Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Debrief

Thanks to the support of my friends and family and by the grace of God, I was able to travel halfway around the world to a region in central Africa that few ever get to see.

I want to start by apologizing for not having published this debrief sooner, but many of you are aware of the family crisis that was stirred up right before we returned from the trip. I have had little time to recoup or be able to process all of the incredible things God showed me into a presentable format. Before I left, my wife handed me a little notebook to take notes or jot thoughts down in. I filled just over half of it with one-liners to help me remember names and places, stories I heard and things I witnessed. It was a truly overwhelming experience and I wanted to do it justice. I began writing it all out but realized that might be more than what people actually want to hear so I will begin by offering this general letter and if you want to know more, I will start posting those soon for you to read.
When we heard we were invited, I was fairly certain that things would not work out in time for the trip. Finances, passports, visas, immunizations, tickets, and the list goes on. I have participated in mission trips before but this was a beast I was unfamiliar with. We were originally planning on joining a group already scheduled to go and as it turns out, we were the only ones that were allowed visas. The money came in just as we needed it to and all the pieces fit together to reveal to us God wanted us there for sure.

Accommodations in Uganda
Our first day in Africa, I walked out of my room to take it all in. I smelled the air and listened to the noises of the surrounding village. I looked around at all the plants and bugs and watched the monkeys in the trees jump around and chase each other. I realized in that moment that I knew nothing about anything. Everything around me was unfamiliar and new. As a type-A person, I had a hard time turning my brain off as it tried to fill in an answer to all of the questions it was asking itself, but I was thankful I had my Dad with me to help with that. Since he has been to this part of the world many times, he was a great source of wisdom for me and I leaned on him heavily for advice.

When I say everything was different, I mean everything. There are equivalents to almost everything but it just wasn’t the same. It took some time to adjust and right when I was feeling comfortable, we moved to a different area. When we first flew in we landed in Uganda which has a lot of tourists and a lot of luxuries available should one require. After a day in there, we traveled via MAF flight to Bunia, DRC. Flying over the uninhabited jungle in a small, single-engine plane, you appreciate the pilot briefing you where the emergency water supply and radio are located before takeoff.

Bunia Airport
When we land, my first impression of the DRC is that everyone is trying their best with what they have but still barely getting by. It feels like everything is operating on an edge and one wrong move will send you over.  We were greeted by Kenneth and Mama Rebecca, two very welcome smiling faces after having just gone through customs. While we are there, we see the new Eden Mission HQ building in Bunia and a job training taking place for ladies wanting to learn more about cooking healthy meals on a budget, a motorcycle repair class for the men, and a combined group of eager adults learning the art of tailoring. They were so excited for the chance to learn a new skill and to be included in the ministry that Eden provides for their families. It was an honor to meet them and pray with them.

Eden Mission's old building now used for hosting classes
The next day we began a two-day course for pastors and their wives on Christian life coaching. It has been a long time since I required a translator and I was at first nervous the ideas were not being conveyed, but once the concept was understood they were excited for the chance to use the tools in their congregations. The second day our attendance number almost tripled once the word got out about what and how we were teaching. It was such a blessing to see their faces light up as they received their certificates. We were encouraged by several pastors that would come up to us during breaks and tell us how excited they were to finally have the tools they needed to reach their people and how special it was for us to be teaching together as father and son.

Bunia at sunset

Just as we were becoming adjusted to life in Bunia, we were preparing to journey to an outlying mining village of Mongbwalu. Again we were pushed out of our already adjusted comfort zones to an even further degree. Kenneth reminded us in the car of Acts 1:8, “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Where we are going”, he said, “is the end of the earth. There is nothing beyond here.” When we arrived it was clear we had taken a step back again in terms of development and level of poverty. Our hotel was nice, but water and power were only a maybe and we would be supplying our own food for a couple of days. It was actually nice to be as secluded from the outside world as we were and to be as dependent on God as we needed to be. Each step of the journey He made His way known to us and He cleared the path for us in miraculous ways.

