the importance of cheerleaders

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.

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

 

 

 

 

17 things I say to my kids that I really should say to myself

If anyone anywhere very desperately needed to take her own advice, it would be me.

If anyone anywhere very desperately needed to take her own advice, it would be me.

Things I say to my kids hourly, daily, and every so often:

1.  You need to be drinking water ALL the time!

2.  Get off the internet and do something productive.

3.  Eat some protein.

4.  What you really need to do is get ready the night before.

5.  Put that back where you got it.

6.  Be diligent.

7. Make good choices.

8.  Stop saying negative things about yourself, you’re going to end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy.

9.  You can do this.

10.  You don’t have to be the best. Just do your best and let it be what it is.

I talk a good game. Don’t you wish you were one of my kids?

* * * * *

It’s amazing how when you ask God to open up your eyes to where you’re missing the mark, He shows you.

Sometimes the answer comes like a punch in the gut. Sometimes, it’s an echo. Your own words coming back to you.

You can do this, I hear myself say . . .

11.  Focus.

12.  Do your best with what you have.

13.  God gave you a gift — use it.

14.  Quit comparing.

15.  Don’t be so afraid of rejection.

16.  Keep at it and don’t quit.

* * * * *

There are seasons . . .

. . . you stick to it and see change. You master the piece through practice. You labor over tedious assignments to get an A. You dribble incessantly in every spare minute and make the team.

And then there are seasons . . .

When you do all the things. Practically killing yourself to get there. And the promotion doesn’t happen. The part goes to someone else. The ref makes bad calls and you are defeated.

There are people — I used to be one of them — who thrive in that spot.  Don’t tell me I can’t because it will only make me work harder.

But as I dispense these true true phrases to my kids, I realize a thing about myself. Because I’ve seen it not happen like it should too many times. Cynical. I am cynical.

Because there are places where men’s voices are heard over women’s. Where tall dancers are cast and short ones aren’t. Where popularity wins over goodness. Where bankruptcy gets a pass and paying off debt takes decades. Where good suffers and evil is rewarded.

Yes, bad happens. Yes, the bad guys sometimes win. Yes, it isn’t fair.

But it doesn’t mean you’re a loser, or that you don’t have talent, or that you’re not worth listening to. Not in any way. And maybe that’s the most important thing I really should say to myself:

17. Tell yourself the truth. Over and over. Whenever lies begin to fill your head, tell them the Truth.

* * * * *
1500 size Live the Season

Deb's signature for blog

 

 

 

 

P.S. That’s my mom pep talk. I”ll leave the rest to this guy . . .

 

Michael Jordan

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Also, if you click on it, you can watch the commercial.

repost: a light between here and there

the Grandma I wrote about in this post passed away today. she was an example to me of a love that endures at a time when I needed it most.

My Grandma I wrote about in this post last summer passed away today.
She was, and will always be, an example and encouragement to me of a love that endures at a time when I needed it most.

Someday, I will write about that, but tonight, before I tuck myself into bed, I just want to go back to my earliest memories of her and smell those cotton sheets.

* * * * *

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. — Matthew 5:14

When I was a little girl, my parents packed us into their old, red Datsun mini station wagon and traveled north from Denver to Casper.

I don’t know how many times we made that trip to my grandparents’ house, or how many times we drove those hours at night. At eight years old, squished with my brothers in the back seat , the drive (which might be just four hours) seemed an eternity. Even with my dad singing cowboy songs.

Somewhere behind us, the lights of the city disappeared, leaving only black nothing ahead.

Miles and miles of darkness. No highway lights. No inside car lights. No light-up games. We floated through space.

Lone beacons in midnight fields, like bright stars, reached out with comfort  — and questions.

Who would live so far out in the nothing? Wouldn’t they be lonely? Where would they go to school?

Someone chose this solitary place. A rancher, maybe, with a thousand head of cattle. An oilman with a hundred wells. A lineman, quiet and content with the company of tumbleweeds . . .

