To My Son on Turning 8

Dear Carter,

Your labor wasn’t easy for mom.  Thirty-seven hours. Three visits to the hospital over the weekend before she was admitted. You tried for a regular birth but just couldn’t make it out.  The doctor had to go get you.

I remember, before he did, standing in the room with mom and the doctor watching the screen showing your pulse as it climbed and fell.   The air was thick, the lights unforgiving.

He stood and said they were doing a C Section and, in the middle of August, you arrived.

I was the first one to hold you.  Mom was in recovery and they wheeled you out to me.  We sat on a chair in the room with the television playing in the background just after midnight.  You didn’t cry.  We had peace.

You ended up in the NICU with an infection and, a few days later, we took you home.

I still look at that picture of the day you got home and wonder where the years have gone.

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You ran before you walked.  You woke at the first hint of a ray of sunshine and we spent many mornings on the couch at 6 am watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

I remember you starting preschool and, eventually, elementary school.  I remember dropping you off that day and crying at how much you’d grown and how, for the first time, you were in other hands.

I’ve watched you grow into a blonde ball of energy. Strong and strong-willed. You are my athlete, sensitive and caring. You have your mother’s big heart, even if you don’t know it yet.

Great things are coming for you. New experiences and learning, new friends and activities. I wish you joy as you learn more about who you are.

I’m sorry for not being the perfect dad, for the days where my energy doesn’t match your own and my patient is spent. I’m trying my best and will keep working to do better. I want you to be as proud of me as I am of you.

Your world will only get bigger and wider. You will keep learning.  You will inherit the good and bad from my generation and you’ll need to handle it with strength that will come from these years.

You will know the love of Jesus, of community and service.  You’ll meet an amazing woman and find yourself with a family one day.  You’ll call mom and I when your son has jumped off the couch for the 1000th time after you said not to do it and you’ll ask us how we managed.

I’ll hand her the phone and laugh.

Happy Birthday son,

Matt

 

 

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37 Hours

It started days before.  We had gone the length of Val’s pregnancy getting ready for Carter’s arrival. At the first sign of labor, I took her to the hospital.  They checked her out and sent us home.  It wasn’t time yet.

The pain wouldn’t stop.

We went back again and was turned away.  Finally, around midnight, Val was in serious discomfort and I drove her to the ER.  They admitted her into the maternity ward.  I remember standing by her side as the doc pulled up a chair and watched the heart monitor fixed to Carter’s readout.  For almost fifteen minutes he watched before telling us it would be a c section that needed to happen as soon as possible.

I was in scrubs and ready until a nurse came in and told me the drugs hadn’t hit Val quick enough and she felt the incision, so they put her to sleep. I wouldn’t be allowed in.

I sat on a gurney next to Tara, my sister-in-law, and waited again.

Just after ten that night, and almost forty hours of labor, they wheeled him out wrapped in his blanket.

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I held him until Val was recovered enough from the procedure to join us in the room. He didn’t cry, shifting his eyes to me and just watching.  My boy, dark hair and eyes, looking at me and asking now what?

The dark hair is now blonde and his eyes are now hazel like his mother’s. He has more energy than I’ve ever had. He’s pushed me to places I’ve never experienced before and taught me things about myself. He’s complicated, strong, emotional, intense and loving. He has a way with words that cuts to my heart.

Tomorrow is his birthday.

So thank you Carter, for everything. I pray I can live up to what you need and be the dad you deserve. One day, years from now, you’ll dig this up on whatever passes for a smartphone and read it and smile, I hope.

We love you.

~Matt

Lose Yourself

My wife’s birthday is tomorrow.  For a few days in July we are the same age, my birthday at the beginning of the month and her’s at the end, and tomorrow we go back to her being older than me. She took off work yesterday and we decided to drive down to the beach for the day.

Seems innocent enough.

Let me provide some background here. Like many families on the east coast, I grew up going to the beach in the summer for a week at a time.  My dad’s side of the family would rent a house or two and the majority of the extended family would all do the week together. Eventually, my two aunts and my dad all purchased houses near the Delaware beaches and it became easier to visit.

When you spend years making the trip, you learn some things.  One is, during the season, you don’t go down on a Saturday morning.  Renters cycle through on the weekends and that is the day most travel to and from their properties. Usually, we’d go the night before and do the drive around midnight.  This time we didn’t.

It took six hours.

Six hours to make the drive that normally happens in half the time.  With two kids in the car.  One who fell asleep at two in the morning the night before and the other that woke before seven.  Can you imagine?

We finally arrived and spent a few hours on the beach, had dinner at my dad’s house, and went back to the boardwalk before driving home. Overall, I spent almost ten hours behind the wheel.

Ten hours.

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This week there was one of those click-bait articles on Facebook about Losing Yourself when you have kids. The concept has been in my head since then and, as Carter just locked himself in his bedroom because I told him he couldn’t watch television and Val just switched with me as I had been attempting to put Aiden to sleep for the last hour and fifteen minutes, Losing Yourself seems like a valid idea.

I mean, what happens when we become parents (and by “parents” I mean people who care, not those who earned the title only by having a kid and refuse to make any effort)?

Our kids are with us always, whether they are six or thirty-six. They pull on our hearts.  They are mirrors in which we see our good and bad sides, success and failure. They are complicated, dramatic, energetic, demanding, pushy little people. They bless and stress all at once.

