Raising Men

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IMG_2429On a rare beautiful sunny January Saturday, we pour out the back door with a short window of Drew home amidst a busy call-weekend. In the garage, the oldest climbs aboard his “racing bike.” I help him around the car and through the driveway. Drew settles the youngest into the wagon and wrangles the dog on the leash. I place the helmet on the head of my little bicyclist and wait for the snap of the clasp under his little chin.

With one inaugural push, he pedals as fast as he can do the sidewalk. The farther he gets away from me, the more my heart begins to pound. It is as if my body is on overdrive as I begin to panic a bit. My eyes focus on the driveways to watch for cars backing out. My voice raises to attempt to slow him down, unsuccessfully. My feet can’t help themselves and I run after him. He’s five houses away from the intersection with Wilmington Ave and yet I’m sprinting full speed.

Does he really know how to stop when going so fast? I forgot to remind him to stop at the intersection before he took off, will he remember? Is he old enough for this? He’s not ready. I’m not ready. Continue reading

Giving Thanks for the Christmas Circuit

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Every Christmas, we pack up our lives and pile up the gifts. We drive south on I-65 and we begin our Christmas circuit that takes us all over the state. From house to house, we drag all our items out of the car (an obscene amount no matter the length of stay thanks to the little ones). Drew distributes and unpacks while I begin the vigilant watch of our 4 year old and 20 month old in new territory. Suddenly everything seems breakable or a choking hazard.

Christmas with two young ones is exhausting. Chasing them around leaves me so tired that 9:00 p.m. sounds like a perfectly acceptable bedtime. Watching them in new environments is a game of risk, a test of multi-tasking abilities while maintaining conversation, and a sport of trying to communicate with Drew through mere hand signals or looks that clearly say, “It’s your turn! I need a break!” Mitigating negotiation-deals with the four-year-old at every Christmas meal is always humbling while we sit in front of those who prepared the meal. He contorts his face and says in the whiniest, most pitiful voice he can muster, “I don’t like this. How many bites do I have to eat?” We unwrap presents and I practice my telepathy as I send eye-signals to the oldest to not immediately blurt out “we already have that” or “I don’t like that” or the most obnoxious, “Where are more presents?”

And yet, Christmas with two young ones warms the jaded adult heart like nothing else. Christmas morning in striped matching PJs, the boys jump up and down with un-matched glee as they see the stockings. From house to house, we get to watch our grandparents be great-grandparents to our boys. Our youngest’s shyness dissipates and he begins cackling and playing games with everyone. He plays peek-a-book, freezes, and shows his mean face. To watch my boys be known and loved by family – it is the greatest gift. Continue reading

Kneeling at the Altar

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His tiny hands rummaged through the ground and picked up the seed. Holding it before him, my oldest exclaimed with the joy of discovery, “Hey, Look!”

“It’s a buckeye seed,” my dad answered enthusiastically. “Remember what seeds do?”

In his little boy voice he echoed back, “They drop in the ground and turn into a new tree!”

My dad had begun the education on our way in the car. For the forty-five minutes it took to get from Brownsboro Road to pull through the gates, “Grandpa” did his best to describe in young-boy terms the formation of North America and the molecular wonder of creation. Staring out the window, my newly-turned four-year-old seemed both young and old at the same time. A filled-out boy frame with the ability to listen while still sitting in a car seat and distracted by bull-dozers by the side of the road.

It was November and we were finally fulfilling my dad’s birthday present – an afternoon hike to Bernheim Forest. Continue reading

Tidying Up Our Pile of Days

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Outside our windows, change is at work.

The trees are letting go of their leaves.
The skies are letting go of their composure.
The season is letting go of its resistance.

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Inside, the day is slow.  And yet, change is at work.

Arms moving frantically, the oldest maneuvers the trains around the tracks.  While little brother naps, he enjoys the quiet solitude that settles in and gives space for his imagination to live without the brother’s grasping and demolishing hands.  He sings “Going on a Bear Hunt” off and on, intermixed with crashing sounds and imaginary dialogue amongst the trains.

Staring at him, I try to uncover and bring to the light the change I feel.  His fourth birthday has brought about all the cliche bittersweet feelings.  My eyes lock on his face and as he asks for help, I loose myself in his eyes as I wonder… how do four years feel both long and short at the same time?  It feels like I’ve been parenting forever.  And yet it feels too soon to be entering big kid territory.  The power of looking in his eyes can feel almost threatening.  I don’t know how to quantify it.  I don’t know how to predict it.  With each milestone, each year, I wonder… what hard lessons are yet to be faced?  What is yet to come before us?  What aspects of life are going to threaten to undo him, and me? Continue reading

Baptized in Muddy Waters: This Journey of Calling

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DSC_0781The day has begun with the early summer sunrise. A cry woke me earlier than usual, so I find myself with time to spare. I prepare my mind for the day ahead, but I can’t get past the next hour. My day depends upon what I find in the crib… crusty-eye that daycare nurses will label pink-eye? Or a clearer eye that has already been cured enough by the eye-drops from the previous night to allow us to pass by without detection? Continue reading

Eleven Months and Ten Days.

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0829367999002Eleven months and ten days after his first arrival in this world, it’s time to say goodbye to the intimate role of being the source of nutrition for my youngest. As the days come to an end, I give thanks for the blessing that it was – to nourish, to comfort, to sustain this little life from my own. It was gift. It was blessing. From the early days in the hospital to the grueling first months. From the return to work with all the embarrassing mechanics to the nighttime bedtime routine with all its sweet tender moments.

Since the beginning when we savored that first golden hour after birth, there has been an invisible tether that kept our personhood interwoven together. We have been two human bodies in deep need of one another, sharing in our fragility and strength in a way in which no other human relationship can compare. Continue reading

The Gift of Overalls

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Two years ago, I sat in our nursery and began the work of separating clothes into piles. I sorted each item by size and season. Holding up pants with the size “2T,” I marveled at the idea that he would one day be that big. They were pass-downs from a family whose three boys had outgrown them.  The printed mock-turtlenecks went into drawers but never ended up getting much use.  But everything else has now gone through the wash many times as they have adorned both boys.  Out of all the items, my favorites are the ones hanging in the closet.

This morning, I balance our 11-month-old on my hip and open wide the closet doors to survey the overalls. I run my fingers through the many different pairs.  Navy. Jean. Khacki. Red. Patterned. Plain. They have endured high chair debris, washing machine cycles, and changing table wrestling.  A family’s history hangs on the hangers. Continue reading

Giving Thanks for Love-Made-Flesh this Valentine’s Day

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The mother covered her daughter with a pink blanket covered with big hearts of different colors.  She tucked in the sides around her body to keep her warm. Taking the handles behind the wheelchair, the mother pushed her onto the sidewalk to make her way into her daughter’s school. The wheelchair carries all her various supplies and includes her music player. It is her home for she is unable to move or speak or share. Though technically a teenager, her daughter is in my three-year-old’s class.

Our daycare is a place that welcomes medically-fragile children to receive the care they need while their parents work. James’ class is full of children who run by the aid of wheels or walkers or their own two-feet. There are those who breathe on their own and those that run with an oxygen tank by their side. It is the Kingdom of God – a place where all are celebrated as children equally worthy of love and nurture.

The gift of watching this mother prepare her daughter for school is all the Valentine’s Day moment I need. It is the picture of Love-Made-Flesh – a Love that sets up home in the pain, finds hope in the ashes, and shows up each day as a steward of the bittersweet gifts of Life. Continue reading