Walking Through Fireworks: A Father’s Day Blessing

We pushed the garage door opener on our life as a family of three, just released from the hospital with our baby girl bundle. The house felt huge after our cubby in the postpartum ward. Ladybugs and clouds danced the walls in her nursery.

The sunshine and celebration outside beckoned us. A short stroll before nap time? Why not?

For a first time father, there was nothing newbie about you. A physical therapist, babies were the brightest spots on your clinic schedule. You cooed and chuckled through our miracle’s first-bath-fussing, then confidently laid her back in my arms. I searched your eyes for reassurance. You smiled that everything was alright.

Finally home, the whole neighborhood was in party mode. The 4th of July was sparkling out there. Fresh air and freedom called. Shunning the infant carrier, you scooped our girl up freehand, and through the door we went.

Slowly we climbed the hill, my momma-legs wobbly. Rounding the corner, we saw the street lined with open garages and lawn chair gatherings. We qualified, too, now, a full-fledged family.

Ambling closer, the landscape shifted. The smoke and sparks, crackles and pops hit a crescendo, considerably less festive at close range. Fireworks exploding everywhere, no one paused to welcome the newest neighbor. We decided to run for it—or at least waddle.

close up photography of fireworks on the street

Photo by Markus Spiske freeforcommercialuse.net on Pexels.com

Baby toes tucked in your elbow, we plodded through a gauntlet of ground flower whirls and fuming fountains. It felt like a battle zone. I fought panic that some spark or tipped-over rocket would sting our sweet girl. You spoke peace and curved like a shelter around her. Toddling along as quickly as possible, we made it back safely inside our walls.  It had been the longest block of our lives.

First parenting fail on the books: testing out that verse on walking through the fire without being burned. Check. God must have a special ops unit for new parents.

All three of us exhausted now, you introduced her to the crib with a few pats for comfort. She fussed for a minute, then dozed off, trusting you. It was only when you came out of her quiet room that I saw you rub your shoulders. You had worried, too, along the sidewalk craziness. Afraid of dropping her, tense in the midst of sparks and noise, you had held her so close, your muscles cramped.

Somehow, that strain spoke your love more clearly than anything else. We weren’t business as usual,

We were yours.

We were heart-deep underneath your calm wisdom, and you would do anything to keep us safe.

We could trust you.

2004_1221AA crop cdocAlmost sixteen years later, our controller opens a gate part way around the world for our family of five.

You are still the adventurous one, speaking peace over my mothering flutters. You are the forward thinker, encouraging me to open the kitchen to our daughter’s exploration, placing the lawn in the care of our son’s hands on the trimmer. You carry us through the shifting landscape of new culture, language, and how-to-do-everything.

Sometimes it puts you into knots, but you are wise and strong. With the Lord’s help, you keep us safe.  We love you with everything we are, everything you help us to be.

Happy Father’s Day.

To all the ones we trust, to the pillars of our families, whether by blood or by spirit:

We would not be the same without you. Thank you for launching our babies into the sky and making moms everywhere catch their breath. You teach us all how to fly.

May the Lord be your strength as you walk us through the fireworks.

When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

Isaiah 43:2-3a NIV


Linking this post up to VelvetAshes.com at The Grove: Family


Catching Foxes

It happened fast. One minute, my heart was doing the cha-cha over the newly installed water line to our washing machine and bidding adieu to the personal sprinkler that “mostly” connected to the sink faucet. I was even dreaming up a blog post on the little things that I’m thankful for, the small details that bless the way we do life. The perfect place to store the inexpensive, but oh-so-versatile, plastic stools. A shelf for our collection of chargers and corded stuff with blinking lights. A laundry sink now freed up for pre-treating and hand-washing. Learning just where to hang out 4 beds’ worth of sheets to make the most of a sunny morning. I’d gotten as far as the kids’ suction cup toothbrush holders that free up our 10 square inches of bathroom counter space, when they gathered around.

Foxes. The little foxes that ruin the vineyard. The ones that steal joy.

It started with something silly. Doesn’t it always? I pulled one of my special cleaning cloths from the washer and found it crusted with PVC cement from the recent renovation. My husband’s definition of “rag” was substantially different than mine. These good-and-faithful servants had been important enough on my scale to rate airfare from Nebraska. It was like losing a member of your infantry corps. We’d been through the trenches together, across 4 houses , 3 tours of potty training, a son with reflux, and an ailing cat. I may have teared up a little.

