Being a dad can be the most rewarding thing in the world. There are those times when your heart is so full you don’t think it will hold anymore. This past weekend I had such a time. Although my fiftieth birthday is still a few days away we celebrated over the weekend because our three out-of-town kids were here over their Spring Break. We had a really wonderful dinner at home and retold some funny stories from the kids’ childhood. It was a lot of fun. After dinner our kids brought out some birthday gifts. Jacque (my wife) had told them to be creative, very personal and to not spend much money.

Jessica, our oldest gave me a beautiful scrap book that she had loaded up with stories from her life. On each page she captured a different phase of our life together. Some of the memories were fun and some even a little painful. Each of them express our lives together as father and daughter. Among many other things she said, “I would not be the person I am today without you.” In the back of the book she had written out the words to the song, I Love You, Lord. It’s a song I used to sing to her at bedtime when she was a little girl, and then when she got married I quoted it within the ceremony. It has always been a special song for the two of us. At the bottom of that back page was an envelope and inside was a CD. She and our son Ryan had recorded their own arrangement of the song the night before. Listening to it is just one of those moments for me. It will never get old — go ahead and listen.

Ryan, our fun loving, non-sentimental son (the one who engineered the recording of I Love You Lord, and played drums, keyboards and who knows what else) gave me a card and inside he had written words that I will cherish the rest of my life. While I’m unwilling to share all of them with the world I will proudly say that according to him, I am his hero and inspiration — it doesn’t get any better than that. Along with the card he gave me an N scale, toy train caboose to keep on my desk. He’s always loved trains, and he and I have had some great model train memories over the years. The caboose will remind me of him every time I see it.

My baby girl Aimee made me a beautiful card and mounted it in a floating frame. The card says,

Holds you when you cry, scolds you when you break the rules, shines with pride when you succeed, and has faith in you even when you fail. I love you. Happy 50th.

It summarizes what she knows about me. It will find a special place on my office wall.

Jacque and I are very blessed and proud parents. We’ve got three great kids of our own and two of them have married great kids. Throughout our adult lives people have asked us how we’ve raised such great kids, and while I think the reasons go far beyond this simplistic answer I usually say something like, we spent lots of time together. Much of it around the dinner table sharing the highlights (and sometimes lowlights) from our day, laughing and occasionally crying.

I could keep writing but there’s really no point. God has blessed us and I’m thankful. Turning fifty couldn’t be any better than this

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Have you ever been so shocked by something that you were practically frozen in place and didn’t know what to say. Yesterday after I got home from work Jacque and I were watching the news and catching up on the day when we heard the front door open. That seemed very odd because no one just walks into our house but our kids who live a few miles away and they nearly always call before they drop by. But sure enough when I turned to see who it was there was Jessica. I still didn’t think too much of it, although I wondered why she’d stopped by. Then the, Oops I Crapped My Pants moment: behind Jessica was Aimee, then Ryan and then Claire. All of them standing there with wide grins on their faces, having just flown in from Idaho to surprise Dad.

I was stunned and pretty much totally speechless because I was so shocked. I was full of questions that wouldn’t come out and I couldn’t put all of the pieces together. I was suddenly feeling older than the fifty years they’d come home to celebrate. After a long round of hugs, followed by more stunned silence I figured out my wife Jacque was in on the whole thing. In fact, she’d been planning it since before Christmas. I had no idea any of this was happening. Many other people knee but not me. In fact, most of the people I work with knew and they were able to keep quiet. Not a word, not a even a twitter!

As I went to bed last night I realized how blessed I was to have a wife who would plan such a great surprise — I could not have a better wife than Jacque. I also realized that I had five really amazing kids that I was very proud of and they were all with me to celebrate a milestone in life. Then I remembered Ryan and Claire were down the hallway in Ryan’s old bedroom, sleeping together under my roof for the first time since they got married in December, and Oops, I Crapped My Pants all over again! 

Welcome Home Kids — I love you!

Happy new year! It seems like such a long time since my last post. With so much happening during the month that has passed I’m almost tempted to do a recap, but I’ll refrain. The most significant thing during this last month was the marriage of our son to Claire Seward. The wedding required us to journey to Idaho and many months ago we made the decision to drive the 1425 miles from our home in Olathe KS to the bride’s hometown of Nampa ID. A decision that made good sense when we made it last July, however let me encourage you to never drive across Wyoming (or most any northern state) in the winter. I’ll avoid the details but suffice it to say there was a single 50 mile stretch that took 4 hours to cover.

