Confessions memoir

Ducky: Transitory Thoughts On My Son’s Birth (Week 4)

Baby Beadle Day #22:

“When do you think he will get out of the NICU?”

This question, amongst all other questions, is the solstice my sun is darkened by. The main reason being because I have no idea how to answer anymore. It truly is two steps forward and three steps back, but I do have hopeful news: Declan is no longer in the incubator. We used to call it his but now we call it something else.

If I had the time to truly answer the question I am often asked, I might point to the fact that every time I hold his frail body I whisper into his belly to grow, and I kiss his face so that he will smile. I then hold him upright so he will learn to stretch his bones to make them strong. He is my son, and the answer to that question is out of my hands, which is tough.

Have you ever put your ear to someone’s mouth as they slept? I have, may times. Lauren sometimes snores and when I am not annoyed, I laugh.

With Declan, it is a habit of mine to put my ear to his mouth and listen to his breath. As a newborn, he breaths very fast, almost as if he is sucking air so as not to loose it, or to save some for a deep sea dive he is going on later. Every time I listen to his breath, I think of the name of God, which we know to be Yahweh, but originally had no pronounceable parts. We simply insert the vowels, but if you sound out the Hebrew name for God, it sounds like you are inhaling and exhaling.

Declan can not talk, much less form sentences, but He can speak the name of God. This is why I believe it is wrong for us to be anxious or worry: it infects our breathing pattern with unbelief, which tears away at the name of God. But that is precisely it, whenever something happens that is traumatic, the first physiological happening it affects is our breathing pattern.

As soon as we suspect trauma, our bodies respond with the name of God. The ancient Hebrew people believed that God was in the space between each breath. And even as Declan breathes, I know he is responding to his Heavenly Father as he hears the encouraging voice of his earthly father.

My favorite Catholic author, Brennan Manning, had a meditation exercise where he would breathe in and out slowly while also repeating, “Abba, I belong to you.” He would do this over and over again.

Breath in.
Breath out.
Abba.
I belong to you.
Repeat.

As I hold Declan’s little 4 pound body, I find myself connecting with his breathing and whispering, “Son, you belong to me. Come home.” Just as I speak those words over him, I know that I am just like him in the arms of my Heavenly Father, struggling and fighting and breathing, hearing the gentle whisper of my Father tell me, “Son, you belong to me. You belong to me. You are my son, and you belong to me.” And it is in that moment that I realize I was created for another world, a home that we are helping to create right in the midst of this one. A new heavens and a new earth.

He is telling you the same thing.

Shalom,

Jon

 

Baby Beadle Day #23:

Space Tables.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on what it means to be able to eat together. People rarely share meals together in homes. Rather, we tend to meet up with people at a restaurant and split the bill in the end. There is nothing wrong with this, but when you live in a culture such as ours–in constant transit–it is once again a weighty matter to eat together in a home.

Homes are not like restaurants. They are messy, contain scars from years gone by and they sometimes retain smells that the best cleaner never seems to remove. Home is more like the heart, containing scars and broken furniture. Home is the real, and to invite one into it would require vulnerability.

Jesus understood this as a Jew. For the Hebrews, inviting someone to your home for food was the equivalent of entering into committed friendship with that person. The person who stepped through the door would, metaphorically speaking, step through the doorway of the heart. An invitation to authenticity and intimacy. Jesus himself was accused by the religious elite for being a drunk and a sinner, primarily because he had table fellowship with the tax collectors, prostitutes, etc, on a daily basis. This is a direct result of Jesus’ understanding of what His mission on earth was: to invite those who were sick to the table of the Lord, without condition. Therefore, this table takes on a deeper meaning, with a side of it involving cosmic renewal, as what I shall call the space table.

Whenever we invite others to the table in our homes, it as God inviting them to the marriage supper of the Lamb. We ourselves have become the tables by which the bread and the wine are given and the very presence of Jesus becomes available to these people. Even Jesus, in his resurrected form, presented Himself to the disciples with scars and holes still in his hands. I think when we become perfect, it is not our definition of perfection that God is concerned with.

We long to see Declan come to the table, rather than remain in the hospital. He is sleeping outside of the incubator now, but we honestly do not know when he is coming home. Finally able to breastfeed, he is fighting for the right to share in our common space, and it is in fact what Jesus did. He took his place in the story and everything changed.

I suppose I don’t understand the power of the Eucharist, but I wanted to take this opportunity to declare that I believe in Space Tables. May we put our feet under it as much as we can by inviting others to put their feet under ours on earth, so that it would be as it is heaven.

Shalom,

Jon

 

Day #24:

My son, in whom I’m well eased.
Touch my face, hold my finger.
Break the bread, share the peace.
You truly know how to make me linger.

Lovely one
Lovely son
Lovely eyes
Lovely bones

Hang the skin upon your face.
Pour the wine, drink enough.
Filled with fat and filled with grace.
Scream and shout your resurrection.

Lovely son
Lovely one
Lovely eyes
Shalom, my first born

Jon

P.S. Declan is out of intensive care and has been placed in the nursery part of the NICU, where he will learn to breast feed and soon come home!

Day #25:

How can we measure the value of family?

The truth is, it is a mystery. There are ways to define and quantify every experience, and every need but in the midst of our need the answer is not as clear as we think, and once the experience is qualified it has lost its power.

Tonight was the first time in a while I was able to preach to a bunch of young adults. We spoke about the Kingdom and were able to have dinner afterwards.

Honestly, I’m too tired to invest in another 500 words, but I will say this: Just before I left Declan in the nursery today, I put my ear up to his mouth and felt the quick breaths being taken. And I wondered if I was held by God in the same way I hold Declan, and I wondered if God is listening to my breath the same way I am listening to Ducky. I feel so exhausted, in the same way that Declan feels, as I also feel like I have little lungs. The lungs require help, and remain impossible to survive without the aid of another.

Where are we putting our ear? What are we listening to? As I hung out with my brother-in-law today I saw God using us in the nursery to see healing after a simple act of holding my son turned into a moment of presence with the Spirit of God manifesting His love to heal. The idea that the birth of a child can so easily root out what isn’t necessary to focus on, and re-focus us into the real. Even as I look upon Declan’s face, I see a message that challenges me to accept that which is important and not give much mind to the peripheral.

Please continue to pray for us as we keep connecting to grace. Truly, the dark night of the soul is still ever illuminated by the sun that reflects off the nights moon to reveal the path immediately in front of us.

Let us walk.

Shalom,

Jon

 

Day #26:

It is rather hard to be inspired on a day when the heat outside makes you want to take an 8 hour nap as soon as you feel it. The sheer immediacy of that first step from the A/C and into the sunlight makes me wish I was a Yankee. But don’t worry friends, I’m proud to be a Texan at least 6 months out of the year. The heat is a momentary affliction when I visit the hospital, because as soon as I drop Lauren off at the circle drop-off, it is me who parks the car. Whenever I attempt to pray my Joel Osteen-inspired “God, please find me a parking spot” kind of prayer, my eye catches the empty clergy parking spot. I am ordained, so the temptation is real.

There was a time when I spent the better part of a summer in South America, sweating it out day and night in the heat. The cool ocean air would blow in off the coast from time to time. We would have to shower around three times a day, which demonstrates how much of our day was spent sweating. The difference in Texas is that we have perfectly fine air conditioned units we can escape to, that way whenever we enter back into the sun, we have properly forgotten the affliction that is the Texas heat. Relentless. Unforgiving. The kind of heat that will make any snowball carrying Senator take back a speech he has given against Global Warming.

In spite of the sheer 100 paces I take from the car and to the automatic doors of the hospital, the interns at the front desk are always pleasantly surprised to see me every day. And my son, whenever he decides to open his beautiful blue eyes, is always happy to see me (at least I think so). So the walk is worth it, every step and every drop of sweat. Just to see him smile and lay my ear against his chest. He is beautiful, and feels like he must be in the fight of his life. As he lays down, on my legs, I know he is unable to fully comprehend in his mind what we want for him. Yet he is able to feel the affection and the love we have for him.

As Lauren is preparing to go down to the hospital more than once a day, as things near the end for Declan’s nursery stay, we begin the process of finding a pediatrician. The nurses, whom we appreciate dearly, are asking us more and more questions about his needs and if we are getting things prepared. We tell them, “Yes, we have had these things ready for a while now.” We believe they ask because he is closer to he day he will be home with us.

Days like today remind me of the slow process that we are apart of, and the need to stay true to that process. There are truths to be gained, and things we have come to realize that seem so simple, we thought we had learned them sooner. The truth is, something as simple as unconditional love being enough to fill the heart with satisfaction was understood before, but I think now we have learned to eat of that truth. In fact, it is the turths we eat that we can actually see.

What are we eating these days?

C.S. Lewis once said, “The process of living seems to consist in coming to realize truths so ancient and simple that, if stated, they sound like barren platitudes. They cannot sound otherwise to those who have not had the relevant experience: that is why there is no real teaching of such truths possible and every generation starts from scratch [1].”

It is true that every generation has to wrestle with these things from the beginning. And I don’t think the beginning is a bad place to start. We aren’t given the liberty to re-define terms in order to shape history in our own image. We have to begin again, using the tools passed down to plant a fresh garden of peace for a new people. Given these times we live in, it is days like today I am reminded to keep going in spite of the perspiration. It is going to be worth it, and in some way, it already is.

Shalom,

Jon

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 1: Family Letters, 1905-1931

 

Day #27:

He looked my way today. After holding him in her lap, Lauren got him to open his eyes, just after the 30 minutes of whining and feeding. He looked mad, but he looked nonetheless. His eyes looked like he saw more than a dark shape, and an actual human being he recognized as his dad.

Now…I don’t think you understand…

He.

Looked.

At.

Me.

guys…GUYS.

Lauren is a champ. Spending long stretches of 4 to 5 hours of her day in the hospital, feeding Declan and then waiting on his every need, fresh diapers and kisses in hand.

Today my brother Jeremy celebrated his engagement to Marie at my parents house. He proposed two days ago between two mountains, but tonight it was about the gathering of friends, food and the telling of the story. It reminded me of how quickly our little family is growing, and for the first time I was able to see the great hall of thanksgivings and Christmas mornings to come. the same night, I was told of a friends parents who were recently divorced. Sometimes, life falls apart, and it is how we handle the pieces that define what becomes of all of it.

Life has thrown us many surprises lately. Surprises so unexpected, terrifying but ultimately fulfilling. In the midst of the darkness and some surprises we have had to endure, today we had a moment that was positive. Here is one I am going to share with you: On our way to Jeremy and Marie’s party, we stopped at a bar-b-cue place for Macaroni and fried Okra. When the order was ready, we hadn’t paid yet. As the bags were brought to us, the waitress said she refused to let us pay. And that was that, we were off.

Declan didn’t gain any weight last night, but this is normal once a baby switches to breastfeeding. On the other hand, he is more responsive than he ever has been. And although he looks really uncomfortable looking my direction, I celebrate that moment. I have felt a little under the weather, so I did not get to touch him, but I got to see his eyes aware, and they have fire within them. I wonder if this is how God feels about his children, longing for anything from us, even if it is a look of confusion and despair.

I long for my son to look back with me in the same way I look at him.

Shalom,

Jon

Day #28:

Look for the birds.

I had to make a decision today, and it wasn’t easy, but it was the choice to eat dairy even though my sinuses are going crazy. Even walking the dog is a task, given my nose longs for the outdoors, but receives the air like a drunks last shot before blackout. Maybe I am over-exaggerating just a tad, but you get the idea.

Today was an interesting day, given that we found out that Declan is very close to his homecoming, and all we need to do in order to make that happen is have Lauren practically spend the entire day in the hospital from now on until Declan is put in the car seat. This news excited me, and came at the tail end of a day neither of us expected.

Let me explain…

Have you ever been in prayer or meditation, whenever suddenly you hear the quiet voice of God tell you that from that moment forward, a certain symbol or thing would represent His heart towards you? I’m sure you have. Symbols can mean different things to different people, so what I am about to tell you is incredibly personal and subjective. In other words, you shouldn’t take it to mean a “word from God” to you, but it means something powerful to me.

Around 3 years ago, I was in the midst of a heavy season of sadness and brokenness before God. I can’t explain it in enough detail now, but the point is that I was feverishly seeking to connect with God on a daily basis in the midst of what seemed like a sadness I couldn’t get out of. I would often walk in the park and pray, connecting with the presence of God through his creation, when all of a sudden I spotted a bright red Cardinal bird. Immediately, a voice said, “Jon, from now on, every time you see a Cardinal bird, that is me telling you that I love you.” From that day on, I have seen those birds almost every other day of my life.

I’m not sure if it is because this type of bird is in abundance in our region, or if I see them because I now look for them, but they are everywhere. While I was working in the office today, I looked out the window and there was a Cardinal, playing with his food. It was like magic or wonder eclipsed all of the junk we have been going through lately, and I knew it was a better day ahead.

What symbols do you look to in order to hear or see God’s new world again?

In this political season, tensions are hot. So many of my friends are posting about which candidate they either support, oppose or think an imbecile. And then, it was brought to my attention that polls are showing the majority of evangelicals supporting a candidate who has the spirituality of a raisin. I don’t hate the guy, because I think he stands by his values and is probably one of the more consistent candidates on the ballot. Unfortunately, the values he tends to stand for, eclipse the higher nation we are apart of: the Kingdom of God. And this call to violence and shame to other nations is nothing more than a slam to our highest flag: the slaughtered lamb. We should vote according to our conscience, but let us not pretend that some of these candidates aren’t who we would like Jesus to be: powerful, militarized, republican (or liberal) and American. But He isn’t. My challenge to all of us, is simple: If Jesus were to walk into the room when we gather, would we recognize Him? I pray that the answer is “yes, of course!”

What does it mean to be an evangelical? It used to mean fidelity to scripture, witness and a real relationship all could have. Now, I believe it means one supports drone strikes, increased government surveillance, big spending on military (50% actually), a counted on voting majority and squashing any questions of allegiance to an empire that looks no more like the Kingdom of God than MTV looks like Christian television. As one of the bishops in our county says, “America may have been more ‘moral’ in the past, but she was certainly not more christian.” I have also, at times, felt a stirring to pray for my country and our leaders. It is a righteous thing to do, but this does not mean we support these leaders in everything they do, as if our allegiance to an ideology is more imperative than our allegiance to the cross. We shall overcome, but not by war, violence, shaming others, but by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony!

The blessing we can receive from this season, are new eyes to see whether or not we are contributing to Babylon or to the Kingdom of God. To empire or to Jesus. To the kings of men or the King of kings.

Do we see the symbol moving in the trees; the hum of the Fathers love? It is up to us, whether or not we may choose to see God’s new world, bursting forth in the midst of this one. A new world has been given to us in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17) but the ability to cultivate that new world is only possible if we humbly submit to Jesus all of our notions of what a “godly” nation can look like, and turn to Him in order to begin to do things that bring honor and glory to His name.

Do you see it? Look for the birds.

Shalom,

Jon

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