We’ve been cautiously letting Abigail have more and more freedom around Samuel. She seems to be able to distinguish him from food now. Our real worry has never been that she would consciously hurt him, but rather that she would trip over him, or forget she was standing beside him and just collapse into a nap. To be so elegant, she is the most clumsy dog I have ever seen.
Our pediatrician encouraged us to let them spend time together though; he thought it was good for puppy and boy to grow old together, although puppy has grown much faster than boy. Up until now, it has always been Abigail that has approached Samuel. She will lick his hands and feet a little, get bored and move on. Today, however, Samuel decided it was time for him to take control of their relationship. He climbed on board and hasn’t looked back since.
Photo by Kristen Anderson
The last remnant of Samuel’s umbilical cord finally fell off on Wednesday, which means he got to have his first real bath. No more sponge baths and warm-water massages. He was a little hesitant at first, but he took the plunge and liked it.
I am way behind on pictures, and even more behind on work, so I’m just going to let you sort through these for now. Click a thumbnail to open the viewer, browse through at your own pace and enjoy. If you’re feeling really adventurous, start up some theme music before diving into the pictures.
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People have asked and I haven’t given a good answer yet. A comprehensive explanation is probably not possible, but I hope to begin to answer this question for myself, my son, and anyone else who may be curious.
While it was one of the most significant things we have done as a family, naming our firstborn was quite possibly the easiest decision Kristen and I have ever made together. Samuel just fit. We both thought of it independently. We had joked about other names before, but when it came time to make a list, there was only one boy name on it.
There are several reasons why we settled on Samuel, not the least of which is the fact that it’s simply a fine sounding, timeless name.
Samuel became especially significant to me early last year when my position was cut at the newspaper I had been working at and I found myself with an abundance of time on my hands. I began focusing on developing a more disciplined daily routine and one of the big elements in this new routine was an increased level of scripture study, in addition to devotional readings. The first book I decided to explore, for no particular reason at the time, was Samuel. If I want to be honest (and I do) then I have to admit that up until this point, my knowledge of the Old Testament was hazy at best. I knew all of the key stories and characters, but really understanding how those stories fit together and what drove those characters to act like they did had been left out of my Sunday school lessons.
Samuel made the biblical narrative real to me.
First and Second Samuel document the history of the early Israelites during the time of Samuel — the prophet, priest and final judge of Israel — continuing through the rise and fall of the nation’s first monarchs, Saul and David. Reading these stories of Samuel, Eli, Saul, David and Jonathan, I was struck by how very real these men were. These were the great characters of the Bible, the pioneers of our faith, but understanding their journey means understanding that they were not much different from you and me. They were very real men with very real flaws, yet they loved God with all their might and wanted desperately (with a few exceptions) to serve him. Samuel was a great leader and a devout man of God, but he wrestled with the same problems I face today: pride, fear and frustration constantly threaten to hold him back from the tasks God has set before him; he wants his own sons to know the Lord and seek him, but he understands that ultimately he cannot be responsible for their choices; he has trouble reconciling the ideal community of fellowship God has called his people to with the reality of their situation and the desires of the nation. Samuel, David and Saul may have moved in the upper echelons of society, they may have had personal encounters with God too intense for us to possibly imagine and they may have lived in a radically different world 3,000 years ago, but they were still more down-to-earth than most of the people I come across at church, at school or on the street.
Samuel helped make God real for me. My most ardent prayer — my greatest hope and strongest desire — is that he will be real for my Samuel as well.
Another lesson that I learned from Samuel came from a simple phrase often repeated by the biblical author: “Do what seems best to you.” This phrase is repeated, with some variation, throughout the story of Samuel. Elkanah says it to Hannah once it is revealed that she has pledged Samuel to a life of temple service; Saul’s soldiers offer this affirmation to their leader; David uses the phrase as he heeds the advice of his generals; Mephibosheth uses it to express humility before the king
When Eli receives a prophecy of God’s displeasure with him and his sons, he simply concedes: “It is Yahweh; let him do what seems good to him.” When David decides to begin construction on a new temple at Jerusalem, Nathan tells him, “You should go and do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you.” Once Samuel has established Saul as the nation’s first king, the judge leaves the young man with a final word: “When these signs have taken place, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God will be with you.”
When the prophet’s announced “God is with you” to David and Saul, they were speaking to the kings in a particular context. Still, as Christians, we know that God has sent us his Counselor to guide us as we make our way through life. If our desire is to live within the Lord’s will, his desire for us will become clear.
It may be dangerous to simply say “Do what seems best to you,” especially if there is a possibility that our bad choices may be interpreted as God’s bad guidance. An important part of maturing is accepting responsibility for our actions; an important part of growing as a Christian is trusting God to guide us when we seek to make responsible decisions. This lesson from Samuel came to me at an important crossroad in my life, a time when I had to make a responsible decision but no choice seemed absolutely clear. Finding this balance between freedom and faith, between personal responsibility and surrender to the universal, is a constant struggle for me, and I’m glad.
My first wish for my son is that he may come to know God in a real way; to love him and seek him out, just as the prophet, the king and the shepherd boy did many years ago. My second wish is that he may have the faith to trust God with his hard decisions; to have the humility to know that, even if he is a king on Earth, he will never be able to walk the journey alone, but he does need the courage to act in faith — to “do what seems best” — because after all, as Samuel so eloquently said, “God will be with you.”
I’ve barely had time to seriously reflect on my first semester at Divinity School. My summer classes, and a propitious summer internship, will be starting up next week. The house is a mess, and the remnants of my last few home improvement projects still taunt me when I pass through the hallway, but Samuel doesn’t care about that. It doesn’t worry him, and I won’t let it worry me.
Parenthood is good. Already, it feels as though Samuel has been a part of our family all along. I look at him and love him. I take him in my arms, cup his head in my hands, press my belly into the bedspread, prop myself up on my elbows and just stare into his bright blue eyes. Yes. It’s true. I love him.
So many of our “first” moments are flying by faster than I can register them. We met my former boss and wonderful friend Bing Oliver at McDonald’s (his choice, by the way) this week; once the meal was done and the conversation was moving fast it suddenly hit me that this was Samuel’s first time in a restaurant. Sunday night was Samuel’s first time in church. Monday was his first doctor’s appointment. Wednesday afternoon he made it through his first cookout and Thursday morning he made it five hours without waking mom or dad up.
Today we took Samuel to the photo studio for his first big shoot. He did great. I have to give thanks to Ken Tart for having an infinite amount of patience, and diaper wipes. Ken was also kind enough to lend me a spare lens while my 50 mm f/1.4 is being repaired after conking out during Samuel’s first week at home.
Today we also had our first big scare as parents. I’m a natural worrier. I try to keep things in perspective, and I’ve been doing pretty good about letting things go, but having Samuel in our life pushes the potential for worry to a whole new level. I worry when he cries too loud. I worry when he gets too quiet. I worry that he’s too hot. I worry that he’s too cold. I worry about leaving him alone to rest, and then I worry about over stimulation. I worry. Kristen, on the other hand, is not a worrier. Whenever she begins to acknowledge the validity of my worries, then I know it’s time to get serious.
Today Samuel had us both worried. This afternoon we noticed he was breathing heavy when he was awake and wheezing when he was asleep. His doctor’s visit Monday revealed a healthier-than-normal baby (he had gained 14 oz. since he left the hospital four days earlier) so we took a little comfort in that and just kept an eye on him. Then he started crying. And crying. And crying. He was crying like I had never seen a baby cry before. Every now and then he’d take a break from crying to cough a little. Each time he’d cough, I would have an opportunity to suction a sizable chunk of mucus from his mouth. Then the crying would pick up again, and the cycle continued for about 40 minutes. Once he began to lose steam, I swaddled him up and he drifted off to sleep. I called the doctor for advice and was told to bring him in.
Samuel continued to spit up mucus in the car, but by the time we got to the doctor’s office, he was in a smiling, contented state. We described the symptoms to the nurse and got Samuel undressed so she could weigh him. The moment his diaper came off, though, he spewed a mucousy mess all over table and the nurse. It was like he had a Super Soaker 3000, loaded with slime, hidden in his pants. The nurse courageously threw herself between Samuel and her laptop; I had never seen anything like this before, but clearly she had experience dealing with such assaults. We cleaned up the mess and the doctor came in. He checked Samuel over and couldn’t find a thing wrong. Apparently, Samuel had developed a mucus plug that had given him a little trouble breathing, but he managed to expel it on his own just in time to shower the nurse and a moment too early to give the doctor anything to do.
Just in case you were wondering, this time he tipped the scales at 8 lbs. 6 oz. (that’s a post-mucus-explosion weight). It looks like he’ll be catching up to Abigail in no time.
Since we’d already made the drive to Garner, we felt obligated to go ahead and share another “first” with Samuel. For his first taste of Goodberry’s, Samuel decided to order his daddy’s favorite: a regular vanilla mint chocolate-chip concrete.
• 7 lbs. 14 oz.
• Absolutely Wonderful
The Little Prince is lost in space.
Feels like Christmas.
“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.” ¹
“My water broke.”
Abigail is anxious. “Let me out!” ²
The baby needs sleep. Sleep is done.
Three minutes, five.
Birth is natural.
145. 132. 123.
“Does it hurt yet?”
“We can make it hurt more.”
High blood pressure.
Where is the coffee?
Longing to hold you closer.
Mountains. Crying. Struggle.
Falling into rest. Surrender.
The next hill approaches.
The flesh is numb; the heart is heavy.
The end is close, but still so far.