I need a knee brace when I run, windshield wipers so I can see while driving in the rain, my Map App to get me anywhere outside of my neighborhood, and a hot pad to pull something out of the oven. There are things I need help with in life, things I can’t do on my own.
Only, I like to do things by myself. I don’t like to ask for help. Ever. I like to make my to-do list and get it done without bothering, pestering or imposing on anyone else, thank you very much! I’m a writer, for crying out loud. I thrive on holing up with my computer and making up stories. By myself. The problem is, just like I can’t run without my knee brace, I can’t do life without asking for help.
I can’t. You can’t. None of us can do it alone. We weren’t meant to.
Case in point. Last night two of my kids had soccer practice, another had flag football practice, and the fourth had a soccer game. All of these activities were scattered in various locations around Southwest Ohio. There was also a meeting I was supposed to attend. I clearly could not do it all. Not unless I found a rogue time-turner. I did not go to the meeting (don’t worry, I let them know I couldn’t come). I relied on another parent to get my daughter to and from her practice. A teammate with a driver's license transported my son to and from his practice. My husband and I divided and conquered the rest. Whew!
I hesitated to ask for help from these parents and friends. I mapped through every possibility of how I could do it by myself, but I couldn’t. And I wasn’t supposed to. And neither are you.
Life is not a scorecard of who gave the most rides. Nor is it a debt I owe—since I called on others for assistance, I’m required to give back to others in eight days or I’ll be fined. It is love. It is how Jesus told us to love our neighbors. Sometimes we just need to accept that we are the neighbors who need the loving. It is how He told us to stir up one another in love and good works. We are to meet together and encourage each other.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another… Hebrews 10:24-25
I will offer a ride to another child, and feed a friend a meal, but not as payback, but because this is how Jesus loves us, it’s how He loves me and you, and I’m so blown away by that, that I want to pay it forward.
But I also need to accept that love when it’s me who needs it.
Needing help has so many different faces. My kids’ soccer schedules are minimal in the scheme of life. Needing help could be huge like asking for a loan so you can make your house payment or small like ordering cupcakes from the bakery, because you don’t have time to bake and frost them for the birthday celebration. If you read last week’s blog, you know I’m struggling with my kids going back to school and with my oldest being in her “fourth” year of high school (that s- word hurts too much). A dear friend not only sensed my mama heartache, but was feeling the same way since her baby bird is flying the nest. She called. We talked for over an hour, and shared our sadness and our joy. Just knowing someone else understood my heart was like balm for my soul. Accepting her love, her compassion didn’t make me feel like I was using her, or like I was weak; it made me feel better. That’s what love looks like.
Yet, we still try to do things by ourselves, don’t we? I’m fine. I’ve got it. No worries. It’s alright. I can do it. These are our mantras. But they don’t have to be. We don't have to do it alone.
What do you need help with this week, this season of your life? Do you need someone to bring the snack, work your shift, take over your leadership position, give you direction, explain a math problem, or give you a referral? Maybe you really need someone to listen, because there is so much on your mind, tugging at your heart. Maybe you could use some serious prayers, because there are things way beyond your control causing you and the ones you love suffering.
Don’t be afraid to ask. This is not an indicator of weakness or incapability. It’s just a matter of the fact that all of us have limited time and finite resources and multiple needs.
God knows we need help. He doesn’t want us to do it alone. He sensed Adam was lonely and created Eve. He knew the world was a mess, and He sent His only Son. Jesus ascended into heaven, but sent down the Holy Spirit to be with us. God loves each and every one of us, and not only is He available any place any time of day we want to talk to Him, He has also put in our life others who can help us too.
I wavered about sending out my flurry of texts asking for rides for my kids here and there. But the alternative was my kids not going to their activities. Guess what? Not one person seemed flustered or put out by my requests. My kids got where they needed to be. At the end of the night we were all back home together. That is a beautiful thing. And all I had to do was ask.
