Friday, November 29, 2013

Game Changer

There are three answers.

The day I got saved.
The day I got married.
The birth of my children.

These are the most common answers when one is asked about the single most life-changing events in their life.  I think everyone can attest that I do truly love God, my husband and children and my life would not be, well "my life", if it weren't for their presence in it.

So lets just say that's not a choice.  Let's just say you can't use the "I'm a terrible mom and wife if I don't say one of those events" for your answer.  If the "easy" answer is eliminated, what is your game changer?

The answer for me is simple and might surprise some.

It was May of 1996.
It was hot.
It was my senior season.
I had never been more excited in my life.

I was a bunter which meant many times, I was a sacrifice out.  I never trotted around the bases and high-fived my coaches as my team bounced around waiting for me to cross the plate. Nope.  I was the bunter.

It seems like a thankless job.  My job was to move the runner to second base.  Everytime.  My presence on the base was a commodity, not a necessity.  It was ok if I was OUT.

It was the nationals.
They were a top 5 team.
We were the underdog.
I bunted.

I ran back to the dugout and put my helmet up.  With a runner on 2nd base, the #3 batter grounded out.  It looked like our record-breaking season was over.  We could hold our heads high.  We were the first team in the history of the school to make it to the NAIA nationals.

Now up to bat.  
Nakia Brandon.

I looked down expecting this to be the very last at-bat for our team.  A team that had no all-stars but many shining stars.  A team that worked together and surprised many.

The bat hit the ball.
My assistant coach started jumping.
Nakia started trotting.
We all bounced around waiting for the game-winning home run hitter to cross the plate.

Tonight I sat in my parents' living room, as my mom recovers from surgery, and listened to the heartbreaking loss of our Blue Raider football team in the semi-finals of the state tournament.

Tonight each of those players is thinking about all the missed opportunities in the loss.  The coaches are reflecting on the game and the "what ifs".

But tomorrow.  Tomorrow is a different story.  Each day from tomorrow forward they will start to build a memory.  A memory that is bigger than they are.  A memory on the season that changed their game.

You see, my team eventually lost in the quarterfinals of the NAIA National Tournament.  I remember very little from my last game.  What I do remember are the many plays that got us there and the moment I bounced around waiting for the home run hitter to cross the plate.

Well played, Blue Raiders.  Well played.  We are so proud of you.

*The above softball picture is from the 1995 season and does not include Nakia.  The 1996 Harley pic has disappeared.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Rubber Glove Turkeys

God is great.
God is good.
Thank you for this food.

The words are basic.  Its the first prayer that most of us learn as a child.  A simple thanks for a simple thing.  And yet, year by year, our lives get less simple.  Clutter and complex take over where basic and simple once resided.  We stop folding our hands.  We cease in bowing our heads.  Oftentimes we even forget the words.

This is the second holiday I have spent in the hospital over the past year.  Each time, as the world slows down around me, I am acutely aware of the very basic things that I should be grateful for.  Today, from my viewpoint, I had to start writing them down.  There wasn't enough space in the ole noggin to store it all.

Today I fold my hands.
Today I bow my head.

I'll start with this lady, one of my oldest and dearest friends.

This morning she woke up, ran in a 5K Turkey Trot, and MADE ME THIS ----->

What a great way to start the day!  I felt like I was in one of those Jimmy Dean commercials.  Weary and tired gives way to the lady wearing a sun costume holding a breakfast sandwich.

{Disclaimer - I probably should have warned what few readers I have, that I'm tired and my writing might be slightly nonsensical (and I may invent words)}

And then these two came to visit.

100% authentic, unfiltered, outrageousness contained in these two little bodies.  My brother's boys remind me so much of my brothers when they were little.  As they knelt at the foot of my chair, all I could do was just sweep them up in my lap and give them as many kisses as I could.  It was overwhelming.  I just love their stinkin' guts.  And we made turkeys out of rubber gloves.

This afternoon we started getting hungry.  This wonderful friend came to the rescue.

She is another one of my nearest and dearest that loves my family like they are her own.  Today she knew The Rev would have to have a good Thanksgiving meal.  She interrupted her family time to prepare lovely plates for my parents to enjoy at the hospital.  The food was just amazing.

As I said earlier in this post, this is my second holiday hospital stay in twelve months, as we were in ICU with Robbie's dad last Christmas.  In both of these hospital stays, we have been blessed with an amazing medical staff.  Enter Pete.

There is no picture of Pete.  Close your eyes and envision a tall, dark headed nurse who gave our favorite red head a run for her money.  He was sarcastic, attentive, and extremely pleasant to be around.  There were many acts of service from the staff this week and we are thankful for the care they gave mom.

I'm not a fan of being away from my kids.  EVER.  Its even harder when there is a holiday involved.  Modern technology.  Isn't it grand?

FaceTime with my kids.  We talked about the Purina Dog Show, Aunt Diane's dinner, and our misbehaving puppy.  These seven minutes made my heart smile.

God is great.
God is good.
Thank you for these things.

Happy Day of Simple Thanks.  Try it out.  It feels good.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Run Red Run

I climbed on to the school bus.  It was my least favorite time of day.  Living 20 minutes from school was no picnic on an average day, but riding the bus for over an hour?  It was pure torture.

"Is that your mom," the little boy in the seat next to me asked.  I didn't have to turn around.  I could visualize the scene as it unfolded behind me.

