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Showing posts from 2011

Balance Within a Balance - Fik vs. Calder

People keep talking about balancing work and home life as if were actually even a possibility.  I'm finding in my world, that balance looks more like an Alexander Calder mobile that didn't quite past muster. It hangs askew from the ceiling with a limp and peculiar air about it and I'm not sure if its pathetic for its planning or its execution, in either case - the vision before me is anything but glorious.

There's not simply the question of two opposing forces balancing; in fact, the deadly component no one mentions are the dozens of little balancing acts within each topic.  Balancing the politics at work with the actual need to get something accomplished.  Balancing what gets accomplished and who looks to gain what, from it..well, you get the drift; balancing within a balance. 

Watching Bethany get off the school bus the other day, I was suddenly overcome with a glimpse of all the poorly balanced items in my life.  For the eternity of one minute, I was fully aware o…

Suicide and the Reaction of a Fool

A young girl was going to commit suicide today.I don’t even know her name, barely know where she lives – in fact, Google probably knows more about her than I do.One thing Google doesn’t know though, it’s that she’s thinking suicide is the answer.
I read the urgent note from the pastor; he was asking for prayer on her behalf, and before I even got to the end of the note, I was asking him for an address.After I asked that critical question I began to pray.In reflection, my prayers were more focused on NOT getting an address, as I’m neither qualified nor bilingual enough to carry on this level of intervention.One thing I can do in any language though is to sit and pray with someone.I was on the verge of leaving work to go sit with a stranger and offer what?At best, some hope - what sort of fool does this?Who is willing to risk a good paying job and career with ample responsibility for the sake of a stranger's bad day?
I got a call an hour or so later informing me that the Police had be…

A Big, Dutch Guy In Japan

This past week I feel like I've been living the storyline from the movie "Lost in Translation".   While I had assumed the movie to be a fictional encounter of an American abroad in Japan,  I'm now not so sure it was fiction.

Many times I found myself laughing - they'd bow, then I'd bow in return only to have them re-bow again so of course, I'd bow back.  This courtship dance seemed to go on for an awkwardly long time  before I'd finally say "enough" and break the sacred cycle.

After that little courtship dance we'd settle down to dinner. You know those awkward moments when you sit with strangers and then begin a conversation neutral enough not to offend anyone, yet focused enough that you don't end up "bornering" yourself in a dead conversation with no way out?   Try striking up a conversation when the only thing you can do is mime...  I typically do well in ambiguous situations but for me, with no language skills - each da…

Layin Your Cares at the Fayte of Jayzzus

I’m staring right down the barrel of yet another Michigan winter.Last winter nearly crushed me both spiritually and physically and this winder will be no less harsh.  Every winter for the last 10 years has been a type of Russian roulette, how lucky will you be?  Will you make it though this one?  Roll the chamber, pull the trigger, see if January comes.  If it does, try it again with February.
It’s not the darkness, the grey skies and the cold air and snow that strangle my heart – it’s the endless hours of moderating Bethany in a small house in a small town surrounded by a big world.It’s the ever-present sound of screaming, hitting, smashing.It’s the color of a saddened wife, the temperament of a frustrated son and the hopelessly infrequent spurts of laughter and joy.
All the “self-actualized” people I meet in life, the ones who speak of balanced diet, meditation, rejuvenation spas, 8 hours of sleep a night, “me time”… they all hold one central theme in mind: to live in the moment.Were …

For Better or Worse

Her greatest challenge lies ahead of her still.The cancer, the divorce, the tumors, the death of spouses, the trauma of a daughter – those pains, while tearing at the very fabric of her existence still had a degree of control running in the background.Now, nearly immobilized in an assisted care facility with limited function to the point of not being able to even ask for help, even the idea of control has been taken from her.
Her constant in all those trials has always been her faith in Jesus, her greatest weapon of reason – little more than a relationship with the God of creation.That relationship bore fruit, much fruit.She has a direct line with Christ, they talk, and He listens.He talks, and she hears.Today however, that relationship seems to have gone cold.The visible evidence of a loving communication path is not so evident and I have to believe it is still there, running at a frequency that I’m not privileged to; not in this life anyway.
What appears to me as a lonely existence he…

Screen and the Gift of Apathy

I replaced the screen in the back door for the 20th time today.  It seems big fun for Bethany to occasionally take a good swing at it – send her fist through it or at least get it to tear a bit.  She’s learned that if she can’t get through it in one punch, several follow-up visits usually does the trick.
She seems to love hearing me say, “dammit, knock it off”, must be music to her ears because she keeps doing it.  If not the back door, then its the screen in her bedroom.  She’ll leave it intact just long enough for you to think your safe, and then around midnight you hear this terrible crashing noise followed by a deep, sinister laugh.  Once she manages to rip it out of the window casing, she tosses it over the top of her half-height, bedroom door and down the stairs.  Again, the deep laugh.
I’ve gotten pretty good at repairing them, stitching tears, smoothing bulges, grafting new skin on old screens.  The door itself is over 20 years old and has been carefully patched, not unlike the …

