I don’t know about you guys, but September has hit our house with the force of a Cat 5 hurricane. No joke.
School for my smalls and oldest girl, School supply lists, Work contracts, Fall Soccer Season, New classes at church, Christmas Musical rehearsals, Church Picnic, MEPs and Navy Enlistment for Tim, writing deadlines, Bridal Showers, Board Meeting work—and a zillion other things, from now through the end of the year. It looks like someone has bled all over our calendar.
In spite of the busyness, the Duffer crew seems to be off to a good start to this new school year. My college girl’s entire semester was paid for by a Pell Grant, including her books. Which is great, because she is working full-time, stuffing in as many hours of school that she can this semester, and starting to talk about the “future”. 🙂
My biggest boy goes to MEPs (Military Entrance Processing Station) in Richmond, VA this week to get his eyes checked and to walk like a duck (not kidding). If he passes that process, he will unofficially “Swear-In” to the Navy Thursday and get his dates for shipping out to Boot Camp. Yep. Proud.
My Sophomore is off to a good start for the school year–seems to like his classes so far, especially AP Psych (kinda like his momma). He has told me that he is smarter than everyone else in his World History class. I have dutifully told him that he is full of himself and that God does not appreciate pride or gloating. He, being 15, didn’t hear a word I said I don’t think, because he still thinks he is the smartest (which I plan to hold over his head when he brings home his first B or C in that class). He started Fall Soccer today in 1,000 degree heat, and I also took him to practice driving today for the first time.
Um, yeah, about that: It took both of us approximately 10 minutes to figure out that his foot needed to be pressing the brake pedal in order to put the car in drive. Nice.
My baby had a rough couple of first days, but the end of the week seemed to go better. She’s adjusting to life as a freshman, and has declared most of her classes as “boring”. I’m sure she will survive. Chorus is definitely her passion and highlight of the school day. She pours hours into her music. She’s so funny, though—she refuses to ride her brother’s bus, which picks him up right here in front of our house. She says it’s not because of her brother, but because of her brother’s friends, which makes me want to chuckle. Is she supposed to ride that bus that picks kids up several blocks away from our house? No. But, hey, if it gets her to the high school and the bus driver doesn’t notice and I don’t have to take her, then all is well in the Duffer household.
We are well. God is merciful.
Like you read above, though, Fall Soccer started today. I am determined to use my time wisely during soccer practices to exercise instead of sitting and watching, bored (did I just say that? Why yes, I did. I love watching my boy play the game, but drills? Not so much). I took off walking in the miserable heat, around the fields that the smalls were playing on. I rounded the line of fields, now walking on the back sides of the fields. 4 fields down, I approached my boys field.
He was standing there in his green t-shirt, tall, lanky, intently listening to his coach introduce himself and his passion for soccer. I could see my boy was hanging on every word. And, briefly, I lost my breath in a moment of intense grief.
You see, soccer has ALWAYS been a part of our life. Always. As young, new parents, we couldn’t wait to place our oldest in rec soccer as soon as she hit 3 or 4, or whatever the age was. Signed her up the very first day. Put her pink AYSO jersey on her, which was WAY to big. We were sure we had our first soccer star. Actually, she took to it like a fish takes to land. She spent the majority of her first game sitting down in front of the goal with her new “best friend”, picking clover. Not her sport. Bring on gymnastics and swim team.
Our second, a son–surely he would be our soccer lover! But, alas, it was not to be. Tee-ball, yes. Soccer, no. Exercise-induced Asthma meant miserable practices and games.
But their father, who has a passion for soccer, (played, coached, and refereed throughout high school and college), was always their coach. Always. No matter what. Actually–for all their teams (except gymnastics and a brief Upward Basketball Cheer-leading foray for my oldest). Soccer, Tee-ball, Upwards Basketball, even assisting in Volleyball–he was always there for them. Instructing, coaching, cheering, pushing, teaching.
And then the third child came along. A boy. And yes, he was given a soccer ball before we even left the hospital.
The difference is, soccer took with him. Really took. He loved AYSO. He loved pick-up games with his friends. He loves Youth Rec Soccer. He loves kicking the ball outside up against the church wall or over our house, all by himself.
But, he misses his coach.
So, when I approached his field today and saw him listening to his latest coach, there was fresh grief. Grief for what will never be. For what he is missing out in the world of Father/Son experiences. He’s had great coaches. Amazing coaches, over the past 5 years since his father was incarcerated. His first coach following that event was incredible, and we are still in touch with that family. They met a huge need in his life at that time. As have all his other coaches.
But he still misses his dad. Coaching him. Teaching him. To dribble, to shoot, to do Algebra, to drive. All those things that are not possible, because of sin. Because of crime.
And I hurt for my boy. And, in a strange way, for his father as well.
But you know what? That grief is greatly overshadowed by real joy. It’s true. Joy in knowing that my boy could have said “I give up. I want nothing to do with soccer. Nothing to do with disciplining my body and perfecting my defense.” He didn’t say that. Yes, we had some HARD conversations over his deep sadness over not having his dad as his coach, and whether he was going to continue playing the game, in those early seasons. But he chose NOT to give up the game he loves.
Just because life isn’t the way it should be or the way you want it to be, you have to keep moving. My boy taught me that–something I needed to learn desperately. He taught me perseverance. And I am better because of the example that he has been, to me, in his passion for soccer.
But, even more than that, I find real joy in knowing my son is not alone. He knows God. And God knows him. How many times have I prayed Psalm 68:5 for my crew over the past 5 years?
Mark has a heavenly Father who will never abandon nor forsake him. Ever. That’s not nothing. And, God provides through men like his soccer coaches, who give him rides, who push him to give his very best. And men like our landlord from the church we rent from, who teaches Mark about mechanical things and has him go with him to mow senior adult’s yards. And men like our student pastor at church, who randomly invites him to hang out with him and some college guys at Cook-Out after a church event. Or men like my oldest son’s military mentor, who has walked with him every step of this enlistment process, and will be taking a day off of work this week to go with him to MEPs for his processing procedure.
That, my friends, makes the difference in a young man’s life. Particularly when that young man is among the fatherless. And there are so many who do not have that in their lives, who need it. Desperately. They are your neighbors. Your friend’s friends. Youth in your church. Kids on the team you coach. A “Good job!” or an invitation to mow a yard or hang-out at Quaker State goes a long way.
So, once again, I am in awe tonight. In awe of God’s provision of grace for my crew and I. For the way that He has not abandoned us, even in our darkest times. Even in the nights that my children have asked heartbreaking questions for which I have no answer except for God. And even though, at the time I know that’s not necessarily the answer they want to hear, in the long run, it is the answer they need more than anything. Because He is who they need more than anything. He is who I need, more than anything.
Jared Wilson, in “The Wonder-Working God” writes this: “The miracles show us that Jesus is enough.” Yes, true. But I’d go one step further to say this:
Everyday, even the ordinary, dark, joyful, grief-ridden, exhausting, or exuberant days show us that Jesus is enough.
Matthew 16:15 reads: He (Jesus) said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
I, and my crew, are learning to answer “You are enough. That’s who you are, Jesus.”