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.

 


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.