Driving

Jimmy's %22Car%22

(Throw-back photo of Jimmy and the car he wishes he could drive.)

Stay off the streets. Jimmy is driving.

Yes, the “baby” of the Anderson clan has a permit. Perseverance paid off. It wasn’t easy, learning all those rules in a second language, and it took some doing. But this kid’s a go-getter and he got it.

I remember the day Grant got his permit. We were standing in line waiting to take the test with a couple of classmates. One fifteen-year-old was the forth of five sons, and I remembering saying to the boy’s mom – I’ll bet this is easy for you by now. And she assured me that, no, it is every bit as terrifying, every time around.

I was thinking about her comment last week, sitting in the passenger seat while Jimmy practiced in our neighborhood. We drove three times past the same neighbors who gave us knowing grins each time we circled. Our first couple of loops were relatively uneventful, the biggest challenge a car turning left and a quick lesson on right-of-way. But by loop three some neighborhood kids had taken the streets. One young towhead who spends hours playing baseball with his brother, reminding me of my own, hit one foul down the driveway just as Jimmy was approaching. You’ll need to stop and let him get it. I said it calmly and we did just fine. Then, a couple of blocks over and another heart-stopping moment for the mom of new driver. Two small children on one side of the street, their puppy sitting at the opposite curb. And all those rules about right-of-way going right out the window. Jimmy, we should stop. We slow, stop, wait. No one moving. Okay, slowly. And puppy and children stay planted while Jimmy takes the Jeep safely through.

Whew.

That’s when I remembered Mrs. Plaisance, mom of five boys, and I felt a bit smug. I’m doing a LOT better, forth time around, thank you very much. Two near disasters and I didn’t even panic. No screaming, no flailing. I didn’t even have to use the invisible passenger-side brake. Of course, I’ve been deferring to Dad for driver’s instruction every day since.

It was inevitable. Adding two more boys, teenagers, and of course they’d need to drive. We were well into the adoption process when that particular thought hit me. Oh rats.

But I’ll have to admit, this summer with busy boys calling me in the middle of meetings at church, needing rides, I do think I’m ready. Too much chauffeuring, and I’m ready to put them behind the wheel.

Felipe’s working nearly fulltime at a carwash this summer, and with a full schedule and soccer most evenings, we’re trying to figure out when he’ll find time to study for his permit exam. He’s a bit more cautious than younger brother, steers clear of failure, and may need some prompting. We’re thinking all that time spent washing other people’s cars, and depending on Mom for rides to and from, might just do the trick. If I had to guess I’d say the kid’s scared to death we’ll make him drive an ’85 SAAB and figures he’s rather save his cash for better wheels before suffering that particular humiliation.

We’ve been extremely fortunate, and if I believed in it this would be the time to knock on wood. Our teenaged drivers have done minimal damage. One bump backing into a black car randomly parked in a cul-de-sac after dark. A collision with a light pole on an icy street. As far as this Mom knows, the only tickets have been for illegal parking. (Luke’s first week last fall at his new apartment by the U of M and his car was towed. He just happened to be away at a 3-day retreat when it happened, so he had to pay triple at the impound lot.)

All said, not bad. So alas. Here we go. Again. Prayers welcome.

Consolation

Consolation

[kuh n-sohl]

verb (used with object), consoled, consoling.

  1. to alleviate or lessen the grief, sorrow, or disappointment

That’s exactly what happened. Our boys and all of us were indeed. Consoled. And all that grief, that deep disappointment was lessened to almost forgetting.

They were the Consolation Champions. Nils and the Legacy Lions. Winning 2 games out of 3 at the state baseball tourney. In the end, it was awesome. But the road to victory started with a crushing loss.

The week before just going to state was triumph enough. Everything else will be gravy. One of the parents said it this way, and it felt true, celebrating those back-to-back wins that got us there. But then, of course, the week played out, Target Field in our sights, those other teams looking beatable, and heading to Thursday we’re thinking more than gravy.

We were certainly thinking MORE in the final inning of the first day’s game, leading as we were by two runs. Two outs. Two strikes. Game over. But not quite. Batter after batter from the opposing team (five in all) took two strikes and then made their way on. A run scored. And then a play we’d relive all night long. Bases loaded, everyone tense beyond reason. An easy grounder to shortstop, bobbled, thrown wide to first. The tying run across the plate.

