Thursday, February 25, 2016

Take-Out

     Tuesday early evening was one of those rare time when Mom was home, kids had little in the way of homework, and we all had a mutual desire from some fare not of our own preparation, i.e. we wanted take-out. I've been on something of a health kick lately, and while stocked amply the cupboards are a little ... unrelentingly healthy.

    Take-out is a blessing, and a luxury not often indulged in by us. On this evening such seemed to fit the consensus and mood, and I wanted to bless my wife and kids -- they enjoy American Chinese food. Furthermore, it seemed, given the opportunity of the free schedules and the anticipation of busier schedules later in the week, to be important to be intentional and purposeful about the time together, and the celebration of that communion. Perhaps not  unimportantly but not centrally I realized the new diet is not a goal in itself, nor is the project something for which we share the same motivation, and not even I am entirely stoked about the austerity, ascetic though I am.

     I am not entirely certain, but I don't think my children quite realized (when my wife and I hatched the idea of getting take-out) what was going on, and I have admittedly learned to not always divulge my plans to my children (especially if I am not certain they will be or are actually happening). What I do know for certain, in the moment and without their asking for it directly (but knowing the "diet-pantry situation") that it was important for my children and my wife (for all of us) to get to spend the evening together, and to enjoy it through a treat-meal. The emphasis here, of course (and dieting context notwithstanding), is that I was aware of and wanting what even they were wanting but for which none were asking.

      In this I see God's father heart, perhaps even most poignantly: God proactively and knowingly looks towards our blessing and our good even we don't know it to ask of Him, and He is intimately aware of the situation and the need.

     There is a verse on my mind today, which I read from such a standpoint, with such an understanding as the one above: Hebrews 4:14

"14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.15For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  16Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."


     Before even we know our need, before we have taken courage and confidence to even approach Him, the father heart of God is sensitive to what we need, and is providing it... "desiringly" providing. It is that heart which meets us from off the thrown and receives us from the throne.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Shopping and Fruit Salad

     Since we had missed getting together with the parents of some friends' of my daughter -- parents we had expected to see at the birthday party which didn't happen -- they had invited us all over to a dinner on Saturday. I was very honored to have received the invitation, but more so, was very excited -- we are quite fond of them, and easily relate with them. We get along well, share many interests, and just sort of "vibe," but life often gets in the way of consistently meeting. When we do see one another in public we always say how we should get together and miss seeing each other, and when we finally do see each other we catch up quickly.

     Well, we made plans, and it so worked out my wife's rather opposite schedule worked out so she could even attend. Before the get together my daughter had wanted to go and spend some of the birthday money she had received from my grandmother -- something my grandmother has sent to all her grand and great-grand children on every holiday and birthday for as long as I can remember -- and a gift card she had received from my wife's aunt.

     Given the morning time and various practicalities we took my son to spend his Valentine's money at the local grocers. In my ongoing effort to, well, allow him the freedom to decide without my hovering, I let him pick some Lego's which ultimately required me to fork out a little extra to cover the whole sum. In some part of me I find it important that honor his request to take him shopping, to be the vehicle (so to speak) of his exercising choice. I even let him hand his own money to the cashier. And, then, I tanked it all.

     The cashier started to hand the change from the extra money I provided back to me, but I prompted my son to take the change, directing the cashier thus. No sooner had the cashier handed him the change then I told him to hand me back my change, going so far as to turn his hand into mine. See, I was focused on the steps of an unnecessary lesson (that of spending money), and on the people behind us, and just not thinking.

     So, it has long been a goal of mine to teach boundaries by also observing boundaries, and especially not to be one of those parents who disrespect the person of their child by grabbing and taking -- and then years later are surprised by their child's lack of boundaries and their own grabbiness. It was only after we got outside I was able to deduce I had hurt his feelings by being grabby, the thing I don't want to be. While not a big enough deal to make much issue over, I recognized in the moment it was more important to apologize than it was to defend myself, or explain my actions beyond saying I never want to be a grabby person (and that only to express he deserves respect of his boundaries and person).

     I like this story, I tell it, because it is a good bookmark, keeping me humble in the story of the day between my daughter and myself.

