Monday, November 25, 2013

I'm thankful...

I spent the past weekend talking about the existence of God with a group of amazingly intelligent high school students.  The questions they asked were both challenging, and asked with a heart of desire to lead people to Christ, rather than win an argument.  We finished up the retreat on Sunday morning talking about how an all good God could exist knowing that there is evil and suffering in the world. This is a question that has been on my mind a lot over the past several months.
I have asked many questions of God regarding Josiah's diagnosis.  Why him?  Why me?  What did my son ever do to deserve this?  How can you allow these things to happen?  None of these questions are easily answered and to be honest, the full answer is not to be comprehended with simple logic.  Sometimes, one has to step out with faith to find understanding.
These questions are even harder to answer when you're in the midst of the suffering yourself.  But every once in a while something or someone steps up to the plate to show you that God is alive and well in the lives of his people.  He is working in this long-suffering world.  He does care.
Several weeks ago, the church that I grew up in, called out of the blue to offer assistance to my family with bills that had been piling up since Josiah's birth.  One of my heroes called me and asked how we were doing, to which I replied, "Well to be honest, sometimes its a struggle."  Two days later a generous donation from the church arrived in our mailbox.
Just a few short weeks ago, while attending a conference in San Antonio, I was confronted by a dear friend.  He asked, "How are you doing with everything?"  I said, "I'm good.  Things are getting better. Yeah, we're good."  I say that a lot to people to keep them at arm's length.  Truth be told its a lie and easier than getting into every emotion I'm feeling; every thought I'm thinking.  But this friend was having none of that.  He simply stared at me and smiled, as if to say, "Bull.  I know you're not okay."  Finally, I broke the silence and said, "You're right, I'm not good.  I'm struggling."  What followed was a much needed time of debriefing and counseling.  In that conversation I realized that I'm still angry.  I'm still hurt.  I'm still questioning.  My faith is wavering no matter how hard I try to keep it from doing so.  And then there was a glimpse of healing.  I made a decision to get help.  And, I'm doing that.  I made a decision to refocus on the relationships that mean the most to me, God, Lisa, Lydia and Josiah, family, friends, and I'm trying.
And just a few short hours ago, I walked into my office to find a letter on my desk.
Bobby and Lisa,
We have heard about some of the challenges and trials that you and your dimly have faced recently.  we have also been told about your unwavering faith through these times and your great example of the hope that we as Christians should have regardless of what comes our way. 
We know that there may be some burdens in your lives that won't be removed soon.  However, in the midst of those burdens we hope that we may be able to facilitate a small blessing in your lives.  Please accept this gift from one Christian couple to another.  We pray that this will make it easier for you to enjoy the blessing that God has richly provided to all of us during this holiday season.  
Know that as members of the body of Christ, you are not alone.
With love, your brother and sister in Christ.
And that's it…no name, no address, no desire to be know.  Just a letter of blessing and a gift that unless holding it, I would've never thought real.

So, I'm thankful.  I'm thankful for the teens in Stillwater, who are not afraid to ask the tough questions, and even less fearful of finding answers.  I'm thankful for the McCune church of Christ, and the people who helped raise me, and are taking care of me still.  I'm thankful for my friend Ben, and so many like him, who are not going to back down, or abandon me because I'm struggling.  I'm thankful for an amazing couple who I may never know, or get to thank in person for a gift that blessed us beyond measure, the knowledge that we're not alone (the cashier's check was nice too).
I'm thankful to God that through so many avenues he is showing me that He is alive and cares and working in his people.  I'm trying desperately to make my way back to you God.  I've been away for a while and the road is littered with obstacles and questions, but I'm thankful that you're not giving up on me.
If you're reading this, well, I'm thankful for you too.  You are a blessing to me and to my family.  You are loved.  And those blessed love relationships are what this daddy desires.

Monday, September 30, 2013

My God conundrum.

Tonight, I am anxious.  No, I'm scared out of my ever-loving mind.  I'm not sure if I'm coming or going.  I've been holding Josiah most of the evening and fighting back tears as I go.  Tomorrow is the day of his open heart surgery.  
I've never understood those who argue that God can't exist because of all the hurt in the world.  But, lately I've been questioning Him.  Not His existence mind you, just Him.  I find myself asking what I did, or even what Jo did to deserve Downs, heart problems, developmental delays, you name it, I've questioned it.  And, before you post the comments that I know are coming, let me just say, I know the answers.  I know the phrases that are "right".  But, still I question.  I've even found myself bargaining with God, "you heal Josiah, and I'll be better."  Totally the opposite of any theology I've ever had.  As if God needs my better for His will to be carried out.  
I asked several weeks ago for people to pray to God that He be glorified through all of this, no matter what.  As the heart surgery has gotten closer, I find myself praying less.  Not because I don't believe, but because for the first time in my life I find myself in a bit of a God conundrum.  I'm angry.  I'm angry all the time.  And at times I blame God for that.  I'm scared.  I'm scared all the time.  And at times I blame God for that too.  And then I put on my happy, brave, faithful face so that no one knows whats really going on inside of me.  I'm broken.  
And so, here I am tonight, anxious, scared, angry, in tears as I watch my son, knowing that tomorrow he undergoes something that I have no control over.  I have no control.  And though I "know" no matter what that God has control, I am hesitant to let Him have it.  Do you see the conundrum? I can't let God have something that I don't even have anyway.  
I know so many of you are praying for Josiah, and praying for us, and for that I am thankful.  We need, we covet those prayers.  But, tonight, I hope that you'll pray that God helps me solve my conundrum.  I hope that I'll get over the anger, that I'll let go of the worry, that I'll be rid of fear.  This is my desire. 

