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  • Amanda Mae Steele

God's Surprising Ways (from Lifeway Women "Stories of Faith")

I was recently asked to write for a series called "Stories of Faith" by Lifeway Women. The last few months have been a little challenging so it was good to "zakar," the Hebrew word from the Old Testament meaning "to remember or recall", God's faithfulness.


In writing down what He has done over the last year (particularly during COVID) and now rereading the post, I am once again encouraged that He will come through in this season of transition with its new challenges.


The original post can be found here: https://lifewaywomen.com/2021/09/09/stories-of-faith-gods-surprising-ways/ or you can read it below.

 

Last January, like so many others, I prayed and allowed myself to risk dreaming big because it was 2020. There was something magical and promising about that number, and I thought I might as well “go big or go home,” right? (Little did any of us know we’d literally have to go home—and be home—for over a year!)


But the truth is, the dreams that I allowed myself to dream weren’t anything new. In fact, they were old seeds that were practically dried up—dreams of community, kids, and calling. I remember “officially” making that my prayer around my 30th birthday in 2015, but those had been my heart’s desires even long before that.


Praying the same prayers for years and not seeing any fruit was wearying, and I often considered giving up on those dreams. Actually, I probably did—several times—but during those seasons of doubt, I was blessed to have friends who stood in the gap and prayed and believed for me.

Over time I’ve had many awkward attempts at joining community groups; participating in Bible studies has been sweet, but they always ended, and who knew trying to foster adult friendships could be so hard? Then there were years of infertility and painful tests, countless job applications and seemingly endless career exploration, and I couldn’t quite figure out where my gifts fit in at church.


Each area—community, kids, and calling—was filled with so much pain and rejection. “Hope delayed makes the heart sick …” (Prov. 13:12a) was a Scripture verse I became all too familiar with, and I struggled with depression. Did God really have a plan for my life? Was He really working all things out together for good? It was hard to tell when my life seemed more like a comedy of errors than the blessed abundant life God talks about in His Word.


But like I said, there was something about 2020 that reignited the hope that maybe it would be the year God would decide to finally answer my prayers with a resounding yes! I felt supernaturally optimistic and was certain it would be the year that my husband Nick and I would find a community group we loved and focus on figuring out our fertility issues more seriously and that God would finally reveal to me how I should use my gifts and talents professionally and at church.

Instead, church shut down and if it was tough to get plugged in during a “normal” season, it felt impossible to connect during the pandemic.


We questioned whether or not to continue with fertility treatments—would it be safe to bring a child into a world filled with so much fear, chaos, and disease anyway?

And I had little energy to figure out a new career direction. Besides, the whole world was on pause anyway, and I was fortunate to even still have a job.

But God’s ways are not our ways.


During a season when we were forced to isolate ourselves, God introduced me to new Christ-loving friends across the country through social media—not something I would have imagined. He drew Nick and me closer to neighbors in our community over driveway hangouts, and He strengthened friendships and family ties across the miles through FaceTime calls. Relationships were unconventional, but they proved to be more valuable and sweeter than ever.


I was feeling especially despondent on my 35th birthday, reminded once again that another year of infertility has passed. Nick and I had a talk a few weeks later that we’d take a break from trying to get pregnant because there was just so much uncertainty with COVID and we were on our last round of treatment before moving onto a procedure my heart just wasn’t all in on. But God knows I love surprises: shortly after that conversation, I had a dream we were pregnant, and surely enough, the next morning I took a test, and it was positive! Just when I was convinced there was no way for me to be surprised (because each month was so closely monitored and calculated) and I thought our fertility journey might be over, God said, “This is just the beginning!” Today I get to hold our seven-month-old baby girl, Naomi, and she reminds me daily of God’s love, grace, care, and sovereignty.


And though I didn’t quite achieve what I wanted to professionally or ministerially, God has given me peace that He was and is still at work even when I am dormant. Actually, it’s probably in dormancy where He is able to do the important work of pruning, refining, shaping, and molding us before sending us back out onto the battlefield refreshed and ready to go. I look forward to that day with hope and anticipation, but in the meantime, I rest knowing that His plan and timing are perfect, and I thank Him for His mercy in not sending me out until I am ready.


I have truly tasted and seen that the Lord is good during a most unusual year. I have experienced Him as my Shepherd, my Provider, my Peace, my Strength, my Shield, and my Joy when I least expected to and through unique means. I will forever look back on this season if and when I struggle to believe God hears and answers my cries and recall how He proved the length and width, height, and depth of His love (Eph. 3:18).


“Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).


<3 amanda mae

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