Learning to Encourage Active Living with My Kids

The Rock Ice SkatingI did not grow up in a tech-savvy family.  TV’s and VCR’s were the extent of our dabbling in modern technology.

Education in my hometown wasn’t exactly cutting edge.  As a general role, our rural community was about ten years behind the trend when it came to most anything.  Technology was no different.

Fun and entertainment were left to the great outdoors.  Hours of unofficial sports were played in backyards, on the playground, and in the middle of the street.  Long hikes through heavily forested hills were a daily adventure.  Uninhibited bike rides around the neighborhood wore down tire tread after tire tread.

We were active kids.

History has altered my world.  The dawn of the technology has ushered a new way of living.  Devices vie for my attention.  TV’s, computers, tablets, cellphones, and now watches.  It’s nearly impossible to escape their electronic pulse.

Before you accuse me of technophobia, know this.  I am a fan of modern technology.  I’m not about to urge a return to the good ole days.

It’s just that:

Technology can numb you out.

Before you know it, hours of your day have been robbed by a device.  The world outside of the two foot space between you and the screen barely exists.  You are locked in a sedentary position.  Ironically, by the time you set it aside, you are too tired to do anything else.

This isn’t only detrimental to your activity level.  It limits the same for your kids.

It can be a tough choice:  attention to your device or active playing with your kid(s).

I know it’s difficult because I face it on a regular basis.  There’s always work awaiting me on the screen.  It’s never ending.  Not to mention the books I hope to read for pleasure.

My daughters will come to me and ask, “Daddy, can you take me to the park?”  “Daddy, will you play racquetball with me?”  “Daddy, can we ride our bikes to the YMCA?”  Daddy, can we go swimming?”  “Daddy, can I do gymnastics?”

I find myself saying, “I don’t know.  Let me finish this first and see what we can do.”  You know what that means.  Technology wins.  My daughter(s) loses.

I am making a decision this New Year.

I will encourage active living with my kids by accepting their invitation.

I commit to making my answer, “Yes.”

Swimming?  Yes.  Tennis?  Yes.  The playground?  Yes.  Let’s make it happen.

Every “no” discourages their young hearts.  It sends them running to the devices.

I had too much fun as an active kid to rob my daughters of the same joy.

This will be the year I learn to encourage my kids to embrace the beauty of active living.

 

 

Learning It’s the Giver, Not the Gift that Counts

Grace-InstagramI sent both of my daughters to school today with five dollars in an envelope.  On it, I marked $1 for mom, $1 for dad, $1 for sister, $1 for dog, and $1 for self.

They are Christmas shopping at their school’s secret Santa Shop.

I know they will just buy junk.  It’s their only choice.  What else can you expect from a school fundraiser?  Or worse yet, what can you expect from a dollar?

They begged me all week to let them.  I did everything possible to put it off, hoping it would pass.  Until I began to feel like a horrible, Grinch of a parent.

My daughters are thinking little about the value of the gift.  They are excited for the opportunity to be a giver.

Neither will be able to contain the joy of giving.  I give them less than 24 hours before they beg us to open their gifts.

It happens every year.  They can’t wait until Christmas.  They want to experience our reaction, now.

I can’t blame them.  I was just as bad.

It was a Christmas tradition in our family to make the hour drive to a downtown Columbus department store for their secret Santa Shop.

So many memories.  As soon as you walked in the main door, a trail of reindeer paw prints led you to the Christmas wonderland.  Along the way, you passed the talking tree (my favorite).  You could stop for a visit on Santa’s lap.  It was magical.

At a certain point, parents were off-limits.  They sent you in a kids only shop with an envelop of money marked with amounts you can spend on each family member.  Everything was kid friendly.  The shelves were miniature.  Each section was marked by a dollar amount.  Even the cash register was built at kid level.

You felt like a big person.  Shopping all by yourself.  Walking out with a bag of gifts in nifty gift boxes clearly marked for each family member.

One year, my excitement overtook me.  I was so proud of myself.  I couldn’t even make it out of the store before spilling the beans.

