Welcome back to America – Another lesson learned the hard way and a unique birthday.

I learned a valuable lesson last week. I did something that I had done many times before but I will probably never do again. I left my iPhone on my desk and during lunch it was stolen by a student. The phone that I have only had a few months and has pretty much every photo and video from my recent visit to Korea to see my girls. The phone that happens to not be connecting properly to iCloud to share said media to my other devices!

I’ve been told I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I do not do a good job of containing them. They just come out. My emotions are the equivalent of the gag reflex of a newborn. You can hope it doesn’t erupt and try your hardest to prevent the spewing but its only a matter of time really. Needless to say I had a fair share of emotions coming out of me in the minutes that followed my horrific discovery. At first I was dumbfounded and just kept saying to myself, “No, no, no, no!” Utter disbelief and shock. Not really an emotion I guess but real emotion is coming in the story I promise. Then I was frantic, and in a panicked state ran to the classroom next door to ask a mentor teacher what the heck to do. I just kept pacing around her room with my hands on my head, still in disbelief but starting to get really worked up. She just kept saying, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Anger. I have it deep inside. Remember the beasts I referred to in the last blog? Well, Anger is big and nasty and its not a pretty site when he rears his head. I got really angry and wanted to find who took my phone and have them punished. To the full extent. My anger quickly subsided with the realization of losing all those memories from my recent trip. I nearly collapsed and literally sobbed for about 2 straight minutes.

Basically I was an absolute wreck. I’m pretty sure the teacher that I victimized with my raw emotion is certain that I am bi-polar. But after my emotions finally died down a bit, I had some clarity. I rose out of my despair and sprang into action. Getting mad about it or sad about it was not going to get the phone back. But putting the word out just might.

A miracle happened that day and the administration found my phone. Every single teacher that knew about it made a point to tell me how lucky I was. I don’t say this a lot about trivial matters such as iPhones but I cant help but think it was yet another moment of God extending grace to me unexpectedly.

When I came home later that day I couldn’t help but wonder who was the kid who stole it? What was he planning on doing with it? Would he be suspended? Expelled? Then a sudden rush of compassion hit my spirit like a flood. I prayed for this kid. I prayed that the school would give him a second chance. I prayed for mercy. Would I have felt the same if they hadn’t found my phone? Not sure. But all I know is that I could not stop thinking about him for the next few days.

The weekend came and went. Monday morning I was summoned by one of the Dean of Students. I walk into a conference room and there is the Dean and two people I have never met. One is a lady about my age maybe a little older. The other is a teenage boy. It is explained to me that the boy is the one who stole my phone. He wanted to meet with me to apologize in person. I was floored. He read his apology like a typical 16-year-old would: shaky and nervously. When he finished I nodded and looked at the Dean. She asked me if I had anything to say. I froze for a few seconds and couldn’t even get out a word to acknowledge what she said! It was like I was out of air or something. I had no idea what to say to this kid. No idea at all. And I’m a pretty good talker on my feet.

Then the same flood of compassion seeped into my spirit and I knew exactly what I needed to say. I’m not sure how long I spoke or the exact words but I could tell it made quite an impact on all three of the individuals in that room. My goal was to speak truth into this young man’s life because I doubt many people are at the moment. The truth is he made a mistake. The consequences will be played out. I first told him that I forgave him and this will not impact his standing if and when I have him as a student. But I wanted to say more than just that. What could he take away from the conversation that could change his thinking? What he needs to take away is that this in no way shapes who he is. He is NOT a thief. That is unless he embraces that identity. He will learn from this and get better. This will not define him. So thats what I said. I do remember speaking to him directly and with a certain sense of urgency. I think he could sense that. I hope he takes hold of the message. The message that God speaks to me daily. “You are not defined by your mistakes. Your identity is not in what you have done, but who you are through Me.”

“Happy Birthday to Daddy…”

Yesterday I turned 35 years old. It was probably the strangest feeling of any birthday I have had. One of the first things I did after waking up was check my e-mail. Would there be a message from them? There was! The cutest birthday song sung by the sweetest girls. It made me happy and it made me sad. All at the same time. I went to school and got a few “Happy Birthdays” from students but nothing over-the-top which was fine really. I went to my first therapy session which was a long time coming and good overall but surreal and a bit painful reliving certain memories. My brother-in-law took me out to dinner and drinks and it was a great ending to the day. A day that shouldn’t have been painful at all. It should have been a celebration of my life. Instead, several times throughout my birthday I viewed my life as a tragedy. It doesn’t help that when my students find out I have daughters that live halfway around the globe they go out of their way to inform me how hard that must be. Yes. Thanks. It also doesn’t help that facebook reminds me what I was doing this time last year. I am still wondering too if I deserve happiness. Is it OK to think that I deserve to be happy? After what I have done and all the hurt I’ve caused? The answer is unclear for me but this much I know – We all deserve death but God gives us life.

Like the serenity prayer my hope is that I can be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him in the next. That and a birthday video from my girls every year.



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