Thursday, September 30, 2010

Obey My commands, check, downsize house, check, give more resources to those in need, check, serve on missions committee, check, "lose" more than a year's salary in the process, che..., Hey wait a minute, come again Lord?!

Hop in the DeLorean with me for a moment, pull down the door, buckle up, wait for it to hit 88 miles per hour (we've been watching all of the Back to the Future movies lately) and go back with me 3 years. Ah, it's 2007, we have 4 children, I have a new job with massive amounts of upward earnings potential, the real estate market is solid as a rock, the birds are singing, and the planets are all in alignment for the Freeman's and our pursuit of the Christian-American dream/lifestyle. During this year we are debt free, have a house at the lake, are tithing, enjoying life as we know it, and dreaming about bigger things. Bigger things morph into a bigger house and a flip house project, all projections/systems are looking good for leveraging our assets into more "things" and more money. Bigger house comes, some creative financing, some real estate speculation (hey, the market is rock solid and stuff in our area is selling great), and another adoption process begins for number 5. On all fronts we are the picturesque Christian-American family (don't look at me in that tone), doing things by the book, tithing, consistent at church, helping orphans by adopting and wife starting an adoption ministry at our church, all systems go!
You can see where this is headed, right? Do the math on the years, when did that pesky housing crisis begin? Ah yes, smack in the middle of leveraging our real estate equity into other real estate! Smart move Chris, I can just see God poking Jesus in the arm on the throne and saying, watch this unfold, it should be a doozy while rolling His eyes. You know, just like I might do with my wife as one of our children says, hey watch this, while doing something we just know inevitably won't end up well. But hey, we all have to learn sometime or another, right?

Fast forward a bit to Fall of 2009 as we approach finalizing our adoption of F from China. We now have 4 mortgages (1 is a rental) and a looming trip to China that we can't pay for. The thought of telling our adoption agency and the Chinese officials upon approval to travel, sorry, we'll have to wait a while before we can afford that trip, was nothing less than sickening. So... we sold our lake house to free up some funds. Keep in mind this was my sanity control and haven from all things stress related. Hmm, now that I type that, perhaps it was a bit of an idol and worshipful and took away my attention from the one truly deserving of my worship and attention. Of course I don't mean my beautiful wife, although she's running a good second place race on this one. All the while we had full intentions of selling our "flip" house, making some money to make up for some losses, and pressing on. Remember that image of God and Jesus coyly watching things unfold and how we'd react? Flip house is now going on 2 1/2 years to complete and our primary house has been for sale for a year with no takers, all the while the real estate market shriveling up like a (place some funny analogy here, use your imagination). Needless to say, while the outward Christian-American dream was looking good on the cover, inside it was crumbling and becoming a sad, sad story.

However, through this process, God really began to work on our hearts and our heart's desires. Through this fire, we have been shown how truly foolish we have been. We have seen that the Christian-American dream is in direct contrast to Gospel living, that we were saved by grace so that our works can glorify Him and help the many, many in need around us. We had become "house poor" in attempts to have more stuff, and could not help anyone but ourselves, and only barely at that. We were now spiritually poor in so many ways because of these things that we had placed our time, energy, and resources in.

To be continued......

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A week in limbo

If you have ever moved you know the feeling of the week before moving day. Moving prior to kids or doing so in college when everything you own can be jammed into your hatchback and plastic garbage bags doesn't count. That entire time of life is in limbo, a prelude if you will. Like one of those Pixar short films you sit through before the full length movie begins. Like one long transitional period in an alternate reality before "real" life begins as a grown-up, with little humans who's entire existence is dependent upon you!

So we're down to one week before moving day and the house is obviously a partially packed up disaster. While I am far from a type A person, this mess and disorganization makes the hairs on my neck stand up like soldiers waiting at the ready to do something about this! Alas it's just part of the process and a week of being in limbo, what to pack that won't be needed during the week, what isn't worth boxing and unboxing because we are only moving 3 blocks away, etc...

Makes me wonder if we have too much? We do a pretty good job of regularly purging, but.... Also makes me think of the orphan and poor, do they inheritantly feel in limbo and unsettled because they have so little or nothing, or is it possibly freeing to some extent to not have much "stuff"? I would like to think I would feel content with less stuff but great personal relationships. As Jesus said, the foxes have dens and birds have nest, but the Son of God has no place to lay his head. He had everything wrapped up in relationships and others, never in stuff. As we simplify and attempt to give away more, I am praying we too will be able to invest in more personal relationships for kingdom building purposes and put less energy and time into stuff.
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Monday, September 13, 2010

The President must be encouraging devil worship...