Finally, we’d reach a rise and see, off in the distance, the white-blue glow of Casper. Almost there. Always, it seems, it was then I would fall asleep.Midland Pennsylvania at night

More than an hour from the first sight of city lights, through town and out again, into the dark countryside once more, was a country school in the middle of nowhere where my grandparents were caretakers.

Noisy vibration of wheels hitting cattle guards jostled me awake. A floodlight on a lonely road marked our destination.

Into the driveway, around the school, we coasted toward light pouring through the windows of my grandparents’ house, inviting us out of the cramped car onto the lawn and into the glow.

I can still smell the cotton sheets of the bed grandma had made up and waiting. Stretching my legs under the covers, I drifted into darkness again — the feel of the road in my limbs as the journey replayed behind closed eyelids.

This quiet home — a light, far from town, a shining dot on a dark landscape — was Grandma and Grandpa’s house. A place of wide open spaces and adventure and cousins and giant sprinklers and stories and jeep rides on scary back roads and arrowhead hunts and a refrigerator full of name-brand soda in cans.

There is a place for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

I wonder how long we will live along this dark highway. . . in the daily-ness of nurturing, guiding, growing, of learning to be faithful in small things.

Because sometimes, I wrestle with the limits of my little light.

Sometimes, I am reduced to flickering – a candle wick bent, weary, drowning in wax. And I begin to envy the power of the luminous city, of the brightness that cannot be hidden. And I become a lamp, out of oil, puffing stinky smoke . . .

Sometimes, I want to pack up and leave the quiet place. To find significance as part of a big thing . . . cars drive past in a hurry from here to there . . . 

But somewhere, in the middle of the night, someone is searching. And a small light will illuminate his steps, even if just one step at a time.

On the journey through darkness, a solitary light marks the way: Keep going, you are almost there.

A solitary light gives comfort:  Traveler, you are not alone.

A solitary light gives courage — It’s possible to live in the middle of nowhere for a very long time.  

Even a solitary light holds back the night. Even a glowing ember can be revived. And a dimly burning wick He will not quench. 

This is the light God gave me.

 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:15-16

Sometimes a city, set on a hill. Sometimes a lamp, on a stand. Sometimes a flickering candle. But always light. Always and ever dependent on the Father of Lights for filling to fight against consuming darkness.

. . .  there is a purpose for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

Since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry, we do not lose heart . . . .But we have this treasure, this light, in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:1,6-8) 

* * * * *

Thank you, Grandma Barrick.

of pride and pompousness, part one

maybe love does not boast means I don’t need to prove how much I deserve love

“Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.”
– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

* * * * *

The cat and I found a bit of sunshine this morning. I, to trim an overgrown bush, which is bent on blocking my porch swing view of the trampoline, she to watch me wear out my arms.

We have learned, the two of us, to bask in sun while it is sun. Already, the spotlight has made its way across our patch of woods and shade covers all but a sliver of the sparkling grass.

Perhaps I am avoiding the house. It is all at sixes and sevens — a phrase for which, out of curiosity, I have now had to consult the OED . . . or rather, the Wikipedia, as it appears there is an annual subscription rate of $295 for the Oxford English Dictionary.

And so, Wikipedia must suffice this morning for the meaning of the phrase, which is derived, roughly, from: a French dice game (6 & 7 being unlucky). Chaucer. Shakespeare. Gilbert & Sullivan. Which is pretty much the evolutionary path of all English words.

I suppose I am in an especially English mood this morning. Sipping tea because I’ve had far too much coffee. Imagining petticoats pant legs six inches deep in mud if I follow my flight of fancy down to the beach (which smells particularly of sulfur this morning). Wishing I had housemaids to right my messy house. Counting hours til I see my daughter in Whitworth University’s Pride and Prejudice. . . . and pondering one’s opinion of oneself

* * * * *

I wish I knew classical Greek. Really knew it. Lexicon skills only take you so far. Because I think there is a depth of poetry to the Love Chapter, and I am only skimming the surface.

