Thursday, November 16, 2017

Backgrounds

Local art galleries and artists partner together every year in this area, roughly the same weekend each year, to put on an event wherein the public can move through the studios and meet the artists, and view their work. It is something like a pub crawl for art galleries. In years past I have led tours for our art group in this event, and have frequented galleries with couple-friends and their children. It is an event which stirs my creative soul.

This year we were all able to go as a family, my wife being temporarily off her night-shift duties. However, right beforehand (and while we were waiting on Mom to gear up for the day), I honored my children's request to order this year's school pictures -- a chore I had simply not gotten around to. I have never been big on the whole yearly school portrait thing, especially when I did them as an elementary school-aged child.

I didn't really have much of a compelling reason for doing them this year, but when my daughter or my son (I don't recall who) asked to order them, well, Saturday morning I set myself to the task. Unlike when I grew up this is the digital age, and there were choices of backgrounds and so forth, all easily previewed on the website. Rather than deciding myself I turned the decision over to my daughter, thusly going through the ordering process with her.

It was a simple little moment of her having an agenda, the specific elements of which she defined for herself, and my (buying) power executed. She had earlier mentioned the style of background, and we together went through the choices within that category. I had had no direction for her, and minimized even how I defined the relative importance of the various attributes to each option. I merely was the functionary which, like a tailor asking preferences from his client, served my daughter in going before her in the project. When she was satisfied I ordered the packages for both children, and concluded the chore.

My heart was to see that my daughter did not go without her project, or her project coming off any way other than the way she intended for it to come off. Her self-determination, to whatever extent she found it important or relevant to enact through the project, to me, was a matter the way forward for which I would make come to pass, to the extent she wanted. 

Maybe this is nuanced but, her project and her desires became my will that my ability was bent towards to bring about, in a purely serving way (whereby I adopted its ends as my ends). There is in this a picture of the father-heart of God, most pointedly for the attitude towards us, and the valuing of us, as displayed or found in His partnership with us, in going before us on our behalf. It is His feeling for us, towards us, that He takes upon Himself out of an esteeming of us.

So, when Mom was sufficiently awake we made our way out to the gallery I always enjoy starting at. We went various places, all the while I was exultant at what I could only imagine was the creative or personal fertilization going on in my children's creative souls (as it was for me). When we finally came to a gallery space too crowded for my daughter, her limits for crowds having been reached, again her project became my own -- this time her project to remove herself from the people-saturated environment. We transitioned into other plans, and made the most of those, having had a fairly full day, all told.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Candles and Wax and Loos

We had had a candle burning in the bathroom, a religious candle of narrow base and taller height perched precariously atop the back of loo. As one might expect it tumbled off when my daughter sat down upon the closed lid to tie her shoe. She came rushing in to the other room, frantically telling us of the incident. I immediately worried the candle had fallen and had caught something on fire, and my daughter's recount left out any mention of it being extinguished. I snapped questions at her (causing her only fear and increased anxiety at her mistake) and rushed to the restroom expecting to find it ablaze. I didn't stop to consider I smelled no smoke at all.

As it turned out our restroom had the evidence of a great deal of candle wax coating various surfaces, but no evidence of fire. Relieved, I explained to my daughter my reaction, admitting I was sorry I added to her anxiety. It was, for me, like when you yell at a child as it attempts to cross the road while a car zooms along, but still that required some reparation of feelings, some assuaging of guilt. 

My daughter nonetheless, being the admirable child she is, wanted to set to cleaning the restroom poste haste, making amends as best she could. 

Here's the thing: the candle being set where it had been set, the candle being allowed to remain burning, that was on us as parents who set it. It was our responsibility first, and ultimately. My daughter's actions, at most, amounted to plopping down ungracefully, which, let's be honest, doesn't even come close to err, or our err. Our daughter really had no responsibility for the accident, even though she could have acted in a more controlled and mindful way. And as we surveyed the wax coated loo, walls, shower curtain, and floor, I very intentionally and expressly owned that culpability to her. 

See, here's where this little story just causes my heart to swell for my daughter. I wanted her to understand fully her absolution of fault, which in some way in my mind works out to her knowing her own autonomy and responsibility, verily her righteousness in things, along with her worth beyond things / material possessions. She is more important than a wall or floor which can be cleaned, and she is worth not being encumbered with unnecessary guilt or culpability for my own actions. I wanted her to know she was free of guilt, and sought for her safety when I analyzed the situation and her actions within it. As a parent, as a father, I can not help but see my own actions, my own responsibility first and foremost, and want my daughter free of the guilt where my err has caused situations to arise.

Here's the rub of this post, the part where I feel we find a model of the father-heart of God for us (though honestly I struggle for the word to apply to it): when she later came back and requested the opportunity to clean the mess, predicated on the basis of her involvement and fact there was something she could have done better, I wanted for only that sense of self-determination / autonomy / responsibility, that sense of respectability and admirability and honor for her having done so. It was my (as the parent's) place to assume the cost of our negligence, to assume the loss of it, but I wanted for her the place of not minimizing her (where she, having been cleared of guilt, self-determined a place to have done better). Where she didn't need to, she had assumed a role, out of character and admirable quality, and I was set and determined she should receive the honor of that choice and of those actions. There was an according of independence to her even in that, a humbling of myself and an elevation of her, in my intention at least. An honoring of her which allowed her that place and role to feel as though she had redeemed the situation -- and that necessarily valued her and accorded her worth. I met her as an equal, and deferred to her in that equality. I let her redeem the moment for which I bore the blame, to play the part of the blessing agent.

Maybe put more directly, I think the father-heart of God is, simply, to absolve us of guilt and to bring a freedom in action which emboldens us to play parts within situations (especially in the redeeming of those situations).  


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Reading

One of my kid's two favorite aunts came into town with her sons to treat my daughter and my son to a day. As usual the kids had a stellar good time, and I was exceptionally blessed. In thankfulness I have to talk mention it, if only for all their sakes, and the worthiness of it being known: there was goodness and love in which they all participated, and I am thankful. I could likely end today's writing right there.

For whatever reasons -- be it the annual requests from my family for the kids' Christmas gift lists , the Fall semester's Scholastic Book Fair order forms, the release of the newest title in a series, or the fact we recently had gone to the State Teen Fiction Book Fair (I think I might have mentioned) -- my daughter has been frequently mentioning this or that new book (or series) she is reading. It has become almost a staple facet of our daily conversations. As a writer I see clearly the correlation between reading and writing (writing as a calling), and I know my daughter's interests and abilities in writing stories, and so the significance of my daughter's statements rings out on a variety of levels.

One thing about it, simply, is that it is something she is enjoying, and it enlivens her to read and to talk about it; she flowers. I know somehow it enriches her soul like fingers going into rich earth, turning it over, mixing into it the humus of style, and idea, and pacing, and character, and of Story itself. As soil is aerated with turning over, so is her mind being opened up with reading.

She has made statements which, as a writer, I understand in their nuanced reality to indicate that really, beyond merely as an enjoyed past time my daughter loves writing, and loves good writing as another writer might love it. She appreciates the skill of an author. It goes beyond enjoying the experience of getting caught up in a good book: it is an appreciation for the ability of an author to catch someone up with their writing.

I want to feed into this, because I see it is a recursive function: encouraging her reading encourages her writing. I want her to pursue what is at her core of who she is. I want her to know what she values is valued/valuable to me, if simply because she values it, and what she values is good. In this way I understand the selfless father-heart of God: He is Good/Goodness, and He values (selflessly) goodness (which, by virtue of itself is in part defined by selflessness). He wants goodness for us. He wants himself for us. I know my daughter has my genes, which include the bents to loving writing as she does, and I would want for her to carry on in that, which is how I understand being created in the image of God and His father-heart for wanting goodness for us, and for our carrying on in Goodness, carrying on in Himself.

At any rate, there is in the fatherly heart a desire for seeing the child's having what is good for goodness sake, out of selfless, even self-sacrificing and self-abasing, drive.

((To try to imagine the selfless love in His wanting such goodness for us get's me to a weepy place in myself, and has me wanting to declare "He is Good!" -- damn the torpedoes of disdain, I say He is Good... and I reckon it is out of love for you I don't deter in my open-handed assertions of His Goodness. ))


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Make the Call

This past weekend was the local community's annual ... Halloween (time) Festival. They (being the M.U.D. we live in, which could have incorporated into its own town at one point but chose not to) have various events like this through out the year. It strikes me the laudably impressive degree of successfulness in achieving a true sense of community accomplished by these events, and they have come to be regular facets of our personal lives, speaking for my family. Community ritual, community tradition. I am thankful to the M.U.D., and its workers, and I am growing certain that to have any sense of community, on the part of the individual, there has to be this willful relating to the community through the attitude / heart-posture of receiving -- and not receiving as if I am due it, but receiving the effort/event for the gift and the kindness of it intended in the giving. You have to be in relationship (or, at least be willing to be in relationship) to it to receive from it, and receiving from it, well, you remain in relationship to it --whatever or whoever that "it" is, but now I am speaking more generally.

