The PAUSE Button

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It’s tough to watch a show on TV with my husband hovering around.  Tim likes my full attention and he doesn’t particularly appreciate sharing our precious moments together with Downton Abbey or Property Brothers.  If I do partake of a little TV therapy in front of him, I’ve learned to make liberal use of the PAUSE button.

It’s mostly win/win.  I pause and listen to him chat about Seattle sports—and he feels heard—then I go back to my show until he interrupts me once again.

But sometimes I push PAUSE and don’t go back immediately.  Maybe a child wakes up or I get distracted.  I turn off the DVR and days pass before I have a moment to sit again. 

And I inevitably lose my place. 

I fast-forward and rewind.  I search and search for just the right spot to re-engage.  But I never really find it if I let too much time elapse. 

Even though the story is the same—it feels different somehow.

This imagery perfectly describes my life right now—a life interrupted. 

Maybe it resonates with you too?

Life suddenly hits the PAUSE button and we spin out of control.

For me, it’s been four months of messiness—relational and emotional and physical wounds to the soul.  I left normal like Dorothy in the whirlwind of the Wizard of OZ.

This week I said goodbye to my mom.  Four weeks ago I buried my dad.  Two funerals in a month—two terminal illnesses and four months of intense suffering and grief are finally over.

This chapter closed.  The PAUSE button lifted.  It’s time to exhale.  Dorothy is back in Kansas.

In some ways the brevity of the loss may be just sinking in, but on the other hand, the intense anxiety is washed away in the sweet release of death.  I never thought I would welcome this separation, but then again, I’ve never seen cancer close up.  I’ve never experienced what a brain on a crash course with atrophy looks like. 

I prayed so desperately to be with my dad when he passed and God granted me this wish.  But with my mom, in the final hours I couldn’t handle it.  Call me a wuss—I’ll own it.  As the shadow of death crossed her face, I fled to the safety of my husband’s arms—as if I could pretend it wasn’t real. 

Unfortunately, it was.  I was on the road driving back when she died. 

When I arrived at my mom’s house I sat by her side.  Even in death she was beautiful.  I found her red sequin slippers and ever so gently placed them on her feet.  I wanted her to be ready to meet the Grand Wizard—just in case she changed her mind in the last moments.  Just in case Jesus reached out for her hand and she took it.

I don’t know what to do with myself this week.  The vigils are over.  No more hospital visits, no more oncologists and neurologists and high security Alzheimer’s homes.  No more hospice and social workers and home health care workers. 

Where do I hit play again?  Where does the movie start when the entire landscape has changed?

Maybe your movie changed too?

Maybe you lost a child, got divorced or experienced the death of a dream?  Something within you died and your movie is radically altered.

And yet you hold on…

There is a part of you yearning for restoration, clinging to hope, and confident that someway God will build something glorious out of this tragedy.

I don’t always understand the mystery and bigness of God.  I don’t understand how he heals or rebuilds or reignites a flame of hope in the desperate. But I do know when I cry out and hold out my hands HE is there with me in the fire and the storm and even in death.

And he will direct this new film as I hit PLAY once more. The ending might change but the story is still beautiful.

Has your life been interrupted recently?

 

Dance, Daddy, Dance…

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When I was a little girl my dad would put me up on the table and say, “Dance, Sammy, dance!”

And the two of us would dance like maniacs. 

Not too long ago I caught him doing the same thing with my youngest daughter Kolby.  And she giggled and cracked up as she watched her Papa Ken dance like a big goof with all his heart.

If you ask little Kolby, “Who’s your best friend?  She will say, with no hesitation, “Papa Ken!”

Because she knows whose got her back.

……

As a little girl, it was obvious to me that my dad was different than the other daddies.  He got up earlier and he worked later.  He was ambitious, the proverbial Type A personality who drilled into me the importance of the P words!—Perseverance, Persistence and PPMF (Piss Poor Planning Means Failure). 

He was movie star handsome, charming and extremely loyal.  He was a good provider and strong leader.  He was also a bit of a brat (and that’s putting it nicely).

