Sunday, January 19, 2020

If you were Mary and I was Martha, I would totally be ticked off at you.

I am all about getting the job done. Meet the deadline. Before the deadline, preferably. Do your duty. Follow the rules. Don't procrastinate. Fix the problem. A job isn't worth doing unless it's done well.

Some people seek thrills by jumping out of planes or riding roller coasters. I get dopamine hits from crossing things off of lists.

This makes me an excellent employee. A pretty good principal. A mom whose is not very fun, but whose kids' teeth are brushed and bellies are fully of vegetables. A Christian who reads her Bible just about every day.....but will often choose the task that needs her instead of the person who needs her.

I hate sitting back and waiting when there's something productive that can be done. Which means that I am right smack dab in the middle of a point in life that is driving me crazy. Oh, don't get me wrong--I am plenty busy. The problem is that just about every aspect of my future is an unknown right now. Five months from now, I will be jobless and homeless. Five stinkin' months, People. This is not okay with me.

I can't visualize where I will be and what I will be doing and what will be happening with my children because I don't know. And I can't know. Though Gil and I are dutifully researching and making inquiries and sending resumes, there's not a lot of places--especially schools--that hire people eight months out.

Which means I have to wait. I hate waiting. I'd rather seize control of my life and get the job done. Make a plan. Get all the things crossed off my list. Come on, let's get moving here!

As Jesus as and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed--or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

In my case, instead of complaining about my sister, I'm complaining about my God. Come on, God, get it together! We're working hard here, trying to figure out our life. We're ready for an answer, a plan. Our lives are dedicated to you, after all. We're all about serving you. So why aren't you helping us?

Sheesh. It sounds bad when I put it that way.

Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. 

Distracted. All of my planning and hard work and productivity are just distractions? Seriously? I'm not feeling very affirmed here, God.

But yes. I am distracted. The One Thing most important to me is Having a Plan. The One Thing most important to Jesus is that I sit at his feet and listen to him. Sitting? Listening? When there's so much to do? Argh. I don't like this.

Recently, in the midst of my impatience with the lack of control I have over my future, a hymn came to me from my childhood. I most certainly was bored with this one as a kid, with its thys and thines and slow plodding cadence. But it lodged in my brain and now? I bring it to mind almost every day.

Have Thine own way, Lord
Have Thine own way
Thou art the potter, I am the clay
Mold me and make me after Thy will
While I am waiting yielded and still

You know what I found out? The writer of that hymn, Adelaide Pollard, wrote those words while frustrated by her attempts to raise support to be a missionary in Africa. How do you like that?

Yielded and still. Were you a Martha, Adelaide? Because waiting while "yielded and still" sounds like a pretty good goal for me right now. I'll add it to my list.

Hume Lake, CA, July 2019 (Gil Medina)

Sunday, January 12, 2020

What Your Grandmother's Piano Had to Do With Slavery in Zanzibar

In Victorian America, having a piano in your home was a sign of being cultured, sophisticated, and educated. Ironically, the story behind those pianos was one of slavery, oppression, and death.

"By 1900 more than half of the world's pianos were made in the United States. In 1910, piano production in the United States was growing at a rate six times faster than the population." (1) Yet before the advent of plastic, what was essential for piano production? Ivory. Ivory from East African elephants.

Just over 100 years ago, there existed a unique connection between Victorian New England and Zanzibar, which is a large inhabited island just off the coast of what is now known as Tanzania. America wanted ivory. Africa had elephants. And the port where thousands of tusks funneled through was on the island of Zanzibar.

Most of that ivory ended up in Connecticut, at a manufacturing village appropriately called "Ivoryton," which milled an estimated 100,000 elephant tusks before 1929. At the industry's height, over 350,000 pianos were sold each year. (2)

I've lived in Tanzania for sixteen years, and visited Zanzibar many times, and I never knew this until I recently explored the new museum attached to David Livingstone's church. I knew that Zanzibar was home to a massive slave industry in the 19th century; I knew that missionary David Livingstone was instrumental in ending that slave trade. Many times, I have visited the church he had built on the site of the slave market, with the altar placed strategically on the spot where slaves had been tied up and whipped.

