Thursday, June 30, 2016

Water Balloon Wars

    One thing about Summer which is not normally mentioned aloud is how it can be hard for the more gregarious and extroverted children, ones very much like my daughter and my son. Given our particular lifestyle revolves around someone who works nights and sleeps in the days we don't often have other children over to the house. Given this lifestyle is one to which my children have become accustomed they don't frequently ask to have someone else over. So when it was that my daughter asked, repeatedly, over several days, to have a friend over for a water balloon fight, well, I took notice.

     I want for my children to have their social needs met, no doubt about that fact. What is more salient here, beyond just my wanting for her to find her needs met, was how I was wanting even for my daughter to have a sense of all that is one the table for her, despite and beyond even the constraints of our lifestyle. I texted the friend's mom only to discover the friend was involved in an art camp that week. I was fully prepared to take advantage of that afternoon's minor lifestyle disruption (disruption in the sense that Mom's schedule had temporarily changed for the week), not "religiously" holding to some constraint not actually applicable in the moment.

     It seems like a little thing, and it is, but that may just be the rub: even in the littlest moment I want to take advantage of that moment for my daughter to have all that moment can allow her, but which is dependant upon me to make happen. Surely this is a picture of the father-heart of God, who wants the most for us,

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Catfish

     Father's Day weekend culminated, as I said in a previous post, not just a very busy kick-off to Summer, but almost a year's worth of planning, preparation, and a massive effort. This year saw our daily life upended, and required long-advanced planning for any activity occurring during that year. Father's Day, then, came in that context, as a sort of dual-purpose moment: a token, post-effort recognition, and a transitional (re)commencement of daily life. The end of a sub-narrative and journey along the route of a greater narrative and journey, if you will, like the tale of the crossing of an ocean in the story of circumnavigating a globe.

     With daily life returned to normal, and a "summerly" pace in effect, I sought to engage my son in quality time on Monday morning. As it turns out he was fairly exuberant about going to his favorite little fishing hole. We haven't done much in the way of "fishing" since even Spring began. Of course, fishing for him amounts to taking a small dip net and bucket and catching minnows and tadpoles and the occasional baby perch.

     Once at our favorite little spot I acquiesced, unsolicitedly and by own volition, to his traipsing through the pond water in an effort to gain a better vantage. Hitherto he had been very intentional about honoring the long-standing request to "not get too wet," I saw that more fun and deeper experience was only available by "letting boys be boys." This of course meant I likewise was traipsing and getting wet as well. I too am one of those boys after all.

    When our efforts produced little success I decided we would abandon "the spot" and proceed down the hill to the year-round flowing creek our little spot feeds into. My son was actually somewhat dubious, and was not just a little bit surprised when, taking his hand, I waded us out hip-deep into the creek, to get to the other side where the "fishing" seemed better. I have no doubt that, like the Disciples of Jesus, he doubted whether I knew what I was talking about or not, especially when I was telling him where to "dip his net."

     In those moments, while in the creek, all I wanted for my son was for him to be as deeply "plunged" into the experience as the situation allowed, with nothing getting in the way of his enjoying himself. I led us in getting wetter than he likely thought I would be comfortable with, I reassured him it was okay, and I led where (in my "aged" experience) I knew we stood a better degree of success in catching something. I held his hand as we moved through the not too quickly flowing water, choosing the steps and the route of fording the stream all with him (and his trepidation of the moving water) in mind.

     I wanted for my son the fullest experience, eschewing any arbitrary concern (like staying dry and not stinking up the car with creek water) to the point that you could say I was really wanting for him the freedom of the experience itself. The consequences (of creek-smelling car and wet shoes needing washing) were an inconsequential cost, and calling them a cost at all may even be too strong a turn of phrase. In that moment I chose I would wash what needed washing, purchase new what was ruined and needed replacing.

     Not only is this a picture of the father-heart of God for us, it is a picture I feel of what He wants for us: the dynamic fullness which is the very freedom of experience, willing to make up for whatever want is left over from the experience, or to completion of it. I think maybe even therein is the notion of hope, which is the certainty in and rest in the knowledge of this heart of His -- a heart which is plunging us into the moving waters of experience, holding our hands as we experience the freedom of it all.

     Well, beyond even my expectations, and I have no doubt through the mysteriously working "prompting of the Holy Spirit" (in leading my where to dip my own dip-net), we caught a baby catfish. To our mutual wonder and delight, and beyond what I had hoped possible for us, I should say. Not since I was a boy of twelve or so have I caught a catfish by hand.

