Category Archives: Morgan

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.

 

 

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.

 

The Fork in the Road

When was the last time you had a huge decision you needed to make where you felt like a lot was at stake either way?

That’s kind of where our family has been the last many months – trying to discern God’s will for us in this next season of our lives, leadership, and ministry. Do we continue to live, serve, and work in a different part of the world or do we return home to much that is familiar?

Last month my oldest daughter, in a moment of honest inquiry, asked me, “Dad – how do you know what the right decision is?”  She elaborated by asking, “What if we stay and I end up wishing we went home?  And what if we go home and I wished we had stayed?”

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I loved the moment as a parent to connect with my daughter over what feels like a massive fork in the road with a lot at stake.  There was some anxiety, but really it was an honest wrestling over potential grieving and of the fear of making the wrong decision – of enduring feared consequences and facing loss.

But the reality is our daughter mirrored the question both my wife and I have been wrestling with for some time – how do we know? And what happens if end up wishing we had made a different decision?

We have plenty of perspective and training as it relates to making decisions or discovering God’s will, but when there’s a lot at stake there’s still the lingering pressure to “get it right.”

But the reality is we’ll never know the alternative universe in which we live a life as if we made a different decision.  Part of walking by faith is not just trusting in God for the best decision moving forward, but it’s trusting in God’s sovereignty and goodness in every step of the journey after the decision. There’s a freedom in that despite the gravity of the decision making and in this decision process of ours it’s that freedom and confidence we want our kids to experience and know.

We don’t yet know definitively what the Lord has for us, but as a family it’s been a formational journey together developing trust and confidence in a good and sovereign God.

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.

 

 

Why I Didn’t Tell My 7 Yr Old Who I Voted For

As people are still digesting the results of this week’s Presidential election I thought I’d post a couple of times related to some moments that were part of my “election experience.”  Before I start, I should state that as a member of a religious missionary order (RMO) I am under guidelines that set some limits as to what I post about or express about candidates or political parties and the like.  So you won’t get much here from me as to my feelings about one candidate versus another.

I will only say that I’m glad I voted a week before the election or else my vote may have been swayed completely by Obama’s shout out to the Chicago Bears and potential Defensive Player of the Year Peanut Tilman without any other personal values or beliefs factoring in at all (just kidding for you all who can’t joke about voting).

But this year I decided to NOT tell my seven year old daughter who I voted for too. She came home one day and was asking who I was going to vote for and told me that she knew who I should vote for and that he was going to win.  I decided then and there that I wouldn’t tell her (though down the road I look forward to sitting down and talking about different things).

Here’s my thinking – whether you agree or disagree.  She was starting to drink the Christian school kool-aid, despite the fact that her and her friends are all 7 years old and have no idea what the issues are or what’s going on.  I remember a mock election in 1984 when I was at this same school.  Reagan/Bush beat Mondale/Ferraro by a final tally of 24 – 2.  Those two were viewed as lepers (kind of). I remember wondering “What’s wrong with them?”  or feeling bad for them that they were on the loser’s side and clearly they were wrong.

It’s cool to teach kids about the electoral process. I love that. Despite being non-political in my disposition and in light of my vocation, I do have a B.A. in Political Science.  I want my kids to learn and appreciate the process.  But my daughter is not old enough to digest the realities of the big issues.  She can’t fully understand the debate about abortion and the difference between first term or third term abortions or if there is a difference at all. She doesn’t understand the dynamics of ethnic marginalization and issues of poverty and racism in this country.  She doesn’t understand “big government” and she doesn’t understand “small government.” She doesn’t understand the complex international issues and our role in an interdependent global economy.

She does understand the national debt.  Explaining to her that our country has to borrow money from other countries and we aren’t paying it back, she said pretty quickly “Oh, That’s Bad.”  Out of the mouths of babes.

My wife and I have a lot of power in our kids’ lives.  That’s not a bad thing. We’re parents. We need to steward it well.  We can use our influence to indoctrinate her – where her convictions and commitments are formed prior to her capacity to think about why she should have those convictions.  Or we can guard against all forms of kool-aid drinking and myopia and begin to teach her to think for herself and not just go with what’s all around her – whether they are ultra conservative or crazy liberal.

My daughter’s political education is only beginning. But lesson number one is not to just jump on the bandwagons of either the most powerful people in your life or the bandwagons of the really anxious people in your life trying to scare the heck out of you about what may happen if the wrong person wins (even if there are kernels of truth to the arguments).

