Two Peas, Different Pods

 

 

Birth. It marks our entrance into the world.

When two of my kids had children on the same day, it was cause, not only for rejoicing, but chuckles.

Both are boys. One in Orlando, one in Austin, Texas. Miles apart birthday buddies.

Babies are lots of fun–and lots of work. I typically think of the work after they’re born as being the biggest part of the job. It’s a life commitment.

There’s work before the big day.

Both Heather and Jillian had challenging pregnancies. Discomfort and body aches accompany carrying another human inside that offsets balance. Men don’t easily get this. It’s not like putting a watermelon down your shirt and trying to carry it without hands. This is your body growing, stretching, body parts feeling cramped and squished to accommodate a temporary guest.

Apart from the physical changes that require effort to get through, there’s the planning and preparation for bringing the new one home. Gathering clothes and diapers, a place for the child to sleep, even prepping siblings who may or may not be excited about a new one. Everyone has to get ready. It’s exceedingly difficult if Mom is laying the groundwork for a new arrival by herself. Dealing with all the arrangements for the change is magnified by personal discomfort.

That’s when we get by with a little help from our friends.

Challenges don’t end with delivery.

What if things don’t turn out the way they’re expected? If the child has serious problems, or, perish the thought, doesn’t make it? What happens if, on top of the work of waiting, there’s pain, sadness and disappointment?

Even if the baby is fine, being a parent is never what we expect. We romanticize the joys of caring for and loving a child, through birth, adoption, fostering. Reality hits when we realize there’s no instruction book that comes with the baby.

Every child is different. What one child goes through may never be reality for another. Children are as unique and different as we are.

We can prepare. We can be ready. But when it happens–how it happens–is rarely what our minds have crafted as ideal.

Isn’t this the picture of life for us day by day? We plan and prepare. We anticipate and count the cost. Often what we get is not what we’d expected. Possibly nothing we wanted.

I don’t know everything. I can’t control everything, much as I’d like to on any given day.

God knows it all. He’s reached out in love to us through Jesus, but He doesn’t force anything. We choose the relationship. We get to invite Him to be part of our lives. In a broken, messy world, He promises His presence and strength to get us through the tough places. His love to soften the hurts we encounter.

Our two new grandsons are just beginning life, and they’ve so much to learn. There will be hard and fun. Joy and sorrow. They’ll learn they have choices. And little control.

There’s the adventure. For all of us.

We don’t have to go it alone. He’s in the pod with us.

 

 

 

How Big Is Our Table?

photo by Annie Spratt on unsplash

With six kids, we’re often in a place where we’ve needed to add another seat to the table. Friends would get invited last minute. People would still be around at meal time. John and I learned early that it didn’t matter what we served if we served it with kindness and an attitude of joy.

Holidays have reflected that in a lot of ways. One Thanksgiving I’d invited a gentleman I’d met at a coffee shop who was there consistently. I used that particular place as an offsite office–people relax more with a cup of coffee in a neutral space.

He was an older man of color, always alone. I’d speak to him when I saw him, greeted him like an old friend. I thought it would be sweet to invite him to have Thanksgiving dinner with us and our friends, so I did.

He showed up.

He knew no one else at our place but me. He seemed to have a great time.

What he taught me was the value of being seen, being included.

There’s nothing like hospitality to make someone feel welcomed. Being at the table with others gives folks a sense of belonging, of being known and wanted. Ad campaigns have picked up on the value of being united–even in our diversity.

Aren’t we all truly different? Different stories, different values, different hopes and dreams. We’ve all got limitations–some are more obvious than others. We’re all hiding something we don’t want to deal with. We all wish some things about us were different.

There’s uniqueness in each of us–and real beauty. Different isn’t bad. It’s just different.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is more than just recognizing the contributions of a man who died fighting for his dream of equality among all people, no matter the color of their skin. He brought to the forefront social justice and the need to live in peace and love.

