Thursday, December 22, 2016

Gingerbread Men




Monday my daughter asked if she could bake gingerbread men. You'll see one in the picture above, on the left. (On the right is a lemon icebox cookie, the dough for which was made on a previous day and stored in the freezer until such a time as we wanted to make cookies.)

Before even the sound of the words had died upon my ear the project became one for which I was entirely committed. It was my project, at merely even her request for permission to do so. We had most of the ingredients on hand anyways, but I knew we would need a few things no doubt. I went to the cupboard and the spice rack, digging out ever spice we had for which I suspected the recipe called, even before my daughter brought me the ingredients list. I was almost on my way out the door to the store to get the remaining ingredients as soon as she rambled off the ingredients which we would need.

In my ever increasing desire to provide healthier, near-vegan-like food I made sure the recipe was for something that used almond flour and low glycemic coconut sugar.   My daughter actually wanted and desired to make cookies which would be that healthy, by her own admission when she presented the idea. To aid her desires for something for the family I obviously leapt at the opportunity, and suggested ideas for healthy features which she had not considered, like sugar-free gum drop buttons.

My daughter called the shot on this one, and she led the charge. I followed suit because I loved her, and because it was in my desires to bring health to the family in what we ate. The thing about it is this, however: as much as I have wanted to provide and have provided for her skills in volleyball, so to in her baking have I wanted to provide the resources necessary to make it happen, but her interests in baking were led out in by her. In the past I saw her equipped for the pursuits in which I allowed her, and now in a pursuit of her choosing I see her resourced. So much so is this the case that in my desires to her provided for I made alterations in the stock items on my shopping list. End of the day and most importantly, what she wanted to do, I wanted to be a part of, and to resource it -- perhaps all the more so because it was oriented around consideration for the family, inline with good (i.e. health) desires.

Undeniably this is a picture to me of the father-heart of God for all of us.




Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Rogue One Family Date

Last Saturday evening we went on a family date night to go see Star Wars Rogue One. Quite Simply put, it was the best Star Wars movie of all time -- and I think one of the top 5 most important films in all my lifetime. That's all really neither here nor there. What was important is that we went to see it as a family, and that we all wanted to see it. For my children it was an absolute surprise, a treat to get to see and to see it within an eatery movie house.


Before I get into that I want to build the day just a little. Earlier we had done the Blue Santa initiative, which delivers toys to needy children. When we arrived to pick up our first (and what turned out to be our only) delivery, there were already 150 cars in line waiting to pick up deliveries. Some 50+ more cars showed up at least by the time we finally got to the front of the line. It was my wife's initiative, and my driving of the commitment afterwards which got us to the police substation that day. We delivered to a precious family who spoke no English, or where English was a second language for the children. There was no intended lesson for our children. It was something we wanted to do, and were happy that they were allowed to be a part of it, but it was something we the parents did. Personally I have seen the heart I wanted to be acting in exhibited countless times by my children, and would deign to even think I was teaching them any lesson at all, but hopefully keeping pace with them.




My children play the X-Box video game "Star Wars Battlefront," and a year ago we went with our adoptive family (the family who adopted the kids as there surrogate grandkids, and surrogate nieces and nephews and cousins) to go see "Star Wars The Force Awakens." Just as with Disney's "Finding Dory"  it was something I wanted all of us to be able to do, all of us to et to experience together. It was something for which I wanted us together, bottom line.

It was something I knew the children were excited to see, and wanted. It was also something that was an extravagant blessing they had not anticipated, especially getting see it in their beloved eatery movie house (Flix Brewhouse). My son wanted popcorn and a soda, my daughter a soda, and yet when there I wanted nothing more than for them to have what they wanted and for us to even share a meal together (beyond just the soda and popcorn, and albeit 4 separate dishes). It was all above and beyond every hope and desire, and I wanted it all for them, and wanted it should be an above and beyond type of blessing we all shared in together.

The emphasis which I can not stress enough is that I wanted this ampleness for the whole family to experience, not just as a matter of blessing my individual children I loved. I wanted such a blessing to be had by them as part of something more.

It should readily go without saying that this is clearly the father heart of God for us all, wanting an extravagant blessing we each receive (beyond our personal desires) as part of a greater body itself being extravagantly blessed. "


who doesn't love a forced-upon-first-waking grumpy kid picture?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Asking

It is a hard day on which to blog, subject matter-wise. It has been a surprisingly short week, with today being the last day of school for the Fall Semester at the kids' school. It seems this week has been one of "daily grind" and lots of preparatory sort of activity. In it all the daily rhythm of life coheres, amidst which there have been various and several small moments of considering my children, my thoughts going before them; my thoughts being for them.

Last Sunday after church a friend of mine offered to the children to watch them overnight, playing ping pong and dipping candles. The context of that is that this friend, who owns something like a retreat center geared towards the ministry of reconciliation among the varying streams of Christendom (Messianic, Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant (High and Low)), has hosted a yearly Christmas tradition which involves candle-making and a visit from the "real Saint Nicholas". In years passed I have played the Saint Nicholas part, blessing the children with bags of chocolate gold coins and a spoken blessing / sign of the cross over them. This year we missed the day of the tradition.

Monday evening, after getting mom off to work, we ran an errand over to a friends house to drop off a gift of some of mom's art, and then came home to have dinner around a beloved television show.

Tuesday I followed up the invitation email our friend had sent us later that Sunday afternoon, following up with my own email response and scheduling as best I could my side of things. It is something I know my daughter would enjoy, and my son would flip for. Responding to the email was, however, more a matter of doing something for my kids which I know they would like.

Likewise, later that Tuesday, I went shopping at the local market, again with my children's interest and desires in mind, but with my "deeper" desires for their health determining my selections. When they got home from school I set them to their chores but when asked afterwards if we could watch a particularly beloved show together I agreed easily. I made a dinner I knew they would enjoy.

Again, when my daughter frivolously asked if we could have breakfast for dinner last night I agreed, delighting my daughter.

And since today is the class party, and the children are allowed to wear pajamas to school, I hatched the plan that my daughter could wear her Chewbacca halloween costume as her pajamas -- technically the costume somewhat is double-billed as pajamas anyways, and it was all "kosher". When I informed her this morning of the option she giggled in delight, and enthusiastically put it on. A little context, the costume is hot and it is just now getting cold enough to wear comfortably anyways.

Meanwhile, at the same time, in various little conversations here and there I have helped my daughter to more rationally consider her desires (to go immediately to buy a Christmas treat for the dog rather than to wait for the day when Christmas shopping together was planned), answered various "why" questions (with an intentionality exceeding that of the question itself), as well as took time to explain things which opened me up as a person up a bit more to her.

Honestly, there is a heart here for my children, and I feel it is very much reflective of the father-heart of God for us all. I think maybe it is most trenchantly seen in me going before my children and emailing my friend to schedule the promised visit. It is a desire to serve, to go before, and especially to ensure something for my daughter. Very, very clearly we see this desire and work in going before to ensure something for beloved children as reflective of the father-heart of God for us all. And while the example here is small, the incarnational effort made in the coming of Christ in the form of a babe into the world is very much the exact picture indeed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Tree, O' Christmas Tree



As promised to my children (and explained in an earlier post), Saturday morning (and most of the afternoon) were spent making cookies and playing with some friends -- a couple with daughters slightly younger than Caleb, and just watchable age for my daughter. As it turns out the making of cookies is something which marks the season for our mom-friend, who is also someone my daughter connects with well and with whom has a great relationship. The mom and Kiaya both enjoy baking and so this was a nice treat. And while this all has several layers of goodness to it, what I wanted for our Saturday was to come afterwards, when I took the kids, together with mom, to get the family Christmas tree.

In years past we have made do with a synthetic tree, but this year we decided to get a real tree. Much as with school shopping marks a certain time of year for us, so decorating the tree also marks another time of year. Unlike with school shopping, which is itself a rite of passage as well as tradition, getting and decorating a tree has as its emphasis tradition. Tradition and ritual; an ownership through the incorporation and folding into the tradition. Christmas is not just "for the kids," but "with" them.

The tree itself is decorated according to our individual manner(s), and adorned with ornaments all of which have story to them, intimating at both the narrative-thread of their own significance and (intimating at) the grander meta-narrative of the family. As a result the tree, itself a Christian symbol in our household --a symbol appropriated back from our culture, and a long tradition that began with appropriating the pagan symbol in worship with a tree -- stands as an artwork suggestive of (and a symbol suggestive of) the narratives of our lives as part of a grander meta-narrative of the Kingdom of Heaven.

