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Releasing the Knot

December 28, 2011 Leave a comment

My poor little daughter, Bis, slept in a wierd fashion on Dec. 23.  The next morning she had a stiff neck and couldn’t turn it.  Even if I gave it a little massage it wouldn’t get any better.  Poor little thing.  When she’d turn to look at something her whole upper body would have to turn – breaks your heart to see it.

Then, in the middle of the night her little voice would cut through the night.  She couldn’t move and needed help.  We didn’t sleep well on the 24th, 25th, 26th.  And in the middle of the night on what would technically would be the 27th I decided a trip to the doctor was in order…we needed to get this knot out…and…I knew what I would preach on for New Years Day.  God spoke to me.

This little girl slept between mom and dad, knotted up neck that kept her from being herself – kept her from exerting all her energies, all her power, all her joy, all of what makes her our Bis.  And in the glow of my alarm clock God made it clear that I am the same way.  I have a knot that has been keeping me from everything that God has made me to be, and it was time to get the knot out.

So I’m writing this on Wednesday afternoon after having written two letters addressed to different parts of the United States.  As I wrote them I found that my knot began to smooth out.  I released over 1,000 days of anger and resentment and rage and hurt that I’ve been harboring against a couple of people.  They will be surprised to receive a letter apologizing for sending three years of evil thoughts in their direction, I’m sure, but I felt I needed to say I was sorry.  No blame.  None of the words I dreamed up for them over the years – just one paragraph letting them know that I am now moving toward wishing them well.

Bis has been to the doctor a couple of times.  She’s turning her head both ways and starting to jump around the house and jump on the couch when she thinks I’m not looking.  She’s coming back.  I can already feel the same is true of me.

I’m hoping for some good sleep tonight.

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One in the Parenting “Win” Column

September 28, 2011 2 comments

My son is an american.  He’s into baseball, potty humor, and canned ravioli.  He’s also into having more money – always looking for ways to make money: sell this, go door to door that, “let you pet my dog for a dime” kind of things.  So, when I walked into his bedroom a couple of nights ago I was not surprised to see him with a pile of change.  His sister was with him, and they were counting.

“What’s with all the money, Alex?”

“Bis gave it to me.”

“Oh……………Why would she do that?”  At this point I’m expecting an explanation of an older brother’s well-executed scheme for getting money from a little sister.

“I’m going to help hungry people.”  Not what I was expecting.  Knowing my son, I knew that if anything good was going to come of this, I had to let him make the next move.  So…I let it sit.  The next day he approached me.

“Dad, want to make a donation?”

“A donation to what?” I’ve heard this before.  Usually it’s a donation to the ‘Buy Alex a Puppy Fund.’

“I’m going to help hungry people.”

“Of course I will make a donation so you can help hungry people.”  My heart is swelling.  It’s not that my son is more selfish than any other 8 year old boy, but I haven’t seen this out of him very much.  “Would you like me to help you get it to the right place, and see if I can get more people to give?”  I’m going to pour gasoline on this small fire.

We opened the computer and looked at our denominational website and found a way to feed kids in Malawi.  We’re going to enlist the help of our church (and you, if you’re interested).  Of course dad the church planter is going to let the paper know about his plan to help hungry kids.

The goal is to get a mile of pennies.  If you lay 84,480 pennies end to end they reach one mile.  They also feed 17 kids from Malawi, Africa for a year and give them the chance to hear that God loves them and cares for their well-being inside and out.  We have little cardboard donation boxes coming that we can color.  I picked up some flyers and posters the denomination has available, and we’ll have a special offering.

Later in the day I asked Alex what made him want to raise money for other people.  “I was sitting in my room thinking I didn’t have enough money, and trying to think of ways I could get some money,” (all this is exceptionally believable, by the way), “Then I started to think that there are people who don’t have ANY money, so I started thinking of ways I could help them get some money.”

As a good friend of mine always says, “Parenting is not for the faint of heart.”  And this is true.  I stumble along and do the best I can and trial and error my way through parenting, like most people.  But a moment like that is what keeps me going.  It’s like the one shot on the golf course that keeps you returning.

So, celebrate with me, and if you feel so inclined send some pennies to our church’s mailing address: 630 State St., Holland, MI  49423.

Emotional Rollercoaster

September 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Hands in the air!  Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!  Oh!, Oh.  I think I’m going to be sick.  Nope, close, though…  Awww, I’m kind of sad.  That passed.  Weeeeeeeee!

This was my morning.  First day of school today.  Bis is now a Kindergartener and Alex is in 3rd grade.  I’m not going to lie to you.  The end of the summer was rough.  The kids were at each other’s throats and the fighting seemed non-stop.  I’m definitely a proponent of year-round schooling.

