She usually starts waving the moment she sees me and has a little skip in her step as she makes her way to the van, but this day she gave me a half-hearted grin and got in quickly. We pulled away from the school and she spilled.
"Mom, you know what happened in library today?"
"Our library teacher gave us a Halloween sheet, so I asked her if I could just check out a book and read it instead of doing the sheet. I told her we didn't celebrate Halloween. I didn't say anything to anybody else, but Madison overheard me talking to the teacher and said, 'What do you mean you don't celebrate Halloween? Why don't you celebrate Halloween?' 'I just don't,' I told her. I didn't want to make a big deal out of it, but she just kept saying stuff like, 'You SHOULD celebrate it. Well, what do you do? What, do your parents think it's too scary for you? Are you scared of it, Keeli?' Then the rest of the class heard her and they all started asking questions too and I was the only one who didn't celebrate it. I was the only one."
And the tears came.
What could I say? My heart ached that a decision she had no part in caused her to experience this kind of grief. I racked my brain the whole way home trying to find a comforting or encouraging word. My hug on our way into the house only caused the tears to fall faster.
"I'm sorry, honey. That's a hard place to be in."
Suddenly a verse popped in my head that seemed like a hard concept for a nine-year-old to grasp. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
I had nothing else for the poor girl, so we looked at the verse together and then found it in the Message where it reads, Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.
"Do you understand what that is saying, honey? It's a good thing when stuff like this happens. It means God is working in you."
"So, it's supposed to make my faith better?"
"Yep. I know that doesn't make it easier, but maybe knowing God is working will help you."
"He'll make me stronger?"
"Mmm hmm. You're never alone, you know. God is always there and He's WAY bigger than Madison."
"Yeah, she's nothing compared to God. She doesn't even come up to His knees."
"She's like a pinky toe compared to Him."
She laughed and started flipping through our devotional book. "Could we look for a story about this and read it?" She searched the bottom corners of the pages for the thought of the day.
"Oh, honey, that'll take too long. Let's just do today's page."
We found the correct date and both gasped.
"Mom, look," she said wide-eyed, pointing to the bottom left corner where it said, "Make Pearls out of Difficulties".
I scanned the devotional, finding it was about how pearls start out as painful irritants. Then my eyes darted to the bottom right hand corner for the memory verse. Oh my. No way.
Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
"Whoa. . .Mom, that had to be God, right? Only God could do that."
"Yeah. That's weird." I could hardly believe my eyes. She beat me to the logical conclusion.
"Who says God's not real?"
"Wow. You see how big He is?!"
"Yeah." She leaned over and gave me a big hug, hanging on tight.
"That's so cool, isn't it?" I said, pulling her back to look her in the face.
Her eyes were misty and it took all she had not to cry again, this time out of sheer joy. It was almost too much for her tender little spirit to handle.
"Are you okay, honey?"
"Yeah." She picked up a pencil and wrote on the bottom of the page, "A miracle happened!"
"I'm leaving that there, Mom. That's cool."
You can find more Carnival entries at Windows to My Soul.