Last year, my daughter’s middle school had 66 suspensions.
In one week.
And one arrest.
I found out when she texted me the stats with several exclamation points after them.
My heart sunk and my pulse quickened.
She was scared. I know my girl was scared.
Fear is a tricky thing. I know because I often live in it. I’m afraid that may be where my girl got this malicious and tormenting trait. She’s in 8th grade, but she’s young for her class, and she still has a very innocent way about her. I gotta say, I love that more than sunshine.
I dreaded sending her to middle school when she was starting 6th grade. I cringed at the anticipated exposure she was going to experience. I knew this school would open her world, her perspective, her view-
And the landscape might scare her, even scar her.
And yet, I sent her anyway.
I spent agonizing months deciding between home school or public school. I went round and round in pros and cons and worries and wonderings while praying for peace and an answer.
Eventually I rested on what I believe to be God’s purpose for her life.
She exudes His Light, and the way I see it- the world needs more of it.
Middle school is a cruel awakening to the world, and although I was afraid to release her into the wild, I had hope that her faith and fortitude would be enough to both protect her and provide for her the ability to navigate the landscape with grace and purpose.
I’ve been in awe of her courage, her stamina, and her survival in this challenging journey. She doesn’t have many friends, as she quietly resides under the radar in the fragmented fray. She loves learning, and dives deeply into her studies and adores her teachers. She quietly roams the hallways undetected as she often keeps to herself, in a loud and sometimes violent and vicious culture that seems almost foreign to her.
Last year, she began leaving encouraging notes in people’s lockers. There were a few people she interacted with who shared some intense battles of their own- and she felt the need to offer support in a personal way. She wrote notes filled with scripture verses that she truly believed would inspire them. Bless her. It was difficult to shift her determination, as I explained how someone who does not read the bible or know Christ could interpret her notes as threatening or pushy and not comforting, like she had so sweetly intended them to be. I explained that although we find comfort in God’s Word, we must consider the recipient and how they may not understand our offering. Her eyes widened in revelation and panic, worried she did the wrong thing. I reassured her that sending messages of hope and love is never the wrong thing. She continued with the notes, editing out scripture.
This was very difficult for both of us. But I wanted to teach her how to reach people’s hearts for the Lord, with awareness and respect. I wanted to guide her through making decisions in connecting and caring for others right where they’re at first, and show her the tender ways she can open hearts to Jesus through establishing relationships and trust. I wanted to show her how the world works, and how threading our faith into it can be both rewarding and incredibly challenging.
But most importantly, I wanted her to keep feeding that flame of faithful determination and innocent inspiration. I pray the world never blows it out.
There are many days, my daughter comes home exasperated with what she saw or heard at school. She expresses disgust and anger about many things she doesn’t understand and why people would make such horrible choices. Sometimes the judgment in her voice makes me cringe, and I have to challenge her condemnation and lead her toward conviction. There are many things in this world that ignite a fury of anger and disgust and our immediate response is judgment and condemnation. My girl is facing the greatest education in managing and processing Grace in a turbulent time, and as a Christian- these are the most important lessons of all.
How do we respond, when we witness wrongdoings? What does God want us to do? How would Jesus respond?
It’s a loaded question, littered with all kinds of biblical answers, Christian messages, and even misconceived truths. It’s complicated and often convoluted. This is new territory for my girl, and I’m grateful to have this practice ground to work with her, because for the rest of her life she will be facing the same question and each and every time she will have to respond.
My daughter’s middle school experience has been a lonely one, and that makes my heart ache with sadness and discouragement often. But I remind her that she does have friends- true friends, even though they may not be with her at school. I continue to encourage her to be open to making new friends, and not close herself off in that critical outlook she sometimes gathers in her protective path. For two years, I’ve watched her slump into sadness for this reason, but it has helped her learn what true friendship really means. She has developed an instinct for who to trust and who not to trust. She’s learning the value of being real with those you choose to have around you, and how superficial relationships are a waste. She’s developed the art of discernment, picking friends who celebrate who you are and ones who respect your voice. She realizes that her foundation is full of principles and values she will not bend for anyone, and boundaries can’t be broken for the sake of fitting in or saving face. She’s already witnessed the demise of old friends, falling victim to social pressures with poor decisions and reckless behavior.
