Building Your Children

When I was in the eighth grade my mother asked me to sit down.   I could tell she wanted to have a serious conversation and I thought I was in trouble.   However, she wanted to pass on to me an important truth.  What she said has stuck with me to this day.

She said, “Rick, these will be the best years of your life and I want you to take advantage of them.   They will go by quickly and you will remember them, so make good use of them and don’t waste them”.   It was not only what she said, but how she said it that made me remember  that moment.

That was just one of many talks Mom had with me that helped direct and shape my life.   I will always be indebted to her for the investments she has made in my life.

Mom and me at “Top of the River” Restaurant in Guntersville in the summer of 2011.

A mother has an in incredible influence in her home.  The Bible speaks of her power to build her home – and also her ability to destroy it.

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”   (Proverbs 14:1)

This is what my mother did for myself, my brother and sister – she “built” us.  It is what my wife has done for our children.    Now, I’m watching as my children are parenting and building their children, my grandchildren.    What joy I have in seeing this!

This begs an important question: how does a mother build her children?

The Bible gives many ways to do that, but I will only give two in this post.   (The same truths apply to a father in terms of investing and building his children).

You build your children when you highly value them.   Many children wonder if they are important to their parents.   Some kids feel like they are a nuisance and a hindrance rather than a blessing.

Scripture clearly states the high value God places on children.

“Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.  As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”   (Psalm 127:3-5)

Notice several expressions.   God says children are “an heritage of the Lord” and “his reward”.     The word “heritage” has the idea of an inheritance, a valued possession.   Children are precious gifts from God, on loan to parents to train for Him.  The word “reward” means “to compensate”.   They are not a penalty, but a blessing and an honor from God.

So, our children are not to be viewed as an obstruction to our happiness or our career goals.   In fact, the Bible says that “happy is the man” that has many children.   That’s not true if they are a burden.

Another text from the Bible on the worth of our kids – “…thy children like olive plants round about thy table.”   (Psalm 128:3)

Here, children are compared to olive plants.   Why olive plants?   Because the oil it produced was a valuable commodity – including cooking, medicinal, and also a medium of exchange in that day.  The idea of these metaphors is clear – our children are to be valued by us.

We must believe our children are important and communicate that to them.   This must be reinforced by our words, the time we give to them, our attitude toward them, and the way we speak of them to others.

Some of the most important words a child can hear from a parent are “I’m proud of you…I’m glad God brought you into our family…I care about you and love you”.

Many have never heard these words.

Do your children sense they are important to you?    Do you take the time to communicate value to them?   Do you ever tell them that you are proud of them?

Second, you build your children by teaching them.   I’m not speaking here of academics as much as spiritual training from God’s Word and in practical areas.

Parents have a divine commission from God to teach their children.  The Bible teaches that the primary teacher in a child’s life is to be his father and mother.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”   (Proverbs 22:6)    This commandment is given to parents.    A local church and school can assist parents in training their children, but the ultimate responsibility is on the shoulders of the parents.

Parents can delegate some things, and should, but they are to supervise and oversee what is taught.   We cannot abdicate this responsibility without consequences in the lives of our children.

Paula and I purposed to homeschool our children early on and we did that with all seven of our kids.   We knew we needed to delegate certain academic disciplines that we couldn’t teach as they went into high school.   But that didn’t cause us to forfeit our interest in their academic classes or those that taught them.

When one of our children was taking a psychology course at one of our local colleges and brought the textbook home I asked to see it.  I sat down with them, looked at a few topics in the index, and turned to the various sections and pointed out the wrong teaching that contradicted with the truth of the Bible.

They said, “Dad, how did you know these things were in here?”   That was part of my responsibility to help them be on the lookout for that which is wrong.   Even if it is taught by an authority.    There will come a time when I’m not around to watch out for what is entering their mind and soul and part of my training them is that they would know how to do so.

A child has a special appreciation for those that teach him and a parent forfeits that when they leave teaching solely to others.    I think I gained respect and confidence to some degree from my teenage child when I showed them the problems in the text in the psychology book.

Here are a few passages that show the responsibility of parents to invest God’s truth in the hearts of their children.    Please don’t rush through these; note the emphasis on teaching and whom is to do the teaching.

“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons”.   (Deuteronomy 4:9)

“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”   (Deuteronomy 6:7)

“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”   (Ephesians 6:4)

God chose Abraham to be the progenitor of His chosen people; one reason was that he took fatherhood seriously.   Note what God said about him – “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.”   (Genesis 18:19)

There are other passages in the Bible that state the same truths.  This responsibility cannot be delegated without consequence.

What can Mom and Dad teach their children?   Here’s a sampling to trigger your thinking.   Keep a notebook and write things down as you think of matters children need and make the time to invest in the lives of your children and grandchildren.

