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

Finding The Truth: A Lesson for My Son

Finding-the-truth

If you have little ones, or remember the days when you had little ones, you may be able to relate to the following scenario…

My youngest son, whom I affectionately refer to as a “tornado in tennis shoes,” is regularly getting himself into mischief. Yesterday, I walked into a room where he was holding a desk lamp, and shining it at his sisters.

“Why are you playing with my lamp?” I asked.

“I’m not,” he responded, still holding the lamp in his hand. Even caught red-handed, a lie is the first thing that comes out. He says it because he hopes he can avoid any discomfort. He is trying to take the easy way out.

I repeat words that sound too familiar. I give him consequences for his sin and tell him how lies hurt our relationship.

“We should always tell the truth,” I say, “even when it may mean trouble for us.”

Since he is (almost) 3 years old, I have no doubt this scenario will be repeated often for quite a while. Soon, it will start to sink in, and hopefully as he grows he’ll learn to value truth. But this starts by me modeling truth to him. He is counting on my integrity–the truth that I am committed to him. He’ll learn the truth that I will provide for him and care for him, and that I will follow through on promised blessings. Deep down, today my son knows he can count on me for all those things … he just doesn’t have the word for it yet: truth.

I am reminded that this scenario was first encountered in the Garden of Eden, clear back in Genesis. Adam does not take responsibility for his actions, but blames Eve, who blames the serpent. We are so easily swayed to redirect blame for our sin elsewhere. They were both trying to take the easy way out. God saw through this. He saw their hearts, their motives, and brought consequences to them as well.

I take comfort in realizing that using lies to take the ‘easy way out’ of his problems is not unique to my son, but I am also very sober in my thinking: this is the very heart of the sin he was born into. My mission in his life is to bring him on a journey of understanding his own sinful state, and seeking the redemption and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6 (NIV).

There are so many that seek God through paths other than Jesus, but He alone is the very definition of truth. Jesus never said that following His truth would be easy. In fact, he said it would be, and should be, the hard path to take.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (NIV)

Taking up a cross daily is not taking the easy way out!

So, I am also challenged by the truth of Jesus Christ. It is so easy for me to drift into a life of compromise, thinking that I am not too bad, at least not as bad as the person I am comparing myself to. Do you hear Adam’s thoughts in that statement, as he blamed Eve?

It is only when I compare my heart, my actions, and my motives to those of Jesus Christ that I see my own life in the truth that it needs to be seen in. I so often find myself coming short of God’s best for me, and I need to re-align with the truth of God.

I need to continually embrace the truth of Jesus Christ, so that I may share that with my son. My son needs to ultimately embrace the truth of Jesus Christ, as he understands the deceit in his heart. And when he truly embraces the truth of Jesus Christ, I’ll get to see my son shine the best kind of light–the light of truth–on those around him.

And that is hope worth patiently and lovingly fighting for. Raising my son to be a man of truth is not the taking easy way out.

Enjoy Your Son

Enjoy-your-son-1

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!

 

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.

Does Your Son Know You’re Proud of Him?

Excitement was permeating through the truck cab. With a brand new fishing rod in the bed, my son keeps asking, “Where are we going fishing?!” He keeps asking how long till we arrive.

Moments later we arrive, fishing pole and worms in hand. He’s rushing me to bait the hook as he sees fish swimming near the surface.

He casts, the worm still wiggling at the end; and then a subtle splash.

Delight covers his face and is replicated in the ripples across the water.

Ripples turn into convulsive splashing as a fish struggles to free itself from the betraying meal.

As my son reals in the fish you would have thought he had struck gold.

As the fish makes landfall my son, in all the excitement he can muster, yells,

“Daddy, you’re so proud of me, you’re so proud of me, daddy, you’re going to be so proud of me!”

He then turns to me with fish in hand looking for any sign of confirmation.

He asks, “Daddy, you’re proud of me right?!”

And there’s a pause.

