Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What I Learned in 2014

Emily Freeman does a blog post each month where she invites readers to link up with what they've learned that month.

As an educator, I hold true to the theory that we are always learning, so I look forward to this post each month.  Looking for things to include in my own post has made me actively seek out learning experiences, or at least made me use google a whole lot more to clarify or substantiate information.

This month, she's reviewing the whole year, and I thought that since I like to do a year in review anyways, this would be a great opportunity.

So, here it is... what I learned in 2014.

1. I learned that God knows what you need when you need it.  From the very beginning of the year, I had focused on my word "be".  My key verse for the year was "Be still and know that I am God." I wanted to be intentional, yes, but I also wanted to embrace every single moment and opportunity given to me. I learned just what it meant to be still and know after my Grandma died.  I learned that to be in the moment, appreciating every second, is the single most important thing we can do in our life.  Too often I focus on the future and make big plans... but I'm not promised another single day.  And I spend a lot of time kicking myself over things I've said in the past... but that's over and done with.  BE.  I'm learning...

2. 2.4 seconds is a lifetime. Seriously. Always before, I would start celebrating a win with two minutes to go. Not anymore.  In March, as I watched a win slip from the clutch of my Ladycats, I learned that nothing is guaranteed... and almost a year later, losing is still hard to swallow. Just ask Caleb Bates.

3.  "Go Big Blue" sounds much sweeter in an arena packed with Big Blue Nation fans, where you just might hug the neck of the college girl next to you... even if you spent the first twenty minutes of the game trying to avoid hitting her elbow with your elbow because arena chairs mean there are no strangers.  Also, flying home and missing the Championship game is worth it to witness the Kentucky loss with a great bunch of friends.  We were so close to that championship, but this year it is ours for the taking...

4. There are no words to describe the Grand Canyon.  Authors have tried, and have done an injustice, and I feel as though I would do an injustice, too. Standing on the brim, looking down and across at all of nature's colors... I was reminded of just how vast my God is.

5. There is never enough time to read... and sometimes reading isn't the best thing. When I retreat into my own little world and care more about fictional characters than those outside my house, or those inside my house, even, it can be a bad thing... but sometimes this is my tendency.  This year, I was convicted big time over this.  That's not saying I'll not be reading in 2015... just that if I'm prompted to put up the book and participate in life around me, I'll not say, "Just one more chapter."

6. Quitting isn't necessarily a bad thing.  This year, in the wake of my Grandma passing and a bad winter full of snow and feeling like I was out of sorts all semester long, I struggled through my own college work.  I decided to drop my classes in the summer and sat out in the fall.  I was better able to appreciate life and those in it with me, without worrying about a paper all the time.  I'm still not as refreshed as I'd like to be, but I also learned that even though taking a breather can be good... it can sometimes make starting back more difficult, so I'll be crazy once again in a couple of weeks as I enter the (hopefully!) last year of my doctorate program.

7. In relation, not living by a to do list can be a very good thing.  Once I quit school, I didn't have quite as many things to keep up with, and I (for what may have been the very first time in my life since I was responsible for my own actions) started flying by the seat of my pants.  It was a little scary.  This was prompted when I lost my planner in September... and I just never got back in the habit of using it.  I may or may not have forgotten some things... but I lived to tell about them. I know that because I need to get organized in the coming year, I'll be going back to the planner and to do list (plus I'm waiting on a lovely Erin Condren planner, so why WOULDN'T I want to use it?), but it's been somewhat exhilarating to be free.

8. God is good, even when life isn't. There is no explanation for that statement.  It's just the truth. No matter what you're going through, He is there with you. You may not feel Him.  You may not want Him. But He wants you... and He loves you. I'm so grateful that this year, I learned more about His love.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Living the Legacy

There are some coaches that are legends.  Their names are sometimes known better than their legacies.  Coaches like John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Bear Bryant, Vince Lombardi, and Pat Summit are icons in their respective sports.

Their lives centered around the game, and molding those individuals with whom they worked to be the best players they could be. Sometimes... a lot of the time... it meant tough love.  It meant going against what others might have thought they should do. 

There are other coaches who are infamous... folks like Bobby Knight, a good coach in his own right, but known more for his sideline antics at times.  I didn't even watch college basketball growing up (shocking, I know!!!) but I can remember footage of him kicking chairs and getting in the faces of players after they made a mistake.

I can quote you some of these coach's words.  I know some of their philosophies based on reading their books and studying their legacies.  But I don't know them personally...

I happen to think that I've been blessed to know some of the greats personally. You'll not see their names up on billboards necessarily, but in small town Eastern Kentucky, they made a difference every day of their life.

