Posts Tagged ‘life’

Things I no longer am

April 27th, 2010 2 comments

With my daughter turning 1 tomorrow, I have been mulling over ways my life has changed recently.  It got me thinking about the things that at some point in my life served to define me, but no longer apply.  Some of these represent transitions in life, others reflect philosophical shifts, and others are simply changes (formal and informal) brought about by time.  Some of these I lament and others I am glad to have shed.

Here is a list (in no particular order) of things I no longer am:

  • A student
  • A firefighter
  • Single
  • A Saturday-morning-sleeper-inner
  • An evangelical
  • A minister
  • 165 pounds
  • 205 pounds
  • A bicycle mechanic
  • A full-time employee
  • An abstainer (I am married after all)
  • A San Fransico 49ers fan
  • A beleiver in a literal hell
  • A regular backpacker / mountain biker / rock climber
  • A person with a full head of hair
  • Anti-cell phone
  • Motivated by upward mobility
  • Childless
  • A night owl
  • Oblivious to world news
  • A critic of homosexual Christians
  • Ignorant to fine wines and spirits
  • A fiction reader
Categories: Family, Random Tags: , , ,

The Inner Beauty of a 6 Month Old

November 19th, 2009 1 comment

I think I have the most beautiful daughter in the world.  Just check out this picture from Halloween:

2009-October and November 177

Every chance I get, I tell her she is beautiful.  Beth and I constantly ask ourselves, “Honestly, could she get any cuter?”  I feel like we were playing Russian Roulette with my looks being in the gene pool, and luckily she turned out pretty good looking (if in 10 years she has a uni-brow and a beard, you know who to blame).

But I will be honest with you, sometimes I worry about her being so beautiful.  Will she grow up and be vain?  Will she have difficulty understanding inner beauty because she always possessed outer beauty?  If (when) her outer beauty fades, will she allow it to bother her?

I ask these questions but at the end of the day I don’t really worry about them.  That’s because Mikayla has an amazing personality for a baby. She is content and inquisitive.  She would rather smile than cry.  She enjoys company and can play alone.

In fact, instead of worrying about her, I have found she has many things she can teach me.

  • The joy of discovery – I am going to take credit for her constant fascination with everything around her.  I am pretty sure she gets spirit of inquiry from me.  However, whereas I usually approach things with a great deal of skepticism, Mikayla also approaches new things with joy and wonder.  She is excited about every new thing…. even when it turns out she does not like it (like with avocados).  Sometimes my own questioning brings about negativity.  I wish I were more like Mikayla and could find joy in every question and discovery.
  • Approach everything with a smile – Mikayla’s first response to a situation is to smile.  It doesn’t matter if it is her mother reaching for her, or someone she has never met.  She is always happy to see you.  This is even true of things that might threaten her.  Our dog sometimes get skitish when Mikayla is on the floor.  Sometimes Shiloh will bark at her.  Still though, she smiles and laughs and loves.  If only I were so accepting.
  • Explore your possibilities, but be content where you are – Mikayla is usually very happy where ever she is, whether it in her crib, on the floor, in someone’s arms, or in her car seat.  At the same time though, she is always looking around and exploring every nook and cranny.  However, she does not allow that inquiry to make her discontent.  She wants to know what’s on the other side of the crib, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy it there.  Mikayla uses the discovery process to better understand her current situation – not simply to try and replace it.  I wish I could have such an attitude.
  • Let people know when you are hurting and how they can help – Beth and I have learned Mikayla’s various cries.  She lets us know when she is hungry or tired or has gas or when she just wants to be held.  She is able to tell us how we can help her.   Looking at myself, that is something I need to do better.  Even when I know I am hurting, it is rare for me to let people into my world so they can know how they can help me.
    There is plenty we can learn from babies.  Unfortunately instead of letting them teach us, we all to often try to make them see things our way.  I hope in the years to come I can be a loving and effective teacher for my beautiful daughter, but more importantly, I hope I can always be her student and let her constantly teach me.

