Tuesday, February 20, 2007

One thousand, eight hundred, twenty-six and a quarter days

5 years ago today, I witnessed with my own eyes the greatest miracle God has performed since the Resurrection. That fateful Wednesday afternoon, I held a baby close to me and whispered in her ear, "Welcome to the world, Mary Hannah." I've learned more in these five years than in the previous 24, about myself, about God and how everything fits together. Mary Hannah is my daughter, my joy, my consternation, my teacher, my friend. She makes me laugh when I don't want to and can make me want to scream moments later. Who knew how God would add another dimension to my life with this small child? I used to be pretty self absorbed, like most people are. But God introduced me to Amelia and gave me a reason to think of someone besides myself. Now that she and I are one, God has again broadened my view and helped me to understand him more by making me a father. When I look at my children, I don't just see their glowing faces, their innocent smiles. I see what they might become. All the hopes and dreams I have for them dance with potential in their eyes. As they grow, they'll probably shatter these illusions, but will replace them with desires that they have for themselves. As a daddy, I'll do my best to help them achieve their dreams and lauch them from my protective wing and hope they take flight. I know that five years isn't a long time, in the grand scheme of things, but today, it feels like forever. I join the bagillion other parents before me who have wished that they could freeze time and hold their children to themselves for ever, unchanging. But I realize not only is that a selfish wish, it is kind of silly. It means that I'd deprive myself of the joy of seeing Mary Hannah turn 13 and 18 and 25 and so on. When I got married, I remember thinking that my heart was so full of love, I couldn't possibly have room for any more. But then God let me in on a secret of the human heart: it is made in the image of God's and God's capacity for love is unlimited. I found it to be true the day I whispered from my heart to Mary Hannah... and again as Ethan surprised me with his remarkable entrance... and again as Eleanor graced us with her presence. So, I guess today, 1826.25 days after I welcomed Mary Hannah into the world and thanked God for the opportunity to be a father, I will continue to look forward to each day that God gives me to love these babies, to learn from them and to watch them grow in grace and stature test the limits of my heart.



Have you ever been a hero to someone? Well, here is an example of the type of superhero gig I've gotten into:

I was sitting around the living room one day last week, reading Spandex Uniform Weekly, the famous superhero rag when my ultra hearing picked up a wail of dispair coming from the vicinity of the bathroom. Faster than a speeding bullet, I rushed in, fearing the worst: a child with his foot caught in the loo or a severed stump of a hand due to a razor left unsecured. Despite my supersonic speed, it seemed to take forever to travel across the house to the bathroom. Meanwhile, the klaxxon wail from my son, Ethan, rang in my head. This was no mere fuss or cry of frustration, it was a wail of terror and it made my heart race. Finally, after navigating the lego maze and vaulting the Lincoln Log tower, I arrived at the bathroom.

Ethan immediately flew into my arms (not literally, as he hasn't discovered his superpowers yet), crying buckets of tears. He was hysterical, but seemed to be physically ok. I used my xray vision to give him a once over and, having satisfied myself that he was fine, flipped to detective mode to solve the mystery of the distraught youth.

"Ethan, what is the matter?" I asked, probing gently. "Muahvure carivo ferllio prottymurahawaaaaa!" wailed my son, in a tone that suggested that I'd better do something quickly. "Son, calm down! Turn your fussies off and tell my why you are yelling!" I counseled him, using my mutant telepathic powers to calm him. At that point, my oldest daughter entered the bathroom. She has been exploring her own superpowers and in her guise as "Little Miss Know-it-all", she told me matter-of-factly, "Ethan dropped his car in the potty, daddy." Amazed at her ability to understand fussy baby talk, I thanked her and rushed to the toilet to inspect the situation.

My finely honed senses reported several things all at once: First, Ethan did indeed drop his toy car in the potty. Second, he had apparently been sitting on the potty going number two when he dropped it. Third, I believed that both Ethan and SuperNana expected me to retrieve the toy before flushing the offending matter down the drain.

I wondered for a brief moment if this might be a job for another superhero, but quickly resigned myself to the task. After all, no one ever said that Superhero-ing was glamorous. I knew I wasn't going to need superstrenght, heat vision or the questionable ability to waggle my eyebrows to complete this herculean task. What I needed was some special equipment. A quick search of the vicinty located the items. Super Dooper Dookey Repellant Latex Gloves and a Long Handled Toilet Brush (with non slip grip). A few minutes work and I'd secured the toy and risen a few points on the respect scale in my son's eyes. SuperNana, supervising the operation smiled at me (or was it a smirk)? Ethan clamored for his toy, but I insisted on sending the toy through the decontamination protocol before returning it to "play" status.

