Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Today I Choose Thankfulness...

Yesterday while grinding out Back to School plans with KidMin Kim over a fantastic lunch at FrogHead Grill I received a call...

It's not every day Dr. Bonita Coleman Potter (need to update that from BCP to BC in my contacts) gives me a ring, so of course, I answered!

Dr. Coleman, Ocean Springs School District Superintendent, was calling with disturbing news: Explaining to me she had received a letter calling for the canceling of our annual Back to School Prayer Service hosted by St. Paul United Methodist Church. That's right. This has never been a "school/district sponsored prayer service."

This service was birthed from the passion and heart of Ms. Joan Simpson--Ocean Springs Resident Intercessory Prayer Warrior. Ms. Joan has made it her life's work to faithfully intercede day in and day out for this town, its people and the world beyond. In 2005 the Back to School Prayer Service launched with faithful prayers from St. Paul members to usher in a new school year. Each year it has grown.

The last three years it has transformed into a vibrant, ecumenical, community wide prayer service that we are excited to coordinate! Ms. Joan wanted to make this a community wide effort all along and her heart's desire has always been that more and MORE people would participate.

So, I am thankful today! 

What could have been a big downer: 1. Lots of plans and prep going into a Back to School Prayer Service that is poorly attended. (And worse) 2. Canceling the annual Back to School Prayer Service has transformed into a beautiful God thing...

THANK YOU to that one person that alerted the "Freedom from Religion Foundation," and let them know that there were plans for a Back to School Prayer Service in Tiny Town, Ms.

THANK YOU  to whoever from Wisconsin associated with the "Freedom From Religion Foundation" that sent a very lengthy letter that is filled with half truths. IE: This is not a "School Sponsored" event. But anyway...

THANK YOU to our local news hound, Warren Kulo, for sniffing the story out and producing this piece:
Freedom from Religion Group Forces Change of Venue

THANK YOU to the 1.2 thousand and growing Ocean Springs Praying Hounds that have shared this article and pledged their support for our beloved Dr. Coleman. All those shares got the word out like never before! The best PR EVER!

I think that Ms. Joan's heart's cry will be answered tonight. I am no prophet, but I predict the Ocean Springs community will come out in full force and gather at First Baptist Church Ocean Springs to pray our community into the new school year!

I hope you join the broad spectrum of clergy and youth ministers that will be their offering prayers and petitions for our schools: Dr. Rick Brooks, St. Paul; Pastor Carlton McCarter, Victory International; Rev. Scott Castleman, First Presbyterian; Dr. Michael Barnett, First Baptist; Pastor Jacob Dickerson, Mosaic and many, many other faithful community leaders.

I hope while you are out shopping today you will pick up a few extra school supplies and bring them with you and help Abby Clark and other members of the Mayor's Youth Council send disadvantaged Hounds back to school with the tools they need for success.

I hope you bring a few bucks to put in the offering plate to under gird our "Back Pack Buddies" feeding program that sends backpacks filled with nutritional food home on the weekends so our lil hounds won't go hungry.

I hope to see YOU tonight at 6:30 pm as we gather as a community to pray Hound Nation into the best year yet!

I am so THANKFUL to be rearing the Kirby Kids in a town that has woven so deep into its fabric a love for God and love for neighbor.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Happy “π”-Mazing Birthday, "Baby" Duke

Happy Pi Day to all the

        math nerds,

pie lovers                                                                

     and keepers of the irrational and transcendent.