But in the last ten years—slowly at first and then rapidly—my dad changed dramatically.  Oh, he still had all the great qualities that made him a successful doctor and man, but he added to that the inner qualities that set great men apart from the rest—humility, patience, kindness and gentleness. 

If you asked him what the difference was, he would have said God changed his heart.  Many people will say this but my dad lived it out.

Where there was once darkness now there was light. 

I talked to my dad almost every day –although in the last six months because of his brain disease he would forget and say “I miss talking to you Sammy, and I would laugh because we’d talked for an hour that very morning. 

And during our talks he would remind me of our special stories—which usually meant some form of torment for me. 

One of his favorite tales was skiing at Park City Utah.  I was six years old and my step-mom Fran was stranded back in the hotel room with a broken tail-bone—probably relieved to get a break from the slopes with my hard driving daddy. 

We ascended to the toughest run on the mountain.  It was a triple black diamond run with “ski at your own risk” signs and “possible death warnings.”

A group of about twenty men stood at the tip of the cornice and peered over the edge which dropped straight down.  An arctic wind whipped up icy swirls taunting the timid.It was a 30 feet drop to hit the snow. 

Some men were brave and gathered enough courage to jump, but most turned around and went back to the lift with their tail between their legs.

I was terrified and pleaded to return to the lift.

My dad looked at me and said very firmly, ‘You don’t have to ski down, but you will walk. And it’s a long way back to the hotel.”

I glared at him and a deep well of anger churned in my belly. 

And indignation launched me right off the cliff. 

The entire crowd started cheering for the little girl who took the mountain.  My dad said that once he recovered from the shock, he then had to catch up with me—because I didn’t slow down to wait for him.

This same story out played over and over again throughout our lives.  He dared, or teased, and I took the bait.  It’s why I went to UCLA to spite his USC and it’s why I had a chip on my shoulder all those years to prove that a girl was just as good as a boy.

Maybe he knew exactly what he was doing, because it drove me to achieve, but in the end it didn’t matter–in the end I had nothing left to prove.

Once my dad changed, the chip on my shoulder turned to mush. 

I knew without a doubt that he simply loved me for who I was, not for what I accomplished, or the things I accumulated, just unconditionally.

And his love was life changing to a grown up woman with a little girl’s heart still seeking the love and approval of a father.

Some people never realize what they have until it’s gone.  Not my dad.  In the last few years Ken not only recognized his many blessings but he became a huge blessing to those around him.

On Thanksgiving Day this year, my dad said at the dinner table he was most grateful for his relationship with God.  I prayed for fifteen years to hear my dad say those words. 

If I had been honest, which I wasn’t because I am protective of my tears and didn’t want to cry like a baby over the turkey, I would have said, “I am most grateful for finally having the relationship of my dreams with my dad.” 

It might have taken 38 years—but the last few years made up for a lifetime.

On the night my daddy died, I sat and read to him.  He squeezed my hand as I read this verse from Eccles. 3.

“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

It was right at a time to dance that I got the squeeze.  I jumped up and I kissed his forehead and he raised his eyebrow.

(Pretty good for being in a coma)

They say it’s not how you start a race that matters; it’s how you finish it. 

I believe Jesus is now holding my dad’s hand and putting him in a place of honor.  He is saying well done, my good and faithful servant. 

And I can hear the sound of a million angels singing.

And my dad is dancing on the table like a big goof.

When Your Teen Dates

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No parent knows what their kid will be like once they get into a relationship.

I certainly didn’t.

I hoped my son Kyle would be respectful, but after a series of Jr. High texting relationships which lasted well into high school, I wasn’t sure if any girl would move pass the social media realm and penetrate his heart for more than a ten minute crush.

But I was wrong.

My son has been in a relationship with his girlfriend Grace for about four months.  A few weeks ago they made it official and now they even have their own Instagram hashtag–#Gryle

This is serious people.

Now, my poor son has been the recipient of years of dating advice from his parents.  It’s what we write, speak and blog about.  And Kyle could probably regurgitate our shtick back to us in his sleep.

