A Game of Checkers

By Andrea Decker

As told to Christy Johnson


The memory of the righteous will be a blessing. Proverbs 10:7



Andrea DeckerNumb to the devastation, I lay on the couch in a self-absorbed pity party for three days while the news coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing hummed in the background. My children scrambled for my attention, but I was too consumed with my own grief. On the day that my hometown mourned a disaster, a bomb had exploded in my own world: My husband had just filed for divorce. It was the darkest day of my life.


It wasn’t until a gripping local story of another tragedy caught my attention that I even considered the needs of anyone else. Two thirteen year-old boys in Duncan, Oklahoma, were killed in an oil field explosion. As I listened to the newscast, I heard the Lord say, “Andrea, you still have your children, and these two mothers have lost theirs. They need your prayers, but that will never happen as long as you are fixated on your own misery.”


That reprimand was like a splash of cold water in my face. As ravaged as my own life was, I knew He was right. I made a decision to begin praying for these mothers. At first, all I could utter were short two-sentence prayers. “Lord, please bring these mothers peace. Heal their hearts.” But as I committed to lifting them up daily, I soon noticed something strange. The more I prayed for them, the more hope I was able to see for my own situation. Gradually, my depression lifted and my own heart began to heal. And then a miracle happened: My husband decided to come back home. I realized that there was a link between praying for others that actually met a need in my own life—and all for prayers on the behalf of women I never even met.


A couple of years after my husband and I reconciled, I went to a Women of Faith conference in Dallas, Texas. Several breakout sessions were offered and I chose to attend one on time management. Hoping for a revelation on how supermoms combine dinner, homework and baths into every evening, I found a seat on the front row. 


“This class will help you prepare your young adults for college,” announced the instructor as the attendees trickled in.


Oops, I’m in the wrong class, I thought. My oldest couldn’t even spell college. I eyed the door, contemplating my escape but by the time I had gathered my things, the session leader had shut the door. It was too late for a polite departure. Grudgingly, I decided to stay but as soon as the class was over, I was beyond ready to leave. As I scrambled for the door, I whispered under my breath, “Wow, that was a waste of time.”


The woman easing out the door next to me cast a curious glance my way.


Oh no. A lip reader.


Embarrassed that she had obviously heard my complaint, I tried to look away, but it was too late. With a look of gentle concern, she inquired, “Why was it a waste of your time?”


“Umm. Because. Well, my children are very young,” I stammered. “This class was really geared towards mothers of high school students.”


I was determined to get away, but the hallway was congested with a shoulder-to-shoulder sea of women, bobbing along like penguins to their next session. There was an opening just big enough for me to escape this uncomfortable interview, except that the lady in front of me had a purse bigger than a piece of Samsonite luggage. I pondered which was more humiliating: Continuing with this interrogation or tackling the Prada queen to allow for my get away.


“How many do you have?” she prodded further.


“How many?”




“Oh, umm. I have four.”


Yes, the restroom is just ahead. I can dart in there.

“How old are they?”


Oh my gosh…Is that the line? I’ll never get away from her.

“Hannah is eight, Gretchen is seven, Dustin is five and Lorelei is three.”


“It must be wonderful to have a large family,” she gushed.


“It’s a lot of work,” I sighed, focusing on the escalator just ahead. I decided that if she veered toward the upside, I was going down.


“Which way are you going?” she inquired.


“Uh, I’m going…up,” I stammered.


“Oh, me too.”


A moment of awkward silence followed. I was at least committed to this conversation for the length of the escalator ride. “How many children do you have?” I asked in obligation.


“I have one who is thirteen,” she replied, pausing to adjust her load of conference books.


One child. I thought. Yeah that’s why you can buy all those books and still have the “time management” to read them all.


“And my son, David,” she said blinking away a tear, “he’ll always be thirteen.”


Suddenly, selfishness collided with compassion. We were now at the top of the escalator but the urge to run evaporated.


“I’m so sorry…what happened?”


“He was in an accident a couple of years ago.”


That’s when I noticed the top book in her arms…a book about overcoming grief. I started to feel a twinge of guilt for having four children. Many days I was stressed over all the responsibilities of raising four kids so close in age, and yet here was a mother who would love to trade places with me.


“A car accident?”


“No. A crazy freak accident. He and his friend were killed in an oil field explosion.”


A jolt of numbing electricity shot through my body. For a moment, time froze. “Is your name…Cathy?” I stammered in disbelief.


“Yeees,” she hesitated. “How did you know?”


