Love in The Mundane

I am not going to write about Valentine’s Day. I have no gift ideas, no perfect words for a sentimental card, no box ‘o chocolates. This has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day.

But it has everything to do with love. Which, I admit, was partially suggested to me by the nature of this week in February. But more so, this is an outgrowth of where my wife, Alle, and I are living right now.

It’s a stage of life where repetition reigns: we get up, go to work, take care of kids, work on client projects, take care of kids, eat, put kids to bed, work, collapse into bed, sleep, repeat. We form habits, fall into roles and patterns, and most often just make it through the day. And I’ve got a suspicion that this sort of rhythm defines most of married life with children. The details and schedules will change, but the patterns, the mundane, will continue in perpetuity. That’s how life is. Cycles, patterns, rhythm.

I’m learning to see the value in the repetitive. It gives structure and stability, moments and tasks to count on, roles and responsibilities to expect. But the mundane can also drive us into habits, into going through the motions, into not paying attention anymore. Let the ebb and flow of life drive our actions, fulfill the responsibilities, and check out. It’s something I fight against on a regular basis: staying engaged and intentional during a season marked especially by days that look the same. And it’s always compounded, because routines go hand in hand with busyness–particularly with kids in the house. Things never stop, they never slow. There’s always a next appointment, a meal to be made, cleaning to do, there’s always something.

Time and money get scarce; the schedule doesn’t let up; the kids get sick. Days that used to be set apart just for us–anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, and so on–get interrupted, or postponed.

Love-in-the-mundane

So I’m learning. I’m learning to celebrate our marriage in the mundane. I’m learning to just lean in, and take it as it comes, and show my wife in the routine that she is still my priority. It’s usually not a big, romantic gesture. It’s the serving. The words. The attitudes toward her and the kids. It’s learning to let the moments, the tasks, the mundane breathe love for her.

I’m finding ways to show that love on a consistent basis. Giving her the afternoon to go out or work; making sure she comes home to a clean house; cooking dinner; bringing home her favorite dessert for no reason. In the routine, it’s building a routine of affection, concern, consideration– merely showing that she’s always on my mind and heart. Small actions accumulated go so much farther to demonstrate love than the occasional all-out gift.

Love is serving. It is laying down my life–setting it aside–for her good. And this happens not on the celebratory days, not the annual remembrances, not the special occasions; it happens every day, in the mundane. In the rhythm of life love grows deep. In the mundane, passion becomes loyalty. In the routine, I learn how to give extraordinary love.

A letter to New Dads, Old Dads, and New Dads That Feel Old

A-letter-to-new-dads(Note: This is really a letter to new fathers, but if you’ve been a dad for awhile, I hope this will have some meaning for you as well.)

Dear New Dad,

I know, I know. The baby is finally quiet and the last thing you want to do is read this letter. You want to sleep. Actually, you might be too tired to sleep, so collapsing on the couch in exhaustion may be more like it. Relax, it could be worse: You could be the new mom!

But, while you have a minute I wanted to write you this note. I remember so well the day my first son was born. I had no idea the impact him coming into the world would have on me. Looking back, I want to give you 4 things to tuck away and remember. Even with 4 boys (ages 10, 8, 6, 4) these are things I still need to hear too. I hope you find them helpful.

1. Pursue God more now than ever – Don’t lose sight of the fact your most important relationship still needs be with God and His son, Jesus. In fact, now that you have a child of your own, I bet John 3:16 (…his only begotten son…) looks a bit more real to you. You understand how much God must love you to put His son on the cross to die for you. Remember, He doesn’t want your money. He doesn’t want you just going to church. He wants a relationship with you. As a new father, you are going to need His strength now more than ever.

2. Love your wife – It’s so easy to get in the habit of raising kids that, if I am not careful, I can begin to interact and treat my wife as a business partner. No doubt sometimes it feels like Kaehr, Inc. instead of The Kaehr Family, but I want to be married to my best friend, not a business partner. Create space for just you and your wife. Create moments where you can be close to her, talk with her, and spend time with just her – remember, loving her means leading her. Now more than ever, she needs you to step up as the Godly leader in the home!

