The “Jumperoos”

There are two types of people…

Type 1: Athletic

Type 2: Not Really

The first category requires little explanation. These are the folks whom, upon picking up a ball, bat, racket, etc., show they possess an athletic aptitude. They are not necessarily paid athletes. In some cases they are our kids, spouses, friends, etc. Then there’s the latter category. A group of people whom, when they pick up a ball, bat, racket, skis, helmet, ice skates, baton, grapple hooks, frisbee…etc., it becomes quickly apparent to those watching that they do not possess an athletic bone in their body. These are the ‘not really’ athletic group.

I belong to the latter. As a matter of fact, I’ve spent all of my life in this group in just about every sporting category save for the second grade jump rope team, the Andover Jumperoos…

So there I was in the second grade and my PE teacher announced that try outs for the school’s jump rope team were open and she would be screening us to see who could join. Her plan was to video tape us jump roping and select kids for the team. I knew I was meant for this team…if there was anything I was good at, it was jumping rope.

I was confident I was going to make the team and went home and told my mom. She supported me and smiled…didn’t really say much. I suspect she was worried about potentially dealing with the aftermath and the emotions of her 7 year old. Either way, I knew I had this.

The day for tryouts came and I was ready. The gym teacher had a VHS recorder set up on a tripod. (The thing was the size of a small laptop and took a big stick-like handle to operate…I digress.) At any rate, she started recording and I pulled out all my moves. First started out with just regular skipping rope. Then I did speed jumping…wanted to show her I was fast. Then I did double jumps…where you jump high enough you can get two rotations with the jump rope. Lastly, I finished up with criss-cross-applesauce…crossing your arms and jumping…that was my best trick. At the end of the “try outs” I was beat and my heart was pounding, but even I was impressed with my skill.

A couple of weeks later the list came out for who made the team…I was on it. I got a team shirt, my very own red, white and blue jump rope, and I got to travel to jump meets. I honestly don’t remember the meets, but I loved the idea of being part of the team. I was the smallest person on the team, but I was scrappy. Being on the team made me feel big. I knew I could hold my own.

I was cleaning out my mom’s basement a couple of weeks ago and came across my old Jumperoos T-shirt. It remains, to this day, the only athletic team for which I’ve ever successfully tried out…granted it’s only jump roping, but still…that’s nothing to sneeze about.

It’s scary to try something new…something that you don’t know will work. Personally, my biggest fear is others seeing me fail. Not sure why that really gets to me… since the truth of the matter is that people will think what they want of you regardless of failure.

I firmly believe the Lord allows for these challenges to come to our doorstep. At some point we have to step out on faith because it is the journey that changes us. The feeling of accomplishment only comes with a job well done…one where you’ve given it everything you have, left it all on the field. Of course I want the gratification of winning or ‘making the team.’ But at the end of the day, when I came across that Tshirt, it was a reminder that I tried something I’d never done before. I was confident in my ability and gave it everything I had.

Our Lord delights in life and I believe He gives abundantly when we step out in faith and try something we’ve never done. So try something new. Find a new friend. Heck, make a new recipe…so what if it ends up tasting like crap…at least you tried. Remember, the journey is the rhythm for which we get to experience the blessing. In that moment we become sojourners in His kingdom, traveling into uncharted territories. The grace is in the journey.

My Jumperoos team shirt (circa...a really long time ago)

My Jumperoos team shirt

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A Day 2 Remember 

Good grief three day weekends go by crazy-fast!!! We started out the weekend with a swim meet…which for any of you veteran swim families out there…nothing like getting up at the crack of dawn with all your gear (tent, chairs, coolers etc.) and waiting hours for your kiddo to swim all of 20 seconds. Good times. The best. 

