Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Boy and His Team

I grew up in a house that celebrated football. My Dad was ever. He was a Saints fan when people were embarrassed to admit such a thing. And then, he was just a fan. He watched it ALL. It never occurred to me during football season that I might get to watch a TV show. We watched football. I still remember my first year living in a dorm room and the realization that I went through an entire football season without a game playing on the TV. It was surreal.

Despite my exposure to football, it's never really been my thing. I went to every game in high school because I danced with the band at halftime. I cried in the stands when our team lost the state game. I played in a powder puff game during Homecoming week and desperately wanted to play the position of Center, because that is the person who hikes the ball and that was all I knew how to do. 

My husband has tried to pick up where my Dad left off in educating me on the game. He's done his best, but my attention span is about 4.5 seconds when it comes to stuff I'm really in to, so yeah, it's less for football. I just make chili and boil peanuts and enjoy dressing in our team colors.

Our team colors are garnet and gold. Josh grew up an FSU fan and Florida State is my Alma Mater. It was just an extra blessing that they happen to have my favorite colors. :)  What I lack in football knowledge and skills, I make up for in outfit choices.....

What I didn't know, what I wasn't really prepared for, was how it would feel to watch my son become a football fan. My baby boy. I mean, of course his Daddy changed him into a onesie covered in baseballs and footballs while I napped in the hospital, hours after giving birth. Of course, my Dad, his Pappy, put a football in his hands as soon as he could hold one. And Josh's Dad, his Dandy, he took Eli to his first FSU game. And a fan was born. A real, honest to goodness, screaming and shouting fan. While his sisters and I walked marathons to the concession stand and filled our game time with funnel cakes and selfies, he watched the game and knew what was going on.
I watched as every year, he fell more and more in love with a team. His team. And I came to learn that there is something special about a boy and his team. A bond, a hope, a loyalty. An awe for those who fill the team's roster.

And this year, y'all this year it's getting good.

Winning Winning big. Watching my boys watch their team and yell excitedly and look nervous even though we all know they are going to win big time.
And, then, bad news comes. Because all of this winning, all of this excitement, it comes literally on the heels of a 19 year old kid, who while gaining hero status in the eyes of many, is a mere mortal after all. Jameis Winston. Famous Jameis. He's not just a football star, we watched him play baseball last year at FSU when we took Eli for his birthday. He is that all American athlete, known for his smile and humility. And now news has come out, accusations made, and an exciting, winning season is tarnished. 

And for as long as I've been alive there have been accusations and scandals and rumors. And for as long as I can remember I've gone on my merry way, completely unaffected. So, what causes me to talk about this now? What is the difference? This is the difference.... 
I'm a Mama and for the first time, a scandal involving a sports star hurts my heart. It hurts my heart because as much as I've done my best to discourage my children from idolizing celebrities (I saw the Miley Cyrus situation coming years ago. Bless it), it is hard at times to distinguish between the game and the team and the people that make up that team that my sweet boy loves so much. 

I've seen football through eyes of innocence. It's really just a game to him. He doesn't know about scandals or money  or controversy. He just knows that he loves sports and he loves to watch this team play the best. 

And as I brace myself for what may be brought to light in weeks to come, as I contemplate how I will discuss this with my 8 year old, there are no easy answers. It is definitely a situation with no winners. And I'm not here to give my opinion on what happened. I wasn't there. I'm not here to condemn or comment on the situation. I won't pretend to know about something I don't. 

I will say it is disappointing. I don't know when I became such a grown up, but I like to pretend that ball players my son looks up to are fine upstanding citizens who spend their free time studying in the library and volunteering at the hospital. It is eye opening. As the mom of girls I have often thought about keeping them safe and out of those kinds of situations. For the first time it has dawned on me how my son could possibly be put in a terrible situation on the other side of the coin. And it is discouraging. Sometimes it feels like in this life you can never just be excited and have fun. Someone or some thing is going to rain on your parade. Everybody has a secret.

And that's the thing. I guess everybody does. Maybe not something criminal or something that has the power to affect your entire future, whether it is true or not. But, we are all human. Fallible. Imperfect. 

We want a hero. We want someone to be bigger than life for us. We want someone to be everything we want to be. We want to think that because someone is incredibly athletic or extremely talented or exceptionally beautiful that they don't also have the same struggles of the heart or weakness of the mind we struggle with. But they do. 

As a Mom, I guess I could use this to teach how important it is to avoid situations where accusations like this could be made. I guess I could really drive home the point that one unwise decision could ruin your future. Or, I can use this to teach the very valuable lesson that we must choose wisely the people we give our admiration to. I can teach that there isn't enough talent or success in the world to keep you from falls and failures. I can teach that it is fun to cheer on a team and the athletes who take the field and run the ball, but it is important to understand that they are people, just like you. I can teach that only God will never let us down.

