Be Fruitful and Multiply

In my last post, I wrote about humanity’s uncanny ability to continue through cataclysm. For thousands and thousands of years, we’ve endured plagues, earthquakes, fires, floods, wars, and worries. And still, somehow, we keep on keeping on because it’s what God made us to do. Our Creator programmed this into us from the beginning of time. From the very first words God spoke to His new Creation: “Be Fruitful and Multiply.

If you’ve thought about this phrase at all, it makes a lot of sense in the Garden of Eden. God designed us for relationship and reproduction. God spoke those words at the very beginning, before the corruption of His Creation. So of course He wanted more of that. He was planning for Fruitfulness and Multiplication. It explains how we got from an “Adam” and an “Eve” to the 7.9 billion of us that live on Earth today.

But I actually wonder if the more significant recurrence of that refrain is the one from Genesis chapter 9. At least in terms of its relevance to us and this messed-up world around us. The Creation happens in Genesis chapters 1 and 2. The Fall (a.k.a. The Disobedience, the Corruption, the Expulsion from Eden) happens in Genesis chapter 3. Chapter 4 brings the first murder, when Cain kills his brother Abel. The fifth chapter of Genesis introduces us to the complex web of familial relationships that ensue as Adam and Eve get on with being fruitful and multiplying. Chapter 6 describes a “World Gone Wrong,” to the point where it says in Genesis 6:11 that, “God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence.”

God decided to destroy it. Reset with one righteous family. The family of Noah. In Genesis chapters 7 and 8, a cataclysmic flood “wiped out every living thing on the earth — people, livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and the birds of the sky. All were destroyed. The only people who survived were Noah and those with him in the boat.”

Now, we know what it’s felt like for our society to start coming out of our “COVID Caves.” We know what it’s been like to experience loss and destruction and a totally-shifted landscape. But can you imagine what Noah and the rest of those people must have felt like as they emerged from the Ark on the mountains of Ararat?!? Talk about environmental chaos! Societal disruption! Starting all over again!

If I was in Noah’s shoes, I wouldn’t have even known where to begin. So it’s really significant to lean in and listen to what God says to Noah and the rest of Noah’s family. He returns to the refrain from Eden.

Then God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth…

Genesis 9:1

God goes on to provide further instructions, further details about the way that they’re all supposed to find food… and get along with each other… and make a go of life on this renewed earth. But then he comes back to the refrain again just a few verses later.

Now be fruitful and multiply, and repopulate the earth.

Genesis 9:7

I think that we’re brought back to that phrase because it’s what God made us to do. When this refrain to “Be Fruitful and Multiply” comes back around again, in Genesis 35, it’s tying fruitfulness and multiplication to spiritual life, not just biological life. God’s commandment to “Be Fruitful and Multiply” is never rescinded. It’s only reiterated and restated.

We always need to be reminding ourselves that God is all about New Beginnings. Rebirth… Renewal… Reconciliation… Redemption… Resurrection… The Good News of Jesus is a story of being restored from a place of estrangement to a place of relationship. And we just need to hear this. Again and again and again.

But especially this year.

As we re-engage with life and ministry here in Kent this school year, we want to remember that God made us to “Be Fruitful and Multiply!” We want to keep ourselves looking forward, not backward. We want more than just getting “back to normal.” We want to expect totally new things! New life, new faith, new hope, new love! We’re praying for opportunities to get outside of our own heads, our own rooms, our own “bubbles” and think outward.

Because God made us to Be Fruitful and Multiply!

Posted in Church, COVID-19, Culture, God, H2O Kent, Introspection, Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Bible, Transition, Weather | Comments Off on Be Fruitful and Multiply

Hope for a World Going Up in Smoke

My children are convinced that the world is going up in smoke. We try to regularly watch the national network news in the evenings, and they’ve been talking a lot lately about historic wildfires in California… and Oregon, and Greece, and Siberia… It’s also concerning that the United Nations also recently released a report on Climate Change, suggesting that the pace of Global Warming is accelerating. These are unsettling times to live on Planet Earth.