I never knew I'd grow up to marry a coach, but I'm glad I did, because high school football and basketball are in my blood.  Truthfully, there is no other place I'd rather be than under the lights on Friday night or listening to the squeak of shoes on a hardwood floor on a cold January night.

I learned from the best, and didn't even know it.

Tomorrow is the first day of the inaugural JP Deaton Classic, and I can't think of a better man to honor in this way.

My Mom was cheer coach for as long as I can remember, and coached both girls and boys varsity (back when they were still called that. That shows you how dated!) That meant a lot of time in the gym.  (Which is why I never watched college basketball.  We were always watching high school!)Coach Deaton coached the girls team and Coach Turner was the boys coach. I loved those men and their families.

We were family.

I can't remember Coach Deaton yelling much... but then again, I really didn't pay too much attention to games back then... I was too busy living in my princess castle at the top of the Coliseum. (And actually, I wasn't much of a princess girl.  I spent a lot of time pretending that the eaves of the gym were full of mystery and I was Nancy Drew.) I do remember trips to Newport and buffet dinners and the girls singing You've Lost that Loving Feeling at the top of their lungs on the bus.

I remember him smiling.  A lot.  I'm sure there were times when he didn't, but as a kid I just remember him being one of the kindest men I knew.

His wife was the high school librarian and to a kid who loved to read, that was extra special.  His daughter was my second grade teacher and she bought me stickers and encouraged my love for reading.  I was so proud to serve as her flower girl in her wedding, and even though that's been a number of years ago, I still find myself calling her Miss Deaton.  His other daughter worked at the trophy shop in town when I was little.  I can remember how that place seemed magical.  Trophies were a big deal to little kids, after all...and there was nothing like going in there and looking around to pick up screen tee-shirts... imagine, you giving a place a design and then getting a shirt made just like what you wanted!

In 1987 we won Region and I got to tag along for the whole ride.  I don't remember who we played or the score or even how it turned out ( I do remember my Dad getting my two year old sister Holly dressed in a cheerleading uniform with one of my turtlenecks... which is a whole other story!) ... but I remember feeling like I was just as much a part of it as the players. I'm sure I was a pest to those older girls, but they never made me feel that way. 

And neither did the Coaches.

Those high school coaches back then influenced my love for the game in ways they never could imagine.  I'm pretty sure they were just doing what they loved... and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

So tomorrow I'll be a little nostalgic as one of my own personal greats is honored by a holiday tournament named after him. And I'll be thankful once again that I am in one of the places that I love the most.  This coach's wife thing comes full circle.  I know to many it doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but sitting in that Coliseum night after night is like being home.

And I'm so honored that I'm just a small part of the legacy that is Ladycat basketball.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Full Heart

It sneaks up on me unaware, this Christmas thing.

From the time that it is over one year, I know it's coming the next... but still I'm not ready.

I wonder if that was how Mary and Joseph were... nine months of waiting, not knowing, agonizing at times... until it was time. Time for her to be delivered.

Time for me to be delivered.  Time for you to be delivered... when she delivered that baby boy.

All alone. 

Just her and Joseph; at least that's the only people the Bible mentions.

Except for the strangers, like the shepherds and the wisemen.

I can't help but wonder about Mary's family, because to me, that's what Christmas is about.

Family... loud, crazy family.

Family who know your story, because they've lived it with you.

Every year, Christmas is about family... but this year the current was strong.

My heart is full, even as I was overwhelmed.

Christmas Eve brought Grandma Bert and the "best Christmas ever", just as it has been every year of my life. For the first time in years, Holly and Dennis had put up a Christmas tree, and we gathered in front of it for a group picture... the first one I can remember.  We laughed about old movies and detective stories and Grandma squealed over every hoot owl present that she got.  I sat in Papaw's lap for a picture and I thought of Christmas all those years ago, when it was just me and Brandon and I monopolized the audience with impromptu concerts sung on a wooden microphone. The smell of woodchips and sawdust hasn't been present in a while, but it is still the smell of my childhood... that and cornbread in milk.  This year there were gifts of cash, but I remembered gifts of Avon from my Aunt Jo.  I sat and drank in the image of Grandma opening her gifts, because memories are short and easily forgotten and this year I was determined to treasure every last one of them.
And then we rushed out, because Santa had been sighted on Twin Cedar Road and there was a little boy who was anxious to see him...or maybe not so much so.  Santa packed in a bag of presents and Will jumped and laughed as he opened them, tearing a little bit of the paper and then moving on to the next one. And then he packed them all and piled them all on Kami. "Here you go, Kami." until she was covered with presents.  There are no in-laws on Twin Cedar... just a family that loves one another regardless of last name. As I watch Will I'm reminded of the true joy of Christmas... the laughter of kids.

