Monday, July 4, 2011

Baseball and the Big O

Everything the Big O does is big.  He lives in the land of extremities.  If he laughs it's going to be a really, loud, goofy laugh.  If he throws a fit, stand back.  It will be a whopper.  If he wants to give you a hug, watch out--he'll probably knock you down.  If he sings, turn up the radio if you were hoping to hear the song and not him.  He plays hard, lives hard, feels hard.  That's just the way he is.

We, as parents, wondered how baseball would play out with him.  We knew it could potentially be a disaster...or it could be a complete joy.  There was no way of knowing; we'd just have to risk it.  One thing we could guarantee, though--he would do things completely different then any of our other kids.  He would put his own off-kiltered twist on things, thus earning a few more badges on his nickname:  the 'O Factor'.

So the O Factor had some choice moments on the field, for sure.  Like the time when he ran off and on the field three separate times in one inning, straight to his momma to share something (in a really loud voice):

'Mom, is Miss Wite here yet?  When she gonna get here?' 

'Mom, I am weally sorry I pooped in my pants earlier.  I am weally, weally sorry Mom.'  (ummm, thanks for the confession.  Such pristine timing.  Really.)

 'Mom, can I have a piece of dat bubba bum (translated bubble gum)?'

The other proud moment was when he danced around and did a little jig in the outfield for five whole minutes.  Yes, that was mighty fine.  I believe this coincided with when he told us that he no longer liked the 'baseball ready' position and wouldn't be doing it anymore.

Then there was his last game when he got called out at third.  Coach Dave was standing at third and said, 'You're out O--go sit down.'  I held my breath and waited to see what he would do.  He had never been called out before.  And his biggest thrill each game was sliding into home.  I watched his face and saw his mouth cock up slightly on one side as he processed this.  He took two steps towards the bench and I started to breathe a sigh of relief, but then caught my breath again when he whipped himself around and put himself back on third.  I guess he thought Coach Dave might not notice.  However, Coach Dave immediately said, 'You're out O--go sit down', once again removing him from the base and pointing him towards the bench. 

Finally realizing Coach Dave meant business, he went and sat down.  Phew--my tense shoulders could finally relax.  Of course, he had to rehash the story to all of his teammates.  But since his speech impediment is slightly serious, no one understood a word he was saying.

After the final game, Coach Dave did a little presentation, giving each player a game ball and their 'end of the season' trophy. The Big O walked up, received his trophy and then swaggert and strutted he did, all the way to his seat. O-ee-O the overly confident showboat...such proud parents we are.

All in all, aside from the outfield jigs, the running on and off the field to discuss his bowel movements, consistently losing his hat on game days, and the 'near-fit' misses, I would say that it was a pretty successful first season.  Yes, I think next year we will once again be chanting for all to hear:


Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Pirates -- Season 2011

The past week and a half has been consumed with Rookie baseball.  While it might have been all consuming, there is not anything we would have rather been doing.  This was Wes' second year to play on the Pirates and the second year to play for Coach Matt, who is also his coach for the travel team he is on, the Patriots.  Last year the Pirates had an undefeated season and ended up beating the Rays in the championship game (you can read about it here).  It was hard fought and well-deserved.  Of course, every returning Pirate as well as Coach Matt dreamed of coming back and winning the championship again, making it two years in a row. 

The Pirates played well throughout the regular season, yet they seemed to be missing that extra ummph, that extra something.  While they tended to play strong defensively, they struggled a bit at bat.  Even so, they only lost one regular season game, ending the season with a 15-1 record.

The tournament began and we all held our breath.  Could the Pirates make it to the championship again?  There were three or four other teams that were pretty tough.  Specifically, the Rays.  Since they were in the American League division (and we were in the National League), we hadn't yet faced them.  They had been blowing teams out all season long, though.  Not only did they play well defensively, they had some heavy hitters in their line up.  They had plowed over teams all season, ending with an undefeated record.  Then there was the Blue Jays to contend with.  They also had been a force to reckon with last year.  They proved to be just as tough this year.  Other teams we needed to look out for were the Reds, the Cardinals and the White Sox.

Because we had won our division, we got a bye in the first round of the tournament.  Thursday night we played the Astros, winning 15-0.  Late Friday night we played the White Sox, resulting in an 8-1 win.  Now there were  four teams left:  the Pirates, the Rays, the Blue Jays and the Yankees.  At this point, it became a double elimination tourney.

