2017

December 11, 2017

Committed


This verse really hit me lately:
The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)
There is just something epic about that: God looking all about the world, just trying to find people who are committed to him, so that he can bolster them up, encouraging them to press on. Sort of like an anti-Eye of Sauron. (I've been reading Lord of the Rings lately...)

But what does "committed" really mean? I think its essence can be boiled down to one thing: a decision. We decide to follow Jesus, no matter what, and forever. In that decision comes God's strength in the midst of doubt, perseverance and, of course, his love, which initiates the whole thing. But as I think about the concept of commitment, I have to conclude that far too often our relationship with God is more like a friendship than a marriage.

But "friends are friends forever." Maybe sometimes Michael W. Smith, but other times you drift apart, experience splitting differences, change interests, mature at various rates or move away. There are only a few friends I still stay in touch with from my childhood, and even then we have grown differently over the years; the things that once held us together have evolved into something else.

A marriage, on the other hand, is set up to last longer. Not just longer, forever. Marriage vows are made to go the distance. You either grow together, or you have a crappy marriage (to put it a little frankly). So why is it so easy to consider walking away from God, when our relationship to him is described as none other than a marriage?

I know in my journey with Christ, there have been times when I was tempted to quit. Some ideas showed up that didn't line up with what I believed, and I began to doubt whether it was all true. This is normal I think, considering the weight of belief and the enemy of our souls; but how easily do I drift away within this doubt, a little too ready to give it all up? It's like this famous hymn says:
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
Maybe "Come Thou Fount" actually captures the keys to sticking around: grace, goodness and a willing heart. Grace for when we fall -- for surely we receive such from God -- to allow ourselves another chance. God's goodness to sustain us in these times of doubt, not letting us go. And a willingness to give whatever is left over to God, "sealed" away where we can't move it from the throne at which our fragile hearts are chained.

December 4, 2017

Trader Joe's vs. Costco


After moving to Southern California, I was introduced to this quaint little grocery chain called Trader Joe's. Of course they were bigger than I realized at the time, and are an ever-expanding company, having spread nation-wide by now. But back then, I was a very reluctant follower in the cult of TJ. Their stores are small and always seem packed full of people. The parking lots are never quite big enough, and the whole claustrophobic experience just made me shy away. Also, they were a little more money than my habits of only-buying-sale-items at Ralphs, which was a store a little closer to what I had grown up with.

However, after a few years and marrying a woman who is very pro-Trader Joe's, I am happy to say I have come around. The problem now, though, is that we aren't in Southern California anymore, where there is a store located in between every Starbucks and Coffee Bean. There is only one TJ's to supply the needs of the increasingly popular Charleston area, and so even though the parking lot is bigger here (more space than LA), the store is still quite crowded. It is also across the biggest hill in Charleston (the Cooper River Bridge), and so I am also not keen on driving all the way over it to get some chips and salsa (they have excellent salsa). Because of the distance, when I became the stay-at-home dad again and regained the responsibility of grocery shopping, I have to say I explored more local options to see if I could find better deals closer (you have to take gas into account too, you know).

The catalyst for Costco.

And what did I find after shopping several grocery stores near me? Trader Joe's is cheaper, with higher-quality food, a no-questions asked return policy and happy workers, thereby making it the greatest grocery store available in the US right now. Yeah, that's right: this once reluctant shopper is now singing the praises of the store he so severely avoided.

But what about the title: Trader Joe's vs. Costco? Comparing those is like apples and oranges, right? Maybe not. We recently joined Costco (for the second time) and I, of course, am examining the cost-effectiveness of this mega store. What I am disheartened to find, however, is that maybe this giant isn't saving as much money as advertised...

Katie and I got into juicing back in 2013, when it became popular because of the movie Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. We actually never saw the movie, but some friends gave us a high recommendation on the benefits of juicing, and so we bought one with a gift card we had. Here's a video of our first time doing it:



Juicing is super healthy, but man, you really obliterate large quantities of fruits and vegetables to gleam only a cupful of juice. This is where Costco comes in. You can get a massive bag of spinach for about $5. A huge bag of carrots for the same. Apples, mangoes, oranges, etc. Buying in bulk is an excellent choice while juicing, and helps keep the cost down. The other noticeable thing about juicing, however, is that it is extremely messy! Cleaning up after juicing burns about enough calories to warrant cheating with some egg nog or a Guinness (or maybe some egg nog-Guinness?) afterwards. As a result, our juicing-life has been pretty spotty.

Recently, however, we got back into it, hence the renewed membership. The thing that I have been noticing about Costco this go around though, is that all this bulk is just making me consume more stuff, which is where my problem lies. I have a massive bottle of scotch, and so of course I pour that extra drink when I want it. Katie went crazy on the snacks when we first got the membership, and so if I'm craving a granola bar -- why not? We have about forty of them stored somewhere. Whilst on the snack topic, the other problem with all these items is that we are creating a huge amount of trash with all the wrappers and boxes and such. The whole thing really just feels kind of wasteful.

But we're saving money, and that's what is important in life, right? (Can you sense my sarcasm?) The kicker of it all, I'm finding, is that even this isn't entirely true! Trader Joe's is so cheap, that things we consume every day (bananas, cereal, granola, wine) are the same price at Costco, if not more expensive! The whole thing has got me questioning whether this membership is worth it at all.

I wanted to share all this because it is in this muddy, every day decision-making that families are built on, rising and falling amongst the corporate hand of mass consumerism. Here we spend our valuable dollars, trying desperately to get ahead while maintaining some degree of normalcy in an ever-fluctuating society. Any little bit of wisdom or insight helps, and though this overly dramatic conclusion may have deterred my credibility with you, hopefully you find this comparison truly useful, and choose to give the mystical land of Trader Joe's a try.

November 27, 2017

How to Take Your Kids Skateboarding


This may be the most important blog post I've ever written...

Just kidding. But it so deeply identifies with what I am all about, that I think it's pretty cool. A couple years ago I made Skater Dad: the Movie, which features lots of shots of me and Ellie at the El Segundo skatepark. I was blessed to find this place -- empty most of the day, totally fenced in, overall pretty safe but also super fun to skate. I would take her pack 'n' play, and then later let her run around, while I skated. I was also lucky enough to take Waverly here too before we moved away.


More recently the park of choice has been Ackerman Skatepark in West Ashley, which has been a big part of my life since high school. The last Halloween I ever trick-or-treated, instead of wearing costumes, we brought our skateboards and asked for petitions to get a city skatepark in our hometown. "Kickflips for candy" we joked as we gathered about 75 or so names, if I remember correctly. We then attended a few meetings, thanks to the help of my friend Jason's awesome and super-involved mom, and before too long we had our modest park!