I popped out of the store to quickly tell my parents, “I bought dad per-chume.”  That’s right, I said “per-chume” instead of perfume.

I still remember it, vividly.  It was a small, white bottle of old-spice.  Haha.  I remember taking off the lid and smelling it.

It wasn’t the gift that counted for my dad (and mom), it was the giver.

I’m sure he never wore the cologne other than the one time that I asked him to try it.  He wasn’t enamored with the gift.

He was filled with a deep feeling of love for me, his son, the giver.  He could care less about what I bought.  The joy of seeing me give was enough.

Learning that it’s the giver, not the gift that counts changes how you receive.  

You receive whatever it is with a gratitude that far exceeds the value of what’s given.  You are receiving love, which money can’t buy.

I needed this reminder from my kids this year.  I am not a god receiver.  I don’t like opening gifts for fear of disappointing the giver with my reaction.

Guess I’ve been focusing on the wrong thing.  The joy comes not from what you are receiving, but from who.

 

 

Learning a Parent Fail Can Be Vindicated

My kids’ school strongly encourages students to participate in a half mile race.  It’s a weekend, city-wide event.  The motivation is an award given to the school with the most students represented.

It is a Saturday morning run starting at 8am.  Ugh.  I don’t want to do this thing.  I’ve tried all week to talk my daughters out of it.  I was unsuccessful.

On a weekend day when we should be sleeping in, we wake up at 7am.  We leave the house at 7:45am.  A feeling of urgency sweeps over all of us.  Did I mention the adults are running a Half-Marathon?  Well they were, and their route is blocking my every turn the whole way there.

I take several detours and eventually make it within the vicinity of the event.  I park in someone’s yard, halfway on the sidewalk one block away from the race.  We walk-run through wet grass toward the crowd of people.  I can’t find checkin.

It is now 8am.  We are redirected to a building at the top of a hill for checkin.  There are about 20 checkin lines all which are nearly 20 people deep.  Stress and anxiety levels are almost maxed out at this point.  My kids and I are positive the race will start without us.

Thankfully, the races are postponed. We make it.

Let me reiterate, the race is close to half a mile.  I’m wondering if grade school kids can handle this distance.  Now, my nerves shift to concern for my daughters ability to make it all the way around.

My Kindergartener runs first.  I spot her on the last turn. I recognize her pink hat.  She’s in 8th or 9th place at this point.  She is gaining on everyone.  She passes one, then another, then another.  When she makes it to me, which is about 50 yards from the finish, she is in third place.  I look at the guy next to me, who says, “Looks like she just placed.”

I am so excited.  She has no idea until I tell her.  Her eyes light up with an awareness that she gets a trophy.

Now, we have to wait until all the other grades finish their races.  11 races.  We wait.  The races are over and we still wait.  The MC announces awards will start in 15 minutes.  After what felt like an eternity, the awards begin.

The man with the microphone says, “third place for Kindergarten girls is _____________”  – Not my daughter!  He didn’t say my daughter’s name.  She has a devastated look on her face.  Immediately, I grab her hand to leave.  I am embarrassed.  I am sad.  I am mad at myself.  She’s in tears.  She wants an explanation. I tell her it could be my fault, “maybe I miscounted?”

Halfway to the car she says, “This is the worst day ever.  As a parent, I need to make this right, so I ask, “Do you want to get a donut?  You choose where?”  The donut proves effective in calming the emotions down a bit.

Finally we make it home around noon.  We’re climbing out of my jeep.  I remind the girls to grab everything out of the jeep to take into the house.  My youngest looks at her older sister and says,

“Yeah, get everything out of the car except a trophy😩”

In my book, I consider the whole experience a parent fail.  I told my daughter she won third place and would receive an award.  We walked away without a trophy and no explanation.

It took a couple days, but we put it behind us.  Then, a Facebook message surprised us all.  It was from an adult friend who completed the half-marathon that same day.  She was at the finish line just after Mya made her third place finish.  She was also there that night when I told others about my fail.

Her message said:  “Mya TOTALLY got 3rd place.”  Attached to the message is a screenshot of the online, digital results to the race.

