Tag Archives: fatherhood

To My Sons On Their 5th and 3rd Birthdays

fishys

AMOS

Happy be-lated 5th birthday my first born!  You are so peculiar in your interests, but that’s what makes you, you (and more interesting, as your mommy would say).  You’ve moved on from your love of cactus and mannequins to an obsession with sweets and baked goods.

  • You eat them with such relish (one of my top highlights with you that I can remember is when you came with me to “help” me shop at Costco and I got you that frozen yogurt swirl for us to “share” that you love and you would keep smiling so deeply as you shivered, made funny faces, and gorged yourself).
  • You would ask after every meal time if there would be any “special treats” (that your mom and I try to limit to one serving every couple days).
  • You borrow dessert cook books en-masse from frequent trips to the library (and were so excited to discover that the adult section cookbooks had far superior pictures than then the children’s section).
  • You draw desserts with impressive design and detail and were even inspired to make a dessert cookbook by writing out the names of all your favorite dishes (brilliant move by mommy by the way to practice your letters).

I know it hasn’t been all sweet though.  I know we’ve been hard on you and Daddy has gotten so mad at you more times than I like to admit. To be honest it scares me how much the negative aspects of my relationship with my dad comes out.  It’s also scary and humbling to me to see how much you’re like me in my brokenness. I’m sorry Amos.  I hope you can forgive daddy.  I know you’re trying to listen and be a good brother.  I’m trying to learn to be a better daddy from our Heavenly Father.  I want to learn to be present to you, not just functional.  I want to learn to take time to enjoy the moment, not just impatiently wanting you to move on my timetable.

I love the silly faces you make and your intense funky dancing.  I love the way you take your time to wonder at the beautiful things in this world.  I love the way you notice the details in things that most people look right past.  I love you.

NATHAN

Happy early 3rd birthday my chubby cutie.   I am so blessed by your generous spirit and your smiling eyes (that you’ve inherited from your mommy).   Through you we’ve learned that each child is so different, even though I don’t think mommy and daddy have raised you any differently.  As opposed to Amos, who is into things that are still, you are all about movement.

  • You love dinosaurs, monster trucks, cars, planes, animals: in that order.
  • You are always busy talking about things that move, moving the things that move, moving around from toy to toy, from activity to activity.
  • You are a workout to dress and undress as you frequently just want to run around “may-ked” (aka naked) as you say.
  • Your nose is frequently flowing with some sort of ooze.
  • You carry around your muslin towel everywhere frequently stepping on it as you go.
  • You easily make friends and just as easily are fine without them

Mommy and I joke that you are 90% joy and 10% rage (which we say comes from your mom).  When you get into one of your moods, usually if you are under-slept and often for the most ridiculous requests…like insisting that we read you a book WHILE you sit on the toilet, there is no consoling you.  We don’t give in but we let you chill out.  And then you’re back to your happy go lucky self.  My prayer for you is that you would learn to communicate what’s really going on for you beneath even what you are saying.

I love the way you freely and more easily adjust to your brother’s demands.  You are often the first to share.  I love the way you just light people up by just being you whether its singing ONE line of a Christmas song repeatedly in the middle of summer, or when you roar at people and are simultaneously afraid of the very things that roar, or when you wake up at the crack of dawn and tell me “Daddy, let’s wake up”, or when you just randomly come up and hug me and say “I love you Daddy”.  You are a precious gift from God that reminds me He just gives us joy whether we deserve it or not.

happy 3rd birthday to my first born

big brother

you’ve made it through your terrible twos (kicking and screaming)!   you wanted to hit and spit on and most everything (often your younger brother), had countless crying breakdowns (you didn’t quite know that you could use words instead), had the most explosive solid-overflowing-your-pants sort of poo (which daddy made worse by pulling down to your feet), and got your first troubling note home from school (that gave mama some tears).

yet, this year you also learned to eat by yourself (downing that natto and ice cream as if your life depended on it), wash hands by yourself (with way too much soap), write letters of the alphabet (along with a bunch of other made up hieroglyphs), sing songs heartily (in japanese with your korean mom), share (some) of your food, make friends (esp with the ladies), and have actual conversations (your daddy gets a kick out of those)!

your top two interests in your twos were cactus and mannequins…yup, you’re a little weird…which I love about you!

here’s to hoping your year as a threenager will be gracious!

Nathan Jin Kitani

you were supposed to be born in march like your dad and your older brother but you weren’t about to get your birthday lumped together with us, so as soon as midnight marked the passing of march into april you let your mother know you were ready to come out…pretty emphatically, actually.  within 30min of arriving at the hospital you surprised even the nurses when you started crowning before a doctor arrived or anyone could give your mom medicine to dull her pain.  she wasn’t sure if she could do it…but we prayed.  i’ve never seen your mother in so much physical pain before but thank you (and God) that you made it easier on your mom when you pretty much came out with only a couple pushes.