Are you ready to ask for help today? Because God is waiting to give it to you. Jesus instructs the disciples: For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:8
That’s an invitation I’d like to take Him up on. Looks like I have some asking to do? You?
There’s something that lures even this non-sporty girl to the NCAA tournament. In the process of 67 games there are so many beautiful stories—countless surprises, nail-biters, overtimes, upsets, and tearful moments surged by both “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Monday night was the grand finale of the tournament, and for me there was not one, but five shining moments that stood out exemplifying what being the best versions of ourselves, embracing our true beauty, looks like.
1. Even though everyone was convinced they would lose, Middle Tennessee State University (a 15 seed), believed they could beat Michigan State (a 2 seed). They not only imagined the unthinkable, but MTSU went out there and played their hearts out, making their dream a reality winning 90-81. This is only the 8th time in NCAA history this kind of upset has happened. It wasn’t a fluke or a tight ending. MTSU—the underdog, the predicted loser, the presumed weaker link—outplayed the team that many, including March Madness authority, Dick Vitale, thought would win the entire tournament. As Michigan State’s coach, Izzo, said after the game, “We got beat by a team that played better than us today. There were no bad calls. Nobody missed a free throw that would have saved the day. We just kind of got beat.” I do feel badly for Michigan State, but MTSU reminded us that we all have potential, that we all have God-given talents, and we are called to use them to the best of our abilities, even when things look bleak. MTSU exemplified hope to all of us underdogs fighting our own giants, showing us that even when the world doesn’t believe in us, God does.
Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone. Samuel 17:49-50 NKJV
2. Typically when we think about March Madness, we’re not thinking about the music, but Pitt’s band showed us not only how important a fight song can be, but more importantly how to live out the Golden Rule. Pitt’s band heard Weber State’s band would be unable to attend their game—Weber would be without anyone to musically cheer them on. Knowing the importance of a band and a fight song for moral support, Pitt’s band stayed in town after their own team was defeated earlier in the day to play for Weber State. Not only did they stay, but they ditched their own outfits for Weber State spirit wear, learned, and played Weber State’s fight song as enthusiastically as if it were their own. The Pitt band could have gone home. They could have been bitter about their loss. They could have shown zero interest in learning another random team’s song. But instead they exhibited how beautiful it is to love your neighbor as yourself. This class act was a reminder to all of us to do unto others, and that is beautiful music to everyone’s ears.
And Jesus answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Luke 3:11
3. Another example of being the best versions of ourselves, living to the full potential of our true beauty was given to us by a young man named Angel. After winning the game against Wichita State, scoring a career high of 28 points, and advancing his team to the Sweet 16, Angel Rodrigues, the University of Miami’s point guard was asked by a CBS reporter what he thought about the praise his coach gave him. Angel responded, “Well first, let me give all the praise to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Here is his big chance to take a bow, to pat himself on the back, to revel in the glow of stardom, but Angel humbly points the spotlight back to Jesus. What a beautiful example to sports fans everywhere. What if we all did that? What if every time we got a compliment, achieved a goal, conquered a problem, or overcame a struggle we first, before anything else, publicly gave all the praise to Jesus? What a beautiful reminder of where our identities, our true reflections come from. No wonder his name is Angel.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
4. When the Virginia Cavaliers (a one seed) lost to the Syracuse Orangemen (a ten seed), you might have predicted something ugly might ensue from the UVA side of the bench, but instead, their coach, Tony Bennett, exhibited the truest beauty. As Bennett watched the 16 point lead his team had established disappear, he never yelled. Not once. He knew his boys were playing hard, doing their best. After the game the press wanted to interview the coach of the losing team who many (*cough* including me) had slated to win the tournament. When asked what he would say to his team, Bennett, replied he had an old church song ringing in his ears, “’Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.’” He continued, “There will be some weeping and some pain for some nights because of this, but absolutely, joy will come in the morning for these guys, “ Bennett said. “For what they’ve established for our program, where they’ve taken us—what they’ve done for me – joy is coming. My guys are disappointed tonight, but they’ll look back and see what they accomplished, that what they did was amazing.”Did I mention this game took place on Easter? What a beautiful message to remind us all that even though basketball is pretty addicting in the spring, something even more important is taking place. That just as things looked bleak and dark for the world on the original Good Friday, God was at work, there would be joy in the morning. For all of us. That no matter what we’re going through right now, today, you and I, Jesus loves us. He’s cheering for us. And that message of amazing grace is the most beautiful thing I know.
