A Tribute to My Dad

I had been feeling the need to write a tribute for quite a while but had continued to push the thought aside. I was married and had four young children, with another one on the way. I had plenty of things that were keeping me busy. Very busy. Every day.

But I had this nagging thought. What if my dad were to die tomorrow, without knowing how much I truly loved and appreciated him? What if I only took time to formally honor him in a eulogy? That was not what I wanted.

My desire was to compliment, acknowledge, esteem, show respect to my father while he was still around to hear it, feel it, and know it. After talking with my siblings, we decided to make this a joint project, to each write up some thoughts on Dad and our growing up years and then to compile them into one letter to frame and present to him for Christmas, from all of us. I can tell you that it is the best gift we have ever given him.me

A tribute says ‘you are worthy. You have value. You may have failed me, hurt me, and disappointed me at times, but I am taking off my judicial robe and releasing you from the courtroom of my mind.’ A tribute allows you to take a hard, honest look at a person and your experiences together and to recognize the things they’ve done right, the sacrifices they’ve made.

According to Dennis Rainey in The Tribute and the Promise, writing a tribute is like a two-way blessing, “…a blessing to the parent in finally receiving thanks for what he or she did right, and a blessing to the child who can grow old knowing no words were left unsaid.” That was certainly true for me. When my father opened the beautifully framed tribute that Christmas, my brother read aloud the words we had lovingly compiled in front of the entire family. It was a very touching time. One I will never forget.

My dad isn’t big on sharing his feelings. Words don’t come easily. But the emotion on his face spoke volumes. And that gift is hung on the living room wall as a constant reminder and praise. While I hope and pray it is many, many years before I stand over his casket at his funeral, I have a sense of peace knowing that while he is still here on this earth my dad knows how loved and cherished he is to us, his kids.

Today is Dad’s sixty-fourth birthday. I thought I’d share what we wrote almost four years ago. Happy Birthday, Dad.

Dear Dad,

       Too often we let life go by without telling those closest to us just how wonderful they are. Today, we want you to know exactly how we feel about you. You are deeply loved.

       Growing up in our home, Dad, we could always count on you getting off work early to attend the many sporting events we participated in. You showed us that what we were involved in was important to you, and you were our biggest fan. We could depend on you using vacation time for our annual camping trip, always with us – you family. We could also count on, after a long day of working hard, finding you relaxing just as hard – snoring in the recliner while you ‘watched’ the news. And we knew that there would be a morning hair ruffle and a kiss every night, because you were committed to home and family. We never questioned your love.

       We fondly remember so many special things, Dad, those ‘particulars’ that are now forever imbedded in our memories. Like seeing you come home after a long, cold day of working outdoors with icicles hanging from your beard. We were proud of the hard work you did and still do today. Or the annual tubing adventure from the dam at Hamiln Lake to Lake Michigan. We sure had fun together. And how about the rides we took on your back, underwater! What a trip! You were willing to do special things with us, willing to take us fishing and small-game hunting, willing to let us work with you on ‘the Love truck’, willing to let us sit on your lap, even as big kids. Dad, we never questioned your love. dad & me

       We owe you a thousand thank yous for teaching us to drive in the neighbor’s orchards and fields, and for keeping the family vehicles running. For always being ready to treat with candy or pop from the gas station for no reason at all, and for taking us out for birthday supper on the town. Thank you, Dad, for taking us to the lake for a sunset, bowling on Halloween, and out to the porch swing during a thunderstorm. Thank you for Sunday afternoon drives as a family, and for loving and accepting our spouses, just as you do each of us. And thank you for keeping your vows to Mom. We were never afraid that you would walk away from Mom or from us. We never had to question your love.

       You example has taught us so much: to be hard workers, to be content with what we have, to live responsibly and to use common sense. Words to describe you, Dad, would be generous, tolerant, committed, and gentle, a provider and a protector. You never gave us reason to question your love.

       Lest all these words seem too good to be true, rest assured that we do know that you weren’t always perfect, but you were perfectly wonderful. We never questioned your love for us. All that you did and how you lived your life made a difference to us. We are so thankful that God placed us in your heart and in your home. He knew what He was doing when He made you our Dad. From where we stand, we see your life as a great success!