 

you entered into this world on 4/1/14 at 3:02am, on a late night with an unexpected but much needed spring rain, weighing in at 7 lbs 13 oz and 20.4 inches tall.   you were drinking mama’s milk within an hour of arriving.  right from the get go it seems you knew what you wanted and went straight for it.

 

so, as you know, a lot of people pull all sorts of pranks on your birthday.  in fact some people weren’t sure if your birth was a joke someone was pulling.  it seems like you tricked your parents really good because they got all relaxed when you gave your parents two false alarms in the earlier weeks before your birth.  i hope you don’t get discouraged if people don’t take your birthday seriously, because, son, your parents consider it a really significant day.  we are truly privileged to be your parents and excited to see your life unfold.   God makes every good and perfect gift…and He knows what He is doing.

 

in fact, did you know that’s what you first name means?  NATHAN means “gives” as in “he/she gives” or “God gives.”  your mom really loves your name as it’s the name of a really clever prophet in the bible (you should check out his story…not just because this prophet totally puts a guy with your dad’s name in his place) and wanted it for you very early on.  i wasn’t so sure because i had friends with sons named nathan and i wanted something more original.  but God woke me up early one morning to pray for you when you were still in the womb and that is the name He kept brining to mind.  later, i asked God what he wanted for you and i got this vision of an owl flying up into the sky then overlaid with gold on a coat of arms.  i asked God for an interpretation and this is the one i sensed i got: the owl meant that you would be wise and insightful (which reminded me of a word God gave to our friend gustavo, that you would be intelligent).  flying up meant that God will lift you up to interact with powerful people and powers.  gold meant that you would be honored in this role.

 

the coat of arms leads me to your middle name, JIN.  like your older brother, that name is a one syllable name that could work in japanese or korean, reflecting your mixed parentage.  there are different possible meanings for that name depending on the chinese characters you use to make that sound.  when we read “blade” as one possible meaning we laughed and mom said that’s the one that stuck out to her.  the more i thought about it, it seems fitting to the pointed nature of your arrival and even with nathan the prophet and his approach.  nathan was not a blunt instrument that just declared king david’s sin but was a blade that artfully and effectively cut to his heart.  with a story as a parable, nathan stirred up the king’s sense of justice and at the right time pointed to david’s culpability to deliver the conviction effectively, whereas with a blunt approach david may not have been able to objectively see the gravity of his sin and unjust act.

 

son, i pray that you would confront the powerful in an effective way, giving people the word they really need to hear from God.

nathan

 

“Here I will make a horn grow for David
    and set up a lamp for my anointed one.
I will clothe his enemies with shame,
    but his head will be adorned with a radiant crown.”

– Psalm 132:17-18 (the psalm God led us to and that we read together a couple hours after you were born)

When nothing seems to change…

Going deeper with people, even ourselves, means facing our brokenness. I am experiencing this, even now, as I go deeper into working with youth in our community. There are wonderful discoveries in caring for people, but there are also wearying disappointments…when you see the same issues continue to rear their ugly head…when change seems impossible.

If I’ve learned one thing over the years of working with people, it’s that you can’t change people’s hearts. This is something only God can do. So what then?

JUST ASK: For the past year or so God has been repeating the theme of talking to Him. A couple years ago someone prayed for me and reminded me that God just wanted me to ask Him for the help that I needed. I prayed here and there but it was still so hard for me to remember such a simple thing. I’d find myself in over my head in the classroom and realize I didn’t once ask him for help that day. This year, through studying the book of Luke, the theme of prayer is unavoidable as people awaited the Messiah and Jesus himself is seen habitually talking with God in the midst of all sorts of craziness. Then about a month ago at a church retreat, I was praying with the junior high boys, and one of them felt God was saying to me “talk to me.” As an earthly father listening to my baby son attempt to talk, I am learning that our Heavenly Father delights in listening and responding to us. Walking with Jesus means, at the very least, talking to Him throughout the day…even about the stuff that breaks my heart.

But what if things don’t change? What then? Often it’s easier not to care again because it hurts too much to be let down.

PERSEVERE: At least twice in this past season a little parable of Jesus has come up in my life, once in the Luke study I’m a part of and again a couple weeks ago at church. In this parable Jesus tells the story of a persistent widow who get her request by wearing down an unrighteous judge as an illustration that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Sometimes the answer is already on the way the moment we ask but there is spiritual warfare to get through as an angel had once explained to the prophet Daniel. Just as my son continues to cry of hunger even when the milk will be on the way AFTER his diaper changing, sometimes we need to trust in the right timing of our Heavenly Father. And sometimes it’s not enough to ask just once. It’s not that God is unrighteous (he’s the opposite actually) and it’s not that He has to be worn down, but I think it’s that we need to see for ourselves what we actually depend on, especially when the going gets tough.

