Imaginary Faith

April.3.2008

I never realized we had a lion and a monkey named “Crumbley” living in our house. Well, I never realized it until our 2 year-old daughter told us so.

It started out innocent enough. As we took a walk to the mailbox (a daily walk that takes anywhere from 5 to 25 minutes depending on how distracted our daughter is) I watched as our daughter looked behind us and motioned forward saying “come on. Come on buddy.”

Now this would be standard fair if we had a dog. Heck, I’d even settle for a pet chipmunk. But we don’t. We don’t even have a pet turtle anymore. So I’m not really sure where she got this instinct to encourage something to follow. And more importantly, there was no one (human, animal, or otherwise) for her to talk to.

And then it dawned on me. Leah has an imaginary friend.

“Who are you talking to?”

“Monkey.”

“What’s your monkey’s name?”

“Crumbley.”

Crumbley the monkey shows up at the house from time to time now. I’ll pick him up and carry him along to brush our teeth. I set him down carefully on the top of the toilet tank where Leah knowingly looks at him and smiles.

As crazy as this would sound if she wasn’t a creative 2 year-old, it made me think about my relationship with God. I wondered if my knowing and faith that God would take care of me and my family just looks like a make-believe monkey named “Crumbley” to those around me.

Odds are, it does at times. Without explanation, faith in anything looks crazy. When I walked away from a great career to do ministry at a camp, my coworkers thought I was an idiot. Heck, when I lose my faith, I think I was an idiot.

At the end of the day though, my faith is also my happiness. When I get to see kids and adults come to this place and discover something greater than themselves who loves and cares for them, that is the purpose of my life. That is the moment when I look at the little monkey sitting on top of the toilet tank and smile at something so many other people miss.

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For the past few months, my family and I have been volunteering with the youth group at our church. For most part it is a great experience, but the depth of our spiritual discussion is really limited.

The church we attend is definitely a seeker-friendly church. The congregation is largely brand new Christians which in turn leads to brand new Christian kids in the youth group. Actually, in most cases, I’m not even sure half of the kids are Christians.

This is by no means a bad thing. As a Christian, I am excited to have the opportunity to disciple new Christians. At least I would be if they were receptive to the message.

The last couple times our pastor has shared really relevant topics it has been a battle. Every point becomes a debate as we look at such basic ideas like the blatantly sexual and derogatory lyrics in popular music, the idea that God doesn’t punish us for our sin, or even the dangers of a lack of boundaries in a dating relationship.

While I have credited a majority of this debate to kids searching for their independence, it is still troublesome. This week I am going to be sharing with the youth and I’m tossing around several ideas for topics. I keep coming back to one though.

Proverbs 2 is a simple story of the importance of wisdom and how to accept it. I know it’s probably a stretch for junior high kids to get it, but at this point, I need them to realize they are missing the point. My other option is as my blog title suggests, that I remind them of the parable of the soils. No one likes to hear they are the hard, unaccepting soil, but the truth will hopefully open their hearts to what we are trying to share with them.

When I started blogging a few years ago, I did it as a release. I have always enjoyed writing and the means of expression it affords me. However, somewhere along the Blogger-induced journaling, my blog became so cluttered with stuff that it looked more like a myspace page than a blog. To me, that is the last thing I wanted.

So here we are. Starting over. When I looked at the various templates available at WordPress, I decided to take the simplest approach possible. No longer will there be all the media I’m consuming on the side of my page. No more long list of websites I visit. Instead, you just get my thoughts. Sometimes there might be a picture, but most likely there won’t be.

I understand this may not make for the most “entertaining” blog in the world, but I’m okay with that. Selfishly, this blog is more for me than anyone else. And in reality, if you check blogs as often as I do, new content is new content.

And with that, welcome to my rebooted blog. Make sure to update your bookmarks and RSS feeders as needed.

Leah Shovelhands

January.24.2008

While many are familiar with the popular Tim Burton film Edward Scissorhands, few are aware of the straight-to-dvd sequel, Leah Shovelhands. The story follows a young girl and her desire to shovel small amounts of snow from one bucket to another.

Sadly, in this pursuit of snow transfer, young Leah is unable to hold a shovel due to her multi-layer mittens. Thankfully, her McGyver-esque father had the brilliant idea of taping the shovels to her hands. A very happy girl ensued.

Okay, before you equate me to the lunatic who taped the Packer jersey to his son, this was not done out of some bizarre hatred towards my daughter. Rather, it was done because she asked me to and it seemed like a reasonable solution to an unusual problem.

Also, here is a picture of the stray cat, Chester, who has been living in our garage for the past week. Sadly, Chester turns out to be a girl which is the second animal I have incorrectly named based on their gender. Oh well. Either way, if you want a cat, let me know. This little guy…er…girl…can’t live in our garage forever.

