Family

CCU and Me: A Kingdom Perspective

I didn’t choose Cincinnati Christian University to be in my life. It chose me. As a young boy I wore a navy blue T-shirt of my mother’s. On the back it had written in a collegiate font, "Cincinnati Bible Seminary, Class of 1968."

I had no idea what that even meant. But it was a comfy T-shirt, so I wore it.

Whenever my parents talked about things over at the Seminary, I couldn't help but think they were talking about a place for corpses. (Later, I would come to understand that it was not actually a cemetery.) I heard about it frequently in their conversations, recognizing its importance to our lives.

You see, back in 1957, a few professors from Cincinnati Bible Seminary started the Price Hill Church of Christ in the school’s chapel building. When starting the church, Daniel Eynon called on neighborhood families to convince them to join the young congregation. Professor Eynon met Genevieve Carr, who immediately joined the church; her husband, however, refused to let his children attend. One day Eynon confronted Garrett Carr on this issue and apparently challenged him, saying something to the effect of, “just because you want to go to hell doesn’t mean your family has to.” The logic of the statement registered with my grandfather: he let his kids go to church.

Thus my father became a Christian as a result of Cincinnati Bible Seminary.

While a student at the Cincinnati Bible Seminary, my mother worked her way through college serving as Lewis Foster's secretary; she had the opportunity to type pages that were later included in the NIV translation. During this time, mom engaged in Christian service, volunteering at that same Price Hill church, where she met my father.

So my parents married because of Cincinnati Bible Seminary.

Because my home church was in the shadow of Cincinnati Bible Seminary, I grew up reaping the benefits of proximity. Professors of the school were essential to our church's growth and development. I had the opportunity to be around CBS legends such as George Mark Elliott (whose wife Kathryn taught me piano lessons), Dan Eynon, Jack Cottrell, and Bill Bravard. Seminary students often attended our church, and I terrorized a number of them who dared to volunteer as Sunday School teachers.

I’m one of the youngest people with ties to the school who remembers what it was like to worship in the old chapel building. I attended the very last service in that building before it was torn down.

As I grew into my teenage years, I had absolutely no interest in (the then renamed) Cincinnati Bible College. In fact, I almost feared it, boldly declaring that there was no way I would go to college there. I always envisioned attending a big state school to study law.

But at the end of my sophomore year of high school, I finally discovered something I was not only good at, but something that I loved: preaching the Word of God. Once I decided that I wanted to pursue this vocationally, my college decision became a no brainer: it had to be CBC.

It was the only school to which I applied. And I still have my college acceptance letter.

The past twenty years of my life—the majority of my existence—is linked to Cincinnati Christian University. I played soccer for (and later coached) the Golden Eagles. I was both the President of my class and of the student body. I met my wife at CCU, proposing one evening before the whole student body at Family. All of my siblings (even ones who didn’t attend) found their spouses on campus. I served as President of the Alumni Association. I teach classes as an adjunct professor. Twice now, I’ve had the privilege to serve as a full-time employee of the school.

Some of the best and worst times of my life have occurred on that little piece of real estate in Price Hill.

And I’m sure that some of you reading this now could proclaim the same thing. Whenever I meet with old college friends, we swap stories, some of which I had completely forgotten. (Recently I was reminded that I used to convince freshmen that there was a pool on top of the library.) And even though many of us have experienced frustrations with the school, if you're like me, they wither away when I think of the blessings I’ve encountered because it exists.

I love CCU.

I owe everything to this place.

And I can never repay it.

But I can continue to love it.

As many of you have heard, CCU is yet again facing some financial difficulties. While our fiscal position is still redeemable, this situation has prompted leadership to engage in conversations with Johnson University near Knoxville, Tennessee, about a potential merger. Johnson is a fine institution, serving a powerful need in the kingdom of God and I mean it no disrespect in addressing this subject. But even though these conversations are merely exploratory, I believe them to be unnecessary.

CCU can still stand on its own.

I am confident that the leaders of these institutions are ultimately motivated by a deep love for the Lord and for their respective schools; the conversation is being framed within the context of what’s best for the kingdom and for Christian unity. But let’s not think that a singular perspective is capable of holding the only solutions for what best benefits the kingdom of God. While the Scriptures repeatedly speak of the unity of believers, we see numerous examples our kingdom’s diversity. It’s these different voices and perspectives that make our Movement what it is today.

The voicing of CCU is distinct from that of Johnson and, regardless of how delicately we approach this, a voice will be sacrificed. Is this truly best for the kingdom of God? Maybe, but maybe not. While some gains could be achieved in the short term, ultimately our Movement could lose out.

The concern driving these talks is for the survival of CCU. If these talks progress towards execution, the newly-created institution might bear some similarities with CCU, but our history, tradition, and heritage would be forever transformed. If we love the school enough to explore a merger, why don’t we love it enough to try a new trajectory? The assets for a successful turnaround to free CCU already exist. Have we truly explored every possibility?

I love CCU—so much that you might feel my apprehension is merely passion blinding any objectivity. My life was transformed because multiple generations of women and men believed in that school—and they provided a place where people could learn to love the Lord and teach others to do the same.

Too many people have given too much to have it end like this.

That little boy in the navy blue Cincinnati Bible Seminary T-shirt would agree.

The Fire (Part Two)

This is part two of my account about the fire. Read part one here. I know it's long, and it's not well organized, but it's kinda therapeutic. When we woke up the next morning, we immediately headed to our house to meet our cleaning folk. Our insurance company had arranged for a set of cleaners to survey the scene to see what needed to be done to make it right. The morning light revealed the extent of the damage to our neighbor's units. It would easily take months to repair the damage. We continued to feel blessed that our plight was much better than that of our neighbors.

The smell of smoke still dominated the scene, but it wasn't as strong as it had been the day before. But as we stepped into our place, we could tell that it still smelled. The cleaning people confirmed this, making us feel a little less crazy. Their prognosis: two weeks. They'd have to clean out all of our possessions—absolutely everything within the unit—to a warehouse where they would clean it down. Then they'd work on the inside of the unit in order to ensure that the smell was eliminated. They basically treated it as if everything had been contaminated. We'd pick out the things that needed to be dry cleaned, which would be handled by a separate company. Since the door to Kaelyn's room was open during the fire, we opted to have all of her stuffed animals cleaned. Our clothes were fine, as they were protected by closet doors. But they'd still have to take all of our stuff out.

And we'd be homeless for a little while.

Fortunately, we had pretty full social calendar to keep us busy: I was performing a wedding that evening, so we opted to stay at the hotel that night; we had to go to Lexington to pick up Kaelyn the next day (and to sing the national anthem at a roller derby); and we had a Florida vacation scheduled in that third week we'd be out of our place, so it didn't seem too bad. And most fortunately, my parents have plenty of spare bedrooms in their house on the westside of town, so we were welcomed in with open arms.

We returned to Cincinnati on Sunday morning and packed up some things to take over to my parents. It was then that Kaelyn got her first glimpse of the fire scene. She handled it really well. The thought of spending some time at Grandma's house made things a little better. That Sunday night was the first we spent at my parents place and I was due to head back over to our condo in the morning to talk to one of the insurance agents of the condominium complex.

But one incident from the day before: as we were heading out on Sunday, I saw some shady characters parked in front of our house. This wasn't me being over-cautious; there were no other cars on the street in front of our house, and these guys were gazing up at the burned out condos. As I pulled out on to the road, I slowed down and recorded the license plate of the car. Sure enough, the next day, people had broken into the burned out condominium units. I have no idea whether or not it was the dudes who looked like they were casing the joint (of course, the police have yet to determine it). They theives took whatever electronics they could find still in those units (even though all of them were likely broken). Still, it was adding insult to injury to our neighbors. I was convinced that we needed to upgrade our alarm system. By Friday, I had a new alarm system which now has motion detectors, making our place completely covered.

Later that evening, there was a windstorm which knocked out power throughout greater Cincinnati, including at our condos. The power outage lasted throughout the next day, so I went on-site to check on things. I glanced at our window and saw that someone tried (unsuccessfully) to pry it open with a hammer. I called the police and the same officer responded to the scene. As he was writing things up, I finally thought to check on the other units. I checked the farthest one first and could hear water pouring in the unit. I had the codes to all the lock boxes to every unit so I was able to get in the unit. Water was flowing from the wall. I made my way downstairs to shut the water off and then looked at the leak. This unit was right next door to one of the fully burned-out units and I could see what happened: copper thieves had broken in to the adjoining unit and tried to steal a live pipe. At least the police officer was still on the scene to fill out the crime report.

I'll admit: I was pissed.

Throughout the ordeal, I tried to keep a positive perspective on things. But the stress of the fire, power outages, and the thought of people breaking into our place had finally pushed me to the breaking point. We returned to our westside abode and I couldn't break my bad mood. Even a trip to our neighbor's pool on a hot evening didn't make me feel better. That evening, I got a text that Duke Energy was at our condos to get the power back on. With everyone else gone, I knew I had to go back there. Even though I had been obligated by one thing or another to be at our place every day since the fire, I hopped in my car and headed back for the second time in one day.

I arrived as the sun was setting. There was an orange glow that framed the skyline view I saw daily as I went to and fro. I was instantly reminded why I loved our place and thoroughly enjoyed our life in the city. And even though I could still smell the smoke and felt violated at the thought of people trying to steal our stuff, I finally felt peace. And with no one else around, I felt I needed to do something. So as the linemen worked to get the power back on, I started picking up the trash from the fire that had littered the front of our house for over a week. There was a dumpster in the parking lot now, so I filled it with siding, tree limbs, and trash that made it look unkempt. And even though the fire-scarred structure was unavoidable, I felt like I made a dent in things.

So here we are now, four weeks since the fire, and we're still at my parents' place. They said they should have everything cleaned up by early next week, but I'd bet that those two weeks actually end up being six. But even though the commute is annoying (I'm spoiled), and it's tough to keep track of stuff while living out of suitcases, it's been good. We've been reminded of how much we love living in the city. We've had the chance to spend quality time with my parents. And we had a week away in Florida to keep our mind off of things. It could've been much, much worse.

I'm sure there will be other lessons to be gleaned from this. But I'm done learnin' for now.

The Fire (Part One)

This is a series of posts that I really don't want to write. Unfortunately, I just know I need to get them out there.

I've told the story of the fire countless times over the past month, so I'm really not excited about writing it out. But I know I'll forget it long term if I don't write some of these things down.

Like it has been for most of the summer now, it was an extremely hot day. But as I walked into the office that morning, I remember that it was rather windy. I also remember that I had an extremely productive morning. I had just wrapped up a project in the early afternoon when my friend Larry called. Larry works right across the street from our house and, when I saw it was him, I just knew it was something at the condo. As I picked up, I could hear the sirens in the background.

"Steve, you need to get home. Your condos are on fire."

As I grabbed my keys, I asked him if it was our place on fire. I said it was "the one on the end," so I was fairly confident that we'd be OK. But I'm on the HOA board of our condos and I knew most of the people who lived in that building, so I rushed out the door to get home. I called Kelly, who had just dropped off Kaelyn at her grandparents' house. She was in northern Kentucky having lunch and was on the way home. I knew it was serious as I turned onto Gilbert Avenue and the police had the road blocked off.

"I live there," I told the officer.

He let me through and I saw that this wasn't just a small fire. Smoke was billowing from the rooftops. I parked halfway down the street and ran up the hill. There were dozens of onlookers watching firemen fight a three alarm fire. I still don't fully understand the extent of the alarm system, but I could tell that our home was now in harm's way. The unit next door to ours was in flames. There were fire hoses lining the walkway in front of our door. And firefighters were blasting our house with water and foam to keep it from flames.

I'll admit that I was in mild shock. In the chaos of the scene I just uttered, "that's my house." I felt like I should "do" something, but there was nothing to be done. I pulled out my camera from my bag to snap a few photos; not sure why I did (none of them turned out well). I called my neighbors whose homes were now in flames so I could give them the grim news. My hand was shaking as I was attempting to maneuver around my phone. After I made some calls, I saw a fireman coming from our place holding a wet cat. It was my neighbors cat. He was looking for someone to grab it from him and I volunteered.

You see, Kaelyn loves that cat. She cherished anytime she could play with it. The cat would stare out the window at us when we came home. And I know that my neighbor cherished that cat, so I took it from the firefighter.

"If you're going to take it, you have to give that cat oxygen," he said. It seemed ridiculous to me at the time—my house is on fire and I'm giving oxygen to a cat—but I obliged. There was a local media outlet on the scene (there were many there that day) that videotaped me giving the cat oxygen. Fortunately, the footage never made public broadcast.

I handed off the cat right as Kelly arrived. All we knew to do was hug and try to comfort our neighbors as they made it to the scene. Fortunately, they had the fire under control, but there was considerable damage. It looked like the eight residences just south of ours were seriously damaged while ours was saved. I truly can't credit Cincinnati Fire Department enough. It was an incredibly hot afternoon and these men in full gear fought hard to save our house. It was amazing. I'm forever grateful.

