Journals: Source of Encouragement for this Season of Life

A couple months ago, back when we were still in Colorado, I posted a question on Facebook:  What books would my fellow home school parents recommend to give encouragement for a new school year? I received a few suggestions but haven’t pursued reading any of them yet.

I keep a cache of blog posts that never fails to provide the proverbial shot in the arm when it comes to my having energy and motivation for persevering with home schooling. I re-read those throughout most school years. But recently I found a home school pep talk from a different source:  journals.

typewriter in black and white

I have kept journals for decades. Over the years, those entries have progressed from statements such as “I hope my best friend and I both get our guys!” at age 16 to processing my thoughts about loneliness and eating struggles while living overseas. Apparently, regular writing has been proven to offer mental health benefits. Therapists, counselors, and social workers often encourage their patients to journal for the cathartic benefits of it.  There are many ways to journal, and no one “right” way. But I know I’ve been helped by writing down my personal stories–and even by returning to them later to read where and how I’ve grown.

I’ve also kept journals for my boys for years. I don’t create elaborate memory books for them, and most of our photographs are on the computer instead of in photo albums. But I diligently fill journal pages with stories, milestones, and prayers concerning their lives.

And it was these journals that have refreshed me in important ways for this season of life and schooling and parenting. Here’s some of what I gleaned.

dawn-nature-sunset-woman

Last year, we’d finished lessons for the day. I sat at the kitchen table jotting down what we’d accomplished before fixing lunch. Woodrow looks up to tell me that the golf ball he’d rolled across the floor had produced two shadows. I took notice of what he’d pointed out and asked if he knew why that was.

“Because there are 2 light sources–one from the kitchen window, one from the living room window. Two light sources, 2 shadows,” he explained. We’d never studied this. But he noticed, and he made connections from what he’d learned to real life. That same day, he told me at lunch that a person weighs more where gravity is stronger. He then described why and finished with this tidbit:  “Maybe the reason we all seemed to weigh more than we thought on the scale at Publix two days ago was due to a gravitational wave.” I’m not all that sure what gravitational waves do, and I don’t think Woodrow is, either. But, again, he showed me he learns things I don’t necessarily teach and makes connections between learning and life around him.

I also found this little joke Woodrow came up with that I penned in his journal:  “What did the round spoon say to the square spoon?” What? “My life is POINTLESS!” Once while I was working on laundry, he and Garfield were in the throes of a competition with a catapult I’d helped them make, flinging LEGO men with it down the hall and then measuring how far each piece had gone. During my chores and their play, Woodrow approached me and said, “The only way to fail is to give up.” This young man can teach me a thing or two about perseverance.

wooden spoons

Years ago, Woodrow cheered up his little brother (who was very distraught and angry about a notebook I’d bought at Big Lots–go figure) by reading him a story called “The Fuzzy Duckling.” Except he replaced certain words in the story with “stupid” and “dummy,” which I would never actually encourage–but I chuckled to see how Garfield laughed and laughed at his brother’s antics. And I cheered Woodrow’s taking the lead to bless his little brother in a way that would connect with him.

When Garfield was about 5, I gave him free time during a school day so I could focus on a task with Woodrow. I noticed him enter the kitchen and grab an empty cereal box from our recyclables stack, then he returned to the living room. After finishing with Woodrow, we checked on Garfield. He’d used instructions from a library book about bridges, along with some fishing line and the cereal box, to make a drawbridge. He couldn’t read, but he’d followed the schematics (a word my older son taught me) and successfully created this drawbridge from materials he could find on his own.

Last year, we discussed how wars begin and how countries establish their geographical boundaries, all over lunch one day, and the boys initiated this. Home school lunchtime conversations prove to be replete with depth at our house.

bridge

As I reflect on these stories and memories, I’m reminded that God created the human mind to learn, and my boys are learning. In fact, learning is always happening. So in two days, we’ll begin a new school year, and the learning will just continue.