3. Check your blind spots – There are going to be areas of your life that were never an issue before and now that you have kids, those areas may become blind spots (things that are affecting you that you just don’t see). You need to be meeting with other men in discipleship/accountability to keep your life in check. You also need to have a mentor you can lean on for wisdom. If you don’t have these men in your life, now would be the time to get them. You are going to need other men to share with and help you down this path.

4. Enjoy it – Children are gift from the Lord. Enjoy the new blessing in your life. Remember, don’t just enjoy them now (when they are sleeping). Enjoy them in the middle of the night when they are screaming. Enjoy them when they throw up all over you. Enjoy them when they begin to walk or say “da da”. Enjoy them when they poop out of their diaper all over your jeans at the restaurant. Don’t ever stop looking at them like the miracle you keep saying they are right now. Believe me, that is SO much easier to write than say, but it’s true!

I could probably go on and on, but I won’t. Enjoy the quiet. Give your wife a back rub. Rest. You are going to need it.

But, let me tell you: If you will be an engaging husband and father, if you will pursue God, love your wife, share the experience with others, and enjoy the moments…there is no greater job or reward this side of Heaven. Absolutely nothing!

To quote a PBS legend, “Red Green”…Remember, I’m pulling for ya’. We’re all in this together.

Congratulations!
Dustin

Through the Smudges and Cracks

Through-the-Cracks-and-Smudges

There is no greater and more difficult task than being a parent. The fact that our boys learn more by what they see than what they hear is a challenge. Simply put, it is our calling as dads to reflect the love of Christ to our kids. If you are like me, you know right off the bat that your mirror has a number of smudges and cracks in it. That is not reason to lose hope, though. We often get bogged down in our sin and we forget that we are redeemed people meant to live redemptively in the world.

So how do we do that? What does it look like for a dad to live redemptively and reflect Christ to his children? We don’t have to go far for an answer.

The principle of reflecting our experience of God’s redeeming grace in how we live, and especially in our treatment of others, is found throughout the New Testament. A few examples make the point clear:

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6: 36).

Love each other as I have loved you (John 15: 12).

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Eph. 4: 32).

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you (Rom. 15: 7).

See that you also excel in this grace of giving… For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8: 7 – 9).

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another. If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you? (1 John 3: 16 – 17).

Scripture paints a pretty clear picture of how we are to image Christ in our homes. But don’t get discouraged. Know that you cannot do this in your own strength. Be comforted in the fact that God has given us the power of the Holy Spirit to move and work in us, so that through our cracks and smudges, we can still reflect his image to our children. Go and reflect Him today in your homes, your places of work, and your communities.

One Of The Greatest Gifts To Our Sons

On April 22 my wife and I celebrated our 18th Anniversary. It’s natural to reflect on the many adventures we’ve shared during those years. As with all marriages, we’ve had our share of challenges. We’ve fought through financial setbacks, weathered thirteen moves, and experienced three different career paths. But the most rewarding aspect of these 18 years has been our three boys. For most of those years, fifteen to be exact, a son has been listening to and observing us together. You could say they have been the source of much of our happiness and delight. They’ve been the source of some of those challenges as well. Nevertheless, they bring an added sense of purpose and meaning to our family. And for that reason I am thankful for the woman that God has given me as a wife and mother.

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When I consider the purpose and responsibility of a family, it’s imperative that I acknowledge how my sons observe the way my wife and I treat each other. How we speak to one another, support one another, and handle conflict are all paramount in raising our boys. Obviously, we aren’t perfect. We have made countless mistakes. Many times our boys have observed our messiness. Unfortunately, they’ve expressed those mistakes and failures in their own life at times.

Therefore, I want to share with you one of the greatest gifts you can give your son(s). For some of you this may seem obvious. To others, it might be unassuming. Either way, do not take for granted how important this is in raising your boys.

Gifts To Our Sons
One of the greatest gifts you can give your boys is the example of loving, honoring, and esteeming your wife. I understand there is more to unpack here than I have time for in a blog post. But here are some questions (and some added comments) that might open the way for reflection. I find myself pondering these often. Ask God to help you be real, honest and humble. By the way, it’s not easy to be real, but the reward is always underestimated.

How does your son feel about girls/women in general? Does he view them as inferior or second-class?