In some way, creating another life reflects our divine calling.  We are have the inborn desire to create. We want connection and we find partners who are willing to make the journey with us.  We find supports and hands to hold when the trail gets rocky.

It is a question of balance.

Yes I have goals for myself. Val and I have goals for our marriage. We hope and pray and dream about the future.

This is just one of those nights where the gas tank is empty.

Carter opened his door and I made sure he went to bed without television. Val is still in with Aiden. In a few hours, she’ll be looking at another year of life.

We’re tired. Stressed. The couch and popcorn sound so much better than working out. I’m ready to close the book on this weekend, even though tomorrow is Monday again.

We’ll make it through. The dreams and goals still exist and we will get there.

Someday. (About a minute after this final period was typed, the cat threw up in the living room on the carpet.  See what I’m saying?  Off to get some paper towels.)

~Matt

Birthday Favorites for 7/3/2015

Tomorrow I’ll celebrate another year of life. I remember when turning thirty freaked me out.  Now, making my way through my thirties, it has truly been a refining few years.  I’ve felt like I was nearing the end of one season in life and starting a new one. The plot of my family had taken plenty of turns and things are starting to, slowly but surely, clear.

The clouds are lifting.  The journey isn’t over and we are finally seeing progress.

There are still things on the horizon and, I pray, our paths will be straight. I’m thankful for a time of professional, personal, and spiritual development.

Here’s a quick review of the last year and some of my favorites:

Favorite Post:

Why I Believe

Favorite Worship Song(s):

I have a few to pick from so here’s a pair of them:

Promises I lean on:

Jeremiah 29:11-“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Proverbs 3:5-6-“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Family Loss:

Hazel Shaner, “Princess,” my grandmother.  She was the matriarch of our family and lived a full 98 years of life.  She was a great woman and embodied the love of God.  Princess, you will be missed and I know I’ll see you again one day.

Church Tragedy:

The motorcycle accident that took the life of our pastor’s wife Lynn Koch and landed our pastor Bryan Koch in ICU.  This occurred just last month and has caused numerous deep conversations within our family and friends about struggle, suffering, and grace.  You can see one of my posts about it by clicking here.

Looking Forward:

My current book project about poverty and activism in the city of Reading, Pennsylvania (Poorest city in the US in 2011) is in the draft editing phase. I’m excited to lay it out, tighten it up, and get it in front of publishers! It is a non-profit project and I can’t wait to see what God will do with it! There are other developments shaping up to make this next year a big one for us.

I’ve decided to dedicate my writing to God, to give it back to the cause of changing our community, society, and the world.

I dedicate this year to:

~My wife and sons.  Thank you for putting up with a dreamer, father, and husband working to be the best man he can be.  I am nothing without you.

~My audience.  The writing, all of this, is for you to celebrate faith and life in action.  I pray you find hope here, that the words resonate with you and you know, deep in your heart, that you are not alone.

~The dreamers.  The ones looking to do worship, church, creativity, and community differently.  Now is the time for a shift, for open doors and changed lives. Now is a time for authentic service, for unity and hands raised in triumph over hate, discrimination, and violence.

~The writers. If you are making this writing journey with me, I dedicate this next year to you.  We are a community, drawn in by the pen/pencil/keyboard and we do this together.  Never stop writing.

~The soldiers. To everyone I’ve met compiling this book on Reading, this next year is for you.  For the men and women on the front lines of the fight against poverty, this is for you.  For the ones who wake up every morning to serve those in need, this year is for you.  My prayer is that this book shines light on your actions and inspires support through increased volunteers, funding, and effort from an audience around the world.

For everyone that’s taken the time to read my thoughts, thank you for being a part of this community and spending time with me every week.  I’m honored that you stop in and I promise you more content, stories, actions and real connection.

Tomorrow is a new year for me, this blog, and my writing. Come with me and we’ll make the journey together.

~Matt

 

A New Year

Today, July 3rd, is my birthday. I always take stock on these days, look around me, and think about the year that has passed. My son asked me this morning if he could open my gifts. I told him that he could and his eyes lit up. There is something about a birthday that makes the day special for kids and that feeling tends to fade as we grow older.  I met my wife when we were in high school and working at a grocery store.  I remember those years. I remember the parties I had as a child at my dad’s house swimming in his pool. I remember my youth, my teenage years, and my first years as a believer.

Music is a big part of my life. I can’t play an instrument but I love listening to a good song. I love writing with music and worship songs have always been a large part of my faith. David Crowder, the worship leader, was one of the first I discovered. Here is a lyric video from his newest album.

We had a chance to see him in concert. It was one week after the death of Kyle Lake, a pastor at his home church, who died during a service after being electrocuted in a baptismal pool while performing a baptism. Before the show started, he said that the goal of the night was to “get our feet off the ground, even if it was just an inch or two.”

That is the point of worship, however you choose to do it. That is the point of life when you face difficulty. Sometimes, when we break it down, our goal is to just get our feet off the ground, even if it is just an inch.

So this will be our year, the year for my writing, the launch for p356 Creative Services, the next step in our lives. We are in His hands and they will hold us up just as they will hold you and lift your feet off the ground.

~Matt