Jesus Justice

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I’ve been hiking the path of justice, attending bond and preliminary hearings awhilst two trips to Family Court for the “juvenile” and all I can metaphorically offer is this, my feet hurt.

I wonder if their feet hurt when they kicked down our back door while she was home?

The fact all four perps are incarcerated awaiting trial or sentencing at the time of this writing feels kinda like peeing in the snow; we made a tiny little mark on a surface that will otherwise be unnoticed.  They are criminals, period, and they deserve everything the law can muster against them.  But I know rehabilitation in our system might as well be an avenue on Neptune, because it appears impossible to get there from here.

So the Village ain’t blameless by a long shot either.  What is our takeway?  We best gather the courage to consider at least that while we posture another courage informing us all to purchase designer weapons surely soon sold at Bed, Bath and Beyond Whatever, because it feels like that is where we are headed.  I can’t help but think these days have given me a view into what I never asked for. I’ve now looked into the collective faces of the collective juveniles who will be collectively killed by the collective bullets triggered at the collective hands of citizen dwellers who are just plain fed up, to say nothing of terrified. I understand.

And that sentiment, the one telling me to take up arms, leaves me flat.

But it’s not the only thing I feel.  I’ll study that for a while I guess.  Am I less of something, less of a father, protector, red-blooded American because I am not moved to deal justice at the end of my own hands?  I pronounce no judgment on victims who feel conversely.  Who am I to say?  But my evolution hasn’t birthed me there yet, so I can’t go there.

In my now informed opinion, I believe an additional gun introduced into the situation matching the one carried by the four perpetrators would have only led to a volley of escalation and ammunition.  Those who know me best would be apt to conclude my response as the predictable measure of a liberal Christian minister.  But I think neither my theology nor my affiliation with the left side of the chamber is the seat of my sentiment.  I think my feelings come squarely from this fact: our daughter is alive and so well today, posting photos playing Maiden to a boy’s Knight in a Viking museum in Iceland.  “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and how long and how high and how deep is the love of God.”

Well, Ok, maybe there is some Theology in here somewhere.  I claim no corner on the God market, but I am more inclined to use prayer as my weapon of choice today.  Is that crazy?  Oh God. Be God. Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Tired Dating was started as a monument to enduring the stuff of relationships, primarily between husband and wife, specifically between Kevin and Alyson. There has been a thread of prayer between the keystrokes, invisibly offered and sometimes felt.  This writer’s shoulders are uncertain of many things, but that ole Holy Spirit ain’t afraid to rest on a shifting surface.  So tonight, I’ll try to cobble together a prayer for an enemy, trusting that my muted attempt of stuttering silence is enough.  It has to be.

And if you are still reading and wondering what in God’s name does this post have to do with dating my wife within these difficult times, here is my answer, as a father, protector, red-blooded American…and a prayer:  It has everything to do with dating my wife.

Everything.  Everything goddammit. Everything.

Being There

Our youngest on the Shelby Street Bridge in our hometown, Nashville TN

Our youngest on the Shelby Street Bridge in our hometown, Nashville TN

If I could paraphrase the goal in one phrase it would be this: to get where we are going together.

We had a succinct beginning on December 16, 1989, but nothing since then was predicted.  We couldn’t see Columbia, SC via Williamsburg, KY through Crawford, TX from the altar in Nashville, TN.  We couldn’t see emergency c-sections and umbilical cords knotted and wrapped around baby’s neck.  Couldn’t see graduate schools and career disappointments.  Couldn’t see arguments epic. Couldn’t see a hole in a neck cut open to save life.  Couldn’t’ see dehydrated faith and long stares into nothingness.  Couldn’t see a borrowed house. Couldn’t see old friends leaving and new friends arriving.  Couldn’t see Anglican.  Couldn’t see trying this hard.

And we couldn’t see how satisfying the view would be when all the hard mixes with all the good and we notice ourselves lovingly paying attention to each other because it would suck to be alone on this veranda.