I digress…as I was saying three day weekends really do fly by. We started off with a swim meet. Later that night we had friends over for pizza (which happen to be the same compadres that sweat it out with us at swim meets),  sleep over that night with my son’s friend. Following day did a three mile walk with hubby, fed the little squirts health food (pizza rolls, chicken nuggets and french fries …my son and his sleep-over friend loved it…I got to clean out my freezer). Managed to squeeze in a load of laundry, run to the grocery, make a dessert to take to the freakishly awesome crawfish boil we were headed to that night…and got a shower in! And that brings me to today…

…Today is Memorial Day

Some good friends of ours, the husband, is an Iraq war veteran. We, my husband, son and myself, tagged along with our friends to a veterans cemetery to pay respects to a fallen soldier, killed in battle, who served alongside our friend. There is nothing more sobering or more humbling than to see hundreds, upon hundreds, upon hundreds of rows of little American flags and to realize that each flag represents a fallen soldier. Many of these men and women were killed during war. There are also many who died from natural causes or possibly disease and chose their final resting place amongst their comrades. However their end came, all these men and women share a common bond…the bond of knowing what it means to take up a weapon and defend.

It’s pretty remarkable to live somewhere that affords us the freedom to go to church, speak our mind, go to college, live where we want, buy what we want, etc. There is a great deal of noise that tends to “muddle” that fact…politics, human rights, crime, the economy…the list is truly endless. However, today, for me and my family, the visit with our friend was a reminder. A reminder of the price that has been paid & it is a reminder for which I’m most grateful. 

For all the men and women who have served this nation; for all the parents, spouses, kids, aunts and uncles who’ve waited for their loved ones to return home; and especially for all the families who’s loved ones returned home to touch the face of God…

“May the LORD bless you and keep you; May the  LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; May the LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.” (‭Numbers‬ ‭6‬:‭24-26‬ NASB paraphrased)  

Some Good News…

There is something  unnerving about a stranger taking pictures of your brain and then sitting down methodically, without emotion, disseminating what they find. It reminds me of when I was in labor with my son. I, as  pretty much every other mother who has been in the birthing room, am in a most unfavorable position on the birthing table. I’ve been in labor for 11 hours and due to my sons heartbeat dropping and my MS complications, my doctor is beginning to get worried. So she calls in reinforcements. Neonatologist and his nurse, surgeon (I think there were two) and his nurses for a possible emergency c-section, an additional OB/GYN and her nurse….oh, and a medical student who happens to be doing his OB/GYN rotation. I am on the table in an unmodest fashion while a whole football team of physicians along with their nurses are looking at me, assessing the situation and trying to determine a medically sound way to deliver this baby. I cannot hide. Everything is on display.

I sat in my neurologists office today at a six month checkup to review new MRIs. A gentleman sitting next to me is having someone help him complete the pre office paperwork. The paperwork has  lots of questions regarding current symptoms…for example: Blurry vision? Dizzy? Headaches? Sleep problems? Mobility issues? Etc, etc. Confession: anytime I fill out that paperwork, I lie. I do, it’s true. Do I have headaches? Yep. Dizziness/vertigo….yeppers. Mobility/coordination…let’s not even go there. The problem is that my lies get me only so far because when my neurologist pulls up my MRI…it doesn’t lie and I can no longer feign ignorance. 

I received really good news today. My new scans don’t show any new lesions. My neurologist took the time to show me my existing lesions as well as the area of the brain they affect. I’ve developed two new lesions over the last year…giving me a grand total of 5…possibly six according to my neuro. We reviewed things like: slow down, don’t exercise to the point  that you’ll throw up, mindful of the heat, work both sides of the body, find ways to engage your brain (ergo blogging 😉)…& so on.

As much as I loathe getting an MRI or feel violated when 100  images of my brain are put on a computer screen to be  scientifically analyzed by a stranger…I am most grateful the MRI blows through my lies. At that point I’m completely incapable to pull the “I’ll be fine. I’ll just drink some cranberry juice” card. I’m forced to be honest. Forced to respect slowing down. Forced to breath in a different rhythm. I find myself in a rare moment of peace amidst a storm…knowing that despite the diagnosis, despite the fear of the unknown; I’m going to be OK. 