Teach them God’s Word.

Teach them to cook.

Teach the how to properly respond to adversity.

Teach them a proper attitude towards authority.

Teach them how to work.

Teach them how to spend, save and budget money.

Teach them how to dress.

Teach them how to choose friends.

Teach them how to have a conversation.

Teach them how to have a hobby or play a sport.

Teach them to how to determine good music.

Teach them how to write a thank you note.

When I was a young boy I remember my Mom leaving home one night a week and attending college classes.   She walked out the door with her notebooks and textbooks in hand and returned several hours later.   But she only did that for a semester.

Later  when I was old enough to understand what was happening I realized that the rigor of the classroom and demand of time was too great for her to work during the day and to be a mother for Melanie, Hoss and myself.   She wanted to get her degree, but she never did.   All three of her kids have gone to college and finished, but the one who gave us life didn’t.   It still hurts my heart to consider this.

My mother laid her life down for us, but in doing so she build her home.    I’ve seen Paula do that over and again for our kids in ways they won’t fully understand until they are older and have their own children.

Ours is a day when mom as a homemaker is unappreciated and undervalued. Yet, the most important thing a mother will ever do is to leave a godly legacy in the hearts of her children.

It’s true“Every wise woman buildeth her house…”   (Proverbs 14:1)     And she deserves our praise, respect and gratitude for doing so.

Mom, keep teaching your children.   The rest of us that have been taught are to honor our parents for their teaching, whether it was by word or example.    If your mom is still around, tell her that you appreciate something she taught you – and do it today.

 

 

 

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Posted in Building a family, Children, family, Family Issues, mentoring, Mother, Parenting, Teaching, valuing your children, wise family | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Building Your Husband

After Paula and I were engaged one of our frequent conversations was the kind of home we wanted to have.    We both were believers and that meant God’s Word was the guide to our roles and responsibilities.    Both of us were committed to following those functions as best as we could with God’s help.

The Bible teaches that the wife and mother has a key role in building the family – “Every wise woman buildeth her house…” (Proverbs 14:1)    Whenever you see a strong home you know there is a wise woman in that home.

Notice the word “build” in the Scripture above.   There are some specific areas she cares for that result in building her home.    How does a wise woman “build” her family?  What are the practical means by which she accomplishes this?

A home is strong when a wife builds up her husband.    Of course, the same principle is true for other members of the family.   We are to each edify the other (I Thessalonians 5:11).   But I want to place the emphasis here as the text above in Proverbs does on the wife and her role in building the family.

A wife has an incredible influence in the family; a power unknown to her.   When she encourages and praises her husband he thrives in that environment.    Men are especially responsive to honor and praise.

Here are two simple ways a wife can build her husband

  • Build him with an attitude of respect.   Contrary to the cultural confusion on genders today, the Bible is very clear: “male and female created he them”.  (Genesis 1:27)

Within these two genders God designed men and women to be different, not only physically, but emotionally.  Women thrive primarily on attention; men thrive primarily on admiration.   This can be illustrated in a number of ways, but a single blog post doesn’t suffice for that level of detail.

This is a simple, but important way a wife can honor her husband; show him that you respect and admire him and do so sincerely.

The Bible says to let “the wife see that she reverence her husband”.  (Ephesians 5:33)   The word “reverence” has the idea of respect.    Certainly it includes his role as the leader of the family is to be respected.   But it also speaks to a need God has placed in his heart to sense honor from his wife.  It is how he interprets love.

Respect and honor is such a powerful motivator that it can influence an unbelieving husband to give attention to the Word of God when he is not interested in spiritual things.  Even a man that rejects Christianity will listen to his wife when she respects him and honors him.

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;  While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.”   (I Peter 3:1-2)

Notice that this unbelieving husband is watching the way she lives and that her response to him is to be “coupled with fear“.    The major thrust of the book of I Peter is how to respond to unjust authorities.   Here, he speaks of a wife having an attitude of respect and reverence for her husband’s role in the family.

A wife’s sweet and gracious demeanor is more powerful than any nagging words to pressure him to attend church or participate in any spiritual activities.   Our attitude and spirit speaks louder than our words.

I have a friend whose wife was converted to Christ and she was so excited about her salvation that she wanted her husband to also know the Lord.   She would make sure that the radio was on a Christian station whenever he was around.   When he came to the dinner table she placed Christian literature for him to read by his place setting hoping he would read it.

The very opposite happened.   In her sincerity and zeal to reach him he felt condemned by her, that she was better than him and the last place he would ever to was to church, especially the church that had done this to his wife.

