Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bella Grace and Grace in Basketball

Bella has been playing basketball this winter.  It has been so fun to watch her do something all on her own and enjoy it.  She has gotten pretty good at dribbling and shooting and it is the most adorable thing ever to hear her yell at her teammates, “I’m open!” 

It’s been really good for her to be on this team.  On the first day of practice, she was in tears in the first three minutes. The first drill was to dribble the ball around the court.  She must have bounced that ball on her shoe 14 times and it went flying across the room every time.  When she got back to the starting place, she just broke down.  And I wanted to run over and rescue her.  I wanted to make sure, in that moment, that she felt known and loved and every bit of the amazing little girl that she is, even if she wasn't great at dribbling.  But Loren gave me a look.  I know that look.  It’s a look that says, “Let her fail a little.  Let her figure it out.  Let someone else speak into her life.  This is good for her.”  Her coach walked over and gave her a hug and then they talked for a minute.  Bella told me later that she said, “You know, Bella, everyone is just learning here.  Nobody expects you to do it all perfectly.  We’re gonna learn together.”  Words of life for my little one. 

When I watch her now, eight weeks later, I can see all the ways that she has grown.  Sure, she’s gotten better at the game, but I can see the ways most don’t know about.  I know how important it is that she has learned to go for the shot, even if she doesn't always make a basket, because I know she struggles with a desire to never disappoint anyone.  Though it may seem strange, I love watching her dribble down the court, accidentally bouncing the ball off her shoe, and just running after it, picking it up and continuing on with a smile.  Because laughing when you make a mistake like that means that you know those kinds of mistakes aren't who you are.  They’re just mistakes.  In basketball.  And we don’t always have to take ourselves so seriously. 

You know what else? Not once, has one of her teammates been annoyed with anyone who made a mistake on the team.  They have been the most gracious little 1st and 2nd graders.  And I have loved watching her settle into the freedom of that grace.  That kind of grace makes you excited to try something new instead of fearful.  It lets you giggle when you make a mistake instead of dissolving into tears. And it has been such a gift to my little girl.  

Her coaches are another gift.  I love that they ask each member of the team what the best part of their week was.  Then they ask if everyone is doing well in school, if everyone is obeying their parents and staying out of trouble.  They begin each practice by reminding these kids, in subtle ways, that their whole life matters, not just how they do on a basketball court.  They remind them that their teammates are other kids just like them.  This is little kid sports at its best and I’m one grateful Mama.

Bella has loved playing basketball, but I don't really think it's the sport she's crazy about.  Last week after her game, she said to me all sing-songy, “I love basketball so much.  It’s so fun!” And I told her that I was so glad!  Because I love seeing her enjoy herself, and because I fully understand what a gift it is for her to be able to love something, even when it is a challenge for her.  Then I asked if she thought she wanted to play again next year.  “Oh yeah…for sure, Mom,” she said.  And I said, “Well, what if you aren't on the same team as Lilly (one of her best friends in the whole world).  “Oh…probably not then,” she said.  What?!?  But, I should have known.  Bella may throw herself into something and enjoy herself silly while doing it, but that something has always only been as good as the friends that are doing it with her.  That’s what matters most to her. I love that about her. And really, what fun is bouncing the ball off your toe and sending it flying, if your friend isn't there to giggle with you about it?

Bella is going to be tall.  She's already tall.  But, it remains to be seen if God equipped her with such height in order play down low under a basketball goal, rebounding easily over those other shorties and laying it up nice and soft for two more points.  I know why he equipped her with such a big heart, though.  And as she lives into all he has planned for her, my prayer is that what she is learning in basketball translates into the rest of her life as well.  That she would know grace in such a way that it would give her the freedom to take risks.  That she would experience that same deep grace when she fails.  That she would know that her whole life matters, not just a moment.  And I hope that she continues to believe that relationships are much more important than all we can accomplish.

If she’s on a basketball court someday, you can bet I’ll be there to cheer her on.  But in life, there are bigger fish to fry.  And I pray I’ll get to be there for those, too.  Encouraging, cheering, praying, giggling, and reminding her that grace isn't just her middle name. It's a way of life. The ONLY way to life.  And we'll be thankful together for the friends that come alongside us and make everything a whole lot more fun.   