This is a tradition I want for my family, a tradition of narrative remembrance and reflection, of coming together equally a part of the tradition.

And this may just be me but I can not (could not) get away from the thoughts of my daughter one day performing this ritual all on her own with her family, and thusly doing this had an overtone (or undertone) to it of both a modeling for her and a looking forward. 

Now, personally speaking, I could go without a tree per se, replacing it with a similar ritual or tradition, and be just fine because I care less for the form as much as for the heart within keeping the tradition. Having said that I enjoy the way a christmas tree "roots" us into a longer, grander cultural tradition within Christendom. I especially like that aspect.

At any rate it was important for me to take the kids with me to get the tree -- which I could easily (and maybe more conveniently) have gotten on my own, especially since my wife had less desire to go than to decorate. It was important if for no better reason than getting it together is the opening part of that ritual and tradition, as well as important for how it gives them "buy in".

There is a focus that they are a part of the affair just as much as I am (and mom is); just as equally a part of this tradition and ritual, and that it is theirs and ours. For my daughter especially, whose love-languages (the unique manner(s) in which she gives and receives love) are quality time and acts of service, she felt served and that time was spent in a manner she desired. For my son, whose love language is gift-giving, he likewise felt blessed.

I feel this heart for wanting to have tradition that is theirs, a tradition in which they participate in as their own -- and all that comes from that, especially the identity and identifying -- is very much at the heart of the father-heart of God. I feel the father-heart desires it's children to feel ownership in (and equality as a part of) the tradition. 









The artist in me wants to say, as an aside, something, but if you have patiently read this far you should be allowed to stop. I am good with that. You may stop reading now, the rest I say just to say, and not as part of anything else. For the reader wanting more mental rumination cud, however, and chooses to read on, here you go:

The family christmas tree is a worshipful remembrance. Arguably (easily enough for myself) the family christmas tree, which goes from a "bare" tree and is "birthed into a decorated tree, undergoing the process of transformation, is itself reflective of the incarnational process of Christ, who underwent leaving the Kingdom of Heaven to birthed first into a man, and then into a savior. Hung upon this tree are moments and narratives (all in the form of ornaments) of those good things for which we celebrate, and by which we know ourselves, thus, unspokenly, the tree subtly reminds us of the rejoicing in the Kingdom of Heaven and is worshipful in that regard as well. A tree upon whose branches hangs narrative crowns and the jewels of remembrance and thanksgiving.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Nutcracker Suite

If you have been following my posts at all recently you know the saga of my daughter going to the Nutcracker Suite ballet, by Tchaikovsky. Well, yesterday was the performance, and she came home ecstatic, already hoping to see more ballets. As she put it, "It was more than great, with all the colors, and motion, and pageantry..."

 When I received the email from the teacher which informed us of the upcoming event and the requests for type of clothing, and thus learned I had been mistaken in thinking we had missed the event, I was ecstatic and anticipatory. Immediately I set about laundering an outfit for her, making sure it was ready by the time she was to get dressed. I wanted the preparations to be in place, ensuring (just as I had done with last week's doctor visit) that nothing would come in the way of her opportunity. I did so this time not with concern for the potentially missed opportunity but with excitement and joy in the certainty of it.

Such excitement and joy (and peace and trust ) in the certainty of something unseen but promised is the very notion of Hope itself, as conveyed in the Christian scriptures. I was not drumming up the wishful and rightly positive attitude (as hope is so often considered to be), I was joyously expectant right along with my daughter, and joyous for my daughter and her opportunity. I fantasized about what this would mean, in terms of her being artistically/creatively inspired and wanting to go together throughout the years to more ballets, and how much richness would be had from enjoying ballet and other "high art" together.

I think this is the very picture of the father-heart of God for us all, and is the picture communicated in the words and life of Jesus Christ (as set forth in the Christian canonical texts), of whom it is said (he) IS "the very representation of God," and who did, "for the JOY set before him endured the agony of the cross so that none should perish but that all may come to ever lasting life."


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Nutcracker Update

Well, just as I finished writing the last post, which was one of two or three in which I was under the wrong impression of the date of the class trip to see the Nutcracker, I received an email about what the children should wear tomorrow to the event.

I am literally vibrating with excitement that I was incorrect, and that my daughter will get to go with her class. I still plan to make it a family affair as well and go as a family some other time.

What I want to add in this, however, is that while I was incorrect in my understanding of the date, the fatherly heart I had for my daughter is not in question (even though my understanding of information is), and thus the understandings / pictures of the fatherly-heart of God in each of those posts are not in question either. I was not giving a prophetic utterance / voice that this was God's heart in this specific situation at this specific time. I was saying I could see the fatherly-heart of God mirrored in my own -- despite it's mistaken understanding.

To me this is important, not in defense of what I have written, but because it shows something else about God: He so desires to be known and to know us that He doesn't make the mirroring of His heart for us dependent upon ourselves and our being perfect, or our being perfectly accurate. It is simpler, but more far reaching. The parables of Jesus Christ, as with the parable of the Prodigal Son, do not require the parable to match a specific situation in reality, but to accurately match reality itself. There are fathers who yearn to see the return of their sons beyond a focus on their sons' sins; there are jealous brothers and beguiling basis for returns; misunderstanding all around.

Baking Cookies

Every year the church I attend has a tradition: it is a night of Carols and Lessons (based on the King's College format), including children's performances and a cookie buffet afterwards. Before the cookies, but after the performances we are lead in a raucously fun rendition of the "12 Days of Christmas," wherein at each month those in the congregation with a birthday in that month stand up and sing. My sense of the Christmas holidays do not begin until this event. Normally, everyone brings hand-baked cookies and we retire to cookie-feasting and warm communing. It is a moment where all stress and thought of any other day is released, for me at least and seemingly for all, and we just enjoy one another, and enjoy goodness with no defenses up.

As per this tradition we would normally spend the Saturday before the event attending the rehearsal and then baking cookies from scratch. This Saturday, which would have been the day after my daughter's first experience of the Nutcracker had she not been home sick, would also have been the Saturday before the Lessons and Carols event. So, it was forgone that we would not be attending the event, nor baking cookies.

What I did end up doing was running to the grocery store several times throughout the day, for various little things requested by my hacking, coughing daughter. Sadly a dear friend called and invited us over to bake cookies even, and we had to decline, even as I was buying store-bought cookies for Mom who would be attending the event without any of the rest of us -- she was on her way to work that evening, and so, it made sense she would go, and go alone.

Meanwhile, like I said, I was actively trying to care-take my daughter in any and all those little things, being present in a moment when really it was all just riding out the situation. It was being sensitive to the momentary needs and situation in which she found herself healing. Being present; being there, just as she was removed from what everyone else was getting to enjoy.

I think this is undeniably a picture of the father-heart of God for us all, and for each of us in those moments when we feel "outside" of everyone else as we suffer, or as we wait upon the Lord.

Having said all this, I have to add: nor was I going to allow a momentary disruption like this sickness to get in the way of the interaction I knew would bless my daughter. There is another opportunity for her to visit with this friend and to bake cookies next weekend, and I have committed in my mind to ensuring that opportunity. And just as my daughter was excited and anxious to return to the schooling she enjoyed, so I longed along with her for that return.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Seeing the Doctor

Starting around Thanksgiving my daughter came down with a cough, a cough which by the recommencement of school had turned into a little viral head cold, complete with intermittent fever. As a nervous first time parent we used to take our newborn daughter in to see the doctor at every sniffle. As "old hat" parents of two elementary age children we have come to have a better gage of those moments when a trip to the doctor is called for, and when it is not. Head colds, small viral infections, are simply not those things (in our household) necessitating as frantic trip in to the doctor as they once had been.

The problem with this cold however was that the mild fever was keeping her out of school, where school has a rule that she had to be fever free for a full 24 hours before returning, and this week happened to be the week wherein her class was going to the college's performance center to see the ballet company's annual "Nutcracker" performance -- the famous Tchaikovsky piece. Along with it being a field trip, which is just plain fun, and this performance being something I have gone to see at least four times in my own life, it was opportunity for my daughter to get exposure to what is very well considered high art -- something very highly regarded among all in my household.

