She was 19 years old and felt horrible, her night had not ended the way she had hoped. There she was after her shift as a waitress, sifting through the night’s garbage with her equally upset (not mad, just upset) fiancé. She was helping to clean up and at some point, her new ever-so-slightly-too-large engagement ring had slipped from her finger. It was gone!

Distraught, she called her future husband and there they were in the middle of the night sifting through the garbage. After about an hour and half they found it! There was rejoicing and relief. There was no blame, no asking why it was lost in the fist place. They knew — it was lost because she was working, doing what she needed to do to build a life with the one she loved. Sometimes we just lose things because we are living life and they just slip away without us noticing. Finding them is worth the effort.

It had turned bitter cold that day and a blizzard was blowing in to add to the snow that had already fallen. He had counted three times and was certain that one of his milk cows was missing. He had been up since 3:30 a.m. and it was now after 9:30 at night. He was cold and tired and now he had to saddle his horse and go look for his stray. He looked for about an hour and noticed that some careless and unethical snowmobilers had damaged his fence and the cow had wandered off — not far, but far enough. It didn’t happen often, but it did happen. He brought her back to the barn relieved. He was annoyed about the fence, which he would have to repair. There would be time to right the wrong done later. For now, he was happy to have all his cows in the barn. He could sleep, for a few hours, without worrying about one of his animals.

Sometimes we lose things because of the damage others do without thinking or caring. Finding them is worth the effort. Finding them before dealing with the damage is imperative — otherwise it may be too late. Staying focused on what we are looking for matters more than punishing the ones that have caused the problem.

She loved him mightily, but he could not shake his need for the white powder. She had not noticed when they fell in love at a Christian college. It was not until after they were married that his past trauma caused him to turn to artificial means of dulling the guilt and pain. For years she endured. Now he was in jail and facing potential prison time. She could help manage attorneys and the household, but she was powerless to influence the outcome very much. It would have to be him to make his case. It would have to be him to finally decide to love her and their children more than the drugs.

He chose. He convinced the system to allow him parole rather than jail time. He convinced her that he was ready to change. He did. They had over twenty beautiful years together. He still died earlier than anyone expected, but they were happy — again — together. She was faithful when he had failed. She never gave up on him and stood ready to welcome him back. She loved him and by her example the children forgave him as well.

Sometimes people let us down. Sometimes they wander off and there is nothing we can do to stop them. All we can do is stay faithful and willing and ready to welcome them home when they return. There are clearly times when the best thing we can do for all concerned is to cut ties and move on with life. However, especially in the case of children, stay faithful to what is important. Keep praying. Keep living life and doing good. Never give up hope for change and a return.

When we have lost things or people we care about and have the opportunity at restoration, there is rejoicing all around. No doubt, there may be a mess to clean up, or a fence to mend, or a relationship to work on for the rest of our lives — but first, rejoice.

I think of the family whose son left and did not return for over a decade. I think of a father and son who were estranged for forty years who finally came to understand each other better. Neither hated the other, they just drifted apart and had forgotten why. Brothers and sisters who put aside old hurts and arguments and come together at a parent’s funeral — it is beautiful.

It is certain that we will never find all of the precious things we have lost. We all know that life is not like that. However, making the effort to find what we can will have its reward, even if we have to sort through garbage, in a storm, and have little control over the outcome. As much as we can, be the one searching.

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