Needless to say I am writing this morning from that place of gratitude for (and feeling because of) the experience of having enjoyed myself with my community in a yearly tradition. As I am growing older I recognize that my current existential experience is informing my sense of the value and the character of History and of things past. My dad is dead. I am not "over that," just further away from it. I am growing in a sense that in the present moment the moment itself is more than just a linear sequence that lead up to the moment (therein defining that moment merely as the consequence of previous moments). The present moment, rather, (I am growingly aware) is a massive narrative collecting even disparate and unrelated narratives relating to the present moment if only because all stories are Story, and what Story itself is about really is found in all stories. I am thankful to Story in today's stories.

In previous but recent posts I've told the story of my father's last words, words of blessing to me, and  have told of the trip to Missouri in which I processed that event of my father's death. In the moment of those final words, for a minute or two, I had a father. I had an earthly father that loved me, freely, utterly accepting me and utterly respecting my boundaries. Oddly, respecting those boundaries, in some ways, erased the need for them. Whatever, at any rate... on a sunny morning, the coolness and cloudless-ness of which abate somewhat the light's heat but amplify somewhat it's sharpness, the awarenesses that I had had a father (if only for a moment), and the (awarenesses of the) lengthening of distance from and absence of that momentary completion of relationship both stand out starkly in my mind, like the trees and their shadows which this morning I see out my window.

Continuing an ongoing narrative from the previous posts, in a jarring sharp-turn sort of way: We had received the ATM card for my daughter's new bank account in the mail earlier in the week. I had waited in allowing her to activate it for when I could sit with her on Saturday morning. I wanted for her to do it all on her own, especially given that it was hers after all, but I also wanted to sit next to her merely and (only) to provide her what she wanted or felt she needed if she got stuck. I was going to keep her protected, while also letting her carry onward, move forward within this area in which she was given self-definition and autonomy. In the big-picture sense I was letting her move into the land meant for her to be the person she would define herself to be, while also going alongside where she might have legitimate need of aid. Yes, from a purely parental standpoint I wanted her to have the experience of the call and going through automation, and in part I wanted her to have full ownership of her own account by being the one to activate the card. Goes without saying that in good parenting you let the kid do, however, in big picture of fostering her identity, it was more: in all I wanted for her in terms of her exploring her establishment, in terms of  her establishing of herself, in those terms then all where there is a personal boundary of her own (even where she doesn't know to set it) I want and will to respect that boundary. In this case that looked like letting her be the one to call and activate her own bank card.

Yes, a bank account and activating an ATM card is just that, but it is also a first step, the likes of so many of which she will come to take in defining herself in the future. I wanted for her to have the freedom of having her own boundaries a la exploring that space in which she is (being) established, necessarily meaning I have to back off to let her "do". I shouldn't do it for her; I shouldn't enable her in dependance on me. This is her account, her freedom, and one area of many in which she self-determines, therefore I should respect this (and every other) boundary in which it is hers to self-determine. Those boundaries she doesn't know to set, and especially in those boundaries she specifically sets. It is to her glory, in one sense, that she self-determines on her own, and it would be wrong for me to not allow her that glory/right in the doing of it.

God made the world, and then sent Man to have dominion over it. Aside from a fairly clear set of safety instructions, well, I think -- with Adam and Even, and within my heart to honor my child's boundaries in the carrying out of her establishing herself -- we see a very clear picture of the father-heart of God to love and to actively seek to love His children. It is definitely the righteousness of God, actively allowing for the child to experience all the fullness of being established in the land.

Somewhere in earshot of my office window wind chimes sound as high and low pressure zones and cool air and warm air invert across the landscape.

Being further away from my father's death it seems in some ways I am coming closer to his life, if only for the absence of it. On the one hand I think I don't know what he would have thought of this or that matter. On the other hand I look at some unrelated narrative going on around my own life, and I can't help but find his, my father's narrative, no less relevant. The stories of the family of strangers in the park across the street, and that of my own father's life, we all participate in Story itself, and Story is about what all our lives surround.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Boundaries or Silty Words

I want my daughter to know I love her, and to know she knows I love her. I want her to know that freedom which comes from my love, my love freely and non-contingently given. Given without expectation upon her (or from her as a result of receiving) of any kind. So, I guess it is saying that I want my daughter to know she is loved, and to know that she is free of any debt for that love.

I want her to know that love because I love her, and want her built up knowing that love, knowing that she is loved, knowing that she is worthy, because knowing those things are good for her, and I esteem her undeniably worthy of being loved.

I don't want for anything from her for this love I give to her.

Philosophically I could wonder if I even have a choice to not love her, because I can not fathom not doing so, or not being overcome by love for her. I can, philosophically, wonder if the only real choice in the matter is in a choice of how I act out or respond to that overwhelming drive to love my daughter. But I suppose these could be considered many words in my head which, like increasing silt and sand in a stream, cause the water to be no less water in nature but certainly more cloudy in appearance.

Because I love my daughter, it seems I must necessarily require nothing of her, and must respect her boundaries while exerting no selfish influence over her, respect her defining of who she is and the relationship she will have to me, if only and in order to allow her in perceived safety to receive all the love which I have for her. I must require nothing in order to ensure the value of what she gives, ergo, respecting her boundaries are that much more important -- not to mention therein she is/will be effectively built up. Indeed, respecting her boundaries is tantamount to her being and feeling loved.

Obviously the same goes for my son.

So.... what? Normally you would notice, if you are regular reader, that many of these thoughts come couched in some more existential experience through which I relate my point. Honestly, though, that's what I want to say. That's what a father does, and that is a picture of the father-heart of God for sure. Certainly you just don't exert influence over them simply as the cost of their receiving love supposedly given freely, but, more importantly, the only way to really love them (children) is to respect ... their personhood, their individuality, their boundaries, call it what you will. (Silty words, remember.)

Part of that is trusting my daughter to know herself well enough, trusting her ability to define herself... and relinquishing control. What she defines herself to individually be her won't change the fact that it is her that I love, and loving her is ... silty words maybe but a marriage of will and love, intention and drive. What grand and magnificent effect when such love, such intention and drive elects, seeks to limit its power and ability on the other's behalf?

At any rate, that's what I got this morning, for this post.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Banks and Umbrellas

In this area there is always a cool front to blow in approximately two weeks before All Saints Day, and the coolness of which ne'er lingers, so that it is always warmer on Halloween than it was two weeks before. You hear the old timers talk about it, and its in the Farmer's Almanac.

Last night it was one of those warm, clear sky evenings, with clouds low on the horizon, full of what I've heard old timers call "heat lightning". This morning it is overcast, unseasonably cool.

Ambivalent weather.

It is also the fourth of a four day weekend, and as I write there is little traffic along my normally quiet street, made thus all the more quiet for the lack of activity.

So, this past Saturday I set myself to a task which has been strongly on my mind and heart to do on behalf of my daughter: I opened for her her own saving account at a credit union. I was prepared to do the same for my son, even, though his attitude towards money is a bit different, and having a savings account for him would not have accomplished the same purposes (in his mind) as I feel it did for my daughter (in her mind).

In the moment I surmised, hopefully with some degree of accuracy, that his having the immediate, cash-on-hand access to his money (along with my willingness to hope to and take him to whatever store he felt like visiting) produces in him (among many, many effects) both that sense of efficacy in attaining to his desires, and that sense of my willing desire on his behalf. After I took his sister to the bank, I took him to the store for that very purpose, and the overwhelming gratitude (and the loving responses) suggest I got close to producing that needed whatever of togetherness.

Different children, different needs, different approaches, I suppose.

For my daughter, in part, it was providing similar sense(s) to her, but more importantly it was a desire to "establish her in the land," so to speak, of civil entity status -- just more in the way of social persona crafting. She is, as I've said, at that developmental stage where she is growing in a social self-awareness, just as she has spent these past years developing her sense of physical self and personal self. Just as one day she will develop her sense of her intellectual and belief/believing self. All in their time, in their season at their respective stages.

In this stage of her life she is developing a knowledge of herself socially, and that will entail growing sense of personal autonomy. A bank account is just one element, one way for her to triangulate her self within the world and know, because I was a part of setting it up on her behalf, my faith and belief in her. This is one tiny boundary of "her": her money, her account, before the eyes of society and others, an account to do with as she pleases, and which allows her a resource pool from which to draw to define herself through choice and action.

The thing is, this is important, her being able to be her own person, and that is something I care to bend myself to go before her in and to aid with establishing her in. I am definitely not going to leave her to do it outside the umbrella of my protection and guardianship of her.

I have to thoroughly believe this is a model of the father-heart of God for us. Christ said, he went away to prepare a place for us, and if he goes he will then return. God in the Old Testament established His people within the land, it was part of His promises. His laws were to establsh them in continuing safety within the land, as we read frequently expressed in Deuteronomy.

So, I didn't realize it until my own father died, but once he passed I felt outside of his umbrella. I hadn't ever seen him or even knew him as a protecting figure in my life. Hell, he was hardly even a present figure, even when I was there visiting. That was a surprising and unexpected thing for me, when he died: feeling the absence of his umbrella, his covering, maybe his protection (even having never known or experienced it). I wonder at the impact to someone when a father is actively that umbrella. It is perhaps in this place of absence that I hear the verse, "the Name of the Lord is a strong tower and refuge for those that believe" -- where I need to hear it, though it be no less true for others who had present fathers.

