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As Rebekah turns 7 . . .

August 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Seven years ago, somewhere around Fenyi, Jianxi Province in the People’s Republic of China, a woman gave birth to a little girl. And that’s about all I know about her. Except that, five days later, she left that little girl at the gate of the Fenyi County Social Welfare Institute in the middle of the night. A year later, I got to help that little girl tear into her first birthday cake. Today, I was the dad wandering around taking pictures as she  celebrated her seventh birthday with cake and bears and family and friends everywhere.

Every year, on Rebekah’s birthday, I can’t help but think about that birth mother (and father?). I wonder who they are, where they are, what they do. And I wonder if, on a day like today, they think about that little girl and wonder about her and the life she has. I wish there was some way to let them know that she is beautiful, and brilliant, and fun, and loving, and full of energy, and surrounded by people who love her desperately. But there isn’t. So on nights like this, I find myself praying for them. I thank God that they made the decision to bring my daughter into the world and to leave her somewhere they knew she would be found. I pray that no one ever found out that they left her at that gate. I pray that they’re happy and healthy and have enough to get by everyday without struggle. I pray that somewhere along the way, someone told them about the life and the love of Jesus, and that they found him worth chasing. And I pray that, somehow, they would know that the little girl they left behind is a daughter, and sister, and granddaughter, and great-granddaughter, and niece, and cousin, and friend to more people than I can possibly count.

Happy birthday to my amazing seven year old. Daddy loves you.

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you can’t lose

June 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Bottom of the third. First game of our biggest tournament of the season. 9-1 lead. As the Dirt Dawgs take the field, the coaching braintrust decides to save our starting pitcher’s arm, so I tell the pitcher to move to second and Nathan to take the mound.

At this point, I should note that Nathan had never  pitched in a game. In fact, he’d only thrown about 20 pitches off a mound after practice as we were messing around to see if he could do it. So telling him he was going to pitch in a big game was first, shocking and second, terrifying.

After I got back to the dugout, I turned around to watch him warm up and saw him in a near panic as he was giving his name to the umpire and getting ready to throw his warm-up pitches. To head off the impending meltdown, I jogged back out to the mound to explain the situation to my 9 year old little man.

“We’re up 8, the most they can score is 7 (this tourney had a run per inning rule). No matter what you do, you can’t lose this game. You can’t fail.”

The shoulders relax. The grin comes out. Now we’re ready to play ball.

First batter – hits the first pitch hard back to the mound. Nathan fields it clean and throws him out. 1 pitch, 1 out. The grin gets bigger.
Second batter –  bunts for a hit. Then scores on the next pitch as he steals second and gets around on a error.
Third batter – strikes out on 5 pitches. The grin is now so big I’m afraid he’s going to trip over it.
Fourth better – grounds out to 3rd.

Four batters, 13 pitches, 3 outs, we win. Nathan runs off the field and jumps into my arms, convinced that this pitching thing is easy.

As I think about it (with probably an unhealthy amount of pride), I’m struck by the power that comes from understanding that there is no way to fail. Fear turns to confidence. Freedom and faith break out. Tears are swallowed by a grin that just keeps growing. Confidence gained yields a greater willingness to risk again.

What if the Church created space for dreamers to go big, but with a safety net beneath them, just in case? What if success wasn’t measured in results, but rather attempts?

What would you tackle if you knew you couldn’t lose?

Categories: Church, family, Jesus, life, sports Tags: , ,

10 years ago today . . .

March 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Ten years ago today I lost the second most significant man in my life, next to my Dad. My grandfather – Pop – passed away on a Sunday morning after a brief stint in the hospital. In the years since, not many days go by that I don’t think about him, but today he’s been on my mind pretty much all day.

Pop taught me to love baseball, he took me out on my first attempt to learn to drive. I ate lunch at his house almost every day of my junior year of high school and it was a ritual for me and K to eat breakfast at his house on Sunday mornings when we came into town during college and in our early married life. I remember spending hours just sitting quietly with him after my grandmother died. He taught me about sacrificial love as I watched him take care of her for the last decade of her life and about grace and mercy as he talked about his 35 years of recovery from alcoholism. He was always quick to give me and my brothers a hard time (something I’ve clearly inherited from him), but  just as quick to encourage. He didn’t miss a game, performance, concert, awards night, or any other excuse to watch us do the things we loved. Hearing him say “I’m proud of you” meant more to me than any award or honor I’ve ever received.

He wasn’t a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but he was a good man. I can’t believe he’s been gone for 10 years and I’m so glad to know that a day is going to come when I get to see him again. My guess is he’ll make some crack about the Cubs and remind me of running into the back of Mom’s car on that first driving excursion. I can’t wait.

Categories: else, family, life

the museum of my parenting skills

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Via xkcd. I love (and live) this.