It annoyed her greatly when I wouldn’t tell her, but I think it was developmental for her. Her “certainty” that this was a black or white proposition dissipated pretty quickly and she started asking more questions.  It was probably developmental for me too – to exercise self-control and put my daughter’s development ahead of any desire to just get her to think like me. Imagine if we all had this kind of help as we were learning to make decisions.

I don’t know how my kids will end up voting down the road – but I hope they have the maturity, intelligence, and values to think for themselves and vote accordingly no matter what kind of hysteria and political dysfunction is taking place around them.

 

Halloween Fun!

Here’s our trick or treaters this year.  Two veterans and a rookie this year! Kaelyn’s new to the action, but was socialized quickly. She was very excited to dress like her big sister as Little Red Riding Hood.  Though Kaelyn seemed to sometimes remind me of one of the gnome girls from the movie Gnomeo and Juliet 🙂

Good times!

And here’s our almost 2 year old on her first trick or treat bonanza.  She is showing off her first candy score ever!  She was hysterical and totally into it. Fearless.

Stats Lie Pt 9 – Measurements and Lenses

This entry is part 9 of 14 in the series Stats Lie

I wanted to continue my series of posts on statistics, measurements, and results with a more narrative illustration of different approaches to results and measurements.  The essence of this post will be to highlight the three necessary lenses that we need to be able to appropriately, ethically, and accurately assess the results of what we do.  These lenses are qualitative, quantitative, and contextual.

One of the critical functions of a leader is being able to understand the meaning of what they are looking at or analyzing.  Let me illustrate this with a snapshot from real life last month.

Quantitative

As you can see this is a picture – a coloring page to be more specific.  But if were interested in finding out the results of a child’s artwork, this would be all that we would need.  The question, “How many pages or dolphins were printed out and colored?” would be all one would need.  Quantity is important, but the information you get from it can be limited if you only use that lens. Sometimes quantity doesn’t tell you much.

Qualitative

 

 You see here that work has been done.  The question is “How well was the page colored?”  What’s the quality of the work done?  In this case you can make the observations that the dolphins were colored blue or teal (instead of maybe the “right” color of gray) and between the lines.  For some reason there’s a black tail on one of the dolphins which may seem a little weird.  And there’s a name given to the dolphin, which can be either just a name assigned to the dolphin or maybe a seasonal reference.

Contextual

 

Here’s a snapshot of my daughter, 7, who drew this picture.  But here is the context, those things that add additional levels of meaning to the work that might not be appreciated if one just saw the quantitative and qualitative results sitting on the table.

First, it’s of significance that Winter is the name of the dolphin in the movie “A Dolphin’s Tale” which is about a dolphin who has its fin damaged and amputated.  The story chronicles the journey of how an artificial limb was developed to help him learn to swim and survive again.  So the name “Winter” and the black portion of the dolphin’s flipper/fin (whatever it is) are thus explained.  An additional level of meaning has been added.

Second, it’s also significant to note that my daughter has a mild form of cerebral palsy and wears an AFO (a leg brace on her right foot and leg) to help present muscle atrophy and keep her leg stretched out.  Handwriting has been something she’s had to work extremely hard at because the muscle strength and control of her hands and feet aren’t the same of other kids.  She’s had to work very hard to develop her handwriting and coloring so seeing what she’s able to do know, knowing her journey, adds another level of meaning.

Third, this picture was colored in response to a tough day.  There was a day a few weeks back where she was playing with other kids and the circumstances really led to her feeling her physical limitations.  She excels in a lot of areas and doesn’t often feel her physical limitations, but this was a day where she was feeling different and feeling sad for what she wasn’t able to do.  In previous weeks our kids had watched the movie and colored pictures of winter and were into it.  My daughter had previously shared from her own reflection and initiation why that movie was good and how she identified with the dolphin in the movie.  She came home and was in a reflective state and asked me to print out a picture of winter that she could color.   Seeing the background, the context, emotional reality, and the initiative to find comfort in someone/something that provided need connection, belonging, and identification all adds several more layers of meaning to interpreting the meaning of the results of the coloring of the page.

If I was teaching on these lenses in a leadership context I’d want to make the point that interpretation through these lenses needs to be anchored in organizational/corporate identity as well as the mission and values of said organization or culture.   But the three lenses are necessary to make helpful, accurate, ethical, and appropriate interpretations of results and of course the right action that should follow those interpretations.

Stats lie when we interpret them wrongly.  The way we guard against that is integrating good data with both common sense and interpretive discernment.  Sometimes that means interpretation takes more time.  But it’s worth it.  Because a lot of damage is often done because we let stats lie – or more appropriately, we deceive ourselves with half-truths in our forming of conclusions.