Thursday, March 31, 2011

Life, Art. Art, Life.

The most authentic art is affected by life; the most authentic life is affected by art.

But sometimes, life and art are believed to be mutually exclusive. Separate from one another. I've certainly been known to separate the two.

"I'll write after I've finished my to-do list, the practical things that I need to do today."

Or, the converse, "I need an escape from my life for a while. I need to stop thinking about all of this. It's time to create."

Mutually exclusive, they can be.

Still, if you ask a group of artists, most will say that their lives influence their art. Their deepest creativitiy is born out of an experience of grand proportion, on either end of an emotional spectrum. Strong emotion can evoke a creative response: a song, a painting, a poem, a photo - even a movie, a novel, or another major depiction. We encounter a profound experience, and we wish to portray it in a tangible form. Show this answer to someone else - or to the world.

But what happens when the opposite is true, when art influences life?

When Robb died, so little made sense to me. So much became so murky, so quickly. So much was unclear. My heart was broken, and my path was divided. Dreams fell shattered.

I could have chosen not to write. And I did take a bit of a break. I didn't know what to say; words eluded me.

But I'm a writer. I needed to write. If I were a painter, I would have gone to the canvas. If I were a song writer, I would have sat down at my piano. I am a writer, and I quickly found my keyboard.

Strong emotions sent me to create. To sort out. To depict something, anything.

And it has become a pillar of this journey, something I do every day: the discipline of creating. Through the intentional choice of sitting down, claiming the words, acknowledging the questions, and allowing room for no answers, my art has begun to influence my life.

Some have said to me, "The uniqueness of your writing is that you're in the middle of this. We're not reading about it many years later, after so many questions are answered, more benchmarks are clear, when we can see that you found what God had in mind all along. No, we're reading each day, through the gray and unclear. We're walking with you, even as you don't know where you're going."

I could have waited to chronicle this journey after it stops hurting, when the answers become clear, when it all makes sense. But without the discipline of my writing, perhaps it never would have.

Something is coming of this, something I may not have otherwise found.

I can't name it yet, by the way. I simply feel its roots digging deep. Perhaps this work will earn its title at the end.

I love the book of Psalms, largely written by David. Now, there was a man with a full plate: king, military leader, father, and husband to many, many, many. But he was also an artist: a poet, a wordsmith, a song writer. And through it all, he kept writing.

Sometimes his writing depicts answers and praise, and sometimes it shows a melodramatic, polarized heart. Some would venture to say that his writing that exists in the Bible is a small portion of what he actually wrote; perhaps he wrote volumes we never got to read. But he kept writing, even when his heart was wounded. Perhaps it was a discipline. And through the sorting of his heart, with the pen to the paper, something was born of that man after God's own heart.

Art. Life. Perhaps the two are so interwoven that they cannot be extricated.

The most authentic art is affected by life; the most authentic life is affected by art.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Airport Scene

Robb and I did not travel together often. Many times, sure - visiting out-of-state family, trips to Disney World, getaways of our own - but he traveled nearly every week on a business trip. This was travel of his own. Robb practiced efficiency as a hobby, and he had this routine down to a science.

"Check in the night before. Print off your boarding pass. Get to the airport at least two hours in advance; it's always better to have extra time than to be scrambling. All your liquids must be in one small ZipLoc bag - not the gallon size. They'll yell at you for the gallon size bag. Just the small ZipLoc. That's the rule. Have your boarding pass and your driver's license at the ready at all times. It makes the process faster, Tricia. It really does."

When I traveled alongside him, either to keep him company on a business trip (during our more carefree years) or when we escaped for a trip of our own, I always felt so inefficient and clumsy next to this man who had every step measured.

I never had my driver's license at the ready; it was always tucked away.

There was typically a wayward lip gloss that didn't make it into my small ZipLoc, and my carelessness added precious moments to the process. Oh, geez. Yes, by all means, search my bag. It's Revlon: "Shine City."

