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I’m Missing a Wheel, But Not The Point

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a note…been busy living life.  Today, I’m just checking in long enough to share my favorite part of this last week.  Last night, I got to hang out with all three of you for a couple hours, and we played Legos…building creations with our imaginations.  That was, by far, the most relaxing and fun night I’ve had in a couple weeks.

Hanging out with you is fun for me.  I don’t always show it, but I’m going to keep working on that.  I’m still learning the value of disconnecting from the outside world for awhile so that I can better connect with you.  I have a lot of forces competing for my time, and I know from your perspective it can often seem like I place spending time with you near the bottom of my priorities.  I want to assure you, though, that I may not always show it, but YOU are the most important of those forces to me.  Last night was a good wake up call for me…just chillaxing with you and creating with our imaginations…making up stories about our creations and just being silly.  Smiling.  Giggling.  Laughing.  Bonding.  I gotta get me some more of that.

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Props to SI for having the heart and spirit of a giver!  Dude, I couldn’t have built this thing without you.  Literally.  I was a wheel short.  I tried for 20 minutes to use the pieces we had left to make it into a 3-wheeler instead, but couldn’t find a way to get the front wheel mounted facing forward.  I finally said, “I don’t think I can make this work with just three wheels…I don’t know what to do now.”  Bubba, you just looked right at the pieces I was holding…looked back at the two you had…one with wheels and one without.  And you said “dad, you can have mine.”  And proceeded to take yours apart to give me a wheel.  There.  Are.  No.  Words.  Don’t ever change buddy!

Props to NE too for your creativity in helping me to piece together various parts of my creation…but also in telling stories about yours and mine throughout the night.  Your imagination is inspiring and just simply fun to be a part of.  Others are…and will continue to be…drawn to you for it.  Don’t ever change buddy!

By the way…one of my favorite memories of being a young boy your age is of playing with Hot Wheels and Legos.  It does this daddy proud to watch you enjoying the same now, 30+ years later.  Secretly between just you and me…last night brought out a little of the kid still in me.  I’m looking forward to doing that again.  Soon. 😉

Love,

Dad

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Slip Stops

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I love the many daily conversations I get to have with my kids…

Me: “Hey bud, my slip stops didn’t make it home. Do you know what happened to them?”
NE: “Nope. Probably still in the basket.”
Me: “Yeah, probably. Now we need to go back to Bass Pro tomorrow after church so we can get some before we leave on vacation.”
Mom: (shakes head ‘no’)
Me: “But it’s Father’s Day.”
Mom: (rolls eyes)
NE: “Daddy can go anywhere he wants on Father’s Day. That’s my one rule for Father’s Day. Daddy gets to go wherever he wants.”
Mom: (jaw drops wide open)
Me: (trying to contain my laughter) “Bass Pro it is.”

Not My Job

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When one child recently told me “not my job” when asked to do a household chore, and another told me “you are not the best anymore” when I was honoring what I’d said about not getting dessert without eating dinner first, it got me thinking…am I starting to become more your friend than your father? That’s a slippery slope to navigate, so, I want to set the record straight right now and be crystal clear in where I stand on the answer to that question…

It’s not my job to give you a cookie when your siblings are eating one for dessert and you want one too. It’s to teach you that there are rules. Eating your dinner before you get dessert is one of them. It pales in comparison to the rules you will experience as an adult…and when you’re an adult, you can choose to eat dessert first if you want. 😛

It’s not my job to ensure you’re happy. It’s to help you find joy…even in your darkest moments.

It’s not my job to ensure you get what you want. It’s to teach you the skills you will use to provide for yourself and your own family some day.

It’s not my job to keep you from falling. It’s to teach you how to get back up and try again.

It’s not my job to get involved in every argument or fight you have with siblings or friends. It’s to teach you how to respectfully interact with others who have opinions and beliefs different than your own…and to show you how to think outside the box…and to admit when you’re wrong.

It’s not my job to think for you. It’s to teach you how to think for yourself.

It’s not my job to pick up after you or to clean up your messes. It’s to teach you how to care for yourself so that you can be a contributing member of society, not a drain on it.

It’s not my job to make sure you never lose, or that you always win. It’s to teach you how to lose without losing your cool…and how to win with grace and humility. There are winners and losers in life. There is no prize for participation when you become an adult. The sooner you learn that, the better your odds.

