Letter to My Children: Our Little Secret

This letter is a continuing series of blogs entitled, “Letters to My Children”. You can read my previous letter to my Son by clicking here or to my daughters by clicking here.

 

Dear Evan, Adeline, and Malina

I’m starting to realize that so much of what I plan to say to you involves things you will have to experience for yourself to fully understand. That’s the thing about life, a lot of what you need to know you can’t learn until you’ve lived through it. Only then can you look back with the wisdom you needed in the first place.  So I want to share with you a secret, knowing full well that you won’t understand what I am trying to say for many years to come.  This is a secret that some parents try to hide, afraid of what will happen if they let their children know. We figure you are going to find out eventually, so you might as well hear it from us.

We are human.

I see the way you depend on us, the way you look to us, and I know that to you there is nothing we do not know or can not do. Now I hear that in a few years, you will wake up one morning to discover we know very little about life, nothing about what you are going through, and therefore can offer no direction for your future, but that’s for another letter. Right now, I seem to know everything about anything. But there will come a time in the not so distant future, where you will begin to discover another side to your Mom and Dad. You will begin to see what I saw in my Mom and Dad….that we don’t always know (and many times we were making it up as we went along). One day you will realize that we have questions, we hurt, we mess up, and we get older. You’ll begin to see that we cannot save you, because just like you, we are in need of a Savior.

Now, the two people you thought were superheros as a child, appear a little more human than you are used to seeing.  This can be a shock at first, but eventually, it’s part of what makes you love them even more.

Some parents think that if their children knew this secret, they would lose respect for them….not look up to them anymore. But I know this is not what happens because this is not what happened to me with my Mom and Dad.  And what I’ve come to realize (and hope to pass on to you) is that my parents have not only lived real lives, but they have lived so much more life than I have.  Having already lived through so many of the ups and downs, they have so much wisdom now to share….if only I would listen.

Well, I fell better getting this little secret out there….I trust you will keep this between us.

Love,

Your Dad.

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A Letter to My Daughters: Throw the Pictures Away

(This letter is part of a series of blogs entitled, “Letters to My Children”. You can read about it by clicking here.)

Dear Adeline and Malina,

Throughout your  life people will try to offer you a picture of how they see the world, and how you should see it too. Then there will be people on T.V. or online magazines that will give you pictures of how you should view yourself.  They will try to tell you what you need to change about the way you look or the food you eat in order to match those pictures.  Eventually, Disney (assuming they still exist) will give you a picture of who you should marry and how to live “happily ever after”.

In every stage of life, we start to collect these pictures and refer to them regularly to see how we measure up. The problem is that life rarely follows the pictures we have in our mind.  Adeline and Malina, you cannot let those who know you only as a demographic, sell you on the idea that your worth, your value as a woman, is based upon your hair, or your clothes, your shoes, or your measurements.  You are NOT your dress size, so don’t let anyone give you a picture of life that says you must fit into their mold of beauty in order to be considered beautiful.

There will be moments where you will look at the pictures you carry around of what people have decided “beauty” looks like, and you will look at yourself in the mirror, and you may start to feel like you just don’t measure up. In those moments, you have a choice to either hold on to those unrealistic “pictures” of beauty, or throw them away….throw them away.

True contentment in life comes when we throw away the pictures we collect of how life should be or how we should look, and we embrace the life that God has given us and the way God has made us.  We then allow God to paint the picture and that is what we carry with us.  The way you will look, your size and shape and features, none of those are a surprise to God. God crafted you and God is the one determining the steps of your future, long before you took your first.

I know there will be days when you will struggle with these issues of self-worth and value. I know you will probably go through things growing up that I cannot or will not understand (your Mother is already preparing me). But you are my girls, and I will spend the rest of my time as your Dad, reminding you that you are loved, that you are valuable, and so beautiful, inside and out.  That you are worth the entire world to your Mother and I….and worth the God of the universe giving His only Son to die for you.

But for now, I’ll just watch you put on your Mom’s shoes and jewelry, or watch you as you  dance around the kitchen….those are the pictures I will always carry with me.

Love,

Your Dad.

Do You Remember this “Old School” End Times Movie?

Mondays on my blog are becoming my “remember when” of movies and T.V. shows….not sure why but let’s just go with it for now.

I’ll never forget arriving at church with my family one night to find that our regular services and activities had been cancelled, and instead they would be showing us a movie!! Sure enough, there was a movie projector with the film all fed through the machine and ready.  This was awesome….I had never watched a movie in “big”church before.They said it was going to be a movie entitled, “A Thief in the Night”. Sounded like an action adventure movie so I sat on the front pew and I was ready.

