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Standing On The Promises

Faith

Standing On The Promises

16 Comments 16 August 2011

I am your creator.  You were in my care even before you were born.  Isaiah 44:2

One of the interesting things about this blog that I have never mentioned is that oftentimes, more often than not actually, I have no idea what I am going to write about when I sit down and begin to peck away.  Sure, there are the obvious updates that I have done since this all began that more or less wrote themselves and had to be done to keep everyone up to date on the ups and downs of bringing five little lives into the world.  But to be perfectly honest, the update posts are pretty mundane and are sort of boring for me to write.  The ones that I really enjoy writing, though they are also the most challenging, are the ones that center around our faith in Christ and whatever difficulty he is helping our family to unpack at that very moment.

Such is the case with this post.  I have no idea what I am about to write, but I know that the keyboard is calling out to me.  Life has been less than easy lately and it is usually during those times that the Lord leads me to this place, sitting at my desk, staring at the screen on my laptop, and asking him what is on tap for today’s discussion.  It starts with a prayer – “Lord, allow your light to shine through me and give me the words to fill the page.  This is your blog, these are your words – help me to reflect your light in all that is written here.” – and it ends with whatever flows from that prayer…

Now I do not tell you this to say that I have some sort of special connection with Christ – no hotline to Jehovah exists that I am aware of and I do not hear the voice of God in my ear telling me that that sentence is too wordy or that I need to explain myself a little better in the last paragraph.  It’s nothing like that, at least as far as I know. All I know is that I pray and then I write and it seems to work out pretty well when I do it that way.

Maybe that is the way God works with me, but then again maybe the prayer I say is nothing more than a mental trick to get me focused on the task at hand.  Or maybe that is how it works when you are doing something you’ve been called to do.  But then again, I do not have any publishers beating down my door to offer me a book deal so how could I possibly be called to a life of writing?  I really don’t know why it works that way, I just know it does.

Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28

I do not claim to know exactly how God works and what his methods are other than to say that I know better than to expect him to interact with us in a tidy and predictable pattern…no, life is way too messy (even for Christ-followers) for that to be the case.  And isn’t that the case with all of us?  Isn’t life too messy for each and every one of us to fully understand  how God can possibly be in control of any of it (or maybe believe is a better word than understand?)?  That is kind of how I have felt lately – it has been a rough month…messy, uncomfortable, confusing…messy.  I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but messy is putting it lightly.  I’ve found myself in a fight I did not see coming, I’ve watched a marriage and family reach the breaking point and begin the crumbling that in spite of our best efforts, we’ve all known has been a long time coming (not ours!), and I’ve watched a little girl face the harshness of life’s realities long before any of us could have seen it coming.  Like I said, it’s been a rough one…

It is tough when things come at you one right after the other as they have for us these last few weeks.  I know you know how it feels – the phrase, “when it rains, it pours” wasn’t created and copyrighted by the Jones family – we’ve all been the pinball in the arcade of life, unfortunately.  We’ve all been there and we’ll all be there again someday though hopefully not any day soon.  So what is that all about?  Why does that happen?  Is it just bad luck or is someone really out to get us?  Is it karma – do we all just get back what we’ve dished out at some point along the way?  If there is a God who loves us and protects us and only wants what’s best for us, shouldn’t he throw up some sort of bad-luck-road-block once one or two bad things happen to us?  Shouldn’t he be sending in fresh troops to ward off future attacks from the evil one after the first few dominoes fall?

In church on Sundays we are often taught to think of Christ as our father – no, more than that – we’re taught to think of him as our perfect father – loving, patient, kind, peaceful, forgiving, protecting, etc, etc.  So as a parent, when things go wrong in my life I try to think of how I would handle the situation if I were my father, my perfect father.  I’ve got to be honest – I would handle things very differently if I were Him…….

Maybe I’m too young to understand how it all works…maybe I’m too naive, who knows?  Maybe my children have not matured to the point at which I could stand by and watch as bad things and bad people hit them one after the other from every different angle and do nothing to stop it from continuing.  Maybe, maybe not…again, I don’t know.  I just know what I know now and that is that I would not sit on the sidelines and allow Eliot or any of my other kids to get hammered over and over again…I would do whatever it took to stop it and stop it immediately.  And listen to me, bellyaching over a bad month!  Are you kidding me?  There are millions of people out there who have had a thousand bad months!  Bad years, bad decades, bad lifetimes…there are plenty among us who can put their names down on those lists……

So why doesn’t God stop it?

