Two Years of The Joy Machine

Jackson McLane - 2 Years Old Today
JT in his favorite spot doing his favorite thing, eating!

Jackson Turns Two Today

Here’s 10 things about our toddler that I wish I could bottle up and save forever.

family Photo Travel

Back From the Brink

I just turned on my computer for the first time in 7 days. 

It still feels a bit funky. My fingers are stretching to familiar places but typing feels totally odd. Yesterday, I woke up to cuddle a freezing Jackson back to sleep. Today, he woke up in his crib to a warm bowl of oatmeal and a morning full of Curious George & Elmo.

The McLane Family is 500 miles from our little June Lake camp site, 8,600 feet above sea level and a million miles from yesterday.

I spent a week intentionally disconnected from my day-to-day life. I turned off my email, signed out of Facebook, never opened Wunderlist or even had the thought, “I should write that down.” For the first time I can remember I even let the blog go fallow for a week.

It felt good to rest.

When I wrote my last post I was on the brink. I was past tired. I was exhausted. I don’t know what comes after exhaustion but I was pretty much there. It’s not so much that the exhaustion was hurting my work as it was that it was hurting to work. Day-by-day the grind was like a bruise that kept getting punched. Even embracing a more regular Sabbath wasn’t helping. I needed real rest.

After a week of hiking, exploring, playing, laughing, star-gazing, and fishing… I feel better and found rest for the first time in a long time.

It had been a few years since I really shut it down for 6 consecutive days. I don’t know if it’s my insecurity, the desperate feeling we had to turn it around at my old gig, or what… but I do know shutting it down was the right thing and something I need to do more often. (I have 3 weeks of vacation planned for the remainder of 2012.)

Rush-free Play

As we drove home yesterday, Kristen and I kept joking about the fact that we all still liked one another. Camping brought us closer together. As we left June Lake we were all a bit sad it had ended. I think all of us had embraced a little fantasy that it didn’t have to end… that we could just head to the grocery store and restock for another week. (And hit the showers to clean up!)

I think that’s a sign of a good vacation, that you leave wanting a little bit more and having fully entertained the option of never going home.

Each day was filled with a slowventure where we made breakfast together, cleaned up camp, and went somewhere to explore. We had a simple lunch of PB&J or fruit, cheese, and crackers. Somehow we managed to make it home in time to make dinner and have a camp fire before bed. (Did you know marshmallows are a food group while camping? I think each of the kids ate their weight in marshmallow!)

Together, we saw some of Earth’s greatest treasures. Yosemite denies description. Photos cannot capture awe. The giant sequoias, the Valley, the Tunnel View, the Merced River, Tuolumne Meadows, the Tioga Road, even The Mobile… all are happy places.

We spent 2 days not catching a single fish but smiling the whole time. We went up and down mountains. And we played in lots and lots of streams.

I loved watching Megan and Paul get lost in ancient forms of play. They made bow & arrows and pretended to hunt chipmunks. They wandered in the woods collecting stuff. They stared deeply into the starry abyss. They played with fire.

And they were rarely bored.

It’ll probably take me a few weeks to really unpack my vacation. But all I know is that I need more of that more often!



Jackson and Dad, 5 months in


No DNA test required, right? This is my boy.

JT has fit into our family from the first moment. We never knew he was missing from the family make-up until he invited himself to the party. He completes our little family.

This baby is proof that there are no accidents in God’s eyes, just emerging possibilities.

When an emerging possibility rocks you world, throw your hands in the air and enjoy the ride. His way is way more fun than your way.

hmm... thoughts

The Joy Machine

It’s been five weeks since Jackson was born.

It’s hard to remember what our family was like without him.

The fun part about Jackson, to us, is how much of an unexpected miracle he is to our family. With both Megan and Paul we carefully planned their arrival. I remember sitting down with Kristen and doing the math with the calendar about a year before she was born– “If Megan is born on May 12th, that will be the day after my last final. That will give us the best opportunity to spend the most time with her before classes begin.” With Jackson, the element of surprise changed everything. Even today we laugh thinking about having a 3rd baby. He wasn’t in the plan. He just showed up!

One thing I’ve noticed with Jackson that I didn’t notice with the other two is that a new baby isn’t just a joy for its parents and immediate family, he brings joy to every corner of our community. You see it on the faces of people everywhere we go with him! His arrival literally makes people smile.

Infectious Joy

  • Our extended family loves seeing him.
  • Our neighbors love seeing him.
  • People in our neighborhood who saw Kristen walking while she was pregnant stop her now to see him and smile.
  • People at church love seeing him.
  • People at both of our jobs love seeing him.
  • Long time friends from all over the world love seeing his pictures on Facebook.
  • The kids classmates and other random people at the kids school love seeing him.
  • The guy at our favorite smoothie shop loves seeing him.
  • Random people whom we barely know, stop us in public, because they love seeing him.
  • People we’ve never met but are our Facebook friends and Twitter followers love seeing him.

He is a joy machine!

One little baby has brought joy, spontaneous joy, to any entire group of people. I’m thankful to God for allowing me to observe it this time.

