Friday, June 27, 2014

Everything Felt Smaller

I am incredibly thankful to the folks at Venn Magazine who graciously have allowed me to start contributing to their website. (Yes, this means I'm going to start writing again.) 

Presented here is the original opening of my piece, which was trimmed due to my ability to somehow write twice the allotted word count. I'm kooky like that. At the end of the intro is the link to the Venn Magazine website where you can continue on reading.

It was the summer of 2005. I was walking around the perimeter of my undergrad institution. I remembered with crystal clarity the feel of the sidewalk beneath my feet as I rushed (late again) to classes, the immensity of the rooms where we limped through lesson after lesson, and the grandeur of the stage where our choir performed. Now? Everything felt smaller.

It was May of 2007. We had spent the previous day in a flurry of preparedness, planning the final placement of flowers, the guest registry, and decorations. But today, on my wedding day, the chuppah we had raised, the crowd of friends gathered to celebrate, and the layout of the feast in the room below us where we would toast and join in a communal meal? Compared to the vision of beauty walking down the aisle towards me? Everything felt smaller.

It was the summer of 2008. I was busy at work. The phone call from my sister started with only three words: "It's lung cancer." Less than five months later, in November, I was packing a suitcase late at night after being awoken with the news that my father had passed away. The work projects and student assignments that were of such importance to the university that needed to be done before the end of the semester? Everything felt smaller.

It was March of 2009. The doctors rushed my wife into surgery for an emergency Caesarian, because the umbilical cord had become tangled around our baby's neck. After what felt like the fastest delivery in medical history, I held a bright eyed, round faced, tiny baby boy in my arms. The worries of how to change a diaper, how to take care of him, and the burden of responsibility I fretted over on an almost hourly basis? Everything felt smaller.

It was June of 2013. In a twist of history repeating itself, my wife and I raced to the hospital because she had begun to go into labor the day of our scheduled Caesarian. A few hours later, a crying, cuddly, joyous little baby boy was in my arms. The worry about taking care of two kids as a stay-at-home dad, the reality of the strain it might put on our finances, the fact I felt like I'd forgotten everything about how to take care of a baby after only almost five years? Everything felt smaller.

Click here to continue on to the Venn Magazine website for the rest of the story. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Book Review: Grace for the Contemplative Parent

One of the most fascinating and influential books I have discovered in the last five years is The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. If you're not familiar with this title, do yourself a favor and purchase a copy. It's a little over 100 pages long, but it is packed with depth, beauty, and mystery surrounding how we can and might should choose to interact with and worship God. It was also written hundreds of years ago, so it's not exactly influenced by modern ways in which the church or pop culture has formed our opinions on faith.

And then there's Grace for the Contemplative Parent. It's also a little over 100 pages long, but published in 2013. And quite, quite different in tone from the tome by Bro. Lawrence.

Grace is written as "A Practical Guide for Mothers Practicing the Presence of God." While I knew it was written by a mom, I was unaware of how mom-centric the opening chapters of the book would be. There are plenty of stories and examples throughout the book which, through inference, can be transferred to a parent of either sex; however, the overall voice found in the book is one directed towards not just moms, but moms of multiple kids. And while the author has the authority to speak from this voice (as it's her own life she is drawing parallels from), I would have appreciated it had the book been more in line with grace for the parent and not just for the mom.

This is not to say that the book is bereft of valuable information. Each chapter is framed with a practice either found in or drawn directly from the work of Bro. Lawrence. And the later chapters especially ring true for parents of either sex, in that we need to remember how to find solitude, rest, and not lose ourselves in the lives of our children. As a stay-at-home dad, perhaps some of these lessons strike a bit close to home, as they are dangers areas I find myself slipping into time and again.

Overall, the book is a great read for moms, but I can not state that I'd suggest as a book for dads. Either way, it would make for a great comparison study to read this book side by side with Bro. Lawrence's works to find perhaps more opportunities to parent - and live - with grace.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from the author and/or publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Parti 255.g