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Surprise!

Remember how I mentioned that there were a few reasons why I needed to take the summer off from blogging? Well…..I’m just going to go ahead and leave these family pictures here and then walk away whistling with a grin, okay?

Anne

JosephEvelynn

FiveFamilyPlusOne

(I have a story to tell you, believe me. This is might just be our miracle baby.)

Continue Reading · baby, family · 121

Tell them about the love that doesn’t show up in movies and love songs

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You have been travelling a bit more than usual, and I was in the home stretch of another week of solo parenting. My parents had graciously (read: heard the desperation in my voice and taken pity on me) invited us all over for pizza on the last night. On our way home in the minivan, a motorcycle sped past us, and a new line of questioning was introduced by the tinies. They asked if we ever had a motorcycle and, of course, no, because well, we aren’t risk takers, you and me, are we? And maybe because we had just been at Granny and Papa’s house, who knows, but they wanted to know if Papa or Granny ever had a motorcycle.

Without a thought, I told them the story I knew so well: the one about how my dad used to have a motorcycle when he was a teenager because well, he was that kind of kid. But when he showed up for a date with my mum, she wouldn’t get on the motorcycle because her father had forbidden it. Papa was incredulous – after all, he is the kind of guy who just does what he wants and screw the rules and the rule-makers – but sure enough, she stood her ground and let him ride away.

“That could have been the end of the story, but no,” I said. “Your Papa, well, he was already in love. Your Granny was so beautiful – she had a long sheet of golden brown hair, just the colour of Evelynn’s hair, and she had blue eyes just like you three here with me, and so instead, your Papa sold that old motorcycle and the next time he asked her out, he had a car to drive. She said yes, of course, and then they fell in love and got married. At the end, I said, you see? Your Papa loved your Granny more than any old motorcycle, right from the start. She was worth it.”

Their eyes were big as saucers, you know how they get. But they were silent – for once. And then they asked to hear the story again, and so I told it again, just the way I remembered it anyway, because that is the story I heard all the time as a kid. We arrived home, and I put them to bed after all of the rituals, and then I sat around and watched television by myself. I stayed up too late because you weren’t there to make me go to bed. I changed the countdown on the kitchen cupboard blackboard: 5 4 3 2 1 more sleep until Dad is home!

You came home on Saturday. Later on in the weekend, you were in the car with Annie and from her perch in the backseat, she asked you if you wanted to hear a love story. And of course, you said yes, and then she said, “Well, once upon a time, Papa had a motorcycle….” and then you listened to her re-tell the old story I’ve told you a few (dozen) times, using my exact phrases and expressions.

As she wrapped it up, she said, “Papa loved Granny more than any old motorcycle.”

You were amazed at how they remembered every word, and I thought of another generation growing up in the safety of our family fables.

Darling, let’s remember to tell them our stories, too.

Remind me to tell them about the nights we used to spend laying on the hood of your old car, stretched out with our backs against the windshield, staring at the Oklahoma nights. Remind me to tell them about how we danced to old Garth Brooks songs from an AM radio station on the side roads. Remember to tell them about the first time you saw me walking across the gym in university, knee high black boots and a mini-skirt among everyone in their workout gear.

Let’s spin our own yarns here at home, beloved, among all the books littered on the floor and buried under their pillows. Let’s tell them our homemade fairy tales.

Let’s tell them about our sacred places: the side yard in Texas, perhaps, the parking lot of the Mabee Centre, the little booth in the Earl’s near our Vancouver apartment. Don’t forget that creek we found as we drove through Arizona during the hardest year of our lives: the one we heard before we saw it. And we scrabbled down a red rock embankment covered in dust, just to sit on the stones and soak our swollen hot feet in the clear water. Remember how the sun came through the trees, and we began to feel something like hope, perhaps stirring, fluttering, through the leaves, descending to us again. Maybe we’ll tell them about the night we went camping in the mountains of New Mexico and a blizzard blew up, so we drove down the mountain to stay in a hotel, leaving our kit and tent all set up. We had a shower, ate bacon and eggs, and then went back up the mountain later in the day to finish the trip.

