X

His mother sat at his feet, his sister lying next to him, and his grandparents and uncle surrounding them all like a blanket of love.

And the silence of grief filled the room.

The silence was almost tangible, because the silence carried echoes of a personality that made so many smile and reflected the deep trust that God would never let him go. It carried echoes of laughter by his mother, resisting the pounding pressure to become buckets of anxiety. It carried echoes of games played with nurses, chaplains, and his family, including uncles he deeply loved beating. It carried echoes of more coughs than could be counted, but just as many jokes told and nurses razzed and doctors given a hard time. It carried echoes of resilient declarations to keep going, to never give up. Yes, the silence carried echoes of a life well lived and a family well loved.

And we sat in that silence for a while.

Until the chair was moved, and the screech of its drag across the ground broke the silence. It was a short sound, nothing terrible, but it jolted us.

The jolt was enough though. It made space for echoes to become words and stories told. Until the jolt, grief carried in just echoes. That’s where grief starts every time. But after that simple jolt to the silence, there were not only echoes but laughs and memories and proclamations of legacy and storytelling galore.

That jolt got me thinking about how X did that very thing to those he came across in his life. He just seemed to jolt people out of their “silence” and get them moving towards storytelling. His life was full of resilience from the moment he was diagnosed with CF. He filled his life with breaths that mattered, and had a devotion for his family that was astounding. The way he and his mother interacted with staff, you could not walk out of their room without being jolted- probably into laughter- but more so into amazement at the life they created together.

There was a way in which he and his mother faced life with every honesty they could, and refused to back down without some crazy “fighter” mentality. No, there wasn’t a constant refrain that he was a fighter. Rather, there was a constant refrain that he loved his family and loved time with them. He fought not because he was a boxer demanding every round, but a son and grandson and brother who delighted in every moment with them. That’s what jolted us all. That’s what jolted me. I was so moved by his delight in his family, so moved the family’s delight in him, I just couldn’t help but be amazed. The way the family delighted in anything and laughed, it was infectious and invited a desire of so many to want to be a part of them. It meant something to be considered a part of X’s family, and it made my day to hear it. Yes, it was this sense of family and the delightful love that could be present there that jolted us into something better.

Family, faith, fun. This boy and his mother had all of that in droves. They exemplified how Gods delight in us can be lived amidst a group of people who love each other. In the last year, I needed that jolt and that presence. It made me a better parent, a better brother, a better chaplain, a better person- a more joyful person really. It reminded me of Gods presence and made me want to tell people of this family just like in that room, that jolt helped us start telling stories about X.

What a gift from God!

God lived in X profoundly. God loved X profoundly. And he loved God, and his mother, his sister, his grandparents, his uncles, just as profoundly. What a gift to serve them and serve X. Sometimes we just need that jolt right?

My 2018 New Years Christ Like Project (annual update)

This is my New Years resolution list, but it actually is my focus list for life all the time. So don’t be overwhelmed by the length. Many of these things I currently do but it reflects my principles, my hopes, and the places in my life where I can connect myself to my identity in God more and find greater joy. It has been posted as a page on my blog for a couple years and every year I update the practices. This started by being inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, but if you are familiar with that book my project will look differently. What is important about my project is that it is not just about happiness, but more importantly to grow towards Christ and becoming Christ like. Thus, my intentionality guides me towards a life that in every way reflects the deep love and compassion, the awe and the wonder of Christ. So, not a happiness project but a Christ-like project.  I cannot begin to tell you how important this reframe is for me. My life is not my own, and it is not lived for myself alone.  I hope and pray that as I seek to develop myself I begin to see Christ’s image in me and in the life around me. (I do not share because I relieve you need to know the details of my life, but because I share I have accountability and encouragement)

8 Core Principles For Me

  1. Love Christ and his people.
  2. Be compassionate.
  3. Enjoy the process.
  4. Lighten up and have fun.
  5. Claim my voice.
  6. Get out of my head.
  7. Be aware of my body.
  8. Know what I want and need.