The shortstop was my son. This kid who hardly missed a play all season. A coach from an opposing team called him a vacuum. His glove like a magnet. But Thursday after extra innings and a loss by one run, my boy sat dejected on an overturned bucket. Stunned. All of us stunned.

And I actually wondered if it might be my fault.

Rewind.

Thursday morning. I’m up early for a meeting at church. Dressed in my Legacy t-shirt and my blue and orange tennies (custom-designed by one of my high-school girls as a fundraiser for a mission trip a few years back.) All of us excited for the day ahead. And I’m praying, like usual. For the day and for my boys. God – I’m not sure how you feel about baseball… But I’m asking. I’ve asked before and of course I’m asking today. It can’t hurt.

And then the weirdest thing happens. And not just once. Maybe three or four times I start praying and each time there’s this sense of HIS leading. Each time me ending my praying with this exact thing. God I want what you want and I trust you. And I knew in my spirit it was His Spirit preparing, and I knew I was praying for Nils.

I knew it again hours later as I watched him struggling there on that bucket. Alone. No one talking. No pats on the back. No one saying it’s going to be okay. His Dad’s heart heavy, and mine, too, and we get in our car and we leave the field, and leave the boy in his pain. All night long wondering how this could have happened.

Friday morning I wake up dreaming. About baseball. Still heavy. Out on my porch with Bible in hand. And I’m thinking like you. There are a lot of things bigger than baseball.

And yet. It’s a mystery. How God can be sovereign over all the world’s mess and still meet me like this.

From the start, every verse of scripture His Spirit is speaking to mine. And then. Like a message from heaven. I open my email to a video teaching sent just that morning. Michelle Anthony, Life Can Be Tough – The Upper and Lower Story. And every single word of this message is HIS. For me – and for Kyle listening nearby.

When we know that God is writing a grand redemptive narrative, then we can be confident that there is a higher storyline than our day to day events that make up the lower story… When we have eyes to see the upper story narrative we will be blessed in the midst of the trials of our lower story… 

The upper story. God I trust you. I want what you want. And the lower. God, please be there for my boy.

And then. Second day, game two, last play. A grounder to shortstop. Scooped up, thrown to first, game over.

Consolation.

Hands

Mountain Grant

(Photo credit to Kiana)

I read Psalm 95 this morning. It was a happy coincidence given my waking thoughts. Thoughts of boys all over the map doing who-knows-what. I prayed with Kyle before he left for work and I said it then. It feels like we have five families.

Yesterday I watched a video at weather.com and there was flooding in Colorado. At Red Rocks – the concert venue in the mountains my boys think is totally awesome. Where they bought tickets to see NEEDTOBREATHE next September, including a birthday ticket for Dad. So yesterday I saw the pictures of all that rain filling the amphitheater and of course I wondered about Luke camping in the mountains this week. Climbing a big mountain he tells me. Last Saturday talking to him on the phone during our good friend’s grad party. And he tells me the big news that he’s been asked to lead the biggest excursions of the summer. Two-week trips and intense adventure. And I’m curled up in a chair on my friend’s porch fighting tears, thinking how this boy has been given so many gifts and to him who has much, much is expected. Of the boy and the mom both.

My Saturday tears were for Nils, too. Nils, whose baseball team made it to the state tournament – the first time ever for an Anderson boy. All week we’ve been celebrating. A banquet tonight. Games Thursday and Friday, and if they’re lucky Monday, too, at Target Field. It stands to reason there’d be too much emotion. Last week’s games were so intense I questioned my own holiness. Not at all sure it’s godly to get so wound up over a sport.

It was there at the grad party this hit me, too. No big brothers at Nils’ games. His biggest heroes both hundreds of miles away out west getting text updates at best, and that’s only if they’re in cell-phone range. Grant and Kiana would be here in a heartbeat, except this just happens to be their one weekend off all summer, and they’re on vacation. For a minute I was miffed. Thinking they should have known, and should have come home instead. But of course I know better.

And then. A day or two later and I see this post on Facebook. Kiana’s status. I’ll copy and paste:

Headed west and @grant_winsfield has named our trip “I Will Follow You” (thanks Vertical Church Band for our theme song) with devotions to accompany our adventures. 

So while I’m begrudging this boy his vacation, he’s taking our old family tradition and making it theirs. A theme and a song and devotions for a family road trip, just like we’ve always done. And I’m undone. Again.