Maybe we’ll tell them about the night you proposed in the moonlight, kneeling in the grass with a mix tape playing Six Pence None the Richer songs on the portable CD player, holding up a ring paid for with the tips from Tulsa oil tycoons at the club where you worked. Maybe we’ll tell them about the guys in San Antonio who play the pan flute at the Riverwalk mall, and the mariachi bands, and the way we lingered over tables with bright umbrellas above us. And the way we used to hold hands as we wandered through Gruene, listening to Americana music through clapboard walls of an old dance hall. Maybe we’ll tell them about Kananaskis but probably not.

Because let’s not kid ourselves: our best – and our worst – stories will always be secrets, just ours, always.

Maybe we’ll tell them something about our wedding, but I’ll have to be honest: if I had to do it again, I’d have married you way sooner, and we could have run away together. That sounds nice to me now.

Let’s fill their little minds with the thousands of ways we’ve convinced ourselves that we were meant to be: let’s tell them about 28 May 1989 and the weird way it connects us because that was the day you decided to become a Christian sitting on the edge your parents’ bed in Omaha and at the exact same moment in a church in Winnipeg, I was descending into a water tank for my baptism into the faith. Maybe we’ll talk about Naples and Riadoso, that one field somewhere in the middle of Kansas where we had a picnic after I met your parents, oh, and the Silverthorne Village Inn on the winter nights of Colorado when we sneaked out of the communal condo and stayed up all night, talking, over terrible coffee.

We’ll talk about the way you drove up to see me in the dead of a Canadian winter, staying the night with my uncle and aunt. You’ll laugh and tell them about how everyone made fun of your old Monte Carlo because you didn’t have a block heater for the cold night ahead, and how my Uncle pulled his own car out of the garage, just to put your old maroon Monte inside, so you could leave first thing for the last leg to Calgary to me, our first Christmas together. And then – you loved this part – he went out on the deck, in minus 30 degree weather, and grilled you a steak at 11 o’clock at night, and you sat at their kitchen table eating meat and talking about nothing for a few more hours. You fell in love with Canada that night, I think.

Maybe we’ll talk about fear and sacrifices, about choosing each other’s best first, about deep sadness and the way we’ve clung to each other through dreams unfulfilled and longings unsatisfied and the still-waiting of right now. Someday maybe I’ll tell them about the babies who aren’t here with us, and about the night you stood in the darkness of their childhood room with another little lost one bundled into a kitchen tea towel and how I stood in doorway and listened as you cried and cried and cried. We’ll tell them about the nights they were born, the way I always burst out in laughter and you always burst into tears after they were safely earthside. Let’s tell them about the mundane beauties of their lives, and how we used to have them tucked in between us in our old bed so we could meet eyes over their downy heads to silently telegraph our disbelief at our luck – look at this! a real little person! –  at each other. We’ll talk about how we lived pay cheque to pay cheque, and it was worth every single tense conversation about the budget. We’ll tell them about the greatest part of parenting – witnessing them become the people they were meant to be all along – and how it made us love each other even more than we thought possible. We’ll talk about the teamwork of parenting, about how you always knew when I was at Noise Capacity and would whisk them outside for a street hockey game.

Let’s tell them about the vast middle part of love, too, this part right now, the part that doesn’t show up in movies and love songs, the part where my hips have widened and your hair is greying, and some of our dreams are languishing at the same time that others are coming true. About how we’ve become better acquainted and more appreciative of the fruit of faithfulness and gentleness as the years go by.

We’re still choosing each other, over and over and over again, this is what we want, this is what I want, this is what we want, you are who I want, still, then, always.

Let’s make them feel like they’re part of a love story, let’s tell them how love looked for us.

Let them catch us slow dancing in our pink kitchen to Patty Griffin songs, let them hear us say it out loud: we used to sit in an empty baseball stadium in the middle of the night and kiss behind home plate. Oh, and how when they were little, we put them to bed early for two reasons – first, it’s best for them and second, it made sure we had a few hours together every night to talk or make out or just watch telly.

