Should Children Be Forced to Say Sorry?

There they were in the local Walmart.  Two young siblings arguing over a toy.  Tempers were flaring, voices were raising, and then, it happened.  One of the little tots smacked her sister in the face and grabbed the toy away.  A somewhat embarrassed and aggravated mother quickly took the young offender by the arm, pulled her closer to her sister, and demanded:

“Say you are sorry right now.”

With little jaw clenched tightly and nostrils flaring, the guilty sibling replied, “Sorry,” in a less than genuinely repentant tone.

All was good.  Problem fixed.  Happiness was restored to the world once more.

I could hardly restrain myself.  Despite my best efforts I felt my head begin to shake from side to side…I was shaking my head at myself.

For I was once that mom.  I was that mom who immediately pressed my young children into apology mode when they wronged someone.  I wanted  my little ones to go from angry outburst to contrite heart in mere seconds.  I wanted to believe that uttering that five letter word, s-o-r-r-y, made everything all better.  How naive I was!  How foolish!

Forcing an immediate apology is actually encouraging our children to lie.

As parents we somehow feel that as long as the word sorry is uttered, the situation has been taken care of.

Truth be told:  apologies have very little to do with actual words.  They have much more to do with the state of our hearts.  Genuine apologies come once we have grieved what we have done.  We should, at some point, become aware of how our actions have hurt others.  And, at that point, we should feel a sense of sorrow, a sense of disappointment only in ourselves.  Most importantly, we should feel grieved that we have sinned against the Lord.  We should feel compelled to make things right, first with the Lord and then with those we have wronged.

The process should be no different for children.  I realize that not every five year old is capable of the above thinking (but I am also not saying that they aren’t).   As parents, it is our responsibility to move our children in that direction, though.  It is our responsibility to take the time, to sit them down, and talk to them about their wrong doing.  Parenting takes time.  The true reality is that the only reason we force our children into immediate apology is so that we feel as if we have done something to fix the situation.  It is the seemingly easy way out for us.  Honestly, forcing an immediate apology does nothing but reinforce the idea that one can utter words they do not mean in order to get ones self out of trouble.

Continuing this practice will have devastating results as our children grow into teens and adults.

We’ve all seen adults who have difficulty taking responsibility for their actions.  We see them shift the blame and make excuses for their behavior.  They are quick to point out the faults of others to divert attention away from their own shortcomings.  We see the stone like faces and hear the robotic, emotionless words uttered by one who has been forced into apology, and we know in our gut, that they likely don’t mean it.

I need not look any further than Psalm 51 to show me what true sorrow for one’s sin looks like.

A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

A contrite heart is one that is sincerely remorseful and seeks to make things right…not for the purpose of saving face or avoiding trouble, but to genuinely mend fences, to make things right, and restore fellowship with those we have hurt, particularly the Lord.

Our children have to get that message.  They just have to.  Forcing an immediate apology will never produce a contrite heart.

So how does the parenting process change?  Well, I’ll give you a scenario.

A few months back, one of my boys lied to me.  He lied about something silly, but no lie is small, and no lie should be ignored.  I showed him scripture.  We talked at length about the tangled web we weave when we lie.  We discussed how there is a breakdown of trust when one lies.  I expressed my disappointment.  I inquired as to why he didn’t feel compelled to speak honestly to me.  We had a good conversation.  I finally asked him what he needed to do in order to make this situation right.  He knew that he first needed to go before the Lord and seek forgiveness, and, he would also need to make things right with me.  He owed me an apology.

After our discussion, my son was sent off to his room.  I gave him a bit of time to himself, then checked in.  In all honesty, I completely went up to his room expecting him to apologize to me.  I mean, thirty minutes had passed, his heart was surely contrite by now!  When I poked my head in, I was greeted by a pout.  I finalized the amount of time he needed to spend in his room and left.

We ate dinner.  He got ready for bed.  I tucked him in and we said goodnight.

Nothing.

The next day came and went.

Nothing.  No apology.

The next morning came and I was literally biting my lip.  My heart wanted to scream, “When are you going to apologize to me?”

I restrained myself.

At lunchtime, my son came up to me and apologized.  He said that he was sorry for lying to me and thanked me for taking the time to talk to him about it.  I hugged him, affirmed my love for him, and offered my forgiveness.

A contrite heart restored our fellowship.

Something happened when my son was given the time to work out his wrongdoing.  He actually realized what he had done was wrong.  He was sorrowful.  And eventually, in his time, he knew he had to make it right.

That is what we need to strive for.

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A Note to My Son As We Begin Another Homeschooling Year

New textbooks line the shelf.  Notebooks are crisp.  Pencils are sharp.  The dawn of a new school year is here.  While there is a sense of excitement, I know it comes mingled with other feelings and doubts as well.  I know that as you flip through the pages of your new books, your stomach tightens a bit as you stare at the unfamiliar, and somewhat intimidating material. I know that your mind is spinning with all that you need to accomplish this year.  I know that you wonder if you will understand all of the new concepts.  I know that you question whether you will be able to handle the load.   You wonder if you know as much, more than, or less than your public and private school counterparts.  You wonder where you stand.  You anticipate that school will rule your life, occupy all of your time, leave you with little time to just sit, relax, and breath.  You wonder if you can do it.

I know.  I know more then you may realize.

For while you were enjoying the warmth of the summer sun, tossing a ball, swinging a bat, I was staring at those new textbooks that lined the shelf.  I was purchasing the crisp notebooks and sharpening pencils.  I was flipping through the pages of your books, feeling my stomach tighten as I stared at the unfamiliar and somewhat intimidating material.  My mind was spinning thinking about all that would need to be accomplished this year.  Would I know the material well enough to teach you, well enough to help you?  Will I prepare you?  Will I teach you enough?  Can you stand toe to toe with your public and private school counterparts?  That question is always on my mind.  I question whether I will be able to handle the load.  I wonder if I will have a moment to to sit, to relax, to breath this year.  I wonder, I question if I will be able to do it.

I know exactly how you feel.  I do…

And so does the Lord.

I am reminded that this is a journey that was started by Him.  He extended His hand to us and invited us to take a different course… a course led by Him.  It hasn’t been the easiest journey, but it has been the right one.  With each passing year He confirms that His plan is best, He reaffirms that we are in fact following His will, that we are indeed on the right road, and He reminds me that He leads the way before us.