Christmas morning brought pancakes and bacon at Mom and Dad's and Caleb impatiently waiting for Holly and Warren to arrive. My best gift was a novel about Mammy from Gone with the Wind and a bracelet that says, "After all, tomorrow is another day."  Kami's thoughtfulness overwhelmed me, as she knew just what I'd like. Holly was equally overwhelmed by her present, cookie cutters in the shape of the characters from Pride and Prejudice.  Our little girl grown up...

And then Clemons Christmas for the Clemons Clan.  The bells were hanging and the boys were in the basement. Braylee woke up and snuggled and Lily sat in Kami's lap and opened presents until she was tired of opening. Papaw Jr. sat in his recliner and Jill lay in the middle of the rug, oblivious to the chaos around her.

Every year is the same but every year is different, if that makes any sense.  The same houses and the kids mostly draw the same names, and there's the same group picture of the grandkids, where you can never get everyone to look at the camera.

But the differences are palpable this year as we don't speak of it, but we tolerate the pictures a little better.

There's Bronco fans and there are Steelers fans and there are Bengals fans... Wildcat fans and the stray Louisville fan...

But we are all family, that crazy Clemons Clan.

Another dinner with Helen and William and a nap and then it's time to wind up the evening at Dana's house, where for once the fire is blazing and we don't have to snuggle up under blankets. The ballgame is on and again there is a debate about who is better, Michael Jordan or Lebron James, and Papaw Jr. is just cheering for "whoever is the winner." And Braylee tries to crawl and we all cheer her on.

New faces around the table as we play 5 Seconds, where Jordan puts his college degree to use and assures us that Social Studies is a science (proving it with Wikipedia, mind you), and Brayton exclaims that the Bible is a book series because there is 66 books, and Mom draws a blank when Kami mispronounces her card. 

And in the meantime Lily is doing cartwheels and Papaw sits in the living room.

I look around and realize that I've done it... gone the whole day without shedding a tear, and know that if I hadn't, the people around that table would understand...

And I've got a feeling many of you would, too...

Because you need Him, too... need to be delivered just like Mary was.

Delivered of grief... because like us, you were missing someone special.
OR delivered of illness, because your son is facing another surgery or you're facing chemo or the flu or just the winter blues.

We all need deliverance... and He understands.  After all, He is the deliverer... the Word made flesh. God with us.

The one who is writing our story and will eventually wipe away every tear.

Merry Christmas, dear friends.  May your heart be full today and always.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Anniversary Thoughts

It was one of those nights when nothing we threw up went in. 

Not free throws.  Not layups. Passes got intercepted and shots fell short.

We were moving in slow motion, it seemed...

And everything on the other end went in.

One hand behind your back with your eyes closed...  Ok, maybe I exaggerate, but it sure seemed that way.

As a fan, it's one of those nights when you wish you could do something.

Say something.

Instead, I sit in silence and watch him pace.

The tie has been off since the very beginning and the frustration is palpable.

And they are just kids.

Kids stepping into big roles and kids feeling pressure and kids not knowing what exactly they are supposed to do.

And he stands, stunned...

And they play, stunned.

It's never easy to swallow, this thing called loss.

And when compared to other things in life, it seems so trivial...

I think back to those vows.  "For better or worse. In good times and bad."

On nights when the shots don't fall.

On nights when there are no words for those girls.

When I stood in front of the church 15 years ago and said those words, I knew exactly what I was getting into.

Our inaugural year of marriage was spent in a gym, coaching middle schoolers who were too small for their shorts.

It's kind of like a step-family of sorts.

I married him, and whatever group of kids he's coaching.

And I love them.

That's why it hurts so much.

And I think again about how it is just a game... and aren't games supposed to be fun?

And they are, when we are winning and when everyone is healthy.

Adversity, though is not fun. It's hard and it is bitter to swallow and it can knock the breath out of you. You can feel like it isn't worth it and that you just want to throw in the towel.

It's kind of like marriage.

There are days when I've felt that way.  Days when I don't like him very much.  Moments when I've regretted those vows, when I've second-guessed just what we are doing in this crazy thing called life.

I think back to when we first met, how young we were. 

A senior in high school, I had the world at my fingertips and didn't even know it.

Just like some of those girls on the court.

And in those fifteen years, there have been good days and bad.

We've had missed shots.

