My daughter bursts into the house shriek-crying.

I feel that familiar stomach-heart drop, the drop that all parents know. Her little brother, who had also just entered the house, passes by me on the way to his bedroom.  Alarmed, I ask him what's wrong with her.

"Oh, she's got wood in her foot," he answers, looking for his Nintendo DS.

"I've got a SPLINTER!!" my 10-year-old sobs. Severe distress.

I know I thing or two about splinters. I've been doing splinter surgery for the past 10 years on little people that live with me, and I must say I'm pretty good at it at this point. But lawdy, it's always so dramatic.

She has thankfully reached the point where she trusts me now when I wield a sterilized needle at her. It wasn't always that way. We've been through many battles together - me soothing, bribing, threatening, and her jerking her extremities away from me in utter fear.  

I examine the offending foreign object, a gigantic splinter embedded in her heel. It had sliced through her sock while she was playing on a neighbor's hardwood floor.

"OK, sweetie," I tell her, trying the soothing tactic first. "We've been here lots of times before. You know I'm good at this. You know I can get this out. You gotta trust me, though. Nothing would make me happier than to get this thing out for you."

Her face is red and puffy, her nose running, tears rolling. But she puts her heel up in my lap. Willingly.

I begin the tedious procedure. Pick, pick, pick with the needle. Ever so gently. I can tell from experience that this is not one of those that is just going to pop right out. This is one of those that's going to take a lot of time. Like, for-EV-er. Pick, pick, pick. Prod, prod. Pick, Pick.

"Have you almost got it?" she asks after a while, leaning forward awkwardly to try to get a peek.

Not even close. 

I tell her so. She doesn't seem to mind. She knows I've got a proven track record.

Finally, glory hallelujah, the tip of the splinter emerges from the tiny hole in her skin that I've made, and I yank that sucker out with tweezers. We both stare at the thing for a minute, the tiny piece of wood that was causing her so much pain, and then she wraps her arms around me.

"Thank you, Mommy! Thank you so much for getting my splinter out!"

She did some happy dancing and kept thanking me all evening, even when I tucked her in.

And I realized this - what happened in the bedroom with the splinter - that's a picture of my life right now.

I am facing a severe problem myself - one that I agonize over, lose sleep over, and cry over. One that, like the insidious splinter, reminds me of its presence constantly. I am all splintered up inside.

But I go to my Father, and He says the same things I was saying to my own little girl - I know this is hard for you, I know you are in dire straits. But I have a track record of faithfulness. You've got to trust me. This is one of those things that is going to take some time. A lot of time. Like your sterilized needle gently working over your daughter's heel. Pick, pick, pick. Prod, prod. Let me work.

We'll get there.


What the Iron Bowl Meant to Me

I went for a walk at halftime. A walk I was forcing myself to take around the yard. I had been taking walks like that on purpose in recent weeks - the kind I didn't feel like taking at all but I made myself anyway.

To clear my head. To restore some sense of normalcy. To reduce depression, maybe.

It had been a 4-month long struggle for me. Vertigo, dizziness, medical tests, specialists, no real answers. Just misery and medications and reactions to them that had sent me into a tailspin of more dizziness and fear and despair. A downward spiral that left me at my lowest point - hanging on to faith like a piece of driftwood in the ocean.

My Auburn Tigers were playing the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Comeback Kids versus the Reigning Kings of Everything. I was thinking about the tigers during my halftime walk in the yard that day. While they were in the locker room at Jordan-Hare Stadium, down however many points they were down at halftime, looking at a hill to climb, I was tromping around in circles in the November leaves, contemplating my own deficits, my own trials. I was lifting up mine eyes to the hills, and they looked way bigger than an Alabama lineman. I think I would have rather faced one of them on the gridiron than to feel like this.

Oh, don't be silly, I told myself. Don't compare your problem to football. To this game. Because if you do, then the other team may win and then you'll be even more discouraged not just because of the loss but because your analogy burned you. Alabama is supposed to win anyway. Everybody already knows.

But what if they don't?

What if underdog Auburn pulls this off somehow? What would that mean to the world? Or for that matter - to me? A toppled dynasty. A fulfilled destiny. Oh, how I needed inspiration - a visual picture of the status quo giving way to something new and beautiful. Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? Maybe. But it is in unlikelihood and impossibility that the greatest triumphs are forged.

The clock was ticking down in the 4th quarter. Overtime seemed an inevitability. Please, no. No overtime. At that moment, the collective stomach acid of everyone in the state of Alabama could power a nuclear plant.

And then it happened. The last second play that must be the greatest play ever in the history of all sports since the beginning of time. Alabama's field goal was short, and there was Auburn's Chris Davis, waiting for that ball in the end zone with open arms, running the length of the field, past all the big lunkers on the field who couldn't catch him, into the end zone for a glorious, unexpected, redemptive, inspiring, undeniable winning touchdown.

I screamed and yelled and cried a little bit. And I don't cry at sporting events.

Not just because my team won. But because they were the underdogs, the ones who had the bigger hill to climb, like me. The ones who had suffered many months the previous year of lost games and despair. The ones who faced a seemingly impenetrable wall and scaled it. The ones who believed.

Well, you see, that's me.

I am the girl who is going to catch that ball and run it back.

I am the girl who is not giving up the face of imposing opposition.

I am the girl who believes.

As the Auburn nation can now testify, that's no small thing.

War Eagle.

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