While it seems like minutes now, it was about three hours until we could get into our house. We wanted to help our neighbors move what was left of their possessions into our place so a few of them could spend the night with us. As we reached our front door, it was wide open: the firefighters had busted open the door with an axe to make sure that no one was there. It was a little sad that our nice door was now useless, but at least they cared enough to make sure everyone was safe (I found out later from Larry that one of his coworkers saw the fire starting and knocked on doors to make sure people were safe). We started moving some of our neighbors' water-logged items into our place and, as Kelly and I stood there, we remarked how we smelled smoke in our place. We were so thankful that we were spared from the flames that we didn't really survey the scene in our place: the doorway was open as smoke filled the area between our condos. Even though there wasn't black soot, the stench of smoke was in our place too.

I called the insurance agent who suggested that we spend the night in a hotel. Just the year before they put in a new hotel down the street so we booked it for a couple of nights. I actually had a wedding rehearsal scheduled that night up north of the city, so I left Kelly at the scene to pack up a few things so we could get out of the house. That night, as we tried to get a grip on the last twelve hours, we scanned local media to see what they were reporting. The only glimpses of me was holding the cat. And I laughed when I heard the amount of the damage the fire cause, as it was a figure that I added up as a guess and gave the fire chief.

A few more things about that day:

  • The amount of onlookers was crazy. There are offices surrounding our place which made it a huge event. Throughout that evening and, in the days to come, people would drive by and walk by just to catch a glimpse. The Sunday after the fire I saw some people in the parking lot who used to live in one of the units that had burned down.
  • The contractors came out of the darkness looking for work. Within an hour of the fire, there were people on the scene looking for work. By the end of the night, I ended up mediating a dispute between two contractors who were on the scene looking to do work. It just makes me thankful I have a job.
  • Eight of our neighbors had homes that had been affected by the fire. Two of them were total losses, three were extreme losses, and three more were damaged extensively. My guess at the time was that it would be October before the people would be moved back in. I might have been too aggressive in my guess.
  • Even though we live in the city, and didn't have extensive relationships with our neighbors, everyone banded together to make sure everyone was OK. Fortunately, everyone was insured and had employment so, while the loss was still significant, there will be opportunities for people to recover.

The next morning, the events of the day hit home even more than we had anticipated.

Confessions of a Chameleon

"Maybe I should scare the President," I wondered aloud to the people in the conference room. "I dare you," prodded Judy.

Oh, it was on.

There was a perfectly obscured spot right out of view of the glass doors. I waited until Dr Faust, Cincinnati Christian University's President, finished his trek up the hill towards the Welcome Center, right as he entered the doors. Suddenly and loudly I exclaimed, "GLAD TO SEE YOU THIS AFTERNOON, SIR" at which time he jumped back a foot. There was a smile on his face, but he vowed retribution.

It might not help my job security, but it's good times nonetheless.

You see, even past my childhood years, I've appreciated the element of surprise. Maybe it's one of the few tactics that a height-challenged person such as myself can employ, but there are very few things as enjoyable as innocently surprising someone. I mean you no harm, but if I have the opportunity to find a good hiding spot, I'll likely take advantage of it.

I fully embraced it in the early days of our marriage. Kelly and I lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment and entertainment options were less plentiful then. If I got bored, I'd search for a creative hiding place—in a closet, under a desk, or even in the shower (she punched me hard in the chest for that one). As we moved up to bigger abodes, I held back on the hiding since it wasn't as challenging; also, I didn't think it fair to hide from her in a large house, thereby creating a complete atmosphere of fear. So over the past few years, I purposely allowed my hiding skills to lapse.

But things have changed. Now that Kaelyn is getting older, and loves being scared, I've picked it up again. I figure that our townhouse is smaller and there are now multiple people to frighten, my hiding is a little less scary. Kaelyn absolutely loves it; it must be in her DNA. It's almost a daily challenge between the two of us of who can hide the best. It's a process: I'm teaching her that hiding can't be predictable: this isn't Hide-And-Go-Seek. It's no fun hiding when people are expecting it. The key is the element of surprise. And it's also important to work some gamesmanship. In the morning, before she comes in my room, I throw the pillows under the covers to make her think I'm still in the bed before popping out at her. And she's started doing the same thing in her bed.

I'm training her to become a hiding Jedi.

So if Kaelyn or I randomly jump out at you, I apologize in advance. It's in our nature.

Survived

I had no idea how crazy the first day of school experience would be. I think it was exacerbated by the fact that Kaelyn was attending all-day Kindergarten; the thought of her being at school for six-and-a-half hours a day, seven days a week is intimidating (at bedtime tonight, she whispered to her mother, "I wish we could just have kindergarten two days a week, just like preschool"). In the end, however, everything went splendidly, and we're pretty sure that she didn't cry . . . or at least not that much. She's going back again tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. My take away from today is that the parents were likely more nervous than the children. As we stood in line to get Kaelyn checked in this morning, the man in front of us knocked over a framed-needlework hanging on the wall. As it hit the ground, glass shattered all over the floor, and the professionally-dressed gentleman did his best to play it off. But the damage was done (both literally and metaphorically): things would never again be the same.

As Kelly and I stood in front of Kaelyn's teacher, listening to our daughter answer questions about herself, I felt a set of arms wrap around my leg. It was a five-year old Chinese boy. He looked up at me, expecting to see his father, but realized that he latched onto the wrong man's limb. He quickly jumped back, clinging for dear life to his dad's hand. His father and I looked at each other and just laughed.

Yep, nerves were high today. But change is a part of life. And today was a time to let go.

Just One

Lady: "So do you have any brothers and sisters?"Kaelyn: "No." Lady: "Oh, not yet? Kaelyn: [silence]

Next week, the daughter will begin a thirteen-year journey through public education. While we possess great confidence in the school to educate her well, Kelly and I are both a little sad that she'll be in kindergarten all day long. Sure, she did preschool last year (attending a couple of days a week) in order to prepare her for the experience, but this is just different. I suspect part of our anxiety is centered in the fact that Kaelyn's our only child; we're sending everything we have to this place.

We never set out to have just one kid. I assumed we'd have at least two, possibly three. Kaelyn's arrival was surprising and complicated, occurring two months premature. If Kelly hadn't been motivated to see her doctor when she wasn't feeling right (she was actually having contractions), our daughter may not be here today. Kelly then spent a couple of weeks in the hospital on bed rest, hoping to buy more time for the girl's lungs to develop; it was a trying experience. And then, after the birth, Kaelyn spent nearly a month in the Neonatal ICU. I remember clearly one afternoon when she called me from the hospital: another baby in the NICU had died. Kelly called me in tears, thoroughly shaken by how close our daughter had come to death herself. We were probably overtly careful during those first few months that she was home, worried that we might break our delicate baby.

It all worked out though.

And about two years later, Kelly was pregnant again. This time, however, it didn't work out. We lost the baby early on. We knew several friends and family members who had their own miscarriages, but nothing can truly prepare you for it. It was tough, but we made it through. And later that fall, Kelly found out she was expecting again. We had great hopes, yet we had a second miscarriage in the same year.

I'm not sure what exactly changed within us, but our perspective was different. One troubled birth and two miscarriages left Kelly exhausted, both mentally and physically; she struggled with the desire to risk it again, and I was right there with her. Honestly, I don't know how women do it. I couldn't imagine her going through all that pain and heartache again.

That's when we considered that Kaelyn might likely be an only child.

And since then, I've always felt obligated to explain this to people. You see, when you have just one kid, people assume that there are more on the way. And when you state that you have just one, people ask you about adoption or other opportunities; it's as if one child is unacceptable, like we've decided to raise an alien. I always find it interesting that having two children is normal, but having one less makes you peculiar.

But we've never felt the need to succumb to societal norms in any other aspect of our lives! And since there is no biblical precedent here, our consciences are clear; we've maintained a great peace about this.

For the past couple of years, Kelly and I have sought the counsel of people with just one child. We've asked them why, we've asked them about advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps subconsciously, we've explored whether or not we were doing right. Fortunately, God continually blesses us with some great examples of one-child families. We're confident that Kaelyn will be normal (whatever that means). And our family feels complete. I could never adequately express the joy I have with my two ladies.

I will admit that we are a tad paranoid about not spoiling the daughter. I'm likely tougher on her than she needs, but we refuse to raise an ingrate! Seriously, we try to be aware of the temptation.

I've been planning on writing this for over a year now because I'm hoping it's helpful to people reading this. I'm just suggesting that we all be considerate. The topic of children is difficult for many people, from those all over the spectrum. Perhaps they're physically unable to have children. Perhaps they come from a big family and want a slew of kids themselves. Perhaps they had a previous family experience that makes it a painful subject. Everybody has a story. So let's tread lightly. There's no "right" family size out there.

As for Kaelyn, I'm not worried. She's a thinker. She's compassionate. She's an includer. She's beautiful. She might not have siblings, but God's blessed her with a gaggle of cousins and friends that she can access.

I'm loving watching her grow up.

Life Interrupted

I committed to blogging more frequently in 2011. Considering that I haven't written anything since the middle of January, it would seem that I'm a failure. But we had a family issue during the past few weeks that kept me from posting regular thoughts online. Almost three weeks ago, my father had a small heart attack. Although it scared our family (causing all of my siblings to drop everything and converge on the hospital), it didn't seem too serious. But further examination of my father's heart revealed the need for open heart surgery; two weeks ago dad had quadruple-bypass surgery. My father is probably the toughest man I've ever known, but this surgery hit him hard. He was in the hospital just four days after the surgery before they sent him home. And since then he's been at home, slowly recuperating and getting stronger day-by-day. Dad will make a full recovery, but this will usher in a new period in his life. It will require significant health adjustments on his part to ensure that his heart will remain strong.

I don't want to share too much about the past few weeks because our family prefers to keep some things private. But God utilized this situation to provide me with some observations/lessons that I think are worth recording.

I'm so proud to be my father's son.

It was unbelievable to see the outpouring of concern for my father. During this time, I was able to fully realize how much he means to other people. I even got to meet (for the first time) people who credit him for being a major presence in their lives. My Dad has always been my hero but I'm beginning to recognize how much I resemble him. He's creative, pastoral, has a sense of humor, and is relentless. And I'm glad that I'm like him. No doubt: he's made me the man that I am.

I'm proud of my mother and siblings.

Obviously this entire experience was taxing on my mother, but she's been a machine during the past couple of weeks—spending marathon hours in the hospital. Both my parents have workoholic tendencies, and Mom was able to channel hers into caring for Dad. Additionally, brothers and sisters filled specific roles during this time: Becky came down from Indianapolis and took care of Mom; Chris was the resident medical expert, able to communicate exactly what was going on to the rest of the family; Tim held down all the business matters, keeping things going and hidden from Dad. And the in-laws (Josh, Mandi, Heather, and Kelly) all stepped up and pitched in to keep us sane. God has blessed us with an amazing family, which made this whole process bearable.

You have to take care of yourself.

My father has constantly lived life in the service of others. He operates at 100 miles per hour to care for family and friends. As a result, he's done a poor job of making sure he was doing well. I want to respect this, because Dad's committed to give his all for others. But there's still plenty of work left for him to accomplish and, in order to see this fruition, he's going to have to commit to look after himself better. It's a good reminder to me too because I have some of those tendencies in my own life.

The saying goes, "never waste a crisis." I know that I didn't. While the past few weeks were tiring, I'm just grateful to have my father here. I'm looking forward to seeing how he embraces this next chapter in his life.

Making A Move

I've been somewhat off the grid the past week or so. It wasn't for a lack of ideas or comments. We're trying to sell our condo.

It's insane, really. We're satisfied with where we live and it has served us well. But as we look towards the future, and our desire to spend the rest of our lives here in Walnut Hills, it feels like time to transition from a condominium to a house. Even the market is a bear right now, we're thinking that there's not going to be a significant upswing in the next couple of years, so why not now?

This decision was a significant one for our family, but we decided to go all out. In this market, it isn't enough to just list your home—it means making your home attractive to the buyer. Our constant HGTV watching has been helpful in this process because we believe that we now know the common selling mistakes. Despite having a beautiful place, there was a list of projects that we had been thinking of for a while. I made a spreadsheet (an obvious sign that I'm a dork) and it numbered over 80 different tasks. I took some vacation days last week in order to work the list. By Monday of this week, we made it completely through.

Among other things we rented a storage unit, decluttered, made multiple trips to Goodwill, and painted practically the entire home, cleaning it from top to bottom. I'll admit that because of the working conditions and stressed involved, Kelly and I had a couple of arguments. But when it was all over, we were happy and pleased with the process. For you voyeurs out there who are curious to see the finished result, I posted some of the photos the realty photographer took of our place. To peek at them, click here.

We've been really appreciative of friends who have offered support. Multiple people have told us that they're praying for us. It seems kind of peculiar; there are much greater needs in this world than us selling our place when he don't have to. But that's why we're not sweating it. It if happens, praise God. If not, we'll be content to stay where we're at . . . and we'll have a practically new place.

I'll keep you posted.

What Passes As Edutainment

I thoroughly enjoyed my Father's Day. Wake up, watch soccer, eat fantastic Mexican (if you're in Cincinnati and you don't frequent El Rancho Grande, you have issues), and preach at Echo Church. The older Kaelyn gets, the more I enjoy her company. She's becoming her own little person. Sure, she still throws a fit here and there, but overall she's fantastic. I can't wait for her to continue to mature. I'm anticipating some fascinating conversations in the years to come. Our little creature of habit loves ending her day by viewing one of her shows. The advent of the DVR allows us to easily record her favorite shows for viewing at her bedtime. We she was smaller, she loved a show on TLC called Peep and the Big Wide World. While she still enjoys an occasional viewing of this program, it's no longer her passion; she has made the transition to PBS shows. But instead of enjoying the puppet characters of Sesame Street, she has chosen another genre altogether.

