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Saturday, March 3, 2018

In His Spotlight

Have you ever been on stage? If you haven't, let me tell you, those lights are bright! I remember being in plays when I was a kid and the lights made me less nervous! Know why? Because I couldn't see anyone! I couldn't see anyone out in the audience or recognize faces because those bright lights were in my eyes.

Today I was reminded of that. We show pigs and this year stinks. We have never placed this low or done this bad in all our years of showing. It's not fun! It's not been fun to watch my girls suffer through our county and regional shows after months of hard work. If I'm honest, I've wondered why a little bit. I've preached to my kids about our "why" for showing. We are in this to glorify God. It is our family's "why" for everything we do - or it should be. So, I've wondered why, to my God, would he pull my girls out of the spotlight where they could shine for him?

Today I realized why. When you're in the spotlight you don't see the people who aren't in the spotlight with you! When you get outside of those bright lights, you start to see those people who are in the shadows with you. The people who are feeling unseen, discouraged, or alone "backstage."

The past few years of success we've had in showing pigs have been great! It has been a lot of fun and it's awesome to see your children rewarded for what they're working so hard at. However, I'm really thankful for this bad year, believe it or not. I'm thankful for the new perspective it has given me and the way it's made me open my eyes to so many opportunities to glorify my God in ways that do not involve my children being glorified in the process.

My oldest daughter asked me today to stay back and not watch her show one of her pigs because someone else needed help getting ready to go in the ring. My girl got 9th place, but she had me tearing up with pride. I'm proud of her work with her livestock, but I'm way more proud of her character.

Sometimes I believe it's the little things no one else sees that God is looking at with HIS spotlight. And, that is always the greatest light to be in.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Rubber Boots

When we first started showing livestock, almost a decade ago now, I didn't own a pair of rubber boots. I hadn't ever thought of needing insulated overalls! I thought of that first year as I watched my boots sink down in the mud today during Regional show week. And, I laughed!

I thought this was kind of dumb. I remember being able to think of a hundred better things to spend so much money on. I remember watching my husband and oldest daughter blow drying calves' hair with our borrowed blower in our borrowed grooming chute and thinking what a huge waste of time this was. When we started this we didn't have a barn. Our calves were at my in-laws. I was going to school two nights a week, we didn't have much money, and we sure didn't have a trailer. My husband and my daughter would fight and I would usually roll my eyes and go back inside. I was absolutely sure that first year she would end up hating it and go back to concentrating on dance.

Fast forward to now. I have three children showing 6 different animals this year - two different species. I have 2 pair of rubber boots (I wore another pair out previously), insulated overalls, work gloves, 2 special show day totes (one insulated), and a ball cap that says " Barn Hair, Don't Care." Used to I never would have dreamed of eating in a tent with cows. Currently, I have a slow cooker full of hot dogs sitting in a wagon, plugged into a generator... In a tent with 4 calves. Seems completely normal to me now. My husband and daughter still argue in the barn.

This is my oldest daughter's 9th year and it has been her worst. It has been tough to watch, if I'm being honest.  While it breaks my heart for her, given that she only has one more year to go, this is why I have completely bought in and am walking around in mud and poop gladly: I've watched her lose with every bit as much grace as I've watched her win with. I've watched her be genuinely ecstatic for her younger brother's wins this season despite her disappointment. I've watched her celebrate her team's wins after she carried a 7th place ribbon out of the ring (or none at all.)

I've watched my kids lose at this with tears in my eyes, and I've fought tears as they've seen their efforts pay off. I'm thankful. I'm thankful we have trailers and generators and our own blowers now. I'm thankful to not feel like a rookie anymore. I'm thankful for the work ethic this has built in them...

I'm thankful for the losses. I'm thankful they can commiserate when someone else loses and I'm thankful they've learned to stick it out through tough years. I'm thankful they know that it matters how you treat people when you're on top because you can't stay on top forever.

