God sees our every struggle, big and small, and cares about each one. Our loving, patient, attentive Father shows His care is mysterious and unexpected ways.
The following is a true story, and one I’ll always hold close to my heart because it shows the tender heart of our Heavenly Father. There is so much tragedy in our world, surely God’s got bigger things to worry about then little old us and our day-to-day struggles…But no, no struggle is to small. This is something that will always amaze me. As a mom, it can be easy to view many of my daughters issues as trivial. Luckily God never has this problem. He’s able to see the big and the small, and is intimately involved in it all…because He loves us deeply. The Bible tells us His thoughts toward us are like the grains of sand on the seashore. Meaning, we’re always on His mind.
That’s a sobering, and comforting thought. Right at this moment, the Creator of the universe who set the world in motion, is thinking about you, watching you with love.
Two years ago, our daughter asked for braces. After years of “bunny-rabbit-teeth” as she liked to call it, she wanted to feel pretty. She wanted her upper and bottom jaw to meet when she closed her mouth, although I’m not sure if she knew how much metal it would take to make that happen.
After a few consultations, I made an appointment with a local orthodontist, and an hour and half later, we walked out, my daughter’s mouth filled with more metal than a recycling plant. Besides the normal brackets and wires, she had an additional jaw-moving contraption cemented to her teeth. The dentist warned us the pain would be intense as her bottom jaw moved forward.
The following day, my daughter and I crawled into our van as the first rays of the sun began to poke over the Kansas City horizon. If all went according to plan, we wouldn’t climb back out until the sun retreated. But what was twelve hundred miles? We were heading to Disneyland for spring break, and my husband was going to meet us there.
I left prepared, or so I thought, with hot rags wrapped in plastic bags to soothe her tense jaw muscles during the drive and plenty of fortified drinks, yogurt and bananas. After a night of tossing and turning from teeth pain, I hoped my daughter would sleep through most of the drive.
No such luck.
“Mom, my teeth hurt,” she said the moment I started the van.
“I know, honey.” I glanced at the clock on the dash. It’d been four hours since she’d taken Tylenol.
I offered a quick prayer on her behalf, reached into my purse, fished around for the bottles, and pulled out the Motrin. In two hours, I could give her another dose of Tylenol. Not that I liked the idea of pumping my child full of pain medication, but it was better than the alternative. And the dentist had encouraged it, especially for these first few days after her orthodontist appointment.
Of course, it didn’t help that she’d taken a face plant in school the previous day, swelling her lips and pressing her newly attached brackets into her cheeks.
My daughter closed her eyes as she swallowed the Motrin, her face scrunched in pain, and her head pressed against the seat rest. In five long minutes, the medicine would kick in.
“Do you want me a warm dishrag? I heated them in the microwave before we left.” I reached for the bag of rags wrapped in plastic bags beside me, hoping they were still warm. “Dr. Lester said it’d help soothe your jaw muscles.”
My daughter nodded without opening her eyes and reached her hand out. She pressed the hot rag to her jaw. I relaxed as I watched the creases of pain lesson on her forehead. A moment later, she curled against the passenger door and fell asleep.
In two hours, the medicine wore off and she woke up in agony. I quickly reached into my purse and pulled out the second bottle stashed inside and handed her two Tylenol.
I grabbed the rag wrapped in a plastic bag. It was cold. Rolling down the windows, I cranked the heat and held the rag against the vent while my daughter whimpered beside me.
It wasn’t hard to imagine what it would be like to have twenty-eight teeth and your entire jaw pulsating.
Ten minutes later my daughter said, “I’m hungry.”
I grabbed a container of fortified juice knowing anything else would re-ignite her pain. This quenched her hunger for about thirty-minutes, causing her blood sugar to sky before crashing and burning. By noon, she was famished.
I glanced at the signs along the freeway. McDonalds, KFC, Wendy’s. The deep-fried, extra crunchy fast food wouldn’t do.
“Do you want ice-cream?”
My daughter’s face puckered. Apparently she’d had all the sugar she could stand for one day. “I want soup.”
I glanced at the freeway signs again. The next exit didn’t look promising. “Honey, I’ll try, but I don’t think we’ll be able to find any.”
“Let’s pray.” I grabbed her hand and she closed her eyes. “Dear Father, please bring *** comfort today. Watch over her and hold her tightly in Your arms.”
Twenty minutes later, after weaving our way through a town with enough fast food restaurants to single-handedly carry the American obesity rate, we pulled into a diner parking lot and scampered out of the van. My daughter practically skipped her way to the front door. I could’ve laughed at her excitement—all for a bowl of soup. Who would have thought?
I glanced at my watch. With five more hours of driving still to do, I didn’t want to waste any of it sitting in a small town diner. “Let’s see if we can get it to go.”
My daughter nodded and followed me to the cash register and the twenty-something cashier standing behind it.
“Can I help you?” The girl flung her jet-black hair over her shoulder and nibbled on a pinky nail.
“We’d like to make a to-go order.” I grabbed two menus and handed one to my daughter. “What kind of soup do you have?”
“Jalepeno’ cheddar and Tortilla-Bean.”
My daughter gave the typical shoulder-slumping, over-dramatic teenage sigh.
I scoured the menu again. Everything else was either deep-fried or chewy.
I turned to my daughter. “Can you at least try it?”
“I guess.” Another exaggerated sigh.
And so went the rest of our trip. The pain medication helped a little. The heated rags worked intermittently, even if the hot air pouring from the vents burned our eyes and faces and made our skin itch with sweat. And that bowl of soup that we’d scoured the countryside to find? It filled her stomach for a about an hour and a half, leaving her even more hungry than before. But by then we were in no-man’s land, halfway between a tree and an electric pole.
My daughter pulled her legs to her chest and rested her swollen jaw on her knees. “I know this sounds funny, but I’m craving tomato soup.”
“Yeah, that does sound funny. You hate tomato soup.”
My daughter shrugged. “Yeah, but I’m craving it. Maybe my body needs more nutrients or something.”
“Honey, there’s no way I can find you tomato soup right now.”
Okay, so you’re probably thinking this is a petty request. Certainly not one worth bothering God for, right? But when it’s your child who’s suffering, every tear shed breaks your heart. So I did the only thing I knew to do. And then I told her to buck up. And for the most part, she did, although a few complaints and requests slipped by every now and then. When hot rags weren’t plastered to her face, anyway.
That night, exhausted and overtired from our ten-turned-twelve hour drive, we walked up to the hotel counter.
“Good evening. Can I help you?”
“We’re here to check in. Do you have any rooms?” My muscles ached as I leaned across the counter. My daughter slumped beside me. From the creases on her forehead, it looked like the Tylenol was beginning to wear off.
“For how many nights?”
“One.” We still had another ten hour driving day ahead of us.
The clerk explained check-out procedures and handed us a map before flashing a smile. “There’s a small amount of tomato soup left in the kitchen if you’d like to have it.”
My daughter’s eyes went wide and I almost cried. The one thing she’d been craving all day, and here it was waiting for her.
Thank You Lord, for Your tender mercies.
Isaiah 30:18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him.”
And make sure to grab a copy of Wholly Loved Unshakable Unbreakable Joy study.
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Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.
As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she’s passionate about helping women experience Christ’s freedom in all areas of their lives. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.