Aug 03 2015

Family Check-Up Time

  Another school year is upon us. At our house, we are using this as an ideal time to evaluate ourselves as a family, as parents, as a student, and as individuals. We are rooting out places that need improvement and setting priorities and goals for the coming year. And based on that, we are finding help in the areas where we need it. It is an exciting time with such opportunity for growth and transformation. 

So, how about you and your family? Could you use some help making some adjustments in your relationships, attitudes, or habits? Let me know if I can help. There is no better time than now to start working toward a better tomorrow. 

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Jul 24 2015

Chump or Champ?

So, I fell down a couple days ago while out running. Tripped over a rough lump sticking up from the sidewalk concrete. I was running along Perkins Rd just before a busy intersection (ironically, at YMCA Plaza Dr), so there were plenty of folks to witness my grace. Once I hit that spot with my foot, there was no stopping the inevitable. And I knew it immediately. 

“I’m going down like a chump in front of God and all these witnesses,” I thought to myself. Pretty sure a word or two came out of my mouth that weren’t exactly Christlike. And then I went down hard, scraping up both palms and my left knee. Despite the ugliness that spewed from my mouth, God saw fit to spare me tumbling out into the traffic flowing by on Perkins Rd, and my performance was limited to the sidewalk. 

But as soon as I hit the ground, I was hit by this thought…

“I can lay here and wallow in shame, slowly getting up and slinking back home,”


“I can hop up, square my shoulders, ignore the onlookers, focus on my goal, and finish this run like a man.”

I opted for the latter. Falls happen in life. And not just on sidewalks. But whether I handle it like a chump or a champ is up to me. So I fell? Big deal. Did I finish? Yes. Yes, I did. 

Life won’t always be smooth sailing, my friends. You will have days of failure and discouragement along the road. But when those days come, and your knees get skinned up or worse, which will define you?

How you fell?


How you got up and finished?

Keep pressing on toward the prize, Brothers and Sisters. 

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Jul 22 2015

Nine Minutes


Nine Minutes.  I just set a timer giving me nine minutes to write this blog post.

Nine Minutes.

As of today, this is how long it takes me to run a mile.  You may think that a “good” or a “bad” time.  Think what you will about me – it doesn’t matter to me nearly as much as it once did.  And for that, I am grateful.

But I digress, and I only set nine minutes for myself to write this message to share with you.  I have long been told that the best time to run/exercise, and the best time for devotions with God, is early in the morning.  And I have long fought this bit of advice, stating that I’m just not a morning person.  Well, I recently realized that I don’t have to set my alarm “early” for me to get in a one mile run first thing in the morning.  You know why?

Because it takes me nine minutes to run a mile.  And that’s the same amount of time my alarm clock gives me for one snooze cycle.  So, the choice is mine every morning.  How will I invest the first nine minutes of my day?  Surrendering my body, mind, and spirit to my loving Creator?  Or staying in a self-centered cocoon?

These may not be the most important nine minutes in human history, but they are the ones I am given to invest or squander at the beginning of each new day.  I’ll keep you posted on this daily mile challenge.  Sure, it doesn’t sound like a lot.  And the wonderful truth is – it isn’t a lot.  So, I can manage to do at least that much every day.  And starting my day in motion with God serves me and all those around me far better than getting nine more minutes of semi-sleep.

Well, looks like my nine minutes are up.  Time to move on to the next…

p.s. – I actually wrote this post several days ago, but just got to posting it today.  Since deciding to run at least a daily mile, I have done just that for eleven straight days.  Feeling great!

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Jun 27 2015

Summer at Its Best: Family Games


One of the fun things happening at the Butner home this summer is a resurgence of our family game time.  I have previously shared some of my favorite gaming memories from past and present seasons, so I’ll not repeat that in this post.  Instead, I want to continue in this summer blog series by encouraging you to see the wonderful potential for family growth through making time to play games together.  There are a number of wonderful benefits I see in playing games together.  There is even an old saying that “the family that plays (and prays) together, stays together.”  Here are just a few of the reasons I believe your family would be richly blessed by taking time together for some Monopoly, Yahtzee, Settlers of Catan, Chess, Mancala, or whatever game floats your boat:

