Yesterday I edited a study written by one of the Christ to the World Contemporary youth team. The studies are scripted radio broadcasts discussing biblical topics and various portions of Scripture. Something Brad, one of the characters in the broadcast, said, really hit me. I thought of it again today at church. In the broadcast, Brad, one of the teen participants, said he was  still waiting for that person to come to his aid–someone to show they cared.

Today’s youth are often referred to as the love-less generation. This means there are an increasing number of young people who have never heard (or rarely hear) those imperative words, “I love you.” Right now, as I write this, someone is sitting in their room, alone, wondering if anyone cares. They don’t need a Bible verse shoved under their doorstep. They need someone to be Jesus to them. They need someone to demonstrate the love of Christ.

Jesus said they would know we were His disciples by our love. Or more accurately, by His love. And love is a verb, folks.

What About Now? (Because Tomorrow May Be Too Late)

Yavonne sits on her bed with her back pressed against the headboard and a pillow clutched to her chest. Her parents’ brutal words slice through her paper-thin walls, filling their house with hatred.  She grabs her Ipod sitting on her bedside table and slams the earplugs into her ears, cranking the volume until her brain vibrates. Tears lodge in her throat, but she swallows them down.

A razor blade tucked inside her nightstand drawer beckons her. The scars forever etched in her arm pale compared to the deep wounds encasing her heart. One of these days, she’ll cut deep enough to end it all.

Would anyone care? Would anyone even notice? The words spoken by a neighbor a few months back flood her mind, playing tug-of-war with her heart.

“God loves you. He’ll never leave you nor forsake you. He sees you.”

She snorts and yanks up her sleeve, exposing ugly pink scars. Yeah, he sees her all right. All of her. Why would he care about her or her family?  

“God loves you. He’ll never leave you nor forsake you. He sees you.”

What a laugh. If that’s true, then where is he now?

Yavonne holds her breath, her heart quickening, as she waited for a response.

The steel guitar grates against her ear drum.

Yeah, that’s what she thought. What does it matter, anyway? You live and die, then turn to worm food.

So why not speed the process along a big? Shorten the dash on the headboard?

***

Rachel sifts through her container of beads, laying the yellows and orange on the table. Soft praise music drifts from the kitchen, muting her parents’ chattering voices. She smiles and resumes her beading.

The words of this morning’s sermon fill her head.

“You’ve been given a precious gift. Now you need to share it. God wants to loves the world—through you. Right now, as you sit her surrounded by His love, someone is hurting. Right now someone is calling out to God, asking Him if He truly cares. The question is, will you allow Him to love His broken children through you, or will you turn and walk away.”

An image of Yavonne, her neighbor, lingers in her mind—the dark, almost hollow eyes, centered on the ground. Her shoulders, hunched forward. Her face hardened by anger and bitterness.

Rachel shakes her head. Yavonne isn’t interested in Jesus. Yavonne isn’t interested in anything.

“Will you share His love with a hurting world?”

She rests her hand on the table as the question posed by her pastor nibbles at her heart.

But of course she will. She does all the time. Last week she’d spent ten hours helping with Vacation Bible School. That’s sharing God’s love, right? And next Wednesday she plans to join the youth at the local women’s shelter.

And yet, despite her rationale, peace evades her as the questions continued to rise.

“What about now? Will you be there for my child now?”

Her mother walks into the kitchen clutching a basket of laundry. “What’s wrong, sweetie? You like you’re about to swallow a lemon.”

If only it were that easy.

Rachel rubs a bead between her index finger and thumb. “I’m not sure why, but I feel like God wants me to go talk to Yavonne.”

 “Then you should go.”

“I don’t know…. Maybe I should pray about it.”

“Or maybe you should obey.”

Rachel sighs and pushed up from the table, her stomach flip-flopping.

Her mother smiles. “I’ll be praying for you.”

***

Yavonne’s hand trembles as she holds the thin razor blade against her clammy skin. Her veins form a faint blue webbing through her wrist.

Just do it, you coward. One slice and it’ll be all over. One cut—long, deep and quick. She closes her eyes and grits her teeth—

A loud knock shakes her door. “Yavonne!”

Yavonne’s breathe catches in her throat. She shoves the razor under her pillow, her gaze locked on the jiggling door knob in front of her.

“Yavonne! How many times do I have to tell you not to lock your door?”