Transition of Life

September 9th, 2009 1 comment
Grandpa and Grandma with their 3 great-grandchildren: Mikayla, Luke and Chase

Grandpa and Grandma with their 3 great-grandchildren: Mikayla, Luke and Chase

Today has been an odd day for me.  Despite the fact it has been quite mundane, it has been emotionally draining.  My grandfather was just moved to hospice and the doctors think we are talking days instead of weeks or months.  Grandpa was diagnosed with leukemia 17 years ago and has gone through many other life threatening illnesses, yet has always been a fighter.  Even though we have been called up to make our “last visits” several times, this time really seems different.  At the same time, my father is in town and has been immensely enjoying his time with Mikayla (he was planning on going to backpacking, but given the recent news has decided to divert to Chicago).

Dad and I had a pretty lazy day today.  We cooked some soup for a friend who just had a baby and we watched a few documentaries.  We actually spent most of the day just sitting around talking about memories and entertaining the most alert and cheerful 4 month old in the world.

It is this juxtaposition of new life and possible death that has me a bit melancholy and pensive.  I am spending time with my dad as he thinks about the possible loss of his.  He is spending time being energized by the life of his grand-daughter while I am contemplating the loss of my own grand-father.  We talked expectantly about what Mikayla’s life will hold for her as we reflect on the meaning and significance of grandpa’s life.  Every song on the radio seems to have the power to call up painful realities, or hopeful possibilities.

I could wax on about the frailty of life and the interconnectedness of all people. I could go into detail about my love for my daughter and my love for my grandfather and how each stage of life refines and expands that love.  I could focus on one and ignore the other.  But, instead, I am content to reflect on the words of Solomon:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather themm

a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

This passage is often used when we are looking for reassurance in a single circumstance: why is there death, why is there pain, why is there sorrow.  We want to know that even the worst circumstances have a purpose.  For me, that is not the most significant or reassuring truth in this passage.  Instead of letting us know that there is room for even the painful things in the grand scheme of life, this passage lets us know that all things happen as part of a larger system that is always on-going.  There is always death, but there is also always life.  There is always pain, but there is also always hope.  There is always sorrow, but there is also always celebration.

For me, today has been the realization of that very truth.

Categories: Faith, Family, Thoughts Tags: , , , ,

For Whom the Bell Tolls

September 2nd, 2009 No comments

The following is from John Donne’s Thoughts on Emergent Occasions.  The common phrases “for whom the bell tolls” and “no man is an island” come from this piece.  In its entirety  it is a refreshing read.  It is my hope it continues to aid in our discussion of human worth, human rights and the way we should view humanity.  Points of emphasis are mine.

Now, this bell tolling softly for another, says to me: Thou must die.

Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.

The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all.

When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member.

And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated.

God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.

As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.

There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest.

If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is.

The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God.

Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out?

Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were.

Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours.

Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it.

No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction.

If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels.

Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it.

Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

10 Things (to do before I die)

July 17th, 2009 3 comments

Today Beth and I look to the future with our list of 10 things we want to do before we die.  Some items on this list represent things we already have in the works.  Other items represent things we simply need to make happen.  Finally, a few things on this list are so far out there, I have no idea how to make them happen, but by listing them, hopefully I will move that direction.

  1. Live overseas – Beth and I are very serious about spending a significant amount time in a place where our worldview is forced to expand, and where life is redefined.  Furthermore, we want to make sure Mikayla is a part of this experience.  You can read more about our plans to move to Swaziland in the next few years here, here and here.
  2. Know everything about something and something about everything – This is taken from a quote by Thomas H. Huxley, but does a great job at summing up my educational goals.  I do foresee a time when I pursue a Ph.D., but even if I don’t, I want to be intentional about knowing enough about one subject that I can be a resource to others.  Likewise, I want to know a little about everything so that my perspective of the world is more rounded, and so I can share in the appreciation others have for their passions.  (I love talking with people about what they do for a living — especially if they are really excited about their job).
  3. Adopt a child – Beth and I have been committed to adopting a child since our first conversations about our future plans.  It just makes sense — with so many children without families, why wouldn’t we bring on of them into our home.  Plus, Mikayla is so perfect (healthy, content, good looking), I think we could only go downhill.  I am even ready to get fixed.  Chances are we will adopt while overseas.
  4. Get my pilot’s license – This has been a goal of mine for quite a while.  There is a good chance I will begin training in the next 6 months.  While it is expensive, when you compare it to other educational costs, it is no more than a semester of graduate classes.
  5. Live off the grid – There are two reason behind this.  1.) I want to be a better steward of creation.  2.) I want to live more simply.  There is a good chance this will occur while we are in Swaziland, but if it doesn’t, I want to make sure it happens when we get back.
  6. Speak at least one other language fluently – So far I have ancient Greek and Hebrew under my belt from my days at Asbury.  But being able to ready 2,000 year old texts doesn’t do you much good when you want to communicate with someone today.  Right now Beth and I are beginning to work on our siSwati so we can speak the second national language of Swaziland.  It might not be the most practical language (only 1M in the world speak it), but it will certainly help us with our time overseas.  Once we are back, I may work on my Spanish.
  7. Watch a space shuttle launch – Not as profound as some of the other items on my list, but ever since my 5th grade class did a whole unit on space and learned about the whole launch process, I have been fascinated.  I think it would be awesome to see a launch live — especially a night launch.
  8. Visit all 7 continents – I have 2 down and will get a 3rd shortly.  Antarctica will be tough, but if I get the other 6, I am pretty sure I could make it happen.  I actually have several friends who work there during the southern summer.
  9. Complete an epic backpacking trip – I doubt I will ever complete the AT, the CDT, or the PCT, but I want to do something major.  Maybe it won’t even be stateside.  I want to experience the thrill of completion along with the time to reexamine life that comes with such a trip.

