My Kids Are More Mature Than Me

I am in a position right now between the Navy and my family which is pretty rough.  I am handling it pretty well, but it is awfully hard.  As I have told my story to a couple friends, I have heard the response,

 

“You are a better man than me”

 

I usually dismiss that phrase because I know it just isn’t true.  These guys are men of character, men who would respond very similarly to how I am responding were they in my shoes.

My kids, on the other hand, really are “better” than me.  I hope they stay that way.

 

Because I did not make it through the school I was in, I fall at the bottom of the Navy’s priority scale for selecting orders.  As it turns out, the only set of orders that I am allowed to have right now are to a foreign country.  I’m not upset about that.  Jessica and I have wanted to take the family overseas for years.  Herein lies the problem.  Because the family is so large, we may have to be separated for 2 years.  The orders I am taking will allow me to bring my family with me, but there are other restrictions which can cause my family to be left behind and, at this moment, there is a very real chance that they will not join me.

Can you understand the sadness, fear, turmoil, and agony which I am swirling in?  It is hard stuff to say the least.

I knew I needed to tell my kids.  It isn’t fair to them to have them going to the appointments and screenings and for them to feel the tension in Jessica and I and to have no idea what is going on.  We have always spoken to our kids as though they are capable of understanding the life which swirls around them, and this is no exception.

I sat with my older 2 and explained to them that I may be going overseas and they will probably have to stay here.  Neither of them cried.  They got quiet, but didn’t even seem to get sad.  I explained it again… That I AM going overseas for 2 years and they ARE NOT going with me… for 2 years… separated… without me.  Again, no great emotion came out of them.  I asked them,

 

“Are you sad at all that your dad will be gone for 2 years?”

Answer:

Daughter – We are sad…

Son –  Yeah… but we don’t know for sure if we will be apart or not

Daughter – … but we can trust God

 

Whose kids are these?

Surely not mine!  Surely not the offspring of a man who walks with such uncertainty and fear upon his shoulders.  Surely not the son and daughter of a man who agonizes every detail of a plan in order to ensure the best possible outcome.  Surely not the kids of a man who can talk about God, Christianity, Faith, and Trust but falls hopelessly short when his back is up against a wall.

My kids are more mature than I am.

This little conversation we had, coupled with a Vacation Bible School song that they love (You Can Trust God) and play on their stereo over and over again, as well as other conversations I have had in the midst of this decision has me really pondering the goodness of God.

The congregation my wife came from regularly participates in a call and response during their Sunday morning worship.  The pastor says, “God is good” and the people say “All the time”.  Then the Pastor says “All the time” and the folks say “God is good”.  I believe this to be true.  God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.

But I am not a blind Christian, I don’t just check off the boxes without thinking (or feeling) about the stuff I am agreeing with and forming as a part of who I am.  This is one of those moments.

I can continue to walk around under this painful cloud feeling like I am under a storm and over a barrel because I don’t know whether or not I will be separated from my family for 2 years.  This is what I am doing right now.  It essentially says that I do NOT believe God is good… or rather, I do NOT believe God is good ALL the time.  Most of the time maybe.. A lot of the time for sure…  But all the time?  Do I really believe that?  My thoughts and feelings right now say no.

Now y’all hold on a minute before you send me encouraging and correctional emails and messages.  I know what the right answer is… and that is the point.  I could swallow what I am feeling and hide it from the world (which I did for SOOO LONG) and I can give the right answer and nobody in the world would know that a Man of God has a hard time grasping the full implications of the God he follows.

Here are the hard questions in my heart.   If I am separated from my family for a period of 2 years, where is God’s goodness in that?  Where is God’s goodness when it comes to my kids growing and struggling with identity/purpose/value troubles and my wife is left alone to encourage them?  Where is His goodness in this?  For that matter, where was His goodness when Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Jim Elliot, Ed McCauley, and Pete Fleming were killed on Palm Beach leaving their wives and kids behind?  Does God’s goodness address my desire for comfort or the feelings of security at all?

I am reminded of a verse in Romans that says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”

Where is God’s goodness in the death of His Son?  In the temporal perspective… I’m not seeing the goodness.  With an eternal perspective, the goodness of God is realized in the redemption of mankind.  In the temporal perspective, there wasn’t much good about the previously mentioned 5 men dying on a beach, but within a generation or 2 the rampant murdering and revenge killing of an entire tribe of people came to an end.

On the one hand I want to reject the idea of God’s enduring, timeless goodness in exchange for my own temporal comfort and pleasure.  But I know the way that seems right in my heart will lead me to my death.  I know the other hand leads down a painful road which, for some, has held certain death, but it ends with redemptive healing in the lives of others for generations to come.

I should be more careful with what I hope for… what I pray for.  Though I have asked many times that God would grant me influence in the lives of men so that His kingdom will advance through my labor to many cultures for generations to come, I do not want to take the road necessary for Him to use me to that end.

I want my family to go with me.  I have tears in my eyes as I finish up this post because of the pain which I feel when thinking of being separated from them.

I fear that my family will not be able to join me.

And I am resolved to bear my true character in the face of adversity with hope, trusting that the temporal pain to be experienced by my family will surely result in the realization of a theme of Scripture and Christianity…

 

God is good

                    All the time

All the time

                  God is Good

Vulnerable Much?

Vulnerable, Wounded, and Broken

It seems as though I often get into conversations with people that are very similar to other conversations I have had with other folks recently.  Maybe it is because the people I spend my time with are all going through the same things in their lives (doubtful), or maybe it is because I see some things I my life and as I address these things in my life, I get to talking about it with other people.

One of the conversations that I seem to be having kind of often is about vulnerability, woundedness, and brokenness.

What is vulnerability?  It is being exposed.  Being open to something or someone which could cause me pain.

I just wrote about my sense of confidence and when I reread what I wrote, I saw a theme.  I saw that I did not want people to really see who I am because then they would not respect me… would not accept me.  In essence, I saw that I try to NOT be vulnerable.  I try to ensure that I am NOT open to other people, I do not want to put myself in a position which would allow somebody else to cause me pain of any kind.

I have come to realize over the last few years that this life of hiding who I am in order to protect me has caused me to shut my family out of my life.  My own kids, who love and adore me, have been placed on the outside of my boundaries.  As I got really good at being dependable, confident, and bold, I became good at hiding my fear, lack of confidence, and feelings of uncertainty.  When I started to hide who I was, I thought those who loved me would still be able to know me.  The real me.

I was wrong.

It seems to me now that I am great at building walls, but cannot put a door or a window in a wall to save my life.  Nobody can get to me because I won’t let them, even though I really want them to.  Boy oh boy am I NOT vulnerable!  LOL… who am I kidding.

Even in my “unvulnerability”, I was still being hurt, and the more I hurt, the thicker I made the walls.

I have recently started tearing them down.

As the bricks of my fortress came crashing to the ground, I felt really relieved.  I smelled the fresh air of love from my wife and kids, I saw the blue skies of genuine acceptance from my teammates, I walked free!

It was only a matter of time before I ended up hurt again.  I was faced with a dilemma… everything in me wanted to run and hide.  I was good at it.  I had mastered the art of running and hiding but making it look like I was still leading, still in control, still handling business.  I decided instead to just be hurt.  Which led me to really consider the words Broken and Wounded.

I know they are very similar.  I know that some people will tell me that there really is no difference.  I know that some people will tell me that I have the definitions backwards.

Wounded is what I was, and still am to an extent.  Wounded is not good.  Wounded is bleeding out on a battlefield, riddled with bullet holes.  Wounded is sitting in my house, hiding from life because I am dying and don’t know what to do about it.  Wounded is being hurt by people, hearing what they say, and believing them, right or wrong, internalizing what they have said to me, and choosing to react to life based on the effects of these hurtful things.