  1. Good Clean Fun.  First and foremost, games are designed to be fun.  We all need times of fun and refreshment to recharge our batteries and help wipe away the stresses that build up on our shoulders and in our minds throughout the course of our weeks.  Playing games together with your family is such a great way to boost your mental, emotional, and even spiritual batteries.
  2. Relationship Building.  Games are such a great opportunity for both getting to know people better and building positive memories with them.  Even though we already know the members of our families, the truth is we are changing and growing all the time.  We do well to remember we should be continually working on knowing today’s version of each member of our families, especially our kids, who are changing at an exponential pace.
  3. Problem Solving.  Whether a game uses cards, dice, a board and figurines, other materials, or simply our own words, observations, or gestures, they always challenge the players with problems to solve.  Challenging our kids to solve their own problems, while having the opportunity to watch us do the same, is one of the really wonderful dynamics of playing family games.
  4. Learning to Win and Lose with Grace.  Let’s face it.  The old saying is true.  You win some.  You lose some.  And this is not only true of games.  It is true of all of life’s endeavors.  The sooner our kids learn this important reality of life, and how to handle it with grace, dignity, and respect, the better we will have served them.  And playing family games together creates the ideal setting to train them to face winning and losing well.

Given these learning and growing opportunities afforded by playing games together as a family, it is so important for us parents to keep this in mind: Carpe Diem – Seize the Day.  If we get so caught up in the playing and competing and winning of games with our families that we fail to provide training, leadership, and insight, then we have squandered some golden opportunities.  Seize the day!  Pay attention to the moments that are ripe for training your children and teens in learning and growing as you pass Go and collect $200.

Enjoy the journey!

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Jun 09 2015

Summer at its Best: Camps


Summer camp was one of the most wonderful threads woven throughout the fabric of my childhood.  For years, my sisters and I would head off to “church” camp for a week of tech-free bonding with old and new friends, countless sports, activities, and crafts, memorable songs and campfires, splashing around in a lake, and growing closer to God.  From about fifth grade until some time in my early adulthood, I can truly say that camp week was the highlight of my year.  Perhaps you can relate from your own camp experience.  Or maybe you missed out on this slice of life, and you’re wondering what could really be so magical about it.  Whatever your own experience with summer camps, I want to take a bit of time today to share with you several key reasons to consider sending your kids to some kind of camp for part of their summer:

1. Camp offers a much needed break from electronic entertainment and communication while offering numerous calorie-burning alternatives to boredom.  From hiking to softball to swimming to shaving cream wars – the list goes on and on.  One thing you can count on in just about any summer camp experience is plenty of engaging, challenging, and fun activity for your kids to enjoy – without the need for a charging cord.

2. Your kids will have opportunities to learn important life lessons that you might miss teaching them.  While you, the parent, are the most important adult in your child’s life, we would all do well to remember that none of us has all the bases covered on wisdom or life skills.  Having other positive adult role models is such a wonderful asset in your child’s life.  Take advantage of this opportunity.

3. Many camps offer experiences that will directly nurture your child’s spiritual growth and awareness of self and purpose in life.  Whether through facing challenging obstacles, learning to work together as part of a team, or hearing lessons from God’s Word, camps are often designed to teach kids to dig deeper and aim higher in life.

4. The friendships formed through summer camp experiences can be so unique and powerful.  Whether your kids are gregarious extraverts or quiet introverts, they would likely reap rich benefits from the social experience of spending a week of intense activity and bonding with a group of kids – whether old friends or new faces.

5. Let’s face it – summer camps offer parents and kids a break from each other for a little while.  Don’t be ashamed of feeling your heart leap a bit at this thought.  Sometimes taking a purposeful break from one another can be some of the best medicine available to a family where kids and parents have been grinding on each others’ nerves for some time.  If this is the case for you, just be sure you take some time while the youngins are away to prepare yourself to genuinely welcome them back into your home and heart!

If you are considering sending your kids to camp, but are unsure where or what kind, let me warn you – the possibilities can be overwhelming.  Are you going with an overnight camp away or a day camp here in town?  Sports or spiritual focus?  With known friends or “on their own?”  Does a more expensive camp automatically indicate a better quality experience?  Here are a few guidelines to help you navigate to the right choice for your child:

1. Keep in mind your child’s personality, interests, and current life issues.  In order to make the best camp choice, you’ve got to start by knowing your child well.  And don’t get so caught up in the particulars of some exciting camp website that you forget who you are sending.

2. Really take time to consider why you are sending your child to camp.  May sound obvious, but this is a key issue, and easy to overlook.

3. Ask around.  Don’t just search online.  Talk to other parents and kids with camp experiences.  Ask questions.  Listen to stories.  Look at pictures.  This will help a ton.

