Daring Timidly…huh?!


Daring Timidly…huh?!

83 Comments 30 August 2010

Hmmm, where do I begin?  I think I’ve said that before in starting off a new blog post.  Oh yeah, that’s how this one starts:  “Where Do I Begin…?”  I apologize for being repetitive, but I seem to have a lot of thoughts swirling in my head at the moment, but no consistent theme or direction for where they may be going.  All of which leads me to wonder just where to begin?

Maybe I should start with the probable catalyst for those swirled thoughts:  the impending premiere of our show on TLC, “Quints by Surprise.”  Certainly something like this, as surreal as it still feels, can be at least partly to blame for the tempest between the lobes so why not start there?

It is an exciting time to be a member of our little family…exciting, bewildering, happy, stressful, fun, chaotic…surreal.  It seems like this day, the one that is coming on Monday, has been coming for a long time.  I won’t really say it is the achievement of a goal we have been aiming for because we did not set out on this journey with a TV show as the ultimate goal.  I know, I know – the cynics and skeptics are all rolling their eyes right now because surely that has been the aim all along for this fame-seeking, child-exploiting, Bible-relying-only-as-a-means-for-selling-our-story family of ours.  But let’s all just pretend for the moment that I’m actually telling the truth when I say this has never been a goal of ours and that we did not intentionally have quintuplets so that we could be on TV.  At least allow your disbelief to be suspended for the sake of the drama of this blog post…deal?

Though the response to our decision to do the show has been 99.99% positive there are still those, even among the supporters, who question why we would go this route.  “Haven’t you learned anything from Jon and Kate?” they say.  “What will make your show different?”, “How will you protect your family?”, “Do you think you’re ready for this?” are other versions of the same question.  These are all reasonable questions (though generally not reasonable when issued in the tone in which they are usually uttered by the M&M’s – that’s my new name for them, the cynics…it stands for “The Miniscule Minority”) and I assure you we have considered all of these things and more.  And here is one other thing I can assure you:  we don’t have the answers to those questions and many of the others we have considered.

Have you ever made a mistake?  It’s a silly question, I know, of course everyone on this planet has made many mistakes big and small.  But have you ever known you were making that mistake while you were in the act of doing whatever it is you were doing?  I know there are those times when you make a decision you know you’ll probably regret (binge drinking and the hangover the next day, the fight you got into and the bruises that took forever to heal, skipping school to go shopping and the detention that followed), but that’s not the kind of mistake I’m referring to.

What I mean is have you ever done something, maybe something like handling a customer service complaint at your job, taking a client out to lunch, meeting up with a boy or girl after school, or something else like those scenarios I mentioned that “seemed like a good idea at the time”?  But then you told your boss how you handled the complaint, you told your wife that you took your female client out to lunch, or you told your boyfriend that you hung out with that other boy after school and you knew by their instant reaction that it really wasn’t a good idea after all?  Or how about this – have you ever taken a job that you later wished you hadn’t?  Have you ever given a girlfriend a second chance only to be later dragged through a second round of hell when things don’t turn out as you had hoped?  Have you ever told your boss that you would like to take on a new project thinking it will kick start your career only for it to turn into an unmanageable debacle that short circuits the path you were on?  Those are the kind of mistakes I am referring to – the kind that were well thought out and pined over – advice-seeking, life-changing kind of decisions which later turn out to be painful lessons in how not to do something?  Some would say that our decision to use fertility drugs to get pregnant was one of those mistakes though you would have a fight on your hands if you said it to us directly.

So now you know the answer to my original question is no.  No, you did not know you were making a mistake at the time you were in fact in the act of making a very big mistake, possibly one that would impact you for years to come.  I have made those mistakes and then some.    I have taken a job I later regretted taking.  I have had the hangover the next day.  I have taken on the career-kick-start project.    And then I have found myself stuck in a situation of my own creation, struggling to find a way out of the consequences I have brought on myself.  And what is funny is that in each of these situations I have been able to look back with startling clarity and almost always point to the exact moment my thinking, planning, and pining took a turn down the wrong path.  How I could have missed that point the first time around, I’ll never know, but miss it I did!

I will freely and openly admit this to each and everyone of you out there reading these words right now:  it is entirely within the realm of possibilities that we are making a mistake by deciding to do this show.  There, does that make you feel better?  No, I do not have a magic mirror that tells me all that lies ahead and we do not have a special protector watching over us to ensure that we cannot be harmed by the decisions that we make.  Therefore, it is wholly realistic to believe that we might be making a mistake.

But we don’t live our lives making decisions simply to avoid the possibility of making a mistake and neither do most of you.  Most of you are no different from us in that you are presented with an opportunity, you gather the best information you can, you analyze that information as best you can sometimes with the counsel of others, you pray about it, and then you make the decision you believe will be the best thing for you and your family based on the information you have gathered, your analysis of that information, and hopefully on the direction God is calling you to go.  And that is exactly what we are doing here.  The risks and benefits have been assessed, the safeguards have been put in place, the continued counsel of good friends and advisers will be sought…yet the possibility of mistake still lies in wait, lurking on the other side of every corner we encounter.

