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!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

His Independence Day Came Early ~ Louis Zamperini, 1.26.17 – 7.2.14

 The past couple of weeks I've been itching to write a review of Unbroken

We have some avid readers on Bran's baseball team (the parents, not the players), and earlier this summer a friend suggested I read Unbroken. Actually, she said I needed to read Unbroken.

Somehow I missed this book, despite its tenure of more than 165 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, fourteen at number one.

Thank you, Laura Hillenbrand, for introducing me to Louie Zamperini through your seven-plus years of research, and then bridging my friendship with him through carefully crafting words to frame his remarkable story.

After the high recommendation from my fellow baseball mom, I bought Unbroken for Corbin for Father's day. When Amazon delivered it a week prior to the holiday, I hid the book jacket in a drawer and read it myself. I couldn't put it down. Even during our whirlwind trip to NYC, I snuck in reading time late at night while everyone else slept.

One night, back home in bed as I read the very last couple of chapters, I sat up in bed and exclaimed, "No way!"
"What?! asked Corbin. "What did Louie do now?"
He hadn't read Unbroken yet, but at that point I wasn't able to keep it a secret that I'd stolen his Father's Day gift.
"I can't tell you! But this is AMAZING!"
"What do you mean you can't tell me? You sit straight up in bed and yell out, and you can't tell me what happened?"
"Corbin, promise me, you'll read this. If I die, take care of the kids. Buy them each a bottle of my perfume to remember me. And read this book."

So there you go.
My highest recommendation. 

I also gave Unbroken to Cappy and Papa for Father's Day, both veterans and lovers of rich stories. I had the most fun getting their texts and emails over the next couple of weeks.

"What's Louie doing now?" I'd ask.
"Running in his first Olympics race."
"Still stranded on that raft."
And on our texts went.

Papa emailed me last week, "Just finished Unbroken. What a wild ride! I think I felt every emotion possible. WOW what a great read. Thank you!"

I greeted the morning last Thursday to a text from my dad, himself a marine pilot, "Louie is really free today."
I immediately pulled up Fox News to read that Louie Zamporini died the day before after a battle with pneumonia.
Later that afternoon, when Papa heard the news, he emailed me, "Wow. Feel like I lost a friend."


I'm mourning - but in a grateful way - along with millions who fell in love with this great man over reading his story.

For Louie, his incredible story of suffering, redemption and forgiveness came to a full crescendo last week as his eternal freedom came ringing. Praise God for this example of grit, perseverance, and beauty through Louie's life.

Unbroken, the film, directed by Angelina Jolie, is set to release this Christmas. Please read the book beforehand.
Among my highest recommendations.
Free, indeed.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Practicing Gratitude 6.29.14

- Hud's big grin (the braces are new ~ his round 2 began a couple of weeks ago). Snapped by Kevin, our middle school pastor after lunch at Chipotle.

- Coffee on the back porch looking out over a rainy summer Sunday morning

- That Essie still gets in Basden's bed to "snugglebug" with her. Incidentally, I don't think this would be on Basden's gratitude list - unless she is truly "thankful in all things"

- Nettie May's visit here - almost a week in New York together, then back here for Camp Calico.

- Girls surprising us with a "show"
Spidey, Hula Girl and the "Pie" clown
Handing out popcorn

Nettie May does quite an impression of Spidey
Sulky Spidey

"I like pie!" (funny - she really doesn't)
- Essie and I blinking back tears when Corbin drove Basden to Love Field, along with Nettie and Mama, heading to the mountains. But we're excited for her two weeks in Angel Fire with family. She is most looking forward to riding in Eagle Nest's annual 4th of July parade and playing with cousins ~ both Benjamins and Wilsons ~ River and Nera from Seattle. Missing her already. 

- Finding Essie's note on the laundry room door

- Twins!

- Under a (light) blanket on the back porch... in June??!

- Dropping Bran off at Paschal for conditioning workouts - reality that he is now a high school Freshman.

- Two victories last night for both boys' District teams in Weatherford- thankful!!
Pretty night for baseball (Hud at RF - barely visible here - but a pretty sunset!)
LOVE this Coach and son duo ~ Robin Thomas has greatly poured into Hud over the years
Hudda at bat
- Basden in the mountains with her cousins and Mama and Papa... so grateful she has this time away with family in such a pretty spot

Wildflowers for the dining table
Barefoot cuties
They don't have to go far from home to get pretty scenery
- Essie's spend-the-nights with Avie.

- And this pic Nik sent. We dubbed it, "Little House on the Prairie ~ J. Lo Style"

- A restful week. So so grateful.

- Misty insisting on Elvia taking a vacation

- Art camp with Avie. Donuts and artist shirts.

- Corbin's work. How it provides, and what he's learning, good and hard. That he's incredibly good with and truly cares for his physicians. Frustrating for me that he's not shown appreciation by administrators, but that seems harder on me than on him. That Corbin pushes on, diligent and optimistic, regardless. Practicing gratitude for ALL things, all that he's learning and enduring through work.

- A fresh reminder that we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Esp 2:10

- A couple of hours with Dad at Cracker Barrel over breakfast ~ just the two of us ~ completing sentences.
One of my fav pics of the two of us
- Hanging up the phone with Basden's "toodles!" in my ear, a smile on my face.

- Basden's "small world" encounter in Eagle Nest. When meeting Foster's new friend - a family that recently moved from Texas - she recognized him as Hud's friend from Laity Lodge Family Camp.

- Took a couple of weeks into summer, but finally a chance to relax poolside!

- Getting to host our church's high school swim party ~ even though all of us were at Bran's baseball game (!)

- Coming home to a spotless house and yard after the high school party. I was overwhelmed. Thank you, Mitchell Travis (and all the leaders - I'm not even sure who all was here!), for taking such great care of things. Amazing.

- Pizza, swimming and gator riding with the Petersons in their new home; DeeDee jumping in last-minute to help with Hud at ULL.

- A Saturday where everyone got to sleep late.

- So if I'm really grateful in all things, Hud's team's stinging loss to SW Arl this week. The Lord knows. I just wish I didn't care so much, I'd just love his team to win District. On the bright side ~ Hud made a several great catches in RF, including a catch over the fence to stop a HR.

- Getting to spend the day with Bran and Brock - Hud's game, Torchy's Tacos, swimming and basketball. Love this kid, and his family!

- Mitchell (church high school intern) taking Bran and Cole fishing all day Sunday afternoon - on his few hours off crunched between Sun morn and Sun evening church. This is after he rode out to Weatherford with Corbin and me last week to watch one of Bran's games. What a gem.

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