While my degree, training, and classroom experience as a teacher have indeed helped me in many ways along our homeschool journey, nothing could adequately prepare me for teaching my own children everyday.  It is a great responsibility and an incredible privilege.

I have sat alongside of you and unlocked the mystery of language.  I have been your audience as you read aloud your first book.  I’ve watched your young eyes, wide as saucers, be in awe of the created world around us.  I’ve wrapped your tiny fingers around your first pencil and guided its motion to write.

Now I find myself sitting across from you discussing Dickens and Poe, creating analytical essays, and learning about thermodynamics.  These days we sit shoulder to shoulder working through nonlinear inequalities, logarithmic equations, and parabolas.  I watch your fingers move swiftly over a keyboard citing references and formatting papers.

And while the acquisition of knowledge and understanding is obviously a high priority, it is the not the highest.  No, my highest priority in homeschooling is your heart.  For it is the heart of a man, not an SAT score, a GPA, or transcript that defines who he is.  Good grades and high standing are of no importance to the Lord if He does not have your heart.

The heart is the key to everything.

When you were little and our homeschooling journey had just begun, a more seasoned homeschooler left me with one bit of advice: “Teach to their heart.” All these years later I can see the wisdom in those few simple words.  For once your heart belongs to the Lord and you have a relationship with Him, amazing things happen.  You realize that your journey in school and in life is not traveled alone.  You know that the Lord is beside you in all things.  You hold onto the knowledge that He will never leave you or forsake you.  You know that He has a plan for you.  You know that your life has purpose.  You know that you have the ability to do all things through Christ.  You know that you are a glorious masterpiece, fashioned by the Lord.  You have a hope; you have a future.  Oh, the promises that the Lord has for those who are His!

So as we venture into another school year remember my priorities and make yours.

I look forward to all that the year has to offer: the triumphs and the high-fives, the tears and the hugs, the questions and the answers.  Most importantly I look forward to seeing how the Lord will move in your life!

Love you much,

Mom

Allowing Our Children to Feel the Sting of Losing

Our family is in full-on Olympic mode.

We’ve allotted a bit of time each evening to watch some of the events together as a family.  We recently scrolled through a list of the events, and the boys were shocked to see medal bearing competitions in badminton, trampoline, and ping-pong…I mean table tennis.  We decided to take a quick peek at the table tennis and badminton events.  The boys remarked at how silly they thought these competitions were.

“Why in the world would anyone want to make ping pong so competitive (and funny to watch)?  Look at how serious they are!  Mom, they are sweating…they are sweating playing ping-pong!,” they exclaimed.

This made me chuckle.  This statement was coming from a group of boys that makes even the most mundane activity into a competitive sport.  Like who could throw a frisbee over the roof of the house or who could mow the lawn the fastest or who could register the fastest bike speed on the street’s digital speed limit sign.  Anything and everything usually turns into a competition in my house.

As silly as some of these events may appear to us, it reaffirms to me the competitive spirit that is stored up within each of us.  Whether you are an athlete, a musician, a writer, a hunter, a hiker, a fisherman, an artist, a cook, or an entrepreneur, we are wired to strive.

There is one guarantee in competition:  someone will win, and someone will lose.  There’s no way around it.

When my children were young I noticed an alarming trend beginning.  There were no winners or losers in competition.  Whether you finished first or last, everyone was a winner just for trying.

We live in a “Trophies for Everyone” society.  A society that wants to insulate our youth from the negative feelings associated with losing.  What a great disservice this thinking is doing to our youth.  One of the greatest motivators in life is losing.  Just listen to some of our Olympic athletes talk about how past failures have pushed them to work harder and set new goals.

One day our children will be the adults of the world.  They will experience disappointment and defeat, and no one will be there to give them a ribbon or shiny trophy just for trying.  There will be promotions that slip away.  Quotas that are not met.   Elections that are lost.  The list can go on and on.    They must know how to deal with failure.  They must be taught how to take that loss and use it for the good.

Here are four steps that we have focused on with our boys:

Prepare
Whether you are taking a test or taking part in a competition, you must go into the event prepared.  This requires consistent, dedicated work before the actual event.  Your input directly correlates to your output.  Basically, what you put in is usually what you will get out.

Try Your Best
Whatever you do, give it your all.  Don’t leave anything on the table. Put out your best effort and push yourself.  Win or lose, be happy with what you did.  Most importantly:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
I Corinthians 10:31

Experience
Allow yourself to experience the thrill of victory but do not deny yourself feeling the agony of defeat should that be the outcome.  Be a good sport in winning and losing.  Congratulate others.  Have a moment.  If you need to cry…cry.  If you need to sit quietly…do it.  Allow yourself to process.  When losing comes do not brush it off, do not pretend that it is not there, do not store up your feelings inside.   Deal with it and then let it go.  Use it for motivation.  Use it as inspiration.  Above all else do not let winning or losing define who you are.

Learn
Take time to evaluate.  Is there something that I could have done differently?

These are not revolutionary ideas.  They are common sense ideas.  Don’t get me wrong, instilling these ideas is not always easy.  All of my children react to winning and losing in their own way.  One is a bit too casual, one gets it pretty well, and one, well, let’s just say, we’re still working on it.

My kids have heard me say this over and over again;

If you are going to try to win, you must be willing to lose as well.

 

 

 

 

A Letter To Christian Teenage Girls About Modesty From A Mother of Three Teenage Boys

I saw you at the pool today walking with your friend.  Your body barely filling out the teeny tiny string bikini you were modeling during your numerous walks around the pool grounds.

I saw you at the party walking ever so gingerly and carefully in your oh so high heels and itty bitty little shorts.  You were afraid to move the wrong way because there was no room for error with the height of your shorts and the depth of your shirt.

I saw you hanging out with your friends.  Your bra straps and cleavage taking up more space on your body than the teeny tiny “shirt” you had on.  Skin tight pants with an obvious thong…there was nothing left to the imagination.

I saw you…my boys saw you.  I imagine any male, young or old,  saw you and took notice.

You were made for so much more than this.

