Monday, August 25, 2014

Practicing Gratitude 8.25.14

- That we don’t own an xbox.

- Basden's sensitivity to Corbin's stress / disappointment with work.

- Thicker skin for me.

- SKYLAR!! About to be "3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Skylar."

- A resolve to be united with those who sometimes prove frustrating or difficult.

- Our backyard.

 - Whirlwind week of school activities ~ before school even starts. Thursday night AND Friday morning we were at all three schools. Ready or not, here we come!

- Getting into routine of school schedules. As much as I love summer and lack of routine, we're all created for seasons and rhythms.

- Summer ~ the friendships and fun it provides.

- Cute girls and their art projects.

- Sunday afternoon playdates.

- Hud's fish from Missouri ~ and that Corbin knows how to cook it (!)

- Funny girl.

- My breakfast team. Corbin got up early and made the pancake batter before going in to work, and I came down to find Basden cooking it up. I've trained them well.

- The view from my kitchen window.

- These two, troopers running errands in the heat of August days.

- Esther and her "school room." She's completely taken over the sunroom. Working diligently on organizing her files.

- She found this blank paper in a stack of old school papers and filled it in for this summer. Truth.
She even drew ULL against San Antonio (Hud's last game at State), complete with 1st and 3rd base coaches
- Experiments with Kool aid hair-dye.

- Not sure by the clothes exactly what they were playing, but they're darling.

- Basden officially in "Fishxtix." Swim party ~ the real, huge pool is across the yard. But I found them in this one.

- Papa taking Hud and Foster (And Uncle Alan) on their "13th" fishing trip in Branson, MO.

- Basden's favorite pastime.

- Celebrating Avie's 8th birthday in Austin with their daddies. Special trip they've been looking forward to all summer.
 Accidentally color-coordinated
BFF heart necklace. Essie gave one to Avie for her b-day, and Avie gave one to Essie for the party gift. Great minds think alike.
Stop in Waco at Baylor -Sic 'Em!
Happy happy 8th to you both!
- Bran's Paschal scrimmages ~ finally putting all that practice to use. Big wins, and even though he plays mostly defense, Bran catching a couple of throws for TDs.

- That she melts our hearts.

- These playmates ~ so thankful they have each other.

- Some quiet nights last week. No late movies, no tv. Just everyone going to bed with restful hearts.

- C’s work, and how difficult the situation has become. That you continually strengthen him, and encourage him that he is a LIGHT. That you (most of the time) keep me from bitterness.

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.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Camp KIVU Doesn't Disappoint

I was a little worried Bran might have talked KIVU up too much for Hudson over the past year. But even with the week at camp flying by for them, and even with several favorite activities rained out, I’m realizing that it’s just not possible to over-build expectations for Camp KIVU. 

Corbin and I have been thrilled with the option of sending our boys to Camp KIVU in Durango, CO. Branson has often described last year as “the best week of his life.” Set beside the rambling Los Pinos river just east of Durango, KIVU’s scenery is breathtaking. The cabins and facilities are nicer than most camp’s I’ve seen, and the mountain activities are a draw with college kids guiding them: hiking up to Ice Lake, tubing and fly fishing on the Los Pinos river, extreme mountain biking, ropes courses, and white water rafting in the Animas river in Durango. 

Even more than all of that ~ it’s the people and staff that made the week so significant to Bran and Hud. This last week of KIVU has been dubbed “Man Camp,” and is only open to guys. All the girl staff skedaddles, and other than poor Morgan in the office, KIVU becomes an all-man....  Besides the manly activities, this year the staff made sure the boys knew how to shake hands, how to change a tire, and what happens when you catch a tire swing on fire and explode it into a television. Interestingly, meeting the kids at the end of camp, not all the boys are the super-duper-athlete-type you might expect at Man Camp. Boys of all shapes and sizes, probably all different athletic abilities attend. And in fact, one of the things Andy incorporates in the KIVU culture is for kids of all backgrounds and personalities to come and feel welcome and accepted. 

I was giddy all week just thinking of our boys experiencing KIVU. And after being there on campus to pick them up, hearing all the “man” stories, watching their videos and looking through pictures, I am assured that once again the financial investment and 14-hour drive to and from Durango was worth it. KIVU does not disappoint. 

In a nutshell, what I love most about KIVU, is that when we get our boys back, it’s like they’ve been through a cleanser and all of our cultural build-up is stripped away, exposing the real deal. They may be dirtier and a little scraped up on the outside, but their hearts and attitudes are noticeably clean and shinier on the inside. Something powerful about being in such a beautiful place as a constant visual of God’s creative gift in nature to us, and spending a week with counselors and staff who believe in them and remind them that biblical manhood is a preferable way of living.  

Grateful that Andy took another gamble on Man Camp. With our baseball commitments this summer, it wouldn’t have worked for Bran and Hud to make one of the regular two-week terms. Our boys are already signed up for next year, and they’re both trying to figure out how to get up there longer. Branson wants to go as a camper and work maintenance, and Hudson wants to go for two weeks and then Man Camp right after. Meanwhile, we’ll all get paper routes to support our KIVU addiction. 
Bran reuniting with Bryan
The entire Man Camp

Ice Lake

Bran, Hud and John
Little sisters
Wilsons and McCutchens
Cutie Hudda

Hud and John with their counselors 

As we learn more about KIVU, summer camping is just one piece of the puzzle. KIVU shapes lives all year round through their Gap Year program, retreats, and the Institute. Grateful for Andy and Jamie Jo's hard work and commitment to teenagers and families, and that we get to be a part. 

Until next year...