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (‭John‬ ‭14‬:‭27‬ NASB)

Don’t Be Scared

Fear is  debilitating. It starts out small and then blooms into way more than it should be. One time, in the sixth grade, we were talking in class about how the human body chews, swallows and processes food. I began wondering…what if one doesn’t chew the food well enough and it gets stuck in your throat? Even as an adult I still find this to be a valid question. For example, my family and I recently visited a local restaurant and after eating our fried onions, burgers, oysters and chicken wings…we all agreed that dessert would be a good idea. (Dessert is always a good idea). The waiter brought out a creation of brownie, ice cream and chocolate sauce. All total the dessert was the size of my head. Enough to feed all of us…or one crazed chocoholic (me). We all grabbed our spoons and began processing the dessert rapidly. What started out as a tower of beautifulness ended up a sloppy, melted puddle in the dessert bowl. Collectively we’d all managed to take  who-knows-how-many-calories and disseminate them through the process of chewing, swallowing and digestion. Despite the size of the dessert compared to the size of our gullet, not one of us choked!

I’ve not always been so quick to gobble my food. As mentioned above, back in the sixth grade I became obsessed with chewing my food and making sure it was safely processed into pieces I could swallow. Eating with me became arduous. It took me forever to chew my food. One time during lunch at school, I had a near panic attack over a slice of very chewy, cheese pizza. The pizza was not easily chewable, panic set in and  I was convinced I was choking. The whole table stopped eating to watch my antics. I lived…thanks in large part to the fact that in order to choke on a piece of food one must actually attempt to swallow the food. I was too afraid to swallow. But it didn’t stop me from dramatically grabbing my throat and freaking out the lunch lady. I am now over my swallowing fear.

I have a followup MRI scheduled for next week. It’s to see if there are new spots on my brain. My last MRI showed new spots and my physician wants to check and see if the MS is still active or gone back into remission. There is no eloquent way for me to say this, but, I’m scared. For a million reasons…not the least of which is that MRI tubes are insanely claustrophobic.

But it has dawned on me…I have only two options in the matter. Surrender to fear. Surrender to grace. The first option  will debilitate me making it difficult to eat or sleep. I will miss moments of blessing as they will be consumed with minutes/hours of worry. Time will march forward. The sun will rise and set and I will miss it being consumed myopically with fear. The latter will provide breath; rhythm. My eyes will not be on myself but on Christ as grace only comes from Him. This perspective will allow me to eat and sleep. I will hear all my sons silly jokes and they will be a comfort. I will be able to live presently in the moment and fear will not to steal the gifts that are mine.

Neither of the options above change the perameters of my situation…In other words, I still  have to eat and chew the pizza. But this time, unlike my antics in the sixth grade, I can choose to not be afraid. This decision is not light hearted and likely I will have moments of jumping back into the “I’m afraid” camp. That’s ok. I’m not perfect. In that moment, in a calm voice, Christ’ll whisper, “Dont sweat it…I still got you.” Grace will flood back in & fear will dissipate.

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.” (‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭31‬:‭6‬ MSG)

Happy Easter

My husband and I are in this tricky stage with our 10 year old son where he’s pretty sure Easter Bunny and Santa Claus don’t exist but is trying to find proof. It’s funny the questions he asks…they range from the immortality of Santa Claus to how can Easter Bunny hop all over the world and not be exhausted. His questions are grounded and seek out truth. However he’s recently stepped up his game. For Easter this year he was determined to set out a bunch of his Legos at the front door, back door and my and my husbands bedroom door to catch either Easter Bunny or his dad or I impersonating  Bunny. (Sidebar: if any of you have ever stepped on a Lego piece, you will understand my horror at his plan. Stepping on a Lego with your bare feet is tantamount to jabbing a fork in your eyeball.)  I digress….I quickly stymied his plan and he came up with an alternative. His alternative was adorable. Before going to bed he drew up a contract asking Easter Bunny to sign his name and include his paw print. So my husband the ever dutiful, consummate dad signed the contract “Easter Bunny” and drew a paw print…because what else are you going to do?