Mya's 3rd Place

My fail was vindicated.  I wasn’t crazy.  I didn’t miscount.  Mya truly earned third place.  I can explain to her it wasn’t my fault.

That’s all I need.  I am not mad at the race officials.  I don’t expect an apology.  I am not looking for recompense.  I am satisfied with the opportunity to celebrate, once again, my daughters accomplishment without doubt.

My parents own an awards business in Ohio.  I called them right away to ask a favor.  “Could you guys make a trophy for Mya?”  Of course, they answered “Yes.”  They added, “We will make sure it’s the biggest one.”

I have been a parent for 8 years.  I have failed many times, and will continue to have other such moments.  I’m learning that there will be some times when the fail is vindicated.  You will find reasonable proof to absolve you from owning the blame.

I’m also learning what’s really important isn’t whether I fail or not, it is the example I show for how to respond.  My kids need to see in me what it means to recover from and work through difficult situations in a way that is healthy and transformative.

I pray for God’s grace to help me be a parent who provides a redeeming example.

Learning Calm is Contagious

Kirra and Mya laughingYou know that moment when you realize someone is about to blow their lid?

You can feel their emotional temperature rising.  Their blood pressure sky rockets, and you know, because you see it pulsating through the vein in their neck.  They get those crazy eyes.  Every inch of their body is tense.  Like a rubber band tightly wound, this person could snap at any moment.

Have you ever been there?  If you are a parent, then it’s a given.  Same is true if you are a child, which is all of us.  Of course, you’ve stood in that place before.  When the straw finally broke the camel’s back, what did you do?  What was your reaction?

I’ll admit, my tendency is to match the level of intensity.  I join the frenzy.  We need to shout to get things across? Okay, let’s do it then.  Problem is, rarely does this work according to my desire.  It lands me somewhere completely off base from where I was hoping to find myself.  The conflict isn’t resolved.  It escalates.

Navy SEAL Commander, Rorke Denver, is helping me learn:  Calm is contagious.  Based on his experience in situations of military conflict, he believes that “as leaders, people, at a minimum, are going to mimic your behavior.”  In not, then most likely they will amplify it.  This is especially true when the going gets tough.

I find this to be most true with my kids.  Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to set them off.  It might be as simple as asking them to carry their backpack into the house from the car.  Other times, you can expect it.  For example, the grocery store is kryptonite for our family.  I’m not sure if it’s something they put in the free cookie.  Or maybe it is some unwritten agreement among kids that parents don’t know about?  Conflict just seems to happen at the grocery store.

Whatever the situation, my kids become anything but calm.  I don’t need to describe it, right?  Even if you don’t have kids, I’m sure you’ve experienced a sibling, niece/nephew, or stranger’s kid go into this fit of rage.  There is kicking, screaming, slamming doors, throwing objects, hitting, crying, and all other forms of volatileness.

With each new level, my heart rate jumps 20 beats per minute.  Before I know it, I feel anything but calm.  Steam is rising from head.

It happened yesterday.  At the grocery store!  My kids were goofing around on the grocery cart.  I asked them to stop, politely.  After several requests, they continue to persist.  I turned my back to pick up an item, and turn around to see my youngest on the ground in tears.  She was climbing on her sister and fell off the seat.

“You are not going to your friends house when we get home,” I said.  Ensuing was negotiation talk turned threats turned shouting from my child.  I didn’t react immediately.  A few minutes in, every ounce of me wanted to match her intensity.  Then, I remembered the words “Calm is contagious.”  

I thought, I can do this.  I need to do this.  I can’t mimic her behavior.  Amplifying won’t help either.  So, I remained calm.  I didn’t raise my voice or get excited or make threats or act disappointed in her.  I spoke words of truth about the good I believe about her.

Not immediately, but in a matter of minutes, her level of anxiety came down.  Slowly together, we waded out of the troubled waters.  Before we knew it, all was calm.

I told her how proud I was.  She did it.  She didn’t let her emotions control her actions.  A huge smile came to her face.  What could have spiraled, turned into a beautiful moment as a father and daughter.

