Nashville (Where Else Can I Go?)

I am shaken to my core.

Sandy Hook broke my heart and put a fear in me that I have never truly gotten over. I was pregnant with Jericho at the time, days away from being hospitalized, and was absolutely terrified to bring my child into this world. I remember sitting in my office, bawling my eyes out, typing messages back-&-forth to a coworker that “this is yet another reason why I’m determined to put my kid into a Christian school.”

I haven’t said anything about Nashville because I have to process that yet another protective bubble I’ve put around my child has been shattered.

I’ve Googled bulletproof backpacks. I’ve thought about quitting my job to homeschool more times than I can count. I’ve questioned God, gun laws, gender identity, and why the hell people are so distracted from the truth of these tragedies…I honestly don’t know what to do, or how to protect my child in any other way but to daily fall on my face and beg God to take care of him…to trust Him to watch over his school, his classmates, his teachers and leadership….

When I was pregnant with my son, I knew every day that I was carrying a miracle. I knew that I could keep him safe…I could eat and drink the best things (sorry about the Taco Bell); I could cut way down on my coffee, eliminate the occasional glass of wine, watch the salt, and take my medicine. I took shots every day with a smile on my face, knowing that if this is what I needed to do to bring this child safely into the world, I’d do it. I’d do anything. 30 days of bed rest and twice-daily injections? Absolutely. Daily lab draws and internal ultrasounds? You got it. Lights off, no reading, and no visitors? Sure thing, Doc–you name it. Whatever it took to keep my baby safe, that’s what I’d do.

When he was born, I remember the fear I had on the drive home from the hospital…no nurses? The outside world seemed so big and scary, and everyone was a potential threat. Even David’s driving was under a microscope; every car on the highway was the enemy. I didn’t take my hand off of the car seat until we carried him inside of the house.

I learned to carry him in a Moby wrap, and he’d nestle into my chest, safe and sound. I held him as closely as I could, & I continued wearing him in some kind of carrier until he was 5 years old. I know that sounds ridiculous to some, but when your kiddo is a runner and you’re not, it sure makes it much less panic-inducing to have him in a crowd of people. I remember the last time he was in the carrier; we were at a huge Blues festival, and I knew where he was the entire time. I could have fun, and so could he, and he was safe because he was right with me. Who is possibly safer than an slightly-psychotic mother?!?

In-home daycare and preschools were tolerated because they sent daily photos & I knew I could check on him any time. We loved the people who cared for Jericho, not only because they were so good to him, but because they were so understanding of my anxiety & they responded to me with love and patience (and prayer). We interviewed potential schools for almost 2 years, and finally chose a local Christian school. For me, it was never a question: My child would be in a private Christian school. They put Jesus first, and he would be safe & surrounded by people of faith who would love him.

Kindergarten started, and we had a principal that I’d grown to love…but then he retired. I had to learn to trust new people, which hasn’t been easy, but as Jericho has grown, so has my ability to let others lead him in his life (not without behind-the-scenes questioning and some minimal trouble-making when I’ve been irked). I’ve had lots of questions, and I’m sure at times the school has dreaded seeing my e-mails come through; overall, though, we know he’s in a place where he’s loved and that teaches him the truth of Jesus in love.

School safety is an issue, even for a small Christian school, and I had to get used to seeing security on my child’s campus. Nothing is more heartbreaking than hearing your child say they’ve had to endure active shooter training. What kind of world do we live in, where that’s done on a regular basis? What kind of mentally unstable maniac goes after children?!? In a school? I just don’t understand….I had a very difficult time when I as an adult had to undergo campus shooting safety training; I struggled with panic attacks in the aftermath of my first training (I’m not going to say I’m ashamed to admit that. I think if someone feels like this kind of training is natural, they’re the ones that are crazy, not me). Now that I work on a different campus where there doesn’t seem to be any active shooter training, I almost find that more frightening.

