Thursday, November 12, 2015

What's in a Name? Patrick Ryan

Dear Patrick,

I am sure that the story of your namesake is one you will hear many times during your life.  I write it down here for you to read, and others in case anyone is interested.  I kind of have this idea that I’d love to name my boys after historical figures and my girls after literary characters, with the caveat that I also like the names’ meanings... and that Daddy likes them too.   So far it’s worked out.  Your sister's name, "Eowyn Grace" is from Tolkien’s The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings), and we named your big brother "William Christopher" after your Poppy (my father-in-law) and your daddy’s good friend, as well as history’s William the Conqueror and Christopher Columbus, who at the very least had vision and initiative whatever their faults.  His name means “strong protector, bearer of Christ.”  So when I thought of names I’d love to give a second son, top of the list was Patrick.  As for your middle name… I think that one’s pretty obvious:  your daddy’s name.  I happen to think carrying that name is an honor any son will be glad to have.  it’s the name of a smart, compassionate man who works diligently to provide for his family, serve his church, be a faithful friend, and fight sin.  He is one who consistently befriends the least of these yet is unafraid to converse with those society calls great, and who genuinely cares about both.  He is brave and adventurous, a gifted writer and an innovative businessman.  He also happens to be able to make me laugh like no one else and is incredibly good-looking.  :)  Id love it if you, my boy, grew up to be "just like Daddy."

Both “Patrick” and “Ryan” have connotations of nobility, of royalty.  I hope to raise a son who carries himself as though he is of noble blood, in every positive sense of the word, with none of the arrogance.

So, Patrick…who was he?  Some Catholic saint?  Someone who loved to drink and looked for leprechaun gold?  Did he even exist?  I’m happy to say that yes, there really was a man named Patrick, and he had nothing to do with leprechauns or searches for treasure at the end of rainbows.  He probably loved a good drink like any shivering Briton of the 5th century, and as for Catholicism, he was a Christian—and that was the only kind of Church there was before the East-West Schism.  But the historical Patrick, originally named Sucat, was passionate for the Gospel; brave, compassionate, effective pastor, smart, poetic and a gifted evangelist.  (I think of him as his day’s William Carey, Tim Keller and John Piper rolled into one.) 

Most do not know his true history, so I’ll give my own biography of him here:  Sucat grew up on what is now the coast of England, son of a deacon, loved and well-taught in Scripture but unbelieving.  As a teenager he was kidnapped out his bedroom window by Scottish raiders (“scotti” means “pirate”), taken to Ireland and sold as a slave.  While there he was a shepherd, alone for most of each day in the wild green hills.  He had a lot of thinking time, just him and the animals.  All the lessons and prayers from his childhood came back to him, and he turned to the God he had long ignored.  Amidst the fear-filled druidic paganism and untamed beauty around him, he Believed and began to find joy in communion with the one Friend for sinners.  The other servants jokingly dubbed him “Holy Boy” as he began to spend each day in prayer and speak to them all of this kind God.  One night he had a dream that led him to escape.  Miraculously he made it home to England, where he was reunited with his overjoyed parents.  Years later he had another dream, this time of a man crying out in Irish “we beg you, “Holy Boy, come back and walk among us!” and awoke with the weight of thousands of souls on his conscience.  He began to realize "who better to take the Good News to the Lost of Ireland than one who knew their ways and spoke their language?"  After receiving seminary training and being ordained and commissioned as a minister of the Gospel, Patrick set out for the land where he had been enslaved, despite knowing that his escape from slavery would mean his old master could legally kill him.

What happened next was nothing short of miraculous.  Patrick’s simple teaching and faithful preaching began a complete upheaval in Ireland.  Hundreds, both wealthy –even nobility—and simple, left their old religion of fear and appeasement and turned to the One True God whose love cast out all fear, and whose wrath had already been appeased by His Own Son’s sacrifice.  The Good News spread through the network of bards God had sovereignly put in place over the centuries, both traveling singers and the officials who were responsible for keeping record of each lord & clan’s history and feats in song. Poetry and songs as only the Celts can write began to be sung in the praise of Jesus from one end of the island to the other.  Even the bard of the High King converted, and the man who once had been sent to diplomatically secure magical talismans from rival lords instead used his talent with words to compose the hymn we sing today as “Be Thou My Vision.”  Hundreds of young men and women came to Patrick desiring to become nuns and monks in devotion to God’s work for life.  All this occurred despite constant death threats against him from druids who did not appreciate the incursion into “their” territory.  Patrick refused any financial gifts, knowing these would tie him to a lord and a clan.  This left him essentially without legal protection, yet he fearlessly continued to teach and preach, believing he would only die when the Lord’s work for him was done.  By the time the Lord took him Home, the Irish church had been well established, with a rich Celtic liturgy all its own, quite distinct from that of the rest of Europe's, as Patrick encouraged his congregants and disciples to use their talents to write their own songs and hymns.  (Unfortunately under English oppression this liturgy was nearly completely lost.  Several tunes survived through oral tradition as well as a few prayers and hymns; however all record of the system the Irish Celts once used to notate their music was lost forever.)

Very few of Patrick’s own words survive to this day, however two documents do remain—his “Confession” and an open letter which he wrote—and several pieces of poetry are also attributed him by tradition.  The writings show a courageous, humble man passionate for God’s glory and deeply compassionate for his fellow man, especially those in Ireland. 

I am Patrick, yes a sinner and indeed untaught; yet I am established here in Ireland where I profess myself bishop. I am certain in my heart that "all that I am," I have received from God. So I live among barbarous tribes, a stranger and exile for the love of God. […] If I have any worth, it is live my life for God so as to teach these people; even though some of them still look down on me.”

How is it that in Ireland, where they never had any knowledge of God but, always, until now, cherished idols and unclean things, they are lately become a people of the Lord, and are called children of God; the sons of the Irish and the daughters of the chieftains are to be seen as monks and virgins of Christ.  […] I confess to my Lord and do not blush in His sight, because I am not lying; from the time when I came to know Him in my youth, the love of God and fear of Him increased in me, and right up until now, by God's favor, I have kept the faith.”

And one of my favorite bits of poetry, “the Lorica of St Patrick’” contains the verse:I arise today / Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,/ Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial, / Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,/ Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.  Though we don’t know for certain that Patrick penned those words, they certainly fit in with the Gospel-centeredness of his life, to wake up every morning completely & intentionally in Christ.

Those are all words I would be glad to know my son could also honestly claim.

Patrick, my sleeping little son, you are awfully small to bear such big names.  I pray you grow into them and do them honor, "by God's almighty help and grace." 

St Patrick's Rune as used by Madeleine L'Engle
in A Swiftly Tilting Planet (one of my very favorite books)
With all my love,

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Letter to Liam, age 3

My dear little man, William—

You have been 3 for four whole months now… every one of those months I have meant to sit down and write you—something to help you know your own three-year-old self later one; something for me to read and remember these precious days.  Daddy and I agree that this age is so much fun; YOU are so much fun.  You giggle and are amazed by everything.  You make us laugh so much.  You are sweet, thoughtful, empathetic and caring.  You love to kiss and hug your baby brother, having dubbed him “Chubby” and giving me a play-by-play of his well-being if I have to leave the room.  Once I came in to find you just watching him, saying “I’m your big brother (“brozzer”); that’s why I’m watching over you.”  You’ve never resented him or shown anything but affection towards him.  I can’t wait until the two of you are fast friends, just like you and Eowyn already are.

If you are unkind and I explain to you how the other person was affected, even if at first you shout that you want them to be sad or that you like being mean (and yes, you do say those kinds of things), without fail, when you’ve calmed down, you will come to me or your dad and very sincerely apologize, and show that you are very sad that you hurt someone else.  You love to hug us and your little arms around my neck is one of my favorite feelings.  After naps –you still take a good 1.5-2 hour afternoon nap every day—you are especially snuggly.  I love the smell of your curly head, slightly damp from sleep. Today you lay your head down on Daddy’s shoulder completely unprompted, and he just melted.  You have our hearts, big boy. 

You are a sensitive little soul, correction often bringing you to cross your arms, drop your head and the whispered words “I’m embarrassed” followed by tears.  Or just tears.  Lately you’ve been crying a lot.  The phrase “threenager” applies very aptly.  I might ask you to do something very routine—come to dinner, or clean toys up in preparation for bedtime—and the response will be incredibly dramatic.  Suddenly, you’re on the floor screaming, or you’ve thrown your hands up and are shrieking “I HATE DAT!!” or are wailing that you weren’t done playing… as if eating and sleeping were totally unexpected, unreasonable events.  Liam, you are a small person of very big passions.

Bedtime continues to be our most difficult time.  You (and your sister) tend to pop out of bed repeatedly.  You usually come out quietly, crawling into my lap saying “Mommy, I just need some love” or “I just want you.”  It’s very hard to resist those hugs.  I usually snuggle you for a while and send you back to bed.  Othertimes there is great weeping and gnashing of teeth... on all sides.  Often at bedtime you’ll ask me to “stay with me just one more minute?” and I usually do.  I have to take off my glasses and you put your arm around me. You tell me, after about a minute “ok, Mommy, you can go now.”  You want me to say the Aaronic blessing over you, and sometimes will try and say it in turn to Patrick.  So sweet.

You have a keen little mind, memorizing songs and spoken words very well.  You listened to The Big Picture Story Bible on CD as you went to sleep for several weeks, and often will quote passages of Scripture at the most hilarious of moments.  Once, while you were washing your hands alone, I heard you intone in a deep voice “Go! Wash in the Pool of Siloam!”  Yesterday you remarked that only Cesar Augustus was the king of the world—not your sister.  Another time you used “Do not make My Father’s house a house of trade!” in an argument with her… we aren’t sure how you thought it applied but it definitely had us laughing behind closed doors. 

Your imagination is amazing.  You often delve into a world all your own, complex and usually heroic.  You jump off our steps wearing goggles and begin flailing, waving a block and shouting.  In moments you are on your belly, groaning with faux exertion as you crawl along.  When I ask what you are doing, you explain very calmly that you dove into the water to fight a shark with your sword, because it was trying to eat your baby, and you will kill the shark even though it bit your leg off, and the doctor will put your leg back on.  Then you’ll be back in your play.  Your imagination always demands full-body involvement… It’s always detailed, extremely energetic, and often quite violent.  You love to be a superhero (usually Superman flying around with sound effects), Mike the Knight, a swimmer or occasionally a wild beast.  When you play with your sister, you like to be the “daddy” or “husband” (or her little boy).  Up until about a week ago you didn’t grasp the idea of play names, and referred to everyone by their title as you played.  We’d hear you shout out in your fake man-voice “Wife!” whenever you wanted her attention, and you responded only to “Husband.”  Lately you have assumed the name “Davis” whenever you play pretend.  Not sure where you came up with that one.

Another little quirk of late has been your obsession with what you call “up sleeves,” ie short sleeved shirts.  Despite the weather turning cooler, you insist that you do NOT want “downsleeves,” and especially that you do NOT want “downpants,” but only “upshorts.”  The past few days you have even further narrowed your tastes to Superhero-themed clothing, most especially the Superman shirt with a detachable cape you got for your birthday (from me), and a pair of navy blue knit shorts “with a tie (faux drawstring) on the front.”  You also want to wear your Batman pjs.  We finally have reached a compromise of you wearing various shirts to school or church (often “downsleeved”) or the Superman shirt with a sweater over it, and pants OVER your shorts (mainly one pair of grey fleece pants because they are “soft”).  As we leave, you assure us that “when I get home, I’m gonna change into pajamas!” and sure enough, there will be a trail of shed clothing as soon as you walk in the door.  This is quite a change from your prior attitude towards clothing; you loved making your own outfits and were always quite deliberate in how you (mis)matched them.  Well, I guess that’s the common theme:  you really do care about your clothes and shoes.  Even when you are freezing, you insist on your “upshorts”—though there have been a few times when you willingly put on something warmer with a sheepish grin!

You had your first haircut two weeks ago.  Your favorite Sunday School teacher ever, “Mrs Charla” from TCC, cut it at her studio and did an excellent job.  We kept your mop-top of crazy blond curls but tamed the back a bit so it gets less tangled and matted.  You look less like Einstein and your hair stays curly instead of becoming a blond frizzy halo.  You were so nervous about your haircut, even though you asked for one.  The day before, you asked if it would hurt, and were reassured as Eowyn and I explained to you that only the part of your hair still in your scalp could feel and your haircut wouldn’t hurt at all.  You were so stoic, self-conscious and then proud during your hair cut.  You wouldn’t hardly look up, much less talk to Mrs. Charla!! 

You love Legos and little figurines of all kinds.  I find play horses, Playmobil knights, dinosaurs, cars and dragons all over the house, often with weapons and in boxes of some kind.  You build very well and surprise me with your abilities.  However you still need your sister to assemble your Legos following the visual directions, or your Playmobil castle or train tracks which you regularly dismantle.  Yesterday you and she made a “hideout” behind our downstairs couch and you all have stocked it with all sorts of necessities.  I love to hear you play together and truly interact.  Your sister often has very specific ideas about how things should go, and you usually are content to go along with her.  You are a very sweet little brother, really you are!  Lately she has been learning (with encouragement) to let you have more input because your ideas are really good!  And… she does love you and doesn’t mind indulging you—she’ll come to me laughing behind her hand at how cute you can be.  She’s a good big sister… when she isn’t bossing you around or threatening to not let you play if you don’t do what she wants. :) When you are in trouble with Mommy or Daddy, 9 times out of 10 she will run in and hug you and comfort you.

Your typical day starts around 7:30.  Some mornings you start playing in your room, others you come crawl into our bed… often you beg to look at our phones, and we usually let you look at our pictures and home videos.  You usually are the one to let Alina (the cat) out of the laundry room.  We get up around 8 to make you breakfast, usually yogurt, sometimes eggs, or if we are running late, a banana and milk (two of your favorites!).  Mondays we go to CC, Tuesdays and Wednesdays you go to preschool in “Miss Kassie (Kathy)’s class.”  Usually there is at least one meltdown involving not wanting to eat or wear something.  After school we come home for lunch and usually Levi is with us.  You two really are best buds.  You usually play outside while I make lunch and then we eat together—I read sometimes while you eat, usually from the Bible, sometimes from picture books.  Then it’s a nap for everyone (Mommy too!) and afterwards you and Levi (and Sis sometimes) play until he’s picked up.  On Thursdays and Fridays you like to do some school with me and Eowyn.  In the late afternoons you might get to watch a show—your favorites now are Super Why, Jake & the Neverland Pirates or the WildKratts.  You also like Mike the Knight, Diego and Kipper the Dog. Daddy comes home & we eat dinner together—these are some of my favorite times as now you and Eowyn are old enough to really talk to us.  You tell Daddy about your day, and we laugh and laugh together.  Daddy reads a Bible story and a chapter or two in “Johnny Chuck”, we sing a song (your usual requests are "Jesus Draw Me Close," "Be Thou My Vision," and "Jesus, what a friend for sinners") and pray together, and then you are tucked in bed with your Bobo & Baby and a music CD on. You still have a bit of a hard time sleeping alone in your room since Eowyn moved out, but the penguin night-light pillow helps.

Spiritually you are sensitive.  You love to memorize Scripture and remind me to read our devotional every morning and to drill you on your catechism.  At night when you’re scared you ask me to “pray for Jesus!” and draw comfort from knowing that while you can’t see God, “He always sees me!” and that He is stronger than any bad guy.  You are quite aware of sin and your own part in it, yelling angrily that you KNOW you are disobeying and you WANT to run away from God.  This makes me so sad, but also I have to smile because your words are exactly what my own heart screams when I tantrum, too.  Daddy and I pray that you learn to see the Enemy’s lies in those words!  I’ve been surprised at just how much you grasp—last night I asked you a question after our Bible story, not expecting you to know the answer, but you did!  You really are listening and absorbing everything you hear.  Oh, I pray that these seeds bear good fruit!!

I love you so much, my wild-haired compassionate, passionate little hero!  You always have my heart.  Im so glad right now you still need hugs and kisses and snuggles from me.  I love that you still want me to hold you, and that my arms are still strong enough to do it.  I love that you are spirited and funny but also tender-hearted and teachable.  You forgive easily and are a loyal friend.  

I cant wait to watch you keep growing up into a heroic man but it also breaks my heart to imagine you being any older than you are right now.  I love you dearly, William Christopher, and thank God every day for the blessing of being your mommy.

Love, hugs, kisses, and every good story I can tell,