I remember the grand opening when Jud Heald and Tim Byrne came out, both of which were on Christian skate teams that I was familiar with. We had countless sessions here. I hit my face on the concrete once trying to crooked grind the top rail. Lance Mountain and Ray Barbee signed my yearbook here (two of my all-time favorites). All that to say, I'm proud of this park and am glad it is still around; and now even more glad to be able to bring my kids here!

I digress...how to take your kids to a skatepark. I really want my children to love skating, or at least love that I love skating. And so taking them to these fenced-in parks is like a playground for the both of us. They slide down the quarter pipes...I do lip tricks. Win, win. As I have been doing this for a few years now, I thought I would compile a list of things to help YOU take your kids to the local skatepark (because I know you want to):

FS 360 while Waverly enjoys a snack at Ackerman. (See step #3)
  1. Find a park: The first step is obvious. I have found that having a fenced-in park is really nice for younger kids. You don't want them crawling away while you're going for that fakie frontside flip on the pyramid. When they were really young, I would put them in a pack 'n' play, but again, in a safe area of a fenced-in park, just so strangers weren't loitering nearby (I'm kind of a paranoid parent sometimes). It is also good to head to parks during off times, because skaters don't always look where they are going, and even if they are looking, kids rarely do. But that's just a good way to teach them social awareness and taking turns, right?
  2. Bring gear: Your kids need their own little skateboards and, maybe even a scooter, at least until they are competent enough on their own two feet. My sister bought Ellie this scooter/skateboard hybrid that has moveable trucks, so your child can grow with his or her skateboard. I think it's pretty rad. Of course, helmets and pads are also necessary; although the pads don't stay on well for my kids, so we usually just stick to helmets.
  3. Bring more gear: I'm talking the typical stuff -- diapers, extra clothes, water, snacks. Snacks is the biggest one, as their attention span isn't what mine is, and when I am really close to landing that trick, snack time might just buy me a few more tries. Baby wipes are also key, as skateparks are usually kind of dusty, and these things will save you some time cleaning hands before snack time.
  4. Don't forget the camera: I love making skate videos and sharing them! Bringing my kids along for the ride only makes the videos better (because let's be honest, my skating isn't the most interesting thing on the internet). Pictures and videos of your kids' progress are fun for you, and for sharing with family. 
  5. Stay safe: Skateparks are kind of dangerous, even more so for kids. Boards are flying everywhere and people are smoking cigarettes and the such. That is why it is so important to find parks that are mostly empty, although don't shy away from skating with other guys that seem competent and friendly towards the little ones. It brings your kids into a world where they learn to take turns, look out for other people, and be respectful. 
I hope that helps give you a little more confidence in doing something out of the ordinary with your kids. If skateboarding isn't your thing, these same principles (with minor adjustments) can apply to whatever your interest is: kid's day at the rock climbing gym, the beach, concerts (replace helmets with ear muffs) and even snowboarding. So get out there and do what you love, with the people you love most!

November 20, 2017

Choices - A Follow Up


I wrote a few weeks ago about some difficulties in getting our children to sleep. Actually, there have been a couple posts about it...I guess this is just the season we're in. Anyway, I found something that really works that I thought would be a good follow-up, and hopefully worth the share.



Katie and I have based a lot of our parenting style on the Love and Logic books, which seem to be doing pretty well for us. One of the big things that they preach is giving your child choices, all of which result in situations you are okay with. This is done in order to make your child feel like he or she has some degree of control of said situation, putting forth that many of our battles with the little ones are about control. So naturally, giving control away should help alleviate the problem.

We have done it with our oldest, but I didn't think the younger one was ready for it yet. However, when trying to get her to nap, it seems that the best thing that works has been to give her lots of choices during the nap time process. "Do you want this blanket or that one? Do you want your socks on or off? Do you want to lay on this side or that side of the bed?" All of these things are inane decisions, but it gives her several ways to control the situation based on a decision she has no control over: whether or not to take a nap.

I have been surprised at how well this works, even for a one year-old, and so I thought I would share. I hope it helps!

November 13, 2017

Difficulties in Endeavors


I wrote last week on our new adventures in sleeping/napping. In the midst of change, I had a thought I'd like to share here...

If you read that last post, you know we have recently moved both of our daughters into one bedroom. I have to admit I was kind of excited about the idea in a way. We have always talked about the girls sharing a room later on, my wife and I preferring to live a little more simply with smaller spaces. My youngest's enhanced ability to climb just sped up the transition.

The night of the incident, as we moved Waverly's matters into Ellie's room and moved out Ellie's bed, both became extremely excited at the prospect of sleeping in the same room. They wanted their mattresses next to each other, so they could be closer, and then proceeded to jump on them like trampolines. Great, I thought, this will be easy, they love it already! Not so. Even after keeping them up late because of a church meeting, Waverly did not take to the new bed well. Ellie prefers more lights on in her room than Waverly, and Waverly isn't used to the freedom to get out of bed. I figured these things would happen, and that the transition would just take time; but it also made me think of something else: We often get really excited about a new idea or new adventure, but when it comes time to actually perform the task at hand, somehow we lose steam.

Ellie and Waverly were pumped to sleep in the same room, but when the reality hit, it was difficult. Ellie kept asking for Waverly to go sleep "out there," and Waverly wanted the same thing. The fun disappeared as the work began. I have seen this happen countless times with creative projects, with myself and others. We have a great idea for a script, movie or concept album even; but when we hit a snag with the outline, or songs don't fall from the sky, it's easy to lose steam. More often, a newer, more fun idea hits, and the previous one takes a backseat. Well, do this enough times, and you end up with about a dozen or so half-finished ideas, and nothing to show for it.

The same applies to most endeavors in life that don't have to get done. Your sink backs up and you rarely lost steam fixing it -- that needs to be addressed. But if you get an idea to build your kids a play set in the garage, or you decide to buy fog lights for your car and install them yourself -- things like this can be delayed when the actual work hits.

Maybe it's kind of odd how my mind went from my kids learning to sleep to this, but I think I've seen enough abandoned projects to note it and then want to share. The solution, I believe, is two-fold. First, be a finisher. "Bickerstaffs are finishers," I tell my family, and I believe it. Finish what you start, whenever it is in your power to do so. If you get a new, "better" idea in the midst of the first one, write it down and revisit it later. (This has applied heavily to me in writing projects.)

Second, involve other people that won't let you quit. Accountability Partners the church-world calls them. Peer pressure is a powerful motivator, sometimes for good. If others are expecting you to finish that book, and continually ask about it, you just might do it. They will also help refine your ideas, helping you to invest in the best ones and leave behind the rest. This principle also applies to heavier things, like your marriage or an important job. Telling your friends you are thinking of ditching out of something like that, and their words may just keep you in the boat long enough to go the distance.

