Friday, November 11, 2011

A Year of Life Lessons as a Father

My daughter is almost a year old and thus means I have been a father for almost a full year now. Here are some of the life lessons I have learned over the last year as a father (in no particular order):
  • I pray regularly for my child that she would grow to be a Godly woman.
  • When I get frustrated with something I notice that my kid will detect that and is more easily irritated and frustrated and thus more likely to cry.
  • I need to always be prepared with plenty of wipes and diapers as I never know when I will need them (or how many I will need).
  • Have the food ready before I sit her down to eat.  She doesn't like waiting for her food.
  • Don't put the bowl of food within her reach when trying to feed her. This can have disasterous results.
  • I need to be careful which funny noises I make with my mouth as she may just pick up on it and imitate me...which can seem rude to others (who don't know that she learned it from her father).
  • Baby socks don't stay on her feet no matter how good the elastic. The same seems to go for shoes.
  • It is important for me to randomly take pictures of my daughter and send them to my wife.  It will put an instant smile on her face. 
  • If my daughter is sleeping then I should let her sleep if at all possible.  If I wake her she will likely be up for some time and may not be in a good mood.
  • Baby clothe sizes are very odd and can be confusing.  Some say newborn when they fit a one year old and some one year olds are too small for a 6 month old. Obviously this depends on how big the baby is.
  • God likes to test our patience and my daughter is one medium in which God does this. 
  • It is important for me to get ready for where I am going a bit earlier than I used to so that I can still be on time. My daughter should not be an excuse for me to be late.
  • I should not leave my daughter's food (or my own) sitting at the edge of the coffee table.  Otherwise it will likely be even longer before she gets to eat as I will be cleaning up a big stain on the floor!
  • If I put my daughter in some sort of Twins attire for her first Twins game and take a picture...I may just win a prize! :)
  • I need to always check the diaper bag before leaving the house for the essentials I may need.
  • I need to cherish every minute I have with my daughter. She is changing so quickly.
  • I want to always be open to allowing others to hold my daughter (and even encourage it) so she is used to going to others and doesn't always cling to me or my wife.
  • It is okay for me to not feel guilty about enjoying a break from watching my child.
  • It is very important for me to have some great friends who are willing to baby sit as it is always nice to be able to go on a date with my wife and without my daughter.
I'm sure the life lessons I learn this next year will look quite different from this list, but I am looking forward to learning and growing as a father.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Being an Elder - Part 2

In my previous post I talked about what our leadership team looks like at Grace Church Roseville as well as a glance at our our meetings.  This post will discuss my experiences of being an elder at the church.

What is it like being an elder?
If you have known many individuals who have been elders at their church, many don't have much good to say about it.  They have had bad experiences and many may even vow to never be on an elder board again. Some just get burnt out.  I have even heard some of these experiences from people who have been on our board.  That has not been my experience so far.  I know I have only been a part of the board for a year, and even in this last year there have been some big changes to how we do things, but my experience has been anything but negative.  I love how we meet with the staff during the leadership meetings since they are a key part of the church.  It only makes sense that we are meeting and partnering with them in their ministry. I love how our elder only meeting is designed to allow us to grow closer to each other on a relational level as well as a spiritual level.

Having Fun in What We Do
Being an elder is fun. Some may read that statement and think that I am crazy.  Many have had very bad experiences being an elder.  I'm not saying that there aren't hard times and even sad times.  Part of this statement probably comes from the fact that one of our values at our church is to have fun.  There has been a lot of laughter in our leadership meetings.  Does that make them bad? Does that mean we aren't doing God's will? Does that mean we don't take things seriously? No, No, and No.  Our team works very well together and have gotten to know each other much better. Since we started having an elder only meeting once a month it has drawn the elders closer together as leaders, as friends, and on a spiritual level. I love serving with the team of leaders at Grace Church Roseville.  They are a group that loves God, loves our church, and loves people. They are very attuned to our vision and mission and have a great desire to move forward. It is my honor to stand with them and serve at Grace.  The leaders in this group are willing to have fun with each other and are not afraid to bring some laughter to the group.

Being People In Process and Participating in Authentic Community
This past year I have gotten to participate in numerous worship stations at our church. Worship stations are areas where we setup in the sanctuary where people can go to worship during a specified time during the service. Here are a couple examples.

In one station we individuals come to the station and grab a glass of murky water representing the sin in our lives.  They were then supposed to reflect on the sin in their lives and repent.  They would then pour their water out into a bin and go up to one of the Elders who would fill their glass with clean water as a symbol of living without sin in their lives. We then prayed with each person that came up to us.  It is such a joy to be able to pray with people and encourage people who are taking a step.

Another more recent example was a Chain Cutting station.  Each chair had a piece of chain on it when people sat down. That chain represented the chains in our lives of things that hold us down and burden us. The goal is to cut those chains and turn them over to Christ and live a life without the chains.  During the worship time each person could go up to one of the leaders who were equipped with chain cutters. We would then cut their chain in two. They would then drop half the chain in a bucket (which created a great sound throughout the sanctuary) and keep the other half as a reminder of the chains that have been cut.