Friday, August 16, 2013


Many prayers have went up on behalf of Josiah over the past several months.  Many times, I haven't even known what to pray for.  But, my prayers have become more clear lately.  You see my son has Down Syndrome and there is nothing that I can do to change that.  My son has a hole in his heart that needs to be surgically repaired, and there is nothing that I can do to change that.  There may be any number of things that my son has to deal with as grows older, and there is nothing that I can do to change that.  And sadly, there will be a time when I have to say goodbye to Josiah here on this earth, and there is nothing that I can do to change that.
But, I can do something.  I can dedicate this precious life to God Almighty.  I can pray every day that God is glorified through the life of my son.  I can pray that those who may not know God, can come to know Him because of Josiah.  I can entrust my boy completely to God's care.  And that is what I choose to do.
Many will not understand this.  Pray for miracles, they'll say.  Pray for healing, they'll say.  And I will. I'll pray fervently for those things.  But, that will not be my only prayer.  That will not be my first prayer.  I'm learning that there are things that are more important than chromosomes, than healthy hearts, than physical well-being.  And though this prayer is harder to pray, I will pray throughout his life, in highs and lows, good health and bad, scary times and amazingly happy times that God is glorified.  And if the best case scenarios play out I will be strengthened because God is being made known through my son.  And if the worst case scenarios play out I will be strengthened because God is being made known through my son.
So, please, please continue to pray for my son.  But do not be afraid to alter your prayers a bit.  Do not be discouraged to pray that God is glorified first, and Josiah is protected second.  Do not be upset if the God is glorified but Josiah has more complications.  Do not give up on my God.  Never stop praying.

Father, I dedicate my children to you.  I will teach them your ways.  I will teach them your love.  I relinquish control of their precious lives to you.  I am honored to have been entrusted with their care, and in turn will strive every day to return them to you.  My prayer to you is that you will receive the glory due you because of their lives.  And if that means that they are kept from harm, I will praise you.  And if that means that there lives become complicated messes, I will praise you.  God, take care of them.  Hold them in your arms and protect them in the ways that only you can.  And give me strength to teach, love, and protect them here in this place.  Please bring us home to that glorious place with no abnormalities, no disease, no worries, as soon as possible.  I love you Father and this daddy's desire is that his children will too.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


The NICU is a scary place.
You would think that any place chalked full of babies would be the opposite of scary, but not so.  Several months ago I spent some time in the NICU as "clergy" for some dear friends of ours from Stillwater.  Their son, also born at Mercy, spent several weeks/months in hospitals.  He started in the place we called home this past July, the Mercy NICU.  When I was coming and going as a visitor to see Dustin and Lindsay, I didn't really get the full effect of just how scary the NICU could be.  I followed the daily reports of their son, prayed with them, tried to get them some food if needed, and then did my best to get out of their hair.  Other than washing up to my elbows when ever I came to see them, I really had no idea what went on in this little world.  But, on June 24th at a little before midnight I was about to find out.
Josiah Matthew came into this world in the craziest way I could imagine.  In fact it was so crazy that I hadn't even imagined it.  The first 6 hours of his life were spent in the transition nursery. Being in the transition nursery is like waiting in line for a haunted house.  You're not sure what's coming next, but you're pretty sure you won't like it.  After, the 6 hours were up, it was determined that Josiah was not doing the things that he needed to do in order to move upstairs and be with us.  It was at that time that we were admitted to the NICU.  It was at that time that I really became scared.
Josiah was given his own room and enclosed in a crib that immediately reminded me of the vessel that Kal-El traveled to Earth in long before he became Superman.  It was completely enclosed, with weird flashing lights, and monitors hooked up to it.  And, making their way throughout the stronghold of the ship were several little tubes and wires all of which were leading to the same place, Josiah's little body.  Holding my boy was out of the question when he was in there.  But there was a nifty sliding door that allowed us to put our hands through the side and at least touch him.  Then came the blue lights for the jaundice, just to make things, well, creepier.
As if seeing your own child hooked up to machines and looking like a cyborg strait off the SyFy channel isn't enough, you end up getting to know other families who have little cyborg babies themselves, many of which in a lot worse shape than Josiah.  One little guy was about to have his 3rd major surgery in just a few short weeks of life.  One family with twins got the unexpected news that one of their children was okay to be released, but the other was not doing so well.  In the NICU you become almost like family, checking in on each other, making sure that each one is doing as well as can be.  Sometimes there is guilt when your child reaches a milestone that others have not, but that soon vanishes when you realize that every little baby's accomplishment in that big family brings hope to the loved ones of every other little baby.  Sometimes there is anger when your child seems to be doing well, but then has a setback.  That too vanishes when the people, the family now surrounding you comes to your aid with words of wisdom and comfort.  There was one mother that I saw every day at the sinks.  Every day we talked about our kids, sharing the highs and lows of the day and night before.  Every day we prayed for each other's child.  And on our last day, she was so over the top happy for us that I couldn't help but smile.  And then while we were talking, she got word, that her own son was ready for the overnighter, the last step before going home, and would probably be released the next day.
It makes sense to me that the first person I called after Josiah was admitted to the NICU was my friend Dustin.  I was scared.  Dustin had been there.  He spoke truth when truth is what I needed.  He told me there would be highs and lows.  He told me there would be thoughts and emotions that no one else would understand.  He told me that faith would be tested and then strengthened.
The NICU is a scary place.
But Josiah has hope.
And that is definitely what this daddy desires.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

