The Black Eye

November 29, 2007

By the second day, the large goose egg just above Esther’s eyebrow was hardly noticeable.

It kinda surprised me considering the hammer end of a large claw hammer had hit her pretty hard.  Esther was excited to see the swelling go down and the tenderness go away… and thought the worst of it was over.  But having seen a few black eyes in my day, I knew it had just begun.

The “attack of the claw hammer” happened on one of our Thursday Service Nights.  You see, about 3 months ago, we decided that a weekly service project would help all of us get out of the house, spend some quality family time, and reap the rewards of giving freely to others.  It has been a blast!

On this particular night, we were at a friend’s new house, helping them remodel.  It is an old house – built around the 50’s or so.  The walls were all lathe and plaster, reinforced with chicken wire.

Esther, with dust mask on, was going after the living room wall with a vengeance, when she got in a tug-of-war match with a section of wire.  In the end she won.  With a mighty wrench, the wire suddenly gave up its grasp on the wall, causing the hammer to jerk back and even more suddenly connect with her eyebrow.

Well, by the fourth day, the draining started… the large pool of black and blue blood that had collected above her lovely brow, began to ooze down… first into her eyelid… then taking her eye hostage… and then finally running in streaks of violet down her cheek.

The colorful display stayed for almost 2 weeks, standing as a monument to her willingness to serve selflessly and at the cost of personal injury.  Because, you know what?  The next Thursday, she was right back at that wall, hammering, pulling, and tearing with the rest of us.

Family service… give it a try… just watch out for the hammer.


Parenting In The Trenches

October 29, 2007

Technically, the little farm of our friend is not within Spanish Fork’s city limits. But we weren’t thinking of that on Friday afternoon as we got out of the car and walked down the steep hill to the lower garage.

I was the first one down and warmly greeted Nancy and Gerald who were using the tractor to move a 1 ton bale of grass hay off the massive haystack they had, just to the north of the garage. I chuckled as I thought how that haystack was wider, deeper, and taller than the first 3 houses Margie and I lived it. Well, with 15 horses and 4 cows, I guess she needed all that hay for the winter.

Looking back over my shoulder, I saw a chain of children making their way down the old railroad ties serving as steps down the hill. One had a rake. One had a pick ax. One had a shovel. The others were trailing along and laughing or talking. The image of Snow White’s seven dwarfs popped into my mind and deepened the joy I was feeling in that moment. And of course, the very vision of beauty and rapture herself came at the end of this long line of children.

“So, where do you want it?” I asked.

“Right across the road leading down to the barns… and I need it 18 inches deep. Sorry.” Nancy said.

“No problem! We’ll have it done in a jiffy.”

Well, as a matter of fact, it was a problem and certainly wasn’t done in a jiffy. But all the better for my purposes. Of course, we were not there to have a jolly visit. We were there to work. Both Nancy and Gerald are in their 70’s (maybe 80’s for all I know) and with no farm-hands, they manage all their projects by themselves… and some things they simply cannot do… like digging 18 inch ditches.

At first glance the road seemed to be a dirt road. But, actually, it was 2 inches of dirt covering 10 inches of old asphalt. And that is where the trouble started. As my pick ax slammed into the blacktop, my muscles groaned and my face split into a grin – this was going to be a lot of work for my boys. Over the next 2 hours, I swung the pick ax and they manned the shovels, clearing large chunks of asphalt, rocks, dirt, and gravel.

On their faces I could see the strain of physical labor and in their hearts I could see the transforming power of serving others without compensation or promised rewards.

Stopping for a break and a drink of water I saw Margie, Esther and Hyrum running down the hill. They had been up at the house raking leaves out of the yards. With a burst of excitement, Hyrum announced that they had already raked and scooped up more than 20 large black bags of leaves.

The signs of service were unmistakable on their faces as well.

Three weeks earlier before, we went down to Nancy’s farm to dig the trench and rake up leaves, we had a Family Council. The topic was giving of ourselves in service. The Council had decided that once a week – usually every Thursday – we would find a project to do for someone, and secretly if we could manage it.

Walking back up the hill that afternoon, I saw each of the children helping their buddy into the car. They talked pleasantly with each other, some holding hands, others with their arms around each other. No fighting, no bickering, no contention. There it was again… the home feeling.

A Mighty Rush of Wind

September 14, 2007

Abruptly, and without any warning, Isaac stopped in the middle of the trail. “Dad, I’m going to tell you this… I never give up, but I’m just going to walk a minute.”

I couldn’t really blame him. The hill we were on up Hobble Creek Canyon was tough for just about anyone, let alone a 5 year old on a regular little MX dirt bike without gears. So, I geared up, and slowly pedaled beside him for a while.

The other three children were well ahead of us. The trail was quiet and we had it all to ourselves. Right about then, I was sure glad that I had listened to him when he begged to come with us on the ride. We were all a little hesitant, but I just could not say no to that pleading, longing, hopeful look in his sweet young eyes. So, I said in the heartiest voice I could muster, “Sure, Isaac! Of course you can come along! We were hoping you’d ask.”

Well, if the joy that leaped into his eyes right them was not enough reward for me – and his three older siblings… because they sure got a kick out of it as well – then this moment on the hill was paying me back 100 fold.

“Daddy, I’m going to tell you this… today, my teacher learned me this song… ‘One, two, buckle my shoe – three, four, shut the door – five, six, pick up sticks… ah what’s the next part dad?”

