Beloved Study

Why Write Beloved?

Beloved, a Small Group Bible Study for Teenage GirlsIMG_1044     The first time I met Hannah was outside of the Rockdale County Young Life Club House. I was overwhelmed by all the new faces, and I think that she could sense that. She stood by my side, asking me questions about my life, as we both watched a large swarm of High Schoolers playing Ultimate Frisbee on the field in front of us. She was sweaty and out of breath, having just stepped away from the game to introduce herself to me. She had a giant smile that highlighted her cherry colored lips and adorable, heaven-kissed dimples. Before her mouth turned its corners up, her eyes did the smiling, as if instructing every other part of her face to follow after them. It was impossible to simply be a witness to this action. I had to follow suit and smile, with my whole being, right back.

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     In the weeks and months that followed, Hannah continued to probe me for answers about every aspect of life that a person of my age could possibly cover. Every question that she asked came with intense curiosity. She was genuinely interested in my boring, stay-at-home mom routine, and I found that to be intriguing for a fifteen-year-old girl. She had insecurities, just like every high schooler possesses, yet I still didn’t understand why. She was athletic, goofy, intelligent, shameless, and stunningly beautiful. She was everything that I wished I had been at her age and more.

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     Weeks turned to months, and months into years as our friendship blossomed far beyond a mentor-mentee relationship. My past matched her present struggles, and I walked beside her as she learned from both. We were connected through shared experiences and held together by a solid foundation, rooted in Christ. She needed my guidance and advice, and I needed her energy and passion for living and loving without hesitation.

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     I loved Hannah with the same depth as every other teenage girl that I have mentored. However, I feel as though that affection is measured on a separate scale. It’s possible that I feel her love on an eternal measure, now that Hannah is no longer bound by Earth’s measure of time. I remember each and every single hug we shared (boy, could she hug as tightly as humanly possible), each time she cried, each piece of advice that she didn’t take, and each late-night chat where I had to kick her out so her parents wouldn’t worry about her. It’s almost as if the Lord planned my thoughts to engage in her and retain each conversation just the slightest bit more so that I could write this book in her honor.

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     Hannah’s stories aren’t unique. They’re actually pretty common occurrences for your average high school aged girl, which is why ministry with her is the perfect outline for ministry with other thirteen-to-eighteen-year-old girls. Her life and the way she lived it encompassed both inspiration and motivation. After our first year of doing life together, I knew, without a doubt, that one day Hannah would grow up to touch the lives of thousands of other teenage girls. I knew that she was something special. God had His mark on her, and it was apparent through that life-sized smile she always wore.

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     This world swept our Hannah away far sooner than her family, friends, and I could ever have been at peace with. Thanks be to God, though, her memory will live on through these pages. The legacy that she was destined to leave will stretch farther than her twenty-three years on this earth. It will reach the hearts and homes of young ladies across the nation and throughout the world for years still to come. Because of Hannah, these girls will learn to search their souls for their own understanding of what it means to be loved by Jesus. Because of you, sweet and goofy Hannah, they will all embrace their true name, which is “Beloved.”

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Preface Excerpt from:

Beloved, a Small Group Bible Study for Teenage Girls,

by Cathi Chandler

So this happened

That was So Mean! – How to handle “Haters.” 

Over the past few months, God has done a work on my heart and my mouth. Somehow, with His glorious and miracle-working hands, He has reached down and shut my mouth in situations where I would normally open it wide and give people my fiddy cents. He’s taught me to process and contemplate what others say before responding. Most of the time, after their words have bounced their way through my brain’s filtering system, I ended up deciding a response wasn’t even necessary. It’s taken time for God to chisel this trait into my character, yet sometimes the old hood-rat in me still tries to reach through the cracks of my spirit to gut-punch the meanies. That’s when God usually steps in and yanks my chain by dropping “coincidental” road blocks onto my train-of-thought’s tracks. Looking back over the months that God used to teach me this lesson, I don’t remember any of the things that I wish I had said. I only recall the words that I regretted saying. When I think about them, it makes me shutter with embarrassment. I often ask, “Why didn’t you yank my chain, Lord?” But, I know the reason. It’s because He was teaching me to be humble and still in the face of “haters.”

