Thursday, October 27, 2005

I spent last weekend in New York; Long Island to be exact. It was a rainy weekend, but not lacking in autumnal beauty. Anyone who has moved to a place where weather is mild and uneventful understands the yearning for seasons -- especially when one moves from the dramatic to the sublime. I have learned to recognize the little things -- the longer shadows, the colder, longer nights, the changes in the constellations -- here autumn sort of slips in the back door - quietly.

I was there for my beautiful nephew's baptism. I stayed with my sister and ate beef stew with a full bodied red wine (a meal made perfect by a wet, chilly autumn night). At one point I opened her door to let the dogs in, and a gust of wind brought a swirl of colorful leaves into the dining room. The image engraved itself on to my heart -- the leaves, the stew, the golden light of the fixture that hangs above the table, the cozy sounds of baby and family around the table -- a perfect moment.

The christening was held in an old stone church that sits nestled in an acreage covered by a thicket of trees. It is adjacent to a 400 year old graveyard, neatly surrounded by a delightful maze of gardens. The rain kindly stopped for us, the mostly gray sky dotted with blue and white. The trees around us were completey dressed up for the occasion -- bright yellows, deep reds -- a cacaphony of color -- a tribute to the Master artist. My sister loves it here, and I completely understand why. She eagerly shows me this palate as if to say, "See this and remember. Don't you miss this? Don't you want to have this in your life?" "Yes!" my heart cries -- but I stay quiet, not to disturb the holiness of the moment.

The church is very small, very traditional -- a tapestry of rich carved woods and incredible stained glass windows. A semi-circle of stained glass accentuates the altar, the baptismal font looks as if it were carved from one beautiful piece of mahogany. It is a peaceful, reverent place. The giggles of many children and the quiet laughter and occasional reproach of adults doesn't interrupt the peace that abides here. I didn't want to leave. It seemed like a dream -- surreal and impossible. The christening went quickly, as all things tend to do -- over before you know it. The baby, prone to crying in ordinary circumstances, did not utter a sound even when the water was poured upon his perfect little head. He watched everything with his big blue eyes full of wonder, under the same spell I was it seems.

Overall, it was a quiet event attended by my brother-in-law and his family (parents, siblings, nieces and nephews aged 0-7), our parents and me. My husband and children were in California, separated by the miles, the schedule and the cost of airfare. Their absence made the event seem even more like a dream. We all attended a dinner celebration at a restaurant built into an old colonial house that overlooks a picturesque forest-engulfed pond. The same colors sang from the landscape, and despite the volume of their combined voices, the hush was as heavy as a thick blanket. It was a beautiful day; a perfect day. My nephew will not remember it. But I will. And I will tell him of it. It is engraved on my heart.

God Bless you Logan Jeremiah O'Sullivan. Welcome into the family of God. You are born of flesh, now born of water. I pray for and look forward to the day you will be born of spirit.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Although I haven't been jumping from planes, it's been a seriously crazy couple of weeks over here.

It all started off with Homecoming (which when you are the mother of the boy is apparently not as big a deal as for the mother of the girl -- I'll let you know when the daughter arrives there...). My son didn't really even think about what he was going to wear to said dance until after the football game on Friday (the dance was on Saturday.) Including the ordering and subsequent pick up of flowers, it took my son an entire 3 hours to prepare. He agreed on the first pair of pants that fit him, got his dress shoes at Payless, used an old dress shirt and tie, showered and VIOLA! He was ready. It's been a really long time since I've gone to a High School dance, but I seem to remember at least 2 days of preparation (if you count one whole day of shopping.) He and his date went with a group of friends, all of whom were driven by the parents of (you guessed it) the daughters. Pretty low maintenance for me.

That Sunday we found out about Lauren and the news sobered us up to say the least. At football practice on Monday my son took a hit that has landed him in physical therapy for the last 2 weeks and a couple of very scary visits to the spinal injury specialist. 2 x-rays and an MRI later, prognosis is good (but he can't get back in the game for another couple of weeks). In a moment of sheer frustration, he jumped on his bike in the midst of all the angst and rode to the place where Lauren was killed. He picked her the prettiest flower he could find and left it there near the purple balloons.

The following weekend we celebrated my daughter's 12th birthday at the ice skating rink (I see the irony, by the way -- I move 3,000 miles to get away from cold weather and my kid chooses ice rinks to spend her happy moments. Go figure.) My son and husband were surrounded by pre-teen girls on ice skates. (I was huddled in the snack bar sipping hot chocolate.) The air was thick with expressions like "No WAY!" "As IF!" and my personal favorite, "whatEVerrr!". They all gathered around to watch the gift opening ceremony. They ooed and aahed accordingly (and squealed with delight on more than one occasion). Apparently, the favorite gift was a tee shirt which says on the front "Don't mess with the Monkey" then on the back "'Cause the Monkey won't play". This is apparently the funniest thing ever seen (if you measure the success by the reaction of the crowd). The happy day culminated in a food fight after one silly giggler finally got the courage to express her affection toward my teenaged son by smashing her cake into his face (ah, puppy love...). The flinging of cake only ended when my son yelled out (brilliantly, I must add...) "DON'T MESS WITH THE MONKEY!" at which (in unison) 15 12 year olds shouted, "'CAUSE THE MONKEY WON'T PLAY!"

I'm not sure we're invited back there.

Well, that's all for now.

But wait -- I almost forgot -- I was tagged by Stephanie in the midst of all this madness and now I have to tag 5 others. Okay, so the rules are as follows:

1.Go into your archives.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Post the fifth sentence (or closest to it).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
5. Tag five other people to do the same thing.

Here's the 5th sentence of my 23rd post (written nearly 2 whole years ago.)

"It seems from the unique population that I have been reading on the blog sites that it is on many hearts to build a new church; A completely new, different, outside of the box church."

Nov 6, 2003.

I tag Chip Nelson (who after jumping from planes should have no trouble with this), Today at the Mission (rhymes with kerouac), Liz Creech, Birgit, and Rachel at Testosterhome.

Peace, everyone. God Bless.

Monday, October 10, 2005

We first noticed the little red haired girl at our daughter's championship basketball game in the local sports center. She sat in our stands and cheered loudly for our girls. We didn't know her.

At first I thought maybe she was with the opposing team. "BOX OUT!" she yelled appropriately, cheering happily when our girls got the ball. No question she was routing for us. "Do you have a sister or a cousin playing?" I asked. "No," she answered without explanation. Later she added, "My brother is playing away, and I decided to stay here." She sat right next to us, sidled up to my husband (who is by most accounts fairly intimidating). She could see right through him -- she was not remotely afraid. I thought at first she was hearing impaired, as her speech was slurred in a manner made familiar to me by my deaf friend, but after a while I realized she was mentally challenged in some other manner. She was simple minded, innocent -- and a great fan. She talked basketball with my husband and cheered loudly. We won, and I was convinced that her cheering certainly helped pump up our girls. She watched the entire game, utterly engaged the whole time, completely delighted when we won.

When the game was over, I felt terrible leaving her -- as if I were leaving a small child unattended. My husband reminded me that she arrived there without our help. She would be fine. I suppose she stayed to watch the next game. I don't remember.

Later we saw her more than once, riding on a Razor Scooter in the vacinity of the Sports Complex. We figured she probably lived nearby. We were happy to eventually see her at a High School basketball game. Her freshman brother was playing against my freshman son's team. She visited with us and cheered for her brother. "BOX OUT!" she'd yell predictably in the appropriate moment. Her team won that day, as always it seems. She was their angel in the outfield (or wherever a basketball player's angel might be...).

Occasionally she would come up in conversation, and we discovered that she attended every High School basketball game, every football game. She cheered on the teams and congratulated each player personally for a game well played. One of my prayer partners met her when she cheered for her son's little league baseball team. That girl managed to go to every game straight through the championship. She made noise makers in the team colors and handed them out to the parents. She had no relative on that team. Apparently, she travelled everywhere on that Razor Scooter -- but for the championship series, she accepted rides from team parents so she could make the away games. Amazing, we all knew of her, all attended games with her. She was like a red headed sports angel.