7 Minutes

Seven minutes.  That is all it took to totally change my life.  But before I get to those seven minutes, let me talk about the days, hours, and minutes leading up to it.  On Saturday June, 22 Lisa and I made a trip to the hospital because she thought she was going into labor.  We spent the afternoon into the early evening there.  She was dilated to 3 cm but never went beyond that, and after 3 attempts the nurses finally were able to get the contractions to stop. We left that night with instructions for Lisa to remain on bed rest for the remainder of the weekend.
Sunday, June 23 Lydia and I got up and around and headed off to worship and Sunday school at Memorial Road C of C.  We had a great morning.  Mama was left at home on the couch following her doctoral mandate to remain on the couch/bed and do nothing.  Not sure if her morning was great or not.  The afternoon passed by without incident, and more importantly without contraction.  In fact Lisa did not have a contraction at all on Sunday.
Monday, June 24 Lisa got up and went to work.  She was feeling good and relatively contraction free.  I set off to the nursery to continue painting the stripes that never seemed to end on those walls.  Lisa texted me throughout the morning to let me know that she was doing well.  At 10:55 am Lisa texted me to tell me she had been having minor contractions off and on all morning, and then asked me if I would just meet her at Dr. Levine's for the regularly scheduled appointment.  At 1 I met Lisa at the doctor's office.  She was still at 3 cm and seemed to be doing fine.  Dr. Levine assumed that Josiah would be coming sometime before his July 26th due date.  She was leaving on vacation the next morning and said if needed we would schedule a c-section (Josiah is breech and probably not going to flip at this point) for July 5th or so after she returned.  She then jokingly said, "or you could just schedule it for tonight and I'll do it before I leave."  We laughed.  Boy was that going to come back and bite us.  Lisa was sent back to work and all seemed fine.
3:22 pm - I texted Lisa to see how she was doing and received the following response, "Contractions are getting stronger. I'm trying to time them. I don't think they are lasting a minute. I think they are shorter." I asked how often. "That's what I'm having trouble figuring out.  I think they are longer than 5 min".  My response was to laugh out loud (lol in the common texting vernacular) and ask if she needed a stop watch.  "I'm trying to get something done so its difficult. I'll try better." My response, again, would come back to bite me - Just so he doesn't crawl out while you're there at work.
3:46 pm - Lisa texted to tell me that the contractions were strong.
4:16 pm - Lisa texted this, "I'm coming home. Too much pain!" I dropped off the ladder and ran to the bedroom.  Started getting bags packed and freaking out.  He's too early.  He's not due for 5 more weeks.  This can't be happening.  Downs and early? Too many complications!
5:00 pm - We arrived at the labor and delivery unit at Mercy.  Lisa was in so much pain.  I did not know what to do for her.  When the nurse realized (I'll spare you how she realized) this, things went really fast.  Really fast!  We were whisked away to a operating room for an emergency c-section.  Lisa was now fully dilated and this was happening.  Somewhere around 5:15 I was sitting outside an operating room listening to my beloved scream in pain.
And that brings us to the 7 minutes that I will never forget...
5:21 pm - Lisa's water breaks. I hear someone yell, "Wait, we can't do the c-section.  There is an arm coming out."  At that exact moment, in something that can only be described as a scene strait out of Grey's Anatomy, Dr. Levine flew through the double doors and screamed, "Its not an arm, its a foot.  That baby is breech!" She was gloved and gowned faster than Clark changing to Superman inside a telephone booth.  And again, I'm left outside the operating room listening to screams of pain, shouts of medical terms, and random warblings that I could not make out.
5:27 pm - SILENCE!  All the screaming stopped.  All the doctors' voices quieted.  I was outside of my mind.  I could not hear anything.  I knew that Josiah was breech.  I knew that he was early.  I knew that he was not supposed to be coming out the way he was coming out.  And in that silence, I lost it.  I thought that I lost him, or her, or them.  I was in tears, cursing the rule that had kept me out of the o.r. as my wife and unborn son were obviously experiencing a fate I had only considered in my nightmares.
5:28 pm - "Daddy, you want to come see your baby boy?"  I nearly ran into the o.r.  Lisa was on the table smiling and being attended to.  Josiah was being measured and weighed.  I was able to help with his footprints.  I even got one on my gown.  I also got to hold him; to kiss that beautiful little face. I took pictures.  I recorded videos.  I saw my son.  My son!  MY SON!  My life had changed.
I went to Lisa.  Holding her hand, I told her in tears that I thought something terrible had happened.  She laughed.  I was then told that the nurse had told her this baby was coming and she needed to "shut-up and push."  We laughed.  It had come back to bite us.
So, my baby boy decided to come in 7 minutes.  In those 7 minutes, I think I felt every emotion known to man.  After that 7 minutes, I realized 2 things: 1. My world was changing because I have a baby boy, and extra chromosome or not, he is my son; 2. My world was changing because I was seeing my wife is a brand new light.  I always knew she was tough.  But this?  She delivered our son breech, vaginally, with no drugs.  Rock-star.
7 Minutes - Best time of my life!
Not what I expected but definitely what this daddy desired.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The first of many...