In Mongbwalu, we were scheduled to teach another two-day seminar for pastors and their wives only this one was focused on marriage and ministry. A couple of the pastors that attended our previous course in Bunia were also teaching and it was so neat to see them using what we had just taught being used already in their ministries. We had around thirty couples the first day and again, on day two, we almost tripled that number as we filled almost every seat in the hall where we were meeting. It was a powerful time of encouragement as we built up these pastors. As far out as they are, they tend to feel alone in their ministry and forgotten by other believers but they were able to leave the seminar feeling refreshed and filled. For many of them, it was the first time they had met some of the other pastors in the area so it was also a great time for them to network and connect.

Marriage and Ministry Conference, Mongbwalu
While parts of the conference were taking place, I was invited to do some outreach with other members of our team. We traveled to the local hospital and I still struggle to describe this place. What is happening there should not be happening anywhere. The structure was built in the 1930’s and not much has been done to improve or repair it. But again, they are doing the best they can with what they have and when we met with the hospital director, he was so encouraged by what the ministry was doing for families and the training we were offering to couples, he came to the afternoon session with his wife when his shift was over.

We also met with a couple of women, one a widow and one a single mom of four, whose stores were so full of hopelessness and despair. They attend a local church that was unable to provide them with any support outside of praying for them and connecting them to the mission. We took some time to pray with them and were able to offer them some food as an encouragement and remind them they are not alone.

We headed back to Bunia and felt like kings as we plugged our phones in and drank cold water. The next day, we had the unique opportunity to preach at some of the churches in the area. We thought we would be going together but Sunday morning we discovered we would be preaching in different churches. I found myself in a small stick and mud building filled with the typical plastic chairs and a hundred voices shouting praises to God. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to share until God reminded me to empower them. I shared how I am nothing without the gospel and how God can use them to do great things. I reminded them that they have a mission to share the gospel with their friends and family and I reminded them there are people around the world praying for them.

Looking back, that was a huge part of our mission on this trip; to remind the people living there and doing ministry there that they are not forgotten. There is a world of fellow believers that share in the work and that care about their corner of the world. We would remind them that by you offering your prayer and support to us to travel, what you were saying is that they matter. They matter enough for you to send two people to offer some training courses but more importantly to hug them, pray with them, listen to their stories, laugh with them, cry with them, and worship alongside them.


It was a wonderful trip, a challenging trip, and an experience I will never forget. Since I have returned, God has continued to show me that the mission is not over. I have met several more partners and missionaries from MAF based right here in Boise and I have not stopped seeking ways how God will use me. I am not sure what God holds for me in terms of going back or going somewhere else, but I do know that if and when He calls me, I will answer “Yes, Lord”. 

Some of the women practicing life coaching

Of course, wherever he is, my Dad finds the kids

Our pilots on the way back to Uganda




Thursday, September 21, 2017

Legacy

You have only ever given me fond memories and a standard of living life I can only ever wish to achieve. I only know great things about you.

You are a manly man. Serving in the navy, driving truck for several years, and chopping your own firewood on the side of Mount Baker to stoke the heater for church on Sunday mornings. Not to mention you have a pretty sweet beard that I can only admire knowing I will never achieve anything close to it.

You are a handsome man. Whenever anyone has commented on my looks or how much I look like my father or how handsome I might fool people into thinking I am for 3rd grade picture day, I have always said that if I am ever fortunate enough to have even half of my grandpa’s good looks I will have it made. You have always been a picture of strength in my mind and to do it with a gleaming smile and welcoming eyes was something I have long wanted to achieve.

You take care of yourself. Walking every day, eating right, working hard day in and day out. You’ve been strong and healthy and an example of how one should care for themselves. Not just for health’s sake or for vanity or anything, but so you are capable of assisting others when they need it. “Pastor, can you help me move?” Yep, strong enough. “Pastor, can you come help me get my car out of a ditch?” Sure can have the endurance. When someone has needed you to help, you have been not just willing but also able.

You care. About others, about your family, for your wife. You are a caring man. A man who sees people’s problems and reaches out to soothe. You are someone people can talk to because you listen with intent. You are understanding and not judgemental. You seek only the best from the worst of us. You are forgiving and kind. You never made me feel bad. You officiated my first marriage, and I let you down. I want you to know I tried but it hurt me more knowing that you gave your blessing and I couldn’t make it work in the end. Regardless, you never chastised me or scolded me.

