My marriage was on shaky ground from “I do”, but I hung in there a long, long time.
Two kids and twenty-eight years worth.
Then, on a bitterly cold January night, in 2007, my husband walked out. The days dragged into months, the months into years.
It took four of them before the divorce was made final.
God provided in many ways, during that difficult time. But one night, about a year and a half into the separation, He did something so miraculous that it still brings tears to my eyes when I recount the story.
It had been one of those days. I was being pummeled from all sides–finances, work, the kids, and my estranged husband.
I felt inadequate, incapable, and overwhelmed.
I had just spent the little money I had on some groceries when from out of nowhere I was overtaken by despair so deep that I just lost it.
I didn’t just cry...I sobbed.
My shoulders heaved uncontrollably as I wept, and the tears that cascaded down my cheeks obscured my vision to the point that I was struggling not to drive off the road. As I gulped for air in between the racking sobs all I could manage was, “Oh God, oh God, oh God!”
I made it home, but there was no room to park in front of my house. I pulled up in front of my next-door neighbor’s steps and sat in the car continuing to weep. As I looked up at the full moon and pleaded with the sky, God felt further from me than those stars burning millions of miles away. He was like the moon…immense and beautiful, yet distant and untouchable.
“God…I feel like the whole world is against me.”
I laid my complaints at His feet; all the while feeling like there was no way to get out from under.
“I can’t function anymore God…I just can’t do this on my own!”
Words were pouring out of me now….
”God, I have no money, how can I take care of my kids? My kids, Lord…I’m so worried about the road they’re going down. Lord, I’m so alone…help me!”
I cried out to God for a good half hour until the tears started to subside and my neighbor began to peek out the window wondering what on earth I could be doing. It was almost 11:00 before I pulled myself together. I grabbed some of the grocery bags, walked up the sidewalk toward my porch, dropped them off, and turned back toward the car as another neighbor drove up.
Maria had lived across the street for at least a decade. Although our children attended the same Christian school, we mostly just exchanged occasional pleasantries. She knew nothing of what I was currently going through.
“Hello, Toni, how are you?” she asked.
I responded as cheerily as I could. I knew she couldn’t see I’d been crying because it was late and dark–the street light in front of my house had gone out.
“My sister says the Holy Spirit is telling her you need prayer. Are you sure you’re alright?”
I stopped dead in my tracks. I didn’t realize there was someone else in the car, and how did she know….
”No Maria, I’m not.”
“Can we pray for you?”
“I think God sent you to do just that.”
Maria’s sister got out of the car, grabbed me by the hand and led me to my porch steps. Maria parked her car and joined us.
“This is my sister from Costa Rica. She’s a missionary to Italy but she’s visiting for a little while. She doesn’t speak English very well.’
The other woman smiled and said something I didn’t understand as she gestured toward the steps.
“She says you need to sit on the porch so she can lay hands on you…you’re too tall.”
Maria laughed. She and her sister were at least half a foot shorter than my 5’ 8” frame. I understood the predicament and dutifully sat. To my left, Maria’s sister stood and placed one hand on my back and the other on top of my head. She prayed in Spanish in the most powerful way while Maria laid her hand on my right shoulder and translated.
“God says you are not alone, He is here with you.”
She placed her hand on my shoulder.
“Don’t say you can’t …you can do all things through Him. I bind the spirits at work in this house–I pray for your children....”
I caught my breath. How could she possibly know what to pray? Her prayer was so dead on that the tears welled up in me again and I thought if anyone was up and about at that hour we would make quite a spectacle–me weeping, her speaking in Spanish followed by Maria’s translation.
Finally, she placed a hand over my heart and said “You've been bearing a large hurt for a long time and in the name of Jesus you are released from it.”
She prayed for His peace in my life and it was like the burden just fell away. The crying stopped and I was flooded with peace. I knew immediately God Himself had spoken clearly and personally through this woman I had never met. Everything... absolutely everything...I brought before the Lord in the privacy of my car that night, that dear woman addressed through her prayer for me.
It was as if she’d had a checklist of my concerns and God gave them to her one by one to tick off.
I had never experienced anything like it before. It was the moment I knew everything I believed about God was true. He was King and Friend. Omnipresent and Personal. He not only heard my desperate cry, He cared about my pain and wanted me to know He loved me and was there for me.
It is a memory that sustains and encourages me to this day.
Toni loves God, her kids, caring for others, baking, chocolate!, and walking along the shores of her beloved lake – the setting for her blog. Toni has written devotions for christiandevotions.us and The Quiet Hour. She is praising God for the opportunity to make her passion - showing God’s love through practical acts of service - her new, full-time profession. As the Benevolence Ministry Manager for her church, she is able to hand car keys to a single mom, open the doors to the food pantry serving many area families, and assist those with urgent financial needs. Her life and ministry are living proof of the truth found in Ephesians 3:20 as God continues to do abundantly more than she could ever imagine.