I'm thankful for these rubber boots during this rainy week! And, I'm thankful I remember what it was like to not have them so I can maybe help a new show momma out and give her some advice. Or even just tell her, "Give it a few years. You're going to fall in love with it." I'm thankful for this stock show life I thought I was going to hate.  I'm glad this is what my children love and that they have drug me along with them... even if it has been right through the mud!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Therapeutic Writing

I'm writing you this, knowing you will not read the words. I'm writing because it makes me feel better...

It's been a year now. It's been a year, but just the other day I grabbed my phone to take a picture of your youngest two children, in my kitchen with their arms around each other, with the intent to send it to you. For about the thousandth time this year I had to quickly remind myself I can't. It is so strange how intermingled my contrasting thoughts can be. I knew you'd be so proud of how they are all three taking care of each other since you're gone and that is why I wanted to send you the picture. But... You're gone.

Today I took your girl to get her hair cut. I assume somewhere inside that's hard for her since you were always the one to cut her hair. I tried to make it a fun, lighthearted day for her. She brought it up at lunch, though, saying so very casually, "My mom always cut my hair." Since she opened the subject up, I asked her if it bothers her to have someone else cut it. Of course, she said no just like I figured she would. She keeps that tough exterior up just like you always did. 

A little later I went to the restaurant bathroom to see what was taking the girls so long and thanks to MY girl (who has a big sister) yours blurted out the question: "WHAT is a period??!" It struck me as so hilarious and with permission from Dad I gave her the basics of the feminine functions. It was no burden to have this little talk with two of my favorite girls in the backseat - I considered it a privilege actually. I thought of how you surely would have made it light and funny. It broke my heart, too, though because it should have been you. You should have had the talk with her and we should have shared our stories about how they reacted. Your baby asked about you. "Did my mom have that???" 😂😂 

I'm so incredibly thankful to be able to include you in these moments. We talk about you all the time. Not in a sad, mournful way, but usually through funny memories. Just today she told me a story about leaving early from a school party and you were holding her cupcake. She said she got to the car and the cupcake was gone and you just told her you dropped it "like it was no big deal." I told her you probably ate it and just told her you dropped it. She agreed. 

Our biggest bond was always these girls. I remember you texting me to ask what I thought about her name when you were pregnant. I remember being so exited for you at the news you were going to get your girl this time, and you showing me at that very first ultrasound, just a few months later, you were pretty sure I was having a girl, too. I remember holding your baby girl in the hospital the day she was born. We had absolutely no clue back then how much our girls would end up meaning to each other! I remember sharing almost every funny, cute, sweet, or monumental thing she did at my house during the day via a text or picture. That's a hard habit to break, I guess. I miss you. And I'm sad. And I'm a little angry, honestly, that you're missing all this. It's not fair.

I think you'd be proud of all of us, though. I think you'd be happy to see how everyone is taking care of your babies - to see how they take care of each other.You'd be proud of their dad, for sure. And maybe someday I'll quit reaching for my phone to tell you all about it...

Monday, October 9, 2017

Second String

...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

My son is not the star of his football team.  

So, let's all be honest with each other for just one minute.  As a parent, doesn't that sting?  Whether you're the type of parent who wants to live vicariously through your children, the type who feels your child's performance is a reflection on you, or just a parent who really wants awesome things for your child with a life of minimal heartache, it is hard to watch other kids be the stars.

Recently our little 8th grade football team lost a game.  Incidentally, my son played less in that game than he has so far this season.  (2nd string doesn't get a lot of playing time when the chips are down.)  I think he went in for one or two plays and in my haughty internal parental monologue I thought, "Hmmmph.  Just going in to give someone else a breather."  We left when the game was over and I was being my usual self when I'm with my kids; cutting up and making jokes.  My son was having none of it!  He. was. angry.  Was he angry that he did not get to play much?  No.  (He NEVER has an attitude about how much playing time he gets.)  He was upset because his team lost.

Did you catch that?  HIS team.  (Isn't it humbling when your children teach you life lessons?)  I didn't get as in to the game as I might have because my boy didn't play much.  I realized after that game, his level of playing time matters very little to how he views his place on that team.  They are his teammates and that was his game as much as it was the super-star starter boys'.

Mind you that I have no delusions about my child's abilities on the field and I am not one of those parents who thinks everyone should get equal playing time after we get up in the middle school years.  My son is a hard worker, he has more heart than anyone I know, and giving up on something is absolutely not in his nature.  But, there are some kids on that team who can just flat outplay him on a football field.  As it goes with life, those boys are obviously going to start in front of him.  When we talk about it I tell him to just keep working hard and playing to the best of his ability.  Hard work pays off.

But, there is a piece of this puzzle I've been missing the whole time.  My son is a servant.  I have worked hard throughout my life to turn on that side of myself that wants to do things for others and give of my resources and time.  My son, however, came out of the womb that way.  He is forever looking for ways to take a burden off of someone.  He genuinely loves to help other people and in service is where he finds his true joy.  I watch him on the sidelines sometimes and I see him just go from one little group of padded up teenage boys to another, talking to them.  I see him patting guys on the shoulder pad or helmet.  I see him high-five his teammates for a great play.  What I do not see every day at practice is he is there on that field for those starters to practice against and get better. 

You see, not everyone is a starter.  There have to be the other kids on the team to make practice work; to step in when the starters are winded and need a break.  How could I have not seen it before?  Of course this is the role my son plays.  (It is the role he plays in life!)  And, how could I have missed how important that role is to the team?

I recently had this conversation with my dad who absolutely was a "super-star starter kid" his whole life and played college football on a scholarship.  This was no revelation to him.  He was nodding the whole time I talked to him about my little epiphany, and said, "Oh, yeah.  Everyone has a role they play.  Those guys are just as important."

So, the biggest question I had to ask myself in all of this is, "why?"  Why do I want so much for my child to start on a football team?  Why have I even gone so far as to pray for favor over my child to have more playing time? (Yes, I am at this point a little bit ashamed to admit that!)  It was absolutely not because I wanted God to be glorified.  It was because I want my kids to be blissfully happy all the time and have wonderful fantastic lives because I love them more than anything.  All the while, my son has been out on the football field just glorifying God with his servant's heart and amazing attitude and I totally missed it.  

So from here on out I will never watch my 2nd string football player's team like I used to.  That is HIS team, and I am going to be watching it from his point of view.  Now I am praying for him to glorify God in whatever position God chooses for him to be in.  

Because I know as well as anyone, God uses us 2nd string kids in big ways sometimes! 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The other half of addiction

I woke up this morning from a very vivid dream that hurt my heart. I was immediately reminded of a poem I wrote close to 20 years ago now. I'm always hesitant to share my poetry, but I feel compelled to share this because it depicts the raw emotions that come with watching someone you love struggle with addiction.  It isn't something that just affects that person; it is almost equally as destructive to the people who love them. And, if you are in that place now, I encourage you to get support with you own struggles. There is help out there - no one has to go through this alone. -->

Oh, your aching heart
So very close to mine,
And this sickening poison
Running through your mind.
You try so very hard
To make it go away.
You push away the right things,
The ones who bid you stay.
You cling to demons
While angels cry for you,
Pushing away the pain
While reeling it in times two.
And I have been right here
Loving you all the while,
Holding on to your dreams,
And remembering your smile.
I've cried out to God for you -
For all the times you wouldn't.
I've stayed calm and sane
Most of the times you couldn't.
How could it not destroy me
To watch you fall apart?
You are in my soul
And you hold half my heart.
I'll be that consistency
In the corner of your mind.
I'll be here loving you
When there's nothing better you can find...
-Christin Knowles, 1998

Saturday, May 20, 2017

To the Seniors

Dear High School Senior,

I had a shoe box in my closet growing up and it was full of pamphlets and info (much of which I'd sent off for - remember I didn't grow up with the internet. Ha!!) about various issues I was highly concerned with. Endangered species, wild flower preservation, rain forest conservation, etc. I was the kid calling to pledge $5 to the telethons on TV and I wrote more than one "letter to the editor" as a child. At under 10 years old, I followed the situation in East/West Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall with intense concern. I was so ecstatic when it fell and I desperately wanted a piece of the wall to commemorate the occasion. (My husband, who is exactly my age, has no recollection of this event from 4th grade.)

