New Year’s Resolution: Being a Better Version of Me


better version of me

I love how beginning a new year brings so much hope and enthusiasm. The new year allows us to renew our dedication to accomplishing goals, new and old. We make new years resolutions and a how to plan. We dust off the remnants of the previous year and move forward.

If you are anything like me, your resolutions are the same year after year in some form or another. Why? For me the reason is simple. I get caught up in the planning and not so much the doing.

I get frustrated when obstacles prevent me from accomplishing goals according to the plan. Instead of adjusting and moving forward, I go back to the drawing board and make another plan. I put so much effort into making contingency plans that may never happen I am to exhausted to take a step forward.

Sometime last year during a battle with depression and a pretty elaborate pity party I realized I needed to focus more on making progress rather than checking things off of my list. I let go of the perfect picture in my mind and accepted being done as success, no matter how I got there.

I still have big dreams and goals that require planning. However, I refuse to let them fall prey to the Resolution Graveyard. Instead I propose to continue on the path of progress.

This year it is my intention to start and end my day in prayer, refuse to let self-doubt or negative thinking wreck my day, count my blessings instead of deficits, praise our kids and discipline them without shaming them. I need to give my husband the affection he craves and make an attempt every. single. day. to show unconditional respect. I’m going to start as many projects as my heart desires and give myself permission to quit with dignity. I want to laugh more, cry when I feel like it and dance to the beat of my own drum. I shall do things that scare me, inconvenience me and grow my faith. I will celebrate my success and learn from my setbacks.

I resolve to improve my way of life in order to be a better version of me.

Do you have a New Year’s Resolution? 



Friday Five: Christmas Edition

Christmas Edition

Christmas 2014 is in the books. This season I have been plagued with a rough bout of depression. I sit here in complete awe because I shopped for every single gift in a twenty-four period, cleaned, cooked and hosted Christmas Eve dinner and pulled myself together long enough to be a part of our families traditions.

This morning I was met with a sense of relief. A peace that has escaped for some time. In honor of making the most of my good days I decided to share with you my five favorite Christmas moments:

Friday Five: Christmas Edition

Christmas 03

1.) Silent Night Church Service on Christmas Eve
This is hands down my favorite thing about every Christmas. Our family gathers to celebrate the real reason for the season, Jesus. Every year at the end of the Christmas service our church begins to sing Silent Night in complete darkness. It slowly becomes bright as day by candles lit one by one. It is the perfect reminder how God’s light shines even in the darkest of times and how fast that light can spread when we share it with others.

Christmas 02

2.) Christmas Eve Feast w/In Laws
After church we all gather at our house to eat Mexican food and open gifts from Grandma. This year was particularly special because our brother-in-law and his girls joined us for the first time in a long time. Knowing how much joy it brought my mother in law (a woman after God’s own heart and whom I adore) to have both of her boys and her grandchildren attend church and gather together.

Christmas 01

3.) Having All Four Kids Home
All four of our kids slept and woke under one roof. For mommas of young adult children you know how special and rare these moments are. We spent the day watching movies, playing games and eating, always eating.

Christmas 04

4.) Having Our Oldest Home
I know this may seem redundant but these are my favorite moments and I make my own rules! We were able to spend an entire twenty-four hours with him. It makes my mommy heart (especially as a step-mom) so full to see the bond between our kids. There is a fifteen year span between our oldest and our youngest. It was all I could do not to ugly cry when I looked over and saw our baby girl in our oldest child’s arms.

Christmas 05

5.) The Gift of Popcorn
I have an obsession with freshly popped, lightly salted and buttered popcorn. I can not get enough of the stuff. It was the only thing on my Christmas wish list. You know besides peace on Earth, a self-cleaning home and non bickering children of course!

Now it’s your turn. What are your five favorite Christmas moments? Or one? Or ten? Whatever…

Twenty-Three Years Ago Today

irene Twenty-three years ago today at roughly 10:23am my aunt, Irene, lost her two-year battle with Pancreatic Cancer. It’s really hard to believe that she has not been in my life for that long because I feel the impact she has made in my heart on a daily basis.

Several years ago, I wrote a couple of articles titled Remarkable Women for the Girlfriendit website. I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of such a title than my Tia Irene. I think it is only fitting as we celebrate her memory I repost that updated article.