But I never knew if he truly listened—I mean really heard us—and internalized our message on dating differently.

Fortunately, I have been surprised on a million levels.

First of all, Kyle picked well.  Grace is not only lovely on the outside but on the inside as well.  She is intelligent, light-hearted, and family oriented.  She loves God, respects people and is a fiercely competitive athlete—something they both share.  She’s nice to animals, little sisters and mothers and I think this bodes well for her future.

And I really love her mom to boot.  Could it get any better?

Kyle and Grace have boundaries around school, sports and their own pursuits.  They encourage one another and push each other to excel.  It’s bizarrely mature.  And although they text each other it’s not an all day affair.  It’s after the home work is put away and the workouts are done, or a quick shout-out on the way home from school.

(I counsel thirty-five year olds who haven’t figured this out yet)

Next, Kyle treats Grace like gold. He cherishes her and respects her.  He is interested in her well-being on all levels—not just making out and hanging out (although they do those things a lot too).  But, Kyle cares about her as a person and not as a thing.  And Grace reciprocates.  It is mutual affection based on respect and appreciation.

And here is where I am deeply humbled.

Was I a part of this?  I know it’s a culmination of dad and mom and step-parents and mentors, but in a world where men treat women like objects, my son, despite being assaulted by porn and Victoria’s Secret and the onslaught of an over-sexualized culture is choosing to be different.

I know he will make many mistakes going forward (on top of those in the past) but watching him treat a woman with dignity makes my heart soar!

Especially because at that age I let men treat me badly.  I didn’t understand I was worth more.  My son’s behavior  is redemptive for me as a woman and I thank God for his grace and mercy.

(Now we just have to make sure Faith and Kolby don’t carouse with douche-bags who treat them poorly)

The biggest issue I have is that this whole experience is so wonderful I don’t want it to ever end.

I’ll dream and pray none the less—maybe high school sweethearts can still make it in our crazy world?

–Samantha

 

Just as an update on my parents and a BIG THANKS to all who are praying.  My mom is on hospice now at home.  She has stopped chemo and all treatment for her pancreatic cancer.  We are enjoying the time she has left and pouring out our love on her in abundance.  Most of my days are now spent at their home in La Quinta trying to capture her smile and elegance and etch it into my memory forever.  My step-dad is doing a beautiful job of caring for her, along with family and friends, and hospice is a God-send.

My dad is at a secure Alzheimer’s facility in Beaumont.  He is recovering from three surgeries after he jumped off a ten-foot balcony at Christmas from paranoia due to his brain disease.  Mentally, he is pretty much gone and it’s heart-breaking.  He thought my step-mom was Santa the other day.  Physically, he is still having some complications from the broken back, compound fracture of the tibia and fibula and shattered ankle.  The pin has come loose from the ankle and the hole from the pin is infected.  Please pray for healing and comfort as we journey down this very difficult road with him.  I miss him desperately! 

Different But The Same

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It’s a big week in the Keller home.  Soon one of us will be a Master!

(No not a Jedi, but close…)

My husband Tim graduates this week from Talbot Seminary with an MA in Theology.  It’s been six years of late nights, endless papers, and many many nights with no daddy at dinner. (Wah Wah Wah)

When Tim walks on Friday afternoon-in his black cap and gown decorated with honors-it will be a glorious sight to behold.  I am proud beyond words (and yes, a wee bit weary, can I say that too?).

My husband stood at the top of the stairs this morning and mentioned he felt guilty for celebrating.  With everything going on with my parents right now he felt lousy throwing a party and making a fuss.  And more than anything he wished they could be there by his side.

But I interupted him and said “Stop, don’t go there”

“Tim, we will celebrate you.” 

We will celebrate the good in spite of the bad. I will clap and whoop and holler “Keller” super loud and obnoxiously (in honor of your friend Bill who passed away) and I will laugh when people squirm in their seats.

I will wear a big cheesy grin (and maybe your favorite color orange) because of this awesome achievement. 

