“I Need Hold You Hand.”

It’s funny how life, perspective, everything, can change in an instant.  Never more so than in those “life flashes before you” moments.  I wouldn’t have known.   I’d never really had any of those moments…until yesterday.

Those moments hide in days like any other- days that start out innocuous and humdrum;  days in which you ruminate on Scriptures like Psalm 90:12, “Teach us how short our lives really are so that we may be wise,” because you’ve found it in several different readings that day and you think, Yeah God, that sounds good.  Teach me–  not knowing what you’re asking for;  days like yesterday.

A simple trip to the park, that’s all it was.   A warm afternoon, a best bud, and 8 kids between us.  We’re like a well-oiled machine.  Over the past 5 years our kids have basically grown up together, as have we.  We can let ourselves into each others houses, and not clean beforehand.  That’s saying something.  Playdates consist of our kids tearing off their shoes at the door and disappearing until their tummies start rumbling, while we plop ourselves down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a couple doughnuts that hide under paper napkins any time a wayward child dashes by.  And each spring we make an inaugural trip to the park with kids a little bit taller and a little bit older and we marvel at the fact that just moments ago, it seems, we were pushing babies in swings and catching toddlers at the end of slides, as now we watch those same children whiz around the playground playing tag for hours while introducing new babies and freshly-sprouted toddlers to the swings and slides.

The boys are older and the Strawberry Shortcake- now a full-blown toddler at nearly 3 years old- has a mind of her own.  And I was on auto-pilot.  When nature finally called and we needed to head home to indoor plumbing,  the 5 older ones ran to the vans parked in angles on the road in front of the park and the Shortcake followed.  The moms brought up the rear with a baby and a straggler.  The older ones stopped at the open van doors because that’s what older ones do…but she didn’t.  I assumed she would.  She does whatever they’re doing- a little pint-sized wannabe.  But she didn’t.

When they say that these moments go by in slow motion, they’re right.  I saw her keep going.  From too many yards away.  And a box truck.  That wasn’t slowing down.  And a blind spot to the left where more cars could speed through.  And I screamed.  Over and over and over again, “NO!”  And I ran.  And the truck kept going.  And she kept walking.  Truck.  Her.  Truck.  Her.  Any moment I expected her to go flying.  I could see it in my mind as I ran, and screamed.  Seconds that felt like a lifetime.

I bolted between the 2 parked vans.  I didn’t stop.  I didn’t look both ways.  I just ran.  I ran until I reached her.  And I pulled her to safety.  Pulled her away from the box truck that had thankfully and finally slowed.  Away from the cars in the other direction.  I pulled her to the side of the van and swatted her bottom and spoke to her more sternly than I ever had in the past.  She cried and I, shaking, held it together.  She had to know.  She had to know how bad and dangerous that was…but she couldn’t know- couldn’t know that she was this close.  But I did.

We two moms plunked the kids in their seats and strapped everyone in.  Then we turned around, hugged, and shook, and fought back tears.  My stomach hurt and my throat throbbed from screaming.  But she was safe.

I turned to go.  And as I opened the van door I heard Him so clearly…

That’s how I feel about my kids.

I gasped.  I wasn’t expecting, wasn’t listening for Him, but I felt it clear as day in my spirit.  He continued…

That’s how I feel when my kids are running out into the road marked with danger.  That’s how I feel when they run toward the things that will hurt them, maim them, even kill them.  But I’m not talking about just physical death.   I’m talking about the kind that separates them from me…forever.  I run and I scream and my stomach hurts and my heart aches like it’s being ripped in two and sometimes I get there in time…and sometimes I can’t.  Because that’s what free will is.  And I feel that, like you just did, every moment of every day because I’ve got billions of kids.  And at any moment billions of them are running toward the road.  And billions of box trucks are speeding their way.  And I can see them coming, from a million miles away.  And all I want to do is grab my kids and hold them and kiss them in the safety of my arms.  But sometimes they keep going…

And I could see Him, my heavenly Father, weeping over His beloved kids.  And my heart broke.  How could anyone live that way?  With that much pain and anguish?  Only love could.

I gave the Shortcake a long lecture in spurts over the course of the next hour.  Later, when I asked her what she had done wrong she said,

“I need hold you hand.”

I started to correct her but stopped.  The road really isn’t the problem.  There are always going to be roads in our lives, and not all of them are going to be safe.  We can’t necessarily get rid of the roads… but we can hold our parent’s hand.

That hand keeps us out of trouble.  Oh, we may try to break away sometimes, try to step our toes off the curb and into the busy street, but that hand pulls us back.  There’s safety in holding His hand.  That doesn’t mean the road doesn’t have potholes, sharp inclines, or steep cliffs- most roads do.  But we’ve got a Daddy willing to walk the road with us and hold tightly to our hand, and not let go…

Psalm 73:23-26

23 Yet I am always with you;
 you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Psalm 139:1-10

1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

 7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast.

