Safe Here Under this Pier

  
A storm is coming in

I can see it in the waves and the wind

Some miles off in the sky

The gray-dark and the why

Lightening to my left, aways out

Thunder in my ears, it shouts

High alert

Beach hazard

But I am safe here

Under this pier

Against a log leaned back

Pen, page, Bible in my pack

I feel a promised peace

A reassurance speaks

You are my Shelter and Shade

My Refuge and Hiding Place

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Jesus on a Snowboard

A few days ago, on Christmas Eve day, I sat in the Mt. Spokane ski lodge instead of cleaning my bathrooms at home. It was only a few hours before my extended family arrived. I still needed to clean, wrap, bake, decorate.

But it was opening day on the mountain. After weeks of waiting to use his very first ever season pass, Mt. Spokane finally had enough snow to open. Lucas was geared up and ready–not begging me like a spoiled child, but expectant like an innocent puppy. The kid who I’ve had to drag to sports practices over the years–the one who frequently or (in)conveniently forgets pieces of important sports gear–was all perfectly packed with every crazy piece of gear that snowboarding requires. So I caved.

As we climbed higher up the slippery two-lane road in my dirty minivan, the joy I saw on my Lucas’ face was so worth all the things I left behind.

When we arrived on top, we were one of the first cars in the parking lot. We settled on a meeting place, and I quietly pulled him aside, “Lucas, can I pray for you like I pray for Ryan before his basketball games?” A slow smile spread across his face, like he got it. He nodded and said, “Ok”. So I grabbed his hand and prayed in his ear, “Lord, be right next to Lucas as he does what he loves. Keep his body healthy and injury-free. Help him make connections with others as he is up there on that hill.” We finished. He grinned and said, “Thanks, mom.” And then he headed out into the clouds.

As Lucas turned to wave at me, I had this picture of gnarly Jesus walking right next to him, all-geared up, carrying his own board, turning back to throw me a hang-loose sign and stick out his tongue in joy.

It may be a pretty irreverent way to see Jesus, but still…I believe He loves being right next to us as we do the things we love.

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Basketball’s First Week

In Washington State, it is the first week of the new high school basketball season. So many fresh opportunities to be had. So much promise ahead.

At the end of last season, I wrote a tribute to that team. You can find it here:  http://purplepraise.com/2014/03/08/a-tribute-to-the-2013-2014-team

For a coach’s wife, there are two points in a season which feel bittersweet: the beginning and the end. At the start of each season, I lose my husband but I gain a new team for which to cheer and watch grow. At the end of each season, I regain my husband but must also say farewell to an all-grown-up team only to watch them scatter.

This past Sunday night was full of preparation on all fronts. Practice plans written (husband), power bars purchased (me), and new shoes packed (son). My son remarked with all sincerity, “Wow, basketball bags are much lighter than football bags!” The football gear has been packed away and returned–the shoulder pads, helmet, cleats, girdle, under armor, formerly white pants-never-to-be-truly-clean-again.  That chapter closed and we have turned the page. On to a lighter bag- basketball shoes, shorts, ball, empty water bottle.

It’s now Thursday. Already, we’ve had a freshman guard break his wrist. A senior has decided he may not play after all (these are always tough decisions which I very much respect). Today is the day the team assignments are announced. Last night was the parent info meeting. And the team dinner scheduling. My husband is wiped out, and losing his voice. My sophomore son is worried because he feels rusty.

Still, there is plenty of promise ahead.

And promises to keep.
And miles to go before we sleep.
And miles to go before we sleep.
(Robert Frost paraphrase)

This group of boys is now in high school. The miles fly.
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To Those Who Make a Difference

In all those little ways, we each make a difference.  It’s beautiful to me.  It’s beautiful that the little things are really the big things.  What action or word you might deem as so tiny, even inconsequential, could very well start a firestorm inside me, or someone else.

Early this past spring, my son’s teacher, Dan Ferguson, made it a point to pull my son aside for a quiet conversation (which does not happen easily in the freshman hallway!).  Ryan was closing out his freshman year of basketball, a successful one—one that had seen the realization of some inner dreams since he was a small boy.  He was feeling pretty good about himself.

Mr. Ferguson took a few intentional moments to speak truth and encouragement into Ryan.  In short, he told Ryan that he needed to play an additional sport besides basketball because other teams needed his leadership and strength of character on the team.  Mr. Ferguson saw that even though basketball is Ryan’s first love, playing another sport would make Ryan stronger in both mind and body.

Ryan seriously considered the words, and took them to heart.  He came home that night and talked with Ray and I.  We fully agreed.  He contemplated spring baseball, but realized that it would interfere with his spring and summer AAU basketball travel team.  So instead, he decided he would commit to the football team–and the spring workouts, and the summer camp, and the weight training that precede the fall season.