With heart’s full of love, we give you this tribute.

Your children,

Jennifer, Jacinda, Jeffrey and Jodi

Christmas 2009

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God gave us memories so we could have roses in December. (author unknown) 

Automobile Foresight

The dahlias and peonies in bloom signal that summer is just around the corner!

And frequently when summer arrives, so does increasing time in the vehicle.

Picnics at the park…

Basking on the beach…

Frolicking with the friends…

A few weeks ago, I shared some things I’ve found useful to do around the home to reduce some of the stress of day-to-day living as a family. Today, I’d like to share some things that I’ve found helpful for travelling.  Below I’ve listed items I keep in my vehicle at all times… just in case. Some get used very infrequently and others on a weekly basis. But they are always there if/when I need them!

I call them My Motor Vehicle Must-Haves:

  • A small bag of clothing for those unannounced ‘emergencies’ – the potty accident, the throw-up splatter, or even (in winter) the snow-soaked pants and panties after the sledding adventures. The bag contains for each child: shirt, pants, underwear, socks.
  • Small bowls and cups for times when we need a snack while we’re traveling. This keeps our sanity when errands take longer than intended and/or run too close to meal time, or when an unplanned road trip is embarked upon. I often store a bag of raisins or other such food along with a jug of water in the back. Sometimes we just grab a snack at the store or gas station and pass it out in cups. It doesn’t need to be a large amount to tide them over. (‘This is a SNACK, not a MEAL’ I tell them.) And you don’t need to buy individual serving packages if you’ve got cups to hold the goodies in!
  • A fully stocked diaper bag that stays IN the vehicle. It’s always there when you need it! It is simply impossible to forget!
  • Individual quiet-time bags for the younger kids with items such as a notebook & pen or color book & crayons, and small silent toys or books. These are great resources when waiting for appointments or sitting in church or at weddings/funerals and can be stored under the child’s seat.
  • An umbrella – a large one that we can share if it’s pouring rain and we’re headed out (or if it starts drizzling while already en route).اگر چتری هست برای ما دو نفر، اون خداست
  • Jumper cables… just in case.
  • Kleenex in the front and back of the vehicle (and a small wastebasket too).
  • Personal products for the surprise visit from Aunt Flow (ladies, you know what I mean!) or the times when you know what’s happening but just need a little reinforcement! (Kept in my glove-box, away from curious eyes. The last thing you need is Young One asking you why you have such big “band-aids” or what that “push-up stick” is for!)
  • A puke pail. ALWAYS have one of these on hand (or at least a puke bag!). And a small container of baking soda to sprinkle in the rinsed out pail (see, glad you have that jug of water on hand!) or on the blotted up seat-stain. (Baking soda is a good odor-absorber.)
  • Hand sanitizer or wipes – to use before eating a snack, after going to the store, etc. (Did you read my ‘natural hand cleaner’ post?)
  • An emergency kit that includes band-aids, salve, baking soda (see above!), a zip lock bag with a sponge cut into chunks (bag~great to hold ice / sponge~great to soak up melted ice), and deodorant (in case someone has forgotten to apply it).
  • Old magazines or search-n-find books or other thin reading material that fits easily in the back pocket of the front seat. (Libraries and dentists/doctors offices often throw away old issues. Make a friend and pick up some out-dated copies for free!)

It may look a bit overwhelming to you, this list of mine. I may be a bit over-prepared, in your opinion. That’s okay. You may not need any of these ideas. Because they’re just that… IDEAS. Take what’s helpful for you and use it, then pitch the rest!

Most items fit under seats or take up a small space in the back of the vehicle. My last suggestion is that if/when you use up something from YOUR vehicle must-have list, you replace it right away. That way, you’ll be ready for the next adventure… whenever it happens!

I’ve truly found that if I take the time to plan ahead, I can often avoid the intensity of those potentially stress-filled moments. (Notice, I didn’t say I can AVOID the moments… just the INTENSITY of those moments!) Like I shared previously, “foresight is a parent’s finest weapon.”