I have seen for my son my having been that present umbrella, as when some knuckleheaded children were carelessly and negligently throwing rocks on a playground and hitting him as a consequence. I am known for a deep, baritone booming voice, and those children experienced it with a full authority behind it, to be sure -- my son is my glory, and they trespassed him. Always with my son I see where I can be better, rise up more to a better fathering, so I can't presume I do this well, but neither can I fathom in the slightest another father intentionally or lazily or selfishly not being a covering for his children. My problem encountered here then is the question of my childhood, what to make of it. And then, that verse: the name of the Lord is a strong tower and refuge, and therein we, I find strength.

An interesting and rather random note: after the bank and the store we went with friends to the State Teen Fiction something or other held at a local university with some friends. While there, manning a table for an author they knew, were the wife and child of the small town pastor who led my father's funeral services. R-A-N-D-O-M! In that moment, in that place where I felt so out of place, with those two people, I felt my real world expand, like tasting again a fatherland which yet still remains far off. It seems the pull on my focus of immediate, exigent life, with all its routines, as well as griefs, has distracted me from such awareness.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Mantles and Towers

One of the more salient experiences coming from the road trip up to Missouri with my friend to see the eclipse from his old family homestead was a question he had asked me. My friend asked me a question I don't know if I would ever have put to myself, if I would ever have had the wording to use with myself. The question he asked was simply had I felt a mantle had been passed from my father to myself. For my friend and his situation -- where his relationships with his family had cohered over the years and wherein he occupied a very continuous role and presence --  I knew this question, its gist and its answer, necessarily looked different. He was discussing a mantle within the family structure being passed on down, from the father, regarding place or role within the family.

I had to answer that I had indeed felt a mantle passed, but not that I felt involved my role within my father's family. I had felt more the conference of my own role within my own family, more a father to my own children. 

There is a sense in this moment now that I want that for my own son. I want more solidifying or more than mere, vague, skeletal structure to the sense of role within the family. I want for him  to have his role be more fully his, for him to have it more fully for himself. Just as I felt more a father to my own children, more fully me and mine, more fully for me for my family, so I want this for my son. I suppose you could say I want for my son to have his own, distinct identity more fully his own for himself.

Not so sure any of this makes sense outside of my own "feel" of the thing. I just know I experienced the realization of a having experienced a good, an experience and a realization brought to the surface of words by my friends question -- a good in which I felt more fully, more freely, and more freely with all opportunity, me.  That good I wanted for my son. I want that alterity, that separated identity for my son. To such an end I know I have to take steps to respect the boundaries of that separate person who is my son, and so respecting I am intentionally and necessarily aiding in the formation of it in him. I have to acknowledge that boundary, that separate uniqueness, in order for it to be there, in some sense.

It's interesting to note that Jesus Christ who actively left the 99 to find the one, Jesus who comes after and avidly pursues, is the one who yet stands at the door and knocks; He who could obliterate the door and for whom no door actually exists nonetheless stands at the door, respectfully knocking and not overstepping. More fascinating still somehow is the dynamic that such respecting of the door is the unstoppable, alluring wooing of the person shut inside.

So this weekend I made it a point to make important to me what I knew was important to my son: he had a gift card to an ice cream place given him for his birthday which he wanted to use. I knew this without him saying it and made this little project of his my project without his having to ask. I came to him, made his project my own, without his having to ask.

Clearly there is a picture of the father-heart of God there. I am struck in the writing of this of how that father-heart inherently respects the boundaries of the son's alterity: his (the son's) goals, his project are respected, those boundaries not overrun but come along side of, while yet still the father-heart intentionally pursues by coming into the project, making it his own.

In a macroscopic view, at least such a view of myself, as regards this mantle (" I am fully a father to my children") I find I have to ask: what all does it mean to be a father; what is the significance of a father, and what is all the significance of a father? What all is a father?

Kneejerk response is that a father is a shield; a safe, stronghold tower. Maybe a gentle shepherd leading from behind, steering as he follows, all the while going before to clear the way, but definitely a shield, a strong tower and refuge. A strong tower and refuge holds out, holds at bay, but it doesn't absorb or subsume or even surround (except in it's surrounding to hold out away from the individual inside). The tower is a boundary which does not invade or cross over the boundaries of the one inside; the tower is an "outward" boundary or that boundaried inside, safeguarding the person inside and that person's boundaries (boundaries as a separate person). A boundary protecting boundaries.

That's what I know right now, what I am thinking about. SUre there is more to consider.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Churning and Folding

This past weekend was one of rest, of rest entered into intentionally. At least it was one where activity was actively eschewed -- thus more avoidant than restful in actuality-- but to the same effect as resting, I suppose. The weeks prior had found us receiving in the mail the birthday gifts of the two beloved aunts, my sister and my wife's, both of whom very wonderfully peg my son's interests with their gifts. The great-grandmother had also sent some birthday money, as she had done with me and my sister every year of our lives, so beautifully typical of her cohort, and we had gone to the store to get the thing for which he had wanted to spend money. All in all there was little or no pressing chore or activity, and life was pretty much settling fully back into a state of routine.

I can't say why I felt this way but it had seemed to me that I had been leading much of the charge over much of the last few weeks and up to that moment of this past weekend. Maybe it had been stepping up with several intentional interactions, planning the party and subsequent class cupcakes, finding horseback riding lessons and scheduling them, so on and so forth through all the intentional activity. So, the intentional eschewing of activity was kinda like intentionally pulling off to the side of the road, perhaps, but neither here nor there. What is salient to point out is the feeling of having been leading the charge.

I found myself, through conversations and tiny choices (like with television show watching) attempting to "fold my son" into the family action. That was my heart anyway. Maybe I was folding myself into his lead, as well.

All I know is that I wasn't wanting to just make his decisions for him, or even to make our decisions without him. And when I was doing so, as with the party decisions  and cake choice and "informing" him of the plans, really I was deciding upon and doing what I reasonably knew he wanted and would choose himself, were it not meant to surprise and bless him.

Folding him into the decisions is being with him, being in his presence in our community of a family. I know he is going to choose the things I know he likes, which we all happen to like. I trust his little character and it's desires, which actually often look no different than what the lot of us desire. The old philosopher in me could argue in the vein of Determinism and so forth -- is he really free if I know what he'll choose sort of stuff -- but the writer in me sees that as too analytically short-sighted.

I am reminded of the verse that goes something like, "the Spirit of God is active within us, causing us to will and to desire according to His good purposes." Taken in light of Christ's many statements along the lines that He and the Father are one, and that Christ does nothing without the Father leading, and doing only what He sees the Father doing, and we sort of get the picture God's Father heart here. God's father-heart is to fold us into the decision process, to be thusly in our presence. I just wanted to be with and around my son in doing something all together, and which we all enjoyed.

For myself, however or moreso, this "folding my son into" is a matter of being with him, desiring him, in that place of the sense of absence of my father. As I said before, when my own dad died I felt a mantle of being even more a father to my own family. It is almost as if that mantle, like a breaking wave churning up underneath itself and into itself, is folding me into and up underneath the absent place. It is filling, it is healing. It is no longer that my dies has died but that my family is living, together.

I am on my own, and I am not alone but with my family, and they are with me. When my dad died, as I tell people, it felt like I was out from beneath an umbrella, out from up beneath a covering which I never knew he provided. I also said I felt unprotected, when he never was a protecting place in my mind. And the control I had exercised in keeping him at arm's length was stripped away by his death. All of that surprised me, and the surprising nature of all that rattled me as much as the loss seemed to. Somehow I guess in some positive way I am saying I want to make my son my life in that place where death has created an absence, and in the doing so I am letting go of more than the loss. In the letting go of control I am yielding to embracing my own identity (one with which my father happened to have blessed me, as a matter of fact) : I am a father, a good father. No longer a fatherless son, but a father to a son.

I wonder if there is not some existential identification with the experience of Christ and God the Father and Holy Spirit here, with Christ becoming man and dying and thus being in human form for eternity thenceforth.

I do know that "folding my son into" is also forming him, formative of him and who he is, just as it ("folding him into") concurrently is part of being with him. And I desire both. Picture of the father-heart of God. I wanted him to also know I cared for what he cared for. In this too, where all of this is pouring into me, I am nonetheless wanting for him, and just as irrelevant was my father's ailing condition to my heart for my children, so too my own healing is irrelevant to and overshadowed by my desires for them, thus highlighting of my children's own inherent value.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Windows, Horses, and Bowling Birthdays

Somehow in this post I get from my father's final blessing of me, his death, my trip to Missouri, up to this past weekend and my son's birthday. Like ripples in a pond, and honey drizzling down through the layers in baklava.

So, a lot of the past two or thee entries have come in the context of my trip to see the eclipse, and the processing of my father's death which occurred during that trip with my friend. That was about two months worth of time between my father's death and the trip, so, for what ever that is worth. But these current days, and these last few posts, are like the ripples extending outward from probably one moment in particular, and my father's passing in general. That particular moment occurred about three or four weeks before my father died, during a final visit when I went up to the old, home town to see him, to tell him goodbye.

