I read someone else’s blog recently about parenting, and I thought it was both funny and carried a lot of truth. It’s tough to be a parent–the toughest thing in the world. Parents are usually not thanked for their efforts, at least not until our kids are grown and have a family of their own.
Kids are individuals, just as we are, and Lord, do they sometimes have their moments. So what do we do as parents?
We try to take what we’ve learned and use it, all the while filtering out the nonsense that our parents got from their parents, and we got from them, and so on.
Sometimes there’s a whole lot to filter. Sometimes not.
My parents were not the worst ever, though they had plenty of shortcomings like everyone else does, too.
I guess I kind of think of my own experience as a parent as something ever-evolving. Ever-changing. It’s not all good, and is sometimes really challenging, especially when they are being little toolbags. It isn’t all bad, either, because a lot of the time we get it right. I guess for me, it’s a lot like looking into a kaleidoscope, and seeing all those reflections of little pieces of broken glass or plastic or whatever it is. Triangles of bright glass multiplied by mirrors. Sometimes they combine in such a way as to make a beautiful mosaic. That’s what it’s like when I feel like I get things right as a parent, and do good deeds. When I give my kids stuff they can use.
Other times, the glass combines to make something straight up ugly–like mirrors and something gross. I somehow dredge up some of the less-than-good parenting habits of my folks. I crap the bed as a parent, like some of my Marine friends might say.
But you know what? Another thing I’ve discovered is when that happens, you can shake the kaleidoscope a few times and move on. The picture looks different.
Sure, parenting is hard. Everything good is, at least for me.
You know, I was just sitting here at my desk and thinking I am really grateful to have a job. After all, my boss did take a bit of a chance on me—considering I’d just been laid off from my former job. Nonetheless, he hired me. I was told later he wanted to say something about it at the big “party” where the bunch of us were cut, but couldn’t.
That’s OK, I guess. I was unemployed for 72 hours, and then I got the call from HR. Cool.
So like I said, I am grateful for my job, and toward the company I work for, even though they laid me off. I’ve seen a lot of things while working here—really awesome things. I’ve seen a Phalanx fire at night—with the tracers looking like a laser beam. And it was oddly beautiful.
I’ve driven over the Panama canal every day for a month, and that was beautiful in its own way, too—a beautiful work of man.
I’ve been to Alaska (which looked an awful lot like Narnia), seen the northern lights, and eaten a moose burger. I also left quite a bit of my blood outside a hockey arena. It was cold, and made me think of God more than any place I’ve been my life.
I jogged along a pretty cold Washington river. I saw llamas in their natural habitat—a Yakima Army base.
All those things—every one—that I’ve seen, no matter how strange and beautiful, no matter how amazing, made me feel anywhere near as complete as this does: coming home to my strange and beautiful family–especially my wife. My kids. My growing church–I didn’t realize how much I needed that family until I was away from it for weeks at a time. It’s difficult to imagine being on a deployment. Not to minimize the importance of my friends, but I don’t have very many pictures, because I am usually busy enjoying life when we all get together.
You never know how much you really miss home until you are away.
It’s only been since 0445 today, but I am ready for some Wilkins-style crazy tonight.
Today is my younger son’s fifth birthday, and it got me thinking how strange and interesting life is. Mainly because I never thought I’d have any kids of my own. It just sort of never seemed like it would happen. I wanted it to, but I was nowhere near getting married. I wanted the whole enchilada, as they say.
For me, I always have. Even when I was younger. Maybe part of it was wanting the chance to give someone else the childhood I didn’t have myself. It was pretty much a mess, and if it hadn’t been for my sisters, I would have no idea what life as a kid was supposed to be like. I knew apathy pretty well. I knew about addiction, and depression, and mortal illnesses. I knew about physical and mental cruelty. I knew lots about fear.
My sisters taught me about love without condition. They taught me about feeling safe, and how it felt to be chosen first. All three of them were amazing at taking care of kids, and I will always be thankful for that. And my brother-in-laws were more father to me than my own, especially Philip. Dad died way too young, and before that he was worn out by life, and work, and functional poverty.
But I never expected to have a family of my own. Or a home—a real home. One with a foundation that was mine. And a door with panes of glass. Always wanted that for some reason.
My last…whatever it was ended badly a little more than a decade ago, and I went on a deliberate hiatus for a number of years after that. I came to belief shortly after Y2K, and built on that foundation for a few years as well. I needed to, or I was never going to be useful to anyone else.
The good of the hiatus part is that I was able to work on my heart issues, and what some might call my “core woundings.” It wasn’t fun by any means, but it was like…physical therapy for my soul.
And I needed it.
There came a day I wanted to try…getting out there again. I wanted to meet someone desperately.
I discovered I didn’t have much game pretty early on. None would probably be a better descriptor than “much” in this instance.
I fumbled around a little, and had very little success. A couple of first dates, and a lot of phone calls.
Then someone contacted me (I will always believe that was God getting my attention, and giving me what I needed, even if not exactly what I thought I wanted), and it began.
We emailed, and took a lot of those MySpace quizzes. We talked on the phone like smitten teenagers (and the funny things was, she was the first person I had been with since high school that was age appropriate).
I was all in, and I knew that after just a few weeks.
We were engaged December of the same year we met. December 22, to be exact. At her family Christmas dinner. Not what I planned, but given the value she placed on family, totally appropriate.
And I decided to move away from California, my lifelong home. I had always wanted something new—a fresh start. Nothing like moving to Arizona to be with your girl and her son to start things over again.
We married 9 months after we met. We got pregnant 9 months after we were married. And our son was born the usual 9 months after that.
That’s when I realized that even though I was living in a place I didn’t know very well—a place that was hotter than a monkey’s butt—I was pretty happy with life.
And that was strange, too.
We’ve been through plenty of difficulties of our own, but we’ve always laughed with each other. We pray together, and to this day I love holding her hand. And as far as I know, we’ve never went to bed angry at one another.
I was reaching into our living room closet the other day for something, and I turned my head and looked out the panes of glass in my door to the front yard, where there are trees. Two cars in the driveway.
I don’t know, man. I know it shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is. Having a home. There isn’t a white picket fence, but it’s a pretty good thing we have going here. I know I won’t be able to right all the wrongs done to me by having a family and trying my best to do right by them. But the healing of and in my heart has allowed me to forgive many things, and that’s a huge deal.
My life is full, and it’s completely not what I thought it would be, but everything I wanted it to.
Truly, I should not be here. But I am. Through addictions, through lots of things. I went through life feeling like an accident. But the truth is I am not.
I am here. God meant me to be.
I acknowledge that I only have life, and draw breath, and come home to hugs and kisses from my kids because of the presence of God in my life.
What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?
I don’t know. I gained what feels like the whole world, and discovered my soul.
It isn’t just because of the house. It isn’t just because of the family.
I think…no, I know. It’s because my feet are finally on the right path. I still stumble, and sometimes even fall.
The fulfillment I feel in just…trying to be obedient makes it worthwhile.
And I get to come home to this insane enclave of kids, and dogs, and a wife, and it’s pretty awesome.
God is good, all the time.
And the funny thing is, he always was. It’s funny how much you hear when you actually listen.
Back in February: “U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday described the deaths of three young Muslims gunned down in North Carolina this week as “brutal and outrageous murders” and said no one in the United States should be targeted for their religion.” No doubt to most people, that situation was a textbook hate crime.
In my opinion, there is no doubt the events of last week, where college students were asked if they were Christians, and then executed if they answered in the affirmative (though this man killed some other folks as well, there was no doubt some special viciousness reserved for those who claimed faith in Christ. Hard to imagine being the second person asked that question after the first was killed. It is, however, certainly a testament of faith). Still, you’d think the President would at least acknowledge this.
Or that a young man and former soldier ran at the gunman and tried to stop him. He could have gotten out of there, as he helped others evacuate.
He didn’t. He was unarmed, with little hope of success.
He still did something. That man is a hero.
Instead, the President (not to mention former Secretary Clinton) made the situation a forum for more gun control political speak. It makes sense, of course, with the election coming and all, but talking points are, after all, just talk.
Though there will be much more of that to come, no doubt.
Because guns kill people. We have to “get them.”