I was always busy chatting with the airport employees, who, quite frankly, seemed to appreciate my congeniality. One complimented me on my pink coat; another said I had a nice voice. (I wasn't sure what to do with that compliment.) Robb preferred to keep his head down and avoid eye contact. Socializing inhibits efficiency.

(This is one of the reasons God gave me to him: to brighten his days and help him meet people.)

Robb was patient with me. He even made sure I had a mocha to take on the plane. (Although the traveling-alone businessman saw no need for such frivolity. He splurged to make me smile; I always forever his greatest weakness.)

When I traveled alone a handful of times - for a career fair or a girls' getaway - he quizzed me as we drove to the airport.

"Tricia, I checked you in online last night. So which counter should you go to?"

"The one for people like me, whose husbands have checked them in, and who have just one great big fat suitcase to check."

"One big suitcase? How big, Tricia?"

"Less than 50 pounds, Robb. I promise."

"And did you pack all your liquids into one ZipLoc?"


"Lip gloss too?"


"You're sure?"


"You used the small bag, right?"

"Oh, um, oops. Nope. I used the gallon sized."

"Tricia! You can't use the big one! They'll yell at you! Tricia, I tried to help you. They're going to yell at you."

"Just kidding. I put it in the small bag."


He always loved my little jokes. Or I liked to think he did. I made him like them, with a constant barrage of them. Especially those which emphasized brevity, clarifying that I did in fact listen even if I didn't in fact take notes.

I'm traveling today, visiting my soul sister in Arkansas.

I ventured the entire path on my own, from check-in to departure. And the airport was crowded with memories of him, even though we rarely traveled together. His words filled my mind, waited around every corner.

I got here with plenty of time to spare.

All my liquids were in a small ZipLoc bag. Even the lip gloss.

I remembered to wear slip-on shoes for easy accessibility during the security process. (I would have lost a few bonus points for choosing shiny black heels as my traveling shoes. Sure, impractical. And I paid for it, as my raw toes are now wrapped in band aids. I'll give him that. Sassy class comes with a price, sometimes.) :)

I knew he would have been annoyed when it was time to slip off these said shiny shoes, to then realize I had no socks to wear on the airport floor. Oh, right. Yuck-o. He was right about that one. Note to self: sanitize feet. (That would have seriously creeped him out.)

I made it to my gate on time. I was even careful to find Gate B84 before I made my stop at Starbucks. Priorities: check.

I sat in the aisle seat, in honor of him: he loved a seat on the aisle. And I said hello to the person beside me, even if he wouldn't have. Because that's what I have always done.

I made it. I conquered the airport scene.

Thanks for the tips, babe. They were very, very helpful.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Proposal

Twelve years ago, Robb asked me to marry him. Twelve years ago, this weekend, actually.

Happy engagement anniversary to us.

Can I tell you how he asked me? Because I love this story.

Here's what happened first, five years before that.

The summer before I started high school, my dad chose an epic path to launch me into this next life stage: the stage of boyfriends, dating, values, priorities, and life decisions.

He took me out on a 'first date.'

We marked the calendar, I got a new outfit for the big event, and on the night of, my sweet dad left the house so he could then arrive and pick me up, his date for the evening. He rang the doorbell. He brought me flowers and candy. He really did. He started the evening right.

My dad made a reservation at the Riverfront Restaurant, and we sat at a table overlooking a waterfall. There was a balloon tied to my chair; there was a rose at my place setting.

Because that's my dad.

We spent an evening continuing the ongoing dialogue of my childhood: what is most important to you? Who do you know that you are? Let's talk about those things, remember what rests at your core, and take those pillars with you into your next life stage. He talked about the concepts of purity, of maintaining myself and my values for my husband.

And my dad gave me a ring. My promise ring. The gift forever symbolized this "first date," the reminders of who I know I am, what is most important to me, and the pillars of my values. I promised to wear it faithfully, to remind myself every day.

