Thursday, 21 August 2008

Asher goes to the hospital (but actually 496)

Asher had minor minor minor outpatient surgery on his ear this morning. We got up at 4:30, which sadly for me is not nearly as early as it used to sound, and popped Asher and Piper in the car, with leaving grandpa on the couch to get Fric and Frac off to school.

Asher is a trooper.
Asher is a champ.

We walked into the hospital and waiting room no problem. When they took us back to the pre-op he got a little freaked out, but after being there for five minutes he realized nothing bad would happen, and reverted to his awesome personality. He played on the rolling cart and slid around in his socks, being the Big Hit that he normally is everywhere he goes. He told the anesthesiologist that he’s not The Man. But he did say he’s the King of Rock. We sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” for an audience. He got his meds in him and it got funny. When they came to get him he was singing and talking to himself.

The surgery and post-op together were shorter than the time we spent in pre-op. We were in the car thirty minutes after they took him back for the surgery. No drugs, no drops, just keep the ear dry for a few weeks.

As easy and painfree as this was, you still get a little antsy. I take stuff like this in stride, but I never like it. I get the little worry flutters in my stomach. But Asher’s at home now sleeping, and he’ll enjoy a day of sprite and jello on the couch with Diego on the big screen.

I came on to work and checked my feeds, and was smacked to my knees for these families and how blessed Shannon and I are. This is a link to my friend Michael’s family blog about his four year-old who is in remission from Leukemia. While they’re over the worst, they still live with it on a daily basis. And this is a link they put me onto. Please, please pray for this little boy and his family.

The truly hearbreaking thing that I can’t get past, is that he represents thousands just like him that I’ll never hear about. And most of those don’t have any kind of support system.

I cannot hug my children tight enough.


I started reading Narnia to Jacob last night. My dad read them to me when I was his age, and it’s something I plan on doing with all four of mine. One chapter and he’s hooked. He knows the story a little from movie and toy commercials and the Chik-fil-a books, but when I told him there are seven books, and all the stuff he had heard and seen was part of only two, he got excited. When I told him the fifth book explains how the lamp post got in the middle of the woods, his eyes got huge.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Parenthood 5: Road Trip (but actually 550)

I’ve started and deleted this installment three times, which is kind of the opposite point of a blog. I know. But it all sounds wrong. I can’t quite get my mind around it. I know God loves my kids. I know He’ll guide them the way He guides me. I trust Him.

I trust Him.

But still, I feel like I’m playing chicken with Him over their future.

I trust Him with the big stuff. That’s what it is. I’m not worried about relationship and growth and all the stuff I probably should worry about. If there’s one thing the Starbucks Years taught me, it’s to trust God even when there’s no earthly reason to. Even when everything looks and feels wrong, He taught me—he whispered in my ear—“do you trust Me now?”

So that’s capillary action for me, and I trust Him in the same way with my children. I don’t worry about their relationship with Him. Maybe I should, but I don’t.

No. It’s the little things I’m struggling with. But those little things turn into big things. Momma Phelps needed an energy release (and a break!) for her hyperactive son, so she sent him swimming.

I trust that God’s going to lead my kids to a relationship with Him. I trust that he’s using me as a part of that process. But gymnastics or taekwondo? Swimming,? Tennis? Drama? Golf? Dance? Baseball? Piano? Soccer? Wait. Not soccer. There’s no future there.

It’s not that I don’t trust God with this stuff. I’m just not getting a lot of direction here. Paul doesn’t exactly cover water sports when he talks about Spiritual Gifts. So I end up stepping onto that spiritual interstate, this time for my kids, willing to barrel headlong toward God, willing to take the devastating crash, because it’s important enough. They are important enough.

And it’s not because I’m one of Those Parents. This is not a vicarious living thing. I couldn’t care less about whether it’s football or badminton, journalism or ice dancing (okay, not ice dancing). I just want to help them find That Thing that they love and are passionate about and excel in. I want to help them succeed, but more than that, I want them to love it, and love God through it.

I blink and suddenly I’m sitting in God’s passenger seat. I’m no longer barreling at Him—we’re barreling together. Without taking His eyes off the road (which is really my kids), he says, “you know we want the same thing. I’m as eager to see them discover It as you are.”

Then, with His eyes still on the road (my kids), he picks up a bag of sunflower seeds from the bench between us (God’s driving a big old land yacht, like a Caprice Classic. But it’s been converted for bio-diesel, of course.) and offers them to me. “It’s a long trip,” he says. “Spit the shells out the window. I like the breeze.” He flips on the radio and it’s Costas doing his Saturday morning radio spot, talking about the Olympics. “How about that Phelps?” God asks. He gives me a sidelong glance, and then He laughs.

I’m laughing with Him.

If my kids turn out to be Olympians or if one writes the Great American Novel? Bonus.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Parenthood pt.4: Meta Chicken (but actually 561)

I feel like I’m locked in a meta game of chicken with God.

When Michael Phelps was seven his mom enrolled him in swimming because Michael had been diagnosed with ADHD and she needed an activity to help release some of his excess energy. Michael’s parents divorced at nine. At eleven Michael’s swim coach comes to his mom and says, “it’s time we started training for the Olympics. Or he can walk away.”

