Saturday, March 23, 2013

Healing


Yesterday marked a year since our son, Chase’s injury.

Ironically, and providentially, the day before, Chase was extensively evaluated and determined to be fully recovered.

This past week, my husband and son flew to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for an assessment at the University Of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports ConcussionProgram. Through an intensive series of tests and evaluations, a team of six specialists examined Chase thoroughly over a period of two full days.



The conclusion these physicians reached will always make me weep in gratitude. This final determination will forever remind me of  how far we have come.

Chase had completely healed.




The past year has been a struggle, but a good one. It has been full of worry and angst, yet also full of joy and abundant blessings.  I have grown, my son has grown – our family has grown.  While the lessons have been many with details we will continue to share,  the summary of it all can be best written as this:

I’ve learned that I can’t parent in fear because Chase can’t flourish in it.  But I can parent in faith and Chase can walk in it.

That result alone was worth every step of our journey.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Glory Days


I am reluctantly coaching basketball.

Previous unwillingness does not come from a lack of love for the sport, or love for the eight year old girls who don’t hesitate to compliment my nail polish in between dribbling drills.

It is because it reminds me of a time when the drive to become the most overshadowed my life’s calling to be the least.

Instincts to win are as ingrained in my fiber as instincts to avoid laundry. It is reflexive, it is trained, it is a physical impulse. As a high school basketball player, I spent my days after school practicing with the team, and then nights, climbing through an unlocked window of the gymnasium to practice some more. I was a solitary figure shooting in a darkened gym for hours, unconcerned about safety or the potential of a night in the pokey because of unauthorized entrance. Eventually, I was given the keys by my coach because he recognized how unflattering an orange jumpsuit would be to my complexion.

I went on to play college basketball, climbing ambitiously up an athletic ladder all the while missing Jesus as He climbed down right past me. Basketball was first, school was second and third place belonged to no one. Expectations only intensified, and the competition for recognition increased.

Glory days of athletic past only serve as a reminder of a time when honor was more for me than for Him. I have experienced the misguided feeling of the spotlight, where attention and accolades were in abundance, leaving an unquenchable desire for more. The more you have, the more you want, and the more you want, the more your identity depends on it.

The drive to be the best can become a dependence, whether through sport or endeavor.

If I am the best player, I will be found worthy.
If I am the best coach, I will be admired.
If I am the best volunteer, I will be appreciated.
If I am the most successful, I will be esteemed.
If I am the best mom, my advice will be sought.

I battle the lifetime of training I’ve had to win at all costs. It is a learned skill I have intentionally not passed on to my children, understanding fully the price paid for seeking to be the best for the sake of self and attention of others.  As a player, I missed the lessons in losing, the love for opponents, and chased after exaltation never intended for me.

I want my girls to love the game, but to love God way more. I want them to do their best, but only because He calls them to, not because I do. I want them to be worthy competitors in all that they do without losing compassion for those that they compete against. But mostly, I want their esteem, worth and joy to be found in the confidence of Christ, not in the confidence of a game.

So reluctantly, I coach basketball. I just don’t want my players to be like me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Champion Bowler


The year was different, although most of the details are the same.  Last night our eight year old daughter, Mary Mac, emerged as the champion of the pool for the college bowl tournament. Among the 30 or so participants who meticulously completed  football pool sheets, our little girl demonstrated  true expertise by winning the whole shebang with picks like the following:

1. Louisville - because it reminded her of Louis from One Direction
2. Nevada -  because she misread it as Navidad, the Spanish word for Christmas, and she wanted to give a shout out to Santa.

In the past three years, Mary Mac has made it to the championship game twice.

Twice.

 (For those of you insistent on doing the math, we are very aware that this reveals that our child has been placing wagers since she was five. Know that we are currently seeking wisdom and counsel from Dr. James Dobson.)