This sweet lady quickly learned that this wasn’t working and began to practice the truths of honoring her husband and loving him, showing him respect, and not preaching at him.

It wasn’t long after that, he did attend church with her, and soon he did trust Christ as His Savior and they began to have a Christian home.   But it was her respect and honor that won his heart.  He interpreted that as love.

That same need in a man’s heart doesn’t change after he is saved.    If you want to build your husband, build him with your attitude, a genuine heartfelt attitude of honor and respect.

  • Build your husband with your words.  One of the most powerful ways a wife can motivate her husband is by how she speaks to him.

The Bible says of a virtuous woman that “…in her tongue is the law of kindness.”   (Proverbs 31:26)

The word “law” means “that which governs or rules”.    It has the idea that her speech was governed by the principle of kindness.   While all of our words ought to be ruled by truth, that isn’t sufficient.  The principle of kindness and grace is also to be a part of our speech.

The way you speak to your husband will either edify or discourage him.    People don’t react as much to what we say, but to how we say it.    And that includes our family.  Make sure your words are kind and gracious.

“Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”   (Proverbs 16:24)    When our words are like honey they are like food that bring health to the body.   Such words are like vitamins that bring health to the soul (and to the body).

In the family, our words come back to us like a boomerang, especially from our children; what we say and how we say it.  They not only pick  up our vocabulary, but the very speech patterns and tone in the way we speak to each other.

A wife’s attitude establishes the atmosphere for the family.   When she reacts to the leadership of her husband the children learn that same attitude of resistance.  When she uses words that aren’t kind then the children pick up on the same type of words, even when they are young.

Yes, I know many men are gruff and rude and they need to abide by the same principle.  Absolutely.  But the purpose of this post is limited to the importance of the wife and mother and her influence in building a strong family by her attitude and words.

Recently I finished bringing a message to our church family on a Sunday morning.  Usually we are some of the last to leave the property as I take time to speak to people.   That particular day I was especially tired and knew that I had struggled to communicate as I spoke.   Finally we piled in the car and Paula was driving and my mind was filled with discouraging thoughts.

“You did a bad job today”.

“The people deserve better”.

“If you didn’t have this disease, you would be more effective”.  

I was battling discouragement and I still had another message to bring that night!

We drove quietly for about a mile and then Paula reached across the seat and patted my hand and said, “That was a really good sermon today.   You’re a good pastor.   You helped a lot of people today.  What you said helped me”.   

She had no idea of what I had been thinking.  While her words didn’t match my feelings, what she said made an incredible impact on my perspective and my disposition.   In fact, I still remember her words several weeks later.  

Dear lady, your attitude and words make more of a difference than you can ever know in your husband’s heart.   Rather than focusing on his faults and failures, find something to praise and God will use it to build your home.

“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success”.  

 

Posted in Admiration, Affirmation, attitude, close family, Encouragement, Family Issues, Growing marriage, Happy marriage, Husband, Marriage, Roles in Marriage, Strong Marriage, Wife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Key Ingredient in Building a Strong Home

Several years ago we put new locks on the doors of our church and we issued keys to those that needed them.   A few days later when I came to work I put the key in the door it wouldn’t work.

After I looked closer at the key ring I realized it was my old set of keys.   No matter how sincere I was the wrong key wasn’t going to work.

Building a successful home requires using the correct key.   Using the wrong approach will always result in failure.   And no one wants to fail.

As I write this my wife and I have been married for over thirty-eight years.  While we haven’t had a perfect family we love each other and enjoy spending time together.    Paula and I have learned much about the fundamentals in having a happy home.

While there is more than one single quality that defines a strong family, one stands out above others.

A key in building a strong home is wisdom.   This wisdom is found in the Bible, from the Author that designed the family.    He has given timeless, universal principles as to how a home is to function.   When we honor God’s principles they will honor us.   It is not a matter of luck or chance, but of honoring the plan of the divine Architect.

Leo Tolstoy said, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in it’s own way”.    

The common thread of strong families is their knowledge and application of God’s wisdom.   Wisdom is one of the most valuable possessions one can acquire.

Wisdom is better than vast amounts of money.   The Bible teaches that there is no comparison between wisdom and great riches.   It is folly to spend time and energy to make a large income and to neglect the wisdom found in God’s Word.

“How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!”   (Proverbs 16:16)

Wisdom is better than having a strong body.  I battle a chronic disease that gradually has dissipated my strength.   One of the emotional challenges of this is that I can still remember when I was strong and able to do things I can’t do now.

But I can still grow in God’s wisdom daily.

“Wisdom is better than strength…”   (Ecclesiastes 9:16)

If I neglect the wisdom of God in His Word I will become discouraged in my soul and it will affect my relationship to my wife, children and grandchildren.    The joy I gain from His Word changes my attitude and spirit.