Broken is what I am, and what I really want to be.  Broken is a result of living life.  Riding a bicycle and falling, breaking an arm.  Broken is being hurt by what other people say to me and acknowledging that it hurts.  Broken is receiving the pain in me from my own actions towards others and realizing that I have inflicted wounds so deep.  Broken is acknowledging my weakness and my pain, hearing what is said to me, observing the worthless things that I do, but rejecting that any of that makes me who I am and instead, choosing to live out of a deeper sense of identity.  Wounded vs Broken is like this…

 

I am worthless

because I have a broken arm

and so I cannot complete these tasks

or fulfill these expectations.

 

VS

 

I am not worthless

because I have a broken arm,

I am just not capable of performing these tasks right now

    or fulfilling these expectations placed on me at this time.

The thing that I realize about being vulnerable is that it lets me be broken.  Building walls around me keeps me wounded.

Wounded is dying…

Broken is healing…

There is a lot more to say on this topic, but I need to go home and see my kids… I need to leave my fortress…

Are you broken or are you wounded?

Are you vulnerable or are you hiding?

And how have you moved from one to the other?

(If you don’t mind me asking)

Confidence or Something Else?

If you would have asked me about my confidence a year ago today, I would have told you that, though I come across as being very confident, I am really not.  I felt as though I was lost in a cloud, flying blind, a lot of the time (and still feel this way a lot).  I would make decisions and if they went poorly, I reacted very badly.  I tended to pour anger and frustration all around me because I felt as though I was not capable, or was not ready to be in the positions in which I found myself.

Ask me now about my confidence and I will tell you with great assurance that I am no longer as confident as I used to be!  I will also tell you that it is okay.

My parents, in-laws, wife, and kids can all tell you about times that things have not turned out the way I had hoped they would because of a simple mistake or oversight on my behalf, and how I feel as though I have failed at so many things.  Having come to this school, I have been placed in some very difficult positions.  The pace is so quick, the requirements so strict, the instructors so demanding, I have been forced to start pushing the envelope which contains my sense of “everything will be okay.”

Everything will in fact NOT be okay.

I am going to fail and I am going to screw stuff up.

I have been told by past leaders that I am a leader, that the bar I set for my peers is pretty high, and that I outperform those around me.  I never saw that.  I saw that other people would get worked up a lot more about the requirements, would work harder at their tasks than me, and would spend more time getting their tasks accomplished than I would.  My perspective was that they were better equipped and more motivated to succeed than I was, that they understood what was going on better than I did, yet somehow my leadership, and those working around me, started to rely on me as the “go to guy” for things that involved me.  I was so afraid of screwing up what I was working on, that I never pulled the trigger on a project or task until I was absolutely, positively, 100% sure that the task was complete and met the standard.  By the time I executed my task, I felt absolutely confident that it was right…  but I would not act until then.  This did not breed in me a sense of confidence though, it simply created a sense of focus, speed, and intensity in me that caused me to work my tasks faster than those around me.  While they were still unsure of what to do, I had finished my work and called the shot… confidence in my ability or quickness to finish because of a lack of confidence in my environment?

I would stay at work until 3 AM working on some tasks.  Think about that!  I would do almost 2 days work at night while my peers were home asleep because I was afraid I was going to miss a deadline or turn in a job that was incomplete.  My “confidence” was purely fueled by a true lack of confidence.

I do not have the time or resources to work my current tasks until they are absolutely 100% complete.  I am having to turn things in, run reports, finish tasks when I am mostly sure they are okay.  That is a long way from 100% complete and correct.  I am turning things in that meet the standard but require some correction instead of turning in perfection.

Having worked for so long in an environment where my work was pretty close to perfect, turning in things that simply meet the requirement is really hard.

