The Wedding Blessing

He made you and formed you from the flecks of the earth,

dust and divine together, pressing.
And He chose her for you,
and for you, God picked him.
Together to live out His blessing.

Each of you grew tall in wisdom and stature.
But apart, never knowing the other.
Until He said, “Now it’s time,”
and He brought you to find
a love that stirred your hearts for each other.

Because Hallie, He knew who you needed.
He knew how you waited and pleaded.
And He blessed your faith, and walked you with grace
to the man who will love you for life.
It’s a gift to be his wife.

And Kent, he’s prepared you for her.
Shaped and refined every part.
She’ll give you her all,
and stand firm by your side,
so that you can hold her heart.

The journey together will test you.
It will sting and strip bare your spirits.
And when those tests come,
may you remember to run,
to the One who will see you straight through it.

Because together is the place
where His plans have no end.
A place where life’s meaning is clear:
to have and to hold, and yet lay it all down,
to know and be known without fear.

So today as you vow
and today as you say
“it’s you forever, my love,”
may His favor shine on your beautiful story,
and may someday your children reflect all His glory.
Because today, the two become one.

Whatever Comes Next

A blessing for Mike

Welcome, welcome wonderful boy.
The earth is your playground, and you are it’s joy.
Born under the June moon, will you pass the test?
And illumine the way, whatever comes next?

Boyhood brought bikes, bangs, and the rush.
No mountain of dirt that you couldn’t crush.
Manhood brought mountains, canyons, and streams,
left footprints behind on Earth’s greatest peaks.
Camera in tow, you found your stride,
etched out a living, bursting with pride.
When everyone veered left, you’d zag to the right.
A path in the dirt, a map of your life.
Push it on forward, never stop for a rest.
Hungry, searching for whatever came next.

And then you met her, your life’s biggest rush.
She was for real, way more than a crush.
Together you planned out new paths to explore,
a career, wife, and kids—never planned on all four!
And so this strange mountain of family you climb.
Your pack full with their hearts; you won’t leave them behind.
You push ever onward, with a lot more in tow.
The load grows more heavy, but your pace never slows.
Because the thrill of their smiles puts life in your chest.
You’re leading them onward, showing what’s next.

But the problem you face when you race to the top
is when it’s over, it kills you to stand in one spot.
Cause out there it’s bold, its fresh, and its new.
Let’s go for it all, there’s so much to do!
But you can’t be there when you’re over here.
Two places calling you, your greatest fear.
Will you say “yes” when the phone rings?
But how to stay close? That pendulum swings.
Do you let it all go, the best part of your plan?
Do you lay it all down for them, a true mark of a man?
So you wrestle with it. It seems your life’s quest
is when you’re faced with the choice of who to be next.

Arms filled with kiddos, and hand holding hers,
you lead them all forward, unsure what’s in store.
You question and linger and sometimes look back,
hoping what lies ahead will fill up what you lack.
But even in slow times there’s more to behold.
There’s a drive deep inside you, there’s more to unfold.
You find your footing, then miss a small step.
Scrape a knee, camera swings, but they’ve got your back.
Cause five is a lot when they’re all looking to you.
But five is a lot when you’re their hero, too.
And so the question it fuels you, and it leaves you perplexed:
How do I do this? What happens next?

From my view I watch you, Wild Man and my love.
I smile. You’re thrilling, when you push beyond and above
what you thought you could do, who you thought you would be.
You’re more than the dreams you had at 23.
Committed and skilled, this man I behold.
Creative, fulfilled, his measure untold.
Some call you old man, say your strength is a feat,
But I know all that gusto is just the way your heart beats.
Because one day you’ll look back and you’ll see it all.
How you were the moon, how you answered His call
into adventures and into the fun,
reflecting a future bright as the sun.

And here in this moment you stand steady by
knowing how well you love defines your life.
You’re ready for the highs and for the tough steps.
Ready, so ready, to give Him your best.
Ready, so ready, for whatever comes next.

