Friday, January 31, 2014


"Shot himself"

Two words from a text that marked the end of a ninth grader's life.
A ninth grader.
Who was probably fifteen.

Emotions rushing in and back and through and out.
Tears flowing freely.
Body heaving, holding my boy.  Telling him over and over again how important and special and needed and loved he is.

Reminding him to talk when he hurts.
Speak about his feelings.
Share his heart.

And know that we love him deeply.  And how missed he would be if he were to die.

Two days ago no one knew this would be the date at the end of the dash.
No one knew the long goodbye would be upon them.
It's just not supposed to happen this way.

Too much grief for one family.
For the family of God.
For the school.

Answers to the "why" don't matter right now.
Holding our babies close does.
Telling them of our love and God's love and the Devil's schemes.

Right now is the time.
Tomorrow may be too late.
Rise.  Speak.  Love.

Conquer the hate with your actions.
Demolish the evil voices with your own.
Teach.  Listen.  Teach more.  Pray.  Repeat.

Text "I love you" more frequently.
Speak of "God loves you" with even more frequency.
Overcome this world's message "You aren't important or needed or loved".

In this moment.
For life.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Day Nine

Our experiment in responsibility turned nine days old today.  Nine days of less nagging (by us), whining (by them), and a whole lot more peace around this joint.

As he ate breakfast this morning, Hooman illustrated exactly why we are doing this:

"I'm liking mornings now."
"Really?  Why?"
"Well, they are just better."
"How so?"  (I wasn't going to put words in his mouth to save my soul)
"I like that we have to be responsible."

(THUNK.  My jaw hit the floor.)

What I really wanted to do was stand up and do this.  Instead, I played it really cool and just sat there, high-fiving Mike in my brain.

The Bible was right.  Why did I doubt it?  We were given work way the heck back in Genesis.  Sure, it was a curse in the moment, but in the long run it has given us worth.  Work is responsibility.  And when you are responsible for yourself and work for the greater good of your family, you end up proud.

Thank you, Lord;  You have been so good to provide meaningful work.  Help us to recognize that our ultimate reward is the joy of knowing we've done well in Your sight.  Amen.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lessons from the Laundry Room

Haphazardly, the belt was thrown on the counter.  Irritated at the soccer clothes that should have gone to school, the socks in with the darks, the belt connected to the inside-out pants, I didn't notice at first.

An imperfect heart.  A heart of gold at the core.  That's my boy.

He's a lover of Jesus and a complete mess, just like his Momma.

And today I am thanking God for the reminder that I need to love, even when the love isn't returned, when it is imperfect, when I'm irritated, when I'm hurt. 

Funny how a little school belt can accomplish all that in my own, less-than-perfect, heart.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Sitting at the conference, we knew what to expect.  "He is performing here, but his ability is here."

I can practically paraphrase this conversation, for it has occurred, on average, twice per year for the past six years of school.

Teachers have told us our child is on a pathway to destruction.
Others have empathized, based on raising a child just like ours.
Some are impatient and clearly don't like our son.
Some figure puberty will knock this out of his system.

My witty comeback, said with laughter, a smile, a frown, a grimace, or a tear rolling down my cheek, depending on which teacher we are talking to, where I am emotionally, and how his grades are shaping up, goes something like this "If you can tell me HOW to bridge the gap between here and there, I'll gladly pay you a ton of money."

Nobody can tell us.
Nobody has the faintest clue.
Everybody wants us to be aware.  Yet no one can offer advice.

We've tested for allergies and removed offending foods.
We've removed all dyes, preservatives, nitrates/nitrites, and gone practically 100% organic.
We've done expensive programs designed to create equity between the left and right brain hemispheres.
We've added vitamins and minerals and supplements galore.
We've medicated for ADHD.
We've prayed again and again and again.
Nothing changed.

New Years 2014 rolled around.

I stood at the doorway to another year and realized I wasn't going to try to lose weight, even though the scale clearly put me at a weight I didn't like, a weight that has historically made me so mad I started a quest to shed pounds.  (Instead, I am choosing to be conscious about my choices and cut out sugar and diet drinks.  Baby steps.)

I wasn't going to make some grandiose pronouncement about exercise.  The dogs, I figured, could use a daily walk.  The neighborhood streets would serve as my gym.

I wracked my brain for inspiration.  "Never been good at resolutions", my brain shouted in response.  But something told me I needed one;  something that mattered.  The bedroom shelves held my old love, books, and I immediately vowed to clear them off, making room for gifts that had yet to come and new purchases.  Read one fiction and one non-fiction book per month;  that was a worthwhile resolution.

I had promised a friend a re-read of The Metamorphosis (Kafka) to discover WHY I found so much hope in such a sad story;  that was clearly my first fiction choice.

The non-fiction didn't prove so easy;  at least twenty tomes begged to be read.  None spoke to me.  The one the author spoke about on the radio seemingly jumped out of a stack on the bedside table.  It spoke of "youth entitlement" and "things your child should know before they leave the house".

That was the one:  Cleaning House

The first few pages made my stomach ache.  I had tried so hard to be good to my kids but had, instead, made them entitled.  From sun-up to sun-down, life had revolved around making their lives easier.  But, as the book explained, making some one's life easier also sends the message "You aren't capable.  You can't handle this so I'll do it for you."

All I ever wanted were kids who could do for themselves.
I wanted future daughters-in-law to praise me for sending them men who could cook, clean, wipe a baby's butt, and still be a man.  In other words:  be responsible.
Yet, it was clear I was raising boys to continue to act like boys, with no knowledge of how to wash clothes or dishes or put together a suitable meal.

That all changed one week ago today.

We bought alarm clocks.  Don't get up in time?  Late for school.  Late too many times = detention.  Detention = suspension from fun activities.  Get up when the clock goes off!

We thoroughly cleaned and organized rooms and set expectations for them for every day of the week.  If they do not meet those expectations?  Pay the piper (literally).

We determined an appropriate time for leaving for school and church.  If you aren't ready?  You get left behind on the first trip out to door.  We'll meet you around front and you can pay the "taxi".  And, again, pay the piper (double what it costs to have a messy room).

We decided messy counter tops/sinks in the bathroom should be taken care of by the offender.  We bought wipes and taught everyone how to use them and dispose of them.

We were sick to death of unbrushed teeth, unused soap and shampoo in the shower, and smelly boy pits.  Equally as frustrating was not dressing to school uniform code;  do it right guessed the piper.

Now, it has only been one week, but so far only two dollars has been collected from all three boys (and that occurred today for being late for carpool).  Our mornings are practically blissful.  There are no arguments, no reminders, no nagging, no stress.  Every single person in this house knows their chores and goes about doing them.

And, my son, who previously was having a hard time bridging that gap?  Well, he stepped up to the plate at school yesterday, reporting something that he previously would have let go.  He didn't ask my opinion, didn't ask for help, he just DID IT ON HIS OWN.  And when I asked him how he felt?  He said he was PROUD.

I'm not delusional enough to think this is the end-all-be-all, but I do think we are on to something here.  Maybe common sense in parenting is right:  every one should pitch in because they live under this roof.  Age doesn't matter.  Skill doesn't matter (most skills are learned, after all).  Taking responsibility DOES matter.

Our next parent/teacher conference?  I expect to hear some version of skill vs. output.  After all, my son has a lazy streak as long as a football field.  Yet this little experiment is proving that, if we just step away and let him take responsibility, in the end he'll get it done.  The key is LETTING him, and not jumping in and sending the message that we parents can do it better/faster;  we have to show him we are confident in him.

Next month we are tackling shopping, cooking, setting a table, and doing dishes.

I am confidently buying Pepto Bismol.