Things I Learned as a Mom after the Virginia Tech Shooting


Virginia Tech shooting

The 2007 Virginia Tech Shooting

“Don’t you have a son at Virginia Tech?” one of my coworkers asked me.

“I have two there,” I told her. “Why?”

“There’s been a shooting at Virginia Tech and  it sounds bad.”

I’m sure you know what I did. I called my boys and, when I didn’t get an answer, I called my husband.

Dave reminded me that what was happening was out of our control and the best – and most important – thing we could do was pray.

For over two hours, we tried to reach our guys. The phone lines were jammed (of course); other times there was just no answer. Our secretary kept punching in their phone numbers from her desk as I continued to do my job. (Thank you, Jean.)

I prayed. I asked God to keep my sons safe; I asked Him to give them courage if they were afraid; I asked Him to give them protection if they were in harm’s way. I asked, above all, that the name of Jesus would be known on this day, no matter what the outcome would be. I didn’t need to ask God to be with them or with me. He was already Present. I knew this, because I felt His presence with me.

There was nothing else I could do except pray and leave it to God, Who already knew.

It sounds easy to say that now, so many years later.  Was it easy at the time? Nope.

My stomach kept wanting to curl into a knot. My mind was full-speed ahead, thinking What if?!  I had to constantly choose to remain focused at my job. I had to keep reminding myself of this:

God does not give us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

When I stopped and thought about what might happen or what might already have happened, I knew there was nothing I could do at the moment but trust God to give me peace. I knew that, even though I didn’t know, there was one thing on which I could rest: either Jesus was with them, or they were with Jesus.

Updates from co-workers kept coming to me: the school was in lock-down; the shooter was dead; there were many casualties; students and professors were dead.

Where were my boys?!

In time, we reached son number one. Later we roused son number two, who had decided to skip class that morning and sleep in. (Do tell.) Neither one was in harm’s way, although as older son walked across campus, he heard the gunshots and learned later that each building through which he walked was locked down just moments after he exited the building. His concern was for the students for whom he was responsible as an RA. As it turned out, we knew more about what was happening on campus than he did at the moment. He didn’t understand my concern, because he thought the turmoil was about the two students killed that morning; he didn’t know that students were lying wounded and bleeding in buildings on campus.

Virginia Tech shootingThe Twin Towers

Six years earlier, on the morning of the 9-11 attack on the twin towers, I received phone calls from friends and neighbors.  At that time, we had six children in four schools, and I couldn’t wait for them to get home from school so I could hug them tightly. When death is all around us, it makes us want to hold our kids more tightly, to tell them how much we love them (and we should), and to keep them safe with us (we shouldn’t). My kids came home from school that day and shrugged off my hugs because, to them, it was just another ordinary day. They didn’t understand the emotions parents faced that day because they felt no fear. (Thank you teachers and administrators.)

As moms, we want to hold our kids tightly. That is the most natural thing in the world for a mother to do. Really, we should be letting them go. They don’t belong to us – and they never did.

It’s true that no matter how old they become or where they live, they will always be our children. They are a gift, and not a right, from God.

That is why we need to begin releasing them the day they are born.

Hold them loosely, and remember that no matter how much we treasure the gift, we need to remember and recognize the Giver.

Virginia Tech shooting

The Temptation to Worry

We have been blessed. Other parents had children who never came home again.  Other parents still remember this day with sorrow, while I remember with gratitude – and prayers for the families of those who mourn as well as the family of the perpetrator of this crime. At the same time, we know it could happen to us.

When the temptation comes to worry, I pray.  I can’t be with my kids, but God is with them no matter where they go or what they do. Even though I don’t know what’s happening, He does. Like incense before the Lord, my prayers keep ascending to the throne of Grace.

There is nothing I can do that matters more. No matter how many miles they are from us, our prayers can cover them.  Our kids are grown and mostly gone. They travel thousands of miles each year by plane, motorcycle, and car. One of them has been to countries that I didn’t even know existed. (At this writing, he’s now in Rawanda .) Others have been in situations which could have been dangerous. Each time when I’m praying a kid to a foreign country or praying them home, I remember.

Worry accomplishes nothing; it only increases my fear. Prayer leaves my kids and my cares at the Throne.

He already knows.

No matter where our children go or what happens, He is already there.

Virginia Tech shooting



What “The Buck Stops Here” Has to do With Security in Kids

the buck stops here

How to Help our Children Be Secure

One of the greatest securities we can give our children is for them to know (1) where the buck stops and (2) that it doesn’t stop with them. Every child needs to know that “the buck stops here”.