But all this time, I didn't know there was a connection between East African slavery and America, because most American slaves came from West Africa. (East African slaves were usually sent to Arab countries and colonial British plantations.) Yet the Connecticut ivory industry fueled a large part of East African slavery. Each of those 100 pound tusks had to be carried, by hand, for hundreds of miles from the African interior. The journey was so grueling, and the slave drivers so cruel, that David Livingstone once estimated that 5 slaves died for every tusk.

We all know about slaves coming out of Africa. What I have also recently learned, both through reading about the rubber trade in Congo and now the ivory trade in Tanzania, was that hundreds of thousands of Africans were enslaved in their own homeland. Though it is certainly fair to say that most of these people were captured, owned, and sold by their fellow Africans, it was the the insatiable desire for Africa's resources by Europeans and Americans that fueled the demand for doing business in human souls.

I imagine early 20th century Americans, gathering around their new pianos in their prim and proper Victorian parlors, gaily singing Christmas carols while the snow silently falls outside. It's the quintessential American picture, is it not?

Yet what was the cost of that picture-perfect scene? I haven't mentioned the mass destruction and near extinction of African elephants--which is a tragedy in and of itself. But even more tragic was that those pianos were built on the backs of suffering and death of countless African men, women, and children.

Did average Americans know this at the time? Probably not. But thinking about this tragedy made me contemplate what this generation of Americans does know. We've all heard the reports, right? Our cocoa and coffee harvested by children in developing countries, the profit from the tantalum in our cell phones used to fuel civil wars in Africa, designer clothes created by near-slave-like conditions in Bangladesh or India. So many of the comforts around us were built on the backs of someone else's suffering. 

What do we do about it? I hear you asking. And honestly, I don't know. The problem is incredibly complicated. I don't have answers.

Yet, knowing these things is still good for our souls. This knowledge should humble us, convict us, make us wiser. It should help us to be more careful in what we buy. More aware. More generous. More grateful.

The Anglican church in Zanzibar which was inspired by David Livingstone's fight to end slavery on the island. The church is built on the site of the main slave market.

Under the church, two holding chambers have been preserved. Each of these chambers would hold up to 50 slaves at a time, waiting for sale.

"This crucifix [is] made from the wood of the tree under which Dr. Livingstone died at Chitambo village, Ilala, Zambia in 1873, and under which his heart [is] buried."

My sources for this article came from the museum at Livingstone's church, as well as these two sites:

All pictures by Gil Medina.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

This Time Next Year We Won't Have Our Feet in the Sand

On December 31st, I sat with my eldest daughter on a perfect tropical beach on the magical island of Zanzibar. We watched her dad and siblings heaving sand balls at each other made with famous white Zanzibari sand, so powder-fine that it has the silkiness of clay.

"You know, this time next year, we could be in the snow," I told her. She looked at me in shock. "Sure," I said, "Hopefully we won't be living in it, but we might be close enough to visit it."

We sat together with our feet in the warm sand and listened to the breeze rustling the palm fronds and let that sink in. A year from now, everything will be different.

In the next six months, we will sell or give away all of our earthly possessions except which fits into several suitcases. Every piece of furniture, our dishes, our car, our dogs. We will say goodbye to people we have known for almost 20 years and roads and beaches and restaurants that have become familiar and routine and ordinary. We will land in a new city where we've never lived before and start new jobs and schools. We will find a new church and new grocery stores and clothes that keep us warm instead of cool. We will buy a house and cars and an entire household of furniture.

Everything--everything will be different. I won't fall asleep to those eerily chanting night-birds; I won't wake up to roosters. The Call to Prayer won't be a part of my background noise. All of the electricity coming into my house will be normal and I won't need to buy an extra long extension cord, just so that I can find the one outlet in the house that happens to be getting enough electricity to power the fridge today. I won't smell burning trash; I won't associate piles of roadside pineapples with Christmas; I won't need to strain yogurt to make cottage cheese. I won't ride in three-wheeled Bajaj rickshaws; I won't hang clothes out to dry; I won't speak Swahili. I won't visit a tropical island on Christmas vacation.

It's more than just moving to a new place. It's like leaving life on one planet and boarding a spaceship for another.

