The Suddenness of Life

Parents… it’s a strange world as you get older… after two decades of ridiculously busy… it get’s quiet.

My wife and I said it over and over this past week… it was all so ‘sudden’…. Dictionary; “refers to the quickness of an occurrence, although the event may have been expected” : (ie. a sudden change in the weather.) 

Graduations… engagements, marriages, births, deaths, dementia, and everything in-between. Life is moving forward, with or without us.  jessica-graduation-2

We knew these transitions, these major life moments were coming… watching others for years go through it before it came to us. We get the big idea…there is a cycle to life and there are specific seasons…moments for beginning and ending. A time for dying, birthing and aging…but no one can express to you how it ‘feels‘.  

The years and weeks of anticipation… drag so slow in the moments and then life will sneak by us in a heartbeat. Everything once so familiar, now absent. A life built around our kids, or a spouse… now vacant. We wonder at the empty spaces of our days and pause… tempted to linger in the past, we risk missing the present.

Christ said it like this… 34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 6:35 MSG) 

We can mourn the passing of what was…AND enjoy and love what is. We should be prepared to celebrate and treasure life, past – present – future. It’s all in the perspective we choose. Life isn’t to only be savored and slowly poured… it’s also a huge rush of living and loving, bringing life and dying. It’s all about the stuff in-between. The sharing of hope and suffering, of pain and passions… nothing in living is ever passive. 

Only a fool would consider the future with casual disregard, ignoring the suddenness of our lives and the moments we’ve been granted. Wouldn’t it be wiser to treasure the gift hidden within our journey.

What will you do with your ‘gift’? 

Pastor B.

PS – from poet R.L. Sharpe:

Isn’t it strange how princes and kings,
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
And common people like you and me
Are builders for eternity?
 
To each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass and a book of rules.
And each will build, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block or a stepping stone.

 

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Every Proud Mom Cries

Ever sit near a mom during a wedding? What about a graduation ceremony…or even just a good Hollywood movie about a wedding or graduation? 🙂

Tears fall. 

Sometimes it’s just a few silent, solitary drops of pure pride and tender joy. Other times it’s the wet flood of an emotional storm, released without restraint. Either way, Mom cries.  View More: http://traciarneyphotography.pass.us/kelliejarrett

It’s as natural as the spring time, healthy, and in some way… ‘proper. 

I watched the birth of all three of my children. I clapped and whooped as each of them clutched their diploma’s and proudly smiled for the camera….walking by in their black graduation robes. It’s a heart warming, milestone moment… a truly joyful time. Pride pulses through every parents heart, excitement and satisfaction mixed with a bit of growing dread…

Thus the tears.

For mothers the transition of a graduation ceremony or a wedding day symbolizes the end of an era. The shifting of seasons, it represents a diminishment of their influence and ultimately… ‘control‘. That’s intense, anxiety inducing, panic-attack provoking kind of fear for a mother… a huge hill to climb. (Dad’s too, but not in the same way)

For the parent, a graduation or wedding is like a ‘final exam’. 

Did we teach them all they needed to know?

How will they handle the pressure of independent life?

Will they abandon the faith we tried to model…?

Do they know how much we love them?

Will they choose to stay close to us… or have they gone for good?

Just asking yourself these questions can cause your heart to skip beats. There’s far more going on under the surface here…more than tears expressed in a moment of celebration, this is the tip of a proverbial iceberg. A glacier full of fear buried deep in the heart of every mother in every home. For some mom’s this is a devastating time. A deep and dark season where fears can overshadow all else… if that’s you, keep reading.

Couple of thoughts. 

1 – God is Faithful. Pray.

Never forget the covenant love of our God, He is long-suffering, patient and His love endures forever!

2- Take the LONG view.

Give them a chance to grow up and discover the truth’s you taught them were real.

3- Don’t burn the bridge back home.

Express your concerns without ultimatums. It’s their turn to choose how to live. If your right about their foolishness… they are going to need help later to sort things out. If the bridge back home is out… where will they have left to go for advice? Probably somewhere or to someone ‘not’ good.

