Ordinary Faith

3 Questions to Ask Your Son Before He Starts Dating

3 Questions to Ask Your Son Before He Starts Dating

A couple months ago, my wife and I were shocked to discover that, unbeknownst to us, our son had his first girlfriend. An eighth-grader, he had previously shown no interest whatsoever in dating. He talks about soccer and Destiny 2 and camping trips, but never girls. Yet sure enough, we scrolled through his text messages and discovered a thread we were not prepared for: an unknown number asked on behalf of a girl who sits next to him in band class what he would say if the girl who plays trumpet in the fifth chair asked him out.

He said, “Sure.”

This is how middle school relationship start. In fact, it’s apparently how they are maintained as well. Evan’s iMessage stream is a steady dose of mutual friends texting as third parties to intervene:

  • “Are you mad at her?”
  • “You should call her.”
  • “She wants to know why you didn’t call her.”
  • “She wants you to bring her some chocolate.”

As a father, I had hoped to hold my kids off from dating until they were well into their high school career, at the earliest. Middle school dating is silly and largely pointless. Nevertheless, I also recognize it as a coming-of-age ritual. He’ll learn, he’ll grow, and hopefully he won’t make too many bone-headed mistakes along the way. Most importantly, I hope he doesn't compromise himself or anyone else during this process of discovery.

While I once thought I would have hard-and-fast rules for my kids about dating, I’m now more interested in having conversations with them. At this point, I figure I'll be more effective helping them navigate relationships and situations rather than trying to prevent them altogether. This is new territory for my wife and I as parents. In an effort to help myself cope with the fact that I know nothing about parenting teenagers - and perhaps to help you if you find yourself on the same journey - I've decided to document some thoughts. Here are three important questions you can ask your middle-school son to help him know if he’s ready to start dating:

Our Adoption Story: Finding Faith When God Seems Silent

Our Adoption Story: Finding Faith When God Seems Silent

"Those children are yours." I stood, somewhat frozen, with terrified assurance that it was God speaking to me. I had hiked nearly an hour up a steep jungle hill to reach the clearing where two little children stood outside their dilapidated mud hut. They weren't exactly waiting for me; they had no other place to go. I was there for their intake interview for a sponsorship program, but now the word adoption was looming over me, pressing down heavy with persistence and discomfort.

You see, we had already adopted - twice before - and we were done. Complete, happy, and satisfied being a family of five. Yet here I was, wrecked by both compassion and injustice at how desperate their lives seemed. I saw their yellow eyes, white scalps, and bony arms. I saw his feet, peeling and red from the rats that chewed on them at night. How they divided up the energy bar I gave them and ran away like little squirrels, to gobble it down privately. They had not eaten at all in more than a day. And they were beautiful. So beautiful.

My Unwanted Pregnancy: Finding God Between the Lines

My Unwanted Pregnancy: Finding God Between the Lines

I have been pregnant for 200 days—give or take a little.

Those 200 days have been hard. Harder than I expected. Challenging in ways I didn’t know I could (or needed to) be challenged. There have been good days, days that left me feeling light and expectant. Many more days have had me down deeper than I thought possible. On Day One all I felt was shock. We had taken precautions. We had used protection. But still, those two lines appeared. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

On Day Seven, I still didn’t believe I was actually pregnant so I took another test. To my dismay, they appeared again, like lines marking a road forward - a road I had no desire to travel. This was not my timing. This was not my plan. I think I took a total of five pregnancy tests within those first ten days, each one returning a pair of lines brighter than the last.

The days from ten until now have been filled with a lot of just that: Dismay. Unbelief. Apprehension. Fear. I thought over time the idea of becoming a mother would sink in and the pregnancy bliss I hear so many talk about would engulf me into baby oblivion. Yeah, I’m still waiting for that to happen.

Cancer and _____: Two Words That Just Don't Go Together

Cancer and _____: Two Words That Just Don't Go Together

A little over two weeks ago my friend Amy shared a rare post on Facebook asking for prayers from her friends. “Today we heard two words that no parent ever wants to hear in the same sentence: your child’s name followed by the word, ‘cancer.'” Since that moment, Amy and her husband, Brad, have been through an absolute whirlwind of doctors visits and emotions. All their grand plans are now measured in moments, their home made up in hospital beds. 

As cancer goes, Hunter's diagnosis is about as optimistic as they come. Accute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is very treatable when caught early and has a remarkable cure rate among children. But you and I know that there is no such thing as "good cancer." Those are two words that just don't go together.

Yet despite the obvious oxymoron, when I walked into Hunter’s hospital room last week, it did not feel like a bad place to be. In fact, it felt like a very, very good place to be. The tubes and monitors and an endless stream of interruptions from hospital staff and doctors were juxtaposed against the calm smiles and honest laughter that filled the air and settled onto the shoulders of all present. If you stood still enough and watched long enough, you could even find the most unexpected of emotions: joy. 

Learning From My Mistakes

Learning From My Mistakes

I am a dog attack survivor. Not to sound dramatic or anything, but it's true. 

Two or three times a year I decide that doctors and internet articles must be right about exercise being good for your health, and I rededicate my life to becoming more fit for a few weeks. I log into my Nike+ app, lace up my running shoes, and pretend like I am going to register for an upcoming 5K. And honestly, I love it. Going from in-shape level zero to race-ready feels awful each time I start back to it, but after the initial week or so I start to enjoy and look forward to my runs.

Real Dreams and Invisible Fears

Real Dreams and Invisible Fears

One summer afternoon during my young preschool years, I spent a few hours playing at my friend’s house. Adam Holzworth was the same age as me, and we were probably best friends, as those things go when you are four. Though not in a direct sight line, the Holzworth’s front door was little more than a stone’s throw from my back yard, and on this particular occasion my mother allowed me to walk unaccompanied through the open lot behind our house and across the quiet cul-de-sac to play with Adam. Adam took me right down to his basement to play with his father’s old wheelchair. We took turns rolling around on the unfinished concrete floor, imagining how wonderful it would be to be able to ride on wheels everywhere we went. Soon, we grew tired of our medical plaything and went back upstairs clamoring for lunch. Adam’s mother made us bologna and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise on white bread - a delicacy unheard of in my house - and we sat down to watch Dr. Rick Marshall fend off the other-dimensional, prehistoric terrors in Land of the Lost

Three Things I Cherish From Our Adoption

Three Things I Cherish From Our Adoption

I feel like I just gave birth to an elephant. Elephants have the longest gestation period of any land mammal, typically carrying a child in the womb for 21 months or more. Together, my wife and I just bested Mrs. Jumbo; after more than 26 months of waiting, we have a son. Fittingly, March 20 - the day our adoption was finalized and this young life cleaved legally to ours - is the day all creation affirmed new beginnings with the onset of Spring.

In an attempt to put into words that which cannot adequately be put into words, I want to share the three things that, upon initial reflection of our son's adoption, I cherish most from that day.

The Greatest Botanist On This Planet

The Greatest Botanist On This Planet

I am really bad at lawns. I’m decent at lawn darts, horrible at lawn care. While I love the idea of a lush, green yard, I have never been able to cultivate a lawn worthy of admiration. I have owned three houses and with them, three yards. Within one calendar year of moving in to each new home, my grass has, without fail, been overrun with crabgrass, dandelions and clovery looking weeds. This wouldn’t be so frustrating were it not for the fact that I actually kind of try. I fertilize, I mow, I spray weeds…I try to keep it all looking pretty. But I fail.

I Saw Death Speed By

I Saw Death Speed By

I saw death speed by, doing 80 in a 65.

He passed me heading north on I-71, just south of Columbus, Ohio. I was on my way to New York from Kentucky to help my parents close one chapter and begin another when he approached. Glancing in my rearview mirror, as good drivers do from time to time, I noticed him gaining on me from some distance away. The shape of his vehicle immediately stood out from the others sharing the road. Black as a panther, his nose had the shape of a typical Caddy but carried a whole lot junk in his trunk. From the windshield back, his body shape rose like an elegant turtle shell the color of midnight, high and commanding, yet awkwardly bulky, over the rooftops of the other cars. Passing the other drivers steadily in the left lane, he would soon be upon me. 

Already But Not Yet

Already But Not Yet

Miguel was placed in our care as foster parents on January 17, 2015. He was one-week-old, still in the hospital. At the time, there were no known parents or relatives who had come forward to care for him. I spent the next three days beside his crib as often as the nurses would let me, praying over him, weeping for him, asking God to let me love him with every ounce of my being. Our family had not entered into foster care with a goal of adoption, but I knew the first time I set eyes on Miggy that I wanted to be his father. Emotionally, he was already mine. Regardless of what the future would hold, whether he would be in our care for a few weeks or a few months, deep in my heart he had become my son.