Sunday, August 31, 2014

Salt Bowl "squared"....

It's that week again, friends.  Salt Bowl Twenty-Fourteen.   

For my little's a tad extra special.  Sam's last one.  Sydney Clare's first. And the only one they will be participating in together.  Ever.  It's a whirlwind of sorts. 

This time last year....I wrote about this very let's backtrack a bit and take a look....

As I said....whirlwind!!

Syd and the Pepsteppers will be more busy than the players. Pep ralleys X 3.  Extra practices on an already short week.  They are excited.  They are anxious. They are ready.  

This will be her first perfomance in high school. At War Memorial. In front of 30,000+.  How cool is THAT?  I'm both excited and nervous. She, too, is fulfilling her dreams.  Little by little. 

Sam is ready. He and his fellow Seniors are leading this team into this game like never before.  Under their team motto #family....nothing could be so fitting. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Panthers I'll share again...

Every coach and every parent and every player thinks that "their team" is special. Is "different". Is a step above all the others.  And that's ok.  Quite frankly that's how it's supposed to be. But I have never felt before like I feel this year.  The boys and the coaches are that team that you dream and pray for your son to land on.  This could be it.  This could be our year.  

David and I went to see "When the Game Stands Tall" today. Oh how I wish every football player, coach, and parent could watch. How every person who is a part of this game in any capacity could see it.  

It's about a team who had won over 150 games in a row...."the streak" and of course, like most everything, it came to an end.  The coach, didn't really care about the number of wins...moreso, the moral compass and faith and humility of his team. He wasn't into coaching for any other reason than to build young men. Winning was simply a bonus.  

Matthew 23:13. "For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

As I watched the movie, I could relate so much to this game.  Maybe it's time for the "streak" to take a different turn.  Maybe this will be our "Cinderella" story. Maybe we will be the team to win the game that so many don't think they are supposed to win. 

Bryant is bigger and stronger.  They have more depth and more players.  On paper? Maybe we aren't SUPPOSED to win.  But this #family shouldn't be taken lightly.  

I'm sure the smack talkin has started.  Gotten wind that coaches are watching our games and practices and team camps on YouTube and laughing at us.  Sam simply said, "when we win, mom....we win with class."  They define being the best as BEATING the best.  He has told me often how this year really is different. I'm proud of that boy.  He is as prepared as he possibly can be. He's ready. 

Me?  To be quite honest....I've pretty much had "the runs" all weekend. TMI...I get it.  But it is what it is. Not nervous a bit about the final score.  Of course, I want to win.  But I want the night to be an amazing experience for both of my children. I want it to be perfect.  In every sense of the word. 

 I have begged family to come watch.  My kids are never blessed with the rows of family there in support of them. Makes me sad.  This year...will be different.  I hope!

I hope their classmates will support them. Sam gets so broken when his fellow classmates are "less than encouraging" of HIS team.  

As last year, my Salt Bowl Prayer Requests haven't changed:

Pray for sportsmanship and safety.  Ask the Lord to place a hedge of protection over each and every person involved. 

Ask Him to comfort the team with the lesser score.  Since both teams cannot win, there will inevitably be some broken hearts.

Pray for thanksgiving of the talents you will see displayed.  From the hard work and dedication you will see come to light after weeks and months of preparation. 

Pray for those who are a part of the team, but are not given the chance to take the field.  Like our starters ...they, too, have worked so hard and are just as important.  Those jerseys are earned.  And each player deserves to wear them....and with pride. 

Pray for the Coaches.....that they lead our boys into a great game, placing each player where they need to be for the best interest of the team. 

Pray for the officials...that they keep the spirit of the game in check and be completely neutral and fair.  Again....that they allow a FAIR game to be played.

Pray for the fans, that they respectfully support their school and their opponent.  And for God's sake....stay til the game is over.  The boys won't leave the field until the last second is off the clock.  No matter what the scoreboard shows, you shouldn't either. 
I pray people will remember that these are KIDS on the field. Kids who have worked hard and deserve our respect. 

