Giving in the quiet

He or she…I have never seen their face.  But this person they drive in and out of my neighborhood in the early morning–delivering newspapers.  And on more mornings than not, I stand at my kitchen window waiting for the last drip of caffeine to splash dark in my cup.  The cup that looks like sunshine–the cup my dear friend gave me.  The cup that says “A friend loves at all times”, Proverbs 17:17.  

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The delivery person, he or she, they slow and honestly I thought the person was trying to avoid the neighbors’ dogs who like to think they are more the speed control dogs–no one can go too fast with them guarding the road–barking.   But this 4-wheel drive, the dogs treat it a little different–less harsh,  never barking or darting out in front of it.

What is this delivery person doing, I thought. And then I watch as the vehicle comes to a complete stop.  The window rolls down, a hand reaches low and the two dogs—they walk away with dog treats.  And I have not witnessed this just one time, but on several different occasions.  This act of kindness, of giving. 

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They said we do this every Saturday morning.  The Topsail Island Sea Turtle Patrol. Every nest along the beach–every Saturday morning.  They secure the posts–clean the runway–rake away any trash or obstacle that could hinder a baby turtle from reaching the ocean.

Turtle eggs take anywhere from 45-90 days for the babies to hatch.  That’s as much as 13 Saturdays of time given. And the closer to the time of the hatching of the eggs these givers, they camp out at dusk every evening and they wait for the babies to dig their way out of the sand and make their way home to the sea.

The members of the Patrol, they give.

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These quiet givers. They see a need, a place where they can make a difference and they give.  And this doesn’t just happen on beaches or on rural roads.  These silent givers give to our children at schools, on school buses, to our sick and hurting in hospitals, rest homes, churches….

And there are no trophies or fanfare for these givers. No plague on a wall or buildings named in their honor. No public applause. There is only the sound of quiet–of selfless surrender.  

The changing of the season is near and fall is upon us.  The leaves on the trees have shined their brightest, the deepest of greens, and soon many will dance their slow descent before their skin can transcend into orange and reds and purples.

And on this evening there’s this lone leaf slowly spinning in the air and I cup my hands reaching and it twirls away from me landing softly on the ground and there on the green grass lies this heart.  The heart, it reminds me of the faceless and nameless, the givers who reach out their hands and hearts in kindness and expect nothing in return.  

And God, the greatest of all givers–with His gentle breath, in the quietness–He gives.  

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He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not his mouth.  Isaiah 53:7

 

 

 

 

 

His prayer–Her fancy cap and it’s one year later. Today.

His prayer–Her fancy cap and it’s one year later. Today.

He stood at the end of my bed and said, ‘I ask my patients if they would like for me to say a prayer before surgery, so would you want me to pray?’ And I answered yes, most definitely.  I knew he was going to ask.  The nurse had told me earlier that morning what a good Christian man my surgeon was and what a great doctor I had.

He prayed a humble prayer and gave thanks for many things I had taken for granted.  Thanks for the hospital. Thanks for the opportunities to serve and trust in the everyday trials.  And so much more. Amen.

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He told my daughter he would be back to talk to her once the surgery was over. And he walked out of the room–this gentle man of faith.

My heart began to beat a little stronger knowing it was almost time.  I can’t say I wasn’t nervous–never having surgery–my first time of being sedated–put to sleep.  But there was also this calm and the worry seem to fade.

A petite woman entered my room–in scrubs and of course her plastic surgical cap.  She had one for me and I said, are you going to make me wear a fancy cap like yours and her smile brightened even more and said, ‘oh yes.  This one is the latest in designer fashion.’ And they got me ready to roll me into surgery.  I remember telling my daughter not to worry as a tear rolled down her cheek.

One year ago today.

And months later began the 30 consecutive days of the burning treatments of radiation.

