Category Archives: Kaelyn

A Virtue Family Oral History of Game 7 of the World Series

It’s been a couple months, but there are times I’m still nervous. I’m still in disbelief it actually happened. But the Cubs winning the World Series is one of my great life moments.  One of my earliest memories of my grandfather is him taking us to Wrigley Field in the early 80’s, before lights were installed. I remember the Cubs were playing the Dodgers when the Dodgers had players like Mike Marshall and Fernando Valenzuela. It’s the first baseball park memory I have.

Both of my grandfathers lived and died in Illinois without seeing a Cubs World Series Championship. My dad, born in 1950, had not seen it. I’m in my 40’s and it’s been a rough go. It took me an embarrassingly long time to get over Bartman and the 2003 experience.  2007 and 2008 were stuff that leads to learned helplessness.

So the last couple of years have been an amazing run. Like many others did with loved ones, when the Cubs beat the Dodgers to advance to the World Series I thought of that game with my Grandfather back in the early 80’s.

But I almost missed it. I almost didn’t watch Game 7.

Because I live in Manila, the majority of MLB Playoff Games started at 8am my time. And it so happens I spent most of October in PhD intensives starting at….8am.  It was a month of confliction, but I was getting used to not watching. In fact, Game 7 took place on a work day so I was planning, for some odd reason, to head to campus like normal. (What was I thinking?)  But that’s when fate stepped in…or God’s sovereignty…or sheer dumb luck stepped in.

My wife hit a tree.  Pulling out of our driveway she backed into a tree and shattered the rear-view window of our van. T minus 90 minutes until game time.  This is the mighty oak of a tree that did such great damage to our car.

Pulling out of our driveway she backed into a tree and shattered the rear-view window of our van. T minus 90 minutes until game time.  This is the mighty oak of a tree that did such great damage to our car.

This is the mighty oak of a tree that did such great damage to our car.

But it was raining, our kids needed to get to school, and our other car was coded. For those not in Manila, the system to help the traffic problem is that every car is banned from the road for one day out of the week. So we were in a bind – we couldn’t drive the coded car and we couldn’t drive the van without a rear window in the rain.

So we gave up and decided to let the kids stay home, while we balanced watching Game 7 with getting our rear window fixed.  Through the Filipino network – a friend of a friend of the guy raking leaves next store, we got a lead on a place that could do the window and my wife graciously offered to take the car in so that we could watch the game.

The game begins.  I felt sick to my stomach. But Fowler’s lead-off homer helped my nerves.

A few innings later, Kris Bryant scored on an improbably tag-up on a short fly ball.  I yelled something incoherent with intense excitement. My 9-year-old son looks at me, who only knew a few years of Cubs futility before this says to me, “Wow Dad. I’ve never seen you that emotional and excited.”

After the Javy Baez homer in the 5th, I start to let me myself dream a bit and it’s a party in the house. At this point, the van window is fixed and fully restored $100 later. Now our whole family is watching the game.

In the bottom of the 5th, the umpire makes an egregious call on a Kyle Hendricks strikeout pitch and prolongs the inning. I start to fume and bark at the umpire.  My six-year-old daughter looks at me with a disapproving look. This sets the stage for the pitching change and wild pitch and Cleveland scoring a couple runs. I start to feel sick again.

But in the 6th David Ross homers and all is well again and Lester starts mowing down hitters.  Things are looking good again and I’m starting to trip out that this might actually happen.  Then the 8th inning. That awful 8th inning.

Just prior to the Davis gut punch home run, my kids were sensing my excitement and decided to treat me to an early celebration. Bless their hearts. They don’t know about Bartman or Durham or all the other kicks to the groin Cubs fans have endured, leaving us to behave like battered dogs during these moments. My kids were all set to surprise me with full on head to toe Cubs gear, ready to kick off the celebration when – Rajai Davis ties it up with a 2 run home run. I go to my dark place and tell the kids anxiously – “Not now. Not now.  This is bad and they may not win!” My kids are confused. I feel like I’m starting to look at the very gates of hell.

But then, because we’re in Manila – the internet starts going out.  I struggle to watch the bottom of the ninth and rain delay because the stream has to buffer so long. We watch one minute and then wait two minutes, which adds to the agony of the experience.  I thank God for the rain delay but have hope because Schwarber leads off the 10th and he is Babe ruth reincarnated.

Because of the internet delays, I go dark on social media and we watch the 10th. I’m yelling, screaming, and talking at the television like a mad man.  My youngest daughter is disturbed and uncomfortable with the tension in the room – scared by the cheers coming with each hit and play.  She cries “Too loud! Too loud!” But I find out a couple weeks later than somewhere in this period of time she prayed to God that the Cubs would win...probably out of concern for her father’s well being.

