Category Archives: Family

Finding Home When You’re Far From Home

Or, The God Thing

Our family went to church this morning. In the midst of our evacuation, we had gone to church our first Sunday in exile; just keeping up with the normalcy and routine of Sunday morning worship helped us feel more settled.

When my teen was researching the material for her speech on refugees and immigrants last winter, she learned about a member of a church a couple of hours from ours who had been detained, arrested, and deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In the course of preparing her speech, she corresponded by email with two of the man’s pastors. When I discovered how close the church is to our temporary home, I suggested we attend worship there.

Our first worship service there made me thank God that we evacuated, because that worship time filled my empty, stressed-out heart and soul. The people at this church were the friendliest I’ve ever encountered at a church. As I was chatting with this lady or that one, a woman about my age came up. I recognized her instantly as a classmate from Divinity School. She was sitting with another couple from school and her husband was on the pew in front of her. It was like a mini-reunion – five of us from school all sitting in a cluster.

The pastor got up to preach. She was on week two of a series based on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship out of the book of Mark. Bonhoeffer is my favorite theologian, and this book has a challenging theme. The message bothered me, challenged me, convicted me. Pastor Lauren talked about being willing to go against the law of the land for the sake of the Kingdom, for the greater good of showing mercy to the persecuted. It was, in a word, perfect.

M and I met the associate pastor with whom she’d emailed, as well as the senior pastor. I found out that one of my husband’s former customers is still a member there and active in the church. It’s always good finding out that kind people are faring well. My younger daughter has the unique ability to make friends wherever she goes, and she has the unique ability to befriend even little boys who are still firmly entrenched in the “girls have cooties” stage of life.

Around mid-week, we discovered that our period of exile was coming to an end. Along with firm plans to return home came plans for the weekend. There was a much different mindset at that point. No longer was it a matter of indefinite waiting and wondering. Now it was about having fun for the weekend. It came as no surprise when H, my younger daughter, asked if we could go back to “that church” this Sunday because she liked the preaching. That was a no-brainer; of course.

At this point in our evacuation, we truly miss home. We are frustrated by how cut off we are. We are frustrated by there being a need for willing hands to work and our inability to lend ours to help those who’ve suffered much worse than we have. We yearn to sleep in our own beds on our own pillows. We crave the routine of home – the Wednesday trash pickup, services at our own church, M’s and my nightly streaming of House and Gilmore Girls.

Today is Sunday. We got up and dressed for church, returning to Greenwood Forest Baptist. I can’t speak for my husband or daughters, but my reasons for going were pretty self-centered – to receive the benefits of a great communal worship experience and to hear a word from the Lord. No sooner had we sat down when my gaze landed on a lady in the front row, a lady from our home church, one we’d gotten to know when she was in college and a part of our church’s college ministry. H was off socializing. I grabbed Mary’s hand and said, “Come on.”

She asked, “Why?”

I replied, “Look at the front row.” She instantly recognized Jazzmone.

Picture of friends

Jazzmone and me

It was about this time that the lady happened to spot us as I’m half dragging my teen down the aisle. We embraced, my younger daughter joining us for an enthusiastic, tearful, joyful group hug. We’d found home.

This is where the God moment happened. As the four of us were standing at the front of the church in full view of everyone in the sanctuary, Jazzmone shared that her heart had been burdened for home. The road conditions have prevented her from getting home to her family, friends, and our church, and she missed home. She missed all that was home for her, including the people from home. As we embraced, she found home.

Jazzmone had just messaged me a few weeks ago about how much she missed the girls and exclaiming over how much they’d grown since our paths had parted. She had kid-sat the girls on a few occasions and had formed bonds with them then.

I went to church today to get something for myself. Instead, I gave something far more precious to Jazzmone. Happiness filled her heart probably even more than it filled mine. Sometimes we find ourselves in less-than-desirable situations, and sometimes it’s because God is going to use us to touch someone else.

Post Script: We arrived home the day after I keyed these words. Our home was undamaged and our property survived unscathed (though our grape trellis and fig tree look a bit sad). We left my husband’s parents’ house with the excitement of knowing the interstate was open to 13 miles before our exit, so the journey home wouldn’t take much longer than usual. As I stopped for gas, a notification came in informing me that the interstate was completely open all the way to its east-bound end. It is good to be home, and we still have many reasons to be grateful, just as we did throughout our entire evacuation.

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Strange People in a Strange Land

So we’re not strange, but we can be eccentric sometimes. And this land isn’t entirely unfamiliar to us.

Years ago, I wrote a sermon based on Jeremiah 29 called “Strange People in a Strange Land.” In this passage, the Israelites are in exile in Babylon. They were away from the Temple in Jerusalem, away from home, away from all that was familiar and comfortable. False prophets had told the Israelites that this exile would be short, that they’d be home in a couple of years. Yet, God’s prophet, Jeremiah, had a different message: Get comfortable. Build houses, plant gardens, give your children in marriage to each other, and pray for things to go well in Babylon, because that will mean things will go well for you.

We’re in exile, and we’ve been here for over a week now. It feels like much longer.

Ours is a weather-imposed exile; Hurricane Florence made our county’s emergency manager call for a mandatory evacuation. We’re in a semi-strange place, a home not our own. It’s one we know in an area with which my husband and I are very familiar, but it’s not “home.” As conditions at home are improving slowly, we have chosen to get comfortable, to make ourselves at home. I unpacked my bag and placed clothes in drawers and closet. My own homemade soap, razor, shampoo, and conditioner all have space in the shower. Food we brought and have stored has found its temporary home on the counter, in the refrigerator, and in the freezer. Despite my frequent admonitions to “pick up after yourself,” there might be a shirt here on the floor, a pair of shoes there. In other words, we’ve sort of made this house “home” for us. However, just as homes and gardens left behind at the end of the Babylonian exile would make Babylon better once the Israelites were gone, so will we make this place better than we found it when we leave.

Sometimes, we find ourselves in strange places, places that aren’t home, places where we’d really rather not be. We are away from friends, family, and church. Our situation prevents us from helping others in ways we can and would like to. What do we do when we’re strange people in a strange land?

First, get comfortable. No one actually likes living out of a suitcase, and you certainly can’t live on fast food for weeks at a time. Pad around barefoot and sit on the floor to play games.

Two, make others comfortable. By Day 4, tempers were short and we were all totally over this evacuation. The girls and I were scared and worried about our home. (I think my husband was, too; we were just more vocal about it.) My youngest was in tears and said, “I just want to go home.” Give hugs. Empathize. Give assurances. Let the children know that they are not alone in their feelings and that their feelings are OK. Be present to the feelings the other adults are experiencing, too.

