Shorts and tank tops-check.
Flip flops, socks, pajamas and swimsuit-check.
Toothbrush, inhaler, and glasses-check.
Favorite well-loved stuffed animals and a cozy, worn blankie, pictures of the family, mementos from home. All there.
Several months ago, when we gave her the green light to attend her first ever summer camp, my daughter, Natalee, packed her duffel bag. Not because camp was around the corner; it was months away. No, her excitement was so overwhelming that the only thing to do was be constructive and funnel it into packing a bag that she wouldn’t need for quite a while. It sat on the floor at the foot of her bed, waiting patiently to be carried out of her room, down the stairs and tossed into the car.
It’s astonishing the difference one year can make. On this day at this time last year, I tentatively walked up the driveway of the home where Olivia had spent the afternoon with a friend. It was 5:11pm. I know because I glanced at the clock on my dashboard before getting out of the car and it seared into my mind as the events of our summer unfolded. I learned it had been an eventful afternoon. While I worked away at my desk, things had been said, teachers had been called, principals were alerted and a report had been made to police. In the oblivion of my afternoon, a saga was unfolding just across the street. I was busy and I buzzed through my day. But when I pulled into that driveway, the energy and excitement seeped from my bones and pooled on the floor of my car. My limbs became heavy with foreboding and my heart started to beat out of my chest. I had absolutely no idea why. At 5:11pm, I was completely unaware of the way the next few months would play out. Nowhere in my mind was there the notion of foster care or court hearings. But my world was mere moments away from shifting on its axis and my spirit knew that I needed to suit up for the onslaught about to hit me. Without knowing why or actively commanding it to, my body and my heart readied itself for the battle I faintly saw off in the distance. Thirty minutes later, I walked back out to my car, my two sweet babies in tow. Having learned what happened that day in my absence and unsure of how things would unravel, I stood on the tightrope between a loss of consciousness and the drive to attack. My hands shook so fiercely that I wasn’t sure I should drive home. With the sound of my heart thumping in my ears and every hair on my body at attention, the presence of warfare engulfed me. It was Day 1 of the 76-day-battle of last summer.
Just a few days later, on June 19th, I threw items into a duffel bag for both my daughters. I had less than an hour to get them packed and taken to Project Harmony, where a stranger would usher them back into the building and I would crumple into the arms of dear friends. Friends who would pick me up, piece by piece, put me in their car and usher me into the safety of my home. A home with no children in it. A home that felt like the empty shell of what had been. The fires of combat waged all around me and these women stood as my guards, ready to fight on our behalf. And I knew. I had to fight too. Because there was no other option. Because our daughters needed us to advocate for them, to right the wrong, to win them back to their rightful owners. Because God said to engage in an all-out, life-or-death fight to the finish. I’m not a fighter by practice. I’ve never thrown a punch and it’s not looking like that’s going to happen in my future either. But what silences accusers, and defeats the enemies, is the one who dresses for the battle, throws up the shield and plants her foot firmly on solid, holy ground. And so this girl, the one who identified as more meek than bold, became the soldier her Father designed her to be. And the Promise Keeper delivered a victory for His oppressed children.
And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
Ephesians 6:10-12 (MSG)
This summer, we packed again. All the same items, thrown into the same duffel bag. But this year, we took our little girl to a place of life and love and wholeness. We dropped her off at summer camp instead of foster care. By 5:11pm today, I will have collected her and that duffel bag from camp, and she’ll be safely tucked into my car, telling me all about her fun experience on our way to meet the family for dinner. And a part of my heart will heal a little more.
In His Redeeming Love,