An anticipatory pause.

In that brief, tiny moment, he needed to be affirmed. He needed to know that I was proud of him, before he could go on celebrating his catch.

To know that I was proud of him in the moment was just as important as the event taking place. In my mind I was thinking, “Of course I’m proud of him, why wouldn’t I be?” But he wanted and needed those words verbalized.

“I’m proud of you, son!”

Just as quickly as I gave him those words, he returned to celebrating his catch.

That need to be affirmed. To know that your father is proud of you, never goes away. Some men live their lives seeking it. Some never get it.

I still need it.

I remember, distinctly, moments when my dad has said he’s proud of me. That sense and feeling of knowing your dad is proud of you is a unique feeling. That wanting and need to hear the words I still seek. In times when I feel like fatherhood is hard and I don’t know if I’m doing it right or well, I need to hear those words.

Just as I need to hear those words, so does my son.

He needs to know that I’m proud of him even when he’s not being “good”; I’m still proud to call him my son.

The importance of telling our sons we are proud of them is found when the Father said to His Son He was proud of Him:

“And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Mathew 3:17 (NIV)

Have you told your son lately that you are proud of him?

CaedCatchingFish

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You can find Jesse writing about his attempts (failures) at being a good father, husband and follower of Jesus. The good news is, Jesus is the redeemer.  And that is what he clings to.  There is no amount of failing or screwing up that He can’t redeem.  He writes on his own blog here.

Twitter: @jessemhoover

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessehooverwrites

About

Replacing Fear with Love

replacing fear with love

The day will come when you simply cannot impose your will on your son.  It may be when he reaches his middle teen years, or when he towers over you in height.  It could be because of your age.  Whatever the case, when that day arrives, what will you do then?

For years, we father our children based on our physical size or the volume of our voice.  I can remember getting my children’s attention simply by using a deeper or sterner voice.  I’m not really talking about raising my voice or yelling, but rather just changing the tenor.  They knew what I was saying was important for them to hear.

Or it can be a look that catches their attention.  Sitting across the table when they are goofing off or being impolite, “the look” can bring things back to order.  Perhaps you’ve seen their reaction.  They straighten up, lower their voice, lower their eyes and continue their meal; task accomplished, order restored, and another peaceful meal in the books.

It can seem as if much of our time centers on getting our children to do what we instruct them or desire them to do.  We love them.  We want what is best for them.  We want to protect them from danger.  So our motivation is generally good.  But as they grow and begin to develop their own personalities (and will), our motivations can change.  There are times when we are more concerned about our own reputations or whether they are an embarrassment to us.  Those can be times that really test us.  Imposing our will on our sons in those situations can cause a lot of stress and conflict in our relationship.

Think about what I have briefly described.  What is the tool we are using to get our sons to behave or submit or obey?

It’s fear, isn’t it?

After all, a small dose of fear can go a long way toward getting the behavior that we expect, right?

Scripture even tells us that, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

…but it’s only the beginning place.  Scripture also tells us that “perfect love casts out all fear.”  Even the fear that was at the beginning of our relationship with our Father is cast out by His perfect love.  Once we are a son of God, He never uses fear to get us to behave or submit or obey.  His love has cast the fear away and only love motivates His actions toward us.

Could it be the reason our Father doesn’t impose his will on us is because he wants us to know how much he loves us, so that we desire his will instead?

When the day comes that you can no longer impose your will on your son, wouldn’t it be great if he desired your will because he knew how much you loved him?

This may be a totally new concept for you.  If so, please give it some time for prayer and thought.  Maybe you have been wrestling with this concept for some time now.  Let me know if I can help you as you walk through recognizing just how much your Father really loves you.

 

Photo Credit

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.

 

I’ve Dropped the Moon He Thinks I Hold

 Boydadsmoon

 

Photo Credit: jessehoover.com

I step through my front door. Another work day has concluded and the first thing I think about is sitting down, soon followed by how many hours till I get me time. Meaning, how many hours ‘till the kids are in bed, until I get to have an hour and half to myself before I set the alarm for another grinding day at work.

