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.

Shalom

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Apr 09 2015


The Process of Parenting: Trusting

entrusting the keys

The process of parenting involves a number of critical elements and stages.  One of the most important, and most challenging, is extending trust to our kids.  We may do the best job in the world of preparing, equipping, and guiding them – but if we fail to trust them to practice new skills and face new responsibilities for themselves, we have failed to empower them to live well as independent adults.  Sure, our kids at various ages may not yet be ready to face adult challenges and responsibilities.  But if they have never been entrusted by us with the freedom to fail or succeed on their own, they will be intimidated and ill-equipped when the day comes that they must face the world of adult choices and pressures.

Obviously, the degree of trust (freedom) we grant our kids is going to be largely tied to their level of maturity and responsibility.  My eleven year old son has not yet been given the privilege of having his own phone.  While my wife and I are pleased with how is growing up, we just don’t believe it wise to entrust him yet with this level of freedom and responsibility.  I know I would not have handled a smart phone wisely at his age (had they existed then), and I know him well enough to know that he isn’t ready yet, either.  However, we do trust him enough to use our phones quite a bit to play games, and even make some calls and texts – while still under our general supervision.  He is very aware that he is still learning, proving himself to us, and earning our trust in this area.

I vividly recall a couple of critical turning points in our relationship where his mother and I extended him a higher level of trust and freedom, and we delighted in watching him walk taller in the confidence that his parents trust him.  When he was probably three years old, we were gathered at a hospital waiting area, eager to celebrate the birth of a friend’s baby.  All the sitting and waiting became too much for my lad, and he clearly needed to find the space to move around more.  As I began walking with him down the winding hallways of Woman’s Hospital, an impromptu game emerged between us.  He would run just far enough ahead of me to get around a corner and out of my sight.  He could still hear my voice, and he obediently stayed within a reasonable and safe distance from me.  You should have seen the thrill he experienced as he realized I trusted him to get out of my sight!  You may have similar memories with your own children.  It was important for me to grow through the challenge of trusting him enough to release him from my grasp.  And it was vital for him to spread his wings and soar a bit on the wind of my trust.

Roll the clock forward several years, and you can imagine a similar turning point that occurred when my wife and I allowed him to walk by himself to a friend’s house down the street – without us watching him.  And, of course there was the time my Dad let me, at probably age 14, drive a tractor from a a friend’s house over the country roads for two or three miles to our house.  I felt as though I grew up about ten years and a foot and half that day.

In order for us to trust our children with greater freedom and privilege, we must remember that their best defense against the dangers of this world is not for us to protect them from everything and keep them always within view.  Their best defense, along with a healthy faith walk with God, is for us to prepare, equip, guide, trust, release, and encourage them to face life beyond our sight and grasp.  Our kids need us to work hard through season after season of this process of parenting so that they are ready to face life without us.  And each time we show a bit more (or a lot more) trust in them, we help them take another important step toward healthy, independent adulthood.

Take some time to consider where each of your kids would like to know a greater measure of your trust.  Is it truly because they are not ready?  Or because you aren’t?  Have you taken reasonable steps to prepare, equip, and guide them in this area?  If not, it’s time to do your part.  And if you have, it is probably time to take a deep breath, say a prayer, talk with a good friend or counselor, and put some real trust in your child or teen.  Blessings of courage to you on the journey!

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Apr 04 2015


The Process of Parenting: Guiding

hiking

I began this series on the process of parenting by outline a series of six intertwined steps that are repeated over and over throughout the seasons of raising our children and teens into adulthood:

  1. Prepare
  2. Equip
  3. Guide
  4. Trust
  5. Release
  6. Encourage

So far, we have discussed the importance of preparing and equipping our children in the process of parenting.  As we look together at the essential step of guiding our kids, we will really begin to see how much these layers overlap, interconnect, and reinforce each other.