And I’m encouraged.

 

 

 

 

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One Last Summer Road Trip

While Mike worked in Chicago last week, I got the idea–in the midst of home school planning–to visit family in Mississippi again before we begin our new school year. One of my nephews, my sister’s oldest, started pee wee football this year. I thought it’d be special both for my boys and for my nephew if we could watch one of his games.

My boys have never seen a football game–at least, not the North American kind. But the game wasn’t the focal point; squeezing in one last family visit before we start school and Scout activities for the fall was our aim.

calvin and allison on ferris wheel
Garfield & me riding a Ferris wheel earlier this summer in Colorado.

We’d planned to leave last Friday morning, drive all day, and then stay at my parents’ home in south Mississippi that night–then driving another few hours to my sister’s home the next day. Our plans changed last minute, though, when my nephew’s game time switched from Saturday afternoon to Saturday morning. We ended up leaving Thursday afternoon, arriving in Mississippi near midnight, then driving again the next day to my sister’s house. We stayed with my sister and her family for just under 24 hours, then drove back to Mama and Daddy’s to spend Saturday night. All totaled, we spent about 27 hours in our van over a span of 4 days.

bus on beach

Even after all our previous travels this summer, even after being home for just over 2 weeks, this trip was worthwhile. Because making memories is worth it. Because relationships are worth it. Because watching my children grow a friendship with their cousins is worth it.

Also I felt brave and accomplished making such a long road trip with just the boys, no other adult to share parenting or driving responsibilities. Woodrow and Garfield really are great travelers. They listened to 4 books in the Boxcar Children series that we played over the Hoopla app. They didn’t watch any DVDs or TV shows, but we did tell stories and jokes and listen to music. And we had a couple of talks about big topics, too–after all, I had a captive audience right there in the backseat.

During some of the time in my hometown this past weekend, my boys got to pick okra with their grandmother at a fellow church member’s garden. They bought some goodies at a yard sale for their cousins. They visited with their great-grandmother. Prosaic as these acts may be, they are precious gems, too–milestones in building into my children a life of memorable experiences and family love.

map water coffee

I cherish the fact that I could give this to my children this summer, this one last road trip before schedules change for the next 10 months.

Even mini-vans can be part of an adventure.

New Life for an Old Dress

At the end of this month, Mike and I will mark 15 years of being married. That’s longer than all of elementary and middle and high school combined. So much has happened in all these years.

colorful cogs

Eleven days before our wedding was to take place, our florist quit her job. She arranged floral displays at a theme park in central Florida, and there was no other florist employed there who could take over where she left off. I learned of this when one of her co-workers called me at work to break the news. This woman offered to meet me at a grocery store to pick out flowers, but I declined. She mailed back my check, plus the 2 tin buckets I’d brought to the florist for her to use for the flower arrangements I’d ordered.

We’d already planned for the bridesmaids to carry bouquets of artificial flowers, made by my mama and sister. Mama and Rachel also made boutonnieres for the groomsmen. I’d planned to have only Mike’s boutonniere, my bridal bouquet, and 2 arrangements of blue hydrangeas as actual flowers. Because:  budget. But after the original florist quit, I settled for using real flowers only for my bouquet. A neighbor of one of my co-workers worked with flowers, so I paid her $50 for a bouquet featuring a huge hydrangea bloom in a delicate pale blue. All in all, losing our original florist turned out to be only a minor setback.

For our wedding, I borrowed a veil (from my friend and bridesmaid Nicole); I also borrowed shoes from my sister. I wore my great-grandmother’s pearls. That covers “borrowed” and “old.” To represent the “blue,” I switched my regular nose ring out for a tiny stud with a blue stone in it. (I’ve had a nose ring since I was 25, in case you didn’t know.) The little blue stone fell out in a matter of weeks, but it did provide the traditional “blue” for the wedding ceremony.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue…My “new” consisted of the wedding dress that my mama sewed for me, and she did it in the span of only a few days during a visit to Orlando.

allison wedding day (1)
That’s my Daddy in the background, which is probably where he prefers to be when a camera comes out.