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Learning to Remember and Making Peace with the Proverbs 31 Woman

I write so that I will remember.  I am a forgetful person.  Not just birthdays and directions and the name of the person I met 5 minutes ago, though I forget all of these things all too often. I forget what God has said.  I forget, in the light, what he said to me in the dark.  And I forget in the dark, what he has said to me in the light.  And so I need a reminder. 

I’m a stay at home mom, with 2 kids in school and 4 year old at home. She is old enough to have given up naps but young enough, and squirrelly enough that she needs to be watched all the time, engaged all the time or bad things happen.  Irrevocable things with permanent markers and scissors.  So, I spend the large majority of my time playing hide and seek and memory, reading books and playing a game called freeze (a game she invented that is a lot like freeze tag…though she swears they are different and plus in this one you freeze each other with fake guns, so she’s probably right).  I get almost nothing else done. 

I also lead a ministry for teen moms called YoungLives.  We walk alongside teen moms, living life with them and earning the right to be heard as we share the gospel with them.  It’s challenging and time consuming and transformation happens slowly.  So, so slowly.   

And so, as such, I have been struggling hard with value.  It’s not a new struggle with me. But, this time, the wound seems deeper because I thought it was gone. I thought I had licked it. 

But Satan is like a crouching lion.  He is roaming around and ready to pounce and he is the Father of Lies.  Lies like… “you are not that valuable” and, my current favorite… “you should try and do something to make yourself more special.”  I can usually handle, “you are not that valuable” because it just sounds like a lie to me.  I can usually wave that one off.  Several scriptures flood my mind and shield me from its grabby hands.  But, “you should try and do something to make yourself more special?” That sounds like it could be true.  I mean, maybe I should do more. And facebook and blogs and our ability to see all that everyone else is doing can add fuel to the fire.  As much as I love some of those witty blogs that encourage us to more, sometimes they can feel like a scissor kick to the gut.  I mean, some days, when that adorable 4 year old decides to fingerpaint on her sister’s bed with lotion and toothpaste (yep…it’s happened) I feel maxed out just being at home.  Getting the floors mopped seems a distant dream, so I know meaningful wisdom isn’t gonna flow from my fingertips and I’m certainly not starting a non-profit that will change the world anytime soon. How can I do any more?

I’ve struggled often with Proverbs 31.  I mean, who was this gal?  How did she get all this crap done?  And why, why is there a whole 21 verses in the bible dedicated to touting the accomplishments of this woman who obviously had perfect kids, a wacked out Circadian rhythm (who rises while it is still night?!) and a small sweat shop in the back of her house where the fine linen for her bed coverings and the scarlet clothes for her household were made.

And so it startled me, as I lay on my bed praying one night, confessing to the Lord that I had believed the lies and asking him to teach me the truth, that Proverbs 31 came to mind.  “I am hearing in my head, Lord, that I need to do something to make myself more special.  But I want to hear what YOU say?” I said.  “A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised,” came the answer in my spirit.  “I do, Lord.  I love you, and your holiness and sovereignty both thrills me and scares the whooey out of me.”  “I know,” he said.  And that was all.  

As I lay there and let it sink in, it resonated in the deep places.  And also, just like that, I made my peace with the Proverbs 31 woman.  Because it’s not that there aren't things to do.  We are called to live out our faith.  To experience and bring the Kingdom of God to earth.  There is work involved.  But the work isn't what makes us special.  It isn't what made her special. Her value was directly linked to her relationship with the Lord.  Her fear of the Lord informed her work, her wisdom, her desire to care for others, her ability to laugh at the days to come. Her fear of the Lord was the thing worthy of praise. Everything else comes out of that.  Whatever it is, whatever we are called to, however big or small it is, begins and ends with knowing Christ. Our value is firmly fixed in Him, so knowing Him is the greatest pursuit we could ever undertake.

So, my struggle has magically disappeared, right?  Wrong.  Satan isn't put aside so easily.  And he has continued to do everything he can to steer me away from that truth.  So, I am battling hard.  The fiery darts he throws sometimes cause me to retreat.  He knows just where my scars are and his aim is true.  

But the greater truth, the one I learned in the dark, remains.  And I am learning to remember.  A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  It is my shield of faith, my belt of truth, my helmet of salvation. And in beautifully divine moments of clarity, I even find myself able to laugh at the days to come.