Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Practicing Gratitude 9.8.14

- Our neighborhood and neighbors. And that our front lawn often looks like this.

- "Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows, and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Eph 4:15-16

- Bran - funny boy. I drove a rental car for a week or so this summer while my car was in the shop. Even though I upgraded the size twice, it was still tiny. This text popped up on my phone on the way home from church, with Bran in the back seat right behind me.

- A visit from the Keisters! They stopped by on their way back to Amarillo from Baylor's first game in the new stadium. So even though we didn't get to attend the game, we got a detailed report. Cannot wait to take part at some point. But in the meantime, we absolutely love this family.

- Ready for soccer practice (!)

- Our Angel Fire cousins and Milka. We've known Milka longer than any of them.

- Ellie Holcomb! She is so darling, oh gosh - we all feel like we're her best friends. And I've not even met her. Her concert was just fabulous. 

- Thank you that even at 41, you’re teaching me that my value is not in what others think of me, but in what YOU think of me.

- Dad at a fly-in in Utah. His happy place. 
Dad's home-crafted pride and joy
And - if I'm ever wondering - yes, there are others like him.
- Bran's first Paschal game.
Game day
First play of first high school game, Bran #27
Personal cheering section ~ Shaun and Nickmo are the best
We've got a few players
Decisive win over South Hills, 54-0
- Specific, timely encouragement.

 - Heavenly Father, that while we only see the surface, you see and know all that’s going on behind the scenes. Your ability to “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us.”

- First ask to Homecoming. 

- As we see images of ISIS raising black flags all over Syria and Iraq ~ threatening to kill more American hostages and take over our country, this age-old Scripture brings me tremendous comfort:
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. He will raise a banner for the nations
 and gather the exiles of Israel;
 he will assemble the scattered people of Judah
 from the four quarters of the earth.  Isaiah 10:10-12
- Basden in her element getting to hold and meet new-born Blakely in Tulsa

- Essie and sweet friends ~ she's got such a great class (grade) of girls ~ a gift.

- First PHS Howdy dance
Somehow this fit with the neon theme?
- Essie's soccer team getting to play at halftime of the TCU women's soccer game
our little #3
Faithful fans
- Essie's first soccer game with the PANTHERS
Later that night, Essie asked, "Mom, are we gonna talk about my game now like you and dad always talk with Bran and Hud after their games?"
 - That because the Lord is patient with me, I can be patient with others. That because the Lord is kind to me, I can extend kindess to others. Even when it's not easy or my natural inclination. 

- Bran's first Young Life meeting (lots of firsts this week!) as a high school student. And - Nickomo, Nickmo, Nickmo. 
Love these two. Makes us even more thankful for Ward and Jen.

 - "I will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in Me." Isaiah 26:3

- "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

One Life

James Foley’s murder, Obama said, was “an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world."

Yesterday I refrained from calling Corbin at work - twice - when I felt truly nauseated with the news of Foley's death. I didn't know what to do with my shock, my grief. I'd never heard of James Foley before yesterday, had no idea the journalist had been surviving in a present-day-hell, kidnapped by Islamic militants in 2012. That this bright, courageous young American was killed in such a horrific manner, and then broadcast to all the world's unprepared viewers, is beyond what my mind can compute.

I also had no idea that western Africans were dying from Ebola, a disease I'd never heard of, until last month. But when Dr. Kent Brantley was diagnosed with Ebola on July 23rd, our family began praying. Esther scribbled "Dr. Brantley" on our kitchen dry erase board and we followed with ferver as he, along with nurse Nancy Writebol, were flown across the world from Liberia to Atlanta and cared for at Emory University. Dr. Brantly's home church is just a block south of Corbin's office here in Fort Worth, where for the last month or so the yard marquee simply asks, "Pray for Kent."

The girls and I watched Brantly's news conference this morning, and tears fell to my keyboard as Brantly - healthy and strong - praised God for His faithfulness and glory - through life or through death. We watched in fascination that through Brantly's solitary life and struggle, much of our country is now aware of the Ebola devastation in Liberia and west Africa. 

All of this on the heels of Corey Griffin, 27, who died in a Nantucket diving accident, hours after he raised $100,000 for a Lou Gehrig's disease charity in honor of his friend who inspired the ice-bucket challenge sensation. Now the challenge - which has exposed virtually everyone on Facebook or Instagram to ALS - has gone on to raise millions for this underfunded disease.

I'm touched this morning with the power of ONE life. One life sacrificed that in turn broadcasts the suffering of thousands or even millions - whether ALS or Ebola or persecution for one's faith or citizenship. 

After the horrific story about Foley broke yesterday, I woke multiple times last night, reaching for some sort of solace through praying for Foley's parents and family. I asked God to bless them with unsurpassed peace, knowing that their son's suffering and death were not in vain. Certainly, America is now more aware of this Isis terrorists crisis and made acutely aware of the Christians in recent weeks heavily persecuted, kidnapped, and killed. Foley's parents' response, as they are in deep need of hope and encouragement, is one that surprisingly encourages us - that their son's life was in God's hands, and that he is with now truly free and with the Lord.

What to do with these tragedies, these events that are beyond our comprehension? 
A reading of Isaiah 40 is a good start ~
Do you not know? Have you not heard? 
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. 
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 
He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak. 
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. 
They will soar on wings like eagles; 
they will run and not grow weary, 
they will walk and not be faint.
And then with the reality of God's true word, which is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, comes the reality of One Life given for all of us. A perfect, unblemished life sacrificed for you and me for all eternity. And in this crazy, upside-down world, that One Life makes all the difference.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mama's Open Hand

“Listen, if you need to go home, y’all go.”

That from Mama as Corbin and I were discussing the football coach’s text that popped up on Corbin's phone Saturday evening during dinner. Bottom line, he wanted Branson home for practice Monday morning.

We’d just arrived in Angel Fire that very afternoon, and our plan was to stay until Tuesday morning. Branson would miss the first two days of summer freshman football practice, but this was our “margin” - squeezing in two days in the mountains with family between Camp KUVU and football. I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt having Bran miss the first two days of practice. He’s played baseball all summer with practices and games nearly every day since the middle of May.

Baseball ended for us (both Bran and Hud’s teams) at the state tournament a couple of weeks ago, and five days later both boys were on the road to Durango for KIVU - a very, very welcome change of pace from our Fort Worth heat and routine.

So just a few hours after arriving in New Mexico, Corbin and I enjoyed a steak dinner with Mama and Papa at the Angel Fire Club while the kids relaxed at home with  pizza and a movie. That’s when Corbin received the coach’s text, explaining that according to UIL rules, if Branson missed even one practice, he wouldn’t be able to play in the first scrimmage next week.

We talked back and forth a bit, still thinking that Branson would just miss that scrimmage, when Jamie piped in her very generous response,
“If you all need to go home, then go. Absolutely do what you need to do.”

I looked across the table at her and said, “Mama, that is not what mother-in-loves are supposed to say.”

In an instant, without hesitation, she instinctively chose grace and sacrifice. With our unusually intense sports schedule the past couple of months, these were the only two days all summer she’d have our whole family there in the mountains. Mama’s generous response pained me, because I knew she wanted nothing more than those two days with us, especially once Cameron’s family returned the following day from a trip and we could all be together.

Once back at the house, Corbin ran the options past Branson, and he chose to return for practice. We supported him, and it broke the girls’ hearts to leave early. They shed tears over missing their two days of hiking and playing with cousins, and Bran realized his sacrifice of fly fishing in Cimmarron (Hudson got to stay for another couple of weeks as planned, lucky dog).

Right or wrong, it really doesn’t matter at this point. It’s about 11 pm as I type this, and we’ve still got three hours on 287 til home. Eight hours from now, Bran will be at the field house by 6:30 am. Without digressing into the pros and cons of summer sports schedules, I am most touched by Mama’s response, “If you need to go home, y’all go.”

