Nick waited impatiently for his mother to finish talking. Hope ignored his sighs.
"It gets better, Jodi. I promise. Just take one day, one problem at time and lean real heavy on the Lord."
"Thanks," Jodi sniffled. "Can I call you?"
With a final hug, Hope exited the church doors with Nick close behind.
"What’s the hurry?" she asked.
"Oh, man, class was such a pain today. Mrs. Tischer was really ticked off."
"Us guys were just teasin’ Ashley. Then she went all like high drama and started cryin’. The girls started callin’ us names. Mrs. T. got all like red in the face. Then she gave us some lame assignment we’re s’posed to have done by next Sunday."
"I don’t blame Mrs. Tischer for being upset. Christians are supposed to build each other up, not tear each other down. That was just wrong, Nick. What’s your assignment?"
Nick shuffled through his Bible for the note. "We’re s’posed to read the book of Acts and give a report on it. NOT! Or we’re s’posed to do a character study on Barnabas...who’s that?"
"He hung out with the Apostle Paul. They called him the "Son of Encouragement."
"Oh...or we can write a story about someone in real life that’s like Barnabas."
"What did you choose?"
"I dunno yet"
Hope contemplated what this could mean for her self-centered son. "By the way, it was Ashley’s mother I was talking to. She and her husband just divorced. You need to call Ashley and apologize."
"Like--what would I say?"
"You say what would have helped you just a few years ago when your Dad and I split up." Nick was quiet for the remaining ride home.
"Why are you setting 3 plates out?" Nick asked later that day.
"I invited George over for dinner. He looked so sad today at church."
Nick made a face, "Not again, Mom! I wanted to watch a movie--not talk to some old Dude."
"That ‘old Dude’ is a lonely, grieving man who could use a friend. You WILL be polite and visit." Nick knew that tone of voice——there’d be no arguing.
In the middle of George's exciting story about being a fighter pilot in Korea, the phone rang. Hope excused herself. From the kitchen, Nick could hear his mother talking to her cousin on the West Coast. "I’m so sorry, Jill. Of course, I’ll pray. Is his surgery tomorrow? He’ll be fine…and so will you. God’s got you both in the palm of His hand. We’ll talk tomorrow, OK?"
"What's up, Mom?"
"Jill's husband had a heart attack. He has bypass surgery tomorrow. Can we all pray together for them?" All three bowed their heads and lifted up Jill and her husband to the Lord in prayer.
Later that week, Nick shuffled into the kitchen after school. Hope turned from ladling soup out of the slow cooker into a storage container to address her solemn teenager.
"How did the basketball try-outs go?"
"I dunno. There’s some really good players trying out. I might not make the team this year."
"Did you do your best?"
"Look, you are an excellent player. You made the team last year and you got along well with the coach, didn’t you? You had a good season, right?"
"Yeah, but...will you–like pray–that I make the team, Mom? I really want this."
"Tell you what, Nick, I’ll pray for God’s will for you in this situation. Are you willing to let the Lord be lord of everything in your life, Son? Because you’re a great kid and I know that He has wonderful things in store for you. But you need to let Him lead."
Nick was silent. Hope could tell he was thinking about what she had just said. "I have some homework to do," he muttered, turning to leave.
"Wait. Before you go to your room, could you take this soup next door to Jenny? The twins have had the flu. This might help her out some." Nick stood transfixed–soup in hand–staring at his mother then walked out the door to deliver the hot meal.
After church the next Sunday, a rosy-cheeked, smiling Mrs. Tischer caught up with Hope.
"I’m tickled pink. I think the kids really got it!"
"The lesson. Look what Nick turned in today."
Hope glanced down at the paper she was handed. Tears welled up. The title read: "Hope - Daughter of Encouragement."
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