I have taken on a motto for myself and the way that I approach living since Christ turned my entire world on its head two years ago and it is this:  Pursue Life.  I got it from Matthew 8:22 which says, “First things first.  Your business is life, not death.  Follow me.  Pursue Life.”  Good stuff, right?  And yes, it was printed in red.  I do not know what that passage means to you when you read it, but to me it means to seek every opportunity that Christ puts in your path and pursue those opportunities with vigor until the day that Christ directs you in another way.  It means to move forward without reservation, focus your eyes on Christ, and dare to take the road less traveled if that is the road he is leading you down.  It means to get out of the boat and truly believe that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.  It means to control what you can control and leave the rest up to him…

Yes, it is possible that we are making a mistake with the choices we have made.  I’ll give you that.  But it is equally possible, if not more so that our life will never be better because of these very same decisions.  It is also just as likely that there is someone out there who will be positively impacted by our story and that alone makes the effort worth the risks it brings (In fact, this has already happened.  Read here if you’d like to hear some of their stories:  “This is Why We Do It“).  How will the show be different and how will we avoid the pitfalls of those who have gone before us?  Honestly, I don’t know.  But doing just those things is something we have given a lot of thought to and something that we are committed to achieving.  More importantly than any thought or effort we can put into making a difference is the fact that we define ourselves as Christians and we believe in a different way of life than many out there.  And hopefully through the simple daily acts of trying to follow Christ’s example we will make a difference by showing that there is in fact a difference in the way you can choose to live your own life.

Why are we doing this?  Well of course we are doing it for ourselves.  And we are doing it for others.  Most importantly we are doing it for our faith and we are even doing it for the M&M’s – the cynics, the holier-than-thous, the judgmentals, the moralists, and the pessimists.  Because we know you’ll be reading these words and rolling your eyes.  We know you’ll be watching the shows and shaking your head.  You’ll be paying attention, waiting to pounce when we stumble.  We know this, I can’t explain why you would want to spend your time doing this, but you’ve proven time and again that you will always be with us.  And so, yes, we also do this for you.  To hopefully show you a different way as well.  I am not guaranteeing anyone that we will be successful in our pursuit, but I will guarantee you that there is no stopping us from pursuing the life that we believe we are called to lead.  Pursue life…to me, there is no other way to live!!

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Teddy Roosevelt

God bless,





14 Comments 19 July 2010

First things first:  Happy Birthday, Eliot McKenna!!  Our baby girl turned six years old on July 14th!  May the next six years be every bit as amazing as the first six, Darlin’!

Now, onto the post…..

“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”  Helen Keller

I’ve been feeling pretty restless lately which for me is not terribly uncommon, but it is a noteworthy feeling nonetheless.  And by “restless” I mean agitated, aggravated, like nothing I am doing or am about to do is quite right or satisfying…lack of focus, difficulty in being present in the moment, any moment.  You may have a different word to describe feeling, I call it being restless.

As you know by now and as many of you also often feel – we’ve got a lot going on right now.  The babies and Little Miss Sunshine keep me busy enough, but between work and filming and trying to maintain a vibrant and lively marriage with my beautiful Casey Ann, you would think I have enough going on to keep me from feeling this way.  I do all that I can to be a devoted father, a caring husband, an earnest student (of life!), and an ambitious businessman and I think I’m doing pretty well.  Yet there it is again….


It’s like the wheels are spinning, but they have not yet grabbed hold of the solid ground lying somewhere beneath the treads.  For those of you who pray often, it is the feeling you get when the only impact your daily prayers seem to have is to fill the room with noise as they echo their way right back to the ears on your own head.  Or maybe it’s the feeling you get when the book you’re reading is just not grabbing you and pulling you in, the newest bachelor is falling for the wrong woman, and your favorite star just got voted out of the next dance…and all of this happens on the same day, the next day bringing just as much discontent as today.  Things aren’t necessarily going badly, but they are definitely not working out the quite like you expected them to and for some reason no one is getting the message you are broadcasting, no one…including the broadcast-er…


So what is the message in this meandering restlessness?  What is it that I am missing or better yet, what is it that Christ is trying to tell me?

I told you that this feeling is not all that uncommon for me, but I also said that it is a noteworthy feeling.  It took me awhile to figure this out, but when I finally discovered the reason for this feeling, this agitation, my whole world was changed.  In fact, it took me most of my life up until this point, but I finally know just what is happening when nothing seems to be happening at all.  I started to take note of other feelings that accompanied this surge of unrest, I started to listen more intently to the world around me…and finally I began to notice that the reason nothing else in my world seemed to be just what I wanted it to be was because…

…it is at these very moments when Christ wants my attention somewhere else entirely.

No, it’s not that he wanted me to stop being a devoted father, a caring husband, an earnest student (of life!), or an ambitious businessman – those things were clearly charted by his hand and I do not believe I am ever being called away from them…not in this lifetime, at least.  But notice a common theme among the life purposes I just mentioned – father, husband, student, businessman.  Do you see it – the common thread?  It is not an obvious theme, but it is, I believe, a very important one to understand – selfishness.

That’s right, I said it and I’ll say it again:  being a devoted father and a caring husband and carrying out all of the other “responsibilities” of manhood are in many ways selfish pursuits.  And that is the message that I believe Christ wants me to understand in these times when I am restless, agitated, and aggravated.  Think about it for a minute – what do I get from being a father, husband, businessman, etc. and from being the very best of those things that I can be?  Am I reviled at work for my family focus?  Am I bombarded with objections by my family for being a good businessman?  Of course not!  The payoff to being a great husband is having a loving, generous, energetic, and respectful wife.  For being a great dad, I get darling daughters who adore me and a son who lights up when I walk in the room – both of which are in strong competition for the best feeling in the world!  And of course we all know what kind of pay comes with being a great businessman.  On the flip side, what do I get when one or all of these things are out of line and I am not being the husband, father, businessman I should be?  The answers are easy enough – a wife who finds it hard to love, children who may or may not care about your presence in their life, and all of the stress and frustration that comes along with  failed business endeavors.  In my time, I’ve experienced many of the frustrations arise from not giving my all to those things that so completely deserve it.  Believe me, you do not want to go there…

Ok, ok – so maybe saying that being all I can be as a husband/father/businessman is a selfish pursuit is putting it a bit harshly.  But let me put it another way and see if more of you agree.  What would you think of me if I were not all of those things or worse, not even trying to be?  Would you cut me some slack?  Would you say it’s ok because I have so much going on?  In this hyper-judgmental world we live in, would my failures escape the specter of public criticism?  Now do you see where I’m coming from?

