dad from day one: Will We Be Moving Jack Back to Nashville? (Part 1)

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.

dad from day one: Clip Show

Week 16.

What is a “clip show”, you ask? Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:

“A clip show is an episode of a television series that consists primarily of excerpts from previous episodes. Most clip shows feature the format of a frame story in which cast members recall past events from past installments of the show, depicted with a clip of the event presented as a flashback.”

Lifeway publishes a monthly magazine called “Homelife”.  In the March 2011 issue, there is an invitation for readers to submit a 600-word story telling how God is working in their own home life.  And they pay $75 for each submission that is printed.  So I thought I might as well throw this into the “dad from day one” canon in the event that “Homelife” magazine decides not to publish it.

This clip episode doesn’t reveal anything particularly new to regular readers of my blogs “dad from day one” or “God-Nudged Leap of Faith”, but I see how it could be a good thing for newer readers who are just now jumping in.  For some reason, over the past couple of weeks, I have been drawing in between 40 and 100 new “dad from day one” readers each day.  So to you new readers, now you can get a better background perspective.  And for my faithful readers of nearly one year of “dad from day one”, thank you for hanging around.

Here is the story I submitted to Lifeway’s “homelife” magazine today:

“God-Nudged Leap of Faith”

It would be one thing if my wife and I had lost our jobs.  That would make more sense to some people.  Instead, we actually chose to leave behind our enjoyable and financially stable jobs in Nashville to move to my small hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama.  Yes, in this economy, we did the unthinkable.  Oh, and I should mention, we moved only two weeks after our son was born.

Why?  I guess it boils down to the universally familiar concept that when people have a near death experience, their life flashes before their eyes.  I could look back on my life twenty years from now, feeling much more secure in my finances, but my kids would not grow up truly knowing their grandparents, aunts, and uncles the way they would if we all lived in the same city together.

So we took a God-nudged leap of faith.  Since our move three months ago, we have made full time jobs out of looking for full time jobs. Granted, we both have college degrees (my wife even has a Master’s), impressive resumes, solid experience, and great personalities; but we are either under-qualified or over-qualified for the few jobs available.

In this home life of ours, time is standing still as I watch a constant slideshow in mind of my past, present, and future.  I struggle daily not to play the “what if?” game.  But at this point, it is not about the decisions that led me to this difficult place.  It is about what God can do with this situation now and how He can be seen by others because of it.  Not to mention, I know that this event will either enhance my faith through discipline and patience, or it will cause me to foolishly put faith in men who may or may not provide a job for me.

Fortunately, it is not people who provide jobs anyway.  It is not them who help me provide for my family.  It is completely God.  That is something I have begun reminding myself daily.  And in the process, I have been directed to one of God’s Hebrew names: Jehovah Jireh.  It means “The Lord will provide.”  I have been getting into the habit of praying to Jehovah Jireh, as His name specifically declares His providence.

I am not hopeless.  Yet I will personally admit that as a man who is designed to care and provide for his family, not having a job though I am fully capable and qualified, is quickly taking away my dignity.  But really, is dignity what I am after? No.

Seeking after God and only trusting in Him, instead of men or corporations or even myself, is a humiliating process.  The word “humiliating” has such a negative connotation to it, yet being humbled (another form of the word “humility”) is a necessary process in order to mature. As for my pride- it is to be damned, literally.  It only gets in the way of what God can do.

In the mean time, I get to spend plenty of time with my wife and our new son. Not every new dad has that ability.  And since I happen to be the author of a baby blog called “dad from day one,” I catch every minute of my son’s amazing and hilarious new baby tricks, so I never run out of writing material.  You know, I can see already I am going to miss this stage of my life.

Thank God for the good times and for the bad.  Sometimes it is not until you look back on them both to know which was which.


dad from day one: The Return of the Classic American Father (Being the Modern Day Ward Cleaver)

Week 16.

While it is a bummer that the classic American father has become a bit of myth these days in popular culture, I can serve as a representative in “dad from day one” as one myself.