“I heard about the accident on the news.”


“It aired here in Dallas?”


“No, I live in Oklahoma City.”


“And you remembered our names?” she asked in astonishment.


“Yes,” I began to explain. “I prayed for your families. It was kind of an assignment from the Lord. I wish I could say that I was because I was so spiritually mature, but in actuality, I was in a horrible state of depression at the time.” Noticing a table ahead I urged, “Do you want to set your stuff down for a minute?”


She nodded.


“My husband had just filed for divorce and I was a complete mess. The day I heard the newscast about your son’s accident I realized that I wasn’t the only one in the world suffering.”


Cathy set her books and purse down.


“Praying for you brought me through the darkest time in my life.”


For a moment we just stood speechless. Then almost in unison, sobbing, we fell into each other’s arms.


“I’m sorry I was so abrasive,” I apologized. “I was embarrassed.”


“That’s okay.”


“How did you get through David’s death?”


“It was hard,” Cathy admitted. “It’s still hard, but God’s grace is strong. Now I do a lot of memorializing.”




“Yes, in every way that I can, I try to remember David’s life. I especially like to encourage mothers with young children. If I could do it all over again,” Cathy continued. “I’d play more checkers.”




“Yes. David was always asking me to play checkers with him. But I was always so busy. Oh, I would tell him, ‘Ok, honey, in just a minute…let me finish sweeping the floor.’ Or, ‘Ok darling…I will…just let me finish folding the laundry.’ Kids don’t care how clean your house is. When they get older, they won’t remember the dirt. They’ll remember the time you spent with them.”


I glanced at my watch. Ironically, it was time for the next session to begin. I searched through my purse for something to write my phone number on. We exchanged contact information and promised to keep in touch.


Through the years, we have stayed in contact. And every time we talk, I’m awed and humbled by a God that would go to such great lengths to get my attention—not only to pull me out of my pit of despair but also to help me realize how important it is to spend time with my children, no matter whether I’m tired, have chores to do or errands to run. So if you ever come to our house, don’t look at the dust on the floor or the piles of unfolded laundry. Plan to spend some time with us. And in honor of Cathy’s precious son, David, be prepared to stay for a game of checkers.



Prayer:  Dear Lord, the way that you connect the dots in our lives and weave a thread of fellowship with others is undeniably divine. Thank you for your faithfulness to not only direct our prayers, but to answer our prayers. Help me to always remember the importance of spending time with my family and the relationships you have blessed me with. May I always nurture and protect those relationships and not let unimportant tasks and daily duties interfere with our fellowship. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.



Scriptures to ponder:


  • He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea. Psalm 102:17
  • If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. Proverbs 21:13
  • In my distress I called to the LORD; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. 2 Samuel 22:7 
  • Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5 
  • I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me. Psalm 120:1 

Thoughts to Ponder:


  • Galatians 6:7 says that a man reaps what he sows. Do you think prayers sown on the behalf of others can benefit us as well? If so, how? 
  • Have you ever experienced a divine introduction like Andrea? If so, describe what happened. 
  • Have you ever felt led to pray for someone you didn’t know, either through a story you heard from a friend, on TV, the newspaper, Facebook or the internet? Share how praying for that person made you feel.


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17 Responses to A Game of Checkers

  1. Debbie Myers at #

    Wow! This really touched me. What a blessing that God allowed your paths to cross. I know many times I can get down about something (a lot smaller something than losing a child) and I dwell on it until I can’t stand myself. I give myself a spiritual slap in the face to wake up and count my blessings. You don’t have to look far to find someone to pray for, and it does help with your own thought patterns. Once again Christy, I am so thankful you printed what Andrea shared with you. Also, if i could take back time, I would have played checkers everyday with my kids that are now grown.

  2. Katie at #

    what a beautiful story! Made me stop and think about what’s important!

  3. candice curry at #

    I sit in tears in class (teacher), luckily my students are too entrenched in their headphones and facebook to see me. What a moving story with such a timeless message. Thank you.

  4. LaVila at #

    Isn’t God’s timing absolutely amazing. I certainly need reminded of that these days.

    God is touching lives with your writing, Girl. Keep on keepin’ on.

