Sunday, July 14, 2013

Fleeting moments, lasting memories

Psalm 103:20-22 (NIV)

Praise the Lord, you his angels,
   you mighty ones who do his bidding,
   who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
   you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord, all his works
   everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, my soul.
Tonight we were a bit selfish. Dinner was finally ready while all three boys were fully occupied playing in the bounce house in the front yard. Rather than notify them, we plated our food and sat down at the table to eat in peace. That we didn’t finish before each of them came inside hungry was irrelevant. The prize of a few minutes to enjoy each other’s company — and a meal with no one trying to eat off our plate or whining about the menu — was simply too good to pass up.

It was a fleeting moment, but all our best moments are fleeting these days. Just today I had the privilege of Jack cuddling up next to me in our pew at church and a big hug from Charlie when I went to pick him up from the nursery. It seems like at least once a day I have a brief conversation with Max that should far exceed what I’d expect from a five-year-old. Today I was simply sitting in the garage, reading the Sunday paper, smelling the grill getting ready and realizing just how much I enjoy my stereotypical suburban existence. The silence was broken by a kid shrieking about who knows what, but I’m not focusing on how quickly any of these moment ended, I’ll choose to be happy they happened at all.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how life will change when the baby arrives in October. Some good friends had their first child a week ago, and that news instantly sends my memory back to our first week as parents. And yet here we are, nine-plus years later, and today Jack and Kristie discussed who gets which beds and rooms when the baby is big enough to move out of his crib.

When the baby does get here, and when we get past that first period where everything is upside down and inside out, we’ll have to subdivide our time and energy even more than they are already. We knew this going in, of course, but then you feel the baby kick and start to face reality with a bit more seriousness. So on the one hand the enjoyable moments my be even more fleeting. But on the other, there’s going to be an increase in children to love, so the enjoyable moments should be on the upswing.

During my week off from writing I was hoping I might find something of a new voice here, or that I’m rack up a long list of deep parenting discoveries that would enrich my thoughts and output. But I don’t think any of that really happened. We spent some wonderful time with relatives, and I (for the most part) really enjoyed just letting the kids be kids. Just like today, it was a collection of memorable moments — some more grand in scale than others — and the kind of trip I hope the kids will remember fondly when they are older.

That we spent part of the vacation celebrating my mom’s 60th birthday, and doing so by watching a slideshow with pictures going back to just about the day she was born, kind of underscored the whole continuity of family life cycles. Peppered throughout the slideshow were images of her family on vacation when she was just the oldest of five kids, then later when she was the mother of three, and now as the matriarch with three grandsons and a fourth on the way. First as the beautiful bride, then as the mother of the groom, then the church elder helping with a family baptism.

I consider the moments from our days now — either the big production of a family vacation or the quiet joy of a lazy Sunday at home — might one day be precious memories for our boys some six decades out. Aside from the pressure this thought puts on me as an amateur photographer, it more importantly underscores the importance of making each day important. Not to say every new sunrise brings with it the demand to make a memory to last a lifetime, but simply to approach my responsibilities as a dad with purpose no matter the situation.

My wife and children deserve the best from me more than anyone. I have to think about what kind of husband and father I want to be, then set out to do so, rather than let life come at me and just try to deal with each circumstance. Thinking it and living it sadly are not mutually inclusive. But at the dawn of each day, I’m thankful to have the chance to try to get it right and as the sun sets I’m thankful the slate can be wiped clean before tomorrow. Life is always worth living.

A prayer for July 14:

Lord, thank you for the gift of family. Thank you for inspiring me to be at my best as a husband and father and for the many ways you show me what it means to pursue those goals in a manner worthy of you. I bring you a sincere apology for the times I am not at by best and a desperate request for forgiveness. Take me, broken as I am, and put me back together, point me in the right direction and lead me down your chosen path. Help me do your will. Amen.

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