Fun and/or Games?

Spring has sprung and so has soccer…

I don’t really like to brag, but my little Colombianos are pretty great at soccer. We’ve played in our church league for several years (as you can see), and we’ve done quite well. Our church league kept things pretty lighthearted, and even though we didn’t officially keep score, our winners usually got more points than the other winners.

Now, we are in the great state of Alabama, and naturally all of the kids wanted to play soccer again this season, including our littlest who just got old enough to play.

We enrolled in AYSO, and got everyone on a team. This was easier said than done since they were still organizing teams up until the week before the first game. I would have volunteered as assistant coach or referee, but with my knee surgery coming up, I figured I would be more of a burden than a blessing in either role. Unfortunately, my oldest had his first practice and game cancelled since everything was so last minute.

With a lot of tears and regretful support of his brothers and sisters, he, Beth, and I geared up to watch and support kids in four soccer games last Saturday.

First up was my oldest daughter. She aged up, and this year, she’s on a bigger field with actual goalies. We got there, and she was super excited. Then, her coach told her that he had her earmarked as a goalie for the second half within earshot of me. I resisted every temptation to say, “A-hem… Excuse me, but she’s in my family, and we are forwards.” I was bothered because she has never played goalie in her life, and I didn’t know how she would do, but then again, none of the girls on her team have played goalie before. It was purely an arbitrary choice on his part, and I wanted her to respect her coach, so I said nothing. It’s just hard for me to watch Sea-Biscuit all fenced in.

Also, AYSO in the spring is less formal, and they are not issued uniforms. Her team was asked to wear something light blue to coordinate. We had a girl in a My-Little-Pony hoodie, another one wearing a North Carolina Tar Heel shirt, and everything in-between.

Then the other team came. Every one of the girls was in a matching soccer uniform with unique numbers (which I found out they had kept the season before when they all played together). Two were a full head taller than the biggest kid on our team. It was pretty intimidating.

As play got started, the first goal was scored before the first minute of play was done. It didn’t help that the goalie on our team for the first half didn’t know that she could use her hands. When our goalie finally figured out that it was OK to use her hands, she walked almost to midfield before she kicked the ball, precipitating a penalty kick which was taken by one of the bigger girls that could put it over the heads of everyone in our team and into the corner of the goal. My daughter also got tangled in the legs of another girl trying to steal the ball shortly into the game, and even though the referee told her that he knew she was going for the ball, he called her for tripping which I think made her play a lot more timid the rest of the game.

Another goal.

Another goal.

Another goal.

Finally, it was halftime, and my oldest girl was put between the pipes. She knew she could use her hands, but she thought she had to set the ball down if she was going to kick it back to a team-mate. At this, the other coach yells to his girls to steal the ball that’s officially in play. She took a pretty hard ball to the leg at the end of the third period, and she limped off the field. I had to hand it to her because she got back out there, but two more scores were made while she was keeper.

It was super hard to watch that game, and I was pretty upset that we played a stacked team with a final score of 9 to 0 after sitting in on the AYSO introduction meeting where they insisted that they would try to balance teams and they would work to keep scores within a 4-point differential.

Next up, my youngest daughter. Her game was like watching a bunch of excited puppies chase a chew-toy. It was adorable. All of these girls are 5 and 6 year-olds, and ALL of them were just excited to be on the field. There was little to no organization, and and I think they tied 2 to 2, but nobody even cared… kids or parents. Several times throughout the day, she said “Daddy! I’m so excited to play soccer!” That was enough to make me feel good about all the money we spent for registration and soccer shoes.

My two middle sons were up next, but they played at the same time on different fields so Beth and I had to split up. I went with my middle son, and he played well. His team won 5 to 0, and his coach purposely asked him to play defense the rest of the game after he scored two goals in the first quarter. That made me feel a lot better. Finally the win that I wanted! I was fresh off of my oldest daughter’s loss, so I was a proud of him for telling one of the kids on the other team “good job” that played very well (This wasn’t spontaneous, but I appreciated it even though it took some subtle prompting on my part).

Beth told me that our youngest son played well on his team, but the rest of his team didn’t. They subsequently got their tails handed to them.

So that was the day. A win, a draw, and two losses. We went home, and I proceeded to work in the garage as I had planned all week. When I did this, the kids came out to enjoy the beautiful day we were having and started playing in the driveway and the trampoline (or “Jumpoline” as my youngest daughter calls it – We are not correcting her because we find this term equally adorable).

As I worked, the more I thought about that first game with my oldest daughter. She is arguably my best player. She’s fast, she works hard, and she’s a team player. I don’t expect her to beat everybody, but I hated how terrible that game panned out. The little naughty Tyler was sitting on my shoulder saying stuff in my ear the whole time:

“I can work with her a little extra through the week, and make sure she understands the rules.”