The Boy in the Pool

Cold water beads on his nose. Bracing for the chill he dives in, arms like oars pulling him onward; his legs a propeller, beating steadily against the watery surface. A few strokes in and he comes up for air, turns his head, fills his lungs, and returns to the grind of the training session. They have many meters to swim today, and he’s only just begun.

High above in the mezzanine I sit watching my son. From up here he looks so small. So skinny and sleek in the water, just a kid in the sea of swimmers. But up close you can see the muscles forming under his skin. You can see his back broadening, his legs becoming more powerful, his arms growing longer with every stroke. Each week he gets a little stronger, and every so often, they promote him up a lane, swimming further and further from the wall of protection. Out into the middle, into the deep, where only the strong ones are sent.

Before long practice is over, and he is spent. He heaves himself out of the water, breathless and exhausted, but smiling. He fist-bumps his friends, he pals around with his teammates, he thanks his coach for a good practice. The drills are tough, but he has found his tribe. Camaraderie, commitment, and team spirit run high on this pool deck, and there is no room for half-hearted swimmers. This is a group of generous, encouraging kids, most of them. But there’s an unspoken agreement of reciprocity that follows. The team ranks higher than the individual, and he instinctively knows to be part of this team means laying yourself down and supporting others, in and out of the water.

Stepping to the side and drying off, he looks taller, older. He stands there, surrounded by his friends, on his own two feet. And at 11 years old, they are no longer the little newborn toes I held in the palm of my hand and kissed the day he was born. No, they are the feet of a growing man. And what a proud moment it is, watching him glow at the threshold of strength and maturity.

I rest in confidence that those sturdy legs will not fail him one day as they propel him through waters far more chaotic than those of the pool that sits below me. The enthusiastic arms that reach out to high five his teammates will soon reach out to help those in need. And the breath he is learning to discipline into a rhythm in the pool will soon serve as the lesson that will discipline him to stay the course when life sucks him into the deep end. As he heads toward the locker room of his youth, I can sense the waves he makes as a man will have a much farther-reaching affect.

Because the boy I watch in the pool is steadfast; he’s smart, kind, and willing to work hard. He lives up to his name, Crew, “working together,” as if on the day he was born we spoke a promise over who he would become. Already he has a deep drive to work for the good even when it’s hard, to uphold the order, the standard, and to give from that big heart God entrusted him with.

One day not far from now he will captain his own team, his own family, his own crew. And it won’t surprise me in the least. Because he’s been our team captain since day one.

It is then that the training of his childhood will resound in his heart, and he’ll know what he needs to do. He’ll remember the effort it takes to overcome long grinds, the discipline required for success, the character needed to do right by others, and the sacrifice, loyalty, and commitment that love for anything requires. 

He stands poolside, glistening. Is it just the water beading on his skin, or is it light beaming from inside? God is not far from calling the boy in the pool to the sacred task of manhood, and I already know deep in my heart that he will rise to the challenge.

Practice is over. Backpack over his shoulder, he leads the way as we head to the car. The road stretches before him. And with a smile, he grows to meet it.

The Ballad of You and Me

When you were a boy, you fell off of your bike.
When I was a girl, I fell into your arms.
I gave you my words, my smiles, my dreams.
You won me over with your adventure and charms.
God breathed His glory,
Spun a fairy tale story.
You were my world,
And I was your angel.
So you asked for my hand,
You gave me a band—

Gold inset with
sparkling, precious stones.

Honeymoon lasted three years and a fortnight.
Babies swooped in and took all our spotlight.
Toys in the kitchen, days filled with crying
Sibling rifts and tweenage lying.
Our life got real busy,
the kids made us dizzy.
I spin and I whirl
trying to find you.
But there on my desk,
lies your love letter.
And you ask me to dance,
I’ll do you one better.

And give you my heart,
right down to it’s precious stones.