Pray for the Seniors, who have been excellent leaders.  On AND off the field.  That they know they have left a legacy with their teams. Forever.  Pray for our Juniors.... That they play like it IS their last year.  Pray for them all. Pray for their hearts.

Also, pray for all of the spirit teams.  Cheer, dance, band, etc.  This is also their "big game of the year" and is no less important to them.

Yes, this IS just a football game. is much MORE than a football game.  Do we hate Bryant?  Absolutely not.  Sam has many friends taking the field against him wearing blue.  Rivalry really comes down to love and respect.  We love our schools.  Pretty dog-gone cool.

In a few days, my #21 will take the field.  My Pepstepper will kick her heart out!  And I will be their biggest fans.  Out of 30,000 peeps, they will scan the stands and find their momma.  

They knows there is one person that loves them the most.  They also remember their special fans in heaven.  :)  A couple of grandparents are cheering loudly!  I know there are plenty mommas out there just like me...."Salt Bowl" mommas need prayers too!  :)

As I sit in the stands on Friday, next to the friends I love most in the world....and as the nerves set in for our boys on the field, I know without a doubt....that I will be among #family. For that, I am blessed. 

To you, Panthers.....

Have dreams. 

Ephesians 6:11-13 "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."

Happy Salt Bowl Week! May God bless this "Panther House!"
In case you're wondering....I'll be the one in Maroon!  :). Go Panthers!!!

In Him,

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Anna Marie

As the mother of a self-proclaimed "Momma's boy" -- its really hard when the time comes to realize you're not the only "woman" in his life.  My Sam has a precious girlfriend.  PreeeeeCious, ya'll.

Meet Anna.
Anna is probably the version of me at age 18.  Only much cuter, sweeter, and definitely better at everything than I was.  Anna is first and foremost a God-loving, God-fearing, God-following young lady.  I've never seen her without a smile.  Anna marched into our world just a couple of months ago.  Instantly, my Sam was smitten. Again.  I say "again" because Sam has exhibited the same "smitten" behavior before.  As the summer has gone forward, we have just fallen in love with this sweet girl.

Anna is obviously a cutie.  But she has a quick wit and a bit of sarcasm ( me?) that I just just love.  She is a "sporty" girl.  In fact...My son's girlfriend led the Lady Panther softball team to a state championship this year by pitching the final win.  To say that Sam is in heaven is an understatement.  Their "dates" consist of runs at the track, climbing Pinnacle, Travelers' games, tennis....and of course Sonic runs.  They have so much in common its just real cool.  When Sam first told me they were talking...of course, like the true FB stalker that I am....scoped out her FB and twitter.  The first thing I saw was this as her profile pic....

Bowing in prayer....This picture told me almost everything I needed to know.  Period.

Anna isn't the mushy, touchy-feely type -- her "flirting" reminds me of what my mom used to say...."If they pick on you, it means they like you."  :)  Their banter with each other is so fun to watch.  Don't get me wrong....she has a very sweet, loving side as well. For instance....when our family went on vacation, she provided Sam with 6 letters to be opened each day.  She doesn't know this, but each evening before we went to dinner....Sam would get out of the shower and pull that day's letter out of his bag.  He would sit quietly and read it before handing it to me with a smile.  Each letter revealed something she liked about Sam.  Which included silly things like his love of sports and the final one, where she admired his faith through adversity.  His love for the Lord was important to her.  In the spirit of "saving the best for last".....that is the trait she revealed to him on the very last day. was the MOST important to her.

This relationship is very new.  I've seen and Sam tell her he loved her a few times.  A little early in the relationship and I told him so.  He would just grin and I could tell that he had a confidence in their relationship to share it regardless.  After a few weeks....he came into my room one evening and told me that she told him she thought she loved him too.  I love that she is one that isn't "free" with those three words.

