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Take Me Out To The Ballgame

David and I were riding down the street the other day when we stopped at a red light. It was finally a warm spring day and we had the car windows rolled down. It was fun to listen to the sounds of the city. Lawn mowers buzzing, children playing, radios blaring, car engines idling, sirens in the distance, birds chirping, dogs barking and people’s voices.

Right next to us, two men were having an animated conversation. One elderly man with excitement in his voice and eyes was leaning on his building while he shared statistics and facts to another man standing in the street leaning on his trunk. They were talking about the Cincinnati Reds.

I love how the Cincinnati Reds bonds this city together. Whether or not you like baseball, there is an energy that is brought to the city with the first crack of the bat on opening day. The city practically shuts down on opening day with a parade and parties. Flags fly, jerseys are proudly worn, upscale women’s boutiques mix and match stylish red outfits in their display windows, radios are tuned to the voice of Marty Brennaman announcing the game, and strangers engage in laughter and smiles all over our city’s beloved Reds.

Cincinnati does a fantastic job making a family outing relatively cheap with decent five-dollar seats with a view you can’t beat – overlooking the Ohio River. The Reds Heads program for children 14 and under can’t be beat. For $25 a child receives a hat, dog tags, a jersey, a backpack, special prizes, four game tickets, and special promotion events like autograph signing, pre-game parades and running the bases. This is smart fan-base building. Bring them in young, make them feel special and a part of the team – you have fans for life.

We love the Reds. It’s not just the cooler packed full of game snacks (yes you can bring your own food) or the line for $1 hot dogs, we love game food! We even chuckle at the outcome when Caleb attends the game without Mom and Dad is in charge. Caleb sneaks into the snack bag one too many times and he always ends the night tossing his cookies – literally. I can’t complain – David follows through on clean-up. It’s not just the roar of the fans, the entire stadium standing to participate in the wave, the kiss cam, the smell of popcorn and cotton candy in the air, the cool breeze blowing off the Ohio River, the ball soaring out past left field for a home run – it is the camaraderie.

It is the bond of rooting for the same team. It is the sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves and it is big – The Big Red Machine. Anywhere you go in the city, you will most likely overhear a conversation about the Reds. And feel free to join in the bantering and add your two cents. The human connection of walking away from a complete stranger feeling a bond – it may be a very superficial one, but it is still a connection outside of our busy lives.

On game day, life slows down a bit. Even when you are walking downtown to your car caught up in a sea of red and white jerseys listening to the street drums on the corner, you breathe a little deeper, smile a little more. There is a fever, an excitement in the air. It is no longer my team or your team – we are unified by our team and we can’t wait until the next time to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

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Mason Jars

After dinner I was washing the dishes and scrubbing a jelly jar as well as a spaghetti sauce mason jar to get the labels to come off. I was enjoying the heat of the steaming water splash over my hands as I rolled the jars from side to side and it brought a sweet memory to mind.

I first started using mason jars as our drinking glasses at seminary. We had dinner at my friend Leslie’s house and when she poured a glass of milk for her husband into a mason jar, I thought to myself, “How cool!” Leslie was cool…long, flowing, silken black hair often under a black cowgirl hat with a stylish shirt and jeans accessorized with boots. Leslie oozed confidence. She knew what she liked and really wasn’t too concerned whether something she liked was the “in thing” or not.

I purchased a flat of mason jars and began to drink my water, milk or juice with gusto. As the rimmed lip of the jar touched my mouth I was transported out of our 1,000 sq. ft. apartment into my own imaginary world. Some days I was on the prairie tending the homestead quenching my thirst as I wiped my brow while I took a break from the hot noon sun. Other days I was in a field of wildflowers sipping lemonade as I rested on a picnic blanket with David. And well, quite frankly, some days the noise and chaos in my home became the noise in the OK Corral of the wild west as I saddled up to the bar and wet my whistle. Who knew a simple jar could be so transforming, make me feel so alive?

I realize many people use mason jars to have a drink. I no longer purchase my glass imagination transporters; I just recycle from my grocery store purchases. Jalapeño jars, jelly jars, spaghetti sauce jars, pickles jars, really as long as I like the shape and size, I keep it. For me now, it just seems practical. Why throw out a perfectly good, functional glass jar? Besides between the dishwasher and the human dishwashers in my house we break enough glasses that it just seems to fit the bottom line of our spending dollars.

And even though I am no longer in that tiny apartment, some days as I raise my glass, I begin to smile, feel the sun on my face, the cool breeze in my hair, the smell of the salt air and off in the distance I see the pirate ship raise its flag for its voyage into the sea…

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We all need a little grace sometimes

Grace. We all need to give one another a little more grace. I attended a Christmas party this past December for a local home school group. I was feeling a little under the weather from the lingering effects of a bad cold…just the sinus fluid stuff that makes you feel like your head is a big marble rolling around on top of your shoulders. Truthfully, my ears felt full and throbbing. I had made the mistake earlier in the week of taking my blood pressure while I was feeling anxious, and naturally it was slightly elevated. So with every throb of my ear I sat secretly wondering if I was going to keel over from a stroke or some malady. Getting older, not old mind you, is not for the faint of heart. I am learning to not be a sissy, one breath at a time, one prayer at a time.

Anyway, I was placed in the 0-2-year-old room as a helper and very quickly realized I was not up to the challenge of the up and down, move around that goes with caring for little people. I asked to be moved. I was told to stick with my assignment and they would try to find a different place for me to complete my volunteer requirement. Fifteen minutes passed and I decided I would be fine playing with the little rug rats, but alas, it was too late – they were moving me to the teen room. As the other mom in charge of coordinating something walked me to the teen room, she walked at least 10 paces in front of me. My murmurs of where are we going and apologizing for the inconvenience were met with no response.

I walked into the teen room feeling like a little kid who was being taken to the principal’s office. I sat in my newly assigned room, dejected and internally grumbling. She could have shown a little grace. She could have said some pleasantries to put my mind at ease. Doesn’t she know how awkward I was feeling? Couldn’t she tell what an effort it was for me to even come? Pitiful thoughts about poor ME were swirling around in my mind.

Then it hit me. What about the kindness, the courtesy I could have shown her? What about how she was feeling about rearranging classes on her feet? After all, I was one of at least forty home school moms in attendance. It wasn’t her job to know I was struggling with being forty-five years old, thirty pounds overweight and not coping well with a sinus infection, which was really just a symptom of not coping well with not feeling as young as I would like!

So with my shift over and moving on to the next event in the party’s schedule, I was grateful I bumped into her in the hallway. I thanked her again for bailing me out earlier. She smiled warmly and said she was processing the situation when I first approached her, juggling a million thoughts in her brain, but that it all worked out in the end. I was glad we had another encounter. Not because I left the party feeling like I had made a bosom friend or even a friend. But it encouraged me to make that deeper connection, even if only for a moment, past either of our quick and hasty judgments of one another.

Grace for me, grace for her, grace from above. How many moments of precious grace do we miss because we don’t take the time to look past ourselves, our own internal struggles, thoughts and fears? Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our fears.