April 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Sitting. Just sitting. Sitting and staring out the window. So I guess that’s not just sitting. Sitting, staring out the window and thinking. Sitting, staring out the window and thinking about all that has been passing me by lately. Or that I have been passing by.

A fleeting glance from an acquaintance that, if I’d taken the time might have been the beginning of an actual friendship.

The realization that I didn’t know someone quite like I thought I had, that they’re far more intentional, spiritual and talented than I had thought.

This happens to me now and then; I suddenly realize that I’ve been flitting from one thing to the next. Hopping. Like a smooth stone across the surface of a pond, lightly skimming across the surface of life before I’m off to the next thing. Never realizing the depth of the water below.

And then I vow it will be different. It won’t.

It might be.

It might be for a time. And maybe that’s all that’s required. Maybe my whole life doesn’t need to change this instant, and maybe I don’t need to get so down on myself. The truth is that there may not be something fundamentally wrong (or even unique) about how I go on with life, but I do need a reset now and again. Each time I get reset I can examine life with new eyes, slow down, see, experience. But maybe the resets need to be a little more frequent.

Now that would be an interesting thing to ask for.

“God, I could do with a few more resets.”

Ooh, that’s just asking to be messed up. That is just inviting God to come in, and get crazy.

Good Days and Bad Days

December 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

The old method of feeding him while he’s reclined, his head resting in the crook of my arm isn’t working today. He screams when I try to cradle him.

He also hasn’t been very entertained with any of his toys today.

Earlier, he sat in his chair and was perfectly happy until—for no apparent reason—his boredom boiled into frustration.

He just downed the bottle that he refused not five minutes earlier.

Yet, as he ate, he looked up at me and smiled. And his eyes turned red. And they closed halfway. And he raised his hand in the air and touched my cheek, then brought it back to rest upon his left eye—a sure sign that sleep is getting the best of him.

I laid him down and he drifted off to sleep, his blanket pulled up against his cheek, his breathing calm and rhythmic.

For all the bad, today is a good day. Monday, I may not have seen it that way.

Monday, it was like we were strangers. All the trust and knowledge of one another that we’d built up over the last several months seemed to have deteriorated in the matter of a week or so. With Karen home she had taken on the role of the primary caretaker, and Finn and I had not spent much alone time together. Monday, our separation was apparent. Our rhythms were off. We weren’t in sync. There wasn’t an understanding, much less a groove. It seemed I couldn’t do anything right. When I tried to feed him, he cried. When I tried to play with him, he cried. When I tried to lay him down for a nap, he cried. When I left the room, he cried.

By the time Karen arrived home from work I was tired and frustrated. In my mind I had declared it a bad day.

Today is a good day, but not much has changed. He’s still sending me signals I can’t understand. He’s still crying (or at least fussing) for no apparent reason. Yet, I feel better. I feel calm. I’m having fun. You see, I’m realizing that whether a day is “good” or “bad” depends far more on me than on him.

Because even when we seem not to be getting along well, he still has that same wide, open-mouthed smile to give me when I go in to get him after a nap. He seems not to remember when I made him cry because he was hungry, or because he was bored, or because he was frustrated, or because he wasn’t hungry, or because he was lonely.

If he does remember, he doesn’t seem to mind. And neither do I.

The Mouth

November 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

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I often wonder what it would be like to be a dog. I look at my dogs and wonder how my life would be different if I lacked hands. I wonder if I would be content to understand the world around me primarily through taking things into my mouth. They eat things, smell things, pick things up, pull things, move things, and break things almost solely with their mouths. What must that be like?

Finn, I believe, has taken it upon himself to put it to the test. Though his goal hasn’t been stated clearly, based on my observation of his experimentation Finn’s hypothesis is something along the lines of this: the world can best be understood—if not solely understood— through the manipulation of said world by the mouth.

The kid puts everything in his mouth. It started when he was little; unable to find his thumb, he’d stick his whole hand in his mouth. There were a couple times I had to pull it back out for him when it got stuck. Now, it’s multiple fingers, a fist, or sometimes even multiple fists. On the list of other things he has tried either successfully or unsuccessfully to put into his mouth: everything that can be listed.

And here’s the thing, he’s not even good at it. He rarely has the coordination to hold onto anything, much less draw it to his mouth. That sure doesn’t stop him from trying. He spends the vast majority of his time in a supine position, attempting a half sit-up, his mouth open and his hands reached in the general vicinity of whichever object he intends to become his latest victim. Lately, as we change him, he grasps onto our sleeves or our fingers as they whisk by his face again and again. He latches on with an iron grip, but from there his coordination isn’t quite good enough to get things moving in the direction he’d like.