 The other day, someone asked me a question about my job. Before I had the chance to answer, someone else chimed in with their opinion of my work, answering for me. I thought this was a person who supported and believed in me, but I stood corrected as they downplayed the importance of my field. I was crushed, but something that I’ve learned recently is to always CONSIDER THE SOURCE. 

After taking some time to think about this individual’s current lack of knowledge on the subject as well as their empty sphere of influence, I found myself echoing Jesus’ words, “You have said it.” If that’s their opinion of me, then that’s the only “Me” they will ever get. As long as a person  thinks lowly of you, they will never get to experience the best parts of who you are. Iron sharpens iron, and we need iron people to help push us forward in this life. Let them assume that you are Less Than. That way, their jaw will drop when they realize they were wrong.

It’s unlikely that Herod wanted to see Jesus actually perform a miracle. You see, Herod was a self-centered man. It was more likely that he wanted to see Jesus fail in front of his posse. Herod knew that he, himself, couldn’t perform miracles, so he didn’t want a beloved teacher to achieve a level of admiration and success that he was incapable of attaining, even as a ruler. People nowadays are no different. There are going to be people in your life who simply do not want to see you succeed. That’s the bottom line. A lot of times, these people may even be family members or folks you considered to be close friends. Don’t be surprised or alarmed by this. Even Jesus had close friends who betrayed him. Follow his example when these people mock you. Just be silent. Don’t try to put on a show a prove your worth to them. They aren’t your primary audience. You are living your life on the stage as your Heavenly Father looks on. He is your source of both encouragement and approval-no one else. So when those haters open their mouths, just focus on keeping yours shut. 


Just a little side-note here before we go straight into this last step: Did you know that your body is able to convert fat into energy when you’re dieting? It’s a very neat automatic process that takes a lot of hard work, but it’s so worth it in the long run on your way to total body health and fitness. In the same way, your mind can convert negative comments into positive motivation! It isn’t easy, and you’re going to need to rely on the Holy Spirit to help you out, but it can be done! Allow those nay-sayers to become burning hot coals stacked up in your steam engine to success. At the same time, remember how the negativity made you feel, and make a conscious effort to be a positive influence to those around you. If you want encouragement, be sure to dish out words of encouragement. You’ll notice that as you speak positivity into the lives of others, you will feel better about yourself.

Above all else, remember to be humble. Sometimes, getting knocked down a few notches is good for us. Don’t get too big for your britches on your uphill climb to success. Always be sure to reach back and pull others up with you. It’s so much more fun to cheer others on rather than to sit pridefully at the top of your ivory tower. If you follow Christ’s example of humility, those haters may eventually swallow their own pride and ask for your help. One can only hope for such a beautiful outcome.

Have a great week,

Cathi

So this happened

So, this is my life…

When I was a teenager, I used to play the piano, sing, and write songs. I had a plan for my adult life. I was going to go to NYU, major in music composition, and then sell songs to famous artists. I never wanted to be famous, but I did imagine a certain amount of monetary success for my lyrical musings. I loved the hustle and bustle of busy city life.  The lights and sounds of New York City intrigued me, and after my trip there to visit, I knew that I wanted in on everything that city had to offer.

Fast forward about 12 years, and here I sit-in my husband’s home office, writing a blog post and drinking lukewarm coffee while my street-rat of a dog snores ridiculously loudly nearby. Every single morning is routine in my house. I wake up to my alarm, listen to a chapter or two from my audio bible app, take the dogs outside, scrub the pool (trying to get rid of a pesky mustard allergy problem, oy ve), heat up yesterday’s coffee, watch a few minutes of the news, and then I park my behind in the school room to prepare the day’s lessons. My boys usually come trudging down the stairs shortly afterward, and within minutes I can smell eggs being scrambled, smoothies blending, and the dogs going absolutely psycho at the pieces of food dripping and dropping all over the kitchen floor. I wanted hustle and bustle. This was sorta like that…kind of.