As for us -- the girls went to sleep in about 30-45 minutes. That's not so bad. Maybe tomorrow will be less and the day after even less. Just one step closer to our tiny house near the beach with a chicken coop in the backyard and a halfpipe too. Maybe next I need to replace the "white noise" sound machine with the soothing sounds of skateboarding and rooster calls!

November 10, 2017

Stormy Skate


Rain is the enemy of skateboarding. It rusts your bearings, ruins your trucks, mushes up your board and diminishes your grip tape. It's no wonder why California is the skateboarding mecca of the world -- because it never rains there. Growing up, a rainy day would spell certain disaster on any attempt at a skate adventure. Many-a-times I made plans to hang out at a friends house, certain to skate, and ended up only playing skateboarding video games instead, longingly watching the rain drip sadly down a clear glass pane, like tears down my sad pimply teenage face.

The other day my wife went for a run after work, and then came home and told me I better go skateboarding quick because it was about to rain (I have a good wife). I rushed out the door and into a super windy session at the nearest skatepark to me. It was fun skating in stormy weather, the leaves flying around as the trees were jostled about like broccoli flung across the dinner table by my daughters...fun as long as the rain held out, that is. Which it didn't. I got a few tries on a fakie frontside flip I've been working on, but the ramp quickly got too slick and therefore too dangerous (I am a responsible father, you know).

Though the ramp was wet, a ledge nearby was dry enough to keep skating, and so I did, despite the ground spotting up with rain drops. Actually, the ledge slid better because of the water, so I was all over the place with out of control crooked grinds and wild 50-50s. I was working on a full-length crooked grind to 180 out, and then a frontside nosegrind (those things have eluded me lately), trying desperately to land one before my grip tape changed colors -- a sure sign it is time to leave. Here is a video of what came out of it, just a few shots with a little song I'm also working on.



So why am I wasting internet space (and your time) writing all of this? The whole thing just reminded me of the yonder days, skating no matter what, desperate to land the trick despite the odds. Many times I skated into the dark of the night, soaking wet with sweat and my feet hurting, begging my friends to stick around to keep video taping because I was so close to landing the trick. Those days have slowly disappeared the older I've gotten, but every once in a while they creep up again and remind me of the passion I had, and still have, for skateboarding.

Sure, my body won't hold out like it used to, and I rarely have more than an hour to skate before I have to get back to the girls. But I still love it and am still learning new tricks. In a way, that night's slick session is what this blog is about -- maintaining your passions throughout the changes of life.

Our responsibilities will grow and free time will lessen, but the things that once made you come alive still likely do just that, and so you should keep pursuing them, as long as they don't throw the rest of your life out of balance. Your family will thank you as they have a man or woman of passion to follow, knowing that you are rested and ready for each day, having recharged doing the things you love. I don't think we were designed to totally abandon everything that makes us individuals, just because we become parents. Of course, I write that in knowing that selflessness is a must in parenting; but again, it all must stay in balance.

As I examine all of the arts and actions that interest me, I find that one of my favorite things to do is inspire people to dream and chase after more. More of God, more of life, more adventure, more risk. Our God is too good to not expect more. So try something new today, or pick up something you used to love doing but haven't done in a while. Then let me know how it goes! I hope it's fun, brings you joy and won't break your arm.

November 6, 2017

The Disappearance of Nap Time


Ask any parent and they will tell you that nap time is pretty much the only respite you get while parenting. I recently spoke with a dad to a one year-old who still naps twice a day. Ah, I remember those days, I thought with a tinge of jealousy. Nap time is when parents can sort-of get things done (quietly, of course), and maybe even rest a bit themselves. I mentioned in another post that our oldest hasn't napped much in the past several months, but our youngest is still pretty solid on once a day. Well, a couple weeks ago, this happened:


That's our youngest climbing out of her crib. We had put her to bed one night and, after a little crying, heard a knock at the door. There she was, standing on the floor. "Did you put her in her crib?" my wife asked me, which I did. We put her back in the crib and left a phone on a table to record the video. Sure enough, she climbed out in less than a minute.

Of course I am proud of her physical prowess and climbing abilities, but this was a blow, especially after we thought we had had a bed time victory not two weeks before. Our solution was to put both girls' mattresses on the floor in Ellie's room and let them sleep together, which is fine since they will likely share a room later anyway -- we're just speeding up our plans. It went alright that night, but the next problem was a little less easily resolved: what would become of nap time?

Over the next few days, I tried putting them both to bed for a nap: no dice. Even if the youngest is tired, the oldest will keep her up. I put Waverly's mattress back in her crib for a nap time and let the older do "rest time." This worked a little, but with Waverly's newfound abilities, she has to be pretty tired to go down quietly. And so, every day we just wade through uncharted waters, trying new things to get her to bed. Sometimes I stand there and rub her back to coax her to sleep. Sometimes I'm too exhausted myself to do that and just give up on the whole thing altogether. Let them play a little while I try to rest or get things done, and then maybe do some TV time in the late afternoon so I can finish up or cook dinner.

I wish I could finish this blog post with some solid lesson I learned, or even a tip to get the kids to go to bed more easily, but such is not the truth. I am writing this post while Ellie makes an art project and Waverly is (thankfully) sleeping after a busy morning at a friend's house. Who knows what tomorrow holds for this once sacred time? Every day is a coin toss of unpredictability and hope. One thing I do know is that it is with a heavy heart that I learn to let go of one of the last little bits of personal time we parents enjoy. This gift of God for weary moms and dads to make the already difficult transition into parenthood a little less abrupt.

Or maybe this is it, and "my time" is gone. I guess that's parenthood -- forced selflessness. So if these blog posts get a little shorter or less frequent, now you know why! 

October 30, 2017

Jah Works #2: Music - 200th Blog!


"Think about how many songs you have stored in your brain," I remember telling my co-worker Angie during some down-time while working at Baskin Robbins. "Is there a better way to spread ideas than through music?" I said, with a hopeful glint in my eye. Okay, maybe I didn't have a glint in my eye -- after all, I couldn't see myself in the dull reflection of ice cream-stained plexiglass -- but I imagine that I did.

I was finishing up high school at the time, and getting really into music. My punk band, Minus the Standard, was a lot of fun, and we were actually playing some small shows. Even though the end of high school and different colleges brought about the dismemberment of what I'm sure was to be the next MxPx (Who is MxPx?, the collective readership asks...), I was all about music and investing most of my graduation money in a new guitar, amp and pedal board. I was also writing some of the best songs to-date, though I had no avenue to share it.