We finished the evening with a walk on the boardwalk, and my dad said, "I want you to remember this night. And anyone who takes you out on a date? Make sure he does this for you."

"Oh, Dad. No high school boys do stuff like this. They can't afford this restaurant, silly."

And his response was pretty defining: "Tricia, I don't care if he takes you to McDonald's and bowling. It's not about where you go. But he must treat you well. You are worth this."

Five years later, Robb entered my life. And in a whirlwind romance, he knew quickly that I was the one he wanted. He asked my dad for my hand in marriage, and he asked my dad to paint every detail of that "first date."

And then, Robb recreated the evening.

Same table, overlooking the waterfall. The exact same chair. A balloon was tied to my chair; a rose awaited me at my place setting.

And on our stroll on the boardwalk after dinner, Robb gave me a diamond ring. He knelt on one knee. He asked me to make him the happiest man in the world. He asked me to marry him.

I said yes. :)

He moved my promise ring to another finger, and he replaced it with his forever promise to me. I promised to wear it faithfully, to remember every day.

With his every action, he said, You are worth this.

Because that's the man I married.

(I love that story. And I really loved to hear him tell it.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Manna from Heaven

I find myself on a journey in the desert. A dry season, long and endless, prone to complaints, easy to get lost. With interest anew, I've begun to look into the book of Exodus, the story of when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert. A dry season. Long and endless. They were prone to complaints - loud ones. And it was easy for them to get lost.

They were hungry, angry with God, and looking for answers. Not the least of their concerns was something to eat. Please. Food.

Moses, an intercessor on behalf of the Israelites, presented their complaints to God. I sort of love how he says it... "They're complaining to me, God, but really they're grumbling against you. Could you show me what's next, perhaps show me how to encourage them?"

And God does.

"The Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day."

And the next day, after the morning dew was gone, there appeared thin flakes like frost on the ground. (I like to picture the ground covered with a fine layer of instant mashed potatoes.) :)

"And when the Israelites saw it, they said, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. And yet they baked what they wanted to bake; they boiled what they wanted to boil. It was just enough for that day, and anything they tried to save for the next day became spoiled over night."

Maggots. Smelly garbage. No saving this stuff, Israelites. Listen up. You have to start new. Every day.

Each morning, everyone gathered what they needed, and each afternoon, as the sun grew hot, it melted away. They had just enough for today, and God sustained them, one day at a time.

I have thought much about this. About the sustenance for just one day, how it could not last a second day. I have thought of this foreign stuff they had never known before, this something that satisfied their stomachs - and thereby their spirits.

Nancy Guthrie has written about this in The One Year Book of Hope, in which she is escorting me on a year's journey derived from her heart's path after the deaths of two of her children.

She writes,

"I'll never forget standing in my kitchen with my sister-in-law, Caroline, after Hope's memorial service. "How do you do this?" I asked her, wondering how I would get through that day and keep facing the days to come. Caroline knew what it was like to bury someone she loved. Before my brother came into her life, she had dealt with the devastating loss of her first husband when he was killed in a car accident two weeks after they got married. Her answer to my desperate question was simple: 'Manna.'

She explained that just as the children of Israel were dependent on God to provide manna to sustain them every day while they wandered in the wilderness, I had to depend on God to give me the manna I needed every day to sustain me as I grieved my loss."

Complementing Guthrie's writing, and yet with a grief-healed perspective all her own, I find Ann Voskamp's words in her book, One Thousand Gifts.

"When we find ourselves groping along, famished for more, we can choose. When we are despairing, we can choose to live as Israelites gathering manna. For forty long years, God's people daily eat manna - a substance whose name literally means, 'What is it?' Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they don't comprehend. They find soul-filling in the inexplicable.

They eat the mystery.

They eat the mystery.

And the mystery, which made no sense, is 'like wafers of honey' on the lips."

