Notes from a Kid-Free Trip to the Beach


A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took a 15th anniversary trip to the beach in Florida. It was a fantastic and much-needed time of relaxing and breathing deep and being away from kids for a few days. And now, some thoughts regarding the entire process of going on vacation and leaving your six kids at home:

1. No matter how much you plan and prepare and set up child care and book condos and rental cars and arrange rides to and from school and sports and set out clothes and stock up on every medicine known to man, something can and will go wrong before you leave.

2. Case in point: when you have six children, a simple stomach bug becomes immediate cause for concern because who know how many children it will infect before it runs its course. The answer in this case, starting a week before we left and running until the day we were supposed to leave: all of them.

3. A 13-month old throwing up in the middle of the night is one of the saddest things you have ever seen. Her tiny little body somehow makes the exact same throwing-up noise that adults make. And yet, she probably handled it the best out everyone.

4. Six children all have different throwing up styles. (I promise to stop talking about vomit soon.) Some are quiet, some are loud. Some are independent, some need their heads and their buckets held in the just right position. Most did pretty well hitting the toilet and/or the buckets. (Nothing will ever be as bad as the time a few months ago when one of the little angels made it as far as the top of the carpeted stairs before losing everything. Down the stairs.)

5. Okay, moving on. Thankful for both a rental place and a mother-in-law with the flexibility to move everything back a day. Alabama is a long state to drive from top to bottom, but time on a road trip to decompress and actually talk to your spouse without being interrupted and listen to cool podcasts is really nice. Also, I’m not sure who in Alabama is causing so many injuries, but there are approximately a million billboards advertising personal injury attorneys throughout the entire southern half of the state. I advise not hurting anyone there.

6. There is nothing like the ocean to remind you of God’s might and man’s smallness.

7. A few days away from the responsibilities and urgency of everyday life does wonders for your soul. There’s value in slowing down, in not having to be somewhere every second, in giving yourself time to breathe.

Having that time with your spouse is important too. You can laugh at each other’s jokes, you can sit in silence without feeling like you have to say something every second (when usually if you don’t say it right now you won’t get to say it because the munchkins will drown you out), you can remember what you like to do together, you can just be in each other’s presence. Your kids and their needs are important. So is your marriage.

8. The sound of the sea waves breaking on the beach is the best sleep aid there is.

9. You get to meet and watch interesting people on trips. Just ask a question or two – people like to talk about themselves. People like Mister Ed, an 84-year old veteran from St. Louis who has been married for 61 years. He and his wife retired to the beach and he has to visit the boardwalk to grab the railing with both hands and lean, stretching out a bad back as a result of getting hit by a bike. He’ll order better weather, he tells you with a smile and a nod at the cloudy sky.

People like the tan 20-something college kid named John who sets out dozens of beach umbrellas and chairs every day, every motion practiced, efficient, deceptively simple. He’s been doing it since he was 12 and is now saving up to finish college. He wants to be an engineer, loves to surf, loves baseball and is ready to get out of a town everyone else wants to visit.

People like the older couple who spent their beach vacation putting together a puzzle of a town on a mountainside in Italy. They glued it together and are taking it home, pushing it out to their car on a flat cart.

People like Charlie, who moved to Florida from Illinois eight years ago. He and his wife came so much on vacation, they just told their kids they were moving. He runs a hole-in-the-wall breakfast joint that sells the best coffee and breakfast in town. We went twice.

People like the older folks at the beach who have zero flips to give about life and could not care less what you think about them. Their wrinkled skin and pot bellies and tattoos and gray ponytails and vapor pens and yes, even their bikinis, tell you they are confident in who they are, they have lived their life and now they are going to enjoy the beach.

People obsessed with their looks, people chasing kids, people splashing in the waves, people hunting crabs at night with flashlights, people who give you restaurant recommendations, people who have never met a stranger and talk to everyone they meet, people who hide behind their books, people who fill up the thousands of rooms and houses at the beach, people who dangle giant fishing rods off the pier, people who are like you and people who are not. Made in the image of God, every one.

10. When parents go on vacation without their kids, you know what they talk about the most? Their kids.

Thankful for 15 years of marriage, for time away, for six crazy kids and especially for two sets of parents and a few friends who watched the shop while we were gone. Who’s ready to watch them again??

I’ve Never Had My Own Bed

When you sit on hard plastic chairs across a laminated table from a social worker who is telling a woman the state is terminating her God-given rights as a parent, that memory doesn’t go away. You can still see the tears track down her face as she realizes the awful consequences of her life choices have left her no more time and no more hope.

When you adopt two of her daughters into your family, you don’t know how to figure out if you will let her continue to see them, but you decide it’s better not to hide, better to allow twice-a-year visits, better to let the girls know there are more people who love them.

When she begins making good choices in her life, she shows up at visits with arms full of presents and a heart full of excitement. When she leaves two hours later with fresh realization of past failures spilling more tears from her eyes, your heart breaks again.

Then you think about how from the first time you met her, you just wanted to help her. You felt like you needed to be a parent to both her and her children, but the girls came first.

Now, two years post-adoption, the girls are settled – they are part of your family. They love you without reserve, but part of the tragedy of orphan care is that kids experience ultimate rejection, which means that even when they land in a loving home, not everything works as it was designed. Every corner of our world is crying out for redemption, and it comes more quickly to some than others. The kids are fine for now, but nothing comes easy for their mom.

She sometimes texts you with questions about parenting and life. She has no one else. After she lost her girls, she landed with a new boyfriend whose chief attraction was a place to live. Now the father of her two-year old son and the baby boy growing in her belly, he abuses and manipulates her, but she can’t break free from his grip and their dingy, one-room apartment.

Still, she begins to take small steps. She finds a solid job and keeps it for a year and counting. She gets on a waiting list for subsidized housing. She saves a little. She builds a life. And then she gets a call that an apartment is open for her, but it’s too soon – she doesn’t have enough saved, and she doesn’t own anything to make a home other than a few clothes and toys.

She doesn’t ask you for help, but she so obviously could use it, and here you are with access to the two things she needs most: Jesus and stuff. How can you not make the leap? How can you keep her from people who care – and a God who cares – because it might get a little messy? How can you not want to invite her to church just because your girls might give their biological mom a few more hugs?

If you truly want to reach the ends of the earth – and the dark corners of your own cities – with the hope of the Gospel of Christ, you have to do it with no guarantees. You have to take a risk. You have to know that even if your plan does not work out, there are ways and plans and thoughts higher than yours.

So you jump in to help. You put out the call for beds, couches, lamps, chairs, food, decorations – whatever makes an apartment livable. Your church family responds, and your garage turns into a used furniture store with everyone’s donations. Your neighbors are astonished at the crew who loads it on a trailer in 10 minutes flat and then heads to her new apartment.

You help gather her things and take her to the new home. She is overwhelmed. When she sees her donated bedroom furniture awash in the warm glow of a lamp, fresh new sheets waiting quietly, she says, “I’ve never had my own bed before,” and your heart breaks again.

She responds to the generosity with grace, arranging her new world nicely. You see belonging, independence and hope in her eyes, and you learn not to underestimate the power of a place to call your own, a place to feel safe, a place to inspire.

She’s never seen love like this, she says, and you answer with the only thing you can say: you love because you have first been loved.

You wonder what it will be like to visit, but you see her again a week later, and she’s still doing well. She has hung pictures of the girls all over her apartment. It actually feels normal – at least as normal as it can. Maybe this is the new normal. The girls hug her and then just start playing. Their half-brother plays too. Their mom talks to you about her pregnancy and her new life.

A funny thing happens when you yield to what God wants. The hesitation about getting involved goes away. Your love grows. You’re proud of your kids for jumping in to help. You’re amazed at what He can do when you get out of the way. You start to wonder what the future might hold – this could be just the beginning.

You’re still not sure how it will turn out. There are no guarantees. She will need help for a long time. Maybe you’re getting played. Maybe she’ll slip back into old habits. But then again, maybe she won’t. There’s risk. But in the risk and in the obedience, there’s life. The Lion isn’t tame. You shouldn’t be either.

Glasses and Grace

Sometimes you can have everything prepared perfectly – clothes picked out, lunches packed, backpacks ready – and the morning is going well and then in a split second, one tiny detail you overlooked rears its head and the morning is headed off the rails. In this case, we couldn’t find one child’s glasses that she needed for school. Looking everywhere, knowing the clock is ticking and she’s gonna be late and you’re gonna be late to work and you’re getting hot and frustrated and ALL YOU NEED IS THE GLASSES SO WHERE ARE THEY AND WHY CAN’T YOU KEEP UP WITH THEM DEAR SWEET CHILD AT WHOM I AM NOT AT ALL MAD?!?! And then another kid thinks like a kid and finds them in the toy mailbox by her bed and you make it to school and work and all is well.

I’m glad our salvation doesn’t depend on getting every detail right. We would mess it up, every time. We would think we had everything covered and that one pesky sin would pop up and we’d be done. We would live in anxiety and fear, always wondering what we had missed and what more we should be doing. We could never rest.

Instead, we have salvation by grace through faith, full and free and sweet. What a gift. Our lives are covered with Christ’s blood, and even when new sin surprises us – or old sin frustrates us – we can rest in God’s past, present and future grace given without cost to his undeserving children. We don’t have to frantically scramble to meet a performance standard. We simply repent and believe, and God’s inexhaustible grace is there, as often as we need it, day after day, a treasure trove of mercy.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us …”

The Hope of Christmas

“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child … And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” – Luke 2:15-20

When the angels went away from them into heaven …

Imagine the looks the shepherds must have given each other that night when the last angel soared away through the sky.

Did that just happen?

They had heard the most wondrous announcement of the ages – a Savior is born! – and then they were left alone. From blazing glory to the dead of night. From thunderous song to eerie silence. From angels to sheep.

What must have rushed through their minds? The prophecies fulfilled, the long silence broken, a Messiah come to Earth – and they are the first to know?

The lowly and foolish of the world had been chosen to shame the wise. And they had work to do.

“Let us go,” they said, and they did.

And they went with haste …

What did they talk about on the way? What else could they talk about? These rough, dusty men must have chattered like schoolgirls.

God becoming man? Really? If it were true, these shepherds were key players in the grand cosmic story of redemption. They were a piece of the puzzle that had been so confusing for so many silent years but now, in the fullness of time, was clicking into place with startling speed.

When they arrived at the stable in the prophetic town so small among Judah and saw that it was true, that the infinite God, who was in the beginning – who was, in fact, before the beginning – was now lying where cattle snouts had been the day before.

They couldn’t help it then, they burst forth with a torrent of words telling anyone who would listen about the angels’ message, that this baby was the Messiah, sent to redeem those under the law, to make propitiation for their sins and to adopt them into his family. He was God, and now he was man too.

And the shepherds returned …

You know what the shepherds did when it was all over? They went home. They went back to their lives and their sheep. They didn’t cash in on their 15 minutes of fame. They didn’t build a personal brand and launch a website and give $25,000 speeches recounting their extraordinary experience. They did tell people about what they had seen, but they did so as it had been told them, with the emphasis on the miraculous baby, not on themselves.

They returned home to live quiet, faithful, ordinary lives. They herded sheep. They raised kids. They made their way.

From the outside, their lives looked like they did before the sky split open that night. But in reality, everything had changed. They now had a reason to live. They knew God had become man – an unthinkable proposition the day before.

So when their kids yelled at them and they stepped in sheep dung and they forgot to pick up the milk on the way home and the umpteenth thing broke in their house and the shepherding didn’t bring in quite enough money and their kids threw up down the stairs and everywhere, well, there was an underlying peace amid the mundane frustration. God became man.

Maybe some of the shepherds were dealing with tragedy and hurt and loss that first Christmas. Maybe they didn’t understand why they had to travel a dark road, but they found a glimmer of light when they saw that newborn baby. Maybe somewhere deep inside, in the midst of the hurt and pain of their fallen world, they knew that his presence signaled a beginning to the end of the suffering.

2,000 years later, we’re still not at the end, but when the baby in a manger comes again as a conquering King, well, he’ll be surrounded by those angels and no sin or tragedy or pain or grief will stand in his way as he brings his children home to glory.

Trying to comprehend the incomprehensible could occupy the shepherds’ minds while they went back to the monotony of sheep. Their attempts at comprehension inevitably turned then, as ours do now, to adoration because they – and we – cannot understand, but they – and we – can come and adore him, Christ the Lord.

Random thoughts from Fall Break about life, death and family

Random thoughts from a Fall Break spent in Owensboro, Louisville and Nashville, on playgrounds and roller rinks, at farms and funeral homes, with kids and babies and cats …

  • We somehow managed to hit two restaurants with free dessert during the week. My conclusion: more restaurants should offer free dessert. Kids are happy because ice cream, parents are happy because they don’t have to pay for it, and the restaurant is happy because the family spent money on dinner. Win-win-win.
  • Open Table is one of the greatest inventions of our time. You can make a reservation – and cancel if you need to – without talking to ANYONE.
  • A baby’s laughter is the purest and best sound you will ever hear. Unless the baby and all of your other children are asleep. Then the quiet is the best sound ever.
  • Like spy fiction? Need a good series? Try Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series. Fantastic books, and you might even learn a few things.
  • If you want people to talk to you and smile at you, just carry a baby around. They will make all sorts of unsolicited comments. The baby is cute, for instance, or she’s so big or so smart. They might even say as they walk past you, “How do I get one of those?” and you might reply with a grin, “You have to make them!”
  • Or, a wise old woman might hypothetically happen upon you in the soup aisle at the grocery store when your beautiful, perfect baby is crying uncontrollably. She stops and says, “Let me try something” and holds her hands out and you just hand her your baby because, well, it seemed like the thing to do. She holds the baby up and rubs her butt and … nothing happens. “That’s worked on every other baby I’ve ever tried,” she says, before giving her back and moving on. You’re left shaking your head, your other kids are wondering what just happened and you have to explain to your wife that you handed your baby to a complete stranger. Hypothetically, that is.
  • We were surrounded by unexpected death this Fall Break. In about a week’s time, the following people in our little corner of the world unexpectedly stepped into eternity:- Our friend, a 36-year old wife and mother of six, went to bed one night and didn’t wake up.

    – The 57-year old doctor who delivered all four of our biological kids and helped us through miscarriages and health challenges died of a heart attack.
    – A 26-year old wife and mom who had been battling cancer since my wife and I taught her in middle school 15 years ago finally slipped away.
    – Our trash didn’t get picked up on its normal day during Fall Break. Then we found out one of the workers, a 20-something dad, was hit and killed by another truck as he worked his route in the pre-dawn hours.

    This is loss. This is death that is sudden and violent and shocking. This is a bad dream that somehow doesn’t end. This is heart-rending. To leave kids without a mom? To head to work like any other day and not come home? To leave hundreds of patients without the reassuring presence they desperately need at such a vulnerable time in their lives? The holes left behind are huge and empty and unfillable.

    And yet, in the grief, there is a peace that truly passes understanding. There is unexpected grace. Most of all, there is a longing for the day when all things will be made new, when our world is redeemed, when death is defeated and Jesus reigns.

    We are reminded that nothing in this life is guaranteed. Nothing can give you security. When it’s all stripped away, the only thing that’s left is Christ. Put your hope and trust in him – nothing else matters.

    Events like this can bring about conversations with your children about eternity and salvation and life and death; they are disturbing illustrations of truth that bring them one step closer to the kingdom. Don’t waste what our friends gave you in their deaths, kids. Don’t wait. Turn now.

  • For the past couple of years, we have gone to the beach for Fall Break. This year we stayed home and treated the kids to fun activities around town we don’t normally get to do. We were together and happy, and even the days that featured a little too much togetherness were the perfect antidote to death. These ordinary days as a family – every moment, every laugh, every meal – meant so much more against a backdrop of darkness, and we were grateful for each of them.


You get to experience several mountaintop days in your life. The day you get married, the days your kids are born, when you move into your first house, when you get that big promotion, finally go on that long-awaited adventure or complete a goal years in the making. Those days are fantastic, and we should celebrate every one.

But you know what most of life is? It’s the hike through the valleys between those mountaintops. Not that all of life is depressing – far from it. But it ain’t always exciting. In fact, most of it is downright ordinary.

The eye doctor appointment for one kid the day after the asthma doctor appointment (that you forgot about) for another kid. The third trip to the grocery store – in one day. The baby who just will. not. go. to. sleep. Sweeping the floor for the 17th time today. Laundry without end. Sweeping the floor again. Getting the oil changed. Calling about that bill. Cooking dinner after you finally figure out what you’re having. Going to church.

We do much of the same thing over and over, and we get tired. So tired. But those moments are what make us. It’s not the mountaintops – it’s the getting there. I don’t want to be the guy who only shows up on the great days. I want to be the guy who’s there every day, even when it’s dark and rainy and all you can think about is burying your head under the covers. Even when the sink is clogged and you know it’s going to be all kinds of nasty in the drainpipe, but you gotta clean it anyway because the water backs up when the kids brush their teeth. Even when you get interrupted every three seconds when you’re trying to talk to your spouse. Even when you’re not sure how the money’s going to stretch as far as it needs to go. Even when you just told your kid for the third time in the last five minutes to change his attitude and he’s not getting it and you’re frustrated, but you know you have to dig deeper. These are the moments when your character shows. 

A few weeks ago, I attended a workshop by the Ritz-Carlton on how to provide excellent and memorable customer service. The company is legendary for how they treat their guests. You know what they tell you their secret is? They consistently do the ordinary, extraordinarily well. The infernal wake-up call is a great example. At most hotels, you get an automated call at the appointed hour. Not at the Ritz. You get a real, live person calling you cheerfully, asking if they can bring you coffee or a paper or whatever you need. They even offer to call back in 15 minutes – a human snooze button!

You know what that is? Doing the ordinary extraordinarily well.

You get a few mountaintop days in your life – it’s not hard to find joy there. Finding joy in the mundane, however, is much harder. But it’s worth it. Do the little things well, and you’ll have a deep, abiding joy. In the midst of the busyness and fatigue and overwhelm, keep your head. Show up. Be there. Do the next right thing. That’s what God calls us to do – and what he gives us grace to do. Take your ordinary day, and be consistently extraordinary.

I cannot give an answer

As many times as I’ve sung “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” I had a new thought as we sang it recently at church. We got to the line that says, “Why should I gain from his reward? / I cannot give an answer” and here’s what struck me:

There are people in this world who must have an answer for everything. If there’s not a rational explanation for something, they refuse to believe in it or think it is acceptable. Their own intellect is their highest authority.

As Christians, we subscribe to a coherent system of beliefs. Yes, we think there is evidence to support our beliefs, but at the foundational level, we have faith in things unseen.

That’s actually the case for any belief system, even a system of no beliefs. If you’re a Christian, you believe in God. If you’re an atheist, you believe there is no God. You believe either way – your belief just focuses on different objects.

Some discount Christianity because they don’t understand how a good God could allow bad things to happen. They think there is no possible answer to the questions of why children die or why cancer strikes or why terrible car accidents occur. I don’t claim to have solutions for those difficult problems except to say that bigger purposes exist that we can possibly understand. I’m 40. God is eternal. He has a better perspective than I do.

I really can’t give an answer for why God would sacrifice his only Son to save me, his sworn enemy. It makes no sense. It’s not conceivable by any human framework. But that’s the thing – it’s not my framework. It’s God’s, and it’s infinitely better than anything I could conceive.

I am fascinated by how things work. I just finished reading about how the Wright Brothers discovered the secret of flight, and now I’m reading about the founding of Twitter. I love knowing the process Wilbur and Orville went through to build their planes. I’m riveted by the personalities of the guys who started Twitter and how they were their own worst enemies despite their fantastic invention. I want to explain to my kids how everything around them works.

But despite that interest, I am also okay knowing there are things I don’t know. On days when the world seems to turn upside down, we hurt and we cry, but in the end, we trust a God who laid the foundations of that world. I’m glad he’s deeper and more mysterious than I can ever figure out. Otherwise, what’s the point of believing in him?

