Music Monday – Dancing in the Minefields

This Valentine’s Day edition of Music Monday is dedicated to my sweetheart and dance partner, Sarah.  I love you!

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Flashback Week – If I could write my wife’s journal…

[originally posted on February 25, 2008 – when Sarah was pregnant with Ben, who is 2 years old today!!  Happy Birthday, Ben!)

(with apologies to Daniel Defoe)

Day 279.

Or is it 278?

I seem to have lost all track of time. Each day blends into the next, with hardly any distinction. Has it really been that long since I arrived on this land I’ve come to call Bay BeBump Island? Was there ever a life or day NOT spent on this island? I can’t remember, but I doubt it, even as logic assures me that there was. Bah, I can’t trust my mind any longer, anyway. This land has had a strange effect on me. I’ve tried to counteract the effects with these lovely little cookies that I’ve found, each one enigmatically marked with an “m.” Surely, it must mean “munch me.”

I didn’t fare too well during the first weeks on this island. Adequate sustenance was hard to find and harder to keep [down]. Everything edible had a horrible affect on me. However, in time, I must have since acclimated to the food and my surroundings. For awhile, all was good. In the past few weeks though something has inexplicably happened to my bedding. No matter what I try, the ground seems to follow my every move and refuses to surrender its comfort in my sleep. And I swear someone or something somehow knows where I’ll lie down because they put a stick or something that pokes me in the ribs all night long. Have I mentioned the heat? I am now fully convinced of global warming since this place sure has heated up in the past few months. I’d give anything for an arctic blast. Or raspberry chocolate ice cream.

The natives on the island, though few, at times are quite demanding. It’s hard to describe them. Mostly of a darker complexion, they’re rather short in stature. They seem to be a fierce tribe, at least one would think so from all the war party’s they have. At least, I think it’s a war party, which is the only explanation I can think of for all the screaming and wailing. But for all their “fierceness” they raid my provisions quite frequently and even have the gall to sit on me! Don’t they know what kind of stress I’m under here on this island?! They appear to have made me their chief of some sort, although apparently not the kind of chief that gets waited on hand and foot. Speaking of feet, I wonder if I can bribe one of them to rub my swollen feet.

But there is good news! I spotted a ship on the horizon this afternoon!! Just thinking about leaving this island has me ecstatic. If my calculations are correct, the ship appears to be only a day’s journey away. I’ve got to get busy! I’ve got to make my list of things to do! If only I had the energy!

Ouch, what was that?!

Flashback Week – Things that go *chink* in the night

[originally posted on January 8, 2008]

3:30 a.m.

Sarah wakes me up, shaking me and whispering, “Stephen, someone’s in our house.” Then I hear a faint *chink* sound, like someone knocking against glass.

Immediately, my eyes pop open and I feel the adrenaline start to pump. I grope around the floor for the bat I keep handy. “Never thought I’d have to use this thing,” I remember thinking as my fingers find toys, socks, a book – everything but the needed bat. “I guess I still won’t use it.” All kinds of thoughts race through my head. “What does this person want? Would they be armed? What if they had already been upstairs where the children are sleeping?” In those few fleeting seconds, I realized that I cared nothing about whether or not anything was stolen – only that my family was safe from harm. And I was prepared to tear into anyone who tried to harm them.

I walk toward the door and immediately stumble over yet another toy. By the time I reach the door, I figure that whoever is in our house has had fair warning of their impending doom – or mine. With that and thinking that the element of surprise is clearly still back in bed where I left it, I yank the door open and step into the hall.

Silence. And then, *chink* again. Then I realize what that sound was and who was making it.

I went around the corner to the kitchen and confirmed my suspicions. Jeremiah, my cooking-inclined, somewhat independent-minded two-year old had decided that it was breakfast time. He had found his way to the counter, pulled over his stool, and was happily munching “cookies,” what he calls the M&M’s that we keep in a glass jar. *chink* – the sound of a little hand probing the depths of the jar for more treasure. He calmly looked up at me and simply said, “Eat cookies.” I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or not, so I simply picked him up, deposited him back in his bed with a stern warning, and returned to bed.

Needless to say, it took me quite awhile to get back to sleep. But my family was safe, even from the “cookie” monster.

Lessons from the past

[I was looking through some old journal entries of mine and came across this one written on August 1, 2006]

On Saturday, Carlos (my 5-year old) was sitting with me on the couch while I gave Jeremiah (my 1-year old) some juice. Sarah was out shopping so this seemed like some good father-sons bonding time. Not sure what started him going on this subject, but Carlos wanted to talk about God. I told him a few things about God, thinking this would satisfy him. Then I asked, “Do you want to go play a game with me?” To my surprise, he props his legs up on the couch and in his broken English, says “No, I want you tell me ’bout God.” Then he just looks at me expectantly, waiting for me to spill the beans and tell him everything there is to know about God. Okay, I’ve just been more than a little humbled! I tried to explain as best I could in a way that a 5-year old could understand how God created us, how he knew everything, that he was holy, and that he loved us so much that, even when we “disobey de law” (as Carlos says), he didn’t punish us but punished Jesus instead, even though Jesus never disobeyed de law.

The next day, we went to church and for awhile before the service began, he was talking and asking me when we were going to “cantar” (sing). Every time he asked about singing, he would raise his hands in the air (yes, we do that at our church!). Since we’re trying to teach him not to do things simply because other people are, I asked him why he raised his hands when he sang. Again, in broken English, he quickly replies, “Because cuando (when) Carlos asi (like this), I want hug God” and makes a big hugging motion. That’s probably the simplest yet most profound answer I’ve ever heard from anyone on why they raise their hands, and I can’t claim to have taught him that!

One final story. Our church has been having VBS this week starting this past Sunday and the theme is “The King is Coming.” Each evening he has come back with something he made and wanting to recount his lesson (last night he came home with a paper snake illustrating the fall of man.) And each evening so far, he says “Maybe the King come tonight?” As much as I try to explain that only the King knows when the King is coming back, he doesn’t seem to get it. But every night, before he goes to sleep, he asks “Maybe the King come tonight?” and every morning he gets up, looks around and then tells me “Hmm, the King no come last night.” Then he quickly and excitedly adds, “Maybe the King come today?” Now here is a perfect example of how us mature Christians should be eagerly awaiting the coming of our King. I don’t know exactly how much Carlos understands, but he has provided countless object lessons for me in my Christian walk.

You & Me, the both of us, together!

Last Sunday and Monday, Sarah & I got to go away on a wonderful trip to Virginia Beach by ourselves. We stayed in a very nice hotel and got to walk along the waterfront for a little while. Part of the fun was that Sarah had no idea where we were going – and believe me, it was VERY hard not telling her! But before you start thinking, “You go, Stephen! You da’ man!” I have to make a confession. This was not my idea (it should have been!) and I almost screwed things up royally.

Back in late January, Sarah asked to go on a trip somewhere for her birthday in February. It didn’t matter where. She only wanted to get away for a day. Immediately, my brain went into man-mode. Or rather, it stayed in man-mode. I started scouring the internet for ideas of where to take her, what we could do, etc., etc. The problem (as I saw it) was that the weather in February was not at all conducive to much outdoor activity; there weren’t any concerts or such playing on the days we would be going on our trip; and there just wasn’t that many options for things to do. As a result, I didn’t plan anything and thought perhaps we could just “find something to do” that day.

Yeah, exactly. You can take your “’atta boy” back now.

Needless to say, Sarah was very disappointed and rightly so. We decided to postpone for a later month. So I started planning again. I had a couple of ideas, but it was mostly dependent on the weather. I still hadn’t quite gotten the hint. I hadn’t understood what Sarah wanted.

We dropped the kiddos off at a friend’s house (thank you Summer and James!!) on Sunday afternoon and traveled to Virginia Beach. Along the way, we talked about this, that and the other, just enjoying having an uninterrupted conversation. We relaxed in our hotel at the very nice Westin Hotel and enjoyed the view from our 15th floor corner room. The next day, after luxuriously sleeping in and having an in-room breakfast, we drove down to the beach and walked along the waterfront for about an hour. Then we headed off to Williamsburg to spend a few hours at Busch Gardens before heading home. It was a very nice trip!

It wasn’t until later this week that I realized where I had gone horribly wrong in planning the whole thing. When Sarah said she wanted to go on a trip, I immediately started thinking of fun things to do, interesting places to go, etc (otherwise known as “man-mode”). Even in the second round of planning, I missed the point. It didn’t matter to her what we did or where we went, she just wanted us to spend time together sans kiddos. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip was the journey there because we spent almost the whole trip just talking and getting to know one another more. The “doing together” didn’t matter a fraction as much as simply “being together.” Sarah spends most of her days doing, doing, doing without a lot of opportunity for us to simply relax and be together.

Any guys out there reading this, hopefully you can learn a lesson from my mistake. Sometimes, your wife simply wants to be with you. Doesn’t matter that the weather is crappy/sunny and there is nothing/everything to do. If nothing else, take a 5 hour drive together and talk about whatever comes to mind. Stay at a hotel for one night and just be together. I’ve discovered that even though I had planned these different things, what Sarah had originally wanted ended up being the best part – time spend together.

