For My Little Men

boy-2029804_1280

 

Where can I even begin?

Where do I even start?

Telling the tale of the four little men

Who have forever changed my heart?

 

From the first time I got to feel you kick

From in your mother’s womb

My love for you began

It took root, blossomed, and grew.

 

They say each child is different

As the years tick by, I find that’s true.

But there are plenty of similarities,

Like the first time I held each of you.

 

Your blue eyes melted the world away

I never wanted to put you down.

Well, I say blue eyes;

The youngest does have brown.

 

My little ones are no longer babies

Their boys on their way to being men

And that’s a scary thought

As I think back on where I’ve been.

 

“Dad, I’ll take over for you

When you’re old and grey.

I’ll do all the work you do

When you can’t do it someday.”

 

Words like these leave me a reminder,

These boys are watching me.

They want to be like their father.

And dear God, that is scary.

 

So I strive to be the kind of man

I hope my boys to be.

I want to be a great example

For their young, pure eyes to see.

 

Boys are allowed to love fiercely;

It’s alright to let that part of you shine.

Love is boisterous, wild, and an adventure;

But it is also tender and gentle when it’s time.

 

Be passionate for what is right.

Stand up, and don’t back down.

Be informed of your convictions,

Don’t change them because of someone’s frown.

 

Yet never, ever hesitate

To admit when you are wrong.

The pain you feel will be real

The freedom though, a beautiful song.

 

I’d be a fool to think

I could give all the advice my boys need

In a few simple rhyming stanzas

Posted online for others to see.

 

Each day I’m learning lessons,

About myself and ways I need to be better.

So when my boys ask, “what’s a man?”

I can give a complete answer.

 

These boys and their eight little hands,

Have a tight hold upon my heart.

And I pray each and every day,

For a renewed chance with each of them to start.

 

I hope as each one of them grows,

That I’ll be growing too.

So as they follow in my steps,

Their foot always fits in my shoe.

 

Aim for the Prize

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

jogging-2343558_1920

Not everyone understands running.

It’s not that they don’t understand the physical aspect of it. People know how to put one foot in front of the other and move in a forward motion.

Most people understand that anyway. Three year olds are a little iffy.

People often do not understand the desire to run. They make fun of those out jogging or when they know a runner they give them grief over it.

I get it though. Running is difficult. There’s nothing else to focus on, just your own breathing, and the sound of your feet against the pavement. When breathing becomes labored and legs start to ache, it is not easy to keep going.

Which is why it is so important to have a clear goal. While running a race, there is a prize at the end. While training for the race, the prize is always on your mind. Each run is one step closer to being able to claim the prize.

A runner will also set himself up for success by adapting disciplines to follow while training. One may go without soda for an extended period of time. The runner may restrict his diet, allowing his body the best chance for recovery and more sustainable energy.

Everything the runner does is in preparation to attain the prize.

Our journey of faith is the same. In a few different places, Scripture refers to our faith as a race. In the verse above, Paul says to run to obtain the prize.

Much like a runner we have to keep the prize in focus, or else we begin to wonder why we are running this race in the first place. Obstacles come up in life which can easily distract us. These obstacles sometimes seem to have a more instant prize and payoff. It can be easy to jump off the track and run to these distractions.

Eyes on the prize.

There are also obstacles which can hurt us. Painful events in our life pop up and can leave us wondering why we even started running in the first place.

Eyes on the prize.

Scripture also outlines a way of living God expects from us. Some people feel the rules are unfair. Some have begun to say they are for an old way of life and God does not expect us to follow them. However, we do not find that distinction in Scripture. So when we begin to wonder why we are keeping with these disciplines:

Eyes on the prize.

Running is not easy. Keeping the faith is not easy.

It is worth it though. Keep your eyes on the prize.

What is Family Friendly

A few days ago my wife and I came across an ad for an upcoming TV series.

We laughed. We liked the actors. There were a few cute moments in it. At the conclusion of the preview we turned to each other and declared, “We will definitely be watching that!”

We were into it.

As I thought back on the preview, a line popped back in my head. I replayed the video just to make sure I was remembering correctly. Sure enough, towards the end, the line flashed on the screen.