MTS at Charleston Baptist Church
Fast forward twelve years and most of those songs have still not been heard by human ears. Music has been a funny journey for me. I got started playing the viola in 5th grade, thanks to my aunt who kept hers from when she was in middle school. The thing was old, smelled bad and was too big for me, but a friend of mine was playing in the orchestra, so I wanted to be there too. It's funny how God lines up things like that, because, had I played the violin, that would have very likely been the end of my musical career. The big thing to do at my elementary school was to try out for the School of the Arts, which I did, for both Visual Arts (drawing, painting, etc.) and Orchestra. I think I was only one of about three people who auditioned for the viola, but one of a hundred for art. I wasn't all that great at viola, but where there is great need, those with lack of talent flourish; and so when I didn't get into the art program, but was accepted into the orchestra, I wasn't about to turn them down.

In the orchestra I made friends with a skinny violinist named Eric, through whom I later came to know Christ. He was sold out on Jesus and I, a moderate church-goer at the time, enjoyed our interactions. We were into the same Christian bands, Five Iron Frenzy, Blindside, Switchfoot, and so when his church went to Creation Festival 2000, I couldn't wait to go. Little did I know that God was working on my heart, taking me down a path in pursuit of popularity in the months prior that brought me away from God. That summer I was ready to admit my need for him, and accepted Christ on the first night of the music festival.

That moment literally changed my life. Eric and I continued to be friends, later starting Minus the Standard with a friend Heath, and one of my best friends in the world, Jason, both of which also attended Creation Festival. (The band name was an homage to humanity's always falling short of God's standard, thus emphasizing our need for a savior.) I played a sick flying-V guitar in the band, a gift from my uncle, who is still one of the best guitar players I've ever known. During that time I also started playing in my youth group worship band (with that same flying-V), which gave me tons of experience playing in front of people, complete with plenty of embarrassing moments. (Like the time I was supposed to start the song, but couldn't remember how it went. During the prayer before, I leaned to the guitar player next to me and asked if he knew. "No," he replied with a laugh and a shrug. When I started, I just strummed something that was totally wrong. It nearly fell apart, but the drummer kept it together. Lesson learned -- never stop playing.)

The cover for our album, "Campfood," available somewhere...
I later picked up drums and bass guitar, playing in a band after college called Campfield with one of my best friends, Chris and our drummer Roger (a good friend now, but I didn't know him well at the time). The whole time I was writing songs independently, but the one thing I wasn't doing much of was singing. I had a public speaking professor in college tell me I should try singing, based on the tone-quality of my voice, but I dismissed her. Others gave me the chance, but it was something I just couldn't bring myself to do, outside of quiet recordings in meager attempts to get songs out of my head. The idea of hearing my own voice just jolted me, made me uncomfortable, terrified me. It still does most of the time, actually.

Still, music came easy and it seemed to be something God was leading me into. I made most of the music for the movies I was making, and continued to write some. I made a couple attempts at starting a band with others, but it never seemed to pan out. Even when we did play, I was pretty nervous to sing my songs. (It doesn't take much to know that that makes for a weak band practice.)

One big moment in the midst of this was when we were going to Ecclesia Church in Hollywood. A expert on prophecy came in one day and gave a talk on how to hear from God. Then he concluded by going through the crowd and pointing out people he thought God had given him a word for. After several folks, mostly agreeing with what he said, he took a look at me and said, "You in the blue shirt...I've been avoiding you." I don't know why he said that, but whatever... "I just see the word 'music' over your head, does that mean anything?" I played it cool, but the thought excited me. Music? God wants me to do music? Film was my interest at the time, with music certainly being a part of it, but never the focus. I left that day encouraged, but also a little lost. "Music" is a big topic and can mean a lot of different things. Which did it mean for me?

They call me a closet musician...
A year or so later, I was playing in the worship band at a church plant called Kehila, and on one fateful weekend practice, the worship leader told me she wanted everyone to sing something during the church service. I choked up, overcome by nervousness. But deep down, I was excited for the chance. I had passed it up so, so many times before, and now I was being pushed into it. (I regret to inform you that often times that is the only way I accomplish anything -- with a push. I even wrote a song about it one time!)

Anyway, the Sunday morning service went okay and I sang in public, "Beautiful Things" by Gungor. I later went on to sing a few more times at the church, mostly during our "Folk Sundays" (I picked up the banjo and harmonica during this time too), and they all went fine. My voice was weak, unrefined. I struggled with pitchiness, which is a cardinal sin I remember, from all those early American Idol episodes I watched with my parents as a kid.

Rehearsing for our second Folk Sunday
During this season, I had a mentor who God very clearly placed in my life. We met a few times in his amazing house on a hill overlooking the ocean in San Juan Capistrano, with the purpose of helping me find what God wanted me to do in life. As he looked at my life map, with all the ups and downs I had detailed, he quickly concluded, "I see music all over this thing." I agreed, but didn't know what to do about it. "Can you lead worship?" he asked. "Not well," I replied with honesty, and it was true. My voice is pretty deep and most worship music is for the masses. We pressed on in our course with only the conclusion that I should probably work in ministry and in music, but that conversation always stuck with me.

About this time I was a stay-at-home dad and had a little more time to invest in creative activities. Also about the same time, my friends Alex and Arne lost their jobs, and so with our increase in free time, also came a lot more recording. I was writing more music than ever, having spent much of my commuting hours the two years prior recording songs onto my cell phone while driving. Combine this with all those years of writing and not showing, and I had quite the list of songs. We recorded a lot, one of us watching Ellie in the other room while the other sang or played. It was fun, and a lot of creative stuff came out of it.

The drive to play live during those two years was also there, but I never could bring myself to get out in public and play something. About that time, I had a telling dream. I was standing in what seemed like the busiest street that runs through Hermosa Beach, not too far from where we lived. Over some kind of loud speaker, on the radio, I heard one of my songs playing, but it wasn't me singing. I then heard a voice, or felt an impression rather: "If you don't sing these songs, someone else will." My next thought was one of insecurity, and then, Well, even if I don't sing, at least I know they are good enough to be on the radio. The impression was so clear that I know it was from God. A couple years later I had another dream, again pushing me into music.

My second open mic night ever
And so, here I am, all these years later and still mediocrely pursuing the thing that God seems to have been pushing me into all along. What is wrong with me?! Insecurity, fear, logic -- it doesn't really make sense that anything could come out of my voice. I'm really not that great of a singer. But hey, if God tells you to do something, you do it, right? That is why music is part of this website, even though most of my blogging has been about God, fatherhood and surfing in the past.

I am reading a book my wise wife gave me called Restless by Jennie Allen, and it is bringing all of this stuff about music back up in me again. So far Music has been like a wandering companion, one of those friends you see for a while and connect, and then don't see again, often for years. The next time he drifts into your life, it feels like no time has passed and you immediately enjoy each other's company; but just like that, in a season he is gone. You know you will see him again sometime in the future, but you don't know when.