It’s been fifty years since he was assassinated, and our world still struggles with the challenge of viewing all as equal. Recognizing that our color, the family we’re born into, our gender, where we live aren’t decisions we’ve been given to make. The’ve been made for us–by an Almighty God.

If we’ve had no choice in these things, how dare we judge the value of another based on anything external.

In 1963, King made the statement, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

He understood the value of the individual because he understood the heart of God. We’re all made in His image. No matter what our color, gender, socio-economic status, talents. God has given each of us the capacity to live with Him–and with each other.

If we choose.

If we’re going to invite people to sit at the table to reflect our differences, we’ll all have to be invited. Not just a representative few. When we recognize we’re all different, we can begin to focus on what we share that’s the same.

It will be a mighty big table.

 

 

 

 

When The Show Is Over, What Remains?

We don’t go to the movies much. Our choice.

But I’d wanted to see The Greatest Showman because I’ve always had a fascination with P. T. Barnum and circuses, so we went with some friends.

It was worth it.

The storyline was beautiful and heart-wrenching all at once. They took the real story of Phineas Taylor Barnum and romanticized it, but who he was and what he did was celebrated through song, dance and relationships.

Hugh Jackman played the part of Barnum with flair and demonstrated the indomitable spirit of the man who dreamed big, who invented what we now know as the publicity campaign and who learned that being hoodwinked could be fun.

What I loved about the movie was how one man could change the perspective of many by celebrating different. Barnum had a knack for promoting, no doubt about it. But when he brought quirky and challenged to center stage, he took what was diverse out of the shadows and gave it a sense of honor. He created a family  of those who’d been hidden and gave them courage and a stage that they shared. He helped them value that they weren’t like everyone else–and paid them for it.

I questioned whether Barnum really had an audience with Queen Victoria–that seemed a little audacious. He did, and she was fascinated with General Tom Thumb. And even though he had a penchant for promoting the unusual and unexpected, one of his most successful undertakings was promoting Jenny Lind, the Swedish opera star.  He booked her for 150 shows in the U.S. and Canada, offering her $1,000 a performance, without ever hearing her sing. Unheard of back then. He actually made a profit of more than $500,000 on her tour.

What was inescapable in the movie was watching the enjoyment Barnum’s shows brought to people. And the diversity the people of that day refused to accept in real life (during the mid-1800’s) they embraced in his performances.

As a showman, Barnum promoted what was unusual, what had been ignored. He was a businessman. He made money for himself and for others. In his later years, he gave back to the community, serving several terms in the Connecticut legislature and finally getting elected to mayor of Bridgeport.

An incredible story of vision, effort and the refusal to give up.

He gave people what they wanted, even though they didn’t really need it.

Jesus gives people what they need, and often they don’t know they want it.

He wasn’t a showman. During His life, He didn’t become famous. He didn’t even own a home.

But He cared for all people. He embraced the disenfranchised, the ones everyone rejected. He had a vision for seeing people loved and forgiven by the One who made them. Redeemed and restored. The effort required of Him was death on a cross–and He refused to walk away from it.

I don’t always know what I want, but I’m growing in understanding of what I need.

Not a showman. Not a promoter.

I need a Savior.

That’s not show. That’s real.

 

 

 

 

 

Shouldn’t Have Done That


No one should have been surprised. He’s only eight months old. Putting things in his mouth is expected.

But swallowing a large rubber lizard?

Aspen, the dog my daughter’s family loves to love and laugh at, stopped eating and drinking for two days. He became lethargic, so not like himself. They took him to the vet and found out there was something in his intestinal track that was causing problems.

He’d need surgery.

This dog is a walking garbage disposal. He chews on anything that comes within mouth reach. Because he’s fast, that’s just about everything. Typical for most labrador puppies.

In our experience with pets, we’ve never had to deal with surgery for an animal. This wasn’t easy for my daughter and her husband–in the short time he’s been with them, Aspen has become part of the family.

For better or worse.

Aspen had his surgery, and the vet too pictures. He called the photos “veterinary gold”. When they cut open the intestine, this rubber lizard popped out, bloody and large, like it was still alive. Leave it to this four-legged dude to provide entertainment for the doggy surgeon.