But what if things still don’t seem to change? What then?

TRANSFORMATION: Maybe it’s not the situation or the other person’s heart that needs to change so much as it is our hearts that need changing. When we persevere in prayer it sets a pattern of our life toward God whether we get the answer we expected or not. Prayer refines our hearts into God’s.

Let us pray then.

Please pray that I persevere in prayer, not only for myself, but for the youth of this next generation.

Amos Jun Kitani

Dear Amos,

Hello son. I would have written sooner, but we were pretty tired by the end of the day that you arrived so now it is the day after. Your mother and I had been waiting for you. You came a little bit sooner than we expected but right on time nevertheless. You were born on Monday, March 12th, 2012 at 9:43am weighing in at 7lbs. 8oz., and 21 inches long. Mom had to push to exhaustion for 3 hours for you to come out of your first home so hope you won’t give her a hard time.

I don’t think parents are ever ready to be parents when they have children…believe it or not we weren’t always parents. Although I will try, words are not enough to describe how it feels to become parents for the first time. Honestly, we weren’t sure how much we’d like you when you came…we heard children completely change people’s lives, and we got a little comfortable with the lives that we had. But now that you’re here we, inexplicably, can’t seem to get enough of you. We never thought we’d be so engaged just staring at your face…which we thought would look like a monkey and an alien…thankfully you don’t look like a monkey (haha). We never thought such dread would fill our hearts if we found out you were ill and couldn’t be with us. We never thought we’d actually be overjoyed when you fed from mom for the first time. I never thought the thought of you would fill my entire body with wonder, thankfulness, awe, fear, joy, hope, and love all at the same time.

There’s a lot more I could write to you but right now I wanted to take the time to tell you why we named you as we did.

Amos: I know you probably hate it that people may make fun of your name because it sounds like a certain body part in the behind, but trust your father when he says there is a good reason for why we gave you this name first. Around the time we first found out you were coming, your dad was doing a study in the book of Luke with a group of Servant Partner interns after making a pretty momentous move to the inner city with your mom. I noticed God gave a name to His Son as well as to his Son’s cousin. So your dad asked God to give us a name for you.

At first, God gave me a sense of the idea of an offering. I didn’t really know what that meant so your mother and I, who were both reading through the prophets in the bible around this time, started naming off some prophets, people who were used by and for God. Then your mom said your name, and we were both immediately drawn to it. You see, your namesake wasn’t even a prophet by trade, just a shepherd, but he was angry about the things that made God angry…he spoke up for people that couldn’t speak up for themselves and he stood up for justice and righteousness. This seemed to fit your strong personality that I think you exhibited from the womb in the way you would poke out of mom and refuse to move back in as well as when you looked straight at us in your first ultrasound.

Then I looked up the meaning of your name. It’s a Hebrew word that means “carried”, as in “he carried” or “carried by God.” This seemed to fit with the idea of an offering to me. It’s a heavy name, I know, so I asked God if this was the name I should give you. I felt He said back to me “Are you sure?” as in “Are you sure you want me to name your son?” for what God desires for us is not always easy for us. But I trust that what He desires is good and better than anything I could dream up. And if carrying the burdens of others becomes too much, remember He carries you. So I said, “Yes.”

Jun: Your middle name was tricky. Your mom wanted to name you Kunta after Kunta Kinte from Roots so you would be Kunta Kitani…because she thought that sounded funny. But I thought that was kind of a messed up reason (haha…plus I could find no meaning to the name) so I vetoed that one for you. I wanted you to have a Korean name since your mother is of Korean heritage, and you would already have a Japanese name through your last name. Your mom also wanted a name that could work in Japanese too.

So at first I thought of you having a name, preferably with the meaning of “light” (so that you would be a light of God to those around you), with Chinese characters that way you could read it in Korean or in Japanese. But according to your mom’s dad (grandpa) the Korean names that resulted sounded old fashioned and way too lofty. So then your mom and I tried to brainstorm words that were the same in Korean and Japanese…but most of them ended up being names of very particular things…like washing machine and newspaper. So we asked your grandpa to give us the Korean names he liked. He wanted a one syllable name and the middle name you were given, meaning “brightness”, was one of them. Through a a friend, we were reminded that it turns out your middle name also is a name in Japanese, as well as having in common the first letter of your mom’s name and the first syllable of my mom’s name!

Kitani: We didn’t have much choice about this one because this was the Japanese family name I also inherited. Yet, I’ve come to embrace it, not only as my heritage, but as part of who I am and hope you do too. It means “tree valley” – “tree” which makes me think of what our Savior was hung on to die for us, and “valley” which makes me think of the low times and places in our lives that are hard but we learn so much from. Plus people like to say this name for some reason.

***

I’ll end this letter with a verse that Martin Luther King Jr. (another gifted “prophet” of more recent times that also spoke out about injustice) quoted, from the book that bears your name, in his “I Have a Dream” speech…a truth that is also a dream of your parents and a reality of our God’s heart.

“But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” – Amos 5:24

day 16: shepherd

Isaiah 40:10-11; Ezekiel 34:23-24; John 10:11-18

“Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him;behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms;he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” – Isaiah 40:10-11

“I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd” – Ezekiel 34:23

“The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep…No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” – John 10:13-15, 18

a shepherd: a man who cares for lowly, foolish , and frightened animals. in my one memorable interaction with a sheep herd i especially saw how easily frightened they were. i came by a fairly large herd, one that could have totally overpowered me, but the minute i walked up close to them they all ran away terrified. they would only feel safe with the caretaker they were familiar with…their shepherd. its interesting that in the isaiah passage God says He will come with “might” and then follows that statement with the image of a shepherd…not the profession that comes to mind when i think of strength. in fact, the shepherd that is described is very tender, giving special care for the weakest of the herd. yet, maybe that is “might” in God’s eyes: to love and care for those who are helpless…those who can do nothing to care for you. as i prepare to become a father, i am so impressed by the ones i see holding their little ones…with little to no sleep they faithfully and responsively care for a little thing that just cries, drools, poops, and punches them in the face. then this Good Shepherd not only cares for but defends these sheep. when danger and threat comes that is the test of true strength….that shows who you really care for. i know i immediately try to protect myself…not throw myself into it. and not just throw myself into the onslaught of danger but to do it for a bunch of sheep? indeed Jesus has might i only barely understand.

are we really that different from the sheep? what gives us anxiety…what really scares us? how can we run to the Good Shepherd and let ourselves be carried by Him?

thank you Lord that you are my Mighty Shepherd.

being stolen from and receiving a son

we had our first piece of property stolen from us about a week ago.  it was only a matter of time living here.  our neighbor actually had a rock (or something) thrown into their window a couple weeks ago.  as of today, the neighborhood we have moved into is ranked 45th highest in violent crime out of 209 neighborhoods in Los Angeles County (according to the searchable “neighborhood” section in the LA Times <about one of the only things that the paper’s got going for it>.  so the other evening i walked outside to water our front lawn and realized our hose was missing…as well as the reel container the hose was in…that was nailed into the ground.

after getting over our initial surprise…we, oddly enough, just laughed.  Ji figured if they went through all the trouble of getting the nail pegs out of the ground they probably needed it a lot more than we did.  it is such a minor thing in the scope of things.  we have so little to complain about living here.  it is so much nicer than we had imagined in our minds as we prepared for the move.  i mean there are differences here on our street that you would never find in a more well to do neighborhood such as: dog poo all over the grass, random trash strewn about on our lawn (including a pair of panties a couple weeks ago!), condoms on the sidewalk, etc.  yet, we are still relatively insulated on our street (which is a quiet little spot of newer immigrant asians) compared to the other stuff that happens in the neighborhood.  north of the main street, that cuts through the neighborhood, is generally a lot more dangerous.  my wife and I are really trying to learn to have a looser grip on our possessions.  stuff doesn’t last.  stuff can be replaced.  by the grace of God, we have enough means and are connected to people who have means…Ji’s mom bought us a new hose on a reel.   this is not a luxury most in the community have.

the very next day, after i happened upon being stolen from, we found out that the child growing within my wife is a boy!  my wife was just only about 15 weeks (almost 4 months) a week ago and i heard that people usually can’t find out the gender of their child until about the 5th month.  so the morning we went in for the second ultra sound, i just lifted up a little prayer that our developing child wouldn’t be too shy.  sure enough the little guy was showing us everything as he was squirming all around: his spine, his legs (spread eagle even…hence the gender discovery…hahha!), his heart, his head (which you can see below):

an eerie shot of our son as he was looking straight at us....that's his skull and eye sockets (to the left).

what an active helpful little guy.  it was so surreal to see him.  we’ve known about him for awhile now hidden in his mother’s belly but its a whole other experience to see life unfolding right before our eyes…so little but so many living moving details already…more real, tangible, and miraculous somehow even though its something very natural.  its like a peek into a world that is always there but normally invisible to the naked eye.  although i had a sweet spot for a daughter i see God’s wisdom in giving us a son.  we will learn so much.  Ji says she has no frame of reference for raising a son, as an only female child (and an avid watcher of gilmore girls…haha!).  it has really made me think more explicitly about what it means to be a man and what I want to pass down to my son…the sort of issues i don’t want him to inherit from me and the legacy i want to leave him.    it is as i am reminded by my wife, that he will catch from me not so much what i say is important, but what i actually am.  God grant us wisdom…grant us your indestructible life.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.” – Job 1:21