Saul of the New Testament was a Jewish scholar. A Pharisee. Memorizer of the entire Torah. Expert in the Law of Moses. But God chose him, Luke says in the Acts of the Apostles. Chose Saul specifically to take the story of Jesus — whose followers he had persecuted to death — to the Greeks.

I read somewhere that the church at Corinth, to whom St. Paul wrote love is had become competitive. They bragged about their gifts and knowledge and enlightenedness. Exalting self — just like their city’s vain goddess, Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The worship of Aphrodite makes you realize why the Christ followers in Corinth needed a full, detailed explanation of love . . .

Which brings me back to Greek. St. Paul used a word here that most of us read in our Bibles as brag or boast. But this particular Greek word is used no where else in the New Testament, not even in any of St. Paul’s other epistles. It’s a word used by Greek philosophers and historians of gods and goddesses — translated into the English language (making the usual trek through Chaucer and Shakespeare) originally as vaunteth:

  1. a self display, employing rhetorical embellishments in extolling one’s self excessively

Vaunteth puts on a parade of self. 

In vaunt, I see the actions and words of the king of the humble brag — Mr. Collins (Pride & Prejudice), the pompous and stupid Mr. Eliot (Persuasion), the name-dropping Mrs. Elton (Emma), the preposterously selfish Fanny Dashwood (Sense & Sensibility), the vain and aristocratic Aunt Norris (Mansfield Park). Ridiculous, boastful caricatures.

I would like to leave boasting in an arrogant Aphrodite’s court and in the pages of Austen. I know vaunteth doesn’t belong in real life love.

Oh, but it’s there.

“Boasting is often a sign of my deep insecurity and need for others to validate me with their approval.”**

Maybe, sometimes, we pat ourselves on the back because no one else ever does. Maybe we were starved of praise by parents, teachers, coaches who didn’t want it to go to your head. Maybe we flaunt our accomplishments or beauty or talent or possessions because it’s the only way we’ve ever received attention. And maybe, sometimes, we’re entirely unaware that by inflating ourselves, we’ve eclipsed someone we love.

* * * * *

I’ve paraded myself with my own lips. More times than I care to confess . . .
Maybe love does not boast means you don’t need to prove how much you deserve love . . . because you are secure in the love of a God who loved even the formerly murderous St. Paul. You are loved because you are the beloved.

I think it’s lovely that don’t boast comes right after don’t envy. Love doesn’t try to make people jealous.

Sometimes, in this day of posting words everywhere, our boasts and milder “humble brags” are in our friends’ faces all the time. Things we used to keep to ourselves so quickly typed and out there . . . Sometimes, just asking ourselves why we are saying it stops the me parade.

Sometimes, though, we’re too sensitive, taking outbursts of joy as vaunting. I know I have. And I have to ask myself if I am envious because I’m competing, comparing gifts, discontent . . .

And I have to stop myself from getting up and taking a turn — my turn — about the room so that my figure may be seen to the best advantage.

* * * * *

** Dr. Ralph Wilson, Jesus Walk

a light between here and there

I wonder how long we will live along this dark highway. . . in the dailyness of nurturing, guiding, growing, of learning to be faithful in small things.

Because sometimes, I wrestle with the limits of my little light.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. — Matthew 5:14

When I was a little girl, my parents packed us into their old, red Datsun mini station wagon and traveled north from Denver to Casper.

I don’t know how many times we made that trip to my grandparents’ house, or how many times we drove those hours at night. At eight years old, squished with my brothers in the back seat , the drive (which might be just four hours) seemed an eternity. Even with my dad singing cowboy songs.

Somewhere behind us, the lights of the city disappeared, leaving only black nothing ahead.

Miles and miles of darkness. No highway lights. No inside car lights. No light-up games. We floated through space.

Lone beacons in midnight fields, like bright stars, reached out with comfort  — and questions.

Who would live so far out in the nothing? Wouldn’t they be lonely? Where would they go to school?

Someone chose this solitary place. A rancher, maybe, with a thousand head of cattle. An oilman with a hundred wells. A lineman, quiet and content with the company of tumbleweeds . . .