The first remarkable woman I am honored to write about is my aunt, Irene. She unselfishly committed her life to helping my dad raise us. She gave her time, money, and her unconditional love. She took us to museums, the theater, the mall, out to eat, fancy hair salons, movie theaters (I grew up in South Phoenix so these things did not exist in my community) and the most significant of all, church. We attended church from the very first Sunday we moved in with my dad (who at the time was living with my aunt-his sister and my grandfather-his dad) and every Sunday after.

I have to confess that our relationship was not easy. I was rebellious and would often remind her that she was not my mother. I was a mini replica of my mother, which caused great tension between us. Throughout the years and a few times of her going to bat on my side of the coin with my dad our relationship started to soften. After all when I had the choice of telling her or my dad that I started my period, I chose her!

In the eighth grade I was asked to apply for the Hispanic Mother Daughter Program. It was an ASU based program and I was determined to get any academic advantage available so instead of letting the fact that I didn’t have a mom derail me, I asked my aunt and she obliged. We were accepted into the program and met on a weekly basis. Each week was filled with self-esteem, leadership, mother/daughter bonding, academic, etc type classes. It was torture for me to see all of the mother/daughter relationships because I wished very much for my mom to return to our life. I kept a brave exterior and focused on the college prep aspects of the program. It was through this program that I learned so much about my aunt and her life. Our relationship started to really blossom. During one of the sessions she stood up and thanked me for asking her to be a part of this. I had seen it as a step forward academically, but she was truly touched and proud that I chose her.

As life would have it, our emerging relationship also marked the decline of her health. I remember her having to have a hysterectomy. At the time I did not know why or what the big deal was. She was in her late 30’s and never married and never had kids but she had always held out hope that her time was just around the corner. She had dedicated her life to help raise us, putting her life on hold. I remember her struggling with this decision and using me to convince herself it was okay. I became her new confidant. The hysterectomy was followed by several other surgeries, but the cause or reason was not yet revealed to us. I would go with her and sit at her bedside and read magazines. As the oldest of five kids it was a relief to get out of the house but she always thanked me so kindly for being there.

Finally, the explanation of all the hospital visits was revealed. All five of us kids were gathered in her bedroom to pray as a family, as we did every Sunday night, and she explained that she had Pancreatic Cancer and will begin radiation and chemo therapy that week. I remember her saying that she was ready to fight this disease but if it was God’s will for her to die she was ready. These words cause an uproar. My baby brother screamed as if she died right then and there. The rest of the kids were dumbfounded and didn’t really know what to do. Our mom had already abandoned us and now my aunt was saying she could possibly be leaving too. It was my first glimpse into the notion of God’s will and it wasn’t until recently on my own personally journey in discovering Christ that I was able to appreciate her faith and hope in God.

She battled Pancreatic Cancer for the next two years. She went on medical leave from work, lost all of hair and was sick a majority of the time. She was the kind of woman who had an outfit for every occasion with shoes, purse and accessories to match. Loosing her hair was the most difficult thing for her to deal with. She eventually just shaved it off and bought a wig. I watched her pray and I watched the women of our church gather and pray over her on a regular basis. When the time came for her to go back into the hospital, I stayed up and begged God to take me instead. It was very difficult to lose someone who shared so much of her love and even more difficult to watch my siblings experience such sorrow. On December 23 1991 God’s will was fulfilled, a couple of weeks before I turned 16.

In retrospect, I realize she was the first person to take a vested interest in me. She was the first person who believed I could be anything I set my mind to. What I failed to realize while she was alive was that she was also one of the few people to understand the misery of my life without a mom. She was 16 years old when her own mom lost a long battle with Tuberculosis and was raised by her dad and her brother. I spent all those years in that house convinced no one knew how I felt. She never once said the words, “I know how you feel.” Instead she used her actions to let me know I was not alone, even if it took several years after her death to realize it.

It has been twenty-three years since her death and I miss her more and more with each passing year. She is remarkable not only by earthly standards but she was the living example of Christ love.

There is NOT an Elf On Our Shelf

elf on the shelf My social media feeds are overflowing with pictures and stories of their elf. So much so that I started to wonder if I am the only one depriving my children of this creepy looking little fella. Should I add this to the topics of therapy they will be discussing in their future? I can just hear them saying “I can trace it back to us never having an Elf on the Shelf…”

Then I realized I can’t possibly be the only momma on this planet to shun this tradition. So I decided to write this post to let you other non Elf of the Shelf members know you are not alone. Although our reasoning may be completely different.

The truth is I only heard of Elf on the Shelf two years ago and this is the first year that I grasp the concept. I am not criticizing or judging those who welcome said Elf into their home. In fact I am in awe of their creativity and ability to remember to move the dang thing every night. I would fail on both accounts.

For our family, the elf would be one more thing distracting us from celebrating the real reason for the season. I don’t intend that to be a classic Jon Acuff Jesus Juke. What I am saying is every family is different and they must decide what is best for their family.

I know our kids would love, love to have an Elf on a Shelf and all of the shenanigans that would ensue. I also know that the elf would become the focus of the season (and I would be setting myself up for failure). Heck I had to add scripture reading to our Christmas Countdown because the countdown blocks were getting out of control. With our busy schedule I am having a hard enough time keeping up with our Christ centered traditions.

I’m not against the little guy. I know our family and I know me. So please don’t gasp in judgment when you find out our shelf is empty. My kids get to see Santa, the get to unwrap presents and they get to celebrate the reason for the season. I am okay with your elf and I am most certainly okay with not having one of my own.

Do you have an Elf of the Shelf?


A Christmas of Influence

‘Tis the season when we are bombarded with pleas to lend a helping a hand.  Those pleas often cue the opinions and rants of some who discredit or justify why they do not need to provide such help.  While it is true there are some that abuse certain systems, there are people who truly are in need.

We are called to be servants.  It is not our job to withhold help because it may go to someone who doesn’t meet our own criteria of need.  By all means do your due diligence and give to organizations who are creditable but don’t use the possibility of misuse as an excuse not to help if you are able.

If you ever wonder if your donation or act of service matters, let me be the first to reassure you it does.  The following is my own story of a time when our family found itself the benefactors of the kindness of strangers. You will notice that our basic needs were being provided for, which means we were better off than most of the families in need this season,but  that didn’t stop others from still making Christmas possible for a recently single father of five.


daddy of five

My favorite childhood Christmas memory stems from one of the most difficult transitions in my life. I am the oldest of five children and when I was seven years old my mom abandoned us. I remember my grandma driving us to my dads house and asking him, “Do you want them?” I dreaded the answer to that question but my dad, without hesitation, said “Yes!” I was relieved, scared, and ashamed, all wrapped in one emotion. We were left right there in the driveway with only the clothes on our back and the shoes on our feet.

Could you imagine the expense involved in providing just the bare necessities for five children? Two of which were in school and one still in diapers! Now add to that the cost of day care and groceries. Fortunately my aunt and grandfather, who my dad lived with at the time, provided the extra financial help he needed.

A mere three months later, Christmas was upon us. My dad already exhausted his resources and then some to provide us with the basics. Luckily for him my aunt loved Christmas and made it much more than getting gifts. She took us driving around to look at lights, we decorated the house and our very own Christmas tree. We even went to see Santa Clause!

Up until that point in my life, I thought Christmas was something that was celebrated by other people. I was cognitive of what it was and had heard about Santa Clause but my life was nothing short of turbulent up until that point.

On Christmas morning, my dad and aunt had to wake us up! We didn’t even think there could be more to the Christmas holiday. We were lined up youngest to oldest and walked into the living room. We could hear Christmas music playing courtesy of Alvin and The Chipmunks. As we entered the living room, we were shocked and squealed with delight. It was filled (corner to corner) with gifts. We had so much stuff we gave toys away to kids in the neighborhood!

That year those gifts made us true believers in Santa Clause. Little did we know that Santa Clause came in the form of very generous co-workers. My dad worked for a very large company and after hearing of his situation they jumped into action by collecting toys and clothes for us kids.

On the surface, it would seem obvious that this would be the best Christmas by the mere amount of gifts we received. However, when I think of the humanity and generosity of strangers it is still overwhelming to this day.