Am I telling you this because I want you to know I was born an outstanding citizen of the world? Gosh, no. For Heaven's sake, I sometimes look back at me as a child and want to tell myself, "Would you just chill out and let the adults worry about world hunger and the hole in the ozone??" I'm telling you this to explain to you that everyone is passionate about something!

You are about to go make decisions about what you want to do with your life, and this is NOT the most opportune age or time in your life to have to decide what you want to do forever. Sheesh! Most of you have barely experienced anything, really. You're still figuring yourself out. Picking a college or trade school, declaring a major, and deciding on a field of study are all major decisions!! Looking at you all from this vantage point, here is the best advice I can give you: if you choose something you're passionate about, something you love, something you believe in, then going to work every day won't feel like going to work. It will feel like fulfilling your life's mission.

What excites you? What makes you tick? What interests you? If money is what you are passionate about, then pursue that! Focus on the salary, by all means, because that's going to drive you!  Money motivates me least of all, so it's probably no surprise I'm working in a non-profit, education based agency!  If you love creating things, then figure out how to make a career of it.

The other night I was at a fundraising event for cancer research and my sister saw a picture of me on social media. She texted me to tell me I looked like I was glowing. I thought about it for a minute and then decided, "Of course I'm glowing!" I was taking part in something bigger than me, a cause, that would benefit humanity in a positive way. (Not to mention I also had my husband and kids joining in with me!) I was in my element, I was doing what I was made to do.

Lucky for me, I work in an agency where every single day I'm playing a part to change the trajectory of people's lives. That doesn't mean that every day at work for me is all sunshine and roses, but it means every day I go to work on a mission. I'm fulfilling my passion.

You see, you have to pull that proverbial shoe box out of your closet and try to narrow it down to your most prized pamphlet. And, that is the answer to what career path you should follow.  It may not end up looking exactly like you think. My plan to be a child psychologist has ended up as a career in Head Start administration and training adults in early childhood best practices! Your passion for sports may not end you up as a professional ball player, but maybe you're destined to be a sports analyst or for a career in sports medicine! Find a way to channel some of your favorite things in to a way to make money, and you're going to be pretty​ happy in your career!

In the wise words of the Postman (my Dad), "You're going to spend most of your life working. You might as well do something you WANT to instead of something you HAVE to do." (He also told me college isn't a race. But he may regret that advice now!! Ha!!)

But, the most important thing I can tell you is this: listen to what God is telling you. He has already worked out a perfect plan for you and He will direct you exactly where you need to be.  God has instilled specific passions in you for His specific purposes! There is nothing quite like the contentment of knowing you are right where God wants you.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord . With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,  because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.  You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 16:8‭-‬11 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Who ARE these Blue and Gold Kids?

I am sitting in a sea of blue and gold, and I am in complete awe. I am in this arena, surrounded by kids (KIDS!) who are dressed so much better than I, in their official FFA dress attire - all business.

There are adults around to keep things in check, but this outstanding conference I am listening to is being put on by young adults. Who ARE these kids?? They're conducting board-style meetings in front of thousands of people. They're speaking more eloquently than I ever dreamed of, even at my age with my current training in adult education and presentation. They're dynamically introducing public figures, presenting statistics on current issues, and sharing their personal stories. (Did I mention in front of thousands of people?!)

I witnessed our little chapter, alone, have discussions and make decisions on who to vote for to represent them at the state level in their organization.  I watched several of them serve on different levels. I just continue to be amazed by the skills and values instilled in these kids in blue and gold.

I watch the things they are doing now, already, at their tender ages, and it is so encouraging to think of what they'll be capable of as adults. They are ahead of the game!!  I never wore that blue and gold jacket myself, but I'm so proud to be raising children who do and the more I learn about this organization the more value I see in supporting it any way I can. That is why I am here this week. I sincerely thank every person and company who gives of their time or resources to keep this great organization going. You are helping make our future better!

Who are these kids in blue and gold? They are our future Educators, Innovators, Legislators, Ranchers, CEOs... They will be the leaders of our communities. If you doubt that, then I challenge you to come see a State FFA Convention.