Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I have vivid memories of our anniversary trip from 2001 for a couple of reasons. We descended upon a Swiss style bed and breakfast just outside Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for a weekend alone, away from our two young children.
We spent some time shopping and touring, and visiting for a few hours with a college friend my wife hadn't seen since graduation. I even convinced Lisa to ride in a golf cart with me for eighteen holes. True love knows no bounds, evidently.
There was another significant reason for our trip other than fun and relaxation, however. In the weeks leading up to this late September weekend, we were trying to decide whether or not to have another child. Lisa always wanted a big family, but after two C-sections and a lot of scar tissue, we just couldn't decide if we wanted to go through the whole thing all over again. During this time, we planned to pray fervently and make a decision about it before our return.
We had fun. We cast the die. There would be no more biological children in our future. After weeks and even months of strain, finally peace settled over us. The answer seemed so obvious after our weekend together. One girl and one boy would compose the sum of our family forever.
Eight and a half months from that day, I stood over my wife in a hospital operating room sheepishly peering into her open belly at the hairy creature inside. The whole time we were making our big, future plans, God had already made his.
His name was Thomas Jordan and he was a little miracle of sorts-- a miracle because of our conspiracy against him, a miracle because the doctor said he had never seen a uterus so thin that hadn't ruptured, a miracle because any child's birth really is anyway.
He had lots of hair...lots of dark hair. So much so, I could literally see it on top of his head before he was cut from her womb.
Finding common ground with this boy has proved mostly elusive in our nearly eight years together. While his brother is scoring a super bowl touchdown in the backyard and sister molding some colorful clay in her bedroom, he's quietly reading a book in a lonely corner of the house. Instead of going to Busch Gardens for his birthday, he wants to visit the Smithsonian. While his brother prefers to play with whatever ball is in season, Thomas likes instead to watch the night sky with a telescope.
He's unconcerned with conforming to anything other than his sensitive ideals of right and wrong. Unlike his older brother and sister, appearances account for very little to him.
So it came as a little surprise last night as rain postponed Luke's ball game that Thomas asked to go fishing. This peculiar child so different from me, so comfortable in a library and so anxious on a baseball field, wanted to ply some lake with his old man while his older brother chose home instead.
This son, so hard for his father to know, was trying to find something we could share together.
We loaded the truck and prepared our equipment. At six yesterday evening, the boat hit water.
It didn't start well. For nearly an hour he threw a crankbait and retrieved it without as much as a peck. He put his pole down and sat for a few minutes looking through his binoculars at the shore for signs of life. The fish were aggressively biting my plastic worm, so finally I decided to tie one on for him knowing it would be difficult for him to feel a bite let alone hook the ones that did.
Soon the fish began biting his worm and several times he got them close to the boat, but never in it. Tears filled his eyes as he lost his third fish. I'll admit in a selfish moment, I begged God to please let Thomas get one in the boat.
I mean, catching fish from a trout farm on a piece of corn or a bedding bluegill on an ultralight rod with a live cricket is one thing. But, fooling a wild bass on an artificial lure all by yourself is a milestone in any fisherman's life.
Number four was the charm.
"I got one, daddy."
I jumped down from the front deck into the bottom of the boat.
"Easy son, easy now," I said. My heart was pounding hard as the fish jumped right beside my outstretched arm. I grabbed his line and airplaned the fish onto the floor.
His face lit up the dusky sky.
It might as well have been Moby Dick to that kid. It was a bass, his first and he had caught it all by himself.
"Has Luke ever caught a bass on a worm?" he asked.
"Once," I said. "He was about your age when he caught it."
"I can't wait to tell momma."
"Me either," I said.
We fished for a few more minutes and also happened to see a small, black bear in the woods above the lake-something, that for now anyway, we share exclusively. As I loaded up the trailer, he could hardly sit still. We got the phone out and he called his mother first and then his grandfather to share the news.
I had a weird, momentary feeling of deja vu as I recalled my first bass. I caught it in the same lake on a plastic worm nearly thirty years earlier. If you would have told me then about this night now, I would have laughed all the way home.
Amazing, the course we can hardly imagine.
We kept his bass and a few other small ones for our annual, fall fish fry. When we finally got home and put the boat in the garage, I snapped a quick picture with my phone of Thomas and his trophy. Soon he sped inside to recount his excellent adventure to the rest of his family.
I fell asleep quickly last night as all that adrenaline finally left me. Before I did, however, I had to offer God some thanks. I thanked him for black bears, largemouth bass, and the ones that didn't get away.
Mostly I thanked him for the unexpected blessing of a peculiar boy named Thomas, for our springtime fishing trip, and the common ground we found together one cool night in April.
Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
|courtesy of photobucket.com|
I woke up around 6:00 a.m., did some reading, ate breakfast and then stretched my aging muscles for an early morning run.