Today also marks the 13th birthday of our "Baby" Duke! It is a mind blowing reality to fathom we now have four Kirby teenagers: 19, 16, 14, and 13. 
Where did the time go? 
"Baby" Duke is most definitely PI-Mazing! Perhaps I'm a tad bit biased, but my love for him borders on the irrational. The absurd. The Transcendent.
In so many ways he has been given... let's just call them: "exceptions." I've heard of this concept from old timers that their "baby" is often treated like a grand child. 
Guilty as charged.
I feel sure the older Kirby kids would testify to this "unfair" reality. We've loosened a whole host of Kirby House Rules for this kid. Silly things like: Sodas as a little person. And more TV time. Extra "help" with keeping his things in order. The older siblings are obviously the first to point out: "You would have never allowed US to do that. It's just NOT FAIR." Perhaps they are suffering from Older Son syndrome: See Luke 15:11-32. 
Or perhaps it is "not fair." 
I could make all kinds of excuses, but I won't. There's just something about that baby...With his intoxicating spunk for life, his "fresh" style, enchantment with the outdoors, fierce love of family, willingness to snuggle on the couch and watch "girl-y" shows with his mama, and Lord help me: he is the cutest thing ever! 
I simply can't  help myself. 
And throughout the years, Duke's teachers couldn't help themselves either. I won't call any names, but year after year I get the same phone call: "Good evening, Ms. Kirby. I'm having a little trouble with Duke. Wiggly. Talking too much. He is just all boy. A bundle of energy. He cracks me up, but it's a bit disruptive to the class." 
I apologize, say we will talk to him about this. Say I'm sorry if this has been disrespectful to you in any way. We will take care of it... 
"Oh, no. He is the sweetest, cutest thing ever. I barely can tell him no! It's really not that big of a deal..." 
Weeks later I learn things like: Duke is allowed to stand during math class. Just because he can't sit still. What?! 
Duke is allowed to draw during reading time. Why?!
And, so, perhaps on a simple level you can see why or how a Mama Bear might give "exception" when a little Baby Bear is breaking minor Kirby House Rules.
But these exceptions for this exceptional kid are also tempered with the excruciating reality that Duke's story is exceptionally difficult. 
7 years old is just too little to bury your big brother. 
12 years old is too young to be told your "DeDe" took her life. 
Permanently etched in my memory were his words through sobs and groans too deep to comprehend: "No! No! No! Not MY DeDe." 
Duke has grown up too fast. Come face to face with gut wrenching questions that a tiny mind should not be forced to grapple with.
Like last year, when Duke wrestled with whether or not he was ready to be confirmed. He told his mentor, and our dear family friend, he just didn't know if he could "trust God." And if he didn't trust God maybe he should not take the confirmation vows. His mentor felt that this was EXACTLY the kind of thing that would suggest he is ready to be confirmed: Acknowledging we all bring our doubts, fears, and lack of faith to the altar. 
You can read more about that here ---> Theodicy, It's Elementary My Dear.
Fast forward about a year later, and there's a much different picture. A few weeks ago at the Mississippi Annual Conference Youth Event, "The Gathering" Stuart Hall, gifted communicator, poised the question: "Are you ready to give your life over to God?" Duke and a band of brothers accepted the challenge and stood up. 
I gathered our little chicks out in the foyer and we prayed with them and begin to process the feelings and thoughts that led them to make a stand. As we went around the circle these tiny men and sweet young lady shared. When it was Duke's turned, through tears he commented: "I think I can trust God...again." Eureka! 
Not only is Duke my baby, but more importantly he is God's "baby." And the irrational, "baby" love I have for him is no match for the eternal, transcendent, lay your life down, kind of crazy love that Christ has for not just Duke, but all people, everywhere. Truly PI-Mazing!
It's that kind of PI-Mazing Love I hope to shower on "baby" Duke today! His 13th birthday! And every day we are gifted with his spunky fun self! 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

You are Beautiful on the Inside and Out. I am Proud of You. I Love You."

My intention for this evening was to attend the OSMS Spring Pageant. To do the Youth Pastor thing and support my lil chicas as they paraded across the stage. To cheer them on, hug the anxious mamas, and soak in the beauty of the moment. To snap pictures with each one and whisper in their ear, "You are beautiful on the inside and out. I am proud of you. I love you."

However a blanket of sadness wrapped so tightly around me that eventually all I could do was pull the covers over my head, curl up in the safety of my bed, and attempt to sleep it off.

The pageant weekend will forever mark the final hours I would keep company with my Mom. She had come down to stay with me and help ready Chloe girl to walk out on that stage one last time. If I had only known...Famous last words.

It's hard to conjure up much from those final moments. She had a long and busy week at the office. She raced into town Saturday afternoon just in time. Road over to Long Beach with us so my cousin, Suzie, could doll up Chloe's hair. I can't remember much of the drive. I remember her wanting a Diet Sprite. I left the salon and drove over to the Dollar General and got her one. I do recall her wanting to take the beach on the way back. So we did. She was ever so fond of the coast. Often talked about moving back home. Buying a house by the water. Spending more time with her grands.

I recall she hovered around the vanity as I went to work on Chloe's make up. Making suggestions: "More mascara. More blush. Brighter lipstick." I remember we could barely get Chloe's dress zipped. It took both of us to squeeze her tiny little body into a tiny little dress with a great big cupcake bottom that had been taken up a tiny bit too much.

Of course Mom was the one that remembered flowers. As I left with Chloe and  her dress stuffed into the back seat of my SUV, she ran to Winn Dixie and returned with a beautiful bouquet of love to communicate to our little darling: "You are beautiful on the inside and out. We are proud of you. And we love you so very much." That was Mom's signature line: "I love you so very much." I've heard it a thousand times and would give the world and every thing in it just to hear those words one last time.

We were overwhelmed with love and pride watching Chloe glide across the stage. She had an angelic glow and we giggled with pure joy at how beautiful she looked. People sitting around us unaware that she was ours, kept saying: "That little one in white is going to win it!" We would just look at each other and laugh.

As the "winners" were crowned I held Mom's hand. 4th Runner up. 3rd Runner up. 2nd Runner up. And finally! "Number 12. Chloe Kirby, 1st Runner Up!" We jumped up and clapped wildly. Then came the flood of pictures.  Congratulatory hugs and kisses. And managing to get her out of the white dressed while stuffed in a tiny restroom backstage.

We then shared our final meal together. The Last Supper. Chips and salsa, "white dip" as Bre calls it, and my Mom got something "different" than she normally gets. I can't recall what it was, a chicken dish, but she barely ate any of it. Mom was antsy. It was late. She was ready to leave right when we sat down. Little did I know what was really going on: Mom was just ready to go home.

And that was the cold, steely reality that pierced through my heart and pinned me to my bed this evening.  I miss her desperately, and my only solace is she is finally home.

I really do wish I could have been there to congratulate Lizzy, Bailey, Alexis, Jenna, Jane Alice, Maura Kay and the entire parade of beauties that graced the stage. I would have told you: "You are beautiful on the inside and out. I am proud of you. I love you."