Many years after we married, after our two boys were born, and I realized that we weren’t having any more children (and that I wouldn’t have a daughter), I decided to do something with my wedding dress apart from hanging it in our bedroom closet.

I sought out opportunities and came upon the Mary Madeline Project.  This group of volunteers sews wedding and bridesmaid dresses into burial gowns for babies who die in the neonatal period at hospitals, as well as for stillbirths.

I have a family member who lost a baby at around 18 weeks gestation; volunteer sewers provided him with a burial outfit, although it was not connected to the Mary Madeline Project. I’m so thankful for that gift to the grieving parents who lost their baby boy. I’ve never personally had to face such a loss, but I believe (if I found myself in those circumstances) I wouldn’t want to have to exert energy on selecting burial clothes for a newborn if I could simply receive those as a gift.

i will always love you lock

So that’s the route I took–I boxed up my wedding dress and mailed it to the Mary Madeline Project. Later, when I received their thank-you note detailing how the fabric of my dress would be used, I cried–not because I missed my dress nor because I experienced second thoughts about having given it away, but because I imagined myself in the place of those parents. And I felt gratified knowing my wedding dress would find new life in honoring the short but significant lives of premature or stillborn infants.

In all these 15 years of marriage, I remain grateful that I could pass along the wedding dress my mama made for her child so it could hopefully bless the parents of other children.

Embracing with Faith our Summer Re-location

One thing I appreciate about living in Colorado:  There are no lizards. I can leave the front door of our apartment open when the weather is mild and never worry that I’ll find lizards running around the floors (or inside our shoes) later in the day. This spring–back in Orlando–I found a little lizard in our kitchen sink. I can’t count how many times I’ve almost tripped trying to avoid stepping on a lizard in our driveway or on the sidewalk. But I’ve never seen a lizard in Colorado. Also:  No fire ants. NO FIRE ANTS! Those are parts of Florida I don’t mind leaving behind for the summer.

Colorado offers beauty, adventure, outdoor fun galore. It’s also not home. It’s not the place where I do life. I do like to travel–as in, pack bags, go someplace for a visit, and then come home. {I actually like living overseas more than I enjoy travel, but there again, one puts down some roots and establishes a life if making a home in that place, wherever that place may be.} But this is more than–different than–travel. It’s packing up our house for a summer renter. It’s packing our family’s belongings to be away for over 2 months. It’s asking questions:  Do I pack the crock pot, or buy one at Goodwill when we get out there? How many dish towels should I pack? Will our tenant take care of our plants for the summer? 

frames

It’s also recognizing that we’ll be away from our church for 11 Sundays. ELEVEN. Another question:  How can we connect with people there–especially when we know hardly anybody there–if we’re not THERE? 

And it’s work. So. Much. Work. Imagine giving your entire house a spring clean to prep it for a person who’s going to pay (a modest amount) to live there, while simultaneously packing lots of boxes to be shipped out to Colorado for your family (along with suitcases and school supplies, since our home school year didn’t end until mid-June) AND continuing with normal life chores. Baking cupcakes for the Cub Scout den party and prepping for our end-of-year home-school evaluations, for instance. You know how busy the month of May can be for families, what with all the end-of-school-year functions? Yeah, like that. Plus readying my home for the house sitter AND getting all four of us packed to travel cross-country and plant ourselves in a new place for the summer–long enough to be more than a trip, but too short to consider that we’ve moved to a new home.

cupcakes with sprinkles

But here we are. End-of-year festivities and responsibilities have been fulfilled. We live in a 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment this summer–instead of our 3-bedroom, 2-bath house in Orlando. Less housework is required, and the weather is delightful. I mean, there is NO humidity. The city of Fort Collins is a cool, interesting place to be. Our boys are making friends with other Cru kids, and the pool is just steps from our door (although the water has been far too cold for me so far). There’s a community gas grill that Mike has used multiple times already, enjoying a working grill since we actually moved our broken gas grill to our new home in 2015 and still haven’t fixed it. He’s missed grilling and is making up for that by grilling everything from corn on the cob and tomatoes to chicken and pork chops.