Finally, we’d reach a rise and see, off in the distance, the white-blue glow of Casper. Almost there. Always, it seems, it was then I would fall asleep.Midland Pennsylvania at night

More than an hour from the first sight of city lights, through town and out again, into the dark countryside once more, was a country school in the middle of nowhere where my grandparents were caretakers.

Noisy vibration of wheels hitting cattle guards jostled me awake. A floodlight on a lonely road marked our destination.

Into the driveway, around the school, we coasted toward light pouring through the windows of my grandparents’ house, inviting us out of the cramped car onto the lawn and into the glow.

I can still smell the cotton sheets of the bed grandma had made up and waiting. Stretching my legs under the covers, I drifted into darkness again — the feel of the road in my limbs as the journey replayed behind closed eyelids.

This quiet home — a light, far from town, a shining dot on a dark landscape — was Grandma and Grandpa’s house. A place of wide open spaces and adventure and cousins and giant sprinklers and stories and jeep rides on scary back roads and arrowhead hunts and a refrigerator full of name-brand soda in cans.

There is a place for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

I wonder how long we will live along this dark highway. . . in the daily-ness of nurturing, guiding, growing, of learning to be faithful in small things.

Because sometimes, I wrestle with the limits of my little light.

Sometimes, I am reduced to flickering – a candle wick bent, weary, drowning in wax. And I begin to envy the power of the luminous city, of the brightness that cannot be hidden. And I become a lamp, out of oil, puffing stinky smoke . . .

Sometimes, I want to pack up and leave the quiet place. To find significance as part of a big thing . . . cars drive past in a hurry from here to there . . . 

But somewhere, in the middle of the night, someone is searching. And a small light will illuminate his steps, even if just one step at a time.

On the journey through darkness, a solitary light marks the way: Keep going, you are almost there.

A solitary light gives comfort:  Traveler, you are not alone.

A solitary light gives courage — It’s possible to live in the middle of nowhere for a very long time.  

Even a solitary light holds back the night. Even a glowing ember can be revived. And a dimly burning wick He will not quench. 

This is the light God gave me.

 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:15-16

Sometimes a city, set on a hill. Sometimes a lamp, on a stand. Sometimes a flickering candle. But always light. Always and ever dependent on the Father of Lights for filling to fight against consuming darkness.

. . .  there is a purpose for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

Since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry, we do not lose heart . . . .But we have this treasure, this light, in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:1,6-8) 

In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.
― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

a dimly burning wick He will not quench. (Isaiah 42:3)

* * * * *

blessings for the broken part three

The endless gray sky feels forever like 11 o’clock in the morning . . .
no sun to guide and you must check your watch to remind you of the passing of the hours.

Night ebbs slow. Day is a fading in and out of light. Artless.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. — Matthew 5:5

The endless gray sky feels forever like 11 o’clock in the morning . . . no sun to guide and you must check your watch to remind you of the passing of the hours.

Night ebbs slow. Day is a fading in and out of light. Artless.

I feel it in the heavy winter gloom. I see it in faces. Touch it in names. And it’s there on bitter pages. The year I was angry with God.

I’ve come upon it unexpectedly again in the third beatitude. Blessed are the meek.

Stretch out my life, and pick the seams out*

In the weeks our life was coming apart, another family in our church was walking through the worst trial I could imagine. Far worse than mine.

Their four year old daughter had had another in a series of surgeries to repair her heart. Her recovery was long and tenuous.

They graciously shared their home with us when we lost ours. In their home, walls covered with their faces, my prayers intensified for this beautiful family. Prayers for us. Prayers for them. Prayers for healing. For her. For Dave. I forgot myself when I prayed for her . . .

On a blinding, bright, bitterly cold January day, I walked along with the crowd from the church to the cemetery. As they released pink balloons to the blue sky, her bless-ed parents became saints to me.

But my tears became questions. If God could allow the worst to happen to them, I was not immune. The worst could happen to me, too. My story was not guaranteed a happy ending. Dave could go back to drugs at any time. I really might never trust him again. We actually might get a divorce. We may always be destitute. Our life really has been destroyed.

