Category: family/parenting

To My Children, On Gratitude

From a couple of years ago…thoughts on Thanksgiving.

Bria, Ashton, Alexa, Avalee, Brooks, Mallie, Kyla, Ellia & Jax,

If there is one trait in this life that will give you a rich, fulfilling one, it is GRATITUDE.

The ability to see the beauty in simple pleasures; the ability to let what you have blind you to the things you don’t.

Gratitude is knowing that God is enough, no matter what your circumstances.

Gratitude is not taking your life for granted. It is remembering that a healthy body is a gift, a warm house is not a right, and food at every meal is a luxury to most of the world.

 

Children, I won’t apologize to you because you don’t have all the technological gadgets your peers do. I am not sad that we can’t buy you your own car when you turn sixteen, or that you are saving your money to buy a special thing you’ve been wanting.

From my observation of the world these forty years, this will help you, not harm you.

Gifts are nice when they are gifts, but they can be too much. So much that you forget, and take for granted, and become ungrateful and feel entitled.

I love you too much for that. I praise God with the psalmist for having “neither too little nor too much”. I thank Him for daily bread and I want you to grow up doing the same.

 

 

I want you to find contentment in simplicity, looking to the relationships around you for your deepest joy.
And I want to thank you SO MUCH, that you prefer people over prosperity. Lots of people worry about our younger children taking something away from our older ones, but not once have you worried about that.

 

You have reminded us that they add something to your lives. While the others worry, you’ve even asked for more siblings…oh the purity and rightness of a child’s thoughts! That we would be able to think like you do!

 

Gratitude is so easily robbed in our culture! We live the largest irony in stating that “money doesn’t make you happy” and then sacrificing our lives to disprove our theory.

So, I pray this Thanksgiving season that you would hold on to gratitude. Be thankful for every sunrise, every warm bowl of soup, every night your Daddy comes home, for every clean item of clothing in your closet, for peace, when others are at war….be thankful, and even if it were all taken away, tune your hearts to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

 

 

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Gratitude

 



Raising Boys Into Men: Tend the Field

I think we don’t look enough into our little boy’s face and see the man, or into our daughter’s and see the woman. Enjoying and celebrating their childhood is normal and good, but it can be too easy to hover there, forgetting the goal, forgetting to grow them up, forgetting they are men and women in the making, even now.

Stephen Mansfield’s book, Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men, (run, and do not walk, to Amazon to buy this book) has rekindled a vigor in me to raise men, reminding me of how desperately our society depends on it. Mansfield, a brilliant writer and a godly man, gives four “maxims” of manhood.

One of them is this: “Men tend their fields.”

Mansfield explained that he was a bad defensive player in football until one of his genius coaches taught him an important life lesson. He drew a box on the field and told him, “This is your territory. Don’t let anyone in here. Guard it, protect it. It’s yours.” Once, when he let a player through with the ball, the coach told him to meet him on the field the next cold, November morning. When they met, the coach handed Mansfield a pair of scissors and told him he wanted him to “mow” his patch. He said if he took care of it, he would be more likely to guard it. It took Mansfield a week or so to cut all the blades of grass in his patch of field. The plan worked and Mansfield said he became obsessive about that patch. No one ever crossed it again.

Real men own their territories (whatever that is, in each season of life). They guard it, take responsibility for it, care for it, protect it, nurture it and love it.

It’s action. Men do. Real men act like men.

And it shouldn’t come as a surprise, that if we don’t teach them to act like men now, they likely won’t suddenly turn into men as adults.

To tend fields, they must be given fields. From a young age, we can get them practicing responsibility for their fields in their bedrooms, their hygiene, their schoolwork and their chores or jobs. As they become men and learn how to take responsibility for their fields, they grow into men who will do likewise with their families.

We can’t coddle them, tend their fields for them or cushion them from consequences. To do that is to castrate them and set them toward failure. We have too many men who don’t know what it means to have a fierce loyalty to his family, understanding the buck stops with him, because he was never taught the importance of tending his field.

There is a gross misunderstanding by feminists and the feminist-minded that take-charge men are bullies. Some males are bullies, but those aren’t men. (Raising Men in a Man-Hating World)

Real men don’t abdicate or dictate, or wait on someone else or shift blame when things go wrong, or become apathetic. They take charge, they own their responsibility and they nurture those in their care. They emulate Christ who described himself as a shepherd. He owned his field. He tended his flock. The call to men is still the same.

