I wonder what it’s like for a family with at least one kid to arrive to church A) on time or even early and B) not get stressed out in the process while C) actually looking put together. Even if it’s a well-crafted illusion, there are families at our church who appear to fit this description. I have a feeling that I’ll never know what it’s like to be them.
We happen to be members of a megachurch in the Nashville area called Brentwood Baptist. I admit, the place is literally the size of a mall. No exaggeration: You could actually drive two SUV’s side by side from one end of the building to the other. Need another comparison? Sometimes it reminds me of the spaceship from the Will Smith movie, Independence Day.
While I can easily see why the idea of a church that monstrous would intimidate a lot of people, the place is a welcoming magnet for newcomers to Nashville. In fact, my wife and I were both attending service there for months before we actually met back in 2006. Instead of feeling out of place in a church that huge, we have always felt its size and diversity has actually helped us both individually and as a married couple find our place.
There is no need to go through the tired routine of why it’s so hard to get to church on time with a kid. If nothing else, it’s just harder to get out of bed on time knowing it’s not a workday. We really have no excuse: Our church has four different services! Even an additional one in Chinese if we ever felt so daring…
My wife and I found an awesome Sunday School class for couples with young kids. It starts at 8 AM. We hardly ever make it, though.
As if our son Jack doesn’t spend enough time in the care of others during the week, it’s difficult to part with him another couple of hours on Sunday. So the reality of it has become this:
Typically we just show up in time for the main service and sit near one of the many corners of the massive hallways where the service is playing on a TV. That way, Jack can run around where there is plenty of space and soft carpet; not to mention plenty of friendly strangers who love to pay him a lot of attention.
Sure, we’d get more out of the service if we took him to our church’s child care, but even if he’s ready for it, we’re not. Besides, I might not have been able to have shot this video of him walking, which first appeared on The Dadabase Facebook Wall.
Yes, you did read that right. No, this isn’t a rerun from March. This coming Saturday on July 16th as Jack turns eight months old, we return to Music City for keeps.
Imagine you’re me. You were raised in the Eighties and were taught that money isn’t everything but that being happy is. You were constantly told that if you really believe, you can achieve your dreams. So at age 29, you decide to choose happiness over money and move your wife and 3 week old son back to your hometown to be close to family. You willingly choose less money and less busyness with the purest intentions.
Enter four months of unemployment, then living from savings despite eventually getting a job. Then after eight months since moving, you come to the realization that it is not a choice to move your family back to Nashville, but simply the only option.
It’s ironic how it took me four months to find a job and how my wife was sent countless rejection letters for all the places she applied, never landing a job that would keep us from dipping into savings every month; yet in a matter of just a few days and few emails, both my wife and I have jobs lined up in Nashville where we will begin Monday, July 18th.
Our former employers are taking us back. It’s that simple. Granted, this means we have to put Jack in daycare. We will barely see him on weekdays because by the time I drive him home from daycare, he will only be awake for an hour before it’s his bedtime.
So, how do I feel about this? Bittersweet.
We came here truly believing that we would be spending the rest of our lives here; thinking it would be the last time we would have to unpack our things. And when it seemed our expectations were being threatened, we only tried that much harder to make this work. But our resistance was futile.
As I have mentioned before, a married man can never stop thinking about his need to provide for his family. So imagine what kind of psychological toil this constant wondering has taken on my own sanity. For the fact we will be able to pay our bills without dipping into what’s left of our savings; well, that’s more relieving than I can say. But yes, we will have to move away from my family and they won’t see Jack as much as they used to.
He and his cousin were going to be attending the same school and be in the same grade. Not now, though. It’s only a 2 and a half hour drive, but still, things will be somewhat different.
By this point, I am nearly emotionless when it comes having to repack our lives again. Because again, it’s not a choice to be made; it’s the only option.
So I am accepting my fate. I was not meant to live in my hometown with my family. Instead, I was meant to live and work in Nashville, one of my favorite cities in the world.
I am choosing to move forward and be positive about it. There have been a lot of things we’ve missed tremendously about Nashville: Our church, our friends, our quirky restaurants, proximity to Country music stars, and surprisingly more than you would think, shopping for groceries at Publix, where shopping is a pleasure.
As much as I enjoyed growing up in my hometown and the great memories I always have, it has ultimately proven to be the wrong fit for the 2011 version of me, which includes my wife and son. And that’s not my hometown’s fault. It’s just that Nashville is simply where we belong.
My wife and I met there. My wife was baptized there. We got married there. Our son was born there. Heck, even this blog was born there.
One of our mutually favorite movies is Away We Go, starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph. As they prepare for the birth of their first child, they travel to several cities to figure out where their new home as a family is. It’s obviously very relatable for my wife and me.
After sticking it out this long, we were obviously more than willing to make this thing work in my hometown. But now it’s time to return to where our home, as a family, is.
Need another pop culture reference? This reminds me of the best TV show ever made (and that ever will be made), Lost. Those who crashed on the island were “chosen” by the island for a purpose. Even when six of them eventually found a way to leave and go back to their homes, they ultimately had to return because the island still needed them there.
For us, Nashville is the island. We just need to watch out for those darn polar bears.
Being that I spend most of my lunch breaks at Borders, over the past year I have been acquiring a small library of discounted books. One of my purchases off the “five dollar clearance rack” was a huge colorful book on Feng Shui. While I have yet to spend much time really learning these ancient Chinese secrets, I did scan through a few chapters. One of the concepts of Feng Shui that I did pick up on warned against long uninterrupted straights, whether the layout of the house is based on one basic hallway or the driveway to the house has no turns. Without turns and interruptions along a straight path, one might “fall out of the house and out of their own yard”. That’s considered “bad Feng Shui”.
If you are able to grasp that concept for the most part (which I think for some strange reason I can), then maybe you can understand my recent perspective on how having Baby Jack relates back to Feng Shui, if nothing else, in my own sleep-deprived head. Recently, some of my cosmic insecurities have been heavily resolved as I realize that by being a parent, I am forever in the middle of a generation, no longer the tail end. I am no longer the tree itself, but instead one of the branches on someone else’s family tree. No longer am I a coastal state like Rhode Island or South Carolina, exposed the possibility of breaking off in the Atlantic Ocean, only separated by a few thousand miles from giant Africa; instead, I am now landlocked Kansas. Like sitting in the middle of the third row seat in a 15 passenger van on a church mission trip to Mexico; like no longer being on the outer edge in a herd of zebras escaping from a hungry lion, so am I.
As a parent, I now feel more Feng Shui. I will not “fall out” out the universe into outer space without it being immediately noticed. Because I am no longer simply a husband; I am a father. And being a father doesn’t simply hold importance in the direct care of my son, but also in an undeniable eternal sense. Baby Jack is not just simply a cute little Bambino. He is a spiritual being who I am responsible for.
I am no longer an island of any kind. More than ever before, I am needed and necessary in this world. What I do from this point has potentially everlasting outcomes. I won’t look back on my life when I’m an old man and think, “I lived such an empty life.” Because I will always be linked back to my son. So cosmic, man.
“These moments, they can never last; like a sad old man with his photographs keeps wishing for the things he can not change.”
Something I have learned in my adult life so far is that when I am offered more responsibility, it’s almost always the best decision to take it. Sure, there is such a thing as wearing yourself too thin by agreeing to too many things, even (and especially) with church activities, but that’s a whole different story. When the company I work for asks me on short notice to leave for a trade show which begins two days after returning from my vacation, or I realize I can save an errand and $20 by activating our new cell phones myself instead of going down to Verizon Wireless, I do it. Responsibility is an important key in maturity. And maturity is a key to quality of life.
Hence, parenthood. Responsibility is almost always attached to loss of time, space, and freedom. But there are certain life experiences that can never be known and certain character elements that can never be built until responsibility is tackled head on. Of course, when any person adopts a new important role in their life, it means they will consistently make mistakes while doing it (since new life experiences don’t usually come with a detailed user’s guide). And those mistakes become the actual footnotes for every future reference.
I am prepared to lose my sense of freedom, my time, my space, and especially my sleep. I am prepared to make mistakes constantly, yet learn from them. I am prepared to become more responsible than I’ve ever been before. Most importantly, I am prepared to be more blessed than I’ve ever been before, as well.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography: