On Marching Band, Second Chances, and Joy


The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. Psalm 28:7 

I picked them up after band practice today.

Her smile was noticeable, even from several feet away–braces can’t mask loveliness that comes from the inside. Her hair is stuffed into a bun, and she laughs a bit at the awkwardness of scrambling across the seat. It’s kind of great.

Even better? The smile that my son wears when they tumble in the car, a pile of instrument cases and water jugs. The contrast between his demeanor a year ago and today–it’s remarkable. The fact that two  teens maintained a long-distance relationship for over a year–the fact that anyone can, let along two kids in high school–it boggles the mind. But they did it. They didn’t give up. It was anything but easy. It was heartbreaking.

But she’s here. She’s back. After over a year of a very painful move cross-country, Watergirl’s family is on its way back too–and they sent her first…so she wouldn’t miss band camp.

I know this decision has not been an easy one. I’ve heard bits and pieces of the dilemma as her parents made a very difficult choice to again uproot and come back. Who is ever 100% sure of God’s will–even those who speak to him most intimately? The truth is, we pray and ask for guidance and wait for an answer. Sometimes, heaven is silent and the clock forces us to make our best guess. Sometimes we must make a decision from our gut and trust that God is looking out for us.

I know only a tiny bit of the back-and-forth that Watergirl’s mama and dad faced. They want what most people want–to do the right thing for their family. Add in a congregation they love (and one that loves them back) and the equation is further complicated. They say that moving is one of the most stressful of life events–right up there with divorce and death. When we move from one town (or state!) to another, there is always a bit of divorcing of some sort, isn’t there? It’s separation, it’s saying goodbye. It’s packing and unpacking and loading and unloading and taking furniture apart and putting it back together again. It’s turning off power and turning it on again. It’s tears and stress and we snap from the pressure.

But then–we see the smile of a young girl.

Lance and Becky–I know you can’t see it right now; you are still making your way back to Texas, so I’ll try to describe this smile your daughter wore today. I’ll try to describe the grin my son wore because of your daughter’s smile. It’s a smile of contentment, joy, and a realization of the miracle of unexpected second chances.

Thank you–and I can’t wait to welcome you back to Texas, with a big smile.

Teen Speak: Three Things To Remember When Your Kid is Hurting

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It’s inevitable. As much as I’d love to take my  kids and bubble-wrap them from any sort of physical or emotional pain, it’s just not possible. Life happens to all of us, and sometimes it’s an all-up-in-your-face free-for-all that results in their pain.

Many times I never see it coming. A breakup or a giant fight with a best friend seems to come from nowhere and it’s intensely personal. It’s so, so difficult to remain a responsible adult when these things happen, meaning NOT going over there to give that brat a piece of your mind.

Yes, kids need to work out their own relationship issues…blah blah blah. Tell me that again when it’s two in the morning and your kid hasn’t stopped sobbing and it’s just heartbreaking.

Sometimes, it’s unavoidable and I can see it coming from a mile away. That’s the worst, I think. When I know when the day or event is coming that’s gonna cause emotional fallout and there’s just nothing I can do about it.

Sometimes I can help, gently suggesting solutions (if there are any) or hiring the Mafia to take care of the problem. Isn’t it infuriating when all you can do is watch someone mistreat and manipulate one of yours, knowing that despite your advice and pleas, it’s up to them to finally see the truth? It’s times like those I wish I had The Godfather on speed dial. “You come to me, on the day of my daughter’s wedding…”

Sometimes, though, there’s nothing I can do to fix the pain and that is an anxiety-ridden few days–or months–when I have to stand back and let things happen.

It’s so hard. I don’t want them to hurt.

But so very many things are out of my sphere of influence. When a best friend moves away. When a relationship breaks up leaving your kid as a casualty.  When those hard things life throws us hit us right in the eye and we can’t see for days because of it.

Here are 3 tips to help you through this time with your teen.

1.Be still, dear Parent. God loves your sweet teen even more than you do. He can see the bigger picture and he’s in control. Give your teen more hugs than usual and a bit more leeway than you normally would. Let him or her know that you are available to talk anytime.

2.Be available. Take him for ice cream to get out of the house. Invite another friend over to distract him. Be silly with him–watch a terrible movie together and laugh. Don’t be afraid to help him laugh.

3.Pray with him. Remind him of God’s presence. Pray for him also, basking them in the Spirit and speaking joy over them.

And for today, everything will feel a tiny bit better. And again tomorrow, a bit more, until the pain is in the form of a shadow rather than itself. The sun will shine again, and when it does you’ll know. Your kid will smile and you’ll see it, just there. See it?

Teen Speak: Waking and Communicating With Your Teen Before Noon

Whenever I try to talk to Mancub before noon, it’s always a crap shoot. Whatever happens, you must be prepared for the worst.

Sometimes, I’ll speak to him, and though it appears he heard me, nothing happens. It reminds me of those Ghost Hunters shows where three grown men walk around  in abandoned hospitals in the complete darkness with night vision goggles and their EVP equipment. Seemingly on edge–which I’m sure has nothing to do with the fact that they are poking around in an abandoned mental hospital’s morgue or a supposed haunted hotel–they attempt to break through to the voices “on the other side.”

Sometimes I feel that this is an adequate metaphor for seeking to not only communicate with Mancub, especially in the morning when he’s not fully awake.

Me: “Nate, it’s time to get up and get ready for school.”


Me: Knocking gently. “Nate, are you awake?” Checking my EVP equipment, I notice a possible reading.

Me: Feeling a cold chill coming from underneath Nate’s bedroom door…then, a sound. “Lee! Did you hear that?”

Lee: “Yes! It sounded like “Blerg.”

Me: “I’ll play back the EVP.”

EVP: five minutes of scratching noises, then we both hear it: “Blerg.”

Lee and Me, overjoyed: “Yes! This is tangible evidence that he heard us AND responded.”

Here’s another possible scenario:

I can’t really tell you what to do here, dear parent. Sometimes extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures.

If you’d like to purchase Ghost Hunting equipment, there’s a link on amazon.