On my journey through this desert, he is feeding me each day. With just enough for that day. The strength I received this morning will not last through tomorrow; it may inform my tomorrow, but it will not carry me through. And while it makes little sense to me, while there is much that I do not comprehend, still I can feast on that which is baffling.

Somehow, this daily gift - that I do not understand, that I cannot name - is filling my soul. Somehow.

This is manna from heaven.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sacred Song

‎Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth lost their daughter in an accident that happened at their home. Just a few months later, their oldest daughter was married in the same place: at their home.

Their safest place held two extremes within one year: deepest heartache and harmonious joy.

"Yes, our home was the site where Maria was accidentally hit by a car and left this earth, but even though that all-consuming terrible thing had happened here, our home was also a place of powerful, happy memories. This was the place where God had met us time and time again; He had not been looking the other way [that day]. We missed Maria and our hearts were sad...but we also laughed with the most powerful sense of joy, the kind of joy that thrusts itself right up through sorrow. We knew that something powerful was happening in our home that day."

- Mary Beth Chapman, Choosing to SEE

I never would have thought I could live joyfully in a home where I had lost someone I love. In my worst nightmares, I couldn't have thought I could ever again find sleep in the bedroom where my husband died.

But somehow, somehow, I have. Somehow I do.

Laughter spills where tears have flowed.

The place sings with memories. And our home is far more sacred than I have ever imagined.

I laughed today. With my little boys. In our home.

This is a sacred song.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ninety Days

Three months. Ninety days.

Those are not an equal equation.

Ultimately, this whole journey is about one day at a time. One morning. One meal. One cup of coffee. One bedtime routine. One hour at a time. One more day completed.

It's about doing it again, starting over tomorrow.

Ninety times, so far.

Some days have felt endless, a gray cloud following me. Icy snow in my yard and in my spirit.

Some days have brought sunshine, unexpected rays that fell upon my face, my hair, my mind.

But as one day streamed into the next, somehow one month passed. And then two. And now three.

Ninety days passed slowly; three months escaped too fast.

How is it nearly April? Three months of life without Robb here. That's just a really long time, and since I don't know the mind or the timing of Christ, I can assume that these three months were only a drop in the bucket of how long I will do this without him.

I see signs of healing; my heart sings more often, and the days of despair no longer come in sequence. I cry less than I once did, but I am learning that this is sometimes because I have run dry. Sometimes I wish for the cleansing of tears, for the relief of a good cry.

It's strange to put myself to bed and think, "Wow. I didn't cry today," hand in hand with, "Man, I wish I had."

It's really one big dichotomy.

I feel oddly torn between wanting to fast forward to a safer, cleaner, sorted place where things make sense, and the alternate desire of wanting everything to slow down.

My mind can't recall his laugh as easily. I fear time will take it away.

Tyler turns four in a month. I have always loved birthdays, particularly my children's, but part of me wants him to stay three. He was three when Robb was here. I don't really want him to get older without his daddy here to watch.

Three months... too fast. I never wanted to say goodbye. And now goodbye seems further and further behind, drifting into 2010 now that one-fourth of 2011 has marched on, whether my heart kept up or not.

Ninety days have passed slowly; three months escaped too fast.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Discoveries

"Camels store water in their humps."

"Meat-eating dinosaurs eat other dinosaurs, and even their blood."

"Pluto is a dog at Disney World, and it's also a planet."

"Stars are red and yellow and blue, even though they look white in the sky."

"And also, Mommy, you never heared any of these things before."

(That's not a typo; it's Tyler vernacular. Not heard. " Heared.")

For a moment, I think to debate with him, to tell him that I too learned these things when I was his age (or older, if I'm honest), and believe it or not, sweet child, you have a smart mommy.

But wisdom says: Let him tell you. Just let him tell you his discovery.

And I do. "Tell me more, Tyler."

"Strawberries grow in springtime, Mommy."

"And ants don't have eyes, but they have antennae."