Early Saturday morning we came right back to the ball park to face the Blue Jays, which would be the most difficult team to beat yet.  The Bluejays came out strong in the first inning, quickly taking the lead 5-0.  Strangely, after the first (maybe second?) inning, the pitching machine quit working due to a short in the extension cord.  There was a thirty minute delay as the umpires hooked up a new cord and buried it under the dirt.  Coach Matt took advantage of this delay to rally the team.  It worked.  The Pirates did rally, eventually taking the lead and winning 9-6.  This was the first game all season where it felt like the Pirates came together and played like a real team.  They had that extra umph that had been missing prior to this game.  They made some amazing plays and catches in the field and had some incredible bunts and hits.  Oh, I love to watch baseball games like that!  They are deeply satisfying.  Deeply satisfying.   I can tell you that the fans in the stands got some air that day.  I know that I personally was screaming and jumping around like a lunatic!

Sunday came.  It was time for the dreaded face-off against the Rays, and oh, they were playing for blood.  They were ready to get some revenge after last year.  We didn't play until 3:15 PM; my stomach was in knots the whole first half of the day.  You would have thought they were playing the World Series.  Some friends had us over after church for burgers and then went on with us to the game.  I am thankful for them--it kept me from being overly-ridiculously-anxious! 

What made this game more fun than usual was the fact that there were two players on the Rays that were on our travel team (the Patriots), of which Coach Matt is the head coach.  AND the head coach of the Rays is an assistant coach of the Patriots.  So it was Patriot Coach vs. Patriot Coach!  This dynamic made us parents a bit less competitive, as we knew these players and coaches personally and wanted them all to do well!

Nevertheless...a tournament game is a tournament game.  And, oh my--it was a bit brutal.  The Pirates were somewhat rattled at the beginning, making some mistakes in the field.  They just could never get the upper hand in the game, resulting in a loss of 9-2.  We might have been beat, but we were not down for the count.  We still had a chance to come back and play the Rays again for the championship.

Thus, we came back on Monday night to square off against the Yankees (who had upset the Bluejays the day before).  Our Pirates had another incredible game, both defensively and offensively, resulting in a win of 11-3...

The Pirates had done it again!  For the second year in a row they had come back to face off the Rays in the Championship game!  Of course, it would be the challenge of all challenges.  The Pirates would have to beat the Rays twice to win the championship title.  The Rays only had to beat us once. 

Coach Matt did up the championship game, just as he always does.  He rented a sound system and had music playing in between innings.  He had the players announced at the beginning of the game and every time they came up to bat.  This is how Coach Matt operates.  He likes to make it extra-special for everyone involved.  And extra-special it was.

Coach Matt has a knack of squeezing every bit of talent out of a player that can be squeezed.  Oh, in this game every bit of talent came forth.  The Pirates shone.  They played the game of their life.  They held the Rays to three runs for the entire game, something that no team had been able to do all season long.  It was a great defensive battle.  In the end, though, the Rays just had a few extra hits in them then we did.  It was a rather fast and furious game, ending in a score of 3-1, Rays. 

While we would have liked to have won that first game, I don't think there was a parent there that didn't feel as if the Pirates had played 110% that night.  It was a great game--almost everyone hit the ball.  It was a defeat to not be ashamed of.  And they were runners up, which was no small feat. 

That game was quite emotional for my husband and I.  There had been something special about that Pirate team and now--well--I suppose it was the end of an era.  It was the last game of rookie recreational ball.  The last time ever for Wes to play as a Pirate.  The last time ever to play for Coach Matt as a Pirate.  What a run it had been these last two years...what a run. 

And now we get to do it all over again this week with Joshua and Jeremiah...  Oh, I can't wait!  :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Grogan Homeschool Graduation

At the end of May we held our second ever homeschool graduation for Grogan Christian Academy (GCA).  Our first graduation was two years ago...then we skipped last year because we were just too tired.  But somehow we got a second wind this year and decided to have one.

Sophie made programs of the agenda.  I made a slideshow of our year.  I also printed off award certificates to give out at the end of the program.  We borrowed a 'podium' (a.k.a. music stand) from our neighbors.  We borrowed caps and gowns from our other neighbors.  We borrowed a big screen and projector to show the slide show.  Then we held a graduation practice to make sure everyone knew what they were doing.

Here is the set up of the room:

As our guests filed in, Sophie handed out the programs.  Then our graduates lined up in the dining room, awaiting their cue to file in.  Their 'cue' was not 'Pomp and Circumstance', because that song just didn't seem to fit.  No, instead it was 'Kenkraft 400' by Zombie Nation (you know, the music that is played when the Louisville Cardinal starting five is announced).  So Principal Dad announced each of our graduates and they grooved on in.

Here are our graduates.  I know you are wondering why Sophie and Jeremiah are wearing caps and gowns...well, it's because the others didn't pass this year.  Kidding!  Sophie is going into 6th grade and since this the big middle school transition she is wearing a gown.  Jeremiah is going into 1st grade, but since we were too tired to have a graduation last year for Kindergarten, we thought he could graduate retroactively.  And Preschooler Owen has his baseball hat on backwards, of course.

Next, Principal Dad opened us in prayer and then gave his speech, pulling out his I-pad to give us some statistics in regards to homeschooling for all the sceptics in the room.  Actually, this was just to be funny--but the statistics were definitely interesting. 

Then we watched a presentation by Preschooler Owen and 2nd grader Jeremiah.  They did a dance with motions (choreographed by Sophie) to the song 'Do the Mooshu' by Vegetales.

2nd grader Jeremiah did some recitations:  'Thirty Days Hath September' and 'Mr. Nobody'. 

7th grader, 6th grader, and 4th grader Joshua, Sophie and Wes did scripture recitations.

Wes Grogan read aloud his Abraham Lincoln report

Joshua and Sophie presented the History timeline.

Then, I presented the awards.  Our 7th grader got the Excellent Writer Award and the Science Award and the Leadership Award.  Our 6th grader got the Excellence in English and Math Award and 'Best Helper' Award.  Our 4th grader got an Excellence in  Math Award and Spelling award and the 'Most Obedient' Award.  Our 1st grader received a Reading award and 'The Peacemaker' Award (this basically meant he kept the peace with his rowdy playmate Owen all year) and the 'Best Hugger Ever!' Award.   Last, but not least, Preschooler Owen received the 'Best Singer' Award and the 'Most Polite' Award (this got a few raised eyebrows) and also 'The Best Hugger Ever!' Award.

Here I am presenting awards, looking very serious-teacherish.

Owen, anxiously anticipating his awards.  Looks so angelic--maybe awards are the way to his heart?  Tedd Tripp might not agree with me on that one.

A finale was then performed by Owen, Jeremiah and special guest Polly Bates, followed by a slideshow of our year.

Here is a portion of our lovely audience, looking on:

Lastly, Joshua and Wes performed a piano concert while we wined and dined on chips and salsa.

A graduation dinner of grilled hamburgers and hotdogs was enjoyed by all.

And that, my friends, was the GCA Graduation.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Faith Walk

It was January, 1997 – a cold, blustery day with sunshine in full throttle…I sat in my car, unaware that I was about to make a decision that the very breath of existence hinged upon. All around me, there was a battle raging in the heavenlies over my weary-worned soul, the forces of evil fighting intensely with the forces of side fighting for death, one side fighting for life.

Straight down through that sun-filled sky, the Lord of the Universe beckoned me to Himself. The election, the Call—so strong that I couldn’t resist. Heavy-ladened and sin-stained, I fell into the arms of the Son. The Son held me with nail-scarred hands, the Father nodded His approval. While eruption of applause of deafening proportions filled the heavenlies, my soul experienced an eruption of another sort. Supernatural peace flooded in, squelching the chaos and noise that had filled it just moments before.

I experienced my very first brush with faith that day, initiated in me by a Father through the grace of His Son. The Divine Paintbrush reached down and lavished His first bit of color on His masterpiece. A hue of brilliant color began the painting, as I put my confidence and assurance in that which I could not see. The nail scarred hands embraced mine, and we began to walk together, my Companion and I.
Over the coming years, the colors my painting lacked would be added little by little, one faith step at a time. You see, God deepens and strengthens our faith along the journey of our life’s experiences. My faith walk had begun steady footed, but it was in need of some testing. We are told in 1 Peter 1:7 that we face trials so that our faith can be proven genuine in order that Jesus Christ may be glorified and honored. Yes, my faith would need to be proven genuine, and only walking some mileage with Him could accomplish that.

The next thirteen years proved to offer a variety of mileage for my walk of faith. There were seasons of down-hill coasts with the wind pushing me along, and there were uphill climbs with gusts so strong I thought I might not make it. There was treacherous terrain and there was safe, stable ground. My Guide, my Companion, my Jesus holding my hand through it all.

My first mountain pass came with the death of my mother in 2008. All that we experienced in that hospital on the day of her passing can be summed up in a few desperate phrases:

mistaken doctors, mishaps, chaos, confusion…gasping, gasping, gasping for breath…praying, begging for God’s intervention...more confusion…more gasping…code blue sirens…doctor’s rushing…life passing on…stillness.

I sat in that cold, dark, waiting room—in the deafening stillness--with a myriad of questions imprinted on my soul:

‘God, where were you? Where were you? Why did you abandon us? How could you have been in the midst of –of that?’

My faith walk was in a moment of crisis. There was a fork in the road and I had a decision to make. Which way would I go? Both directions included a steep hill climb over treacherous mountains. The only difference between the two paths was that one offered my Companion with nail scarred hands and the other I would walk alone.

