Saturday, February 13, 2016

Participation Trophies

These two kiddos of mine got trophies today.

Their team didn't win a game. (except the one time the other team had to forfeit)

Three girls out of the seven on their team had never touched a basketball

The redraft that is supposed to happen every year didn't, so they were playing teams who had been together with the same coach for four years. 

The first two games were blow-outs. So bad they stopped keeping score for the other team.

Going to be a looong season. 

Hope didn't even want to play. We had to bribe her so the team would have enough kids. 

Three months later.

She brings the ball down like a boss. Quick little point guard. Gets to the corner faster than the defense. Swish. Sets screens like its her job.     

Eva is all about fun. She waves her arms like a banshee in the face of the girl she is guarding. No girl is gonna shoot over her. She is determined. Clutch at the foul line. Get it into her at the post, and she will get a shot off. Never stops grinning. 

And because their team was small, Eva and Hope pretty much had to play every quarter of every game. Red faces and pouring sweat. Legs that feel like lead. Hustling down the court. They can do this all day.

And those three girls that had never even dribbled?

Today I watched those three girls set up plays, make break away layups, and pass it in to the post. All but one scored at some point throughout the season. We cheered like they had just won the Super Bowl.

I watched this team of seven learn not to travel or double dribble; to grab the ball and hold onto it, shoot a layup, and not hang out in the paint; how to press when the clock is running out, how to get the ball in when it looks like no one is open, block a shot without fouling, drop below a screen and pull down a rebound. 

I watched them not give up.  

There was an article that went viral a few months ago about a dad who gave his kid's participation trophy back. They hadn't won. No prize deserved.  

I think I probably even shared it on my social media pages.

Because that is what I used to think. I distinctly remember rolling my eyes at Preston when the girls got trophies last year. Want the prize? Be the best. Yank on those bootstraps. Work harder. Shoot more baskets. Want it more than the next kid. Get mad. Be better

I am in no way disregarding doing your best, giving it all you have, and the value of hard work. Run in such a way as to win the prize and all that. Yes. Amen and testify.

But it doesn't say, if you run that way and don't win the prize, you deserve nothing. What's the point in playing if you don't win? The only effort recognized is the one that came out on top. We only give diplomas to the valedictorian.

I don't read that at all.

And I'm sure glad that isn't what the Gospel says, or I'd be headed to hell in a handbasket, because these people I live with can affirm that I am not Mother of the Year and frequently sin against them what with all my yelling and nagging.  

So maybe you don't want your kid to get recognized unless they are "the best." #1. Winner of the league/town/county/Super Bowl.

But in my book, this little team of seven, this team who came so far, this team who had everything stacked against them from the day of the nondraft - this team deserves public recognition.

(And so does their super hot redneck coach.) 

They ran in such a way as to win the prize. 

But they didn't win. Not once.  

So should I give those trophies back?

I'm going to put them on my mantel.

Grace for The Ones Who Give it Everything They Have and Come in 9th,


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Anatomy of a Snow Day

A timeline project for the third grader has been taking up 99% of everyone's life around here, which gave me the idea for a little timeline of my own. I give you

A Snow Day: Play by Play

15 days out
Husband checks weather app and excitedly passes on information that snow is in the future. All his fellow teachers are talking about it. They have never wanted anything more.

10 days out 
Snow is still in the forecast, but changes from 10 inches to a dusting and then back again. Husband is so excited. Planning for a week off. Which is so needed since it's been five weeks since the three week Christmas break. PE is stressful and there's a big dodgeball tournament coming up, so you know, gotta have a break.

5 days out 
Children are now aware of impending 2 inch blizzard threatening our area and begin doing things like flushing ice cubes down the toilet and putting white crayons outside their bedroom door. 

