Saturday, December 14, 2019

You Do a Really Good Job with That

Even if they’re grown, it’s not too late. 
No one ever outgrows the need for a parent’s encouragement or affirmation. 

On the phone with my dad for a few minutes this morning, I remarked on the learning curve that comes with working four days a week, that spending time with people on walks and over coffee has gone to the wayside. And while I feel confident that this job was the right move for right now, it's a whole new balancing act. My dad’s quick response came, “Ton, you do a really good job with that.” 

I can hardly recall a conversation with my dad during my adult years without that phrase. And I think he really believes it. This morning as his words filtered through the phone and into my brain, that burden pressing on my shoulders, the shame trying to kick in, lifted a little.

I’m hearing his voice again now, hours later, after a quick walk to reset my mind a bit and face the next set of tasks and responsibilities. 
“Ton, you do a really good job with that.”

I’m sure he said that to me growing up. I actually don’t remember exactly. I have always felt dad’s approval. I have never carried a burden of wondering what he’ll think about me or my friends. And like most everyone, I had both solid and a few derelict friends through high school. But I always felt dad’s trust and acceptance, and he and my mom both seemed to especially lean into those kids who may have needed an extra bit of attention and kindness. 

We are about to close another era with another child leaving our house next summer. Hudson is already 18 and will soon soar away to a yet-decided upon college campus. So many things to reflect upon and consider during this senior year - does he know his way around the kitchen? Will he ever sleep? Is he prepared academically and socially for being away from home? Is he prepared spiritually to keep his faith? And at the very, very top of the list - perhaps the only question that truly needs to be answered - does he know he is fully loved?

Everything else falls under that. 
And I ask the same for my middle schooler, high schooler, and college kiddo, do they know they are fully loved? 

What’s so interesting about my dad’s comment to me this morning, is that I needed it at 47 years old. 
“Ton, you do a really good job with that.”
I needed it at 19 when in my first year of college I felt lonely and rejected.
I needed it at 22 when Corbin proposed, and Dad approved (was thrilled with) my choice in a husband. 
I needed it at 27 when I quit work to stay home and we welcomed our first baby. 
I needed it at 33 when our FOURTH baby was born and I already felt overwhelmed with caring for three littles. 
I needed it through my late 30s and early 40s with all those teens and tweens in our home. 
And I needed to hear it this morning. 

There are so many things I don’t do well. I’m still getting to apologize to my kids for my reactions to them. I am asking forgiveness of heart friends. I’m not great at getting dinner on the table consistently, and I’m terrible with keeping our family (and myself) on a budget. And I’ve felt hurt and disappointment and rejection from the waves that life crashes down. 
But in all of that, I can hear dad’s voice, 
“Ton you do a really good job with that.”

It’s not just during our childhoods when we need our parents’ encouragement. As our kids are navigating college and work and singleness, when they’re choosing careers and choosing spouses, when they’re working out their (messy) faith journeys, they need our sincere belief in them. They need to hear that we’re proud of them. 

And for those who may not have children, young or grown, a kind word from an older friend or stranger can do wonders in helping someone keep on keeping on. No one outgrows needing encouragement. 

Thanks, Dad. 
You do a really good job with that. 

Dad's 70th a couple of years ago, with 4 grown kiddos and 17 grands all touched by Cappy and Daboo's consistent encouragement

Monday, June 10, 2019

Practicing Gratitude 6.10.19

- Praise God Summer is HERE

- Texas cool front this morn - low 80s - so refreshing

- Kids all tucked away in amazing places - Bran in Victoria, Hud at Sky Ranch CO, and Basden at Frontier - so very grateful for these incredible opportunities for them

- Looking ahead to a relatively quiet week at home...

- Watching super regional games ALL DAY yesterday on the back patio with Corbin, definition of Sabbath

- Coming off of such a difficult winter and spring for multiple reasons, summer right this minute feels lighter. Getting out of bed with a spring in my step and my heart feels light. Doesn't have to be this way but I am not taking that for granted

- Corbin's landscaping work - and Juan (!)

- Nick Mo taking his crew across the Pacific to Frontier Ranch - for anyone who desires an eternal investment in their extra pennies send them to YL Kauai

- Con and Hil, Noah and Nixon here last week, miss them already

Connor's extra big smile just for Bran
- Couple of hours on mom and dad's back porch, just the three of us. At 46 I have not outgrown needing my parents

- Annie Downs (in particular her podcast) - goodness she's a hard worker and a breath of fresh air

- Victoria Harbourcats! Coach Todd Haney and Coach Ian Sanderson and all the coaching staff, the Kent host family, such an incredible opportunity for Bran to spend the summer there  playing ball

- Hud looking into a summer of adventure full of camps and incredible opportunities. First summer in 10+ years not to play summer baseball and he's taking full advantage of it, so thankful he gets to breathe a little with school out (and my two hours alone with him in the car last Sun taking him to Van)
so proud of him, so grateful he gets two weeks at camp

- Heather following Basden's bus into Frontier from BV, and then taking a welcome video for me - too much. I am just dying she gets the week there, thank you for welcoming her sweet Heather!

