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Afraid of getting hurt

image courtesy of google images

image courtesy of google images

A week ago Tuesday:

As he does five days a week, my son emerges from his room around 6:00 a.m. dressed in shorts and shirt courtesy of the school’s athletic department. His first class of the day is football. On most mornings that’s a good thing: roll out of bed, put on your athletic clothes, eat some breakfast and go. But this is not most mornings.

It’s Day One of Hell Week.

The term Hell Week is a bit of a misnomer. While most of the players would say the intense workouts consisting of everything from bear crawls and up downs, tire flips and sleds to good old fashioned power lifting, sprints and jumping rope is hell, it typically doesn’t last a week. Instead, it goes on until the coaches decide it’s over. If one or more of your teammates isn’t putting forth his best effort, everyone pays for it with added days. It’s a way to simultaneously strengthen the team and thin out the herd. Some set themselves apart, others decide it’s not worth it and quit football altogether. Most just keep their heads down and endure.

Knowing my son, it came as no surprise when I saw the anxiety on his face last Tuesday morning. He’s been through hell week before, but as a freshman with an all freshman class. This year he’s in there with the big boys–all upperclass linemen. He’s going to have to prove his worth against bigger and more experienced athletes. Still, it’s the first day. Getting stressed out to a point where you can’t even eat breakfast isn’t going to do you any good.  I told him as much, not that any of my advice penetrated the fog of anxiety he was in.

As expected, Day One was “hellish”. They were divided up into 4 groups: A, B, C and D–“A” being the best. My son was put on the “B” team, which considering that “A” consisted of mostly varsity players, I thought was pretty good. But by the end of class, he had been moved to the “C” team. When he got home, he didn’t want to talk about it. “I just have to do better”, he said.

In some situations, I would have left it at that–let him lick his wounds and try again tomorrow. But not this time, because there is absolutely no good reason he should have been moved down. I say this not because I’m one of those parents who thinks my kid is better than he really is. I say this because I’ve spent the last two off seasons driving my son to and from strength and conditioning training five days a week; watching him build muscle, speed and agility performing most of the drills the coaches are putting them through now. If he got moved down, I knew it had more to do with the muscle in that big head of his than any of the muscles used to push sleds and flip tractor tires.

I couldn’t let it go. I pressed him. I asked him what was so hard about the first day of hell week. They didn’t do anything he hasn’t done before.  He finally told me what the problem was.

Son: Mom, I’m afraid of getting hurt.

Me: You’re afraid of getting hurt? After going through a year of weight and speed training specifically designed to prevent injury? After putting in more time in a year than many of your teammates put in their entire high school athletic careers you’re afraid of getting hurt? After two seasons of playing football essentially injury free you’re afraid of getting hurt? If you go into hell week thinking you’re going to get hurt one of two thing will happen. You’re either going to get hurt, or you’re going to perform under your potential and all that training will have been a big waste of time and money.

By Wednesday, he had been moved back up to “B” team with a personal goal of being moved up to “A”, provided that hell week continues past Thursday. We’ll see what happens.

You can’t play a contact sport like football if you’re afraid of getting hurt. What you can do is trust your hard work and training.

You can’t stand up and sing in front of a crowd if you’re afraid of forgetting the lyrics or singing off key. What you can do is rehearse the song so many times that it’s forever burned into your mind.

You can’t write a book if you’re afraid of being panned by critics. What you can do is write the best story you can, and then you write it again with the knowledge that there’s no such thing as a universal audience for a book. If someone doesn’t like your work, it’s because it’s just not for them.

You can’t ride a bike, learn to drive, interview for a job, save a life, fall in love, lead someone to Christ or make a difference if you’re afraid of getting hurt.

Life is full of hurt. When we choose not to pursue something out of fear, we feel the hurt of regret for what could have been.

And that’s the kind of hurt we can seldom overcome.

image courtesy of google images

image courtesy of google images

Mourning with and for Newtown

I didn’t want to write about this.

The interwebs don’t need yet another blogger telling everyone what they think about what happened in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday. What could I possibly say that someone else hasn’t already said? Truth be told, I’m still struggling to process my emotions; to come to grips with them so I can help my kids process their own. In the end, I decided I had to say something if for no other reason but a selfish one: sometimes I just have to allow my mind and heart to, as Billy Coffey says, bleed onto the page or I find myself drowning in my own thoughts.

