A few months ago, my friend lost his dad. And it impacted our community profoundly.
Because he loved SO BIG. Everywhere he went, he couldn’t help but talk to and engage with people—sharing a joke to make them smile or offering a compliment to build them up. He was a connector. And in all the connecting he did, he was quick to remind everyone he encountered that our hearts are ever connected to a God who loves us.
It had become his thing to pass out little wooden crosses to those he happily chatted up as he went about each day.
At his funeral, there was a basket full of the crosses for people to take with them. They were perfectly sized to fit in a pocket, and I tucked one in for each of my children. Later that night, my family talked about his faith and our own faith, and I passed out those wooden crosses around the dinner table.
Fast forward a month or so . . .
We were having one of those hard nights with the kids at bedtime. One of them had a nightmare the night before and was full of anxiety hopping into bed, worried the nightmare would return. Another was struggling with some of the social aches that come with older kids. And any parent knows, whatever upset a child has on their heart comes pouring out juuust as you’re about to shut off the light.
So, I started going through all my usual mom tools, hoping to bring them some calm for sleep. We talked. And talked. And reasoned. I told them each a story with lots of visual images to try and shift their mindset. But try as I might, both still struggled to settle.
And I thought of one more tool still in my pocket: That cross.
I went back into their bedrooms and placed a cross in each of their hands. We talked . . . again. This time acknowledging that life is just plain tough sometimes. There are things we go through that cause us to struggle or stumble. And some days it will feel like we’ve tried all the tools available to try and fix things, we’ve exhausted all our resources, and even still, feel like we’re in the thick of the hard. But those are the moments that we remember best what exists within our own hearts already.
And that no matter what we’re walking through, there is a peace that surpasses all understanding right there within us. A light, even in the dark. Available to us always. Anywhere. Already a part of us.
We prayed with them. We encouraged them to get quiet and nurture that connection. To breathe deep and allow that peace to wash over them.
We didn’t miraculously fix anything that night. This parenting thing takes a while. My husband sat and rubbed the back of one kiddo until sleep came. And I crawled into bed and snuggled the other. But we added another layer, helping them to realize their relationship with a loving God.
And I pray wherever life takes them, they will lean again and again on the peace they know exists already and always within their heart.
I lay in bed beside my finally sleeping kiddo and thought . . . I’m grateful to live in a time that affords us so many parenting resources and supports that haven’t always been available. We’ve come a long way in helping our children understand emotions, instead of burying them. We’re working hard to raise children who are confident and comfortable talking through the hard stuff. We’ve learned coping skills—for them and for us. We’re starting to make some strides in mental health awareness and access to help.
But in all that is modern parenting, none of it replaces God.
I want my kids to know that on the easy days, on the hard days, and on the extra tough days when everything else fails–God’s love and peace are already there within them.
And my friend’s dad, he’s been part of that story in our house.
*In honor of Herb.