Well, again, I don’t know.  But I do have some thoughts on the subject…

You know how steel is forged, right?  For those who don’t, here is a quick summary:  first, take a piece of steel and heat it until it glows orange and red hot.  Second, beat on it, hard, repeatedly, and with a very heavy hammer.  Third, repeat steps 1 and 2 until the steel has taken the shape you wold like it to be.  Fourth, put it in water to cool it off quickly.

Alright, sounds familiar…I can relate.  If you’ve been around long enough, you know that our lives are forged in a very similar way as that piece of steel.  God wants us to be as strong as steel so he forges us like a blacksmith forges a sword – with beatings and heat and pressure and sometimes sudden relief.  I can buy that.

But wait, didn’t the Lord say that he would take away our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh?  Doesn’t he run the risk of turning our heart of flesh into a heart of steel with all of the beatings that come with the molding?  So if the steel analogy can be true it can only be one part of the story, right?

I’ve heard it said that the eyes are a window to the soul and I believe that to be true.  So if that really is the case then what are our eyes really designed for if not to see the world around us, to reach out to others, to recognize the need in another, and to respond when we see things that reach us on a soul level?  I believe that God gave us eyes not only to see our feet step out in front of us and to keep us from crashing into everything in our path, but he also gave us eyes so that we could see into each others’ souls, to share each others’ hurts and strengths, to feed off of each others’ spirits, and to share each others’ longings for a better place and a better time and to help each other to get to that place and time without losing our own souls along the way.

But things just get messy when you dig into other peoples’ lives, don’t they?  It’s hard to look into someone’s soul, to feel their hurt, and carry that burden as if it were your own…I know, I’ve been there and I avoid it as much as possible in my daily interactions with others…don’t we all?  That actually isn’t entirely true what I just said about how I avoid it as much as possible.  Truth be told, that’s the old me speaking…that’s how I used to be. Back before I fully committed to Christ it was me, me, me and more me all the time and I avoided other people’s hurts like politicians avoid the truth.  And what I found when the inevitable crash came in my life is that I had no one to fall on and no one was there to pick me back up, tend to the wounds, and help me pick up the pieces and put them back together.

Things are different with me now, at least I try to be different…I don’t always succeed.  Nonetheless, I learned things from the crash(es) that I carry with me today and help me to avoid a similar story from shaping my future just as it has scarred my past.  I learned that in order to truly know people, to love them, and to be truly loved in return, that I had to allow things to get messy from time to time.  I had to allow them to see the mess I had created and I had to take the time to look inside their world and help them clean up messes of their own making, if the need should arise.  It is clear to me now after learning these things, and hopefully it is just as clear to you, that we were designed for community, for interaction, for love, and for getting messy, real messy if necessary, with those that we know and love.

For God has said, “I will never leave you, I will never abandon you.”  Hebrews 13:5

But there is still something missing here.  We’ve got the strength of steel, the eyes that peer into another’s soul, and the heart to feel the hurt, but there is still something that I’m leaving out here….Ah, yes, the obvious one that is always so easy to overlook.  Aren’t we supposed to “trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding”?  And doesn’t God “in all things work for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose”?  And my personal favorite, doesn’t the Lord “give perfect peace to those who put their trust in him and keep their purpose firm”?

Oh yeah, that…that whole promise-of-God-Bible thing.  Dangit!  Gets me every time.  And this is the point where I feel like a kid again, hopelessly crushed by my inability to see the logic and the beauty of the story that God is unfolding right there in front of me.  Once again I have allowed daily circumstances to shape my vision of God instead of allowing God to shape my vision of daily circumstances…why is it so hard to break that habit?!  It has to be this way, it simply has to be.  We have to be strong for others, we have to help them grow, and we have to be tough when others cannot be.  But we can’t do that unless we know the other inside and out and unless they know us in that way as well.  And we need others to be strong for us and they have to help us grow and they have to be tough for us when we cannot be so.  Yes, we have to be tough and strong for others, but we also have to allow ourselves to be weak for others to truly know us, inside and out.  We have to go through the mess and the muck, not in isolation, but with a crowd.  We have to do this if we want to get to the sweet stuff on the other side of life.  We have to witness the hurt and experience the pain/joy/frustration/elation  with others so that our hearts can be opened to the world of suffering/triumph/hopelessness/victories around us.  We have to feel, firsthand, the isolation that is the result of building up walls around us and shutting others out.  And we have to be still for once and know that He is God.

There is no other way.  If one word of these Bible verses I’ve put on this page is true then there simply is no other way.  For “in everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of GodWe patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.”  And thankfully, “God blesses the people who patiently endure testing.  Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”  God gave us his Word and by doing so, he gave us his word, his promise, that he would never abandon us, that he was with us, that he had plans to prosper us, that he loves us.  If you believe as I do, then these words have to be true, they have to be strong enough for me to stand on when times are tough, they have to be there when the pinball plunger strikes and sends us careening into a world of chaos and frustration and pain…God’s word has to be there to restore peace and prosperity to our lives in the midst of the storm, not after it passes!  God gave us the promise so it has to be true.  There is simply…no…other…way…

God bless,

Ethan

*Post script in response to some of the questions and comments we have received since posting this blog entry:

We appreciate everyone’s prayers and support and would like you to know that our stress level has slowly begun to settle into a more normal level for our family.  The marriage/family that I referred to in the post which is crumbling as we speak is absolutely, unequivocally not ours!!  Casey and I have honestly never been in a better place than we are right now and our family is as strong as ever!  (And even if we were in a rough spot with our marriage, there is no quit in this family!)  There is nothing more that I “want you to know” (as ABE commented below) – I simply can’t give more details than I have because it would not be appropriate to the other people involved in the situations I mentioned.  I hinted at those issues because those are the issues that we are working through and, as always with this blog and everything else in our lives, we are as open and honest with the people who support our family as we can possibly be.

I also mentioned those issues because it helped me to bring up something that I and others have often found difficult to face through a Christian faith perspective.  It’s not so much why bad things happen to good people – I think I’ve wrestled with that one enough and am fairly at peace with the answers I’ve come up with.  Rather, the question for me/us in this moment is why bad things happen successively to people and how are we as Christians supposed to glean from the hard knock lessons of life when they keep knocking us down over and over again.

For me, simply talking it out over the blog is a huge help in coming to grips with these types of questions as they arise.  Hopefully for you, simply reading about someone else’s experience and knowing that someone is struggling with something similar as you is a huge help as well.

As always, thank you all for your support, prayers, and love!!  God bless!

The Snake in the Barn

Faith

The Snake in the Barn

13 Comments 22 June 2011

You may or may not know that my little crisis has officially come to an end…and hopefully not just for now.  You are probably not aware that I actually wrote this entry a few days ago, but I was unable to post it to the blog when it was complete.  The little crisis – I was hacked and the site was taken over by someone or something calling themselves “The Viper.”  Creative, huh?  What I do not know and probably never will know is if I was singled out for The Viper’s venomous assault or if I am just some unlucky web junkie who was randomly selected for an attack by an anonymous computer program designed to seek and destroy unsuspecting websites strewn far and wide across the web.

This site is my baby, one of our family’s great prides, and a huge part of what we consider to be our ministry so having it come under attack like this and having it rendered useless both to us and to you caused no shortage of strife in our little world.  I don’t have a computer guy on speed dial and I don’t know much in the way of fixing them myself.  I know homebuilding very well, along with kids and blogging and family and a few other things, but I don’t know computers in the least bit.  The code in which they operate, the lines of seeming gibberish that run behind the curtains of any website you visit and which are actually responsible for everything you see, are complete nonsense to me – I’d have an easier time communicating with an illiterate Russian mime than I would a line of code.   So when the hack attack commenced leaving me utterly useless to counter the assault and restore my baby to health I was frustrated, angry, and………let’s just leave it at that.

In a seemingly unrelated note, another little issue has had us feeling much the same way and at the same time (coincidentally?) has been playing out in our home, our heads, and our hearts.  ‘Quints By Surprise’ is on the brink of being cancelled by TLC – a victim of…well, I don’t know exactly what it is the victim of.  You can say that the ratings haven’t been as good as they needed to be (not true if they are held to the standard by which we were told they were being held to) or you could blame it on placement and promotion (I don’t know the TV world well enough to say one way or another).  You could blame it on the dollars (‘Quints’ is not a cheap show to produce) and you could certainly make a case against society as the culprit (seems that clean and wholesome don’t live long on TV these days) or maybe the show just isn’t that good to most observers (our opinion doesn’t count unfortunately – we’re a little biased).  You could blame the potential demise of our show on any of these things and probably a few more we could think up together and truth is it is probably a combination of all of them (except the part about the show not being very good…   :-)).