Categories: else, family

40 for my 40th

September 13, 2010 Leave a comment
For my 40th, K and the kids put together a basket of stuff that reminds them of me. Easily one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Here’s the list of my 40 with commentary.
  1. Just for Men – this was the contribution that Caleb was most proud of, but the joke’s on him – he has the same early graying genes.
  2. Iron Man 2 top – I’m into super heroes
  3. MarioKart pez – ditto for video games
  4. The Office notepad
  5. Horse – I’ve liked to ride since the first time K made me do it
  6. Zebra  – heart for Africa
  7. Stethescope – the reality of Dr. J (although not that kind of Dr.) is almost here
  8. Dumbbell – b/c my 8 year old thinks I’m strong
  9. Trumpet – band still haunts me after all these years
  10. Star band – for astronomy
  11. Miles on Vinyl – my favorite jazz artist
  12. Monk on vinyl – another favorite
  13. Tour de France hat – I pretend to be a cyclist
  14. Calvin and Hobbes book – loved these guys since I was a teenager
  15. Hastings gift card – for the reader
  16. itunes gift card – for the musician
  17. Ted’s card – mmmmmm
  18. bbq card – it’s Boomercue
  19. sonic cup / card – the omnipresent Diet Dr. Pepper, easy ice
  20. Bible – so thankful that they see some of this in me
  21. Garden State – love my indie films
  22. Colbert Christmas DVD – and I love my political satire
  23. Sports Illustrated – hoop, baseball, football, even World Cup this summer
  24. Sooner pencil – could be for my Sooner love or the fact that I go to school there. or both.
  25. Tom’s shoes – for my big feet
  26. Reese’s – I have a tendency to steal these from the kids whenever possible
  27. World Vision catalog – one of my favorite ways to give
  28. Thunder foam finger – yep, I’m on the bandwagon
  29. Scooby Doo van – can’t get enough of the Scoobs
  30. Coaching whistle – I don’t think I’ve ever used it at a practice
  31. Computer – I spend a LOT of time on one
  32. Picture of the kids – love those monkeys so much
  33. Camera – there’s always one in my hand
  34. Cubs baseball – my lifelong love and obsession.
  35. Light Bulb – again Caleb – “because I’m so bright”
  36. Apple – for the teacher
  37. Hot Tamales – my name is J and I’m a tamaleholic
  38. Diet Dr. Pepper – see above
  39. Guitar Pick – I’m a bit shocked that they remember I played, it’s been a while
  40. Mythbusters hat – for my love of science (and watching stuff blow up)

It’s good to be known.

Categories: else, family, Uncategorized

A prayer for my off-to-jr-high son

August 13, 2009 1 comment

Father

I can’t believe that the man-in-process that I dropped off today is the same person that I held for the first time in the middle of the night in a thunderstorm almost 13 years ago. It’s been so fast. But so fun.

Watching him be engulfed by the crowd and the building, there are so many things I want to ask of You.

The basics first, I guess. Keep him safe. Calm his nervous heart and help him find his rhythm. Help him find his classes and the cafeteria. Give him great teachers who recognize how special you made him. Give him at least one familiar face in each of his classes. Let him feel known.

And protect him. From the inevitable hurtful words of former friends who choose another way. From the lies of cool and the “right” way to be. From internalizing the identities that others will seek to assign him. From the million potential scars lurking behind every decision.

Give him joy. Keep him a little bit silly. Help him hold on to his sense of wonder about the world you made and the way it works. Let his heart stay young as long as it can. Teach him to celebrate the small victories. I know every moment won’t (can’t) be fun, but give him more than his share.

Go with him where I can’t. Whisper in his heart when he can’t hear my voice. Help him refuse to settle for lesser things. In his loneliest moment, remind him of your faithfulness. Guide his steps and draw him closer to you. As he becomes a man, help him become a man of God. Let his be the life that impacts those around him. In the halls, the classroom, the locker room, the gym – help him carry you. Teach him to be an extender of your grace to every life he encounters. May Brink be a different place because he was there, and you in him.

And help me. To hang on tightly, but loosely. To love him well and teach him to love well. To pray for him, his teachers, his coaches, his friends. To cheer him on and hold him back. To guide and shut up. To laugh and cry and dance and mourn. To make time to shoot baskets or talk or ask questions or help with homework. To see and embrace both the child and the man. To trust you with this precious gift you have given me.

I know you are in there with him. Take care of my son. He is yours and I trust you.

Amen.

Categories: family Tags: , , ,

our small attempt to save the planet

May 30, 2008 2 comments

I posted a while back about suffering from “ecoanxiety” – the fear that I’m not doing enough to reduce my family’s ecological footprint. While we still aren’t ready to move to the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, we’re taking our baby steps to do what we can where we are. So what are we doing?

  • Almost every bulb in the house now is a compact fluorescent. Not perfect, but better.
  • I have become an absolute Nazi about turning off lights. The kids are learning.
  • We bought the reusable shopping bags. And it isn’t too bad. I’m also trying to remember to decline the bag if I only have a couple of items that I can carry out in my hands.
  • Still struggling with leaving things plugged in, but the phone and ipod chargers get unplugged as soon as they are done.
  • Thermostats stay at 72 in the summer. Usually around 66 in the winter.
  • Whenever possible we take the smaller, more fuel-efficient car.
  • We’re recycling everything we can think of.

It isn’t a ton in light of what we could be doing and my anxiety is only slightly lessened by what we’ve done, but it’s a start – right?