Category Archives: Raising Boys

R.A.Dickey, Knuckleballs, and Marriage

Cy Young Award winner and knuckleball pitching ace R. A. Dickey has recently shared on 60 Minutes and in his recent book about his exposure to alcoholism, sexual abuse, and infidelity.  He inspires those who seek to be authentic in marriage and life. (Reposted from September 2012)

barbie-ken-wedding-1Every detail of even a simple wedding is painstakingly planned and executed. Attire, flowers, and music are selected with care.  Grown men and women practice walking in and out, under the watchful eye of the wedding director. There is no room for spontaneity or surprise.

Unless, of course, you happen to be me, and just as vows are to be exchanged a 240-pound groomsman locks his knees and crashes to the floor in a dead faint.

Though I was not pleased at the time, that event was probably the best part of the whole ceremony. We could have skipped the homily and taken this message from wedding to marriage:  no matter how carefully you prepare and plan, things are never perfect, something is bound to go wrong, and it just might be, as my grandmother would say “in front of God and everybody.”   So, get over it!  We couldn’t even pull off a perfect wedding, let alone a perfect marriage.

So often though, in weddings and marriages, we go to great expense and effort to promote the illusion that everything is perfect, or even that everything is “just fine”, when in reality it isn’t.  We struggle and keep our distance from people at work, in the neighborhood and at church, not wanting to be found out, not even by our pastor, perhaps especially by our pastor.

We hold it together, looking good on the outside, until everything crashes to the ground.  We worry more about our reputation than our marriage. We aren’t willing to be authentic.

It is understandable that we do this. Despite the popularity of reality TV, most of us “nice” people would rather not air our dirty laundry.  Out of respect for our spouses and marriages, we don’t want to air their dirty laundry either.  Idle chatter about a spouse can violate trust and do grave harm to the marriage.

But sometimes there are things that simply must be addressed, and we cannot let our concerns about what others think keep us from confronting our problems. If we stay quiet, attempting to maintain the illusion of a perfect marriage, we shut ourselves off from the help we need.

And we live lives of quiet desperation.

We wrestle with private sin, flirtations, and dalliances that are not content to stay small and unobtrusive.  We battle alone, not wanting to reveal our weakness to pastors and friends who could provide accountability and guidance.

Our marriages are starving to death from lack of the physical intimacy that feeds the marriage, and we are too embarrassed or prideful to get help from doctors, counselors, or even wise and discreet friends.

Some of us throw ourselves into work, volunteering, or obsessing over our children’s activities and accomplishments and build a cocoon of busyness that shields us from confronting a lifeless marriage.

Others may seek to numb or escape troubles at home with eating, alcohol, or even pornographic novels, astoundingly marketed to “mainstream” women, which have singlehandedly lifted the stock price of Barnes and Noble.

We conceal our shame and hide, imprisoned in struggling marriages, because in our core we really don’t believe things can get better.  Some of us haven’t heard of the power and promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Others have heard but live as it we don’t really believe it.

We fear the truth, but the Bible tells us that the truth will make us free.  The truth may be at odds with a good reputation or the illusion of a perfect marriage. The truth might disappoint.

The truth might bring shame upon us in the eyes of the world,  but there is freedom and hope in truth.

dickey.book1In Wherever I Wind Up, a book that has shaken the little bubble in which I live in Nashville, Tennessee, former hometown hero and current Blue Jays knuckleball pitching ace R.A. Dickey has opened up about the alcoholism, sexual abuse and infidelity that has affected his life.

Born into a local family, which has, like most families, a mix of the struggling and the highly successful, his childhood included exposure to alcoholism from within his family and sexual abuse from outside the family.  He married into another well-known local family, one that appears to be just about as perfect as a family can be.

He tells the improbable and inspiring story of his slow rise to the top of Major League baseball.  And he also shares, perhaps most surprisingly of all, how he and his wife fought together with the help of Christian counselors, friends, and pastors for the survival of their marriage after his infidelity.