But I have another thought.  There is something out there that is possibly behind my little crisis, the struggle we are having with our little TV show, and just about everything else that doesn’t quite work out the way we hoped.  This thing, this thought, this theory or belief or superstition or whatever you would like to call it doesn’t get much play these days, but it is a possible explanation despite the fact that it is often ignored, marginalized, mocked, or denied whenever it is brought up in most situations.  I’m going to walk carefully through this one so y’all don’t think I’ve gone off the deep end so bare with me a bit.  Here goes…

“Who, in their right mind, Kevin, could possibly deny the 20th century was entirely mine?  All of it…all of it.” – John Milton (aka: the Devil) from “The Devil’s Advocate”

C.S. Lewis called this ground we walk on enemy-occupied territory and its master is described in Revelation as a “great dragon with seven heads and ten horns”.  The Apostle Peter called him a roaring lion who is looking for someone to devour.  And in Genesis he is nothing more than a snake in the tree, hissing his lies at the genesis of our kind.  He is Satan and this is his playground.  You know him well from books and Bible class and TV and movies, but do you know him on a personal level?  Do you consider him to be your enemy, the ruler and master of a dark, unseen world or do you think of him more like how you think of the boogey man – just a harmless child’s story that you no longer believe in now that you’re a big boy or girl?  Do you consider that the Bible teaches that he has declared war on this world and the sons and daughters of God who live in it?  Or do you marginalize him as a myth or a metaphor, as anti-intellectual or nothing more than a scare tactic for overzealous Bible beaters?

We all know that this world is broken as are many, if not most of the people in it.  I don’t need to recite the statistics or recount the stories of death, destruction, and depravity that permeate every aspect of our lives for you to believe that.  Christians, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims alike can all find agreement on one thing:  this world is a mess.  Good grief, we don’t even need to consult the religious of our day for proof – atheists hold up the newspaper and highlight the headlines of war and disease and sex gone wrong, teen pregnancy, and the hypocrisy of the next fallen church leader as exhibit A in their trial against the existence of a benevolent being we call God.  And while we’re at it, let’s consult the agnostics among us who honestly admit they do not know if there is a God or not and are simply trying to hold themselves to a high standard of conduct – if you know one ask them how they think the world is getting along these days.  Save yourself the trouble and trust me, I’ve already given you their reply – this world is a mess.

But forget about the obvious signs of evil on display in our world today – you won’t find many to disagree when you proclaim that Osama Bin Laden or Jeffrey Dahmer are evil men who committed evil deeds.  Let’s take it down to a more personal level – what about that boss of yours that continually marginalizes you in company meetings?  What about that mean girl at school who always has something awful and loud to say about your hair or your clothes…or the way you breathe?  What is the force behind their hatred of you?  What about those dizzy spells that won’t go away and can’t be explained by the doctors?  Or how about the chronic pain in your hands that prevent you from holding your grandbabies?  And what about the flat tire you got on the way to lead your small group Bible study, the horrible night sleep you got the night before final exams, or the car accident you got into on the way to your performance in the high school play?

Are some of these simply examples of bad people living bad lives and doing bad things while the rest are just plain old bad luck?  Or can we write it all off as an unfortunate fact of life – that it sometimes sucks and sometimes bad things happen to good people?

I think that it is safe to say that none of us have the answers to these questions.  And I think it is also safe to say that anyone who has lived more than about 5 or 6 years in this world would concede that sometimes life is hard and no fun at all.  In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I think we can all agree that pain and suffering is universal, that bad things happen to good people because that is the way of this world, and that many times life and the people who live it are mean, cruel, jaded, embittered, and sometimes outright evil.

So why do we all, Christians and non-Christians alike, refuse to accept the possibility that there is a larger hand at play in the very brokenness we all agree exists and is progressing at unprecedented levels in spite of equally unprecedented attempts to stop it all (I just read somewhere that 2010 was a record year of giving for Americans)?  If pain and suffering and cruelty and evil are among the few universal truths of this world, why is it so difficult to accept and acknowledge (or even consider!) that there is a common denominator, a single hand stirring the pot, an accuser, attacker, and advocate of evil, darkness, destruction, and death?

I know I know…I get it – it’s kind of weird to talk about angels and demons and supernatural intercession and interference into our lives.  It’s kind of goofy, isn’t it?  Talking about the Devil and his army of demons attacking you feels about as sane as talking about the latest sighting of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster as real events that are proof of their existence.  And it gets worse for us Americans – not only is it goofy, it is blatantly un-American.  We are the Marlboro Man and John Wayne on steroids.  We are self-made, individualistic, and we are responsible for our own destiny.  We believe in hard work, freedom, and liberty, and we’ll be damned if someone thinks we’re going to let the Boogey Man hold us back from fulfilling our self-inspired and self-created destiny.  We are masters of one and slaves to none… (And to that, I say yeah, right!)

