A Tribute To The Dads–Because You Just Do Some Things Better

thumb_IMG_4979_1024There are some things a Daddy can do like no one else. It used to annoy me that I would do exactly what Jon did only to get a much less enthusiastic response. I remember especially the devastating moment when Kieran, at five years old, excitedly announced, “Daddy just taught me to ride a bike!”

Never mind that I had spent five days in a row running breathlessly down the street hanging on to him. Never mind that I cried more than he did when he fell off and scraped his knee. None of that counted five minutes after Jon went off with him, gave him a shove on his new bike and called out, “Now pedal!” Daddy did in minutes what I could not in nearly a week of dashed hopes and tears.

Over the years, Jon has stopped doing some of these things because the kids have grown too big. Others he still does no matter how big they are or how much they think they don’t need them anymore.

Some Things Daddy Just Does Better (I’m not saying we moms can’t do them, but in our house, Dad just has a special knack):

  • Give pony rides that rival a circus event.
  • Carry toddlers on his shoulders for hours to give them a better view.
Daddy and Avielle

Daddy and Avielle

Daddy and Samara

Daddy and Samara

 

  • Dance with his girls standing on his toes.

 

 

 

 

 

Kaila no longer needs to stand on her daddy's toes, but sometimes still does.

Kaila no longer needs to stand on her daddy’s toes, but sometimes still does anyway.

  • Give the biggest, best bear hugs.
  • Watch the same Disney movie over and over and over again.
  • Tell jokes that make his kids laugh out loud.
  • Come home to a chaotic mess and bring it peace.
  • Make his daughters feel like they are the most special girls in the world with just one look.
  • Be ridiculously goofy no matter who’s watching.thumb_IMG_5061_1024thumb_IMG_6751_1024
  • Empower his son to treat all women with dignity and respect by seeing how Dad treats Mom.
  • Teach his daughters what to look for in a man.
  • Turn boys into men.
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    Jon and Kieran (at 5).

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    Jon and Kieran (at 20).

  • Make his daughters feel beautiful, and loved, and treasured.
  • Pass on an appreciation and respect for heritage.

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    Commercial fishing in Alaska.

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  • Make all of them feel safe in the worst of storms.
  • Teach his children that nothing is more important than them–no job promotion, no amount of money, no “stuff”.
  • Release them to become all they can be and encourage Mom to do the same–who otherwise might clutch them for dear life (of course, not yours truly ;)).

To those without a daddy like this here on earth, I believe you have One in Heaven who assures you that you are the “apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8) and that “He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

To my children’s daddy, thank you for doing so many things better than I can.P1020532

To my own Daddy, thank you for showing me how to find someone like you. You will always be my greatest hero.

My Daddy

My Daddy

And to all dads, ones who have it good and ones who are struggling, thank you for trying to do what only you can. You are the most incredible man in your children’s lives, whether they say it or not. You may feel under-appreciated, but you are always needed.

Happy Fathers Day Every Day!

(This post was pulled from the archives and updated. See original article from June 2014.)

 

Good Grief – Part 2

To see more on the goodness of grief, here is Good Grief–Part 1.

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In the midst of grief L-O-S-S is a four letter word. We like to win, not lose, but we do lose when someone we love dies. It can be the loss of what was or what never was. Either way it hurts!

“But we don’t talk about it very often. Like a silent conspiracy, we seem to have an unspoken agreement with others not to talk about our losses. Yet with each and every loss comes the potential for change, growth, new insights, understanding, and refinement – all in the future, and we fail to see that far ahead when we are in the midst of our grief,” says H. Norman Wright in Recovering from the Losses of Life.