And no one needs to tell me that it’s going to get worse; I can see it coming. Suddenly he’ll have coordination, and his batting average will increase exponentially. Add to that his impending ability to crawl and eventually walk, and he’ll have nearly instantaneous access to all the things he’s ever had his eye on.

This year the Christmas tree is safe. Next year is another story.

What a joy to watch him develop. Four months ago, it took all his efforts of coordination to squeeze your finger. Now, he’s grabbing that finger out of midair, and pulling it towards his open mouth with astonishing vigor.

He’s so in tune to what’s happening around him, too. Sometimes I’ll watch him observe a conversation between two people, and his head is turning from side to side like a spectator at a tennis match. He’s watching so closely, listening, the gears of his mind turning and processing, and then all of a sudden he’ll blurt out some nonsense, and I’m convinced he has something useful to add to the discussion.

He talks gibberish all day, and he watches the dogs dash around the room. From my lap he’ll look up at me when I’m talking—his eyes wide and his mouth open, and I swear I’ve never seen anyone so interested in what I have to say.

Every moment is a milestone. Every day a collection of firsts.

Poop

November 18, 2009 § Leave a comment

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I used to lazily roll out of bed around eight, and it took me at least an hour of slow-paced readying to get myself out the door. I’d shower slowly, dress slowly, and eat slowly. I’d read a couple articles from Time or Newsweek and find my way into work sometime before ten.

Now, I get up at 6:45 in the morning so that I can beat Finnden to the punch. You never know when he’ll stir—sometimes 6:45 and sometimes 7:45. And you never know what mood he’ll be in when he stirs. Generally, he’s pretty happy, but sometimes he wakes up mad for no particular reason. It’s always good to be up a little earlier than him so that I can get a shower, dress, and maybe even pack up my things before he begins to demand my full attention.

If he’s sleeping, though, I don’t wake him until I absolutely must. Today was no exception. We needed to get to daycare by eight, and since he hadn’t yet stirred, I went to wake him at 7:45. He woke up happy. He was squirming, and rubbing his eyes, and digging his dimpled chin into his collarbone like he usually does, giving himself a double and a triple-chin. Then, as is his custom, he looked up at me and flashed a giant grin, and turned slightly to his left as though he were being shy. That’s what he always does. Adorable, but not anything out of the ordinary. Perhaps I should have noticed a little gleam in his eye. Perhaps.

I picked him up, grabbing him beneath the arms, and lifting him out of his swing. Then I placed my hand under his bottom. That’s when I knew. He was wet. I hoped, I prayed that it wasn’t what I thought it was. I pulled my hand to within a couple inches of my face and took a hesitant whiff. No such luck. It was poop. With a hand placed firmly under each armpit I swung him around to see just how bad the damage was. From his legs to his shoulder blades, from one hip to the other, there was not one dry patch.

I took him into the hall and laid him down on the changing pad. I quickly stripped him down and realized that there had been a major diaper fail. Without exaggeration, there was more poop outside the diaper than in it. It was everywhere, in wet little clumps all through his sleeper, under his arms, on his back and his belly, the inside of his legs…everywhere.

And I don’t know if you know this, but that stuff stains. So, I began to change him as quickly as possible so that I could throw it all in the wash. And then he began to pee…right onto his forehead. You should have seen the look on his face, not necessarily panic or even anger, more of a confused consternation.

I quickly cupped my hand over the fountain, and the stream immediately stopped. I went back to what I had been doing. And then it began again. This time he missed his own forehead, shooting over his shoulder to land on the changing pad, the coved surface of which sent the little rivulets right toward him and to the back of his head. So now he had his own pee all over his head in addition to his own poop all over the rest of his body. And then he looked up at me and smiled, a big, comical and wholly winsome grin.

Needless to say, Finnden and I were a little late getting to daycare this morning. After I had rinsed his clothes and his swing, pre-treated them, and thrown them into the laundry in addition to cleaning him up and getting him dressed, I was a bit behind. I still haven’t really started work. Something in the back of my mind told me that these are the kinds of moments I don’t want to forget. These are the kinds of moments that warrant taking a few extra minutes to write them down so that I can look back on them years from now and wish I could do them all again.