Of course she says, “whatchu talkin’ bout? He’s eleven.” But she agrees and four years later, at fifteen, Michael Phelps is in Sydney, swimming in the 100m freestyle final. He doesn’t medal, but we all pretty much know the story from there. Couple of things I notice:

1. It’s impossible to say, but with another coach would we have “Michael Phelps?” What if the coach had had a bad year? What if he was looking for another job? Would Phelps have been just another kid? The greatest club sport swimmer in the history of UMASS? (In an interesting footnote, when Phelps chose Michigan, Bob Bowman (the coach) became the head coach of the Michigan swim team. Now that Phelps has graduated and is moving back to Baltimore, Bowman will be the CEO of the swim club Michael will swim at.)

2. What if mom had said no?

3. What if she’d dropped him at the rec center to play basketball instead? Did he have a say? Did he choose swimming? Did he ever want to quit? What if he did? What if they had let him?

I’ve played this game of chicken with God before: In which we barrel down the spiritual interstate at each other to see who will ditch first. Of course He doesn’t ditch. God’s not the ditching type. And He’s not so much barreling toward me because He’s God—He barrels away omnipresently and I choose to step in His path. I can get on board or get smashed by the God barreling.

But somehow it’s easier for me to play this game when it’s just me. I’m pretty comfortable with my actions and the repercussions that go along with them. I can deal with the mistakes and life course-locking decisions I’ve made. I’m content in and understand the whole “God’s in charge and I can’t screw that up, even with this pesky free-will thing on the side”. I think part of it is also that I’m 35 and pretty much know who I am by now. I know there’s still some radical stuff out there for me that God hasn’t barreled at me yet, but I know I’m never going to be an Olympian. While that’s terribly disappointing for me, I can (finally) accept it as reality and live with it.

But now I’ve got this seven year-old who probably won’t be 6’4” and isn’t interested in the piano. Behind him is the five year-old who’s only interested in being a princess. (In China if you don’t exhibit world-class gymnast tendencies by five, after two years of intensive training, you’re relegated to the Old Navy factory or something.)

And I’m thinking, CRAP!!! We’ve got to get them started! We have to find THE THING that they’ll be brilliant at!

Asher I’m not so much worried about. He’s going to be huge. He’ll be an outside linebacker for the Titans. That one’s sewn up! Whew!


Pick up here tomorrow.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Is that Bob Costas I hear? Must be time! (but actually 500 on the nose!)

I’ve decided to embrace my nature and admit that I’m a huge sucker for the Olympics. In the past, every time they’ve rolled around I’ve been cynical and unenthusiastic. But every time, at literally the first note of the opening montage, with the first image, at the first word of Bob Freakin’ Costas’ amber-toned opening monologue, I’m hooked. I’ll stay up till two in the morning coasting the NBC channels, flipping between archery and women’s team handball. I’ll watch rhythmic gymnastics. I’ll watch the freakin’ trampoline. I love the Olympics. I spend two years completely blasé, and then sixteen days in rabid adoration. Clockwork. It’s time I admitted it.

And every Olympics I discover new sports to be crazy about. I discovered men’s volleyball in 1988. In '92 it was fencing. In '96 rowing grabbed me. In 2002 I found Curling, which still fascinates me, and Speed Skating. '04 brought me water polo. 2006? One word: Biathlon. And now? In 2008? I can’t wait.

I have a confession to make. I’ve already started. Did anybody else get hooked by the trials? I couldn’t tear myself away from those. We’re talking about some serious drama. Amanda Beard makes the Olympic team on her last shot? Dana Torres is older than me! And she’s going to Beijing.

Maybe the best thing about the summer Olympics, though, is that it provides the perfect distraction for my normal August routine of checking every three minutes for football updates. I mean, August has to be the longest month in the year. Not only does it feel like I live on the planet Mercury, but I’m toyed with by football, which starts but doesn’t REALLY start. The NFL in August is like fat-free sour cream: it resembles the real thing in name only.

Really though, this year is the first Olympics Jacob and Lorelei will remember. That’s what I’m excited about. I was talking to Matt about this and he said he felt like the Olympics weren’t that big a deal anymore. And sure, without the U.S.S.R. some of the political tension has drained out. Staggering the Winter and Summer games has diluted it’s impact some. But part of it is just that we’ve seen ‘em. We’re not impressed anymore. But not for Jacob and Lorelei. I remember the magic and majesty from my childhood that went along with this world event. Carl Lewis and Mary Lou Retton. Flo-Jo, Matt Biondi and Greg Louganis. The Dream Team. The Paralympic archer lighting the torch in Barcelona. Muhammad Ali in Atlanta. Kerri Strug vaulting with a bad ankle and sticking the landing WITH ONE FOOT!!! In Sydney a Wyoming farm boy named Rulon Gardner came out of nowhere to beat the THIRTEEN YEAR UNDEFEATED Greco-Roman wrestling champion, Russian Alexander Karelin. Karelin hadn’t surrendered a point in ten years.