You are a godly man. Not perfect and not shy about that, but you are an example of what it looks like to try hard to follow after Him. You worked hard to make changes in your life to reflect the grace you were shown. Your transformation is not complete and there is still work to be done but you have never given up striving for holiness in this world. You study and read the word. You pray and you serve faithfully. You give generously so others can continue the ministry. Doing these things with all your heart. Your example is a bold one and a light that others have been able to follow. You have made your life a reflection for others to see Christ and there is no greater accomplishment.

You are the beginning of our legacy. I do not have a dramatic testimony. I have struggled for years going to camps and Sunday school meetings and church groups where people have amazing transformational tales of God’s hand turning them around and setting them on the right path. My testimony involves my Dad praying with me and then eating macaroni and cheese when I was three. I have recently realized my testimony is not about God’s power to miraculously save but instead a testimony of His faithfulness and forgiveness through life. Because I made the choice to follow Jesus early on, I have a unique part to share in revealing God’s character and how we can rely on Him no matter what. But my story doesn’t start with me. It begins with you. A sinner, kneeling in front of the television with Billy Graham praying his altar call salvation prayer and you choosing Jesus that day. You made the choice before My father was born and because of that, he was brought up in a Christian home. Your influence on him and the example you set, regardless of how good or bad at times, exposed him to the gospel and allowed him the courage to make his own decision and eventually dedicate his life to the ministry. He was familiar enough with the word to share it and be comfortable enough to share it with his kids who then made their own choices to follow Jesus. After I prayed to receive Jesus as my savior, my life did not drastically change and since I was three, I had no bad habit to quit or path really to turn from. But having Jesus as the core of everything we did as a family taught me how to depend on Him for everything. I have not led a perfect life but when I call to Him, He is there. When I ask for forgiveness, He reminds me it is finished. When I find myself lost and needing wisdom, He shows me the way.


The example you have set has made a huge impact on me. You are a man of God whose life choices have allowed me to be the man I am today. I find myself now raising my son in the word and striving to set for him a godly example. I find myself trying to serve and care for my wife in a loving manner. I work hard to provide for my family understanding all things come from God. I serve in my local church and teach the word I have been taught. I copy what my father taught me and his example was you. Both of your examples reflect the one true example to follow and for that I thank you.

You are my hero. I thank God for you and I thank you for staying strong and remaining faithful in your journey with Him. I love you, Grandpa.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Journey to the DRC


The journey starts here!

Thank you for allowing me to share with you about an exciting opportunity I have to join my father, for the first time, on the mission field. In August we will be traveling to the Democratic Republic of Congo while representing Enduring Treasure Ministries and in partnership with a team from Eden Mission based out of Texas. We will be traveling to the area of Bunia, which is in northeastern Congo, not easily reached. It is there we will encourage the people in their spiritual walks and their family’s development. Our goal will be to come alongside and train the Congolese people in building healthy families that love and serve God. As well as doing some manual labor projects in the community to build up the physical church in that area.


Many of the people we will be training, are members of a church that was planted by a man who was first introduced to me a couple years ago named Kenneth Rwego. Upon meeting Kenneth I was immediately struck by the passion he has for the people of Congo and with his willingness to do whatever God has called him to in an effort to serve and reach those most in need. Enduring Treasure Ministries has been in partnership with Kenneth to develop some of the curriculum used by the church he leads, not only for the adults but also specifically designed material for the children that attend. This church is creating a strong pocket of revival in a very dark corner of the world, and God is doing a great work in the hearts and lives of families that have, for too long, felt forgotten.


The Rwego Family

For years Congo has held a very special place in my heart and I find it to be such a great honor for me fulfill a long time desire to not only join my father on this journey but also to stand shoulder to shoulder with these fellow believers and remind them of just how important they are to God. Will you join me in encouraging them?

We are scheduled to leave August 19th and plan on returning on the 30th depending on flight availability in and out of the country. With all expenses considered, it will cost roughly $3500 for me to go. Because I will be taking the time off from work and leaving my wife and our three-year-old at home, I will be unable to carry the cost myself. I will be completely dependent on you and the generosity of His Church to make this happen. If you are able to give financially, you can follow the steps below.

If you are unable to give at this time, that’s ok too! I need prayer partners! I need friends that can give a little bit of time each day to help get me prepared for this trip and for endurance once I arrive. As I mentioned, I will be leaving my son Andrew in my wife Katie’s capable hands, but be praying for them as well as this will be the first time we will have been apart for this long and at this distance. Be praying for wisdom and discernment as we teach and strength as we will be pouring out as much of ourselves into this area as possible while we are there.