It’s not my job to keep you from being hurt. It’s to teach you how to see when others are hurting and to help them.

It’s not my job to serve you. It’s to teach you how to serve others.

It’s not my job to pay for everything you want. It’s to instill in you a work ethic that says “If I work hard for it, I can buy it myself.”

Likewise, it’s not my job to give you money (i.e. allowance) for doing nothing. The government is doing that well enough for all of us. It’s to teach you money management so that you have the ability to live a debt-free life if you choose wisely. You need to know that merely existing as part of our family (or society in general) is not worthy of getting a handout. You want money from me? Earn it. Know, though, that in life there are things we adults do without reward or compensation. Likewise, some chores around here are expected of you…without compensation…simply because your existence contributes to the wear and tear on the things we have.

It’s not my job to see that you never experience anger, frustration, disappointment or sadness. It’s to teach you the sanctity of life and that every life matters…and how to control your emotions and to show respect for others regardless of how you feel.

It’s not my job to teach you to avoid conflict. It’s to teach you to approach conflict like you’re walking up to a small fire with a bucket in each hand. One is filled with water…the other with gasoline. How you react to the situation (I.e. which bucket you choose to pour on it), is what will determine the outcome.

It’s not my job to keep you from making mistakes. It’s to help you learn from them. Many of the best lessons I’ve learned in life came from the mistakes I made. There will be times you’ll make the same mistake more than once. Until you learn from them, you’re destined to keep repeating them.

It’s not my job to make sure your heart is never broken. It’s to show you how to lead your heart, not be led by it.

It’s not my job to make sure you have friends. It’s to show you how to be a friend to others.

It’s not my job to make sure you’re right all the time. It’s to teach you truth…and that there are absolutes in life, regardless of what society wants you to believe about this. There are some grey areas in life, but there also exist a set of absolutes that are true…regardless of whether we believe them to be true or not…and it’s my job to equip you to defend those truths.

It’s not my job to make sure you don’t ever miss the school bus. It’s to teach you time management…and how to make a plan and execute the plan, and to have a contingency plan…because “when you fail to plan you plan to fail.”

It’s not my job to stand over you constantly to ensure you don’t sink. It’s to teach you how to swim. In the beginning that means providing you a life jacket to keep you afloat until you can stay afloat on your own. And when you do sink, I’ll be there to extend a hand to help you up…not out…up. Because there’s a lesson to be learned in sinking…one you won’t learn unless you get yourself out.

It’s not my job to fast forward through the commercials and previews for you. It’s to teach you patience and self control…and that good things come to those who wait.

It’s not my job to fight your bullies for you. It’s to teach you how to protect and defend yourself from tyranny. And that in some situations, the best defense is a good offense.

It’s not my job to keep you and your siblings from ever fighting. It’s to remind you that some minor conflict within the family is a natural thing, but that family comes first…we stand on our family’s side in times of conflict from sources outside our family.

It’s not my job to ensure you always have a roof over your head. It’s to teach you to be thankful for what you have…because camping out with nothing but the stars overhead is fun on occasion, but the harsh reality is that it’s all the “roof” many in this world have. We’re blessed beyond what we can comprehend. Don’t take it for granted.

It’s not my job to teach you how you should vote or who you should vote for. It’s to instill in you a love for your country and a respect for those who’ve served, bled and died to protect your freedoms, including your right to vote…and that it’s not your right to vote…it’s your responsibility. When you don’t vote, you give up the right to complain about your elected officials and anything they do.

It’s not my job to solve all your problems. It’s to teach you critical thinking skills…how to explore multiple options until you discover one that works to solve the problem for yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you catch a fish with every cast. It’s to make sure you know how to fish. When Jesus told the disciples to put down their nets and taught them to be “fishers of men”, not even they “caught” every man for Christ. It’s called fishing, not catching, for a reason. We win some…we lose some. But you won’t win any unless you cast the line.

It’s not my job to respond to your every request for my attention. Likewise, it’s not my job to be with you 24/7…that’s not healthy. It’s my job to teach you independence…and to take care of my spiritual, mental, physical, and psychological well-being…because when one of those is out of whack, I’m of no use to you or anyone else. Trust me, my sanity is important for your well-being…and as much as I love hanging out with you, I need to be away from you sometimes too.

It’s not my job to argue with your teacher for not giving you an “A”. It’s to teach you that we get out of something what we put into it…and to earn the “A” yourself.

It’s not my job to shelter you from the storm. It’s to help you weather it. The strongest trees in the forest are the ones who survived the storms, high winds and forest fires.

It’s not my job to see that you never lack what you need. It’s to teach you the survival skills that will help you overcome adversity. Trees that survive drought do so by sending their roots deeper into the ground in search of water. The deeper roots provide more strength for the tree. They’re stronger because of the drought than they were without it. The deeper your roots, the stronger you will be.

Likewise, it’s not my job to see that your every need is met instantly. It’s to teach you how to recognize the needs of others and to show love and compassion to those less fortunate than yourself.

It’s not my job to provide you the latest and greatest “thing”. It’s to teach you to be content with what you have. I grew up without 24/7 internet access, cell phones, DVR’s, or iPods…and I survived. You will too.

It’s not my job to put only foods you like on your plate. It’s to teach you where your food comes from and how to provide food for your own family some day, whether by working a job for the money to buy it…or hunting it yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you have fun at school. It’s to teach you respect for your elders and those put in charge over you. For that matter, it’s not my job to provide you nonstop, fun-filled activities throughout the day or to constantly entertain you. You want to have fun? Do what I did…pick up a book. Go outside. Explore your world.

It’s not my job to see that you grow up to become a firefighter like me. It’s to let you see how much I love my job and to instill in you a passion to serve your community. I will love and support you, no matter what you do with your life…that’s what dads do…it’s how we roll.

It’s not my job to love you more than your mother. It’s to remind you that she and I existed before you…and we have to live with each other when you leave out on your own. She comes first…yes, before you. I love you, but I love her more. Get over it. Guess what? I love God more than her. She’s over it.

It’s not my job to force you to believe what I believe. It’s my job to share what I believe and allow you to choose for yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you never feel lost. It’s my job to show you that you’re already lost. So am I. It’s only through the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ dying for us that we are ever found.

It’s not my job to be your friend. It’s to be your dad…and to teach you how to be a dad someday too. I don’t always get it right, but I’m trying my hardest with every day.

Love,

Dad

Dancing Through the Snow…with a Beaver and a Prayer

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Snapshots of what happens when daddy is left unsupervised with three kids for 4 hours:

1. NE sings songs like his daddy. Just because we forget the words, that’s no reason to stop singing. In complete rhythm and tune, without missing a beat: “Dancing through the snow…and I wonder what comes next.”

2. Passing the urgent care I took SI to two weeks ago,

SI: “I went to that doctor before, and he said I have a beaver.”
Me: “A beaver!? You have a beaver? Awesome dude!”
NE: “No dad, not a beaver that eats wood, a beaver that you put the tempature stick in your mouth, and the beaver makes your head hurt.”
Me: “Oh. A beaver would be cool though, right?”
Silence. I think I stunned him.

3. I’m proud that NE has my debating skills…even when he uses them on me. Now we need to work on stopping while he’s ahead. In pleading his case for keeping his glass, chocolate milk bottle, I conceded and agreed to not trash it after he successfully pointed out that he rinsed it out with water and it’s not yucky anymore. Then as he takes the bottle from me and is walking away, he continues to argue his point…which occurs more often than not, and always ends with me saying “you successfully won the point son. Stop talking now or I’ll change my mind for no other reason than because I’m the dad…and I can.”

4. Dinner table conversation:
NE: “Mom says ____ is a bad word, and we shouldn’t say it.”
Dad: “I agree. I don’t like that word either.”
SI: “When we say ____, will momma spank our butts?”
NE: “No, momma won’t spank us if we say ____.”
SI: “Mommy and daddy will not spank our butts if we say ____?”
NE: “Nope.”
Dad: “If you don’t stop saying it right now, I’m gonna spank you right here in front of everyone.”
SI: “If I say ____, you’re gonna spank my butt?”
Dad: “Yes.”
SI: (with look of shock on his face) “Oh. Then I will not say ____ because I don’t want you to spank my butt if I say ____.”
Dad: “Thank you.”
SI: (after long pause) Why can I not say ____? Is ____ a bad word?”
Dad: “Yes, it’s a bad word, and I don’t like it.
SI: “Okay. I will not say ____, because I no want you spank my butt.”
Dad: “That’s great. Thank you.”
SI: “You’re welcome. Cuz I don’t want you to spank my butt if I say ____.”
Dad: “I don’t think you’re getting it son.”
SI: “I will get it when I say ____, and you spank my butt.”
Me: (fighting back a smile) “Yes son. Yes you will. While we’re here, I don’t like butt either. Can we say bottom instead please?”
Repeat conversation. Ugh.

At least there’s hope in the final moments of the night. For the first time in a long time, the boys played together for 20 minutes without the poking of any eyeballs, smacking of any bottoms, pushing each other down the stairs or belly bombs off the couch to break the other’s arms. I only had to raise my voice during bedtime routine once (yes…that’s an improvement…sad, I know). And rather than fighting for a spot beside me at prayer time, NE wanted to sit by his little brother and hugged him throughout the prayer…that he prayed. It’s been awhile since NE has wanted to pray, and he willingly offered twice tonight. I wish I could take credit, but I’m not into pushing my luck. At this rate, we’re overdue for an AFLAC claim. I should have invested in AFLAC’s heart attack policy. Odds are in our favor there. Night night.

Love,

Dad

I Like it Here

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The last week or so since I wrote Welcome to My Vulnerability has been pretty good.  I’ve been staying pretty busy…very busy actually.  This time of year gets pretty hectic with all of you in school and the Upward Sports season starting up.  Throw in some of the other ministries I’ve committed my time to, and I just don’t really have the time to sit down and spend much time writing.  I miss it.

As I write this, I’m watching Bubba play cars on the chair beside me before we leave for school.  I was clearing memory cards from the camera last night, uploading pictures and making room.  We had pictures dating back to the fall of 2010 on there, so I was getting a first glimpse in several years at what life was like back then  So much has changed since then.  Life is pretty good right now…even for all the hectic nonstop action we have going on during any given week.  I often think back on the times when y’all were kids and wish we could go back.  To a time when you were still learning to walk and talk.  After browsing through pictures last night, I realize I’m good.

Perhaps it’s because I have been so focused on preparing for the basketball season…so wrapped up in my rather large and ever-growing to-do list…that I just haven’t had the space in my head for much else…for any negativity.  I like it here.  I like being right here.  Right now.  In the moment.  I don’t want to live in the past.  Or dwell on it any longer.  The funk I’ve been in for much of this past month has kept me from truly enjoying every moment for exactly what it is.  Our life.  I’m ready to push the memories of that incident aside and move forward.  I like it here.  I like the present.  I like watching you play.  I like playing with you.  I look to the future with hope and confidence.  And with one eye on the future and one eye on the present, I have no eye left for the past.  And I’m good with that.  I like it here.

Love,

Dad

Happy Tears

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I never understood happy tears…until I became a dad. I just put my NE on the bus to school, his first day of kindergarten.

First Day of School

Excited For His First Day of School

 

First Day of School

Ready To Go

 

My little man is growing up. It literally seems like yesterday we brought you home from the hospital…all 5 pounds of you snuggled in a pumpkin seat. As I sit here with my youngest buddy, a 3 year old SI on my lap, a wave of emotion is flowing over me. I think today (and this week) is going to be harder on me than you.

I never understood happy tears…until I became a dad. The “firsts” in life are often the best. And the most bittersweet. Your first words…your first steps…your first time going “Wa Yay” on the Potty…those milestones in life we celebrate a little more than the rest. By the end of the year, I’ll be used to this, and it won’t be so dramatic. But for now…I know happy tears.

It’s not easy trusting your 5 year old to the world. It’s all I can do to pray that we’ve made the right choice and trust in God to protect you. That’s harder to do than I thought it would be. Until today, we have controlled almost 100% of your life. When you eat…sleep…play…what you watch…who you play with…what you see…what you hear. And as I reflect on giving some of that up today, I know happy tears. Because I’m happy to watch you grow into a young man…and I’m sad to know you’re growing into a young man.

Sending my little buddy out into the world is hard…and quite honestly, I’m having a hard time typing this through the tears. I trust that God has your back. But I’m your dad…my trust in God is not often tied to my emotions. Your brother misses you already. He’s been hugging me over and over for 30 minutes. Perhaps he senses my sadness and knows its what I need. Either way, you two have been together almost 24/7 for 3 years. Where you go, he goes. Your momma said it best: “He’s gonna miss his partner in crime.” So am I.