Growing Specifically: Habit Improvements

Spirituality

  1. Pray daily.
  2. Engage in stillness.
  3. Start each day with gratitude.
  4. Develop a Sabbath.

Attitude

  1. Laugh out loud.
  2. Practice reframing.
  3. Dare to fail.

Energy

  1. Sleep better. (no phone after 10pm)
  2. Make checklists for the important stuff.
  3. Develop a daily routine.
  4. Call my family weekly.

Mindfulness

  1. Hear the experience of others. (culture, religious, ethnic, etc)
  2. Look up and around!
  3. Be interested in the world. (listen to podcasts)

Marriage

  1. Don’t stonewall.
  2. Scan for successes.
  3. Find fun together.
  4. Be physically affectionate.

Parenthood

  1. Play without phone distraction.
  2. Practice validation.
  3. Develop better patience.
  4. Be a teacher to the kids. (camping, games, school)

Work

  1. Have fun with colleagues.
  2. Learn new skills.
  3. Practice saying no.
  4. Debrief my day.

Leisure

  1. Read daily.
  2. Play board games.
  3. Work on a project at least once a month.
  4. Go off the path at least once a month. (new, strange, etc)
  5. Eat more sushi. (my New Years food resolution!)

Friendship

  1. Be generous.
  2. Focus on others.
  3. Initiate hanging out together.

Money

  1. Spend ahead, not in the moment.
  2. Give to church.
  3. Always have something on hand to share.
  4. Meal plan.

Pursue a Passion: Be outdoors!

  1. Play disc golf.
  2. Get a Texas State Park pass for hiking.
  3. Interact more with my dogs.

Morning by Morning (9/11/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Joshua Stewart, a friend from ACU and friend from Southwest Central whom I appreciate and love watching grow into his marriage and fatherhood.  He’s a very good man.
  2. The compassion of my mother in law Belinda who will always jump to action to love on Ryan and Aiden (and Elana and I) when they are sick.  She is great and so sweet to them both.  We are blessed to have someone so close who will take good care of our sick boys.
  3. Barbara Brown Taylors book, An Altar in the World, which has been a very moving read in challenging me to see the life I experience with different eyes.  What a fantastic book!
  4. Balloons. They’re fun. Ryan loves them.  I love them!

Morning by Morning (9/8/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Our awesome neighborhood that is both quiet and full of kids, with lots of really great people. And it stayed dry enough in Harvey, and that counts for something too!
  2. The encouragement I received for my birthday two weeks ago but I am still loving.
  3. The continuing help of volunteers across the city cleaning up the flooded homes and caring deeply for displaced families.
  4. Our new CPE residents that will be serving at Texas Children’s.  They are a great group and I look forward to getting to know them well.
  5. Pics of Ryan sleeping!!

Morning by Morning (9/4/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. The many opportunities to help others after the hurricane.  These are good chances to remind myself of what we as humans and as Christians are called to do. Plus, as a person who does work that is emotional and social, manual hard labor feels therapeutic and meaningful.
  2. The awesome volunteers who are blessing those helping with home made sandwiches, snacks, bottled water, free snow cones and all sorts of other stuff. These people are encouragers and supporters and remind me of the many different ways we can be neighbors.
  3. A needed three day weekend.
  4. Scrambled eggs. Delicious!
  5. Steve Sandifer and all the hard work, pastoral care, wisdom, and laughter he brings to our church and me!