Last night I learned that she died quietly last week after sustaining head injuries in an accident she had with her Razor Scooter. Apparently, she slipped into a coma shortly after impact. She never regained consciousness. She wasn't hit by a car. She was happily riding her Razor (as usual). She didn't suffer, as far as anyone can tell. She hit her head and was gone. Like that. Her funeral was held this morning.

My son broke the news to me. All of his athlete friends are heartbroken. "I want my life to be like hers, " he told me. "Everyone will miss her -- she was a blessing to everyone. She never asked for anything back. Not even a ride." I am reminded of my post from a week ago -- "Pay Attention" I hear God remind me. Pay Attention.

My husband recalled his entire last conversation with her at our son's freshman game. "She was so happy to go to the prom. She was going to ride in a limo." I am amazed she was old enough to go to high school. She was completely guileless. I am jealous -- "How come you remember that?" I ask my husband. I want to remember more. I want to grab on to a piece of her and not let go. I don't remember the details of our last visit with her -- the game was over before I knew it and she was gone. I am sad that I didn't catch the details, didn't hear her happy story of herself. My husband took that tiny moment to cheer for her -- he took the time to listen. He paid attention.

As I tell the people I know of her passing, they share a story of her sitting on their sidelines at some point, cheering for their child. Not a single one knows her name. "What an incredible loss" is the communal concensus. What will we ever do without you, little red haired girl?

Yet without doubt, I can see her -- angels celebrating her arrival, cheering for her -- she is in the spotlight now. She is the sports star. And all of heaven has come to cheer her home. Well done, little one. Well done.

Update 1: Her name was Lauren Erica Herzog, and she was 18 years old. She left this world on October 4. She leaves behind her parents, her siblings, her grandparents, and an entire community of people who have been blessed by her at one time or another.

Update 2: On our way to school this morning (10/12) we passed the spot of her accident along our normal route, marked by a cross and 2 giant mylar balloons - Purple hearts.

"Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." Matt 5:8

++Thank You for sharing Lauren's pure heart with us. We are truly blessed to have known her.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I loved this post and had to share. It offered me some wisdom and a giggle on an otherwise average day. Thanks Gina! "It's all dog food to God".

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

An excerpt from the devotional biography of Rich Mullins, "An Arrow Pointing to Heaven." :

Toward the end of his life Rich said, "I think we cry at funerals--even at funerals of people we don't like--because we realize what a miracle a life is. You realize, 'This will never happen again.' There will never be this exact combination of genes, there will never again be the things that have created this person to be what he is. God has spoken uniquely here, and it's gone. It's over. And I think there's some regret, because we all realize, boy, we didn't pay enough attention."

++You have my attention Lord. Give me eyes to see Your hand in the people around me. Let me not miss the unique details. "Show me your ways, O Lord, Teach me your paths -- Guide me in your truth and lead me." Psalm 25 "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening," 1 Samuel 3

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Those of you that know us well are aware that this time of year always finds us up to our necks in football. Between my son and my husband, we are currently up to 4 games a week and countless hours of practice and film (my husband coaches High School Freshmen (A and B), my sophomore son plays JV and Varsity). It is not unusual for my house to be full of really big, really strong high school boys. We have watched most of these handsome young men grow up. Many of them have been playing since they were 7 years old. I am personally amazed by how many of the boys we've known and loved are in the news these days for the amazing jobs they're doing on the High School football field. College offer letters, NFL aspirations -- it's all football all the time.

Even outside of that context, this post broke my heart. If you haven't ever visited Today at the Mission, you're in for an adventure of the human kind.

++Lord, watch over the young men you have placed in our life. Thank you so much for each one of them. Thank you for the love you have put in our hearts for them. Give them a future and a hope. May they all know You as the author and giver of their life and their talents. You hold them in the palm of your hand. May they grow up to be men of great character, good husbands, good fathers. May they always bring honor to your name, and may all their dreams come true.