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Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
Week 17 (4 months).
*While this entry is actually the 5th chapter of my series entitled “God-Nudged Leap of Faith”, it is just as relevant to “dad from day one” as well. Therefore, I consider it a cross-over episode.
A few weeks from now, on April 4th, it will be four months since my wife and I took our God-nudged leap of faith. We carefully planned and prayed over our decision to leave our secured careers behind in Nashville to live in a small blue collar town in Alabama where my family lives. Having our first child, a son named Jack who was born on November 16, 2010, was a big part of the motivation to move. It made sense to slow down our pace of life, not only for ourselves, but for him. We wanted Jack to be surrounded by his grandparents, aunt, and uncle.
My wife and I both were born in 1981. As children of the 1980′s, we were always told that you can do anything if you really believed in your dreams. Maybe that’s why we were brave enough to take this leap of faith. Maybe that’s what got us into this situation: Having almost depleted our savings and unable to land the right jobs back in my small hometown, we are now at a breaking point.
But in this moment, I don’t feel brave. Perhaps there’s a thin line between bravery and foolishness. The way I see it, that thin line in my case is actually having a steady job. It’s not a matter of the choice that we may have to move back to Nashville- it’s simply the only option if at least one of us doesn’t get a job within the next 2 and a half weeks. We need to make the most responsible decision at this point.
That 2 and a half week deadline is both how long our savings will last us as well as how long it should take to know if the most recent job I applied for will be mine or go to someone else. I can’t say that there were truly no job opportunities for me here. The first week we were here, I interviewed and was offered a job that was similar to my one in Nashville for the past five years- however, I found out during the interview that it meant working every Saturday and three nights a week. So I turned them down. Looking back, it’s easier to say I should have jumped at the chance. But at the time, I felt that it defeated the purpose of moving here if I couldn’t spend Saturday’s and many evenings with my family.
And the day I published the last chapter of this series, I interviewed and was offered a job as an account representative. It seemed like the perfect fit at first, but soon I realized I was the wrong guy for the job- like an accountant trying to do a computer administrator’s job or a forklift operator trying to work in a cubicle on the phone. I was very appreciative, and maybe too honest to not waste their time, but after a week and a half, I had to face the inevitable and re-entered the gloomy world of “much qualified but unemployed”.
My heart was set on raising my son in the same small town I loved while growing up. But it’s starting to seem like I’m playing Red Rover and I just can’t break through the other side. And while all of my family’s lives and futures will change if end up moving back to Nashville, I think of how Baby Jack’s life will be the most effected. Nashville is a wonderful city; after all, it’s where my wife and I met and got married. But his grandparents (my parents) had set their hearts on seeing him nearly every day (the house we live now in is barely a half a mile from them). And Jack won’t get to grow up with his cousin (my sister is due with her first child in July, who will be in the same school grade as him) as closely.
We chose love over money. We chose faith over security. I would love to believe that this story ends the way I intended. But unless God provides a miracle, because that’s the only saving option, then we have to count our losses (emotional, physical, and financial) and abandon our simple dream.
In Nashville, Jack will have to be raised by babysitters while my wife and I work. As compared to living in Alabama, my sister was going to babysit him since she is going on maternity leave for awhile. That’s hard for me to grasp. It makes me think of a divorce in that Jack will only see his family (other than my wife and I, of course) on most weekends. That’s not what I had my heart set on.
My intentions were good. My heart was right. My faith was real. My God can still intervene.
One of the main reasons I decided to write this God-nudged leap of faith series was to show how God would provide for my family. He has always provided for me before. I just can’t imagine this story ending with this all being for just character building experience. Not that God’s faithfulness and providence depends on my story. So to be fair, no matter how this story ends, I will continue writing it- even if we have to pack our lives back up and return to Nashville (where I could go back to my gracious former employer).
I realize that our willingness to move back to Nashville away from family could simply be like Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Maybe it’s simply a test of our faith. But I also fully realize that despite all it took to get here, we may be required to actually make the sacrifice. For the next two and a half weeks, I will be looking for that ram caught in the bushes, like Abraham was given. I’m counting on a miraculous whirlwind to catch me and carry me either to safety on the ground, or back up to where I leaped from in the first place.
Like Bruce Springsteen said in the first track of my favorite album of his, The Rising: “In God’s hands our fate is complete… I’m countin’ on a miracle to come through.”
It’s in God’s hands, where it’s always been.
Categories: People, Spirituality, Storytelling, The Dadabase | Tags: baby blog, blog, Christianity, dad blog, dad from day one, faith, God, Jesus, Nashville
Thursday, December 30th, 2010
It’s a sort of eery feeling getting up at 1:30 AM, 3:30 AM, and/or 5:30 AM every morning to feed and change Jack. While it’s still dark and quiet, while I’m only “awake” enough to put the word in quotation marks, and while my memory barely records the routine actions taking place during the twilight, I’m sure I’m subconsciously looking for something out of the ordinary. As I hold Jack in one arm and his bottle in the other, the dimly lit room casts a strange shadow on his face. Sometimes when I look at him during this time I get a little creeped out. In this situation he reminds me of a baby version of the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz (played by the Jewish actor Bert Lahr); that movie and the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, though they are both wonderful classic movies, have always freaked me out a bit. On a similar note, it also seems like I’m taking care of a little old man, with his receding hairstyle (Jack Nicholson style), his chubby cheeks, and his baby-version-of-cussing-somebody-out cries when he’s really hungry and his diaper is wet.
To make matters more theatrical, there are times when I am taking care of him during the middle of the night when it’s like he peeks around my shoulder and sees something and gets this calm yet curious look on his face. Does he see something? A guardian angel? Jesus? Maybe the ghost of Bert Lahr?
I wouldn’t be surprised if babies can see into the spiritual realm. It could make sense in a way; babies are completely innocent. They are unaware of damning traps like pride and greed. I could see how a baby is naturally closer to Heaven than we adults are. Sometimes I envy the things my baby may be seeing. But then again, it would be just another thing to spook me in the middle of the night. It seems every account I can immediately think of in the Bible where an angelic being spoke to a human, the angel always had to start the conversation out with “Do not be afraid…” But Jack isn’t scared by whatever he is seeing around me that I am less aware; if he’s actually seeing anything supernatural at all.
Bert Lahr as The Cowardly Lion:
Categories: Nostalgia, People, Spirituality, Storytelling, The Dadabase | Tags: afraid, baby, baby crying, Bert Lahr, Bible, changing diapers, Cowardly Lion, creepy, dad blog, dad from day one, dark, fear, feeding, ghost, guardian angel, innocence, Jesus, old man, parenting, scary, spiritual, spooky, supernatural, The Wizard of Oz, twilight
Thursday, December 30th, 2010
During my first summer teaching English in Thailand, I took a week-long vacation to the magical island of Koh Samui, as referenced in the movie Meet the Parents (“Jack speak-a Thai?”). While there, I went to a highly promoted (via hand-painted street banners) Muay Thai boxing tournament. Inside the dimly lit warehouse-style building on the outskirts of legitimate commerce, I felt like I was part of the movie Bloodsport staring Jean Claude Van Damme. Afterwards, as a souvenir, I cut down one of the street banners advertising the event and hung it up in my college dorm at Liberty University the next Fall. Everyone who saw it laughed at the poor English translation: “Super and Real Fight”. I mean, it was a real fight, and I would say it was super as well, but for the fight to be super and real in the same adjective phrase just sounds funny. And that is why I couldn’t title this entry as “Jack’s First and White Christmas”.
In preparing our move from Nashville, TN to Fort Payne, AL (which is located between Birmingham, Chattanooga, and Atlanta), my wife (who is from Sacramento, CA) had asked me if it ever snowed in Alabama. Though the words “snow” and “Alabama” seem like they don’t go together at all, though do. Just like a lot of people don’t realize that Alabama actually borders the Gulf of Mexico and has several beaches, like Gulf Shores. I told my wife to expect it to snow a few inches, up to three times a year. And sure enough, as we woke up around 6 AM Christmas morning to feed and change Jack, we looked out the window to see large snowflakes falling steadily.
A couple of hours later, we drove 0.7 miles to my parents’ house to spend the day with them and my sister and her husband. Turns out, the snow didn’t stop falling and the temperature remained low. So the seven of us ending up staying the weekend together, being that the roads were iced over. One of the gifts my parents bought for Jack was a really cool wagon; ideally for when he gets older. However, when we started getting ready for bed on Christmas night and we were deciding where Jack should sleep, since we hadn’t packed his travel crib, I said, “Well, what about his wagon?” Not many people can say that their first Christmas was a white Christmas and that on top of that, that they slept in a wagon. But I guess it’s not all that strange, being that we were celebrating a holiday where a baby boy slept in a manger. We didn’t have a manger for Jack, but we did have a wagon.
Jack is swinging Christmas morning before we left for my parents' house.
We got snowed in.
Jack's presents from his parents.
Jack's presents from the family.
The Four Generations of Shells: Baby Jack is the only Shell boy to carry on the family name.
Categories: People, Spirituality, Storytelling, The Dadabase | Tags: Alabama, Atlanta, Away in a Manger, baby, Birmingham, Bloodsport, Chattanooga, Christmas, college dorm, dad blog, dad from day one, English, fight, Fort Payne, Gulf of Mexico, Jean Claude Van Damme, Jesus, Koh Samui, Liberty University, manger, Meet the Parents, Muay Thai, Nashville, parenthood, Sacramento, Thailand, wagon, White Christmas
Thursday, November 25th, 2010
Week 1 of Jack’s life.
In the Season One finale of dad from day one, I promised an interesting plot twist. So here in this premier of Season Two, I’m letting everyone know my own meaning of the phrase “Sweet Home Alabama”.
As I explained in due date, a common trait of ‘80’s sitcoms was that a family was introduced to an outsider who suddenly moved in their home, therefore creating a new sense of “normal”. An exception was Just the Ten of Us, where the Lubbock family moved from the state of New York (the setting of Growing Pains, which it was a spin-off from) to California. Dad from day one will be combining both of those plot devices: the newcomer and the new setting. Next Saturday morning, December 4th (on the 4th day of Hanukkah- for any Jewish readers out there) we will pack up our PT Cruiser and Element for the 2 ½ trip (not counting baby delays) from Nashville, TN to the small mountain/valley town of Fort Payne, AL (pop. 14,000 not including illegal immigrants) where I was raised.
Something that makes this really interesting is when I am asked: “So do you have a job lined up?” Nope. That’s part of the reason we are so briskly making the Hometown Migration- so I can search full time for a new job during the whole month of December while living off leftover paychecks and savings. Despite having nearly five years of career experience involving sales, doing trade shows, hiring, and training, I am not naïve to think that a new job will magically appear the week we move to Alabama.
However, I have this belief that as a follower of Jesus Christ, God knows I will make a lot of noise and commotion honoring Him before and after He answers my prayer. And since I believe that glorifying God in all things is the ultimate meaning of life, I am confident that at the right time, God will provide for me so that I can provide for my family. As Jesus put it, when a child asks his father for bread or fish to eat, his father doesn’t give him a stone or a serpent instead. I love that example.
In Fort Payne, we will be living less than three miles from not only my parents but also my sister and her husband. We know that this quiet town will not only be the right place for Baby Jack to grow up, but also the most practical place for my wife and I to care for him- to be able to watch him grow up slowly, as compared to seeing him only a couple of hours a day in a big city life. There is no mall in Fort Payne; only a Super Wal-Mart. There are oddly no Italian restaurants, which will be difficult for Baby Jack, my wife, and myself who all happen to be a quarter Italian and need marinara sauce and garlic bread in order to function properly. And sadly, for my wife, there is no Starbucks: I think the nearest one is about an hour away.
A lifestyle without malls, Italian restaurants, and Starbucks is precisely what the three of us need. Because despite leaving all those so-called conveniences behind, we will be able to slow down the pace of life to the speed it needs to be. My wife and I are extremely happy about the move. In a sitcom it’s pretty normal for each new season to bring about new characters on the show. New characters, new city, new plotlines, here we come.
Categories: People, Spirituality, Storytelling, The Dadabase | Tags: American Baby, baby, California, Christianity, dad from day one, Fort Payne, Hanukah, Hanukkah, Honda Element, illegal immigrants, Italian, Italian food, Jesus, Jesus Christ, moving back home, Nashville, parenting, sitcom, Sweet Home Alabama, TV shows
Friday, September 10th, 2010
Parenting is one of the few institutions where brainwashing is not only allowed, and a given, but it’s also sort of the whole point. Like a duo-dictatorship, two people (the parents) have so much influence over another human being (the child) on so many levels. Freedom of religion? Nope. Freedom of speech? Not so much. The rules that matter are enforced by the parents and accordingly, the child learns his or her moral code and adopts his human culture largely from how the parents choose to raise him or her.
Will I be a strict parent? “Strict” has such a negative connotation these days. It evokes thoughts of having rules for the sake of having rules, yielding a teenage kid that is either so nerdy that he thinks getting to stay up until 11:00 at night to watch Battlestar Gallactica is an idea of a good time, or he’s so rebellious he gets a DUI and a huge tattoo by the time he graduates high school. So I’d rather not use the word “strict”, but instead “consistent and practical”. Like my parents were to me.
I have always been very close to my parents; I knew I could talk to them about anything and they would listen, without being judgmental or condescending, yet still guiding me in the right direction. They gave me a little responsibility at a time, and when I proved I could handle it, they gave me more. I never had a curfew, nor did I need one. But had I responded differently to the responsibility I was given, I know for a fact the rules would have been stricter, as they would have needed to be.
I think it’s funny when I hear parents of young kids say, “Well my Brayden won’t eat what I cook him. He only eats chicken nuggets and pizza, and he only drinks Coke from his sippy cup.” I smile and laugh with them, shaking my head like I know how it is, when really I’m thinking, “It’s not up to your kid! It’s up to YOU! YOU’RE the parent!”
Just like I’ve heard other parents say, “I’m not going to force any religious beliefs on my kids. They need to figure out what they believe on their own.” (Which is always a clear indication that parent has no solid religious beliefs, otherwise they would pass them on to their children.) It will not be the case for my kid. He will know who Noah and Abraham and Moses and Jesus and Peter and the Apostle Paul are. He will know the importance and relevance of John 3:16. Just like my dad read to me from my kid’s Bible every night, so will I do for my son.
And when he grows up, I will have influenced who he is. Yet still, he will have his own personality and make his own decisions. Truly though, that’s how it was for all of us. Even if one or both of our parents were out of the picture, they still influenced us- negatively or positively. So I am choosing to make a conscious, solid, positive influence in his life. And I will be very deliberate in doing so.
Here’s what The Bump says about Baby Jack this week:
Baby’s energy is surging, thanks to the formation of white fat deposits beneath the skin. (Have those kicks and jabs to the ribs tipped you off yet?) Baby is also settling into sleep and waking cycles, though — as you’ve also probably noticed — they don’t necessarily coincide with your own. Also this month, all five senses are finally functional, and the brain and nervous system are going through major developments.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:
Categories: People, Spirituality, Storytelling, The Dadabase | Tags: Abraham, babies, baby, Battlestar Gallactica, blog, blogs, child, dad from day one, dictatorship, discipline, DUI, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, Jack Johnson, Jesus, John 3:16, kids, Noah, parenting, parents, pizza, pregnancy, Rubik's Cube, soda, squash, tattoo