The Real Neighbors of Ladera

Ladera Post

“Mom, you and dad do what? What’s this “crazy” business all about?”

My son stares me down as his eyes peep over the newspaper in his hands.

Weak Smile and Change the SUBJECT

**Note to self** Remember the words you write before you let your kids read it in the newspaper.

Here’s my last article from 4/19/2013.  I actually wrote this a while back but it just got published. Fortunately, I am out of the diaper stage, but I remember those days all too well!

THE REAL NEIGHBORS OF LADERA
By SAMANTHA KELLER

FOR THE OC REGISTER/LADERA POST

I bumped into a cast member from “The Real Housewives of Orange County” at the Pavilions in Ladera Ranch the other day.

This lovely lass from Bravo’s hit reality show is my neighbor, if you count her living in the tract across the street as living in part of my hood, and I do, because somehow that makes me cooler.

We both had three kids trailing at our heels and our eyes met in a moment of “Lord have mercy on me,” or at least that’s what I was thinking with a crying baby, my son begging for coconut water that costs $5 per eight ounces and my daughter trying to assemble the perfect cake-making materials to create an atomic particle (will somebody please tell me how the heck to make positive ions out of frosting?).

Right about then it hit me who she was.

Trying not to be too obvious, I snuck glances. She was dressed in fancy workout clothes and her long blonde extended tresses were flowing around her shoulders. She had gobs of makeup on and was a perfect shade of bronze.

I, on the other hand, am proud to say I did not have snot or poop or baby barf on me.

It was a good day.

After checking out she walked up to a white BMW in the parking lot and then realized
it wasn’t hers.

She started mumbling cuss words under her breath and for the first time I saw a
“real” woman. The scenario was funny and dumb and something I would do.

And for a moment, I connected with a normal chick who struggles to remember where
she parked the car.

I loved it! I loved the messiness!

What I really want is a REALITY show where moms act like real moms -not dance moms
or cheer moms or duck moms -just moms.

I want to see a show where real women drive the 3 p.m. carpool in pink monkey
pajamas with bold panache.

How about a show that depicts the parents pretending to be asleep and then calling
each other names in the middle of the night as they fight over who will get up for
the third time with baby?

A show where parents turn on “Yo Gabba Gabba” and park their baby in front of the TV
and get crazy in the bathroom for five minutes because it’s the only time they have
to be intimate.

I want to see the show where real Ladera Ranch neighbors bawl and hug because it’s
been a bad day and we pull out the Skinny Girl margarita mix and encourage each
other to forgive and forget.

Where real mommies and daddies fight and make up and laugh at each other’s jokes,
because mommy thinks daddy is hysterical and adorable and the best thing that has
ever happened to her.

Real housewives do live in Ladera and our unscripted lives are infinitely more
interesting than a reality show that strives to capture our mommy “mojo” and falls
so far from the mark.

–Samantha Keller is a Southern California native, freelance writer, blogger, JSerra
High School football mom and local speaker on dating and relationships. She lives in
Ladera Ranch with her husband, Pastor Tim Keller, and their three children. Visit
her blog at scrappysam.com.

Twice Lost

lost: Unable to find one’s way: a lost child.

I was twenty-two years old the first time I lost my brother. Eighteen years later I have lost him again.

The first time he disappeared my parents left me in charge of the twelve-year-old squirt while they vacationed in Europe. I came home from college one Spring break to care for him and failed miserably in my first attempt at pseudo-parenting.

One afternoon he took off a skateboard to play with the neighbor kids and didn’t return for dinner. After searching door to door and calling all his friends, I finally contacted the police in desperation. Close to midnight, I stood in the darkness outside of my parent’s home and with tears and sobs and groans of utter despair -I begged for God’s mercy.

Something overtook me then–something holy and mystical –a presence of sweet and utter peace. And I knew God heard me.

Two hours later, after the police combed the neighborhood with dogs and helicopters, my brother was found. He had fallen asleep on the floor of the next door neighbor’s house in their third floor playroom. Somehow in the panic of the search and managing their own five children, my brother had slipped by unnoticed by the neighbor’s and only woke with the roar of helicopters.

I took my bargain with God seriously. The next day was Good Friday and I stood up at the altar call and officially sealed the deal with my Savior.

It’s almost twenty years later and in a weird twist of irony it’s Easter weekend again.

