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My Story of Grace, Grief, and Gratitude

October 01, 2012

When her faith was tested, she found that God’s love never fails.

By Janelle Parker

God has been good to me all my life. I was blessed to be raised in a home where my parents took us to church and taught us about God. Some of my earliest memories are of our family praying together. Every morning and night we gathered for family worship; seven children and my mom and dad. Some of those devotions would turn into prayer meetings where we really touched God and saw answers to prayer. God worked miracles and provided in our home so many times that I never doubted that He was real.

When I was seven years old we moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Dad felt a call to help in the church there. To move our furniture, we borrowed an old dump truck, which my dad drove with my brothers, and my mom and we four girls followed in a pick-up truck. The dump truck was open with no covering. It started to get dark and looked like rain was coming, and my mom was concerned about our furniture getting wet and ruined. She told us girls that we needed to pray that it would not rain. I remember seeing the tears stream down her face as she was driving and praying, asking the Lord not to let our furniture get wet. As a young girl, I felt the urgency and cried right along with her. When it started raining, my mom never lost faith and kept on praying. It rained for quite some time, and so hard that my mom could hardly see to drive, but we continued to pray. When we stopped, my parents were talking and my mom mentioned the rain. My dad said, “What rain?” They were driving right in front of us and not a drop of rain touched the truck that held our furniture! This was just one of many miracles that God performed for us.

Many times while growing up, I remember waking up in the night and hearing my mother pray. I would also get up in the mornings and see my dad praying down beside the couch. I knew they were praying for their children. As I grew older, I watched my older brothers and sisters and noted the mistakes that they made. Two of my older sisters left God out of their lives, making tragic decisions that cost them dearly. I knew I did not want to be like them. I wanted to have a happy Christian home like I had been raised in.

I always had a tender conscience and tried to be a good girl because I knew that I wanted to go to Heaven when Jesus returned. However, I could not point back to a time when God forgave me of my sins. When I was thirteen years of age, sitting in a camp meeting in Murphysboro, Illinois, I felt God calling after my heart. I don’t remember anything about the meeting other than the feeling that I needed to pray and ask God for forgiveness. I remember crying and feeling the peace of God wash over me; I knew that I had been born again. Understanding that I needed to continue on and pray for sanctification, the next night I went to the altar and asked the Lord to sanctify me, and He did.

Through the rest of camp I prayed, seeking the baptism of the Holy Ghost. About a week after returning home, I was lying in bed dreading the next day because school was going to be starting. I felt a heavy burden that I needed God’s help to be a Christian example at school, so I went to the living room and prayed. As I was praying, His presence became very real. The next thing I remember, I was lying on the floor speaking in a language that I did not understand. The Lord had filled me with the baptism of the Holy Ghost! My mom and dad had come into the living room, and were praying with me, but I did not even know they were in the room. That night, it was just God and me. That experience was what took me through the next four years of school. Without the Holy Spirit, I could not have made it.

Growing up in a small church can be a challenge when it comes time to choose a spouse. There were not any young men in our little church in Fort Smith other than my brothers, and I would get discouraged and wonder what God had planned for my life. The devil would come to tempt me and tell me that it was okay to date an unbeliever, but I remembered the mistakes my sisters had made. I knew that if I wanted a happy marriage and one centered around God, I could not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. I found out that it pays to wait on God and let Him do the providing because He knows what is best.

One year, God sent a young man from Portland, Oregon, to Midwest camp meeting. One of the things that attracted me to Byron was that he prayed; I realized he was serious about his relationship with God. We both knew that to make marriage work we needed to be in unity about the things of God, and we talked about the many different aspects of serving the Lord and realized that we were in agreement. We also had the support of our parents, pastors, and friends. He moved to Arkansas that winter, and we were married twenty months later. As we started our married life, we had a wonderful time serving the Lord together.

I loved children and always wanted to have a family of my own, especially a little girl. We had our little girl fifteen months after we were married, and I thought life could not get any better. I had everything that I had always dreamed of having: a Christian home, a husband who loved me, and a baby girl. My life was fulfilled. We did not have much money, but we had God and that was all that mattered.

A couple weeks after our little girl was born, I realized I had a medical condition. I became very worried and had trouble sleeping at night. The devil would torment me, telling me that I was going to die and asking who would take care of my family. My perfect life seemed to be slipping out of my hands.

One morning after a tormented night, I decided to go to the church and pray. There, I cried out to the Lord, telling Him that I could not live in fear anymore. I dedicated my husband and child to Him, believing that He knew what was best and that if I died, He was more than able to take care of my family without my help. I prayed until I felt a peace and assurance that all was well between me and God, and left the church that day with a confidence that my life was in His hands.

Within a couple of weeks my health condition cleared up, but God knew what was coming my way and I believe He allowed that situation to happen so I would consecrate my child to Him.

A few weeks after that prayer meeting, my husband left the house early one morning to go to work. I woke up a while later thinking that it was strange that our little girl was still sleeping. I did my morning devotions, and while I was praying I started crying but did not understand why. God was preparing me for the events that would happen that day.

After a while, I went to wake up our baby. When I pushed her door open, immediately I sensed that something was wrong. I walked to the bassinet and touched her head. It was cold. Then I picked her up and realized she was dead. I screamed and ran into the living room, and kept running back and forth. I did not know what to do. I could not reach my husband or parents by phone, but I finally called my sister, who lived a few blocks away. While waiting for her to come I went into my bedroom and threw myself across the bed, crying and saying, “Why me?” God’s Spirit spoke very clearly to me and said, “Do not question Me.” Immediately, I felt a peace and knew God was in control and everything was in His hands. Somehow, I was able to take a hold of that and realize that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).

It is hard to describe the feeling of hopelessness in knowing I could not help our baby girl. The process of a child dying in the home is lengthy and painful. The police arrived and then called for a detective. There was a long questioning process and checking our home to clear us of any wrongdoing. During this time there was immense grief, but at the same time, a peace that only God can give. Right away the saints of God started arriving at our home and were there to give help and comfort.

For days it seemed like the devil was trying to torment us and make us fearful, but we would plead the Blood of Jesus and the fear would leave. We just kept holding on to the prayers of the saints. The grief was so heavy that it was hard to pray for ourselves, but we could feel the prayers of the saints lifting us up.

There was also guilt involved, and the devil was there to make me feel that her death was my fault, and that it wouldn’t have happened if I had done things differently. But again, faith stepped in and I had to say, “God’s will be done.” Many times we would walk into the house and I would tell my husband, “Get me out of here.” I couldn’t stand to be in the house because the memories and grief would assail me. But I found the saying “Time heals” to be true. Grief still pops its head up at unexpected times, but God continues to give grace and healing.

We dealt with the fact that she might have brain damage, and again we had to put our trust in the Lord and say, “Your will be done.”

Later, when I was expecting our second child, I started having terrible pains. At six months along, I thought I was going into early labor. After a restless night filled with pain, my husband took me to the emergency room. The doctors thought I had a case of acute appendicitis, but because of the risk of harming the baby they did not want to perform an appendectomy until they were certain. After several days of tests and continued pain, my appendix ruptured. I was rushed into surgery and was told that because of the rupture there was poison in my blood stream, and our baby might suffer brain damage. The pain also caused me to go into early labor, but we called for prayer and I was able to carry her to full term. For three months we dealt with the fact that she might have brain damage, and again we had to put our trust in the Lord and say, “Your will be done.” How thankful we were when she was born perfectly healthy!

A doctor told us that if you lose a child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, there is a greater chance of it happening again. So when our second daughter was born, I was fearful every time I put her down to sleep. When she was about one month old, after she was in bed, I knelt and told the Lord, “I can’t live with this fear anymore. You are going to have to take it away.” Immediately I felt the fear leave and knew that God had answered my prayer. I was able to put her in God’s hands and trust Him to take care of her. When we had our third daughter, again the devil tried to torment me, but once again I was able to entrust her to the Lord.

While raising our daughters, we saw God answer prayer in many situations. In times of sickness, financial difficulties, and important decisions, God was always there to lead us. There was one instance when our youngest daughter was in first grade and had an open sore on her arm. We did not know what it was but really wanted to trust the Lord. Every night my husband and I would go into our daughter’s room and pray for her healing. One night, we just knew we had to get a hold of God about it. We called out to Him in desperation, and the next day the sore was clearly going away. We knew God had answered our prayer. For thirteen years I suffered with terrible migraine headaches, each one making it almost impossible for me to function. Over time, they came more often, and eventually I was having a headache about once a week. I had been prayed for several times about it but had never felt a healing touch.

One night, while visiting my husband’s grandmother, I was stricken with a bad migraine. The pain was so severe that I could not stay in bed, so I went quietly into the living room and cried out to the Lord once again for healing. Immediately I felt God’s presence and knew that He had touched me. From that day forward, I have not suffered another such headache.

During our daughters’ school years we made several church-related moves. God always provided a job for my husband and good schools for our daughters to attend. He proved over and over that if we would seek first His kingdom, He would supply our needs.

Now I have had over thirty-five years to prove God. Have there been hard times? Yes, there have been. But we have experienced more joy than we ever thought possible. Any blessings I have came from God. I once told my husband’s grandmother that I was lucky because God had given me the desires of my heart. She told me that I was not lucky, but blessed, and she was right. Luck does not come from God, but joy and blessings do. Since I started my Christian walk I have never wanted to turn back or look for an easier way. I know that if I keep my hand in God’s, He will continue to lead and guide me on my Christian journey.

About the author

Janelle Parker is a member of the Apostolic Faith Church in Los Angeles, California, where her husband is the pastor.