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I watched as this lady walked out on the sand–the beach almost bare as the skies grew more dim at the close of the day.  She stood in this one area for the longest of moments.  Then she looked out over the ocean as in deep thought.   And I thought to myself, what is her story?  She seemed so sad.  Why was she so lost in her thoughts?  Alone. And I felt somewhat like an intruder from a distance.

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The next evening watching the sun fall I see a small group of people walk over the dunes, a family all dressed up in flowing whites and jeans. At first I assumed it was a beach photo shoot and then as I keep watching a bride appears escorted by her son to a bearded man that awaits with smiles that can be seen for miles.  I run back into our house and tell my family–there’s a wedding on the beach!  And here we are all silent on the deck watching as they pray.  As they hold hands.  We watch as they draw each other close in love. And the bearded groom he raises his clenched hand to heaven and gives thanks once again and my family, we all clap in joy.

I knew it! I said to my son.  That’s the same woman who was out on the beach last night.  Alone in her thoughts.  I knew she had a story.  And maybe it wasn’t as I had thought–of sadness but more of the shedding of pain from days long ago for the allowing of joy to come.

It’s still hard for me to say out loud, I am a breast cancer survivor.  But we are all survivors in many ways–all fighting our own battles–some stories seen, lived out loud and some not. But the goodness of God’s mercy and having those surround you–loving you–lifting you in prayer–that is not merely surviving. It is so much more. It is His grace.

And gratitude comes most abundantly in the wearing of scars.  And joy does come in the morning.

It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23, KJV

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Psalms 30:5, KJV

 

 

 

 

 

Misfit Women of the Bible: I Can’t Make You Love Me. Leah and Rachel

Misfit Women of the Bible: I Can’t Make You Love Me. Leah and Rachel

Listening to the words over and over, the repeat button was all too familiar. And the words to the song, there were like slow stabs to the heart. “Cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t. You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t.” Bonnie Raitt, you sing the words like you know. Like you know how it feels to sit in a pitch dark office alone and sob. Like you know how despair can lead you to drive through a rainstorm of tears to the church, run to the altar in the dark of night and cry out to God during the brokenness. You sing like you know, Bonnie.

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Her name was Leah, the oldest and less attractive daughter of Laban. His firstborn. Rachel’s older sister. And she was given as a bride in secret to a man by her father. A man named Jacob–a man who would never truly love her.

Her outward appearance—she was “tender-eyed” as scriptures describe her and her younger sister’s appearance, “beautiful and well-favored”. In the Hebrew language, the word tender-eyed is noted as weak. If we think about weak eyes today, most often we relate this to a person’s poor eyesight and the need for glasses.

However, the only description the Bible gives us of Leah’s physical appearance relates to her eyes. As we imagine her appearance she could have suffered from swollen or red eyes due to sand irritation or large eyes or even cross-eyed. Whatever the reason, we compare this tender-eyed, older woman to the beautiful younger sister. And it’s much easier to imagine in our mind beauty and youth, rather than abnormal eyes and the adjective, older, which sometimes seems as long-forgotten.

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For seven years Leah watched Jacob’s love grow for her younger sister. She stood on the sidelines as he labored for her sister, day and night. She watched as they would share giggles and maybe even share a secret kiss. She listened as they talked about their future children, their home, their hopes, their dreams. And I am sure she wondered when will my time come for love such as this? Where is my prince?

Seven years past and finally the big day came for Rachel. Her wedding day. And Laban approaches Leah with his despicable plan. Did Leah know about this beforehand? Was she forced by her father to obey him and go along with his cruelty? Was she so envious of her sister she wanted to hurt her?

As she took one last look in the mirror before pulling her veil over her face to hide her imperfections and her tears, did these words whisper in her heart as she tried to make excuses for her actions —‘my sister won’t have any problems finding another husband. She’s beautiful and young and this may be my last chance. This may be my only opportunity to have a husband, children. He will love me, I know he will. I can make him love me. I can make him forget about Rachel. In time.