4. Pray.  James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  I can’t speak for you, but I sure know I need all the wisdom I can get as a parent.  And being a family therapist with a blog certainly doesn’t mean I’ve got it all figured out.  But I have figured out my very best source of wisdom and direction – spending prayerful time with God and listening to His voice.

For those intrepid souls looking for specific summer camp options for your kids, below are a couple of great lists and descriptions shared by the folks at Baton Rouge Parents Magazine – thanks a bunch!

Baton Rouge Parents Magazine Residential Camp Guide

Baton Rouge Parents Magazine Day Camp Guide

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May 15 2015

Summer at its Best: Vacationing

Halloween-Disney one 160

(Above: My family at Disney World several years ago – enjoying Animal Kingdom together with a basic outline of plans to structure our day.

Below: My family on the same vacation at Disney World – clearly more focused on getting the good “photo op” than on the fact that part of our team has run out of gas and has gotten seriously cranky.)

Family vacay no-no

In the spirit of offering you practical guidance for your upcoming vacation planning and checklist, I am offering this post in the form of a Do’s and Don’ts list.  My sincere hope is this post helps to bless your family with a most peaceful, enjoyable, and refreshing time as you make memories together in your upcoming vacation experience.

Do consider each member of the family as you plan your vacation and face each day during your vacation.  Make sure your overall plans offer the genuine opportunity to bless your whole family.

Don’t plan more activity than you can actually enjoy in the time you have allowed for vacation.  No matter how much you think you are blessing your family by giving them more to experience, you need to get this straight: you are stressing, rather than blessing, when you overbook your vacation time.  Be sure you leave room for enjoying unexpected moments, taking restful pauses, adjusting plans, and even a bit of plain ole lollygagging.

Do have several family conversations before making final vacation plans. Be sure to discuss everyone’s hopes, expectations, and possible worries about your upcoming trip or time together.  This helps each family member to feel valued, and decreases the chances of parents or kids getting blindsided by the experience.

Don’t get so focused on capturing the moment with pictures or video that you forget to be present and responsive in the moment.  HD images are great and can bring enjoyment for years to come.  But everyone’s memories of your family vacation will be better if you remain fully present and a positive and active part of what is happening.

Do have a brief family talk at the end of each vacation day about what everyone enjoyed and didn’t enjoy, and about what you are expecting in the following day.

Don’t spend more money than you can reasonably afford to spend in an effort to maximize short term pleasure.  The long term stress of financial worries will far overshadow the brief window of fun you had blowing thousands of dollars on a few days.

Do have a big picture goal in mind for your family vacation, and try to keep it simple.  It may be: relaxing (together or separately), building better relationships, having fun new experiences, learning together, facing a big adventure, or any number of other options.  The key is to have a primary goal to help guide your decisions throughout your time together, and to make that goal simple enough to keep clear in your mind.

Don’t put so much time and weight on some family members’ ideas of fun that you leave no room to accommodate the family member(s) who have different ideas of fun.  Depending on ages and circumstances, this may mean planning for alternate options for some family members, or it may mean committing to balancing time spent in different activities and such.

Do remember to lighten up!  It’s vacation time.  Enjoy.  Captain Crankypants may be able to move people along and accomplish lots of stuff – but who wants to spend vacation with him?

Don’t let smartphones, tablets, gaming devices, or other electronic gizmos interfere with time together.  By all means – bring them along and enjoy them at times.  But set some boundaries around other times as digital free zones where everyone can be genuinely present with one another.  If you want to really break some ground as a family, consider planning a screen-free vacation.  Crazy – right?!!

Do consider including some “old fashioned” family fun as a counterbalance to our increasingly electronic and individualized daily culture.  Working jigsaw puzzles, hiking, playing card games or board games, kite flying, cooking together, rock collecting, sand castle building, and so many other battery-free options can be wonderfully restorative and offer very special moments and memories together.

Do use vacations as an opportunity for spiritual and relational reflection as a family.  This doesn’t have to be your primary focus, but take some time for a special family devotional or two and reflect on what positive changes your family could make when you head back to your life routine at home.

This is certainly not a comprehensive list.  What else have you learned to do or not do to make family vacation time the very best it can be?

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May 13 2015

Summer at its Best


Kids are finishing up another year of school.  Baseball season is well underway.  Yards can’t be mowed and trimmed fast enough.  And most days the relative humidity in Baton Rouge is now hovering around 137% or so.  Summer time must be upon us!

