Family dinner, IT’S A BOY!, & a journey to feeling…

One of my favorite things at this phase of life is getting together with my family – my kids, their spouses/fiance’ & families – for a meal. Being able to gather in one of our houses for a couple hours of good talks, laughter, fun, & of course food. This last Saturday we got together at Joey & Grace’s place for an early dinner – tacos. It was a little surreal for theBean & me as we brought drinks & let the rest of the family take care of the cooking. And goodness! Those Locke girls are really great cooks! I could get used to this.


Upon our arrival, we discovered that the girls had planned a surprise for us – not only were we going to eat great food… it was a gender-reveal party for Johnny & Joelle’s little 22-weeks-along-or-so biscuit… our grandbaby. They were really creative in how they set up the living room/kitchen… there was a white board where everyone not in the know could place their vote (Mister or Miss)… pink & blue balloons abounded… as did white-chocolate covered pink & blue popcorn… Nuts or No-Nuts M&M’s… lots of fun.

And then it was time to find out… a closed box full of chocolate strawberries was produced & Joelle teased the moment just long enough for my emotions to kick-in & my eyes to get misty… & then she popped the lid… IT’S A BOY! They’re having a boy. Which means grandson #3 for us. We couldn’t be happier.


Up until I was about 30 years old, I would have had a difficult time identifying the majority of emotions I felt. Mostly I cultivated a stoic, Spock-like (or Lt. Data, pre-emotion chip, for you TNG fans,) visage to cope with the overflowing cauldron of unidentified, powerful, & often incapacitating feelings swirling around somewhere near where I’d identify the location of my guts.

Sorting through faded memories I remember some of my early life’s painful things: being bullied… I was a pretty small kid who turned his L’s & R’s into W’s, which made me the target of a handful of boys (& one 5th grade girl) at ages 5 & 6. Being mocked for wearing Toughskins jeans sized “Husky” (which evidently got translated as “Fat” by my 3rd grade class). Being picked last for sports. Abuse at the hands of a relative. Being told in 6th grade I didn’t have a good voice for public speaking (I had had to do a speech for reading class & after I finished my ‘helpful’ teacher was evidently trying to point me away from a career path where I’d have to talk in public…) The list goes on.

I also remember GOOD memories. Positive things. Finding out I was going to be a big brother, 3x/over. Excelling in school. Making a real friend who would stand with me. Parents who worked long hours at multiple jobs to provide for our family. Falling in love with the Giants via my transistor radio & a headphone… knowing in the deepest part of me that I knew Jesus Christ, & even more importantly, He knew me too.

Through all of it, good & bad, joy & pain, I never really knew what to do with my feelings when they rose up, other than not being quick to get angry… (learned that from the Bible). So, I kinda just let them be, not realizing the impact that would have on my own life, but especially on my relationships with others. I kept people at a distance (physical & emotional). I rarely shared my real thoughts & feelings with others, & the few times I really risked, my over-correction/self-protection responses kicked in at the speed of a snapping resistance band that’d been stretched too far. This led to me being angry a lot of the time… or at least on the verge of being angry. Loved ones, esp. theBean, Pasty, iDoey, & theWeez, walked on egg-shells around me, never knowing what would make me ‘snap.’ And I never cried.


So what changed when I hit 30? I came home from work & heard my oldest son say, “Dad’s home!” This was accompanied by the sound of little feet scampering… AWAY from the front door. They all ran to hide. In their rooms. I was crushed… & asked theBean if I was really as bad as it seemed I was… & she bravely answered my pop-the-lid-off-the-can-of-worms question truthfully. And hearing her answers, watching her tears, & seeing her pain (& fear) hurt worse than just about anything I’d ever been through… I hated this, & felt powerless to do anything about it.

And then I felt a nudge. “Go see a counselor.” A guy I’d grown up with had just moved back into the area to open a counseling office… & his name was the one that I believe God popped into my head… so I called his office, & made an appointment. I saw him 12 times, (1x/week for 12 weeks). There were no real “A-ha” moments in those weeks, no ground-breaking, earth-shattering times when the angels sang, the heavens parted, & the lights shone down on me. But something definitely changed, or at least began to change. The counseling sessions, the questions asked, & the investment of money we really didn’t have to spare (still remember it was $120/session…) coupled with my drive for self-improvement & the insights of the Holy Spirit helped me identify WHAT I was feeling… another dear friend & mentor, Chuck, helped me through countless conversations & questions discover how to find out WHY I was feeling what I was. Through it all I was growing in what I’ve since discovered is called “Emotional Intelligence.” 


And then one day I was wrestling with a general feeling of “blah.” Like I was stuck in emotional quicksand, aware of the overwhelming-ness of being down in a hole with no real idea or ability to get out. I remember asking myself out loud, “WHAT is wrong with me?” And I got a response from the Holy Spirit… “You need to grieve the loss of your brother.”  I had no idea what that meant. I thought I’d done that when he’d died 11 years earlier.. How was I supposed to grieve him again?

So I talked myself through it, & verbally identified different feelings I had surrounding the memories of the discovery of Johnny’s cancer. The months of separation, distance, & treatment. Good news from the doctors only to be followed by news of a relapse. Nothing more to be done. The anger I felt at the nurse who asked him, “So, you want to die here in the hospital or at home…” His last weeks. Our last conversation. My heaven-directed, heart-rending desperate prayer in my parents driveway, asking for a hope-beyond-hope miracle. The phone call that came on Fathers’ Day, June 16, 1990 at the crack of dawn/doom. The empty spot in my heart. The funeral. The conversations with well-meaning friends who, not knowing what to say, said stupid things anyway. (NOTE:” If you don’t know what to say, limit your words. Sometimes your presence does more than any words you could say.” -Jerry Cook.)

And the tears started to flow. Like a summer rain, it started slow & then turned into a tempest. I was crying. Snotty-faced, out of control, can’t breathe, no sounds coming out/terrible anguish sounds coming out – Crying. The dam in my soul that had been there seemingly my whole life broke. And not just a little. It BLEW UP.  And I cried. About everything. Nothing. It felt like I spent the next year crying, & I didn’t know how to make it stop. Chuck wisely said, “Well, maybe you’re just catching up on all the years you DIDN’T cry.” And he smiled when he said it.


I don’t think any of my kids remember their dad who didn’t cry & who was pissed off most of the time. What they remember (& rehearse to the point that it’s an inside joke) is that I am a crier. I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m sad. I cry at movies. When I listen to really great music. I cry when I’m proud of them, & I cry when they hurt. TheWeez said she didn’t want me to do her wedding because, after all, “You’ll just be a crying mess. You can sit in the front row & do that.”  She knows me :).


And so I go back to Saturday, to the gender-reveal party… I had already cried at finding out they were pregnant. And in that moment right before the pink box was opened to let us know IT’S A BOY!, I felt the flood of emotion overcome me. By this point in my life, I have gotten more comfortable with my feelings & emotions, & its not a foregone conclusion anymore that I’m going to be a weepy & melty mess when it happens. I can remember thinking, “K.I.T. Keep It Together.” And I only cried a little bit. A couple tears, rolling down the face in a most-meaningful way.

And we celebrated our soon-coming grandson. And a growing family. And I thought about the  journey of emotional discovery, growth, & freedom of the last 16 years… & I’m so thankful for a God who wouldn’t leave me bottled up & broken, but who answered my prayers with people to help me.

ACTS, working out, & other musings…

This year, I’ve probably read through the Book of Acts at least 10 times for “me,” & another 10 times for a chapter-by-chapter blog series. Now, I’m going through it again, this time in ‘study mode’ for the ‘story by story’ series at Hillside. So, this morning I was reviewing my notes for tomorrow’s speech from Acts 8:3-25, & a couple of elements from Philip’s story hit me fresh. It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how many times I’ve read a passage, or how familiar it is to me, the Holy Spirit brings life to it, & shines a bright light onto areas I’d never seen, noticed or considered before.

Philip (& the other believers) were on the run from the wave of persecution that arose in the wake of Stephen’s martyrdom. All but the apostles had left Jerusalem & headed throughout the region of Judea, & even to Samaria… in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic words from Acts 1:8. I guess the “Jerusalem, Judea, & Samaria” passages are so familiar that I never really considered that the very thing that drove the disciples out of Jerusalem (persecution & threat of death) led to the gospel message being spread everywhere they went, going places that they’d never even considered going before.

God didn’t CAUSE the persecution as a way of shaking up His people; rather, its an example of one way that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him & are called according to His purpose (ala Romans 8:28.) There was no master plan the disciples followed – they were on the run. And in the middle of their flight, their faith provided an anchor, a safe place, a point of encouragement to keep them going.

