One of the things that I wasn't really sure about after Sarah died was how I would be able to handle our surviving children (Harrison and Abby). Sarah had been a fabulous mom. We had been so blessed that she could stay at home with the kids while they were younger and greet them at the door once they began those school years. She was wonderful with balancing their schedules and meeting their needs. Now, with her death, I was faced with the task of carrying on my work as a pastor while continuing her great work of raising the kids, all while I was recovering from the accident myself.
I have to tell you that I was completely intimidated by it all. Even before I was freed from the crushed wreckage of our van, I was arguing with God--telling Him how incapable I was of doing this all alone. I never dreamed that I would be in that situation so I wasn't prepared at all to fill the role of mom and dad. Looking back, I am still amazed at the people who came alongside of me to help. My mom stayed with the three of us for four months while we began to heal. My sisters and their families were constant sources of support as they walked this journey with me (one of them even moved their entire family back to Middle Tennessee with us just to continue to support us). There were neighbors, friends, teachers and church members who helped with car pool, child care, housekeeping, meals--the list goes on and on.
But I think the greatest factor that has helped through all of this was the solid foundation of faith and community that we had raised our children with. From the day the three of us began our recovery, I have communicated to our kids over and over that God allowed questions, that He understood their pain and fear and doubts and anger. I allowed them to see me as I struggled with my own questions and they heard me say more than once, "I don't know." All along the journey, I told the two of them, "We may not know and we may not understand but that won't ever change who God is." I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that many thousands of prayers were prayed on their behalf...and mine as I tried to parent them.
I have to close with one of my favorite stories about my kids during those rough first months. Just a few weeks after the accident, I crawled into bed next to Abby to say prayers and tuck her in. She had a very serious look on her face. The conversation went like this:
"Daddy, are you going to find us a new mommy?"
"I don't know, baby. That really depends on God right now. But I think we'll probably have another one some day. "
"When are you going to start?" Nothing like a child to cut right to the heart of the matter.
"I don't know, baby. It's really not going to be that easy so it might be a while. You have to understand that guys like daddy aren't in high demand."
"Why?" She wouldn't let it go.
"Because daddy is 36 years old, a pastor and I have two kids already. There aren't very many ladies out there looking for that in a husband." Silence. But I could tell she was deep in thought.
Then finally, "I'd marry you, daddy. I think you're pretty."
"Thanks, baby. I love you." I had to rush out of the room because I was caught between tears from this sweet moment and laughter at her simple understanding of love and relationships. Perhaps she had more faith than me. I don't know. But her prayers were answered when I met Lisa. I like to believe the faith of a six year old moved the heart of God so I wouldn't have to parent all alone.