I Built a Bicycle

I built a bicycle.
Not just any bike, but one modeled after a Dutch “bakfiet” which in the Netherlands is kinda like the station wagon of bicycles.Its about eight feet long and has a large wooden cradle in front of the person doing the pedaling.The bike was built so that I could take Bethany for bike rides with her sitting ahead of me rather than behind, stuffed into a Burley that had a weight limit we’d surpassed about two years ago.Her fascination with spinning things, like bicycle tires, made for a dangerous ride for both of us.
The bike is quite an oddity; long and low with the steering located mid-ship.The proportions, nearly as bizarre as those of a camel and in many ways, not at all unlike the people riding her.We get two kinds of reaction: big smiles and waves or absolute blank stares, devoid of emotion, context or comprehension.Bethany’s favorite thing to do while riding is to simply, loudly, scream.Blood-curdling yet happy, her screams are heard long in advance of our approach…

The Wind Passes Over It, And Its Gone

A quiet repose A moment in time that the wind blows through my heart The memory of time gone by, soothing my tired mind Warm grasses, blown in sweeping patterns across the fields swirl in patterns like water Like a thousand years before me and thousands after It continues its dance, in spite of me

Dancing in the Kitchen; A Size 14 Sock

I was dancing with my daughter this morning, lurching left and right with my arms around her waist and her hands on my forearms.  I hummed the tune to an old “Sesame Street” song that she always seems to find delight in:
“La, la, la, lamppost,   La, la, la, la, lullaby,   La, la, la, la light bulb,   La, la, la, la, lumps in my oatmeal”…
She closes her eyes and squeals with delight as I hammer out the tune and swirl her around in circles across the kitchen.  These few moments seemed wonderful as we wait for the bus to come rumbling down our driveway.
I imagine that for any father of a 15 year old, dancing with his daughter is a special occasion to be cherished for a lifetime.  For me it’s more of a blessed respite.  The last few weeks have been some of the most trying days in our lives and we’ve been stretched to the point where returning to what we were, is physically impossible.  We’re size 9 socks with size 14 feet shoved into them; we’ll never be size 9 again.  To dance happily with my…

And Your Old Men Will Dream Dreams

I found myself standing barefoot on the terrazzo floor, cold and shivering from the frozen March slush that I’d just stomped through out in the parking lot.A young woman came over to me and asked if I needed help and as I thought about my reply, the characteristic “no, not really – I’m just thinking”, she reached up and caringly put her hand on my back.I’m not sure if it was a reassuring gesture from a compassionate soul or a skilled maneuver from a healthcare professional, using the allure of a woman’s touch to better assesses my medical condition.As she touched my spine, a raw nerve came to life and I squirmed to get away.
The pain, a grotesque combination of fright, dull tingle and paranoia must have been the exact tell that she was looking for because the next thing I knew I was on the ground.Her touch caused me to twist and fall away, helpless and exposed.She lay beside me and asked me more questions and having been finally discovered, I began to answer honestly.“Have you been dr…

A Human Forest Fire

The fire’s been burning for the better part of five days now and I find it hard to believe that anything of value could possibly remain.Those who were smart either moved far away or buried their treasure deep in the soul.I foolishly thought I could keep everything intact by occasionally hosing it down with a garden hose.I now seem to have lost everything.How foolish of me, to think a simple hose would be sufficient against hell’s fury.Things that once seemed beautiful are now distorted and cracked.Music has melted, the sun – obscured from the smoke.The sweet smell of summer is now an acrid stench and the odor seems to color even the food we eat.
Were it physical things lost, I’d not be in such arrears; the loss however is emotional.I’ve lost a bit of my wife; I lost my daughter, my sons have moved further away – not for the reason of flame but for my reaction to losing control of it.I pushed them out.
Even now, I can hear the crackle from the embers…banked for the evening with down comf…

Prophet or Prostitute - Kindly, Remind Me Again?

Hosea was an Old Testament prophet whose entire life was devoted to simply becoming a metaphor for future generations.His life was a difficult and confusing series of ups and downs in which his only constant was a seemingly unwavering allegiance to Yahweh, the God of his fathers.
Hosea was instructed by that very God to marry a specific woman with some clearly defined (by God, no less) sexual issues.As an upstanding man-of-God, this must have seemed an obtuse request.Imagine you’re a nice, bachelor who’s spent his entire adolescent life waiting for that special woman - and you finally get the chance to marry.Of all the girls you could choose from, you end up with none-other than a hot-ticket, prostitute.Your mother, faints, your father shakes his head, your sister laughs.Your brother is torn between being ashamed and being slightly envious.The neighbors chalk it up to inexperience and indiscretion and wait for the tragedy to unfold.You, on the other hand are following God’s request, as…