And yet it’s time to stop wallowing in my sadness. I find comfort in this verse today:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10

I find comfort in knowing God is preparing you for a great work. He’s preparing you for the world…and the world for you. For Him to do that, I have to let go…and let God.

So I will continue on with my day because I have the attention of my 3 year old Bubba all day. He has me all to himself today, and I am going to soak it all up. Because two years will pass in the blink of an eye, and tomorrow he’ll be getting on the bus to kindergarten too. And I’ll again know happy tears.

Love,

Dad

The Blessing in a Helmet

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“For man certainly does not know his time: like fish caught in a cruel net, or like birds caught in a trap, so people are trapped in an evil time, as it suddenly falls on them.” Ecclesiastes 9:12

fire helmet, firefighting

Playing Fireman

I’m in awe. I just got back to the firehouse. Your mom brought the three of you…SD, NE and SI…to the station this afternoon to visit me on my second day of a 48 hour shift, and while you were here, we were dispatched to a motor vehicle crash on the highway. You had been here about 20 minutes, climbing all over the ladder truck as usual…playing firemen…wearing my boots and my helmet. When you wear my helmet, it’s so heavy on your little head that when it’s sized for me, not you, it falls down over your forehead, covering your eyes…so you winch it down to your size, so it fits.

fire helmet, firefighting

Playing Fireman

You have been doing this for months now, maybe even a year or more. I always would forget to enlarge it back to my size after you left, and it used to drive me nuts to slap it on my head, and it not fit. So much so that I’ve not let you play with it as much recently…my OCD kicking in. I’m over that now.

I hate the highway…always have…always will. I’ve been saying it for years…I’d rather run into a burning building than work a wreck on the interstate…any day of the week. As I prepared to step off the truck onto the interstate this afternoon, I grabbed my helmet and was putting it on my head as I opened the door. As I dropped it on my head, I realized it was too small…and I immediately, instinctively thought of you. My mind raced back to the laughter and smiles as you played firefighter in the very same seat, not 5 minutes earlier…to the memory of you standing there waving and saying “I love you” as we drove out…to the thought of you standing by the radio desk at the station, eagerly listening for my voice on the radio. And I paused ever so slightly. Not long…just long enough to make a difference. In that pause, a car raced by at full speed, inches from my open door…me still in my seat. In that moment, I instantly realized the blessing in a helmet that was last on the head of a 5 year old boy.

Have you ever given any thought to what you would do right now if you knew with certainty that tomorrow you would die? Would you act differently? Would you treat people around you differently? Would there be something you’d want to say to those you love? Is there something that you’ve put off doing that would quickly be moved to the front burner? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t?

What’s holding you back? Is it that you think you have more time? That your time’s not up yet? That “it won’t happen to me”? Are you afraid of offending someone? Afraid of embarrassing yourself? Afraid you’d be laughed at?

Get over it. The one certainty in life is this: all things die. You and I are no different. And you don’t know when it’s your time, so what are you waiting for? In the first 12 verses in the ninth chapter of Ecclesiastes, God uses King Solomon to encourage us to enjoy life, despite the death that awaits us. Live today like there is no tomorrow, and instead of living a life full of tomorrows, “what-if’s” and “if only’s”, you’ll live a life full of today’s…a life worthy of the admiration and respect of your fellow man…and more importantly, a life worthy of the approval of the Father. Few people on death’s doorstep look back on their life and have regrets for the opportunities they seized. More often, they regret the missed opportunities…those things they should have done but didn’t. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 16 years in EMS, life is too short to have regrets.

Not saying that my experience on the highway today was a close call…but it was closer than I’d prefer to experience. It was close enough to remind me what’s important. Close enough to remind me there are no guarantees that the next call won’t be my last. It was close enough that I’m over my earlier OCD about my helmet not fitting my head, and will instead encourage you to play with it, rather than be frustrated by it. It was close enough that the next time I put my helmet on after you’ve worn it, I’ll pause when it doesn’t fit my head…say a short prayer for protection…and be just a bit more safe in what I do.

“Good to Be Alive” – Jason Grey

Love,

Dad

P.S.  Within a month of this note, I responded to A Garage Fire and came off the truck with a helmet that didn’t fit.  I believe it was a blessing then too.

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