Where was Rachel during the feast? Where was Rachel while her love she had waited anxiously for seven years lay with her sister? The Bible doesn’t reveal to us all of the story but what we do know is time started again for Jacob. Seven more years he worked for his father-in-law and as promised, Laban gave his youngest daughter Rachel to be Jacob’s wife, because “he loved also Rachel more than Leah” (Genesis 29:30). 

Seven years is a long time to allow hatred and envy to grow in one’s heart toward another. And it grew between the sisters. But God saw Leah’s affliction, He saw her desperation. He also saw she needed someone to love and someone to call her own.
And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.” (Genesis 29:31). 

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_DSC0523Leah’s childbearing began with the birth of Reuben, followed by the birth of Simeon and Levi.

“And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.” (Genesis 29:31)

And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the Lord hath heard I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon.” (vs. 33)
“And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi.” (vs. 34).

Do you hear an echo in Leah’s voice after the birth of Reuben, Levi?

Leah saw the gift of her three sons, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi as God’s rewards for her suffering. But then look closer to the words from her heart after the birth of Reuben and Levi, “now therefore my husband will love me” and “now this time will my husband be joined unto me.” Leah was searching for anything she could do to make her bond with Jacob stronger, something that could win the love of her husband.

There have been many young girls who have whispered these words—maybe, just maybe, if I give myself to him, all of myself….then he will love me and forget about all of the other girls. A baby will finally bond us as a couple and we will live happily ever after, our little family.

And older women have not been immune to this behavior. Maybe, just maybe, a new dress, lose that extra 10 pounds, get a new haircut, then he will see me with different eyes, a different heart.

We have all searched for love. A love lost. Acceptance. And not just women in search of a love, but children in search of a parent’s love or a mother or father in search of a child’s love. To finally be given a chance for that promotion. To be appreciated, noticed…anything. We have all made wrong choices in the pursuit of belonging.

And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the Lord: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.” (Gen. 29:35)

Finally Leah, finally! Now she praises the Lord!

Without hesitation, she gives God the glory. And for the first time she didn’t speak of her desire for her husband’s love. No, maybe this will be the child who brings me closer to Jacob. No, possibly this is the one. But all her praise, she gave to God.

As we read this story we are drawn to place all of our sympathy on Leah, but what about Rachel. Rachel watched as her sister shared a bed with a man that was promised to her and she watched as their family grew. And day after day, her womb—barren. We judge from the outside—Rachel had the love of her life, beautiful—she had everything, to those looking from the outside. She too was hurting, wounded. It is often times hard for us mothers to see the brokenness of the heart of a woman who longs for a child to grow in her womb.

Rachel resented her sister so much she approached Jacob and uttered these words of desperation, “Give me children, or else I die.” (Genesis 30:1).

And these words angered Jacob. So Rachel stole a chapter out of Sarai’s story and took matters into her own hands rather than waiting on God’s timing. Rachel gave Jacob her handmaid, Bilhah. “And Rachel said, “With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.” (Genesis 30:8).

Then Leah was left barren and what did she do, follow her sister’s game plan! She gave Zilpah, her handmaid to Jacob, who bare him two sons. What a tangled web of jealousy and strife we weave…to the point of using others with no regard for their feelings. It was only what the sisters desired and in turn they used their handmaids.

God, even in the midst of blame, jealousy, hatred, and reprimand between the two sisters, He remembered both of them. God blessed Leah with seven children of her own, six sons and her last child, her daughter Dinah. After the birth of her sixth child, Zebulun, Leah, once more spoke these words, “now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons.” (Genesis 30:20).

And Jacob didn’t leave Rachel or Leah, and neither did God.

And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: And she called his name Joseph; and said, The Lord shall add to me another son.”

His name was Joseph. And in later years God blessed Rachel again with another son, Benjamin.

In the story of Leah and Rachel, we see them both at different times as the villain as well as the victim. We also see jealousy and envy in the story of their sons when Leah’s sons, Reuben and Judah threw Joseph, Rachel’s firstborn into the deep pit, stripped him of his clothes, left him to die, and then later sold him as a slave–an evil act of hatred from brothers who shared their father’s blood.  But once again God turns their story into one of grace and forgiveness.