And once again my brother is lost.

It happened in the blink of an eye. He started using drugs. He lost his job and girlfriend. The highs became higher and the lows became lower.

On Palm Sunday my father called me from the hospital and choked out the horrific details.

In a violent and vicious drug rage, my brother attacked our parents and almost killed my step-mom. He was arrested for felony assault to elders and incarcerated.

My father, suffering from dementia tried to protect his wife and call 911 as he was forced to defend himself against his own son throwing blows at him.

I’ve never felt more helpless, shocked and honestly –ashamed. I wanted to hide and tell no one.

Good Friday came. And once again I stood and lifted my arms to God. When it came time to write out my sins, I sat there in my chair and scribbled one word –UNFORGIVENESS.

If my heart ever felt hardened to a human this was it. Love and hate intermingled with betrayal.

I dragged my feet up to the cross and slowly lifted the hammer to nail it in. And I forced myself to remember how much God has forgiven me through each thump of the hammer.

It’s been a long week of picking up the pieces of a family blown to bits by evil. My step-mom has multiple fractures in her shoulder and arm. She is bruised from her chest to the tips of her fingers. My father is dissalusioned, sad and scared. And even though the physical wounds are painful, the bruises to their spirit are far deeper.

To make matters worse, my brother was let out of jail on Thursday by an accidental clerical error. The charges had to be re-submitted. Once the warrant goes out he will have to be re-arrested. He was defiant upon release and showed no remorse. Although there is a restraining order, his instability doesn’t leave my family feeling secure.

In the meantime, he was spotted wandering through a trailer park high and incoherent.

Easter hit me like a ton of bricks.

The resurrection we celebrate on Easter morning means everything to the followers of Christ. We base our lives and hopes and beliefs on it.

But the resurrection means EVEN MORE to the wandering souls who reject him although they may not know or care; because in the worst of times there is always the possibility of hope and a return to the father.

Our God died for us while we were still sinners and he continues to pursue the lost until they are found. And even in trailer parks and prisons and to the ends of the earth, I believe God will pursue his lost son.

It’s not easy to share this story. It’s still raw and prickly, but I believe there are many families out there just like ours battling for their sons and daughters (and brother’s) hearts. The one thing I have learned by tentatively sharing and asking for prayer is that I am not alone in this. Please don’t isolate –reach out to your community and church for support. These tragedies are too big for you to handle alone. If your family member is suffering from an addiction and has turned abusive or violent, please find help.

–Samantha

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ Luke 15:22-24

 

Photo Source: google.com via Ashleigh on Pinterest

Finding Peace in a Mother’s Chaos

Christmas 2012

Almost a year ago I made the jump from working at the office full-time to freelancing. 

One day a week, I pull out my old work clothes and attempt to de-Momify.  One day a week I am a professional.  The rest of the week I wear yoga pants.

Here is what I learned about working mostly from home –it’s (insert bad word) hard. 

There are no boundaries between work and home, just blurry lines and lot’s and lot’s of compromise.

I erroneously thought it would be easier to be at home more.

Even though I used to be a stay at home (for the first six years with Kyle and Faith), I forgot how managing a home and toddlers and teens will suck a woman dry. 

Kind of like the Dementer’s from Harry Potter. SWWWOOOOOSSSHHHH.  Can you picture it?

Sometimes I feel like I have an identity crisis.  I work outside the home and inside the home.  It’s like two-full time jobs competing for my attention.

I still have to clock in the 20-30 hours of paid work so we don’t starve.  But now I have no housekeeper to take the edge off.  I still have to cook meals and make lunches and drive 21 trips to or from the kids schools a week.  I have to maintain sports schedules and wash stinky football clothes and bring snacks.  I am still a team mom-although I really shouldn’t because I am so NOT that mom)

Some weeks I manage it all and sometimes I want to sit on my dirty floor and cry.

As I sit down to write I see dust bunnies floating by –taunting me as only a dust bunny can do.  My bathroom is messy and the laundry piles up and out the door. 

No guest is allowed to enter the upper chambers.  I can keep the downstairs immaculate but I’ve pretty much given up on the upstairs.  It’s a disaster in progress.

I have friends that joke about how I can do it all.  I just shake my head and drool.

A mother of a large family simply survives.

Mom’s simply work and work and work until they fall down from exhaustion and then they watch HGTV or the History Channel (because their husband has canceled all the good channels to save money) and they lie like a zombie on the sofa until their kids throw things at them and demand to be fed and taxied to the next event.

Every day I am forced to choose between keeping up with the house or making enough money to have a house. 

I read the other day that although work equality has “come a long way baby,” (since the 1960’s) household management has not seen any change.  This means most women now work and carry the full load of housework and kids.  Dads might help more with baby and kid’s activities but guys feel completely entitled to park their butts in front of a football game and let mom serve them.

Of course I’m talking about national averages here.  My husband is the exception.  When he is home he always pitches in.  Unfortunately, until he finishes graduate school and juggling a million pastoral duties…well you get the drift.

But even though I still feel overwhelmed with motherhood, being at home more is well worth the struggle.

Because there is a place in my heart now that used to ache and now the ache is gone.

A year ago, I missed my kids desperately and day after day being gone for ten hours at a time was killing me.  (Along with the commute)

I really don’t think you can put a price tag on peace.  And a mother’s peace is different from a man’s.  There are certain desire’s of the heart only a woman understands. 

For the first time in ages, I am home when my big kids get home from school.  I am home with my toddler more often than not.  I get to go to the park and the pool and take bubble baths and read books and watch Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas four hundred times. 

I get to be present with my kids. And even though it’s really HARD it’s good. 

So…although my house is dirty and I have to squeeze in work and writing assignments during nap time and at zero dark thirty, I know I am not missing a thing.

And for a modern mother it doesn’t get much better than this –identity crisis and all.  (Although if anyone knows a free housekeeper…it could be a teeny-tiny bit better)

What things in your life do you need to change to find peace?

Killing Superwoman

 

Growing up in the eighties, I vividly remember a perfume commercial with a gorgeous gal clad in a chic suit prancing home from work in sky-high heels to assemble a gourmet dinner for her adoring family.  The catchy tune playing in the background “I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan…,” became the mantra of a generation of women trying to do it all.  Just being a stay-at-home mom lost its glamour and allure as women flocked into the corporate world.

This pseudo super-woman was beautiful and fit (despite feasting on bacon), a doting mother, sexual tiger to her man, room mom, CEO and host of a weekly wine group.  Mattel even made Dr. Barbie in a white coat and gave the doll a more professional ensemble to match her new identity.  Barbie pushed her twins in a double-stroller and then drove to work in her pink corvette smiling and waving at the nanny.

And a whole generation of young women bought into the lie we could be all things and do all things well, forgetting the natural limitations of energy and balance and sanity. 

Clearly the song forgot to mention how super-woman started having heart palpitations and chronic fatigue before she hit forty.  It failed to acknowledge super-woman’s love/hate relationship with her job, the guilt of constantly dumping car-pool on her neighbor, and the anxiety of slipping out of work early every Thursday to watch her son play t-ball.  The song didn’t address sleepless nights with baby, shouting curses at her husband over who would get up for the four a.m. feeding, playing dead from sheer exhaustion when her husband begs for sex, and stapling badges on her little girl scouts sash in a last minute desperation because she hasn’t a clue where a needle and thread might be hiding.

The song left out all the unspoken but necessary intangibles that go along with a real life of balancing work and children and hubby.  When I recently saw the movie, “How Does She do it all?” I laughed bitterly.  Not only could I have written the script –my life was even more hectic with three kids, a full-time job and a freelance career on the side.  But something in me identified with this compulsion to master motherhood and family despite the toll it was taking on my body.   I wasn’t ready to give up anything, choosing instead to scurry and race along on an endless hamster wheel of busyness, always on the edge of hurtling off into the abyss and a nervous breakdown.

I really thought I could pull it off.  I was the exception.  Sure, my eating habits were getting a little processed and I exercised less often than more; but I was holding up and playing the martyr mommy role with gusto until my heart literally stopped me. 

The details are a little fuzzy, but I recall running on a scorching hot Sunday morning with my baby daughter tucked in her bright orange jogging stroller.  Overly ambitious, thanks to a Venti Americano buzz from Starbucks, I rashly determined to sprint up a monstrous hill near my home at top speed and go for the burn.  I arrived home winded and panting, and headed straight for a hot shower with the baby in my arms.  I lathered up, rinsed and then bent over to pick up my adorable daughter.  As I started to raise her in the air, a slippery soft cherub covered in bubbles, a white light ricocheted through my skull and blackness enveloped me.

I don’t know how long I lost consciousness that morning.  I awoke slumped in a heap on the shower floor over my howling and terrified baby with icy cold streams of water prickling my back.  There were hospitals and endless tests and then the results I never expected to hear. 

At the tender age of thirty-nine –under order of a cardiologist, I was forced to pick between juggling two jobs or find myself with a pacemaker within six months.    As a mother of three beloved children, the decision wasn’t too tough.  It was time to kill super-woman. 

My kids and I put Dr. Barbie into a boat and we launched her with glee into the ocean as an act of surrender and a celebration of the beginning of a new season.  (I thought burning Dr. Barbie might be a tad too traumatic for the two-year-old) 

Then I changed every facet of my life starting with work and moving outward circle by circle.  Now when I take a jog, it’s not to fit into a bikini, it’s to keep my ticker going strong for my kids.  Things like nap-time and nutrition have reemerged and rest has taken on a whole new meaning since caffeine isn’t my go-to pick-me-up anymore. 

But the biggest lifestyle modification was changing my broken thinking.   I started to accept I can’t do it all and I certainly can’t do it all well.  Super-woman is a myth which has deceived us all.  Working mothers carry tremendous guilt and stay-at-home mothers struggle with their identity thanks to her.  No one tells a young woman she might someday have to choose between a big family and a successful career –because the personal compromise she will make to do both might eventually destroy either her health or sanity.

Fortunately, I recognized I was getting a second chance to pick what is most important and move towards that which resonates in my soul and gives me life –relationships, family, writing, and a story lived well.  Surprisingly, my list of non-negotiable items was much shorter than I anticipated after I cut off all the good I was doing to make room for the best.

Is it time you killed super-woman?

Photo Source: 500px.com via Alexandria on Pinterest

The Face Plant

It was one of those perfect winter days masquerading as spring.  The sun warmed my toes and a soft breeze tickled my ears.  The trees overhead swayed back and forth and in the distance I heard Kolby’s high pitched giggle as her little legs pumped high on the big kid swing. 

We were at one of our favorite parks in Old Town San Juan Capistrano.  We stopped for a glass of wine and a yummy appetizer at Sundried Tomato, picked up a latte at Hidden House Coffee, petted a few stinky llamas and alpacas at Zoomars and then headed to the park.

Daddy laughed along with Kolby’s screams of glee and pushed her higher and higher on the swing while I lounged on a wooden park bench in the sun.  My eyes got heavy and finally closed as I listened to the happy sounds of kids playing and the train off in the distance. 

Until I heard a high-pitched scream that woke me up fast.

I jumped up from the park bench and raced to the swings where little Kolby lay face down in the wood chips.  Her feet had dragged and with a violent smack she face-planted. 

I gently picked her up and blood poured out of her tiny nose.  It was her first big Boo-Boo.

Daddy and I cleaned up her face, checked for a broken nose and tried to cheer her up with a promise of ice cream.

Kolby’s blood and tears dried fast but daddy’s cheeks remained ashen. 

This little girl means the world to him. 

It reminded me of the first time my son Kyle took a spill, face planted and ripped open his lip after I encouraged him to try a big slide.  I felt like a tool for pushing my 12 month old to go big and take a risk before he was mature enough to tackle it.

But years later I recognize it was those very risks and  encouragement that allow my son to dream big.  Kyle might eat it when he tries new things and he might occasionally even fail but he believes in himself and fear does not define him.

Kolby  told us later on that night she would “never go on the big swing again.” 

Tim looked crushed.

Then I reminded my three-year old of how great she did on the big kid swing and how maybe in a few months when she grew a little bit bigger that it would be fun to try again.

She considered my words carefully and sighed big.  “Ok, mommy.  I will try again soon, but I need to eat more vegetables and grow before I try that scary swing again.”

Daddy and I nodded in agreement and affirmed her willingness to get back in the swing.

I love how with just a little encouragement Kolby turned her fear into a challenge to grow. 

(And I’m really thrilled how my eating vegetables brain-washing is sinking in)

I know there will be many more scrapes and bumps along the road for my youngest girl.  And I know my husband will have his heart wrenched a thousand more times as he watches his first (biological) daughter grow up.  

Their daddy/daughter love story reminds me of my own journey with God–a loving father and a scared little girl who sometimes winds up face down and bloodied in the wood chips.

But she gets back up because she is loved.  And next time she will swing even higher.

Have you taken any big risks lately? 

Fred, George and Goldilocks

Christmas 2012 Kolby 4

Fred and George still haunt me.

Not in the way they used too, I mean I’m not afraid of ghosts anymore, but their names still bring back delicious terror.

You see…daddy told me when I was a wee tot that two ghosts lived inside the walls of my bedroom and if I dared to climb out of my bed they would get me.

Let’s not even bring up how demented this is.  When I’ve suggested it was a form of child abuse to my dad he still falls over laughing. 

But one day I realized, like Jim Carey in the Truman show, that no apparition appeared if I defiantly stuck out a toe or a limb.

I caught on pretty quick that my reality was not REALITY.

Eventually I worked up the courage to run like a bat out of hell out of my room and sneak over to my mom’s side of the bed who always let me in for a cuddle.

I thought a lot about Fred and George last night because my toddler refuses to stay in her bed.  And after two weeks of not sleeping and now fighting off illness (probably from massive sleep deprivation) I’m almost ready to ask Fred and George for some advice.  They keep appearing in my feverish hallucinations taunting me with a whole night of un-interupted slumber.

Kolby moved into the BIG GIRL BED a few weeks ago.  We took the crib down, stored it in the garage and unknowingly kissed sleep goodbye.  Most of the time I take the hit for Tim, because out of the two of us I do better without sleep, although he had to step up last night as I borderlined pneumomia.

It’s the second time we’ve tried the BIG GIRL BED.  After a failed attempt a year ago, we aborted mission and put her back in the crib.  Last time it was because she potty trained and needed help to use the restroom in the middle of the night.  I couldn’t handle waking up every three hours to help her tinkle, so up went the porta-crib again in our room so I could at least keep the lights off as I guided her tiny butt to the potty.

But now she is physically too big to stuff in the porta-crib.  The fact that she was complaining about her legs and arms hurting might have been an indication we had played out that card a little too long.

In goes Kolby into the BIG GIRL BED and within one hour she has snuck back into our bed to go horizontal on us and kick one of us in the head or the kidney.  She lies on me, throws elbows in my chest and breathes her sweet baby breath in my face.

I put her back to bed.  Tim puts her back to bed.  Press repeat over and over until we are so exhausted that Tim goes to the sofa around 3:00am to salvage any sleep whatsoever and then Kolby kicks the crap out of me until 6:00am when I have to get my teenager ready for high school.   

I am a ZOMBIE and I am way too old for this.

I’d toss her out like a sailor if not for the fact that I love her soooooo much.  This third baby of mine has both daddy and I whooped, sucker tied and wrapped around every phalange. 

She is terrifically spoiled and we are wimps when it comes to her little grin and Goldilocks.

Is bribery the next option?  Will it take a puppy to get her to sleep in her bed?  I’d gate her in but she shares a room with her sister with an adjoining bathroom to her brother’s room.  She’ll just walk right through into his room and find us.  She’s smart like that.

This kid needs incentive…

What makes a toddler want to stay in bed?

All advice will be considered except ghosts and spanking.

 

The Agony of Finals Week

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It’s Finals week and all the crazed and neurotic mothers have come out of the woodwork.

I know I am not alone.  I can see it in their eyes and Facebook posts.  Mom’s are on the edge.  (It’s when kids secretly text that mom has turned into a big bad word starting with a B)

Somehow we mama’s must make our kids buckle down and STUDY, a challenge not unlike removing a wad of sticky gum plastered to the bottom of the dryer.

Help! How do I channel the vision of a first-class college degree and the impact of a strong GPA onto a fourteen-year-old who just wants to get buff so he can sack quarterbacks and score hot chicks. 
 

I see him graduating from Stanford.  He imagines himself running out of Autzen Stadium in Oregon.  I see Summa Cum Laude.  He sees Grabba Thigh Beta.

I suggest he is a student/athlete,  while Kyle see’s himself as an athlete/student. 

Don’t get me wrong, my son is a sweet and Godly kid but puberty has hit hard.  He weighs 182 lbs and is just shy of 6 ft.  He looks and smells like a burly man.  And yet he is still an impressionable child in many respects.

