Parenting Posts

The Time of Your Life

time_of_your_lifeWe often don’t understand and appreciate the time of life we’re in, or we make choices that make our time of life harder than it needs to be. It’s true that we are all individuals who can’t be pigeonholed into a set grid, but there are also some generalized times of life for people. Even though it’s different for each of us, God has designed now to be the best time of our lives. We just need to look at things through His perspective.

Your life is not a sprint; it’s not even a marathon. It’s more of a cross-country race or a steeplechase. There are ups and downs, curves and straightaways, rivers to ford and meadows to meander, times that are fast paced, and times of coasting, pacing yourself and catching your breath.

Each time of our life morphs into the next; it doesn’t usually happen abruptly, although there are times it may feel sudden and unexpected. When we stop and reflect, there are almost always little changes we’ve adapted to that are leading to the next time of our life. They were just gradual and not very noticeable. For instance, a mom may feel like her last child going to school all day was sudden, and may wonder what she should do now. She may feel like her identity as Mom is slipping away, never to return. But the reality is, those little ones have been moving toward independence, day by day, since they were born; they were made for that.

Just like there are seasons of the year that signal change and difference, there are seasons of our lives. Just as there are places where there are distinct changes in the weather and climate, so there are also changes in our behavior. For some, summer is a time of being outside, with activity and fun, whereas winter may be a time of slowing down, staying inside by the fire and reading a good book. We need to recognize and get in step with our life seasons to make the most of the varied times of our lives.

Rather than trying to get back to the last season of life, we need to recognize the values of the new season and take advantage of them. Even the Proverbs speak of the ant that gathers in the summer for the times in the winter when there is nothing to gather (Proverbs 6:6-8). There are seasons of our lives that are fast paced, crazy busy and almost maddening. We will be much better prepared for those seasons of life if we have relished in and taken advantage of the slower paced season when we could charge our batteries and recharge our emotional strength.

Lastly, a bit of advice (from someone who has not always practiced this), no matter what season of life, no matter what time of life you are in, take time to lift your head and look for two things.

One, look for what is ahead of the immediate “right now.” It’s so easy to put our head down and forget that this is just a season, or to just coast and forget that the hairy, busy time will come. Two, look at what the Lord is doing in your life, your marriage, your family and your community of friends, and get in step with Him and what He is doing. Ask Him, “God what are you doing? What do you want me to learn? How can I get in step with you in this time of my life?” By doing so, you can live life to the fullest now, the way He intended you to live it.

The Necessity of Hope

Do you ever feel like your life is a rat race where you’re getting further and further behind and out of control, and you don’t see any way of getting beyond the daily grind? Most of us live lives that are filled with activities, work and play. We can get into a rut of one full day after another, and that can affect us emotionally. We can get discouraged, frustrated, angry, despondent, and eventually feel like we are on the proverbial treadmill, with no hope of anything changing.

When we feel weighed down by life, without hope of anything changing, it eats away at our desire to keep going, and desperation can set in.

That’s why hope is such an important reality for all of our lives.

Jesus gave us hope when He died on the cross and paid the penalty of our sins. He gave us hope when He promised that He was going away, but would come again to take us to His home – forever.

But hope in other ways is important in our everyday lives as well.

When Judy and I were first married, we had three little boys in five years. Part of that time I was a full-time student, working a job and planting a church. The other part of those five years I was in a job that was taking 80-100 hours a week. Most of that time we had only one car. Poor Judy was overwhelmed with diapers, energetic little dudes and no hope. I was pretty dense and insensitive to all that for too long, but finally I realized what was going on. I rearranged some of our monthly expenses and signed Judy up for a little day spa where she could go and get some alone time, work out, sit in the sauna and hot tub, etc. It was something she could look forward to a couple of times a week, and it made such a difference in her heart, mind and countenance.

Hope can also come in the form of setting up a monthly time away to just catch your breath, gain perspective and do some planning for the next month. If you’re a parent, you can arrange to exchange childcare once a month with another parent who could use the same kind of time away.

If you’re married, with or without children, and you’re frustrated that your marriage is feeling stale, what you need is hope. Judy and I, in the midst of marriage and family and work, used to try to get away for a predetermined weekend once a quarter or at least twice yearly. We would put it on the calendar, and I would make arrangements so we always had a time together to look forward to.

