Beth fumbled with the phone as she placed it back in its cradle. She ran trembling fingers through her greasy hair and hunched over in the kitchen chair. Tears threatened to tumble from her eyes as the phone conversation replayed over and over in her mind. Her shoulders began to shake with silent sobs.
Lord, I can’t take much more. Why don’t you DO something?
She could hear Becky and Julia playing dolly dress-up in the living room. A sad smile played at the corners of Beth’s mouth.
So sweet and innocent. They don’t know. They CAN’T know.
With weariness, Beth slowly stood and turned toward the sink. She lifted a stack of plates, grimy with egg yolk and bacon grease, into the lukewarm soapy water. The call had interrupted this chore and the desperate prayers she had been murmuring under her breath.
Her mind churned with the thoughts of what she must do in the next few weeks. Fear of the unknown knotted her stomach. At times like these, she longed for Steve to wrap his arms around her, kiss her on the top of her head, and tell her everything would work out.
But Steve isn’t here. And I can’t let him know either.
The thought of Steve riding patrol through the faraway dusty streets of Baghdad gripped Beth with worry. Even with his military pay and her tutoring job, the unpaid bills were piling up like the autumn leaves against the chain link fence that separated their yard from that of the neighbor’s.
But Steve mustn’t know how much we’re struggling. What could he do about it, anyway?
From the living room came the sound of something tumbling to the floor and shattering. Four year old Julia began to cry.
“You’re so in trouble now,” Becky taunted. “Mommy!”
Beth took a deep breath before stomping out to the living room, soapy water dripping from her hands. Julia stood in the midst of shards of white and blue ceramic pieces, her face red, tears streaming down her chubby cheeks.
She saw her mother’s frown and burst into a fresh round of sobs. “I didn’t mean to, Mommy! I’m sorry.”
“Go get the broom and dust pan, Becky,” Beth hissed through clenched teeth. “And you, young lady . . .”
Julia scurried past her mother and ran upstairs.
“Geez, Mommy. It was just an old plate,” Becky said as she reappeared at Beth’s side.
Beth stared at the blue and white pieces on the hardwood floor, trying to collect her own shattered emotions.
“That plate was my grandmother’s.”
“Oh.” Becky began to sweep the pieces into a neat pile. Beth collapsed onto the sofa and hid her face in her hands. Rocking back and forth, she tried to quell the paralyzing panic that was taking control of her.
She felt a soft hand on her shoulder, then two thin arms clutching her waist. Julia had crept back downstairs and climbed up beside her mother.
“It’ll be alright, Mommy. Daddy won’t be gone forever,” she whispered. Beth nodded, her uncertainty preventing her from speaking.
Becky set the broom and dust pan aside and knelt at her mother’s feet. She stared up into Beth’s face.
“Mommy?” She hesitated, then plunged ahead. “Is everything alright?”
Beth’s composure crumbled as she clutched Becky and Julia to herself and wept. Minutes passed, and then Becky wriggled herself free from her mother’s tight embrace.
“Mrs. Lawrence said in Sunday school that when things are going wrong we should ask God to fix them,” she said. “Let’s talk to God, Mommy. He can fix it.”
If only it were all that easy.
Becky and Julia had already bowed their heads and were waiting for her to say something. But Beth could not begin.
Choking on the words, she muttered, “Why don’t you pray, Becky, and we’ll agree.”
“Dear God,” Becky started. “Mommy’s having a real hard time since Daddy went to war. You know how to fix everything ‘cause You made all of it. Please fix Mommy so she doesn’t hurt anymore.”
Hot tears spilled from Beth’s closed eyes.
“And take care of the things that Daddy used to take care of when he was here. And, most of all, God, please bring Daddy back home soon. Amen.”
Peace swept through Beth’s heart. With peace came the reassurance that God was still in control. She stroked first Julia’s fine blond curls, then Becky’s, and hugged them closer.
Forgive me, Lord, for forgetting.
“Amen,” she whispered. “And amen.”
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