Tag Archives: Family

All Dress Up & Someplace To Go

RuthChrisShe was embarrassed, the hostess, that after 10 minutes of waiting past our reservation time she had to seat us here.  Red bench and the 3rd chair from the left.  Each little table was occupied and there was about six inches between them. “I am really sorry!” she said again as she spread rose petals on the table between us.

It was our 27th anniversary and I had made arrangements to splurge on my bride.  While we were in Grand Rapids, MI for Art Hop, Cathy had made an off hand comment that it would be fun to stay at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel sometime.

I listened.  I don’t always, but this time I did.

I arranged for a corner room over looking the Grand River and we had reservations at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse for 7:30 on December 17th ~ our 27th anniversary.  All I told Cathy was that she needed to bring her fancy clothes. We were going someplace nice!

As we squeezed into our table, for our romantic dinner for two, we found ourselves firmly lodged between 2 couples.  After the initial flurry of water, ordering wine and being handed menus from our waitress, it all began.

“Get the lamb Chops!” he says. “Is it your first time here?” she asks.

What?!?  Looking up from our menus, Cathy and I briefly make eye contact and then awkwardly look at the couple to my right (in the pic above I’m in 3rd chair).  They’re both smiling warmly at us. We say it is our first time. “We come here all the time.” She sees the rose petals, “Are you celebrating something?”

Thinking my answer might prompt them to leave us to our well deserved intimacy, “Our anniversary.”

“Oh? How many? This is our first anniversary” she says. He is holding her hand and has his other around a lamb chop, “we’ve been together for 12, but we got married here. We come here all the time. I got the Kansas City Steak, but I’m eating her lamb.  Get the lamb.” He’s in his mid 50’s and is doing a decent job of pulling off the urban hipster look.  But if you can afford to eat at Ruth’s Chris all the time, you can afford to pull off the hipster look when your old…

Our waitress arrives with our wine, which is delicious, and we proceed to order our dinner.  No lamb.  Steak, medium rare for me, medium for Cathy, mashed potatoes and broccoli.

“When your food comes we can pass plates and share!”

What?!? The male voice was to my left this time.  I look to my left and there is a slightly intoxicated gentleman looking at me. We go through the same routine: First time here? Are you staying in the hotel? Where are you from?

At some point in the first conversation, to my right with the hipster couple, without needing to say anything, Cathy and I made the switch. Setting aside our expectations for a quiet intimate dinner where we romantically looked and spoke to one another we both understood we were going to have to just take this one as it came.  

After 27 years, you can do that…

He is an excavator and she is an optometrist. They grew up and live in the  Upper Peninsula of Michigan and they eat at Ruth’s Chris twice a year.  She went to Ferris State.

“Are you celebrating something?” I ask after explaining we are from Kalamazoo and there to celebrate our anniversary.

“No, Yes, Kind of…” he leads with.  “He’s going to give you TMI,” she interjects quickly, giggling.

“I’m having my vasectomy reversed at 9:00am tomorrow morning,” he announces!  Immediately I felt a deep pain that made me want to hunch over and find a bag of frozen peas! But just to verify, or maybe to recover…

“What?” I ask.  “I’m having my vasectomy reversed in the morning. We have two kids and she wants to have another. Less than 5% chance, but we are seeing the best.” We encourage them with a story of a friend of ours who had his reversed the two great kids he and his wife have.

Our food comes but we continue to talk and laugh intermittently with the couples on either side of us. The food is really amazing.  Expensive, but amazing.

Eventually both couples are gone and we are eating our dessert in quiet. And it is more intimate than maybe I could have planned.

The couple to my right learned that 27 years isn’t unattainable. And the couple to my left was able to be less anxious about going under the knife in the morning.

We didn’t talk about Jesus, but I think they experienced his love. I’ve never had an anniversary dinner turn out quite like that before.

I love you, Cathy Stone.  Thanks for saying yes everyday for 27 years.

By the way, when I looked at the itemized statement under our door the next morning, the hotel had taken over $100 off the price of our romantic package.

My Prayers Grew With Him


October 31, 1996 (Halloween), two days after his birth, I drove him and his mother home from the hospital.  During that drive I prayed.  And I prayed what I thought to be the most profound prayer ever prayed by a new father.  I prayed, God, don’t let me get in an accident and kill him on our way home!  I don’t know how many times I prayed that prayer during the 15 minute drive from the hospital to our home, but it is a short prayer and I am sure I prayed it hundreds of times before pulling into the driveway while the neighborhood was filling with costumed children out trick or treating.

