Enjoy Your Son

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I was given the unique gift of three weeks at the beach with my family this summer. We all love the beach, but it holds a very special place in my heart. I marvel at the awesomeness of the ocean, the power of the tides, and how the beach changes in form every day. I love sitting quietly and taking it all in. I love reading a book, then leaning back in my chair, closing my eyes, and nodding off as the sounds of crashing waves wash over me. I love walks down the beach, gazing at the extravagant houses and the unique people.

I love all of this and more; but that was not what I experienced. You see, we recently adopted three boys ages 4, 3, and 2, and times of peace and quiet seem to be a thing of the past, at least for now. Time for ‘self’ just seems ever elusive.

And so, week one began with great expectations of sleeping in, having some personal quiet time on the deck of the beach house, reading a good book, and all the other personal experiences I already mentioned.

But then reality set in.

At 6:00 a.m. the boys begin to wake, the two-year-old calls for Daddy: precious, yet untimely. We subdue the restless with Mickey’s Playhouse, Doc McStuffins, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and Cheerios until they’ve had their fill. Next we begin beach preparation. We spray them down with sunscreen (thank God for spray cans), put on swimmie diapers just in time for one of the boys to have a less than solid poop )which, by the way, swimmies are not well designed for).  We outfit them with their color-coordinated swim suits and shirts, strap on their flip flops, fill the cooler with drinks, the stroller and wagon with snacks, toys, towels, life jackets, chairs and a tent, and off we head for a ‘restful’ time on the beach.

After carting everything and everyone to the beach and laying claim to our territory, I am ready to sit and rest; but NO! The four-year-old wants to go in the water. I try to convince him through my refined power of persuasion that now is not the time, but his insistence and persistence win out. So up I rise, and hand-in-hand we make our way to the cold water. I like to gradually get used to the water, but the four-year-old pulls me in faster than I am comfortable with. How is it that the strength of a 35-lb. preschooler is greater than that of a 220-lb. man?

Bested, I finally immerse myself and take him in my arms. He loves it! He is courageous! We make our way beyond the breakers and begin to rise and fall with the waves. He wants me to let go so he can swim about freely in his life jacket. I concede. After many minutes have gone by, I am ready to return to the comfort of my beach chair. I suggest we go in, but once again I am met with opposition. My young warrior has yet to grow weary; he wants to stay and continue to battle the waves.

It was then that I clearly heard my spirit complaining. This was supposed to be a time for me to relax, for me to get away from the demands of work, for me to spend time with God.

And then I felt like I heard the voice of God saying, “Just enjoy your son as I enjoy my Son.”

Conviction flooded over me. I had become so focused on SELF that I failed to enjoy my son, not to mention the Son. I was seeking a fleeting joy over an eternal joy. At that moment, I stopped and just set my eyes upon the smiling face of my water warrior as he propelled himself over the waves. This was a precious and memorable moment that I almost missed because my focus was misplaced.

It’s hard being a parent of young, energetic boys, but I was reminded this summer at the beach that engaging with them is so much more fun and productive than trying to corral them and make them conform to a lifestyle that is peaceful and comfortable for me. These days will pass quickly, and before we know it, our boys will choose sleeping in or playing video games over time on the beach with us. This is a special phase of life where things are new and adventures abound for boys; we just need to enjoy our sons as the Father enjoys His Son!

 

Vacate and Relate

This month, we took our first vacation with our newly adopted children. To be honest, I was not looking forward to it. First of all, it involved a 34-hour (one-way) road trip with three children under 6 years old, followed by helping our oldest son move out of his second-story apartment. I am more of an “amusement park or ocean cruise” kind of vacation guy, so this particular vacation was definitely not on my bucket list. (I will save my thoughts on bucket lists for another day.)

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After an all day, all night, and half of the next day of driving, we arrived at our little vacation cottage in northwest Montana. From my estimates, the cottage was older than all of our ages combined. That was okay, though. It had internet. (Who needs a microwave with a popcorn button while on vacation anyhow?) We were tired and ready for baths and showers. The cottage had a bath and beds, so we were set.

Most days, we would visit friends and family, but we also made sure that we were at the cottage by 7:00 pm, so we could get the kids in bed by their bedtime. To me it felt like so much time lost preparing the kids for bed, and just hanging out as a family, when there were so many family members and friends that we had to catch up with. I had people I wanted to see and things I wanted to do.

Then something happened. My youngest son and I started having fun together! In the six months that we’ve had together, my almost-three-year-old and I have not had too much time alone. With all the busyness of adding two new children into our home, my individual quality time with this little guy was pretty sparse. Now we had an entire week of being together, and what a difference it has made for both of us. There wasn’t one specific moment that stood out, but just the daily routine of hanging out together that bonded us.

Now my son actually misses me when I am gone or at work, and to be honest, I miss him too. God used this vacation to bond our family in very dramatic ways. It reminds me of my need for quality time with my Heavenly Father. He is there and waiting to visit with me. I just need to be more intentional about acknowledging His presence in my days, and inviting Him into my world. In an ironic twist, the more time I spend with my son, the more I desire to. The same with God.

When things get busy, and I think I don’t have time to spend time with God, I am reminded of Matthew 6:33. The last section of Matthew 6 talks about our vain attempts to “worry our way” into getting what we need.

Jesus said “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NASB).

God is telling us here to focus on our relationship with Him, and He will provide the rest. Relationship should trump all, as it is the most important. Our relationship with our God first, and then our families.

Do I want my children to value a relationship with their Heavenly Father? It starts with me valuing a relationship with them, and leading them towards a relationship with God. The great part about it is, I am loving this new-found relationship.

Disclaimer: While I cannot stress enough the need for focused quality time with our children, I am not condoning three days quarantined in a car with steady stream of fast food and gas station snacks to meet the goal.

 

The Power of a Blessing

We haven’t been the greatest parents spiritually. I hear parents talk of how they have family devotions every evening and I just think, “We suck!” We have never done a family devotion, unless the reading of Luke 2 on Christmas morning counts. We don’t send our children to Christian School like other good Christians do. But the one thing we do is pray a blessing over our children when we drop them off at school. We’ve been doing this for 16 years but never seen the impact like we have this year with our adoptive boys.

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My wife Carolyn was running late to drop off our almost 4-year-old and almost 3-year-old at preschool, which, by the way, is at a Baptist Church in case you were judging us harshly. Her habit is to pray a blessing over each of them in the parking lot prior to heading to their classrooms, nothing long and pharisaical mind you, but brief and to the point. Well, on this particular day she was in such a hurry that she forgot to pray for the boys. As she dropped off Sam (our almost 3-year-old) and began walking down the hall, relieved that the morning ordeal was over and the boys had been delivered safely to their respective classes, Sam came running out of his classroom, tears in his eyes and teacher in tow. He cried out, “You forgot to pray, Mommy.” Immediately Carolyn turned on her heels, ran to our little boy, took him in her arms and prayed a blessing over him. The teary-eyed teacher watched, moved by the tenderness of a young boy longing for the prayer and blessing of his parent.

Sam has only been a part of our family for 11 months. He came to us from an environment where prayer was foreign, blessings were few, and safety and security were not a certainty. Yet in his brief time with us he has come to know the power of prayer and a blessing. He knows the comfort of a loving hand on his head and the peace of God which transcends all understanding that results from prayer.  He has come to know the love of an earthly father and mother and is learning the love of his heavenly Father.

So, for those of you who feel you don’t measure up to other Christian parents, why not try praying a simple blessing over your children each day as they head off to school or day care. It won’t take a minute, but it will affect your child immediately and change him or her for a lifetime!

Lights – Camera – Romance??

So here we are in February. And what is February famous for (other than being really cold)? Valentine’s Day, of course. (Okay dads, if you missed this one, this blog is probably too late to save you from spending a night or two in the doghouse.)

All the marketing around romance really strikes a chord with many women. You know … candy, flowers, a babysitter and dinner out, diamonds, cards, sonnets–and the list goes on and on–but let’s talk about how guys see romance for a minute.

I do not speak for all of us guys, but thinking about the action movies I have seen–yep, there have been many–they have a couple of things in common: lots of action, a noble cause, and the damsel in distress. Without the damsel to rescue, it all seems sort of pointless, doesn’t it?

 

RescueThis makes me think of the Bible. To summarize the Bible, I will borrow from a friend who says the Bible is the “ultimate romance novel.” You have the damsel locked in the tower and oppressed by the dragon. The prince, and son of the king, is challenged with a mighty quest to slay the dragon, rescue the princess, and take her back to his kingdom where there is a mighty feast and wedding, followed by happily ever after. This makes sense. This is an action movie at its finest. And it just oozes romance.