In the next few weeks, I will be sharing a blog series with you highlighting various elements and opportunities of summer time for family life.  We will begin tomorrow with summer vacation dynamics, and follow that with summer sports programs, movies, yard work, games, reading time, and maybe another element or two that pop up along the way.  As always, please feel free to let me know if you have questions, suggestions, or feedback – you might even see them reflected in forthcoming posts or post series!

Before we launch into the finer points of this new series, I’ll leave you with this little blessing: Take a minute to reflect back on any favorite smells or tastes of summer from your childhood.  Why are those special memories for you?  (Smell and taste have been shown to connect us with powerful emotional memories more than our other senses.)  Some of my personal favorites would be: the smell of fresh picked honeysuckle mingled with the scent of horses, the sweet taste and distinct texture of homemade frozen jello pops, the sharp scent of fireworks smoke, the bookish odor of the public library, and the indulgent taste of Southern Blackberry Cobbler and Southern Peach Cobbler ice cream from Blue Bell.  Are you doing anything to share any special sensory experiences with your kids today?  What do you think your kids would share in response to this?  Don’t hold out on them.  Take them places, make things for them, and share experiences with them that will form lasting memories of joy in their minds and spirits.  Enjoy!

I’ll be back tomorrow with some reflections and suggestions on how to make summer vacation time the most positive experience for families.

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May 07 2015

The Process of Parenting: Encouraging

parent encouraging child

Well, here we are.  The final installment of my Process of Parenting series.  And we get to end on such a wonderful note – encouraging our kids!  Before we move into my thoughts on how best to encourage our kids throughout their life journey, and why this is so important, I want to invite you to take a few moments to reflect on your own journey.

Who have been the encouragers in your life along the way?  How have they been there for you and expressed their encouragement to you?  What difference has it made for you?  How has it impacted the way you see yourself and how you face life?

Now, wouldn’t you like to make that kind of impact on your own children’s lives?  Every one of us, from the youngest to the oldest, desperately long in our hearts to know that someone really believes in us – and is willing to make the effort to share that belief with us for the world to hear.  And no matter what kind of great relationship your child of any age may have with a coach, teacher, pastor, friend, or other relative, YOU have the power to be the most important and powerful source of encouragement in your child’s life!  If encouraging hasn’t been your parental strong suit, that’s okay.  Start working on it today.  Pay attention to other adults who seem to have the gift of encouraging kids well.  Learn from their examples.  Ask them to mentor you.  But no matter how new or awkward this might feel for you, and no matter which stage you may see your child in from the parenting process we have been examining, TODAY is the best day to start practicing the life changing art of encouraging your child.  There are three basic forms of encouragement…

Let’s start with probably the simplest form of encouragement – recognizing your child for her/his successes and positive character attributes.  Or, as I often like to put it, “catching your child in the act of doing the right thing.”  We don’t have to wait for our children or teens to win an award or bring home a trophy or championship ring to let them know we are proud of them for the positive efforts and character they are showing in their lives.  Now, I’m not talking about throwing a party for a fifth grader every time he brushes his teeth adequately.  But you remember the shout of every child about to do something “daring” on a playground, don’t you?  “Hey Dad/Mom, LOOK AT ME!”  Each child yearns to be recognized and cheered for when they are facing a challenge.  And do you really think that desire ever truly goes away?  Of course not.  So, let’s be vigilant and make the most of every opportunity we have to catch our kids in the act of doing the right thing, and make sure they know we are watching and pleased with their efforts – particularly when their efforts reflect strong character.

Another great form of encouragement we can share with our kids is to let them know we believe in them and their ability to handle the hard things they face.  When the going gets tough, they need to know we are not only cheering for them, but we truly believe they have what it takes.  And if we have been walking along side them, instructing and training and equipping them for the challenges, they will know in their hearts that we really mean it when we tell them, “You can do it!”  Sometimes that well worded cheer of belief and support is the key difference in a child calling it quits in the face of an obstacle or tough leg of the journey and that child breathing deep, lifting his chin, and soldiering on through the finish line with grit and courage and confidence.  Let’s be that difference for our kids!

