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.


Wrapping Presents (Christmas Eve)

Saturday. Christmas Eve. We had had quite a number of plans for the evening, but the morning was fairly low keyed. The only family we would be visiting with that evening would be the "adopted" Austin grandparent (one of the elderly couple who has "adopted us" into their family as their grandchildren) and their extended family. We would not be seeing my mother, grandmother, sister (and her family) until after Christmas. What little Christmas shopping we were able to do this year was thusly broken up, and we were needing to wrap the completed art-project gifts for my maternal-side of the family -- quite well in advance of seeing them.

Growing up I was taught how to wrap immaculately wrapped gifts, precisely cut and taped, with bows and labels, and so doing so is not an issue for me. I have passed along some of that training to my daughter. She does a passable albeit not an immaculate job.

So when she asked to finish wrapping the newly completed art-project gifts (craft gifts made by the children, with the oversight of Mom), I agreed. For me, my daughter's wrapping of the gifts were a matter of her having ownership over a task. I had allowed her at an earlier moment to pick out the wrapping paper for this year, and, like I said, she had participated in making the gifts. Wrapping the gifts, however, was that step in which she completed the task, owning it, and in some sense owning the giving of it away.

I wanted for my daughter to have that sense of ownership of the gift far beyond wanting any arbitrarily met standard of wrapped-perfection in the eyes of the receiver. I very much see in this desire for our having ownership the father-heart of God for us. I feel He wants for us to have that ambassadorial place of owning the "presentation" -- with all its authority -- than He does care at all about how well "wrapped" a "thing" is.