Morning by Morning (8/31/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Tom Sharon, the chaplain who I served rideout with.  It was an absolute privilege and humbling to serve with a faithful and compassionate man who carries himself with understanding, wisdom, and commitment.  I couldn’t have served with someone more encouraging! The Cardiovasular Units are so blessed to have him!
  2. Doug Foster, one of my Church History professors at ACU. Doug was also a mentor and encourager.  I remember he would make us do weekly essays and grade them 1-5, and  5’s were rare but given when deserved.  He helped me learn to write integrating info and history, not just repeating it.  I owe a lot of personal growth to him.
  3. Jeff Childers, another of my history professors at ACU.  He taught more of the history of the NT and religious history.  It was Jeff who helped me integrate and think about other faiths with perspective.  Also, he helped me see that history has many facets and lenses. And that history is fun!
  4. The HBO series From The Earth To The Moon, which I started watching again yesterday and gripped me with fascination.  Well made!
  5. Nick Matthews, an RN who I deeply respect and love for his passion while being laid back.  Happy birthday! (And prayers for your heartache now Nick!)

Morning by Morning (8/28/17)

Today, I am at the hospital riding out Hurricane Harvey while Houston gets inundated by water.  There are many things to be grateful for in the face of this devastating hurricane:

  1. Elana, Elana, Elana.  Her ability to watch Ryan while I am required to serve at Texas Children’s is humbling in the least.  She is covering me as she usually does and covering more than her fair share and loving on Ryan as a great mother while I work.  It’s not lost on me and while I am here I feel awful about not supporting her at home during this weather, but fundamentally I am grateful for her.  I love her!
  2. Praying with staff who are desperate for news of safety for their family and their homes.  During these prayers and times of gathering around the units, I find that there are people who are handling so much trauma, so much uncertainty, so much crisis during this time and yet emerging resilient.  Their strength and their love reflected in tears is beautiful inasmuch as the grief is heartbreaking.
  3. Assisting physicians do free writing as a way to manage their own stress and overwhelming emotions.  Today, I got to watch a physician lead his own fellow physicians into places of vulnerability, and it was a privilege to be there for support and encouragement and listening.
  4. The pictures of Ryan that Elana sends that sustain me with smiles and comfort.
  5. All the people and friends who have contacted me and sought out to send their prayers and thoughts my way.

Morning by Morning (8/25/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. The surprise birthday party that Elana threw for me last night!!!! It was awesome to have everyone greet me as I opened the door and hear the singing of happy birthday and receive the awesome gifts and feel the humbling love of everyone around me.  What an awesome blessing!!!
  2. The way the staff in the PICU cope with everything that comes their way with flexibility, strength, hilarity, and big hearts for little kids.  I’m glad that if I have to come to the hospital this weekend, I will be enduring a storm alongside them.
  3. The disc golf bag I received from Elana- i feel like school kid with a new back pack!
  4. The opportunities I get to celebrate Ryan’s growth and development, and not missing them by things feeling life is going too fast.  “Good job Ryan” is a great phrase to share and I love his feeling of joy when he hears his father and mother be proud of him.

Morning by Morning (8/24/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Jae Kim, a friend from Pepperdine who I always looked up to and admired for his vision, his wisdom, and his loyalty to his friends.  He moved up to Seattle and became quite the adventurer and I continue to marvel at his life continues to be shaped by his passions.
  2. My colleagues at the hospital who provided me with birthday pound cake and berries to go on top! I appreciate their support and joy!
  3. Elana’s flexibility, since I might be pulled to the hospital this weekend for the tropical storm and she’s willing to adjust and watch Ryan during the weekend if need be.
  4. The many kids who are ventilator or teach dependent and regardless of developmental levels, live courageously and reflect Gods beauty. I believe God speaks through them as much as anyone, and I am humbled to meet some of them.

Morning by Morning (8/12/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. A wonderful day with Ryan, including good toilet training, shopping and him pushing the cart, playing in the backyard, the pool, and building a cardboard airplane.  I love my time with him!
  2. Getting to hang out with DeAndre, Keyshon, and Taylor at the pool today. I marvel at their fun and resilience, but I am also very impressed and grateful with their gentle encouraging interaction with Ryan.
  3. Dinner with Elana and Carleigh and Levi! I can’t wait to officiate their wedding and I am so blessed to have gotten to know them outside of TCH!
  4. Japanese Sea Perch sushi.  Really really good!