We did it!  (And yes I take a little credit for the degree because it takes a family and oh yeah, I edited a few papers…)

I will raise my glass of wine (or two) and toast to your accomplishment.  I will laugh and be happy, and for a time allow myself to just be Tim’s wife and not a grieving daughter.

We will celebrate you with gusto, baby!

I don’t know that I used to think this way.  I used to have good days and bad days. It was all so black and white.  But, life changed in the blink of an eye.  Everything has intensified, as if my world went from black and white to pops of vibrant color and shades of midnight.

I see differently now–HD versus a grainy screen.

I pass through a windy stretch of mountains when I drive home from visting my parents–one through the Ortega and the other from Beaumont into Moreno Valley.  Both passes are breathtaking by day but treacherous at night. I’m always a little scared driving through but the reward is worth the fear and I promise myself a Starbucks on the other side.

I’ve clocked more than my fair share of miles recently traveling back and forth to oncologists and nuerolgists.  These vists are always depressing with no cures and more bad news.  Often I’ll cry and let it all go on the road but I wipe up my tears before the mountains come. 

I know I need to focus.  As the darkness decends my sight must be all the more keener.  I have to watch out for the semi-trucks and stupid deer and obstacles in the road–all things I can see in the light, but the night distrorts and plays tricks with.

It’s true of the mountain pass and true of our lives right now.

My mom put it this way about her cancer, “everything’s the same, but everything’s different.”

And she’s right. 

Which is why I want my husband to revel in the moment and celebrate.  To not look behind or beyond but just to enjoy the fruits of his hard work. 

Because the image of Tim in his cap and gown on his big day just might be the thing to help me find my smile and my way home through the mountains on a gloomy evening.

He’ll be a Master now, kinda the same…but different.

Why “Drink a Beer” Makes Me Cry

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There’s a country song playing on the radio right now that destroys me. I can’t help but stop, pause, and let go of the tightness in my chest.

It forces me to FEEL the emotions I push away to function.

Music does that.

It interferes. It squeezes the heart. It pulls and tugs and finds the release for all those clogged up tears.

So, what’s the magical song?

It’s called “Drink A Beer” by Luke Bryan.

Eloquent right?

Honestly, I don’t even drink beer (although I do like the smell on my man’s breath), but it could be a glass of wine (or a margarita) for all I care.

This song is exactly how I feel watching my daddy slip away and my mama fight this cancer battle.

So, today, I’ll be standing up at the top of my stairs—like I do every day—folding endless loads of laundry, sipping a glass of my favorite red-Menage a Trois and watching another breathtaking sunset through the best view in my house. I’ll wave at my darling neighbors and giggle as I watch toddlers in princess dresses and heels trip from house to house. I’ll cringe as the older boys’ dash into the street as cars fly around the corner despite our “slow down” signs.

And I’ll cry and play this song just one more time.

Drink A Beer

When I got the news today

I didn’t know what to say.

So I just hung up the phone.

I took a walk to clear my head,

This is where the walking lead

Can’t believe you’re really gone

Don’t feel like going home

 

So I’m gonna sit right here

On the edge of this pier

Watch the sunset disappear

And drink a beer

Funny how the good ones go

Too soon, but the good Lord knows

The reasons why, I guess

Sometimes the greater plan

Is kinda hard to understand

Right now it don’t make sense

I can’t make it all make sense

So I’m gonna sit right here

On the edge of this pier

Watch the sunset disappear

And drink a beer

So long my friend

Until we meet again

I’ll remember you

And all the times that we used to…

…sit right here on the edge of this pier

And watch the sunset disappear

And drink a beer

Drink a beer,

Drink a beer.

–Cheers my friends and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you for your friendship and love, thank you for taking your precious time to read my little blog. I hope and pray you enjoy every sacred moment over the holidays with your loved ones. Take mental snapshots of every smile and remember how very blessed we all are.

–Samantha

 

Help Me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re My Only Hope!

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“Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” –Princess Leih

My favorite tales always begin with a crisis moment where the protagonist is forced to turn in a new direction.