I am struggling today, people. I’d like to say that I sat down to write this blog thinking that I’d end it with some pithy, spiritual, give-it-all-to-Jesus solution, but I don’t have it. My former pastor used to repeatedly sing the phrase, “where else can I go?” Where else can I take this? Where else can I lay my fear, my urge to wrap my kid in packing materials and never let him leave my house? His school sent out a mass e-mail today stating they were re-evaluating security measures, & I had to fight the urge to grab my keys & to go get my son. I can’t live in fear, and I can’t let my kid see that I’m afraid; kids DESERVE to live a life free of this kind of anxiety, and as parents, we can’t show them how deep it runs.

I have no choice but to say on repeat, “where else can I go? ‘For You have been my refuge, a tower of strength against the enemy’.” (Ps. 61:3). I’m going to claim this verse repeatedly until the panic in my spirit settles down. I’m going to trust that God is in control, and that the fear that is plaguing me will not take over my thoughts and actions today. I’m going to do my job, do the laundry, take care of the dog and on the outside, present as a normal suburban mother….I’m going to pray until the panic stops, and crank up the worship music to change the atmosphere in my house.

What I will not do, is:

  • Politicize gun control (although I have MUCH to say on this issue)
  • Comment on how I feel like weaponizing sexual identity is a terrible approach to any issue (although I have MUCH to say on this issue)
  • Focus more on what I have to say than on the spiritual conditions of this nation and the fact that we’re at this level of daily violence (although I have MUCH to say on this issue)
  • Embrace the rhetoric that fuels violence and hatred on all sides of any issue these days (although I have MUCH to say on this issue)
  • Get caught up on social media comments and the keyboard commandos who can’t seem to filter themselves or to present with any kind of kindness or love in their words (although I have MUCH to say on the issue)
  • Tell everyone all of the things I have to say on these issues, as if my words are anything that have an effect on these seemingly never-ending attacks and topics

I think we all have a lot to say on the topics of school shootings, gun control, identity, and violence. Words do nothing. Actions > words. Votes > words. Love > words. “They will know we are Christians by our _________” Um, comments on Facebook? Nope, that’s not it….Tweets? Nope, that’s not it……Protests? Nope….By screaming at people? Wait….um, nope.

“They will know we are Christians by our LOVE,” John 13:35. I John 4:18, “Perfect love casts out fear.”

Today, I am afraid.

Today, I am angry.

Today, I am ready to snatch up my boy and hold him as tightly as I can hold his little 10 year-old self, & never let him go.

Today, I didn’t want to see him leave the house.

Today, I remember that I had to stop myself from going into his room at 3:00am to kiss his head and make sure everything was okay, because I’m still dealing with PTSD that it’s hard to admit I have.

Today, I am finding it difficult to focus, because my spirit is sick at the condition of the world and how it’s creeping in from the East and West Coasts, and is in my so-called safety zone of the Midwest.

Today, I am claiming the mercies of God to breathe.

I’m not having a mental breakdown. I’m just putting all of my feelings as a mother into words, as someone who struggles with anxiety on days where there hasn’t been a mass act of violence against children. I normally function quite well with my mental issues. Things like Nashville can derail me, but I do find that I’m now armed with the things I need to do to stay on track and to not let my anxiety be visible to my child (thank you, therapy and Celebrate Recovery). To be honest, I wrote this blog because the comments on Facebook were causing me to have so much anxiety that I ripped what’s left of my fingernails down to the quick–that’s me being very real. The fighting and politicizing have got me so on edge that I can’t think straight, and I’m about to get rid of Facebook all together. I sat down to blog it out just so I could process and refocus on the grace of God–where else can I go? If you Google that phrase, you’ll find it’s in the Bible multiple times. It’s foundational, especially when the fear is so overwhelming. I know I’m saying it again, but it’s true, and it’s how I’m ending this. We so often think of Psalm 139 for the passage on being “fearfully and wonderfully made,” which is true, but there’s another part of the chapter I am choosing to focus on today:

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Ps. 139: 8-11)

Please join me today in praying for the overwhelming fear, panic, and hatred that has this nation so firmly in its grip. Pray for the mental health of parents and children who struggle with the understanding of the headlines; pray for Nashville and other cities that are triggered by yet another mass shooting. Pray for the people who fund lobbyists that focus more on bottom lines and money, rather than the lives of children. Pray that we all focus on how to love better, and how to love louder than the fear.

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