Well, this time I'm hoping Music stays. I regret the days of setting aside something God has so clearly placed in my heart and am working now to explore the reason he put it all there. If you have read this far, thank you for investing even that much in my journey. I will work hard not to disappoint, as I clumsily navigate these steps of realizing what I have to say and what it means for the world to hear it. After all, music is one of the best way to spread ideas, right?

--

By the way, this is the 200th blog post I have published! Thanks for those who have been reading since #1, and those who just jumped in. I always appreciate a listening ear and attentive eye. I hope you have enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed writing all of it!

October 23, 2017

Big Mess


I guess messiness is part of my job description. Poop and the such mark my days as a stay at home dad. This morning, however, was one of the biggest to date...

I was taking out some trash and emptying our compost, which has been sitting for far too long. I find some degree of satisfaction in utilizing all of the banana peels and avocado shells for something outside of just tossing them, but if you don't empty the inside can regularly, fruit flies abound. Well, in the process of doing so (gone for only a couple minutes), I came back in to find our youngest jumping on top of the dining room table, covered in oatmeal with more oatmeal spread about like grass seed. "Uh oh, Waverly made a big mess," our oldest said, as I began the cleanup process...

Not today's mess, but one for the record books. (Yes, that is what you think it is...)

Oatmeal is really difficult to clean up, by the way, in case you haven't had experience doing so. When you wipe it, it just kind of dissolves and mushes further into whatever surface you're cleaning. Also, it gets in your kids' hair and won't come out. I have learned, through not a few messes with our first kid, that it is best to cleanup in process. Just handle one thing at a time and then go to the next. Clean her clothes first and then wipe her off. Shut her in a room (part of her punishment) and then start at the floor, working your way up to the table. One of the hardest parts to all of this is finding the little unexpected places where said mess found itself. Today it was on the pile of unfolded clean clothes in the corner.

After it was all done, and I began to make my breakfast (not oatmeal), I realized that I pretty much managed to keep my cool during this one. Sometimes these things will get the best of you, and you will find yourself yelling, pulling your hair out, asking your children and God, "Why?!" But today my response was a stern reprimand for Waverly, and then a step-by-step cleanup process. Now they are watching TV while I am recounting the whole thing for you, faithful readers, my blood pressure at a normal level and hopefully no minutes removed from the end of my life due to stress. And so I think the takeaway is this: messes will happen inevitably, but they will be cleaned and life will go on. It's nice to be able to give your kid a hug after it is all said and done and move on with life with no hard feelings.

October 18, 2017

Genealogies


Reading genealogies in the bible can be daunting. Sometimes you wonder why they're even there, but trust that someone, somewhere has derived a spiritual benefit from them in some way. I've been reading through Chronicles, and the first part is a pretty hefty genealogy. There are some lines in between the hard to pronounce names that tell a little story, but for the most part it is tough to get through. Today, though, the Holy Spirit brought out a couple things to me that I'd like to share.
They waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish and Nodab. They were helped in fighting them, and God handed the Hagrites and all their allies over to them, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him...They also took one hundred thousand people captive, and many others fell slain, because the battle was God's. And they occupied the land until the exile. (1 Chronicles 5:19-20 and 22)
From this verse we can see that God answers the prayer of those who trust him. It says that outright actually, so no meditation required there! It begs the question, though -- how much do we trust God? 

Katie and I have been looking for a place to live; a house and also a city that we really feel at home in. It might be where we are, or maybe somewhere else (or maybe nowhere on this planet!). In the home buying process, there is a lot of stress and competition, particularly in a city like Charleston, which has hit about every "top destination" list out there. In the midst of all that stress and anxiety, I have to ask myself two questions found in this scripture: do I trust God to get us the right house, and is this battle even ours? Throughout scripture you will find places where the battle is God's. Sometimes this is a literal battle, but others it's a search, an internal struggle or spiritual forces outside of our realm; ultimately, our sin is the greatest battle that we strive to fight (through good works), but isn't ours to conquer (Christ already did it on the cross).

So think about the things you are going through in life and ask yourself those two questions, and then take the answers to God and see what he has to say about it.

Okay, the second scripture:
They were brave warriors, famous men, and heads of their families. But they were unfaithful to the God of their fathers and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. (1 Chronicles 5:24b-25)
I have had way too many dreams that I have been hanging out with famous people. Owen Wilson, Taylor Swift, Zac Efron...twice (total honesty here). I also like watching those late night shows where famous people talk about random things. (Maybe it's not a coincidence that I worked for E! Entertainment for four years...) So obviously I have some draw towards being famous, or at least being associated with fame. A friend once asked what I wanted in life, and I replied, "To be a person of influence." That makes the desire for fame sound a little more honorable, but it's still there. Since then I have learned that every one of us already has a sphere of influence that God himself designed for us, so the mission is already accomplished I guess. 

Anyway, in this scripture, the things that these people (the half-tribe of Manasseh) attained were what most of us want: courage, fame, notoriety, clout. But it struck me that, even way back in the days of old, before People Magazine and Entertainment Tonight, these people made a trade: fame with men for following God. It's easy to see this happening in modern day, with celebrities selling themselves for the like, but this apparently isn't a new problem. But the outcome is the same for ancient famous people as well as modern -- the fame is temporal, and often replaces a genuine desire for God. Maybe that is why Jesus gave us these heavy words:
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matthew 16:25-26)

October 16, 2017

Beat Dependent


The more we are together, the more I realize that I am dependent on my wife for certain things. She always buys the shampoo and tooth paste (and we never run out). She plans vacations. She knows how to make popcorn in a pot and not in the microwave. There's nothing wrong with being dependent of course, but as I take on more responsibility as a parent, I am finding that there are things I should know how to do that I just don't.

Last night, for instance, we were going to have pizza for dinner because Katie bought some dough that was about to expire. We used to have a Pizzaz pizza maker, a gift from our good friend Jason, which made homemade pizza night something to look forward to. The Pizzaz didn't make the move cross-country, but homemade pizza is still awesome. But also intimidating, as I have never made it before and a big blob of dough is kind of weird to me. And so I did. And the dough was undercooked and our youngest woke up puking this morning. Still, I tried and everyone survived, thankfully...