   

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Today's blog expected to be up around 4 or 5pm... sorry for the delay

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The 100

     Saturday found our day and lives orbiting around some plans which not only have been set for a year, but upon which quite a lot of emotional and relational energies have been spent. So, Saturday was a culmination, of sorts, the last leg of a year-long marathon. The rub here is that this marathon had gotten us to that point only, and that point was just one leg, one step on a longer marathon. Specifically the day involved getting up early, and driving some thirty miles (one way) to the airport... twice. One hundred and twenty miles, all in a few hours of each other.

     Needless to say our morning was mostly shot. But I knew this was going to be the case, and I knew it meant asking my children to have to put up with it all. Not only was it not activity they would have chosen, it was also activity which cost them the together time I have committed to providing for them. Since I feel that time is theirs, that they deserve that enrichment, and since I both want and promise it for them, well, then it really is theirs, and they were spending it on my behalf.

     I was thankful to them, and felt as though they deserved recompense. I wanted them to know I valued them, and valued what they had to give up on our account, even though what we were doing was for the greater good of many (especially our family). Honestly, I don't know if I could have communicated this value to them were I not to have fully believed and communicated they deserved such as I had promised them and given them before only to then ask of them, and then to recompense them when they gave it.

     In this is very clearly seen the father-heart of God. Firstly, in the certainty of His promises, and secondly, in the recognition of the expenditures made and the subsequent desires to honor and reaffirm the value first attested to.

     So, once home from all our running we went to the store and they were allowed to pick their reward. My daughter picked one of the "100 Water Balloons in 60 seconds" novelties, which fills and self-ties 100 water balloons in a matter of, well, 60 seconds or so. She wanted, in her typically precious and giving way, to "spend" the balloons on a family water balloon fight in the back yard, and so we did. The "fight" lasted about as much time as it took to fill the water balloons. As an added surprise, and utterly unbeknownst to them that we (my wife and I) were planning such behind the scenes (so to speak) we took them swimming for the first time this summer.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Restful Sunday

     Sunday we played hookie from church, and ended up marathon-watching a trilogy of movies. We were tired because, arguably, since school let out we had been going non-stop (in terms of social activity), and had been deprived of our routine family togetherness. I could sort of tell my kids were needing that concentrated time with me, as well as a sense of control over their lives. Since school had let out -- and keep in mind school had let out with them having a good deal of expectations and anticipations for the kind summer fun they wanted to have -- my children had been led through each day's activities for over a week on the whims and plans of others, all scheduled out and none within their control.

     And so, on Sunday, I just let the kids decide what to do, as I normally would have done on Saturday. I allowed them to choose the activities we did, the shows we watched, games we played, even beginning with allowing them the decision on whether to stay home or not.

     I know I didn't want my children to have a feeling of having to do things out of obligation, but out of desire, especially when it comes to church and to honoring others. This was a small part of my decision, to be sure.

     Most saliently, however, is the fact that I wanted, simply, that my children have that sense of autonomy, especially after it had been (seemingly) deprived them. I had set their priorities for them up to this point, and while good priorities which they enjoyed and profited from, they had subsequently been denied the simply act of choosing for themselves. Choosing for themselves in the form (of activity) they wanted.

     In this actively seeking to provide a sense of autonomy I see the father-heart of God.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Anniversary Surprise




    So, Summer has begun, as “intimated” ever so indirectly by previous posts. As I have said, last day of school was followed by rehearsal dinner and wedding, Baptism Sunday, and then the business of all last week. Monday commenced the week-long, eight hour a day Adventure Camp, while Friday concluded the week's camp with our (my and my wife's) tenth wedding anniversary celebration. That earlier post also discussed the surprise my daughter had planned for us, which was presented to us upon our arrival home Saturday morning from an overnight stay at a downtown hotel.


    So, like I said, a busy, busy week and a half, where, needless to say, Summer found us hitting the ground running. During the week of camp, we found ourselves rising earlier than we had been for school, in an hour of traffic both ways, and arriving home with just enough time for an hour before commencing the bedtime routine (now especially more important (beyond its developmental importance) due to the extreme exhaustion from camp). Suffice it all to say my normal routine was thrown off a bit.


    Likewise, in that earlier post I mentioned  I was aware of their needs for rest and sought that togetherness time as intentionally as I sought hearing about their day, with the car rides to and from camp being my moments of intentional, focused time with the children, along with the rough hour before bedtime routine.


