Choosing battles and pursuing dreams

My oldest is starting high school next month and it’s bizarre. Wasn’t I just in high school (flips hair over shoulder)?

The last three years have been rough. Seeing him through middle school was a balance between holding my breath, walking on eggshells, and, at times, forcing him out the door in the mornings.

It’s because he hates school.

So much of parenting is mastering the art of choosing our battles, but for the longest time I fought Ryln as he complained about going to school. We knew bullying wasn’t the issue — trust me, we looked into it — he got A’s and B’s, has a solid group of loyal friends. I just didn’t get it.

“You need school,” I’d tell him. “College will be here before you know it.”

“I’m not going to college,” he replied every. single. time.

I remember the first time he said it, worry swept over me like a swarm. Even though some of the smartest — and happiest — people I know never went to college, even though I know that God uses people regardless of their education, I still freaked out.

“College is pointless,” he would call after me as I walked away fretting and wringing my hands.

His mentality, in part, comes from the fact that he’s a teenager and apparently teenagers know everything, but part of it comes from a true place. College isn’t for everyone.

Ry with clubRyln doesn’t want to go to college because he wants to pursue his passion (I understand that he’s only going to be a freshman, but the years go by lightning-quick). Ryln’s first words were “golf ball” (true story). As a toddler, he’d drag clubs, twice his height, all around the house. In elementary school he took lessons, practiced with his dad, and discovered competitive golf. He spends entire days at the practice facility, honing his skills. He wants to focus on his game after high school and eventually try to play professionally. Frankly, if there wasn’t a golf team at the high school, the next four years would be unimaginable.

I’ve changed my mind about college for Ryln. I edged my way there with tentative steps; now I’m at peace.

A few months ago I was sitting across from him at a restaurant and he was telling us all, again, why school “is so dumb.” I reminded him that I went back to school to get my master’s and how I didn’t think it was dumb. “I don’t get why you did that,” he said. “You’re a phenomenal writer and that’s what you love doing.” John and I exchanged a look; he silently said to me, “See, he likes you.” Ryln’s biased because he’s my kid, but in terms of choosing a “safe path” rather than one with inherent risks — he hit the nail on the head. Kids are brave in ways that adults just aren’t.

Something shifted that day though, and I firmly planted one foot in Ryln’s camp.

A few weeks later I was talking to someone at work and they were asking about my degree program. As I was explaining it to her I said, “I can’t wait to be done. I love teaching, but I really don’t like being a student. I never have.” I have no idea what she said after that because as soon as the words left my mouth, I realized how much like Ry I sounded; I mentally shook my fist toward the heavens. It’s humbling, realizing the annoying things your kids do actually originate with you.

The tipping point came when I was watching a documentary — FINE! I was watching The Voice — and a participant’s mom was explaining that her daughter is passionate about music; even if it meant postponing college, she would support her kid. “As a parent, why wouldn’t you want to see your children step into their dreams?” asked the mom.

“Whatever, random lady from Lansing,” I thought.

But she was right.

Last month I stood on the threshold of Ryln’s bedroom door, one hand on the wall to steady myself, and told him that no matter what, I’m in his corner. “If you want to take a gap year, or (gulp) forgo college all together in order to do what you really love, I’m fine with that.

“And son,” I added, “you have the talent and the dedication to succeed.”

Because relenting and supporting aren’t the same. “Go ahead, do what you want,” isn’t the same as, “You can do this, I believe in you.”

He didn’t know what to make of it at first, but now he knows I’m sincere.

A few weeks later he made a passing comment about going to college if he gets a full ride.

Reverse psychology wasn’t my intention, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tiny bit relieved.

Either way though, he has our support. Everyone deserves to be cheered on as they step into their dreams.

Ryln walking to DW

 

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Musings for the end of 2016

saying-goodbyeJoy. That was my word for 2016. Joy is something you either have or you don’t. It’s not the same as happiness, which can come and go. That’s why the whole “choose joy” thing is super annoying. Whether I’m in a good mood or not, happy or not, excited or not, I still have joy. Who would choose not to have joy? For me, joy is the result of knowing who God is in my life and that’s not going to change. (Who picked this word anyway?)

What I did learn from spending a year ruminating on the word is that I probably don’t let my joy show enough. Fine. FINE! I definitely don’t. I feel like a grumpy 85-year-old man half the time, shaking my fist and yelling, “Get off my damn lawn!”

I want to be better about reflecting joy. More than anything, I want my kids to grow up knowing that it’s okay to be a goof every once in a while, to relax,  and not to take things so seriously.

As for the year in general…it has had its peaks and valleys. After thinking about it for 27 minutes I decided to go back to school to get my masters and my teaching credential. It’s not hard at all to take care of a family and a house, work, and go to school full time. By “not hard at all,” I really mean, “Get off my damn lawn!” It hasn’t been easy. I have questioned the decision more than once. I will be completely done before the end of 2017, and that is a very bright light at the end of what has felt like a very long tunnel.

I laid 1500 square feet of tile in our home in 2016. Nearly six months later and I sometimes still lay on the tile that looks exactly like beautifully aged barn wood, cheek pressed against the cold ceramic, and thank Jesus that I didn’t cut off a finger or lose an eye. Also, I thank Him for YouTube and Lowe’s.