Anna has slid right into our family and we just enjoy her so.  She is quick to include Sydney....even wanting to choke her on occasion!  :)  True big sister style. :)

Lately, we have ended each evening in a big ole group text full of nonsense, silliness, and shenanigans.  I love her humor and her heart.  We talk about "nothing" most of the time....Such as how the name "Marie" is goes with anything.  So EVERYONE has that middle name.  Yes...we are dorks, together.  Sammy Marie, Sydney Marie, Tater Marie (our dog) and I'm Momma Marie.  I don't have enough memory on the computer to list all the "Maries" in #marienation -- but its our thing.  And it makes us smile.  Sidenote:  Anna's REAL middle name is Lucille....My mamaw's middle name!  :)

For years I've wanted Sam to go to a Christian University.  For years, Sam has wanted to play baseball at the college level.   OBU is just not in our budget, and we have a friend who coaches at Central Baptist in Conway.  I've prayed for the past couple of years that maybe a door would be opened there.  And I'm still hopeful.  Guess where Miss Anna is heading to college on a softball scholarship????  You guessed it....CBC. Coincidence or God's plan???  hmmmmmmm....thoughts to ponder.

Don't get me wrong.  After two months of dating in their teens, I don't have them married off.  I don't even know if they plan to keep seeing each other after she moves....and I tear up as I type this.....Saturday.  I do know that if nothing else....I adore this child.  I always want her to feel welcome in our deliver Sonic drinks....and choke my Syd.  :)  Just today, they visited me at work....and Anna walked away and Sam stood in front of my desk and said under his breath...."Gosh, I love that girl."  While it makes me smile, it makes me worry as a mom about his sweet little heart getting broken.  However....I guess anything worth having is worth taking a risk.

She tweeted recently that she loves having her best friend as a boyfriend.  She will learn as she grows older how wonderful and rare that is.  Just makes my heart smile.

I envision Anna coming home to Panther Friday Football....and us traveling to Conway for Softball Saturdays.  For our little group texts throughout the week.  Me threatening Sam that if he doesn't get his room cleaned up that I would withhold gas money for Conway trips.  I see her in his prom pics and helping him to choose her Christmas gifts.  I see meeting in the middle in LR for a quick bite in the middle of the week.  After only a few weeks...I KNOW I'm crazy.  and I'm hopeful.  and I'm fearful.

I just know this....IF Anna is a part of our lives for a few weeks, a few months, a few years or forever....we are blessed to know her and to love her.  I pray for her college experience and as she lives out her dream on the field.  Please join me in praying for this precious child, also.  I'm happy to be her friend and not just Sam's mom.  My only regret is not getting to know her sooner since she is leaving this week.  Maybe we will be blessed enough to make up for lost time.  :)

I leave her with my favorite verse:

Proverbs 31:25 "She is clothed with dignity and strength....and she laughs without fear of the future."

Aren't they just so stinkin cute??

Your best years are ahead of you my sweet Anna Marie!  <3

In Him,

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dear Syd -- My Sophomore.

To my Sydney Clare,

Oh Goodness.  How is it that my little BABY is going to high school???  You didn't think my silly words would just be reserved for your brother, did you? :)

Somehow, in the midst of the Senior whirlwind...that really hasn't started starting high school has snuck up on your ole mom.  I remember once when you were younger, I sat down at my computer at home, and there on a sticky note was your handwriting..."Its always ALL about SAM."  You don't know this, but that statement broke my heart.  And I've spent every day since in making sure you didn't really feel that way.

You are my heart walking around outside my chest.  My best friend.  My daughter whom I love more than you will ever ever know.  Being the "baby," have been to virtually every ballpark in the state and some even further.  Being a ballpark little sister couldn't have always been easy.  But your support of your big brother never ceases to amaze me.

I watch the two of you each day....climb in the truck for sonic runs and all sorts of things.  Please cherish those times.  Count on each other.  Call upon each other.  Pray for each other.  Continue to be a team....always.

