Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Jesus at My Kitchen Table


Are you doing any special reading for Holy Week? Our church sent out some booklets of brief devotional thoughts for the week, so I’ve been working my way through those.

This morning’s reading was about Jesus before Pilate (found in Luke 23). This chapter of the Bible tells how Jesus was put to trial, first before Pilate who couldn’t find any fault in him; then to Herod who mocked him and sent him back to Pilate; then to Pilate a second time. Still, Pilate could find no wrong in Jesus, but because Pilate was a weak leader and a coward, he ordered Jesus to be flogged and killed, releasing a thief and a murderer instead of Jesus.

The whole time, Jesus stood silently, not answering his accusers. Not saying a word to defend himself.

I thought about how quickly I jump to defend myself, how I always have something to say, especially when I feel backed into a corner. If anyone was backed into a corner, it was Jesus. False accusations flew all around him, and yet, he did not respond.

I wonder why. Why did he just stand there and take it? Why didn’t he just bring the temple crashing down on them all? Why didn’t he at least laugh at them and tell them that their day is coming?

Humility. Jesus knew that this was his time and that no answer he could give would save him from what he had come to do. Jesus knew that he was the only one who could set the world free, but in order to do that, he had to endure suffering, mocking, torture, and humility.

As I wrapped up my time in the Bible this morning, my coffee cup in my hand, I started to imagine what it might be like to have Jesus sitting at my kitchen table with me. His physical scars healed, yet still visible. His compassion showing through his eyes. His love overflowing.

And I wondered what I would say to Jesus.

I would tell him about my friend who is in a place of intense spiritual warfare. I would ask him to help another who is suffering with mental illness. I would ask him to help another who is struggling financially after a divorce.

Surely he knows the people I love who are hurting.

And I would tell him all about the incredible blessings in my life—my husband, my daughters, my family, my friends. We could talk for hours about the blessings.

Then I would take his hand, open his palm, trace the scars, and whisper, “Thank you.”

Monday, April 7, 2014

Practice Week



Now here’s a term I loathe: empty nest. There are just too many connotations behind those words.

Some people think of the empty nest as freedom. Some think of it as bondage.

Some people think of the empty nest as activity. Some think of it as rest.

Some people think of the empty nest as a new life. Some think of it as death.

I don’t think of it as anything but change, and, as I’ve said before, change and I don’t get along so well.

The whole idea of an empty nest, an empty house, whatever you want to call it, makes me a little uneasy because it’s a big change. And it’s coming.

So I was glad that last week, B and I had a chance to practice the empty nest. My dear friend, Kathy, who also has a daughter who is Julia’s friend, knew I had to teach last week, so she invited Julia to go to Florida with them for spring break.

(Nice friend, huh? Everyone should have a Kathy in her life.)

So since Julia was beach bound and the other two were away at school, B and I spent the week at home.

Alone.

Practicing.

Because in two short years, our nest will indeed be empty, and, to be honest, I have lots of conflicting emotions about it.

I often wonder will it be too quiet? Will I have enough to do? Will we even like each other anymore? Will I miss the girls too much? Or not enough?

I feel like I need Charlie Brown’s pal, Lucy, who gave 5 cent psychiatric help to get through this.

(As a side note, one of my friends, whose nest has been empty for a while now, wisely dragged her husband to counseling six months before their last child left the house. When I asked her why, she said, “I want both of us to be prepared ahead of time.” What a proactive wife!)

You know what? I didn’t die.

I won’t say I was thrilled to have my daughter gone for a week, but I didn’t pine for her, I didn’t cry. I survived.

In fact, my week was busy.

I taught. I got some things ready for a shower I’m hosting soon. I met my husband for dinner one night. It felt like every minute was filled all week long.

And the best thing of all? We acted really young and took a quick road trip over the weekend to watch the Blackhawks play an away game. 

(I know! Crazy kids, right?!)

(B had bought the tickets, thinking he would take Julia while I stayed home to teach, but when she got a better offer I told him I’d go if we could leave after class.)

It was spontaneous and fun. We talked for six hours each way in the car. We laughed and dreamed and gave thanks for our lives.

I consider last week a gift—a time to practice being “empty nesters” for a week.

You know what I learned? It’s going to be O.K.

The transition won’t be without some bumps along the way, some lonely moments, some wishing we could go back in time if just for a little while. But now I see that I also have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to look forward to.