As I write this, it’s Tuesday morning December 18, 2012. I’ve purposely avoided the news and the internet since Friday afternoon. Horrible things happens every minute of every day, but this? The news of this absolutely sucker punched me. I don’t know if this will be one of those events where you’ll always remember where you were and what you were doing when you first heard about it, but it feels that way now.

Me? I was in the parking lot of a Best Buy. When I was pulling into a space, I caught “more from Newtown, Connecticut as details become available”. I had no clue what the anchor was talking about, but she sounded ominous. Rather than waiting through the commercial break, I went into the store to do some Christmas shopping. I remember snapping a picture of a DVD thinking I would post it on Twitter along with a snarky remark. I don’t even remember what the DVD or comment was now. I only remember thinking that if something really horrible had happened in Connecticut, maybe sending snarky tweets about B movies was an incredibly insensitive thing to do. Ah, that small, still voice–this time I didn’t ignore it.

Once back in my car, I heard the anchor say, “Twenty-five confirmed dead, eighteen of them children.” I put the car back in park and just sat there in that parking lot for what seemed like a very long time. Long enough for an updated body count. Twenty children confirmed dead. Two had died at a local hospital. As I listened to the news I began to get a sketchy picture of what had happened. A man with a gun had entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and began shooting. The majority of his victims were believed to be kindergartners.


My first thoughts were, “WHO DOES THAT? Who goes on a shooting rampage where his intended victims are SIX-YEAR OLDS? WHY? SWEET JESUS, WHY?

It was just too much. Too horrible to fathom. I wanted to turn it off. Make them stop telling me about it. I hit the “scan” button on my radio. It stopped at MSNBC. That’s when that feeling of anguish and disbelief turned to anger. A reporter was attempting to interview surviving children as they were being lead away from the school.

That’s when I turned off the news and decided to stay off of the Internet.

That evening, we watched television, but only shows which we had previously recorded on the DVR. What happened in Newtown was still constantly on my mind–the town in my prayers–I just couldn’t sit through hours of news coverage, nor was I prepared to answers any questions from my kids.

After a few hours of tossing and turning in my bed Friday night, I grabbed a pillow and a blanket and headed for the couch. This is not an uncommon occurrence, but on this night I elected to forego my usual late night news viewing in favor of yet another pre-recorded show. As misfortune would have it, the television in the den was tuned to a news station. Before I was able to find a recorded show, I saw Geraldo Rivera standing in front of what should have been an abandoned hill in what is normally a sleepy little town. He was rehashing the events of the day. The camera cuts away to a car pulling away from the scene. It zooms in tight on a distraught woman in the passenger seat shielding her eyes from the bright lights of the cameras. My heart sank even deeper. I felt ashamed. It was less like news coverage, much more like voyeurism feeding off the pain of this heartbroken community.

Yesterday, I once again attempted to listen to the news on my radio while running errands. I heard more about the shooter, pro and con arguments for stricter gun laws, opinions about the lack of adequate mental health care in this country–all the predictable discussions that arise from these all too common mass killings.

And then I heard about Vicky Soto. The 27 year old teacher who died while attempting to shield her students from the gunfire. Once again, I was sitting in a parking lot. I broke down. I sat in that parking lot and wept for a long time.

I still can’t watch the news. I know there were many more heroes on that day, and I fully intend on reading their stories. Honoring them and the victims of this senseless act seems like the right thing to do.

But for now–for me–I feel a greater need to simply give the community of Newtown one less prying eye, one less unsolicited opinion. I offer instead the only thing I can give them.

My prayers and my tears.

Of these, there seems to be an endless supply.


If you’ve managed to read through this entire post, thank you indulging my need to get these thoughts down. I saw this posted on Facebook the other day. I thought it was appropriate.

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You’ve been promised, we’ve been waiting

Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don’t mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home
Bring Your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven’s silence

Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy

Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world


On Wednesday, September 10, 2003, I was part of a worship planning meeting where I viewed for the first time a video of Johnny Cash’s cover to the Nine Inch Nails song, “Hurt”. Cash had recently lost his beloved wife, and knowing about his lifelong struggle with addiction, the lyrics were especially poignant.

I never would have remembered that particular planning meeting except for the fact that the Friday before that sermon introduction video was played in church, Johnny Cashed passed away, just four months after his wife:

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember, everything

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know,
goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

Fast forward nine years. Jeff Hogan, the creative arts pastor with whom I viewed that video is now the senior pastor of a church which had its first service in my living room. (We’ve since outgrown meeting here.) Saturday evening, he and his wife Tamara sat with my husband and I around our kitchen table making hotel and airline reservations for a church planting conference we’ll be attending later this year.

