Monday, April 15, 2013

What Should You Tell Your Kids about the Boston Marathon Bombing?

Sometimes I wish I could just bubble-wrap my kids and protect them from all the sad stuff.

Like most parents, I try to make wise choices about what my kids are exposed to. I monitor their entertainment and their activities. I want them to be cultured, but not corrupted.

Yet I also want our home to be a safe place where they can wrestle with the big questions.

When they're having conflict with friends or frustrated by school, I want them to talk about it at home.

And when they're worried or sad about something, I want them to talk about it at home.

So I told them about the Boston Marathon bombings.

My 11-year-old had heard of the tragedy. We don't have the TV news, but her friends had texted her about it.

My other children are 9 and 6. At first I hesitated.... Did they really need to know about something that happened all the way across the country? Something that might really upset them?


Because I know good and well that my kids are eventually going to hear about it. And I wanted them to hear it from me--and not from another kid at school.

They needed to hear it at home.

So over our family dinner, we talked about it. They asked questions. I answered honestly. We prayed. When it was over, the kids were fine and all slept soundly last night.


I'm a far cry from a parenting expert, but I know what it's like to break bad news to my kids.

Here's what works for us:

1. Be honest about what happened.

Don't try to gloss over the tragedy by saying, "Well, honey, there was this kind of sad thing in Boston, but it wasn't that big of a deal, so don't worry, okay?" Be honest.

I told my kids: "A really sad thing happened today. A lot of people were running in a great big race called the Boston Marathon, and there were two explosions near the finish line. Lots of people got hurt, and a couple of people were killed by the blast."

NOTE: You don't have to go into gory or horrific details. (Please don't!) But do state the basic facts. Your kids are going to hear the facts of the tragedy from someone--it might as well be you.

2. Point out the goodness wherever you can find it.

Take Mr. Rogers's famous advice and "look for the helpers." Point out something--anything--to teach your kids how to stop focusing on the negative and look for something positive. Not all tragedies have an obvious silver lining, of course. But there is always a glimmer of goodness.

I told my kids about a picture I'd seen on Facebook: "You know what was interesting, though? I saw a photo snapped immediately after the first blast. All you could see was smoke... and about six first responders rushing into that smoke. In a split second, they all instinctively ran INTO the danger to help other people." Then we talked a bit about what it takes to have that kind of self-sacrificing love.

NOTE: It's not always easy to find the goodness in a tragedy. Sometimes it might be as meager as "she's no longer suffering" or "it could have been worse." The point here isn't to try to be Pollyanna; it's to show your children how to adopt a different perspective.

3. Remind them that God is always in control.

As Christians, we know that God is sovereign. He is always in control, even when things don't make sense to us. "The secret things belong to the Lord" (Deuteronomy 29:29). If God were small enough to be understood, He wouldn't be big enough to be God.

I told the kids: "It was really awful what happened today. Setting off that bomb was an evil thing to do. But God is bigger than evil. In fact, since there is no one and nothing bigger than God, we don't have to be afraid. God is for us. What's the worst thing that could ever happen to us?" (My oldest reponded, "We'd die and go to heaven." My youngest sagely pointed out, "Well, we might be in pain for a while and then go to heaven.")

NOTE: Don't change the subject when your kids ask questions about God. Let them ask--and then listen to them. Kids old enough to grasp abstract concepts need a safe place to ask their questions. I had a great discussion about heaven (and even the biggie: "How do you know there is a God?") with my 9-year-old last night. Give your kids the freedom to ask. And then calmly help them think their way through it. Don't be too quick to jump in with answers.

4. Assure them of God's peace.

Wrap up your discussion by assuring your kids that nothing will ever happen to them outside of God's hands (John 10:28-30). Every single day of their lives has been written in God's book since  before they were born (Psalm 139:16). As my mom says, you can't live one day longer or one day shorter than God has planned for you. God's plan for your kids (and for you) is perfect, so they can live in peace--and not fear.

As the kids and I polished off the pizza and wrapped up our dinner discussion, I reminded them of several verses we memorized during a particularly trying time in our family:

"If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)

"The Lord Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you" (Hebrews 13:1).

"The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1).

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in You" (Psalm 56:3).

5. Pray.

We closed the conversation by praying for the victims, for their families, for everyone involved. We asked that God would grant them health and peace and that He would shine His light into the darkness of that tragedy.


I don't know the specifics of your family--maybe your kids are too young to understand any of this, or maybe you're not ready to tell them about it yet. (Obviously, you can't help your kids be at peace if you are fearful.)

If that's the case, may I leave you with this sentiment?

(Photo Credit: Bob Goff and @Nella365)

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Mess That Makes It REAL

I own 46 Bibles.

But only one of them is REAL.

Now, I don't mean that the other 45 are fakes. Obviously, the other Bibles are equally God's Word. Many are study Bibles I use for teaching and for personal devotions. Others are various translations I use for work.

(NOTE: whenever you're reading a book with Scripture quotes, know that an editor has verified each scripture word-for-word against the cited translation. Back in the old days--before the Internet--we had to do this with hard copies.)

Each Bible in my library is valuable and serves a purpose in my spiritual and professional life.

But only one is my REAL Bible.

My grandparents gave it to me for Christmas when I turned 13. I don't know if you can read the inscription in the picture, but my Grannie wrote, in part:

"We have no other gift to give you that would contain all the answers to life's challenges the way this beautiful word of God can and will.

Keep very close by at all times, searching the scriptures for all the great truths and promises that will give you the strength and grace to face and overcome each disappointment and temptation that comes your way..."

I've carried this Bible for more than a quarter century.

