The Most Surprising Thing about Family

Perhaps the most surprising thing about our journey as a family is that it is so surprising. The most predicable thing about life is its singular unpredictability. Think about all the things that you’ve experienced in your family that caused you to shake your head and say, “Well, I didn’t see that coming.”

I’d venture to say that most of us who grew up watching TV dramas where the dog was lost and then found, or the misunderstanding finally clarified, or the seemingly impossible rescue was attained in 59 minutes with room for ten minutes of Madison Avenue’s best pitches to boot. But then we encounter the glorious, sometimes maddening concept of REAL LIFE.

We look back on this adventure and discover that instead of 2.5 kids, including male and female actually turned into all boys or all girls or one adopted, or one magical downs syndrome child, or no biological kids but three international adoptions. We look back on our journey and say, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming.”

We head off for that planned paradise at Wally World with all bags neatly packed, prepared for every eventuality and then find ourselves holed up in the hotel room riding out the storm of the century, having the time of our lives playing board games and eating cheese nips.

Ah yes! These are the moments that we look back on and say, “Wow God, I didn’t see that coming but help me remember how incredibly, astoundingly grand it was. We realize that the greatest joy of our small, fleeting adventure is often what happens on the journey rather than the destination. Our agendas are often blown to kingdom come and all we have is a story. And the story is far more transcendent than our pseudo-sacred agenda that we so carefully crafted in our imagination.

Sometimes it takes car crashes, health crises, diaper disasters, canceled flights, split jeans and chicken pox to get us to where God wants us to be. And when we get there we dust ourselves off and do the dance.

My cautious nature, so attracted to spread sheets, games plans and satellite navigators is often reminded that life is a precarious narrative that is intricately woven together in a divine, sometimes dubious backstory of spiritual adventure. Even the small moments of surprise rise to the surface as signs that we aren’t alone. We are being guided by Someone who sees the bigger story and knows exactly what we need. This is the very definition of family– a band of souls brought together through blood, blessing and bedtimes. We do life together and we find that there’s always a place we can call home. It really doesn’t have anything to do with brick and mortar. It’s all about love and belonging. Unpredictable? Yes. Unnecessary? Never!

And at the end of the road, with gray heads and crooked smiles, we can look back on it all and say to our beloved family, “Man, I didn’t see that coming but I’m sure glad it came!”



Fear of Aunts

As a child, I grew up as a concrete thinker.  Honestly, most of us were. That’s just a fact about kids.  They think concretely and are unable to process the subtle imagery adults use.

I remember I had a deep fear of my aunt who told me that I was so cute she could just eat me up. I didn’t understand and ran away in fear. All I knew was that my aunt was a cannibal and I was spending a weekend at her house. Trauma.

It just seemed like my aunt said things that were strangely macabre. Who is this woman? Is she really my aunt? How many children has she eaten?

“Come here, Sugar. Let me wipe your face off.”

“Wipe my face off? No!”

She thought I was being stubborn but who in their right mind wipes someone’s face completely OFF? There must be a law, an ordinance that would prohibit such a disfigurement. How would one see? How would one breathe?

I was often called a “toe-head.” I still don’t know what that referred to but I spent more than one night performing a thorough inspection of my skull to make sure an 11th toe wasn’t about to burst forth from my temple. That’s not the way I wanted to join the circus.

Later in life, we learn the difference between hyperbole and reality.

It took me a while to understand the concept of Jesus living inside me, dying to self, following Jesus, and giving Him everything. These aren’t just overblown, colloquialisms. These gigantic expressions are a mandate, especially for dads. There is nothing more important than letting these phrases become a reality, as we love our church, our family, and our friends.

I don’t want people to look back at my life and say, “Sure, He talked about dying to himself but that was just an exaggeration. He didn’t mean that literally.”

I don’t want my kids to say, “Oh, when He talked about following Jesus, He didn’t really mean actually following Jesus. He just meant that He admired the Man and thought He’d trying to live a little like Him.”

I want them to say, “He really believed all that stuff about Jesus and He was continually on a hunt for Him. He was obsessed with the fact that Jesus really rose from the dead. He really feared that his friends might go to hell (a real place) not just another PG word.” I’d love it to be said of me after I die, “That crazy old dude actually prayed like Jesus could actually hear him.”

That’s what would make me smile. And it’s something that no one will wipe off my face.


Elbow Room and Alarm Clocks


In bed the alarm rings, I feel as if my body is 180 lbs. of cement.  God whispers, What did you expect? You haven’t taken a day off in 12 days.


That morning I asked:

Do I have to run quickly to and fro?
Do I have to get up today and go?
I’d rather throw bed sheets over my head
Or visit the zoo with my boys instead
I’d hand my to-dos to a wart-covered toad
And chat with a neighbor just down the road.
I’d rather run in the fields of my youth
I’d rather be 20, to tell you the truth
I’d rather sneak off with a tall stack of books
And give the librarian puzzling looks
I rather discuss life with a glass of ice tea
With someone as incredibly burned out as me.
I rather hike the Grand Canyon today
But I don’t have gas money so guess that I’ll stay.

Life, in an average 21st Century family, blows out of our window at 150 miles an hour. We barely give ourselves the elbowroom to really succeed. I know that this is a major character flaw of many guys. As men, husbands, dads and employees, we instinctively find our self-worth in doing more than just being. Sometimes I wonder how many opportunities I missed because of the words; “have to” “ought to” and “gotta”? God meant for you to leave room for him to work. If we don’t our prayer life, our parenting, our marriage, our future all suffer.

Our best days are marked in moments that usually don’t happen because we had more important things to do.  We look at our kids, in every life stage, and wonder if they’ll ever grow up and then, before we know it, we realize… they did.

Every man I know seems to think he has a warp-speed button. Perhaps that’s why we love the idea of superpowers and action heroes. I must confess I press the warp-speed button far too often. But the reverse gear is nonexistent. We don’t get any do-overs for yesterday.

So from today on, I promise to look at all the incredible blessings that are buried under my to-do lists, agendas, and behind the billboards that blur across the windshield as I shift into fifth on the open road.

I will try to give more than I get. I can’t keep it anyway. God is planning a huge end-of-the-earth bonfire. Even the antique doilies my wife bought for next-to-nothing on e-Bay will be ashes.

I will make it job #1 to hang on for dear life to my family, my friends, my mission, and my Jesus. Everything else I’ll move to the back of the line.

Fond Moments of Clarity

As dads, we have the unique opportunity to reveal truth to our children.  We get the chance to tell them how life works.  These are conversations happen along the way. They are unforgettable, sometimes unpredictable and other times- just plain weird.  Here’s one example:

The context: Having just listened on CD to Dr. James Dobson explain the mechanics of sex while driving down the interstate.

Continue reading “Fond Moments of Clarity”

A Dog’s Life

I never understood the dog. I didn’t really like the him as much as others in this house but over a period of months, I became the object of worship. He picked me out and said, “He’s mine!” This weenie dog couldn’t wait for me to sit down. He hated it when I sat in a desk chair. He was more at peace when I sat on the couch so he can rest his head on my lap. He freaked when I left in the morning and he celebrated my arrival in the evening. He was the most emotionally needy, dependent creature I’ve ever met. He wouldn’t be ignored. Continue reading “A Dog’s Life”