“I’m sure I can go to the soccer field with just her and run some extra drills so she’s that much better.”

“I need to tell her coach that she doesn’t need to play goalie anymore. We could do a lot better if she was on offense.”

“The other team had players that were already specializing in specific positions. Maybe that’s what our team should do.”

“The other coach was such a jerk to capitalize on my daughter’s inexperience.”

“Is there a way that she could get on a better team like that who’s clearly been playing together for several seasons?”

“She’s finally to the age where things are more competitive, and if I don’t start lobbying for her, she’s not going to get those advantages. I need to sign her up for camps and drill her every night.”

With all of these nasty thoughts brewing in my head, I found my oldest girl, and sat with her for a few minutes to debrief the game.

Me – “So, how did you feel about the first game of the season?”

Her – “I had such a great time! I got to play a new position at goalie! It was really hard with a lot of rules, but I thought I did OK for my first time. I made some new friends on my team, and I almost have learned everyone’s name. Coach says we are going to learn a little more about strategy this week and where to be when we are playing. I think it’s going to be great. Did you see my sister’s game? That was so funny. She was super excited…”

No! You were supposed to be angry and upset like I was!

When we started adopting, we went to a training where they told us that we bring “our junk” into parenting sometimes. It was clear that that’s what I did. My goal was for my kid to be the best kid on the team and dominate so I could brag about it (subtly of course because I’m a Christian… Usually I lead off with “Did you see the game last week?” and just nod my head when other’s say “Yeah! Your girl was awesome.”).

Also, I get emails from AYSO that say there are tournaments that I can sign my kids up for where they would get more intense training by professional coaches and compete at a higher level. Naughty Tyler is all for it. Naughty Tyler’s goal for his kids is to be the best at soccer and eventually represent their country in the World Cup.

Unfortunately Naughty Tyler’s goal is also his junk!

I saw her attitude. I saw my kids playing together and having fun that afternoon. I saw my youngest daughter so excited to be on a team (which got named the “Blue Sparkle Unicorns” at the last team practice). The Holy Spirit (because there is no Good Tyler) reminded me that that’s why we play soccer.

I wanted to tell God, “Yeah, yeah. It doesn’t matter if we win or lose as long as we’re having fun. That’s great for the kids, but I want them to win!”

But, if we are truly being honest, out of my two daughter’s games, the one I enjoyed the most was my youngest’s. My expectation was fun. In my oldest’s, my stomach was in a knot and I went from frustration to anger (subtly of course because I’m a Christian… I’ll just pretend in my head that their coach’s head is going to explode). My expectation was for her to dominate and bring honor to the family name. Fortunately, I kept my mouth shut, but God know’s my heart… and now, so does the interwebs.

What a crappy parent am I! I’m not joking. I am a vain, proud, and envious person that did not show a “Christlike concern for all people” like the Royal Ambassador pledge tells me I need to.

Why do I ruin it for myself and come close to ruining it for my daughter? Why can’t I just enjoy the game for what it is. I know we probably all struggle with it to varying degrees. I’ve seen my kids almost kill one another over the death of a Mario or a Luigi (as you can see).

I thank God that my daughter’s voice of reason kept me from indulging my evil schemes and anger over a soccer game. I’m also thankful that in spite of my junk and the lopsided game, she had fun.

I hope she can next week (as well as the rest of them). I also hope that I can do some spiritual cleaning and get rid of some of this junk before then. They’re good kids and they deserve to have fun with an excited, happy, loving parent that’s there for them no matter the score.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Advertisements

Hey, Mickey, You’re so Fine…

I hope you enjoy the title… Try getting that song out of your head!

Yes, two weeks ago, we drove down to partially-sunny Orlando, and went to Disney World. This was actually a Christmas present that we gave the kids.

To make things fun, I devised a scavenger hunt Christmas morning to tell them the news. It was a masterful 25-clue hunt that lead them all over the house finding pieces of a puzzle which, in the spirit of “National Treasure”, had a secret message on the back of it. Skipping every other letter revealed that we would be going to the happiest place on earth in two weeks with Grandma and Grandad.

Unfortunately, what I thought would be a fun, unique, and wonderful team building exercise became two hours of stress for the kids. I knew we hit our low when after sitting for 15 minutes in front of our card catalog, our oldest daughter says in the whiny-est of voices, “I don’t know what drawer the puzzle piece is in…”

Her clue: “If our card catalog was the game battleship, (letters across the top and numbers down the side) D-6 would sink my battleship.”

Maybe it’s more obvious for a 35-year-old than a 9-year-old.

Nonetheless, the truth that was unveiled was as poorly received as the game…

“That’s over a school week! We can’t go.”

“What’s Disney World?”

“I thought we were going to Texas next week… Are we cancelling those plans?”

Oh, you naive little Colombians! Truthfully, it was kind of cool that they didn’t fully understand the greatness of the gift. Disney World is one of those places you can’t really encapsulate in words. You can only truly appreciate it when you are there.