It has been nearly thirty years since that Christmas and I still remember turning the corner, seeing those gifts, and feeling, possibly for the first time, that I mattered enough to someone. Now, I know that someone was and always will be Jesus! We were indeed wanted.

Today it is because of the influence of those co-workers that I make it a point to give to others who are in need. There are so many ways to give a helping hand. You can give in the form of a prayer, your time, or a monetary contribution to worthy cause. You can adopt-a-family, pick a Christmas Angel, donate items to the homeless, send packages to our troops, invite others over to share a meal, or buy a single mom a gift just for her. The opportunities are endless.

1 Peter 4:10 says “Each of you should use what ever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in it’s various forms.” What gift have you been given? Your gift is waiting to make you someone’s Santa Clause! Who will you impact today that in thirty years your influence is still felt. Maybe, just maybe, with your gift, they will be unwrapping Jesus!

The Silent Days of December

I have been contemplating several blog post ideas for the month of December but this thing called life just keeps trumping any time I have had to sit and write. In fact the amount of life that has been happening around here lately could generate enough material to fill a bloggers posting schedule. You know if I was the kind of blogger who was equipped and willing to write about such things but I am not. So here I sit rambling.

My heart is currently in a vulnerable state. The more time I spend scrolling images and reading post on the seemingly perfect little life of the world at large the more I feel inadequate. Let me just be clear I know it is all in my head. I know that it is me. I also know all about the highlight reel effect. I am fully aware it is me not the amazing people I follow and have come to love. Yet, I still fall victim to the comparison trap.

There are things that I want to talk about but December just doesn’t seem like the time and place. I feel like the plethora of Elf on Shelf, Gift List, Advent, Recipes and Christmas Décor post would overshadow anything off topic. For now I will table post on becoming a mentor mom, life as a baseball mom, raising individuals, book reviews, childhood hunger or a good old fashion rant on the misconception of depression until the new year.

So what’s a girl to do in December? Well, I am giving myself permission to just be. I am relinquishing any self-imposed pressure to keep up. I will focus on making memories with my family while looking for opportunities to serve others. I don’t want to check things off a list that dictate what makes me a good mother. I don’t want to survive the Christmas season I want to be fully engaged in it. I don’t want to write a blog post in my head about how to make gingerbread houses or how to balance Jesus and Santa with your kids while simultaneously trying to be in the moment.

I want to refresh and recharge. I want to be still. I need to focus on what is best for me and my family. Therefore I have decided the blog will go silent with occasional recycled post appropriate for the season.


Happy 13th Birthday Karisa

baby karisa

Thirteen years ago today I gave birth to a six pound, thirteen ounce absolutely perfect baby girl. We named her Karisa and she calls me mommy. Today is the day she officially becomes a teenager.

I am not emotionally equipped at this time to justly write an obligatory post in her honor. I am completely overwhelmed knowing that I have raised a child, a girl no less, for thirteen years. She is truly everything I never knew I wanted needed.

I am completely humbled by the fact God has chosen me to be her mother. Me. The motherless, broken child who has fought everyday to give her as normal a life as possible.

I am not prepared for the teen years. I barely survived them myself. My heart breaks for her inevitable tangle with hormones and disappointment that notoriously wreak havoc on the years ahead of her. I won’t even mention the fact the number of years before she goes away to college can be counted on one hand. Nope. I’m not even going to go there.Then again I wasn’t prepared for the first thirteen years and she has turned out alright.

I have watched her take her first steps, say her first words, sent her away to school for the first time, watched as she worked furiously to overcome a speech impediment, held her as she recovered from illnesses, rushed her to the emergency room when we learned the hard way she is allergic to sulfa, enrolled her in every extra curricular activity until she found her nitch, developed bleacher butt watching her play ball, celebrated academic success, instilled in her a love of books and Jesus, sent her off to camp, baptized her, disciplined her and loved her unconditionally. I am in complete awe of the young lady she is becoming.

Karisa 13

At thirteen years old she is a brace faced, coffee/tea drinking, softball playing, too smart for her own good, independent but naive child of God.

I am blessed to be able to watch in awe as she shines like a star in the universe, spreading her wings and searching for her place in this world.

~Happy 13th Birthday Karisa ~

It’s A Whole New World

new world
One week from today our daughter will officially become a teenager. Let’s all just take a moment of silence and let that sink in, mostly for my benefit. With a countdown in full effect I have had to remind myself often to breathe.

The usual obligatory post is scheduled to celebrate this milestone next week but today I wanted to talk about what turning thirteen means for us as parents. For Mr. C and I the time has come to allow our daughter to enter the world of cell phone owner, e-mail user and social media dweller. {Breathe Jenniemarie, Breathe}

My daughter, Karisa, is quite possibly the only student at her Junior High school who has yet to enter this world. She has handled her situation with grace, never once questioning or even asking for this privilege. My reasoning was simply because she didn’t have a need for a phone nor did I feel she was mature enough for the responsibilities of social media.

Please know that turning thirteen does not automatically negate that reasoning. In fact she was probably ready a few months ago but getting a cell phone on her thirteenth birthday, giving me a few extra months to research teens and social media is a bonus. Getting a cell phone when you turn thirteen will not become a rule in our family. In fact my ten-year old son will probably get a phone in the next year or two but that is a topic for another post. {Breathe, Jenniemarie, Breathe}

As always, I encourage you to do what is best for your family. I have stalled on entering the world of technology for as long as possible. I want my children to be able to live in the world but not of it. That means allowing them to enter the changing world of technology but with guidelines.

Sounds simple and responsible right? Well…. In order to provide guidelines we must first understand and keep current with the world of teens and technology. And by technology I really mean social media. The truth is what is going on in the world of teens and social media is downright scary. {Breathe, Jenniemarie, Breathe}

I started by stalking social media accounts of my daughter’s friends and seeking the advice of parents who have been there did that. I wish I could say after my research I have a list of what you need to know but this is not that kind of post. I can tell you I have come to the conclusion that my daughter will be allowed to do the following:

* Have an Instagram account
* Be a private user
* Only allow people she knows in real life to follow her
* Have a limit on the number/type of pictures she can post
* Have her e-mail account linked with mine
* Forfeit her phone from bedtime until morning

It is imperative that I remind you our philosophy on parenting relies primarily on trial and error. Also, it is worth repeating you should totally do what is best for you and your family. For us, this is where we will start.

If you are raising teens or are about to embark on this journey soon I found the following articles to be informative:

* The Secret Language of Girls on Instagram

* What You Should Tell Your Teen (and yourself) About Kim Kardashian

* In A Culture of Fast Food Sex Let’s Give Our Children Healthier Choices

*List of Dangerous Apps for Tweens and Teens  (**Edited to add this post after Jana suggested I check out My Crazy Good Life)

Okay, okay to be honest they are also terrifying but our best defense is offense. Talk to your child regularly. Remind them of their worth in Christ. Get to know who they are, who they are becoming and what their life is like a teen. Develop thick skin, use tough love and embrace yourself for spiritual warfare. Raising teenagers is a whole new world…{Breathe, Jenniemarie, Breathe}

Are you parenting teens?

Do you have rules for phones and social media?

Have you read any great bloggers or articles on the subject?

Finish Strong

“You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 MSG

It seems like a lifetime ago I considered myself a runner. The early morning runs dictated by a training schedule. Research on proper fuel, gait checks before buying yet another pair of running shoes and a subscription to Runners World were top priority.

Running was a way of life for me. It curbed the frequency and intensity of my depression, my quiet time with the Lord increased and I felt a sense of accomplishment outside of being “just” a wife and mom. Before you get all, you’re more than “just” a wife and mom on me, I know as much. For me, and I suspect you too, it is important, even necessary, to find fulfillment outside of my primary role and running did that.

It is amazing how far .1 of a mile feels after running 3, 6 or 13 miles. That makes .2 miles an eternity after running 26, all of which I have. This is why as runners we train to finish strong. My once upon a time running mentor taught me to turn it up at the end of each of my training runs. No matter how tired my legs were or how far I had just ran, I needed to push my body and run just a bit faster to finish strong.

After a plethora of injuries followed by outright laziness my running days consist of limited time on a treadmill rather than training to cross a finish line. However, finishing strong has become a life lesson I apply to my every day life. It’s a valuable strategy we could all apply as this year comes to an end.