For a while I've had the thought, "I wonder where I'll be this time next year." But now it is next year. 2020 has come, and this is happening. I have no idea where we'll be seven months from now. I just know it won't be Tanzania, and everything will be different.

We spent last week on Zanzibar. It was our Christmas present from grandparents. We walked through a mangrove forest and held sea turtles and rode quads through little villages and snorkeled with schools of angel fish and chased dolphins. Many times, I would turn to one of the kids and whisper, "Capture this moment in your mind." Because that's what I was doing.

Yes, that is a real, live sea turtle.

And she's feeding one.

Shopping on the streets of Stonetown

And those are 50+ year-old tortoises.

Pointing out to the kids how the original buildings in Stonetown are made from coral

with our dolphin-chasing boat

Friday, December 27, 2019

Read These Books

by Angie Thomas
Whoa! This was an excellent book and I highly recommend it--for Americans especially. It is extremely well written and has a page-turning story line with engaging characters. Deals sensitively, intelligently, and with nuance on issues of racism and police brutality in America. This is an important book! Technically it is young adult fiction, but unfortunately I wouldn't give it to my young teens. Not necessarily because of the profanity (which is on pretty much every page), but because a couple of scenes are more sexually explicit than I want my teenager exposed to. But adults? Please read this book.

Misunderstood: The Impact of Growing Up Overseas in the 21st Century
by Tanya Crossman
This book is the result of hundreds of conversations with third-culture kids. It's eye-opening and enlightening for any of us who are raising them, teaching them, or loving them.

Stronger Than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa
by Rachel Pieh Jones
This is a well-researched, well-written biography of Annalena Tonelli, an Italian Catholic who gave up everything to help the poor and sick in the Horn of Africa. It's a thought-provoking, disturbing but compelling book, especially for anyone who is involved in cross-cultural humanitarian work. Read it with a friend, because it provokes a lot of important questions without necessarily providing answers.

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
by Caroline Fraser
I spent a good portion of my childhood pretending I was Laura Ingalls, so I had to read this book. It is a fascinating account of what pioneer life really was like--and therefore shattered my life-long fantasy of wishing I was born in the 19th century. Despite it's dream-smashing quality, it was a worthwhile read. And after I finished it, I went back and read (most of) Laura's books again--and still enjoyed them!

Love Me, Feed Me: The Adoptive Parent's Guide to Ending the Worry About Weight, Picky Eating, Power Struggles and More
by Katja Rowell
A must-read on food issues for anyone raising adopted children.

Suffering is Never for Nothing
by Elisabeth Elliot
A new book by Elisabeth Elliot?!? I'm there! This is a transcription of a series of talks that Elisabeth gave on suffering. As always, it is full of grace, wisdom, and humor, reinforcing my opinion that I chose a worthy hero.

The Masterpiece
by Francine Rivers
I can't stomach most Christian romance, but this was a good "airplane read" on the way back to Tanzania in August. I appreciated the thoughtful theme of the effects of childhood trauma, and it was a satisfying, redemptive story without too much preachiness.

All You Can Ever Know
by Nicole Chung
This is a memoir written by a Korean-American adoptee who was raised in a white family. I highly recommend this book for adoptive parents, and I will certainly encourage Grace to read it in the next year or two. Though parts of it were so painful to read as an adoptive mom, it ultimately was a story of beauty from ashes.

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terrorism and Heroism in Colonial Africa
by Adam Hochschild
It's hard to recommend a book that is full of so much of the depravity of man, but it's also necessary--especially for anyone who has any interest in Africa. This book is the account of the history of what is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo, and how King Leopold of Belgium decided that he had the right to own it and rape its resources for his own personal profit (though he never even stepped foot on the continent). I read history like this and am not surprised when some Africans are intent on purging Americans and Europeans from their countries.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Still Looking for That Better Country

I've been a foreigner for so long that I've forgotten what it feels like to live as a citizen.

It's now normal for me to stick out in a crowd, to get gawks, stares. Every two years, I apply for expensive visas for permission to live in Tanzania. Even though I've lived here sixteen years, I've never voted in a Tanzanian election, or even felt like I have a right to a political opinion. I've never owned a house. I know that just about everything I own will one day be owned by someone else, so I better not get attached to it. I have the uncomfortable feeling that some of those around me are in awe of my foreignness and unnecessarily defer to me, but others resent my very presence in their country.