Parenting in Perspective

It was just yesterday. Mother’s Day. The day you were reminded how truly loved and valued you are. The day when they did their darnedest to bring a smile to your face. The day they told you that you’re the best Mom ever

But today is not Mother’s Day. Today is like almost every other day. Regular. You’re back to the grindstone, back to routine. Back to life as normal. And all too often, you’re back to the rat-wheel of trying to be that best Mom ever… or at least to be a good Mom. And you’re remembering what work it is. You’re back to battling those depressing reminders of the hundreds, thousands of ways you blow it. Every day.

Enter Leslie Leyland Fields book “PARENTING IS YOUR HIGHEST CALLING ~ and 8 other myths that trap us in worry and guilt.” I tackled this book last summer and found it very thought provoking. And freeing. It could easily become one of those books that gets re-read on a yearly basis. And yes, you read the subtitle correctly. Myths that trap us. We, as parents, all too often believe myths about our role as mother (or father).

Parenting is not meant to paralyze me… It is not meant to cripple me with insufficiency” Fields tells us. It’s not? NO! But if we are going to parent freely, we need to be awakened to truth. So below is the entire book in a nutshell. Go ahead – claim this as your Mother’s Day gift from me! Here are the top nine myths Fields tells us to be aware of… and the truth behind them that will, in essence, set us free to parent in perspective.

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1. MYTH – Having children makes you happy and fulfilled. Maybe at times… But often, having children causes me to empty myself, to humble myself; it can make me quite unhappy and dependant ~ on others and most of all on Christ… “Our children reveal to us what we know we are: beggars before God.” My children are here to fulfill the purposes of God, not to fulfill me or bring me joy. I am responsible to parent faithfully and consistently, to honor God as I raise my children. God is responsible for all the rest.

2. MYTH – Nurturing your children is natural and instinctive. Okay, yes. When they’re behaving sweetly! But time and again, nope. It’s messy. It’s costly. It’s hard work. In fact, it will seemingly cost us our very lives to love the way He (God) calls us to love. exhausted-mom,tired,stressed,motherhoodTrue biblical love is difficult to live out because it is a call to death, dying to our own desires and plans. “Once your little one develops a steel will, a vocabulary, and an elevated sense of her place in the world, loving your child can become an Olympic sport. You wake up exhausted every day, all muscles and emotions fatigued, and you realize how very hard you are working to love your son or daughter.” It is not natural or instinctive.

3. MYTH – Parenting is your highest calling. To be honest, the highest call upon our lives today as Christians is to love God above all else. “If I pursue God first as my highest call and am satisfied in His love, then I am freed not to love my children less but to love them rightly.” Our love for others will actually grow as we invest time in getting to know the author of love Himself; it will not run out. The pursuit of Christ is to be our highest calling.

4. MYTH – Good parenting leads to happy children.God’s first concern is always his children’s holiness, not their happiness… I am learning that it does not serve my children’s good to attempt to fulfill all their desires – most of which are not about pursuing God but about pursuing other things. Nor is it my job to shield them from all of life’s injustices or the consequences of their decisions… they need to be prepared to live out our faith in the world.” And this approach, my friends, does not always lead to ‘happy’ children.

5. MYTH – If you find parenting difficult, you must not be following the right plan. Ok then… which plan is that? Because this being-a-momma thing surely isn’t easy! “I am learning to resist the urge to rely on systems and formulas; I am learning to mistrust claims of a single biblical model for parenting.” Why? God calls us into a deep, daily, costly dependent relationship with Himself because what He wants most of us (the parents) is our hearts. What my children need most from me is my time and my presence… and that’s what God desires from me as well. “Parent like God – according to love and knowledge, according to individual needs.” “Godly parenting begins not in the rules we or other people make for our children but in pursuing a genuine relationship with God.” And it is difficult.

6. MYTH – You represent Jesus to your children. Well, we are to serve, love, and live like Christ. However, “I am convinced that the Bible’s command to be ‘like Christ’ was not meant to empower us but to humble us. In the face of that call to perfection, we confront our own sin and discover the most essential piece of news we need to know about ourselves as parents: we are weak, fallible, and desperately in need of grace.” We aren’t supposed to “imitate Jesus’ authority and omniscience, but his humility, his servanthood, and his sacrifice.” THAT is how we are his hands and feet in our homes. That’s how we represent Him.