The Power of an Errant Glance

I walked across the hot field, each footstep raising a small cloud of grey dust that coated my tennis shoes.  For some reason I felt obligated to contain my walking to the narrow tire track that wound itself through the freshly turned earth, as if stepping outside that path would draw attention to me heading their way.
 It was brutally hot by Michigan standards – a perfect July day with heat, humidity, and little breeze.  Perfect weather for crabgrass, sow thistle, carpetweed and spurge.  Not perfect weather for anyone working against those weeds.  The smell of the warm earth, the quiet of the field, the slowly dissipating sounds of traffic as I walked south, away from the road, seemed to increase the power of that heat and magnified my fears.  The weather report on the radio cautiously noted a cattle and livestock advisory that was in place – as if most of their listeners had ever been on a farm and knew what that meant.  Even more disconcerting was the fact that they worried about c…

A Tale of Fortune and Fingers

On occasion, something happens in my life that after-the-fact I find myself wondering if that was divinely planned.This past week, I got into a tussle with my table saw.A freakish sort of accident that ended up sending me to the hospital and ended up connecting my wife with a mother who is facing similar challenges as we have.
I mentioned to the attending physician (as she attempted to cut the wedding band off my damaged finger) that the real tragedy is not that I’m in the hospital, but that my wife and I were having a relatively enjoyable time there.This past weekend was a “respite weekend” and as such, we were free of the care of Bethany for a few days.For us this trip to the ER was a rather exciting date.We were laughing, chatting with people, actually doing something together!
While the Physician’s Assistant began the process of stitching my hand back together, I mentioned about this being a respite weekend and what that entailed.The Physician listened and then cautiously asked a fe…

Come home, come home, it's suppertime

I recall seeing my grandfather sitting in a chair in the family room of the old Lubber’s farm, it must have been 1965 or so.It was a Sunday and I recall hearing hymns on the radio, he was sitting there quietly with his eyes closed, his hands folded loosely over his belly.I wasn’t sure if he was sleeping or peacefully listening to the music.“Come home, come home, it’s suppertime” – the words tumbled out of the old, green, Motorola radio.I can still see the gold tuning dial with the pointer facing both 10 and 4 o’clock.
Last night I was at the evening church service and that flashback hit me somewhere between the second and third verse of“Softly and Tenderly”... why should we linger and heed not his mercies…It was a warm, beautiful memory that was prompted by a tune that I despised when I was a teenager.For my grandfather, as a young boy that would have been a relatively new song.Written in the 1880’s and no doubt played by my grandmother on the old pump-organ at the church in East Sauga…

Hanging on for Dear Life

Four good days with Bethany has a special way of clearing the fog of depression.Having her smile and laugh and rip her diapers out of joy rather than frustration is, well, a liberating feeling.You feel your heart get lighter, your responses, less caustic and your outlook far more appealing to those around you.
She loved the fast ride on the jetski – that in fact, seemed to make all the difference in her attitude and broke the cycle of sadness that gave me the four days, so you pack that little secret weapon away in your emotional duffle bag for the next time she has a meltdown.“”Wanna go for a ride on the jetski”? I ask in my imagination, waiting for the characteristic aahhyyah! Accompanied by the frantic up-and-down headshake.In your heart you know it’ll be the thing that changes her anger to joy, just like her joy turned your sorrow to celebration, and your shadows to sunshine.
That’s why it hurts so much when other sorrow, sorrow from the day-to-day life around you, creeps back into …

Unless You Become As a Child...

Part of my personal interest in adopting Bethany came from time spent overseas working in what basically amounted to orphanages. No one likes the term orphanage so they clean the name up and give the kids a type of permanence and dignity they deserve but have been so remiss in receiving.  They go by names like "home, foundation, shelter, and institute".

The Prince of Peace Foundation in Ecuador was my introduction to the reality of such a place. It’s place for kids to escape the grip of abuse, neglect, drugs, cultural indifferences, overpopulation, and a host of other situational malignancies. While the goal of these places is to “reunite the child and the family”, the reality of that seemed slim.  These were beautiful children who wanted desperately to matter, to be loved and to have some degree of predictability in their lives but so many things were working against that goal.  Big, things that aren't easily changed in short bursts of time.

One boy had been abused by …

A Daily Dose of Bethany, Just what the Doctor Ordered...

Her knuckles were black this morning from last night’s beating.Her head and cheek was the main subject of attention, although my heart caught most of the blows as well.
The day started with a calm, almost peaceful attitude and somewhere around mid-day all that hope evaporated like rainclouds in a desert.I don’t know how much more of this I can open my heart to – fear only happens when you’re unsure of something, this is so nearly a certainty that I not only don’t fear; I’ve moved so far as to emotionally distance myself from it.
How many days have I muttered this report, how many nights have I gone to sleep with a heavy heart and little hope for tomorrow?Then, like the sun rising after a long, dark night – we have an evening with little conflict.
I came home from work and found Bethany in the living room, clutched tightly in her hand was one of Sherry’s Polo shirts.That little artifact stayed clutched for next 6 hours. Typically, I come home and wonder how long till the next meltdown but…