What’s My Sleep Number?

A friend of mine recently posted this status update:

I am physically incapable of becoming tired at the appropriate time at night.

And it made me think. Well, not at first. At first my reply was, “So do it then. Start it. Get it out of your head and make it happen!” Flippantly, I typed without the slightest attempt at research or even speculation into the many reasons for insomnia. I typed without thinking. Then I started thinking.

Thinking is not always the best thing to do. So many nights I lay down unwillingly at the end of my day, next to my gorgeous wife. The part about laying next to my gorgeous wife is not the unwilling part. Sometimes, “thinking” results in massive life changes. Which as we all know means that life changes. Too many nights I lay down and go to bed tired — exhausted actually — and unsatisfied; like my day and all my energies spent in all the various ways with various people was a waste of time. Like I did it all wrong. Something’s missing, but I don’t know what. And when it’s time to wake up, I’ll wake up tired and just as unsatisfied from my sleep not being remotely fruitful. What else could I be doing? What else should I be doing? If I knew, would I even want to do that? I have dreams. I have ideas and yet, from day to day, I count the lines on the faces of Father Time with none of my dreams one tick-tock mark closer to being realized.

And so, unwillingly, I put my pants on the ground and my head on my pillow. My eyes close and the monsters I try so hard to keep at bay all day (with notable success) lay in wait for this moment, when my guard is down and my mind is wandering through everything — they attack. The goblins of potential. They spin me up and my head riles with inadequacy and lethargy and so many questions. “You need to get caught up on new design blogs. Why haven’t you started that iPhone app yet? When will you organize your digital life and get rid of the cruft and duplicates and deprecated files? You know you said you were going to start drawing again… you even bought a drawing book, which is still blank with the exception of one page. And what ever happened to waking up early to spend some time reading the Bible? Not to mention writing those stories down that are clogging up your brain cells.” And so on. It’s so easy to drown in my own accusations of how lame I am.

So what now? Right? I get stuck in not-sleeping-mode when it’s too late to do anything about it and there’s no hope for time tomorrow to do anything outside of what already needs to be done. Rinse. Repeat. Then I drift away somewhere between “Yes! I’m totally going to do that!” and “Forget it. I’m never going to have time to do that.”

Of course… it can’t stay like this for long. It takes way too much energy to keep the status quo. So maybe a few more cycles and things will have to change and either the monsters will get bored of me and just go away, or maybe I’ll actually have some time to do a few things I’ve got on my mind. In hindsight it would seem that I could have done something about my dilemma instead spending two hours too long writing this. But complaining gives somewhat of a sense of accomplishment without having to really do anything.

Oh, and my apologies for wasting your time… it started out all promising. This is all I got right now.

Ghosts From Shadows

Leave her alone.

Disturbia

The other night we took our kids out on a date. Kai had a rough evening, we were all hungry, and the “neighborhood grill” seemed to suit our fancies.

As parents of young children, Jen and I try hard to cultivate in them the things we value; the things we’ve learned (usually the hard way). I pray my daughters will know their worth. That they will stand up for themselves and others and not put up with being treated as objects. That they realize who their mother is and wish most to be like her. That they will seek and crave kindness and gentleness in boys and will spot the punk-ass ones a mile away and steer clear. That they compare every guy they meet to me and the way they are treated by me. That they will be empowered to fly without the chains of oppression so many women get trapped in. I want my son to grow into a man that honors people, respects them, fights for justice and knows grace — both how to extend it and receive it. That he will have respect for the world around him. That he won’t make my same mistakes. I pray he treats girls with a protective, virtuous heart, and that he will be an example of goodness for the guys he’ll spend his time with. He and I have this ongoing debate over what the most important thing is in the universe. “People are.” I tell him, “Everything you can think of will always break down either to the benefit or to the distress of people. Otherwise, nothing in this universe matters.” It’s fun to see him propose alternatives to hold that #1 Most Important spot, and then watch his eyes both sink and gleam in the same instant as he answers my questions about that thing when he realizes I’m right.

Oh, so many things I hope and pray for my kids.