2 days out
Wife concedes the snow possibility. Frantic at the thought of five people locked in the house with no cereal, she decides to make a quick stop. $500, three hours and one altercation with another wild-eyed momma over the last gallon of 2% later the necessary blizzard/dusting supplies are laid up. (Blizzard and dusting are treated the same here in the South)

1 day out
Husband and children report out of control students. Teachers have quit trying. There is no reason. The answer to "What is 2x2?" has become, "Do you think we will get out of school?" 

Night before
Family is glued to the windows, praying to see a passing white blur. Everyone is dreaming of sledding, and hot cocoa, and all things Norman Rockwell. A flake drifts down, and the fate is sealed. Giddiness abounds. Wife is sure the coziest of days awaits this little family.

6:00 am
"The call" comes and confirms what we already knew. No buses will be running on this little skimming of white. Turn off alarms.

6:05 am
Girls enter. A full 45 minutes before the normal wake up time, because they looked out the window and saw. Sleep is no more. Everyone pops up and starts planning the epic sledding.

7:05 am
Mom pulls winter box from attic and digs for matching gloves. Gives up and settles for two gloves per person, matching not necessary. Mice had babies in the hat box. Mom instructs everyone to get a hoodie. Girl with wild curls cannot fit hair into a hood. Mom reasons she has natural insulation and moves on. Spends another hour layering people up, only to have to unlayer the baby to potty.

8:10 am
Where are the sleds? In a barn on the other side of the farm. Argument about why husband didn't retrieve sleds at the 15 days out point; tense moment passes but another quickly arises as retrieving the sleds becomes a major issue. The snow is so deep we cannot walk it. Mom explains about a winter the snow actually covered her shoes and how that was a good 3 inches deeper than the half inch we are now discussing. Children don't care about mom's "when I was young" tale and roll eyes. Family piles into truck to drive 1/4 mile to get sleds.

8:15 am
Bridge crossing creek is icy. Truck almost slips off. Wife is irritated at Husband for not putting truck in four wheel drive. Husband reasons he cannot do donuts in four wheel drive. Commence donuts. Child's head hits window at the sudden sliding. First tears (but certainly not last) of this day fall. Mom shoots dirty look at husband. Husband ignores. 

8:25 am
Sleds were in barn. Drag out and wash off pigeon poop. Gloves are now wet. Refuse to let spirits be dampened regardless of the now high likelihood of frostbite.

8:35 am
Trudge up Mt. Everest. Drag five year old on sled for part of it. Lay down and die.

8:45 am  
Convince children sledding at a 90 degree angle is fun. Forcibly put them on sleds and shove them down giant hill. Girl falls off face first into snow. She will never sled again. Another falls into a bottomless pit at the end of the sled run that could not be seen as it was filled with snow. Keeps telling us she's lucky she didn't break her leg or she would have sued.

8:46 am
Decide to try smaller hill back on other side of farm. Get in truck. Wife threatens concerning any more donuts. 

9:00 am
Smaller hill is more acceptable. Girls love it. Wife goes in to make hot chocolate. Assumes all will be fine. Coziness will prevail.  

10:00 am
All going well. Wife dozes off thinking of the hour she will spend reading to the children by the fire this afternoon and marveling at the sight of the quietly falling snow, the evergreen branches heavy with a million flakes, the beauty of the white world. Husband and Girls continue to play.

10:15 am
Husband decides sledding needs a little spicing up. Gets out golf cart. Ties multiple sleds behind it. Girls are timid but trust their father and board sleds.

10:20 am
Husband runs Girl into tree. Wife hears crying. Husband is trying to shush Girl so Wife won't hear. He is unsuccessful. Wife shoots extremely dirty looks at Husband as she assesses damage done to the child she bore. Tells Husband with her eyes that his life is in danger. Husband puts golf cart away.

10:30 am
All people remaining outside come in and bring All The Snow in with them. Towels laid out on which to put dirty boots are invisible. Mudroom becomes just that. Almost lose a child in the mountain of snow clothes.

