Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Thoughts on life, death and Kenya

(By Erik)

I'm helping out with a brief presentation tomorrow on our church's contributions to relief in Kenya after the post-election violence. Here’s a first draft of my remarks. (I’m going to have to edit this down to fit the time slot)


Like most of us here this morning, I’ve never traveled to Kenya. But I know many ministers and members of Churches of Christ there through my work with The Christian Chronicle.

While the people of Kenya were coping with death and loss that most of us would find difficult to even imagine, my wife and I were welcoming a new life into the world.

Our daughter, Maggie, was born Jan. 16 — two days before we went to press with the February issue of the Chronicle. I already had written a story for our Web site, but the continuing chaos in Kenya warranted an updated story for the front page of the paper.

So, the night before deadline, one day after Maggie was born, I e-mailed the church members I know in Kenya using the wireless network in Mercy Hospital. I basically explained where I was, that I was sorry for the tight deadline, but my wife just had a baby, etc. I told them we were praying for them and asked, if at all possible, for any updates about church members impacted by the violence.

Now, the night before Maggie had been a little angel, just sleeping peacefully, and I even found myself saying, “Wow, I don’t see what the big deal is. This baby stuff is easy.” I think Maggie heard me, and she made up for it the next night, right after I sent that e-mail. Between the screams, I think Jeanie and I got about 10 minutes of uninterrupted sleep.

The next morning I stopped by the Chronicle office and had a handful of replies from our brothers in Kenya. This one’s from a man named Jacob Agak, principal of the Winyo Christian Academy in Kenya:

“Congratulations on the arrival of sweet and pretty Maggie. We thank God for her safe journey to this land where she will be a sojourner too. We pray and hope that God will grant her great health and above all let her grow in Him. Be sure to give a BIG hug to your wife Jeanie for us. We thank God for keeping her safe for all those months.”

Then he went on to tell me how his school was closed due to violent threats and that most of the church members in his area feared for their lives.

Well, as you can imagine, I just lost it — just broke down there in front of my computer screen, almost started weeping. In retrospect now I like to blame it on the sleep deprivation.

I received half a dozen other responses that said pretty much the same thing. Though facing death, each one of these brothers took a moment to share in the joy of this new life that God blessed us with.

I just wanted to share that story with you because I think that says a lot about the character and the love our fellow Christians in Kenya have for God and his people around the world.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Ending the Maggie drought

(Maggie in her Easter dress)

(By Erik)

Alright, alright. It has indeed been some time since I updated this blog. Turns out a baby requires a certain amount of attention. And, when you write for a living, finding the will to write in what little spare time exists isn’t easy.

Jeanie’s back at work now. She actually started last month, but we were blessed to have visits by her parents and her sister and brother-in-law to help us out at the beginning of March. My parents came out from Nashville for a two-week visit after the Jacks returned to Altus.

My sister, Amy, my brother-in-law, Lamar, and their son, Luke, also stayed for a few days. So the two cousins got to meet for the first time. It was a hoot. Luke spent most of his visit being a great, typical 3-year-old. Jeanie and I are really impressed with the progress he’s made since we saw him more after Christmas in 2006. Luke was diagnosed with autism last year. Check out Amy’s blog for updates on his progress. Maggie was fascinated by Luke — almost as much as she’s fascinated by our ceiling fans.

(Admiring the ceiling fan with grandpa)

Today Maggie completed her first week of day care. I took her there for the first time on Monday. All I can say about the experience is that it’s a bit like tearing a piece of your own soul away with a pair of salad tongs. (Why salad tongs? No idea, just seems to fit.) Maggie got fussy on her first car ride to day care, but I was an absolute mess. It turned out to be OK. She’s at a great place with great people, from what I can tell.

No parent likes putting his child in day care, I’m guessing. For us, it’s necessary. It’s not just about the money, either. Jeanie and I both are doing what we love. We have jobs we feel passionate about. For me, this is the first time I’ve felt guilty about that passion.

(Aunt Amy with Maggie and Luke)

I realize we’re hardly the first couple to use day care. We’re in the same situation as the majority of parents in the U.S., I imagine. Still, it’s a bit difficult for us because, in our Bible class, we see a good number of stay-at-home moms. That probably bucks the national trend, and I’m thrilled to see it in our church, but sometimes I think it’s easy for me and Jeanie to feel a bit isolated — wondering if we’re doing what’s best for our little girl.

(Luke says hi to Maggie)

Add to that twinge of guilt all the daily pressures of life — laundry, responsibilities at church, bath time, vacuuming, fussy time, deadlines, taxes, washing bottles and a lawn full — I mean FULL — of dandelions (it’s downright embarrassing) and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Some days I feel like I’m just keeping my head above water. And looking ahead, all I can see is deeper water. (Someday we’re going to have TWO kids, after all!)

It’s a strange mix of joy and fear, hope and anxiety. I keep praying (though not nearly as much as I should) as the days pass. Thankfully, I keep coming back to a set of lyrics from a song by Caedmon’s Call:

My cup runneth over
I worry about the stain

That verse is the brick wall of reality I smack into sometimes. All of the stuff I fret about — from dollars to day care — is the overflow God’s blessings. I worry about managing the abundant resources that most people on this planet don’t have. I know I don’t deserve what I’ve been given, and I know that, in the long run, most of what I’m worrying about doesn’t matter. I get so caught up in the immediate that I forget about the eternal.

Luckily, every grin I get from my little girl is a reminder of God’s eternal love — and just how much my cup overflows.

(Big smile)