For all my elementary years, I rode a bus to my school eight miles away. My town did not have an elementary school. It had the Junior High and High School combined in one building, shared by ours and three other towns. When I began seventh grade there wasn’t a bus to pick me up to deliver me to the other side of town, instead I walked six blocks to and from school. I’ve told my children it was uphill both ways, with sleet and hail every day! I had several different walking paths that I took through town to get to school. I walked a path diagonal through alleys and a few backyards to cut time. My alternate route was up First Street, turning right at the telephone company on the corner of Main. From there I’d make my way down three long blocks to school. My mom worked at the telephone office, so sometimes I liked to stop there on hot days for the drinking fountain, while checking in with mom. It was the halfway mark between the school and my house. Those were carefree innocent days. Up until then, most of my fears were rooted in my parents’ arguments and avoiding the bully at school.
In 1982, my world got bigger and more frightening. Notes were sent home from school with warnings of a stranger exposing himself to young people walking home from school. In the fall, Johnny Gosch, a paper boy from Des Moines, Iowa disappeared. That was just thirty minutes from my town! My walk home from school suddenly began to feel spooky. I began to be suspicious of every car that drove by as I walked home. I wondered what kind of people lived in the beat up old house two blocks from mine. Maybe their loud and angry dogs were there to keep people away from their house of crime! My irrational fears and my imagination began to control and consume my thoughts.
Time passed and in the fall of 1989, the television broadcasted the horrifying story of Jacob Wetterling being abducted from the small town of St. Joseph, Minnesota. My first-born child was nine months old at the time. I watched the news and read the newspapers, hoping for a break in the case. But days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. As a new mother, my trips to the playground felt different. I was suspicious of every parked car and every person out for a stroll. My fears were consuming me and sparking paranoia. How could I protect my children from bad people? I’d have to live my life on the offense. I found it to be exhausting.
Sometime in the 1990s, I found Stormie Omartian’s book, The Power of a Praying Parent. The second chapter of the book is titled “Releasing My Child into God’s Hands.” Within each chapter Stormie talks about her concerns with her children, and then at the end of the chapter she has a half dozen powerful Scripture verses and a written prayer with blanks where readers can fill in their own children’s names. I’d pray the prayers with my children’s names inserted: prayers for God’s protection, health and healing, godly friends, and more. I began to feel a release and true parental peace. I had been trying to protect my children from the unknown without the power to really make a difference. When I began to pray Scripture over my kids and for my kids, I also recognized that God loved my kids more than I did, and He was the only one with the power to protect them. Did this mean my kids never faced obstacles or never got hurt? Absolutely not! They’ve all had challenges, but during those times we’ve prayed more concentrated prayers for the particular concerns, finding peace and eventually seeing God answer those prayers too. Two of my children are adults now, but the praying doesn’t stop; the topics just change. And when my oldest son went through military basic training I absolutely prayed a lot!
Recently, the news has been filled with stories that can cause a heart to despair and a parent to feel overwhelmed with fear. We’ve recently heard heart-breaking news stories of school shootings, children abducted and held prisoners for years, tornadoes, and two local boys killed in a mudslide on a school field trip. It is so much sadness to comprehend. My fourth grader had a field trip the day following this disaster. My fearful side wanted to shut the door and keep him home from school. That would also be my paranoid, unhealthy side. But I really do know that God loves my kids far greater than I can. So once again, I turned to God and prayed for His protection, trusting in God’s love and finding His peace once again.