Tonight was my first opportunity to take John V to baseball practice and to meet his new teammates. Playing sports in the small town close to us has provided us with a tremendous opportunity to hear stories, to meet people, to know those who live around us. While I realize this is certainly not an original concept, it is a new lifestyle for us to do our activities with the people who live the closest to us. Both us as a couple and the neighbors we lived around before were more involved in life in different places around a large metroplex and less focused in on the family living that seems to be the normal here. Living away from family has also definitely caused us to reach out in a way that has pushed us and prodded us out of our comfort zone and helped us to really cry out to God for His heart for every person we meet.
I told John a few months ago that I find myself the more I live and the more people I talk to wanting to ask very different questions upon meeting someone. I don’t really want to talk about the weather or how long we’ve lived here, I’d really like to just ask them point blank, “What is your story?” I might get some weird looks, like I don’t already with my small entourage of tiny humans, so I usually go about it a bit more subtly. For instance, what began as small talk on a playground about Levi and a girl his age and the dad talking about how verbal Levi was, ended in my discovery that she was an adopted orphan from Europe who spent the first two years of her life tied to a crib in a poorly run orphanage. Suddenly this balding, middle-aged dad is an opportunity for encouragement, for prayer, and he and his wife are the objects of my deep admiration for what they are doing for this precious child.
Or I’m checking out at the grocery store and the young cashier seems quite at ease with Levi and all the “hands on” activity happening anywhere that he can reach. As we keep talking I find out she is one of nine children, homeschooled, and she lights up as she finds out we have much in common. I leave encouraged by her sweetness to my family and she leaves happy that someone didn’t look at her like she just grew tentacles when she said she had eight siblings and loved homeschooling.
And then tonight as I stood there introducing myself to moms and greeting those I know, I realized suddenly that there are a couple of ladies obviously new to the “baseball scene” and that I am now a “veteran” mom who knows other families and has done this a few times. Total weirdness. As I tried to hold Mitchell and prevent Levi from enthusiastically “petting” a dog, “helping” a little girl, “riding” a motorcycle, and being eaten alive by ants, I also began to piece together stories. These are not just names and faces but hearts and lives. Some that may know God well and some that He is calling to Himself, wanting them to hear His heart. In the middle of these thoughts, one of the moms I know began to tell me about the team. First of all, I had to fight through the glass of wine she was holding very close to my face. Some of the moms who live in the neighborhood hosting the practices will have wine since they don’t have to drive home. Anyone who knows me very well knows that I have some weird alcohol radar. I’m not talking about a mental or moral one, but a literal, physical radar that means if it’s within about ten feet of me, I can promise you my stomach is churning like I’m making a tumultuous sea voyage. I can usually manage to hide it successfully but the smell sends my stomach into a bad, bad place. So while fighting the urge to turn and run to a place of safety for my poor sense of smell and its hatred for all things alcoholic, all of the sudden I completely forgot about the nausea as she began to talk about this cute little guy standing close to John V on the field. He’s a first grader, has two older siblings, and two weeks after she did that teary “off to kindergarten” ritual last year with her baby, his mom died of cancer, one year from her first diagnosis. I was now fighting the urge to run out on the field and embarrass the stuffing out of this poor child so I could throw my arms around his little neck and cover him in mommy kisses. Not a name and number on a little jersey but a tiny first grade boy learning how you live life without your mom.
And I couldn’t wait to get home and talk to John V because this week in school we’ve been studying that Jesus is the “Light of the World.” We talked about our role in not hiding Him under a basket but putting Him up high on a lampstand so that all can see his glory and brightness and so that He can light their paths. We talked specifically about some ways that John V can be a light in his life right now and one of them was baseball. We prayed about being a light there and reflecting our Jesus as much as we could in every choice on that field. And just like that, God shows us a story, a heart, a little boy who can be the beginning of our purpose on this team this season.
There simply is no time to wonder about how someone is dressed or if they seem friendly or if we have things in common. There is too much at stake and too many stories to be heard in too little time. Lord, help me to listen with my ears, my eyes, and most importantly with my heart. Help me never to be too caught up in my life (or my stomach or any other distraction) to really see and hear. I may be a poor, short, little lampstand but I’ll give it my tallest stretch if I can just watch You SHINE!