The cool quiet only Saturday morning provides greeted me as I opened the front door. I looked directly across the street to the gently rolling farmland in the foreground, framed by the western facing slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains behind.
I started to run.
The sun crested the highest peak in the distance as I reached the four mile mark. White pear blossoms, yellow forsythia, and wide open fields dotted with pastels surrounded me. Chunks of broken asphalt outlined the road where snow had been just a few short weeks ago. All of creation breathed a sigh of relief in a quiet refrain of hope.
My left knee ached.
Suddenly, I wondered about Paul and his thorn in the flesh, acutely aware of the profound blessing of just being able to freely lace up my shoes and feel the pavement beneath my feet.
This living landscape before me offered clear evidence of something greater than myself controlling it all. I thought about the romantics so adept at discerning faith from nature and its design.
My thoughts rambled from one thing to another--worries about a problem at work, a daughter growing up way too fast. Mostly though, I worried about how I could find again that place of deeper faith so lately elusive--how I could find it before it's too late.
How could I be the husband and father my family needed with so much doubt and uncertainty? Time was running out. These worries devoured my thoughts on that lonely road.
I'm not sure about much. I don't have many answers. I know, however, I must learn to dismiss future worries and relinquish past guilt. I must embrace the moments of now, appreciating the present for the mercies new today. I must manage what is within my power, controlling what I think, what I speak, how I respond.
All of these part of His seemingly simple request that I control myself.
Funny thing though, I spend so much time and energy worrying about the things I should trust him to control and avoiding the real work inherent in learning to control me.
My prayer is that he finds some open sore beneath the crusty layers of my heart. I pray he scrapes and digs and exposes that tender place where something great can grow again.
I pray that I'll find him one morning on that road in a beautiful collision.
I want him to water that seed far beneath the surface. I want that Spirit to grow large and overwhelm me. Apart from it, prospects of controlling anything are bleak. With it, self control may just be possible.
And in the end, it may just be the only thing that really matters anyway...
For more about self-control go to: http://www.bridgetchumbley.com/2010/04/self-control-blog-carnival/
Friday, April 16, 2010
It was 5:37 a.m. Early for even my daughter.
The smell of an unfamiliar smoke greeted me as I opened the bedroom door. Fueled by adrenaline and anxiety, I descended the steps in two giant leaps. I knocked over a picture and twisted my right ankle as it slammed the entry way to our home. A thick haze consumed the kitchen where my daughter stood, clinging to the counter tops and screaming in sheer panic.
I couldn't process it all right away.
"Where's the fire, Mary?" I yelled as our eyes met.
"What fire, Daddy?
"What do you mean, 'what fire'?" I asked. Inspecting the surroundings, I noticed a frying pan on the stove. Smoke billowed from inside it. "The fire you're screaming about," I continued.
"I was screaming about the mouse that ran across the floor," she explained.
The tension stored in every tiny muscle suddenly left in my explosive sigh.
"You scared me to death, sweetheart."
"We wanted to surprise you with breakfast."
"Well, you certainly did surprise us," I said, trying to get control of myself and proceed into the rest of the morning a little more gracefully.
In the fifteen years we've lived in our house, mice have taken up residence a couple of times. The late winter snow melt and early spring rains usually account for their appearance. This provided Mary's first encounter with a real one.
After finally collecting my wits, I walked to the pan and inspected the breakfast fare. The turkey bacon stuck to the bottom of it and hardly resembled something actually edible . I heard no sizzling at all because, what little fat it may have once had, was now scorched to oblivion.
She had prepared the scrambled eggs first with no lubricating agent applied to the non-teflon coated pan. The remnants of that along with the nuked bacon made for a heinous mess.
She had already put the eggs on two little plates for her mother and me. On top she sprinkled pepper and what she assumed to be salt. Mary had requested the boys pitch in some to share in the glory and so ordered Luke to retrieve the salt from the cabinet. He saw a small container with white insides and gave it to her.
It was cream of tartar.
Before realizing it, she covered the eggs. I tried to eat it.
I have a strong stomach and pride myself on cleaning my plate no matter what finds its way onto it. But, through the smell and haze, my queasy guts just couldn't take it.
"You don't like it do you, Daddy?"
The moment of truth came suddenly. She knew it was bad so my credibility account would be severely drained if I answered yes. I did the only thing I could.
"No, honey. But, I like you and your brothers. I think you're all really sweet."
We all had a good laugh as Lisa arrived and took a few pictures destined for future scrapbooks. I was looking for some kind of Godly lesson in this all, but it escaped me for a while.
It does make me wonder about our relationship with God Himself, though. Obsessed so much with the outcome, I often lose blessings inherent in the process. The truth is, choking down the charred concoction was of little consequence (other than some incredible heartburn later). Children, consumed enough by their own burning hearts to even try at all, made the morning special to this father.
