Author Archives: Matt Ralph

A new perspective on motherhood

2016-04-16_183301993_89621_iOSI’ve been so blessed in my life to have such a strong and wonderful mother. Growing up, my mom modeled what it meant to truly put others before yourself and what true joy, dedication and commitment looks like.

While my relationship with my own mother has changed – I have a wife to cling to now in my most vulnerable times – I am continually impressed with how so much of who I am as a person has been shaped by my mom’s influence.

For the past eight years I have gotten to see my mother through a different perspective as she’s become a grandmother to my niece, Ella, and my nephew, Ezra. But on October 14, I got to see my mom and motherhood in an even different light when our son, Owen, introduced himself to the world.

Before Owen was born I knew there was no way to prepare myself or to understand what being a father would be like. I still don’t really know how to fully comprehend it, but I’ve discovered a whole new appreciation for my mom – particularly in her strength and relentless pursuit of ensuring that I had everything I needed to grow up a healthy and well-adjusted individual.

I’ve discovered this by observing my mom with my son but even more so in seeing Sara grow into her role as mom.

Those who have known Sara a long time aren’t surprised to see how nurturing and absolutely in love and attached she is to Owen. From the time she was little with her “babies,” through to college and grad school with the little ones she would watch, Sara has looked forward to the season in which we find ourselves.

I get emotional just trying to describe the love Sara has for our son. Seeing her face light up when she sees him after a long day at work says it all.

 
I like to say that being a dad is easy. We get to do a lot of the fun stuff and get credit and praised for everything we do. Being a mom on the other hand, particularly one as determined as Sara was to make breastfeeding work, involves a ton of work. There are late-night feedings and pumping, long breaks in the work day to pump, etc. And that’s not even talking about the birth.

Owen and I are truly the luckiest guys in the world to have Sara.

I am so humbled and grateful to have found a woman with the same passion and commitment of my own mother whose wisdom, love and experience (she is the queen of getting Owen to burp) has been invaluable in these first seven months of Owen’s life. I would be remiss to not mention the other mom in my life too, my mom-in-law, Deb. For the sacrifices she made raising Sara, for the many ways she modeled motherhood and for how she has loved and cared for me even through the struggles in our marriage, I will be forever grateful.

Happy Mother’s Day to the three moms in my life, Sara (Mama), Mama Ralph (Mo) and Mom-in-Law (Nona)! Owie and I love you so so so so much.

Owen David

2015-10-17 11.15.39“Suddenly everything has changed.”

Our little boy, Owen, was born on Wednesday, October 14, at 9:06 a.m. at LifeCycle WomanCare in Bryn Mawr. He was so excited about celebrating his parents’ birthdays on the 7th and 13th he decided to come three weeks early, but he doesn’t like to be called a premie because he was 6 pounds, 14 ounces.

Words really can’t describe the change that instantly took place in my heart when I saw him take his first breath or the horror Sara and I both felt on that first night tripping over each other to check that he was still breathing.

We’ve both taken well so far to this parenting thing and are very much attached to Baby Owen – leaving him even to go to Giant has been so emotional. It’s all pretty wild, this little guy whose captured our hearts. I’m overwhelmed by the thought that my love for him is only a small window into what God’s love looks like and understand even better the love my parents have for me, my brothers(and their now three grandchildren.

I also know that this joy we feel is a stark contrast to the pain and sorrow others we know who have struggled to get pregnant, battled through health complications or have lost their babies have felt. My heart breaks for them as I’m reminded this morning of the lyrics to a Sara Groves song off her latest album – “These stretches of joy, these patches of sorrow. There’s enough for today; they’ll be enough tomorrow.”

Bomb-proof love

“This is the love you have been looking for all your life. This is the only love that can’t let you down. This is bomb-proof love. Not friend-love, not personal acclaim, not married love, and not even romantic love — it is this love that you are after, underneath all your pursuit of those others. And if this love of active obedience is an active reality in your life, you will be a person of integrity; you will be a person of prayer; you will be kind to people who mistreat you. If you have this love, you will be a little more like him. Look at him dying in the dark for you. Let it melt you into his likeness.”

