Thursday, March 31, 2011

Our Brothers' Wives

I grew up going to public school and yet somehow I didn't realize that I had been terribly sheltered from the world until I reached the seventh grade. We weren't permitted to listen to most radio stations or watch MTV so my knowledge of music mostly centered around Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith. I thought I was listening to "rap" music when I heard the fast part of Rich Mullin's "Awesome God."I still remember wandering the aisles at Blockbuster searching for those so-called "music videos" I had heard people talking about. Today, when people talk about the "New Kids on the Block" (which happens more often than you'd think), I always have to hang my head in shame and admit that they were before my time.

This lack of knowledge presented a bit of a problem when my homework assignment for drama class was to lip sinc to any song of our choosing. I loved Amy Grant but I knew she wasn't cool. Since my older, cooler sister was allowed to listen to KIIS FM even though the DJ was called "the nasty man", I asked her for help. This is the story of when I learned that my cool, older sister was just as sheltered and dorky as I.

She thought she was helping me. She thought she was giving me a cool song. She gave me "You're the Inspiration" by Chicago. Yeah. She did.

What's worse is the fact that I had to choreograph motions to the song and then perform them for a grade in front of 50 of my classmates. If I had been cooler, I would've cared less about my grade and not stressed about the assignment. But a B on any assignment was unacceptable so I threw myself into creating the perfect motions and gestures. I would dance in my underwear on stage if I had to in order to get an A. Don't worry, I did NOT dance in my underwear.

I wish the day of that performance wasn't still so engrained in my memory. I remember about half the class chose songs by Green Day. I had never heard of this "Basket Case" but was certain it was just as popular as "You're the Inspiration."

I wanted to dress special for the occasion and wear the perfect shirt. I debated between my go-to "Big Dogs" t-shirt or my large, purple "Messiah" shirt but finally opted to borrow one of Heidi's since she was teaching me all about cool. So with confidence and Heidi's oversized, green flannel, I strutted across the stage and lip sang my heart out. Everyone else did a few self-conscious hand motions. I used the whole stage. I knew what it would take to get an A and by golly, I got my A. I didn't get the applause I had been expecting, though. And I later learned that no one had ever heard of Chicago. Turns out they had been popular in the early 80's but it was the mid-90's now and only the teacher had ever heard of the song, "You're the Inspiration."

Heidi dedicated that song to me at her wedding. Everyone thought it was a sweet, meaningful dedication and were probably confused as to why I was blushing and laughing and shaking my head at her.

Along with our sheltered upbringing, dorkiness, and appreciation for Steven Curtis Chapman, my sister and I also share a tendency to worry about our younger brothers. Somehow they weren't nearly as sheltered or naivee or dorky as Heidi and I. I still remember tattling on Travis when I heard him say the "F" word. I cried in my room listening to him get his mouth washed with soap. Then in high school, Heidi showed me a clove she had found in Trent's car. I cried about that too. Did we ever tell you about that, Trent? It was traumatizing.

Heidi and I were rule-followers but our brothers were not. So we spent a lot of time on our knees praying for Trent and Trav. They are two years younger than I am so when I was in college, my most fervent prayers were for them and the friends they would make in college. When they moved into the dorms their freshman year, my parents were on a cruise for their 30th wedding anniversary so Heidi, her husband and myself moved them in. We bought them all the supplies we thought they'd need to make friends and even tried to make a friend for Travis when we met a very nice boy in the cafeteria. (It didn't work out)

Then we met their roommates we had been praying for for so long and wondered if they were answers to our prayers. They were. We knew they would need to be surrounded by men of integrity, men who were funny and athletic but would seek after Christ. Their roommates turned out to be just such men who became life long friends.

A few years later, Heidi and I started praying for their future wives. These prayers were a bit more selfishly motivated since the wives they chose would become our sisters- so they had to be fun. We prayed for women who would be easy-going and goofy and love the Lord. We got just that. Travis married Emma three years ago and blessed Heidi and I with our first amazing sister-in-law.
Trav and Emma live at my parents' right now and last week I realized just how much Emma has been grafted into the family. I spent 8 hours in the living room with her, my dad, and my grandpa watching basketball games. I think we all took naps at some point and when I woke up, Emma was in the kitchen blending nasty vegetable drinks with my mom. Then a few days later, I returned to watch some more games (we don't have cable) and was confused when I walked in and the furniture was moved. Emma and my mom were hiding behind the wall and jumped out to scare me making me literally fall to the floor. They were doing a dance exercise video together and made me join them. (for the record, very few people will EVER see me do a dance exercise video. Sadly, I think even my mom has more rhythm than I do.) Emma is a better belcher than I (if you can believe it) and as we 'cut a rug' in the living room, she let them loose and I realized yet again that she truly has become part of the family.

Then last weekend Heidi, Emma and I threw a bridal shower for our soon-to-be sister-in-law, Teri. Since Trent had been living at my parents' until recently, we got to know Teri quite well as they dated. She was at our the infamous Easter Egg Hunt two years ago. I think she and Trent had just started dating but she clearly looks like she belongs in this sisters picture.
They continued to date and we started to hope, "Could this be it? Could she be the one?" She passed the test when we asked her to do the mud run with us
but I think she won me over when she proved she could and would cross her eyes with me
and wouldn't make a "cute" goofy face as so many girls do.
I have been a bridesmaid a number of times and have thrown quite a few showers but this was probably my favorite because it was thrown for my sister by us sisters. Heid and Emma are amazing at everything I suck at. They are crafty and creative and put so much thought and effort into planning everything that I honestly got a little annoyed. "Seriously, we're going to talk shower stuff AGAIN." But they planned everything down to the tiniest detail (they even found cute straws for goodness sake! I didn't know such a thing existed) that made this the best shower I've ever been a part of planning. I can brag about it because I really didn't have much to do with the planning at all. They'd ask my opinions for a while but when I just kept saying, "That sounds great" to everything, they stopped asking. Heidi posted pictures from the day here if you're interested.

On Heidi's blog she mentions that I cried when we were praying for Teri. Big surprise, I know. But it did surprise me because I wasn't the teensiest bit emotional until I closed my eyes. Before I could open my mouth the prayers from the past 10 years came flooding back to my memory and I realized this was the biggest answer to them all. God had provided.

I don't know why it continues to surprise me every time, but it does. I had worried so much about my brothers all those years as they wobbled on and off the straight and narrow. I had prayed so hard and shed so many tears for them and here He was again, reminding me of His faithfulness. He had provided Travis with the perfect woman for him. Truly, no one but Emma would be more perfect for Trav.

And now He was providing for Trent. I remembered that dreadful clove Heidi had found in his car all those years ago. And I remembered him coming to stay with me at Westmont when he was suspended from school. And I realized God was doing it again. He had provided Trent with Joe and Dave to get him through college; He had provided Jude as a brother in Christ on the police force with him; and now He was providing Teri. Trent can be a little you say, "difficult." We knew it was going to take someone special to put up with him, to encourage and uplift and comfort him. It would take a woman of strength who would not bend to his "pushiness" but also understanding- who would get his "tone of voice" that caused so many fights between the two of us while backpacking in Europe. Teri is both those things and more; she is fun and quirky and kind and competitive and is so obviously a perfect match for Trent. Though I confess I wasn't so sure when I first met her and she had a face piercing. Kidding Teri- I liked it:) Mom on the other hand...

I shake my head at myself for worrying so much about my brothers all those years. Yes, I should have been praying. But not worrying. Because God knew EXACTLY what my brothers needed; He knew exactly WHO they needed. And He provided.

This provision is what choked me up when I tried to pray. I was overwhelmed by a sense of His faithfulness. At the same time, I was painfully aware that I was supposed to open in prayer and my pause was getting awkwardly long. Ever aware of the awkwardness I create, I started my prayer before I had shoved down all that emotion welling up inside. I laughed at myself because I know I'm ridiculous with my tears but these were the best kind of tears. Mine was a prayer of thanks. I had my hand on Teri's hairy knee and knew I was touching a tangible answer to prayer. I kept it short because when I keep talking and crying at the same time I sound like I'm on helium, but I continued to feel the Spirit's peace as our family and Teri's friends thanked our great God and petitioned for His blessing on Trent and Teri's marriage.

This shower reminded me that we serve a great and mighty God who richly provides precisely what we need, precisely when we need it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Greater Good

My dad's team won the NAIA National championship last week. It was on ESPN so basically my dad's a celebrity. I can get you a signed picture if you want one.
The Hardeman living room was pretty comical during the game. Me, my brother, sister-in-law, and our parents' dog Nike all watched the game together, clapping and cheering wildly while also trying to jinx the other team. I have never been so nervous watching a basketball game.

When I was little and would watch my dad's high school boys' teams play, I would get so sick to my stomach in close games that I would either hide out in the bathroom for the last few minutes or bring a book and read to try to calm my nerves. I know. I was a weird kid. But I've always gotten nervous watching my dad's teams play because I want them to win so badly and can do absolutely nothing to help. I felt like I was back in second grade while watching this game and considered hiding out in the bathroom again since the game could have gone either way until the last few seconds.

While my heart was pounding out of control, my brother Travis was even more nervous. And when he gets nervous, he doesn't pull out a book or head to the toilets; he talks. He talks a lot. He talked to the girls on the floor, to the refs, to the dog- reprimanding poor Nikers for not paying closer attention and then to his wife- reprimanding poor Emma for jinxing APU. We Hardemans are big believers in the jinx and the counter jinx.

We are also big believers in each other. The announcers mentioned coach Hardeman's family several times- maybe it was because his soon-to-be daughter-in-law was cheering from the bench as an injured senior member of the team; maybe it was because his son-in-law was sitting right next to him as his assistant coach; maybe it was because his wife and daughter were some of the only APU fans in the gym yelling at the refs for him; maybe it was because his three grandsons played behind behind the bench, sometimes breaking free from Heidi and my mom and tapping players or my dad on the shoulder. Even us, the family members back in CA, got a shout-out from the announcers.

That victory was so sweet because we Hardemans, we grieve with each other and we celebrate with each other. And this night warranted quite the celebration for my dad. I cried a little watching them interview my dad after the game and seeing the joy radiating from his face.

There was another time though, a time not too long ago, when I cried for my dad for a very different reason. Those were not happy tears.

My dad is now the coach of a national championship team. A college team. A women's team. Ten years ago if you had told us that would be the case, we might have laughed at you. Because ten years ago my dad was still doing what he had always been doing- coaching high school boys. He coached at ghetto Paramount High School for eight or nine years where apparently his team required police escorts after some games. And then we moved and he coached the boys team at Troy High School for thirteen years. Until he got fired.

I was a senior in college at the time and still remember getting the call from my sister. I still remember shaking with rage, tears leaking out of my eyes, anger seeping out of my soul as she broke the news; dad's been fired.

The principal had fired him for "illegally recruiting." That's all the public knew. What they didn't know was that this "recruit" was terrible- had played on the freshman or JV squad one summer without going through the proper channels; my dad didn't even know him. But the principal had a beef with my dad and wanted him gone so though he couldn't take his teaching job at the school, he stole from him what he loved most- coaching.

I have never been so angry at a man. I remember hanging up the phone with Heidi and thinking, "So this is what it's like to have a real life enemy." I imagined what I would do if I ever saw Mr. M again. Would I sock him in the nose or slap him in the face? This was a serious dilemma that I'd often ponder. I'd never done either and I wasn't sure which I'd be better at. I was taking a self-defense course at the time so when I learned how to break someone's nose with a quick upward thrust, I decided on that. And maybe a knee to the groin for good measure.

When I called my dad though, he wasn't thinking about how to drop kick Mr. M. My dad, the man whom I had seen throw clipboards, scream at refs, and bark at players was remarkably calm. There was no anger in his voice, only sadness. He had no unkind words for Mr. M. He said that he probably should have quit coaching after the boys (my brothers) had graduated but didn't know what else to do so he had stayed. He said he was happy about the chance to come watch all my games my senior year.

And then he said something crazy. He said, "You know, I think God is using Mr. M as a part of His plan for me. I don't know how yet, but I think He is."

I remember sitting in our Summerland backyard looking at a view of the whole ocean and thinking, "But how?" I could not fathom how anything good could come from getting fired, from being shamefully removed from something he loved.

My dad forgave Mr. M long before I could. I struggled with my anger for weeks, maybe months. Someone had hurt my family deeply and forgiveness did not come naturally. I was never going to see the man again but I often found myself imagining the words I would say to him if I did. I'd try to think of the meanest thing possible to say him (without using any swear words because that just seemed un-Christ like) and then I'd do the nose thrust and the knee to the groin.

