Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21
A week ago, my to-do list was ambitious but typical for a Saturday.
- Clean the house
- Strip the beds
- Do the laundry
- Pay the bills
- Go grocery shopping
- Write this week’s blog post
Before the crazy began, I started my morning the way I start most mornings: curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee, the bible app pulled up on my phone, and my prayer journal open in my lap.
My prayer journal is basically just an excel spreadsheet with the rows labeled with the days of the week, and the columns labeled with categories of things to chat about with the Lord: scripture, marriage, my daughters, extended family, my students…
The first column, scripture, is where I jot down what pops out at me as I read. It’s just big enough to fit a verse or two and forces me to really focus.
The verse I jotted down seemed particularly fitting.
Let me hear your lovingkindness in the morning; for I trust in you. Teach me the way in which I should walk; for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8
I squeezed it into the appropriate square, then started going through my prayer categories.
Halfway across the page, I hesitated. “My Daughters…” I generally fill this box with thank-you-for-these-lovely-ladies prayers. Pleas that all four of my girls will pursue the Lord wholeheartedly all their lives. My hope that God will hold a larger and larger piece of their hearts as the world recedes in importance. Such a tiny box to hold all the desires of a mother’s heart.
My momma’s heart that morning was heavy, my mind racing with worry, anxiety roiling my stomach. The cause for my worry? My eldest daughter. Mini-me.
Already strained since her 16th year when she realized she knows everything, in the month since she’d gotten her driver’s license and a car, our relationship had been growing increasingly more tense. She’d filled her days with activity: a full-time job, babysitting gigs, dance classes, and play rehearsals. She’d been dashing away each morning while I was still sipping coffee and slipping in at night right at the stroke of curfew. She didn’t let us know where she was or what she’d been doing. No time for chores or family! And snippy. Let me tell you, that girl had been full of attitude for months.
The few interactions we’d had time to have were terse. I thought all this activity was unwise. She’d been neglecting her family and her responsibilities at home. She had time for everyone but us. She thought I was controlling and overprotective. She was already overwhelmed; couldn’t I just give her a break?
A break?! I was ready to break her little neck, ya’ll. I was pretty sure parents should get trophies just for letting 17 year olds live.
It had come to a head again the night before as I popped into the living room at 10:30 on my way to bed, “You promised me that you would get the dishes done hours ago. Are you going to get on that?” With that she was huffy. Again. And slamming things. As usual. Total martyr syndrome.
Well, at least she’d been obedient. From my little nest on the couch, I had full view of the sparkling clean kitchen.
“Lord, give K wisdom,” I filled up the little box, “Draw her close to herself and reveal yourself to her. Teach her to search out satisfaction in you, not men.” No room for the other three that day- my journal and my mind were consumed with the oldest.
No sooner had I penned those words than the very young woman I’d been praying for flew past me in a flurry of business. No time for breakfast. Off to work. And out the door she ran.
The rest of the house slept on. I was alone with my to-do list, quiet time over, but somehow I was already exhausted.
Hauling myself from my comfortable couch, I rose to face the day and conquer that list.
Only nothing went as planned.
I slowly began the house cleaning, plodding through each chore. While cleaning the kitchen, a fruit basket full of over-ripe tomatoes and avocados distracted me. I’d meant to make tacos during the week! Better get on that before I had to throw all the ingredients away. Tacos for lunch today then.
But then, O!, my knife slipped off the smooth rounded back of a red onion, slicing deeply through the pad of my middle finger. I pressed a paper-towel round the wound and lifted it above my head. Not to be deterred, I kept awkwardly chopping vegetables, muttering under my breathe how grateful I was to have two hands. Preparing pico de gallo one-handed is painfully slow and arduous. It didn’t help that I bled right through that paper-towel, then trough the first two band-aids my husband lovingly applied.
After lunch, with nothing yet checked off my list, I wandered off to finally shower in hopes that that might energize me. One look at the shower changed my mind. Just the thought of twenty minutes of standing and scrubbing overwhelmed me. Maybe a bath instead.
In the hot bath, the first I’d indulged in over a year, I closed my eyes for just a moment- Ahhh!- and opened them again in wonder. The bath was cold! I must have fallen asleep. How much of my day had I wasted?
And my day went on and on just like that, distractions and rabbit trails. By 5 p.m. I hadn’t even finished the kitchen, much less any of the rest of my list.
I was done, ya’ll. Done with teenagers. Done with never-ending house cleaning. Maybe grocery shopping, I decided, would be a better use of my evening. Off to Costco I went, daughter #2 in tow.
I hadn’t even loaded the first item into my cart when my phone rang, the screen lighting up with an unfamiliar number.
“Hello. Hello? Hello!” Nothing. I hung up.
It rang again.
“Hello? Hello!?!” Silence. “Look, I’m in Costco. No reception.” I hung up again.
Instantly, my phone rang a third time. Same number. This time when I answered, “Hello,” I could hear the person on the other end.
“I’m here with your daughter. She ran off the road. ” They said some more but I didn’t catch it all- more crackling than words. I’d gotten in a handful of fender benders myself when I first started driving; I’d seen this coming to be honest. She just isn’t careful, that girl! Not observant.
Suddenly there was K’s voice on the line, hysterical, “Mom, I’m sorry. I’m sorry mom, I didn’t mean to. I fell asleep.”
I soothed her as I moved towards the bottled water. I’d just grab that, after all we were totally out and my husband won’t drink tap, and head out to find her. Probing for details, I asked, “Is your car drivable?”
“Mom…” she gasped, “it’s upside-down.”
Upside down!? My heart stopped. All thoughts of bottled water, grocery shopping, and to-do lists suddenly gone. “Where are you? I’m coming!”
By my clock it took ten minutes to drive to the spot on the highway she had described. My stomach clocked the drive at 40 minutes at least. When I pulled up I couldn’t see her or the vehicles; the crash sight was obscured by the flashing lights of 8 or 9 cop cars and an ambulance. I could see EMT’s surrounding a stretcher and as I pulled over, threw on my hazards, and hustled across the grassy shoulder I had a paralyzing fear. She had said she wasn’t hurt but had she killed someone else?
Weaving around a police SUV, I finally caught a glimpse of my daughter and her. Only her car; thank goodness, she hadn’t hit anyone else! O, but it was crushed, upside down in the ditch! And there she was, sitting five feet away in a lawn chair, gripping my husband’s hand, and talking to an EMT. All dressed up for work, her red lipstick wasn’t even smudged, but tears had run mascara down her petrified face in rivulets.
She saw me barreling towards her and started crying again, “Mom, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
I did not complete a single item on my to-do list last Saturday.
The items I checked off were not what I had planned for at all.
- A panicked drive across town.
- Standing on the shoulder of the highway holding my daughter’s hand and telling her it’s okay. I’m not angry. It’s okay.
- Picking through broken glass to attempt to locate her possessions.
- A trip to the emergency room.
- A cat scan.
- A merciful diagnosis of only a neck strain and a recommendation of an Ibuprofen regimen and a few days off of work.
- One long repeated prayer of thanks running constantly in my head for the rest of that day, and every day since then.
Lord, thank you for my daughter. Thank you for this girl who drives me crazy, she is so darn full of my own faults. Thank you for her life. Thank you for sparing her. Thank you for my daughter.