Musings on being a bad inspector…and a quick update

This is the third time it’s happened in a little over a month. Every two weeks seems to be the rate. In literally an instant* I can go from feeling great to being admitted to the ER. Each time I’ve ended up in the ER it’s happened because my body has turned on me in about one to two hours. I’ll go from having lots of energy (please don’t forget it’s all relative!) and feeling really well to having an unmanageable debilitating headache, vomiting, and all those fun aches that go along with feeling sick. And strangely enough it only happens on the weekend where our only recourse is the dreaded hospital! Fun times. (fun times especially when a weekend ER visit usually necessitates canceling our Sunday community meal. Boo)

It’s the same routine every time we go there too. They very quickly get me my own room in the back so as to protect me and my low immune system from all the germs/bacteria/etc. Then we wait and wait for the specialized people to come and “access my port” or in other words to get my IV hooked up to my chest. This usually takes longer than it should, upwards of an hour most nights. Once the port is accessed they get me lots of fluids, anti-nausea meds, and begin the pain killer dance. Eventually they get me a CT scan, have me cath so they can test for a UTI, and then try to kick me out before my headache is gone.

In the end there’s never a legit reason as to why I get so sick so quickly. Is it from all the different meds I’m on? Maybe. Dehydration? Probably. Jacked up nerves? Always. Tense muscles? Most likely. UTI? At times. Flu? Maybe. In the end I go home and at times feel completely better by the very next day. Other times it takes days to recover.

Jesus once cautioned us to “[not] worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I like and hate that. It’s a statement that’s more true than I’d ever want to believe; it’s a statement that used to sound comforting but today feels more dangerous than anything else. It feels dangerous because I’m seeing how true it really is, no matter what happens today I have absolutely no idea what tomorrow may bring. The fact that it worries me more than brings me comfort shows the reality of where I’m at right now emotionally and physically–because those words warn me that no matter how good I feel today tomorrow may bring incredible sickness! In my more optimistic moments (not to invalidate either side-the optimistic one and the pessimistic both have a place in the grief process!) this might bring more encouragement because it helps me remember that no matter how bad I feel today tomorrow could be better.

Regardless, here I sit. Sitting in that tension. Luckily I sit with an amazing supporting cast of my wife and kids. Jess has never left my side in all of this and continues to be an overwhelmingly beautiful support in all of this. If it weren’t for her do you realize how confused I’d be? I’d be like Inspector Gadget without the cool gadgets. I’d just be a bad inspector.


* I’m using the phrase “literally an instant” more metaphorically for “really quick”

Dating my Children

Included on my list of “in case of death get these things done” was to take each of my children on a special date. I wish I were that dad that did this often, that had a practice of taking my kids on dates all the time. But I’m not. My dad and mom would occasionally take me and my sisters out on dates and they are very special memories for me.

The goal was to create a moment, a moment that would last a bit longer than the date itself. So I made sure that each of them took a camera with them and promised that if they capture the date on ‘film’ I would make them each a special video.

Each of them started off their morning with flowers, Tictacs (why? I don’t know), and a special card from me.

For my date with Jones we started off with a few games of bowling, followed up by all you can eat crab at Salty’s, and ending with ceramic painting. For my date with India we began with do-it-yourself pancakes at Slappy Cakes, followed up by pedicures together, and finishing (like Jones) with painting beautiful ceramics on main street.

As far as the kids were concerned the days were wonderful and each were left wishing that we could do more. It left me wondering why I didn’t do this kind of stuff more often and it left my wife wondering when she gets her turn (a valid question!).

Below are my feeble attempts at creating videos. You’ll notice my video editing skills are not that great…but hey, neither are my kids’ photography skills! So take that!

Happy Father’s Day Papa Bear*

I like my dad, I do.

A lot.

I’m even going to publicly say that I love him! I do.

A lot.

It’s a strange thing, though, we don’t share many hobbies. At all. My dad’s an artist and I am not. I grew up playing basketball and my dad wasn’t much of a baller. We never had that “one” activity that was ours together—fixing cars, working in the garage, sports, etc. But it didn’t matter, it’s never mattered. I grew up with a dad that always took his children out on dates. Sometimes it was the three of us kids together, but more often than not it was one on one dates. My dad would take me mini-golfing, out to breakfast, bowling, or to a movie. He was always intentional about spending time with us kids and making it both something special but also something incredibly normal. It’s just what he did. He was careful to pay attention to us, to value what we valued, and to take interest both in who we were and what we found interesting. We didn’t necessarily need a sport in common, it didn’t exactly matter ‘cause my dad always loved us and wanted to be with us. I feel very lucky to have grown up with a dad who first and foremost truly loved us kids for who we were. Period.

