when the answer is "no"

“Mom can I go to the blacktop?”... the blacktop being the parking lot at the church across the street from our house, the one that boasts a basketball goal at one end.  This has become a familiar refrain in our home since a couple of families with boys moved into the neighborhood.  After nine years of life on 5th street, Zach finally has someone of the male persuasion to keep him company.  This is a big deal for a kid whose family only hangs out with other families full of girls and their booooring games, shows, dance parties, makeover sessions, duct tape bows and the like…

“Sure can buddy”. The blacktop is a familiar bike riding, hula-hooping, side-walk chalking location for my kids since I can see it from my living room.

“Mom, can I ride my bike around the block with Trey and Lee?”

This was a little different request. We live in a very, very small town (population in the triple digits), and I only recently started allowing he and his sister to ride around the block together. But it’s a nice day, and the kids in question are good kids, so… “I suppose so. You know the routine… if you hear a car, get in the grass and put your feet on the ground, even if the other two keep pedaling.”

“Mom, can I walk up to Trey’s house…? He and Damien are playing outside.”

This is a VERY new request. Trey’s house is only a few houses down on our quiet street. I know and trust his parents. But… we’ve never faced this option before. We’ve never had kids within walking distance of our house! Thinking back to my childhood I was walking to friends and school and church at a much younger age, so... “Yes you can. But if I come looking for you, you better either be OUTSIDE Trey’s house or walking home. No if, ands, or buts…” 

Fair enough- he was off.

A couple of more trips to the black top. Another ride around the block. Running into the house to get a football.  My son has never been so content on a Saturday in his entire life.  His entire day was full of “Yes’s”, and basketball, and football, and bike rides, and friends. That were boys.

And then, as evening drew near he brought one final request to me. “Mom, can I go to the ballpark? We are going to play cops and robbers. They want me to bring my nerf guns”. Now… the ballpark is one block behind our house. And I am not necessarily opposed to the notion of him going there with friends… but it was almost time for me to leave for a church service and his daddy wasn’t home yet. Having just gotten off the phone with Jim, I knew that there would be about a fifteen minute lapse in time between my needing to leave, and him arriving home.

“Buddy, I am going to answer you, but before I do I want you to please remember that mommy has said yes to everything you have asked today- playing outside, riding around the block, walking to Trey’s. She has even made a way for you to keep playing with your friends when mommy and daddy had to run errands… but because I am leaving, and I am not comfortable with you playing outside without mommy or daddy here, I have to say no. As soon as daddy gets home you can ask him about it.”

Immediately his face fell. Shoulders slumped. Feet plodded toward the door to deliver the terrible news to his friends. “Zach… mommy said yes to a lot of things today, please try not to be so disappointed with this one no”.

But there is disappointment in the “no”, isn’t there? Even with a whole day of “yes’s”, at that moment, only the “no” hung in the air.  And although I know Zach wanted to appreciate the many times I said “yes”... he just couldn’t hide his disappointment.

And I get it. Because a nerf gun fight at the local ballpark on a beautiful spring day… does sound like a good time.

I also get it, because so often, that is my response when my Father tells me “no”.

I forget the times I prayed, and He provided.

The times I sought His heart, and He revealed it to me.

The times I begged for healing, and He healed.

All I can hear is the “no”.

All I can hear is the disappointment.

Friends and family of mine are walking through the pain of one of God’s most difficult “no’s” today. A little boy that our entire community has rallied around in his fight with cancer went home to be with the Lord today. Thousands of people have cried out, begged, pleaded with God for a healing. For a miracle. For a life spared.

And I know that many are struggling through the same disappointment…

How could we pray so hard, for so long, to a God who is so good… Just to have Memphis die anyway?

Yesterday I joined some of my dearest friend's at the altar. Tears streamed down my face for this family, grieving so deeply, crying out from the depths of our souls for a miracle. But the miracle did not come, at least not in the way we would have it. This is a tough lesson for any of us... but especially so for Grace Ann... twelve years old, with a beautiful, gentle spirit and a soft, soft heart that feels not only her pain, but the pain of everyone around her. This child, struggling with the same "why" as so many adults today. The "why" that can not really be answered this side of eternity. I think of her, standing from the altar yesterday, the altar at which she poured out her entire heart before the Lord on behalf of her little cousin. Her face, contorted with the pain of this world, her bright orange shirt stained with droplets of salty tears.  I know that her prayers were full of hope and belief that God COULD heal. That God WOULD heal.

And so no matter how many times He has said “yes” before. No matter how many times He has provided. How many Red Seas He has parted. How many sick He has healed.

Her today is filled with the weight of his “no”.

And that’s okay.

He is a God that not only understands our grief, having experienced the pain and death of His own Son… He is a God that joins us in that grief. He is a God that treasures even our tears, catching each one in abottle, recording the cause for its fall in His book.  

I can tell my friends all the right things. I have shared scripture such as Isaiah 57:1. I can remind them that Memphis has received the ONLY perfect healing. I can assure my children that he is no longer in pain. I can share how he inspired people with his amazing smile, even through the pain. I can point to Romans 8:28, and encourage them to look forward to the way God will work even this dark time to the good. I can say all the right things… and they are true things…

But the truth is, there is still pain in the disappointment. Grief in the loss. Questioning in the “no”.

And that’s okay.

I am a failed, imperfect mother, and Zach’s disappointment was a minor one… but I understood.