With the mild and intermittent fever not breaking in a timely enough manner (i.e. with the fever returning within a 24 hour period) for her return to school and ensure her making the performance I decided to take her to the doctor. My mind was set on ensuring that, if there were some treatment she needed, antibiotics or otherwise, which would arrest the recurrences of fever, all for the sake of the enrichment and blessing I intended, that she would get that treatment. Schools are not like they were in my day, and field trips like this are rarer, and thus the shared experiences of my youth are rarer today.

We went to the doctor, and surely enough, being a mild head cold with no other symptoms other than a cough and mild, intermittent fever, there was not to do but ride it out, yet the prognosis was a positive one that she would likely return to school in time for the trip. Suffice it all to say, however, the intentional and committed effort to obtain whatever healing was necessary to ensure whatever blessing I had intended is very much the picture of the father-heart of God for us all.

Sadly, in this case, the day my daughter returned to school was the day before the field trip to the ballet, and midway through the school day the fever resurged with a vehemence, and thus she was forced to stay home the day of the ballet. No sooner had I received the call from the school nurse that she was feverish had I resolved that, somehow, we would as a family go to the ballet. There is a picture in that as well of the father-heart of God, but such is a different story, perhaps for another time.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Baking

My daughter, very much like me and like my own father, loves to cook. Recently, a bit unlike me, she has gotten into baking. Since last week was the week off from school for the Thanksgiving Holiday it naturally meant I had to be going to several markets for different items. My wife wanted her "traditional" Tofurkey turkey, along with a great many other items and that required me going to a market I don't normally frequent. My daughter had been wanting to bake some cookies, and so when I announced I would be going to this particular market I asked if she wanted to come along, knowing she did. She had already made a list of needed ingredients she had taken down from a cookbook given to her be one of my wife's co-workers.

This market I went to is one of those health food markets, that carries a good deal of "healthy alternatives," sometimes even at better prices. As it is an ever evolving but ever growing desire of mine for my entire family to eat healthier I was excited about the possibility of finding cookie making materials of a healthier variety at this store.

Well, sure enough, along the baking aisle we found a plethora of flours and alternative flours (like almond flour and coconut flour), along with alternative sugars (like coconut sugar and organic dark brown sugar). But this was her project, and her desire, and mine was only to not "put my flavor into her Kool Aid" as it were. I was wanting almond flour and coconut flour, coconut sugar, and so on, but this was not the recipe nor part of her list, nor even part of my desires for her.

I so wanted my daughter to have the freedom and the equipping and the resources to explore her interest that, aside from reading the list to see what we already had on hand at home, I got out of the way and let her follow her list and find / decide what was needed. Along the way I pointed out things about reading sales tags, and where she had acquiesced to my desires in getting almond flour I made sure she got the regular (albeit organic) white flour the recipe called for. It was important that she have the sense of freedom in doing as she desired, and the sense of driving it all, doing it herself, it coming about through her effort and work along each stage.

Those things I feel build her up, the free doing and manifesting of desire / intent build up even her sense of self. That was / is my project always. and important enough to me to step back from intervening in her plans and efforts.

Need I say this, but, in that heart I clearly see a model of the father-heart of God for us all.

Cookies came out great, by the way, and I ate most of them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Baseball

My daughter, rather oddly and randomly enough of late, has been asking me to play catch with her.

I am not sure if it started with the cartoonish baseball video game we downloaded for free, or the subtle way in which excessive media reporting (such as that about the Cub's historic win) can creep  into the awareness of even children otherwise uninvolved with news media sites -- creeping in maybe through conversations with other children parroting parents who themselves blare news media all the time. I do know all of her beloved male cousins on both sides of the family play baseball, but she only has had interaction of late with my sister's son, and he currently competes only in archery, no longer in baseball.

At any rate, every day after school and after homework is finished we take the gloves and go throw the ball in the cul-de-sac. I did that with my stepbrother for hours at a time when we were growing up, and longed for the day when my children would be old enough to do so with me. So, when this weekend came looming on the horizon my thoughts were looking towards the time.

My wife had wanted to attend a retreat which occurs monthly, and to which I have gone frequently over the years. It is led by some very dear friends of ours, and is a retreat gathering Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and even Messianic Jew together to seek and pray for reconciliation among the streams of Christianity. Because I have gone frequently with my children when my wife had to work the night of or the night before (and thus was home sleeping), it was something of a treat for my children to go.

Knowing that going would interrupt the plans for playing baseball, and because I had to make a quick errand to the store prior to leaving, I leapt at the opportunity and consented when she asked and took my daughter along with me on the errand.

I normally prefer to shop alone, especially if just making a quick errand, but in that moment I saw how this would be a redemption of the time to be lost to us. I wanted for the same quality time and interaction with my daughter as much as the moment would allow, and sought to make it so. It became a moment of "coming along side of," where we were interactive and fun-seeking, no expectation or agenda, just having time together.

In this simply desire and quickness to take time to be together and to just delight in the presence and interaction of a beloved child, to redeem or make up for lost opportunity in any and every other moment I easily see the father-heart of God for us all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Veterans, Guns & Cheesecake



There is a bit to catch up on, just in terms of the family narrative. Last Thursday the kids' elementary school had its annual 4th Grade "Veteran's Day" recital. My daughter's grade the week prior was encouraged to write poems for veterans and to invite family members who had served or were active service members. At the recital itself they sang several songs they had been rehearsing, as well as reading poems selected from across the various classes. Then, before the last song of the evening, veterans were encouraged to stand up and speak to their branch of service, their relation to the student, and even the theater they may have served in.

My daughter's poem, which had received accolades from her teacher, and which both my wife and I loved, was not read at the recital. Like a proud father I thought it should have been. Like an honest and loving father I can say I was pleased to see the growth of my child in her gifts, or which writing is a notable one.
While I wanted for her to be showcased for herself, and more so because I found her poem honoring of the veterans, I didn't need her to be showcased to have felt that pride in her. More importantly I was pleased to have her serious enthusiasm in the recital be on display, counting the personal reading of the poem at home a special privilege made all the more so by it not being shared.

 
video


This weekend the church I attend, along with several other denominational and non-denominational churches hosted a conference. Suffice it to say I was busy Friday night and Saturday morning.

As a result of the three days (starting with the recital, then two days of seminar) I was pretty much exhausted on Saturday afternoon, and not really up for doing much.The unspoken sub-textualization here is that life had sort of pre-empted our normal, focused quality time, and it was my desire to see them, and to see them knowing they were loved was not withstanding.

I decided it was time to cease putting off the needed chore of going to the grocery store, but the driving impetus was not the need so much as the fact that going was an excuse for me surprise them with treats of their choosing from the store. Knowing both my children as closely as I do, I know my daughter is more inclined to receiving / giving love through quality time spent together, and my son is inclined to the same through gifts. So, while they both were allowed to be treated with their choice (for my daughter it was a slice of specialty cheesecake, and for my son it was a new toy gun with all the bells and whistles), I knew my son would get more out of the that experience.

By the time we got home from that rat-race and the subsequent putting away of the food stuffs, I was really only up for watching a movie with the kids. Fortunately my daughter found that quite acceptable, as I think she too was worn out. I took a chance on a Disney movie from the 90's, starring Robin Williams. The kids and I actually enjoyed ourselves very much as we partook our new foodstuffs, making quite the moment of it all.

Even in the midst of the "work" of the preceding few days I was still wanting and desiring to heap blessing on my children and to honor them. I wanted to do so just then, and more pointedly (and this is nuanced) I wanted them loved. Not merely knowing they are loved, not merely blessed, but (wanted for them) a "being loved". I wanted them "rooted and established in love," as the New Testament scriptures speak of it. In a way it sort of is like wanting my daughter's poem to have been heard by all, but so much more, and for both. And I was intentional in doing it in the unique ways in which both my children best received. And each received in the presence of the other, and each enjoyed along side the other, and all of us delighted in the "being loved" together as a family.

In that very dynamic picture I clearly see the father-heart of God for us all.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Dinner


Monday night I asked my daughter to go ahead and make dinner for her and her brother. I had intentionally bought some boxed rice dinners which were easy to make the last time i was shopping for that very purpose. Normally I try to prepare the meals myself, avoiding packaged meals as much as possible. My daughter has been folded into the meal time prep of late, and the reasoning for this can be found in previous posts. Suffice it to say my aim has been to give her a sense of role / relevance / importance to the family unit, thus amplifying her sense of self and identity.

