Resting in the Favor of God

Lately I feel like my life has been reading like a soap opera. What happened this week? Oh, you know, death, violence, tragedy, mental health emergencies, major appliances broken…

Yesterday my 2nd grader was playing on the playground at school. Two cars drove past the school, shooting guns at each other. The kids heard the gunshots and ran inside, school went on a soft lockdown, lots of police were present as the kids were dismissed from school. You know. Just another day. 

On the same day, we had a child with a mental health crisis, and it came home to me again, that our health system is letting the kids down. Our school has a program where a therapist comes to the school from one of the big providers in our area, and meets with the kids at school and does home visits during the summer. Awesome program. Except the therapist quit her job in November, and they still haven’t replaced her. And my child is falling through the cracks. Our own doctor’s office only does mental health visits over the phone or zoom, which doesn’t work well for small children. After a flurry of phone calls, we have found a new place we are going to try that does in person visits. Thank goodness. 

And this just seems to be our everyday life now. 

This year I have felt an urgency and conviction to actively work at keeping myself in a good place mentally. I am prone to depression and anxiety and have learned that these are things I have to constantly be working on to keep them at bay. With a lot of pushing and shoving from the Holy Spirit, I started a new exercise and diet program in January that is giving me good results. I started taking high school Algebra 1 online, just for the challenge, and I have enjoyed the sense of accomplishment, every time I pass another exercise or another quiz. God has been convicting me of my choices in entertainment, and I have been working on a big shift in what I read, which is a whole story in itself, but I have been working on filling my mind with more wholesome things. (Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8)

This is my testimony, despite all the craziness, I have not been shaken. I know when I was younger, things would happen, and I would wonder if I was being punished for some wrongdoing. I would wonder if all these troubles were a sign that I was not walking in the right direction. I believed that if I was a Christian, then my life should be mostly blessed, simple. And if it wasn’t, then I must be doing something wrong. 

I don’t believe that anymore. God is good but his goodness doesn’t always look like the Perfect American Dream. The bible is pretty clear that we are going to have trials and hardship and persecution. 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Right now I feel like I am in a place of faith building. Each day I feel almost bewildered at how normal I feel. Things happen, and I step back and shake my head, when is all the crazy going to stop? But, then I keep moving and keep tackling whatever is in front of me. And I marvel that God is still keeping me in a place of peace. Yes, I am worried about what is happening in our nieghborhood with gun violence. Yes, I am concerned over many things, but my head is still above water and I’m still swimming.  And that is all God. 

My daughter has been playing a song recently and the refrain is stuck in my head. It’s from the Psalm 30:5, the first half of the verse:

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime;

Funny as it sounds, I feel very much like I am resting in the favor of God. Despite the soap opera thing going on. 

An East Knox Resident’s Thoughts

This has been a rough week for East Knoxville. Last Friday a young man from our high school was shot and killed while he was leaving the school in his car. Then on Tues, another young woman from our high school was found shot in the street and also died. (And this comes after another child was shot two weeks before). Our school and the middle school have been moved to virtual all week as everyone tries to get a handle on the situation. 

I’ve not had a great week. I’ve been depressed and frozen and functioning at low capacity. I’ve been trying to put my finger on why. I did not know these children personally, and they were not friends with my kids. But, they attended the same school. They are children who died senselessly. All of our high school community is mourning. All of these are enough reasons to be struggling. (And we offer our prayers and condolences for the families who lost their children.) On top of all of that pain though, what is causing even more stress for me, and I imagine a lot more parents in our community, is wondering how we move forward. 

A good percentage of our highschool kids walk to school. We live only half a mile away from the highschool and we have had kids walking to school every day for the past six and a half years. Should I let my child walk to school anymore? But then, I remember that the young man who was shot, was DRIVING A CAR as he left the school. So, now what do we do? 

I listened to the community press conference that was given on Wednesday. I heard a lot of people saying This has got to stop! We are going to stop this now! But I didn’t hear a lot of concrete plans on how they are going to stop it. 

Our principal has told us that they will be emailing a bunch of information on how we are going to move forward, but I am still waiting to get that email. 

In all these press conferences, I have also heard a lot of people say, We’ve got to come together as a community and make this stop! What does that mean exactly? I’ve been scratching my head wondering how I, a property owner and sixteen year resident in this neighborhood, am supposed to make the criminals go away. I wasn’t aware that I, as a private citizen, really had any authority to deal with criminals. I do my part. If I see something that is very obviously wrong/dangerous, I call it into the police. But that’s about all I can do. 

Trouble comes with people. We have lived here sixteen years, and I can always tell when a new group has moved in that is causing trouble. We have an increase of traffic, an increase in gunshots, an increase in police calls. And then, maybe something horrible happens, like the time there was a shooting in the apartment two houses down from us. After that, they all moved away and it got quiet and peaceful again. If we, as the neighbors, are aware of increased suspicious activity in our street, surely the police are aware as well. Especially since they get called often to come respond to whatever craziness is going on. This is not a criticism of the police, just pointing out that the police are probably just as aware as we are when these groups move in. So what exactly are we, as a community, supposed to be doing to combat this lawlessness? 