And so I know, I trust, that our Heavenly Father, seated in perfection, understands our disappointment when we can’t fathom His “why”.  He is patient with our questions, and through the power of his Holy Spirit will guide us through the valley of the shadow of death, refining us and growing us and loving us all along the way.

I don’t know what you are facing today. What the disappointment in your life looks like. Maybe you are grieving the passing of this beautiful young man.  Maybe you are struggling through the disappointment of a closed door.  A lost job.  A failing marriage.  A prodigal child. Whatever the disappointment… take it to the Father. 

He is a good Daddy... He understands.


parental whiplash

Sometimes we do things right. Sometimes we make big mistakes.

I think that our Father is not so much concerned with the weight of one to the other, as how we respond in each of the situations.

A week or so ago I got a text about one of my kids from their teacher. They had stood up for a friend who was being picked on at school. My mommy’s heart was so proud…  I have been talking to them both about being more than kids who do the right thing… but being kids who stand up against the wrong thing. And so it was such an encouragement to see in action the words spoken into my kiddos' hearts, affirmation that something might actually be going right at home… which is always great because no one knows better than me how messed up things can be there at times!

I was on a mommy high. The kind where your heart is full of pride at the people your kids are growing into being. I may or may not have made a Facebook status to that end.

And then, literally minutes later, the phone rang. My husband asked “Which of the kids have been buying things with their Kindles?”… wha? huh? seriously? The kids that I may or may not have just posted about being incredible kids… have overdrawn his checking account?

Talk about parental whiplash.

The rest of the phone conversation was a mix of “I-can’t-believes” and “Surely-there’s-a-mistakes”… but the proof was there, in his hands. A bank statement with not one, or two, or four “Amazon Digital” charges. 

But twenty-nine.

Hanging up the phone, I quietly asked “who has been buying things with their kindle???”

One small hand silently raised to shoulder level.

My heart sunk. The “surely not’s” became reality. Twenty-nine times my child had pressed buy to the tune of $183.40. Plus fees for the overdrawn account.

I may or may not have removed a facebook status about being proud of the incredible people my children were growing into being. One had stood up to a bully at school, the other had overdrawn our checking account. Life has a way of leveling the parental teeter-totter.

That evening turned into a lecture/fact-finding mission that would not end.  Surely they were confused and did not realize what they were doing? Surely they forgot that the kindle fire was tied to our checking account? Surely??

But when it all boiled down, and I asked the simple question “Did you know you were doing something wrong when you hit buy?”, and two big, sad brown eyes peered back at me with a quiet but honest “yes”… there was no longer any question.

At that moment my heart was flooded with a swell of emotions.

Disappointment… they knew better. They had been warned, threatened, and reminded.

Frustration… did I mention they knew better? Seriously, I could imagine once, or twice… but twenty-nine times! In 24 hours?! And they didn’t even buy apps, just upgrades to a game they were playing…

Hurt… because they were so disappointed in themselves. So embarrassed. So sad. The tears flowed steadily all night long and it always hurts to see your child hurting.

But more surprising than any other emotion was the…


Not one time did they deny their actions, or make excuses. No whining about consequences or punishments. In fact they had volunteered to sell something near and dear to their heart in order to pay daddy back. They agreed without question to using their chore money to pay him back in the meantime. The kindle was handed over, without the weeping and gnashing of teeth that have accompanied its restriction in the past.  When we explained that they would have to go into the banker and apologize for overdrawing daddy’s account, they looked me right in the eye with an “okay”, and then dropping their chin to their chest, cried silently.

The consequences hurt, but they have walked through each one of them without question. Without whining. Without excuses or blame shifting or fit throwing.

And there is a part me that knows… the lesson has been learned. Neither of my children will ever, ever, ever make a Kindle transaction without our express written consent in the future.  The lesson was learned the moment they were caught and that hand rose slowly into the air.

But there still must be discipline. There still must be consequence.  What would be learned if we covered the mistake with no price to pay? With no sacrifice?

I think of the passage of scripture that says our Father “disciplines those He loves”.  It is a good thing to have a Father who loves you enough to discipline you. To sit, as Jim did with our child, and say “I love you so much. SO MUCH. Had you just asked I would have given you an amount you could spend. But this is unacceptable. You took more than your daddy had to give you…”

My mom cautioned me when my daughter was a toddler and my son was just a baby- ”Becky, you aren’t raising children. You are raising adults… keep that in mind”

It’s good to have a Daddy who will discipline you. It’s good to know the Father’s love. Love that is deep enough He can not be satisfied with you being anything less than mature and complete. Who is raising us up to be a people set apart, different. That loves us enough to walk us through difficult times... times that refine us and grow us.

It’s also good to know, that in the moments of our greatest triumphs and our greatest mistakes… the Father is still proud. That He never gets parental whiplash. He is never surprised by anything we do, or do not do. That when we walk in obedience, or disobedience... He loves us just the same. Just as I love my kids... when they are right and when they are wrong. Just as I have been so proud of them over this last week, of their courage and humility and integrity in the face of major consequences.

And so, tonight I can say with no wavering, with no doubt… how incredibly proud I am of my children. How blessed I am to have the opportunity to be their mommy, and how proud I am of the people they are becoming. Not because they are perfect… but because of who they are, even in the midst of major league mistakes.

And no matter what you have done... right or wrong... I can so easily hear Daddy God saying the same thing… about you.