Three, make the best of it. We pretty much lucked out in our place of evacuation. There’s a lot of cultural opportunities around us. We have ample places to shop (grocery, particularly). And we’re within minutes of museums and the offerings of top state universities. So far my girls have browsed the stacks of a huge undergraduate library and are excited about a pirate festival at our state’s Museum of History this weekend.

Four, do what you can. Since we home educate, lessons can travel with us. All the aforementioned really awesome places serve as field trips. Experience new things. For me, it’s as simple as the spice blend my mother-in-law has that I sprinkled on turkey salad. For my husband, it was his first trip to Rocket Fizz. Allow the place where you are to remind you of what you love about the place you live. The drivers around here make me miss the insanity of tourist season back home. Service professionals here are awful about not providing the high quality service to which we’ve become accustomed at home. Everything about this evacuation is making me say over and over, “I miss home.”

After this, I will be more patient with the tourists that migrate our way for months at a time in the spring and summer and with the college students that fill the city summer to spring. I’ll have a greater appreciation for the first responders who have worked long, laborious days on little sleep and limited resources to rescue and care for people. Those same police officers and deputies also patrolled newly cleared streets, keeping an eye open for those who would take advantage of the situation and kept our homes safer.

When circumstances cause you to find yourself far from home, take time to, as Mr. Roger’s said, “find the helpers.” Also be sure to find reasons to be grateful.

Evacuation

The storm was barreling toward us at 17 miles per hour. A week ago this moment, my older daughter and I were enjoying the beginning of a peaceful, blissful weekend of bonding. We were ignorant of any of the storms in the Atlantic, let alone their potential impact on us. As I learned of the looming hurricane halfway into our trip, I started texting my husband with plans and thoughts. With the promise of Hurricane Florence slamming straight into the coast of the Carolinas at significant strength, there was much to do, so much to plan.

Early in the week, we vacillated in indecision. Do we evacuate? Do we stay? My in-laws agreed to let us use their home; they have an unfinished room that’s perfect for our cats. I wanted us to be safe, but I also wanted to stay hunkered down in our own home. Regardless, with the amount of flooding the meteorologists were predicting with this storm, we had to secure our most precious things.

This is the point where the reality got real. Over 1,500 square feet of living and storage space containing old furniture, cherished furniture, technological stuff, collectibles, pictures, jewelry, clothes, books, and toys – all the detritus of daily life in a family of four people and three cats. Yet, we could only take what we could fit into two vehicles alongside of seven warm bodies. With care, I gathered up photographs and albums, lovingly placing them in zip-closed bags. Framed family photos went into bags and then into drawers in chests on the upper floor. My fine jewelry came with us.

We each packed clothes for a week. We brought DVDs for entertainment and books to read. I grabbed my two favorite stuffed animals. My younger daughter brought a few magnets from our fridge and a book of Disney stories I’d had when I was a child. My teen brought a couple of books and her journal. My husband brought the necessities and his jewelry – his wedding band and a necklace I gave him when we were dating that he never wears. We brought food and water; the food would have gone bad at home when the power went out and even inland, there’s the risk of power outages with the winds from the outer band of the hurricane. It was remarkable to me what we brought with us, or, more like, didn’t bring. My older made sure she brought every bit of her new clothes, makeup, and jewelry. But neither daughter brought her cleats, shin guards, or ball; neither my husband nor I brought our billiards cues or fishing rods.

Even amidst the planning and preparation, there was still vacillation. My husband felt strongly about staying. My gut said it’d be safer to go. At that point, the hurricane was expected to hit as a category 3 or 4 and linger at the coast for 24-36 hours before weakening and moving west. The announcement of a mandatory evacuation settled the matter for us.

With mere hours to get everything together and move out, we pulled together to get things done. None of us had ever dealt with an evacuation before. Frankly, I was scared, my anxiety level nearly to the point that I was having trouble thinking and focusing. At the same time, everyone was looking to me to lead them in the preparations, to tell them what needed to be done and direct them to do it. What happens when the leader can’t lead?

We made it out. My husband had some minor car trouble – and he was the one with the cats. Traffic was fairly light, many people from Down East fleeing the coming storm; however, we were at the tail end of the evacuees. We arrived at my in-laws’ house in the evening. My mother-in-law had texted with “warnings,” I guess you’d call them. “We turn off the cable when we’re gone, so there’s no wifi.” Ouch, but OK. We can get 4G on our phones and have movies, games, books, and school for our entertainment pleasure. “The hot water heater is on vacation mode, so there’s no hot water.” With her guidance, we took care of that problem. (Can’t wash dishes with cold water.)

Once we arrived, got the cats settled, and started winding down, it was time to reflect. We had to leave our home suddenly because our lives were at stake. It was scary leaving, not knowing what would await us when we returned. It was also kind of scary going. Sure, we knew we were going to a lovely home that would be stocked in necessities and easily accessible to several shopping opportunities. We didn’t know, however, how the cats would be. We didn’t know what weather conditions secondary to the storm we’d face. Even now, drowsy from the rain and a delicious dinner, able to get updates on our town, our region, and many of our friends, the anxiety still churns in my gut as I wonder what we’ll face when we return. We don’t even know when we will get to return; earlier today, our town manager issued a curfew, and parts of the interstate between here and home are flooded. Our county’s emergency manager has said it could be weeks before residents from parts of the county will be able to make it back home.

Whatever must it be like for those who are strange people in a strange land? What happens when dangerous circumstances force you to leave the only home you’ve ever known to seek shelter and refuge in a new place, bringing only what you can carry?

This is the reality for thousands of people. We hustled all day before driving a couple of hours to get here. Refugees travel over hundreds of miles, mostly on foot or by rickety cart. What if we’d traveled all that way only to be met with hostility and getting turned away at the door with nowhere else to go but back to the danger? The refugees do. Nevermind that they have a legal right to seek asylum in our country; Ronald Reagan made that a law early in his administration. After giving up everything they know, refugees face cruel, hateful treatment and the hostilities of a suspicious people who believe that people of color, especially those hailing from the Middle East or Latin America, are evil, bad, lazy, and dangerous.

Being unplanned sojourners for a while is an unnerving experience. We were able to put some plans in place, but the reality remains that, while we’re here, we are unable to take care of our businesses like we need to. We have just the money that was available to us when we left. Such is the case for those who come here seeking refugee from other lands.

It’s time for us to extend the hospitality to refugees that my in-laws and so many others extended to us evacuees fleeing from the hurricane. Rules are fine and good; everyone has the right to set boundaries on their own property. Nations have rules as well, and as long as refugees are willing to follow the simple rules that make a society function well, there’s no reason to block them from finding a place to find shelter and to make a new home.