A few pieces of information I did not have before I started watching this movie. I was not aware of how poorly acted and produced most Christian movies were at the time. I also did not know this movie was a part of a series of movies depicting a view of the rapture and the end times.

I sat on the front row with my friends, my mouth open, eyes wide, pretending it was no big deal.  In reality, these movies scared the crap out of me!!  People were getting tattoos on their foreheads, there was a girl named Patty who missed the rapture and a creepy friend of hers with a beard from the 1800″s. There were these weird guards who always wore dark sunglasses and chased people without the mark. I remember there was a Guillotine involved….and even at a young age, I wondered, “why a Guillotine?” Did they really need to bring back that back?

Needless to say I walked around in shock after that. I’ll never forget getting home one day from school to find my mom was not in the house. It looked like she had started dinner, and the lights were on, but she was not there. Well, in my mind all I could hear was the song, “there’s no time to change your mind, the Son has come and you’ve been left behind.” I ran around the house in a panic, trying to think of who I could prank call that I knew God would never leave behind, to see if they were still here. A few minutes later, my mom walks in with a cup of flour from our neighbors house. That night I let my younger sister sneak into my bed, and I made sure I kept my foot on her leg, so I could make sure she was still there and I wasn’t left behind.

There is not a person I know who has seen these movies and has not had some kind of long-lasting psychological trauma.

Enjoy your Monday :)

A Letter to My Son: Don’t Take the Easy Laugh

(This post is part of my “Letters to My Children” series. You can learn about it by             clicking here).

Dear Evan,

Your Dad loves to make people laugh….or at least I enjoy trying.  Maybe it goes back to being a middle child, always fighting for attention. Or maybe it reflects the insecurities that I have and try to hide. Or Maybe it’s just that I enjoy comedy…just like you.  At this stage in your life the bar is a little lower in the comedy department.  I’m almost guaranteed a laugh as long as there is a story that ends with the words “booger” or “toot”.  And if that doesn’t work, there is always the classic trip and fall routine.

But, Evan, there will come a time where in your own attempt to say something funny, or make people laugh, you will be tempted to turn your focus toward a single person, to make him the target of your jokes. It’s an easy laugh. We’re all awkward and different and we have plenty of soft spots in our lives where a joke can land.  But, Evan,…don’t do it.  Of all the times I’ve tried to be funny, the times I regret the most are the jokes that came at the expense of someone else.  Some of those moments I still remember to this day.

You will meet all kinds of people in life who seem to know of no other way to talk to each other than to hurl insults and put-downs, dressed in a joke.  People like that are not as strong as they appear. Most likely they are covering up their own hurts and fears. So if you become their target, just know that about them, and love them anyway. But never, never go through your life making your own targets out of others….This is not who you are.

I’m writing this to you and not your sisters (though they should probably read it too!) because at a certain age, this tends to be the way that boys “assert dominance” or gain respect, and though it will be hard to see at the time, those same boys end up neither dominating nor being respected.

Evan, You have infinite value to your Father in Heaven, and you are priceless to your Mother and I.  So make people laugh, and find the humor that is everywhere. Your Mom and I love the way you come up with just the right line, seemingly out of no where, that makes us laugh out loud.

This is a special gift….Just don’t waste it.

We love you Son,

Your Dad.

Do you Remember this T.V. Show?

For three years in the early 80’s, the world was given the privilege of a television show entitled, The Greatest American Hero. This is the story of a man who receives a suit from aliens that gives him superhero powers, but he loses the instruction manual on how to use the suit, and has to figure it out on his own….yep….

I came along just in time to remember the very end of this show, but I loved it! Maybe because it was a combination of slap-stick and superhero, (it definitely wasn’t because of the writing or acting) or maybe it was the amazing theme song. I remember a fast food chain that sold copies of the song on a record with the purchase of a meal. We would spin that record and I would wrap something like a cape around my neck, fly around the room, and crash in to everything.

This was a time in my life where whatever I watched on TV, I acted out in real life in my neighborhood. You see growing up I still had “free-time”.  Free time was a time in a child’s life where there was nothing planned for you, no activities or sports to be at and no schedule to keep….you were simply told to go outside and play. So you made stuff up. For me, I would watch a show like Greatest American Hero, fly around the neighborhood, and fall down a lot. When I saw, Greystoke:  The Legend of Tarzan, I spent a lot of time attempting to climb up trees and grunt at people. And unfortunately, when I was exposed to Grease 2, I put on a black “Members Only” jacket, and rode around on my bike with a solid rocket boaster from my Space Shuttle toy hanging out of my mouth like a cigarette.

I miss free time….Enjoy your Monday.

Letters to My Children….