Surprisingly, as I’ve grown older my dad and I have started to have more in common. Namely, we’ve become partners. As a general rule you shouldn’t go into ministry with family—especially church planting. Ministry is hard and church planting (I believe) is even more difficult. To go into church planting together is asking for family baggage to be painfully drawn out and thrown into the already public and messy ministry world. It’s just a bad idea! And yet that’s exactly the context that we’ve found ourselves for the last seven or eight years. And it’s been glorious. Seriously glorious. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor, for a better context to screw up in, to learn, and to explore. Dad I am indebted to you for the trust that you put in me, for the life that you spoke into me, and for the imagination that you developed inside of me over these last eight years. Thank you.

You see that’s just the kind of person that my dad is. He’s always more willing to trust than to judge, he’s always wanting to give an individual a chance rather than vote them off the island. My dad sees the good in people, he’s always able to see past even an incredibly grungy veneer to discover that beauty that lies within each and every person. As a leader he invites people to journey with him, seeing himself as the chief participant more than the commanding leader. I love that and I want to emulate it. I want to see the beauty in people as he does. It’s a wonderful thing.

On a less mushy note, did you know that my dad can create anything. No joke. Give him a picture and he can paint it. Give him three pictures and he’ll combine them into one beautiful work of art. As him to make a birdhouse and he’ll go to Goodwill and make one out of an old clock, a shoe horn, and a broken tire iron…and it’ll be the coolest bird house you’ve ever seen. I’m not kidding when I say that he can create anything. His creativity and ability to see things that are not and make them so makes me jealous. I love and hate it ‘cause I wish I had more of it. As a kid growing up it was always cool to know that whatever crazy ideas we had: building a chicken coop, repainting a bedroom, creating a costume, or creating bb gun targets my dad could do. And what was especially important (and connected to what I said about ministry) is that he always invited me to participate. He rarely took over and made my project his—it was always ours and we were always in it together. So, actually, I guess I should take back what I said earlier. The hobby that we had in common was just that: partners. We’ve always been partners. Partnership doesn’t demand a hobby, just relationship and trust.

Thank you dad for being someone that I’ve never had a hard time trusting. If I were to pick one word to describe my dad’s identity it would be the word “integrity”. My dad has always been an amazing person of integrity—always going above and beyond to be a person who can be trusted and who is consistent in who he is no matter who is around. Thank you for that dad. I hope that integrity is a word that my kids eventually use to describe me too.

Did I mention that my dad’s funny? Ok, maybe a few of his best jokes I’ve heard repeated a few times over the years but I don’t think that renders them no longer funny…just familiar. Ha! Seriously though, I love to have come from a funny family, from a funny father, and to have clearly developed into quite the funny person myself. Thanks dad, I think we’ve achieved something special here. Whatever we do lets not stop being funny—we’re pretty good at it.

Ok ok, it’s getting to that point where I understand that if I write much more content on this blog it’ll only be my dad and I who finish it. I could seriously write on and on. The last two years have been rough, they’ve been different. Not only have we all fought through my sickness, not only is there always extended family stuff to journey through, but we also ended our ministry partnership as I was sent downtown to start a new work, dad also started working a second job as a bus driver, and oh so many other changes. For a guy who does life in a pattern, with routine, and consistency it has been so inspiring to see how my dad has adjusted and maneuvered through the messiness of these years. It’s been inspiring to see him stepping up in how he cares for my mom, how he functions as a grandparent to my kids, how he sincerely checks in on my wife and I, how he’s become more and more available in his neighborhood places, and how this has all revealed itself through him as a leader of the Renovatus church. I’m inspired and challenged by you dad. You continually invite me to be a better father, leader, husband, and lover of people. What more could I ask for? I’ve always felt loved, cared for, and special. I’ve always and forever known that you were proud of me–how could I not when you’ve said so often? Thank you so much dad. I love you.


*  if my wife or daughter sees that I’ve used the term “papa bear” I’m dead meat. Luckily I don’t think either of them reads my blog…

New Cars Symbolizing Death

We bought a car yesterday. A nice car. A car that I’d never buy. It’s a 2012 Jetta Sportwagen diesel. Jess and I would never buy this car. But we just did.

We buy junkers. We buy used Hyundai Accents, we buy old Chevy minivans with 100,000 miles on them, we buy cheap older cars. That’s just what we do.

