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Archive for September, 2013

Everyone Needs a Cheerleader

I sat on the edge of the bleacher at the Anderson Rec Center mid morning on Saturday watching 7 year olds in green uniforms do battle with kids in blue uniforms, kicking a ball back and forth, in and out of bounds, around the goal and down the court.  My eyes were glued.  My hands were clasped and I held them tightly to my face, anticipating, waiting for the next big play.  I had my phone next to me to take pictures and a bottle of water readily available should a certain green team member need rehydration.  A week ago I didn’t care about soccer.  A week ago I wasn’t concerned with score boards or shin guards or jerseys.  This weekend I watched the game like my life depended on it.  I sat alone on the bleacher but felt an instant connection with the other parents and family members cheering from the sidelines.  Our common goal brought us together like family.  I slowly loosened up my hands, relaxed a little in my seat, and gave myself permission to join the masses in cheering for the team.  Our team.  The lady behind me repeated over and over “To the goal!  To the goal!” until her accented voice echoed through my head.  Although I wasn’t verbalizing what she was yelling, I focused hard and willed the ball to make its way down to the other side of the court.  I watched my green jerseyed boy out run all the other kids, push hard, uninhibited and unafraid.  Every time he made a good play he would turn around and look in the bleachers and make eye contact with me.  I smiled.  I waved.  I whispered him happy thoughts of how proud I was of the way he was playing.  Every kid had someone in the stand cheering just for them.  I was his cheerleader.

The summer has ended and I am slowly getting my feet wet again with foster care.  I can’t help but be involved.  I think about the faces and the names and the stories of kids I haven’t even met yet.  I know the need is great.  So when I got a call to do a five day respite for a little 7 year old boy I was thrilled.  This was the perfect chance to get plugged back in without over committing myself.  Every kid that has ever stepped foot in my house has been ordained by God.  I believe that with my whole heart.  I prayerfully consider each placement.  I have turned down dozens of opportunities to serve.  I listen and wait for God to say, “This one.”  And when I hear Him speak, I say, “Yes.”  I have had a 5 year old, a 13 year old, an 8 year old, and a 17 year old.  I had my two sweet long term placement kids.  I had the 7 year old this weekend.  Three boys, four girls.   White, Hispanic, black.  Kids that have been abused, neglected, or orphaned.  Quiet ones and ones that wouldn’t stop talking.  And each and every time it has been beautiful.  God has clearly put our paths together for the time I took care of them.  This little boy was no different.  He needed me and I needed him this weekend.  Our lives weaved perfectly together for the time he stayed with me.  I got to see how incredible he is.  He’s really good at Math, loves to learn new things, is incredibly helpful and independent.  He is strong willed but sweet.  He talks a lot but likes to hear my stories too.  He is goofy and affectionate and amazing.

I want every kid that steps foot in my door to know how fearfully and wonderfully made they truly are.  I think when God created each one of these children, He celebrated.  He maybe even threw a party.  He celebrated the things that make them unique and their characteristics that set them apart.  He knew their stories and where they would go.  I believe He celebrated when they took their first breath and I believe with all my heart that God has not stopped cheering for them yet.

So when I watch a kid in a green jersey run down the court, kicking a black and white ball, tripping over his two left feet, I don’t just cheer for the game.  I don’t just long for him to make a goal or for the team to win.  I don’t just want him to show good sportsmanship or block the ball from going in the wrong goal.  I cheer for him.  Because he’s amazing.  And even if I’m the only one who ever does, I want him to know he is worth being cheered for.  All the way to the final Goal.

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Consider the Mushrooms

Yesterday afternoon I had my first adventure ziplinning through the mountains, air blowing through my hair at 40 miles per hour, watching trees disappear below me, my shadow racing through the valley.  It was exciting.  Exhilarating.  Freeing to hang above the world and watch the smallness of my surroundings fade away.  Up in the canopy of trees there was stillness.  A peaceful air of solitude.  There was nothing else around us.  My sister, me, and our two tour guys.  The guys smelled of nature; the sweet mixture of trees and river and breeze.  So natural if they stood still long enough they would’ve grown roots and sprouted buds of green.  We walked along trails of mud and moss, climbed up trees, and sat swinging back and forth on a sky bridge suspended over the earth.  It was magical.  As we walked along our guides chattered about the land, the history of the plants, and the origins of the species we walked among.  One of our guides, Nick, spent most of his time picking mushrooms off the path, finding them beneath fallen limbs and under the growth of rattlesnake plants and Christmas ferns.  He plucked them up and held them tenderly in his hand like they were old friends.  He knew all their details.  He talked in scientific terms about their common names and specific names, each species and how each was unique.  The yellow ones were sticky and attracted bugs to help spread its spores; the brown ones were cupped up like a birdbath to hold water.  There were mushrooms turned down like umbrellas and ones that lactated when you broke them in half.  We must’ve seen and touched and learned about over 20 different mushrooms.  Nick showed us the details of the underside of the mushrooms, how they flaked apart and how they worked to bring nutrition to other plants that crept upon the forest floor.  He talked about how quickly they grow, which mushrooms you can eat and those that you should avoid.  With each twist of the path we learned how they tasted, what part of Asia they came from and which mushrooms were native to America.  I grew up in the woods and must’ve walked past each of these species a hundred times and I never noticed them.  If they were large or bright blue, I may have given them a second glance, but for the most part, I walked right on past them.  How many did I step on?  How many grazed my leg as I strolled down to our childhood creek?  How many colors and shapes and types did I miss out on?  I had no idea what existed in the tiny details of a mushroom.  Until yesterday.

So this morning I woke up thinking about mushrooms.  I dreamed about them and saw them in my sleep.  I heard Nick’s voice echoing the knowledge he spent years studying in college.  Mushrooms have been on my mind all day.  It’s almost humorous, really.  Something so simple, something that I used to consider gross.  A fungi.  Who would’ve thought they had so much to offer, so many lessons to teach?  I think about the lilies of the field in all their splendor and beauty, and how in tune God is to their details and I contrast that with the mushrooms and think about the bigness of God and how incredible it is that He took so much time to create fungi that grow clustered around dead branches and under decomposing earth.  He created all the species, all their particulars, all their details.  Each one unique and special and created with an actual purpose.  Mushrooms.

God cares about mushrooms.

And if God cares about mushrooms that feed off of rubbish and are so temporary and insignificant in the grand scheme of the world, how much more must He cherish and love and pay attention to the details of the humans He so lovingly created?  He created the underbelly of a ground-dwelling saprotroph, how much more has He paid attention to the details He added in when He created us: the color of our eyes, the shape of our noses, our height and color of our hair.  He knit us together so beautifully.  Each personality unique.  Each physical feature different enough that each one of us carries around our own set of DNA, our own set of fingerprints.  In our three hour hike around Asheville I didn’t see a single mushroom that exactly matched another mate.  Each was so unique.  I look around the room where I sit typing up the lessons I learned in the hills of North Carolina and I marvel at how intimately involved God was when He chose the mold to form each person around me.  Tall.  Brunet.  Blond.  Loud.  Quirky.  Each one unique.

How many years have I struggled with feeling insignificant?  How many times have I shied away from public or social settings because I was afraid I wasn’t special enough; afraid my particulars didn’t match up with those around me?  How utterly silly it seems now as I sit thinking of mushrooms.  But now when I start to doubt God has a plan, when I wonder if He made a mistake when He created me with the way He did, I will no longer consider the lilies of the field that are here today and gone tomorrow.  I will consider the mushrooms.  And I will smile.

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