As if her father really cares.

“Someone’s here to see you.”

She wipes her sweaty palms on her pant legs, smoothes her hair from her face, and stands on numb legs.

“Coming.”

The stench of alcohol and stale cigarettes assault her when she swings the door open. Her father stands in the hall wearing faded jean shorts and a sweat-stained tank-top. Her mother lounges on a couch a few feet away watching television and gulping beer.

 “That girl from next door’s here.”  He swipes his nose with the back of his hand. “Said something about beads.”

Yavonne angles her head, staring into the living room where Rachel stands with a stiff smile on her face.  Her smile twitches as Yavonne approaches.

“Hey.”

“Hey….I…uh….” Rachel chews on her bottom lip, scanning the cluttered living room.

Heat rushes up Yavonne’s neck, settling into Yavonne’s cheeks as she follows Rachel’s gaze. Empty beer bottles clutter the coffee table and dark stains splatter the carpet. An overflowing bag of trash lies on the linoleum floor, flies buzzing around it.

“So…. Do you like to make jewelry?”

Yavonne snorts. “Do I what?”

The girl wrings her intertwined hands, staring from the floor to Yavonne’s face then back to the floor again. “I wondered if….” She swallows. “I mean, uh…you wanna come over for a minute?”

Yavonne studies Rachel for a moment, searching for the hidden joke. When none surfaces, she nodded. “I guess so. Sure beats sitting around here all day.”

I hope today’s post by Kiersti Plog brings you into a restful and prayerful weekend. I often talk about moment-by-moment surrender. That’s different than scheduled obedience. One follows a list of rules, turning religion into a ritual. The other follows the risen Savior, drawing to His side with ears open and a heart driven by love and ready to obey. It’s easier to follow the to-do list, and if the two-do list centers around religious activity, it’s easy to feel righteous by our actions. But God didn’t say “Come perform.” He said, “Follow me. Take my yoke upon you. Abide in Me. Draw near to Me. Let Me permeate every part of your being, speaking to you gently, like a dear friend and ever-faithful father.”

Be Still by Kiersti Plog

As I write this, quiet rests over our patio. A bird twittered above my head at first, but now I think he has moved to a more distant treetop. The neighbors’ air conditioner hums. Leaves rustle in a faint summer breeze.

I came out here to write an entirely different post. But when I sat down and even typed the title, I sensed the Lord whispering to my heart through the little bird’s song. Be still. Listen. Only I didn’t listen. I wanted to get my post done. I went inside for a pair of earphones, so I could hear music that might inspire me for the post I wanted to write. While inside, I realized I should fix my grandmother a snack. As I peeled and sliced our homegrown peaches for her, my heart relented. Okay, Lord. I’m sorry. I’ll listen.

I came back outside with my own teacup of peaches, milk, and cream. I sat back down. And I began to write, this time trying to listen to the Lord as I did.

It’s challenging, in this world of Facebook and iPhones, of deadlines and crammed schedules, to be still. To listen. Life has been hectic for our family lately, between Seussical rehearsals, set-painting and the multitude of details that must be organized in preparation for the show’s opening this week, on top of the day-to-day tasks and grandma-care and emails that must still happen somehow. Many a night I stay up typing past midnight, since it is hard to fit much novel-writing into daylight hours right now. I know others’ lives are just as busy with their own plethora of duties, joys, and responsibilities the Lord has given them. Good things, many of these. But it is often hard to remember to stop long enough to be still and know that He is God.

I’m reminded, though, of the devotional my mom led for our cast before rehearsal yesterday. The name of our theater company is Showlights, and at the beginning of this school year my mom gave each student a glow-in-the-dark star. She explained they must let the star sit under a bright light for a while before it could shine in the darkness. Yesterday, she brought the star box out again and passed it around once more, as many of our cast members are newer to the group and had not received one. And she reminded them that, just like these stars, we cannot shine the light of Jesus unless we take time to soak in His presence, His light. My mom encouraged each of our young actors to take time this week, in spite of the busyness, to spend time with Jesus, to absorb Him, so that we might truly “show light” to our audiences as our show opens this weekend. My own heart was touched as I listened to her words and the children’s prayers.

Often, the Lord has to remind me that,

“In returning and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15, literal translation)

I don’t want the ending of the verse to be true of me: “But you were not willing.”