Leah knew from the beginning Jacob’s love was steadfast for her sister. And even though she never became Jacob’s chosen, she was one of God’s chosen. There are many times I am certain Leah felted defeated. She wanted to run away, quit, give up. But she didn’t. She learned to not dwell on her wants or even what she didn’t have. She turned to the most High and God blessed her. Her children–they were her shining crown. Her love.

God’s word tells us that Jacob buried Leah in the cave in the field of Machpelah in Canaan with his grandfather and grandmother, Abraham and Sarah, and his father and mother, Isaac and Rebekah. “There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.” (Genesis 49:31)

And that, in itself was an honor and tribute to Leah–Jacob’s wife and the mother of his children. One of God’s daughter. 

Second in the Series–Misfit Women of the Bible

All photos and writing are copyright of the author. 

 

I think I will just throw my hands up and quit…..my Mama said this often.

I think I will just throw my hands up and quit…..my Mama said this often.

I think I will just throw my hands up and quit…..that’s what I heard my Mama say and sometimes she said it often.

You see raising two boys and a girl who was a tomboy–all of us two years apart and then another baby girl nine years younger than my youngest of baby brothers—most days for our Mama were not for the faint of heart.

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In the summer time it was rare if my Mama missed a week in the ER with one of my brothers.  There was this one time when one of my brothers had watched a little too much of Evil Kinevel one Saturday on our three-channel televison set.  It wasn’t long after watching the show he had a grand ideal. My brother went right out into our driveway where a man with a big dump truck had unloaded a pile of gravel for my Daddy.  And my brother–which I will not name the one who did this, he built him a ramp of old boards and with his supped up spider bike tried to clear that huge mound of rocks.  And me and my other siblings were off to my grandmother’s house and my Mama and my brother to the ER.

And there was another time when and again I won’t name names–one of my brothers decided he would tape 50 firecrackers together and light them all up at the same time.  Needless to say he was the one who was lit up the most–and another trip to the ER.  And on one occasion one of my brothers decided to it would be cool to stick his fingers into the spokes of his upside down bicycle wheel while it was turning at full speed.  Not good.  My grandmother then called my Mama at work and off they went to the friendly hospital.  My brother with his hand wrapped up in a large towel and my grandmother almost in a panic.

Blood and stitches–they didn’t mix well with our Mama and because she was a frequent flyer in the ER they knew her well and prepared for her to pass out at any given time while stitching up my brothers and sister’s cuts and wounds.

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Mama and baby

It wasn’t that I didn’t ever get hurt–I did.  But never did I have to require a trip to the ER for stitches. Although one time I did cause my little sister a trip to the ER to have stitches just above her eye.  It wasn’t my fault.  The story goes like this—every night after supper we would hit the ball field with my Daddy.  The ball field, meaning our front yard.  We had three trees for bases and home plate was right in front of the window–the big window we called the picture window.  I was warming up in the batter’s box and my bat connected with my sister’s head who was a toddler at the time.  She claims I did it on purpose.  But everybody knows you don’t walk up behind someone when they are warming up to step into the batter’s box.  It wasn’t a hard hit–but enough to cause a cut–one that required stitches.  

Back to the picture window.  My Mama is not the athletic type, her gifts are in the creative.  She never joined us for our athletic events in the front yard.  It was her sewing time. I am sure our after dinner baseball games gave her some much needed stress relief in that sewing chair.  She sewed a lot while we were growing up. Her sewing chair always sat in front of the big window.  So one night she was sitting in her comfy chair stitching away on some curtains and the baseball that one of my brothers fouled off cracked through the window and landed right in her lap full of half-sewn curtains.  And the picture window was no more for a few days. 