Basden with Heather and Taylor - I met both Heather and Taylor's mom (Whitney Wilson/Jones) at Frontier in 1989
- Chrissie's hair-brained ideas (!!)

- Our Spare Change for graduation gifts (and ultimately, Hillary and Danielle's commitment to hard work and taking risks)

- Now this is a FIRST for our fam - Paschal Cheerleading!

- This birthday girl, she is pretty incredible

- The one and only Zach Shaw, and that he's here again to work with HSM this summer

-  God's daily provision of grace and wisdom. We are taking one day at a time with multiple decisions for our kiddos and family and even for myself, but He keeps giving us what we need each day. I've stopped asking for bigger picture, He knows what we need and when we need it. And He keeps showing up generously

“I wish your care was always easy, predictable, safe, a cool drink, a soft pillow, but you are too wise and loving, too committed to your work of transforming grace. So your gracious care comes to me in uncomfortable forms: the redeeming care of disappointment, the unexpected trial, suffering, loss. These things don’t tell me you’re cold hearted and absent, uninvolved. No, each is a sign of your zealous grace. You care enough to break my bones in order to capture my heart." - Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies

- That through all of this, the really good and really hard, Corbin lives with me in an understanding way

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles...   1 Chronicles 16:11-12

Monday, April 8, 2019

Go in the Strength You Have
"Mom, Gabe was at school today. He called an 8th grader on stage and she started sobbing, and all of her friends started sobbing, and I was in my seat sobbing!"

Whoa, what?!

"Mom, you know Gabe, that speaker, we had an assembly with all girls today. He had this 8th grader come on stage and asked her to say "fact" or "opinion." So Gabe would say, "the sky is blue" and she answered "fact." After several of those, he said, "You are beautiful," and she laughed and said, "opinion!" And then he said, "You are talented," and she said, "opinion." He said, "You are smart," and she got real quiet and said, "opinion." And then he looked at her and repeated those three things and before he even said, "All of those are facts," she just lost it. And then her friends went up and all hugged her, everyone was crying."

Gabe = Gabe Salazar. A nationally-known motivational speaker for middle school and high school students. And evidently because he has spoken at their school for several years now, Esther feels like she is on a first-name basis with him

I came home and looked through Salazar's website. I felt a profound gratitude for this man who is working and offering his life to be used by God in public schools and secular environments to encourage and build up teens. What more could we parents ask for, what more do we need than people to come alongside our kiddos, sharing truth and pointing them to make smart choices?

I asked Esther in the car that day, "Do you think Gabe is a Believer?" She responded, "I don't know, he doesn't talk about God at school, but I can tell you God is talking through him."

Earlier that very morning I had been impressed by Paul Tripp's description of Gideon in Judges 6.

As the Biblical account opens, because of Israel's disobedience to God, they've spent seven years oppressed by their neighbors, the Midianites. Israel lost their homes, their crops and their livestock as Midianites invaded Israel's land to ravage it. Finally, finally, Israel cried out to God for help.

We find Gideon on a normal day, engaged with a normal chore, beating wheat in a winepress. He's at the winepress, not out in the open, because like the rest of the Israelites, he's hiding from enemies. He likely felt fearful, probably discouraged, and possibly even angry of having to be constantly aware of attackers who might steal and ruin all his family owned.

Little did Gideon know that God had already sent his angel who happened to be sitting nearby under  an oak tree. Scripture says that the angel of the Lord approached Gideon (in his shame and fear), and says two very important things: "The Lord is with you, Mighty Warrior."

I imagine in that moment Gideon did not feel like a Mighty Warrior.

Even before the angel instructed him to lead Israel in an important battle, Gideon starts whining:
"But sir! If this Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?" Gideon complains that the God of wonders his fathers described is not the God he's seen evidence of in Israel. I love this - the Angel then replies to Gideon, "Am I not sending you? Go in the strength you have."

God calls Gideon in the midst of his weakness, his fear, his discouragement and names him a Mighty Warrior - not because of Gideon's natural strength and courage, but because of what Gideon will be able to do in the power that God will give him.

You may be familiar with the rest of the story, that Gideon started out with 32,000 men in his army but at the Lord's command pared it down (those who trembled, those who lapped water), ultimately defeating those Midianites with only 300 men. A few hundred instead of tens of thousands - so that the power of the Lord would be shown. All under the leadership of a discouraged, scared man who claimed that he was the weakest family member from the weakest clan.

According to Tripp,  Gideon essentially says that God has the wrong address, the wrong man:
Gideon both misunderstands who he is and who God is. If you forget who God is in his power, glory and grace, and you forget who you are as a child in his family, you will always mismeasure your potential to do what God has called you to do. You will measure your capability based on your natural gifts and on the size of the task God has called you to face. Thankfully, since God is with you, you have been blessed with wisdom and power beyond your own that give you potential you would not have on your own. (March 19, New Morning Mercies)
The best news - while Gideon's call to leadership is a powerful message from thousands of years ago, God still does this today! He sees his children when they feel broken, incapable, exhausted, discouraged. And then he shows up on a normal day, during a normal chore, and calls us out to a new life, new purpose, new vision. This ability to take on God's purpose, as with Gideon, is never measured on our natural potential and even experience, but on God's solid, sure, immeasurable power.