So, back to the other night at the restaurant… This is a difficult story to tell. I’m still disturbed by what happened, yet so torn about feeling the way I do. Trying to work it out… So here goes:

I needed to take a detour on the way to our table. I had some “stuff” to “work out” and needed a quiet place to “sit”. Shortly thereafter, this guy walks into the restroom and chooses the urinal directly in front of the stall occupied by myself. Now, time out: I don’t make a habit of paying much, if not any, attention to people when they are indisposed, just as I was. Ok, time in: This guy’s behavior was so odd to me I couldn’t help but rack my brain trying to figure out what was going on. Lifting his head up like he was inspecting the ceiling, he kept holding his non-occupied hand up to his nose as if to either cram something way in there, or dig deep to get something out. But there were sounds. Like sharp sniffing sounds, but more like a reverse sniff, like a burst of air going out. I was baffled. I didn’t want to believe any of the options I suggested to myself for what that could be. And a facet to the disturbing-ness of this whole experience is my own predisposed acceptance of what might be happening if only he looked the part. This whole post would be naught if he looked like someone who might be inclined to perform cowboy blows in public. I hate that I think that. I hate that I was so shocked by this guy’s behavior. A stocky, tall man, older, clean-shaven with steely, short hair and semi-modern squared-off glasses. On sheer stereotypical appearances, I’d say this guy was a mid-40-something, white, Republican banker/respectable white-collar business man. Yet there was this odd disconnect. At one point during his stay, he turned around and tried to look into my stall as if it had just occurred to him that someone just saw what he did. A few minutes and a handful of those bursting noises later, he left. There was no washing of hands. So anyway, about half a minute later I realized those sounds were from him spitting loogies on the wall. I could see them dripping down! Dripping off the plexiglass covered advertisements onto the urinal’s plumbing and then onto the urinal itself. Nasty, phlegm-infected, upper-middle-class slimy spit.

One of the things we try to teach our kids is respect. Respect for other people’s property and respect for their time and work. I know there are people in the world who couldn’t care less about anyone but themselves. I know that. Read some earlier stories here if you need to be assured that I know people can be horrible. I know there are people who go out of their way to cause trouble. But seeing it happen right in front of me in such blatant display by someone who under just about any other circumstance I might actually try (or think I need) to look up to just shook me at my core.

When I got back to the table with my family I saw this guy sitting at his table with his guests, smiling and ordering food and getting served by the very establishment he completely disrespected, as if he did nothing wrong; sitting next to his wife or girlfriend or co-worker or sister, who knows. The point is that he looked so… so not like someone who would hock loogies in a restaurant bathroom like some mid-pubescent teenage boy with a drunk step dad from a broken home all angry about nothin’ and confused as all hell about everything, or like some deep southern trailer dweller in a NASCAR muscle shirt and some green Crocs, wearing a “#3” ball cap sponsored by some trashy beer brand who couldn’t give a shit about the poor sap who has to clean the bathrooms cause that would actually be a better job than the one he’s got. And, yes, I did just write that. Because I’m so pissed at myself for thinking if he were like that, then I would have expected it and I could move on with my life boxing people up for the stereotypes they dress like, or sound like. Then I’d be able to keep my safe, clean distance from people and pretend that goodness is abundant and things will be so easy for my kids cause they’d just have to remember to avoid “people like that.”

This is where the music changes and you’re not sure if something good or bad is about to happen. If I had super-powers, one of which being telepathy, I so would have beamed my thoughts to this guy in migraine proportions. To what end though? For what reason? What good would it have done? Why was I so upset by that whole ordeal? What. Because there was no justice? Because someone will have to clean up after this pig? I think I’m so disturbed by this because I unwillingly let people shock me. Because I’m a salesman’s dream. Because I’ll almost always seek out the good in people and pretend the bad is not so bad, and if the good is not so good, I’ll pretend for that too, despite how clear the Bible is when I read these words:

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.*

You see, if I accept that… If I truly and whole-heartedly buy into the fact that us humans are pretty much doomed and our only chance at redemption is God’s grace, then my world changes. I grew up believing in God and Jesus; believing the Bible and “trying to be good” but this is different for me. This is the real life application that youth group night couldn’t touch. Accepting those words in context of this guy and my own prejudices and self-righteous judgements mean that I fall under those words too and have no place to think in my mind those thoughts I wrote just then. Then I am forced to extend grace to this guy and I have no other choice than to see him as human in need of that grace. And it forces me to consider that same grace extended to me. It forces me to put my own self under my own microscope. And it frees me up completely to be able to look my son in the eye with rectitude when I tell him “People are the most important things in the universe.”

* emphasis added.