I didn’t make my decision immediately. I fumed. I paced. I yelled. I cried. I sulked. I finally spoke it outloud:

‘But you abandoned me when I needed you most. Can I trust you? Really? Can I?’

There. I had said it. How relieving it is to throw off the mask and speak the truth, even ugly truth.
I waited. I braced myself for the blasting dissertation that Job experienced when he, too, questioned God.

It never came. Instead, God beckoned me to Himself with His all-encompassing height-and- depth love.

‘Dear Child, take my hand and bring me your hard questions, even the ugly ones. This is going to require a step by step walk of focusing on Me and not on the rough terrain of circumstances. Remember, true faith is not faith at all if you are not willing to tarry when things look bleak.’

He stretched out His hand. Timidly, I took the nail-scarred one in mine and let Him lead me along the path. Step by step through the grief and unanswered questions of the weeks to come, I learned that faith is stretched, refined and deepened through the deepest valleys. I wrestled through many faith-filled questions such as: Was I really living with an eternal perspective? Or was the here and now, my focus? If the Lord chose to take home another loved one, would I be okay with that? It’s easy to praise Him when things are going well, but what about when they aren’t? Am I going to praise Him even in the hard? Would I be able to say as Job had, ‘the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord?’

Zechariah 8:10 kept me afloat during those days. I don’t know how many times a day I quoted ‘the joy of the Lord is my strength’—more than I could count. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that ‘His Word is living and active…’ I can attest to that, for God took those Words right off the page in Zech. 8:10 and breathed them straight into me. Step by step I experienced His joy and His strength within the grief. Step by step, my faith in Him became stronger and deeper. Step by step I learned not to be marred by life’s circumstances. Step by faithful step, the Master Painter added new colors to His masterpiece.
I am thankful He took me through a crisis of faith when He did. He knew that it would be the training grounds needed to face the years 2010 and 2011.

2010 was the year that we lost two grandparents, an aunt and an uncle. 2010 was the year that Eric’s pay decreased by less than half while he had to work harder and travel more than he ever had in all of his career. 2010 was the year that Eric would be laid out flat with back pain for two weeks. 2010 was the year that he would lose his job just days after his back went out and just days before Thanksgiving.
Strange that his termination occurred amidst the Thanksgiving season. Because that is exactly how God taught us to tarry through these difficulties—with thanksgiving.

As we walked forth in obedience, choosing to thank Him in our adverse circumstances, He began to transform our hearts. Stone by stone, the hard wall in my heart came down. Down came stones of bitterness, down came stones of self-pity, down came stones of entitlement. A river of liberation flowed in its place, one of life-giving peace and joy. Phil. 4:6-7 tells us ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.’

Sure, I had read these verses a thousand times, even memorized them! Yet, only when I began putting the ‘thanksgiving part‘ of these verses into practice did I begin to experience this truth. You see, voicing our thanksgiving to our Savior must precede experiencing His all-surpassing peace. It must.

As we have been thanking Him for the hard things, we are learning another important lesson: Our hope is not in a job, nor is it in money or any kind of security this world has to offer. No. Our hope is in Him and Him alone. Thus, whether He provides a job or not, He wants us to continually praise Him, praise Him, praise Him. While waiting on the Lord for His timing can be excruciatingly difficult, we are learning life’s biggest lessons are most often learned in His waiting room. Faith-building lessons of the holiest sort. We are learning by experience what it means to trust Him for our ’daily manna’, for daily manna just happens to be His strong suit.  We have been keeping a thankful journal and we are up to 128 ways the Lord has provided for us so far on this journey. We’re truly speechless by all the ways God has come through for us as Jehovah Jireh (the Lord will provide). We have seen answers to specific prayers when He provided a washer for us when ours went out. He has provided specific amounts of money right when we were in need. He provided a way to pay for a new transmission when ours quit. He has provided vehicles to drive when we have needed them. When our sewage backed up into our house, MSD fixed it for free. Over and over, when we have had a need, God has shown up to meet it. Through His faithful provision, our faith has been strengthened.  Provision upon provision…brush stroke upon brush stroke…paint is being added to my canvas of faith, my husband’s canvas of faith, and our childrens’ canvases of faith.

Mile after mile, step after step, my faith walk isn’t over yet; it’s in process, as is yours. Your journey will probably look much different than mine. He uniquely plans each of our walks of faith for two sole purposes: 1.) that we will become more and more dependent upon Him and 2.) that Jesus will be glorified in the highest.

Paint stroke upon paint stroke, the Artist of Artists will add paint to each of our canvases of faith until the day He leads us home…until then, may we grab hold of that nail-scarred hand, keeping our eyes off of our light and momentary circumstances and keeping our gaze upon the Author and perfector of our Faith.