On this Monday night however, having already prepared in advance for this, I set my daughter to the relatively easy task of preparing a boxed dinner according to it's directions, and subsequently preparing the canned side dishes. I gave her her choice of which to prepare, and merely allowed her to run with the project on her own, which she was enthusiastic about doing.

I know from foul-tasting experience just how easy it is to burn rice dinners, especially one so small, so I made sure to insist frequently on her stirring the meal. Aside from that I left her entirely to the task. Ultimately what I wanted for her was the experience of having made the meal on her own, completing the meal herself, of "flying solo" as the expression goes. I wanted the experience of having taken on a task (preparing and executing dinner) which seemed untried and beyond her, and in which others were dependent upon its being done. I wanted for her that sense of accomplishment, of task-ownership, while simultaneously looking forward to the time when I could allow her the role itself. Maybe simplest of all I wanted for her to have experience.

In this desire for us to have a senses of experience-gaining, of accomplishment, and of (a sense of) space in role-performance is seen clearly the father-heart of God for us all.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

a Mighty Fine Burger

The neighborhood school my children attend awards praiseworthy performance and behavior of students with certificates and coupons to local eateries. As a matter of fact my children each have come  home with so many coupons and certificates, I have had a hard time keeping up with getting to them before they expire. It is really not that I daddle, but that my children really are that beloved and perform that well.

So, when in the same week both come home with awards of the same nature and coupons to the same beloved eatery. it was sort of a given this one was important. For my son it was a matter of ensuring that that for which he was recognized was continued on, not allowed to be overlooked or diminished. He deserved the recognition and it's promise, and deserved those things cohering into the future. For my daughter, on the other hand, even though it was her fourth year of receiving these I did not want to let even one opportunity slip by -- my heart that desiring for her and for seeing her wants afforded her. It is a treat for her to go to this eatery.

For my son going to this eatery was getting to see that I would honor that for which it was right that he was honored; it was getting to see, on some deep level, that he was good enough to be honored. Most importantly, however, he was to know that I was going to be the person he needed me to be, and it certainly was my heart in that moment to ensure that he knew I found him more important than myself.

For my daughter going to this eatery was reaffirming yet again I wanted her to have what she wanted -- and that was certainly my heart towards her in that moment. I wanted her to know I wanted to give to her, and that is why I even pushed the matter of going before they had even asked.

In all of this is clearly seen the father-heart of God for us all.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Discipline

This past Saturday found my son being disciplined, his infraction severe enough that both his mother and I (separately) expressed our disapproval with his actions, and (jointly) agreed on some form of instructive discipline. The situation was unimportant, and truth be told, his poor choices really were less about some moral failings than they were about poor decisions made out of character for him. They were selfish decisions, however, the consequences of which others had to endure. Thus the discipline was was aimed at restoring the loss / harm to the relationships with those involved. Said differently, the discipline was instructive, not punitive, allowing him an opportunity to act with the character he had failed to demonstrate.

So, what would have been our quality time on Saturday he was spending performing the agreed upon action(s). Now, in a befitting transparency I have to say that these days I am seeing where I want to be so much better for my son, seeing where he really needs me to believe in him and in his person, his character. So, attendant of this desire to be better is also an effort to not be bad, or to be more patient and more gentle. Taken to an extreme -- and unhealthy / enabling extreme at that -- I conceivably could simply elect to do nothing, thereby not risking being harsh or impatient or risking failure.

I wanted for my son to not be burdened or hindered in the future by similar poor choices and actions taken out of character, yes, but more so, I wanted for the fullest expression of his character to be possible. That means strengthening that character through making good choices in hard situations -- especially if that means having to make those choices "coming back" from poor ones. Thus enforcing the discipline was more important, actually warranted my enforcement of the actions aimed at character and relationship repair. Simply put, enforcing the discipline was more selfless than acting in an extreme and enabling manner, willingly risking the potential of his displeasure or selfishly assumed hurt. I would rather see him acting with strengthened character than I would have his friendship at the expense of his growth.

Well, this left my daughter a bit out of the loop, so to speak. So, because of an earlier shopping trip, I had on hand some pumpkin cheesecake mix and set her to task making it while my son did what he needed to do. She was of course thrilled by the cheesecake, thrilled by the sense of place being aloud to do kitchen work, thrilled to be able to bake (a beloved activity for her). Afterwards I played an unyielding game of chess with her, where I didn't afford her any quarter. Like with her brother, but this in a more light-hearted situation, I sought her development as a thinker through rigorous and challenging play. I even allowed her to make a game-turning mistake.

I think the decision with my son to esteem his character as more valuable than the loss of his pleasure is very much consistent with the father-heart of God for us, especially so because of the deep love and triumphal hopefulness and belief in us such esteeming suggests.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Costumes

The kids several times a day count down the number of days to Halloween. Before even they started doing that I overheard them asking each other what they wanted to be for Halloween.  I had even suggested at one much earlier point that if we were to get costumes this year it may be whatever they liked from whatever was available at the local market. In that conversation they even assented to the course of action. But still they talked. So, when I heard my son respond to the most recent iteration of the question, and by virtue of the assuredness in his response, I took note. I know my kids, and I know it is fun to fantasize about the event and what one may wear.

Even before my children made real petition of me, even before they began to stress about not having a costume on hand, and utterly without their knowledge I was doing so I began to search high and low online for what I had overheard them saying they wanted to be. I was attuned to their desires and interests without them having to express them, because I desire for them.

My son's costume was easy enough to find, though a bit more expensive relatively than others of previous years. I suspected it would difficult, and when I eventually did find it, suspected it's popularity would deplete the stores. I immediately ordered it.

 My daughter had not actually been as firm in her ideas as my son, so, even the day of the Spook Fest --  I had placed the order for my son's costume without either of my children's knowledge. Yet, while at the festival (which encouraged folks to wear their costumes) we saw a particular costume which not only complimented what would be my son's, but which gave me a vision for my daughter's, as well as exciting her. So, I broached the question hypothetically of her being that particular character, and she vigorously assented. And that was that, as far as the children understood of things - no agreements made, no plans set.

 My wife later made mention of a comment the children had much earlier made to her about her inclusion in the dressing up theme, and whom she should go as. With that information, and as soon as we had returned from the Spook Fest, I took to finding the costumes for daughter, and my wife -- going so far as to get one for myself as well (consistent of course with the theme).

Knowing my children look forward to receiving packages in the mail for any reason I elected to tell them the day before the scheduled staggering of packages were to begin arriving. Even by this point they had made no overt request, nor had I informed them of my intent to provide them with any costume. As far as they were concerned the matter of my interest in providing costumes for them this Halloween had not been engaged in, so hearing that their costumes were coming in a day or two was cause for great delight.

Part of me wanted them to have what they wanted, and part of me wanted to provide it for them even without them having to ask. More saliently, however, was the fact that my heart towards them was actively engaged in being attuned to their desires -- I wanted and sought for them to have what they wanted long before they even sought it of me. I find this to be very much how God operates with us, what His father-heart is towards us.

So, who will we be, by the way? My son will be Yoda, my daughter Chewbacca, my wife Princess Leigh, and myself Darth Vadar.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Spook Fest




The little community in which I live is such that it could be considered its own little town, and did actually have a chance at one point to incorporate, but chose not to. Its utility district is so very community oriented that it puts on various carnivals and festivals on the major holidays (or close to those holidays), effectively generating more community than is found in many small towns today. Having been in the house since 2011 we have had the opportunity to attend almost all of these events. Thus, these events have come to "mile-marker" the seasons of our year almost. 
The kids are both incredibly stoked about the upcoming Halloween evening, talking incessantly about it and counting down the days -- as if I did not know myself just how far away it was. It was not even a question of if we would attend the Fall Spook Fest being put on by the little community in which we live.

I very much wanted the day to be as entirely theirs as it could be. After purchasing and dividing up the tickets equally amongst the two children, I handed over the reins (so to speak) and had my children lead the way. Rather than try to suggest the things I thought my children may like, or even steer them in any direction, I simply followed their direction and lead.

