The Dirt Under His Fingernails

We love stories.  It makes sense too.  We love the back story, the comical, the meaningful, the narrative that makes the core of any person. Stories speak volumes about who we are. And we as chaplains, staff at a children’s hospital, and caregivers, we have embraced it.  Stories bring us to tears and make us smile. Stories tell us what people value and what those parents and child loved. We love focusing on a story, especially the tragedy, and it’s understandable.

But what about this little boy today who went to be with God after an incident at a pool?

If I told you about this child today, you’d probably be moved by the tear jerking story. I do too.

If I told you about the circumstances, you hear the tragic story of a future that will not be. I do too.

If I told you about this little boy, you’d probably be saddened, distressed, and heartbroken.  I do too.

But there is more. There has to be.  A boys life becomes defined by this one story of why he ended up here in the hospital dying. But it’s just one story, one narrative, one expression of his life. Is that fair to him?

This is convicting for me. I say this because after his family said their final goodbyes, I sat next to him and held his soft hand.  I said a prayer for him and told he was precious and loved.  And then I noticed his fingernails.  His fingernails had dirt under them.  His fingernails carried many stories of play and fun and a boy being a boy.  His fingernails told stories that his hospital story could not.

I couldn’t help but imagine the stories it could tell. Perhaps he was digging in the flower beds looking for worms.  Perhaps he was throwing dirt with other kids while laughing all the while.  Perhaps he was running with his parents and fell to the ground, bracing himself with his hands and then reaching to his parents to be picked up. Perhaps he was helping his parents water plants.  Perhaps he climbed a tree and collected his dirt from its branches. The imagination runs.  Just from dirt under his fingernails. And I needed it.

The dirt under his fingernails opened wide his story, and opened my mouth in a smile. Because I had been gifted with a story. Not just the story of heartbreak or the story of tragedy.  I was gifted with the story of a boy, whose life was worth remembering just as much as his death. I was feeling so taken by the tragedy that I almost missed the opportunity to just see him as a boy. The tragedy and the the boys life are not disconnected as you may think I am saying, but one often trumps the other.  We are challenged to hold them together in tension.  Tonight, among the tears and the devastation, I am grateful for the dirt under his fingernails that reflected his laughs and his play. Tonight, in my grief, I still am grateful for a boy and his playful hands.  

(May God open my eyes to these ordinary treasures, to see the dirt under all our fingernails, and see the stories they too represent.)

Morning by Morning (7/31/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Ryan’s fun exuberance with balloons.  He gets so energetic and excited when he sees one and little be trying to keep it in the air, and it’s…so…cute!!!
  2. Michael Tucker’s sermon yesterday that explored the reason for celebrating the Lords Supper around the table and over a meal.  It was an enlightening message and encouraged our church towards meaningful and faithful participation in this special practice.
  3. All the anniversary celebrations I have seen on Facebook over the last couple weeks.  It’s been an amazing gift to realize that I am surrounded by many couples who create such beauty together.
  4. Luci Bell, Mikey Weesner, and Andrea Day for their awesome work coordinating, decorating, preparing, and leading VBS this past week.

Morning by Morning (7/28/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Carrie and her new baby girl Eleanor doing well.  I couldn’t be more relieved and happy for Adam and Carrie and this new stage of life! I can’t wait to see them around the Christmas time hopefully.
  2. The wonderful natural light in our house that helps me feel calm and warm and happy at home.
  3. Doing laundry and getting that cleaned and organized feeling!
  4. The comfort of our dogs with Ryan!

Seeing Beyond The Visible: 4 Years of Marriage

Today, Elana and I “celebrate” 4 years of marriage together.  Our four years have included a baby, baby daddy drama, moving, buying a new house, Elana losing employment, Elana entering her career, a lot of sushi, and lots more of Little League baseball.

Much has indeed happened. But none of those things are truly defining for our relationship.  Well, maybe lots of sushi. Otherwise, our relationship has been borne out of and through difficulty and challenge. We still are becoming best friends. Communication is not our forte- she’s assertive and I am passive. Kids bring out different reactions from us. You like conflict and I withdraw from them. We have endured lots of crisis with some people and still manage to make it back home after 4 years of chaos with them.  I will confess that I have lived with resentments or frustrations and not dealt with them properly. But even that can’t be defining for us.

What is defining is that in a marriage of faith, the relationship pursues and seeks to create beauty. God calls us to this. And it happens.  But it may not happen in the clearest of ways.