I do not write this with a finger waving at you in the air.  I do not write this thumping my Bible and preaching to you.  I do not write to you to cast blame or judgment.  I write to you to tell you that you are beautiful. You are treasured and created in beauty.  You are fairer than diamonds, more precious than the finest gems.  You are a masterpiece of the Lord, created just the way He wanted you to be, crafted by His hand.  You are like no other.  You are special, unique.  Your are beautiful.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.  Psalms 139:14

I wish that I could run up to you and look at you in the eyes and tell you that your beauty goes far beyond outward appearances.  Beauty is something within.  It’s a comfort in being you.  It is a feeling that exudes from a woman who knows that she is a child of the Lord and that her true value comes from Him.  Beauty actually has very little to do with a pretty face or a nice body.  Beauty goes much deeper.  It is found in a quiet, tender spirit.  Take away the fancy clothes, pretty hair, lovely make-up, and sparkling jewelry, and see that beauty is still to be found.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment… . Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. I Peter 3:3-4

True beauty has little to do with appearances.

I was recently food shopping and found myself stuck behind an older gentleman.  He was likely in his late 50’s or early 60’s, and with each aisle we traveled, I watched his head turn and his eyes survey many young women.  There was one commonality in the women he took the time to check out.  They were all barely dressed.  Not surprisingly, very short skirts, spandex pants, tiny tanks, and barely there shorts were to his liking.  His motions were very obvious and his gaze lingered in an eerie way.  I also noticed that there were some women who escaped his glance all together.  They must have been “ugly”, right?  Not so.  Those equally attractive women were dressed in loosely fitting shirts,  modest skirts, or knee length shorts.  They weren’t hanging out of their shirts or barely dressed.  This man had no interest in modesty.  He sought to disrespect and get a free peep from women with questionable attire.  It was completely nauseating.

You are worth so much more than the wandering gaze of that strange man.

I hope you realize that this is not a call for you to wear turtlenecks and floor length skirts or to have your hair in a bun and to throw away your lipstick. Not at all. It is a challenge for you to think about why you dress the way you do.  Are you looking for attention?  Do you want to feel sexy?  Trying to fit in with your friends?  Wanting to get the attention of a specific boy?  Looking for ways to intentionally challenge your parents?  I can’t answer those questions for you.

Please know that I can relate to you.  During the first two years of college (when I was young and thin), I absolutely found power in a low cut shirt and a tight pair of jeans.  I found that I could turn heads, meet guys, and get attention.  I also found out that the guys who were interested in my low cut shirts and tight jeans really had no interest in getting to know me for me.  I gave the impression by my choice of clothing that I was an easy pick-up.  I wasn’t interested in casual hook-ups; I was looking for a relationship.  Thankfully the Lord opened my eyes and showed me that He valued me and was actually interested in a relationship with me.  I found worth and the freedom to just be me in Christ alone.

I want you to know that there are parents who are raising their teenage boys to respect you.  They are being taught that your true value is not found in your outward appearance, where beauty can change and fade, but instead they are being taught to look for inward beauty, in your heart and mind.  They are being taught that a lady’s first love should be the Lord, as should theirs.  They are being taught to steer clear of temptation or anything that will cause them to stumble or fall.  They are being taught that you are more than just a pretty face or a nice body.  They are being taught that they are accountable to the Lord for the way they treat you.  I hope and pray that they follow what they’ve heard and what the Bible says, just as I hope that you will do the same.

There are young men who are being taught to love and respect you and to appreciate the beauty of a modest young woman.

I pray that you will realize the great love your Heavenly Father has for you.  I hope that you realize what true beauty is.  My desire for you is to respect yourself enough to think about the way you dress.  Think about why you dress the way you do.  Please know that there are young men who are being taught to value you for who you are.  Seek them out.  Wait for them.  Don’t compromise yourself.

 

This post was first featured on Life in the Van.

Lessons from Dad

Father’s Day comes and goes each year.  It’s one of those bittersweet days.  I love to celebrate my husband and the wonderful dad that he is to our boys.  Yet, inevitably, at some point during the day, I reflect on my own dad.  Our journey as father and daughter was an interesting one.  I learned some of life’s greatest lessons from my dad.  Our story is marked by a sad beginning, a turbulent middle, and redemptive ending.  I hope you’ll stick with me.

It was Thanksgiving evening.  Dinner was done, guests had said their goodbyes, and the house was in a bit of disarray.  I was only five years old, my younger brother a year and a half.  I obviously don’t remember the specifics of the day, but nonetheless, that Thanksgiving would be a momentous one.  For on that day my dad left.  Simply took his belonging and walked away.  Our lives were changed in an instant.

My father returned to the Bronx where he took up residence in his mother’s spare bedroom.  To my father’s credit he remained involved with my brother and me.  We regularly spent time with my dad and grandmother.  He helped my mother out financially and maintained the house.  And while I was too young to fully understand our new family arrangement, it all just seemed odd to me.  However, I looked forward to those weekend trips.

I remember one specific visit where my father introduced my brother and me to a new “friend”.  She was apparently someone that my father had known for quite some time.  It was then that my young mind began to put the sordid pieces together.  My mother would fill in the gaps for me.

Within two years my parents’ divorce was finalized, and soon after, my father would remarry.  His new wife, the woman with whom he had been involved with while married, was young, and I frankly never gave her a chance.  I would not allow myself to like her.  I would not allow my heart to be open to her.  My mind was made up.

Future visits with my dad were marked by tears, unhappiness, and loneliness.  And as my father and wife began their new lives together, my sadness would turn to anger.  While my mom struggled to put food on the table, when there were times when the electricity was shut off, when birthdays went by without a gift, my father seemingly basked in the glow of his new home, new car, new toys, and new children.  Our twice monthly visits would become monthly visits, then every other month visits, then holiday and birthday visits, then would simply fade away.  Our visits were replaced with phone calls that were more obligatory than anything else.  My anger was slowly turning to hatred.

I entered high school seemingly happy on the outside but longing for love and acceptance on the inside.  I am fully aware that many young people in similar situations can get themselves into trouble, can wander down the wrong path, can look for love in all the wrong places.  I was fortunate, for the Lord put a father figure in my life in high school.  I was in the band, and the band was my life.  Our band director really became my dad during those vital years. He took a genuine interest in my life.  He went so far as to having me over to his house for dinner with his family.  I imagine that there were plenty of fellow classmates who envisioned a “Mr. Holland’s Opus” story line, but no, that was the farthest thing from the truth.  To me, this man was the closest thing I had to a father.

