Month: July 2016

Family Value #9

When life gets stripped down to its very core, there is really just one goal: please God.

It is such a simple value, and yet it gets so complicated.

“When we say our family value is to please God, it sounds simple,” Mike told the kids as we finished eating supper. “But, how can you guys do that in your daily lives?”

“It can be hard,” Josiah answered, “because our time is filled with school and homework. I guess we could try to go to more church activities.”

“Pleasing God isn’t about going to church or singing hymns or praying,” Mike explained. “The Bible instructs us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.”

“It’s often an individual practice,” I said. “It’s personal.”

“There is a lot of pressure at school to fit in so you can get friends and then continue to fit in so you can keep your friends,” Makenna said. “And there’s a lot of drama in friend groups, so it is easy to gossip or act mean to someone. Stepping out of that cycle would probably please God.”

A few months later, Makenna, Josiah and Drake went to homecoming in a chaotic whirlwind of forgetting their tickets, borrowing dress clothes, and coordinating photo shoots. Surprisingly, Makenna was the first to arrive back home.

“I didn’t expect you home by 10,” I told her when she walked in.

She said, “The night started off weird. I didn’t know mosthomecoming of the other girls in the group we went with, and they were all friends. I was trying to fit in all through dinner. We went to the dance, and it was more of the same. Then I noticed a girl from school out on the dance floor. She has special needs and was dancing awkwardly and all alone. So, I left my group and went and danced with her. She got really excited that someone was dancing with her, and she laughed and smiled the whole time. I left pretty quick after that. Nothing else seemed very important.”

Yes, I believe God was pleased.

 

 

 

 

 

Family Value #8

“I hate my new job, and I want to quit,” Makenna said as she tossed her car keys on the kitchen counter. “But, I want to finish well.”

Quitting shows as much about your character as beginning. So, finish well was a family value we encountered often.

“Okay,” Mike said to Makenna, “I know you hate this job, but never quit until you’ve secured another job. After you’ve found a different job, write a respectful resignation and give it to your manager. You’ll need to plan on working two weeks after you quit to give them time to replace you.”

One night after Mike and I had been asleep for about ten minutes, we heard a knock on our door.

“Yes?” Mike mumbled.

“Hey,” Drake said, opening the door and walking into our bedroom. “What are you doing?”

“We were sleeping until very recently,” I said, rubbing my eyes.

“I need some advice,” Drake said as he pulled a chair next to our bed and sat down. “I’ve committed to too many things. I have to practice guitar for a retreat I’m playing at, I have to work, and I have two huge tests I need to study for. I was thinking of telling my boss I can’t work so I can get the other things done.”

“You can’t tell your boss at midnight that you can’t work in the morning unless you’ve got a real emergency. Your lack of planning should not be your bosses emergency,” Mike explained in the gravely voice of the newly awakened.

“This is one of those times you’ll need to focus and use your time wisely,” I said, stifling a yawn. “Go to work, then practice and study as soon as you get off. Get through this so you can finish well, and then plan better in the future.”

“Okay,” Drake sighed.

“I’m so tired I can’t tell if we made sense,” I told Mike after Drake left the room.

“We were awesome,” he said.

I’m pretty sure we high-fived just before falling back to sleep.

kids in kitchen

 

 

 

 

Family Value #7

I wasn’t really paying attention. When Drake turned four he entered a phase of life consisting of nonstop talking. I had grown used to his ongoing comments, and I was focused on Josiah’s t-ball game. I mm-hmmed now and then to tide Drake over as he wiggled on the bleacher next to me. Josiah was jumping back and forth across second base, and I was pretty sure he was imaging that the base was lava and he was risking his life in order to make it safely to the other side. The lava game was one of his favorites, and the t-ball game was almost assuredly forgotten. I was saying a silent prayer that he would come back to us remember he was in charge of catching any balls that may come his way when I noticed something strange. Drake’s continual chatter had taken a different tone – a monotonous timber. I turned my attention to him mid sentence.