As if that wasn’t enough, we’ve also recently experienced the massive disruption of a Global Pandemic! COVID-19 has brought out dramatically different views on viruses and vaccines, often pitting neighbor against neighbor. Washington D.C. seems to be completely gripped by political gridlock. We’re reckoning with Racism and systemic injustice… and protest against that injustice… and counter-protest against that protest…

How could we possibly find a way to maintain faith, and hope, and love in the face of all these challenges?!?

I’ve been reassured to think back to the days when I was the age of my children (high school and college). In the 1990s, California’s forests weren’t on fire as much as they are now. But the state was dealing with a seemingly-apocalyptic series of earthquakes and mudslides. I wrote a school paper at the time titled something along the lines of, “Why would anyone ever want to live in California?” It just seemed like we were in the End Times. Those were also the days of the Cold War and the ever-present threat of Nuclear Holocaust. Where we literally did drills in school, crawling under our desks and putting our arms around our heads in preparation for how we would have to respond if we ever got word of the Soviet Union attacking us with their nuclear missiles.

Still, against all odds, we found a way to maintain faith, hope, and love.

Before my time, my parents talked about the chaos of the late 1960s and early 1970s. That, of course, was their time of adolescence and young adulthood. I don’t know what was happening in California during that time period, but those were the years when the Cuyahoga River was burning from so much pollution! They also had to live through the Vietnam War. Political figures were getting assassinated left and right. From everything that I’ve read and heard, the United States of America was even more divided during those years than it is today (if that even seems possible)!

Still, they found a way to maintain faith, hope, and love.

I had a grandfather named Ezra H Liechty. And he used to tell me stories about living through the Dust Bowl droughts, plagues of grasshoppers, and crop failures of the 1930s, as a farming family in North Dakota. He told me about the dust drifting up all the way over the fences, so that the cattle could walk right out of their pastures. You want to talk about environmental and economic disruption? Poverty? Shut-downs? The Great Depression was cataclysmic!

Still, they found a way to maintain faith, hope, and love.

And of course, Ezra H Liechty could look back through previous generations, too, all the way to his namesake: Ezra son of Seraiah. This biblical Ezra lived through the experience of his whole country being defeated in war and exiled in Babylon. Many believers now associate the name Ezra (and Nehemiah) with restoration and rebuilding. But if you read those books of the Bible, you can see that it wasn’t easy for them. When they first rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem, there was a crazy emotional reaction as the realities of the situation began to set in, as people learned what post-exile life was going to be like.

But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.

Ezra 3:12-13

Even in the midst of all this chaos, against all odds, for thousands of years the people of God have been continually finding ways to maintain faith, hope, and love. How do we keep doing this?!? Can we possibly endure all these forest fires and burning rivers and pandemics and wars?!? How do we survive from generation to generation?!?

How do we maintain at least some little remnant of faith, hope and love?!?

It seems crazy. It seems impossible. And I honestly can’t say exactly what’s going to happen with future generations or that U.N. Report on Climate Change… But we keep on keeping on because it’s what God made us to do. It’s been programmed into us from the beginning of time.

Here in Kent this summer, we’ve had two Life Groups studying Genesis and two Life Groups studying Revelation. I got to be a part of one of the groups studying Genesis. And there was one particular phrase that popped out at me three different times throughout the course of the Genesis narrative. We hear it once in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:28)… once on the mountains of Ararat (Genesis 9:1-7)… and once in the place that came to be known as Bethel, or the “House of God” (Genesis 35:11). They’re all very different, very distinct occasions. But the phrase was exactly the same:

Be Fruitful and Multiply.

In my next post, I’ll explain more of the historical and biblical significance of this phrase. I’ll share more of the reasons why it seems to be especially relevant to our world today. And I’ll point to things happening here and now that should give us hope. Even when the world feels like it’s going up in smoke.