If we have successfully prepared and equipped them, it means we have proactively introduced them to and given them an effective lesson or series of lessons on a particular skill or challenge.  Moving into the process of guiding means really being sure we are giving our kids opportunities for hands-on experience with life.  We are no longer giving instruction from behind the podium, so to speak.  We are side by side with them, allowing them to practice the skills we have been explaining and demonstrating to them.  It’s all well and good for me to explain and demonstrate to my son the finer points of using a pair of vise-grips, for example.  And even if I give him his own set, he will still not likely become proficient at knowing when and how to best use his new tool unless I talk him through the process again while he is actually using them.  I must lead him from listening and watching to learning through trying and practicing.

When we are in the mode of guiding our kids, we may shift back and forth between guiding from the lead and guiding from the rear.  In other words, there is a time for stepping forward to demonstrate again a particular element of the new skill, and a time for stepping back and guiding their actions by our words.  And we simply will not be able to effectively guide our kids through new skills and experiences without showing a measure of trust in them.  If we always do for them, they will never believe they can do for themselves.  In fact, this element of trusting them is so vitally important that I will be writing the next post simply on this essential dynamic.  I look forward to sharing it with you next week.  And may you and your family have a very happy Easter together as you enjoy the fun of the spring season and celebrate the amazing gift of new life we have been given by our Risen King Jesus!

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Mar 25 2015


The Process of Parenting: Equipping

kids tools

I will never forget the thrill of riding a bike without training wheels for the first time, the wonder of driving a tractor for the first time as a young teenager, or the adventure of shooting my shotgun for the first time.  Don’t you have a special vault of memories from when you first used or mastered some new and challenging piece of equipment? It’s such a great feeling of accomplishment and confidence.  “Bring on the world – I can handle it!”

Our kids are longing for these experiences of handling new tools to meet new challenges.  And while I hope your children are blessed with other adults who are investing in their lives and helping to equip them for life, it primarily falls on you, their parents, to equip them well.  You have probably heard it said that if all you have in your toolbox is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  Having the right tool for the right job makes life so much better and far less frustrating.

Sometimes this means being sure our kids have the physical equipment they need to face the upcoming challenges of life.  Teaching my son which tools to use and how to use them while working on my sinks and countertops was another important step in a long ongoing series of lessons regarding manual tools.  And he has already learned Dad’s favorite tool – the vise grip (small, medium, large, or needle-nose, thanks very much!).  When he is out of our house, and on his own, I want him to be able to handle working on projects and fixing things while saving money wherever possible. He’ll be glad I equipped him for that.

There are many other times, however, when the new equipment our children and teens need from us is not an item we can buy at the store.  Rather, it is a practical, social, mental, emotional, or spiritual tool that we must introduce and demonstrate to them at a time when they will soon be needing it.  And just as we know that simply explaining to a child how a power tool is used is not sufficient to equip them, so we must remember to go beyond telling them about important life skills.  They need to see us using them.

I have learned that prayer is one of my most valuable tools when tackling a challenging home project of some kind.  Praying before I start, and anytime I hit a frustration point, helps me to handle the whole thing with far greater patience and precision – and with less words popping out of my mouth that I don’t want to hear coming from my son later.  I need to teach him this lesson.  Learning that prayer is actually a very useful and practical tool God has given us, and not simply a Sunday morning activity, will equip him for so many elements of life here on earth.  But if he is truly going to learn this lesson from me, he’s got to see me doing it.  Not just hear me telling him to do so.  Fully equipping our kids for life situations means sharing the right tools with them, showing them how we use them, and explaining why we use them this way.

My son loves to ride his bike, but really outgrew his “dirt bike” a while back.  He had been uncomfortably making the most of it for months, when we finally decided the time has come for some new equipment.  And my mother in law graciously blessed him with a sweet new mountain bike.  Thank you, Nana!  While the large size of his new ride could be a challenge at first, dealing with the hand brakes and all these new gears is the part I thought would most likely intimidate him.  So I gave him some basic instructional lessons in the driveway…then went for a ride around the neighborhood with him.  I told him anytime I shifted gears, and explained why I did so.  If he was intimidated at all, I sure couldn’t tell.  Then again, I was pretty busy working to keep up with him as he used his new found powers to challenge the Old Man.  Life is good.