It gives me great hope to know that our faith is made for times EXACTLY like that – times of uncertainty, danger, threat, fear, illness, when the darkness is closing in. At those times, we find that God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, provides for our every need. Sustains, strengthens, & gives us life. Love it.


Lately, I’ve got a new workout partner: theWeez. Its been fun hitting the gym together & getting to teach her about different exercises, free-weights vs. ‘the machines,’ & of course, kettle-bells. Today, she told me that she thinks that she’d like to get into MMA. As in mixed-martial arts. As in cage fighting.

Sigh. This should be interesting.

All I know, is I’m loving our time together.


It’s official. ThePasty Gangster is on his way to Knoxville, Tennessee. Countdown: 32 days.


I am an uncle. Again. Moe & Jen took baby TyWill home from the hospital last night, so 2 year old TBone has a little brother. I love that my brothers’ have little kids & that I have big ones. Family.

At no point in my life have I ever felt the need to try to plant flowers or plants in the ground, to nurture, water, & talk to them.

Until now. For some reason, I have a vested interest in seeing the 5 grassy willow-y plants in the backyard stay alive. I speak to them. Water them multiple times a day. Command them to survive in the spite of Nevada’s weather & my feeble attempts at caring for them. If they last, I may even post a picture.

Hope is my choice…

I’ve been down in a hole.

Emotional. A little depressed. Weary. Grumpy. Frustrated. Grieving.

It all came to a head last week as I realized what was happening, & forced myself to take a look at what I was dealing with rather than avoid &/or run & hide.

Change. Pasty Gangster is 99.9% moving to Tennessee in 6 weeks. I’m happy for him, but I’m also grieving the change that his move will bring to our family. I’ve wrestled regret at time lost that can’t ever be recovered. Wished for a do-over; an opportunity to go back in time & make up for the areas I totally biffed it as a dad.

Pasty, being the firstborn, was the child that got to experience, firsthand, my parental mistakes. Overzealousness. Immaturity. Inconsistency.

He got to live with the dad that didn’t know how to balance life. Who had wacky priorities. Who was confused about how it does no good to work hard to provide for a family if there is no time taken to BE with the family & enjoy it.

And now as he prepares to pursue his dream, I realize he is exactly the age I was when I married theBean. When I knew that I knew what I wanted from life, more than anything, was to be with the girl of my dreams for the rest of my life. The rest of the details of work, college, living life, etc. were mostly irrelevant details that I just knew would be resolved in my future by my Father in heaven.

I flash back to being 19 years old, & think of when I proposed to theBean. I didn’t have a job; I was filling in as a delivery driver for my uncle’s pharmacy, & I was desperate. I wanted to get married, to grow up, to be able to provide for my wife (& in the future, a family) but I had nothing. So, I listened to Christian radio. Every teaching I could find on faith. And I prayed.

One day, I ‘heard’ from God – not a voice, but an impression. The impression was of a page in the Bible, one from which I could clearly see the chapter & verse. Matthew 6:25-34… the verses before & after it were blurry, but those particular verses were crystal clear:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Nothing about my circumstances had changed; but something began to break inside me that day – worry. Anxiety. Fear of not having enough.

Faith grew. God would provide. He’d have my back. I just need to keep taking steps of faith.

So I did.

And now, I look at my son & the knowledge that in the very near future he’s moving. And I’m faced with the option to worry. Be anxious. Fear. Live in regret. Be depressed. Stay down in a hole.

And instead, against my feelings, I’m choosing hope. A hope that doesn’t disappoint. A hope that isn’t based in me or my abilities, but rather in Jesus Christ, the beginning & completion of my faith.

I can trust Pasty to Jesus. I can trust my family to Him too. And I can trust my present & future to Him as well, because He hasn’t changed His commitment to me.

SOAP, Isaiah, family, & other musings…

A few months ago, I felt impressed to amp up (increase, broaden, deepen, expand) my Bible reading. I started adding ‘reading breaks’ of a few minutes several times during the work day, times when I might normally be checking my email, or practicing my vuvuzela… & then followed up each reading with reflection. Thinking on what I’d read. Asking the Holy Spirit to apply it to my life. To seek out all the places in my heart, mind, & life that need a touch from Him. To transform mindsets, attitudes, & behaviors that subtly (or not so subtly) stand against, resist, or even oppose God’s purposes for me.

And I’m seeing LIFE. I’m getting woken up before 5, no alarm necessary. Waking up feeling rested & restored, excited to take on the day, looking forward to my reading & reflecting. Looking for opportunities to interact with others about the stuff that God is stirring up in me. Feeling a renewed love & hunger for the Word.