Well, what a summer it has been!  I haven't posted in 6 weeks, but fear not, the posts shall begin again this week.  And they should be daily from here on out, or at least as close to daily as I can get.  I have so much on my mind to share with you.  My wife is a rockstar.  My son is beautiful.  My daughter is amazing.  We have had ups and downs, smiles and frowns, and have learned to rely even more on God through the past couple of months.  I can't wait to share the journey with you.
For now, know that we are doing well, and that we are loving life as a family of four.  I have a great life, and am trying my darndest to give a great life to my wife and kids.  And after all, isn't that what every daddy desires?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

One of the greatest television programs of all time opens with a father and son walking down a dirt road, poles in hand, toward what appears to be their favorite fishin' hole.  This scene represents so much about fatherhood, portrays so much about what I am finding, and hope to find in my research on fathering, displays involvement, investment, and interest from a father to his child.  The opening of The Andy Griffith Show also strikes a personal chord with me, as one of the earliest memories I have of my father is leaving our house on Sage Street in Topeka, KS and heading off to Shawnee Lake with our fishing poles and a bucket of worms.  That early memory is only one of thousands that I have with my dad.
Over the years, my dad has been involved in my life.  He not only taught me how to bait a hook and cast a line all of those years ago, but he also taught me so many valuable life lessons, primarily just by being there as life was happening.  Dad was a scout leader so that he could be with me at meetings, and on camping trips.  Dad taught me to pitch a tent and shoot a gun.  He shared great nuggets of wisdom with me; measure twice, cut once; the best kind of food is the food you can eat with your hands; when in doubt turn on Walker, Texas Ranger.  Dad also taught me to study, to ask questions, and to never stop learning.  He was so involved in my life that when I was 8 he threw himself in front of a car just so I could learn about God's grace.  When he healed up, he baptized me into Christ.
Over the years, my dad has been invested in my life.  I played, or some might say, attempted to play a lot of sports growing up.  Whether I started or sat the bench, dad never missed a game.  He had a vested interest in every outcome.  He taught me to never quit, even when I was frustrated beyond belief.  Even in recent years Dad has been invested.  While I have made all of the cosmetic changes to my own children's rooms, dad has built all of the furniture, leaving his stamp on the next generation of Kern kids.
Over the years, my dad has taken an interest in me.  I posted a few weeks ago about my passion for sports teams, specifically the Broncos, and how while dad has always enjoyed sports, its obvious that he wouldn't be so passionate about this team if I wasn't.  Dad has done this a lot over the years - taking interest in things that maybe did not interest him, because he was interested in me.  I knew dad was proud of the PhD, but I never expected him to ask for a copy of my dissertation.  He asked so that he could read it.  He loves to ask about my research, my teaching, and my students as if he himself were a college professor.
Involvement, investment, and interest.  Not just in me, but in my sister as well.  I know that Amanda could share stories of dad's impact in her life too.  When we need something, he is there.  When we need to cry, he is the shoulder.  When we need to laugh, he is the joke teller.  When we need to chill, he is the fishing buddy.  Mainly he is just daddy.
This past Memorial Day, I got to show Lydia how to bait a hook and throw it in the water.  I was once again reminded of the opening to that great show.  I was once again taken back in time to an early memory of fishing with my dad.  I am convinced more than ever that I will be involved, invested, and interested in my kids.  I hope they will learn the same lessons from me that I learned from my dad.  In fact, I'd like to think that is what every daddy desires.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Surprise! Its a girl?