Apples to Apples

What are apples? Ever tried asking and listening as people try to explain as best they can? Are they yellow? Red? Green? Orange? Round and bumpy? Smooth? Think about it: how can you describe an apple well enough that your description, mere words alone, becomes a viable substitute for the real thing. But… until you hold one in your hands and wrap your fingers around its taut cool, smoothness and its aroma lifts as you hold it up to your face… until you hear the crispy snap when you sink your teeth in and pierce its skin and the crunching rip as you pull a chunk of its flesh off… until you taste its zinging juices at the back of your tongue, you have no clue what ‘apple’ actually means. How could you? Words alone cannot replace the actual eating of an apple. They only create the desire to have one.

I was so young and impressionable. At first I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. I was young. I was empty and blank. They used lots of words. Words that had no context — or definition — at such a young age. They talked about it a lot. Everyone did. Everyone always does. Continue reading…

Take A Number

My head is noisy tonight. It’s about 1:00 in the morning tomorrow. Too many pieces of words and sentence fragments floating around. Lots of half thoughts and shards of things that might have been considered ideas at one point. I can’t sleep. I mean, I can fall asleep but that sort of feels like giving up. I’m having a hard time right now. I’m not ready for today to be over. I’m not ready for this weekend to be done. I’m not satisfied at all with my day this life and I don’t want to spend the last handful of moments of what was supposed to be an amazing weekend lying in bed feeling worthless, unsatisfied, stupid, neglected, and angry. Hopefully writing this all out will solve one of two things: either kill these garbage feelings clogging me up, or tire me to the point of exhaustion… to the point when sleep becomes non-negotiable.

“I’m sorry I’m not who you want me to be.” She said unapologetically as I stepped back in apology, put my hands in my pockets and fell apart inside. Those words flowed from her lips flawlessly. She continued to climb out of the car without my help. She didn’t need it. I didn’t think she did. Where I come from, a man offers to help a woman out of respect and adoration. Out of delight and a sense of protection. She’s so capable to do anything on her own. Maybe she doesn’t know I think that. Maybe she feels trapped. Her words seemed to come out of no where, rehearsed almost, as if she’s been thinking about something for a while. I can’t stop thinking lately that I’m holding her back. I know she loves me. I just wish some days to feel… well, different than I do right now: like I’m her safe harbor, but not her adventure.

Who the hell do you think I want you to be? keeps spinning through my head, shredding all the other thoughts into pieces of words and sentence fragments. Breaking things that might have been considered ideas at one point. Autumn spirals and winter is inevitable. I’m locked out. I have a key, but I’ve no idea where the door is. The sky was crisp and black as velvet; the moon is hibernating. Yesterday’s snow still covers everything. I didn’t notice how cold it was — I was too busy trying to gain my composure. A bomb just went off in my face and I had less than a minute to clean it all up before we went inside to the party.

Yesterday was our anniversary. 11 years. 4,017 days (including Leap Days) of life, laughs, tears, joy and pain and everything else together. The day started off so relaxed and peaceful. I love those mornings when we stay in bed just a bit longer holding each other when we are both awake. I love the warmth the blankets have been storing all night and the way her hair fills the air with its scent. The way her skin seems to glow from the inside out making everything just a shade brighter. She is my adventure. Somewhere though, before we went out, after we spent the day reminiscing, she got lost. I don’t know where she went. Maybe she was already gone. The past week or so she’s been oddly distant. Preoccupied. I know she’s got a lot on her mind. I was hoping she could press pause for just a while. I don’t think she looked into my eyes once the whole evening. I’m not talking about making eye contact. I’m talking about looking into me. The kind of look that tells a person nothing else matters right now. I spent the evening fruitlessly fighting off thieves I could not see as they laughed at me while stealing away my bride. I spent the night standing in line wondering when I was going to get my turn to be in her sights. But standing in a line behind a noisy restaurant full of strangers and all their distractions, behind fucking asinine family drama, behind walls of pain and buckets of memories from hell is a long and lonesome line in which to stand.

My resilience is waning. I told her once: “I have more patience than you have crap to go through.” I can absolutely back that statement up. Last night, though, that limit was tested. Tonight that limit was tested, again. I’m finding myself slamming into that limit more frequently than I anticipated. More frequently than I’d like and it’s freaking me out. I don’t like what’s on the other side of that line. It’s not all that clear to me what is on the other side, but in my experience breaking a limit is typically not a good thing.