So this morning I read this Psalm. The one we memorized a dozen years ago on our own way out west.

…the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

In His hands. All of it, and all of them. Boys climbing mountains and playing baseball and being husbands. And this mom, too. Sending texts and checking Facebook. Missing what was and enjoying what is. All this family. In His big, big hands.

Unplugged

Mountain

Luke called today. Kyle and I were both working from home, so we put him on speakerphone and soaked up the sound of his voice. All good news, and he’s doing great.

Luke is spending most of his summer off the grid, leading “excursions” in the mountains of Colorado. Felipe and Jimmy don’t like it. As they have stated, more than once, this brother of theirs is stupid. And they’re totally serious. But in this case stupid doesn’t mean what it normally means. This isn’t the stupid of pointless homework, or annoying girls. This stupid is expressed with a tone of voice and a look in the eyes that says – this brother of mine is freaking me out.

These are boys for whom a phone battery charged to less than 20% is a true crisis. We need to get home NOW. Out of juice is dangerously close to off the grid, and this, believe me, is not an option.

So there’s Luke out in the great-unknown wild of the Rocky Mountains with any manner of man-eating beast and neck-breaking avalanche – and no Wi-Fi. Gasp.

You’d think it would be Mom lying awake at night. And yet, I admit to sleeping rather well. I not-so-secretly like the idea of unplugged, and I think I might choose it for myself if given half a chance. Kyle and I periodically fantasize about building that empty nest lake home just remote enough to be truly disconnected.

The thing is, I had a feeling back in September when Luke loaded up his SAAB and my Jeep and headed for the U of M that this would be the last we’d have him living under our roof. This boy who (admitted by all) is the family favorite is also our most independent. He spent his first full summer away from home and living at Camp Nathanael at the tender age of fifteen. This is my kid who was born fighting giants, and cut his teeth with a weapon in hand. He emphatically refused to be called cute or little or any such insult from the time he could express such opinions. Big Luke is what he preferred.

So when this boy told us several months ago he was considering committing his next two summers to leading adventures beyond the limits of civilization it seemed like a perfectly logical choice.

Last weekend at my nephew’s grad party a friend of my sister’s was telling me about the months her own 20-something son spent traveling Europe with no plan and no bed. Free-spirit living from day to day. Her kid, too, was out of cell-phone range more often than not so they came up with an agreement. He’d send mom a text whenever he could, even if it was just one word. Alive.

As the two of us talked I began to recall stories from Luke’s childhood. Near-death episodes with miraculous endings. Like the time Luke was Peter Pan hiding from Captain Hook in the trunk of Dad’s car and the trunk locked and little Pan was stuck in the dark screaming his head off with nobody hearing. And later he came into the living room beet-red and sweaty and more than a bit shaken and recounting the story. So of course we asked him – How did you get yourself out?! And his answer.

I screamed, “Jesus get me out of here!” And the trunk popped open.  

There are other stories, too. Bungee-jumping with a blanket attached to the Little Tykes jungle gym, a head-first dive onto concrete. Sliding between the rails of the top bunk removing skin from neck and chin.

It occurred to me a long time ago God meant to keep this boy alive.  

That’s what I told Kim at the grad party, and it occurs to me now that’s probably why I can let him go.

He’s in good hands.

Not that there are guarantees. There are not. I read the news and see the requests for prayer at church. Horrible things happen to faithful people all of the time. And yet. Off the grid or on I can let my boy go feeling pretty sure God’s plans won’t fail.

Tomorrow morning early Kyle will fly with Felipe and Jimmy to California for their own mini-adventure. They’ll take three smart-phones, and I’ll follow their journey through text and Facebook and if I decide to load it before they leave, Instagram, too. Jimmy will be sure they’re never too far from cell-phone coverage, although there has been talk of a day trip to the mountains. It would be a stretch, but I’m hoping they go. Felipe paints nothing but summit views and I’m sure his eyes would about pop their sockets to see El Capitan in living color.

Sometime this summer I might just need my own trip to the mountains. After all, Luke’s been telling me every time we talk about this magical place called Glen Eyrie where he goes for cellphone coverage on days off. You should come on up some weekend. I look it up online and I laugh out loud. It’s a castle. In the mountains. With my boy.

Yes, Luke. A no-brainer. I’m coming.