It occurred to me that I have dedicated this blog to writing about my desires as a daddy for my unborn son, to the neglect of the little princess that kicked off this whole daddy-hood adventure in the first place.  Anyone who knows me well might find this to be awkward since the majority of the past 3 years of my life have been dominated by the 2 D's - dissertation, and daughter.
My entire adult life I desired to be a daddy.  Of course becoming a daddy as a single youth minister was probably going to be frowned upon by the churches that I worked for.  And, as I think back, I really had no idea what it meant to be a daddy when I was younger.  I understood the physical part, I even understood that I could love a child, but I really had no idea what it was to be a father.
Time went on.  I met the love of my life (another desire fulfilled by the way).  Then came that morning when I woke up to find a card from my love telling me that I would no longer have to desire to be a daddy.  What a feeling of emotion that was.  I laughed.  I cried.  I completely freaked out.  Was I ready?  I was a grad student; an unemployed grad student.  Happiness gave way to fear.  Fear gave way to a numb feeling that I can't really explain other than to say that the full brunt of knowing that I knew nothing when it came to being a daddy hit me square in the chest.
A few months later we sat in an ultrasound room, our parents in the waiting room outside, and watched as the tech showed us picture confirming without doubt that our little baby was a little girl.  I laughed.  I cried.  I completely freaked out.  Was I ready? A girl?  I can't do hair.  I'm not much into dresses and frilly things.  Can I still teach her to throw a ball?  Happiness gave way to fear.  Fear gave way to a feeling that I can't really explain other than to say, well to be honest, I still can't explain what it is like to be a daddy to a little girl.
For the first two years of my princess' life I was able to be home with her.  Not many fathers get to say that.  I was truly blessed.  Taking her to daycare for the first time last year was probably the hardest day of my life.  Watching her grow and change, becoming a little lady have been some of the best.  I have grown as a man in the past three years.  I have learned so many lessons about who I am, and who I want to be.  Having a little girl with your exact personality will do that to you.
I hope my little girl knows how much her daddy loves her.  I hope she'll never not know that love.  A couple months ago, my uncle gave me some tips to being a good husband and father when you have a special needs child.  The one thing that stuck out to me was "don't forget about your other kids."  It was that thought really that inspired this post.
I am once again at a point where I have no idea.  I can only anticipate the challenges.  I can only imagine the emotion.  I can only consider how amazing the good days will be, and how hard the difficult days will be.  I will probably laugh.  I will probably cry.  Happiness will probably give way to fear, and fear into something else.  But this time, I don't think it will be a numb feeling.  I don't think it will be hard to explain.  I think it will be an amazingly easy feeling to define that can be summed up in one word, daddy!
I know this because I have learned from a beautiful little girl what it means to be a daddy.  I am learning still.  That princess teaches me a new lesson every day.  She crushes me with her tears, and melts me with her smile.  She lights up the darkest parts of me just by saying, "Good morning daddy!"  She will be the most loving, nurturing big sister.  She is one of my two greatest accomplishments.  She is my daughter.  And isn't that what every daddy desires?  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Yesterday I sat and watched my television as a massive F5 tornado tore through a town 20 miles south of my house.  In the hours that passed by after the storm, I watched in horror as schools were shown completely destroyed, homes were removed completely from foundations, people were separated from their loved ones, and hospitals filled with the injured.
The worst part was watching into the early morning hours as rescuers scoured through the remains of one elementary school, knowing that chances of finding any survivors was slim.  I cannot imagine what the parents of the school children were thinking as they watched these scenes unfold.  Even more, I cannot comprehend what emotions must be coursing through the bodies and souls of these suddenly homeless, childless parents as they watched the sun rise on the day after.  And, now as I watch the rain fall out my window I am at a loss as to what to think, what to feel.
Then I suddenly think about all of the people who went out to help immediately after the storms.  I think about the undertakings of relief efforts that have begun through our church, and other churches, through the university I work at, through tv stations, radio stations, scout troops, daycares, schools, and thousands of individuals pouring out of themselves to help those who now have nothing.  I read about folks from Joplin who went through this not long ago rallying troops to come aid in relief.  I hear stories of fire units, police units, and emergency medical units from all over the state, all over the country coming to Moore just to lend a helping hand.  And I am moved.  I am proud.  I am renewed in faith, refreshed in Spirit.
My heart goes out to these people.  My neighbors.  My friends.  My family.  I hope that my children never know this kind of loss, but I pray that if they do, they experience the love, service, and act of faithfulness that I'm seeing played out in my state today.  And really, isn't that what every daddy desires?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

