Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Widespread Panic

At one of our local middle schools, a student let off a series of firecrackers during Friday lunch. It happens once, maybe twice, a year -- not too unusual. Except today. Today 1400 kids sat in silence for two seconds, and then ran. They ran out onto the upper fields and up towards the classrooms. Some jumped the fence and kept running up the streets. Others tired before the fence and waited out on the grass, regaining their calm, telling themselves it really couldn't have been gunfire.

The thing is that on Monday, all of these students sat through an intense assembly entitled Rachel's Challenge ( that recounted to these students who had been preschoolers at the time, the story of the Columbine shootings. It was a moving assembly, which I'm sure had a profound affect on many students in its call for spreading compassion and kindness. But on this day, the reality of that story literally scared the crap out of 1400 middle schoolers when they heard a series of firecrackers explode.

It was a little reminder that timing can be everything.


Chongo got a 93% on his last math test. Exciting news in our house since his math grade has been dogging him this year. It's 8th grade Algebra and he needs an A or B to take Geometry next year. We're in the car when he tells me this and I raise my hand, "High Five!"

"Mom, don't high five me."


"It hurts me. It hurts me inside." The rascal, he's teasing me.

"I'm happy for you," I say. "What should I do to celebrate?"

"How about $5?" he suggests. Right. I'm not paying for test scores. I already pay for semester grades and at $20 per A and $5 per B sometimes it costs me a chunk.

"Consider it a donation to the the "Cause for a Better Chongo." We both laugh out loud at this and he starts to riff on an ad for his new cause.

Inside myself I celebrate his sense of humor. Today I like it even better than A's on math tests.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Learning to Wait

This week I learned something about myself in Sunday School. Yes, I actually go to Sunday School, much as I hate saying it. Sunday School sounds like a place where somebody's mom shows a flannel graph story from the Bible and then tells you how you can know Jesus as your personal savior. My Sunday School is not that kind of Sunday School. It's just a place where some wonderfully diverse people get together for some damn good coffee and conversation and to engage a teacher who likes the questions more than the answers.

Sunday's discussion was about waiting. Active waiting. Waiting like Habbakuk pictures it standing on the watchtower scanning the horizon for God, for God's answer to his complaint. We read from the prophet Isaiah that God works on behalf of those who wait. And we tried to think about what it meant to anticipate God, to look for God, to wait for God. We recognized that the life of waiting is a life of tension and not always a happy place to live. We talked about how much we seek resolution, diminishing the tension of waiting either through controlling our circumstances or disengagement.

I thought about all the times I wait. As a child I waited eagerly for Christmas morning and the toys we would get. As a teen, the anticipation of seeing the boy I liked at a party held a a deep thrill. Now that I'm older I can't think of much I wait for with the same hope. I've learned to diminish the excitement of waiting. By anticipating less I've managed to lower my expectations. Expecting less leads to less dissapointment. Also, I've found that when you expect too much you often diminish the lovely reality of what is. Like this afternoon, when I saw the large manila envelope sitting in the mailbox, for one moment of wild hope I thought it might be the response I was hoping for about a piece of my writing. Imagine my disappointment to discover it was (just!) a letter from my nephew. (I waited for my cup of coffee to open the letter and very much enjoyed reading his journal about Flat Stanley.)

But what does that mean about how I wait for God? It seems what I believe about God informs how I wait. The problem is that although I believe with all my heart that God is good, I also believe with all my heart that he desires character and wholeness in me far more than indulging the pansy ass easy life I'm trying to live. While I'm sitting on the couch reading a novel, I'm tensely anticipating God, the parent, yelling at me to get my homework done. So I feel, ultimately, like I'm waiting for hard things to come from God. While I believe God's outcomes are good, I can't bring myself to desire the process. All I'm left with is a question: Do we have to desire what we wait for from God?

And that begs another question for educating mama: If I'm just left with a question, did I really learn anything in Sunday School?