Either way, I am an outsider.

It's become so normal that sometimes I forget how exhausting it is to live as a foreigner. It's like playing a card game, every day, where you keep discovering new rules that everyone understands except you. Just when you think you've finally got it all figured out--surprise! You don't. And you find yourself feeling like a two-year-old or a hard-hearted wretch or just a plain idiot.

As I think about the new life ahead of me--living as a citizen in a country that technically is my own,  sometimes I'm terrified; sometimes I'm grief-stricken, but other times I'm excited. Yes, my relationship with America is complicated, but the lure of the American dream is strong. We can settle down and put down roots. Maybe for the first time in my life, I can own a house! I can plant trees and watch them grow with my children. I won't have to worry about visas anymore. I won't stand out in a crowd. 

As much as I love living overseas, there's a part of me that aches for permanency, normalcy, security. They are feelings I have stuffed down and suppressed for most of my adult life. Now that there's a possibility of fulfilling them, they have risen to the surface.

I never realized how much I longed for a homeland until it was finally at my fingertips.

The appeal is strong. Which is exactly why I must push back against that feeling and remind myself that America was never meant to be my homeland. I can't put my hope in a country--even the richest, most powerful country in the world.

I could buy a house, and it could burn down. I could put down roots, and then lose a job. I could save for kids' college, and the economy could collapse. I could fit in--but as a Christ-follower, am I supposed to?

If I give into the temptation of allowing America to feel too much like home, to become comfortable, secure, rooted, then what happens when obeying God challenges that comfort? What happens when I need to stand for something that might sacrifice the personal kingdom I built for myself?

And haven't I always said, all these years, that one of the best parts of living overseas is how it reminds me that my real home is in heaven? So why would I want to give in to a desire that tells me my home is in America?

In the most famous biblical chapter on faith, there's a key line: The Faithful didn't get the homeland they longed for. They did not receive what was promised.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Kind of flies in the face of the American dream, doesn't it? The people in Hebrews 11 are our pillars of faith, yet they did not receive what was promised. They were strangers, exiles, nomads. They recognized that their homeland was not on this earth.

Those who never found a home on this earth are celebrated as our faith-heroes. 

There's no reason why God would want me to feel at home in this world. I keep craving it; I pursue it; seek after it....but it's a misplaced longing. In fact, if I do feel too much at home, then something is wrong. Because that desire was never meant to be fulfilled on this side of eternity.

Which is why, even in America, I will need to remind myself to keep living like a missionary.

Of course, it won't be wrong for me to buy a house and plant trees, or vote, or teach my children the Pledge of Allegiance. I just must be careful to remember where my true allegiance lies. Because my home will never be found on this earth.

Monday, December 16, 2019

This is What We Do With Media. What Do You Do?

I would love for someone to research what kinds of cultural changes took place in Tanzania starting in 2009. That's the year the the fiber-optic cable came to East Africa, bringing high-speed internet for the first time.

Before 2009, it cost 50 cents to send a text message. Internet came in by satellite and was agonizingly slow. We would beg people never to send us pictures by email because of the hours it would take to download them. Hours. Literally.

But starting in 2009, that all changed. And today, I spend the equivalent of $5 a month on my phone plan, which gives me all the calling and texting time I need. Our household spends about $30 a month on internet. We stream from Hulu and Netflix. We Skype. At HOPAC, I do everything on Google Apps (it's awesome!). Kids from fourth grade up have email addresses and are required to turn in assignments using Google Apps. I'm sure we're still "behind" the developed world technologically, but we are catching up fast.

But this is a whole new world in parenting, isn't it? And it's terrifying. How do we keep porn away from our kids? How do we keep out the predators? How do we teach them about healthy digital habits--when we struggle with it ourselves? How do we prepare them to handle cyber-bullying and sexting and social media pressure--knowing that we can shelter them from it for a while, but not forever? How do we train them to discern truth in the midst of all of the messages that bombard them through media?

Navigating this new world, we need each other. Not one of us can draw upon our own childhoods to help our kids through it. This is entirely new territory, for all of us.

So the purpose of this post is to share what our family does. Not because we have it all figured out, but because we don't. I would love to hear from others: What do you do? How do you navigate this new world with the kids in your sphere of influence? How do you keep them safe while still preparing for them for a digital world? Let's learn from each other.  

This is us:

1. Lily (age 10) has an iPod, Josiah (age 12) is getting an iPhone for Christmas (shhhh...don't tell him), and Grace (almost 14) has an iPhone. We also have a couple of Kindle Fires and a laptop that any of the kids can use, and Josiah recently purchased an Xbox One (which is his pride and joy). Parents get to know any passwords and are allowed to pick up and look through any device at any time.

2. Internet browsers are not installed on any of the devices. The only time our kids are allowed to browse the internet is for school purposes, which they can do on the "kids' computer." There is a very strong filter on that computer called Qustodio, which prevents almost all browsing. So when the kids need to do research for school, Gil or I have to put in a password to disable Qustodio for a specified length of time. Kids can only use the internet at the kitchen table within visibility of anyone walking by. The kids' laptop is never allowed in a kid's bedroom.

3. Kids are not allowed any screen time (for anything other than school work) on school days, with a couple of exceptions: Josiah gets 10 minutes a day on the ESPN app to check soccer scores, and Grace can use iMessage or WhatsApp several times a week for a limited amount of time. Grace also has unlimited access to the "notes" feature on her phone. (She journals a lot on her phone.) Grace is not allowed to WhatsApp boys without our permission (unless they are in a group chat). We'll give Josiah similar boundaries on his phone.

4. They are each allowed an hour of screen time on non-school days. For the boys, this is almost always Xbox (Fifa football in particular), and for the girls, they usually choose the YouTube Kids' app (often DIY craft videos). The kids can earn extra screen time in various ways (or get it taken away).

5. Gil has all of these devices synced to his phone. He is able to check in on exactly what they are watching and how much time they spend on a particular app. For Grace and Josiah, this means that we got them (used) iPhones. Though they were more expensive than other phones, the parental controls on them are much stronger, so it is worth it. All of the apps on all devices have time limits on them, they have curfews on them to disable at night, and no apps or advertisements can be accessed without parental permission. The devices are locked by parental settings that can be monitored and changed from any parental device.

6. A rule of thumb we use is, "If you ask, we might say yes. If you don't ask, you might lose a privilege." For example, if there's a song they want to listen to or a show they want to watch, if they ask first, then we will consider it. If they don't ask, but we see that they've watched or listened to something outside our boundaries, they might lose the device (or app, or privilege) for an amount of time. (We tried Spotify with these boundaries, but that wasn't successful. So Spotify didn't last on our kids' devices.)

7. We regularly talk to our kids about what is and isn't okay to put into your brain, and more importantly, why. We talk about the dangers of porn and how it's addicting and what it does to your brain and your relationships. We bribe them--literally--to let us know when they come across something that might not be okay. We say, "You will never be in trouble for telling us about something that you read or heard or saw that could harm you. In fact, this is so important that we will give you x amount of money when you tell us about these things." This was Gil's idea, and he did it because he wanted to take away the shame and secrecy that accompanies "forbidden fruit"--and so far, it seems to be working. The kids have done a good job of telling us when they come across something inappropriate. Our kids are still young and sheltered though....we know a lot more will hit all of us. But we're trying to set the stage now for wide open conversation down the road.

8. We put "worldview lessons" into our family devotion times. The kids love this, because it usually means that they get to watch a movie clip. We watch it together and then discuss: "What message is coming across in this scene? What are they trying to say about the world?" We routinely teach our kids that ideas are never morally neutral. Every book, every movie or TV show has a worldview. And if we aren't careful to root it out and understand it, we will find ourselves being influenced without our consent.

9. We are extremely careful about devices "from the outside." We rarely allow our kids to go to sleepovers, and when our kids' friends come to our house, their phones don't get our Wifi password. Our kids aren't allowed to watch or listen to anything on anyone else's device without asking permission first. This isn't always easy to enforce, because it's so easy for kids to get "sucked in" to someone else's device. When this does happen, we usually don't give out consequences (unless it was blatant disobedience), but we do have a talk (again) about why it's important to ask Mom and Dad first.

