The Grief of Unanswered Prayers

I’ve been having anxiety filled dreams for about 4 months now. Every single night and what feels like no rest. I’m perpetually exhausted.

These dreams aren’t always nightmares. At times, they can take on a more humorous quality. In fact, this week I had a dream that I was in the middle of taking an English final and only had 20 minutes to finish it and someone was talking to me and distracting me. What I found most funny, upon waking up, were the details I remembered about the dream. It needed to be 260 words in length (there has never been an English final with such ridiculous word count limits) and my essay was titled “When unwanted hugs and kisses are a bill too high to pay.”

I giggled to myself as I typed up my dream scenario and posted it on Facebook. I thought some of my friends might also find this dream funny and I love getting a laugh out of people. Most of my friends shared their own stress dream stories and I took comfort in knowing I wasn’t the only one reliving my high school test taking days. (Now shockingly over 20 years ago….a nightmare realization in and of itself).

One person in particular left a comment that, admittedly, rubbed me the wrong way. She told me if I read Psalm 91 out loud before I went to bed that these dreams would stop.

Instantly, I was transplanted into my childhood bedroom. My floral comforter tucked up under my chin as my heartbeat echoed in my own ears. I’d repeat the name of Jesus frantically in dire hopes that the night would be peaceful.

I was living in what felt like a nightmare to little Holly. Honestly, it was a nightmare and 37-year-old Holly confirms it, but during it and even many years following my release from “that life” I was told it wasn’t that bad. As I got older I played the comparison game– at least you didn’t experience that. As if that was the only thing that justified pain or grief or loss.

This morning I woke from another stress filled dream that took me back to that childhood life. One that keeps getting more distant with each passing year and yet one I will never forget. As I tucked my comforter under my chin and did my best to soak in the sun rays creeping through my slightly ajar blinds memories began to flood my mind. Memories of well intentioned adults who tried to distract me from the things I had experienced with fun weekend getaways or even a trip to Disney World.

My heart grieved knowing they knew….at least in some way….the hell I was living through. Enough to want to shower me with kindness and yet not enough to protect me from what was actually happening. Part of me is angry. Furious, in fact. Yet another part of me asks, “What did you expect them to do? What could they have done?”


As a kid, I learned to just lean into my faith. Just pray, which is what I did every single night. Desperate pleas, in fact. Begging God to bring me some peace. Not the kinds of prayer or wishes you’d greedily ask of a genie– to win the lottery or meet your crush from your favorite TV show Home Improvement (I know we all loved JTT)– but the kinds of prayers that cause me to crumble as an adult. A kid who just wanted a happy home.

Which is what brings me back to the well intentioned advice of my Psalm 91 reading friend. I’ve tried.

I’ve tried praying, pleading with God to release me from this nightly torture that keeps my body and mind restless and weary.

I prayed when I was told someone I loved dearly had a terminal illness. I sang songs of spiritual warfare, read psalms (including Psalm 91), fasted, wept on my knees for nights asking for healing. And then prayed as I stood next to his coffin, “If you can raise Lazarus, I know you can raise Josh.” My eyes staring at his chest convinced God would fill it with breath.

I’ve prayed for a husband since I was a little girl. Prayed God would make me into the woman needed to be the wife of a faith filled man of God. Or if nothing else to just remove the damn desire all together.


And so I weep, not because I think God doesn’t answer prayers because I believe that He does, but because I’ve grow up thinking if I just prayed more, believed more, tried HARDER that He would see it and move on my behalf. And that’s just not how He works.

It’s not about working harder and I can tell you because I fully exhausted that route in my life. That is NOT the answer. So, what is the answer? What do you do when you wake up and are face-to-face with your worst fear: the grief of unanswered prayers? I would love to give you a formula or 4-step process. In fact, my heart yearns to do that for you (especially for me) because then we wouldn’t be left to wrestle with an unanswered question.

