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It was 3:30 a.m. when we finally went to bed.

Visiting with old friends and playing Pictionary Man for hours was a perfect way to spend our Friday night together.

When you’re with people you love, time seems to slip away so quickly so you soak up every second….cherishing every laugh, every funny memory.

Crawling out of our beds the next morning, we all returned to the kitchen table and again chose to pass many more hours talking over coffee and sharing all kinds of things about each of our life journeys.

There’s no way to measure the worth of friends in money.

Only in time.

And that’s what we had this weekend!

Time to laugh.

Time to share.

Time to hug.

And tme to shop…..in second-hand stores, of course!

When Donna found clown noses in a Goodwill store, we couldn’t pass up the chance to embrace the moment and just be silly!

(This pose below was for my mom who had childhood friends who did this with their hands when they were too excited to contain themselves!)

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We were so excited to find clown noses, because we had already spotted a clown suit earlier in the day!

And we have such fond memories of clowns together from several years ago.

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With flashing clown noses on each of our faces, we hopped in Christine’s Trailblazer and headed out on an adventure!

Stopping at red lights with our red noses blinking, we watched for people in cars around us to look and wonder what in the world we were doing!

I haven’t laughed so hard in such a long time!

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I’m pretty sure the Starbucks employees are still talking about us!

I’m so thankful for the memories of Saturday!

I’m especially thankful, because Sunday seemed to slap me back into reality with a brutality that is difficult to explain.

I was soooo sleepy.

(That should have been a warning.)

Fatigue does a number on my emotions, so I was already weak when reality slipped back into my life.

See, napping is risky for me, because waking up from an afternoon sleep seems to push me back in time.

Especially when I nap next to Tim while he is watching football.

I wake up feeling an anxiety that is hard to put into words.

It’s like my heart has travelled back in time, and the sudden realization that it is Sunday afternoon always sends my head spinning with memories of Nick.

I can’t explain it except to say that “Sunday afternoon naps aren’t good for me anymore.”

My heart begins racing when I wake up to the afternoon light with sounds of a football game in the air.

Immediately, I find myself feeling as if Nick is going to come through the door saying “hi” or be sitting in the room right there with us watching the game.

And in the cruel minutes that it takes to remember that Nick will ever again be right here in this room with us while we are on this earth, I find myself slipping.

Slipping into a sadness so deep I can barely breathe.

I try to regroup.

I try to remember that Nick is better off than all of us….

In the presence of God forever.

But sometimes it’s not enough to have faith when you’re grieving.

Because no matter how much I believe in eternity it doesn’t change today.

Today, Nick is not here.

I go to choir practice with a fake smile, clown nose stuffed in my purse as if that memory is a childish attempt at “playing like I’m normal,” when I know I never will be.

And I try to sing along with songs that make salty tears creep out of my eyes and onto my cheeks.

Songs that speak of not understanding God’s plan but trusting anyway.

I try to laugh with the ladies around me in between the songs, and I hide my hurt behind comedy when I want to run to my car where I don’t have to hide my agony.

And finally it’s over, and I’m able to climb behind the steering wheel of my car.

And a dear friend sits with me as I let the tears flow hard and heavy.

I miss Nick.

I want to touch him, hug him, hear his voice.

I want to have another chance at being a busy mom with all my kids at home.

I want to go back in time and somehow change my present tense world.

But I can’t.

So, I cry until the tears are gone.

I empty the hurting me into a Kleenex and onto my sleeve.

I breathe deep the promise that “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted,” and I drive home.

And I think that if God is really close to me, I’d love to see Him, feel Him, know He’s near…….

Then He shows up.

Not as an angel but as a KCU football player.

One of my football boys comes over to pick up the brownies I made for him earlier in the day; and as we talk, he hears the shakiness in my voice.

(I’m sure he also notices the mascara lightly smeared below my eyes.)

He asks if I’m okay, so I tell him a little about Nick as I point to some pictures on our wall,

and then he begins to share his story…….

His story is what God wants me to hear.

He tells about his mom…..

A mom who isn’t really part of his life anymore.

A mom who was addicted to drugs for most of his childhood.

A mom who never quite recovered from the death of his little brother.

And he talks of how he was only three when his brother died

and how he still carries his brother’s birth and death dates on his football bag.

Suddenly, I know that God has sent this football player to me because he needs a mom and because his mom needs a friend and because I have love to share with both of them.

I realize with perfect clarity that had I not had tears earlier, I never would have heard about Caleb’s personal pain.

I hug him, give him his brownies, and send him on his way, telling him I’ll see him Saturday at the football game.

I think back on my weekend; and I realize that God was preparing me for this moment, surrounding me with friends who love me.

I am aware with every inch of my being that “clowning around on Saturday” eased my pain long enough to prepare me for Sunday.

So I’m going to carry my clown nose in my purse for a long, long time, reminding me to keep smiling and to keep crying.

Reminding me that it is good to laugh.

But that it’s also okay to cry.

As a matter of fact, I slipped the flashing red nose over my nose tonight during an academic competition

just long enough for one of my coach friends to see as she was whispering something very serious into my ear.

I’m hoping that the laughter that comes from seeing me in a clown nose from time to time will temporarily ease the pain for others just as it eased my own.

And I hope that I can be the mom my football player never had and the friend his mom never knew.

I’m praying that God can keep transforming my pain into opportunities for sharing His love with a hurting world.

Tim told me once that he believes that God has called me to be like Jeremiah, the weeping prophet.

I’m beginning to believe that he is right.

And that’s okay.