Today, our oldest daughter Sydney would turn 17 if she was here on Earth in human form. Each year, I write about my thoughts on her birthday and today is no different. I love looking back over where I was emotionally, spiritually and otherwise on her birthdays. Today, it is really hard to imagine what she would be like as a 17-year-old. In my mind, she is somewhat frozen in time as a 24-day-old infant.
Some people have dreams of their loved ones and get a glimpse of what they would be like today, but the few times I have ever dreamed of her, she has always been an infant. I admit that I would love to have a dream just once where I get to see what she would look like today. I wonder if I would recognize her if she walked down the street…but I know that our hearts would regardless.
And now, her birthday is International Women’s Day, a day to promote the achievements of women. Today I am celebrating her achievements in her short life as well as my own achievements as a woman.
Jay and I recorded our latest podcast episode talking about Sydney’s life and her impact on our lives. You can listen to it here.
I was thinking about prayers. Garth Brooks has a song and in it, he says “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
Was Sydney’s death an unanswered prayer? I can’t even count how many times I prayed for her life to be spared. In fact, I can’t tell you how many times between when we found out about her heart and when she was born that I prayed that she could successfully have the three surgeries that would save her life. Not only were they not successful, but because of an apnea episode shortly after birth, she was never even able to have those life-saving surgeries.
I hear people all the time, when things turn out well, saying that God answered their prayers, or God spared their life, or God did whatever. I have come to vehemently disagree with that line of thinking. Think about the recent Parkland shooting, or any of the mass shootings. Why does one person survive and one person dies? Is it because the loved ones of the survivor prayed harder or God “listened” to them? Not even a little bit.
Where does the prayer stop?
I have always had a challenge praying, because no matter what I ask for, it leads me to feel the need to ask for something else. For example, when I send my children off to school, each day I pray for their safety. But then it feels selfish to pray only for their safety. So I pray for the safety of all the children in their schools. But then that feels selfish too, so before I am even out of the parking lot of the last school for drop-off, I have prayed for the safety and well-being of every child in every school on this planet and all children who are not in school that day. How could I ask for less? And then when a tragedy like Parkland happens, does that mean my prayer was not answered?
Sometimes things turn out the way we want and sometimes they don’t. This is just the way of it – this is just life.
And it’s ok.
Life does not happen TO us, it happens FOR us. And this is true with Sydney’s life and death as well.
I have always said that Sydney had a few “jobs” during this lifetime, and she completed them quickly and successfully and then she moved on. She inspired a family member who was struggling with addiction go cold turkey and never go back for the past 17 years. That alone is nothing short of miraculous. She changed me forever and helped me to understand our human experience on a much deeper spiritual level. She helped my husband Jay to intentionally embrace a positive outlook on life. And there are many other things she inspired in people whose lives she has touched.
What are we actually praying for?
My prayer for her life went “unanswered” because living a long life was not why she was here in her earthly form. This is what I have come to understand. My prayer was unanswered because I was not praying for the right thing. Instead of asking for her life to be spared, I should have been asking for her life to be used in the most powerful way possible and to be able to touch as many lives as she could no matter how long she stayed, and for us to be strong enough to survive whatever happened. That was the prayer that was answered.
And isn’t that a great prayer for each of our lives?
Each of us is here for an insanely short time – whether it is 24 days like Sydney or 100 years. In the grand scheme of life, neither is a very long time. So let us ask for the power to make the most positive impact on this world that we possibly can during the time that we are fortunate enough to spend here. That is the most powerful prayer that we can ask and I know if we pray for that, it will never go unanswered.
How can you make the most impact with your life?