When they picked him up, the poor guy was wearing the big cone around his head to keep him from licking his sutures. It’s been referred to as the cone of shame. Shame on him for having eaten what wasn’t edible. It affected how he acted. The normally bouncy, flouncy, fun dog was more still than I’ve seen him. He refused to sit or lie down. Sad situation.

He’d stand still, staring. Tail down. Head drooping. His eyes would close. He’d begin to sway–the medication made him tired. Then he’d fall asleep–and fall over. And bounce back up and do it again. His discomfort was obvious.

The cone will be on for two weeks. Consequences of his unconstrained chewing habit.

I feel sorry for Aspen. He’s at that point in his puppy life where he’s similar in behavior to a toddler who’s afraid of nothing and tries everything. A child learns from reprimands and experiencing the repercussions of their actions.

Or they don’t.

There are those of us at various ages that continue to act without thinking about the fallout from our choices. Kids need the structure of discipline and good decisions as they grow so they can become mature adults, full of character.

So do we.

I often don’t think twice about pursuing something just because it looks good in the moment. I’ll throw caution to the wind and will make what I know in my heart is a crummy choice. Even knowing there’ll be consequences.

When consequences come, my cone of shame may not look like Aspen’s, but I feel it as certainly as if it was around my neck.

It’s why I need a strong moral compass in my life. Someone that points me to better decisions and smarter long-range thinking.

My relationship with Jesus does that for me. He’s given me clear instruction in His word and with His presence.

No shame in that. Just a cone of love and truth.

 

In A Word–Or Not

I’m somewhat fascinated by folks who choose a word as a focus for their year. Not because I question the validity of it–it’s a great idea.

I’m too undecided to pick one word. If a friend picks “rest”, it sounds great to me. Another picks “linger”, and that’s awesome as well. Someone else picks “hope”, and I’m all in. It’s better that I let the words go and be in the moment.

Focus has many iterations. Three-year-old Ryken has a word that he’s been focused on for awhile. It will be his word for the foreseeable future. He could care less about character growth.

His word is “butt”.

It’s a boy thing. Anything dealing with bodily functions or noises is a draw for young guys. He’s well aware that his folks don’t want him to say it, so he uses it as frequently as he can.

We purchased a karaoke gizmo for Christmas for family fun. When we opened it, Isley was the first to use it, singing a song from “Moana”.

Ryken grabbed the microphone from his sister,  on echo mode, and waltzed around the house saying “butt” in as many different vocalizations as he could. Everyone laughed.

What’s not to enjoy about an echoing “butt”?

Words have a fascination for us. Yes, we live in a culture where fewer words are used in communication. Social media limits us to a count. Sound bytes can make and break people in the public eye. We make statements that are forever on the internet, things we may regret saying once those words pass our lips.

Words  matter.

Words have a beginning, however. Their birth happens in our minds as a result of what fills our minds.

Ryken has heard his siblings use this word repeatedly. He’s heard his mom and dad tell them–and him–not to use that word. Repeatedly.

All he wants to do is say that word.

What we’re not supposed to think about is often where our minds wander.

As a kid, to distract me from a bad scrape or a sprained ankle, my dad would console me and comment, “Go ahead and think about your scrape. You can think about how much it hurts. But whatever you do, don’t think about purple penguins.”

I quickly forgot the scrape and couldn’t get the picture of purple penguins out of my mind.

We’re drawn to those things that we’re told aren’t good for us. Choosing the bad always seems more fun and fulfilling than choosing the good. It’s part of our nature–choosing our way regardless of how it affects others, or even what the consequences might be to us down the road.

This comes because we’ve chosen to walk away from God and a relationship with Him. Rather than our minds being filled with His truth and goodness, we fill our heads with lies others tell us, the harsh expectations of those we seek to please, the compromises we’re willing to buy into.

Ryken’s obsession with “butt” is a reflection of my own obsessions with things that don’t help me or encourage others.

No butts about it.