We’ve hiked, biked, fished, played, taken advantage of the plethora of summer yard sales out here. I got a small tape measure for a nickel–just 5 cents–that I’m using as I sew more quilt tops while we’re here.

There’s much to appreciate in this place where I’ve spent the summers of 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, and now 2017. And even with my horrible sense of direction, I’ve lived here enough months collectively that I remember how to get many places without using GPS.

But there’s still struggle, transition–the boys have their own, and I have my own, and I must help them navigate theirs. Conducting school out here, even at a slower pace, has been really difficult. I don’t have a specific summer job to do with our ministry out here, as my husband does. I still edit ministry stories on a minimal basis, the role I fill normally with Cru. But I don’t have a niche to fill out here; my real purpose in being out here is so our family can be together for the summer while Mike serves in his summer role. That’s more struggle.

And yet, since we’re planted here for the summer, I want to bloom here for the summer. In early May, I wrote in my journal, Lord, thank you for whatever our summer holds. My desire, my hope, is to embrace by faith whatever God has for us–and for me–this summer. I want to have the heart to receive with grace what He gives.

picnic tea set

What He’s given so far (besides that crazy cheap tape measure):  On the way out to Colorado, I spoke at my sister’s church about the Luo Pad program (led by Cru’s humanitarian ministry, GAiN), a cause close to my heart. The women who attended responded with great interest in sewing Luo Pads as an ongoing project. What a treat that I got to do some public speaking–which I love but rarely get to do–and that I got to share about a ministry opportunity that meets tangible needs as an expression of God’s love. I’ve also had a chance to help a mom with a Cru conference job here who’s needed an extra hand.

luo pad chalk board

There’s more summer to come, and I’m hopeful that God will continue to give me grace to take hold of all that He ushers into my time here in Colorado. I want to remember that EVERY DAY counts. This is not a season of simply marking time until we arrive back in Orlando in early August; these are days of living by faith, living out my faith. Embracing it with faith.

 

 

 

Wear It Well Wednesday: Summer Travels + Road Trip Survival Tips

It’s been over a week since we left home, beginning our trip out to Colorado for the summer. We’ve visited with family, caught a bit of time with a friend over BBQ and ice cream (I was in her wedding; she was in mine), watched my boys play long and hard with their cousins. We also set aside a day to experience the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport, Mississippi…not far from my hometown.

The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center was birthed out of my aunt Carole Lynn’s desire to honor her daughter–my cousin–Lynn, who passed away as a college freshman. Aunt Carole Lynn’s labor of love produced a top-notch, hands-on destination for kids. While exploring the outdoor attractions of the Discovery Center–including some impressive tree houses–we snapped this shot of my latest Wear It Well Wednesday ensemble:

allison at lynn meadows discovery center

All of the above consists of hand-me-downs:  The peachy/coral tank came from the give-away table at Mike’s office. Both the shorts and light blue-almost lavender short-sleeved cardigan arrived in a box of cast-offs from friend and ministry supporter Vivian in Texas. I kept these 2 pieces from her for myself. This is one of the outfits I will don over and over this summer while away from home. We tried to pack minimally; nonetheless, our van is stuffed to the rafters.