On those weekends away we had sort of a routine. Friday night we would simply talk and evaluate the last few months, in our personal lives, our marriage, our family and our relationships in general. Saturday morning we would walk and talk about the next few months. What did we want to do differently in our personal lives, our marriage, with the kids and in other relationships? Then the rest of the weekend we would just unwind and have fun. When we left, we were always energized and ready to hit the challenges of the months ahead, knowing that we would have another time like this in just a few months because the date was already on the calendar.

Hope is a powerful need in each of our lives and relationships. What are things in your life that you have to look forward to? Things that give you hope? If you can’t think of anything, don’t give up. Ask a trusted friend for suggestions. You need hope.

Biblical Families: Spiritual Growth

Rick and Judy discuss what it looks like to grow spiritually as individuals and as a couple, seeking Him first in all things (Matthew 6:33). They provide some ideas about how you can find your personal rhythms and how a husband and wife can grow spiritually together.

Biblical Families: Discipline

Discipline is not about controlling children. Rick and Judy explain the point ofdiscipline is teaching children the purpose, value and habit of self-discipline. It’s about helping them explore life while allowing appropriate freedoms so they learn to make their own decisions and become responsible adults.

Biblical Families: Parenting

There are a lot of misconceptions about parenting. Rick and Judy discuss what the Bible says about helping children learn how God designed life to be lived, and how they should respond appropriately to a parent’s authority, and ultimately, to the authority of God.

 

Biblical Families: Headship

Headship from The Well Community Church on Vimeo.

God designed men and women differently. So what roles should a husband and wife have in a marriage? Rick and Judy talk about what the Bible says a husband’s role of headship really means and how that looks in a healthy marriage.

 

The Many Faces of Love: A Child’s Love

A Child's Love

When Judy and I began having children, we were convinced with each one that they were going to be the most loving person in the world. It didn’t take very long with each one to realize, like parents learn about every child, that they were actually quite selfish.

Each child that comes into this world is born completely dependent on others to make living possible, which naturally contributes to their selfish tendencies. It doesn’t take long for them to begin to think the world revolves around them. Looking back on my own childhood, that includes me as well. Parents exist to grant a child’s every wish. Siblings exist for a variety of selfish reasons: to take out their frustration on, to compete with them and win, or to get even with each other for the way they were treated growing up.

Most parents truly love and cherish their children. They sacrificially give to and for their children without the slightest expectation of anything in return. And slowly something can begin to happen in their children.

A parent can go way out of their way to just bring a smile to their child’s face, only to get that smile with an attitude of, “You just did what parents are supposed to do.” No “thank you” or anything of the sort. But if the parents keep showing love, one day they may notice their child handing one of their stuffed animals to a sibling or friend as an act of sacrificial love.

Then at some point a child may actually give their parent a Valentine or a birthday present (that someone else actually paid for, of course) and with a proud face hand it to Mom or Dad. Often they will expect the parent to make big a big deal over their gift, since that selfishness is still lurking beneath the gift giving.

At some later point, they may learn the words, “Thank you” and “I love you.” They may even eventually say those words with some heart behind them, actually meaning them. It seems that by the time children grow into their early teens, they are finally learning a little bit about how much a parent has actually sacrificially loved them, but at this point they are often too shy to acknowledge it out loud. For later teens the shyness may turn into being too “big” to say such words. Some will. Some won’t.

Love is designed to be an acquired way of living, and as children grow and become adults, and start having their own children, some realities start to dawn on them. I can remember one of our adult sons asking me many questions over the phone, including, “Dad, how did you afford those soccer cleats for us each season?” As a parent, he was getting a better picture and clearer perspective that had eluded him in childhood.

Recently, our oldest son drove 11 hours to come and see us, and his grandmother who was in the hospital and then in hospice. I told him how much I appreciated it. I told him how much I loved him and how proud I was of him for the man he had become. He simply said, “Well Nana always loved us so well, always moved with us when we moved. It’s the least I could do.” He didn’t say a bunch of mushy stuff, but his actions were actions of love.

The next weekend, our other son and his whole family came to visit their Nana as well. They loved her and us by just taking the time and putting out the effort to show up. Our daughter also flew out from Little Rock, Arkansas to visit Nana and us. She took a lot of time and spent a lot of money because she loves her grandmother and her parents.

I love each of our children for who they are. I’d give my life for any of them. Love tends to grow where love is shown, and one of the best things in life is seeing our children growing in sacrificial love for their spouses, for their children, for each other, and even for Nana, Judy and me. And I’m extra grateful for their effort in coming to see their Nana one last time before she went to be with Jesus.

The Many Faces of Love: A Couple’s Love

A Couple's Love

When I first saw Judy, something happened in my heart. Her humor and joy in life shone through loud and clear, and spoke to a hole that was in my life – one I didn’t even realize was that big, until I saw that beautiful young woman so many years ago.

Then I actually met her and realized that what I thought was a hole was really a canyon. Every part of me wanted to be with her more and more. Eventually, I realized I not only wanted her in my life but also needed her in my life. And she realized she needed me as well. That was good news to me.

Now we have been married more than 43 years, and we have both learned many things about our love as a couple.

Young couples can undoubtedly love each other with an authentic love. But it is the testing of that love over time that helps it grow even deeper and stronger. Judy and I have had our love tested many times. Sure there are times when the testing pushes us further apart for periods of time, but in the long run it brings us back together with a deeper love than before.

When we lost our son Kyle in a tragic drowning accident in 1979, Judy and I faced the hardest year of our marriage. She and I needed to grieve so differently. Judy needed to process her grief out loud. I needed to be quiet and mentally process the whole experience. My quietness made Judy feel that I didn’t care. Her talking about it at every turn made me want to get away and find a place in solitude to think, ponder and make some of the biggest faith decisions of my life.

After a while, I realized Judy wasn’t trying to hurt me by talking constantly about her feelings. She was just processing her grief. And Judy realized that I wasn’t trying to ignore and run from her as much as I was just trying to process grief my own way. It was during this intense time of grieving that we learned more about each other than we had ever learned. We were so different, but we filled up what was missing in each other as well.

When our daughter developed a rare blood disease a few years later, we were able to handle it together so much better, as a couple who had drastic differences but whose love helped us appreciate and value each other as well.

When Judy’s mom, June, came to live with us for a little more than two years, our love grew once again as we moved into uncharted territory. June has Alzheimer’s. We knew very little about the disease at the time, but we had learned how to process through that hard time together. I saw Judy’s tender love and compassion for her mom, even though her mom could not understand or value her love much at the time. Watching Judy with her mom made my heart grow deeper in love with her.

We spent the last month with my mom lying in the hospital and then hospice as she suffered from congestive heart failure. She was challenged in taking each breath, her Alzheimer’s had progressed severely over the last decade, and we didn’t know what the outcome would be. Judy and I kept tag teaming being at the hospital with her. We hardly even saw each other, and when we did we were talking through end of life issues and alternatives. It wasn’t a very romantic Valentine’s season.

But as I watched Judy tenderly care for a mother that was not her own, my heart grew even closer to her. She did all this because of her love for me, which makes me love her even more. That girl I saw some 45 years ago has given me so much more than I could have ever known.

It saddens me when I see couples facing hard times and giving up, somehow thinking changing partners will solve their problems. That’s not how God designed life to be lived. It is through the hard times that love grows even deeper and stronger than you could possibly imagine. And that is the kind of love He desires for couples.

The Many Faces of Love: A Mother’s Love

A Mother's Love

As I write this, I am sitting in the hospital with my mom – again. This is the second time in three weeks she has had to be rushed to the emergency room and then admitted to the hospital with a critical blood infection the doctors can’t seem to get rid of.

As I watch my mom fight to live, I find my heart aching for her and my mind reflecting back on so many years of her love for me. Just the thought of her love brings tears to my eyes. I have always heard and felt her sacrificial love for me.

When I was about 4 or 5 years old, living in a small white house on John Street in Evansville, Indiana, our house backed up to a donut shop on Division Street. About 5:00am every day you could smell those donuts being made. What an alluring smell! And every Saturday morning my dad would walk those 100 steps or so to that donut shop and buy a half dozen fresh, warm donuts. He’d walk in the house and we’d sit down to a big glass of milk and two donuts each.