Posted in American Politics, Children, Church, COVID-19, Culture, Culture Shock, Family, God, H2O Kent, Introspection, Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, Social Issues, The Bible, Weather | Comments Off on Hope for a World Going Up in Smoke

Hannah Coulter

I recently finished reading Wendell Berry’s novel, Hannah Coulter. It’s part of a series of fictional stories of fictional people of a fictional town called Port William, Kentucky. But I swear I rarely encounter characters and places as real as the characters and places contained in the collection of stories that Berry has written about Port William. The books’ sense of place is especially strong, and that spoke to me very deeply when I was trying to decide if our family should put down deeper roots in Amsterdam or return to our roots in Ohio. Many years ago, my friend Bob Phillips recommended another book from the same collection — Jayber Crow — and I loved that book so much that I’m honestly surprised it took me so long to try another one. But I recently stumbled across a copy of this book, available at my local library, and I decided to give it a read.

I didn’t enjoy Hannah Coulter quite as much as I enjoyed Jayber Crow; but I’m still glad I read it.

One of the big reasons for why I like Wendell Berry’s books is because I like what I know of Wendell Berry, as a person (not personally, but from afar). I looked up Wendell Berry on Wikipedia, and I found a quote about him from Jedediah Britton-Purdy which seemed like an excellent summary, from what I’ve gathered:

Over the years, he has called himself an agrarian, a pacifist, and a Christian—albeit of an eccentric kind. He has written against all forms of violence and destruction—of land, communities, and human beings—and argued that the modern American way of life is a skein of violence. He is an anti-capitalist moralist and a writer of praise for what he admires: the quiet, mostly uncelebrated labor and affection that keep the world whole and might still redeem it. He is also an acerbic critic of what he dislikes, particularly modern individualism, and his emphasis on family and marriage and his ambivalence toward abortion mark him as an outsider to the left.

One of the things that I most appreciate about Hannah Coulter is the way that the book provides a wise perspective on the passage of time and the complexities of family relationships. I just enjoy the way that the title character talks about the people in her life. Here’s a quote from the time in the story when Hannah first became a mother:

Almost from her first day we called her “Little Margaret.” She was another gift, surely, to us all. She was a happiness that made me cry.

And here’s a quote from the time in the story when Hannah’s kids are all grown up and one moves from Kentucky to the West Coast, creating a sense of strangeness and separation:

He and his wife and their children and I are strangers. We spend two or three days trying mightily to be nice to one another, and even succeeding, but we remain strangers. We don’t know the same things. We have nothing in common to talk about. We don’t always agree about the news, and so we avoid that. I ask about their lives, but they have little confidence that I can understand their lives, and they don’t tell me much.

And here’s a quote related to Hannah’s husband, Nathan, talking about the way that she learned about his experiences in the Second World War:

You can’t give yourself over to love for somebody without giving yourself over to suffering. You can’t give yourself to love for a soldier without giving yourself to his suffering in war. It is this body of our suffering that Christ was born into, to suffer it Himself and to fill it with light, so that beyond the suffering we can imagine Easter morning and the peace of God on little earthly homelands such as Port William and the farming villages of Okinawa.

And as I mentioned previously, the one area where Hannah Coulter succeeds every bit as much as (if not perhaps more than) Jayber Crow is in the way it talks about and establishes a strong sense of place. This is almost certainly drawn from the fact that Wendell Berry himself has chosen to live and work the same farm in Kentucky for over half a century. It’s hard to describe exactly what he does or how he does it — but when I read these Port William stories, I just feel a deeper appreciation for my own place in the world. There seems to be a peace and prosperity that comes from taking the long view of a place — even if it’s very different from decade to decade — and I just want to emulate that. Here’s a quote from the book that gets at this very thing:

Most people now are looking for “a better place,” which means that a lot of them will end up in a worse one. I think this is what Nathan learned from his time in the army and the war. He saw a lot of places, and he came home. I think he gave up the idea that there is a better place somewhere else. There is no “better place” than this, not in this world. And it is by the place we’ve got, and our love for it and our keeping of it, that this world is joined to Heaven.