I should have known when I heard myself grumble, but it took me a while longer.

2013-12-26 La Paz w GmaGpa 052 crop cdocCleaning rags aside, I have this magical person in my life called a husband. Things break, he fixes them. We need to get somewhere, he figures out how. When we opened a Costa Rican bank account, he was the one who ping-ponged around the branch office for hours to get it up and running. He then decoded the complicated rite of logging into that account online, using multiple identity codes and the number generation of a security key fob.

So when the newly upgraded internet service and our month-old router went on strike, it was his territory. Common ground he was used to navigating. 4 Days and 12 hours of help-line assistance later, we had neither functional wifi, nor any logical reason for it to be so stubbornly silent. What we did have was 1 frustrated husband and 1 wife feeling increasingly isolated. The world wide web is an artery to the work we do here and a lifeline to community back in the states. The broken-internet-elephant stomped on toes as it took up a huge amount of emotional space in the room and all of Matt’s free time. We prayed and asked others to join us. We waited for God to move.

Then the real storm blew in. Someone’s economy or ingenuity—a piece of thin plastic electrical conduit grafted into the water line from the holding tank—burst. When your tile floor becomes a running streambed, all you can do is open the back door and grab a broom. But be careful, wet tile is slippery. You may need to get back up on your feet a time or two.

As I bailed, we had a rapid-fire discussion. Too low of a pipe to use a bucket. No way to plug the 1” hole. My swishes kept time while that incredible husband searched for the shut-off valve to the water tank. The deluge was over in something like 60 seconds. We mopped up late into the night, counting our blessings. The ballooning tube hadn’t given way until we were home and yet still awake. We had easy access to the gated water tank because of a neighbor’s help with a hacksaw during a previous plumbing adventure. The water hadn’t reached far enough to touch any of the important rooms or valuable stuff. A trip to Hogar de Vida’s workshop didn’t yield all of the pieces Matt needed for the repair, but we dropped off to sleep feeling like we’d dodged the bullet by God’s grace.

2013-11-30 Christmas Program 072 crop cdocThe reason that every house on the block has a water tank in the first place is that the municipal water in our area only runs intermittently, usually in the wee hours of the morning. When I heard the tank begin to fill around 4 a.m., I should have done more than give thanks for the closed shut-off valve and roll my tired self over. Two and a half hours later when Matt went down to pray, he found the major flooding we thought we had avoided. Apparently, the city water flows in to fill the tank through the same broken pipe that draws water out of it.

With rolled-up pajamas and a frazzled heart, I was back to bailing. And bailing. Matt’s screwdriver poked and prodded the front yard until the Lord showed him the shut-off valve for the house’s main water line. Better than any Easter egg, it was hidden inside of a sunken culvert half-filled with turf.

The stream stopped like the River Jordan, and we started to cross over to the other side of the damage. My love for plastic storage had served us well, but everything touching the floor had to be moved to either dry in the sun or make way for broom and towel. In place of rest on the Sabbath, we had upheaval. I pushed back emotions like I was pushing water on the floor.

A phone call later, our neighbor arrived with an offer of help, an armload of towels, and a large squeegee on a pole. Slowly, things dried up and found their places again. The Lord had protected us from serious loss. I was grateful, but as if through a distantly focused lens. The worship song I began to sing in the cleanup was more warfare than adoration.

The foxes still had me.

2013-12-26 La Paz w GmaGpa 046 crop cdocCome dinnertime, when the oven control panel stopped responding, I had had enough. The rag: my ability to keep house. The internet: a big part of my ministry and connection to friends and family. The flood: the order and peace of our home. The oven: the heartbeat of my hospitality to our family and this community. I was done with those clever bushy tails.

I spoke out my weakness to deal with these issues and put it all into the strength of God’s hands. Then I declared that no matter how bad things got, I wasn’t going anywhere. I wouldn’t leave this calling until the Lord moved us. So there, foxes.

That moment, the oven came back on like normal. Over the next few days, the house came back together with fresh appreciation for its comfort. When Matt reconnected the wifi router, it cozied up to the modem like an old friend. For a week, anyway. But when we lost service again, my focus was back where it should be.

The foxes may be fleet of foot, but the Lord is worthy. We will stand our ground and let Him work through us. The vineyards are in blossom.

2013-11-30 Christmas Program 081 crop cdoc

Catch for us the foxes,
    the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards,
    our vineyards that are in bloom.

Song of Songs 2:15 NIV

When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  

Isaiah 43:2-3a