When Life Gets Messy 1


When Life Gets Messy: The Day My Son Ran Away

when life gets messyI awoke that weekday morning to my husband’s anxious voice.

“Dana, Chris is gone.”

I felt someone had stabbed me with a dagger. “What do you mean he’s gone?” I asked, sitting up and getting out of bed at the same time.

“He left. I heard the door open, and I heard him take a bike out of the garage.”

At first I was tempted to say, “You heard all that and you’re standing here talking to me?! Go after him!” But I just allowed what my husband said to sink in. My 14 year old son had run away. Why would he do that? Where would he go? It was below freezing outside. Did he have on a coat? Gloves? Where was he going? And why? All these thoughts swirled around in my mind. He ran away?

My husband left in our SUV in search for our runaway child. I had nothing. No ideas. No leads. Nothing.

My husband called a few minutes later and told me to call our son’s “girlfriend.” Surely Chris would’ve told Jeni (not her real name) where he was going. At first Jeni didn’t want to tell me. She claimed she didn’t know. I told her that we were concerned for Chris’s safety and had to humble myself to ask a 14 year-old girl when my child was.

She conceded and told me that Chris had called her early that morning to tell her he was going to leave. He would be at the nearby Wendy’s. I thanked her and called my husband to tell him Chris’s whereabouts, hoping he’d still be there by the time my husband arrived.

He was.

Face ice cold and hands beginning the early stages of frost bite, Chris was riding my husband’s bike around near Wendy’s.

“Don’t yell at him,” I had told my husband a few minutes prior.

We let Chris stay home from school that day, realizing we had a big problem on our hands. My son felt so desperate that running away in freezing cold weather seemed like his only out. That could have been one of the worst days in my life, but instead, my husband and I sat down and talked to our son. We connected with his heart. Then we called our family counselor.

Today Chris still struggles with opening up and telling us what’s wrong, and we sometimes still struggle with looking past his disrespectful behavior to his heart . . . the heart of the issue. His running away was a big wake up call to all of us. When I asked him where he was planning on going, he didn’t know . . . he hadn’t gotten that far in his thinking.

Desperation will make you do some crazy things.

When Life Gets Messy

Maybe your son won’t run away, but we will all face times of uncertainty, times we feel like complete failures and times when life just gets messy. As I shared this story with a friend, we discovered some powerful takeaways that will hopefully encourage you when your life gets messy.

life is messy

Be Aware

Running away, doing drugs, stealing, depression . . . those are all symptoms of a bigger issue. As parents, we must look beyond the surface problem to the deeper one. Are you willing to dig deep?

Be Calm

It is so important that we are calm and learn to control our emotions when life gets messy. That doesn’t mean we don’t feel anger or pain, but what’s most important– our acting out our emotions or being level-headed to find a solution?

Be Action-Oriented

At the end of the day, every problem has a solution. Our job as parents or business owners or whomever, is to find the solution to every problem. I do not allow my children to complain. Complaining is simply rehearsing a problem with no plan on solving it. How are you going to fix what’s broken? Make a plan and carry it out.

Our family isn’t perfect, nowhere near! But we love each other and my husband and I are committed to seeing our kids’ hearts and sharing our own. Love is messy! Life gets messy! In spite of that, we must commit to clean up our messes with love, honor and courage.

*This story was shared with the permission of my son, Chris.

when life gets messy


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