It got even worse this month.  So far I have failed 1 test (made a mighty 64 on it), and have had to redo one of my tasks 7 times before it met the standard!  Talk about a death blow to my paradigm of confidence.  In the midst of the rework, I had the privilege of writing lines like I was back in middle school in order to correct one of my deficiencies.  I am faced with a Gastrointestinal lab, Head/Ears/Eyes/Nose/Throat (HEENT) lab, Cardiovascular exam, and HEENT exam all stacked up next week.

Guess what… my world did not come to an end.  I have royally screwed up several things this month now that I am having to perform on a much higher level than I have in the past and it is okay.

I don’t feel as though I have clearly communicated what I am feeling…  let me summarize like this…

I was so afraid of failing and having other people see me how I see me that I worked really REALLY hard to make sure everything I did was absolutely spot on.

Now I am in an environment where I cannot do what I used to do.

I was super afraid that I would drop the ball and the people around me would see me for the fraud that I so often feel I am.

I dropped the ball… I dropped it many times!

The people around me, family, friends, co-workers, leaders, looked at me, gave their advice/criticism, and moved on.

I had to do a lot of work because everything is not okay.

Apparently that is life…

And I really am okay!

Confidence is a thing of irony for me now.

What others may see in me and call confidence is really just me learning how to fail, recover well, and live with the grace and mercy that has been given to me.

Everything in life is not okay, but with grace, I can be.

…  So Joey, when you ask how I am doing, and I say, “I’m doing really well” and you say, “Awesome… I would like to hear why you are doing well…”… well…  this is why.

Thanks for asking!

 

Of Pancakes and Chocolate Milk

Hours spent at breakfast with my oldest daughter… 90 (or so)

Dollars spent on donuts, coffee, hot choclate, pancakes, and muffins… $1170.00

Moments of significant depth and connection from one soul to another… 1

Totally Worth It!!

I have been taking my oldest daughter to breakfast once a month for at least 6 years now.  I have only missed the Sunday morning breakfast dates with her when I have been away from home.  I started these 1 on 1 breakfasts with each of my kids in hopes that we would develop an emotional connection early in their lives.  If we can develop these early connections, then when they are in the midst of the teenage years, we will have a foundation in our relationship in order to have good conversations about some of those hard teenage conversations…  you know…

I have written my ideas about connecting with my oldest daughter before.  I call her my little sweetpea.

This last Sunday we went about our normal routine.  We got up and walked to our local Dunkin Donuts, paid for breakfast and coffee, then walked to Church.  All in all about a mile and a half.

When we got to the Church, we sat down on one of the rail ties that is used to delineate the parking areas.  Makes for a pretty good little bench.  She got to go to a friends house on Saturday for a few hours and she loved it.  I was asking her questions and just “following the emotion” in what she was saying which lead us to talk about her and being shy.  I learned several things that morning.

1)  She told me she is shy because other people are so nice to her and she doesn’t know how to say Thank You.  We talked about this one and what she is really saying is that she feels as though she cannot repay people for being so nice to her, and that if she cannot repay their kindness to her, they will stop being kind.

2) She thinks that she has nice stuff, but not as nice as other peoples stuff, and when these other people see the kind of stuff that she has, they will think that she is not a good girl and that is why she does not have nice stuff.

I expected to hear her tell me that she thinks people will think she is ugly, mean, stinky, boring, etc.  I was ready to tell her what I think about her regarding those things.  I was a bit blown away when I heard that she is afraid that she cannot repay the debt of kindness and grace that others have given her.  Before rooting around in this though, I decided to just keep asking questions and helping her put into words what she was feeling.

I asked her if somebody she knew told her that her stuff was not as nice as theirs or that she was not as nice as them.  (I think “nice” is a bad word but that is what she was saying… I’ll write about that later.)  She immediately… as in with no pause or break to think about it…  tells me that she was picking blackberries with a little girl from our neighborhood in Washington along with a couple other kids.  This other girl announced to the rest of the kids that when she starts making a clicking sound with her mouth, they should hold her hands behind her back.  This sound, she said, was a warning that she was about to go get a knife from her house and cut the head off of my little sweetpea.

I remembered this incident.  I remembered having to intervene with these 2 little girls in the past.  They both had little attitudes while playing together and I would get on to both of them from time time.  I also remember seeing a very manipulative and mean spirit from this other girl.  I figured it was just little girl attitude, just like mine has sometimes, and didn’t worry about it.  It is good for my kids to face those kinds of people so that they can learn how to interact with folks who aren’t all sunshine and butterflies.

The rest of the conversation went swimmingly.

She ended up sitting on my lap, we talked for a while after that and then went into the gym to play a pool ball shuffleboard kind of game.

I felt great because I was able to intervene in my daughter’s life early on in order to root out some of the damage done to her little soul and to affirm that she really is a good and sweet girl.

I felt great because, after 6 years of breakfasts in which I sat thinking about the rest of my day, wiping syrup off of little hands and cinnamon and sugar off of little dresses, drinking coffee from fast food chain cups, wondering if there is a better way to lay these foundations, wondering if I should have started these breakfasts a little bit later…  a bridge was built into her heart upon a solid foundation… of donuts and coffee, pancakes and chocolate milk.

 

She doesn’t hold it against you…

It’s not your fault Matt.  The blame for how my life has turned out does not rest upon your shoulders. I can think of nothing for which to blame you.

If you did anything at all, it was provide an open door for my escape.  For my testing.  For me to respond to a visceral call to manhood.  For that, I am grateful.

This came at a price.  I know that you saw some things change in me.  I know you saw the raging anger and the bitter cold that took up residence in my heart.  You are correct.  I did get that in Ramadi.  I lost my ability to control the pain of my past and hide the brokenness from the rest of the world, and I took on a lot of things that turned cancerous to my soul.  You have no part in contributing to this brokenness.

I appreciate the phone call you made.  I wanted to belong for a long time and my heart was crying out during that time of my life to feel like I was wild and dangerous and free.  I was working in a warehouse in a tiny medical clinic in Key West.  Nothing wild.  Nothing dangerous.  Not free.  Caged, contained, pacified.  Not challenged.  Not encouraged to concquer.

Your phone call inviting me to return to Camp Lejeune could not have come at a more opportune time.

Jessica knew there were some ugly spots in me.  She had already experienced some of the poison that I had to offer her.  The things you saw change in our marriage after my deployment were not completely new or fully unexpected.  There were storm clouds on the horizon from the moment we said our vows.

While I did sustain some deep wounds from that deployment, you did not give them to me.  You did not make me deploy.  You did not make me act the way I acted, or respond to the circumstances I was in in the manner which I responded.  You simply made the phone call.  I filled out the paperwork.  I moved my family.  I tried so hard to earn the respect of my platoon and fully integrate into one of the teams.

I do not know if you still feel as though the hard things that Jessica experienced because of the negative change in me is your fault.  She holds you responsible for nothing.  Again, she doesn’t hold anything against you.  My wife loves you like she loves my little brother.  She cares about you and honors our relationship deeply.

Not all of those bad days resulted in unmitigated floods and storm damage in my life either.  That time of my life can easily be called a blizzard of blizzards.  Ice cold, raging, furious, and violent.  Over time the snow has laid quietly in my life while I tried to figure out what do with it.  Because of the good counsel and the encouragement I have gotten from several men in my life, spring has returned.  Now that the storm has passed the snow has melted and nourished the roots of some really amazing things.  My character has developed really well.  I understand my identity, purpose, and values now because of some of the work I had to do to mitigate the damage from the blizzard.

I know what the winter is like now and I can appreciate the spring that much more.

Thanks so much for calling me that day.  It was one of those unexpected moments, walking around in a grocery store, and I get a phone call that ended up changing my life.

Thank you so much for that fateful phone call.

Jessica holds nothing against you brother…

… and I am so very thankful that you made the call.