At a certain point, I open up a school bell app on my phone, plug it into a speaker, and sound the alarm for the start of the school day. The boys know the routine. They have exactly 5 minutes until the next bell. Sometimes, I grab my youngest’s noise-cancelling headphones so I don’t have to hear the raging battle to the top of the stairs. I still don’t understand why they have to race to their bathroom. They each have their own room and their own toothbrush. Why does one kid have to beat the other? It’s so dumb, seriously. Within their 5-minute time limit, their teeth are brushed, hair is combed, and they’re dressed quite snazzy for a couple of homeschool kids. My youngest tends to go for the comic-book hero’s outfit replica, and my oldest tries to mimic Bruno Mars. This doesn’t make any sense either. No one is coming over, and we’re not going anywhere. Why are you dressed like you’re either

a) about to fight an epic battle against Eggman or

b) about to star in a Youtube video asking a girl to the dance?

I have no earthly idea why these kids are looking so fashion-forward(ish) on a daily basis, but whatever. They’re the ones who do their own laundry, so I don’t even care.

After finishing 2 hours of school lessons, the boys head into the kitchen to make lunch. The squabbling between the hounds begins, yet again, and I lean back to swing the classroom door shut. Oftentimes, I stay behind in the room to grade papers, clear the chalkboard, look over assignments, and assess what the kids need more instruction on. It’s during these moments that it occurs to me that my kids are smart as heck! I scribble a big, fat 100% onto my oldest’s fraction sheet, draw a rainbow-colored smiley-face onto my youngest’s adjective challenge, and begin sweeping up the pieces of paper hole-punches and dried up glue residue. Just behind the door, the boys are screaming about something-honestly, I don’t even care what it’s about. I just open the door and head back outside to scrub the pool again.

At this point, the pool deck is burning my feet, but I don’t care. I’m straight-up gangster. I fight the urge to dip my soles into the pool just long enough to make it to the shaded end. My arms burn from the back and forth motion of moving the pole from one end to the other, but whatever. I’m getting ripped, and I think to myself, “See, this is why we don’t go to the gym.” …er…I don’t go to the gym. My self doesn’t have multiple selves, just to clarify. My inside-my-head voice tends to be a bit stupid sometimes. I trot back up the stairs, open the door to silence, and my oldest hugs me while the youngest is holding a sloppy peanut-butter and jelly sandwich up to my face.

“We made your lunch, mom.”

“Yeah, mom. Thanks for working on the pool for us,” my oldest chimes in while squeezing me tightly. These are the moments when I realize that my kids are so dang thoughtful!

I feel kinda bad pointing them toward the chore chart in response to their sweet lunch-making gesture, but those toilets aren’t going to scrub themselves. Of course, the groans and complaints about housework begin again, and I scan the room quickly for my son’s noise-cancelling headphones. I wish I could just press a button and mute the children sometimes. But, then their noise gets quieter as they huff and puff off to clean the bathrooms, vacuum the floors, and sweep the deck. I sound like Mrs. Hannigan, but I don’t mind. My kids are NOT going to take part in this god-awful entitlement generation! Period! If they want privileges, they need to earn them. I’m all about letting kids be kids, but kids don’t need wifi. They need to climb trees and roll down hills. Relaxing the body is for a body that has worked hard. Once their body has done some hard work, I’ll tell them where I hid the Roku remote. Until then, they’ll figure out a way to get the vacuum to the third floor of the house. Gangster, like I said. I don’t even feel bad as I hear Thump. thump. thump.

“Ugh!”

“You’ve got it buddy! One stair at a time! You’re so strong!” I shout as I carry my basket of laundry out of my bathroom.

“Mom! It’s so hard! I can’t do it!”

“I bet you can! And you’ve got 3 minutes to make it happen or I’m going to do it. You know that if I do the hard work, then only I get the reward of relaxing, so you make the choice,” I shout back up the stairs. Then, again I hear Thump. Thump. Thump, then nothing. Step, step, nothing. I stand and listen to the silence for a few more seconds before I hear the sound of the vacuum vroom-ing across the floor of the bedroom above me. I smile as I mentally high-five myself and continue with my load of laundry. These are the moments that I realize that they will learn how to be problem solvers.

