Surprised by Grace

As you may have heard, we had quite a destructive storm come through the DC area last night. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Thanks to Capital Weather Gang, we had a heads up and they aren’t the guys who unnecessarily freak out. So, I knew when they said that this one was no joke, it was no joke. The storm came in and out quickly, but we lost power immediately. When we got up this morning, it looked like a tornado had gone through our neighborhood. We realized how lucky we were when we saw trees on house and cars. Still, we had no power and it was evident that it would not be coming on anytime soon.

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We decided to try and find a hotel. Unfortunately, the PGA AT&T Golf Tournament is taking place at Congressional Golf Course, which is right near our house and all of the hotels were full. We also have a dog, so we needed to find a place that was pet friendly. It turned out not to be easy to find a place that also had power. We decided to go for breakfast because our son was “famished”. I’ve never actually heard Mr. Picky Pants express hunger this way, so I knew we had a situation on our hands. We sat at breakfast and tried to figure out what to do. We considered sucking it up, but the heat index was expected to be near 110 today. I was nearing tears when we got a text from a guy that Lloyd knows from transportation circles. He said that they were leaving town for a week this afternoon and that we were welcome to stay at their house…which has power.

We were just beside ourselves. Lloyd has known this guy for a few years via work connections. I had met him once but his wife had never met us at all. And here they were, offering their home to us. Honestly, if I’d made a list of all of the people in the area that we know who would have reached out to us in that way, they probably wouldn’t have bee very high on the list. Not because they aren’t great people, but because we don’t have that kind of relationship with them….or so I thought.

This morning, as we were trying to formulate a plan, our 12 year old remarked that he wasn’t worried…he knew God would provide. And, we knew that too. But, we didn’t expect this kind of provision. And it reminded us that God is always going ahead of us, preparing a way. I am guilty of acknowledging that God is in control and still trying to be in control myself. That’s not to say that we don’t need to do leg work. We do. We can’t just sit sweltering in our house and expecting God to walk in the front door and give us the solution. But, in our diligence, we need to allow God to do what he’s going to do.

In the midst of all of this, we had found a hotel. It had availability for a couple of nights and took dogs. And we had the means to pay for it although it wasn’t something that was in our budget. I will admit that while I will gladly open my doors to anyone (and was upset that I didn’t have power and couldn’t help others!), I often struggle with accepting help from others. It’s probably a pride issue. Ok, it’s definitely a pride issue. And I had to fight the urge to just say “we’ve got it handled”. It would have been fine.

But I would not have been so surprised by grace. I would not have had the opportunity to get to know these people who are obviously worth knowing better. And I wouldn’t have the opportunity to say to our son “yes…you were right. God provided for us” — and he did it in such an unexpected way that we can only point to His grace. It wasn’t because of anything that we did.

And that is the gospel.

6th grade awards ceremony — or — OMG, I just seriously quoted George W. Bush

Today is the last day of school.  Actually, they haven’t actually done any work for the last couple of days, so it’s the last day they’ll watch movies all day.  This morning was the awards assembly.  As I sat there watching, I was an insecure 12 year old all over again.  And as the awards were being handed out, I remembered what it was like to wonder if you’re going to get an award and how it felt when you didn’t get the award you wanted.  And, as the kids cheered for each other (some more loudly than others), I remember how the dread of wondering if my peers would clap for me actually drowned out the elation of hearing my name called.  I always understood the academic awards.  They are based on performance in the classroom.  So, not getting an award for honor roll was my own deal, because I was perfectly capable (and believe me, I felt the sting of it when I didn’t get to wear a gold cord during graduation).  But, I remember wondering who the heck decided that so-and-so was the best citizen or the most enthusiastic or the hardest worker or the most dedicated.  And how on earth anyone can really display EVERY ONE OF THOSE traits in order to get the highest honor of all for Overall Achievement.

I also never understood the 100% Attendance Award.  What exactly is the achievement?  You didn’t get sick?  Or you did get sick, but you came to school anyway?  Believe me, I get the purpose of teaching children to be prompt and for school to be a priority because when they get to college and into the workforce, they need to have this core value.  But, it seems to me that the award would be most useful if it was given to kids who were not ever tardy instead of disqualifying them for being sick — and staying home, like they SHOULD DO when they are sick.  As this award was being handed out today, I made a comment that I hated this award.  The mom next to me agreed and said that she once knew somebody that was so desperate to have her child get that award that she sent the child to school with lice.  What core value is that instilling?

Perhaps I’m extra-sensitive about this subject because of my own son’s health issues.  It’s nearly impossible for him to never miss a day of school.  And, the award puts me on the defensive.  I really need to let it go.

As I watched, I decided that being the parent of a middle-schooler might actually be more stressful than being a middle-schooler, at least in this instance.  From where I was sitting, I felt more anxiety coming the from parents than from the kids.  As parents, we are carrying around the baggage from our own experiences as well as feeling anxious for our kids as we literally watch them pack their own proverbial bags.  We want our kids to do well — or more specifically, be recognized for doing well.

As I sat there and listened to the murmurings around me, I was a little amused by the whispered gasps of “I can’t believe (insert their child’s name here) didn’t get that award!”  and “she will be devastated if she doesn’t get (that specific) award” and “I can’t believe (so-and-so) got that award”.  And, the relief and pride when they did get *that award*.   And, the disappointment when they didn’t.

And yes…I will admit, I felt it.  I knew which award my son wanted, even though he hadn’t told me.  I watched him puff up and get excited as that specific teacher approached the podium to announce their choice for “most outstanding” in that particular class.  And, I watched him deflate a little when it was not his name that was called.  As a mother, your heart hurts when your child’s does.

From an adult perspective we all know (or we should realize) that the awards are subjective.  They don’t define who our children are.  They don’t define who they aren’t.  And the certainly don’t define who we are as their parents.  That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be bursting with pride when they are recognized for being outstanding at something specific.  Of course we should!  But, we should also realize that there are lots of kids who also would have been deserving of that same distinction.  Because the truth is that despite our best efforts, none of us is outstanding all the time.  Not even the kids who get the overall achievement award (just ask the kids who get bullied by those same kids).

The life lessons lay in how we deal with these types of situations.  If we are the recipient of the award, do we let it go to our heads?  If we got a citizenship award, are we going to rethink how we might treat others when the people who dole out the awards are not looking?  If we got the overall achievement award, are we going to step up our game and really take the award seriously and show everyone that they picked the right person?

If we don’t get the award, are we bitter?  Do we say “that person didn’t deserve it” as a way of making ourselves feel better?  Or do we simply realize that not everyone can get the award and not let it define us?

As parents, it’s a difficult line to walk — we don’t want to play them down, thereby devaluing the awards; but we also don’t want to put too much value in them, thereby deflating our kid’s confidence when they aren’t picked.  Instead we have to encourage them to try hard, do their best and maybe they’ll be recognized next time.  Or maybe they won’t.  That’s pretty much how life is anyway, right?  As nice as they are to get, none of these awards actually determine our success in life.  George W. Bush summed it up perfectly when he said this to a graduating class at Yale:

“To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you, too, can be president of the United States.”

Read that again.  Take it in.  It’s likely the only time I’ll quote GWB.

As my son was walking by me to go to his class he stopped for a second.  I said, “I’m sorry you didn’t get the _____ award”.  With a smile, he responded, “that’s okay.  I’m happy ______ got it.  He deserves it”.

And just like that, I was more proud of my kid than I ever would have been if he had a piece of paper saying he was outstanding at _____________.

First Day of 6th Grade – August 29, 2011

Last day of 6th Grade – June 12, 2012

Happy Heart Birthday

This was taken the morning of Jake’s surgery – June 5, 2000. You can see how blue his feet were.

Twelve years ago today, Jake had his last heart surgery.  He was 8 months old, 11 pounds and very, very ill.  This would be his fourth surgery in his short life and the third that was literally life-saving.  He was too small for the surgery, but he was also too sick to wait.  So, we did what we had to do.  I remember with vivid clarity handing him over to the nurse at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and watching them walk into the operating room.  In the weeks and months that followed that surgery, the doctors admitted that they had little hope that he would survive.  I heard more than one call him a miracle.  His pediatrician looked me in the eye and said, “he should not be alive”.  You can read more of his story here.

If you’ve been reading my blog for long, or if you’ve known me for more than a year, you know that I say the same thing every June 5th (except for the year I forgot!).  I sound like a broken record.  I’m grateful — so grateful.  But mostly, I’m humbled that I get to be his mom.  He makes me want to be a better person.

One of the things that has always amazed me is that he just isn’t afraid of anything.  He isn’t afraid to take risks.  And, when he decides he wants to do something, he gives it his all.  And most of the time, he does it with an infectious smile on his fact.  He’s not a big kid, but he’s got big personality.  And, people are drawn to it.  These days, as he faces the weird social vibe of middle school, I’ve been impressed with how comfortable he is with himself.  He’s just not afraid to be who he is, and in turn, he accepts people for who they are.  I’ve often wondered if this comes from a deep, albeit somewhat sub-conscious, realization that life is short.  I love watching him grow up and I am so excited to see what he does with his life.

Unfortunately, 1 in 100 children are born with a congenital heart defect.  The silver lining in that statistic is that my son has some role models to look up to.  I’ll never forget when he realized that Shaun White has the exact same heart defect that he has, Tetralogy of Fallot.  And, here he is…an Olympic gold medalist.  Max Page also has Tetralogy of Fallot.  Name doesn’t ring a bell?  You know him as Darth Vadar in the brilliant Volkswagen ad that first ran during the 2010 Superbowl.  Paul Cardall is a pianist with an amazing story of survival.  Tedy Bruschi was a linebacker for the New England Patriots who suffered stroke, a result of his CHD.  He was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2005 after his return.  These people are proof that an illness does not have to define your life.  And, it doesn’t have to be a heart defect — we all have something that we face.  These stories can inspire us all.

Just yesterday, Buddy Media signed a deal to sell to salesforce.com.  I saw the tweets and the headlines in my news feed.  I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t care enough to read the story.  And then a friend sent me this you tube video that Michael Lazerow posted after the signing of the deal .  As my husband and I watched it last night, I realized that this is what I want for Jake.  I want him to never doubt himself.  To know that he can do anything.  And, to never be afraid.