I see now why God calls us to forgive others. It's not for the sake of the other person. It's for us, for our sake. I wanted to be angry at Mr. M. He had caused us a great hurt and had committed a great injustice so it felt right and good to hold hatred in my heart toward him. I liked being angry. But that hatred hurt only me. It didn't help my dad. It didn't hurt Mr. M. It only hurt me.

Slowly God showed me how to let it go, how to forgive him and even pray for him. It took awhile. But when I did, I was free. That anger I had been holding onto had been enslaving me- not allowing me to flourish and feel God's peace and His joy. And when I finally learned to forgive, to forgive someone who had cut my family to the core, I was freed. Ironically, the team APU beat to get to the championship game is called Freed-Hardeman.

Here's the crazy part; here's the part where God showed His cards. During that year when my dad wasn't coaching, he and my mom came to all my games. He got to know several of the coaches in the conference and saw lots of college women's basketball. And then the following year he was offered a job coaching the women at Hope International University. At the time, they were the worst in the league but the school was right across from the high school where my dad teaches and it seemed like God was swinging open a door for him, so he gladly walked through. I graduated from Westmont, moved home and taught history during the day and was his assistant coach at night.

For three years the Hardemans became loyal Royal fans. My brothers both transferred to the school and played for the men's team. My brother-in-law joined me as an assistant during the third year. My sister and mom were at all the games; in fact, when Heidi was pregnant with Vander, her water broke while she was heckling refs from the bleachers.

My dad proved his skills as a fabulous coach and won "Coach of the Year" in the GSAC since his team upset so many of the big schools. He did so well that Azusa, a much better and more prestigious school, offered him the head job there. So the Hardemans packed up and became loyal Cougar fans though I was cheering for them from Mozamique. Last year he coached them to the championship game and this year he led them back to Tennessee for a championship victory.

Coaching high school boys must have seemed like a vague, distant dream as he held up the National Championship banner with his girls.

I cried watching the celebration because joy was literally seeping out of my eyes. That joy was so powerful because I knew of the pain that it took to get there. I remembered that afternoon on the phone with my dad and how much I had hurt for him. And I remembered something remarkably profound he had said. He said that he felt a bit like Joseph. Joseph's brothers had sold him into slavery and when he had risen to the ranks of one of the highest officials in all of Egypt, they had to come beg for mercy from him. Joseph forgave his brothers and said to them, "You intended to harm me but God intended it for good..." (Genesis 50:20)

Mr. M had intended to harm my dad and as a daughter, that is very hard to forgive. But God had intended it for good. God doesn't just use the wonderful people in our lives to point us to Him; sometimes He uses the jerks to accomplish His purposes. Sometimes He uses the Mr. M's.

My dad was so confident in the fact that God was in control that he didn't worry or hold any grudge. He just waited to see what the "good" would be that God had intended. And that good turned out to be pretty great.

When he told me the story of Joseph and his response, I was reminded of what I learned in my philosophy class the year before. We were discussing the problem of evil and Dr. Wennberg, my favorite professor now deceased, explained that sometimes God lets evil happen for a "greater good." I rarely spoke in class but I remember speaking up in that lecture. I don't recall exactly what I asked but I needed clarification about this so-called "greater good." I wasn't buying it. But he explained it further and I remember being somewhat pacified. Watching my dad thrive as a college women's coach, I see the so-called "greater good" Dr. Wennberg spoke of.

Now I understand that though God allows injustice and evil, there will be a greater good. I remember Dr. Wennberg explaining that sometimes that greater good will be revealed to us and sometimes it won't. In my dad's case it was. It is so clear that God allowed for the injustice to happen so that my dad would be moved and used in a better way.

But sometimes it's not. I think of Japan and ask, "Why, God? Why allow it?" And then I remember Dr. Wennberg and his "greater good" speech and I cling to the words he said. I don't know why God allows atrocities to happen and earthquakes to strike, but I do know a few things. These truths are what I cling to.

I serve a God who is all-loving. He loves His creation more than I can fathom and wants their good, sent his Son to die for their good.

I serve a God who is all-knowing. He knows what has happened, is happening and what will happen tomorrow. He knows my every hurt and He cares about every heart.

I serve a God who is all-powerful. He created and controls the universe and though He allows evil and natural disasters to occur, that doesn't mean He's not here with us. And since I know He loves us and wants our good, I trust there will be a "greater good" one day, though I usually can't fathom what that will be.

Last week my pastor preached on Philippians chapter one. Paul was another example of someone who endured injustice for a greater good.

While in prison he wrote, " Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. (Philippians 1: 12-14)

Paul endured crazy hardships and trials and injustice but was one of the most joy-filled people to walk the planet because he knew there was a greater good; because He trusted in an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God.

He goes on to say, "Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Philippians 1:18-24)

My pastor said the following line which I dutifully scribbled down so I wouldn't forget: One day everything will make sense. One day everything will be restored."

For a girl who wrestles with God about evil and suffering and why He allows it, this promise breaths hope into me. I have to come to grips with the fact that I won't understand everything while I'm here on earth, that many of my questions will go unanswered. But one day, one glorious day, everything will make sense.

Paul writes in chapter three that, "Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3: 20-21)

Oh what a glorious day that will be.

So for now, I'll take my victories where I can find them. My dad suffered an injustice that God was using for his good. In his case the greater good was pretty obvious. But I trust that even when I don't see the greater good, even when it seems like nothing good could ever come out of some awful atrocity, God is still all-loving, He is still all-knowing, and He is still all-powerful; and God is still capable of orchestrating a "greater good" that I may never understand during this life.

Monday, March 21, 2011

White Smiles and X-Rays

I've been flossing in public lately. Don't worry, although it's very tempting, I refrain from checking the floss to see what treasures I find. I used to only floss on the day I was going to the dentist but now it's become a routine performed at least 7 times a day. No, I'm not OCD. It's the Invisalign. I've gotten totally used to them. So used to them, in fact, that I regularly pull them out during class which is admittedly a little weird since this process involves me slurping up some major drool. I'm supposed to brush and floss after every time I eat, which, if you know me, is quite often. I got sick of searching for sinks and brushing my teeth all the time, so now I've resorted to removing the chunks of food in my newly formed gaps by flossing.

After wearing these clear trays for 22 hours a day for the past 16 weeks, I've realized there are many life lessons to be learned by wearing braces. Several of my friends are getting into gardening and learning lessons about growth and God from their gardens. I'm not adult enough to garden- heck, I'm proud of myself if I eat vegetables twice a week, so I'm learning lessons from my teeth instead. Here's the first lesson I've learned:

You can have a boatload of cavities and root canals and still fool people into thinking you have nice teeth.

I've sat in the dentist chair more often than most. I've had so many root canals that I've fallen asleep during the process. Twice.

"Umm...Katie, you're going to need to stay awake for this. We need your mouth to stay open."

"Oh. Sorry."

Then maybe you should turn off the Celine Dion, pal. How can you expect me to keep my eyes open listening to My Heart Will Go On?

The only person I know with more frequent visits to the dreaded dentist is my brother Trent. We both have a pretty demanding sweet tooth but we blame our crumbling teeth on our genes rather than our lack of self-control. Looking at our smiles though, you'd never guess the thousands of dollars our parents' insurance company has forked over on our behalf. On the outside our smiles look fine.

I've tried to solve my weak teeth problem with Crest Whitening Strips. I figured people would assume I had nice teeth if they were white. So I used to fall asleep with them on at night even though they are only supposed to be worn for 20 minutes. I'd wake up with the strips stuck in my hair or plastered to my cheek and my teeth would be so sensitive it hurt to breath. But it was okay because my teeth were magically a shade whiter. These strips have helped me deceive many, even my orthodontist. When I first went to the "ortho", as those of us cool kids with braces call him, he had no idea of my dental history. He looked at my pearly white smile and assumed I had healthy teeth.

Then he looked at the x-rays.

I wish I had a picture of his face when he looked at those oh-so-revealing x-rays. He said, "" Pause. "Seems you've had some work done."

I couldn't contain my laughter.

What he hadn't seen, what my whitened smile had successfully hidden, is the numerous filled-cavities, crowns, and root canals dotting nearly every single tooth in my mouth. He only saw white teeth on the outside. He had no clue what a rotten mess was lurking behind the white; nor did he notice the gianormous gap in the back of my mouth where a gargantuan size molar was pulled last year.

I laughed because my smile had fooled an orthodontist. I laughed at the irony.

Then I realized that I use that same smile to fool most people I encounter, not just orthodontists. On the outside, I am a "good" Christian. Few would guess the secret sins of my heart; few would guess the rotten mess lurking behind the white.

I've been talking to my freshmen girls a lot about this. Being raised in a Christian environment, we all face similar trials- fighting complacency, learning to rely on God, and realizing our need for grace. Because when we're being blatantly honest, a lot of "good Christian girls" don't understand grace.

We sing about it.

We thank God for it.

We call it amazing.

But we don't really get it.

Because in our transparent moments, we'll admit that we don't often see our need for grace.

At least I don't. Maybe other "good Christian girls" do so I'll speak for myself. I have a pretty white smile- a pretty "white" life. And I'm not referring to my lack of rhythm. On the outside, I appear "pure." I don't drink or smoke or have sex. Sure, I said "shit" today during church but I was quoting Paul. Really. Our pastor mentioned the word "skubala" which the NIV translates to mean rubbish, and he alluded to the fact that skubala actually means shit. He didn't say it though so I had to ask my roommate just to be sure I wasn't getting excited over nothing. I wasn't. Here's the verse:

But indeed I also consider everything to be loss on account of the surpassing knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, on account of whom I forfeited all things; and I consider them shit so that I may gain Christ... (Philippians 3:8)

Yet another reason I love Paul; he wrote "shit" in the Bible. (sidenote: I found THIS POST about skubala when I googled how to spell it; it's awesome food for thought and also mentions Isaiah's reference to used tampons. Just what you wanted. Check it out.)

My point is this: on the outside, I know that I seem "good." I don't commit the sins that raise eyebrows. I'm a "nice" girl. I do "nice" things. But my sins are often the secret, hidden sins that only X-Rays reveal. These can be more dangerous than the "eye-brow raising" sins. Here's why:

First, I may fool others but I don't fool God. He knows my heart and He judges my heart. God doesn't just see my white smile; He sees the X-Ray version of my smile. There is no hiding it from him. He sees all my fillings and knows about every root that has been infected. So too, He sees all of my judgmental thoughts and knows all about the sin infecting my heart. And the thing is, my orthodontist won't be sitting on the throne on judgment day. God will. My outside "smile" won't matter when I come face to face with the King. He'll be looking at the X-Rays so I suppose I should care more about the X-Ray version of my teeth, rather than the fake, white smile I flash at everyone else.

Another danger in harboring these "X-Ray sins" is that when others don't see my sins, I forget they are there. Or, since no one else notices them, I trivialize these sins and assume they aren't a big deal. When I do this, not only do I fail to see how they are rotting my life, I fail to recognize my need for God. I fail to see my need for grace.

Jesus talked a lot about people who use Crest Whitening Strips. Not exactly- but sorta. He got pretty pissed at people who used them- at those who presented themselves as white and pure on the outside but had rotten teeth.

When speaking to the Pharisees, to the people with beautifully white smiles, he said the following:

Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:27-28)

Then again:

Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. (Luke 11: 39-42)

Passages like that freak me out sometimes. They freak me out because I worry that if I had lived in Jesus times, that I would have been a Pharisee. And the Pharisees received a lot of, "Woe to you's." They freak me out because when I'm completely honest, I often clean the outside of my smile, the outside of my cup, the outside of my life really well and tend to totally ignore the crud inside my mouth, inside the cup, inside my heart.

I used to wonder why Jesus got so pissed at the Pharisees. Why didn't he have harsh words for the murderers and rapists? It seems He saved his most volatile language for the hypocrites- for those who pretended to have it all together. Knowing my own hypocrisy, I cringed reading about Jesus' hatred for it.

But his anger makes more sense as I've gotten older and begun to have a tiny grasp on the concept of grace. The Pharisees were discounting any need for a savior, for any grace. They were making people think they could get to heaven by "being good" by doing the right things, by being like them. Why then would Jesus need to come and die if people could get to heaven by being good?

