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Let Life Be Difficult

Last week, Katie and I got to stay at a friend’s vacation home.  It was a place we’d been many times before and we’ve built about a thousand of some of our best memories there – times with just us, times with family and friends, times to recharge, reflect and rest, times to laugh and play and dream.  Our friends are thinking about selling the place and we offered them $1000 for it and they said they’ll “pray about it.”  This was the first time we took our baby boy.

Recharging, reflecting, and resting rarely include the company of one-year-olds.

I had been planning on all of the reflection and recharging I could possibly stand.  I had looked forward to the time away from work and routine.  I couldn’t wait to just lie in the sun and read a good book.  But I spent most of the week tossed back and forth between anger and frustration over the fact that it just wasn’t happening.  One-year-olds are so selfish and needy.

I tried to reason with Ryder that this was “daddy’s time” to rest and reflect on his life and consider the years that lay ahead and what new dreams God may want to dream through him.  Also, I wanted to get a tan.  Ryder seemed ambivalent and smeared more avocado on his face.

The last morning of the week, Katie and I got to go out to breakfast together, just her and I.  We vented some of our frustrations.  It turned out she hadn’t relaxed for more than a couple hours the whole week, either.  It was good to vent.  It was good to connect, just she and me.  It was good to do this over pancakes while looking out at gorgeous natural wonders like Mt Bachelor and golf courses.

As we talked, a phrase came to mind: Let it be hard.

In other words, let life be difficult.  Let it be challenging.  Don’t expect it to be easy.

Our problem wasn’t that it was a difficult week in our happy place.  Our problem was we had expected it to be easy.  Classic first-time parent mistake, maybe, but can you blame us?

Don’t you expect certain things to be easy, too?  Doesn’t some part of you assume you’re supposed to get a break, get some alone time, get a raise, get a perfect spouse, get a perfect round of golf, get that opportunity you’ve been hoping for?

“Let it be hard” helped us locate our souls again as we thought about how, of course, it’s hard traveling with a one-year-old.  Of course it’s not going to be like it was before Ryder.  Of course “our time” was going to flow his direction.  Of course.  It was our expectations that had tripped us up all week.  Fortunately, we bonded over the fact and had a wonderful breakfast and took our picture in front of a big stuffed bear.

“In this world, you will have trouble,” said Jesus.  He probably had a smile on his face when he said it.  Especially because of the next thing he said: “But take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Vacationing with a one-year-old is not starving to death or living in poverty or getting sold as a sex slave.  It’s a 21st Century, Western, Middle Class problem.  But still.  “Let it be hard” reminds me that the world is not as it should be but that one day it will be.  It reminds me that my strength and insight are not enough to navigate life successfully.  It reminds me that my life is not all about me, that I was made to pour out my life for others, that, in fact, that’s how life works best.  In the end, it was a wonderful vacation.  Not peaceful the way I thought it should be.  But meaningful and satisfying to my soul, the way God knew I actually needed.

Ryder’s waking up now and will be all needy again.  Gotta go.  He’s so sleepy-beautiful when he wakes up.

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I Know God Loves Me, But I Still Don’t “Get It”

When I’m feeding him a bottle of his mother’s milk at ungodly hours of the morning, he scowls at me like I just put a dent in his car and won’t ‘fess up.

When he sleeps, his arms hang in perfect little “L”s to either side of him, as though he’s flexing for an adoring audience.

When I change his diaper, I am in awe of the process that turns breast milk – “liquid gold”, as they call it – into guacamole.  ‘Cause that’s what it is: guacamole.  Somebody pass me some tortilla chips.

And that’s pretty much all my 11-week-old-son does: eats, sleeps, and poops.  And do you know how that makes me feel?

“This is my son, whom I love.  With him I am well-pleased.”

That little ball of baby fat rolls can’t do a thing but I am madly, passionately, ridiculously, embarrassingly in love with him.  More so every day.

Now, I’ve heard other dads say things like, “I never really understood my Heavenly Father’s love for me until I became a Father.  Now I get it.”

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I still don’t “get it”.  I still don’t seem to have formed whatever neural or spiritual pathways that would be responsible for allowing feelings of deep, deep love to pour into my heart and splash over the sides onto others.