Guilt ensues after I look at this thing called fatherhood as just an hour glass waiting to be turned. 

My son approaches and greets me at the door and says, “Hey daddy, did you have a good day? I hope you had a good day.” I betray him with a smile to hide my discontentment at the day. I’m invariably hoping he doesn’t ask me to play with him in that instant.

More guilt consumes me.

My guilt reveals my true colors of selfishness.

It’s funny how parenting does that to us, shows us what we are made of.

It has showed me how I can be a selfish jerk.

I battle constantly inside with my selfishness. I hate that somedays I look at my son and can’t wait for him to be more independent so he doesn’t need me as much. 

It’s painful even writing those words.

I feel like I’m racing to the finish line, and not the finish line Paul was talking about.

This finish line of comfort wrapped up in selfish vain conceit.

To my son, I hold the moon.

I wonder how long it will be till the moon dissolves through my fingers and I’m left empty handed?

I want to be the moon holder.

I want to be all that is grand in his eyes– the way he sees me.

God, help me look at my son as an opportunity to raise a godly warrior for You. Change my selfishness. 

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”  Mathew 18:10 

Son, I want to be your moon holder. I want to live up to all that you see me as. Let me guide you by the hand and joyfully walk with you as you become the man God already sees you as. You are filled with a vibrant passion that is contagious. I pray that my selfishness will not forbid me from actively and purposefully pursuing your heart to see the man you will one day become.

Don’t ever give up searching for the moon in me, nor will I ever give up on holding it.

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You can find Jesse writing about his attempts (and failures) at being a good father, husband and follower of Jesus. The good news is, Jesus is the redeemer.  And that is what he clings to.  There is no amount of failing or screwing up that He can’t redeem.  He writes on his own blog here.

Twitter: @jessemhoover

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessehooverwrites

About

Navigating the Transition from Father to Friend

Navigating the Transition from Father to Friend

We had an adventurous young couple over for dinner recently. I say adventurous because they joined my wife, me, and six of our seven children. With that many around one table, you never quite know what to expect. The couple handled the meal well, as the youngest indicated he was finished by dumping his plate on the floor for the dog to clean up, and the two-year-old touched every roll before selecting the perfect one. Thankfully, our 19-year-old son happened to be home from college to provide much-needed backup.

We made it through the meal and to dessert when the subject of children and child rearing came up. We were discussing various parental philosophies and challenges when the question of ‘Can fathers be friends to their children?’ arose. We discussed how some fathers are so concerned about being friends with their sons that they fail to discipline them. I was quick to point out that I never had that problem. I have always been a disciplinarian, and trusted that once my boys graduated high school we would move more toward friendship. I then turned to my 19-year-old and said facetiously, “And now we are best friends, aren’t we?” To which he replied, “Dad, to be honest, I’m still a little afraid of you.” I hadn’t expected him to say ‘Yes,’ but I wasn’t prepared for him to say that he was ‘afraid’ of me, either.

I’ve pondered his response quite a bit over the past weeks. There is a part of me that is pleased that my 6’3” son still has a healthy fear of his father. But there is another part of me that longs for a deeper friendship with him. One where he is quick to share his heart, his struggles, and his joys. I’ve realized that developing a friendship with my son will take time and effort on my part. That it is not something that automatically happens at high school graduation; it must be cultivated, nurtured, and transitioned into. Perhaps I should have realized this sooner, when he and his older brother were still at home. I don’t know. But I’m excited for the future as I dream what my relationship with my five sons and two daughters will be like.

This is one area where I seem to have more questions than answers regarding the steps to take in the transition process, and so I welcome your thoughts and comments. What has worked well for you? What specific talks were had or actions taken by you or your parents to move from Father or Mother to Friend?

Peace,
Scott