School Supplies

Just got the automated voicemail message from our public school principal… and apparently I have 14 forms I need to fill out and 37 school supply items I need to purchase so my daughter can continue her formal education.

BRB.

(JK.)

Debating whether to delete the message, throw on my comfies and watch a couple episodes of “The Crown.” (Queen Elizabeth doesn’t do these ignoble tasks; why should I?) The thought of filling out all those forms… and then braving the back-to-school aisle…

Please pass the Excedrin Migraine.

Every year, I endure the frenzied dash and mad grab for backpacks and their contents: pencil pouches, pocket folders, page protectors, spiral notebooks, index cards, glue sticks, scissors, rulers, graph paper, Post-It notes, and 12 types of writing utensils: No. 2 pencils, colored pencils, crayons, red/blue/black pens, highlighters, dry erase markers, fine-line and wide-tip Sharpies, gel pens, charcoal pencils, styluses… and scented markers. (Brilliant. Let’s provide both a distraction and a gateway to huffing at the same time.)

And I think… Do these kids really need all that stuff?

I’ve been buying school supplies for a quarter century now. So I consider myself a back-to-school veteran of sorts. I’ve done multiple tours: preschool, elementary, middle school, high school and college. And I’ve suffered flesh wounds in the Battle of Dollar General.

And you know what I’ve come to realize?

My daughter needs me to supply her with far more than index cards and safety scissors.

Along with a handful of highlighters, she needs me to highlight and celebrate all the ways she’s learning and growing. Not just academically and intellectually. But relationally and spiritually. In discernment, compassion, grit, grace.

Along with a ruler, she needs me to measure her against herself, not compare her to her classmates, teammates or siblings.

Along with pink erasers, she needs me to teach her to learn from her mistakes… but leave her failures where they belong: in the past.

Along with fine-line markers, she needs me to teach her the fine line between humility and insecurity… And the verrrrryyy fine line between confidence and arrogance.

Along with Post-Its, she needs me to guide and keep an eye on her social media posts… and help her avoid the pitfalls of constant comparison and FOMO. And the Insta-filtered-and-fueled onslaught of self-objectification… self-doubt… and self-pity. (#triplethreat)

Along with a PE uniform, she needs me to provide an example of physical fitness, emotional wellness and spiritual strength. (And given the escalation of gun violence across the country, I’m inclined to provide body armor too. But that’s another blog for another day.)

The supplies my daughter needs most can’t be rung up at a register at Target.

We can’t just give our kids all the “stuff” and sign them up for all the “things” (while we remain distracted/stressed/emotionally unavailable)… and think they’re gonna turn out ok.

They won’t.

(The latest mental health statistics prove it.)

Kids – even high school kids – need this critical trio of “supplies” from their folks:

A sense of security. Which requires a fair amount of structure… and a whole lot of comfort, counsel, and clear – reasonable – expectations.

A safety net. Something to hold onto – and help them up – when they stumble or fall. A deep faith. A close-knit family. A supportive team. A circle of real, true-blue, faithful friends… not fakers/takers/heartbreakers. A passion for art, music, theater, ____________. Or all of the above.

And (here’s the biggie)…

The gift of time.

Twenty years ago (when we were young, relatively clueless parents), our pastor bestowed this pearl of wisdom:

Kids spell love T-I-M-E.

Though many would deny this (especially 13 – 17-year-old boys, in my experience) it’s the gift they want most. Our precious time.

Face time. Yes, this does in fact mean face-to-face, phones down, no distractions. I’ve come to realize that my full and undivided attention is a gift I give far too infrequently. I… we… must do better. Our kids deserve it.

Game time. True confessions: I’m not the “fun” parent around here. I’m the taskmaster and the bad cop. But I’m learning to let loose a little more… and I’m realizing that being silly and playing games and goofing around is pretty much every kid’s love language.

Down time. Kids need a break sometimes. Often, actually. Just like us, they need to unwind/rest/breathe/be still. (And contrary to popular belief, boredom can be a blessing.)

Hang time. If they want to invite friends over, count yourself blessed… and say YES.

(Just do it.)

Crunch time. Life is tough. Kids are pretty resilient but they have to learn how to meet challenges, fight through adversity… and face consequences. Consequences are good teachers. Parents who do an end run on behalf of their kids aren’t doing them any favors. They’re only delaying the inevitable setback… or suffering. Every once in a while, we all need some hard truth and tough love – pruning – so we can grow and bloom and flourish.

Quiet time. Actual silence. No Spotify or Netflix or YouTube videos. No earbuds or airpods or wireless speakers. No noise whatsoever. Because quiet invites…

Peace.

And that’s something you can’t buy in the back-to-school aisle either.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, fully-supplied school year!

Wendy

P.S. If you – like me – find yourself feeling under-stocked and ill-equipped to supply your kiddos with everything they need, I encourage you to go straight to the Distributor:

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bullet-Proofing

Another week in America. Another massacre.

(File that in the category of things I never – in my wildest and worst nightmares – imagined saying/thinking/writing.)

A deranged gunman opens fire in a crowded bar in Thousand Oaks.

Bullets fly.

People die.

