I have gone quite a long time without writing here. Some of that is down to holidays, of course. But something is going on with me and writing that I have been thinking about for a few weeks and I have not quite gotten sorted. I’m not sure what the resolution is going to be. I do know that silence has a momentum all its own. To avoid the momentum of silence, I’m writing a mishmash of bullet point things that I have been thinking about with very little weight behind them. I’m sure, dear reader, that you have not missed me and have not been wondering what I was thinking. But in case you were…
-Tim Raines just got elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. This makes me very happy. He should have been elected a long time ago. He’s the second best leadoff hitter of all time and he was very good, historically good, at stealing bases. Baseball writers can be rooted in the most insane, archaic argumentation, but they finally got this one right.
-My daughter has a remarkable smile. All of my kids have been different as babies. But Hope has been the smiliest and her smile has been… sweeter. I can’t really describe it. She smiles with her eyes in a way that is exceedingly precious. Especially as she often does it with her two hands clenched directly under her chin. She does this all the time, sometimes smiling so hard, her whole body jolts with her delight. Having a baby can be a real pain, but they sure do know how to make you want to keep going.
-I had a dream about heaven. I never really dream. Not memorably. And when I do dream, I usually can wake up and trace the reasons for major parts of my dreams and see why my brain came up with that. The other morning, I was dreaming that I was waiting in line with one of my children (I don’t know which one) to go grab some food off a few high tables. We were dressed nicely and had small plates in our hands. Then everyone with whom we were waiting was walking off towards this field that had more tables scattered everywhere. People had their plates in hand and were lounging in the grass (in their nice clothes) under trees and near this outdoor amphitheater with a stage and screen. It was very chill. The only way I can describe it is that it was like a big outdoor wedding reception. But all of a sudden, for whatever reason, out of nowhere, I had a very real sense of how deeply God actually loves me, how much Jesus actually does approve of me and is not disappointed in me. The emotion, in my dream, was so intense that I wept uncontrollably for a time, shaking with the force of it. I realized that this was happening to many people around me. All of a sudden, I just… understood… that this was heaven. The only way we could understand love this purely was because the Story was resolved. Then, people’s stories, stories transformed by loved, started appearing on the projector. I remember that the first story was that of two friends, a black man an a white man, in Maine. I only got part way through their story before I woke up. As I processed through it all, the feeling of a wedding reception and the theme of heaven made more sense. I’m sure this is not exactly like what the end of all things will look like. I don’t think that was the point. The love was the point. I have no idea why I had this dream. I never have dreams. I never have really memorable dreams. But this one has stuck with me for more than a week now. It’s the sweetest dream I think I’ve ever had. Well, this one and the one I repeatedly had as a child where I could suddenly fly. I’m not much of a mystic at all, but there was something undeniable about this dream.
-More and more, I find Facebook to be sad. Everyone knows it’s often a waste of time and social media often serves to make people depressed. But I am getting more and more sad watching my fragmenting social group speak into echo chambers, to people that agree with them, and often slanderously, vilely about the people not like them. Horrible, garbage sources of “information” are used as clubs to beat the Other and make the wielder feel great about themselves. And, horribly, I’m tempted all the time to walk around correcting everyone, as if A) It will do any good at all and B) I’m the embodiment of the Holy Spirit. I feel guilty vacating the space because I don’t think good things happen to any segment of society when people who are committed to the common good (everyone’s common good, not just the common good of those we agree with), start leaving. I can’t say I’m an angel without biases, but I try to be a bridge between various groups. I have, I think, seen some success with that goal. But I’m tired of the trying, really. And I’m sad at the fragmentation I see. Very sad.
-I’m very glad that my son’s life was spared. Most people who know me know Valor’s story to one degree or another. I thought he was going to die when he was born because he looked like he was going to die. He was fine after a week in the NICU. He’s actually been a remarkably healthy kid, even compared to his sisters. He is an unmanageable terror, at times. At church, he regularly provides entertainment for people behind us (which is the whole church), because he is insane and we are just trying to contain it. But he makes me laugh like pretty much nothing else in this world. And I am so unreasonably proud of my son, for who he is with his craziness and fierceness and his tender affection for his sisters. I am, of course, proud of all my children. But the past couple of weeks I have had many moments to reflect about how much I find him delightful. I’m sure the next couple of weeks will provide reasons for each of my other kids. But I’m so delighted with my son (even when he is throwing the mother of all temper tantrums, which is not uncommon).
-Books are great. Seriously. Reading is a wonderful joy. If “reading just isn’t for [you],” I get that. But read anyway. You will be better for it. I promise. Over time, reading will be more for you than you realized. If you have a dyslexia or ADHD or some other condition that makes it difficult for you to read, listen to audio books. Something. I don’t know. That’s not my field. But reading is wonderful.
-Extended family is wonderful. Erin and I are the only people from our families that don’t live in regular driving distance of our parents, siblings, nephews and nieces, etc. We are kind of on an island. We love the people around us. We have great friends here, a great church. But as I get older and as every holiday trip to Atlanta or Michigan ends (and this is true of both my family of origin and my in-laws), I realize how incredibly lucky our siblings are to live near one another, to have family. I feel the loss of that both for myself and especially for my children. There will never be any easy resolution to that. Never. And some part of that makes me homesick without a cure.
-I’m not smart with money. I’ve been trying to get things like savings and retirement and life insurance lined up. I’ve had all of these things to some degree. But I’m trying to get a bit more on track to be ready for life as I age. And for my kids so that they are very marginally less in debt for school. I don’t know a lot of things. I’m not saying I invested in penny stocks and am trusting that this will be my lottery ticket. I’m just saying I don’t know very many things. And I’m not great at saving. Hopefully my kids will appreciate that I’m doing my best. If they don’t, then I’m granting the Rodriguez scholarship to myself and they can figure it out on their own.
-I’d like to go back to school. I have no idea what to do with this desire. Institutions, finances, exact area of research. None of this. So I’m not going back to school. But I really want to. Maybe one day I really will take that Rodriguez scholarship.
-I live in a beautiful place. It’s tempting to get used to these mountains and let them be in the background. But it is beautiful here and I am forever grateful.
-Anxiety is exhausting. It’s so annoying to be beating back anxiety all the time. It’s so annoying to tell people I’m having a hard time. It’s hard not to think about whether I’ll soon be anxious, because that kicks anxiety up a gear and makes my heart do all kinds of funny things, which makes me more anxious. You try not thinking about the pink elephant in the room when you walk around all the time with a sign that says “pink elephant.” It’s annoying and I don’t even have terrible anxiety. I still would like it to go away, thanks.
-I enjoy teaching. I taught three classes last semester. It was a lot. It was tiring. I am only teaching one class this semester. Forced to choose, I’d probably choose to teach three classes. I legitimately enjoy the students. It’s a real privilege to get to do this. I try to appreciate every semester that I’m allowed to do this. It has made me a better student myself. And college students are the subject of all kinds of memes about “those damn millennials,” but these people are going to run the world soon. And they are massively talented. So lay off the millennials. My students will figure it out. Give them time. Yes, push them to do better. Please do. But they’re pretty great.
These are just some of the things that I have been thinking. There’s more in this whirlwind. But we can save that trivia for some other time.