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?