Speaking of traveling and road-tripping…I like to shake up the routine from time to time, but getting our entire family to Colorado for the summer, trying to establish a sense of rooted-ness and a sense of home in an apartment that is not ours, is challenging. For over a week now, I’ve felt the limbo that comes from living out of a suitcase (or duffel bag, to be exact). So I wanted to share a few of my road trip survival tips:

colored pencil set

  1. Books. I brought the first book in the Andrew Peterson Wingfeather Saga series (On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness) that I borrowed from my sister. I’ve been reading this aloud to the boys while we drive. We also downloaded several audio books in the Boxcar Children series–thanks, Hoopla!–to entertain the boys, too.
  2. Hug your children. On a normal day, I hug the boys almost hourly–especially Garfield, whose love language is probably physical touch. Apart from hugs, we also wrestle (by trying to pull each other off the bed); I give piggy back rides; sometimes Garfield even sits in my lap for school work. When they spend days playing non-stop with cousins–or we spend days riding in separate seats in our van–we rarely get our usual cuddle time/play time/wrestle time with each other. So I take advantage of moments to hug them when I can; it helps us stay connected.
  3. Floss your teeth. Nothing is “normal” when on the road, including our eating. Eating out then is more for calories than fun, and I start to feel I cannot make one more decision about where to stop for lunch. I can’t provide made-from-scratch, whole-food dishes for myself or my family when we’re in a different place from day to day, but I can take care of myself in other ways. Like flossing my teeth. I can at least do that, and it gives me a small sense of accomplishment that I’ve done something good. 
  4. Move when you can. Not only is our eating anything but normal, I’m not working out with any regularity, either. Self-care takes more discipline while traveling with family in tow–and I honestly don’t have the time for work-outs right now–but I can do something. I can walk with Garfield around a restaurant while we wait for our food. I can do some calf raises, squats, stretching in a corner of the hotel room before bed. Even a little bit of movement helps me feel healthier.
  5. Drink loads of water. Eating not-so-well and not getting enough fresh air or exercise already, I try to consume plenty of water. Especially at altitude.
  6. Make time to have solitude. It’s unrealistic to expect abundant alone time while visiting family and road-tripping cross country. That’s not really the point, after all. But if you’re an introvert, like me, you’ll probably enjoy your family more (and they will DEFINITELY enjoy you more) if you can carve out a bit of time to be alone and recharge. One night while at my sister and brother-in-law’s home, I went to bed about an hour early so I could pray, write in my journal, and reflect on some Scripture verses. I went to sleep refreshed and at peace.
  7. Elderberry syrupI buy homemade elderberry syrup crafted by a woman in the Orlando area. We take a spoonful a day as preventive medicine because elderberries are very high in anti-oxidants. I ordered a special batch from Julie, who makes this syrup using raw honey and organic elderberries, so that we’d have a little immune booster in the midst of all the junk food we’ll consume while on the road.

Hopefully, the next time I post we’ll have finished our 4 nights of hotel stays (and 7 nights with various family members) and will be settled into our summer apartment. Enjoy your Wednesday, dear readers!

Life Begins At…

Earlier this week, I used a bag of pumpkin that I’d baked, pureed, and then frozen in our deep freeze to make a loaf of orange-pumpkin bread. It’s not a yeast bread, which makes it a “quick bread.” I needed to use up the pumpkin, because I’d mistakenly thawed it instead of the creamed corn that I had assumed it was. And once it was thawed, I couldn’t re-freeze it.

I baked this bread in a stoneware pan I had ordered back in the fall of 2000, when I was 26. A friend from my church at that time hosted a Pampered Chef party and invited me, along with lots of other women from our church. I rarely bought non-necessities for myself, and I love to bake (then and now), so I purchased the loaf pan that night.

Near the end of the evening, when the presentation had finished and I had begun writing a check for my order, I listened to the conversation flowing around me. One of the women mentioned working out at the on-campus gym at the university in our town–where I mentored college students in my role with Cru. I also worked out at this state-of-the-art gym and loved the classes there. So I was paying attention to the chatter even as I wrote out my check.