Laughter

November 9, 2009 § 2 Comments

Finnden Smile
Finnden learned to laugh the other day. It was the day he marked fifteen weeks of life. It’s fascinating, really.

Perhaps what is more fascinating is the inability to laugh. How is it possible that we spend our first few weeks without laughter?

I’ve always been mesmerized by laughter. What causes it…really? What makes it impossible to resist? What makes funny so funny? How is it that we can control so much about how we feel and how we respond to situations, but we find it nearly impossible to control laughter? If we’ve learned control it, have we missed the essence of it?

Laughter is magical in its innocence. Beautiful. Automatic. Uncontrolled. And its all the more extraordinary when its emitted from your son for the first time.

Never Alone

June 4, 2009 § 1 Comment

Walking Alone

Romans 8:26-27, 34
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
Who then can condemn? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

There are moments—sometimes days, weeks and months—when I feel so very alone, estranged and cut off from the loving embrace of Jesus. I feel the weight of silence pressing in my heart as my listening is returned with an empty buzz, and it seems that the reassuring whispers of the Holy Spirit are absent. I feel very small and unlovable under the unflinching gaze of God.

But I am not abandoned.

The loneliness of those moments transforms an ordinary life into a prayer. The entirety of my being—every word and thought—cries out to God as a prayer, a cry expressed to God through the wordless groanings of the Spirit.

The Son, who walks silently and unseen beside me, cries to his Father on my behalf, painfully identifying with my sense of abandonment in ways that I can’t even begin to grasp. His empathy is written plainly in his wounds.

And my Father, the one who seems so distant, searches the depths of my heart and bears the full measure of my fear and heartache, unfiltered by a sporadically rational mind. All the while he listens, he feels, he knows more than even I can tell as it is groaned to him by the Holy Spirit and implored to him by the Son.

He is with me. They—the three, the One—are with me. In the confused loneliness of my search for God I am struggling to find the words to speak a language he invented and walking a road he knows. Despite the perceived distance we have never been closer.

No wonder I am cherished. One member groans with me, another cries for me, and the other searches me and knows me. I am not alone, I am known.

Great Expectations

April 29, 2009 § Leave a comment

In 2 Samuel, chapter three David is estranged from King Saul; more than estranged really, they’re warring against one another. David is the anointed king of all of Israel, but Saul is holding on to his claim on the title, unwilling to relinquish his crown despite the fact that the blessing of God is no longer upon him.

It’s in this politically charged climate that Abner—one of of Paul’s most trusted advisers—defects to David, bringing with him the sincere promise of uniting all of Israel under the new king. These two men who were once enemies are sudden allies and seem even to have developed a friendship.

As Abner departs David’s stronghold in Hebron, Joab—the leader of one of David’s raiding armies and a son of Zeruiah—catches wind of the fact that Abner and David have met and have reached some sort of an agreement. Joab cannot abide the king’s trust in Abner because this new ally was once an enemy, an enemy who had killed Joab’s brother in battle. He storms in to see David and warns him that Abner should not be trusted. David , who trusts Abner completely, dismisses Joab’s concerns.

Joab will not be dissuaded. He sends after Abner, and brings him back to Hebron. There, under the guise of friendship and collaboration, Joab pulls Abner aside and has him murdered.

When the news of this treachery reaches David he is stricken. He mourns and leads the nation in mourning over the traitorous death of this newfound ally, declaring in verse 39, “Today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the LORD repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds.”

David is the king, he is God’s chosen one. God has elected him to be in charge of all of Israel, yet he can’t control his subjects. He admits his weakness as he ponders the reality that he has been given great responsibility but not great authority.

This is not an ideal leadership position.

No one wants the mantle of responsibility without the authority to carry it out. It’s all the work without the proper tools, all the leadership with none of the followers. But David is accustomed to the truth that the responsibility he carries is backed by great power and authority, only it isn’t his; it is the great power and authority of God.

I also feel as though I have been given great responsibility as a pastor and as a disciple of Christ, and I often feel overwhelmed by my lack of experience, and power, and authority. That feeling of being mired in quicksand up to my armpits is really God’s way of teaching me that the single greatest expectation he has of me is to have great expectations of him!

I may feel lonely, but I am not alone. I may feel overwhelmed, but I am not defeated. I may feel ill-equipped, but I am not powerless because the power on which I rely to accomplish the responsibilities God has given me is the responsibility of God.