It is fun to watch my little boy and sad at the same time because he is growing older and questioning his beliefs. In truth, to me it is a relief that he questions what he believes. Asking questions drives us to find answers. I used to be afraid to ask questions…thinking that God is angry and demands my belief of Him sight unseen. There can be no bigger lie. 

Truth is, I think God loves our questions. The bigger, tougher, more controversial questions…those happen to be His favorite. He never shys away. I think God loves to show us who He is. Remember when Thomas doubted Jesus? Jesus waisted no time in showing Thomas his scarred side. Jesus was ready for the doubt; He welcomed it. Thomas’ doubt…his questions…his unbelief gave Jesus exactly what He wanted. A chance to reveal that He is the risen Lord. 

I suspect that this is the last year my hubby and I will play Easter Bunny…or Santa Claus for that matter. My 10-year old is too sharp 🙂 However, as time moves forward my 10-year old will become 15 and then will become 20. He will question and want proof of God. I am confident, relieved actually, that my son will get answers. There will be no question too big, no question too offending that God will not answer. He is a real God. Alive. Present. Here & now.

A most glorious Easter to you!

“Then He said to Thomas, Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop doubting and believe. Thomas said to Him, My Lord and my God!” (John 20: 27-28 NIV)

I Am Retouched “Untouched” Perfection

Couple of weeks ago a picture surfaced of Cindy Crawford. In of itself this is no biggie as Cindy is/was a supermodel and remains active in the public eye. She has appeared on many runways, countless magazine covers and even starred in her own workout videos. The unusual nature of this event lies in the perfection…or lack of perfection in these photographs. Supposedly the photos were ‘leaked’ prior to any photographic touch-up of the body, clothing or face. Cindy is standing in this sort of “I’m-just-stretching-my-back” pose wearing a black bra and underwear. She’s sporting a cool looking black fedora, some sweet earrings and wearing a black-feathered Cruella DeVille type coat…or maybe its a robe. At any rate, she looks awesome. Makeup, expression on her face…it all looks sexy. More compelling is that the photo shows her tummy NOT as a tight, flat midsection but instead a “I’ve had a couple of babies” midsection. Further still, regardless of how Cindy’s tummy (AND thighs) were not a perfect, plastic, Hollywood-ized expectation, the expression on her face shows that she really doesn’t care. She’s acting FLY. Appearing more than comfortable in her own skin, she acts sexy.

The “leak” of this photograph to social  media and news outlets caused quite the stir. I had friends on my Facebook & Twitter pages posting and tweeting the photo and congratulating Cindy for being “brave.” Brave…I guess because it takes a lot of guts to appear as your normal self and not your ‘pretend’ self in front of bunches of people.

So that was a couple of weeks ago. Fast forward to today, March 2nd. The photos now are being claimed to be retouched so that they appear untouched. You follow? In other words, the photographer of the original photos states that the pictures were stolen and were retouched (altered) to appear that they were untouched … untouched suggesting the real (untouched) Cindy Crawford is like the rest of us…not perfect; blemished. To further support  the “nonsense”  that Cindy’s tummy does NOT look like cottage cheese, Cindy’s husband tweeted a photo of her in a swimsuit looking amazing…like a supermodel.

The most interesting part in this story is not Cindy Crawford…it’s us, me and you. We saw what we thought was a person willing to be uniquely herself  in front of everyone regardless of wrinkle or age. We are drawn to that…at least, I know I’m drawn it. Realness. Vulnerability. Not fake.

That being said I have decided, and you are welcome to participate with me, that I am going to be retouched “untouched” perfection. I don’t plan on limiting it to just my sassy, sexy looks. I’m going full tilt. Home, mommy and wife…I’m all in. My ‘not-a-supermodel’ tummy will be the least of my retouched, untouchables. For that matter, my house is just sometimes going to NOT look like it’s out of Architectural Digest. On occasion my husband and I might NOT agree on everything. Further, I MIGHT loose my temper with my son. And you know Vogue magazine, it’ll have nothing on me, because I’m going to act like I’m smokin’-hot regardless of whether or not I’ve done my 35 burpees.

So here’s to us. The hot mess that we are…the retouched “untouched” perfection that is you and me.

…And that is all we need to be.

“Good Morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out! God be with you.” said Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:28 MSG)

Bare Naked Truth

Did you ever play ‘Truth or Dare?’ I only did once. I was eight and it was the first slumber party I’d ever gone to. Considering the age of the girls involved, our game of ‘Truth or Dare’ was pretty tame. Things like “Who would I kiss?” Or “Who do I think is cute?”…silly stuff. It was pretty scandalous for our little minds at the time. I remember being asked if I “liked” this boy in school. Ugh…I immediately wanted to vomit. How could I’ve committed to this stupid game and now risk having to share to the world (these 8 year olds were pretty much the world for me) my crush of the third grade? It never dawned on me to just lie. I think I panicked and went for the dare…I don’t remember. It was a traumatic experience. Much later I was invited to play the game again…might’ve been high school party or college party… Either way, I couldn’t decline fast enough. I was an extreme introvert during those years of my life and the thought of having to share any opinions or secrets brought on a severe case of nausea.

The game is pretty simple…ask someone in the group any question you want. They, in turn, must tell the truth . If not, they have to perform a dare that the initial “question asker” sets. (That’s how we played…I’m sure there are other versions of the game) Anyhow, as you can imagine the questions range from the ridiculous to the downright embarrassing. Mostly, that’s why I detested the game. The idea of having to share a truth (secret is more like it) that would haunt me for the rest of my life completely crippled my mind. No, that game was not for me and I avoided it all costs.

The whole concept behind truth or dare is to ask a question so embarrassing that the other person becomes uncomfortable. Pretty much it’s the child/adolescent version of torture. Sadly, as we become adults, the landscape doesn’t change too much…only now instead of someone else asking us to share a truth, we keep secrets of all sorts…inadequacies, embarrassing moments, addictions, failures, frustrations…the list is endless. We hide for fear that someone might find out that we “ate an enormous bowl of ice cream drizzled with half a bottle of nestle chocolate syrup”…or maybe it’s more serious. Maybe we don’t want anyone to know that we spent the afternoon crying because…’insert whatever you want.’

About two weeks ago my washing machine went on the fritz. As I waited to get a tech scheduled to come out and fix it, I had to go to the laundromat. I was preparing to have out of town guests and I had very little spare time. My husband told me I should just drop the laundry off and let them wash it (this was an added service that our local laundromat offers). The thought horrified me. No way was I going to let anyone see my family’s dirty laundry. The idea of someone else having to handle my dirty clothes was embarrassing. Why? I guess mostly because I didn’t want anyone to see that I get my clothes dirty. No joke. It’s one thing for my 10 year old to have stains from ketchup he dribbled down his shirt. It’s a matter all together different when his 40 year old mom also sports ketchup stains on her shirt.

Why are we embarrassed to share our stains when the truth of the matter is… when the truth comes out and our stains are on display, we are far more relatable. I know I’ve written about this before, but it keeps bubbling back up in my life. Truth is so precious. Sharing the truth of who you are and not hiding it is beyond valuable. We, all of us, are desperate to hear the truth. Tired of correctness & hungry for the raw, honest-to-goodness truth. Sometimes the truth hurts to hear &, frankly, that’s a topic for another blog. But, for now…don’t hide your stains. Never be afraid to share the truth…for all you know, the struggle you are facing will equip you to bring healing to someone else.

“…I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! …” Matthew 5:14 (MSG)