Everyone wants a love like we’ve got
but nobody knows the battles we’ve fought.
The burdens we carry,
the shoulders grown weary—
from the dreams we’ve chased down,
from the ones that we’ve died to.
You turn out the light, our prayers filled with sighing.
I lay by your side, we never stop trying.

It’s why our love holds
through cracks in the precious stones.

Onward we hike, through briars and daisies,
Pushing uphill, adventure’s awaiting.
Trudging’s hard work.
It wrinkles the skin,
breaks down the body
but build souls within.
One day we’ll look back
and admire the glory.
The critics may mock
but we’ll know the story

of what trails behind us—
worn path forged of precious stones.

I started writing of two stones in a river.
Didn’t know then God would give us a quiver.
They came and they grow and one day they’ll leave,
step out to discover their own mysteries.
Still we’ll wade in the blue eddies and whirlpools
Dig in the sand, scoop up the jewels.
In the cold and deep, with your hand in mine,
we’ll learn all the lessons He gives us to find.

Our love, it’s so rich.
Our treasure the outcome
of two hearts knit to one
by the River we’ve come from.

Love, can you see?
We’re the two precious stones.

Great of Heart and Soul

You are the boy of heart and soul. A child with such gusto and strength, it seems as if nothing is too much for you. You tackle it all head on with skill, determination, and zeal. 

Even at your young age, you push when everyone else would give up. You’re independent and curious, determined and decisive. It doesn’t matter that you’re the youngest—you will attempt whatever your siblings are up to. As baby number four, you learned early on in life that if you want something, you better get after it right away, because by the time mom gets around to helping you out, you could have easily just done it yourself.

And despite your mere 3 years, the leader in you is already rising up, taking charge, and forging ahead. No matter that you’ll have to climb the pantry shelves to reach the chocolate bar hidden on top. You’ll happily risk losing fingers to a knife in order to cut up an apple on your own. Arching your back and stamping your foot, you’ll scream all the words you know to tell me where I stand in your world. You hold nothing back to get everything you want.

And so most days are exhausting with you, little bear. But not because you are always naughty or disobedient or misbehaving (although you have your moments, like any other child). At the end of each day, I’m worn out because of your capacity. You push yourself and everyone around you to go bigger, to do more, to be better. All day you test the limits and expend every drop of energy, leaving nothing on the table except the fried wits of your mother.

But just when I think all hope is lost and that I may not live to see you to the otherside of toddlerhood, every once in a while in a rare, quiet moment, I’ll hear you from the other room. There you are, playing with your trucks or your chain saw, singing the Shema.

“Shema Israel, Adonai Elohenui Adonai echad…”

Sometimes in Hebrew, sometimes in English. And it’s in those sweet moments that I don’t know why any of this surprises me. You’ve known these words from your birth, sung over you as a lullaby in the womb, resounding within you as if they are the anthem of your life.

“And you shall love the LORD your God with all of your heart, and all of your soul, and all of your strength.”

You’ve been the boy of heart and soul since the beginning. One day, you’ll be a man of heart and soul. And then the words of this ancient prayer will mean something to you. They will define your life, your every move, in ways you never thought. You’re too little to see it now, but as I watch you grow I somehow know these words will etch their way into your very core.

Because our God gave you this beautiful gift of stunning capacity for life. Which means He also gave you a stunning capacity for love.

And so my little bear, when you are all grown up, remember that on the day you arrived and we gave you the name “Huck,” we blessed you with a name you could grow into. A name that calls out the best in you: to be a man of heart and soul, a man who seeks the aim of these ancient poems you’ve grown up with. A man who finds rest for his soul in the very heart of Yahweh.

Right now, you’re a beast of a little boy, and I know one day you’ll be a man to contend with. Not because of your strength, or power, or mental aptitude, but because of the song in your little heart. Because of your name. Because you’ve known the Shema since you were two.

Huck, the one of great heart and soul.