Dear Ones –
Sometimes I think everyone should have a child just so they can grow as a person. I know that mine teach me so much. Each one has their own unique personality. Each ones looks at life a little differently. They challenge me to see through their eyes. And in doing so, I become more than I ever was before.
Yummy teaches me moment by moment to ask the why questions in life. He is teaching me to never take a simple “no” when persistence can pay off into a yes. He is also teaching me when to stand firm on the hard “no’s” in life and that sometimes it’s okay to just say “yes” right away. Squeaky is enjoying teaching me how important the yes’es are in life too. I often think that for him the word “no” means “yes”…(except when you ask him if he needs some sort of punishment for his behavior -then “no” definitely means “no”).
In the midst of teaching me all about the yes there is another lesson that they’ve been teaching me that coincides with it and that is – run into life with arms wide open. My kids live on an excitement high of what’s coming next. They can’t wait to see what’s around the corner. They will jump off high heights, arms flung wide waiting for Mommy or Daddy to catch them. They will run to the door to see who might be coming to see them or where they can head off to next.
In 2000 Scott Staph put out a song called “With Arms Wide Open”. I know a lot of people have a lot of opinions about Creed, but no matter what you have to admit that the words to this song are beautiful. He talks about the wonder of finding out that he was going to be a dad and how he was going to welcome his child with arms wide open. He also said he hoped that his child would welcome all of life that same way. That idea has stuck with me and I have often longed to welcome life that way. I must admit it’s a very hard thing for a realist to do.
As I’ve started thinking about this lesson my new teachers are teaching me I went to the Word to see what my Ultimate Teacher wanted me to see…
Psalm 5:11 (But You’ll welcome us with open arms when we run for cover to you. Let the party last all night! Stand guard over our celebration. You are famous, God, for welcoming God-seekers, for decking us out in delight.)
1 Corinthians 16:23 (Our Master Jesus has His arms wide open for you.)
WOW…could there be a better example? The way He welcomes us. God’s arms are wide open for me. God’s arms are wide open for you! We are not only invited into His arms, but He eagerly desires that we come into them.
And then Jude reminds us how we freely we can live. Jude 1:20 (But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!)
It does seem like this is easier for kids. They haven’t been battered about by the circumstances of life. They haven’t been knocked around by other people. They have yet to experience a life tragedy. And yet, seeing them jump into our arms having no fear that we might miss catching them…there is something I long for in that. I long to be so free that fear doesn’t hold me back…that disappointment in myself and others doesn’t hold me back.
I am so glad I am starting to see through my children the joy that can be had through living a life with arms wide open. To be able to laugh and giggle without motive. To be able to express love without restraint and with no need for reciprocation, but just to show love. To welcome all that comes my way regardless of the possible outcomes. To know that my Father has the very best for me and that in times of trouble I can always run into His arms.
I wish with all my heart that you might find this secret too. I wish that you might find a way to welcome life with your arms wide open. I wish that you find the freedom to run into the wide open arms of your Father that wait just for you…ALWAYS.
Dear Dad –
This year for Father’s Day you asked us to write down for you something that you taught us. Sitting around the table we made a joke of it. Most things at our family table become a joke…and usually it’s you or me who seems to be the butt of it. Good thing I inherited the ability to laugh at myself from you. Not that we haven’t dug our own holes…
You must have known, of course, that I would use my blog to write what you asked. Sadly, I must remind you that I don’t have a good set of memories from childhood (due to that rollerblading accident). Fortunately, this brain of mine has not given up completely on my memories. I still remember all those mornings when you and I would go to the first church service together and sing along the way. Because you not only tolerated, but encouraged me to sing with you I learned to make a joyful noise to the Lord and find joy in it.
Although I do have a somewhat foggy memory of you teaching me to ride a bike, it is pretty hard to see. I do, however, remember clearly the moment of seeing that fantastic orange banana seat bike you gave me. What a great bike. If only you had kept me from wearing those glasses when I rode it.
My love of reading comes from both you and mom, but one of my most favorite memories is when we read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe together as a family. You made that book come alive to me. It will always be one of my favorites. I look forward to my kids being old enough for me to read it to them.
Recently, I was watching Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz preach a message and she said “It’s no secret, but my dad was not a good dad.” She spoke of how he never tucked her in at night, read her stories, hung out and talked with her or did any normal dad things. I believe that this is true of a lot of pastor’s kids. It’s not my story though. You definitely made time for us. You included us in everything you could. You taught us about a relationship with God being inclusive instead of exclusive. Church life was really family life. I am so happy to be able to say that my dad was a good dad who taught me what a good dad God is.
It’s a good thing you like mnemonics and catch phrases so much since you did have the problem so many preachers have with bad jokes. Here are a few of my favorites…
You feel what you feel because of what you think about
You feel what you feel because of how you think about what you think about
Emotions follow thought
MAAAH – Mistakes Are Absolutely Allowed Here
EHAH – Everything Has A Home (This is one I wish I had really learned to put into practice as a child…because I am still working on it. Maybe I needed an additional one > TMSEABM (Too Much Stuff Equals A Big Mess). Good thing there is still time for me to work on this one with my kids.)
