On Women’s Soccer and Things Worth Fighting For

I enjoy getting riled up sometimes. I’ll admit it. I believe deep down that it’s a good gift of God that we are people who can get worked up, when it’s about something that matters.

I now think women’s soccer matters, because I believe that women matter.

I’m not a soccer player. Goodness, I’m not really an athlete either. I have been known to occasionally run a 5K (once every 5 years) and I enjoy yoga. But I had to laugh when my 8 year old asked me, from the back seat of the minivan, about what sport I played in high school.

“Mommy didn’t really do sports, sweetie.”

“What did you do then, Mom?” (She was a bit mystified and incredulous.)

“I did plays and music. I studied Spanish. I traveled abroad. I was on student council. I did all kinds of stuff. I think I might have done track for about half a season? Maybe…”

My daughter very much thought I was humoring her. Needless to say, I’m not a sports-oriented person in my own right. I enjoy some good hockey from the stands and I’ll cheer on my kids with the best of them.

So, I was shocked by my own strong reaction to the announcement of the 2016 lawsuit filed by the US Women’s Soccer team. At first, I watched the news report and thought, “Well, that’s junky. Of course they should be paid fairly.”

It came across my newsfeed on twitter few days later and my response was the same, “Yes, I do think women should be paid the same as men. Go them! You fight for it ladies.”

And then I heard a news report that rocked me to the core. That incensed me deeply, and I woke up the next morning realizing that this was my battle too. This wasn’t just theirs. This was not a time to stay silent.

Do we care about our daughters? Do we want to give them the very best? Do we teach them to dream big and reach high and give it everything they’ve got?

Yes we do. Of course we do.

It’s not that I need them to be on the US women’s soccer team, or take on a high level competition of any kind. I could care less about that. We don’t need them to exist as living bundles of ambition.

It is that I want them to know that they don’t need to be perfect.

And that is exactly what this US Women’s Soccer team battle is about: Perfection.

The news report that was a game changer for me was the one that shared exactly how much the men’s  team makes in comparison to the women’s team. Wait: It wasn’t the pay differential that got to me, although it should be embarrassing and offensive to all of us. What made be cry actual tears of injustice over my morning coffee was this –

The men’s soccer team gets paid if they win or if they tie or if they lose. Albeit slightly less if they tie or lose, but they get paid none the less. Paid. A check in the mail. Validation for showing up and giving it their all, or half their all, or whatever they gave.

The women – they only get paid if they win.

What message does this send?

Winning must mean everything. Everything.

What message does this send to my daughter sitting in the backseat of my minivan?

“You must be perfect. You must win. You are only valuable if you bring home the goods. So hop to it, little missy. Wrap up everything that you believe about yourself in the win. Outside of the win, it’s all crap, and so are you.”

Raising the next generation of perfectionists is not an option.

In her Ted Talk, Reshma Saujani gives startling research statistics on girls and perfection. The most memorable for me being that men will apply for a job if they meet 60% of the qualifications. Women will only apply if they meet 100% of the qualifications.

I began to ponder and realized I had just done exactly that. I read a job posting online. I scrolled down the list. I made sure I could check every box. Every single box. Why would anyone want me if I couldn’t?

What am I passing on to my daughter?

Meet Jyeva. She loves soccer. She ended up with some ridiculously athletic gene that I know I did not personally pass down. She plays hockey like a girl, and by that, I mean she doesn’t just get the puck, she kills the puck.

jyeva soccer

Her first season of soccer, her team lost every game but 2.

Do I want Jyeva to love what she loves any less because she couldn’t win? Baloney. Bull. No way. (Feel free to insert your own minor expletive here.)
Jyeva and all the beautiful, strong, and worthwhile girls around her will not grow up under the same cultural pressure of perfectionism if I have anything to say about it. It ends today.

And so I will write this blog and I will fight alongside the women’s soccer team and I will not be quiet about things that matter. And I’m asking the same of you, as you read this.

This matters.

Whether we win or lose, we are each valuable and beautiful and talented and incredible creatures.

Let’s end this now. Let’s throw off a culture that says good is never quite good enough and squashes little girl dreams in a pile of perfectionism rubbish.

