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).



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Going to the Ranch

This weekend we had to take a trip out of town, a trip which took us to the town and county where at my maternal family has a roughly 500 acre ranch on a significant Texas river. The significant part denotes something to those from Texas: it is an actual flowing river that can actually be (and is) dammed along its route. Suffice it to say this makes going "to the ranch" quite enjoyable for the family. Some might call it a farm -- it had been both. We can hike, hunt, fish in the river, shoot, and generally get away from things.

It would be helpful for you as a new (first time) reader, if you are so, to read my "Good Friday" post now, then come back. In that post I discuss my estranged father, and the relational dynamic and its history.

Read it yet? Suffice it to say, my father is a stranger whom I know, but for whom there is a profound sense of respectful alterity. Maybe that's one decently  detached, descriptive, clinical way to put it. Another way is to say my estranged father is a stranger whom I know, and I can not fathom his experience. A stranger whom I know, and who has less than a month now to live. My estranged father is dying.

This post is not about that at all, but what this post is about can not really be understood, I don't feel, without knowing that contextualizing fact that my estranged father is dying, and I was going to visit him. That whole sub-narrative is relevant for the emotional subtext of my actions: it is this sub-narrative's relevancy in itself, because of the narrative concurrence with the story I am telling here,  which brings my story's point home a little bit more. Kinda like the unknown detail which characters never know, and which the audience only finds out in the epilogue, except in this case the epilogue for me came first (but not as prologue).

I took my family out to the ranch, with the intent of their having a day. It was my goal, before I would do anything else, to see to it that they were well established and "set up" at the ranch. Given it is an old ranch house with quite a number of peculiarities only I after a 40 year lifetime of visiting could account for, it was really important I get them settled. Important to me, necessary for them.

Despite all else I had in store for me personally that day, seeing to it that I provided quality family time (dog included) -- and in the process of which that I established my family in the house, as part of the rare treat of being at the ranch we were getting -- was most important. It was the one thing I was doing, in a sense, and everything else (with my estranged father) was tangential to that family (sub)narrative. Nuanced differently, the narrative of my family is the one narrative I am not only telling here, but the only one I am concerned with, and establishing them in the particular chosen experience of a day at ranch was my father-heart above all else (even above my own personal issues). That it was being done despite my personal issues underscores that heart I am trying to say.

"Anywhoo", as the modern-day bard sings, we got to the ranch, I unloaded the car, readied the house and rooms they would use, until I was satisfied they need only entertain themselves, and left for my personal errand. I made a point to return from said errand with enough daylight to ensure we would get to set Mom up for shooting practice, and set the kids up for river activities.

Now, being at the ranch is a rare occurrence for us, and if left to my druthers there were quite a number of things I would have wiled away my time doing, had I been alone. What was important to me to do, however, was that I engage the children in what was fun for them. Again, I aim with my words to underscore the importance of the time together, as oriented around what the family needed.

So we, the kids and I while Mom shot, set off "frogging" -- frog catching. Simply, it was just being with my kids, being present, in what the family was needing (in terms of family time). When Mom was done shooting she came by, and I did my level best to set up the fishing poles having forgotten the bait. My daughter, I think, would have preferred only to fish, but eventually she too participated in the frogging. It was simple, precious time, and it is what the family needed.

In a profound way this strikes me as the very father-heart of God for us, this heart to establish His children, His family, His people in bonding time together, over and around those simple activities which (in themselves) have the significance of being something all the members easily enjoy together. The emphasis of God's father-heart being the orienting the goal of bonding family time around what is important or necessary for the family.



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter Weekend, 2017

Easter Weekend for the kids began last Thursday (right before Good Friday), with them having a three day weekend. As evidenced from the last post I spoke at our church's Good Friday service, we had a restful Saturday, and Easter Sunday after church we spent the afternoon with some family friends whom the children and us parents just adore.

Since on Good Friday the kids and I were watching some neighbor kids for a friend (who didn't have childcare for the day), and we had the service that evening, we didn't get to do much in way of quality family time. I decided I would take the kids with me to the store that day, since I had to go to purchase a few essentials, not the least of which (granted) was candy to fill the plastic eggs we would be hiding for them for the yearly egg hunt. Among these items for which I went to the store I made doubly sure to get the traditional egg coloring kits which Mom wanted, and some frozen pizzas for our weekly "Family Movie Night" -- which, fortune would have it, Mom was actually able to attend, her nighttime schedule falling just right (this rotation) for her to be there.

Suffice it to say the day and the evening was geared around the activities we would be doing as a family, with each of us set to tasks to that end. Surely I wanted for them to have the fun they wanted in Easter Egg hunting, but my real priority in the store and with the activities of Saturday were those activities which were to be enjoyed as a family unit, and which were more yearly traditional (beyond just sugary indulgent). The point of the traditions and the activities all was shared communal experience as a family, which is a blessing to each individual member of the family, as well as strengthening of the family as a whole.

Very easily I see the father-heart of God in this attitude, the father-heart for His church. That we are, as the Apostle Paul prayed (out of the father-heart of God for us), to have the power together with all the saints to know the height, the depth, the breadth, the width of His love. The point, in my heart, with my kids, was not the tradition itself for the tradition's sake, but the tradition for the sake of the blessing and strengthening of the family. Each family member cherishes the events, is blessed in through and by them, blessed as part of a greater family, but it was for the family which the actions were undertaken. That is very  much a picture of the father-heart of God.

Good Friday, 2017

In keeping with a long high church tradition of Good Friday services, my church maintains its own Good Friday service. What this amounts to is a service in which the seven last statements of Christ on the cross are taken and reflected upon (in our church by different speakers). The flow of the evening has at first a worship song, then a reflection, then a moment of silence, and then repeat, working through each reflection that way. This year I was asked to take the first reflection, "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do." The following is my reflection from that service. I do find this exceptionally fitting for a father-blog.


Good Friday Service, 2017


“Father, forgive them they know not what they do.”

I was four years old, my sister only a little over 6 months, when my father left my mother. He left her with a four year old, a 6 month old, a brand new motel business. and a brand new puppy, which was eventually re-gifted by him to my paternal grandfather.