When I was 6 years old my dad decided he wanted to be a preacher and so we packed up our stuff and moved from Topeka, KS all the way out to Denver, CO.  At the time I didn't understand how that move would be life changing for me.  It was a move that would lead to the greatest bonding moments that I ever had with my Daddy.
We moved to Denver John Elway's rookie season.  The Mile-High city was Bronco crazy.  Everywhere you looked there were bright orange jerseys, t-shirts, posters, pennants, even coffee mugs. It was more than a little boy's 6 years of sensory perception could handle.  It was overload to the eyes, ears, and the heart.  I was hooked from the beginning.  Come to think of it, it was more than a grown man's 30 years of sensory perception could handle. It was overload to the eyes, ears, and the heart.  My dad was hooked from the beginning.
Since that time the Denver Broncos have been a constant conversation piece in my family.  They have been a source of joy (SuperBowl XXXII and XXXIII anyone?) and sorrow (those other not so Super Bowls), provided a wealth of entertainment (The Man in the Barrel) and devastation (Tebow?), and a constant reminder how some things are just understood as a "father-son-thing."
I have so many great memories with my dad growing up: He baptized me; he took me fishing; he taught me how to work with power-tools.  Many of my best memories though had something to do with Dad, me, and the Denver Broncos.  One year we forsook the family Thanksgiving to drive to Dallas and watch the Broncos beat the Cowboys.  In the parking lot after the game, we walked back to our car with the aforementioned Man in the Barrel, Denver's most well-known super fan.  I was in college when the Broncos won SBXXXII.  It was the first Bronco Super Bowl that my dad and I didn't watch together, but thanks to a little invention that was becoming popular, the cell phone, I was able to talk with my dad throughout the game.  I still remember when Elway dove head first over the Packer defender, dad called and yelled through the phone, "We're gonna win this one!"
Probably my greatest Dad-Bobby-Bronco memory came in my 20s when I took dad to Canton, OH for the NFL Hall of Fame induction of John Elway. We toured the hall, saw Elway get inducted, watched the Broncos play the preseason Hall of Fame game, and stuck around to meet, shake hands with, and get autographs from many of the Denver Broncos.  More than being star struck, I was pumped because my favorite football players were getting to meet my hero! I'm telling you seeing Champ Bailey meet my dad - priceless!
So, fast forward several years.  I'm about to have a son.  I've caught some flack from some folks because I've decided to do his nursery in Bronco orange and blue.  I hope they will read this post and maybe begin to understand.  Choosing to do Josiah's nursery isn't about me being a crazy Bronco fan (well not entirely *wink*), but about what I hope to build with him.  My dad is my hero, and one of the best buddies I've ever had.  My dad is also someone who probably wouldn't be as Bronco crazy as he is, if he didn't love his son.
I don't know much about what the future holds for Josiah and I.  But, I do know this...I hope to be half the dad that my own dad is.  I hope Josiah might one day call me his hero.  I hope someday we can take 3 generations of Bronco fans to a game.  I hope when my boy looks at the colors orange and blue that the first thought that crosses his mind is relationship with his daddy.
Tonight, I'm watching the NFL draft, eagerly awaiting that first round Bronco pick!  Next year, I'll have a little buddy right beside me.  He won't understand yet, but someday he will, and after all isn't that what every daddy desires?

Monday, April 15, 2013

The greatest and the least...

Tuesdays and Thursdays are often draining for me.  I begin with an 8 am Developmental Psych class and end with a 4 pm Developmental Psych class.  These developmentally bookended days wipe me out. I usually like to go back to my office after the 4 o'clock class, sit in my chair for a few minutes, and just unwind.  As I was going through my routine after class last Tuesday, I noticed something already sitting in my chair.
Upon closer examination of the item, I found a hand written note.  I will not put everything that was in the note in this post, but the gist of the letter was to tell me how my family was in the author's prayers, and to extend an arm of comfort to me personally.  Under the note was a copy of Gene Stallings' book, Another Season.
For those that do not know, Coach Stallings, arguably one of the elite college football coaches, walked away from his career to raise his son.  His son had down syndrome.  The subtitle of the book took my breath away: A Coach's Story of Raising an EXCEPTIONAL Son.  I've spent a lot of time thinking about how Josiah will have to overcome a lot because he'll be a step behind from the get-go.  I hadn't once considered that my boy was not disabled, but rather, exceptional.
This got me to thinking about a line of scripture that paraphrased says, the least will become the greatest in the Kingdom.  In many ways, Josiah will be looked at as "the least" but in the eyes of his Creator, he is counted among the greatest.  Others may see abnormality, but his Creator sees perfection. Many will call him disabled, but my son will be exceptional.
I was immediately humbled.  There is more scripture that says the greatest will become the least.  I think this is a lesson is humility.  Those of us who walk around proud of our normality have a responsibility to recognize the arrogance of our ways.  We should accept our weaknesses and become like the least of these so that in our leastness, God can make us great.  I was even more humbled when I read the signature on the note - John, and the little line at the bottom right corner of the page, "From the desk of John deSteiguer" President of Oklahoma Christian University.
I am at a place where lessons are constantly being taught to me.  I am at a place where the "greatest" is not too busy to pray for and comfort a colleague.  I am at a place where my son will not be known for what he can't do, but rather for all that he can, and after all isn't that every daddy's desire?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ramblings from the top side of the mower...

