>"I Wanna Snuggle With You" / Transitions

>Homer welcome sign.Image via WikipediaIt’s a long ride from Homer, Alaska back home to Girdwood.  The 3.5 hours may not be “long” by Alaskan standards, but it’s pretty long when you have 7 family members and 7 bikes in the car, along with luggage and all.

We were down in Homer for the Alaska United Methodist Conference’s Annual Conference session.  Four nights away from home.  The whole family in a little cabin.  A whole lot of togetherness.  And our little twins (the “Short Louds”) met some new friends and played hard the whole time.  Last night when I was getting them ready for bed back at home, I asked what their favorite part of being in Homer was.  I was thinking they would have said “the playground” or “the beach.”  Bethany said, “When we got to play in that little room.”  That “little room” was the childcare room at the Homer United Methodist Church.  They had fun at the provided childcare…which is not something that happens at every Annual Conference gathering.

On the way we back we also stopped at Dairy Queen (always a treat when passing through the town of Soldotna) and spent a couple of hours with some old friends.  Talking.  Eating.  Sharing life.  Laughing.  And, for the little ones, running around the restaurant.

Well, on the next part of the journey on our way home, after the stop for ice cream, dinner, and visiting, young Abigail, age 4, started crying in her car seat in the way back of our Suburban.  This was not a “hurt” cry or a “frantic” cry.  This was a “sad” cry.  In between the tears she kept calling out to my wife and saying, between quiet sobs and sniffles, “Mommy, I wanna’ snuggle with you.  Mommy, I wanna’ snuggle with you.”  

I asked my wife if she was tired.  My wife said, “She just doesn’t do transitions well.”  She was going to have to wait another couple of hours until we got home for her snuggle time to reassure her that things were OK…that she’d see her new friends again, that it’s OK to miss them.

Annual Conference in the United Methodist Church is a time of transitions.  Sometimes we do them well. Sometimes not so much.  It’s a great time to get together with clergy and families we haven’t seen in months and share some life with each other.  The singing is always dynamite.  The worship is usually inspiring.  And, this time in particular, the preaching from our leadership was awesome.  But in the midst of all of this celebration we say goodbye to friends.  This is the time when people we have loved and have served with…for me, as long as 14 years…move on to something else…a new state, a new position somewhere else, perhaps retirement.  We are all travelers through this life and sometimes our journeys take us in different directions.  Annual conference reminds us of this.  And, it’s the time when all the rest of the clergy who are left behind are reminded that they aren’t going to stay forever in their present churches or ministries no matter how much we want it to be the case.

Transition time comes for all of us.

And, while “snuggling” may not be required, we may just need that time of Annual Conference to hold on to each other for a little while, affirm each other, celebrate all that is good and holy and right about our lives together, be challenged to be more faithful, individually and collectively, and transition ourselves into another year.  I do so appreciate the time we share as a conference.  While I don’t consider myself to be a very “needy” person and try to portray myself as pretty independent, I know the time we have together is deeply meaningful to me.  It’s “family time” at a conference level.

I’m thankful that there is no move with my transition into this new year…my 12th here in Girdwood.  However, I’ve had my share of hellos and goodbyes over those years, even if I haven’t had to move.  I will count my blessings and thank God for another year of ministry in this place.

My thoughts and prayers go with my clergy friends and families who are moving on to something else, someplace else.  Thank you for all that you have done for the glory of God in our time together.

May you transition well.

May you get the snuggling…or holding…or affirmation you need.

May you cast yourself on the providence of our God who is always bigger than any difficulty you face.

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>Underneath Baboons

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baboonImage by Birdseye Maple via Flickr

My version of Skinamarinky dinky dink (or however you wish to spell it)

Skinamarinky dinky dink,
Skinamarinky doo, I love you.
Skinamarinky dinky dink,
Skinamarinky doo, I love you.

I love you in the morning and in the afternoon,
I love you in the evening and underneath BABOONS;
Oh, Skinamarinky dinky dink,
Skinamarinky doo, I love you.
I…Love…You…two…boop boop-y doo.  Yeah!

I started doing the “BABOONS” thing one night and now it’s every time I sing the song.  My little ones have come to expect it.

I’m SUCH a funny guy…  🙂

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>"Daddy, Look At Me!" — Showing Children They Are Important

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“Daddy look at me.” 

Those words were shouted time and time again as we went down to the tennis courts to practice riding bikes again today.  Our youngest girls just got “big girl” bikes in the past couple weeks or so.  They must be just about the smallest two-wheeled bikes one can have.  They were hand-me-downs and are now complete with training wheels.

Learning to ride a bike for the first time is an adventure…one I’m ten years removed from with our older girls.  Yes, there are falls every once in a while.  Yes, there are tears.  Yes, it can be be frustrating. And, yes, it can be scary for both parent and child.

But it’s NOT boring.

Within the last few days our girls have gotten comfortable enough on their bikes that they feel up to doing “tricks.”  So, as they ride they take their hands off the handlebars…or they stand up on the pedals…or they put their feet off to the side. 

