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.