Friday, October 11, 2013

The Perils of Hope

Before we had kids I was an awesome mom. I had great ideas and big plans. I would not fall into the trap of over scheduling my kids and running them all over Texas six days a week. And I would, by the way, not live in Texas. Well, here we are. I’ve kept to the not over-scheduling part but only to hear the onslaught of messages that if I don’t introduce my girls to a myriad of sports, music, dance, and all manner of extracurriculars in the early days, I’m doomed. Doomed to a life raising girls in goth dress whose greatest skill is manufacturing homespun meth out of our garage. It’s hard not to feel the pressure and to know where to begin with the many choices of activities, sports, clubs, and leagues offered at every turn.

We’ve tried a few things and haven’t found the "thing” yet. Though Emie loved dance (press in and I’ll whisper this) her little ballet moves leaned much more readily into the “donkey kick” category than a swan’s grace. Soccer was equally torturous where she actually asked me for refreshments while running across the field (more than once) during a game.

Music and theater really seemed to be a better fit since she has used every opportunity to perform in some fashion or another since she was so little. Even as the giggliest little one she used to practice making sad faces in front of the mirror when she wasn’t even two. I could waste my breath and suggest she not be so dramatic but I’m pretty sure it’s in the girl’s DNA. And music just seems to come naturally to her. The girl loves to sing and she’s pretty good.

Last year she joined the church choir and loved everything about it. Especially the part where she could look at the jumbo screens and find herself on camera. She was excited to move up to the next age level this year because they, as she pointed out, “get to sing solos and hold the microphone.” I’ve reminded her that every child is not automatically handed a mic and told to let fly. Our church is big. In the last membership class 800 people joined. That’s three times the size of my in-laws' entire congregation including each baby and shut-in. And this is just the number of new members to add to the 11,000 already showing up each week. Even in a church so large every child in our church is invited to join the choir, there’s no audition necessary. Come and sing your praises to the Lord one and all. But as for holding the mic and singing by yourself, well, they wouldn’t mind ensuring first that you can umm, well, actually sing since 11,000 people will be leaning in to listen.

When Emie mentioned the upcoming auditions for solos in the choir I encouraged her to give it a go. But I honestly didn’t know if she was good enough to come out with a part on the other side. I wanted to encourage her to try but did attempt to temper her expectations. On the way to the Saturday audition she was filled with excitement and not a single butterfly. I had enough for the two of us. I feel responsible for this little gift of hers. I want to nurture it. Encourage it. Fan the embers to help it to grow. The last thing I want is for her to start to believe it’s not a gift at all and shove it deep within her at such a young age.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Driving Ainsley to school the other morning I hear her say from the backseat, "I don't know if I believe in Santa Claus." "Okay," I said. She went on to say that she just wasn't sure he was real. Then said, "But Mrs. Claus, yea, I believe in her." I said "Yea, she does seem pretty real with that red dress and those little glasses." "Yes," Ainsley agreed as if that was all the proof that was needed to ensure someone's existence. I added that we know Jesus is real so that's really all we need to know to celebrate Christmas. She said, "Yes, Jesus is the best gift." My heart swelled full as I noted that the little bird (in spite of her Christmas list already in full swing) got it. The meaning behind Christmas. And then she said "But those gifts from Santa are pretty good." Yes indeed. Yes they are baby girl.

Isn't that just it? The whole of the Christian life in one little pearl of wisdom from the one whose lived just five years on this green earth. I don't know why we felt the need to flesh out these big life questions about Christmas on October first. But I do know this: Jesus is the bomb. The best. The everything. But gifts from Santa are awesome, too.

Listen. I know Jesus didn't make Santa or Mrs. Claus, as believable as her springy white curls and little round spectacles make her seem. But for today I really don't mind that my little lovie thinks she's awesome. There's so much to be celebrated in this brief life. And so much to toss out. Every good gift is from Jesus after all even if Santa or Mrs. Claus is the one delivering it.

This is what I know: A new shirt can seriously make my day. A bargain priced fun throw pillow can change the color of my outlook for a good long while. So let's enjoy the gifts. Stop short of self-indulgence but not before doing the things that bring a little smile.