I admit I have pretty much been on a news fast for a while now, choosing to read more wholesome materials like my bible and other more uplifting literature like Jamie the Very Worst Missionary. In my attempts to avoid vast amounts of wasted ink and electrons from the news drones, did I miss somewhere that the President is going to attempt to indoctrinate our children with cult like propaganda in his back to school speech, or attempt the Vulcan mind meld via the television in attempts to make them all march out of the house and prostrate themselves facing Mecca?

I have to ask because D brought home a permission slip for us to sign to "allow" him to watch this recorded speech from the leader of the free world. Note I didn't state the permission slip was for excluding him from participating but rather the reverse, implying that the norm is to not allow them to watch our President discuss staying in school, staying off drugs, etc... unless the parent ok's this activity.

For those of you that know me, don't think someone has hijacked my blog and is now writing in jest on my behalf as if I have had my brain melded and suddenly become a raving fan of big O. I do however believe our culture has absolutely gone haywire and pure respect and civil discourse has gone the way of Mayberry. While I admit I have a difficult time watching/listening to this man, mostly because of his speech giving skills, or lack thereof anymore, I truly can't believe I am having to sign a piece of paper that states, yes, I give permission to let my 4th grader watch the President of THE United States in his annual/traditional back to school speech. The mere fact I am having to do this speaks volumes to what we are "teaching" our children, they are watching us you know, right?

If I truly believe the theology I proclaim, then I have to let my kids see that I KNOW God is at work, through all things, for those that call him Lord, Romans 8:28. Or that the Bible for Dummies was summarized by Jesus by providing the 2 greatest commandments, Love the Lord with everything you have, and love your neighbor as yourself, Matthew 22: 36 - 40. There's a ton packed in those 2 versus, but it's really that simple. The command for us, especially Christians, to love our neighbors as ourselves seems to simply be dismissed anymore as fairy tale. We teach our children the Golden Rule, in just about every world religion, but apparently this doesn't apply to adults. Os Guinness wrote "The Case for Civility" a few years ago and addressed this inability to have civil discourse in the town square anymore. I do believe as he does, if America can't bring this back, it's down hill from here.

So while I do not like our President's policies, I do respect the position, and the man as my neighbor, and I will "allow" my son to hear/watch him during school time. My small contribution to civil discourse in the town square as he is watching me during these ridiculously partisan times.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

One on one meetings, you never know what will be discussed

Whew what a great 3 day weekend we had. It was the weekend of Bailey and according to her FB status, at one point it was the best weekend ever! I will admit it was a pretty splendid weekend all the way around, great weather, football kickoff, friends, and fun activities. For me though, what made it great was the one on one "meetings" I had with the 4 oldest. At this point in my career I am fortunate enough to have a fair amount of folks under my oversight. For those that report directly to me, it has become more and more important to have regular one on one meetings as we've grown larger and I can't possibly meet with all of the front line staff individually with any regularity. It's during these meetings that all kinds of things get discussed from long range plans to how to deal with the day to day petty stuff that sometimes can swing the floor one way or the other. You know, the really important stuff like why our break room didn't get the standing monthly birthday cake like other break rooms, one time. It's amazing what can distract from the mission at hand.

The same can be true for our families and especially our children. Their world is so self revolving, it doesn't take much to have things perilously close to spinning off axis and into a crisis. I wish I could say I was more regular with these one on one times, but I at least try and seize the opportunity when I see it coming. This long weekend was one of those times.