It would be twenty years before a Christian Counselor  would put a word to the feelings and issues with which I struggled for those 2 decades since my father had left. He said I had suffered “abandonment” issues. That explained a lot. He also spoke to a  fear which I had harbored but never articulated. “Kevin,” he said very emphatically, “you did not make your daddy go away.”

Cue the “A-Ha Moment” … That’s indeed what I had felt and believed in the hidden, secreted shadows of my heart.

“Father, forgive them. They not what they do.”

When my father left, he opened a chasm in my mind, in my heart, between me and him, and his entire side of the family. Their taking sides fueled that sense. With his new marriage he communicated he didn’t want our old family. Woe be the day my half-sister was born - he had the new kid he wanted. Soon, my dad and I easily just lost touch during high school, and he was all but forgotten by me throughout college.

It was after college, when I had been walking with Christ for roughly a total of 8 years  my father reached out to me through my maternal grandmother. His father had died, the funeral was impending, and he wanted to see me there. Leave it to Mark Proeger to tell me I should go to the funeral and speak grace to my father. Allow me to be frank, here: I was going out of obedience and only because it was “right” to forgive as I had been forgiven. I did not go seeking for nor  I was thinking it was going to be some grand hallmark moment in which we would embrace and broken tears would stream down our face washing away all those years of hurt feelings.

I’ll leave out the part where I got to my home town and, frantic, had to call Mark to remind me why I was there. I’ll leave out the awkward reunion at the funeral hall. I’ll leave out sitting next to my grieving father, or the awkward ride to the graveside with a teenage half-sister  I just plain didn’t know.

The family left the funeral services and went to my father’s restaurant. It was there, somewhere in the kitchen that I pulled my dad aside and fumbled through some hybridized proffer of forgiveness and forced gospel presentation all sorta mushed together. It was then that I learned, one year prior to my having received Christ my father had received Christ, right there over one of his restaurant tables.

I don’t think I knew what to do with it right then, that revelation that my father had accepted Christ, and at best I was scared for what it meant. You would have thought I would have been happy to have my father back, but he was only a stranger whom I knew.

What did happen was this: In that moment between my father and I Christ had become a bridge over a chasm, suspended by the cables of His broken body, girded with the iron of His shed blood, trestled at its two ends by the wood of a splintery cross. We had Christ and Salvation in common. Both oddly and understandably it was more than we had ever had.

“Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

There’s a verse from the Epistle to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 5-9:

5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,a 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,b 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,c being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  

In recent years since, i’ve wondered how much More I might be as a person if I hadn't been so emotionally stunted by my father not thinking rightly enough of me to have stayed. On a particularly grumpy-at-my-absentee-dad sort of days, one of those days on which I felt equal enough to God to have any place to be angry, God spoke somewhere deep in my spirit that I could not understand my father’s experience.
It wasn’t a sense like “Forgive him my son, he knew not what he was doing,” but, it was a sense more like “you can not know his experience, you can not know what it was like to have had to walk even one of the very miles walked in his moccasins.” So to speak.

In such an emotional place as that I had and have to ask, ‘“Father, forgive me, I know not what I am doing… I know not what I am doing when I hold him to some expectation that he should act or have thought of things differently and acted in a different way.”  

It is funny thing but from a that place of not counting equality with God something to be grasped, that forgiving-because-I-Don’t-know seems right.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spring Carnival



So, Spring Carnival time is upon us, or had been upon us last week. Friday saw the annual elementary school carnival booster event, and Saturday the local MUD/Community Center Easter Event.



My daughter had brought home from school the form for purchasing tickets early, and come the day the of long anticipated school carnival -- truly the biggest day of the year for the school community as a whole -- we were ready to go. Mom was actually off work and wanted to attend, but had her mentoree to go visit, so we waited at home until Mom could get back and go with us. It was a delightful time, made all the more so that we got to go as a family.

The next morning, Saturday, found us with local community center's Spring Egg Hunt, and a last minute invitation to yet another spring bash held at a county children's advocacy center (for whom I and the children had done some training video acting work in times past). It quickly struck me that, for the greater context of the needs of all the family and given the very predictable schedule we must maintain, we were going to have to forego one event or the other. In order for our family to work, it must work in a certain way which accounts for the two very different schedules of daytime and nighttime lifestyles, along with all the practical exigencies of life (like grocery shopping, and folding laundry). My daughter was really wanting to go to the children's advocacy center event, my son the local area egg hunt, and me to somehow work in all the chores before mom woke up.

I did my best to explain to the kids the predicament, and then made efforts to ensure that within the constraints of our day we got the most out of the opportunities. With Mom asleep at home, I rallied us for the local area egg hunt, ensuring we got a prime starting position nestled in the shade while we waited (I have a ginger-haired, sun-wilted daughter after all). I allowed the kids to steer our path through the events, and did my best to engage them through the events. I know at one point the kids will likely outgrow the thing, so, it is also with forethought I tried to maximize the time we had together.

We got home, ate lunch, and then my daughter wanted to play a game. Not only was this an activity I enjoyed doing, but it was something of an opportunity to secure a moment of quality time with her individually amidst the exigencies and constraints of the day (my son content to play Legos in his room alone). Initially I had planned to go grocery shopping, but I knew from experience the routine of our day would not have allowed this sort of focused time later, so the game time became number one priority.

 I asked if we could play Chess and she consented, however a little forlornly because she has yet to win a game against me. Soon into the play I made a decent move which locked up several of her pieces, wresting momentum of the game, and she became disheartened. However, several moves existed for her which would have wrested momentum back, and put me on the run, as it were. Without telling her what the moves were I coaxed her through thinking through them, intentionally with a mind to helping her grow in her skills as I enjoyed the time with her -- I wasn't all that concerned about winning.

Well, long story short, the game was won, the day proceeded, chores were participated in by all communally, and the day played itself out. I think the point here, for me at least, is seeing a sort of model of the father heart of God which looks to the needs of the greater community and of the individuals simultaneously. He looks to the good of the community as a whole, while still loving and engaging the individuals (and their personal desires). It's shepherding, essentially, leading us ALL to lie down in comfortable pastures.




Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Spring Field Trip

It is getting slightly more difficult to write this blog these days -- not for want of material but for the expansiveness of it all. My daughter seems to be entering a new phase of her life, and my sense of where this blog is going is shifting. I suspect I will be learning a new rhythm.My daughter in this "immediate season", I feel, is learning how to speak her mind, and in a larger sense is soon to enter into forming her social identity. It causes me to feel like a parent of a coming newborn, albeit in this sense of a newborn social identity. Attendant to this are likely going to be all the woes of transitioning and of "becoming", but I am well ahead of myself, and well beyond this particular post.

This past week the kids both had their Spring Time Field Trips scheduled on the same day, and both to extremely distant locales. It meant having to decide between the two to which I would go. Compounding the issue was a later afternoon schedule conflict which required me to not be able to attend whichever for very long.

My daughter's trip took her to a state museum, whereas my son's trip took him to an educational farm. My daughter appealed to me to attend with her, of course, but my son's teacher was somewhat counting on my "booming" presence, and on our ice cooler with wheels. In my mind I yearned to do both, but my son I felt was deserving of the dotage his sister had received at his age, and the building up in his person such dotage produces. More importantly, perhaps, was the overriding exigency of the fact my wife needed the car later that day, and whichever I chose would still find my presence limited. So, ultimately, my decision was one which I felt was going to have to be the best, and maybe not the best not for either one in particular, but best in terms of which course met the needs of the entire family.

In many respects I do see in this a picture of the father-heart of God: the desire to love with equal ardor, and simultaneously the intense love to seek the good of the whole ultimately. Invariably this may mean that it appears some will be "loved" disproportionately, but that is appearance only.

I did intend and do intend (and communicated the intent) to want to make it up to my daughter by one day pulling her out of school and going on a daddy-daughter field trip, one which she and I could uniquely enjoy together. She is, after all, the one with whom I could enjoy the opera, or the ballet, or the museum. Not so much my son. He is more of the "gun range field trip" type.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Daddy Pancakes

I enjoy pancakes because, really, who doesn't love carbs.And I am simple in my enjoyment of pancakes -- a good buttermilk recipe is just fine, just as is a nice pumpkin spice or what-have-you recipe. I hate cooking pancakes, however. Indeed, the only good pancake sometimes is the one I haven't had to make. I think maybe it is the fact that the process is messy, and I am typically the only cook/dishwasher in the house.

My children wanted pancakes Saturday morning, and I consented. I wanted the pancakes, though, for the family. It was more than just wanting to acquiesce or even to indulge my daughter in her delights, though certainly and undoubtedly I did want that. No, interestingly, my daughter was asking for something which she asked for for the family very likely because she wanted them herself. But I know how each member of the family loves pancakes, so ensured she made enough batter for extra servings.

The thing is this: in my heart I was delighting with giving the whole community of the family what they all loved together. Simply delight, and the focus of my efforts were bent towards the family as a whole. My daughters delights were important because they delights the family shared. I would have given her pancakes simply because she wanted them, and she is important to me, but the family's enjoyment together was my aim, my desire, my inclination.

We cooked them together, me teaching her what few things she desired know about and I could tell her, and while she and her brother ate their first round of pancakes I continued making the extra servings.

I do very much see the father-heart of God in this, where His focus in on the delight of the greater family/community. It is not an exclusion of the individual, nor a minimizing. It is a recognition of the deeper delights equally shared by each member of the family, and seeking that end. Ultimately there is a secondary level of delight in that the family shared together individual and mutual delight (around the same meal in this case).

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring Break 2017

Been a while since I've posted. Life has been happening, and on top of that I've encountered one of the various, perennial struggles of every writer/artist -- the kind of which interferes with consistently writing.

At any rate, this past week was Spring Break for the kids. We decided we all needed that time away, and elected to go to our beloved little spot in Port Aransas. We have visited this little spot several times over the years, and the very first time the kids went to the beach it was at this spot. It was and always is a blessing to get to go for us. My daughter was so excited I all but had to forbid her to start packing days too early for her packing to be practical.

We arrived somewhat midday the first day, and spent time on the beach awaiting the room to be ready. Surprisingly the water was colder than anticipated and my daughter was the only one able to enjoy the surf enough to be any distance out in it, though we all enjoyed the beach time. From the beach we made our way back to the pool/hot tub areas and played there a bit, the pool being just as cold as the ocean.

While at the pool we encountered a grandfatherly sort with a young boy, the boy wearing some googles. I think that encounter gave my daughter the notion for having googles for when she went out boogey boarding the next day at the beach. Having goggles or a mask was clearly important to her. So, the following morning, in a quick jaunt to the store to get a few essentials I made it a priority to look into getting the swim goggles for her.

Given that it was a short trip we only spent one full day at the beach, but it was long enough that, despite repeated slatherings of sun screen, my ginger-headed and fair skinned, Welsh-descended daughter still got burned somewhat badly. We spent the afternoon back in the room, and during the evening the kids and I enjoyed the luxury of watching Animal Planet -- a luxury because we don't otherwise have access to the channel at home. We had all curled up on the bed (mainly given that we couldn't figure how to watch the television in the living room), and made a relaxing evening of watching various programs about animals and nature.

The next day was our trip back and among the various options before us I found it important to have the children brought into the decision. It was all of our trip after all. It was an easy consensus that we should go to the Texas State Aquarium, another beloved tradition on these beach vacations. My son made it abundantly clear he wanted to pet the stingrays, and that became our first stop at the aquarium. I think all of us but my wife were content to dangle our hands in the water the entire time and feel the velvety bodies as they drifted along the walls of the exhibit. The aquarium, however, had enough exhibits we desired to see that we eventually left the stingrays, but not until we got to feed them and here the lecture. We spent as much time as we could going through the other familiar exhibits, though admittedly I could spend an hour just sitting and watching at each one, just as if it were a television show. As had been the case with my daughter and the goggles, my son evidenced an importance upon a gift from the gift shop, and so he got for himself a stuffed hammerhead shark, which became almost a whole other passenger with whom to engage in conversation for him on the ride home.

We had needed this trip, all of us. I had from the onset wanted for the family to have the time it needed, in those ways it needed it. Those individual things which became priorities for the experiences of each thus became my specific priorities, since I was already determined we should have this time. The subtle and as yet unspoken thing here is that, in the moments, the children were "lifted up"and having their decisions and priorities determine our agendas. I wanted for them to partner and be partnered with the family's experience, and I wanted that not just because it is good for their development as maturing persons, but specially because I wanted (and believed we are/should be) a unit, a singular body, living together.

Clearly in that want for us to be a singular body living together, as well as in the entire desires for and towards my family and the children in the trip, clearly this is a picture of the father heart of God for us, individually and as a body. In those moments on the trip and with the trip itself I was wanting for us (as I do in the largest senses) for us to be one family, whole, together, and blesses (augmented, amplified) both by each other, and by the unit of all of us. Surely God's father heart feels no less for us, wants no less for us.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Big Saturday

One thing about Feb. is that relatives tend to send a little money to the kids, either for Valentine's or my daughter's birthday (and sometimes the conciliatory sibling of the birthday child gift, so everyone feels included sort of thing).

Well, this past Saturday my son had a birthday party to go to for one of his favorite little school chums -- possibly his most favorite. They are bosom buddies, talking of going into the military together (they are only 7, keep in mind), and empathizing together over the bullied child in class (even the little jerk brings it on themselves in this case, and this serves only to underscore my son and his friend's empathy and characters), and video gaming. Suffice it to say, because so often we have been invited to the parties of daughter's friends -- his sister who is a few years older, keep in mind -- it was important to get to go to this one.

My son was not very forthcoming on the type of present he thought the friend would enjoy, and so I texted the parent and got some ideas. As it turns out the friend enjoys drawing, and that is an interest I vigorously wanted to support and endorse (as I do with any artist at any age at any stage of their artistic journey). My son, it turns out, was not being forthcoming because he was honestly concerned about our family finances, and didn't want to be spending our money. Like I said, my son is incredibly empathetic, as noted by his most beloved Firs Grade teacher (also someone for whom he carries deep and frequent concern, normally over her treatment at the hands of the rowdier class hooligans). While we were at the store picking up the gift, my son found a Lego set he wanted, and upon which he could spend his saved up monies. I agreed after the party we could come back and do so.

In the moment it was important to me to bless this little chum of my son's, both in the goodness of his drawing pursuits, and because my son love's him, he is my son's friend. Actually, the kid is a good kid, with lots of character, and I like him as a little person, but it is my son's love of him and his friendship to my son which was deeply upon my heart and driving me to honor him well on his birthday with the right gift. Given the interest in a good thing like drawing it was not a question of the type of good thing I would seek out with which to honor him: a set of pens, and a drawing pad. The cost I was glad to pay, because I loved my son, and found this young man worthy on his friendship to my son alone, but also in terms of my esteem of him.

I think this heart is very much a picture of the father-heart of God for us all, and it is revealed almost as directly in the scriptures of the New Testament book of John, chapter 14, where Jesus tells His disciples that He and the Father (in Heaven) are one, and that anything they ask in His name will be given to them because He (and the Father) love them.

I took my daughter along, not because she was part of that narrative (of my son and his friend's relationship), and took her along as a separate actor in the area of the events, because the party was being held at a local pizza and gaming establishment beloved of the kids. It's a rare treat for the kids to ever get to go to one of those places, especially because they assault my senses and inundate me with their frenetic energy and disincline me to even consider them a place to take the kids.

At any rate, my daughter got to spend some of her saved up monies on the games, and we enjoyed a pizza together as I bounced back and forth between party conversations and minding her safety/enjoyment. I let her wag me around to various games as she enjoyed herself, and at one point we even found a racing game (complete with car chair, steering wheel, and gas/brake pedals) that allowed her and I to race against each other.

In this too I think is a picture of the father-heart of God, the wanting to see a child blessed, affording similar opportunities even though circumstances are different.

True to my promise we stopped off at the store to let my son get his desired Lego set, and I made certain (though it was extremely easy for me to do so, since I desired to do so) that I took enthusiastic interest and delight in the completed product. Thus again just another picture of the father-heart of God for His children, I believe. Maybe  in the amalgam of all of these little pictures was yet again still another, larger picture of the father-heart of God, and that being the bending and inclining of Himself to His children, but I'll let you suss out what that may be.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Birthdays, Frozen Custard, and the Bunnies

The kids came home from school with coupons for some frozen custard place I had not heard of. It was an award of some kind, and because so many other similar award coupons have gone unused before their expiration date in this household, both kids were really wanting to use these as soon as possible. My son wanted to go immediately the day he received the coupon, but we had plans for his sister's birthday which celebration which I knew he wouldn't want to miss, and which precluded doing anything else. So, I very intentionally committed to a time and day (Saturday, at store opening) when we would go. Which brings us to the actual day of the birthday, and the family celebration, post-cupcakes at school (see previous post).

My wife had rearranged her schedule somewhat to be awake and available for the planned activity, and so I sought to do something which I knew was going to be enjoyable. While I knew which activities would make for a delightful time in her mind my primary effort was directed to inviting the one or two very close friends with whom my daughter shares a close connection. The point of this -- and this seems to be a recurring theme of late in these posts and in my fathering -- was that I wanted this experience in which my daughter was being honored to be shared in and to be before others (and, in this case, not just before but with others). I wanted for her being honored to be something in which she shared with (and received from) while in the community of loved and loving ones.

 Since the chosen activity was a major-released kid movie upon which some family friends had directly worked, "Trolls," and since we don't often get to go out as a family unit to movies, this happened to be a very nice outing.

Here I have to provide some parenting backstory, and regular readers of this blog would be quick to see this is slightly irregular, since this blog is not aimed at being a parenting model at all. My sister had wanted to get my daughter a puppy for her birthday, and had come across the kind of which we were interested. Given my wife's (and by consequence our hybridized) night-shift lifestyle, a puppy just wouldn't fit well, despite my wife's being gung-ho about the idea. I had to make a hard call, knowing that I likely would not be able to be the surrogate pet-parent during the school hours with too much success and ease, and forewent my sister's gracious offer.

However, and on something of lark, my wife and I very spontaneously decided to get my daughter my daughter 2 bunnies from a local area feed store. The idea was that, in part, it would be a conciliation pet-gift, and in part an opportunity to get a sense of the amount of work that it takes to care for an animal entirely on her own. We got the bunnies the actual day of the movie before school let out, so, it came as a big surprise when my daughter got home, especially given that I had them hid in the bathroom and did not tell her they were there when I asked her to look over the restroom for cleanliness.

Which gets us back to the coupons, and the day upon which I had promised we would go "cash" them in. I had offered to my daughter to build the rabbits a larger-sized hutch than the cage in which they resided, and she thought it a good idea. Since the frozen custard place didn't open up until later in the morning I made it a point to sit down with my daughter and find Youtube videos on bunny care. As I did I made sure to explain how I was searching and why I chose which video's to watch, trying to help equip her in the area of web usage. But because of my commitment to seeing the children get to use the coupons they had earned (and thus confirm in them the worthiness of my children and their efforts which won them the coupons) I kept reminding them of the plans and drove the effort to get them ready. I was not just willing to take them, but taking them became my project and activity.

We got the custard treats and made our way to Petsmart in order to get some essential bedding material for the rabbits, and then on to the grocery store to purchase some hardware. From there we came home and my daughter and I began the process of building the hutch, together. Throughout the process I very intentionally sought to incorporate her into the building, so that it would be, in some real way to her, her hutch, built by her hands. I wanted her to have the hutch, but more so I wanted her to have the sense of herself in the affair -- both of its building, and in the daily experience of caring for the bunnies in it.

My effort, my desire behind the effort to build the hutch was that I wanted my daughter equipped in her blessing, to be able to take on the responsibility with the best sort of equipment and understanding and resources which she needed. That is indeed a picture of the father-heart of God for us all, but not the one with which I am most struck with in this series of events. With the birthday movie celebration I wanted for her the experience of her delighting in and sharing with others her being honored as she deserved, and this carried over in my commitment to getting the kids to the custard stand. I think it is this heart, which repeatedly looks towards the honoring and esteeming of the beloved child, which most saliently characterizes the recent few days. And that fact speaks to me something in light of the other fatherly desires, and that is that honoring and esteeming the children is a high priority in the father-heart of God.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Birthday Princess

Tuesday, of course, was the 14th, and my daughter at least got to exchange Valentines with her class. Unfortunately my son had come down with a fever the day before, and so (due to the 24 hour rule) was not allowed to attend his classroom party and exchange Valentines. His teacher was kind enough to collect them all, and send them home with my daughter, yet the whole class agreed to wait for my son to pass his out personally (as opposed to letting the teacher do it).

Wednesday was a fast-paced day of much activity, and that got us to today, my daughter's birthday. I was excited for her and with her. She was every bit the little princess the party favor "Birthday Girl" medal said she was, and more so. The thing is is that this attitude of mine is no different about her today than it is any other day. I feel she is ... regal and is to be regaled both. Today was nothing more than an occasion upon which to regale, to lavish her with her delights -- from food to presents, all of it.

The one component to her birthday which was really a driving priority for me was that of her having cupcakes for her classmates, and amply more than was needed so she could have some along with them. The cupcakes were for her getting to be regaled in front of her classmates -- a regaling which would have been undermined had there not been enough for the class to enjoy them along with her.

At any rate, suffice it to say, I wanted my daughter regaled because she is that valuable, that worthy of it. I believe this is very much the father-heart of God for us all, and that is evidenced in none better than the parable of the Prodigal Son. In that parable the Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a man whose son demanded the inheritance early, only to leave the father and squander the gains. When the son fell into hard living, and decided to return just for the benefits of being a servant in that household (a selfish returning, to be sure), the father ran out to meet the returning son, and honored the son with a robe and by putting a ring upon his finger (thus welcoming the son who, effectively within the culture, was dead to the family).

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Picking Out Valentines

It was a big weekend for the kids, in the since that they had come home tasked with decorating a Valentine's shoebox. These shoeboxes are for the reception of Valentines from class members at the Valentine's Day classroom celebrations happening, well, actually, today.

Unlike when I was a kid -- when we waited with mixed emotions of apprehension and anticipation to find out if we would be affirmed or not by the thoughtfulness of others from whom we desired the affirmation -- these days kids must pick out enough Valentines for the whole class. I am sure much can be said there in way of some sort of blue-collar / redneck-sociological, ametur-philosopher commentary, but suffice it to say that it seems Valentines these days are a "different animal."

At the grocery store my daughter came across a set of Valentines which were both extremely goofball-ish and non-traditional. I could tell from how excited she got, and her coming back to those Valentines that she really enjoyed those and wanted them, but that she felt unsure if they would be okay. Instead of being the traditional, rectangular card with sappy sentiment, there were detachable masks/faces of the lower half of a face, of the mouth and chin region, with exaggerated expressions and obviously intentional sappy sentiment. For me, the quality of goofball oddness and fun-filled non-traditional (and out-of-the-box) quality just fit my daughter's character. It was just fun.

I wanted my daughter to be able to be expressive as she desires to be expressive, in whatever fun-filled, slightly goofy way she wants, because, really, that is also the revelation of her fun-loving and uniquely-out-of-the-box-&-non-traditional personality. I wanted for her to have that freedom that she would be seen for who she is. My daughter is a delight and a prize and wonderful in my sight, and I want her to be seen as she is, for who she is, and not just in the case of a Valentine choice (or in a report card) but in every instance and situation.

Her shoe-box decoration consisted oddly of a pop-up style alien figure, with little or no Valentine symbolism, or artistic connection to her card designs. Somehow though, with his paper arms open lovingly, welcomingly wide -- as wide as the smile on his oddly-shaped head -- that pop-up alien just fit in expressing my daughter's little heart-orientation to the day and to her classmates incoming Valentines.