You are a joy machine, too

I’ve started to think about this observation in light of other people in my life. At one point you brought Jackson-like joy to your community. People oogled over you at the grocery store. Your parents neighbors counted down the days until you were born. People your parents barely knew smiled when they pushed a stroller around your block.

The same is likely true of you today. Even if you don’t see it– you bring joy to your community. People look forward to seeing you. Your impact isn’t just in your work or in the people you think it is, it’s so much deeper and wider than you can imagine. The guy at the smoothie shop (or coffee shop) you go to regularly looks forward to seeing you every day.

Don’t forget that. You are a joy machine.

family hmm... thoughts

When God shows up

The last 48 hours have been filled with God’s presence. Little moments of stillness amidst the storm of welcoming a new baby in which God whispered in our ear gentle reminder:

“You are Mine.”

“Jackson is Mine.”

“I’m in charge.”

The change started Tuesday morning as the sun came up. In the 24 hours preceding we had been in the hospital trying to get labor going nothing had happened. Like literally, we progressed backwards!

We fell asleep exhausted, frustrated, and discouraged. We woke up refreshed, optimistic, and encouraged.

I turned on the lights and I changed the music in our room to a playlist I call, “All U2, All Crowder, All the Time.

That little room reset set in motion a series of things where God loudly presented His voice.

First, the nurses examined Kristen. A 25 year veteran and then the senior nurse on the ward both said… “I’ve never felt anything like that. I have no idea what that means or what’s going on.

We laughed. And both Kristen and I soaked in the reality that it wasn’t just that Kristen was a newfound medical mystery– it was that God was going to reveal Himself in an unexpected way.

Then, the doctor came in. She answered all of our questions and was matter-of-fact about what was going to happen. His head was too big to be born

As the hours progressed our anxiety about the realities of how Jackson would be born significantly decreased, too. We rested knowing that while we hadn’t intended for a C section, it wasn’t the end of the world. But it clearly a little test of our dependency on God as our Father.

As a dad I like to be in control. Our kids are old enough where I’ve learned how to keep things in my family within parameters of my control. Those boundaries are often wide for plenty of room to be brave yet stringent enough to keep everyone out of harms way. Control is a necessary function of parenting. In many ways it isn’t that I like to be in control. It’s that my role as a father means I need to be in control.

Yet, in this situation we were removed from the control position. We knew nothing about having a baby this way. We were going to have to completely give up control to people we barely knew and trust that they would take care of us in our most vulnerable state.

On one side of the teeter totter was the birth process we knew. Being a known process, even if it ended in more frustration, seemed good to us because we knew it. On the other side of the teeter totter was the birth process we knew of, knew a lot of facts about, but couldn’t trust from our experience.

Back and forth we went.

All afternoon, we teeter-tottered between rationally knowing that the surgery was the only way to go and the fear of the unknown. And yet God’s peace began to fill the room with each passing hour.

Finally, the hour arrived. With all of the preparations complete an OR nurse came into our room and started to pull Kristen’s bed out of the room.

We were helpless with what was about to happen. We had zero control. We signed consent forms. Our “yes” was in writing! This wasn’t some sort of metaphysical letting go anymore… literally, Kristen’s life and Jackson’s life were being wheeled down the hallway.

Kristen went down the hall into the operating room and I was left alone behind the big double doors. Alone in the moment. I was trying to think about anything but “what if?

My mind swirled in those moments. Thinking about seeing Jackson in a few minutes. Thinking about the order of who to call after he was born. Thinking about news of an earthquake in Christchurch, NZ. Thinking about the deliveries of Megan and Paul. Thinking about if I had watered the plant above my desk at home. Thinking about all the episodes of TV hospital drama I’d seen and never actually been into an operating room. Thinking about how I was going to juggle taking pictures with both my iPhone and my still camera. Thinking about what I wanted to say to Kristen when he was born.

Round and round my brain went. 1,000 miles per hour and 1,000 directions at once. My world felt very small in those few moments. My whole world was limited to the two 12×12 tiles my feet were frozen in.

There was never a place in my life so alone as in that hallway. And for Kristen, I’m sure there was never a more alone place than laying on that table getting prepped. If marriage is about oneness than we shared in the oneness of our aloneness in that moment.

Finally, the door opened and a nurse moved me to another room. A real waiting area. More like a closet. I’d be brought into the operating room just before they were ready to pull him out. Fortunately, there was a chair there so I could sit down. I collapsed into the seat– still swirling and full of emotion. There wasn’t anything I could do. Just sit.

As the nurse closed the door leaving me alone I felt God’s presence arrive and fill the room. It’s hard to explain. But I just started to feel the same phrases over and over again. Not audible, not in mind mind… but somewhere in between. “You are mine. Jackson is mine. I’m in charge.”

I don’t know how long I was in there. Probably just a couple of minutes. But it was glorious! Now, all of a sudden, it felt like the whole experience was holy ground.

The nurse came back to get me. I put on my surgical mask. And the next few minutes were a blur of seeing Kristen, hearing the doctors talk, and culminating with the phrase, “Time. Seventeen-eleven.” I leaned to my left and there he was… Jackson Tucker McLane.

The bottom line is simple: When God shows up– Everything changes.