One Mom’s Response to the Tragedy in Las Vegas

Untitled designThe sky was alternating between a light and dark blue-gray and the air felt cool with rain, but Griff and I hopped out of the van and threw on the pack anyway. Every fall I make it a point to spend as much time as I can out at Wild River, the state park that’s just a couple of miles down the road from our house.

Today we took the easy trail through the oak savannah, in part because of the pending rain and me breaking in new boots, but also because I needed an autopilot sort of walk. Earlier, on our way to school, I had turned on MPR and heard the news about the Las Vegas mass shooting. The rest of the drive back, my mind felt numb.

There’s no one response to hearing news of violence and chaos, the gunshots ricocheting like harmless firecrackers on the radio. Here in the northern Midwest, I felt the strange combination of being far-removed yet somehow still close to the tragedy, as though some smarmy stranger had entered my home unannounced and left his greasy business card on the kitchen counter.

Tragedy is invasive. It is a reminder that safety is relative, and the world is not as friendly as I want to teach my children it is. It casually drips fear into the normalcy of our daily lives, discoloring our thoughts and leaving us upset, uncomfortable, and confused.

It also makes me never want to be in a mass gathering of people ever again. (If you need me, I’ll just be holed up in my kitchen, thank you very much.)

My son and I walked along the paved trail, and I pointed out the different colored leaves, the trees, the moss, the puddles. He bantered along in one-year-old babble, occasionally uttering something that sounded close to the word I was repeating. It felt good to focus on something near, pushing the senselessness out and away as I worked on expanding my son’s vocabulary.

Right after I heard the news, I Voxed a friend, recording a jumble of messy emotions that basically boiled down to, “this is horrible and I’m upset and I have no idea what to do.” There was nothing to do, of course (which is my normal route – when in doubt, make a meal, bake a pie, buy a gift, clean a kitchen, send a card, just don’t. sit. still.).

But sometimes our restless hands have to be stuck, still – caught in the needs of our daily life and those who depend on us – while we feel our way through the event, our emotions running from shock to anger, to sadness, to fear, to worry.

I’m learning, lately, that it’s important to listen to each of those emotions as they come, allowing them to sit in my cupped and shaking hands. Being true to myself also means being vulnerable, expressing my confusion and darkness and fear, because those are the places I am most likely to connect with others and find solace. Or in the words of Matthew 5 and the beatitudes, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Friends, I have nothing profound to say about today’s shooting. I’m just here in my little blue office, surrounded by legos and drawings and bills and an embarrassing amount of empty coffee mugs, and I’m sad. I hurt for the parents who sent their son or daughter off to their first concert, not knowing their children would come home with a new understanding of hate. I hurt for the couple who went to hear their favorite musician but can’t get the sound of gunshots and screams out of their heads. I hurt for the friends having a girls’ night out who are now scared to open their apartment doors. I hurt for the hotel employees and policemen and EMTs who looked into face after face of pain and shock and terror. I hurt for the loved ones on the other end of the phone line, receiving the darkest, hardest words.

I hurt because I am human, and even though I teach my children that humans should not harm one another, I know it still happens.

I hurt because this is a broken world, a fallen world, and hope can be a hard hand to grasp.

Nevertheless, I have found that hope is somehow always present, reaching through the panic and pain, not as a quick fix or a religious pill, but steady as a Father’s heart beating for His children. It is this heart and hope that I choose to stake my faith in, even on days like this.

So today I hurt, and today I hope.

And tomorrow I’ll get up, spend time praying comfort over those affected by the shooting, and then go about my work teaching my children to love, respect, and protect one another and the world around them.

It seems a small consolation, given the size of the loss. I know that. But it is something, and if we all did the same, choosing hope instead of hopelessness, action instead of anger, the next generation could only be better for it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lent Log – Week 1

calendarIf ever I had a chance to get angry, this past weekend would have been it. Husband gone, babies teething, a toddler who found my secret stash of scissors – a perfectly brewed storm.

And yet, when my daughter went into stealth mode while I was nursing, and I found her a few minutes later with a pair of kitchen shears in hand, I took a really deep breath. I didn’t yell. I listened to her explain, in the animated half speech of two-and-a-half-year-olds, how she needed to cut the threads hanging from the shoulders of her dress-up Cinderella gown because they tickled her.

She wasn’t quite as forthright about why she had to cut her hair as well, but what can you do.

Meanwhile, one of the twins decided to get really cranked about her teeth coming in, and daddy being gone, and not understanding why MPR just wouldn’t ever come out and say what was really happening in the Ukraine.

On Sunday we were late to church. Monday we were even later to Play and Learn. Normally, being late primes my internal rage, pumping harder every hot minute that ticks past my desired leaving time.

And yet, somehow, the anger only circled, a dark shadow trolling the bay.

***

If you’ve ever baked bread, you know that there are a few key ingredients. Flour, yeast, water, salt. When those ingredients meld together in the right environment, they react. The yeast creates gas, which causes the flour and water to bubble and lift. Eventually, the whole mass rises.

When you control the ingredients, you determine the type of bread you’ll make. But the rise is always a mystery (at least to me). It is the least controllable part of the process, and the one that takes the most patience.

I started to think more about controlling my anger some more this past weekend when I was, vigorously punching, ahem, kneading bread dough.

What’s funny about anger is that sometimes I can control the situation surrounding it, and sometimes I can’t.

If I want to control the situations surrounding my anger, I simply need to plan well enough to keep the mishaps to a minimum. (Easier said than done, but in theory…?) For example, if I don’t want to be late, all I have to do is get us moving towards the door half an hour earlier than I normally would have started. Or if I don’t want my toddler giving herself a mullet, I should put all scissors under lock and key.

And in the situations when I have no control over the outcome? When I mixed everything right, used the right ingredients, and yet something still went horribly, awfully wrong?

I still have command over my response.

Slow driver in front of me? Busy restaurant server? Feverish baby screaming in my face?

Breathe. Practice quiet love the way Jesus did when thousands of voices screamed for his death.

***

I appreciate the practicality of finding ways to avoid being angry with a little time management and planning. But those situations don’t always cause me to think with my spirit.

Where I’m really seeing my Lenten practice start to sweat is when I control what feels like the uncontrollable rise of my anger. I need to understand the triggers that normally set me off and see them as just that – triggers. When I face the situation, I have to find that detached calmness (the one I wouldn’t normally be able to muster if I were to just blaze right into fixing whatever went wrong.)

I see Jesus in this. Jesus who, in his work with people, didn’t immediately triage and treat. Jesus who listened. When those around him were flustered and begging, he answered back with patience. When 5,000 people needed to be fed, he got creative with what he had. He used every opportunity as a moment to teach. To love.

After a week, it’s encouraging to see glimmers of change. I feel less defeated when I go to bed, no guilt-monkey twirling his tail around my arm. I don’t raise my voice as often, and have felt, generally, more pleasant. Kind. Less likely to snap.

It’s not been easy, and I’m learning which of my own rules I can bend, and which ones I can’t. The whole void thing? I’ve only used it once. But deep breathing? I use this every single time. Going to bed early is a tough one – I’m still fudging around, trying to figure out the optimal time. (I broke the rule altogether on Tuesday night, and paid for it all morning yesterday.) But for the most part, I think I have a solid set of ways to work with my emotions.

Next step is to find some good, easily accessible reading to drive my focus on the Cross. Any suggestions? Or anything that’s helping your Lent practice stay strong this week? I’d be glad to hear them!