 

Why I Loved Frozen

I heard and read several reviews of this movie before watching it.  I was fully prepared to watch a pop culture propaganda flick eroding traditional gender roles and pushing a homosexual agenda.

I don’t know what movie the critics watched to come up with the ideas above, but I saw none of that in Frozen.

***    Spoiler Alert   ***

I heard that the male characters in the movie were morons and the only purpose they served was to show how inept men are compared to women.  What I saw was a woman trying to rebuild a relationship with a sister.  I saw a woman attempting to climb an ice covered mountain with great ambition and terrifically little skill.  I saw this heroine embark upon a journey ill prepared and rescued time and time again by a man.  How is this a slight to the masculine world?

I try to communicate to my daughters and model to them through my relationship with my wife that they will need a rescuer.  That they will need a man in their lives to encourage them, protect them, and rescue them.  I have watched more chick flicks and princess movies than I can count, waiting each time for there to be a healthy representation of a male female relationship.  I am left disappointed every single time.  Either the guy is a worthless, spineless, brainless clown, the woman a bimbo, weak, dumb, clutsy, or an ugly man hating she beast that consumes men  until the right fella happens to get through to her.  This movie depicted a woman being independent, brave, forward thinking (even if unprepared), proactive, and bold.  It showed a man who was fully committed to his adventure, his calling, who was willing to stretch himself to love a woman.  I would be very happy to have my daughters look up to Anna.  I would be just as happy for my son to look up to Christoph.

And before I get any criticism about my thoughts regarding the way Anna demonstrated her independence, boldness, and proactive way of living, I would like to turn to a little phrase from the Bible…

“…She considers a field and buys it…”

I see that character in Anna.

I saw no homosexual agenda at all.  I read several critics who said that Disney made a movie in which the two main characters save the day, without the aid of men, and set the kingdom free because of their love for each other and, because these characters were women, it is a homosexual propaganda film.

That really saddens me.  The theme of this movie was a woman’s frozen, broken heart caused by a wound inflicted by family who meant well but acted in ignorance and was set free by the selfless love of her sister.  This movie is actually quite deep.  It does not appear to me as though there are 2 heroines, but 1.  Anna saved Elsa, Elsa reconciled and redeemed the broken relationships in her life caused by her reaction to her brokenness.   It just so happens that that redemption and reconciliation extended to the entire kingdom.  There is nothing homosexual in the genuine, deep, intimate love of a sister for a sister.  I have seen that between my wife and her sisters.  I see it developing now between my daughters.  This is a very good and healthy thing.  Ironic as it may be, this kind of affirming love between women seems to give them the courage to take a stand on the things they want to stand for and to engage life fully in the areas they feel the desire to engage…  And that is exactly what I saw Anna doing.

I rolled my eyes when, near the very beginning of the movie, after the character development was mostly complete and the plot was beginning to get underway, I heard the phrase, “the one.”  Standard Disney romance language.  I do not believe there is “the one” out there and that a single man and a single woman need to find that one in order to be truly happy.  That should be a post I write later.  I was so refreshed when “the one” turned out to be a slug of a fella.  I was actually kind of pumped!!  There is not “the one” in this movie.  What there is is a man who meets a woman under less than ideal circumstances, is not romantically interested in her, chooses to do the right thing and serve her for her protection and guidance, and in the end he develops a love for her.  I see a woman who meets a man in less than ideal circumstances, recognizes she needs him, pokes him in the ribs and challenges him to stand up like a man, and then submits to his guidance and develops a love for him.  I see a man and woman struggling to figure out how to interact in this relationship which results in heartache, fear of loss, and being dragged behind a sled while being chased by wolves.  An actually astute summation of what I would say is a healthy relationship.