Every mom knows her kid best.  And I know that Ryan is an inner perfectionist.  It’s tough for perfectionists to try something new because it means that failure is an option, a possibility.  Perfectionism is a funny thing.  He’s given hours of effort and practice to becoming better at basketball, which he is already pretty good at.  But to try something new, one that could bring failure, that is a whole other thing.  Ultimately, I believe Mr. Ferguson understood this need for Ryan to get out of his comfort zone and exert risk.  What a great life lesson, one that came through a few moments of Mr. Ferguson’s intentional time.

Last night, we celebrated the end of the football season with our team awards night.  Mr. Ferguson ended up being one of Ryan’s football coaches, one that taught him how to become a wide receiver this season.  During the awards time, when he spoke about Ryan, he briefly shared the memory of their early spring conversation.  It reminded me of how important those moments were.  I glanced down the row of the other football coaches, and I was reminded of individual conversations or words of encouragement that they have also had for Ryan this season.  Those small moments were actually really big. Those small moments have counted in Ryan’s life.

The team didn’t win very many games. It’s only the second year that our school, Northwest Christian, has even had a football team. We’re building.  We’re struggling.  But the coaches built an impressive brotherhood, one that loved each other and grew tremendously this season.  They did that, and will continue to do that, through small moments.  It’s a good picture for all of us.

Oh! And they did win an Academic State Championship for the best cumulative grades for any football team at our level. 😄

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Ryan is on the right, wearing his favorite Gonzaga basketball “short shorts” t-shirt.

Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey

Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey.  I haven’t read it yet, but I am looking forward to it.

I am beginning to believe the Christian community is undergoing another reformation of sorts.  The institutional church is being shaken.  The title “Evangelical” is dirty.  The beautiful word “gospel” has been usurped by those who use it to wield power.  In so many ways, we Christians have failed miserably to be dispensers of God’s grace.  To those who have been hurt by the church or by me, I’m so sorry.

In his talk posted here, Philip Yancey says that we are undergoing a crisis of a grace gap and he wondered why. He explains, “when I don’t know something, I write a book about it” because he then can investigate.  In his questioning, he found that there are still people who are dispensers of God’s grace.  He split them into three categories: 1) activists, 2) artists, and 3) pilgrims.  I want to be one of these people.  God’s grace is good news!

Please watch!

The Year we Let Lucas Give up Basketball and Football to go Hunting (or Letting go of your Expectations for your Child)

Maybe when I am old, I will look back on the year 2014 as the year I realized that my Lucas is his own man.  He’s such an amazing kid.  I adore him.  But dang, it hasn’t been easy.

Here is Lucas.  A week ago, he scored his first buck.

lucas deer

Allow me to give a little background: My husband is a high school basketball coach.  His love language is sports.  His identity is tied to sports.  He believes that athletics shape a kid and character, and I agree.  Over the years, it’s been rewarding to watch young boys become men through the challenges and joys that come through basketball.

However, I’m pretty sure that we’ve unknowingly bought into this belief that athletics was the best way, or the only way, for a young boy to become a man.  And our middle boy, Lucas, suffered under that expectation. We’re changing our tune.

Lucas is athletic.  He’s super physical. My favorite football memory of him is when he carried the football down the field as one, then two, then three guys wrapped around him and hung on.  He lowered his head and dragged them for another 15 yards until the dog pile finally overtook him.  He got up with a grin and a little swagger.  That’s just Lucas.

But Lucas is a lot more than that. Sports are fun, but not important to him.  He’s got other dreams.  He’s a creative thinker, a totally out-of-the-box kind of guy.  His perspective is bigger than most somehow.  He draws witty cartoons and loves to create with iMovie.  He loves technology.  He’s a skater-boy, a little rebellious and attracted to the edge.  He thinks nothing of the bruises and scrapes that come from the risks he takes on his longboard or his BMX bike or snowboard.

He also forgets to turn in his schoolwork, and he’s a class clown, often throwing out a choice joke for a laugh at just the most inappropriate time.  Many a patient teacher he has had.

Last year, he begged to quit AAU basketball.  “What?!  If you give up AAU, you probably won’t play high school basketball,” we said.  Horrors!  AAU is what we do.  Is there any other way to spend our days than carting him across town for practices and games?  It may sound strange to those of you who have lives outside of youth sports.  But for those of us who have spent our last years completely bought-in and sold-out, making a final decision was a process for us.  And a fight.  Ray and I fought our own selves. And we fought Lucas.

