Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Look Back at 14 Years of Marriage, By The Numbers

441,504,000 seconds122,640 hours
15,897 diaper changes1
5,110 days
3,640 loads of laundry2
728 weeks
227 gray hairs3
168 months
34 tropical fish4
26 states
14 years
8 vehicles
7 countries
6 open heart surgeries
6 employers
4 children
4 churches
4 continents
4 hemispheres
3 apartments
2 homes
2 dogs
2 cats

1 wife

1 aqua hair dye kit

0 White Castle hamburgers.

1Calculation based on a study by National Geographic that estimates the average number of diaper changes in a baby’s lifetime.
2Based on an average of 5 loads per week
3Conservative estimate
4Rough estimate

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Letter to My Son, on His Last Day in the Single Digits

My dear son,

Of all our four children, your birth was one of the most memorable because you were such a long time coming. Or, I should say, your mom had more of a typical labor with you—far longer than the fast and furious labors of your three siblings. Heavens. I thought I was going to have to catch a couple of them myself.

I remember your birth because your mom and I walked, and we walked, and we walked some more, up and down the halls of that hospital all afternoon and evening, with that flimsy IV pump on wheels meandering behind us like a dizzy giraffe. I thought you would never come. The doctor finally broke your mom’s water around 11:30 pm, and you were born about an hour later.

I remember your birth because your mom didn’t take any drugs, and ended up really wishing she had. To repeat the doctor’s first words, you were “a big baby”—from your head, to your shoulders, to your torso, to your hips and thighs.

I stood over your mom while she dug in, and gritted her teeth. I felt so helpless, squeezing her hand and pressing my knuckles into her back while she pushed, and pushed, and pushed, with beads of sweat on her forehead. I just wanted to take it for her. But there’s not much a daddy can do in that moment but be close by a mommy’s side and pray silently for her.

But finally, inch by inch, you arrived, with your left fist pressed firmly into your left cheek (your fist and cheek were bruised because of it). We hadn’t found out if you were a boy or girl yet. So after the doctor said, “It’s a boy!”, I’m not sure who in the room was crying more—you, me, or your mom.

I remember your birth because you were our first baby with a body that all worked properly. You never missed a beat learning how to nurse, and doing all the things typical babies do. You passed every milestone that your sissy had missed—though we loved her so, so much. I think we were more thankful than tired most of the time, because you were so strong and full of life.

Some of my best memories as a dad were those first few weeks after you were born. Your mom had become very sleepy from nursing you in the night. So I asked her if I could be your night nurse on Friday and Saturday nights. Mom would save up enough extra milk during the week for me to feed you on those nights, or I would use formula. 

Our teeny tiny ranch house had a family room where the garage used to be, on the opposite side of the house from our bedroom. I would sleep there on the couch, with you next to me in the pack-‘n-play, where mom couldn’t hear you crying in the night. It allowed her to sleep long and soundly, which made a big difference in how she felt all week.

Most of those nights, I wouldn’t put you back in the pack-‘n-play after I fed you in the middle of the night. I would just lay on my back on the couch, and situate you on your tummy right in the middle of my chest. We would both fall back asleep that way. 

I would listen to your heart beat in perfect rhythm as I drifted off to sleep. Every squawk, every coo, every pee and every poo was a reminder of the gift you were to us.

Today is your last day in the single digits. You’ll be 10 tomorrow, and I couldn’t be more proud of you. You are such a smart, articulate, thoughtful and caring young man. 

I love working and playing and laughing and thinking with you. I love how affectionate you are, that we still hug and kiss each other on the cheek every single night—even when the stubble on my cheek is prickly on your face and you say, "Ouch, dad!" You are such a delight.

Sometimes, when we’re having long talks about deep things, I have to hold back tears because it seems like yesterday that we welcomed you into the world. But here I am, in a real and beautiful and close relationship with you—my very own son.

I’m still listening to your heart. But now, you’re listening to mine, too. It's a privilege and a pleasure that's more wonderful than I could have ever asked or imagined.

