You Do Get Points for Surviving

I don’t know much at all but as I hugged my friend who lost her daughter 18 months ago, I relayed those words: You do get points for surviving. I did not tell her to cheer up. I did not tell her that her Grandson’s graduation would be a snap and I did not tell her that I knew how she felt even though I have buried a daughter.

That simple statement has echoed in my mind so many times. God knows how it feels to be in the weeds, devastated and angry. Jesus felt these emotions. And it is not just my opinion that we get survival points,  the Bible flat out tells me we do. This verse in James celebrates the fact that if we can simply stand we get everything. Psst…here’s the thing- He HELPS us to stand. When we have nothing left, He pours into our spirit with His Spirit and enables us to stand.

Whatever the test, whatever the devastation, disappointment or dismal diagnosis- you can stand! Persevere because you do, after all,  get points for surviving.

Parenting Cheat Notes for a Great School Year

Road-Pro 12-Volt Car Slow-Cooker

Road-Pro 12-Volt Car Slow-Cooker

If not already, pretty soon the sun screen-shined SUV seats will be covered in permission slips, after-school snacks and random articles of clothing shucked en route to after school activities. The Road-Pro 12-Volt Slow Cooker you plug into your cigarette lighter will start looking good as nano seconds count in the carpool relay.

So as we prepare for the year, before we get lost in a Sharpie high, let’s get real for two minutes. I give you a few sanity-savers in shorthand:

1. Expect that your child will fail gloriously at least once this year and guess what, so will you.

After selling a kidney to pay for her private tumbling lessons, your daughter may try out and not make the cheerleading squad when 8 of her BFF’s do.

Your son could run for student body President and despite a $75.00 Sam’s Club vat of beef jerky adorned with the slogan, “Don’t be a JERK, Vote Ben for Prez!” he may lose. Using a speech you convinced him to let you tweak no less. Yes, that will leave a mark.

Your little guy will perhaps by God’s grace squeak out a C in Chemistry which you know full well means that he will most likely not get into the college of his choosing.

You may have a toddler who is invited to leave preschool because of biting or a 19-year-old son invited to leave the university for the same reason.

The great news? You probably will lay an egg of your own this school year.

You will go MIA; Missing the awards ceremony where your child is named student of the year. You will only remember this when your friends text you pictures after the fact. These pictures may or may not include your child with furrowed brow feverishly searching the crowd for your face.

The passion with which you volunteer to be snack mom in August outstrips your memory in November.  If you do somehow miraculously remember, your snack will contain trace amounts of tree nuts sending at least one child searching for an epi pen (don’t ask me how scary this is or how I know. Snack Moms everywhere: please use caution.)

Or, the Mother of all sins: You forget to submit pictures for the year-end slide show. Of course the Mom who assembles the whole shebang is certain that the 14th and 39th picture contain a forearm, pony tail or t-shirt most likely belonging to your child.  Which makes everything way better.

Parents, even bringing your A game most of the time: You. Will. Seriously. Blow. It. Embrace this reality now and prepare in advance to grace yourself and your child. 

2. Expect that your child will not be included in every single social event which occurs and do not have a panic attack about it. Your child smells your social anxiety, don’t stink-bomb your issues on the innocent.

Barring the mean girl phenomenon, most of the time it is an oversight rather than a personal attack when your child is excluded. Mercifully, as kids age their birthday parties shrink in number present (or else none of us would survive to grandparenthood.) With fewer children being invited, often it is a numbers game rather than an intentional affront.

Nothing ruins a weekend like seeing 4 of your child’s buddies piling into a car with overnight bags after school on Friday. Or even more hurtful, them seeing the fun they are missing on Instagram.  Just remember how fluid relationship dynamics are when you are 12, choose a fun activity of your own to do and take away the phone for the night if need be. As a parent you cannot make up for the hurt of peers but you can model how to shoulder disappointment gracefully. And get a dog.

Unfortunately we parents can suffer from “PKSD,” or Post Kickball Stress Disorder from childhood: being excluded, chosen last, being called fat, skinny, stupid, or brainy. One in every 10 parent actually ate the paste in Kindergarden. We all have our stuff, right? Too often we see our kids as people kits we try to perfectly construct as better versions of ourselves. If we are honest, at times the drive to ensure our kids are included stems from our own need for acceptance.

