Saturday, September 24, 2016

Luv U Better

"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."

Ephesians 5:21-33

"So let's laugh together, cry together / God willin' we gon' die together" 

LL Cool J, "Luv U Better"

This summer was a tough one.

I've been really trying to maintain this blog on a consistent basis, despite all of life's intrusions, but sometimes I don't really feel like I have a story to tell, or something to say. Then sometimes I have something to say, but not the will to say it. So pretty much all of May and June slipped by silently because I was sorting out some things that I had to make sure I understood before I uttered them.

Despite all the factors against us, age and finances and practicality, my wife and I decided to try for another child. It was definitely her idea and her passion, and I was against it at first, but willing to give in if she was willing to listen to reason. The finances were a big issue for me, and I felt like we weren't as stable as we should be, and I didn't want a new baby to put such a huge economic strain on us that the delicate blended balance we work hard to maintain would start tottering. I struck a deal with her, that if we could work together to get the budget right and get our expenses reduced to a specific level, then we could try. Within six months, she had cancelled two services, negotiated with every other utility, paid off both credit cards, and refinanced the house. 

So, after just over a month of being off the birth control, we got that positive sign. There's something about that kind of excitement and love that's catching, and I caught it. I started coming up with lists of names for the baby, all of which were rejected because they were names of either rappers or Marvel superheroes. I still stand behind every one of them, however.

Obviously, we didn't plan on telling anyone until three months, even the kids. But because my wife is so slim, and apparently second pregnancies just show more quickly, we really couldn't hide it. When we're all in the pool together and one of us has a baby bump peeking through her bikini, the jig is up. Her coworkers knew, because she had to be taken off of any assignment that involved lifting or moving anything bigger than a bread box, and people at church were noticing no matter what she would wear. So after two months, we started telling everyone.

And then we lost the baby.

I regret that while we were trying, just for a moment, I thought to myself that if this happened, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, because when it happened, it felt like the worst thing in the world.

There were a couple of weeks of mourning, exacerbated by too many awkward conversations about it. Since we had just started telling people, almost everybody knew, and so going to church or being around friends and family was difficult until the word got around. But, amazingly, after those first two or three weeks, my wife started talking about trying again. So I put my foot down.

We're both at the age where this starts to make no sense, where the risks are too high. I wasn't completely on board in the first place, and feel like I've fulfilled my obligation here. Also, frankly, I just don't want to go through another heartbreak like this again. If we had two years or more to recover, I might feel differently, but in two years we'll only be older and less able to handle this. 

Immediately, my wife agreed with me. Through tears, she said that I was right, that it doesn't make sense to try again. I think it would have been easier for me if she had disagreed. Maybe if she had selfishly stood her ground and yelled at me or nagged me about it, then I would have felt justified in digging in my heels and stubbornly holding my own position. But she didn't. She didn't yell, she didn't nag, and she didn't turn cold or mean. She was just sad.

I was sad, too, just maybe not for the same reasons, and I figured her sadness would wear out just like mine, and life would go on. After a month or two, she'd get used to the idea and give up the dream. Things would get back to normal again. They didn't. Instead, she just got more sad. She tried not to overwhelm me with it, but it's hard to ignore someone crying in the bed next to you at two in the morning.

We had several talks about it, even a couple of sessions at the family counselor, but we were still at an impasse. I didn't want to get pregnant again, and she agreed with all of my reasons, but still felt such a strong desire for another child that her mourning was as much for the death of the dream as for the death of a child. She insisted that she wasn't going back on birth control, for a number of reasons, mostly medical, and I agreed that she has the right to make that decision. But then I suggested a surgical option for myself, and she broke down crying again.

At this point, I can't take it any more. If you've ever been in the situation where the Spirit and the circumstances and the Scriptures are all very clearly telling you to do something that you don't want to do, that every selfish cell of your body rejects, then you know how difficult it is to submit and obey that call. I'm called to lay down my life for my bride, and I don't like it. But more than that, I'm tired of seeing her crying, or knowing that she's not letting me see her cry, and knowing that I'm the cause of her sadness. The mourning is over, and now I'm the one standing in the way of her pursuit of happiness. So I give up.

That means we're trying again, not forever, but at least for now. We've agreed on a stopping point that we can both live with, and then we'll have to make other decisions. Maybe we'll be welcoming another child into our family in a year. When I'm forty-three. Maybe it will all go very badly and my wife will be sad again. But if it does go that way, we'll be sad together, cry together, stay together. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Strange Bedfellows

This article from a pastor that I respect a great deal came across my feed yesterday.

