Time To Move

Just a quick post to let you know that I’m moving my blog. And I want you to follow me.

I’ve been posting here for over five years now, and I am grateful to every person who has subscribed via email or through RSS. It’s time, however, for me to step things up a bit, so I’ve officially launched jasonericbrooks.net and will be blogging from there starting Monday.

The good news is the site looks exactly the same. Seriously. So you’ll notice nothing other than the spiffy change of address.

The bad news is you’ll have to resubscribe to the blog via email or RSS. For the email folks, simply click the menu tab at the top of the page, enter your email again, and click subscribe. You’re done. All the same stuff will land in your inbox every time I post.

If you’ve followed me via WordPress, you can simply type the new blog URL into the Reader search bar and subscribe that way.

I’m excited about the future, and look forward to seeing you all at the new home. Thanks for making the change possible – I am truly grateful for your support. Truly.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you all Monday at the new website.

The Dawn of a New Day


Sunrise over Windows XP.

For the first time since 2008, my family woke up on a Sunday morning and didn’t get ready to go to Chestnut Grove Baptist Church. In fact, with the exception of three years that I spent as a senior pastor, this is the first time since 2001 that Rachel and I have woken up and gotten ready to go somewhere else. It is a strange feeling.

Add to that the fact that I’ve been asked to baptize a young soldier and his mom in a river later on this afternoon, and you have the recipe for an entirely different kind of Sunday.

But maybe not. Sure the routine will be different; the faces will not be the same; the locations and the actions will certainly be beyond the norm; but in the end, what is any Sunday other than a day set aside to worship God as He leads you? What is the life of a follower of Christ if not worship in everything that you do?

Today will be simultaneously hard and exhilarating. It will bring out nerves and energy. It will, in some ways, share similarities to the days that both Ella and Jon took their first steps: lots of wobbles, lots of gasps, lots of smiles in the end. Because first steps, new beginnings, always come with those things. And they are almost always memorable.

I still don’t know what God has planned for me in the near future. I’ve had quite a week – fell through my ceiling, broke my air conditioner, got bit by a dog – and the reality is that I’ll need to find a job soon. But at the same time, it’s been a week of firsts: published a fiction book, got inspired for a novel, saw several friends really warm up to (and buy) my work. I’m not breaking any sales records, but it’s nice when people not only support your dream, they discover you’re not crazy for having it.

As I look out on the sunshine and green grass, I’m grateful to have this new opportunity. I’m blessed that my wife is not only supportive of my dream, but is chasing her own right beside me. Do we have moments when we’re scared? Darn straight. But we also have moments when the presence and wisdom of God overwhelm us and remind us that He is the One who holds our future secure. When others might stand against us, He stands for us. And that is more than enough.

It’s a new day in the Brooks household. We’re committed to seizing it.

New Blog Feature: Stump the Chump (And Some Housekeeping Notes)

The Chump got that question...wrong.

I have a thing that I do with my students called Stump the Chump. Essentially, they ask me hard questions about God, the Bible, Christianity, or just religion in general and I answer them. Some questions are easy to answer. Others, not so much. But I answer all of them, no matter how hard or personally challenging they may be.

To help with the effort, I started a Stump the Chump blog. It didn’t go over so well. Got a couple of questions, but no real movement. I thought about a Stump the Chump podcast or video series, but again – without questions, there’s not much I can do.

Then it hit me: why not just move Stump the Chump to my regular blog? I mean, this isn’t an investment profile; there’s no real need for diversification (well, maybe when it comes to content presentation, but that’s another matter entirely). So I’ve decided to add a Stump the Chump page and open it up to you, my regular readers. Feel free to click on the STC page and submit a question, a query, or just flat out write your own diatribe. Just know that I get to rebut. :)

Also, after one week of simul-blogging (and a host of issues with the other blog site) I’ve decided that I need to keep things where I’m at. I get more functionality here (and for free) than I’m finding at the other site. The biggest draw there was really design…and heck, I can hold out for some better designs here. So, the short-lived experiment with changing homes is over.

But the production of two new books is still on. I’m currently revising my memoir about Ruthanne and hope to have it ready soon. I need some good cover art, so if you’re willing to do a cover design for name recognition and credit here and in the book, click the email link at the right and shoot me an email. I’d love to talk. The design I’m thinking about is fairly simple (I would think…).

As a final note – happy Hallowe’en! I’ll be back later with a spooky themed post, based on something that happened to me yesterday.

Miss Ella Goes to Kindergarten

My big girl on her first day of school.

Ella started school today. I woke up at six, got the coffee going, staggered around a little bit. The anxiety level was low, in part because of the unbelievably early hour. I heard Rachel scuttling around, getting ready for the big morning, and around 6:15 I went into Ella’s room and woke her up.

“What are you doing in my room, daddy?” she asked, yawning and stretching her tiny little arms.

“It’s time to get up.”

“But I’m still sleepy.” She yawned, looking very much like a kitten.

“Okay. I’ll come back in a few minutes. But it’s the first day of school.”

“Nevermind! I’m awake!”

She hopped out of bed and onto the floor. I told her to get dressed and bring her shoes into the living room and I’d get them tied for her.

She got undressed and brought everything into the living room instead. Again, I couldn’t help but notice how tiny she really is. I guess perspective strikes at weird moments.

Rachel and I got her clothed and Rachel brought out two big bows. Ella grimaced.

“Mommmmmeeee…I don’t want to wear a bow.”

“Why not? You’ll look so cute!”

“Ugh. I don’t want anything in my hair.” Ella went into classic pout mode: arms crossed, face scrunched. She looked like she’d just eaten a bug.

Rachel was undaunted. She was not about to let her living doll get away without some sort of hair accessory. “At least let me braid it, and put a ponytail holder at the end. Will that do?”

Ella nodded. Rachel left the room and Ella looked at me as if to say, Will you do something with her, please?

“You can’t deny your mother this moment,” I said. “She’s been waiting for it your whole life.”

Ella frowned. Rachel came back with a brush and a ponytail holder. The braiding didn’t take long.

“How long until the bus?” Ella asked.

“About thirty minutes,” I answered. “But you still need to eat breakfast and get medicated.”

“Can I do all that in front of the TV?” she asked.

I looked at Rachel. She looked at me. Did we really want to start her academic career off with a dose of the boob tube?

“Sure,” I said. “Why not?”

Ella pulled up the DVR’d version of Aladdin and munched happily on her Fruit Loops from a plastic baggie. She settled onto the couch and smiled.

After a rough start with Jon (who woke up chanting, “Bus! Skoo Bus!”) we got out the door about 20 minutes before bus time. I videotaped and took pictures the whole way, and when Ella’s friend Audrey and her family joined us at the bus stop, you could feel the collective angst rise. Some veteran schoolkids and their parents joined us, and after several tension filled minutes (including one false start, when a neighbor whose truck sounds like a bus drove by) the bus rounded the corner and pulled to a stop.

The kids got into a single file line, with Audrey last and Ella just in front of her. Each of the older kids got on the bus without hesitation, and when it came Ella’s turn, I held my breath.

How would she react?

She never hesitated, and if she did, it was only internally because her physical self went straight up the steps and hung a left into one of the first two seats. After a few moments of not being able to see her, her little face popped into view in the second window. It was obscured by the reflection of trees and the sunrise, but I could still see her – beautiful, smiling, blowing me a kiss – and I knew instinctively that she would be fine. A few seconds later Audrey’s face appeared behind her and the two fell into a shared giggle.

The doors to the bus closed. A sudden lurch took my daughter away from me and into the morning of her first taste of independence. Tears came unbidden and flowed, turning into a full-throated wail.

Jonathan watched his sister drive away and he couldn’t stop crying. I bent down.

“Are you sad to see Sissy go?” I asked.

“Skoo bus! I want skoo bus!” he replied. “I want ride skoo bus!”

After all the worry, those were the only tears shed. It’s going to be a great day after all.

Hello Kitty: The Last Day of Childhood

The Destructor has been chosen...this freaking anime cat will take away my daughter's chldhood tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow morning, I will wake up earlier than usual. I will most likely have to rouse my daughter from her bed and usher her into the kitchen, where we’ll begin our normal morning routine. Only it won’t be normal anymore. There will be changes.

She won’t have the option of starting her day with her usual televised friends. She won’t be able to lay about in her nightclothes, playing with her dolls or ponies, until her mother or I insist on her getting dressed. Chances are she won’t even have time to bug her little brother. Ella will get dressed, get fed, put her hair into a bow, and together we’ll walk up the street to her bus stop.

Tomorrow, my daughter, bedecked in Hello Kitty, will say goodbye to the only life she’s known.

Over a single night, all that my family has known will change. And it will be a significant shift, one that will not correct, one that will not return to us except in brief stints known as winter, spring and summer break.

I was doing okay with that reality for the past few days, but much like the evening before major surgery, or your wedding, or any other life-altering day, I’m starting to feel a little less confident and a little more wistful. Almost panicked, even.

Do all people experience these kinds of shifts in the same way? Is it the singular feature of parenthood to feel more acutely those changes in your child’s life that signify maturation? I looked at the faces of other parents this morning at church and couldn’t detect any anxiety on their parts. But I could feel my heart beating wildly with each minute slipping by. I watched Ella play with her friends after the luncheon at our church and all I could think about was that at this same time next year she would be a completely different Ella. She wouldn’t be a precocious pre-K girl anymore; she would be something other, something undefined, something unpredictable.

Something foreign.

Of course that’s only true if I neglect to undergo this metamorphosis with her, and there is a real part of me that wants to scream, “No, this can’t be happening!” I feel as if somehow some giant, faceless force is attempting to wrench my little girl from my hands and take her somewhere I cannot go.

But the truth is, if I do not follow her on this new path, it will not be because I was forbidden; it will be because I chose to stay behind, cradling the past as fiercely as I once held her. This scares me because I can see the temptation of it and feel the pull towards that choice, but I know if I pull back and hold onto my memories of Ella’s early childhood as the basis for how I see and interact with her, I will lose her twice. Once, because she will move on and grow up and become herself as she is meant to be. Twice, because my memories will fade and, having made no new ones, I will be left with a dissolving image even more foreign and frightening than I could imagine.

So I will wake up tomorrow and get her out of bed. I will hold her longer than I normally would because I know that it will be the last time I can pull her into my embrace with the guarantee that nothing will happen to her unless I let it. I will crave that sense of protection that has safeguarded us both, even while we both knew it was a facade. I will let her go, my heart ripping to pieces and rebuilding itself only to rip into pieces again, and I will fix her a Pop Tart. Or a bowl of Cocoa Krispies. Or a bag of Frosted Flakes. Or maybe even a stack of pancakes, though I doubt that because she’s not really been into pancakes recently (just one more sign of the advancing of time). I will hurry her through her breakfast because, for the first time in her life, she will have a schedule that she must keep, a schedule that is enforced by a new entity that is greater than mom and dad and must be obeyed. She will have to dress and get medicine and brush her teeth and check her backpack and put on her shoes and clean her room and trek the Green Mile to the bus stop where her life, her young and frail life, will be forever changed by the opening of those big yellow doors and her first steps onto the Cheese Wagon.

In short, tomorrow morning I release my second-born, first-surviving child into the maws of the masochistic rat race that consumes us all with the same ferocity, while simultaneously losing my own divine illusion of control.

Two innocences for the price of one.

I can hear her singing now, a random yelp to herself and her friends “the Stuffies” that means nothing more to me than the very essence of her purity of soul. I hear it, and I tear up at the thought that some bruiser of a fifth grader may make fun of her tomorrow in the hallway. I hear it and I fill with rage at the very notion that someday some clumsy oaf will make an advance against her will and quite possibly she might feel helpless to resist.

Some people see the first day of Kindergarten as a bittersweet memory that signifies their child is growing up and will soon embark on new adventures.

I see the first day of Kindergarten as quite possibly the first steps to Hell. Or at the very least my own descent into madness.

It’s so bizarre, really, just how much of how I see the world is revealed through Ella’s venturing out into it. How contrary my internal thoughts are to the way I’ve presented the world to her. I’ve raised her to believe in herself, to believe in the powers of goodness and honesty, to trust her own innate creativity and intelligence and to resist the corrosion of conformity for as long as she can.

And all the while, I’ve harbored this festering hatred for the world I’ve painted with such caring detail. In essence, I’ve either lied to my child or to myself, and perhaps both; I’ve spent too long, it seems, dancing between two worlds instead of just inhabiting one.

Tomorrow, then, is my day of reckoning.

Will I choose to follow my daughter into her new world and do my best to reinforce those values and beliefs that I have instilled in her in order to help her become the very best person she can? Or will I hide, like a coward, in a hell of my own making, succumbing to the worst of all possible fates: being a wretched little man, afraid of the world and its unpredictability, who loses his beloved daughter because of his own weakness?

For better or worse, I must choose. As much for Ella’s sake as my own. And the choice will make my world radically different, for the good or the bad.

Who knew a day filled with excitement and potential and squeaky new Hello Kitty accessories could be so metaphysical?