Category : Action

Kid Triathlon Finish Banner
Action, Grace, Hope, Human Dignity, Humility, Joy, Leadership, Life, Love
0

Going the Distance: On Heartbreak, Hope, and Love

My kids, ages 8 and 9 1/2, were registered to do their third Kids-Triathlon.

Kids Tri 2014

First Tri in 2014

Kids Tri 2015

Second Tri in 2015

And then three weeks before the race this year, my youngest, Max, broke his arm (for the second time in 8 months–this time while playing the-floor-is-lava).

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He was disappointed that he couldn’t do the tri, but understood.  There were tears, but Max has a positive, fun, jovial disposition.  While others might sulk, he had a moment of sad, then moved on to joking and cheering… until the night before the race, when he started to cry.  Overcome with disappointment, he cried, “I weally wanted to do this twiathlon…”
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I had a choice: I could tell him to simply chin-up and deal with the consequences of his broken arm, I could join him in his devastation and call off his brother’s tri, or I could meet him with compassion and find a way to help him work through it.

It was heart-breaking.  But Max embraced his role, cheering his brother and their friends on.  We prayed.  Others prayed, and he cheered his friends on.  You never would have known Max was the least bit upset.

Kid Triathlon 2016-5

Alex, my oldest, started his race as expected: confident, nervous, excited.

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His 100 yard breast stroke was steady through the cold waters of the freshly drawn pool.  

Kid Triathlon 2016-9

He ran through transition with a double dimpled smile, blowing a kiss as he ran by.

He sped out of transition on his bike with confidence.  

Kid Triathlon 2016-11

And we eagerly waited his return…

After a while I knew something was wrong; it was taking too long.

Finally Max spotted him off in the distance.

As Alex got closer, he was going too slow.  My Mom-Spidey-Senses were going off and I ran towards him.  

Kid Triathlon 2016-15

Tears streaming, Alex wailed that his chain had been broken for the whole, entire 3 mile bike.  It had fallen off three times; a volunteer helped fix it the first two, but not the third time.  So he had to walk/scoot it in, incredibly frustrating and costing him buckets of time.

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Crying, he ran his bike through the end of the course, into transition.

Disappointed, Alex started his run strong… but the frustration overcame him and he began to just walk, crying.

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Tingling Spidey-Mom-Senses, I see my son.  He hasn’t given up.  He’s discouraged, but he hasn’t given up.

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All he can see is the failure.  The failure to accomplish the bike as he knew he could.

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He couldn’t see the tenacity.  He couldn’t see the determination.  He couldn’t see the strength.

Kid Triathlon 2016-19

He could only feel the pain and disappointment, which were real… which were huge.

Kid Triathlon 2016-20

I saw my son cross the finish line against all odds.  But I couldn’t cry with pride, because he was simply devastated.

Kid Triathlon 2016-21

So I took him by the hand and walked him over to his coach.  A multiple Ironman, multiple ultra-marathon (100 mile) finisher, who coached kids at the YMCA for free, just to share his love of the sport.  A grandfather, who loves kids as much as he loves the sport… who is one of the best examples of coaching that this professional educator has ever witnessed in her life.

Kid Triathlon 2016-22

And this Ironman Coach Grandpa explains to Alex that his determination to finish–that he didn’t just give up–was one of the most inspirational things he had ever seen.

Still, Alex couldn’t understand.  Still, Alex couldn’t comprehend.  So Coach Grandpa asked if he could take a picture and post his story on Facebook.  Because he was certain that there were other Triathletes that would find inspiration from this 9 year old.
Kid Triathlon 2016-23

We packed up and headed home.  And I insisted that Alex read the comments on Coach Grandpa and my own Facebook posts.  For some reason, when he started to read the comments of strangers who were moved by the fact that he still finished the race, things started to shift for him.  “Wow.”

Why is it that we doubt the words of those who love us, but accept the words of those we don’t know?

Regardless, those words were heard.  The affirmations of strangers were heard.  The encouragement of his Coach was heard.  And Alex started to look at his Triathlon in a new light.

Where he once saw failure, he started to see determination.

Where he once saw frustration, he started to see success.

And I finally let myself cry, but not for hurt, or pain, or disappointment.  Rather for pride.

What may have been my son’s worst experience ever may have been the proudest Mom-moment of my life.

Because he finished.

Not because he won, but because he didn’t give up.  He finished.

My son faced adversity, felt the full brunt of it, and said to himself, “I could quit, but it’s only another 1/2 mile.  I can make it.”

And he did.  He finished.

There are so many lessons I take from this experience.

  • From Max who at 8 years old allowed himself to feel intense disappointment, yet didn’t let it consume him… rather, he chose to cheer on his friends.
  • From Alex, my tenacious 9 1/2 year old, who didn’t give up.
  • From perfect strangers who not only found inspiration from Alex’s story, but who took the time to applaud his tenacity.
  • From a man who volunteers his time, talent, and treasure to help kids find success with and develop a love of his sport.
  • From my husband who sees the moments of real, in-the-trenches-mothering, applauds them, and captures them on film.

When Jesus said to love one another as I have loved you… this is what he meant.  Yes, my kid did a great job at overcoming adversity, but he wouldn’t have been able to do it without you and me. When Jesus said “whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me,” this is part of that.

As a Mom, when I love my kid in his time of need, I’m being Christ to him.  As a community, when you reach out to someone with encouragement and love, you’re being Christ to him.  You are loving one another as Christ loved us.

This is it.  Right here, right now.  And we did it.  He finished.  And he’s proud because of you.  So thank you.

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Family Mission
Action, Life
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Intentionally Living Out Your Values

In this Season of Advent–as many families are preparing for Christmas–there have been a few families that have made some big, intentional decisions about how they will celebrate this season.

There’s one with what’s called a “click-bait” title that you may have seen (click-bait means it’s an intentionally provocative title that baits you to click and read) called: Why My Husband and I Cancelled Christmas.” It was picked up by both the Today Show and the Washington Post.  Despite the title, it’s a good article: the parents decided to reject the cultural consumerism of the secular holiday season and instead, focus on service to others.  Their biggest motivator in doing so was battling the sense of entitlement that they have begun to notice in their children.

Then, in “The Secret to an Intentional Christmas,” Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diaries reflected on a conversation she had on her Sirius XM radio show with another Catholic-mom-blogger, Kendra about her post “Seven Reasons My Kids Don’t Need Toys This Christmas.”

What I love about what Kendra is doing is that she’s questioning key cultural assumptions about what it means to celebrate this season — even some of our most deeply-entrenched assumptions, like the idea that there should be toys under the Christmas tree.

Emboldened by her example, I’ve started to look at every single thing we typically do during Advent and Christmas, and I ask myself two questions:

  1. Do we really have to do this?
  2. Does doing this reflect the values that are most important to us as a family?

I talked to Kendra on my radio show about this this week, and one of the interesting things that came from the discussion was the realization that you can’t choose activities that reflect your family’s values if you haven’t taken the time to clarify what your family’s values are in the first place.

Let’s say that again: you can’t choose activities that reflect your family’s values if you haven’t taken the time to clarify what your family’s values are in the first place.

Before we married, before we had kids, both my husband and I read Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  While we had found its insights useful in our professional and personal relationships, the application of Seven Habits to our family is worth noting.  Putting the first three habits into practice—being proactive, writing a mission statement, and prioritizing our time, efforts, and energy—made a tremendous difference in focusing us into the kind of family we want to be, and the kind of children we want to raise.  In a word, it helps us be intentional.

Our family mission statement began as a list of words that reflect our values: love, respect, responsibility, learning, playfulness, fun, joy, quality family time, creativity, passion, care, generosity, integrity, gratitude, forgiveness, compassion, service, and communication.  In and through each of these values—guiding and sustaining them—is faith and hope.

At first we brainstormed our list at the dinner table, transcribing them with a sharpie onto a piece of scrapbook paper. 
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Initially the boys were too young to really participate in the conversation, but as we have added to the group of words over time, the boys have also contributed to the mission statement. By working on it together, we make sure it reflects all of us.  Eventually I painted the words on a canvas with a nice background. 
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Our family mission statement hangs in our dining room, reminding us of who we are and how we will be with each other and the world around us.

As different negative, unhealthy behaviors come up, we have pointed to our family mission statement and reminded the boys that’s not who we are; that’s not what we are about.

Likewise, the Family Mission Statement reminds us that we are committed to playfulness and fun, so we are sure to make time to play a family game, or go on a bike ride to the park, or drive over to the Kemah Boardwalk and ride the roller coaster.

Try it: grab a sharpie and a piece of pretty paper.  At dinner, talk with your family–or your spouse or yourself–about what your guiding values are.

The next step is to put it into practice and make sure that how you spend your time, efforts, and energy reflect your values.

  • Have you given thought to expressing what your values are?
  • What is one way that you practice living out your values on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?
  • What is one thing you could do this week to be more focused on living according to your values?

 

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Figurines Hugging
Action, Calling, Love
0

Give Some Love

You know how timing is everything?

One night last week I was working on Sacrament prep with my younger son, Max.  The lesson, “God Loves Us,” asked him to identify some of the ways different people in his life help and love him.  Then, it asked him to identify some of the ways he offers help and love to others.  It was a good, simple 2nd Grade exercise, but it didn’t make that explicit connection back to the lesson title.  So we talked about it:

“Do you see what’s happening here?  God expresses his love for us through other people.  When you feel loved by someone, they’re helping God out by delivering that love.  When you offer love and help to others, you’re helping God out by delivering that love.  Sometimes God tugs on your heart and fills you with love, or care, or concern for someone… and you have a choice to either help God out and give some love or just ignore it.  Did you know that’s how God works?”

Max scrunched up his face as he thought for a moment, and then smiled and said, “Well, I didn’t know it, but it makes a lot of sense.”

It turns out that our Sacrament prep conversation occurred on the evening of St. Teresa of Avila’s Feast Day.  The prayer attributed to St. Teresa, “Christ Has No Body But Yours,” touches upon this theme of God relying upon us to help and love others.

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Making that connection between the idea of God’s love for us and our role in making that happen is important at any age.

Fast forward a couple of hours, and later that night, instead of making the kids’ lunches, I sat on the floor of my office and packed up 70 copies of Continuing the Journey to ship out to 35 different parishes in the Houston area.  (Yay book sales!)  So I went to bed promising to do lunches in the morning, even though I know that’s never a good idea. When I awoke with a viscous head cold, I decided to sleep in a little later, drop the kids at school, and then make and deliver those lunches by 11:30. Plenty of time!

Except before I went over to school, I stopped at the Post Office.  Turns out it takes a lot longer to mail 35 packages than I expected.  Turns out that I really should have either pre-paid or made an appointment.

All this to say that I was a little late in delivering the lunches… so late that I needed to walk them up to the boys’ classroom.  When I entered, I saw that my 8 year old son, Alex was sitting next to his teacher (never a good sign), who tells me, “We’re working on calming down.”

I take one look at Alex’s face and see the swollen, puffy red splotches around his eyes.  It was one of those “one-too-many-things-went-wrong” situations, but all he could focus on was this little plastic shoe lace lock thing that broke.

“Honey, I’m about to run some errands; do you want me to stop at Academy and pick you up a new shoe lace thing?”

A very sad, but relieved “Yeah…” came out.

“Actually, Alex, would you want to come with me?”  (I look at his teacher and she nods in agreement.)  “You could eat your lunch in the car, take some time to calm down, and you can come back to school later.”

“Okay.”  And he put his little hand in mine as we walked out.

We have an expression in our male-dominated, engineer-brain, intense-personality house, which is simply “I need some love.”  Whether a person is sad or frustrated or feeling down or lonely or simply feeling cuddley, “I need some love is a request that is always honored.  It’s a stop-what-you’re-doing and be fully present to a full-body hug.  Thus far it has also involved the boys crawling into my lap.  This expression gets adapted to question form: “Do you need some love?” as well as a statement that accompanies a bear hug: “I just want to give you some love.”

So as we walked out of the school building towards the car, I picked him up into a bear hug so I could give him some love.  We got into the car and pulled out of the parking lot.

“Alex, I want you to know that if you’re ever having a difficult day, it’s always ok to call me and tell me that you just need some love.  I will always do my best to be there for you.”

This made him cry even more, so I pulled the car over, he climbed into the front seat, and I just gave him some more love.

“Aside from your shoe, can you tell me some of the other things that happened to make it such a frustrating day?”

Alex is not the most verbally expressive kid, so I only got a few garbled pieces in a very high pitched voice, but one tidbit stood out.  When he had started to get emotional at school, one of the younger children in their mixed aged class called Alex a cry-baby, and then denied doing so when confronted.  Alex was most upset by the injustice of it all: Together, the students had created, agreed to, and and signed a Class Constitution that explicitly stated they are to show compassion to one another (not make fun of each other).

He was too upset to talk about it any more, so I gave some love and we went about running errands, fixing shoe lace locks, and stopping by a Starbucks to pick up a kid-hot-chocolate (which is a super-small serving at a kid-friendly “warm-chocolate” temperature).

