Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Windows, Horses, and Bowling Birthdays

Somehow in this post I get from my father's final blessing of me, his death, my trip to Missouri, up to this past weekend and my son's birthday. Like ripples in a pond, and honey drizzling down through the layers in baklava.

So, a lot of the past two or thee entries have come in the context of my trip to see the eclipse, and the processing of my father's death which occurred during that trip with my friend. That was about two months worth of time between my father's death and the trip, so, for what ever that is worth. But these current days, and these last few posts, are like the ripples extending outward from probably one moment in particular, and my father's passing in general. That particular moment occurred about three or four weeks before my father died, during a final visit when I went up to the old, home town to see him, to tell him goodbye.

We spent a small period of time, maybe two hours, talking, primarily with my stepmother while he remained in the bed. Sensing or trying to read the moment for when I knew she must be tiring, or my father tiring, I got up to go tell him goodbye. My wife followed, ever having my back -- though honestly I didn't expect it of her, nor anticipate it. From his hospice bed my father reached up, took our hands in his, and conferred a blessing upon us. He told us we had good kids, and were doing a good job, and my wife deserved some of the credit for that as much as I did (me being the stay at home parent, her the working parent). He then invited us to return anytime, welcoming us back.

One of the issues we have always had in the past with my father was how he would often ask us to return for a visit when he evidenced no satisfaction or gratitude when we had come to visit. This time however my father, in those brief two minutes if it were that long at all, was so absolutely accepting (as if no past tensions between us mattered), so welcoming and open-armed in heart -- without qualification or expectation or onerous, burdensome requirement -- so freely loving, well, he was the very picture of Christ and Christ's offer of forgiveness. Pure, free gift and grace.

There are windows into Heaven, and that moment was a window. I am convinced that while I was only vaguely aware of the moment, my father must have been more cognizantly nearer the presence of God than ever before, and as with Moses at the burning bush we were on hallowed ground. I do know, in that moment, that I had had a father I never have felt that I have had before, and having a father in that singular moment was so profoundly good that even all the years of not having had one could pale of diminish the moment of having it. I think even my wife had a father in that moment, or in the very least received a fatherly blessing which recognized her contribution as well as conferring other things.

On the trip to Missouri my friend asked if I had felt a mantle being passed from my father to me, and I said I surely felt the mantle of that of being more a father to my own family (as opposed to any mantle within my own father's household).

Somehow all of this fits into this weekend, or this weekend fits into all of this. Well, a very busy Saturday more than the whole weekend.

I have for some time been researching (as I may have mentioned elsewhere) horseback riding lessons for my daughter. This past Saturday the entire family took a trip to the place which offers the riding lessons for a tour, an attempt to get a gauge of the owner and the venture of riding lessons itself. I liked the owner and her ethos (with an emphasis on teaching everything about horses, from grooming and care on up through dressage and various forms of riding particulars). In a sense I was trying to look through a window at what it would be like for my daughter, in the hopes of providing her confirmation of her desires and this particular path. This was a very practical step forward, a foreshadowing or picture into the experience suggestive of my earnest partnering and commitment to the project of equipping her. Surely a picture, a window of the father-heart of God for us all.

What makes this tour so episodic in the narrative of the weekend is that this tour was a sort of "additional" to my son's birthday celebration preparations, and all the events and context surrounding the Saturday's plans.

Up until Friday morning I had no clue what form of party we were going to have for my son. I was defaulting to cake and ice cream at the house, hoping I might clean at least one bathroom prior to. Further complicating matters was the fact my son's best friend, a girl down the street, was having her birthday that same day, and my son and daughter both wanted to attend. Friday morning, from out of the bue, an idea struck me that there was a bowling alley that hosted kid's parties, and it just so happened the place had an open slot. This slot turned out to be right before the friend's party (held elsewhere). Providential doesn't quite cover it, if you follow my drift. With plans in place I invited specifically and only those close relationships which seem to most bless my son. (I had at least had the sense to order a specialty cake earlier on Thursday.) Friday evening found me at home with my son while my wife and daughter surreptitiously went shopping for gifts, party favors, and so on.