Surprise number 2 on the trip also had a poor build-up to unveiling…

There is no obvious route from Madison, Alabama to Atlanta, Georgia. That, combined with a time change made a 12-hour journey in the car into a 16-hour journey. After riding in the car all day, the last thing the kids wanted to hear after unpacking was to load up in the car and go to Cici’s Pizza at 8:30 pm. Cici’s is usually their happy-place, but we were all a little saddle-sore. However, when they got there, the found out that 7 of their friends from Texas (two other families) were also there and would be enjoying Disney with them.

For the next five days, we Disney’ed the crap out of ourselves. It was fun, as a parent, to see the kids discover how amazing a place it was. One of our first honest-to-goodness roller-coasters was “Everest” in the Animal Kingdom on day 1, and after coming off of that ride, the boys didn’t want to see or do anything except get back in line and do it again. That lasted until we forced them to walk away and ride another ride… which had the same effect. Every ride, every show, and every character we met was the new high. It was great to see them enjoy a pretty wonderful place with their family and friends.

God also gave us great weather (cool, but not cold), and the parks weren’t too busy being an off-peak time of the year. It worked out great.

This is our group. My family decided to support Green Bay on this day. I was uncomfortable being put this close to Pocahontas.

This is our group. My family decided to support Green Bay on this day. I was uncomfortable being put this close to Pocahontas.

My wife and my father, getting to be uncomfortably good friends on the trip. Also, the youngest behind them is an adrenaline junkie... She loves roller coasters. When she's about 3 inches taller, she'll be able to ride a lot more!

My wife and my father, getting to be uncomfortably good friends on the trip. Also, the youngest behind them is an adrenaline junkie… She loves roller coasters. When she’s about 3 inches taller, she’ll be able to ride a lot more!

I really just liked this picture with me and my peeps. I think we're waiting to see the Nemo Musical.

I really just liked this picture with me and my peeps. I think we’re waiting to see the Nemo Musical.

She gave up seeing Belle to ride it. It seemed fitting that she should get a picture with it.

She gave up seeing Belle to ride it. It seemed fitting that she should get a picture with it.

I like to call this picture, "Everything my wife loves..." That Guacamole was about $9, but it did taste pretty amazing.

I like to call this picture, “Everything my wife loves…” That Guacamole was about $9, but it did taste pretty amazing.

My Mom and Dad. This was the last day, and they were still happy!

My Mom and Dad. This was the last day, and they were still happy!

It's a small boat after all... After this picture was taken, I had to swap sides with my youngest daughter because when we put to sea, we had a pretty bad list to port...

It’s a small boat after all… After this picture was taken, I had to swap sides with my youngest daughter because when we put to sea, we had a pretty bad list to port…

God didn’t really hit me with anything Earth-shattering on this trip, but he reminded me of some stuff I already knew.

Toward the end of day 2, we got on “It’s a Small World” in the Magic Kingdom, mainly because it was a “cool-down” ride and there was no line. I didn’t notice it in times past, but each room in the ride is from a different region on the globe. I was pretty light-hearted (as I’m sure Walt Disney intended me to be riding in this giant plastic boat listening to the upbeat song playing ad nauseum) until we got to the part devoted to South America with all the little boys and girls singing in Spanish. I no longer look at those kids as being on the other side of the planet far away from me… those are my kids.

In a perfect world, I believe every kid needs to go to Disney World at least once in their life. It’s a magical place, and it was great watching my kids take everything in waves of amazement. That’s why we gave Mickey our life’s savings to go (I exaggerate… a little).

I also believe, in a perfect world, every little boy and girl would have a mom and dad.

Truthfully, if I could have the second, I would pass on the first. Thankfully, God has blessed my five with both.

Thank you, God, for the big things and the little things. Thank you, for being a Father to the fatherless and for places like Disney World to enjoy. Thank you for dying on the cross and for Mountian Dew. Thank you for grace and for comfortable sweat-pants. Thank you for mercy and hot showers to sing in. Oh! How blessed we are, and how much He loves us!

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Change…

Hello…

It’s been over a month since we last talked to the interwebs, and a lot has happened. This is partially not our fault. Up until a couple of days ago, we had spotty internet service or no internet service at all. Now we’re thumping along well enough to get a few thoughts down on paper.

Since the last time we talked, we have moved to Alabama, purchased a house, and started a new job and a new school.

One thing I have learned is, I’m not a flexible person. I try to be, but I hate it when my plans change. I make my plans based upon what I assumed would be. However, what would be, even for the most thoughtful, forward-thinking individuals is sometimes not what they had in mind.