Somehow, my girl has managed to stay grounded in her foundation while the battlefield for popularity, commonality, and conformity runs rampant. Her unwavering will to stick to her morals, continues to build more muscle strength, as she makes those hard decisions and stands firmly on her ground. I’m betting she will need this impenetrability to solidify before she enters the doors of High School.
Three years ago, I gave my girl to the world, believing that God wanted her there to do His work. I was terrified to let her go. I was clinging to the promise of God’s provision, protection, and plan for her life.
I know my girl would be thriving in a private Christian school that offers bible classes, daily devotions and regular chapel services. She would eat that buffet up, soak it in, and soar into the world equipped, strengthened, and faithful.
But this road we chose? This rocky winding path offers my young and growing Christian Soldier true training ground that will equip her for years to come. It may be difficult, lonely, and scary. It may open views I’d rather she not see. It may steal her innocence and limit her light, but both still prevail in new ways- sculpted by His Mighty Hand to be used for His Good.
“Mom! Someone got arrested yesterday and we were told there were 66 suspensions just last week!!!”
I picked her up from school, and saw her weary and worried eyes. This stuff takes a toll on my girl, I know.
“Are you afraid?” I asked.
And she replied, “Yeah. But I’ll be okay.”
This world can be scary, but God calls us to walk in it and shine His Light.
It’s scary for us all
But we’ll be okay.
My daughter said so.
*The original version of this post was first published at Her View From Home.
Julie Jo Severson says
Christine, through your beautiful words, I have felt connected with you from the start. And I have especially connected with the love you have for your sweet children. I had a very lonely middle school experience but for different reasons. I certainly wasn’t brave like your daughter, articulating my belief in God to my peers, slipping lovely notes of encouragement in people’s lockers (that is beyond precious). No, I just kept my mouth shut. I didn’t fit in for whatever reasons. As I read this post, I pictured her years from now, sneaking notes of hope and love in her children’s lunch boxes and her coworkers cubicles. I pictured the two of you having coffee together as two grown women reminiscing, marveling at her courage and bold acts of faith during her middle school years. And I imagined the full, gorgeous, sanctified life I know she is headed toward. Give her a hug for me, okay?
My Inner Chick says
***Last year, she began leaving encouraging notes in people’s lockers****
She is her mother’s daughter!
You rock the world, my dear.
Love you. xxx
Yes, it’s going to be okay ( even though it doesn’t look ok). Such wise words and God-breatex I would say. How proactive to make a difference in the world your daughter is! Those years are tough but it sounds like her foundation is solid!
First question – where in the world do you live? Those statistics are unreal. Aud started middle school and it’s been okay. Yesterday was her first faith formation class for the middle school children and I was nervous. I was pretty sure it was going to be a fight to make her go. I picked her up yesterday and she had a big smile on her face and she told me she loved the class and she saw a few girls from school. Grateful that she wants to “keep the faith.” And yet, she can be judgmental, too. It’s along story – but she has a bit of the Catholic snobbishness. Yes, she does, and I had to talk to her about it. Where we live (in the heart of the bible belt), people where their church affiliation as a badge of honor, which has it’s pluses and minuses. Again – long story, and I don’t know where i’m going with this other than to say I think middle school girls can find a way to be judgy about anything. So, don’t worry too much about your girl in that respect. Finally, middle school was lonely for me, too. I was very shy and easily intimidated. And I barely remember any of it. And it made me stronger, I swear.
Hi Chris! I remember reading your words about sending your daughter off to middle school. What is it that happens to these children when they hit the tweens? Ugh. I know that I was so happy to be involved in sports at that age (swimming!), it really helped me keep my self esteem.
I know that your daughter will do so well, she has outside interests and a mom who loves her like no one else. She knows your love, and so she knows her true worth.
