Tag Archives: kids

Rebecca Caswell-Speight: The Art of Transition (and Negotiation)

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him . . . (Genesis 12:1-4a)

Have you seen the Cheerios commercial? The one called “Gracie?” The Dad starts out by saying, “Gracie, you know how our family has a mom (and moves a Cheerio), a dad (and moves another Cheerio).” Gracie, quickly catching on jumps in by moving her Cheerio and says, “and me!” with a big smile. The Dad smiles back, then he scoots one more Cheerio into the group and says, “Pretty soon your gonna have a baby brother.” Gracie checks her Dad out with a sideways ‘I know what your up to glance’ and casually pushes one more Cheerio to the center and says, “and a puppy.”

I love that commercial. I giggle every time at her response. When I first saw it I remember laughing and thinking to myself, as if “Gracie” was a real person, “that child is going to be a master negotiator someday.” That kid knew how to get what she wanted!

Recently my husband Josh accepted a position with the national office of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the network we most closely identify with. This new calling is exciting for him. It is a dream position working with people he loves being around. When trying to decide if it was something that he should do or not, the fit wasn’t questioned. It was where his passion was and it was a calling that he needed to pursue.

When God came to Abram it wasn’t a matter of if he should go. God promised Abram great things. Abram knew that it was a journey that he needed to pursue. But was Abram’s family as excited about his calling? Abram couldn’t become the father of nations on his own. His calling had to become their calling or else Sarai wouldn’t be considered the mother of great nations along side Abram. He needed the support system of the people around him.

When I think of this calling I wonder what kind of negotiating his family went through before they were called to leave Ur and again Haran for an unknown land. Like Abram’s family we have traveled and lived in places that were not home before. We have lived half of our 14 years of marriage away from Kentucky (home). When we moved back to home six years ago, it was supposed to be for the rest of our lives. We had followed God around the U.S. only to finally return home. Abram’s family had moved from Ur to Haran and settled for 15 years, when he received a new call to move once again–this time to an unknown location. While we at least know the area where we are relocating, Josh’s call will still move us away from home. It will move us away from family, childhood friends, my ministry, a cherished church, and our girls’ schools.

I’m not sure if the negotiating ever happened in Abram’s family, but it sure did in our family. Negotiations started with our oldest, Ainsley. At first the negotiation took the form of questions. She wanted to know how she was going to learn without the Montessori approach she has grown accustomed to in Kentucky. Then she wanted to know if her new teachers would be nice. Then she realized that, like “Gracie,” this was her opportunity to bargain! Ainsley responded that she would only move if she could have a turquoise room. We quickly said yes to this easy first demand of Ainsley’s.

So she wisely made another demand, this time for a new bed. No problem. I honestly wasn’t sure the one she has will make it through another move anyway. She realized that she’d asked for two things and gotten the answered she wanted. It was time to go big! She told us she would only move if she got the biggest room in the house, a pool, and if she could go on a big shopping spree. All of a sudden her demands were no longer reasonable and she was not getting the answers she had hoped for from her parents as we quickly answered “no” to these final demands from our daughter. Ainsley learned a lesson in negotiation that day: if you go too big you lose all negotiation power.

Then our younger daughter, Evelyn got involved. She at first seemed oblivious to the whole moving conversation until she realized that her older sister was asking for lots of things and hearing yes from Mom and Dad. Quickly, Evelyn decided that she, too, should get in on the action. She demanded that if we move she should get to bring all her toys to the new house. Then she decided that if we move she wants to take her bed. Done and done! Whew! Good thing she is only three and doesn’t quite understand negotiation quite like her older sister. Those easy “yesses” turned into a request for a “lellow” room and new sheets. Satisfied that her demands had been met by Mom and Dad, she left to go play with her toys happy, that she was going to get a room in her favorite color.

Having witnessed my daughters negotiate with us, I jumped on the band wagon of negotiations with my husband. “So the girls got what they want, now here are my terms for asking us to move” may or may not have been a sentence that I used with Josh when we were deciding to leave Louisville. However, I welcome you to come and visit me in our new home once we get settled to see my new dining room table and Bybee pottery dinnerware set (a Louisville handcrafted original) that my husband has so graciously determined our new home must have once we arrive.

Josh has tried his best to fulfill our demands, but not all of my demands could be fulfilled by him. I found myself arguing with God about it. God, what about my ministry? I’m a minister, too. I am serving a congregation I love. Why do I have to leave them? I don’t feel ready to leave. God, I’ve had the title of minister since before I was married. If I have to move, I will not give that up.

Since the first days of learning that we would relocate, the demands have lessened and transitioned to more questioning. God, what happens if I don’t find a place to fulfill my calling in my life? What then? From that place, I’ve moved further into a position of prayer: Please, O, God walk with me through this new adventure. Creator God, I lift my eyes to you. I know you are there.

The text doesn’t tell us much about how Abram’s family felt. I like to think that Abram’s family went through a progression of accepting the call for themselves. For us, each day is a new progression in our call as we come to grips with the upcoming changes. Some days it feels like we are conquering it together. Other days I’m ready to take a u-turn and tell everyone that we’ve changed our minds.

I know that even as the negotiations and questions continue, we will be OK. Like the Great Family before us, we negotiate and we question, but we keep moving along the path that God is setting before us.