While high school graduation was a happy time for most, it was terrifying to me.  All of the stability, acceptance, and love I received from friends and others would dissipate as we all went in our separate directions.  I remained local and commuted to a nearby university. It was there that I realized how easy it was to find love and acceptance in the arms of all the wrong people. I was desperately looking to fill the void. I look back on that time now and see how the hand of the Lord protected me. I put myself into some precarious situations, some, downright dangerous. Yet, amazingly I was kept safe. I should have been an 11:00 news story.

By this time in my life, I was a strong, independent, self-reliant young woman, but on the inside, there was that little girl, immature, vulnerable, naive, and hurt. The gap between my father and me was now a wide chasm. I hated him. I vowed that he would never earn my forgiveness for he was too undeserving. I would never allow all the years of pain and hurt to be erased. I would never give him a pass. He would never walk me down the aisle. I remember making a statement once that I wouldn’t even care if he died.

Those feelings don’t just happen overnight. There is a progression. Hurt – Sadness – Anger – Hatred – Bitterness. Each one building off the last; each one defining more of who I was. I realize now what I couldn’t see then: hatred and bitterness did more to harm me, than my dad. I carried around a backpack full of burdens everywhere I went. It dragged me down into the muck and the mire. My deliberate attempt to hurt my father, resulted in only one person being hurt…me.

For those of you who know me, you may have picked up on the fact that there is something missing from the above story: the Lord. I was saved early and grew up in the church, however, the older I got, the more I simply ran through the motions of religion. There was no relationship with the Lord, and that was obvious. It was during those turbulent college years that the Lord would grab hold of me. In reality, He had never let go of me, but He had to shake me pretty hard in order to get my attention.

Through accidents, sickness, and heartbreak, the Lord would bring me to my knees. He would open my eyes to the self destructive path I was on. One night after returning home from class, I sat on the hood of my car and stared out into the starry sky. I broke down in tears and cried out to the Lord. Life wasn’t good; I had no joy, no peace, and no hope. It was then that I realized that the love I had been searching for all of those years was always there. It wasn’t to be found in my earthly father but in my Heavenly Father. I took a vow that night, a rededication of sorts, to simply stop what I was doing. I was going to let the Lord direct my path.

Not surprisingly, our faithful God did direct my path. Within a few months he ordered my life and brought stability to it. I met my future husband, graduated college, and got into the workforce. In due time I would become engaged, and as I began to plan for my new life, the Lord reminded me that I still needed to deal with my old one. He impressed upon me that if I didn’t deal with my dad and my feelings, I would bring a lot of baggage into my marriage. After much prayer I decided to write a letter to my father. It was a long one. It was respectful but honest and blunt. I intended to mail it to him, but the letter never made it to the post office. This would be something I needed to do face to face.

I called my dad and told him that I needed to talk with him. I warned him that I needed to get some things off of my chest. So we set a date and my fiance and I sat down at my father’s kitchen table with my dad and his wife. I read my letter to them. Twenty years of hurt and anger were laid out on the table. There wasn’t much conversation to be had, just a lot of listening. He didn’t dispute anything I had to say. At the end, I told my dad that I forgave him, words I never thought I would utter. With that, we left. As the door closed behind me, I felt the weight of that burdensome pack fall off. I hadn’t realized how the weight of hatred had been holding me down. I felt free…literally.

Soon after, I was married. My father attended the wedding with his wife. My mother and brother walked me down the aisle, not out of spite, but out of love. I danced with my brother, not my father, again not out of spite, but out of love for my brother.

With time, my husband and I would reach out to my dad. It was a bit awkward at first for everyone, but new beginnings have to start somewhere. We had occasional phone conversations and a visit here and there. We didn’t focus on the past but on the present.

Within a few years I would give birth to my first child. This event would really test my heart. I remember calling my dad when my son was born. He and his wife came down to our house within a few days. They brought dinner and a shower of gifts. They were exuberant, like grandparents should be. However, this new found excitement did not sit well with me. Phone calls from my dad would become more frequent. Requests to visit were common. Random gifts were commonplace. What was up? Then the dark part of my heart spoke up. I told my husband, “So my dad thinks that he can just waltz into my life and be grandpa. What about all the times I needed a dad. What? Am I supposed to just forget about those times?”

Yep. That’s exactly what I was called to do. I had forgiven my dad….or so I thought I had.

“I, even I, am He who wipes out your transgressions, for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Isaiah 43:25

That verse hit me right between the eyes. What does true forgiveness look like? It is choosing not to remember the past. It is putting it away, far away from our minds. I don’t believe that we can truly forgive and forget. Our minds are not set up in a way to completely forget. All of our life experiences make us who we are. We just can’t pretend they aren’t there. But, we can choose to not remember them. When I looked at my dad, I still saw a little bit of the hurt. I hadn’t let that all go.

So how do I really accomplish this forgiveness thing? Well, I didn’t need to look far to find the perfect example in God himself. I surely was not (and am not) without sin. I had done some downright ugly things. I turned my back on the Lord. I was in need of forgiveness. I sought forgiveness and it was granted to me. How did the Lord view me?

“If anyone is in Christ he is a new creature. The old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.”

2 Corinthians 5:17

Once forgiven, the Lord doesn’t look at me the same. He doesn’t look at me and see my sin; He sees me as new. He chooses not to remember my sins. If the Lord did that for me, how could I do anything less for my dad?

And from that day on, I chose not to remember. I chose to see my dad for who he was now, not who he was then. And as a result, the Lord blessed me with a good relationship with my dad. I looked forward to visits with my dad. I found joy in seeing him be a grandpa. I enjoyed our conversations. I would chuckle as he would call me from Target to find out what size the boys were wearing or ask me if the boys would like a certain toy. And with time I heard something from my dad that I never heard before, “I love you.” And for the first time in my life, I knew he meant it. Priceless.

The Lord would grant me only but a few years to enjoy this new found relationship with my dad. Oh, but how thankful I am for those years no matter how short they were.

So, today I remember my dad for the good dad he was, for the great grandpa he was, for the changed man he became, and for the great lesson of forgiveness and love I learned through him.