“Will you keep blogging now that the year of Tired Dating is over?”

Probably.  Maybe.  We’ll see.

But, this blog was never the goal.  Alykev.com was merely a delivery system.  “Tired Dating” was an artistic label we attached to our married life entering our 23rd year together.

We captured our domain, set up the blog and managed the process. Amazed by clicks, views and visitors in the thousands, we originally thought only stray family members would happen by.  This has been fun, a good outlet, and an opportunity to communicate some marital authenticity that is evidently needed in a world with scarcely little.

But, this blog was never the goal.

The goal was, and is, something that cannot be tracked by WordPress analytics.

On many days I absolutely don’t understand why Aly thinks what she thinks.  And she says the same about me.  We aren’t trying to figure each other out.  Anymore.  Maybe we are trying to accept who the other is and just keep moving, not knowing where, but doing so together.

That’s what we said we would do.  Get there together.

Wherever that may be.

Congaree National Park, 20 minutes from our front door, Columbia SC

Congaree National Park, 20 minutes from our front door, Columbia SC

Plural Dating

When Alyson and I married twenty-three years ago we were the youngest of adults, both a few months past our twenty-second birthday.  From our vantage point now, I would say we were kids at the altar.

Now, we have kids of our own, and with each passing day they live closer to their adult years than their childhood ones.

My sweet wife is now the shortest member of the family. Again.

And while that may seem like a strange way to begin a tome about our most recent Tired Date, a double with fun friends, I know of no other way than to name the overwhelming context of our lives right now: time flies.  And it is scary.

It’s true.  We are afraid.  Granted, we love Jesus.  We pray to God.  We worship regularly.  And as yet, we haven’t found the magic button that eliminates our fist clenching frustration at bouncing checks.  We lament some of our dreams more apt to be crossed off the list than realized, much less attempted.  Our career angst is palpable.  Our retirement plans are but a whiff of smoke in a wind tunnel.  And the kids, well, we have never been here before, raising a middle school-er, a high school-er, and a collegian at the same time, so wondering if we are doing it right is a daily question.

So while you may think our double date with Chris and Lisa A. was just that, a momentary diversion from the rote survival of every day, think again.  In a way, it was salvation, and I do mean the eternal kind.  See, without divulging any of their stuff, I will tell you here that doing life with people who are walking a similar path is not only a good idea, but essential to health.  And that is Gospel, because at its very core it is communal.  The best marriages I know aren’t lived in a vacuum, but rather, in community.

With Chip and Jo…we had no idea how tired we would all be twenty three years later.

Comfort of any kind starts with the elimination of loneliness.  I cannot imagine doing life without dear couples that have accepted our invitation to live seasons with us and have invited us to do the same.

While I won’t list the brilliant names of friends dating back to 1989, I will say an existential ‘thank you’ to all of them by way of thanking Chris and Lisa for going to dinner and a movie with us while embodying the spirit of what we love in all our dearest friends: authenticity.

And Chris, in closing, I do want to thank you for an act of friendship that no man, let alone any person, has ever provided me.  When I was looking at our photos from Saturday night, I noticed a special gesture on your part.  While I took the picture at the movie theater, you placed your hand on my seat to keep it warm.

Real men keep their buddy’s seat warm

Wow. No fear, a tad creepy, but oh so authentic.  Thanks man.

Don’t Mess with Jess(e)

Take the Poll…   This is Science!

109 Degree Date…by Aly

It’s all worth it.

After missing our date in May I felt like we really needed to do something special and different.  So I thought I would beat Kevin to the punch for a over the top romantic (within a tight budget) date for June. I had no idea what to do, and then the miracle of television provided an answer. I somehow caught a commercial for Clausen’s Inn on between folding laundry and Yoga Booty Ballet.  A weekend package included dinner at our favorite restaurant, champagne and strawberries, and, of course, breakfast.  Father’s Day was coming up, we still had not been on a June date, and I wasn’t about to buy him the yard yeti he wanted at the local garden store!