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Mar 11 2015


The Process of Parenting: Preparing

Preparation

As I shared in my previous post, there are six key steps in the process of solid parenting that must be repeated over and over through different seasons and in the face of different life issues:

  1. Prepare
  2. Equip
  3. Guide
  4. Trust
  5. Release
  6. Encourage

While I have placed them in this order to see the logical sequence of this process, it is important to note that they are certainly not always separate and distinct stages, and there is often a great deal of overlap as we go about the critical business of leading our kids.  Today, let us examine the essential step of preparing our children and teens for the challenges they will face in life.

As with every other step in the process of parenting, preparing our kids for the various elements of life is best accomplished through a loving, hopeful relationship.  Our kids need us to be proactive and vigilant enough to know where our kids are in life, and what is and should be coming next for them.  Put simply, we need to know what to be preparing them for next.  This means we need to be connected enough with our kids and their experiences to know their current abilities, strengths, and limitations.  Knowing our kids well allows us to see where they are in need of further lessons and experiences to prepare them for whatever is next.  But simply knowing where our kids are and knowing them well is not enough to prepare them for life.  We must be sure to keep looking ahead on the journey before them, drawing on our experience and wisdom, as well as our awareness of the changing world of our children and teens.

When we fail to proactively prepare our young people for what life will soon be bringing to them, we will almost certainly end up parenting from a reactive position.  Of course, let’s be realistic.  We cannot possibly prepare them perfectly for everything they will face in life.  Surprises come and they will make unexpected mistakes, just as their parents will.  But let’s be careful not to settle for damage control parenting.  I know we can all do better than that, and don’t we want much better than that for the kids we love so much?  When we take the time to offer lessons and experiences based on where our kids are and what we see is coming soon in their lives, we send them forward with confidence.  We are building for them a foundation of readiness.  We are setting them up for success, and not failure.

One of the often tricky elements of preparing our kids is being able to acknowledge and address their current weaknesses or limitations in a proactive and healthy way.  It is so important that we communicate our belief that they can face the coming challenges and opportunities well.  Our kids desperately need to know we believe in them!  Constantly dwelling on their mistakes or problem areas can steal their joy and their hope, leaving them discouraged, frustrated, and headed for serious trouble.  Catch them in the act of doing the right thing, and let them know how much they mean to us throughout our efforts at preparing them for more.  As I once heard it stated, “Let’s be bucket fillers – not bucket spillers.”  I like that!  But even as we strive to encourage them, we must also remember we aren’t doing our kids any favors by pretending they have it all together and don’t have any shortcomings or blind spots.  Be real about it.  They will be far better prepared in any situation if they know where to be careful of making old mistakes.

My son and I recently went to the neighborhood park for some father/son baseball practice to prepare him for the upcoming season.  We worked a bit on his pitching, as he has expressed both an interest and some natural talent in this area.  But mostly we worked on his batting.  I offered him a healthy dose of encouragement, in response to his solid hits, his moments of improvement that may not have resulted in solid hits, and simply his attitude and his efforts.  I also noticed a problem area that will hold him back, if he does not improve it.  He didn’t really want to hear it.  But he needed to hear it.  So I showed him the difference between doing it with and without this little hitch, and I periodically asked him to say whether or not he had done it in his most recent swing.  Because I maintained a positive spirit of encouragement and believing in him, he stayed with me, and we had a good long practice.  And because I was willing to be real with him about not only his strengths, but also his particular problem area, he is more prepared for a successful season.  Yes, there are bigger issues in life than baseball.  Like…middle school!!!  Which is why my wife and I have been working hard to prepare him for that big upcoming season change for some time now.  And if I am willing to approach his baseball season the right way, it can be an important part of preparing him for the bigger life issues, like good ole middle school.

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Mar 05 2015


Hammer Time! The Process of Parenting

Hammer Time

After wanting to do this for a long time, my wife and I were finally able to get new counter tops in our bathrooms this week.  To save some money, I decided to tackle the chore of disconnecting the plumbing and tearing out the old counter tops and sinks myself.  And thankfully, I remembered I have a son with a helpful spirit who is growing toward manhood and is very eager to learn “man stuff” from his dad.  Especially when the “man stuff” involves smashing stuff with a hammer.  He helped me out by handing me the tools I needed as I did the initial plumbing work – learning a few more lessons about tool names and functions in the process.  And then the real fun began…

HAMMER TIME!  As you can see from the heinous 80s wallpaper in the picture, I had already taken down the mirror, so I knew there was no major damage my son could do if he wasn’t the most controlled in his counter top demo efforts.  I took a deep breath, handed him the hammer, and invited him to have at it.  Even though the counter had to be broken up to be removed to make way for the new one, it was still a bit nerve wracking to entrust this demolition job to my pre-teen son.  But I knew he would thoroughly enjoy it, and it would be a good experience for him.  And for me.  To let go, trust him, and watch him enjoy a new and powerful experience.  Long story, short – he did a fine job and enjoyed immensely.  It was a shining moment for him.  And for our family.

So much of parenting – when we do it well – follows this pattern.

Prepare – Equip – Guide – Trust – Release – Encourage

For the next six+ blog entries, I will be expanding on the steps of this crucial parenting process.  We will be discussing what is important about each step, how to most effectively walk through each step as a parent at different seasons in our kids’ lives, and what are some of the most common pitfalls along the way.  As always, I welcome your questions and feedback.  Feel free to comment on the post, or email me directly.  I am no longer on Facebook or Twitter, so if you want to share and discuss there, just know that it will be without any further commentary from me.  I look forward to sharing this series with you, and may you and your family enjoy your own “hammer times” along your journey together.

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Feb 11 2015


Names

Nickname Wordle

Recently, as I was reading the Well Spring trilogy by James Rubart (given to me by a particularly thoughtful and kind client of mine), I was reminded of the spiritual power of the names we take on along this journey of life.  Some are given to us.  Some we place upon ourselves.  Some are kind.  Some are cruel.  Some are silly.  But if we hold on to them with even the smallest part of our hearts, they take on a spiritual power in our lives and will come to shape our identity and our impact.

In response to the chapter about name significance, I decided to prayerfully review any and all names/nicknames I could ever remember carrying throughout my life.  Most struck me as worth discarding, but I remembered one that stood out as a particularly frustrating chapter in my life, because I HATED that a family member insisted on calling me something for years – simply because it pushed my buttons and agitated me.  I am grateful to have already had the opportunity to lay this to rest with this family member years ago, but back in my childhood the dynamics of this obnoxious nickname game always left me feeling discouraged, belittled, and helpless.  As I recalled those days, I thanked God for moving me past it, and setting me free from any long-lasting negative impact.  And then it hit me…

For years, I have done this same thing to my own son!  I haven’t done it in quite the same way.  I haven’t stuck one particularly obnoxious nickname on my son, despite his protestations.  But what I have done is frequently blurted out a silly nickname of the moment/day/week, based on whatever movie, TV show, song, stuffed animal, etc is at hand.  Just to get a rise out of him.  It wasn’t that I was picking on him, or being mean, or anything like that.  I was just having fun with him.  Or so I had told myself for a long time.  The Holy Spirit told me otherwise.  I can always count on Him to tell me the Truth.

