Who’s Your Favorite President?

With today being Presidents’ Day, there has been some presidential talk in the Campbell home recently. Last night at dinner, in fact, one question asked of the children was, “Who is your favorite president?”

The responses, which I clarified again this morning, were as follows:

presidents-day

Cam, age 4

George Washington! (Said with staggering confidence!)

Emma, age 5

“George Washington.” Then, after a very slight pause, “And the president who slept under his horse!” (Ulysses S. Grant, according to Alex and his presidential trivia.)

Julia, age 7

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. (Washington, because he was the first president, and Lincoln “because he’s the only other one I know!”)

Kirsten, age 9 (almost 10!)

Ronald Reagan, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson. Reagan made her list because, “He’s one of the presidents I know the most about, and because he liked horses.” And Jefferson was a late addition because… we visited his house. 🙂

Alex, age 12

Grover Cleveland, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Grover Cleveland. (The reason Cleveland is on the list twice is the reason he’s Alex’s favorite president.) 🙂

Ian, age 15

Thomas Jefferson: “He liked gadgets, and the Louisiana Purchase. (That was cool) And he was just smart.”

Dad, age Old

Ronald Reagan, Calvin Coolidge, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington. And, George W. Bush, because he has the BEST quotes/sound bytes.1 He was fantastic. (Really! Are there any better?)

Mom, age Older 🙂

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Calvin Coolidge, and Ronald Reagan. (Hmmm… eerily similar to the Dad!) The Mom gave the most thorough reasoning behind her selections: All of them because they were ‘real’, humble Americans, and “George Washington, because he was humble and didn’t even want to be president. Jefferson because he wasn’t a follower. Coolidge because he didn’t need to say much, and Reagan because the further we get from [the founding of the country] the harder it is to have (and live) those principles.”

(She’s smart.) 🙂

We celebrate this Monday in February two of the men who held that office that had probably the greatest impact on our nation: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Their birthdays both right around that day. (Lincoln on February 12th, and on Washington February 22nd.) But since we call it “Presidents’ Day”, often we lump in other presidents, worthy of laud.

Now, who is your favorite president?

There are forty-four possibilities (or, forty-three, if you’d prefer not to count Cleveland twice, like Alex). Leave your answers in the comments below, with as much reasoning as you’d like. We’ll add your favorites to tonight’s dinner discussion!

Happy Presidents’ Day!

  1. This page has some of the best, but just search the web and there are likely hundreds of hilarious quotes from the 43rd president of the United States of America.

[ThisDay] Sex Sells (Apparently)

One of the posts that has received the most interaction was admittedly expected to attract some attention. I wasn’t just searching for website hits… rather, I was making a point. A fun night out with Emma at the mall turned into conversations about large images of ladies in their underwear—everywhere! That night I posted some thoughts on our much we use sexual imagery in marketing and advertising, and the possible consequences of that. That was certainly a memorable post from January 31st in GregsHead.net history. A close runner up was the story called “My Computer Had a Heart Attack” (a good, lengthy read!). For today though, and the last day in this series: Sex Sells (Apparently). (Thoughts/comments welcomed!)

Sex Sells (Apparently)

January 31st, 2013

Aerie Ad - Girl in lingerieI wouldn’t usually post such photos here. But I guess I’m trying to make a point.

Have we really gotten so used to seeing women in their underwear (or less) that it doesn’t even slightly surprise us?

(My hope is that when you saw the photo for this post on my website, you were surprised, or shocked. It hopefully seemed quite out of place. And it should.)

Last night my four-year-old daughter, Emma, and I walked through nearly the entirety of our local mall, and the volume of near-nudity prominently displayed in store fronts truly overwhelmed me. It was not hidden in the lingerie section near the back of a department store. Rather, right out in front, for every passer by.

I did some research when we got home and found out that there are an inordinate amount of lingerie stores in our mall. It could be that this is the reason that there are so many super-over-sized revealing photos, but still, you can’t walk down nearly any corridor of the mall without being bombarded by boobs.

Aerie storefront display - Girls in lingerie

I know I sound old saying this, but… I don’t remember this when I was a kid!

(Yep. Old.)

Now you can be shopping at the Apple Store for an iPad mini and get an eyeful of what amounts to “soft porn” at the same time. (There’s another “intimate apparel” store across the hall from our Apple Store.)

Am I overreacting here? I’m not sure. I am a guy, of course, and scantily clad, beautiful women do have a certain appeal, but what is that appeal? Certainly it is to my flesh—the part of me that is supposed to be dead. We are all well aware, however, that it still fights for life.

Jesus said that adultery is wrong, but that a man looking at a woman lustfully is just the same (since sin is a heart issue, before it’s a behavior issue) … but, I’m not sure that’s why I feel uncomfortable strolling the halls of the mall. (There wasn’t any lustful looking going on.)

I am more uncomfortable when my boys are with me. Aged 14 and 11 1/2, the internal chemicals are beginning to and have already worked their magic and the appeal of women dressed in little, even posed suggestively many times, well… that’s not something I want to test my boys’ will power on. And all to just find a new favorite well-used video game?

Last night it was Emma, who was certainly taking it all in. Once she said, “More bras! Ha!” (Yes, she’s awesome.) So I’m not really sure what she thinks about it, but she at least finds it somewhat humorous.

spencers

But I think in the end, I just find it sad. Near the end of our mall tour we passed Spencer’s. This particular window display was the most overt of all the stores in their attempt (in my opinion) to use sex to sell. (They might even more be selling sex, not simply lingerie, but…) I actually shook my head at their forwardness, and quickly moved along. Later when I was looking for store displays online to share with you here, I discovered that when you click the above banner—taken from their website, but this was also the current store front display—you have to consent to viewing adult material before going further into their site. So, perhaps they aren’t even trying to hide the soft porn part?

(Note: I actually do remember that my mom would direct us past and cast doubt upon the goodness of Spencer’s stores in our various malls. Though I do think we darkened their door a time or two along the way. I think my sister liked some of the stuff in there? I do not remember such displays in their front windows… but I do have this inner, red warning light regarding their establishment. Perhaps this is not a new development.)

What I think all of this reveals about us (yes, pun intended) is a culture that is certainly progressing more and more towards debauchery. Again, I know that I sound old suggesting that “my generation” wasn’t as perverse as “this generation”, and to an extent, I’m sure I’m wrong. People are people. We’re all dead in sin, none of us can escape that; one generation’s societal moral superiority notwithstanding.

But I really do think this is a symptom of a deeper sickness.

Families are now horribly rent asunder: rampant divorce, children outside marriage, multiple parents (but really no parents), gay marriage, abortion… they are all signs of our inner moral corruption and decay.

So it makes sense that we’d continue to feed our flesh—the part of us that drives this decay—and even progressively think less and less of it, allowing it to have more of a hold on us.

We’re naked under our clothes. (Did you know that?) Nakedness is not the sin. The way it’s used to appeal to our selfish, fleshly, worldly desires can be, and those desires can be. Paul said, “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.” Perhaps that applies here.

I don’t think I’m talking about the over-sized posters, though.

It seemed so blatantly obvious last night on our walk through the mall that these are symptoms of a culture-wide decline; gradually slipping more and more toward full worldliness, and farther away from godliness. It makes sense, of course, as culturally we have been removing God from everyday life for several generations now. It’s certainly bound to happen this way.

I know I sound old. (And, I kind of am!) This generation is worse off morally than mine, but maybe not than my parents’ generation? (The sixties, hippies, etc? Could be we improved from that?) And we will continue the downward trend until, as individuals, and families, and then as a society we allow God to resume his rightful position as Father and leader and provider and all that he is and wants to be to us.

Until then, it shouldn’t surprise me what is displayed in the large windows of our public marketplaces. If we continue this way, it wouldn’t be shocking to see actual nudity soon, as well as much more sexual images.

This really is the visible symptoms of a deeper issue.

I want to say, “And I hope for our society’s sake that we turn to Jesus and live full lives as he intended us to!” … but I wonder if that’s my wrong thinking about “life to the full”. Life to the full is messy. We are messy, broken, sinners. We are in a broken world, and though we can experience a taste of true, unbroken life, we are still here, in this mess. And that will never change, until we’re not. So, no matter how much we, as a society, might turn to Jesus … the deeper issue here (not the symptoms) is part of the bigger picture of “full life” that God intended. I think.

That doesn’t mean I have to traverse the mall corridors, though. 🙂

I’ll finish by saying that I hope wherever you are right now, you know the Father, the One True God, and Jesus Christ whom he sent (John 17:3) and that you know his abundant grace and life and are living that fully and free from guilt and condemnation and judgement (John 3:17) … because that is how we’re meant to be.

(Clothed, or not.)


Note: The photos in this post are mostly taken from the retailers’ websites. My iPhone camera was not doing a good job capturing the images I wanted to use for this post. All of these images here were on display in three-times-real-life size in the store windows, as well as dozens more.

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 30th

Loss

[ThisDay] Life Suddenly Changed

You never know what a day is going to bring. We don’t even know if we’ll see the next day! Life unfolds before us—good and bad, joy and sorrow—without our permission, and usually without much influence from us at all. January twenty-eight of two thousand eleven was one of those days for us. Some new, good friends—our kids had almost instantly taken to them as adopted grandparents—had their world dramatically altered in a moment by a sudden, unexpected death. The ripples from this sudden absence of one changed our life that day, too. Remember to cherish those you love today, and hopefully also know and enjoy that you are cherished by someone(s), too. We never know what the next moment will bring.

Life Suddenly Changed

January 28th, 2011

pacific-sunsetA friend of ours passed away this morning. It was very unexpected, apparently very sudden (though I do not fully know the details) and… it just feels very final.