I had to smile. When he started the song, his pudgy little fingers on his right hand began shooting up. But now, needing to use the other hand, he was having a little trouble managing the bike. Plus, the whole song recital had distracted him from walking in a straight line and he was zigzagging wildly around the trail. What, with my laughing so hard, and trying to keep my balance while riding VERY slow, and trying to avoid his sudden zigs here and zags there, it was just about all I could do to avoid crashing into the poor boy.

“Well, dad, what’s next?”

Oh, right.

“Seven, eight, laa…”

“No, dad! I know the rest, don’t say it! Seven, eight lay them straight – nine, ten… oh, and dad, this is the funniest part. Everyone laughed so hard when we said this last part – dad, you are going to laugh too. Ok, listen to this… nine, ten, A BIG FAT HEN!”

The hilarity and humor and fun of shouting “A BIG FAT HEN!” at the top of his voice and hearing it echo through the canyon was too much for him. He stopped and laughed and laughed. I did the same.

We spent the next 45 minutes in conversations like this. Every now and then we would catch up to the others and ride with them a while, but for the most part, it was Isaac and I riding along and talking.

At the end of the ride stood a huge, steep hill, that rolled upward and went on and on. We all were together then and set a point about three-quarters of the way up that we dubbed the “stopping point”. There we would turn around and head back to the car. Up we went, slowly, sweating, panting, pushing, pedaling…. but we made it.

Turning around, we faced that long stretch of vertical excitement.

“Ok, guys… ready? Remember, hit the back brakes first if you need to stop or slow down… and be CAREFUL. Ok, ready, set… LET’S GO!!”

Isaac, to my sheer delight, bolted out of the starting gate first and got a jump-start on Esther, Joshua and Jared. I trailed behind watching them fly down the hill. The wind was pushing so hard against our eyes that it squeezed out tears. And our hair – oh, what a mess! And our hearts were beating wildly – half with the sheer thrill and excitement of the ride – half out of fear that the plummeting hill would reach out and drag any one of us down into a careening mass of metal and flesh.

In the end, we all made it down the hill – and down the mountain for that matter – safe and sound. We took away from that canyon the thrills of family time and the joys of exerting ourselves.

But, there were other things we took away. You see, this was just two days after we brought Margie and Sariah home from the hospital. We were out on the trail because Margie needed a break. So I took the children out on a ride.

They learned to ride in the canyon, and that they have a father that loves their mother.

They learned the importance of staying in shape physically, and they learned how to care for a new mother.

They learned how to use their gear bikes, and they learned how to be real men, fathers and daddies.

They learned the thrills of feeling a mighty rush of wind as they race down the trail, and they learned the greater joy – the real thrill of life – in serving others… first, in letting their little brother tag along, and second in serving their mother and new little sister.

A mighty rush of wind… it’s an experience I’d recommend to anyone.

They’re Raising Greatness In Me

July 18, 2007

I only remotely heard my youngest son (that’s Brigham, he’s 3yrs) come in the first time.

Faintly, through a fog of deep and very heavy sleep, I heard a little voice saying, “Mommy, I had a bad dream.” Actually, he doesn’t know what that means, but it is just as good of an excuse as any to come into our room at 2:03 am in the morning.

“Did you say a prayer?”, I heard Margie mumble.


“Ok, let’s say a prayer. Heavenly Father will help you sleep good.”

Then in quiet, sweet tones a simple prayer was offered and then little feet pitter-paddering out of our room and back down the hall.

I knew what was coming next, but hoped against hope that it wasn’t going to happen.

But, it was no use. Just as I was dipping back into my deep slumber, I heard those tiny feet sliding across soft carpet down the dark hallway.

You see, of all the lovely things we have taught our 3 year old, tucking himself in bed in the middle of the night is not one of them.

“Daddy, my bed is messed up. Will you help me?”

Knowing there was no use in fighting it, I rolled out of bed, making a mental note to myself to have that lesson on “tucking yourself in bed” first thing tomorrow morning.

As I reached out into the darkness for my son, I felt a precious, trusting hand already stretched out waiting… expecting… me to reach out to him. There was something in his simple and unwavering confidence in that act of reaching out to me that sent a thrill of excitement and pleasure through my whole frame.

“He believes in me! My boy, believes in me”, was the thought that flashed through my mind.

In a minute, I had him snugly tucked back in bed and before I got to the bedroom door he was sound asleep.

“I love you, Brigham”, I whispered softly into the night.

I couldn’t help but linger in the doorway a little longer. There was something magical about the glow of the soft night light as it gently illuminated his cubby cheeks and pure features. Enormous swells of love, and compassion, and care swept over me as I looked on.

I thought to myself, “I bet, in a way, this is how Heavenly Father must feel about us. He must thrill when we approach him. He must rejoice when we plead for help. He surely is elated when He can serve, bless and comfort us.”

And then another thought came to me. I realized that in raising this boy to the great man that he would someday become, he and God were working on raising me to greatness as well.

In that brief encounter with my son at 2:03 am, I had overcome impatience, my selfish desire for sleep, my frustrations at his inabilities, and petty thoughts of “why doesn’t Margie get up with him.”

Simultaneously, my patience, compassion, care, and love had deepened. In short, I had become a better man, father, and husband because my 3 year old son had a “bad dream” and reached out to his daddy for comfort.

As parents, while we raise these children to become great future men and women, we should never forget that they are in cohorts with God to raise greatness in us.

Is this family thing an amazing plan, or what?