Anna is in need of an act of true love.  Go figure a bunch of rock trolls come up with the idea that this will be a kiss from “the one.”  I don’t know if Disney thought this through or not, I doubt it, but it fits that a bunch of trolls came up with this idea.  Not just a bunch of trolls, but a bunch of rock trolls, like trolls that are as dumb as a box of rocks!!  I kept thinking throughout the movie that there were acts of love which could have solved her problem.  The weather is cold, there is a raging storm and Christoph takes off his hat, puts it on Anna to keep her warm, and endures the rest of the ride bare headed.  That silly little snowman (my oldest daughter LOVED him) risked his very life next to a fire to warm Anna.

But the act of true love?  Not a kiss!  So happy this movie did not cheese up the ending with a magic kiss.  This was not a romance movie at all.  The act of true love was a final act of resignation to the point of death in order to save a sister even though she was lost.  The act of true love was a sister recognizing her brokeness and accepting the act of love from the one who made the sacrifice for her!

I have seen a picture of a Corpsman laying dead in a street in Falujah.  The caption is actually a verse from the Bible… “Greater love has no one than this, that a man would lay down his life for his friends…”

Finally!!!

Finally a Disney princess chick flick that has a wounded, broken hearted princess living out of her insecurities instead of her idyllic innocence, a family that loves each other but still hurts each other, a wounded sister, innocent and devastated, a man who looks like, sounds like, and acts like a man, and Love being represented in a manner other than the tired, tried, and cliché, “Kiss… The One…” tradition.

Yup.

Maybe I’m going soft in my old age…

But I LOVED Frozen!!

How to Connect With an Introvert

For those of you who read this blog but do not know me personally, let me make something clear…

I am not an introvert.

Though I do not always enjoy being the middle of the crowd, I do enjoy being around people.  I love backpacking.  The only thing better than backpacking is backpacking with somebody else.  I have spent quite a few hours by myself sitting in the woods on hunting trips, but I would much rather spend that time sitting in the woods with somebody else.  I have found that I enjoy bird hunting more than big game hunting because it is a more social event.  Drawback… you have to kill a lot of birds to equal a deer.

I love who I am.

I love how I am.

There are still things about me that need to mature and develop, but on the whole… I love being me.

I have four kids.  When they were very young, they were your typical toddlers.  Into everything, running around, making noise, making a mess, spontaneous.  Our house seemed to vibrate constantly with the activity and noise that simmered perpetually within the walls.  My home is not a safe place for an introvert.  I understand that and so, when I am hanging out with an introvert, I meet with them outside of my home.  We meet somewhere quiet… like the mall…

I have all these ideas about ways to raise my kids.  I have these ideas about things to do in order to communicate just how much I love them and to really connect with them in a meaningful and intimate manner.

It never crossed my mind that any of my kids would turn out to be a calm, quiet, introvert.

What do I do with that?

How on earth do I communicate my love to a little girl who would like to just sit and look at a book… or look at art!

How did this happen?

On a more serious note, it really is pretty fascinating to see the budding personalities coming out of my kids.  My oldest is displaying her individual personality more and more.  The girl loves art.  We have a friend of ours who graduated with an art degree teaching private art lessons to my daughter.  I have found myself reading blogs from artists, both Christian and non, in order to broaden my ability to appreciate the same things my daughter appreciates.

Instead of going places and doing things with her, I have started making it a point to simply sit next to her.  We sit down to watch a movie and I invite her to sit next to me.  I try to make it a point to have her sit in my lap when I read books to them instead of always letting the toddlers sit on my lap.  I have started paying closer attention to which kids are running around downstairs and when I don’t see her, instead of calling her down to see what is wrong, I go upstairs just to sit on the floor of her bedroom with her and make small talk.

I take each of my kids to breakfast on Sunday mornings.  The oldest gets the first Sunday of the month, the youngest gets the last.  One of my kids wants to go to a busy sit down style place that serves great pancakes.  My oldest prefers to buy a donut and a juice in a grocery store and sit in the front of our car to eat.  I used to ask her why she preferred to sit in the car instead of going to a restaurant.  I do not ask any more.

I know she values these moments with me and I know they are good for her, good for me, and good for our relationship.