This afternoon I spent my time working on the yard for the first time this season.  I love yard-work because it gives me a lot of time to think and to pray, and then to think some more.  These sessions are usually marked by my talking to myself, then talking to God, asking what he thinks, recalling scripture, and then telling myself what I think God thinks about all that I'm thinking.  Are you still with me?  
First, my thoughts - I of course spent the majority of my time thinking about Josiah, wondering what he'll look like, who he'll act like, what his favorite sport will be, what kind of faith lessons he'll teach me.  I imagined him riding in the baby bjorn while I mowed the yard, much like his big sister used to do.  We've been talking in our Sunday School class about Paul's letter to the Galatian church and the freedom that we all  have in Christ now.  This got me to thinking about how great it will be for Josiah to know all the freedom but not necessarily to know the slavery that makes that freedom so wonderful.  That then got me wondering about how much Josiah will understand about God's love for him.
That thought led me into my musings with God.  I asked Him, "God, if nothing else, I pray my boy will know you.  I pray he will love you, and I pray that he will be a vessel to bring others to you."  Of course this simple prayer went on for a while, as I tend to ramble when I'm really in conversation with someone, anyone, including God.
After my talking I went back to thinking.  This time though I was thinking more about God's responses to me.  Something along the lines of "Thanks for asking.  Of course your boy will know me, and I'll know him, and he will be blessed, and all will be well.  You will learn much, he will learn much, your family will learn much.  Life will be amazing."  As I was thinking these pleasant thoughts, I remembered that God has already said as much in His word.  He's also said some other things, like amazing doesn't always mean easy (rough paraphrase).  If it did, I probably wouldn't be having these inner monologues with myself, God, and, well another version of myself; and Josiah (as well as all of the downs babies) would have their 46 chromosomes, no more - no less.
Anyhow, I'm sure that God is amused at me trying to play both voices in my conversations with Him. On the other hand, maybe that other voice may be the Spirit making noise on my heart.  Either way, I'm set for a lifetime of these conversations and I hope in his own way that Josiah gets to have these sweet moments with his Creator as well.  I mean, after all, isn't that every daddy's desire?

Monday, April 1, 2013

What's in a name?

Josiah Matthew Kern

I'd love to tell you that there was some grand, beautifully penned story that led us to this name, but in reality the story is quite simple.  That is not always a bad thing, and in this case, the story is not only simple but comical as well.
We spent a lot of time researching names over the past few weeks.  We found some great names with some great meanings.  But nothing was really "speaking" to us.  We thought about names that meant something to our family.  But again, nothing was really standing out.  We even considered just naming him Buggy and being done with it.  But then we realized that was just nonsensical.
After a few weeks of searching and not finding anything that we really liked we both just put on the back burner of our minds.  And then the most amazing thing happened.  No we did not see the name appear in the clouds as if out of nowhere.  No we did not find a new constellation with the name written in the stars.  No we did not receive an anonymous package containing only the letters to the name in it.  No we were not awoken from sleep by the voice of God explaining to us that we must name our son this name and then move to Canada until he calls us back.
The amazing thing that happened? The season premiere of The Voice.  That's it.  The Voice.  One of the contestants is named Josiah.  When they announced him, Lisa and I looked at each other, both knowing that this had promise.  I quickly did a search to determine the meaning of the name, and was just as quickly moved to tears when I discovered that the name means "Jehovah Heals."  That is when we knew!
What an amazing meaning.  We know that the chances of Josiah being completely "healed" or without his DS are slim to none.  And that is okay.  But also know that there is probably healing that we need, or that you need, or that others need, that our son is going to be the vessel for; healing that we do not even know we are in need of yet.  It is my belief that Jehovah will use my boy to bring healing to those who are hurting, myself included.
The next day I was running through middle names in my head and kept coming back to Matthew.  For one, Matthew has a great meaning itself: gift of Jehovah. For two, I have a friend, a best friend named Matthew, and in the words of Mr. Myagi, he is "pretty okay too."  Between the meaning and the namesake, I was sold.
I had planned on talking with Lisa that night.  Interestingly, she texted me that very morning a simple question, "What about Josiah Matthew?" There it was right there in front of me, on my computer screen from my own research, and on my phone from my wife's.  Josiah Matthew Kern.
My son was named from The Voice (hey we could have went with Usher). His name has a powerful meaning.  We know beyond doubt that he will be a blessing, he will heal many, he's already bringing healing to his dad's often callous heart.  And isn't that every daddy's desire?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I just called to say...

One of the many things that I've been dealing with over the past several weeks is the response of people I love to the news that our little Buggy is super special.  Usually there is an awkward silence followed by a sympathetic pat on the arm, and a statement like, "ohhhh I am so sorry..."
I'm not offended by that response at all.  People don't know what to say.  Shoot, I don't know what to say half the time, and I'm living this.  Typically what follows this apology is a "but."  Here is where things get interesting.  I've heard a lot of things, "but, you're great parents so what a blessing for your boy," or "but, if anyone can handle this you can," or "but, insert your favorite theology lesson here..."
Now, again I'm not offended by these responses.  In fact, I understand them, and actually recognize the truth in them.  However, there are days when I don't want to hear them.  There are times when I'm tired of hearing the same things over and over.  Probably at some point in time, I'll write a discourse on what to not say when people you love are grieving.  But, that's for another post.
What I want to talk about today is what people should say.  Or more specific what a person did say.  One of my dearest friends called me yesterday.  I missed the call and, and as I prepared for another awkward conversation with someone I love, I actually thought about not calling him back.  My desire to talk with an old friend eventually won out and I called. To my surprise there was no awkward conversation.  There was little talk about Buggy, unless I was the one who brought it up.  In fact, my friend's exact words to me were, "I just called to let you know that I love you. I can't imagine what you're feeling, but I love you."  How amazing is that?
I guess my reason for posting this is to remind everyone that its okay with us if you don't feel like you have the right words.  Honestly you probably don't. Its okay if you can't think of a great lesson that God is teaching, or figure out the "plan" in all of this.  Honestly, you probably won't be able to, and even more honestly, I probably don't want to hear it.  Its okay if the only thing you can think to say is "Bobby, Lisa, I love you." Honestly, we love you too!
There is so much love in my life right now. So much! I am honored to be loved by you, and hope you know you are loved by me.  It is so amazing that my little boy is going to be covered in such a fuzzy blanket of love! And really isn't that every daddy's desire?