Here’s my point:  doing everything I can do to be the best husband, father, businessman, and Christian that I can be is simply the buy-in at the game of the life God calls us to.  These things are a baseline, the cost of admission, the minimally acceptable standard by which I can live my life.  Period.  Anything less is not acceptable.  Of course mistakes will be made and the course may need correction from time to time, but the bottom line is that doing these things is the absolute…well, bottom line.

There was a time when I was not the best husband I could be.  Like many young married men I sputtered when learning the lessons of giving my life to another.  Putting my “self” aside for the sake of “us” was a tough ante to pay…and as a result, we struggled in our marriage.  There was also a time when I let my own ambitions get in the way of my pursuit of perfect parenting.  And there have certainly been times when my job did not get my best and Christ seemed to get whatever was left at the end of it all, which was usually nothing or at most not much.  And it was during these times that I owed it to myself, to my wife, to my family, and to Christ to do all that I could do…

...to dismantle and discard everything in my life that stood in the way of me becoming the best husband, father, businessman, and Christian that I could be.

And so I did that, we did that as a family…and things changed, dramatically so, for better and forever. What you have seen from me and from us the last couple of years are the result of those efforts and have been in many ways the apex of what we have tried to accomplish in our marriage, with our family, and in our pursuit of faith in Christian living.  It has been unimaginably good in so many ways and we believe things will only get better as we continue the pursuit.  We believe that the last couple of years has only been the first of many apex’s we will conquer in this life.

So now what?  Can I check the box and simply go off on whatever trivial pursuit catches my interest for the time being?  If so, I’ll see y’all on a mountain somewhere in Colorado trying to be the best skier I can be…I could totally live the ski bum life!!!  Oh, but wait – that’s not the way it works, is it?  No, it isn’t.  The responsibility of being who I am – the joy (mostly) and the pain (not to be denied) of it – will always be with me as long as I live.  Consider it the price of admission to life, our life, love it or hate it (bet you can guess which one it is for me!), this is our life.   But is this all there is, not that this is a bad thing or that it isn’t enough, but is there anything more?  Is there anything outside of these “selfish” pursuits that Christ is calling me to?

And that is when we come back around to this feeling, this restlessness…..

So here is what I believe it means, this is my theory.  In a sense, learning how to be a great husband, father, etc. is sort of like learning how to be a great musician.  You work hard, you struggle, you push yourself, you practice, you try every little trick in the book, you walk away, you come back more committed, you push, push, push.  And then one day you realize you’re there…maybe not all the way there (not sure that you ever are), but you find yourself exactly where you envisioned you would be when you first began.  And it feels good, really really good…great even.  You find yourself in a zone where you instinctively know what to do and how to do it, where to go and how to get there.  Sure, some days are better than others and it is certainly possible to drift very far off course.  But there is a knowledge and a skill base that is always with you, no matter how far you may wander from the days when you practiced for hours on end in your efforts of becoming great.

But now that I have found myself here, now that the foundation has been established and firmly set in place, why the restlessness?  Why the agitation and frustration?  Whatever happened to enjoying the fruits of victory?  I think the simple answer is that in this life you can never truly declare victory and that the inevitability of change in life’s weather will necessitate repair and refocus on the foundation that has been laid.  But I also think there is another answer to this question.  I believe the restlessness could also be God’s call to do more and to look outside of this comfortable, happy little world that he has helped us create and do whatever it is that we can do to make someone else’s life a little more manageable, comfortable…victorious.

And that is why I love that quote above, the one by Helen Keller – “Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing.”  It may sound a little cheesy or strange, but I would absolutely describe my life as daring and adventurous.  I have no real sense of what tomorrow may bring and I love that about the life I’ve been given.  But at the same time, I know deep in my soul that Christ expects great things of me, us, and each of you reading these words today.  And that is why I believe I feel so restless lately…I am not at this very moment living up to the expectations of Christ’s calling.  God wants more than the price of admission – he will gladly accept that when it is ready to be offered – but do not think for a minute that he is going to send you off on a luxury cruise for the remainder of your days.  No, I do not believe that is how he works…sorry, Charlie.

So we have started something which I believe will ease the restlessness stirring in my soul.  Unfortunately I cannot say what it is because it very well may end up on your TV screen one of these days, but the treads have begun to grab hold.  We are taking small steps as we learn how to walk in this others-focused world, but I believe that there will be a day when these very small steps will have proven themselves to be a lot bigger than we now give them credit for.

If you cannot use those words I used to describe your own life – adventurous, daring, bold, dynamic – I encourage you to discover why that is and ask Christ to lead you away from the mundane and into the daring life he calls all of us to live.  I believe that life for all of us is a thing to be pursued and that in this pursuit we will all discover the bold, daring life that Christ has been waiting for us to find all along.  Feeling restless today?  Maybe it’s time for you to jump in and join the fight.  Maybe it is time for your own pursuit to begin.  Pursue life……it’s what we were all created to do!

God bless,





13 Comments 27 May 2010

How do you define yourself?  Is it the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the music you listen to, or is it the tattoo across your back?  Is it the place you are from or the place where you now call home, the team you follow, the school you attended, the tweets you broadcast to the world, or is it the thoughts you have in your private, silent moments?  Which person is the real you – the weekday you or the weekend you?  Are you really the serious professional you present to your colleagues or are you the fun-loving free spirit you present on your Facebook page?  What about the church you or the in-front-of-your-parents you who utters no foul language and can’t believe the degradation of society today – is that the real deal or is it the party you who knows the words to every song and likes to dance to the break-a break-a dawn (thank you, Beastie Boys)?  Or is it a combination of all of these things?  Are we simply a sum of all our parts, all our “selves” or is there a central, unchangeable, unmistakable you that is hiding (or was once hidden) underneath all of the layers of other “you’s” that are perfectly packaged and  presented to the world at the proper time?