Just walk into any store and you will be welcomed by a North Pole experience, Christmas Carols and all. Never mind the fact we haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving yet. We are bombarded with 2015 calendars and articles on planning for the new year.

Before you get confused and think this is some sort of rant filled post about Christmas being celebrated way too soon, I assure you it is not. I don’t care if you have a tree up or if you have your 2015 calendar planned out or not. What I am saying is as of right now there are forty-four days left in this year. Yet, I have caught myself on more than one occasion saying, “Next year I’ll…(fill in the blank). It’s time we kick it into high gear and finish this year strong.

Forty-four days is enough time to finish a project, de-clutter that drawer, closet or even your entire home, invite your neighbor to church or to dinner, send a care package to a friend, finish a book, spend meaningful time with your family, try a new recipe, hang pictures on the wall, rearrange your furniture or try a new fitness class. My point is this, do not throw in the towel and ride out the end of the year. The finish line is in sight. Finish strong my friends. Seek forgiveness, extend grace and love unconditionally.

Be Still

Be Still

For eleven days we were in charge of three extra kids. If your fast math skills are as lacking as mine let me break it down for you. We were responsible for keeping a total of six kids alive for eleven entire days.

Now before you get all “bless your heart” on me, you should know this was not our first rodeo taking care of these kids for this length of time, we have known this family for ten years and we were well compensated. Our kids have grown up together and after ten years of friendship we have become family. Still from a logistical stand point, taking care of six kids is not an easy task.

We up rooted our family once again and moved into their home. Only this time because our dear friends recently put their house up for sale and moved into a historic home in the downtown area, we were about fifteen minutes outside of our neighborhood in a smaller house. You can read all about it here.

The house is absolutely beautiful. It has been renovated in such a way that keeps the integrity of the original architectural with modern upgrades. You can read all about how the previous owner detailed the renovation here.

One may think in a smaller home with sound that carries and the creek like nature that warrant the label historic it would be impossible to find moments of stillness with six kids constantly wondering about but you would be wrong. In fact, the opposite was true. Being in that house demanded I pause and reflect.

One thing was made blatantly clear, our kids are growing up and fast. While we were in charge their oldest daughter H Girl took her ACT’s, went to a Halloween party with her boyfriend, and drove away every day in her own car. When you have watched this little girl grow from a sweet seven-year old girl into a sweet young woman you start searching for a miracle button to pause time. Instead I was met with late night discussion about college choices and their pros and cons and the trials and tribulations of being the oldest child.

Their second oldest daughter T Girl and my daughter Karisa spent their days riding away on bikes to explore the neighborhood and drink all the coffee. It took my breath away as my clumsy, accident prone daughter rode off into the world with her sister from another mister by her side. T Girl has always brought out the best in my once painstakingly shy daughter. She is a girl full of life who lives right in the middle of every moment. She is everything my daughter is not and yet they somehow manage to complete each other.

Then there are the boys. My son Kaiden and J Boy have known each other for their entire lives as far as they are concerned. Technically they were 2 months and 8 months old, my son being respectively older. The friendship between these two is truly a blessing. As you can imagine these two ten-year-old boys ran wild as boys do. The amount of times the word “dude” was spoken between the two of them was rather hilarious. The stillness came at bedtime after prayers were said and the lights were turned off. I sat and listened to the chatter between two boys, not once could I actually make out a single word but I knew they were further makings of a bond that would last a lifetime.

Our baby girl found herself without her buddy born two days before her this time around because it was his turn to take the solo trip with his parents. I was worried at first but she meandered her way into the lives of all the other kids. She was a secret spy making sure H Girl made it home before curfew, she was a life-size doll for the middle girls and loved every minute of it and she was J Boy’s playmate when Kaiden was at baseball practice.

For eleven days I stood admiring the faithfulness of the Lord. Our kids were much like the house we were occupying. All six of these kids are being raised on a foundation in the Lord with the hopes of them forever keeping the architectural integrity of their upbringing while spreading their wings and making a life of their own.

I find it completely bewildering after settling back into our own reality, three kids lighter that I was actually refreshed. My spirit has been renewed. I stood still and new without a doubt God was present. The picture below represents ten years of answered prayers and the hope He has promised for our future.

answered prayers