Love and miss ya, Dad!

 

Beautiful Words and Dirty Laundry

It was just a few hours before they would arrive for dinner.  A family from church would be coming over.  They had never been to our home before.  I honestly was a little stressed, as I typically am before guests arrive.  My house is not fancy or big or full of Pottery Barn decor.  I, like many of you, lead a hectic life, with a lot on my plate.  I don’t always keep my house as tidy as I should.  What if they see a dusty end table?  A stray sock in the living room?  A sink full of dishes?  What will they think?  More important, what will they think of me?

I bet some of you can relate.   You want everything to be in its place.  You want to give the impression that you’ve got things together. Surely if my house is not up to standard they will think I am lazy and will judge.

“We need to vacuum and dust and get the laundry off of the sofa.  Someone needs to get on their hands and knees and look under the sofa and all of the furniture.  They have little kids; they will find everything.  Make sure your room is clean.  Tidy up the porch. I’ll clean the refrigerator.  Make sure the dishes are put away.”

There was no shortage of commands to be handed out that day.  Everyone had a job to do.  I am not exactly sure why I thought that it was important to clean the refrigerator.  Who in the world is going to be looking inside of my refrigerator? But, you never know, so better to be safe than sorry.  What utter lunacy!

“Mom, where do you want me to put all of this laundry that is on the sofa?  I don’t know if it’s clean or dirty.  It’s not folded?”

“Just put it on my bed and be sure to close the door.  I’ll figure it out later”

And with five minutes remaining until arrival, I gave one final run through.  All looks well.  Okay, I think we are done.   I could finally breathe a bit.

“They’re here.  They’re here.” And with that we opened the door and welcomed our friends inside.  The dads and kids went sleigh riding across the street, while the moms stayed inside and chatted.  We would share dinner and dessert and enjoy some wonderful conversation and fellowship.

At one point in the evening I excused myself to head upstairs.  Our first floor restroom was out of service due to some renovations.  So everyone had been directed to make their way to the second floor if need be.  Our house is kind of small.  When you reach the top of the stairs you have a bedroom to your left, right, and directly in front of you.  The bathroom is in the hallway off of the master bedroom.  As I made the turn toward the bathroom I paused and there before my eyes was a gigantic, mountainous pile of clothes.  My bedroom door had been left open for all the world to see.  I tilted my head back and dropped my shoulders.  There was no mistaking the fact that everyone had seen it.  I was kind of mortified.

So, I went downstairs and looked at my friend, “So, I guess you saw my huge pile of laundry.  Sorry about that.  I just didn’t get around to it.”

I call her response that followed “the most beautiful words any mother has ever said to me.”  They are words that have been etched in my mind and continue to warm my heart each time I think of them.

“Oh, I was so glad to see that.  It is beautiful.  I just wish that the pile was bigger.”

I wanted to cry…cry tears of joy.  With those few words I felt all of that pressure to be “together” dissipate.   My huge pile of laundry made both of us feel normal.

I began to tell her of the craziness that had occurred just before her arrival.  How I wanted to make sure that everything was just so.  Why do women do this?  Because we wonder what people will think.  I tried my best to give the impression of togetherness, but my “dirty laundry” was still visible for all to see.    As moms  we try to measure up, and we endlessly compare ourselves to the next woman…to her home, her kids, her clothes, her cooking, her whatever.  We feel inadequate and view everyone else as “super mom”.  It is so destructive.

After this little episode the Lord began to show me that outward appearances do not always represent reality.  Someone who appears to have it all together on the outside may very well be a mess on the inside.  And vice versa.  People have a tendency to do exactly what I did: they paint a picture that they want the world to see.  Oh, they likely have some “dirty laundry” that they want to remain hidden, but regardless of how well it is stowed away, it’s still there.

How thankful I am that the Lord is not concerned about the outer man.   The inner man, the heart and soul of a man, the part that no one can see, is what really concerns our Lord.  The Lord sees through walls and facades; He is not tricked by our outward efforts to appear “with it”. He is not impressed by fancy homes or beautiful things or finely coiffed hair.  Fine clothes and fancy cooking are of no worth.  The Lord looks at the heart.

 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  I Samuel 16:7

Please don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with keeping a lovely home or having nice things.  We are certainly not called to be slobs either.  It again all comes down to our hearts.  What is our motivation?  Is it to impress people?  Is it to make sure people think that we have got it all together?

I urge you not to do that to yourself.  Do not compare.  Do not assume that everyone else but you has it all together.  Be concerned with your heart, for your inner man, for that is the Lord’s concern as well.

Choosing to Be Mom

In the six short years that followed college graduation, the Lord had changed my heart dramatically.  He had allowed me to see that His way was best.  He had opened the path for a new career and a fresh outlook on family life.

Last I left you I was preparing to meet with my principal and superintendent to sign my first teaching contract.  This had been a long time coming, and I was excited beyond measure.  But, alas, there would be one more wrinkle.

About a week before my appointment I found out that I was pregnant.  Yep, pregnant!  I had traveled from the New York City work scene, to a new job in the suburbs, enrolled in college to work on my Masters degree,  obtained my teaching certification, completed student teaching, and was offered the “perfect job”, and now I was pregnant.  What should have been a joyous moment was a tear filled episode.  Before I even stepped foot into my new classroom, I would need to tell my principal that I was leaving.  And while I held firm to the fact that the Lord’s timing is always perfect,  I simply could not wrap my head around the timing of this.

When my husband arrived home I waved the pregnancy test in the air and exclaimed that I was pregnant.  He was surprised but so very happy.  Then he laughed.  He laughed.   “This is pretty funny timing,” he said.  “I mean you have to sign your teaching contract next week and tell your new boss that you are pregnant too.”  I failed to see the humor.

So, in I went to the principal’s office as scheduled.  We shared a few pleasantries and discussed business.  Then she sat back in her chair and said, “I just want you to know that none of the parents want their child in your class next year.  Parents in this district do not like new teachers.”    Well, that seemed like the perfect segue for me to drop my bombshell.   I went on to explain to her that I was pregnant.  Her first reaction was to congratulate me, then she paused.  It was kind of a long pause, the kind of pause that leaves that uncomfortable silence in the air.  And then like that she snapped back to life.  “Okay, so let’s make a plan,” she said.   And we did.