But the thing was about that foul ball and the broken window–my Daddy told my Mama he did it.  And I argued with him.  No it was ….., one of my baby brothers.  But Daddy took the blame.  Something I will never forget.   Don’t get me wrong, we broke out several other windows during my childhood with foul balls, wild pitches, and wrong infield defensive plays but we never broke the big picture window but once. The other times we broke out the small windows—me and my brothers and we took the share of the blame.  And Daddy, he would keep on replacing windows and Mama, she kept on sewing to pay for the glass. 

And this is just a short glimpse into our childhood.  Our teenage years–I won’t go there but my Mama’s frustration at times, it was like a broken record.  Throw my hands up and quit, she would say.  And honestly looking back we gave her plenty of reasons to want to quit.  But she never did.

Mama, Happy Mother’s Day!  I’m glad you didn’t quit on us.  

 

 

 

 

Misfit Women of the Bible, Belonging at the feet of Jesus. And You are worthy to belong there too. 

Misfit Women of the Bible, Belonging at the feet of Jesus. And You are worthy to belong there too. 

I was on a mission.  You know, one of those last minute gifts a few days before Christmas.  No, it wasn’t on the original list to buy, but my sweet baby grand girl, well she needed this doll or at least Granna thought so.

So there I was smack dab in the middle of last minute shoppers elbow to elbow frantically looking in the aisles of the toy department for this doll.  And after several minutes of searching, I finally asked another shopper who was also scouting out the toy section and she said, “I saw one over in the markdown toys. It was on the top shelf in the corner.”

Yes! I thanked her and hurried over to the sea of discounted toys.  I scanned the shelf in which the lady had directed me and then I saw it—wedged in between two other boxes.  The doll! Needless to say I was going to do whatever it took to get this doll into my possession.  I placed my foot on the bottom shelf giving myself a little boost, pulled the box within my reach and there she was—in a box, crushed and her hair, it was a mess.  She had been discarded on the island of misfit toys.

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Have you ever felt like you were a misfit? Like you have been discarded, discounted, you didn’t belong? Have you ever walked into a meeting, a restaurant, a church and felt like melting into the floor because you didn’t think you measured up to the standards of every woman there?  Your education level didn’t match up. Your hair wasn’t styled perfect, like hers, or your clothes—missing the designer labels, or perhaps it was your fake jewelry outshined by her diamonds and pearls.  Have you ever had someone who you thought cared about you look at a photo of the two of you together and say, ‘we just don’t look good..you and me together.’ Or even worse, have you ever attended a church service and felt eyes scorching you with judgement or voices murmuring with noise.

“Did you just see who walked in? I can’t believe what I am seeing.  Just look at what she is wearing. And her children, I’m not sure they have had baths this morning. She’s divorced you know, and just the other day I heard….” 

And you, you walk in with your scarlet letter burning hard on your chest amongst the whispers, your children tucked under your arms and timidly find a seat on a pew closest to the door, drop your head in shame, and vow never to go back to church again.

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I believe if we were all honest with each other we could say at one time or another in our lives we have all felt like misfits. We have suffered disapproval and criticisms from the hands of other women, men, society, church members, co-workers, friends, family, and sadly—even ourselves.  Perhaps you have been the victim of gossip, unfair judgements or worse, you have treated another woman as a lesser person because of the scars of her past or outward appearance.  I can say my heart has been broken more than I care to mention as a victim. But along with being wounded from the hurtfulness of others, I have also been the critic. And for that, I am deeply ashamed.  

_DSC0744.JPGI gently remove the doll from the crumbled box, comb the tangles from her shiny black hair, and place two bright pink bows in her hair. And she was perfect, at least in mine and my granddaughter’s eyes. You see, this doll over the last few years has lost some of her popularity with children and for that reason there was no place for her with the popular dolls.  Her time as one of the most admired dolls is gone. Forgotten. Discounted. A misfit among the other dolls.

Regardless of your past, your economic and popularity status, the clothes and jewelry you wear, your level of educational degrees, your job—you are not a misfit.  You belong. And you are not forgotten.