  1. I thought my company (the same one I worked for in Texas) would have issued me a new laptop when I started working here… “Sure, Beth. Go ahead and pack up the home computer. I’ll take the backup hard-drive and update our records when we get to Alabama.” Whoops! Not so much (my company takes good care of us, so I’m not upset about this, it just wasn’t what I expected). This lead to a lot of phone calls to the bank, tracking every receipt we had, and using the courtesy computer in the hotel lobby late at night (so other people don’t see my financials as they are walking to the ice machine).
  2. I thought the hotel that we stayed at for three weeks would get us two rooms right next to each other. Nope. Rooms 106 and 132 were definitely at opposite ends. This led to a boys’ room and a girls’ room and a severe lack of communication with Beth. Usually we debrief a day after the kids go down, but when the kids were out, we were stuck in our rooms about 200 ft away from each other. I missed Beth a lot those three weeks! We did primarily use one room for storage, and the other was for living.
  3. I thought we would buy a house on the west end of town with an acre of land. The week before our house-hunting trip, we told the real estate agent helping us that we wanted to look at a bunch of houses, but we were about 75% sure there was one in particular that we wanted. She told us she would let the listing agent know that they would have serious buyers at the end of the week and not to make any decisions until then. That’s when we discovered it was a short sale, possibly going into foreclosure, and that property would be tied up for months and months. We expanded our search a little and wound up in a house on the east side of town on the side of a hill/baby-mountain with 1/2 acre. I think we are happier here than we would have been at the other place, but this house wasn’t on our radar until we found out that the other house was unavailable.
  4. I thought up-state Alabama would have less traffic than the DFW area. Our new town of Madison has a red-light at every intersection and tons of people driving all over it. On Thursday of last week, I kid you not, I drove into the middle of a parade. My 30 minute trip to the hardware store for some light bulbs turned into 2 hours of inching our way along the main street of our town. The favorite thing our GPS likes to say is, “Make a U-turn whenever possible”. We thought that should be Alabama’s state motto (Don’t – It really is nice here). Having said all that, we are starting to find the back way to get to things, and can navigate pretty well. One of the blessings about the house we picked was that it is 6.5 miles from work. Now that I know the best route, I can be there in 10 minutes… I’m estimating we will be saving about $300 in gas every month.
  5. I thought that I would get every other Friday off like I did at my old job (again, I thought it was the same company with the same practices). When I asked my boss if the current week or the following week was the off-Friday, I got a stern, “We work five days a week, every week” answer. Oooo! That was definitely going to ruin my plans for this Friday, and every other Friday for the next 30 years. However, it didn’t take me long before I adjusted from 9-hour days to 8-hour days, and most everybody at work works a few hours extra each week and take off early on Friday. That’s been really nice.
  6. I thought our house, being bigger than it was in Texas, would make it quieter, spreading out the people over a larger area. That doesn’t pan out so well when the house is pier-and-beam (not a slab foundation like we were used to). It is amazing how I know where every child in the house is by how the house is rattling. It also gives me an edge for playing hide-and-go-seek. I’m amazed at how a heavy-footed 60-lb Colombian can make four times as much noise as a 200-lb man.
  7. I thought my wife was wasting money ($40) when she bought a super-market end-cap when I asked her to find something to put the TV on. I got home at the thing was in 12 pieces in my driveway with the comment “it needs a little work” coming from her. I, with a very bad attitude, put it together, cleaned it up, mounted some feet to it so it wouldn’t ruin the carpet, and started putting our electronics on it. My thought was, I can always use it in the garage if this is a stupid idea, but half-way though, I caught the vision. It fits perfectly in the space we have, it’s querky and fun, and the little diamond-shaped holes and groves built into it are prefect for zip-tying chords for electronics (organizing wires is a passion of mine… a couple of notches down from God, Beth, children, and Mt. Dew… it may be tied with Mt. Dew.)
  8. I thought our sectional would go in the fun room with the crazy super-market shelf entertainment center. I measured it, and it was 1.5 inches more narrow than the hallway… It got jammed. Then two adults got jammed. Then a wall sconce (however you say that… light on the wall and not on the ceiling) got messed up. Then I got angry. Then, we bought a couple of cheap futons that seem to fit the space even better, and we used the sectional in another part of the house that quite frankly, we didn’t have plans for. That reminds me, yesterday, one of my kids asked me, “Who is ‘Quite Frankly?'”
  9. I thought, after six weeks, we would be close to finding a church home. We are not. Lots of visiting, lots of red-flags, and lots of “when in Rome” moments. We know our old church didn’t have a monopoly on how to do church, but it’s amazing how conditioned we get in doing things a particular way. We’re trying to be open-minded and not Pharisee-ical (It’s a new word, trust me), but at the same time, not water down our convictions. In a lot of ways, it’s been good to re-evaluate where we stand on a lot of issues and talk through the things that we believe and why we believe them as a family. We found a church last week that we really like, but we still need to talk to a pastor, and find out more before we make a hasty decision. We are still probably a month at minimum from joining a new congregation… We should probably write a blog about how much we will miss our old church. To be continued…
  10. I thought that the dogs would be a minor detail that we would have to be mindful of during our move. No. Our company-paid flight to Alabama to move the family down was a no-go because one of our dogs was a particular breed that isn’t allowed to fly due to notorious respiratory issues. That really made the rest of the family sad, and resulted in a two-car caravan across three states with seven people and three dogs over 12 hours. I also had to “negotiate” with the hotel when we showed up with three 40-lb dogs when their policy was no more than two 25-lb dogs in the hotel. The new house has no fence, and our basset hound has issues with doing stairs which every entrance to our place (on the side of the hill) has. This has resulted in a lot of dog walks, patience, and care. We are a lot more mindful of the dogs and their needs than we have been in years at our old home with a fence and dog-door. When we adopted kids, they definitely took a back seat, but we’re a lot more involved with them now than a month ago.

