It has been years since my son sat on my lap and cried. The fact that he was doing it now broke my heart. He was scared. He was terrified by someone at school. Who was the bully?
I'm going to back up here before anyone misunderstands. The school - teachers and principal - did exactly what they were supposed to do, and I am proud of them for that. If someone breaks a rule, I ALWAYS want the expected discipline to follow. Well, almost always. And even if I don't want it to happen, that doesn't mean it shouldn't happen.
Time to explain.
We have always had a house that was "gun-free." There are no real guns in our house; there are no fake guns in our house. The former is for safety; the latter is for posterity. Even in the days of Lego Star Wars, we reinforced that the characters only used blasters - make-believe weapons that only stunned people. When the kids asked why, we explained that life was very sacred, and it it wasn't ours to take away. We shouldn't joke around with it.
After upteen classes on my way to elementary education degrees, I had learned a little about a child's reasoning. At younger ages, the permanence of death does not make sense to them, so we didn't feel we needed to go to the depths of the "once a person dies, they aren't coming back" conversation just yet.
I'm sure we aren't the only parents to have ever discussed this with our kids. AND YET. Kids have pretended with fake guns - be they sticks, toys, pop tarts, or fingers - since before my grandmother's stories, I'd bet. Where on earth they get these ideas, I can't say. (I never did it as a child, but then I am not a boy.)
Suddenly, because of the reality of tragedy, schools need to crack down and enforce those conversations about why we don't pretend with guns. They now need to evaluate every make believe as a viable threat (or not) to another student. Can you imagine all the pretend cowboys that could have been on trial 50 years ago? Even 20 years ago, as a camp counselor, I could have taken those Power Ranger Wanna Be's to court for putting plastic swords to my neck with today's rules.
Why was my son so upset? He was called to the carpet, so to speak, while playing his game and the severity of his actions was discussed with him by the principal. (In his school, there are normally 4 steps until you go to the principal. He has never been past step 1.) Possible consequences for his negligence of others' feelings about his game were laid out. I think I can accurately surmise that the boy felt sick at that point.
It was determined by the school that my 8-year-old son will likely not be running out to find assault weapons to carry to anyone's doorstep. I would concur with their decision, especially after hearing the punishment he decided to give himself after our talk. (The talk that my husband and I gave to him, by the way, lasted all of about 2 sentences. It was all he could take in the shame of his wrong-doing.)
I'm crying, not because the school made my child cry. I'm crying because the world we live in has required it of the school. I am sad for the people who have lost loved ones due to the misuse of guns. And I am sad for everyone who has to suffer for it.
But with all this sadness and crying, I am thankful that mine was the kind of problem that could be solved with a long hug. And I'm thankful for a little boy who will still let his problems disappear in my arms.
Leaving the mall yesterday, coffee in my hand, I walked quickly to my car. A few white snowflakes drifted by my eyes. Having been rather consumed the papal conclave, my immediate thought was, "I wonder if these are white ashes indicating a white smoke?"
I laughed to myself when I got in the car, at about 2:10, turned to the news radio station, and heard the wild applause. I knew what it meant, and it was all I could do not to start beeping my car horn to help them celebrate. Just five minutes or so prior, white ashes were indeed floating around St. Peter's Square.
I sat in traffic on the way home with butterflies in my stomach, waiting for the new pope to be announced. It took FOREVER! (about an hour, but it seemed so long, because they kept saying he would come out in about 10 minutes.)
Nervous. Why was I so nervous? I'm not Catholic.
"The Pope is for everybody," I have heard said many times before. I used to scoff, thinking how nice it was of these folks to share, but I didn't want any.
But now, I think I might be starting to get it a little. I am not Catholic, but I am part of the catholic church. In the sense I am using, "catholic" (the one with the lower-case "c") means "broad" or "wide-spread." Catholicism is a part of the Christian catholic church, and so am I.
I have one unshakable belief: Jesus Christ, Son of God died in my place to atone for my sins. He did that because He and the Father, who are One, love me and have given me that gift to spend eternity with them in Heaven. There is no other Way.
If you call yourself a Christian, hopefully that is what you believe as well. If you are Catholic, you probably call yourself Christian as well, and that would make you my brother or sister in Christ. I rejoice with you.
So, who is the Pope to me? Hard to say, as it is not my church. That's how I see him -- as the leader of the Catholic church. I attend a church with a phenomenal pastor. He preaches the Word of God as absolute Truth, and he practices the love of Christ to all of his sheep.
I am excited because another Christian church is getting a leader who appears (from what I have seen) to have a similar loving expression for those in his enormous fold. I love the "idea" surrounding Pope Francis, that of simplicity and poverty. He appears to champion humility, a Biblical principle that the Son of Man demonstrated when he washed the feet of even the man who was going to betray him. He has a heart for the poor, which was also something we saw as Jesus found abandoned lepers to heal, and even a man who lived in a pig's wallow.
I like him. I have no idea what the hope is for his policies and such. There is plenty in the Catholic church that I do not necessarily agree with. I'll steer clear of all that discussion. But the bottom line is that members of a Christian church need to represent Christ. They should have a leader to show them what it looks like.
There has been talk about walls coming down because he is not European. But I hope that when Pope Francis was selected, the Cardinals weren't thinking about that. I hope they were looking at his heart and choosing who they thought God had ordained to lead this church.
I ask God to bless the new pope, Pope Francis I.
This is for all my writing friends out there. I am writing because I love you. Now, you better get your big girl (or big boy) pants on, because what I have have to say might sting.
Here's a little piece of my writing background. Once I had written my first novel, I began to send it to publishers and agents in hopes of finding someone to take on my project. After 19 rejections, I began to see that if I wanted to see this work in print, I might have to do it myself.
