Never, Nor


As I slipped through the YMCA kids’ play area door, my relief about the end of the basketball season came to a crashing halt. Across the short hall, through the swarm of parents signing their kids in or out, I saw Chase’s crumpled, damp face. It was blotchy, his eyes swelled up and rimmed with the reddish pink of deep emotion.

When he was a toddler Chase struggled with separation anxiety, but at 6 years of age, he’s embraced independence with both grubby boy hands. This was especially true at the YMCA, where the boys love to run around and climb while I work out.

Cole and Chase had just played their final games of the basketball season and I was glad to be finished with Saturday morning YMCA trips. Chase’s games were at 9am followed by Cole’s game at 10. Toward the end of his brother’s game, Chase had become fidgety and asked to go to the kids’ play area. The game was close and Cole’s team was fighting valiantly to beat the only team who had beaten them, so I rushed Chase to the play area between the 3rd and 4th quarters.

After Cole’s game we’d gone to an outside courtyard and had a cupcake celebration, and Cole’s coach handed out trophies to the team. Most of the kids then left with their parents, but Cole and a few other boys started a game of tag. Chase had only been in the play area 20 minutes, so Trev and I chatted a few more minutes with the other parents.

It never dawned on me that attentive Chase would notice – through the glass in the kids’ play area – that some of Cole’s teammates were leaving the YMCA with their parents.

I rushed through the throng of bodies to Chase. Tears coursing down your child’s face steals a mom’s breath and constricts her heart. Chase is a solid, sturdy boy, and we frequently remind him that God made him strong, so he has to be gentle with others and with breakables. But I also knew the sensitive heart beating inside.

I wrapped my arms around him as he hiccupped and sniffed.

“I saw Cole’s teammates leave. I thought you l-left me.”

I sat on the bench, pulling him down with me. He wriggled onto my lap, filling it as full as my heart. He was starting 1st grade in a few days, and our social butterfly was excited to be back with friends. I found myself wishing there were perfect words to take away any thought of abandonment.

“Daddy and I would never, ever leave you.” I explained where we had been and asked if he’d like to play tag, too. He nodded, swiping at his nose, and I pulled out a tissue.

“I j-just thought you l-left me.”

“Never, honey. We would never leave you.”…Nor forsake you. Truth lit up my mind, words written across my heart from years ago.

“I will not leave you nor forsake you…do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

~ Joshua 1:5 & 9

One of the promises planted in me as a child – a small, powerfully potent seed of hope – was that God would always be with me. It wasn’t debatable or uncertain; it was Truth and unchanging. Through faith in Jesus Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit, our Creator indwells us and promises to never leaves us nor forsake us.

This truth doesn’t mean life is perfect and peaceful; instead, it means that through every good work and every trial, He strengthens us  – and we’re never alone through them…never left behind, forgotten, passed off, forsaken, tossed away, handed off, or traded in.

Never left behind, nor forsaken.

Resting my chin on Chase’s blond hair, I gave thanks for this reassurance throughout His word and for God’s unchanging, perfectly amazing grace.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” ~ Psalm 91:1 & 2 

Tall, Taller, Tallest

Cole and Chase’s school was having a uniform sale one afternoon, and I lingered around the long table browsing shorts, pants, and shirts. It was a great opportunity to purchase uniforms for next year more cheaply while helping the Junior class raise money.

As I reached for a pen in my purse I noticed Cole and Chase circling a lanky high school student dribbling a basketball. A couple other kids joined them, turning the walkway in front of the gymnasium into a mini-basketball court. Their youthful faces were lit with the sunshine of basketball delight.

Not Cole. His face was intent and serious, beads of sweat forming and tracing down his cheeks as he focused on the teenager’s adept movements. I glanced at my younger son. Chase had an ear-to-ear grin and was bouncing about like an Easter bunny after downing a bag of Dove chocolates.

The young man dribbling in and through the happy hive of younger kids was having fun and playing nicely, so I knew it wasn’t a case of Cole being treated unkindly. After handing over my check, I called the boys over. The teenager glanced my way, said something to Cole, and patted his back.

“Good job. See you tomorrow, Cole.” I couldn’t help noticing that my tall older son looked noticeably shorter when standing next to Mr. Tall Teenager, who had probably waved goodbye to 6 foot last year and was all arms, legs and pancake hands.

Cole. At 7 1/2, he struggles with certain details in life – realizations that come easily to Chase, but elude him in his wobbly quest for perfection. I pray daily about how to parent both children, about how to teach and model for Cole that he won’t be the best at everything and there’s always someone better than him, but that God made him just the way he’s supposed to be and he has lots of strengths.

We pray that Cole will be confident in who God created him to be without the burden of envy weighing on his growing bones.

A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones. ~ Proverbs 14:30

As the boys walked over, the Holy Spirit tweaked my soul, reminding that what’s truth for my children is truth for me as well. Were my bones rotting under the damaging weight of envy?

That morning I’d prayed Psalm 139:23 & 24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  As a networked writer, I see other writers’ success splashed across Facebook and writing blogs daily, pictures of their books on shelves and breakdowns of book sales and ebook rankings, and I cheer for them and pray for their success.

But – I admit – there are moments when I scrunch my face in want, feeling the bone-heavy envy that God’s word warns explicitly against. God’s word is truly “living and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit…a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12), and I felt the Lord convicting me of the ugly, damaging sin of envy.

“For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are.” ~ James 3:16

As the boys trotted over and we loaded up, I read frustration and disappointment on Cole’s face. I handed them their water bottles, cranked up the air, and turned around in my seat to look at my red-faced son.

“Who would win if I raced against Michael Phelps in the pool?”

“Maybe you mommy.” I tried not to snort, tucking that away for a future blog post about faith.  

“Not happening, honey. He’s an Olympic athlete who’s trained for hours, days, weeks, months, years. He has much more experience and I’d be left in his wake. The teenager playing basketball is like that.”

“He’s taller than me!”

“Cole, he’s 10 years older than you! He’s supposed to be taller than you. In 10 years you might be that tall and the roles will be reversed. You’ll play keepaway with the younger kids. Right now just practice and have fun, honey. Don’t compare yourself to a 17 year old.”

 Later I felt the Lord tapping my heart, reminding me that it doesn’t matter who’s tall, taller, or tallest. We’re each purposed for God’s glory. I’ve been called to write for Him and that includes cheering on other writers and their successes and trusting Him in this awesome, life-long process of letting His Word direct my words.

Don’t compare yourself to others or allow envy into your bones. You’re fearfully and wonderfully made by Him and for Him, and that’s the long and short of it.