The final type of encouragement is when we express to our kids that we are there with them on the journey, and they do not have to face life alone.  My favorite illustration of this life-line of the committed presence of another person comes from The Lord of the Rings.  Frodo and Sam are nearing the end of a mission that has felt like ten lifetimes in the making.  The soul-draining weight of the evil One Ring has become more than Frodo can bear, and even though they are actually climbing their way up the side of the very mountain where their quest is to come to an end, he simply cannot take another step.  In the face of countless challenges and threats, he has been encouraged by various friends and allies, particularly his faithful friend, Samwise Gamgee.  But he’s done.  The tank is beyond empty, and just can’t go on.  And then Sam speaks up: “I can’t carry it for you.  But I can carry you!”  He then proceeds to stoop down, scoop up his friend, and carry him up the boulder-strewn face of Mt. Doom to face their destiny and accomplish the unthinkable.  Frodo may have been the one chosen to be the Ring-Bearer, but he never would have made it without the encouragement and presence of his friend.  Our kids are not likely to face a mission of such epic proportion as saving Middle Earth from destruction.  But there will be times in their lives when their missions and challenges will threaten to bring them down.  Will we be there to offer them the encouragement of our presence and commitment?  Their tasks may be theirs to perform, but this doesn’t mean they must do them alone.  Being interested, available, and present to our kids may be the very source of life they need to keep going through their hardest times.  Let’s encourage them along the journey with our words, our cheers, and our committed presence.


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Apr 28 2015

The Process of Parenting: Releasing

letting go of the bike

Take a deep breath, parents.  Here’s where the journey can get really scary for you and your kids.  And it is absolutely essential to their growth and development toward adulthood – and essential to your healthy relationship development, as well.  So, why is this so scary for us?  Why do we fear releasing them to face life for themselves?  Because we don’t want to see them get hurt!  Whether it is physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, or any combination of these, no loving parent wants to see their child experience frustration, pain, or failure.  We want to see them thrive, succeed, and achieve their best in life.  And for us to most effectively help them down that road, we must learn to see beyond the heartache of the moment.  They need us to see beyond the pain and the fear.  They need us to understand that in order for them to develop the skills most critical for successful living, we must grant them opportunities to either fly or fall.  For all our best efforts at teaching and training and all the good stuff we have examined in the last few posts, we must remember that their most effectively teacher is always going to be life experience.  And they won’t get the effective doses of life experience they deeply need if they have us holding their hand for them every step of the way.  For their growth, and ours, we must let go and watch them maneuver forward out of our reach.

A couple of points are critical in this challenge of releasing our kids.  Let us remember to teach our children to be people of their word by showing them that we are people of our word.  If we tell them we are releasing them in a given area, we need to honestly release them.  If we are not yet ready to release them, either because of their lack of readiness or our own fears, let’s not mislead them into thinking we are actually granting them that freedom.  Don’t play games with your kids.  Well, Monopoly and Settlers of Catan and some backyard basketball are great, but let’s not play mind games with them.  They are smart, and you don’t want the fallout it can cause in their lives and in your relationship with them.  Another temptation we must resist is being overly critical of them when we release them and they fall.  Yes, they need us to guide and correct them on the right path at times.  But we don’t want to parent them in such a way that it leaves them feeling we are just watching and waiting for them to fail.  And this will lead us directly into our final step in next week’s post…encouraging.  My favorite!!!

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Apr 16 2015

The Process of Parenting: Don’t Forget to Pause

Twain - pause

I’m wiped out tonight as I write this post.  Ever have one of those weeks (or months or years) where you are just spent, but you know you have so much more to do in the coming days?  Yeah – that’s where I am.  It’s a good weary, though.  I was blessed to attend the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast early this morning, and I have been busy with positive things, with more on the way.  So I’m not complaining.  Just sharing.  Because it hit me…

Throughout this ongoing journey of the process of parenting (while all the other aspects of our lives continue to roll on at the same time), we all hit points of tiredness, weariness, frustration, discouragement, or even plain old exhaustion.  And no matter how important our activities of work or marriage or parenting or church or whatever else…sometimes we just need to pause.  We need to give ourselves a chance to rest, slow our breathing, pray, meditate, or just be still.  And while this may sound obvious, sometimes we forget.  Don’t we?  Sometimes when we finally “hit a stopping point,” we opt for doing other activities or pastimes that seem restful or refreshing, but are actually about as mentally healthy as making a meal out of a bag of M&Ms.  An enjoyable treat – but not what we really need.  Do I really need to pull out my iPhone every time I have a few free moments?  We both know the answer to that question.  Sometimes the most significant thing we can do to offer our very best parenting power to our kids (or really any other endeavor) is to pause for restoration and a holy power charge from the One who has all power.

And that’s enough for now.  I’m going to pause briefly tonight before plunging back in tomorrow and resuming this blog series next week with the next “phase” of the process of parenting: Releasing.


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