Mama’s letting go makes me want to stay.
A brief lunch before we left for Texas

Exploring Mama and Papa's new property (Hud made a hasty exit on the 4-wheeler as we loaded up to leave)
Thank you, Mama (and Papa), for two decades of generous expectations with us. Since our wedding 18 years ago, you have given us tremendous grace and freedom.

Holding your hands open draws us closer.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Road to Sectionals

The road to Sectionals, that is, including both our boys' teams.
If you're looking for a place for your boy to play baseball, it doesn't get better than Fort Worth's University Little League.

And I would say that even if we didn't win District in ALL FIVE age groups (and really - six - with Major Softball's District win!). 

Last weekend was a banner weekend (pun intended) for ULL. Our Intermediate team has already gone on to Sectionals and the State Tournaments, but the rest of the teams are on the same schedule and are starting Sectional tournaments today.

I don't remember a sweep like this for University. Since our family has been a part of ULL, our teams have always been in competition for District, but I'm not aware of a year when all five teams won and moved onto Sectionals. Wowzers.

9-10 year old

10-11 year old

12 year old (Major)
Hudson's team
13 year old (Intermediate)

14 year old (Junior Ball)
Branson's team - our Intermediate and Junior Ball teams combined with Westside this year, forming "Fort Worth" teams
Branson is playing this year on the Junior Ball team. After winning District all three of their 10-12 years and advancing to State in 2012, the boys played a more relaxed schedule last year as 13 year olds, but the team decided again this year to go for a Little League World Series run.

For Hudson, who is forever playing in Branson's shadow, I had to remind him that just like his big brother's team, they made it to the District Championship game the past two years. The difference is, Bran's team won all three years, and Hud's team fell short the first two. Westside claimed the victory two years ago, and the Southwest Arlington last year.

This year our 12-year-olds started the season strong, winning the Jim Sundberg tournament (defeating Southwest Arlington before the District tournament even began. After a decisive win over North Arlington, a couple of days later Southwest Arlington crumpled our confidence by beating us 11-1 in an early District game.

Hudson and I sat at the kitchen counter the morning after that loss, looking at the week's daunting bracket. We looked at the games, realizing that we'd have to play - and win - Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then Friday beat Southwest Arlington, the beat them AGAIN Saturday (double-elimination tournament) for the Championship.


I asked Hudson how he was feeling about it. He looked at me with his eyebrows furrowed and said, "Mom, we're better than all those teams."

Well, ok.

And he was right:
- Monday v. Mineral Wells (28-1)
- Wednesday v. ASW (American) (9-0)
- Thursday v. Westside (12-8)

- Fri / Sat v. ASW  (15-4)

Very happy post-game lunch at Kinkaid's. Not quite a celebratory meal, though, as we still have a tough game against ASW Sunday night
- Sun v. ASW - final game  (13-3)

Hudson knew it all along.

I'm most proud of this 12 year old team for working through their disappointment to get to this week of Sectionals tournament. This year's roster is nearly the same as last year's ~ these boys, even though missing the District win the last two years, didn't give up. They worked past the disappointment of previous years, but also through last week's loss against ASW to work their way through the loser's bracket.

Looking through some pictures of previous years, these caught my eye - two years in a row, Hud on base right next to the same first baseman from ASW. I think the other guy gained a little more height than our Hud!
Last summer
Last week
So on to the road to Sectionals.
Cars painted and ready for the I-20 caravan (and - my feeble attempt at copying Jenny's artistry - ha!)
Lots of little sister artists on the team
I hope we've got some wins ahead, but I'm most grateful at this point for all of these District wins, and what it says about ULL. And believe me, after last week's games, there's much more than winning that makes me grateful to be a part of this little league!
It's been a fun run already ~ grateful to be a part of these great ULL teams!