Whistles And Stuff: Thoughts On 2018

by Rich on December 31, 2018

My stepdad knows how to whistle. I don’t mean whistle a tune (although he can do that too), I mean curl the tongue, take a deep breath, and pierce the stratosphere with a sound that can be picked up in a different time zone. I never mastered that skill, and it’s one of those life regrets that nags at me. What a sound! It was the unmistakable call to me when I was kid, playing out in the neighborhood or straying to far from the herd on a family outing. It was his “attention getter” (is ‘getter’ a word? It is now). And it got my attention. It demanded my attention. And my response. It wasn’t enough to merely head home. He needed to know that I had heard and was on my way. Yelling, “COMING!!!” at the top of my lungs became a well practiced habit.

Whistles. Attention getters. Keep those in mind.

It’s the end of 2018 and all over social media and IRL (In Real Life, for the uninitiated), I am seeing and hearing a common theme, and it goes something like this: “Glad this year is over! 2018 was the worst! Bring on 2019, because it HAS to be better than this horrible year!” To quote James Bond, one sympathizes.

I have also had similar feelings about the past year, and then I was asked two questions. What was the best thing that happened this year, and what was the worst? After some prayerful introspection, I realized that the answer to both questions was the same thing. What that thing is isn’t important to my point, just that it was the same thing.

2018 has had it’s share of highs and lows for me, like it has for most of us, I imagine. But the more I look back, the more I realize that what seemed like heartbreaking lows, were, in fact, much deeper and filled with more meaning than mere setbacks, losses, hurts or disappointments.

They were whistles.

God has used a number of events over the last year to get my attention. Some have been louder and more shrill than others, but they have been unmistakable. I have lost dear friends. Close relationships have ended. Dreams have faded. Goals have been missed. A car blew up (seriously). And all of these things have been God using his attention-getters to extend His grace to me, though I no more deserved it than did Saul on the road to Damascus.

I am so eternally thankful for this year. I am thankful for the joys and the sadness; the successes and the failures. I am thankful because each day of 2018 has been a gift from God. It is only my lack of understanding, response and faith that leads me to be ungrateful for those days.

And here’s the thing… that doesn’t change with the flipping of a page in the calendar. It’s true today, next Thursday, or twenty years from now.

I have grown more in this last year than any single year I can remember, and that is one hundred percent due to the fact that God has extended to me His grace to hear His call, His whistle. In retrospect, I should have heard it years ago. But I’m a stubborn, selfish, ungrateful child. But now I have heard it. And I pray that I hear those whistles in the future, and that He doesn’t have to keep using His attention-getters to teach me what He wants me to know; to help me to be what He wants me to be.

2018 is the year that His whistle pierced through the noise of my life, and now I’m yelling at the top of my lungs, “COMING!!!”


Lone Warriors

by Rich on September 8, 2018

Man, it is so hard to be a parent.

Under the best of circumstances, with a supportive partner, when all the planets align and the perfect hand is dealt, being a parent is just hard.

I was thinking about that this week as I watched some of my friends working hard to navigate the maze of the parental jungle. They are all good people, these men and women, with good hearts and the best of desires for their children. They are also all divorced, like I am. Some have remarried, but most are like me, single. And for those of us who find ourselves in this state, whether as a consequence of our own choices, or for some other reason, the challenges of parenting become exponentially more complicated.

“Co-parenting” is a term I wasn’t familiar with until my divorce. I am intimate with it now. Thankfully for all the right reasons.

God has bestowed a grace on me that I surely have not earned. I am fortunate to have an ex who shares a common goal for our son, and so co-parenting with her has been, by all accounts, pretty successful. We communicate, we coordinate, we support. We aren’t perfect, but we work well together on this task.  I am learning from my friends that our situation is all too rare.

So many are out there, fighting the good fight alone. These men and women often have to fill both parental roles for their children, and that’s virtually impossible. But these people do it. Every day. They shoulder the doubt, the pain, the uncertainty of raising a child in today’s world. And when there are joys, they often find no one to share it with, which is it’s own kind of loneliness. And really, I don’t know how they do it. I mean, it’s hard for me, and as I stated earlier, I’m probably in the best of these types of situations.

Seeing these friends out there, grinding every day for their kids, is a level of inspiration I find hard to explain. The sacrificial love that I witness from these parents is otherworldly. And it doesn’t end. All parents learn that hard fact the older their kids get. You never stop being mom or dad. You never stop carrying those burdens and concerns. What that looks like from the outside changes, but what parents carry in their hearts never does. And while it looks like some have it easier than others, due to finances or the temperaments of their children, the truth is, all parents, of children of every age, are battling their individual battles.

So say a prayer for these lone warriors. They need it. I mean, we all do, no matter where we find ourselves on the parenting spectrum, but these single parents especially. Say a prayer, send a text, make a phone call. When you’re out there doing it by yourself, it’s easy to feel invisible. Just getting some recognition and emotional support can mean the difference between continuing the grind, or falling into a spiral of self doubt and desperation.

Because no matter how you slice it, it’s hard to be a parent.



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