God is my father too. He loves me more than I could possibly love my own children. Surely he feels the same about my efforts no matter how fruitless they sometimes seem to end.
Maybe the lesson I'm looking for isn’t so obscure…perhaps I could see it better if I quit leaning too much on me. Maybe that is the lesson itself. Less of me, more of Him. Step out in faith, do what's right and let Him sort it all out in the end.
In an odd twist of "faith," maybe God used some fowl bacon and tartared eggs destined for my waiting stomach to open my heart instead.
Maybe, just maybe, He tried to show me what really matters most.
P.S.-who ever invented turkey bacon anyway? I'd rather eat the plastic it's wrapped in...give me some good old pig anyday.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
while summer pens
They utter nothing,
autumn's red and yellow
but write, they do.
Alabaster fields mute
the sounds of winter's
still on they write.
Imperceptible to some,
the loudest song
the melody of God.
Friday, April 9, 2010
|courtesy of photobucket.com|
I miss MommaKay;
she’ll come get me soon.
I don’t want to stay.
It smells nice here,
but not like home.
I miss MommaKay:
she’ll come get me soon.
I don’t want to…
This bed feels warm,
but not like home.
I miss MommaKay;
she’ll come get me soon.
I don’t want…
Don’t turn out the lights,
it’s not like home.
I miss MommaKay;
she’ll come get me soon.
These aren’t my brothers,
they don’t feel like home.
I miss MommaKay;
|courtesy of photobucket.com|
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
My daughter slowly approached me a few nights ago at the kitchen table. I arrived home late from work and sat there eating my dinner, enjoying some conversation with my wife.
"Hey, Dad, what are you doing?"
“Just talking to your mom,” I said, well aware that something else was on her mind.
“I’ve been thinking, Dad. Could I get my own email address?”
“Do you really need one?”
“Well, all my friends have their own email and most are on facebook too.”
I waited for a moment before offering her an old, time honored classic.
"If all of your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?”
I knew the answer coming, and the truth is she had me at “hello” anyway. She didn’t even have to bat her eyelashes or snuggle up to me like she did, but it added some tasty icing to an already sweet cake.
“No, I wouldn’t Daddy, but this is different.”
I continued the inquisition, and made sure she knew I would only do it with complete access to her account. She didn’t hesitate. We then spent a few minutes together setting up her address and password. I made her send me a test email to make sure it was working and to store my address for the future. We did the same thing with her mother’s address and a couple of others as well.
All of that happened Monday night.
At 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday, I was surprised to find six emails waiting for me at work. The first one said:
“Hey! How was your day? If you get the chance at work to write me back PLEASE do!"
The other five were small talk about her day at school and a request to go running together when I got home from work. She even sent me one last night at 9:15 after she was in bed, which I found this morning.
I do have to be honest, though. There is a nearly unexplained excitement I feel when opening my email and seeing a new message sent from Mary Jordan. It’s kind of like the feeling I remember years ago when hearing on the radio that schools were closed because of bad weather.
It just feels so…so…perfect.
All this electronic messaging with my daughter has created a bit of a problem, however. I just can’t bring myself to delete her emails. I know a day is coming when I’ll have to, but for now I want to enjoy this ride as long as it lasts.
Not sure if that makes me weird or normal or a little bit of both. But, I must admit I haven’t created a monster. It’s just a new frontier for a smitten dad. And, I like it and her.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ...
Monday, April 5, 2010
His name is Atticus Finch, and he plays a leading role in Harper Lee's classic, "To Kill a Mockingbird."
Finch is the kind of man women love. He's smart and educated, but well acquainted with humility. He's a man of uncompromising convictions with a common sense approach to life and relationships. He's honest and hardworking. He's kind and mannerly. He's a man of many talents who can handle a hostile crowd with his tongue and a rabid dog with a gun.
Mostly, he's a man with an extra large helping of gentleness.
The words of Atticus inspired Lee's novel. Finch explains to his children the temptation of a waiting gun and how eventually, they would want to do more than shoot old tin cans with it.
"Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
He goes on to say that a mockingbird does no harm to anyone or anything, but exists only to make beautiful music. For this reason he believes they should be more esteemed than others-words reminiscent of Jesus himself when he claimed those who took care of the least of his brothers would reap great reward.
I can understand why my wife loves him so much.
Gentleness may be hard to define in words, but it's easy to see in action. It's compelling and attractive.
It's the tone, mannerisms and way of behaving that says, I care more for your needs than my own--the world and those in it were made for me to protect--not the other way around. At one point in the novel, Atticus teaches his children with these simple yet profound words:
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."
Indeed, I am gentle when willing to view the world from another's perspective without demanding he understand my own first.
