Uneven Fields

photo credit: PhillipJackson via photopin cc

photo credit: PhillipJackson via photopin cc

The middle one told me about recess one day, how they play soccer between a few trees and on uneven ground. Kids are good like that, making fields in the midst of a mess. A stadium from a few sticks and woodchips.

They run their little hearts out from start to finish, sucking the marrow out of each precious second of a too-short recess in a too-long day.

He also told me about the teams. They’re unfair. You see, kids–even young ones–have leaders and followers. And this particular group of leaders (like playgrounds the world over, I’m sure) divide the teams. Into unfair ones, mostly. The talented kids band together. The lesser ones form a team by default.

We’ve dealt with this issue all year with the older boy and football at recess. They do the same thing even as they get older, wiser. They do not divide into what is reasonable or fair. The strong clasp hands with the strong. The weaker ones feel happy just to be included. Our older boy deals with this from the perspective of the disadvantaged team. They always lose. Always. There’s no chance for a different outcome.

With the middle boy, it’s a different story. He’s on the stacked team. The leaders put him there. When I talked to him about it, how it wasn’t a fairly matched game, he agreed. “But they don’t listen to me, Mom.”

I shook my head and struggled. There are some playground lessons you have to let them figure out on their own. But there are others, othersthat seem to scream with a lesson. Grab this moment, it yells, and teach.

Just because they won’t listen, I said, does not mean that it’s right. He nodded.

And then I lowered my voice to a whisper and he leaned in close. I told him about teams and imbalance and how the brother he looks up to in so many ways, faces that stacked team EVERY DAY. From the wrong side. And it feels terrible.

His eyes, wide. They were already open to something not feeling right. But they were opened to the humanity of it in the form of his brother. At that moment, I think he realized recess was filled not just with random kids but with brothers and sisters as well.

He looked at me. I looked at him. But I was stumped. I honestly don’t know how you can fix this, I said. This teacher–his mama–was out of answers.

With confidence, he looked at me. The boy, the student said, “Well, I can always just play for the other team.”

It was at that moment in my kitchen, amidst crumbs on the table and laundry piled high, that I felt pure awe. The boy. In front of me. Acting like Jesus.

Sacrifice. Service. In the form of a simple soccer game on an uneven field.

I hadn’t even thought about that, I exclaimed. That’s brilliant! You could play for the other team–give them a chance. Be a champion. Make waves!

He shrugged his shoulders as if it were no big thing, sacrificing a sure win for the sake of these kids. I grinned at him and told him it was a darn big thing.

A darn big thing.

So he came home the next day–lots to say about plenty. He finally got around to talking about the game and I waited, anxious, to hear about whether he had made waves.

He had.

They were incredulous that he would want to switch teams. We’ll win so easily if you stay, they had cried. He shrugged his shoulders–it’s not fair, he had said. And that’s that.

He played goalie for the other team and he blocked that goal with his whole heart.

What happened, what happened? I begged. Oh, please, God, let this story end well.

“We tied.”

You tied! You helped them tie the game?!

“We didn’t win but at least we tied.” Something that has never happened. Ever.

We shared high fives and I told him I was proud. The boy did something great, in a long lifetime of choices between doing the right thing and doing the easy, feel-good thing.

It was only a simple game of soccer, yes. But it was a sacrifice left on an uneven altar that God honors.

It Starts with Bunny Ears

 

It often starts off like this.  Younger brothers are hard.

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Then, it turns into this.  The moment of reckoning.

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I’m impressed it didn’t get messier than this.

IMG_2403 IMG_2404 IMG_2405If you could somehow insert the concept of tattling and bathroom humor (with a little wrestling and rivalry and a fair number of early Saturday morning conspiracies), this pretty much paints the portrait of brotherhood.

IMG_2406 IMG_2407I smile at these pictures.  And silently thank God for the portrait. It’s messy and smelly.  It’s loud and challenging.  It’s funny and serious.  It’s beautiful.

New Year’s “Revolutions”

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This ambitious one came downstairs on the first day of the new year having written half of a book.
(It, of course, involves Star Wars and begins: “Once there was the Hoth Base peacefully doing their stuff. . . .”
I am now consulting Middles for some editing work because darn if that’s not a good beginning.)
This one is a fighter.
He’s dealt with medical issues his whole life
and while I wouldn’t wish his journey on anyone,
this child feels for those who are in physical pain.
His empathy is continuously birthed through experience.
My prayer for him this year is to continue to nurture his servant heart.
And to stop placing fake dog poop
in inconspicuous places throughout the house.
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This one wanted time to think up some goals for the new year.
That is totally his style–quiet, thoughtful.
Not a leaper but a thinker, planner.
(I’m still waiting to see what he comes up with.
I should hear something come July.)
His strength is his focus. My dad calls him “Sully”
because if I needed anyone to land a plane
in the midst of colossal panic today,
this child would be the one I’d pick.
But there’s a sensitive, delicate heart in that growing boy
and it’s often times fearful of making an appearance.
My prayer for him is to continue to land his planes
while exposing his heart, little by little to the passengers around him.
And to remember to close the door behind him
once in awhile when he leaves the house.
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This one.  Oh, this one.
His new year’s “revolution” is to drink more orange soda.
And wear superhero capes.
And pirate eye patches.
All at the same time.
And to never, ever take off his puppy dog slippers unless it’s to bathe
and really, he’d prefer to skip that part anyway.
This one’s job in life is to add a little ray of sunshine to anyone he meets.
We call him “The Mayor”
because he misses no opportunity to invest in the people of his world.
My prayer for him is to keep shining, brighter and brighter.
And go to bed before 10:45 pm.
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My goals for the new year?
Maybe I’ll be focused less on a resolution and more on a revolution.
Yes.
This year will be spent revolving around the Son.
And doing more of this
(and by “this”, I mean laughing and eating birthday cake.
And apparently trying to keep my hair from catching on fire.)