I will always love you, son.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Day My Lady Dyed Her ‘Do

You may have heard a word or two,
Today my lady dyed her do.
She dyed her do! She dyed her do!
I saw the dye, and so I knew.

She used to have the darkest locks,
Like hands on all grandfather clocks;
They turned the heads of all the jocks—
They turned mine too! They rocked my socks!

They flowed in wavy, silky strands;
She’d put them back in rubber bands.
I’d comb it through with both my hands—
The luckiest man of all the mans.

But now! But now! What’s this I spy?
An aqua streak across her eye?
She dipped a lock down in some dye,
And turned it bluer than the sky!

Or is that green? Or is it teal?
Is it Photoshop, or is it real?
Where is it on the color wheel?
And did she lose a bet? A deal?

Is she fine with just a streak?
Or will she add a streak a week?
Six weeks of streaks? When will it peak?
With all that dye, the house might reek!

What’s that she says? The dyeing’s done?
I hope she found the dipping fun.
I’m glad she didn’t dye a ton;
T’was just a streak for sport, for fun.

The one small thing I wish I knew
Is, when it grows an inch or two,
What in the world will my dear do,
When roots are black, and hair is blue?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Questions About Questions

'Question mark sign' photo (c) 2008, Colin Kinner - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
One of our defining characteristics as humans is our ability to ask questions—the who, what, where, when, why, how and to what extent of everything we experience. We’re wired to want to know more than meets the eye.

We can see a situation and immediately imagine it being better, or different than it is. We like to rewrite history in our heads and play out scenarios that could have been, tracing ulterior tangents that would have taken us down completely different roads.

This peculiar part of us has led to unimaginable problem-solving and progress. Asking questions has brought about clear solutions to complex issues. It has helped us build strong bridges. Develop cures for diseases. Create phones that double as computers in the palms of our hands. Questions are good.

But throughout history, questions have also left a trail of carnage, spiritually speaking. Ever since Satan planted the doubt of “Did God say?” in Eve’s mind, questions have played a role in shipwrecking the faith of many souls. We live in a time of unprecedented access to intelligent, eloquent, persuasive attacks on the Bible and Christianity. It doesn’t take much reading of what is out there to start doubting everything you believe. (I won't even go into what this means for us as parents!)

I have sat across the table from many dear Christian friends who were being haunted by their own garden variety “Did God say?” questions, their faith being rocked off its foundation before my very eyes. Questions as basic as whether there’s a God at all. Questions about whether the Bible is true. Questions about the creation and consummation of all things. Questions about the coexistence of God’s love alongside suffering, or evil.

I’ve been thinking a lot about where questions fit into the Christian faith. Are questions a virtue, or a vice? Are Christians who never ask one question somehow holier than those who do? How far should we go in questioning things not seen? And where should we go to ask questions the Bible doesn’t directly address?

I’m confident that the Bible can sustain our deepest questions—and it models how to ask them. But it doesn’t answer all of them. There’s a big difference. The book of Job contains a raft of unanswered questions. The Psalms are filled with perplexities that don’t give us nice, neat conclusions. God has given us all we need for life and godliness. But the Holy Spirit has inspired countless questions throughout Scripture. Which brings me to what I believe to be my answer.

Should we ask questions? I say yes. It’s quite common for us to go through seasons where we’re perplexed, discouraged and full of doubt. To suppress the questions is to prolong the inevitable, because you’ll eventually have to face them if you ever hope to progress past them.

So what makes the difference between questions that serve to deepen our faith and those that serve to destroy it?

I think a lot of it is who you ask and how you ask them. Are you earnestly laying your deepest questions at the Lord’s feet? Are you echoing the psalmist’s intimacy and honesty with God, who said over and over, “How long, O Lord?”

Even in our perplexities, God is honored when we wrestle with Him in the night watches, putting away our pointed finger and bowing our knee in humble submission to Him as the source of every answer.

When we come to Him for help, we’re acknowledging that He is the only One who is gracious enough to understand our deepest questions, and wise enough to answer them. Even questions can be an act of worship when we ask them in His presence, drawing near to Him and desperately seeking Him for answers.

I don’t claim to have this figured out, and would welcome your comments below.