That night, as I lay down with my eleven year old son at bedtime, I told him I wanted to talk to him about something serious.  Of course, his first concern was what kind of trouble he was in.  I assured him I was the one who had been out of line.  I told him the story of my childhood nickname, and how it made me feel.  I then told him God had helped me see how I had been doing the same thing to him for a long time.  I’m not sure how I expected him to react.  I guess I figured he’d say something like, “Thanks, Dad,” or “No big deal, Dad,” or maybe even, “Yeah, that bugs me, too.”  Whatever I expected, it was nothing like the conviction that came when he shot this bullet straight back at my heart…

“You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to hear you say that!”  That is actually what came out of his mouth.  WOW!  Well, I managed to keep from falling apart on the spot.  Much more importantly, I promised him I would stop this behavior, and show him more respect and love in this arena from now on.  We agreed his names would be limited to “Shep,” “Son,” and he also liked “Tiger” (I told him how that was what I called him for the first few weeks of his life, but somehow it seemed like it just didn’t stick).  I am pleased to report I have done much better, and he has been quick to remind me when I forget and slip into the old habit.  I want him to know I see him and believe in him for who he is and Whose he is, and don’t want him saddled with foolish or harmful nicknames.

Do you have any names you have been carrying that are dragging you down?  Hand them over to God, and ask Him to take them away from you for good.  You don’t have to accept them anymore!  And what about the conviction that hit me?  Have you been calling someone by a name that tears them down, rather than builds them up?  It’s time to stop.  And say you’re sorry, and want only good for them from now on.  Give it a try.  Lighten your load.  And theirs.  Walking in our true identity given us by our Father is so much greater than wallowing in the counterfeit identities that ultimately come from our Enemy.

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Jan 31 2015


Just a second…

?????????

I’m sure I’m not the only parent who feels frustrated at so frequently hearing, “Just a second…” in response to an instruction to turn off the digital device and come to the table, get in the car, get out of the car, join a conversation, get ready for bed, etc. And frankly, I’m racking my brain trying to remember the last time “just a second” turned out to actually be only a second. What it really means is, “What I’m doing on this digital device is really more important to me than whatever ‘real life’ interruption you are trying to impose on me, and I’ll get to that as soon as I’m satisfied with what I’ve done here on my priority activity.” Right? Now, in our house, our son has learned that his mother and I both show no remorse at all about yanking said device away from him if he does not put it down or give it back. And he has also learned there may be bigger consequences whenever this dynamic becomes chronic, or is accompanied by an inappropriate attitude.

But I was thinking today about how often I tell my son or my wife, “Just a second…” because I am plugged into my own digital device doing something that is clearly oh, so important to me. How about you? How many precious hours and moments of real life relationships and experiences do we miss each week because we have our faces buried in screens so much? Do you have any screen-free zones in your family’s weekly rhythm? Is dinner time kept sacred from digital interruptions? Or maybe travel time together? Certain days or nights of the week, or even certain hours during the day or night? Maybe even a room or other place that is designated as screen-free? How powerful would it be to go on an outing with a spouse, child, or whole family, and purposefully leave the phones at home? Does the idea make you cringe just to hear it?

Let’s be intentional about showing the people we love that they are more important to us than the digital options clawing for our attention. Yes, there is a time for using our screens as tools for important work, for communication, and for enjoyable fun. But may we not sacrifice the hours of the lives of our loved ones on the electronic altar of “Just a second…”

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Jan 09 2015


Today

todayTherefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.  – Jesus (Matthew 6:34 NIV)

Such profoundly simply wisdom.  And yet, for some reason, so easy to discard in favor of needless daily stress and worry.  Whatever challenges you may face in this year, whatever resolutions you have made for change in your life, whatever relationships need mending or redirecting, whatever guilt or shame you have been carrying, whatever goal you are determined to reach, whatever mess you know you need to clean up, whatever chapter you are ready to close or begin…

DO YOUR BEST TO FOCUS YOUR ATTENTION ON THE BEST CHOICES YOU CAN MAKE TODAY.

