Monday, August 19, 2013

Lessons from the Stands: Confessions of a Baseball Mom

Like most moms, I have spent a large part of my ‘mom life’ watching my kids play sports.  With four kids, three boys, a sporty girl, and a coach for a husband, I have spent a huge chunk of time sitting in the stands with other parents.  I cannot calculate how many hours total, but I watched close to 100 baseball games a year for 13 years.  That does not include the soccer games, basketball games, volleyball games, swim team, gymnastics, tae kwon do and karate.
            By the very definition of the word ‘Mom’, we watch our kids.  So, most of us have watched our kids, or our nieces and nephews, or a friend’s kid play some type of sport.  It is what most kids do these days.  If not a sport, certainly kids are in some type of activity which requires, and most parents enjoy, watching them perform in some capacity.
            With the emphasis today on marketplace evangelism, the sports stands are a great place to talk about the Lord.  There is a captive audience for an extended period of time, depending on the sporting event.  There are other adults sitting in the stands, bleachers, or soccer chairs beside you.  For the most part, the other parents are usually friendly because you all have something in common, your child’s team.  Everyone has a positive goal of wishing that the kids on their team play well, and yes, that the team wins.  More often than not, these other parents are open to talking to you.
            Now, I am not talking about presenting the Four Spiritual Laws as soon as you meet someone.  I am saying that opportunities abound in the sports stands for meaningful conversations with non-believers, hurting people, believers who need encouragement and people who could use the wisdom you have because you are a follower of Christ.
            The very first t-ball team we were on, one of the moms had just had a double mastectomy.  Her mother and sister had both had breast cancer and she was scared to death when she found out she was at high risk for it as well.  We talked about her fears and concerns sitting together on the bleachers watching the t-ball games.  I had an aunt who had died of breast cancer when she was 36 years old and had left behind two middle school daughters.  I prayed for this mom and took her a meal when she had additional surgery.  She said she looked forward to our talks in the stands because she did not have very much support around her.
            Another season, there was a mom and dad who coached together.  They were our team’s rival for several seasons in a row.  We knew their two boys and our families were united in our love for the game and our commitment to our kids and our families.  We were, however, competitive on the field against each other.
            When the wife was struck with liver cancer, I made a meal for their family.  My husband and son brought it to their house.  We sent a card with a Bible verse on it and said we were praying for them.  The husband and wife, who was very frail and sick, were so surprised that this rival coach was there for them.  My husband was able to say, “Baseball is just a game, but what you are going through is real life.”  He was able to share with the husband about the Lord.  During the woman’s battle the couple received Christ as their Savior.  The wife went on to be with the Lord, and at her funeral the husband said he could not have made it without the Lord and his Christian friends.
            Another couple we met on an All-Star team.  This was a more competitive team, where the best players from the regular season teams were voted on by the coaches to represent the league in a statewide tournament.  This couple had been through the ringer at their church.  They were so discouraged that they had decided it was not worth it to go to church anymore.  We met them and invited them to our Bible study class and they became some of our dearest friends.  Years later, our two families took a tour to Israel together.  Sometimes a little encouragement from the stands can motivate God’s players to get back into the game.
            Whatever sport or activity your child participates in, do not miss those opportunities in the stands with the other parents.  There was a time when my husband and I were praying about going into the mission field.  We were willing, but did not feel God’s leading.  He showed us that the harvest was ripe right where we were, and one of those places was in the baseball stands.
            Where has God placed you?  What team are you cheering on?  Look around at the people God has placed you with.  They need the Lord.  They need the light that Jesus has given you.  They need the Word that is in you to encourage them to seek the Lord.  God has given us the answer to the troubles of life, and He has called us to share the answers with the people in our stands.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It’s Over

It’s over. Done. Finished. Kaput.  We waited nine long months and then it is over in a blink of an eye. I’m so sad. I can hardly contain myself. Where did it go? I planned. I made lists. I tried my best to drag it out and make it last as long as possible. But it came to an end anyway, much too soon.  Tomorrow is the first day of school. So, this is the last, the very last, and saddest day of the summer. I grieved all day. I tried to fake enthusiasm, at least in front of my boys, about their first day of school tomorrow. I am sure they saw through me. With all the new school supplies, new clothes, a new school for one of them, and looking forward to seeing old friends for the other, they didn’t seem that sad about summer ending.
I’m not sure why I love summer so much. Maybe it was because we spent the largest part of my growing up years living in Hawaii. For the entire four years we lived there it seems like it was permanently summer, well, besides the schoolwork. But, we knew that when the weekend came, we could still go to the beach just like we did all summer. So, it seemed like summer just continued forever.
I remember sending my daughter off to school those first few years, actually I believe I did it every year, begging her to stay home. She loved school, at first anyway, so I knew she wouldn’t give in. Even though the first day of school signaled the end to summer.
“Sis, don’t leave me. I will miss you so much.” I would groan, half joking, half serious.
She was always so grown up. “No, Mom, I have to go. All the kids will be there. I will see you when I get home,” she said when she was 5, 6, and 7 years old. She, being the grown up and I, was being the big baby.
My older son was the same way. He had been home schooled for five years, and he couldn’t wait to get to a “real” school.
“Don’t go son, I will miss you so much.”
“Mom, you will be fine, “ he would say without really any concern.
One of the twins was home schooled last year and although it was hard, we had a great time. Now, for eighth grade he will be going to the same school as his brother for the first time since second grade.  I couldn’t say to either of them ‘please don’t go’. They would actually take me up on it.
So, I grieved the end of summer by myself. I can’t tell if others are not sad to see summer go, or they can just keep it together better than me. I had tried my best to make it last longer. We planned our vacation at the beginning of the summer, so we would have as many weeks as possible, of summer left when we got home. We bought new patio furniture and I vowed to grill out and eat dinner outside every night of summer. After a couple of chilly and windy nights, with everyone gulping down their dinner so they could get inside out of the wind, they bailed on me. I ate one dinner by myself, outside, with my hoodie on, in the wind, and decided I was being silly. I should be inside eating with the family.
I did not accomplish everything on my summer bucket list. Actually, I lost the list. I think it blew away one night at dinner. I didn’t want to be bogged down with a schedule. I wanted to enjoy the summer. Even though it flew by, we did do a lot of summer things.
This summer we:
Spent a week on the beach in Hawaii.
Spent a long weekend at a cabin in Colorado.
Sent the boys to Boy Scout camp.
Sent the boys to church camp.
Went hiking.
Went swimming.
Took long walks around the neighborhood.
Read books.
Had friends over.
Went to the zoo.
Went to an amusement park.
Painted a good part of the house.
Rode bikes.
Skateboarded (not me, just the boys).
Had friends over.
Had sleepovers with friends (again, not me).
Made an extremely weak attempt at a garden. I have one tomato plant in a pot on the patio.
Held a carnival for low-income families at our church.
Spent four days in the hospital. (You can read about that here  )
That wasn’t really a ‘summer thing’, nor was it fun, but it happened.

And yes, still, after all these things, I could keep going. There were so many things we didn’t get to, and now it is over.  I tried to boycott school starting two weeks before Labor Day. It just doesn’t seem right. In addition to summer flying by so fast, it always feels like we get ripped off of the last two weeks of summer. We don’t get a three-month summer. We only get a two month and two weeks summer. I could not see how I could legitimately keep my boys home from school and then bring them the Tuesday after Labor Day. Better yet, I could bring them the first day it turns cold, or maybe when Starbucks rolls out their Pumpkin Lattes. Yes, Pumpkin Lattes on the first day of school. I think I might not be as sad to say goodbye to summer if I had a Venti Pumpkin Latte, and maybe a blueberry scone.
So, until that time, I have decided to mentally stay in a summer frame of mind. Tomorrow, I am going to look for some summer-scented candles. (They have every scent imaginable. They MUST have summer, maybe a beachy scent.) I’m going to play Beach Boys music every day as I drive the boys to school. They will love it. I’m going to grill hamburgers, serve watermelon and make the family eat dinner outside until the first frost. Only 285 more days until next summer, but who is counting?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What Do You Say to Someone Who Gives You Their Child?

Fourteen years ago, today, we adopted twin baby boys from a beautiful teenage young woman. Every year, on their birthday, I write a letter updating her about the boys and sending her pictures of them. I remember, before they were born, when we knew the adoption was really going to happen, I wrestled with the question: What do you say to someone who gives you their child?

This would be a woman who would go through 40 weeks of growing a baby inside her own body, or in our case two babies, and then endure the painful procedure of giving birth, and at the end would give me her precious, beautiful boys.

I understood my part of the adoption process, loving a child. I already had two bio kids. I knew how to love, cuddle, kiss, care for, rock, feed, change, play with, smile at, tickle, read to, and raise a child. I also knew how painful, emotional, spiritual, miraculous and amazing it was to give birth.

Having loved two children, I could not under any circumstances, imagine giving my child to someone else. I knew some women who did not want their child, for whatever reason, were free to have an abortion at any time. So, why go through the nine months of growing a baby in your own body, just to give them to someone else to enjoy, forever?  I had a hard time dropping my daughter off on her first day of preschool. I drove home bawling in the car, counting the two hundred and ten minutes until I could pick her up again.

This time I would be on the receiving end. Someone had chosen me (and the hubby) to give their babies to forever. First, I knew she must really love those boys to endure the nine months, knowing she would end up with nothing but stretch marks at the end. Then, to go through meeting potential adoptive parents, get counseling from the adoption agency, to make sure she was of sound mind and knew exactly what she was doing, and go to court to make the whole thing legal and permanent. She had to put the good of her children ahead of her emotions. She had to want the very best for those babies growing inside her.

So, back to my question: What do you say to someone who gives you their child?

The words ‘thank you’ seemed so inadequate. You say ‘thank you’ when someone passes you the potatoes. You say ‘thank you’ when someone holds the door open for you. Should we bring flowers? We did. Should we buy her a gift, like jewelry? We did. Should we buy her a gift card for food or other necessities? We did. But, we gave those things to other women who had a baby, and they weren’t giving us their child to keep.

It is just impossible to comprehend. Because the truth is: there are no words to say to someone who gives you their child. There just aren’t.  It is an act that is too huge, too amazing, too selfless, too generous and too loving for a response. It is right up there with the words Jesus spoke “No one has a greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.”  This birth mother denied herself and gave up part of her life, the life she nurtured inside herself, and laid that life in my arms. It is still such an amazing thing.

I stumbled through the words 14 years ago. I said ‘thank you.’ I hugged her. I promised to love her twin boys with all of my heart, for all of my life. What did she want in return? She wanted me to tell them how much she loved them. She wanted me to tell them  she loved them more than they would ever know.

It is such a huge, self-sacrificing concept. I am not sure I will ever be able to fully relay to them the depth of her love.
They did ask me once when they were little, “Mom, remember your friend?”

“Which friend is that?” I asked.

“Your friend that you adopted us out of her belly?”

“Yes, I remember her,” I smiled; glad they knew she was my friend.

“She was really nice, wasn’t she?” he asked simply.

“Yes, son, she was really nice.”

One day, they will know and possibly understand. But today, I sit down to write a letter to the woman, who 14 years ago today, gave me, gave our family, the best gift ever. She gave me the most beautiful twin baby boys, that had grown in her belly. My boys, and her boys too. To her I will say ‘thank you’, again and again and again.

Twin's birthday
  How about you. What would you have said? Any other adoptive parents struggle with this question?