A soon-to-be resident of Atlanta, GA Rebecca Caswell-Speight has served as a minster in many settings, most recently as Associate Pastor at Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. She and her husband, Josh, are parents to two vibrant, growing girls.

The Very Worst Sports Mom

Image http://www.freedigitalphotos.com/gualberto107 
I didn’t grow up playing sports. In the 1970’s and 80’s, suburban Atlanta was not a hot spot for girls’ sports. A few friends played soccer or softball, but most of us took dance, gymnastics or piano lessons. Rec leagues were mostly for boys.

My father, who played basketball and football in high school, took my two older sisters and me out in the backyard to teach us the rudiments of softball. Patiently, he schooled us on how to swing level, shag pop flies and attack those pesky grounders. Notably, he also had to deal with tears from fat lips (from said pesky grounders), twirling in the outfield and occasional hair pulling between catcher and batter.

I loved those backyard games with Dad pitching perfectly hittable balls in the long summer twilight. Thanks to TBS and cheap nosebleed tickets, we watched Braves baseball growing up and could name every player back when Bruce Benedict was catching. I stayed focused on baseball as the Braves (finally) won several pennants—and even the World Series in the early 1990’s. That was plenty of sports for me.

Then I moved to North Carolina to go to Duke Divinity School, where basketball is king. Strangers asked me intently, “Who do you pull for?,” meaning UNC, NC State or Duke, the big rivalries in the ACC. I took to shrugging and replying, “I’m an SEC girl,” which brought looks of pity and disappointment.

Then, I started dating an NC native who played basketball at a small liberal arts college. I shocked him into silence on our first date when he proudly showed me the “Dean Dome” on UNC’s campus and I asked who Dean Smith was (a hugely famous UNC basketball coach). He got over the shock during the next year and a half and asked me to marry him. I confessed that I would never love basketball. I married him anyway.

Fast forward seventeen years and three little boys later: our garage is filled with sports equipment, ESPN is the go-to channel and evenings/weekends are filled with church, practices and games. I quit loving baseball so much after three years and two boys’ fall AND spring seasons. I have learned to walk around the field at soccer to make the games more pleasant for me and so I won’t catch the “negatives Nellies” from the parent who can’t stop criticizing his son, the referees, the weather, the league . . .

I’d like to report that after years and years of basketball, I have grown to love the game. Not so much. In the close quarters of a hot gym, I find the intensity of the game (and the parents) a bit too much. The fouls confuse me, some of the tactics alarm me and the speed leaves me asking quite often, “What just happened?”



I am trying to learn to speak basketball, as I tell our boys, but it’s not my first (or second or third) language. I’ll be team mom, encourager from the stands, snack-organizer and end of season party-thrower. I have a nice loud preacher voice with a “wooo-hooo!” that can carry a long way. A true extrovert, I’ll clap and cheer and congratulate. But that’s about all I have to give.

I just don’t love sports. It’s not my main metaphor for life. I didn’t grow up in that arena of competition, with the team bonding and  sheer physicality sports demand. My husband and our sons have a wisdom rooted in that early training that is simply not part of my life. The thrill of the contest is not something that compels me. But the contest sometimes ambushes me.

As can happen in any contest, the competitiveness at my sons’ games—especially as they have grown older–sometimes seems to blur into tribalism, that us vs. them duality that can start small and end big. Painfully, I sometimes find myself getting caught up in the fervor—especially when the opposing team has been coached to just skirt the edges of the rules and good sportsmanship—and I become just as overinvested internally as some others do externally. And I deplore that feeling in myself.

In those games and their aftermath, I have to remind myself what our goal is for our boys’ sports involvement. We want them to have fun, learn the game and be shaped by working with their teammates, coaches and the referees. We want them to learn about life through sports, not that sports are life.

Tellingly, this past Saturday, after a particularly intense loss, I found myself feeling like a stranger in a strange land. I walked out of the gym in deep reflective mode. All those emotions, all that intensity, all that time and energy and effort—for a contest between middle school age children?

That evening, I watched a documentary on hunger in America called “A Place at the Table” in preparation for a writing project. My mother-and-minister’s heart ached. One anti-hunger advocate noted that in America, we have the ability and the food to make sure no one goes hungry, but we do not have the will.

I can’t help but wonder what might happen if some of the energy, time and effort we spend on kids’ sports could be harnessed for something that really makes a difference in the world. Maybe we don’t have much will leftover when we are spending so much of it on the sidelines of our children’s activities. Maybe we’re paying too much attention to what is ultimately inconsequential.

I’ll never be a great sports mom. My heart, my will, my interests lie elsewhere. But as long as my little guys are playing, I want to be  be whatever support to them I can be, which, for me, includes reminding them in word and deed what’s really important.  




A native of Atlanta, GA, Reverend Alicia Davis Porterfield is a writer, teacher and certified Life Coach. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia and earned a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology from Duke University Divinity School. After two years of chaplaincy training at Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, NC, Alicia served as chaplain at Quail Haven Retirement Village in Pinehurst, NC before her family moved to Wilmington, NC. Her husband Eric is senior pastor at Winter Park Baptist Church and together they stay busy learning and growing with their three sons: Davis (12), Luke (10) and Thomas (8). A frequent retreat leader and guest preacher, Alicia loves delving into scripture and learning with others on the journey.