I began to doubt things I had believed all my life. “Plans to prosper not to harm” — oh really? Burdens piled on. Homelessness. Poverty. Social Services. And underneath all flowed uncertainty.

Issues with Dave’s former employer became daily aggravations. It seemed so unfair that they should place any burden on me. Summer days passed in a cubicle instead of at home with my kids as I had done all their lives.

My dearest sister struggled against cancer. I could barely breathe prayers for her. My chest ached morning to night. I was afraid to trust God with her. And she was a thousand miles away.

Bitterness shot out roots . . .

Months of my life burned at the edges with fear. I painted myself with a tough coat of anger to hold back the pain. I was anything but accepting of God’s will.

* * * * *

I composed this post over the past week and was reluctant to post today as I had planned. Because injustice strives so hard for control.

This morning, I feel the stretching as two-years of tearing the fabric of so many lives threatens to tear longer and deeper.

This morning, the Pope’s words of resignation resonate with the ache in my own heart.

The fight wears on you . . .

The meek shall inherit the land

Jesus’ blessing for the meek invokes scenes vivid in my mind. . .

Cain, in a murderous jealous rage against his brother. God speaks to him: sin is crouching at the door, it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.* 

I wonder if Moses had heard those very words himself before bitterness overtook him at Meribah and he struck the uncooperative rock in a display of anger.

Moses had done so much good and had obeyed so much. It seems so unfair that he should not be allowed to go into the  Promised Land.

. . . Moses had been to this place of testing before. The people were thirsty. They doubted. Would a loving God lead them to the desert to die?

I feel near that place again, too. And I want to smack that rock with every fiber of my being.

It takes conscious choice to submit my life to Christ’s care and  control. 

Meek is not about quiet. Or reserved. Or shy. Or weak. Meek is accepting God’s dealings with us as good. Meek requires the wisdom to know when the fight isn’t yours.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. Psalm 37:8-9

dreams of gold

Boys’ sack race, Russell Lee, 1940, Library of Congress

Every time the summer Olympics roll around, I’m reminded of what I am not.

I’m fairly certain my parents knew early on that I was not destined to be a great gymnast. I wasn’t graceful, or bouncy or fearless — or athletic — at all.

Like all little girls in 1976, I’d been mesmerized by Nadia Comaneci.

But I must have forgotten my dreams when the Olympics were over . . . because in elementary school, I dabbled in baton twirling, kickball, basketball, swimming and soccer. (In case you were wondering, I was good at none of them.)

For some inexplicable reason I don’t recall, dreams of gymnastics perfection revived in the 6th grade.

Suddenly, I was determined to work very hard and dedicate my life to the sport. (Never mind that I was way too old to be starting the training for Olympic gymnastics.) I began a class with girls half my size and age and practiced every day.

But there was a problem with my plan . . .  My family was moving to the other side of the world.

I was 11 years old. I told my parents they were ruining my life and destroying any chance I had for greatness by carting me off to a gymnastics-less third world country.

They didn’t give in . . . apparently the need for a Bible in the common language of a billion people outweighed my dreams of acrobatic stardom . . .

But while I was mourning the loss of the gold medal I would never win, God was shaping my life, directing my steps.

In Bangladesh, that regretfully gymnastics free country, my brothers became athletes and military geniuses. And my sister and I began to make up stories. And act. And sing. And play the piano just enough to call ourselves musical.

I attended my first writers’ master class when I was in the 8th grade. High school was by correspondence from a stateside university. I wrote and wrote and wrote.

There was literally one program a day to watch on TV, no computer, and not much for an American teen girl in an Islamic country to do. So I read — everything my Canadian-missionary-auntie-teacher-nurse-writer handed to me. Dickens. Lots and lots of Dickens.

By the time I was 15, I was “well-traveled.” I had a context for history and a compassion for poverty. And I began a lifetime habit of journaling my thoughts and prayers.

I was in training. Intensive training for what I would become. I’m not a retired gymnast. I’m a writer. My parents’ decision, it turns out, did not ruin my potential for success.