My daughter was quite precious about the whole affair, using her own money to buy a truly thoughtful gift (and fitting one it turned out), as well as bending herself to stuffing the party favor treat bags. Hence, Saturday we get up, rush off to the horse stables tour, come home, have lunch, rush off to store to pick up the cake and then on to the bowling alley (all whilst my son had no clue to the plans for his surprise), and after the party, on to the little friend's party.

My attitude towards my son in all of this was one of wanting to see him honored, yet found myself grateful for the love bestowed upon him. I was blessed by those loving my son. I wanted significant relationships for my son, and invited for him (surrounded him with) those relationships which seem to be entirely life giving to him. I manufactured the experience (well, you know), brought the people together, supplying it. Surely that is a picture, a window of sorts, into the father-heart of God for us.

And yet how does all this link together, how do the first and largest ripples resemble the last and smaller ripples? How do I get from my father's blessing of me (in all it's picture of Christ's grace extended to me) to this picture, these pictures of the father-heart of God for us all (and those moments from which they derive)? From the sense of a mantle within my own family to lives and blessing of my children? From the existential to the imageric?

This morning, writing, I don't know if it does, or, at least, if it does for me. See, I think this blog post is actually, somehow, about my wife (where my last post was similarly about my sister-in-law). Throughout this weekend my wife was present, despite a toll it took upon her. She wanted to be a part and made herself an active part, even though it messed with her nighttime work schedule. My moment with my father was also a moment with and for her, to her blessing. In all of the lives of my children she RATHER HONORABLY AND VALIANTLY plays a part. Beyond being the bread winner, beyond being a support who anchors or balances me, she influences our children's lives. Sometimes silently; sometimes sonorously. She is a motive force. Her presence in our lives are such that she and her influence are not ever absent. Take its motion from it and wind is only air; take my wife from the picture and the family is not a family. More so, to me, I would not be the father I am without her, her influence and support and building up of me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Out to the Gate

Of my sister-in-law I have an inestimable esteem. A product of the same formative context as my wife (of whom none other, in my eyes, equals in terms of worth or deservingness of admiration, and this not simply for coming out of that context but definitely in part for such), has silently carried many a mantle within her family-of-origin.

My sister-in-law, like in the fashion of most ambassadors in their own roles, is a sort of gate to her family-of-origin. She just occupies that role, that function. Whether this is intentional on her part or not (if it just be something of her core being out of which she just naturally operates) I can't say, but it did certainly (as on numerous occasions in the past) add dynamic to her presence in my children's lives this past weekend.

Whereas most ambassadors are merely functionaries sent (on the behalf of a sending sovereign) in the intention of fostering relationship, my sister-in-law herself sought such relationship with my children clearly from out of her own being. Put differently, my sister-in-law was self-sent, out of her profound love of my children, and in no other desire than for relationship -- whether  she acted in the role / function or not.

Maybe in risk to my nuance through reductionism, I'll make the simple yet fine point: my sister-in-law herself chose to come be a part of my children's lives, across many a physical and emotional gulfs (into relationaly unsettled seas), because it is the sort of self-initiating person she is. Yes, that ambassadorial aspect of her is attendant to her simply loving my children and wanting relationship with her niece and nephew, but (attendant or no) it adds dynamic to that simply loving them. She loved my children beyond just being their aunt "from my wife's family," but was ambassadorial concomitantly to/with her auntly affections. She was intentionally my children's aunt.

 But this is just the prelude, the tip of the iceberg, the setting of the stage for why, in this moment, I feel such an inestimable esteem for my sister-in-law. The iceberg itself is what lies hidden beneath the frigid waters, and though you know its presence by its surfacing tip, the iceberg's breadth lies in a greater and colder body.

When my father was passing, in his final few weeks of life, it was heavily impressed upon me to listen to his heart, to hear in his final words to me whatever he would be saying to me. In the moment when I entered his room to knowingly give my final goodbyes (for that day's visit, and for the last time in his life and in mine) my father gripped my and my wife's hands, and blessed us. It was a simple statement about how well we were doing with our children, what good kids they were, and how we were welcomed to come back anytime we liked.  The heart in his words, behind his words, of his words... his heart... was one of utter and free acceptance, where all the past and past  mistakes and past hurts were utterly absent; where no expectations existed, no qualifications or delimiting criteria existed. Just free, utterly accepting welcome. The identity inherent to a blessing of a father coming in the words of affirmation of myself as a father, of my wife and I as partnering parents.

In that moment I had a sense of God, of His free welcoming, His unqualified giving, His total acceptance and accepting blessing of me in His love and in His forgiveness. As with my father I was brought in, am brought in.

From out of the earlier trip with my friend, the trip up to see the full eclipse, came the externally-processed "expression" of part of the nature of the blessing: the experience of having stepped into more fully the mantle of "father" -- to my own children. My children are my life; my children are me.

Along with the tenuous relational and emotional contexts into which she was coming, various health issues and the ubiquitous exigencies of modern life were all lending to what I would have expected to be a debilitating fatigue for my sister-in-law, the sort of which I wouldn't want to have give from out of to others. My sister-in-law, however, not only gave out of exhaustion and deficit, but lavishly gave, lavish to the point of exorbitant lavishness. She took them swimming, had pizza with them (their favorite food); he took them to a rock-climbing and bouldering gym; to a bookstore (and they both love books); to enjoy ice cream and scenery. My children were blessed, and in the process, I too was given an exorbitant grant of time free of the responsibility of care-taking my children.

Very very easily I can see the father-heart of God for us in the ambassadorial-intentioned bringing of lavish blessing (at a greater-than-normal cost to herself) heartedness of my sister-in-law. She is, from this weekend, a picture of the father-heart of God to me. And just as it is my heart to bring all those blessing to my children, so can be seen in my desire to enable their aunt (through my permission) to spend time with my children a picture of the Father-heart of God to see His people blessed through His people. There are many pictures of the father-heart of God coming out of this weekend.

My esteem, however, for my sister-in-law rests not merely upon simply how she modeled the father-heart of God, nor upon what she did, or upon the greater understanding of what she did as that is contextualized by her fatigue and exhaustion, or even upon the degree of lavishness with which she revealed the breadth of her heart. No, my esteem for her rests upon the fact that she came, that she is "one who comes to" ... to my children. Just as my father showed me "acceptance," she shows me "coming". It is who she is: "she who comes to". Christ called himself the gate, despite being the one who came to us.

Now, I have to add a caveat, because let's face it, 4 people read this blog and 3 of them are family. My sister is also an incredible aunt, no less estimable than my sister-in-law. My sister is different, but no less estimable. What I needed to process in this post, however, is not something correlative to my sister and who she is and how that is a model of God to me.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Labors of the Day

I didn't sleep well or much at all last night. That has left me quite as you would expect for a middle-aged man.

In this particular moment, on this particular morning, I am feeling quite as I did in those moments of my road trip to Missouri, to watch the most recent full solar eclipse. In those precious moments I felt as though I were fully in a moment of waiting. Strangely it was also a feeling of journeying, but maybe I confuse the one for the other.

Ultimately it was a sense that all was pushed out, and I was nowhere but in the moment, able to be nowhere else but there, then, in no control of circumstance but entirely unthreatened by my lack of control, and untempted by any desire to control the circumstance. If we found ourselves stuck in traffic, it was what it was, and just happened to be that that was what I was doing in that moment in that place. There was no requirement to be any where by any set time. I couldn't be where I was going any faster, and going slower and getting there later just was more circumstance in which I might find myself unable to do anything about, and no where near an immediate concern. What is is what was, and what would be would be what was.

It is a precious freedom, that feeling of journeying, of waiting. I'll call it journeying. It is a release of burden, and quite the feeling of being carried. Standing, perhaps, on the heaving prow of a mighty and heavy ship charging through the waters, supported by its deck and strength. It (that road trip) was (today is) that salient sense which I think is attendant to (and part and parcel within) that notion of "the blessed man for whom a Fatherland is yet to come, yet seen and longed for from afar." Perhaps in this is the closest kinship (as a fellow man) I have to the patriarch Abraham -- and to all whom have come since him, and to all who have yet to come after me.

I need that feeling this morning. I need that orientation.