I am one of those who once had layers upon layers…upon layers(!!)…of other “me’s” that I transitioned between given the situation and the moment.  There was definitely the in-front-of-my-parents me (sorry, mom and dad), the sports field me, the frat-daddy me, the church me, the alone with Casey me, the business me, the school me, the out with my friends without Casey me…the list literally has no end in sight; I don’t think I am even aware of all of the “me’s” that I had created along life’s highway.  I was Mr. Everything – not that I could actually do everything, but I could certainly appear to be everything to everybody in every situation.  I could be the life of the party, the church-going moralist, the hard-driving employee, the world’s best boyfriend/fiancee/husband, and all points in between at any given moment.  I defined myself by the fraternity tattoo on my shoulder, the Alice in Chains and Rage Against the Machine decals on the back of my truck, and the chip on my shoulder…oh yeah, that was one giant chip, just ask my mom and dad!  I also defined myself as a good person, as a leader, as a man with all the answers, and when it was convenient…as a Christian.

So were any of those the real me and if so, which one?  Well, none of them were.  And at times all of them were, at least in a very singular, simplistic sense.  Most of the time I acted like a leader, approached problems with the heart of a good person, had lots of good answers (sometimes to very difficult questions), and many times I even acted in accordance with Christ’s teachings.  So does that mean that I was all of those things?  What about those other times, the times when I did not act like a leader, did not choose to be a good person, or acted in a way that was clearly un-Christian?  Did God’s grace simply wash those times away, even when I did not ask him to do so, leaving only the good in me behind?  Is it really that simple – act however you want, be the person you choose to be for the moment, good or bad, then double down on Christ’s crisis on the cross and skip your way past the pearlys when your time has come?

Well, I’m no Biblical scholar so I do not really know the answer to those questions.  But I have led somewhat of a double life in times past and I have had some experiences that lead me to believe one way over the other.  So I’ll throw out a few of my thoughts and let you all decide for yourselves…..

I believe there is a real, unchangeable, perfectly designed me…and I believe the same of you.  I believe that underneath all of those layers that we so carefully display there is a real you and me dying to show itself to the world.  I believe there is a definition to your soul which was written, designed, manufactured, and is now being quality tested by inspector #1…the only one who has the right to do such a thing.  And I believe that all of those other versions of you and of me that we all encounter every day are our own creations, established simply for protection from the harsh reality that sometimes defines life in general.

For me, I eventually ran into a reality or two for which the many different versions of myself had no more answers.  Finding out that you cannot provide your wife with a child in the way God originally designed is just one of those realities…and of course, finding out that you are going to be adding five little lives to the family mix is another.    Those were times when God literally took account of everything that he had invested in me up to that point and simply said, “everything that you have will not be enough; you’ll have to trust me.”

Huh?  Can you run that one by me again, Lord?  “That’s right, son, there is nothing that you can do that will impact the final outcome this time.  Trust me, I know what I am doing,” came the reply.

Looking back, I can now see the beauty in those events, along with a few others, that played a pivotal role in the effort of casting off all of the past wanna-be me’s and allowing the true me to define the future.  In those times, when God’s Kryptonite stripped me of my superpowers, I discovered something – I like this definition of who I am.  And not only do I like it, it is a whole heck of a lot easier to go through life when you only have one you to keep up with!

People ask us all the time how we do it.   They say, “How do you manage to keep up with five babies plus Eliot and then handle all of the other stuff that you have going on?” or some version of that question.  And while I could reply by saying things like we gave up TV, we never rest, or other stuff along the same lines, the real answer is another thing entirely.  I discovered the real me by defining myself through Christ and Casey did the same thing.  And because of that, God’s grace allows us to manage it all; there is simply no other answer.  I have retired the old “me’s”, hopefully forever, though I know it is a battle that will continue until my last day.  But there is only one me that I want you to know and that is the same me that I was designed to be…by the only one with the authority to do such a thing………

God Bless,


Get Out of the Boat!


Get Out of the Boat!

25 Comments 01 April 2010

“‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said.  ‘Why did you doubt me?'”  Matthew 14:31

You would likely not be surprised to know that when you tell people you are expecting quintuplets or that you have quintuplets, you open the door for those people and many others to give you advice, offer their support and encouragement, have a nice laugh in bewilderment, or any combination of reactions ranging from shock to awe.    Meeting people, seeing their reactions, hearing their stories, and learning from their words of wisdom – this has been one of the more enjoyable pieces that has been added to this puzzle we now call our life.  Our lives have been opened up like never before and in response, many have opened up their own lives to ours and for that we are extremely grateful!  We never realized the potential of community in our own lives until that day when poor Dr. Silverberg (God bless him, I think he nearly had a heart attack that day!) dutifully counted out the five future fabs that were then growing in Casey’s belly!

One of the more frequent versions of the casual counsels we have received goes something like this:  “Don’t worry, God only gives you what he knows you can handle.”  And believe me, these words have served as great comfort at many of the more stressful, chaotic, and otherwise difficult moments during our great adventure!  What a thought – to know that the God of the universe knows that you can handle your current circumstances, believes in your abilities to succeed, and trusts you to do what will serve his purposes best can be incredibly motivating.  It kind of makes you believe you can run through a brick wall or…walk on water…or something like that!  Trouble is, I believe that this sentiment could not be farther from the truth of how Christ expects us to react to the challenges we face and how he works in our lives through the obstacles that threaten to wipe us out…

For some of you, I imagine you might have to pick yourself up off of the floor after reading that last statement, but stay with me a bit longer and hear me out.  Here is how my thinking goes…

(And let me preface this by saying that I am no Biblical scholar and I am not an expert on anything about which I am speaking.  These are only my thoughts based on my experiences and the teaching I have received, nothing more.)