Maybe with a little more practice we’ll be really good at it when the time comes.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The One Thing I'd Like You to Remember When You're Out on the Road



Want to know what will add about ten years to your life? Teaching a kid to drive.

And since I’ve done that three times, I’d say I’ve nearly got one foot in the grave by now.

Julia has her permit, and even though she’s 16 she doesn’t quite have enough behind-the-wheel hours to get her license. We’re working on it, so last Saturday as we went out to breakfast and ran some errands, Julia drove while B and I sat helpless and added gray hair to our heads.

(Just kidding—it wasn’t that bad. Julia’s actually a pretty good driver.)

The problem is all the OTHER drivers out there.

Even though I’m teaching my daughter to drive, I’m still a student, too. Here’s what I’ve been learning lately: when I’m driving, I’m not the only one on the road.

I know! Revolutionary, huh?

But, see, sometimes when I drive, I can tend to think that it’s all about me getting to where I need to be and getting there as quickly as possible. Everyone else, get out of my way!

What I don’t think about are the kids like Julia who are just learning how to drive and who might be a little unsure of themselves.

Or the little old lady who I saw just this afternoon turn the wrong way down a one way street right in front of me as I was out walking the dog. I waved her off before she got too far.

Or the pregnant mom driving herself home from a doctor’s appointment who might be distracted about the news she just received about her baby.

Or the man who just left work because his wife called and the news isn’t good.

See, when I’m out there driving on the road, so are all kinds of other people—some good drivers, some not so good, and some who simply have other things on their minds.

And then there are the drivers who think they own the road and that everyone should drive just like they drive and if you don’t accelerate as fast as they’d like you to they feel like they have a right to zoom around you and give you a heart attack.

Like the guy did last Saturday when my pre-licensed driver accelerated out of a stop just a little too slowly for his liking. He was behind her in his big, black, luxury sedan that, I’m sure, scoots from 0-60 in just under 3.2 seconds. I was watching from the rear view mirror—he was on our tail, willing Julia to speed up. And when she didn’t speed up fast enough, he zipped around us on the right, just as two lanes were merging and Julia, being in the left lane, was veering slightly to the right, almost smack dab into the side of his shiny, black car.

Let’s just say it was a near miss.

But it was a near miss that I’m sure my little girl won’t forget. She ended up shaking and crying but trying to pull herself together because she was, after all, driving.

And Mr. Hotshot? He zoomed ahead of her, only to have to stop a block away at a four way stop. We practically pulled up right behind him.

So where did that move get him? Pretty much nowhere.

And where did his stunt leave us? Rattled. Scared. And calling him names I don’t like to use except in select situations, this being one of them.

But back to my lesson. I learned on Saturday that when I get behind the wheel I need to just take a deep breath, slow down, and realize that there are new drivers—and old ones, too—who need a break from us.

Would you join me in remembering this lesson? Next time somebody doesn’t drive quite up to your standards, will you also take a deep breath, exercise some patience, and remember that there are all kinds of scenarios out on the road with you?

My daughter thanks you.

*Disclaimer: that photo was taken in a parking lot. It is NOT my car. (My car isn't that dirty . . . today.)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Reflecting on Risk: Part 4


Finishing up my reflections on risk today. To read my earlier thoughts, click here, here, and here. To read Hanna Rosin's article, "The Overprotected Kid," click here.

*****


My point is this: there is no truly safe place in this world. Risk is the name of the game when it comes to life. We have to decide what’s best and healthiest for our kids, knowing the risk that’s out there.

And what’s best and healthiest for our kids is a small dose of risk, doled out in appropriate amounts at appropriate times.

One day it may be walking to school. The next it might be allowing them to sleep over at a friend’s house. Then we move on to handing them the car keys. And sending them to college.

The risks start small, but get bigger and bigger as our kids grow and learn and mature. That’s how it’s supposed to work in order for our kids to become productive citizens.

(Little nod to a family joke here.)

But what if it doesn’t work out? What if we let our kids take risks and they backfire—our kids get hurt, or worse? I’ve lived most of my life with the deep understanding that risk sometimes doesn’t work in our favor (I guess that’s why it’s called risk).

Many of you know that when I was a girl, my younger brother drowned in a tragic accident at summer camp. Had my parents known what would happen on that day would they have sent him? No. Of course not. But could they have known with 100% certainty that an accident would not occur? Again, no.