It started Saturday with most of the day spent with my oldest going to the Auburn game, 2 hours down, 7 hours at Auburn, 2 hours back. You can cover a lot of topics in that amount of time, and we usually do.
Due to having yesterday off and some great weather, I picked up the schedule with number four, E. I can tell he's been wanting some Daddy time lately. 
In the morning before going to work, Daddy when you get home will you play Star Wars with me? When I get home, before closing the door behind me, same question. He's really been wanting to go bike riding but usually ask immediately after I've returned from a 30 to 40 mile ride as I'm sprawled on the floor under the ceiling fan. Needless to say, due to the timing, I have to decline. So yesterday morning he asked and I immediately said yes, to which he lit up and added, can it just be you and me and not number 5 too? So off we went, just the two of us. E loves to discuss what he will do when he grows up, so we spend a lot of time talking about his grownup dreams, like having his own house he shares with his brother, being able to drive to the playground on his own, whenever he wants, and other "dreamy" ideas. He was sufficiently worn out after what was a fairly lengthy ride for him. It never hurts to take a pit stop for ice cream in the middle though to refuel.
We made it home just in time for me to tag out with E. and grab D. for a run to the dollar movie. The place was packed! I took the opportunity in the car to discuss some school related issues and how the things we stress at home like first time obedience, respect for others, I'm 3rd, do all to the glory of God, etc... apply to school and not just home and church. It wasn't a long drive to the movies, but just enough and just about the right length for a 9 year old attention span to discuss "life". Movie was fun, we were silly and hopefully some of that serious stuff followed by some laughs will stick.  Got home, realized we had plenty of time and good weather to hit the pool for one last time before they closed for the season. So me and the 3 little pigs hit the pool one last time and we closed it down. Dutch will love being able to tell everyone, and I mean everyone, that he was THE last person to go off the diving board and swim in the pool for the season. It's always fun to be THE person at something or other I suppose, at least in the world of a 9 year old.

I realized that during all of this one on one time I hadn't yet squeezed in my 2nd oldest. This isn't something she would likely overlook either and I'm sure I'd hear about it sooner or later. Just like employees, the one person you inadvertently forget to say good morning to will come back to haunt you down the road. So I checked in the 3 youngest, said tag your it, to C. and off we went to walk to the yogurt shop.
I'm continually amazed at where our conversations go some days. Last nights ranged from general silliness to wanting to be a missionary some day. We somehow got on the topic of The Declaration of Independence, pulling it up on my phone and discussing, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", and how God never promised us happiness and what this declaration means through the lens of Jesus and what He desires for/from us. I can honestly say, for a 12 year old, I was blown away with her thoughts on these things! You never know where these one on one meetings will lead, so parents, you just have to have the radars up, take the queues, and go with them when the opportunity arises. 

Now, I think I need another day off!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Daughters and Traditions

Finding common ground for Dads and daughters is sometimes a tricky path, especially as they grow into young women. Finding traditions they will cherish into their adult life is even more difficult. One such tradition that I totally fell into, I wish I could claim some long range purposeful plan, was one with my oldest daughter 5 or 6 years ago. Having been away from Alabama ever since graduating from Auburn in '92, I was determined to go to some football games once we returned. Oh, and some Nascar up the road in red neck central, Talladega. You know, as in Talladega Nights, "momma i'm going fast", in a car and in life? Yeah, that's the one, but I digress.

It just so happens that opening weekend of the college football season falls on Labor Day weekend and B's birthday is on the 3rd (it's also opening of dove season in Alabama, but I chose the football route as I didn't envision her pining for the days of sitting in the middle of a hot field waiting for birds to fly over when she's married with her own children). So, a handful of years ago I grabbed 2 tickets and we headed to the Loveliest Village on the Plains for her birthday. Well, it's now a tradition and one that she inquires about every August, we ARE going to the game, right dad? No pressure on me to find tickets that are reasonable, not in the blazing sun, etc... or anything.

There have been some close calls in finding some decent tickets but we've managed to make it 5 or 6 years running, we've been debating on the exact time frame. This weekends trek was an especially fond one for me mainly because of how God provided this time. Money for anything extra has been very tight as of late, one of the reasons we are downsizing, and we've been extremely purposeful with our funds and giving as God leads. To be honest, I just didn't have the $$ to purchase tickets, gas, food, gift, etc... this time around. I was really not wanting to break our tradition that has become one of our great memories together. Once again, God's providence reigned, and we were able to get 2 tickets for free this year, in the lower deck, in the shade! We had a great trip down and back, spent some time with some church friends, and B ran into more friends in one afternoon at the game yesterday than I think she had combined in years past. It was one of our more enjoyable and easy going games we've been to. We stayed until the very end, which we normally don't, because it was such a beautiful night and we were enjoying the moment. She got to see Toomer's Corner in full glory afterward for a change. 
I'm thankful this tradition and this uninterrupted time with my daughter. I pray God allows us to continue on this tradition. Now, don't ask me about my other 4 children, I'm still working on falling into a tradition with them too. Oh and believe you me, they let me know about this shortcoming every September as B and I head out the door.

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