It's the way we best communicate love itself.
Atticus didn't use his physiology or endocrinology as an excuse for neglecting it. He recognized the common predicament of those around him-rich or poor, strong or weak. He was the voice of those struggling to find their own.
Atticus was accustomed to accepting hickory nuts and vegetables as payment for his legal services, but on one particular occasion even poor Walter Cunningham found himself at Finch's mercy.
"Let that be the least of your worries, Walter," Atticus replied.
He knew how to let a lesser man win a losing battle and keep his dignity doing it. He knew how to be gentle.
So what's the lesson here for me?
Gentleness isn't an option for a Christian. It must be some of the fruit I bear because it proves the Maker's Spirit lives in me. There can be no salt and light without it. It gives me the moral authority to share my faith and the credibility for others to believe it.
We need look no further than the pages of the gospels themselves to find the greatest template for authentic gentleness. It oozes from every word of the Christ we serve. The life and times of this humble carpenter provide an especially good model for men today searching for the key ingredients necessary to lead their families. Gentleness ties everything else together.
It helps others love me more easily…especially my wife.
And, maybe if I'm lucky, she will notice some of that Atticus in me. Maybe it will be what sends her running back headlong into my aching arms again, where I'll be waiting to embrace her once more.
Click here to discover more about gentleness: http://www.bridgetchumbley.com/2010/04/gentleness-blog-carnival/
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Lisa showed up at work last night with Mary. The boys were with their grandmother and so the girls surprised me at work with a dinner date.
They decided to do a little shopping while I finished up and then meet me at a local restaurant. As they left, I heard a vague reference to TJ Maxx and finding a "crimper" for Mary.
Finally we met for dinner and our conversation turned to the "crimper." Evidently, TJ Maxx had several in stock a week ago, but sold all of them. I tried to get an accurate definition of a crimper, but despite their best efforts in explaining, still I didn't quite understand.
How many different pieces of electrified tools do women need to prepare their manes? Curling irons, flat irons, hair-dryers, and now crimpers? I mean, I like pretty hair and everything else, but isn't this just a little too much?
Anyway, Mary decided to ride home with me so I thought we might stop and try to find this elusive crimper somewhere else. She's outgrown the Easter basket, so I figured this would make a good present for her instead.
She flashed a bit of excitement when I presented this option, but I did make one crucial error. I suggested we go to Wal-Mart. Why wouldn't we? They have everything and it's usually cheaper. Apparently, many women just don't think that way. She was still her sweet self and all, but I could tell that's not where she wanted to look.
Wouldn't you know? Wal-Mart didn't have a crimper either.
"How about Target?" I inquired.
"Mom and I already stopped there earlier, and they didn't have them."
"So where should we try?"
"Maybe Ross's?" she replied.
I know for some reason girls have this aversion to Wal-Mart and prefer stores like Target instead even if Wal-Mart sells the same stuff and has more to boot. I learned that from my wife. I guess it just looks nicer on the Target shelves and the atmosphere is better, which is half the fun for women who shop anyway. But, has this already been socialized into my eleven year old daughter or is this a nature thing? Just asking.
Anyway, she decided we should try Kohl's first since it's in the same area is Ross's, Target and several other stores. I'm just now learning how these companies conspire against men by putting all these chick stores together to expedite the retail experience. This must surely violate some anti-trust act, but that's a story for another time.
Well, Kohl's didn't have anything resembling a crimper and I began to wonder if she simply stopped there as an excuse for a retail fix. But, I had my doubts because neither she nor her mother is really that type anyway. I'll admit Kohl's made me feel a little uncomfortable. It seemed a little, uh...feminine, shall we say?
Next, we went into Ross's (her original destination). Guess what? No crimpers.
No problem though. Bed, Bath, and Beyond was right next door.
Talk about uncomfortable. It even smelled like a woman in there. You know, all perfumed up.
I just wanted to hurry up and find the "beyond" section because I was pretty sure we wouldn't find crimpers in the bed or bath areas, and I was little scared at what might be waiting there. I was beginning to wonder if these things even existed at all.
Finally, I suggested what I should have started with in the first place.
"Why don't we just go home and look it up online, Mary?"
She smiled and we left. On the drive home, she even told me she had fun on our fruitless journey. Guess too she's wise enough to recognize the fruit that's harder for us guys to see.
Funny, the differences between men and women. If that had been the boys, they would have loved to go to Wal-Mart and would have never said they had fun if we came home empty. Kind of makes me think.
The women in my life are great blessings and I'm thankful everyday for them. They smell nice too.
And somehow, in their own unique way, they just make life so much better...
Song of Solomon 7:5
Your head crowns you like Mount Carmel. Your hair is like royal tapestry; the king is held captive by its tresses.