When Your Baby Becomes a Daddy

Today my “baby” is 34 years old.

He is also a new Daddy. I’ve watched pretty much in awe of the way he jumped into parenting with such naturalness and ease. Of course, he’s been waiting for this day for awhile now, and there have been some terribly sad days on the journey to this point. But watching him change diapers and help position the baby “just so” to help his wife with nursing and just being so hands-on from the start has been pretty amazing. At one point his mother-in-law, Joanne looked at me and asked, “Was David (Nate’s Dad) like that?” To which I replied with a resounding, “Nooooooo!” Feeding and diapering were pretty much my department. Holding the sleeping baby was his. Someone asked Nathanael how he learned to be such a good Daddy so quickly. He said, “I watched the videos and I paid attention in class!” Indeed. Its seems he did just that. He’s always been a learner.

All four of my kids are parents now and I’m super proud of the job they are doing. I love watching them with their littles. (And oh, how I love those littles – but that’s a story for another day.)  They are in the wonderful, difficult years of raising families and they are doing it well, but sometimes I catch glimpses of the toll parenting takes. I see the tiredness. I know that it feels like this season – as wonderful as it mostly is – will last For.Ev.Er. It won’t.

I read a blog this morning by Rasha Rushdy titled, “Don’t let Me forget Their Littleness.” The author described all the sweet sights, sounds and smells of babies and toddlers. Toward the end she writes,

“Don’t let me forget their littleness. Because sometimes, that littleness is what makes me wish they would grow up faster, sleep for longer, be more independent, give me more personal space, give me some freedom, and let me just do what I want to do, for once.”

It’s true. For all the sweet reminders like Nicole Nordeman’s Slow Down, or the poem, Babies Don’t Keep, the sweet, exhausting, wonderful, frustrating and rewarding years of “littleness” just fly. At times you will want to hurry to the next stage, and the next moment you want to hold on, hold back time. You can’t. You can only enjoy each season as it comes and try your best to be all in it. Ann Voskamp says,

“Time is a relentless river.  It rages on, a respecter of no one.   And this, this is the only way to slow time: When I fully enter time’s swift current, enter into the current moment with the weight of all my attention, I slow the torrent with the weight of me all here.  When I’m looking for the glimpse of glory, I slow and enter.  And time slows.”

You can’t slow time, but you can slow you. 

Nate, Ember & Gryff

My Baby with his babies.

Sometimes I look at my four “babies” now all grown up and marvel at how they turned out. It certainly wasn’t because their Dad and I knew what we were doing, or were “perfect” parents (those imaginary people who haunt us…) Neither were they “perfect” kids (those imaginary children who belong to someone else…) I’ve heard it said that parenting is the only time you get the diploma before you get the education. “Here you go! You’re a parent. Now go figure out how to do it!” As a mom of adults, I can attest to the fact that I’m still learning! But if I did learn anything along the way, it was this; don’t miss the moments. Don’t be in such a hurry to get to the next stage, the next season, the next milestone that you neglect the here and now.

So, happy birthday to my Baby, my youngest. I hope you never stop learning, never stop paying attention, never stop cherishing the everyday moments, and most of all never stop loving, because you are so loved.

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One Word 365

For the past several years, instead of a list of New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve chosen one word to guide my year. (If you want more information on this concept, look here: )

I was starting to get anxious about my word for 2017. I started thinking and praying about my word for 2017 early in December, but nothing felt right. But the other night as I was laying in bed, watching it snow outside the rented home where all but one of our family was gathered under one roof, it came to me. My word for 2017 is, JOY.

joy

Here’s the thing about joy – it’s a choice. Henri Nouwen says,

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.

It’s not that I “feel” joyful every minute of every day. I don’t. The kind of joy I’m talking about is not dependent on the circumstances in my life. I’m thinking of it this way; joy is like an underground spring of water. It is constantly present, flowing, nourishing the soil. Occasionally, it bubbles to the surface bringing refreshment from it’s clear, pure, liquid. Joy bubbles to the surface once in a while and we’re all like,

snoopy-joy

But more often than not, we have to tap into the spring to feel the joy. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It doesn’t depend on what happens outside, it’s a deep well on the inside. Someone has said, “I find joy in every day, not because life is always good, but because God is.” Joy is closely tied to faith and hope.

You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a  glorious, inexpressible joy. 1 Peter 1:8 NLT

So, here’s to 2017 – the year of JOY. Here’s to letting joy have it’s full expression when it springs up unexpectedly. Here’s to tapping into the well of joy, when life’s circumstances are less than joyous.

Considering Posts and Comments

It happened again. One of my Facebook friends began a post by saying, “I’m breaking my rule about political posts…” or something to that effect. I’ve done it. You’ve likely done it, too. You post something, or comment on something with the best intention (at least you think so) and then all h___ breaks loose in the comments section. Or, you read something and add your 2 cents to the comment section, and the responses are eye-popping. Whoa. Where did THAT come from?