Several of the very few that read this blog have asked why I do it, why I blog, what is it, why the detached tone, and what is my aim through it all. Some noted the repetitious nature of the entries, and went so far as to ask if I really believed or incorporated all I said in each entry, or were the posts just my processing those ideas for myself? All good questions. But a question has it's time, and that question's answer may yet have another time or times.

This weekend was Labor Day weekend. Friday, end of school, found us having a playdate in the midst of which we delivered yet another baby rabbit to a new home. This saga is nigh drawing to an end, and we have only one baby and two adults to rehome. My daughter and my wife are increasingly relieved with the extrication of animals from the household. The playdate was successful for all concerned, in that the mothers who had gotten a girls' night out as a result had had a good night, and none of the children left my household having spatted or any the worse for wear under my care. Indeed, I think new friendships were cemented, and blessings went forth.

Saturday I spent the day trying to actually nail down what has been put into motion for my daughter and son, in terms of arranging those ongoing extracurricular activities in which they'll be participating this school year. For some time it has seemed important to involve my daughter in horseback riding. She loves horses, as it seems many little girls do, but maybe in ways or for reasons beyond what other little girls commonly do. It is important to her, and seems to fit into her desires to be involved with animals and therapy and animal rescue / rehabilitation.

Horses are, like otters or dolphins or dogs, a particular path. Me, I am a bird guy: I connect with birds, find them beautiful and ... well, just the animal I connect with the best. I can't say my daughter is (or is not) a "horse-person" like I think myself a "bird-person," I mean, honestly, we haven't been around horses yet, but I know this is a particular path for my daughter. There a defining here, of her, by virtue of the particular path, and that most importantly is what I am intentional about giving her. If we were "sports people" we would be, would look like "sports people." For now it seems my daughter is a "horse person" and thus I am putting her "into" that, setting her into that. Saturday I spent calling stables and riding studios.

For my son I sought out jiu jitsu studios, though, honestly, he is not at that developmental phase where such specific activity-based identity is forming. He is known (by his teachers and by those adults who have spent time with him) as a little man of character and of integrity and of empathy. I am thinking this foray into mixed martial arts may just spool up more his inherent leadership personality. If nothing else, for him, I am just delighting. His path will be, about that I am certain, and this (like my other efforts on his behalf) is my attempting to proactively maintain the pace. I say maintain the pace because already, I feel, he outstrips me as a man of character, and he challenges me (by virtue of himself and his value) to be a better father than I am, to be more than I am. Just to win being worthy of being his father. I don't deserve him as a son, I know, and so I try to justify if only a little bit more the faith he places in  me, since he deserves that effort on my part.

Some reading that might hear only self-condemnation. Really, though, it is the most selfless I know being, because it is focused on the fullness of his value, with little focus on myself -- I feel only his value, and feel any worthlessness. A proud father of a son would hear what I am saying.

I think maybe, where with my daughter I am intentional as she needs me to be (and where I show (cue the refrain) the father-heart of God for us all to her), I showed it to my son on Sunday, where I was protective of him. We were on the church playground after church, and some older boys were throwing pecans and pebbles at each other. One parent already had asked them to stop, and I was almost quivering with a desire to call them on their behavior, but was allowing them the choice to do right by that parent and all the rest of us parents. When at last they threw a rock which hit my child I reared up in the full baritone, drill-sergeant-like voice for which I am known, and in not a small amount of authority yet gentle firmness, expressed they had thrown a rock after being asked to stop, it had hit my son, and had hurt him, so they were to forthwith stop.

In that moment I was fully controlled, but quite certainly defensive of my son. There was no limit to the extent to which I would have gone to protect him, though I limited my response to the situation -- the situation leading up to the event, and the situation of the event both. In that moment my son knew the (heart of) protection for himself which I certainly feel is God's father-heart for us.

Those moments of this past weekend are like the countryside of the areas through which I have been driving recently. They have all slowly changed un-alteringly into the similar landscape of this present moment. And all these and this present moment of this morning -- the moment of waiting and of that sense of journeying -- are like the similar, un-altering landscapes of that one larger, particular area of the Ozarks through which I drove with my friend: varied in appearance but of the same form, the place I was in but which was not the home yet to come.