It’s interesting how we always think we are the captains of our own destiny. We plan, we envision how we want things to turn out, we busy ourselves working to that end, and there is no doubt that God allows us the free will to act on these things. However, in this move to Alabama, He has reminded me of all the subtle directions He has steered my life. Almost all of these things, though frustrating, had a silver lining.

I hate it when it feels like the wheels are spinning off and my great plans are falling apart, but I’m finding that’s when God does His best work. That’s also, when we do the best at depending on Him. I’m not quite to the point of “counting it joy” when I have various trials, but I can at least see why James says so.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Punishing the Innocent along with the Guilty…

Yesterday was pretty full.

We started out the day with three soccer games, back to back. Everyone knows I really like to watch the games up close, so I was asked to referee two of them. The compliance training I have at work tells me this is a conflict of interest and I should decline, but the need for a warm body sometimes trumps ethics (Even though I try to be fair… but more about that later).

We then went to DBU where I teach and watched the baseball team play the University of San Francisco. My kids pigged out on hot-dogs, hamburgers, and cookies while I tried to explain how the game worked. I don’t know anything about baseball (thank goodness I don’t referee that game), so I didn’t know why the ball rolling underneath the outfield fence meant that the home run turned into a double. The end of the game was a walkoff-ball (Is that a thing!?! – Bases loaded and the batter got four balls.) which led to a lot of confusion between five Colombians that are very new to the game. It was a lot of fun, and God held the rain just long enough for us to get home without getting wet.

We then met up with Mami (who had gone to a musical with her mother and sister after soccer) with about a half-hour to get ready to go to our Sunday School party. No time to bathe, but we changed out of our soccer uniforms and into some fresher clothes and held our arms up for a few minutes to let the pits air out (We want to keep these people as our Sunday School class).

During that process, I went to the bathroom. When I was done, I flushed, washed my hands, and rejoined society. I was greeted at the door by one of our dogs with a “best offense” sticker (no doubt earned that morning) stuck directly over the little patch of white hair she has behind her head. I did what any rational-thinking person would do. I congratulated my dog on her scoring abilities, and giggled to myself thinking “How boring was life before we had kids?!”

About that time, our dog realized that she was being honored for her offense too, and she shook aggressively such that the sticker fell off on the floor beside her. I went into the kitchen where final preparations were being made for our mass exodus, and I asked who put the sticker on our dog, not to punish but to say it was funny and the sticker needs to be thrown away before we leave.

I immediately received five quick not-me’s.

This is where the otherwise great day went horribly bad. I told them that someone is not telling the truth. That was when my little defense attorneys began qualifying their answers.

“I don’t play soccer. I’m still too young.”

“I was only recognized for my defense today.”

“I stuck my sticker on my elbow. Do you want to see?”

I reminded them that the person wasn’t in trouble. I just wanted to know who it was so we could clean it up. I also reminded them that our problems get bigger when we lie. Despite my little speech, I had one little Colombian double-down on the lie while four others more frantically proclaimed their innocence. Over the past two and a half years, I’ve gotten to know my kids pretty well, and I had narrowed it down to two kids that would think it was funny and value humor over the personal recognition that the sticker represents.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t be sure, and I pressed a third time. Again, the same response.

I had no idea what to do at this point. A lie had been spoken, and we are a people of integrity, so that means there is a zero-tolerance policy on any lie, no matter how big or small. Those are great things to say, but in situations like that, convictions can be a little inconvenient. I just wanted this little thing to be over because I was looking forward to the party.

A fourth time, I asked, with the same response.

Beth was headed out the door with crock pots and telling me to wrap it up because we had to go.

I asked my two prime suspects directly, “Did you do it?”

“No” and “No.”

Then I had to pull out the big guns.

“If we can’t figure out who is lying, I guess we won’t go to the party.”