So, there you have it.  We’re not perfect parents.  Astonishing, I know.  And now, I will add to your disappointment by showing you a picture of how we felt when we realized that our kids were back in school:

Notice my nice hat.  Also, notice that my wife has a bit of a red nose.  That is because just before this picture was taken, I took this picture of her getting her last glimpse of Bis before she went in for her first day of Kindergarten:

Hanky, please.

She was fighting off tears.  I don’t have that problem, usually.  But today I got a little choked up myself.  It passed, though when I realized that my kids are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing.  They are growing up, and they have new challenges to overcome and new things to learn and new things to create and new ways to think and live and be a part of the world: 5 years old and 8 years old.

What they are doing is perfect for where they are in life, and that gives me joy…they are right on target – no matter how I feel about it.  I can be scared of the unknown.  I can be excited for what I hope will come of their year.  I can be nervous of the obstacles they will encounter, but…it’s time.  It’s right.

This is the case with our church right now, too.  In two weeks we’ll go to two services, and I have all kinds of mixed emotions about that, too.  I’m scared of the unknown, excited for what I hope will come, nervous of the obstacles, but…it’s time.  It’s right.  We are exactly where we’re supposed to be, and the emotional roller coaster is moving.  Pray for us!

Big Decisions

Craig’s Cruisers is a western Michigan playland with mini-golf, go carts, water bumper boats, batting cage,s and token operated you-give-me-tokens-I-spit-out-tickets-that-are-worth-significantly-less-than-your-tokens games.  This is how we spent out morning.  Alex and I went to the batting cages so I could look like a big shot in the 40 mph little league cage (totally cranked out some huge home runs, by the way).  We stayed away from the high school speed and didn’t even consider the 80mph pro cages.

While we did this, Bis and Dana played token games and started collecting tickets.  After my macho hit parade, Alex and I joined the girls and played skeeball and shot hoops on the super-small basketball game that I could just stand over and drop the balls through the hoop.  We also tried our hand at games of luck that promised to give you hundreds of tickets if you could stop the flashing light at just the right time.  I couldn’t.

Then when all the fun was done and the tokens were gone we went up to the glass counter and traded in our tickets.  Bis had 115 and Alex had 78.  I swear it takes just about as long to decide what to do with the tickets as it does to win them.  The 19-year-old college student stood on the other side of the counter and waited and waited and waited while the kids deliberated and thought about this huge decision.  Do I get the cheap ring I’ll lose in the parking lot or do I get the gummy hamburger candy that will turn my mouth brown?  Turns out they had enough for both.

I tried joking with the kid behind the counter who looked very non-plussed over the amount of time the kids were taking.  “Super big decision here, right?”  He looked at me, obviously not catching the facetious tone, and said, “not really.”

I was enjoying their intensity in decision making, but the kid was bored.  How many times have I spent time worried about something that will really never matter – even though I am confident they are life-altering decisions.  I stood there watching them, kind of getting a kick out of it.  At the time I thought I wish I didn’t worry about such small things, but now, thinking about it…I’m glad I give great consideration to what may turn out to be a ring I lose in the parking lot.  How am I to know which is which?

Green Light

May 9, 2011 Comments off

The Hope of All Travelers

One morning I travelled from my home to the Boogaart residence.  Usually Dana drops off the Bis in the mornings, but on this day it was my pleasure to do so.  So…I turn on to 32nd and head East.  Their place is on the other side of town, and it takes between 8 and 12 minutes depending on how you hit the lights.

On this particular morning things seemed to align and the lights seemed to be timed out just so, and it was as if every driver on the road had been notified that I was on my way and to make way for me.  I hit every light at normal speed – not even having to slow down for cars that were picking up from a red light.  The lights in our town have a countdown to yellow, so you can tell how much time you’ve got.  I went through each light between 1 and 7 left on the countdown.  Amazing!

I was pretty sure that God had set up the timing.  The real test was at the very end because there is a left turn.  Now to make this perfect here’s what would have to happen.  First, the light has to be green and second, either: there is a perfect gap between cars coming the other direction…or…there is a train on the far side of the street keeping any traffic from coming the other direction.  On this day: perfect gap – didn’t have to really slow down at all (just enough to keep me from flipping over – per the usual turn).

I even met another parent dropping off their kid at the same home and we turned in perfect choreography.  Like in the movies – the whole thing.

There seem to be rare moments when everything aligns and it’s like you’re in a bubble of angelic guidance.  I get those every so often, and really enjoy it.  And I don’t want to do anything to mess it up (like speeding through a light or being impatient to keep it going just so).