It's been beside me through middle school drama... high school ups and downs... youth camps and sleepovers and Dawson McAllister conferences. (See that page number in the upper right corner? That's the starter page for the "Romans Road." Before I learned the books of the Bible, I used page numbers as reminders.)

It traveled with me to college--my faithful companion in the dorm room... college Bible studies... road trips... mission trips. (Oh, how I remember those early mornings in the dorm, wearing my fuzzy pig slippers and PJs, carrying my Bible and coffee maker to the end of the hall and setting up in one of the study cubicles.)

It was at arm's reach after college--beside me all those years I lived alone... on my desk at Word Publishing... eagerly studied at Dallas Seminary... and then Southwestern Seminary.

It came with me to my honeymoon... to the hospital rooms when I had my babies... to the six different churches we served and the seven places we lived.

It was clutched tightly when my marriage fell apart... when my world came crashing down... when I had to start all over again.

Its pages are crumpled, yellowed, smudged, taped back together, filled with underlines and notes and highlights. Its bonded leather cover had to be replaced several years ago when the stitching fell apart.

It's a mess.

But that only makes sense, because there's so much of ME in there. And I'm a mess too. ;)

It's the mess that makes it REAL.

All those notes. The tear stains. (And yes, coffee stains.) The underlines and the questions in the margins. Cross-references and comments on things I struggle with. Highlights to remind me of God's promises.

Let me say this again: this Bible not technically "more real" than any other version of the Bible.

But it's REAL to me.

In this messy Bible, God has met me on every page.

For more than 25 years.

The same God.

He met me in my middle school drama. In my high school grief. In my college questions. In my married issues. In my sleep-deprived mothering. In my middle-age anguish.

Every time I open this Bible, and I see all the mess and marks from all these years... I remember:

[God] Himself has said,
I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you."
(Hebrews 13:5)

This Bible is a tangible reminder that God is always with me.

No matter WHAT.


In much the same way that the mess of the pages makes a Bible REAL... the mess of our lives makes our faith REAL.

It's a long and painful process, to be sure.

You get marked up and tattered and taped. You get stained and torn. Sometimes your stitching completely falls apart and you have to get sewn back together.

But through it all, you are deeply loved by the Author of life.

And in the end, your faith becomes REAL.


“What is REAL?" asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day... "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand... once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

--Margery Williams, "The Velveteen Rabbit"

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Our Normal, Crazy, Fun, Adventurous, Everyday Life

So... it dawned on me the other day that the only time I sit down to write a blog is when I'm feeling reflective AND when everything else on my daily list is done.

Which, obviously, isn't that often. :)

I mean, I often feel reflective. And I enjoy writing--it's cathartic and fun. But to be honest, blogging isn't super high on my to-do list right now.

It's not that I don't adore all of you lovely readers! I do!!!  It's just that, with rare exceptions, I'm a 24/7 single mom and sole provider. So when I do have quiet moments, I usually spend them in personal devotion or squeezing in some extra editing to provide for the kiddos.

Or, you know, sleeping.

I Heart Sleep.

Anyway... there's a LOT more going on in the Stair house than what you see on this blog!

Since I don't have time to write about it now, let me just show you a few snapshots of what life is like in our home these days.

Obviously, we do all the regular stuff like homework and chores and showers and bedtime routine. But I don't have pictures of that. Just imagine your family and all its regular everyday stuff. Yep, us too.

What else do the kids and I do these days?

We dance.

We play outside.
We feed the ducks at the pond by our house.
We go to the park.
We have picnics and fly kites with my sister and her family.
We go to school events.
We hang out with friends.
(Do girls ever grow out of the "dress-up" phase? Hee hee)
We celebrate half-birthdays.
 (Ack! J.J.'s next birthday will have DOUBLE DIGITS!)
We make dorky, themed holiday meals.
NOTE: what I lack in baking stills, I make up for in food coloring.
Valentine's Day breakfast...

[[NOT PICTURED: our green St. Patrick's Day dinner, and the "resurrection rolls" we made for a sleepover on Easter weekend. If you ever make that recipe (widely circulated on Facebook), please note: Jesus-as-marshmallow tends to escape from His crescent-roll grave, so make sure kids know the Bible pretty well or they'll be concerned...]]
April Fool's! Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans are actually Cocoa Krispies treat, ice cream, and fruit roll-ups.
These are just some of the pictures I had on my phone. But I wanted you to see that we don't just sit around and pontificate and wax philosophical over here.
We watch too much TV. We tickle. We giggle at our ever-expanding repertoire of family inside jokes. We get cranky at each other. The kids fuss. (I take deep breaths and remind myself of the immortal words of the Dog Whisperer: "Calm, Assertive Leadership.")
We eat breakfast for dinner. And sometimes, dessert first. (Who made up the rules, anyway?)
We sing. If you drop by pretty much anytime, we'll have Toby Mac or Chris Rice on Pandora (any guess which is my favorite and which is the kids'?). I have a habit of singing to myself--more of a "joyful noise" I guess--and the kids have picked up on that.
Sometimes I'll pause my editing, listen closely, and realize all three kids are singing three different songs to themselves.
I Heart Earbuds.
I'm not a very good cook. I'm terrified of crafts--glitter gives me hives. And I had to ask Miss B to explain the newfangled way the elementary school teaches math.
But the one thing I'm good at? Finding creative ways to have fun.
We have a lot of FUN.
So, that's pretty much our life. Regular stuff. Chaotic stuff. Messy stuff. Fun stuff.
Family stuff.
Because that's what we are! We're just a regular family. Doing regular family things.
Loving God.
Loving each other.
Doing our best to make the most out of our days. :)
Okay, that's all, folks! See you the next time I'm caught up enough on editing to blog!!!