The stress last night was palpable. It seeped from her pores, visibly crept into her muscles – I could see the change in her posture as her shoulders tensed and her head slumped. A 3-day tennis tournament – in a room with 3 other girls, a new, real swimsuit (the last 2 years a swimsuit consisted of running shorts, sports bra, and tank top), anticipating the lack of sleep, knowing there will be no pause from social interaction. My heart ached as we navigated a stressful, exhausting 30 minutes of packing, trying to prepare and figure out what to pack that would help her feel comfortable and also maybe blend it a little bit.
Today, after 4th period at school, I met her at the tennis courts to exchange school bags for tennis and overnight bags. I could almost taste her ambivalence – she was thankful that I was there and wishing I was in Hong Kong at the same instant. The white bus with the head coach was filling with the cool kids. My heart sank. She’s not a cool kid in that book. Don’t get me wrong – I think her unique, artistic brain and her tender, insightful heart put her in a league of her own, but that does not make her fit into their club.
Oh, but then there is hope! The sweetest 2 cool kids – sophomores (one from our church:)) – climb into the black bus. I see her light up. And they see her light up. They are kind and motion for her to sit behind them. And her shoulders relax and her jaw loosens. Her smile is “her smile”. “Thank you, Lord,” I whisper under my breath, getting ahead of myself. Because 2 seconds later, a cool kid pops into the black bus: “Um… what are y’all doing? We saved you seats on the right bus.”
“Oh… see ya, girl – have fun…” And they are gone. And she is there with her usual crew – the stragglers – the strugglers – the ones that don’t check enough of the boxes. 13 kids on the white bus, 5 on the black bus. At least she’ll be comfortable…
My heart feels like it has a vice clamp bearing down on it, but I’m also grateful that it did not occur to her to fight for a seat on the white bus. I hope she always finds herself with the strugglers and the broken ones. I hope she is driven by love to bring them kindness and healing when the world tosses them aside.
I have also prayed every moment since (the last 7 hours) that somehow God will meet her this Easter weekend, that somehow her suffering will connect with Jesus’ suffering, that the celebration that He is alive brings her life and hope of a better world to come, a healed and loving world.
Note: Text from the hotel: she says she’s doing “amazingly well” – all the girls are 4 to a room except for her and one other struggler. They each get their own bed.:)
And one more thing… My other 2 kids and I showed up for the last day and a half and we really enjoyed each other. She took the photo below when she went birding with me – said she was capturing the sadness in post-hurricane Port Aransas. What a blessing when your parents and siblings are your real friends – they tend to stick around. Life can be hard, yet grace abounds.