Appreciated

20130130-073129.jpgI try not to bring work home. I think most of us try not to, especially as parents. I avoid checking email, answering texts or phone calls, and many times I just turn my phone off altogether.

Last night, however, I got one of those calls that demanded I run upstairs and try and find a quiet room.

Eva’s room was the only one open, until I noticed she was coloring in the corner. I gave her the elaborate, frantic hand-signals that allowed her the option of leaving as I commandeered her space, but she was content to stay put.

Eventually she did have to leave to go check on a screaming brother. But in her wake she left a note:

Nice job Dad, doing your job!

Positively or negatively, when those closest to us declare something as to our virtue, it makes the crowd’s voice irrelevant. Despite whatever came from that phone call, I had just won the jackpot in my daughter’s eyes. And I took it to the bank.

If God used words to create the world and everything in it, and we are made in his image, be wise with your words today: create something meaningful in someone else.

ch:

Forest = Cereal

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Last night I had an amazing summer conversation with my daughter, Eva, outside under the pines.

Correction: it was a listening session. A single, unending stream of thought (less one addition from me) where I realized my baby girl is much less baby and far more girl.

But I’m sure in both our minds it will be remembered as a conversation, because we experienced it together.

We were playing a game my Daddy and I made up when I was little called It’s Like When, in which one person says a word and the second person has to give a real life application of that word without using the word specifically.

Her word was “forest.”

Apparently my answer of, “It’s like when you’re surrounded by trees,” wasn’t good enough.

“No, Dad,” she corrected.

“It’s like animals everywhere. Rabbits and deer. But we don’t shoot them. Only Popop shoots deer because he likes to eat them. We only eat animals when we eat Cheeseburgers.”

“Those are cows.” (My one addition).

“Ew. Gross. Yeah, and we don’t shoot cows too much. If there are no cows, then there’s no milk. And if there’s no milk, there’s no cereal. And can you imagine life without cereal? I can’t. I mean, what would we even eat?”

I have no idea.

So there you have it, a true Dwight Schrute-ism á la Evangeline Hopper:

Forest equals cereal.

You’re welcome.

ch:

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Changing Types

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Eva is my Type A.

She was arranging her own schedule when she was three.

She even invented a way of measuring time leading up to major events by referring to sleep as “light naps” (afternoon naps), and “dark naps” (going to bed at night).

Q: “How many naps until we go to JoJo’s house?” (That’s Grandma Nesbitt).

A: “Three dark naps, two light naps.”

Eva has to know everything that’s going on, when it’s going to happen, who’s involved and where it’s going to take place. She’ll order the boys around, try and figure out the ride situation as well as seating, and even try to negotiate a change-of-course to include a stop for ice cream.

I celebrate my daughter. She’s incredible, and Jenny and I have always known that she’s going to shake the world up for the Kingdom.

But as a parent, working with her constant need-to-know can often be, well, fatiguing. And tedious.

At some point I have to ask her, “Do you trust me?”

Like yesterday when we were preparing to go out on the boat. A lot of questions were asked about details. Finally I leaned over the back seat and said, “Eva, just enjoy the ride.”

As her father, I’ve noticed that Eva enjoys the experiences of her life far more when she leaves the surprises up to me.

As I walked down the dock toward our boat I heard something in my own spirit.

“Christopher, enjoy the ride,” said my Heavenly Father.

It’s a phrase I picked up in Hawaii at my favorite surf shop. Jenny’s been reminding me of it. God’s been reminding me of it. And now I’m reminding me of it as I teach it to this little Type A that’s the female version of me.

It’s amazing how much like Eva we all are. Sure, there’s a healthy, natural curiosity to all of us. But then there’s the “if I don’t know how everything’s going to work out, I’m not sure I want in” angle.

And that comes down to trust.

As I was meditating on just how much I care for Eva and have her best interests in mind, I was reminded just how much our Father think of us fondly. Constantly. Perfectly.

He’s aware of every detail and nothing surprises him. Nothing’s going to catch him off guard concerning us, nothing has escaped his scope of view.

Funny how this parenting thing works.

We enjoy the experiences of our lives far more when we leave the surprises up to the Father.

My little Type A is slowly teaching me to become a Type E. Enjoy the ride.

ch:

Notes Worth Coming Home For

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Coming home is favorite.

Ironic that in order to have such an experience, however, an actual absence must be engaged in.

To receive a note like this while you’re gone is pretty emotional; even more emotional is embracing that same note-writing little girl when she runs out to greet you as you pull up.

Don’t leave if you can help it. If you have to, you’ll experience the joy of a sweet return. Then don’t leave again unless you have to. ch:

Happy 7 to My Princess

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Today my baby princess is seven years old.

I still love the memory of running down the hallway and shouting, “It’s a girl!”

I’m so blessed I got one. A beautiful, tiny woman that loves Jesus, who’s heart breaks for her friends, and who’s feisty character is priming her for a resilience and tenacity needed to forcefully advance the Kingdom.

I love you Cho Cho. ch:

Don’t Delay Destiny

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Last night was our first meeting here at Watson Homestead in Painted Post, NY for the Southern Tier Youth Baptist Association’s annual Winter Retreat. Aside from two breaks, Jennifer and I have been coming to lead worship and speak for about nine years.

I was younger then, and had no kids. But this time around we decided we’d make it a family getaway. And I’m loving it.

Camping out in the same hotel room.

Eating meals in the cafeteria together.

Worshipping together.

And even ministering to people together.

Last night Eva and Luik had no problem jumping into the fray and praying for some teens during a time of altar-ministry. As their dad I was so encouraged.

Many times we see what we want to become “one day,” but often don’t take practical steps toward it. My kids’ prayers may not have been the most intellectually sound prayers, but they were sincere.

Our sincere attempts mean more to shaping our future than our wishful thinking.

Don’t just dream about what you want to become, ask God for the next step and be faithful to engage in that process with a bold and humble heart.

Sleeves up! ch:

For My Lurkers

My kids love a good story. They hunker down in our bed and get all sorts of excited.

They lurk in the covers.

And every day hundreds of you stop by this site and lurk. Waiting for a good story or an interesting takeaway.

You’ve made this a destination in your day. And I’m honored. I may not know you, or maybe we met once somewhere in the world, or maybe you’re from my home town. But no matter the case, I love that we get to do this each day together.

So for all those of you who read faithfully but never leave a comment, this post is just for you. My Lurkers. Thank you for reading. I may not know your names, but Google tells me when you’re here. ch:

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Commercial Value

In order to combat the onslaught of self-narcissistic gluttony that constantly assaults those living in these great United States, we talk to our kids often about children who live in the rest of the world without the comforts and blessings we have. When we tuck our kids in at night we pray for children without moms and dads – without houses or food or schools.

In the midst of watching some TV last night, a 3rd world assistance commercial came on. I noticed Eva seemed particularly concerned. But I didn’t say anything, wondering if she’d bring it up later. Some more humorous ads passed before our show came back on, including Terry Crews’ Old Spice commercial (in which his “mind gets blown”).

Finally at dinner Eva brought up the ad she’d seen.

“Daddy, did you see that commercial with those little kids?” she asked.

“Yes, Eva, I did,” I replied.

But before I could go anywhere else with the conversation, Luik added, “Daddy, did you see that commercial with guy’s head exploded?”

And there goes the mood. Jenny and I completely lost it.

Boys will be boys.

The worst part is I thought the commercial was hilarious too. He’s so my son.

As a closing comment, it’s worth noting that Luik is extremely grateful to live in the US. Just the other day he walked in the kitchen and asked, “Daddy, can I go to America someday?” (I think he’s been watching a little too much Fievel Goes West).

“Want to know a secret, Luik?” I knelt down close to him.

“Sure.”

“You live in America.”

His jaw dropped and he literally couldn’t talk. ch:

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The Art of Celebrating

Serious question:

How do you feel when someone else wins?

No, stop. Don’t lie. I mean really wins. Like, your best friend wins on a $30 million lottery ticket.

What’s your first thought? OK. And your second?

Ah, see, there it is. “Me.” Somehow, “I” enter the thought process much more quickly than I’d like to admit. “Self” wants to participate. Instead of purely celebrate.

Last night Luik was told he would be heading home to Grandma Jo-Jo’s house.

Alone.

He was thrilled.

His older sister was not.

Parenting boys means keeping after the purely stupid things they do for no other reason than to see what happens. Parenting a girl means keeping after drama. Lots of drama.

When Eva finally started to descend from the delirium of her self-centered throes, I talked her through the concept of celebrating her brother’s blessing.

Now, mind you, Luik is by far our most sensitive, most sincere child.

Here’s what happened:

Eva walked into the living room to see Luik all dressed up and ready to go. She’s hugged him, still half-sobbing, and said, “Congratulations on getting to go to Jo-Jo’s house.”

Without missing a beat, Luik said, “Congratulations on getting to stay home.”

Of course all the adults in the room bit our fingers and held back laughter, trying not to ruin the lesson of the moment.

But what was the lesson? Perhaps there was more than just the obvious.

Learning to celebrate one another’s victories – and identify with defeats – is a core value of the Kingdom (Romans 12:15). In fact, much of the political turmoil I see in our nation could be averted if we’d kill jealousy with a healthy dose of genuine celebration. Entitlements to those who have worked hard to be entitled is a virtuous thing. But further still is the citizen of the Kingdom who understands he/she is entitled to nothing. Breathing is a gift. But the polar opposite is the person who feels they are entitled to anything at the expense of everyone else. This is the attitude of a child who was never properly parented.

But there is another lesson:

Learning to see that right where we’re standing is worth celebrating.

To Eva, going to Jo-Jo’s is going to Disney World. But she failed to see the value of where she was. In a home, with her family, and a new baby brother. Even though Luik was excited to leave, he was genuinely happy for Eva who was able to spend more time with Baby Levi and the family.

I’d say nearly every American – including myself – is so focused on what we wish we had that we fail to see the incredible blessing of what we do have. Correcting such an attitude is at the core of a contently lived life.

So try wishing yourself “congratulations” today. Not for where you’re headed. Or what you someday want. But for where you are right now.

Congratulations! ch:

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The Family Lotto

I am the luckiest man in the world. Luckiest, if you have a weak grip on reality and trust fate. Blessed, if you understand that God honors choices made in pursuit of Him, regardless of shortcomings.

But before writing on the subject of family – a fitting theme – I want to wish my father, Peter Kirk, a very happy 64th birthday. He taught me virtue, faithfulness, stewardship, and what it means to be masculine in creativity. But more, he showed me through years, not just words, what it meant to love Jesus and family selflessly.

Happy birthday, Daddy. ch:
___________________

WARNING: If you don’t believe in God, or even Providence, then this piece will irritate you.

Even deists will be irritated. If God is distant and uninterested in human affairs, do yourself a favor and stop reading.

Bye bye.

Everyone else – believers in God and divine appointments – how does your family rate in importance?

Now, family can be a touchy subject, so rating them can be difficult.

We all have “the crazies.” You know who I mean. Aunt Mary who smells of mothballs and cheese; Grandpa Sal who swears loudly at punk kids with long hair; and Uncle Frank who flirts with the bride at every wedding he attends.

But even the crazies are important to God. Important enough for Him to trust you with their bloodline, and their legacy – great or small.

So how would you rate your family’s importance in your day-to-day life?

Low? Medium? High?

No matter what your classification, let me help take it to the next level.

If God is truly intentional and deliberate, then of all the 7 billion people on the planet – or roughly 3 billion families – the one you were assigned to is pretty exclusive. Statistically speaking.

So important that 7 billion other people didn’t get your family.

But think even broader. You won the lottery with the most enormous odds of all, because you were born in this era, not in the hundreds previous. Which means your family was handpicked for you by God over thousands of years, not just from billions people.

It would seem He knows what he’s doing, and thinks you’re pretty special to handle the circumstances you were born into. Good. Bad. Or ugly.

When your parents bewilder you, your siblings frustrate you, your kids dumbfound you, and your in-laws freak you right out, remember: you won the family one-in-a-billion lotto.

Literally.

Digesting that statistic may just be the key to letting your parents awe you, your siblings encourage you, your kids bless you, and your in-laws support you.

But there’s almost no hope for smelling like mothballs and cheese. ch:

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[Photo by Joanne Nesbitt]

Big Day

As I was tucking Eva in to bed, she looked up and said, “Tomorrow is going to be another big day.”

Her sheer enthusiasm and determined hope struck me.

“Yes, it is Eva,” I replied. “It absolutely is.”

But while I had no immediate recollection of exactly what made today “big,” nor was I aware of anything significant we had announced we were doing tomorrow, I knew I could agree with her.

Because she would make it a “big day.”

And as I shut off the light and slipped out of her room, I realized that’s exactly how God intends us to look at each tomorrow.

It’s going to be big.

Adventure.

Conflict.

Discovery.

Resolution.

Life.

And he designed it for living. Yet, so often our days aren’t “big days.” They’re flat, repetitive, predictable, and stale.

God’s fault? Our spouse’s fault? Our boss’? Our chosen (or unchosen) line of work?

Or ours?

Because we failed to catch something that a 6-year-old did. And maybe we have to act like we’re six to rediscover.

Life is a gift. Only the grateful make best use of it, and find everything wondrous.

Because the grateful can never be disappointed. ch:

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Marshmallow Fun

Last night we decided to stay home despite some very fun offerings from close friends. Jenny is only 3 weeks away from her due date, and trying to conserve energy.

So she chilled on the sail-hammock while Eva, Luik, and Judah devoured nearly an entire bag of marshmallows over a campfire in the back yard.

I may have had a s’more or two myself.

Love building memories. ch:

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Toothless

If I told you someone was missing teeth, what’s the first thought that comes to your mind?

I know what comes to mine.

That person is a boxer, a hockey player, or a drunk. Or they’re old.

But what if I told you the person was 6?

Sometimes we mistake people’s lack as weakness, or even worse: failure. But I’m pretty convinced God sees it as room for something better to grow in. ch:

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