Let’s hold hands on the gearshift of the vehicle, the way we do, the way we’ve always done, until we’re old and we will tell them the stories of their grandparents and their great grandparents, about Nebraska and Saskatchewan, Alberta and Oklahoma, Texas and beautiful British Columbia.

Let’s go to preschool graduations and high school graduations and university graduations, and then let’s stand in our empty nest house someday and cry because it went too fast and try to figure out the rest of it, and then laugh because there is still so much life ahead, who are we kidding? Let’s go to Paris and London, India and Cavendish together, all the places we never got to go because of money and tinies and plane fares, then let’s stay home and watch the sun set in the sky we love here, and let’s drink a bit too much and kiss until the stars come down.

We’ve had a regular sort of life perhaps, not too special to the outside eyes, but it’s enough to keep us warm.

Wrap me up in the ways we’ve loved each other, darling, and let’s keep on spinning.

edited and updated from the archives

Continue Reading · brian, family, love, love looks like, marriage · 19

In which it all locks into place

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Sometimes your world locks into place.

When your son is complaining that his legs hurt and you roll up the legs of his jeans, fully expecting a bruised knee or a scrape to find something else entirely – red lesions and large bumps. And then you rush part of your heart to the emergency room.

When you are rocking in an old rocking chair, perhaps, creaking back and forth beside a gurney bed with a small boy perched atop, chatting like a magpie. The ceiling tiles have been replaced with plexiglass sky pictures, there are animal decals on the walls, and vitals are being taken every forty five minutes. When you wait for answers and every hour that passes takes the easy answers away.

When you watch the tests being run, when you hold your child down so that blood can be drawn, when you depend on others to bring you food, when the paediatrician made your tired boy laugh and you could have hugged him for that alone, let alone for the first answers of the long day. An odd sort of infection but complications. Perhaps it’s when you follow a child’s wheelchair into paediatrics and make phone calls with lists of overnight requirements.

But really, it was when it was time for the IV to be inserted and your child suffered so mightily, with such cries and tears and begging for relief, that was the moment when the world locked into place. Here is what matters: I want my children to be healthy. I want them to sleep well under my gaze, I want them to play and grow and laugh. I want them whole. I want to hold them close to me and rescue them. I want to take away the pain, I would take his place, I would, I would, set him free.

But the days unfold, one after another. You become thankful for the hospital in a real visceral way, like you are only thankful for food after becoming aware of its absence. You count heartbeats and vials of blood and IV bags. You count on nurses and decide that you will picket on their side the next time they want a raise. You crawl into what your son calls The Transformer Bed and you curl yourself around your child, patient together. You forget about Twitter entirely, you can’t even read a book right now, you simply want to sit in the time. Nothing else, no one else matters.

Your circle becomes very small. If you want to know who matters, who has your trust, ask yourself who you call, who you tell, who you trust with the details at this moment.

You haven’t cried yet. Just keep going, just keep going. There are things to do, you know. “How are you?” your people ask, and you keep saying you are fine. Fine. Fine, thanks.

The answers come and the risks decrease with each slow hour that passes in that tiny quarantine room with the big windows looking out on the highway. You watch old episodes of the Magic School Bus and skip meals and drink coffee. You knit round after round after round of the lace centrepiece. You marvel at your child: his laughter, his delight in small details, the way he turns everything about this ridiculous experience into a joy, the little charmer. The only time he cries is when he talks about how much he misses his sisters. You read his books out loud, make him stretch his legs every couple of hours.

Then there was the moment when your husband sent you home to sleep at last. You hadn’t slept in days, maybe that’s the reason why the sight of him there in that hospital bed beside the child you both love did you in. You kissed him heavily because here is someone who loves your child the way that you love your child. This is what love looks like: tired faces, relief, exhaustion, and still one foot in front of the other, caring for each other at the same time you care for the tinies, watching Backyardigans with your full attention.

By the last day, the threat of infection is long past, so you bring in one sister for a visit. They sit on the bed together, playing Mario Kart and roaring with laughter, happy to be together again. You take pictures with the phone, letting them make silly faces, creating videos for memories now that the fear is gone.

