Reboot: The Beauty of not being good enough – (Getting “Cut” from the team)

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My daughter got cut from the varsity volleyball team this fall. Having poured herself into that sport for the last four years and with dreams to even play in college, it was a blow of colossal proportions. Yet a virtual stranger who probably doesn’t recognize the power she wields decided, “Nope. You’re not good enough for me.”

“Cuts” are so aptly named, aren’t they? It actually feels like a physical cut: leaving one wounded, bleeding…. in pain. And the injury didn’t just end with Grace – her “cut” deeply wounded me and Paul as well. Maybe even worse. Nothing hurts us more than our children hurting… Grace came home after cuts and while wrapped up in each other’s arms we bled all over the couch together for a while. Eventually she smiled, got up, and said “I have no more tears. I’m tired” and she went to bed.

No matter how hard we parents try to create a justification for this indignation (blaming, shaming, name-calling, conspiracy-theory, etc.) the cold-hard reality of the situation, which we eventually have to come to terms with, is that our child was just told: “You are not worthy. You are not good enough. I did NOT choose you.” That’s the bald truth and it stings.

By morning the sting had dissipated some and I was thankful I hadn’t acted in haste and posted something nasty on Facebook or Twitter.

But on the second day a miracle happened. It was a Saturday, which is a day traditionally OWNED by volleyball. But now, having a totally free Saturday, Grace, Yulisa and I chose to participate in a peaceful protest in Grand Rapids. Afterwards, we went out to a swanky coffee shop for tea and scones. We sat outside in the sunshine and faced the street and pretended we were Europeans. We talked about civil rights, civil duties, religious freedoms, and standing up for what you believe in. We talked about Thoreau, Rosa Parks, and MLK. We talked about making your life count.

Between sips of chai, she gifted me with this: “Mom, I wouldn’t trade this moment, this conversation, this day spent with you guys for anything. Not even volleyball.”

I wanted to say this: “You have no idea what this means to me, baby. No idea. Having a terminal illness, I want to be so selfish with your time. Truthfully, I want it ALL. This sacred time with you girls beats cheering you from the side-lines, which is really no interaction at all, a million to one. Every time.”

Instead, I pondered those thoughts quietly and we three just held hands and wept a little.

And then we came up with an idea. We decided to begin a list of all the things she now COULD do because of the time reclaimed sans volleyball. Every one of us has been given only 24 hours in a day – and no one can say “yes” to everything. And while most people try to deny this, the truth is that whenever we say “yes” to something, it represents something else we are saying “no” to. Grace wanted to call out, and clearly identify what all those “something else’s” were in her life.

On school nights and Saturdays when she would have normally been playing volleyball, she was now able to participate in a variety of incredible things – things not limited to, but including the following:

  • Breakfast with her youth group leader
  • Sprawled out on her bed with Yulisa – sharing earbuds– giggling and listening to hours of music together
  • Dinner with long-time family friends discussing things like Middle-eastern and South-African politics, saving dating until college, and the role of the church with immigration – which required us to stay out way past midnight on a Friday night but not caring because we were going to SLEEP IN on a Saturday for once!
  • A day of boating/tubing with her friends (friends that SHE chose, not whom volleyball chose FOR her)
  • Visiting her grandma at the nursing home
  • A family birthday celebration at a snazzy restaurant where no one was rushed and we gorged ourselves on bottomless sweet potato fries and drank root beer floats till we were dizzy.
  • Took a road trip with her siblings to see Ben Rector in concert in Detroit.
  • Cheered on her HS soccer team, tennis team and swim team – realizing if EVERYONE is a participant, then NO ONE is a spectator. And everyone enjoys playing more with spectators present.
  • Playing her guitar and singing with the praise team for her youth group.
  • Went “thrifting” with a dear friend and she found a $75 sweater for $5.

And this is only a partial list from the first couple of weeks….

Upon reviewing that list, we came to a profound conclusion: It’s as if God had an actual plan for her life all along, so perfectly tailored for Grace and her giftedness, that at this juncture, there simply wasn’t time for volleyball anymore. It’s as if, in God’s brilliantly upside-down kingdom, He was saying, “Grace, you didn’t get cut, you were chosen!”

