Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Zone Defense & Parenting

"That singer's full of crap," Nick mumbled. He yawned, head-butting his pillow into the perfect resting place, trying to steal one more minute's rest.

I rolled over, carefully switching Avinly from one side to the other. At 7:30 in the morning after a night of feedings, my brain was in no state to solve the easiest of puzzles. Down the hall, I could hear the dog whining for his breakfast, the cat meowing to be let out and the boys fighting over a toy. All loudly. We had exactly 90 minutes before we had to have 3 small children and ourselves fed, dressed and in the van for church.

"What singer?" I asked.

"You know," my husband answered sleepily. "The one who sang, 'Easy like Sunday morning.'"

Oh, how true. When Avinly arrived last month, Nick and I were forced to switch parenting styles: we went from a man-to-man defense ("I'll bathe Jude while you read to Jack") to a zone defense ("You feed the boys, I'll change the girl"). As any basketball coach will tell you, both kinds serve their purpose. But until we get it figured out, the opposing team of Jack, Jude and Avinly are hitting shot after shot while their exhausted parents are looking longingly toward the locker room and praying for halftime. Or at least a timeout!

And yet, there's no greater game in the universe. Nick and I know this, and even if some nights we peel off our uniforms in defeat (part of me really wants to write, "let's get real -- the uniforms are off, so it can't be that bad!" or some junior-high variation thereof), we can fall asleep knowing we're on the same team.


A few weeks ago, Avinly had her first movie theater experience when Nick and I had a date night and saw "42." It's the story of Jackie Robinson (the first black baseball player in the major leagues) and Branch Rickey (the manager who signed him). I've long known and loved the story -- and even had the chance to meet Branch Rickey III when I spoke at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown-- but the movie brought up some parts I had forgotten.

Like Charlie Thomas.

Charlie Thomas played baseball for Ohio Wesleyan University in the early 1900s. Branch Rickey, a Midwestern white boy, was the team's catcher. After playing an away game, a hotel turned Thomas away. The rest of the team could sleep there, they said, but Thomas couldn't. All because he was black.

Rickey tried his best to fix the situation, offering to let Thomas sleep on a cot in his room. But the situation haunted him for years. Decades later, he made his move while managing the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945. He signed a black man. Overnight, Jackie Robinson became a hero to many. And over time, as his baseball skills proved themselves over and over -- he was a 6-time All Star, World Series winner and league MVP -- he became a hero to everyone.

Today, we applaud and celebrate Jackie Robinson, and rightly so. There's dozens of books, a blockbuster movie and a documentary all centered on him. His number is the only one retired across all of baseball. School kids know his stats, because he's literally in the history books.


Jackie Robinson is famous. He got all the accolades.

But what about Charlie Thomas? Only weirdo, diehard baseball trivia fans like me know about him...and that's only because I looked up tons of info on Rickey after meeting his grandson.

Thomas suffered the same racism as Robinson. Thomas was talented like Robinson, and he loved the game like Robinson. Sadly, he never got the same chance as Robinson.

But here's the naked truth: there would be no Jackie Robinson story -- no "42" -- without Charlie Thomas.

It was Thomas who planted the seed in Branch Rickey's social consciousness. It was Thomas who tangibly demonstrated the color barrier's idiocy to a man who could someday do something about it.

It was Thomas who got to first base. Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson just batted him home.

Often, as a stay-at-home mom to small children, I feel unnoticed and underappreciated. I wonder if what I'm doing makes a difference. I feel guilt over my weight, the fact that my boys eat their boogers and that my fridge contains a myriad of non-organic food. I struggle with feelings of inadequacy for the awesome task in front of me. I chafe at a society that tells me my job isn't nearly as important as being a lawyer, businesswoman or doctor.

And part of me wonders whether my teenaged dreams of changing the world -- of using my talents to fight for social justice -- are dead and gone.

And then I remember Charlie Thomas.

I'm not saying the answer is to stop trying, to play dead or hand the reigns to someone else. What I am saying is that sometimes, even when you don't see the fruit the right away, serving exactly where you are is enough.

Enough to teach you that there is more than one way to play the game and still win.

And right now, my soul is immensely full and full-time in the Zone.



Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wanna Have a KidVenture?

Oregon has been experiencing some freakishly sunny weather for over a month. Nothing but sunny day after sunny day. As a native used to viewing an inch of rain as a "little downpour", I have to confess: all this sunshine is depressing.

My friend Jen, on the other hand, is used to real winter weather, Indiana style: snow, wind, cold and everything in between. She also happens to be the mother of 6-year-old quadruplet boys (whom I've had the privilege of writing about!). So when she says she's ready for spring, summer and plenty of outdoor adventures, she really knows what she's talking about!

Hence, I was quite excited when she asked me to review her spankin'-new ebook, KidVentures: 50 Outdoor Experiences of Wonder, Discovery & Childhood Memories
 KidVentures is only 64 pages, so it doesn't take that long to cruise through. But let me tell ya, Jen doesn't waste any space! She gets right down to every kid's ultimate summer bucket list: make a homemade zip line. Create a tornado in a jar. Pan for gold. Make coffee can ice cream. And the list goes on!

Did I mention this book is already an Amazon best seller???

Here's what I love about this ebook:
  • It is SO not a Pinterest competition tome. Ask anyone at my MOPS group: before they choose any craft, they must ask themselves, "Could Crystal do this?"