I have not known this friend very long. We met his daughter and her family a little more than a year ago when they moved to our town. They home school their children and had met some mutual home schooling friends who introduced us and we pretty quickly became good friends. Her parents moved to town shortly after her dad had a massive heart attack (about one year ago) to live in the apartment attached to their house. It was all very God-arranged.

We met Wayne & his wife shortly after they moved to town and, likely due to our good friendship with their daughter and family, they quickly became our good friends too. They were equally quickly “adopted” by our kids as their third set of grandparents. (Really! There was even a signed certificate created by our kids!) 🙂 They graciously offered an open invitation to us to watch our kids any time Jen and I needed to get out for some no-kids time. (And we have taken them up on that invite several times!)

The first time I met Wayne, I realized we had a shared love of words. Both reading and writing. Wayne has been far more prolific than I in both departments, to be sure. I am currently reading a book he recommended, and I had been talking with him about helping him publish some of his books. I hope to still do that for him.

It’s been a strange day. Death has not touched me much in life. Presently, I can only think of two people who were really close to me who have died. My Mom’s dad died when I was 12 or 13. I remember that, and remember thinking, “Wow… that’s weird.” But I didn’t realize till later that reaction was due (at least in part) to my Mom’s relationship with him—I had only been with him a handful of times. The other person is my wife’s brother, Jeff. My brother-in-law for only about a year. He died just before our first son Ian was born. (I remember it was really hard. Really shocking. Very sad.) That’s the reason that Ian bears his name. (Ian Jeffrey Campbell).

Otherwise, death has always seemed to be a couple relationships away from me.

But I know Wayne. He is my friend. I already miss him.

I was processing all of this with another friend in an online conversation when I said, “Life just changed suddenly.” I didn’t mean it to be profound, but the more I thought of it, the more I realized it was true. Life—my life—is now different, and quite suddenly so.

Now, I’m sure I don’t hurt nearly as much as our friends who lost a dad, a husband, a grandpa … and we will be asking God to fill the large void they now (suddenly) have in their lives. He can and I know he will…

But there is a hole. There is an absence. Life… is different.

Each of us is so much more impactful than we admit. (Or perhaps we really don’t realize, or understand it.) Every person we know, every place we go, everything we do … is part of the “fabric” of the lives of all those around us. So, the closer we are, the more time we spend with people, the more the void is felt. But all of us feel the absence. All of us.

So I will (and already do) miss him.

Although I am not as naive as to think that death would never touch me, it still nearly always comes as a shock. We are such hardy, fragile creatures. One moment it’s incredible what we can come through, and the next moment we can be gone within that moment. We just never know.

What that means—since we know that—is that each moment we have is precious. We can very easily get to thinking otherwise. Life’s daily details overtake (perhaps overwhelm) our conscious thoughts. But we just never know when we won’t have the people we love with us anymore. All we know is that we have them—we are with them—now.

Please take a moment today, after you read this, and remind the people around you how much they mean to you. Take a second to encourage some of the greatness you see in them. Maybe take more than a second. We can’t live everyday worried that we are going to lose those we love, but, we can certainly remember to let them know what they mean to us as often as possible.

I’m glad to have known Wayne Leavitt. I hope to see him again one day.

Until then, while I am still here, I am now reminded to enjoy the moments I have with the people whose lives God has intertwined with mine, and to let them know how glad I am that he has.

I hope you will do the same.

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 28th

[ThisDay] First And Second Birthdays

Today’s post was a poignant piece, originally published one year after the death of a family friend. We all celebrate birthdays, but it’s harder to celebrate our second birthdays; at least it’s hard for those left behind here in this mortal existence. I wrote this about one year after our friend died, and one day after my mom’s “first” birthday (Jan 26th). If you’d like to read something lighter, January 27th is an active day for publishing in GregsHead.net history. See the list at the end of the post for the lighter fare. But today’s primary selection is just below. Enjoy.

First And Second Birthdays

January 27th, 2012

Yesterday was my Mom’s birthday. January 26th is a circled day on the calendar, celebrated by our family. Has been for as long as I have memories. All day long, we think of my Mom. We call, we video chat, we send cards… we celebrate the life she began on January 26th, 19xx. 🙂

(I don’t know that my Mom has any real problem with me sharing her age, but… just in case… since she reads this blog … Suffice it to say that this year her two-digit age ends with a zero! So in some ways it was an even more memorable/special year.)

I love my Mom and love celebrating her birthday! (Even if we’re not in the same location on the birthday day.)

At some point during that day I was reminded that the 26th of January is also the birth day of our good friend’s Mom. She, too was born on the twenty-sixth day of the first month of the year. If I recollect correctly, she was even born in the same state, not far from where my Mom was born. She too has children who love her, and many grandkids.

But she has another birthday.

A little over a decade ago, she was born into her eternal life. She is now with Jesus. So her birthday is celebrated at least a little differently than the way we celebrate January 26th here, where we can still show our love and see it received, and given back.

It’s better to be with the Lord. The Bible tells us so. But I’d imagine first birthdays are at least a little harder when the one birthed has had their second birthday already, and you’re left celebrating without them.

This week I’ve also been thinking of our friends who are coming up on the one-year anniversary of a second birthday. Tomorrow will be one year since our friends lost a Dad and a Husband and a Grandpa; and since we lost someone who was becoming a good friend.

Death leaves such an absence. It’s hard to celebrate the second birthdays. Again, it’s better to be with the Lord, but that truth seems distant when the life so suddenly changes, and the void is so clearly known and seen and felt.

I know it’s been rough again lately for our friend who lost her Dad. (And I know for many years our friend who lost her Mom has missed her so dearly on many occasions, more than just first and second birthdays.)

It definitely makes me value the days that I have now with my Mom, who’s still only had her first birthday.

The hope that we have runs deep. I know and trust that once we have both passed the threshold into our eternal life, I won’t have to live or think about living life without my Mom in my life. That is a great hope.

But I’ll say it again: for now, on at least some levels, I’m very glad my Mom is still only one.

I rejoice for the lives of the two parents I know, mentioned above, who are missed yesterday and tomorrow. They loved well and are still well loved. I am praying peace now for the kids who miss their beloved parents on their first and second birthdays respectively. But I already know they have hope. And in that I also rejoice.

This talk of “second birthdays” has a bit of a morbid undertone, but if you know our Jesus, it’s a wonderful thing when you turn two.

It’s just harder for all the one-year-olds who are still waiting for their own second birthday.

It will come. And then others will both mourn and rejoice on our two birthdays. And we will celebrate with all of the ones we loved who went before us.

What a birthday party that will be.


Note: This photo of my Mom is slightly dated, but it’s a good one, with several of our kids loving their Grammy. There are not many photos of my Mom in existence, and I’m nearly certain this is the only one published online! So, I might get in a tiny bit of trouble, but… I know she still loves me. Right, Mom? 🙂

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 27th

[ThisDay] God Saved Our Bacon

January 25th may not have the most posts from which to select, but it was interestingly challenging to pick the “winner” for this day. First, on this day ten years prior, I wrote about how special Jen is to me. That’s worth sharing again! But also on this 25th day of January I wrote about our Backyard Ice Rink escapades—a great family memory. AND, BEST of ALL… please read the highlighted post in the list of other posts on January 25th at the bottom of this story. It’s kind of amazing! (Remember the point of these repostings was to see if indeed life (or at least, my head) is cyclical? Well… just click that link! For now, though, please enjoy this great story of God—quite literally—saving our bacon!

bacon

God Saved Our Bacon

January 25th, 2009

It’s been a full week. Fuller than usual for some reason. (I’m not sure “fuller” is a word, but, in this case it seems to fit.)

Each day has ended very late, and been full of either lots of one thing, or many different things. But whatever the landscape of the day, each has ended with a very tired Greg’s head.

Yesterday was no exception. Perhaps only in that it was the day this week that I actually felt the most tired. (Tireder?) I got home from a long day of training people at the Apple store, tired, hungry, and ready to eat a (quiet?) dinner with my family.

Oh right… I have five kids ages ten and under… 🙂

So, it wasn’t quiet. It wasn’t even particularly pleasant. (Though the meal was fantastic. Nice job, Jen!) 🙂 I kept feeling more and more tired, more and more badder…

And that’s when God decided to save our bacon.

After finishing my dinner, and as the kids were still complaining, fighting, whining, and pretty much exhibiting every bad behavior known to mankind, a peculiar thought entered my mind: “I should make the kids some really special ice cream sundaes.” (Yep, you read that right.)

I remembered that we had a bucket of vanilla ice cream left over from Ian’s birthday party about a month ago, and even some cool toppings from that day. The kids had been horrible, Jen & I were fried – and not letting the nicest things come out of our mouths – and for some reason, the idea I had was to be ridiculously generous to our little hooligans.

Well, I acted on my strange impulse and got up and lined up four bowls on the table (for the oldest four) and began bringing out all the awesome toppings. Chocolate and strawberry syrups. Maraschino cherries, peanuts, and even coconut flakes. The kids were getting pretty excited!

Finally I grabbed the 5-quart bucket of ice cream and popped off the lid. And that’s where it got interesting.

I dipped the scoop into the bucket with a decent amount of force, as the ice cream promised to be pretty hard having just been removed from the freezer. What met my decent amount of force was a very unexpected, squishy, super-soft blob of almost completely melted ice cream!!! What??! I tested a few other areas, and indeed, the whole thing seemed like it was room temperature!

