Letter to my Children: It’s not Boring….It’s Summer Vacation. {Repost}

Dear Evan, Adeline, and Malina

You are about to enter in to an amazing time of year….summer vacation. The days are long, the weather is warm, and the bedtime is negotiable.  You will soon have even more time to play and explore, and hopefully….time to be bored.

I used to love summer vacation so much when I was a kid. Every day I would walk outside to find friends riding bikes, playing ball, or chasing each other for no particular reason.  Some days we would play all day, moving from sport to sport and backyard to backyard.  But other days, I couldn’t find any of my friends around the neighborhood, and so I was left to being bored.

But in being bored a world of opportunity opened up for me.  I didn’t realize the that what I considered boredom was actually freedom. Freedom to make up alien worlds and fight bad guys, freedom to ride my back with the wind at my face. Freedom to push down a row of corn in order to create the perfect hiding spot.

storm

You will probably come to me one day during the summer and complain that “you’re bored” and have “nothing to do”. Just know that your Mother and I will not try to “script” every moment of your summer….create a schedule for you that constantly keeps you moving from one planned activity to another.

I know that you (like me) will not like it that much at first .  When you’re young you spend lots of time running from boredom, only to look back years later and long for one of those long, uneventful days.  But in your boredom you may have the privilege of standing before a summer thunderstorm as it rolls toward you, or spread out in the grass, lay on your back, and stare up at the sky….realizing how small you are in this great big universe. In your boredom you may just learn more than you every could in your busyness.

It’s not boring kids….it’s summer vacation.

Love,

Your Dad.

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Letters to my Children: It should come with a warning….

Evan, Adeline, and Malina,100_5419

It happened again the other day. I was at home after a full day of work. We were in the basement playing and you (Evan) started calling my name. I had no idea that you had called my name several times earlier and finally gave up. But you really wanted me to play so you tried again. I wish I could say I heard you the first time, or the second, or the third. It wasn’t until you yelled my name that I looked up from my phone.

I was in the room but nowhere near any of you.  I was around but not fully present. In that moment I surrendered and allowed myself to be controlled by a device I carry in my back pocket.

Your face was a mixture of frustration and confusion, wondering what I was reading that was more important than the Lego Ninjago you were trying to assemble and needed help with.  It wasn’t until I saw your face that I wondered the same thing.

The technology I have in my life right now is amazing. The technology you will have when you are my age is hard to imagine. I am saying all of this to you three because I believe that for your generation, one of the greatest challenges to following Jesus, living in community with others and engaging the world will be to be fully present  — to God, to one another, and to others you will encounter in your life.

The more technology develops the more it seems to implant itself in the fabric of daily life. This is not a bad thing, but it should come with a warning….be present, engage people fully, quiet yourself before God. Nothing will be more important than being completely in the moment, lost in a conversation or an experience or great beauty….without distraction.

When it comes to responding to you or responding to the flashing green light on my hand-held device….may you never have to wonder who will win.

Love,

Your Dad.

Letter to My Daughter: We’re more than Friends

Dear Malina,

There is a tricycle that you love to ride even though you can’t touch the pedals. The only way for you to ride with your brother and sister, is for me to stand on the back of the tricycle, lean over you to hold the handle bars, and push with one foot like a skateboard….You love it.

But recently, while we were out cruising the streets around our house, you kept pushing my hands away from the handle bars.  You wanted to steer, and if you were going to steer, then I had to let go. But you weren’t ready for me to let go. I had already caught you several times to keep you from falling.  You could barely sit in the seat and reach the handle bars, let alone steer.  But you insisted, and when I wouldn’t let go, you threw a pretty impressive fit in the middle of the road.

While you were stomping your feet, my developing “parental brain” was running the calculations — evaluating the risk of letting you go your own way compared to the expected outcome, measured against the “show” you were putting on for people driving by our little “display”.  In the end, I decided to steer….and you decided to fall down from the bike and flop like a fish….You didn’t like me very much in that moment.

This is something I’m learning about parents.  Sometimes, parents think that getting their children to “like” them is the sign of a good parent. So instead of doing what they know is best for their children, they give them control, let them steer their lives before they are ready.

But Malina, Your Mommy and I love you too much to simply give you what you want, or to be just one of your friends.  The responsibility that God has given us, is not simply to make you a friend, but to train you up, and guide you, and correct you. We’ve been told to help you grow and prepare, to challenge you, protect you, and celebrate all that you are becoming.

Eventually you got back on the tricycle, we made our way back home and you liked me again.

Eventually, I know I will have to let you steer, and fall down…on tricycles and in life. With God’s help, your Mommy and I will do all that we can to prepare you to live a life loving God, other people, and the world around you. And as your friends, we will walk with you every step of the way, for as long as we can.

Love,

Your Dad.

Next Friday my “Letters to My Children” series will move to its own site. I hope you will make plans to check it out, invite others and follow along.

Letter to my Son: Why you need your Sisters

Dear Evan,

Right now you don’t fully understand why it is you have or need a sister, let alone two of them. Some days it may appear that your sisters exist to get in your way and touch your things. The three of you are learning how to live together under the same roof, with access to the same toys.

I know, because like you, I grew up with two sisters. A few things I learned very early growing up with sisters. 1. They cry a bit more than I am generally comfortable crying.  2. They have more to say than I generally feel comfortable saying.  3. They enjoy a different version of make-believe and pretend than I do.

I know a brother would have been nice. But you and I don’t get to decide those sorts of things (and don’t expect a sibling of any kind at this point).  But, Evan, believe me when I tell you that you need your sisters, both now and in the years to come. What can seem like an inconvenience at this point will in time prove to be one of your greatest assets.  Growing up with two sisters can sometimes feel like you are on the outside of a strange world looking in….that never changes. But all of that time spent up close with your sisters….all of the confusion and frustration that comes with trying to navigate those relationships will ultimately make you a better man….and one day, a better husband and Father to your own children.

You and I have lots to learn about Women.  Much of that education will come from your family, and from Adeline and Malina in particular.  I owe so much of how I see the world, how I view other people, and even the way I communicate, to growing up with sisters. One day, you’ll see as I do now, that sisters are a gift we brothers often take for granted.  Rarely do I tell them just how much I miss them….and how deeply I love them.

So for now, you don’t have to wear the wig or pretend to be the “student” or the “daddy”.  But it wouldn’t hurt to take Luke Skywalker on a ride in the Barbie mobile once in a while.

Love your sisters….they will always be there for you.

Love,

Your Dad.

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

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.

Open Letter to 18-25 year olds (cont’d)

The fallacy of the straight line (the audacity of the scribble).

Page 2 (If you missed page 1 please click here to catch up)       

So throughout the stories of the bible you find the audacity of the scribble. Abraham’s life was headed in a straight line until God calls him to leave his home and bring his family to a new land. Moses had a nice career….you know….building stuff….and then he is on the run for murder and finds himself talking to some shrubs on fire.  David was just a shepherd boy, and then an old guy (Samuel) pours oil on his head, and his life begins to spin — forward and then seemingly backward, and then upside down, and then the bottom drops out, only to be raised up again. There is Noah, and Jonah, and Solomon, and Hosea.  There are the Israelites wandering in the wilderness (which is actually a giant scribble in the sand) and Ezekiel, and Peter, and Paul, and John the Baptist. Even the life of Jesus seems to be following safe, familiar patterns for the most part, until around 30 when he is baptized and starts to preach the Kingdom of God. Everything spins out of control until he ends up in the scribble of betrayal, hate, flying fists and spit….ending with a cross, and nails, and execution.  Jesus shared in all that we are, including the scribble of life. 

And then 3 days later….

You and I no longer have to fear the unknown, the unclear, or the scribble of life. Jesus, the risen Son of God walks with us in and through the scribble, using that scribble to show us a new way to live, to think, to work and love and play. Now we embrace Jesus in the middle of what looks like scribble, throwing away all hopes of a straight line.

So our plans do not work out the way we thought, but Jesus is leading us, and we would rather follow Him in the scribble than walk a straight line of disobedience. You still plan, you work hard, you hope and dream, but you offer all of that to your real master, one who may lead you away from all of those things, into a life you could not have imagined.

Finally, a few observations as I finish this letter:

1. You don’t get to see the end from the beginning, but you will see the beginning from the end. One of the downfalls of living life forward, is that you don’t get all of the details, you can’t see all that God is doing, before you take your first step. But, it is a beautiful thing to be able to stop at a point in your life, look back at the direction God has led you, and be in awe of his care and purpose.

2. You are not called to wait until all lines become straight. You must follow Jesus now, even though your life is unclear and God seems distant. God is not far away, and it is often in the feeling of distance that God is doing His best work in our lives. Martin Luther would look at the scribble of Jesus on the cross and say that where God seems most hidden, there God is revealed….the same is true in our lives.

3. Call your parents. I know, you didn’t see that one coming! Call them. I get it, your busy and you don’t always think of it and they should understand….but they don’t. I can’t imagine having one the main goals in your life as a parent (to see your kids off) is also the most painful.   So put the letter down, call one of them right now, tell them you can’t talk long, you’re in a bad coverage area, but you just wanted to say hey! No reason, no money, just hey, and once they come to and pick up the phone, they will be happy.

Talk to you soon….if you ever call (just practicing)

Peace,

Bryan