In my opinion, Gabe Salazar is a modern-day Gideon. Watch his six-minute "I am Second" video, where he describes God plucking him out of hopelessness. Born to a teen mother, abandoned by his father, he felt like his birth was an accident. This once-broken kid now travels the country - and world - encouraging kids that they have a purpose and can make great choices. And best - he carries this weighty message with humor and a light heart.

My mindset these past few months represent pre-angel Gideon. In the face of discouragement and disappointment, the reminder of Gideon stopped me in my tracks that my measuring stick has been my own strength and courage. And for my loved ones who are muddling through hard things, I've been measuring the future by their strength, their courage.

God, give us the grace to be done with that! You call us Mighty Warriors, and You are with us.

Go in the strength you have.

I can do that. You can do that.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Happy 70th to our Silver Sneaker Superwoman

Mom's retirement party - and 4 of her soon-to-be 17 reasons for retirement
Some of y'all know this, but my mom can do anything.
Just ask Trey's wife, Amy.
James Girls weekend last fall
And with Mom's marker 70th birthday this week, I'm attempting to frame a few of this "silver sneaker superwoman's" superpowers:

- She can design and grow amazing gardens
- explain the rules to little league umpires
- reupholster a sofa and create a slipcover for a loveseat - all from scrap fabric
- provide award-winning trashy Christmas costumes
- keep both their lake property (with several acres) and her home lawn (over an acre) mowed
- imagine and sew intricate school and Halloween costumes when strapped for both time and money - for her own kids and her grandkids (praise God) - we still have friends raiding our costume closet each October
- volunteer to teach Tanglewood science lab with me - and actually enjoy it
- write and direct Easter plays AND set design, complete with a rocky tomb and soldier swords and a feathery angel
- she shows up to baseball and volleyball tournaments having already read the tournament rules and checked out the brackets
...and the woman can BOWL. She and Mama took Basden and Essie bowling recently, and they were all flabbergasted with her BOWLING SKILLS. Evidently Mom took a bowling class in college.
I'm telling you, she's a grandma who can do anything.

homemade donuts - complete with decorated paper bags for shaking in powder sugar

Besides all the things she's good at, she's got some wisdom.

A few things I've learned from my mom:
- You don’t have to have everything perfectly planned and scheduled to host 25 people for the week, sometimes over-planning backfires and makes everybody crazy
- When searching for a baseball field upon arriving at an unfamiliar athletic campus - look for the lights
- Every child needs to learn delayed gratification
- Borrowing money is to be avoided at all costs
- Invest money and time into landscaping / gardening your back yard more than the front - who cares about impressing neighbors, enjoy the private space your family gets to relax in
 - Reproofs are more effective when few and further between. One morning when I was in the 7th grade she told me my eyeliner too dark. I didn't do it again
- You'd be a fool not to pick up a penny in the parkinglot
- Don't let worry steal an ounce of your time and energy
- It builds character (and saves $$) to wear the Fox shirt instead of the Izod
- But sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes you need the Izod. To her credit, Mom knew when to buckle and let me buy a pair of Guess Jeans. My middle school insecurities warranted a designer tag, but even then she allowed me to buy them used and with my own money
- A movie is only worth watching with a tub of buttery popcorn
 - Always keep learning. Mom recently mentioned that the oldest tree in Texas is just minutes from her house. I asked how she knew that and turns out she subscribes to a monthly Texas newsletter, from which she saves clippings and further researches the articles
- Let things go and keep the big picture in mind. As teenagers instead of nagging us to keep tidy rooms, she just closed our bedroom doors
- Don't be afraid of hard work
- Hospitality, when casual and relaxed, is more restful for everyone
- Be the first to take the broken piece of candy.

Happy 70th Mom, the most amazing Silver Sneaker Superwoman. You're a gem, and your worth is far more than rubies.

You have no need to keep up with Joneses, you have a strong and sturdy heart. Any ministry to college and high school students that Corbin and I have gotten to be a part over the last 20 years
has been backed up by your and dad's ministry to us - babysitting, making yourselves available at any moment, and of course all that money we saved on babysitters and drivers!
You are resourceful, you're not even slightly impressed with others’ material wealth, you're turned off by carnal living.

In the words of King Lemuel:
Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised.

A few years ago our family gathered in Somerset, Texas. Trey, Chris and Luke were there with their families, and we spent some time walking through Granny and Pappy's ranch and barn, Cappy telling stories with all the grandkids running about, most of them experiencing their South Texas heritage for the first time. At one point our conversation turned to death and funerals and my dad stated that he wanted to be cremated, his ashes scattered from the sky over some meaningful landmarks. Mom piped in, "Yeah, I want to be cremated too. But instead of scattering my ashes, just take me in an urn from stands to stands."

Mom, so grateful you are WITH US in the stands, NOT in an urn (!), and cheering all of us on in your unique way. We love you and are so very grateful for you! 

one of my fav pics of mom - on the ULL t-ball field watching Essie's baseball team, but peering through a hole in the fence watching Bran on the major field

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night will keep them home