Our church is celebrating the advent season this month. With that comes a four-part series each week. Yesterday’s message centered around Waiting for God. (Not the British comedy series.)
There were several points that struck me in this first message. But one stuck out more than the others.
That point is one that shouldn’t really shock me or you. Waiting for God can be frustrating. I don’t think anyone’s ever yelled out “WELL, DUH!!” in church, but it felt really appropriate yesterday, and I was tempted to be the first one.
The key the that fact though is it’s impetus. The waiting is frustrating because we want control. Let’s face it. We’re control freaks. I know I am. If you don’t think I am, ask Jen. (Ask our Scotland leadership team! They’ll tell you. Ha!) It’s not a revelation that I like to be in control, and that’s why I get frustrated or even discouraged while we’re waiting for the Lord to show us the next step in this journey.
I like to control the means and the ends. That’s where the frustration comes in. Because I know what I need. What we need. I live this life. I must know. I know what I can do. What I’m trained for. What jives with my personality. So, of course, I know best.
I only know what I can see. And some of what I can “see” for me and for us is distorted by my fears. Looking through the lens of fear is debilitating. The lens of fear is myopic. Fear says there is only one way forward. Fear says don’t try that because you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Fear says you can’t do that. Fear lies.
What I want to cling to as we wait is that I can trust the Lord to have our best interests at heart, and that He knows what is best for us and that what is best for us may not be what we think is best for us.
It’s been a good day. We celebrated the day at my parents’ house with a truckload of family! K-Man loved running around all day playing with “the cousins.” He and his cousin, Jonathan, ran around playing with their nerf guns until they were sweaty messes. He should sleep incredibly soundly tonight!
When you have a blog, you are almost obligated to write a post today about the things for which you are thankful. Far be it from me to ignore that responsibility. I am thankful for much. Much more than I will capture here today, but this is a good representation.
My wife — who has walked beside me for a long time encouraging me along the way and occasionally kicking me in the behind when I need it.
My son — who reminds me regularly to see the joy in life. To laugh. To be silly.
My family — that has supported and shaped me.
My in-laws — who raised one heckuva daughter and who are incredible grandparents to K-Man.
My friends — (too many to name individually) who have picked me up when I’m down and with whom I have made some great memories over the last four decades!
My church — that challenges me to grow deeper in my relationship with the Lord and seek opportunities to live a life reflective of that relationship
I’m also thankful for a lot of “lesser” things too:
Tivo — stopping live television to use the lavatory is epic
Mike and Ikes — fruity, chewy morsels … if only you were sugar-free!
Plungers — no details necessary. Just thankful.
Smyrna Soccer Club — really enjoyed getting Keegan involved in that this year. Great organization for the community of kids in the area.
Facebook — when used for good, it really can be a great way to keep up and reconnect with friends and family scattered across the globe.
24-hour gyms — it’s great to have the freedom to go to the gym at 2:00 a.m. if I can’t sleep! (Wouldn’t have to go so often if those dastardly Mike and Ikes weren’t so delicious!)
Life is full of turning points. Some we enjoy. Some we don’t.
Some might say that the best turning points are those that lead to productive or positive changes and require the least blood, sweat and tears.
I’m not sure that I fall in that camp.
For me, it takes the adversity for the lessons that come at the turning points to make the appropriate impression on me. I can be thick like that.
Jen and I have been praying for something the last few years and that intensified over the last few weeks. The time spent over that time has been great for us, because it’s put a number of things in perspective. Some we took for granted. Some we just needed to do better.
Today, we learned about another turn in this journey. Not so much a turn as another closed door. We’ve encountered a number of closed doors over this stretch. As noted above, I can be thick, so I kept looking for similar doors to open. So far, all of them have been closed.
Several months ago, Jen and I sensed that we needed to try a completely different door. I’ve been resistant for a number of reasons that don’t need to be fleshed out here. At least not yet. But after today’s news, I can no longer deny the need to stop focusing on the doors I’ve been focusing on and need to consider others. Doors close over and over for a reason. I’m starting to see that now.
I took a step in the new direction today with a simple email. No response yet, but sending the email itself was another turning point.
And we are trusting that the faithful and obedient step of sending a simple email may be enough to overcome the inertia that exists and open the next door for us.
As most of you know, today is Veterans Day which is a time for our nation (at least) to celebrate and honor and thank all of the men and women in the armed forces who have protected the freedoms that we all enjoy.
Some of them were drafted. Some volunteered. But they all served.
Some saw action. Some worked behind the lines. But they all served.
Some left limbs behind. Some never returned. But no one was unharmed.
And yet they served. Today we honor that service.
My grandfather, who will be 90 in a few weeks, served. My other grandfather served. My father served. My father-in-law served. My uncles served. Cousins. Friends. Neighbors. Classmates. All of them served.
We all know, or know of, someone who served in the armed forces. That service is the backbone of this country. Those who fought over 200 years ago established the freedoms we enjoy. And every serviceman who has followed has defended them — even to the death.
Saying “thank you” seems insufficient. But what do I know? My grandfather thinks otherwise, as he said earlier today:
“Your thanks are for all of us; especially the fallen. They are the ones to whom I am beholden. That I survived …. is the luck of the draw.”
I spent several hours at my mom’s house today. She died two months ago. We are still figuring out what to do with all of her belongings. We’ve donated a number of items and likely will donate more. My sisters and I reclaimed a few items from our childhood as well. I visit the house at least weekly to turn on a different set of lights and to check the mail. (I shouldn’t have to check the mail, but the efficient postal service intermittently fails to forward the mail despite my efforts to inform them of where to send it. They must need that extra penny on the stamps to ensure that all the mail gets forwarded.)