Without that, we should all quit right now. But if there’s something bigger and better that we can be part of? Well, that’s a reason to get up every day.

I cannot give an answer why God sent his Son on a rescue mission, other than his deep love for us and his own good pleasure. I can’t explain it, but I can rejoice in it. Join me.

Our Baby, Planned Parenthood and Christmas

The news of the year in our house is that we are pregnant with kid number six, which means we’ll add a third girl to this circus in early March, giving us a nice round total of three boys and three girls. (Side note: I’m hoping for a February 29 birth date – how cool would it be to have that birthday?! My wife thinks I’m nuts.)

Six is a lot of kids and while we have (mostly) adjusted to that reality, it still overwhelms at times. A lot of times. But it’s also amazing, in the true sense of that word. Right now, as you read this, a real, live baby is inside my wife’s womb. I can see her kicking every night, my wife’s stomach bouncing in and out, a thin layer of skin all that separates us from the newest combination of our DNA.

Two baby-related stories are juxtaposed against my daughter’s kicking feet right now: Planned Parenthood and Christmas. First, PP. For the past few months, video evidence and testimony from former workers has shown Planned Parenthood clinics across the country operate as barbaric torture chambers where doctors rip unborn babies apart. The fact of abortion isn’t really news, but actually hearing and seeing it discussed in such stark terms makes it more immediate and disturbing.

Whether the practices of killing babies and distributing their body parts are legal is beside the point. They are immoral from a Biblical worldview. As a nation, we are murdering hundreds of thousands of children, and our new baby could have been one of them if we so chose. There would be no more nightly kicking, no more doctor visits, no more baby-related purchases and baby-induced house rearrangements. There would be no hopes and dreams, and no life. Not that abortion was ever an option for us, but somehow just being pregnant and knowing it could be an option is unsettling and makes me feel hollow.

As for Christmas, this is December, when we traditionally celebrate the coming of Christ into the world. As we contemplate daily Advent readings designed to point our minds to the mystery of the incarnation, the fact that God chose to come to Earth in the fullness of time as a tiny baby instead of a conquering king is more real than ever to me.

A young virgin named Mary once laid awake at night and watched her stomach bounce in and out. This baby had already turned her life upside down and he wasn’t even out of the womb yet. So much more would come – so much fear turned into joy, so much hope fulfilled, so much life turned into death and then, astonishingly, back to life, the power of death undone.

Yes, the power of death was undone. Millions of actual, real lives have been lost because of abortion in the United States, but ultimate power does not lie with their killers because a little baby from 2,000 years ago grew up to lay his own life down. Man may kill the body, but the souls belong to God.

Claim that abortion is not murder all you want, claim that women have the right to their own bodies all you want, claim whatever you like. Your claims will one day pale in the face of true justice made possible only because a little baby came from heaven to earth.

My daughter is alive and well and kicking, and I can’t wait to meet her. Jesus is alive and well too, and while we celebrate his birth this month, don’t forget that he was born to die that we might live.

“I Will Find You”

It all started innocently enough. We were eating dinner – spaghetti, which if you’re counting is approximately the 7,345th time we have served this delicacy since children entered our lives, yet somehow they still don’t realize it’s not a finger food – when the topic of the girls’ gymnastics class came up. Last week, their behavior had been less than stellar and in fact had included direct disobedience of the teacher in full view of mom.

Mom remembered this at dinner before she took the girls to class. We were already a little on edge because of the aforementioned lack of knowledge of how to eat spaghetti and the messes that had been generated. Her reminder was to the point:

“Girls, you know how important it is to obey in class. You have to listen to what the teacher says. You will do what she says. You will not jump when she says to stop jumping. You will not run when she says not to run. You will obey.”

She was intense. Kids gradually quit chewing as her words sank in. Quiet descended on the previously rowdy kitchen.

“Remember, I can see everything that happens during class. I am watching. I am listening. If you disobey, I will see it. I will hear it. And I will find you.”

The silence was complete. Even the boys were chastened. There would be no disobedience.

All I could think of was this (minus his last line):

Don’t mess with Mom.

Who Needs an Appendix, Anyway?

Quick summary of events: after a week of vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, our 7-year old son Taylor had surgery at 3 a.m. last Thursday to remove his ruptured appendix. I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow account, but the whole experience was fairly traumatic. He came home after four full days in the hospital and is well on his way to recovery. A few random thoughts in the wake of a rough week:

1. The human body is incredibly designed. It tells you when things are broken, although it sometimes takes a while to figure out the exact message. I know God has a purpose for the appendix. Maybe someday in eternity, we’ll find out what it is. 

2. It’s very hard to watch your child in pain when you don’t know what’s causing it.

3. When their children are threatened or in pain (see number 2), Mama Bears will do what is necessary to protect their children. I’m very thankful for a wife who cares more about her kids than herself.

4. There’s a big difference in how you feel when you don’t know what’s causing a physical problem and how you feel when you figure out the reason. Before, your mind runs wild and you contemplate all sorts of avenues for action without really know what the best course is. After, you can focus on a specific plan. You know the problem and you know the solution – you just have to make it happen.

5. A corollary to number 4: there’s a big difference in the way men and women process events like this. While I see my son in pain, I’m focused on how to fix it. Once the problem is solved, I’m good. While my wife also wants to fix it, she has a more difficult time because her baby is hurting. Once the problem is solved, she can’t just turn off the emotional distress. 

6. After multiple viewings of A Dolphin’s Tale 2 in the hospital room, I feel well-qualified to make this statement: Harry Connick Jr. is a much better singer than he is an actor.

7. I’m impressed with my son’s independence, stubbornness and resolve. The nurse would tell him how to move to keep from hurting himself, and we would try to help him. He’d hold his hand up and say he wanted to do it himself, and he would. These are qualities that will serve him well in life, and I’m glad he’s developing them now.

8. The body of Christ is a beautiful thing when it moves into action. Hundreds of people prayed for our son. Dozens asked about him, called, texted, stopped by the hospital. Our church family brought meals (FYI – food is always welcome when you’re stuck in a hospital), friends sent gifts to cheer Taylor up and his class all chipped in to buy him a big Lego set. When a friend is having a hard time, they do want to hear from you. They may not be able to respond right away, but it helps to know you care.

By the way, Facebook is a fantastic tool for times like this. As Taylor went into surgery in the middle of the night, I posted a status asking for prayer. Several people immediately commented, and hundreds more followed over the next few days as they tracked his progress. 

9. There were many moments over the last week and a half that we held our son while he cried, his face a mask of unrelenting pain. In those minutes, we would have done anything to trade places with him and ease his agony. God the Father faced just such a moment with his Son more than 2,000 years ago, and he did what is unthinkable to any parent: he turned his face away. The pain and heartache the Father and Son felt was real, but it had a purpose – to bring sinful man back to holy God. That kind of sacrifice demands our soul, our life, our all.

10. The truest sign your child is recovering from a major illness: the sassiness returns.

11. The best kind of laughter is when you want to laugh at something you find hilarious, but your stomach really hurts when you laugh, so you hold your belly and try to keep the laughter inside, but you can’t fight the grin working its way out and your mouth curls up and and your body shakes and your eyes light up and you’re just so happy to be happy. That’s what I saw in my son in the days after surgery, and I loved every second of it.

12. We got the initial call with bad news, but good news followed soon after. Four days in the hospital seemed like forever, but we’re home now and it’s mostly over. Many people don’t get good news. They live with chronic illnesses in their children or they lose their children forever. My heart goes out to them, and I want to remember them because their hurt doesn’t stop. The outpouring of support we received was incredible, but it was for a short time. They need that same kind of support every week

13. Taylor is pretty much back to his normal self now, although his scrawny body still needs to recover some weight. For a while, his happy grin was far away, and the night was dark. We knew morning would come, but it was hard to see when or where. Into that darkness, we said, “O Lord, be gracious to us, we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in time of trouble.” (Is. 33:2). He heard our prayer. Joy comes in the morning, and so did Taylor’s smile.