Way back in college we had a joke about praying for napkins from heaven. Not any old, used napkin mind you. A napkin from heaven with words from God written directly to us, answering a prayer, providing evidence of God's listening ear.
There were days, months and even years when my college roommates, or gals from Bible study, and I would pray the same thing over and over. The path seemed so unclear. Our lives were so uncertain back then: what to study in school, where to live the next year, would Mr. Right ever show up and when?
Trust God. Trust His good, pleasing and perfect will was the only answer we had. And, honestly, it is a good answer. But...it's a hard answer. We were still left with so many seemingly unanswered questions and prayers.
Mostly desiring a napkin from heaven was to provide undeniable proof of God, His intimate knowledge and concern for our daily lives, and His plan.
Although I have stopped praying for napkins from heaven (so many prayers from way back then have long since been answered, though new ones are always being prayed), the desire for clear, hard evidence of God's work in my life on a daily basis has not gone away. Unlike the hundreds of years between visions from God that are recorded in the Old Testament, I want it daily, or at least weekly evidence - I am so weak! When it's not clear, or times are hard, my vision gets cloudy and I start to doubt, big time doubt.
I was experiencing one of those times recently.
At the end of April after completely fencing in our back yard, we started looking at getting a couple of dogs (the reason for the fence). We thought it would be great to get dogs that weren't "fixed" so that we could experience the whole mama dog giving birth, etc. Come to find out, it's kinda hard to get an unfixed dog, and there is quite an over abundance of puppies that are in search of homes.
Though a series of seemingly God events, I met a gal that suggested we foster a pregnant mama dog. I had never heard of fostering a dog, but thought the idea sounded great. We'd get to experience the birthing process and adopt two puppies in the process.
After meeting another gal from Blackhat Humane Society, an organization that rescues abandoned or stray animals on the Navajo Reservation, I printed up their foster agreement form. For whatever reason I didn't fill it out or e-mail it for quiet some time. I just kept shuffling it back and forth on my desk.
After a couple of weeks of hum-hawing about it, I finally filled it in and e-mailed it late one Sunday night. Within five minutes I got an e-mail back saying that the gal that I had met weeks before had earlier that day picked up a stray pregnant dog in Gallup, NM. We e-mailed each other back and forth for awhile until we set a date and place for picking up the dog.
As a family we spent a very fun day visiting the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest waiting until we could pick up our foster dog, whom was given the name Anya, near Sanders, AZ. Everything was going so well. We picked her and headed home praising God for how He had orchestrated all the events leading up to us getting a dog. It was pretty close to a napkin from heaven.
Then after having Anya for five days, waiting anxiously for her to give birth, on Mother's Day, she got out of a small hole in the side fence. We looked everywhere. We put up fliers. I was devastated. Not because I loved the dog so much, but because of what I thought it revealed about God.
The following Sunday on our way home from church, after pretty much giving up hope of finding Anya, I stopped at the local general store just down the road from us to put up a flier. One last ditch effort to see if anybody had spotted "our" dog.
That night after putting the kids to bed, Tom and I were sitting on the couch in the game room like we usually do, chatting about the day, etc. I was expressing all my questions, frustrations and doubts regarding this good God that we serve. Why would He bring us a dog and then take it away without any reason? Why? Why? Why?
Tom was gently trying to help me see things from a different perspective, to not throw God out with the missing dog, when my phone rang downstairs. I ignored it and we continued our conversation. Two minutes later, I got a text, which again I ignored. About two minutes after that, while Tom and I were still knee-deep in this conversation about experiencing this good and loving God, my phone rang again. Tom stopped the conversation and told me to go answer the phone, "Someone is trying to get a hold of you."
As soon as I answered the phone, the voice on the other end of the line said, "We found your dog." She then proceed to tell me how she was an animal control officer who had seen the flier within 30 minutes of me posting in at the general store. She had made a note of the dog and went on with her day.
Later that evening she got a call from a couple of tourists from Las Vegas who were visiting Sunset Crater, about 5 miles north of us. Along the side of the road, near The Painted Desert Outlook, they spotted Anya, tired and weary from a long hike through mountains and lava fields. The tourists and the animal control officer met at the general store, confirmed it was indeed our dog by looking at the flier, and proceeded to try to get in touch with me.
Nine days after getting Anya back, she gave birth to 13 puppies, though two were stillborn. The kids, Tom and I got to witness the last three or four puppies being born. It was amazing!
Although there have been some hard times with these puppies, bottle feeding two runts and then having one of those runts die at four weeks of age, it's been an incredible experience. Now the puppies are six weeks old and doing well. After they get their shots and are fixed (including Anya), all but two puppies will be looking for their forever home - we're still trying to decide which ones we're going to keep. Anybody want a puppy? They're super cute and come from a good home:).
To wrap up this story, God gave us Anya, and then brought her back to us. In doing so, He also restored back my faith. Sometimes, without trials, we forget that we need God. It's not until we're in need that we cry out to Him. When He is our only hope. His presence and provision are clear. Napkins from heaven.
Now...if I only I could frame this napkin and hold onto it for next time.