the importance of cheerleaders

photo cred: College of San Mateo Library
photo cred: College of San Mateo Library

I was in Ceres, California last Monday when I heard Glenn Frey had passed away. And the mental collision was so real.

I did two years of high school in that town. And one of those years, I tried out for cheerleading.

We had to do a yell routine, of course, and I was astonishingly not good at that part. But I was even worse at the dance routine — which was “The Heat is On” sung by Glenn Frey. It’s been 30 years, but I can still dance the first sets of beats.

These moves have provided endless entertainment for my family and a few select friends over the years. I’m sure I remember them so well because it is the only dance routine I ever learned… Our cheerleaders at Ceres High School were awesome dancers. And I was an awesome, rhythmless, regular Baptist.

(Oh, BTW, my sincere apologies to the friends I would have loved to see in California, but it was a whirlwind one-day visit for my Grandma’s 90th birthday. Go Grandma!!! *insert pom pom shake here*)

I always wanted to be a cheerleader. I love, love, love synchronization. Whether it’s dance moves, or coordinating colors, or plot lines. It’s all so lovely to watch. Movement, staging, timing = favorite things.

When I think about why cheerleading was so hard for me (high school was not my first attempt to make the squad), I can acknowledge now that, in addition to being terribly uncoordinated, I’ve always been too self-conscious. There’s a certain amount of just going for it that a person needs in order to cheer well.

But, I’m getting pretty decent at cheering from the sidelines these days — as long as I keep it under a certain decibel. My yell is weird. And sort of screamy. The voice comes out not at all what I imagine it to be in my head. Something about watching my babies do stuff out there just makes me lose my self-consciousness and yell out their names. Which they just LOVE!

As much as they may hate it in the moment, they will remember mom (and dad) shouting praises from the sidelines for the rest of their lives.

Because praise, encouragement, cheer… everyone needs this. Everyone.

In fact, nothing simultaneously makes me angry and breaks my heart more than hearing parents yell from the sidelines in angry, disgusted tones at their kids.  I’ve been at games where I wanted to tell some parents to GO HOME. I cannot imagine listening to anything more discouraging than your voice. Your baby has run 18 miles today in the blazing sun. Give him a break!

All of us need cheerleaders. We do. Especially at critical points of life when discouragement clings to you, sucks you in, and threatens to drown you like quicksand.

I’ve been reading “For the Love” by Jen Hatmaker and in one chapter she puts on her old cheerleader voice to tell her readers some things. I needed to read this pep talk and maybe you do, too.

Here’s what she said that just lifted me right out of my pajamas, into the shower to ponder, and back into my bathrobe (keepin it real here) to write this post:

We will cheer each other on, refusing to speak doubt into our gifts. When you are scared, I will declare, ‘You can do this.’ When you whisper a dream, I’ll holler through a bullhorn that you are brave and wonderful and important! When I am beaten down, you will remind me that I am an approved worker with no shame….Let’s do this. Let’s fulfill the good work we’ve been commissioned to. Silence any voice that whispers ‘not enough’ and stand in truth as an approved worker. You are. Jesus made you so. If God surveyed the cross and declared it finished, then it wasn’t sufficient for everyone but you. If Jesus covered it all, then He covered it all….If you need to deal, then deal…Forgive, release, acknowledge, confront, feel the feelings, let something go, believe the truth, whatever you need to do. Then dust your hands off and get ready to go….This really is your one wild and precious life. You matter so much. You are writing a good story for your children. Your community and church need you, your neighbors and family need you, God adores you and Jesus is obsessed with you. Here we are, your community of women running this race together, proud of you, moved by you.

-Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

I need people in my life who cheer for me. My husband, my kids, relatives — they do an amazing job at this. And oh how I love my dear friends who speak even the smallest words of encouragement to me. Friends who believe I can. And should.

I’ve got enough negative words in my own head about myself. I don’t need more. You don’t need more. We’re stuck in an ugly, losing game sometimes. Heckled by our own hearts.

Maybe you feel beaten down and discouraged, too. Maybe you don’t have cheerleaders in your life, or your cheerleaders are fighting their own battles. Maybe you need to do what I’m going to do and Stuart Smalley that quote from Jen Hatmaker right onto your bathroom mirror and “silence any voice that whispers ‘not enough’ and stand in truth as an approved worker.”

And if you’re dealing with a husband, wife, child who is struggling with addiction (or anything else for that matter) take some time to think about your role in their life.

Are you the voice on the sidelines (maybe you need to get back to the sidelines) calling out every wrong move, every failed attempt when they’re fighting to get on their feet? Or do you cheer them on toward victory?