-Timothy Keller, Encounters With Jesus

Matt’s Top Ten 2013 Highlights

1235310_718923911466646_34710158_n

1. Milestones
There were a number of milestones in our families in 2013. My mom turned 60 on April 1 and we threw a surprise party, her first, a few weeks later at my parents’ church. My parents also celebrated their 40th anniversary and my in-laws celebrated their 25th anniversary with a beautiful ceremony at Fairland BIC Church in Cleona, where Sara and I said our own wedding vows five years ago.

383398_687871168803_2082819246_n

2. Alaska
I visited my 48th state back in May as part of my third Creative Missions trip. I teamed up with my friend Dave last year and some wonderful newcomers on some website projects for a couple of church plants in the Anchorage area and after the trip ended spent Memorial Day Weekend with my first college roommate, Fred, who lives in Anchorage with his wife and two daughters. Though I spent most of my time working, the painting-like background everywhere we went was every bit as beautiful as everyone always says it is.

946286_698739583413_514031263_n

3. Yosemite National Park
I scratched Yosemite off my bucket list when Sara and I went to the park as part of our California vacation in July. Fortunately, we made it there before all of the wild fires and Government shutdowns. Driving was a challenge, dodging deer and other wildlife and handling switchbacks on windy roads with no guard rails but the scenery was well worth it.

1454805_731248430423_842884210_n

4. Record shopping in Nashville, San Antonio and Austin
Sara had a couple work conferences this year so I tagged along with her to Nashville and San Antonio and had plenty of time to explore both cities and hunt for records and do other nerdy things I love like go to the Johnny Cash Museum, explore the site of the 1968 World’s Fair and find the Daniel Johnston mural in Austin.

5. Moving to a college campus
I didn’t go to Eastern University and I don’t work there, but I became a resident of one of the country’s most beautiful campuses in August and minus the occasional late night phone call for Sara, the Doane Hall resident director, it’s been a blast (not paying rent or utilities is pretty nice, too).

486353_4904261653736_1757839811_n

6. Red Bull Away
I attended my first Philadelphia Union away game at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., and it was an incredible experience standing with a couple hundred other Union supporters cheering the boys in blue and gold to victory. Also up there was seeing the U.S. Men’s National team score five goals in a friendly in San Diego and watching Louisville come back from a 2-0 deficit in the first half to win in a game we caught in Louisville on our way back from Nashville. I also saw my first soccer game in Canada during our June trip to Toronto but it unfortunately it was a forgettable one for the Union.

7. Shenandoah and the Big Apple
I ended up doing a couple road trips with each of my brothers this year. Mike and I went to Shenandoah National Park at the end of August and camped out for a couple nights and Dave and I did an overnight trip to New York City in November. I’m blessed to have two incredible brothers as my closest guy friends and both trips reminded me how fortunate I am to have both of them in my life.

IMG_0166

8. Salinas, Cannery Row and John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck has been my favorite author since middle school so getting to go to the museum in his hometown of Salinas, walk down Cannery Row in Monterey and have lunch at his boyhood home were truly a dream come true.

9. Church
I haven’t been an official member of a church since I graduated confirmation class as a kid so it was kind of a big deal to commit to Blue Route Vineyard, the church we have been attending in Media since June 2012. We also joined a small group and started helping with kids church.

10. Eastern University
Seeing Sara fulfill her dream of working in higher education at her alma mater was an incredible blessing and answer to prayer in 2013. After years of having jobs she liked but didn’t love, it’s awesome to see her thriving in a position that’s difficult and demanding but a perfect fit for her skills and expertise. I like to say now that my wife is a powerful person because she is – she is in charge of a building of nearly 200 college kids, the boss of nine RAs and the assistant dean of students. Can you tell I’m proud?