Kaelyn's latest obsession is the PBS show Dinosaur Train. It's a computer animated show produced by the Jim Henson company (at least that's somewhat close to the Muppets). The premise is that a dinosaur family (Pteranodans and an adopted T-Rex) learns about their kind traversing the dino-world on a train. But not only can the train travel distances, it can also travel through time by entering a tunnel. This is the vehicle by which the dinosaurs learn all sorts of things, and the information is passed along to the child in an entertaining way.

But more so than any other of her programs, this show has started to annoy me in endless ways. I try not to pay attention to it, but it's somewhat grating and I have to get it off my chest. Even though you might be unfamiliar with my gripes, I present to you my list:

1) I have yet to observe any money exchanged in this dinosaur world and yet tickets are necessary to ride the train. What kind of currency do dinosaurs use? And how do they hang onto it, as I've never seen it in their hands and they have no pockets?

2) So the dinosaurs developed the technology not only for rail travel, but for time travel as well. If they were this technologically advanced, why couldn't they avoid becoming extinct?

3) And if these dinosaurs could harness the power of time travel, why are they limited to traveling only in the dinosaur era. I would be interested in episodes that had the dinosaurs assaulting serfs in medieval Europe.

4) The conductor on the train always declares, "Time tunnel approaching." But this is a false statement. The tunnel is stationary; it ain't going anywhere. In reality, the train is approaching the time tunnel. I've attempted to explain this to Kaelyn, but she isn't having it.

5) The show continually references the difference between carnivores and herbivores (meat-eaters verses plant-eaters). But they manage to do this without recognizing the major flaw in the show's premise: one day, when the T-Rex grows up, he will eat his Pteranadon family. I eagerly anticipate this very special episode of Dinosaur Train, the cultural parallel to Jessie Spano's caffeine pill abuse episode on Saved By The Bell.

6) In a holiday version of Dinosaur Train, the family celebrates the winter solstice. I can predict why producers did this: no one wants religious wars being waged during children's programming, so assert that the prehistoric era was before Judaism and Christianity, so the dinosaurs wouldn't celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas. But winter solstice is a pagan holiday, created by humans who (supposedly) lived after dinosaurs as well. So in an effort to be politically correct and religiously neutral, the Dinosaur Train teaches my daughter to be a good pagan. SIDENOTE: I will continue to deprogram my daughter from the many pagan rituals she will be exposed to throughout her childhood.

7) And, finally, when the paleontologist ends the episode by relaying his "scientific expertise" he often admits that he's just speculating. So they're teaching these kids "facts" that aren't necessarily facts, but he's still smug about it.

In the end, I know I should just lighten up. Kaelyn now knows more about dinosaurs than I do (even though she would be expelled from the Creation Museum). I ought to simply be thankful that it isn't Teletubbies.

Lasting Love

Last weekend was my parent's 40th wedding anniversary. It's extremely difficult to orchestrate a gathering of my siblings' families, but we were able to pull it off and surprise my parents. We had discussed possibly having a large gathering of friends, but we decided that a crowd consisting of 13 grandchildren was quite enough (take a look at the picture of the bottom of this post to observe the ever-growing Carr clan). My mother and father were married in Maysville, Kentucky on June 6, 1970. The late Lewis Foster, esteemed New Testament professor at the Cincinnati Bible Seminary, was supposed to perform the ceremony but his father had passed away the night before. They had to get a replacement minister, a gentleman that my father claims was not licensed to perform weddings in Kentucky. He uses that anecdote to set up the joke that he and Mom were never married. He's like that sometime.

It was a very basic wedding ceremony as I understand it; the pictures of their special day reflect the simplicity expected in the union of the daughter of a tobacco farmer and the son of Appalachian field workers. But many times power things have rather humble beginnings.

It has not been until recent years that I have truly begun to appreciate what my parents have. They learned to accept life as it came to them and make the best of it. My mother prolonged her entry into college in order to save up the money to pay in full; she used to instill guilt in us by relating what she went without while laboring towards her professional degree. My father drove a truck long before he was legally allowed to do so in order to make money for his family. He served faithfully in the Marine Corps in Vietnam and then returned home, meeting my mother at his home church. Instead of lamenting the many hardships before them, they modeled their marriage on work and service, always putting forth a supreme effort. From nothing, they built a successful business. And into their children they planted seeds of education, fully understanding that this was the key to life success. My siblings and I have truly benefited from their efforts, obtaining a strong work ethic and a leg-up in having stable adult lives.

But, ultimately, my parents' marriage is best summarized by their faith; it has been the constant throughout their relationship. Many a morning, as I woke up to get ready for school, I would hear my parents in their room reading the Bible and praying. They made sure that we were at the church building practically every time the doors were open. Again, these habits were passed on to my brothers and sisters as all of our families are currently dedicated servants in local congregations. And my parents' loyalty to the Price Hill Church of Christ over the course of their marriage amazes me more than anything. Few people today can claim that they've remained loyal to the same community of believers for 40 years. Perhaps it's the fact that the church is what brought them together. Regardless, their Christian family has been a driving force throughout their marriage.

I know it hasn't been easy for them but, still, 40 years later, they love each other as they did when they were young. I am more proud of my parents than I could ever articulate. I was raised with a front row seat to a great marriage. And it has made all the difference mine and my siblings lives. And this is why WE celebrated their forty years last week.

_________________

Last week, while pondering my parents marriage, I found this video about the late John Wooden and his relationship with his wife. Somehow I kept seeing that as the equivalent of my parents' love for each other.

The Bedtime Show

Every couple of Monday nights Kelly has ladies Bible study, so the responsibility for getting Kaelyn to bed falls solely on me (Kaelyn tends to like it because I end up letting her stay up a little longer than normal). For a while now, Kelly and I have used bedtime as an opportunity not just to read her books but to tell her Bible stories. For a small child, she has a pretty good grasp on the minutia of the stories, but now she's starting to ask even more specific questions. There seems to be no way to fully quench her thirst to know more. Last night I had the book of Exodus on the brain because I'm getting ready to start preaching it at Echo over the next year. I decided to read her the Moses story, culminating in the Israelites' passage through the Red Sea escaping Pharaoh's army. While this is a classic narrative, there's a lot in there for young children to question. After some back and forth with Kaelyn, I decided I would try something else. I pulled out my iPhone, YouTube'd a clip from The Ten Commandments (a movie I've seen dozens of times that still fascinates me; it was on last Sunday night), and let her watch a five minute segment as the people of Israel traverse the dry ground between two walls of water.