We've had turnovers.  We've had breathless moments when we were on top, and moments when the pain and hurt cut deep.

In fifteen years, you change.  You have to relearn your role, adapt.

Just like those girls tonight.  8th graders stepping up.  New roles because of injury.

Sometimes, the shots don't fall...

But you just have to keep shooting.

Just have to keep trusting.

Just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other as you drive into the lane, no matter how many fouls you've got.

I'm not an expert... if anything, I'm someone who knows just enough to be stupid. But I know that in love, you have to take a chance and have to leave your heart out there.

And I'm pretty sure it's the same in a basketball game.


Friday, December 5, 2014

What I'm Reading in December

As I'm typing this, I'm looking out my office window and it is pouring the rain.  I'm thinking it would be a good day to be at home, on the couch,  under my blanket reading.

Of course, to me, any day is a good day to be on at home, on the couch,  under my blanket, reading.

Last month I didn't read as much as what I normally do and I'm really not sure why.  I did read 11/22/63 by Stephen King and it was great... but long... so that may have been why.

So, if you follow my posts every month, some of these reads may sound familiar...

but they'll be finished by the end of Christmas break =)

Right now I'm reading Look Again by Lisa Scottoline.  Basically, it's the story of a news reporter who adopted a sick boy. One day, she checks her mail and sees a missing persons card where the little boy listed looks identical to her son.  This story follows her search to find out if this is just a coincidence, and it is an exciting read that I don't want to put down... but I leave it in my car and drive-thrus only last so long =) Best part about this book?  It's good and I bought it for only $1.00 at Half-Price books!

I just started The Christmas Tin.  I usually try to read some Christmas-y books in December, and this was another free one for the Kindle. 

Come to the Table by Neta Jackson is in the Souled Out Series, a follow-up to Jackson's Yada Yada Prayer Group series.  If you've not read those, you must!  They are warm, funny, with just a hint of drama and intrigue thrown in... and you feel like it's a mini-sermon because Jackson interweaves Scripture throughout.  Love, love, love these books!

Football season is winding down, so I'm fostering my love with a couple of football selections.  One is Rudy, the autobiography of the guy who the movie Rudy is based on. Written after the movie was filmed, it provides insight into his quest to play for Notre Dame, and life after football.  He's not at Notre Dame yet where I am, but I know it is coming! I'm also finishing up Dixieland Delight, a glimpse into the SEC week by week.  I generally save this book for Saturday, so last Saturday I read the chapter where Travis visits Kentucky.  I was a little put off when he described how difficult it was to be a fan at Kentucky, but our loss to Louisville kind of proved him right, so I guess I'll forgive him.  It's also laugh out loud funny at times because I can so relate to some of the stuff he says.  SEC fans are passionate about their schools.  Since Wallace and I  have season tickets that are located close to the visitors section, I've seen firsthand the passion... and it all comes out in this book. A must read for SEC football lovers!

For Proverbs 31 OBS, I'm leading a small group reading Max Lucado's Before Amen, a book on prayer.  It. is.  awesome.  And much needed right now.  I'm amazed as I've started this study and really started looking at intentional prayer how God has opened my eyes to the needs of others.  (More on that in another post). 

Night Road by Kristin Hannah is a gut-wrenching book.  It's about a teenager who was best friends with her boyfriend's twin sister... she actually was friends with Mia before Zach became her boyfriend. They are young, with their lives in front of them, when a tragic accident wrecks havoc on the relationship and their worlds.  It is good, and very relevant to today's society.  Hannah's books always make me think and pull on my heart strings.

Out of Time is the story of a lady who inherits her uncle's old house, and when visiting it to put it on the market, discovers that a Revolutionary War soldier has suddenly appeared in her garden shed.  I'm really just getting into this one, but it is an easy read.

Two Bible studies I'm doing- The Family of Jesus by Karen Kingsbury and The Patriarchs by Beth Moore.  I only have about a week left in The Patriarchs.  I'm working through The Family of Jesus with my ladies group at church, and we are actually taking a break for the holidays, so I'll not be finishing up that one until January.

I'm also reading Get out of that Pit by Beth Moore with a book club.  We're reading one chapter a week, but we've gotten behind, but I hope to finish this one this month, too.

Upcoming books? Outlander series, I'm hearing, is a must.  Love Does.  Casual Vacancy.  The Prayer Box.  More Christmas books. 