Yeah. It came out of my mouth, but my hope was, the stakes would be high enough at this point that one of them would finally move. I also knew that if I wanted to be a person of integrity (there I go with convictions again), I had better be willing to do what I said. That was pretty rough because everything that day was for the kids, and this was something I really wanted to do. They owed me these few hours with my church friends!

“Perhaps the sticker was on the floor face down, and the dog came by and rolled around in just the right manner as to accidentally affix it to her neck”, said one Colombian wanting to go to the party (maybe a little less eloquently as described here, but with the same basic idea).

I explained that it was too coincidental. I also said I was being super duper serious… secretly chanting “please don’t call my bluff”.

Beth gave me the now or never look. I had to make a call.

“Sorry, I guess we don’t know who lied so we are all going to miss the party.” Beth was pretty mad, and, from behind the door where only I could see, she mouthed “Really?!?” She knew what I had to do at that point. She told the kids that she was hosting the party and needed to leave, but they had to stay home with me and clean the house and go to bed early.

The door closed. The car pulled out of the driveway, and five little kids began to cry uncontrollably. I was crying on the inside too. Selfishly, not only did I miss my party, but I was now cleaning the house too, and all I did was seek the truth at all costs… I guess it cost me a lot!

When I was a kid, I remembered once arguing with one of my cousins about something stupid at a family reunion, and when we asked my uncle to settle it, he said “I’ll bust both your rears so I know I got the right one.” At the time, I thought this was barbaric and too heavy handed (pun intended). After all, how can punishing an innocent person be fair? Was I supposed to squeal and accept blame so Solomon wouldn’t cut my baby in half? Yet, here was I, punishing four innocent kids for the crimes of one… AND IT WASN’T EVEN A CRIME. It was a stupid sticker on the back of one of my dogs!

Beth called me from the party and said, “I was really mad at you for keeping the family from going to the party, but it is the right thing to do.” That was good to hear because I couldn’t tell if I was breaking new ground in child rearing or earning the “Worst-Parent Ever” award. Does anyone other than me have those moments?

I looked at the ten tear-filled eyes looking back at me and said, “If you are one of the kids that told the truth, I am so sorry this happened to you. If you are the one that lied to me, your lie ruined the evening for everyone in the family.” (Except for Mami… she said she had a great time not worrying about kids at the party)

We then proceeded to vacuum, fold laundry, do the dishes, dust, and clean rooms for the next three hours. After about 30 minutes of silence punctuated by a random sob here and there, the kids started getting into the work and we were able to get the house in pretty good shape for Beth when she got home… after all, the next day was Mother’s Day!

We then went to bed, and put a pin in this problem for nearly 24 hours. The next morning, Beth used her womanly intuition and, on Mother’s Day, determined who it was and told them it would be their decision, but they needed to confess to me what they did.

Tonight, my oldest son, came to me and confessed to the crime. I was so glad (seems weird to say here, but I have reasons… keep reading)! Not only was he one of my two suspects (and I love being right), but the trust in our relationship was severely damaged for the past day, and I hated that. I hated wondering which one of my kids had the audacity and maliciousness to lie to me repeatedly about something they did. It hurt me knowing that I wasn’t in a harmonious relationship with my family I had enjoyed so much the day before.

We talked about how our sin affects other people. We talked about integrity. We talked about how you have to live in fear with a damaged relationship when you deceive. We talked about how much better it feels to confess our mistakes then to keep them bottled up and hiding them. I told him that he, along with his brothers and sisters were all punished enough the night before, so no additional punishment was coming.

He listened to my whole sermon, but that last part may have been the only part he heard. For now, that’s good enough for me. The “Dog-Tag” affair was finally over.

Baby steps.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Called to be a Layman…

When I was about 17 years old, several of my friends in the youth department felt called by God to go into the ministry. I was happy for them, and I was proud of the decision that they made. They were good guys and gals, and I knew God was going to do big things with them. I prayed, listened intently to God, studied His word, and did everything I knew to be right… but I was never called.

As a young and dumb kid, I wondered what was wrong with me. All of my really strong committed Christian friends were being called to the ministry. Why wasn’t I? Was God not hearing me? I definitely prayed and gave God lots of opportunities to tell me “Yes” to a life of full-time service, but He never chose to capitalize on those opportunities. So, while waiting on God, I decided even Paul had to make a few tents from time to time, so I went out into the real world, did a lot of college, and got a non-ministerial job.

That was 18 years ago (Time flies!). I am currently a youth Sunday School teacher and my family is in church almost every time the door is open. We work hard in church, and we do as much as we can, but when Monday rolls around, I roll out of bed, head to my cubical, and get ready for a 40-50 hour a week job that has nothing to do with God (aside from the fact that He blessed me with the job and the ability to do it).

Last week, I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Cochabamba, Bolivia and work with a missionary that used to go to the same church I did about 30 years ago… one of the ones that God told could serve Him full-time. He has been in Bolivia for 8 years now and has made an incredible impact in the lives of so many there.

