Personality Soundtrack

I’ve been asked before to write a post or two (or four) that explores the uniqueness of each of my kids. Last weekend I shot some really terrible video of the kids swimming at our mini-vacation (the real one is coming up next week). Dan and I actually laugh about the quality of the video. (Don’t blame me – iPhone doesn’t believe in service to my corner of the world, and I don’t have a fancy Flip. Blackberry is all I’ve got for impromptu moments like this!)

But despite being a grainy, fuzzy mess of a video, it is actually quite useful as a personality display. Here is the video and below is a description of what you might have missed the first time through. : )

swimming from danieljohn on Vimeo.

So, first of all, this is a five foot pool all around. But my kids are not swimmers and are not five feet tall, and so it might as well have been a hundred foot pool! Ada is in the yellow BabyFloat in the middle. Ada is six. Ada likes to be in control. After spending most of her time crying she was so nervous about the water, Dan tried to help her “overcome” her fear by putting her in the unsinkable, immovable baby floatie. No one is going to make a baby floatie that tips over, Ada, you are perfectly safe!

00:05 She is still nervous, but Ada starts bossing telling Dan that Macy needs help swimming to me (Mama).

You can see Dan towards the middle there. Macy is wearing blue water wings and a blue duckie floatie around her middle. She is the bravest of them all. With her arms draped over the duckie body she flops and floats all over the pool. I’m not sure why Ada thought she needed help from Dan, but earlier she was crying because she thought Macy was going to drown (with the two water wings and an inflatable duck around her middle!), so this is a better approach. The big pink blob is a huge inner tube that Jesse is lounged on – wearing Dan’s sunglasses.

00:19 Instead of helping her to the ladder, Dan grabs Macy’s feet and starts spinning her around in the water. This is his normal dad reaction. Why be boring? Let’s do it the fun way!

00:30 Claire makes her appearance. She has her arms wrapped around two pool noodles and is kicking her legs like crazy. Her activity in the pool is like her activity in life: constant motion. Seriously, we swam for about two hours each of the two days we were there and Claire was moving like this the entire time. No wonder she’s such a skinny shrimp! : )

00:46 Classic Jesse: “Can you make it, Macy?” He is the big brother I always dreamed of!

00:50 Classic Macy: animal noises and monster sounds. I have no explanation for this.

01:07 More Classic Macy. Me: “Say, ‘I made it!” Macy: “No, no, I need get swim to the steps!” She has her own ideas and her ideas are best. (My dad claims he lived with a little girl like this about 32 years ago, but I think he’s fibbing.)

01:15 Background noise: Ada singing, “A wed-ding toda-ay! A wed-ding toda-ay!” It was true. We were there for a wedding, but around our house it could be anything, “It’s rain-ing today-ay!” Almost anything can bring on a song!

Music Monday: John Mark McMillan

I won the John Mark McMillan CD “The Medicine” from a give-away at Lindsey Noble’s blog a few weeks ago. I’d heard a lot about it, but I’m hesitant to buy new music that I see getting a lot of Twitter action; I’m never sure if people really like the music or if they are just trying to win something by re-tweeting. Anyway, I was glad to win, and it has been the soundtrack of my weekend. Love it.

I keep saying to myself, you know, so-and-so would love this. I should email Seren about this (Michael should totally check it out). Or various other comments, until I finally decided it needed a blog post. This is great music!

I suppose it isn’t music for everyone. Mom, I don’t think you’d love it, but Dad would. It’s kind of manly/artist worship. McMillan’s style is a sensitive southern rock, if there is such a thing. : ) He throws in a ton of eschatological themes, which is usually not my thing, but his twist is authentic and hopeful. Love.

Here is a video of McMillan performing “Skeleton Bones” – lyrics are below (that’s for you Eleanor!):

Peel back our ribs again and stand inside of our chest.

We just wanna’ love you We just wanna’ love you

Peel back the veil of time And let us see You with our naked eyes

We just wanna’ love you We just wanna’ love you

Skeleton bones stand at the sound of eternity

On the lips of the found

And gravestones roll

To the rhythm of the sound of you

Skeleton bones stand at the sound of eternity

On the lips of the found

So separate those doors

And let the Son of Resurrection in

Oh let us adore the Son of Glory dressed in love

Open up your gates before him

Crown Him, stand Him up

We want your blood to flow inside our body

We want your wind inside our lungs

We just wanna’ love you We just wanna’ love you

If you enjoyed that, you’ll like the rest of the CD. That song (probably my favorite) is an example of his style and poetics. Some tracks are a little more aggressive, some less so. Oh, and I forgot to mention, you probably already know one of McMillan’s songs: a little tune called “How He Loves”! : )

My Context

Donald Miller posted recently about how life is the context for our spirituality. Simple, but, you know, I think this one gets lost in translation fairly often. Being a Christian should impact our everyday lives; we should be making decisions differently, pursuing more noble feats, honoring things that really matter.

My kids are my primary spiritual context (closely after my relationship with my husband, but this isn’t a post about him). Here are a few things my context is working out in me right now:

1. Answers Don’t Always Come The Way You Want. You know Claire has mild cerebral palsy from her premature birth and we’ve been going every 12 weeks for Botox shots to help relax the muscles in her tight leg. The night before our most recent trip, I had an increasing sense of reluctance and something resembling anger. Why do we have to keep putting her through this painful procedure? I want something to change! That morning, her doctor came in with the same attitude. “I think it’s time to do something else.” Yay! Well, sort of. The something else is a tendon lengthening surgery in both her lower leg and her quad area. Maybe casted for six weeks after. Months of physical therapy. But, it just might change everything about Claire’s walk and, in the words of the doctor, allow her to “do the things she wants to do.”

2. Some People Shine in Trials. Claire’s only response to the impending surgery is this: “I can’t WAIT to ride in a wheelchair!” : )

3. Giving Freedom is Tough. Our oldest, Jesse, is nine, and he got a new bike for his birthday. Suddenly he’s riding around the block in his little gang of elementary boys and asking to “go over” to so-and-so’s house to “shoot hoops.” Meanwhile, I keep the back door cracked open while he’s gone to listen for his cry when he falls off his bike or loses the basketball game. I know he needs to go, I just never anticipated how much it would worry me. Can I grant the kind of freedom to the people I lead? Can I trust them? Can I trust God? How does Father God do it for me? Or you?

4. Vacation is a Gift. I’m really looking forward to some family time in the days ahead without demanding schedules. I’m not sure what that’s teaching, but I think I probably ought to pay attention. (When was the last time I gave God that privilege in my life?) This weekend we’re off to do music for a dear friend’s wedding and they are putting us up at a “ranch” with a swimming pool. That’s a no-miss for our kids. Next week I’ll finish my final undergrad courses, and the week after that we’re off to Omaha for some genuine vacation.

Just One Thing

My friend Anna is a Rare Rock. She teaches the 3 and 4 year-old’s Sunday School class and when Jesse (now 9) was 3 she offered to pick him up and take him. Wrestling two babies and a preschooler alone, since Dan’s “paying gig” is every Sunday morning, I was never making it to Sunday School.

In turn, each of my three big kids has learned to wait at the door on Sunday mornings and watch for Anna’s white car to pick them up. It is a special treat for them and a wonderful help to me. Now Macy just turned 3 and earned a spot in Anna’s car. She wasn’t even born when Anna started this tradition. Rain or shine, late nights or holidays, Anna is there.

It’s just one thing (among the many) that Anna does to help others, but it makes a big difference in the little lives in my house. From Anna they are learning consistency, faithfulness, and devotion. Sometimes it doesn’t take a life-altering decision to be a Rare Rock, it just takes one thing. “The next right thing” is what Dallas Willard calls it.

Happy Weekend, Rare Rocks!

Join the Song

In my last post, I gushed about Claire’s cardboard testimony (click to see the video of the event) and only briefly mentioned the background music as the John Mark McMillan song “How He Loves.” I didn’t mention how truly perfect that song is and how moved I feel every time I sing it – especially with a bunch of other people embracing its engaging lyrics. Recently, Ben Arment described the song as “the biggest anthem of our generation” and I think you could make a strong argument for that.

I once heard the writer of “Revelation Song” – also a contender for one of the greatest songs of our time – say that when the idea for that song came to her she had been praying that God would bring unity to His Church. It wasn’t until after the song had become a Sunday morning standard that she realized God had answered her prayer. “Revelation Song” is sung by countless congregations from almost every stream. In fact, my children’s chapel kids request it on a regular basis and they can sing all the verses! Give us a song like that or the bridge of “How He Loves” and we might all know what to do with one another at the great throne of God after all! ; )

If you’re like me and you look for those unifying experiences on the earth, too, you might be interested in the project Ben Arment is administrating for the STORY conference I mentioned here. He calls it a song mash-up and you can participate from anywhere, even if you don’t plan on attending the conference (by the way, only a little over one hundred tickets left to the September event and the best price is available until Friday!). You just download the official track, practice singing along, and record yourself on video and on audio. (See Ben’s directions for specific things of which I leave completely to my husband!) The STORY crew is working on a video that incorporates as many of us as possible! How fun is that?

You know, I’d like to teach the world a bunch of songs, but this one would be close to the top of the list! Check it out and join the project!

With Faith Like My Child

My daughter Claire was asked to participate in a Cardboard Testimony project for our church’s Open House over the Independence Day weekend. We’ve lived here since Claire was born 7 1/2 years ago, 15 weeks too early and several pounds too small. My second pregnancy – twin girls – ended traumatically after placenta abruption and Claire survived but spent 115 days in the hospital before we could take her home. It felt like tiny Claire had read a preemie checklist of possible complications and did her best to attempt each one.

We are blessed to be part of a loving, supportive community that knows her well. Few people here stare at her limping gait and try to figure out what is wrong. They all know she has a mild form of cerebral palsy. Her teachers remember praying for her to live when she was an infant, so giving her a little extra help when math doesn’t come easily is no problem. But our collective heart does break for her when we consider the uphill battles she still has to fight; we all know that someday we won’t be there to offer a hand on the steps or to carry a lunch tray to the dish window.

These are the kinds of struggles I expected Claire to address when she was asked to write her testimony on two sides of cardboard. The Cardboard Testimony is a fairly popular experience in the modern church. The idea comes from the roadside signs of the poor or homeless who scribble onto a piece of cardboard the description of their greatest need: Will Work for Food or Hungry Please HELP. When Claire asked what a testimony was, I told her it was the thing that you need the most help with and how God helped you. With Cardboard Testimonies, we get to use the second side of the cardboard.

“So what do you think your testimony should be about?” I asked Claire after school one day.

I imagined she would come up with something about her weak leg or her sometimes clenched fist on her left hand. I thought she might say she needed help with the hard math like adding and subtracting numbers bigger than 5. I didn’t expect her to say,

“Oh, like, how I miss my sister Ellery who is in Heaven?”

I should have known my expectations that Claire would be most concerned about her physical body were shallow. These are not her deepest concerns. She’s better than that and more honest. Her deepest concern is relational. She has felt loss deeply, in a way I don’t even fully understand. But at the same time, she has hope. This is faith like a child. This is faith I want.

Here are Claire’s two sides for the Cardboard Testimony from this Saturday (click to get a better view). Imagine in the background her Daddy and his band singing “O, How He Loves Us”: