2014: The Year of Fun Numbers

happy-birthday-girls

We are rounding out the two weeks on the calendar that we call “Birthday Season” here. All three of our girls were born within two weeks of each other. (Two weeks and a day during leap years.) Strangely, they also fall chronologically in age order: Kirstie’s first, then Julia, then Emma.

It’s a fun, full, frenetic two weeks!

Do you remember as a kid looking forward to “big” birthdays? Every birthday is fun when you’re very young, but certain ones, like, turning ten were fun, because your age took up two places—double digits!—and of course it was fun to reach thirteen, then being able to claim the title “teenager”. Special years followed quickly with sixteen meaning you can drive (fifteen in some places!), seventeen and eighteen, twenty, twenty-one… they’re all fun!

Of course, strangely enough, as the birthdays keep coming, usually, rather than looking forward to and celebrating the “big” birthdays, most tend to begin downplaying (or completely ignoring) them. You know, the ones that end in “oh”.

This year in the Campbell home, five of the eight people will be celebrating “big” birthdays! Somehow, 2014 is a magic year for us. Perhaps it’s because the year ends in four, Jen’s favorite number? 🙂

The first to celebrate was our oldest daughter, Kirsten, who recently joined the double-digit club. Ten years old! She’s quite glad to be the elder statesmen of the female children in the Campbell home.

Next up will be Alex. He will be a teenager this coming October. Teenager?! Crazy. Alex is such a fun person, it’s hard to believe that he’ll be thirteen. He’s much more of a “kid” than his older brother when he entered his teens. But who knows what the next seven months will do to our second son. Deeper voice? Bigger muscles? OR… just the same, fun-loving, fun-making Alex, with a ‘teen’ at the end of his age?

After Alex, the next “big” days belong to Mom & Dad. Both of us being born in a year that ends in four will be celebrating an age that ends in zero this calendar year—40! I think I can recall, perhaps as a teenager myself, looking ahead to the year I would turn forty. It seemed quite distant. Silly, even. Now that time has slowly brought me here, with all that has been part of those decades, I actually embrace the official entry into my fourth decade. (In some ways I already feel like I’m there!) Jen may feel slightly differently, but we’ll both begin checking the 40s demographic boxes by this fall!

Rounding out the “big” year celebrations in 2014 is our oldest son, Ian. Born in 1998, this boy will be giddy on Christmas morning as he’ll wake up a sixteen-year-old! He can’t wait to be a driver, but he’ll have to wait until the 26th, since I’m sure the DMV will not be open on the 25th. 🙂 I’m excited for Ian. He’s a good kid, and we’ll be celebrating this fun milestone marker in his life for that day and probably the week or so after. (AND, we’ll see what it’s like to RIDE in the car that your son is driving. Yikes? Or, Awesome! … we’ll see!)

So, twenty-fourteen has the markings of a banner year for the Campbell family. Who knows what life will bring along the way, but if God gives us breath through all of these days ahead, we’ll be celebrating the passing of time on all these “big” days.

Do you have big days coming up this year? Enjoy! And celebrate the life God gives you. Each day is definitely special, and worth celebration.

Some numbers are just more fun than others. 🙂

Winter Olympics

winter-olympics

The Winter Olympics are a big deal in the Campbell home. So much of a big deal that we even called up Time Warner Cable and purchased a television package so that we wouldn’t miss any part of it.1

Each of us has a different favorite, but we do watch pretty much every event. (Even things like biathlon and cross country events, and figure skating! OK, that was a low blow… the girls in the Campbell home love figure skating events the most, and didn’t miss any of them, I don’t think!)

We are a hockey family, so we watched almost every minute of almost every game. (It’s true!) And a good friend of mine is a big fan of curling, so that was regularly on our screens as well, both men’s and women’s curling. (Both US teams had a poor showing, but the others were fun to watch.) I remember watching curling matches weekly on the CBC when I was a lad, living just outside Buffalo (and thus, Canada). It’s big all year round in Canada.2

Speaking of our northern neighbors, they ousted our men’s AND women’s hockey teams. They are on our naughty list for sure… 🙂

I’m not sure if it’s just because I love cold weather, and snow, and ice, or if I enjoy the Winter Olympics more simply because they are the less popular of the two Olympic games,3 but it’s a fact: I love the Winter Olympics! Already looking forward to the next games!

What’s your favorite Winter Olympic sport? Which was most fun to watch this time around, 2014? Are there any you absolutely detest and refuse to watch?

Time to pack up the cable box again till 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea! 🙂

  1. The TV package will be removed again this coming week, since the Olympics are done. We will probably sign up again in four years!
  2. Ian wrote a great interview article for our family website this past week. He interviewed the friend mentioned above about his curling experiences. Nice work, Ian!
  3. It really could be this. I’m kinda weird, and I really, really, REALLY don’t like following the crowd. That could be why curling appeals to me, too?

Shortage of Time

Shortage of Time

I feel like a broken record sometimes.