The plan was to work as long as I could, take a six week maternity leave, then return back to school to finish out the year.  In order to receive my permanent certification from the state I needed to complete my first year of teaching.  My husband and I agreed that I should complete the process.  Then at the conclusion of the school year I would tender my resignation.   It all seemed a bit overwhelming, yet at the same time I felt peace.

So the school year began.  I had my own little class of little people, and I grew to love them more and more each day.   Eventually I broke the news about my pregnancy to my classroom parents and students.  They were happy and unhappy at the same time.  But nonetheless, they embraced this wonderful event in my life, and we all enjoyed the wonders of pregnancy together.

About a week before my due date I began my maternity leave.  My son was born right on time.  He was healthy and amazing.   My new journey in motherhood had now begun.

Those first six weeks of being a mom were not what I had expected.  I had anticipated the sleepless nights, the crying, and the diaper routine.  But, I did not anticipate the emotional rollercoaster that I would be on.  I believe that I cried nearly everyday for the first two weeks.  Instead of joy, I was profoundly sad.  I knew that hormones could really be tough on a new mom, but this seemed nuts!  I prayed a lot those first few weeks.  I prayed that the Lord would calm my worried soul, that He would give peace, and help me find joy.  And so, I spent a lot of time in my son’s room on the glider.  I held him and prayed.  I held him and sang.  I held him and read.  And the more I held him and slowly released my fear, the more I felt the Lord holding me and comforting me.   Joy was to be found.

The Friday before I was to return to work, I took my son to school to introduce him to the class.  Oh my!  What a joyful time.  It was love at first sight for my students.  After a short visit we said our goodbyes, and I told them that I would see them on Monday.

Monday came and I jumped right back in the saddle.  After a week or so my principal called me into her office.  She wanted to know what my plans were for next year.  She wanted me to stay, and there was a huge part of me that wanted to stay as well.  I had finally found my niche in teaching.  I truly loved the children, my coworkers, my school, and my job.  But, there was a still, small voice guiding me in a different direction.  “No, I will not be returning next year.”  And with that, I would finish out the year and pack up the very classroom I had just set up.  My coworkers had mixed reactions to my decision.  Women who had already raised their families reassured me that I was making the right decision and it would be one that I would never regret.  The younger teachers told me that I was crazy…literally, they told me that.

And like that, I was now officially a full-time, stay-at-home mom.  Me, a stay-at-home mom.  I really never thought it would happen.  But it did.

I’ve been home now for sixteen years and there has never, ever been a time that I regret that decision.  It was a decision that changed the course of my life.  It was a decision that would change me. It was a decision that caused my husband and I  to make many, many sacrifices.  But most importantly, it was a decision that was made based on the leading of the Lord.

Time is short.  We have one chance to raise our children.  We have but a narrow window to impact their lives, to teach them right and wrong, to laugh and cry with them, to celebrate and console, to bring them up in the way that they should go.  When our children are but babies we feel as if we have all the time in the world.  But it won’t be long until we realize that time in flying by.  My boys are now sixteen, fourteen, and eleven.  I’m telling you, they were toddlers just yesterday…I’m convinced of it.

If you are a mom I want you to know that you have THE most important job in the entire world.  You have the opportunity everyday to make an impact, to make a difference.   You will never regret choosing time with your children.  It may not always be glamorous.  The house may not always be clean or the laundry done, but hearts will be full and love will be plentiful.

These are a few verses that have meant a lot to me over the years:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.  Proverbs 3: 5-6

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.   Isaiah 41:10

Happy Mother’s Day!

From the Corporate World to Motherhood

I remember having a conversation with a college friend about what our future plans after graduation were.   I wanted a big city job, with a big city paycheck, and big list of accomplishments.   I wanted to dress in my tailored suits, carry a briefcase, commute to New York, and have the corner office.   Married life was not a priority, and the thought of being a mother was not even on the radar.

My post-graduation job search proved to be difficult, and I found myself working as a teacher’s aide in a local elementary school.  Working with children was quite a departure from the corporate ladder I thought I would quickly ascend, but nonetheless, it was providential.  Those little kiddos began to soften my heart. I mean, how could they not, especially when they call you mom by mistake!  Despite the school’s request for me to work into the next school year, I pursued a full-time job elsewhere, securing an entry level job in Human Resources with a prominent investment banking company.  This certainly seemed more my speed.

I remember my last day at school.  My little kindergarten children , their parents, and my cooperating teacher threw me a party.  There were little notes from my little people, tiny handmade gifts, and lots and lots of hugs.  As I walked out the classroom door for the last time, my cooperating teacher, whom had now become my friend, left me with one thought, “Get your teaching certification and come back here to student teach.  I’ll be your mentor.  You should be a teacher.”

I hugged her, and tucked her challenge away.

My new job provided me with exactly what I wanted.  I rubbed elbows with some pretty important executives, had the opportunity to work on Park Avenue in New York City.  I wore my suits,  sipped my expensive coffee, and took the elevator up to the top floor.   I also got a taste of the not-so-savory aspects of work: power hungry colleagues, down right nasty bosses, and a cutthroat environment that pointed fingers, shifted blame, and beat people down.  I was offered a significant promotion and turned it down.  I feared that if I accepted the position, in time, I would grow callous and cruel like the people around me.  I remembered those little people and their little notes and their little hugs.  It was at that time, I opted to leave my current company and move to a smaller business outside of the city.

By this time I was married.  My husband and I began to talk about our future plans.  Lord permitting, we agreed that we would love to start a family.  Then, the big question came.  “What do you think about staying home with the kids?”  After much discussion and prayer, we decided, and felt led, that I would stay home and raise a family.    However, I was not pregnant at the time, so I tucked that commitment aside and continued on as normal.

I was enjoying my new job.  I had my own office.  Liked the work.  Had a great rapport with my colleagues, yet I couldn’t help acknowledge the growing realization that I was feeling very unfulfilled working in corporate America.  Those little kindergarten kids kept coming to mind.  “Get your teaching certificate and come back here to student teach.  I’ll be your mentor.  You should be a teacher.”  I could not get it out of my mind.  My husband and I began to pray for direction.