     I had planned to bring a cheese cake or something chocolatey to the dinner with our friends, mainly because, well, it was chocolate, and cheese cake. So, while at the store for my son I took the opportunity also to also pick up whatever I was to end up bringing to the dinner. My daughter had wanted to go to the store with me when we went, and asked if we could make a fruit salad. She had had similar fare at another friend's house and it had made an impression I guess as a food to share with friends. Without trying to steer her I took her by the cheese cake, and showed her what was available in terms of that choice, but she really wanted to make the fruit salad. So, we got fruit, and yogurt -- yogurt, which at the time, I did not realize she wanted to put into the fruit salad.

     She drove while I steered, so to speak, in picking out the ingredients. We got home, and set aside the ingredients to have lunch, then went off to Target to spend her gift card (before returning home to make the fruit salad).

     Once back at home we made the salad together, with me cutting up the fruit she didn't want to cut up and also showing her how best to cut the fruit she was cutting.

     I am fairly certain the suggestion of bringing the salad was something she wanted to do out of love for the family friends. As a matter of fact, she had leaped at suggesting the idea. I am also fairly certain we shared the desire to love, to bless, to honor the other family, and that the desire to so honor (for us both)  was birthed from a womb of thankfulness for them and a love for them.

     In the moment, with the idea, it seemed important to let her drive it, to equip and enable her to drive the idea, to release the reigns over to her. It wasn't so much delegating a task as it was releasing the task to her, and letting her make it her show, as it were. When she suggested adding the yogurt -- an addition entirely inconsistent with my tradition, just saying -- I had mom look up a recipe. Sure enough there were just such recipes -- it wasn't some fluke. So we added the yogurt, at my daughter's request.

     No doubt about it even, when we shared the fruit salad with the friends I made every effort to ensure she was praised for both the idea and the effort, both praising her and glorifying her. Admittedly I found it a strong desire to see her glorified for the idea.
   
     I can easily see the father heart of God in this: the desire to empower His children (to act, to accomplish) that they may receive glory for their good desires, especially when such desire and action are in line with His goodness. Put differently, God desires to empower us to act, and desires to see us glorified for those actions (even or despite the fact we could only have done so through Him).

     In I Peter 2:19 it talks of suffering for doing good:

"18Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God."


Understanding this father heart of God to see us empowered to do and to act out of / for love, knowing He understands our need for Him and His empowering presence in our lives, well, there is vision in the above verse for me. He desires even that we prevail through, in spite of our suffering, especially when we suffer for doing right. Loving what is right and not loosing sight of what is right

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Watching a Movie

     We have been watching the neighbor's children again, after school and until the one parent with the earlier shift can get home from work. There has been a visiting grandmother staying with them to assist, and so I have not been needed.

     Honestly, I feel kinda like an uncle to the neighbor kids. We share Christ, and place within the Body, so in a sense, I am family for them, they for us, we for them.

     My children wanted to watch a movie they had seen before, and which they enjoyed. I am pretty cagey when it comes to introducing my children to thematically questionable stuff, but am really uptight when it comes to introducing someone else's children to the same. But since the "neighbor kids" had seen the movie before, and because it seemed a consensus existed for this particular movie, I relented on my normally stringent demand to receive parental okay.

     We started the movie, and everyone was remarkably engrossed, sufficiently quiet, and all were into the experience (which, for six kids, is saying a wee bit).

     It really doesn't sound like too much of a big moment, but therein may be the rub and the point. My children enjoyed this movie, and wanted to share the experience with their friends. I wanted the friends to get to share something with my children as well, to have the blessing of relationship with them. The friends enjoyed the movie, and so getting to experience mutual enjoyment of a small thing was, in the moment, a blessing for all the children. And I wanted them all to have that blessing. I wanted that connection of sharing a mutual experience for my children, and I wanted the experience for them for the sake of growing in relationship with the "neighbor kids" as well. It was a good thing.

     The father-heart of God is easily seen here, I feel: He wants for us to have community/family, and to have that community/family around shared moments. He even wants for this to happen around the little things about which we enjoy (albeit those "little things" aren't the focus for Him -- He wants the little things to be good, and of His goodness). In this case the little thing of the movie was sufficiently good enough around which to have mutual enjoyment; likely not the best, but good enough. To me this is a tender-hearted, gracious love and father-heart. And it is expansive, to even the little things, in little moments. It wasn't just watching a movie, it was sharing an experience and enjoyment together.