Blessings and hugs,
Kristi Campbell says
OMG that’s AWFUL but Cass is glorious and SO her mom’s daughter. She’s got this. We all do. She said so. <3
Marie Kléber says
What a beautiful thing to do, leaving notes and encouraging peers. Your daughter is one of a kind Chris! I understand your worries and doubts. We would like our kids to ba safe and well all the time. We’d like to protect them for whatever couls shaken their world, their peace, their serenity.
But you’re right we are just where God wants us to be. And we have everything within us to face whatever comes our way.
I remember middle school and how hard it was to find my place. But God is by our side and will never let go of our hands. Your girl is a blessing. We’ll be okay…
Sending you both much love.
Candace Playforth says
Oh Chris, I so love when you write about that precious tough daughter of yours. I adore that part of your choice of sending her to public school was to let her shine His light to others. I’m sure she has served Him well over the years. Middle school is tough. My son is in 8th grade too. Last year was exceptionally difficult for him. I don’t know what it is about those middle years, but there are definitely always issues in them. Much love to you and your brightly lit daughter as you continue to navigate through those scary school statistics.
Thanks for sharing, Christine. I had many lonely moments attending public school growing up. Praying your daughter would feel the Father’s strength as she speaks His truth and loves those He brings across her path.
Sybil Brun says
So glad to see this posted, Chris! We are right there with you – so comforting to know we are not alone! This can be really hard stuff, especially when it till seems like they were babies just yesterday!! You are a great Mama and I know you are going to help shepherd her heart well. Hugs xoxo
Wow, this brought back soooo many memories!! As a young Christian at a new school… leaving all the friends I had grown up with behind. The ones who already knew my faith and accepted me even if they did not share the same beliefs. I had to break new ground at a new school with new kids…. yeah, Fear! I don’t think I navigated quite as well as you daughter. I suspect I had a bit of wildness in my as well as my Faith – LOL. But yeah, I was okay in the end. The foundation was strong. Set. Ultimately unshakable. And it sounds like you’ve done that for your young warrior – so rest assured: what you teach, they will not stray far from. And even if they do… HE never stops calling to them. And you cannot ever outrun His voice. I promise you that.
OH Leslie, what a beautiful testimony to God’s unyielding grace for us all- and our girls! Thank you for sharing your story, my friend. I too, had a HUGE wild side. LOL
Oh my heart. I feel, without a doubt, that you are doing the right thing. Middle school is so tricky but it sounds like she is doing great. Yes, it’s hard and scary but she has made it so far!
I’m so impressed at the way you have handled teaching her compassion and leading her away from judgement. I get how easy it is to judge someone else’s behavior. Heck, I do it all the time. But I have to remind myself that we don’t know what is going on at home that is contributing to their struggle. We don’t know what pain they are hiding on the inside.
Bless both you! You got this!
Yes Stephanie, exactly. It’s not our place to judge, but rather love and pour grace onto others the same way Christ pours it onto us. It’s been challenging to navigate wise discernment and making those hard choices, but she is incredibly mature for her age and always asking for my help- I’m so grateful for that!
Crystal Tullos says
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! For this blog.
My eldest child is entering middle school this year. We are Christians and pastors in a very liberal town in Boston, and I’ve been terrified and ready to pull my kids out of public school if it comes to it. Jesus gave me the most precious word to hang onto this week that He will walk the halls with my boy. So I went to Pinterest today to look up ways to empower my Christian child in public school, and was so exasperated that the only stuff I could find was homeschool articles…and then I found yours!!! It’s what I was needing. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it!
Oh, Crystal, I understand completely how you feel! I was terrified and ready to home school my girl before she started middle school! I’m so grateful this post encouraged you and God used my words and my daughter’s faithful heart to bring you strength and hope! She is now a Sophomore in High School, and still shining His light in dark places and God is blessing her every step of the way. 🙂
There are a few other posts you might want to read as well. Praying for you, mama! God’s got this. I’ll give you a few links below…