But things have changed. Our old minivan is done. At 200,000+ miles the AC doesn’t work, the windows don’t roll down, one sliding door is permanently shut (because it’ll randomly open on its own while driving on the freeway!), the gas gauge doesn’t work, the brake lights do not work, the cruise control does not work, it needs new brakes and tires, and-oh did I mention-it’s got some engine and transmission work that needs to be done. So we knew we needed something soon. We also knew that when/if I die Jess would cash purchase a new car with her life insurance money. But I’m not dead yet…

So to make a short story shorter, in the end we realized that now was the time for me to be able to care for my wife by purchasing a car together that she was going to have to purchase on her own–to buy her “my husband is gone, I don’t want to worry about cars right now or for the immediate future, I just want to care for my children and recover” car. That “car” has good gas mileage (we hope to keep her monthly overhead costs low if/when I pass), it’s got to have space for children and their bikes/toys/camping trips/etc., it’s got to be a good quality car that’ll last her ’till our kids are in high school, and it’s got to be a newer car that won’t be breaking down often and thus demanding more of her time. She doesn’t care about bells, whistles, shiny things–just those practical things. That’s the car that we realized we must buy now. This week. Today. Ok, as it turns out, yesterday.

There’s just one problem…

I’m not dead!

That life insurance money is not there to fork over in cash for her ‘ideal’ car! How do you buy a car that you can only afford if you die? To be honest we don’t quite have the answer to that question. I won’t go into details regarding the deal we got on the car (though we got a good one thanks to an important connection) and I’ll honestly say that we’re still figuring out what it looks like to be able to afford it–but what I will say is that buying this car is messing me up. It’s messing Jess up. (and this is where I really want this blog to land)

Purchasing this car feels symbolic. It’s the beginning of a new life: a new life for a single mother who has lost her husband and has a new set of needs that demands a new type of car. It’s symbolic of me being gone and of her being alone. I almost feel like by purchasing this car I have given up on living! ‘Cause lets be honest, I’m not sure we can afford this car unless I die! I had better fork over that cash at some point during the life of this loan. Ha. When all was said and done at the dealership and we both had a moment to reflect we found ourselves honestly sad. What had we done? It wasn’t buyers remorse. No, it was the symbolism. We had just taken our first giant and tangible step forward into a post-Ryan world…and…well…it’s weird. I should probably have a better word than “weird” as a descriptor here. I’m sure real writers would use better words but at this moment it feels right. It just feels weird. It doesn’t feel bad because I know that at its core this is a moment where I was able to care for my wife in a very real way: I just freed her of having to do this whole experience on her own (and oh what an experience it was at the dealership!!). No, there was something beautiful about this stepping out together–but it was is very hard and very…weird. It feels weird to drive such a nice car–we don’t drive cars like this. It feels weird not drive a minivan anymore–we love minivans. It feels weird to call it my wife’s car–it’s always been “us”. It feels weird.

It is weird to continually try to figure out what it looks like to live in the tension of reality as it is and reality as we hope it to be. I hope that we end up having to restructure our loan because I miraculously don’t die. I hope that reality as it appears is not reality as it turns out. I hope to live and I know that God can bring this about. but. But. BUT I feel invited to step out in faith, to let go of any semblance of control by being ok with death. By being ok with preparing my wife for my death. By being ok with purchasing a car in preparation of my death. I don’t like it. It’s weird. It makes me sad. It worries me. I hate death. Death sucks. Death is the ultimate enemy. Buying new cars sucks. Car dealerships are enemies sidekicks. But (and there have been a lot of “buts” in this post haven’t there?!) my faith is in Jesus–not in healing, not in an easy life, not in a life that I expect but instead in the story he chooses to tell in and through me. If a new Jetta Sportwagen tdi is a part of that story…cool. Weird, but cool.

So…all that is to say…my wife got a new car yesterday.

Happy Mother’s Day Jessica

How in the world am I to write this blog? Yesterday I slogged through telling my mom how much I loved her. That was hard (and rewarding). But to attempt to capture today my love for my wife–for the mother of my children–kill me now. There are not enough words, I don’t have enough words, there aren’t enough tissues to catch my tears as I sit beside her in bed attempting to write.

The problem, and at some point this might be considered unhealthy, is that there’s no me without her. Our lives, our identities, our stories are completely enmeshed. We literally only have a few stories that are not shared. Our lives have and will continue to be done together in every sense of the word until we’re forced apart. What’s clearly so hard is that we genuinely never thought that we’d be forced apart. Not like this. Not this early.

Anyway, I realize that I wrote this blog (the blog that I’m fighting against writing all over again right now, the blog that attempts yet again to tell her how amazing and wonderful and loved she is…) a little over a week ago too, so today instead of re-writing that blog I will focus on why my wife is quite possibly the most amazing parent you’ll ever run into. No joke. No hyperbole. She really is that amazing.

Jess truly, above all else, values people. She values children. She values them as human beings, as people with dignity, with inherent worth, and as creatures filled with life and significance. This alone sets her far above the rest of us. To Jess children are not things to be controlled, they are beautiful short people needing to be empowered and listened to. Jess spends much of her time cultivating an environment in our home where our kids feel safe and loved, where they know that their feelings are valid, and where they are confident in exploring new ideas. Rather than seeking control Jessica invites our children to look for answers and to explore ideas that they’re intrigued by. She’s always encouraging and inviting them into new experiences…and it’s a beautiful thing.