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joehospital1

It’s time to escape at last: your son’s energy is at full-throttle again, his arms covered in bruises from so many needles, his legs healing nicely, his organs safe, so you sign the forms, pack the bags. As you walk past the nursing station, he says matter-of-factly “Thanks for all your hard work, guys” like he does this every week, ain’t no thing. See you later, alligators.

And then home.

This is when your world locked into place, it will begin to move again tomorrow. You’ll work again, you’ll waste time watching television, you’ll clean the washrooms, you’ll make supper, you’ll check Facebook, you’ll shout at him about the Legos all over the house. But right now, you simply sink to your knees in the living room because all of your children are at home with you and then you weep at last.

 

Continue Reading · family, Joseph, moments · 45

In which I’ll do the dishes :: a guest post by Zach Hoag

book club

I have asked a few of my favourite writers/bloggers to respond to the Jesus Feminist discussion questions. The discussion questions are meant for small group discussions or journalling but I wanted to make a bit of room on the blog for each of us to respond to them, too.

(Okay, so really I wanted an excuse to give away books, encourage people to work through the discussion questions, and also introduce my readers to some exciting new-to-you voices!)

From Chapter 3: Tangled Roots

Think about how gender differences were framed for you as a child or as a new believer. What stands out to you looking back? What do you understand as truth today?

Weigh in with your response to the day’s question in the comments.

One commenter’s response will win a free signed copy of the little yellow book.

Today, Zach Hoag of The Nuance is responding to our question.

 

Dad never did the dishes.

Not once.

He never cooked a meal, either. Or balanced a checkbook. Or cleaned the bathroom.

And even though there were never discussions about “complementarianism” in our third-wave, charismatic Christian home, there was a functional expectation of fixed gender roles. Dad fancied himself an apostle-Paul type, determining that chores were “not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables” (Acts 6:2). Never mind that the verse was ripped out of the context of equipping qualified leaders to serve the widows in the community – the Spirit-led application was that he would study the Word and lead the family while Mom did everything else.

As I began to grab hold of my own faith in my late teens, I was swept off my feet by Reformed theology. Where the fast and loose Pentecostalism of my parents had essentially led our ministry family to ruin, the Reformation seemed to offer stability. Ironically, the gender roles pushed by newfound heroes like John Piper were not too dissimilar from those lived out by my tongue-talking folks. As a result, I became all the more convinced of my biblically-mandated responsibility to exercise authority over my future wife. I would not serve tables. I would get in the Word, run things, and make decisions. And she would do the rest.

During my first year of marriage, both my Reformed theology and my rigid gender roles began quickly crumbling. I did not marry a woman without a will, sans a personality. And I loved her too much to mimic the domineering behavior I saw demonstrated in the Reformed Baptist church we attended. I also loved her too much to see her forced into the mold that so many women in our church had submitted to. Even as my own immature theologized machismo was being confronted at every turn by the real, strong, passionate person I was living with, an entire theological system I had bought into was losing its structural integrity.

And finally, it fell.

The end result is a marriage that has become fully and completely equal and mutual in a way that neither my childhood nor my Calvinistic cage phase could have prepared me for. Our roles as husband and wife are anything but fixed. Instead, they are fluid.

It is not my place to have my way, do my thing (even if it’s my Jesus thing), and expect my wife to do the rest. No, it’s my place to serve. And to contribute. And collaborate. And lead. And submit to my wife’s leadership. 50/50, all the way.

I’m a Jesus Feminist because I now believe it is my place to serve tables. And clean the bathroom. And balance the checkbook. And change the diapers. And get the four-year-old ready for bed.

And even though I’m a pretty worthless cook, it’s the least I can do to submit to my spouse, roll up my sleeves, and do the dishes every once and awhile - you know, out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).

 

zachZach J. Hoag is a church planter and missional minister from the least religious city in the least religious state in the U.S. – Burlington, Vermont. He wrote a book called Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter, and he blogs at The Nuance on Patheos. Most importantly, he binge-watches cable TV dramas and plays in the snow with his family.

Continue Reading · faith, family, Guest Post, Jesus Feminist · 48