Going back is no longer an option.

Remember Luke Skywalker in Star Wars?—the mystery of a lovely Princess and a spunky R2 unit whisper of adventure and a different life. Luke wants to pursue, but he is held back by fear and obligation, that is until his aunt and uncle’s farm blows up.

A good story is like that.

We want to live a grand adventure, free and spontaneous, but the safety net of reality stems us in—until one day our security (our job or a relationship or our health) explodes and our only option is to travel to new and dark places.

Places we don’t want to go.

Scary Places. Places that reveal our brokenness. Places of testing and places of redemption.

The road behind us is gone. And despite our cries out to God of unbearable grief and terror, there is only the road before us.

I am at that crossroads.

And like Luke, I’m unsure of this journey ahead. I want to live a grand story and run towards what God has for me—but this cup of suffering isn’t what I had in mind.

On Thursday, I met with my dad’s neurologist and received the news no one wants to hear. “Prepare for the end. We don’t know how long. His brain is shrinking and atrophying rapidly all the way around.”

Insert a bad word. Insert gut-wrenching sadness.

My dad tried to accept the words. His disease–Picks–now makes it hard for him to get out his thoughts coherently, but I knew what he was saying.

“It’s ok. God knows. I hope I lived a good life.”

We went to Chili’s. I held my daddy’s hand. We had a margarita. We laughed the jittery laughs of shock and wiped up the tears silently creeping out of our nose.

This weekend was hard. Greif is like that. One minute you are fine and the next—blubbering over a song or a stupid USC flag. For my dad’s sake, I hope my Bruins lose this year. Just this once. Just to make my daddy gloat and smile.

But Monday was the final explosion. It was the no going back moment.

I got the call.

They found a large mass on my mom’s pancreas. They said the two words you never want to hear—Pancreas and Cancer.

And now we wait for biopsies and treatment plans and a new journey into a place of unknown.

And so I am crying out like the desperate princess watching her planet blow up, “Help me Jesus, You’re my only hope.”

My parents are not old.

They are brilliant and strong and beautiful. I am not ready to lose them. I am greedy for their care, their protection, their covering. My mom and dad are supposed to help pick out my Faith’s formal dress, and be at graduations and Kyle’s Varsity football games and recitals where little Kolby wears a halo and sings about Baby Jesus.

There is so much life I want to share.

I feel robbed.

As a Christian—as a speaker and writer, as someone who is supposed to encourage and motivate people to draw closer to Christ—I want to be better at this. But I’m not.

I feel like a fraud. I don’t have any pat answers.

I’m supposed to put on the happy face and smile and say it’s ok. Praise Jesus. Hallelujah.

But I don’t feel that way. I’m DEVESTATED. I want my mommy and my daddy. Here. Now. I want my blankie, and my teddy and to suck my thumb with a vengeance until everything is put back together right.

I don’t believe life is fair. Suffering sucks. Death was never meant to be.

But what I cling to is that God sees. He hears. He comforts. He is close. I don’t have to fear this journey. I have an eternal home where death is a merely a blip until I see my loved ones again. They might beat me there, but God provides a way though the pain and to this Jesus I lay down my life.

I also have an enemy who is out to steal and kill and destroy—who delights in crushing hope and joy. I’ve got two middle fingers pointed in his direction. (Sorry church people, I’m a little raw right now)

But I refuse to let him distract me from sharing the one thing that can never be taken away from me–and that’s Jesus.

And so I can choose to pick up my feet and march forward or I can linger in this wooing darkness—suffering, stalled, and bitter. I can ask “why” all day long and get pissed and hold on to a pain I was never meant to carry.

Or, I start a new story. I trust. I praise. I hope for miracles. I choose a double fisted faith despite the outcome. I get out of bed tomorrow and believe somehow, some way, some good will come out of this trial.

And I learn to use a light saber while blind folded—apparently I will need this skill where I am going.

If you know my mom, I’ve started a Caring Bridge site for her. Click here to visit.

The Family Discussion

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“Mom, Dad, we have something we want to discuss with you.”

