Saturday, October 26, 2013

I've Learned a Lot from the Cardinals... I Never Thought It'd Go Here

Some love us, some hate us.  Regardless, we're talked about.  It's created such attention, that articles are being written on whether this phenomenon really exists, on whether players are choosing to play for St. Louis because of the fans.

Before I continue - you really should read the article that prompted this post.  Go ahead, go read it here. If you don't have time, I understand.  It is somewhat lengthy, and at times I wondered what direction the author was going to go with it.

To sum it up, the author's point is that fans of the St. Louis Cardinals are different.  

Considered a dirty word in some contexts, this particular valuation of being different has a positive connotation.  Here are just a couple of the {easily discerned} qualities of the normal St. Louis Cardinal fan.  (I'll heed, as he did, this by no means covers all Cardinal fans, but by far the majority.)

  • Cardinal fans are loyal.  They show up in droves for games.  They deck out in attire always.  The off-season only indicates a lack of play, not a lack of devotion.  I'll add, from a personal perspective, that they don't have to live in or near St. Louis to express this loyalty.  It really surpasses geography and is done so quite easily. 
  • Cardinals fans think on the Cardinals.  Though often unprompted, Cardinal fans think on baseball often.  They mention Cardinal baseball in everyday, unrelated conversations.  It comes up in hotel lobbies, in the airport, in restaurants, at work, etc.  Read the article above.  The author writes that weeks after the 2011 World Series concluded, in a commute in St. Louis his driver, when asked how he was doing, replied that he was just worried about the fate of Albert Pujols. Seasons over.  Winter is setting in.  Baseball is still on the brain.  More specifically, a certain player is on the brain.  Which brings me to my next item:
  • Players become family.  Geesh, fans become family.  It's like one big, ole happy family reunion at Cardinal games.  (Yes, a happy family reunion.  Who woulda' thought?!)  Fans know their players.  Sure, they know their histories and their stats, what real fan doesn't?  But they also know their passions, their charities, their roots.  We are interested in where they came from and where they are going.  We have to know these things.  We really want to care for our players. And we all know, the dreaded trades happen and beloved family members take off the family crest for the last time.  No matter.  Once in, adopted in for life.  Once ours, ours forever.  Ask Skip Schumaker how he felt when given a standing ovation during the NLCS when he was playing as a Dodger.  I need not mention that the standing ovation was given in Busch Stadium, by Cardinal fans.  It's expected here.  That's what we love about it.  That's what makes it so easy to be a fan.  
  • Play for another team?  No worries.  Cardinal fans make it easier to play in an opponents stadium.  Also mentioned in the article,  Cardinal fans, for all intents and purposes, don't boo.  Now, I'll admit I've been to many-a Cardinal games in my lifetime, and though I've never heard an entire stadium boo, I have heard some grumbling, but as I sit here and think of it, the circumstances surrounding the grumbling are often the same.  Pitch. The. Ball.  The runner at first,  yeah, you don't have Yadi behind the plate, so if he's going to go, he's going to go.  We aren't known for stealing all that often anyway.  Stop checking the runner.  Seriously.  Ahem. But overall, no booing.  And that's to be commended.  All of this can be summed up in one word: Respect.  Fans respect players.  Even opposing players. 
  • And lastly, they tend to be humble.  Don't get me wrong, there are some arrogant Cardinal fans out there.  They are probably the same ones booing or shouting at someone at a game.  I'm just saying.  But otherwise, Cardinals fans have a unique way of passionately loving their team, voicing it, wearing it... dare I say... living it without seeming arrogant.  Sure, we rejoice at winning, as any fan would.  Sure, we enjoy being called by others "the greatest fans in baseball", but for the most part, it's not something we brag about as much as it's something we enjoy in... not the title... the camaraderie and the passion.  

And here is where I make or break the article for most of you.  As I finished reading the linked article above... I felt conviction.  Major, gut wrenching, cut through to the heart conviction.  Not because I lack any of the above listed qualities in relation to the Cardinals.  I bear those well.  

But on the bigger scale, how many of us who claim to be Christians share the above qualities?  I mean, shouldn't this be what we look like?  Shouldn't we be loyal and faithful, not only on Sunday or when our lives are going great, but everyday?  Win or lose?   Shouldn't we be vocal?  Are the things of God often rolling from our lips?  Or are we silent?  Do we come off as a family?  Do we find camaraderie in our common denominator?  Do we relish in our relationships?  Do we mourn together and rejoice together?  Is our love for Christ something that brings us together despite our differences?  The Cardinal fans have that figured out.  

Do we live out our lives in such a way that we aren't loudly booing those who aren't on our side.  I'll be honest... I've grown a great love for the Cardinals team.  Trust me, I know stats and players like I never thought I'd know.  But the Cardinal franchise wasn't what drew me to the Cardinals as a young girl.  The Cardinal fans were.  They taught me how to be classy, how to be a loyal fan through wins and losses, how to treat opponents, how to give credit where credit is due.  They are vocal, but their actions make them... well... different.  The above article is spot on.  

How are we Christians doing at that?  

Would the world say we're humble?  Or would they say they are arrogant and rude?  

These are real questions we need to be asking.  

And I'm not promoting that by accomplishing all of these things we eliminate the haters.  Just as the author mentioned, many people hate the Cardinals, many people hate the fans.  

But what about people like the author?  What about those who see something different and enjoy it?  Think about the difference it could make.  Is this the reputation the new testament told us we should guard?  I think it's a part, for sure.  The way we love... God and others... should be evident.  

God and baseball are closer together at this point of mine then I've ever thought they would be.  All I know is this:  I'm fortunate to be a part of what is considered to be the greatest fans in baseball.  Being a part of that group has taught me a lot about class in athletics.  Today, it's taught me a lot about how I should carry that out in a much larger aspect of my life.  

Monday, October 21, 2013


There used to be a time in my life when words came easy.  Words come easy for me at hard times. They well up in my soul and spill over.  There's a reason an entire book of poetry rushed out of me during my senior year of high school.  It was hard, ya'll.  I felt like everything stable had been ripped from me.  I hurt, but I rejoiced.  My writing was my healing, and I sat in front of a flashing cursor every. single. day.  For hours.  It felt great.

I've had many an aspiration to write a great American novel... or, just a book that gets purchased and read.  In the season I'm in, however, time is fleeting, and the time has just not come.  Where words once came easy, words now seem so difficult.  My words consist of, "Was that a good choice?' and "No, we can't have a snack before dinner."  Words are practical, not poetic.  They are purposeful, not beautiful. At least, that has been my perception.

Many times I've longed for that edge back.  I've longed for the words to flow from me as they did in years before, with ease and fluidity.  I long for that short poetic phrase to erupt in my mind that causes me to put down all else and write line after line around it.

Rarely does it happen.

But last night, the words came.

Let me preface with saying, first, that I've reached a monumental milestone in my life as a mother.  This may seem menial to many of you.  You must realize, it is not for me.  With my youngest (and more than likely last) child nearing *gulp* three and hitting milestone after milestone, I'm putting a lot of things away.  No more cribs, no more diapers, no more size 2t clothing (yeah, she's huge), no more calling her 'baby' ("I a big girl, mommy"), and the list goes on.  Believe it or not, I've fared well with these.  The realization that stopped me in my tracks:  I've more than likely bought my last box of Cheerios.  Ok, not in the sense that we'll never eat Cheerios again, but in the sense that this staple of a 'finger - food' is no longer a necessity in my pantry.  Ans hasn't been in a high chair in many, many months, and we've totally passed the place of them wanting dry cereal for breakfast, or Cheerios at all for that matter.  So the other day when I was making my grocery list and I noticed the Cheerios were all but out, as I was going to write it on my list I thought, "I don't really need these."  And it hit me.  Like a ton of falling bricks.  For the first time in 4.5 years, we are out of the Cheerio stage.

It was a series of events after that where I caught myself thinking, "I can't wait until..." and I found myself catching my thought mid-sentence and changing it, "I'm so thankful she's still...".   It's amazing how your perspective changes.

Secondly - this is rough.  It's literally the first poem I've written in... years.  It's choppy, unedited, and doesn't exactly have a cadence I love at the moment, but it's what poured from my heart last night.  Be easy on me.  Here it is:

Leaves on a Windy Day
A time for all things - 
Plenty tasks to be done, 
But my heart longs and wanders
for the season to come.
The groanings of labors
and untimely deeds
leaves my soul rushing forward,
No warning it heeds,
To days far ahead
where we can coast on with ease.

And they pass. Seasons change. 
Leaves on a windy day. 

Yet new seasons, new struggles,
New longings and pain,
And just a glimmer of wishing 
things could still be the same
of a day in past seasons,
But now I look on
to just a stage, just a day 
to get this day gone
and see what new things 
lie ahead and along. 

And they pass.  Seasons change.  
Leaves on a windy day. 

And fleeting and flying 
are the days that go past.
And I taste and I savor ALL seasons,
At last!
But not without longing
and wishing for days
that I'd squandered, rejected, 
and wished far away.
And now I can see
the mistake that I've made.
The days I'd wished through,
The days now gone past,
Are the days that I missed
that I now want to last!
And the mist rises slowly,
but just in a flash...

They pass.  Seasons change. 
We are leaves on a windy day.
Don't wish it away. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Explaining Grace

A sweet little boy waited patiently for me to tuck his sister in last night to come and kiss him goodnight. I tucked the comforter in underneath his buried little form and kissed his pink little cheeks (note to self: just because the temperature drops, sunscreen is still vital).  I nonchalantly asked him if daddy had prayed with him, to which he replied, 'Yeah,' and proceeded to tell me for what he had prayed. Namely, he'd prayed to thank God that we had chose to show him grace in allowing him to go to his baseball practice, though he'd disobeyed us during his nap-time.

Nap-time can be frustrating, for sure.  For him, he's required an hour worth of a quiet time each day, except for the days that we strongly feel that he needs a nap.  It's those days he tends to disobey the most, and he's out of bed 100 times before the initial hour is up.  It's frustrating, to say the least, but we are well aware that as our baby boy nears *gulp* FIVE his napping days may be nearing an end.  

Still, after the one hundred and fortieth time (ok, maybe that is a slight exaggeration), of him being up, we'd had it, and when we finally let him come down (and sit in time out), his only question was, "Are you going to show me grace and let me go to my ball practice?"

Now, let me just tell you, there's something about the expectation of the extension of grace that makes me want to cancel a whole SLEW of his ball practices.  Grace is unmerited, and not to be expected.
Which, indeed, is what makes it grace.  

Ultimately, lucky little man got to go, with the result of that being his prayer of thanks to the Lord.

It's amazing the things you learn out of the mouths of babes.  I've always felt that teaching something is one of the best ways to learn it yourself.  Last night was no different.

After he had told me about his prayer, I felt compelled to explain to him that the only reason we are able to show him grace is because, ultimately, we have been shown grace in a much greater form that it is our joy to extend it to others.

I told him that his mommy and daddy have done many bad things that have made God sad and unhappy with us, just like we were sad and unhappy with him for getting up from his nap.   I explained that those bad things completely separated us from God and meant that we couldn't be with Him in heaven when we die, but that He loved us so much, and wanted so badly for us to be with Him, that He sent Jesus to take our punishment so that He could extend us grace and allow us to be in Him with Heaven some day, much like we allowed B to attend his baseball practice, except that God's grace to us was much much more than the grace that we could ever show B.  It's because of the grace God chose to show us that we find joy in extending grace ourselves.

I finished by telling him that, one day, when God saves him, he will want to extend grace and forgive people who hurt him or make him sad, because he'll understand how much God had forgiven him.

My prayer is that we are providing real learning examples of God's love for our kids by expressing that love to them through our disciplining and parenting them.  Ultimately, they should experience God's grace and love through us as Christians who have been saved by a gracious and merciful God whom we have sinned outwardly against.

May I never forget, even in those moments of frustration, that the sin of my children will never be greater than my own sin against the Father, and that each extension of grace is a sweet breath from the Father to my children, beckoning them to Himself.  May I also remember that, even now, I find myself looking up to heaven asking the Father, as I sit in my filth, "Are you going to show me grace?" and that, though it should not be abused, the Father's grace is limitless, His mercy is great.  

May we love others with the same love we've been shown.