While I'm sad that your brother is in his last days at home....I know that God gave me YOU to enjoy for the next few years.  Thank you for being you.  Your kindness...your strength....your giving heart.....and your desire to please others.

You are more than Sam's little are my Sydney.  I'm so proud of the young lady you are growing up to be.  Your faith and love for the Lord is shown daily in your actions.....for even when you have your grumpy moments you always feel the need to make it right and let me know I am loved.  You worry about me.  You fret over me.  You are my little protector that God sent to complete our little family.

Can't wait to watch your future unfold.  Shine on, babygirl!  :)

I love you,

Sam 4: Senior Series - Letter to you for your First Day

Dear Sam,

I hope you read this, my son, who I love more than life.   I see you growing up to be a fine young man and I could not be prouder of you than I am. I also want to know how much I love you.

I remember the day that I brought home my firstborn child from the hospital -- after all those weeks in the NICU at ACH.  I walked into our home with him in my arms. The previous weeks had been a whirlwind of activity, filled with doctors and nurses who knew what to do and what tests to run and what should happen next.  They made sure your dad and I knew exactly what to do in any given situation.  Well...for trach care anyway.  Or so I thought....

As a proud momma so excited to finally go home.... In reality, I was terrified.  I unlocked the door and walked into the house, closing the door behind me. It was so quiet there that for a moment it was shocking. Then I realized I was holding a baby with severe respiratory needs, our baby, in my arms and that everything that happened next was up to me.  Your dad had to go back to work. And I was alone with you.  You were scary.  I was terrified.

What do I do next? What happens if there’s a problem? Who’s gonna tell me what to do?
You know what happened next?

People have been facing this for thousands of years ago and will continue to face it for another thousand years.

Just as I did with every obstacle that was thrown my way in the first days and weeks of your life...Trust in your nature, it will take over and help you find the right thing to do. Don’t worry about it, just do your best, be a good person, read everything you can and learn from those around you. Ask questions until you’re satisfied with the answer then ask a few more.  Stay away from the bad things, son.  Be honest.  And know you always have one person in your  Pray...about everything.  Everyday.  Don't forget to thank Him.  Everyday.  And for Christ's sake....Don't strike out "looking!"   Take risks and believe in yourself.  Because I believe in you.

You will start to get the hang of it as long as you take your new responsibility seriously.

College life will be like that. There’ll be a furious amount of activity getting you to the school and set up and prepared for classes and bags unpacked. Then there will come an awful moment when you realize it’s time for your mom to go home, for you to go back to your dorm room for the first time by yourself.
You know what happens next? guessed it.
Life happens next.

Your mom will get home and call you and you’ll go to sleep and wake up the next morning and start your day. Each day will become a little more like the next one rather than the one that just passed.
You’ll learn and grow and get on with your college career.

Don’t worry about leaving your roots behind. You could no more leave your roots behind than a tree can get up and walk away from theirs. Your roots will provide you the values and nourishment you need to get through the troublesome times and help you make sense of the confusing ones.

Your parents will continue to love you, your sister will be there to share in your new experiences and you’ll be able to tell them all about the new things that you’re going through. Sure, things will be different than what you’re used to but that is just the nature of life. As the tree grows taller and stronger it starts to cast shade and take on its adult maturity. So will you.

Trust in your sweet nature and in the goodness of life around you and you’ll do just fine.  Oh, and one more thing, call your mother. Tell her you love her. That seems to make all the difference.  :)

I'm getting hives thinking about all this is happening in the very near future.  College talk, planning, and decisions.  Wanting you to go out into the world and be fabulous....while wanting to hang on to you and never let you go.  I am so excited for your last year of football as a Panther....homecoming, pep rallies, Senior parades, prom, and baseball season.  I want to cherish every moment with you....but also to let you enjoy it on your own.  Please know I try hard to find that balance between being your mom and being your friend.