I’ve found that when I tell my children, “Go on and make me proud,” they tend to do just that. They love taking my hand, pulling me to their chore-site for the day, and pointing out all that they accomplished. This is when I toss around every little word of affirmation that I can grab hold of. I love to watch their big, cheesy grins as I tell them how proud I am of them, and eventually, I also tell them where they can find the Roku remote. They have about 2 hours to watch TV, play outside, make origami, draw, or do whatever it is that helps them to relax. Once the time is up, it’s back to them hating my dictatorship once again.

My kids have learned (the hard way) that if the kitchen isn’t clean, I don’t cook. So, at about 4:30, they get to unloading and loading the dishwasher. One of them is usually more interested in helping me make dinner than the other, so most of the time, I have a helper. This doesn’t make quick dinner nights easy, but it does turn them into slow dinner nights. Remember, I’m a Gangster, so I do like to live on the edge. Sometimes, we eat later than planned. I don’t care. It’s my thug-life choice, and I ain’t changing for nobody! (Man, I’m so hardcore, I just can’t stand it!) Every parent knows that Dinner time is basically like your 2-minute warning in football, only it’s more like 2 hours. You’re so close to the finish-line! Just gotta get through showers, the I-want-water’s, the go-back-to-your-room’s, and such. Once 9 o’clock rolls around though, that’s when I know I’ve done it! Finally, mom and dad’s relax time! But wait, I just remembered that I need to go brush the pool one more time…

When I woke up this morning to my wash-rinse-repeat cycle of life, it occurred to me that I once had that New York City music-selling dream. Some people might feel like they’re missing out on their life’s purpose if they don’t live out their childhood dreams. But, I totally don’t feel that way about my life at all-not even in the least bit. I have done so much more for the world in my one day of raising my children than I ever could producing an album or selling a song to Beyonce. When I exhaust myself over the repeated words and phrases through my mom-of-a-life, I know that I’m not just doing it for myself or for them. I’m working for their future wives, their children, and the generations to come. Every day, I have the choice to work hard at creating a legacy of being someone who knows how to both work hard and relax. I am doing something far more incredible with my life than I ever dreamed possible, and I wouldn’t trade my daily routine for a single second of living out my previous hopes.

I still dream about New York from time-to-time, and I still have plans that involve the hustle and bustle of the city life. Yet, this time, I’m researching plane tickets for a family of four, hotels that allow dogs, tours that are sensory friendly, and noise-cancelling headphones that will clip to the belt loops. I want to give my sons those same childhood dream experiences that I had, because dreams are fun. It’s nice to make plans that are so far-fetched that people tell you it’ll never happen. It’s also nice to try to make it happen anyway. And sometimes, it’s nice to fail and just enjoy the detour by making new plans along the unplanned path. I have my own hustle and bustle in my home, and I like it a lot more than most people realize. I’m pretty sure that New York should probably schedule a visit to my house. It’s quite entertaining at times, and people get stabbed with Nerf swords all the time…so there’s also that.

 

Uncategorized

It started with an Apple…

  

  
This post has been a long time coming, but I think I’ve been waiting for the dust of the New Year’s Resolutions to settle. I want people to know that the way we view food in our home is not a diet, nor is it a phase. This is our conviction-all of us-even the kids, and it all started with an apple.

About a year ago, I was admitted into the hospital for what seemed like a hernia, then turned into possible heart problems. After heart testing was negative, the doctors were puzzled. Their answer for my problem was that we were dealing with an unknown issue with an unknown solution. It was a horribly awful time that left me feeling hopeless and as if my body was deteriorating from the inside out. Prior to my hospital stay, I thought that I just needed a cleanse of some sort. So, I because eating more apples, which are filled with fiber. I tried the fad cleanses that are all over Pinterest, thinking I’d have the same amazing results that those happy girls posed in white had experienced. Now that I understand what was actually going on inside of my body, I realize that the apple is what caused my condition to worsen the most. 

