Thursday, May 26, 2011

How our children view us

Recently, I visited my son at his preschool for “Daddy’s and Donuts Day”. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to squeeze my 6 foot, 200+ lb. frame onto a preschool sized chair and listen to our adorable children describe their daddy’s. You see, the school had them complete a form titled, “All About My Dad”. This was a fun activity as the teacher read the answers our children provided on this simple, fill in the blank form. The answers and how our children see us had the entire class laughing.

The form started with the simple question, “My daddy is ___ tall and weighs ____ pounds.” My son answered that I was 20 feet tall and weighed 30 pounds. This suggests that my son either views me as a bean stalk or he has no concept of height and weight.

He went on to say that he believed I was “17 years old”. My interpretation is that I still look like I am 17 years old.

My Dad’s favorite thing to eat is “Mac and cheese and everything” . . . well, that’s about right.

He likes to watch “football, baseball, hockey, and soccer” on TV. Not sure about the soccer, but I guess the rest is true.

My Dad’s favorite thing to do is “Walk”. Boy, did he swing and miss on this question. I think he is confusing my effort to run with walking, but that’s an easy mistake considering my slow pace . . . and I don’t “like” it.

I like it when he “Lets mommy drive the car”. Not sure where this one comes from, kind of makes me feel like a controlling husband. Do I force her into the passenger seat? Oh well, he’ll be easy to please in the future, “Here honey, why don’t you make your son happy and drive us to Mississippi, I’ll take a nap.”

Since “Daddy’s and Donuts Day,” he has graduated preschool (with a full graduation ceremony, including cap, gown, and diploma) and lost his first tooth. Fortunately, these two things are not directly related except the fact that they are major milestones for our first born. While mommy and daddy struggle to accept the pace at which our children’s lives move forward, my son summed it all best when he pulled his tooth out by himself in the backseat of the car, held it up in his hand and calmly said, “That was better than I thought.”

We could probably take his words to heart. My son will not always see me as a 20 foot tall, mac and cheese eating 17 year old, but today he does and that feels better than I thought.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My son is graduating and I've caught my pants on fire!

After the storm, we were left with a number of downed trees in our yard. As the man of the house, it was my responsibility to get my chainsaw out and start taking those trees apart. Unfortunately, I do not own a chainsaw, so I had to wait for a crew of skilled woodsman to come help me. I felt much like a damsel in distress. Nonetheless, the burly bear men came to my house and cut up my trees as I delivered them cold cups of lemonade. Is this a mild exaggeration . . . maybe mild, but you get my point. At least I was able to remove the brush and stack the wood, but, for the first time in my life, I felt completely helpless and removed from that action around me.

This continued on earlier this week when we took my son to register for Kindergarten. My son is five and he has been in church nurseries, parents night out events, and pre-school programs, but those were all short-term and temporary. Kindergarten is the beginning of formal education and represents long-term and permanent change. I was concerned about how my son would take the transition until we got to registration. Immediately he gravitated to another young boy, also registering for kindergarten with his grandmother.

My son walked up to the boy and said, “Hi, want to come to my house and play?” so much for my concerns about making friends. It was at that moment that I realized that it wasn’t my son I was worried about, it was me. The world is moving around me and I am just beginning to recognize how little control I have.

I continued to work around the pile of burning brush in our yard, trying to remove the evidence of the devastation our community has suffered and I pondered this reality. My control is limited, even in areas where I thought I had total control, I have little. I was deep in thought and pondering this firm reality when I felt a stinging on my calf. I believed I had probably stepped onto a nest of fire ants and looked down at my pants to determine the source of this stinging when I realized I had gotten too close to the burn pile and caught myself on fire. Yes, my pant leg was aflame. I quickly put myself out (never thought I’d write that sentence) and laughed. I had been so distracted by what I could not control, that I lost sight of what I could . . . case in point – catching myself on fire.

As we walked our son up to the school to register for school, he turned to me and in an excited tone asked, “Daddy, is this for real? Is this really happening?” I smiled and realizing that I did not want to miss the joy of watching him grow up by focusing on my lack of control, I said to myself, “Yes it is, and I will sit back and enjoy it with you.” Maybe now I can focus on burning that brush and not my pants.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A welcome respite, well, sort of . . .

I never thought running a half marathon would be considered a welcome respite, but considering the events in our community over the last two weeks, it turned out to be exactly that . . . at least for the first eight miles.

As many of you know, I had committed to running a half marathon some time ago. My purpose for doing this was purely selfish – to help motivate me to get in shape. At some level it worked, I lost 25 pounds and was in good shape. But considering the tragedy that has befallen our community, I decided to be less selfish and take a more community-minded approach. I embraced an idea my good friend, William Lamb suggested. You see, William was one of the many victims of the storms of April 27th, suffering major damage to his home and property. He is also one of the most selfless people I know in that he served his community for endless hours over the past two weeks despite his own losses. His suggestion was to commit a portion of our community to prayer every mile of the run. I decided this was a wonderful idea and committed to prayer, beginning with mile one and William and his family.