His facts and tidbits are endless. He is my fact finder, storing tiny snippets in his hands and his mind.

(His brother is a more of an explorer, digging in and figuring out how something works, and perhaps never saying it out loud. Simply storing his knowledge by the handful. Tyler wants to know how it sounds; Tucker wants to see it in action.)

As I look at the pages of my journal this morning, I've been thinking on my new discoveries.

God is patient with me.

We are more than conquerors. Healing is in your hands.

Nothing is gained through hurry. Nothing, nothing.

God is the anchor for my soul; I will not float away.

I am betrothed.

His promises are true, he means what he says, and he is in this moment with me. Here. Now. Slow down. Engage. Don't wish this season away. There is much fruit here. Taste and see.

And I write it all down, my version of Tyler's dinner conversation. I talk about what I'm learning, just as my three-year-old does. He tosses words around, says them every way he knows. I doodle in the margins, I play with the words, I let my pen dance around the page.

He and I are both learning. I listen to him, careful not to interrupt, ready to hear what has crossed his mind today. His learning is new to him, even if it isn't new information for me.

And suddenly, I realize: perhaps God delights in my discoveries, too. He knows he is patient, all knowing, present, hearing, constant, and mine. And as I discover these things -- sometimes for the first time, sometimes anew once more -- he lets me say it. He lets me tell him.

Even though it's not new to him.

God's not saying, "Right. I know. Who do you think wrote the book you found it in? Nice try, kiddo. Tell me something I don't know."

He listens and delights as I learn who he is.

Tonight at the dinner table, I'll say, "Hey, somebody tell me what you learned today. Go."

And tomorrow, over my cup of coffee, God will whisper the same thing to me. "What'd you learn today, daughter of mine?"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

In the Vows

My husband died so quickly, so suddenly. But that's okay. I signed up for that when I said, "Sure, honey, I'll marry you."

~ Carolyn Schmitt

The Fallen Comrade

A friend introduced me to this blog, How Can They Hear, written by Cody Whittaker, a missionary in Haiti. Cody and his wife have scene horrors of many kinds in the last many years: the shattering earthquake I watched from afar, but also a private grief of their own, as their four-year-old daughter died from cancer.

He wrote these words today, and they spoke my very heart.


The Fallen Comrade

Two men, who have grown up together as best friends, enlisted in the war together, stood together taking the pledge to serve their country at all costs, are now in the same fighting unit moving from bunker to bunker taking back enemy territory. As they move towards another bunker, amidst heavy fire, one of them is hit…and it appears to be fatal.

They reach the bunker, where the other friend is only able to hold his friend in his arms and comfort him as he dies. And that is exactly what happens. The friend that was hit says his last few words, “Don’t you worry buddy, we’re gonna win this war”, and then he dies.

The friend who is still living has but only a moment to hold his comrade’s fallen body, to weep, to scream, to cry out, but then he must let him go and move on. He must remember that he is still in a war. He must not forget that, though his comrade reached the furthest bunker that he would reach in taking back enemy territory, that he himself still had more bunkers to reach and more territory to capture. He must not forget about the pledge that he made to his country, a pledge to serve his country above ALL ELSE.

And so, he has a choice to make in that moment while in that bunker. If he stays there lamenting too long over his comrade and best friend, he will render himself ineffective in the fight. Other comrades will eventually suffer. He himself will be put in danger by remaining there because eventually the enemy will reach that bunker and overtake him. And most importantly, if he chooses to stay there in that bunker with his friend who is no longer living, rather than continue in the fight, he will be breaking the pledge that he made with his friend as they swore an oath that they would give their very all for their country.