It’s not that volleyball is bad, it’s just not the team Grace was chosen FOR.

  • What if Grace’s youth group leader composed a team? She’d say, “Grace! I choose you!”
  • What if Grandma made a team? She’d day, “Grace! I want you! You’re chosen!”
  • What if her friends made up a team? They’d say, “Grace! We choose you!”
  • What it the community put together a team? A team of young go-getters who epitomize service to others? They’d surely say, “Grace, we want you!”
  • What if our family was a team? (and I do believe we are) – We’d raise our collective voices and say, “Grace! Welcome back to our team!”

Yep – Grace got cut from volleyball. But look at all the teams that DID choose her!

So if you, or anyone you love, has ever been “cut” from a team – or the musical, or the band, or from a university, or the [insert thing that you wanted so badly but didn’t get] – maybe we just need to ask a different question.

Maybe the question isn’t, “Why did I get cut?”

But instead, “For what have I been chosen?”

 

 

13 Reasons Why I’m posting dog poop and not prom pics

Watching ’13 Reasons Why’ has led me to sharing how my dog is always crapping on our rug.

grace pics 095The Netflix hit series, 13 Reasons Why, has created a maelstrom within the media, parental circles, and my mind. The show is essentially about teenage suicide but largely focuses on bullying and teenage angst. Because of my profession as a psychiatric nurse, I wrestle with these things often. Out of curiosity, I watched the show and lost a lot of sleep mulling it over. The best review I’ve read and the one I most resonate with is from Jamie Tworkowski from “To Write Love on Her Arms”. You can read his summary here.

To help sort things out, I consulted my 16 year old and asked her, “What makes kids bully others?”

She said, “They think they’re ‘all that’ – they’re usually the popular kids.”

So I asked her, “What makes kids popular?”

She said, “Bullying others.” (She’s one part smart and two parts cocky.)

“But why?” I asked, “Why do they think they need to do that?”

She said, “It’s classic psychology, mom. Weak people feel they need to put others down in order to elevate themselves. Strong people are secure in who they are and don’t have any need to adjust other people’s perceptions.”

Ahhh – so once in a while she DOES listen to what we’re telling her…

But her choice of words continued to haunt me: “Strong people are secure in who they are and don’t have any need to adjust other people’s perceptions…..”

And I’ve been vexed ever since about what to do with my own social media – the KING of all perception adjustment. I long to be strong and secure, but, at the same time, I had been accumulating all kinds of clever and envy-worthy pics and posts this spring – just waiting for the exact right time to unload them on all my “friends” and “followers.”

I started to wonder if my “friends” and “followers” were more my “victims.” I started asking: How might my social media posts potentially cause harm to others? And when I answered myself honestly (I’m really good at lying when it comes to myself), I realized many of my posts could be considered bullying – making others feel bad about themselves or their situation. It depends who’s looking at it and from what perspective. But still.  I decided to desist from social media for a while.

That is, until my dog pooped on our rug.

Here are the 13 reasons why (in David Letterman fashion) I felt POOP was worthy of my social media feed:

  1. My friend’s daughter, a senior, did not go to her Junior/Senior prom. Not only did she not have a date, she didn’t even feel she had any girlfriends with whom she could attend. She told her mom that prom night was one of the saddest nights of her life. Hearing this, I knew I could no longer post my daughter’s prom pictures. I know we all want to believe that our “friends” and “followers” want to share in the joy of ALL our good news. Yet, studies consistently find that, for most people, a steady diet of viewing all the things other people are doing will actually INDUCE isolation – the exact OPPOSITE of a “social” media. Sometimes, when we think we’re sharing happy news, it’s really throwing daggers.
  1. One of our kids had their heart shattered this past year – a wound so deep, that many months have passed with very little healing. And when the heartbreaker posts pics and captions revealing a life of joy and new love, my child’s wounds reopen. We simply were NOT meant to see and know everything – and all this access to information that we’d be better off without is making us miserable. I don’t have the answer. Parents, should we cut our kids off from social media? Do we throw their phones away? How do we give them nerves of steel to deal with the barrage of images that are undoubtedly way more information than the human psyche can handle? How do I get those nerves of steel? I don’t know – but this cruel media world is why shows like 13 Reasons Why exist. I wish I had a better answer – but I just think sharing a lot more pictures of doggie defecation wouldn’t hurt.  Life is poopy sometimes.
  1. I have never once posted a photo of a family vacation or shared some terrific news and received the response of “Ah! So glad you shared this! Now I know I’m not alone with my incredible life! I feel so much better knowing your life is as perfect as mine!”  When life is going swimmingly, people aren’t generally lonely.
  1. Vulnerability precedes intimacy. We cannot REALLY get to know and understand one another until we know each other’s pain. I realize social media is not the venue to find REAL friends, but, when we share glimpses of reality, photos of hard times, and stories of suffering, our “friends” will see we are REAL and maybe, just maybe, we’d start feeling less alone. Maybe that would put the SOCIAL back in the media…
  1. I cannot take a decent photo to save my life. Social media makes those of us who stink at photography appear headless, washed-out, wrinkly, or red-devil-eyed.   Dang – I hope I’m not all those things…. but it feels like just because we sucky photographers don’t have a $1000 camera and a creative eye, we appear “less than.” I say we need SOCIAL MEDIA REFORM – where sucky photographers get Disney passes or something.
  1. Commonly heard among the young today, “Need a pic or it didn’t happen!” This is our culture – everything must be recorded and shared for verification. So, logic says, most people never have anything bad happen to them. No pics of hardship must mean no hardships have happened. But we all know better. So what will it take to get real with one another? Is it possible to put HONESTY into social media???
  1. I sat by a mom I had never met before at my daughter’s recent graduation ceremony. With tears in her eyes, she shared how she never imagined her son would make it to graduation. He has both a learning disability and social cue deficits – but no one would know this by looking at him. When her son walked across the stage, I cried. When my own daughter walked across the stage, I just smiled – because she was always expected to graduate and to do well. Why do we insist on sharing photos and stories of life-things that are totally EXPECTED?

When we learn of one another’s burdens and hardships, we get to experience in the joy of being overcomers – one of the greatest gifts Christ’s death on the cross affords us.

  1. When I wrote about our piece-of-crap house and the trials of fixing-up a fixer-upper (here), I received responses from thousands of people all over the world. They were all experiencing the same thing – DISILLUSIONMENT from HGTV, home magazines, Pinterest, AND social media pics of everyone’s beautiful homes. This has become a huge area where we are (often unknowingly) inflicting inferiority on one another. By constantly posting our beautiful, clean, and perpetually updated homes, we seem to be conveying the message, “I have it all together – and you, OH LOWLY YOU, with an unfinished basement, with weeds in your landscaping, with mounds of laundry in your hallway, with cobwebs in your corners, and with the PVC piping still spanning your sunroom ceiling which the previous tenants had used for stringing cannabis (or wait – that one MAY be just me….), you are such a mess, YOU LOWLY YOU.”

I actually want to see your laundry room on laundry day. I want to see your daughter’s room after six weeks of simultaneous soccer and musical practice. I want to see your kitchen after making a mother’s day meal. I want to see your bathroom after a full week at work. I want to see your garage the day after a garage sale. I want to see your basement storage rooms.

Because I desperately want to feel less lonely.

  1. At work at the psych hospital, I often ask my patients “What are you finding to be the most helpful part of your therapy here?” Hands down, the most common reply is this: “Listening to, and sharing with the other patients. They get me in a way that none of you (staff) can.”   Ah-ha!
  1. Every dog poops. Every dog owner, every day, picks up dog poop. It’s disgusting. But for me, taking a plastic Meijer bag (which, in and of itself, is abhorrent because you have to deal with all those angry stares from the granola moms at the Meijer check-out when you actually request plastic bags….) then turning it inside out to make a glove for myself, reaching down and grabbing my dog’s fresh, warm poop has to be one of the lowest points of my day. BUT, my days have descended to an abysmal low when said dog poops INSIDE our home – which, as she ages, is happening much too frequently.

Dog poop on our rug is one of the milder stories I could share from our lives right now – things have been pretty bad around here lately – but this is where I thought I’d start.  I almost kicked my dog today.  Almost.  I DIDN’T DO IT, OKAY?!?!  I’m just so sick of crap on our rug!!!  My life is light years away from glamorous, and right on the very edge of repugnant.  Is it just me? I’d be lying if my newsfeed reflected something different.