Married for almost 8 years, I barely knew how to be a husband (still…?) much less a dad, and the profundity of my prayer life continued.  When he would be awake at night my prayer was, Lord, help him fall asleep already! I can’t keep my eyes open any longer! Then, after he fell asleep and I would be gently – oh so gently – placing him into his crib my prayers would deepen further into, Ok God, I putting him down now, keep him sleeping…

And, when his eyes would sometimes open after I laid him down I would have two very different, almost conflicting 3:00am thoughts/prayers that went something like this, God, I love this kid! God, do you hate me?!?!

As exhausting as those first years were, especially as sister and brother came along, they didn’t last long. And as Michael grew and developed, so did I.  I grew up as a dad.  Well, somewhat anyway.  What I do know is this, my prayers grew.  My prayers grew with him.

I prayed for his first day of school.  I prayed for tests.  I prayed for him when he got injured.  I prayed for forgiveness when I blew it.  I prayed he would forgive me when I blew it.  I prayed for his friends.  I prayed as the years went by.

My prayers grew from a starting place of praying for the immediacy of having his needs met (food, sleep, safety, love & shelter) in order that I might have some short term peace, to a place of learning to pray more deeply, for things of more significance and for the longview of his life.

My prayers grew in substance.  Today Michael is an amazing young man enrolled as a freshman in college and my prayers for him are much different.  I do pray for the immediate things still – that he would study hard, learn well, make incredible friends, be exposed to all sorts of great challenges that shape him, etc… But more than that, I pray for longterm fruit of the spirit in his life, for him to give himself to something significant, life giving and helps better the world God so loves.  I pray for lasting joy that overcomes in hardship and trial.  I pray that he would live in, and be a sharer, of the Shalom of God.

My prayers, they grew with him.

Love Travels Far

family at lake   I have avoided writing for awhile.

I knew I was going to write about our experience with Tikumporn (Fah) for a couple of weeks but I didn’t want to face all the emotions and be that vulnerable.  But love is vulnerable isn’t it?  Love puts itself out there, feels deeply and risks everything. We risked it all! In September we welcomed a new daughter and sister in our home.  Fah is 16 and came to us as an exchange student through AFS (find out more about AFS here).

We made the decision while kayaking on a Saturday and in just over a week all the paperwork, background checks and home visits were done.  We knew we wanted a daughter (Hayley argued strongly for this) and that she would share Hayley’s room.  We read her bio and became friends on Facebook.  All of a sudden we were picking her up in Ann Arbor, MI.

I thought we made a huge mistake!

We, Andrew, Hayley and I, bought her flowers on the way to getting her. We had the truck so we would have room for all her luggage (she came with one suitcase). And we believed we were ready.  It was mostly nervous smiles until we hit the road back to Kalamazoo when all of a sudden Fah began asking questions.  That’s when I thought we made a mistake.  I had no idea what she was saying!

All the paperwork said she was great in English!  I looked at my daughter in the rearview mirror, looking for help, I found none.  Hayley looked at me with a look that said, “Panic!”  I looked over at Andrew sitting next to me in front and he said, “why are you asking me?” After 10 minutes the first question was understood.  An easy one, “what is the difference between Catholics and Protestants?”  This is going to be a fun year!  The panic and thinking we made a mistake soon gave way.

Panic and fear were quickly replaced with joy and love.

Looking back I think about how silly those first feelings really were.  It didn’t take long and I was watching my family fall in love with this young lady.  It wasn’t long and I was too.  It wasn’t long and she had captured the hearts of many in our church, youth group, school and community.  She might have been born in Thailand to a different set of parents, but she is every bit our sister and our daughter.

Fah laugh Over the course of nine months as we watched Fah change, grow, learn, and become very comfortable in the family and in the community; we also changed and grew.  We discovered just how capable of deeply loving we are.  We learned what it means to fully invest ourselves into the life of another.  We learned what it really means to let others in so that everyone is impacted and transformed.

Leadership is really discipleship and discipleship is courageously loving.

That’s really at the heart of the Gospel isn’t it?  Jesus even tells us that the heart of the Big Ten are summed up in loving God and loving others.  Really loving others is a risky proposition because it can’t happen outside of relationships. This week has been hard.

Monday we took Fah to the train station and watched her load with a few other students while a cranky Amtrak employee barked orders and complained about their luggage.  He wasn’t what made that moment so hard, though.

As Fah borded the train we all felt a part of our hearts board that train as well.  As the train pulled out and went east to Ann Arbor, we felt our hearts speed away as well.  I walked upstairs yesterday and saw her closet, empty. Today we saw pictures of her with her family in Thailand (after 17 hours of flight time!).  We saw the smile on her face and the love in her family.  And while it feels like part of our heart is now in a time zone 12 hours ahead of ours; it isn’t a part that has been taken away.

It is a part that has been added.