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.