I’m thankful He helped me to be willing today. And hopefully someday soon, I’ll get that other post written. ☺

May you know His rest this Friday.

Kiersti Plog,a writer and tutor in southern California, holds a life-long love for history and historical fiction. She has been published in Grit, Clubhouse Jr., and two newspapers and was also a staff writer for the Global Xpress Kids Club magazine for over two years. She is currently working on a historical novel set at a Navajo mission boarding school in 1911, a story inspired by living in northwest New Mexico for five years.

Kiersti holds a B.A. in English with a writing emphasis from Azusa Pacific University and has also completed the “Writing for Children and Teenagers” course with the Institute of Children’s Literature. She has been a writing consultant at Azusa Pacific University and Pasadena City College, as well as a private tutor. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and loves learning and growing with other writers penning God’s story into theirs.

 

On Monday during our church’s Vacation Bible School, I taught children the account of the Exodus. We began with Joseph, continuing to the Hebrew’s slavery. After contrasting what life was like for the Hebrews and Egyptians, I asked the children which people group they’d rather be. Seeing only part of the story, they shouted, “The Egyptians!” But once they saw how God rose up in the Israelites’ defense, leading them out of Egypt with a mighty hand, they changed their minds.

Today’s post touches on a similar truth. As humans it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. It’s easy to allow the day-to-day frustrations, concerns, and fears wear us down, but we must always remember, God knows the end of the story–because He wrote it. And He loves us with an incomprehensible love. There’s a phrase in a song I like. It says, “With a strength like no other and a heart of a Father.” God is strong enough to overcome any barrier or difficulty we may face and everything He does is motivated by love. Remembering that makes it easier to move forward in confidence and obedience.

Romans 8:28 by Connie Almony

            Do you ever have those days (or weeks … or years) when everything seems to go wrong and you wonder, “Where is God in all this? Didn’t He hear me praying for things to go well?” Well, we just had one of those days.

            My husband’s shoulder surgery had been scheduled for weeks, and I had planned to be at the hospital with both my kids during the entire process, as the doctor had instructed I be. So when my daughter woke up “tossing her cookies,” I panicked. What was I going to do with my sick child when I was required to be at the hospital? It looked like we’d have to reschedule the surgery, and rearrange our work calendars to satisfy both the surgery and the recovery time.

            My daughter’s penitent gaze grabbed me between pleading phone calls to friends and family to come watch her. “Mom, I’m so sorry I’m sick.” I hugged her and reminded her it wasn’t her fault. It just happened. It was on the tip of my tongue to say this was God’s doing, but I didn’t have the time to explain God’s ways to her between rejections for help from the people I’d been calling all morning long. This seemed to be the one day no one had free.

            My husband, resigned to the fact he’d have to call the surgery center and reschedule, dialed the number. That phone call yielded two important pieces of information. First, I did not actually need to be there for the duration of the surgery, as we were originally told. And, second, when confirming the details, they informed my husband, for the first time, that his surgery had been moved up by two hours … meaning we had to grab our stuff, including a Ziplock container for my daughter—just in case—and run my husband to the hospital and drop him off.

            God is good … even in sickness. I was able to tell my daughter this week that her being sick at that moment turned out to be a blessing. In fact, she felt perfectly fine the rest of the day. But had she not been sick that morning, my husband would never have called the hospital and he’d never have known about the reschedule until it was too late. Just a reminder for me to trust Him in all things.

            … Now if He would only do something about the recovering male body with its arm in a sling that is taking up the living room couch, holding the remote control hostage. Well God?

            Connie Almony’s experience includes working as a Christian Counselor in Columbia, Maryland. She was recently inspired to write a full-length novel by her ten-year old, aspiring-author, daughter.

            Visit Connie at http://livingthebodyofchrist.blogspot.com/ and http://infinitecharacters.com.

As you start your busy week, let’s not get so busy we neglect to notice and enjoy the little blessings God has sprinkled throughout our day. Be alert to His presence and His call on your heart, whether He uses a flower, the soft chirping of a bird, or a lazily drifting cloud to still your heart and draw you closer.

Today’s post is from author Kathy Harris.

Wild Roses by Kathy Harris

It was Gospel music week in Nashville and, as usual, I couldn’t find a parking place in front of the convention center. I circled around the block, finally pulling into a spot four or five blocks away. With a single quarter to feed the meter, I would have to walk quickly to return before it reverted to red.

