The Year we Let Lucas Give up Basketball and Football to go Hunting (or Letting go of your Expectations for your Child)

Maybe when I am old, I will look back on the year 2014 as the year I realized that my Lucas is his own man.  He’s such an amazing kid.  I adore him.  But dang, it hasn’t been easy.

Here is Lucas.  A week ago, he scored his first buck.

lucas deer

Allow me to give a little background: My husband is a high school basketball coach.  His love language is sports.  His identity is tied to sports.  He believes that athletics shape a kid and character, and I agree.  Over the years, it’s been rewarding to watch young boys become men through the challenges and joys that come through basketball.

However, I’m pretty sure that we’ve unknowingly bought into this belief that athletics was the best way, or the only way, for a young boy to become a man.  And our middle boy, Lucas, suffered under that expectation. We’re changing our tune.

Lucas is athletic.  He’s super physical. My favorite football memory of him is when he carried the football down the field as one, then two, then three guys wrapped around him and hung on.  He lowered his head and dragged them for another 15 yards until the dog pile finally overtook him.  He got up with a grin and a little swagger.  That’s just Lucas.

But Lucas is a lot more than that. Sports are fun, but not important to him.  He’s got other dreams.  He’s a creative thinker, a totally out-of-the-box kind of guy.  His perspective is bigger than most somehow.  He draws witty cartoons and loves to create with iMovie.  He loves technology.  He’s a skater-boy, a little rebellious and attracted to the edge.  He thinks nothing of the bruises and scrapes that come from the risks he takes on his longboard or his BMX bike or snowboard.

He also forgets to turn in his schoolwork, and he’s a class clown, often throwing out a choice joke for a laugh at just the most inappropriate time.  Many a patient teacher he has had.

Last year, he begged to quit AAU basketball.  “What?!  If you give up AAU, you probably won’t play high school basketball,” we said.  Horrors!  AAU is what we do.  Is there any other way to spend our days than carting him across town for practices and games?  It may sound strange to those of you who have lives outside of youth sports.  But for those of us who have spent our last years completely bought-in and sold-out, making a final decision was a process for us.  And a fight.  Ray and I fought our own selves. And we fought Lucas.

In a situation like this, parents often feel like they should win.  The process was keen for Ray and I because we thought our side was best.  Our thinking was along the lines of, “if Lucas needs more character to be built in him, it will benefit him to get it from youth sports.”  In addition, we were also fighting with him over an addiction to technology, and it was difficult to separate the two battles.  Looking back now, it’s easy to see how messed up and short-sighted our thinking was.  But that’s where we were.  It took time and much conversation with Lucas, learning to listen to what his heart was saying to us.  At some point, the lightbulb finally lit–He’s 14 and he wants to try other things with his life.  We need to allow him to explore these things.  We need to allow him to be who he IS, not who we think he should be.

So we lost the fight over basketball. But we won a little of our son back.

I’m so proud of my husband in the midst of it.  He spent this summer reconnecting with Lucas.  They created a “Lucas-only” toolkit.  They purchased used skateboards and pieced parts out to create a custom board.  Ray found a used BMX trick bike for Lucas, and watched as Lucas perfected his tricks.

So it was a shocker to us when we encountered the next battle in late August, right as football season began. For a variety of reasons, Lucas’s 8th grade season was cancelled at the very last minute, leaving him without a team.  He had several options: 1) join his local public school team, 2) join a friend’s Pop Warner city team, or 3) join his private school’s high school team, where his sophomore brother and a few other 8th grade schoolmates/friends were.  In our small-school league, if there are 30 high school players or less, 8th graders are able to play JV.

Lucas chose none of the above.  It just so happened that the day he was making a decision was also the day that his body was being overtaken by a strep virus.  He was an emotional mess.  He couldn’t think straight.  He was scarily irrational.  He had night terrors.  The strep seemed to take his brain and shake it like a Coke can.  We witnessed the explosion.

So he missed the first practices as his body recovered.  After he was no longer contagious, he attended a couple practices.  On day 7, he had a sudden full-body rash reaction to the penicillin antibiotic.  It set him back again.  On day 10, he returned to practice and got taken down while carrying the ball.  Weirdly, his chin strap sliced into his chin and left a deep cut.  We were called immediately, and ended up at the Urgent Care for the 3rd time in 10 days.  He had 6 stitches.  And he was done with football.  He refused to go back.  His love for the game was gone.

Again, Ray and I were at a crossroads.  We tried for several days to force him back, thinking that it was a fear he needed to push through.  But he wouldn’t budge.  I pray that his stubbornness will someday serve him well, but in the meantime, it is crazy-hard to parent.