In this desire for the revelation of our unique persons I easily see the father-heart of God, as it is for us all,

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Mid-Semester Progress Report

My daughter came home this week with her recent mid-semester progress report. I knew she was wanting to go over it, especially when expressing she loved report cards because they showed you how well you were doing.

For me it was not a matter of determining if she was cutting muster or not, but rather an opportunity to rejoice in the revealed glory of her efforts. She deserves recognition of her efforts in the task(s) to which I have set her. She was excited to see it, and it was important to me that a point be made that it be seen, but seen sans any judgements or expectations. At its heart she was wanting to know she was doing a good job, and that her efforts as well as her person was deserving of recognition, and I was wanting her to know those things for herself.

In this is the father-heart of God, to show us that we and our efforts to "do our job" are worthy efforts and we are worthy people deserving of recognition. I mean, made in His image and called very good by the defining and only standard of good we thus deserve recognition when, in accord with the image in which we are made, we act so.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Bowls of Soup

The weather in these parts this past weekend was fairly chilly -- chilly for us of these parts, that is. I suppose it made for a good precursor to our church's annual partnership with a particular arts ministry directed at disabled artists. This annual partnership takes the shape of our church hosting an event jointly put on by them and us, called, "Souper Bowl". Much like the name suggests, it involves a whole lot of soup, and that is all you really need to know about it to understand where I come in: I am somewhat highly sought after for my potato soup. That soup, beyond being a highlight of this event and women's retreats and church cook-offs, happens to be my daughter's beloved dish of choice.

She had been asking for the soup long before the occasion of the event, begging me to make some this winter. I had been disinclined to making a batch of soup this year until my daughter asked, and simply because it was important to her (important enough merely to ask) was I inclined to make a batch. And that really was the issue: the notion of soup making was a non-starter for me, and there was no plan or interest. It was more my daughter's interest alone to see it happen than anything else which precipitated the making of the soup and the participation in the event (simply because it would mean for me that she would get soup as a result).

So off to the store I went, and there I bought enough supplies not only for left over soup -- left over beyond the amount needed for the event -- but also additional supplies well beyond that, in case she wanted to make mashed potatoes or something.

You know, I do feel there is a picture of the father-heart of God for us somewhere in all this -- for us as His children. I'll leave it to you to ferret it out today.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

the House Baking Gig; or, Peanut Butter Cookie

I asked my daughter to do that thing she currently loves to do, to bake. I wanted the house to have healthy cookies. Now, what I mean by healthy is: either almond flour or coconut flour based, using coconut sugar (or, agave nectar potentially), and if other ingredients are required then vegan, organic vegetarian, or certified organic and free range non-vegetarian (e.g. butter, eggs); if we have to use "white" flour then only the most organic, least processed whole-wheat white flour. I have stopped buying any sort of packaged cookie or store bakery-made confection almost entirely, mostly in an ever increasing effort towards healthy and healthier living (away from the programmed, processed unhealthiness of the modern lifestyle).

On the surface this experience would seem like many others you've read about here. The difference comes in my attitude in asking her to bake for us. I was seeing this activity as her natural role in the house, a roe she enjoys and in which she gives me thanks for the opportunity to do it.

When I asked her I asked her intending not just for this one time but for it to become a (semi)regular activity of hers for the house, considering even changing the "face" of my shopping and the house larder to reflect this change. As a result, in my mind, this elevates my daughter, increasing her significance in the daily life of the family unit, and that increase is very much something I want for my daughter. Yes, I trust her ability to do well in it, but really it is not about her performance at all, so much as it is about her having increase and blessing.

I clearly see the father-heart of God in this towards and for all and each of His children. It is raising us from glory to glory; it is increase for us and for our "Body".

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tweety Bird Cards

This past Saturday my wife's sister came to town with the intent of getting to know the kids better, and taking them to different activities. This aunt had rather impressively planned the whole day, with time spent individually (one-on-one) with the children, and together time (my two children and her).

Preceding this day full of activity my daughter requested we go to the store so she could purchase a bit of Valentine's chocolate and a card in thanksgiving to the aunt. I made a point to spend the early part of the morning before she came to collect the first child, my son, doing what my son enjoys doing, just as I might any other Saturday. My thought was that while this was a day later on in which I would receive a much needed break while the three of them we off cavorting, and while this was a day which was for them and for my sister-in-law, I would still take the opportunities which came to me. I wanted to fill the moments I had, "measuring my days" as the expression goes, simply because it was good to do so, and I love them (no matter how badly I needed the rest coming to me).

Once my sister-in-law arrived and absconded off with my son, I rushed my daughter to the store. We had a window of opportunity of only a set amount of time, and I had seen how important this was to my daughter. It was a bit like a quick and decisive American military push, where we got out the door and to the store rather intently. Once at the store, I then took almost an entire backseat to the operation -- she was the general on the ground, so to speak.

She quickly came across the Valentine Candies she had in mind, and asked if we could also include a candy from her brother, evidently already intending she would do such when she thought she would be using her own finances to do it. To me it was forgone that I would supply her the necessary funds. In retrospect I wonder if I deprived her of a blessing to have spent her funds, but I also know it is a blessing to receive without repaying, it's likely all the same.

I know her heart was one purely of gratitude, because such gratitude permeated her wording, her efforts, her intent. In the moment I wanted her individual vision and desires and project to happen for her as she wanted it to happen; I wanted for the unique alterity to be, to be the case. Put differently (i.e. in less Philosophy jargon), I wanted for her own little person, with it's own project, to be and to run the coarse she was going to take it; I wanted her to make her choices of and for a good as she was going to. I believed in her and in the good at which she strove, and got behind her in it, and (most importantly) allowed her choices to lead the project.

I kinda feel in this the father-heart of God towards us can be readily seen, His desire to believe in us as we seek Good, and to allow us ownership of and equality in the project (herein the project of blessing another).

I may stray here now into the hinterlands of theology, but, my daughter was allowed, as I feel we are allowed, to love others on the levels we are able to love them, without there being some standard of "perfection" beyond ourselves in the love of the other which we have to attain to. I didn't expect my daughter to love her aunt in return, but totally got behind my daughter's loving her aunt in gratitude and love.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Mashed `Taters

Weekly trip to the store to restock on some essential items necessary for the week came up, and my daughter lobbed in the request to buy some potatoes so she could make mashed potatoes for dinner. It hadn't been part of the plan I had, but in that moment (in my mind) it was more about getting the potatoes bought for her than it was about my agenda. Her agenda was my command, so to speak.