  1. Vulnerability precedes intimacy. I know I already used this one for #10. I’m just checking to see if you’re still reading (REAL bloggers say you should never write more than 1500 words. I’m already at 1600… but hang with me – the last 2 reasons are the best.)
  1. Some of my lowest, most lonely moments in life came right after getting my diagnosis of Lymphanegieoleomyomatosis (LAM). It’s so rare – only a small handful of us women in Michigan have it, and a not much bigger handful in the whole USA. There was no one living near me that I could talk to. And then…. then, I met my Facebook LAM family! Over 2000 women from all over the world connect via this forum. And I suddenly knew that I could deal with this sucky, lung-sucking, sucker of an illness – because ALL of them were dealing with it, too. Those women from all over the world have given me strength.

It sucks to have to talk about your illness on social media. But now even my sister’s family is deriving comfort, prayers and community by sharing her journey of brain cancer on social media. Posting about your “crap” really does help – in some cathartic, Jesus-y, miraculous way.

  1. The old proverb, “Misery loves company,” is incorrect. It should be, “Misery NEEDS company.” We were not made to do this life alone. It’s often the isolation and accompanying sadness that brings some people to take their lives. We NEED to help each other feel less alone. We NEED to share our sufferings. We NEED to become vulnerable with one another. And then maybe, just maybe, people will see they are not as alone as they thought. And maybe, just maybe, we will put the “social” back into our media. And maybe, just maybe, someone will decide to keep pressing on in life instead of the alternative.

Teens: Want a tattoo for Christmas? How to get Mom to say “Yes”:

My arguments against tattoos were weak at best. But I still thought tattoos were stupid.

 

When our daughter Grace turned 16, she wanted a tattoo. She wanted one bad.

 

I had always believed tattoos were a terrible idea. First, the Bible says so (aka – a Christian’s favorite way to shut down a conversation…) And also, I felt God created us the way we are – with clear skin and no ink because He liked us that way and didn’t feel His handiwork needed to be improved upon.

 

However, those arguments don’t work. The Bible does mention tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), but if Christians today accept that passage as timeless law, so too, would we have to observe the following:  No eating shellfish or pork – locusts, crickets and grasshoppers, however, are encouraged.  No wearing any type of blended fabric and bathing after sex would be mandatory.  Men would also have untrimmed beards and be allowed many wives.  And women – oh my – we’d be killing turtle doves and pigeons left and right as we lived up to the host of rules regarding childbearing and menstruation!   No – I most definitely do NOT want to keep Levitical Laws!

We cannot pick and choose which old testament laws we’ll follow – either they are contextual and not explicitly meant for us today, or, we must agree to them all. Additionally, if God didn’t want us to improve upon His creation, why do I not object to make-up, hair-cuts, ear-piercing, and working out?

 

My arguments against tattoos were weak at best. But I still thought tattoos were stupid.

 

Then Grace asked for one. And she presented me with a well-thought out proposal that was difficult to refute. She reminded me of the following story that happened to some dear friends of ours:

 

Our friends had raised their children in a solid Christian home and taught them all the tenets of the faith. After highschool, however, their oldest son rejected Christianity. He chose to live life on the edges – doing all the things Christians consider “big sins”. When numerous problems began mounting in his life, his father tried to reason with him: “You know, son, I think if you returned to your faith you would find life easier. I think you’re making life harder than it has to be and coming back to Jesus would help.”

 

His son’s response was legendary. He whipped back with this retort: “Are you KIDDING ME?? No way, dad! Right now, I’m choosing the easy way! I’m choosing to live my life MY WAY!  If I were a Christian, THAT’S when my life would get difficult – because I would follow Christ with ALL of me. I could never be like all the Christians I know – who pick and choose the parts of Christianity they want to follow. No way. I’d be ALL-IN. I’d be BALLS-TO-THE-WALL, dad. I think life should be hard for a true Christian – not easy. For me, there’s no compelling argument to follow Jesus because I just don’t see anybody living ALL-IN.”

 

When the father shared that story with us, he said, “He had me. He’s right, you know. Not many Christians really do live ‘all-in’ and ‘balls-to-the-wall’. It really isn’t a compelling movement to follow when most people only follow it half-heartedly.”