Here is how I see it – God does not trust us…he knows us all too well for that!  He knows our abilities, he knows our talents, and he knows our weaknesses and he also knows that we are just about guaranteed to screw up most of what he asks of us.  And he is perfectly ok with that.  What I believe is that, knowing our inabilities and our fears and our weaknesses, God intentionally gives us challenges that are way above our pay grade.  Way, way, way, way above it in many cases!  I absolutely believe he did that individually with me and with Casey and even with Little Miss Sunshine, Eliot McKenna, and also with us collectively as a family.  Do you really believe that God would test us just to confirm for himself that he knew we could handle it all along?  Again, I’m no expert, but I do not believe this is how it works.  Rather, I believe he tests us in order to force our hand, to create circumstances in our lives which cause us to make the decision, one way or the other.   Do we leave our own ambitions and judgments and understanding behind us and lean on him like we have never leaned before?  Or instead do we continue to do things our way and shoulder the load with no guiding hand from above?

Those who follow my tweets and Facebook postings may have seen me post something along these lines in the recent past:  “Get out of the boat!  Fix your eyes on Christ and dare to live the life he has planned for you!”  Of course I am referencing the Bible story in which Peter the Apostle, a normal human being by all other accounts, walked on water.  It is an amazing story of Christ’s power over the natural world we live in, but here is the deal:  Peter can’t walk on water, just as you and I can’t do the same and Christ knows it!  And if our Lord had not been there to lift him up when Peter’s personality got in the way of his connection with Christ, we would be telling a different story today about that stormy night at sea.  No, Peter didn’t do a thing on his own, except cower in fear as the waves crashed around him before answering the call from his father out on the water.

Think about this…in four months time I started a new business, welcomed two new soon-to-be sisters into our family when my parents took in two foster children, found out we were having quintuplets, and started an MBA program about which I was already concerned given the expense and the time it would require.  I’m not telling you this in an effort to brag on myself; believe me, I have little to brag about.  I’m telling you this to illustrate just how far God will go to prove to you how impossible this life can be when you live it without him.  I’m telling you this to illustrate the amazing power his hand can have in an individual’s life, if only you first accept the call, just as Peter did.  I started my business nearly two years ago and the other three dominoes fell shortly thereafter.  And two years ago, I was wholly inadequate to respond to any of the challenges that were then careening around the bend, their course set for a head-on collision with me and the rest of this little family.  I was wholly inadequate to handle those challenges, except for one very important detail…God was in control…then, now, and always.

Casey and I are normal people with normal needs, wants, abilities, weaknesses, fears, failures, successes, desires, and demands.  Actually, I am all of those things; Casey on the other hand is absolutely amazing in every single way!!  I however am a normal person who encountered far from normal circumstances and responded the only way I knew how – I gave it up to God (and of course the same is true of Casey, except for that “normal person” part).  And while the road has never been easy, (not for even one single minute!) the ride has been wholly extraordinary in only a way that he can deliver.

So, my intent in writing this blog today is not to offend or upset anyone or necessarily to change anyone’s opinion on life and Christ and all things in between.  I simply wanted to offer a different perspective, one that has enabled us to have peace amidst our own stormy nights at sea.  It is a comforting thought to trust that God would not give you any more than you can handle and I do not blame anyone for believing that to be true.  But I do hope that you will consider what I have said.  And I also hope you come to know as I have that the true power and potential that lies within all of us lies firmly in Christ’s hands, not ours.  And if we would like to unleash that power in our own lives, all he asks is that we get out of the boat and dare to live the life that he has planned for us.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”  Proverbs 3:5

God Bless,

Ethan, dv

Where Do I Begin…?


Where Do I Begin…?

Comments Off on Where Do I Begin…? 19 November 2009

The title says it all, I do not know where to start. It’s been a long two weeks since I updated the blog with anything truly substantial and a lot has happened in that time. I apologize for not updating sooner, but I’m guessing you’ll forgive me. Two weeks ago…ah, yes, that is the day Baby Bright Eyes finally came home, the six pack was finally complete, and everything in our happy little world was officially turned upside down.

So again, where do I begin? Right now seems as good a place as any so here we go. It’s 11:27 pm on Saturday night. Casey has been in bed for 45 minutes and I’ve been trying to get this blog going for the last :27. This is my fifth time to sit back down, laptop in tow, after getting up to bounce Ryan in her bouncey seat, each time saying a little prayer that she’ll just give me an hour. So far, the prayers have gone unanswered. The other four are fast asleep, each in a bouncey seat of their own, snoozing away the hours until their next bottle.

I’m up, listening to some nonsense that’s playing on the TV (why do they play nothing but junk after 10 pm??) while Ryan is sleeping – finally, face down across my lap between my stomach and the laptop. And I type away. I am up because I am pulling the first shift tonight while Casey gets her 4~ish hours of zzzz’s for the night. The next feed begins at midnight, assuming they all cooperate between now and then, so I’ll be lucky to finish this blog in this sitting.