Now I made sure to explain to her that this was not actual footage, lest she think that she can always opt for the video version of the Bible. But after she went to sleep, I was still thinking about how cool technology is. It basically changed the traditional bedtime story into a live action experience. I don't make this observation to downplay the power of books, nor is it my pre-justification to get an iPad. It's just really hitting me that Kaelyn's childhood will be much different than mine. Lately I learned that one of my nephews (age 6) was criticized at school for having poor computer skills. Yep, Lisa Bonet, it's a different world than where I came from.

Kaelyn's growing up in a time of unparalleled access to information. When I was growing up, I practically wore out our family's World Book Encyclopedias. I loved them. Having all that information about anything was amazing. But as my child continues to grow, she'll be able not only to look up that information online but see video of it—all in an instant. Obviously the impact of this tech runs the gamet of sociological implications. But I'm just now starting to wonder: how crazy will the next twenty years be. What will our children look like then? As a minister, what will I have to do to adjust.

In the midst of these questions, I'm still taking the opportunity to cherish the timelessness of the biblical stories. As Kaelyn repeated asked about the "E-gypt-ans," I knew there were many other tales for her to encounter. And they will still be powerful, regardless of the medium.

The Givers In My Life

In the midst of this season of giving, I offer you three stories of those who share. 1. We had a good Thanksgiving Day with my parents and family. The night before Thanksgiving, my dad always asks if I'll help organize the neighborhood church Thanksgiving service. My friend Aaron was kind enough to preach, and Kelly and I led the music. A guy from the neighborhood showed up early for the service and hung out. Apparently he's new to the neighborhood, just experienced his second divorce, and is struggling to find employment. My dad struck up a conversation with him and, upon hearing that he had no Thanksgiving plans, invited him to spend the holiday with our family.

Side Note: this is just like my parents. I never realized how frequently they did this when we were growing up. Whenever someone didn't have anyplace to go to get a meal, my parents swooped in and had them over. It didn't matter whether or not they even knew the person, they were welcomed at our house.

So when the guy (his name is Ray) got to the house, he admitted that he was a former alcoholic who had made some poor life decisions. He had very little to his name, so my parents started emptying the house of things to give him. He didn't have any pots or pans to cook with, so they even gave him theirs. I ended up taking him home that evening and had the chance to see his little apartment. It was a rather crappy place that was completely bare. I naively asked Ray, "there's no bed here. Where do you sleep?" He answered that he was afraid of keeping many possessions in case he was evicted, so he chose to sleep on the floor. We had an unused mattress over at the church, so we arranged a time to get it to him, so he can now at least be elevated and not so cold when he sleeps.

At the end of the day, I was truly thankful for how God has provided for my family. And I felt blessed to have grown up in a house where the teachings of Jesus were lived out before my very eyes.

2. In the same vein, I think about my friends Scott and Robin. They live in Price Hill with their kids and remind me a lot of my parents. When you live in the midst of people who have constant needs, it's very easy to ignore them all together. The Duebbers refuse to do this. They have a third floor that they've used at multiple times to house people in need. My times we talk about giving, but we do so as long as it doesn't interfere with our personal space. When you open up your home to others, you sacrifice the sacred realm but receive blessings that few ever get to experience. I'm excited that little Toby and Aimee will have a similar experience that I did in my youth: witnessing their parents display unparalleled generosity.

3. This past Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at my friend Everett's church. I call Everett my friend, but he's actually my parents' age. I've known him since I was an obnoxious preteen and have been blessed to have maintained a relationship with him throughout the years.

Everett has become a hero of mine, because over the past thirty years he has ministered in one of Cincinnati's most difficult neighborhoods. Sure, Walnut Hills can be rough, but it's nothing compared to the Fay Apartments area. Ministering in the city can be exhausting but Everett (and his faithful wife, Bonnie) refuse to give up. Their church was one of the few inter-racial churches among the independent Christian Churches. Now, the population of the congregation is almost entirely African American.

Side Note: Preaching in a black church is like Red Bull for a white preacher; you get giddy from the excitement because of the vibe. People are fully engaged, they give you verbal responses, and a good joke will make you feel like a world champion. My time at the President Drive Church of Christ did not disappoint. Even though I barely had any voice because of a cold, it worked out great. I'm not sure I'm hard-wired, however, for worship services that last well over two hours.

Even as Everett and Bonnie inspire me, their church did as well. At the conclusion of the service they had a "sharing time" where people offer up prayer requests and what they're thankful for. An eighty-year old woman offered that she was thankful that God had taken care of her through all of her life's struggles. She then turned around and looked at me and said, "and I want to encourage our young preacher today. You did a good job today, and I really believe that God is going to continue to use your gifts to change our city." It was some of the best encouragement I've received all year.

Surrounded by such a great cloud of givers, I can't help but be in the mood. Who's giving around you? Where's the generosity in your life and how are you using it to impact others?

Clocking In

The blog has gone very silent during the last couple of weeks. Tomorrow morning I start my new job at my old place of employment. I had two weeks between accepting this job and officially starting, so I've been processing through my own personal "bucket list" which included:

  • Shampooing all of our carpets.
  • Washing, waxing, and detailing our cars.
  • Preaching at two different churches, not including Echo.
  • Doing some leadership training.
  • Wrapping up a final exam and a twenty-five page final paper.
  • Grilling out at our church picnic.
  • Meeting with four different people about life and career decisions.
  • Spending some time with the dudes at our church and talking Jesus.
  • Replacing the large blinds in the windows that face our street.
  • Running an equipment check for our community movie night.
  • Attending a wedding reception.
  • Helping three different sets of friends move.
  • Spending two days exclusively with my daughter.
  • Celebrating our anniversary [didn't even have time for the obligatory, "I love my wife" post].

Yeah, I was kinda busy. And I'm kinda tired now. Will probably be asleep by 10:30 tonight.

Someone at church tonight asked me if I was nervous about starting tomorrow, and I'm not at all; I'm more energized by it than anything else. But since Kelly won't officially wrap up her job until the end of the month, we'll be pressing to make it through the next four weeks. The temporary awkwardness surrounding this transition pales in comparison to the benefits of everything involved with it.

It will be awesome.

But gimme a chance to look in the rearview mirror. As I look back at where we've been during the past four years, I see the fingerprints of God all over it.

When we first moved to Walnut Hills, we didn't know how we were going to make ends meet. I was working at Panera, making very little money and feeling exhausted. When I went "full-time" with Echo in January 2006 we still weren't sure how we would make ends meet, and within weeks, we were in the hospital awaiting Kaelyn's birth much earlier than it should have been. The flexibility of my ministry allowed me the opportunity to spend all my time at the hospital with Kelly, helping us keep each other sane. Then, after Kaelyn was born, I got hepatitis, basically shutting me down for weeks. All in all, it was about two months where I was out of commission. What other job could I have held where I could've been there for my family [and still HAVE a job]? And when we finally settled, Kelly was able to work out of the house and it allowed our family to be together all the time. I cannot imagine a bigger blessing than these past few years for our family.