One is anchored in the release of journeying, as I was in the road trip with my friend, in the purpose if not of the journey then in the purpose of journeying itself. More than being on a path for a reason, maybe, it is the reason for Path itself. Path itself is expression, is identity manifested. Path is journeying a corporate journey; individual narrative traipsing along meta-narrative. My friend and I, more than being on a road trip next to each other were on similar journeys on the same journey. Missouri looked to him like the land of his forebearers, while to me it looked like something else. The journey itself, however, looked the same: we both were men of a certain age facing the deaths of our fathers, facing our own foreignness to the Land; facing the land and the Land without our fathers in it; facing fatherhood fatherless; both of us facing the waiting for an as yet to come Fatherland.

Like the memory of an echo the question by some of why I blog resounds, and it is still yet the time for an answer. I am still traveling, still in this moment and this circumstance of today.

I am absent from my friend, have been since we got back. It is not the only absence I am feeling. My father is dead; my Fatherland is yet to come. Those are two different kinds of absence. As I write this at my office window, a hummingbird perches upon the foot rest of the feeder, and I am struck by the beauty of its lines. I seldom get to see them sit still. During the eclipse, just as the full blackness ended and that tiny, tiny crescent which for all its slightness showed the immense magnitude of the sun's brilliance to light the world with even a fraction of itself, a bird had sounded. It was the most beautiful event, the bird song, and it dwarfed the experience of the eclipse for me. I am a bird person. As the eclipse ended my road trip with my friend rounded a bend in course alone, and we looked to what was next -- which was a meandering route home. In some ways we had always been looking towards home: looking backwards, looking forwards, looking down, looking up, looking onwards -- all looking towards home.

There's a tension, then, that is at the heart of journeying: the being right there in the moment, and the considering what is to come; the looking along the road, and the looking down it. A tension of pushing out of everything but being right where you are (and being fully, only there), and a moving to where you are yet to be, where you yet long to be. It doesn't mean stopping; it means moving. You have to be moving to be where you are, and stopping is moving in the wrong direction.

Relationships are themselves a form of journeying. Some continue, some end. Some, the healthier ones, change, and all (if residing in that tension of journeying) find the release of just being in the moment, not subject to unchangeable circumstance (of the unchanging other), while yet still looking onwards to what the two as one are being made to become. The path of the relationship, maybe the Path which is the relationship,  the sub-narrative following the meta-narrative, it is the particular manifestation of journeying, the path of Relationship itself. Like with my friend and I, where Missouri was seen differently by both of us, so too the Landscapes of Relationship between two people -- but both look onward to an as yet known fatherland, an as yet known relationship.

It seems that in our closest relationships we have to erect distance-producing boundaries, ironically, in order to draw closer. More ironic still is the fact that the closest we could ideally be would be unboundaried, or rather, without needing boundaries. It is peculiar that desiring closeness, or boundary, or distance all seemingly produce something opposite of what we seemingly want. That maybe is because , when such is happening (as getting different than what we want) we are actually desiring something different. Desiring closeness produces boundaries, while desiring boundaries produces distance, and desiring distance sometime produces closeness. Desiring distance is not desiring separation. Desiring boundaries is not desiring isolation. Desiring closeness is not desiring dependency. Desiring separation, isolation, dependency is not desiring relationship. However, desiring something other than Relationship in a relationship is to desire not more than separation, isolation, codependency. Desiring relationship is desiring identity, or is (in the very least) desiring that which is identity producing.

Back to my reader-friends questions as to why I blog. The most I could answer would be the answer a stranger and first time reader would have of this blog: it is a blog written to strangers, a blog about a man who himself is befriending those strangers to himself, not the least strange of whom are himself (in the day called Today) and his children's future selves.

If I've written you in the writing of me, then you may be the hardest of all for me to love, but I also find I have the greatest compassion for those who find it hard to love themselves, and "doing," or blogging, is the exercise of that compassion. At most I would hope to teach that compassion to my children, knowing I am an eartherly father.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Rabbit Envoying

When we originally got the male and female bunnies -- which have produced now two litters -- I had always envisioned (somewhat cheekily) populating my neighborhood with "wrascily varmints," darting hither and thither through front yard and park field. The reality of such has been staved off by the father bunny (fortunately?) passing quietly into that long goodnight of rabbits from time immemorial. Beyond his eldest bunny son coming of age to copulate with mother and sibling alike and thus producing even more rabbits to get rid of, my daughter is assuredly done with the whole affair or rabbit re-homing and of rabbits in general. The stress of continually caring for them has now far exceeded the cute novelty of rabbit procreation and of tiny little bunny paws wiping tiny little rabbit faces.