Can someone tell me how to get through the layers of muscle and hormones to reach the logical side of the brain?  I’ve heard teenagers are  brain-damaged (AKA immature) until they reach their early twenties.

How do I teach rational thought to Jello? Every nugget of wisdom bounces right off him. 

“Mom, barely any of my friends even study for finals.  Stop stressing.  I’m way ahead of the game,” he says with a laidback smile.

Inside I freak out some more.

Right now I’ve improvised with complete and utter bribery.  I ply him  with food, protein and what we call “party grades.”  This means Kyle has to get good grades to attend all social events.  There is no iPhone this week. FaceBook is off limits.  We force him to make flash cards and actually review them.

So far it’s sort of working although it’s a VERY painful process.

We’ll see how he (and mama) survives Finals week.  Two more days of torture!

How do you motivate your teen to study?

 

 

“Why” You Need to Read the Labels

Love 2“Mom, my eye is killing me.”

From a far off distance, I heard Kyle’s plea for help. With a groggy groan, I roused myself out of the first waves of sweet sleep and sat up to examine him. Indeed, his right peeper appeared bloodshot and his cheek below was red and irritated from scratching.

I hopped out of bed, ran to the bathroom cabinet and searched for the eye drops. I found the tiny bottle and ripped off the wrapping. Sitting Kyle down I dumped a few drops in his sore eye.

I waited to hear, “Ahhhhh, thanks mom,” but it never came.

Instead Kyle started howling, “It burns, mom, it burns.”

Confused, I turned on the light and looked at the bottle. It said “Otic” Solution not “Optic” Solution.

“Otic” means ear not eye.

“Abort, Abort!”

We rushed Kyle to the sink to flush his eye out with water. Tim searched online for medical treatment and I prepared to go to the hospital and then the slammer.

Tears choked my stutters of rambling, “sorry, sorry, sorry.”

I patted Kyle’s back and ached with his every moan.

I could see the headlines. “Mother accidentally blinds budding football star with Otic Solution. Abuse Charges filed.”

Suddenly Tim yelled from the bedroom, “It says it’s a common accident. The medicine “neomycin” actually the same, just in a higher concentration for sensitive eyes. He’ll live. Just wash it out good.”

My son playfully glared at me with his good eye. “Nice mom, thanks for the love!”

Kyle went to bed and I fell back to sleep exhausted. It had been a long week. Kolby had a high fever for almost five days in a row and I was running on fumes from nursing her. But my sleep was troubled.

Mommy guilt was setting in. The fog of inner torment settled on my shoulders like a backpack.

Kyle’s eye was better in the morning and I sent him off to school somewhat relieved but feeling like a big loser.

When I sat down with my Bible I needed grace more than ever. My prayers went something like this: Jesus, I suck as I mom. I failed my kid. In my weakness and exhaustion I slipped. I’m supposed to be his rescuer. I remembered the day when I accidentally nipped his tiny finger as a baby with the nail trimmer. Every drop of blood tortured me. This moment felt strangely familiar.

Please, please, please help me climb out of this hole of self-abuse.

And then my solace came. Slowly, quietly and with stillness. Psalms of praise, thanksgiving and love.

I felt my shepherds gentle pat and knew everything would be ok.

I am so thankful for God’s unending grace and mercy to a troubled mother’s heart. It was just enough to get me through the day, although a few tears of remorse continued to cloud my vision.

Do you ever struggle with “mommy guilt” when you blow it?

Teens and Faith

Kyle party

The Irvine Spectrum (an outdoor mall in Southern California) was crowded and noisy with holiday shoppers searching for post-Christmas deals. A storm was blowing in and rain sporadically swept through and drenched everyone in it’s path.

My fourteen year-old son Kyle and his buddy anguished in a long line to buy movie tickets for “Reacher” only to have the show sold out. Frustrated, the boys bought tickets for the next show and aimlessly wandered around with an hour to kill.

A group of high school students stood in the center of the bustling courtyard, oblivious to the rain, and motioned for the boys to come over. An athletic kid with spiky blond hair walked up to my son and stuck out his hand.

“Hi, I’m Shane. Do you mind if I talk to you a moment?” the young man inquired.

Kyle and his friend shrugged their shoulders and agreed.