I think Jesus used such strong language and despised them so much because they were leading people astray by teaching them that they could earn salvation- that their outward acts would save them. People needed to know that they couldn't save themselves and that no matter how "good" they were, they would still be stuck in sin and in desperate need of a savior.

In order to understand my desperate need for Jesus, I must see my sin for what it is.

In order to gain freedom from entangling sin, I have to see what it is that entangles.

In order to appreciate His "amazing grace" and forgiveness, I need to see what I've been forgiven of; I need to see what I've been saved from.

In college I started praying for God to "cast a searchlight on my heart." I knew I had sin in my heart but didn't know where it was. It was a scary prayer. It continues to be a scary prayer. It's like praying for patience. Note: never pray for patience. It's scary because when God answers it, and He always does, the results aren't pretty. The X-Rays are always pretty nasty.

But it's cool because when He lets me peek at the X-Rays and I am thoroughly grossed out by what I see in my own heart, I get a tiny taste of the grace that's been showered on me. It is only then, when I see how undeserving I am- how sinful I actually am, that I sort of understand grace. It is only then that I weep with thanksgiving for what Christ did for me.

But when I ignore the X-Rays, my teeth look pretty good- especially compared to the rest of the world, especially compared to the British. I fool the world and even myself and it's then that I forget that I am broken. I forget that I need forgiveness and grace. And that is a dangerous thing to forget.

I don't need to broadcast my secret sins of the heart to the world but I do need to acknowledge that they are there, repent of them, and ask for His help to remove them. Because it is only with His help that I can rid myself of the gunk in my heart.

I don't want a white smile with rotten teeth. I don't want to be a "whitewashed tomb" that Jesus says, "Woe to" to. And so I'm praying that dangerous prayer again. I'm asking for a peek at the X-Rays. I'm asking for a taste of His grace.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Simplicity and Adventure

It's been almost three years and there are still some mornings I wake up and wish I was in Mozambique. Today was one of those mornings. Maybe it was due to the "post-season depression" as my mom calls it, but I woke up this morning unsettled, longing for the life I once had. So my sister doesn't freak out, let me clarify- I don't want to move back to Africa; I don't think I'm supposed to. But that doesn't mean there aren't days when I physically ache with longing to be back there.

Some days it feels like that year was a long, Leonardo DiCaprio-inspired dream. My reality in California makes my reality from Mozambique seem utterly bizarre. These worlds are so radically different, so drastically far from each other that it seems almost impossible for them to exist simultaneously.

Last night I watched Brad choose Emily on The Bachelor. Yes, I did. Save your judgment for someone who cares. And I drove home pondering the fact that their "fairy tale proposal" in South Africa took place not too far from the village of Shiparango, not too far from the streets of Maputo. And I was baffled. My brain contorted trying to hold these two realities in my mind at once. It doesn't make sense. Shows like The Bachelor epitomize so much of our culture that is silly and inane and really doesn't make much sense at all. I feel a bit like Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby as he watches society- "I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life." Don't be impressed that I'm quoting Gatsby- I just finished teaching the novel to my junior classes.

I am "enchanted" by shows like The Bachelor but also "repelled" by them when I consider the the villagers of Shiparango struggling against malaria and AIDS and poverty. I am "within" and very much a part of the typical "Southern California culture" but also "without", feeling terribly out of place here at other times.

So whether it was the "post-season blues" or watching silly American television, I woke up missing Africa. I looked at my cat sharing my bed and wished it was Gizmo, my neighbor's gargantuan Rhodesian Ridgeback whom I occasionally let share my pillow. Don't tell Dotty.
I looked at my closet overflowing with color-coordinated shirts and skirts and slacks and shoes, and missed my simple wicker drawers, containing just a few necessary outfits. I went a year without drying my hair, without trying to impress others by my outward appearance and I realized today how much I miss that.

I miss not caring. I miss the freedom from comparison that is so prevalent in our society. I mean seriously- how can anyone compete with Barbie doll Emily? So instead of competing today, I pulled my hair up in a wet bun, slipped on an outfit I used to teach in while in Mozambique, and pedaled my bike to school. As I rode, crossing my fingers that my skirt wouldn't get caught in the chain, I thought about life in Maputo.

I passed by seven people on my way to school. Seven. Three were waiting for a bus and four were mowing lawns outside of Cerritos Auto Square. (sidenote- My mom never let us watch The Simpsons growing up, but when she was at work, we'd watch it with my dad. I love this show. And they really do their homework. Check out this list of "must-see attractions" in Southern California)
I smiled at the gardeners at Cerritos Auto Square and wished there were more people to see. Walking home from school in Mozambique each day, I must have passed hundreds of faces. Hundreds. I had to maneuver through a sea of bodies; guards lazily swinging their guns, women selling colorful vegetables, kids playing soccer, old men playing chess, and street venders trying to follow me home.

On today's uneventful ride to school, I envisioned those walks home from the Christian Academy of Mozambique and realized there are two main things I miss about my life in Mozambique: simplicity and adventure.

Seemingly contradictory, I've found them to be actually intertwined and typical ingredients of everyday life in Mozambique. Every day was simple. But every day was also an adventure. I had no car and it wasn't safe to go out after dark so my schedule was simple. Walking home took about 45 minutes so before the sun sunk behind the sea, I had time to run up to the mango vender on the corner or to the market down the street to get a coke and a chocolate bar and then I'd go for a quick jog with Gizmo before I was confined to our house. With a spotty Internet connection and one TV station in English, my nights were spent reading, cooking, and lesson planning. I miss this simplicity. I miss a life free from thousands of distractions screaming for my attention. Life was quieter. Life was simpler.

Although the weekdays were similar in routine, they also held the promise of adventure and randomness. Oh how I miss the randomness. Maybe a three-legged dog would chase Gizmo and me during our run; or a bunch of cockroaches would scatter from under a pile of potatoes as I sorted through them looking for dinner at the vegetable vender on the corner; or a homeless man would try to follow me home so I'd have to pick up my skirt and sprint. Life was simple but life was different every day. I never knew what to expect on my walks home and I miss that. I miss the unexpected.

Life is different every day here too. I mean, last year I did get stopped by the cops and searched for drugs on my ride home. Oh and I did get hit by a car but I didn't even get a scratch and that only happened once. Most days here aren't very blog-worthy. Every day in Mozambique was blog-worthy because every day was random. Every day I was learning. Every day was an adventure.