Another time, I’ll explain just what happened to me more in depth, but for now I’d like to visit a story that we are all too familiar with. You know this story, I’m sure, but please read through it again.
The Beginning of Sin

3 The snake was the most clever of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. The snake spoke to the woman and said, “Woman, did God really tell you that you must not eat from any tree in the garden?”
2 The woman answered the snake, “No, we can eat fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But there is one tree we must not eat from. God told us, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden. You must not even touch that tree, or you will die.’”
4 But the snake said to the woman, “You will not die. 5 God knows that if you eat the fruit from that tree you will learn about good and evil, and then you will be like God!”
6 The woman could see that the tree was beautiful and the fruit looked so good to eat. She also liked the idea that it would make her wise. So she took some of the fruit from the tree and ate it. Her husband was there with her, so she gave him some of the fruit, and he ate it.
7 Then it was as if their eyes opened, and they saw things differently. They saw that they were naked. So they got some fig leaves, sewed them together, and wore them for clothes.
8 During the cool part of the day, the Lord God was walking in the garden. The man and the woman heard him, and they hid among the trees in the garden. 9 The Lord God called to the man and said, “Where are you?”
10 The man said, “I heard you walking in the garden, and I was afraid. I was naked, so I hid.”
11 God said to the man, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat fruit from that special tree? I told you not to eat from that tree!”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me gave me fruit from that tree. So I ate it.”
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What have you done?”
She said, “The snake tricked me, so I ate the fruit.”
14 So the Lord God said to the snake,
“You did this very bad thing,

    so bad things will happen to you.

It will be worse for you

    than for any other animal.

You must crawl on your belly

    and eat dust all the days of your life.

15 I will make you and the woman enemies to each other.

    Your children and her children will be enemies.

You will bite her child’s foot,

    but he will crush your head.”

16 Then God said to the woman,
“I will cause you to have much trouble

    when you are pregnant.

And when you give birth to children,

    you will have much pain.

You will want your husband very much,

    but he will rule over you.”

17 Then God said to the man,
“I commanded you not to eat from that tree.

    But you listened to your wife and ate from it.

So I will curse the ground because of you.

    You will have to work hard all your life for the food the ground produces.

18 The ground will grow thorns and weeds for you.

    And you will have to eat the plants that grow wild in the fields

19 You will work hard for your food,

    until your face is covered with sweat.

You will work hard until the day you die,

    and then you will become dust again.

I used dust to make you,

    and when you die, you will become dust again.”
You see? It all started with an apple. And temptation, and a conniving snake with a luring promise of something tasty and sweet. I look around the grocery stores nowadays, and all I see is the temptation to indulge in foods that are not good for the bodies that were created for us. Right there, in Genesis, we see that because of original sin, we have to work hard all our lives for the food the ground produces. We have to eat the plants that grow in the fields. But, all over the TV, in magazines, and social media are these “foods” that are “quick and easy” meals for the family. And then all around us are sick people. Our county has found ways to make tasty treats out of chemicals that take only seconds to produce and to create genetically modified crops  and animals that will grow at lightning speeds so that we don’t feel the burden of original sin. Did we really think that God was going to let us get away with that? Is that really something that we want to brag about? 

     I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have any part of this way of life. I’m convicted over my sin, and I want to continue to be convicted. I want to be cleansed from the inside out and to never feel in bondage to humanity’s way of fighting back against the consequences of sin. This life is not supposed to be easy. Food is not supposed to be simple. We’re supposed to work for it. And we’re supposed to beg God for the wisdom in making food that heals our bodies and nourishes our families. We’re supposed to lean on him for wisdom, guidance, and the energy to work and keep on working. It’s supposed to be hard, people, but with God’s help, it’s also supposed to be peaceful, healing, energizing, and abundant-life giving! 

   It’s been a year since the dietary changes began in our home. I’m so blessed to say that we’ve seen healing from sickness, joint pain,  muscle aches, headaches, digestive problems, skin rashes, mental illness, developmental delays, and autism. And, yes, we’ve also seen weight loss. Living life in this way has helped our family incredibly! I am up earlier in the mornings until late at night, and I feel constantly energized in between. I believe that this consistent energy comes from the food that I eat plus a hefty dose of blessing from God. Although I get made fun of and looked at strangely from time-to-time over this lifestyle, I believe in my heart that I am being obedient to God’s call to care for the body that He has given me and to spread the good news of healing through God’s creation, rather than man’s. 