It’s hard to adjust to the quickness of life.  Moments move by so fast that sometimes I struggle to take it all in, not to mention passing on anything that I’ve learned. My wife and I have three children: A five-year old, a three-year old, and a sixteen month old.  I’ve noticed that our house is rarely still or quiet.  I’ve also noticed how time has started to move forward faster than it did when our family first began.

Many times there are conversations that I have with someone, or situations I go through, or thoughts that I have, that I wish I could somehow hold on to until my children are a little older. Then I could share it with them, offer them some kind of observation about people, and God, and failure. Maybe a couple of insights into relationships, the unfairness of this life, and even the strange and beautiful complexity of women (maybe).

So I’ve decided to write these things down every Friday morning in a blog for my children. Sometimes it will be something I need to share with my Son, Evan. Other times it may be a blog to my two girls, Adeline and Malina.  I don’t know how long this will last, and I don’t even know if they will read them. But every day in a million different experiences, there are these teachable moments that we can all grab on to, focus our children’s attention on, and plant something in their lives that we trust God will grow in them. I don’t want to spend life so focused on myself, moving so fast and living so distracted that I miss these teachable moments. In missing these moments I miss opportunities to hear the Holy Spirit speak….and I miss a chance to pour in to the life of my family.

“God, today, there are teachable moments everywhere….please help me not to miss them, for myself, and my family….Amen.”

Forgetting to Say “Hello” Could Kill You!

Sweet Hot Electric Water.                                                    

That was what we dubbed the shower at the place where we stayed in Botswana, Africa while on a mission trip with a group of High school seniors and college students.  There was nothing wrong with the place where we stayed, it was just that there was some sort of mix up between the electrical wires and the plumbing.  Every time one of the females stepped in to the shower, they got shocked.  You can’t plan for things like that….a shower that carries with it a small, but invigorating electric current. Certainly Paul never wrote about that in his list of hardships while traveling to spread the Gospel.

We would laugh and laugh as we talked about the “sweet, hot, electric water”. But the next day when one of the property managers came by, I walked straight toward him, determined to see if we could get this situation resolved.  Now in our team trainings at home and on the field, they talked about the differences in cultures, and how we interact with the people we would meet in Botswana. They stressed the importance of greeting people. They told us that greetings are not the sort of thing you brush past.  No, before you move forward in the conversation, get to the “business” at hand, you must take time to properly say hello, to inquire about the other person, to be fully present in the conversation.

Well I quickly walked up to the manager, and without even thinking I said, “Hey, we are having a little trouble with some wires and water in the shower, do you think someone could take a look at it?” The manager looked at me for a moment, and his smile lessened.  It was as if he was graciously willing to look past my act of rudeness in order to teach me an important lesson. ” He interrupted my ramblings and said, “Excuse me….good morning.”

I stopped as my mind raced to figure out where that response came from, I had clearly already said hello. But then I remembered….I messed up.  I knew that nothing was going to be done about the “liquid shock” coming from the shower head until we started things off right.  I smiled at him and said, “good morning, how are you?” We talked for just a few moments and then the man said, “so….there is a problem with the shower?”

My wife made me a journal when I went to Africa so that I could write down what I learned on my trip. I learned so many things during that time, but I only wrote down one idea….GREETINGS MATTER!  I learned that greetings set the tone of the conversation. Your greetings greatly affects the direction of your words, and many times it is what we say in the beginning of a conversation that plays a role in the outcome.

For the people of Botswana, greetings not only frame the conversation, they are the soil from which a conversation grows.  A clear and genuine “hello” or “welcome”, a few words of interest in the other person you are speaking to….these things are part of hospitality and a way to honor one another. Here in the West, we brush past greetings as a necessary (but not really important) part of getting to what we really want to say.  Even when we do say, “how are you?” we are not really asking about the well-being of the other person….that is just a way of saying, “hey”.  We wouldn’t know what to do if we asked that question and someone replied with more than one or two words.

As I look back, I realize that the way I start a conversation is sometimes an insight into my heart.  Sometimes a lack of genuine greeting at the beginning of a conversation reveals my true motives, my priorities, and my focus.  But what if we began to take greeting others seriously.  How would it set the tone for the day if you greeted your spouse, really greeted her in the morning when you woke up, or in the evening when you returned home?  How would your children respond if you looked them in the eyes, welcomed them, and listened to how they are doing today? What about your co-workers? Your boss? Friends at church? What about your Father in heaven? Do you brush past a genuine greeting, of listening and engaging, in order to get to what you want?

Don’t miss the opportunity that exists in every conversation you will have today….start well….take a deep breath….and say hello.

PS. The sweet, hot, electric water stayed with us, though they were able to lower the voltage.  The girls didn’t seem to mind and nobody got hurt.  And if you read this and decide to start a band….please consider using sweet, hot, electric water….or even “The SHEW Band” for short.