And the attacker pauses to post on social media before killing himself. (More on that later.)

Our reactions are wide-ranging… and telling. From unmoved to outraged, heartsick to dumbstruck.

Here we go again.

Sudden death. And then a tidal wave of emotions: apathy (another mass shooting today… and… by the way, did you pick up the dry cleaning?) to anger… to anguish.

Who can answer the locked-and-loaded questions? Who can make sense of the senseless?

Who can stop the hell-bent?

Immediately following the bloodshed, the same refrain. Pundits pontificate. Politicians posture. Parents press for solutions… and scramble to protect their young.

Praying desperate prayers…

Deliver us from evil.

Taking necessary precautions…

Baby-proofing. Bullet-proofing.

How on God’s green earth did we get here?

There’s no denying that danger lurks… darkness lingers. In malls and movie theaters, neighborhoods and nightclubs.

We aren’t safe anywhere. Even in school. Even in synagogue. (Homeland security? Is there even such a thing?)

Maybe I’m an idealist (or a loon), but I think there’s a lot we can/should/must do.

NOW.

I’m no policy expert, but it seems fairly obvious that these things should top our “to do” list:

  • Ban manufacture and sale of assault weapons, bump stocks and extended magazines. Stat.
  • Require a waiting period prior to all gun purchases. Thirty days seems reasonable. Enough time for law enforcement to do background checks, hotheads to cool off, and suicidal/homicidal impulses to pass. (If it takes 6-8 weeks to get a passport, why should anybody complain about waiting 4 weeks for a weapon?)
  • Impose a minimum age requirement of 21 for gun ownership and possession (with exceptions for active duty military personnel).
  • Implement a more effective red-flagging system. Mental health professionals, physicians and educators – who are already “mandatory reporters” anyway – submit critical information directly to law enforcement when they suspect someone may have violent impulses or intent to harm. Immediate risk assessment follows.
  • Create a database to compile these and other “at-risk” reports. If someone appears to be mentally unstable and potentially violent, a concerned family member/ friend/neighbor can call a hotline or file an online report. (Similar to a DCFS report for child abuse.) If three such reports are received, law enforcement responds (computer search, mental-health assessment, weapons inventory, etc.).
  • Bolster investigative units specializing in online/social media threats. Develop algorithms for identifying cases of cyber-radicalization and home-grown terrorism.
  • Provide active shooter training for every professional currently required to be first aid/CPR certified. (School administrators, health care workers, etc.)

In this latest attack, the shooter (described by acquaintances as a “hothead” with an “explosive temper”) had been reported to police during a domestic disturbance last April. Finding him “somewhat irate” and “irrational,” law enforcement officials called in a crisis intervention team and mental health specialist. Despite concerns about his agitated behavior (and possible PTSD related to prior military service – including deployment to Afghanistan in 2011), the young man was cleared.

If he had been held on a 5150 order, he would have been taken into custody for 72 hours and – under California law – would have been prohibited from owning or possessing firearms thereafter.

And maybe, just maybe, a dozen people who were alive and well on Wednesday afternoon would still be living and breathing. At least a little longer.

I doubt any of the folks in the Borderline Bar and Grill Wednesday night thought it might be their last. Most of the victims were young, their whole lives ahead of them.

But the truth is – even with a vest, shield and tactical gear – the only part of us that’s bulletproof is our soul.

For man is but a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. ~ Psalm 144:4 

Our bodies break. Our minds fail. Our hearts stop. But our souls, they endure. Even when wildfires ravage and storms batter and bullets rain, our souls survive.

My great comfort in these trying and troubled times is this:

It is well with my soul. 

And my desperate prayer is that it be well with yours too. Because every SOS is ultimately… a plea to God.

Save Our Souls.

I don’t know when or where terror will strike next. Or whether I might soon be “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” unaware of someone armed-and-dangerous nearby. (Because as the gunman so eerily wrote in his mid-massacre social media post: “Yeah… I’m insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is ‘hopes and prayers’ or ‘keep you in my thoughts…’ Every time… and wonder why these keep happening.”)

I understand the sheer exasperation and disgust of those who keep hearing “thoughts and prayers” but not a single solution.

(Or more importantly, action… protection… prevention.)

So to all the victims’ families and everyone who’s shell-shocked, grief-stricken, frightened or furious tonight, I offer not only my thoughts and prayers… but action points.

Because…

… With faith… If it doesn’t cause us to do something, it’s dead. ~ James 2:17

Please keep praying. (Frankly, I’m stunned by anyone – talking to you, Cuomo – who suggests prayer makes no difference. Without prayer Chris, things would be a HELL of a lot worse.)

And yes, let’s take action too.

Don’t let evil overcome you. Overcome evil by doing good. ~ Romans 12:21

For God’s sake, let’s do something.

Call your elected officials, thank a first-responder, donate blood, hug your kid.

And never ever forget…

Love. Will. Win.

Wendy

P.S. On this Veteran’s Day (as we ponder how to best protect our people and our nation), a simple and sincere “thanks” to our vets seems woefully insufficient. But today and every day, I’m grateful to the brave men and women who’ve served in the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard. May God bless you and keep you. And may it be well with your soul.