Thank you so much for your willingness to help reach the lost and encourage the Church around the globe. I am excited to see how God uses me in this unique experience and I look forward to sharing with the people of Congo how much they mean to you and to God.

Thank you for your consideration and support.


If you would like to send your support via check, you can mail it to:

Enduring Treasure Ministries
P.O. Box 97
St. Peters, MO  63376


Or if you would prefer to make a secure donation online, you can click this link to visit Enduring Treasure Ministries and click the DONATE button on the bottom of the page. In the line marked "special instructions", type, "Joe Cox DRC trip" and the funds will we directed to an account set up just for me on this trip.


 All donations are tax deductible and a receipt can be issued upon request.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Three Favorite Things

This, but with more yelling.
Getting to school was always an adventure for our family. And we have tried every way imaginable to make it easier. Sometimes my parents would drop us off. We took the bus for a while there, which for a shy kid like me was tough to do every day dealing with the scramble for a seat, kids yelling over each other all while the driver was desperately trying to maintain their own sanity. We moved to a neighborhood close to the school when I was in 4th grade and we walked to school most of the time. Then again, it was the midwest, so if it was raining, snowing, too hot or too cold, we would convince Mom or Dad to drop us off. When you have four elementary kids and an infant to tow around it gets complicated. Later when you have one kid going to private school, one in public high school, two in Jr. High, and one in elementary school, it gets a bit crazy.

If you come from a family of several kids like mine or even if your family only had one or two kids, you know there are some days when you have plenty of time and other days when you barely stop before everyone jumps out of the car to make it on time. No matter how late we were running my parents had a rule that was strictly enforced before we exited the vehicle. We had to kiss them goodbye. It did not matter if we were late, we had to kiss them. it didn't matter if other kids were watching, we had to kiss them. it didn't matter if we screamed at each other the whole way there because of some wardrobe choice that wasn't agreed upon, we had to kiss them.

Some days it only fueled the fire of whatever argument was taking place especially if it was something surrounding the ongoing debate on how grown up we were and how we should be allowed to make our own decisions. But on most occasions, it wasn't a big deal. it was something we did because it was expected or because they wanted it. Looking back though it was really so much more than that. It gave us a few seconds to reset before we walked in the doors of our school. It gave us something to hang onto on the days when we didn't feel confident in ourselves among the clicks at school. If we had a bad day or were just feeling down, we could remember that we were loved and that we had a home to go to where that love was unconditional.

More than that, it was a way for us to honor our father and mother. By placing that relationship higher than the possible reactions from friends that might see us or the personal embarrassment one might feel as a seventeen-year-old smooching his dad, we showed with an outward sign of affection, that reaffirmed our parents as primary players in our lives. Every day we would kiss them and they would holler after us as we jumped out of the van, "Remember who you belong to". This was to encourage us to stand out from the crowd and remind us that we represent our parents, our family and that we ultimately belonged to God.

I have recently begun playing a game with my son to encourage him to let me kiss him. He is three and does not have the time or patience any longer to be held or cuddled. So I make him give me my three favorite things; hugs, kisses, and tickles. I get to squeeze him and kiss him quick and get a quick giggle and he knows that he gets to keep playing after he lets me. This has been going on for the last several months and we have both enjoyed the quick reconnect time once or twice a day performing this ritual. A few mornings ago, it really paid off.

It has been snowing record amounts here in Boise so I have been driving him to and from daycare to relieve my wife's stress level a bit. We went through our normal morning routine and when we arrived at his "school", because of the bad weather there were only a handful of other kids. It was eerily quiet when we walked in and the mood was definitely different than the busy chaos that normally dominates the room. We took off his coat and shoes, as is the custom but when I went to leave and say goodbye he stopped me and pulled me aside. "Can I have your three favorite things?" My heart melted. "Of course kiddo!" We hugged and I kissed him on the cheek. I went to tickle him and he smiled but didn't laugh. He was still nervous for the day. I reminded him he needed to be good and that when I was done with work I would pick him up and we can have more time later to play and get tickles. He laughed out loud and marched into class.

Not actually us, but I would be happy to pose if asked.
I almost lost it leaving that day but I knew he was good. We had reset for the day and at the end of everything we would be at home again enjoying each other's company. Probably playing cars or trains. More than likely watching another repeat episode of Paw Patrol. But no matter what we will be doing, he will be doing it knowing he is loved and that he can always come to me for my three favorite things.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Response

Weddings are wonderful events. With flowers and ribbons strung all over the room, people are bustling around trying to make everything perfect. It is a carefully planned chaos that produces an enjoyable experience for everyone in attendance and for two of the people it will be life changing. Up to the last second, there is usually at least one person still tufting this or that arrangement, ensuring every detail is just so. Family and friends begin to arrive wearing their best. Weddings usually transform into an impromptu family reunion and emotions that were already elevated will overflow into hugs and squeals and the occasional cheek pinching from one’s aunt. As the moment approaches, conversations swell and the excitement climbs. The pastor or officiate enters and people start to find their seats for the main event. Men adjust their ties and straighten their jackets for the last time and the women smile and wave at friends from across the room as they smooth out the wrinkles on their laps.

The music strikes up and the conversations begin to die down. The groom and his groomsmen march in single file to the front and center of attention. All of them nervous that they will be the one to faint in front of everybody. But the attention on the front of the room is short lived because everyone there knows what happens next.

Before the miles of tulle were being strung from the rafters and before the guests arrived, the bride was preparing herself. She is not only preparing herself to look composed enough to parade in front of everyone she knows. She is preparing herself for her groom. When those doors open and he sees her there, it will be a moment remembered by both of them for the rest of their lives. She will work to make herself the most beautiful she has ever been. Hair, nails, dress, makeup, something old, new, borrowed, blue and every piece must be perfect. She wants so badly to present herself at her very finest to the person she longs to be with for the rest of her life. She is anxious but confident of the groom’s reaction. He knows her better than anyone else. He has seen her on her best day and has stuck with her through the rough ones. The relationship between them is not determined by her appearance but she desires to impress him nonetheless.

The music swells and the doors swing wide to reveal the bride in all of her splendor. The crowd in attendance rises and stands in reverence. As she steps forward into the light, she locks eyes on the one person that she is there for, the groom. His eyes instantly swell up but he pulls back the tears. He promised he wouldn’t cry but more importantly, he doesn’t want to miss a single second of her procession. She walks slowly as the details of her appearance are taken in by all around her. Her countenance is regal as she glides toward the front of the room. His palms are sweaty as the severe reality strikes him. She is soon to be his and he, hers. The moment they have been waiting weeks, months and in some cases, years has finally arrived.

Weddings are also just an event. It is a public declaration of a personal relationship that has already been established. Nothing changes between the two people meeting on the stage. They came together loving each other and when they leave they will still love each other only now they have a signed piece of paper stating it. They will share their vows to one another out loud in front of everyone declaring the level of commitment they have for the other, but those vows were made long before that moment with a quiet whisper of resolve in their hearts.

The ceremony itself is an outward display of what the two people are promising to each other. It might involve a candle lighting or a rope braiding or a walk together around the altar. In some cases, poems or songs are exchanged together with rings and vows. If you have been to more than one wedding, you have probably noticed some similarities in the service. One or more of three verses from scripture will be read. The officiate will announce several statements that will sound familiar almost to the point where you know what they will say next. The order of services is very similar and if you were to see a picture or watch a video of a wedding taking place, it wouldn’t take you long to know what was happening because weddings, for the most part, all look somewhat the same too. The special part of a wedding is what can not be seen. Two people promising themselves to each other before the people present and before God. The outward display of an inward emotion toward another is the reason we celebrate.

But our celebration takes on an interesting form at a wedding. While everyone one present is excited and hearts are fluttering, we sit still and listen. We watch and we reflect on our own relationships and remember the promises we have made perhaps to the person sitting next to us. As a single person at a wedding, it might cause you to look forward with hope to a similar future with someone special or to look around with contentment at the life you have created for yourself. Tears of happy reflection and quiet joy flow as the vows are repeated. No one shouts. No one stands up and draws the attention to themselves. Although you have been invited to participate, this event is not just about you. It is about all of us sharing in something special.

