Monday, May 24, 2010

Swaddling Clothes

Our son Samuel is now 8 and a half months old. He is an amazing little boy -- he smiles a lot, he loves to be with family, he is crawling around like crazy, and standing up any chance he gets. His third tooth just broke through his gums yesterday, and surprisingly, he really hasn't made a big deal about teething (which mom and dad are very grateful for!). He is healthy, except for a tiny hole in his belly button that we are keeping and eye on, and struggles with eczema, but beyond that he seems to be a bright and wonderful little boy.

So with all of those wonderful things, the one big challenge we inherited with him is nap time. When he gets tired during the day, he starts getting more and more grumpy, until he eventually just cries, no matter what we do. But if we lay him in his crib, he starts screaming and crying, and won't stop. We don't have the inclination (or lack the courage) to leave him in his crib crying for hours on end until he finally falls asleep, so we have had to learn other methods to get him to finally settle down for a nap.

When Jenna was pregnant, we started reading up on how to raise infants, and watched videos on how to properly swaddle a baby. I had never heard of swaddling before, other than references to Jesus, i.e. "He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger" ... I figured that just meant wrapping him up in a baby blanket or something.

But now that I have had to sooth a screaming baby for 8 months, I understand the importance of swaddling clothes so much more! You have to get that blanket wrapped around them really tightly, or they don't feel safe and secure. The magic of a good swaddle was one of the first things we learned after Samuel was born. If you got those blankets just right, he went right to sleep.

Of course, as he got older, his arms got stronger and he would bust out of the swaddle in the middle of a nap and wake himself up. So we came up with better and better ways to wrap him ... until finally he was so strong a swaddle really didn't do much any more.

But today I noticed something, as I was trying to get him to sleep for his morning nap. He was crying, and as I walked to his bedroom and got close to his crib, as usual he started squirming and screaming even more. He is very aware of nap time, and doesn't want any part
of it!

So I sat down and held him, and started singing to him, and he started to calm down a bit. But he was still kicking his legs strongly, and any moment I stopped singing he would start crying again. Thinking back to those early swaddling days, I decided to hold him more tightly, pulling his legs up close to me and not giving him room to kick ... and suddenly I was holding a peaceful child!

As his breathing started to slow down, and his eyes closed, and he snuggled closer to me, I glowed like only a dad can glow when his son sleeps close to him. I started thinking about swaddling ... about how a firm boundary brings him more peace than holding him loosely ... and realized that perhaps this is something that stays with us for the rest of our life.

My mother, with all of her child rearing wisdom, has repeatedly told my sister and I over the years that a child feels more secure and loved by their parents when their parents establish firm boundaries for them, and actually keeps those boundaries. As opposed to many of the parents we see in the world who say "come back here right now, or I'll [fill-in-blank-here]!" to their child, but then never follow through on whatever it was they promised to do.
So as I sat there, holding Samuel, I thought perhaps there is a connection. We grow out of our need for physical swaddling (most of us anyway) -- but I think we always have a need for emotional and moral swaddling. For guidance and boundaries, and the continuing desire to push against those boundaries.

As adults, we live in a strange world of freedom ... we have the laws of the land that provide us some sense of boundaries, but we continually push agains them and stretch them, just like we did against the swaddling blanket of our infancy. We have God's laws to provide us a path to walk upon -- wisdom that helps us stay out of pain, and stay away from causing other people pain. Yet we push against these, and stretch these as well.

I eventually laid Samuel in his crib, after he slept on me for a while. He is still napping peacefully as I type.

Psalm 1:2 says "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night." I had never seen this Psalm quite in this light before. The act of meditating on God's law is what helps us see the boundaries God has for us ... He swaddles us, lovingly, and in doing so, gives us peace. Kind of an odd thought for a Monday morning, but one I thought I would share.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Moments and Miracles

I've had moments -- watching movies, watching live performances, listening to certain songs, looking out over a beautiful sunset from on top of a mountain -- where I feel my skin go all tingly, goose bumps rushing over me ... that feeling of being moved. Where you know at some intrinsic, deeper down than conscious level that something you just witnessed something signficant, where you felt like you were touched by God somehow.

I listened to this "feel-o-meter" for quite a long time in my life, and thought it had great significance. Until I saw a Disney show at California Adventure park, and when Aladdin hit this really big crescendo, I unwillingly had that same feeling sweep over my body. I felt dirty - like Aladdin had somehow manipulated me. Ugh - to feel something so significant at a Disney show! I was embarrassed to even think about it!

