Sledding into Hope
Encourage one another daily. Hebrews 3:13
Newly fallen snow beckoned our family to come outside. My husband, Steve, and I answered the call and decided to take our boys, Daniel and Mitchell, out to sled at his parents’ cottage on Lake Petenwell in Wisconsin. Steve, who stated he would be out in a minute, was still visiting with his mom and dad as I headed out with the boys. The cottage has a walkout basement with sliding glass doors that lead to the lake. On each side of the back of the house, there are two small hills that slope down to the grass that touches the back patio. Daniel, age four, began to take his sled to the top of the one hill and slide down gleefully. I was so proud of him! He had never been sledding, and I was impressed with his ability. Mitch, on the other hand, at age three looked like the abdominal snowman! He could not move in his snowsuit. He stood still with his arms and legs straddled. I plopped him down on his sled, and I remember very distinctly thinking, “What a wonderful family day; I am going to push Mitch as hard as I can!”
As soon as I let go of Mitch’s sled, I knew exactly what I had done wrong. I am left-handed, and I had pushed much harder with my left hand than my right hand. Instead of remaining parallel with the lake and the cottage as his brother had so expertly demonstrated, Mitch veered for the lake gaining momentum with each inch. Now, what I did not mention earlier about the landscape is the fact that the back yard declines to an edge. Between the grass and the lake is an eight foot drop with a border of huge rocks and boulders that the lake water laps up against when it melts.
Immediately, I began to race as best as I could which was not very fast because I had on my snowmobile suit and boots. My boys are only 14 ½ months apart, and when Mitch was a baby, Daniel could not say Mitch but could call him, “Meme.” To this day our family members still call him, “Meme.” As I ran to try to catch Mitch, I yelled, “Hang on, Meme! Hang on!” His father, who had witnessed this event from the basement, began sprinting and shouting at me to get Mitch which was physically impossible. Together we watched our baby (three year olds are babies when they are in trouble) fly thirty feet in the air and land on the ice with the sled firmly attached to his bottom.
We rushed to grab a hold of him and examined him for any cuts, bruises, and broken bones. Miraculously, he was fine. Years later at no particular time, I exclaimed to Steve, “It was the padding of the snowsuit that probably protected Mitchie!” He had already realized that the padding had help soften the fall. Regardless of how God protected him, I was so thankful. After checking Mitch over thoroughly, Steve took him inside the cottage. I grabbed the sled. I felt like the worst mom in the world. What I had intended to be a fun family day had ended abruptly because I had made a terrible mistake that could have truly wounded my son. I have had many years to replay this event in my mind, and each time I think about it, one feeling overwhelms me. It is the word, “crummy.” I felt as though I was the crummiest mom in the world, but as I climbed the rocks with the sled on my back and tears streaming down my face, two thoughts gave me a glimmer of hope. The first thought was the fact that God had spared Mitch’s life and had kept him from any harm. The other thought was what Daniel had yelled to Mitch. My husband and I offered no sound advice. His mother, I, had yelled, “Hang on, Meme! Hang on!” That was the worst recommendation! Moms, if you are ever in a situation where your child is sledding down a hill heading for disaster, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT yell, “HANG ON!” Had I been thinking more clearly, I should have yelled, “Roll off, Meme! Roll off!” Bless his three year old heart; he obeyed his mother and hung on for dear life! His father was too busy trying to tell me to grab him which was unattainable at that point. However, his brother at four years old knew the encouragement Mitch needed to hear. Amidst the shouting of his parents, Dan stood at the top of the hill and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Don’t worry, Meme! Jesus is with you!”
I consider that a paraphrase of Matthew 28:20, “And, surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” Somehow between his home life, Sunday school, and MOPS, Dan had hidden this message of hope in his heart, and he was able to exclaim it to his little brother at the exact moment of need. Those words not only gave Mitchie the encouragement he needed, but Dan’s words gave me hope that even though I make mistakes as a mom, God is still working in the lives of my children. My prayer for Dan and Mitch is that they will always put their hope in God and share that hope with others.