I got the potatoes, and when we got home I proceeded to make the dinner I had planned, giving her project over to her entirely. I let her run the mixer; I let her decide seasoning levels; it was all her show.

The sense of it was that I was making space for her project right alongside mine, folding hers into mine even, bringing her up to the same level of project leadership. Coincidentally I wanted for her to have absolute control over her project from start to finish, that she might have that sense of her own accomplishment, and this desire was present even in my buying the potatoes on her behalf. I wanted her inclusion, and wanted that inclusion to bring a sense of accomplishment, but also wanted more than all else for her to have that sense of "peer-ness" within the family unit.

I think this desire for us to have a sense of "peer-ness" is very much a picture of the father-heart of God for us all -- a desire for "peer-ness" within the Kingdom of God. I think this is important: God the Father in Heaven is not just "up there wanting us to get our bunk straight and to gesticulate in adoration of Him as He sits removed from His fawning insect-like lower creation." He dwelt among us, and indwells within His children.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Pancake Emissary

Saturday was our church's annual, one-day leadership retreat, and since I am involved in leadership of the Arts Ministry at my church I was invited, and by extension so too my wife. The running joke is that half the church is in leadership, which is indicative not only of its small size but also of the activeness of the community in a veritable varied variety of activities.

The point is that Saturday the kids got all-day babysitting by an adoptive cousin and favorite babysitter. (When I say "adoptive" anything on this blog it is normally someone from a particular church family who has offered to be our surrogate extended family. Blood family doesn't live close.) With such being the case, I left instructions with the sitter to cook pancakes for lunch for the kids, simply because my daughter had asked for pancakes (asked inconveniently) earlier in the week. Had it been a normal Saturday I likely would have made them myself for the children.

I could see in the moment that my children wanted something which, for reasons of scheduling alone they would not be able to receive from me in direct fashion. Hence I saw to it that what I wanted for them (and wanted for them simply because they wanted it and are precious in my sight) they nonetheless received -- arguably in the out-of-box way through my "emissary". The constraints of the situation would not constrain my love for them.

I really rather clearly see in this desire and intentionality  to bless, despite circumstances, the father-heart of God for us all. His Word does not return void, but accomplishes the purposes for which it was set.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Wolf Book

At school my children have a set day upon which their classes visit the library. My daughter came home with a book on wolves recently. She has a tendency to be interested in mammals, and enjoys learning about them -- so much so in point of fact that she self-initiates the subject research. Thus, this past week, it was a book on wolves. By providence or serendipity the kindly adoptive-grandmother of my daughter had given us a wolf calendar from some wildlife conservation organization.

My daughter had started to mention some facts about the wolf and I sat down to listen. It was clear to me that she had not only taken an interest in the subject of wolves, but that it was (in that moment) an important thing for her to have me share in her interest(s). Her desire, what she found important I necessarily willed and desired to be important to me. I wanted her to be validated as worthy, and thus that her interests were worthy of attention and worthy of sharing in with her.

This desire to validate as worthy, and the desire to share in an interest with my children is a picture of the father-heart of God for us all, I really do believe. God desires to validate in us and confer on us the sense of our worthiness of His attention and desires for us. He wants us built up in that knowledge, and built up in the knowledge of Christ's love for us.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hot Chocolate

Today is my birthday, and the kids first day back to school after a long, 3-day weekend. This post is likely going be down and dirty and lacking any the garnish of panache I like to believe i apply to it. If you want more, read older posts.

My daughter had been wanting to make a dry hot chocolate mix. Friday I made a much needed trip to the store, being sure to have gotten a recipe for said mix online so I could acquire the items. Saturday came and I found we did not have in the cupboards what I remembered us having, and had to make a quick jaunt to the store for my daughter's project of mix-making.

It wasn't even a discussion for me -- as soon as I realized the lack I sought to make up for it, especially given tat, for all accounts, the lack was a result of my actions of not checking. I have seen in my life where often my needs are dependent upon others being willing to step up, and here clearly my daughter had been depending upon me to have stepped up.

I do somewhat feel my desire to make up for a deficit which otherwise would have cost my daughter's success in a project is very much consistent with the father heart of God. In those areas which I depended on others who did not end up stepping up, I have seen Him make up for their not doing as I needed, just as I made up to my daughter for my not having done.

Kinda massaging the point I know but I do feel this is God's father-heart for us all, this desire to see us blessed irrespective (and not dependently) upon "chance or choice".

Well, after the mix was made I had her sample some with an additive I had bought, but which mom thought would not work -- and mom used to make batches of the stuff, so she was our resident expert. Well, turns out I was right on this particular point. I was able to help my daughter make her own project better with a suggestion coming from my own experience and greater body of knowledge, and that too maybe is a little bit like the father-heart of God for us: He wants to see us succeed exceptionally, and is adventurous about it.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Project

Saturday morning came around and I "felt" the children and I needed a project together. Something deeper than just the artsy craftsy type thing. While, Yes, I wanted it to be something we made together, that involved process and working along side each other, the real thrust of the thing was to do it together, to spend time together in a way which engaged each other. I wanted to draw the children into something with me. I intentional chose to not do a "work" project around the house, but I don't know if that is either here not there. I wanted engagement: around, through, with each other, and felt it should be captivating of the children's interests. I had an idea and the knowledge of how to accomplish it, but the thing itself I wanted them draw into.

I decided we would make "sand-candles," or "sand-wax-sculpture". Growing up there had always been (and still resides) on the family ranch-house mantle a large, sand-candle-sculpture. I don't remember if it was ever lit. It was the size of a small mixing bowl (but clover-leaf-like in shape), with legs, a unique piece of driftwood ornamenting the side and standing above it from out of the candle itself. For years, as many as I can remember and presumably some from before, that thing has resided upon the mantle, often captivating my thoughts or attracting my gaze, either because or its ornateness and mystery or by the unchanging consistency of its presence in its place upon the mantle. That "thing" upon the mantle was kind of what I had in mind with the idea.