The Better Thing

I spotted it on the way to Nutty Buddy’s soccer game- a “Trash-to-Treasure” sale.  Glory! We had arrived a bit early and the prospect of convincing the Strawberry to stay in her stroller for an hour didn’t suit. An hour’s a long time to sit still in 2-year-old-land and I only came armed with a fruit strip and a Dum-Dum to keep her busy.  She’d be whining away after 5.2 minutes.  I batted away the voice that said stay and assured myself that I’d be back before too long.  Even if I miss a few minutes of the game, it’s not like I haven’t been to dozens before, I reasoned.  And just because my Buddy made the proclamation of, “For the very first time, I’m going to TRY to make a goal,” surely, he’s no prophet.

I helped Honeybun get all the gear out of the car- huge-honking stroller, 2 chairs, 2 soccer balls, snacks, purse, diaper bag and, oh yeah, 3 children. Then I made my move.

“I think I’ll walk next door to that sale while you wait for the game to start.”

With a nod and wave, Honeybun chased after the boys towards the fields and I, grinning from ear to ear, trotted off with the Strawberry Shortcake.

Oh, the prospects of a “Trash–to-Treasure” sale!  The cheapskate in me just couldn’t pass such an opportunity up.  And sure enough, there it was- a goldmine.  Boxes of books by authors such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Jim Elliot, Elton Trueblood, Anne Ortland, Oswald Chambers and Dietrich Bonhoeffer lined the hallways.  Better yet, I arrived just in time for the $3 Bag Sale.

I scoured each box, read each binding.  Time ticked by but I couldn’t tear myself away.  Just a few more boxes.  The OCD was really coming out.  Can’t…pass…over.  Oh, it was bad.  This obsessive-compulsive, penny-pinching, book-hoarding, lover of great spiritual writing couldn’t let go until every box was searched.  I carefully loaded my brown paper bag to overflow and made my way to the checkout- $3 in one hand, dragging my treasure with the other hand and pushing the stroller with my love handles.

I was late, I knew.  I paid for and left my 30 lb. weight with the nice ladies at the desk who agreed to hold it for me, and started hoofing it back up the hill to the soccer fields.  15 minutes.  20 minutes late.  By now I was running…and panicking.

After what seemed like eternity (but really, what doesn’t seem like eternity when you’re running), I found our chairs and watched as my husband jogged over.

“You missed it.”

Those three little words sunk like lead into the pit of my stomach.  My little prophet had indeed, made his very first goal.  Excitement, guilt, shame and sadness all passed over me in an instant, stuck in my throat and welled in my eyes.  I caught Nutty Buddy’s gaze from across the field and gave him my biggest smile and 2-thumbs-up.  He grinned from the sidelines, then went about his usual business of throwing grass at his teammates and rolling around in the mud until he was once again called in to “try” to get his team some points.

I felt the heat of all the stares of the good parents, or maybe it was just the sun.  But it felt hot and scrutinizing and I felt ashamed.  I smiled weakly and cheered my boy on for the remainder of the game but my insides churned.   I missed it.   His very first goal.   All the fit parents witnessed it but I, the unfit one, I,

 Chose the lesser thing.

It came out of the blue.  The way it rang true to my heart, I knew it was Him.

I thought of the story of Mary and Martha from Luke chapter 10.  As Martha hustled and bustled in the kitchen, preparing for all the guests she was entertaining, her sister, Mary, sat in the other room, at the feet of Jesus, and soaked-in a holy moment.

Martha, having none of it, complained to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to do all the work?  Tell her to help me.”

I must admit, I’ve often sided with Martha.  Her logic seems valid.  All this work, so many people to take care of- surely, God would be better served by do-ing rather than be-ing.  But no, Jesus’ answer to Martha is, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.  Only one thing is important.  Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her.”

The better thing.  It’s elusive when you haven’t set your heart straight or when you get caught up in Martha Stewart-ing or scrounging for great deals on a treasure trove of volumes written by some of the most powerful men and women of our day.  I could argue that the wisdom gleaned from such books could impact tens, hundreds, thousands even, and that a missed soccer goal is just that, one missed goal, which over the course of time, will be a drop in a bucket full of them.  But He whispers,

Sometimes the holiest of moments is found at a soccer field.

Did not Jesus himself push His teaching aside and rebuke the disciples saying, “Let the little children come to me because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people who are like these children” (Matt. 19:14)?  Logic told the disciples that teaching and healing the multitudes was better.  Jesus told them otherwise.

A holy moment.  I found one the very next day.  This time it was in a parking lot.  Same boy but this time, instead of a soccer ball, he had a bicycle, one without training wheels.