7. MYTH – You will always feel unconditional love for your children. To love without condition is not normal. That kind of love is heavenly. Showing love doesn’t always feel good. It isn’t always soft or pretty. Love embraces a wide range of emotions and responses. It is because of His love that God forgives, shows mercy, and blesses us. It was also precisely “because He loved His children that …He was infuriated by their sin, He angrily punished their idolatry, His heart was broken…” This does not validate our own anger and judgment… See full size imageit is just to say that love doesn’t always feel lovely! Sometimes we feel emotions other than love towards our children (frustration, disappointment, etc)… and yet we can, at the same time, show them love in the way we handle those feelings. And know that we still love them in spite of those other emotions!

8. MYTH – Successful parents produce Godly children. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you can have total control over your children when you have a hard enough time having control of yourself! “Parenting is AN influence. It is not the be-all, end-all influence.” Spiritual transformation happens over time through the working of the Holy Spirit. Don’t worry about being ‘successful’… aim to be ‘faithful’! Faithful parents honor God.

9. MYTH – God approves of only one family design.We have to let go of this idea that the only way God will save and sanctify our children is if we do our part exactly right and create the perfect Christian home; the right size family, the right method of education and discipline, the right roles for husbands and wives, the right amount of church…” “God takes every hour of our lives and uses “the mistakes, the flaws, the pain as much, if not more, than he uses the good.” We will always be imperfect… and that truth just keeps alive our longing for what is to come – HEAVEN! God has a family plan for you that is unique. Have you asked Him about it?

REMEMBER THIS~ Leslie Leyland Fields says: “Parenting is not meant to paralyze me with guilt but to send me running freely to God. It is not meant to cripple me with insufficiency but to lead me to God’s sufficiency. Parenting is so much less about me and so much more about God!” Let go of the myths. Hold on to the truth. Parent in perspective.

Foresight- Part II

Foresight is a parent’s finest weapon.” Life as a busy mother raising a family can feel like a combat-zone some days. I wanted to share a few more tips this week of how I’ve chosen to handle the weapon of foresight.

  • Give advanced warning when a transition will be happening… when you’re 5 minutes from leaving a friend’s house or when switching from one thing (play time) to another (setting the table). It’s harder for kids to just drop everything and go ~ if it’s not their plan. So let them know ahead of time what’s going to happen. 
  • Make a menu for a week or two, or for a month at a time. Plan out what you’ll be serving and what items you need on-hand to make that happen. Make your grocery list from this. While it can feel quite overwhelming (especially initially) to plan out your meals, in the long run it’ll save so much time and brain energy. You’ll be happy to be able to just look at your menu to see what needs to be prepared for the day and to know that you have everything you need in your home!
  • Break big projects or tasks down into smaller, more manageable portions to be done a little at a time. For example, cleaning your house might seem near impossible on a Friday morning with the young ones banging around your ankles, but if you split up the ‘house cleaning’ into daily jobs (Monday – dust the living room and wash it’s windows, Tuesday – straighten the laundry room and wash 2 loads, Wednesday – wipe out the refrigerator and mop the kitchen floor, etc) that can be done daily in 15 minute chunks, you’re more likely to accomplish your goal!
  • Try cutting up all your fresh veggies in one day and having them available for easy snacking the whole week long, rather than cutting a few each day. They’re good for you and easy to grab when you need some yummies in a hurry.
  • Going away? Packing for the whole family can be a big job. Train the kids early on to do their own packing…with your supervision! Give them a picture (pre-readers) or word list of what should be included as well as the number of each item needed. Send them to their rooms with the list and a pencil (to cross off each item as they lay it on their bed). Then go in and inspect their selections and watch them put everything in a bag or suitcase. Before you know it, they’ll be ready to do this totally on their own!
  •  Got a special project that needs to be done by a set deadline? Plan ahead! Can you work on it a bit at a time during nap time? Do the kids need to be gone for a few hours to accomplish this task? Can you get a friend lined up to watch the kids while you work like crazy… and then offer to do the same for her? Be creative!

The battle rages on! Consider other stress-filled events in your life. Now make a list of how you can plan ahead to make those times more pleasant for everyone! For some areas of your day, you’ve already developed a well-thought-out routine. Would you share it with us? You have your own words of wisdom on that subject and I’d sure love to hear your insight on foresight!