    Grave Peak sunset.  July 4, 2001

    Grave Peak sunset. July 4, 2001

  10. Celebrate my 50th anniversary, walk my daughter down the aisle, die content – How is that for a final goal?  I list these last and together because these require a lifetime of dedication.  I want to be happy with my life when it is through and be able to say I have been a good husband a good father.

Honorable Mention: Camp overnight in an interstate mediumHere is the place I have my eye on… easy access, wide area, cover of trees.  Anyone up for it?

The Kingdom of Swaziland (part 1)

July 11th, 2009 No comments

My tagline mentions faith, doubt, family and future (not sure where that “d” word came from).  So far we have covered the first three, so what about the fourth… our future.  Well here are the big plans Beth and I have been mulling over recently.

About a year ago Beth and I realized we had divergent life plans.  It was not that my plans were different from hers; rather, it was that we were holding on to various life plans that could not all happen together.  Were we going to commit to our community in Bowling Green? Where we going to spend time overseas?  Was I going to pursue a Ph.D. and then teach in a university?  Was Beth going to transition into special education and working with students with Autism?

After much thought, prayer, and discussion it was clear that the path we were most dedicated to was an extended period overseas; specifically, we wanted to experience life in Africa.  We wanted to live 5-10 years in a developing country where we could raise Mikayla during her formative years.  We began doing research and setting goals.  We even went as far as creating a giant pro/con list of every country in the continent.  We were looking for a country:

  • that is relative safe with no major civil conflicts
  • where english is at least a secondary language
  • where travel is cheap enough so it is possible to come back to the states or have people visit us
  • with a near temperate climate and varied terrain (okay… really we were just looking for a place that wasn’t a desert)
  • with a rich history and culture
  • where communities addressed societal issues together

It was not our goal to go somewhere to “fix” things, but rather to allow a different set of circumstances to expand our worldview and then work along side those there to bring about a better world for all.

Our search kept returning us to the small country of Swaziland (technically “The Kingdom of Swaziland” since it is the only remaining monarchy in Africa).  This landlocked country is to the north-east of South Africa and is about the size of New Jersey with about the population of Kentucky’s 4 largest cities (Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green and Owensboro).  It has the third lowest life expectancy in the world due largely to the fact that it has the highest AIDS rate in the world. I will write a follow up post explaining more about Swaziland in the coming days and then another one explaining what we may do there, but until then you can read about the country here.

Our current plans are to travel there in 2010 to research jobs and organizations we may be able to work with, then in 2011 or 2012 make the big move.  Mikayla will be 2 or 3 then and we expect to stay until she is ready for Middle School and then move back.

Of course all this is flexible.  We decided it was better to have flexible goals that we could move towards rather than ambiguous goals that may never materialize.

For now, we are beginning to make contacts over there and have started looking into learning the second language of siswati, we are also researching organizations and institutions that we may be able to align ourselves with.

I look forward to sharing more as it develops.

See also:

Kingdom of Swaziland Part II – Background on the country

Kingdom of Swaziland Part III – What we will do and why