Nothing happened in November and nobody freaked out. Translation – everyone freaked out.

For the most part, the year was fine.

Then a few days ago, just as it was almost closed, death stuck its foot in the door of 2016. It took a kind, genuine, honorable person less than a week before 2017 bloomed on the notes of Auld Lang Syne. He was one of the very best and I miss him a lot.

The word I picked for 2017 is trust. I was going to pick reconciliation. Frankly, I don’t know which one is worse. I mean better. They’re both so amazing. I’m looking forward to posting more about this soon.

Christmas: The Gift of Jesus

December 25

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:11 (NIV)

A heavenly orchestra sounds the most glorious symphony. A multitude of angels lift their voices in a celestial lullaby. Rejoice, for the Savior has come!

The deepest desire of countless generations, the fulfillment of prophecy, fully God and fully man, Jesus on earth.

His human life guaranteed eternal life to all who believe. Jesus, the Greatest Gift, bestowing upon us the gift of eternity. He was hope personified, love perfected, a joy-protector, and a peace-provider. He was, and he still is.

He came for you. He was born, so that you may live.

The Messiah-King reigns in heaven, and in our hearts.

Hallelujah!

For Today: Consider all the gifts God has given you – especially his son – and think about ways you can be a gift to him. How can you share him with those around you? How can you be a reflection of Jesus to the people in your home, your workplace, your community? Will you let God use you to love others?

Advent Day 28: The Gift as Promised

December 24

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

Gifts are set out. Children are giddy with excitement. People are preparing to travel. Families gather. Soon the sun will set, and an expectant hush will fall across the earth. The stars will shine against an inky black sky like they did that night so many years ago. The waiting is coming to an end. Tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day that marks the birth of the Messiah. The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The Savior of the world, born.

The planning, the praying, the seeking after God – leaning in to hope, love, joy, and peace – recognizing Advent, it all comes to this. The eve of the Messiah’s birth.

Take a moment, find a quiet place. Breathe in the peace he provides, and exhale the stress of the season. For tomorrow, we celebrate.

For Today: How have you grown closer to God during this period of Advent? How has he shown you hope, love, joy and peace?

Advent Day 27

December 23

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19: 11 – 12 (NIV)

God told Elijah to leave the cave where he was hiding, stand on the mountain, and wait because He was about to pass by. That, right there, is intense enough. What came next was beyond powerful — wind tore mountains apart and shattered rocks, an earthquake rumbled up from the depths of the earth, a fire ate away at the land.

It’s natural to assume that the Almighty God was about to make an entrance, that each display of force served as a herald of his arrival. But scripture says God wasn’t in any of those things. Scripture says that God came after a gentle whisper.

To understand the significance of this, you have to consider Elijah’s emotional state. He was on the run from Queen Jezebel after killing Baal’s prophets. In the midst of fleeing, an angel of the Lord instructed Elijah to rest, then eat, rest, then eat. God knew that Elijah was exhausted.

He wanted Elijah rested, and He wanted Elijah to focus — hence the miraculous show of force. When God knew He had Elijah’s full attention, then came the whisper.

There it is.

Rest precedes the whisper — it did for Elijah, and it does for us — and sometimes, big, big things slam into our lives to get our attention and to prepare us. Prepare us to hear God’s still, small voice; peace comes on the wings of that whisper.

For Today: Looking back, can you recall times when God used something huge to get your attention, and in the aftermath, whispered peace and love into your life?

 

Advent Day 26

December 22

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

As Christmas nears, it’s only natural for us to look toward the new year. It’s appropriate that it happens in winter, blowing in on a fresh, cold breeze. Crisp white calendar pages fluttering open in the season’s wind. Twelve new months sit before us. Habit makes us fill those pages, but Christmas beckons us to leave space, margin, time for quiet, unplanned things to happen.

We know that the hustle can wear on us, make us feel haggard and exhausted. A calendar filled too full with plans leaves no room for Jesus to move in, sweep us off our feet, bust down the walls of our boxes. Not only does busyness cause anxiety, it takes away opportunities for the hush that often brings peace.

We don’t need to fill our calendars to feel productive. We don’t need to fill our days to the brim in an effort to avoid feeling all the hard things we may be avoiding. We don’t need to fill our time in order to appear successful.

For Today: Are there things you can cut from your 2017 calendar, before you even schedule them?

Advent Day 25: The Gift of Favor

December 21

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.
Luke 2:14 (NIV)

A great company of heavenly hosts sang these praise-filled words to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks. The angels were making the first announcement of Christ’s birth; God chose common shepherds with which to announce the birth of the Shepherd. It’s proof positive that the Good News is meant for every person on earth.

The angels also proclaimed the peace that comes only from God. It’s a soul-deep peace that flows as a result of God’s favor, and the birth of the Messiah is the greatest assurance that we are recipients of that favor. Jesus himself acts as the connection between his children on earth and his Father in heaven. Through the Messiah, we can be sure we have peace and favor from God.

For Today: In what ways has God shown you favor?