Sadly, it did.

Many years later it was time to put my own firstborn, at age 11, on a bus to head six hours north to summer camp for two weeks. Did I know the risk? Yes, I did. I felt it in my bones. It was one of the hardest days of my life.

So why did my husband and I decide to send her?

Because we both agreed that a life without risk is a life without trust. In other words, God was asking me to trust Him with the life of my child, and we trusted Him to take better care of her than we could. No matter what.

We still do.

I also believe that a life without risk is a life without growth. The day my daughter walked to school by herself was probably a day in which she stood a little taller, believed in herself a little more.

Does that mean that I deliberately put my daughters in harm’s way or that I’m advocating for you to do such a thing? Absolutely not. I assess risk, just like anyone would—I think about the cost every day—but in so doing I have to accept that often my fears are not justified. And if I’m acting on unjustifiable fears, I’m definitely not doing what’s best and healthiest for my child.

My oldest, that little pipsqueek who merrily walked off to school by herself in first grade, is graduating from college this May. She’s making plans, talking about the future, looking ahead.

Do I have fears for her? Of course I do, but I refuse to let those fears hold her back in any way from doing what she wants to do. Because my fears are not justified.

There is so much about this world that I do not know, that I cannot know. So what I must do is hold on to what I do know.

And in the end, here’s what I do know:
  • -       Jesus loves my children so much more than I do. (John 3:16)
  • -       He sees their every move. (Psalm 121:3-4)
  • -       God has a plan for the lives of my children, and it is good. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • -       He directs their steps. (Psalm 37:23)
  • -       He knows what their future holds (Psalm 31:15). I do not.

My job, I believe, is to trust God completely with my children and to allow them to grow in their trust of God, too, by letting them take appropriate risks at the appropriate times.

Life’s risky, that’s all there is to it. There is so much that is out of our control and that was never meant to be IN our control. But I believe with all my heart that God’s got this. Our kids are safest when placed in His care and when walking in His will.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Reflecting on Risk: Part 3


This week I'm reflecting on Hanna Rosin's article, "The Overprotected Kid," from The Atlantic. You can read my previous posts here and here

*****

Our natural stance as parents is a protective one. We want to keep our kids safe. We all do.

Many parents spend most of their waking hours thinking about how to keep their children safe, anticipating potential dangers and attempting to eliminate those from their children's lives.

Hanna Rosin’s article brings to light many statistics about child safety that might seem a bit counter to our strong parental intuition. She mentions, for instance, that playground accidents today are actually occurring at about the same rate as they were in the early '80s, even with so-called safety guidelines in place, and that rubber matting might actually be causing more broken bones because children have placed in them a false sense of security. 

Rosin also cites a researcher into children's fears who states that, "'our [parents'] fear of children being harmed,' mostly in minor ways, 'may result in more fearful children.'"

I know that's not what we're after as parents.

And what about child abduction, because isn't this one of our greatest fears? Interestingly, Rosen, citing an extensive study that shows that children are no more at risk of abduction today than we were in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

So why the alarm about child safety? Two reasons, I think: the media and the state of the family.

I don’t really want to get into an argument about the media. Let’s just all agree that that group can tend to be a bit . . . alarmist . . . at times. And they’ve got the bullhorn, so the word gets out that horrible people are lurking at every corner, trying to get to our kids.

I found Rosin’s commentary on the state of the family even more compelling. She points out that, according to one study on childhood risk, even though crimes against children have declined since the ‘90s, one type of crime has increased: family abduction. You know the scenario—Parent A has custody, but Parent B wants the kid so s/he takes the kid anyway.

Sadly, Rosin sums up the situation this way: “If a mother is afraid her child might be abducted, her ironclad rule should not be Don’t talk to strangers. It should be Don’t talk to your father.”

I’m shuddering at that thought.

So what's the takeaway? What can we learn from Rosin's use of statistics? 

One thing I think we could learn is that our own fears for our children might be holding them back. We have to fight our own fears so that our kids can feel free to take some risks that actually might help them build confidence as they grow up. 

And then there's the stranger-danger issue. While I think it's important to be wary of strangers, we need to realize that not every person is out to harm our children. In fact, I think our kids need to know that there are some very kind people in the world, and, should a problem arise, it might very well be a stranger who helps them out.

So tell me, what do you think about fear and raising confident kids? What are some fears you have for your children?