One defining thing about my wife, something that not only defines her as a mom but as a human being is that she makes every moment special and unique. If she makes pancakes they’re going to be in shape of dinosaurs. If the sets the table there will be little notes to say why our kids are special. If she’s showering while the kids eat she’ll place all their food on special trays and setup a mini-picnic upstairs. If we go on road trips she works tirelessly to think of games, activities, and little gifts that’ll make the time go by. If she does something she’s going to transform it into something special and specifically tailored to the person(s) she’s caring for. ‘Cause the thing is: Jess notices everything. With her nothing is wasted. No moment is left behind because she’s always attentive to what is happening, to how this moment can be a blessing to her children, to her husband, or to another. She remembers what you love, she remembers what you said about this that or the other, she remembers how special something made you feel and she’ll remember it next time so as to bless you with it. She’s always remembering her children and how to love them more fully. Jones and India’s feelings, thoughts, opinions, reactions, etc. are never wasted or forgotten. They are stored up and dwelt on, they are remembered and built on, and they are used to care for them in whatever ways are available as time moves on. As a person who does not pay good attention to much, I view this as a nearly miraculous gift!

Jess fills Christmas stockings better than any person i’ve ever seen. Enough said.

Jess knows and loves children’s books. Our kids have hundreds and hundreds thanks to her…which I should say is directly correlated to our children having a love of books…thanks to her.

My children have always eaten healthy thanks to her.

My kids have feeling journals thanks to her. How cool is that?

Jess makes my kids awesome treats: gluten free chocolate chip cookies that are to die for are at the top of the list.

While Jess’ forte is in creating special moments, the last year especially has been filled with monotony. Care-taking is not a job that leaves much space for uniqueness and creativity. And, again, while I am attempting to not make this blog about how amazing Jess is towards me, it is hard not to pause here to say that the way she has stepped up to care for me in my sickness has been nothing short of perfect. She has carried our family. She has stepped into the boring and not-so-exciting duties of taking care of a sick dad and showing compassion for emotionally exhausted children. Because the reality is that our children are not the same today that they were a year and a half ago (understatement of the year right?). Behaviorally they have regressed, emotionally they’re more volatile, India is back in pull ups, Jones is no longer able to regulate (there are some special needs here I’m referring to), and Jess is the one who tirelessly works to love us all through this. In the midst of my sickness Jess has worked countless hours figuring out Jones’ health care (he’s on separate insurance than the rest of us), she was the one who made sure our kids were in play therapy, she’s the one who takes Jones to his occupational therapy, she’s the one who makes sure they’re still seeing a dentist, she’s the one who has had to maneuver through our kids’ newly discovered fruit allergy (not sure I can communicate how big of a ‘maneuver’ this is/was), she’s the one who is making sure that ALL of us are having our practical needs met. It is too much for one mom to carry…and yet she does it gracefully and without ever (ever!) complaining about it.

I’ve got to stop. Again, like I said yesterday about my own mother, I could write on and on. I have been blessed to have two (three if you count my daughter) beautiful women in my life who far exceed a persons normal expectation for love and care. And I could literally write paragraph after paragraph ’till my tears (yes, the ones that are still flowing) dried up.

Above all Jess makes people feel loved…and it’s because she’s truly a person filled with love. Jess is one of the most capable people I know. She can do anything she puts her mind to (I really mean that). It terrifies me to think of leaving her behind, to think of her being a single mom, to think of her without me–but it’s not in any way, shape, or form because I think she can’t handle it. No, I’ve got no question that like everything else she touches, she will invite God’s love, grace, and imagination into her parenting as a single mom of our two amazing children. The reason it terrifies me is just because I know how hard it is going to be…and I know how hard she is already working…and I just want her to receive some rest. She deserves a rest. In every way Jess is capable, in every way Jess is built to succeed and to be a conduit of love and compassion for children who are in crisis and suffering. But does it have to be so?! Like I said in the beginning: Jess is my partner. There is no me without her, there is no her without me, our children only know an us…and until the us is just her I will continue to celebrate the gift God has given me of doing life and parenthood with the most beautiful, gracious, loving, compassionate, creative, memory-making, generous, hard-working mother I’ve ever seen. One day she’ll have to do it without me–and when she does she’ll do it beautifully (as she does in every avenue of life)–but until then she’s stuck with me!

I love you Jess and I feel guilty for being blessed beyond all others to walk this path with you. Jones and India are the luckiest children to have such an amazing mom. Please don’t ever ever forget it. You are incredibly special.