And know that so long as you are doing so with your best efforts at walking in what you believe God would have you do, you are making the very most of today.  Because the simple truth is this: making the very most of today is the best thing you can do to move forward in any area, challenge, or relationship in life.  This brief span of days we are given to breathe and to act on planet Earth can only be lived one day at a time.  Simple as that.

I was reminded of this wonderful Truth earlier this week on a peaceful stroll through my favorite nature spot in Baton Rouge.  As I spoke with the delightful retired couple who serve as the resident bird enthusiasts at the Bluebonnet Swamp, this wise woman shared how the birds don’t stress out about the changing weather or what might happen tomorrow.  They get up, face today, and do the work of living well today.  And somehow, they seem to sing and dance their way through it.  She reflected on how grateful she is for their ever-present reminder to her of living in today.  And I am so thankful she shared with me, reminding me of the very example Jesus used to illustrate the quote above.

This year on my blog, I plan to share more practical insights and guidance into handling real life difficulties well.  And reminding us all of this foundational Truth seems the best place to start.  One day at a time.  Breathe.  Pray.  Face the hard stuff.  Look often to your Father in heaven for wisdom, guidance, and strength.  And live today as well as you can, knowing this is your best hope for a better tomorrow.

In His Grace,

Roger

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Dec 23 2014


Christmas Presence

Christmas presence

If you are anything like me, you love the joy of sharing Christmas gifts.  The searching.  The buying.  The hiding.  The wrapping.  The anticipation.  The unwrapping.  The smiles.  There is just something special about Christmas presents.  It’s fun to get them.  It’s fun to give them.  When it goes well, it really feels like a magical time.  And my favorite part of the Christmas gifting ritual has long been the opening of Christmas stockings.  One after another, a stream of quirky little treasures brings laughter and smiles and questions and silliness and appreciation.  I just love it!

And for all the fun of sharing Christmas presents with loved ones at this time of year, I still believe the greatest gift we can offer one another is our presence.  I’m not saying we have to be there at a certain time of the Christmas holiday celebration for us to offer our best.  I’m simply saying our greatest gift is to share of ourselves with openness and authenticity.  The most real and valuable and personal thing I can give you is the gift of what is uniquely within me – my hopes, my beliefs, my fears, my joys, my tears, my spiritual journey.

I believe God has given me so many wonderful gifts and blessings, I could never name them all.  And while the gift of redemption from my ugly sins by the blood of His perfect Son is one I most desperately need and could never ever earn or deserve by my own merit, it is the Incarnation that blows my mind the most.  He gave us the gift of His presence!

I have shared my thoughts before about the unthinkable nature of the Incarnation – the Holy Son coming from ultimate glory to live among us as one of us.  Remember in the opening narrative of Kung Fu Panda when Po (Jack Black) tells us that “Legend tells of a legendary warrior whose Kung Fu skills were the stuff of LEGEND!“?  And he goes on to describe how masses of people went blind simply from gazing at his awesomeness.  Yes, I’m a big Kung Fu Panda fan.  But while that little story is really shared as over the top silliness from our daydreaming hero, the Truth is that God’s Word tells of the greatest warrior who ever lived leaving the unspeakable dazzling perfection of heaven to enter our stinking, sin-corrupted world as one of us, just to be with us, so He could redeem us, so we could live with Him forever.  Okay…WOW!!!  He shared Himself fully with us because He wants to be with us.

So as you embrace this Christmas season, close out another year, and move into a new year, I hope you will extend the gift of Jesus just a bit further.  Share your self with the ones you love.  Just as He did.  Yes, have a great time with gifts and stockings and egg nog and mistletoe (does anyone still do that anymore?) and all the cultural Christmastime joy.  But may you and I love more people more fully this season and this coming year than we have in the past.  May we give more openly and more fully of our greatest gift – our presence.  And may God be glorified as we share the story and the love of Jesus with one another throughout this Christmas season and beyond.

“I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people…Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger…Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

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