10. We have yet to navigate the social media world, which is fine by me. We've talked about it a bit with the older kids but they haven't really been interested since WhatsApp is what's most used in their friend groups. I read stuff like this and I want to keep my kids as far away from social media as possible. But I know the time will come when they will want it, so would love any advice on helping kids to navigate it.

I think what's most important to me is the family culture we are trying to create. "Screen time" is isolating, so when possible, we watch movies or play video games together. We are very careful about what the kids watch but we also have widened those boundaries as they get older--and we will continue to. We say things like, "You can't watch that now, but when you're older, you might choose to," because we want to create an expectation that they will become increasingly more responsible. We eat dinner together almost every night. We read novels together at bedtime and on family trips. We talk. A lot. We train our kids that this is a broken world so we have to be careful, but we also don't want to hide from it. We discuss what it means to "redeem the culture" and how to find echoes of God's story, even in a secular world.

The goal? A young adult who desires to live a life of holiness, not out of fear of punishment, but because he or she sees the value in it. Someone who knows how to think critically about media, how to discern truth from lies, and how to put down the phone and interact face to face.

Easier said than done, I know. We have not followed our own standards perfectly. We've had a couple of close calls that could have led down a dangerous road. But that's just made us more vigilant.

This is what we do. I'm sure there are some of you who feel we are being way too strict and some who feel we are too permissive. This is a hard line to walk! What do you do? Let's learn from each other.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Parenting Tips (Or Not)

Anyone who has tried to teach an unmotivated middle school boy deserves, like, 50 million gold stars. Especially when sitting next to this boy at 9:00 at night, trying to stuff math concepts into his brain for a test the next day. This exercise is like stuffing a frozen turkey. Or tunneling through the Alps with a pickaxe.

And the boy is like, "Why do I have to do it this way? Why can't I just do it the way I want to do it?" 

And you're like, "Because you will get the ANSWER WRONG." And your voice raises in pitch and volume with each word.

And the boy just sits and stares at the gecko on the wall.

So then you (very calmly) set the timer on your phone and tell him, "Well, for as long as you sit here doing nothing, that's how much time you'll lose on the Xbox this weekend."

And then he sighs and says, "Fine. I'll sit here all night."

And then you become a raving lunatic who storms to the bedroom to demand that the boy's father remove the Xbox from the premises immediately. So the boy's father dutifully storms out and makes a big show of yanking out wires and heaving the Xbox onto his shoulder and taking it....I don't know...somewhere else.

And then you win the Parent of the Year Award.

(This is all a hypothetical scenario, of course.)

After spending over a decade controlling everything about your child's eating and sleeping and playing and learning, there's this difficult transition in parenting when one day you are startled to discover that your child is becoming an actual person. This often means a whole lot of wonderful, as you see this child become someone who cares and cooks and sings and unexpectedly surprises you with what he is capable of. And suddenly you realize that you are talking to her in an adult sort of way about adult sort of things. This child is actually becoming your friend. This is delightful.

But along with the wonderful, you realize that this child who is becoming a person is capable of forming his own thinking and choosing what you value...or not. This person might holler, "Why do I have to study? It's my life, why can't I choose to fail?" And you can holler back at this person, "As long as you are under my roof, you don't get the option of failing. Too bad for you!" But inside you start getting the sneaking suspicion that there's only so much you can do. Because even though for a lot of years you've been the controlling presence in that person's life, you don't get to be in control forever. Or even much longer. This is terrifying.

And you look down the road and see that it won't be long until this person will be independent of you and she will decide who to marry and who to worship and what to love. And there's not much you will be able to do about it.

Suddenly you find yourself grabbing hold of every minute. You panic one day when you realize, "I haven't taught her about eating disorders yet!" so you casually bring up the topic on the way to the grocery store and she looks at you like you might have lost your mind (which is possible). And you decide that maybe you're not actually as tired as you thought you were when his bedtime conversation turns to why God doesn't always answer our prayers. Because when will you get another chance to talk about it?

So you eventually bring back the Xbox. But you find a way to teach (again) about the importance of math homework, about the value of hard work, about what is worth treasuring in this universe, and about grace. Always about grace. Even for parents.

(That's the most important part.)

She got picked for the varsity team as an 8th grader, played as a starter for every game, and they won the international school tournament!