But then the woman describing her experience at the gym made a comment about the thin young college women who typically populated that workout facility. This woman, a mother of several children, then remarked loudly, “Those girls have never used their uteruses.” {I think the plural of that is actually ‘uteri,’ but anyway…} 

Our corner of the room grew very quiet and still. I looked up from my checkbook to see some rather awkward expressions. I was fairly confident I was the only woman in the room who was neither married nor had had children. I suppose that made me one of those girls who’d never used her uterus. And most, if not all, the others in that room knew that about me. It made for an odd moment for all of us, even though I knew the comment had nothing to do with me personally.

me at rangitoto sign
In New Zealand, pre-children.

At the time of the Pampered Chef party, I was a single woman in my mid-twenties living in a small town. I often felt hard pressed to find “my place” at church, in community. There was no “singles group” or Sunday school class for young adults who were neither college students nor part of a couple. And if there had been, I’d probably have been the only person attending. So I sidled out of the college student class I attended and began teaching Sunday school to 4- and 5-year-olds at our church. This turned out to be a fantastic experience.

But it would be another 6 years before I would use my uterus, if that means having a baby. During that same season of life, when I lived and worked with college students in that small Mississippi town, a freshman who’d recently experienced a bad break-up with her boyfriend came over to my apartment for dinner. Before she left that night, she asked me, “Are you OK with being alone?” I thought she was referring to my not having a roommate. So I answered that I had wanted to have my own apartment for a while and appreciated living by myself. She explained that she actually meant “alone,” as in “not married and not attached.” I was genuinely surprised she had asked.

sweet smelling flower at hog island

Growing up, I believed, at some point, I would get married and have children. And I wanted that–although my life has certainly not turned out as I had expected or hoped or asked God to bring about in some ways. And I got both:  marriage and children. But that doesn’t happen for everybody, and that does not mean that you’re “less than” if you haven’t used your uterus. 

I was living a full life before I had a husband or sons, and some of my richest, most life-shaping adventures took place before I even met Mike. Life didn’t begin when I became part of a couple or when I became a mother. Nor did it end when I left the single life behind (or the childless life behind, although Mike I never find ourselves at Barnes and Noble at closing time on the weekends anymore).

My worth isn’t wrapped up in whether I’d be chosen as a wife or whether I could birth and nurture a new little life. My value is not determined by what I can do or accomplish, but by Whose I am. One of the verses from Scripture that speaks to me so strongly currently is Ephesians 2:10:  “For you are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for you to do.” I’m God’s workmanship–a poem He is writing–not because I can muster up some good works but simply because I’m His. Because He has awakened me to faith in His Son and made me His child. Now, I have the privilege of doing good works because I get to partner with my Father in His redemptive plans for this world.

And that truth has never been dependent on whether I’ve used my uterus.

 

 

 

Another Easter Birthday

In the early hours of Easter Sunday 2006 (April 16th that year), I gave birth to my older son–the one I call Woodrow on my blog. He actually arrived 6 days past his due date, which happened to be my grandmother’s birthday. But I felt more than a little overwhelmed at becoming a mother and didn’t mind waiting a few more days for his debut. Plus, Mike and I felt elated to welcome a new little life on the day we as Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus.

A few days after our holiday baby was born, a lady in a Bible study I attended sent me an email message listing all the upcoming years in which Woodrow would again celebrate his birthday on Easter–since the date itself changes from year to year. Every 11 years, his April 16th birthday would coincide with Resurrection Sunday. At the time, his 11th birthday felt eons away.

cupcakes from Wilsons birthday
Cupcakes for Woodrow’s 8th birthday.

Well, those eons passed quickly, because Woodrow turned 11 on Easter Sunday this year, just a few weeks ago. We threw Woodrow a party on Saturday, April 15th…a full-to-the-brim day that began before dawn, when we arose early and then ran a 5K together (the boys and I). Then I gave all 3 of my menfolk haircuts, and then we hosted the party, complete with water balloons and water games. So on the 16th, our day was a bit more low key:  church service and then brunch with our church family, but there was more on my mind as well.