If we don’t have a proper understanding of what a man is supposed to be, we raise our boys wrong. I am challenged to parent with the end in mind. To build habits in my little boys that will grow and serve them in manhood. Do you realize that our work now will greatly impact their wives and children?

A whole generation depends on our vigilance.

 



What Parenting Really Is (Because We’re Not Perfect)

 

This is my sweet daughter. My first born who will marry the love of her life in 33 days. It’s both glorious and gut-wrenching, as I’ve written about.

Preparing to turn loose of one of your children forces a lot of soul-searching. There are always regrets. That’s normal. (I wish I had spent more time on X.)

It is surreal to walk into her bedroom and see it being dismantled. The place where she has been almost every night of her life for over twenty years is about to be empty. (Deep breath.) And a whole lot more hard stuff I’ll refrain from writing.

But yes, it causes me to look back over the twenty years with her at the joy and the time that seemed to fly too quickly. One thing I’ve realized the older I am, is that you really don’t ever “get” this parenting thing. I mean you do, but it’s always changing. What you need as you mother little ones is not the same thing you need to handle the deep questions of your adult children. Nor is it what you need to carefully handle the emerging ones as they grow into their own independence.

As Bria and I have more heart-to-heart talks lately, I know I made mistakes. In my zeal as a first-time-mom, I probably did what many first-time-moms do and expected more than I should. But now I get to look at her and as she gives me enormous grace for my imperfections, I assure her that she, too, will make mistakes. There is no perfect parenting. And that’s OK and normal.

You need to know that: there is no perfect parenting.

What there can be, though, is deliberate parenting, and extending grace to your children when they mess up the way you hope it is extended to you when you mess up. I don’t mean chucking authority and abdicating our responsibility to train and guide them, but to do it with a tenderness and understanding so they know, no matter what in life, we’ve got their backs. Children need that kind of security.

I’m learning about that grace…how to give it to myself as well, and how to give others the benefit of the doubt the way I hope they give it to me.

That’s what walking through this life is. Learning, growing, grace. Being deliberate but being real. Expecting much, and extending much.

I’ll probably walk through this thing nine more times. This is just the beginning and I’m thankful for that grace, that I can learn and hopefully improve as a mom.

And I see God’s grace in the lives of my children, that even despite our mistakes, He is making it right, renewing our strength each day, and allowing us to see the fruit of our labor.

Parenting is little more than being tirelessly intentional, admitting when we’re wrong, asking forgiveness, getting back up and going at it again. It’s keeping our eyes on the goal–seeking first the Kingdom of God and ushering our children into that chief pursuit alongside us.

 



To My Friend, On Seasons of Change

Winds of change: my daughter and her fiance, Kyle

We might as well just get some things out in the open. It will make life so much easier for both of us.

I know life is about change and that some change is very good, but it’s still change and so, can I just say, “I don’t always like it”?

And I see that your life is changing too–that’s just how life works–but I’m guessing that sometimes you don’t like it too, but maybe you’re just smiling because everyone else is and maybe, you just want to say, “I don’t always like it.”

You and I, we’ve built our lives around rhythms and seasons and we grow in the cadence of an ordinary day. Like sunrises and sunsets, our days wrap us comfortably in their habits and routine.

But wait, the seasons are changing. Our routines are getting interrupted by driver’s licenses and engagement rings and now a reading of “Goodnight Moon” isn’t quite enough to hold everyone’s attention. Can we just sit again on the floor, all of us, and stay there?

No. The answer is, “No, we can’t.” Because a life that doesn’t ebb and flow becomes stagnant. A routine that doesn’t stretch and change is a routine that prevents people from growing.

The truth is, I don’t like change, but a parent who wants healthy children must be flexible (and selfless) enough to bend with the inevitable. Do I want what is good for my children, or do I want to keep myself comfortable?

So if you see me crying as I plan a wedding or watch my son growing into a man, know that I know this is all good and right. Change just hurts sometimes. And it’s OK to cry.

And when I see you looking wistfully back at a nursery full of toddlers, I’ll understand your tears, and gently nudge you on, the two of us reminding each other that life is full of good things, even the change.

“I have no greater joy than to hear my children walk in truth.”



If King David Had an I-Phone (Technology Threatens Creativity)

We mused over the Psalm of David this morning, and I stopped mid-sentence, because that’s when it came to me, and said to my kids: “Aren’t you glad David didn’t have an I-phone!”

Imagine it: Selfies with sheep. Status updates about how bored he is. Tweets about what a rough life he has. No doubt photos of the lion he killed WITH HIS BARE HANDS, the perfect makings of a narcissistic hot-head.