The last example I will share, while not necessarily a worship station during a service, was when people took the step of baptism.  These individuals were publicly making a profession of their faith. We went down to a local lake and baptized around 35 individuals. I was able to participate in this service and got to baptize 6 individuals. It was awesome to see so many individuals taking that step of faith, to hear their stories, and to talk with some of them. God is at work in their lives and they were willing to take that next step in their relationship with Christ.

The Joys
Being an elder has many joys.  Many of these consist of coming alongside people as they take next steps such as participating in a baptismal service, praying with people who want to get rid of the dirt in their lives, and symbolically cutting peoples chains that weigh them down. Planning for the future and trying to see the bigger picture can also be a joy. As a leader you probably hear about many stories of how God is at work in peoples lives in our church and that is always great to hear.

The Hardships
Unfortunately, yet expected, being an elder can also come with a level of hardship and sadness.  It is hard to hear that people think we as leaders are lying, being deceitful, and that we can't be trusted. These statements are hurtful and are hard to hear. Having to deal with church discipline for those in sin is not an easy task.  Dealing with personnel issues is not always fun. These things are not always easy or fun, but that is part of being a leader.

While the hardships are not fun, there are plenty of areas to rejoice in.  We know that God is at work and we anticipate that he is going to show up (one of our values).  God is at work in our church and I am so excited to be a part of His work. The leaders are amazing individuals who have a heart for God and a heart for others. If you know any of the leaders, this should be evident in their lives and their ministries.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Being an Elder - Part 1

I have been an Elder at Grace Church Roseville for a little over a year now.  You may wonder what it is like to be an elder at a church and what it consists of.  Let me say that my experience is limited as I have only been an elder for one year. Also, my experiences as an elder may be quite different from others as every church board is run differently.  For obvious reasons I will not be talking about specifics regarding any issues we may have had at the church.

This post is going to talk primarily about what our Elder and Leadership boards look like at Grace Church Roseville.

Our Values
At Grace, we have 7 values that we try to live by.  I am starting this blog post with these values as all 7 of these values are seen in our leadership team at Grace.  I talk about some of these specifically in these posts.
  • Anticipating God's movement
  • Being people in process
  • Being others focused
  • Participating in authentic community
  • Serving as a team
  • Engaging culture with the truth
  • Having fun in what we do
Serving as a Team
At our church we have an Elder board that consists of the Elders in the church (including the Lead Pastor). We also have a leadership team which consists of the Elders as well as the main staff in the church.  The Leadership team meets once a month and the Elders meet again as just the Elder board resulting in 2 meetings a month.  We currently have 7 Elders (this includes the senior pastor).  We have about 8 staff members that join us for the leadership meetings.  This results in about 15 of us in our leadership team meetings when everyone is present.

Elder/Staff Pairings
Each elder is paired with one or two other ministry leaders (main staff members) to create an Elder/Staff pair.  These pairs stay up to date with what is going on in that staff members ministry.  It also gives members of the church 2 people that they can bring issues to or ask questions to rather than just the staff member.  Each staff member can also know that they have an Elder that will support them and have their back. I am paired with our Children's ministry director.  I attend some of their leadership meetings and try to get regular updates on things that are happening in the Children's ministry.

Leadership Team Meetings
The leadership team meeting is once a month. People can arrive early and bring their own dinner if they want to eat with others. After that we start our meeting out by praying for the prayer requests that have been submitted to the church in the prior weeks.  We spend about 25 minutes in prayer for the congregation.  We then begin the meeting with some general discussion points.  We often have a ministry update during these meetings where one of the ministries shares about how things are going and what they are doing.  This is usually presented by the ministry leader along with the elder pair.  We will usually then proceed to discuss a couple chapters of the book we are reading through together, watch a leadership video clip, or discuss an article we have all read. Our lead pastor then provides a "Pastor's Corner" where he shares some leadership nuggets and encourages us as leaders.  On occasion the Elders will have an elder only meeting after this meeting to discuss any confidential matters.

Elder Only Meetings
The elder only meeting is also once a month.  We meet at one of our houses and have been starting out with dinner if people wish to eat first. We first spend some time sharing what is going on in our individual lives and then spend some time praying for each other.  We then transition into various discussions about items going on at the church as well as planning for the future of the church.  These discussions obviously vary much more from week to week.

That is a summary of what our team looks like as well as what the meetings themselves look like. The next post will talk about my experiences and reflections of being on the board in the past year.

Monday, October 03, 2011

10 Months and Counting

Emma is now 10 months old.  It is amazing how quick these 10 months have gone.  I have not posted on here much about her (or anything for that matter) but I am trying to improve in this area. Note that this may be a bit of a long post.

Let me recap the last 10 months a bit.  Note that there may be a bit of bragging on my baby girl put into here, but what can I say, I love her so much!

0-3 Months
These months were so precious and I loved watching her grow up and learn new things. A couple weeks after she was born we took her to a Christmas party at our church where we ended up holding her for about 15 minutes.  The rest of the time she was being passed around to everyone else. Wanda was home most of this time on maternity leave and thus she was able to give her breast milk the majority of the time.  We fed her out of a bottle the majority of the time and thus I got to participate in the feedings. After only a month or so she was sleeping through the night most nights (except for when we had to feed her earlier on).  Ever since she was born we have been handing her off to people to hold and she never minded.

At 2 months she was 10 pounds 8 ounces and 22 inches long

3-6 Months
At this point Wanda was back at work full-time and thus we were feeding Emma breast milk at home and formula when she was at daycare.  We also started her on some baby foods (rice cereal at first) from the store.  She is such a good eater. The only problem we typically had was getting her the food quick enough.

Around April 10th, she rolled over for the first time and by the end of the month she was rolling over a lot more often. Despite having a bouncy and enjoying her time in it, she still was not putting much pressure on her legs when you tried to stand her up.

At 4 months she was 12 pounds 13 ounces and 23 inches long
At 6 months she was 14 pounds 7 ounces and 24 3/4 inches long

6 Month Photos taken by Ella Jean Photography

6-9 Months
At 6 months we moved her off of the breast milk and onto Formula exclusively along with her normal baby foods.

At about 7 months she started crawling around and applying more pressure to her legs when you tried to stand her up. It was at this point that we bought a divider area where she can play in.  I call it her cage :).  We knew it wouldn't be too much longer till she started standing up.

On July 18th, we figured we should take Emma for her first swim.  We went with a couple friends who happened to have a tube designed for babies.  She didn't mind the water though she mainly just sat there and never got too excited either.  The second time we went she seemed to have more fun.

On July 24th, we took her to her first Minnesota Twins game at Target Field.  We borrowed a Baby Bjorn and it worked very well for her.  I thought she would fall asleep pretty quickly, but it was so hot and noisy that she stayed awake the whole time.  The best part is that we took a picture of her and sent it in for the fan pictures and her picture was chosen as the Twins Pic of the Game.  This means she won us a HD video camera.  Not too bad for her first game there.

At 9 months she was 17 pounds 0 ounces and 26 inches long

9-10 Months
We spent Labor day with my parents and my brother's family.  It was during this time that we saw Emma pull herself up for the first time. She did really good with this and would even stand in one spot for a couple minutes. Emma still isn't walking along the edge of the couch/table but it won't be long till she does this.

Her first 2 teeth have just started to poke through but surprisingly there hasn't been too much extra fussing or even fevers.  She has been very good through it all. 

Emma has been a very easy baby to care for up to this point.  She does not get very fussy. She is not very loud. She eats well. She goes to anyone.  She is always happy.  We love her so much.  We are in the works of planning her 1 year birthday party. She has hardly gotten sick (a double ear infection and cough that lasted a couple weeks was the extent of it).  Even during the sickness she was pretty happy.

Emma continues to be such a blessing in our lives.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bailey's Story

Earlier this Summer, Wanda and I made a tough decision to get rid of Bailey.  This was not an easy decision. Here's the story of how it progressed, how we came to the decision, and how we are coping.

First off, we got Bailey as a 7 week old puppy from Wanda's brother, Rick, who has since passed away.  This just added to how much Bailey meant to us. It was great seeing her grow up to 80 pounds from when I could just hold her in my hand.

It was fun having Bailey around and having someone to greet us at the door, though we would have preferred to have bought fewer comforters for our bed! At the same time, a dog requires time and energy.  A dog like Bailey, a Lab, needs attention and needs to be able to use some of her energy.   Our house just didn't provide for that as we are not keen on going on a lot of walks.  We went into this with great intentions, but never really lived up to those intentions very well.  We do not have a yard that we can let Bailey out in and only in the last year have we had a gated area between our garage and house (not very big and all cement).  Thus, the only exercise she had was in the house and if we took her for a walk.  She deserved better.

After we had Emma, we watched Bailey to see how she would respond and treat her.  Bailey had no issues with going up to Emma and giving her attention, but she did not like when Emma tried to give her attention.  There was never a point where we were scared that Bailey would hurt her in any way other than knocking her over (or stepping on her) but we did sense some resistance on Bailey's end to let Emma play with her.

On top of this, we were looking for some ways to save money and as you can imagine, dogs aren't exactly cheap.  When you add in the shots, the food, the new comforters, shelters, etc. it adds up fairly quickly.

All that being said, we started looking for a new home for Bailey.  As I mentioned, there was quite a bit of sentiment behind Bailey and thus it would be hard to get rid of her to just anyone, especially hard for Wanda.  Ultimately, we ended up asking Wanda's sister-in-law, Rick's wife, if she was interested and she said yes.  She happens to have a lot of acreage that Bailey can run and play on.  This environment was going to be much better and more enjoyable for a Lab.

Wanda had a rough time with getting rid of her, but we know who she was with and we got lots of Facebook updates and pictures to help with the transition.  It has been a nice break from having to constantly let the dog outside/inside, having to come home sooner just to let her out, and having to drop her off at a kennel while we went out of town.  We do still miss having her around, but we know she is in good hands.  Maybe someday we will consider getting another dog, but not for a while...