 

So….. Grace reiterated this story and then lays this on me: “I want ‘ALL-IN’ tattooed on my wrist. I want to be constantly reminded to live for Christ – all of me – not just part of me.” She had given it serious thought, and wanted “ALL-IN” written in Arabic because it would remind her of when we lived in Morocco and she felt the most “all-in”.  She wanted it on her wrist because that is where the nails were driven that held Jesus to the cross.  She wanted the lettering facing HER, because this was HER reminder:  to live so ALL-IN that her Christian faith would compel others to follow Christ, too.

 

At least she wasn’t asking for a “BALLS-TO-THE-WALL” tattoo…

 

She started asking for the tattoo when she was sixteen. And Paul and I both said no. No way. We refused to let our lovely olive-skinned, underage teen daughter get inked. We have two surf-loving, guitar/drum playing, fairtrade-coffee-drinking, long-haired hippy sons in their young twenties and they’re not even inked yet.

 

I told her to go read Leviticus 19:28. Proof! KaPow!  (maybe she wouldn’t notice the parts about beards, wives, and menstruation…)

 

She told me to go read 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Romans 10:4

 

Touche’

 

I told her I’d think about it.

 

And her pursuit of that tattoo only built momentum over the coming year. If she ever fell short of the character we believed she had within her, she would say, “Well maybe if I had a tattoo to remind me of how to live…..”

 

She would often point out revered friends and/or popular role models who had tattoos and then ask, “Do you think [that particular person] lacks good judgment?”

 

She was good at this. Really good.

 

But as her 17th birthday inched closer, she hit me with the winning stroke:

 

“Mom, you know how the Bible says that our bodies are like temples? Well I was thinking – we find it perfectly acceptable and even good and necessary to adorn the temples, or churches, with things like stained glass windows, beautiful architecture and ornate carvings. And we believe this to be good because all of if should point others to the holiness and beauty of Christ” (I started to regret that we had taken her to numerous grand cathedrals all over Europe and Central America…) “Well, the way I see it, if we tattoo our bodies with beautiful art, or any symbol that points us or others to Christ, we are really trying to accomplish the same purpose. Only this is with our body-temples, not the building-temples. I think tattoos should have meaning. They could be art, or words, or symbols, but their meaning would be to remind ourselves or others that we serve a creative God, who delights in beauty, and is somehow glorified when we create beauty.”

 

She had me.

 

So on her seventeenth birthday, I took her to get her first tattoo. And I got my first one, too:

 

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The Date and the Cockroach

Unknown-1When we lived in Morocco we had a serious cockroach problem. They were everywhere – that was the problem. I never understood it. I had believed cockroaches only lived in dirty places so I tried to keep our house impeccably clean. But these cockroach-demons thought it was their house, too, and refused to leave no matter what we tried to eradicate them. And they were unbelievably, disgustingly large – nearly big enough to saddle-up and ride. They were so big that one time when a cockroach flew in through our screenless window and smacked me in the shoulder I thought it was a bird (which happened on occasion in Morocco, too). And these vermin are uglier than sin, or Gollum, or even the flying monkeys of Oz. Unlike traditional cockroaches that prefer your basement, sewer or garbage cans, our cockroaches seemed to prefer our upper-level bedrooms. Also, just like satan, these roaches were nocturnal and would hunt us down at night. Sometimes they crawled up on our bed. On several occasions, they crawled up on us. One time, in the middle of the night, Paul had one crawl up on his face and it tried to suck the spit from his mouth. Yes, it did.

Lord, have mercy. How I hate cockroaches.

However, living in Morocco also presented us with glorious things that, as Michiganders, we couldn’t get enough of – like sunshine, the ocean, surfing, mint tea, and, most affectionately, the year-round fresh fruit. I loved the unique sweetness of the watermelon, the juicy clementines, and abundant yellow cantaloupe with a red dot drawn on the side. (I repeatedly asked the locals for the specific name of the cantaloupe and they always replied “Yes, of course, it’s name in English is: Yellow cantaloupe with a red dot on the side.”) But Paul, he liked the dates the best. He ate them like candy. He would always pick up a box of dates whenever he did the shopping and would sneak them in the house when I wasn’t looking. He had to sneak because I would have never, ever, ever, ever to infinity, bought a box of dates. Never. I was loathe to even try one because, to me, they looked EXACTLY like cockroaches. The date’s opaque reddish-brown color along with its oblong shape and size are identical to the cockroach! If you added a couple antennae and four of those nasty, jagged, fast-as-lightning legs – voila! – a cockroach. Paul would rip open a date and yank out the pit and it looked to me just like dissecting a cockroach. I get puke in my mouth just thinking about it. Disgusting.