Our team of 10 ran a clinic where the local Bolivian people were able to get free heath care, dental care, and hear about the gospel. About 20 people accepted Christ! We then worked to do some construction on an unfinished church in the area. We made a sidewalk for the church, and we built a little apartment off to the side of the main building where a family of five will be living to take care of the building. We also had a mini-VBS where we shared the gospel with about 300 kids between the ages of 4 and 13. It was an amazing time, and God taught me so much, but inevitably, I had to fly home, and go back to that cubical today.

Our team in Bolivia.

Our team in Bolivia with Missionary Joe and his family.

I know a lot of people will say, “You are always on the mission field, wherever you go”, and yes, they are right, but I all I want to do is serve God as my full-time job and leave the desk-flying and engineering to someone else.

I am so glad that God has given me a heart to serve. If he didn’t, this would be a very different blog, but it results in a very conflicted life. When I was 17, I thought something was wrong with me. I thought I just wasn’t in tune with God’s will or listening to Him hard enough, because surely I would be called to full-time ministry. I was just as good as my friends that were called (and humble too)!

Now, I live with the duality of wanting to serve God at every opportunity I get, but having to live with the fact that my direct service is something akin to a hobby… something I only get to do for free on nights, weekends, and vacations (again, I know my job is a mission field too, so please don’t think I’m overlooking the obvious when I say that).

However, as an older and slightly wiser adult, I have begun to understand that I am called to be a layman. I believe my calling is every bit as strong as those that go into full-time ministry, and it is the path God wants me walking. I didn’t mishear God. His non-answer to that prayer was an answer.

Yes, I want to serve more and more. Yes, I dream about how I can share God’s love with the world while I’m at my job every day. Yes, I have to work an entire year so I can give just a week. However, I have to be the pillar on which the church rests.

While it feels like people in the ministry are the tip of the spear and I get the shaft (meant to be funny in a witty, non-Dangerfield way), I remind myself that the spear is nothing without the shaft. Gladys Knight is nothing without her Pips. Kirk is nothing without Scotty “givin’ it all she’s got.”

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

I Corinthians 12:12-26

My job is to raise the next generation to be Christ-loving humble followers of God.

My job is to be a light in the private sector and share God with those around me (see – I told you I wouldn’t overlook the obvious).

My job is to bring tithes and offerings so that the ones called to full-time ministry can do their job without distraction or pause.

My job is to serve in the church, teach a Sunday School class, invest in students, and give hands and feet to the vision that God has given our pastors.

My job is to be the silent force on the other side of the ocean interceding for my brothers on the front lines.

My job is to be a layman.

It is my calling. It is hard, but I know now that it is exactly what God wants me to do. We need ministers and missionaries without a doubt, but we need laymen too. I hope God gives others the confidence to see it as a calling. I didn’t have that as a teenager, but I do now.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

PS – Please pray for our friends in Bolivia and all of South America. God is doing some amazing things, and we are blessed to be a part of it!

I stand with Israel…

Usually I don’t get too political on our blog, but after debating for a few days, I thought it was important to share.

Three days ago, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, addressed our Congress (what he called the most important legislative body in the world) about his concern over a nuclear Iran.

Israel is in a bad neighborhood, where everyone, on all sides, seems to want them wiped off the planet. We, on the other hand are in a great neighborhood. Greg Gutfeld expressed a similar sentiment in that we, as Americans, suffer from “ocean privilege.” I’m not minimizing the attacks of September 11th, the Fort Hood shootings, or any other act of terror that has reached our shores, but in relative to our ally, it doesn’t compare. As the Prime Minister put it, America fights for security, but Israel fights for survival.

Some in Congress listened to the Prime Minister, his concerns, and his plans of action. Some boycotted the speech, dismissing it as political theater. This grieved me deeply.

First, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Martin Niemoller about his time in Nazi Germany:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Israel is arguably one of our greatest allies. If we don’t help them and defend them, we cannot expect anyone to do the same for us.

My second concern, is far greater. I was reminded of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3:

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

If we believe the word of God is true, perfect, and applies today just as much as it applied then, I shudder at the thought that, as a country, I see America turn it’s back on Israel, and, by extension, God’s blessing. It seems that we would rather be sympathetic to those that God would curse than to rally around our greatest friend in the world and enjoy the blessings of God for doing so.

Also, make no mistake – If you consider yourself a Christian, Israel’s enemies are your enemies. You can bury your head in the sand and enjoy your “ocean privilege” for now, but this fight will be at our doorstep soon enough… and I don’t believe claiming ignorance and wanting to stay out of it is going to matter when it gets here.

To me there are a lot of issues that Christians can argue both sides pretty effectively. This is not one. There is no ambiguity here. As Christians, we need to stand with Israel.