We spent a small period of time, maybe two hours, talking, primarily with my stepmother while he remained in the bed. Sensing or trying to read the moment for when I knew she must be tiring, or my father tiring, I got up to go tell him goodbye. My wife followed, ever having my back -- though honestly I didn't expect it of her, nor anticipate it. From his hospice bed my father reached up, took our hands in his, and conferred a blessing upon us. He told us we had good kids, and were doing a good job, and my wife deserved some of the credit for that as much as I did (me being the stay at home parent, her the working parent). He then invited us to return anytime, welcoming us back.

One of the issues we have always had in the past with my father was how he would often ask us to return for a visit when he evidenced no satisfaction or gratitude when we had come to visit. This time however my father, in those brief two minutes if it were that long at all, was so absolutely accepting (as if no past tensions between us mattered), so welcoming and open-armed in heart -- without qualification or expectation or onerous, burdensome requirement -- so freely loving, well, he was the very picture of Christ and Christ's offer of forgiveness. Pure, free gift and grace.

There are windows into Heaven, and that moment was a window. I am convinced that while I was only vaguely aware of the moment, my father must have been more cognizantly nearer the presence of God than ever before, and as with Moses at the burning bush we were on hallowed ground. I do know, in that moment, that I had had a father I never have felt that I have had before, and having a father in that singular moment was so profoundly good that even all the years of not having had one could pale of diminish the moment of having it. I think even my wife had a father in that moment, or in the very least received a fatherly blessing which recognized her contribution as well as conferring other things.

On the trip to Missouri my friend asked if I had felt a mantle being passed from my father to me, and I said I surely felt the mantle of that of being more a father to my own family (as opposed to any mantle within my own father's household).

Somehow all of this fits into this weekend, or this weekend fits into all of this. Well, a very busy Saturday more than the whole weekend.

I have for some time been researching (as I may have mentioned elsewhere) horseback riding lessons for my daughter. This past Saturday the entire family took a trip to the place which offers the riding lessons for a tour, an attempt to get a gauge of the owner and the venture of riding lessons itself. I liked the owner and her ethos (with an emphasis on teaching everything about horses, from grooming and care on up through dressage and various forms of riding particulars). In a sense I was trying to look through a window at what it would be like for my daughter, in the hopes of providing her confirmation of her desires and this particular path. This was a very practical step forward, a foreshadowing or picture into the experience suggestive of my earnest partnering and commitment to the project of equipping her. Surely a picture, a window of the father-heart of God for us all.

What makes this tour so episodic in the narrative of the weekend is that this tour was a sort of "additional" to my son's birthday celebration preparations, and all the events and context surrounding the Saturday's plans.

Up until Friday morning I had no clue what form of party we were going to have for my son. I was defaulting to cake and ice cream at the house, hoping I might clean at least one bathroom prior to. Further complicating matters was the fact my son's best friend, a girl down the street, was having her birthday that same day, and my son and daughter both wanted to attend. Friday morning, from out of the bue, an idea struck me that there was a bowling alley that hosted kid's parties, and it just so happened the place had an open slot. This slot turned out to be right before the friend's party (held elsewhere). Providential doesn't quite cover it, if you follow my drift. With plans in place I invited specifically and only those close relationships which seem to most bless my son. (I had at least had the sense to order a specialty cake earlier on Thursday.) Friday evening found me at home with my son while my wife and daughter surreptitiously went shopping for gifts, party favors, and so on.

My daughter was quite precious about the whole affair, using her own money to buy a truly thoughtful gift (and fitting one it turned out), as well as bending herself to stuffing the party favor treat bags. Hence, Saturday we get up, rush off to the horse stables tour, come home, have lunch, rush off to store to pick up the cake and then on to the bowling alley (all whilst my son had no clue to the plans for his surprise), and after the party, on to the little friend's party.

My attitude towards my son in all of this was one of wanting to see him honored, yet found myself grateful for the love bestowed upon him. I was blessed by those loving my son. I wanted significant relationships for my son, and invited for him (surrounded him with) those relationships which seem to be entirely life giving to him. I manufactured the experience (well, you know), brought the people together, supplying it. Surely that is a picture, a window of sorts, into the father-heart of God for us.

And yet how does all this link together, how do the first and largest ripples resemble the last and smaller ripples? How do I get from my father's blessing of me (in all it's picture of Christ's grace extended to me) to this picture, these pictures of the father-heart of God for us all (and those moments from which they derive)? From the sense of a mantle within my own family to lives and blessing of my children? From the existential to the imageric?

This morning, writing, I don't know if it does, or, at least, if it does for me. See, I think this blog post is actually, somehow, about my wife (where my last post was similarly about my sister-in-law). Throughout this weekend my wife was present, despite a toll it took upon her. She wanted to be a part and made herself an active part, even though it messed with her nighttime work schedule. My moment with my father was also a moment with and for her, to her blessing. In all of the lives of my children she RATHER HONORABLY AND VALIANTLY plays a part. Beyond being the bread winner, beyond being a support who anchors or balances me, she influences our children's lives. Sometimes silently; sometimes sonorously. She is a motive force. Her presence in our lives are such that she and her influence are not ever absent. Take its motion from it and wind is only air; take my wife from the picture and the family is not a family. More so, to me, I would not be the father I am without her, her influence and support and building up of me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Out to the Gate

Of my sister-in-law I have an inestimable esteem. A product of the same formative context as my wife (of whom none other, in my eyes, equals in terms of worth or deservingness of admiration, and this not simply for coming out of that context but definitely in part for such), has silently carried many a mantle within her family-of-origin.

My sister-in-law, like in the fashion of most ambassadors in their own roles, is a sort of gate to her family-of-origin. She just occupies that role, that function. Whether this is intentional on her part or not (if it just be something of her core being out of which she just naturally operates) I can't say, but it did certainly (as on numerous occasions in the past) add dynamic to her presence in my children's lives this past weekend.

Whereas most ambassadors are merely functionaries sent (on the behalf of a sending sovereign) in the intention of fostering relationship, my sister-in-law herself sought such relationship with my children clearly from out of her own being. Put differently, my sister-in-law was self-sent, out of her profound love of my children, and in no other desire than for relationship -- whether  she acted in the role / function or not.

Maybe in risk to my nuance through reductionism, I'll make the simple yet fine point: my sister-in-law herself chose to come be a part of my children's lives, across many a physical and emotional gulfs (into relationaly unsettled seas), because it is the sort of self-initiating person she is. Yes, that ambassadorial aspect of her is attendant to her simply loving my children and wanting relationship with her niece and nephew, but (attendant or no) it adds dynamic to that simply loving them. She loved my children beyond just being their aunt "from my wife's family," but was ambassadorial concomitantly to/with her auntly affections. She was intentionally my children's aunt.

 But this is just the prelude, the tip of the iceberg, the setting of the stage for why, in this moment, I feel such an inestimable esteem for my sister-in-law. The iceberg itself is what lies hidden beneath the frigid waters, and though you know its presence by its surfacing tip, the iceberg's breadth lies in a greater and colder body.

When my father was passing, in his final few weeks of life, it was heavily impressed upon me to listen to his heart, to hear in his final words to me whatever he would be saying to me. In the moment when I entered his room to knowingly give my final goodbyes (for that day's visit, and for the last time in his life and in mine) my father gripped my and my wife's hands, and blessed us. It was a simple statement about how well we were doing with our children, what good kids they were, and how we were welcomed to come back anytime we liked.  The heart in his words, behind his words, of his words... his heart... was one of utter and free acceptance, where all the past and past  mistakes and past hurts were utterly absent; where no expectations existed, no qualifications or delimiting criteria existed. Just free, utterly accepting welcome. The identity inherent to a blessing of a father coming in the words of affirmation of myself as a father, of my wife and I as partnering parents.

In that moment I had a sense of God, of His free welcoming, His unqualified giving, His total acceptance and accepting blessing of me in His love and in His forgiveness. As with my father I was brought in, am brought in.

From out of the earlier trip with my friend, the trip up to see the full eclipse, came the externally-processed "expression" of part of the nature of the blessing: the experience of having stepped into more fully the mantle of "father" -- to my own children. My children are my life; my children are me.

Along with the tenuous relational and emotional contexts into which she was coming, various health issues and the ubiquitous exigencies of modern life were all lending to what I would have expected to be a debilitating fatigue for my sister-in-law, the sort of which I wouldn't want to have give from out of to others. My sister-in-law, however, not only gave out of exhaustion and deficit, but lavishly gave, lavish to the point of exorbitant lavishness. She took them swimming, had pizza with them (their favorite food); he took them to a rock-climbing and bouldering gym; to a bookstore (and they both love books); to enjoy ice cream and scenery. My children were blessed, and in the process, I too was given an exorbitant grant of time free of the responsibility of care-taking my children.

Very very easily I can see the father-heart of God for us in the ambassadorial-intentioned bringing of lavish blessing (at a greater-than-normal cost to herself) heartedness of my sister-in-law. She is, from this weekend, a picture of the father-heart of God to me. And just as it is my heart to bring all those blessing to my children, so can be seen in my desire to enable their aunt (through my permission) to spend time with my children a picture of the Father-heart of God to see His people blessed through His people. There are many pictures of the father-heart of God coming out of this weekend.