It has happened so often in the last few months that I am creating my own set of “rules” for Facebook. Please, please – I’m not perfect at this by any means. I’ve made my share of bad shares and posts and comments. I’ve jumped in where it was none of my business. However, I think we can all do better, don’t you? After all, the people on Facebook are called friends.

True friends not only treat each other with kindness and respect, they treat their friend’s friends with kindness and respect, right?

 

Think

Good stuff, right? Here are a few more personal filters that I am trying to apply.

  1. Before posting or commenting, have I considered my “audience?” I have a pretty big friends list. Sometimes I’m surprised by the comments generated by my posts. Friends will surface that I haven’t heard from in months – maybe ever. Most of us have people on our friends list that come from very different political, religious and philosophical viewpoints than we hold personally. If I’m going to post that comment or link to an article or blog, I need to be aware of how it might come across to the people I call friends and family. Not to say that we must stifle everything we post because it might offend someone. If it passes the THINK test, go ahead. Just be prepared – some friend or family member might disagree. Publicly.
  2. Before posting or commenting, have I considered my motivation? This one is a little tougher and takes some self-awareness.
    Often when I read an article, post or blog, I have a visceral response. My thoughts go something like this,”OH! This is SO good.” Hit share. Do so without thinking.

    “OH! So and so needs to read this!” Hit share. Do so without thinking.

    “OH! This person is such an idiot!” Comment. Do so without thinking.

    “OH! This is lie, or an exaggeration, or just plain stupid.” MUST SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT! (Because after all, I know everything.) COMMENT IN ALL CAPS TO GET MY POINT ACROSS. Do so without thinking.

    “OH! This will convince ____________ that they are: voting for the wrong person/ have the wrong opinion/are stupid/should think just like me.” Post or comment. Do so without thinking.

  3. Here’s my test to see if any of the above are true of me:
    1. Do I feel my blood pressure rising?
    2. Did my lip curl as I typed? (This is a real thing. Pay attention next time you type one of those stinging responses.)
    3. Does this post or comment give the impression that I am smarter or superior than the author of the post or previous comment?
    4. Am I angry?

If any of the above are true, it’s probably time to go read a good book, or pray, or take a walk, or drink a cup of tea, or remember that I am not God. It’s time to picture that real person sitting beside me having a real conversation. It’s time to remember that they are real life, flesh and blood human beings – regardless of their political or religious views.

Let’s be kind to each other, please. Let’s treat each other with love and respect. Pause before you pontificate. Stop before you speak. Take your fingers off the keyboard for a minute before you type. 

Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32 The MESSAGE

 

Red

My country – indeed the world it seems – is locked in the grip of fear and anger. Black, white, civilian, police officer, Muslim, Christian, LGBT, straight; humans all over the world are weeping, angry, afraid, confused, trying to make sense of the senseless. I’ve read the articles and Tweets, and Facebook posts and the ensuing comments. I’ve watched the news as it has unfolded tonight. And I’ve wept.

There are differences; differences of opinion, worldview, religion, race, and culture. But we have one thing in common. The color red.

Black. Red.
White. Red.
Civilian. Red.
Police Officers. Red.
Muslim. Red.
Christian. Red.
LGBT. Red.
Straight. Red.
Human. Red.

The blood that ran from wounds; the life that ebbed from human beings was all the same. Red.

The life that runs through our veins is red. Every. Single. Living. Person.

For just one moment, can we remember that? Can we remember that we are all made of the same stuff? Can we remember that there are broken hearts of every color, ideology, religion, and orientation who are grieving. Let there be a cry of lament. Let us hold one another in tenderness. Let’s stop talking, and writing for just a moment and grieve. Let us pray for wisdom, unity, peace, understanding and hope. And let us remember the color red.

Sorting It All Out

Out of Sorts

I just finished my second reading of Sarah Bessey’s new book, Out of Sorts: Making Peace with and Evolving Faith. My copy is highlighted and underlined and dog-eared. Out of Sorts, is beauty, challenge, truth, grace, hope and faith, all beautifully chronicled by a young woman whose faith has not only survived the sorting – but thrived in it.

Here’s the thing. My generation (I’m approaching my 60th birthday) did not leave much room for sorting out the quirks, inconsistencies and failures of our shared faith traditions. To doubt or question would be betrayal. Best to just follow the party line and not ask too many questions. But there were questions. There still are. Bessey’s little book is a breath of air, a sigh of relief to those who dare to open that sealed box of questions without fear. Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Certainty is. Out of Sorts allows us the space to look honestly at our doubts and come away with a truer, more genuine faith.

With great tenderness, Bessey sorts through theology, the way we read the Bible, the Church, friendship and community, the Holy Spirit, grief, justice and calling and more. The most compelling thing about this book is not that we need to sort out our evolving faith, (and whose faith isn’t evolving, really?) but that at the end of the sorting, there is so much beauty, truth and grace to be found.