(Your son is learning, whether or not you’re aware, so you be the one to teach him. Is he being taught a clear understanding of how God intends for men and women to relate to each other: work related, friendship, dating, marriage, etc?)

How does he hear you talk about your wife when she is not around?

(This tends to be most telling when you and your wife are experiencing conflict. What does he learn about humility, honor, esteeming another person, responsibility, blaming, courage, and selflessness?)

Is the physical more important than the other aspects of her being?

(Women love to hear that they’re beautiful, but include the inside as well as the outside. Boys need to see the beauty of Christ is multi-faceted as it’s expressed in all of us. This includes a woman’s intellect, emotions, creativity, gifts, talents, and aspirations)

Do you find ways to serve her in front of your son?

(I say in front of your son not to show off or to be a fake, but genuinely offering yourself in a way that honors and esteems her as a woman of God. The small things go a long way. If you don’t know how or what that is, then ask her. This is the beginning step to teaching your son about having a servant’s heart)

Do you participate in discussions, often with other guys, where it casts women in a demeaning or slanderous light?

(Our boys are growing up in a generation where TV, media, and entertainment cast women as objects and men as bozos. Teaching them to treat girls with respect, tenderness, and selflessness begins with being a leader in the marriage)

Do you ask for her opinion or insight when making decisions? Does she feel she is in partnership with you or just a bystander reaping the consequences of what you decide?

(Are you always right? Is it your way or the highway? Teaching our sons to be inclusive to others in problem solving is not only honoring to them, but also helps teach selflessness and tolerance)

Do you compliment and praise her? Her looks, her accomplishments, her attention to the home, the kids, the meals, YOU!

(The best way to ensure your son learns gratitude is to express your gratefulness to your wife. Show it, say it, and share it…make it a habit)

How does she know you are leading her? What are the ways she would say you are leading in the home?

(This takes humility, so be prepared for her honesty. Having a date night speaks volumes about relationship to your son. He will notice much of what has been discussed above: esteeming her, showing her value, being selfless, and making the people we love a priority)

By no means are these questions meant to be exhaustive, or to “guilt” you into a performance-based way of relationships. Rather, I hope they spark some self-evaluation as you consider the messages your son might be getting as he observes you and your wife together. What a responsibility AND opportunity we have as fathers. We have a direct influence on the next generation of leaders…our sons. We also have an empowering influence on the next generation of husbands and fathers. I would argue there is nothing more important to a man’s success in life.

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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.

Not Just a 90′s Thing

Todd and DebbieHey Dad,

Let me just say up front that when I think about the topic, “the Beauty of Christ”, the thought “girly-man topic” crept into my mind. It’s not that I think the beauty of Christ is a girly topic. It’s just that it seems like a touchy-feely, womanish thought, kind of like the idea that my mom used to think her sons hated each other just because we pounded each other–when, in fact, that’s HOW we showed our love.

But being a 90’s kind of guy, I knew I could get in touch with my ‘softer’ side. So I started chewing on the topic and then…it came. The truth is we demonstrate the beauty of Christ when we love our wives OR we fail to demonstrate it when we don’t.

The real beauty of Christ is in the way he sacrificed Himself for his BRIDE even when she (we) did not love Him. Wow. I love that picture, except when I hate it!!! That means that the way I treat and love my wife is way bigger than me and her.

When I love my wife selflessly even when she is crabby and bent out of shape (sometimes it happens), I demonstrate the beauty of Christ to my children. That kind of love gives without expecting. It is patient, long suffering, kind, gentle, and never-ending.

We call it unconditional love and it means…no matter what. Even as I write this, I know I have failed at this lately. I’ve been loving conditionally…in hopes of smiles and warmth in return. That doesn’t show the beauty of Christ, just the selfishness of…ME.

My boys need me to show that kind of love…because one day they’ll need to show that kind of love to their bride. One day their wives will be crabby and bent out of shape and they’ll need husbands who show them the kind of love that Christ demonstrated towards us.

That’s a pretty weighty responsibility…but I’m glad that it has been entrusted to me…and to you, Dad.

Man, I feel like I need to go out and pick flowers or crochet!!!

You ‘da dad,

Todd

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