Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What Back To School Is Like With Four Teen Boys

Week before school:

"We start school next week? When are we getting our school supplies?!"
"Maybe I should do"
"Oh yeah I have band camp starting tomorrow."
"Wait, what day does school start again?"
"I can't even remember what classes I'm taking."
"Wait, what day does school start again?"

Three days before school:
Me: "Guys, remember to write down what your teacher says you need for class, I'm getting everything on Wednesday."
All guys: "Yeah, totally, we will remember all the things. Also...when does school start again?"

Day Before School:
Me: "I have it all in this binder prepared, along with a sentimental back to school note from Dad and me, and a daily/weekly/monthly planner that you will probably destroy in about three minutes."
Them: "Yup, but it's really awesome thank you!"

First Day of School:
All guys: "Oh, our teachers didn't tell us we needed x, y, and z until today."
Me: "It's okay, we'll just have a million receipts this month and spend an obscene amount of gas money driving a fifteen passenger van twenty minutes to WalMart for the third time this week."

Blake: *takes guys to school and everywhere else plus completes his color-coded list of tasks for each day flawlessly*
Me: *feeds and cleans Addie and tries to complete not very organized to do list and consequently forgets to clean and feed myself and picks up guys from extracurricular activities and silently thanks Jesus over two thousand times for crock pots as I serve dinner to the family*
Us: "Oh, hey, spouse I love, I haven't seen you all day, how's it going?"
Guys: *walk in the door and immediately ask twenty questions that all relate to food*

Okay, so this has been the quick, comical, slightly exaggerated and obviously not remotely spiritual version of how back to school has gone for us. This is not how the entire school year is going to go, but the first couple of weeks involves a lot of teamwork and survival instinct. I have tried to sit down and write this several times, but we have been so busy. Also, I have no idea what day it is.

It's Wednesday, August 26. Good grief, where has August gone?

First of all, I want to thank anyone and everyone who interceded in prayer for us for any amount of time over the summer, because I want you to know that it was a truly great summer. Though not without struggle, it was a definite season of growth for our guys. As with any human being, not just at-risk teenage boys, we don't miraculously drop all of our sins and burdens in one afternoon and skip through the rest of our lives; but God has been so faithful. Even in the sucky parts of the summer--which were, thankfully, few--good things were definitely happening. And I don't mean "good" like "pleasant" or "enjoyable," but "good" as in "clearly God's doing and not mine." I saw hearts that were once completely hardened start to soften under the steady current of grace that flows through Willow Springs. I have watched the boys go from edgy and defensive toward each other to showing more genuine care and concern for each other than most of the guys in my high school ever had toward each other. God has been so good to our family and has placed a spirit of peace and safety over it, and I am so, so thankful. We feel your prayers and support, friends of Willow Springs. We are so grateful.

As for attitudes with school starting, the guys have done really well. I think they are too tired to bring any drama they might encounter at school home. Each of our guys have something going on after school, so they get home around dinner time and we all just sit around and be worn out together. Basically, like any of you with kids in school. You know exactly what I mean. As exhausted as we may be, though, I cherish the after dinner lull. We laugh together and have great conversations and "watch" a movie together (we talk through half of it, usually).

I'm just so proud of them. Even when they mess up (like we all do all the time every day), they have grown so much the past few months and have risen so well to the challenges those of us at Willow Springs have given them. Being a parent is so much more than setting and enforcing boundaries (though this is obviously important), it is about discipling your kids. It's about being vulnerable and honest and wearing all of the things Christ has done for you and all of the grace He gives out on your sleeves, where it is real, sincere, and effective. Transparency shouldn't negate respect, it should reinforce it. As a parent I could sit here and list all of the characteristics of a good man that I still want them to work on and grow into, and how I wish they would make better choices regarding whatever, but I also want to take the time to be excited about all the good they have done, and all of the good they are already doing. My focus right now is to work on what their hearts are bent toward--if their hearts truly bend toward Christ, the other stuff fixes itself. If they struggle to seek Him even in the midst of the voices and temptations that try to win their focus, that is more than most adults are doing today. Nothing in the world would make me more proud and feel more content as their house mom than for each of our guys to trust Christ and follow him as best as they could. I want that stability for them.

Intercessors, please pray for this. Pray that Blake and I have the grace and discernment to seize every opportunity to pour the gospel into them--this definitely is, and always has been, our goal. A few other things you can be praying for include:

  • The Mac House continues to be worked on, and is coming along so well. The sooner it is finished, the sooner we can get another set of house parents and more boys into the house. Please be praying for the completion of the house, the filling of the house parents position, and whatever boys God leads here. 
  • In addition to praying for the needs for the completion of the house, please also be praying for God's provision to fund the additional staff and residents. Not necessarily the if, because we believe God will--but for the who and the how
  • Having one boy with a license and one with a permit and car shopping is making me a nervous wreck. Please join me in praying that they would be safe and wise behind the wheel--and also for everyone in the high school parking lot, because I still remember my own high school parking lot too well.
  • For the love of all things bright and beautiful, let's pray for all of our teenagers to miraculously block out all of the pressure making them feel like they need a significant other to be worth something. Have a crush and get a Sonic drink, don't declare your undying love for someone who doesn't even know what they want to eat for breakfast. /end rant 

We are so humbled and thankful to be a part of what God is doing at Willow Springs. In the midst of ministry, we have been ministered to abundantly. Thank you, friends of WSBR!

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