I am so proud of the young man you are.  How when you love deeply.  How you are a gentleman.  How you face just working through it and never losing a hope that so many never find.  As a young man, you have faced real life problems....much of which my choices have dealt you, and for that, I apologize.  You have grown into a wonderful athlete....lacking a dad on the field.  While others call a home like ours "broken" and your sister have made it anything but.  I know that growing up with a single mom has made your life different than that of your peers.  However, your dad and I hope and pray that you look back on your childhood with a fondness, and it is filled with the greatest of memories.

The way you have handled your faith, your studies, your sports commitments, your job, your friends and your family just impresses the heck out of me, son.  Grown adults struggle with the things you handle with ease every day.

I realize as a mother how blessed I am for the little boy that gave me that title to be you, Sam.  I can't promise that I won't cry as every milestone this year comes and goes.  For I know that is one that I cannot keep.  But know that each tear is just love poured out for you.  Each represents my cup just overflowing with joy for what you have accomplished and what is ahead of you.  If given the chance, I would not have handpicked a better son.  You have led our little family and I know God will shine down His blessings upon you as your future unfolds.....

Find your wings, my Sam.....Find your wings.

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalm 37:4

I love you, Sam.
In Him,

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Panther Armor of God

Sam just returned from a 3-day "sabbatical" of sorts with his football team.  No phones, no internet, no social media, no TVs, no parents or girlfriends..... just bonding time with his teammates in order to build their foundation's motto for the year..."FAMILY."  I don't know if the boys are so close due to taking the "motto" to heart....or if the motto came about because our boys are so close.  It's a toss-up for this momma, who has watched them grow as both teammates and friends over the years.  Doesn't really matter.  The fact is...they are close.  They are special.  And maybe I'm a bit partial, but not sure I've seen it this way before.

The three days included practice of course....but it also included fun and silly times....complete with slip & slides, egg toss competitions, archery, canoes and lots of food.  It was held at Family Farm...a local Christian day camp that has always been a favorite of my kiddos.  Sydney has been a counselor there for a couple of summers.  The camp's leader always shares with its campers from Ephesians chapter 6 about each day putting on the "Armor of God."  I loved that when my David came home from his "Daddy volunteering" time on Sunday night sharing with this with me, and Sydney popped in and told all about this chapter and what it meant.  Daddy May left an impression on my little girl.

Here is one of my favorite team pics from camp that I sorta stole from the Coach's FB page.....

Sam came home tonight and we talked a little about the week.  He was tired...and after taking a spin in momma's new car, headed home and crashed.  Much of our conversation revolved around the tragic loss of a young man and former teammate of Sam's in a car accident that also involved one of our dearest friends. Once again, our community is shaken by the loss of young life.  Leaves us with the horror much too close to home and the realization of how precious life is.  I've spent the last two days aching for the parents involved, the friends and family grieving, for the child that is fighting for her life, the young man that was behind the wheel and our sweet friend that witnessed it all.

Makes me want to hold tight to my kids and never let them walk out the door.  As I talked at length tonight with my friends about tragedy, and finding the right words to comfort, we all agreed that the ultimate protector and comforter is our Heavenly Father.  That is it.  Period.

The events of the accident and my son on the cusp of football season of his Senior Year is a great reminder of the armor of God and the protection God gives us in the game of life. So to my Sam....Listen to this!!  No football player, in their right mind, would run on to the field for a game without his uniform including all the pads!

In life, just like in a football game, we have been given pieces of armor/equipment that help to protect us.

Ephesians 6:11-13 "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."

Belt of Truth - Eph. 6:14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,"

Just like the football belt holds the pants up and gives security, so does this piece of the armor of God.  Truth will always give you the freedom and security to face anything that comes your way.  The belt goes around the waist, our midsection. It secures the pads around that section. Truth brings assurance into our lives thereby also bringing security into those whom we belong. I also think of it protecting us from always being led by our emotions. How many times do we refer to our midsection when we speak of our emotions - "I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach;" "I had butterflies in my stomach." We can't base decisions on our emotions, they can mislead. We must base them on the Truth of God's Word.