And so, in that bunker, in those few moments, there is agony of soul that the man has never known. He doesn’t want to leave. He feels like leaving would be abandoning his best friend. But he knows that his best friend really would not be abandoned because his best friend is no longer living. But, nonetheless, he still feels that way. He hurts. He hurts more than ever. He can’t bear the thought of moving to the next bunker without his best friend there beside him. They fought together from the very beginning. And now he would have to go alone in the continuation of his fight. Sure, there are other comrades in his troop, but to him, he would feel all alone. In that moment, he feels lost. He wonders if there is really a reason for him to go on and continue fighting after he has just lost a person that meant the world to him. But deep down inside, he knows that there is still a greater purpose.

He wrestles. All within less than sixty seconds, he wrestles and agonizes. There is enemy fire still around him. The rest of the troop is saying that they need to advance to the next bunker. The war is not over. So, with great fear, yet also a strength and resolve that is beyond him, he lays his fallen friend down, picks up his rifle, and charges on. He has tears while charging, tears of both a great sadness in his heart, but also of a firm belief in the last words of his best friend. And he charges ahead saying to himself, and also to his fallen comrade who he can no longer see, “Don’t you worry buddy, we’re gonna win this war.”

And that’s my story these days. Oh how I sometimes want to stay in my lament over losing Susana. Sometimes, I don’t want to leave the bunker. The thought of going on without her scares me. But I know that there is still a battle that we are engaged in. And I, as the troop leader of my family, have other comrades that need me to lead them. I need God’s strength to do it. And God’s strength is exactly what I get. Sometimes, the thought of leaving the bunker with her behind causes me to feel like I am abandoning her. But when I feel that way, God’s grace and truth remind me of where she is. She is in the presence of the living God. She is in the best hands ever. She is not being abandoned. She is being embraced and loved more so than she ever has. But these are feelings that I am forced to wrestle with from day to day.

And so, amidst tears, both tears of sadness over missing my precious comrade as well as tears born from a great conviction of knowing the truth about our final destiny, I pick up my weapon, and I leave the bunker. I know that Susana is not left behind in that bunker. That bunker was simply her last place that she advanced to here on this earth. But she was raised from that earthly bunker and now is living at the never ending victory party. But I have more bunkers to advance to while I am here. I have made a pledge, by His grace that called me, to press on and worship Him all of my days and to share this incredible message of hope and truth with the world. And so, with tears, and with a faith that is not my own, I press on.

Don’t mistake me here. I weep still. I think about Susana every single day. My heart has pain. But, I am not crippled by any of those things. Those things, by His grace, have not rendered me ineffective. On the contrary, those things have given me a greater clarity of purpose to continue to press on. I want to run my race with a greater perseverance, for I know the incredible prize that awaits those who finish hard. And I know that my daughter is waiting for me at the finish line. I want to fight with a greater tenacity, for I know the plans of the enemy to kill and destroy. And I am more mad at sin than I have ever been because through sin this world became cursed with all kinds of pain, suffering, and disease. But I also know the vengeance that God will take upon my greatest enemy. And so I fight with a tenacity knowing that the day will certainly come when my enemy is completely defeated. And I know that the enemy wants me to be rendered ineffective by remaining too long in the bunker. I have heard of many stories personally of those who did get stuck in the bunker for too long. And they lost years. But I hear the voice of my Commander-in-Chief saying, “Press on.”


What beautiful words. So raw, so true. This genre of writing is new to me: I don't often use other people's words to convey my own, nor have I ever (and also not ever) depicted a war scene to describe my life. And yet, so many things have changed in the last several months. I am engaged in a daily battle, to stay in the game, to try again, to win. So perhaps a battle scene is truly the best metaphor. And if someone else's words portray my very heart, then thank you, Lord, for guiding me to his words.

"...If he stays there lamenting too long over his comrade and best friend, he will render himself ineffective in the fight."

"...there is agony of soul that the man has never known. He doesn’t want to leave. He feels like leaving would be abandoning his best friend. But he knows that his best friend really would not be abandoned because his best friend is no longer living. But, nonetheless, he still feels that way. He hurts. He hurts more than ever."

"...I am more mad at sin than I have ever been."

