Archive for the ‘Thought’ Category


The Most Dangerous Sunday of the Year

May 10, 2013

I was always a sensitive boy. I remember sitting on the bench outside my dad’s church on Mother’s Day, wishing each mother blessings on the way in, and proffering the provided roses. I was so excited about my job, that I accidentally wished a childless woman a happy Mother’s Day, and had to be gently reminded by her that she wasn’t a mother. I can’t imagine how that must have felt, knowing as she did that my heart was joyful and longing to bless, yet having an overly enthused eight year old remind her that she would not have her own eight year old.

This childlike sensitivity grew into an appreciation for the fairer sex bordering on awe when puberty taught me that women were all of a sudden fascinating. I had far more female friends than guys, I just found their company more interesting, less competitive. At this point I had 5 brothers and sisters, and I loved having my big, chaotic family. I dreamed of the day where I’d have one of my own. Time passed, and this sensitive and timid young man grew more and more desperate for family. Like Abraham, I tried to take the reigns of my life into my own hands. Thankfully(I think), this didn’t result in a child in what would have been a disastrous relationship, and I came back to my Savior, a bit humbler and more ready to have my big family on his terms.

So I waited.

Then I met Amy. She was a pastor’s kid, just like me, and she knew all the words to the Vegi Tales “Lip Song”, just like I did. It was a perfect match. 12 months after “Hi, I’m Seth!” I was saying “Hello, Mrs. Greenwald!” We had great plans. Anytime anyone asked about kids, I told them that Amy and I were divided on the subject, I wanted 6, while she only wanted 4. After a few months, we decided that a year would be sufficent between marriage and baby, so we quit birth control, and waited.

And waited.

And waited. On month, she was at 42 days. We were so stoked! We ran out to Cracker Barrel and bought two of the “Mother and Child” Willow figurines, and had them gift wrapped, one for her mother and one for mine, our way of announcing our good news. The very next day, we got our own bit of bad news. No pregnancy.

Amy and I were married on August 9th, 2003. Some things have changed, true. Neither of us give a hoot about 6 or 4. We’d be beside ourselves over 1. Some things haven’t changed, though. No children. We have watched my younger brother get married and have a son. Twice. My older sister got married 3 years or so after we did, and promptly had a honeymoon baby. Two years after that, she had another son. Last fall we celebrated my mother’s retirement from being our teacher for 25 years of homeschooling, and as a gift, my older sister gave her a pregnancy test showing positive. Number 3 is on its way. About a month after that, my younger sister called me out of the blue, letting me know that she had gotten pregnant. Her fiancé is a single dad, so she is sort of having twins. 7 nephews and nieces is an amazing part of our lives, and we love each of them fiercely. But when I learned of my older sister’s third, I quietly walked around a room divider and even more quietly wept my heart out of my chest and onto the floor.

Amy and I have bitterly joked with each other that we should have given in to the incredible temptation to come together before we were married, because at least that way we’d have gotten pregnant. But as it stands, we will be at church on Sunday, holding our breath praying that the pastor doesn’t make a big deal about motherhood. We can’t even skip, because we are on the music team. We will be there before and after the service, trying in vain to not hear the clueless happy couples with their beautiful offspring congratulating each other on their ability to procreate. We will be leaving as quickly as humanly possible.

I speak from experience when I say that the issue runs far deeper than Mother’s Day, that’s only when it is closest to the surface. People in general, and the church in particular, don’t think about the brokenness that surrounds family relationships, other than the highly visible ones such as divorce. Barren couples aren’t even on the radar of the majority of people. Lonely singles don’t make a blip. The widow who’s children don’t call her sits in her pew, praying for health and traveling mercies, the two requests that are acceptable to make publicly. Believers don’t know how to share each others burdens. When true pain and very real wounds are shown, people shut down. At best, the leaders say “Thanks for being vulnerable”, which is code for “Moving on, now.” At worst, they call everyone over and pray over the empty womb, claiming a pregnancy within the year. There is an awful lot of talk of carrying burdens, and little lifting. Sometimes we need less words, and more hugs. Cry with us. Get angry with us. Don’t just shuffle your feet and look like you’d rather be anywhere else.

To me, Mother’s Day is too fraught with pain to be a valuable holiday. Father’s Day too, although Mother’s Day hurts more, for some reason. The heart of eight year old me must still be in there somewhere. I wish we would take many moments throughout the year to make our mother’s feel special, and render this one day obsolete.


