Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: My Year of Grace

(picture by beach baby kisses, found on etsy.  Love my print.  Check her shop out!)

Grace: unmerited favor.  A gift that you don't deserve.  God smiling down on you, and you feeling Him all around.

His grace is sufficient.  Enough. Always.  His grace makes a bad day good, makes us realize our blessings, makes us look ahead to the future.

All reasons I chose grace as my one word for 2013.  I embraced 2013 as a year of grace.  Celebrating His grace given to me.  Celebrating my blessings. Thanking God for His gifts.

I learned that grace isn't just about me... in fact, because He has so freely offered, I must offer it, too... yet it isn't as easy for me.

2013.  My year of grace.  And oh, I learned so much...

I learned that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.  In the three months that Wallace was in Texas, I realized just how much I like having him around.  And how much fun it is just to hang out.  And why I fell for him in the first place.  I also learned just how good someone looks when they are waiting for you at the gate at the airport.

I learned that family and love will make a man who has never flown hop on an airplane to accompany his daughter in law and grandson across the country. I learned, too, that sometimes, I can do things that I don't think I can.

And on that note, I learned that if you put your mind to it, and work hard, you can do what you need to get by.  Pursuing my doctorate degree has proven to be one of the most difficult things I've ever done, and I'm still not finished... but by the grace of God (and I've learned there's a lot of it), I'll finish.

I learned that difficult decisions have to be made, and sometimes no one understands why you choose to do what you have to do.  I've learned that sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and trust God if He opens a door, regardless of the backlash.  And I've learned that change can be good, even as we miss parts of what we left behind.

I've learned that family is always the most important.  Caleb has grown up so much this year.  The three months Wallace was away made me see him in a whole new light.  While he still sometimes thoroughly gets on my nerve (like right now, when I'm trying to type this and he just.. won't. stop. talking), he is the love of my life.  He's become my concert partner.  We've watched Toby Mac twice, and Chris Tomlin.
I've learned that time with family doesn't have to be complicated. Some of my favorite memories every year come in the third week of July, when my "Michigan" cousins come down and hang out.  We sit around and talk and catch  up, and I count down to July the rest of the year.

Family is about an extension of yourself.  I've always loved my cousins, and as I grow older, I'm learning that the bond of family is important.  As my grandparents are growing older and struggling with health problems, 2013 taught me that time with those you love is most important.

And speaking of family, family isn't always blood. Family is about those who stand behind you, regardless.  In a rough summer, one week at the beach was much needed, and those days in the sand and sun brought about a whole new meaning of family.

2013 also taught me that kids are the best.  Watching Will grow has been a true treasure.  He's slowly learning to talk, and makes life interesting.
I learned that just because you've never met someone, doesn't mean you can't love them.  My Online Bible Study peeps are awesome, and I am so honored to get to do life with them, even though it is through a computer.
And I learned that His Grace is Enough.  That you can overcome if you keep persevering. And that in the end, He's there to hold you up.
Thanks, 2013, for all the memories. I'm looking forward to all 2014 has to offer.  God bless you and yours!

Monday, December 30, 2013

For the Love of the Game

It seems fitting that the day before New Year's Eve would be spent in two different gyms, only minutes away.  Three games in a few hours.  Those two gyms, and what would transpire between two ball seasons, have defined 2013 for the Bates household.  And please... give me a chance before you stop reading.  This post is not going to go into decisions or reasons or any of that, because that's not important.  What was and is always important are the kids, and that's what this post is about. 

Not just kids in those two gyms, although those are the ones I love the most.  Kids all over this region.  Kids all  over this state.

If you know anything about me, you know I am a sports fanatic.  I was raised that way by a woman who could not love the game anymore.  She was raised that way by a Dad who took her to high school basketball games when there wasn't anything else to do in Breathitt County.  Didn't matter who was playing.  And let's face it... things really haven't changed that much.

