September 2010


We went to a corn maze for the first time ever last weekend.  When you consider that I lived in places like Indiana and Nebraska, I guess it’s a little surprising that I’ve never been to a corn maze before.  Then again, a corn maze in Nebraska would probably take weeks to escape. 

I lead the college and career group at our church, so we met up with them right around dusk on Saturday night at a corn maze near our house.  This is a suburban area and the maze was on a relatively small property (around six or seven acres).  I drive past this maze just about every day and frequently wonder how the field could be big enough for a maze.

We paid the person at the entrance and she gave us a map and an explanation.  I always wonder why people feel compelled to explain a map.  I mean… it’s a map.  You figure out where you are, where you want to go, and connect the dots.

It was a perfect night for a corn maze.  A massive orange moon hung low on the horizon just above the cornstalks.  It looked like a giant pumpkin in the sky.  Being a guy, I pocketed the map and ventured into the maze.  How difficult could it be?  After a series of dead ends and a making a couple of circles, I thought it was time to consult the map.

There was one problem.  Since I wasn’t paying attention to where we were going previously, I had no idea where we were on the map.  That’s when it occurred to me that you can know where you want to go and you can have a map on how to get there, but if you don’t know where you are, you’re still lost.

How many people are in the exact same situation in their careers, in their relationships, or concerning their finances?  We know where we want to be and there seems to be an endless supply of maps out there, but if we don’t take the time figure out where we are, we’ll just be stuck in a maze.

We eventually made it out of the maze (after about an hour), and interestingly I lead two other groups out as well.  When we know where we are, where we want to go, and understand how to get there, people tend to follow.

We had a very busy weekend.  Last weekend was between Amelia’s and Olivia’s birthdays, so we had our families in to celebrate.  We also had three soccer games in as many days.  I’m playing catchup on my grad school assignments and haven’t had time to write a new posting, so I’m reposting an oldie but goodie from two years ago.  This was the posting I put up after our first trip to the hospital when we though we were going to meet Amelia for the first time.  She ended up sleeping in a couple of more days, but I thought this was appropriate since she just had a birthday.

For those of you who don’t know, my wife is pregnant and is ready to give birth at any minute now.  To say that she is about to pop is an understatement – she looks like a tick that struck a vein.  She was induced with our first child, so we had a nice controlled setting where the contractions began at the hospital with all the beeping equipment already hooked up and charts drawing little mountain ranges.  This second one is a little different.                

She began having contractions early last week.  They started getting more frequent and then subsided.  On Wednesday night, they really got going.  At first they were about 12 minutes apart and not too uncomfortable (easy for me to say, right).   Then she went into this quiet phase where she wasn’t really giving me much information.  I don’t do well when not given information.  I kept asking her what was going only to hear a sheepish, “I don’t know.”

I had no idea how frequent her contractions were, but mine went from about a minute apart to a constant tightness.  I was becoming the stereotypical sitcom father-to-be.  Sara called the paging service for her doctor and was waiting for a call back.  Sara was patiently sitting with the phone in her hand.  I was frantically checking bags, packing them in the car, changing camera batteries, making sure the dog had plenty of food and water, taking the dog out one last time, rechecking the bags, checking to make sure we had our insurance cards and identification, unpacking bags to find said identification, repacking bags, reloading the car, mowing the yard, changing the oil, painting the kitchen, milking the cows, and washing the windows.

About 20 minutes later, still no call from the doctor and Sara was still waiting patiently with the phone in her hand.  By this time, I had whipped myself up into the Looney Tunes depiction of the Tasmanian Devil and not so gently insisted that she call them back.  Shortly after her second call to the paging service, Dr. Payne called us (I guess Dr. Misery, Dr. Anguish, and Dr. Distress were out of town).  Once again, Sara is on the phone and I am outside the information loop – not good. 

To make a long story short, although the contractions got down to 4 minutes apart, she didn’t go into full-blown labor and my shortcoming of being a massive control freak was underscored.  For you women out there, that is why men are so bad at the whole birthing process thing.  We have not control and are reduced to bystanders.  Yeah the nursing staff may call us “coaches” but who are we kidding?  Of all the people in a delivery room, I am the least mission critical.

Now, rewind back to those moments before we went to the hospital.  I had no control over what was happening, so what did I do?  I created a bunch of busyness to keep myself occupied so that I could believe that I was somehow being productive.  It seems foolish and almost comical, but don’t we do that all the time?  We feel the urge to seek out and fulfill our mission, but to do so would mean giving up control.  When faced with the possibility of losing control, we create work and busyness that we can control however tedious and unimportant it may be.  We’ll generate reports, send meaningless emails, do housework, or start a new project for the sole purpose of being in control.  Remember when we talked about significance a while back?  I think we are prevented from experiencing true significance until we surrender control and stop doing work just for the sake of working and staying busy.

Are you overcome by busyness?  Do you spend your time frantically working toward insignificance?  Where are you afraid to give up control?

Olivia had her first soccer game last week (number 13 in the picture).  As I stated in a previous post, this is one of those leagues where they don’t keep score (we won 9-5).  All of the other girls played in a league last year, but this is Olivia’s first year.  I don’t think her lack of experience is that much of a handicap.  Essentially, everyone on the field runs to the ball and attempts to kick it… sometimes in the direction of their goal.

After a while, Olivia ran away from the ball and started looking at me on the sideline.  When a play brought her near to where I was sitting, she whispered, “I can’t hear you, daddy.”  I told her that I wasn’t saying anything and she needed to listen to Coach.

For some reason, that quiet plea for help was a little painful for me.  She was running around, obviously in need of direction, and the place that she usually went to for direction (me) was silent.  I felt like I was failing her, but if soccer instruction was what she needed; her coach would be a better source to fill that need. 

I guess this is one of many situations to come where I have to yield to another person’s authority to meet my child’s needs.  I got to thinking about this and it’s not that far removed from the world of management.  While I am submitting to another person’s authority, I am not delegating responsibility.  I am still responsible for making sure that the authority figures in her life are credible sources of authority and I am responsible for ensuring that listens to, respects, and is obedient to those credible sources of authority.

Fortunately, her soccer coach is great.  He knows infinitely more about soccer than I ever will (giving him credibility) and is wonderful with the girls (making him respectable).  I dread the day that we have to deal an authority figure that is either not credible or respectable.  I know it is inevitable (especially with my standards).  I just hope I have the wisdom to handle it well.

A "gorge"ous view (I couldn't resist)

I love this time of year.  The hot, humid summer finally gave us a break and we had some cooler temps and drier air over the weekend.  It’s amazing how energizing good weather can be.  I took the family up to Tallulah Gorge for some pre-college football hiking Saturday morning.  We hiked down the gorge to a suspension bridge then hiked up to the top of the gorge (400 steps).  If we had gone all the way to the floor of the gorge, we would have had 1,099 steps to climb.

Amelia was riding in her backpack and she seems to have packed on about 80 pounds this summer, so we didn’t go all the way down.  Nevertheless, it was a good trip.  Olivia climbed all the stairs on her own and didn’t stop talking the entire way.  One of the things we talked about was going camping. 

Me and the girls

Sara and Olivia on the suspension bridge

Olivia and I decided to have some one-on-one time by going camping in our backyard.  While we live in a subdivision, we’re on three acres of mostly woods and our house sits about 1/8 mile off the road.  Even though we were shouting distance from the house, it felt like camping.  We roasted hot dogs and made s’mores over the fire, while the owls hooted all night, contributing to the “roughing it” experience. 

I make my share of parenting mistakes, but one thing I know I do right is spending time with my kids in nature.  When the TV is on, I sometimes have to call Olivia’s name three or four times to break her trance.  Even then, I may not get a response from her.  With nothing to look at but a crackling fire and twinkling stars, Olivia’s imagination opened up and she stayed up two hours past her bedtime telling me some of the most entertaining stories I’ve ever heard.  She turns five in a few weeks and I know it will seem like a blink of the eye by the time she goes to college.  I am sure the memory of camping with daddy that night will stay with her forever.

Sometimes it’s very easy to get stuck in a rut.  We eat the same food, go to the same places, watch the same shows, talk about the same things, and say the same prayers.  Staying in a rut doesn’t make memories – it makes deeper ruts.  Get out of your rut and make some memories while you can.

Our accommodations

Of course we had a burning permit...didn't we?