With each step, my high-heeled sandals reminded me of the uphill walk to the convention center and the thought that I should have changed into my walking shoes before leaving the car. But the warm, spring weather and the chance to “people watch” soon took my mind off any discomfort.

I have participated in Gospel Music Association week for several decades, and it always amazes me how things have changed since the early years. Christians of all ages, shapes, and colors now converge on Nashville for the annual GMA convention and Dove Awards.* What used to be almost exclusively a Southern gospel music event has evolved to include Christian contemporary, Christian rock, black gospel, praise music, and even holy hip hop. It lifted my spirit and diminished my climb to see the different people God was using to bring seekers into His fold.

Once inside the lobby of the convention center, it took only a few minutes to pick up the Dove Award tickets I had come for. The young girl at the counter smiled and wished me a nice day.

“It’s all downhill now,” I said.

As I rounded the corner of the building on my way back to the car, I saw a beautiful planting of “wild” roses, something I hadn’t noticed on my climb. I stopped to smell them, and the fragrance was heavenly.

Strolling back down the hill, I thought about how often we struggle without taking the time to enjoy the beauty God has put in our path, especially when we are climbing. That beauty is often planted by others. Wild roses certainly don’t grow in the midst of concrete unless someone makes a special effort.

I was heartened that day by someone’s special effort—and the thought that once in a while we can coast downhill, at least for a while.

 I hope you find “wild roses” today. And, if you can, I hope you plant a few. 

~ Kathy Harris is an author by way of a Divine Detour into the Nashville entertainment industry. She regularly hosts music and literary guests on her blog at www.DivineDetour.com.

*As of 2011, the Dove Awards were moved to the City of Atlanta. I’ll miss my annual trek up the hill to the convention center.

Today as I preview Cheri Horgan’s story, tears blur my vision. All children truly want is to be loved. They need to be protected. I praise God for bringing Cheri to Himself and wrapping His protective arms around her. I pray that He will do the same for the countless children without homes in El Salvador, Peru, Uruguay, Uganda, Haitii. And even more, I pray His church would step up and be His hands and feet. That they would see these hurting children not as someone else’s problem, but as God’s precious children in need of love. Cheri’s grandfather fought for her. God wants us to fight for His children. (Although not with a gun, please. grin.)

As you read Cheri’s story below, notice the change that came once her grandfather turned to God. Sharing the gospel is more than helping others find the ladder into heaven. It’s helping them find the abundant life God promised.

Grandfather Fought For Me, by Cheri Horgan (writing as J.J. Jenkins)

When my mother found out she was pregnant, I already had a brother and sister waiting for me who were just steps apart in age. My father and mother fought constantly and both were seriously drug and alcohol dependant. Until the day he died, my father insisted he wasn’t my father (or father to my siblings). My mother reigned as the black sheep in her family and had left home at age 14. From the time I was born, I heard the hateful rejection they felt for me and the violence that came with my name. In the hospital, at a time most parents should be cuddling their new baby girl, my father fought with my mother to sign the adoption papers and let the couple he had brought adopt me. She refused, not out of love, but to make him angry. Once the doctor released her, she dropped me off with a babysitter and headed to the bar. My sister and brother were already being placed with a couple from the church. The babysitter rented a small house from my grandparents, on the same property.

Each day when my grandmother got off work she came to check on me. It came as no surprise when my grandmother fought the babysitters adoption process and took me into her arms. She quit her job and never left me with a babysitter again. My grandfather would later tell me repeatedly that Grandma was going through the change of life, and was deeply depressed until God brought me into her arms and gave her a new reason to live. He said she would have never made it without me. But that is not the act of Love that I want to tell you about.

When I was about 4 years old my mother reappeared and wanted to take me home with her. She had remarried and according to her, my grandparents had promised she could have me back when she got back on her feet. My mother rarely came to visit, so even as young as I was I knew something was up. The truth was she was jealous of all the love and attention I was getting, and she thought that should have been her as a little girl in Grandpa’s arms. She grabbed me and ran for the door, but my grandfather stopped her before she could reach the door. He pulled a 30.06 out of the closet and aimed it directly at her! I remember the screams and the tears, and all of the yelling…but it would be years later before the full impact would sink in.