   

   

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

New `Fridge

     Saturday found us at Lowe's, the chain, hardware box-store from which we purchased a new fridge -- our old one decided to down-scale its cooling efforts to the freezer space only. I had gone earlier last week to pick it out, and to purchase it, arranging for delivery on Saturday. It had gotten damaged in the unloading process, and I went to determine if the cosmetic defect was something I could (for a lessened price) live with. My daughter was quite intent and excited to go see the new fridge, and later (once the new fridge was delivered the next day) to go collect the food from the kindly neighbor storing our food (in their garage fridge).

     She wanted to be a part of the task. She is normally expected to put up the newly bought groceries into the fridge, a chore for which she is relied upon regularly. The chore is something, is some responsibility (even an authority) for which she is entrusted -- and that chore, then, is more than merely a chore. In a large sense for her it is her role in the house workings, that task which gives her a sense of place, of dominion, of role and identity. Udo Middlemann, exploring the nature and value of work in his book entitled "Pro Existence" says of work, 



"Only in creative activity do we externalize the identity we have as [men] created in the image of God. This then is the true basis for work." 

{The writers Oz Guinness and Dallas Willard also have some interesting thoughts along these lines.} Thus, collecting and placing the food (from our neighbor's house) into the new fridge fell within that purview of her - my daughter's -- role. Thus it was more than just going to collect something from "down the street." To my daughter this was important, and because it was important for her she was active and insistent about getting to do so, and felt blessed to be allowed to so do.

     While my daughter doesn't look at things after Middlemann's unique fashion, still, for her, I am expressing a love and trust, and giving her something valuable in terms of "role." She is given a freedom to act and an autonomy (again, not that she would use the words though she has the sense of the experience). She is made to feel equipped, even, no doubt, and likely made to feel a partner in the work of the household. Arguably she is brought to a little more fullness through it, and of that too she has some sense. And most assuredly I want to see that for my daughter.


     In this I see the Father heart of God. the desire to see us feeling equipped, partnering, brought into fuller being. He wants for our fullness and is giving / gracious in the bringing of the fullness about, oft through allowing us to partner with Him as He does the work. I didn't need my daughters help carrying the food, nor in the stocking of the refrigerator, but wanted her along because I saw it was good for her. God delights in the partnering because He sees its good for us. God wants for us to be able and to be allowed for us to do, and He seeks to see it happen.

     As it says in the New Testament epistle (letter) to the Philippians, 4:6



"5Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
All that we must do He desires to make happen on our behalf. That fullness is the goal more than the task, beyond even the task. The task serves the goal. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Planting Roses, and Pink Elephants

     My wife enjoys roses, and decorating the house with bouquets of fresh cut flowers. So, for her Valentine's Day surprise I went with the kids and purchased five new rose bushes to plant in our yard. Tuesday afternoon, after collecting the kids from school, I decided we would finally get the bushes planted. Growing up I had done lots of yard work, but primarily the sort of building and digging and cutting kind of work, and if it weren't for instructions on the package I wouldn't have much clue about how to plant a bush. I still did it all wrong. I suspect the plants will live anyway.

     My son wanted to help, as well did my daughter, until she had to actually use the shovel to clear out the dirt from the hole I made with the pick ax. With my son anxiously awaiting his chance I handed him the de-packaged bush and told him to set the thing into the hole. I could tell by the way he had gripped the plant, and how he was going about getting to the hole, and knowing him as I do, that he was going to just throw the plant into the hole. I told him not to do so; he (after unsuccessfully orienting himself) ended up  doing so.

     I never want nor wanted to be the type of father who yells at his children for simple mistakes, but it seems that statement amounts to saying that I never wanted to be just like ever other father on the planet, loving father or not. I never wanted to be critical, nor harsh, nor squashing nor crushing of my children's spirit and soul. But not wanting to be one thing is different from wanting to be (a better or a good) something. On the afternoon of planting the bushes I entered the task self-aware of not wanting to be that negative thing I did not want to be. I ended up failing to be the encouraging, instructing, fathering thing I want to be.

      It goes back to an old parenting philosophy I call "Pink Elephants": if you say, "don't think of pink elephants," then what have you just thought of? Yep. Pink Elephants. At any rate...

     I was tired, and hadn't stepped up to sucking up, and digging deep and attempting to be what I wanted to be: I wanted to be an instructing father, a safe place for learning and trying; i wanted to foster growth, my son's growth, to make the moment as emotionally nutrient-rich as the manure and loam of the organic potting soil comprising the rose bed. I wanted him to grow richly, well equipped, fertilized for even future growth.

     In this it is easy to see the father heart of God, especially when considering He never tires and always proactively and intentionally works to see our growth, and works to foster that growth now and in the future. He is patient with our learning, safely available to help and instruct yet also working to position us (emotionally, spiritually, physically, intellectually) to learn, and He is gentle with us.

     There is a verse which strikes me this morning relative to this thought of God's father heart: St. Paul's prayer for the Ephesians in the New Testament Epistle (letter) / Book entitled, Ephesians 3:14-19

"14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,  16that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth 19and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God."
     While this is a prayer, it is a prayer which is entirely consistent with the heart of God, and thus reflective of God's desire to grant its answer. More so, perhaps, for my thoughts on the matter of this post, this prayer shows God's love is dimensional, encompassing, and fostering of growth in every sense in Him. It is easily argued that as the words of scripture these words are "inspired" ("God-breathed" in the original Latin). It is not just a little growth, but being "filled up to all the fullness of God" which God aims at -- and for which, in keeping with His heart, God laid upon the heart of St. Paul to request for the Ephesians, and for us all.

     Now, to the narrative at hand, well, I was not harsh with my son, but I was critical and and not encouraging, being more severe (about the consequences of throwing the bush in the hole) than exhortive (about his ability and opportunity to think through his situation). My son, when asked what the lesson was, responded clearly with what he should have done better. The only problem was that his response showed he bore the weight not of his mistake only but of even the heavier weight of performance and failure (when I was not intending to be holding him to the standard of performance). Like the poorly planted rose bush I am sure he will grow in the lesson of needing to think through his situation, my poor "planting" of it notwithstanding. It is my loss, as a father and a gardener, that I did not put more effort into the "planting". Thanking God for His patience, and thankful, I can learn my lesson.

   

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Valentine's Shoe Boxes

     Early last week the children came home with instructions and notices regarding the Valentine's Day procedures in their respective classes. I quickly tabled the notices -- the exigencies, or rather, the sense of exigent need underlying the very tired teachers' tones did not correspond to my senses of burden, so to speak. In other words, I didn't feel pressed to dig out an old shoe box from the closet and rush off to the store to buy the Valentines. At the same time, I was not unaware of the unspoken yet hinted at and brimming enthusiasm of the children. Not that mom or the children weren't repeatedly mentioning (indirectly) the matter.

     Attending elementary school in the early 1980's, an hour drive south of where we now live (but where teachers teach my children at their school as they taught children of my cohort back in the 80's), there was a hierarchy of holidays, at least in my mind. Valentine's day, which was a "lesser" holiday like Halloween, nonetheless had its traditions and expectations attached to it, and I can say a bit of nostalgia colors the memories. Like I say, I wasn't clueless, just ... in control and preoccupied with other pressing matters.

      And so, as Saturday rolled around, and with it the right moment to go to the store and buy the Valentines, off we jotted. At the store the selection of cards ranged from Transformer Robots to Super Heroes to a few other thematic sets, none of which seemed especially grabbing to the children, nor to me. I steered my daughter to picking out the female super hero themed cards, mainly because we are all about "girl empowerment" in our household.

     I could tell my children were relieved to finally be able to begin filling out the cards at home. I knew it was important to them, and exciting for them. I even understand it likely had a sense of onus, being somewhat expected of them, though it was likely not a burdensome onus. (Despite likely carrying a bit of social fear of what it would seem like if they did not have the cards for others, I doubt my children doubted if I would make good on my word to get the Valentines for them, or to ensure they had the needed shoe boxes with which to collect their Valentines from others.) The point, mostly, is that I was not going to let my children go without, and was confident in my purposefulness to provide them the opportunity to participate, to bless others, to receive. It was "mission" in my mind to ensure they got what was needed, that they were "equipped" both to give, and receive, thus effectively to be fully a part of the celebration.

     This strikes me very much as the father heart of God: the intent, purposeful willingness (and mission) to ensure our equipping and ability to participate. It is not just that He grudgingly overlooks our fault or our need, picking us up and dusting us off of merely the bulk of our issues (to make us marginally presentable enough), but that He makes every effort, as the scriptures I John 1:9 - 2:2 say,

"9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. 1My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

It is not a one off, but a continual mission to ensure our participation with the saints, knowing the "height, and width, and breadth... of His love."

