I was grocery shopping with my son, Joshua. He was six at the time and attending first grade at a local elementary school. As usual, he was making various recommendations to be added to the cart. When we came to the packages of pudding cups he begged for me to buy some for his school lunches. They suddenly became his one true love. The quest to acquire them lasted for the remainder of that shopping trip but ended in defeat.
I remember the joy of a rare pudding cup in my lunch box. There was the surprise of first seeing it, the anticipation of dipping your spoon in for the first time, as well as the fun of the little plastic cup with peel-back top. And let’s not discount the thrill of having a treat that your classmates don’t.
But I also remember the letdown that I experienced upon discovering that store bought foods were not nearly as wonderful as their commercials led you to believe. My first spoonful of tub frosting haunted me for years, spoiled as I was by my mother’s buttercream. I was also trying to avoid overly-processed foods.
So that day I told him that I would make some chocolate pudding for his lunches. I envisioned providing little cups of homemade goodness that would make classmates jealous as well as affirm me as a Good Mother.
Did I get busy when we got home fulfilling this fantasy so that he would have them that upcoming week? No, I actually forgot all about my promise. With our oldest age twelve and our sixth child at three and a half months old, I really felt a trip to the grocery store having all of Momma’s semi-conscious attention was the most I had to give to Joshua that day. Sometimes even the deepest of human love is hard to see.
That was Saturday. Within a few days, our world had turned upside down.
On Tuesday evening, September 22 our youngest son, Jeremiah left us for Heaven. There was no warning, no way to prepare. In a moment, we had left the familiar path of raising six rowdy kids, and were suddenly groping along a dark and scary canyon we had never anticipated. We mourned our son alongside five children who were mourning their brother.
I have so much to tell you about the moments and months that followed, but for now let’s talk pudding
Our friends, neighbors and church family did all they could to try and help us on this new journey. I know that most of them longed for God to comfort us through their actions, whether that was doing our laundry, taking the kids for a fun afternoon or bringing food. There was a lot of food. As someone who enjoys cooking for others, I understand the hope that somehow your casserole will ease another’s burden or at least provide some small comfort in a hard time.
On that Thursday a neighbor we barely knew came to the door. She had a huge box in her hands, her contribution. Inside were two large dishes of casserole, two bags of salad mix and two boxes of pudding cups. Chocolate, just like Joshua had requested.
I knew why they were there. As soon as I put the box down, I grabbed the pudding and went to find Joshua.
I got right down to his eye level and said, “Joshua, God loves you! You wanted pudding cups and Momma didn’t provide them. Today He wants you to know that He knows your needs and will always give you what you need. This pudding is a gift from God for you. He wants you to know that He loves you!”
Now, I’m sure our neighbor assumed all little kids would love pudding cups. It’s not as if she heard the voice of God telling her that the Martins must be freed from their longing for pudding. “Let those pudding cups go!”
God led her to bring them because He knew Joshua needed assurance that He was still loving him even though life had become scary, uncertain, unpredictable. At six years old love needs to be extremely practical for you to be sure of it. Maybe that’s true at forty-six, as well, come to think of it.
Over the coming weeks and years God showed up again and again to whisper His love to each of us individually and as a family. While the pain was sometimes an engulfing tidal wave, I always knew God was near. It is difficult to feel forsaken for long when confronted with the reality of five beautiful, healthy children on a daily basis. And God knew that helping them to process and heal and trust again would heal me as well.
Let me be clear: That Amazing Love does not end the pain of loss. A song, a memory, a baby’s sweet round cheek can still bring tears to my eyes and longing to my heart. What the Love does though, is remind me that I am not abandoned. My mantra in those days was this: What I know about God helps me with what I don’t know. Knowing He loves me, He is good, He is in control helps ease the pain of losing Jeremiah so soon.
It also helps me ask better questions.
I think we all instinctively want to know why hard things happen to us. But how often do we ask why good things happen to us?
And, as we were encouraged by a friend in the very early days, “What now, Lord?” We decided to watch for what God was doing around and through us and be content in the knowledge that He was at work and had not forgotten us. Like Pudding Cups from Heaven, God whispered His love to us by helping us see good things He was doing because we had to say good-bye to our son for a little while. His love was and is very practical and very personal.
Today I still listen for God’s whispers of Love. I seek every day to abide in His Presence – really live there. Some days it’s easier than others. But telling His stories, sharing His love with others is my way of reminding myself as well.