So I lucked out when I married a coach.  I knew what I was getting into when I said "I do." This post isn't about  him, either, even though I am proud of him regardless of whether you love him or hate him.  As a coach's wife, I do a lot of scouting.  I know a lot of kids who wouldn't know me, and would probably get creeped out if I spoke to them.  While I may not know exact names, I do know which girls shoot better behind the three point line and which ones will drive into the middle.  I know which ones like to push back under the goal and which are a little afraid of contact.  See, while I may not know the difference between certain offenses and defenses, and while I may not be his first choice to talk game plan, I'm the one there when he can't sleep at two  in the morning and just needs to hash out why this isn't working... or what they're going to do to stop so-and-so.  Let's face it, there's just not many other people who would want to listen to that at that time of night... I just don't have much choice.

But I love it. I'll offer my insight.  I'll talk just like an expert.  And I find myself cheering in the gym, even if I don't know the kids.

Because high school basketball is where it is at.  Oh, I love UK... and I may stand to be shot if I type this... but there isn't much better than a good high school basketball game.

See, those kids leave it on the floor.  They aren't getting paid, and they aren't looking to be drafted.  They know the meaning of team is family and they stand up for one another. They play for the love of the game.  They hustle and scrap, and for the most part shake hands after it is all over.  Rivalries run strong.  Sometimes, heart means more than talent and hard work truly does win championships.  High school basketball makes me smile. 

As I left Jackson's gym tonight, I couldn't help but think of all of the kids over the years who  have made me smile as I watched them, and sometimes just made me shake my head in disbelief because their skilled performances would mean a loonng night at the Bates house.  Obviously, kids like Kendall and Brittany Moore, because I've known them all their life.  But also kids from other schools, like Savannah Noe, who will bust a three in your face and make  you wish you'd played a little bit closer defense.  Players like Jess Murrell from Owsley, who wasn't that tall but sure didn't care to bump underneath the basket. (OK, that whole basketball team from Owsley made me smile.  I sure do love those girls!) Players like Katie Moore from Leslie who makes it look effortless, and kids like Whitney Creech and those girls from Jenkins tonight who can shoot the lights out of the gym.

And my girls from Jackson.  Ain't nobody got hustle like Ashlee Combs.  Brittany Barnett and that three point shot.  Laura Johnson, who plays for the love of the game and cheers on her teammates, and then hustles when she gets in the game.  Heather Thompson, who has the heart of a lion. Kids like Ashlee Daughtery, who made me smile as I watched her hustle and who is still making me smile as we talked careers and where she is going next.

And my Breathitt girls.. who I'm slowly learning.  It makes me smile to watch Megan Stamper shoot her jumper, and rebound... when you don't even realize what she's doing. She's the quiet player who will kill you if you let her.  Kasey Cox, a force to be reckoned with from behind the line and driving in, where she doesn't care to take the foul and make it count.  Allison Herald and Carissa Hatton, who make it look easy to rebound and put the ball back up.  I smile when Ollie Bates drives into the middle, and when she smiles when she accidentally fouls someone and they end up on the floor. Kayla Gross and her defense... Kaylee Noble, who is coming right along and makes you wish you hadn't fouled  her.  Amy Brewer, whose spunky defense and drives to the basket against girls older than her makes me smile.  And those younger girls.. I can't list them all, but you freshmen, you make me smile because you loved Caleb before we were even down there.

You see, it doesn't really matter if I know them or not.  High school basketball players just make me smile.  I came to this realization on the way home tonight, as I thought about the Jackson/Breathitt boys game.  I sat in that gym tonight slightly sentimental. I watched as one of my favorites, Landry, hustled down the court, drove into the basket, and clapped for his teammates.  The kid has always made me smile, and he did so tonight.  Especially one time, when he came down the floor, slow dribbling, only to meet Wes Noble.  I couldn't help but picture them in my mind, little boys, impish grins on their sun-kissed faces, arms draped around each other's shoulders.  Or picture him with a baseball in his hand, cap slung low over his head, his three year old arms throwing the ball over and over and over to me.  I saw him as a little boy, mad because his brother and cousins wouldn't pass him the ball in the Thanksgiving day flag football game, and then remembered the trick play, where Billy hoisted him on his shoulders and carried him in for the touchdown.  Landry Dale plays with heart and is fiercely competitive, a dangerous combination in high school basketball.