In a situation like this, parents often feel like they should win.  The process was keen for Ray and I because we thought our side was best.  Our thinking was along the lines of, “if Lucas needs more character to be built in him, it will benefit him to get it from youth sports.”  In addition, we were also fighting with him over an addiction to technology, and it was difficult to separate the two battles.  Looking back now, it’s easy to see how messed up and short-sighted our thinking was.  But that’s where we were.  It took time and much conversation with Lucas, learning to listen to what his heart was saying to us.  At some point, the lightbulb finally lit–He’s 14 and he wants to try other things with his life.  We need to allow him to explore these things.  We need to allow him to be who he IS, not who we think he should be.

So we lost the fight over basketball. But we won a little of our son back.

I’m so proud of my husband in the midst of it.  He spent this summer reconnecting with Lucas.  They created a “Lucas-only” toolkit.  They purchased used skateboards and pieced parts out to create a custom board.  Ray found a used BMX trick bike for Lucas, and watched as Lucas perfected his tricks.

So it was a shocker to us when we encountered the next battle in late August, right as football season began. For a variety of reasons, Lucas’s 8th grade season was cancelled at the very last minute, leaving him without a team.  He had several options: 1) join his local public school team, 2) join a friend’s Pop Warner city team, or 3) join his private school’s high school team, where his sophomore brother and a few other 8th grade schoolmates/friends were.  In our small-school league, if there are 30 high school players or less, 8th graders are able to play JV.

Lucas chose none of the above.  It just so happened that the day he was making a decision was also the day that his body was being overtaken by a strep virus.  He was an emotional mess.  He couldn’t think straight.  He was scarily irrational.  He had night terrors.  The strep seemed to take his brain and shake it like a Coke can.  We witnessed the explosion.

So he missed the first practices as his body recovered.  After he was no longer contagious, he attended a couple practices.  On day 7, he had a sudden full-body rash reaction to the penicillin antibiotic.  It set him back again.  On day 10, he returned to practice and got taken down while carrying the ball.  Weirdly, his chin strap sliced into his chin and left a deep cut.  We were called immediately, and ended up at the Urgent Care for the 3rd time in 10 days.  He had 6 stitches.  And he was done with football.  He refused to go back.  His love for the game was gone.

Again, Ray and I were at a crossroads.  We tried for several days to force him back, thinking that it was a fear he needed to push through.  But he wouldn’t budge.  I pray that his stubbornness will someday serve him well, but in the meantime, it is crazy-hard to parent.

Two wise friends gave me counsel.  They encouraged us to empower him to make his own decision.  And ultimately, that is what we did.  We sat down with Lucas, left our emotion behind, and calmly told him several things.  First, we told him that we thought he should stick it out but that it was no longer our decision.  Rather, it was his, and we would support him in his final decision.  Second, we asked him to go through a process in his decision-making.  We asked him to meet with his youth pastor for outside counsel and wisdom.  We gave him several verses, not coercive ones, but ones of promise of direction and hope and wisdom.  We asked him to look them up, read them, and then spend some time talking personally to God about what was on his mind and heart.  Finally, we told them that if he quit, he would 1) need to meet with his coach to explain his decision and 2) let us know what activity he wanted to pursue instead.

He went through the process.  And quit.  But he told us that he wanted instead to go hunting this fall.  He also said that he wanted to go to youth group consistently, something that unfortunately often gets lost to the busy schedule of athletic practices and games.

Truly, I miss watching my Lucas play football.  But I’m so proud of him.

He spent the next week taking the online hunting certification class.  And then the next Saturday, he and Ray attended the 4-hour field course.  Had he played football, there would have been no extra time for this.

Both of his grandpas are hunters and they were thrilled.  Unfortunately, neither could hunt with him this year.  So Lucas’s 8th grade science teacher, Mr. Hansen, graciously and generously offered to take Ray and Lucas out.  I’m still so touched by that.  I’m also touched by Ray’s commitment to Lucas.  Ray does not like to hunt, but for Lucas’s sake, he attended the class, assembled the gear, and purchased the hunting tags.  That’s what a good daddy does to connect with his son.

On the third time out, they spotted a buck and quietly motioned for Lucas to take aim.  Lucas stealthily lifted his gun, sighted in, and shot.  His first shot entered at the shoulder and pierced the lung, killing the deer instantly.  It makes me sad to see such a beautiful creature lay limp.  And yet, with this one beautiful creature, Lucas will feed our family this winter.

We let go of our expectations.  He wins.  By doing so, our middle child was able to be his own man.  It is a loss I am happy to claim.

Pasture-land Abundance

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Words of Jesus:
I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved. He will live! He will come in and he will go out freely, and will find pasture and satisfaction, being filled with spiritual food and growth. The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance, to the full, until it overflows.
John 10:9-10, Amplified Version and a little of my own paraphrase

This is such good news.  For those who have not yet accepted Jesus, this is a beautiful promise and invitation. 

Lord, show me where I am unfree. Show me where I am bound by expectations and fear of man, of evil, of my own self. Show me where I have disengaged from the full and abundant life you have for me.