"...My heart has pain. But, I am not crippled by any of those things. Those things, by His grace, have not rendered me ineffective."

"...I, as the troop leader of my family, have other comrades that need me to lead them. I need God’s strength to do it. And God’s strength is exactly what I get."

"...And so, with tears, and with a faith that is not my own, I press on."

Robb is not left behind; he lives more fully than ever. And though my heart aches, I must lead the troops.

Now is the time to keep my oath.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Unexpected Text

Dink-dink. The text message alert on my phone.

It read: "New Inhaler for Tuck."

A reminder from my Google Calendar. Robb set up this important reminder four months ago.

It was just as if I had received a text directly from him.

In essence I had.

I nearly expected a second one to follow: "P.S. I Love You."

That's just like Robb: Still taking care of us.

I wept in my corner of Starbucks.

How I miss his voice.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Same Abba

"Mommy, I've decided I don't want to ask Jesus into my heart."

Quite a decision, voiced from Tyler sitting behind me in his carseat.

"Why, buddy?"

"Because I don't want to go to heaven. I just want to stay here with you."

I deeply love these glimpses into the minds of my children, even as they puzzle me. Heaven is more real to the three of us, since Daddy is there. But heaven is no more tangible to Tyler than it is to me. None of us can see beyond that door, to see Daddy's perfect, enviable life as a new creation.

And since Tyler can't wrap his mind around where and what heaven is, he would just rather stay here. With me. I'm tangible. I make sense. Little else does.

"Well, Tyler, that's a decision only you can make, and it's all up to you. But I sure hope you change your mind. Daddy asked Jesus into his heart, so he's in heaven now. I asked Jesus into my heart, so I'll go there someday too. I hope you decide to ask him, because I really want you to go to heaven, too. It's the most perfect, beautiful place."

"So, if I don't ask him into my heart, does that mean I'll be here all alone?" asks my social boy, my extrovert, who cries at bedtime because his bed is lonely, whose greatest delight at the playground is the new faces to meet.

"Well, no," I'm not really sure where to take this. Not really ready to talk with my three-year-old about fire and brimstone, about the opposite of heaven. Not ready to add to the things on his mind, and certainly never wanting to scare him into the gift of salvation. And so...what to say next?

"You won't be alone, Ty, but you'll be far away from God. And that's worse than being far away from Mommy and Daddy. Asking Jesus into your heart doesn't mean you'll go to heaven today. It just means that when it's time, when your life here is over, you'll go to heaven then. Like Daddy. I'm not going today, kiddo, but someday I will."

The backseat fell silent. He stared out the window, and moments later he began a riveting game of I Spy. Because this is the mind of a preschooler: flitting about, touching down just long enough to find home base. And then he takes flight once again.

But my mind lingers on his words, our conversation. His questions, my struggles to answer.

I worry sometimes that my children will resent God for what has happened so early in their childhood. That as they begin to truly feel this void, as they begin to lean into the questions of why, the meaning of will, the truth of sovereignty, their hearts may become hard.

I worry about this. It's easy to.

Their questions are many; my answers are few.

But then again, maybe it is not my job to provide all the answers. It is simply my job to be present, to show them what I know, to show them I have lots of questions too.

Ultimately, my children and I have the same Father. Yes, my dad is still alive, and he's quite the Poppa to my little guys. And to my daily sorrow, my boys don't have their daddy to laugh, wrestle, play with, and learn from.

But we have the same Abba. He loves them as he loves me.

And just as God has molded and shaped my heart, just as he has teaches me and continues to sharpen me each day, I must trust him to do the same for my children. Their hearts belong to him.

Their faith is theirs, and it belongs to God. My calling is high, my role is irreplaceable, but their hearts belong to him.

And so we wade this path, one question at a time.

Their anger, their questions, their wonderings, and their conclusions... I hand them all to God, the father of the fatherless, the defender of the helpless.

And I earnestly beg him to show me to what to say, as these conversations emerge on the drive to preschool.