But one fateful day on a visit to the home of our dear Moroccan friends, I felt obliged (coerced?) to eat a date. They were passed around as the before-dinner-snack. And because Moroccans are the most hospitable people on this planet I didn’t want to dishonor them by refusing the food offered. Furthermore, they kept insisting these were the best dates in all of Morocco and my life just wouldn’t be complete without experiencing their succulence. So, I inhaled deeply, thanked God that living overseas had taught me to perfect “mouth-breathing-while-chewing-to-avoid-tasting”, and I ate one. Lo and behold, the skies parted, the muzzein stopped his call to prayer, the wild dogs stopped their barking, the incessant chorus of horns from the congested Casablancan streets stopped their honking, and a fantastic ray of sunshine beamed through the nearby gothic window lighting up that whole bowl of dates with a heavenly glow. I had experienced the divine. I proceeded to bury my face in that bowl and without any reserve or conscience, I devoured those dates. Every last one of them. Forget what I said earlier about infinity – those dates are now on my all-time favorite foods list and I will most definitely be buying dates both now and forevermore. Amen.

However, my problem remained. Cockroaches and dates still look shockingly similar. And what if, on a certain occasion, I would reach into our cupboard and instead of grabbing a date, inadvertently grab a cockroach? That may seem hard to fathom, but I promise you, in my kitchen in Morocco – it was entirely possible. What if I didn’t notice it was a cockroach until it was too late, say, after I had bitten the head off? Or worse yet, the butt? How would I make sure that when I wanted to eat this beautiful, succulent fruit that God kissed the earth with, I wouldn’t mistakenly grab something that looks exactly like it, but is actually pure evil?

(Now I know what the Bible says about God having created every living thing. It only makes sense that he created the cockroach. But I just gotta believe there is another explanation. I think somehow satan got his greedy little hands on what was otherwise an innocent cricket or gentle grasshopper and mutated it ever so slightly to become the cockroach. Maybe Adam lost a bet or a coin-toss or something – I don’t know. But I cannot believe that my all-loving God saw the cockroach and pronounced it “good” – I’m sticking with “pure evil”).

Because that ‘ole enemy of our souls is such a masterful deceiver, he is expert at taking something beautiful and twisting it just enough that we think we are tasting of the good, but he’s selling us the lie. He masterfully disguises the evil, – my gosh, it looks exactly like a date –and lures us into taking a bite, only to find we’ve been duped – we are eating cockroach butt.

For example, we all need food to live. Food is good. Food is beautiful. Food for fuel is the date. When I eat half a pan of brownies while staring out the window simply because I’m procrastinating – that is the butt of a cockroach.

Anytime the good is mutated slightly – often ever so subtIy – we are at risk for unknowingly consuming or endorsing something that is entirely evil.

When the “good” becomes warped, or too time-consuming, or over-magnified, or power-fueled, or greed-based, it then becomes “evil”. This can apply to nearly everything: work, play, education, exercise, cleanliness, shopping, leadership, knowledge, friendships, even (oooooh, here I go….) Bible studies!

Here’s another one – one of the “hottest” of our day: kids’ sports. It’s an example of ensuing evil that is so subtle, so culturally accepted and applauded, that it is unbelievably easy to miss. I see parents everywhere who love their children – a lot – which, of course, is a good thing. And in the name of love they sign their little Johnny up for soccer, hoping Johnny will develop habits of discipline, make new friends, stay fit, and find something he is passionate about. But then, a few years down the road, the parents and Johnny alike are some kind of soccer horror story where the only thing they live, breathe, think and discuss is soccer, Soccer, SOCCER, SOCCCCCCCERRRRRRR! Unbeknownst to them, because it happened so subtly, they have sacrificed family dinners, vacations, attending church, time with their other kids, money they meant to give to charitable causes, and even peace of mind just so Johnny could play soccer, Soccer, SOCCER, SOCCCCCCCERRRRRR!   Because, the fact is, we cannot say “yes” to something without saying “no” to something else. Something ALWAYS gives. Of course, they will very defensively tell you having your child in sports is a good thing, and their humble hopes and goals are that Johnny will get to play in high-school, or even college, or possibly be the next Lionel Messi, so all of this “investment” will have its payoff.