I honestly have no idea how long I harbored small regrets about the-Mary-Lou-Retton-I-could-have-been.  Possibly until my daughter came along. I did everything I could to make her a gymnast: starting with tumbling and ballet in preschool . . . And she would have none of it. All she wanted to do was sing and act out stories for our cat.

* * * * *

I’m thankful, now, that my life-long dreams didn’t rest on my sense of spatial relations. I will never step foot out of bounds and lose my shot at a piece of the glory.

No one will ever announce to the world that my performance was “Disastrous! There goes the gold!”

Better still, I will never age out.

I may never top the bestseller charts or even gather much of a tribe, but I am a writer. And God has directed my path in such a way that I’ve become one.

* * * * *

I’ve been pondering these things . . . watching the Games.

It isn’t gymnastics this year, but distance running that captivates me.

Athletes from the poorest nations on earth, disadvantaged to our Western eye, compete side by side with our highly trained athletes on a level playing field. 

They may not have had a gym, or a pool, or a tennis court, but they had fields and paths and deserts and jungles in which to run.

Who would have dreamed that something so terrible as fleeing for your life from danger as a little boy in Sudan would prepare you to be a marathon runner?

A simple footrace grips my heart, and gives me so much hope.

Sometimes, when your family has struggled through the mess of addiction or divorce or some other life trauma that earns your family the label “dysfunctional,” you worry about your children. How they will turn out.

You beat yourself up about the life they didn’t have. You were an addict. You lost your job. You were homeless. You had to work and give up homeschooling. You made too many promises. You stifled their noisy, childish play. You snapped and scolded when you should have embraced and applauded. You were preoccupied with your own troubles. Not all the time. But enough to leave a weight of guilt . . .

. . . we talk, my friend and I. She feels this weight, too.

And she reminds me of terribly dysfunctional families whose children turned out not only great, but epic. Like Joseph who was sold by his jealous brothers into slavery.

She reminds me that God needs people who have been wounded. People who understand deep hurt because they’ve been there. People who aren’t afraid of messy lives others would avoid.

I believe that.

I want my kids to be moved with compassion for outcasts the way Jesus was.

I want them to be a testimony that God redeems the past no matter how ugly it’s been.

I want them to understand that forgiveness is as much a real and healing choice as it is a point of theology — because they have witnessed it in their own home.

I want them to have love that suffers long, hopes and believes.

After all, we are not training them for a moment in the spotlight, but for endurance.

We cannot change what life has been for our children. And we do not know how the past will shape their future. But we can pray that God will refine the adversity of their lives, both imagined and real, into gold.

* * * * *

. . . endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us . . . Romans 5:4-5

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.
Proverbs 16:9

I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race . . .the wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. Ecclesiastes 9:11

But he knows where I am going.
And when he tests me,
I will come out as pure as gold.
Job 23:10

* * * * *

there is beauty in detail

Jane and I walk the road that leaves our little town and wanders along the shore. Snow-capped mountains to the west shine in the morning sunlight. Sailboats sleep on the glassy bay. We spot a heron, three seals and two coyotes on our walk. We are blessed to live in this place.

I stand in a farm field in the warm afternoon. The fragrance of strawberries rises to entice me. A glistening red catches my eye and I eagerly bend to add another to the heavy bowl.

I wander the beach below my house. At my feet, a thousand sand dollars. I stoop and stare into a tide pool of life: inhabitants blissfully unaware of exposure.

There is beauty in these points of finery. Footnotes of love from the Maker of all things.

On cold, gray Puget Sound days that fill most of the year, we remind ourselves there is a piece of heaven all around us. If only we will wait. We will see this glory.

* * * * *

We moved to Washington in July ten years ago.

The youngest of our four children was just a few weeks old. I spent the weeks before his birth packing our house in California, praying that this was the right thing.

We were leaving my dear family. The close friends with whom we had gone to college and walked together through the first ten years of marriage and parenting. A school and a church (our employers) that loved us. A pediatrician, so important to a young mom of four, who made me laugh and who assured me on what seemed to be a weekly basis that the sicker they are when they’re babies, the healthier they’ll be as children.

I packed in tears. But I also hoped.

The first serious mention of seminary had been on my 32nd birthday. But it was to be a year before we would move. A year we thought the world might end. Terrorist attacks, painful revelations, a surprise baby and awful sickness.

I had been as enthusiastic as Dave. I convinced myself that in the right place, our marriage and his health would be better. We researched schools. I made plans and budgets. We could easily pay off current debts in a year. We could do this.

But headaches and money problems had persisted. And anger crept back in.

After one particularly heated fight (during which I’d thrown an iron pot across the kitchen and dented the wall behind Dave’s head) I wrote in my journal: “Dave is not a fool. There was a reason deeper than just folly with money . . . at last he broke and said he had been running from what he knew God was calling him to do for 10 years . . . we cried and prayed and I knew right away that something had changed. . . he will be a different person from now on, I know.”

Seminary was supposed to be the answer. Dave had simply been running from God’s call. Like Jonah. That’s why the boat of our life was tossed and sinking.

(Years later, I read about how addicts in their downward spiral attempt to end their addiction by “geographical escapes.” But I knew nothing of that then.)

* * * * *

We arrived here in July of 2002. Jobless. Homeless. Optimistic.

Gracious cousins and friends took us in. Dave, me, and the kids who were 7, 4, 2 and a newborn. Six of us. Family and friends sent money to help us stay afloat.

Then came a terrifying car accident with all our little ones on board. Totaled our van. And a new back injury gave Dave an entree into any doctor’s office for pills.

I had picked up the habit for busy seasons of reading through the book of Psalms in a month, five Psalms a day 1, 31, 61, 91, 121 on the first day, etc.

Promises fill my journals:

By awesome deeds Thou dost answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation. Psalm 65:5

Blessed is the Lord who daily bears our burden. Psalm 68:19

For every beast of the forest is mine. The cattle on a thousand hills. Psalm 50:10

But weeks of homelessness and unemployment turned to months.

The enthusiastic journal entries came to an abrupt end. Despair crept into the pages once again.

* * * * *

I am deep in discouraged thought. As he settles beside me on the back porch in the evening sun, there is a tone of comfort in my teenage son’s deep voice. He puts his arm around me and it takes me back a decade . . .

Three small kids and an unhappy baby, homeless, homeschooling the oldest, jobless, living only off the generosity of friends and family. Exhausted. Hopeless.

I took the kids for a drive in our new-to-us van and turned on the cd I’d picked up at a yard sale.

God will make a way Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me
He will be my guide, Hold me closely to His side
With love and strength for each new day
He will make a way, He will make a way.
By a roadway in the wilderness You lead me
Rivers in the desert will I see
Heaven and earth will fade, But His word will still remain
And He will do something new today.

A deep little voice from the back seat interrupts my thoughts. He notices my tears.

“We’re in a wilderness, aren’t we Mommy?”

Yes, baby. We are.

He sings. What does he know of wilderness? He is four.

Out of the mouths of babes.

You have taught children and infants to tell of Your strength. Psalm 8:1&2

* * * * *

I think I’m going through a phase.

It’s possible that it’s just taking time for the cold and gray to unfetter me and allow me to enjoy the sun.

But I’m inclined to think it’s my age. And the number of and ages of our children. There is much about having teenagers that resembles the toddler years, I am sorry to say.

Constant activity. Difficulty making time for my friends. Peacemaking. Falling into bed exhausted at the end of the day. Unknowns that must be released to God. Soon I will be launching them into the world.

And then there are these words. I don’t have the time.  Work. Responsibilities. Self-consciousness. But they press on me . . .

The Psalms are once again my daily food.

* * * * *

Morning sun warms the new chair I placed next to my bed (another blessed yard sale find). I stop what I am hurrying about and sit down. Reveling in light, pleased by the unexpected.

God, help me to notice. These details remind me of Your love.

This morning, words from Psalm 71 are a message of encouragement:

My life is an example to many, because you have been my strength and protection. That is why I can never stop praising You; I declare Your glory all day long. vs. 7-8

“I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power, though I am not skilled with words.” vs. 15

“You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth.” vs. 20

It is a Psalm of telling. Even if it takes a thousand words.

* * * * *

God speaks in the details.

It is the way He spoke His encouragement to the patriarchs and prophets. In the water and wind, in the storm, the stars, the grains of sand. And to His disciples. Consider the lilies of the field. Are you not of more value than they? And it is the way He speaks to us now.

Images and words He writes on my heart. The still small, but deep, voice. A ray of sunshine, a lifting of my eyes to the mountains, a sweet fragrance, a child’s voice, a song, a verse.

Stop. Notice.

He is whispering His love.

the truth heals, part one

Rebuilding a house
Rebuilding a house carried out of the Santee-Cooper Basin
Jack Delano, 1941

How did you rebuild trust? someone recently asked me.

How did you make it from the lies to now.

I thought I could give a one post answer. But it’s not that simple.

So I write. And I think. And I pray.

And I ask God to give me words to say to people who feel as though their hearts have been ripped from their bodies. Who are hollow and broken, limping cautiously across a minefield knowing that no matter how lightly they step, eventually there will be an explosion.

I remember how it was to plead with God for an answer.

Should I stay, God? Should I leave? Should I trust him? Should I make rules?

Wrestling. Weighing.

* * * * *

It took me a long time to really understand that Dave had to own his recovery.

As much as I wanted to help, as much as our future was dependent on the outcome and as much as I felt like I deserved to have answers, ultimately my determination had nothing to do with it.

I had to let go of this. This control.

Every time Dave was caught in lies, I had a meltdown. And then I made a plan. Steps Dave could follow to regain my trust.

He’d do them for a while. But too often he was doing it just to please me.

And he really needed to be doing it for himself.

There was nothing. Nothing I could do to fix Dave. Nothing.

No agreement. No counseling. No contracts. No threats. No intervention. No violence.

God had to get ME to a place where I would let HIM work on Dave.

I had to decide if I was willing for God to do the fixing.

* * * * *

I heard it on the radio yesterday — this dilemma.

“You can’t fix someone who doesn’t want to be fixed,” I heard one preacher say yesterday. And I know it’s true.

Addicts have to get to that horrible place we try so hard to shield them from. For them, but mostly for us.

And you can’t rebuild trust with someone who doesn’t really intend to be honest.

Then another preacher says, “The love that forgives and restores . . . there is something precious in that Christ-like love.”

And I know this hard, hard thing is true.

That a love that endures involves suffering. 

False starts. Relapse. Repentance. Fights. Being lied to.

So my answer to the hard questions is a thing I don’t want to say.

* * * * *

We won’t know, until we look back, where the healing really began.

From the day Dave first confessed his addiction to the day he really did hit “rock bottom” more than three and a half years passed.

It took years for God to pry my fingers off Dave’s recovery. And God did not always do things the way I wanted Him to do them.

If you are married to an addict, ask yourself these questions:

Do I really want restoration? Or do I just want out?

Listen to what God is telling you about your marriage.

It is not for me to say if you should walk away.  I can only say what we did.

* * * * *

For us, restoring trust took time. Years.

I haven’t just been learning to trust Dave. I am learning to trust God. 

Over the next posts Dave is going to join me.  Because he had to earn trust from everyone in his life — not just me — and only  he can tell you how hard that was.

Because when he looks back, he sees the day he began telling me the truth. Being accountable. Living honestly.

But it was a very long time before I really did trust him.

And even now, I am reminded that it isn’t about me trusting Dave. Because in moments of weakness, the years come back.

And I’m reminded: It’s about me trusting God to make Dave the man He wants him to be. With or without my trust.

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate.

The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.

Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For You have rescued my soul from death,

My eyes from tears, My feet from stumbling.

I shall walk before the Lord In the land of the living.

I believed when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.”

I said in my alarm, “ All men are liars.”

Psalm 116:5-11