Several Saturdays ago as the day progressed onward through joys and difficulties untold, I wearily thought about the pending “women’s meeting” I had scheduled with our five eldest daughters that same evening from 5:00-7:00pm.
My insomnia had raged the night prior, leaving me robbed of sleep, drained of all natural energy. Some pioneering women’s meeting with five precious, tender-hearted, rebellious young women would simply require more of me than what I had available to give.
The tempting thought crossed my mind to postpone the meeting indefinitely, waiting for that ever-elusive ‘perfect’ evening in which my energy and mood levels would be just right so as to pour myself with utter devotion into our precious teen and pre-teen daughters. After all, so-and-so and that other one over there had behaved terribly just a few moments ago and I was more in the mood for a thorough butt-chewing or leave-me-alone cool down than any kind of sit-cross-legged-on-the-floor-and-pour-your-heart-out meeting that I would not only be attending but leading (and without any guide materials other than the Spirit of God upon my heart).
However, I knew that there is never a ‘perfect’ evening in which to adeptly direct our women’s meeting, aglow with flawless health, soaring spirits and the wisest of pre-planned counsel. The time is now, however imperfect my efforts.
(Plus, in our household we put a very heavy emphasis on fulfilling your word. If I were to cancel the meeting that I myself had dreamed up and scheduled and revved everyone else up for during the prior week, well, that would really splash a gallon or two of hypocrisy stain across the parade from which we daily proclaim the necessity of letting your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.)
So, leaning into whatever strength God could lend my weary soul, in an undeniably dull tone (which was ironically the peppiest I could muster), I instructed our girls to grab their pillows and head to the little office building where we would be sitting on the floor for our women’s meeting. It would, after all, be starting in three minutes and we mustn’t be late.
I had zero plan for the meeting beyond a very intense desire — which in the moment seemed to have left me entirely — to continue guiding our daughters in the realm of sexual purity, urging them — begging them, imploring them! — to believe the Truth of Christ in a very real way rather than giving in to the lies of the enemy.
So we all sort of meandered over to our office building in a lazy herd, some of us already showered and in our comfy pajamas while others decided to remain hot and sweaty after a day of chores, Saturday classes, kitchen duties, etc. As is generally the case, the girls took their unspoken cues from myself and our eldest daughter Dayana, both of which looked about as bored and discouraged as could be. Several of them somewhat skeptically asked me what we would be talking about in our meeting, and I answered very honestly behind that exhausted glaze in my eyes: “You’ll see…” (As in, I’ll-see-too-because-I-certainly-haven’t-planned-anything-because-all-the-burning-desire-and-moving-messages-I-had-previously-wanted-to-communicate-to-you-have-since-left-me. Let’s see what God does, because your bet’s as good as mine.)
So, our first women’s meeting seemed to be a dreadful bust from the get-go as my sandaled feet strode one after the other, carrying my own two or three pillows as I trusted through foggy thoughts that God would do something with my raw — although unenthusiastic — obedience.
As we entered the little living room of our office building with its light-green walls and duck-taped ceiling boards (to keep the bat poo from falling all over the floor), I put on a fake smile (as did our girls) and indicated for all of us to sit in a circle on the tiled floor to commence the meeting.
We prayed to begin — I do not remember who prayed, but it was obvious to all that it was done out of habit and a general respect for God rather than any sincere longing to include God in our gloomy reluctancy, our pointless meeting that promised to rank in ‘boring’ just behind washing the kitchen walls and just above scouring the yard with a flashlight looking for dog poop.
Well, quickly enough we sat down and all eyes were suddenly trained on me, waiting. I am the adult, after all — the mom, the married woman, their daily counselor with all of 25 years’ life experience — and I had called the meeting. What for?
Drowsily fighting back thoughts of “This is awkward” and “Oh, God, I don’t even remember what I had so earnestly wanted to convey to them in this meeting!“, I thought with a matchstick-flicker of joy in the back of my mind: “Well, here goes nothing…”
What only I knew was that I had hidden snacks in various locations all around the simple cinderblock office building in a planned attempt to start our meeting with a game that could hopefully open their eyes to a reality that’s been gnawing away at me for weeks. (Plus, in our home snacks like chips and candies are very prized and not very frequently purchased, so all of this would doubtlessly be a big deal whether or not they understood the deeper message.)
But I had to get my attitude right if this was going to work. Like a shovel thrust deep that hits rock and can go no further, I scooped out whatever remaining energy I did or didn’t have — whatever genuine joy God would allow to flow through me — and said with a new spark, however small, in my eyes as my facial expression remained intentionally flat:
“There is a bag of popcorn in Gaby and Josue’s classroom [the room attached to the living room where we sat] in the third drawer of the dresser.”
I did not say, “Go and get it,” or “Bring it on over so we can all share a snack during our meeting.” I simply put the naked truth out there with the same bored tone of voice as a dentist might comment to their new patient, “You have a 2:00pm appointment next Friday.”