No matter how many years (or decades) I have traveled the solar circuit… I feel like I keep learning the same lessons.

One of those is this: we have a limited time here—so make the most of it.

This is not a “rah-rah” post intended to inspire you to some unimagined greatness. But I do hope that, like me, you’ll be reminded that somethings are not worth fretting over.

Some things are.

It’s not so much that fretting, worrying, bothering, troubling ever does any good. All of that originates with fear. Fear of losing, fear of changing, fear of any bad that might come.

Not that it’s bad to concern ourselves with some things. Things like your kids who are growing up, your spouse who misses precious time with you, your parents who are aging, close friends with whom you’ve inadvertently lost contact… at least, you think it was inadvertent.

There may even be some dream, begun way back with your earliest memories, that the relentless rush of life and obligations has pushed aside.

We have a limited time. It is certain that one day—we don’t know when—our time here will be done.

So live.

Dream. Love. Enjoy. Experience. Now is the time.

What got me thinking about this again was not just our friends who are dealing with stage four cancer, nor any news of sudden, unexpected death of anyone close to me. Nor was it the frustrations of financial finagling that we are caught up in again (for what seems like now far too long).

It was more the words of my daughter, commenting more often lately that “all [you] ever do is work, Dad!” Her heart is longing to connect with mine. (And we do connect, but she wants more.)

It was even thoughts of a life that I have often thought of pursuing, but always turned aside from because of the demands and obligations of life. But I am recently reminded: truly, if you want something to happen… you must simply do it.

And then there’s our son. The first person to transform me from son to father. He’s fifteen, going on twenty-five. We butt heads now and then—a strong Campbell trait—but I admire him more than clash with him. It’s just fun to root him on in his various endeavors: all-star goalie, aspiring novelist, farmer, mechanic, among others.

Sometimes reality knocks loudly enough and I am reminded that this current season is likely ending soon.

Before we blink, our son will be moving on—his adult life is nearer than I can really understand. He’s ready now to do something—anything—with all that he is learning. Then, who knows? Wife… kids… I was only 24 when Ian was born.

But we’re not there yet.

And I’m brought back to where I started. Reminded again of things already learned. Live now, today. Don’t miss it.

Are you missing your life for want of whatever is next, or seems to be missing? Sometimes I focus on those.

This week, I have work to do, and life to balance… but I don’t want to miss my life while I’m doing those things.

Like you, I have a shortage of time. I don’t know when the end will come, but I do know that it will.

Since it has not yet come… Let’s choose to live now, as best as we are able.

[ThisDay] Christianity, or Jesus? (Aren’t They the Same?)

January 22nd in GregsHead history was slightly more difficult to whittle down than some of the other days. It was not due to volume, though—only five posts. Four of the five posts are worth reading (the other is worth it if you are using WordPress for blogging…) but of the six options, I selected the article below for today’s re-reading. Please enjoy this little anecdote from a dinner conversation just last January. Good theological discussion!

Christianity, or Jesus? (Aren’t They the Same?)

January 22nd, 2013

Our family is currently making our way through the book of Luke together. We’re taking our time, but I do enjoy reading in larger chunks, so we will often read what might be the subject of an entire series of sermons in one sitting.

Tonight, we read through the fifteenth chapter: the three stories of lost and found.

Though we’d often read more than that, it’s such a good three-part story—with the most famous, the Prodigal Son story at the end—that I thought it would be nice to stop and discuss.

The kids are reading and learning about “unreached people groups” with Mom during the school days, and both of the older boys picked up on the “lost” theme that Jesus’ stories held.

When I asked what everyone heard in Jesus’ stories, Ian replied first, “I think it shows that God cares about every single person: if even one in a thousand is lost, there’s a celebration when he realizes he’s wrong and returns to God.”

“Yep. So right, Ian.” I affirmed.

Alex chimed in next, “Or, like if one person in the 10 million in Japan who are buddhists or other things turn to Christianity. It’s like that, even.”

I smiled and affirmed Alex’s insightful answer, too. But something didn’t sit right with me, the way he had phrased that answer.

Ian and Mom both explained what they had been studying—unreached people groups—and I realized what it was that bothered me: the lost returning home story is not about conversions to Christianity, it’s about the Good News that Jesus is life and nothing else.

I tried to lovingly expand on that thought to Alex, but I guess maybe it didn’t come out quite right. Jen didn’t think I was saying it correctly, and by offering further instruction at that time, kinda squashed Alex.

jesus-christ-in-stained-glassAnd, honestly, she doesn’t really agree with my instruction, that Christianity is not the same as Jesus.

I told Alex that the somewhat subtle distinction between someone “turning to Christianity” and someone meeting Jesus (The One true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent) are often, even usually very different things.

One is a religion. Plain and simple, Christianity is not in the Bible. (Really! It’s true!) In this sense, Christianity is no different than Islam, Buddhism, Hindu, and so on. Jesus never talked about establishing a religion (though he did mention building the Church) and I can’t think of anywhere that the word “Christianity” or “Christendom” can be found on the pages of Scripture. (Though other people called the Church, “Christians”—Acts 11, and Acts 26—the only other occurrence of the word is in 1 Peter 4:16.)