That’s the stuff I want. It’s the stuff I’m eager to share with my kids. And its starts tonight.

Also, I can’t wait to discover a new sport.


Getting some questions about the source of my last post.

The article will give you the background, but it's the comments that set me off.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

The Cuts (but actually 495)


Let’s talk about it.

I work at LifeWay.

I am personally affected by six of the one hundred. My boss, four coworkers and my father-in-law. My boss and my father-in-law volunteered to retire. Two people have a job today because these two men stood up and said “I’ll take it.” The severance and retirement packages they’ll receive is irrelevant. They’re like Brett Favre. They don’t do it for the money, they do it because they love what they do. And while Mr. Favre loves throwing a ball, these men love serving people. My boss is the ONLY boss Fuge has really had. You want to talk about the unknown? They’re sacrificing the thing Culture identifies them as so that others (like me!) can keep their jobs. Of my four coworkers? While shocked and saddened, to a person they choose to look at it through the lens of God, instead of their own. They want to make sure they finish well. They want to make good handoff’s, because they love and care about who they served, both client and coworker.

Yesterday I went to a meeting in which my boss’ boss’ boss’ boss walked through the process by which this decision was made. And while he was clear in his method and reason, while articulate and forthright, it was evident how painful it was for him. He grieves over the decision. Say what you will, but I believe him.

The truth is I don’t know many people here at LifeWay. And the stories people are telling about corruption, hypocrisy and legalism may well be true. But the people I work with? They are servants. They believe in our calling and in what we do. Some days they drive me crazy. Some days I want to drive my yardstick through my eye over how insane they make me. But isn’t that true about anywhere you go and any place people work together? At least I know that it’s that way here because of how committed and passionate my friends and coworkers are about what they believe, about how good they want our product to be.

I’ve been following the comments people are leaving in various places concerning the LifeWay “story.” It just infuriates me the things people say. How small and petty and spiteful and bitter they are. But as I sat down to refute the things they said, as I rushed to call them out, asking if the view was good from the cheap seats where no hard decisions have to be made, I stopped and thought about the bitterness in my own heart. The bitterness I still feel toward old bosses and jobs. I realize that I’m no better than those leaving the hate-fueled comments. Given a forum to do the same over some of my old jobs, I’d be hard-pressed not to do the same.

I am so freaking broken.

Onetimothyonefifteensixteen. This is my prayer, for myself and my bosses, past and present.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Parenthood pt. 3: Where Neil gets Existential (but actually 548)

I often wonder about famous & historic people’s parents. I wonder what kind of relationships they had, the famous people and their parents. I know greatness is often born out of adversity, but surely some greatness is born out of security and positive environment. But I wonder about say, Billy Graham’s dad. (I’m sure there’s a book, multiple books, but I haven’t read them so humor me.) I wonder what Mr. Graham did to help shape Billy into the man he would become. And I wonder if that might be my role. What if my role isn’t to write the great American novel? What if I’m not the next Billy Graham? What if my job is to raise the next Billy Graham? I think of the carpenter Joseph. God tapped him to raise the Savior of the world. Did Joseph do things differently than he would have because he knew? Would I? Whether he did or not, it’s an awesome responsibility, to be the earthly role model for the Savior. I look at the genealogy of Jesus in first chapter of Matthew. There’s some names I recognize, but a whole lot that I don’t. Yet they had a role. Their role was to be an ancestor of Jesus, which is important. It could be argued that without them: no Jesus. Of course that’s ridiculous, but at the same time, it’s the way God chose to bring Jesus here, so it’s kind of a big deal. And I’m rambling.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: would I be content sacrificing my dreams of significance if I knew that one (or all) of my children is a prodigy or world changer? A .44 caliber mind in a .22 caliber world? And since it’s impossible for me to know that on the front end (God didn’t send any angels concerning my children’s upbringing), am I still willing?

It comes down to two things: love & trust. Do I love my children more than I love myself? Do I love Jesus more than myself? Maybe I’m the biggest jerk in the world, but I have to be honest, so I have to think about the answers. If the answer is based on my actions, I could be in some serious trouble.

And trust. I see Jesus holding his hand out to Peter to get out of the boat. Except it’s not Peter, it’s me. And I’m out of the boat already, but I’m not in the ocean, I’m working at Starbuck’s for two years. Jesus holds out that hand and says:

“Do you trust me now? Even if nothing looks or feels right, even if you think your location and/or life situation sucks. Do you trust me now? What if you spend the rest of your life making coffee? Do you trust me now? What if you never Make It? What if you live and die in obscurity? Do. You. TRUST. Me now? (and now, in what I think of as my post-Starbucks life) What if you spend the rest of your life mowing your yard, raising your kids & making funny camp videos? Even now? Do you trust me?”

Anyway, this is the kind of stuff I think about when it comes to my kids and my dreams.


Missed a few days, but still feel pretty good about this whole attempt to write daily. I thought 500 words would be hard, but I'm obviously having trouble staying under it. I think it might be a new goal, to stay under it, because I don't want to waste your time.

Friday, 1 August 2008