There used to be a schedule to all of this, each of the babies had a set time and an order in which they fed and they pretty much stuck to it…not anymore. Now, if we can just get them all fed and quieted down within the two and a half hour time we have allotted for them to feed, life is good…exceedingly good. If all goes well, my head will hit the pillow around 2:30 and I won’t have to get back up until around 7:00. Reality is I’ll probably get in bed a little later than that and I’ll likely get up a time or two to calm one or two or three of the babies before Casey’s shift begins at 4:00. And that is how it goes on nights when we do not have help. It is now 11:41 and, as if an invisible spirit just went through the room and pinched all of the babies at the exact same time, Jack, Brooklyn, and Lila have all started to fuss. I’ll be back…

Good morning! I’m back and it is now 9:51 on Sunday morning. Jack is in the cradle, the girls are all sleeping in bouncies, Casey is getting dressed, Eliot is playing downstairs, and I am upstairs, bouncing Ryan with my left foot and hoping that Lila’s fussing doesn’t turn into a full blown baby freak out. If I randomly type something like “Schlitterbahn” in the middle of a sentence, it’s because Eliot has just come upstairs and asked me to help her name her dogs that she just bought from my pet store…(Schlitterbahn is one of the names we’ve come up with so far). Ryan and Brooklyn woke up this morning around 6:30 so Casey got them into bed with us and bought us another hour of sleep. The rest of them started fussing around 7:45 so that is when the day officially began.

All of the babies are eating every four hours and we still wake them up through the night to feed, whether they want to or not. We could probably stretch them out a little longer at night, especially Jack and Brooklyn, but the problem is that if we do not keep them on a regular schedule, I think we would be handing care of the asylum over to the patients. I’m only half kidding when I call this place the asylum because the babies all completely lost their minds around this time last week and just about drove Casey and I to commit ourselves. Call it a growth spurt, call it babies being babies, whatever it was, it was nuts for all involved. What used to be a relatively peaceful existence turned into utter chaos and is just now starting to settle down a bit.

Side note – you think my perspective on life has changed slightly over the last six weeks? Read that sentence before one more time and you’ll have all the proof you need. Yeah, the one where I described life with five newborns in the house as “relatively peaceful”. Knowing what you know about our lives these days, could you ever even come close to describing it as relatively peaceful?? Yeah, life has changed, just a bit, and along with it so has our perspective.

Alright, back to the story. For the first 3 or 4 weeks since Jack came home, managing the babies’ care was about as easy as it could be. They were all like little alarm clocks that ran on formula instead of being wound up. every three hours, the formula on the clock would run low and its alarm would go off. Fill it up with formula, and the clock re-sets itself and goes into snooze mode for another three hours. Other than the occasional leaky clock or minor maintenance work needing to be done (aka: bath time, tummy time, or cuddle time), piece of cake. The nights were long only because we had to get up to feed them, not because they were up screaming for some inexplicable and inconsolable reason.

Like I said, relatively peaceful…until last Saturday. That is the day the babies, apparently in a collusive agreement, decided to flex their collective muscle and launch an assault on our sanity. Fussy? Check. Sleepless? Check. Inconsolable? Check, check! Baby team solidarity and commitment to the cause? Oh yeah! The four hour feeds became 1-4 hour feeds; the sleepy little angels became angry little devils; night became day, day became mayhem; minor maintenance became major overhaul; relative peace became a relative grip on reality. Honestly, I think it was just a growth spurt that they all went through…at the same time. They all wanted to be held all the time – even easy-going Jack, Britton was eating every two hours (more on that in a minute), and Ryan decided to scream for two hours at a time, several times a day. Collic? Gas? Who knows, but anyone who has been through it with their baby (we also did with Eliot) knows that it sucks, no other way to describe it. Oh, other than helpless, frustrating, and exhausting…

Ok, we’re done with dog names – Schlitterbahn, Feliz, Boy, Pinkers, and Princess – and now we’re onto watching Hotel for Dogs, carefully narrated by Miss Eliot McKenna. Picking up on a theme here? One of the casualties of this new life of ours was the dog we promised Eliot. She hasn’t forgotten that one and may need therapy someday to forgive us for it… ;-)

Britton has now been home with us for two weeks and she is doing very, very well. The NICU reluctantly released her to us with careful instructions to zealously guard her daily formula intake. Two ounces of her own special mix, every three hours, only given by mom and dad – no volunteers or other family. If she doesn’t take it down, insert a tube in her nose and get her the food that way. Those are the doctors orders…not easy, but better than keeping her at the NICU and struggling to get up there to see her every three or four days. In the NICU, whether she took her bottles or was being fed through the tube, she was having a heck of a time keeping her food down and gaining weight so we really had to be vigilant. After about 12 hours at home trying to keep her on the three hour schedule, we made the decision to pull back to a two hour schedule and feed her less with each bottle…’round the clock. That is six hours spent every day feeding one baby. I might have said this once already, but I’ll say it again – not easy.

Well, I’m very happy to say that after about 12 days of two hour feeds, Baby Bright Eyes is gaining weight as she should, keeping her food down (mostly), and is now back to a three hour schedule!! It is such a relief to see her finally beginning to thrive! She actually sleeps now…with both eyes closed…amazing! I am also very happy to say that whatever demon had entered our home over the last week appears to have left as all of the babies seem to have calmed down a little over the last 24 hours or so. Except Ryan. I’m afraid her tormenting spirit will be with us for awhile…uuggg :(

Despite this week’s craziness, the babies really are doing very well. Brooklyn still has the sweetest little cry I’ve ever heard and, as Casey told me this morning, she is by far the best cuddler. Britton is a total diva, but amazingly cute, alert, and ready to party! Jack – Chillmaster. The little guy is so relaxed about everything, rarely fusses unless he is hungry, and simply seems to be content with life. Lila, another chill bug, but more alert and social than Jack. Ryan, as before during the NICU stay, is competing with Britton for H.D.I.C. – Head Diva In Charge. Ryan doesn’t fuss, she screams, but good lord, she is beautiful! I’ll probably get skewered for saying this, but at this point she is the prettiest of the five, not necessarily the cutest and certainly not the sweetest, but without a doubt the prettiest little thing I ever did see!

