Saturday, December 20, 2014

A new generation

Looking back, I wondered if something was wrong with me. I waited to be swept away by the flood of emotions and river of tears I heard would come. I wanted my heart to fill and nearly explode after being overcome with a primal and new sense of love and joy. But alas, I experienced nothing like that.

Don't get me wrong. I love my children. I love my children more than an ocean of words could ever describe. And yet, their births were not the made-for-movies kind of experiences. With Caleb, it was hard work. I decided I wanted to experience childbirth in it's rawest form, which, come to think of it, may not have been the wisest decision ever made. Labor was not fun. It hurt. It was exhausting. It tore me - literally. It was the hardest thing I had done to date. So maybe my lack of gushing emotions was simply due to relief of getting the kid out into this big world.

Fool me once but not twice. I didn't make the same mistake on the second child. After a couple hard contractions it was "Hit me with the epidural." It worked. I thoroughly enjoyed the labor experience without the pain. But my relief of birthing Seth was different than pushing out Caleb. Seth was a hard pregnancy. Unlike post-pregnancy with Caleb, I did not miss being un-pregnant once Seth was born. I remember begging my doctor three weeks prior to my due date to make him come out and play. Seth was relentless in his kicking, jumping, punching, and general state of uninhibited activity. But the doctor declined my suggestion. Instead, despite my best efforts to coerce his arrival, Seth stubbornly awaited the appointed day to make his appearance. So after I pushed and the doctor pulled, I was ecstatic to be no longer with child. Now maybe I could sleep. Silly me.

Am I an unemotional, hard-hearted woman? I don't think so. Ask anyone who knows me. I have a wealth of emotions that show themselves often. But never would I have guessed them to be so front and center than at the birth of my first grandchild.

Asked to drive Claire to the hospital while Seth was racing from work, I felt my heart begin to pick up the pace. But when I walked into the room and spied all the accouterments needed for birthing newborns, the lump in my throat grew to grapefruit size. Nevertheless, as the night wore on as labor slowed down post-epidural, the lump melted away. I felt only tired from the long day. That state would not last for long.

"And the number is 10. Let's have a baby," nurse Brooke declared after checking the progress slightly after 2 a.m.. With that proclamation from the nurse (who, incidentally, had lived for two years in a basement apartment at our house), the room awoke to quick, but quite and calm preparation. I was beyond fortunate to be included as one of three spectators allowed to stay during the delivery. That lump in my throat returned, but grew to basketball size as it became all too real that life was about to change forever.

Seth assisted Claire by holding one of her numb legs while I held the other. Corrie, Claire's twin sister and photographer, captured the scene. Someone observed, "Seth, you look terrified," as Claire bore down once again.

"Pretty much," was his honest response while fixing his eyes on Claire, silently urging her on in the delivery of this special package.

Her labor efforts were effective as the tiny haired head explored the new world a little bit further with each push. "Seth, you need to see this," suspecting the next push would usher his daughter into the world. He turned and looked down just in time to see long-awaited Baby Addyson slide into the doctor's hands. I glanced up to see his face take on the most incredible expression of awe mixed with love. Then came the tears. Then came my tears as I watched my second-born child contemplate the arrival of his own flesh and blood.

Only now, in this first week of Addyson Leona's life, do I understand the many comments from other grandparents. "It's better than having your own kids."

Thank you, Seth and Claire, for helping me better understand love for my own children in the context of love for your child. May you grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as you raise your precious daughter. May God be pleased as you present your family a living sacrifice to Him.

Thank you, Father, for Addyson Leona Trittipoe. I love her. I love you.




Thanks to Corrie Fewell and Lilybird Photography for capturing these moments on camera.




Thursday, November 27, 2014

Legacy revealed

It wasn't in my plans for the week. But at 11:00 A.M. yesterday, I slipped into a pew near the back of the small sanctuary. I glanced to my left and, despite the circumstances, took delight in the fluffy flakes drifting down to earth. The tree-lined street and quaint older houses surrounding the church created a postcard-like effect. But as I turned my attention back to the matter at hand, the somberness of the situation became the new reality.

The family began to file in, taking their places in the front rows of the church as the pianist quietly played classic hymns. Among them, my son Seth, gently guided Claire, the love of his life, to their seats. It was in honor of her grandfather that all had gathered, "Shag," as he was lovingly dubbed for his dance-floor prowess, slipped from this life on Monday. Now it was time to remember.

