As I'm starting this post a few weeks after the incident, let me say we are all fine and together. The Lord was truly faithful. But I have to share what happened on a Friday evening just a few weeks back.
After Brian got home from work that afternoon, we decided to head over to Winthrop Lake for a picnic, some disk golf, maybe a little fishing... So we stopped and picked up some sub sandwiches on our way there and our time together was proving to be just what we needed... some R&R after a typical busy week. We finished up eating and Brian and Benjamin headed out to throw the disks a little bit, Catherine was working on her back handspring, I was keeping an eye on the little ones, we were all just enjoying the nice evening. Soon after, Catherine needed a bathroom break so she and Anna and I hopped in the car to go find the closest bathroom. Winthrop Lake is located where all of Winthrop University's sports venues are so we were able to get into the baseball stadium just down the street to find a bathroom. Thankfully we didn't have to go far. After our bathroom break, we stopped by this ruin of an old stone wall of some sort... it looked like a neat place to snap some pictures. Catherine and I had a great time taking pictures, and Anna enjoyed crawling around in the grass. Before long, Brian, Benjamin and Mary Scott joined us. The kids were all playing around the wall, and I was enjoying taking pictures of them. Just across the grassy field, maybe 50 yards or so, were all the softball fields where a tournament was taking place. So Benjamin asked me if he could walk over to the fence to watch. Without hesitation, I told him he could because I could easily keep an eye on him, and after all, he's 9 1/2 years old and definitely wanting a little more independence. Soon after, Brian decided to go and pull the car around closer to the softball field so that after we finished watching, we could easily load the gang in the car to head home. Brian was almost to the car when Mary Scott looked up at me (we were still playing by the wall and I was watching Benjamin up by the fence of the softball field) and said, "Mommy, I've got to poopoo bad!" It was one of those moments when I was going through the scenarios in my head of how I could best deal with the matter at hand. With all three girls with me, I decided I needed to catch Brian before he pulled the car around so I could give him Anna and Catherine and then be able to run Mary Scott to the bathroom. But then there was Benjamin up by the field... what to do, what to do? I hustled over to the car just before Brian headed away, and asked him if he thought Benjamin would be okay long enough for me to run Mary Scott to the potty and then us pull over there together. Without hesitation, he said Benjamin would be fine. Ended up, Mary Scott only needed to pee pee so we couldn't have been out of Benjamin's sight more than 5 minutes, stretching it to possibly 10 (no way!). So we pulled around to get Benjamin, and we didn't see him. He's definitely a child who gets engrossed in things and is not afraid to explore, so I wasn't overly concerned. So Brian headed around the fields and through the spectators looking for him. Well, when he got back to me... no Benjamin. So we loaded all the girls in the car for Brian to drive around the lake where we had picnicked earlier in case he had headed back in that direction. And I walked back through the fields to hopefully find him. Much to my dismay, I did not find him. When I spotted one of the guys in charge of the tournament, I asked him if there was a PA system so we could call for Benjamin that way... it was locked up and inaccessible. The man helping me sent a couple people on a golf cart looking again around all the fields for him, and I decided if upon checking with Brian he hadn't found him, we would call the police. Unfortunately, Brian returned with no sign of our precious son. Brian headed back into the softball fields to check the bathroom and to access the police while I headed once more around the lake, asking each set of walkers I passed if they'd seen a little boy by Benjamin's description... and the answer always came back "no." All the while, I was fervently praying that God would keep Benjamin safe where ever he was and that He would unite us again quickly. Brian and I remained relatively calm through out the process, but Catherine was upset. I think the Lord was gracious in giving us his peace. I never really felt someone had taken Benjamin but instead that we just needed to find him. The thing that was starting to become especially concerning, though, is that it was quickly getting dark. When I got back to pick up Brian, he was walking toward the car, still with no Benjamin, but a definite look of relief on his face. He had just received a phone call from the fire department just across the road, that Benjamin was there. WHAT SWEET RELIEF and an ANSWER TO PRAYER that he was indeed okay and was unharmed. We couldn't get to him fast enough! And bless his heart, he was scared to death he was going to get in trouble. And apart from having him back in our arms, we just wanted to know why in the world he left the field, especially after such a short time. It seemed all the people there made him start feeling a little uncomfortable, and his perception of time was that he'd been there a whole lot longer than he had. So he initially decided he would walk home. Well thank the Lord he didn't end up doing that because we live a good 5 miles or so away from Winthrop Lake. Once he started walking and was thinking through what he was doing, he figured if he got home and was sitting there while we were out looking for him all night... that might not be the best thing. So then he thought stopping by the fire station and asking them to call us would be better. And thank goodness the fire station was across the road and down just a little bit from where we were and not miles away. Benjamin was familiar with this particular fire station because last year right about the same time, I took the kids on a little field trip to tour it. Praise the Lord! So what started out as a very relaxing evening, needless to say turned into one of my biggest nightmares, but the Lord was Faithful and brought us all safely together again. And no, Benjamin didn't get in trouble, but we did talk about should any thing like this ever happen again, that he should stay put because we will come back for him (not that there's any chance of me ever doing such a thing as leaving him somewhere for even 5 minutes! - and frankly, I never intended to leave him, it was just one of those fluke situations we sometimes find ourselves in). Having said that, I'm very thankful the Lord kept Benjamin's mind clear and gave him direction as to how to best handle things once he began walking home and directed his steps to the fire station, instead. And he remembered our phone numbers, too. That night, Benjamin slept in our room. He just needed to be close to us, per his request!
I share this not to instill fear but to remind us of how awesome God's protection is. It is in these situations that we are left desperate for the Lord's provision... and He is faithful!