Returning to a loving Father is a different story. Realizing our need to be connected to the Vine; understanding the limitless, boundless love that God has for us, wanting from before the foundation of the world to adopt us as his own children; understanding how the cross restores our friendship with God by destroying sin and death and shame once and for all…

That’s a different story. (And doesn’t “sign you up” for anything.)

Now, I’m certainly painting with too broad a brush right now. Firstly, only a chapter or two before, Jesus addressed his disciples and the crowds following him, making sure they understood the cost of being his disciple. The cost is… everything. He said we need to be willing to give up everything (even family, wealth/possessions, a home), even our own life.

But the key is, nothing else matters outside of his Life. Nothing.

And that’s the point. Converting to a religion often satisfies our own accomplishable goals and benchmarks. There are “measurables” with Christianity. You can check things off like, reading your Bible, or having quiet time, joining a prayer group, or some other “small group”, going to services, volunteering for a ministry… or five ministries. All of those things can become “feathers” in our caps.

Jesus asks us to volunteer to be last, though. To not be noticed. To give up our dreams, turn the other cheek… all of that. And all because there is nothing we need or could ever want more than to know him.

Paul knew that, and wrote:

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ. —Phil 3:8

Honestly, I could be convinced that I’m straining out gnats here. OR, I could be convinced that this is the pivotal, most important, fundamental part of the Gospel: Jesus matters.

It’s him. And nothing else. Not a religion (Christianity), not a building or an organization (First Christian Church of Wherever), and not even a set of benchmarks that you set up for yourself to take your spiritual temperature.

Do you trust him? Then you’re in. And your life will never be the same. If you believe that Jesus is Immanuel, God made flesh, the Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life… buckle up!

That might be the same to you as “Christianity”, and if that’s the case, I’m really glad. My experience has been different. We people are good at maintaining control, and I think Jesus wants—longs for—us to relinquish that. Most often systems with fancy names—Christianity—don’t allow any room for that to happen, and even worse, they keep us in the “performance” mindset, where we’re always trying to “do better… for God, of course…

But Jesus’ words were always simply, “Follow me.”

I think it might really be that simple.

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 22nd

  1. I’d really recommend reading this post, too, if you’ve got the time. It was a very close second!

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.

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.

The Monday Night Flag Football League

ROCHESTER, NY – The MNFFL is a flag football league comprised mostly of home-schooled children (though not exclusively so) that plays its six-game season on Monday nights under the approaching-autumn skies of western New York State.

Begun by the enterprising youngster, Alex Campbell (then aged ten), it is entering its second season, and boasting nearly fifty percent more players.

MNFFL 2013 Season Begins

“We’re so excited for this season,” says the now eleven-year-old Campbell. “We have a new team, some new logos, and plenty of new players. I think we learned a lot from that first season, too, so we’re much more prepared for all the details that need to be taken care of as we start this year.”

The details include securing a field big enough for two flag football fields, which are a little smaller than a full-sized football field, and this year, room for the younger siblings to play their own game on the side during game nights. The fields are measured out at thirty-five yards wide, by seventy yards long. (Twenty of those yards being the two ten-yard end zones.) The “Youngers” field (as it is being called) will be a bit smaller, using whatever space is available.

Flag football is a bit tougher than you might think. In tackle football, the object is simple: get the man with the ball down on the ground. In touch, it’s in some ways easier, but there are all sorts of qualms and squabbles over whether or not the player was touched, and/or if it was one hand or two. It can get ugly.

The difficult part of flag football is that, in order to end the play and get the player “down”, you have to grab the flag. If you have not done this before for yourself, you might find it is much more difficult—that the flag is much more elusive—than you might think!

MNFFL Inaugural Season, 2012

The players range in age from ten to seventeen, both boys and girls, and many levels of skill—but one level of competition: competitive! The six-game season culminates with a Championship Day—the first Saturday in October—with the teams playing as they are seeded: 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3, based on the regular season records.

The champions take home individual trophies with their name, their team name, and the 2013 MNFFL Champions inscribed on their plaque.

Last year the Heat Lightning were the champions in a fiercely-fought championship game. Tempers flared during the contest, but there were genuine congratulatory remarks and high fives after the game was over. True sportsmanship.

With a fairly small roster of players, this league is still in its infancy, but there is much promise for the future. The league plans to expand to at least six teams next year, anticipating another fifty percent growth in membership. If the growth is larger, there is room for four more teams, which would necessitate two conferences.

“It’s really exciting,” Campbell admits, “This league was just something I sort of dreamed up in my head. I started creating the logos, and thinking of who I’d put on what team. My Dad helped me out a bit, and here we are, playing our second season. It’s really almost unbelievable!”

Indeed it is. Amazing what you can do when you aren’t limited by thinking about what you can’t do.

This little flag football league in Upstate New York is one more proof of that.

MNFFL - Good, competitive flag football