I'd love to hear about yours!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Baby's a Senior

Everyone always told me when I was young that time would go by so much faster when I was older, and they didn't lie.
That summer, Allie and Gentry were both playing Mighty Mites, so most days it was just me and Landry Dale on the hill.
(Well, me and Landry and occasionally the neighborhood children who would wonder in and ask me what was for lunch... )
We took endless walks on Picnic Hill.  His legs would fly as they pumped down past Mrs. Toler's house, and I'd gaze over the hillside where my miracle car accident happened.
I'd be tired, but not him.
We'd walk back up to his front yard and I'd pitch baseballs and throw footballs.
Always a ball with that one.
His competitive spirit started young. Always the smallest grandkid, he made up for his size with his tenacity.  There wasn't a game that he didn't want to win... it didn't matter if it was flag football or a video game.

That competitive spirit may have been fueled by his older siblings and cousins... because he was always good for a few laughs when he got mad.
Landry was born following a tornado, and that always makes me smile. 
He came into this world and has left his mark. Always quick with a comeback, he'll just grin that grin and I'll see him like he was that summer. 
"Just a few more throws, Aunt Lauren."
"Landry, I'm your cousin.  The other Lauren is your Aunt Lauren."
"Oh, yeah..."
Always Grandma's favorite, he quickly became one of my favorites, too.  (It's amazing to look at me and my cousins and see how different we all are... and I love them all for different reasons.)
He makes me smile.
I think he makes the referees smile, too. 
One came over tonight and told Nora, "You'll have to pay more money for prom this year, to get him a date because of that hair."
He's his own kid... always has been.  
I don't know if I'm getting sentimental in my old age or not, but tonight as I watched him on the basketball court, I just about teared up.
It seems like yesterday that he was taking naps in my lap watching PBS Kids.
Just yesterday...
but time really does pass.
Tonight he fired threes and drove into the basket.  His confidence is easily seen.  I joked with Nora that Grandma must have prayed extra hard for his self-esteem.  Nora said maybe he had the self-esteem Wallace needed.
And as I watched him dance on the floor waiting for the ref to make a call, smiling and feeling just as full of himself as a person could. I realized that maybe, just maybe, that self-esteem is from our family...

Maybe it really was prayed for, but maybe it's because he knows he's loved.
THE grandbaby.
Worth rushing to town to get McDonalds on game day.
Something special, that boy... he knows it.
And I'm pretty sure we won't let him forget it, either.
Best of luck, Lan, on your Senior year.  Watching you play makes me remember why I'm a baskeball fan.

Monday, December 1, 2014

My Head Gives Up

My legs are tired. 

I'm tired.  And this post may or may not come out a little whiny, so I apologize in advance.

And really, my legs are tired.

Today, as I was driving to work, I drove on an expanse of new road. 

The shoulders were wide and the view is pretty impressive, if I must say so myself.

I thought of when Wallace was first running, of how we'd clock the miles on that road in our cars.

I was a reluctant passenger, because I really didn't care how many miles the road was, or where the best turn around point was, or how hilly it was.

Today, as I looked at that wide shoulder, though, I thought of some girls that I know training for a marathon. 

I follow their posts on facebook, a little jealously (is that a word?).

I want to be a runner.

But we've already had the whole I'm not disciplined thing.

And I kind of feel faint sometimes when I run for three minutes straight.

(I'm exaggerating here.  I don't want to give my medical family members a heart attack.  I'm not on the verge of passing out or anything.  I assure you I don't push my limits... except when I need to.)

 The thing is, though, as I've worked through this challenge (we're on week 5 of the actual Faithful Finish Lines program, and I'm on week 3 of the exercise program because y'all know me... I procrastinated and passive-aggressively started a little late) I've noticed a change.

Each step is a little easier.  Today I ran for four minutes straight and didn't keel over. 

At least, I'm still here to type this...

My time is improving a little on my mile, and doesn't everything start with the first step, after all?

But tonight my legs are really killing me, so I thought again of a post I saw on one of those real-life runner pages. 

I hope she doesn't mind that I'm stealing it.

 And that is my problem, whether I'm walking a mile or five miles, or running a few minutes. 

My head gives up, a lot.

So tonight, instead of stopping at the minimum 19 minutes per the training plan, I walked an extra 15 minutes.

I'm slowly reaching my goals. 

I've walked a total of 18 miles the past week (and some of that, three and four minutes at a time, was running). That's treadmill time, or outside time.. not counting the miles from clinical or Walmart or from my house to Mom and Dad's.

I've walked at least 10,000 steps every day except Thursday the past week.  My Fitbit says I'm averaging over 11,000 steps a day, but a couple of days I've done over 14,000.

And I'm making myself do it...

Because excuses just aren't getting it anymore.

At least not this week =)

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