Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Same journey, possible new directions

Psalm 9:1-2 (NIV)

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
   I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
   I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.
Nine years ago today, I became a father.

And one year ago today, I started this writing project. I didn’t quite know what I was doing when I started, and I’m fairly certain I’ve made slight changes in course over the last 52 weeks, for better and for worse. The initial goal was to write at least three times a week for at least a year, but so far I’ve not missed a day. On just a few occasions I’ve written something in response to or based on another person’s writing, but most of this is original thought.

I felt called to commit to a year of writing and perhaps nothing more. Of late I’ve felt a desire to keep going, but I also think now is a good time for some more significant changes in terms of what I write, if not how, and perhaps in regards to frequency. The daily discipline has done a lot to help me feel comfortable with my voice and reaffirm my identity as a writer. Sure, I write my newspaper column once a week and three editorials, plus the odd side project, but the daily devotion is a much different beast.

Devotion is a key word, because by undertaking this effort I’ve been far more structured in regards to prayer and connection with scripture and than at any other point in my life. I’m not certain if that’s impacted my writing in any way, but I do feel there have been benefits personally and as a parent. While originally this started as an offshoot of a study in evangelism, it’s certainly a semi-intended consequence that it’s enriched my own faith.

So there’s a lot to be said for keeping on down the same path. But I also need to keep things fresh so it becomes a tool and a challenge more so than a drag or a chore. I’m still sorting out what or how things might evolve, and for the time being I’ll probably keep things fairly consistent because I don’t know any other way to approach the effort. Honestly my mind has been wrapped up so much in what actually was a very modest celebration for Jack’s birthday that the writing took a back seat. Which is as it should be, of course. If I’m focusing more on writing about parenting than the actual parenting, then I’ve let my priorities get out of whack.

I tend to write between 800 and 1,000 words a night. I use a reading from the lectionary each day, trying very much to not use the same passage repeatedly, and compose an original prayer (I cheated tonight and borrowed the prayer I used on the first day). I also have quirkily not referred to this as a blog, or to each entry as a post. I’m not sure why. I am interested in exploring the possibility of publishing some of what I’ve written here, or perhaps using the voice developed in the creation of a new, offline work. But I have a full-time job, a part-time job, church commitments and, most importantly, a wife and young children. This is not, will not and cannot be my primary gig.

Going forward, one thing I must do is focus more on broader issues and less on specific family details. Writing is a form of self-therapy, and there is comfort in sharing experiences and being reminded we are not alone, or simple encouragement from loved ones. But my family’s life need not be an open book, either. There is a way to talk about the challenges of raising three boys without putting on the permanent record the delicate details of kids too young to have their own say in the matter. I want my children to respect me, and that will only come if I fully respect them.

That said, I do want to share an email Jack’s new teacher sent at the end of the school day. I didn’t see it until after he, Kristie and I returned home from the restaurant, after we stuck nine candles in the cupcake and sang, after Pops and K went home (it was pretty busy around here for a school night!) and before I finally forced Max to get ready for bed. I’d already felt we had a pretty special day with our oldest boy, and this was absolutely icing on the cake:
“I just wanted to let you know that Jack had an incredible day today. He was visibly calm all day. He worked hard and handled everything very well. I tried to talk to him about it at the end of the day and he said that he wasn’t sure what helped him but that he was in a good mood today. He seemed to be excited that it was his birthday. I hope you guys enjoy your evening and dinner…”
It was so much fun to sit across the table from him tonight. The buffet didn’t have the one dish he loved from his last time there, and while he was initially upset he almost instantly turned it around and the three of us just had a nice time. We had real conversations. We shared stories about when Jack and his brothers were born, I watched him move around the restaurant in a way, just so, that let me know how much he’s growing up. It’s hard to quantify or explain, but it was wonderful in its simplicity.

He likes to feel special, but he did not want to be singled out. He let us know he appreciated the attention without making the night an ego trip. He had delightful phone conversations with Kristie’s mom and my sister and smiled when he listened to the voice mail from Kristie’s sister. He was genuinely amused when Kristie mentioned how many likes she got on her Facebook status about his birthday. He smiled, he laughed and I just couldn’t keep from thinking about how glad I am it was he who arrived in my life nine years ago, making me the father I longed to become.

He continues to challenge, amuse, enrich and force me to evolve. He’s so like me in so many ways it’s almost frightening. But he’s a product of our loving home and extended family as well, and it makes my heart soar to think of how many people care so deeply about him. If nothing else about me survives, I hope he always knows how much I love him and how lucky I feel to be the one allowed to be his dad. He is an amazing blessing and will always own an enormous piece of my heart.

A prayer for April 24:

Lord, nine years ago today I became a father. Each day since has been its own blessing, and I thank you for trusting me with these three boys. I thank you also for using the experience of fatherhood to help me understand a faint hint of what your love is like for all creation.

I thank you for my family and ask you to watch over us. Help me, specifically, to be the kind of father you have called me to be, to not just raise my boys to be good people, but to be for them an example of your love in the world. I am grateful for the community of faith you have provided for us and overwhelmed by the undeserved blessings in our life.

Thank you also for leading me on this journey of writing and prayer. I am grateful for the opportunity. Amen.

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