Jesus has not forgotten you. He has not forgotten me.

_DSC0734.JPG_DSC0751.JPGAll throughout the Bible there were women who were judged as misfits, not fitting the mold in society’s eyes, but God, God had other plans for these women’s lives.  And what their stories reveal is when we fully trust in God and place our complete faith in Him, there is hope.  There is forgiveness, there is healing, there is grace, and there is mercy.  Undeserved mercy.

Hagar, Leah, Rahab, Ruth, Naomi, Esther, the Widow with the Two Mites, the Samaritan Woman at the Well, the Woman with the Issue of Blood, the Woman caught in the Act of Adultery, Mary Magdalene, and yes, even Jesus’ mother, Mary—all misfits.  Each of these women’s stories narrate what can happen when a woman puts her complete trust in God’s will for her life.  And your story is important too.

My prayer is as you read this series of blog posts along with reading God’s word, you will come to know, there are no perfect women, nor men—only one perfect One, and that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Through Jesus’ death, there is forgiveness of sins.

We all have a past.

We all have faults.

We all have failures.

We all have a story.

We are enough.

We are worthy to belong.

And we are loved.

This is the first in a series of blog posts, Misfit Women of the Bible, Belonging at the feet of Jesus. And You are worthy to belong there too. 

 

 

 

The cross…tragic, sad, dark, cruel, undeserving and necessary.

The cross…tragic, sad, dark, cruel, undeserving and necessary.

He walked through the audience–carrying this cross representing Christ’s walk up Golgotha hill.  And I watched as the scene depicted the soldiers nailing Him to the cross.  And there were sobs behind me.

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And the actor’s body was marred with what looked like blood, bruises, and I watched with tears. Jesus–you did this for me. The cross–it was tragic, sad, dark, cruel, undeserving and necessary.  And my heart hurts and I am ashamed I ever doubted your love.

I believe if we were totally honest with ourselves we can say at one time or another we have questioned God’s love for us–not so much doubt but questioned.  God, do you love me?  Where are you, God?  God, why does this happen to me, my family? God, why?

Why is it we so easily forget sometimes the sacrifice and hurt You went through for each of us? You promised forever.  You promised You would rise again on the third day.  You promised You would go and prepare a place for us. You promised to never leave us or forsake us.  You promised You would always be near.  And You promised You would love us.  Love us forever.   And You are not a breaker of promises.

 

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The cancer is eating away at his body quickly and the clock of death is not slowing down.  He stands with a weak voice and gives thanks to his brothers and sisters in Christ for prayers and acts of kindness.  And he tells the story of seeing a white dove outside his window and he knows God is close by.   And his story of the white dove reminds me of my grandpa’s story–his vision of a beautiful white bird before He closed his eyes to rest in the arms of Jesus.

And on the cross Jesus’ blood was a falling rain of grace and with every drop we are drenched with mercy and the promises of a forever love.

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And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love with is in Christ Jesus. 

1 Timothy 1:14. (KJV)

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 

John 14:2-3 (KJV) 

All photos and writing are copyrighted.  A Beautiful Grace. 

There’s always a story in sports…and this one maybe somewhat different: Spring Training.

There’s always a story in sports…and this one maybe somewhat different: Spring Training.

Sports have always played an important part of my life–my childhood–my children played sports growing up–my nieces–nephews.   I have spent many hours not only as a proud Mom on the bleachers but also as an ecstatic aunt.  And as a young child I watched my Daddy rocket softballs from outfield to home plate like a speeding jet–or in his daughter’s eyes–that’s the way it was. And I have logged many late nights as a sports writer and photographer.  

It’s the game.  The score.  The competition.  And the absolute dream for many.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend Spring Training with my niece in Arizona and watch team greats such as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Angels and others.