I had only met Wellman Nash once. That was only two weeks prior. He didn't have a lot to say.
Wellman "Shag" Nash
Rather, he sat quietly on the couch watching the mayhem that accompanies a large baby shower. Having suffered a stroke in prior months, I suspect he was a bit more restrained these days. Still, he seemed content and happy. Perhaps he was pleased to allow his energetic wife, "Bunnie," to display enough energy for both of them.

My attention turned back to the platform. A man was singing a Merle Haggard song, Silver Wings, accompanied only by the mesmerizing chords sounding from his guitar. Many of those in this mostly elderly audience knew the tune, silently mouthing the lyrics. Then the pastor, a younger fellow, stepped to the podium to read and comment from 1 Thessalonians. It's a perfect passage.

It was time to sing. I picked up my hymn book and started to turn to hymn #10. But I really didn't need the words to How Great Thou Art. I know them by heart. Rather, as I contributed the tenor line to the congregational choir, I thumbed through the hymnal and noted it had been donated by "The Happy Class." I smiled at the prospect. Music is such a wonderful gift.

And then a nephew walked to the platform, drawing a deep breath as if to summon the courage to address the mourners. He knew Shag well, recalling sweet stories that reflected his character: kindness, selflessness, a love for family and fellowship, and loyalty. From my vantage point in the second row from the back, many in the audience chuckled quietly or  bobbed their heads in affirmation. But even as a relative outsider, I was drawn in. "I wish I would have known him," I mused.

As he continued on, the focus turned from mere stories to the reason for his legacy; the power of the Gospel. That saving Gospel of Jesus Christ made the difference. It allowed him to emulate his Savior in the way he cared for others. He gave of himself because Jesus gave of Himself. He practiced kindness because that's what Jesus would do. As the speaker offered his closing remarks, I was beginning to understand. I was beginning to know this man.

I paid close attention to the rest of the service. I listened carefully to conversations at the grave site and back in the fellowship hall at the church. Amid fried chicken, mac and cheese, and homemade desserts, it was the same story. Shag's life was a reflection of his Savior. Shag's actions and attitudes simply demonstrated his well-placed faith.

I presume Shag was not perfect. None of us are. But I heard nary a conflicting report. No dissenters. No underlying, "But you didn't know him like I did."

At the end of the day, I was refreshed. My heart sang, encouraged that the powerful, life-changing Gospel was well-represented in Wellman "Shag" Nash. That is quite a legacy.

May God grant His peace to those who mourn, to those who miss Shag deeply. But may Jesus Christ be praised.


Postscript- My own father left a tremendous legacy as well. I wish my children could have known him.




Monday, November 3, 2014

Another year of masochism

It was Friday night. 9:57 p.m. The alarm on my phone reported "6 hours and 33 minutes until alarm." With that and a quick double check of my watch alarm, I tucked myself between the sheets in a spare bedroom of David and Nancy Horton. The plan was to sleep, rise at 4:30 a.m., meet Horton (who would already be up and out), and go run 50 + miles in the mountains. The goal: my 17th finish of the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile Trail Run.

I squeezed my eyes shut and waited for sleep to come. But it would not. My mind began making compounding lists of what needed to get done in the next two weeks. No matter how hard I tried to suppress those dart-like attacks into the synapses of my brain, the assault was relentless and overwhelming. In an odd way, I was sometimes amused at the randomness of what popped into my brain. But generally and not precluding what God can do despite my inadequacies, my brain registered only the potential demise of my newly-established (and beloved) ministry path should the events in the coming weeks fail.

I heard Horton get up at 3:15 a.m. and knew I had about an hour until my appointed time to face the day. When a whoozy-headed feeling finally came on shortly thereafter, my body fell into a light and short-lived sleep. "At least I've been horizontal for hours and nabbed 20 minutes of zzzz's. I can do this."

53ish miles is always a long way. But what can make it seem longer is starting the day in a cold rain. Though miserable weather was predicted, the 6:30 a.m. start was simply 30's and periodic drizzle. If you don't count the two calf-deep stream crossings in the early miles, I never felt wet.