Here are their weights as of Friday:

– Brooklyn – 8 pounds, 7 ounces

– Britton – 6 pounds, 10 ounces

– Jack – 10 pounds 2.5 ounces

– Lila – 7 pounds, 14.5 ounces

– Ryan – 8 pounds, 5 ounces

You can probably tell by what you’ve read so far that the smooth edges of our life are not so smooth anymore. I’m guessing you can sense a bit of frustration through my words and you are sensing right. Life with the Fab Five plus Little Miss Sparkplug is tough and it has taken its toll. We are tired, stressed, ready for things to calm down, and hoping that those calmer, relatively more restful days come sooner than later. Casey and I pass each other in the halls and are barely aware of each other even when we are arms length apart in our own bed. Everything we do now – from showering to eating to playing with Eliot to brushing our teeth – is done in a hurry, usually with a baby or two in hand. Our bodies ache, a sure sign of the worry, stress, and long nights that are now as familiar to us as anything else. We miss each other terribly, we miss our church, we miss our family and friends, and we miss the comforts of our former lives.

Yet, every time I’m at the peak of my frustration, times like last night when I was trying to write this blog, and the words “I can’t take this anymore” begin to form in my head, something stops the thought from completing itself. Every single time, without fail, the thought retreats. Maybe it is the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me or maybe it is my faith in the One who brought this mayhem into my life, I don’t know exactly because I haven’t felt this disconnected spiritually in a good while (kind of hard to squeeze a daily quiet time into the new normal). But when I feel as though I’m coming to the end of my rope, something gently reminds me of how good I’ve really got it. Something always reminds me of how heartbreaking and life destroying this story could have been. Something reminds me that no matter where I am in life, no matter how challenging everyday living has become, someone somewhere has a steeper hill to climb…no matter what.

We have become a living case study in James’s teaching in the first chapter of the New Testament book that bears his name. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds!” Read the rest of the thought outlined in that chapter of the Bible and you’ll discover that the key to navigating the storms of life is to be happy, right where you are, no matter what is happening in the world around you. That is the challenge that God presents to us in those few words at the beginning of James and that is a challenge we are proud to have overcome for the moment. Yep, we are stressed, more so probably than we ever have been. We are tired and we are looking forward to a better day (which hopefully comes tomorrow!). We’ve been through some tough times before, some very rough patches, none as challenging as this one, however. But here’s the part that is different this time around: we’re happy. We are not bitter, we are not angry, and we are nowhere near regret.

We are in an odd sort of storm, maybe like a hurricane with several eyes where the sunshine shines through with random regularity, I don’t know. I’ve tried to come up with an adequate way to describe the tempest that swirls around us, but to date that’s the best I’ve come up with. Yes, this time in our life is HARD! But it is also the most gratifying, electrifying, and exciting time we’ve ever experienced. Our main complaints are so minute in comparison with what could have been thrown at us. And the steady mantra of “short term pain, long term gain” maintains its presence at the forefront of our minds, providing a nugget of wisdom and comfort that can be gained only from life experience.

No infections, no illnesses, a seemingly well adjusted, though completely nutty, four-year-old firecracker, great help from generous folks volunteering their time to help us through it all, abundant love for each other and for the babies, relative financial security, donations that still come in from time to time, a mini-community rallying around us, relationship with the God who made this all possible…five precious, beautiful, amazingly perfect little babies. We have so much to be thankful for that the thought of being unhappy seems as ludicrous as does the thought of having five babies at one time. Ha! Crazy, right??!

Be happy, right where you are. It hasn’t always been this way for us, it’s something we learned. Or rather, it is something we were taught through a conscious deliberate effort on the part of the Great Engineer. When we opened our hearts to Christ, he opened his arms to us and this peace amidst the storm that we now enjoy is the greatest gift he gave (oh yeah, that and the whole eternal life through salvation of our soul thing…). He’s been good to us and given us a good life, as defined only in His special way. Sometimes it seems as if he has asked a lot of us though he has promised much in return. But when you boil it down to the basics and you strip away all of the baggage that we bring to the journey, life becomes a lot more manageable. Truly all he has asked of us is to love on these five little babies, to love on each other, and to love those around us as a witness to his power in our lives. That’s not asking so much, now is it? :)

It is now 4:25 pm on Monday. It has taken me no fewer than 20 sittings to get this blog done. I am typing this one-handed because my left arm has been occupied by Mr. Jack for the last half hour as I attempt to hold him off of the bottle for as long as possible. For some reason, four of the babies decided to eat at the same time (maybe that evil spirit is not quite done with us yet). Casey is upstairs feeding two babies while a volunteer feeds a third. I think Britton is the only one of the five not being tended to at the moment. The volunteer is leaving soon and we have no one else coming until tomorrow morning…it is going to be an interesting night.

And so the mantra continues its steady beat…hard work always pays…short term pain, long term gain…be happy right where you are…someone somewhere has a steeper hill to climb…God works for the good of those who love him…consider it pure joy…

Yes, Absolutely it is a Time to Celebrate!!


Yes, Absolutely it is a Time to Celebrate!!

Comments Off on Yes, Absolutely it is a Time to Celebrate!! 19 November 2009

When we got home from the babies’ church dedication last week and before we had changed clothes and settled into a Sunday afternoon feast, a little spontaneous moment of celebration broke out between me and Casey. I had gone to the garage fridge in search of a casserole to warm up for the meal. What I discovered, along with the casserole, was a bottle of champagne that a client of mine had given me a few months back; a bottle which I figured due to our hectic life would not be dusted off for many months from now, perhaps on our 11th wedding anniversary next June. Popping the top on a bottle of champagne means only one thing in my mind – a celebration has ensued – and I was immediately struck with the realization that in the midst of all of the chaos and craziness that this day had brought to our family, we had not taken pause to celebrate the day for all that it meant to us. Needless to say, I came back from the garage with more than a casserole in my hands.