Two wise friends gave me counsel.  They encouraged us to empower him to make his own decision.  And ultimately, that is what we did.  We sat down with Lucas, left our emotion behind, and calmly told him several things.  First, we told him that we thought he should stick it out but that it was no longer our decision.  Rather, it was his, and we would support him in his final decision.  Second, we asked him to go through a process in his decision-making.  We asked him to meet with his youth pastor for outside counsel and wisdom.  We gave him several verses, not coercive ones, but ones of promise of direction and hope and wisdom.  We asked him to look them up, read them, and then spend some time talking personally to God about what was on his mind and heart.  Finally, we told them that if he quit, he would 1) need to meet with his coach to explain his decision and 2) let us know what activity he wanted to pursue instead.

He went through the process.  And quit.  But he told us that he wanted instead to go hunting this fall.  He also said that he wanted to go to youth group consistently, something that unfortunately often gets lost to the busy schedule of athletic practices and games.

Truly, I miss watching my Lucas play football.  But I’m so proud of him.

He spent the next week taking the online hunting certification class.  And then the next Saturday, he and Ray attended the 4-hour field course.  Had he played football, there would have been no extra time for this.

Both of his grandpas are hunters and they were thrilled.  Unfortunately, neither could hunt with him this year.  So Lucas’s 8th grade science teacher, Mr. Hansen, graciously and generously offered to take Ray and Lucas out.  I’m still so touched by that.  I’m also touched by Ray’s commitment to Lucas.  Ray does not like to hunt, but for Lucas’s sake, he attended the class, assembled the gear, and purchased the hunting tags.  That’s what a good daddy does to connect with his son.

On the third time out, they spotted a buck and quietly motioned for Lucas to take aim.  Lucas stealthily lifted his gun, sighted in, and shot.  His first shot entered at the shoulder and pierced the lung, killing the deer instantly.  It makes me sad to see such a beautiful creature lay limp.  And yet, with this one beautiful creature, Lucas will feed our family this winter.

We let go of our expectations.  He wins.  By doing so, our middle child was able to be his own man.  It is a loss I am happy to claim.


Pasture-land Abundance


Words of Jesus:
I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved. He will live! He will come in and he will go out freely, and will find pasture and satisfaction, being filled with spiritual food and growth. The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance, to the full, until it overflows.
John 10:9-10, Amplified Version and a little of my own paraphrase

This is such good news.  For those who have not yet accepted Jesus, this is a beautiful promise and invitation. 

Lord, show me where I am unfree. Show me where I am bound by expectations and fear of man, of evil, of my own self. Show me where I have disengaged from the full and abundant life you have for me.

I Might as Well Throw it Out There and Get Real

When my boys were little, my Dad would say, “Come here. Grandpa is going to work you over.” And then they’d giggle and run over to Grandpa for a good wrestle.

God is working me over just like that. I’ve run to him because He’s safe and gracious and has a Father’s heart. Now we’re having a good wrestle. It doesn’t mean I’m having fun, like my boys with Grandpa. But it is similarly cathartic. I don’t want to stay in this stuck place, paralyzed by fear. I want to live a life of risk. So it feels good to get worked over.

I read this in my study today:
“Faith simply means to believe in God and to grab onto the tools He has provided for you. When you find yourself fearful, it is an indication that you’ve lowered your shield of faith.”

When it read it, alarm bells resounded in my heart. RINGGGGGG! BEEEEEP! But I wasn’t sure why. I know I’ve been dealing with some fear, but can I name it? Not really. So I asked, “God, where? Show me where I’ve lowered my shield of faith.” Sure, the recent headlines are scary. But truthfully, these only heighten the deeper fears I already have.

Why is this an important exercise? Because I truly believe God has plans for me and a purpose for why He created me. If I tip-toe through life with fear, then I allow fear to keep me from becoming everything God had in mind when he knit me together in my mother’s womb. It’s true for all of us.

I have a friend whose fear is heightened during the Halloween season. The abuse and pain that she experienced as a girl tie into the evil she sees on display during October. She shared with me this morning her dream from last night. She dreamt of black spiders all over the outside of her car. She thought maybe if she drove faster, she could make them fall off. But then she realized, “Ha! They’re on the outside and they can’t get in.” That’s faith; her shield came back up.

I have another friend whose gorgeous and talented teenage daughter is enduring chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Holding the hand of your girl while watching her grow progressively more sick will surely heighten your fear. And yet, it has been such a blessing to watch my friend fight to keep her shield of faith held fast. Her grace reminds me of this verse, “(She) has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” She is a warrior.