Every time I visit the house, I can’t help but wonder what my mom did in the house with her free time — aside from clean it constantly. Growing up, my mother was ridiculously obsessed with maintaining a clean home. In our first house, we had a septic tank in the yard because we lived too far out to be attached to the sewer line. We had to buy yeast packets at the grocery store and flush them down the toilet because my mother cleaned the toilets at least twice a week with that blue powdered Ajax cleaner. With all that cleaner in the septic tank, it wasn’t working properly, so we had to add yeast to it so there was an agent in the tank to break down the waste. Based on the current state of the toilets at her house today, she would be mortified. (Let’s not tell her. It will be our secret.)
The other thing that I cannot help notice when I visit the house is the absence of the stale cigarette smell that so dominated my childhood. My mother was a 50-year smoker. And growing up in the 70s and 80s, it was common for smokers to smoke in the house. To smoke inside everywhere. In the office. In the car. My mother was very common in that sense. Looking back on it, we must have reeked everywhere we went. I understand now why my mother wore so much Chanel No. 5. But that staleness is not present in her house. She became rigid about smoking outside. And her house was the benefactor of that. Her lungs weren’t so lucky in the end.
K-Man turned 4 on Christmas Eve. Hard to believe that he’s been a part of our lives that long. This time four years ago, Jen and I were hunkered down in a hotel room with the little guy waiting for approval to return home with him. We ventured out to Babies R Us that day to register for baby things because we hadn’t taken the time to do that before the adoption train got rolling. I’m sure we drew some stares as we walked around the store with the registry gun — with baby in tow. I remember getting scolded by one lady because we dared take a baby out with the masses at such a wee age. (I was not thinking nice things about that woman that night — or just now as I recalled that incident.) Plus, how else could we fit him for his first Gator jersey unless he was there to try it on?
The years since have raced by, and I am sure the coming ones will be gone in an instant as well. I hope to see more moments like the one the day after Christmas this year. K-Man received an electric Amtrak
train set from my parents, and I set it up for him while he was taking a nap on Saturday. When he saw it set up and running, his eyes brightened and this grin came over his face like he’d swallowed green beans that tasted like Doritos. (Can you imagine the joy?
) For the next hour, the train ran constantly, and every revolution around the track brought a fresh wellspring of elation. See for yourself.
Hopefully, capturing moments like these will slow the hands of time for a bit.
If you haven’t read our adoption story, you can read it here: Part 1
and Part 2
The Thanksgiving Day is all but done. We had a good one, but a long one as usual. Made it to the gym this morning to work off 500+ calories to credit my gastronomic account for later. Made my oatmeal chocolate chips cookies as is our custom. They turned out well. (For those who care, I start with the Nestle Toll House recipe and add additional sugar, brown sugar and flour to make it a drier mix, plus the oatmeal to add a notion of healthiness.)
My youngest sister (Nicole) and her husband (Jonathan) came over to the house for dinner. Jonathan cooked the turkey at our house. Turned out very good. We made a ham because I’m not that fond of turkey. The ham was nice and will make some great sandwiches for the next several days — maybe even a western omelet if I’m feeling particularly adventurous one morning. Nicole made her favorite side dish: green bean casserole. Jonathan also made his mom’s dressing which was a solid compliment to the proteins on the table (That’s how they refer to the meat selections on Top Chef. Nothing is “fish” or “pork” or “beef.” They’re all “proteins.”
). K-Man was his finicky self. He had a bite of ham, a bite of green bean casserole, a bite of dressing. He did eat a heaping portion of baked sweet potato though. With how much energy that kid uses throughout the day, it is a wonder he doesn’t collapse from lack of fuel given his bird-like eating habits. Of course, he was all over the chocolate chips cookies. And they do have oatmeal in them, so he’s fine.
I guess I can’t write a “Thanksgiving” post without the obligatory “I’m thankfuls.” So here goes.
This has been quite a year for us. There is much to be thankful for. I am thankful for:
— My family. For Jen who has encouraged me throughout the year as we work to get the law practice off the ground. For Kee who has regularly reminded me why I want to be at home more to see him grow and develop and live his life. Our parents who have supported our decision to make more time for our family.
— My friends. Who have listened to me for hours as I wade through the rough waters of starting a business. Who have challenged me to be a better husband, father, friend, and person, including the friends I’ve made in Scotland over the last two summers.
— My Lord. This year has been one of constant reliance on my Lord. I’ve been given a lot of talents, but that doesn’t always translate into huge success. But we’ve always had what we need. Not always at the time we would’ve preferred it, but when we had to have it. I’m thankful for the relationship that I have with Jesus because it adds a covering of peace when the winds of anxiety are blowing all around.
— Freedom. The sacrifices made by military veterans and those in uniform today serving all over the world to defend our democracy. We can have blogs like this and write about just about anything because of the freedom those men and women fight to maintain.
— Many otherwise mundane things. Tivo
— the ability to freeze television is nothing short of miraculous. My laptop — the freedom to do work on my computer at a coffee shop, the lake, the library, or Scotland makes life a lot easier. 24-hour fitness centers — the freedom to work-out at any hour — even when I can’t sleep in the middle of the night. Costco
— because it wouldn’t be right not to be appreciative of a place that sells stamps, tires, baby wipes, half-gallons of salsa, and cheese cakes the size of a stop sign all under the same roof!
There are a multitude of other things — serious and humorous — for which I am thankful. And they all remind me that I am incapable of living this life on my own. Never stop reminding me of that.