This is about more than women’s soccer. This is about our daughters.

It’s worth fighting for. soccer 2
To find the actual pay disparity stats, go here.

Reshma Saujani – Teach Girls Bravery Not Perfection

Star Trek in Our Jammies or Finding Rest

I was sorely in need of some rest. I had been running around making preparations for Easter. I was working on a writing deadline with words that just wouldn’t come. I had a children’s ministry scavenger hunt to prepare, practices to run small people too, and the day-to-day stuff of life to take care of.

I was sorely in need of rest.

I’m sure that there are many of you who can relate to a packed schedule. The problem wasn’t really the schedule. This season of our life is busy, but good busy, not overwhelming, just full. It was simply time for a rest. My body could feel it. My heart was yearning for it.

The funny part was that I was completely unaware of it until I sat down on my couch.

I love my couch. It sucks you in, in all the right ways. You aren’t sucked into it, as in “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Instead, its soft rustic leather eases around you and says, “Hello, old friend. It’s been awhile.”

Let me tell you, it had indeed been a while. Ever been there? There right now, in need of rest?

Good Friday morning I woke up and walked downstairs and sat down. Oh couch! I forgot how much I missed you! My eleven year old son sat down next to me and said, “Mom, how about a Star Trek in our jammies morning?” He was speaking my language.

When was the last time I just sat down and did almost nothing.

When was the last time our family sat together and did almost nothing?

My husband came downstairs and I timidly asked him, “Hey, I know it’s Holy Week, but do you want to drink some coffee and watch Star Trek with us.”

To my surprise he answered in the affirmative. “Yes! I need coffee and Star Trek right about now. Let’s do it!”

Watching Star Trek in your jammies may not seem really rebellious in your normal schedule (nor may it sound interesting to you!), but for us, this was a major diversion from the routine. Not shockingly, after my hour of coffee and Star Trek I felt refueled. Ready to take on the world. Words easily came from my pen to my page. I found new joy in my preparations for the Easter season ahead.

I’m so thankful for the quiet moments of rest. This particular rest isn’t profound life-changing-vacation rest, or Sabbath-day-devotion rest, or even I-need-a-nap-on-Easter-Sunday-afternoon rest. It is come-away-for-a-quiet-time-and-rest rest.

Hear some wisdom from Mark 6:31 –

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 

In every family this is an important kind of rest. In church work families this is vital rest that often goes by unnoticed.

This is relational rest, spending-time-with-God-and-one-another rest.

God gave us each other, the Body of Christ, to keep us in check.

Jesus offered his disciples rest, that they may not have taken without His verbalizing it, offering it as a gift. It would have been ok, had my husband said no thank you to Star Trek that morning, but I’m so thankful I offered, so that he could accept.

What does “a quiet place” and rest look like to you? Who keeps you accountable for rest, in a gospel kind of way? Who offers you a quiet place and rest? Who can you offer some quiet and rest to today?

This is just one more way Jesus’ work is done through us, poured into one another. The simple offer of rest.

Our family decided that every Saturday morning when there is nothing on the schedule, it will officially be Star Trek in our jammies morning. We even busted out the calendar to make sure that there were 2 mornings a month freed up for this over the next few months. It sounds so silly, but so wonderful.

Rest.

What a sweet, sweet gift of our Lord. Praising Him for each moment, in the busyness and in the rest!

 
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Autism, #27, and Inviting People In

Hockey sounds like a good idea…until it’s not.

Zeke desperately wanted to play hockey. He watched his big brother play his heart out and wanted in. I could see his brain wheels turning, imagining himself on the ice, when he told me he wanted to play hockey.

He bought his own whistle, so that he could pretend to referee driveway hockey, then real hockey. I had to convince him that the ice arena stands were not a good place for whistles.

We took him to an open skate. We sat on a bench and laced up his  skates for him. He stepped out onto the ice and tentatively took little baby iceskating steps. Dave and I looked at each other scared to breath, lest Zeke fall over. He didn’t. He did great and so we thought, “Ok, Zeke, let’s do hockey!”

The next week we bought him the shorts, the pads, and the stick for his birthday.

That first night of hockey, Zeke and I took out all the gear from a hand me down bag, alongside twenty or so other parents and small children, each eagerly awaiting the unveiling of their tiny ice stars. I started layering on elbow pads and shin pads, and a neck protector. I laced up his skates.

Zeke walked onto the ice and I knew instantly that something was wrong. Zeke hunched himself over and half stood, half squatted on the ice, curled up in a ball.

It was a rough start, and then it got worse.

He started falling.

I don’t mean he fell a couple of times. He fell and fell and then he fell some more. Zeke was clearly struggling and it was so painful to watch as a mother.

At one particularly difficult moment, he looked like a turtle stuck on his back. I wanted to rescue him from this fiasco, but “Crazy moms entering the ice” was frowned upon, I knew.

I heard the snickers around me.

I glanced up and saw a couple of moms pointing and I assumed the worst.

My face flamed up. I could feel the embarrassment and then its faithful cousin, shame, slowly creeping up my chest. I sent some  texts off to a group of good college friends, just to make it through the 50 minute lesson:

“These women, they don’t know. How dare they laugh at Zeke!”

“There’s actual pointing going on! I’m rageful.”

“I’m just sad. Tears are rolling down my face. I wish this world was a better place for him. I just want it to be so much better.”

My friends comforted me and helped me sort through the anger, the frustration, and the embarrassment. With logical thought returning, I had a mom realization. I really thought we had prepped him for this. I generally try to avoid extremely difficult situations in public, for my sake, and for Zeke’s sake.

It dawned on me that Zeke’s sensory system was likely in overdrive. We had tried skating, yes, but we hadn’t added in the weight of a chest pad, too tight elbow pads, shin guards, and tightened skates. Throw in a cold arena and slippery ice and it’s a lot for kids, much less sensory challenged kids. Looking back I was pretty impressed that Zeke wasn’t just screaming like a banshee.

I finally turned to one mom, channeled my inner Dr. Brene Brown, and made myself intensely vulnerable.

I invited someone, a stranger, into my pain –

“This is so hard for me. Zeke’s on the Spectrum. I love him and it’s hard to watch him struggle. The equipment is just too much for him and learning something new is hard. Skating is hard. He hates anything that’s hard and a struggle. Don’t we all, but it’s intense for him in a way that it probably isn’t for you or me.”

She had a friendly smile and loads of wisdom – “Look at them. They all are falling down! Don’t they all look a bit ridiculous trying to stay standing up? It’s adorable.”

In an instant my fear, anger, and sadness dissipated. She pointed, not at my son, but her own, and then the myriad of skaters I failed to notice in my struggle, all trying to stay on two awkward skate blades.

I realized that while I do think some of the mamas could have been a bit more sensitive, I had created my own place of shame. I had wrapped myself in a blanket of embarrassment and disconnected from the reality of 30 or so little kids struggling through something new. I only saw my own little one’s pain and frustration and wanted so badly to take it away that I made up a story in my head and pointed my rage at those around me.

In the next moment, as it often does, life became supremely ironic…

I watched one coach skate over to Zeke and help him up. He dusted Zeke off and then proceeded to spend the rest of the lesson giving him confidence, giving him props, and an arm to hold on to when he needed his bearings. The mom I was talking to pointed at the coach, “That’s my husband.”

I said a small prayer – Thank you, God, for people, and care, and connection in this life, for not leaving us to walk alone.

Fast forward 8 weeks and hockey ended. I stood at the side of the ice with the moms. We laughed and talked about how far they had come these little tiny skaters, falling down less, but more importantly getting back up more, and having the time of their lives.

I was so proud of my #27.

He walked off the ice. They gave him a certificate and some pretty cool hockey cards, but I don’t think anything could mean as much as the fist bump waiting for him from that one coach. The coach who reached out and silently said with everything he did, “We’re in this together buddy. It’s hard work, but you can do it.”

One person, one mom, one coach makes a difference. This one moment of connection made a supreme difference in my life and in my son’s life. We need one another, even more so in our darker moments, but we need each other every day.

I could have gone through all of it, frustrated and hurt, and raging at those around me, by myself, but I found truth, by inviting someone in.

For #27 and his mama, it made all the difference.

*more on the stories in your head and connection in Dr. Brown’s book, Rising Strong