But it isn’t just politics, folks. Real lives are at stake. I was thinking about that—the tendency to politicize a tragedy to advance an agenda—and the logic confounds me. If so and so didn’t have such and such, he wouldn’t have done it. Or if so and so DID have such and such, he could have stopped it. But though these sentences have truth to them, it isn’t that simple.
Praying isn’t enough, I think the president said. He’s right. But neither is rhetoric. Nor is there any conceivable justification for stumping on the backs of murdered students, children, Marine Recruiters, or anyone else.
So stop trying. Have a little respect for the dead, not to mention yourselves.
Of course, guns do fall into the wrong hands. So do cars, for crying out loud. If you were determined enough to kill people—maybe even a lot of people—I think you would be able to find a way. Look at Timothy McVeigh, folks. He literally used bullcrap to take out a federal building. If someone is nuts enough or determined enough, and wants to kill people enough, he will find a way. It made me think of a line from the Bodyguard, when Frank says “If someone is willing to swap their lives for a killing, there’s no stopping them.”
Also, consider this clip from the movie “Full Metal Jacket, and note a short line in the middle: “It is a hard heart that kills.”
It’s a hard heart that kills.
A movie line, of course, but it rings with truth. And I believe the problem we face with guns, and killings (mass or otherwise) is a heart problem and not an access to firearms problem. I do understand the appeal of that argument, however. It absolves the person blaming the gun from personal responsibility.
And make no mistake, one chooses to fire a gun. A Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm, for example, has a 6.5 pound trigger pull weight, against a weight of 1.6 pounds for the weapon. It does not fire on its own.
Consider this excerpt from “The Gunslinger’s Creed,” taken from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower:
I do not kill with my gun, he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father; I kill with my heart.
And that’s where we are as a country. We kill with our hearts—our hardened hearts. We’ve got a national heart problem. At the root of having respect for life is the acknowledgment that all lives have worth. Not just minorities of one sort or another—one religion or another.
We need to start teaching the value of a human life, indiscriminately. All life is valuable, and worth more than jewels. We need to work on softening our hearts toward the plight of others.
All lives matter, not just black, or white, or gay, or transgenital, or octocurious.
Life doesn’t mean anything to so many people these days. Murder often becomes arbitrary. Or in some communities, almost a rite of passage (look at Chicago murder statistics if you don’t believe me).
We can make guns as hard to get as we want—we can take them all away and melt them into camping ware.
The change it would bring to the epidemic of violence in our country would be negotiable, at best. Because our hearts are stone toward people not like us. Not all the time, but often enough that things like Oregon keep happening.
And if those with left-leaning tendencies stopped to think about the situation, they would realize that so many people doing terrible things with a gun are more likely to get them from someone’s closet, or car trunk than from Bud’s Guns. Statistically speaking, it’s pretty easy to fact-check.
There’s no waiting period or background check on the black market. Or maybe the person concerned would not use a gun at all.
For pity’s sake, the United States wasn’t invaded because (roughly quoted) the enemy feared “every citizen would be hiding behind a blade of grass with a gun.”
Of course, there are people who shouldn’t have guns. There’s a lot of crazy out there.
But gun free zones featuring one security guard carrying a can of mace in an active shooter situation are about as useful as teats on a bull.
It would probably be great for controlling hippies fighting over a chia and watercress sandwich, though.
I never thought of myself as a particularly violent person, but I think I can say truthfully that if I was somewhere where my life or the lives of those around me were threatened I would do whatever I had to in order to protect those lives, or at least try.
I think anyone would hopefully do that in the same situation.
“I’m sorry, active shooter. I would like to confront you, but I believe only police and mil—“
I pray that if that day ever comes for me, I would have the courage of my present convictions.
I would want to have the courage of that second person who confessed Christ after watching his or her classmate shot in the head.
I would want to be the congressperson who voted to defund, even at the cost of shutting down the government.
Because forgive my hate speech, but all lives matter. I realize that in my heart and acknowledge it fully, because Jesus lives there, too. But because I am human, I realize the quandary.
I would still kill to protect my family. I don’t want to, but I would.
I would kill to protect your family. I don’t want to do that, either.
But I would.
That’s because to some people out there, no lives matter.