Dreaming, Gospel Style

May 25, 2011

I have been thinking about contentment recently. Probably because being content is one of my biggest challenges. My wife Amy says that I have a grass is greener problem. I dream too big, too much. I need to be more realistic with what I long for. It’s hard, though, when there are so many things that I would love to have in my life! I want to go back to school and get my Master’s in Architecture. I want to work in a design firm where people are NOT treated like cattle. I want to own an architecture firm designing beautiful houses for wonderful clients. I want to wake up every morning and go to work saying, ‘I can’t believe I get paid to do this!’ All of these things are good, yet none are a reality right now. What does this tell you? I have a major work/success idol.

I have rebelled against contentment mainly because I have seen it as a requirement to take your dreams and stick them in the back of your closet, in the box with your high school yearbook and you stuffed animal from way back when. The thought of doing that makes my brain numb. Recently I have been coming to a different conclusion. In his sermon Sunday our pastor said “The worst thing that God could do to a person is give him exactly what he wants.” This struck a nerve. God wants to give us the best that he has, and that best is Himself. And he gave that to us in his Son. So how could God giving us our deepest desire be a good thing, unless that deepest desire is Him?

So I am praying for a different perspective. I want to recenter my deepest desire on the only thing that truly fulfills all I could ever need and more. In doing so, the strangest thing happens. When I let go of my dreams as being the thing that satisfies me, I GAIN the freedom to dream even bigger than before! If I long for something good, like an architecture firm, and I don’t get it, but I have God, how is that a loss? I have a God who loves me! I am now able to dream for the stars, because I already have the maker of those stars.

Now to remind myself of that daily….


Theory on Theory

October 31, 2008

The term theory has been used for many things in many ways. Generally speaking, theory tries to either find the cause behind a particular effect, or to predict the effect of a particular cause. In architecture, theory holds a distinct, yet related, meaning. It tries to find and to deal with the proper cause for a desired effect.

Over the years this has been applied in architecture in different ways. It has looked at historical precedent, user needs, and a holistic method. When architectural theory was driven by historical precedent, it met and satisfied a cultural expectation and desire, yet more and more failed to meet the needs of those who used the buildings. Eventually architects rebelled against this stricture and abandoned all reference to the past. These “Functionalists” distilled each project down to the minimum of square footage and the minimum of dollars spent, at the expense of addressing how people actually functioned in a social and psychological way.

The third holistic approach draws information that a designer can use in his process from a multitude of places. The designer can pull from the past, from the needs of a building, from psychology, religion, politics, fine arts, etc. This provides a way for the designer to meet all functional needs of a building, both seen and felt.

This also allows a designer to find solutions to problems by looking at it from a different perspective. All problems have solutions simply because they are problems. When we are tied to a single vantage point, we can often overlook a solution that is staring us in the face.

This brings us to a point where Architecture and vernacular architecture split. When theory is applied with aesthetics in mind we have architecture rather than just buildings. Vitruvius, an ancient roman architect, wrote that for there to be architecture there must be three things; Firmitas, Utilitas, and Venustas. In other words, it has to stand up, it has to work, and it has to be beautiful. All buildings built agree that there must be durability. All agree that it must fill a function.

Where the path splits is on the question of Beauty.


Time to Think

October 25, 2008

For close to three years I have been studying interior design.  Often, when telling people what I do, I am asked to help pick out paint colors.  This is a harmless question, one which I let annoy me far too often.  While it is a way that people tell me they are interested in what I do, It also shows how little most people know of the depth of the profession, and the many areas where interior design is used.  The common idea of interior design is merely the tip of a very large iceberg.

When I started, I to had little knowledge of what a complex and philosophical world I was joining.  Yet as time progressed, I came to recognize and love the way design can interact with the way people live their lives and affect what they believe.

I have come to realize that my mind is like the interior design profession.  Until now I have been content with picking out paint colors and arranging accessories.  I haven’t done much analysis or planing.  My mind is a poorly designed space.  I want to fix that, and this blog will be my drafting table.  When an idea needs refinement, I will write down my thoughts.  Just as one cannot design without a pen in hand, one cannot think without writing.  The process, as always, prevails.

Part of the design process is critique.  With the input of other serious, committed minds, a design project can go from good to great.  Similarly, when colleagues interact with ideas, greatness can happen.

I am no longer content being a mental decorator.  I want to design my mind.  I want to move walls.