OMG, how did Trump become the evangelical heart throb? 

So what he's saying is, the guy may be conceited and insulting, vindictive, unwilling to stand up to obvious wickedness, adulterous, deceitful, the kind of guy who thinks bombing women and children is a good idea, but he's not evil. Somehow patriotic makes up for all of that.

And I don't buy that he's not racist, either. I base that opinion on the records of racist housing practices committed by his and his father's companies, along with JUST ABOUT EVERY WORD THAT COMES OUT OF HIS MOUTH.  

So, when it comes down to it, the only thing he has going for him is a successful career, which he doesn't even have. Just about every venture he's tried has failed and folded, including the Trump University scandal that left thousands of students out in the cold, trying to sue to recoup the money they invested in him. 

Sure, he's pro-life, except when he's not. The writer likes to think Trump is changing his mind on all of these matters because he's learning and evolving into some brilliant conservative, like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon of hedonism. He never even considers the possibility that the Trump evolution seems to perfectly match his climb in the polls, that the only reason he's saying the opposite of what he said even a year ago is because it gets him votes. 

So, just like every other pastor with Republican colored glasses on, Grudem poses only two options. Either vote for Trump and expect the repeal of Roe v. Wade, a booming economy, and Merry Christmas in every store window, whether they like it or not, from December through April. Sandi Patti will be on top of the charts and dungarees will be back in style. Vote for Hillary, and you usher in the age of compulsory abortions, sharia law, and orgy Thursdays. A welfare chicken in every pot, pot in every chick, and two grooms on every cake. Fire will rain from the heavens in daily terrorist attacks and Christians will be herded into gulags and forced to watch Will and Grace and Ellen Degeneres for hours each day. American flags will burn and the U. S. will be renamed North Mexico.

And I want to be clear that I don't think that Hillary is any better, and I don't intend to vote for her either. She seems to be as dirty as they come, politically, and while I don't disagree with every single thing she says, I don't agree with most of it, and, really, it doesn't matter, because I'm not convinced you can believe anything she says anyway. So, this rant is not me trying to throw support Clinton's way. I just don't understand how Christians, and especially pastors, can be so allegiant to this Republican party that they are willing to overlook any wrongdoing, rationalize any wickedness, in order to vote for the GOP. I don't understand why Christians are so eager to look at someone like Trump as "evil" but rather "a good candidate with flaws," and Clinton, or any Democrat, really, as the spawn of Satan himself. I don't understand how, as a nation we've so bought into the idea of a two party system, so institutionalized it in our laws and media that viable presidential candidates like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are excluded from a presidential debate. Just to put that in perspective, these candidates are not even allowed to be in a room with either Trump or Clinton and engage in a conversation about issues.

But the truth is that there are other choices, not just third party, but fourth and fifth, even. There are other candidates that my conscience would let me vote for. And even though some would say that I'd be wasting my vote on a candidate who has no chance, I'd say that maybe if everyone with a conscience, or at least everyone claiming to be a Christian, would stop voting for lesser evil and actually get behind someone that doesn't force them to do mental contortions and look foolish for supporting someone who is obviously not worth their support.

Failing that, maybe pastors just need to get out of bed with politicians, and get back behind their pulpits where they can speak to the spiritual and moral problems of this country, or back in the streets and communities where they can help to heal their communities.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I See Mixed People

My oldest daughter is light-skinned, with dark hair and eyes. She is one of those mixed kids who gets lumped into the white people category by most people who don't know her, until they find out her mixed race heritage. Then a very interesting thing happens. I swear I can actually see the needle in their mind move from 'white' and slide all the way over to 'black.' It rarely ever stops in the middle. Like some kind of magic trick, she goes from being a white girl to being a black girl right in front of their eyes. I think that she has grown sensitive to this as well, and as a result of years of this, she has developed super powers.

She swears that she can identify a mixed person on sight. It's not as impressive as say, telekinesis, or flight, but she thinks that she has a talent there. You could call it bi-radar, something like a mixth sense, but she truly believes that she can just take one look at someone and tell whether they are mixed or not.

For instance, she saw a girl waiting outside her new school and immediately called it. The girl was kind of tall, pretty, with light skin and long, very straight brown hair. From the back seat of the car, my daughter said, "Oh, she's definitely mixed. I can always tell." Not that anyone was asking.

I'm trying to put together a proper test of her powers, kind of a danger room for her mutant ability, but I'm not sure exactly how that would work. My best idea so far is to create a slide show of celebrities that she probably wouldn't know too much about and quiz her on which ones are mixed and which ones aren't.

But then the problem with that is determining the parameters of the trial. Most importantly, what qualifies as "mixed"? Her mother has two Black parents, but also has one Cuban grandparent and an Irish great-grandparent. Does that count as mixed? Are we only counting people mixed who have a mixture of Black and Caucasian in their immediate family history? If we expand the definition wider than that, at what point would we have to concede that almost anyone could be considered "mixed" in some way?

I suspect that her so-called superpower is hit and miss anyway. In the same confirmation where she outed the sidewalk girl, she admitted that she watched The Office for two or three years before she realized that Rashida Jones was mixed, and I seem to recall being the one that told her so. Point is, how did that one slip under the bi-radar? Maybe her powers require a live presence, or maybe they develop with puberty (God help me) like in X-Men.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Dance Class Remix

Sometimes it's little things in life that really make you aware of how many crazy turns your life can take, little moments that wouldn't normally seem so strange or important, but somehow hit you with that sense of strangeness or deja vu. In this strange moment, I'm sitting in the three-year-old dance class, watching the baby learn her ballet positions. At this moment, the baby is doing absolutely nothing. But more in that in a bit.

I remember taking my older daughter to dance class at this same school, with these same teachers, many years ago, when she was little herself. The school has moved to a better location, but it's just so surreal to be back in this place again, after so many years. Just helping her with her ballet shoes and leotard was starting to take me back, but actually sitting here.... I used to sit through just about every Saturday class with my older daughter, soaking up the five positions and the seven ways to move and even some tap while working on some writing. There's something about the motion and sounds and all the commotion that stirs up those writing wells and makes it easier to get words out. Seems counterintuitive, but there it is. 

The thing is, at this moment, the baby is doing absolutely nothing. Not a thing. Unless, that is, standing and staring blank-faced into the mirror like a train is coming straight at you is doing something. Maybe it's a kind of expressionist dance, a comment on the confusion and despair we all sometimes feel in the face of a decaying and polluted environment. The teacher is trying so hard, too, valiantly, even. She moves the baby's feet and arms, puts her into the correct positions, but the arms drop as soon as she lets them go. It wasn't like that with her sister at all, the show-off. Her sister would do all the movements and then some, making up some of her own flourishes to add to the moves, and still dancing after the music was finished. She never had a problem with dancing in front of people, not even when it was hundreds of them at the recitals and she was on stage under the bright lights. This girl, on the other hand, is having a hard time. I don't know if it's the physical reminder that I've got one kid in college and one in pre-K, or just the striking difference in personalities that gets me, but I am bugging out a little.

And why isn't this child dancing, anyway? Why is she still just standing there like a floppy stuffed bear sitting in the corner of some spoiled kid's bedroom? She was so excited to start dance school, practically jumped into her leotard and shoes, and wanted to go since last week. She must have tapped every tile in the house with those tap shoes before she took the off a couple, of days ago. There's only three girls here, including her, and now she acts like this is the worst idea ever. It's all so familiar, but all so different at the same time.

One other thing that's different this time, in a good way, is that my wife is sitting next to me, watching this train wreck. When my older daughter was dancing, from three-years-old all the way up to about thirteen, when she quit, it was always something just between me and her, me sitting through classes and writing when she was little, and then sitting in the lobby of the studio when she was bigger, and writing. It's weirdly good to be doing this with my woman this time, sharing the moments and feelings with her. Right now most of those feelings are shame and embarrassment, but I'm sure others will come.

I think that's the major difference in this phase of my life, this era of starting over, is that I don't feel like I'm on my own so often. 

And what's even better, the baby is actually starting to dance. Just thirty minutes in to the class, she's tentatively trying some of the stretches and some of the moves. Fifteen minutes more, and she's doing her pizza delivery glide across the room, one hand on her hip and the other holding her imaginary pizza box, while "Circle of Life" plays over the sound system.

So different and yet so familiar. 

If the missus wants to keep coming to classes, maybe another difference could be that instead of sitting through every class, we could step out and just have some breakfast together sometimes, and let the baby dance on her own.