People with his background, in Nashville, Tennessee, just don’t write tell-all books.

Not only is it a rarity in the proper circles of Nashville, but prominent men and their wives, in loving marriages anywhere that have survived previously unrevealed or even little-known infidelity just don’t include it in books.

But he did.  And he did it because he doesn’t fear the truth.  And he doesn’t fear the truth because he knows the real power and strength of the Gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ is the King, that He has defeated sin, and that through Him we may live fearlessly.

Although R.A. attended the same high school that my boys attend, I don’t know R.A. and his wife personally. I do, however, know members of each of their extended families.   They are all energetic, funny, and bold.  They live zestfully and aggressively, and seek to honor God in their lives.  Theirs is a gritty and manly faith, a faith that recognizes strength when it sees it.

They understand the truth.  We should never be surprised at our own sin or at the sin of others.  Given the right circumstances and temptations we could be vulnerable to commit all sorts of sin.

But, that is not the whole story.  We also have been redeemed.  Through our union with Christ we have the power to triumph over temptation.

And, when we fall, we know that there is always a way forward – a well-worn path through repentance, confession, forgiveness, restoration and hope. 

 R. A. Dickey has been willing to walk down this path in front of us, telling the hard truth, showing by his example the power of the Gospel to redeem a man and restore a marriage. We don’t have to continue to hide, in service to the idol of a good reputation.

Dickey subtitled his book My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball.

I’d say he is making good progress on all three.

Last fall R.A. Dickey was given the Cy Young Award for the top pitcher in the National League and was earlier awarded the prestigious Branch Rickey Award for humanitarian service.  His book Wherever I Wind Up is available here from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter here.

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Talking to Boys about Girls

Talking boy helloFour times I heard the doctor say “It’s a boy!”  When Owen – the last – was born Andrew suggested that we trade him in for a girl.  He thought we already had enough boys.

I love having all boys, although at times I have wondered if they were at a disadvantage not having a sister. I worried that girls would be these puzzling and mysterious creatures.  Our choice of an all boys’ school for them added to my concern.

As with most things, I should not have worried.  Girls are puzzling and mysterious creatures, but that doesn’t seem to bother my boys in the least.  Thanks to church youth groups and two near-by girls’ schools, the boys have had plenty of interactions with girls.

In fact, it might be a good thing if girls were a bit more puzzling to my youngest.  After his first 7th grade social at a girls’ school, Owen came home saying “Mom, George and I were the bridge.”   He explained, “All the guys were afraid to talk to the girls.  George (another gregarious 4th child) and I would just go over to a group of girls Continue reading

War and Peas

strive mightilyA stunning new dining hall at my sons’ school features this quote from Shakespeare engraved in stone high on the front wall:  “Strive Mightily, but Eat and Drink as Friends.”  It is an appropriate quote for a school where the competition and camaraderie are strong threads knitting together a community that spans generations.

But sadly, all too often parents and children “strive mightily” at the family dinner table, instead of “eating and drinking as friends.”  Misguided efforts at control disrupt precious family fellowship.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I am not one to just take the easy way out.  In fact, sometimes I think I approached parenting with the motto “There must be a harder way!“ as if the hardest way was always the best way.  No pain meds during labor, four sons in 5.5 years, cloth diapers, homeschooling – I did what I thought best for my children, even if it was hard.   Hard is not bad, just hard.

But in some areas, it seems that my husband and I took paths that were much easier than those chosen by many of our friends.  And we didn’t do it because it was easy, but because we thought it best.

Here is how we handled eating.  This worked well for us. Continue reading

On Making Mistakes

baby_suitcaseOwen was 8.  His brother’s friend was 14. We were all in the car driving to the lake for the weekend.  The friend called his mom.  “Did you remember to pack my contact lens solution?”  “You didn’t!  Mom, you always forget that!”