A new family comedy.

children-403582_1920

Almost immediately, the inner dialogue began in my head. It looks like a show my wife and I will enjoy but will it be one we can enjoy with our children? What age group of kids are they considering when saying it will be for families? Does “family comedy” mean the same thing to ABC that it means to me?

Important Questions.

I know the topic of what we as parents allow our children to partake in is a hot topic.

What is family friendly? What is alright for our kids to be enjoying?

Some families cut out TV altogether. I’ve had friends and family who have fallen into this category. People are quick to make fun of this option but I’ve never known the decision to be made in haste.

The media we consume has an effect on us, especially when we consume it passively. When we are not giving any thought to what we are watching or reading it begins to shape us. This is especially true for children who are still learning about the world.

Some parents decide to preview kid shows before allowing their kids to watch. This way if there is content within the show the parent deems inappropriate they can then decide how to proceed. Should the child be kept from viewing the content at all? Or should the child be allowed to see the show followed by a discussion of what happened on screen?

I also know of some parents who take a back seat, passive approach to TV viewing. They never worry about what their kids are watching, how much, or what kind of content is shaping the mind of their child.

My parents definitely did not fall into this category. Had they known we were watching, “Dude, Where’s My Car?” at a friends house when we were in Jr High, they would not have been happy.

(The story actually continues. We had not told them where we were going so they had been worried and looking for us. So we ended up grounded from going outside and TV for about a week after that…and it was during the summer.)

What is okay for my kids to be watching?

As parents it is important for us to give thought to what our children are reading or watching. Otherwise someone, or something else will be raising your children. Here’s a few things to think about when it comes to media consumption.

Worldview. One thing which lurks below the surface of any form of media is a worldview. Every form of media has an underlying worldview. This post is being written as a result of my worldview. The more we read a particular worldview the more we are to let it shape us, especially when we are taking part in it without even realizing it. Be aware.

When watching or reading ask the question, “What is this trying to teach me about the world?”

Inappropriate material. Parents fall all over the place on what is too inappropriate for their children. While watching a show with a 5 year old is it okay for him to hear a string of four letter words? What about racial slurs? Sexual content? As stated before, the things we watch influence us and children are even more impressionable. Where will you draw the line?

It may seem nit-picky but its an important conversation to have with our spouses. Otherwise our kids are going to learn all about the world through media and we are going to get left behind.

Conversations on the go. This last one is ground breaking stuff, but talk to your kids. Ask them questions about what they are watching. After watching a show ask what they liked or didn’t like. Did they learn something?

Having regular, ongoing conversations with our kids helps to know what they are thinking and feeling. It helps us to parent better. And when kids know you are interested, they are more likely to come running when life starts getting hard.

So what is family friendly?

The line is never going to be the same for every family, but each family needs to have a line. It will help us to parent better and will keep the years and lessons from just ticking by.

Don’t just sit there and let someone else raise your kids. Decide to do life as a family and enjoy it all together.

What guidelines do you have in your home for family friendly content?

 

 

Count it Joy

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” -James 1:2-4 

joy

Life comes at us hard. There is not a person alive who has not faced (or will face) hardship of one kind or another.

I remember one individual in my entire life who had said they had never faced a difficult situation. I was working at a church camp as a member of our college camp team. One of my responsibilities was to help lead a small group of students every evening to kind of discuss practical ways to implements the ideas the students had been learning about all day.

One of the other leaders asked the question if anyone had ever faced a difficult situation in their lives (fully expecting a unanimous “yes”). One girl in the group shook her head.

“You’ve never had any kind of hardship?”

“Has there ever been a time when you have questioned your faith?”

“Nothing has ever happened which has made you sad?”

No matter how the question was worded, the girl was pretty adamant that nothing in her life had ever been difficult. Which, if true, is great for her!

However she’s in the minority. Most people have face trials or difficulties in our lives. Some of us have had enough to cover for several lifetimes.

The Bible is pretty clear that, even as Christians we will face trials.

In the book of 1 Peter, we are told how to handle trials and to not be surprised when they pop up.