When my life seems smooth I enjoy it.  When it seems I’m in God’s perfect will (whatever that means) I try not to mess it up, but rather let things happen or rather let God make things happen at God’s own pace.  Keeping in step with the Spirit is not the easiest thing.  I know there will be red lights, and even worse – I’ll be the one stuck behind the train.

Switching from cars to boats for a moment (Mr. Wallenberg, my high school English teacher, would hate my mixing of metaphors): When the wind has died down sometimes you’re just dead in the water.  The only thing to do is hoist the sails and wait for God’s next gust.  To pay attention and pray for some movement.  Eventually, the heavenly light turns green and things start to move. 

Sunday we had 12 guests in worship – 8 of them returners.  We hoisted sail in dead air for months and now it seems God is kicking up the air.  Weigh anchor, my friends, and hold on.  God may be up to something new.

Stand!

Alex in Armor

It was cold out last night.  I mean, cold.  You would think that May 2 would be a little warmer, but…I’m not in charge of that.  What I was in charge of last night was Bis and Alex because Dana was at a small group meeting with some friends from church.  What to do with the kids isn’t hard to figure out when it’s baseball season.  Alex had a game.  Now, normally I’m a parent helper (I won’t call myself a coach).  I stand by the bench keep a semblance of order.  It’s like corralling cats back there.  You’re up to bat, you’re on deck, you’re in the hole. You there! Stop eating rocks.  You get the picture.

But I had Bis on my own so I couldn’t do that job.  Instead I was two halves of a parent: one half watching Bis on the nearby playground…making sure nobody creepy was hanging out near her.  The other half was watching the game.  Alex was getting his first opportunity to play catcher.  Now, if you know Alex, you’ll know that he’s the smallest kid on the field and the lightest, but probably has the highest confidence level, so it was good.

I know there’s no “cute” in baseball, but he looked darn close in all that gear.  He stopped almost every ball that the machine pitched that night (something the coach said hardly any little kid will be able to do – so I’m a little proud).  But here’s the thing I’m most excited about (and I got it on video for you) Alex blocked the plate.

You have to understand that at this level of baseball (half a step up from t-ball) the catcher does very little of import.  He’s a glorified backstop.  Until the last batter of each inning.  That’s when no matter who is up to bat, no matter what kind of a hit, no matter how many on base – everybody runs home.  It’s a train of skinny kids with huge helmets coming one after another into home plate.

Alex got the ball and positioned himself in a place where he knew he would tag out any kid running home. And he did. My son, small of frame and large on confidence, stood in the face of the enemy without flinching. I was bursting with pride. And here’s what I got to thinking: When we cover ourselves with God’s armor we can stand in the face of the enemy’s attacks knowing that we are fortified, protected, and covered. Small though we may be, and however large the onslaught, there we can be having confidence in the One who goes before us and stands at our side and has our backs covered. Don’t be afraid.

You Mean I’m Going To Look Like You?

Spring Break.  My kids were watching TV when I came downstairs this morning.  I was prepared for many questions like: what’s for breakfast? or when are we going to crazy-bounce? or will we see our friends this week? or can you help me in the bathroom?  But I wasn’t ready for the question that did come first.  The kids were watching the animated movie UP.  I could see that they were at the point of the movie where the old man was dealing with the loss of his wife after her death.

They heard my “Good morning” and Alex made his way into the kitchen to ask me, “What happens to us when we die?”

Ok.  Good morning.  “Well, Alex, the Bible tells us that when we die we live with God forever.”  “What about our bodies?”  Now, I’ve been struggling with teaching my children dualism.  It’s a struggle I’ve dealt with, but I just went ahead and embraced it for the moment until they are a little older and we can have a better conversation about the distinction or connectedness between the body and the soul.  “Our bodies go into the ground and our souls, our thoughts and who we are inside go to heaven to be with God…to keep living with Jesus forever…in fact the Bible tells us we’ll get a new body.”

“You mean I’m going to look like you?”

“Bad news for you kid.  The older you get the more you’ll look like me.  Take a look, buddy, because this is your future.”

Then it was back to the movie and breakfast and crazy-bounce prep.  I headed out the door to get ready for Easter and began thinking about the whole interaction.  Death lurks just beyond the next corner always, but because of Easter I don’t have to fear it, in fact the adventure only turns a page…but a preface to the rest of my time in God.

The real challenge is becoming the type of person I want my children to look like.  If they’re going to look like me, I better pay a little more attention to what they’re seeing, so that when they look in the mirror in 30 years they don’t mind passing along the type of person they’ve inherited.