F.A.Q.

parkers

Last week my wife was out for a walk.  A man who is an acquaintance of ours stopped his car to have a brief chat with her.  He pointed directly at her belly and said, “Looks like you guys don’t know when to quit, do you?”  He said this in reference to the obvious fact that my wife is very pregnant.  Melody did not really respond as she was both stunned by his words, and she is very nice.  But if I had been there, I definitely would have said something.  I will let you decide whether or not my absence was a good thing.

Yes, we are a few weeks away from the birth of our eighth child.  And something about having what many people consider to be a lot of children makes people feel like they need to share things with you.  Complete strangers, when they learn that this isn’t our first child, or our third, or sixth, suddenly want to ask questions or wax philosophic.  Unfortunately, most of this is done toward my wife.  So I am not afforded the opportunity to respond.  Well, that changes right now.  Here are my responses to all the questions, comments and sometimes downright lunacy directed toward a woman about to give birth for the eighth time.

“You do know what causes this, right?”  Yes, we are aware of what causes this.  Are you aware that you are not funny and that joke is tired?

“Is this the last one?”  The last one what?  The last baby my wife will give birth to?  The last child we would gladly welcome into our home?  The last time I will talk with you?  Be more specific.

“I could never handle that many kids.”  I know you and you are probably right.  Wait, drop the probably.

“You trying for your own baseball team?”  Nope, Quidditch.  But we overshot by one.  Oh, sorry.  You don’t know what Quidditch is?  Try some reading.

“You guys must really like kids.”  Nope.  Hate’em.  Just really love changing diapers.

“I bet you guys never get even a moment alone do you?”  Eight pregnancies don’t happen by magic buddy.

“You can’t possibly spend enough time with each one of them.”  Of course not.  We picked out two of them awhile back to just ignore.  Think of it as a sociological experiment.

“How can you afford all those kids?”  We can’t.  How about ten bucks?

“You trying to get your own TV show?”  Yes, actually.  It is a show where I go around punching stupid people in the face.  Today is our first show.  Yay, you get to be on TV!

“Are you Catholic?”  How many Catholic’s do you know with eight kids?  No we aren’t Catholic.  We attend Holy Uterus Church of the Womb.  No, not the one’s who use the rhythm method, they’re apostate.

“Are you Mormon?”  Again, no.  Well some of us are.  We have too many kids to all fit in one car so we attend a couple of churches.

“I can’t imagine eating out with all those kids.”  I can’t imagine eating anywhere with you.

“I just couldn’t do it.”  No one is asking you to.

Now, let me say that most people don’t mean anything bad with these questions or comments.  Many of them are just trying to connect with a world they find strange or unknowable.  Some make it pretty obvious that something about our having this many kids makes them feel guilty for some weird reason.  A few I think actually hate children.  But if deep down you wonder why we would do this, then let me talk seriously for just a moment about why we are about to have eight children.

It is not because it is easy for us.  We aren’t Superparents.  It’s hard.  It’s dang hard.  It’s exhausting.  It tests your patience and your kindness.  Stretches your willingness to give to the breaking point.  I will not pretend that I don’t every once in a while, look at someone who is my age and is almost done raising children and think, wow that must be nice.

We don’t do this because it’s fun (although it most definitely is!!!).  We aren’t having more babies to try to prove something.  We aren’t in a cult.  We don’t believe this is what everyone has to do.  We don’t believe it makes us better than anyone else.

We are having another child because that is the blessing God has given us.  We are willing to have more children because that is the calling from Jesus He has placed on us.  We gladly take on the responsibility of another child because we believe God will provide the patience and stamina we need in the moment we need it.

We are having an eighth child because the seven we already have been the most wonderful, amazing, most life-changing gifts we have ever received.

Nothing has transformed me, matured me, like having all these kiddos.  My compassion is deeper, my patience longer.  I am learning how to love in the midst of difficulties, to be responsible in the midst of chaos.  I am forced to constantly reconsider whether something is actually important (almost nothing is actually important and the list keeps shrinking).  They have taught me the real meaning of wealth, and the utter foolishness of holding on tightly to a few dollars.

The major problem with our world is not too many people, but too few who actually know how to share and get along with others.  My kids and I are learning that lesson together.  You must share to get through even a day at our house.  You don’t have “your room” since there are a couple other people who could make the same claim.  The operative words are “our” and “us” not me and mine.

I don’t want to try to convince anyone that having a passel of kids is the key to life.  But I have had numerous people say to me (and us) that they wish they would have had more children.  I have yet to have anyone say they should have had less (although I know they are out there somewhere).

I love these guys.  Every one of them.  Would have been perfectly happy with seven.  But eight sounds even better.

