It’s been a crazy few days around our house. I knew it would be when the weekend started and ended with a three day tennis tournament. Granted I’m not the player but every sports Mom knows supporting the athlete takes some effort. There are schedules to coordinate, meals to be made, bags to be packed, and all sorts of details to be prepared for. I don’t camp and I wasn’t a Boy Scout but I have adopted the motto “always be prepared” when it comes to a tournament. If you don’t take a chair you are guaranteed to find your kid playing on a court without bleachers and even if you pack the most nutritious lunch possible he will be hungry again so you have to pack snacks and lots of them.
With even the best of preparation beforehand some detail will be forgotten. In this case it was the headphones for the Nintendo DS that Chase brings to matches because for Luke’s little brother tennis is boring. For the one match he was asked to endure not having the headphones was a crisis. Fortunately, this tennis mom had packed a stash of tootsie pops and the crisis was averted. However, in anticipation of the next memory lapse a back-up pair of ear buds is now in the tennis bag. Lesson learned.
Isn’t that how life works? Despite your very best efforts in all areas of your life unexpected stuff is going to come up and you will find yourself frustrated. When they say the devil is in the details they aren’t kidding. I’m not sure who the proverbial “they” are but I know they are right. Amidst the joys of celebrating lots of hard won tennis victories and what they represented for Luke there have been some really nagging joy stealers.
Things like a problem with the roof that required fixing, the air conditioning going out, the dishwasher leaking water, the water heater rumbling, and several large limbs from the Elm trees in my yard were brought down by the wind. All these events were in the fixable category and then there was the people drama which usually isn’t fixable and of course wouldn’t be cool to talk about. In a short span of time it was a bit much. Sandwiched between all those things it was my penny anniversary which didn’t go unnoticed by me but I didn’t get the time I wanted to write about it until today.
Yes, Sunday July 11th was my three year anniversary of penny finding. Apart from one week while I was in Mexico this last year I have still found at least one penny a day since July 11th, 2007. I have to confess that not finding pennies in Mexico was a little hard for me since I’d traveled there my first year of penny finding and still found one every day. Fortunately, the minute I stepped foot back in the States I found more than a week’s worth. With such an immediate windfall of pennies I feel comfortable saying that my penny streak hasn’t stopped and for that I’m not only amused but very grateful. This year’s total was smaller than the previous two with only 1,895 but that’s still a heck of a lot of pennies. The running total now is 11,841 which when you add the decimal point and dollar sign is $118.41. Wouldn’t you love it if someone handed you a little chunk of spare change like that? I would and I have because every penny still means something to me.
The novelty hasn’t worn off. Saturday afternoon during the tennis tournament when I was watching Luke’s doubles match I looked down and right next to my seven year old buddy Julianna was my penny for the day. It was mixed in with the rust colored gravel below our feet. I’d just moved over to sit with Julie because it was ghastly hot and she spoils her Mom and me with her mister. Nothing beats a spray on the neck with cold water in one hundred degree temperatures!
When I reached for the penny Julie was amused and asked me how I’d noticed it since it was so well camouflaged. I smiled and told her I have a thing with pennies. She’s a very curious young lady and wanted to know more. I told her my story and she responded with a big hug. Like every kid who hears the story she wanted to see the penny with the sticker on it – the one I call my penny with a note from God. I promised one day I would show her and then we got back to focusing on the tennis with both of us cheering a little bit harder after a booster shot of penny inspiration.
It was a fitting reminder for me of exactly why the pennies still means so much. They are a touch point in my day where I stop for just a moment as I pick one up and remember I can trust God with every detail of my life. It’s a pause that gives me an opportunity to acknowledge that for every pesky thing I have to deal with I have a greater measure of God’s grace to sustain me.
It’s been said that a great life is made up of lots of little moments and I believe this. Sadly, I think the opposite can also be true. A great life can be undermined by lots of little things. King Solomon speaks of this in the Scriptures when he that says we are to be mindful of the little foxes than can spoil the vineyard. Those little foxes come in all sorts of sly forms and they represent the opposition that comes sneaking into our lives. You don’t necessarily see it happening but you feel it. Something seemingly insignificant happens and for whatever reason you find yourself feeling angry, sad, jealous, resentful, fearful, overwhelmed and all too often very discouraged.
Before you know it you’re slouched over like a grumpy teenager without his video games (God forbid) and you’ve succumbed to the belief that you just can’t take it anymore. If you have to endure one more set of volleys in this game called life you’re going to scream. You find yourself making a big fuss out of something that given a little more perspective would probably look silly. A tootsie pop in your mouth to stop your whining would probably feel condescending but it might actually be just what you need.
This is why I love my pennies because they are little moments in my day that counter the little foxes that like to sneak into my mind. They creep up behind me and use my wild imagination to convince me life is falling apart while they nip at my heels. However, if the pennies could talk I think they would say, “Trust me you can take it – you’re alright.” The penny voice says you can take it because you can put your trust in God. That is after all the message stamped on the penny not to mention the message of the Bible!
Replacing the subconscious mindset that you can’t take it anymore with a conscious message saying yes you can is critical. This is a faith-based mindset versus a fear-based one that convinces us we are worn out and won’t make it through any hardship we might encounter. This simply isn’t true. Face it if you think you can’t take it anymore then the enemy has won and you can’t.
Not everyone has a running metaphor to encourage them daily. I’ve had people tell me they wished they had a penny equivalent and I wish that for them too. Looking in the penny bowl as year four starts I have forty-two pennies already which leads me to believe it’s going to be another penny rich year and a great one at that. I’m very thankful.
The last penny of 2010 was found as I was heading home from the supermarket. It was pouring down rain when I went in. I’d already found my penny for the day but inside I found eleven more. I thought surely that was more than enough. Leaving the store I was happy to find the rain had stopped. As I was unloading my groceries I spotted another penny. I had a huge smile on my face because it had already been such a great day how could there be more? I bent down to pick it up and as I was straightening back up my gaze was lifted and there in the beautiful blue sky was a double rainbow. Now that’s a great moment!
I’m not one to say that my pennies come from heaven. It’s a cliché I still haven’t embraced but if I’ve ever had a heaven sent penny moment that had to be it. I drove home and my entire perspective had been changed. Rather than thinking about my house falling apart and different folks that have been grumbling with me I thought about Luke shaking hands with his opponent in his final match and humbly accepting his kudos. I remembered his post-match interview with a reporter and how well he handled it. Not an easy thing when you are horribly self-conscious. I thought about running into the kid he beat for the championship at our dinner out to celebrate and his dinner out to be consoled. Luke went out of his way to be gracious and say hello and encourage him. Those were the real wins – moments a parent lives for.
With my last penny in hand I considered calling Julianna to tell her that my penny count had just gone up by twelve knowing she’d be thrilled. At seven years old she’s easily inspired but I was so wonderfully content with the moment that I just savored it. I drove home under that rainbow reminded that none of the nagging things waiting for me mattered. My life isn’t the sum total of those things that bite at my heels and my life isn’t the sum total of the pennies I find. My life is about what I do with the pennies, what they teach me, and how I use them to chase away anything that would steal away a life filled with rich moments.
P.S. It’s money I’ve found and so it’s money I feel like I should give away. This year’s pennies went to Light Gives Heat. It doesn’t cost a penny to read my blog but it does cost this organization something to help the women of Uganda. If you have any interest in supporting their work check out what they do at https://www.lightgivesheat.org.