My daughter wanted to walk around and see what there was before we spent any tickets, and my son was emphatically certain on doing the bouncy slide. And thus off we wandered, seeing what was around as we circuitously made our way to the bouncy slide. I stopped to point out the middle school band's performance of my daughter's current favorite song, and we dallied there to hear the next song (a rendition of a beloved television show's theme song). My purpose in pointing out the music was somewhat multi-faceted: I not only wanted to point out what I knew she would enjoy but might not catch (as the focused child she was), but to expose her to the possibility of doing extracurricular music in just two years.

We made our way to the bouncy slide and my son, with almost profligate spending, used his tickets to go through the entire collection of bouncy slides, bouncy obstacle courses, and was set to spend more. Wanting for both of them to have the day they wanted I continued to be hands-off, letting them make the decisions they wanted to make, spending their tickets as they chose. I wanted them to have what they most wanted.

As I saw my son's ticket reserve's dwindling, I actively pointed out the price of each attraction, and reminded him of the other things he may want a little later on, all the while taking pains not to steer or influence his decisions in any direction, making sure the decisions were his. There is a nuance here: I would point out, "this costs <"x"> amount of tickets, and you have <"y"> amount left, and you said you wanted cotton candy, this attraction may cost you more than what you would have left over for cotton candy -- do you want it more than cotton candy?"

My heart here in this nuance was not only to insure he merely was not influenced / led in a decision, but that he would be free from the burden decision making beyond his cognitive level or degree of prescience. I know my son well, and know those things he truly values, and which mean the most to him. I was not going to abandon him to blind choice despite given him totally free choice. My heart was for him to have, for him to delight, but also protective of his delight and of him -- protective even and in light of  the limitations of his youth.
The same was true of my heart for my daughter, though with her this heart of mine had nuance as well. I wanted her "drawn upwards", and drawn into "leading out", so to speak. I wanted merely to be the equipper of her vision for what she wanted of the day, and settled "back" into the background of the driving of our route through the festival -- that is, except where I insured a certain equality of pursuing desires for them both. I wanted especially for her to have this experience, and to know she had it, and to know it was hers to do with as she wanted (to garner all from it she wanted).

So, when she wanted to go to the haunted house -- which offered both a kid friendly version and an adult friendly version (read: mild and scary versions) -- I emphasized the wisdom of trying the less scary version her first time out. I know the level of her sensitivity to things, how easily frightened and unsettled by fright that she is. I also know both the dangers off an addiction to fear-inducing experience (a notion not commonly discussed, I suspect, aside from adrenaline addiction), and the fact that she is still too still young (and developing cognitively still) to be able to know on her own for herself if she really wants to risk that slippery slope. It's very much why my wife and I limit exposure to violence in movies and television. Not to mention, her younger brother was something of a wild card element, being of course younger.

In this my heart was to protect her from that which she could not know -- which amounted to an unnecessary frightening (first) experience. Again, the choice was hers, and my counsel was phrased just so to her.

In this desire to allow one the experience they desire, assuming a background role of equipper-counselor which actively participates "hands-on" mindful of the good so desired, I clearly and evidently see the father-heart of God for us all.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Pawn Becomes Queen

My daughter asked on Saturday, somewhat spontaneously, if we could play a game of some kind. I was quick to assent, and elected the game Chess, over a game I find more easily entertaining. I knew my daughter enjoyed Chess more than the other game, and that Chess would hold her interest more trenchantly.

The first game came to a quick resolution, somewhat because she insisted I take "White," and then subsequently ignored my admonitions to just follow the standard British opening which captures the board and then allows her to move out her power pieces. I had tried to protest, explaining the notion of strategic capture and then piece utilization.

In the second game, I could tell, my daughter was more resolute to the challenge, and humbly deferred to my advice, taking "White" and capturing center board. She quickly moved out the longer ranging pieces and set about an opportunistic acquisition of my power pieces, making individual sorties against my king. At several points there seemed to have been certain moves and directions I could have taken the game, all mostly aimed at efficient and decisive victories, but that was not my point in playing with her.

Certainly I learned to play Chess by being repeatedly beaten until I learned what I was doing. After our first game I made a point to explain that fact to her, and pointedly observe that her skill level and mine where not all that different. I was quick, that is to say, to ensure she did not feel discouraged.

As I began to see how she was thinking I also began to see how she could garner some depth to her play. At several of those key junctures (where I could have turned the inertia of the game to my advantage) I chose to make moves which maintained the game (rather than seeking earlier ending), which provided her with opportunities (should she see them) for advancing her advantage(s). I wanted for her every opportunity to see, or to learn to see the opportunities.

I realized that the depth her logic needed was to see her pieces working in conjunction, as a unit, towards an end. It was a growth which I wanted, but because I wanted "for" her herself. I wanted a growth sho she could do and enjoy more, be more equipped, have more sense of her own accomplishment and ability, along with development of skill. For me, I was just fine having fun in her presence, and leapt at it the opportunity of being in her presence with an activity I knew would entice her interests.

In order to teach the depth I needed I allowed the game to go seemingly against me, allowing my pieces to be taken, all the while working to bring her awareness of that strategy (of pieces working together as a team, through positioning) through getting my pieces into just such a position. When finally I had the pieces as I wanted them, and she had been given all the opportunity to see the effect of her strategy, I turned the momentum and boxed her king into flight until finally, checkmate.

Some may want to say God works in this way in our lives, though I tend to think the manner in which God moves and works is as undefinable and as grand as is His full person. That is not to say God is unknowable, but that (in this life) you can not fully know Him.

What I do think is certain to say is that, in my heart for my daughter's presence we see a picture of God's father-heart for us. Not to mention in my desire for my daughter's intellectual / strategic growth we see a picture of God's father-heart for us all. He is more concerned with our having life, and life to the fullest, than with correction of us. Furthermore I think He fully, and gently works to see our development come about, and that even in / through those activities which He knows will engage us and draw us (as He develops us).

Maybe to put a finer point on that particular stick, one might say that God chooses to develop us through those activities with which He engages us, and when He seeks our presence -- activities like quiet times, perhaps. Personally I think the more salient "point" is the picture of His father heart, the desire for us, for our presence, the desire out of concern and love for our blessing in those things used for our growth.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Preparedness

I've missed a few blogging days. We had a funeral to attend last Wednesday, where a close work relation to my wife had to bury his 18 year old son. It was his second son to die in the past 14 years. Any death is tragic, and a wise, artist-woman-once-arts-pastor once told me that death itself is not natural, since it was not part of intended Creation of the Creator, so neither should we expect death to be commonplace. Existentially speaking, a child is expected to bury the parent, not the other way around. For a parent, burying a child is a brutal and bitter draught. No father I know, when faced with the loss of a child (loss in any fashion, even merely relational), wouldn't rather offer their own lives (in some form) in exchange.


Some see this born out in Scripture, where Jesus likens the Kingdom to that of the father in the prodigal son story -- willing to allow the son the son's autonomy (not crossing boundaries with force or argument) and allowing the son to leave, but anxiously looking for and awaiting the son's return. what should be noted here is that the father waited for the son even when -- as he would tell the older brother later -- the son had so effectively severed all form of relationship it was as though the son were dead.

<< Reading between the lines here I have to think that, just as I know my own children, and trust their persons and character, that while accepting the death of the relationship the father in the parable trusted in the son's deeper desires and the son's sensibility.Thus when the father restores the son upon his return (despite the son even returning under pretense and guilt-driven self-seeking), the father is looking past the son's actions to who the son was to the father, and to who the son was as a member of the family. >>

However, I think a better illustration of a father willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of his son is actually in the story of Abraham being willing to sacrifice Issac, oddly enough. In a macro sense the story of Abraham and Issac is a story of a human heart modeling the willing, sacrificial heart of God for those whom He would adopt as children.

As a father I can say that my children are, or that I see in my children, the very best of me, as that best is seen unmarred by the consequences of my failures so always before my eyes (because, really, they sadly will be, and are even now so sadly marred, by exposure to and influence of those consequences), Likewise, however and in addition, all that I am, and all that I know of myself will carry on  in my children, and were they to die then all that about me would die (in a very real sense) with them.

So when Abraham is willing to sacrifice Issac, believing God would honor His promises (made incarnationally in Issac) and could restore Issac's life, Abraham in a very real sense was sacrificing his own life. It was just not a life to which Abraham was laying claim. Nor was Abraham finding the loss of himself and of his own life a reason to doubt God's promises.

I felt bonded to every man in the church sanctuary that Wednesday morning, bonded as a father -- we each shared, existentially, this sense of the loss of the greater part of ourselves. I suspect that, just as I did, each wanted their children's presence just a little more unguardedly, a little more thankfully, and maybe a little more humbly.

And all that gets me to my own children. The last I blogged I talked about how my daughter and I made my famous potato soup, and how this was a folding of my daughter into the greater activity of the Family. This folding into I wanted for her, and wanted the blessing or increase in her sense of self and identity, and even the increase in her role and dominion and function as a blessing (as as part of the greater blessing which is the Family) which came as a result of that folding-into.

So, after the soup making experience I began to do more of the same, looking for activities which allowed her the same kind partnering with me. In a forward looking frame of reference I began (and actively sought) to begin explaining more and more of the hows and whys I did the things I did, of the way I had ordered the house. Even with my son I tried to share more, though he is honestly less "there" in terms of his developing desires. My thoughts were of my daughter's future role not only in our family but in her future family made from "leaving her mother and father and cleaving to her husband." Thus when a large order of diet materials for my wife and myself came in the mail, and my daughter asked to be allowed to put them away in newly cleared space, I agreed, taking pains to explain why I had cleared space as I had, and what organizational scheme I had in mind -- even why we were dieting.

My heart in the overall moment (of each attempt to fold her into and to teach) was to see my daughter established, to see her well prepared to be established in the future lands of her role in our Family and in her own. I desire her preparation. And I intend that preparation to be as thorough and as exhaustive (though not exhausting) as I can make it. Admittedly, existentially speaking, there is some additional pathos on the heals of last Wednesday, but that lends me only to feel I can not over emphasize my desires for her good.

Clearly, in the desire to see His children prepared do I see the father-heart of God for us.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Potato Soup

My potato soup is famous, at least among the women of my church -- it has been the featured dish at many a yearly women's retreat. I have had venerable, matronly old ladies in the church actually birddog me and corner me, point blank asking (but really telling) me to make the soup. Well, that's the narrative I give about the soup, anyways, and it is one of those narratives which, due to sits frequent re-telling and loose truth, has become a "thing" in our family -- one of those story-thing-production-treat-family tradition "thing" around which all the family shares, laughs, jokes, re-tells, and (most importantly) be a part of. And, my daughter loves the heck out of the soup.

So, when I was asked by wife to make a pot of the soup for a co-worker's family the "thing" began again, with us talking about the soup and making the soup and so on and so on. My wife has plans to deliver the soup tonight, actually, on her way in to work, but I get ahead of myself. I knew going to the store for the weekly larder restocking that my family would want some soup as well, and thus I doubled the normal recipe.

Making the soup is somewhat labor intensive, simply because it is dealing with potatoes which must be individually cleaned, peeled, cut, then boiled to the right consistency, and that's just getting ready to start making the soup. So, my plan had been to make the soup while the children were at school, forgoing the activity of going to the gym and other things (so that my wife's evening plans would not be disrupted either). My daughter, the night before I had planned to make the soup, pleaded for me to wait and let her help.

See, my daughter had helped in the past to make the soup, and cooking is the sort of thing she likes to be a part of, going so far as to frequently ask to be allowed to be a part of the evening meal prep. Earlier this week, before she knew about the soup plans, she had asked to help with the evening meal. It was growing very apparent that she was wanting to be folded into the process, to be taking more of an active role. My wife believed also that my daughter was wanting that quality time spent with me, and of which (in terms of quantity) the weekly school routine often deprives us.

It is not even a question for me (now or then) as to whether I was going to try to meet that need for time together with my daughter. She wanted and needed that quality time, and thus everything changed. Just like that. Simply for her. And while the needs for being folded in to a more regular role within the family life were certainly at play and being met, and while I desire to bend /apply myself to the effort of ameliorating what is now for/towards her inclusion (to engage her in this respect), I was really and simply prompted to action by her heart and desire and need for time together.

So, we cleaned, peeled and cut the potatoes together, and then, when it was time (and with my supervision), she added the constituent parts. And she was even given to telling me when the soup was just perfectly seasoned. We laughed and worked together, commenting on how good it was to work together. And all around a family "thing". It turned out even that my wife was more inclined to forego her evening plans and be around as well.

This bending of oneself (even to totally changing the course of events/plans) to the heart desires of my daughter for quality time with me (and, secondly, for place and role) I think is very much the very picture of the father-heart of God for us, when we seek Him for Him. No doubt the humility brought to me by my daughter's heart for me is also mirrored in the infinitely humble father-heart of God for us when we desire Him. Not to put too fine a point of this picture, but the proffered and given sacrifice of Himself in His Son Jesus Christ, changing the course of spiritual/eternal history, for the sake of spending time with those wanting Him, well, that should say it alright.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Donations

My daughter is one of these precious hearts that thinks she wants to work with animals in a rescue capacity, maybe marine mammals, maybe horses and/or dogs. She has read stories and watched movies about it, and we have discussed the possibility of a second dog. She asked what kind of dog was good with kids and protective and I said German Shepherds were good dogs from all accounts.
Now, I am going to make a slightly hard left turn here, and then return. A very relationally close reader has mentioned it seems the blog is fairly well centered on my daughter, with little devoted to stories about my son. There are a few reasons for that dynamic. Most of those reasons have some basis in the purposes of this blog: healing the father-wounded. And while this may not be the central reason for writing the blog as I do, I have to say that writing about our relationship is part of that relationship, of my relationship with my daughter. Other things would be more part of my relationship with my son, so writing is less a part of his and my relationship. That's just a writerly thing, and my daughter and I are both writers. Lastly and leastly I have to say that I cut my parenting-teeth on my daughter, and writing about it helps me to at least get a sense of what to do for him as time progresses.
What not writing equally or more about him does not mean is that I love him less. At this point I am reminded of a friend's conversation with me, where in explaining the premise of a current women's spiritual self-help book, suggested that God does not love each of us "equally" -- by which I came to understand that term to mean "samely".   I love my son differently, and my children are different people and need to be loved with different expressions (though with equal amounts of patience and grace). I love my children, each child, equally as much as the other, though I have a different relationship with each -- each one has corners of my heart which, because of their make and design, the other has less need or desire from that corner (despite having equal and same access if they so choose).
I think it goes without saying, I see the father heart of God in such willing and accepting openness to His children, loving them not differently but in different expression. It could be the book my friend mentioned (the author of said book) and I are merely going about two different ways of expressing generally similar concepts, but the philosopher in me is not satisfied with that. Anyways.
Coming back to my daughter and animal rescue. My daughter and I looked online and found a local area German Shepherd rescue, perusing its site. In the past I had discussed how rescue organizations generally work, being non-profits and staffed primarily by volunteers, charging adoption fees to help off-set costs of housing and caring for animals (along with ensuring the seriousness of adopters). My daughter surprised me by expressing she wanted to donate some money if we were not going to adopt just then.
My daughter proceeded to write a precious letter to the adoption place, thanking them for their work for animals and encouraging them that they surely were making a difference in many lives, dogs and humans both. I made sure on Saturday that we would send the letter. As Saturday came, I made a point to pour over the website for the rescue group, and found they had a volunteer, dog-walking opportunity (included in the volunteer duties the options to clean or perform other needed services). I inquired through email the possibilities of discussing with my daughter their efforts and experiences.
I did this because what my daughter wanted was good, and thus I made her good priority my good priority, her good cause my good cause, and went thoroughly exploring through every way in which she could play a part if she wanted, paving the way and clearing the path. I wanted for her to have the opportunity to engage as much as she could in moving forward on her desires. I even worked to win her favor in corresponding with the group about her interests.
Very clearly do I see this to be the father-heart of God for us, especially as we chose those good things consistent with His goodness and will.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Cornbread and Beans

So, Monday I was needing to go to the store to restock the larder. I had planned to sandwich the run inbetwixt lunch and the time needed to collect the kids from school in the afternoon. A few days earlier I had already decided I would purchase the components for one of the meals my daughter really enjoys eating: cornbread and black beans. I knew it was something she liked, and we had not had it for a while, and so when Monday rolled around the ingredients were already added to my mental list.

 I don't recall the exact exchange that Monday morning, but somewhere in between getting the kids off to school and my wife down for bed (after her night shift) I mentioned I was going to the store that day, and did my wife need anything specifically. My daughter pipped up and asked if I could get the ingredients to make cornbread and beans.