The internet speeds up a bit and the Zobrist hit sends us into a frenzy, followed by Montero’s insurance RBI. I’m a nervous wreck that Carl Edwards Jr. is going to try to close the game, all 80 lbs of him. The Indians score and I start to feel sick again. One out away. So close, but so far.

But the internet stops. I have to re-set the router as there is a pitching change being made with the tying run on base. We’re back to internet buffering. My wife is looking at her phone and making a weird look.

The internet gives us just enough to watch the final out and celebration. I realize my wife was sneaking a peak online and got the news a few minutes before we got to watch it. Fortunately, she kept it a secret.

Then my family gave me an authentic Ryne Sandberg jersey (my favorite player as a kid) they found for 10$ at a local mall (God Bless the Philippines!).

And I haven’t been able to stop watching highlights and replays and bad youtube montages since.

I.CAN’T.GET.ENOUGH.

But I still feel nervous thinking about it because there’s part of me that has a hard time believing it happened.

So it was a stressful, gut-wrenching, exhilarating experience that is a life highlight, given I got to experience it with my family. It was especially fun to go through the playoff journey with Colin because he’s really gotten into the Cubs in the last year or two.

And it was all because my wife backed into a tiny, but powerful tree.

 

 

Pre-School Theology: Game 7 Prayers

This entry is part 14 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

My daughter, who is in kindergarten now, believes she helped the Cubs win Game 7 of this year’s world series and thus, their first world series since 1908.

While stuck in typical Manila traffic last week on the way home from the kid’s school, she started this conversation.

“Dad. After that other team tied the game, I prayed that the Cubs would win. And then God answered my prayer and the Cubs won.”

My favorite part of this was that we really had had no Cubs related conversation or interaction in the previous week. It was something she wanted me to know.

I would love to know what her motivation was for praying for the Cubs and for letting me know God answered her prayer. Did she do it because she saw her father in an unusually vulnerable and rabid moment and it worried her?  Was it because she knew it was a big deal and important to at least her father and brother?  Something in her wanted a happy ending for the people she cares about so she prayed.

I loved the moment and it was fun to connect over the Cubs. But a great reminder that we need to ground our prayer life on solid theological footing.

Putting aside the fact that God is in fact a Cubs fan 😛 , I decided not to bring up the high likelihood that she had a 6-year-old counterpart in Cleveland praying the exact same thing for the Cleveland Indians.  What about her?

During the World Series I heard a record amount of animistic language from people on all sorts of teams praying to ancestors, former players, God, and who knows what else – attributing everything from good luck to timeline rainfall to the goodwill of long lost relatives and God’s partiality.   I was shocked at how much animism was alive and well in the western sporting domain!

But for now – I’m glad my daughter feels like she had a part in a great moment for me and our family.  In time, we’ll have to break the news that God probably doesn’t care much about our sports teams.

Though if God did care about sports teams, I’m still pretty sure He would care most about the Cubs.   😛

 

Pre-School Theology: I’m Here!

This entry is part 12 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

We’re in our last months of having a pre-schooler so the nostalgia is setting in.  But we continue to have moments that remind us that the eyes of a pre-schooler always provide a fascinating as well as entertaining perspective on life and even life with God.

Last week I attended a theological forum here in Manila on Peace and Reconciliation and was gone for a couple of days.  Even though it was held in the city, it was essentially like an out of town trip.  When I got back I took the family out for ice cream to re-connect after being gone and celebrate the end of the week given that it was a Friday.

IMG_4260It was a high energy meeting where kids were talking fast and relaying all their experiences from the previous few days and catching up on things.  The older kids that is.  After several minutes of chatter and fast talking by our oldest children, our five year old Kaelyn at the first real moment of silence in the conversation burst out with a simple declaration, “I’m here!”

It was an abrupt transition, but she had tons she wanted to connect about and she was feeling overlooked and somewhat overpowered by her siblings.  All that she was feeling in that moment just exploded awkwardly through that simple phrase, “I’m here!”

It was such an abrupt statement in the conversation that you can’t help but shift the focus of the conversation and explore what was going on for her. Sure enough, she had been wanting to share some specific things with me that she had been holding onto for a couple days and she wasn’t going to feel close or connected until I knew about the important things in her life.