My mother said it was the only time she ever saw her father cry. My Grandmother said it broke his heart to have to do what he had to do…my mother had always been a daddy’s girl. My grandfather looked my mother in the eye and told her that he loved her, but if she tried to take me away from my grandmother he would have to shoot her and spend the rest of his life in prison before he would let her do it. I remember the room going quiet. Grandma whimpered and then begged him not to do this. My mother kissed me on the forehead and left. Grandpa would later tell me he had never hurt so deeply, but he couldn’t let me go.

My grandpa gave up drinking after that and never missed church if he didn’t have to work. He became active in the men’s ministries, and every morning I would find Grandma and Grandpa sitting at the kitchen table, having their morning coffee and reading their devotions. He showed me unconditional love in human form, and always forgave me when I did wrong. Even when I was a hippie sowing my wild seeds, he loved me and always had a place for me. Grandpa would have given his life that night to keep me safe. He knew my mother had been drinking and he also knew the man she was with was worthless. He always wanted the best for me. He was willing to give up everything…for a spoiled, homely, little girl who talked too much.

My grandparents were the greatest parents ever, and I owe it all to God.
 
As a side note, my mother is still on drugs and is an alcoholic even today at the age of 78. She has left my brothers and sisters so scarred with memories of her abuse. My oldest sister told me recently how she used to pray that God would give her someone to love her like he did me when I got to go live with Grandma and Grandpa. I miss my grandparents so much, but I know they will be waiting when that time comes to cross over to the other side.
 
When I think of love, they are the first image in my mind.

***

So what can you do? Today I ask you to pray for the young women in the Remar orphanage in El Salvador. Pray that they will know God’s presence. Pray that God will heal those deep wounds no child should experience. Then spend a moment asking God what He would have you do. This month the El Salvador mission team from our church is writing letters to the girls we connected with on our trip. We are creating and maintaining a relationship with them so they will know they do matter and we do care. On those nights when they lie awake in their beds, feeling utterly alone and wishing they had a mom or dad to tuck them in, it is my prayer that they will read the letters of love we send and know that they are not alone. (For my subscribers that go to Northland, if you want to join us, find me this Sunday.)

I imagine you can do the same. If you’d like to start an orphan penpal mission in your church, Bible study, or homeschool group, contact me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.

Cheri Horgan is a single mother, and grandmother who finds everyday is a learning experience in the course of life God is teaching. She will be the one shouting as she slide through the pearly gates with her hands held high, “Wooo-Hooo! What a ride!” She has lived in many states across the country, from California to Delaware, and has learned to laugh at the trials and expect the miracles in situations out of her control. She believes she has been called to encourage, and has made many new friends as she holds their arms to the Heavens in prayer.  
 
God has blessed her with some amazing experiences from being the first extreme makeover on daytime television on the Leeza Show, to being homeless and living in a shelter in Harrisburg, Pa. She has worked as a taste tester for Hershey Foods, a travel agent, and an aide who visits with the elderly in nursing homes (recording their memories), among other things. She loves learning about people, and listening to the stories they tell. Her son tells me he is thankful they struggled to get by, because it makes him appreciate what they do have. She wants to enjoy life to the fullest, experience God to the highest, and learn to trust to the point of no fear. She believe in miracles, forgiveness, and prayer.

Visit her website to find out more about her and visit her review site to read about some great books!

And before you leave, watch this video and listen to the heart of our Father.

Lately God’s been opening my eyes to the plight of many of His precious children around the world. In my human nature, it’s easy to focus entirely on their outward needs–food, shelter, and lots of hugs–that I forget about their spiritual need. But you know that saying about teaching a man to fish? Give a child Jesus and you give them hope for new life. Abundant life. Transformed life. Salvation is much more than a ticket into heaven. It’s having a constant, ever-faithful companion strong enough to carry you through any storm. It’s having the ultimate physician and counselor residing inside you, soothing and healing deep wounds. It’s knowing you belong, not because of anything you’ve done or might do, but because of what’s been done for you.

Today my dear friend, April Gardner, author of Wounded Spirits and Senior Editor of Clash of the Titles, shares a moment when she caught a glimpse of God’s forever love for His children.