Reading through Isaiah 25 this morning – a prophetic passage talking about the end times. These chapters of Isaiah have a definite Revelation feel & sound to them, with familiar themes like the fall of the nations that have resisted/opposed God’s redemption; judgment; the fall of Babylon; perseverance; salvation.

A section of Chapter 25 really jumps out at me:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And He will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; & the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, & the reproach of His people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. And it will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice & be glad in His salvation. Isaiah 25:6-9 ESV

Very cool – God throws a feast to celebrate, with the best meats & wines, specially chosen & prepared by Him! And the recognition that this is God’s favor, His salvation come to humanity, to those who waited for Him.

Reminds me of the passage in Isaiah 40 that talks about ‘waiting on the LORD’ – & that those that wait on the LORD will renew their strength… And that waiting isn’t passive inactivity (like sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office.) No, its consistent, active obedience to the things I know to be doing. The confident expectation that God is at work, will be at work, & is acting on my behalf. Sweet.


Pasty has been in Cookeville, Tennessee with Alex & her family since 7/1. Kind of a senior trip, complete with a houseboat trip & a Florida vacation – before he comes back & starts college in the fall. He’ll be back 7/26. And I miss him this morning.

TheWeez is at Middle School Camp in Sonora, meaning theBean & I are down to 1 kid – IDoey. He’s got summer weights & football every day, so life for him revolves around sleeping, playing, & eating whatever he can get his hands on.

Last night before bed, he came to tell us goodnight. He grabbed both theBean & I & said, “Family hug!” He looked at both of us while he hugged us & exclaimed, “Isn’t this great!?”

I’m pretty sure IDoey enjoys the life of an only child.


For some reason I was thinking yesterday about the Christmas song “Away In A Manger”… there’s a part of the song that says:

the cattle are lowing/the baby He wakes/but little Lord Jesus/no crying He makes

That never made any sense to me – the cows are making a bunch of noise & wake up the baby… but the baby doesn’t cry. Of COURSE the baby cries. That’s what babies do when they get woken up, especially by cows.

I think we like the idea of a baby that isn’t like other babies; one that doesn’t cry when woken up suddenly… in the same way we like the idea of Jesus being a man that wasn’t like other men – who wasn’t subject to the same feelings, thoughts, temptations & frailties that we are, yet who persevered through them to be obedient to the call on His life to be Redeemer & Saviour to the world.

I think we’re uncomfortable with Jesus’ humanity.


NEWSFLASH! U2 has published the dates for their rescheduled North American tour. June 7, 2011. Oakland.

Magnificent!

Graduation weekend & other musings…

This last weekend was one of those where we found ourselves running… starting with Thursday evening. The Pasty Gangster was set to graduate on Saturday, & theBean & I wanted to host a graduation celebration. Being in Atlanta for the 4SQ convention the entire previous week didn’t help with our preparations for the graduation… getting the house & yard together, ready so that it would be clean enough & organized enough to host some family & friends.

So Friday was a blur of activity. Took theGiant table upstairs, & then tackled the floors. Vacuumed the tile (so as not to stir up a bunch of dust,) then mopped it. Twice. Using Fabuloso, which, I might add, is one of the best smelling cleaning products in the world. Not that I am a regular sniffer of cleaning products… which would be weird. And potentially damaging to the currently functioning brain cells. But it is wonderful. And purple, which is definitely a plus.


The business of the preparation for the graduation & the after-grad-party made it easier to distract myself from the very real & very powerful emotions that rose & fell in my chest like the incoming ocean tide.

Now, I don’t have any illusions about thePasty being my ‘baby.’ Just my firstborn. Now 18 years old. With 18 years of random memories & life lived that kept flashing back & forth in & through my mind & heart. A few of them…

Holding him in my arms while he slept, not wanting to put him down because I couldn’t believe I had my own kid. The ever-present ball he’d have in his hand, depending on the season. His infatuation with the music of Steven Curtis Chapman. How he watched the “Front Row: Steven Curtis Chapman” Video over & over & over, singing along to all the songs, & even memorizing the banter Steven Curtis Chapman exchanged with his bass player. The binky dance. The worry we had over his eye issues & inability to see… & the day he got glasses. The day he got contacts. The washing of the hands & refusal to open doors with anything other than his elbows. The joy exuding from him every time he participated in a team sport. He’s always been the heart & soul of the teams he’s on… His humor. Determination. Strong will. Compassionate heart. The rediscovery of a love for music. And a girl named Alex…

I stopped & pondered… allowed the rush of images, feelings, thoughts, & memories to flood my brain. I wept. Laughed. And resumed cleaning.

Saturday, the time for graduation came. We found our way through the frantic-ness of Lawlor Events Center, stumbled up the aisles to the balcony seats, & watched the ceremony. Our boy’s name was called; he shook the principal’s hand, went to the top of the steps of the stage & raised his arms in the air & let out a “Whoo!”

It was the same kind of “Whoo!” that we’d grown used to hearing from the football field during the pregame when the team would storm the sideline & jump around, bouncing into each other. I realized the comfort that I’d taken in hearing Pasty’s exuberant yells. And I smiled. And yelled my own “Whoo!”


The recent passing of basketball coaching legend John Wooden, had a profound impact on me… not because of the incredible coaching records that he amassed during his tenure at UCLA, but rather for the way he influenced & affected the people he came in contact with during the 99 years of his life: those that played for him, those he coached with & against, & those in the ever-widening sphere of influence that grew without any intention or design of his own… due to his character, integrity, insights, wisdom, & devotion to his wife, Nell. His “Wooden-isms” go far beyond pithy quotations that would adorn bumper stickers.


My mom sent me this picture, taken at Pasty’s graduation party last Saturday. It’s of Pasty, my dad, me & my brothers Moe & Ben… I’m trying to remember what I was thinking at the exact moment the picture was taken, what was running through my head that is so obvious in the expression on my face… Sigh.

family, the 80’s, the collision of 2 worlds, & other musings on a Friday…

Today on the way to school, theWeez started asking me questions about the “old days” – you know, the 80’s. Turns out she saw a Journey video, & was intrigued by their hairstyles… namely the flowing & often frizzy pseudo-mullets sported by the band.

She said, “So, Dad. Tell me. The hair. Was that cool? I mean for REALS.

I had to say, ‘Yes. Yes it was. Or at least it was perceived to be cool by the people sporting said hair.” TheWeez thought that was pretty funny, & remarked at how lame Those People were, & had absolutely NO sense of style &/or what looked good or was appropriate.

Indignation rose up in me in response to her laughter – time to turn the tables: “So, Weez. Is there anything – any fashion, hair style, clothes, music etc. that you think MIGHT be just as silly to your kids as the stuff from MY generation is to you?” She pondered it a second, & replied, “Nope.”

20 years from now, I will revisit this conversation with her. And tell stories on her to my grandkids. Booyah.


Speaking of the 80’s, style, & my music, world’s collided today, namely mine & theWeez’s when I discovered a collaboration, an intentional one at that, between Def Leppard (aka MY Music) & Taylor Swift. There’s even a concert DVD available. Watch it at your own risk. And don’t complain that I didn’t warn you. All I can say is, “Oh, goodness.”


Had to go buy some large storage bins yesterday to put the church pastries into… normally, I’d have just gone into a Local Superstore to find such things, however, theBean knows about these kind of things better than me, better than me. So she sent me to RESCO. Lots of restaurant-style equipment, stainless steel, industrial. Cool. I almost enjoyed it, especially thinking how I could put a monstrously ginormous stainless steel fridge in my kitchen. Somewhere. And then the silence surrounding my dreaming about the Industrial-ness was shattered by Bob.

Bob was loud. Like using his outdoor playtime voice loud. Like standing way too close to be talking this loud. Like, ‘Dude? What’s up with THAT!’ loud.

He proceeded to tell me he was there to take my money. Ha-ha. No, really, he said that. I didn’t laugh. Which wasn’t good for Bob, evidently, because he then told me that I needed to smile more. Really? I’m buying tupperware, you’re loud, & I need to smile more?

I paid & made my way to the car, my irritated nerves soothed by the cool breeze, blue skies, & a glimpse or 7 of the sun.

Again. Oh, goodness…


Which of course got me thinking on Philippians 2 today, especially the part about doing everything without complaining, arguing, contention, & bad attitudes…



Learned something new today – 1 tear does NOT equal crying.


Pasty & I are off to the gym & then Guitar Center today. Because we’ve been reaaaaalllllyyyy good boys. Not going to buy anything, but Boy Howdy! we can pretend.


My iDoey is now officially able to look me directly in the eyes. Sigh. Another big kid.