Devotional: Week of June 30, 2014

Matthew 7:7—Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

This is a verse that has brought about a variety of interpretations.  When I first came across this verse years ago I was tempted to question my faith, because if all I needed to do was to ask than why have I not yet received what I’ve requested?  If I just need to look for it, then I will find it?  Then why am I still searching?  In my mind at the time it was a logical step for me to begin doubting what I’d come to know.  If I’m to have faith in an almighty God that can do anything, then why isn’t this verse holding true?

It took some introspection and maturing to see that the three components are not meant to be separated. I couldn’t simply ask and expect the answer I wanted. I couldn’t point my eyes in the “right” direction to see what I wanted. And I couldn’t simply knock on any door and expect it to fly open to disclose my treasure inside. The process is more involved than that.

Instead of asking for what I wanted I needed to ask God for permission and guidance as I began to seek out what I desired. Then, after aligning with God and approaching the right door, then I could knock. And when I knock at the right door after taking the right path to the door that’s when the door opens to give me what I’ve wanted.

It may not be what I originally thought I wanted, but by the end I’ve realized my true desire and it has been provided for me. God will freely give you what you require, and will show you how to search your heart for the purest desires within you.

Prayer:  God, I thank you for your gentleness and your grace. I thank you for caring so much about me that you will tell me “no” when I need to hear it. I ask that this week you help shine light on the path you’d like me to take. Please help me find the right questions to ask and the right doors to knock at.

Fatherhood from a Mother’s Perspective

This week I wanted to give you all a little treat, so I’ve asked my wife to write this post.  My wife, Bettina, will now be writing once a month here on DADandFATHER.com.  She’s a little shy about sharing her writing with the world, but as you’ll see her shyness is unwarranted.  Enjoy.

So to preface this blog post, let me clarify something – I do not claim to speak for every mom (or woman for that matter) out there. All I can tell you is my own personal perspective as a woman and a mother who is in love with a man and a father, and who was raised by a mother and a father. A couple more disclaimers: number 1; when I talk about “dad” in this post I mean the male figure in a child’s life. Maybe the child in your life doesn’t share your DNA, or he or she doesn’t live with you full-time. Doesn’t matter. “Dad” still refers to you.  Number 2: I tend to over-generalize sometimes. I understand that family relationships are very unique and do not mean to offend in any way. More often now than ever before, dad stays home with the kids while mom works; a “role reversal” or so Hollywood would have us believe. Again, doesn’t matter. You are still dad (see disclaimer one) with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with the title. Ok, now that the intro stuff is out-of-the-way, let’s get started, shall we?

On one hand, I’m glad Mother’s day and Father’s day are so close together; it makes it much easier to compare and contrast how society views each parental role. On the other hand, there is SO much hoopla that surrounds Mother’s day that Father’s day being only 5(ish) weeks later seems kind of unfair. Mothers are lauded as being these super-human beings that handle pregnancy, childbirth, feeding, cleaning, laundry, dishes, no sleep, no appreciation, and no pay with a smile. While that may be an accurate assessment of what countless moms go through there is little said about dad who has her back. Mom may be the one up doing the 3 midnight feedings, but dad certainly doesn’t sleep through it. Mom may be the one doing the dishes Every. Single. Moment. Of Every. Single. Day. But dad is the one who comes home from work and doesn’t say anything about how bad the counter looks. Mom may be the one who has to deal with pregnancy and childbirth but dad…well ok really dad doesn’t have much to put up with during that time – and no, you’re not allowed to talk about the emotional rollercoaster you’re put through because of mom’s mood swings. Mom is growing a life – what have you done today?

In all seriousness though, mom will have a MUCH harder time being that superhero that she is idolized for if she is doing this alone. Whether “dad” in this picture is biological or not; or “with” mom or not is of very little consequence. Mom needs someone to turn to – because as Five for Fighting reminds us, “Even heroes have the right to bleed”.  There’s an old adage that says some variation of, “behind every good (or successful) man, there is a great woman”. This saying is certainly true but it is no less true that, “behind every great tall-building-leaping mom, is a shoulder-offering male father figure”.

Dads, don’t let anyone tell you that you are the “inferior” or “less important” parent. Yes, mom is important. But you are absolutely irreplaceable in your child’s life! Let me say that again – your child NEEDS you. When I watch Jeff interact with our girls I am reminded again how fortunate we all are to have him in our lives. Our girls adore him – and they need him for different reasons than they need me. One request: please don’t turn mom and dad into “good cop/bad cop” to your child(ren). Children need both parents to be on the same page, at least for the most important issues, in order to be able to form good ideals, opinions, and an understanding of how the world works.

Dads are kind of the unsung heroes of the parenting world. If mom is the movie star that gets all the attention; dad is the camera operator that knows how to present mom in her best light so she doesn’t look old and haggard. Mom is the news anchor that you see every night on the news; dad is the editor or the beat writer that does all the research that goes into what she says. I cannot stress enough how important you are. So whether you’re reading this and you are a dad already, or planning to be a dad one day soon(ish) please know that we moms appreciate your support  for us in our good times and bad, the pretty and the ugly, and that you really do mean the world to us. Maybe you aren’t a dad, but you know one – go shake that dad’s hand or give him a good high-five and tell him how much you admire him for doing what he does.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOO DADS!!!!

Top 5 Ways to Celebrate US Soccer Advancing in World Cup

5.            Set up a viewing party for the USMNT round of 16 game.

4.            High five everyone who makes eye contact with you until the next match (July 1st).

3.            Tweet your excitement even if you never watched a soccer match before June.

2.            Swear off french fries, waffles, some beer, and some chocolate, because they are from Belgium (and that’s who the US plays next).

1.            Whenever someone speaks to you today simply respond by chanting “USA” and then walk away.

Setting Up and Using a Support System

This week I received a cd in the mail. I knew it was coming and I was looking forward to it. I knew the artist and I knew what the basic theme of his album would be, but I was really looking forward to hearing what he had put together.  He had been through a very difficult situation and turned to his music to gain release.  You may now be asking, “what does this have to do with anything?”

While listening, and more so after, I found myself reflecting on his words and how they tied to his situation as well as how they fit my life. It gave me great insight into what he has been going through, but it made me realize I have no tangible enemies.  In fact, my only enemies right now are circumstance and my car.  Those I can deal with.

The deeper I thought about this though I realized I also don’t utilize the support system available to me when I do face off against my enemies or take on my day-to-day stuff.  I realized that there are times I’ve felt alone simply because I didn’t make the effort to use whatever support system may have been available to me.  With this in mind I’ve decided to put together a three-point plan to improve this situation.

This isn’t going to be quick.  This isn’t going to be easy.  But this is necessary.  Everyone needs to have someone or a group of someones they can turn to in any situation.  We need to have people to share our lives with—not just the triumphs and happy moments, but also the valleys and sorrows.  We were programmed to be in community with one another, so we shouldn’t shy away from that.

It’s easy to share with your friends and family when things are going well for you, but I know firsthand it is tough to share when things aren’t coming up roses.  Many of us feel that it’s important to appear like we have it all together, so that nobody can see our weakness or our humanness.  But a key part of what makes up our humanness is that we don’t just live in the high places.  We also dwell in the darkness.

We (really I mean I, but it feels better to say we) need to willingly let others into our lives.  It may seem dangerous.  It may seem pointless.  Nonetheless, we need to have others that have our backs and are willing to sit by our side or across a table when we need them.  I’ve always been willing to offer help and be a listening ear, but it’s been a struggle for me to request that of someone else.

So here’s what I’ve come up with—it’s not all-inclusive, and as of now I don’t even know if it’s effective:

1.     Take Inventory of the Friends/Family I Have

We all have people in our lives, but we don’t necessarily know where we stand with them.  This step will help to figure out who I think I can count on in crisis and who I may need to get closer with.  There will almost always be people who are better suited for only sharing in the positives in life, but with a closer look I may be able to find that those relationships could get deeper if I tried harder.

2.     Put In the Time to Cultivate Relationships

It’s easy to say, “I just don’t have time” or, “It’s just so hard to put in that effort,” but that’s not good enough anymore.  I honestly don’t know where I will find extra time to put this step into action, but it is extremely important so I will make cuts to other activities if necessary.  Being husband and being dad will remain my top priorities, but I can be even better in those roles if I take the time to act on this step.  This step is all about working toward deeper and more meaningful relationships with the people around me.

3.     Seek Out New Relationships

I feel like the old adage, “You can’t have too much of a good thing,” fits well in this situation.  It is always good to seek out new relationships—even if I find that I have a support system at the ready, and even if I create deeper and more meaningful relationships all over the place.  As times change we should expect to see people change, circumstances change, and life change.  So, by finding and nurturing new relationships while strengthening old relationships we can be ready for the changes that we may face.

***

Parents definitely need to have support around them.  On top of the normal day-to-day life events for themselves they are also dealing with the day-to-day life events of their child(ren), so support is definitely necessary.  It’s important to have someone to turn to, and even better to have multiple someones.

I will be working on this for as long as it takes.  I know I need to make changes, so these will be my first steps.  As things progress I will likely post some updates.  If anyone else decides to go through this process, please feel free to comment here or email me at DADandFATHER@yahoo.com.  I’d love to hear your stories and share in this journey.

Devotional: Week of June 23, 2014

Ephesians 4:29 – Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

In my thirty years on this planet I have found that my words were harmful rather than helpful in far too many situations where I could’ve have responded with gentleness.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of badmouthing or complaining about those that have wronged you or that you disagree with or even those that have done nothing against you.  I’ve found myself in this situation on many occasions, and I still struggle with this today.

As I think of this verse I realize that the time I have the most trouble is when someone (especially someone in an authoritative role) does something that appears to be without logic, reasoning, or intelligence.  In these times I have often found myself sharing my negative feelings about the situation with others.  This does nothing to help the situation, and only helps to deteriorate the relationships and role structure present.

I do feel that there is a time and a place to vent frustrations and pains, but it needs to be done in a way that won’t tear down others.  I’ve struggled with this in the past, but that’s when I can turn to my writing and other creative outlets.  God has granted me a way to vent that (hopefully) will not harm.

I need to find a way to eliminate those negative thoughts, and instead find a new perspective.  Instead of looking down on someone or their actions/words it would be better for me to see it as opportunity to learn something new or to discover something about the person.  If I disagree it would be better for me to approach them with questions than to avoid them and speak ill.

I hope one day soon I will have eliminated these negative thoughts, but in the meantime I simply need to keep the negative thoughts to myself or share them with God.  No other human needs to hear the negativity that I can spew, so it is better for all if I learn to hold my tongue—no matter how much blood I may lose.

Prayer:  Lord, I thank you for making me the man that I am and giving the chance to figure out the great mystery you’ve laid before me. You have shown me so much beauty, yet there are times I speak only negativity.  Lord, please help steer my language to honor you whenever my mouth opens, and teach me to build up the men and women around me even when I have the urge to tear them down.

New Game for Parents and Toddlers: “The Why Game”

For the last few weeks I’ve been playing a game with our oldest — I call it “The Why Game”. She is firmly entrenched in the why phase, so one day I thought it may be entertaining to try to answer all of her inquiries instead of giving her the frustrated “because” or “because I said so.”

It turned out to be really fun, and I realized it provides other value as well. I noticed that by answering Mikaela I was getting more interactive time with her, she was learning there are numerous possible responses to why, and I was getting a mental workout.  Since we often play while I’m driving it’s like having my brain do sprints while juggling. It’s interesting.

So over the following few days I decided to formulate a scoring system to determine who wins or loses. However, I have not yet begun to keep track of who is winning and I doubt I ever will. Anyway, the basic rules of the game are as follows:

Objects of the Game:

  • To spend quality parent-child time
  • To expand a child’s understanding
  • To improve a parent’s improvisational skills
  • To have fun

Supplies Needed: 

  • A child that frequently asks why
  • A parent willing to engage with the child

Order of Play:  The game begins when the parent says something seemingly mundane and clear, but in return is met with a child’s response of “why?”.  At this point the parent must realize they are fully immersed in “The Why Game” and direct their focus accordingly.

Each time the child responds with “why?” the parent must respond with a valid and reasonable response.  “Because” and “because I said so” are not valid responses.

Winning the Game:  Each side has a fair opportunity to win “The Why Game”, and each side has more than one way to win.

The child wins if the parent is unable to think of a valid response to the latest question.  The child also wins if the parent neglects to answer the question.

The parent wins if the child can no longer keep up with the responses and therefore stops asking “why?”  The parent also wins if they reach a point where logic dictates victory, because the child can no longer reasonably ask why.  The parent also wins if the child stops asking “why?” and instead responds with “ok” or “oh”.

Tallying Score:  This has yet to be done, but it seems that a tally sheet attached to the passenger-side visor would be a valid option as much of this game tends to take place while driving.

 

I hope you all can find enjoyment through “The Why Game” as well.  Please comment if you try it to let me know how it goes for you.

Minor Notes About the Blog

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I would be adding Top 5’s on Fridays, Devotionals on Mondays, and Current Events pieces on Sundays.  I have been 67% successful to this point.  In light of this, and an upcoming boom in my daily activities, I am going to hold off on the Current Events pieces.  I will still post two standard blog posts a week (Sunday and Wednesday) as well as the Top 5’s and Devotionals, but the Current Events pieces take much more time (if I’m to do them right).

Also, be sure to check back next Sunday for the debut of my wife’s monthly guest post here on DADandFATHER.com.

Top 5 Reasons to Get A Massage

 5.        To enjoy the awkwardness of having a stranger’s hands on you.

4.        Because you can only get so much “me time” at home.

3.        To prepare for a good, non-medicated, night of sleep.

2.        Because you are already on the table getting a massage.

1.        Because your child(ren) have reached the “why?” phase.