Sitting in the Lifeboat Surrounded by the Drowning, by April Gardner

Several summers ago, I took a missions trip to Romania with a team from my church. We went to conduct a Vacation Bible School in a local church for the children in the city of Oradea. Several days before VBS kicked off, we visited a massive city park where hundreds of poverty-stricken children played. 

The heat that day was overwhelming but more so was the country’s need for a Savior.  As we passed out fliers for the upcoming event, I began to realize how few fliers we had to distribute. The stack in my hand dwindled quickly as one child after another took their copy and ran with the exciting news to their parents. When only one blue paper remained, I scanned the park looking for who I might give it to. Children scampered all about me, hollering and laughing, oblivious to their need.
 
I felt myself in a lifeboat, surrounded by drowning people, but with only one life-preserver in my hand. How to choose? God loved them all, but which would He have me give this one paper to?
 
The truth that God drove home to me in that moment was this–There is a mighty big world out there in need, but I can’t reach them all. God’s given each of us a stack, and He expects us to do something with it. All we have to do is obey, passing out one paper at a time. 
 
The rest is up to Him. Aren’t you glad?
 
A military spouse, April has performed the art of homemaking all over the world. Currently, she lives in Georgia with her children, while her husband serves a tour in the Middle East.  In her free time, April enjoys reading, gardening, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian. She is the best-selling author of Wounded Spirits. Contact April: aprilgardnerwrites (at) gmail (dot) com and visit her website to find out more about her and her writing.

The following is a true story, and one I’ll always hold close to my heart because it shows the tender heart of our Heavenly Father. There is so much tragedy in our world, surely God’s got bigger things to worry about then little old us and our day-to-day struggles…But no, no struggle is to small. This is something that will always amaze me. As a mom, it can be easy to view many of my daughters issues as trivial. Luckily God never has this problem. He’s able to see the big and the small, and is intimately involved in it all…because He loves us deeply. The Bible tells us His thoughts toward us are like the grains of sand on the seashore. Meaning, we’re always on His mind.

That’s a sobering, and comforting thought. Right at this moment, the Creator of the universe who set the world in motion, is thinking about you, watching you with love.

           Two years ago, our daughter asked for braces. After years of “bunny-rabbit-teeth” as she liked to call it, she wanted to feel pretty. She wanted her upper and bottom jaw to meet when she closed her mouth, although I’m not sure if she knew how much metal it would take to make that happen.

        After a few consultations, I made an appointment with a local orthodontist, and an hour and half later, we walked out, my daughter’s mouth filled with more metal than a recycling plant. Besides the normal brackets and wires, she had an additional jaw-moving contraption cemented to her teeth. The dentist warned us the pain would be intense as her bottom jaw moved forward.

       The following day, my daughter and I crawled into our van as the first rays of the sun began to poke over the Kansas City horizon.  If all went according to plan, we wouldn’t climb back out until the sun retreated. But what was twelve hundred miles? We were heading to Disneyland for spring break, and my husband was going to meet us there.

        I left prepared, or so I thought, with hot rags wrapped in plastic bags to soothe her tense jaw muscles during the drive and plenty of fortified drinks, yogurt and bananas. After a night of tossing and turning from teeth pain, I hoped my daughter would sleep through most of the drive.

       No such luck.

       “Mom, my teeth hurt,” she said the moment I started the van.

       “I know, honey.” I glanced at the clock on the dash. It’d been four hours since she’d taken Tylenol.

        I offered a quick prayer on her behalf, reached into my purse, fished around for the bottles, and pulled out the Motrin. In two hours, I could give her another dose of Tylenol. Not that I liked the idea of pumping my child full of pain medication, but it was better than the alternative. And the dentist had encouraged it, especially for these first few days after her orthodontist appointment.

      Of course, it didn’t help that she’d taken a face plant in school the previous day, swelling her lips and pressing her newly attached brackets into her cheeks. 

      My daughter closed her eyes as she swallowed the Motrin, her face scrunched in pain, and her head pressed against the seat rest.  In  five long minutes, the medicine would kick in.

     “Do you want me a warm dishrag? I heated them in the microwave before we left.” I reached for the bag of rags wrapped in plastic bags beside me, hoping they were still warm. “Dr. Lester said it’d help soothe your jaw muscles.”

      My daughter nodded without opening her eyes and reached her hand out. She pressed the hot rag to her jaw. I relaxed as I watched the creases of pain lesson on her forehead. A moment later, she curled against the passenger door and fell asleep.