Put rather differently, my daughter is rather ready for the rabbit saga to come to a rendered end. Hitherto my desire has always paralleled my daughter's in her capturing and bring the bunnies inside, diapering them for free-ranging within doors, and other such little things. But now that her desires have shifted I have found myself both wanting still to aid her and also applying myself beyond her ability (to her chosen desires to re-home the rabbits). More simply put, I am taking up the project in my greater ability, to greater effect, because she has neither the ability nor opportunity to do so. Because I love her, and want for her, I am working to effect and bring about her desired ends. I do so enthusiastically not just because I love her but because I understand her both to be making a mature decision, and because I know it to be a decision profiting the whole family. Fewer animals means less stress for the household all around.

The simple, real rub is this: I have access to social media like NextDoor and Facebook (and so on) to which my daughter has no access, along with having time and the ability to arrange transport and so on. I am wanting for my daughter's efforts to re-home to be effective, and not limited to her limited abilities to accomplish her desires, and I can go further in my efforts on her behalf. I am happy to do so, and I want her to be able to succeed in her efforts. She can reach out to a few friends at school, I can reach out to 8000+ people in the area.

Undeniably there is in this a picture of the father-heart of God for us all: He wants for us to be as fully effective as He can enable us, and He desires to go before us on our behalf. Just as certainly as I am going before my daughter and making a way (desiring to do so), so too with Him on our behalf, out of His fatherly love. He is quite generously lavishing of affection in this way, and earnestly committed, no doubt.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Last Swim

So, last Saturday was the last Saturday before school started, and one of the last days of the community pool being opened. Kids hadn't been swimming since my injury at the pool, and so going for one last swim was high up on the kids' priority lists. Fortunately I had recovered enough that making it from the car to the poolside was only moderately taxing, and that in itself was a small blessing to me.

The thing about it is this: I wanted my children to be able to have carved out for them not only an experience they wanted, but also (more so) I wanted them sheltered. What in Sam Hill and Tarnation does wanting my children sheltered (whatever that means) have to do with swimming before school starts? Well, let me "spell" your mind for a bit and tell you.

For some time during the past month both my children had been increasingly aware and considering the encroaching school year, and what they mean. My daughter recognizes this is her last year in elementary and that much of "childhood (read "elementary-sized" schooling) will have to end. My son, ever the empathy-filled champion has been concerned over the possible knuckleheads who may populate his class, especially previous classmates.

Amidst all the preparations and forward-looking I wanted to take a moment to just be with my kids, in the way we had been together when we were (more or less) living day-to-day or in-the-moment during the Summer. I wanted more than to merely safeguard that moment of time together, and that fun together, I wanted to safeguard them, to shelter them in that loving time spent together. I want that for them in every moment, intend such in every moment, knowing some moments they experience will not be sweet swimming moments, but moments of troubled, tumultuous rapids in life.
This desire to provide sheltering I very much thing is the father-heart of God for us all in and through every possible moment -- even those when we can not or do not receive the freely, "expectations-free(ly)" offered sheltering. Even in my most anxious of thoughts and moments I see the father-heart of God wanting to provide this sheltering moment, such that the defining narrative of that moment is one of that sheltering and not of the surrounding or impending tumultuousness.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Shoes and Calves

As I have discussed in years past, part of the Right of Passage (into formal schooling) now turned Ritual of Confirming, along with buying school supplies, has been to go Back to School shopping. Unfortunately, a day after writing my last post I tore both my calves going off a diving board -- right before tax-free weekend. Yes, the pain was excruciating, and yes you can yell obscenities in pain beneath the water. Suffice it all to say I can not drive even, as it risks the lives of all in the car, even where I to bite through the pain. So, this year, it fell to Mom to have to take the kids shopping, which, as a night-worker, is kinda like for the rest of us going into crazy crowds at 2:30 a.m..

One thing that had been on my heart for my daughter was her getting new shoes. She is one of those kids that wear her shoes well, to the point of wearing them out quick. And, let's face it, she is ever growing, sprouting into a young woman... with bigger feet. Given that I could not go the best I could do was to want for her, along with her, and then rejoice with her over them. I think had I gone my heart would have been no different than it was in staying: her needs and her wants were my project as if they were my very needs and my very wants.

There is a bit more nuance here. My daughter's style choices were, are fully her own. Her particular expression(s) or creative fashion choices are her own, and, more saliently, are what she herself picked -- she, herself. It would not risk overstating the matter to say that (even beyond her getting clothes she wanted) I wanted for that expression to occur. This is not to say I wanted her identifying through her fashion, but rather, that I wanted a fuller, more dimensional reflection of herself, even reflecting in her clothing (wherein the clothing style choices may only partly accomplish such). I wanted her equipped, blessed, and ever more reflected in fuller and fuller ways.

So, when she came home with the Doc Martin-like Ox Blood colored boot, I think I must have squealed as she must have squealed finding them in the store. It goes without saying this is A picture of the father-heart of God for us all, and He is able: able and active and certain to bring such about.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

That Time of Year Again, or, a glue-stick is a glue-stick

It has been a summer, a summer which didn't begin for me until my father died, and a slow to start as a result, though for my children it had been in full effect since even before the last day of school. Well, here in the household, the children are counting down to the beginning of school, all of us sharing some apprehension (though not the same kind of apprehension) at the dwindling count of days. Pretty typical stuff: kids have enjoyed summer laxity, and worry what the new school year will bring. For my daughter she is concerned with what this year means in terms of the middle school years to follow it; my son merely apprehends having to deal with the same headache of knuckleheads with whom he has had to put up in the preceding years. For neither of them is it a fear of school itself, and for that I am relieved and happy.

My daughter, it seems, has formed a notion of middle school which likely is sourced in both the dramatic and negative narratives of those who have preceded her, and (sourced in) that subtly woven  mythos (throughout American culture) of struggling tween years. Simply put, it seems big and and unknown, and everyone says it's horrible, whatever will she find? Can she hope to find? And so fifth grade year is a totem both of what is ending and what is to come in her mind.

I've done my best to assuage her concerns while also being careful not to dismiss them. It seems such respects her person, and provides a foundation for her building a sense of the value of her own personhood. Somewhat to the ends of assuaging some degree of  her concerns and mooring her sense of self,  and somewhat because I wanted to revel while I still could in the unchanging facets of our relationship, we went, Saturday, to the store to purchase our yearly school supplies.

Rather than pouring salt in a wound or highlighting the scary totem this yearly ritual has always been meant to remind and confirm at least some components of her identity. The first time we bought school supplies it was a right of passage into her life as a student, and each subsequent time it has been a remembrance and a re-upping. It is the message of the repetition, however, upon which turned this experience.

I wanted my daughter grounded, moored in what is, and what is true about her, and what is certain in my love for and my protection over her; in what is true despite the changing circumstance; reminding her even of what it is that the process of becoming (and the rituals which harken to that process) is really about. I wanted this ritual to be ever deeper, ever more confirming, ever more stabilizing, all while ever more vision casting. I wanted my daughter to experience that repetition of blessing and confirming, even more so in her current moments of doubt and concern and uncertainty.

And let's put a point on this one particular experience: I wanted and was thoroughly prepared for her to be equipped really really well. I wanted for her success, and to see she had everything in this moment she needed. There's not a lot of difference between gluesticks, or between composition notebooks, at the end of the day, and if that is all there is needed in order to equip her needs, I wanted it for her no less and just as much as I wanted her having a secure sense of herself. The same holds true in reverse: I want her as secure in her sense of self, and am willing to work to that end, as I do in ensuring she has the school supplies she needs. It is "unique economy" to attain to both ends in the same yearly shopping ritual.

I can say, without hesitancy, this is very much a picture of the father-heart of God for us all. God is a good father, who wants us secured in our sense of self and our sense of the immutable truths of His heart for us and the secure nature of His relationship to us.