Jesus even taught that, “in this world you will have trouble.”

Then, we have James here who tells us to count it joy when we face trials.

Joy!

What an outlandish thing to say. For most of us, when we begin to face trials we do not respond in joy.

We respond in questioning God.

“Why me?”

“What did I do to deserve this?”

“How will I ever get through such a terrible ordeal?”

But we are instructed to do differently. Instead of self-pity, we are to find joy in the situation. Rather than constantly asking questions (although there’s nothing wrong with questions, even David did that) let’s look for the ways God is working.

We are given the “why” for the command as well: “for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness [perseverance].”

Then, this steadfastness leads to us being mature and complete.

Trials are difficult to face when we go through them, but the results are a stronger and wiser person who is closer to God.

So when your faith is tested, rejoice.

When you face a trial as a result of your faith, count it joy.

Then keep pushing forward and watch the work God is doing in your life is completed.

Watch as the seed of faith grows into a strong tree producing fruit.

Being a Parent is…

crayon-2009816_1920

Today I have been a body pillow and a moist towelette.

A candy dispenser.

A personal assistant.

I was a master gamer.

A joke teller.

A boo boo kisser.

Being a parent is difficult to explain.

It’s easy to go from one extreme to another in a matter a moments.

The whole world is going great. Everyone is happy and content. The kids are playing peacefully as I lounge on the couch sipping a nice hot drink.

Suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, everyone is crying, including myself because I have spilled my coffee all over myself and I have a steaming burrito all over my lap.

Where did the burrito even come from? We don’t have any such food anywhere in our house!

Then, as quickly as the storm swelled, it calmed.

The children are all in separate rooms, reading or putting together a Lego set quietly in their own corners of the house. There is no keeping up with the constant fluctuation of moods and situations in a house of six people.

Some days it feels like I am just along for the ride.

Parenting can be overwhelming.

Sometime being a parent means I’m just a victim of the raging storms tossing within the walls of my home. It can be easy to feel at a loss when the realization hits of how little control I have on any particular situation.

That is not to say I do not have any control. However, in some seasons it certainly feels like all I’m doing is hopping along for the ride.

Being a successful parent does not hinge on one good or bad day.

Don’t get so caught up in the chaos of any one particular moment during the day with your kids, over even a chaotic day during a week.

Or perhaps it’s been a crazy month during the year.

We spent much of December with someone in the house sick. It felt like the sickness held onto our family for so long because it moved through the house so slowly.

That can be overwhelming. If I allow it, sickness can make it feel like I am doing a terrible job as a parent.

I didn’t play any games with my kids this week.

I did not prepare any meals.

There were absolutely no vegetables consumed in our house.

Dishes were piled high.

Plus I had to keep telling the kids to get out of the same room as me because of a headache or to stop trying to cuddle because my body felt like it was already on fire.

It could be easy to look back over the course of that week and think, “Wow, I am an utterly rubbish parent.”

Or, I can look back and realize people get sick and it changes the dynamic of how we work for a time.

Life changes quickly in a house with small children.

Realize you cannot be in control of all of the changes and make the best decisions you can along the way.

And don’t forget to give yourself some grace.

There is so much good in parenting.

I cannot begin to explain how many bad days at work have immediately been made better by the smile of a toddler.

There is no feeling like walking in the door after a several hours away to the exclamation of “Daddy,” followed by the patter of little feet as a child rushes to wrap his arms as far around you as possible.

When a small voices says things like, “I love you,” completely unprompted the entire world melts away.

Their love is unconditional.

It never ceases to amaze me how much these kids want to be like me.

“I will take over your job when I’m older.”

“My favorite part of the day was cuddling on the couch.”

“Can we play a game?”

“When will you be home tomorrow?”

All of these are reminders of a small one who wants to be like us and wants to spend time with us.

That’s pretty amazing.

There are a lot of ups and downs in being a parent. 

Unless you’ve had children it can be difficult to understand.

One thing is true, though.

Being a parent is:

exhausting.

rewarding.

frustrating.

a roller coaster ride.

The best thing ever.