Wisdom is better than military might.   While building weaponry to secure our nation is not wrong, it is not enough.   Even better is to have wisdom, the ability to solve problems and to keep them from happening in the first place.

“Wisdom is better than weapons of war…”   (Ecclesiastes 9:18)

Leadership is established by one’s ability to solve problems and that comes through wisdom.   There is a time to fight and war, but there is also a time to conquer through wisdom.

There is much more to be said about wisdom in the Bible.   Suffice it to say that it is the key to a successful life, family and nation.   Without it we will fail.

When wisdom is absent the sure result is our living like a fool.   And a fool disrupts everything in his environment.

Parents especially pay the price when their children lack wisdom and behave foolishly.

Foolish children bring hurt to their parents.  The Bible states that “… a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.”   (Proverbs 10:1)     The word “heaviness” carries the idea of grief, sorrow and depression.     A foolish child breaks the heart of his parents.

I’m sure I did this to my parents at times and I’m sorry for it.   Sometimes we have grieved over bad decisions of our kids.   We still loved them, but it didn’t assuage the hurt.

Foolish children hold their parents in contempt.  The Bible says “… a foolish man despiseth his mother.”   (Proverbs 15:20)     The word “despiseth” means to hold one in disdain and contempt.   It is an attitude as well as an action.   Fools fail to respect and honor others, whether it is a parent, sibling or your husband or wife.

When we neglect to discipline our children and hold them accountable for their actions we are leading them to a life of destruction.

A strong and happy home is not established accidentally.  It is the result of wise parents and spouses investing God’s principles in the way they build their home.

The key ingredient in building a strong home is God’s wisdom “Every wise woman buildeth her house…”   (Proverbs 14:1)

“Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established”.   (Proverbs 24:3)

As a husband and father I committed early in my marriage to building my family around the principles of the Bible.   That doesn’t mean I followed them perfectly, but I was sincere about discovering and applying them.   Whatever is good in our family can be traced to our honoring God and His Word.

Failing to build a family on wisdom results in destruction – “…the foolish plucketh (the home) down with her hands.”   (Proverbs 14:1)   The words “plucketh down” are very strong.   It means to be broken in pieces, in absolute and utter ruin.   This involves pain and sorrow.

Ultimately, there are only two types of families.   Those that are carefully and intentionally constructed with God’s wisdom and those that are just hoping it will work.

One has God’s blessing and hope; the other ends in ruins with shattered children, broken marriages and despair.

One of the motivations that drives me to write the posts on this blog are the tears I have caught and stories from broken hearts I have heard through the years.   I desperately want to help people make a difference in their homes.   Even the name of the blog, http://www.familyencouragement.com, reflects this desire.

In the following posts I’ll be focusing on three wise actions one can take that will result in building a strong family.    I trust they will give you hope that there can be a better day.

 

Posted in broken home, broken marriage, Children, close family, Decision-making, Family Issues, foolish family, Growing marriage, Happy marriage, Legacy, Marriage, Parenting, Principle-centered, rebellion, sorrow, wisdom, wise family | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Empty Nest and Your Marriage

This past Sunday evening I was listening to the choir sing at church and watched my youngest child and daughter, Aubrey, singing.   I was struck by the fact that I had less then forty Sundays to enjoy her ministering in that way.   She’ll be in college a long way from home in less than a year.

For the first time in thirty-four years it will be just Paula and me in our house.   That won’t be a bad thing.   It’s a natural and good part of life, but it’s easier for the kids than the parents.

I remember the morning I left for college.    After packing my friend’s car I stood hugging my Mom and grandmother.   Suddenly my grandmother (who was younger then than I am know) began to weep uncontrollably.   Mom had tears streaming down her face, too.  I couldn’t understand why.   This was something I had been looking forward to for a long time.

Between her sobs, she finally said, “Go on, son, get in the car, I’ll be ok”.    It didn’t make sense to me then, but it does now.

They had been looking forward to this with a sense of not only me beginning a new stage of life, but it was a sad time for them, too.   The apron strings were being fully cut.  They weren’t just saying goodbye to an eighteen year old, but in that moment they remembered all the years before that, too.   My lack of experience and immaturity kept me from seeing that then.    But I know it well now, as does Paula, my wife.

Aubrey with my Mom at a Ladies Retreat in Tennessee.

It’s ironic that the most important aspect of a successful transition to an empty nest has nothing to do with your children.   It involves your spouse –  making them the most important human relationship you have.   Not just in the future but all through the years of raising your children.

Someone said, “The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother”.

Of course, there are seasons when your children demand your full attention, but even in those days it is important to make time for your spouse.