My mom loved donuts. In fact, she has always had a major sweet tooth. Every Saturday my mom would eat her first donut very slowly, while I wolfed down my two. Then my mom would say, “I’m not very hungry this morning. Want my other donut, Ricky?” Without hesitation I took her up on the offer and ate that third donut pronto.

I know now that being hungry or not had nothing to do with her offer of her second donut. My mom loved to see me happy and excited. She would do anything and everything she could for me – even to a fault at times. But it was always motivated by her deep love for me. I realize so much of what I know about love, I learned from my mother’s love.

From the earliest days I can recall, I have heard my mom, referred to as Nana by her grandchildren, say two things frequently: “I love you” and “I’m so proud of you.”

Even now, as she lays in her bed fighting for her life, the most common thing she says is, “I love you so much, Rick! What a blessing you are to me.”

And my heart speaks back to her, “I love you so much, Mom! I’m so blessed to have you as my mom.”

 

Note from the author: My mom went to be with Jesus last night. She is finally experiencing the complete peace and joy of being free from the pains of this life and being in the presence of God. She loved so well and was loved by so many. Thanks to all for your thoughtful words and prayers.

What I Learned About Christmas From My Mom

5 books that have changed my life

Some of my earliest memories revolve around Christmas, and I can’t reflect on Christmases past without thinking of my mom. It was my mom who started us all thinking about Christmas and prepping for it by October 1 at the latest. Christmas music could be heard long before Thanksgiving, and you could just see the energy level rising in her small frame. Her eyes had a sparkle that was contagious.

There are many memories I cherish about my mom and Christmas, but here are a few lessons I’ve learned from Christmases past – from my mom.

Christmas is about the good news.

Jesus has come to bring us gifts. He came to bring the gifts of both forgiveness and a new kind of life, eternal life. My mom loved to give gifts at Christmas. There wasn’t a shred of thought about what she would get, but like Jesus, Christmas was a time to give gifts to people she loved.

Christmas is a time of joy and celebration.

The promised Messiah has come. The Messiah of the Bible was promised and forecast from the time of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15) onward. For thousands of years people had looked for and longed for Him to come, and when He finally came, the angels rejoiced. The wise men came bearing gifts to celebrate. My mom exuded joy every Christmas. It was a time of celebration. Christmas only came one time a year, but she tried to make it last as long as possible, generally October – January in our home.

Christmas was an awe-inspiring surprise.

Immanuel came in the form of a human baby. Very few people got wind that the Messiah was coming. Joseph, Mary and Elizabeth. But when He finally came it was in a humble manger, not with military parades on a white horse (which will come later). But there was an awe-inspiring element to this lowly arrival, orchestrated by God Himself. There was a star in the sky that led the wise men to the birthplace of this King. Angels appeared to shepherds and made a celestial announcement of Jesus’ birth, and the shepherds joined Joseph and Mary in the stable delivery room.

We always had a live Christmas tree in our home – the biggest that would fit our ceiling height. It was always the centerpiece of our Christmas decorations, and there would always be a few presents under the tree as we approached Christmas, usually ones mailed to us by relatives and a few close friends. On Christmas Eve I was always rushed off to bed very early so I could get a good night‘s sleep before the big day (fat chance that was going to happen). But it was all about giving my mom and dad time to put all the presents under the tree. My dad would assemble some things and make sure batteries were installed where needed. My mom would go to all her “special places” to pull out all the presents she had been gathering since January, 11 months before. They would add a few more touches to the tree and then leave all the lights on the tree lit.

I recall so many Christmases getting up at 5:00 or 6:00am and sneaking into the living room where the Christmas tree stood, tall and festive. The whole house was dark except for this awe-inspiring tree undergirded by many presents. I would sometimes just sit in amazement at this breathtaking spectacle of a tree and its presents decked in cheerful colors and sparkles.

We could look at all these things and see a woman who was caught up in the commercialization of Christmas. Or see the whims of an over-indulgent mother. Maybe. But what I’ve learned from watching my mom and being infected with her zeal for Christmas is that Christmas is about the good new of Jesus who came to give gifts to those He loves. It’s a time of joy and celebration because the Savior has come. It’s awe-inspiring, exciting. It’s Christmas!