Thursday, June 18, 2015

When a Father Made Me Cry at the Pool

They say you remember trauma more acutely than pleasure. If the memories of my first high dive experience are any indication, it’s true.
My boys did not inherit my high dive angst.

I was in fourth grade. No one made me do it, but it looked fun. Something akin to flying. So, in my least favorite faded-red swimsuit, I leapt to my near-death.

A nanosecond after my limbs smacked the water, my head throbbed with pressure of chlorine water forced up my sinuses. I remember “rearranging” my swimsuit while I was still ten leagues under.

When I finally surfaced, I clung to the concrete ledge gasping, coughing, and crying.

Last summer I cried at the pool again. But this time it wasn’t me jumping off the high dive.

On that day, a little boy stood wide-eyed and dripping near the high diving board. He smiled as he watched the big kids twirl and flip, head first, feet first, laid out, and curled up. Almost as if they’d achieved flight!

His dad had come straight from work to the pool to watch a few minutes of swimming lessons. Scurrying between the board and his dad the boy seemed to be asking, Should I do it? Should I do something brave and scary?

His dad encouraged him. “Yeah! Try it.” The boy did the shivering shuffle over to the ladder, climbed up two steps, stopped, and went back to his dad. His dad knelt down and smiled, “You don’t have to,” he reassured him, “but if you want to try, I’m here to watch you.”

Finally, he climbed to the top of the high dive. With knees knocking from cold and fright, he bobbed at the end of the board.

Far below friends and lifeguards hollered advice: Just go! Plug your nose! Hurry up! It’s fun! I’ll buy you ice cream if you do it! It doesn’t hurt! (Whatever!)

His dad encouraged him. “You can do it.” But there was no bribery or threats about ice cream. He just waited.

Finally, bolstered by his father’s presence, he barely stepped off the edge and fell to the water. No flips. No twists. Just a brave little boy, smacking the water. He came up sputtering. Pulling at cockeyed goggles. Dog paddling to the ladder. Suppressing sobs.

His dad squatted by the ladder and lifted him out. Pressing his wet head into his father’s dry shirt, the boy let the sobs go.

And that was when I cried.

To me, it was a picture of God’s dealing with me.

How many times has God invited me to jump into fun, brave, and scary adventures: a college transfer, a move, foster care, a new job. The courageous people who’ve already jumped seem like they’re having so much fun! Or doing such meaningful work, or learning such important things.

With God’s kind permission I dip my toes in the water and do a little research. It’s cold, but not icy.

This location is good, and so is that one.

My work is meaningful, and I could also do that job.

Parenthood is important, and so is foster care.

Ministry is fruitful here, and also over there.

Everyone poolside is calling out advice, warning, or impatience. Hurry up and do it already! You’ll do great. That will be hard. Are you crazy?

So I pray. Lord? Should I, or shouldn’t I?

And my loving Father answers, “You can, but you don’t have to. If you do, I will be with you. If you don’t, I still love you. And I will be with you always. Either way, My grace is sufficient for you.”

Sometimes I’ve climbed back down the ladder and wondered what could have been. What would that mission trip, that move, or that job have been like?
On rare occasions, I’ve jumped and freestyled my way to the other side of the pool.

But most times I’ve come up sputtering wondering what in the world the Lord was thinking by letting me jump.

Then I remember that poolside father. The one who reminded me of my Father God.

He’s helping His scared and gasping child out of the water. Soggy and sobbing, I fall into his arms. It felt like failure. The move was rough. The job required more skill. Foster care was demanding.

But my tears tell me I did something hard. My water-slapped skin tells me I still have sensation. My draining sinuses tell me I was all the way in.

I drape my soggy self around Him, and I realize My Father loves me whether I jump or not.

Monday, June 1, 2015

7 Reasons I Can't be the Umpire

Umpires for Little League seem to be in short supply around here so a couple times per seasons the parents are required to ump. Although this sounds efficient, it’s probably not the best solution—at least in my case. 

When it was our turn to ump, I contacted a whole list of umpires potentially available to cover parental umpire duty. They were all unavailable. In circumstances when it's more work to get out of work, I can tend to get over confident. Pshhh, how hard can it be?

So out of curiosity I asked the boys, “What would you think if I umped your game?”

Zach and Spencer gave me a please-be-joking stare, but true to form Levi addressed it: “A girl umping baseball? That’s just weird.”

With no substitute umpire lined up, I started to get a little nervous. To assuage my umpire angst, I thought I'd test my skill by volunteering to run the scoreboard. I lasted for three batters.

Talk about an intense job! You have to watch and record every pitch, batter, run and out! And any of my bleacher buddies can testify that paying close attention at sporting events is not my strong suit.
Lucky for Levi, just hours before the game we found an available umpire, and I promised to never ump his game.

After my scoreboard trial, I'm pretty sure no one else wants me to either. Here’s why:
1. Steee-rike! It sounds so accusatory. I prefer “Whoops. Hey, it’s no biggie. You get two more chances!”
2. Foul ball! Was the hit disgusting and stinky? Why ya gotta be so rude? I’d rather whisper to the batter, “Pssst…good news, I don’t even think you can strike out on a foul ball!”
3. Batter’s out! Do you hate the batter? Why do you take that tone? How about, “Batter gets another try after these next 11 batters.” Baseball is a game of second and third chances.
4. No time for second guessing. Second-guessing is one of my spiritual gifts, and the split second decisions and finality of the umpire’s call don’t allow for it. I would prefer to watch a replay, phone a friend or poll the audience. I’d turn toward three sets of bleachers and shout “Hey parents and spectators! All in favor of calling a strike say ‘Aye.’ All opposed?” Admittedly, it would slow the momentum of the game. And no one wants baseball to go any s  l   o    w     e      r.
If a wild pitch can imprint our fence,
imagine the damage potential for human flesh!
5. Wild Pitches. If you’ve watched three minutes of little league (not the little guys on ESPN, but the regular kids), then you know there are MANY wild pitches. Last week a wild pitch flew straight toward my head. Even though there was a batter, catcher, umpire, and 15 foot back stop between the ball and me, I still squealed like a scared monkey. 
6. The bat. Scary!! The thought of it whistling by my ear 176 times per game makes me nauseated. At this level, the odds for taking a bat to the skull seem a bit too high and the helmet a bit too flimsy.
7. All the action at home plate. Swinging, catching, and sliding. My cat-like reflexes have used up all nine of their lives, and chances are slim that I could dodge the ball, the bat, or the cleats. 
So thank you, Little League, for the vote of confidence. I really wish I could (fingers crossed), but I think we’re all better off taking our cues from Levi. If you need anything else, I’ll be in the concession stand.