And I can be thankful for the real life people who, while not perfect, take to heart the influence they have, the role they play. And while I will encourage my son's fan hood and respect what a boy's team means to him, I will secretly rejoice over the coaches who will have the greatest impact on him. The ones who will teach him more than how to throw a ball. The ones who will teach him how to be a man. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What's That Smell?

I got glasses in the 3rd grade and  I'm pretty sure when I go to get new contacts I'm going to need a stronger prescription. And my hearing is not so great. Josh knows that exactly 4.6 minutes into a movie I'm going to ask him to turn up the volume. But, let me tell you, where my senses really excel is in my sense of smell. It is amazing, if I do say so myself. And when I was pregnant, y'all, I could smell unpopped popcorn when I walked in the door of the grocery store. I could also smell ravioli in the can and maybe one time bought an entire case and then only ate 1 can and got sick and Josh had to eat the rest and will never eat ravioli again. But, I digress. So, yes, I was blessed with a big nose and a strong sense of smell. Which also has it's downside when you live with boys and dogs. Yes, boys are stinkier. My son could knock out an army of trained men with the removal of his shoes, I am not kidding. And bless his heart, he got my sense of smell. We're like a couple of basset hounds. We walk in somewhere and immediately start sniffing, asking, "What's that smell?"

Anyway, I tell you all of that because  I read a verse that I know I've read before, but it really stuck with me today. It was one of those times where I read the verse and the words spoke to me in a new way. 2 Corinthians 2:14 says, "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place." I think fragrance is a pretty word, do you? Like faith, hope, love, joy, peace. Those words just look pretty to me, I guess because they represent such beautiful things. So, I decided to look up what that word meant. In the Old Testament Hebrew the word is Reyach and it is defined as: scent, fragrance, aroma, odour.. I don't think odor is a pretty word. Ya know? It immediately makes me think of locker rooms and foot fungus. But the last part of the definition is: odour of soothing (technical term for sacrifice to God). [Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius, "Hebrew Lexicon entry for Reyach". "The NAS Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon".]

Odour of soothing. Soothing is another word I like. And I'm no Bible or Hebrew scholar and would normally never bust out anything on this blog that requires citation, but this today, it got my attention. You see, we have a couple of friends who are big believers in essential oils. Are y'all familiar with them? Apparently they are good for EVERYTHING and they are especially good for soothing. Over the last few weeks it has been like an infirmary in my house. This time of year always is. Weather changes. The viruses come. Sometimes I wish we could all just hibernate through the month of October. But, we can't. And there are fevers and aches and runny noses. This year really hasn't been as bad as years past, mostly I'm sure because we have built up an immune system of greatness after Kate went to pre-school with 53 other children and I started working at a daycare. But, still enough sickness to miss church and school and work. And our sweet friends have wanted us to benefit from the oils. So, they've brought us samples. They have been incredibly generous and we've tried it all. There is one called "Serenity" and it has lavender which is good for fevers and calming you and making you sleepy. I am not even kidding there was a night I was rubbing that stuff on my kids and throwing it in their baths and tossing it around like it was holy water at an exorcism. (You may have to be a mom in a house with sick kids to understand that.) And it really did help. But then my friend had a talk with me and explained it only takes a very little drop. :)  Anyway, my friend also loaned us a diffuser to put some oils in to help with Kate's allergies and it was AMAZING. My house smelled like peppermint and we toted that thing all over the house, wherever we were going to be until Kate went to bed. The smell filled the bedroom and even overflowed into the hallway. It made me happy.

So, when I read that verse today about us being the diffusers of the fragrance of Christ, I couldn't help but think about our experience recently. I thought about how when I applied the oil to the bottom of one of my children's feet, it helped that child. But, when I had the diffuser, we all benefited. Anyone who walked into the room the diffuser was in immediately absorbed the benefits of lavender and peppermint. And I can't help but think of what a beautiful illustration that is for us as God's children. When we have the Holy Spirit, it should change us. It should heal our hearts and change our thoughts. But it is never just for us. We are the diffusers, carrying the knowledge of Jesus. And sometimes it seems easy for some to let that knowledge be like a foul odor of anger, hatred and judgment. But right there, in 2 Corinthians, it tells us that it should be a soothing fragrance. Whether we are offering love and encouragement to those who already know Him, or if we are offering hope for a new life for those who don't. Either way, we should remember that we are being used to diffuse His fragrance. And it should be a soothing one to those around us. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

At the Table

You sit at her table and breathe in the moment. Your friendship began during the days of zits and braces and unfortunate wardrobe choices. Through the years you grew to idolize her beauty and sense of fashion, and some things never change. Her home is perfectly decorated, warm and inviting. She just got a new haircut, and as always, she is gorgeous. Life has carried you both in different directions for many years and with 7 children between the two of you, time for phone calls or in person visits have been limited and chaotic at best. And it seems that in these many years with all of their BIG changes and hard roads that this moment, this sitting down at the table together, could be so awkward, so strained. But somehow, with the exception of the coffee brewing nearby, years disappear and you are both 14 again.