But I know it has something to do with how I feel about Ryder James.  He’s totally helpless, can’t keep a job, never cleans up after himself, refuses to lead a small group at church, but I can’t imagine being any happier with him.  I turn into a pile of goo just thinking about him.

Sometimes it all makes me feel like I’ve stumbled upon a deep vein of gold and all I’ve got is a rusty spoon to try get the rich stuff out.

Jesus, help me “get it” even more today.

Mobile Etiquette, PART TWO

Continuing in our mobile etiquette countdown, we arrive at part two, affectionately known as numbers five through one.  If you missed numbers ten through six (and what a shame that would be), please scroll down the page to find yesterday’s entry (or simply click HERE).

5. Kids are smarter than you think. Even infants and toddlers. Therefore, if you are a parent who spends a great deal of time on his or her phone while in the presence of your offspring, said offspring are going to notice. And yes, even the toddler and infant are going to notice. In my former Palo Alto, CA, neighborhood, I was always surprised by how many parents I observed pushing their children in strollers while yacking away on their cell phones. Now I can’t blame them. At first glance, this looks like good multi-tasking. “I’m doing work. I’m with my kid. What’s the problem?” The problem is your child is watching everything you do to help make sense of its developing world. If you are constantly on your phone while with your child (or leaving your child to take a call), the child will assume there is an object that is at least as important as he or she (after all, it always gets picked up when it “cries.”) Be assured this child will carry that message into their teen years and adulthood and it will bite you in the tookus. The opportunity to take a stroll with your children is richer than you may think. See if at least once or twice a week you can do this sans phone and notice how much more attuned you are to your child’s exciting experience of their growing world. You may even find yourself feeling more childlike, too.

4. Don’t make phone calls immediately before bedtime or immediately after waking up. I broke my own rule this morning (there are always exceptions), but as a habit, it is good to honor your body’s natural rhythms and stay away from communication devices and info a half hour before bed and after waking. Why? Our bodies are finely-tuned instruments (yes, even yours), and finely-tuned instruments require thoughtful care. In our culture’s exercise craze we can be quick to assume we’ve all “got this.” We don’t. We may be building more muscle and losing more fat, but we are mostly unaware of what our body actually needs (hence America’s massive sleep debt and medical bills). You, however, being the brilliant sage that you are, can counteract some of this by simply unplugging for a short time after waking and a short time before bed. Quiet your mind and use gratitude once again to reflect on the day ahead or behind. Your body knows what it needs. Connect to it before connecting with others.

3. Don’t text while driving. We’ve all gotten pretty decent at this, and if we don’t text, we at least check incoming texts. None of this is good. The fact is, driving is a more complex task than we think. And when your already limited attention is further fractured by looking down and pressing the right keys, trouble is near. I say this as one who checks incoming texts while driving far too often (i.e., more than once). But the reality is, we are once again making some selfish decisions here, as in, this text is more important than the lives hurtling past me so I should answer it rather than pay attention to not running anyone over. Honor the people in the cars and on the sidewalks around you by giving your driving some undivided attention.

Be a part of reclaiming public spaces for the public (i.e., humans) by being respectful about where and how you take or make your calls.

2. It’s already been mentioned above, but when we are on our phones, we are not very aware of the people physically around us. It is a simple biological fact, but it is also just plain rude. We all know the experience of overhearing conversations because fellow citizens are yapping away in public spaces. Be a part of reclaiming public spaces for the public (i.e., humans) by being respectful about where and how you take or make your calls. Pay attention to volume (we all talk significantly louder on the phone than in person). Pay attention to personal distance (are you talking too near to someone and dishonoring their right to personal space, at least by the standards Western culture)? In other words, be mindful of the people around you with your communication habits at airports, grocery stores, malls, churches, on public transportation, at theme parks, etc.

1. Finally, apply the so-called Golden Rule to all your mobile habits. That means treat others the way you would want to be treated. We can all do our small but potent part in reclaiming our humanity and honoring each other’s by simply being mindful of how we’re using our mobile technology. We all have to use it, yes. That’s not a bad thing. But we can all get more skilled at how we use it, too. This list is an invitation to me and to you to become “more human” in the way we communicate – even on digital devices. By incorporating these simple practices, we are being good to ourselves and good to others (and good for others).

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