Cheering on someone you love through recovery takes selflessness and patience. We have to set aside our uncertainties, insecurities, fears and allow hope to fill us and give us grace and encouraging words. And pray for wisdom. Lots and lots of wisdom.

I suppose the same is true for any relationship, really.

Encouragement revives.

* * * * *

Who in your life needs your words of encouragement? A child, a spouse, a pastor, a friend?

Sometimes, you just need to go for it.

But maybe not with pom poms.

…encourage one another and build each other up…

1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

 

 

 

Everyone loves a comeback

The life-changing magic of never giving up…

I can’t believe it’s playoff time again.

I can’t believe I care...

(See what I did there?)

If I’m watching a sport, one of my kids is playing. Or it’s the last 5 minutes of a college basketball game… But I’m talking about football (can you believe it, Dad?). Hang with me though, if you’re a hater. There’s a point.

Up here in Washington, they get a little excited about their Seahawks. And it’s a little contagious. Okay, a lot contagious. And not just because I live with some serious fans.

There are friendships forged in the hardest of times. When we’re together, our conversations are often about the nearest and dearest to our hearts — our families, our faith, our prayers. Football doesn’t fit.

But last January, we talked about the game.

Over tea. Over coffee. Over lunch…

And we might have gotten a little teary about 3:52 and 19 to 7.

If you’re a Seattle Seahawks fan, you know what I mean.

On January 18, 2015, chances are, if you live in Seattle, you listened to the conference playoff game on the radio because your power was out. If you were lucky enough to have TV, you kind of wished you didn’t. Because it was bad. Too many turnovers. Too painful to watch.

Chances are you reminded yourself we’re a second half team and then you got giddy because the guy who’s supposed to hold the ball for the kicker threw it instead to a guy you’d never seen before — a trick play like kids do in pickup games on playgrounds — and it worked. (This is what it sounded like on Seattle radio.) You dared to believe…and then…another interception.

The clock ticked away. Fail after fail.

Chances are, you turned off the radio once Steve Raible began to sound hopeless. Or you changed the TV channel. Or you left the stadium…

win probability 2
graph cred: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201501180sea.htm

With 5 minutes left in the game, the Seahawks had a .1% chance of winning.

Point One Percent.

The odds were decidedly NOT in their favor.

The Seahawks got the ball again with 3:52 left to play in the game. And they had to get two touchdowns in order to win.

No way.

It seemed impossible. And it was. (see graph for statistical proof)

But when the Seahawks got the ball again, with 3:52 left in the game and the score was 19  to 7, something changed.

Marshawn Lynch moved up the field 14 yards in those golden shoes and suddenly, it was on. And Kam Chancellor was running down the sidelines yelling to Russell Wilson that Doug is open! Throw it to Doug! like he’s 14 years old. And you saw the team light up with him. And then Russell Wilson ran in for the touchdown with 2:13 left in the game.

And the strangely sad, silent crowd — normally infamous for their volume — rallied, too. Even while the commentators were claiming the victory for the Packers. How awesome is it that even though we’re going to lose this game, they’re not giving up? We said to ourselves. What a great example for the children.

And then, my goodness. A rookie gets the ball back in an onside kick. And now you dared to hope, not breathing at all. And holy cow, when those gold-soled feet ran 24 yards to score ANOTHER touchdown with just 95 seconds left in the game and you could hear the whole neighborhood cheer because what is even happening??

And then, a desperation pass as Wilson ran out of time and threw the ball up on his way down but the other Willson miraculously caught it and put the Seahawks ahead by 3 points.

Are you kidding me? (that’s my Steve Raible impression, right there)

But wait. Nope. Way too much time left… funny how that happens…and the Packers wanted it so bad. And now the game is tied and going into overtime and you just. want. it. to. be. over. Because good grief, you DIDN’T EVEN CARE. And now you do. And the tension of overtime is way too much…

But Seattle’s so awake now in overtime. Wilson to Lynch. Wilson to Baldwin. Wilson to Lynch. Wilson to Baldwin. And then a beautiful thing…

Every time Russell Wilson threw to Jermaine Kearse in that game it failed. Every. Time. All four interceptions were intended for Kearse. But both Wilson and Kearse have the guts to try again.

Chances are, if you’re  a Seahawks fan, you maybe cried just a bit when the guy who’d played the worst game of life up til a few minutes before hit his knees and gave God the glory. Because you know he must have prayed that ball into Kearse’s hands for the win. And maybe you cried a little more when he said he wished his dad had been there to see it.

Chances are, when the shock wore off and the win sank in, you realized that you just saw something happen in real life that only happens in the movies.

And you started thinking about the things you think only have a fraction of a percent of turning out well.