This was very disturbing, and NOT what I wanted at my then current energy level. But, with a freezer full of meats, veggies, and a few fruits (thanks to the generosity of friends and family, actually) … I knew I had to try and do something to save it.

I am no refigerator repairman, so I really had no idea where to begin. But I poked around, and did notice the fan was not blowing. That has meant in the past that it was frozen over. I pulled out all the contents of the freezer, with “Plan B” being to store them in a giant Rubbermaid container outside that night. When I got the panel off in the back of the freezer, I discovered that it had frozen over. I got out the hairdryer and melted away the ice… and the fan came back on!

After cleaning it out – what better opportunity would I have to do that?? – I put all the food back in, moved the fridge back in place, and in just a couple hours, all was back to normal. (The water dispenser had frozen up as well, but as I type this, the ice maker is back in full swing.)

That night – and again this morning – I was super thankful that God had (I believe) prompted me to first, bring peace and joy to our dinner table and our home with a special treat on an especially bad night, and as a very cool side-effect… he quite literally may have saved our bacon! Who knows when I would have checked the freezer again? Probably not till I saw a pool of water outside of it the next morning.

See, the that’s the cool part of the story. In the middle of an otherwise forgettable evening, God took a very simple (yet strangely generous) idea, and turned it into a rescue effort. And it worked. And he definitely gets the credit.

God really did save our bacon. 🙂

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 25th

[ThisDay] Caught In A Snowstorm!

It is a beautiful, snowy day as I write this. Large, puffy snowflakes drift quietly to the ground, piling higher and higher—much to the Campbell children’s delight! Apparently this time of year is a snowy time of year! Two separate posts on January 23rds over the past decade have been about notable amounts of snow. Below is the story some unexpected fun while attempting a walk to the library on one of these snowy occasions. (If you’d prefer a topic on “going to church”, see the links at the bottom!) Enjoy!

snowy

Caught In A Snowstorm!

January 23rd, 2008

Last night I took our four kids up to the library to return some books, and to pick up a few new ones. The library is only half-way around the block, so we bundled up for a nice winter walk. It was even lightly snowing, so it was more fun than usual!

We even sang a song on the way there:

“Going for a walk in the snow to the library,
Going for a walk in the snow
Going for a walk in the snow to the library,
Going for a walk in the snow!”

It was perfect, and the kids did pretty well in the library. We got the books we wanted, and some stamps from the nice librarian. We bundled back up and headed out the door.

What we discovered was astonishing.

Swirling, blowing, blinding SNOW! Where did this come from?!? I just laughed! It was like a joke! What happened to our light flurries??? Well, we had no other way home, so I made sure faces were as covered as they could be and we set out into the storm.

And this was a storm! The wind was a constant 10-15 mph I’d guess, with stronger gusts. And the snow was collecting on the ground – and on us! – at an alarming rate. The worst part was, a third of our trip was heading west, directly into the wind! At one point during that stretch I turned around and pulled Julia in the stroller backwards (which helped a lot I think) and saw poor little Kirstie just closing her eyes and leaning into the wind as she pressed ahead into the blizzard!

It was crazy!!

Once we were able to turn south, and find a bit of shelter behind a giant brick church building, it got a little better. We laughed all the way home through the still rapidly falling snow.

Red cheeks, faces, and other exposed skin greeted Mom when we got home. Mom actually met us in the driveway, as she had seen the fierce winter storm and was coming to get us. But we managed to brave the elements and make it back home safely.

I told the kids as we were fighting the storm that we’d have hot cocoa and hot baths when we got home! And we’d also read a couple of the library books we just worked so hard to get.

And we did. 🙂

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 23rd

  1. This post was also very interesting, and discussion-worthy, if you’ve the time. It refers to a podcast posted in late 2012, or early 2013, regarding the trend toward not attending weekend worship gatherings by many who would definitely align themselves with Jesus. So, if that’s more your cup of tea…

[ThisDay] City Living… Or Not

There were not too many posts published this day in GregsHead history. In fact, there were only four total. That made selecting a favorite a bit easier, but I believe I would have chosen this particular story against most competition, anyway. Please enjoy this little anecdote from a bedtime just a couple years ago. 🙂

City Living… Or Not

January 21st, 2012

we Campbells live in a thriving rural metropolis.

Nestled on the outer eastern edge of the once-vibrant technology town of Rochester, NY—R.I.P. Kodak—our town is home to nearly seven thousand people of various ilk. This is the place to be if you want to experience cultural, ethnic, religious, and economic diversity. We’ve got it all!

But for some reason, Kirstie decided this week that she wants to live in NYC.

“I am going to live in New York City some day,” she proudly announced to her Mom. “I just really want to live up high in the air, overlooking the city,” she explained to her Dad.

Neither Mom nor Dad can even stand the thought of visiting the Big City, so the expressed hopes and dreams of our seven-soon-to-be-eight year old daughter were (more than) somewhat repulsive to us. “New York City, eh?” we slowly pondered a loving response, “Well, that’s a long time from now, so we’ll see what God has in store when that time comes.”