My esteem, however, for my sister-in-law rests not merely upon simply how she modeled the father-heart of God, nor upon what she did, or upon the greater understanding of what she did as that is contextualized by her fatigue and exhaustion, or even upon the degree of lavishness with which she revealed the breadth of her heart. No, my esteem for her rests upon the fact that she came, that she is "one who comes to" ... to my children. Just as my father showed me "acceptance," she shows me "coming". It is who she is: "she who comes to". Christ called himself the gate, despite being the one who came to us.

Now, I have to add a caveat, because let's face it, 4 people read this blog and 3 of them are family. My sister is also an incredible aunt, no less estimable than my sister-in-law. My sister is different, but no less estimable. What I needed to process in this post, however, is not something correlative to my sister and who she is and how that is a model of God to me.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Labors of the Day

I didn't sleep well or much at all last night. That has left me quite as you would expect for a middle-aged man.

In this particular moment, on this particular morning, I am feeling quite as I did in those moments of my road trip to Missouri, to watch the most recent full solar eclipse. In those precious moments I felt as though I were fully in a moment of waiting. Strangely it was also a feeling of journeying, but maybe I confuse the one for the other.

Ultimately it was a sense that all was pushed out, and I was nowhere but in the moment, able to be nowhere else but there, then, in no control of circumstance but entirely unthreatened by my lack of control, and untempted by any desire to control the circumstance. If we found ourselves stuck in traffic, it was what it was, and just happened to be that that was what I was doing in that moment in that place. There was no requirement to be any where by any set time. I couldn't be where I was going any faster, and going slower and getting there later just was more circumstance in which I might find myself unable to do anything about, and no where near an immediate concern. What is is what was, and what would be would be what was.

It is a precious freedom, that feeling of journeying, of waiting. I'll call it journeying. It is a release of burden, and quite the feeling of being carried. Standing, perhaps, on the heaving prow of a mighty and heavy ship charging through the waters, supported by its deck and strength. It (that road trip) was (today is) that salient sense which I think is attendant to (and part and parcel within) that notion of "the blessed man for whom a Fatherland is yet to come, yet seen and longed for from afar." Perhaps in this is the closest kinship (as a fellow man) I have to the patriarch Abraham -- and to all whom have come since him, and to all who have yet to come after me.

I need that feeling this morning. I need that orientation.

Several of the very few that read this blog have asked why I do it, why I blog, what is it, why the detached tone, and what is my aim through it all. Some noted the repetitious nature of the entries, and went so far as to ask if I really believed or incorporated all I said in each entry, or were the posts just my processing those ideas for myself? All good questions. But a question has it's time, and that question's answer may yet have another time or times.

This weekend was Labor Day weekend. Friday, end of school, found us having a playdate in the midst of which we delivered yet another baby rabbit to a new home. This saga is nigh drawing to an end, and we have only one baby and two adults to rehome. My daughter and my wife are increasingly relieved with the extrication of animals from the household. The playdate was successful for all concerned, in that the mothers who had gotten a girls' night out as a result had had a good night, and none of the children left my household having spatted or any the worse for wear under my care. Indeed, I think new friendships were cemented, and blessings went forth.

Saturday I spent the day trying to actually nail down what has been put into motion for my daughter and son, in terms of arranging those ongoing extracurricular activities in which they'll be participating this school year. For some time it has seemed important to involve my daughter in horseback riding. She loves horses, as it seems many little girls do, but maybe in ways or for reasons beyond what other little girls commonly do. It is important to her, and seems to fit into her desires to be involved with animals and therapy and animal rescue / rehabilitation.

Horses are, like otters or dolphins or dogs, a particular path. Me, I am a bird guy: I connect with birds, find them beautiful and ... well, just the animal I connect with the best. I can't say my daughter is (or is not) a "horse-person" like I think myself a "bird-person," I mean, honestly, we haven't been around horses yet, but I know this is a particular path for my daughter. There a defining here, of her, by virtue of the particular path, and that most importantly is what I am intentional about giving her. If we were "sports people" we would be, would look like "sports people." For now it seems my daughter is a "horse person" and thus I am putting her "into" that, setting her into that. Saturday I spent calling stables and riding studios.

For my son I sought out jiu jitsu studios, though, honestly, he is not at that developmental phase where such specific activity-based identity is forming. He is known (by his teachers and by those adults who have spent time with him) as a little man of character and of integrity and of empathy. I am thinking this foray into mixed martial arts may just spool up more his inherent leadership personality. If nothing else, for him, I am just delighting. His path will be, about that I am certain, and this (like my other efforts on his behalf) is my attempting to proactively maintain the pace. I say maintain the pace because already, I feel, he outstrips me as a man of character, and he challenges me (by virtue of himself and his value) to be a better father than I am, to be more than I am. Just to win being worthy of being his father. I don't deserve him as a son, I know, and so I try to justify if only a little bit more the faith he places in  me, since he deserves that effort on my part.

Some reading that might hear only self-condemnation. Really, though, it is the most selfless I know being, because it is focused on the fullness of his value, with little focus on myself -- I feel only his value, and feel any worthlessness. A proud father of a son would hear what I am saying.

I think maybe, where with my daughter I am intentional as she needs me to be (and where I show (cue the refrain) the father-heart of God for us all to her), I showed it to my son on Sunday, where I was protective of him. We were on the church playground after church, and some older boys were throwing pecans and pebbles at each other. One parent already had asked them to stop, and I was almost quivering with a desire to call them on their behavior, but was allowing them the choice to do right by that parent and all the rest of us parents. When at last they threw a rock which hit my child I reared up in the full baritone, drill-sergeant-like voice for which I am known, and in not a small amount of authority yet gentle firmness, expressed they had thrown a rock after being asked to stop, it had hit my son, and had hurt him, so they were to forthwith stop.

In that moment I was fully controlled, but quite certainly defensive of my son. There was no limit to the extent to which I would have gone to protect him, though I limited my response to the situation -- the situation leading up to the event, and the situation of the event both. In that moment my son knew the (heart of) protection for himself which I certainly feel is God's father-heart for us.

Those moments of this past weekend are like the countryside of the areas through which I have been driving recently. They have all slowly changed un-alteringly into the similar landscape of this present moment. And all these and this present moment of this morning -- the moment of waiting and of that sense of journeying -- are like the similar, un-altering landscapes of that one larger, particular area of the Ozarks through which I drove with my friend: varied in appearance but of the same form, the place I was in but which was not the home yet to come.

One is anchored in the release of journeying, as I was in the road trip with my friend, in the purpose if not of the journey then in the purpose of journeying itself. More than being on a path for a reason, maybe, it is the reason for Path itself. Path itself is expression, is identity manifested. Path is journeying a corporate journey; individual narrative traipsing along meta-narrative. My friend and I, more than being on a road trip next to each other were on similar journeys on the same journey. Missouri looked to him like the land of his forebearers, while to me it looked like something else. The journey itself, however, looked the same: we both were men of a certain age facing the deaths of our fathers, facing our own foreignness to the Land; facing the land and the Land without our fathers in it; facing fatherhood fatherless; both of us facing the waiting for an as yet to come Fatherland.

Like the memory of an echo the question by some of why I blog resounds, and it is still yet the time for an answer. I am still traveling, still in this moment and this circumstance of today.

I am absent from my friend, have been since we got back. It is not the only absence I am feeling. My father is dead; my Fatherland is yet to come. Those are two different kinds of absence. As I write this at my office window, a hummingbird perches upon the foot rest of the feeder, and I am struck by the beauty of its lines. I seldom get to see them sit still. During the eclipse, just as the full blackness ended and that tiny, tiny crescent which for all its slightness showed the immense magnitude of the sun's brilliance to light the world with even a fraction of itself, a bird had sounded. It was the most beautiful event, the bird song, and it dwarfed the experience of the eclipse for me. I am a bird person. As the eclipse ended my road trip with my friend rounded a bend in course alone, and we looked to what was next -- which was a meandering route home. In some ways we had always been looking towards home: looking backwards, looking forwards, looking down, looking up, looking onwards -- all looking towards home.

There's a tension, then, that is at the heart of journeying: the being right there in the moment, and the considering what is to come; the looking along the road, and the looking down it. A tension of pushing out of everything but being right where you are (and being fully, only there), and a moving to where you are yet to be, where you yet long to be. It doesn't mean stopping; it means moving. You have to be moving to be where you are, and stopping is moving in the wrong direction.

Relationships are themselves a form of journeying. Some continue, some end. Some, the healthier ones, change, and all (if residing in that tension of journeying) find the release of just being in the moment, not subject to unchangeable circumstance (of the unchanging other), while yet still looking onwards to what the two as one are being made to become. The path of the relationship, maybe the Path which is the relationship,  the sub-narrative following the meta-narrative, it is the particular manifestation of journeying, the path of Relationship itself. Like with my friend and I, where Missouri was seen differently by both of us, so too the Landscapes of Relationship between two people -- but both look onward to an as yet known fatherland, an as yet known relationship.

It seems that in our closest relationships we have to erect distance-producing boundaries, ironically, in order to draw closer. More ironic still is the fact that the closest we could ideally be would be unboundaried, or rather, without needing boundaries. It is peculiar that desiring closeness, or boundary, or distance all seemingly produce something opposite of what we seemingly want. That maybe is because , when such is happening (as getting different than what we want) we are actually desiring something different. Desiring closeness produces boundaries, while desiring boundaries produces distance, and desiring distance sometime produces closeness. Desiring distance is not desiring separation. Desiring boundaries is not desiring isolation. Desiring closeness is not desiring dependency. Desiring separation, isolation, dependency is not desiring relationship. However, desiring something other than Relationship in a relationship is to desire not more than separation, isolation, codependency. Desiring relationship is desiring identity, or is (in the very least) desiring that which is identity producing.

Back to my reader-friends questions as to why I blog. The most I could answer would be the answer a stranger and first time reader would have of this blog: it is a blog written to strangers, a blog about a man who himself is befriending those strangers to himself, not the least strange of whom are himself (in the day called Today) and his children's future selves.

If I've written you in the writing of me, then you may be the hardest of all for me to love, but I also find I have the greatest compassion for those who find it hard to love themselves, and "doing," or blogging, is the exercise of that compassion. At most I would hope to teach that compassion to my children, knowing I am an eartherly father.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Rabbit Envoying

When we originally got the male and female bunnies -- which have produced now two litters -- I had always envisioned (somewhat cheekily) populating my neighborhood with "wrascily varmints," darting hither and thither through front yard and park field. The reality of such has been staved off by the father bunny (fortunately?) passing quietly into that long goodnight of rabbits from time immemorial. Beyond his eldest bunny son coming of age to copulate with mother and sibling alike and thus producing even more rabbits to get rid of, my daughter is assuredly done with the whole affair or rabbit re-homing and of rabbits in general. The stress of continually caring for them has now far exceeded the cute novelty of rabbit procreation and of tiny little bunny paws wiping tiny little rabbit faces.

Put rather differently, my daughter is rather ready for the rabbit saga to come to a rendered end. Hitherto my desire has always paralleled my daughter's in her capturing and bring the bunnies inside, diapering them for free-ranging within doors, and other such little things. But now that her desires have shifted I have found myself both wanting still to aid her and also applying myself beyond her ability (to her chosen desires to re-home the rabbits). More simply put, I am taking up the project in my greater ability, to greater effect, because she has neither the ability nor opportunity to do so. Because I love her, and want for her, I am working to effect and bring about her desired ends. I do so enthusiastically not just because I love her but because I understand her both to be making a mature decision, and because I know it to be a decision profiting the whole family. Fewer animals means less stress for the household all around.

The simple, real rub is this: I have access to social media like NextDoor and Facebook (and so on) to which my daughter has no access, along with having time and the ability to arrange transport and so on. I am wanting for my daughter's efforts to re-home to be effective, and not limited to her limited abilities to accomplish her desires, and I can go further in my efforts on her behalf. I am happy to do so, and I want her to be able to succeed in her efforts. She can reach out to a few friends at school, I can reach out to 8000+ people in the area.

Undeniably there is in this a picture of the father-heart of God for us all: He wants for us to be as fully effective as He can enable us, and He desires to go before us on our behalf. Just as certainly as I am going before my daughter and making a way (desiring to do so), so too with Him on our behalf, out of His fatherly love. He is quite generously lavishing of affection in this way, and earnestly committed, no doubt.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Last Swim

So, last Saturday was the last Saturday before school started, and one of the last days of the community pool being opened. Kids hadn't been swimming since my injury at the pool, and so going for one last swim was high up on the kids' priority lists. Fortunately I had recovered enough that making it from the car to the poolside was only moderately taxing, and that in itself was a small blessing to me.

The thing about it is this: I wanted my children to be able to have carved out for them not only an experience they wanted, but also (more so) I wanted them sheltered. What in Sam Hill and Tarnation does wanting my children sheltered (whatever that means) have to do with swimming before school starts? Well, let me "spell" your mind for a bit and tell you.

For some time during the past month both my children had been increasingly aware and considering the encroaching school year, and what they mean. My daughter recognizes this is her last year in elementary and that much of "childhood (read "elementary-sized" schooling) will have to end. My son, ever the empathy-filled champion has been concerned over the possible knuckleheads who may populate his class, especially previous classmates.

Amidst all the preparations and forward-looking I wanted to take a moment to just be with my kids, in the way we had been together when we were (more or less) living day-to-day or in-the-moment during the Summer. I wanted more than to merely safeguard that moment of time together, and that fun together, I wanted to safeguard them, to shelter them in that loving time spent together. I want that for them in every moment, intend such in every moment, knowing some moments they experience will not be sweet swimming moments, but moments of troubled, tumultuous rapids in life.
This desire to provide sheltering I very much thing is the father-heart of God for us all in and through every possible moment -- even those when we can not or do not receive the freely, "expectations-free(ly)" offered sheltering. Even in my most anxious of thoughts and moments I see the father-heart of God wanting to provide this sheltering moment, such that the defining narrative of that moment is one of that sheltering and not of the surrounding or impending tumultuousness.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Shoes and Calves

As I have discussed in years past, part of the Right of Passage (into formal schooling) now turned Ritual of Confirming, along with buying school supplies, has been to go Back to School shopping. Unfortunately, a day after writing my last post I tore both my calves going off a diving board -- right before tax-free weekend. Yes, the pain was excruciating, and yes you can yell obscenities in pain beneath the water. Suffice it all to say I can not drive even, as it risks the lives of all in the car, even where I to bite through the pain. So, this year, it fell to Mom to have to take the kids shopping, which, as a night-worker, is kinda like for the rest of us going into crazy crowds at 2:30 a.m..

One thing that had been on my heart for my daughter was her getting new shoes. She is one of those kids that wear her shoes well, to the point of wearing them out quick. And, let's face it, she is ever growing, sprouting into a young woman... with bigger feet. Given that I could not go the best I could do was to want for her, along with her, and then rejoice with her over them. I think had I gone my heart would have been no different than it was in staying: her needs and her wants were my project as if they were my very needs and my very wants.

There is a bit more nuance here. My daughter's style choices were, are fully her own. Her particular expression(s) or creative fashion choices are her own, and, more saliently, are what she herself picked -- she, herself. It would not risk overstating the matter to say that (even beyond her getting clothes she wanted) I wanted for that expression to occur. This is not to say I wanted her identifying through her fashion, but rather, that I wanted a fuller, more dimensional reflection of herself, even reflecting in her clothing (wherein the clothing style choices may only partly accomplish such). I wanted her equipped, blessed, and ever more reflected in fuller and fuller ways.

So, when she came home with the Doc Martin-like Ox Blood colored boot, I think I must have squealed as she must have squealed finding them in the store. It goes without saying this is A picture of the father-heart of God for us all, and He is able: able and active and certain to bring such about.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

That Time of Year Again, or, a glue-stick is a glue-stick

It has been a summer, a summer which didn't begin for me until my father died, and a slow to start as a result, though for my children it had been in full effect since even before the last day of school. Well, here in the household, the children are counting down to the beginning of school, all of us sharing some apprehension (though not the same kind of apprehension) at the dwindling count of days. Pretty typical stuff: kids have enjoyed summer laxity, and worry what the new school year will bring. For my daughter she is concerned with what this year means in terms of the middle school years to follow it; my son merely apprehends having to deal with the same headache of knuckleheads with whom he has had to put up in the preceding years. For neither of them is it a fear of school itself, and for that I am relieved and happy.

My daughter, it seems, has formed a notion of middle school which likely is sourced in both the dramatic and negative narratives of those who have preceded her, and (sourced in) that subtly woven  mythos (throughout American culture) of struggling tween years. Simply put, it seems big and and unknown, and everyone says it's horrible, whatever will she find? Can she hope to find? And so fifth grade year is a totem both of what is ending and what is to come in her mind.

I've done my best to assuage her concerns while also being careful not to dismiss them. It seems such respects her person, and provides a foundation for her building a sense of the value of her own personhood. Somewhat to the ends of assuaging some degree of  her concerns and mooring her sense of self,  and somewhat because I wanted to revel while I still could in the unchanging facets of our relationship, we went, Saturday, to the store to purchase our yearly school supplies.

Rather than pouring salt in a wound or highlighting the scary totem this yearly ritual has always been meant to remind and confirm at least some components of her identity. The first time we bought school supplies it was a right of passage into her life as a student, and each subsequent time it has been a remembrance and a re-upping. It is the message of the repetition, however, upon which turned this experience.

I wanted my daughter grounded, moored in what is, and what is true about her, and what is certain in my love for and my protection over her; in what is true despite the changing circumstance; reminding her even of what it is that the process of becoming (and the rituals which harken to that process) is really about. I wanted this ritual to be ever deeper, ever more confirming, ever more stabilizing, all while ever more vision casting. I wanted my daughter to experience that repetition of blessing and confirming, even more so in her current moments of doubt and concern and uncertainty.

And let's put a point on this one particular experience: I wanted and was thoroughly prepared for her to be equipped really really well. I wanted for her success, and to see she had everything in this moment she needed. There's not a lot of difference between gluesticks, or between composition notebooks, at the end of the day, and if that is all there is needed in order to equip her needs, I wanted it for her no less and just as much as I wanted her having a secure sense of herself. The same holds true in reverse: I want her as secure in her sense of self, and am willing to work to that end, as I do in ensuring she has the school supplies she needs. It is "unique economy" to attain to both ends in the same yearly shopping ritual.

I can say, without hesitancy, this is very much a picture of the father-heart of God for us all. God is a good father, who wants us secured in our sense of self and our sense of the immutable truths of His heart for us and the secure nature of His relationship to us.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Percy, not the medicine




This Summer has been the summer of demigods, dead bunnies, and demarcating. Bombastic thunderstorms have battered baby bunnies hearts, resulting in burials and bemoaning, and the brutal Texas heat (despite all our best efforts with frozen ice buckets) has resulted in a dead daddy bunny. Infuriating little brothers have incited ire, direly requiring personal boundaries be demarcated. The demigods dwell within the novel series by Rick Riordan, "Percy Jackson," and -- despite the deaths and the delimiting  and all the other "D's" of this summer --  are the most delightful. I could not "re-iterate" the point enough, all alliteration aside, how enthused my daughter has been in reading this particular series: she will have completed the five book series (having read several of the books in the series twice) by Summer's end.

When pressed on the matter my daughter says she loves Riordan's style, how he writes. Given my daughters own desires and interests in writing, as well as my own, and given as a writer I understand the connection between a writer's voice and the styles of other writers, I can see great merit for my daughter in indulging this interest of hers. Indeed, I have hovered in waiting for that moment when it is time to go to the local book dealers and get the next in the series.

Beyond just conveying support of her through indulging her interests, or just wanting her blessed with something she enjoys, I want to encourage her interests. It goes beyond just endorsing an interest in a book series: it is endorsing her and providing that ground from out of which will grow her unique person, especially as it involves her as an author  (if as such she seeks to become). Honestly, she came home so frequently this past year atwitter with having written new stories in class  -- stories the caliber and talent of which smacked a grin upon my daddy-proud soul -- and wanting to read them to me, that it behooves me to not take lightly at all any effort I could do to provide such enriching experience. I mean to say that, at the end of the day so to speak, I want to have done all I can to enable her development, to have made a way for her to grow into those areas she emphasizes or values.

To these ends it is really to say the I am wanting to as fully enable my daughter to be as fully herself as she can be, and I want, I am excited and waiting for the opportunity to do so. I see where she is in her unique personhood good. In every area possible. I delight in my duaghter, and who she is, and I intend that she should be all of who she is. It is nothing short of my delight to do so, and I condescend (in the positive sense of that word) to partner in this. Just as I recently talked about peeling potatoes with her, so too in this. I want her being her, and not even her limited understanding of what that is will stop me. In this is very clearly seen a picture of the father-heart of God for us all.

Realizing I personally am fallen and with limits, I have to look to where I am growing in (or even out of) my own deficiencies, and proactively seek to equip and enable her in those areas within her, that she may be more fully herself (even as I am becoming so, myself more fully me). What I am coming to learn of my daughter is that she is impressively, well, better minded than me; she has better perspectives and better attitudes, better assessments of her actions in a situation, how they mean something or should mean something. For instance (and harkening the to "demarcating") the other day her brother was of course being a little brother, and she, in annoyance, snipped at him.

Many parents would stop at parenting the behavior right there, telling the child not to act in a certain way, without enabling the child to act, much less enabling the child in acting towards a certain end (like being kindly self-controlled). That sort of behavior-parenting is what produced the deficit in me which, I hope rather, to be an area of enabled proficiency in my daughter, just as it is coming to be so in me (as I am coming to learn it).

So, what that looked like was asking my daughter what she thought of the situation, what she thought of her actions, in terms of where she wanted them to go. Then it was a matter of identifying what was happening emotionally (and physiologically) as it was happening, and how to identify the trigger, and what to do when the triggering is noticed. Essentially, while I am detailing it all rather poorly, what I did was to enable her to identify the triggering moment and how to navigate forward, averting the emotional loss of control in a productive way.

The point here, really, is not that my parenting is so grand, but that even in my parenting which involves behaviors of which I am being parented through I am wanting and looking to equipping and enabling her. It is not enabling my betterment in and through her, but enabling her being better. I think, with God, that is why it is said we are being made by Him to be more like Him -- because He is not fallen as we are, limited as we are, broken and wounded and hurt as we are, but "perfect". But this point is for those who hold to Christ, and not so much for those readers who don't.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fireworks like Bunnies

Recently I have sought to make the point that, despite my own issues with my father's dying or death, my father-heart for my children remained ever present and ever intentional. Indeed, the relevancy of the undaunted caliber of my father-heart underscored the value of my children in my eyes. I love them, and my heart is for them. I could indeed continue that tack into emotional winds, as the experience of being a fatherless son is very much an ever-present contrast to all I experience of life. I will not do so, however, except to draw the point: my electing to no longer discuss my state as a fatherless son is for the sake of turning to focus ever increasingly in my thoughts on my children, even in spite of any outlying and contrasting emotional contexts. And that point is made simply because I am ever plumbing new depths of appreciation for my children, and that crowds out to the point of irrelevancy all matters for which Hope (in the purest biblical sense) does not disappoint.

We of the household have been looking (with varying and relative degrees of apprehension and expectation) to the birth of new baby bunnies. Those bunnies happened to have been born round about midday on Fourth of July.

 


 Leading up to this celebratory event my daughter had run the gamut of possible worries, from it being a potential false pregnancy to it being a litter of stillborns to our utterly and completely misidentifying the signs. Being fairly certain either birth or impregnating were imminent I suggested the idea of separating the male from the female, and aided my daughter in the "creative" use of a large dog kennel (a once-gift from the beloved San Antonio aunt) turned upside down in which to house that male. We made efforts, even, to purchase yet another water bottle late one night from the store, despite my reservations that the kids were getting to bed later than desired.

With my daughter vacillating between worrying and merely trying to stay abreast of the situation, I figured it was good to help her with searching more thoroughly for information on rabbit behavior to deduce the meaning of the signs which we clearly were seeing. It is not that she hadn't tried, at my urging, to so search, but she didn't have near the luck I knew I would, knowing better how to more generally phrase a specific question. Sure enough it turned out the signs we were seeing were a mixture of behaviors, but still very clear indicators of one hormonally-supercharged, preggers bunny. Pulling fur, for instance, out of herself with which to line the nest is a sure sign of pregnancy hormones, but pulling the fur out of the other hutch-mates is not. Let that be a life lesson: "things" are never simply reducible down to one singular thing.

Well, the Fourth of July found us doing or regular neighborhood festivities put on by the MUD, and
when we got home my anxiously expectant bunny-momma trotted outside to visit the hutch and check on the momma bunny. The mother bunny had given birth to five babies, four of whom were alive. My daughter asked, like a proud godmother, if we would like to come see the bunnies, and it was with great intentionality I went with her.

You see, the bunnies were always meant to be her project, to learn the effort and expense of keeping an animal. There are other lessons therein, but explicating them here is unnecessary. All that the bunnies were meant to be for my daughter they were meant to be for her to assume the effort in. But honestly, I love my daughter, and I am not going to ask her to do anything that I find good for her and then abandon her to the project. Nor am I going to fail to humble myself and rejoice in her successes or matters of rejoicing. Indeed, it is tantamount, as it was that midday with the newborn bunnies, to rejoice with my daughter, and "look in on" the matter(s) in appreciation and joy.

To put a finer edge in that sentiment: when it came to appreciating along with my daughter the moment of her joys and fruits of her labors (in this case the fruits of her enthused caretaking of the bunnies), aye the appreciation of the very substance of her life activities of late, well, it was both my honor and my very serious (war-like serious) intent. Not even the heaviness of my father's death then a month long weight on my soul was enough to buffet me from my love and bent towards my daughter in her project.

That condescending humility for being with us in the projects to which He has called us is very much a picture of the father-heart of God. He doesn't call us to a project and abandon us to it, but very actively and intentionally desires to be a part of it with us, even as we assume its leadership and responsibility.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bunnies, and Father's Day

Saturday of Father's Day weekend I buried my father. He had died the Thursday before.

Thus ends a narrative which is both not-mine, and was Me -- that part of me who was that man's estranged son. In some ways, the sub-narrative of his month-long decline, and his 3 year-long bout of stage 4 cancer, has merely been an irrelevant narrative, against which the narrative(s) of my fathering of my children have (in contrast) stood out. This is to say, despite his dying, my father-heart for my children has remained and cohered, unfettered and undimmed, ever increasingly trenchant, shining beyond the pale of looming loss. 

Now, oddly, in my conscious thoughts this ended narrative seems overshadowing, in a sort of irrelevant relevance, as oxymoronic and self-contradictory as that may seem. On another level, I know that that narrative element of me as a fatherless son -- which, honestly and arguably, has been the case for most of my life -- is nowhere nor in any manner defining of anything about me and who I am, about my being. This is definitely a new emotional dynamic, and one the light thereof (or shadow thereof perhaps) in which my own fathering of my children is to be seen.

Let's just say it thus: before burying (leaving to bury) my father on Saturday it was important to me to help my daughter feed her rabbits. We had been out of pelleted food for a few days, the news on Thursday of my father's death and the immediate trip up to gather round my stepmother having thrown off all plans and opportunities to visit the grocery store. My daughter's efforts to solve her own problem by pulling the long native Texas grasses in our yard were laudable, but I knew we had stores of vegetables in our lauder which could be used. Broccoli. Carrots. I elected the cost to the family was something effectively negligible, being willing to make it up in later moments once home from the day trip, with its 4 hours driving and several hours of ... soul-draining activity.