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5 NKJV
5. Only in the Big Dance could a tango between two brothers create such a beautiful finale to the NCAA tournament. In the championship game, Nate Britt from UNC played against his adopted brother, Kris Jenkins, who by the way made the winning shot for Villanova to win it all. Nate and Kris met playing AAU ball together as youngsters, but due to extreme challenges in Kris Jenkins’ family, the Britts not only took him under their wings, into their homes, but legally adopted him. Kris says about the Britts, “They accepted me for who I was and elevated me as a person and made me better. It's something that I'm always thankful for. I thank God for it every day." In the past few days the Britts traveled back and forth from Philadelphia, to Louisville to Houston in order to see both of their sons play. And the brothers? Both of them were there to cheer the other one on in their final four wins prior to their match up Monday night. Kris Jenkins experienced family trauma (separation of parents, death of a sibling), struggled academically, and ten years ago was placed in a family that was not his own. His story could have been one of desolation and defeat. But a family who loved him as if he were their own, the nurturing of the Britt parents and of his brother, Nate, strengthened, enabled and inspired Kris to go to college, play the game he loves and make the shot that was heard around the world.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this.” John 15:12-13
How about you? Did you notice anyone exuding true beauty during the tournament? I’d love to hear your highlights. Leave them in the comments below.
I always suspected that there was something of goodness in me, but I just couldn’t find it. Until one day—one day I discovered it here, in my heart. I found it…goodness. And ever since that day, I have always known who I was. And now, nothing can touch me. ~Miguel
How does a gang member in Los Angeles find his goodness? Racial tension is ugly. Gang violence is ugly. Drugs are ugly. Los Angeles County is home to over 1100 active gangs comprising over 86,000 people. According to the LAPD, in the last three years over 16,400 violent crimes were attributed to gangs in the City of Angels. How can someone possibly find his or her worth in the midst of this?
Miguel found his beauty thanks to Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest in Los Angeles who didn’t look at the drugs, or the crimes, or the violence, he didn’t look at the different ethnicities, or the rap sheets of his parishioners, but he looked at them as humans—as humans who were struggling to find and believe in their true value. Boyle saw a way to help gang members like Miguel find the true beauty not only in themselves, but in each other. He knew if the teens could start fresh, get a high school diploma, get a job, they could break cycles of poverty, be less reliant on the drug trade; begin to understand that they had skills and gifts. When Fr. Greg, or as his friends call him, “G”, talked to these teens, they wanted to go to school. But the schools wouldn’t take them, not with their records, their backgrounds. So, Boyle created a school for them.
And when they graduated who would hire them? As Boyle explained when I saw him speak in Cincinnati, “Surprisingly there wasn’t much of a job market for ex convicts.” Insert laughter of the crowd here. But again, the barriers of society didn’t stop G. He put on his entrepreneur hat and started his own company, Homeboy Bakery. Its purpose is “to create an environment that provides training, work experience and above all, the opportunity for rival gang members to work side by side.” Side by side? As in teaching people who have been raised to hate one another to appreciate each another, to respect one another. Boyle challenged listeners during his talk, “We belong to each other. How do we bridge the gap?” He continued to explain his motivation to bring these gang members together and to give them purpose, “What Jesus took seriously was inclusion and acceptance.” Good point.