I used to be a bottler. I would stuff things away that hurt me or offended me and then once the bottle was full, I’d explode. I’ve been learning to not do that lately; to either deal with things or let them roll off into oblivion. Is that possible? I feel like I’ve been doing pretty good at letting quite a bit roll off. I suppose that very claim is an oxymoron. Actually… I’ve got a few things bothering me that I’ve not addressed. I don’t know if now is the right time to barf them all out. This is heavy enough already and I think my plan is working — my eye lids have become rocks and my legs are restless and numb. Proofreading is a chore. I’m battling the doze. It’s now after 3:30 am.

I love my wife. Make no mistake about that. I loved her before I knew her. She is an incredible creature, full of passion, empathy, fire, pain and light. She is thee most loving person I know, and the most honest. One of the many things she has taught me is honesty and for better or for worse, my words tonight feel brutally honest.

It’s a shame I wasn’t brave enough to make this public.

Finally posted on May 4, 2011.

Dear Copeland, How Did You Know?

Funny. I’ve had this song for years and it took a friend sharing it with me the other day for me to realize that. This song would have meant nothing to me no less than six months ago. Now, it is as the French say, ├á propos.

Sleep now moon
I’ll watch over her while the sun is up
And you’ll have her eyes again soon

It’s a glorious day
And my lonely heart is tired again
And I am starved for her attention

That’s when [she] sparks a light in my eye

Sleep now sweet princess
I’ll cheer for you silently and carefully not to disturb
I’ll be ready on that evening
When you’re starved for my attention

You’ll say, “Wake now, Prince
There’s a brilliant sky above
And a jealous moon in love
And they’re starved for our attention

More About Stars

One of the kids last night at youth group brought up “the possibility of another earth somewhere in the universe” and we all started geeking out about aliens and how big space really is. Comparatively, we are specks of dust next to the sheer size of the earth. And we get smaller than that in relation to the earth in its place in the solar system; and then there’s that whole galaxy deal of which we are in just one arm of its spiral. Oh, and somewhere in the vastness of space are more galaxies even larger than our beloved Milky Way.

Who cares about how many eggs would fit in a line between the earth and the sun… and the sun and the nearest star. Space is huge. Massive. Don’t worry, I’m not going to say that stupid word: Ginormous.

Big. Really, really, really big. The fact that things work on a stellar and galactic scale all the way down to the microscopic and subatomic levels and we all don’t just come apart and dissipate into fragments of nothingness is a miracle.

So… I was getting ready for bed last night and actually almost went to bed, but I looked up, out of our star-gazing window and saw some stars gazing down at me. And it hit me. Again. That glimpse into forever that lasts about as long as it takes light to travel from one side of a room to the other. If the universe was finite and had an end — a known end of the universe — humans would die of boredom and cabin fever. Nothing would satisfy the passions we all have to explore and hope and colors would fade into pointless shades of who cares, and life would be nothing more than the event horizon between what we could have been and the inevitable. Our dependence on God would be impotent. Imagine knowing the full extent of the universe and, then imagine having found that there are, in fact, zero planets like earth and the possibility of life out there somewhere is actually a non-possiblity. Hope that we are not alone is gone. Hope becomes a relic from the ancient times when we used to wonder about the night sky.

The mystery and possibility and massivity of space and all its massively mysterious contents is possibly the closest thing to incomprehensible as it gets. Which, in a way facilitates on some level the ability to comprehend God’s incomprehensibleness. Side note: the center of the universe does not exist. That which has no end, has no center. The universe is not expanding, our ability to take it in is.

We are not here accidentally, or by some very specific, chemically orchestrated mindless set of conditions and coincidences. The stars and all their glory are not just natural, hot, conglomerations of space dust and gases. No. Stars are so much more than that. They have a purpose. Everything does. They were made so we could wonder. So we could speculate and theorize and show ourselves that we have the capacity to think about what we think we see, or don’t see. They were made so we would have the freedom to try to make sense out of the world around us; to help us help humanity as a single entity take into account the economies of scale when we attempt to construct the rules by which we live and consume and re-create and believe… for what we believe… about everything from combustion engines and cereal bowls to hand-carved canoes and circuit boards to multi-grain snack bars and little rubber grommets that keep stuff from making annoying sounds. Stars were, once again, made for us. Their very existence grants us permission to ask God questions about his ways and creations and everything. Permission to seek truth and unity in the way things are. Freedom to hypothesize and propose and test and challenge a baseline for how things work.

If we knew where the possibility for wonder and the pursuit of knowledge absolutely stopped, we’d be better off as rocks colliding into one another as we aimlessly hurl towards super-masive black holes.

Is there another earth? Are there aliens? I don’t know. The universe is really big. Ask God, he made it. Do those questions hold your sensibilities captive so that you can’t really experience the freedoms of being loved or the permission for your life to have meaning or the right even ask those questions?

Twenty Minutes, or Ten Seconds

My first thought before pulling the trigger was, “I wonder if this will blow his fingers completely off.”

I hid in the bathroom. My hands were still slightly numb from the previous shot… well, from that and the effects of adrenaline and terror. I don’t remember the first shot, I just know it happened. The shotgun was still overly warm and filled the air with the stinging residue of burnt powder and the smell oil has when combined with hot metal. Surprised. His face was more intact than I’d have ever guessed was possible from a point blank range with a double-barrel shot gun.

So much blood. Gaping jagged gash on his neck from what could have been a very dull knife with a lot of effort behind it, or shard of glass, or who knows? And the first shot left quite an impression on his head. I saw his shadow waver a bit through that gap under the bathroom door and could tell he was poised on the other side. He knew I was in there. He was a rather large man. Almost unnaturally large. That bathroom seemed tiny, like my legs would never fit tucked underneath me next to the toilet, hiding. Petrified. Surprised that he was still alive. I laid the gun down with the barreled end facing the gap breaking the strip of light bleeding in from bedroom, and waited. Twenty minutes or ten seconds passed and the door flew open and his hand seemed to lunge at me independently of his body and I did it. I pulled the trigger and the noise was so loud. Loud enough to overwhelm my ears and render them useless. I watched in instant silence his fingers turn into ground beef and I was shocked they were still mostly attached. Unusable so far as fingers typically go on a hand, but attached nonetheless.

I didn’t know who he was, where I was, or why he was after me or how the hell I acquired a loaded, double-barrel shotgun. I think I was in a hotel room, but where? Which hotel? What city? Every time this happens these questions don’t seem as important as they do this time. There were no other people around, which was weird in retrospect. It seems I’m always in some sort of house or building with people around everywhere. Most of the time I don’t know who anyone is. This is the first time, though, that I’ve woken up with a gun in my hands and my head foggy and full of stuff I should know but don’t.

I bolted for the main door looking for an exit; trying to get outside. My white minivan was sitting there in the parking lot and suddenly I found myself inside trying to get the sliding door closed, fighting him off. How he got there so fast still makes me skeptical of my own understanding of time and the whole ordeal. And in a blink, my son, my little boy was standing there trying to get in the van with his hand and left side of his head blown apart.

I hate dreams like this.

Splinters, the Truth About Stars, and the Dust Storm

I stayed home from work today. I felt like crap and just wanted to rest. I needed to rest. A recent and previously alien development in my life has worn me out and beat me down. And after the past two nights of fruitless tossing and turning on what can only really be described as a lounge chair cushion, coupled with the previous handful of centuries (or weeks or months, I’ve lost count) on tenterhooks in my own bed, I finally broke down to the point where taking an unplanned day off from work seemed like a brilliant idea to try and gain some ground on the whole “getting some rest” concept. Naps are nice. But rest is not what I really needed. Needing rest is only a symptom. I could have slept all day and still that which is at the core of my somnambulism would remain unchanged; severely restless, relentless, dark and shifty like shadows at dusk, thrashing around chewing my head from the inside out. None of this may make any sense. Expect disjointed thought, non-linear timelines and contradictory assessments.

I’m starting to doubt. No. I’ve been on the cusp of full-blown doubt. Doubt in myself, my marriage, my faith, humanity, everything. I’m starting to lose hope in having hope. I’m starting to wonder what it means to have faith and I’m crumbling under not having any answers for my broken, fragmented questions that half the time I have trouble articulating through the splinters and sawdust they’ve created and the other half of the time I feel completely inadequate to know what to ask. It’s like I’m being undone and I’m literally feeling held together by a little glue, some tape and a few staples. At some point all this undoing gets rebuilt, right?

My world is unrecognizable. Blinding. Exhausting. Unbelievably amazing and frightening. I’m scared. Horribly frightened. If I accept the reality of what is going on around me, then that means things will change. Forever? Good? Bad? I don’t have a clue.

I’ve discovered that I’m not dead; that I’m not a tin-can, or an appliance with nicely tuned gears and crisp set of instructions. But I’m not sure yet if I’m fully alive. There are moments, sporadic moments of uncanny clarity and glimpses of something far better than my day-to-day goings-on but the past month or maybe more has me wondering if I’m stuck somewhere in the in between. I have so much to learn still about myself and the things I’ve buried and boxed away; about the things which make my blood boil and the things which capture my fancies stopping me in my tracks. I have much to learn about love and feelings I swore I’d never expose again out of a sense of mutated self-preservation. I love my wife with every molecule of love I’m capable of bestowing to her and I’m learning that it hurts like hell. Most days it seems like I don’t know her… at least, I don’t yet know who she’s becoming or who she has become. It seems like she’s lightyears ahead of me and I’m burning up trying to catch up. Or, maybe there’s nothing new to really know and just a whole lot more to re-learn. She’s amazing; so full of life; strong. But she says she’s broken. I think I might have a slight clue of what that feels like.

A storm recently ripped through our little home, turning everything inside out leaving us with piles upon piles of stuff that we’d just packed away. A bunch of stale, dusty feelings and memories, nightmares and seething, volatile monsters that individually we had hidden from the air, from the light. Jen embarked on a journey and is trying to hang on to a hurricane that has taken her dead-center through the valleys of the shadows of death. Her journey has forced me to evaluate my own skeletons and zombies — things I was so sure that I’d extradited from my mind and heart — only to catch them creeping up through cracks in the floor. They are like eerie shadows passing by limestone encrusted windows I can’t quite see out of. I expected to deal with garbage from her journey, but I was totally unprepared for the way it haunts and torments me. I thought I was a rock. Some days I am. Some days I’m a goddamned tank and other days I’m the unfortunate soul trapped under the treads.

Braving the storm, she made it to the point of no return. You know, that point where you suddenly realize the cost of the journey just as paralysis, like a virus, does its damnedest to secure a tactical advantage? I suppose we made it to the point of no return — a side effect of being cleaved with someone is the sharing of all the paths covered, uncovered or discovered along the way; marriage is like that, or should be like that. “We can’t go back to how things were, that would be living a lie.” she’s said before. Agreed. And she’s not always sure she has the courage to keep pushing forward into the darkness that just seems to hover around these parts. I’m not sure sometimes if I can bear her taking another step because with each determined, carefully placed step into the void she pulls us both closer to that which has tried and is trying to destroy her, to destroy me, and it scares the shit out of me. But, as long as she somehow musters the strength (wether it be given to her or born from inside) and dares to step in further, I know that same source will in my complete ignorance give me either the courage or the blindness to be right beside her, cheering her on, widening her path, our path, as needed… one step at a time.

Its going to take quite a few steps to make it through this and the hope of a lush, healthy life on the other side is powerful enough to draw us through all the garbage and decay and rotting, infested and infected pieces of ourselves. My life story is riddled with selfish and lustful and self-righteous and hollow and dishonest moments and I’ve drowned myself over and over again in self pity and I’ve hidden my shame and buried myself behind a facade of some lame-ass ideal. I’m trying to embrace my past mistakes and current state of brokenness because I’ve seen first-hand how powerful it can be… while she has been used and abused, neglected, tossed aside, molested, raped, drugged, thrashed, jacked up and left outside for dead somehow this beautiful woman wakes up every morning by my side and makes it through her day mothering and loving our three precious children and loving me and even carries a smile and a light in her eyes most of the time. Don’t mistake these words. She is human and would say herself that she fails daily. But we set such high expectations of ourselves we often cannot see the obvious that others can’t help seeing. She’s exhausted and burnt, but she’s strong… stronger than she thinks and she fights for what’s right.

God has reached down and grabbed me and saved me out of the muck and the mire and he continues to free and protect me from the destructive threads of darkness my heart was born with. He’s rescued her from the clutches of hell on earth; from the edge of obliteration and from the sharp, obsidian shards which lie in wait in the hearts of most men and she knows it. She knows grace in a more intimate and much deeper way than I’ll ever know. Her faith is monumental in my life. Her understanding of God’s grace and mercy has taught me empathy and how to love, and how to forgive. Though, I wonder sometimes if she’s ever forgiven herself. There are things we cannot change or avoid — life just grabs us and throws us down for reasons only God himself knows, but other things we could have steered clear of… those circumstances and situations and consequences we find ourselves in come down to conscious decisions we make. But even in those disheartening and disobedient times, God still loves to forgive us… that’s not the hard part. I’d venture to say that accepting the forgiveness freely poured out by the absolute spotlessness of the blood of Jesus is cake if you think about it. It feels good to think he washed us white as snow. I don’t mean to downplay his sacrifice AT ALL, but forgiving ourselves… now that’s a beast of a thing to do.

Two nights ago I was in the mountains and I looked up at the sky and saw some stars and thought, “Oh, wow. I forgot about stars.” Then I shielded my gaze from the glare of a nearby porch light and instantly the sky exploded with a zillion points of ancient light. The immediate and only complete thought I could muster in that moment was, “But she’s so much more than that, God. These stars are amazing and they don’t compare.” I think in that moment… in that strike of a synapse in my head I understood the significance of being alive… of being created by that which made everything. The vastness and sheer endlessness of the universe that night had zero effect on making me feel tiny and meaningless. As if for a brief sliver in the time stream of my life I got it… I understood God’s love for me and that those stars, all those stars, were made for me. For us. For all of us. That all creation was made for us. And then it dissipated. The questions came flooding back once the dam had cracked and collapsed releasing fathoms of deep, deep heavy sorrow and rage and despair and more questions.

Sometimes I make myself sick thinking about who knows how many assholes have done what to her and through the torrents of vomit and my misguided accusations against God for not stopping things from happening to her, up it gurgles, my crushing blow, my one silver bullet: the question of what number I am to her and that knocks me down to my knees with my face in the dirt and my heart in my mouth shredding through my teeth and my hands fisted and armed for bloody revenge and angry justice. Eventually though… not as quick as I’d like, and not nearly as loud as I hope, I hear a whisper against the raging waters of, well, rage and sorrow and putrescence with an answer. With thee answer. “One. You are the only one who loved her first, who loves her so purely, so deeply, so completely that she is sanctified through your love for her.” I know this because God said this:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing´╗┐ her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Found in Ephesians, chapter 5, verses 25-27

It’s then I crumble [again] and submit my fears and worries to God [again] and accept the adorable gift he’s given to me [again]. It is then that I find myself more in love with her and so in awe of God and the way he designed the canyons of the heart to only be satiated by certain things and I get so horribly taken by her that I realize what we have is not normal. It is not common. It cannot be found, or stumbled upon, stolen or searched out. It was planted in us and cultivated, for us. It was given to us, this gift and burden of loving each other. This is my spin cycle. This is why I cannot sleep very well lately. This rift in my head with her pain and my pain and the darkness on one side and forgiveness and redemption and brilliance on the other. Constantly.

While up in the mountains, I was part of a conversation with a few guys and one of them said, “When you asked [her] to marry you, that’s the exact same thing as saying, “Not only do I accept you, I forgive you.” I had never thought about that before and after just learning that the covenant of marriage is intended to be a direct parable of Jesus and us, his church, his bride, that comment solidified for me what the parable of marriage is: Past, present, future forgiveness for each other and dedication and devotion to loving one another and the selfless, unconditional giving of grace and mercy.

Wait. Did you catch that? “Just as Christ loved the church…” I’ve been asking myself what that means. I’ve been sifting through the question that statement invokes: How do I love my wife just as Jesus loves me? That sounds like an impossible thing to do. Like a heavy and burdensome impossible directive. A while ago when she was setting down to bed she thanked me for my help that day with the house, the kids, and whatever else I did that meant something to her and in whole sincerity I told her, “All I have to give is yours.” which to her was cause for alarm, which broke my heart and made me so sad. She knows grace and forgiveness, but does she understand love? Does she know what I mean when I tell her I love her? Sometimes I’m not sure. How can she? I’m just starting to grasp what it means to love my wife… it means that I’d die in her place; that I’d do everything in my power to save her and lift her up; that I desire to be with her so badly that I’d defy death just to hold her tightly. And when she doesn’t know how to accept my love, I wait, patiently, with open arms for the moments when she might catch a glimpse. God’s command for me to love my wife as Christ loved the church creates incredible freedom to give Jen every bit of who I am and what I have to give. I’m learning little by little how to do this. I screw up and fail and I keep trying.

There’s still a disconnect, a sort of crossed wires effect that messes with me. This is the monster chewing my head into splinters and my heart into pulp. This is the beast who lives in the rift that keeps me from resting and relentlessly torments my thoughts and ability to trust and function. It’s “touch.” Physical touch. It’s my band-aid, my recharger, my pain-killer and my caffeine, my crutch and my kryptonite. Why, God did you make my primary mode of experiencing and receiving love through the one sense my wife has the hardest time with? How come with one intentional caress of her hand, or a single embrace, or a lingering kiss, or the passionate moments when we are whole am I suddenly validated as a person, husband, man, friend, lover, and parent? Am I selfish for thinking this? Am I horrible and rude and wrong and a sicko for wanting this? Is this war I find myself in only in my head and so far from reality? Who can I even talk to about this? Who’s going to understand that the one thing I crave, that’s built into the core of who I am, is the one thing intentionally or unintentionally withheld; the one thing with the power to feed me to oblivion? It’s not that I feel unwanted… just… not wanted. I miss the electricity in our glances and the acceptance of her gaze. I crave the promises remembered in her kiss. It pains me to think that she feels these things too and we hover in stasis next to each other, but it kills me to think that she shuts them off. Who has been in my shoes and can point me onward? Who is there to say, “Come on, son. It’s this way… this is the season where your patience and love are her jewels, not your passions and desires and she’ll be alright and you’ll make it. Don’t let go. There are streams to rest by along the way and there are parts where you won’t be able to tell where the path is. There are some big rocks to climb around and some areas where if you let go, you’ll plunge to your death, so be sure to hold on tight until you can get your footing again.”

I’ve no resistance to climbing a mountain, or two or ten. Bring them on! But which path leads to the top instead of the desolate hidden valley or the sheer drop halfway through, or the one that ends at the mouth of the cave? Where is the guide who knows what I don’t here in the foothills? She’s worth everything to me and these questions and fears and my monsters are pinning me down while her monsters are stealing her away. I went to the mountains hoping to find a guide, but scared out of my skin to ask.

I Heart Radio

My son and I were on our way home from a grocery store run a while ago and he was letting me know how much he wanted to see the movie Independence Day. During our conversation I was reminded that I first saw that movie on July 4th in the theater back in 1996 with a friend. I told Kai, “My friend won tickets to the premier on the radio! Isn’t that cool?”

Astonished, he asked, “They had radio when you were younger?” [pause, while I try to interpret what the hell I just heard] “Oh, yeah… ‘the weather today is sunny with a chance of rain'” he proceeded to spout in a mock old-man-nerdy voice. Then he asked if they also had echoing sounds like: “Car sale on Sunday ( ( Sunday ( ( Sunday ) ) ) )!”

Malakai is nine years old; I’m 30-something; Radio has been around for over 100 years. Perspective… I feel better now. I was sharing this story with a co-worker during our carpool one day and he said something that put it into an even better perspective, “Things change so fast these days that his understanding is probably skewed about how long things can take.”

Thank you, Chad.

In the second half of the 1800’s through the turn of the century, a handful of scientists and inventors were all working on creating the technological pieces that would soon make “wireless telegraphy” a viable, practical commercial reality, originally for the benefit of ships out at sea. Among them were: James Maxwell, David Hughes, Thomas Edison, Heinrich Hertz, Nikola Tesla, Alexander Popov, Guglielmo Marconi and Reginald Fessenden.

There’s some dispute over who actually invented radio as we know it today, but we all know Tesla was a freakin’ genius; Edison already has that whole light bulb thing; Marconi established the world’s first radio station on the Isle of Wight, England in 1897 and has been called the Father of Radio; and Fessenden, the Father of Radio Broadcasting who on Christmas Eve in 1906, used a synchronous rotary-spark transmitter for the first radio program broadcast, from Ocean Bluff-Brant Rock, Massachusetts. Ships at sea heard a broadcast that included Fessenden playing “O Holy Night” on the violin and reading a passage from the Bible. This was, for all intents and purposes, the first transmission of what is now known as amplitude modulation or AM radio.

I’m smart… I can find stuff on Wikipedia.

This has nothing to do with Independence Day but we now have a plethora wireless technologies like FM, Wi-fi, 3G, HD Radio and online virtual radio stations that don’t really exist. And you can download for free the “I Heart Radio” app for your mobile wireless devices (iPhone, Blackberry, etc.) to pick up digitized broadcasts of radio stations around the country!

Now, if only I could install the I Heart Radio app on my boom box.