     It might just be me this morning, but I feel this notion is also readily (and perhaps more centrally) seen in the writings of another apostle, in the epistle entitled Romans, specifically 5:17,

"15But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ."

Where as in the I John scripture we see the intent to ensure our participation in the form of a promise, in the Roman's scripture we see the same intent on the form of an (trans)action already made on our behalf.

     In terms of the story at hand, well, after returning home and despite having tasks and projects with which I was still preoccupied -- I was cooking my very labor-intensive and quite beloved potato soup for a church function the next day -- I released my children to go and take care of what was important and pressing to them, i.e. finishing the cards.

     I did not get out the shoe boxes from the closet until either Sunday night. Only one needed to decorate their box at home, that is my daughter, and she is easily set to task on her own without creative supervision. My son was given his choice of boxes even, though I did suggest what I knew would likely be in line with his sentimentality, thus reserving a graphically interesting shoe box (comic book themed) as a "treasure box". I helped to cut the slots into the lid for both, and that was that. At the end of the day I think both were prepared as they needed, and felt so. Now we eagerly await the festivities ... and candy.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Minion Cake, or, Planning the Party

      My daughter is soon -- in 12 days actually -- to turn nine years old. As soon as she began thinking about her birthday (having just come from celebrating Mom's earlier in the month, and mine a few days earlier) I began planning the party. At the time the theme and general idea came to me almost instantly. It's a bowling theme, which is right up her alley, as the saying goes. You see, the theme is "bowling"... get it? Alley? Bowling Alley? Dad puns: annoying and embarrassing offspring since, well, for a while.

     At any rate. it wasn't until last night that I gave the surprise away to my daughter. I was a little surprised to find she hadn't figured it out, and actually thought she knew I was doing it. Most of the party was planned, and the only thing I had been lacking was getting the actual Evite out to everyone  whom I had told, and reminded... repeatedly.

     You see, I was intent on making sure the attendees knew they we were invited, and that their parents had their schedules cleared since the moment my wife and I agreed on a date.e I reminded them, like I mentioned, repeatedly. It was only after I realized that the actual, official notice had not been emailed that I began in earnest pressing some for their email addresses, such that I could send out the Evite. It was when I realized that I had not sent out the invitation proper that I actually feel I began working on the party.

     Sending out the invitation, and getting the requisite emails to do so, was right, proper, important in my mind, and thus it became a task the nature of which can only be likened to "mission". I wanted for my daughter to have the interaction with the people whom I knew she would enjoy and would be significant, and I wanted it to be fun. I was not going to let some scheduling issue arise on another's part merely because I had not provided the electronic reminder (despite repeated verbal confirmation). I was not going to not be official or proper or "righteous" in the process. But more than all this I merely and exceptionally wanted this good because it was important to my daughter. I perhaps wanted it more for her than she wanted it for herself.

     To me it is easy to see God's fatherly heart for us in this. His is a commitment to what we desire which is good, and a commitment which exceeds our own. More so, God is committed to seeing it through even when our commitment to it is lacking, and He will go about it in exceptional ways or unobtrusive ways (as befits His glory and glorification), but will always be thoroughly righteous in how He goes about it.
 
     It seems the very heart of the gospel message is reflective of this fatherly commitment and desire of God: that Humankind, each desiring what was good but going about getting it rebelliously became encumbered by brokenness and pain and mired in selfish unbelief and distrust as a result, and thus each person finds themselves inextricably separated from what is good, and from Good itself (i.e. God Himself). But God, wanting that connection and relationship even more than we do, was willing to divest Himself of the most beautiful, most precious, most beloved attribute(s) of Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, His only and un-created Son -- this same Christ who willingly and obediently suffered the separation from the most intimate relationship and glorious presence. More so, Christ willingly suffered for us, died on our behalf, taking what should be the consequence of each of our rebellion, brokenness, selfish disbelief and distrust, as God willingly raised Christ from the dead after Christ defeated Death and Satan (the epitome and personification of all selfish evil) that we too could have life spent in His presence along with Christ. Even more, God the Father, our Lord, gave the most precious, most awesome gift of His power, His Holy Spirit to equip and enable us to experience the joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control as He walks in, so that we may enjoy the community of His presence as Father-Son-Holy Spirit enjoy it. God wants for us more than we want for ourselves, and works towards it more than we do, so much so He makes all of this (which is known as righteousness) a free gift, simply to be received.

     So, now that my daughter asked last night for a cake in the shape of a "Minion" you can guess my new mission. Personally, I may try to "con" her into a bowling ball style cake, just because, well, I am want to be thematically consistent. Suffice it to say, there will be cake because she asked for cake, and knowing her as I do it will be chocolate with buttercream icing whatever its shape.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

3rd Grade Superstar

     Last week my daughter was classroom superstar, which basically amounts to saying she was allotted a small amount of time each day to talk about herself to her class. I like the idea. And it was a project for which it was important to me to help. It was important to her, thus it was important to me. I not only wanted to help her, but (wanted for her) to know both that I wanted her to ask and that I wanted to help.

     The first day of the project she pretty much handled all on her own, choosing which of her "favorite items" she wanted to take in to class with her. Knowing her as I do there were some items I suggested, but mostly stayed out of it. She choose the antique doll her God-Grandmother had given her -- this person is a beloved woman who is family in the Lord, and dotes on all of us as her "spiritually adopted" children. My daughter also chose a favorite board game (at my prodding) and a beloved plush puppy, and some other small things. Neither here nor there, except that, to me, it was interesting to see what she had chosen, and how those things revealed her character -- which is kinda the point of this part of the project.
   
     The next part of the project required sorting through photos and choosing which ones to take to class. It was at this point that my partnership in the project took a bit more active a role. We spent one evening together going through a few photos, until such a time as I was certain I had allowed her to stay up too late. The next day I showed her how to sort through the rest on her own, and how to save the ones she wanted. Once she had them picked out, I made sure to get them sent off to have them printed up in time for me to get them to her class the next day.

     In retrospect I should have gone through the pictures with her, being that much more involved, and then talking with her about why she liked which ones she liked / chose. Because I did not do so, I now feel a loss of the opportunity to get to know her thoughts better, as I do earnestly desire to do. Instead I chose expediency and pragmatism, setting her to work as I did dishes or something. As I "pen" this it is now my intent to rectify this and follow up, asking about the pictures.

     I was also to write a letter about her, sort of introducing the daughter I know to her class. This is the part where I had more "buy in," so to speak, as what eventually was entailed here was not only prayerfully writing a letter (with the knowledge that my daughter's class has started to get to know me through my mystery reader role, the books chosen, and the stories I've told), but also because I finally broke down and went out to buy a printer, so that I could print the thing.

     The letter I chose to write began first with an explanation of the meaning of each part of my daughter's name. Next, and more importantly, I focused on my daughter's creativity -- creativity through pretend play, and through artistic endeavors (primarily writing). [I've included a copy of this section in the first comments below.] One thing I tried to do in that letter was to tie in the notions of Story, and of intersecting stories and narratives, ultimately expanding upon the notion of how our own narratives are more than our individual story and include the interactions with other narratives.

     Bottom-lining all of this, the project was about my daughter being known, and she wanted help with the project. I actually desired more to help with it than she asked of me, and what she asked of me (because I wanted to help) I was certain to aide her in. I wanted to help her and to not be deterred, say, by something like a late hour and my desire for sleep, or lack of a printer. And even while I made a poorer decision in not walking through the steps of choosing pictures with her, my desire was there (I just didn't stop to think through my decisions).

     In this I can see God's heart: He desires for us, and those good things for us which we desire and are in-line with His will He is passionate to see come to pass for us. He is unstopping, committed, and ever present with us. He wants not just for us to have an acceptable thing, but to have a good thing.

     There is nuance here, and that nuance I think is important to underscore. Firstly, He knows us more than we know ourselves, having Himself "knit us together in our mother's womb" as the scripture verse says. He has been, "since before creation began," at work crafting us, knowing each of us intimately. Thus, what He wants for us -- as we want along with Him those things for ourselves -- is more than even we know, and more than we want it, and more in keeping with who we don't even fully know ourselves to be.

     Secondly, God loves us beyond what even ourselves can love about us, and is gentler to us (in His love of us) than we are to ourselves. He prizes us beyond how/what we can prize of ourselves. It should thus go without saying that what He wants for us, when we want what is good, is beyond even what we want for ourselves, is better than even what we allow ourselves.

     It is this heart of God which I see in the scriptures of the New Testament (and even the Old Testament, albeit from a different slant).