Blessed By The Ask

The creak of the stairs woke me as footfalls crept up or down, and I thought how unfair the match-up was. One team was clearly out of the other’s league. When I realized I was contemplating a dream and could dismiss trying to make sense of the disparity, I reached over for my iPhone, which usually charges overnight on my bedside nightstand. The phone wasn’t there. I’d forgotten to bring it upstairs last night, which meant the battery would be nearing empty by now.

I opted for an early morning cup of coffee to bring back up and welcome the sunrise from the darkness of my room, relishing the extra hour this new school year’s schedule allowed me. There on the kitchen counter lay my iPhone. I clicked it on to see one percent battery power remaining and a series of Twitter notifications from overnight mentions.

The one that stopped me in my tracks came from someone named Mike. I don’t know Mike but had bumped into him after a conversation on July 4 about calling it what it is—Independence Day—rather than the generic Fourth of July. He went on that day to say he enjoyed my Tweets and my parenting style, unlike the mom he never had.

I assumed he’d lost his mother early, but he assured me that he still has a mom, but she had been more the “friend” kind rather than the mentoring type. That was the take-away he garnered from reading my Tweets—a “blessing” my kids would surely argue, but you often don’t know what you have until it’s gone. [Insert song here: They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot]

Though Mike is a grown man with a wife, I assume still a young man, the thought that my simple, nonsensical Tweets could somehow bring him comfort made my heart smile.
So here I stood this morning in my kitchen holding my nearly drained iPhone and saw two notifications from Mike that had arrived seven hours earlier, somewhere around midnight last night.

Here’s what they said:

1) I’m worried about an exam I’m taking tomorrow morning in FL. Please think about me and wish me luck, I’m going to need it.

2) its at 7am so you may not hear back from me until lunch. I know you’ll be thinking and thank you in advance. ImGonnaPass

I read his Tweet just 15 minutes before seven and sent him this reply:

Good morning. It’s a fresh new day, one for you to go show the world what you know. Settle in & do your best. Praying for you.

Wow. Somewhere in Florida this young man under stress reached to me. I don’t know where, what kind of exam, any of that. It doesn’t matter. But assuredly he knows that somewhere in this universe someone else would be thinking of him, sending him good vibes, praying, and wishing him well.

Mike wanted the comfort of having someone else thinking of him, but what he may not have realized is that by merely asking me to be that person, I was immeasurably blessed. Though there is power in the prayer, I was equally blessed by the ask. And that made my heart smile again.

Remember Me?

Yesterday while walking through a sea of people in the organized chaos after church, I heard a guy’s voice say, “Hey, DJ! Remember me?”

I turned to see a tall, handsome young man smiling from ear to ear and knew him instantly. “Michael! Of course. How great to see you,” I said as we gave each other a big bear hug. His smile grew bigger, if that were possible.

Absent for the last couple years due to his graduating and moving on, Michael had been  an UpStreet small group leader in the Factory for a couple years. He had made a big impression and left a quiet void in his wake. Everyone felt his presence when he was in large group. He was the one everybody could hear. If I asked a question from the stage, we could count on Michael’s robust reply to be heard. He was a cheerleader’s dream, you know, the guy confident enough in the crowd to get the rest of those around him cheering too. He was great.

I don’t know what he was like at his high school, but I can imagine he might’ve had some issues with talking too much according to the teachers. One thing was for certain: he was always respectful when I saw him—the positive, fun kind of loud. He was the leader I could pull on stage whenever we had any kind of messy shenanigans, and he’d be a great sport about it. 

I’ve missed Michael for a couple years in my crowd, and he confirmed that he will soon be starting his junior year of college at the University of Missouri as a broadcast journalist major. Perfect! He reported he’s interning this summer at WAGA in Atlanta in the sports department but wants to get into reporting. 

His confidence radiated with his upright posture and the composure of his words when he spoke. This kid is going to make it big. Mark my words. 

As we were about to leave, my younger son walked up, and I introduced them. My son said, “I remember you. You were that really loud small group leader.” Again a big smile swept across Michael’s face.

In a room of 300 people, you can’t know everybody, but some people can’t help but be known.

Frizzies and Warm Fuzzies: Back to UpStreet

Promotion Sunday happened today, one of those “must-get-up-early” mornings, the kind when my body innately knows to wake up on time, making setting an alarm unnecessary. Today marked my first day back after summer break, beginning my eighth year hosting on UpStreet—not unusual though—my fellow hosts (seven of us in total) mostly all have longevity. It’s one of those sought-after roles you don’t really ever want to give up, apparently. Or either “they” don’t let you leave. Note similarity to Hotel California.

After volunteering every Sunday morning during the school year, learning new scripts weekly, turning down countless invitations for trips or Saturday nights out since UpStreet is a priority, I relish the summer months. June and July are the much-needed, greatly appreciated reprieve from that weekly commitment. Also time to refuel, recharge.

During the summer months, I get spoiled. My husband and I do what we call “Pool Church.” Thanks to modern technology, we log on to and have our leisurely breakfast, often al fresco. It’s great. Pool church. Summer. Relaxing. Don’t you feel relaxed just thinking about it?

But as time has a way of doing, it ticked forth and soon enough August showed its name on the desktop calendar. Lazy Sunday mornings came to a close. Time to begin again approached as email reminders flooded my Inbox reminding me where and when to report.

Yesterday I picked up the new year’s “uni” and performed my annual T-shirt recon, where I alter it to add DJ swag, reviewed my lines, and readied myself for that which I loathe doing—fixing my hair.

Yes, it’s true. Give me a funny hat, a costume, a ponytail, ANYTHING, but don’t make me fix my hair. I plan my schedule around when I have to do the full-on wash, dry, straighten, or curl thing to have decent hair. The rest of the time warrants hair clips or hats.

With the start of UpStreet, new people, and a new first impression, I figured I’d make the sacrifice and get up extra early to do the full hair deal. Up before my coffee maker, I trudged down the hallway towards the laundry room when an unusual smell hit me head on. Right there in the floor, our dog had left a present. Several presents. Our dog, who mind you, does not come upstairs, must’ve realized that the watermelon rind he devoured last night was too much fiber for him, didn’t want to bark for us to let him out, so he made his way as far from our living space as possible to, well, you know.

Just what I needed. So like any good pet owner, I turned off the light and walked back down the hall as if I had not noticed it and would let the next person in the house discover the gift for himself.

True, but that idea gave away as soon as my husband walked upstairs bringing me a cup of coffee. Sweet guy. He knew I was focused and in a hurry to get ready, so I told him about Checkers’ gift to the family, and I started the even worse task of blowdrying my hair.

No, really, I hate blowdrying my hair worse than cleaning up after a dog.

After applying an ample amount of lotions and potions, I set about the task of taming my frizzies and was about five minutes into the process, when the room went dark. I’d blown a fuse. Tripped a breaker. It’s not the first time that has happened when the ceiling fan is on, curling or flat irons are plugged in, the hairdryer is blowing out mega-hot air, and someone on the opposite end of the house and down a level is using electricity too. What? You mean your house isn’t wired this way?

I flipped another lightswitch, but it didn’t work either. Why this should make any electrical sense is beyond me, but as I walked through the house I noticed none of the lights was working. Oh my stars! I knew the blowdryer felt hot, but had I blown out the whole house? I’d only gotten the back of my hair partially dry and hadn’t even started on the front. I had about 20 minutes before I needed to leave for UpStreet.

I shoved everything into a bag and decided to finish the ‘do at the church. I sent a message to my director telling her I was arriving half-baked, though that’s not much different from my norm. Turns out our whole neighborhood was without power for some reason, which didn’t help my hair, but it did make me think better things about the electrician who had wired our house.

Getting back to UpStreet, frizzy hair or not, was just like slipping into a favorite pair of footy pajamas: comfortable, warm, and a good fit—just right. We mostly have the same team members, a couple new volunteers have joined us, but we’ll break them in. No worries there.

After our large group show, I exited the backdoor where lines of children were walking down the hall towards their new rooms. These kids had been with me the previous two school years. “DJ!” they said, and showered me with hugs—boys, girls, and small group leaders alike. Not just one or two, closer to about thirty. It was awesome. “We miss you, DJ!” I heard over and over again as they passed by me. My heart was about to explode as hug after hug wrapped around me. “You’ll do great,” I told them. “You’ll love Billy. You’re moving on up.” (Billy hosts the second and third graders.) Incidentally, we hosted 2,273 children this morning. Wow!

Why I had ever bothered with my hair is beyond me since I ended up inside a tree costume. Next week it will most likely be the beginning of the hat days again. It’s not my hair they come to see. It’s to learn that they can trust God, no matter what.