Love in Winter

Things have been extra full around these parts. I went back to work part-time (that was not so bright), a dear friend has been staying with us, and I feel like I’ve been learning a lot. There’s so much I want to sit with and think about and write about – I’m so thankful for this space.

With Brandon deployed I always get a little anxious when it snows. A few Sundays ago there was a snow storm (one of several we’ve had this winter). The girls and I camped out in my bedroom in the morning hours – Rhema bounced around and Hope stared out the big window at the beautiful winter wonderland.

“Hope, I don’t know if we’ll make it to church this morning. If we don’t get plowed we won’t be going anywhere.”

“Ohhhhhhhh nnoooooooo,” Hope said, in dramatic fashion.

We watched and waited and waited.

I knew that the man who plows our driveway was probably very busy that morning.

After some time, I said, “I think we’re stuck, girls.”

As we headed downstairs, Hope took one last look out the big bedroom window. I heard the truck before I saw it.

“Mommy!!!” she screamed. “He’s here! Daddy’s here! He came to save us!!!”

I went to the window. A friend from church, in his truck, was already barreling up the driveway. We could clearly see him through the window, and I realized for the first time that he looked a lot like Brandon – same hair color and height – and he was wearing a baseball cap just like Brandon often does.

“No, Hope. That’s not Daddy. You know he’s in Iraq. That’s Mr. Happel down there.”

“NO. That’s Daddy…” I was taken aback at the force of her words. She began waving at the window and calling, “Hi, Daddy! Hi!! You’re here from Iraq. Hi Daddy!”

“Baby. That’s not Daddy,” I said as gently as I could. “That’s Mr. Happel. You know. Emma and Sophie’s dad. He’s plowing the snow for us… now we can go to church!”

“NO! That’s my Daddy plowing snow! Hi Daddy!”

For a moment, I was at a loss. Only a week before, Santa had shown up at the door and made her dreams come true. In her 3-year old mind, it was easy to believe that Daddy could suddenly appear and rescue us from the snow.

It took some time for Mr. Happel to plow the big driveway. Hope never left the upstairs window and continued to call out to “Daddy.” (He, of course, could not hear her). At one point, Mr. Happel got out of his truck to shovel in front of the garage. This brought squeals from Hope as she frantically waved out the window, willing him to look up and see her.

It broke my heart.

When he got out of the truck I knew it would not be long before Hope realized the truth.

I watched her as she watched him. First, confusion. Then, realization. Finally, tears. Tears of disappointment like I’d never seen in her before.

I held her in my arms as she cried, her little body tense, even angry. She’s such a happy, care-free princess girl. But she’s a sensitive one, and she never forgets. It hit me that maybe this separation had had more of an impact on her than I imagined.

It took an unusually long time for me to see her bright smile again that day. I knew all along that there were times when she missed him, but until then I didn’t know how much she needed him.

Later, when she calmed down, I said, “Sweet girl. Your Daddy loves you so much… so much. You know?”

“Yeah, I know. He loves me this much!” she said, arms spread wide.

As a birthday gift, Hope was given The Jesus Storybook Bible. The stories in this book are so relevant and timely and have ministered to us greatly. There’s a song in the book that says simply,

God loves us with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

I’ve watched Hope grasp the fact that her father loves her with a never-ending love even though he’s been away for nearly six months – a lifetime for a child. Even though he wasn’t there for her first day of pre-school, or for autumn afternoons at the park, or for her birthday or Thanksgiving or Christmas. And even though he wasn’t there to rescue her with a snow plow, she has his love, she’s secure in it and better for it.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power… to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge… Eph 3:17-18

Oh, how God teaches me through these little ones. To trust and rest in the loving heart of my Father. Winter is long and hard. And there are times when He seems far away and silent, times when I wonder why He won’t answer my desperate calls for rescue. I long to have the faith of a child who doesn’t worry about being worthy, but simply, really believes she is loved. By a Father who never leaves, never breaks, never stops giving Always and Forever Love. 

From the Jesus Storybook Bible

19 thoughts on “Love in Winter

  1. Been that kid and been that mamma. Feeling and knowing that God’s unconditional love is there for us to run toward helps during the challenging times. You are in our prayers!

  2. Well, I’m hearbroken and happy all at the same time. So sad Hope has to experience such strong emotions at such a young age…but so glad she still longs for her daddy. I can’t wait to hold you all again.

    • Praying for you, Brandon, that God keep you safe and healthy and will make this time fly by. Rest in His arms. Anthony and Sheavoynne

  3. I must first say, “You’re crazy!” to the whole going-back-to-work thing. Then I must tell you how precious and pleasing you are to God for allowing Him to get the glory even in the most difficult situations. I KNOW our heavenly Daddy is just filled with pride when he looks down on you.
    I will pray more for you, the girls and Brandon. My mind is not even capable of conceiving what it must be like to be without a hubby or Daddy for so long, but I know that God is faithful and will continue to hold you through it all. His grace is sufficient. Love you more than words can contain.

  4. How wonderful that one of the ways that your Daddy showed you is love was to send someone to clear your driveway. The people who surround you are truly a gift from God and send chills up my spine when I read about what they do for you.

  5. The things that affect them that we know about … and the things they don’t show … and the things we wish we could take away.

    ((Big hugs to you and your girls.))

  6. You made a grown man tear up over here.

    This post brings back so many feelings and memories for me. It’s tough for everyone, isn’t it?

    Heartbreaking, endearing, tender. She packs an awful lot in that adorable little package.

  7. Unbreakable love, yes. Hope understands this because her Daddy is away for a while. And the rest of us learn, too, from her, and her beautiful and beautifully-blogging Mommy. Thank you.

  8. Keep on sweet baby. Keep on laughing, and loving, and lighting up the world for your mama. Keep on hoping and believing and growing. And one day you’ll look up and there he’ll be. Auntie’s sure of it.

  9. Wow did the tears pour on this one! Heart wrenching–yet beautiful to see Hope’s security in Brandon’s love. Speaking of, we sang Amazing Grace to a “new” (at least to me) tune the past couple of Sundays. Every time we sing it, I find myself leaning over and wispering to David that “I like Brandon’s version so much better.” After all these years–it is and probably always will be “his” version. Fond memories of Bible Study at Ft. Bragg. Love you dear friend.

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