I felt embraced by the dark as I became just one in a crowd of many. "No need to rush," I whispered to myself. Eavesdropping and amused by words of advice offered between runners (some of which was loony), I was content to slip through the forest in my own little world. Only briefly did I enjoy conversation with Sarah Quigg, one of the first runners I ever coached in my high school career. As the trail rose ahead, my young protege' pulled ahead as I yelled out to her, "Have a great day!"

I fell into a rhythm counting steps. 25 walk, 25 granny shuffle run. Repeat on all uphills. Run everything else. I felt it might be a safe approach. Training had been nearly non-existent since August. A tough coaching/work schedule with nearly every weekend occupied by cross country meets, I had managed but one mountain run of 17 miles, and two road runs of 18 and 15 miles. I hoped that the daily workouts I ran with my team added a little something to fitness.

The signs at each aid station told me I was gaining time on the 12-hour time limit. Continually catching people suggested my approach might actually be working. It was fun. Never before had I looked forward to "running" uphill. So with dark and drizzly turning to bright and sunny, the day held surprising promise.

Approaching the "halfway" point (26.9 miles, or so they say), the mountain we would climb was cloaked in dark clouds, sharp, stinging winds poised to pummel. Adjusting my 25 on/25 off approach due to uneven footing and the steep, 3-mile climb, I turned my focus to simply keep pace with fellow runners. My quads felt tired but forward motion was maintained. Hot broth at the aid station halfway up the mountain offered both warmth and needed salt.

About four miles later the infamous "Loop" needed to be conquered. The flat early miles flew by, but the rocky and steep incline slowed my pace. For the first time in a while I was the one being passed. Still, my spirit held strong and my legs allowed me to gain back precious ground on the downhills. Out of the loop and down the gravel road, I drew closer to my goal with every step.

Despite two tortuous climbs in the last eight miles, the section preceding the last aid station seemed shorter than normal. Perhaps it was the chance to chat with runners as we played hop-scotch along the wooded trail. But when that final station came into view, not even the welcoming tents and snap-crackling campfire held enough allure to dissuade me from running by. The silent tick-tock of my watch whispered I might be able to break eleven hours, something I felt impossible in recent years. The changed course and my creeping-up age made all my sub-9s and 10s of long ago seem far away in Fantasyland. But it was what it was and left nothing but down, down, down and off the last mountain.

Then I saw her. Sarah. I was surprised after watching her slip away in the darkness of the first hour. My emotions flipped between joy in catching her and the college runner's disappointment that I did. As the orange-painted "1 mile to go" mark passed beneath our feet, we were side by side. "Hi, Sarah."

"Oh, Coach T," she uttered with a wistful quiver in her voice.

"Come on, Sarah. Let's finish this together."

"Okay."

But it didn't happen. I glanced at my watch. I had time to sneak in under 11 hours if I continued the assault. I pulled away, feeling strong and cajoling her to catch up. It wasn't in the cards. We would not cross the line together. Her dad was standing along side the road. I glanced back to see the pair amble along. The only thing left for me was to make the mental decision to persist all the way to the line. 10:57. Sarah crossed a minute later. The coach and athlete. Together again but never really apart.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Three principles to live by

I thought long and hard all summer but it didn't seem to help. I wanted to be able to challenge my cross country team with something profound, something they could ponder and use to muster up strength and courage when they needed it most. Personally, I thrive on motivational and inspiration"stuff." I'm the one who cuts apart motivational calenders, posting quotes all over my office. It makes me yearn and dream and strive to accomplish the impossible. I wanted the same for my kids but kept coming up short on anything that might have that effect.

But as so often the case, God came through with the right thought for the right minute. Our church began reading our way through 1 Thessalonians. Fortunately, I didn't have to read very far. In the first chapter there it was. Let me set the stage.

Team t-shirts
Paul and his sidekicks, Silas and Timothy, wrote a letter to the church in Thessolinica. The way they begin their letter might be likened to the way a coach addresses his team or a parent setting up the kids for a frank discussion. In other words, start out with the good stuff. Encourage. Don't discourage.

So what did they say? For starters, they said this:  "We thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thes. 1:2, 3). A few verses later, it gets even better. The writers let the church know that "you have become a model to all the believers" (vs 7) and the "your faith in God has become known everywhere" (vs 8).