My husband and I looked at each other in apprehension.  It’s always a little scary when your three kids—even the toddler—band together for a “family discussion.”

My oldest son Kyle took the lead, “You said if mom didn’t get pregnant by Christmas, we could get a puppy.”

The girls nodded their head in agreement and three-year-old Kolby chimed in with a chant, “puppy, puppy, puppy!”

I exhaled a big whoosh of exasperation, delighted at my children’s tenacity and complete frustration at my old and rusty uterus. 

The kids are right.  We’ve tried and tried and it’s time to own up and pay our puppy dues.

I really do want my kids to get their dream dog.  I also really want one more baby.  I guess I want both.

I don’t want to throw in the towel yet (I’ve still got a month) but my biological clock seems to have stalled and stuck—it’s been two years and two miscarriages—so unless we explore infertility, I am more likely picking up dog poop in the near future than changing diapers.

(Insert a melancholy tune)

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who feels this breathtaking sadness at hanging up the cleats in the baby making department. 

I see women all the time who have one or two kids and are so adamant they are DONE. 

While I respect their resolve, I’ve never had that feeling stick.  Not even once! 

No timer dinged loudly in my brain or heart.  The only thing holding me back from the Brangelina adoption of a mini-tribe is money. 

As far as I concerned, the more (munchkins) the merrier.

When I hear people complain about their kids I cover my ears.  Yes, these little (and big) suckers drive me bazonkers, but it’s a beautiful chaos. 

Call me crazy, but I just want more.  More kisses, more cuddles, more baseball games and tutu’s, more giggles and yes…even more teenage angst. 

Children are life—ravishing reminders of God’s blessing and love in a world of chaos. 

Maybe my thinking is broken.  Maybe it’s letting go of control?  I don’t know.  It’s just hard to watch the baby years come to a halt. 

Maybe I’m afraid of who I am when I don’t have a passel of children around to distract me.  Before I had kids, I was a little lonely.  I was a (mostly) only child with a large age gap between myself and my half-brother.  A large family fills that gap. 

The laughter, the noise, the energy…I love it.

Tim and I told the kids we would seriously consider our prior agreement. 

I also told them to ignore any strange noises from our bedroom. 

 “EEEEWWWWWW!!!!! Gross!” yelled my middle schooler.  Kyle just smirked.

(This is one way to guarantee you will never have sex, because kids are smarter.  Kyle simply stays up until 1:00am doing homework, Kolby and Faith wake up at 5:00am since the time change and just for good measure, Kolby also wakes up in the middle of the night to go potty)

We have to be sneaky in this house.

And we just might need to call a handyman to repair the broken fence on our dog run (just in case).

AAAHHH! My Son Brought a Girl Home!

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I saw lots of adorable scarecrows costumes this Halloween—dainty Dorothy’s with a Toto peeping from a basket spilling over with candy—and of course, spooky green witches—but not once did I encounter my favorite character—the cowardly lion.

In all honesty, I believe it’s the costume that best represents us all—a fearful people—raging and roaring in image management as we tremble in our boots and hope no one see through us.

We have moments of glory where we roar our terrible roars and knash our terrible teeth, and then reality rears its ugly head and we go back to worrying about the bills and our health, Obamacare and North Korea, our marriages, teenagers, and a million other concerns.

Fear steals our joy and anxiety makes tyrants of all, but courage—glorious courage—when it breaks through—shines like the light of a million stars.

I saw a glimpse of a courageous little lion stepping out of her comfort zone and into bravery the other night.

On Halloween evening, a friend of Kyle’s—a specific Girl friend stopped by the house to meet us.  The beautiful young lady, accompanied by a friend and her mom, walked up to the door and introduced herself.

Grace and Kyle—while not officially dating—have a strong fondness for each other.  I can see the sparkle in her eyes when she looks at my son.  At the Varsity football games, when they call his name over the loud-speaker for a tackle, she squeals with delight.  She wears his number #34 proudly on her cheek and she even dressed in one of old jerseys for Halloween. 