As with any road trip there was plenty of time for thought and in spite of the white knuckle periods this trip was no exception. As a result of those streams of consciousness I have many things I’ll be writing about in upcoming posts. Some of these streams will flow in the form of questions and others will be more statement or belief driven. Here’s a sneek peek:

 

  • Are God’s love and His forgiveness separate from one another?
  • The mantle of the in-law
  • Scripture and theology: Which one grows out of the other?
  • We tend to define God by our ability to understand Him
  • The forgiving power of the cross of Christ
  • Christianity: With or without hoops
  • Boutique churches
  • Why do we gather each week for a service of worship?
  • How do our personalities impact our preferences when it comes to church attendance?
  • Can too many choices be a bad thing?

Well, there’s a sampling. It should be a fun journey to flesh-out these thoughts and others in the coming weeks. I hope you had a great holiday season and were able to spend at least some of it with people you love and cherish.

Last night we celebrated the birthday of our oldest daughter Jessica. As she and I walked toward the restaurant I put my arm around her shoulder and we both agreed how difficult it was to believe she was 25 years old. We laughed about her being a quarter century and how in a few months I would hit the half century mark in my life. Sitting at the table later, after enjoying great food and drink, we relaxed and talked about Jessica’s life. She commented on how old she was getting and Jacque and I laughed, silently understanding how much life and learning she still had in front of her.  

Also on my mind was the upcoming wedding of our son Ryan and how young he is. How can a 21 year old be ready for all that marriage is going to require of him? I’m not sure that matters at this point however. The simple fact is that he’s getting married, ready or not. I’m not sure I was ready at 22, but those were different times as I’ve frequently tried to convince myself — and our kids.

And then there’s our little baby Aimee who just turned 20 last week. How does this happen? I remember when all of them were so dependent on us for everything. Truth is they’re still dependent on us, just not as much as they once were. They still want our advice and more importantly our love. It seems like the older I get the more I want them close by. Not to protect them or rescue them, now I just want to enjoy life with them. I want to experience the routine with them. I want to enjoy a relationship with them that doesn’t include asking if they’ve done their homework or what time they got in last night. I want to be an adult with them. At their ages it now seems possible to be both friend and father. That’s what I want!

Last night my older brother was in town — the one who shoots the dorky home videos complete with his on-air style commentary — and he decided it was time to show us some classic Cork family Christmas footage. I have to admit I wasn’t looking forward to enduring the combination of embarrassing imagery and motion sickness (my brother doesn’t have much of a steady hand when it comes to videography). However, in spite of bad hair and dated fashion I found myself enjoying the reliving of rich moments from the Christmas of 1994.

That particular Christmas Jacque and I were leading Christmas Eve worship at a young church we were a part of and all three of our children played key roles in the service. So last night we saw a 7 year old Aimee, minus her 2 front teeth reading a rather lengthy Christmas story, a 9 year old Ryan singing Silent Night (his first public solo) with a very high voice. We also enjoyed hearing Jessica play flute on Away in a Manger, which was a duet with me on trumpet. This was especially entertaining because of the looks Jessica shot me when I made mistakes — she still gives those same looks.

We also watched the entire Cork family in gift-opening action Christmas morning, and then around the dinner table that afternoon. As I watched our dad praying before Christmas dinner I was reminded of the open heart surgery he had undergone just weeks before and how thankful we were to have him with us then, and still today nearly 13 years later. I was reminded of how much our children have changed since then yet how similar they remain.

At that moldable time in their lives we poured as much of ourselves into them as possible. We exposed them to things we felt were important, involved them in a variety of experiences, including being in front of people as they were that Christmas Eve in ‘94. Why? Because our job was to prepare them for the future. Now that they’re old enough to make their own choices and involve themselves in the things they find most appropriate, all three of them continue to place ministry related service as a priority in their lives. It’s what they saw modeled as they were growing up so it just comes naturally to them.

I’m sorry if this trip down memory lane was boring, but my heart got pretty full last night as I reflected on family life, and I couldn’t help myself.