I love South Dakota. It gets under your skin. I know a lot of people have their opinions, but if they have never visited then they just don't know that small towns, prairie landscapes, and really wonderful people live there. One of my friends lives in L.A. and wants to move to a small town where the corner diner serves a good cup of coffee, a fried egg, and a piece of buttered toast and the owner knows her name. Those aren't found a lot in L.A. but I know of a couple in Eastern South Dakota. I mean, if it weren't true that SD has a lot to offer, then why did a lot of my friends marry wonderful people from there? And though it's probably different for a native who wants to spread their wings a bit and see the world, I hear a lot make their pilgrimage back 'home' whether to stay or just visit because it's peaceful, beautiful and feels right. Maybe it's because you can't help but feel what 'Pa and Ma and Laura and Mary and Carrie and Grace' felt when they pioneered there. (Yes, memories of sub-zero temps all winter fade when spring arrives, but they don't totally disappear, which is why we haven't moved there...Anyway.)
I had a great trip! I got to see a lot of people I love and now I love a lot of new people, as well! I really enjoyed my time in Sioux Falls with the MOPS group where I shared. The women of this group are wonderful moms with so many different stories. Looking around the room at all their faces made me even more excited to continue to share not only Noah's story and our journey through it, but mainly God's message of hope and love through Jesus Christ. I came home totally inspired and recharged, which does not usually happen after taking a trip. I'm usually a little fried and ready for down time, but meeting these women, as well as connecting with family and old friends, and sharing tears and laughter with them really inspired me! I am sure when people hear that a woman who lost her little boy is coming to speak to a group, they envision sadness and tears, and frankly, aren't too excited about the prospect of listening to something so sad. However, I really feel like God has given me a lot of grace to be able to share our story with hope, total honesty, and real joy. That's why I know it's God and not me.
MOPS, http://www.mops.org/ stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. It's a great group that meets in many cities, maybe even yours, to provide an opportunity to connect with other moms in the same stage of life as you. I love the way it's set up because they have mentors for each table of 6-8 or so. Mentoring is one of my favorite things, so the structure of their organization is something I appreciate.
One of the ladies on the steering committee encouraged me to open it up for questions after I shared. I hadn't done that before but loved the opportunity. There was one question in particular that had me thinking long after we all left the meeting. To summarize since my memory is not the best, the woman asked how we worked through this with Emily, how we protected her, essentially. I said something about how kids are way smarter than we are and have a less complicated faith...that accepting that God is good, that He loves us, Heaven is a real and wonderful place, that there are castles, no sickness or disease or sadness, it's God's home and ours, and that we might even get to pet tigers there. As I thought about it later I realized that Heaven and the knowledge of Heaven is not something to protect our kids from, which means death is a topic that cannot remain taboo. If we really believe God is not a liar, that His word is true and that Christ literally endured the cross for the joy set before Him and to make a way for all who believe, then the main thing to protect our children from is the fear of death.
Imagine if the next generation, as well as your own, were to be free from the fear of death. It's difficult to do when your perspective is everywhere below eye level. But it's not impossible because with God, all things are possible.