Last fall, for Garfield’s birthday, I baked him a red velvet cake from scratch. Only he wanted it to be blue instead of red–so I set out to give him that. I didn’t, however, have enough blue food coloring and ended up with a color more akin to olive green (the cocoa powder overwhelmed what little blue dye I did have). Since my boys love camouflage, I tried to convince Garfield the cake color was actually sort of kind of almost camo. But I topped it with a homemade ermine icing–also called boiled milk icing–and we all enjoyed the cake. Garfield was satisfied, despite the fact that I didn’t buy candles–and thought we’d already had some but apparently didn’t. Instead, I lit several matches, placed them atop the cake, and let him blow those out. Mom fail, I guess?

This year, Woodrow didn’t even want birthday cake–he requested ice cream sandwiches, so I bought two candles in the shape of a number 1, poked them into the ice cream sammie, and we sang “Happy Birthday.” At least I had the candles this time, right?

honey smiley face
Woodrow finds wonder in almost everything. Here, a smiley face made with honey.

Cake and ice cream aside, there are many, many parents who remember and reflect on April 16 in a very different fashion than my family or I do. Because on Woodrow’s first birthday–April 16, 2007–parents of almost 3 dozen individuals lost their children in the Virginia Tech shootings. I recall that day with great clarity. Woodrow hadn’t begun to walk yet but was taking steps as he passed from one piece of furniture to the next. We went grocery shopping that weekday morning, just he and I, and I bought him a big, helium-filled balloon. I have a picture from later that day of Woodrow holding onto the coffee table in our living room and reaching for the balloon as it bounced across the floor.

But even as we rejoiced at seeing our chubby-cheeked, bald little baby turn one, I ached for the parents who would never get to celebrate with their children again. Who would never throw birthday parties or buy balloons or go to the grocery store together again. There were several students killed that day at Virginia Tech who’d been involved in the Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) movement on that campus. Later, I read a book about the life of one of those students, Lauren.

bowl of shells

Now that Woodrow is 11 and has officially crossed over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, he’s begun to go on camp-outs without us. When he does, I pray off and on all weekend for him. I know that I can’t spare him of every hurt or protect him from every disappointment, and I pray for myself, too–that I will trust God with what He allows to hurt my child. I will safeguard my children; I will set healthy boundaries. And I will also seek to trust our Father with what I can’t control. I don’t know how that ultimately plays out; neither did the parents of those killed at Virginia Tech ten years ago.

I do not in any way believe that God causes this type of evil, this kind of tragedy. But I do believe that there are times when God could stop some kind of suffering but chooses not to do so. I don’t understand all that and have no good answers for the “why?”, but if I’m humble enough to acknowledge that I am not all-knowing or all-powerful and certainly not perfectly loving, I must acknowledge also that I don’t see the whole picture. That I’m called to trust God more than I can see or feel. That He will ultimately bring all things to their rightful end.

If asked where God is when the ones who love Him suffer, I would say–He’s right there with us. When I was bullied at age 16, He was with me. When I was sexually assaulted at 21, He was with me. Although there have been times I’ve doubted this (and times in the future when I’m sure I will wrestle with this, too), moments when I’ve cried out, “God, do you SEE me?” Yet I’m learning to say, like Hagar in the book of Genesis, “You are the God who sees me.”

He is with His people when we suffer, and He suffered FOR us. That’s what Easter embodies–the Son of God willingly giving up his life, in agony and torture and execution, to reunite us with the Father who loves us and made us for Himself. That Father who, like the parents of those shot and killed at Virginia Tech, also mourned the death of His own Son at the hands of sinful humanity. Indeed, it was MY sin that held him there…

Revelation 21:4-5… “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

*A helpful book dealing with the question of why God allows suffering is The Problem of Pain, by C.S. Lewis. Another is Trusting God:  Even When Life Hurts, by Jerry Bridges.