My family is the main thing. Ask anyone who's started a church and they'll tell you that their family time suffers. Mine actually increased. So even as things are changing, that foundation is there and I know for whom I am working. I love my girls, and this is only going to get better.

Additionally, our church has benefited in having me fully devoted to Echo during the past three-and-a-half years. We haven't experienced huge growth, but we have definitely gained momentum. If I had to go bi-vocational the past few years, I'm not sure we're able to keep this thing going. Again, there is now a solid foundation underfoot, people are emerging as leaders, and we're finding our niche in this community.

So while I never could've imagined how things would've turned out, I couldn't have scripted it any better. Tomorrow we turn another page, but I really like how the story has gone so far so I'm not sweating it.

Hi-ho, Hi-ho . . .

Changes

In less than three months we will mark the fourth anniversary of Echo Church. This is exciting as new churches that survive through the fourth year tend to have emerged from the "newness" stage, tending to survive for the long haul. When we first moved to Walnut Hills in September 2005, we weren't sure of this. In fact, we [intentionally] stacked the deck against ourselves. Among other things:

1. We didn't give ourselves a proper incubation time. Within one month of moving here, we started having services. Most church planters [insider term for someone who starts a church] are on-site for well over a year before beginning their church.

2. We didn't raise any support for the endeavor. Yes, some family and friends contributed to give us our start-up funding, but it was totally unsolicited. Our belief was that we would do whatever it took to get this church started without fighting for funding with other works that desperately need missions funding in order to survive.

3. We meet on Sunday nights. This is still perhaps something that keeps our attendance lower than what it could be. I am aware of a few people who have loved Echo but no longer attend because it cannot fulfill their desire to worship on Sunday morning.

But all of these things were done deliberately so that we could be the best stewards possible. As a result of these decisions, we kept our overhead low and were faithful with our funds. If the people at our church stopped giving today [I would cry], we have enough in savings that we could function for an additional year.

As the minister, I am the biggest financial liability the church has. In order to offset this, I've fought to keep my income low and have hustled to make up the deficit. I've probably spent half the Sunday mornings in the past few years preaching at other churches to make some extra money. I've performed more weddings than I'd like to because it's an easy gig.* I've also been teaching in order to bring in some more funds. And when we started the church, I worked at Panera to make ends meet. The only way we made it through is because Kelly maintained her job with Standard Publishing. This brought us enough income to make ends meet and provided us with the all-important health insurance we needed.

The importance of having health insurance was demonstrated when Kaelyn was born prematurely. At the end of that experience, our medical bills totalled almost $200,000. Because of insurance, we payed only a small fraction of this figure. If we had not been insured, we would've been forced to declare bankruptcy and Echo would've probably ceased to exist.**

Over the past couple of years, the church has been able to pay me a little more, but Kelly has still had to maintain her job; since Kaelyn's birth, she's been able to work at home, but she's still had to work. Even though it has been an immense blessing— including the fact that we worked together and were able to have professional flexibility, it was not the arrangement I desired for her. I've desperately wanted Kelly's only job to be "Mommy." I sought to make this happen, having occasionally interviewed for jobs during the past couple of years but nothing emerged. As a result, we just went on with life.

So last Monday I got a potential job offer; basically, the position was mine for the taking. It caught us off-guard, because I hadn't been looking. But the more we thought about things, the more we decided that it was the right move at just the right time. After some back and forth, everything is finally settled. Starting in August, I will once again be employed by the Cincinnati Christian University working in their College of Adult Learning [where I have been an adjunct professor] recruiting potential students. It's a similar job to what I was doing the last time at CCU almost ten years ago.

It has been interesting to digest this move in such a short amount of time. Within three days we went from totally contentment to me taking a job while Kelly quits hers. Still, we see the many blessings that will accompany this change. Among others:

I can continue to develop Echo. I would never do anything that would detract from our ultimate mission in the city: to build a church that will be a blessing to our community. And I truly think that the church is in better shape than it's ever been. I'll be working for an organization that values ministry, so if there's some issue that demands my pastoral attention, I'll be granted some leeway. Campus is only eight minutes away from our house, so I won't be too far away, nor will I have to fight the commute. And it's close enough so I can occasionally catch the girls for lunch.

I'll be forced to play to my ministerial strengths. Since I was the only staff member at the church, there were many aspects of my job that were secretarial in nature. Additionally, if there was something that needed to be done, I rushed to do it because I felt obligated. This robbed others of the opportunity to contribute. I'm going to have to let some things go in order for the church to become what it needs to be— and I know people will step up. Kelly will take over those day-to-day administrative tasks for the church [our new church secretary?] and I'll focus on preaching, vision, and leading.

We can reclaim some semblance of normalcy in our family hours. Since Kelly had to assign hours that she worked to specific job tasks, there was little flexibility in time. Often, she/we had to work while Kaelyn slept, which made for late hours— working well past midnight. Now, we'll be able to get to bed earlier. We won't miss Conan, Letterman, or Kimmel [and if we do, we have DVR].

I'll be doing something I'm good at for something I believe in. I love my alma mater. It's changed a lot since I worked there last [this program didn't even exist when I was there], but it's all for the better. Some of my best friends work on staff at CCU so, in effect, I'm coming home.

And, finally, Kelly can devote herself fully to Kaelyn. This will make me incredibly happy.

I cannot stress how important Kelly has been to Echo; without her, the church doesn't exist. I'm so proud of her. She's sacrificed as much [if not more] as I have in this endeavor and it's time for her to take a breather. No doubt, the transition will take a little getting used to, but it will be great for our family, my new employer, and for our church.

In this instance, change is very good.

____________

*It's not the point of this post, but I know some ministers who are incredibly selective about whom they will marry. I, on the other hand, feel as if I am a better equipped justice of the peace. If I do a couple's wedding, they are forced to engage with their spirituality [or lack thereof]. So while I do get paid for the task, I figure that it's more benefical that I do the ceremony than some public official who has no spiritual dimension in their lives.

**It is absolutely shocking how cheap some churches are. I understand that there are pastors who take advantage of their position and make much more money than they ought. But I know more ministers who live near the poverty line than I'd ever like to admit. I have ministerial friends working two jobs, whose children are on medicaid, and the churches have money in the bank. No, ministers shouldn't make a fortune, but if a church thinks it deserves a full-time minister, it should pay enough so that their families don't have to suffer.

About Grandma

My Grandmother died last Friday.