Stop the presses! That's amazing. What a way for a group to be known: work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope. If the same could be said of me and my team, we'll be doing okay. But let's take a closer look.

Work produced by faith. If a skydiver had no faith that the meticulous packing of his shoot was going to do him any good, he might as well take a flying leap without his parachute and hope the clouds will become his trampoline. But that would be stupid, right? Right. As Christians, the faith we have in the grace of God and his saving power urges us on to work hard and carefully advance the Kingdom. The faith we are given urges us be just as meticulous as the "I don't want to die. I wanna live" skydiver in our daily work.

Labor prompted by love. What's the greatest deterrent to getting an employee to give the job all he's got or an athlete to bust a gut in practice? Lack of love. Yep. If you hate what you're doing, chances are you'll quit sooner than later. Of all people, our love for God should be enough to keep us motivated to selflessly reach out, meet people where they are, serve one another, and so become a
Team sweatshirt
testimony to the indwelling Christ.

Endurance inspired by hope. Picture this. A runner is 56 miles into a 100-mile race. The area is remote, he's puking, feet are ravaged from hours of being wet, and it feels like he is carrying a 150 pound pack. Every step is torture as he makes his way into a check point. He sits in a chair, shivering from dehydration and exhaustion. In front of him looms a huge climb up the next mountain and 44 more tortuous miles. Now, if he abandons any hope of  earning the finisher's buckle, do you think there's much chance of him getting out of that chair and proceeding on. No way! The only thing that would drive him forward is a real hope of making it to the end despite the circumstances. Believer, we can carry on because our hope in Jesus Christ is well-placed! We can--and must--endure.

My team and I are in the final weeks of our cross country season. So, what will be our legacy? What will we be remembered for? Will we be known for work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope? I trust that will be the case.





Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pre-season football and watermelon

On Friday, Aug 15, a few FCA staffers and volunteers had the privilege to challenge the young men of the Rustburg and Northside High Schools and serve them refreshing watermelon. WSET, the local ABC affiliate, was there to capture the action on and off the field.

Watch the news story here!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Transparent musings

I didn't think it would be this hard. 300 people at $25.00 a month is all it would take. Surely, folks can appreciate that ministry takes money. That's less than buying one cup of cheap (super cheap) coffee a day, one over-sized candy bar in the check- out line of Wal-mart fifteen times a month, or a $5.00 meal Dairy Queen meal special just a little over once a week. Seems to me many of us (including me), if we're not careful, can mindlessly blow twenty-five dollar bills pretty easily--and never really miss it. So theoretically, if it requires just 300 people to promise a relatively modest commitment per month, why is my upcoming FCA ministry not yet funded?

Now, please don't get me wrong. I am not complaining nor am I trying to have a pity-party, woe is
me session. Sixty-five individuals, families, or businesses have joined this team that is scheduled to take on the challenge of ministry to women coaches and their teams. Some of those sixty-five have given selflessly and sacrificially, being in ministry themselves. Every amount given, large or small, is accepted with humility and a pledge to use the funds with all integrity. I fully understand that of the countless worthy fund-needing ministries out there, my FCA ministry is but another.

I am absolutely convinced that God has led me to this point. And, if God is really in this, then He has already made it possible. At the moment, I just can't fathom how. I suppose it's like playing a huge scavenger hunt game with my Father, doing what I can to find the chosen ones who are temporarily holding onto the ministry-appointed funds for safe-keeping.

But it's hard. It's not natural for me to ask people to support my work as a missionary atop a sports-platform. I've studied the biblical examples and find support of missionaries a viable means to an end. I understood this reality even as a little girl. I gladly gave part of my own baby-sitting tithe to missionaries that spent time with our family while traveling on furlough. I still give. I'm comfortable with that. I like doing that. I've just never had to ask others to do this for me.

I fear that in the asking, people will see me ask for my needs before they clearly identify the needs of the coaches and athletes I wish to help. I'm afraid I will inadvertently make the message about me rather than God's work. I don't want that to happen. The goal of ministry is "to present to athletes and coaches, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church."  The values taught are integrity, serving, teamwork, and excellence. All great stuff and worthy of funding.

My simple desire is to be the hands and feet of those busy doing something else God-appointed. But this is the deal: Long ago God wired me to be passionate about athletics and the lessons begging to be learned. He gave me a heart for coaches and the influence they can be to their teams. He installed in me a deep desire to challenge, motivate, and inspire women, young and old, athlete and not, toward a mature faith walk. I must pursue this.