And here’s another quote that captures my own heart towards walking in the woods:

What I like about the woods, what is consoling, is that usually nobody is working there, unless you would say that God is.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Hannah Coulter and would recommend it unreservedly. It’s a well-crafted story, with beautifully-rendered characters in a setting that almost functions like a beautifully-rendered character, itself. If you haven’t read anything else by Wendell Berry, I might recommend you start with Jayber Crow. The stories seem to be non-sequential, so you can take them in whatever order you like. But I myself hope to start reading more Port William stories in the months and years to come.

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Goodyear Half-Marathon

Today I got to run my first August Half-Marathon (though it was probably also my last August Half-Marathon)! It was a race put on by the organizers of the Akron Marathon called the Goodyear Half-Marathon. 90% humidity made for a very challenging race experience! Still, I go into these events with multiple levels of aspirations for what I might be able to accomplish. After training hard this summer, a personal record didn’t seem completely impossible; unfortunately, that didn’t happen. My secondary goal was to finish under 1 hour and 40 minutes — and I missed that by just 12 seconds. Still, I managed to record my 5th fastest half-marathon. I gave my best effort (considering the weather conditions). I was able to keep running the whole time. And I was just happy to be out at an official event like this one, after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now I can say that I’ve completed my 20th half-marathon. (Though I feel I should mention that this includes four unofficial events that my friends and I organized for ourselves in 2020 when all other races were shut down). In any event, I’ve got official bibs and medals from eleven different months of the year. So, I’m just one February race from the Half-Marathon of the Month Club!

The organizers of the Goodyear Half-Marathon really put together a solid event. The race started at 6:30 AM, in order to try and minimize heat exhaustion. We ran past a number of Goodyear landmarks on the east side of Akron: the current world headquarters for the company… the original factory buildings (topped by the iconic Wingfoot sign)… the hangar and airstrip for the Goodyear Blimp… the old Rubber Bowl football stadium (which looks like an amazing ruin from the Industrial Age)… and even the Goodyear Proving Grounds (test track for tire prototypes).

Race Registration brought some great swag including a great T-shirt featuring the Goodyear Blimp… a really sharp-looking finisher’s medal featuring the Blimp and the iconic Clocktower… a pair of Asics running socks branded with the Akron Marathon Race Series “Run the Blue Line” tagline… a cool sticker… and vouchers for a free beer and a Swenson’s burger (to be redeemed off-site, because of COVID-19 safety protocol). I’d totally sign up for this event again…

If they did it in February.

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PoCo 2021

I think I might have just completed my personal hiking challenge for this year: walking every step of every trail in Ohio’s Portage County (a.k.a. PoCo 2021). But then again, I’ve thought that before. Maybe you can help me in my quest and fill in any trails I might be missing.

I actually thought I had completed the quest on Monday, when I finished hiking the trails of Wingfoot Lake State Park, in the southwest part of the county. But as I was preparing to write this post — I noticed some missing miles. They were on a small section of the Buckeye Trail that I’d hiked previously. Ironically, it happened to be my second-favorite segment of the Buckeye Trail back in 2019! But I hadn’t hiked it this year. So I went back today.

And while I was re-hiking that segment of the Buckeye Trail, I ran into another 3-4 miles of trails maintained by the staff at Camp Asbury! So I hiked those trails, too. And now, once again, I think I’ve hiked every step of every trail in Portage County. But I’m not sure.

Can you take a look at my map and let me know if I’m missing any trails?

My working definition for a trail is any man-made path designed to facilitate interaction between people and their natural environment. Most roads and sidewalks work differently. That is, they’re designed to connect one point of the human-made world to another point of the human-made world. Trails, however, point people to the natural world. Some trails function more like roads or sidewalks because they’re built on top of old infrastructure. Prime examples of these are the Portage County Hike and Bike Trail and the Headwaters Trail. They both used to be railways. And they’re both designed to include cyclists. Still, I count them as trails because they self-identify as trails. And they still work to increase interaction between people and their natural environment. And they exclude cars.

So here are some of the categories of parks and trails for consideration:

  • State Parks
  • State Nature Preserves
  • County Parks
  • Municipal Nature Preserves
  • Church Camps
  • College Research Stations
  • Local “Nature Centers”
  • Audubon Society Sanctuaries (for humans watching for birds)
  • Mountain Biking Trails (for humans on mountain bikes)
  • Bridle Trails (for humans on horses)
  • Snowmobile Trails (for humans on snowmobiles)

So far, I’ve decided to exclude the roadside sections of the Buckeye Trail in this quest. Even though they get the “Buckeye Trail” branding — including that word “trail — they’re really just roads. I walked them once, and they’re fine. But they’re not really designed for interaction with the natural world. Those segments of “trail” simply connect a larger loop. And I know from personal experience that the Buckeye Trail Association itself wants more trail miles and fewer road miles.

So anyway: Do you know any trails that I might be missing? Please reach out if you do! I’ve still got three and a half months left to round out the PoCo 2021 experience, if needed. Portage County is a beautiful place. Totally worth exploring. As long as we can figure out where those trails run!

Posted in Health, Hiking, Kent, Ohio, Recommendations, Recreation, Sports, Travel | Comments Off on PoCo 2021

Soccer Saturday

‘Tis the season for soccer. Cor started a sort of training camp for his high school soccer team this week. They practice for four hours a day. And when he comes home, he watches YouTube videos about soccer and practices more soccer in our back yard. It’s a lot of soccer. Today, though, we got to experience even more soccer than usual. A sort of “Soccer Saturday,” if you will.

Cor was supposed to have team pictures in the morning. Unfortunately, the photographer needed to cancel the photo shoot because he came down with COVID-19. So I took some pictures of Cor wearing his uniform in our back yard instead. But then, this afternoon, Cor had his first interscholastic scrimmage of the season — at Green High School between Akron and Canton. It was crazy-hot, but Cor and his team played well. They won 3-0, and Cor even got the assist for one of those goals.

Immediately following the scrimmage, though, we piled into our car (together with Elliot and Cor’s friend Carter). We blasted the air conditioning, and we blasted the music to keep the energy high. And then we drove down to Columbus for a professional soccer game between the Columbus Crew and Atlanta United.

Cor chose this game as his “birthday party” — even though the birthday won’t come until three weeks later, and the party included 20,000 other strangers. But the thing that was especially remarkable about this birthday party was that it was our first time going to a Crew game downtown, in Columbus’s Arena District.

We got “seats” in the Nordecke — although there are no actual seats in that section, just cupholders. It was actually way more fun than I expected it would be, though. Even though we were exhausted from the heat and the scrimmage earlier in the day… even though we had to stay on our feet the whole time… and even though the Crew lost the game, 3-2… It was such a great experience! The downtown stadium creates a dynamic environment. Every goal is a blackout assault on the senses, especially in the Nordecke.

I lost my voice, as I trying keeping up with the Nordecke singing and chanting. I don’t consider myself to be a deeply-devoted soccer fan. But if I were to have a few more “Soccer Saturday” experiences like this one, I might become one.

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Portage Wild Hikes Challenge

For years, I’ve known that Summit County has a Fall Hiking Challenge. They call it a Spree, in fact. And they say it’s “the largest and longest-running event of its kind in the nation.” I’m not sure how exactly I’ve known about the Fall Hiking Spree. I guess they just do a good job of publicizing the Spree. Plus: they have rewards! You get a hiking staff for your first year of participation in the challenge. And you get a medallion for each subsequent year of participation. It’s kind geeky. But also kind of cool.

I found myself envious of Summit County residents. Because I live just east of Summit County, in Portage County.

For whatever it’s worth, I believe Portage County residents are allowed to participate in the Summit County Fall Hiking Spree (though they have to pay something for the rewards). And I’ve since learned that Summit County has other hiking challenges, at different times of the year. But the real point in writing about all this is to share that I just recently discovered that Portage County has a hiking challenge, too!

It’s funny that I almost made it to the end of my own personal Portage County Trail Quest before hearing about it. But Portage County has an initiative called the Wild Hikes Challenge! The idea is to complete “30 hikes or 30 miles in our parks to celebrate our 30th anniversary as a park district.” But their own website says that they accept submissions with as few as eight hikes. And guess what?!?

The reward for completing the Portage County Wild Hikes Challenge is a hiking staff and medallion!!!

Apparently, they’ve had numerous hiking challenges like this for several years. They just don’t publicize it as well as Summit County publicizes theirs. So I’m trying to help them get the word out.

The top of the hiking staff has a wrist strap and a cool carving of a white-tailed deer buck.

The bottom of the hiking staff has a rubber tip that can be removed to reveal a spike.

And the medallion is a cool 30-year commemorative medallion that comes with two tiny nails with which one can affix it to the staff. When I picked up these rewards, they even threw in a couple of stickers and bandanas!

I know it’s a little bit silly. But I really like it. And I think it’s a good initiative for the county to promote awareness of its parks, plus general health and wellness.

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Join the Revolution!

The summer is the one time of year when I seem to have an American approach to cycling. Last week, Cor and I donned helmets, sunglasses, bright-colored jerseys, and spandex cycling shorts. We slathered ourselves with sunscreen and made sure to bring along plenty of water. We loaded our bicycles into our minivan to drive to a parking lot near the trailhead we chose for our point of departure. And then we rode for 20 miles on a bike trail adjacent to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. All the way from the East Rim to Brandywine Falls to the Bedford Reservation — and then back again.

We were cycling in “Sport Mode,” and I can attest to the fact that it was fun.

But these sorts of rides are the exception for me, not the rule. I generally prefer to use my bicycle for transportation more than recreation. That is: I don’t wear special cycling clothes. I don’t try to sweat buckets. The bicycle is my vehicle for getting from Point A to Point B. And it’s usually just a mile or two at a time. It’s about riding around town and getting life done in a way that’s healthy, economical, sustainable, and fun.

To put it another way: I do it for Health, for Wealth, for the Earth, and for Mirth. This sort of mindset is pretty common in the Netherlands (where I used to live). But even knowing that different cultures simply think about things in different ways, I just don’t understand why more Americans don’t adopt a similar mindset when it comes to cycling. It’s totally doable! And contrary to popular belief, it generally seems to be as fast or faster when it comes to getting from one part of town to another (when that town is the size of Kent, anyway)!

I’ve had several conversations along these lines recently. Maybe now is a moment! While the sun is shining… while the pavement on Water Street is still shiny and smooth… while the Dutch and American experiences at at the closest point in their orbits of thought surrounding bicycles. Even if your bike needs a bit of repair to make this possible, it’s totally worth it (I recently had some pretty major work to replace the chain on my bicycle, the pads on my disc brakes, and the grips on my handlebars — basically the equivalent of major engine upkeep, new brakes, and floor mats — for a tenth of the cost that it would cost to do similar upgrades on an automobile). Seriously! What have you got to lose?

Give it a try. I’d like to think a month of adopting the bicycle as the dominant mode of transportation could be an excellent place to start a habit. Along the way, you might decide that you really like it. So I say, “Come on! Join the Revolution!”

Posted in Bicycling, Culture, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Health, Kent, Ohio, Recommendations, Recreation, Sports, The United States of America, Travel | Comments Off on Join the Revolution!

Generational Shift

My Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2015. I’m really thankful that we’ve had a few years to prepare for the worst of it. For the first couple of years, it was mostly just a flat affect, a softening of his voice, and a shuffling of his steps. He worked with doctors and physical therapists to slow the progression of the disease. But it’s gotten harder with each passing year.

In the last couple of months, he’s been feeling more confused and having a harder time expressing his thoughts. We’re still not sure how much of it is his Parkinson’s and how much of it is the medication that’s supposed to be treating his Parkinson’s. So we’re in a regular, ongoing conversation with his neurologist. Still, even without any dramatic changes to his treatment plan, he has good days and bad days. I’m grateful for what we’ve got.

Recently, though, it seems like we’ve hit an especially hard transition point. The point where it might be wise for my Dad to avoid driving. 

Even for the last year or two, Dad has basically limited himself to the two-mile strip between his house on the northwest side of Kent and the business district on the eastern side of Stow. This strip includes Riverwood Community Chapel, Discount Drug Mart, Handel’s Ice Cream Shop, and his Physical Therapist’s office. So even this limited range has been useful.

The other day, however, he was driving the standard strip, and the car started producing some sort of dinging sound. He couldn’t figure out what was causing the sound. Then, the combination of his general confusion and his difficulty expressing himself made the situation even more challenging when he tried to seek help at the Drug Mart and at his PT’s office. It seems like one of the PTs was eventually able to help with the car sound. But afterwards, the therapist posed Dad the question that everybody would probably rather avoid: “Has anyone told you that it might not be a good idea for you to be driving?”

We don’t know if it’s permanent. But for at least the time being, Dad and Mom agree that it’s probably best for Dad to avoid driving until they can seek further medical counsel.

In the meantime, we’ve developed a solution that could potentially be advantageous both to my parents — and to our family just a mile up the road in Kent. I had previously planted the idea of us eventually buying my Dad’s little yellow Sonic when the time comes for them to sell it (and maybe it will still come to that). For now, however, we’ve decided that the yellow car come to live at our place. This provides us with a fourth vehicle for our four-driver household. But it also allows us to be on “stand-by” to take Dad wherever he might need to go (when Mom’s not able to take him). Like a creative twist on the ol’ yellow cab!

Our newest driver, Olivia, loves zipping around in the little yellow Sonic. She’s also glad to provide transportation when my Dad needs it. So I’m thankful for the way that our current generational shift allows us to adapt to each other’s needs. I’m praying that we’ll be able to keep looking out for each other in different ways, as circumstances dictate. But we need lots of continued grace and prayer! Some days I feel really frazzled. Other days, I lean more towards gratitude. Working together, with God’s help, we’re finding our way around.

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The vase is broken. That much is clear. Pieces are scattered across the dining room floor.

But nobody’s confessing to nothing.

Dad says, “I just want to know how the vase was broken.” He’s got a piece of the vase in his hands. He keeps walking back and forth, looking at the vase and looking at us. He’s trying to catch us with his eyes. “Somebody broke the vase.”

But I know it wasn’t me. Because I followed all the rules. I didn’t run in the house. I didn’t throw the ball in the house. Mostly, I spend my time reading books in my room — like my parents told me to do. Just like I eat my vegetables at dinner and brush my teeth at night. I’ve been doing what I’m supposed to do.

I didn’t break the vase.

“We’re just trying to get to the bottom of things.” Mom says, “Are you sure it wasn’t you?”

“Nuh-uh,” I say.

“So, where were you this afternoon, when it happened?” asks Dad.

“I was down at Pfizer Park, with Jane. You told us we should go outside and play, remember?” I can’t believe they’re coming down on me and my sister.

I want to complain and ask: Why don’t you check with Johnny and Jimmy?!? Because they didn’t come to the park with us. They said they wanted to play at home, instead. And they’re not usually all that careful, neither. But I’m not about to rat on my brothers. I’m good at following that rule, too. But c’mon! It’s obvious. I mean, they’re standing right there, with guilty looks on their faces and baseball mitts on their hands.

“Hmm… Well, none of you admit to knowing anything about the broken vase. So… I suppose we’re going to have to punish you all.” Dad says with a serious look on his face. “Unless one of you is ready to come forward, you’re all grounded for a month: no playdates, no sleepovers, no Friday night pizza parties. You’re all grounded.”

Johnny and Jimmy keep their mouths shut. But I can’t believe it. It just doesn’t seem fair.

“You can, however, keep your phone privileges for now,” Dad smiles. “That way you can FaceTime or Zoom with your friends, whenever you want to.”

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