For every child there will come a time when they are the odd person out, such is the rhythm of life on Earth. Perhaps without that vital lesson they would not know empathy for others as they desperately need to. When this hurtful yet normal part of childhood occurs, train yourself to look for things in your life which are going right to thank God for. Disappointment is inevitable but what we do with it is up to us.

3. Remember that if you do this parenting gig right you work yourself out of a job

I was floored this past weekend as I saw a Dad coaching his daughter through the process of making a waffle at the breakfast bar. She looked to be a bright 11-year old, engaged in conversation about the bike race they would participate in the next day.

So the Father read the laminated waffle directions like he is Annie Sullivan pressing the letters W-A-T-E-R into the hand of Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker.”  She waited impishly on his every directive, insecurely followed orders and appeared afraid to fail. Chances are this young lady was more than capable of cranking out a waffle but she was simply not trusted with the task. We cannot expect a switch to flip at 18 and our children suddenly have great judgement when they have had limited experience using theirs.  Let them burn a waffle at 11

Envision your life in 20 years. Now envision your couch. Now envision your grown child eating your Ben & Jerry’s, watching your TV on that couch. None of us truly see this as a beautiful outcome, do we? The thought perhaps is radical but when we prepare the way for the child rather than the child for the way, we provide a false sense of the reality they will face.

Trust your children to handle their business as much as you possibly can. Sure some children require more supervision than others to reach their full potential but start small this year and curtail the hovering. It will liberate you and train your child to be more self-sufficient. To be fair, in a calm conversation let the kids know that you expect them to be responsible for their “job:” schoolwork and extracurriculars. Then the hard part: let them struggle. The S word, I know, but it is really, really important part of their growth as a person.

4. Pray

As Oswald Chambers said, “It is not so much that prayer changes things but prayer changes me and I change things.” When we pray, we release the death grip we have on something when really we have no control upon it whatsoever. Prayer transforms our vision.

Prayer is a tool for me to reach out and focus on God who lasts forever rather than my problems which thankfully will not. Just silently contemplating the hugeness of God brings a breath of perspective I desperately need. When the desire to helicopter is strong, as is my desire for action, prayer is the action I need to take. It slows me down, tempers my emotion and gives me fresh eyes for the challenge at hand.

So as the Summer fades from view and school hits like a monsoon, pace yourself, grace yourself, ditch the helicoptering and pray.


The Gospel According to St. Joe

“Birds have nests. Foxes gave dens.
But the hope of the whole world rests on the shoulders of a homeless man.”
-Rich Mullins

My path crossed with a gentleman we’ll call Joe. Affable fellow from up North, Joe is polite, hard-working and occasionally homeless.

When demons are beaten back, he is focused and resourceful, daily walking miles to his $4.50 an hour bus-boy job. When he succumbs to temptation, he is undependable and subsequently everything gets derailed as happened five weeks ago.

I guess the same is true to a degree with us all and our secret sin. Except his struggles are tougher to hide and since his life has the slightest margin for error, one binge destroys everything.

Fresh from rehab he returned to his former job but the owner was forced to replace him when he left. He realized that his own choices had caused the reality but he was still dismayed.

“I was so upset.” Joe said, “I was ready to go to CVS and buy something but I went to a meeting instead. It was hard, Ms. Jinny, but I made it.”

His eyes glimmered as he shared his victory. He held up the neon two-week sobriety keychain as if it were a Rolex given to him after 40 years of hard work. He was incredibly proud of himself and I was as well.

How liberating Joe’s honesty was. What he was really saying was that he wanted to get totally drunk to lessen his dire disappointment. That was probably the most honest thing I had heard in church. Ever.

The thing about seeing life from Joe’s perspective is that he is acutely aware of his human frailty. We’re all frail but just with varying degrees of insulation and correlating confidence in our comfort. When you take a closer glance at this man’s life, the colors become a bit brighter than first glance might reveal.

The only debt Joe has is $100 outstanding on a ticket. Possession-wise, his only belongings fit into the smallest storage unit rented before entrance into the latest treatment program. He lives day to day like those in many other parts of the world do, a far cry from our Western ideal of security.