    I am not on Pinterest and detest crafts. I seriously stink at making even simple stuff, but thankfully, Jen's ideas are made for people like me. while also being creative enough for all you normal people. All the suggestions are totally doable yet original and fun. Homemade cammo face paint? I can whip up a batch of that!
  • It comes in categories! With a quick glance at the Table of Contents, easily see which activities are suitable for cold weather or nighttime; which are best for creative or explorer types; which involve water or sweat, and so on. I love a good list that allows my planning heart to skip a beat!
  • Jack is stoked for nearly all of the ideas. I made the mistake of reading off ALL the chapter titles. "Let's do every one right now!" he announced. Whoops. We're going to aim for one every other day or so. I can't wait to see which ones he and Jude like best!
  • There's a little something for everyone. This isn't just a book for summer, though it's great for that too. It's for all climates, genders, ages, abilities, financial situations and interests. Make it as simple or complicated as you'd like -- or just let it serve as a springboard for your imagination.

    Now down to the nitty-gritty (make sure to say that in a Nacho Libre accent): you can check out a sample, if you'd like. Then, if you like what you see, you can purchase this gem for only $4.99 by going here: Click here to visit KidVentures - Jen Murray. (Don't have an e-reader? No problem -- just download it to your desktop).

    Happy summer adventures!
Click here to visit KidVentures - Jen Murray.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Dedicating Jude, January 2011

 A few months ago, I glanced around our church. Sunday worship -- one of my favorite times of the week -- had just ended, and Pastor Abe was beginning his sermon. Though I usually pay fairly close attention, for some reason (maybe third trimester hormones!) people-watching seemed more interesting. Side note to Abe: you're a wonderful preacher, I promise..

Everywhere I looked, I saw friends of all stripes; young to old, rich to poor, all sorts of personalities and in different life situations. A married couple had just started sitting together again after being separated and going through counseling. One man was awaiting jail time for a crime. Another guy -- a former coyote who used to smuggle illegal immigrants over the border -- had just come to know Christ.

All around the sanctuary, there were broken and hurting people. People with pasts and regrets, with divorces, rap sheets, mistakes made and learned from.

Amazing, flawed, wonderful, still-growing people.

I snuggled into Nick's side, knowing we were no different. We have both done so many things we wish we hadn't. We have hurt each other, said things we didn't mean, lied, wasted time and energy on useless things....the list goes on and on.


And I thought, church rocks. It's not for the perfect ones who have it all together. It's not a trophy showcase for the rich, thin and famous. It's a hospital for the sick, a greenhouse of faith for the real. And boy do I love and need this greenhouse.

My baby shower was that afternoon. I chatted with my cousin, the topic drifting toward marriage and relationships. I mentioned how awesome marriage mentoring can be, how those who have gone on before can help the ones just starting the long and rocky road of matrimony.

"So are you and Nick marriage mentors?" she asked, and I actually laughed out loud. "No way," I replied, "because WE are the ones who need the wisdom, not the ones who have it!"

She surprised me by saying that from all appearances, Nick and I looked like we had it all together -- that we lived perfect lives.

I had no idea we were that good of actors.

Because here's the truth: we don't go to church because we're perfect.
We go because we're far from it, and we need the One who is!

I've been blessed to go to some awesome churches, but trust me, I totally get that they can do more harm than good. Quick example: in high school, my youth pastor was caught fooling around with a girl from youth group. He was fired and arrested, but the damage was done. Our youth group was decimated -- and so was much of our church. I still know people who stay far, far away from church and God...all because of that.

People can do horrible things, criminal things even. And even if their behavior doesn't land them in jail, it still can hurt. Gossip, backstabbing, cliques -- it definitely doesn't represent the best of humanity, especially when those humans purport to be Christians.

Putting yourself out there -- letting your weaknesses show to an entire group of people -- takes work. It's not easy. And when someone hurts you, our natural reaction is either to hurt them back or run the other way. Statistics prove me right; a huge number of people who grow up in church eventually leave it but still claim Christianity, and my suspicion is that fellow church-goers can be a big part of why.

Church takes dedication.

Dedication, coincidentally, is exactly what we did last Sunday. Dressed in her finest, Avinly took center stage in front of the whole congregation. There, Nick and I, along with our family behind us, made the commitment to raise our daughter to know about her Savior. Our church family then made the similar vow to pray for Avinly, to teach her and nurture her faith as she grows.

(And once more, my heart broke to think that we have to leave New Hope in November. Thankfully, I know that God is already planning our future church in the UK!)

Dedication is a quick, 5-minute ceremony, but one that Nick and I take very seriously and have done for all our children. Because we love them so stinkin' much, we will gladly do the hard work of the Sunday-morning chaos, endless loops of "Jesus Loves Me" at night and conversations that start out with, "I'm not sure if God or the Bible are really real" as they age and hit the questioning stage. That's part of our job as parents who have a very real, active relationship with Christ.

But we will also take our brood to church. Because it's there that they will learn the basics of faith -- Bible verses, songs, doctrines, etc. -- but also where they will meet their best friends, mentors and possibly even spouses (!). They will know the world is a good place to be in, no matter how scary it sometimes appears. They will meet Jesus and discover his infinite riches. They will get hurt, yes, but through those painful times, they will hopefully learn forgiveness, friendship, perseverance and a host of other good qualities that will last a lifetime.

Like dedication.