I cannot speak for our country. All I can do is speak for myself. I believe the Bible, and I would rather be blessed by God standing with Israel then to live on our knees placating Israel’s enemies. If saying this puts a target on my back, then so be it, but the times of half-measures is over. I’ve picked my side, and I stand with Israel.

At the dinnermesa,

Ty

Liars and Thieves among us…

Do you remember that book, “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawethorne? Maybe for you tweenys out there, you more easily recall the Emma Stone movie “Easy A”. I think it was “an ol’ school story with a new school flava”. I had to read “The Scarlet Letter” in high school. The main character, Hester Prynne, bears an extramarital child and, for her crimes, must wear a red “A” on her clothes to signify to the world that she had committed adultery. And it was Reverend Dimmesdale’s baby all along! Let me tell you, as a 10th grader with poor reading comprehension, I did not see that coming!

Let me say, I am glad we don’t have public shaming, but it does bring up an interesting question. If we lived in a society that allowed such a thing, how would it effect crime rates? In a world where “respect” is something so craved that entire songs and Jerry Springer episodes have been written about it, would the exact opposite of respect be severe enough negative reinforcement to influence the decisions that people make?

I submit to you that it can.

Last year, my oldest daughter, the most rule-loving of all my children, stole a cell phone from her teacher! I was shocked. If we had a vote in our house as to who was most likely not to steal a cell phone, I think she would beat even me and the dogs. But she did. She snagged it when the teacher wasn’t looking, and after getting caught acted very caviler about the whole thing… even in the vice-principal’s office.

Fast forward to this year. Same teacher, new child o’ mine. This time it was my youngest son and the items of choice were little rubber dinosaurs. Along with the many teaching aids made to make learning fun, this teacher had a box full of little rubber dinosaurs that she used for various activities. My boy, over the course of several days, created an underground railroad to ferry these neon-colored creatures to safety (i.e. our house). When ten or so turned up in one of his bins during a not-so surprise inspection, his comment was “They were a prize from my teacher.” Teacher was called. Claim was busted.

Middle son’s turn, but thankfully a different teacher! His teacher sat a camera on her desk before walking to the other side of the room to help a student. On the return trip, the cap to the camera was off and two young men (of which, one was my boy) were at the scene of the crime. I don’t know if you recall the scene from “Austin Powers” when Will Ferrell’s character has to tell the truth after being asked three times, but from what the teacher tells us, a similar event unfolded. After she explained that it wasn’t a big deal to her, but she just wanted the truth, my boy finally admitted guilt.

There have been more cases, but those are the big ones that I remember.

In all cases, we backed the teachers up 100% (God bless the women that educate my kids) and augmented any discipline that they received at school with discipline at home. We are believers in natural consequences, so if property was destroyed, they have to earn money to replace what was broken (It’s happened before, but fortunately not in these three cases). We also emphasized that problems only get worse when you lie about them, never better. To reinforce that point, we explained, “You are getting X punishment because of what you did. You are getting Y punishment because you lied about it”.

However, the part that seems to resonate most with our children is facing their teacher, admitting guilt, and apologizing. We usually have them make a note or card apologizing and we do the “walk of shame” to class with them the next day to apologize. Bearing their shame before their victims is so hard, but it is also so important.

Why?

I think it is twofold.

1. People, even (and possibly more so) adults, hate admitting fault. It is the ultimate swallowing of pride that we can do.

But, if I don’t ask my kids to admit fault to a teacher, how do I expect them to admit fault before a Holy God. I John 1:9 says that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins”. James 5:16 goes a step further and says that we are to confess our sins to one another! It seems to make sense that the person we wronged should be the first stop on that confession train.

2. Kids, even though they can’t articulate it so eloquently, know the value of a good name.

Psalms 22:1 says a “good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” Our integrity is so fragile. You can spend a lifetime building it up, and one wrong decision will tear it apart. As one of my top-five favorite movies (V for Vendetta) says, our integrity is the “last inch of us that we must never let them take” and “never give away”. This was the number-one lesson that my father taught me growing up. When people hear our last name, I hope they know that we (not just I) are people of integrity. We demonstrate it a thousand times with the little stuff such that our word and our actions are trusted with the big stuff too. Trust and respect comes from a good name. Suspicion and shame comes from a bad one.

With the exception of the cell phone, our crimes against humanity are relatively small. Thank goodness. Again, I’m learning as the age of my kids slowly inches up, so do the stakes. Rubber dinosaurs today, credit cards and car keys tomorrow.

To be fair, they really are great kids most of the time, and we love them to death. Also, the dinosaur whisperer asked Jesus into his heart a few weeks ago. If we accomplish nothing else as parents, I can be happy with that. 4 down. 1 to go!

As Beth says, "thank goodness God made them cute!"

As Beth likes to say, “Thank goodness God made them cute!”

At the dinnermesa,

Ty