I was sitting in Starbucks when my phone rang. I hurried outside to answer privately, because I knew exactly what this phone call was about and that a celebration of happy tears would follow. The words on the other end of the line were an answer to seventeen years of prayer: “I got the job!”
You see, for seventeen years, we haven’t known what the future would hold or what would even be possible. When my baby sister Stephanie was nearly two, she suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that left her with many lifelong challenges, including seizures. Initially, the doctors didn’t think she’d be able to comprehend language and communicate, feed herself, or generally function without assistance. Her life has shown that God is unlimited. And while she has faced heartbreaking challenges, He has worked miracles again and again.
Today, I want to share with you the miracle of Stephanie’s dream job.
Trusting God’s Plan
If you met Stephie today, you’d gain an instant friend who would send you daily text messages (with lots of emojis), greet you with genuine enthusiasm, pray for you consistently, make you a beautiful latch hook rug, and invite you over for dinner and a movie. (I hope you like the Muppets.) With strawberry blonde hair and freckles all over, she is the most joyful, sincere, spunky, and faithful person I know. I have always marveled at her ability to see God’s goodness in her life, considering the results of trauma that continue to disrupt her daily life. Occasionally, following a seizure or other disappointment, I ask her if she still trusts God. Without hesitation, she always answers, “Oh yes, I know that He has a plan, even if I don’t understand.” This has been her constant hope: The more she faces her own limitations, the more she leans into Him, believing that His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
Even with sweet Stephanie’s child-like faith, this is not always easy. The last two years in particular have held surgeries, multiple EEGs and other tests, medication changes and side effects, ambulance rides and hospital stays, a variety of seizures, too many tears and fear.
Stephanie has had to watch many dreams go by: watching friends get their driver’s licenses, go off to college, and get married. She is painfully aware of her own difficulty fitting in, joining conversations, comprehending certain subjects, or simply doing daily tasks that we take for granted. Due to the fact that her seizures have not been controlled well by medication, there have been times when she couldn’t be left alone at all, drastically limiting her social activities. It has often felt like she’s going from seizure to seizure, and she’s wrestled with finding the purpose in her day-to-day life.
Although she’s never once doubted God’s sovereignty, she has been utterly discouraged; she’s been sad and confused that He would allow all of this to worsen when she’s been through so much already. Several months ago, she quietly confessed through tears, “I just don’t know what He wants me to do with my life. I can’t do so many things!” I didn’t have answers for her, so we simply did what she always does: We prayed.
A Specific Prayer Request
Stephanie loves to pray. She faithfully prays for others, and her prayers as she speaks out loud to Jesus often seem to have more clarity of thought than her words in regular conversations with us.
We began to pray specifically for a job. For an opportunity to fill her days, give her a feeling of purpose and responsibility—and renew her hope. This seemed somewhat impossible, since, as I mentioned, we couldn’t leave her alone or even drop her off without someone able to administer emergency medication if she began seizing. What could we find for her to do? Stephanie’s desire was clear enough: For years, her dream has been to work at an ice cream shop. While this dream seemed a bit funny to the rest of us, we prayed.
We didn’t know that the Lord was, at that very time, orchestrating steps to bring an ice cream shop designed to employ people with disabilities within a block from our dad’s office. It was as if this little shop was being built just for Stephanie, as a reminder that He sees even our smallest, simplest desires and He loves to give good gifts to His children (Matt. 7:11).
During this time, the Lord led my parents and Stephanie to a wonderful neurologist who was committed to Stephanie’s improvement. As we prayed for a job, her seizures began to finally decrease with the assistance of medication and treatment. The change was gradual and rough, but I’m delighted to tell you that she recently celebrated three months seizure free. This gift was like an enormous cloud being lifted; you could see the life return to her eyes.
When we heard news of the ice cream shop opening in town, she applied immediately. For months, it was all she could talk about: texting us constantly about it, telling her neurologist and nurses all about it, and eagerly awaiting her interview. Rather than describing it myself, Stephanie wanted to share it with you in her own words:
I found out that a new ice cream shop in town had epilepsy people, like what I have. I was a tad bit nervous, but right as I signed in, they told me they wanted me. I wanted to cry for hours. I called my friends and family . . . I was overjoyed. That night, I thanked God, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. I felt like God really wanted me to get there and that was the door He opened for me.
I’m confident that He did have Stephanie in mind. For seventeen years, we wondered what would be possible, hardly imagining such an ideal situation. The ice cream shop didn’t even exist a year earlier, when her seizures were so frequent. Still, something we could not see was being prepared for her and revealed to us at just the right time, in just the right way. As His Word tells us in Ephesians 3:20, He is able to do far more than we ask or imagine—or can even see at the time!
Clinging to True Hope
Stephanie has been working at Soda and Scoops for almost two months now, bringing delight to every customer who walks in the door. She has since had several seizures, but she told me that she’s choosing to focus on the wonderful, three-month break instead of that. When I asked Stephanie what gives her courage in the darkest times, she simply told me that she can trust Him: “I gave Him my life a few years ago, and He took away all my sins. He just cares for me and He loves me.”
Stephanie wanted to pray over whoever may be reading this post. She is deeply acquainted with disappointment and suffering, but the gospel has given her a True Hope she can cling to through every challenge. She hopes that her story may encourage someone walking through a difficult time to trust that God still sees you, He knows the desires of your heart, and He is working on your behalf in ways you cannot see.
Stephanie’s prayer for you:
Heavenly Father, thank You so much for this beautiful, sunny day. Thank You that we can talk to this person, even if we don’t know who might get this message. Help them to realize and understand all my problems I’ve been going through and just to remind themselves to always persevere. To [remember Your] mercy and compassion and to learn of You more. To understand what You have done for this earth through Your Son. Help them to always have lots of smiles and always have a really good day, even if they’re not feeling like themselves or really scared. To know that You’re right where they’re going. Knowing that You will always be where they go in what they do. We all love You so much. In Your Name, amen.