The particulars of how this parental misstep came to be can be summarized as it was last time:

College Bowl games for those in Georgia are like the black jack tables for those in Vegas, just not as frequent or as likely to attend a Gamblers Anonymous Meeting.

As soon as lights are untangled and Christmas trees decorated, men race to their over sized televisions to engage with the emphatic experts from ESPN Sports Center. Pencils in one hand and Bowl Game schedule sheets in another, careful selections are made according to the advice and endless drone of the sportscasters born with an abundance of words and questionable taste in sweater vests.

The winners for thirty-three games are chosen, each team circled with hair-on-the -chest confidence, and then presented with bold certainty to the friend acting as temporary bookie for a group of comrades hoping to prove supreme insight and wisdom in the college football arena.

My husband participated in this activity with a circle of friends - all respectable and mostly law abiding – for a small wager of twenty dollars. The group numbered around thirty, with a cash prize of $500 for first place and $150 for second, with the added bonus of yearlong bragging rights that accompany said esteemed accomplishment.

This year, our two boys – ages 8 and 10 – asked my husband if they could take part in the competition.

(As an aside, notice the inappropriate use of the word “competition”. It erroneously implies that my under aged children could possibly be playing in a wrestling tournament or a swim meet or a tennis match, rather than participating in the ILLEGAL GAMBLING ACTIVITIES that could land us all in the pokey.)

For two and a half hours, the testosterone in my home sat mesmerized by the ESPN pre-bowl telethon that even Jerry Lewis would be unable to sustain. Discussions about picks in relation to quarterback match ups and the strategies behind each team’s defensive coordinator, peppered intermittently with tutorials on point spreads, caused the eardrums in my head to rumble in warning that actual implosion could occur at any moment.

Mary Mac, our precocious five year old, wandered in and out of the living room during the many hours spent in pre-bowl purgatory, with little interest in the information being given but beyond indignant as to why she was not included.

After a while, our daughter expressed the unfairness of it all, using phrases like, “You’re hurting my feelings for EVER AND EVER in the whole universe,” and when that didn’t work, “But I LOVE football. It’s my FAVORITE! I love it more than baby dolls, and animals and cheetos and Dora the Explorer and ...”. This commentary, with real potential for an infinite ending, promptly garnered receipt of a college bowl sheet from her worn-down dad.

With a raised eyebrow, and a disapproving facial expression that wordlessly communicated to my husband that families who gamble together do not stay together, I left the room, pondering the competitiveness that had infiltrated our Jesus-loving household.

The tournament deadline approached and John turned in all four College Bowl sheets to his buddy, including the one decorated haphazardly with flowers, a heart, an angel and a cross. (Oh, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.)




And then the games began.

From game one of the college football bowl series to game thirty-two, Mary Mac maintained a position of either first or second place. For eighteen days straight, our daughter held a top position, earning her a chance at the $500, which would be decided by the National Championship game between Alabama and Texas.

The irony of the situation is that out of all of the adult men participating in this “activity”, the championship game would determine if the winnings were to be distributed either to our flower drawing five year old, or her fierce competitor, an eight year old boy "G".



Let that sink in for a moment.

Two children, with an averaged age of 6 ½ years old, both with sets of parents demonstrating little regard for the law, would duke it out for the title and the big payoff.

During the game, G's mom, "L", sent me the following good-natured message:

Dear G (copy Joni),

I would like some UGGs, some new jeans, maybe a scarf...just something to make me feel pretty. Would you like to go out somewhere nice to eat? Or maybe we can start planning a trip to Disney! Whatever you want:) I am so glad I am your mommy. I am sure that Mary Mac is fine with $150. She can buy her mommy something really nice too! Roll Tide!

Love,
Mommy


Alabama , G’s pick, decidedly beat Texas, Mary Mac’s pick, awarding the eight year old first prize of $500 and $150 to our little girl.

I sent the following message to G’s mom:


Dear G,

Congratulations!

I think that our mommies should homeschool us next year.....in Vegas.