He really wants one…in OUR yard!

On Father’s Day I rolled up the reservations with a gold ribbon and presented my grand date gesture.  Surprise!  I hit a homerun!  He wasn’t expecting it at all.  Yay, me!  I can do this romantic thing… I just can’t keep it up very long; my pragmatic tendencies naturally come out.  Like many women in the “mommy mode,” I am good at survival, meeting basic needs, thinking of worst-case scenarios, and planning for disasters, or dinner, whichever comes first.  But I can do “romantic” for a day.

We made our date for June 29th, just under the wire.  Whew, back on good “Tired Dating” schedule.  Even the heat wasn’t going to stop this romantic night.  Columbia hit a record 109 on Friday which meant the “loft” room I reserved was a tad warm upon check-in… the thermostat in our sweet retreat room read 90..  We ended up moving to a smaller but cooler room.  Adapt.  And move on.  Good mommy’s do that.

I highly recommend overnight dates!  Even just a few miles from home.  You can truly get away from all the things that pull you in opposite directions from your spouse.  You can focus on each other and stay in “date mode” longer.  After champagne and strawberries, we walked to the restaurant from the hotel, had a lovely meal, and enjoyed the stroll back afterward.  No getting in the car and driving home to kid chaos.

Ellie Kate is a Squatch. Jake has a box on his head. And GA is just done. Mommy radar is always on.

I have to admit I was still checking on the kids until I knew they were all safe at home for the night.  The mommy radar is always on and maybe that is what has promoted my pragmatic mode for all these years; but every once in a while I can push that mommy out of the way and support my inner romantic.  If you are a mommy, and you are tired, that means you need a date too.  Just do it.

Makin’ Bacon…or not.

It used to be a bakery...got nothing for that one.

Hey, it was a bakery a long time ago. I love bread.

[POSTSCRIPT:  several have inquired, a few at church this morning, with the question, “so how was…breakfast?”  Because he has “an acute sense of propriety,” a True Gentleman never tells.  He will say, however,  the best part was the laughter.  And after 23 years, he’ll take that all day long.]

A few weeks ago unbeknownst to me Alyson purchased a “romance package” from a local boutique hotel.  The deal includes dinner at Garibaldi’s, the restaurant where Tired Dating began six long months ago, and one overnight stay in above average environs at the boutique hotel conveniently located half a block from the restaurant.   Our date is tomorrow night, so you know what I am thinking? Riiight.

Its not one of those “Pink Neon” places.

I couldn’t be happier.  Any man reading this is happy too, whether he admits it or not to his spouse or girlfriend.  Although probably afraid to cop to his smirk, upon reading this entry he may explain the grin as the byproduct of how much trouble he imagines I will incur for writing this entry, let alone posting it.  But if tortured to truthfulness, he will admit it. He will scream it… “I am smiling for Kevin, because he is going on a date at a hotel, which means he gets Hotel Breakfast! Aaaaahahahahaha!”

Perhaps it’s a fraternal thing, but common to most men is a healthy and pervasive expectation for Hotel Breakfast.  And we don’t care how we get it.  Gourmet Buffet with waffle and omelet station.  Sit down order from the menu.  Quick and free dash to yesterday’s donuts and egg substitute sterno tray.  Or the bag of almonds from the mini-bar.  Doesn’t matter.  There’s hopefulness, an excitement.  Hotel Breakfast, in varied and surprising form, will be different from what we consume at home.

The ice sculpture has no nutritional value whatsoever.


The ice sculpture has no nutritional value whatsoever.

Imagining hotel breakfast triggers a miniscule particle in our brain which then alerts chemicals and nerves and natural occurring narcotics to direct the limbic, circulatory, musculature, skeletal and hydraulic systems to contemplate the meal ahead.  I think it might even border on obsession.  We wonder in delirious thought: “Bacon…will it be maple cured, or perfectly crisp?  Will there be an obnoxious cornucopia at a big table inviting me towards breads and rolls and danish and loaves I haven’t seen since the last hotel date?  Will the fruit be carved into unknown geometric shapes?  Can I pour my milk into my junior box of Frosted Flakes like I did when I was a kid?” No, wait; retract that one, wrong memory bank.  But you get my drift.  And I almost forgot the most important one, “Will I be allowed seconds?”

Given the full disclosure already offered in the above paragraphs on behalf of truthful men everywhere I guess I should admit to times when our buddies, co-workers, and the occasional homeless man selling newspaper at the corner might happen to find out about an upcoming hotel date.  It’s like a relay team sharing the Gold medal, high fives for everyone.  The lone caveat is the guy who has become accustomed to skipping breakfast or going without for one reason or another, bless his heart.  He really doesn’t know how to process the option of chopped pecans on a waffle, much less a cold cup of yogurt with homemade granola.  Mostly he’s just bitter, and no one really likes to be around him anyway. I know, I know, it’s sophomoric, but breakfast at a hotel?  In the words of Brother Dave, “the worst I had was wonderful.”

But a myopic view of Hotel Breakfast is discouraged. It’s not the most important thing on the date.  And it never will be.  One focuses solely on breakfast at ones peril.  Maybe the kitchen is closed, or the doughnut delivery is late, or there is an early checkout mandated by circumstance.  It happens.  And when it does, the important thing to realize in a relationship is this: neither man nor woman can live by Hotel Breakfast alone.

(There’s always lunch.)

Dr. Love

Dr. Lentz peered at us above the lazy glasses riding low on his nose. “The best thing you can do for the health of this baby is to have a good marriage. Dad, you need to love this mother.  Mother, you need to love this dad. Period.” 

Thank You Good Doctor

My venerable pediatrician was now our daughter’s pediatrician.   Grace Ann was eight days old.  For her first visit to the doctor she wasn’t the main character.  Her parent’s marriage was.

Eighteen years later, on this last night of May 2012, I will confess we did not execute this month’s Tired Date.  Not to worry, there are no shaky legs on the marital stool.  We are not afoul of harmony.  We simply ran out of time.  In thirty short days we have consumed bike races, mother’s day, middle school graduation, dance recitals, dress rehearsals… Aw heck. I’m not even halfway through the list.  You can figure it out.  It’s May, the one month where an entire school year culminates into four frenetically packed weeks of familial chaos. I think the last real conversation Alyson and I had was thirty days ago.  The “IverHart Max” sticker stuck to May One reminds me. “Hey, did you hear me? Don’t forget to pick up Biscuit’s heart worm medicine today.” The dog is still alive, so I guess I remembered.

And today we logged eight hours at The University of South Carolina consuming Freshman Orientation with our firstborn.  When we got home the two younger babies had already taken out the trash and set the recycle bin at the end of the driveway for tomorrow morning’s pickup

So she goes to college in August, Grace Ann does.  Jake starts high school, Ellie Kate seventh grade.  In no way, shape, or form will the activity abate, not anytime soon anyway.  But even a hip couple like AlyKev needs to skip a date every now and then.  In actuality, May was not a dating loss, but rather an affirmation of what we have been trying to do all along.  The best dates, really, are the ones that happen neither in escape nor fantasy but in the quotidian rituals we perform with the ones we love with.

When I was a young lad I respected Dr. Lentz with fear.  I guess you could say I grew to admire him.  When he died a few years ago I shed a tear because I loved him.  Watching my kids today I am grateful for his words about raising healthy children in a home where the best antidote for dis-ease is an honest commitment to the work of loving each other.

I wish he could see me now, all trying to grow up, with kids of my own.  I think he would be pleased.  And if the good doctor could listen quietly outside our bedroom tonight he would hear a healthy marriage snoring beyond the door.  And then he would smile, wink at our healthy children down the hall, and tell them to shut up.