Just as they were about to head home, my son came into the kitchen and announced that Whitney Houston was found dead in her hotel room. My initial shock and disbelief settled into sadness of a life too short and an amazing voice silenced. The likes of which we may never hear again.

The following Sunday morning after sound check and set up, I picked up a worship guide and read the title of the sermon:

What to do when life hurts

Jeff did not play the Hurt video, but he did talk about Cash singing that song, about how painfully honest those words were coming from him, about how worship needs to be honest. Even if, and perhaps especially if, life just hurts right now. He talked about Psalm 88. About how the Sons of Korah didn’t hold back:

3 I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death…

The Bible says “in this life you will have trouble”. Not if you have trouble, or just in case you have trouble, but you WILL have trouble. Towards the end of the sermon, Jeff told us he didn’t know why he felt compelled to preach this sermon. That as late as Saturday morning he tried to come up with an alternative one but that this one just wouldn’t let go. I later shared with him that he many never know the purpose of that sermon, but that it was most assuredly for a reason. Someone needed to hear it. Maybe someone who happens to read this blog. Which is why I’m sharing it. Houston’s death on Saturday made the last words to “Hurt” that much more clear:

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

The way is not my own. Or yours, either:

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” – Matthew 16:25-26

RIP Whitney Houston. I believe she’s in a much better place now.

Going under (by Billy Coffey)

image courtesy of

A postscript concerning my son’s tonsillectomy last week:

Upon further reflection—and when you’re awake all night like I was, there is plenty of time for reflection—it wasn’t the visit to the hospital that worried him. He was okay with the hospital. And it wasn’t even the pain. What worried him the most was the very thing he most looked forward to.

The happy gas.

It’s tough trying to explain a medical procedure to a six-year-old, especially when the ins and outs are pretty vague to his father. I didn’t really know what tonsils and adenoids were, what function they served, or why they were giving him such trouble. But the anesthesia part I knew.
So I told him he got to wear a mask like Batman did and that the air would smell like cotton candy and he’d fall asleep. And while he was asleep the doctors would do their business and make him better.

“You won’t feel a thing,” I told him. “Promise.”

He didn’t believe me.

Experience had taught him otherwise. He’d slept before, and he’d either done things or had things happen that he not only remembered, but felt.

He fell out of the bed twice. Felt that. Bopped his face against the headboard. Felt that, too. He’s also awakened himself by burping, talking, snoring, and coughing. Sometimes all at once.

No way, he thought, no way, would he be able to sleep through someone operating on him.

So I explained that the happy gas wouldn’t just put him asleep, it would put him really asleep, and that the doctor would make sure he stayed that way until everything was finished.

Afterward, once we were home and he was safely on the sofa with his ice cream, I asked him about it.

“I didn’t feel anything,” he said. “I can’t even remember anything.”

And then he said this—“I wish I could have some of that for when I go to school. That way I could just wake up when I got home and I wouldn’t remember any of it.”

Funny, yes. And that definitely pegged him as my son. But he really had a great idea there, at least on the surface. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have some advance warning to the less than perfect things we have to face? And wouldn’t it be great if just before we could put on a Batman mask, breathe some cotton-candy air, and fall asleep through the whole thing?

Yes. It would.

I’ll admit for a while I did my best not to try and poke holes in his Happy Gas Theory. I knew there were some and most likely many. But sometimes we take comfort in those things that aren’t and can never be. That’s what I did while sitting on the sofa with him. I reveled.

But the truth of course was that we had to go through our painful things sometimes. We could slide around some and jump over others, but sooner or later a storm would come that we couldn’t outrun or take cover from, and we were left to stand there in the open under the pour.

Sometimes, that didn’t seem right to me.

It would make more sense to say that if God was there and if God was good, He would take better care of the ones who loved Him. He would make sure our paths were clear. He would prevent the pain and the pour and the doubt. He would take away the fear.

If there was such a thing as everyday happy gas, I thought, then shouldn’t it be God?

Maybe. But maybe that pain and pour and doubt served a purpose that outweighed the need for our happiness. Maybe we needed fear so we could know the value of faith.


I didn’t know for sure, but I thought the odds were good that He’d spared me from a great many troubles in my life without me knowing it. Not happy gas, but maybe something better. And as I looked down and saw my son wince when he tried to swallow, I knew that all the happy gas in the world couldn’t take away all the pain. Some still lingered.

That was true for all of us, I supposed. We were all a collection of bruises and cuts. We all had our tender places.

And I thought that in the end, it was our pain and not our happiness that brought us nearer to heaven.