 “The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening.” — from Henry David Thoreau

The harvest of our daily life is not sushi, resentment, poor communication, Dads Club, crisis or anything else like that.  Rather, it’s the beauty created by a woman loved and cared for, a wife supported in her new career and knowing that she can do it. It’s the beauty of a husband who is affirmed in his calling and his wife’s sacrifice of time for his self care. It’s the beauty of our children, feeling safe and loved and pursued.  It’s the beauty of a family whose budget is in order.  It’s the beauty of adding to a beautiful neighborhood. It’s the beauty of trying to learn each other’s Enneagram many nights and hoping to learn each other. Like tints of a sky, the harvest of our daily life may not have been as describable or tangible as we have liked, but the true harvest is still there.

Perhaps our intangible harvest is even more telling.  Willingness to learn who we are.  Loving when it’s been hard. Learning to sacrifice. Practicing forgiveness when you have to practice over and over. Sometimes it is not clear, but it is always worth it. 

Our intangible harvest has been creating beauty.  The key is that we are creating, not that we have created.  You are making me better slowly and surely, just as I am making you better slowly but surely. We are works in progress whose progress may not be so easily describable, but the harvest comes each day we wake up together.

It’s been 4 years creating beauty, beauty not always so obvious. Yet love abounds still in your tenacity, my compassion, your wit, my laid back nature, your reading, my extroversion, your passion, my prayers. 

May we continue day by day, finding love, inviting honesty, giving forgiveness, seeking life, creating beauty, and seeing God in each other. 

I love you. Happy anniversary!

Morning by Morning (7/27/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Elana, who I have been married to for 4 years today.  Her tenacity and love and pure and full of passion.  She is a blessing, even when I am not seeing it. She is a great mom who enables her children to feel safe and loved and independent, and has a unique passion and skill for guiding students through a difficult transition into college. A blessing indeed. Happy anniversary!
  2. Ryan sleeping through the night regularly now! What a relief that he is staying in his bed and then coming cutely to us in the morning- and it is much cuter at 6:45am than at 12:45am!!
  3. Elana’s big hair!

Morning by Morning (7/26/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. My good mornings with Ryan. I love the challenge of keeping him playing without using tech. So we get to play with the hose, in his kitchen, cleaning the garage, playing baseball, etc.  Hes a complete joy for me to play with.
  2. The PICU staff rallying around the abused child we received yesterday.  They were amazing and made sure he was rarely alone and always had someone to play with.
  3. Pam Krinock, a colleague chaplain at TCH who is intelligent, organized, thoughtful and skilled in planning and logistics.  And yeah, she’s a really compassionate chaplain who is very good in her assessment.  Happy birthday!!!

Morning by Morning (7/25/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. All the good people that helped Elana get home last night and kept her safe along the way.
  2. For Elana’s dad who will be fixing her car and getting her back up and running.
  3. The way Ryan hugged me as I picked him up from Pawpaw’s house- the kind of lingering hug that feels like fireworks and wonder!
  4. Helping set up for VBS this past weekend at church.  The community, the friendships, the humor…they were all a great encouragement.

Morning by Morning (7/21/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. The weekend.  I know I say it often but today got sucked up by badge requests, security requests, IS navigation, and organizing folders and documents on a shared drive.  That’s not what gives me energy, but I was glad to do it…and then get to the weekend!!
  2. Sitting around a simple and barely lighter fire in the back yard tonight. It’s very calming and a reflective time!
  3. A wonderful night with Ryan and Aiden- we built a tent to camp tonight (he only made it 15 min before wanting to go to bed) and made smores in the fire pit. I was so blessed to call them my sons!
  4. Lunch with Stephen Lucas.  Just being with a great friend is so wonderful!

Morning by Morning (7/20/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Lauren Frosch, an RN in the PICU who I have thoroughly enjoyed working with.  I love her joy and laid back nature, her ability to bring fun into challenging situations, and have more than appreciated her kindness towards me.  Blessings on her next adventure!
  2. Jennah Korchinski (not certain I got her last name right!), another RN who I have dearly loved but who is moving off to another stage of life.  I have so loved her calm strength and perceptiveness regarding her patients and families. Blessings on the next adventure!
  3. Dawn Marie Lucas! She has been so great for us these last couple weeks being kind, supportive, and welcoming to Aiden.  God bless her!

Morning by Morning (7/19/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. A great staff meeting for our Spiritual Care department.  It feels great to have good communication and lots of wonderful good will!
  2. Dance parties with my kids in the morning! So fun!
  3. My kids getting to spend time with their maternal uncles, Seth and Elias.  They need good aunts and uncles which they have, but mine are far away and developing positive interactions with some of them are so refreshing!
  4. Seeing my good friend X who received his lungs a couple months ago.  He and his mom are some of favorite people who always bring me smiles and encouragement!