Interestingly enough, just before Malorie entered hospice I read a wonderful post about grief which stuck with me.  Of her time with the Lord, Brooke Kireta said,

“He (the Lord) was telling me how people don’t grieve enough which I thought was kind of weird because most people are really sad.  But then I heard Him say-the reason there is so much depression is because there is not enough grieving. If we knew the importance of taking the time to grieve-we would stop bottling up all the painful emotions that lead us into addictions, illicit relationships, and unhealthy patterns. As Americans with our staunch belief in the pursuit of happiness-we cannot stand the idea of grieving. We want to be happy all the time. It is our right as Americans. The only problem is-it’s not healthy or realistic.”

She was telling my story and H. Norman Wright confirmed it. I do not think I have ever grieved and Malorie’s death touched every loss I ever denied.

“When a child doesn’t grieve over a loss, a similar loss in adult life can reactivate the feelings associated with the childhood experience.” H. Norman Wright

Grief is important. Grief is Godly. Grief is healthy. Grief is GOOD.

We have probably all read the stages of grief at least once in our lifetime:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

I like lists, they make me feel safe. Seeking safety above all else has kept me from grieving my whole life, so this list will be put aside. I will consider this list and may even refer to it, but I am going to hand over the reins and allow my Savior to lead and guide me and comfort me through the stages of grief.

“And we can take the time to process the pain and grief with God or we can pull up our boot straps and muscle our way through it. But eventually the straps break and our muscles give out. We cannot do this on our own. The pain is too much to bear. So we need a Savior”Brooke Kireta

My muscles have given out and I recognize my need to grieve for the loss of my friend and so many other losses, but I will not do this alone. I lay it down at His feet for Him to sort through the mess of losses I have made and trust Him to make it into something beautiful as only He can do. I desire all God has for me, but His path, not mine is the perfect one to get me there. So, I can trust that the difficult road of grieving leads to His perfect plan for my life and ultimately my freedom.

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In Recovering from the Losses of Life we are told, “The purpose of grieving over your loss is to get beyond these reactions to face your loss and work on adapting to it. The overall purpose of grief is to bring you to the point of making necessary changes so you can live with the loss in a healthy way.”

What have you lost? A friend, a relationship, a spouse? Maybe it was a job, a dream or a house? Regardless of the loss the pain is eerily similar. Can you invite your Father to hold you and lead you through your grief toward your freedom? Will you make the necessary changes that will bring growth and healing?

Father, thank you that grief is a process, so we know it has a beginning, but also an end. We trust You to bring us through the process making all things new. Not forgetting, but learning to hold dear, that which we lost. Thank you for being with us in the sadness, anger and denial. You are a faithful God, an ever present comfort in our times of grief. We need Your help to experience the joy you promise in the morning.

 

When My Heart Is Overwhelmed

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This is a beautiful story of faith in spite of great loss. Katrina Workman has great experience and wonderful insight in learning to trust God in the longing, the waiting, and the loss of a child through miscarriage. I hope you’re encouraged by her words..

“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2)

Being all too familiar with pregnancy loss, a friend recently asked what I thought was more challenging in my faith walk, struggling with trying to conceive again, or dealing with the anxiety of being pregnant again after suffering a loss.

I have been on both sides of this emotional see-saw, and I think they are equally challenging.

After our first baby died at 23 weeks gestation, it took me almost a year to get pregnant again. It was a tremendous struggle emotionally and spiritually. Every month spent waiting to see if I would get my period was so stressful. I would obsess over my ovulation timing and keep charts to track the “best” days to get pregnant.

I prayed fervently, “Lord, please, please, PLEASE just let me be pregnant again!” Then, although I kicked myself for it, I would get cranky at all the people on Facebook announcing pregnancies and births.

Finally, at the end of that long year and another disappointing “Negative” on the pregnancy test, I had an epiphany: I was asking God for what I wanted, instead of trusting Him to give me what He knew I needed in His perfect timing. Of course, I knew this all along but until that moment, I didn’t truly accept it with my heart.

Once I had that realization, it was like a huge load had been lifted off my shoulders and I just said, “OK, God, I’m along for the ride, whatever it is, wherever it might lead.” And then, one week later, despite a negative test and no way medically I should have been, I was pregnant.