You share french fries and pretend they won't go straight to your hips. You talk about crisis moments that happened in AP English, remember your middle school principal who always wore tennis shoes with her dresses, and laugh at your naivete in all things relationship related. You talk about this person and that person and where they are now and what they meant to you then. And you cherish that there is another person on the planet who fills almost every memory you have of middle and high school, and that you shared sweet, innocent, coming of age moments together. 

All of the "firsts", you experienced together. You rode around in each other's first cars with all of their quirks, and listened to Jewel and cried about boys. She tried to teach you how to do your make-up and you taught her dance routines. You memorized Bible verses together and wrote speeches that you both listened to until you could quote each other's, word for word. You shared clothes and dreams and fears. You went to concerts together, camps together, on mission trips together. You ran laps together at band camp and poured gallons of water on your heads to survive the summer heat. You prayed together, confessed your sins to each other, and fell in love with Jesus together. You planned your futures together, from the early days of MASH to the more serious senior year decisions of college and onto careers and families.

She was the one on your wedding day who stopped by to check on you as you had your hair done and asked if you needed anything. And you remembered that you did not pack any underwear for your weekend. And most people would ask "who forgets that?", but she just went and bought you underwear. She stood in your wedding as a bridesmaid and smiled as you married the boy she sat next to in French class. She had put in a lot of good words for him when you weren't all that interested, but she knew. She knew he could be the right one for you. And a few short months later you traveled with another longtime friend to attend her wedding. You were tired and felt sick and she asked if you could be pregnant, but that still didn't even seem possible. You rejoiced to see her radiant on her wedding day, a beautiful bride, and you were excited to welcome her to the married club. And not too long after she returned from her honeymoon you shared with her what had seemed impossible to you-you were pregnant. Of course, she knew.

Life after that would become crazy and hard. You would no longer fill each other's memories in a constant way, but you would touch base in a way that reminded you there are some bonds that can't be broken by time or distance. You would reach out and share and comfort in that way that you can only do when there is enough history that no explanations are needed. No background stories to tell, you know them already. 

And now, you would sit at the table with her. Your paths have finally come within a more reasonable driving distance and you both are child free for the night. And for the first time in over a decade you have uninterrupted, one on one time with this precious friend whose life is so intertwined with yours you feel as if you can't remember which memories are hers or yours. And yet as that familiarity overwhelms you, you also realize what has been missed in these years. You no longer know her favorite drink or what movies she's recently watched. And while the 14 year old girl in you begins to reveal herself in giggles and memories, there is no doubt that those girls have grown into women. Women whose lives look decidedly different than the lives those 14 year old girls envisioned. Sometimes that is heartbreaking and challenging. Sometimes that is amazing and beyond what they could have known to want. Ten years ago you called and gave updates and exchanged pictures of your babies. You couldn't quite share all of the truth because neither of you were quite ready to face it yourself; that this grown up stuff was way harder than you were prepared for and everything didn't quite work out the way you had planned on lazy days lounging on the trampoline eating Taco Bell and dreaming about your future. 

But now, now you can face the truth. You've both walked through days that have made you stronger than you ever thought possible and more vulnerable than you could have imagined. And now, instead of baby pictures, you exchange your hearts and lay it on the line. And after all these years you still like each other's purses and clothes and now you have funny stories to tell about your kids.You still share a love for the Savior who originally brought you together and a love for words and writing.  But you also share the stress of being working moms and she listens and nods understandingly as you share your frustrations. You've both been hurt in ways you  never expected and you find healing has worked and is still working, a similar path in both of your lives. You have different burdens, but share a mutual concern and love for one another. Once upon a time you would have given sage advice that only 17 year olds who know everything can give. But now, you both just share and listen and let each other know, "I'm here."  

And as you leave she tells you that if you get lost to just call, and if you're in her radius, or even if your're not, she will come find you. And you thank her and drive off. And on a cool, fall night driving down the highway along the gulf, you can't help but be grateful that you are in each other's radius again. Because at that table you were nourished by more than french fries. You were nourished with the understanding that you've been given one of life's greatest blessings-a forever friend. And you laugh and cry over memories you had forgotten until she reminded you and you look forward to making new ones. And although just about everything has changed, nothing really has.