I don’t know. In the midst of these overwhelming feelings right now all I can do is grieve for that little girl who lived through some scary events, grieve for the 22 year old who watched her love be buried and grieve for this singleness cloaked under the exterior of strong, independent Holly.

I talk about my grief because I refuse to pretend that it isn’t there. Grief isn’t weakness or some “flaw” of an overly emotional person. Grief is recognizing a loss has taken place. Grief is staring something in the face that you’ve tried to bury. Grief makes me human and connects me to the divine. The whole “made in His image”. He grieves, too.

Maybe that’s the simple Truth I will leave with myself (and you) today. One that reminds me my grief is seen. It matters and it matters to the heart of God. He’s not angrily asking me why I’m not over that yet or downplaying my hurt by telling me, “It wasn’t that bad.” He cares and is kind towards me. So, today I will follow suit and allow myself to care about this stuff and to be kind in the process.

May I lovingly encourage you to do the same if you find yourself in a similar place.

With love and gentleness,


A Crown Fit for a Queen

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? Luke 12:27-28, NKJV

A few Saturdays ago, a dear friend stopped by my apartment to drop off some belated birthday and Christmas gifts. We stood outside, lovingly socially distanced, and enjoying the few moments together catching up quickly before we froze to death. As I entered my cozy little apartment, and she drove away, I cried. I hadn’t realized how much I missed being around her.

This friend is one who I’ve felt safe to be myself around. There has never been any need to filter because she knows my heart– even during my often lengthy rants about how frustrated I am with things she allows me to share without feeling ashamed. There’s no need to hide. I can be unapologetically me and know I would still be loved. There’s never any side eyes or looks of concern. She loves me and that’s that. Questions, frustrations and all!

It’s comforting and freeing to be loved like that. Not everyone can do that. At least not all of the time….myself included.

One of the things about my particular faith journey is how lonely it has been, at times. There were/are people in the church who don’t look like me, talk like me, think like me. They don’t ask the questions I do or understand my frustrations. I look(ed) rebellious or emotional or downright “off track” to some and I began to wonder what the hell was wrong with me. Why don’t I fit in? Why can’t I just be like everyone else here? Fall into formation, Holly.

But that’s not my story. And not how I was created. I was made to be me. Holly. Some days I remember this and celebrate it.

Today, I was reminded of this Truth while reading Anne Lamott’s new book Dusk Night Dawn. Anyone familiar with Anne and her writings would know she doesn’t exactly fit the stereotypical Christian mold and maybe that’s why I’ve enjoyed her writings all these years. She’s refreshing in that she shows her scars and struggles and doesn’t always talk about them in past tense. Many of her faith lessons come through conversations with friends, observations in nature or everyday circumstances in her very ordinary life which, if you’ve read my blog before would know, we have that in common!

In her new book, she mentions a conversation she has with her husband regarding the “lilies of the field” mentioned in Scripture. Many people, myself included, would picture the pure, tall calla lily when in fact the flowers being referenced (and found in the fields of Jerusalem and surrounding areas) are the crown anemone.

Anemones come in a variety of beautiful, bright colors. They grow wild and free in the fields splashing color along nature’s canvas. For me, they are a reminder of who God made me to be– clothed in my own kind of bright, wild glory. Wild flowers do not compete with the flower next to them but simply share their distinct brand of beauty, wisdom and confidence.

I know as Christians we are in this constant process of becoming more and more like Jesus, but it would be a shame that this process would strip us of the uniqueness imprinted on us when He created us. Hand-crafted in fact. We were not made in some heavenly factory spit out on a conveyor belt, but affectionately made in His multi-faceted image. Each one of us displaying a part of Him that He longed the world to see.

If I’m too busy trying to look or sound like someone else than the world is missing out on seeing an aspect of God meant to be seen and enjoyed.

Ya, enjoyed.

If you haven’t heard it lately I want YOU to know that you are seen and enjoyed in all of your wild beauty. I pray as you read these words a confidence would be planted in the soul of your heart and that the love of God would water it. And as His love pours into you you would grow into everything He made you to be– without fear or shame or comparison.