When I made the decision to self-publish, I knew my work needed to be looked over. You know. For the little things I may have missed like missing commas or forgotten capitals. Because nothing is more frustrating than reading a book and finding a typo, right?
After all, how bad could it be? In high school, I took AP English and passed the exam. I did so well on my college placement boards that I placed out of taking any composition classes at all. So, yes. That means it had been 20 years since I was a student of English. But the language hadn't changed any, so I was sure I was fine.
I had even been a teacher of English - as high as 6th grade, mind you. And all that stuff was still pretty familiar. Many people hate me for constantly reminding them of which "your" is needed.
So I formed a group of my friends to be "betas" and tasked them with finding my little typos. They hadn't gotten very far when, I am convinced, God sat upon His throne, shaking His head, saying, "Oh no. She's really going to do it. She is going to try to represent me with a book that looks like that."
Harsh, you say? I wish I could show you the compilation of edits made to the very first chapter of my "masterpiece." The work I had poured over. And over. And over again.
I wasn't going to catch my mistakes, because I didn't know what I was doing wrong.
So, God set the wheels in motion, stopping me from my adventure into self-publication and finding a publisher willing to work with me. Since I had been nervous diving into publishing my book with no knowledge of the publishing world whatsoever, I jumped at the chance to have a professional do it for me.
After all the contract signing, copyrighting, and other business about which I was clueless was finished, I leaped into the next phase of editing.
O. M. Gosh. I felt like a first grader, who just learned to read, being taught (patiently) all the rules of composition that I either never knew or was choosing to ignore for the sake of voice. (I learned later that voice didn't have to break rules and look ugly. There were better ways to achieve it.)
My editor taught me what felt like years' worth of proper grammar, syntax, style, and story-telling. I wish I could list it all! Actually, I have been compiling a list of my biggest mistakes. I use it as a check-off list as I proofread my other novels. It is an on-going list, because sadly, I know there is plenty more to learn.
The result was a book that I was not embarrassed to sell. I probably wouldn't have been embarrassed to sell it before the editing, but I should have been!
Okay, writers, what are you taking away from this? I'm not putting you down if you have selected the self-publishing route, especially if that was the way you wanted to go in the first place. However, if you are only self-publishing because your work has been rejected numerous times by traditional publishers and agents, I would suggest looking into finding a professional editor. A publisher might be too busy to tell you that his pet peeve is when someone starts a sentence off with the word, "But," but an editor will fix it so you can experience a valued look from the publisher.
I haven't made it as an author, if "making it" counts as selling more than 13 books. So, my opinion might not matter all that much. But as a reader, I will tell you that I do not want to waste my time on a book that is not well-written. Please give me your best.
I just got back from taking the 3rd cat to the vet. None of these cats are declawed. And none of them like to go in the cat carrier. It was quite a struggle. Ouch.
Not only are the scratches painful, but they are ugly, too. Yes, I am that vain. Sorry. I look forward to summertime tanning of my skin. Such things as scratches and scars become less noticeable against a darker background.
Darkness covers so many flaws. I guess that's why we all strive for it these days. (Tanner skin, anyway.) And it seems I have so many flaws to hide! I've given up on my knees. Softball scars there are bound for permanence.
But we aren't talking knees today. Few people go looking at knees. (And if they do, I would steer clear of them.) When you first meet someone, they probably - hopefully - notice you from the neck up. But what is the next thing you do? Shake hands. And you don't often look at those hands, but you feel them, which could lead to looking. It is never inappropriate to look at someone's hands, I think.
What would you see if you looked at my hands? Go ahead. Those are my hands in the picture, and I give you permission to look (though you might not be able to get a good analysis from this poor shot.) This is what might stick out:
But what is prominent in the picture? What is the first thing your eyes go to?
Hopefully, it's my wedding rings. That's the way I would hope it would be.
Don't look at how my skin has been pulled apart and torn by others when I tried to force my way on them. Don't look at my coarse attempts to fight off what inevitably comes through the door with children in the winter. Don't look at my failed effort to cover nature with cosmetics. And please don't look at how far I am aging. Instead, look at the truly natural, beautiful, sparkly thing of great value in the center of it all.
It wasn't my husband's ambition when he proposed to me to hide the ugliness of my hands. Neither was it his goal to mark me as his. (Though he was successful at both.) I think what he wanted to do was give me all he could to show me that he would love me as long as that ring lasts. And as you know, it is pretty much impossible to destroy a diamond. So, he was talking about forever.
Interesting. I have an analogy.
There's another ring that surrounds my life, with brilliance in the center of it all. And He was given to me by Someone else with all the love He had.
When God looks at me now, He doesn't see how my life has been torn up by insisting on my wills and desires. He doesn't see how I fail sometimes at washing away the sin in my life, and how repeated attempts at doing so are wearing me down. He doesn't see how I try to do good and beautiful works to make myself appear holier than I really am. And He doesn't see how far my body is aging, because to die is the gain of our ultimate togetherness.
It's still there, the ugliness in my life. But He doesn't see it for shining, perfect brilliance of my Rock. Even though He knows it's all there, in love, He chooses to overlook it and see Something Else. He sees the perfect and beautiful Christ that I have accepted in my life.
Nothing the Father could have given me has more value than His Son. I am as honored to accept that Gift from Him as a fiancee receiving her engagement ring. And I think when He looks at Christ in my life, He couldn't be more pleased to call me His.
So go ahead and look at my hands. Call them ugly, call them beautiful. Whatever, I don't care. They are covered with the value I could never achieve on my own. And they belong to Him.
Passion Under Grace,