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".