Another of the greatest securities we can give our kids is for them to know that their parents are committed to each other for life. For children in a two-parent home, security is greatest when they experience this fact.

Sadly, for some families, a two-parent home is not an option for children and they don’t have the blessing of being raised by a set of parents who love each other and their children.  “The buck stops here” is an option for every home and every family, whether children live with a single mom, an aunt, a grandparent, or any other adult.

Every child, no matter how much he wails and whines and begs, wants to know that the wall is solid. When a child can finagle and manipulate the adults in his life, he becomes insecure. When he can (figuratively) beat, pound, yell, and holler at the wall and the wall remains solid and sure, he will feel secure. Oh, he won’t show it or act like it, but he will feel secure. He needs to know that the buck stops here.

Where that phrase about the buck comes from is debatable. President Harry Truman used it frequently to let others know that he was responsible for running this country and he wasn’t going to “pass the buck” to anyone else.

Parents need to do the same thing. While it is difficult, it is important that parents stand their ground when they’ve made some rules. The problem is that kids beg and plead and use the you-don’t-love-me guilt trip on the parents. Sometimes it gets worse than that. I-wish-I-didn’t-live-here or I-wish-you-weren’t-my-parent or I-don’t-love-you and even I-hate-you! are lines many kids use to guilt-trip the adults in their lives into giving in.  Remind yourself – and them – that the buck stops here. You will make mistakes, but the buck still needs to stop with you.

A friend of mine had a son who said to her one day, “I don’t love you! I don’t even like you anymore!”

To which she replied, “Oh, I think you do; but it’s okay if you don’t want to love me. You still need to obey.”

You see what he tried to do there? He tried to make her choose his love for her over his obedience to her.

You see what she did there? She didn’t cave because of his words. She knew he loved her, but even when he didn’t want to admit it, she expected him to obey. The wall was solid. The buck stopped right there.

the buck stops here


An Insecure Child is an Unhappy Person

Even though children might seem happy when adults give in to their whims, they are not. An insecure child is an unhappy child.

An unhappy child makes for an unhappy adult and an unhappy life. One of the best things we can do for our kids is help them be secure. A child who has boundaries and knows they won’t move is secure. He might not like the boundaries, but he will be secure. He might beg and plead for you to give in to his whims, but he’ll be happiest and most secure if he knows those boundaries are there and aren’t going to move. He needs to know that the buck stops here.

When we constantly give in and change guidelines or boundaries because of a whim or an event or because everybody else’s kid gets to go, we are breeding insecurity in our children.

the buck stops here

Is there ever a time to give in or allow a child to do something we said he couldn’t? Certainly.

The question is not so much if boundaries should change in a situation, but why we consider changing the boundaries. Sometimes we’re too rash in our judgments or don’t think through the consequences we have given. Sometimes the consequences aren’t really do-able. In those times, it’s a good idea to consider making a change.

If,  however, we want to make a change because we don’t want our child’s anger to lash out at us, if we want to change because we want to be our child’s friend instead of the parent, then the wall needs to stay solid. Make sure the buck stops here.

Is it easy? Of course not.

No matter how hard it is, our kids need to know that the wall is solid. Children need more than food, clothing, and shelter. They need safety, security, and structure. Those three things let them know where the buck stops. You can read about that here. In addition to giving them love, give them the message that the buck stops here. Years down the road, you’ll be so glad you did. Your kids will know they can count on you, for they will have learned that the buck stops here. They will also be able to respond properly to those in authority because they will have learned how to do that at home.

When we choose being a parent above being our child’s friend, they will know that the buck stops here. That, my friends, is one of the best ways for a child to feel safe, loved, and secure. It’s one of the greatest gifts we can give.

the buck stops here


What’s in Our Will for Our Kids


Since our kids are grown and mostly on their own, we’ve been able to do more traveling and spend money on things on which we never indulged: Drive-thru senior coffee, for one thing. Dave knows just where to go and how I like it fixed. We travel more and spend time on the road or in the air visiting our kids. We call it the open road – and spending their inheritance.

There are two things we want to leave our kids when we’re gone. Those two things have nothing to do with money, so we don’t mind spending their inheritance now.

Our will has things fixed in such a way that they will probably end up getting something here or there, yet that legal document can’t give them our greatest heart’s desire.

Long after we’re gone and the inheritance is spent, there are two things that matter most of all. Those two things are a gift that will last a lifetime and beyond.


A personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Nobody, but nobody can make that choice for anybody else. We can take our kids to church and teach them about God and the Bible. We can explain the Gospel and salvation to them, yet becoming a child of God has nothing to do with osmosis or genetics. It’s about the heart, for God has no grandchildren. There’s no greater joy than  watching your child going after God and developing his own relationship that will last for eternity. Our hearts echo the sentiment from the book of 3rd John:  “I have no greater joy than to know that my children walk in Truth.” Nothing, but nothing matters more than this. It matters because it’s not just about the now, but about how we live and what happens when the heart takes one last quiver and stops beating here on earth.


Kasen Keefer with his great-uncle. Photo credit Zak Keefer.


A personal work ethic. What we believe affects the way we live. It also affects the way we work (or don’t work). When a person has a work ethic that demands integrity, it will be evidenced not only in the big things, but also in those small, seemingly insignificant and private decisions in life. A moral work ethic doesn’t  happen through osmosis or genetics either. Certainly, a great example helps produce a desire for a work ethic. Learning to work as a child helps provide incentive to develop a good work ethic, so don’t deprive your kids of that opportunity! Whether our country is in feast or in famine, whether there’s a recession or a depression, a personal work ethic will provide stability and a way to make it through dark financial times.


The Bottom Line

In our goals as parents, we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture. In our desperation for our kids to have it “better than we did”, we end up succumbing to ideas and principles that don’t support our purpose as parents.

Perhaps it’s time we start asking, “Will this encourage my child to develop a moral work ethic and a relationship with Jesus Christ, or will it pull him away from my heart’s desire?”

Income tax time shows us our total income as well as our expenditures. Our net income shows what we have left – what we’ll be taxed on by our government. As parents, our net worth is decided based on what’s left after all our expenditures. The less we spend (in time and money) on things that detract from the outcome we want, the greater the dividend at the end.

As parents, we should choose to invest the most in things that teach our core values and will last long-term and for eternity. We realize that these choices are not something we can make for our offspring, yet the choices we make today will help point them in the right direction tomorrow. It’s an inheritance that only they will get to spend.



The Thing About a Nap (or quiet time) for Kids


There have probably been research studies about the benefits of taking a nap. I don’t need to read about those studies though because I had my own laboratory in our house for quite a few years. There were days when my kids needed a nap because they were tired. There were other days when they had to take a nap, not because they really needed one, but because needed the quiet and the repose from the noise and commotion in the house.

Sometimes I even told them, “You might not think you need a  nap, but I need you to take a nap!”

Even when the older kids were too old for naps, we had a quiet time. I learned  that a “quiet time” would provide healing and relaxation for our family.

When there had been conflict and tension among the kids or when they were    ” I-won’t-admit-it-tired”, it was time for a break. When kids have been going strong all day long, whether it’s in play or in work, it’s a good idea to have a short siesta. Everybody wins – especially the mom.


Here are a few of my rules:

Everybody  had to find a spot in the living room [so I could monitor their           behavior].

Everyone had to be quiet for a minimum of thirty minutes. I didn’t care if           they read or drew, wrote notes or made faces at the ceiling, but silence had         to prevail. No whispering, motioning, or paper-wad throwing were allowed.

Everybody had to be quiet.


Those thirty minutes were magical for several reasons.

  • The baby  (who was sometimes in another room) usually went to sleep.
  • The toddler totally relaxed and usually slept.
  • Younger kids cozied up into a book and relaxed their minds as well as their bodies.
  • Older kids calmed down from outdoor play and conflicts.
  • I could close my eyes or read my Bible in the quietness.
  • Most of the kids who were old enough to read got lost in a book – often one they would never  have taken time to read during the day.
  • Sometimes, surprisingly, one or all of them fell asleep!
  • When they were old enough to enjoy a continued story, I read to them, making certain I stopped at a place where they’d beg for more – but I’d make them wait until tomorrow.
  • It was a win-win


Time after time, I was amazed at how that respite in the afternoon brought tranquility to our house. Bodies relaxed and tensions evaporated. Minds were renewed and muscles rejuvenated.

I required that the older kids had to be quiet until the ones who needed a nap went to sleep. They learned early on that the longer it took them to quit rustling papers, the longer quiet time would be because their noise kept the baby or toddler from going to sleep.

It was a win-win situation. The list of things I intended to accomplish didn’t seem as important. I got to do some reading on my own without anyone clamoring for my attention. The older kids got to do some reading and the younger ones got their much-needed nap.


There was time to think and to contemplate, time to plan the playtime for the rest of the day, and time to let go of troubled spirits. As the mom, I enjoyed watching the I’m-not-tired!!-kids completely relax. I enjoyed watching calmness settle over my kids and my house. Not only did our bodies get a rest, our spirits did as well.  What a wonderful antidote to schedules, tensions, and pressures.  It was a wonderful,magical antidote. That’s the wonderful thing about a nap!