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

There is a Reason

I’ve seen hard times and I’ve been told
There isn’t any wonder that I fall
Why do we suffer, crossing off the years
There must be a reason for it all

I’ve trusted in You, Jesus, to save me from my sin
Heaven is the place I call my home
But I keep on getting caught up in this world I’m living in
And Your voice it sometimes fades before I know

Hurtin’ brings my heart to You, crying with my need
Depending on Your love to carry me
The love that shed His blood for all the world to see
This must be the reason for it all

Hurtin’ brings my heart to You, a fortress in the storm
When what I wrap my heart around is gone
I give my heart so easily to the ruler of this world
When the one who loves me most will give me all

In all the things that cause me pain You give me eyes to see
I do believe but help my unbelief
I’ve seen hard times and I’ve been told
There is a reason for it all

A Mother’s Love

A few weeks ago, my friend Peter Pollock hosted a blog carnival on Grief. My friend Annie had sent me a guest post entitled The Winter Trail which I thought was perfect for the topic. This week’s carnival hosted by Bridget Chumbley on the topic is Love, and Annie’s follow up to that post is fitting as well. Here’s Annie:

For over five weeks I had avoided going into her room but I knew sooner or later I was going to have to face the daunting task of packing up the things she left behind.

I looked around the room and took in the few items left hanging in the closet, mainly the old clothes she didn’t wear anymore. The desk held a few nick knacks, school supplies and stuffed animals. The walls had been left mostly bare except for the remnants of her high school volleyball days and a random tack here and there.

I climbed up on the bunk bed and began taking down the volleyball shirts one-by-one. Player number on the front, name across the back. One shirt had the words ‘Team Captain’ boldly printed across the chest, and I had a flashback to the moment she told me she’d made captain. There were bags she had hung that had been decorated by her ‘secret bear pal’ and given to her on the days we played our cross town rival. Pictures of her with the team, the saying, ‘you wish you could hit like a girl’ and the ’10 Reasons I Play Volleyball’, all came down one at a time along with the memories I had of her volleyball days.

I climbed down from the bunk bed and began going through the items on her desk. There was an Angel jewelry holder that she had painted at a little pottery studio we had visited and I carefully wrapped it up and put it into a box. I gently tucked the stuffed animals into the box along with jewelry, pictures, old cell phone chargers, books, and school projects that she had worked so diligently on.

As I cleaned off her desk, I noticed the tiny white Christmas lights that she had strung around her desk and up the bunk bed. I plugged them in and continued working.

I went to the closet and began opening the drawers of her dresser, a hand-me-down from when I was a little girl. As I opened the top drawer I smiled at the mismatched socks in it. We had always laughed about the fact that she never wore matching socks. And there was not a match in the drawer. I closed the drawer and left the socks as they were.

Other drawers held old high school sweatshirts that I packed along with the volleyball shirts into a box. The jewelry box she’d had as a girl that was tucked safely away in the third drawer down was just going to stay put. For now.

As I surveyed the room, I hadn’t realized how late it had gotten and the room was becoming dark except for the white Christmas lights. I glanced over at her desk and my eyes landed on the blue dolphin lamp sitting there. Blue was her favorite color and she’d always loved dolphins. I reached over to turn the lamp on and it lit up as mini lightning bolts raced through the dolphin. I stood there for a moment watching the lightning show…and then the tear fell.

And it fell for the emptiness of the room.

And then another fell for the hurt and sadness of my daughter walking out the door and not looking back.

And another fell, for not seeing her in those mismatched socks.

And then the tears came.

For wondering how the dreams for ones child could go so wrong somewhere along the way and for feeling like I was packing up all the memories I had of her 17 years into a few boxes.

And for missing the hugs, the kisses and the ‘I love yous’, the laughter, the quiet moments, singing Lady Gaga in the car, being goofy, baking cookies and watching movies.

And they fell because I won’t watch her graduate from my old alma mater, and because don’t want to miss out on her future.

And they fell because I’m afraid she doesn’t know how much I miss her.


As I sat there letting the tears fall I knew it was only the beginning. There will be many more tears in the coming weeks, and who knows, maybe months because there is a lot of healing in our relationship that needs to happen, for both of us. But, there is one thing that I am certain of where my daughter and I are concerned. And that is no matter what the differences are, or what trials we face, or how mad and disappointed we are with each other, she knows I love her and I know she loves me.


Be sure to check out the rest of the entries in the blog carnival over at my friend Bridget’s blog, One Word at a Time.