One of my biggest fears is that I'll never recover who I was in Mozambique- that swimming in Southern Californian culture, I'll never find the me who doesn't compare herself to others, the me who lives simply and lives a daily life of adventure. I don't think it's impossible to find simplicity and adventure in Southern California. However, they must be sought after. If I go with the flow and don't pursue them intentionally, I'll zoom right past the simplicity and never find the adventure. I'll get sucked into the vortex of Facebook and reality TV and People magazines; the land of malls and traffic jams and me-first mentalities and I'll forget what I was searching for in the first place.

This morning was a wake up call. This morning was the beginning of a journey for me- a journey to find that girl again; a journey to find simplicity and adventure around every corner. I don't know exactly how I'll do it but I have found this to be true:

Simplicity is found in a hammock with a book.

So is adventure.

Simplicity is found in walking or biking instead of driving.

So is adventure.

Simplicity is found in being the hands and feet of Christ.

So is adventure.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Booger Awareness

Few moments are worse than when you get home and realize that your fly has been down all day. Or your shirt is on inside out. Or you have cilantro smiling from your front teeth or a cliff-hanging booger or dry blood smeared on your neck from a zit you scratched in the morning. That moment of realization is an awful one. I immediately think back to everyone I saw during the day and wonder why nobody told me. But I know why they didn't tell me. Two reasons really. Either (A)- they didn't notice. Or (B)- they were being "polite" and didn't want to embarrass me. I obviously think about these serious issues a little too often since I wrote this post about the rules for telling strangers when they look ridiculous. But my nephews have made me rethink the issue because of several of their recent comments.

Four year olds have no filter. It's one of the beauties of being four and it makes hanging out with them hilarious. They are honest to a fault because they've not yet been groomed by society to learn that sometimes, to some people, you're supposed to a lie just a little bit. Case in point:

We were watching Beauty and the Beast (yes, per my suggestion) and Vander watched Bell in that opening scene, completely mesmerized. Looking remarkably pensive for a four year old he asked, "Katie, do you think Bell is pretty?"

"Yeah, I do."

"Do you think I'll marry someone as pretty as Bell one day?"

"Of course you will Vander!"

I could see the wheels in his head turning at this point. ("a dangerous pastime. I know") Then he looked intently over at me and asked, "Do you think I'll marry someone as pretty as you some day?"

Flattered, I replied, "Oh definitely."

But then he shattered my moment by adding, "Well, maybe a little bit prettier."

"You little punk."

Yes, I called him a punk. And then I tackled him and maybe wished an adolescence of acne on him. He knows what that is too since he used to always point out my zits, try to scratch them off and ask, "what are these?" My response was usually something along the lines of, "These are punishment for not being nice to my aunties."

Being four means you can be completely truthful and it's never rude. And Vander is a remarkably observant four year old. After our "free dress" practice, I went to my parents' house in my basketball clothes with leggings and my hair in two ridiculous high buns. My family raised their eye brows but didn't say anything. This concerned me- do they think I typically dress like this? But Vander pulled through and looked me up and down and said, "Why are dressed like that?" and then added, "Your hair looks kinda crazy, Katie." Four year old honesty. Gotta love it.

And now Hudson is joining his bro bro's honesty club and is becoming an obnoxiously observant two year old. The other day I went back for a second helping of dinner and he looked at my plate and said, "Whoa. Stop eating so much, Katie." Then, while driving in the car, he sweetly smiled at me and said, "You smelly, Katie." Granted, I had come from practice and had not yet showered so he was probably right but sheesh, now I've got TWO boys without filters dishing me the harsh truth.

On that same drive, Vander asked the guy sitting next to him if he had forgotten to brush his teeth. Heidi could only cringe and stifle a laugh. You can never have bad breath around a 4 year old and not be informed.

What I'm realizing is that I need Vanders and Hudsons in my life. I need people who are observant and notice the way I live and think and treat others and then will be honest with me. But this type of honesty can be tough.

It's easy to tell a friend they have a crusty booger hanging out of their nostril, but telling them they have a tendency to be negative is not as easy. However, it's quite similar to the booger scenario. The booger afflicted person will be embarrassed when they are informed- it won't be pleasant for them when they realize that others have been seeing a crustified, green cliff-hanger all day. However, they will also be immensely grateful to the person who finally informs them. They won't begrudge them for noticing the booger; they will thank them for noticing and making them aware so they can pick that nastiness and move on with clean nostrils.

So too, when I am slandering others or have the wrong atittude, sometimes I don't even notice it. Just like the booger. And I need a friend to come beside me and point it out. Just as others would have noticed my giant boogey, so too others would have noticed my bad attitude. And yes, I'll be a bit embarrassed when the friend points out my mistake, but I'll be even more grateful.

This process of "pointing out the boogers" in others can be a tricky one, though. Just as you don't walk up to strangers and tell them about the dried nasal mucus in their nose, you don't typically walk up to strangers and tell them their impatience is not very Christ-like.

We all have teams to do this for us. We all have people in our lives who are responsible for telling us when we look ridiculous- when we should change our outfits or fix our hair or wipe the eye gunk from our eyes. These are the people who "walk all the way around us" as my friend Kim says and really observe us. These are the people who we trust, who we know love us and want our best. So when they tell us we have a booger in our nose or bitterness in our hearts, we know they aren't telling us in judgement or to embarrass or hurt us. They are saying it in love- to make us more like Christ. And so, when we drink that dreadful cup of humility and swallow a bit of our pride, we can remove said booger and repent of the bitterness.

It is harder for me to serve the bitter truth than it is to receive. Don't get me wrong, I hate being corrected. I love being right and think I'm right most of the time. But when my friends or family point out the hanging cheese on my chin or my unforgiving heart, I am so very grateful to them for it. I am so very grateful that I have people who care about me enough to observe the areas where I'm not living like Christ and then point them out to me.

My family are usually the ones who do this for me. We're not a "touchy-feely" type of family. Heck, we rarely hug each other. And so when they need to point out an area where I am failing and am totally blind to it, we don't have a serious, sit-down intervention-style conversation. Their correction typically comes in the form of a joke- one of those sweetly, sarcastic jokes that cuts right to the heart. I laugh about it with them but when I'm alone in the car driving home, their comments swim around in my mind and repentance typically follows. Maybe it's not the best communication process; maybe we should be more upfront; but it works for us. It eliminates the awkwardness and allows the recipient of the correcting to see their mistake for what it is and then laugh about it.