Photo Courtesy of Google Images

Monday, November 4, 2013

It Takes All Kinds

I have often said that God has given me the most unique cast of characters in my life. Honestly, I have been blessed to grow up and live and walk through life with all kinds of people. All kinds of backgrounds, personality types, life experiences, political views, religious denominations and of every kind of ethnicity. Maybe it's because I love a good story so much, but my life is full of people who have the most amazing stories. Life transforming stories. Inspiring stories. Hurt your heart stories. Make you see the world differently stories.

It has only been more recently than I would care to admit that I can fully appreciate what the diverse cast of my life story has given me. Because what it has given me is a kaleidoscope of  beauty, growth, perspective, and support. Not too long ago, I couldn't grasp that. I didn't see beauty or growth or support. I saw people whose boldness or passion trampled me. People whose beliefs made me question mine. People who I felt like I was supposed to compete with. I saw differences as a challenge. And don't we all? Let's face it, to live in a day and time where tolerance and diversity are supposedly prized, we get all kinds of bent out of shape when we have to deal with people who are different than us, don't we?

One of the best things that ever happened to me was being handed a book to read called, "Why You Act the Way You Do" by Tim LaHaye. My college roommate, who has introduced me to every favorite book I've ever read, told me about this jewel. Since reading it I've read many, many books on personality types, leadership styles, and temperaments. But this was my first time reading about personality types and as I turned every page I was saying, "This is me!" "This is so and so!" "That's why that person drives me crazy!" And it was life changing. Because after years of trying to squeeze myself into a box I thought I should fit in, I realized it was the wrong box for me. And after years of wanting others to squeeze into a similar box or even the same one as me, it dawned on me that we couldn't all fit.

As I've shared my heart on this blog over the years, you may have noticed a recurring issue I struggle with-other people's expectations. Or my own. Just expectations in general. Some come from watching too much TV or reading too many fashion magazines. Some come from ideals within the church. Some come from seeing how other people do things and wanting to be like them. Some come from those unspoken expectations we all somehow learn along the way. The looks we get. The stares. The nods of approval or disapproval. We learn, even when no one is consciously teaching.

I was a quiet, shy child. The type that was content to play Barbies alone and read books for fun. I hid behind my mom in social situations and never felt like I knew the right thing to say. I thought A LOT. My brain was an unending play of theatrical brilliance, and in my mind, I was the star. I always knew the witty thing to say and how to act. As I got older I had some special people who encouraged me and pushed me and helped build my confidence. I became more outgoing, but I still preferred to read books and daydream. I never seemed to figure out how to become the amazingly fun, life of the party person I was in my head. In my teenage years I gave it my best shot, but always felt like I fell short of what I was "supposed to be". Because let's face it, in high school, outgoing is THE.WAY.TO.BE. And I can be outgoing. But then I need like 45 hours to be alone and decompress and process all of that social activity. I need to think about all of the conversations and analyze them and make sure I said the right thing. 

I share this because I am now able to understand that that is just my personality. It's not good or bad or right or wrong, it's just what it is. But I spent many years feeling like it was "bad" or "wrong" or that it just wasn't who I wanted to be. Over the years it has been easier to compile a list of all the ways I wish I was different or all the skills, temperaments, or qualities I wish I had. People with stronger personalities scared or intimidated me. I was convinced their way was the "right" way and I needed to get on board. People who think logically or in an organized fashion amaze me because I have all the feelings and my mind is often as cluttered as my desk is right now. I used to see that as a conflict. Who is right? Now, I am learning to see it as beautiful puzzle pieces that God created for us to work together, our pieces fitting seamlessly to create the overall masterpiece. 

I am in awe of people who can take charge of a situation and be a leader and organize and rally the troops. That's not my thing. I feel most comfortable on the sidelines comforting and encouraging the troops and working through their thoughts and feelings. Have we gathered that I'm a "feelings" person? :)  The point is that it is all necessary and needed. Not better or worse or more important or less important. 

We need bold, passionate people to lead the way. We need quiet, gentle people to tend our hearts. We need creative people to come up with ideas and we need organized people to make them come to life. We need people of all walks of life, with all experiences and all opinions. Instead of looking at each other with big less than or greater than signs over our heads, we should look to see what we can equal together. Ideally, we become a synchronized marching band, made up of all kinds of instruments, but being led by the same  person, playing the same song.

Photo Courtesy of Google Images

And at the end of the day when the whole stinkin' bunch of us is tired and frustrated and worn out and we've stepped on each others toes trying to march to the beat of a different drummer, we can take comfort in this:

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
~2 Corinthians 12:9-10