And now to answer the man who spoke with my wife last week.

“You guys don’t know when to quit, do you?”  Quit what?  Talking to morons?  Yeah I guess we don’t know when to quit.

Or how about: “You guys don’t know when to quit, do you?”  Are you making a fat joke about my wife?  You thought she was pregnant?!

Or: “You guys don’t know when to quit, do you?”  I’ve watched you ___________  ____  _____  _____  ______  ______  ____  _______!”  (sorry, redacted by my wife for being just too mean and accurate.)

Advertisements

Rick Barry Can Help Your Relationships (And Your Free Throws)

ricky barry

Rick Barry is a jerk.  Seriously.  According to a lot of people.  Most people.  Even family members.  If you don’t know Barry, he is a Hall of Fame basketball player.  Won league MVP honors.  Is considered one of the three or four best shooters EVER.  But, he is just as well-known for two things besides basketball ability.  One, he shot free throws underhanded (granny shot).  And two, he is a jerk.

You see Barry is a perfectionist.  That’s why he shot free throws underhanded.  (listen to Gladwell’s podcast to learn more about Barry and free throws, it’s really good)  Apparently, it is the most effective means of making them.  And Barry made them.  But Barry also expected others to have the same level of perfection when it came to basketball.  He would gripe at teammates for not doing everything to maximize their basketball prowess and therefore the team’s chance to win.  He complains about high-fiving players who missed a shot.  He can never understand why everyone wouldn’t shoot free throws like him when it is obviously the best way to do it.

Does any of this sound familiar?

The kid who practices piano for twenty hours a week can’t understand why anyone would practice an instrument less.  “Don’t you want to get good at it?”  But he probably also doesn’t get the kid that would practice 40 hours a week.  That is insane.

If I work 50 hours a week, I look at somebody who works seventy and say “good grief, get a life, be with your family.”  If someone works 35 I view them as lazy or perhaps entitled.  MY zone is THE zone.  Everyone’s home should be as clean as mine.  Maintain their cars at the same level I do.

But Barry confronts us with something because he is so far down the road.  We all have different “zones”.  Differing levels of expectation and perfectionism.  I know almost no one at Barry’s level.  But if I look honestly at my life and others, I see many different zones, most of which do not match mine.

This is critical as we deal with others in relationship.  I would guess that much of our frustration with others comes from real differences in our zones.  We butt heads because their zone just feels wrong to us.  But it feels wrong for a very good reason.  Because it is wrong for us.  We are not them.  They are not us.  For relationships to work I must be willing to drop the expectation that others will view life, work, relationships and love just like I do.

Who is right, the wife who is mad at her husband for not doing more to clean up dinner, or the husband who goes outside and plays with the kids?   Should we really expect everyone to have the same desire we do when it comes to work and family and friends?

Barry was right.  Let’s don’t forget that.  He had found some seriously better ways to play basketball.  But he found them because of his zone.  But what trapped him was that he could not manage to berate his teammates to move to his level.  Huh.  Something there will preach.

It’s funny.  When I go to the public library I typically wander over to the new book section.  Fiction is on the left, and I peruse it, scanning for anything interesting.  Then my eyes shift to the right.  Non-fiction.  I typically flip through a couple of biographies.  Skim the back cover of some political or sports book.  But my gaze inevitably falls on a particular set of books.  They are about business or entrepreneurship, leadership or maximizing potential.  They urge me to now “Smash It” and “Lead” and “Build my Brand.”  I stare at them for a moment.  And the same thought always goes through my head: “Nah, I don’t want to smash it”.  That’s right, I don’t really care if I maximize my potential.  At least not in the way those books mean it.

Rick Barry believed in shooting free throws underhanded because it was the best way to do it.  He was a perfectionist.  Other’s wouldn’t do it because they thought it made them look like a “sissy.”  What’s amusing is that if I made the NBA, I would shoot underhanded like Barry.  But not because I am a perfectionist.  I would shoot the granny shot because I would want to get along with Rick Barry.  Be his friend.  Relationships, that’s my zone.

One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and others is permission to be different.  To have various levels of desire and expectation.  We must recognize that someone who does life differently than we do isn’t crazy or lazy.  Nah.  They are just different.

Family Camp Fears

archerytag

Last week I went to Family Camp. That may sound completely awesome or absolutely horrible to you. And I would understand either perception. The word “camp” may bring back wonderful memories of your youth spent in little cabins in the woods, or remind you of debilitating heat and humidity and mosquitos the size of attack helicopters. But Family Camp turned out to be a wonderful week for our entire family.

We went to Glorieta, New Mexico and enjoyed time in the scenic mountains, a rafting trip down the Rio Grande, archery tag (you read that right), mountain biking, zip lines, and so much more. We met other amazing families, had some pretty incredible food, and were ministered to by such a great staff. My hat is off to Josh Baker and all his minions!

But it wasn’t all fun and games. There was some soul-searching that I desperately needed. And what I discovered was something both simple and extremely difficult. I learned that my children and I suffer from the same disease: Fear. Not fear of something lurking in the trees, or even fear of crashing on a mountain bike trail. No, a deeper and darker set of fears. Fears so prevalent and anxiety producing that they can weigh us down and keep us from becoming who we were truly meant to be.

You see, one day, as we talked about burdens at camp, many of my children expressed their fears of rejection, insignificance and loneliness.

I get it. Boy do I get it.

Confession time. I come across as pretty confident and self-assured. Yet, deep down I often feel unwanted, incapable, under-appreciated. Sometimes I don’t try as hard as I can because that way when things don’t work out, I can always think it was lack of effort on my part, not lack of acceptance or appreciation from others. Yes, the fears of loneliness and rejection that my children mentioned are writ large in me.

So what can we do? Obviously we should work on our fears. Push through. Talk about them with God. But there is something else I learned that is even deeper than my fears. Family can be the place where rejection, need for attainment, insignificance, and loneliness are crushed under an avalanche of acceptance, love and togetherness. When I think about my fears, they so often have to do with whether someone will think I did a good job, or whether somebody thinks highly enough of my work to hire me. But I do not fear my five-year old daughter will reject me. She and I have a bond of acceptance that runs deeper than any anxiety. Why am I so concerned with what strangers think of me when the most precious gifts God has given me offer nothing but affirmation and love?

I know not every family has that. Family can be the place where some of us feel the most rejected. But even if that is the case, maybe we can be the starting point for changing that. Perhaps I can love and accept and hug and kiss and affirm and honor my family in such a way that their fears disappear when I am around.

The claim of Jesus is that “perfect love drives out fear”. I think the opposite is often true as well, “fear pushes away love and acceptance”. We truly do live in a battle ground between fear and love. May our homes and families become places of refuge, where fears are relieved, and love always wins.

The D Word

secretos

It may be the worst word in the English language.  Worse than any curse word.  Why?  Because it shreds our emotions and makes us horrible to be around.  The word?  Deserve.

Many of us feel guilty, unworthy.  When bad things happen, we feel like we are getting what we deserve.  Which only makes us feel terrible about ourselves and absolutely no fun to be around.

On the other hand, some of us think we deserve better.  When things go wrong, or the world doesn’t work the way we think it should; we feel let down, abused and mistreated.  Which of course makes us gripey, whiney, and self-righteous.  Even worse to be around than those guilty schmucks.

You see, when we use the word deserve, it typically leads to misery.  Both ours and others.

This is especially true in relationships.  Lots of us feel, deep down inside, that when things don’t work in our relationships that is just us getting what we deserve.  We are not worth being treated well.  So, we give off a vibe that says “spit on me, I won’t mind”.

Others of us feel that we deserve to be made happy by our relationships.  So when someone lets us down, whether they meant to or not, we mount our high horse and scream about how unfair life is and how we deserve better.  (By the way, neither of these positions makes anyone actually want to love you.)

On the other hand, people who find fulfillment in their relationships don’t think about what they deserve.  Instead, they focus on what they can give.  They look at what they can do to improve themselves.  How can I be a better listener?  What can I do to be more welcoming?  Where can I best use my talents to help others?  Those finding fulfillment in relationships drop the “de” from deserve.

It sounds simple, and it truly is.  It is just difficult to do.  Stop looking at what you should get, and focus on what you can give.  Don’t focus on what you deserve; focus on how you can serve.

If you want to be unhappy, if you desire to be miserable, just spend the next hour or so thinking about what you deserve.  You will either feel totally guilty or completely uncared for.  Now doesn’t that feel good?!

But if you want to be happy, if you desire some joy in your life, then drop deserve from your vocabulary.

After Eighteen

Wedding rings

18 years ago this weekend, I married the most wonderful, caring, hard-working, beautiful woman. But as lovely as my wife is, and as much as I looked forward to our wedding, I had no idea what I was getting into. This became quickly evident to me.

Two weeks after we wed, my father-in-law passed away. We knew this was coming as he had been sick for quite a while. He fought just to make it to the wedding. But suddenly, I am two weeks into marriage and there is this massive family crisis. I had no idea what to do. No clue how to be a good husband, much less a good husband in the midst of pain and suffering.

I was suddenly part of a family dealing with a devastating loss. I was grieving with relatives I barely knew, many of whom I had only met for the first time two weeks before. I was an insider but not really. I was family, sort of. And more than anything I wanted to help my wife, but I was woefully inept.

The night before the memorial service we gathered at the funeral home for a visitation. Many family, friends and church people came to show their respect. I did the only thing I knew to do; I stood by my wife and held her hand. Many people came to us and offered a strange mix of congratulations and condolences. It was surreal.

But then, it went to a whole other level. A young couple came up to speak with us. I didn’t know them, but assumed my wife must (as it turned out she didn’t, to this day we have no idea who they were). They offered their sympathy and then the woman said something I will never forget. She said, “My father passed away almost ten years ago. And I just want you to know that after all this time it still hurts the same. It never gets better.” Then they walked away.

I was horrified. I probably should have felt some tinge of sympathy for the woman but all I could think about was my wife. How could anyone say such a thing? My wife stared straight ahead as the couple eased away. She began to shake and I gripped her hand as tightly as possible. I prepared myself for the devastated mourning about to be unleashed. And then she turned and looked at me, and laughed. Not a polite little giggle, but full on laughter. And I immediately began laughing with her. What else could you do?

We pulled away from the crowd and tried to compose ourselves. There was sadness in my wife’s eyes, but also a strange joy. We talked about how we felt sorry for the young woman, but also discussed how we couldn’t believe anyone could say such a thing at that moment. We laughed some more. We kissed. We laughed. We returned to the crowd, stronger and more truly married.

As I have reflected many times about the events surrounding that time in our lives, I always end up in the same place: the two of us laughing in a funeral home. I think in many ways that moment distills the essence of marriage.

Life is certainly not perfect. You don’t get to pick when tragedy happens. And even now, although I believe I am much better equipped, I still don’t know exactly what to do in the face of real pain. But in that moment I learned something so valuable, so precious, so life-giving that it has propelled me ever since. Marriage is about knowing you have someone you can laugh with in the face of death. It is about being able to be truly you, completely you, no matter if that seems inappropriate or counter to the situation. I may not have known what to do in those difficult days, but I had found someone who I could look in the eye and love and laugh with. No matter the situation. I had found something priceless. Not a good wife or great marriage. No, more valuable than those. I had found a best friend, a soul mate, a partner in crime for all eternity.

Every Day Valentine’s

article-2593267-005B25DF00000578-366_634x443

Valentine’s Day is upon us.  Oh the glorious holiday that wreaks havoc on our relationships.  The day when most of us are unsure what is called for.  Do I make it a big deal?  What if I get her a gift and she doesn’t get me one?  Does that make things awkward?  Is a date mandatory?  If so who decides what we are doing?  Should I try to make it romantic?  (what even is romantic?)

Oh the consternation.  So much pressure for one silly day.  And that is the key to regaining some sanity.  IT IS ONE DAY.  We roll all this pressure into one evening to try to have the perfect night.  But what if we took a different view of days like this?

What if on Valentine’s Day you could do absolutely nothing for the love of your life because all the rest of the year you loved them so well?

What if you didn’t have to do something special because every day you try to shower them with kindness and small acts of service?

What if all the roses and jewelry and chocolate meant nothing because they can’t compare to all the washed dishes, mopped floors, and scrubbed toilets you give daily without complaining?

Don’t hear me wrong, it is great to be romantic, thoughtful and creative for special days.  But that should be an outgrowth of our daily love routine, not a massive break from it.  It takes way more thought and creativity to find little ways to love each day.  It takes serious creativity to maneuver an act of love between picking up kids from practice, getting dinner on the table and making sure someone changes the cat litter.  It really is romantic to unexpectedly vacuum and wash the car, or just get the kids out of the house so mom can take an uninterrupted bath.  Finding ways to love each day, that is the heart of any true romance.

Yesterday I was sick.  24 hour stomach bug thing.  In a house with seven kids, having one parent down (even if it is me) drastically effects the day.  My wife woke up and immediately had to make massive adjustments.  She was a little frantic.  She left the house with many kids in tow and I had no idea when she would return.  Next thing I know, I am lying in bed and my wife is entering the room with a drink in her hand.  A Sprite she picked up at Sonic.  When my stomach is upset, the only drink I want is Sprite.  I didn’t ask for it.  She didn’t make it a big deal.  She didn’t complain about the effort it took to get it with all the other things she had to cover for me.  But it’s more than just a drink.  It is love in a cup.  A relationship distilled down to a moment of kindness.  And for me, it is better than anything she might get me tomorrow. (unless she has convinced Led Zeppelin to reunite and do a private concert in our backyard, then that is better, way better, but short of that)