I resisted the urge to laugh out loud as their unenthusiastic faces stared back at me, confused and somewhat put-off, waiting for further explanation. After all, I had not previously mentioned the fact that there would be snacks in the meeting, nor was that normal of me to have purchased junk food for any occasion. Why was I being so weird?
I paused to let my comment hang in the air. They were all waiting for more instruction and/or clarification, neither of which I would be giving them.
Then, the miracle: 11-year-old Gleny’s eyes lit up without any further cue. The youngest and — by far — most immature participant in the “women’s meeting” (alas, I had considered not inviting her due to the maturity /complexity of the themes I had hoped to discuss with our teens!) understood my comment and ‘got’ that I was inviting them to believe me. She blinked enthusiastically several times, looking at me with a wild “Can I, Mom? Can I? Can I?” look in her eyes as she glanced at her sisters on either side of her who simply rolled their eyes at her and/or gave her a you’re-weird-and-I’m-too-cool-for-this look.
I took the time to review each girl’s expression as I steadily, carefully and without emotion, repeated my announcement: “There is a bag of popcorn in Gaby and Josue’s classroom in the third drawer of their dresser.”
Upon saying the announcement for a second time, it’s as if the electric energy inside of little Gleny’s body just couldn’t take it any more — she sat up straight and got into a low crouch as her eyes continued to search mine with increasing energy. Seeing as I wasn’t going to say anything else, I suppose she, too, felt called to an charged silence in this strange activity. She was so cute; it was obvious that trouble-maker, roller-coaster Gleny didn’t want to disrespect me by jumping up even though everything within in her urged her to do so. Without putting her question to words, her entire body language screamed: “Can I, Mom? Can I go? Can I look?” It was as if the news was just too good to be true. Popcorn?!
Allowing her expectant energy to continue multiplying, I looked even-faced at the others, who seemed less than amused. 15-year-old Dayana might have even checked her watch.
Then, understanding that I wasn’t going to stop her from getting up to go look, Gleny finally leaped to her skinny, toned legs and disappeared behind the door to Gaby and Josue’s classroom in the blink of an eye.
My privilege was to see 12-year-old Jackeline throw a glance over at Dayana, both of whom rolled their eyes and scoffed at Gleny’s antics. I suppressed a huge smile welling up in my chest.
Not three seconds later Gleny came triumphantly bursting through that wooden door with the rather large bag of artificial-cheese-covered-popcorn raised high in her extended arm.
All at once, the other four who had so incredulously mocked her exchanged wide-eyed glances first with each other and then at me. It’s as if they didn’t know if they should be in total outrage (but something stopped them because, after all, I had plainly announced the popcorn’s availability to all) or if they should be kicking themselves for not having gotten up to go investigate my statement. Then, still without anyone having spoken they all seemed to settle on the feeling of despair as Gleny jumped up and down, squealing with delight at her find, her eyes ablaze with the joy of discovery, the thrill of promise fulfilled, hope satisfied.
Waiting for a few moments to pass — and without me saying anything else (not even “Good job, Gleny”), I announced in the same slow, detached tone: “Under Gaby’s backpack in the [currently unused] crib you’ll find a bag filled with cartons of milk.”
This time I couldn’t even blink before all 5 were wild on the chase. Jackeline and Dayana, our original scoffers and both of which are quite athletic, dove simultaneously at the fragile fold-up crib and nearly collapsed it as Jackeline went head-first over the side, grabbing at the dirty pink backpack that surely concealed the bag of milk cartons.
Well, Jackeline found what had been promised as pony tails went flying this way and that and nearly-grown young women stampeded about, shrieking with glee.
Then: “Behind the Spanish dictionary there is a packet of candies.”
Take cover! Five wild bodies flung themselves at our poor, wobbly bookcase, skimming dozens of titled spines in a desperate attempt to be the first to happen upon the prize. I believe this time it was Dayana who came upon the unusually thick book, reached her hand behind it, and pulled out the package of promised candies. She, as her ‘immature’ little sister had done so only moments before, raised them high in victory.
So, tall, teetering bookshelves were nearly overturned, bathroom mirrors nearly broken and chairs just about thrown over as a bewildering frenzy overtook the small enclosed space as I announced promise after promise to be sought out and discovered.
Joy was restored in the process; both mine and theirs. Theirs for treats discovered; mine for Truth uncovered.
As the search came to a close, each girl plopped down upon her pillow, but this time with a big smile on her face and with hands full of treasures as we split everything up into plastic lime-green bowls that I had brought with me for the occasion.
As everyone set about divvying up, trying this type of chip and that type of candy, I dared to enter boldly into the purpose of the search-and-find activity:
“Now, Gleny — since you were the first one to find the hidden popcorn — I have to ask how you knew to look for it.”