Monday morning is coming soon and I am still unsure what to do about getting my daughter to and from school. Walk her there myself? Drive her there? Let her continue as normal? Getting her home in the afternoon is even more difficult because I am already picking up other children from a different school, and our high school is not designed for an easy flow of traffic after school. In fact, I always avoid the school when kids are being let out because it’s a huge snarl of traffic, buses, and walking kids.

They have mentioned an increased police presence when kids are going to and from school. I hope that they follow through on this. I, personally, want to see police cars on each street my daughter has to walk on. I don’t know if that is possible or not. But it seems to me that our kids deserve some drastic measures on the part of the adults in charge to make sure they can walk to and from school every day without being killed. And while this whole community wants to see our kids safe, we need some concrete steps and measures, not just blanket statements of how we need to DO SOMETHING. 

Please Pray

It’s late Monday night. The younger children are asleep, the older ones are quiet in their rooms. Throughout the evening I’ve been hearing random gunshots in our neighborhood. After hearing five different shots, I called it into the police. They said they would send someone to check things out. But, the gunshots have continued through the evening. 

My highschoolers have been put on RED this week, doing virtual school instead of in-person school. Except, this time, it’s not for weather or covid, but because of a death. This past Friday, a sixteen year old boy was leaving our highschool and was struck by a stray bullet shot very close to the school. He did not survive. 

One of my daughter’s teachers sent out a schedule for tomorrow and it is basically going to be grief counseling all day long. 

Very recently my own daughter was walking home from school and had someone firing off a gun half a block behind her. And I’m crying in relief. It wasn’t my daughter that got hit by a stray bullet. And I’m angry. WHY ON EARTH are our kids having to deal with bullets on their way home from school!! And I wonder how on earth to make it stop. And I think about the anger and gut wrenching grief of this young man’s family.  And I think about all the kids showing up to their online classes tomorrow, angry, mourning, scared it might be them the next time. 

I am so angry. And I am weeping at the pain of losing a child so young. 

And I want to know how on earth our family can be an agent of help in this community. It seems so impossible. The problems too big. Our influence too small. 

My husband and I were driving in the countryside yesterday. We have always longed to live in the country. We talk about farms and cabins in the woods. We toss around ideas of how we could make it happen. 

Yesterday, as we drove through the beautiful scenery, my husband asked, again, Why aren’t we living out here?? 

I didn’t answer right away, because we’ve had this conversation over and over again. But finally I spoke up. 

Cause God put us in the city and for some reason he seems to want us to stay there. 

Oh yeah. That’s why. We actually feel like God had a plan when we moved here. And we haven’t felt like it’s time to move on yet. 

But, on days like today, nights like tonight, I feel a bit of despair. 

Please pray for our high school as the kids come together for the first time tomorrow. Pray for safety for our children. Pray the family of this young man. And pray for change to come. 

Not Bored Anymore

Well, it feels like it’s been several weeks since I last sat down to write, though in truth, it’s only been four days. I feel like I’ve crammed in enough activity in the past week and a half to fill at least one month. If someone were to ask how I was doing, the answer would be Tired. 

 

But it’s a good tired. It’s the tired at the end of a really good workout. The tired after completing some humongous task. It’s the feeling of knowing that you have worked really hard and now you deserve some rest. 

 

Introducing new kids into the family is very similar to having a newborn baby, minus the nursing problems. Our schedules have been tilted, everyone is in a transition mode. There’s excitement, and irritation, and 24hr-a-day parenting. 

 

The first day we got our new kids, that night, my husband hugged me tight, grinned at me, and said, “You know you’re crazy right?” I thought about that for a whole day then confronted him the next night, “If I’m crazy, what does that make you?” He said, “Oh, I’m crazy too.” Apparently we are well-matched. 

 

So, I know this is going to sound weird, but adding these kids to our family has added a lot to my life. I have to admit, I was getting a little bored. Our family was on cruise-control and while parenting is always challenging, there was nothing new or unexpected. I felt very much like I was treading water, trying to figure out how to challenge myself. Maybe I could figure out how to take on more piano students? 

 

Well, I do not feel bored any more. 

 

It makes me think about how God knows best. It seems that he has created us to enjoy change. We have the four seasons, or in other parts of the world, rainy seasons, dry seasons, stormy seasons. We mark time by how the weather changes. We have various holidays and festivities marked out to happen throughout the year, and we are constantly looking forward to these changes. I can’t wait for spring to come! Valentine’s Day is coming up soon! I can’t wait for next fall! 

 

It’s kind of strange that we live in a state of constant change, but we also crave the familiar, the comfortable, our safety zones. The two don’t seem to go together. 

 

I know that when we start getting close to Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years, there is a feeling of excitement and anticipation. I feel more alive and energetic, just awaiting all the festivities. I also know that when my comfort zone gets shaken up I feel more alive and purposeful. There is more zing in my step. 

 

I wrote in another blog, quite a while ago, about The Prayer of Jabez. How it was all about asking God to increase our boundaries, increase our area of influence. And I never liked that prayer. I never had any desire to make my boundaries any bigger than they are right now…thank you very much. So, recently my boundaries have suddenly increased. And I find myself happy about it. Feeling alive and useful. And thankful. Thankful that God knows a lot better than me what I can and can’t do. Thankful that he was willing to shake me out of my comfort zone. 

 

So, yes, I am tired. But I’m also not bored.