About the hard things. The times you’ve failed and can’t bear to try again. The times you’ve wanted to give up on that kid, that man because chances are the chances are impossible and the odds are against.

I wonder as I write this, What sparked that unbelievable Seattle comeback? What fueled it? Was it the 12th Man? Was it their roar of encouragement at the slightest hint of turning things around? Was it the injured superstar players who refused to leave the game? Was it Pete Carroll, good old positive Pete who didn’t give up on Russell Wilson and pull him out of the game?Was it Russell Wilson who just kept at it over and over until he got it right?

Everyone loves a comeback, but not everyone has the guts to believe it can happen and see it through to the end.

Sometimes, you just need to see with your own eyes and feel the impossible.

That’s what we said over tea. Over coffee. Over lunch. Even if it’s football. Because it’s not really about the game at all.

It’s about hope. About how it’s never over til it’s over. About how the impossible CAN happen in real life. About how encouragement may come from the most unlikely places. About how even the strongest fall and have to pick themselves up and keep on fighting. About how what you believe about yourself affects your actions. It’s about throwing the ball one more time to a guy who’s missed over and over and that one more time is the most important time of all but you’re giving him another chance.

It’s about never leaving the game early.

Never give up. Never. Ever. Ever. Not on yourself. Not on that friend. And mama, don’t ever give up on your kid.

It may take perseverance. It may take a miracle. But comebacks do happen and they are beautiful.

Dave and me as farmers
Me and my comeback guy.

P.S. GO ‘HAWKS!

(12th Man Flag from Seattle Seahawks http://www.seahawks.com/wallpaper)

when love is built on countless failures

Sometimes, when your love has endured through terrible things, you are amazed to find that you could ever bicker over something as trivial as pancakes.

But suddenly, there you are irrationally irritated, both of you. And off you go to the bedroom to “discuss” in loud whispers behind closed doors, leaving the kids in buttery, syrupy wonderment.

Soon a “you always” and a “you never” and a “you are” invade the conversation and someone just needs to end it, because it’s heading to absurdity, so when a boy knocks to ask about chores, you do. No resolution, just full stop.

But the mood is set. And so, she scrubs the shower with the guilty determination of Lady Macbeth, and he cuts down every offensive overgrown shock of grass, and the boys snap-to without complaint because none of them wants that directed at them, and it’s not til much later that you realize the why of it.

The why? She had too much coffee — maybe — before eating anything of substance, consumed by a story and a wish to see the world again. He started the day too early, to watch a soccer game with his boy who is spending a season on the sidelines, broken, and as much as they love to watch together it’s not the same as watching him, and disappointment permeates as his team loses just the very minute she is pouring the pancakes. And so, a simple, “Is this egg for me?” receives a sharp “I just made them. They’re not for anyone in particular.” And he wonders aloud at her rather than quietly conversing in vague metaphors.  Things must be sorted out, hashed out, resolved — now.

But the why remains dormant as the flurry of words takes on tone and expectation and below the flurry lies an unseen, unsaid ache.

These troublesome talking overs and unders and not hearing, knowing, loving perfectly, these are bits of rock and weed that surface no matter how many rocks, weeds you sift from your soil. No matter how well you till your garden, no matter how many rocks have been removed. Remnants of a curse. By the sweat of your brow. Two who are one and yet not — and at times it feels like the ground is opening between you.

But knocking has pulled you away from the abyss. And the work is gift. Here is something that can be made right. Soap scum is no mystery, grass does not ask to be understood.

And yet, there is romance. Even in a Saturday morning spat. Because your love has weathered so much more than pancakes and eggs. Rocks, weeds and thorns are momentary light afflictions, and you will laugh soon — later, over lunch — surprised how sometimes a game and a book can stir sensitive souls. And you know your longing for perfect understanding, perfect peace is merely deep desire to re-enter The Garden where she was once bone of your bones and flesh of your flesh, she, once so perfectly known he had no need for words.

We have laughter. And we have smart, sharp children who interrupt the absurd and are beautiful and daily reminders that our faults, our many grievous faults, can somehow be redeemed and blessed. And we know the silly, selfish spats will come again because we are not in The Garden. We are he and she in imperfection. And she drives the car til the tank is empty, and he breaks a sweat when it dips below half. And he likes to be there early, and she wishes people still determined time by the sun. She’ll snap, he’ll be too lenient, she’ll spend too much, he’ll punish the wrong kid, she’ll be needlessly strict because he suddenly seems to have no boundaries, she’ll swear, and he may even put a hole in the wall. Or she will.

And the truth, the romance, is that we are always learning to make allowance for each other’s faults…and it is glorious to overlook them. 

“No long-term marriage is made easily, and there have been times when I’ve been so angry or so hurt that I thought my love would never recover. And then, in the midst of near despair, something has happened beneath the surface. A bright little flashing fish of hope has flicked silver fins and the water is bright and suddenly I am returned to a state of love again — til next time. I’ve learned that there will always be a next time, and that I will submerge in darkness and misery, but that I won’t stay submerged. And each time something has been learned under the waters; something has been gained; and a new kind of love has grown. The best I can ask for is that this love, which has been built on countless failures, will continue to grow. I can say no more than that this is mystery, and gift, and that somehow or other, through grace, our failures can be redeemed and blessed.”

Madeleine L’Engle
The Irrational Season

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11

Make allowance for each other’s faults… Colossians 3:13a

advent meditation

My family has been in a season of expectation and waiting. But the beautiful side effect has been fully embracing Advent for the first time.

All we’re waiting for is to be able to move into our new home. We’ve been saying any day now for a month, and we’ve discovered we’re not good at waiting.

There are no signs of Christmas at our house but the wreath, candles and a lovely table cloth my sister just gave me. We haven’t even bought gifts.

But night after night we light a candle, we read and we pray, preparing our hearts for Christmas. It’s so freeing, we may have to do it again.

I am mesmerized by Advent. By the poetic blend of prophecy and symbolism. By the way Revelation echoes Isaiah. By the waiting.

So I took a picture. And I wrote a poem. (Free verse, of course.)

* * * * *

Do you feel the waiting?

The knowing it will be, in time . . .

Something significant, life-changing is certain to happen, but the precisely when is elusive . . .

Days and weeks pass. Months and years, and the thing you held onto as imminent has not yet happened, and while you watch and you pray, you wonder, you doubt, you fret and still . . . nothing.

A promise?

You are not the first to question. How long is long expected?

Death, injustice, grief weave a tragic plot . . .

You are not the first to wonder if the deus ex machina will miss his entrance.

And you are not the first to hope it’s soon because this world is a knotted mess and the harder you pull the tighter the knot gets and you know it will take a God to sort it all out. Until he does you cut the tangled strings and keep cutting until there’s nothing left to cut.

Silence.

Silence as you tread water in the tears of the world that overflowed their bottles long ago. Deep calls to deep but the waterfall is white noise and it drowns the longing, numbs the wait.

Darkness.

The way once seemed right to you, but now it feels as though you’ve been walking a very long time and you wonder if maybe, just maybe, you missed the turn somewhere. A little light and you could be certain. Sight of something with your own eyes would recharge your waning hope.

Waiting.

You’ve been holding your breath through the drama, through the silence, through the darkness. Holding it til you are weak and helpless. And the exhale of four and two thousand years of waiting passes through your lungs as you gasp for air:

Come quickly.

* * * * *

Light!

Spark ignites bent wick and flickers.

We cannot see beyond ourselves, gathered together. Shadow looms beyond table, beyond reach of flame. But we are comforted; we do not wait alone.

 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.                                                                                                                                           Isaiah 9:2

Generations, generations wait in breathless expectation of the God who heals! the God who restores! the God who brings justice!

He will reign on David’s throne, and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding
it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  
                                                                           Isaiah 9:7

He will destroy the oppressor, gather the scattered, He will be the King, reign forever and ever . . .

He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord . . . and they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.
Micah 5:4-5

I wonder . . .

How do we, who wait so expectantly, miss the signs?

We look for salvation in flourish, in victory, in power, in brilliance and in blazing sunshine.

But He is found, so unexpected, so humble, so poor, so small beneath the light of a single star. He comes to us, not in a box, but as a gift. But thou, Bethlehem. 

He is there. In the mess. In the silence. In the darkness.

* * * * *

The hero enters. Riding on a donkey. Greeted by children. Followed by no one special. Beaten. Crucified.

. . . we had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel.
                                                                                 Luke 24:21

All the years of waiting, only to wait again?

The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.                                                                                                                                          John 1:5

A promise!

healing of the nations

no more death

no more sorrow

no more night

They will not need the light of the lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever. 
Amen, come Lord Jesus.
                                                                            Revelation 22:5

* * * * *

Light!

Spark ignites.

Tongues of fire.

And we are comforted.

We do not wait alone.

* * * * *

* * * * *

We are waiting for so many things, aren’t we? For healing. For joy. For peace. For heaven. Whether it’s right on the surface or deep in our souls, we feel the longing for all to be really, truly well.

We fight to see beyond the circle of the candle light. We beg to know ahead. Of all things, we cannot bear the silence of God.

There is no short cut through waiting.

But Hope is the precious spark of light that keeps us going.
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