It was Thursday, August 14th, 2008 when we got the news that would change our lives… immediately and indelibly. At the time, it was six babies, labeled by our fertility doctor as A, B, C, D, E, and F on the sonographer’s screen. And as you know, the final head count ended at five, labeled six months later by their still-in-shock parents as Brooklyn, Britton, Jack, Lila, and Ryan. And now here we were, seven months to the day after their birth, committing our little tribe to the care of Christ’s church. On that day it was never more apparent that these five babies – five blips on a sonographer’s monitor 12 months ago, five little newsmakers on Austin’s TV screens just seven short months ago – had grown into five precious, beautiful, little miracles, whose very lives speak volumes about the glory of our creator and now continue to change our lives…immediately and indelibly…every day. Yes, we had reason to celebrate!

Maybe it was the busy-ness of the preparations for the day or the fact that we went on our mini-vacation the two days leading up to the dedication that directed our thoughts elsewhere. And though I had had some thought that the day was every bit as much a celebration as it was a dedication, it never really occurred to me actually take time to, well…celebrate. Judging by the look on Casey’s face when I walked in from the garage with a casserole in one hand and champagne in another, the thought hadn’t occurred to her either. But as the cork was popped on that pink, bubbly bottle and we shared our first toast, there was no doubt that a celebration was called for…and maybe even longed for.

When the first toast was being poured out, a friend commented to us that he sensed that the day had been a bit of a celebration – honestly, I think that is the first time the word had been uttered in reference to the babies’ dedication. Of course, our immediate thoughts and response were in reference to the babies: we’ve got five healthy, happy, growing, smiling, beautiful babies that were dedicated to the church today…heck yeah, this is a day to celebrate! We’re still alive, still mentally competent, still married, and still happy with life after seven, wait make that twelve, of the most difficult months anyone we have ever known has ever had to endure…you better believe we’re celebrating!! That day, and most especially that moment, will forever serve as one of the more captivating memories in my overstuffed inbox of memorable times thanks to the course of life our Father has put us on!

In the few days following the dedication, once the glow of recent memories began to fade like the embers of a campfire as do the stories that are passed around it, my thoughts began to trail to a different reason for celebration on that day, in that moment, because of these times. No question, the day was reserved and celebrated for the babies and God’s goodness and that was reason enough. But another reason began to emerge, unknown and unspoken to most, but equally important to our family, if only in our little world with only quiet recognition.

Casey and I have been married for ten years and dated for six years prior to that and had enjoyed a pretty decent relationship for much of that time. But never had our marriage been on more solid ground than the day we got a glimpse at what lay ahead for our marriage and for our family. We had just come off a year of heavy focus on what was most important in our lives – faith and family – and we had found a really good place for both. To find ourselves in that place, where our marriage was never more alive was an achievement we were proud of and as we went through the process of trying to bring another baby into the world, we were looking to the future with more excitement than at any time since we said our “I do’s.”

And that is why, as the doctor dutifully identified the six little blips on that screen as our future brood, behind the excitement was a whole lot of fear in both our hearts. How would our relationship survive, let alone thrive, with all that the changes that these blips would someday bring to our lives? We had worked so hard to bring our relationship to a place that God had intended when he created the institution, why would he now drop this bomb on our hopes, plans, and dreams? How would we have enough time to ever focus on each other, something that had been so vital to our lives together? I don’t know how to accurately rank our fears following the news we received on that day little more than a year ago, but I can say for certain that the future health of our marriage, our relationship, and our love for one another was at the top.

So after a bit of reflection on just what it is that we were celebrating on Baby Dedication Sunday, my answer to that question may not be as obvious as once thought. The way I see it, the babies’ health, well-being, and miraculous lives are reason alone to celebrate on that day, but honestly, those things were never in question in our minds. God did the heavy lifting on that part, with little input from us. He created them, protected them in the womb, allowed for the amazing medical advances that ensured their health beyond the womb, and stirred a tremendous amount of love in people’s hearts to help care for them in the months since. You’ve heard me say this before, but truly, God did this.

I believe that there are times in life where God takes complete control as I believe he did with the babies’ health. But I also believe in free will. And somewhere between these two polar opposites, I believe there are times in life where he simply presents us with options and gives us a choice to make and decisions to be made around that choice. And this is what I believe was presented to me and to Casey, as individuals and as a couple, in the days following that fateful appointment in our doctor’s office. We were presented with options and were forced to make decisions that would impact our lives forever…immediately and indelibly.

I tell you today that the evidence is on display and our verdict is in: we made the right choices. We chose to not allow this pregnancy and these births to destroy what we had worked so hard to build. We chose not to accept survival; rather we chose to maintain our focus, sharpening it where necessary. Simply, we refused to believe that God would allow his creation to destroy his blessing…as long as we did our part – make the right choice. And somehow, through all of the craziness that has swirled around our lives lately, our marriage has found an even better place than it had a year ago. Somehow, in spite of all of the stress and the worry for what lies ahead for our little band of misfits, we are even more excited about the future than we ever could have imagined!

So yes, absolutely – it’s a celebration! It’s a celebration of all that is good and pure and miraculous about life, as any baby’s life can attest. Can there be any more striking example of God’s goodness than the life of an infant, let alone five at one time? I think not! But it’s also a quiet celebration for Casey and me, a small victory dance between the two of us, whether the world is watching or not. We have survived, we have thrived, and we continue to fight alongside our Father – for our marriage and for each other and for our family – as we look confidently towards the future. And yes, every once in a while, we celebrate…

© 2013 JonesLife. Powered by Wordpress.

Daily Edition Theme by WooThemes - Premium Wordpress Themes