For me, I deal with pastor-kid stuff. I prefer to downplay it because it seems so little. So I push it down. But then, after a time, it returns with a vengeance and I realize, “Duh!” The deep truth is that I want to hide. I had to wear a mask as a pastor’s kid. And I often wear one now as a principal’s wife. It’s such a bummer–never ever something that my parents expected of me. In fact, they gave me much freedom to be me. And I was. And I am. And yet, only as a fellow pastor’s kid (or anyone with a high profile parent) knows, the expectations from others remain. I worked hard to meet the expectations. I still do, at the cost of pursuing my own heart’s desires.

So what is the fear I wrestle with now? I’m not particularly scared of letting others see my faults. I’ve always been ok with that. But I do fear letting down my little wall of protection and being fully known. And this has resurfaced recently because I feel God asking me to write of his love and justice and faithfulness and righteousness. Writing has been a secret heart’s desire. And now I feel paralyzed because to do so, I realize that I also have to allow myself to be known. I’d rather hide.

So Lord, I see that I need to walk this out.  I will grab the tools you’ve provided for me.  I will re-engage my shield of faith and fight the fiery darts of fear in my heart. Fear will not cripple me here, nor keep me stuck in this spot. Father, help me to take this one step. And then another. And another. I will start walking. Whatever is ahead, You will enable and equip me.

Psalm 91, Very Personally Paraphrased

I will dwell in His shelter
I will rest in His shadow.
I will say of my God,
“You are my refuge,
You are my fort.
You are my God
And my safest place.
I trust you complete.”

I will rest here,
Not give in to this fear.
For sure, he saves me
From Satan’s sneak-snare.
For sure, he saves me from
Plague and despair.
I refuge with Him
Under His wing and feather
His faithfulness my shield,
His steadfast rampart.
His high wall of protection
For me is safeguard.
By night, terror surrounds,
But it cannot come near.
By day, arrows fly
But I feel no fear.
Creepy is the stalking
Of pestilence and scourge.
Sidelong and sideways
One thousand may fall.
Even more, ten thousand
But God’s name is my call.

There is no harm for you.
For you who make
My God your dwelling,
My God your refuge;
No disaster can touch,
No harm can befall.
For my God commands Angels!
Not just anyone,
But angel-armies;
To guard each step,
And all of your highways.
Angel-armies to hold you,
Lift you they do.
You will not trip or stumble.
Instead you will trample
The evil down and around.
You will tread on great lions,
Serpent and cobra.

God says,
“Because she loves me,
I will rescue her;
I will protect her
As she names my name.
She will call upon me,
And I will answer with care .
I will be with her in trouble;
I will deliver her
And honor her there.
Long life I will satisfy
And show how I save.”

Isaiah 35, Very Personally Paraphrased

My desert heart will be glad;
My soul will blossom.
Sudden blooms burst,
Rejoicing and joyous.
Taken by places of produce and plenty,
Like underbrush of rain forest
And vineyards of valley.
The splendors of my God
Show and shimmer.

Oh feeble hands, strengthen.
Oh knock knees, steady.
To my fear say,
“Here, be strong!
No room for that fret.”
Your God comes.
Avenging for you.
He rescues,
He saves,
Divine counterblow.
And when he comes,
The the blind will see.
Deaf ears will hear.
The lame shall leap.
Mute tongue shall praise.

Water gushes in your wilderness!
Streams in your desert!
Burning sand becomes a pool,
Thirsty ground, a spring.
Where bad guys, lack & laze
Once hid, laid low;
Instead ferns and fruit grow.

My heart is alive,
The path feels plowed.
God’s highway of holiness re-found.
Contamination cannot dwell,
Nor great beast
Or wolf-like lion.
They are far from me.

On this highway,
the redeemed walk.
Gladness comes running.
The ransomed return.
Sighing sadness is gone.
Joy overcomes
And sings her song.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Blogging

Numbers 4, 5, and 6 really speak to me.

Sasha Dichter's Blog

I’ve had a lot of conversations in the past few months that start with people saying, “I really have been meaning to write or blog, but I just haven’t done it. Any advice on how to start and stick with it?”

Here are 12 things that I’ve learned since I started blogging in 2008:

  1. A structured time to write. Stephen King is famous for saying that step one in writing is to put your “butt in the chair.” Not glamorous, but true. 99% of my blog posts have been written on the train that I take home from work. And most of them come out very quickly – in 10-15 minutes. But I’ve discovered that when I don’t take the train, I don’t write blog posts. That’s when I write.
  2. Make a commitment. Commit to how much you’re going to publish / write / post. I’d suggest you aim high…

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