There is a huge element of trust required to point out someone's flaw. You must trust that they understand you are doing it in love, not judgement. You must trust that they want to hear the truth about themselves, even though no one really likes being corrected. You must trust that they won't pull away from you or resent you, just because you pointed out their booger.

I am often plagued by these fears which is why I hesitate in correcting others. These fears, however, are illegitimate if the relationship is a close one built on trust. Correction can come from outside sources as well but when it comes from my "home team", from the people I already love and trust, there is no fear that a little correcting, a little "booger awareness" will hurt the relationship. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

My dear friend Christy is never shy to point out my boogers. It's one of the things I love most about her and it's one of the reasons our relationship has stayed so strong. We haven't lived in the same city since high school but I can always count on Christy to be honest with me when I'm being selfish or materialistic or rude. We've been close since 7th grade; we walked through the most awkward stage of life together so she knows my heart and mind quite well. She is known to many as my "crazy friend" because she is wild and loud and has a habit of causing scenes, but she is also crazy perceptive, knows when I'm trying to hide certain sins, and never fails to call me out. Like my family, she typically uses a sarcastic remark or a very pointed question to help me see my own sin. Sometimes I bristle when she mentions the "booger" in my life because it's never fun to have a harsh truth pointed out. Sometimes I even get off the phone thinking, "She's wrong." But I always end up concluding that, "No, I'm wrong and need to swallow my pride and repent." I accept the bitter truth she offers and am a better person because of it. My brother-in-law met Christy once when we were in college and knows her as "my friend with the crazy hair who drives that little Tercel like a madman," but I know her as my faithful friend who loves me enough to point out my boogies- to be observant and honest and serve me the bitter truth when I need it.

It's easy to serve the bitter truth as a teacher. It's my job. It's my responsibility to let kids know when they are being lazy or disrespectful or mean. But telling that to a friend is never as easy. I can't go handing out detentions to my friends when they have bad attitudes or are slandering others. But it's actually also my job and duty as a good friend to let them know. Just as it's my job to let them know if their belt looks silly or they need a spray of perfume, it's my job to tell them when they are being negative or unkind. And if they truly are a good friend, if our relationship has been founded on trust, then I know that they will appreciate me "pointing out their booger" and will accept the spoonful of bitter truth with a glass of humility to wash it down.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Eight Months

I plan on vacuuming my room today. It's been a few months and I have a cat who sheds so the carpet in my room is borderline disgusting right now. But I HATE vacuuming and will use any excuse in the book not to. For the past few months my excuse has been: I'll clean once I'm not so busy with basketball. Well, our season officially ended last night. It wasn't an awesome ending but it was an awesome season. And now I have time to do those things on my to-do list which I've been putting off "because of basketball" like vacuuming my room and washing my sheets and clipping my toenails. Who knows, maybe I'll get real crazy and open my mail from the past 4 months.

Basketball season is longer than you might imagine. It actually began in June and, apart from a one month break in August, went until last night. That's eight months of basketball. Eight months of yelling and laughing and running and passing and praying and crying and shooting. Eight months of texting and teaching and cooking and correcting and dribbling and directing and laughing. Did I mention laughing? Eight months of games, practices, bus rides, meals, outings, and memories. It's been a very full eight months.

As I folded the uniforms and tucked them neatly away until next season, I grew pensive and a bit melancholy. It's always that way when something great comes to an end. This has been a truly special season with a truly special group of eleven girls knit tightly together. Their unity is what made our season so successful, so memorable. It wasn't their abilities that made me enjoy this season so much- it was them. Squish eleven girls in one passenger van, in a few tents, in hotel rooms, on busses, in locker rooms etcetera and there is bound to be drama. Not so with this bunch. My main prayer for them all season has been for unity and I'm not saying God always answers my prayers how I'd like Him to but He certainly had His hand on this bunch. I read Romans 15:5-6 this summer and thought, "Gosh, I would love for that to be said of our team." So I printed the verse on the back of our shirts and prayed it for our girls.

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

And it actually happened. These girls did glorify God with how they played. They always played hard but they also always played with integrity. And they treated each other with kindness and grace and I firmly believe this is a MAJOR reason we were successful. Because if I'm being totally honest with y'all, we weren't that skilled.

Many of these girls have been playing together since middle school- some even played together in elementary school. They share a common history and a common bond. They razz each other like any good teammate will, but they have each other's backs and care for each other like sisters. When someone did well, everyone cheered. When someone got hurt, everyone was concerned. When someone tripped, everyone laughed. And when the father of two of the sisters on the team tragically died this year, everyone was there, front and center at the funeral. These are truly a special group of girls.

After we lost last night, I didn't talk about the game at all. I told them to forget about it and made them talk about what they think they'll remember from this season. Of course, few memories actually took place on the court. The court is simply a venue, a place where we gather to shoot and sweat and laugh and grow; but it is all the moments off the court that make a season memorable. And we made A LOT of "off the court" memories.

Sure, we'll probably remember winning league because we were so proud to get a "dot" on the gym wall commemorating our league victory. And yes, we'll remember that we made to the semi-finals of CIF and even qualified for State- doing better than anyone, even ourselves, thought we'd do. But we'll more likely remember the funny, the awkward, and the embarrassing moments.

I told them that when they look back in ten years, they won't remember all their turn overs or missed shots; they'll remember their teammates and the way they felt when a packed gym roared in applause for them. They won't remember their mistakes or the losses; they'll remember the Souplantation trips and the bus rides and all the time spent laughing in the locker rooms. And they'll smile.

So, in light of the fact that the season is now over, I thought I'd share my final coaching confessions that took place during the play-offs.