Our oldest is becoming quite skilled at using the potty, and one of our training methods has been to reward her every time she used it with a cookie, a temporary tattoo or a present from Tootie, her grandmother. Last night she chose a tattoo and I realized I didn't know how to put them on, because it was something Katie always did. I put the prize off until this morning, but I am a man of my word and so today I figured out how to apply a child's tattoo. No puking on this one. It's a double tattoo, and actually looks pretty good:



Those are silly examples, but the fact of the matter is, particularly in regards to dads, that it is easy to let our wives take on more of the parenting responsibilities when it comes to day-to-day activities. Katie tells me about moms she meets all the time that complain about their husbands' ineptitude in practical parenting skills. And so I want to take this time to encourage any dad readers out there that you can do more! You can and do play an important job in parenting your child!

To do so will just take work and the desire to learn about your kids and what they require to make it through a day. But therein lies the problem: It's easier to let your wife do "mom things," while you go and earn that paycheck, thus fulfilling your duties as dad. Not so, dads. Providing for your family means much more than putting food on the table. You are valuable for more than that and are certainly able to do it!

I don't write this to demean or simplify either role in parenting -- food on the table is necessary -- but I write rather to encourage dads to stretch themselves in ways that they either thought weren't possible, or were content not trying. Your family will appreciate the extra effort and time, and I think you will find the progress rewarding as well.

I ran into an old friend today who said he had his three kids all week long due to his wife being out of town. "I don't know how to do anything," he said. "The school had to do my daughter's hair today!" To that I say, "It's okay." I commend him for stepping up and not dropping off the kids at grandma's for a week. To him I also say, "You can do it!"You are more than you think you are. You are strong and courageous. You are patient and competent. You play a part no one else can: you are Daddy.




October 9, 2017

Keep Experimenting


Kids are really different. This becomes more apparent when you have more than one, of course. Our first learned different words at a different rate, walked later than the second, is a much more fluid dancer but also a little less adventurous. She also used to hate going to bed (still does most of the time, though it's not as bad as it used to be); but once you got her to bed, she was out for the night. We got this book, 12 Hours Sleep by 12 Weeks, which was recommended from a work friend. I think it took 14 weeks for us, but it pretty much made the difference. However, once you put her down, you usually had to go back in a few times to comfort her before she would actually pass out. Yeah, maybe we should have just let her "cry it out," but sometimes it's hard to take the sound for more than a few minutes.

Conversely, our second child was extremely difficult at first, in regards to sleep. To be fair, we were in a 2 bedroom apartment and were putting her to bed in our room, and then transferring her to a pack-n-play in the living room once we were ready to sleep. Naturally, that didn't last long and we decided to move across the country to solve the problem (sleep deprivation will take its toll). After a few months, she actually went to bed really nicely. By the time she had her own room, you would hold her for a few minutes and then she would actually lean into the crib to go to sleep. However -- and this is a big however -- she would wake up several times a night. Not always, but about 85% of the time, our sleep would be broken up by a crying kid in need of a pacifier. Once she got the pacifier, it was out like a light for a few hours most nights. But then there were the odd ones where she would wake up 5-7 times. Exasperated, we would try and take turns, though who is keeping score when you're in the middle of a deep sleep cycle and can barely tell what's going on outside of your own head?



And then the other day my wife mentions that Waverly is almost two years old and still not sleeping through the night. Really? Wow... I thought, as it hit me that Ellie was far past this point at her age. Like I wrote, kids are different, but man, shouldn't she be sleeping soundly by now? For our sake and hers. Age kind of gets away from you after the first child. For your first, you are acutely aware of each month and milestone. "Oh, she's 7 weeks old...14 months..." Then, after two years, it kind of dies down. Of course, we had Waverly when Ellie was 21 months, so maybe we just couldn't keep track anymore -- I have heard mothers say her child was 32 months before...c'mon, that's too much.

Anyway, two nights ago, my wife decides to leave a closet light on with some books in Waverly's crib when we put her down for sleep. She typically fights this time of night, her energy really boosting once the lights go out. But on that night, she didn't make a sound outside of "reading" her books. The night went on, she slept, and that was that. It's been three nights of this, and it has worked every time. And so I wanted to write this whole thing to encourage all the parents out there to keep experimenting when it comes to your daily routines. Don't just accept things like a bad sleeper or a child who won't eat vegetables, because there might be a solution that will save both of you a lot of heartache, and will likely be healthier for everyone in the long run. I guess the same thing applies to life outside of parenting, so if that's you, congratulations for reading so far into a blog post about parenting, and hopefully it is now worth your while!

October 2, 2017

"I Just Want You"


Nap time is never a guaranteed thing at our house. My wife very cleverly started calling it "rest time," so our oldest could play by herself in her room while the youngest slept, also giving Katie some time to relax before the afternoon craziness that would inevitably come.

I have tried to keep rest time going during my tenure as the stay at home parent, but it is becoming increasingly difficult. Ellie started getting into an Amazon show called Creative Galaxy, which is a fun little cartoon that encourages kids to approach problems through creativity. At the end, it shows live action kids doing art projects, which always inspires Ellie to do the same. Suddenly, rest time has become "art project time," which involves a constant interruption for paper, scissors, crayons, glue, etc. I think of myself as a pretty creative guy, so I hate to stifle her own endeavors, but it is cutting into my own time, which is when I usually write or do house projects.



So this has been the little daily battle that has been going on while my youngest slumbers away peacefully. I usually try to play with Ellie a little and then shut the door for rest time, but she always retorts with, "But Daddy, I'm not tired." I assure her that it is important to be by yourself sometimes as a means to rest, but "introvert" is a word that means nothing to her right now, so this is typically futile. Eventually, I shut the door and she becomes sad, eventually playing quietly until she needs more paper to cut and a refill of tape.

Today was much the same, but when I told her it was rest time, she got very somber and hugged my leg. "What do you want, Ellie?" I asked. "Daddy, I just want you," she replied, and squeezed a little tighter. The words melted me, and I laid down to play for another 15-20 minutes before calling it rest time and coming to the computer to write this blog post.

These were powerful words coming from my three year-old, expressing what is likely one of the deepest desires of her little beating heart. But they struck me deeply as well, because I think that's exactly what God wants to hear from us; though if I'm honest, it's rarely what I want. Sure, I want to know God, and I know the more I get to know him, the more of him I will want. But there are so many things in this life that I also want, that overshadow his relationship far too often. It's the worst kind of eclipse -- one that happens every day -- the beauty of creative pursuits perverted as they take the place of the only thing that can truly fulfill, the only One who can.