But once that initial excitement has a few moments to sink in, so does the anxiety! Once you have lost a baby to miscarriage or stillbirth, being pregnant can be terrifying even though it’s joyful. You can never really relax. Every appointment, every wave of the Doppler wand, every second spent waiting to hear the baby’s heartbeat was like a pop quiz of my faith. My heart would stop for a half-second while I waited to hear those reassuring thumps.

But that, again, was an opportunity for God to strengthen my faith. It really was like falling off a tightrope and trusting that God has put a net below you.

During those long 9 months of waiting (OK, who are we kidding, it’s really 10 months), I learned to rely on faith and fellowship and it became my sustenance:

  • I would group-chat on Facebook Messenger with some of my close girlfriends who are believers and they would send me verses and encouragement.
  • I leaned on the support and love of the older women in my ladies’ group at church (most of whom were moms and many of whom had also suffered pregnancy loss in their lifetimes).
  • Before every checkup, I sang praise songs loudly in my car and in my head in the waiting room (and sometimes out loud there too!).
  • I read a devotional book for pregnant mothers to help me stay in the Word. Reading about God’s promises to others reminded me that I wasn’t alone.

The entire pregnancy was a reminder of how I’m not really in control of any of it. In the end, I experienced the sweet relief of having a healthy son placed in my arms, and I will never stop being thankful, especially because I know not everyone gets that result.

Unfortunately, going through one loss doesn’t make you immune to more. We suffered an early miscarriage this past fall and another, later miscarriage just last month. In some ways those were more challenging than our first loss, because when you walk through a fire like that once, you feel like you’ve paid your dues…until you remember your not the only one. The Bible is full of people who were tested over and over again!

Think about Joseph being thrown into the pit by his brothers. He never saw it coming and often the same is true for us. Terrible things can happen with no warning. Joseph’s story got worse before it got better as he continued to have unexpected and undeserved challenges. But he never gave up and never lost his faith.

We too need a solid foundation to hold us steady in the midst of all the twists and turns and anxieties that life and motherhood and womanhood throw at us. God is that foundation. Just as Jesus calmed the storm in the Sea of Galilee, God calms the storms in each of our lives.

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He still the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.” (Psalm 107:28-29)

So just weeks ago, I was managing the anxiety that came hand-in-hand with being pregnant after suffering prior losses. Now, I find myself on the other side of the equation again–grieving our miscarriage and confronted with the questions about whether and when I will become pregnant. And holding my breath again.

But then I remember: It’s out of my hands. And whose better hands to be in than God’s?

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials & sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

 

 

 

Why Do Kids Misbehave?

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By Michael Anderson and Timothy Johanson

The story goes that Willie Sutton, the notorious BANK robber and prison escape artist, was once asked by a reporter why he robbed BANKS. According to the legend, Sutton replied, “Because that’s where the money is.”

The story makes us smile because it reminds us of the human tendency to ask, “Why?” about others’ behaviors when the reason can be explained in fairly simple terms. Why rob banks? Because that’s where the money is.

A similar principle is often true in our parenting. Parents ASK QUESTIONS that presume that there is a complicated answer for troubling behavior they see in their children:

“Why won’t my 6-year-old daughter go to bed at night?”

“Why is my teen son so far behind in his schoolwork?”

“Why doesn’t my daughter ever stop arguing?”

In most situations, the reason a child engages in — and CONTINUES to engage in — any of these behaviors is not all that complex. There is a payoff for the child, some REWARD for the negative behavior. In other words, the behavior WORKS.

Why does 2-year-old Joshua whine so much? The answer is because whining works in Joshua’s family. When a 5-year-old picky eater says she hates pork chops and broccoli and gets macaroni and cheese instead, she learns that complaining about food works for her. A 10-year-old ignores his parents when they tell him to stop playing VIDEO games because he knows that he can keep playing for another 30 minutes before things get serious. Ignoring his parents works for him.