Calm is contagious.  

Learning How to Pray for Families Who Are Back to School

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 9.15.24 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-28 at 9.15.43 AMIt is back-to-school week in our house.  We survived the first four days, and are expecting to make it a full week without complete breakdown.  Crossing our fingers.  It wasn’t an easy wakeup or carline drop-off this morning.

As a family making this transition back-to-school, I know firsthand some of the ups and downs.  It’s an ebb and flow of emotions both good and bad.  Some moments are filled with smiles and laughter while others are darkened by frowns and crying.  It’s a week of schizophrenic type behavior as a group.  At least one of us at any given time in the day are acting out in some way.

We, and most families who are back-to-schoolf, could use your prayers.  Don’t panic.  We are OK.  It’s just a phase.  We have done this before.  We will make it out alive and well.  Still, your prayers would be much appreciated.

Based on my experience, here’s how you can pray:

  • Pray for sleep.  Most families dropped the strict bedtime routine in the summer months.  Kids aren’t used to going to bed early so they can wake early.  Acclimating back to this pattern takes time and negotiation.  One thing is for sure:  healthy sleep patterns are a requirement for sanity.  Please pray for sleep.
  • Pray for courage.  School can be a scary place, especially for new students whether it’s a kindergartner or a transfer.  For some, it’s the first time they will be without mommy and/or daddy for a full day.  Fears creep in their little hearts and spirits.  Please pray for courage.
  • Pray for friends.  Each new school year introduces students to an entirely different set of classmates.  One year, your best friend may be in your class.  The next year, she may not.  Students must learn to re-socialize with new faces and names.  The ability to make friends is essential.  It’s where students find happiness and support in those long days of hard work.  Please pray for friends.
  • Pray for teachers.  Teachers spend more focused time with students during the week than many parents.  For a solid 7 hours, teachers have the attention of your kids.  It’s a HUGE job many of us wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.  Teachers need patience, grace, vision, kindness, passion, forgiveness, and a whole list of other attributes.  A teacher can make all the difference in a student’s desire to learn.  Please pray for teachers.
  • Pray for parents.  Back-to-school is an adjustment for mommies and daddies, too.  Like our kids, sleep patterns relaxed in the summer.  Summer schedules were more flexible.  We made time for some fun and relaxation. Now, it’s back to timeliness and routine.  Days become more full with morning rituals, school drop-off and pickup, work, homework, after school snack time, exercise, dinner, shower, wind down time, bed time, and repeat.  The day kind of just runs all together.  By the time kids are off to sleep, parents barely have enough energy to hold their own eyes open.  There is little time to relax and breathe, especially for single parents.  Please pray for parents.
  • Pray for grace.  With all this new stress, emotions will run high and low.  Words will be said out of frustration in ways not so pleasant.  Feelings will hurt.  Misunderstandings will be inevitable.  It  may seem as though everyone has gone crazy at some points.  It’s really just our emotions adjusting to a difficult transition.  Please pray for grace for one another.

Families who are back-to-school could use your prayers.  I hope this gives you a starting place.  My list isn’t exhaustive.  Please feel free to add to it in the comments.

For those of who do pray, every back-to-school family says, “Thank you!”

Learning Where You Can Find Music that Will Inspire Your Child to Read the Bible

Brooklyn’s network in youth ministry reaches across the United States.  If you know someone in youth ministry, chances are they know Brooklyn or know someone who knows Brooklyn.  It’s not confirmed, but I would guess she is no more than 3 degrees away from 90% of the youth pastors in our country.

Working in ministry as well, it’s not unusual for me to receive an email from someone in her network.  The message normally goes something like this:  “Hi Coy, I’m not sure if we’ve met.  My name is (insert first and last name) and I know Brooklyn from (insert youth ministry event name)I am part of (insert ministry name) and we are touring in your area soon.  I’ve attached a link to one of our videos if you would like to take a look at what we do.  We would love the opportunity to share our ministry at your church.  Let us know if you are interested.  Thank you, and tell Brooklyn hi.”

