May 30, 2011

A lesson from a stranger

I didn’t know her name. I had seen her around the auditorium during the morning session and now she was sitting a few chairs away from me among the other moms in the smaller room of the afternoon break-out session. She was quiet, reserved, almost imperceptible. I didn’t even know she noticed me. Our eyes had not met, we had not exchanged smiles, nods, or knowing glances. We were two strangers in a room full of women. The only thing we seemingly had in common was our choice of education for our children and our desire to learn more about the process.
I raised my hand to ask a question of the panel of experienced homeschooling moms sitting at the front of the room. I had seen the prices of the materials needed to get started, I knew how much money it may cost to get going, how much we may have to invest up front.
Money is always my faith’s weak spot.
I worry. I have been taken care of time after time, yet I worry. I have seen miracles happen in our life, but I worry. I know and worship the owner of the cattle of a thousand hills. Still I worry. Worry so much that, even though I knew God’s direction and leading, I was second-guessing. This is a good bit of money. Yes, it s an initial investment, but it is not small change. Lord, I believe but help my unbelief…again.
So I raised my hand. “Money is tight”, received many nods and murmurs of agreement. “So I want to know from you, experienced home educators in this program, what are the bare minimum materials I need to get my two little ones started next fall”. More audible agreement. A list of basics was given. I took notes. Opened the catalog. Did the math. Worried some more. Forgot to pray. Just fretted. We took a break and I called Matt. Do what you think it’s necessary, he said. He is obedient and much more faith-full.
A few minutes later I was back in my seat, convincing myself that at the end of the session I would bite the bullet, go down to the bookstore, and write the check. I would walk out with the bag of materials. My head was sure. My heart was holding on to doubt. I felt a tap on my shoulder and a bag was placed on my lap. “This is for you.” She walked away and sat back down. In the bag was the whole list. Paid for.
I sat in my chair unable to move or concentrate, misty-eyed, waiting for the long hour left to be over so I could go up to the woman with the red hair and wrap her in my arms. “Did you do this? Thank you…” What else could I say? I let my tears say the rest.  
 I was embarrassed. I had not spoken of money for this purpose. I never imagined but I guess I should know better. God hears beyond my words right into the source of the fear from where they come. He always does.
And I was humbled.
To be the recipient of such grace and compassion, to such obedience and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit was just overwhelming. She heard me say money was tight. And she heard God say do something about it. So she did. Just like that. For a stranger.
We had more in common than I had known. We were sisters with a common Father.
And I heard God loud and clear. The fact is we could front it. We could afford it. He has been that faithful but I’m just that ungrateful. He had a gentle lesson for me that afternoon and it took a stranger with a heart tuned to his to teach it to me:
You worry about money. You worry about everything. Have I ever failed you? I never will. Here, child, what is keeping you from trusting me it’s taken care of. Now obey my will and worry no more.   

May 28, 2011

On forgetting...

Linking up today with The Gypsy Mama's Five Minute Friday (although a little late!)
Is love stronger than oblivion? Does love transcend disease and pain?
My grandfather died four years ago this summer. For the last several years before he died he suffered from Alzheimer’s. He was a career military man, proud and strong. I had not seen him in four years when I traveled to Ecuador two years before he died. I am glad I was able to see him one last time, but I don’t know if he truly knew who I was. He was frail and he was confused and he was a shadow of the man I remembered who taught me history, math, and geography as we walked down the street day after day. But the one person he never forgot, the one whose name he never mixed up, and the one he recognized until the very end was my grandmother. They were married over 50 years and until the day he died she was his sweetheart and that…he never forgot.

May 26, 2011

The Coach

This post was inspired by my friend Jennifer’s post who reminded me to give credit, where credit is due.
A few minutes before the game I helped her put on her mustard-yellow shirt with the eight on the back. She slipped on the black shorts and we talked about the moment the whistle would blow. I pulled back her hair while we discussed how to behave if a teammate accidentally kicked her. I secured her shin-guards and we chatted about water-breaks and the snack she would have after the game. I tied her cleats reminding her that the point is to have fun. We got in the van, all four of us, cheering as we went, excitement building, talking about kicking balls, running with the team, enjoying the first game of the season.
The team had practiced twice before this game and they were stoked as only five-year olds can be. My daughter, the lone girl in a team of boys, was ready for her debut. She would run, she would kick, she would have a blast, she said. The whistle blew and the game started. Immediately a mob of kids quickly found the hot pink ball and clustered around it, following it with little regard for the assigned goals or the different colors of their jerseys. They all just wanted a chance to make contact. Legs were intertwined, little arms flew everywhere, giggles were heard.
Except from the little girl in the mustard shirt with the number eight on the back.
She remained next to her coach, at the edge of the field, overwhelmed by the exhilaration of the other children. She grabbed his hand and would not let go.
What’s a coach to do in such a moment? Should he shake the little hand off and gently push the child forward to play? Maybe. Should he become annoyed and tell her harshly to get playing and quit being such a baby? Some would. Should he let go of her hand, leave her standing on her own and go coach the rest of the team? Possibly.
But this gentle man, this giant of a coach, did what any good father would have done. He held my little girl’s hand throughout the whole game and he chased the ball with her, followed the other kids with her, and still had her hand in his when the final whistle blew.
At one point they ran by us and I heard a snippet of their conversation. She was telling him about the boo-boo she had on her leg. He was listening seemingly enraptured by the misadventures of this five-year old.  At the end of the game I thanked him for his kindness and he told me he had one just like her at home. I hope he knows that day he made a fan of a little girl and her mother.
Isabel played four more games after that one. She went on to cluster behind that ball right along with the other children. She kicked many balls, ate many snacks with her team, giggled loudly, and received a trophy when the season was over.

Never again did she need to hold Coach G’s hand through a game. But her coach’s compassion, his infinite patience, his insight into the heart of a scared little girl built in her a confidence and a strength that carried her through that first terrifying game and brought her back for more week after week. It was a simple gesture and it was all it took. She loved the experience, loved the game, loved the coach and she asked me yesterday if she could go back in the fall.

I pray every coach she encounters takes his or her influence in these young hearts as seriously and carefully as this wonderful man does and they teach her more about life than just the skills of the sport.

May 10, 2011

The shortest distance...

I don’t remember what the fight was about. I don’t remember when it started or how it escalated. I don't remember who was to blame. All I remember is the distance.
We were in the same room. Within a few feet of each other, really. But the distance between us was as great as a canyon. It seemed completely insurmountable.
How did we get there? How did we allow such negative space to come between us and how were we supposed to find a bridge to cross it back to the unity and intimacy we had known but a few hours ago?
Harsh words, hurtful accusations, old wounds re-opened had created such a chasm between us that we didn’t know how to find our way back. Thoughts of giving-up, of walking away, of not looking back seemed to come so much more easily than trying to find the shortest distance between us to reach out, grab a hand and jump back to standing on the other side together.
He looked at me. There was deep intent in his eyes. Slowly he began to cross the room. Hesitantly at first, bolder with each step. He reached my side. Took my face between his hands and tightened the grip when I tried to look away, still too angry to let it go.
I’m sorry,” he said.
Words so simple. And so powerful. Words that built a bridge. The shortest distance found
My heart dropped the ice that was surrounding it and the connection was built.
No longer far away, we embraced and began the process of healing with words, touch, and understanding.