It was my daughter Layla’s ninth birthday last week, but if you’d asked her, it was more like her birthday season. Five months ago, Layla not only started talking about what gifts she wanted for her birthday— she began developing a meal plan for the big day (donuts, a Lunchable, and tacos). Layla deemed the day before her birthday, “Birthday Eve.” She went around talking about it to anyone who would listen, including a Target cashier, who thrilled Layla by correctly guessing that she was turning nine.
I was a little boy living in the town of Petal, Mississippi, when I first heard the Focus on the Family Broadcast. I heard it at home while we were getting ready for school, driving around in the car, or on a cassette tape my mom had ordered because she was particularly moved by one of the shows. Actually being on the show, which has about seven million listeners every day, was not a prospect I considered. Well, it happened. …
The other night I had a dream about my dad, who died over two years ago. I was in the fellowship hall of the church we attended when I was a boy, and I (as an adult) called his cell phone number. This was odd because I knew he was dead and wouldn’t answer the phone, but to my pleasant shock, he picked up. “Hey-lo!” Dad said in his twangy Arkansas accent. My heart leapt. I hadn’t talked with him in months — I thought I couldn’t talk to him anymore. “Hey, Dad!” I said, but then I looked up…
I was at a holiday party talking with a friend when I overheard a woman behind me say the name of my wife in a conversation. I naturally started listening in and then realized that the woman, a friendly acquaintance, was talking about Raquel’s ethnicity. “I’ll tell you what,” said the woman snidely with a laugh, “she looks like a Mexican if you ask me!” (Raquel is Puerto Rican).
When my wife and I stood at the altar and promised to love each other “for better or worse,” we had no idea how much of the “worse” times we would go through. In each of our 12 years of marriage, there’s been some major, stressful event that has rattled my wife and me. It’s gotten so predictable that we’ve come to expect it.
I put the phone down and walked out of the room. A friend had just called and shared some horrible news he had received about a beloved family member (I’m not going to share any of the details here). “Raquel, can you come in here?” I called down the hallway.
“Honey, I really don’t want a COVID-19 hairdo,” I said. “You have to help me out. It’s looking rough.” My wife furrowed her brow and looked at me out of the corner of her eye. “I can’t cut your hair,” she said. But I had no other choice. My barber is out of commission and buzz cuts make me look like I’m 12. That left me at the mercy of Raquel and a pair of unused clippers.
When I stopped by the park for a visit the other day, there were only three people there: a father, his preschool son, and a middle-aged guy walking his dog. Not long after I arrived, I overheard two conversations that left me intrigued.
I was five years old when I walked into my mother’s bedroom and told her I wanted to give my life to Christ. We got down on our knees beside the bed and I asked Jesus into my heart. After that, I proudly told everyone that Jesus had saved me, but my pride slowly diminished over the years.
One time when I was about eight years old, I was outside with my dad when I heard a bird chirp a three-note melody: “tweet-tweet-tweet.” I looked over at my dad and said, “That bird’s singing a song,” and then I imitated it with a whistle — “tweet-tweet-tweet.” My dad’s face warmed; he gave a soft, kind smile; and his eyes twinkled.
It’s two weeks into the national coronavirus meltdown and I’ve got good news: My wife and I still like each other. That’s remarkable, considering the fact that we’re semi-quarantined and living in a world that’s collapsing around us — not to mention being trapped in a house with three kids who think we’re a couple of vending machines. While we’re just as tired of wringing our over-washed hands as anyone else, we’re still managing to stay happily married. I think it has to do with a few things that have kept us in good spirits so far …
The headline was ominous: “School now closed after parent tested positive for coronavirus.” I clicked on it, curious to see which school it was. To my dismay, it was the one where my church meets.
The other night, I was lying in bed feeling anxious about a vexing situation that was out of my control. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. You’re blowing this out of proportion, I told myself, hoping it would help me stop mulling it over. It didn’t.
It was our first year of marriage and Raquel asked the same question she had posed many times before: “Do you want to pray and read some Scripture together tonight?” I said yes, but she knew I didn’t mean it. It wasn’t necessarily that I didn’t want to pray with her. We just had mismatched desires for spiritual intimacy. She wanted extended Bible study and prayer, and she wanted it all of the time. I just wanted to get it over with and go to sleep. She wasn’t having it.
When I was three, I lost part of my dad that I never got back￼. He had a nervous breakdown when the two children from his first marriage died in a small plane crash. My mom told me that after that it was like Dad didn’t want to live anymore.