Despite all that we’ve gained with fast-paced technology, I’m afraid much has been lost. Having the world of information in the palm of our hands, alerting us to every message, update and Tweet, tempting us to record each moment instead of live it, does something tragic to our creative side: it distracts it away.

Not only are we too distracted to create and produce meaningful things, we lose the very ability as the world of instant, fast and byte-sized, short-circuits the mental inertia and stamina great creations require.

King David produced some of the most magnificent literary works in the world because he had time, quietness and focus. Those are important things. Important enough to fight for in this era where “newer and better” fiercely compete.

Perhaps expression and creativity will simply evolve and adapt to this new challenge. But still I wonder if the great works like the Psalms will become fewer and farther between.

My challenge to you as a parent, as I combat this technology over-load myself, is that we would resist the pressure to let our children hop on the hamster wheel of social media, especially at young ages, in an attempt to give them plenty of room to create, think and become. They won’t die without a device, or with hefty restrictions, or whatever you choose. They WILL thank you when they’re older, and they recognize what a gift they have been given by your taking.



Raising Children is a Terrible Waste of Time

I think I finally agree with the feminists that raising children is a waste of time. After all, anyone really can do it. So why not let a paid day care worker handle the messes, settle the squabbling, feed the babies, change the diapers and keep them happy so you can do something meaningful, contributing to society?

Few will come right out and say it like that, but they should. Why aren’t we being honest?

Motherhood isn’t treated like an important position-like a profession, because raising children isn’t important. And I agree.

In fact, raising children isn’t just unimportant, it’s exceedingly destructive.

What we should be doing is raising men and women. That’s real parenting. And that’s where we’ve missed it. Tragically. Monumentally. Ignorantly.

No one wants to raise children–and who can blame them? Raising children is cleaning up messes and never getting help. It’s settling squabbles and never seeing change. It’s changing diapers and laundry and preparing more food but it’s never more than that. It’s continually sacrificing for the needs of others with no reciprocating sacrifice and no reward. So we either hire someone else to do it, or we grit our teeth and suffer through it.

Now we have a crisis: a society raising children while few want to do the hard, but incredible work of raising people. Adults who will take our place as cogs in the wheel of life. Do you want to contribute to society? Every other profession pales in comparison to your contribution of raising men and women. Because everything depends on who we bring up to carry out life in the next generation. Everything.

We got so short-sighted. In our world of instagram, instant news and instant gratification, we stopped raising people because people take time and sacrifice and work. But maybe more than that, we lost our ability to look past today and saw just a child with demanding physical needs, and forgot his becoming a person–a person of strength and courage and wisdom and love and compassion (if that’s what we put into him)–and how much that involved and how much it takes mothers and fathers and family pouring into the life of another person to ensure that he really becomes a whole person.

Instead, we have generations of people who grew up and remained children. Adult-children who get mad and have never learned how to handle anger or love their enemies and so they walk into companies and open fire at their “play mates” that hurt them.


Adult-children who blame everyone but themselves when things go wrong, and who fully expect the government to fix all their problems because no one ever taught them how to handle life and difficulty and change. They never learned to take responsibility for their actions, and believe they deserve whatever they want.They were given everything except the few things they really needed so now they borrow money to get the things to fill the void.

We’re surrounded by grown-up-children who never learned to be content with simple things, to find satisfaction in hard work and enjoy the crowning sunset at the end of a long day.

We have adult-children who are having their own children and they don’t like them because raising children is frustrating and this cycle spins at dizzying speed and we are all paying the price.

Oh that we would find our love and zeal and passion for raising people!

Do you know perhaps the most tragic part of all? Since we don’t see past this temporal busy-work that goes along side of raising children into people, children themselves have lost their worth. We don’t value children because we don’t value the process of raising them into whole men and women.

But there’s hope. Change starts with you and me. It’s easy even for those of us who do value the work of motherhood to get short-sighted and forget to see the men and women in the faces of our children. It’s easy to forget the shaping of lives that goes on in the midst of daily life, the lessons learned at a thousand places in the day. Anyone can raise children, but only committed, devoted, my-life-for-yours parents can raise people who will contribute significantly to the human race.

And then we can rally around other young parents and remind them of the life-work of pouring into the next generation for all of our sakes.

The monumental happens in the minutia. Raise people.

(If you need to renew your vision, get When Motherhood Feels Too Hard. Short, daily snippets of powerful reminders of what this business of raising men and women is about in the dailiness of life.)



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