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.)

vacate and relate

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.

 

For the Father Who Fails

For the Father Who Fails ~www.boydads.com

I am a failure.  Everyone around me knows it, but it’s still a little embarrassing to admit it.  Though none of us should be content at failing, we shouldn’t be condemned by failure either.

For most guys, failure is about as well received as a dentist appointment.  We hate it.  The tendency and temptation when faced with the fear of failure, is to become angry, grow distant, work hard at faking it, or just flat out deny it.  But at some point, we need to let the grace of God free us from trying so hard to be a faultless father.

I sin.
I don’t always do devotions every night.
I am not always kind.
Patience and joy are sometimes elusive at the end of a day.
I don’t always listen intently.
I have to fight to be fully present at times.
I am a failure.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not a deadbeat dad who doesn’t love or lead his family.  I certainly do plenty that’s right – more than my wrong (I think).  But the good news is that we have a Savior who parents with perfection.

He always does what is good, right, and wise.
His character never changes.
He is slow to anger, compassionate, and abounding in love.
He turns His ear to us when we call to Him.
He came to be with us and for us
By grace, and through faith, His record becomes ours.

“It is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.” -Charles Spurgeon

I will never be a perfect father to my sons.  But the good news is that I can point them to a Father who is.  He is a Father who loved me in the middle of my sin by giving me His son (Romans 5:8).  In Christ, I boast about Jesus’ record, not my own.  I boast about a Father who did not withhold His own Son so that I could become one of His very own.

May God’s faithful and faultless love for you lead you to walk more closely, depend more deeply, and trust more completely.  As you remain and rest in His affection for you, may His heart and character become your own.  And may you be a dad who continually leads your sons to the “throne of God’s grace,” so that they too, may find mercy and grace in their time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Blessings,

Pat, The Dig for Kids

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.

5tipsforfosteringadopting

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.