Praying For What Can Be

My mom is moving from Oregon to Austin. Tomorrow. 

My Finnish-immigrant-Oregonian mother will be a Texan. She is 88 years old.  Sweet and feisty.  She struggles with significant dementia and she will live with us for awhile. Without a doubt my life will change, but I am believing for a very special season of life, one in which blessings flow both ways. While she is very needy, she still has much to give. My emotions are a mixture of joy and apprehension.

IMG_aitiI have felt for sometime that it would be best to move my mom near to my family. Yet, I never actually thought it would happen. She detests hot weather.  She fears flying. My Northwest siblings have wanted her to remain close to them. She and my special-needs brother have been inseparable. She considers Oregon to be her home.

Recently my prayers have changed however.

Rather than seeking strength and patience to keep traveling there each month to help, I began to ask God, if it were His will, to actually grow a desire in my mom’s heart to move to Austin. I also began to pray that my special-needs brother would want to separate from her. For many reasons it no longer worked for the two of them to live together.

Suddenly, my mom began to call me with a decidedly different message. Each day she would explain how, on her walks, God would tell her that she had to move to Austin. And my brother suddenly expressed a readiness to live apart from her. Two seemingly impossible heart changes had taken place. Why does it surprise me so that God answers prayers in very specific ways?

I struggle to make sense of prayer.

Why is praying necessary if a sovereign God will accomplish His purposes regardless? It’s beyond my comprehension how His sovereign will and my privilege to pray intersect. Still the older I grow, the more I value prayer.

Recently I have changed the focus of my prayers away from what is wrong, or lacking, to a focus on what can be.  

My prayers have centered more on possibilities.  I am asking, seeking and knocking (Matthew 7:7) on behalf of my own family and others about what can be and what God will accomplish for them. But I know that asking, seeking and knocking are not secret formulas – ways to get what I want from God. To assume that God would give me what I want simply because I ask for it, makes God small. Yet to assume He doesn’t answer prayers, greatly diminishes who He is.

At times I am amazed at how God answers prayers – like with my mom and brother. At other times I grow amazed at what happens within me through the process of prayer. I may not always get the answers I seek, but I always get more of Him in deeper, fresher ways. Plus my trust grows stronger as I learn to patiently and expectantly wait on a sovereign God whose timing and answers are always best. Prayer changes things. Prayer changes me. While my mom’s memory is sharply declining, she still prays and God is still working in her heart and changing her too!

What a privilege we have to pray for those we love with possibilities in mind —prayers for healing, for restoration, for reconciliation with God and others, for provision, for wholeness. While our cups may often appear half empty – sometimes even near empty – we can joyfully anticipate how God can make them overflow.

 With God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)

 I John 5:14-15

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.





  1. Amen! Well said, dear friend.

  2. Thank you, Ellen, for the encouragement to pray like those with hope! I needed to hear this today! 🙂

  3. I love your mom! She is one of my sweetest friends/relatives actually, since your dad n my mom were cousins. I will always be extremely thankful for her teaching me things, but the most important ine, was cardamom bread. I actually built a small home business baking (her) bread, and she cheered me on and was amazed at what that bread did lol. She alway smiled and shook her head when she asked him much I’d sold, THEN she would push her finger on it and tell me I could glaze it and make the crust hard. I’d have to tell her, my customers want it soft. But I don’t think I ever start a day of baking bread without thinking how amazing it is that her bread has done so much and gone so far! Give her a hug for me, b/c I may never get to see her again 🙁 .

    • Karen,

      Your story made me laugh! We made cardamom bread this week and I get the same sweet lecture. She is certain that today’s bakers don’t bake any bread correctly. We just smile! Ellen

  4. We celebrate with you!! And always know that others intercede for you. I count on the prayers of others at times when my own faith for my situation falters.

    You know how I love a challenge? Years ago, when you said your mom would never move here because of the Texas heat and because of her bond with your brother. Kowing the desire of your heart, I began to pray for God, if it was His will, to work in this, to work in hearts and remove obstacles which kept your mom from being here with you, her primary caretaker. Look and see what the Lord has done! And look at what He will do! What a lovely testament to us not leaning on our own understanding. I often try to figure out how things can or might work out. But then I remember Proverbs 3:5. Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart. And I am ever grateful to those who pray for me. Thanks Ellen for this testament and reminder.

    • Diana,

      Thank you for your years of faithful prayers. I do remember you saying this many times to me and while I desired to see this happen, I still doubted that it would happen. Let’s keep in touch as Nate moves on to grander and bigger things in his life! Bless you. Ellen

  5. Ellen, what an amazing testimony! I’m so glad that your mom will be with you and your family. I honor you for your unwavering faith.

    • MIss you dear friend and think of you often, especially when I see the posts of your sweet grandkids!

  6. Caring for an aged parent is a true Gift from God. It is an honor. I cared for my mother for over 4 years. My parents were married for 52 years. After my mother passed, my father grieved immensely. Within months he had 5 grafts placed on his heart at age 80. Almost died of a broken heart. A new life for him, he found a second soulmate & they both had the time of their life up until about 3 years ago. My father at 99 currently lives with me here in Texas. We never know what God has in store for us. This I know, there is no way I could have done what I did for my mom and do for my father now without the guiding hand and strength of the Lord. Your life will change, stay strong, your mom is coming for a reason. To see the synchronistic work of God’s hand, we know immediately we’ve been Blessed.

    • Cheryl,
      Your words are like honey to my soul this morning! It’s easy to think that doing this is all about serving her, yet already I am seeing how God is changing me in the process. Thank you.

  7. Ellen, I have so many memories of your mom and dad and the whole family. I was Kathy Niemi way back when. Your mom has been such a fixture in so many events in my lifetime, being at my dads’ celebration of life just a little over a year ago, for one. I am sure she was even there for my sons’ baby shower, too. I can’t think of very many things that she hasn’t been a part of, and I will truly miss seeing her smiling face and having a chat with her whenever I would see her. Dad had dementia, too, and things changed a lot from what he used to be, but not a day goes by that I don’t miss him and would gladly take him back even if he didn’t know me once in awhile! Enjoy each and every day you have her in your life, because once she is gone you won’t get those days back. You are both so lucky to have each other. May God be with you all. Kathy (Niemi) Handley

    • So good to hear from you Kathy. Thanks for sharing your encouraging words!

  8. Ellen!!! This is amazing!!! So happy to hear this! You and your mom will no doubt be blessed during this special season you get to spend together, however short or long it may be.
    GOD is truly amazing! I can’t wait to watch the blessings happen for the whole family!
    Love you, friend!

    • Life truly is amazing! I am learning some big lessons this summer in the process.


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