Thinking Big Thoughts with Young People

I started a post yesterday morning. I wrote rapidly and with passion, all about text messages and mean girls and life and death and the drama we create versus the reality God intends for us to live. After days of sitting with Rachael, waiting while her father was dying, Mary Beth was at home at our dining room table, trying to wrap her brain around a math lesson. Her cell phone, her iPod, and her computer were fully awake beside her. Normally, we don't allow electronics during school hours, except for academic uses. But Rachael had been texting pretty much all of the previous 24 hours and I was keeping a careful watch as girls rallied around her, some of them in person, some from miles away via social media. Suddenly, there was silence. In the silence of those morning hours, we all knew that Rachael's dad was drawing his last breath.

I tried to upload my post to Typepad. Typepad would have none of it. It disappeared into cyberspace. I quickly figured that was probably for the best and moved on to the next thing. I gathered my little girls on the couch and read Little Red Riding Hood. Just as the woodsman released the grandmother and little girl from their canine tomb, Mary Beth came toward me, laptop in hand. Rachael's brother had updated his Facebook status with a tribute to his father. There was his birthdate and his death date.

In a few moments, Mary Beth was at Rachael's house.

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. I had seen the very best of social media and electronic communication. And then I saw human touch, unafraid, in hard places, loving with wholehearted generosity. I couldn't be prouder of my daughter and the girls with whom she dances. They were courageous examples of grace and compassion and their witness humbles me.

At home, while Mary Beth stayed with Rachael, we found ourselves on a bit of a rabbit trail. This post had us researching child slavery in Africa. Nicky, already raw from the past few days of watching and waiting with Rachael, was pushed to brink of emotional meltdown. This was just too much! Too much suffering. 

And yet. And yet he woke this morning wanting to know more about poverty in Africa. More about what Jesus calls us to do. More about the children. So, I showed him this article, about living for Jesus among the poor, about being young and acting with wisdom and grace and compassion and wholehearted generosity. And that, of course, led to Kisses from Katie (do watch the video on the Amazon page). 

Nicholas read the free Kindle sample to me this morning while I knit my Katie's sweater. (Yay! we made it to the sleeves!). Then, we downloaded the rest to read to each other a bit at a time. (I add a caveat here: I don't know if this book is inappropriate for children. I've sent a quick note to a friend who read an advance copy and I'm not going any further with Nicholas until I hear from her. I'll update here if there is inappropriate content.)


{the expression on his face as he reads about a sick, dirty, starving little girl the same age as his littlest sister…}


So that's about it here today. It's raining. Everyone who can read is off in a corner somewhere reading. Karoline and Sarah have overtaken the sunroom and turned it into a pancake restaurant of some sort. I'm getting ready to go get Rachael so she can hang out here for awhile before dance. 

And we're thinking. About big things. About suffering and loss and God's generous grace. About what it is to truly be Christ to one another.

{For more knitting and reading, visit Ginny today.}


  1. says

    I’m about half way through Katie’s book and aside from the graphic detail of human suffering, nothing inappropriate so far. I don’t say that lightly, it is consuming. I might add, though, that it might be too much for Nicky this week. I do know that the brain does not distinguish suffering. In other words, it will continue to release the same chemicals in response to tragedy whether it is up close or not. An example is that the summer my family experienced 2 unexpected deaths within 2 weeks, it was too much for my then 10 year old boy to hear about others suffering (for example the families on “Extreme Makeover Home Edition”. We used to enjoy that show together but had to stop watching). Refer to your “Simplicity Parenting” book for guidance on this- I think he explains it. Doesn’t mean you can’t do something caring and compassionate for Katie and her kids in the meantime, maybe hold off on immersing your hurting kids in her world. She is inspiring, though.

  2. says

    Children have an intuitive understanding of death. I have always felt it a shame that many adults try to hide the reality of death from children. I remember well being five years old and my beloved Poppy (my great-grandfather) dying. I recall crying and thinking to myself, “They think I don’t really know what that means, but I do…he is gone, and no one who loves him will see him again.” Of course, I was raised without religion, and I am now happy to know that I will, with God’s mercy, see him again.
    My heart goes out to Rachel and her family and friends.

  3. Lori Richmond says

    Thank you Elizabeth! I love the photos of you knitting! You are so peaceful! I feel you not only listening to Nicky but praying. Every stitch is a prayer… Everyone, from Rachel and her family to Chris and I and our family and everyone in between is blessed by you and your knitted prayers. Sending up some for prayers for you and yours and for Rachel and her family. God Bless dear freind.

  4. says

    I’m almost finished with the book and there are a couple of references to prostitution. (Women in Masese sometimes resort to prostitution as a means to raise money to feed their families) and severe alcoholism. Since they cannot farm the government property where they have settled to avoid the war in the North, people make and sell alcohol. Some are forced to feed the mash or the alcohol to their starving children to keep them quiet and sedated through their suffering. There are a few stories of abusive step parents.

  5. Katie says

    Prayers for Rachael and her family and for the repose of her father’s soul.
    I have to say, I find Mary Beth’s support of her friend very impressive. It takes grace and courage for an adult, let alone a teenager, to sit at the side of a friend in the midst of a tragedy. Both Mary Beth and Nicholas are admirably (and refreshingly!) selfless.

  6. Elizabeth C. says

    Praying for Rachel’s family, the repose of her father’s soul and for your family whose been touched by this tragedy.
    Regarding the article and book. I’ve been reading Katie’s blog for a couple of years and didn’t even realize she had written a book. She has an amazing gift and is a wonderful example for our kids. Thank you for posting about her recent activity.

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