“…huge, huge, huge, huge, huge, huge, huge, huge, huge body.” Drake finished and looked to me for confirmation as I stared at him utterly confused. “Right Mom?” he pressed on. “She has a huge, huge body. Right?” And, in a moment of horrified clarity, I realized Drake was commenting on the large size of the lady sitting on the bleacher in front of us.

I’m not sure what a good parent would have done in that situation. Probably apologized or scolded their child. I didn’t do either of those. I slid off the bleacher and walked away. Yes, I left my son on the bleacher alone to incur the consequences of his loose tongue, and I walked away as if I had never seen the chubby, four-year-old before in my life.

So, speak truth in love was added to our list of family values.kids 3 looking

Kids are brilliant at speaking truth. The in love part is what trips them up. We talked about it a lot, and they were trying really hard.

“Hey Dad,” Makenna called to Mike as he walked in the back door, sweaty from mowing the yard and headed to the sink to get some water, “before you take a shower you stink really bad.” Then a thoughtful look crossed over her face, and she continued, “But after you shower, you smell great all day. That is what is special about you.”

As we grow up, this seems to flip flop. I noticed as the kids entered their teen years that they had a very hard time speaking the truth, especially to their friends.

“I said I’d play drums for an orchestra event, but I don’t want to, and now I don’t know how to get out of it,” Josiah said during his weekly phone call home from college.

“Why didn’t you say you didn’t want to?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Josiah groaned.

It is hard, even for adults, to feel that they are disappointing people. We become better at the in love part but pretty bad at the speak truth part. Both are necessary.

“Do you like this skirt?” I asked Emery as I placed the hanger on my waist and took a few steps down the aisle of the store, modeling the skirt’s potential.

“Its horrible,” she said, and immediately looked guilty. “But,” she paused, thinking hard, “if you like it you should buy it. And I love you.”

We’re getting there.

Family Value #6

“The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is in charge of long-term thinking, is not fully developed until the age of twenty-five,” Claudia said. Claudia was a new addition to our lives. She was inserted into our family’s circle of confidants shortly after I received a phone call from Officer Carlson pertaining to some shoplifting my child had decided to participate in. Claudia facilitated a program for teenagers who found themselves in trouble with the law. The juvenile was required to attend classes and perform elevendy-six hundred hours of service while the family of the trouble-maker attended different classes. We were learning so much. Claudia was explaining to a room full of parents, all in various stages of shock, why our precious children had made terrible decisions. She finished up her teaching with the statement, “We just want to teach these kids to think it through.”

Thus, think it through was added to our family values.

But, thinking it through is harder than it sounds. We often found ourselves in tedious conversations with our prefrontal cortex challenged youngsters begging them to consider the result of their intended action. It is surprisingly challenging to help a fourteen-year-old understand that using a Thursday to play video games instead complete homework will result in a bad grade on the project due on Friday.

However, it became even harder to think it through as the kids got older. When Makenna discovered one of her best friends had been lying to her, she had to decide between confronting the friend, which she hated to do, or ending the friendship. Both options seemed bad.

Parents struggle with this as well. When Emery began having social problems at school, we looked at a lot of different schooling options and quickly became overwhelmed and paralyzed in indecision.

“What would you think about me asking Sarah out on a date,” Josiah asked me and Mike one evening. We asked some questions about Sarah’s personality, and Josiah tried as hard as any seventeen-year-old boy can to describe to us a person we had never met. At the end of the conversation, we assured Josiah that we trusted his judgement and gave him our stamp of approval. Just as the conversation came to a close, I told him, “I have a trick I use to think it through. I pretend my life is a movie josiah in blue corner and I am the main character. I imagine each situation through to its conclusion and see how it works out. At the end, would I wish the main character could to go back and make a different choice? If so, I choose differently from the start.”

“How did it go with Sarah?” I asked Josiah after school the next day.

“I decided not to ask her out,” he said. “I imagined my life as a movie, and, from what I know about Sarah, I thought that she would be very clingy and eventually start to depend on me to make her happy, and I would want to break up with her, but, since I know she has a really rough home life, I would feel really bad about it. Then I would be wishing that I had just stayed friends with her from the start, so that is what I chose to do.”

I’m pretty sure his prefrontal cortex grew two sizes that day.