Shane told them he was from Compass Bible Church and active in the high school ministry there. Then he asked the boys if they knew Jesus.

Shocked at his boldness, Kyle’s friend stuttered, “Uh, yeah, I mean sure…we go to Catholic school.”

Shane looked at him and said again, “But do you know Jesus?”

Kyle’s friend started laughing and confessed, “Well I do have a “D” in religion, so maybe not so much.”

Then Kyle’s friend walked away but Kyle remained. He was intrigued by Shane’s confidence and engaged in the dialogue. Kyle explained he was a pastor’s kid and told him about the church he had helped to start in Mission Viejo.

The boys talked for forty-five minutes about scripture and God and Shane’s passion for Christ.

When Kyle came home after the movie he sat by my bed for a long time and shared all that had happened. Kyle was visibly shaken by his encounter with Shane –this very cool kid, who was not afraid to share his faith.

I imagine Kyle feels like it’s something he has to hide to be accepted.

I asked him what they talked about and while he hinted at a few things he clammed up about his “private convo”.

I didn’t press.

Kyle shared that Shane had asked for his number to follow-up with him. He seemed excited that a kid his age was so passionate about God and confidant enough to share and evangelize publicly.

It struck a chord in Kyle and I loved the sparkle in his eyes.

I went to sleep in true spiritual comfort. I don’t know how many times as a parent I have prayed for my son to have an encounter with God –on his own terms. I don’t want it to be me forcing Jesus down his throat. I want my son to discover Christ’s love all on his own.

As a pastor’s step-kid, this dance of faith and church is a prickly path to navigate. If we push too hard my son will rebel, if we become apathetic he will have no anchor. Somewhere in between, with tears and prayers I hope my son will find his way to Jesus, not in spite of me or to spite me, but because God has become bigger than anything else in his world.

I know we pushed too hard in the past when we started the church. Church planter’s kids and missionary kids don’t always emerge on the other side singing hymns and praising God. They are forced to tag along for a rough ride they didn’t sign up for. I’ve seen many kids blow out and associate God with pain. When college hits, they turn their back on the church.

In the last year, I felt God sensing me to ease up on the forced free labor of my kids at church. They now volunteer and serve by choice and while my middle daughter can’t get enough, my son has been more reticent.

Letting him pull back hasn’t been easy.

I have forced myself to release the burden of his walk with God. It’s been both scary and simultaneously freeing. But as a parent of a teen it’s something I think we must all face if we are to allow our children to make their faith their own and not something they do to simply pacify us.

Don’t get me wrong, I will still drag his butt to church, pay for Christian school and occasionally make him feed the homeless, but I am confident that ultimately, I can release my son to Jesus -the one who loves him even more than his doting mother.

And clearly God is revealing himself to Kyle in ways I could never orchestrate -spiky hair and all.

How do you navigate faith with your teen?

A One Direction Christmas

“It’s a phase,” my husband Tim grumbles.  “Faith won’t even care about One Direction in six months.”

I looked at the laminated Santa List my daughter had just presented to us and chortled.  Sixteen items were listed –fifteen of them revolved around the boy band One Direction.

The only thing practical on the list was a curling wand.  To my husband it looked like $200 worth of nonsense.

There was the Mrs. Harry Styles t-shirt, a One Direction iPad cover, a One Direction book, a calendar and even a set of One Direction dolls.

I shrugged and agreed that girls her age were indeed irrational and then asked for the credit card to go buy her the nonsense.

I remember all too well…a little girl back in the Christmas of ’79 who loved Shaun Cassidy and swooned and shrieked at his hypnotizing voice and long wavy blond hair.  He made me and all my friends gushy inside.  Shaun Cassidy bonded us.

How can I begrudge my Faith for her first boy crush when I wore the same girl drama shoes?

Faith is caught in that in-between stage of childhood and teen where the first flutters and stirrings of the heart are easier to project on a celebrity than on a real relationship.  Boyfriends will inevitably follow –but for now she is content with posters on the wall to drool over and concert tickets from the One Direction Global tour.

Before I know it my baby Faith will be all grown up and a real Mr. Right will swoop her off her feet.

And so I am crossing off her list one by one with a secret sigh of nostalgia –thinking about the days when a girl could talk for hours with her besty about a boy’s smile and his pretty curls.

 

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