It’s true for older kids, too. Over time, teens learn that if they wear headphones in the car, Mom won’t ask if they’ve finished a science project. They learn that if they stay up late on Friday and sleep in late on Saturday, they can avoid cleaning the garage. Or that if they make a big mess fixing a sandwich, Mom might make the NEXT sandwich for them.

It can be a difficult concept for parents to swallow, but children misbehave because, in their home, it simply works. So it makes sense that one of the most important strategies in wise, effective parenting is to make sure that our kids’ poor choices stop paying off, either by removing that payoff directly or by creating consequences that make the reward too expensive to be worthwhile.

Removing the payoff

Sometimes you can easily spot what a child gains from a certain behavior. YOUR toddler asks for orange juice or another snack by whining. The whining is exhausting, so you pour her a glass of juice or get her some more crackers. The toddler has, once again, been reinforced to whine.

Every time a behavior is rewarded, it deepens the child’s ongoing perception that this behavior works. Even an occasional negative consequence won’t change the behavior because whining is still mostly being positively reinforced. Undoing a learned, reinforced behavior takes persistence. To do this, you must COMPLETELY remove whining as an effective tactic. The difficult process of kids successfully relearning these kinds of demands is best achieved through consistency.

Other times, the payoff may not be obvious to our adult way of thinking. For example, eye contact is a huge REWARDfor preschoolers. So is physical comfort and convincing a parent to stop giving another child attention. Consider a mother who is shopping with her two children. Justin, the 5-year-old, may think that Lisa, the 3-year-old, is getting too much attention. Justin realizes that this attention may stop if he lags behind or wanders away. He’s right. Justin wanders off, and the attention stops going to Lisa.

This mother’s challenge is to keep Justin with her without rewarding him with extra comfort and attention when he wanders off. She might simply take his hand and place it on the cart each time he STARTS to lag behind. She could also establish a system where the child doesn’t get dessert at dinner that evening if he doesn’t behave while shopping. Whatever small payoff the child receives from misbehaving may still remain, but the child eventually learns that, overall, it is too expensive to be worth the reward.

The bedtime blues

In many homes, bedtime is a good place for parents to start the process of removing REWARDS for a child’s misbehavior. Kids are geniuses at figuring out how to extend bedtime another half-hour or so, and parents are often no match for a creative kid who has nothing better to do than to try to get some extra needs and wants met. Some of those payoffs are obvious — a drink of water, another snack, another hug. But remember that attention and eye contact are also rewards in a child’s economy. Kids can be motivated simply by engagement.

A strategy called “the invisible game” WORKS well with some kids to eliminate excessive bedtime stalling. This involves the house functioning exactly as though the child had gone to bed. Go through the normal pre-bedtime rituals of eating a snack, brushing teeth, reading a book, tucking in, saying prayers, and so on. You can also thwart some foreseeable stall tactics by having them go to the bathroom or get a drink of water before bedtime. Remember to remove toys, gadgets and other distractions. But after you’ve said “good night,” leave the ROOM for the evening.

From this moment on, your child is invisible. If the child calls out, ignore her. If the child comes out of her bedroom, don’t look at her. You can go through some email, read a magazine or book, straighten up the kitchen — all without looking at the child or responding to any question or ACTIVITY by the child. It is important that all this is done with no emotion, approval or disapproval. If you say anything, it should be straightforward and said without eye contact: “I can’t talk to you now. You’re not supposed to be up.”

This simple, silent plan often solves the problem of bedtime. If it doesn’t work the first time, don’t worry. Just regroup with the added wisdom — and try again the following night.

Mired in the motives

Many parents fall into the trap of focusing too much on the child’s motives. In our efforts to understand the child’s REWARD for poor choices, we sometimes obscure the misbehavior itself. For example, innocently asking the child, “Why are you doing this?” can shift a conversation away from the important fact that a child has misbehaved. And, surprisingly, it can end up with the parent inadvertently making excuses for the child that will delay the child’s growth.

Imagine you have a teen daughter who just got a SPEEDING TICKET. You ask her why she was speeding, and she says she was speeding because you forgot to wake her or that she was late because you were asking about her plans after SCHOOL. Whatever her responses, they will most likely be the ones that work to get her out of as much trouble as possible. It might be a tearful, “I am so sorry.” She may not even know why she was speeding — sometimes there simply isn’t a logical explanation — so our very question may prompt her to make up an answer. All we need to understand is that driving fast is a behavior that has worked in some way for this daughter, and that all the extra dialogue JUST CLOUDSthe lesson. It’s a bit like looking at a bucket of mud after we have stirred it — when just moments ago it was clear water.

At this point, you might be thinking, How can I REMOVE the payoff for poor behavior if I don’t seek to understand what that payoff is? Depending on the infraction, it’s not always necessary to figure out those DETAILS. We just need to make the unacceptable behavior more costly than whatever the payoff is. For the son who has a habit of kicking the dining room chairs, losing his video game system or favorite toy for a couple days could quickly extinguish the chair kicking. It simply has to be a little too costly for the child to engage in the negative behavior.

Asking YOUR son, your spouse, your friends from church or a psychologist why your son likes to kick the chair would most likely START you down a complicated road that may take you so far from the issue that you never find your way back. All you really need to understand is the simple fact that the behavior is WORKING in some way. Your son kicks the chair because it gets him the effect he is looking for, maybe hurting his parents’ feelings or getting him out of a boring dinner conversation. These could all be REWARDS in a child’s economy. But those details ultimately don’t matter. Our focus must be on simply ensuring that kicking chairs doesn’t work anymore.

Decide what rules you will follow in your home and how your home will efficiently respond when those rules are ignored. You can often resist the temptation to wonder where the misbehavior is coming from and just calmly make it costly for him to do that. The problem behavior probably didn’t START overnight, and it doesn’t need to end overnight. The consequence just needs to be costly enough to extinguish the unacceptable behavior.

Preparation for the real world

As adults, we live in the same world we are preparing our children for. And we recognize certain costs of reality that our kids are just beginning to understand. For example, after bouncing a CHECK or two, or getting late fees on a credit card, we simply learn that the costs of some behaviors are too high to be worth it. Interestingly, our motives — the why we did something — are usually not part of these exchanges. Most likely, none of us have ever received a parking TICKET that asked why we were parked there so long. Nor have we received an email from our local library asking if we had a rough week and a good reason for not returning the video. As a result of why being out of the picture, a BEAUTIFULenvironment exists for growth. We commit an infraction, and we receive a reasonable consequence, and there’s no unnecessary drama.

Hopefully, this is all good news. If your child is exhibiting problem behaviors, the hardest step might be acknowledging that, most likely, this behavior has somehow been rewarded and reinforced. No committed parent deliberately tries to create a home atmosphere that REWARDS whining or arguing or kicking. But the NEXT step is worth getting to: Many problem behaviors can be eliminated without prolonged analysis or digging into motives. We just need to hit “reboot” and make sure that negative, disruptive behavior is not only no longer rewarded, but also receives a consistent, commensurate cost.

This isn’t easy. But it’s likely easier in the long run. Understanding a child’s economy of rewards — and responding calmly to him or her with consistent responses — can actually extinguish the larger problem behaviors that have stressed or strained the relationship between the child and parents.

Michael Anderson is a licensed psychologist who has spent 30 years STUDYING the ways kids grow up. Timothy Johanson is a pediatrician with a deep commitment to helping parents find better ways to support their children’s development.

This article first appeared in the April/May 2016 issue of Thriving Family magazine. If you enjoyed this article, read MORE like it in Thriving Family, a MARRIAGE and parenting magazine published by Focus on the Family. Get Thriving Family delivered to YOUR home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.

Modern Day Idols

The Bible is not short on stories of worshipping false idols and gods, but it seems so foreign to us. We do not erect golden calves in our yards or worship little “g” gods, so it is seemingly easy for us to escape disobeying the first of commandments, “You shall have no other gods before me.” We proclaim, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” It appears to be a piece of cake to uphold commandment number one, well, until you look up the word god with a lowercase “g” and it means idol.

Idol [ahyd-l] noun:

  1. an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed.
  2. Bible. an image of a deity other than God or the deity itself.
  3. any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion:
  4. a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom.
  5. a figment of the mind; fantasy.
  6. a false conception or notion; fallacy.

If we read the first two definitions, we would usually still be innocent of idolatry, but there are four more definitions. This is where I get tripped up.

Recently a friend shared a testimony of the healing and restoration God has done in her family. Her testimony started with her earliest childhood memories of abuse and her desire for a family. It reminded me of my own lifelong desire for family. I had not thought about that in a long time since I now have a husband and five children. It helped me hear that someone else from an abusive family had the same desire, it made it seem more normal. I am sure we are not the only ones either.  Have you realized how the enemy always wants us to think “we are the only one who (fill in the blank)?”

I did not think much more about it until the next day after I dropped off the last of the five kids for school on Monday morning.  I was driving home and as I thought about always wanting a family, the Lord, as only He can do, gently spoke to my heart, “You have made it an idol.”  Ouch!  He was right since childhood I had an idea of the family I wanted and it was the opposite of the family I had, which is not a good basis to define family. I was not wholeheartedly seeking Him and His desire for my family I was building my own, thank you very much!  You know what I was not doing such a good job.  Anytime we try to do it our way instead of His, well, it just does not go well.

Do not misunderstand, I was a believer, I went to church and took my kids to church. They went to Christian school, we prayed at home and listened to Christian radio. I did not totally turn my back on Him, I just did not seek Him fully for His vision or ideal of family. I inserted some bible verses in “my” plan, but that still did not make it His. Even the Christian parenting books I read did not dethrone my idolatry. It was so subtle I missed it until He gently convicted me.

Those who pay regard to vain idols
    forsake their hope of steadfast love. Jonah 2:8

I went home and began bible journaling while listening to worship music. I was quickly drawn away by a song and knew what I needed to do.  Repent!  So, on my knees, I repented for erecting “family” as an idol, for putting my desire for family above my desire for Him. I gave Him permission to build and keep my family as He saw fit. I would love to tell you that the angels were singing and I felt differently, but I did not.  Although, I did feel a weight lifted. This is going to be a process. Watching God transform what is now His to do what He saw from the beginning. My ways, plans, ideas and dreams will have to die and I will have to seek His heart for His. It is like giving God permission to release the wrecking ball.

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Image courtesy of Surachai at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I made my castle tall
I built up every wall
This is my kingdom and it needs to fall
Colton Dixon, More of You

There was no value in idolizing family, my version of family actually became my own worst enemy.  It is not enough or even biblical to do the opposite of what was done in our childhood.  It sets us up for judgement, idolatry, disappointment and lots of spinning our wheels.  

“If a daughter swings to the other end of the continuum and acts the opposite of her mother, she stands a good chance of creating the same dynamics that she’s trying so hard to avoid.  The key lies in finding a middle ground on which you can stand as a loving parent with your own values.”
Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Karyl McBride, Ph.D. page 125

We must seek Him for our family. He has things to say about abusive families, but He does not say do the opposite. He always gives it a more positive spin.  

He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress,and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. Isaiah 32:18

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Image courtesy of Stoonn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Psalm 127:1

Is there something in your life or heart that is held just a little higher than the place the Father holds? Would you be willing to give it to Him and let Him be your only God?  Would you be willing to trust Him with the results? He already knows if there is, but still wants us to humbly come and confess.

Father, thank You that You are a jealous God and You will not share us with our carefully erected and protected idols. You gently and lovingly guide us back to Your will and plan for us.  We can take You at Your word and trust You to perform it.  Amen.