Each new move is met with “Daddy, look at me.”  And I look.  And I smile.  Riding a bike may be old hat to me, but I need to remember that it’s completely “new hat” to them.  Even with the training wheels on, it’s an exciting moment for them when they take their feet off or make a sharp turn or go around in circles or go real fast.  As far as they are concerned, they are being very brave and adventurous.  They are testing the limits.  They are pushing the boundaries.  And they want me to look at them and acknowledge their wonderful accomplishments.

I confess that sometimes they have to yell at me more than once…and sometimes more than twice.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to have quite the same excitement as they do…although I try.   Sometimes, I’m busy talking with someone or trying to get some work done.  And, sometimes, just because they are twins, I’m busy giving my attention to the other sister.   It can be hard to give attention to both at the same time.  I’ve yet to master the art of “bi-location.”

And, yet, attention is what they crave.  And, it’s what they need.  It lets them know that I’m invested in them.  It lets them know that I love and care for them.  It lets them know that they are important to me.  And, hey, these really are big steps for a 4 year old.

So often our kids just want us to “look” at them.  They want us to recognize their accomplishments and also their pains.  They want us to, not make them FEEL as if they are important, but to recognize that they ARE important as well.

This can be a problem in the church, where, often, children are to be seen and not heard…if they are to be seen at all.  We spend so much time an energy trying to keep them quiet or remove them from the “big people” worship that it can be easy for them to think that no one is looking at them and no one is hearing what it is that they have to say…or have to offer.

At Girdwood Chapel, I’ve tried to make it so kids feel like they are involved in worship.  It does come through during communion and the prominent role they can play there, with kids participating fully with the adults.  But, more, I think it comes through during our prayer time, our “Joys and Concerns.”  For it’s here that kids really are on the same playing field as their parents and the other adults in the congregation.  They get to offer up their joys and concerns amongst the gathered body.  This is not a special “Children’s Time” set aside for them. It’s not “Children’s Church” or their own Sunday School.    And so we’ll hear about the usual joys and concerns that adults bring each week, peppered with prayers for “sick goldfish” or “4th Birthdays” or “boo boos on fingers.”  And yet, those are the real joys and concerns of some of our younger attendees.  And by lifting them up and having them recognized by the larger church body, we let them know that they are important and loved and that we recognize that their hurts and happiness are real.

What are other ways our congregation could “look at” and recognize the children we know and care about?

>My Twins at the Piano Recital Last Night

>While my lovely wife is away helping in a family health crisis, I’m holding down the fort.  Last night it was piano recital night and my older set of twins performed.  Here are their pieces for you…and so my wife can get a taste of home while she’s away.

It’s pretty soft on the videos.  I swear it was louder in person.  If you notice the camera shaking, it’s because I have twin 4 year olds grabbing at me throughout.

From May 5, 2011

From May 5, 2011

>I Lost Some Sleep But I’m Savoring the Small Moments

>Lidded milk pailsImage by Eva the Weaver via FlickrI lost an hour of sleep this morning.  I lost it (and can’t find it anywhere!) because my son had to be at High School at 7:10 AM today to be picked up and taken to Model UN.  Well…that’s what he thought.  He was “pretty sure” someone was going to be there at 7:10 AM to pick him up.  He had talked with a guy.  But he couldn’t remember the student’s name.  And he didn’t have the student’s phone number.  But, he knew the student had “said” he’d be there with a parent at 7:10 AM to pick him up.

But…

What if he wasn’t?

That was the problem.  My son could have ridden the bus in as normal and gotten to school at 7:10 AM in Anchorage and waited for a call from this student who was going to help.  And waited.  And waited.  And had no way to contact the student to remind him not to leave him stranded at the school.  And then what? 

So, I opted to go in a couple hours early to make sure I could take him to Model UN if the other student wasn’t there.

We left the house at 6:20 AM.  We were at South High School at 7:00 AM.  We waited for a call.

At 7:10 AM the call came.  The student was there and my son headed off to Model UN.

He could have just ridden the bus in.

I could have gotten another hour of sleep.

But, then again, I got to spend an extra hour with my son.  I got to be the conscientious parent, looking out for him and there for him if plans fell through.  And I got to listen to some good music in the car.  And I got to sit here in an Anchorage Coffee Shop (Coffee Cats) catching up with e-mail and RSS feeds and construction-related issues (Oh, and writing this blog post!).

It’s while doing all of this that I found this post from Ann Voskamp, author of one thousand gifts.  I love this illustration of what happens to our time…to my time:

When I turn down Creamery Road, pass the the creamery that’s now abandoned, the window eyes all punched out, I wonder how they must have all looked, those silvery pails of milk that once lined up by the door, their tins lid hats pulled on so not one white drop spilled.

But isn’t as much milk lost through a pinhole, one minute little drip after another, as in the knocking over of the whole pail?

This is what follows me all the way home:

A pail with a pinhole loses as much as the pail pushed right over. A whole life can be lost in minutes wasted, small moments missed.

You like those last couple of sentences there?

So, while tired, I’m savoring the small moments this morning.

The coffee’s good.

It’s going to be a good day.

Thank God.

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