I would like to begin with the discernment of a female comedian named Sarah Haskins; I highly recommend watching this humorous 3 minute video clip regarding the following quote of hers:

“Single men in commercials look good, drive fast, and drink beer. Then they meet women, get married, and become good-for-nothing doofy husbands. And what happens if the husband tried to plant his feet and not get bullied in real life? Divorced, money split, wife takes the kids, forever in debt.”

It’s strange how I never gave it too much thought before: How so many commercials and sitcoms really do revolve around a funny yet overweight and slightly incompetent man who happened to score a thin and hot wife who overlooks his bumbling and pathetic behavior.  From Kevin James to to Homer Simpson. (Of course, I fully realize the annoying irony of the fact that it is mainly men who are writing those commercials and sitcoms.)

Yes, they makes us laugh.  But in some subconscious ways, these stereotypes of men also take power (and more obviously, respect) away from men, in general. Does anyone really care whether or not men are portrayed positively in sitcoms and commercials? Or are we just content to just ignore the occasional facebook status hype that “all men are jerks”, or best, the subliminal message that men are jokes?

As a man with solid moral principles and a backbone, I know the truth: Good men still exist.  We’re embarrassed by the worst examples of men; the ones who make the most noise and the most messes. The truth is, being a good man is everything to me. I live for being a good husband and a good father.  It’s crucial that I earn respect from those who know me.

Fortunately, my obsession of being respected as a father and husband isn’t simply my own personal quirk.  I was so relieved and encouraged when I read the book For Women Only. Here’s an insightful quote from female author Shaunti Feldhahn, explaining a major difference in the wiring of men and women:

Notice that one of the main biblical passages on marriage- in Ephesians 5- never tells the wife to love her husband, and it never tells the husband to respect his wife (presumably because we each already tend to give what we want to receive). Instead, over and over, it urges the husband to love his wife and urges the wife to respect her husband and his leadership. Women often tend to want to control things, which, unfortunately, men tend to interpret as disrespect and distrust (which, if we’re honest with ourselves, it sometimes is).”

Shortly after getting married, I read both that book and its counterpart, For Men Only. Thank God for those books!  Marriage makes so much more sense after learning the unspoken things that men and women assume the other already knows on a daily basis.  But if I had to pin it down to one major thing I learned from reading them, it was that men want to be respected by their wives and that women want to feel loved by their husbands.  And more importantly, these books clearly explain to a man how to successfully express his love to his wife and they explain to a woman how to successfully express respect to her husband.

By going against so many of the negative stereotypes about men, I can truly show my wife and son that I love them. I can’t express the value of the reward of feeling like a respected husband and father. So I think if a man proves himself to be respected by people, then people should respect him enough to tell him they noticed his “goodness”, in some way. There’s not a whole lot of that happening these days.

So I do.  I take the time to tell good men that they are good.  Even coming from me, another guy, I know it means something.  Because subconsciously, though we men would never admit it, we appreciate being noticed for being the good men of this world.

I embark on a mission each new day to be the best good man I can be. And I know that the little things are the big things: Helping take care of my 3 month old son in every way I can, not leaving all or most of it on my wife, is a daily staple for me in my effort to be a good man.  I don’t want my wife to be able to joke with her friends about my shortcomings or shortcuts as a dad and husband. Instead, I live to give her every reason not to ever be tempted to do that, even for an innocent laugh.  And despite my constant strive and desire to be funny, when it comes to being a good father and husband, I want to be taken seriously. It’s not a joking matter.

Admittedly, my skills regarding home repairs and car maintenance are lacking- big time.  But I know that being able to fix a car or a garbage disposal doesn’t ultimately prove my manhood.  Being an active, supportive, responsible father and husband does.  Man was created in God’s image. Not Charlie Sheen’s.  Not Archie Bunker’s.  Not Peter Griffin’s.

Recruiting the help of my facebook friends, I tried to come up with an example of a popular American father on TV, who is recent (in new episodes since 2004) and not a widow, a martyr, a robot, or an alien.  Turns out, there was no real, obvious winner. So instead of naming who the modern day Ward Cleaver is in the title of this entry, all I could do was just generically say “the modern day Ward Cleaver”. And while it is sad that the classic American father has become a bit of myth in popular culture, I can do my part outside of my home life:

By writing “dad from day one”.  I can continue making a positive presence in the gorilla marketed world of “baby blogging”.  So it may not be as big as TV, but I still count this blog as contributing to the entertainment industry.  Not that I am THE classic American father, but that I am simply a clearly communicating representative of us all.  It may be nearly impossible to think of a respectable TV dad these days, but I know so many in real life- and that’s what actually matters.

If the respectable American father won’t show up on TV, he can more importantly show up in the real world.

Bonus:

Just to show you an example of the way it has become normal to stop taking men seriously, check out my challenge below.

You get to help me with a small part for my upcoming “dad from day one” entry…

Give me an example of a popular and current father/husband on TV who is respected and loved by his family and is NOT known for constantly making comical messes- especially when it comes to goofing up home repairs or misbehaving in social outings.  *Bonus points if the guy is not shlubby and overweight yet married to a thin wife who is smart-witted, as to humorously contrast the father/husband’s character.

Examples of who I AM NOT looking for:

Fred Flintstone, Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin of “Family Guy”, Kevin James of “King of Queens”, and Jim Belushi of “According to Jim”.

Remember, I’m looking for a current example, so Ward Cleaver from “Leave It to Beaver” or Mike Brady of “The Brady Bunch” would be disqualified.  I will define “current” as “since 2004″, which is the year Friends went off the air and Lost began.

Also, he has to be a popular character on a decently cool and relevant show.  No ABC Family or Hallmark stuff.

He must be intelligent as well as faithful to his family, but he can’t be nerdy either.  So Ned Flanders from “The Simpsons” won’t work.  Also, he can’t be a widow who is overcoming his wife’s death.  He has to be currently married to his wife on the show, giving an ongoing example of what a good husband and father is.

And… he can’t be killed off the show or marginalized in any way.  He has to be a solid, consistent character.

He is not perfect; he does make mistakes. Therefore he is a real man and human being; he is not an alien or a robot.

The winning example will be published in the upcoming “dad from day one” post (possibly as part of the title itself) for thousands to see.

Answer the question: “Who is the modern Ward Cleaver?”

Impress me, friends.  Because in all my creativity the only example I can come up with is Adam Braverman on the series Parenthood.

dad from day one: Baby Jack the Boy Scout at DeSoto State Park (Nature Vs. Nurture)

Week 15.

Now that the weather is getting nicer, we the parents are very excited about taking advantage of the dozens of trails near us at DeSoto State Park.  That means Baby Jack gets to go hiking with us.  Fortunately, he actually enjoys hiking, even if he’s asleep for most of the time.

I should point out these aren’t simply 20 minutes walks I’m referring to.  I’m talking 3 and a half mile hikes- not just easy, flat trails.  When he is awake during his hikes, he loves to look up at the blue sky, which matches his eyes. Conveniently, we haven’t had to change his diapers during these journeys.  But of course, we feed and change him right before we embark into the forest, to make things easier for Jack and for us.

I don’t know if it’s normal for a 3 month old to enjoy hiking.  But I guess now it’s normal to him.  I help create his reality like that.  It’s a classic case of “nature vs. nurture”.  I am nurturing him to appreciate nature.  And he’s buying it.

dad from day one: When Jack Smiles

Week 14.

The first thing I do during each of Jack’s playtimes is to carry him into the bathroom and let him see the two of us in the mirror.  He looks down at the counter, then up at himself, then he looks up to my face.  When he sees me, he smiles.  Granted, he must have the memory of a goldfish right now because then he ultimately repeats this process about four or five times before getting bored and wanting me to carry him to a different room for new scenery.