Inmate Steven Clark gets a hug from his girl friend Tomi Doyle after Clark received his associate degree from the University of Maine in Augusta on Monday at the Maine State Prison.

God bless all you “mothers’ out there. Let the tears flow... but rest well tonight knowing your in good company. Be at peace knowing God hasn’t, isn’t, can’t… abandoned you or your newly independent ‘babies’ 🙂

The adventure is just really beginning…

Pastor Brad.

 

 

Change is a coming…

Caleb turns eighteen on Thursday.

Our baby boy all grown up. Man that was fast! Life spinning faster, harder…more intense. Graduations, birthdays, milestones to mark the rapidly changing landscape of our lives.

universityparent.com

universityparent.com

Nothing stays the same, an oxymoronic statement that can’t be proven, but certainly true. Life is ever shifting, adapting, overcoming, failing, falling, frustratingly slow and then breathtaking and out-of-control fast! 

The rise and fall of seasons, colors, images and smells flying past as we wind our way through the parenting years of life. Each beautiful moment priceless and perfect, followed by months of monotony and survival.

How can we remain and they move on ?

What anchors a parent to the reality of life when everything and everyone is a changing ? I’m convinced it’s the presence of Love that makes the home a ‘constant’. Not where you live or eat or drive, but the real presence of unconditional acceptance and grace… that spirit of love and hopeful expectancy is what makes our homes… “Home”.

Changing all the time, our kids… our lives are radically different from one year to the next. Urgently driving a taxi from one sports practice to the next… school pushing out private lives, we adapt. Soon, our tween-teens move past us, needing space and identities all their own. Leaving us to absorb the extra margins of life, living close but not hovering in their emerging adulthood.

Soon, they need the ‘push’ of leaving our nest. Heartbreaking and beautiful, we watch as they stretch their forming wings and frantically beat at the air of life. Slowly gaining confidence and skill as they navigate the wind currents and storms.

It’s change, and change alone that we can count on as parents. Sharing our love in each season of our lives, making our homes the bastions of peace and love they need is all we can do after a certain decision-making stage arrives.

Leaning on our faith, and the constancy of our creator… we gain perspective and purpose. Stronger for the experience, wiser and more patient we watch.

everydaylife.globalpost.com

everydaylife.globalpost.com

Life is a glorious circle, full of unique and unmistakable glimpses of the divine, balanced by the foolish and fantastic. It’s too much of an adventure to miss, and I wouldn’t trade any of the moments so far.

This spring, as graduation gowns are donned… let’s be sure to un-clench our hearts and blow out a long… steadying… breath. Change really is beautiful… and would we want it any other way?

Pastor B.

Japanese Gardens, Voodoo Donuts, Lebanese lunch and 7000 Rose’s… KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD!

Friday June 15: Our last full roadtrip day…kinda sad, kinda happy… but it was here.

Jessica loves cities…so we headed to Portland to check it out! Online she had found the eclectic Voodoo donuts and Blue Plate fountain ( both legendary eateries in the region) hidden in the bustling metropolis that represented well over half of the population of Oregon…and wanted to eat at authentic – off the beaten path places while we were here!

The Sign says it all…

 The Voodoo donuts experience was a wild one, a line had formed around the corner and Jessica snapped pics of the crazy sign and downtown Portland vibe. When it was our turn we found the choices too many to decide… So we bought a Voodoo dozen ( let the staff pick our 12) and had a bite of each in our famous pink box.

Voodoo Sugar Coma

 Our favorites were the bubble gum and captain crunch creations as well as a blueberry with raspberry sprinkles! NICE.

Compared to the donuts and atmosphere of the Seattle “Top Pot” donutery – we liked the Seattle version of gourmet cakes better…  But the sheer audacity of the voodoo donuts design, color and names; was worth the visit for sure! Fun to eat them right out of their pink boxes and matching pink picnic tables as we nibbled ourselves into a serious sugar coma by 10am. 🙂

 From there we went exploring and found the World renown Portland … Japanese and Rose gardens in Washington park. Fabulous details found in the large Japanese garden were clearly world-class in beauty, size and scope. It took us over an hour of walking and reviewing the many micro gardens, water falls, koi ponds, tea houses and zen rock gardens to complete our tour! 

Portland Japanese Garden

The colors and care in the design and maintenance of this serene setting were indeed worth the price of admission. Jessica loved it! She took more pictures here than in Yosemite National park:) Good to know…

 The Rose garden across the street was free and intertwined in the Portland public park system and featured over 500 varieties in 7000 plantings, spread across 4.5 acres. Dating back to the early 1900’s this elevated garden provided a dazzling array of colors and scents as we walked through its expanse and enjoyed the cityscape views of Portland and Mt Hood across the valley below us. Beautiful!

Tried to find the Blue Plate place for lunch…but were unsuccessful. Instead we tried a new ethnic treat. Lebanese, at Karam downtown! After splitting a banquet of lamb and chicken, homemade humus and fresh-baked Pita bread we were stuffed and walked the downtown city blocks enjoying the sun and clear June skies in a truly unique and beautiful city! Jessica was loving it… I could tell it was a high-point for her to be here for sure!

One of the great parts of a father-daughter RoadTrip is the chance to reconnect, to re-orient our understanding of each other and the thousands of little details, nuance’s and shifts in personality, preference and discoveries that occur from the teen years into adulthood. Their new favorites. Colors, styles…taste buds and music all shifting dramatically from their freshman to senior years of high-school. It’s impossible to keep up, but RoadTrip’s give us parents a huge head start in staying really connected with our young adults.

I could see that my little girl was becoming a real lady. Complex, mysterious and hungry for new cultural experiences. Portland was a paradise for her. A new place to explore, to savor new styles and flavors and sights-sounds so different from Spring Hill TN. This was exactly the reason we were here. 

Signs all over the city!

To reconnect and then release her to adult life in college. To make sure she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt how special, unique and amazing she was… how proud we were of her AND to expose her to a bright – big new world of ideas, opportunities and challenges that she needed to know existed beyond the shelter of our suburban bible-belt life. She loved the crazy Portland signs painted or posted everywhere… KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD!..I was less excited, but knew she was already beyond needing to share my opinion. She was now HERSELF.

Mission accomplished!  

After lunch we Drove east to explore the famous Columbia river gorge and Multanomah Falls! A short 30 minute trip from downtown we climbed the popular 1/2 mile path to take pictures from the famous bridge and watch as thousands of gallons of water cascaded over the Columbia cliffs below. Directly off of interstate 84 this national scenic stop is easy for everyone to discover and provides a welcome car break for families with young and old alike. A full restaurant, visitors center and gift shop allow for a great experience on any and every budget!

 With a hotel reserved through Priceline for a 60% discount  in downtown Seattle we headed north on I-5 . On the way we enjoyed the views of the southern Washington mountains including the snow-capped peaks of Mt St Helen’s, the Olympics and iconic Mt Rainier! Each epic silhouette in the afternoon sky was beautiful to watch and remember. It was like they were guarding our east and western flanks as we motored North to our flight home…sentinels to our time together.

We arrived at a first class boutique hotel (Silver cloud inns and hotels) in the capital hill district of Seattle and crashed! The service, the food and the amenities were outstanding and provided a wonderful and a truly fitting way for us to wind down our week-long North-Pacific adventure.  The only down side… Today was my 21st wedding anniversary and I was not with my bride. 😦

Jessica fixed that for me… we had posed for a picture at the Rose Garden in Portland earlier in the day… she used it to post on my Facebook wall with Paige to show me presenting a bright red rose to her on our anniversary. 

Portland Rose for my Sweetheart!

And… I had purchased a great Owl statue from the Japanese Garden for my beautiful wife…gently tucked in paper for our return.

We loved the road… and tomorrow we were heading home. What a time! What a blessing we had been given… sharing 3000 miles and seven whole days alone. God was so generous to us and our time had not been wasted. From Seattle to Yosemite we had explored, tasted and adventured into hundreds of super cool little nooks and crannies, blasted ColdPlay, the Black Keys and Jessica’s iPod playlists for hours…singing along out of tune with the windows open! We had thrown snow balls and walked in the rain, we had sat on rockers and watched spring mist slide in over a gentle lakeside sunset. We had dived into the bustle of a sprawling urban landscape of people and tourists and commercial excess…and we had walked stone & driftwood filled beaches with beauty and isolation. We had trekked to abandoned mining towns in the desert and drove into snow filled passes with scenic vista’s for miles…all with an eagerness to see, to find to discover…to learn…to live! 