(We were at least partially, and quite deftly, employing the fine art of deflecting/distracting from/deferring the less than desirable, far-off dreams of young children.)

Fast-forward to bed time.

It was a very windy night. This strangely warm winter has seen a few brief cold spells, and each time they’ve come, they were ushered in by a fierce wind. This night’s wind was particularly powerful—and noisy!

As I was hugging and kissing the girls, tucking each under their warm, fuzzy blankets, I could tell that the wind was very much on their minds. The house was creaking and various scraping noises could be heard on the street outside as sundry items were dragged great distances against their will by the forceful gusts.

“God,” I began, “Please protect this room tonight and its inhabitants from anything that might harm them in this wind.” I started to go into detail about what things God could protect us from, but at the first break in my thoughts I was interrupted.

“Do you think there could be a tornado?” Kirsten asked, with a hint of real concern in her voice.

“No, Kirstie,” I reassured her, “There really aren’t any tornadoes here where we live. It’s pretty crazy, but pretty cool, huh?”

The three girls nodded, and verbally affirmed my mostly rhetorical question.

A moment later, after giving some thought to what I had said, Kirsten asked, “Are there tornadoes in New York City?”

Jumping at the chance, I quickly replied, with great conviction in my voice, “Oh yes! There are always tornadoes in New York City. Really bad ones! All the time!!

“Dad!” Kirstie scolded, in the way only Kirstie can do. Her twinkling eyes looked up and met my big, silly-Dad smile.

I was still smiling at my innocent, yet clever, yet loving jab at my oldest daughter’s earlier proclamation, when the brief silence was interrupted by her younger sister, Julia.

“I am never going to live there!” she said in her very tiny, very matter-of-fact tones.

Caught a bit off guard, I enjoyed a deep belly laugh—we all did!—and then I gave Julia a big hug and said, “That’s my girl!”

If you know Julia, you know that this was perfect is so many ways! She knows what she wants, and she just says it!

I love seeing the personalities of our kids shine through, even at the earliest ages. Julia is a very “black-and-white” person; very matter of fact. And she’s incredibly cute! That response was just quintessential Julia, far beyond what I can relay in a few sentences.

I don’t know if we swayed Kirstie any that night, but we all did have a great laugh. She might still be on a mission to live in the big city. Or not. Time will tell.

But one thing’s for sure: Julia is never gonna live there!

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 21st

Imitation: The Highest Form of Flattery [Memory Lane]

Each Thursday in August we continued the trip down Memory Lane—a feature that began the last week of July. I re-posted some of my all-time favorite stories that I’ve published here as part of celebrating ten years of blogging—August 2003 to August 2013. Some posts were taken from my published books, and others (like today’s) have only been published online thus far. You’ll find stories that are funny, stories that are sad, and several heart-warming moments from the life we’ve lived. If you missed any, you can use the series navigation at the end of this post to read more. I invite you to enjoy these moments from the journey with me, too.

The final installment of the Memory Lane series is a bonus for this Labor Day Monday. In our family, Labor Day weekend is reserved for a family reunion—as many of Jen’s family as are able gather at the home of the patriarch and matriarch of the family. There are plenty of visits to Memory Lane during these reunions, to be sure!

Today’s post features some great moments from the Campbell kids. There are many frustrating moments as a parent, but there are also many melt-your-heart moments. These were a couple of the latter kind. I was humbled when this happened, and it gets to me every time I read it.

This is just beautiful. Enjoy.

Imitation: The Highest Form of Flattery

February 8th, 2012

Tonight at the dinner table, our youngest boy—who bears a good deal of physical resemblance to his Daddy—was particularly tuned in to my every move. He was watching (and mimicking) everything that I did. When I leaned forward onto my elbows to rest my head in my hands and wipe the tired of the recent past from my face, so did Cam. Whichever way I moved, just about any posture I assumed, Cam followed to near perfection.

It didn’t take me long to notice, and when I did, well, I was certainly heartened by his quite evident love for his me, his Dad.

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, and I guess maybe “they” are right.

Paul also said that the people whom he introduced to Jesus should “imitate [him] as [he] imitate[s] Christ”. That thought came to my mind, and I hope that’s just as easy for them to see and to follow as my physical motions at the table.

The best part was when, once he knew that I knew he was imitating me—though for this moment, I had momentarily forgotten—I moved my dish aside, being done with my food. Moments later, Cameron moved his dish in front of me. Typically, when this happens it means he’s refusing to eat more (even though he probably still should). However, once I saw where he had placed it, it was exactly the same amount to his right as I had placed my dish! 🙂

Still makes my face and heart smile as I recall and type the story here. Such a sweet boy.