10:45 am
Mom puts Snow Clothes Mountain in the drier so all the merriment can be repeated in afternoon. (It won't be revealed for another couple of hours, but the piece of junk second hand drier will melt the zippers on two snow suits. Wife will say inappropriate words under her breath.)  

11:00 am
Girls watch Netflix while Mom makes lunch. Husband wisely sets table without being asked. 

11:30 am
Lunch is met with only one complaint from child who likes her grilled cheese not grilled. Mom smiles obligingly and makes ungrilled grilled cheese. 

Games are brought out.

12:05 pm
Mom ends which-game-to-play brawl by picking Monopoly.

12:45 pm
Husband has hotels built on purple, red and yellow properties. Houses on Boardwalk and Park Place. Husband lectures about quitters. Wife shoots more dirty looks. She is getting good at it.

1:15 pm
Monopoly ends. All girls are crying. Mom grits teeth and suggests another foray into the snow.

1:45 pm
All are finally back in snow clothes. Repeat morning events except end outing when a Girl slips, hits head, and momentarily loses consciousness. Same Girl as in the Golf Cart Incident.

2:25 pm
More with the invisible towels.

2:30 pm
Mom sends everyone to different areas to read instead of the read-aloud of the entire Chronicles of Narnia to rapt children wrapped in quilts she had envisioned. Child who is just beginning to read complains. Mom tells her it's her own fault. Go practice.

2:45 pm
Husband asks Wife if she cares if he goes to see a movie. He needs some alone time. Wife calls lawyer. "Movie watching" is not considered abandonment.

3:30 pm
Reading time ends when children begin calling out for snacks and water, claiming starvation and severe dehydration.  

4:00 pm
Children settled with acceptable snacks (Halloween candy, dry Rice Krispies, and uncooked macaroni noodles) in front of the TV.  

4:05 pm
Rice Krispies bowl is tipped over. Weeping and gnashing of teeth. Mom checks phone app to see about the melting-of-the-snow timeline. The siren song of the Southern Snow has officially lost its sweetness.

4:30 pm
TV show ends. Mom suggests a plethora of fun activities: snowman building, snowball throwing, sledding, Clue, a puzzle. All are boring. Shopkins? Legos? Barbies? Also crap. Whining is the preferred activity. Is it too late for coffee? Too early for wine? 

5:00 pm
Husband arrives home. Wife shoots dirty look. Habit. 

5:10 pm
Husband takes children back outside to protect them from Wife. Promises no golf carts or donuts. 

6:00 pm
Darkness falls. Family trickles in. Wife has not bothered with towels for wet boots. Wood floors are warping before her eyes as All The Snow melts into the cracks. Wife tells Husband to take Girls to bathtub. More dirty looks exchanged as she picks up Snow Clothes Mountain for the third time. 

6:30 pm
Wife serves supper. Leftovers. One hamburger, weird smelling lobster bisque, a couple of blueberry pancakes, a hard boiled egg, possibly fermented apple juice, and popcorn. Apparently the $500 shopping trip yielded nothing for an actual meal. 

7:00 pm
Dishes done. Enough time for one more game. Everyone agrees on dominoes. It's a snow day miracle. 

7:15 pm
One Girl accuses another Girl of drawing extra dots on her dominoes. Words like "poop-head" are tossed around. Dominoes are weaponized. Game over.

7:30 pm
Prayers in the bedroom. Lots of "please make it snow some more." Mom is desperately praying silent prayers of her own. 

8:00 pm
Girls are tucked in. All is calm.

8:01 pm
Fresh snowflakes are spotted. Girls and Husband are beside themselves. Another day of winter fun. 

8:02 pm
Wife is pricing flights to Cabo.

Grace for snowdays and all days,

Friday, February 5, 2016

For The Cost of a Cell Phone

In my last post I explained how I am going to write here on behalf of Compassion International once or twice a month, using my blog to make more people aware of all the ways Compassion serves worldwide and ways all of us can plug in. 