Some of the ministries seem really awesome, and others not so much.  Those in the second category I avoid like the plague.  It’s tough to offer a sensitive reply.  My brain is telling me to write, “The preview video of your ministry stinks.  You probably need to rethink shooting a professional video.  If not, then maybe you should scrap what you are doing and start over with a fresh idea.”  That’s not nice, though.  My heart tells me to be compassionate and write something like, “Wow, thank you for this opportunity.  We are not able to invite your ministry to our church at this time.  I hope you are able to fill your dates.”

The most recent email came from a ministry in the first category.  Based on the website and videos, it seemed legit.  They are Pop Scritpure Songs.  It is a worship band of students ranging from middle school to college who write and perform scripture songs.  Their sole purpose is to familiarize young students to powerful biblical promises and infuse the truth into their hearts and souls.  To check it out, click on this link.

We invited them to our church.  They performed a concert for our Elementary Ministry during our weekend worship services.  It was awesome!  Kids were jumping up and down, clapping their hands, dancing, and singing their hearts out along with the band.  It was a beautiful moment of students leading students.

On the way out, our daughter grabbed a CD and snagged a few autographs.  It was so cute.  She looked at them like they were rockstars.  I’m sure she would be a roadie for them if they asked.

As soon as we walked into our home, she pulled out the CD player.  Pop Scripture Songs were blasted throughout the house.  From one end to the other, you could hear every song.  Underneath it all, you could also hear an 8 year old voice singing along.  So sweet.

A couple nights later at bedtime, our 8 year old pulls out her Bible.  She wants to read Habakkuk.  A song has been replaying in her head all day, “As the waters cover the sea, Habakkuk 2:14.”  She needs to know the story that gives context to these words.  She sits on the floor in her room with the Bible in her lap reading the first two chapters of Habakkuk to her five year old sister.  Together, they entered into the storied world of God’s Word.

Thank you, Pop Scripture Songs!

If you are looking for a new CD for your Elementary age child, I highly recommend Pop Scripture Song’s new “The EP.”  Who knows, maybe your kid will be compelled to read Habakkuk?  It might even inspire to you read it, too.

Learning Love is Known When Love is Shown

My 2 yr old picI sat down with my daughters (8 & 5 years old) to flip through my childhood photobook.  The pictures cover my life from birth to High School graduation.  The wonders years, right?      lt is all the memories I wish never to forget glued together in one small album.

Mya sits on my lap and Kirra snuggles next to us on another chair as I slowly flip through the pages.  Kirra looks at me and asks, “Daddy, why do you look at the pictures for so long?”  

I don’t know, Kirra,” I say.  “I guess it’s because I believe the most precious memories are associated with the moments when you feel the deepest love.  These pictures remind me of some of those moments in my life.  I don’t want to forget any of them.” 

Normally, I tell the stories behind the pictures.  This time, we are simply looking at them without commentary.  Suddenly, Kirra speaks up again, this time saying, “Daddy, I can’t believe those pictures are you.  You were such a cute little boy.”  She deserves a hug for that one.  A couple pages later, she brings me back to reality with her observation.  “That definitely looks like you because you can see your two big front teeth.”  Mya wants in on the action, too.  She leans in with curiosity.  She wants to know what the fuss is about.  She sees the picture and blurts out, “Ewwweee!  Your teeth are big!”  

After a few tears of embarrassment, I recover.  My kids may have just bullied me, but I find the strength to move on.  The atmosphere returns to sweet and encouraging comments.  Until we turn get to my Junior year class picture.  Immediately, both daughters chime in, “Yuck.  Look at your hair.  You look silly.  Don’t ever get that haircut again.”

A couple pages later, we are at the end of the book.  Kirra and Mya wander off to somewhere else in the house.  I am left alone with the emotions of being ridiculed by my kids, as well as a joy-yet-sadness for yesteryears.  As I am closing the pages, I stop at the inside front cover.  A collection of letters and cards are slipped into a little pocket.  I open each one and read.