It's been a bizarre week dealing with this reality. It was not entirely unexpected; she had congestive heart failure and has been deteriorating throughout the past year. She had also been struggling with dementia the past few years, not knowing exactly who I was for almost a year now. I saw her a few Wednesdays ago and when I next saw her, one week later, she had lost almost twenty pounds. I knew as I left her then, kissing her on the forehead, that this would be the last time I saw her. She passed away in her sleep early Friday morning.

These times are difficult for anyone but I then transition into "pastor mode." I knew I would be conducting the funeral, so I begin to assess what needs to be said. This is always a challenge, as it becomes my duty not only to summarize the life of a person who means much to me, but to do her memory justice to the rest of my family as well. This is why it's difficult to perform the funeral of a family member— you have to create some space to ensure that you can do your job. Fortunately, the memorial ceremony is Sunday, almost eight days after her passing, which has given me time to get this accomplished.

I suppose this is why I've been in a funk this week (duh). While I was extremely productive last week, I got very little accomplished since Friday. In addition to regular tasks, I've been putting together the slide presentation of my grandmother's life, as well as trying to craft the right words for the ceremony. Not arduous work, obviously, but my mind is working overtime. I'm so immersed in the situation that I don't deal with it.

My grandmother lived in the same house as us most of my childhood. She remarried when I was ten and it was two years later that my mom's parents moved in with us. So throughout the formative years of my life I always had grandparents around. I never knew how much of a blessing this was. They ate with us daily, took us places, and were practically second parents to us. Sure, it made the relationship a little more complicated than your average grandparent/grandchild relationship (we were never spoiled by our grandparents because they always saw us) but it is an experience I would never give back.

And, finally, I'm facing the fact that all of my grandparents are now gone. While many reading this might already have this situation (with some friends my age already having lost their parents) this is new to me. My mind wonders towards future losses and what the future holds.

All in all, it's a fascinating intersection of life, death, my psyche, and my vocation. I'm mourning, but I also need to lead people out of mourning to celebration of the life that was lived.

And the final blessing her is that my grandmother made the most of her existence, making my job much easier. So while she helped me throughout my life, she's still helping me when she's gone.

Don't Say Anything!

I'm not exactly sure when it happened— most likely, sometime in the last week or so:

We have now reached the point where we cannot have adult conversations in front of Kaelyn.

During the last 40 months of parenting much about our lives has changed. But one thing that wasn't affected was our ability to openly talk freely in front of the little girl. I could rant about anything, indict anyone, and even freely offer up borderline words while driving and she'd be oblivious. It was a good life.

Sometime last week I said something under my breath [for the life of me, I can't remember what but it was definitely PG, if not PG-13 (at the very least it wasn't Disney material)] and Kaelyn repeated it verbatim. Apparently this wasn't an aberration as tonight, while Kaelyn was with us in the kitchen, I told Kelly I was going to give her some potato chips. Kelly, in a low voice, responded, "don't say anything about that because she doesn't need it." Although she missed my earlier mention about the chips, Kaelyn heard everything her mother said and repeated, "Daddy, don't say anything!"

It's all different now.

Sure, we'll continue to spell out words in order to throw her off the scent, but at the rate she's learning her letters we might not have much longer until I'll have to learn sign language.

I guess I'll actually have to start watching what I say. Perhaps this discipline will benefit my life in other ways as well.

My Moms

The longer I live, the more I appreciate the role that mothers play in this world.

No matter how hard I try, if it comes down to me or Kelly, Kaelyn is going to want her mommy. There's a certain nurturing aspect that I will never obtain that is inherent in mothers. It has to be a gift from God in exchange for the whole pregnancy/childbirth thing.

Mother's Day is always an excellent opportunity for me to reflect on the wonder mothers in my life:

My mother who is absolutely amazing and one of the most godly women I've ever known

My grandmothers who were nothing alike but who created the family structures from which I benefited.

My mother-in-law who is ceaselessly giving and constantly blesses our family even from far away.

My wife who is the perfect mother and example for our daughter who will one day [WAY in the future] be a mother herself.

To all the mothers in my life and all those reading, thanks for your most valuable ministry.

Happy Mother's Day!

Moving On

Sorry I haven't written much about our loss last week. We've truly been blessed by the abundance of kind words and gestures from family and friends; we have seen the graciousness of God in you. That said, I'd highly encourage you to read Kelly's take on things, as the Lord has given her the amazing gift to put her emotions in writing poetically; yet another reason that I'm proud to have her as my wife.

Loss

Kelly and I are sad to tell you that we have lost our baby. Obviously, we are devastated, but we are doing OK. Throughout the past couple of days, we have not felt at all alone. Not only have we felt the Lord's embrace, we have already been surrounded by family and friends to lift us up. We are blessed to know people who have experienced what we've experienced. We've seen how their faith has brought them through and are confident of the same for us.

The awkwardness surrounding this loss is now we have to inform people of it. But as we noted in the beginning, this is precisely why some people questioned our talking about it. As painful as it is to experience this, it would be far worse if we could not grieve openly. In community, our loss is your loss, and we can't deprive each other of this. This is yet another reason we give thanks for Christ and his church.

It's funny how things reemerge at times like this. During these past couple of days, I've been thinking about something that a college friend wrote almost five years ago. Crazy that something I read but once could continue to resonate within me, but I would offer that this is precisely how the Spirit of God works— through those around us. So do yourself a favor and read what he wrote about his family's loss.

Thanks for your prayers for our family.

Romans 11:33

So that you may be fully aware, we are expecting again.

This is exciting news because . . . well, it's exciting. And, no, this is not mere retaliation against those who ceaselessly prodded us with, "when are you gonna have another?" On Thursday Kelly was at the doctor and, even at this early stage in the pregnancy, they found the tiny heartbeat. Observe the picture above and consider that, while our little one is about the size of a blueberry, it has a heartbeat. That's breathtaking. Try to tell me there is no God.

Yet in the midst of our joy is some fear. A call from the doctor informed us that Kelly is not producing enough progesterone. This hormone is important as it is the "power source" for the baby until the placenta forms. She is now taking a prescription that is supposed to boost this. If this level does not increase, there is the possibility that Kelly could miscarry.

This is the type of information that is usually kept inward just in case "something" happens, but both Kelly and I feel like sharing it. Too many times we try to bear these burdens alone and not include the support structure around us. As Christians, we believe strongly that one of the purposes of the family of believers is to rely on each other when times get tough. And that is exactly what we want from you, our friends and family— continue to BE our church. No, you don't need to call or send a rightly-worded email. Just do one simple thing: pray for this baby. This is a life, and we desperately want the opportunity to meet it in person.

So thanks in advance for the congratulations and encouragement. We love you deeply. We would greatly appreciate your prayers. God is good.

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!"