I have no clue how to evaluate these moments.  I see these times through my own perspective as an extrovert.  If I am comfortable, I am talking or doing, not sitting and stewing.  So when I sit with my daughter and we just sit there… something feels wrong.  When I ask a question and get a little short answer, I feel as though something is wrong.  I believe that things are not wrong, but that is how it feels.

It makes it very difficult to relax and just enjoy being with her when everything in me is convinced that something is wrong.  She must be upset with me.  I have to have hurt her feelings in order for her to sit so quietly for so long.

As I sit and analyze this, my questions tend to drift from wanting to connect with her to wanting to diagnose the break in our relationship.  It is so difficult to diagnose a problem that is not there.

I love my little girl and I know she loves me.

But I really wish I could figure out how to connect with her, and her introverted little soul.

Painting a Car

Daddy is at Work

It is an answer that my kids get a lot.

My precious wife is doing a superb job of replicating her character in our kids.  It is a true joy for me to think about the kind of people my children will become because of the influence of such a woman upon their lives.

I spend a lot of time at work.  Sometimes more than I need to, but that might have to wait for another day.  For the entire time that I have been in the Navy, I have been leaving for work in the morning before most people are getting out of bed.

This includes my kids.

It is part of their routine to ask where I am while they are getting ready for the day… or for them to just not ask at all anymore since it is normal for me to be away in the mornings.  The standard answer is usually given.

Daddy is at Work

So yesterday my wife and I went to a meeting after I got off of work.  I am behind on a few deadlines, so I stay late at work to get caught up.  I left straight from work to go to the meeting.  We left the meeting at about 9 PM.  By the time we got  home, my kids were already in bed.  I spent another day not seeing them at all.

As we were riding down the road, Jessica told me that my youngest decided to snuggle up in my bed after I went to work.  When Jessica came back into our room, my sweet little child asked her the standard question and got the standard answer.

Wife and Daughter

Jessica asked me a question…

“Does it hurt for you to hear that your kids ask about you when you are not home?”

“…”

“Or is it encouraging since you know  your kids are thinking about you?”

“Yeah…  it kind of hurts.”

But then I started thinking about this.

Why does it hurt?

It really is a matter of perspective.  I look at this from the perspective that I am missing so much, my kids seem to be growing up so fast, and they don’t have me around.  I miss them.  They miss me.

Here is what started to stir these thoughts around for me…

It does not hurt when Jessica tells me she misses me when I am away.  I have spent some hunting trips away from home for a week or two at a time and when Jessica tells me she misses me, it really doesn’t hurt.  I don’t feel sad.  I don’t ache to be  home.

So why do I feel that way after a long day without my kids?  Do I love them more than my wife?  Do I reason that Jessica’s understanding protects her while the kids are still vulnerable in their ignorance?

I do not love my kids more than my wife.

Her understanding vs. their ignorance… that may be.

What if it is perspective?  I have this feeling like I HAVE to be home with my kids.  I have this feeling that I am doing them a disservice and ruining their little lives if I am not home.

But what if my perspective is wrong?

What if my kids need me to be gone?

Check this out.  My kids are going to define normal for their lives based on what is common for them now.  If it is common for me to be gone often, then the normal for them is that Daddy spends a lot of time away from home.  If I can keep a very deep emotional connection to my kids for the duration of the time they live at home and protect the security they feel in our relationship,  then normal for them looks like peace and security in relationships even when not physically near.

I am not saying that I am going to find ways to stay out of the house in order to try and develop this in my kids.  Absolutely not!!

But it is something to think about.

If security in a relationship for my kids looks like face time and close physical proximity, then what happens when I leave?  What happens when they grow up and business or school takes them or their significant other away for extended periods of time?

Maybe it is good for my young kids to hear my wife say, “Daddy is at Work,” and then for them to feel the warmth, love, and connection to me when I am around.

Could this build that kind of security in our relationship that might not have otherwise developed?

Maybe.

 

And maybe I am just belligerently over thinking it…