10 years ago today!

Today is a special day. 10 years ago, I was 21, a senior in college, and a couple months away from finally graduating. And here I was as nervous as a high school freshman asking a classmate of mine out on a date. Well, a date as far as life at this particular college was concerned, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up a little.

For the first couple years of college life, I had pursued a relationship with another young lady. I had not based the relationship on God at all, but rather what I thought I wanted. In the summer of 1998, a series of events showed me that I was in no way ready for the responsibility and maturity needed for a serious relationship. At first, I didn’t want to admit this, my pride insisting that I was ready and all God had to do was put his seal of approval on my plans! As most, if not all of us have learned (and learn…and learn…and learn…), God doesn’t quite work that way. Finally, I confessed this as sin and resolved myself to a life of bachelorhood. That was towards the end of the fall semester, 1998.

When I started my last semester in the spring of 1999, God had given me two great and Godly floor leaders along with guys in my prayer group who truly wanted to live for God and praise Him. I had a good job and a great class schedule. I had no idea what I was going to do after graduation, but somehow I wasn’t really worried about it.

Then I went to class. Or two classes in particular, actually.

Little did I know that my world was about to be shook (shaken?) up by the classmate sitting to my right in one class and behind me in another. Her name was Sarah. Now, this wasn’t like some romantic movies you might see where the girl comes on the scene with music playing, angels singing, hair blowing in the wind (this was inside, after all!), and the guy’s eyes popping out of his head. No, actually, the closest thing to that was a flying sheep. Unfortunately, I was probably a bad influence on Sarah in this class because I had discovered a hilarious program on my computer that made a little sheep come up and do all kinds of cute little tricks – like fly through the air and land in a bathtub. I know, corny. But hey, when you don’t have angels singing, I guess a flying sheep is the next best thing.

At first, I simply wanted to be friendly. Nothing more. After all, I was now a confirmed bachelor for life, remember? But the more I talked to Sarah and got to know her, the more I wanted to know her more. In a word, she was fascinating! I’m not sure when it happened and I don’t claim to have the gift of prophecy, but at some point during that semester, God seemed to be telling me that Sarah was the person whom I was going to marry. But get this – I actually and literally argued about that with God! “But God, I’m a confirmed bachelor, remember?!” And it was as if God poked me in the ribs and said “Are you trying to get me to stamp my approval on your plans again?” Ouch. Oh I wanted to know Sarah more, but I wanted to be sure that it was what God had planned on – not me.

So on March 19, 1999 – 10 years ago today – I very nervously asked Sarah if she would like to go with me to a picnic in the afternoon. To my horror, she said she had already planned to go with some friends. BUT, she added quickly, I could come along if I wanted to! “Hey, that’s better than nothing,” I thought. We enjoyed the picnic together with her friends and then went our separate ways. But that wasn’t enough for me. I had to see her again! I picked up the phone in my dorm and started to dial her room. I think I got about 2 digits out of the 4 entered before hanging up. Trying again, I picked it up, dialed – and then hung up. I think I did this about 3 times before finally getting the courage to actually let it ring and not hang up when she answered. I asked her if she would like to attend the Praise Service at church that evening with me – she said YES! I’m pretty sure I was about 6 inches off the ground when I hung up.

And so began a relationship with the most wonderful woman I have ever known. There were a couple of times where she wasn’t too sure about the whole “us” thing. To me, that was okay because I knew something she didn’t – I was going to marry her! After graduation, we went our separate ways, but God in his sovereignty and in a way only HE could bring about (ask me about that sometime!) provided a way for me to move to Roanoke, win over her mom (who Sarah swears always takes my side 🙂 ), and most importantly, win Sarah’s heart.

I love you Sarah and I’m so glad you said “Yes!” 🙂

The Evil Toy Elves

Sarah laughs at me because it seems that no matter where I walk, if it’s dark I will invariably step on a toy of some variety. And if I’m trying to be especially quiet, the toy will of course be one that makes a loud noise of some sort. But it’s not my fault. No really. See, there are these evil toy elves living in our house. And their sole purpose is to watch my every step, anticipating my path, and then, while giggling their gleefully wicked laughs, strategically place a toy right beneath my feet. I’ll be walking along, innocently minding my own business and not a toy in sight. And before I know it, my foot comes down on a toy guitar where only seconds before was open floor space.

They’re quick, these elves are. And quiet, too. I’ve never seen them yet. But I just know they’re there, plotting my demise.