It is no wonder that Jesus valued children so much, as through their words can we catch a glimpse of our own relationship with God. Even then, sometimes I find it difficult to believe that this could even be what God wants from us. But then I read verses like this, and my mind is changed, and my heart leans a little closer to the God who so strongly wants it to:
The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3)  
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) 
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)   
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (James 4:8a)  
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God... (1 Peter 3:18a) 
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)  
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1a) 
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. (John 15:12-14)  
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15)  
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)  
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17) 

September 29, 2017

The One He Loves


Here is another throwback to some sermons I listened to during my tenure at my boring desk job. I was lucky enough to watch Judah preach this one in person (not the recorded one, but the topic was the same). He's a compelling speaker and if you ever get a chance to see him, take it! But one thing that struck me about Judah Smith from the beginning was that he pretty much says the same thing every sermon: God loves you a lot and wants you to be in relationship with Him. That's it. Over and over, just with different words and a unique twist here and there. But what could be more foundational to our faith and our existence on this planet? Sometimes it's hard to believe, but when we hear the passion in Judah's voice and see his excitement over the reality of God, you start to think that maybe it's true.

Here is The One He Loves By Judah Smith

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. (John 11:1-5)

Notes:
  • When Mary/Martha want Jesus to come save Lazarus' life, they don't cite his love for God, but God's love for him
    • The theme of their lives is God's love for them, not their love for God
  • The closer you get to Jesus, the less our works matter
  • We will never be able to "hold up our end of the bargain" in our relationship with God
    • This is how we have relationships with others
  • http://thecity.org/message/the_one_i_love

September 25, 2017

The First Hard Day


I wrote before that I recently became a stay-at-home dad for the second time, and I am totally loving it. Well, the honeymoon phase has worn off I think, because things are starting to get hard. The kids seemed very happy to have me home for the first couple of weeks, and were pretty much obedient. Over the last few days though, I have noticed a little more obstinance showing up. I was bracing myself for the explosion, and today it came.

My daughter hates cleaning up. It's a real point of contention for us, because it drives me crazy when kids don't want to clean up after themselves. I'm big on social responsibility, and realized that children don't often share my sentiment when my wife and I used to teach Sunday school for our old church. Getting fourth graders to clean up their crayons seems just about as hard as training a dog to make me a sandwich. So when my own daughter, a three year-old, shows signs of this same blatant disregard for responsibility, mixed with a healthy dose of laziness, I can't stand it. We are trying different techniques -- taking away toys and making her earn them back with chores mostly -- but nothing seems to be working fully.

Today was an all-time low. With several bins of toys already on the prison shelf, I gave her ample time to clean up before we did a craft. She piddled about and played her usual routine. I even offered to help a little and did help. No dice. When the timer was done, she lost about half her toys in a matter of minutes. Tears ensued. Meanwhile, the oblivious one year-old was prancing around needing her own level of attention, but I just didn't have it.

Fast forward to the park, where something was still just off. The girls were being a bit asocial and just wanted to swing. Eventually a ball made it into the picture along with a boy who wanted to play chase. Ellie wasn't having it. Waverly wanted to swing and, being the younger, needed a little extra help, but the older one was just feeling incredibly needy. Not able to split myself in two, I had to choose. It was pretty much lose lose, but I tried hard to balance the time.

And then there was lunch. The gate to the kitchen that usually allows me a peaceful preparation broke today somehow, so now they are able to take things out of the trash can, while also arguing because Ellie didn't want to share the two walkabout toys they have. That's another point of contention -- Ellie feels she doesn't need to share, but rightly deserves every toy in the house, whenever she wants it. "We share everything," I say over and over. Eventually the conflict leads to tears and a tantrum on the floor.



I'm sure this is just a normal day for most of you, or was when your kids were this age, or maybe will be when you have kids, but it was just difficult. Like I said, something has been off all day. I was even casting out evil spirits in Jesus' name during lunch, just trying to get this negativity out of here! It's only mid-day right now as I'm writing this, so I'm hoping things get better. Anyway, I wanted to write about it to kind of process, but also encourage you (and me) with some more positive thoughts...

First, even though this is a hard day, this is still the best job I have ever had. I'm sure of it. And I'm sure it's what I'm supposed to be doing right now. It reminds me of my years in searching for a perfect job that I would love every day of. "Find something you love to do and you'll never work a day in your life," as the saying goes. But reality taught me that even the "perfect" job will not always feel perfect. There will be tough days and tedious tasks. It doesn't make the job any less perfect, it just makes it a job.

Second, don't let the arguments turn personal. They are just kids testing you. Stand your ground and keep going, as calmly as possible. I learned that from my teacher wife, who really did a good job being the stay-at-home mom the past year-and-a-half. The tantrum now will turn into an "I love you Daddy" later. It's also important to remember that, even though my kid appears lazy or socially irresponsible now, she is only three and we are not done yet! Maturity is a process. Sometimes I fear the worst for my kids, but that shows little faith and will not lead to good places.

Another aside along the same lines is to not speak negativity into your kids life. I often hear parent say things like, "You're being such a brat" and "Why are you so lazy?" We are speaking titles and labels into our children's lives that they will learn to adopt as the years go on. Sure, the action is lazy and bratty, but their identity is not those things. Even if it feels that way, speaking it will only solidify it, which is the opposite of what we want.

Okay, TV time is almost done and we will see if the oldest wants to nap. Here we go...

September 18, 2017

Beach Day


We are blessed to live by the beach. Actually, I've been blessed my whole life to have lived within 20 miles of it on both coasts, the closest having been 1.5 miles in Westchester neighborhood in Los Angeles...those were the days. But with all this closeness, you'd think I'd be there about every weekend. Not so. Actually, I average a beach trip about every month. So I have to ask myself why?  And if I'm being honest, I think the answer is: kids.

Yes, it's difficult to take kids to the beach. And even if I don't plan to take them to the beach, during a big surf swell for instance, I can't just leave them at home (yet...). So my terrible solution has been to only venture to the shore on rare occurrences when I'm feeling both brave and patient enough to endure the hardships of beach-going; or when the stars align and someone is home to watch so I can sneak out for a couple hours to surf.

But today is different! Yes, I awoke with the beach on my mind, and so I decided to single-handedly take my children to the beach! My wife did it as the Stay-at-home Mom -- several times -- and managed to come home with both children and her sanity intact. She actually had developed a good routine for it, which she taught me during my "training" (when we were both home before she started working again). There are several difficult things to prepare for if you want to have your own blessed beach day. Check out the list I thought of below and feel free to add your own in the Comments if I missed any.

Papa got us this tent, which was an awesome addition to our beach supplies.
Preparation: This is key. You must think ahead and bring lots and lots of things to have a successful beach day! Gone are the days of grabbing a surfboard, a towel and a bottle of water for a few hours of fun. No, with children you must have sunscreen, bathing suits, towels, toys, swim diapers, clothes to change into when you are done, water, snacks, a tent/umbrella, sandals and probably some other items I'm forgetting. Today I forgot to bring toys, which my three year old noticed when she wanted to dig and build a sandcastle. No worries though, Daddy is good at...

Improvisation: Be ready to improvise. I turned seashells into shovels, which can also be used for castle decorations and listening devices. ("I can hear the ocean," she says with a conch shell up to her ear. Of course you can hear the ocean, you're standing right next to it, I think, with a smile and an affirming nod.) You will forget something and before you know it, turn a towel and some sticks into a makeshift tent to protect the baby from the sun. Just be ready for it.

Sunscreen: Like I said, my wife created a routine for this which involves changing and lathering the oldest, who will stand by the car while you work on the youngest (a wanderer). I don't want to say too much about sunscreen here, because there are a ton of different types out there and a lot of research on which ones give you cancer and which ones prevent it. I will say I had a friend who made her own, and it was a lot cheaper and a lot better; just super thick and less convenient. The thing I forget to do is reapply, but today when reapplication time came, it coincided with lunch time, so just left. Again, improvisation.

Snacks: If you're a stay-at-home parent, you know that you never leave home without snacks. This is only truer at the beach, where you are more isolated from convenient supplies, and kids are seemingly hungrier. The good thing is that if you get tired making sure your kids aren't drowning, you can use snack time for a brief respite from concentration. The bad part is trying to keep your one-year old from eating sand (and then cleaning up the poop after she does).

Not surfing: We were getting a little bit of the Hurricane Jose swell today, and I have to say it is difficult to watch people catch four-foot waves while you're jumping over four-inch ones with your kids. Usually I go to the beach with my wife and she watches the kids while I surf for a bit, then I come back and play. It works. I guess if you're not a surfer, the flip side of this is suntanning. You can't exactly check out for a few minutes to lay back and relax in the sun when your kids are being pummeled around by the ocean.

Not drowning: This is really hard with my youngest, who is a wild woman of the water. I love this part of her, and so I try hard not to squelch it (I am looking forward to family surf time one day), but it is hard when this fearless one-year old goes deeper and deeper. I guess when you name your child Waverly, what can you expect? Those swimmy things are awesome for this when your child is big enough.

Leaving: By far the hardest thing about the beach is getting two children with different minds on the same page for leaving -- something they probably don't want to do anyway. You're drying off one while the other is running back in the water. One is rinsed off and the other starts digging again. I still don't know how to do this, so any tips would be appreciated!

September 11, 2017

Don Miller Chat


Years ago I had a desk job where I mindlessly entered massive amounts of information from reality television footage into a database, and then even more mechanically put stickers on the tapes. Jobs are all about attitude though, right? And so when I discovered I could spend those "lost" hours listening to sermons and audio books, and even outlining stories I wanted to write, the lost became found.

This blog used to be primarily taking notes from those sermons and lectures, and relaying them to you, the avid readers. Well, I was going through some old posts and found quite a few unfinished pieces with lots of notes and links to sermons from churches, some I attended in person and others just online. Much of it is irrelevant now, with expired links and pastors who don't work there anymore; but lucky for you, this one isn't!

Take a look/listen and then read the notes at the bottom. Hopefully you'll find it useful!


NOTES:

Talks about church structure, church discipline, authoritiy of the church, baptism, meaning, life plans, handling criticism as an artist.

We need, according to Victor Frankel:
  • a project to get us out of bed, building something
  • healthy relationships (unconditional love, truth-telling)
  • a redemptive perspective on suffering; not being victims but conquerors
Love is the only thing that can keep people together when they disagree about something.

Comparing themselves to Bob Goff, who is like a super Christian love guy. Realizing we can't live how someone else lives, but be how we are created to be, but with the same amount of passion and zeal, trusting that God will use it.




September 4, 2017

Stay-at-home Dad


I recently reclaimed my role as Stay-at-home Dad, and I have to say, it feels good! For our oldest daughter's first two years I worked from home part-time, and watched her (full-time). It was difficult for a lot of reasons, most of them having to do with societal norms and dads not being primary caregivers. Even in liberal California, I spent many mornings at the park with more nannies and moms than I ever cared to hang with. Of course they were all very nice and fed Ellie tons of snacks (both my kids love to eat), but I still found it hard to deal with the lack of men I could relate to. Occasionally I would find a father at the park, usually on his day off, but as my mother-in-law recently noticed, sometimes dads kind of suck. Half of the time they spend on their phone while their children either dangerously hang off of high ledges or cling to their father's legs, begging for attention. Women are not immune to this, of course, but I'm just saying -- I see it more in dads.

Despite being a challenge, I found the whole experience deeply rewarding as I came to know my daughter extremely well, and had so many good memories with her. We were close, and I wouldn't have traded that for any career. And so when we decided to move to the South, I wanted my wife to have the same experience. We switched, and for a year and a half I worked like a dog to try and provide for our family. Well, despite the effort, it still wasn't enough. They say a single-parent income is nearly impossible these days, and I guess they're right. I like to blame the system/culture and the expectations we have set up for what encompasses a "comfortable lifestyle." Nonetheless, we needed a little more. Still, God brought us through a whole 18 months without losing our shirts, and now my wife, a modestly-paid teacher, will carry the financial burden of our family, with a little extra help from my part-time job and some freelancing.

The decision wasn't strictly financial though -- I really love being home and am quite good at it. I write and make music and videos, all of which provide additional income that I can generate from home; but I'm also a good dad and really thrive here. Cleaning, cooking, fixing things -- I feel very at comfortable in this role. My wife is also an incredible teacher and missed inspiring the youth to be better people, something she feels passionate about. And so here I am at home while she works, and like I said, it's working.



But if California had its challenges with being the stay-at-home dad, you can imagine what it's like in the South...the parks are laden with women, mostly mothers and grandmothers (not as many nannies). It's fine, I can deal. I have a lot of support and when you're at the park, most of the time you're chasing your kids around anyway. But again, some dads to hang with might be nice...

As I mentioned earlier though, dads don't have a good track record of "being there." I help out with the youth group at my church and on one telling Sunday, half of the kids in my small group either didn't have a good relationship with their distant fathers, or hadn't even seen them in two-or-more years. HALF! Fifty percent! That is unreal and unacceptable. That is why a good friend of ours from the same church constantly reminds me that what I am doing is important, and even though I often feel a bit isolated, people need to see that a father is far more than just a paycheck. As my wife often told me in California, providing for your family involves way more than money.

A few people recently told me to start blogging about being a stay-at-home dad; that it would be an interesting topic and a unique perspective on parenting. It's something I have done for years (search "dad" on this blog and you'll see some of my posts), but when I hear the same thing a few times over from different folks, I usually give it a go. So I'm kicking it up a notch and you can expect to see more posts about fatherhood, particularly staying home with the kids. Hopefully you'll catch a laugh and, as I often write, maybe get a little inspired.