She swung her head toward me, her entire face — no, body — still utterly, wildly alit with an electrifying joy (perhaps pulsing with such force not for the momentary pleasure of eating popcorn but for the fact that she — she of all people, our aggressive, precious daughter who oftentimes picks fights, verbally attacks others, flees in tears! — led her older sisters, did something noteworthy, understood some juicy secret that they refused to believe), answered immediately as her eyes flickered at me:
“Because you told us it was there!”
As everyone else began munching on their snacks — our women’s meeting having fully and wonderfully commenced — the others looked at me, intrigued, but surely thinking, “Duh, Mom. Don’t you remember? Why are you asking Gleny how she knew to look for the popcorn?”
I continued, rejoicing in my Father for hiding such things from the worldly-wise and revealing them to little children:
“That’s right, Gleny. But how on earth did you know that the popcorn was actually there?”
Still ablaze, she responds:
“Because I got up and found it!”
Another resounding, “Duh, Mom” could have been deciphered by investigating the glances of the other four, but by now they knew I was onto something. I had their attention.
“Ah, yes. But how did you know that when I told you about the popcorn that it would actually be there?”
Without skipping a beat, she proclaimed as innocently and as radiantly as I have ever seen anyone speak:
“Because you never lie to me!”
I stared at her as we sat on pillows not three feet from one another, momentarily stunned at the extent of Gleny’s revelation, the purity of her child-like faith. My heart bowed low as my recognition of the Lord’s hand on her young life caused my hope to soar: Thank you, Father, for granting Gleny a faith — a trust — that is so uncommon in today’s world. May she always trust You in such an unswerving fashion.
So Gleny’s simple, trusting faith — and even simpler way of explaining it — opened the door to the following 2+ hour discussion we would enjoy that night (and we really did enjoy it).
Many things were said, understood, as we wrestled with what it means to have faith. Had the other four not heard just as clearly as Gleny about the popcorn in the third drawer in the classroom? Maybe, even, they had ‘believed’ what I was telling them, but to what end? How did Gleny harvest the blessing, discover the promised thing? These questions and many more were looked at, considered, from every possible angle and put into many different contexts as the search for discovery — the enjoyment of Truth, of hope satisfied and promise fulfilled — continued among us in a very real way for the duration of the night.
This was the topic the Lord had planned all along for us to discuss.
Soon connections were made with the real world — the world beyond popcorn hunts — and the dawn of revelation, new understanding, began lighting up our young daughters.
“In this journey together as family, it is of utmost importance that you believe me. The Spirit of God lives within your Dad and I; you have to believe — in an active sense — the promises we communicate to you daily if you are to reap God’s blessing.”
“You can hear 568 times that real blessing is found when one waits in sexual purity for their future husband, and you can look at me numbly and say, ‘Yeah, I know. You’ve told me that before; we’ve read it in the Bible too. Thanks.’ But how are you actually going to reap the blessing, discover the joy of promise fulfilled?”
They are getting it. Dayana, bowl of yummy treats nearly empty, stares at me from across our little formation of pillows and women and agrees with me with her eyes and words as she speaks slowly, aware that she is on sacred ground: “We will reap the blessing if we actually put into practice what we know of God’s Word. Like when Gleny actually got up. That’s how she got the blessing.”
“Yes, Dayana! And how many of us fail to believe God, do not act upon the instructions He leaves us, and then shake an angry fist at God when we don’t reap blessing? We blame God for our own failure to believe, to act!”
I continue, encouraged by this new outpouring of wisdom among us: “I could have told all of you six thousand times about the popcorn in the dresser drawer, but if no one had actually believed me and gotten up to go look, you would have all tricked yourselves into believing that I was crazy and that there was not, in fact, any blessing to be discovered! And it’s worth mentioning that Gleny, venturing out in faith, found the popcorn because she looked in the right drawer! She didn’t open the first or fourth drawer; following my instruction exactly, she reaped the harvest of blessing. Had she checked the second drawer, all would have been in vain.”
They are getting it and we are all encouraged in our dimly-lit little room at the base of some mountains in some forgotten country. Push farther, go deeper into my love, He urges us, leads us.
“How many times have we discussed the precious freedom that Christ has for us, is calling us to? Each of us can probably recite all the verses, nod our heads in agreement — and then what? Do we actually believe Him? Do we move to discover the blessing; do we actually react? We can numbly hear marvelous, outrageous promises from a good God while sitting by idly, nodding our heads — or possibly scoffing in disbelief! — and never actually discover the blessing. The blessing is found, harvested, when we react, obey, move, venture out. If we don’t move, we simply don’t believe.”
Our night as young women together on the path to Freedom — to Eternal Love — was truly marked by God’s presence among us that continued onward, gaining momentum and depth long after the fleeting pleasures of this world (snacks) were gone. Since that beautiful night we have referred back to sweet Gleny’s wild act of faith many, many times as we all laugh and remember her outrageous trust in her mom that never lies to her.
Oh, may we actually live this way every day of our lives, believing our Father who never lies to us! May our eyes light up, may our body become electrified with joy when we hear of His promises!