The sights and sounds and smells of the ballpark ignites memories of the past and there is this thrill of watching young kids walking into the park with gloves and their backs adorned with their favorite jerseys–heroes’ names on the back.  And never think for one moment it’s just the kids–grown men have their gloves in tow too–ready to catch the sacred foul ball and homerun.  And there are the elderly women, especially and men who are dressed in full fan attire.

There’s was this one woman–she was up in age.  I saw her in one of the tourist stores.  She had a lapel pin with a player’s name and number stuck to her jacket–shining like new money.  And we talked for a few minutes about the local pottery and other small talk.  And then I ask her–is that player someone you personally know?  In my mind I thought it might be a family member, a grandson perhaps.  And she said, “Oh no honey–that is so and so–he plays for the Giants.”

These men–these athletes–they are sometimes larger than life to us.  Heroes at times.  So much so old women wear their names on their backs and lapel pins on their jackets.  In full color.

There’s always a story.

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It’s been a while since I attended a Major League Baseball game and the thrill of seeing players such as Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Vladimir Guerrero, and Clayton Kershaw while in Spring Training–it’s something I won’t forget.

But this time there was something different about the park–the stories I saw.  Many of these stories you will never witness on ESPN or read about them in Sports Illustrated, at least not multiple times.  The stories,  there are many.

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The story of Albert Pujol’s Family Foundation–the mission “is to live and share our commitment to faith, family, and others.  To promote awareness, provide hope and meet tangible needs for children and families who live with Down syndrome.  To improve the standard of living and quality of life for impoverished people in the Dominican Republic through education, medical relief, and tangible goods.  To provide extraordinary experiences for children with disabilities and/or life threatening illnesses.”

And one of the reasons for Albert Pujol’s support for children with Down syndrome–his daughter.

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He didn’t have to do it.  This three-time Cy Young Award winning pitcher.  But there he was, Clayton Kershaw, bigger than life signing autographs for the fans at spring training.  I have read his earlier biography–he worked hard to get to the big leagues and never let anyone discourage his dream.  But more than that–Kershaw and his wife, Ellen–his high school sweetheart, they have raised over 7.5 million dollars through Kershaw’s Challenge which benefits communities in Dallas, Los Angeles, Zambia and the Domician Republic.

The mission of Kershaw’s Challenge is this, “Kershaw’s Challenge is a faith-based, others-focused organization.  We exist to encourage people to use whatever God-given passion or talent they have to make a difference and give back to people in need.  We want to empower people to use their spheres of influence to impact communities positively and to expand God’s Kingdom.  We believe that God can transform at-risk children and neighborhoods through the benevolence and impact of others.”

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And there are others with stories within the ballpark–their jerseys are not sold in any fan club shop or any other sporting good store for that matter.  And maybe they should be.  Because the game–it just wouldn’t exist without their work, their dedication.

The groundskeepers, clean-up crew, maintenance, equipment managers, the team’s dieticans, nutritionists, coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, vendors–many who their days begin long before sunrise and end in the dark of the night–12 hours later and more.

And what about the single moms and those daddies who not only carry large loads of drinks, popcorn, and other concessions on their backs, selling to the crowds–but also the burden of making ends meet at home. Their job at the ballpark is not their first job but often times their second and third shift employment.

Today is opening day for Major League Baseball.  There will be huge crowds at ballparks all across America.  And there will be young and old alike dressed in their favorite team’s attire.

The next time I go to Spring Training or a Major League game, I believe I will design my own jerseys to wear.  And on my jerseys will be names such as Smith and Jones and Garcia and Lopez.   And when I am asked who is Smith, who is Jones or Garcia or Lopez–I will answer and say, ‘oh Mrs. Smith, she carries popcorn on her back at the stadium and sells to the crowd and Mr. Jones, he is one of the coaches who works sometimes 7 days straight–many 12-hour days, Garcia, he is the young boy who doesn’t even look old enough to work and pushes loads of trash twice his size, and Lopez, he is part of the grounds crew whose only responsibility is to make sure every blade of grass is shining and the fields are perfect.

And there are heroes everywhere.  And most feel they are never noticed.