  5. Carol Wright at #

    Christy: I enjoyed this story very much…It reminds me of the “divine connection” involved when I first met you. (You’ll have to take your talented mind and turn that meeting into a professional story, too! ) My friend Cynthia had been trying to find you (she had met you years earlier…you had given her a darling plaque you had made.)..God had put you on her mind/heart to be involved with a new ministry, Revive, that she was starting up…but she just could not locate a number for you. I invited Cynthia to a writer’s workshop at my church. And the connection happened there! As Cynthia and I took a couple of seats near the back of the room…there you were right in front of us! God planned a divine connection of three Christian gals (all from three different churches) to meet and all sit together within a small space…because He knew we would become best friends as we began to serve the agencies that serve the poor in our community. God is smiling now, I believe, because of Andrea’s and our testimonies of His divine favor and His pleasure in connecting us all together..for we are His beloved children.

  6. Gaye at #

    That story is so amazing! I am usually so consumed in my day that I wonder how many God encounters I have missed. I will not clean house and do laundry today so I can spend time with my kids! 🙂

  7. Christy Johnson at #

    Awww. You got the message, Gaye. And Carol, meeting you was a divine connection for sure…and yes, I did submit this to Chicken Soup yesterday…hopefully, they will like it as much as ya’ll.

  8. Connie Garman at #

    I’m Andrea’s mother, and I was with her on the day of the OKC bombing and for a while after, until her husband returned to his family. I can testify to the devastation she and the children were experiencing, and my own as well. I remember feeling so much pain for my beautiful daughter and grandchildren, that I was numb to the suffering of the bomb victims. You may not be aware, but Andrea’s father, my husband of 47 years, committed suicide this February 22nd, so she is experiencing a very special grief of her own at this time, as am I and the rest of the family. Please keep us in your prayers.

  9. Christy Johnson at #

    I’m so sorry. I did hear about your husband. I can’t image how much you must be hurting. Our family has been been praying for you that God’s grace would smother you during this time and that He would hide you in the secret place.

  10. Barbara Spillman at #

    Thanks Christy for this beautiful story and reminder to do what really counts for the Kingdom, in our day.
    Our time here on earth is so short, and it is so important to spend our time doing the things that really count; time with our families and close friends, and time with God who longs for that intimate relationship with us.
    God has often prompted me to pray for people as our paths cross, worn out moms trying to deal with difficult children in grocery stores, people involved in accidents, stories others tell me that I may never meet the person they’re asking prayer for, or people I pray with at church. One prayer can make so much difference. I was very much on the receiving end of others’ prayers for me through many difficult, heart rending experiences in my past marriage. I felt like God was always giving me “angels in the flesh” to minister to my spirit and soul.
    Because I will always be grateful for that life-saving grace God poured into my life through others, I have a strong desire to pray for others in the same way. I know I still miss some opportunities, but I pray I’ll be more sensitive to God’s voice whenever He’s prompting me to pray.
    I know you’ll get published! you’re an awesome writer!

  11. Judy VanCleave at #

    I am Andrea’s Aunt Judy and I can appreciate her story very much because I have known her all of her life and witnessed her children growing up in a Christian home. I have seen personally how God has moved in her life as well as her husband, and how their children also demonstrate a love for the Lord. To my recollection, Andrea has always been a loving,supportive and devoted mother to her children. In spite of the fact that they kept her “hopping” she showed a deep appreciation for each of her children’s individuallity and she seemed to really listen to what they had to say, knowing ,if what they had to say was important to them, it was important to her too. She was no ‘pushover’ and set clear boundries but she really did seem to enjoy spending time in just being with her children. It is my belief that our Lord can bring forth good from every situation that develops in our lives. When we read Andrea’s story, we can see how God poured forth another blessing with this encounter and we get to feel the Joy of knowing how truly good and loving He is.

  12. Kara Jenkins at #

    Christy, thank you for sharing about God’s intervention! This reminds me to trust in God, and to remember I’m not the only one struggling. Perhaps by praying for others and by taking time to spend with our family and loved ones, we will all grow in strength and faith.

  13. Linda Bessinger at #

    A friend forwarded this link to me and I will be forwarding it on as well. I have four grandchildren and over the years have realized the importance of taking time for them while they are young. As a mother of four, I am guilty of not having more patience or taking the time with my own kids while they were young. I am fortunate, however that we are still close in spite of that, but not without consequences I can link back to when they were young and I wasn’t there for them when they wanted to play “a game of checkers”, so to say. It truely IS important to spend time, have more patience, and keep our family lifted up in prayer. There’s always time to clean house later.

  14. Dale Litvany at #

    As you know, you and I met in just as crazy a circumstance! And to think your John had a sibling unbeknownst to him until his father was dead and buried! I thought I was the only person this had ever happened to, and was struggling with “Why me?” After all, my father had been a pillar of the community wherever we lived! Everyone loved my father! If anyone was perfect it was “Daddy”!