Coaching Confessions Part 4: CIF Edition

* I didn't know who Sam Perkins or Ronny Turiaf are. You neither? Good. I don't feel so bad. Except another part of that confession is that I pretended that I did. I don't know why I did. I should have just come clean. They are both former Lakers and I don't follow the NBA too closely. One of my players asked me to name 10 players in the NBA and it took me a good 3 or 4 minutes to get to ten. And that was after naming Yao Ming, Rick Fox and mumbling a European sounding name hoping she'd let it slide. It's a bit embarrassing because I'm a basketball coach- you'd think I'd know more about the NBA. So in the company of my colleagues, I tried to hide my lack of NBA knowledge, fearing they would think less of me as a coach. Why were we discussing Sam Perkins and Ronny Turiaf? Ronny's sister and Sam's two daughters all play for the team we met in our first game of the play-offs. Despite their athletic family members, we beat this team fairly easily and celebrated with ugly faces afterwards.
* I sassed a fan. My favorite game of the year was the quarterfinal game when we beat Duarte in our gym in front of a packed house. It was so packed that the opposing fans were sitting directly behind me. At half time I went to retrieve my keys from my purse which was hidden under a woman's coat. In a rush, I tossed her coat to the side and she said, "Ex-cu-use me?" You know- the really sassy way that only African-American women in their fifties can get away with. I could have apologized for throwing her coat but no, I met her glare with one of my own and sassed back, "Yes, excuse you. You set your coat right on my purse," and I whipped my hair around and marched to the locker room. Not my most Christ-like moment. When we returned for the second half, she had moved seats.

* I let my girls have "free dress" at what could have been our last practice. Apparently they get super excited about not having to wear our maroon practice gear. The day before a CIF semi-final game, most teams are in no-nonsense, super serious mode. We were too:
For the record, Kelsi and I had forgotten to bring "free dress" clothes. These were our normal outfits minus my leggings and her sports bra. The next picture makes me belly laugh every time I see it because Kelsi is so ridiculous. Plus, it is indicative our team when I am instructing them: a few always listen intently, one typically listens skeptically, and several are totally unaware of what is going on.
Apparently our "free dress" practice was a success though, because the next day we came super close to upsetting the number one seed.

* I just had to google if the phrase is "number one seed" or "number one seat." I think that falls under the category of "things I probably should know by now.

* I made my girls eat at Souplantation and Subway a few too many times. They tease Kelsi and I for talking about flatbread sandwiches as much as we do but we've converted several of them. I love Souplantation for their blueberry muffins and soft serve and made my girls appreciate it as well.

* I cried before our semi-final game. Kelsi and I were sitting on the bench waiting for the girls to get dressed. The other team was shooting and maybe I should have been studying them closer, watching for lefties and good ball-handlers, but no, I got out my book. Something struck a cord and out came the waterworks. It was a silent cry though; no one needed to know. Until their AD asked us who the coach was and I looked up with tears streaming down my cheeks and said in an embarrassingly shaky voice, "I-I'm the coach."

* I yelled at the opposing assistant coach. Probably wasn't glorifying to God but this man had it coming. The refs were confused as to who the foul was on at the end of the game. It was clearly on one of our girls not in foul trouble but this man stood up and said, "It was on number 22." Number 22 happens to be our best player and she happened to have four fouls. Can you understand the reason for my rage? He made the mistake of glancing over at me when he said this lie so I did my frightening, White Witch of Narnia face and threw my pointer finger at his face while yelling, "You KNOW it wasn't on 22!" and I whipped my hair around before he could respond and stormed back to my bench. Yes, it was quite awkward having to shake his hand three minutes later.

* I hugged the star player of the other team. Surprising right? I rarely hug my family. Believe me, I did not initiate this hug. After we had shaken hands and I met with my team, their best player came over with arms opened wide for a hug. I'm never one to reject a hug. Oh wait, I've rejected hugs twice this season. But I wasn't angry and I was so caught off guard that I didn't know what else to do but hug the girl back. She smiled and said something really fast so I couldn't understand it. Two of my girls looked at me with wide eyes and asked, "What was that all about? What did she say?"

"I have no idea."

It was rather bizarre. Their whole team was a bit odd though because once we emerged from the locker room, about 6 of their girls swarmed around Kari telling her how well she had played and asking where she was going to college. Seriously surreal. Two minutes prior they were fouling the heck out of her and now they were devoted members of her fan club. I wish I had taken a picture.

* I walked into the open door of a parked car. I yelled, "OUCH!" much too loudly and grabbed one of my girls so I wouldn't fall to the ground and then walked briskly away from the scene. I thought, based on the decimal level of my scream and the pain I felt the next morning, that the bruise would be much more impressive than it appears here:

* I created awkward moments with college coaches. Perhaps you remember when I sang, "hellooooooo" into the phone when Harvard's coach called. I didn't look quite as silly this past week but I certainly didn't seem super professional. First, the Gonzaga head coach came to our practice to watch Kari play. Afterwards he said, "You girls sure laugh a lot during practice." He meant it kindly but I had to chuckle- most teams don't giggle as much as we do when prepping for important games. Then last night I met the Oregon head coach at our game. I asked him a question and he only half nodded and I assumed he hadn't heard me so I repeated the question. Turns out he had heard me the first time and gave me the same nod. Dope.

* I tried to avoid parents. After our final game I spent a good while convincing our girls that I was so proud of them and it was fine that we lost. We laughed about the season and by the time we were done reminiscing, their smiles were back and their smiles were genuine.
However, even after this picture, I was admittedly still bummed after the game. No one likes to go out playing poorly and I was beating myself up about game decisions I had made and wishing I had done things differently. I let all the girls leave first and took my time gathering my things so everyone would clear out and I could be bummed by myself. But they didn't leave. The parents were still congregating by the door and you want to know what awful things were running through my head?

"Gosh, why don't they just leave already? I don't want to rehash this game with anyone."

But when I walked out the door, they all started clapping. They had been waiting for me to thank me. I felt like such an idiot. An undeserving and richly blessed idiot.

While my fantastically fertile friends have been popping out babies left and right, I've had my own mothering to do. And though I was completely appalled when people asked if I was Kari's mom, I have loved the role I have gotten to play in the lives of these girls. I love that I was able to teach them about basketball but also about life- about how to make a pasta salad and how to deal with loss- about how to seek God first and how to make this face:
Last week I plugged in my i-Pod to my computer and noticed an icon I had never seen before. Apparently there was a video on my i-Pod. I figured I had accidentally taken a video of the inside of my purse but out of curiosity, I downloaded it and hit play.

What follows is a video one of my girls took before our very first game of the season. She had just torn her ACL so was sitting on the bench as the team warmed up and rifled through my purse until she found my i-Pod. Typical. It's not a very interesting video but I love it. I love it because it captures the girls, my girls, just being themselves. And even though she zooms in for a close up of my butt at one point, this video will always make me smile because it captures the girls, my girls, who I love so much.