Today I want share how we first became acquainted with Compassion.

And today I will introduce Brayan

Way back in 2005, BC (before children, as that always means here) our church hosted "Compassion Sunday." This is a day where someone in the church shares about his experience with Compassion. Afterwards congregants are given the opportunity to pick up a sponsor packet containing information about children still waiting for sponsors. (Your church can host one - click here for more information)

Preston and I had just gotten cell phones, (for emergencies only - this is waaaaaay back) and I distinctly remember when the speaker said, "For the cost of your cell phone bill, you can change a child's life." He was dead on. Sponsorship was $36, and our cell phone bill was $35. 

After the service we went and perused the sponsor packets looking for a child, specifically a boy, with a birth date that would closely match one of our nephews' birthdays. We saw this doll-baby, only two months older than our oldest nephew:

Oh, my word! That darling face! I wanted to
 kiss his cheeks all over! Preston thought he 
looked like he might be up to something...

So on October 12, 2005 we were invited into this little man's life. 

We sent a letter and picture introducing ourselves to Brayan. (Probably said something like, "We are wild and free! We go see 9:00 pm movies without a thought about how exhausted we will be the next day!" Today our letters are more like, "Went to bed at 7:30 last night. Pretty impressed I'm able to write this letter and put two coherent thoughts together.") Very soon we received a letter back, written by his tutor at the Compassion center, with a drawing attached:

How much do I love this?? Preston's beard! Brayan nailed it!And my hair is still big like that, although with a lot more gray.

We have continued sending letters back and forth, transitioning from receiving updates written by his tutor to Brayan writing his own letters in his careful, new-to-this-whole-writing-thing-so-two-sentences-is-all-I-can-do-because-that-took-me-87-hours handwriting. 

We watched his drawings and paintings and handwriting improve. Then the scribbled drawings dropped off, and now he has begun writing about his future. Somewhere along the way our girls became a part of the letter writing process and send their own drawings and notes to him.

Over the course of almost eleven years we have been privileged, privileged, to watch this precious child of God grow from this adorable little peanut-baby...

to this handsome young man:

It has been such a joy to be involved in his life this past decade. To watch him grow. To hear of his successes and struggles. To be in his life.

To be allowed to enter into someone else's life is always a privilege. 

It takes courage to go to the Compassion Center. It takes courage to tell someone of your hardships. It takes courage to share prayer requests for your deepest struggles. It takes courage to let someone in. We consider ourselves blessed to be connected to this young man. 

And isn't it amazing how it is prayer that connects us? I pray for Brayan throughout each day. I pull his picture up on my phone when I'm waiting in line, or avoiding cleaning, or cooking supper, to remind myself to talk to Our Father about him. 

Brayan's willingness to let us into his life is drawing me closer to the Lord

The girls pray for him every time they pray aloud: on the way to school, at meals, and at bedtime. They pray his needs will be met, that God will protect him, that he has a warm enough blanket, that he is safe. They are supernaturally connected to this boy through prayer

And we get to share prayer requests with him, and he assures us that he prays for us every single day. That overwhelms me to think there is a boy over 3000 miles away from us who prays for us by name every day. Who cares about us, who always sends us his love.

When I say he has blessed us, I really mean it. 

I really, really, mean it. 

I'm praying for you as you possibly consider clicking that link over there on the left that will take you directly to a child who is waiting to be sponsored, as you consider clicking on one of the multiple places you can click to share this to your social media page, as you look over the Compassion website and find ways to help even if sponsoring isn't an option for you right now. 

What a great way to spend $38 a month. I don't know what your budget is, or what you could rearrange to scrounge up that money, but I can assure you that by doing so you will change the life of a child

And yours will change, too.

Grace to you and to all the waiting babies,

Come, Lord Jesus!


P.S. Next Compassion post I will introduce you to Dubencia. She's got a great story. Follow along so you don't miss it.