Did it work? You bet. Not only did Homeboy Bakery take off, but it was the catalyst for Homeboy Industries, which now includes multiple businesses. It is recognized as the largest gang intervention and re-entry program in the world. The jobs, the opportunities, the new life Homeboy Industries has given the poor, marginalized, desperate gang population in L.A. blows me away. But what blows me away even more is story after story about how people who hated each other now love each other. Fr. Greg told one story about “homies” who just a few months ago were shooting bullets at each other, and now they’re shooting texts at one another”. He told more tales of individuals who had always despised each other who are now not only working side by side, but calling each other “brother” and “friend”. A miracle? Not really. Because this is how Jesus always envisioned things. Treating each other as we would like to be treated. But is it easy? Are we doing a good job at keeping the Golden Rule?
How did Fr. Greg do it? He saw these individuals for the beautiful creations they were made to be. He recognized their true beauty. He proclaims, “It is our job to hold the mirror up, tell people they are exactly what God had in mind when He made them, and watch people grow into that truth.”
What if we took a lesson from Father Greg, sought beauty in all humans, realized we all have potential, we all have talents, we all deserve to be loved? How can I hold up a mirror for someone else today? How can you? Show someone who they truly are, that they are exactly what God intended when He made them? We can start with ourselves. Go find a mirror, gaze into it, and say out loud, “You are exactly what God had in mind when He made you.” And we can watch ourselves grow into our own true beautiful reflections. Then we can point others towards the mirror, and let beautiful ripple effects take over.
REFLECTIONS INSIDE A DUMPSTER
Pulling out of the small parking lot after consuming the most ridiculous cappuccinos (so large, they were served in bowls) and an incredible brunch at Marche, my dear friend, Amy, and I couldn’t help but notice the head, shoulders and torso of a man emerging from a dumpster. Bedraggled and unshaven, he leaned over and rummaged around the trash searching for…something.
The decadent crêpe I’d just demolished, laced with apricots and dark chocolate, felt heavy in my stomach. My heart felt even heavier in my chest.
“What’s he looking for?” Amy asked, “food?”
“Probably,” I sighed, “so sad.”
“So sad,” she echoed, while clicking on her blinker and turning down the narrow alleyway. I’m not from Nashville, and even if I was, I have no sense of direction, so I allowed my mind to pray for the man while Amy drove. But only for about a minute and a half, because then she pulled into a minimart, shoved her car into park, and shouted to me, as she jumped out of her running car, “Be back in a minute.”
She could have needed Advil or gum; maybe she needed to pick up something for her boys. As promised she was back in in less than sixty seconds with a bag, but it wasn’t full of sundries. It was jammed with food. For the man.
“You’re amazing,” I said to her, as she turned back towards the dumpster.
“He was hungry. I had a couple of dollars,” she said. “It won’t fix anything, but at least he won’t be hungry today.”
When the dumpster came back into view, the man had vacated. But he hadn’t gone far. We spotted him pushing his abandoned grocery cart filled with smashed aluminum cans. Amy rolled down the window, and the man spoke first, “Just collecting my cans,” as if we chatted all the time and he was just giving us an update. Amy handed him the bag, told him to have a great day, and we drove off, just like that. You should have seen the beautiful smile on his weathered face. Amy was wrong. It had fixed something, maybe not his cycle of poverty, or his need for sustainable income, but it had changed his perspective of himself.
For a moment on a Wednesday in October, my friend showed this man his true reflection, not in a mirror, but in a bag of peanuts and crackers. She showed him he was noticed, he was worthy, that he deserved brunch just as much as we did, and that he didn’t deserve to have to rummage through a trash heap to find it or to gather enough cans to finance it. She showed him that somebody cared.
And in showing this man his true reflection, Amy’s true beauty played a beautiful melody throughout Music City, her own beautiful reflection beaming bright.
In one of my favorite childhood shows, Fraggle Rock, the Fraggles sought insight from Marjory the Trash Heap. “I’m orange peels, I’m coffee grounds, I’m wisdom!” she proclaimed.
On this day, I also found unexpected wisdom from a trash heap. I’m not sure if the man was knee deep in orange peels, but I’m pretty sure after experiencing the cappuccinos at Marche that there were coffee grounds. Because my sweet friend Amy could see that this man was a beautiful creation in Christ, she was able to remind him that he was. And in so doing, in offering love, she showed the world what true beauty looks like.
Do you remember Fraggle Rock? Do you remember any of the wisdom from the Trash Heap? Do you know someone whose true reflection shines? Let me know about them. I’d love to highlight them on my blog.
AND THE WINNER IS ...
I love award show season. I ogled over George Clooney during the Golden Globes, because; well, because I do every year. I’m counting down until Sunday night so I can glue myself to the Grammy’s. And don’t even get me started on the Oscars, but I do hope Les Mis sweeps.
Every year it seems like there are more and more award shows rewarding everything from Best Costume Design at the Academy Awards to Outstanding Performance Under Pressure for an athlete at the Espys.
In our house we give The Goat.
Although not quite as glamorous as a golden statue of a phonograph or a little bald man, The Goat is coveted and treasured in our home. We don’t select special outfits or write speeches in hopes of earning The Goat. Instead, we just try to be good people. And some days that’s easier than others.
Each night the recipient of The Goat from the previous night, sneaks into someone else’s room and places The Goat on the winner du jour’s pillow. Whoever is in possession of The Goat can award The Goat to whomever they want for any reason at all. There are no criteria. But, in the past The Goat has been awarded for listening to someone when they’ve been upset. It’s been snuck onto the pillowcase of someone who did somebody else’s chores. Some days The Goat appears in the bed of the person who had the hardest day, who cried and screamed (either literally or figuratively) but needs to be reminded how special they are.
We all love to be recognized for our accomplishments. Whether that’s running the fastest mile at our school or at the Olympics, writing a moving song or a powerful essay, or sometimes just making someone smile.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven. Matthew 5:12
And we all have the ability to reward others for jobs well done. It doesn’t have to be a crystal statue. It can be a cookie (especially if it’s chocolate chip) or a text or a hug. Just something to let someone else know they’re special.
Who can you make feel like a superstar today?
LESSONS FROM THE TURF
The earthy, fresh smell of mown grass. The squishy, muddy ground, slopping against my feet. The chill of early morning cocooned in a giant sweatshirt and an even more giant dark roast with a shot of chocolate from Starbucks. Pulses racing. Fans cheering. The satisfying slap of leather on the insole of a cleat.
It’s that time of year. The time when every Saturday morning is spent at the soccer fields. Not that different than fall in attire, gear and schedules, but the attitude, the atmosphere is like it’s from a different district altogether.
Fall soccer buzzes with the start of a new school year, new teams, grueling heat, fierce competition. Spring soccer is shorter, random, more congenial, do I dare say it -- relaxed.
In the fall, groups of boys within 24 months of each other’s birthdays and girls within 24 months of each other’s birthdays pass, dribble and shoot together. But in the spring, due to the large clumps of players lost to the ball diamonds – there are co-ed teams, the age spans of leagues goes up to 36, sometimes 48 months!
Teams always seem to be running late, short a player or two. How do you handle that? Sub, trade, swap. What other sport or season takes its best player and loans it to the other team? What other fans cheer for all the players on both teams, because at some point in their sons’ or daughters’ sports careers the other players from both teams have been on their teams?
It is a sport season like no other. Don’t get my wrong. Fall soccer, with all its intensity and speed and skill are an absolute thrill. But, there is so much to be learned from this softer, spring version of the international sport. So much to be gained by teaching players and fans alike what’s truly of value:
Sharing - of players, fields, equipment, high fives, resources
Sportsmanship – valuing all players, old or young, big or small, experienced or newbies for what they add to the game
Appreciation – for the other team, for your own team, the other parents, the refs, a Saturday in April without lightning, the sport, time to play, time to cheer, time to bond
Sounds like the Golden Rule to me: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
Many will argue, that the thrill of the game is embedded in the rivalry. But I will argue back, that the true thrill of the game is playing our best, cheering our loudest, meeting new people and appreciating their talents and strengths.
Laura L. Smith