Again, I came to another crossroad.  The director of my department offered to promote me to the position of Assistant Director at a neighboring facility.  This was kind of a big deal.  I was pretty young, and I imagined that with time, I would have quite a bright future here.  I also saw that with a bigger paycheck and more prestigious title came longer hours, more responsibility, working from home after hours, and being on call to handle problems.  Again, my husband and I prayed.  Our answer was clear.  I not only turned down the promotion, but I put through an application to attend a local college to begin Master’s work and the  process of obtaining my teaching certification.

I approached my boss and told him my plans.  He was surprised, but encouraged me to go for it.  I was still able to work until the point where student teaching came around.  And when it did, I knew exactly who to call.

It was all arranged; I would be student teaching in my old school, with my old friend.  After the first week of school, I was given full reign and responsibility over the class.  I kind of questioned that, but my friend and mentor assured me that I would get a student teaching experience like no other.  She knew me, had watched me work, and had no reservations about putting me in the driver’s seat.  I became the teacher in every way, every day, every hour of the school day.  I had a new crew of little people, and my heart was full.

Again, providentially, the Lord had placed me in that classroom at just the right time.  My mentor’s mother grew ill and eventually passed away.  Her time away from the classroom was significant.  I was literally handed the reins of the classroom and was flying solo.  I approached my principal and questioned if I should be on my own.  He looked at me and reminded me that if he was comfortable having me in charge, then I should be comfortable being in charge.  That’s all I needed to hear.

Like I said, I had a student teaching experience like no other.  When my college advisor came to evaluate me in class and talk with my cooperating teacher, she confirmed this.  I remember her telling me that most student teachers are never given free reign, that they rarely have the support network I had from my cooperating teacher,  the principal, the secretaries, and fellow teachers.  I was truly blessed.

I could clearly see the hand of Lord in all of this.  He had put those little people, with those little notes, and their little hugs into my life years ago for a reason.  They chipped away the stone around my heart and made it more receptive to what the Lord’s will was for my life.

As my student teaching time came to an end, my cooperating teacher had set up several evaluations for me.  She was determined to get me a job within the district.   I had a string of township principals in the classroom to watch me teach.   I did secure a long term substitute position in the district, and continued there until the end of the school year.

I would then turn my attention to finding a full time teaching position somewhere for the next school year.  I sent out a slew of resumes and received one rejection letter after another.  Then I received a phone call from my mentor.  The second grade teacher in her school, whom I knew,  had a daughter who was the librarian in a neighboring school.  There was a first grade teaching position open at her school.  I was instructed to promptly get my paperwork together and get it over to her right away.  From there she would pass it along to the second grade teacher,  who would then send it to her daughter, who would then give it to the principal.   I did as she instructed.  I wasn’t expecting much.

But in short time, an interview was arranged, and then a demonstration lesson with the class.  My mentor would stand by my side, look over my lesson plans, make me practice my lesson on her.  She’d encourage me, help me put together a portfolio, and would be my biggest cheerleader.   In the end I was offered the position.  I truly could not believe it.  This was an incredible school in a distinguished district and they took me, a newbie with little to no experience.  Only through the Lord did this happen.  Looking back on it, I could see His hand connecting the dots, lining things up, making His plan for my life reality.

So as the school year closed out, and I completed by substitute roll, I turned my attention to getting ready to have my own classroom.  I had an appointment with my superintendent and my principal in two weeks to go over my salary and benefits, and then to sign my contract.  The pieces were all coming together.  I was beyond excited.  My husband was thrilled.

The Lord had truly done a huge work on my heart over the course of six years.  He had taken me to the place I thought I wanted to be, the corporate world, allowed me to get a glimpse of what He really wanted me to do, work with kids, and now, provided me with a wonderful job.  What would He do next?

Well, the Lord was ready to shock my husband and I with something quite unexpected.  Something that would really test us and the commitment we had made.

More tomorrow…

 

 

 

The Secret to a Successful Marriage

Today my husband and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.   It seems inconceivable that twenty years have passed.  But the gray hairs and wrinkles and expanded waistline remind me that yes indeed, twenty years have elapsed.  The husband of my youth is now the husband of my middle-age.  And you know what?  Life and love have only grown sweeter.

Is there a secret to having a successful marriage?  One that not only endures but flourishes?  One that stands the test of time?  One that only gets stronger as the years go by?  Yes!  There absolutely is, and my marriage is a living testimony to that secret.

How is this for a beginning:  My husband and I met at the county courthouse.  Romantic, no?  A mutual friend of ours was embroiled in divorce proceedings. My husband was there to take the stand as a witness.  I, along with several women from our church, was there to offer moral support.  It was a long day.  I was in my final year of college and had come prepared with an army of books to keep me occupied.  Those plans were derailed when a tall, handsome man sat down next to me and introduced himself.  We talked the morning and afternoon away.

In the weeks and months to follow we talked a lot.   There was a connection.  There was ease, comfort, and love and marriage three years later.

On April 27, 1996, as we stood in front of our friends and family and exchanged our vows, there was something much deeper going on, something that no one else could see or hear.  My husband and I were coming before God to vow and promise our commitment, our lifelong commitment, to the spouse He had saved for us.   We were establishing not a bond of two, but three.  We were forging a union where the mutual love for our Lord would be the anchor, the stronghold, the very core of this marriage.  We were arming ourselves, putting a hedge around our partnership, asking the Lord to be the very center and compass of this union.

That is the secret.  The Lord.

Wedding days do not come with a road map to the future.  They do not come with a vision of events to come.  The wedding day only comes with a promise to weather the storms that will inevitably come (oh, they’ll come).  I have never met a single soul who has not endured some kind of hardship in their life.  I’ve never met a husband and wife who have lived a completely carefree life, free of trial.  I feel pretty confident saying that rough times will come during the course of marriage.  And those vows and that promise and the union of three will be the only thing that holds marriage together.

When I speak of my husband, I tell people that he is a man who has had to live out his vows…the for worse, for poorer, in sickness parts.   As I stood in my gown, and he in his tuxedo, as our hands met and eyes gazed on our wedding day, we would have no way of knowing the trials and tribulations that were to come.  There would be sickness, long sickness, scary sickness (which would lead to the “poorer” part of the vows).  There would be times of weeping and whaling.  There would be moments of anguish and uncertainty.  The road would be rough.  But through it all my husband remained committed.  Our marriage, love, and devotion to one another remained strong and sweet.