It was a reminder that being seen, being able to have a voice, being able to have meaningful connection in areas that we want to be known is fundamental to living lives of purpose in community.  We all have moments in life, relationships, and work where we want to scream out, “I’m here!”  It’s a gift when others respond to our own different expressions of “I’m here!” with a gracious and listening disposition.  It also reminds me that it’s just as significant of a gift to others when we validate their “I’m here!” with a response of “Yes, you’re here!  And I’m glad you are! Tell me more!”

Lencioni refers to anonymity as one of the signs of a miserable job and all the pyschology literature shows us the many ways relational isolation wrecks havoc on well-being and communities.  But it’s in those moments of expressing, seeing, or responding to the “I’m here’s!” is where authentic and connected community is built.

There is a warning that we often find artificial ways to declare “I’m here!” in an effort to earn that validation, yet no achievement can provide the transformational power and depth of freely given acceptance and grace through relationship.

This is the power of the gospel for people in their journeys with God and with one another.  Connecting in the “I’m here!” moments are  the simple moments that build us up, transform us, and deepen our capacity to serve others.

Look for the “I’m here’s” this week and see how you can give the gift of, “Yes! You’re There! Tell Me More!”

 

1 Day 3 Kids 3 Ways of Affection

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Our family is in a bit of transition, and we have been it seems for about 2 1/2 years now!  But recently we made a move to a different part of the city so our kids could make the move to a new school as part of our continued journey here in Manila.  This past week was a rude awakening as we were all up about 5am every day and because of traffic here there were days I didn’t even get to see my kids at night.

That’s what made Friday night such a relief – to make it through our first big week with our new schedule and everyone having their own world’s after a couple years of being together a lot.  But we missed each other and I couldn’t wait to be with my kids this weekend.  And I was encouraged that the three of them missed me too and the ways they expressed it enhanced my appreciation for their uniqueness.  So let me share the 3 different and unique ways my kids expressed affection for me that reflects their own unique personalities.

First, my oldest daughter Morgan (10) wanted to share everything she did at school. She wanted me to know what she did and what she has to do. She wanted me to know the types of things she enjoyed doing and the things she didn’t enjoy doing. (Probable ISTJ on the MBTI!) She connects a lot through talking and interacting about what she does, though I’m glad I got a “Dad, I really missed you this week” from her too!

Next up is our middle child, our 7 year old son Colin. He is a probable ENFP on the MBTI if that means anything to you, but if not – here’s how he expressed himself to me while we were hanging out on the couch Friday night. He said, “Dad, if I were a squirrel I would just crawl up right on your shoulder and get super cozy and let my big fluffy tail hang down your arm and I would be so warm and comfy.”  He communicates a little different than our oldest daughter 🙂

And finally our 4 year old Kaelyn who just started pre-school. She doesn’t quite have the same vocabulary, but I got a deep and hearty “Daddy, I love you.” I say deep and hearty because she has a deep and hearty voice!  But she also offered, “Daddy, will you sit next to me at dinner?” I don’t quite  have a beat on my youngest’s personality type, but I know that getting invited to sit next to her at dinner is a big deal so I was excited to sit in the place of honor!

I love my kids. I am grateful that they love me and I love the unique ways they show it. It reminded me that we all show care and affection in different ways and it’s important to recognize what is meaningful to others even when on the surface it doesn’t connect right away with our preferences.

 

Pre-School Theology: The Hand of Blessing

This entry is part 11 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

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A while back we were coming out of church and our four year old daughter started an interesting conversation about her Sunday School experience this way,

“One of the teachers was leaving or something and we all prayed for her and they made us hold our hand up pointed towards her for a really long time and it hurt my arm because it was so long!”

But it turns out all our kids were together during this experience and they had a lot to say about it.  My son (7) added as only a true Star Wars fan could,

“It’s true. It was really long.  Why do they have us hold up our arms?  It looked like everyone was trying to use the force on her.”

Our oldest agreed with that assessment wholeheartedly and added that it also looked like the pose that the Iron Man statues from the Avengers are in at the mall (see above).

This was an entertaining conversation about “the hand of blessing.”  The Scriptures contain the idea of the laying on of hands as a means of blessing.  But logistics sometimes prevent that and instead of getting up close and personal, we just raise a stretched out hand in that direction of the blessing.  It’s a practical, yet engaged means of having the whole community participate in the conveying of a certain blessing upon someone or a group of people.

I don’t mind it. But funny how my kids interpret what’s going on when they aren’t used to seeing those types of things.

They have adopted it now though.  When I’m icing my knees after basketball, it’s not uncommon for my son to randomly extend his hand towards me while trying to keep a straight face.  I asked him the first time what he was doing.  He said, “I’m doing that hand prayer thing!”  And there’s been a couple moments at dinner where I humorously get the “hand of blessing” from all 3 of my kids if it’s clear I’m really stressed.  I’m glad my kids have a sense of humor 🙂

And now I can’t look at Iron Man the same anymore either.

 

Pre-School Theology: Snow White Jesus

This entry is part 10 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

I’m taking a break from posting my Multi Ethnic Ministry Learnings to post a few things of a different variety that I don’t want to sit on any longer.

I started a series several years ago called “Pre-School Theology” that was derived mostly from experiences with our son. He’s not in pre-school anymore, but now our youngest has entered that range and is providing some great moments for us as far as her growing theology goes.

So you know how for many that grow up in the church and Sunday School it isn’t that hard for them to develop a Christology that essentially equates to a male version of snow white.  Jesus is a gentle figure who lives at peace with nature and converses with animals, possibly even understanding somehow their animal dialects.  The picture of bluebirds gently resting on an outstretched finger conveys somehow the inner beauty and His identity as Creator of the universe. You know what I’m talking about. And if you don’t, this beauty of a painting is out there and you should get what I’m referring to here.

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But apparently my 4 year old daughter did not get the Snow White Jesus treatment and somehow picked up something entirely different in her church experience.   One night about when she turned 4 years old, when talking about animals and where they came from, we had this conversation:

K:  “Dad! Don’t you know that Jesus hates all the animals and eats them all up!”

Me:  “What?! Where did you learn that? Why do you think Jesus hates animals?”

K:  “My teacher said so. Jesus wants to eat all the animals.”

Me:  “Wow. But the Bible says that the world and the animals in it were created by Jesus.”

K:  “Yes, so he could eat them.”

And the debate continued for a while because she’s a strong and passionate gal.

So we have Snow White Jesus and Carnivore Jesus.

I’m sure volunteers who teach pre-school or other grades at Sunday School have some measure of paranoia about what these little ones say after hearing various lessons and stories.  Maybe a reminder to pray for those pre-school teachers out there who have the challenging task to help little ones understand basic ideas 🙂

Baby Jesus Valentine

This entry is part 9 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

Valentine’s Day apparently is a big deal here in the Philippines – in general it seems to be even bigger than the actual holidays of Easter and Christmas.  So as a family we had some fun celebrating and talking about the origins of Valentine’s Day and what it means and all that.

During our conversation, the kids steered the conversation somehow to kissing – that kissing is what married people and couples do on Valentine’s Day.

Kaelyn, our recently turned four year old surprised me with a strong stance on the issue.  She declared very passionately,

“The only person I am ever going to kiss in my life is baby Jesus!”

Sounds good to me!

 

 

Quotes From Kids in Transition

Here’s another installment of direct quotes from my kids as they are in the heart of their transition as our family moves to Manila….

“If I cry really hard for 10 days do we still have to go to the Philippines?”
-Colin (5)

“If I would have known this Philippines thing would be as hard as it is I would have thrown a tantrum way back at the beginning.”
-Morgan (8)

“Just so you know, if the Olympics happens while we’re in the Philippines, I’m still rooting for the USA!”
-Colin

“I miss my house. Go Back.”
-Kaelyn (2 1/2)

“Is this whole Philippines thing just a bad dream or is it real?”
-Colin

“I feel like I could cry right now and it would fill the streets.”
-Morgan

“Dad, it’s YOUR fault we have to go to the Philippines!”
-Colin

“Jesus, thank you for the food. Please don’t make us go to the Philippines. Amen.”   — Colin

As you can see, there’s a fair amount of grieving and emotion involved here and navigating that as a family is just as involved as moving out of our house and into storage or lining up flights or all the details.  We’ll be resilient and bounce back, but transitions are big for big people and little people alike.

One thought my wife and I have had is that it’s pretty hard to follow Jesus as parents and not lead your children into painful territory or at time’s even harms way.   As parents you want to protect your kids, yet we’re very mindful know that we have made decisions in response to the Lord that are causing stretching and tearing in our kids as well as in ourselves.  We knew it was coming. They didn’t ask for it.

The instinct to keep your kids from all pain maybe has derailed the faith journeys of many parents more than many might want to admit – and we get it. It can really be hard.  But we know that stretching and tearing will be part of God’s plan to sow into their lives, lay a foundation for their future spiritual journeys, and develop who they are.  That’s the journey we’re excited to see and what God will do in all of us.

That’s the journey of faith and it beats the pants off of trying to control life for your kids or yourselves.