Tending the rabbits is something I had given my daughter to do, something she had chosen and embraced. But it was also something which, especially in that moment, I wanted to enable her to do, in a way which "broke open the bounds" -- that is, expensive organic food "meant" for the family (and which in her mind was not allowed for so common a purpose). More so, her project, because it was her's and involved her, was important to me, and I could make that happen.

Tending the rabbits, feeding them organic broccoli, is a little thing, but it was my desire to do so for my daughter which was important, in light on what was emotionally in my face. What I am really wanting to be driving at, however, and which I have only intimated, was that it was a choice for the family, on behalf of the family, to support her in my daughter's project; a choice for the family to esteem her projects needs valuable enough to contribute to. Because she is valuable to the family it is valuable for the family to esteem her worthy and worthy to partner with. I made that assessment in that way, with those feelings for her, almost in spite of what was staring me emotionally in the face (that is, burying my own father).

There is in this a picture of the father-heart of God for us all, and may the Spirit of God and you suss that out together.

With my son, well, he is ever the empathy-filled little 7 1/2 year old man, and he would come sit on my lap during the funeral and whisper into my ear, "I am sad, dad, for you, because your dad died." You know, it was vitally important to me to receive that heart from him, and more so to honor it and acknowledge the profound attribute of it in him. Vitally important, but the best I really managed to do was embrace him, and thank him, and tell him in paltry ways how proud of him I was for doing so.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer Has Started

We have had 12 days of Summer Break now, with this past Saturday being my and my wife's 11th wedding anniversary. I awake each morning wondering, has my father died in his sleep or is today the day. This is not a morose speculation on my part. It is merely that circumstance which is something of an emotional setting, or (actually) more a backdrop of an emotional setting. It is by no means a defining element, except perhaps by virtue of its irrelevancy in defining how I perceive my role and my calling as a father. Said differently, it is important only because it can't be seen as important: I will be a father to my children, I will father them, despite my morning questions.

When in school my daughter would come home telling me of her successes in the regular soccer game played during recess. It are these experiences which inclines m daughter to consider playing soccer as a recreational activity. So, we went and bought her a soccer ball, and make a regular activity of kicking it around now that Summer affords us so much time.

Along with such activity I have also acquired a pool pass to the community pool system for our family. There are a total of four different pools in the system, all connected with the community center through which we have played recreational volleyball. I didn't get the pool passes just for the children's sakes. I got the passes for the family's sake. It was not about exorbitant blessing of individuals but about that which builds the family unit together.

I personal think there is something encouraging said to, some encouragement built into my daughter and my son by seeking the family's good -- the family of which they inextricably are a part. If nothing else my daughter will feel she is a part of something, and her identity will have the dynamic of being part of something which is the family. She will feel, hopefully, that is she is brought into decisions for the family, brought into work and into blessing which is sought for something great, a part of which she very much is. My choice for the family, in that sense, is also a choice for her. It is creative, and she is brought into that: creative of something she very much is a part of.

Cue this blog's refrain: I do very much feel this seeking to build up the family unit is a picture of the father heart of God for all of us. He is concerned with our individual interests but seeks that blessing of the greater body -- a blessing necessarily profitable to the individuals absolutely. Necessarily blessing the individual through choosing to bless the whole, the unit doesn't preclude either engaging in the individual interests, as taking the time to kick around the ball -- it just doesn't take the precedence.

Making a jarring left turn here in the flow, my son wanted to go get the mail yesterday -- mail which was being kept in bulk at the post office (kept because we had not been collecting it for some time). He was looking expectantly to some hoped-for and unsolicited package to have arrived, and who doesn't like such things? Getting the mail hadn't been a priority for me, simply because, well, it's just not a relevant thing to me these days. But it was relevant to my son. His older sister is entering a new phase of life where, soon, she will undergo physiological and cognitive changes and start to develop a social identity, whereas he is more fully coming into that place where his older sister has been: needing to see me making him a priority.

As I have frequently said, if I were to be writing this blog about him it would likely be more of a blogging of my failures. My son is so very much more than I feel I properly maintain awareness of in my actions towards him, and resultantly, so very much more than I adequately bless. In that dearth I can say I see a picture of the father-heart of God, if only a picture in contrast: God's blessings come to us in full awareness of our persons and our value, awareness ever present in the fore of His mind. Knowing my deficit here I have taken pains to sow into my son his building up; or, said differently, I speak into him identity and true statements about him himself when I can. If nothing else this willingness to recognize the different emotional places occupied by my children at the same time (and the willingness to act relative each in their respective places) is a picture of the father-heart of God for us all.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Making The Lunches

My daughter frequently asks me if she may perform some chore around the house, like doing dishes or cleaning a bathroom. Not only is my daughter being very proactive, not only is she seeking responsibility, not only is she respecting place and asking permission, but she is doing so out of who she is. As a ten year old this is rather admirable, and suggests to me (along with frequently proven other facets of character, so proven over many repeated instances) she might reasonably be relied upon for babysitting her younger brother.

I said she could be relied upon, but I intentionally have chosen for her not to perform such a task. See, it is not just a matter of trustworthiness, and definitely more than her being too young to be left unattended. I have more faith in her character (not to "get into stuff") than I do in some much older children that I know, older children of babysitting age and whom are frequently left unattended.

No, for me the salient issue is that I want for her to have the fuller experience of being her age, unencumbered by the weight of responsibilities that naturally go along with the tasks she has rather demonstrably proven capable. I know she is capable, like I said: she has, with my supervision, fixed dinners for the family, and assisted in my efforts to fix dinners; she has been "put in charge" (again, in my presence) of younger children; allowed to operate laundry and dishwasher machines. Thus she has been allowed the experience, but only and intentionally under the auspices of my responsibility. Yeah, some fine nuance there.

I allowed her those experiences because I wanted for her to have a sense of doing, a sense of ability, a sense of experience. All of that (and more) I wanted for her as the child she is, with all the freedom (and release from responsibility) that she, as a child, should have. Her experiences of those things should be equipping, ever and only, at this age. I don't want a weight upon her shoulders she shouldn't have to bear: the weight of being depended upon, the responsibility of being depended upon.

Last night my daughter asked me for permission to make her and her brother's lunches for the school day. This morning I decided to grant this request. My daughter is quickly coming to that age when it is more equipping of her sense of self to actually allow her the responsibility that comes with being depended upon for something. I already know she can, and already trust she will do an admirable job. But this is paving the way for her increased role within the family unit, and folds her into the functioning of the hole (the whole which is the family). And I definitely and definitively want for that expansion of her person, and blessing to her sense of self.

Cue the historic refrain of this blog: I definitely see a picture of the father-heart of God in this for us all. His timing, unlike ours, is perfect and infinitely loving, His plans even more so.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Toy-R-Us

There is a good deal of nuance here. As I mentioned in my last post, my father is dying. He went into home-hospice / end-of-life care this morning. I've been processing now for about two weeks the fact he now has two to four weeks left. I can only describe this poorly, but it is like a big, heavy rut sack has been plopped down, and I must somehow keep marching when I am not sure how to carry the thing.The rut sack's weight takes all my attention, even as I try to focus on the cadence and the journey goal as I try to outpace the treadmill beneath me, and get past the elasticity of the rubber band-like bungee cord snapping me backwards. Yeah. Something like that.

HOWEVER, again, this is only relevant as a background feature, a contextualizing counter-weight in the spinning mobile of my current emotional moments. I am pretty emotionally and intellectually foggy as a result these days, suffice it to say, and it's like an emotional head-cold. SO, when my daughter last week asked if this past Saturday we could make a point of spending a beloved aunt's birthday gift-card (long overdue for use), it went without saying we would do so. I let her roam the large box-store, and make her decisions. My son wanted a new fad thing, and I agreed. Honestly, this decision to go to the store was made because I knew it was an affirming one for them, it was right to do so, and wanted it for them before it was ever brought up, as I have done in the past so frequently.

Despite my thrust to be making decisions on the basis of what is good for the family as a whole, it was certain in my heart I wasn't going to deny this good to my daughter in singular focus on the family-as-a-whole's good. While it was the most I could come up with doing, it was also the highest priority, sought with the highest intent. That was that, no deeper message than that.

I wanted my daughter to do with her card as she wanted, taking a back seat to the perusal of items and direction in wandering. I was just along for the ride, intentionally so. I took pains not to speed us up, or to rush the decision. And despite all that was going on in my emotional landscape, all else was tabled because i felt and wanted that she, my daughter, be allowed this autonomy and discretion. It wasn't my money, but hers; not my time, but hers. She was worthy of my serving her through the act of getting her there, even.

I think this is very much a picture of the father-heart of God, the desire to serve for the sake the other's sake, the active and intentional taking of a backseat for the child to have a sense of autonomy (as opposed to a distant and disinterested watchmaker).It is not an effortless distancing but an active and participatory following, for the sake of building up, a leading by being led (allowing myself to be led). I think the intentionality is a measure of that father-heart, attesting to a higher level of involvement, especially given the intentional effort to be present (as opposed to a lugged around piece of parental driftwood).