I grew up in a divorced home.  I grew up watching men leave.  I saw the wavering commitment some had when times were tough.  I saw their selfishness and disregard.  While I was ill, times were dark and bleak.  I would often comment to my husband that some men would have already skipped out, would have no problem walking away, have no problem disregarding their vows and looking out only for self.  He always responded the same way, “I love you.  The Lord has commanded me to love you in all times.  I made that commitment to the Lord, and I am not backing out.”

During the tough times my husband has always told me that he loves me.  He has always reminded me that I am beautiful.  He has always shown me that I am treasured.  He has always reminded me of God’s promises and plan.  He has always remained faithful and committed.  He will be the first to tell you that it has everything to do with his relationship with the Lord.

A bond of three is not easily broken.  Therein lies the secret.

If you are focused on what you can get out of marriage, you are on a road that leads to disaster.  If your primary focus is on making your spouse happy, your focus is wrong.  In order for a marriage to succeed, both spouses must be focused on the Lord as the head of the house.  When our relationship with Him is right, when we are in fellowship, when we follow his guide for marriage, we are on the right path.  The Lord’s plan for marriage is clearly laid out in Ephesians 5:22-33.   Some do not like the Lord’s wording or His plan.  I guarantee that any other plan for marriage is a plan that leads only to disaster.

While our marriage is not perfect, for we are both imperfect people, it has stood firm and committed through the challenges of life.  The only reason?  The Lord.

As I sat down with my husband over a humble bowl of oatmeal this morning, he prayed, “Lord thank you for twenty years of marriage to my bride.  Thank you for the challenges that we have faced.  Thank you for the tough times that You have used to make our marriage stronger and better.  Thank you for the laughter and love that we have.  Continue to strengthen our marriage.”  No Hallmark card can come close!

If your marriage is not everything you thought it would be.  If you find yourself thinking more of self than the Lord or your spouse.  If your marriage is barely holding on by a thread.  If there is no love, no joy, no peace in your marriage, look to the Lord.  Remember, He is in the business of making all things new.  He is the business of remaking the broken.  He puts together the pieces into a glorious picture in His time.

 

Why This Mom Likes Football

In a day where there are so many things and people vying for the attention of our children, it has become vitally important to stay connected with them.  If we as parents do not create an environment where our children know that they are valued and loved, they will certainly look outside of the home to find the acceptance they crave.  If they sense that we as parents do not care about them and their interests, they will find someone else who does.  If we show that we have little time to be involved in their world, there will be others who will make the time…and I don’t mean that in a positive way.

This season of raising our children is a short one.  Before we know it they are toddlers, then pre-teens, then college bound, then off on their own.   We’ll wonder where the time went.  We’ll yearn for just a little more time.

Your children need you.  Your children want you…really, they do.  They want your love, attention, acceptance, and time.   One of the best ways to show them all of these things is to simply be involved in what they are interested in.  Nearly every child has something they gravitate to.  Sports?  Music?  Art?  The outdoors?  Find out what it is and jump on board!

For all three of my boys, that interest is football.

I have to admit that, in the past, football had always perplexed me.  Despite my husband’s best attempts to explain the game to me, I just couldn’t understand how it worked.  Yards, downs, conversions?  I couldn’t wrap my brain around it.  My husband has never been a sports follower so I really had no need to explore football any further…and I didn’t.

Then it happened.  I’m not sure how it happened or exactly when it happened, but my boys discovered football.

With each passing season the boys’ interest would grow.  They would have “their team”, each one different from his brother.  Talk at the dinner table would include highlights from Monday Night Football or talk of why so-and-so needed to be benched.  They’d design plays to use when their buds got together.  They, like so many other boys their age, had been bitten by the football bug!

I had to come to the point where I asked  myself these questions:  Is this football thing just an interest of my boys, for my boys?  Or could this be more?  Could it be a tool to connect with my boys on a different level?  A catalyst for a myriad of important real life conversations?  I soon realized that I had a choice:  I could embrace this football thing and become an active participant, or I could be an outsider, a clueless observer.

The choice was easy.  This mom would learn about football.

I first turned to my boys to explain the ins and outs of the game to me.  And, they did.  Why I had never understood the game is simply beyond me.  (Four tries to go ten yards…repeat…not so difficult).

I began to watch games with the boys.  I made sure that I knew what was going on in the world of football.   I would chime in on football related discussions.  I began to cheer for a team.  I learned how to throw a football properly courtesy of my youngest son.  I even went with the boys to our local team’s training camp.  I got to know the players and teams.  I shared in the excitement of a big win or the disappointment of a terrible loss.  I even have given a hearty “Woo-Hoo” with hands raised at a great play.

The result?  Lots of fun.  Great memories.  A tighter relationship with each of my boys.  Totally worth it!

I do want to make it clear that football is not a god in our home.  My husband and I have put parameters up.  Football never takes priority over church, school, or people.  It is not allowed to dominate our time, conversations, or interactions.   Also, football is just one way that we choose to connect with our children; it’s just one way we choose to spend time with them; it’s just one way that we show them that their interests are important to us.  Football is not the “end-all-be all”.

Football has also given my husband and I endless opportunities to talk about real life situations with our boys.  I have to admit that there is a great deal of frustration over how some of these players live their lives.  It’s seems like a never ending barrage of news reports about men behaving badly.  Yet, instead of pretending that those reports don’t exist, we talk openly about them.   We discuss how drugs and alcohol can ruin someone’s life.  We talk about the proper way to treat women.  We discuss poor sportsmanship.  We talk about the emptiness of living a self absorbed life.  Ultimately, it paints a picture of what life is like without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

I also want to make it clear that we as parents need to use common sense.  If our child’s interest is actually an obsession, we should not feed into that further.  If their hobby is troublesome, we should work to steer them in a different direction.

Being a parent is a privilege!  Take this season of your life and get more involved with your kids.  You’ll never, ever regret it!

So, I’m not sure what you will be doing this Sunday evening, but I know where I’ll be.  You guessed it!  In my livingroom with my family, watching the big game.  They’ll be good food, great fellowship, and likely opportunities for more heart-to-heart conversations.