When we gather to worship, whether it be in song or giving or any other type of corporate worship, the response should be similar. There are places and events that we should absolutely dance and shout for Jesus, but when we gather together we should be mindful of those around us. Perhaps they do not have such a close and familiar relationship with God. Maybe they have never heard, let alone studied, about the spiritual gifts sometimes expressed in church services. We should be taking the time as a body to reflect inwardly on our relationship with God and our commitment to Him. We should be reverent of the members of the body leading us through worship. We should feel welcome to participate not just individually but as a body. We should sing together, give together, pray together, confess together, encourage together. There is a tone of formality that goes along with a church service or a worship time, but that is there as a structure to help guide us to closer worship and eliminate distractions not to box us in.

We are the bride and our focus should be on the bridegroom and the promise we made in our hearts to Him. We have dedicated our lives to Him, and He has given His life for us. Our response to Him should be one of celebration, respect, sincerity, and joy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Lessons Learned


It was the last day of my senior year in high school. I had already met the hours requirement to graduate so I had taken a slew of classes keeping in line with my feelings about my last year here. Advanced American Literature, Weight Lifting, Creative Writing II, Home Economics, and Drama.

I had always experienced severe anxiety when it came to being in front of people, as early on as 2nd grade show and tell, but here I was taking drama. It was a requirement to participate in the school productions and I auditioned like I was supposed to not realizing I would end up a principle player in both an ensemble production and a musical that year. I enjoyed the class and it taught me a lot about what I was capable of and how to be comfortable outside my safe, normal group of friends and how to relax and have fun in front of strangers. This was a set of skills I would use almost everyday, at work, at church, just about everywhere. I learned other valuable lessons there but some of the most important lessons were learned the very last day of class.

Each teacher does their own thing the last week of school. Some want to cram as much last minute knowledge into you to help prepare you for the world ahead of you. Some want to allow you to express yourself while still within the safe confines of a controlled classroom setting. The teachers that have been around long enough understand however, the majority of the student body has really already mentally checked out and doesn't care or appreciate anything to be learned in those last days. My drama teacher understood this better than anyone. He prepared us the day before, we would be learning a new skill we didn't know we had. We rolled our eyes, determined not to be impressed as the bell rang and we all filed out.

When we came back to class the next day, the room was empty. No desk, no chairs, not even the platform we used for practicing our skits. The floor was bare. The only thing remaining was the handful of playbills and posters from previous performances hanging on the wall. We were each given an item to hold. Some had tennis balls, others had hacky sacks, and a handful of us were issued socks filled with sand. "In the next five minutes, if you do what I tell you to do exactly as I tell you, you will all learn how to juggle. We will spend the rest of the class time practicing." We scoffed. How would he do this? Teach all of us? To juggle? Isn't juggling something it takes months for professional clowns to learn? Does he think we are only capable of being clowns?

Unbeknownst to most of us, our teacher was a an avid juggler. He would go to carnivals and amusement parks over the summer and juggle full time. He started us out slowly, showing us how to toss the object back and forth. Once we got comfortable with one, he gave out second items and walked us through the over/under. After about two minutes, we were given a third item and with in the promised five minutes, the entire class was juggling. Soon we were teaming up and tossing things across the room between six of us. He gathered us in a circle and we all juggled together crisscrossing back and forth.

The bell rang and we left class with a strange new ability. Occasionally over the summer, I would pick up some tangerines out of the fruit bowl or grab three rocks off the path and just toss them around. I am still not even close to professional status, but I can juggle just about anything for a little while. Staplers, hatchets, basketballs, you name it.

But juggling was not all I learned on the last day of school. What I learned was I wasn't done learning. If I try something new and practice, I can figure out just about anything. I watched a great teacher take a group of skeptical kids and reveal to them an ability they didn't know they had. He took five minutes and gave us all, not just a new trick, but an icebreaker for parties, a boredom buster for those long lines we would endure when appearing for jury duty, and an opportunity to encourage others. Every chance I get, I teach people to juggle. Watching them struggle at first is always entertaining but seeing them realize their own capabilities in the end is magical.

That day revealed a lot to me about myself. I love to learn. I love to teach. I have talents even I don't know about. Never in a million years did I think that last day of school would be one of the most educational.



Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Let's Take a Bath

My son gets filthy easily. He collects dirt and grime in places I didn't know were possible from things I didn't know you could get dirty from. He is a typical boy so he loves to play outside and pick up dirt and sticks and of course the occasional bug here and there, but he will get dirty just playing Legos or trucks inside. My wife and I are not the “sanitize the shopping cart before you put a child in it” kind of parents. We both grew up in big families where if you didn't eat the cookie that fell on the floor, you were not getting a cookie. We both survived childhood just fine. At the same time, we don’t want to be the parents of the smelly kid. Bath time is a must. Fortunately, we have a good bath taker. As soon as I say the words, “Let’s take a bath”, his eyes light up and he runs to the guest bathroom.

Confession: I am a little OCD. By that I mean, for me, there is a right and a wrong way of doing almost everything. My morning routine is ridged. So strict in fact, if I try to sleep in even a few minutes or skip my shower (I’m talking Saturdays here. Don’t judge me) my entire day is thrown off and I get sick to my stomach and feel physically terrible all day. Needless to say, I handle bath time in the same way.

Since day one (or more correctly day 3) I have walked him through his bath routines step by step. I talk him through everything. Getting adjusted to the water temperature, what parts of his body we are scrubbing, and of course, the best way to splash around and make bubbles. Now that he is 1 ½, the routine begins before we even get in the water.

When bath time is announced, we both go to the door of the bathroom and he waits for me to turn on the light. Once illuminated, the bathroom becomes our new play place. While I move the shower curtain out of the way and get the water and bubbles going, his job is to pick what toys he wants in with him. We have a small shower caddy with the bath toys and he will pick them out one by one. In no particular order, the boat, the guy, the fish, the whale, the blue cup, the baby frog, the daddy frog, and the toot-toot. And they will eventually all go in, but he will pull one out, try to say its name, and throw it into the roaring water.

Once the water is started and the toys are in, we have just enough time while we wait for the bath to fill up, for us to go get ready. He runs over to his room, and waits for me at his changing table so we can take his clothes off. Once ready to go, I pick him up around his chest facing me. Why do I carry him like that? Because “mommy likes the booty”. My wife will hide on either side of his door and surprise him with butt pinches as we walk across the hall back to the bath. It is one of his favorite parts and he squeals and laughs and kicks his little chubby legs as fast as he can every time. I have no intention of changing that portion of our routine anytime soon.

I set him in the water and he begins to talk to his toys placing “the guy” on “the boat” and making car noises as he moves it through the piles of bubbles. As I pour water on his head and back he cringes to adjust to the warmth. I lather his head and start washing him talking him through each part. Neck and ears first and then it’s ears, shoulders, arms, hands, back, belly, legs, and toes. He keeps playing and I sit back and watch him. He is so big. I know when other people look at him they see a tiny child, but I see a big boy, learning and growing everyday. I saw him the very second he entered this world, helpless and unsure, needing constant soothing and care. Now he plays on his own in the water. I am needed less and less as a comfort as he becomes steadily more independent. It is at this moment he again surprises me.

He turn his head to look over at me, knowing I would be watching him. He grins, seeing his assumptions were correct, and scoots closer to the tub wall where I am kneeling. He puts down “the baby frog”, cocks his head to the side, and reaches for me. Not to pick him up or to convince me to play. He grabs my finger tightly as though he were tiny once again and doing it for the first time. Then he slowly caresses my hand, turning it over to check the other side. Satisfied, he looks at the other hand and touches my ring. He wiggles it back and forth to see it shine in the light. He laughs out loud, smiles again at me, and goes back to splashing, making as much noise doing so as he can.

Water is everywhere. The bath mat I am kneeling on is soaked and the shirt I am wearing looks like I just got back from the gym on a cardio day. The towel I have on the floor next to me is no longer able to dry anything. I should get a new one while he is distracted, but I wait. I honestly do not want to miss a second of the fun. We play with the frogs and we pass the blue cup back and forth making funny noises into it. A few more minutes and bath time is over. We start to drain the water and he hands me one toy at a time to put back into the caddy. I grab a second dry towel and wrap it around him as I scoop him up in my arms. He giggles and makes noises with his tongue as I dry him off.

Before we leave to go put pajamas on and begin our get-ready-for-bed routine, we make funny faces at the mirror. Looking at the reflection, I see a happy boy making silly faces, laughing with his best friend… his son.