    I talk so much about the last post because the events of last week are really crucial context. With the conclusion of  this grand adventure of camp and flurry of activity our daughter turned herself to the implementing of her great surprise for my wife’s and my anniversary. While I had wanted for both my children to be given their space, given their independence and autonomy to have an adventure at camp, and while our tenth anniversary was very focused and grand time spent focused on each other (hey, we rented a hotel room downtown), the whole week culminated in the presentation of my daughter’s surprise for us (at least in so far as she was concerned).

    It was entirely important to me to be as available to my daughter’s honoring of me as I could be. While I was recipient of and blessed by the honor, beyond even that I additionally wanted for her the blessing of my reception of her honor, the recognition of her efforts in honoring me. She had poured her heart into the effort, and I wanted her to know how proud and how blessed I was, how honored I was; I felt she deserved to know the worthiness of her efforts. And in that little turn right there, in that I see the father-heart of God towards us: He desires and seeks for us to know the worthiness of our actions and efforts at honoring Him, even to the point of the not eschewing the honor but looking beyond it to us and our edification in the honoring.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Summer Camp

     This week is summer camp. This particular camp is one designed to bring the overnight camp experience to the camper in a day-camp format. It has a rather tall (possibly 50 foot) rock-wall (tower), drift bikes, inflatable obstacle course, a slip-and-slide like thing, dirt bikes, and a contraption which my daughter swears is some form of bungee-diving, and who knows what all else. All I know is that my children come home worn out, happy, and chattering about the day.

     This camp organization offered merchandise in addition to the camp activities, at modest prices. So, when signing up for the camp I put in an order for the said merchandise. At the Monday afternoon pick-up of my children the merchandise was ready to be handed out, and so, despite my daughter's insistence to open her "pack" on the spot, I got us in to the car before yielding my restrictions. I had wanted both my children to get to open their "packs" at the same time, you see.

     I had ordered the "packs" intentionally, wanting for the full benefit of the camp in my children's lives, including the having of mementos. Each pack contained tee shirts with camp insignia, a Nalgene bottle with camp insignia, and various other "camp-like" items. Suffice it to say, the mementos while in no way part and parcel to a camp experience where nonetheless completing of such an experience, the fullest "topping off."

     It is a tiny picture, to be sure, but this poignantly illustrates to me the father-heart of God -- the heart to provide not just the basic but the fullest experience, making every detail purposeful to such an end. And there is more to this moment.

     I am normally very, very conscious of the activities with and through which I engage my children. At some point in times past (many months ago) I had showed them an episode of the old, early-1980's television series, "Greatest American Hero." And so, on Monday afternoon, at pick-up from camp, it was obvious the combination of heat and high-energy activity had done their number on the kids. When my daughter asked if we could just watch an episode of our recently-found, unwatched Season Two of "Greatest American Hero" I consented.

     Personally, and this really is a personal aside uncharacteristic of this blog (despite the blog's name suggesting otherwise), I find this show to quite possibly be one of the best shows ever conceived, categorically and hands-down beautifully and brilliantly artistic. In concept at least. It involves the pairing of two quite diametrically different men, both personifying and metaphoring (respectively) various generations, and their attitudes and approaches to life. Over the course of the series (which lasts only two seasons) the show deals magnificently and brilliantly with perennial themes of life from both vantages, accomplishing what I feel few shows or books or plays ever really accomplish: a hopeful vision that finds the truth of "both positions," while not glossing over the failure to be comprehensive by either.

(Now, having said all that, I have to admit the show is campy as the day is long, and as poorly executed (in terms of special effects and other elements) as is typical of the era. Yet still, that is part of its charm, especially so for my daughter, who mentioned it "was silly, and that makes it good.")

     I craved to know what had happened in their day at camp, and to know their thoughts on the camp, suspecting from everything I read on the website how much of an adventure it would have been. I longed enough to know these things that, all the while home on the car ride, I excitedly plied myself to asking what they thought of the camp and the"swag" from camp. But, and have I mentioned, they were plumb tuckered out?

     So, we got home and I consented to them watching television as a moment of decompress time. I did so, however, cognizantly, and not acquiescently. The show is something which I believe is good, artistic, and we all enjoy it. It wasn't time spent talking about the day, yet nor was it unintentionally pursued. It was intentional together-time built around (what I feel is a wholesome, good, artistic) relaxation very fitting to their exhausted state.

     As I mentioned earlier, the father-heart of God is towards providing the fullest of experiences to which He brings us, to which He is faithful in providing to us. It goes beyond even just giving detachedly, but giving while freely, wholly, involvedly, and excitedly focused. My earnestness to revel in the day, and the intentionality behind purchasing the mementos was also extended into the moment of providing simple relaxation as befitted the moment. There is not a moment, I don't feel, that God is not purposeful about providing in, nor not faithful to bring.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Baptism Sunday

     I missed keeping my promise of a new post every Tuesday and Thursday last week. Today's post shall be slightly longer in make-up of the missed material.

     As it turns out last week was the final days of school for my children, and last Thursday morning was the last classroom party for my daughter's class. The party was a hootenanny to be sure, the homeroom mom having organized a "Painting with a Twist" theme (sadly, with no wine, not even for the adult helpers, but we nonetheless made do).

     The party was actually quite fun, understandably fueled in part by a swelling excitement coursing through the hearts of an entire school full of fun-craving students and weary, rest-longing teachers. The excitement of the morning itself was made all the more palpable by the processional walk through all the halls of graduating fifth graders on the final morning of elementary school attendance. I suppose, and I have mentioned this in an earlier post on the graduation of a beloved nephew, that with our human need for marking transitions, and the lack of rites of passage endemic to our American culture, such institutional-based experiences are the closest we have to that in which we find some conference of social identity (thus the needs met by such a conference).

     Like with the times I was the mystery reader for the class and with the volleyball team, I took great pleasure and made special effort in the class, notably and intentionally for my daughter's sake.



     The end of the year party was by no means the only nor the biggest event of the week, however. This weekend saw the marriage of our family's and our church's most beloved widower and widow to one another, both of whom having years ago (while their respective spouses were alive) adopted my family as surrogate grandparents -- much, they admit, behooved to do so by the Lord. Friday night was, of course, the rehearsal and dinner, and Saturday the ceremony and reception. My daughter was the flower girl, my son the ring-bearer, my wife a bridesmaid, and myself an usher.




     But then, as if that was not all celebration enough for one week, Sunday was our church's Baptism Sunday, which means our small congregation joins together in celebrating the ceremony of baptism of a group whom have chosen to be baptised in public testimony of their desire to walk in a relationship with the living God -- God and Lord, creator and author of their lives, and redeemer of their souls, and lover of their hearts, and father in heaven. We sing, pray, and partake of the ceremony together, and then we have a picnic as a community, complete with water-slides for the kids, and shaded conversations among friends by all. It is a rejoicing at goodness, and the goodness of the love of God freely, unreservedly desiring relationship right now (even in the very moment of reading this) with us while we are living today, not awaiting us to get our act together at some point, nor at some final judgement of our efforts at being good for a lifetime.

     At any rate, suffice it all to say, this week's end business and flurry of activity was all merely the context surrounding the point of this post. Normally Saturday would have found me pouring into my children with that amount of focused time of which a busy school week deprives me. Hence Sunday's festivities sort of took that place for us.

     You see, this Baptism Sunday event is not only a regular occurrence this time of year, and as such is something which fits into the narrative life of our community -- all true and quintessential -- it is something to which my children look forward. And in that way which such ceremonies and yearly occurrences fit into the mind and narrative lives of children -- as something which, well, to make oblique reference to the Frederick Buechner book, "Longing for Home," is home-making -- so does this event fit in the hearts of my children.

       I know my children love this event, and love it even more than just as an event with a water-slide and picnic. For all this event can be, and will be (years later in retrospect, and in total), I wanted for my children to have it, and thus I took efforts to ensure they would get to enjoy it, if only and merely by showing up. While it is quite simply yet quite wholly a good thing to experience this communal rejoicing and celebration (in the goodness of God for these live)s as part of the community -- it isn't a question that I would have gone for that reason alone -- I still wanted it for my children.

      It, the Sunday, is just good, and I wanted that in itself for itself. I also want goodness for my children, and want for my children the goodness they themselves want (knowing it is good beyond what they now can perceive and conceive). So, in the Saturday evening's laundry, and Sunday morning packing to get us out the door, looking forward, I made certain to prepare for what my children did not know to prepare. And it is in this forward looking, and this forward preparation, that I am seeing the father-heart of God for us all.

     No eye has seen, no ear has heard, what God has planned for us in Christ Jesus in Heaven, as the New Testament Epistle writer said. It is, I suppose, something like the dreamt forward memory of a taste.