So, if you're not a fan of high school basketball, reconsider.  You'll not get a bigger heart.  You'll not see any game more fun to watch.  And they need your support.  Regardless of whether your team colors are blue and white or purple and gold, we're all winners... because our kids are the best.  The saying "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game" generally doesn't sit well in this house... but tonight, I'm thinking it's spot on.  Thankful for high school basketball... and for the chance to live vicariously through you all.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

What I Learned In December

1. The definition of panaceas- a solution to all problems or difficulties. Who knew there was a solution to ALL problems?  I learned this when I had to look this word up while reading an article for class. Of course, it was talking about the Affordable Care Act and healthcare reform, so it is highly debatable that there is a panaceas.

2. Hip replacement parts can be manufactured for around $350, but patients are often charged $13500 for the part when they have surgery.  Also learned this while reading an article, and listening to a webcast.  Sorry I don't have the links.  The information would have been more than too exciting.  If you google this and New York Times, though, you should be able to find it.  Ah... the cost of  healthcare in America.

3. Winter is NOT the most wonderful time of the year. Not being negative. I love Christmas.  I just don't like cold.  Or rain.  And especially not cold, wet, nasty rain.

4.Jamie Grace has Tourette's syndrome.  Wow. Caleb and I saw her in concert and she rocks!!  http://jamiegrace.com/about Love this girl! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPy0ctqMwE0

5. Christmas movies are the best.  Some of my favorites- A Christmas Story, Elf, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation ( I know.. .language... But on ABC family they bleep it out.) National Lampoon was apparently a humor magazine, and the story behind the Vacation movies first appeared there, according to Wikipedia.  It is just too funny.  And Madea's new Christmas movie is another hilarious one. 

6. The building in between the U and the K on the University of Kentucky Logo is the Memorial Hall Bell Tower.  It is a prominent building on campus. What I couldn't figure out was why that is part of their logo.  I did find out, however, that the university's colors were originally Blue and Yellow.  http://www.uky.edu/UKHome/subpages/traditions.html
Somehow, I just can't see Big Blue nation as being blue and yellow. Regardless, Big Blue Nation showed up and we came away with a win over a higher ranked Louisville team.  A good day to be a Kentucky fan.

7. There is nothing as important to a kid as a Christmas party... and Christmas truly is a magical time of year.  I was at Mom's church last night (the 19th) for play practice. They had ran through most of the play, and one of the little girls in the play came flying across the floor, "Dad, Can we go home now?" She said. "I have to brush my teeth and take a bath. I have a Christmas party tomorrow!"
How can you argue with that?

8. A.D.= Anno Domini= The Year of Our Lord.  I knew this... I just forgot it.  A lengthy discussion with my Dad and Kami prompted me to look it up.  So, there you go.

9. There is no day like the last Sunday of the regular season.  As a Steelers fan, I waited with baited breath as I watched my team win, the Bengals win, and the Jets win. The only thing between us and a playoff game was a win by the Chiefs... who rested 19 of their starters and still went into overtime!  What a difference a 40 yard field goal makes... one field goal missed that could seal the deal. Another one made that sent my boys packing for another year.  But Oh, the excitement!!!!

I've loved doing these posts... not sure if you've enjoyed reading them. It's opened my eyes up to look for new things.  One of my goals for the new year? Learn something new every day.  We'll see how that goes. Come back for what I've learned in 2013!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mama's Done Lost It

I submitted my last paper of the semester with over twelve hours to go before the deadline.  Patting myself on the back for that one... but almost lost my mind in the process. And did slightly lose my temper.  Ok, more than slightly...

The law of motherhood goes like this: If you have something important to do, your child will inevitably want to do something else.  At the same time. Right then.

And will throw up in your face how you never want to do anything with them, and how they are just trying to get into the Christmas spirit, and you become so angry you might just explode, because you REALLY need to concentrate on a reference page because you are awful at APA...