In many ways, you mirrored God the Father to me. You loved me unconditionally and made time for me. You sang me songs and hugged me tight. Just like many do with God we’ve had our share of battles. Certainly, not every moment was a great one. But with love and understanding we found a way to draw close and a common peace to rest in.
Dad, you taught me that every moment of life can be an adventure. And that actually getting out and making your own adventures is a valuable tool in life. One adventure I happily recall was traveling to Europe with you. I definitely got pushed out of my comfort zone on that one. And that trip has memories no head injury can ever take away from me.
There really are so many things you’ve taught me over my life, but one of the most important things is something that will be a daily part of the rest of my life. You taught me what I should expect from a man as a husband and father. You taught me not to settle for someone who wouldn’t treat me right. You taught me that there can be real love that lasts a lifetime and shows its characteristics through faithfulness, passion, respect, care, laughter, forgiveness and sacrifice. Because of the kind of man you are, I had a good example of the kind of man I wanted to marry. Because you taught me that a man who loves God with all his heart will love his wife the same way, I looked for that kind of man. You showed me that a man who loves kids is a man who is gentle of spirit and compassionate and I looked for that kind of man. You helped me understand that a real dad simply reflects his Father and this is the type of man you are. You reflect your heavenly Father.
I am proud to call you my dad. I am thankful to have had you raise me. I am blessed to have the memories I do of all the good times we’ve had. I appreciate knowing that laughter is a good medicine and love is the greatest healer of all. I celebrate you today dad. Happy Father’s Day!
Before you have kids people with kids always tell you that you need to pick your battles. They say that not everything is worth fighting for and some things you just have to let go. And I thought sure, no problem, of course. And when you hold that sweet little innocent baby in your arms you think everything will go smoothly and easily and battles will be a thing only OTHER parents have to deal with…not you.
Well, in our family we have made it through the Terrific Two’s with Yummy and are now into the Teachable Three’s. The problem with the teachable three’s is that sometimes you have to go through some battles. And let’s just be clear here that the three-year old isn’t the only one learning the lessons. Mommy and Daddy actually seem to be the biggest students around here.
Last night we picked a lesson that somewhere in the middle of it we probably wished we hadn’t. It was the – you must eat one piece of broccoli before you can be done with dinner – lesson. Right now, Squeaky is the most amazing eater. If you put something in front of him he will try it. He will probably eat it and lots of it. Yummy on the other hand would prefer to eat an apple, or cereal or peanut butter sandwich. Don’t get me wrong when he likes something he will devour it. And broccoli is actually something he used to love. He would eat piece after piece after piece. Last night however, he was not in the mood. And when he is not in the mood to eat something we realize how lacking his other table manners are. So, we have decided that it is well past time to start working on some practical table manners. I mean there have always been manners we’ve worked on, but not necessarily in a child specific way. (Another lesson learned for mom and dad.) I hate fighting around food because it just makes for poor digestion. So, we gave Yums the option…eat your one piece of broccoli or go straight to bed, no playtime, no bath, no story…oh yeah, and you have to eat that piece of broccoli for breakfast. Needless to say he picked the latter option. Why oh why did he have to go that route? So, Yummy went to bed and Squeaky got a bath and time with Mommy and Daddy and it was hard on Yummy. But not so hard as this morning.
First he only wanted Mommy cause he found out that Daddy was not budging on the broccoli for breakfast. Only to find out that Mommy and Daddy are a team and he was going to get the same answer from her. This simply would not do. But Mom had one alternative option. (First I must say that I must have been crazy when I suggested this. I am not one for covering up food with dips, etc., but I was beyond worn out from working on this issue.) So, I suggested we put syrup on the three bites and maybe that would help it go down. It did help the first two pieces, but last bite was proving to be a problem. After much dragging on and several threats (which did end up getting carried out) Yummy finally decided to man-up and eat that last piece. And with the swallowing of that last bite peace descended on our house. Yummy followed up that bite with 2 1/2 bowls of cereal, some steak from steak and eggs and some bit of egg.
The whole time this was going on I kept thinking about how God must feel when we act in this childish manner with Him. How many times does he just let us have our way? How many times does He give us a choice and we choose the more difficult route for us? What important lessons are we failing to learn because we are stubborn and hard-headed? How many times do we go through countless struggles only to find ourselves suffering instead of just turning around and taking that one step that takes us into a place of peace? Because we are simply His children learning the lessons that He is teaching in order to lead us into a complete-fulfilled life…true life.
And so today as I reflect on the lessons that I feel are battles in my life perhaps I will see the opportunity to take some syrup on my broccoli and be done with it. May I encourage you to examine these areas of your life too? If there is something that you are struggling with might you today take a step back and turn into the place of peace He has opened for you.