Category : Humility

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.

Kid Triathlon 2016-24

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

Kid Triathlon 2016-26

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

Kid Triathlon 2016-18

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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The back of church pews
Conversion, Forgiveness, Grace, Humility
0

Modeling Humility

Looking for a resolution you can stick to in the New Year?  How about modeling humility?

You know how most Catholics prefer to sit toward the back third of the Church?  Not my family; we sit in the front pew.  For one thing, the pew at the front is almost always available.  For another, it helps my kids (and me) pay attention when we can actually see what’s going on.  The problem, as you might imagine, is that the boys behavior is on public display.

As this post is about modeling humility–not perfectly behaved children at Mass–I’d like to make it clear: we don’t have that good-behavior thing down.  I’ve made two-steps-forward, one-step-back progress with regards to Church-behavior, but we are far from having “arrived.”

Two-Steps Forward

  1. I finally realized that growling whispered threats between pursed lips to SIT-STILL-AND-BE-QUIET was probably not helping them to develop a positive attitude toward Mass.  So I changed my language: Everything we say and do at Mass needs to show respect and reverence to God.
  2. I encourage my boys to use the Magnifikid or the Missalette to follow the Readings as well as all the rest of the Mass prayers.  Because participation shows reverence and respect.

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A Joyful Heart
Advent, Humility, Joy
0

Preparing, Waiting, and Joy

I love how life teaches me about faith.

Advent is about waiting and preparation.  I know that.  I knew that.  Except I didn’t really get it until the year I was pregnant.  That was the year I encountered the blessed waiting of Advent as an expectant mother in her first trimester.

Up till then, my “preparations” were focused on gift-giving and party-attending.  Don’t get me wrong – I planned, prepared, and purchased gifts from the heart.  I organized Christmas caroling at the nursing home for my high school students.  I participated in Giving Trees.  It wasn’t that I was self-centered and materialistic… I just didn’t get the whole waiting and preparation thing.

But that Advent when I was pregnant with my first child, I sat at Church one Sunday, ever-so-aware of how nauseated I felt, ever-so-aware of the little life growing inside me, and ever-so-in-awe of the path that lie ahead. Preparation wasn’t about nursery colors, registries, and baby names.  It was about preparing our lives–and our marriage–to receive and raise a child.
New Born Alex

Fast forward nine years.  I thought I knew what waiting and preparation were about.  And then, on December 1st, the day after the First Sunday of Advent, my husband came home with the news that he was being furloughed.  Furloughed is not unemployed; you technically keep your job but aren’t allowed to work until the company can afford to pay you.  He’s an aerospace engineer, working for a company contracted by NASA… How long would the furlough last?  Until contracts were signed and there were funds to pay for his position.  Possibly in a day or so… possibly 4-5 weeks.

So we waited… and hoped… and prayed.

In the waiting, there was an absurd amount questioning (particularly second guessing financial decisions and employment possibilities) and the awareness of a humbling loss of control.  From day to day there would be a glimmer of hope, and then a “no.”  A lot of uncertainty.

Through it all, I was struck by a deep sense of perspective.  We faced temporary unpaid leave.  Many are in the midst of long-term unemployment.  Others face terminal illnesses or a tragic loss of a loved one.  Sure, we’d rather not be in this situation, but it could definitely be worse.

This past Friday, after two weeks of uncertainty, Peter went in to work for a meeting and then used up the last of his paid leave.  There was one more glimmer of hope: his company had won a contract with three-persons-worth-of-work, but it was a matter of waiting to see if they would assign it to him.

Sure enough, the answer came Saturday night while we were at his boss’s house for a Christmas party.  Praise God, Peter was assigned to part of that new project and could return to work on Monday.  Awash in joy, I couldn’t wait to share the news!
Back To Work Post

The next morning was the Third Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday, which is Latin for joy!  We light the pink candle and remember to be joyful.  Let me tell you, joy radiated from within, and it felt incredible!