In a day when it seems popular to write scathing critiques about the state of the Church, Christian faith and practice, Sarah Bessey’s gentle expose highlights the beauty of our faith without ignoring our flaws. Bessey says,

“After the fury, after the rebellion, after the wrestling, after the weighing and the sifting and the casting off and putting on, after the contemplation and the wilderness–after the sorting–comes the end of the striving and then comes rest.”

And, after all that, there is Jesus.

 

My 60th Year

Classic 55

Yes – it’s true. My birthday this year is a big one. 30 was kind of a joke, even though my friends made a HUGE deal of it complete with black armbands and styrofoam gravestones that said, “RIP Vicki’s Youth.” 40 was actually fun and funny. When the number 40 flashes in strands of Christmas lights in front of a crowd of hundreds of people – you just have to roll with it. 50 was uneventful. Actually, I liked the 50s. I finally felt confident (mostly) and really, truly grown up. In my 50s, I went back to school and earned a Masters Degree. In my 50s I had the courage to walk away from my comfort zone and into something new. But I’m 3/4 of the way through my 60th year and I have to admit, this one is bothering me a bit. I guess that’s why I reacted so strongly to a devotional I read earlier this month. Here’s what I wrote in my journal that morning.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I just read an Ann Voskamp devotional about cherishing what we have now, and not missing moments of grace. In it, she talked about taking her “white-haired” Mama to the beach on her birthday, and how she might only have a decade left with her, and how much she will miss her when she’s gone. So, I’m thinking her mom might be in her 80s or something. Then she writes that her mom is 61. SIXTY-ONE!!!! Gaaaah! Are you kidding me? Is that the way my kids see me at 59? One foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel? For pity sakes.

But – I have a confession to make. We had dinner with long time friends the other night. We’ve been friends since our kids were little, well over 30 years. We talked and laughed about retirement and getting older. As I left, the thought DID cross my mind – I wonder who will leave us first? How many more lively dinners, camping trips, lunch dates and celebrations do we have until one of us breathes our last?

So – I’ll begrudgingly give voice to Ann’s conclusion.

The way to experience unlimited elation may be to imagine unexpected limitations. Imagine losing sight and open your eyes to a brighter light. No water, and the next cold glass becomes desert rain. Envision life without the loveliness of those you love — and you see how much you love.

So – I guess I’ll embrace those I love, and not take one more day for granted. To the man who’s 90 year old mother lies paralyzed in a hospital bed because of a stoke, I say, thank God for those days well past four score and ten. To the mom and dad who sit by the bedside of a critically ill four year old waiting to see what the days and years ahead will hold, I say, hold him, tell him you love him, thank God for the way he has brightened your life and trust God that he will live to see his 60th birthday. To to the 30 year old mom with breast cancer, I say, squeeze the very most out of every single day. Believe that you will see your son grow up. To all of us who tend to treat life like it was an inexhaustible commodity, I say, wake up. The days are speeding by. Don’t miss the grace each day holds. Start that new business, make friends with your neighbors, volunteer at that homeless shelter, tell your redemption story, read stories to your kids and grandkids, wrestle and run and play, celebrate each day. Let the glory of Jesus Christ be reflected in every moment of your everyday life. And above all, live a life of love.

Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.

Love you!

I just listened in on the last bit of a phone conversation between my husband and one of our sons. The reason for the phone call was the latest hunting report, so there was lots of laughter and a little advice. The conversation ended with the admonition to be careful and then the words, “Love you!” I could tell from the pause, that the son responded in kind.

I got to thinking about that little phrase, how often I use it, to end a text, a phone call, a conversation with a dear friend or loved one. Then suddenly I remembered how conversations with my Dad ended – particularly in his later years. Dad was part of the greatest generation. Words did not come easy for him. There was much love and affection in our home, but from Dad, it was reserved. I’d go so far as to say he was shy about it. Dad was raised by a stern, conservative, hard-working father. His mother died when he was six years old. It was to Dad’s credit that he learned to be affectionate and to say what he felt.

When I would say goodbye to my Dad, whether on the phone or in person, I would say, “Love you, Dad.” and he always responded in the same way. His voice changed – softened, and he said slowly and clearly, “I love you too, sis.” No quick, “Love you!” from Dad. He always said it in a way that made sure I knew he meant every word.

I’m not sure why that memory surfaced tonight. Maybe it was the conversation between a father and son. Maybe that, and the song that keeps playing over and over in my head and heart,

You’re a good, good father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you,
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

When I hear the Father say, “I love you.” It’s not a quick, “Love you!” I hear it the way my Dad would have said it.

We love each other because he loved us first. 1 John 4:19

https://youtu.be/djrY_eFDOwE