They are sweet together—it’s high emotion and furious texting and the blood racing tingles of high school romance. 

And to their benefit, these two are trying to navigate the space of family, church, age-appropriateness and really liking each other in a God honoring way

So what was so scary to Grace?  Apparently us. 

Meeting the parent’s—the scary dating experts—the pastor and the blogger—the mom of her crush—were all just terrifying to the poor girl.

I can’t imagine how awkward it was for her.  I was dressed as a saloon girl and Tim was a cowboy.  Our porch was covered in candles, strobe lights, pumpkins, bats and thumping ghoulie tunes.  Kids and neighbors poured over our walkway. 

It was funny way to meet the first girl he’s ever brought home—strangely formal, bizarre, and so endearing.

But I knew if Kyle was making the effort to include us we’d better pay attention.

And so little Grace—the competitive gymnast with the strawberry blond hair—bucked up, put on her big girl pants and braved the parents. 

Although I don’t know her very well and I’m not sure I’m ready for dating, I like how Grace operates. 

Fear does not define her.  She moved at the scary ‘meet the parents “moment with quaking feet and a fluttering heart, (our son told us this all later) but the point is she moved.  She planted those feet on our porch and stuck out her hand with a smile.

Grace defined her circumstances instead of letting her fear (or circumstances) define her.

The cowardly lion ends up learning courage because there is something MORE important enough in his life than the fear to make it worth the frightening journey.

And it makes this mama smile to think my son was the important thing that motivated her to be brave. 

Is there something scary or overwhelming in your life where you need an extra dose of courage?

How Can You Let Your Kid Play Football?

Kyle Materdei

For me, winning isn’t something that happens suddenly on the field when the whistle blows and the crowds roar. Winning is something that builds physically and mentally every day that you train and every night that you dream. – Emmitt Smith

People often ask me “How can you let your kid play football?”

“How can you handle the anxiety? What if he gets hurt? Did you hear about Brett Favre’s memory loss?”

And I respond with, “Yes, I know the risks and they are big. But, when I weigh the good versus bad…football wins, hands down, every time.

Let me explain:

  • It’s About Attitude

I learn perseverance from my own kid. Each week Kyle plays in two football games –a JV game on Thursday and a Varsity game for J Serra Catholic High School on Friday nights.

It was great fun at the beginning of the season (when we won every game), but as we draw towards the end, the beatings and abuse are taking a toll—physically on Kyle and emotionally on me.

As Kyle walked out of the house this morning, he moved more like an old man with hemorrhoids than a studly sophomore athlete.

While Kyle has avoided any major injuries (thank you Jesus), he has about thirty mid to minor boo-boos. He has torn tendons in his hands, what looks like multiple broken toes, four black fingers, bruising from elbow to wrist, and muscle aches from top to bottom.

This is what happens to our boys during Trinity League play—total body annihilation.

And yet despite the pain, his mental strength is greater.

  • It’s About Courage

Yesterday Kyle went up against St. John Bosco, a team ranked anywhere between second and fifth in the country and first in California. Let me say that again…Ranked 1st in California (and folks we got a big state).

Tonight he starts in the Varsity game—against beasts as big as any college line.

His opponent under the lights this evening?

A three-hundred and fifty-three lb senior guard with multiple offers from around the country. Sounds like hell to me—but Kyle’s pumped.

Seriously?

Each week, I watch my barely fifteen-year-old boy playing against these monsters and I try not to cringe with each tackle. I close my eyes, I pray and I repeat over and over “It’s in God’s Hands.”

Generally, Kyle is the one beating up dudes, but last week the two-hundred and ninety lb lineman from Materdei flat-backed him once or twice.

  • I learn to Trust God With my Kid

Only the football mom knows the inordinate amount of time it takes between her kid going down and the moment he moves.

It’s the space of how long I can hold my freaking breath.

Either I let go of control or I lose it. So, I learn to release and rest in the arms of the one who gave me this child to steward.

