Ripple Effect

My dad spent his career in a nuclear power plant.  For a kid growing up with Homer Simpson in his prime on television, this wasn’t a bad thing.  It was always an interesting conversation starter and he has some great stories.

One of the best involves breaking a light bulb.

His job, in the plant, involved many things including keeping reactors and other essential engines running smoothly. He was hired when they built the plant and learned things, literally, from the ground up. One night, a crew of guys needed someone from his department to oversee maintenance on a large machine as an alert had tripped.

My dad followed them to the area where the machine was housed.  After checking things out, he determined that a light bulb needed to be replaced as part of the repair.  He unscrewed the old bulb and placed the new one in the socket.  As he screwed it in, it broke in his hand.

This set off an alarm that tripped to other facilities up and down the east coast and cost Philadelphia Electric a good amount of money.

For every action, no matter how small or planned, there are massive consequences.

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If you are a parent, you know this is true. Try buying two different toys for a pair of siblings, believe me, it does not end well.  If you are a husband or wife, this is also true.  Little things that become routine will pile up until you find yourself buried under them.

You cannot turn on the news without being launched in the midst of the gun control debate. I remember being in high school when Columbine happened.  That day we realized that the world was changing.  Now, things that we hadn’t experienced until teenage years are happening at younger and younger ages. Bullying and suicide has become an epidemic.

Pain is real, ready for consumption on social media, and broadcast for all to see. In years where we may have battled our anger by riding our bikes across town, kids are finding sharp objects and turning the pain inward.

We spent the last weekend in Ocean City, Maryland.  I booked the days after Val’s miscarriage, in hopes that we could get away.  We found some seashells, as a family, and are planning on planting something in the yard and decorating with the shells in memory of what happened.

The boys each had a balloon and we stood by the ocean, white caps painting the waves and wind whipping through our hair.  I asked them to send a prayer up to heaven for the baby and, one by one, they did.  Carter and Aiden each said their own thing and they did it with authentic faith, emotion, and sincerity.  As they finished, one by one, they kissed their balloon and let it go.

We were frozen by the breeze at that point and, when they ran to the car, I stopped for a  moment and watched the red and blue balloons as they twisted on the air currents and made their way into the sky.

We are not a perfect family by far.  We have our issues. The boys fight like cats and dogs.  The rest of the trip had its own turbulence that comes with vacations, too much boardwalk food, and an overload of swimming.

In that moment, though, we had peace. We had a ripple of hope and the prayer of two little boys that made its way to Heaven. We had the chance to release pain and heartache, put it on the wind, and watch it rise.

We had the chance to be whole and we will walk forward, together, into whatever may come.

 

 

Sanctuary

On Friday, after a long week of work, Val and I took the boys up to Connecticut to visit friends. We left Pennsylvania around four and arrived at the hotel near midnight. The boys survived the ride and we were able to enjoy a weekend in the fall of New England.

Traveling with kids is never easy. We’ve attempted a few long drives with Carter and Aiden and there’s always some level of stress.  Val picked up a DVD player for the car and that helped, but the arguments over snacks, what movies to watch, and general annoyances continued.

I took Carter and my wife’s friend’s husband Bobby up to Salem, Massachusetts on Saturday to check out the city and attempt to visit some of the Halloween activities. We spent almost an hour looking for a parking spot before stopping for dinner and driving back to the hotel.

The best part of the trip happened on Sunday afternoon.

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We stopped at Enders Island, the location of my graduate school residencies at Fairfield University.  I sat at the table pictured above and thought about those years as Carter and Aiden played in the gardens. Boats crossed the point in the distance and a fall breeze carried into my face. I shut my eyes and inhaled deeply. Two things inhabited that moment:

Peace and Power.

For we all need a sanctuary.  We need a holy place where we can sit with the creator of the universe.  It does not need to be stationary.  You can find your sanctuary pounding the pavement at sunrise during a morning jog.  You can find it on the playground chasing your kids. These tastes of joy bring peace from the stress of life.

The moment above, though, was a commissioning. It was filling the tank, touching the purpose given to every letter typed over the years. It was as if God needed to bring me back to that table for a reminder of the good to come, the life on the flip side where purpose, service, love, and grace collide.

“Daddy, look what I found.”

Carter had picked up a handful of shells from the rocks on the shore of the island, ran over, and gave them to me.  I lined them on the table and, as I went to pick one up, found it sticking.  I twisted until it gave way and saw a small snail ducking back into the center of the shell.

That snail was a long way from home.  It thought it was back on the rocks, though, and held on for dear life.

We all make the same mistake.  Tables can feel like wave-washed stones. The trick is to let God pick us up every once in a while and put us back where we belong. My visit to Enders served this purpose. For an hour on an afternoon in Connecticut, I got the message.

It was time to get back in the water and grab hold, never moving out of the flow.

If you are reading this and feel like you’re lost tonight, consider the surface you are grabbing onto. Maybe it is not what you’ve expected.  Maybe it is time for a change, to find the peace and power that only comes from knowing your divine purpose, connecting with others, and unleashing it to the world.

~Matt

 

Weekend Inspiration-Lessons from the Past

After a beautiful morning of taking Aiden to the playground, I decided to look to the past for some Weekend Inspiration:

I had grandparents that could, and parents that can cook and I remember many nights with the smell of fresh pasta and sauce on the stove. Now that I have kids, I traded in tradition for ease more than once and this lesson rings in my ears every night at dinner:

LOS ANGELES

Taken from a letter my mother wrote me before I went to college.  We had a cat at the time, so the original was “pet a cat and you’ll feel better.” I think it applies to all pets and is a great reminder for the darker nights of the soul:

when you are down

I was shy growing up, to a fault.  Maybe it was the only child thing where I’d grown used to being by myself.  Now, looking back, I’d tell my self to:

strike up more

Every summer we would take a vacation as a family. As I grew from playing in the sand to walking with Val and finally watching my kids play in the sand, this is clear:

Some of your best memories will be made

 

Have a great weekend!

~Matt