Sidebar – now that I think of it, in a way, blaming the Devil for evil in this world is a very American pastime after all.  Look at all of the evil and oppression and violence and hatred that has been spread in this country alone “in God’s name”.  Could anything be more blatantly evil and dare I say, Satanic, than subverting the beauty and grace and love of Christ into something that is used to oppress and intimidate and destroy?  Americans certainly do not have the market cornered in the economy of zealous authority, but we have certainly advanced the cause over the course of our history.

Look, I’m not saying that the Devil personally attacked my blog or is the puppet master holding the strings and controlling the players who are advocating that ‘Quints’ ends up on the TLC cutting-room floor.  I do not look for the devil in every detail of my life, good or bad, and I do not suggest that you do either.  And I am certainly not suggesting that you waste your time cowering under the covers or looking around every corner, constantly afraid of the next attack and seeing Satan’s hand in every harsh thing that happens in this world (any of y’all reading this have Saturday Night Live’s “Church Lady” in your head right now?).  But still…I believe he’s out there and I know he’s up to no good.  So if I am saying he is out there and he is plotting against you, but I am also saying that it really doesn’t matter because you can’t live your life in fear of him what exactly is it that I’m saying…?

Let me ask this, if you were a 10-year-old and your father ran a farm and he told you to go out to the barn and get a shovel for a ditch he needed dug, you’d do it right?  Sure you would…you’d amble out to the barn, chase a few chickens along the way, hop up on a hay bale once you got into the barn, and declare yourself king of the mountain before grabbing the shovel and making your way back to your father, ready for some serious digging.  Piece of cake and kind of fun, too…another day of hard work with your dad and a little adventure to the barn to liven things up a bit.  But what if, while you were making your way across the chicken coop to get to that barn and the shovel within, your father hollered out, “be careful, there’s a snake in that barn and he’s been up to no good.”?

Gulp!  What kind of snake exactly?  How big is he and what kind of no good has he been up to??  And if there is one, wouldn’t there be others?  Are there lights in the barn so I can see him if he comes after me?  Can I have a weapon to protect and defend myself – a knife, a gun…a suit of body armor and a bazooka maybe???

That snake kind of changes the stakes of the game…kind of takes the gitty-up out of your get-along, doesn’t it little buddy?  Instead of ambling, you’re creeping your way to the barn.  And instead of chasing the chickens you’re cussing them for sneaking up on you and scaring the bejeezus out of you.  You’re no longer king of the mountain – you’re the meekest of mice on the molehill.  But you can’t let your father down so you summon the courage and convince yourself that he wouldn’t send you off to certain death; and with fierce resolve you make it into the demon’s den, retrieve the shovel…………………..then turn and run faster than your 10-year-old legs have ever carried anything in their young lives and get back to the task at hand, shovel-ready, digging away…all the while hoping your father noticed how bravely and dutifully you worked to fulfill the mission he set you out on.

You did it.  You survived.  You faced evil and evil did not win…not today, not on your watch.

But what really changed after your father warned you about the snake?  It was just a warning, right, not a guarantee?  Did knowing the snake was in there somewhere certify that you would be attacked, bitten, wrapped in his coils, and dragged off to the snake’s lair someone past the seventh gate of Hell?  And if that is the case, why on Earth did you still go in??

The fact is that nothing changed; nothing at all.  The snake was in there whether you knew he was there or not.  It didn’t matter whether you knew he was there, were fully aware of his presence or were ignorantly bliss…or even if you denied his existence or presence in your life.  And being a 10-year-old without a knife, a gun, or a suit of body armor and a bazooka at your disposal there probably isn’t a whole lot you could do if you found yourself face-to-face with the little devil anyway.  Nothing you could do at all…other than run.  Nothing to do other than run as fast as your 10-year-old legs have ever carried anything back to where you knew it was safe…back to your father.

But knowing the snake was there changed everything, didn’t it, If only in your mind.  Sure, it didn’t change your capabilities or your strength; your ability to outwit or outmaneuver the snake wasn’t changed, either.  But it changed your approach, didn’t it?  You didn’t amble, you crept.  And you didn’t play around, you prepared.  You didn’t eye the top of the hay bale mountain and declare yourself king, you kept your eye out for the king of evil and declared yourself………defeated.

