Thursday, November 24, 2011

Jess's thoughts on Grace, Gambling and Gobble Gobble

So once again, my well-laid plans to sleep in were thwarted by a feline who is under the false impression that he needs to make sure we know when the sun is about to come up. So as to ensure that the "stupendous Chef of all things Thanksgiving" wakes well rested, I took the bullet and tended to the one known as Maximus... or when annoyed with him... Maxine.

Those morning hours, when the house is still asleep, are some of my favorites. The stillness is rare. I rather enjoy it. I have found myself contemplative in the quietness this morning... feeling the fullness of the day ahead. Soon these rooms will fill with aromas from the culinary master I married some 20 years ago... sleepy young men will pry themselves from their beds just in time for a little lunch... my husband and sister will bicker in the kitchen over whether the cranberry relish needs more sugar... Grandma will join us later with the holy grail of desserts - raisin squares... the faithful canine will sit dutifully, prepared to clean up the floors the moment anything decends upon them... perhaps a family foosball tournament will ensue and if we're lucky, a family poker game will add a little redneck gambling to our Turkey day.

An awareness of the bounty that fills my life emerges... not because it's Thanksgiving, but because it's Thursday and my life is full of good things and people I love. Don't get me wrong... some things in my life are pretty messy. Living in this home of ours requires a boatload of grace, patience and forgiveness... unfortunately, we aren't always careful with each other. We are impatient, sarcastic, selfish and sometimes just mean. I think God's idea of family was to give us a place to just be who we are. To be our messy, transparent selves... and still be loved by people who will speak the truth to us and give us needed perspectives on the parts of ourselves we can't see so clearly. After all, we are all on our own journey of discovering who we are and who we want to become.

We come and go from this place every day, each to our own worlds that are both kind and cruel. It is my hope that our home is also a soft place to fall when life has opened a can of whoop ass on us... a place where we can love and be loved, however imperfectly... a place we can take risks, breathe deeply, laugh loudly and find rest when we are weary.
So today, join me in inviting grace to be a guest at your Thanksgiving table. Hug those imperfect people you love and forgive the ones who piss you off... and feel free to steal our tradition and add gambling to your Thanksgiving tradition!

(It's probably time to wrap this up anyway... finding it hard to concentrate with Scott and Julie already bickering in the kitchen - this time both in the voice of Gloria from "Modern Family".)

Happy Thanksgiving~

Monday, November 14, 2011

A snapshot of Heaven...

There are moments, I think, that are snapshots of heaven. They are sometimes in a quiet, peaceful place, in nature's beauty, in the smell of a newborn, or in the self-less loving of another person, and sometimes, a snapshot of heaven shows up in a stadium full of thousands of self proclaimed band geeks and their parents.

Hope is a funny thing... it's what gives life to dreams and yet it is the very thing that, when deferred, can crush them and sorrow takes it's place. Our little marching band has long hoped for the honor of making finals at the national competition. It has come close, but always, the bus ride home was full of tears and pieces of a broken dream. As freshman, we only know this from the retelling of the heartache of years past... but everyone knows what that feels like... the longing and pursuit of an end that seems to evade you. It's almost cruel. If you have the courage to hope, you have to have the courage to carry the sorrow too... but it's always heavier than you plan for.

There was an unspoken hope in the air as the days led up to Nationals... we, of course, were all so proud of the kids and their hard work. No matter what numbers the six judges jotted down on their scorepads as they experienced our "Winter Solstice", these kids had been successful. They had poured themselves out day after day for countless months, and 260 individuals came together and became a single, beautiful piece of visual and musical art... but that hope lingered in the air. It almost taunted us. We thought we had a chance, but then again, we didn't have the most impartial perspective.

With two performances to be proud of, we collected ourselves and gathered in our own little section of the stadium... band members, parents, grandparent, chaperones and directors all waiting together.... a family of sorts that had formed on this journey. The announcement of the finalist began as expected...many of the schools resuming their status as finalists and whose fans had purchased their finals tickets the same time they bought their prelim tickets. The first ten of the twelve called were really no surprise... and with each announcement the hope in the air seemed to be looking for the exits. Then he announced the 11th Finalist in the Grand Nationals Championship... "William Ma....." honestly, that's all I think any of us really heard. In the blur, I vaguely recall turning and seeing Mr. Bass in the row behind me with his head in his hands and his eyes welling up. I was so happy for him! I looked at my friend who, if we didn't make it, would be picking up the pieces of her daughter's last chance... the exuberance billowing out of her was nothing short of glorious! Barriers collapsed and friends and strangers hugged and screamed and hugged some more! Tears of joy flowed freely as the dam of hope unleashed it's reservoir.

In the midst of all of this, I looked up to see a boy's face searching the sea of unglued parents... when he found the eyes that he new from birth, he bolted down the stairs. Upon reaching her, he burrowed in her shaking arms, clenched his own arms tightly around her and finally, released the floods of emotion that overwhelmed him... between the sobs, I heard him say "We did it." There are no words for what that exchange felt like, but I am certain it was happening all over section 247 of Lucas Oil Stadium.

This moment will forever be frozen in time for me and countless others. It was a capturing of something... the long days and nights, the demands on young bodies, the commitment to a purpose, individuals becoming a part of a whole, the persistent pursuit of an unattained dream, parents making endless sacrifices, directors finding the delicate balance of pushing and affirming, and a rag tag group of kids with the courage to believe it was possible... it had all led to this moment... and it was a beautiful thing to be a part of. It was for me... a little snapshop of heaven.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Jess's thoughts on a couple of boys she thinks are swell...