When I finally did make it to the store it was almost as if those were the only items I had gone to get, and all the other larder-stock was incidental. Indeed, though not asked for I also got a large bag of shredded cheese to go along with the meal. I also went ahead and got some relish, because my daughter likes making tuna fish salad, and putting diced pickle in it, and I wanted to make the process easier for her.

The thing is this: I wanted in that moment at the store, and even long before, to give my daughter what I knew she wanted, to supply her needs for sustenance with that very kind of food she likes, long before she ever asked it of me. And likewise, the intent and decision to supply her thus was made long before she ever asked me, and I wanted to do it without her having to ask, to surprise her even.

Beyond even just this tiny meal I am doing the same in other areas, considering my daughter's needs and her desires long before she asks. I don't need her to ask me, nor do I wait for her to ask, but seek on my own and as if they were my very needs and wants themselves (before she even knew there was an opportunity to ask for it).

Though it may seem an inordinately tiny thing about which to write -- and thus seemingly a stretch to make from it -- to me this tiny picture captures the very father-heart of God for us all -- His heart and His intention to provide even before asked to do so. My trip to the store was to provide for the family need and stores, and I was going to do so with what I knew would be enjoyed, even irrespective of it being asked for. Likening this to the father-heart of God I say it is making our desires His very will. Small example, but the implications of its lesson can not be overstated enough: His father-heart really is for us.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Gifts, Receiving,& Trinkets

My grandmother is one of these old world Texas grandmothers who remembers the Great Depression and having to out paste board in the soles of her shoes when she wore a hole in them. Every major, traditionally American Christian holiday (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter) and birthdays she remembers to send a card, normally with some small amount of cash, to all of her grandchildren, and now, to her great grandchildren (my children). We have our mailbox located in a central community mailbox location, unlike the the individual mailboxes on posts I had growing up. That fact of the mailbox not being at the end of the drive, and the fact that most of our modern exchanges occur online in one form or another both lead me to only "go and get the mail" once a week (if that frequently). So, suffice it to say, we had gotten my son's birthday card a few days past his birthday.

For my son's birthday she sent him a nice card, along with the small amount of money. My daughter is my little money saver, whereas my son normally spends it if he has it to spend. This time however, and maybe because of his heart being primed from the previous birthday dotage, my son stored up the money. I waited to see what he would do with it, and made no move to take him immediately to the store as he historically has asked to do.

I want to back track a bit, or diverge in the narrative and go on a bunny trail. Normally that suggests bad writing or stream of consciousness writing, and that is not the sort of writing at which I aim. But in this case, however, disjunct as it may seem this aside is like the accompanying artistically injected notes of a woodwind to an otherwise string quartet. In other words, I am about to shoehorn in something that isn't part of the narrative, but fits into my personal narrative coinciding with this narrative. I do so with a point I will later get to.

Shortly after we had opened my son's presents from my wife's aunt and my sister two days before his birthday my son rummaged through the toys in his room, and came up with several small trinkets which he then gave to me. My son expresses love often through gift giving like this, and the trinkets he bestowed upon me (like so many of his gifts) were things some would consider trash or unwanted / unused items -- for instance, the spent glow-in-the-dark glowsticks, the decorative shell picked up from some beach trip gift shop, a rubber 2inch dolphin toy.

Here's the thing though. My son intended that I would use the used-up glow-in-the-dark glowsticks to attach to some improvised pretend gun, much like the kind he frequently makes on his own, and which we have made together with pvc piping or cardboard tubes; he thought I would like the shell because we all like the beach. Each of the trinkets had an intent behind them and which brought me into his pretend play-world, and were given in an expression of overwhelming joy and love. I can not claim to love my son and not accept these trinkets as the treasure they were meant to be, or as the treasure of his love and honoring he intends... and, most assuredly, I did receive them in that heart:I wanted to honor that honor by doing honorably and recognizing, in a desiring spirit of truth, the honoring which was coming to me. There is a picture of the father-heart of God for us in that, I believe, one which I personally need to dwell on.

So, when my daughter asked on what thing my son desired to spend his birthday money from his great grandmother I, in my mind, immediately pledged to take my son to the local sporting goods store where I knew they had toy-guns he has often admired. My son didn't even have a say in the plans, meaning he didn't have to ask to go do so, and was told he were going if he wanted. He did not protest in the slightest, and became enthused. At the store he picked out just the style of toy-gun, complete with realistic design and lights and sounds and attachments.

From the store we immediately set off to a family friend's house. This friend was trying to support another family's adoption efforts by having an event in her home. This friend of ours -- we'll call "M" -- is someone about my wife's age, and someone to whom my daughter has developed a good deal of attachment. "M" I felt deserved support in her efforts, and my daughter was excited to get the chance to see her. I would have supported "M" regardless of my daughter's feelings, but because my daughter desired to visit with her friend then honoring my daughters feelings and enabling the visit became part of my desire, adding to the importance of going for me. My desire to honor my daughter's heart combined and multiplied my desire. It is hard to put into words, but knowing my daughter wanted to go became the reason for my going, even though I was going to go because I thought it right and good to support my friend. Indeed, I even wanted the honor from showing support to fall to my daughter.

I think in that incorporating of my different desires for "M" and my daughter, to the end of increasing those desires for both, is very much a picture of the father-heart of God for us -- and, while He may be intending to bless someone, when we pray for that person, that someone I believe God's desire for us becomes as much His goal as is His goal to bless the other person.

Remember from earlier the bunny trail about the father-heart of God in the humility of receiving? I am reminded of a verse: the Word of God does not go forth and return void, but accomplishes the purposes for which it was sent. Well, that experience set of contextualized my mindset and heart-posture when we went to the store with my son. Also, the moment of the bunny trail set the same tone / heart-posture for my daughter's request and her subsequent gratitude for going to the event.  I feel it is God's desire we would have that same heart of His, and the moment with my son effectively produced it in me, as I think all of the moments in which God speaks in the "words" of our lives.

Well, the story of the day can not be concluded without mention that, later, after we returned home from the engagement, we found my son had been sent a birthday present from my wife's sister and her teenage sons. My son opened his present -- a space-age ant farm, and a "gross things" make-up kit. My daughter couldn't contain her little science-geek self, and was pouring over the instructions for both, wasting no time giving her brother a "make-up bruise". I personally made sure the kids were enabled to call the aunt and thank her, and then we transitioned to preparing for the next day, especially the bath-time part of the routine. Pleasantly I can say my son did not go to church the next day with the remnants of a fake, make-up bruise still showing on his hand.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Extra Cupcakes

Monday of course was my son's long anticipated seventh birthday, as the previous post discussed. We woke up, sang "Happy Birthday," had cake for breakfast and opened the gifts, taking an opportunity to try the one out. We did all this forgetting we had woken up late, and really hadn't the time before school. At any rate, in the haste and rush, my son made the heart-felt plea to come have lunch at the school with him, and to not forget to bring the class the perfunctory treat (cupcakes).

In the moment all I wanted to do was to honor him, feeling and believing in the worthiness of him and (the worthiness) of the project of honoring him. While at the store I made extra certain to have purchased ample supply of cupcakes, going so far as to have an extra dozen. I also picked up some packaged kids meals which I know both my children enjoy, and enough for both, despite it being something I wouldn't normally purchase. I like to make their lunches to ensure as much nutritive value as possible. At any rate.

The teacher, after I had spent lunch with my son and a little friend he wanted me to meet, allowed me to bring the cupcakes out to their normal "birthday spot" with the class at recess, and to spend the moment with my son. I had been intending to drop off the cupcakes only, and have lunch with both children. My daughter found me, and was able to get her lunch thing from me while I was wrapping up the cupcake festivities with my son's class.

We had some cupcakes left over, as well as a bit of time left on my daughter's lunch period, so I took the extra to her lunch table, and shared them with those children I knew (not knowing, as it turned out, that such was against more than just cafeteria rules). In that moment, I knew I wanted my son honored fully, and I wanted my daughter to know and feel that she was loved and valuable to me. It was something which went beyond just feeling such love and value for my daughter, and beyond even wanting to show it. In that particular moment that, while we were actively acknowledging her brother (thus underscoring and highlighting his worthiness to be honored), I willed for her the knowledge of her value. And, simply, I was thankful for her.

In this picture of loving "both / and" I feel is the smallest glimpse of God's father-heart towards us all.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Birthday Gifts

Yesterday was my son's 7th birthday. All last week was spent looking emotionally and scheduling-wise towards the event. In my family we take birthdays seriously, being days of remembrance of the beginning of a lifelong narrative which intersects with and blesses other narratives; being both its own full narrative and also being an element which enriches countless other lives. We do presents, certainly, and try to have parties if we can, but we also include spoken "blessings," along with other honorings. I believe so strongly in the importance of birthdays (as a moment of remembering the blessing of the person themselves) that I make them akin to any other tradition (like rites of passage, or other).

Being excited as I was over this years birthday for my son I had gone to the local sporting goods store early in the week, just to be certain to be prepared. While there I had noticed a likely secondary gift, and noted in my mind to tell my daughter about what I had found, thinking she may seek that as a gift for her brother.

When Saturday rolled around (and we again had that concentrated and extended moment for quality time unfettered by a schedule and obligations) we took to using the morning to build even more marshmallow shooters, this time having a fancy rubber-band firing mechanism in addition to their dart gun capability. I was even more intentional about the whole affair than my son, for whom I was specifically building the thing. Lest the full project which had been begun last weekend go unfinished, however, I applied myself to the task, with the understanding that at the end I would then take my daughter to the sporting goods store for the present she agreed she wanted to get her brother.

My daughter, in her typical fashion, was wanting to bless her brother extravagantly, and was asking permission to use her own funds, but was needing assistance to find a good price on an additional item. We got online together and searched for the additional item and came across a secondary item which she thought would make a better gift than the one from the sporting goods store. Well, not only did I aid her in ordering it online but also insisted I pay for it.

In the moment my attitude was one of providing the fullest assistance to my daughter I (in my greater capacity) could provide, but simultaneously wanting it to be her decision, her choices. I "allowed" her relational knowledge of her brother to define for her what would make a great gift. Put differently, I wanted her ideas to be validated (ideas in which I saw were not bad ideas), and wanted to assist in the process of their playing out. I ensured she got what she wanted to get him, not so much making her responsible for the choice as I was making sure her desires we absolutely attained and carried out.

Beyond even that, however, I desired (that is to say, it was vitally important to me) that she was equipped to bless her brother from out of my resources, that it came freely and fully from my abundance. I wanted for her the blessing to herself of blessing her brother, and so I "footed the bill" for that the reason that I so desired that blessing for her. It is a blessing to bless others, and that blessing I earnestly, emphatically, wanted for her.

This is very much how I understand the father-heart of God to be for us, and the situation in which we stand when He gives it to us to bless others.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Marshmallow Dart Guns

 I believe it was my sister's idea (and that even was offered in passing) that I might make the kids a blowdart gun, looking on YouTube for instructions. I had thought the idea had some merit, but like a lot of ideas it had needed to simmer a bit, I suppose. What likely generated the idea was an offhand comment to the effect that my son had been talking about having a potato gun, and could we make them. We have been streaming MacGyver as a family. I am not surprised either one of my children had an interest in "MacGyvered" apparatus as a result: the show has definitely kicked off an interest in the practical side of science and chemistry.

I had asked an organic gardener buddy down the street if he had any left over pvc pipe, and would he be willing to part with any of it. He had, and was, and willingly supplied the tools necessary for the cutting of the lengths of pipe. As it turned out my wife was going to be out at the store while we were making our blowguns, and so I even had her pick up "the ammo," which amounted to two bags of the smaller sized marshmallows.

And thus our Saturday morning, which had no pressing constraints or agenda, turned into a project-morning, where that project turned into a good deal of extended fun.

What made this slightly different and unique experience is that I had not allowed my kids in on the dart gun aspect, and definitely not the marshmallow aspect, until we were well underway. They just thought we were making pretend gun shapes out of pvc. Once I did let the kids in on the idea, it was thoroughly pursued, with vigor.

For me, in the moment, I wanted to stack as much rewarding fun into the moments we had together as I could. I think the idea was a perfect one, and my sister deserves props for suggesting it. It was important to me to not merely let the Saturday go to waste, but that the preciousness of the time together be capitalized upon, that we make the most out it. The season we are in is a short one, its moments precious and worth "having their marrow sucked clean". I wanted the experience and the fun to match the preciousness of being with them; I wanted to fill fully the moment. Surely this is a picture of the father-heart of God for us.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Bread, Sparrow, Hair

I've not posted in a while. It is because there seems so much to do with the kids, there is less time. Last week, starting on the Labor Day holiday, we began visiting with my wife's aunt. The kids were looking forward to the visit, with no knowledge of the plans I had for the visit, or the intent behind the visit. They were just excited to see the aunt. Even before the aunt's visit, however, I was still very intentional in my interactions with the children, making the most of the moments.

With school dominating the schedule, and thus an externally imposed routine in effect, I have wanted the intentional interactions to be organic, and not just another activity for activity sake. This is pretty much my modus operandi anyways, but it became more important -- important enough to safeguard its happening. I did not want to let the limited time and opportunity for experiences together drive me to forcing experiences as the expense of the real enjoyment. Necessarily this meant (means) really choosing those activities which my children love the most, and in which they most delight.

At the moment I can not recall the activities of the Saturday before the Labor Day holiday. I am not sure for the sake of this post that that matters -- whatever we did my goal was that it be safeguarded as a moment from the impetus of business, the over-emphasis on activity and doing for the doing's sake. There is a value to the event or doing beyond the event in itself, while simultaneously a value to the time with the children manifested in and through the activity (meaning just being with them is not enough). A "place of tension" perhaps, but an easy and comfortable tension.

In this most definitely do I see the father-heart of God for us, especially the earnest and intentional mindfulness to quality of the event and time together. "Which of you if his son asked for bread would give him a stone," sort of thing.We are "worth more than two sparrows," and, so intimately are we known and so exquisitely valued are we that "every hair on our head is numbered." (The paraphrasing in the quotes coming directly from the synoptic gospels.)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Playlists & Reading Lists

My daughter has been waking herself up early every morning to have a "quiet time," wherein she reads from the Biblical book of Proverbs (known as "wisdom literature," composed of axiomatic sayings), and listening to worship music. Before going to bed we normally have our little routine (because routines help transition, and children need structured transitioning, as do many adults), wherein we read a chapter of the Bible in a trek of reading all the way through the scriptures. We then pray what I have taken to calling "3-2-1" prayer: we give thanks for 3 things, express 2 true things about God's character, and then ask 1 thing for someone else. At that point it is fair game, they can pray as they like. Then it is "lights out".

As the kids were (supposed to be) in bed, my daughter approaches me and asks (if it would be fitting and wise) if she can make an alteration to the program she has put herself upon. I came to learn she had only had one album to which to listen, and was growing a bit burnt out on it. Excitedly, delightedly, and wanting for her to have more breadth of music I quickly downloaded a worship compilation with which I was very familiar, it having been something to arise out of the time of my nascent spiritual walk. I stepped it up, however, and made her a playlist which, as any child of the 80's onward would tell you, is no small thing. Given that my daughter has taken an interest in the things of my past this gesture went even beyond just honoring her requests: it put the "english," the top-spin of connection to the cue ball of the gesture.

In my mind this little experience dovetails into what may be the central narrative and thrust of this post. My daughter came home the other day with a booklist, explaining that the student who read a certain percentage of the books listed received some form of recognition, and higher forms of recognition for higher percentages of books read. My daughter mentioned she had decided to change the book she elected to read first.

In that moment it was very important to me to listen (well, first to hear she was being openly communicative, and then to listen) to her disclosure, seeing she was sharing with me something of her heart. My desire was to safeguard that gesture, firstly by applying myself to listen, to engage her in the topic. I find my daughter not merely worth knowing, but worthy of getting to know.

And on the heels of (or maybe just right along with) this desire to safeguard her disclosure and to get to know her, was the desire to be a part of it with her, as well as taking an interest in her interests. In this case it amounted to knowing her decision process. As with the worship music (and this is where we see the dovetailing) and knowing her interests in things of my past, it is important to understand her interests as they themselves are developing.

Not only do I see in this the father-heart of God for us, but I see the depth (and gentleness) of that fatherly heart is as deep as is His capacity to feel for us.