It was the last FFF (Fun, Free Friday) of the summer. Here, one non-driving teen was needing a ride to the high school where the cross-country team was hoofing it over hill and dale. One non-driving 8-year-old needed his breakfast, and two oft-driving parents plotted logistics.
When the dust had settled, vehicles parked, the teen was at school, the driving mother was at the coffee shop and—oh, wait. Here came the driving father and his non-driving companion.
Sighing, I retrieved the writing notebook I’d forgotten. A pair of blue eyes looked up at me. “I didn’t get to sleep in today.” It was Little. “Instead, I ended up in Nappanee.”
“Me, either,” I thought. “And me, too.”
The McDonald’s bag he clutched in one small paw told me that a party was planned at an office down the block and that I shouldn’t come over too soon. Ah, summer.
According to the owner of the small paws and the breakfast-burrito-eating teeth, he wasn’t the only one who’d ended up in an unexpected place. It was back in July one morning as I sat outdoors that I heard him.
We’d been doing what we do for three weeks in the summer, that being the nightly plop-and-drop on the couch to follow the Tour de France. For days, we’d tracked the peloton’s progress, watched the yellow shirt change hands and gasped over spectacular pileups.
Dashing along cobblestone streets all alone as the sun shines bright is one thing. But dashing along teeth-rattling streets in the rain with a group of your peers, packed tight as a can of sardines, is another. One hiccup, a burp, a cough, or a sneeze, and, to quote the nursery rhyme, “We all fall down.” All of this makes great television, of course, and is beamed around the world to be played and replayed in slow motion.
Anyway, there I was, working away, when I heard a shout, “Mom, one of those riders just went past the house!”
I swallowed two whoops and a giggle, then texted his dad. Who texted back dryly from his office, “Boy, I’d say he took a wrong turn.”
Taking a wrong turn that landed you in corn country would be terribly disappointing for a cyclist in France with high hopes. But that’s minor compared to the U.S. Marine who took a wrong turn recently at the Mexico border and got himself arrested and beaten. As he learned, the ramp on the left did not head north to San Diego, and things went south from there. Oops. And ouch.
Life is often surprising like that. A hitch, a glitch, a change in your plans, and suddenly, to quote Little, “You’re in Nappanee.” Not sleeping in.
Speaking of surprises, Little got a big one at Parent Night two days before school began. We were tucking his supplies into his desk when consternation fell. “She’s right beside me!” he exclaimed, dismayed, one finger pointing at the desk next to his.
Sure enough. It was his nemesis from first grade. Not only had she followed him right into second, but she’d landed just beside him. Glancing at him, I noted that a small storm cloud had moved in, obscuring his dimpled grin.
“It will be okay,” I said calmly, recalling a snowy winter’s day and the bus that had delivered a young, indignant scholar to my door.
Slouching in, dejected, he’d spilled it. “I got in trouble today.” Snow caked his boots, a stocking cap sat low over his eyes, and distress lowered dark on his face. “She makes me laugh,” he said, “and then I get in trouble.” Pressured sigh. “I’m behind on my work. I have so much work!”
I nodded, listening. “She won’t stop bugging me.”
All of this came back in a flash, standing beside his desk. “It will be okay,” I said again.
I remembered what else I’d said last winter to my suffering, blue-eyed child. “When you get distracted or upset, talk to Jesus.”
We were driving along in the BMV (Blue Mommy Van), and the fellow behind my shoulder blades was listening. “Tell Him about it,” I’d said that day, “and this is what He’ll do. He will put His hand on your back, and He’ll help you to focus and not be distracted. Jesus will help you with His hand on your back.”
I don’t know what your great surprise, dismay, or frustration’s about. For Little, it’s a yucky, old “gurrul.” For the rest of us, it’s something else. We all know what it’s like when life tosses a curve ball, and all at once, “You’re in Nappanee, not sleeping in.”
No matter what yours is, what Mama told Little is true. When you’re upset, distracted, just pray. Tell Jesus what’s makin’ you mad, what’s stealin’ your peace, and He’ll help. He’ll come alongside ‘cause He’s a true friend, and He’ll put His hand on your back.
Ask Little if you doubt it. He’ll tell you it’s true because Jesus, his friend, has done it for him.