I'll be transparent. I'm a bit discouraged. $40,000 stands between now and the level that allows me freedom to begin focused ministry. I feel like I'm running out of friends and acquaintances to ask to join with me (although I am enjoying the widening ripples of meeting friends of friends of friends). In some cases, folks who said they would help have gone silent. I hesitate to make too many follow-up calls, not wanting to be pest-like or squashed outright like a bug. I wish I was independently wealthy. Having unlimited funds would allow me to jump right into the work of ministry. But wait. Maybe that self-reliance would be more of the problem than a solution.

Over lunch a friend matter-of-factly stated, "I'm glad you have to raise support. It keeps you on
your knees." I guess she's right. To leave salary behind and look to ministry ahead is a faith-leap right off the proverbial cliff. Once over the edge, there is nothing I can do to avoid hitting the rocks below. I don't like free-fall and the deafening roar created by the wind whizzing by my ears. Nevertheless, I know God can (and will) make the catch and plunk me back on solid ground. It's just a matter of His timing, not the deadline I set for August 1.

Bottom line? I need courage to believe, faith to continue, trust to experience God's faithfulness. Dare I think the next person with whom I share the vision could be the miracle I've been praying for? Or will I need to wait and see an army of teammates step to the line? Only God's timing will tell.

If you are interested in learning more about the journey that brought me to full-time ministry with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, feel free to read more: For such a time as this, Run the straights. Appreciate the curves The clock is ticking.. Linked by two X's Let go!

If you would like to be one big miracle or one of many soldiers, it's easy to set up automatic giving by going to this link or sending in a blank, voided check along with your request to Central & Southwest VA FCA ● PO Box 662 ● Forest, VA 24551. (While payment by credit card is welcomed, a bank draw is financially more prudent as no fees are taken against the payment amount.)




Thank you for your commitments to this ministry.



I pledge to you my earnest service and integrity in ministry for the glory of God.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Birthday mishap revisited

Years ago but on this day we were sitting in our lawn chairs at “church.” At the time, our start-up fellowship was meeting in a three-car garage, worshiping without the trappings of a formal sanctuary. Our church had just suffered a split and I was preoccupied with a bad work situation. I didn’t have it together.

Sitting in that hot garage, I glanced over at Seth. To my surprise, tears streamed down his face. To coin a phrase, “Oh dear, what could the matter be?” The matter was this: we had forgotten Seth’s eleventh birthday. The young boy was distraught. He could not be consoled regardless of heart-felt apologies. No “Happy Birthday” upon rising, no special breakfast, no unique gifts. It was just a lot of nothing.

Seth eventually got over his disappointment and to this day, it is one of our long-standing family jokes. So, as the sun set last night, I made sure to get in the first birthday greeting in anticipation of today. I certainly did not want him to think I could forget his birthday. . .again! On the way home from work, I made a stop to pick up some plaid shorts as a gift. I was relieved he liked them; he can be pretty picky. Whew. Another birthday without incident.

Kids are wonderful. Each has their unique personality, sense of humor, strengths and weaknesses. Seth has been “busy” since conception. In utero, he made like a chicken trying to peck his way out. As an infant he refused to sleep longer than twenty minutes at a time and was a front-runner to be a poster child for colic.

After him, no more kids for me. Maybe Leah thought the same thing after Judah’s birth. Perhaps he was difficult as well. “She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘This time I will praise the LORD’. . . Then she stopped having children” (Genesis 29:35).

At four, Seth rode his motorcycle through the woods as fast as he could, standing on the seat like a pipsqueak Evil Kinevil. In school, he was the center of attention. And now, as a young man of seventeen, he is an outgoing, know-no-stranger kind of guy, full of wanderlust and enthusiasm. His camera is a constant companion.

I thank God for Seth. He’s a special kind of kid.

“and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, "God has granted me another child.” (Genesis 4:25)


Daily challenge: Little kids are like kittens: cute and easy to love. But don’t be blind to the beauty in your big kids.


Postscript: Today Seth turns 23. I did not forget his birthday.

Adapted from the July 14th selection in "Pace Yourself: 366 Devotions from the Daily Grind"