And then you ran.  You ran back to your father, back to where it has always been safe.  Because you know that your father has been there and he has faced the evil that you fear…and he has faced the evil that you deny.  He has been to the barn and he’s been to the battlefield.  He’s been to the boardroom and he’s been to your classroom.  He’s faced the mean girls and he’s faced the mean boss.  He’s faced the devil in all of those places and he’s faced him in places you haven’t and never will.  He’s faced him in Heaven, he’s faced him on Earth, and he’s faced him in Hell.

But through it all, your father is still there watching over you and waiting on your return.   And over the years he sends you out on many more missions to the barn and other places where evil lurks and you’ve managed to survive them all.  Sure you’ve been scarred along the way, bumped your head a few times in your mad dash out of the serpent’s lair, but you’ve survived…every single time.  And funny thing is, you’ve never seen the snake face to face, but you know he’s there.  You’ve seen the destruction around you, you’ve heard his whispers, and you know his scent.  But in spite of this you don’t run from the barn these days, you walk, confident and prepared…

So I guess that’s what I’m trying to say…evil is real.  It is real and it is everywhere, it has a source, it has power, and it has you in its sites.  You know the devil is out there so don’t deny him.  Don’t deny him, don’t fear him, and don’t run from him.  Be aware of him and be prepared for his inevitable assault.  But above all, know that your father has been there where you are now and where you fear to go…and know that he is still there, watching over you, protecting you, and waiting on your return.

God bless,

Ethan

Training Wheels

Faith

Training Wheels

13 Comments 18 February 2011

“As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.”  Psalm 42:1

Soooooo…how’s it going?  What to say, what to say?  It seems like it’s been forever since we’ve spoken and I don’t know how to get “us” back in the groove.  It really wasn’t that long ago it seemed like we were inseparable, speaking each others’ language, finishing each others’ sentences…we were clearly reading from the same playbook!  But now things have changed and we can’t seem to connect…are you even trying?  I know I am…trying, longing, aching for that connection, pining for that spark, that energy that you and I once shared.

Was it something I said?  Something I did?  Did I disappoint you or embarrass you in front of your people?  I know, I know…I got busy and I didn’t put in the time like before.  I had things that had to get done, things you asked me to do, you know.  I didn’t ask for all of this, but I got it and I was just trying to do the best I could with what I was given.  Did I take it too far and get too wrapped up in the “work” for your liking?  Is that what this is all about?  You know my heart never left you; you know it has always been and always will be for you and you alone.  So why are you treating me this way?  Why are you so…absent?

You know, I really could have used your help back there.  I cried out for you over and over again, but got nothing in return.  It was like I was under water, gasping for air and you were up above with your hand on my head, holding me down to see how long I could go before I gave up the fight.  My older brother used to do that to me and I came to expect that sort of thing from him, but now you too?  Never would have guessed it…but I guess I guessed wrong.  You had it within you to end my pain, to take away the struggle and the fight and yet you did nothing…why?  Were you trying to teach me a lesson…to earn my respect (or was it fear?)…were you trying to push me away?

I don’t get sometimes why you have to make it so hard, you know?  Don’t you think that you’ve given me enough to deal with?  Would it kill you to throw me a lifeline every once in awhile, to give me some relief?  You say you love me, you say you’d die for me, you say you hurt when I hurt, but do you really?  I’ve never even seen you cry.  You say the hard times make us stronger and bring us closer together…you say the beauty of our relationship can only be seen on the other side of the storm.  But are those just words, just a simple mind trick to keep me happy even when I have every reason in the world not to be?

Why would you treat me this way and let me hurt this way if you really loved me?  You say I only have time for you when I need something from you, but isn’t it the other way around?  Seems like all you want from me is praise and time and attention…it’s always all about you, isn’t it?  And the moment (the moment!) I take my eyes off of you, you punish me like some kind of petulant school boy would do.  Would a father get away with treating his daughter this way and expect her to love him unconditionally in the end?  Would a wife treat her husband this way and hope to have a loving relationship with him?

Where is this thing going?  Where are we headed?  Is there a point to all of this or are we just killing time, waiting for our number to be called?  You’ve made lots of promises, you’ve set the expectations higher than I could imagine…are you really going to come through?  Or is this just another one of your mind games, another hit of medication to keep me happily sedated as I wander through this fog you call life?  What does it all mean?  Why are you so maddeningly cryptic all of the time?? Are you even listening to me??  God?  Are you there?

