Wishes and Prayers

blowing out his birthday candle

Over the weekend we celebrated my youngest one’s third birthday.  It was a festive day, with friends and family, and exactly as it should be.  I am not overly sentimental, but on occasions like this, I can’t help but think back to the excitement of bringing that sweet new life into the world, magic of introducing brothers for the first time, and anticipation of learning who he was.

He’s a study in opposites.  He is routinely covered in anything he can get into, yet asks for napkins and won’t keep the same clothes on for more than a few hours because “they’re dirty.’  He loves to fight but lavishes hugs and kisses.  He yells at his brother, but mimics everything he does.  He climbs higher than I prefer, but is scared of sleeping in his own bed.  He’s sweet and sour and full of so much life I hardly believe it when he falls asleep, though crashes may be a more accurate description. 

I am so thankful for the privilege of guiding him and teaching him, heavy with the weight of that responsibility, and the excitement of what is to come.  But this weekend it was ever more poignant as we all thought of the sweet faces who weren’t home, parents who had fulfilled their time of guiding and teaching much too early.

Like so many, I struggled with what to tell my older son, who had gone off to his elementary school that morning just as those children had.  While we all hugged our ‘babies’ a little bit more, we also all handle it a bit differently.  I didn’t want to cause fear, or bring sadness, but I knew he would hear about it if he hadn’t already.  The answer was obvious to me.

Let the story and the impact of today or any day, be of those who are brave and selfless and give us hope.  Let the story be that there was more love shown that day than hate.  Let the story be that no matter where you are, you are in God’s hands and He puts people in place to hold us.

As parents, our ‘job’ is not to protect our children, as much as our hearts tell us to.  As parents, our job is to teach them to love and to trust and to be brave and selfless.  Our job is to send them into the world to be the hands and feet of God, though they’ll each do it in different ways.  Our job is to love them so much, that they have so much love to give.

As I kissed my oldest goodbye and wished him a good day at school this morning, I wanted to turn around and grab him and have us both stay at home in safety and comfort, knowing that any day could end like Friday had for the families in Connecticut.  But I didn’t.  My God is not a God of fear.  He is not a God of safety zones and comfort, but the exact opposite.  There have always been, and always will be, people and circumstances that cause pain and suffering.  I thank God daily that there have also always been and will always be, people that bring even more hope and courage, when they could instead stay safe.

I pray that our answers don’t come in only more protection and more fear, but of more confidence in the One who protects us.  I pray that we do hold our babies closer, but to ensure they feel our love and know their worth, so that they can go on with courage and strength. I pray for the families who hurt so much, and thank God for those who were so brave and selfless that they are the real story.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Stuck

I’ve been stuck.

My last post was written as I grieved my friend ending her life, though I had missed her for years as her illness had overcome her.  But it was a few days later when I was stopped in my tracks and became stuck.

Josh performing at The Church at Argyle

Just before the service, an acquaintance expressed anger at all the friends who had let Diane down, which obviously included me.  It was a blow.  I had already been thinking it, wondering if I could have or should have done more.  Just like I have asked since Austin has been gone.  No one had ever told me I failed, those were only my fears and hurts. But for 5 years, I had wanted to help Diane more than I could, and for almost that long have regretted not doing more for Austin.

That accusation stuck me in place, not allowing me to fully believe the truth.  For weeks, I’ve tried to move, I’ve tried to not let this keep me in this place, but facing the fifth Christmas without Austin and thinking on Diane’s family facing the first without her made it tougher. 

Then, last night I was blessed to hear an amazing artist perform live, Josh Wilson.  Josh’s music had touched me before, especially his song ‘I Refuse’ which inspired a blog post about 6 months ago. Last night as he sang that song, along with other incredible verses, I was reminded that God’s plan for me is not to look back.  God’s plan for me is not continue to be stuck, even for just a few weeks.  Josh sang beautiful words of Hope as well, but having Hope in God has never been a challenge for me.  Taking steps to do what God has called me to do however, that takes facing fears, including the fear of past failure. 

This Christmas, I challenge you to not be stuck by fear or hopelessness.  I challenge you to see the world before you who needs to see the light of hope, and to be that light.  My light may not shine on many, but may it shine as bright as possible on the few I can reach.

Vist Josh Wilson online

A funny thing happened on the bike trail…..

This is a story long needing to be told, because it will make those involved laugh.  I hope.  It may also make them cringe, but I’m already smiling as I start to write.  In the early days of Austin being missing, we really believed that we’d be able to quickly figure out where he was, go get him and drag him home whether he wanted to be there or not.  We had people ask what would happen if we found him and he didn’t want to come home…. well, mom just laughed and said not to worry, she’d take care of that.  While it was certainly a difficult time, it was also a time of leads and possible sightings.  It was a time of having somewhere to look.  It’s a time I miss in some ways.

One possible sighting came in from the Northside area of Jacksonville, and we didn’t hesitate to jump in the car and drive all over the area. We stopped often, crossing property lines, peering in windows of abandoned homes, and investigating any spot someone could be camping in.  During our drive, we came across the Jacksonville Baldwin Rails to Trails entrance, and the thought occurred that if you wanted to disappear, there was a lot of land along that stretch you could safely camp out in.  So, we knew we should explore it.  But 14 miles is a long way to search, and there had to be a better way to cover the distance.  So, a new plan was developed by this savvy group of searchers.  We could drive the trail at night when there wouldn’t be pedestrians, and would be less likely to be law enforcement to explain our illegal activities to.

A group of four strong, independent women set out close to 11pm, with a plan to go find him. Each time we set out, we truly believed that would be the time we succeeded.  We drove very slowly, and each time there was an area of interest, we’d get out and search.  It took us over an hour to cover it well, and I was so relieved as we reached the end.  You see, I am terrified of getting into trouble.  Blue flashing lights give me a panic attack, and it’s been true my whole life.  It started with the horrid memory of a traffic stop when I was about five, though my parents swear I never had a traumatic law enforcement experience…..I’m not sure I believe them.  But enough about my own craziness for now…

By the end, I was driving, having given up on walking the woods in the dark.  It’s true, I have many fears. It seems my fear of being arrested for driving this crazy gang was less than the dark woods.  One of our cohorts had been getting calls from her son all along the trail, and she kept reassuring him we were fine and no, he did not need to come rescue us.  That last call had just been made when the trail abruptly ended and I somehow hit the curb, burst the tire and got the car stuck.  You see, the trail wasn’t really meant for cars so it ends before the road.  Apparently they weren’t planning for a car of women to drive it after midnight, so there were also no lights.  We were tired and punchy and laughed hysterically.  This is when it really got funny.  To those of us in the car anyway.

My mom called AAA because we clearly needed help, but they needed to know where we were.  That was a problem, we had no clue.  We knew we were at the end of the trail, but no idea where that actually was, and there wasn’t a road sign for a half mile.  The representative asked, “well, what road did you turn on to get there?” and wasn’t ready for the laughter that followed, since we didn’t really want to explain that we’d arrived there by 14 miles of bike trail.  In the meantime, the cohorts son called back, found out what was going on, and within a short time had 3 carloads of people there to try to help, which really just meant waiting for the tow truck.  Eventually, it arrived and got us lifted off the curb and back in business, ready to find our way home. 

We didn’t find Austin that night obviously, but we did find support and laughter and healing that comes from such a night.  We knew then, as we had been learning over those weeks, that we did indeed have people in our lives who would go through the woods in the dark with us.  Not just metaphorically, but in real life if that’s what it took.  I thank God daily for those who’ve walked those dark woods of all types with us.

Isaiah 41:13
For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.