The good news for St. Joe- he overcame his demons, stuck to his guns and as of Thursday he is again gainfully employed by his former boss.

Jack heard Joe tell John about his job and commented, “I have never seen anyone so happy in my life. He has to walk 2 miles to a $4.50 an hour job and he was ecstatic.”

Therapy by Food Drive

This is my friend, Gina’s Maggie Lee for Good story…what’s yours?

Maggie Lee For Good (North Texas Food Bank)

Why was my 11-year-old so driven to organize a canned food drive at her school?  I think it was a way for her to have action or maybe control over a situation that left her feeling so helpless and so insecure about how she saw her world.  When your best friend dies when you’re in elementary school it certainly doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t even make sense when you’re 40.  How can all your dreams of your future be taken away from you when you haven’t even lived long enough to have much of a past?

Just a few weeks before Maggie Lee’s accident the girls discussed and daydreamed endlessly about their future and the role each of them would play in it.  They engaged in sweet little girl fantasies that included living in an apartment together in New York City, working in musical theater together, being on Broadway, being famous in L.A. , working with the Jonas Brothers, walking down the red carpet hand in hand, and encouraging each other through every glorious success.  They believed the fantasy…I believed their fantasy.

I could picture Maggie Lee by my girl’s side being her cheerleader.  Why wouldn’t I believe the fantasy, she had always been a positive force in her life since she was two years old.  She was an unselfish encourager even then.  I don’t think she had a jealous bone in her little body.  I would often shake my head in amazement at what an unusual child Maggie Lee was.  We were surely blessed by this gale of wind, filled with sunshine, which would blow through our house when she would visit.

So how does a little girl tie down this pervasive feeling of insecurity along with a feeling of emptiness that only a deep sense of loss can create?  She gets busy.  She focused on a goal.  Maggie Lee for Good was created on Maggie Lee’s birthday, October 29th.  With a new goal in mind she was able to channel her grief and somehow make purpose of a tragedy that made no sense to her.  It also helped her t be able to share with all the kids in her school how even as a child you can affect and help others.  You can change them or create change for them.

She got the permission from the principal at Grace Academy of Dallas to have a Maggie Lee for Good cannedFood Drivebenefitting North Texas Food Bank.  Along with the student council, they made posters asking families to donate food, either bringing it to school or doing online shopping at the North Texas Food bank website.  They stood in carline with posters asking for donations and advertised in the school newpaper.  In the end they collected enough canned goods to change the lives of 100’s of families…for good.

SO a God Thing!

When Maggie Lee was in Second Grade at Lakeview Elementary, I remember her rushing into my car at carpool line, bursting with excitement to share an amazing story. Eyes wide and face dancing with animation, she exclaimed, “Listen to THIS, Mommy….This is SO a God thing!”

Well, today, on the second anniversary of the bus wreck, SO a God thing happened that I could not keep this to myself.

Colleen Gibbs has been my bff since 7th grade. She was there for my first comedic performance at Camp Tejas. She worked in meeting planning for 12 years until I finally convinced her to book my events since both halves of her brain actually work. For her precious family’s Maggie Lee for Good project last October 29th, they held an art show at their home. This was no ordinary art show, there was a prayer station for my family, a build-your-own snack station and a fabulous display of Kathleen and Meredith’s art work.

Incredibly, The Doucettes raised $305.00 with this project and decided to donate the entire amount to our World Vision Child in East Khasi Hills, India; a girl named Rinky. Amazingly, just today when we returned from our trip to Houston, (Mimi got a new knee, LOOK OUT WORLD!) we received a letter dated 16/Feb/2011, thanking us for the donation. On October 29th, 2010, three precious curly-haired girls took on an art show as their Maggie Lee for Good Labor of Love. July 12th, 2011, their kindness boomerang-ed and fell into our laps at a most opportune time.

And, without a doubt, that is SO a God thing.

East Khasi Hills Area Development Program

“Greeting from me and my Family. Once again thank you very much for your love and your support to me and my family. I have received the gift you send me through World Vision. With this money we have spent school fees, school uniform, school bags, Gass Chulaspot, text books, exercise book and trousercloth. These items are very useful for me and my brother and my sister. It has helped the burden of my father. We do not have anything to give you in return but only my gratefulnessand gratitude and prayers for you. God bless you.”