I went back to my magazine and settled in with a self-satisfied smile. All in a days work for this superhero. Go go DaddyJeff!
Sometimes thoughts blossom in my head and I feel the need to write them down. This one developed one night as I put Mary Hannah to bed.

I held Mary Hannah tonight as I rocked her to sleep. She was gently sucking down her bottle and staring intently at the ceiling fan. As she drifted off, I rocked her, I talked to her and I sang to her. Whispering, careful not to wake her, I told her about her name.

She is named "Mary" because of a family tradition from Amelia's side. She is named "Hannah" after a biblical figure. In the Bible, Hannah was the mother of the prophet Samuel. In her old age, she was barren and she prayed every day that God would give her a child. She promised to dedicate her child to the Lord, and God blessed her with Samuel. Mary Hannah was the answer to our prayers.

We also liked the name "Mary Hannah" because of a corny joke. At the beginning of the pregnancy, we pored over huge lists of baby names. When we came across "Hannah", we put it with "Mary" and somehow found ourselves singing the little nursery rhyme, "Mary Had a Little Lamb" with the words, "Mary Hannah, Little Lamb". Corny? Yes, but we liked it just the same.

So, I sat there, rocking my little lamb. Softly, I whispered, "I love you." Softly, I whispered, "Jesus loves you, too." I began to explain that Jesus loved her so much that He died on the cross for her.... her what? Her sins? She is sinless. Literally, as well as figuratively, she is a sinless little lamb. My baby has yet to willfully disobey her Father in Heaven. But my heart broke when I realized that as she grew, she would fall into the pattern of this world and sin. No matter how much I love her and teach her and try to shield her, she will have to struggle with temptation and sin as she grows older.

I held her closer.

For days now, we have been encouraging her to stand and walk... to grow... we have enjoyed watching her stand, then step once... twice... and then collapse amid giggles and smiles. With every step, she is growing up. But where will these steps lead her?

"Oh, God," I prayed, "Help us to teach her about your love. Help her steps to always lead toward you."
I looked down and realized that I had been granted a glimpse into God's heart. What I saw lying in my arms was a perfect, sinless little lamb. I imagined what tremendous love God must have for each of His children as He looks on them. It is the love of a father for his baby, but magnified to cosmic proportions. I imagined how His heart swelled as He looked down on His perfect, sinless little lamb as Jesus lay in a manger. I imagined how His heart broke as He looked down on His perfect, sinless little lamb as Jesus walked up a hill with a cross on his back. On that day, God wept for His perfect, sinless little lamb. My love for my daughter is only a drop in the ocean of love that God has for all His little lambs, all His lost sheep.

As I lay Mary Hannah in her bed, I sang one last song:
Day by Day
You reveal your love to me
Cradled in your arms I am
A precious lamb
A diamond in your eyes

As I kissed her smooth baby cheek, I whispered, "Good night, sweet baby. Your daddy loves you. Go to sleep and I'll be right back to get you in the morning."

This is a picture of MH at 9 Months (when I originally wrote this little thought)

This is a pic of MH at 5.5 years... as I repost this thought. Time flies. Treasure every moment.


A father's prayer

A Father's Prayer
July 23rd, 2003

Great God!
You are wonderful, awesome, majestic! Words fail me when I consider you. Father, you know the mysteries of the heart and plumb the depths of men's lives. Today , my life got deeper as you gifted me with Ethan! Lord, I pray your deepest blessings on my firstborn son. I pray that you will hold me near to you so that I can draw him near to us. Lord, I give you his heart, inasmuch as I can prepare it to receive you and your love. My heart bursts as I struggle to take it all in! What a surprise, what a gift, what a blessing, what a responsibility! Thank you for my son. Thank you for your Son.

in His name I offer this prayer - jeff

*Sigh* New Blog?!?

Greetings, all my readers.

I beg your forgiveness if you've already read some of these, but I'm going to use this site to consolodate the various places I've already posted blogs, notes, essays and bulletins. Once I get everything on one site, I'll post exclusively here and copy FROM here to the other blogsites. Thank you for your consideration.