“‘O God my rock,’ I cry, ‘Why have you forgotten me?  Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?'”  Psalm 42:9

Have you ever felt this way in one of your relationships?  Maybe you’ve said many of these same things to your parents, maybe you’ve said them to your husband or your sister or the person you thought was your best friend, your girlfriend, or your mentor.  Have you ever said them as I just did…to God?

If you have, you’re not alone.  I can remember a time when I thought my mom was intentionally hurting me (don’t worry, Mom, I was as wrong as wrong gets!).    There have been times when I knew without a doubt that others who should never wish me harm did exactly that and acted on their desires to see me suffer.  Have you been there?  And then there are those times when the person you think should be doing so much more to help you face your giants is the very person who is doing almost…wait, change almost to exactly…that’s better – they’re doing exactly nothing.  You know how that one feels, right?  The frustration, the confusion, the hurt, the hurt, the hurt.  If you are like me, it isn’t easy to shrug those things off, to move on, leaving the hurt behind (or more likely covering it up).   When hurt happens within my relationships, the knife cuts to the bone and the wounds don’t easily heal.

So what am I supposed to do when the relationship that is supposed to stand above all feels like it has vanished in a blink?  How am I supposed to respond when the One who calls himself Father fails me, or at least seemingly so?  You know the feeling – the prayers fall flat or ring hollow between your ears, the Bible verses that once gave you great comfort/joy/inspiration/insight/peace (choose as many as you like) now bring you none of those things, the praise songs become tired, and the luster in your world seems to have lost its glow.

“For you are my God, my only safe haven.  Why have you tossed me aside?”  Psalm 43:2

Where did it go – the glow, the easy praise, the comfort/joy/inspiration/insight/peace?  Better yet, where did He go?  And eventually I get around to the real question – where did I go?  I’ll be honest, I’ve been spoiled…rotten to the core.  I have no right to complain…none whatsoever.  The good Lord has been exceedingly good to me.  He has walked with me, talked with me, carried me, pushed me, challenged me…He has led me, very closely, up and over some dangerously steep climbs.  I have asked; He has answered.  I have poured my heart out; He has filled it right back up.  I have screwed up big time; He has allowed me the grace to give it another go.

But now all of that is gone and my soul aches for its return.  I know, I know…it’s all part of His plan, there are many different seasons to this life, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away (is that really in the Bible somewhere??), it’s all part of growing up, He is testing my faith…blah, blah, blah, yeah, yeah, yeah…tell that to somebody who is ready to accept it.  Me?  Not so much…not yet, not now.  Has He forgotten that I’m still in the thick of battle?  Doesn’t He know that we’re not out of the woods yet, that this life transformation he dropped on us isn’t complete and we aren’t yet ready to do this on our own?  He may have pushed me out of the nest, but this little bird isn’t ready to fly!!!  My training wheels have been removed, but this biker isn’t ready for the race……………..

Wait a minute.  The bike, the training wheels…that reminds me of something…a memory from my childhood that suddenly seems much more important than it once was.

I’m the conservative type, always have been.  I like to be prepared for whatever life may throw my way (my fraternity pledge brothers used to call me the Boy Scout, if that tells you anything).  I don’t like to gamble, I stick as much money into savings accounts as I possibly can, and if I don’t recognize your number on my caller ID there’s a good chance I’m not answering.  And what goes better with a be prepared, conservative attitude than a healthy fear of change, huh??  I can only blame God for any negative outcomes from this aspect of my personality as it appears I was born this way (right mom and dad?).  Ok, on with the story…the training wheels and the bike.  Given what I’ve just explained about my personality you can probably guess how thrilled I was when my parents decided I had held onto my training wheels long enough.  I still say that just because I was going into junior high doesn’t mean I was too old for training wheels!!!  Kidding, of course…I think I was…oh, let’s just forget how old I was, ok?!