How GenX Made Millenials into Snowflakes

We love them, but we look at them with scorn or derision.  We look at them and wonder how they could be so __________ (fill in the blank).  They are Millenials.  They are in high school or college or freshly out of college, poorly equipped to handle the big, bad world and having no clue why.

They’re spoiled.  They’re entitled.  They believe they’re all that and more, even though they feel like they’re nothing so much of the time.  We adults in GenX and GenY look at these kids and call them “wusses” and “snowflakes.”

Last week, we were discussing these kids.  My teen is a Millenial with none of the above characteristics and a great deal of disdain for her fellow Millenials who have them.  Frankly, I’m quite proud of the fact that she doesn’t have these traits, but as the conversation continued, she said, “Mom, it’s your generation’s fault that we’re like this.”

Well, that bombshell put a serious pause in the conversation, and as my mind raced over the past 20 years, I couldn’t help but come to one clear conclusion:  Damn.  She’s right.

My generation came up with “participation awards.”  Then we gripe about how they reward mediocrity.

My generation decided we need to “protect children’s self esteem” by never giving them negative feedback or poor grades.  Now we wonder why they don’t seem nearly as smart as they should.

My generation got rabid about protecting children from everything – germs, hurt feelings, human traffickers, TV violence, feeling bad, physical punishment… You name it.  We invented “time out,” thinking that two-year-olds are capable of sitting in the special “time out chair” in the corner and understanding how what they did was wrong.  (I studied childhood development from every aspect.  Trust me when I say, they are incapable of doing this.)  Now we have a bunch of kids who are too traumatized when an election doesn’t go a certain way that they can’t fulfill their responsibilities to go to their college classes – and the schools allow this!  What a bunch of fragile, whimpy, weak snowflakes!

And who made them this way?  Yes, my fellow GenXers.  We did.  We screwed up big time with this one.  We didn’t create strong kids at all.  We successfully created children who grow up physically but who can’t handle life.  According to an article in the Washington Post, some Millenials take their parents to job interviews.  Are you kidding me???  They are so used to Mommy and Daddy taking care of things for them that they can’t even handle a job interview alone.

That same article cited a 30-year-old woman who struggled through college, because she didn’t know how to manage her time on her own.  She was used to her parents doing it for her, so 2 a.m. often saw her awake and finishing homework.  This same lady was unable to do her own laundry at 30; her parents had never taught her how, and why should they, when they could do it for her?

We laughed at the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Again, to us, it looked like a bunch of Millenials crying about not getting their way.  They’d gone to college on high-interest student loans, majored in weak fields (e.g., Underwater Fire Prevention), and didn’t understand why they couldn’t find a job that didn’t require asking, “Do you want to supersize your order?”  Mommy and Daddy had taught them for 20+ years that they were special and unique, just the most wonderful kids in the world, so surely these young people’s problems weren’t their fault.  No, they figured it must be the fault of those people who had all the money, the Wall Street folks with the corner offices, like that guy who started out in the mail room and worked his butt off for 20 years to have a window at all and another 10 years for the corner.  And that was after busting that same butt to earn his MBA.

We GenXers passed “Zero tolerance” policies against bullying, and bullying has increased, getting nastier, more hateful, and more vile.  From as young as 6 and 7 years old, children are bullied daily in school, even in schools with these zero tolerance policies.  This isn’t simply some big kid stealing lunch money; it’s two or three big kids against one small one.  And what happens?  The psychologically strongest kids fight back, landing them in the principal’s office for violence.  (I know; I had to go meet with the principal when my teen was in first grade.)  What happens to the weak ones, the ones who’ve been pampered, the ones who are just sick of the bull crap?  They google, “How to make a bomb” and plant one in the school cafeteria halfway through lunch.  They get Dad’s automatic and walk the halls at school, shooting everyone they see.  Often, they get killed by police or eat the gun themselves.  The evangelical conservatives call them “evil.”  The far-left ignores them and cries for more gun regulations.  I call them simply screwed up in the head because of systems we have put in place.

In molly-coddling these children from infancy and well into their 20s, finding ways to build their self-esteem and doing all we could to protect them, GenX created worse problems.  One, we have this generation of young people who literally can do nothing for themselves.  Two, we have a generation of young people who can’t cope with reality.  They are unable to cope with disappointments, bad college roommates, terrible bosses, and time management.  If their failures to handle the responsibilities of reality result in negative consequences, their helicopter parents will be right there wanting the professor or boss to make everything all better for little 30-year-old Susie and little 28-year-old Billy.

Bottom line, reality sucks sometimes.  And sometimes, Mommy and Daddy live several states away and can’t drop everything to rescue their grown children who M&D expect to be able to handle life by now.  When reality crashes so violently against one’s expectations of life, anxiety and depression are often the outcomes.  In fact, an article in Forbes states that depression is on the rise in Millenial business leaders, citing poor boundaries over health and an inability to handle difficult situations.  Furthermore, over the past 20 years, reports of anxiety and depression have increased by 16% and suicidal ideation or acts have increased by 44% among Millenials.  Wow!!!  We have created this mental, psychological, and emotional quagmire that teens and 20somethings are finding themselves in.

So how to fix it?  It’s not enough to say, “Suck it up, buttercup” and expect grown and nearly-grown children to be able to do that.  They have no experience at rolling with the punches.

First, we GenXers have to start NOW making our children do things for themselves.  Problem with a teacher?  Try a bit of empathy with accountability.  “I’m sure it felt like Mr. Jones was being unfair with how he graded your test.  If it’s that important to you, make time to speak to him about it.”  Then – and this is the hard AND important part – back off.  You have just transferred power to your child for dealing with this.  Will it be scary?  Of course.  Will it teach them how to deal with conflict later in life?  Absolutely.

“You’re out of clean clothes for school tomorrow?  That’s tough, but if you start now, you can get a load through before tomorrow morning.”  Then encourage them to Google “how to wash clothes.”  I’m pretty sure that having to research the “how” themselves will make it stick better.  (Our children wanted to learn how to wash their own clothes, so we could teach them at young ages.)

Second, we have to stop rewarding mediocrity.  I’m sure the younger parents will be grateful not to have to dust one… more… meaningless… trophy.  Real life means, you don’t get rewarded for doing what you’re supposed to do.  There’s no special treatment for showing up for class, being on time for work, or doing a day’s worth of work in seven hours instead of eight.  Your “reward” is getting paid or learning the material the professor wants you to know.  The “reward” is not being fired or flunked for being a slacker.

There are already systems in place to reward excellence.  In secondary school, it’s called graduation.  In college and graduate school, it’s a degree.  In the working world, the reward is often a merit raise and a promotion.  It is not the dean’s fault nor the boss’s fault if an individual fails to get the reward; it is purely the fault of the person who didn’t meet and exceed the expectations.

Third, we have to help these millennial children reframe their thinking.  If things don’t go their way, they need to stop blaming others – other people, authority figures, society, or government – and discover what they have done to contribute to the problems they’re facing.  If the problems are legitimately placed onto them from outside sources (i.e., the rent increases by $200 a month), then this is a time for these young people to figure out how to change themselves in order to meet the challenges – them, not Mommy and Daddy.  They need to see problems less as obstacles to prevent their progress and more as opportunities to find different solutions.

I’ve seen this in adults who are… Let’s say, a generation ahead of GenX.  These people are an anomaly but have all the characteristics of current Millennials.  Failures at work are the fault of teammates or bosses.  Money problems are the fault of the government – and Momma is quick with the bail-out.  Afraid of conflict, these people go along with what others want them to do, be it friends, colleagues, or bosses.  So long as these people, along with their Millennial cohorts, can maintain the image they have of themselves – you know, that “you’re so awesome!” image Mom and Dad implanted in them from birth – all is well.

Ask yourself this, and try to be as objective as you can:  Is your child someone you’d want to put up with if they weren’t your child?  Would you want to do everything for them that they need done, or would you want to be around someone who is more responsible?  What feedback have you gotten from others?  The grasping of reality will be brutal and harsh, but it’s completely necessary for young people to grow up to be adults society wants to deal with.  We may love our children to bits and think they are all sorts of amazing, but truth is, they’re only ours to deal with for 18 years.  After that, the rest of the world has to deal with them.  It’s our job as parents to raise children that society has to tolerate.  What do they look like?

 

Every Super Hero Has a Weakness

I see you, Mama.  You’re worn down.  Physically exhausted.  Emotionally exhausted.  Spiritually exhausted.  Even when people surround you at home, you feel lonely.  You’re Supermom, no question.  You get up in the morning, make sure everyone has a good breakfast, and get the kids dressed and off to school and day care on time.  You go to work where you spend the better part of 8 or 9 hours on your feet.  At the end of the day, you come home, and your second job begins – cooking dinner, cleaning the kitchen, washing the dishes, doing laundry, getting the kids to bed, picking up toys, and putting all the laundry away before collapsing into bed, exhausted to tears.  In the midst of these hours of work, you would occasionally look over at your husband, drink in one hand, remote control in the other, and fight the waves of resentment as he “rests” from his job in front of the TV all evening.

Supermom graphic

SuperMom! Ever notice that no male superhero has as many tasks?

So, what’s the deal?  Why is your man leaving you to do all the housework and childcare when you both work full-time jobs?  And why are you putting up with it?  Here are a couple/few thoughts.

(1) You make it look so effortless.  You’re like a well-oiled machine, organized, able to bring up doctor’s appointments, hair appointments, play dates, sports practices, and parent-teacher conferences with a few taps on your phone.  Bam!

(2) It’s your job as a mom.  After all, your mom did it.  Her mom did it.  Her mom before her did it.  Built into the collective unconscious of women is “The man works all day, so the woman takes care of the house and kids.”  Sadly, this message hasn’t changed with the changing status of women as degree winners and bread earners.  The stereotype of the June Cleaver mom – happily doing housework with dress, heels, pearls, and a smile – still influences us, two generations later.

(3) It’s your job to sacrifice yourself.  This has a LOT of religious undertones to it by religious figures – men, of course – who continue to perpetuate the idea that a woman’s job is in the home taking care of her family.  This gets stretched to include the message that, “If you complain (get tired, feel worn down, etc.), then your faith isn’t strong enough and you’re less of a women/wife/mom/Christian.”

Right here, right now, I’m calling BULLSHIT!!! on every single one of those reasons/excuses, because that’s exactly what they are.

Whether or not he’s your favorite superhero, I think we can easily agree that Superman is a pretty awesome superhero.  He’s got the muscles and the speed and those killer blue eyes.  How easily does he seem to guide a crippled passenger plane to a safe landing!  Then he goes on to foil a bank robbery, fearlessly progressing as bullet after bullet strikes his chest.  (Then the robbers throw their guns at him.  What’s up with that?  Like the bullets won’t kill him, but a 14-ounce pistol will?)  And then his supersonic hearing picks up the faint feminine cries of “Superman!  Save me!” and he flies off to pluck Lois Lane out of mid-air, depositing her safely to the ground and, once more, earning her undying gratitude and devotion.  The citizens of Metropolis look up in admiration and applaud him, so grateful he’s once more saved the day!  Ahhh!  If only we Supermoms got that kind of adulation, at least every once in a while!

But Superman has a weakness that those Metropolitans know nothing about.  Superman knows what it is, of course… And so does Lex Luthor.  Things start going bad in the big city of Metropolis, and Superman is nowhere to be found.  People start wondering, speculating, and worrying.  What will happen to their beloved city if Superman doesn’t appear soon?

In an abandoned warehouse near the docks, Superman is bound against steel beams, weaker than a mere Earthling.  Lex Luthor has left him there, intending to deal with him later.  Nearby, a chunk of emerald green stone glows in the darkness of the warehouse.  A couple of teens ditching school duck into the warehouse, looking for a bit of privacy.  The green glowing rock catches their eyes, and then they see the Man of Steel nearby.  Scared and alarmed, they ask him, “Superman?  What happened?”

With a hoarse voice, he manages to rasp out, “Kryptonite.”  The teens get it.  The girl grabs the stone with a pair of nearby tongs and runs it outside, going to the end of the dock before flinging it with all her might into the ocean.  On her way back to the warehouse, she gasps the story in broken, breathless sentences to a couple of guys fishing.  They follow her into the warehouse, shocked to see their hero so weakened.

One of them asks, “Superman, how can we help you?”  A modicum stronger now, he says, “Sunlight.”  The four work to untie him and they carry his heavy, muscular body outside, laying him down on the weathered wood of the boardwalk.  The midday sun is strong and bright overhead, and it takes almost no time for Superman’s strength to return.

Superman was brought low, and he had to communicate (1) what was making him weak, and (2) how to get his strength back.  Supermom, you do, too.  What is exhausting you?  What is making you feel worn to your soul?  What is making you feel stressed, anxious, lonely, and sad?  What has diminished the light in your eyes?

It’s time to open up some communication.  What is making you feel weak, despite sleeping well, eating right, and having a faithful worship and prayer life?  You have to let your family know these things.  They see the nearly effortless way you handle the home and family and don’t realize you are exhausted.  They don’t know your resentments or your anger.  It’s time to release that, to communicate your feelings in a loving, empowering way.  When my words seem to fall on deaf ears, I turn to writing out those feelings.

It’s also time to speak about what will help you regain your strength.  Do you need space to meditate or practice mindfulness, whatever that looks like?  (There are some faith-based meditations, too.)  Do you need your husband/partner to watch the kids, including getting them fed, bathed, and to bed, so you can take a fitness class or do yoga practice?  SAY that.  Don’t pussy-foot around it and be nice; none of this, “Honey, is it OK if I take this class once a week?  It’s OK if it’s not, and I’ll make dinner and take care of the kids before I leave.”  NO NO NO NO NO!!!  Try this instead:  “Honey, I need to take care of me so I can have the strength to take care of y’all.  There’s this class on Tuesday evenings I want to take.  So I can do this, I’ll need you to cook dinner those nights and be front man on getting the kids bathed and to bed.”  That’s clear, concise, and to the point.

As you start feeling better after a few weeks, make time to thank your partner for supporting you in your continuing efforts.  Also, thank your children for being good for the other parent and making his/her life easier.  Occasionally, make something in the crockpot for dinner so your husband/partner can get a little bit of a break.  Weekly, thank your other half for what they do.  This will encourage them to continue supporting you; gratefulness leads to people wanting to help, and everyone likes feeling appreciated.

It’s time we SuperMoms owned up to our weaknesses and claimed what we need to regain our strength.  I was diligently doing cardio 2-3 days/evenings a week and strength training at least twice a week.  I ate a healthy, balanced diet and got sufficient sleep.  My body was healthy.  I taught Bible daily, prayed at least once a day (not including blessing meals), and still went to church each week.  My spirit was healthy.  Yet, my spirit was also feeling worn down.  My body was feeling worn down.  Why?  Because my mental and emotional health was weak.  I had a big ol’ dose of compassion fatigue on top of anxiety, and those two things were negatively impacting the entire rest of my being.

Now, since my being is tied to others’ beings, my being worn down also adversely affected how well I was doing at the wife thing, mom thing, and friend thing.  Once I realized what was going on, owned it, and asked for help and support from people in my circles (my church circle has been especially supportive!), I am on my way back to complete, wholistic health.

SuperMom, you have got to claim a break for yourself every single day.  All you need are ten minutes a day to be quiet and mindful.  Some days, you need more time, especially if you’re working out.  Your children’s dad needs to realize that there’s more to parenting than his 10-second contribution.  Giving him these moments will help him build bonds with his children that’ll last a lifetime, so you’re doing him a favor, too.

The Kingdom Needs to Corrupt

What shall I compare the kingdom of God to?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough. (Luke 13:20-21, NIV)

The Kingdom of God needs to be a corrupting force in the world.  That just sounds bad, doesn’t it?  The cognitive dissonance strikes the brain and the ears like fingernails on a chalkboard or the stridency of the bow across the strings by a novice violinist.  After all, Kingdom of God = good; corruption = bad.

What Jesus is saying here and in its parallel passage in Matthew is that the Kingdom is like yeast that a woman is mixing into a LOT of flour.  Yeast is a fungus, and fungi were considered unclean in Jewish culture and religion.  Worse, there is a woman – a second-class citizen – working with this yeast.  What in the world was Jesus trying to say here?  That the sacred Kingdom of God is like fungus and involves women?!?!

Have you ever made bread from scratch?  To illustrate this idea, I talked the girls into making some yeast bread with me (not a terribly hard stretch).  We made a batch that made a short loaf and a scrumptious 9″x9″ fake focaccia (we called it “fauxcaccia”).  It took just one packet, about 2 teaspoons, of yeast to make these, so definitely not much compared to the 4+ cups of flour.  I’ll show off our pictures and share the recipe link, then swing it back to the teaching of Jesus.

 Mixing bowlsOur dishes ready to go

buttered glass baking pans

Pans buttered

Flour in a bowl

Four cups of flour

yeast mixture

Our tiny little package of yeast getting activated in warm water and sugar

bread dough

Everything mixed together – all 5 ingredients!

bread dough in pan and bowl

Part of the dough poured into my loaf pan, and the rest will go to my fauxcaccia.

focaccia going into oven

Rosemary + Olive oil “fauxcaccia” ready to go into the oven

Freshly baked focaccia

This is our fauxcaccia steaming hot and fresh out of the oven. If only you had a scratch and sniff screen!

freshly baked bread

Our dinky loaf of plain peasant bread

Interestingly enough, this recipe is called Peasant Bread.  It’s a 5-ingredient, no-knead, ridiculously fast and easy yeast bread that came out absolutely delicious!  You can find the recipe for it here.

Going back to the verse I cited at the beginning of this…  What is Jesus saying here?  Just as it doesn’t take a lot of yeast to impact cups (or, in the passage from Luke, pounds) of flour, it likewise doesn’t take a great deal of our corrupting our culture with Jesus to make a difference.

It makes no difference who we are, be it a CEO or a “lesser” citizen whose duties are isolated to menial tasks.  We have a responsibility to be that corrupting influence in the world.

What would that look like?  It looks like having integrity, which I define as “doing what’s right, even when no one is looking.”  I wish I could remember the original source, but at a preaching lecture led by Thomas Long, professor emeritus from Chandler School of Theology at Emory University, he recounted the story of a man in a group therapy session.  It was near Christmas, and that man had some warrants out on him.  He was planning on turning himself in to the police after that meeting.  That man was corrupting his corner of society by doing what was right.

I’ve spoken before about being counter-cultural and even counter-church cultural.  Is there something you can do to get ahead of someone else, either in prestige, position, or power?  Don’t do that.  Jesus didn’t do that, so we shouldn’t do that.  How, in fact, can we make ourselves low?  Are we willing to inconvenience ourselves in order to raise someone else up?  Are we willing to lift others up – with absolutely NO benefit for ourselves?  Can we do this quietly, secretly, like the way yeast impacts flour when we make bread?  When that becomes our way of doing life, then through us will the Kingdom of God corrupt our society and our culture.

Decluttering From Church

I’m sure it’s the trial of many, many parents of kids in church.  They come home with reams of paper announcements about special events and wonderful, fun happenings.  If they’re involved in anything musical, there are stacks of CDs, built gradually over the years, often two or three a year – special programs and VBS.  Multiply that by multiple children, and that stack can be pretty impressive.

My “crafty stuff” board on Pinterest has new additions – things to do with old CDs.  Some of the ideas are incredibly gorgeous, but I know my schedule won’t allow the time to do them.  My teen and I loved the CD mosaic arts – tables, flower pots, and frames.  In fact, I’m thinking if there’s any way I could whip up some of these crafts in time for my next selling event.  Let’s see…  Two children times six years times average 2 weeks of Vacation Bible School each year, plus 2 children’s programs each year…  I could probably mosaic an entire wall of our living room at this point!

pic of CDs

About what this pile of children’s CDs looks like after a combined 15 years of programs.

Our children are getting to take part in a really fun event this coming week.  Our children’s minister emailed out the flyer for it a couple of weeks ago.  I loved that!  It’s right there in my email until it’s in the past, and it’s so easy to plug those dates into my digital calendar.  Best yet, no paper!  Churches love distributing paper.  In fact, I’ve been offered paper copies of that digital file four times since I received it.  You wouldn’t believe the “you must be the antichrist!” looks I received from some people when I declined it!  When I get paper flyers, I end up having to deal with them later – sort and recycle.  It’s kind of the same with paper bills, which only our utility company sends anymore; all the rest are electronic.  That’s great for me, because less paper means less waste.  Even paper recycling requires fossil fuel to process.  We’re trying our best to eliminate waste in our lives and our environment and working to reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible.  This is a huge part of our family’s environmental ethic as we live it out in our stewardship of God’s creation.

Stacks of CDs and full-color printed flyers that will likely get trashed or recycled…  I look at all this stuff and I look around at our community and can’t help but think, Is this really the best use of our church’s resources?  Posting flyers around the children’s center, an announcement in the bulletin, and an email would more than cover it, I think.  Could the paper/copies line item on that segment of the budget flip to some sort of family crafting event where we make stuff with all those CDs?  Could those be sold to create a scholarship fund for children to go to mission camp?  (I’m just brainstorming here.)  Or maybe that money could go towards one of the fab children’s’ charities we help support in our area.  The potential to create from the clutter is significant.

Take a look at my Crafty board and tell me what you think of the ideas I’ve pinned.  What ideas would you add?  Oh look!  What to do with CDs and 1000+ fish extender gifts.  I think I have time til our next cruise to come up with something brilliant between the two of those.

It’s Just Too Much!

The emails and announcements are beginning to roll in.  VBS at our church is this particular week in June.  The previous week is VBS at my parents’ church.  My younger has already determined that she wants to attend at my parents’ church, because afterward, Grandma will take her to the park and Grandpa will take her fishing.  There may also be ice cream and shopping in there somewhere.

Yet, our own children’s minister will expect her to be present at VBS at our church, and that VBS will likely be the exact same theme as that at our local church – and my little one LOVES that church’s minister.  What all these VBS directors see:  An opportunity for children to come and learn about Jesus and biblical truths through Bible stories, activities, games, crafts, and songs.

For this momma, though, it gets to be way too much!  Don’t get me wrong:  My daughter loves going to VBS.  She has fun and is such a social bug that being around other kids just compounds the fun for her.  Yet, she’s exhausted every afternoon, and with back-to-back VBSes, halfway through the second week, she’ll be tired and cranky, and her behavior will be tanking abysmally.  She is an extrovert and an empath, so being around people drains her emotionally.  The problem is, she doesn’t yet know this about herself, so she doesn’t realize she needs downtime to give herself a chance to recover.  This, then, becomes a battle as I struggle to convince her to take some alone time in her room.

The fun times are great for her, but she often complains she doesn’t learn much.  A pastor friend of mine once said of my daughter when she was six, “She’s smart.  She gives good answers in Sunday school, and not just catechism answers, either.”  When our Bible discussions deal with why Jesus was angry with the moneychangers at the Temple and how Jesus turns the status quo on its head and then how we, too, can do that, a simple story about Joshua or David isn’t going to excite her a whole lot.  Noah filled an ark with animals, but what about the cursing of Ham?  Balaam got mad at his donkey, but when will the lessons cover how boldly he refused a king’s request that he curse the Israelites and, in fact, blessed them, speaking the words of God?

The pressure will be on, with various people mentioning VBS right in front of my child, leaving me the choice of either saying, “No, you can’t go” or being the “bad guy” who tells her she needs to spend some peaceful time in her room.  When our summer break is only 6-7 weeks long (and that often feels way too short), the rush and hustle of 3 weeks of VBS is anathema to enjoying the cognitive and physical downtime that is a huge part of break.  So, please, give us parents a break.  For parents who work, I often hear how getting kids to a morning VBS and picking them up puts a strain on their work days.  For us parents who work from home, these hours can be either the blessing of a few hours to work with no kids, or they can be time wasted that we need to be working.  They’re mornings of getting everyone up and out the door when the kids would really rather be sleeping in.

So this year, I’m going to do what I feel is best for my child.  By the time VBS rolls around, she’ll be newly baptized.  In our household, talking about Jesus, the Bible, our faith, living the Christian life, etc., aren’t 180-school-day activities.  They’re not something that happens at church on Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, and five mornings in the summer.  They’re daily things.  They’re examples, questions, discussions, and applications.  These are things they learn as we go about our daily life.  Two non-consecutive Vacation Bible Schools is fine, but I’m not going to force her to endure two straight weeks of hustle.  After all, she doesn’t have but so much time to be a child.  And if I’m insisting she attend all these VBSes because other people want her to, what message is that sending to her?

 

Where My Loyalties Lie

In the beginning, God created men and women in God’s image.  That’s according to Genesis 1, anyway.  In Genesis 2, a slightly different account, we’re told that God formed the man out of the dust of the ground, then God made the animals.  However, from these animals, no suitable helpmate was available to Adam.  So, short version, God created the woman.

This man and this woman were created to be in relationship with God.  Second to that, the man and the woman were created to be in relationship with each other.  They were family.  Out of this relationship, they had children; the Bible records the names of three boys, though I surmise that that’s not an exhaustive list.  The first couple multiplied and expanded their family.

Skip down several generations and about ten chapters, and we meet Abram.  Abram was an old man of 75, married to Sarai, and they were unfortunately childless.  God called Abram into covenant, a covenant which would extend to all of Abram’s descendents.  Abram and Sarai received new names and the promise of a child.  This small family grew – and would grow exponentially.

Three more generations, and the family of Abraham has grown exponentially, with his son Isaac bringing two sons, and Jacob having twelve sons and a daughter.  For his faithfulness, he received a new name:  Israel.  They acknowledged “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” but otherwise, this god had no name.  The descendants of Jacob would be called in Hebrew ben-Y’isra’el, which means literally, “the sons of Israel,” but which refers to all descendants of Jacob.

Four hundred years went by.  The Israelites had moved from Canaan to Goshen, a fertile land under the purview of Egypt.  There they grew and flourished to the point where the Pharoah considered them a viable threat and enslaved them.  Four hundred years of just acknowledging the god of their fathers.  They worshiped at altars, but there was no true worshiping assembly.

After the Exodus, the Lord delivered through Moses detailed how-to instructions for worship, including everything from when, what, and how much to sacrifice.  The sacrifices were all given in gratitude for what the Lord had done, not as a bribe to make God do what they wanted God to do.  (This was different from the pagan deity worship practices.)  Even through the desert wanderings, the Israelites didn’t worship as a community as we understand it, but what is clear is that they are still a huge family – all descended from one ancestor – with separate, individual tribal, clan, and family units.

It would be another millennium (plus a few hundred years) before the church as we know it was established.  The church as a mash-up of people from different backgrounds, different families, and different beliefs wouldn’t emerge until the first century A.D.

The church is a vital part of the believer’s life, and corporate worship is a beautiful part of that life.  I feel bereft of something if I miss more than one Sunday of worship.  However, true to the original design, we were created first to be with God, and second to be in our families.  Someone from our church tried to lay a guilt-trip on me for skipping something at church in order to take my daughters home so they could have dinner with their waiting dad – and so we could be together as a family for the first time that entire day.  We were not created to be a part of an institution; we were created to be a part of our families.

And the church is an institution.  Early in our marriage, Peter and I both spent many Sunday afternoons helping out at our small church and engaged in various local ministry projects.  The problem was, between my two jobs and his job, we barely had any time together the other six days of the week.  We thought we were being “holy” by spending all this time at church, but in reality, we were damaging one of the best gifts God had given us and were failing to be good stewards of that gift.

When someone wants people – whether individuals, parts of families, or whole families – to give up family time for time at church, then the church starts taking on cult-like qualities.  Cults desire their members to sacrifice family loyalty for loyalty to the cult and the leader.  I refuse to go there.  If I have a choice between being home with all my family or at church with just part of it, then I’ll choose to be with my whole family every.  Single.  Time.  Sunday mornings are the exception; if Hubby is sick, then I’m perfectly fine taking the girls to church without him, and vice versa if I’m sick.  But any other time…  At the end of a long day of working and teaching, when all I want is to complete the 35-minute drive home, hug my hubby, and eat dinner, then no.  My first loyalty is to God.  My second loyalty is to my family.  Everything else comes after that.

Futbol is Family

The notification comes as you’re walking out of the hair salon:  “Alyssa came home from school with strep.”  Immediately, your mind snaps away from the glorious feel of your new cut-n-style to the reality of that night’s soccer game.  OK…, you think. That brings us down to 6.  We can do 5+1 with no subs.  Rough, but doable.  Thankfully, it’s not a terribly hot day.

It’s 5:45 and you arrive at the fields for warm-ups and drills before the game.  You’re walking to the field when you’re intercepted by another player’s older brother, a baseballer.  He informs you that his younger sister had come for the game but got sick and went home.  Now the cuss words start flipping through your mind.  The absolute minimum you can have and still play is five, and that’s what you’re looking at.  And they’re going to have to play the entire game, no subs, no choice.

Your coaching assistant has let you know she’s pushing it to get there and she’ll have to leave early.  She’s not happy about it, but it’s outside of both your controls and your older daughter is happy to stand in as assistant – not that you really need one.  She says, “I don’t know what to do as assistant,” to which you flippantly reply, “Help if someone gets hurt, cheer, and make sure I don’t cuss.  Loudly.”  Then the ref shows up, and you’re beginning to wonder if you’ll make it through this game without drawing a card.  He’s young, inexperienced, and has more desire than skill.

You confer with the other team’s coach and ask if he’s willing to go 4+1 or if you should reschedule.  Since everyone is out there already, you decide to go ahead and play.  The game goes well.  It’s not a total shut-out.  Your five players are incredible, and you switch them around between goalie, offense, and defense in order to give your hardest runners a bit of a respite.  By the fourth quarter, they’re dragging, you know they’re dragging, and it breaks your heart to have to run them this hard.  They’re strong of spirit, though, and they keep pounding through.

The sweetness of the ball in the goal

At one point during the game, your spouse side-line coaches your daughter to “cover 9,” referring to a player on the other team.  She’s in front of said player and can’t read her number on the back of her jersey.  You know her as the other coach’s daughter and a former teammate of your child’s from last season, so you call her by name.  Your daughter sees the other girl and starts chatting her up.  Oy…  Like defending on a corner kick is the optimal time to catch up with old teammates.  Then again, distraction is an excellent defensive strategy.

The ref is as frustrating as ever, though he has improved some.  Beside you, your teen daughter keeps asking, “Can I cuss, yet?”  “No,” you respond.  So she just mutters, “Period.  Period.  Period” over and over.  It’s her G-rated version of “bloody hell”; you just let it go.  Your team takes hits; one of your goalies takes a ball to the face with enough force to make him cry.  Leather slamming against chilled skin is enough to make anyone cry.  Your daughter’s arm gets cleated accidentally by a teammate.  You want to throttle the ref for calling tripping on one of your players (coincidentally, your child) when the player had tripped over his own feet – a particular skill he practices much throughout the game.  From that point on, it’s like this much bigger boy has it in for your daughter.  You grit your teeth, but amidst the irritation is the reality that this is soccer (a very physical game), and that he must feel threatened by your little soccer diva, so a vein of pride creeps through, because, hey, she’s good.  By the time the game ends, your older daughter says, “If you won’t email the president about how bad he is, I will!”

The game ends, and by the time the last whistle sounds, you’re pretty sure that, if there were superlatives given to coaches, you’d win “Most Likely to Draw a Red Card.”  But once more, you’ve successfully filtered; successfully held on to your temper; and poured out some serious pride on your tired, battered, happy team.

Your team is scheduled for a game for the next day.  Your daughter takes an herbal bath and sleeps hard through the night.  The day dawns grey, and this is the first time you’ve ever wished for a rain-out.  Your team gathers before the game and runs through a few drills before lining up for the ref’s check.  You’re delighted to see that it’s another young ref, but one who does a good job.  You’re still at 4+1 fielding with no subs, though the little girl who’d gotten sick the evening before is feeling better, per a text from her mom.  You have no idea how this is going to go.  Your team is still recovering from the night before; thankfully, there’s another cool day for them.

You take the field.  Earlier in the week, you’d been at the fields working with one little girl, and this led to a half-field pick-up game in which other girls joined you.  One of them is on the team you’re playing today, and she gives you a big smile.  She’d been a sweet, shy flower when you first met, but she’s a fierce little dynamo on the field.  Dang, little soccer divas are cute!

The game begins, and your team gives it its all.  You make an allusion to Star Wars to your assistant; she comes back with Harry Potter.  Laughing, you comment about what geeks you are.  Your team draws first blood, and their team quickly brings it to a tie.  It’s an awesome game!  The ref misses a few calls, but it’s little stuff and balanced.  You notice one of the other team’s players is delivering some high kicks, and about the third time he nearly takes off a player’s head without the ref calling it, you bring him to the ref’s attention – very discreetly.  You, again, swap players between offense, defense, and the box, doing everything you can to maximize their strengths while giving them slower playing zones in which to rest.