To my children....ALWAYS stand FIRM on God's Word.  Always.

Breastplate of Righteousness - Think of your shoulder pads.  How they protect your chest....wherein lies your heart, son.  Eph. 6:14 "with the breastplate of righteousness in place,"

This piece of God's armor protects our heart. Christ's righteousness, right relationship with God, is credited to us! Because of it our heart is protected from being led astray.  Remember, when we DO take a wrong turn, when we leave our shoulder pads off for a day or 2....we can always put them on again.  That protection is forever there for us.  God promises us that.  Each time you put them on....remember that God is protecting your heart.  He is protecting YOU.

Shoes of Peace -Eph. 6:15 "and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace."
Friday night, we shopped for your new cleats for the season.  We found the ones you wanted.  The perfect pair.  When you look down at them...remember they mean so much more. Football cleats dig into the ground and give you traction - help you stand in position. The gospel of peace - a peace with God, keeps us grounded. This peace keeps us calm and standing strong when storms come into our life. We are grounded because of the good news that we can have peace with God through Jesus Christ!

Shield of Faith  Eph. 6:16 "In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."
This piece of the armor of God goes out before - in front. It is the first point of contact with the opposing force. Faith is the first step in standing strong for God.  Your gloves protect your hands.  Your hands that are needed for every task you are to complete.  They help you to hold on to the ball on the field....and to hold on to what is important in life.  Wear them with pride, son.

Hebrews 11:6 says "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
Trusting God is what moves us forward. Knowing and believing that He is real and active in our lives pushes the opposing team backwards....on AND off of the field!

Helmet of Salvation - Eph. 6:17 "Take the helmet of salvation"
A very important piece of the armor of God, the helmet of salvation protects our mind. It is there that as an act of the will we first choose Jesus. And it is there that we continue to consciously choose Him each and everyday. Our minds are attacked with ideas from the world, ideas that do not draw us closer to God. The helmet helps to guard our minds; it is His saving grace that purifies our thoughts.

Sword of the Spirit - Eph. 6:17 "and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
All other pieces of the armor of God are defensive. The sword of the Spirit or Word of God is offensive. Just like a football playbook, it give us direction. It gives us instruction about how to play this game of life so that we can win!  Always dig deep in the Word.  Follow it.  Believe in it.  Trust it. And most importantly, live it.  The Bible IS your playbook.

Prayer  - Eph. 6:18 "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."
Just like the football jersey covers the football pads so that they will function properly, prayer covers all the other armor and brings them together as one unit that functions together.

A football jersey also identifies which team one is playing for. Are you on God's team? Yes!  Remember your salvation, my precious Sam. Always look to God.  Pray. Listen.

Just like a football is to be thrown or carried down the field, so we are to carry the Gospel to share with others!

Sam's class has always gotten a tad overlooked.  With a strong class ahead of them, and a strong class behind them.....they've somewhat gotten lost in the shuffle.  A part of me is just a bit excited to watch them take the field and finally get noticed for the leaders they are.  This is their Senior year.  Their last chance. Their time. THEIR shot.

Good luck to the 2014 Benton Panthers and I pray for so many blessings over each of them on and off the field.  As they are led by their team of Coaches and the  Class of 2015....I hope they always remember to dress in their Armor each day....on and off the field.  With God on your side....nothing is ever impossible.  (I'm having a "Facing the Giants"  flashback scream with me..."Stone Wall!!  Stone Wall!! Stone Wall!!)  I love these boys.  As in life, look to our FATHER as the head of your FAMILY.   And as I blink back tears wondering where all the time is gone.....I am so proud of where you have come and excited for where God will take you.....

Seems like only yesterday....
In Him,