Her mother and I are so Proud !

Was our RoadTrip worthy of Jessica’s massive cultural wanderlust…? YEP, I think so!

Peace out RTP… God bless you this summer and if you can… plan your own RoadTrip moment. Get out there… the road is calling and our kids are not getting any younger, take the time before it’s gone!

Funny, Absurd, Brilliant and Annoying… celebrating FAMILY

Our oldest daughter just jumped out of High School into adulthood… and what a wild and wonderful weekend of family fun we had! Surrounded by our loved ones for Jessica’s milestone moment. Our family came from everywhere to share the day with us. It was AWESOME!!!

Some of the Crazies – Graduation Weekend May 2012

As my wife and I reflected on the weekend, a few moments stood out… but not the ones you might have guessed. It was so exciting to watch our 18-year-old honored as an outstanding student, her multiple cords of distinction bright against her graduation gown as she proudly took her diploma and posed for pictures. We laughed with her as we watched her throw her cap and rejoice with her friends in the moment… finding satisfaction together in the sheer joy of finishing well and moving on. Those were expected, and loved and cherished and to be kept forever.

But there was a weekend of wonderful and un-expected family surprises ahead…

Like my Nephew David cheerfully jumping in to do dishes,  the trash and to help carry whatever Aunt Paige or his mom asked…  No complaints, no irritations…just waiting quietly in the wings. Ready to serve. He was telling Jessica, and us how much he loved us.

Or my sis-in-law, Liza… who cheerfully volunteered to sleep on the couch! We awoke each morning to find the kitchen cleaned, dishes done and on monday  before she left our house she cleaned my wifes car inside-out… No fanfare, no public “thank you”, just a desire to help where she could… didn’t wait to be asked, just jumped in. She was telling Jessica and us… how much she loved us.

Or my Brother and His wife who drove from North Carolina with their three grown college age kids, packing it all up for a 10 hour road trip to join us in celebrating Jessica’s life-moment. They put their Holiday Weekend plans on hold for us, helping to set up, take down and sweat for three days.. helping us clean up after the seventy plus visitors we had tramping through the house on Sunday. No complaints, no problem. They were telling Jessica and us… how much they loved us.

My in-laws Vince (Papa) and Sally (Nona) along with Jessica’s uncle Jason and aunt Leah, drove four hours from Memphis TN to our cul-de-sac, to serve Slaw Dog’s  in sweltering heat and never waivered to make our celebration a party to remember for a lifetime. They were serving up hotdogs and catering food for our family and guests.., all in an effort to express to Jessica how much they really loved her.

Jason and Nona – Showing their Love

 

The cumulative effect of the weekend was this… It became clear to me, that with a Family, all of us are needed to raise a girl up into a woman. Sure the parents get to sit in the front row of this ride, but it’s the entire momentum of the family around them that carries the day. It’s the faithful support, the love and the strength that comes from a commitment, a life- bond that’s greater than distance or age or opinion. It’s the power of Love and the presence of Family that really impacted us last weekend. Don’t get me wrong!  My daughter is awesome, I love her… I’m proud of her… but my favorite memories from this weekend point to our  Funny, Absurd, Brilliant and Annoying Family who made it all possible!

In the midst of the family we shared by the genetic’s of our parents and grand-parents… we were also surrounded by our faith family. An ever present and comforting, community of faith… made up of neighbors, co-workers, church friends, school-mates and life-long comrades. Connected by the blood we share in Jesus, this family of faith supports the foundation for all the rest to anchor to.

It’s important to understand that this beautiful treasure of Faith and Family are not reserved for just those among us who happen to enjoy an “intact” parenting unit in their home, or were born into a life with a dozen brothers and sisters or some great ethnic background. Family is for all of us.

