Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Real Pro

I regret that I haven't had much active participation in this family blog, but I think that it is time. For a while now I have encouraged Megan to blog more frequently partly because she skillfully illustrates the nuances that make life in our family a sweet pursuit. But the main reason is that she possesses wisdom in the field of family that is not common. So, I will do what real bloggers do, and expound on observation. We sat at the table tonight with new acquaintances and introductions led to inquiries about home and career. In her typical response, Megan informed our new friends that she was educated as a pediatric intensive care nurse, but now stays home with our children. That is a true statement, but the pretense is false. I resent any need to qualify her status with explanations of advanced degrees and demonstrations of past expertise in technical and high stress professional roles. My wife is a professional if ever there was one. There are things in American society that are simply off-limits to talk about. Unless you want to instantaneously complicate your life, then never make observations about differences in racial culture, never suggest that someones obese child is a byproduct of an unhealthy home, and never criticize someone's performance as a parent. In the same way that teacher's unions behave as if there are no bad teachers, many people act as if (in the absence of physical or sexual abuse) there are no bad parents. As long as you provide love, and attempt at the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter, then you are a good parent. Anyone who suggests differently is way out of bounds and has no right to criticize. It's the postmodern slant on parenting that says that there are only different parenting styles, and whatever works for you is right. Of course it is true that not every parent has access to the same resources. Many people didn't have good parenting examples themselves, nor wise mentors in this discipline. Many haven't benefitted from education or been exposed to a large worldview of varied life experiences. Of course, financial constraints and time constraints can limit the opportunities and mentorship that a parent can offer a child. With those thoughts in mind, allow me to relate my observations on what makes a loving parent a good parent, and what makes a good parent a great parent. Megan Shirley is the best parent that I have ever seen, and I have had a front row seat to the action. First, a great parent wants the job and loves the job. It's not an easy position. In fact it is frustrating and constant (and sometimes constantly frustrating). Children will be defiant and destructive. They will lose control of their emotions and embarrass you in public. The job starts on day #1 and continues unabated at least until adulthood. My observation of my wife was that when our infants cried at night she wanted us, their parents, to comfort them. It made no sense to her to relegate such a centrally motherly task to someone else so that she could catch up on sleep. This is the time of year in which you will undoubtedly hear a parent remark on how relieved they are that school is starting back. Of course, the insinuation is "these kids are driving me crazy!" Perhaps you have heard of well-off families in whom more children don't make financial sense. A great parent wants the job, especially the hard parts. Second, a great parent has talent. This is intuitive, and, of course, true. Years of education and a white coat don't make you a good surgeon. Answering questions on the bar exam doesn't make you a great trial lawyer. A podium and a lecture hall full of students don't make you a good teacher. And a baseball bat doesn't make you Mike Trout. Just try to tell someone that they don't really have the makeup to be a great one. A great parent is more than love and its more than effort. Of course those things are part of it, but great parenting takes wisdom, judgement, patience, intuition, and a host of other intangibles. It also takes a willingness to humble yourself and learn from the greats. Third, a great parent works at her craft. My wife has a BS nursing degree, and she absolutely has expertise in childhood education theory. Don't listen to her scoff at this claim; its true. She reads more than 50 books per year, many of which are on parenting and childhood education. She seeks out other talented parents and asks questions. She studies the personality types of our children and strategizes to change their hearts and not just their behavior. She fiercely protects what influences our children, and as they get older she understands that their is much to learn and anticipates the challenges. Lastly, a great parent is Holy Spirit-filled. In our house, Megan focuses our children on what is good, true, and beautiful. Anything less is not worth their time, attention or entertainment. She prays for our children, and discerns false truth. A great parent cannot depend on what the world, or even Christian pop culture has determined is acceptable or even beneficial. As Christians, we believe that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so how can anyone greatly disciple their children without it? I joke that she should have a more lucrative talent, but partnering with Megan Shirley to raise our children is a source of immeasurable riches. Rhett

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


We are in the dog days of summer here in the South. I've always loved summer. The combination of humidity, peaches, the smell of chlorine in your hair and late nights playing in the yard after dinner is irresistible to me. We've done swim team and vacation and now we are settled in a pattern of staying up late and sleeping in and blessed boredom has set in inspiring the kids to plan a playmobil city, build forts with boxes and put major mileage on their bikes and scooters. I can almost feel Fall starting to creep in with a few random leaves turning colors and seeing other kids heading back to school. I'm not ready! I love every second of all of us being together so much this summer and I'm not ready for it to be over!

We decided to take a quick overnight camping trip over the weekend. It was actually the first time we have tent camped and wanted to do a trial run with a paper and pen in hand to write down all of the stuff we need for future trips. We had a wonderful time and made a longish list of what we need next time! As we all tried to go to sleep that night in our tent someone said "I can't sleep! The crickets are too loud!!". I laughed remembering my first nights away at camp as a child and how loud the crickets were in our open air cabins and how that took getting used to! It also struck a cord for me because that is the phrase I have used to describe the movement/news in our adoption process for the last few months . . . nothing . . . crickets.

We were excited to get all of our paperwork logged in at the end of May. There is a long story of how we thought we had found a little girl on the "waiting child" list right around this time. I will save that story for another time because it is really difficult to tell and one that I had hoped we wouldn't have to as part of our adoption journey. As we moved past that situation we hoped to find our little girl soon but we've heard nothing. We have been told it can take up 6-9 months to be matched with a younger girl with a mild medical need but we thought our age range was a little wider and perhaps our medical needs list was a little longer so we didn't really think it would take that long. I saw many friends matched within days of their log in with children that were definitely similar age and medical need to what we are hoping for. The list comes out twice a month and I hold my breath, pray and get the email "I'm sorry to tell you that you have not been matched . . ." It is like seeing a negative pregnancy test.

So it's been tough. I've had to throw our "timeline" out the window. We've had to juggle vacation schedules and conferences and other commitments not knowing when we might be traveling to bring our daughter home. I guess I felt a bit of control in that. That is gone now. I would always say we hoped to have her home by then end of the year. Now I know that is not going to happen and it is tough. The journey to our 4th child has not happened on any kind of timeline similar to how I would have planned it! But the truth is I'm not in control and this is not "my" timeline. I am clinging to the hope and promise that God is in control of the ultimate timeline (which, by the way, is a whole lot longer than mine - as in eternity). My hope is in Him who is so much bigger than I am and sees all of time not just my vapor of a life. So, I'm waiting knowing that I am in very good company as there are many, many examples of people waiting throughout scripture. His word is encouraging and inspiring in the place that I am right now.

It seems odd because as I'm waiting instead of looking forward and living in the future I am so much more focused on each precious moment. I am so very, very grateful for each passing day and the time I have with my children. It does go by fast as the cliche says and I am intent on not missing out on the absolute wonder that each day is being a mother to children this age. I have hope that there will be another child in our family and her story will be grafted into our family in a miraculous way that only God can ordain. Until then we wait.

As I lie in my tent the other night listening to the crickets I was comforted. The cricket song is strangely beautiful. Not melodious by any means but longing, monotonous, loud and overwhelming . . . kind of the way my heart feels right now. I woke up pre dawn in the twilight and noticed the cricket song had died down. The sun was rising and the cricket song was fading. It was still there but much, much softer. Perhaps that is where we are and I don't even know it yet. Maybe, just maybe the dawn is coming the crickets are being silenced and we will awake to the news of our daughter soon.