If you’ve tried diets for weight loss and health reasons, and you feel like you just can’t win, I want to invite you to try and do things a little differently. Ask God to take it from an “I want-to” to a conviction. Ask Him to speak to your heart on what He wants for your body. He will do that. He wants us to live life abundantly! Not constantly on the couch, at the drive-thru window, in the doctor’s office, or on medications that cause a billion side-effects. I’m talking about life to the full! Real, true, abundant life-It’s real, and it’s attainable. And I want to walk you through getting there. So, if you haven’t already, subscribe to this blog, follow me on Facebook, and please share. Let’s get the word and the Word out there! How will the world know if no one tells them? 

This week, I want to challenge you. Buy an apple, and put it somewhere visible. Let that serve as a reminder for you to pray for God’s wisdom, conviction, and guidance over your nutrition. I’ll be praying for you all as well. 

Living Abundantly,

     Cathi

So this happened

December Daisy

 

God uses everyone.

My kids are homeschooled, so we like to get them out in the big, wide world whenever time permits so that they can socialize with other kids. Homeschooling has given our family so many opportunities that a traditional school’s schedule would never be able to permit. We get to explore our city and all that it has to offer all in the name of social skills and hands-on learning. Because of the booming film industry, we’ve gotten the chance to play various background roles in all sorts of movies and tv shows. It’s been an awesome hobby for my husband and me, as well as a great learning experience in work ethic and finances for the kids.

Recently, my oldest son acted in a scene for an upcoming Christmas movie. He played a big brother to a sweet girl, named *Daisy. The scene was simple, and you may not even see him when the movie shows in the theaters. However, Daisy’s mom and I got to watch their heart-warming connection over and over again as the production crew shot 7 hours worth of different angles for the scene. The Production Assistant had no idea that he was being the hands of Jesus when he paired those two together, but I will never forget what Daisy did for my son’s heart that day.

You see, Daisy was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Her development, both physically and mentally, is forever damaged due to her biological mother’s alcohol consumption during her pregnancy. Daisy requires more patience than a typical child her age as well as a dash of humility. These are both qualities that my son has been gifted with, but has lost sight of due to this wild year of life changes for our family. I thought that his nurturing spirit was lost forever, but God knew exactly how to reach my boy and reignite the passion within him. I watched as he tenderly wrapped his arm around Daisy to bring her back into the scene each time she got distracted. I saw the glimmer in his eyes when he smiled at her candycane jokes-a look that’s impossible for him to fake; no matter how many acting classes he’s taken. What I loved the most was how my son chose Daisy every single time after the Director yelled, “Cut!” He sat next to her, walked beside her, and played with her while the other kids horsed around.

I’m not saying all of this to brag about my child, although I’m pretty dang proud of the young man he is growing up to become. This is really to express my gratitude to Daisy’s mom. Thank you for letting your daughter’s light shine shamelessly; especially in the cinematic world of apparent perfection. Because of Daisy and all of the other Daisy’s of the world, we have opportunities to practice gentleness. If our lives were free of children and adults with special needs, how would we know tenderness? This world can be such a scary place, and from time-to-time, I fear for my boys’ futures. Then, there are warm December days when a tiny, bouncy girl steps onto the scene, and the Lord reminds me that His hands are bigger than my own. Once again, it is well with my soul.
* name changed for privacy reasons

    

So this happened

I lost my son

Few things make me panic these days.  After going through the medical fiasco that I did earlier this year plus the autism journey with our youngest, it’s like the Lord built up this super resilience inside of me. I became this unshakable mountain-ready to be used by God in massive ways. People have said that I do way too much, and at times they might be right, but God knows how to shut me down when it’s rest time. Whether I’m on the constant go or relaxing in an Epsom salt bath, I tend to feel the same peaceful presence of Christ-unshakable, immovable, peace…..