Love,
Mary Mac



This was her response:


Dear Mary Mac,

Will you marry me? I think we would make a wonderful team!

Love,
G



To which I replied on Mary Mac’s behalf:


Dear G,

The answer is yes. I think that you are really cute.

Let's confirm this arrangement by sharing our assets now. $325 to you and $325 to me.

Looking forward to our next date at the NCAA Basketball tournament. I'm using my "eenie, meenie, minie, moe" method again when filling out the bracket.

(Don't tell the daddies- they will steal my secret.)

Love,
Mary Mac



The circumstances were similar, but this second time around Mary Mac came out on top.
With this year's money, Mary Mac joyfully informed me that she plans to buy an American Doll, visit Disney World and purchase a plane ticket to the North Pole.

I tried to explain to her that she didn’t have enough money for all of these items, that the College Football Bowl games were really not that lucrative, that it would be unreasonable to expect it could somehow support a third grader's lifestyle.

That’s why this weekend we are introducing her to Black Jack.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Resolutions




Never let it be said that I am not ambitious in the goals I have for myself. The following are resolutions for 2013:


1. I will not use the smoke detector in my kitchen as a cooking timer.

2. I will be as grateful for the small blessings as I am for those that are large. But I will still dance gangham style when the large occurs:

                                          



3. I will attend all eyebrow waxing appointments in a timely manner so that weed eating equipment is not necessary.

4. I will schedule office utilities to be paid on automated bank draft so that my husband does not worry about taking care of patients in the dark.



                                  
5. I will laugh so hard and so often that fugitive stomach muscles will be forced to come out of hiding.

6. I will exercise more patience in the carpool line and deny myself all fantasies of skidding to a sideways stop in front of the school in Dukes of Hazard fashion.

7. I will hug my children when they want it, when they don’t, and always in front of their middle school friends.

                                         

8. I will listen more, talk on my cell phone less and continue to grow my relationship with the On Star Lady.

9. I will be more mindful of the food pyramid when preparing meals for my family. However, when said pyramid tries to trick me with terms like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated  fatty acids, I will resort to previous guidelines:

                                              food pyramid funny

10. I will believe the scale I step on and not think that it is a conspiracy masterminded by Weight Watchers. I will also not use the excuse that the dryer has shrunk my clothes.

11. I will look for joy in all circumstances, including subpar grooming, parenting, finance managing and weight watching. 

Never mind, there’s no joy in weight watching.

12. And finally, I will love God and I will love others.  I will especially love those who don’t love me back, and if a turnaround ever occurs, remind them later of the nonsense they were missing. : )



Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Year Of Bumps and Blessings

This past year was one of our family's worst. But, at the same time, it was also one of our best. A collision of circumstances that had the potential to shake our very foundation resulted in one that made it stronger - a miraculous intercession  beyond just physical healing.

For any year, for any family, a retrospective glance backwards gives hope moving forward. One only has to look at how far God has brought you to realize how far He plans to take you.




“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”  (2 Samuel 17:18)

 Among the difficulties experienced this year, the lessons learned far outweighed the lumps :

 1.  I’ve learned that nothing will bring you to your knees quicker than a hurting child. I’ve also learned that nothing will make you stronger than a hurting child that needs you.

                                            

2.  Joy can be found in all circumstances – in the mundane, in the miraculous, in the absurd, in the unbelievable.

3. Life’s difficulties can either make you bitter or better. I pray we always choose the latter.

4. Jesus overcame this sinful, devastating world so that we would not be overcome. 

5. Everyday can be a new start. When you find yourself behind, begin again right where you are.

6. No guts on my part means no glory for Him. My children can only grow if I let go.

                                            

7. Standing out, being set apart, appearing different is a good thing. A very, very good thing.

                                           

8.  The wisdom and maturity of a twelve year old can take away your breath. 

9. God allows a great story to manifest from chapters full of pain, ambiguity and the unknown. He won’t allow you to rush to the conclusion of your book because you will miss the blessings among the content.