Mom, in her bathrobe.
My brother running while struggling to put his shoes on.
Backpack unzipped.
Nissan Sentra honking and blinking the lights.
The school bus slowing down to a halt.

And there he was.  No doubt, without lunch money or completed homework.  Hair unbrushed and crooked glasses.  He made eye contact, cocked his head slightly, and nervously giggled as he walked back to my seat.

Yep.  That's Tony, for ya.

He's the middle brother.  He always has things hanging out of his backpack.  He is a horrible planner.

One could stop there and recognize very quickly, that we are night and day.  Its hard to believe we share any genetic qualities.

He's a computer geek. I'm the big picture creator.
He's the "I don't wear Christmas pajamas" guy.  I'm the "Do it for your mother" girl.
He will talk to a perfect stranger by choice.  I would rather not unless its obligation.

But most importantly, he's my brother.

No matter how different we are, I always see that little guy walking down the school bus aisle, getting it all together.

He still gets that look sometimes.  The one with the nervous giggle and the fidgety movement.  Mostly when dealing with his boys.  Its the look that says, "I'm doing the best I can.  Just give me a chance to get it all together."

He hasn't had the easiest time, but with each step he learns, and embraces the newness of each day.  I am proud of the dad he has become and so thankful he's my brother.

But most importantly, I learn from him.
I learn that details matter, sometimes.
I learn that sometimes the best plans are actually not plans.
I learn that you love, even through the hard stuff.

Happy Birthday Red!  I hope your day is filled with comfortable clothes, great music, and the best Wally burger you've ever had!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Austin Road

There I stood at the top of the hill.  I had never felt this kind of fear in my life.  I could hear my dad calling out to me, "Let's go, Babydoll.  There's nothing to be afraid of."

The things parents tell their kids.  In fact, there was plenty to be afraid of.

Going off-course into a tree.
Falling off the tube and rolling down the hill.
Jumping the snowdrift at the bottom and landing face first.

It seemed to get colder and darker with every breath I took.  I could tell the other adults were losing patience with me.  I was frozen.  Literally.

Deep Breath.
Belly-first on an inner tube.
Eyes Closed.
Scream the whole way down.

The wind had been taken from me.  The laughter made it worse.  I could barely stand.

"Let's go again," I exclaimed, knowing my 6 year old self was changed forever.

I conquered many fears at The Homestead on Austin Road.

Sledding down a HUGE hill.
Riding my bike.
Eating strange foods.
Diving into the pond.

Each time, I was surrounded by a group of adults cheering me on, saying the most ridiculous things to motivate me.

Today I was the adult.

"It'll be fun."

"If you throw snowballs, you're going to be cold before we even get started."

"Take sideways steps.  Its easier."

"Sometimes we have to help each other, to make it to the top."

And when we all made it, I had that same out-of-breath feeling all over again.  Its the magic of this place.  It just brings something out in me that I can't explain.  I didn't have to say a word.  They understood.

I had an epiphany today.  All those years, I thought only the kids were overcoming their fears and having a blast.  I imagined the grown-ups standing around, hanging on our every move, putting in their due time of "kid fun" before dinner time.

There I stood, at the top of the hill.  I realized the adult version was ten times better.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Let the Words of My Mouth

My mom always says, "God has a plan."  To be honest, it gets a bit annoying when you have heard it over and over again, especially when you feel there is no direction in sight.  It's never easy trusting what you can't see.

I remember pulling away from the Red Warehouse in Flint, New York after saying goodbye to my dearest friend since elementary school.  We were all crying and I knew my life would never be the same again.  Boy was I right.

In August of 1992, I packed up all of my belongings and made the 800 mile trip with my parents to Lee College in Cleveland, TN.  I was miserable.  I didn't want to leave home.  I didn't want to leave my boyfriend.  I didn't want to leave everything I had ever known.

Those feelings didn't change for several months.  I remember crying myself to sleep on many occasions.  I had met a lot of nice people, but I just didn't feel like I fit in.  I felt like the most misunderstood yankee in the southeast.

I prayed hard.  I wasn't sure what I was praying for, but I knew that if God indeed had a plan, I needed to be talking to him regularly so he wouldn't forget me.  My day-to-day felt the furthest from a plan that I could imagine.  In fact, it felt more like a train wreck.

Isn't God funny?  We sit around stewing ourselves into a fit about "his will" and all along, he is carefully laying bricks as if to say, "Hey dummy!  Over here!"  I would like to say this is the one and only time that I fought with faith, but unfortunately, it happened over and over.  I think I have it figured out.  I think I have a better plan.  I think I know what's best.  All along he sits back and says "I have a plan."

I still live in Cleveland, TN and pay many visits to my alma mater.  Today was different though.  There's something about "coming home" that makes you remember why you called it home in the first place.  It was the first time that all four of us have attended Homecoming.  It was a perfect afternoon.

As we walked back to the car after the game, a flood of memories hit me like a ton of bricks. It is, in essence, my birthplace.  I was born as an infant in Sodus, NY, but I became an adult somewhere between Church and Ocoee Street in Cleveland, TN.

New friends.

At the end of each chapel service we would recite Psalms 19:14

Let the words of my mouth
And the meditations of my heart
Be acceptable in thy sight
Oh Lord
My strength
And my redeemer

He is a redeemer, indeed.