So the wheels came off and my parents took me down to a deserted street in our neighborhood and stood something like five miles apart from each other and told me to start pedaling.  Well, that was just plain mean if you ask me…mean, twisted, torturous behavior from two malevolent, ill-mannered, child-haters I called mom and dad.  And given what you now know about my parents you know they didn’t take no for an answer.  Nor did they take crying, wailing, kicking, begging, screaming, head-spinning objections from their youngest victim.  So with the fear of the devil in me (which fit in nicely with that healthy fear of change that I just mentioned), I pedaled.  And I cried.  But I kept pedaling.  And I kept crying.  And the bike wobbled.  And I cried.  But I kept pedaling.  And I got to my dad and I was too busy pedaling and crying to hit the brakes so I turned that bike around at a minimum of 60 or 70 mph and I headed back towards my mom who was standing at least six miles away at the other end of the street.  And my dad cheered me on as I kept crying…and pedaling.  And I got to my mom and I pulled the same u-turn I had pulled when I got to my dad as my mom cheered me on and I kept crying…and pedaling.  And I trekked back and forth, u-turning at eye-dizzying speeds, crying and pedaling every moment, every mile (I think there were 80 laps or so for a total distance of about 400+ miles…probably more).

And my mom and dad cheered me on at every turn.  And I kept pedaling.  And I wasn’t even aware of it at the time, but I stopped crying.  I stopped wobbling.  I stopped fearing the road ahead of me and the ugly things it would do to my face when I smacked into it after flying over the handlebars.  As a matter of fact, I stopped looking at the road and I started looking ahead.  I stopped thinking about the change I was fearing and I stopped fearing the change I was at that moment experiencing.  I started to hear my mom and my dad as they cheered me on and this time I could actually hear the words they were saying to me…you can do it, son!…I believe in you, son!…I am here for you, son…I’ll catch you if you fall…I’ll heal you if you hurt…keep your eyes on me, son, I’ll show you how this is done…I’ll always be here, son, to experience your joys with you when you succeed and suffer your hurts with you when you fail…to challenge you, to push you, to teach you, to love you no matter how far away from me you ever go…………..

“But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.”  Psalm 42:8

Why couldn’t I hear all of that before?  Why didn’t I trust Him to protect me like He said He would?  Why did I fear the change He was leading me through?  Why didn’t I hear that before…why wasn’t I listening?

Aw, man…I really screwed this one up, didn’t I?  I was too busy crying and wailing and kicking and begging and screaming…and doubting…I was too busy with all of that to listen, to hear, and to trust.  The moment (the moment!) God didn’t answer, the instant  he removed my training wheels, is the instant I began to doubt.  And when He didn’t immediately put my training wheels back on is when I began to cry.  And you know what came next – the wailing, kicking, begging, and screaming.  I was so busy doubting and my eyes were blurry from the tears and my body and mind were so tired from the wailing, kicking, begging, and screaming that I couldn’t see Him standing there all along.  I couldn’t hear Him cheering me on.  I wasn’t listening.  I was so focused on the wrong He had done to me that I didn’t hear him say those words, those same words my mom and dad were saying to me as I pedaled and cried and feared…you can do it, son!…I believe in you, son!…I am here for you, son…I’ll catch you if you fall…I’ll heal you if you hurt…keep your eyes on me, son, I’ll show you how this is done…I’ll always be here, son, to experience your joys with you when you succeed and suffer your hurts with you when you fail…to challenge you, to push you, to teach you, to love you no matter how far away from me you ever go…………..

“Why am I discouraged?  Why is my heart so sad?  I will put my hope in God!  I will praise him again – my Savior and my God!”  Psalm 43:5

I kept pedaling.  I don’t know exactly why I did that, but I pedaled for all I was worth.  I didn’t throw down my bike and walk away; I didn’t lay down in passive resistance.  In spite of the tears, in spite of my doubts, in spite of my certainty of excruciating death by asphalt, I kept pedaling.  And before I knew it, I was riding that bike like I had been born with it attached to my backside.  I was riding and smiling and pedaling and u-turning and eventually I learned how to use those brakes, but for the time being I was as happy as any boy on the planet at that very moment…no fear, no doubts, no tears…I pedaled it all away.

Hmm…interesting.  I seem to detect a parallel or two here.  Seems to me there might be something God is trying to tell me, but I can’t quite make it out.  It is possible that my little biking story could offer some insight into what I am currently experiencing in my spiritual walk with Christ.  What is it that he is saying??  And what is that noise I keep hearing that’s drowning out what He’s saying?  Oh, wait, I know what it is.  I can hear him now…

Always keep pedaling…you can do it, son!…I believe in you, son!…I am here for you, son…I’ll catch you if you fall…I’ll heal you if you hurt………………………….always keep pedaling…………………………I’m outta here!!

Pedal on, my friends!! :)

Daring Timidly…huh?!

Faith

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,

Ethan

Get Out of the Boat!

Faith

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…?

Faith

Where Do I Begin…?

Comments Off 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…

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