Later in the afternoon, I told him about why I was so late to drop off the lunches–it took a lot longer to mail 35 packages than I thought.  But instead of the Post Office being a thorn, it turned out to be my rose.  If it wasn’t for this unexpected delay, I wouldn’t have been so late in dropping off the lunches that I needed to walk into his classroom at that moment and see him.  I wouldn’t have been there at exactly the right moment to give some love.

“You know Alex, last night when Max and I did Sacrament prep, we talked about something that relates to this.  You know that God loves us, right?  Well, the way God helps us experience that love is through one another.  God knew you really needed some love today, so He took advantage of my delay and put me in the right place at the right time.  God sent you love through me.  God gave me the opportunity to love you, and of course I said yes!

That’s how God works.  When someone is upset or in need of help (or could just use some love), God tugs at your heart and asks you to help.  You have three choices:

  1. You can ignore it, which kinda hurts God’s feelings.
  2. You can be mean to the person, which really hurts God’s feelings.
  3. Or you can give love, which really helps God out.

And that’s the thing that’s so upsetting about [your younger classmate].  He saw that you were upset and instead of offering love or compassion, he chose to be hurtful.

I hope that the next time you see someone who is upset, you’ll remember how important it is to offer love.”

The reality is that this dynamic of giving and needing love presents itself to us every day.  Sometimes it’s obvious: your child is visibly upset and you have a unique opportunity to respond.  Sometimes it’s more subtle: a friend crosses your mind while you shower and you find yourself suddenly filled with gratitude for their presence in your life.

It’s at these times–both the obvious and the subtle–that God is tugging on our hearts and asking us to help Him shower His people with love.


  • How do we respond to this tug?  By ignoring it? By lashing out against it? Or by offering love?


Free hugs by Hien Nguyen licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Do not forget reminder
Action, Article, Faith, Love, Scripture, Service
0

Help Me Remember

The last week of August is the first week of school in our area.  The Friday before school started, the boys and I returned from four weeks of traveling and visiting family (New York, New England, China, and Malaysia… including the rides to and from the airports, the trip home took 42 hours).  We spent the first week of school recovering from jet lag and readjusting to home, schedules, and packing lunches.   Things were chaotic and everyone was exhausted, but we were slowly-but-surely finding our way back to normal.

Mid-morning Thursday on that first week of school, my sister called with an urgent request.  Laurie is the Executive Coordinator for both SafePlace (an organization focused on ending sexual and domestic violence through safety, healing, prevention and social change) and Austin Children’s Services (ACS offers protection and healing to children who have experienced abuse and neglect).

ACS has received eight children this week, and our clothing closet is empty.  Three brothers came in late last night with nothing but the clothes on their backs…and they are going to be here for a while.  Do you have any clothes that you could donate for these three boys?  We need size 3T/4T and size 5/6, as well as size 9 shoes.
Sorting through clothes to make a donation was not on my to-do list.  It wasn’t even on my radar.  But I didn’t even hesitate; of course we can help!  We live in Houston and were planning to visit Austin for the weekend.  I had a little over 24 hours.  As I went through the closets and bins of clothes, I found a lot of 5/6 clothes but I had already passed the 3T/4T on to my nephews.

So I reached out to five local friends who also had boys.  Not one hesitated.  Every single one of them found something to donate – with apologies: “sorry it couldn’t be more…”  The generosity was overwhelming.  We barely had room in the trunk for our luggage.

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  • Recall a time when you were asked to help someone in need.  What happened?

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23:50
Action, Evangelization, Faith, Grace, Life
2

Stuck at the Gate? or Open to Grace.

You know how when you attend a retreat, your heart is brimming with peace, love and joy?  …how you are swimming in an awareness of God’s grace?

Grace is the free and undeserved help that God gives us (CCC, 1996).

Well, for the retreat I attended, I had just written a book on how to continue that retreat experience—Continuing the Journey—and distributed it to my first group of readers.  I was not only on that retreat-high, I was on the precipice of a new chapter in my life.

And I was exhausted.  But it was that good kind of tired where the adrenaline starts to fade and your entire body begins to relax.  And there was all that grace.


Grace is a participation in the life of God (CCC, 1997).

Bonus: at the conclusion of the retreat, I headed to the airport to join my family in the Adirondacks for a vacation.  It was the first of four weeks of traveling to visit family; Upstate NY, then Boston/New England, then China, then Malaysia.

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