A couple of hours ago, though, I broke and shook. I rustled frantically through the junk drawer for a flashlight, any of our flashlights. The kids had just been using them for hide and seek in the dark a few hours earlier. I needed a flashlight-a good, bright one. The woods  behind the house are completely Pitch-black at night. All I found was my husband’s head light for his army helmet. From across the house, he ordered me to use that and go. I needed him to tell me what to do. The panic had me paralyzed-both in my body and mind. The only thing racing was my heart as I slipped on my oldest son’s sandals. They were the closest to the door, and I didn’t want to spend a single second longer in the house when I knew he wasn’t there. I started toward the tree line when I saw a car in the distance.
“Could he be in that car? I’m not taking any chances,” I thought to myself as I sprinted back toward the street.
“Did you see a 10-year-old boy over there, by the pool?” I shouted at the man.
“No,” he calmly replied. Why was he so calm? A child is missing at midnight! What was he doing down at the amenities area past closing? Did he have my child hidden somewhere?
“Did you have some business or reason to be down at the pool this late?” I questioned him, as if he was on trial.
“Ma’am, I live here,” he said with a little bass in his voice.
“I’m sure you do,” I darted back, completely unaware of how non-threatening I looked in my oversized button-down shirt and old maternity pants, from the donation pile. I grabbed them quickly just before I began my flashlight search. I pointed my headlight  into the man’s back windows,
“Cole! Are you there?”
The guy didn’t act nervous-just annoyed when he asked,  “Did you call the police?”

No, I didn’t call the police. He was probably sleep-walking in the woods. At least, that’s what I had been thinking until I saw his headlights pulling out in the distance. I waved the man off and went back to my first line of thinking-the woods. If he was sleep walking, he could have fallen into the creek. I didn’t remember him wearing a shirt, and it was so cold out. There are snakes in the woods, all kinds of random animals out there, and–“Oh no. Oh God, no. Oh, please, God, no.” I began to repeat as my rigorous walk turned into a run. The path behind our property line leads directly to a hunting ground. They’re not law-abiding citizens either. They’re the type who shoot at night.

Through the woods, I could see the lights from my husband’s car. He drove through the neighborhood looking, and had come back home. I was almost to the property line when I darted back toward the house. Maybe he found him. My neighbor was out searching the woods still, and he had the pond covered. Ireached the driveway, but my husband didn’t have my skinny little brown-eyed boy with him. He wasn’t there. He wasn’t found.

That was the moment. I can definitely pinpoint it to that one, right there. My panic overpowered every single cell and bone in my body. He had just bought his own tablet. What if he met someone on there? What if they took him? Where was he? What were they doing to him? “Oh, God, please, no.”

He never has his phone on him, in fact, it’s always dead. He’s 10. He never charges that thing, but I figured I’d try it anyway.

It rang once. Then twice. A third time. Then a fourth, and then “Hello? Mom?”

“Son? Where are you? Don’t move. Stay right there. I’m coming. Dad and I are coming to get you right now. Don’t you dare move! We’re coming right now!” I quickly begged my neighbor to stay at the house with our other boy, as I  peeled off the muddy sandals and slipped into the passenger seat of my husband’s car. The panic was still there. The shaking was at full force. I knew where he was, but he still wasn’t with me. I needed him with me.

His face was red from crying, and he walked slowly toward us in fear when we pulled up. He flinched and then hesitated when I threw open the car door and told him to get into the front seat with me. He thought he was in trouble, and he was right, but at that moment, I just needed him in my lap and in my arms. The panic was finally gone. My peace was back, and my breath slowly returned. He was lost, and then he was found.

Ironically, while airbrushing my makeup this morning, my son asked if I would paint his face to be like a black sheep. I laughed and did my best to make him look the part. Little did I know that he would actually end up being my lost sheep who was found in front of the doorway of our church a little after midnight. Why the church? What happened? I’m sure you’re wondering; the same way that I was. Through heavy tears, he said that he felt convicted and needed to be closer to God, so he went to the church.

The words that I chose as my reply felt more like God’s words to all of his children than simple motherly advice. I sighed and spoke softly when I said, “My son, the only reason you always feel him so strongly in there is because it’s usually full of so many other people who also have him in their hearts. The only thing about Jesus in that building tonight, however, was you. He’s in your heart, not in some magical building.

Few words were exchanged tonight. At the right time, we will deal with the appropriate action, but for right now, at 2am, both of our boys (plus both dogs) are in the bed with us. It’s a tight squeeze, but I love this backache. A sore back is so much better than a broken heart. Hug your babies. Teach them how to feel close to God by showing them that He’s always there-wherever you are. Even in the panic. He’s right there, right here, and so is my boy.

…sigh thank you, Jesus.