“He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” Luke 1:17 (NLT)
Amy helped her mom cover the big table in the sunroom with the ladybug tablecloth she had ordered. It was her little sister’s third birthday and this year’s theme was ladybugs. Everything was covered with the little insects – the balloons, the plates and napkins, even the confetti was in the form of little ladybugs. Amy was glad that Mom was going all out to make this a special birthday for her little sister.
Mom flitted around like a ladybug herself, rearranging the silverware and plates, moving the cake an inch one way and an inch another, switching the balloons from one side of the table to the other. She seemed to be a little nervous.
Amy was a little nervous, too. Dad was coming to the party. And he was coming alone. He had missed so many of the family celebrations and the few that he came to, he had brought someone else with him. But this time he was coming alone. Amy thought it was just because he wanted to make this birthday special for her little sister, but there seemed to be something else in the air that day. It felt like a beginning to her.
Amy knew that Mom felt it, too. There had been more phone calls between Mom and Dad the last few months than there had been for a whole year. And the conversation was quieter, kinder, gentler. Not like the yelling and name-calling that had happened before. Just that morning she had found Mom on her knees beside the big rocker where she usually sat to read her Bible. When Amy asked her what she was praying for, Mom told her that she was just praising the Lord in advance for the mighty work He was going to do for their family.
Amy prayed to herself too. “Lord, You know all the circumstances in our lives. You know how we have been praying for Daddy to turn his heart to you and come home to his family. For the first time, Lord, it really feels like it just might happen. Please, I pray, continue the good work You have begun in our family. Let today be a start toward that new beginning Mom is always praying for. Thank You Lord for hearing my prayer.”
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
The party guests began arriving and both Amy and her mom were kept busy, greeting friends, hugging relatives, making sure her little sister didn’t put her fingers in the cake. Everything was going well and Amy exchanged a glance with her mom. There seemed to be something unspoken between them. “This is a start.”
Amy glanced around anxiously, looking for her dad. What if he decided not to come? What if this wasn’t the start of a new beginning? What if God wasn’t going to answer her prayer? What if….but then she saw him. He was shaking hands with their neighbors and getting a welcoming hug from Grandma and Grandpa. He made a beeline toward the birthday girl, picked her up and twirled her around. Still holding her little sister, he made his way to Amy, sharing a hug with both of them. He sat by Amy and her mom during the whole party and even stayed to help clean up. He was still there at the kitchen table when she finally went to bed.
Amy knew that there was a lot of work ahead for her family. Mom had told her that sometimes things don’t go like we plan but that God always knows what He is doing. Dad might not stay this time, but it was a start. She had also told her that they could never, ever stop praying. As tired as she was, Amy sent up a quick little prayer. “Thank You, Lord, for blessing us with a start. I know You always see things through.”
“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)
A Stander in Nebraska