    GOD sure is busy! I had lost my only sister in 1990! She was murdered! How unfair was that??? My mother died of Alzheimers in 1984 (THANK GOD), but before her 8 year battle with that, my perfect wonderful “Daddy” had a stroke and died days later in 1976…nothing fair about any of that! Oh, and in 1981 I was divorced from my alcoholic husband “most likely to succeed” and “best looking”. A really struggling single MOM of 3 gorgeous, smart, and wonderful kids! What happened???

    Well, I wondered what if my parents were alive when my sister was murdered?? Whoa! What if my Mother died before my father?Whoa! He would have been so lost! He adored her! There was never any doubt in my mind…my parents loved each other, unconditionally, and I was so blessed to have such loving parents. Why was I left here, and all of “Them” were dead??? POOR ME! I was miserable! What had I done to deserve all this?? Holidays were excruciating! Thank GOD for my precious kids!

    Fast forward to 2005~HMMM, Thanks to http://www.ancestry.com, a lady in Oklahoma City was able to contact my son regarding my father. He was listed in our family tree there posted by my now married son, for the sake of his children. He e-mailed me, and after weeks of hesitation, Months later, I finally replied to this “lady”, to see why she wanted this information. She called me within an hour! That call changed my life for good!

    YIKES! My father was listed as her father on her birth certificate!?!?!?!
    She had a birth certificate, marriage license, divorce certificate, and photos all validating her claim and promptly mailed me copies. She also included photos, including one I have a copy of. It is of our cousins on our Grandfathers lap! I had an identical copy of that photo! She ws no fake!

    This lovely sounding woman was 16 years my elder…from a part of my fathers life I knew little about. He had worked for Esso in San Antonio TX, and spent 2 years in Aruba, before he met my mother when he returned to NJ and fell in love…the rest I was very familiar with!

    What is this?? A 1/2 sister in Oklahoma City??? WOW! Since 1990, the word “sister” sent lightning bolts down my spine…I was never able to find out who the creep was that did kill her…and really did not care any more!

    After 3 years now, and 2 visits to OKLAHOMA CITY, and a visit from OKLAHOMA CITY sister and her daughter to NJ, we are true loving and caring sisters! We really resemble each other enough to be recognized as related…and the word “sister” now is pure JOY! We talk on the phone at least a couple of times a week, and have each met each other’s families and stunned friends! Life is now SO GOOD!

    All of this super-human chain of events was masterminded by GOD! No matter how bad things are, GOOD will come out of it! By the GRACE of GOD! LUCKY ME!

  15. Drla Muralt at #

    Tears blur my eyes after reading Andrea’s story and all the other heartfelt comments. What wonderful reminders to live one day at a time keeping in mind we are not promised tomorrow!
    Christy what a blessing you are, weaving words to life and tugging at my heart.
    What a Glorious Father God we serve. How precious are His thoughts and the interruptions He allows into our lives.
    Like pebbles splashed into our own little pond of life we in turn may reach beyond ourselves raining ripples of His tender love and hope…just like Andrea. Blessings, Blessings, Blessings!

  16. D'Lynn Everett at #

    Well, so glad to have met you & your family Christy!! I recently heard a SNIP IT of your testimony at the front desk Holiday Inn in Bartlesville, OK. I really will read all these teachings and would love to hear more of you! Other suggestions that we discussed…
    Here is my email
    If I don’t see you again..I will see you up there!!
    D’Lynn aka ‘Lorna’

  17. Susan Chisholm at #

    Loved the dresser you refurbished and really chuckled about the cup that just kept coming back, and I can picture your sweetheart bringing you the “decaf” coffee in the cup. I have the probelm of moving my leg or whatever alot and even had someone comment on it just the other day that she might have to move if it continued. The story from Andrea just made me cry at how amazing the Lord is to bring wonderful people into our lives and to bless us and her story. Allison now likes to play Mexican train dominos at night and we do that a couple of times a week. You have such a gift of writing and I love your stories. I want to share something that happened right after Jeremy was killed. As the little bit of money came in from people for Jer, I heard the story of a mother that all 3 of her children had died in a fire. I was so devastated by my loss of him but never could imagine losing 3 children in a fire. I called the bank where they were collecting money for this mother and sent her the money I had received and wrote her a note with a check. There always is someone that is worse off than we are. Thank you Christy! Love, Susan

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