Madison stalked into the kitchen and dropped her bag by the door.
“Good morning, Maddie. You must be excited about camp.”
Madison ignored her mother. Stop pretending things are okay! she screamed inwardly. Cinnamon toast was her favorite, but it had no flavor for her today.
“Your father will meet us at the bus station. He wants to say goodbye.”
An hour later, Madison stood before the bus with her parents – together for the first time in weeks. The knot in her stomach tightened. Her mother hugged her; Madison saw tears spill down her cheeks as she walked away. She almost felt sorry for her.
Her father looked into her eyes and smiled his crinkly smile. “Be good, Champ,” he said, embracing her. She heard his voice catch on “Champ,” his nickname for her since she won the 100 Freestyle two years prior.
Madison received the hug and walked away without a word. She found a seat alone and rested her head against the window.
Josie Bickle joined her. “What’s wrong, Maddie?”
“Just leave me alone!” she snapped.
“Um, okay,” Josie stammered. She took out a book and pretended to read.
Maddie was sorry, but she hurt too much to apologize. She wanted to disappear. Surely, the pain would disappear with her.
Before long, the bus arrived at Camp Wenatchee. Josie was too excited to remember Madison’s earlier snub. “Look Maddie -- there’s the lake! I can’t wait to go swimming. Maybe we’ll be in the same cabin…” Madison only half-listened.
They disembarked with their belongings. The director greeted them and assigned cabins. Josie squealed with joy when she learned they would be together. “Let’s be bunkmates!”
“Sure,” she replied. Josie was a good friend.
Madison functioned like a machine for days. The campers swam, ate, competed, worked, and slept; she did it all with no emotion or connection.
No one understood. Madison had been fun in the past. The others gossiped about her a little, but she was immune to their ridicule. They left her alone -- even Josie found other friends.
One evening, Brianna approached Madison where she sat alone by the bonfire. Brianna was a counselor – eighteen, blond and beautiful. You look so happy! I hate you! Madison thought.
“I’ve noticed that you’re spending a lot of time alone,” Brianna said.
“I’d like to help. I’ve been praying for you.”
“Praying?” she said with a sneer.
“Yes. Do you pray Madison?”
“Would you like to?”
Madison felt something catch in her throat. She couldn’t respond.
“Madison, God loves you very much. He’s always with you and He’s ready to help. There is nothing too hard for Him to do.”
“Can he get my parents back together?” Her face flashed crimson.
“He can help them, but they have to want to get back together.”
“Well, they don’t.”
“I’m sorry. That must be hard.”
“Yes,” Madison said, coughing to suppress tears.
“God can help you, though.”
“How?” She kicked at the ash at her feet.
“He can help you enjoy life again. Are you angry with your parents?”
“Yes!” she nearly shouted.
“You need to forgive them.”
“Because forgiving them will help you heal. When you hold on to anger it grows and can take over your life.”
Madison knew it was true. I’m angry all the time. It’s all I am.
“How do I forgive them?” she asked.
“Tell God you want to forgive them. You may have to do it many times before all the anger is gone. Would you like to pray with me now?”
Madison hesitated. “Uh…okay.” She felt foolish, but grateful. She bowed her head and whispered, “God, I’m sorry for being angry. Please help me forgive my parents. I just want my family back…” Madison started sobbing. A flood of pain gushed from her being.
Brianna put her arm around Madison and prayed while she cried. “I praise You for the good plans you have for Madison and her family – plans to prosper them, to give them a future and a hope.” Brianna paused, and then continued, “Madison, I keep hearing the word ‘champ.’ Does champ mean anything to you?”
Madison snapped to attention. She looked at Brianna in disbelief. “Champ is my Dad’s nickname for me.”
The peace and security that had left with her father returned. “A future and a hope…” the words echoed in her mind. There is hope…we have a future. The unseen Father smiled at His Champ in progress.
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