I looked at Owen in the rearview mirror.  He was staring at the friend with a look of serious concern.  Once the friend was off the phone he asked, incredulously, “Did your mom pack your suitcase?”

“Not very well!” the friend replied.  Owen began to giggle. “My mom has never packed my suitcase!”  Although this was not completely true, Owen had never known a day that he did not pack his own suitcase.

The youngest of 4 boys, Owen has always thought he was as old and as capable as his brothers.  Early on, I would give the older boys written lists of items to pack for trips. Owen could not yet read, but asked me to draw pictures of what he needed.  Pretty soon he could not be bothered with the list and just made his own packing selections.  Admittedly, he has a preference for packing light.  Once for a week at the lake house he packed a toothbrush, two swimsuits, a white t-shirt, and his church clothes.  He managed just fine.

Perhaps it was the capitulation of an overwhelmed mom, Continue reading

A Pearl of Great Price

I awaken and am immediately struck by the silence . . . the complete stillness.  I breathe in the sweet calm of Paradise Valley, Montana. Its name fits.

The western view out my bedside window is of the Gallatin Mountain Range, massive rock faces covered with expanses of white snow, interrupted by bands of deep green pine forest. Even at 8:00 a.m. all I survey is bathed in muted tones of gray as the sun still works its way up from behind the wall of the imposing Absaroka Range to the east.

Early Morning Paradise Valley, MT

The Yellowstone River runs through the property, not 100 yards from my window.  The sides of the river are beginning to freeze.  The only sign of movement in the landscape is the center of the river where the water rushes away, as if trying to escape winter’s grasp, tossing chunks of ice downstream.  The bed is warm, the log cabin cozy, and outside is some number of degrees below zero.

Husband stirs beside me.  What time is church, I ask.  Not until 10, he responds.

That’s good.  Time to figure out the espresso machine downstairs.  (It’s quite a log cabin.)  Let’s go sit by the fire, drink coffee, and watch the sun come up over the mountains.  He agrees.  For once he has time. I have time. Continue reading

A Girl Just Like the Girl

 

kate and dan wedding cakeShe stands in the street next to his open car door, flirting with him, delaying his departure.  He laughs.  She leans in and kisses him and says she knows he needs to go.  She will miss him, she says, and touches his shoulder.

Second son Andrew and I look on together as his grandmother finishes settling her husband of 52 years in to the passenger side of the car.  She tucks his jacket out of the way and tells him that she will be following behind in another car.

They aren’t often separated these days but are driving home from Nashville to Montgomery in two cars driven by my cousins.  They all thought it would be fun to have a girl car and a boy car.

She tells him, teasingly, to behave himself on the ride.  He laughs heartily, saying how could she expect that of his nephew and him without the womenfolk to keep them straight.  She says goodbye and closes his door for him.

Andrew continues to look on, with a faint smile. Continue reading

Climb On, Emmanuel

“Stories allow us to imagine and live momentarily the lives of others.  And thereafter set a different course and perspective for the life we seek to live.”                                                                                                                                Emmanuel Manirakiza

I hesitated to post this because it makes everything I write seem silly in comparison. But it is a story that must be told.

Through the generosity of the Morehead-Cain Scholars Program, my second son, Andrew, was able to work at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa this past summer.  While there he met Emmanuel Manirakiza.

This is Emmanuel’s story.

Another ALA student, Andrew, and Emmanuel Manirakiza.

Emmanuel Manirakiza: Uphill Climb

Originally written and posted by Andrew Powell at APatALA on May 31, 2012

I have a new friend, and his name is Emmanuel Reed Manirakiza. Last week, I was fortunate enough to hear a bit of his life story, as he spoke in front of African Leadership Academy. A small, smiling boy from Rwanda stood before a group of 200, but for ten minutes, the room felt almost empty, as if Emmanuel and I were the only two there.

I did not know a group of 17-19 year olds could pay such reverence and respect to one of their peers. Continue reading