In truth, it happens quite often, the imitating. More than I’d like. Often I’m quite glad for it, and I hope that it continues. But other times it’s too revealing. It can be unpleasant to hear the way your tone returns to your ears through the mouth of your biggest 2-year-old fan. But, a mirror can also be your best friend. I am thankful for the mirror that my kids can be for me.

Firstborn son, Ian, is more like me than I admit at times. He is creative, talented, gregarious, frequently charming, and also stubborn, confident to the point of arrogance, and often unteachable. At times, I am like all of that, too—the good and the bad.

During a recent clash of our similar personalities, where I felt (maybe incorrectly) that I needed to press Ian on his apparently unteachable/rebellious position or attitude toward me at that moment, I asked, “Ian, what is going on? Why are you being like this right now? Why do you have no humility at all?” He quickly responded, “I really have a hard time being humble!”

Slightly taken aback by his astute observation and open admission, I paused, but only slightly.

Though there was only a slight moment in which Ian’s words were allowed to resonate, his sister, Kirsten—more than five years his younger—managed to slip in the kindest, and perhaps most profound words of encouragement recently spoken in our home.

“That was humble, Ian.”

The kindness and pure, caring heart revealed both by her choice of words and her delivery of them, as well as the depth of understanding of the concept of humility that was evidenced by her quick assessment is overwhelming to me. In the midst of what had been a very draining, tense, frustrating series of moments for me (and everyone else, I think) she spoke such words of life that I had to encourage her, “Kirstie, I think those were the wisest, kindest words I’ve heard spoken here today. Thank you.”

There is beauty in our brokenness. In the moments where we are weak we can be lifted up. Either by someone else who is somehow less weak for that moment, or by God himself whose grace makes us strong, even—especially?—when we are weak. Sometimes the truth of that is revealed in the words, from the heart, of a seven year old girl, or by the actions of a two year old boy.

I hope that I am mostly characterized by a love and grace—toward my kids (and wife) directly, as well as toward every person that I might interact with—that overflows from the Life I have in me in Jesus. I am not him, and I can not be perfect. I will choose poorly, I will fail. But even in my brokenness, I hope that my kids will get to follow my example as I follow Jesus. Even in the way that I handle the images I see in the mirror: be they glass, or flesh.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Perhaps children are the highest form of imitation.

This day, I am so thankful for the mirrors God has given me.


Bible references above are from 1 Corinthians 11, and 2 Corinthians 12.

Thankful [Memory Lane]

Each Thursday in August we’ll be taking a trip down Memory Lane! I will be posting some of my favorite stories ever published here, part of celebrating ten years of blogging—August 2003 to August 2013. Some posts are taken from books, and others (like today’s) have only been published online thus far. You’ll read stories that are funny, stories that are sad, and several heart-warming moments from the life we’ve lived. If you missed any, you can use the series navigation at the end of this post to read more. I invite you to enjoy these moments from the journey with me, too.

You’ll probably notice, reading through these Memory Lane posts, that my kids are a very important part of my life. I love being a Dad, despite the challenges, hard moments, hard weeks. As I mentioned in the previous post, it’s pretty amazing how much I learn from the kids (seems like it would be vice versa, no?)

This story was of another hard day that became so beautiful, just by being grateful.

Thankful

July 12th, 2011

There are days that it’s incredibly hard to see the good side. Where you’re so completely overwhelmed by the crushing weight of sadness, or failure, or just plain pain that you can’t see a way out of and seems it will never end.

For whatever reason, we’ve had more than our share of those around here lately.

But last night as I was putting the four youngest kids in bed, for some reason I decided to start (quite randomly) naming things that I was thankful for. “Thank you for Mom… and for (insert sibling name here)…” was how I began. Then I began just literally saying any word that came to mind. Some things I saw around their room, or then any related item or word. It quickly exploded into a fun game of who can think of the most random thing to be thankful for!

And the neat thing was, it worked.

The kids were not that excited to go to bed last night, but that little exercise lightened their hearts, and perhaps enlightened mine.

I found it was easy to rattle off all sorts of “good” things that we can be thankful for. Stars, trees, the sun, the moon, Grandmas & Grandpas, other friends we love, books, paper, paint, carpet, air conditioning, and so on. So I began intentionally thinking of “bad” things. (Or at least, weird things to be thankful for.)

“Thank you for toilets. For bottoms. For toilet paper.” Emma (our three-year old) picked right up on that, “Thank you for pee pee… AND poo poo!” And then I actually made myself say, “Thank you for HOT days.” (Reasoning in my mind that, though I loathe and detest the heat, I do love a good, juicy tomato … and they rather enjoy hot days.)

This seemed to work for all of the kiddos from the youngest (just about 2) who would grunt his approval with a little, “mmm hmm” after every word or phrase I’d say, to the room full of his three sisters all spitting out random words as fast as they were able to fit them in. It really was incredible!