Friday, March 22, 2013

How special? More than you might think.

Well there is no doubt that our little Buggy is special.  He is my son after all.  Not to mention that he has the worlds' best mama and big sister in his corner already.  Plus, he'll no doubt have my sense of humor and the Kern great looks.  But just when you think you know exactly how special Buggy is, well he surprises you.
I told you in my last post that our son has down syndrome.  Downs is a chromosomal abnormality referred to as Trisomy 21.  Each human receives 23 chromosomes from their mother and 23 from their father, making 23 total pairs, or 46 chromosomes. The 23rd pair is the infamous sex chromosome (XY -  boys; XX - girls).  The 21st pair is the down syndrome culprit.  What is special about this abnormality is not that the 21st pair is damaged in some way, or imprinted with some sickly design (like the mizzou tiger) but that there is actually an extra copy of 21.  So, instead of a pair, there is a try-fecta.  Hence the proper name, Trisomy 21.  This copy is typically made during the cell division that leads to sperm and /or egg development.  There are different percentages given but the one I give Dev Psych students is that there is a 1 in 700 chance that a child will be special enough to have that extra 21.  That is about 1/10 of a percent.  Since Lisa is 35 now, that number actually skyrockets to 1 in 400 (1/4 of a percent) So, we've got the numbers. thats pretty special.  But just when you think you know exactly how special Buggy is, well he surprises you.
As part of our journey the past several weeks, we decided to get an amniocentesis done to confirm the down syndrome. *I know some of you may have strong feelings about having the amnio done, but we can debate that in a later post.* Anyhow, the amnio was done and the results did indeed confirm downs, but it confirmed a special form of down syndrome called translocation. Translocation down syndrome is the rarest form of DS and occurs in less than 5% of all down syndrome children.  Translocation does not see a third copy of 21. Instead, each cell has the usual 2 copies of 21, but also, parts of 21 that have translocated onto another chromosome.  What makes this even more special is that translocation is the only form of down syndrome that may be genetically inherited.  May be genetically inherited? Either it is or isn't right? Well its possible.  Its possible that one of the parents is a "carrier" of TransDS, but probable?  Well, again, numbers are not exact, but somewhere in the range of 4% of DS children have the rare translocation form, and only 1/2 of those children genetically inherited it from their parents.  I'm telling you this kid is special. But just when you think you know exactly how special Buggy is, well he surprises you.
I have no idea what our little man is going to surprise us with next, but if he holds true to form, it is going to be a humdinger!  My boy already has one of my finest traits...he doesn't do anything half-way.  If he's going to do it, he's going to do it right.  My son is special, partly because of his crazy amount of chromosome 21 particles, but mainly just because! How special? More than any of us know right now, but hey, isn't that every daddy's desire?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

What every daddy desires...

With this picture we recently told the world that our 2nd child was on its way.  At the time we took the picture we had no idea just how much this baby would impact our lives.  Just a few weeks after this picture was taken we learned two things: 1. that our baby was a boy and 2. that our precious son has down syndrome.

I will not lie to you, this was not the news that I wanted.  So many thoughts ran through my head that first day.  So many thoughts have run through my head every day since.  Most of those thoughts led to feelings of guilt.  I had dreams about what having a son would be like and in one instant it seemed as though all of those dreams were shattered.  Guilt. I'll never enjoy playing ball with my son. Guilt.  I'll never get to perform his wedding.  Guilt.  I'll always have to worry about people bullying him. Guilt.  I'm not strong enough to handle this. Guilt.  I can't watch my boy go through all of the physical, cognitive, developmental struggles that he will go through. Guilt. The more I read and learn about DS, the more I realize that many of these thoughts are unwarranted.  Guilt.  In prayers that have zero words from my lips because I'm not sure how to voice them, I hope for a miracle. Guilt.  I notice that most of my concerns are centered around the word "I". Guilt.

I'm learning that it is okay to feel.  Even guilt.  As I learn more about this chromosomal craziness, I'm feeling emotions that I don't know how to describe with words.  I'm processing in ways I never have before.

My son is developing normally so far.  No heart, brain, or gastro problems in utero. Love. His first HD ultrasound picture looks like he is flexing and kissing his bicep.  Love! His big sister has already named him Buggy. Love! His daddy is making plans to renovate his bedroom before he comes this summer. Love. His mama talks to him, sings to him, and even jokingly scolds him when he makes her sick.  LOVE! His family has rallied around him so much already. Love.  This boy is going to love comic books.  Love. He's teaching me life lessons already, and he doesn't make his debut for 20 more weeks. Love.

I'm having a son.  I'm so proud of him.  He is healthy.  He will be happy.  He is my boy.  And at the end of the day, isn't that what every daddy desires?