So, I rounded up all the old candles, and began melting the wax, while the children rounded up all the unwanted old crayons. I messaged some surrounding friends for their unwanted candles just to bolster the wax on hand, adding all to the melting dishes. I had set up a trial-run of my own, and it was upon seeing this that my daughter actually caught some vision and enthusiasm for the project. She was given her choice of colored wax melting dish, and we set to making her sand mold out in the back yard. It is fortunate to this project that we had the remains of an old sandpile in the backyard with which to do so.

At one point my daughter declared, "This is how a Saturday is supposed to be spent! I like this! We should do projects every Saturday."

I think ultimately these desires for engagement in the moment and for drawing my children into the engagement I think is very much a picture of the father-heart of God for us. God desires for and works towards us being drawn into engagement with Him.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Riding in the Park

With last Tuesday being Mom's birthday, as well as the first day back to school, the normal rhythm of life (around which so much fodder for blogging comes) was disrupted. Somewhat. And, then again, not so much so.

Tuesday was a bit of a spontaneous day, where I deduced that the restaurant whereat my wife wanted to eat for her birthday was not very child friendly. It turned out to be far more posh than I originally suspect, but that it getting ahead of myself. Looking over the menu online with the children, and trying to decide with them which chef-prepared cuisine was even somewhat appealing to their inexperienced palettes, we concluded (together, the kids and I) that they were content to ride this one out with a sitter, provided I found one. They might have been just so content without a sitter, but such was not an option in my mind at all, no matter their senses of their own heroic autonomy.

I lined a close friend to watch them, assuming Mom bought into the idea, and released the children to go play. My daughter wanted to go ride her bicycle in the cul-de-sac. When she made the request my initial feeling was not only a willingness to permit her, but also a sense that this was her blessing fully to use as she so saw fit. Maybe this is fine as a frogs hair, but, I don't just mean I wanted for her to be able to ride it, but that I felt it was right and good for her to ride it if she so saw fit.

While she contented herself with her little route in the cul-de-sac, I desired the expand her freedom to ride the bike over to the neighboring park, where the riding course is a bit more expanded and interesting. I wanted more freedom in use of her blessing (and her freedom-via-vehicle).  I require she ride safely, for her safety, in contexts where I am able to observe her safety, but that is not a limiting of her freedom to ride as much as it is an actual expansion of her freedom: freedom is not utter lack of constraint. Philosophical bunny-trail on the nature of freedom aside, encouraging her to ride around the park was an opening up of the context of the right and good usage of her riding her bicycle.

Beyond any shadow of a doubt in this can be seen a picture of the father-heart of God for us all.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Since Christmas Eve

There is a lot to catch up on since Christmas Eve, and I have an appointment a little later, so this will likely be a more scattered post. Kids have returned to school from their Winter Break just this morning, bedecked surely enough in the Christmas duds they received from my mother, grandmother, and sister. As a matter of fact December 27th a blog was supposed to have come out, but we were making a day trip to a neighboring town to see them and to celebrate a "late" Christmas gathering. The following days were spent in low-key activity around the house, playing with the various gifts. When I randomly checked the centralised neighborhood mailboxes we found other Christmas cards had come late from the other set of grandparents and I promptly took the kids to use their Christmas monies.

On that latter note, I intentionally took the children in to the local branch of our bank to cash the checks. It was something of a first for them, and I wanted for them the experience, while I personally was wanting to enable them their ability to act upon their financial ability (which came in the form of their Christmas monies and the option to do with as they pleased). On a side note, I had always wanted to get them silver dollars (and the current gold coin dollars which are today's silver dollar), and took advantage of being at the bank to do so. They were tickled and it opened up some conversations about coin collecting in my youth. It was an in-the-moment and spontaneous little blessing but it seem to speak love to them, and the grumpy attitudes of the day were wisped away, allowing us to proceed with shopping in a happier spirit. Such, in retrospect, was something I would have intentionally chosen had I in the moment considered it.

We went shopping with my son, while my daughter elected to save her money -- characteristically outcomes consistent with both. We went to the store where my son had seen an item he wanted, but about which I was dubious would hold his interest. At the "end of the day" and after three stores visited he finally came home with a toy gun and miniature drone, with both of which he was extremely satisfied.

This brings us to New Years Eve. Little too rushed right now to go back and check to be sure but I think in earlier posts I have mentioned how we have attended a little monthly retreat of Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, and Messianic Jew all of whom seek reconciliation between the streams of Christianity and pray fervently towards that end. Well, the dear family friends that run this had spontaneously invited the kids out to spend the night, play ping-pong, dip candles, and generally enjoy the amenities of country living (which, this time, involved fireworks, atv riding, and exceptional cuisine).



Which brings us to Mom's birthday (today, actually). My daughter had been her typical, excited, planning self and wanting to do something. Given her recent interests in baking she came up with the idea of baking some diet-allowed, uber-healthy cookies, which would use coconut or almond flour, coconut sugars, and so on. As it turned out we went with a cake recipe including those same ingredients. The recipe required for her to whip egg whites into high, firm peaks, and that was a skill was beyond her current level of experience so I stepped in to help. I would have been rather satisfied to let her run the electric mixer, but I felt this was an important task to her, so I came along side of her and took over this step, ensuring it went off smoothly. As we proceeded I explained what was going on with the instructions she was following so that she might have an understanding and grow in her knowledge -- even when we bungled a step the bungling of which having no effect upon the outcome beyond step-order. I sought to explain the greater context and we finished off the recipe, while I added a flourishing touch with some food color design.

Yes, certainly, throughout all the intentional actions undertook over the course of this holiday season I see various pictures of the father-heart of God for us all. Most vividly, however, I see this father-heart of God modeled in the coming-along-side-of aid (here in my daughter's birthday baking efforts), and the underlying and the desire to bring understanding (understanding unto the goal of equipping).

Cake came out delightfully good, and (now that we are all caught up on blogging) we are on to the actual birthday dinner for my wife.