So for me, this fall seems to be holding a sort of grand transition... a shift in the grid of my whole world. I have becoming increasingly aware of this as my youngest son Eliot began high school this year. His (and my) summer began with the immersion into the world of Marching Band (plays cymbals in the drumline)... the grueling schedule of Band Camps and rehearsal schedules began long before the school doors opened. The first day of school was an afterthought for him... he went in with more confidence than I have probably ever had in my whole life. He knows who he is, he knows who he's not and he knows he doesn't have to be any different in order to matter. This is remarkable to me in a school of 3500 kids and a subculture of 260 like minded band geeks... his definition, not mine. (If you're wondering, Eliot is on the left side of the picture, 2nd from the top.) I wish you could see him when he's on the field... when they are rallying the crowds, he is oozing with energy, excitement and utter delight! It is unbelievably fun to watch!

In the meantime, my oldest son Gavin began his Senior year. This has been it's own little process of trying to wrap my brain around that. I've tried to stay present and intentional in this matter as it is easy to get overwhelmed by the daunting knowledge that this child we've raised is on the cuspis of becoming a man. One year from now, he will likely live elsewhere. That statement alone brings tears to my eyes. I just can't imagine. As those tears bulge behind my eyeballs, my motherly instincts kick in. I gather my whits about me and ask myself if I have done all I can to equip him for when he stands alone in a world that will not always be on his side.

This season of our life is unique. It is a time of stepping away, while always being there if counsel, insight or direction is needed. I will admit, I have struggled with this... not because I don't trust Gavin, but because this world we live in is often cruel and cares little of others. I've spent his whole life protecting him from the realities of that.. but the time has come for him to find his own way of navigating these things. I believe we have equipped him well. He is a wise young man and walks with a fine balance of caution and playfulness. This would be a signifigantly different experience if this was not the case and for that I'm overwhelmingly grateful. I have been blessed beyond measure in the man that Gavin has become and the friends that God has encircled Gavin with. They are people of character and I love how they love him. I have come to see that they are soft places for him to fall when life's rough edges leave it's cuts and bruises... they are his people... they are his tribe. They are God's way of caring for him when it is time for his mom to step back a bit and let her boy become a man.

As mothers, we pour ourselves into our children. We hope with all that is within us that they will become confident, independant individuals who will move about in the world with kindness and compassion while still carrying with them a pocket full of adventure and fearlessness. What one forgets is that when they do just that... they leave you behind. When they grow... they grow away from you... and as proud as you are to see them doing so, a new longing forms in your soul. A longing for moments that they choose to come back... to play with you... to laugh with you... to share their journey with you again.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I don't think this is what Jesus had in mind...

I'll begin these series of thoughts by saying that I love Jesus. I try not to be religious and I don't claim to have all the answers, but I am sure that I am broken and need the one who made me, to bind me up and make me whole. It has little to do with religion any more...

The events prompting this post began with a knock on my door. Having seen the two men approaching, I didn't know what to expect... perhaps someone thinking our lawn looked like crap and need their professional touch, maybe some new area take out that was passing out coupons... no, no such luck . The first immediately introduced himself as the Pastor of a church in our area while his sidekick stood silently observing the Jedi ways of his Obi-wan Kenobi. Maintaining a friendly demeanor, I shared that I already had a church I called home. He then tilted his head and said "now does that go beyond being religion, because there are a lot of religious people who ... " He continued with a buffet of well placed Bible verses, sweetly disguised condemnations of my neighbors he'd spoken to and all while quoting Jesus own words about judging someones "fruit" and the ominous reality of hell.

I felt something happen inside of me... a combination of sorrow and fury. I knew that his intentions were good... for many years, so were mine. I was raised to always have an answer and verse to back it up, and getting someone "saved" was the whole point, whatever it took. I sensed a quiet prayer whispering inside of me to keep my own spirit from taking the soapbox and wielding my own light saber of truth on his religious ass. I felt a deep sorrow that the beautiful message of my Jesus who longs to brings hope and wholeness to our broken world, was once again being drowned out by the flood of religious brow beating, justified judgement and horrific scare tactics to usher someone into a religious experience. I listened and let him speak... interjecting when I found something we agreed on. Finally, as he found his way to the end of his bullet points, when I could have said, "thank you... and have a nice day". I didn't.

In a surprisingly gentle manner, I said something like "can I share a few thoughts with you?" The words that followed caught me off guard and are vague to me as I try to recall them. They included a plea to be gentle with people, as our best intentions and the way we cloak them can leave people feeling wounded... sometimes even farther from the One we want them to see. I encouraged them to remember that God is the only one who can truly see the heart of another and perhaps these assessments are best left to Him. He really doesn't need our help.

As they walked toward their church van bursting with more young Jedi's, I hoped. I hoped that God was bigger than the clubs they carried. I hoped that my own truths of how I see Jesus do not take the form of clubs as I converse with people who see things in a different light. I hoped that we will be as intentional about wanting God to change us daily as we are about wanting him to change others. I hoped that my neighbors weren't wounded by any of those clubs... and if you were, I'm sorry for that. I don't think that's what Jesus had in mind.