       In two hours, the medicine wore off and she woke up in agony. I quickly reached into my purse and pulled out the second bottle stashed inside and handed her two Tylenol.

       I grabbed the rag wrapped in a plastic bag. It was cold. Rolling down the windows, I cranked the heat and held the rag against the vent while my daughter whimpered beside me.

        It wasn’t hard to imagine what it would be like to have twenty-eight teeth and your entire jaw pulsating.

       Ten minutes later my daughter said, “I’m hungry.”

       I grabbed a container of fortified juice knowing anything else would re-ignite her pain. This quenched her hunger for about thirty-minutes, causing her blood sugar to sky before crashing and burning. By noon, she was famished.

       I glanced at the signs along the freeway. McDonalds, KFC, Wendy’s. The deep-fried, extra crunchy fast food wouldn’t do.

      “Do you want ice-cream?”

            My daughter’s face puckered. Apparently she’d had all the sugar she could stand for one day. “I want soup.”

            I glanced at the freeway signs again. The next exit didn’t look promising. “Honey, I’ll try, but I don’t think we’ll be able to find any.”

            She moaned.

            “Let’s pray.” I grabbed her hand and she closed her eyes. “Dear Father, please bring *** comfort today. Watch over her and hold her tightly in Your arms.”

            Twenty minutes later, after weaving our way through a town with enough fast food restaurants to single-handedly carry the American obesity rate, we pulled into a diner parking lot and scampered out of the van. My daughter practically skipped her way to the front door. I could’ve laughed at her excitement—all for a bowl of soup. Who would have thought?

            I glanced at my watch. With five more hours of driving still to do, I didn’t want to waste any of it sitting in a small town diner. “Let’s see if we can get it to go.”

            My daughter nodded and followed me to the cash register and the twenty-something cashier standing behind it.

            “Can I help you?” The girl flung her jet-black hair over her shoulder and nibbled on a pinky nail.

            “We’d like to make a to-go order.” I grabbed two menus and handed one to my daughter. “What kind of soup do you have?”

            “Jalepeno’ cheddar and Tortilla-Bean.”

            My daughter gave the typical shoulder-slumping, over-dramatic teenage sigh.

            I scoured the menu again. Everything else was either deep-fried or chewy.

            I turned to my daughter. “Can you at least try it?”

            “I guess.” Another exaggerated sigh.

            And so went the rest of our trip. The pain medication helped a little. The heated rags worked intermittently, even if the hot air pouring from the vents burned our eyes and faces and made our skin itch with sweat. And that bowl of soup that we’d scoured the countryside to find? It filled her stomach for a about an hour and a half, leaving her even more hungry than before. But by then we were in no-man’s land, halfway between a tree and an electric pole.

            My daughter pulled her legs to her chest and rested her swollen jaw on her knees. “I know this sounds funny, but I’m craving tomato soup.”

            “Yeah, that does sound funny. You hate tomato soup.”

            My daughter shrugged. “Yeah, but I’m craving it. Maybe my body needs more nutrients or something.”

            “Honey, there’s no way I can find you tomato soup right now.”

           Okay, so you’re probably thinking this is a petty request. Certainly not one worth bothering God for, right? But when it’s your child who’s suffering, every tear shed breaks your heart. So I did the only thing I knew to do. And then I told her to buck up. And for the most part, she did, although a few complaints and requests slipped by every now and then. When hot rags weren’t plastered to her face, anyway.

            That night, exhausted and overtired from our ten-turned-twelve hour drive, we walked up to the hotel counter.

            “Good evening. Can I help you?”

            “We’re here to check in. Do you have any rooms?” My muscles ached as I leaned across the counter. My daughter slumped beside me. From the creases on her forehead, it looked like the Tylenol was beginning to wear off.

            “For how many nights?”

            “One.” We still had another ten hour driving day ahead of us.

            The clerk explained check-out procedures and handed us a map before flashing a smile. “There’s a small amount of tomato soup left in the kitchen if you’d like to have it.”

            My daughter’s eyes went wide and I almost cried. The one thing she’d been craving all day, and here it was waiting for her.           

            Thank You Lord, for Your tender mercies.

 Isaiah 30:18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him.”

* If you’ve got a “Kiss From God” story to share, send me an email at jenniferaslattery@gmail.com