At least that is how it is at my house. 

And every word he said was the truth.  He is just a kid.  He is in the Christmas spirit, and it was, in fact, a true tragedy to him that his Christmas tree lights were not working.  And yes, they needed to be fixed RIGHT THEN... because it is a law that Christmas tree lights have to work.  At least to an 11 year old. (And maybe to a 34 year old, who had the same.  exact. argument.  last Tuesday when her beloved red and blue lights no longer lit up.  Ah, the Christmas ornament doesn't fall far from the tree...) As important as getting that last paper finished.. well, that's how important that Christmas tree was to him.

Shame on you, Mommy, for not understanding that until after the fact.

I am far from the perfect mother.  I rely heavily on my in-laws and my  parents to help shuttle Caleb home from school and to events and for nearly everything else.  He is well loved by a core group of people, who I know would go to the end of the world and back to make sure he is well cared for as his Dad coaches and I work and go to school.  I'm not sure how I could ever repay them for all they do for  him, except just love them and thank them.  I hope that even though I don't say it enough, they know just  how much I appreciate them.

I also struggle with feeling guilty because I do spend so much time on this daggone computer.  However, I want Caleb to understand that nothing in life is free and that hard work and dedication does pay off. 

But how do you balance?  How do you somehow fit it all in?  I have examined my priorities and am really trying to do better... but it all comes down to patience, which I have little of.  And making time...

Which you can't really make. 

I think about each holiday that I spend with my grandparents, who are all in their eighties.  I cherish that time, and want Caleb to cherish it, as well... special days full of special memories.  But today, as I sit  here on this couch and ponder my bad attitude, as I watch the ice on the trees melt and the cold rain drizzle down, I realize this...

Today is my only today.  This hour, this minute... it's the last time I'll have it.  Yes, my grandparents aren't promised tomorrow, but neither am I.  Neither is Caleb.  None of us are... our lives are but vapors. 

So our job, our responsibility, our purpose, if you will, isn't about preparing for tomorrow or working toward some pie in the sky dream.  Yes, there is a time and place for that, and I really feel like this doctorate is something I'm supposed to be pursuing, and an example that I need to set for Caleb.

But it is also my purpose to make memories from the mundane, to demonstrate a teachable spirit... to linger in the moment.  Even if it is unscrewing each and every Christmas light.  (Which, by the way did not work.  Thank God for Wallace knowing where a spare set of Christmas lights was.  And the tragedy of MY Christmas tree lights is a whole other story... but that man, even in his impatience, puts up with a lot over Christmas lights.>) .........

So, for now, I'm going to relish in the quiet of this house as Caleb is off with my Dad, on a beaver dam adventure.  And when he gets back, we are going to bake cookies (yes, Caleb.  We will even eat cookies that your Mama bakes.) We may watch a  little TV, or maybe read a little, or perhaps I can get him to work on his speech for Wednesday. 

But I'm going to cherish it.  He won't be eleven forever, good Lord willin".  And twenty years down the road, I won't remember how to write a paper, but I sure will remember that smile.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

#WhyWorry? I'm Surrounded...

I started to write that I'm a natural born worrier.  That really isn't true.  I don't sit around and worry that the sky is going to fall or that someone will get sick.  In fact, Caleb often accuses me of being hard hearted because I don't worry if he has a low grade temperature.  I think that is the nurse coming out in me...

I have been blessed with low anxiety for some things... but then there is a whole other part of my life that I do worry about.  I often worry about things that are apart from my control.  I worry about not being good enough... not being a good enough Mom, wife, friend, teacher, student... you fill in the blanks.  I worry that I don't do enough, or that I do too much.  I worry that I don't know my purpose in life... that this journey is supposed to be some big grand adventure, and most days it really feels like I'm on the same track, going round and round.

And I worry about what other people think.  I've always done this.  Always been a people pleaser, even though inside I was wishing that it really didn't matter to me.

