what i learned this week #1

whatilearnedthisweekI’m hoping to turn this into a weekly post, sometime during the weekend.  Um, don’t mind that it’s Monday, and I forgot to finish editing before today.  Other than the title, I haven’t set any other boundaries on this post, so it may be 50 words, or it may be 900.  Still interested?  Read on.

  1. I should have bought a wax-based eyebrow pencil a long time ago.  It takes me from  15 to adult in about 12 seconds.  (Far off, that is.  Up close in the mirror, it’s quite obvious I’m past 30, cleverly disguised brown marks or not.)
  2. Deciding that your biggest professional moment to date is not all about you becomes a professional strength.shoes
  3. The 20 year-old stories you were told may not very well represent the person standing in front of you.  In fact, they’re more likely to be inaccurate than not.
  4. I love how my husband prioritizes.  Playing in a basketball tournament so he can hang out with people he would like to feel more included takes priority over a long-time dream of running a marathon, even though he’d trained as far as 16 miles this time.  Mr. Point Guard strained his calf muscle twice, ending his dream for this year, and yet he doesn’t regret it.
  5. I need a new toothbrush.  My toddler just walked into the living room with it in his mouth.  And that’s not the first time this week.  Maybe I really need a bathroom door handle that works instead.
  6. When you’re memorizing Jesus’ sermon on the mount, his claim that his “yoke is easy” a few chapters later stands out like an open patch of carpet on my kids’ bedroom floor.  You just want to stand still on it.  You spend a couple of months trying to remember his words intensifying the Law of the Israelites, making it further impossible to keep, and then he says, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  And that reminded me…
  7. Jesus is all about grace.
  8. Scripture Typer is my favorite new tool for memorizing.
  9. Jay Bilas is my favorite Dookie, and I want to read his new book Toughness:  Developing True Strength On and Off the Court.
  10. Sixth graders still do not understand my sense of humor, but eighth graders and I are on the same plane.  Sorry, eighth graders.  That’s not good news for you.

how we speak to children

My friend Libby is forever telling her students that excuses belong in the trash can.  I think she even had a pail labeled “excuses” at one time.  Without a doubt, she’s a compassionate and forgiving person, but I think we could all take a dose of her no-nonsense medicine at some point in our lives.  I had a big spoonful of it this morning fed to me just this morning by my 3 year old son.

Mom, why did you say that mean to me?  You were happy just a minute ago.

He’s at that stage where he asks 19 questions per hour, and at least 10 of them he already knows the answer to.  Another 5 of his questions don’t really have an answer unless you want to get into philosophy or metaphysics.  I’d just finished an hour-long, unplanned visit to my doctor — with two kids and a loud baby in tow — when he asked,

Mom, why is this the way?

Gadget Mobile“We’re driving this direction because Mommy is still saving up for that Inspector Gadget-Mobile we want.  Otherwise, we’d be sprouting helicopter blades right now.” Okay, I didn’t say that.  I wish I had.  Sometimes I remember to use humor, but today I was more focused on getting out of the tightly crammed parking lot and getting the promised milkshake rewards.

I don’t know, Ben.

My words were clipped, and my cadence conveyed my annoyance.  Even a 3 year old knows tone, and we are foolish to forget that.  If this tiny 4-word sentence held enough meaning for my very young son to comment on it, what is it like for kids who hear daily that their very existence is, at best, an annoyance?  Sarah Mae recently wrote about an incident in an store that left her crying in the parking lot, and I’ve had so many similar experiences.  In a store, in a kitchen, in a school, at a gas station, way more children than you might realize are hearing horrendous, spirit-murdering statements from those who should love them.

I wish you were never born.

You screw up everything.

My life would be so much better without you.

To these fear-mongerers I’d like to say: No excuses.

  1. Bring the worst of your life’s circumstances to the table and they still won’t get you a “not guilty” plea in front of your judge.  Of course you’re angry that something bad happened to you;  you wouldn’t speak like that if everything was swell.  You can’t bring a worthy excuse regarding your own pain.
  2. Your judge is God, who created that precious child to be a tiny reflection of himself.  It really doesn’t matter if the kid asks 47 Q/hr.  It doesn’t matter if she just ruined your plans for the weekend out of her selfishness or if he did exactly what you told him not to do again.  You cannot bring a worthy excuse regarding how bad you think your child is.
  3. Newsflash:  All children are born selfish, impatient, and needy.  It’s a parent’s job to help grow them out of these traits and grow them into that reflection of God they were intended to be.

Parents are hurting, and they’re hurting their children in turn.  How can we teach parents to apologize and mean it?  How can we help them steer their pain away from their children and toward healing?  How can we warn teenagers and young adults that parenthood is so much more than having some cute picture to post on Facebook?  I find all of these lessons in Jesus.  He models humility, he brings peace and healing, and he grants undeserved grace to me over and over again.  My excuse pail runneth over.

I apologized to Ben, and I told him I’d work on not being mean.  He said, “Okay.  I’m still happy.  I love you.”  Parents who say and do really horrific things to their children and parents who get snappy over silly things have this in common:  we need mercy and grace and miraculous help to get over our selfishness.  I am so very grateful for a child who speaks grace to me.

What are we going to do for these kids?  Yes, we.  I don’t have an answer yet, but I know that a large mass of people need to take note, pray, and… I’m hoping someone knows what comes next.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. – Psalm 19:14

He Beat the Odds

He was kicked out of middle school for bringing a weapon in the building, and rightly so.
He’s expected to keep up at school after pacing the floors with his screaming infant half the night, and rightly so.
He was arrested for doing something illegal about 6 months ago, and rightly so.
I screamed with joy when he walked across the stage tonight, and rightly so.

This semester I’ve been teaching at an alternative high school. Community members tend to describe this school as “where the bad kids go.”  I’ve heard that more than once.  When a student at this school does every assignment on the spot, responds with some enthusiasm, enjoys coming to your class, defends your honor when another student is having a bad day, jumps in to help teach those who are struggling… Actually, I don’t care what school you’re at.  You’d love to teach him, right?

I loved teaching Z, and I’m rooting for him.  He’s one of my favorites of all the kids I’ve taught. I love them all, I like most, and I work hard to treat each one fairly. (I think it’s actually harmful to the “nice” kids when you let them slide too much because they’re nice, but that’s another post for another day.) It’s just that some touch your heart a little differently than others, and that’s okay.  Alongside the planned lessons, we jammed out to John Mayer a hundred times, we discussed infant earache symptoms, and I got a fist bump every time he came into class.  He’d already had a serious change of heart by the time I met him.  Prison will do that to you, according to him.  If you’d heard Z a few weeks ago preaching at a younger student headed down the same path, you’d have wanted to high five everything in sight, and you’d know in your heart that he has a real chance at succeeding. He has serious plans for the near future, which I’ll keep confidential at this time for his sake.

Right before he walked across the stage, he turned around and grabbed my hand in a kind of part handshake, part hug.  I wanted to jump up on the auditorium chair and yell, “Y’ALL!  DO YOU EVEN KNOW?!”  At that point in my daydream, I would begin rambling in the way I tend to do when I’m feeling passionate.  I’d tell them that I don’t care if lots of people think it’s uncouth to whoop and holler at a graduation; let’s tear the place down for this kid!  Cue the Kool and the Gang, turn on the fog machine, fade to black.

It’s risky to be excited for him.  He’s not entirely out of the woods.  But that risk was overwhelmed by joy last night, so when he shook hands with the principal and took hold of the paper declaring his accomplishment, I got uncouth with everybody else who saw the beauty in second chances.

Have you ever rooted for someone who wasn’t expected to succeed?