But here it is: they are sucking on a cockroach butt.

The control that soccer has over their family’s life is no longer the beautiful fruit of the date – the beautiful thing that sports can and should be in the life of a child – but a raw and disease-ridden cockroach that will end up killing something in their lives. Perhaps it will kill Johnny’s passion. Or perhaps their marriage. Or their relationships with their friends, neighbors, or other children. Or their time that God meant for them to be in service to others. Or their money God meant for them to share. Or their diversified interests. Something will die. Because that is the scheme of satan – “….he comes to lie, kill and destroy”.   And when we mistake the cockroach for the date – something will die.

In no way am I suggesting soccer is bad. Soccer is good. Soccer and swimming, play practice and piano, basketball and baseball, scholastic tutoring and science Olympiad, clarinet lessons and camera club: ALL GOOD. These things are dates, and when given their proper place and appropriate level of significance in the lives of our children, these things produce good and beautiful fruit in their lives.

However, when a good thing (perhaps soccer, but could be any kid’s activity) becomes too all-consuming, combined with every other all-consuming activity we’ve said “yes” to for our kids, we, the FAMILY, become exactly that: CONSUMED. We are EATEN ALIVE by the monster of our lives that we ourselves are responsible for creating. We created it – but it is all because we first bought the lie. We were deceived into biting into that which looked exactly like a date.

The enemy of our souls is relentlessly whispering to us this lie: “Do it ALL, you good and faithful parents! Give your kids ALL of it! If you don’t, they won’t make it in this world. They won’t succeed if you don’t give them every opportunity available. They will never make the [insert goal] if you don’t sign them up for the [insert activity]. You’re gonna have to work harder, push more, eat faster, sleep less, give greater in order for your kids to succeed in this world – that’s just the way it is today. If you don’t give-in to this new world order, maybe you don’t really love your kids. Maybe you’re selfish. This is your KIDS we’re talking about…”

We’ve had several children in our home over the last few years that say they can’t remember the last family dinner they’ve shared around their dining room table. Cockroach butt. I’ve been to so many all-day swimming and volleyball and gymnastics tournaments and watched countless younger siblings curled up on a blanket in the corner playing video games or watching movies on an i-pad for eight hours straight while big brother or sister competes. Cockroach butt. When husbands and wives can’t remember their last date-night – cockroach butt. When elderly parents no longer get visits from their children and grand-children – cockroach butt. When moms are working to supplement dad’s two-job income just to support all the kids’ sports and activity expenses – cockroach butt. When “coping” means the whole family needs to be on Prozac – it’s definitely cockroach butt.

All this begs one of the most important questions for our generation: Have we made our KIDS a false god? Out of love, and thinking that it was good, could it be we have elevated the successes and goals of our children to an unhealthy place costing us our marriages, our family relationships, our friendships, our health, our family dinners, our philanthropic dollars, our generosity and hospitality to others, our sanity – and even our peace of mind? How crafty of satan to take that which is good (our love for our kids) and twist it just enough that it actually becomes a very dangerous, self-destructive thing in society. The date is really a cockroach.

And here is a truth: We don’t have to live like this. WE DON’T HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THIS! We only need to take a step back and really gaze into the eyes of the monster that is eating us – identify the monster as the cockroach and lay it down. LAY IT DOWN. Stop pretending that it’s okay.

It’s not okay. LAY IT DOWN.

If you, like me, have heard yourself whining about your fatigue, complaining about your busyness, or just plain sad that your life isn’t what you thought it’d be because some external factors are just sucking the life out of you, maybe we all need to reach in our mouths and pull out the stuff we’ve been chewing on and take a good look at it: Is it a date or a cockroach?

 

 

 

On Mice and Ice

This week, two dastardly events descended on our family.  First, our daughter spotted a MOUSE in my CAR – and it seems to have taken refuge under the passenger seat and we can’t get it out.  Now, every time I drive somewhere I’m terrified that vermin will jump out at me.  Secondly, a BLIZZARD hit Michigan… in NOVEMBER!  We’re supposed to be hosing off the patio furniture, cleaning out the gutters and planting mums in the landscaping in November – not having snow days, clearing off icicles and endlessly shoveling the driveway!
Our daughter Grace turned 16 this year and has now been driving for five months.  This snow-fall will be her first exposure to driving in the snow and ice – and she’s a little freaked by that.  So on the first evening of serious snow accumulation, while I was driving her to volleyball, she asked me a great series of questions on how to navigate icy, snowy roads.
It wasn’t until I got about half-way through the questioning that I realized what a precious, precious gift we have – those of us living in this frozen tundra – because much of what we need to know about navigating life we can learn from navigating ice!
Winter driving is simply a “test-run” to teach us how to get through the tough stuff in life! 
So I wrote a little summary on driving tips for my sweet daughter Grace to help her stay safe on nasty Michigan winter roads – and included the life applications to help her avoid “crashes” in life as well:

o   Go slow. Always drive SLOWER than what you think you need to.
Life is speeding by – that is true.  But if you insist on speeding with it, you will miss the VERY things that make life holy and precious – the essence of what it means to be alive.  Take it slow.  Breathe in the crispness of this winter air, hear the crunch of the snow beneath your boots, catch snowflakes in your mouth, bury your friends in snow drifts in our yard, savor the beauty of a world blanketed in white.  THIS is our Father’s world – and we get the gift of enjoying it.
o   When you feel you’re losing control on the ice and you start to slide (and you WILL slide someday, baby)- don’t slam on the brakes!  Just tap them lightly, slow down, and hold steady.
Likewise, if you find yourself going off course in life, don’t come to a halt!   Forward motion is necessary to take you OUT of the problem. You will make mistakes.  You will, at times, lose your way – but keep going forward and hold steady to that which you know is true.  Don’t ever find yourself on the side-lines just watching life go by, Grace.  Get in the game and keep moving…
o   Always have your cell phone with you.  If you do get into trouble, all you have to do is call for help.
Oh, Grace, when it comes to life, this is such a hard one for me!  Just remember, we were NOT meant to do this life alone!  Reach out to others when you get into trouble – and together, you can make it.
o   Keep your eyes on your mirrors and know what others’ are doing all around you.  If they are starting to slip and slide, get out of their way – don’t get caught in their wreckage!  But if you see someone go in the ditch, by all means, stop and offer help!  
Likewise in life, Grace, there will be those who are crashing and burning all around you – all the time.  Learn from them.  Help them.  But keep your distance from those who try to bring you into their wreckage.  Instead, love them unconditionally and offer help whenever you can.  Always, always, always, help those in need.
o   You see that well-worn track in the road?  Well, don’t take it.  It’s deceptive – because it’s actually very icy there.  Keep your wheels just off center of that track because you’ll get better traction where there’s a little snow and not just ice.  
And likewise in life, do NOT take the trail most traveled!  It, too, is slick and deceptive – alluring, but totally dangerous.  It’s that whole “wide gate”, “narrow gate” thing…  the path that “everybody else” is taking is the going to be the one that leads to destruction.  Take the road less traveled, Grace, and it will make all the difference.
o   Keep both hands on the wheel at all times.  Because when that damn mouse appears, and oh, you better believe that he’ll appear – you gotta be ready!  You DO NOT want to lose control when the mouse appears! 
None of us, not one, are exempt from troubles in this life.  They will come – for sure, they will come.  So having both hands on the wheel – which represents HE who directs our paths – will keep you ready for when those “mice” jump into your life so that you don’t lose control and crash.  When life gets hard – like when you have to change schools, or your friends hurt you, or you don’t get to play the sport you love, or your mom gets a terminal illness – you MUST have both hands on the wheel, Grace.  Hang on to Jesus with all that you have.
You can do this, Grace!  Remember – there will ALWAYS be ice and mice – but YOU have what it takes to drive right through the storms:  a Perfect Co-Pilot.