However, the run was not without its comical moments. It started on about mile nine, with my pace slowing, I noticed spectators were pointing behind me. This is when a young man passed me . . . as he juggled. I don’t think there is much I can say about that.

Nonetheless, this embarrassment did not diminish my effort (only bruised my pride) because my true motivation was waiting for me at the end of the race. My wife and children had taken position just yards before from the finish line. My son was excited and was somehow under the delusion that I could win the race and when they arrived at the finish line, he said, “Mommy, I think daddy is in first place.” Then after many minutes and watching hundreds of runners cross the line, it became obvious that my son had significantly overestimated my speed and said, “Mommy, maybe daddy is in last place,” just another image of his father crushed by reality.

While patiently waiting for daddy to finally arrive, our son needed to take a potty break. My wife quickly whisked him to the nearest port-a-potty and told him to go on in. He opened the door and stopped, looking back at mommy, unsure of himself. My wife, sensing his fear of going alone was causing him pause, told him, “Go on, it’s okay.”

He started to go in, but stopped again, this time, dead in his tracks, he looked at my wife and simply shook his head no. My son was not typically this nervous, so my wife asked him what was wrong. This is when my son shared his true issue, in a quiet voice, he simply said, “Mommy, there is someone in there.” He obviously went in the next one.

As I approached the finish line, I stopped for hugs and kisses, only to have my son yell, “Daddy, GO!” He was probably fearful I would lose my place on the podium.

As I crossed the finish line (finally), I could not help but be overwhelmed by the blessings in my life and the devastation my community had suffered. I decided at that moment that I would not just commit my run to prayer for the people and families in my community. I would commit my daily life to prayer for the people and families in my community. Maybe it’ll help me forget those painful last five miles.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Our Tornado Story

I am sorry I have been absent from the blog.  As you might know, we were directly impacted by the devastation the stroms of April 27th brought to Bradley County, we witnessed a firsthand a EF-4 tornado coming directly at our home, suffered minor property damage and had no power for over a week.  Nonetheless, we are blessed.  So many people lost so much and yet the spirit of this community has risen above.  Since most of you are friends and family from around the country, I wanted to share my families story during this devastation, so here it is;

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had grown up in the Midwest, so I had seen a number of tornados in my life, but this one seemed to be only a couple hundred yards away coming across the field directly at our home. I was stunned. So stunned that I asked my wife to look out the window to confirm what I was seeing.

“Should we get the kids?” she wisely and calmly asked.

After another moment of disbelief, I screamed “YES!”

We sprinted to the kid’s rooms, snatched them out of their beds and dove into a closet in the bathroom. In the chaos, we had forgotten the dog, I opened the door to go back and get him and when I did, my ears began to pop as the house pressurized from the force of the tornado. Looking back at this moment, I realize that is was the first time in my life that I felt completely and utterly helpless. I knew we were in a dire situation and I also knew there was nothing we could do about it.

Earlier that day, as the local news media warned our community of the impending storms, my wife took the time to walk around our house and our property praying protection over our family and our belongings. I honestly thought she was being a little dramatic as I had lived in placed where tornados dwell and it is rare that you would see one, much less, that it would actually hit your home. However, in hindsight, I firmly believe that her decision and faithfulness had a direct impact on how this story ended for our family.

After a few minutes in the closet listening to the screaming wind and the crashing trees outside, the storm began to subside. I emerged from our shelter to assess the damages, fully prepared for the worst. As I walked around the inside and outside of our home, I quickly realized the damage was minimal. I started questioning whether it was actually a tornado I saw. It wasn’t till the next morning that we fully realized the impact of what happened and the devastation that surrounded us.

The next morning, as we walked the neighborhood, we realized that we had taken a direct hit from one of nature’s most powerful forces. Six wooded acres to our West were leveled, with nearly every home sustaining serious to total damage; an entire forest to the East of property was laid flat with a subdivision on the other side being leveled. In between these areas of devastation sat our home with our family huddled in a closet. Our house was literally sitting in the middle of the path of this monster and remained nearly untouched . . . a miracle by any standard. We were spared, not that we deserved it, but simply by the grace of God.

Since the storm, we witnessed a woman folding clothes in her baby’s nursery from the street because the home had no roof and walls. We witnessed a best friend’s home and property destroyed beyond recognition. We witnessed the aftermath of our car picked up and moved like it was a Hot Wheels, telephone poles tossed like toothpicks, trees snapped like twigs, and buildings crushed like they were built out of Lego’s.

However, since that time, we have also witnessed people serving. We witnessed Lee University students volunteering for 14 hour days the weekend before Final Exam week. We have witnessed organizations that are natural competitors, sharing offices, sharing resources, and sharing information. We have witnessed grassroots, volunteer operations through schools and churches putting people in the disaster stricken areas, reaching out to serve their neighbors. I have witnessed that inspirational spirit that makes our community so legendary. Despite my wish to have our community free from this devastation, I am grateful to have witnessed it all.