I remember when our children were babies; they demanded a lot of attention – for several years.   I remember when finances were low and it was tough to do special things for just Paula and me.   There was been more than one Christmas when we didn’t get anything for ourselves so we could care for our kids.

I remember busy seasons of Little League baseball, basketball, and soccer games.  Ballet and gymnastics lessons were a part of that.   Throw in youth activities, camps, and retreats at church and it made for a full schedule.

We did this seven times – and would gladly do so again.

Our 25th Wedding Anniversary with the kids in June, 2004.

Yet, I knew my bride was the most important earthly relationship I had; I wanted to invest time, energy and resources into our marriage.   And we have done that, pretty consistently, since we were married in 1979 and through our years of parenting.  It has been challenging sometimes.   Finding time, money and baby sitters was an issue, but it was worth it.    Usually it didn’t cost a lot of money, just being intentional and creative.

Investing in our marriage was not only good for us in those early days, but it was good for our kids.    Next year we will be able to profit most from those investments.

When God gave Adam a companion to meet his deepest needs for human fellowship he didn’t give him a child, brother or friend. He gave him a wife.  When a husband and wife are married they are a family, even without children. Having children extends their family.

One day you will be living alone with your spouse.   It will arrive quicker than you realize.  If you would enjoy a sweet time in your empty nest years you need to be making consistent investments of time with your spouse during the parenting years.    Small investments over time yield a great benefit.

Recently Paula and I celebrated the first time we met 40 years ago.   I wrote her a long letter and recalled a lot of memories and expressed my gratitude.   One of the things I shared was some dreams and goals we have to look forward to.

A parent’s job is to give a child roots and wings. Both are important.  For them to “fly away” successfully and for you to enjoy your time alone with your spouse you must have made deposits in your relationship with your spouse.   Parents, too, must develop “roots” in their marriage so they can “fly” in their empty nest years.

Years ago Paula and I had visited with some dear friends in Atlanta.   They’re like an older brother and sister to us.    They have raised three great boys, now men, and now their sons have children.    One of the reasons we enjoy being with them is the strength of their marriage and their mutual respect they have for each other.

As we left their home after a wonderful visit and drove away, Paula took my hand and said, “Rick, when we get older I want us to have a marriage like Tom and Renelle”.   (Their boys were out of their home and we still had children in our home). 

I agreed with her.   We talked for a bit about the qualities they had that helped them have a strong and happy marriage.   One of them was they prioritized their relationship with each other, but didn’t neglect their sons.    They enjoy their empty nest years because they did things right in terms of valuing each other, even during parenting years. 

Our close friends, Tom and Renelle Perkins.

Next year our empty nest season will become a reality.   We will see how we have done in preparing for it.

“Don’t put your marriage on hold while you’re raising your kids or else you’ll end up with an empty nest and an empty marriage”. 

_________________

Here are the other posts dealing with “The Empty Nest”

Preparing for an Empty Nest

Preparing Your Child to Leave Home

Enjoy Each Era of Your Child’s Life

Release Your Children Gradually

 

Posted in Children, close family, Empty nest, familiy issues, family, Family Issues, Growing marriage, Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Release Your Children Gradually

In a way I’m not fully qualified to write this as I still have a child at home.   On the other hand my wife and I have experienced six of our kids leaving.   My baby girl will be leaving for college in less than a year.   Then, we will officially wear the title of empty nesters.

My baby girl, Aubrey Caroline. She brings great joy to my heart.

This principle is crucial to enjoying the empty nest phase of life.   And it is one we have striven to practice in our parenting.

The secret to successfully releasing your child is that you have been gradually releasing them from childhood.  Letting go of the rope a bit at a time is an important strategy.

In the Bible children are compared to arrows and the parents to the archer.    An arrow cannot fulfill it’s purpose unless it is released from the bow.

“As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.” (Psalm 127:4)

To release an arrow without a specific objective is a waste.   An archer that is serious about his craft will polish the arrow and protect it’s quills before he points it to the target.

The metaphor is clear.   Raising children requires focus, intention, preparation, protection and the ultimate release of one’s children.   Parenting isn’t easy.   It’s the most difficult thing one will ever do.

But it is also the most rewarding. 

When my children married (or left home) my role changed from being in the chain of command to that of a counselor, an advisor.    Until that time we tried to release them by degrees, hopeful they would learn responsibilities we taught and modeled that would help them as adults.

Often people release their children too soon and to the wrong things.   To do so will bring regret and consequences.    Let me mention three mistakes that are most common today we make as parents.

Releasing them to dating when they are 13 years old.   I chose the age of 13 arbitrarily.   It’s a time when parents allow dating when they’re unprepared.  Pressure starts early for your child to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend.

It’s a mistake to release your child to dating at a young age.   I can’t think of any positive outcomes.   I can think of several negative results when it is allowed.

Premature dating has caused a lot of damage to young people where the scars extend even to adulthood.  Children need to be prepared for marriage, not having boyfriends and girlfriends.   The focus should be on friendship, etiquette, serving, extending courtesies, how to hold a conversation and other areas that will contribute to a successful marriage later on.

If you decide to not release them when they’re not ready, you will be bucking the culture and will be misunderstood, but it will save a ton of heartache later on.

Your child may become frustrated, angry and protest when you establish boundaries in this area, but I believe you must if the empty nest would be a blessing.    To be honest, though I believe this and practiced it in our family, it was still a struggle sometimes.   To take such a position is swimming upstream culturally.

Of course, at some point there will be that special someone that will be discovered along the way.   I believe this best happens in the context of a group of friends rather than trying to find “the right one”.    Especially in the early teenage years.

Serious, long-term dating inevitably leads to the next mistake.

Releasing them to go steady when they are 15 years old.   Again, the age I’ve used isn’t as important as the principle.   Dating leads to “going steady”, which simply means the two will refrain from seeing others.   It is sort of a pre-engagement time.

When I was in school some kind of symbol was exchanged to indicate the girl was “off the market” – like a class ring, a letter jacket, or another personal item.

This mistake usually leads to possessiveness, jealousy, frequent fighting, and sexual activity.    The couple will typically break up and get back together several times because the relationship intertwined their emotions when they weren’t fully prepared for such intimacy.

I’m not denying that young people cannot have feelings and like someone; I am saying that there is an emotional immaturity in that time of life.   Focusing on one’s own needs and failing to understand that love is more than an emotional feeling.

This is not genuine love and cannot survive the long-term relationship which is required in marriage.   There’s a reason the divorce rate is so high and this is one of the culprits.

Maturity is a worthy goal, not having a steady to date.

Also, when sexual activity begins it tends to continue until intercouse.   God didn’t intend for the body to stop at a certain point when necking and petting are initiated.     When the glands are active it’s almost impossible to stop from the next step of intimacy.  

God designed sex as a good and precious thing within marriage (Hebrews 13:4).    I often taught our young people that “sex is God’s wedding gift”. 

Going steady will likely lead to sexual compromises before marriage.

Releasing them to the world when they are 16 years old.   I think that parents get tired around this age and begin to settle for less than God intended.   Parenting is spiritual warfare and it is worthwhile to battle for the hearts of your children.

Beside Nehemiah 4:14 in my Bible I have written, “I will fight for my family”.  

The verse reads, “…fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses”.  

There are three battle grounds that each generation often disagree upon in a family – clothing, friends and music.    We need discernment in each area as parents, but we must not give up on what is right just because we are tired.

Another idea in this season is that “everyone sows their wild oats”.    While we all have sinned and made bad choices the inevitable result of sowing wild oats is the reaping of a wild harvest.    Part of the wild harvest influences not only the young people, but empty nest parents from choices their children have made.

Understand clearly that I’m not assuming that there will be perfection in your parenting or in your children.   It’s ridiculous to even assume such a proposition.   I wasn’t a perfect son to my parents nor have my children been perfect.    That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be mindful of God’s design and work toward it.   God’s way is the best way. 

The problem is that we have allowed culture to define and influence our parenting philosophy.   God designed the family and tells us how to operate it in His Word.  The Bible gives us clear instructions in the area of parenting, but we often settle for less than God intended.

For example, many parents are happy and satisfied if their kids aren’t on drugs, stay out of jail, and land a good job.  This is a good thing, but these alone are missing the point of God’s intention in parenting

God wants our children to mature not only physically and intellectually, but also spiritually and emotionally (Luke 2:52; Psalm 128).   He gives parents the tools of His Word and grace to accomplish this.    We are to be active participants in this process.

And it’s a painful process, failure often marking both the parent and the child.   A lot of failure.

Let’s not allow the world around us to dictate the terms of how we parent.    We have made some surrenders and are paying the price – both children and parents. 

It is a more pleasant and peaceful empty nest when we take care of our children as they grow up.   This means releasing them gradually and intentionally.

When Esau married he was forty years old and he made bad choices about whom he married.   It had an effect on his parents in their later years.

The Bible states that Esau’s family was “a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah”   (Genesis 26:35).    It’s more difficult to enjoy the empty nest when adult children are bringing problems back into your home.

Better to work hard on the front end and middle part of parenting teenagers than to experience the grief from grown children that have been released too early to areas for which they weren’t prepared.

When my oldest sons were playing Little League baseball I was watching practice early on a Saturday morning.   The coach’s son was a rebellious, cocky boy.   He didn’t listen to anything his dad would say as he coached and was never corrected.   He made it miserable for everyone, even his teammates.

As I observed the display of neglectful parenting on the field, the lady sitting next to me introduced herself as the coach’s wife and asked me who my boys were.   After pointing them out, she said, “I wish my son would listen to us the way your boys listen to you.   I guess some parents are just lucky”. 

I sat there stunned and wanted to reply, “No, ma’am, my wife and I aren’t lucky.   We have worked very hard to get our kids to pay attention and respect authority.   I would suggest that your problem with your son isn’t a matter of fortune, but rather that he has lazy parents that refuse to discipline him”.  

Though I didn’t say it, it was true.   Sometimes I wonder what happened to this young man.    He’s in his mid-thirties.    I hope he has given his heart to Christ and God has transformed him.   If things haven’t changed he is reaping the consequences.

However, his parents may be reaping consequences of not being diligent and intentional in raising him, only now as a man the cost is much higher.

I almost didn’t publish this post because it exposes my children to criticism from mistakes they have made and my wife and I from our own failures in parenting.   As they grow older the opportunities to sin are more frequent and consequences from bad choices are more destructive.

As a caveat, I readily confess that Paula and I have had our challenges in parenting and my children their own challenges.   I do know we were sincere and intentional and hopefully that has helped our kids and limited the potential sorrow of the future for either of us.

But that doesn’t diminish the truth of the post.

The effort in the early years will pay off not only for your children, but also in your marriage when it comes time for them to leave the nest.    God has not only given you truth from the Bible to do the task, but also His mercy and grace – and we need all three.

 

Posted in Children, close family, Empty nest, familiy issues, family, Family Issues, Happiness, Hope, Humility, Legacy, Marriage, Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Special Family Get Togethers

Last night I attended a wedding rehearsal dinner for my nephew and his soon-to-be-wife. I watched my sister, her husband, their twelve children along with dozens of their friends enjoying companionship, celebrating the wedding of a loved one and friend.

I watched my nephews and nieces as they interacted with people and remembered when each of them were born. I thought of times we all shared – vacations, summer camps, and most of all, Christmases.

I watched my sister and brother-in-law as they took in the occasion, lost in their own thoughts.   “How quickly the time has gone by with our son and the rest of our children.  It’s going by too fast”.

I watched the two grandmothers, my mom and my brother-in-law’s mother, as they talked and caught up with their lives.  They had their own memories and thoughts.    Both of them turn 80 years old within a year of each other.   I can’t fathom the depth of their emotions at the time.

When we get home from this trip we will have driven over 2000 miles, but I would do it again. These family times are sacred to me. There may be times when I miss some of them, but I don’t want to.    Several years ago I missed my nephew’s wedding because of pneumonia and I still hurt from not being there.

One of the most important lessons my parents taught me was to be there when friends and family are hurting or celebrating. I saw them faithfully practice it, especially my Mom.    If at all possible she will be at the birthday party, the graduation, the funeral, or the anniversary celebration.

I know my sister, Melanie, and her husband, Bill, were grateful for the gift of a precious spouse for their son. They had prayed for her for a long time – and now it was coming to pass.

I know Bill and Melanie were grateful for the influence of the parents of their soon-to-be daughter in law. As my nephew gets older I know he will appreciate them even more, too.

I got to see all of these and many more very special things that make these occasions incredibly important. I’m just the uncle, but I’m so glad I was able to be here. It was good for my soul.

Christmas time is a huge event in our family. My Mom (Dad passed away in 2008) has twenty-one grandchildren. For many years all of them were able to come for Christmas. Then, one by one they began to get married and have their own children. They have job responsibilities and the families of their spouse to consider on holidays.   Now, it’s unusual to have everyone there at the same time.

A few years ago all of Mom’s grandkids, spouses and great grandchildren were there for Christmas, all piled together in a den. It was loud from spontaneous laughter and excited conversation – and a lot of fun.   It was that way all week.

Mom was sitting by me on the couch, observing and not saying anything. She reached over and took my hand and said softly to me, “Rick, when I’m gone will you promise that you will keep this going with all of the kids?”

I knew I couldn’t fully make that promise as she was the reason most of them came home, to see their Nana. I knew my kids, Melanie’s kids, and Hoss’s kids would soon have their own traditions and I had to respect that.

But I think I saw the gist of her question. She was saying, don’t let this die when I’m gone.   Keep having special times like this.   This brings great joy to my heart.

And from that perspective I assured her that I wouldn’t let family events die.

I’m glad we made the trip.   We’ll do it again if we able.    Even if it’s 2000 miles.

 

Posted in close family, closeness, Family Get Togethers, Family Issues, friendship, Grandparenting, Gratitude, Happy marriage, Joy, Legacy, Marriage, Opportunities, Parenting, perspective, Wedding | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Enjoy Each Era of Your Child’s Life

As I write this it is the last night of our vacation.   In the morning we will get up early and head home.    This will be different though because it will just be my wife and I in the car.

This morning our daughter and her husband and their three children left for home, a thousand miles away.  A few days ago my youngest son flew home to return to work.   Our other five children couldn’t come because of work.   The crowd has diminished from eight to two, now.

Tonight the condominium is quiet.    Soft music is playing while I type and Paula reads beside me.   My heart is full after making some new memories to recall in the coming years.

We will be home late tomorrow night after a long drive.  Two days later my youngest son, 21 years old, will move out of our home to an apartment in town.

Then, it will be Paula, our baby daughter, and myself.   In a little over a year our daughter will be leaving for college.   Finally, we will officially be empty nesters.

It’s not a bad thing, just part of the cycle of life.   For us, it has lasted longer than some as we have seven children.   Most of our friends our age said goodbye to their last child a decade ago.

Paula and I were talking this week about the fact that this has been the longest trip we have taken alone since we had children 33 years ago.    Now it’s time to get acclimated to a new season of life.

In previous posts I’ve written about how to successfully prepare for the transition to an empty nest.

This means recognizing that releasing our children is inevitable.

Also, it involves recognizing God’s ownership of your children.

It requires being intentional about preparing them to leave home. 

This post deals with enjoying each era of life your child experiences; after all, each era is different from a parent’s perspective, also.

Children have the potential to bring us joy.   Regarding children, the Bible states that “Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them…” (Psalm 127:5)

I’ve loved being a father.  I’m not saying there aren’t struggles and hard times in parenting.   It’s the hardest thing you will ever do.   But don’t let the difficulties and challenges rob you of the joy of it all.   Each season has some sweetness in it.  

Once the years with our kids are gone, they cannot be repeated.   We ought to enjoy them while we can.  This means being attentive to the present, weighing and appreciating the mundane activities of life; being grateful for the special moments of joy.   Remembering them helps to balance the frustrating times.

Perhaps this is why grandparents are so patient with their grandchildren.   They have learned what is most important and have learned from their own mistakes in parenting.

Most of us learn to parent effectively after our children are almost grown.   Because of that we make a lot of mistakes.   One of these mistakes is missing the sweetness of the present.   Don’t keep waiting for a better day to appreciate your child.  Today is precious.

I made mistakes in this area.

Last year I took Aubrey, our youngest, to get her driver’s license.   We had carefully researched to make sure we had all the proper documents, but one of them was incorrect.   I was frustrated and after a couple of calls finally got the information.

She passed the test easily.   I had purposefully taken Aubrey to get her license because I knew what a rite of passage it was.  I wanted to share it with her.

Now, because of time pressures from not having the proper documents we hurried home.   I had planned on taking her to a nice lunch, but now I had a pressing appointment.

She was quiet and I apologized to her about not having lunch and told her we were going to have a big celebration that evening.   She said, “Dad, you forgot to take a picture of me right after I got my license.”

Oh, man.   I felt so bad and apologized again for being so insensitive.   (I still feel bad about it).  Even though she told me it was alright, it wasn’t.    I had messed up a special moment for her.   I allowed the pressure of the future to rob her (and me) of a simple, but important memento.    An important milestone was not recorded because of my failure to enjoy the moment. 

The good news is that I had invested in my daughter’s life for almost seventeen years – including lots of laughter, fun, vacations, ball games, catching her tears, and talking about life.    My failure to capture a special moment in her life didn’t derail our relationship because the bulk of our time through the years was so positive.

My baby girl, Aubrey Caroline. The joy of my heart.

The quality of the latter years of your child’s life reflect the quality and quantity of the seed sown in the early years.    If you enjoy and savor each season of your child’s life – you will enjoy the empty nest much more.

The lesson – care for today properly and tomorrow will care for itself.   This includes vacations and getting a drivers’ license.

After all, tomorrow will be here before we know it.

Today my kids are adults; some have their own children.    I’m enjoying this era of life, too.   Being a grandfather.   Watching my children become successful in their work.   Remembering when they were babies as we baby sit their children.   Enjoying helping them with our grandchildren.  Seeing the values that we taught them from God’s Word become realities in their lives as adults.

I have loved being a dad.   And I’ll love the rest of my days still being a dad.   A dad hopefully that is wiser and more joyful than ever.

Posted in Children, close family, Empty nest, familiy issues, Family Issues, Gratitude, Joy, Love, Parenting, Personal Growth, perspective, Time, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment