawling through his palace, I’m sure we can miss the boat, too. It’s a sobering thought.

The trouble comes when we decide anything is too small or too big for God.

Miracles are not the point, though. Refining me to become more like him is. How do we focus our vision to see the reality of God’s work in our lives, so that we can know him better? So that he can use us more?

“And [Jesus] said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Spoiler alert: The kingdom of heaven is where all the good stuff happens.

quino-al-111952-unsplashAs Mark Batterson* of The Circle Maker explains: Everyone wants to see a miracle, but no one wants to be in the childlike-faith place of needing one. Yet the latter has to precede the former.  You can’t have one without the other.

The miraculous, then, is just the Lord moving supernaturally in the lives of the ones he loves. The ones who approach him like a child.

Jesus was not bothered by the children coming to him. He encouraged it. So here’s the way I see it: Don’t be ashamed to take your childishness, your prayers to find your keys, your neediness, your unschooled heart to Jesus. He takes you into his arms and blesses you. That is kingdom living. That’s where miracles begin.

My job has changed in the years since that fuel stop.  I’ve grown in wisdom, if not stature; I never let my tank go empty anymore.  But I am still my Abba-Father’s girl. I have seen the Lord move mountains–Real ones, big and small. The links below tell some of the stories. He did it because I admitted how very much I needed him, how out-of-gas-desperate I was for his help.  I know I will always need his power working in my life.

This weekend I lost my wedding ring somewhere on the 8-acre campus of the children’s home, hauling branches and wheelbarrows full of overripe mangoes. Work gloves going on and off took more than sweat off my hands. I had zero hope of finding it. The loss was physically painful: we celebrate 20 years of marriage this fall. Even worse was the time we would spend searching when already exhausted. Praying, surrendering, and crying like a little girl, I put my hands in my pockets on the way out to the car.

It was there.

Right there in my pocket, then in my hand, and astonishingly back on my finger, as if nothing miraculous had happened.

But it had.

sweet-ice-cream-photography-408541-unsplashHaving lost at least a hundred tubes of lip balm over the course of my life, I know nothing is safe in pockets, at least in my pockets. I use them with extreme caution. There are all of 3 places on this earth I trust to hold my wedding ring. Not one of them is a pocket.

This was not forgetfulness. This was a sweet fatherly kiss from a miraculous God.

I’m never going to have it all together. How much fun would that be anyway? I’d rather open my heart and my eyes, my need and my prayers, to see miracles.


Share your miracle stories below and check out some of mine:

On We Drive

The Backpack Story

Angel Knees


*You can read more about Mark Batterson’s thoughts on God’s miracles today <here>. 

Larkspur Photo by Olga Filonenko, Beach Sunrise Photo by Quino Al, & Ring Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography on Unsplash

What He is Doing in My Doing

It was an everyday milk run. We snuck out after bedtime to make it this season’s version of a date. Somewhere between the tortilla presses and the plantains, we saw Maria.

Our neighbor has been fighting cancer for the last half-year. Each time I see her, it’s like the Lord turns his laser pointer on. Our interaction is sparse: my English prayers over her in private and Spanish greetings on the street. I saw her hats and headscarves progress to unabashed baldness. I told her she looked beautiful. She told me about her chemo port.

Lately, I open my arms with every hello. Latin culture pooh-poohs personal space. I don’t have enough words to explain my heart to her. I can only draw her near it for a moment now and then.

That night at the grocery store, she held on. We cried a little. Her Spanish flowed next to my cheek, blessing and thanking me for my love. God’s presence filled that embrace, speaking all the things I didn’t know how to say.

wood garden fence board

Photo by Pixabay on

Her hair is growing back now, sparkly silver.

She invited me in the other day, my first time through the steel gate that safeguards her house.  Seating me at her table, she shared her evening, her family, her life. She heaped a bowl with fruit salad, serving me a rainbow cut with her limited strength–topped with red jello, of course, for Costa Rican flair.

Stories flowed out as I nibbled and listened. How her grown daughter had stroked her bare scalp in the restless nights of her treatment, the love expressed in cool touch. Her sadness that we all seem to live behind closed doors in the neighborhood. We laughed that it was the mosquitoes’ fault. Prayers sought for her disability pension to be approved, kindly insights on the personalities of the block. Encouragement from the place of cancer, that the Lord is faithful in all things. Her face lit up when we talked gardening.

I went home with arms full of plant cuttings and the fruit I couldn’t finish. Humming with Spanish headache and unexpressed affection, I dove into my freezer. I recrossed the street with banana-craisin bread to sweeten her week the way she had mine. We thumped the language barrier again as I fumbled for the concepts of already-sliced and thaw-on-the-counter.

I may be hemmed in by verb tense and vocabulary, but God is not. He can work great things in the cheerful hello, in the how-are-you, in the hug in the grocery aisle.

Most of the time, what I do is more felt than seen: happy bellies, cleans sheets, a peacefully ordered home. This time the Lord let me feel some of what he is doing in my doing.

And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.  Matthew 10:42 NLT

How has the Lord surprised you with his movement in your everyday living?

The Backpack Story

Our journey to Costa Rica on Monday started out innocently enough.  The small miracle of a favorite song played twice on the car radio in 20 minutes, chorusing the benediction “Let the future begin.”  A laughter-through-tears farewell at the airport.  Two low-key flights sandwiching a leisurely layover and McDonalds fries.  We were given a shortcut through the immigration line (may have been the squirrelly kids or the soccer jerseys we wore), hugged the ministry founders, Tim and Dena, rejoiced that they had ferried all of our stuff in good condition from Hogar de Vida, met our wonderful Big Sisters from language school, and loaded our baggage into the van rented to drive us to our house.

I was admiring the city lights as we drove down the highway, eagerly tuning into the conversation about something Costa Rican when Matt said it, veiled urgency in his voice:

We don’t have our backpacks.

A quick call to Tim and Dena confirmed it.  They didn’t have them in their vehicle either.  The bags stuffed with all of the things too important to let out of our sight were in fact still sitting on a bench outside of the San Jose airport in the traffic of new arrivals and taxi drivers.  In the relief of long anticipated greetings and hugs, the unsuccessful scramble to find working seat belts in the van for the children, and the busy loading of 50 lb. bags, we had let our guard down and simply forgotten to take a count.  Total rookie mistake.  We had driven around 20 minutes away, and the return trip seemed to last an eternity.  Praying with everything that an overtaxed me could muster, I called down God’s goodness over us, His plan for our time in Costa Rica, His angels over our bags hiding them from the sight of anyone on the prowl for theft.  I knew the odds were impossible.  This was San Jose, where a bag left on the seat of a locked car is an embossed invitation, and even backpacks being worn aren’t impervious.

My mind took inventory of the stakes: our passports, our laptops, the immigration paperwork, our phones, about $2,000 of cash for rent payments, and my wallet topped the list.  I pushed back the nausea and kept praying.  The city lights were an agony passing by in reverse.  Finally we entered the drop zone and saw what we had hoped and prayed for–the most beautiful lineup of colorful backpacks sitting on the bench.  We burst out of the van and collected them like prodigal children, praising God every step.  Searching through the various compartments, we found everything exactly where it was supposed to be.  Relief washed over us, with a cream rinse of exhaustion.

Backlit LarkspurWhat do you do in the wake of a miracle like that, where God has shown Himself so big, where disaster was averted only by His grace? Is there a thank you note magnificent enough?  All we have to give Him is ourselves.  So we open our hearts on a deeper level and lean more fully into this plan He has for our family to walk out His love in Costa Rica.

Bring on the cockroaches.

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.  Isaiah 58:8

On We Drive

It was time to turn off the radio.  The lights on the dash were dimming as we drove onward into the western prairie.  We were headed toward the other edge of Nebraska, and a campground family gathering somewhere we had never been before.  Somewhere we didn’t quite know how to get to.  But even in our newlywed existence, we were pretty sure we could recognize alternator failure.  My baby-faith was rushing in where angels might fear to tread, praying miracles over us like thunder.  In the meantime, we were conserving electricity by nixing the tunes and the A/C.  The summer night was humid and the darkness thick out on the country road.

2013-06-03 Colorado 002

Our alternator (and the angels) got us as far as a convenience store near the campground.  Out where cellphones had trouble reaching, we explained our situation to the clerk and called collect again to our Heavenly Daddy.  It was only a few minutes later that our nephew walked in with his buddies.  He must have been surprised at our excitement to see him, and then our commandeering their car to drive us safely in.  We weren’t.  We had been expecting God to make a way.

The lights are dimming down on our time here in Omaha.  It’s time to forsake Craigslist in favor of the Goodwill drop-off drive-thru.  If you stop by our house, odds are we will try to give you something.  We just got all our official documents to apply for Costa Rican residency, and the suitcases are filling up.  We don’t know exactly how it will look to get from here to there—closet/cabinet status is improving but not yet empty, our house is still waiting to meet its new owners, our monthly funding is at 56%—but our faith is driving on.  We know God will make a way.

Be strong and courageous!  Don’t be afraid or discouraged. . .for there is a power far greater on our side!  We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!  2 Chronicles 32:7, 8a

The Escalator Escapade

We inched our way through the ribbon maze, checking our watches every minute, praying furiously for our connecting flight to be delayed.  The older two E’s were tired of maneuvering their backpacks and wheeled carry-ons.  Our arms were weary of the same, plus hefting the youngest.  Finally, bags emerged from the x-ray tunnel and shoes were shoved back on feet, just as our flight was scheduled  to pull away from the terminal.

Ready, set, go!  Off to find the gate while Houston flaunted it’s size.  Quick, quick!  We know you are tired, just keep going and we’ll sit for hours once we get there.  You can do it.

Then we came to the escalator.

Normally the anchor duck in our family line, keeping count of the ducklings ahead, I leapt on first.  Elijah and Eliana got on a few steps behind me.  The stairs began to rise.  I held my breath as Elijah’s bag tottered and fell down onto him.  Over-balanced by a stuffed backpack, he fell backwards onto his sister.  She, likewise, toppled over onto her bag, and they all went down in a heap of domino helplessness, arms and legs flailing like a pair of up-ended turtles, all the while being carried rapidly up to the next floor.  Matt bounded up to get feet and luggage wheels back in touch with the stair treads.  My respiration resumed.

Then the worst.

From 20 feet above, I saw Ezekiel, just 3 years old, standing alone and unsure at the bottom, afraid to get on the moving belt.  Stair after stair passed by as I barked panicked encouragement while a traffic jam of strangers looked on behind him.  Get on, Buddy, get on!

Then the angel appeared.

A man gently picked him up and put him on the escalator.  Up he rode, safely delivered into our arms, which were now very glad to carry him.  Laughter and tears had to wait until we reached our gate.  Well, the laughter did, anyway.  Happy tears don’t slow you down much.

Praying hack and slash the whole way, we continued to trot the concourses and finally charged up to our gate, finding it blessedly crammed with people.  Great news, our flight was delayed–a mechanical issue.  They would know more in half an hour.  Relief washed over us.  Fatigue and full bladders chimed in, and we trundled gratefully to the restrooms.  As the adrenaline faded, peaceful thoughts of contentment made way for some wondering: how long would it take to begin the last leg of our journey home?  I looked at Eliana over the soap and warm water, and chuckled out another prayer, “Lord, thank you so much for delaying the flight so we could make it.  Would you please speed things up now that we are here?”

Before we even reached our seats in the waiting area, God’s heartbeat of love for us sounded again.  The loudspeaker announced, “Ladies and gentleman, the mechanical issue has been resolved.  We will now begin boarding. . .”

The 3-E's at the Airport

“He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.”

Isaiah 40:11

Thank heaven for that.