My Little Cheesehead

January.23.2008

It’s amazing how fast kids learn stuff. Leah now knows what a football is, can identify it on TV, knows who the Packers are and is well aware that “Dad watch football.” She’s a smart one. A little too observant at times, but still smart.

Today was a rather long day for a day off. Having two kids who are pretty congested and sick in general that it is hard to get any sleep let alone sleep in. Thankfully my wonderful wife did allow me to sleep in until 9 after getting up at 6 with Leah.

Tonight we went to drop some food off for friends of ours who just had their first baby. Then we went grocery shopping and to help out at the youth ministry at church. I am in charge of the games each week, so this week I pulled out the classic “Sock-head Jousting.” For the uninitiated, you play this by putting a pantyhose on your head with a tennis ball in the end and twirling it around trying to catch and remove the same contraption from your opponent’s head. For the night I was 4-0, which I credit to my abnormally large nose and satellite-esque ears.
Next week I get to lead the “spiritual” component for the group. I’m not sure what I’m going to talk about yet, but I’m leaning towards the topic of how heroes, idols and God need to interact.

Too…much…snow.

January.22.2008

Thanks to a recent purchase of a thumbdrive usb camera (only $12 on amazon), I suddenly feel inspired to blog again. I never liked blogging when my photos were just something I found on the internet or worse, no photo at all. I’m hopeful with a camera always in my pocket I can capture the many interesting and in some cases bizarre moments on my daily life.

With that said, in the last few weeks we have just been buried in snow. It seems like every weekend I am out shoveling, snow blowing and plowing. At this point, it is getting hard to even find a place to put the snow. The photo below is while I was riding the snowplow down towards the office and dining hall, eating the blowing snow the whole time.

It’s certainly a bittersweet gift of snow though. I am always happy to see kids enjoying sledding thanks to the snow. I just wish there was a better way to remove it from the places we don’t want the snow.

At least I had a cute little girl to cheer me up when I went inside to warm up. I swear she just keeps getting cuter every day.

Familial Adjusting

December.14.2007

Closing in on one week with Micah in our lives sure went fast. He has actually been a really great kid and Leah, likewise, has adjusted considerably. There are still times that I can tell Leah wants nothing more than to be the undivided center of attention, but there are just as many times where she looks are her brother and simply becomes giddy with joy.

For me, I forgot how much I enjoyed just holding a little baby. Most days when Leah and Jamie are taking a nap, I have had Micah on my chest while I either watch some TV or play a videogame. It is probably the most relaxing feeling in the world.

At the same time, it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. There are stressful moments when Leah is acting up or Micah decides to start squealing like pig that can quickly wear anyone’s patience. It’s these moments that I need to learn to stay calm during and remember that I need to be the voice of reason when the kids go off the deep end. I have seen many parents lose their cool when the kids act up and it just perpetuates or even increases the problem. I can’t let that happen.

Another unique change is how Leah has suddenly started to cling to me even harder than normal. She has always been very close with me but with the additional attention Jamie needs to pay to Micah for feeding, Leah is trying to comfort herself to the fact that even though Micah is here, mom and dad still love her.

It will be an interesting ride to parent two kids. I can’t believe how much the dynamic changes…

And Then There Were Four…

December.10.2007

It’s hard to believe it happened already, but here’s our new son Micah Joseph Coenen. It was pretty crazy how it happened. Let me explain.

On Friday, Jamie and I brought Leah to the doctor for Leah’s bout with eczema. After the appointment, we were on our way back home from the hospital (a 40 minute drive) and Jamie said she wasn’t feeling good. We figured it was just an upset stomach as Jamie is prone to car sickness.

When we got home, Jamie went and laid down and I fed Leah dinner and gave her a bath. Soon, Jamie was getting sick and complain of stomach cramps. We called a friend of ours who was going to act as a midwife for Jamie and she said we should probably go back to the hospital and bring along everything we need in case we need to deliver on the road. (Yeah, that part freaked me out a little.)

At the hospital, the checked Jamie and found her to be 4 cm and full effaced. For Tim and others who do not speak pregnant-ese, that means the baby is getting ready to be delivered. At this point Jamie is having contractions regularly and is getting sick quite a bit. She is pale and dehydrated.

I called a friend to come and take Leah to spare her the ugly side of childbirth. She brought Leah home and my mom eventually took over for her. It was comforting to know Leah was squared away during this process.

After two full saline bags via IV, Jamie was moving along. The doctor broke her water and suddenly the contractions doubled in intensity and duration. It was pretty rough. Jamie told me at one point this was our last kid and that if we had another, I would be delivering it. Like I said, it was pretty intense.

We opted for Jamie to get an epidural at this point because the pain was really intense and due to the dehydration, Jamie just didn’t have the energy to cope with the contractions. As the doctor administered the medication, Jamie was sitting up in bed and continued to labor.

Shortly after she laid back down, the doctor came in confused why Jamie was still in so much pain. He checked Jamie and found she was fully dilated and at a +2 (out of 5). In other words, it was time to push. 3 contractions later, Micah was out and in great shape. The total process took 4 hours compared to the 8 with Leah’s birth. Pretty amazing.

Now we are learning how to integrate this new member of the family into everything. So far Leah has been very good about loving her brother despite the attention his getting. I am eager for them both to grow up together and learn to be a family with us.

Here are some photos from the big day. It still feels like such a blur. Heck, this whole year feels like a blur, and these last few days are just a smudge in it.

For the past two weeks, my life has been more consumed by worry than any other emotion. While most people would have probably considered it a rational feeling for the situation I was in, I am always disappointed in myself when my lack of faith and trust in God allows me to believe He is not in control or that He will not do all things for good no matter the outcome.

Granted, this belief does not guarantee the safety of loved ones or my success (in my view) in all situations. And this is probably why my level of worry was just so high.

The cause of my worry was the same as it is for many people; a meeting with a doctor. While I trust the medical profession probably more than any other I interact with, it is hard for me to imagine that they all realize how much meaning and impact their words have on everyone they see. People rarely go to the doctor to hear just good news. They go there for the truth and the reality of a situation to get clarity of what the future holds.

When we went to the doctor for an ultrasound a few months ago, the doctor told us that our baby to be had a slight problem they would be monitoring in the coming months. Apparently the growth of the uterer (a tube that goes from the kidney to the bladder) had grown too quickly which can result in some complications. It was looking like we would have to deliver the baby very early so the medical staff could do surgery.

For weeks we lived with this information with little incident. When we went to a follow-up appointment two weeks ago, the ultrasound appeared to show that things had taken a turn for the worse. The size of the uterer had gone from a “5” to a “9.” In most cases, numbers mean something to me, but in this case I was never given an explanation so I was left to wonder just how bad the situation was.

As we waited for an appointment with a specialist to give us a second opinion two weeks later, our lives were consumed with stress and worry of the situation. It is never comfortable to have no control of a situation, especially when it involves one of your children. As a dad, I wanted to protect my son, but all I could do was pray and trust.

When we saw the specialist, it was clear that this issue was far less dangerously than we had made it out to be in our minds. The doctor told us that this is one of those cases that ultrasounds can be a bless and a curse and in this case it was a curse. The ultrasound they did showed the uterer to be between a 5 and a 6 (which I also learned is the measurement of the diameter of the uterer in tenths of a centimeter) which is on the borderline of a problem, but not worth delivering early.

So in the end, all things worked for good. Our baby is fine, we are all anxiously awaiting his healthy arrival and I am again reminded that my ability to worry will never out perform God’s ability to heal and help those in need.

It’s a Timeshifted Life

November.6.2007

This is one of those topics that I have meant to blog about for a long, long time, but I never really got around to it. Kind of ironic once you read the rest of my post.

When I was younger, I remember a time when schedules meant something. For any of your entertainment needs, you needed to be ready to commit a timeslot to it. Then, as a nation, we participated together.

This often led to a cultural mindset around a common experience. We all watched Saturday Night Live at 10:30 PM (CST) on Saturday night. We all watched the Packer game at 12:00 PM on Sunday after church.

Occasionally you would meet someone who would record things on a VCR and it was almost a game to tell them a little about what they taped without giving away the entire show. It was cruel, but it was the way we did things.

Now things have changed. With the proliferation of Tivo and other similar DVR units, it is no longer a common experience that we rally around. Instead, it is the norm for everyone to “Tivo” their various shows and then watch them a day later with no commercials. While this is convenient, it has caused some interesting changes to the American entertainment psyche.

For example, it is now almost a sin to release a “spoiler” now. It used to be a great common experience to share what happened on the latest episode of your favorite show, but now if you even start to mention Lost or 24 in a crowded room, you will more than likely get stopped as if you are violating some sort of classified information restriction.

Also, while we are watching less commercials thanks to timeshifted viewing, I am willing to wager we watch more TV overall. Now that we can record multiple shows on multiple channels at any time of day, the inventory of “my shows” has increased for most people. My wife and I installed a 100 hour DVR two weeks ago. Do you know how long it took to fill it? Sadly, 1 week. Are we abnormal? Perhaps, but I’m sure we are not alone.

Finally, and perhaps the most obvious, the good part of the DVR. Thanks to watching shows we both care about, carving out time to simple watch TV is much more desirable for me and my wife. And for my marriage (and I’m sure countless others) this shared bonding time is pretty important. Even if it is in front of a TV.