Children seem to dabble in joy so easily, especially at Christmas; adults seem to struggle with stress, especially at Christmas.

We really do need that pink candle to remind us to be joyful.

Well, with this good news, I was determined to be joyful!

To be honest, although I had been setting aside money from Criagslisting old toys, I was hesitant to do any Christmas shopping until I knew whether we might need those funds in other ways.  So between Amazon and all the other stores for all the other things, I’ve been buying gifts this week.  It’s a little crazy out there.  It’s tempting to forget joy and embrace stress… after all, everyone else is doing it.

So every day this week, in the midst of every errand, I find myself pausing in reflective prayer: I am so thankful for the opportunity to do this. I choose joy.

 I invite you to do the same: choose joy!

  • How has your life taught you about faith recently?

  • How can you choose joy this week?

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Mirror on the Wall
Conversion, Humility, Life, Metanoia, Transformation
1

Vanity of Vanities = First World Problems

So one of the things I love about living in my neighborhood is that we can bike–as a family–to Church, to friends houses, to the pool, to my husband’s work.
Biking to Swim Practice

Sunday morning at 9:45am. I’m all excited that we’re actually walking out the door with plenty of time to bike the 1/2 mile and get to the 10 o’clock Mass without rushing.  Everyone has bike helmets on, I’m loading stuff into my basket, and my husband grimly tells me that my front tire has a hole in the tube.

So we walked.  Quickly.  In the Houston heat and humidity. And got to Mass at 9:59am. Sweaty, but on time.

First World Problems.

The first time I heard the phrase “First World Problems” was on FaceBook, in a meme.

first-world-problems

I didn’t know it was a meme.  I read the shallow complaints common to American society and flipped out.  [Me: THESE ARE NOT PROBLEMS!] A couple of FaceBook friends gently explained that it was an expression and what it meant.

First World Problems, also known as “White Whine,” are frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries. It is typically used as a tongue-in-cheek comedic device to make light of trivial inconveniences.*

A couple of weeks ago, my Mom explained that she heard the phrase for the first time.  It changed things for her: How privileged am I to have THESE problems?

So when I heard the readings today – readings I have heard a gazillion times before – I felt like I was being called out on something.

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,
vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!
Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill,
and yet to another who has not labored over it,
he must leave property.
This also is vanity and a great misfortune.
For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart
with which he has labored under the sun?
All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation;
even at night his mind is not at rest.
This also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23)

The word vanity translates as “breath” or “vapor,” as in breath of breath or vapor of vapors.  Designating something that lacks substance, in effect, meaning “nothing of nothing-ness.”

First World Problems.

Though I was disappointed that we couldn’t bike to Church–and that I’ll have to buy a new tube to fix the tire–I was fully aware that this wasn’t a real problem. I take a look at my FaceBook feed… and I see a lot of complaining about things that aren’t really problems.  It’s so easy to complain.  Too easy.  And all too often, I join in the misery.

Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

I read the book A Complaint Free World a while ago… I love the theory (complaining less; appreciating more).  I also recently lost a dear friend to cancer… there’s nothing quite like watching your friend’s newly widowed husband having to care for three kids under the age of nine to put things in perspective for you.

There’s a lot of things that we expend our time, energy, money, and effort worrying about that really don’t matter.

Brothers and sisters:
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
Colossians 3:1-2

Throughout Scripture, Jesus calls us to conversion.  The Greek word is metanoia.  A change in our whole being; a transformation grounded in repentance.  Metanoia is less about rejecting earthly things and more about recognizing what really matters.

What if, instead of complaining about things that don’t really matter, we saw each inconvenience as an opportunity to embrace something new.  Or simply thought “How privileged am I to have these problems?”

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. (Ps 95:7-8)

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Harvesting grapes
Humility, Scripture, Suffering, Transformation
9

A Worker in the Vineyard

Think about a time in your own life when you were pretty much at your (emotional/spiritual) rock-bottom low.  What insight did you gain about life and faith from that difficult time?  How did that insight come about?  Who or what helped make that happen?