Who is Jesus Christ to me? Who do I tell my sons that He is? He is our knight in shining armor; He is our rescuer. He overcame the dragon for us, and He is worthy of loyalty and service. We are the damsel, and Christ rescued us.

Within the last month, my wife and I brought two more children into our home. They have been in the foster care program in our state for a couple of years and desperately wanted a forever family. We felt the call on our lives to expand our family and love some additional children into our family.

In a divine encounter that only God knew was coming, our lives and the lives of these two children changed forever. A sacrificial love that we learned from the greatest lover of all. A love that says, “get out of your comfort zone and try a little romance.” Not Hollywood romance. Not Harlequin romance. The romance that says, “I chose you. I promise to love you forever.”

Without the rescue, the rest is pointless.

Disclaimer: While I did serve in the Marine Corp and trained in demolitions, true romance does not require anything to be blown up. Despite the popularity of explosions in many of my favorite action movies.

John Goyer is a husband, dad, grandfather and computer geek with a passion for families and marriage. He is the father of 6 children (ages 23 to 2), 2 of which he adopted and 2 which will soon be adopted. By day he serves at FamilyLife (www.familylife.com) and by night he chases, tosses, tickles, bathes, loves and leads his children towards a faith in Jesus Christ.

Five Nuggets From a Dad of Seven

Carolyn and I have been married for 23 years. We have four biological children and are fostering to adopt three more. God has been very gracious to us over the years, and we are so thankful for the men and women that our biological children are becoming. Each of them has a relationship with Jesus Christ, and all four have been great students and citizens. We probably would have been smart to quit while we were ahead, but we have always felt a desire to adopt.

We explored foreign adoption, but found it cost prohibitive, and the agency we were working with didn’t like my answer to, “Why do you want to adopt?” I thought I had a good response: “Because we feel we can provide a good home for a child in need.” WRONG! Evidently, I was supposed to say, “Because we want more children.” Honestly, we already had four young children, and my heart was more “willing” than “desiring.” We also fostered three children 11 years ago until we found them a permanent home. In the process, we learned some valuable lessons that have prepared us for the foster and adoption process we’re in today.

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Here are five nuggets that I’ve discovered:

Avoid “Alpha Dog Syndrome

Whether fostering or adopting, I have found that it is wise for the children to be younger than your biological children to avoid the “Alpha Dog Syndrome.” When you have a pack of children, much like when you have a pack of dogs, there will be a fight for supremacy. If the children you are fostering or adopting are the same age as or older than your biological children, there will be ongoing and unexpected challenges to establish control of the pack. These challenges disrupt the overall family dynamics and can contribute to an unhealthy living environment.

They all come with baggage

Even young children, like the boys we are fostering, come with baggage. They have experienced abuse and abandonment like most of us have never known, and it has affected them. They are incredibly sweet and loving one moment, and the next are on a destructive tear—ripping up books, writing on carpet, squirting diaper rash cream everywhere, even stabbing their siblings with pencils. Don’t be fooled by their sweet little faces. Evil is real, and its effects are insidious.

They may be small, but they are determined

Even if you outweigh them by 200 pounds, their will can be stronger than yours. This isn’t limited to foster or adoptive children, but I have been reminded of this lately with our 3½-year-old. For some reason, he doesn’t like to go to sleep at night. We rock him, read to him, rub his back, pray over him, and lay with him until he appears to be asleep, but the moment we get up to leave the room, his eyelids spring open, his vocal cords engage, and his body goes in motion. Before you know it, he is out of bed, exploring new ways to defy you and disrupting the sleeping patterns of his siblings and, of course, his parents. At times like these, you regret ever praying for patience, because God has just enlisted you in the patience boot camp.

Bribery works

While we would never tolerate bribery in business and government, we succumb to it when it comes to influencing the behavior of our children. We may refer to it as an “incentive” rather than bribery, but the bottom line is that a Skittle or M&M is more appealing to a child at times than pleasing his parent. We must walk a fine line here, but, in the end, giving a child a piece of candy to behave in the car or go poo-poo on the potty is a price I’m willing to pay.

Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8)

We all fall short as parents, but telling your children you love them and demonstrating your love to them daily will compensate for those momentary failures. Children need to know they are loved, not because of what they do, but simply because of who they are and whose they are. Creating a loving environment for your children will help produce the godly attributes you desire in the end.

Raising children, especially foster or adoptive children, can be like mining for gold. It involves long, tiresome days, understanding the lay of the land, and digging deep to uncover some small, glimmering nugget, but the reward of one redeemed child is priceless.