But for now – it kind of just hurts.

Here’s them in action as Morgan interviews the other two for her blog morganinmanila.com :

Morgan in Manila 7/7/13: Morgan Interviews Her Siblings from Brian Virtue on Vimeo.

And here’s where Colin interviews Morgan where he gets to display his Regis skills….

Morgan in Manila 7/7/13 from Brian Virtue on Vimeo.

 

 

Pre-School Theology: Grief

This entry is part 8 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

A couple of years ago I wrote a post entitled “The Gift Our Fish Gave Us” as a reflection on how navigating the death of their fish after two years was developmental and formational for our kids.  Well, we got another fish….and it died this week.  It too gave us the gift of grieving.  But it was quite the day with my 5 year old son Colin – the subject of many of these “pre-school theology” posts.

It all started with a little fumigation.  Daddy thought he had safely contained the fish to avoid the gas chamber experience.  But Daddy was wrong.  Dorothy the fish was belly up and good ole Dad was public enemy #1 for awhile.

It was amazing that during the course of a whole day I watched my son go through like all 5 stages of the grief process.

First – he was angry with me.  He blamed me. Direct quote, “You did it on purpose!” He attributed evil intentions to the mistake that caused him to experience loss.  He even came close to trying to hit me, but he held back at the last minute. But the pain of his loss was funneled toward anger and blaming.

Second – I took him on some errands to reconnect and work through the tension.  At one point he began to try to convince me that Dorothy really was in fact not dead, but sleeping. She was just really tired from holding her breath during all the gas.  He had a strong rationalization for how his loss was all a mistake. Denial at work.

Third – After realizing that the fish was dead and his rationalization broke down and wasn’t doing the job, he looked for other ways to deal with his loss.  He came up to me and said, “Dad, I have an idea! We can pretend to be happy!”  I see this as a combo of rationalization, denial, and bargaining.  I couldn’t believe he said it.  “We don’t have to feel sad if we just pretend we’re happy!”  (Lot of people living their lives with this philosophy! Amazing how early that thought can set in)

My son’s creative solution “to pretend” is a diabolical lie and there’s not much greater of a disservice I can do as a parent than reinforce such a lie that “pretending” is a valid life approach to facing loss and pain.  It’s our job as parents to help our kids embrace a vision of life that is so much bigger and so much deeper and powerful than….pretending. But it’s so tempting to pretend!

Fourth – We had our funeral as a family.  Everyone had done artwork as in the case of Fish #1.  Everyone shared what they drew (Including 2 year old Kaelyn who was experiencing grieving for the first time in this way).  Then they shared what they appreciated about the fish. It is so amazing to hear what little kids share about what was meaningful to them – even as it relates to a fish.   But the funeral had much sadness, much crying, even some wailing.  We prayed and then flushed Dorothy to Great Beyond.  My favorite memory was Kaelyn blowing kisses into the fishbowl as Dorothy was circling, saying, “Bye Bye Dorothy!”

Fifth – We did reach a point of acceptance.  Dad got forgiven. Order was restored. Yet sadness still lingered as kids shared throughout the week random feelings of sadness.  Even Kaelyn would randomly just walk around saying every once in a while, “Sad…Dorothy…Jesus.”

These moments are always wild, but so thankful for the fruit produced when we go through it together and don’t settle for the alternatives to grieving: denial, pretending, blaming.

This weekend we had some of our kids cousins’ in from out of town and they all had a great weekend together.  They left for the airport this afternoon and said goodbye. Afterward Kaelyn was eating dinner and she shared on her own, “Mama I sad.”  We both shared back, “Us too Kaelyn, we’re sad too.”   Later after we began packing up pictures and wall decorations for our move she also said, “Mama I sad. Pictures Gone.”

I love that my two year old sees sadness as normal, as something that can be articulated and shared. My kids still fight loss just like the rest of us, but we’re glad they are learning to talk about it!

There’s no shortage of human dysfunction that flows from the unwillingness or inability to grieve loss and pain and limitation.  I speak from experience. I fight it in all the ways my son tried to fight feeling the loss of his fish. I look for ways around it.

We’re all in process.  But I find myself resonating and even using the very words of my toddler in moments where I’m feeling very non-toddler types of loss…..”I sad.”

It’s amazing how simple a phrase can trigger such a sense of freedom, honesty, and intimacy in relationship.  Reminds me of a similar phrase in Scripture, “Jesus wept.” Such simple language that penetrates all of the complexities surrounding those moments when we’re most aware that we’re fallen people living in a fallen world.