Your daughter is hustling, and she and a little boy on the team have developed this super-sweet combo; they move like they’ve been playing soccer together forever, and they intuitively work together extremely well.  You haven’t spoken to his mom, yet, but you really, really hope he stays with soccer and will be on your team again next season – and every season until the two age out.  All throughout the game, they set up combos which lead to some goals.  You work an offensive strategy you pulled out of your butt at the previous week’s game – which worked beautifully – and you hear a parent from the other team say, “Good hustle, number 5!”  The thing is, the other team doesn’t have their #5 on the field; she was complementing your #5.  Do I even need to mention that this is your child?  Soccer is family.

The other team has a player who’s a few years older than any of the other kids.  A slightly built boy, he is on the autism spectrum with minimal soccer skills.  But he’s happy to be out there, and he just loves to play.  The other coach has him on defense, and you’re proud of and happy for him when he gets his foot on the ball and breaks up some plays; he’s improved.  If he gets the opportunity to drive the ball and go for the goal, your offense will become a little bit slow, your defense will soften, and your goalie will just miss nipping the ball.  You see, giving this boy the opportunity to score will be well worth whatever your team has to sacrifice for that point.  In debriefing after the game, you’ll have the opportunity to impress upon these 6- and 7-year-olds about kindness and compassion, and the all-important lesson that the point is to have fun.  It is, after all, simply rec league soccer.

It’s somewhere in the second quarter.  One of your players obviously hasn’t recovered from the previous night and is barely moving.  She finally engages, breaks up a play, then gives a little roar of “Girl power!”  It’s delightful!

Third quarter comes.  The teams swap points back and forth.  You’ve identified the other team’s weak points and coach your players to exploit those without shame.  Your daughter has the ball and is driving to the goal.  She kicks, and as soon as the ball leaves her foot, the referee blows the whistle, signaling the end of the quarter.  The ball is technically still alive, and it sails past the goalie into the net.  You’re whooping and hollering with joy and pride, because it’s her first goal of the season, and it was perfectly executed.  She’s beaming, too, and you pick her up for a little proud-parent spin.

Fourth quarter…  The score is once more tied, this time at 5-all.  The other team is driving towards the goal, delivers a strong kick, and your defender’s head gets in the way of the ball before it goes out of bounds.  Your player is still standing, but the ref is on it and stops play while your assistant and you do a quick neurological check.  You don’t like that the ref gives the other team the throw-in since your player was the one getting hurt, but you concede that it’s a fair call.  Reluctantly.  Your team regains possession of the ball and scores one last time, bringing the score to 6-5 and giving your team the win – their first win of the season.

You’re yelling with your team, you’re giving out hugs and high fives and cheering.  A part of you will worry later that you were maybe celebrating too much, that you perhaps were being a bad sport, but truth is, in those brief moments, the other team doesn’t even exist for you.  This isn’t a celebration that they lost; this is a celebration of pulling out a win under the most unlikely circumstances, against seemingly unbeatable odds, at the end of a really good game against a strong opponent.  It takes an incredible team to have played like they did, but it takes an extraordinary team to pull off such a win.

You take a moment to thank the ref for the good job he did as you line up for the handshake.  You are facing the shy-flower-turned-soccer-diva, smiling at each other as you begin the walk.  Then the rest of the celebration happens.  You congratulate your team on a job well done, and secretly you think to yourself that you’ll have two players back the next game if all goes as planned.  Yet, if you’ve learned nothing else this season, it’s that not everything goes as planned.  One of your players could only cheer from the sidelines for this game, but she comes over to join in the celebration.  You hug her, welcome her back, and tell her she was a part of this win.  You remind them of the next practice and, as it’s the day before Mother’s Day, you tell them to ask their dads to help them wash their uniforms.  Jahaziel, a sweet Hispanic boy and one of your goalies, tells you he already knows how to do his laundry.  He’ll make someone a good husband one day, and your esteem of his parents ratchets up another notch.  You drop the word about an end-of-season party to the kids, and you’ll work out the planning with the parents in the coming week.  You take a few to talk to Jacob’s parents, advising them on a plan of care in case he’s suffered a mild concussion; it involves Tylenol for headache, ER if he starts throwing up, and keeping him awake for at least four hours.

Now it’s time for your other daughter’s game.  You take your place on the bleachers and prepare to watch.  As you catch the end of their drills, you wonder why the coach takes so much time doing goal-kicking drills when only a third of the team will ever be in the position to drive for the goal, anyway.  Sure, it gives the goalie practice, but this team needs more passing work.  You’ve noticed their sense of “team” has eroded some since early in the season, and their heavy-footed kickers are more likely to score field goals through the uprights behind the net than points in the goal box.  Unfortunately, despite many pleas and petitions to the league’s management and the refs, they won’t let the teams nab a quick three points when that happens.

Oh, now this is interesting.  Both of the refs from your games are on the opposing team, and they’re excellent players.  Your daughter’s a defender, and you wonder if she’s caught on to the fact that the ref who’d irritated her so badly the night before is a striker on the other team.  You know that, if she can just break up one of his drives, she’ll feel like the universe has been realigned and all will be right.  Sadly, it doesn’t happen, just from lack of opportunity.  And miracle of miracles, you see that the frustrating ref actually can follow a ball.  You hear a comment that your team gave it more in their game than your older daughter’s team of teens did in theirs, and you can’t help but agree.  The ref in your second game is goalie in this one, and even though it’s his first season reffing, you think he does a better job than these more experienced refs – and there are three at this level.  Although your daughter plays well, a win isn’t to be for them this week.  It’s time to go home.

In the midst of your time at the fields, you’ve dealt with the administrative aspects of coaching, texted the moms of the sick kids to find out how they’re doing, done all the in-game-coaching things, and loved up on your team.  You’ve cheered your other daughter’s team throughout their game and looked over to see your younger daughter playing in a pick-up game involving players from three levels.  You’ve chatted up another team parent; she’ll be on the opposite side next week.  You’ve felt anger at the bad ref anew when you found out he let play continue in the day’s first game, despite a downed, crying player.  You took a few to talk to one of your friends – an opposing coach.  And you’ve talked to former players and former team parents, because soccer is family.

Then Mother’s Day dawns.  Actually, it’d dawned two hours ago, but you’d woken up in the wee dark hours of the morning thinking about your amazing team and gone back to sleep.  Two texts await you, one from your coaching assistant, the other from another player’s mom, both wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day.  The player who’d taken the ball to the face is fine, the one who’d taken a ball to the head has a slight headache, but nothing worse.  You reply to their texts, returning the wishes, and then post such wishes to the whole team.  This is the first time this has ever happened to you.  This year, more than any other, you truly feel that soccer is family.  Or, to put it more alliteratively, football is family.