I'm not alone.  In chapter 9 of Renee Swope's book A Confident Heart, she talks about all of the things that we women worry about.  About the what ifs... have you ever done that to yourself?  Or carried on that conversation in your head hours after  you talked to someone, about why you said something so stupid? 

Worry seems to multiply.  It can smother us.  It can suck the life out.  It can keep us paralyzed, afraid to move forward.

But God...

"Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me."

"I look behind me and you’re there,  then up ahead and you’re there, too— your reassuring presence, coming and going." The Message

"You have encircled me; You have placed Your hand on me." HCSB

See, in Psalm 139:5, we're told that God surrounds us.  He's before me.  He's behind me.  The KJV says, "hast beset me." Beset is translated from the Hebrew word meaning "fortify, seige." He's putting a hedge around me... protecting me.

And it surrounds me. This verse tells us He's behind me. He's got my back.  He's before me... He's already been where I'm going.  He has laid His hand upon me... covering me.  Blessing me.

#WhyWorry?  He knows me.  He loves me.  Even if noone else doesn't  (not that I am being melodramatic, because I do have people who love me. But sometimes that worry sets in about not being good enough... and if you have it, too... know that He always thinks you are good enough. YOu are His masterpiece!!!)

In Him, we can  have peace. No worries!!!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What I'm Reading in December

Thanksgiving was a glorious time.  I took a Facebook break and read.  And read.  And read some more.  So before I dive into what I'm reading now... let me mention a couple of books that I read in November between my initial post. 

Gabby Douglas's autobiography.  Good read.  Read it in one day.  A little light in the language, written in teen speak... but still good.  Lots of good Bible verses and quotes.  I'm hoping this young athlete clings to that faith.  The Racketeer by John Grisham.  It had been a while since I had read any Grisham.  I remembered really quickly why I loved him so much.  Great book! Fifteen Minutes by Karen Kingsbury. Another book I read in a matter of days.  All about a young guy on a show similar to American Idol, and how fame can change people. This one ended... well, I'll not tell you in case you want to read it, but let's just say I would LOVE to see a sequel!!! And then there was The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.  A love story... talked about WWII and the Japanese displacement.  I really, really, really liked this one. 

On my Kindle, still reading The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell.  I started this book at the beginning of the year with the intention of reading a chapter a month, and really thinking on it.  Did pretty good until July... so this past week I started over.  I've reread through Chapter 4, and plan to finish it in the next couple of weeks.  It will be finished before the new year =) I'm also reading War Brides, set during WWII.  It looked interesting but so far I've had trouble getting into it.  There are several main characters, and I'm trying to figure them out.  I'm also reading Freedom From Performing.  It is set up like a Bible study, with daily questions, so I'm going to take it as I can and not rush through it.  Love that the first chapter is all about grace, as I finish up this, my year of grace. And I just started Finding Grace, the sequel to O That I Had Wings, which I read last month.

My drive-thru read is The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury.  I haven't started it yet, but it is out in my console waiting on Monday morning.  I love Karen Kingsbury, and this one involves a bookstore, I think... and it is a Christmas book.  Great combo, right? I'm also reading Olive Kitteridge, which seems like a good book so far, but I'm just about 20 pages into it. And then there is The Tired Country Smiles, written by Nola Pease Vandemeer, telling of her work, alongside her husband, in Morris Fork, Kentucky.  It is beautifully written and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I always love reading about Kentucky history...well, any kind of history.

I'm on Chapter 9 in Renee Swope's A Confident Heart.  We'll finish up that Bible study just in time for Christmas.I'm also reading A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet.  It's by Sophie Hudson, the writer of the Boo Mama blog, best friend to Melanie Shankle, who wrote Sparkly Green Earrings.  This book is about real life anecdotes about "faith, family, and fifteen pounds of bacon." Good stuff, there.  I mean... a book with Bacon in the title has to be good, right? 

And my to read list... which just keeps growing and growing.  Starry Night by Debbie Macomber.  The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp.  Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly.  Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker... so much to read.  So little time. 

As always, comment below with any suggestions for me. After all, Christmas break is coming up and I am always looking for a few good reads =)