10. A mom would lay down her life for her child, and because that option wouldn’t help my son, I laid down my pride. I learned to beg for prayers

11. I learned that the kindness of others makes me cry like a girl.

12. And finally, I learned that even as you are telling God that you can’t possibly endure a task asked of you, He has already worked it out so you can.

                                           



 My prayer for you and your family in the new year  is the same one I have for my own:

 “May the God of hope fill you with all JOY and peace as you trust in Him…” (Romans 15:13)


                                             





  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas

Christmas day was full and fun and spent with family. Below are a few photos from our day:

Loot from Santa:


The reveal:

Chandler:



There's only One Direction for Mary Mac:




The newest member to Duck Dynasty:


Targeting the very threatening window treatments in the corner:



 The aftermath and cause for my vacuum cleaner to whine for mercy:


A little extra something from Santa and his peeps:


After opening gifts Christmas morning, Mary Mac found distinctive marks  left by Santa's sled  in front of our home. Apparently, the jolly man went "mudding" in the yard, turning our lawn into Bermuda slaw.
         (Mudding, or mud bogging, is a form of off-road sport in which the goal is to drive through a pit of mud of a set length.  A Wikipedia explanation for  those not in the South) 

The sugar high from ingestion of a plate full of cookies must have sidetracked Santa for a bit:


Said plate full of cookies had an adverse effect on the reindeer:


(All photos courtesy of Mary Mac.)


Later that night, we hosted a Christmas gathering for extended family.


For extra Christmas joy, we added a white elephant gift exchange to this year's tradition. Some took this to a  literal sense:


Kicked back with a cute baby:


My siblings (bottom row) and spouses:



Our 20th Christmas together:


 Me and my peeps:



Merry Christmas!

Calm Before The Chaos

Christmas Eve joy from our house to yours.













Saturday, December 15, 2012

Overcome


It was a senseless display of violence, an act so horrific that innate response is to squeeze eyes shut, all the while begging God to spare your loved ones from such viciousness.   Heartbreaking images were displayed across the world yesterday, causing a restriction in the chest that makes it difficult to breathe.

Those relying on a more cerebral approach to faith will be overcome by the illogical nature of this tragedy.

Those who practice a justice seeking mentality will be overcome by a sense that all is out of control.

Those who feel deeply for others will be overcome by the suffocation known as suffering.

Those who cope by denial will unexpectedly be overcome by sudden grief.

And those who can  identify with the loss as experienced by devastated parents will be overcome by a heart that physically hurts with each beat, desiring at times, for it to stop altogether.

Regardless of the severity of the response, natural tendency is to become buried under the enormity of such shocking tragedy. How do we continue forward while knowing that others can only stand paralyzed and still? How do we enjoy the birth and celebration of Christ as others grieve the death and devastation of small children? How do we lavish in the luxury of tucking our little ones in safely at night as other parents comfort themselves in too small blankets and in too small beds empty of the children that will never lay  there again? 

How do we do this? The answer is we can’t.

We can’t overcome the maliciousness and the wickedness of the world.  There will be times we can’t combat the criminal, the immoral or the depraved.  The hopelessness of this reality should bring about the bleakest of futures if not for the all-powerful, all-consuming, all-saving hope found in Jesus.

Not only does God see the vileness that happens to our children, He promises to correct every wrong. The same Hands that created the world – every human, tree, animal, star and sunset – are the same Hands that will repay those that inflict harm on the innocents.

Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written,"It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

 And even as we trust that God will punish the evil, we are told how to survive through the aftermath of violence that seems impossible to overcome:

Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.  (Romans 12:21)

When the evil that surrounds us wants to smother us, counteract the suffocation with good. As the malevolence of our world knocks us to the ground, restore the fall with acts of benevolence. Only then will we be able to stand  again.

God overcame so that we would not be overcome.

And for a sad day like today, it is enough.