And then I had to step back and wonder - how many other times had I felt this way, and it really was just a certain chord, or sound, or feeling, and nothing really spiritual at all? I had to re-examine a lot of my earlier "spiritual" experiences, and look at them with a new perspective. It's good to question things -- and of course, good to find answers. But sometimes we are just stuck with questions, and that is the fine line between doubt and faith, where we choose what we are going to make of whatever the world has handed us.

So maybe when God dips His finger into reality and does something, it happens very quietly, and without all of the fanfaire we come to expect in church. I've witnessed several things that I think may have been miracles (although it's difficult to be sure) -- and at every single one, there wasn't a goose bump in sight.

Jenna and I were in Latvia several years back, playing some concerts and helping out with some summer camps. She woke up at 5am one morning with an incredibly sore throat. She hoarsly croaked out (waking me up) "Nathan, my throat hurts!" -- we were supposed to sing that day, and she was worried she wouldn't be able to sing. So I rolled over, and tiredly mumbled "Jesus, please heal her throat", and started falling back to sleep. I felt no goose bumps, I heard no trumpets in the sky. But Jenna suddenly shook me awake and said, in her very normal, musical voice "Oh my gosh - my throat just expanded, it was so weird, everything is back to normal!" She said she was afraid in that moment -- I guess that's a reasonable experience in the face of something supernatural. God doesn't show up very often when we pray for a miracle, so when He does, it's scary to face that reality.

During that same trip to Latvia, I stabbed my finger accidently with a guitar string at the end of a concert. It was a pretty deep wound, and bled a bit. I didn't think about it much more, I just kept soaking up the blood until it stopped bleeding and went to bed. When I woke up the next morning, I stumbled into the dining hall, starting eating breakfast, and belately realized that I had hurt my finger the night before. I looked down at my hands, and couldn't even figure out which finger had been hurt. There wasn't a single mark on them. I asked if anyone had prayed for me, and two of the pastors who were with us on that trip said they had prayed for my healing that night. There wasn't a chance of a psycho-somatic healing event on that one, since I wasn't even thinking about healing. Sure, there is a possibility that the puncture wound entry area healed rapidly, and all of the blood under my fingernail dissapeared because I sucked on my finger at night or something, but it was still more than a little unusual.

Yesterday I had another strange event. I was helping a friend fix up his yard in Vallejo, Ca, and we spent hours trimming hedges, digging up weeds, picking up trash, doing all we could to help make the house look presentable so he could rent it out. He bought a new pickax to help with the work, and I used it to dig trenches so we could put in some ground cloth to keep the weeds down. I went to use it to dig up some tougher roots, and swung pretty hard as I orbited around the root, digging up the dirt around it. Suddenly the pickax bucked in my hands and banged into my leg. I looked down, and glad I hadn't cut myself open - and then looked at the pickax, only to find that it was bent 90 degrees downward. I'm no superman - so I know my shin didn't bend that ax, and on the same note, I'm not a big strapping lumberjack, so I don't think I generated a lot of force to bend the pickax. So I was left with a question. No goose bumps. No signs in the sky ... just a bent pickax and a question -- did God save me just in time, or was it just pure coincidence?

I posted a picture of the pickax to Facebook, and it was fun to see my facebook-friends debate whether or not it was a miracle, or just an accident. It was interesting to see the various comments -- some people instantly praising God, others more skeptical, saying they didn't even see dirt on the pickax, so the whole thing was a little suspicious to them. I guess that's a lot like how people viewed Jesus when he walked this earth. I doubt everyone who saw him had goose bumps -- he was probably a pretty rough looking carpenter guy. He didn't have a huge band accompanying him, playing all the right chords at the right time. But he did some things that were genuinely out of the ordinary, and left us to wrestle with the question -- was that a miracle, or is there some other explanation?

Not a goose bump in sight to give us guidance -- and that's probably a good thing. Answering that question isn't easy - and the answer we choose really impacts just about everything else in life.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

New Year's Newsletter

We saw that not everyone was able to receive our latest email newsletter so here it is:

Happy New Year!

We hope this email finds you all well rested from time off and filled with love from time with friends and family over this past holiday season. For After the Chase, 2008 was our busiest year ever. We played all over the country this year - Washington, Oregon, California, Louisiana, Texas, and Florida - and got to meet and connect with many wonderful new people and church families. We saw more fruit in our ministry in 2008 than ever before - God gave us opportunities to share our faith in Jesus and we saw people come to Christ at our concerts. We had such a great time and are excited about what this coming year may hold for us.

In early December, Nathan and I found out that we are going to have a new addition to the band. Unfortunately we won't know what instrument he or she will play for about 9 months...that's right...we're having a baby! We haven't been to the doctor yet (still very early) but we think the due date is Aug. 30th. We would appreciate your prayers for the baby this year.