  • It’s About Excellence

This game has allowed my son a safe place to let out his aggression. It’s taught him teamwork, mental toughness, invaluable life lessons, responsibility, ownership, and crazy loyalty. As I watch him get up each morning before dawn to put his football clothes in the dryer—even though he gets home from practice as late as 8:00pm, then eats, showers and works on homework until 11:00pm—I am in awe at his discipline.

Where does this well of dedication come from—this inner drive for excellence and unrelenting persistence—despite pain, despite injury, despite pure exhaustion?

I like to think I have a strong work ethic–but Kyle’s dedication is more than the sum of me hustling multiple jobs, more than my old single mom status, more than pastor’s wife exhaustion and more than the sleepy mom who slept on the floor of her toddler’s room for the fifth night in a row because her kid is scared of ghoulies. (Dang You Scooby-Do!)

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will. – Vince Lombardi

My question to you is, “How can I not let him play football?”

If you think about it, please pray for my kid (and me) tonight at 7:00pm (and the next two Fridays at the same time!)

 

 

10 Things Happy People Do Better

Be-Happy-desktop-wallpaper

On the cork pin-board at my Happy Place (AKA Starbucks), I noticed a sign –10 Things Happy People Do Differently.

So, I took a picture of it, and elaborated.  Because, although I have the eternal joy of the Lord, a few tips on happy never hurt. 

Here is what Happy People Do better:

1.  They Express Gratitude

When you are grateful for what you have, what you have appreciates in value.  My Sr. Pastor Kenton Beshore puts it this way, “Who is the man who is more content –a man with five kids or the man with none?  The answer is: The man with five kids, because he doesn’t want any more.”

If you aren’t happy now, you won’t be happy in the land of “IF ONLY…”

2. They Cultivate Optimism

Be the exact opposite of Bella in Twilight.  If Edward bails on you, recognize that Jacob is JUST as hot(although nowhere near close to my husband) and move on with your life. 

Expect good things to happen and keep your chin up during trying times.  Focus on the big picture, focus your eyes on Jesus, pray hard, and think positive.

3.  They Avoid Social Comparison

I love this!  Ladies, this means sometimes we might need to take a hiatus from Pinterest, Facebook, or Insta (as my kids call it), if we can’t stop the overwhelming feelings of “craft” inadequacy, or “travel” envy, or whatever your issue is…

Remember, MOST people only post their awesome stuff (or occasionally) the really bad stuff going on in their life.  All you get is  a snippet of their top 10%.  The rest of their life is lived in the 80% of normalcy.  Don’t compare your normal to their awesome.  It’s not apples to apples.  Also, I read some statistic recently, that said people lie all the time on social media. Don’t fall for the lie and don’t lie to look better.

Just be You!

4.  They Practice Random Acts of Kindness 

Helping people always makes you feel better.  One great way is to pay for the person’s drink behind you in line at Starbucks! 

5.  They Nurture Relationships

Happy people have friends.  Find a buddy.

6.  They Develop Healthy Coping Strategies

It helps to have healthy ways to deal with stress in your arsenal, before you lose it at Happy Hour and turn into Sloppy Sue. I made a Coping List a long time ago when I was a single mom (a word that says it all). 

Some of my “go to” ways of dealing with stress are: Taking a walk, hitting the gym, praying, pouring it all out into a journal, calling a girlfriend, reading, watching Little Bear with my toddler, drinking a cup of hot tea, and (now that I’m married) asking my husband to tell me ten times in ten different ways why he loves me.

7.  They Forgive

Holding onto anger and unforgiveness only hurts you.

8.  They Live “In the moment”

Put your phone down.  Interact fully with people.  Give your conversation or task all your attention. Be present.

9.  They Savor Special Moments

Now that you are focused on the moment, try not to hurry or rush through them.  Take mental snapshots of special moments and let yourself FEEL joy.

10.  They Commit to Goals

What do you want to do?  What’s stopping you?  Find a way to work towards what brings you joy.  For me, it’s writing, serving my family and glorifying God.  If I can do one or all of those things each day, it’s a pretty good day.

What makes you happy?

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