One Thousand Gifts by Ann VoskampIt made me think of a book that Jen asked me to read, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Jen reads her blog, and so decided to purchase her book, and was challenged (in a good way) to try to change her perspective on life, as Ann has tried to do. It’s kind of a “glass half-full vs glass half-empty” idea, but a bit different. Her challenge was just to write down 1,000 things that you are thankful for. A few each day.

I think we may have hit about 400 last night alone! 🙂

There are so many things that we can be thankful for. It really just depends on your perspective. If you can come at life looking for goodness, you’ll often (usually) find it. If you’re expecting bad, you’ll usually end up there.

So maybe try it tonight. Putting kids to bed… after they are in bed… on your way home from work… just let you brain bounce from one thing to the next and speak it out, “Thank you for _____.” Not just things that God directly gave us, necessarily, but think about the things that are part of our everyday lives, and how they help us. We really do take much of life “for granted”, as they say. Doing so lifted my spirits last night, and four other tiny spirits.

Perhaps it can lift yours, tonight, too.

Special Moments [Memory Lane]

Each Thursday in August we’ll be taking a trip down Memory Lane! I will be posting some of my favorite stories ever published here, part of celebrating ten years of blogging—August 2003 to August 2013. Some posts are taken from books, and others (like today’s) have only been published online thus far. You’ll read stories that are funny, stories that are sad, and several heart-warming moments from the life we’ve lived. If you missed any, you can use the series navigation at the end of this post to read more. I invite you to enjoy these moments from the journey with me, too.

This recent stop on Memory Lane is a reminder that life is so much more in the moments along the way than most of the other stuff we spend ourselves on, day after day, running into years. And just like last week’s post, Loss, I’m also reminded that the moments don’t even have to be “good”—or, what we’d usually call “good”—to be a special moment; a moment worth enjoying and remembering.

One of the greatest things about parenting is how much your own kids can teach (or remind) you about life.

Special Moments

November 2nd, 2012

Some days just have those moments.

Today has had plenty. (And not all good ones, mind you.)

Jen had a super-frustrating day with (she said) every one of the kids, who just wouldn’t listen to her at all. They only wanted what they wanted when they wanted it. Eventually, she just couldn’t take it anymore and walked away from what she was trying to do, attempting to clear her head.

(It was during this time that Jen decided to make soup, which is something she wouldn’t usually do, and without a recipe, which is something she definitely wouldn’t do! The best part? It turned out great! Was a nice “moment” for Jen to enjoy a great (tasty) bit of success in an otherwise hard day.)

At dinner, we came to another moment where I erupted into a very intense monologue full of very direct, clear reminders of things we’ve taught the kids since they came into this world. Very direct. Pretty loud. And I meant every word of it.

That was a moment.

Then Mom went out for the evening to do some shopping, but mainly to “clear her head”. Much needed, and hopefully she is being refreshed. (I’ll find out when she gets home!)

As the clean-up team took care of the kitchen (and the other two took care of the other rooms) I bathed the youngest two. They really needed it.

(Note: I am quite sick. Nasty head cold, stuffy, bad cough, just keep saying, “My head feels weird…” So… that makes for a more interesting bath time. Oh, and Cam is just as sick as me!)

That was a moment. (But not too bad, actually.)

The girls got their baths, and I got everyone dressed for bed and hair brushed and all that must be done. Then Alex got his quick shower and we were ready for the evening activity.

Tonight, it was singing.

I got my guitar, and a box of chord charts for worship songs, and we just started playing through them. Some the kids knew, most they didn’t. But that didn’t stop them from singing. And dancing. And smiling. And really LOUD singing!

That was a moment. A different sort of moment. (A heart-smile kind of moment.)

I encouraged Ian to get his bass guitar out, and Alex converted a plastic pumpkin trick-or-treat bucket into a percussive instrument, and suddenly we had a band. And even though we didn’t know the song to begin with, by the end of one song Julia had a huge smile on her face… and tears on her cheeks.

“I’m crying!” says little Julia Gayle. “Why are you crying, Julia?” I asked gently. “It’s just because of the singing!” She almost couldn’t believe that music could do that to you, but at the same time, she knew deep within her that it did do that to her.

That was a moment.

Then came bedtime. We usually play with a Dad-animated stuffed friend at some point. Tonight it was the stuffed friend, Baboo. (Cam’s name for his little red-white-and-blue doggie.) We laughed, we had fun, we hugged (Cam wanted two hugs..) and we prayed together for our family.

That was another moment. (After which Cam wanted another hug…)

Days are full of moments. Some are good, some are “eh”, and some are pretty bad (or really bad). I feel like today kinda had all of those for us. Maybe most days do. Sometimes we get tricked into focusing on the bad moments though and we miss the little good ones that are still there, or can be there if and when we look for them.

They’re there. They were for us tonight.

Keep your heart and mind and eyes fixed on Jesus, and he’ll show you the moments. He’s in the moments, actually. All of them.

And if we know that—and live that—that is what makes them special.