About 4 days after we found out that we were pregnant, we also found out that Nathan's last day of work was Dec. 31st. He was laid off from his full time job this year. As many of you know, Nathan's job has been supporting the majority of our music ministry. It enabled After the Chase to grow, travel, and record new music as well as let me (Jenna) work full time from home on bookings and various ministry details. We are a little concerned about the financial future but also know and trust that God will provide all of our needs.

We are exploring what God has in store for us this coming year. Please pray for us! Pray for a healthy baby, for guidance in the next steps of our ministry, and for God to open new doors for us. We've had people ask us in the past if they could donate towards our ministry to help us. We have mainly declined given that Nathan had a full time job that was supporting us. But now, given the dramatic changes in our life, we're freely accepting any help you want to provide!:)

So if you would like to make a tax deductable donation to After the Chase's music ministry, you can send us a check made out to "Redwood Covenant Church" (our home church). Just make sure to write "After the Chase" in the notes section on the check. If you don't care about tax deductable donations you can always send us a check made out to "After the Chase" or buy lots of CDs and give them away to your friends. The address to send your checks to is:

After the Chase
779 Riesling Road
Petaluma, CA 94954

If you'd like to see us live this year, just email us to book ATC for 2009 now as our weekends are filling up. We will continue to tour through July and stop in August for the birth.

Thank you for all your prayers and support,

Jenna (and Nathan!)
After the Chase

Sunday, September 28, 2008

On the road...

I thought we should start recording a little bit of video while we're traveling. We're new at this, so forgive us for the lack of showmanship. Maybe we'll get a better camera soon that will make this easier ... right now there are twenty steps just to post a video!

Nathan, Jenna, and Gary on the road in Ohio - Sept 2008

Nathan and Jenna on the road in Florida - Sept 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Who are you becoming?

There is a junior high school right across the street from our house. (recently built, and frankly I wish it wasn't there by the way, but that is another story). I was driving by the school today, and I saw a bunch of kids standing around, waiting for their parents to pick them up. Every Wednesday they get out early, and if I leave at just the wrong time, I'm stuck in parental deadlock for a long time before I can even get around the block.

As I sat there, waiting, watching parents cut off other parents, honking horns at each other, picking up their loved ones, I started wondering what each of these kids would become someday. Would the red headed girl laughing with her friends become a business woman, running some kind of successful enterprise? Would the young man sitting off all by himself become the next Bill Gates and start a new technology empire? Would any of these kids end up crashing their lives on the rocks of bad relationships, substance abuse, and fade away before they ever got a chance to live? Would many of them just come out "normal" in society's eyes -- because that is the path of least resistance?

And then I thought about that phrase: "what would they become?" What a strange, permanent sort of phrase that is. As if we as human beings start out young, get educated, and then "become" whatever it is we are trying to be - doctors, lawyers, truck drivers, plumbers ... and then we're done. How tragic life would be if that were really the case. And what a tragedy it is for people who do stop growing, changing, and learning at some point. 

In life, either you're growing, or you're dying. Status quo is just another form of fading away, and waiting to die. 

My hope and prayer for all of the kids standing around, waiting for their parents to come pick them up, was that they would never "become" anything. That they would never cease "becoming" who they are -- life is a journey of becoming, drawing closer to family, friends, and God, or moving away. The choices that we make every day, the plodding commute to work and back, the words we exchange in anger or in love -- they are either part of becoming something more beautiful, or becoming something less beautiful. 

Who are you becoming?


Friday, September 12, 2008

Ode to St. Paul's EYC

Oh what a sad day
When After the Chase couldn’t fly away
To Shreveport is where they had wished to go
To be with a special group that they know
But blasted Ike reared it’s head
And dreams of seeing friends seemed to be dead
And now here we are so sad and blue
St. Paul’s EYC we’re so lonely without you!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tour Update

We just got back from a weekend in Oregon. We played in Mt. Shasta on Friday, Portland on Sat, and Sweet Home on Sun. I just wanted to share an article that someone wrote about our Friday night experience at a small coffeehouse called The Coffee Connection. It's a little embarrassing how this article reveals that we sometimes play for an audience consisting no more than my parents but it also paints a great picture of why we do it. You just never know what opportunities you might pass by if you are not willing to look a little foolish for God. Click here for the article. And if you really want to know what it was like that night, you can watch it here. I'll try to post the other video of our rendition of "La Bamba" soon:)

/* start google analytics code */ /* end google analytics code */