My own lowest-low time came when I was 24 years old.  Just three weeks short of what would have been my first wedding anniversary, my spouse never came home one evening, which in itself was significant, but it was a pressing concern because we had plans to drive to his sister’s for an overnight visit.  Upon returning close to midnight, he casually responded to an offhand remark I made by revealing that he didn’t want to be married, had never wanted to get married, and thought we should just “break-up.”

And just like that, life as I knew it changed forever.  Once I recovered from the shock and came to understand that there was no chance of reconciling, I picked up the shattered pieces of my life and vowed to learn, fix, heal, and ultimately become a better, stronger, and more whole person.

One of the most difficult pieces of this process was coming to terms with my own Crisis of Faith.  I was a theology teacher—teaching New Testament Scripture to high school sophomores—at the time.  I had a Bachelor’s degree in theology.  I was not only committed to my Catholic, Christian faith, but I had specific, poignant conversations with my estranged spouse during our 17 month engagement about the Sacrament of Marriage, about the Covenant which we would be entering into, and about how divorce was not an option.  Not for me, anyhow.

An excellent therapist helped me dissect the unhealthy dynamics and patterns which led to this whole situation, but I was still left with the God question:

I had responded to God’s call to be a teacher of faith.
I had given my life to God.
How could God have allowed this to happen to me?

broodingWhen I returned to my classroom after taking a week off to get my head together, I told my students that I was “going through a difficult time,” which was an understatement, but it was all that I could muster.  It was incredibly difficult to be teaching about the faith when I was so very angry, confused, hurt, and broken in my own relationship with God.

So it was in this context when I happened to assign a Critical Thinking Reflection on the “Workers in the Vineyard” parable (Matthew 20:1-16).

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.   Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’  So they went off.  And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.  Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’  He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ Grapes in a Vineyard When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.  And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you.  Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  Take what is yours and go.  What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?  Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?   Are you envious because I am generous?’  Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

As I facilitated a class discussion with the 15 year olds, one kid raised his hand and earnestly asked:

I just don’t understand how this is fair.  How can it be ok to give the same amount to all-day workers and those that only worked an hour?

Still a novice teacher at the time, instead of prompting him to think it through or asking other classmates to respond, I sought to answer his question directly.  And when I did, I heard the truth that God was trying to speak to me come out of my own mouth:

The workers think they “deserve” something more because of their efforts, but that’s not how God works.  We don’t earn it.  God’s Kingdom is offered to us, and we either say yes or no.   God loves, gives, and forgives with generosity. 

Or are you envious because God is generous?

The kid paused for a moment and said “Hmm, I never thought about it like that”.  And there I am standing in front of a class of 36 students, apparently continuing to facilitate a discussion, thinking to myself, “Me neither, kid… me neither”.

How could God have allowed this to happen to me?

Yep.  I thought I “deserved something more” because of my efforts.  I couldn’t believe I actually had a sense of entitlement.  With God.

The last will be first and the first will be last.

It’s like when we were in elementary school and would race to be first in line (for almost everything).  There was actually a sense of superiority that being first had for those at the front.  As an adult, I see how juvenile the need to be first was; I mean we’d all be going to the same place.  I can imagine how frustrated God must get with us for fixating on this juvenile need, and then getting all irate at the perceived injustice of someone “cutting in line.”

With greater humility, I began to look at my situation, which was honestly the consequence of actions.  God’s care, concern, and presence enveloped me in the network of support from friends and family.

Just as my divorce and annulment were a turning point in my personal journey, this insight from the “Workers in the Vineyard” parable was a turning point in my faith.

This was my story.  This was my insight.  This was my process.  How about you?

And so I conclude as I began: 


  • Think about a difficult time in your own life. 
  • What insight did you gain about life and faith from that difficult time? 
  • How did that insight come about? 
  • Who or what helped make that happen?


“Harvesting Grapes © Depositphotos.com/Bunyos30″

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