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.

Toys-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).

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.

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.  

<English Standard Version>


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.

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.

<Our MUD/community center operates very much as a quasi-town community affairs council for our unincorporated little community, and drives a stupendously community-and-family oriented effort,organized around regular park day celebrations centered around the major holidays (not to mention parents night out, movies in the park, movies in the pool, recreational sports league, seasonal classes, ect.).>

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.

                       

 

<BTW, we all thought the Donnie Darko-looking bunny was kinda creepy looking, but he had a good mime-style laugh at being called a Donnie Darko Bunny.>

 

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.

where musings infuse life through dialectic