It’s a fun game for me- to try to get my 3 month old son to smile.  Sometimes I get him to smile without even trying to.  Recently he needed a nap really bad.  I knew this, but he did not.  I had him wrapped up in a blanket and was carrying him around, trying to get him to stop crying and fall asleep.

I took a break by sitting him sort of upright in the papasan chair facing me while I sat on the stool for the papasan.  In a thoughtless attempt to ease him to sleep, I began singing the Christmas song “Silver Bells”, but Robert Goulet style.  He stopped crying and started smiling at me.  Then a few minutes later, he was asleep. Needless to say, I’ve sang a lot of songs Robert Goulet style since then.  If it works, it works.

dad from day one: Baby Boys Make Me Think of Middle-aged Men [Home Video Enhanced]

Week 12.

Whenever I see a baby boy, I usually think of a man between the ages of 45 and 65 years old, because while taking a child psychology class in college at Liberty University, I remember seeing side-by-side photographs in my textbook which compared a baby boy and a middle-aged man. The example showed how as a man grows older, he begins to look more like he did as a baby. (Baby girls don’t look like middle-aged women, though.)

Something that has become pretty apparent this week is that Jack (my son) and Jack (my dad) have a special connection. Baby Jack gravitates his attention towards my dad if he is in the room.  Not only is he fascinated by hearing his voice, but he also will get the biggest smile anytime my dad looks his way. And as these YouTube clips below will show, a certain side of Jack’s behavior only opens up for my dad.  Their relationship is unmatched even to my own relationship with my son, therefore convincing me there really is something to this “baby boy/middle-aged man” deal. I think it’s really cool to see the dynamics between Baby Jack and his Pappy.



On a less sentimental note, Jack reminds me of things other than just a middle-aged man.  When my wife is holding him on her shoulder, he often reminds me of a Glow Worm.  And when when gets confused, he looks like Mac the alien from the mostly forgotten movie Mac and Me.  And when he’s passionate about eating, he makes this grunting sound that is so similar to Mr. Peepers from Saturday Night Live: “Bah-bah-bah-bah!”

Eventually, he will make me think more of a little boy.  For right now, what I am seeing in him are his attempts at being human: like his attempts to walk, his attempts to talk, and even his attempts to show affection.  Whatever he reminds me of at any certain point in the day, something I am aware of is how adorable he is. Whether he reminds me of  a pet, an alien, or a stuffed animal from the Eighties, I just know I can’t imagine life without him.



Things that Baby Jack reminds me of right now:
 

Middle-aged men, like the magnificent Phil Collins

Mac the alien

Mr. Peepers (sounds like while eating, but doesn't look like)

a Glow Worm (when Jack is sleepy)

 



dad from day one: Jack is Now 13.3 Pounds and 25 Inches Long

Week 10.

Ten weeks ago Jack was born a big healthy baby (8 lbs. 6 oz. and 20.5 inches); and now, ten weeks later, he continues to grow as a big healthy baby.  I don’t mean “big” as in the sumo wrestler sense, but knowing that our friend Paula Zehnder’s 5 month old son weighs 13.5 pounds, it puts things into perspective since Jack is half that age.  I still envision Jack being slightly small for his size as he gets older, since it appears that’s what’s in his genes (the tallest males on both sides of our family are around 5′ 11″, for the most part).  But I wonder in the back of my mind if Jack is a baby version of Will Ferrell.

I just realized today that I haven’t been referring to him as “Baby Jack” as much these days.  As he grows in size, he also obviously grows in maturity.  He knows when someone is smiling at him, because he smiles back.  And though his voice sounds like a cat, Jack has begun exploring his vocal range- especially at 9 AM and 9 PM everyday.  He spoke his first sentence last week: “I want a robot.”  I like to believe he actually meant to say that and that he knew what it meant.

Jack’s eyes are still blue.  My wife looked it up online, and because of her dad having blue eyes, there’s a 12% chance of Jack having blue eyes.  We won’t know for sure until he is around six months old.  Until then, I’ll assume he’s a brown eyed boy.

Jack peed on my foot this morning.