You just have to allow yourself to find and be found by either your natural or faith family…or in our case both! Then make the extra effort to show them how much you love them…precisely when they need you the most…. The way our family showed us. Of course they will annoy, frustrate and irritate you along the way….but in the end, it’s their love that will shine the brightest in your darkest day!

Peace out to my extended RTP Family, that means YOU !

LOVE…brad.

Tears and Fears…as Graduation time approaches

Our firstborn is graduating High School in a week.

My mom and my wife, my in-laws and my college twin nieces are all going to lose it.

I will stay strong… (not)

Inside, I will be a pile of mush… Jessica is my eighteen year old graduating from a time-honored institution of learning known as High School…she cruised through it. Graduating with straight A’s, NHS Honors, scholarships and awards, I’m really proud of her. REALLY PROUD. But not just because of what’s she’s accomplished or that she’s smart. 

I’m proud because of who she has become! Jessica is a strong, hard-working and resourceful young woman. Her head sits mostly straight on her shoulders 🙂 She is ready for the next stage of her life. She is ready to launch out into the deep and swim on her own. I have no fear about her being ready for college.

I’m proud because she has learned to work when no one notices, to be diligent when she didn’t feel like it…to listen,trust and follow God when her emotions told her to take charge herself and hurry things up. I have no fear about her faith.

I’m proud because she has a solid and beautiful understanding of how unique and irreplaceable she is as a woman, from her appearance to her purpose, she has accepted and even learned to love herself…just as she was created. I have no fear about her perspective on life and God’s plan for her in it.

I am terrified that she is leaving home… and will never need us again. I am scared to death that she has grown up so much that her parents will be a historical reference she uses only in past tense conversations with her new-found intellectual friends.  

But I am so grateful for the chance we had to be in her life… to love her and guide her and encourage her along the last eighteen years. I am so excited to watch now from a distance as she learns to not only walk into her life, but to RUN into the future. Nothing could be more twisted up inside of me as to accept that it’s her time to grow a bit more, move a bit further and become a whole bunch more than ever before…and that it will likely all occur somewhere far away from our home.

I guess that’s the pride and the pain of parenting… the reason parents have lots of tears and fears for their kids on graduation day.

So glad we learned to trust God for her as little one…

So glad her mom and I can trust Him all over again today…

We Love you Jessica Elaine… (sniff), going to miss seeing you everyday. But we are so excited to find out what comes next…. from your  “can’t be prouder and happier”  Padre and Mother 🙂

Parents… as I consider how it’s going to feel sitting next to my tear soaked and eye dabbing family members at graduation… I’m urging you, please – please – please – make the time, live well and wisely with your young ones!

Above all…take time to listen to God as He nudges you to be careful, go slow, speed up, stay firm, relax, or use a more gentle touch from time to time with your kids. There is NO formula, only your heart and theirs. Ask  and Listen often for God to show you and your spouse the best way to parent YOUR kids.

Psalm 16: 5- 11 (ESV) Bible Gateway.com

5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.

11 You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

In the end I choose to cling to the Word of God, Psalm 16 is one my favorite parenting passages in the entire biblefrom diapers to diploma’s, rest assured…God’s got your back and a whole lot more!

Peace Out on Graduation Week from RTP !

Brad.

PS – Jessica… I’m super-stoked to start our June RoadTrip from Seattle WA to San Fransico CA ! WooooHOOO 🙂

Tassel Time and Transition

Graduation ! Tassel Time and Transition has come again. It’s that time of the year when we parents scramble to find our boys that one lost pair of dress shoes (that you know must be in the laundry room), or some khaki’s that are still wearable as we check to see if the one button down shirt he has to still have from Christmas, might be in a pile under his bed… and for those of us with daughters we fathers endure as they preen about if the dress they picked out for graduation works for them? Their anxiety growing until the very last second as they consider over and over with whoever will listen to them… if it’s o.k. to wear or if it’s TOO dressy or NOT enough for the occasion. Arrgh! If your a parent of a soon to be graduate, this is your blog for today.

Digital camera’s at the ready, hundreds of mom’s, dad’s, grandparents and siblings will be rushing off to sweat in a gym while wondering if their backs can really hold them erect on wooden bleachers long enough to capture the moment on the platform. It can be a crazy time, marked by mad dashes and minivan races to get everyone there on time to share.

Life comes at us FAST, it feels like its moving at an ever-increasing pace and if we’re not careful it may blow right by without us having the time to mark this cherished moment forever and ever… I mean how often do they graduate from pre-school, RIGHT ?

EASY, JUST KIDDING..!

My youngest child finished up eighth grade yesterday, my oldest is a junior…sorry, now Senior in High School. I’ve attended probably nearly a dozen graduation events over the last seventeen years with my three children and my twin nieces,nephew etc.. sat uncomfortably as they all navigated their educational courses of life to the elevated platform of paper and pride (Diploma). Along the way I’ve watched as they matured and learned and gained valuable and sometimes painful lessons from both their teachers and their peers. Graduations it seems are mostly uncomfortable, hot-humid affairs in the mid-south, with bustling and tussling and excited nervous masses of “not-going- to-miss- this- moment” mom’s rushing at you from every corner with a camera and a set smile. They will be crowded, loud and an agonizing mix of excitement and boredom followed by too much food. So Enjoy !

Confession, this year we skipped a junior high graduation in our family for the first time. Gasp! I know. I thought my wife would get really upset, but last night with my son we did, and the world didn’t stop. His older sisters were excited for him so they made a fun ceremony of it  in our basement. They put on their own graduation party for their little brother (who is actually taller than both of them now) complete with balloons, streamers and his favorite take out chinese food, cards, gifts and mountain dew!

When the dust cleared my son and I went up to our bonus room and played a shooter game on the Playstation 3 for two hours (Yes, fellow dads…he waxed me every time) and we had a blast. As we enjoyed our laid back graduation evening, I WAS AWARE. I noticed that my boy was becoming a man, and I saw the changes in him already gained and the ones yet to come. I marked that moment in my mind as significant and IT DID NOT PASS ME BY. I spent an evening focused on him.

Last night was really about grabbing that moment in whatever way would connect with my son, in a way that he would appreciate and remember. Of taking the time to note that he had completed well what he had begun four years earlier and that he had survived the trauma of junior high intact. His leaving the equivalent of an adolescent hades and preparing to enter high school was a moment of triumph in a far different way than academics. He had learned to endure and grow and contend for things that were new, difficult or uncomfortable, but he had and he had done so with courage and strength.

It was for that accomplishment I sensed the need to celebrate. To congratulate my son for being the guy God created him to be, for not caving in to his peers and surrendering his identity for popularity like so many do in junior high. My son is not a fan of parties, he hates large gatherings and public ceremonies, He loves Coldplay and his keyboard, and take out food. He avoids crowds and loves to stay close to home. Our celebration of HIM needed to reflect that. Not my or his mother’s idea of how it should be. Not like we did the previous two eighth grade graduations in our house ahead of him…but in a way that says we cherish him for being him. My son is awesome, and despite his honors studies and amazing intellect, he is not keen on graduations, at least not yet. (authors note; your High school graduation will be a much different situation Caleb …if your reading this🙂

To wrap this up… We all know that a graduation is a season of transition that is full of bittersweet memories and future hopes and fears. It’s a moment of reflection for all of us who have a child finishing up one period of their lives only to begin again. My encouragement,  mark the season well, engage fully during these milestone moments with your kids and dis-engage from your work, your distractions and your urgency to be somewhere. Live intentionally. Skip the sermons, avoid life lesson talks in the moment, just enjoy your childs graduation transition and celebrate them and remember it well.

If this is happening now in your world, get the card, get the flowers, buy the watch…but PLEASE DON’T MISS THE MOMENT.

God, help us as parents to slow down and see our kids this graduation season. Help us to be aware and sensitive to who they are, and where they are emotionally and spiritually and to sense what they still need to learn about real life. God, give us the courage to speak into their lives with words of hope, and healing and comfort and encouragement. Help us to lead in the moments they are following and enable us to communicate the painful truths of our lives to them in a way that will not burden them with our own regrets. Lord, reveal your ways and your heart to our kids through us as we seek to keep them on the road and in between the lines of life! Amen.”

Peace out.

brad.