Now, real live tears are streaming down my face.  Words of love written to me from my parents, family, and dearest loved ones evoke something deep down inside.  Mostly, my feelings are nostalgic.  Then, a note from my sister strikes a different chord.  It awakens a new realization for me.  Twelve years after it was written, I begin to learn the significance of her message.  She wrote:

I can’t even begin to tell you how much it meant to me that you came up here for that weekend!  I was so excited you got to see Noah because I thought he would be a year old before you’d see him.  I realized how much you still love us because I was starting to think things had changed.  I love you very much and so does Eric and Noah!

At the time the card was written, I was living 1,200 miles away.  Distance puts a real damper on one’s ability to be there for special events.  I was in seminary and Brooklyn was earning a humble salary as a youth pastor.  Rarely were we able to go home for a visit.  This time, it didn’t seem economical to make the trip for a day or two visit.  But, it was my big sister’s first baby.  So, we took the trip.

Looking back, I had no idea my family thought “things had changed.”  Seems as though she, and possibly others in my family, questioned my love for them.  It wasn’t true, but how could they know if they never experienced it?  In her own words, my sister was telling me: “Thank you for showing us you love us.”

Love is known when love is shown.  We know love when another shows love.

The writer of the book of 1 John puts it this way:  “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16, NRSV).  In chapter 4, it is written another way:  “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10, NRSV).

We know love because God shows us love.

Follow up this thought with 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us” (NRSV).  Then, return to the second part of 1 John 3:16 to find these words:  “and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”  Skip a verse to verse 18, which says “let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”  Take one final leap forward to 1 John 4:11-12:  My beloved since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”  

We know love because God shows love.  Now, it’s our turn.  The world can know love when you show them God’s love.  

How can the world be expected to know love any other way?  

 

 

Learning One Thing You Can’t Avoid Being for Your Kids, and One Thing You Can Always Be

Kirra and Mya laughingIt’s not my preaching that’s boring my kids.  They love it.  Not that they get to listen to me preach that much, though.  They are in children’s ministry during most services.

Kirra asked me to take her with me to church this weekend during a service she normally doesn’t attend.  When I asked why, she said with a proud smile on her face, “Well, I get to go into the lobby and see you preaching on the T.V. sometimes.”

At least for now, I know my sermons aren’t boring them.

After this same service, I went to pickup Kirra from children’s church.  I was greeted by one of our best children’s ministry leaders.  We exchanged a few seconds of small talk, followed by a confessional from the leader on Kirra’s behalf.  “Kirra said you are boring when mommy is on a trip,” she relayed to me.

Ouch.  Never thought I would hear my kids refer to me as boring.  Especially after I setup  two really cool playdates in a row.  On both days, they were able to swim for hours (one of their activities).  Not to mention, they had fun for at least five and a half hours each time.

When I reminded the girls of these relevant points, they replied, “Yeah, but you weren’t with us so it doesn’t count.”  

So, I’ve learned, there is one thing you can’t avoid being for your kids:  Boring.

I’ll never be able to entertain my kids with the highest level of fun every minute of every day.  Neither will you.  At some point, you will become boring to your kids.  It’s a fact of life.

I may not be able to avoid being boring, but there is one thing I can always be:  Loving. 

I may not be able to control how fun life is all the time for my kids, but I can control my love toward them.  I was reminded of this truth this morning when Brooklyn (my wife) texted a verse from the Message Bible translation:

“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”  Colossians 3:12-14

No matter the situation, boring or exciting, I can show love for my kids.  I’ll take the losses with my ability to entertain twenty-four seven.  When it comes to loving my kids, I never want to compromise a moment.

As parents, you can always wear love. 

 

Learning Together: God Gives Your Children Fresh Dreams

Mya GraduationYou won’t believe what our daughter wants to be when she grows up.  Hint: it is not a pastor like her mommy or daddy.

This has been the final week of school in our home.  Preschool graduation was on Wednesday.  The last day of Second Grade was on Thursday.  Emotions have risen and fallen.  Everyone in our family made it out alive, including mom and dad.

This year marks the official end of preschool in the Lindsey home.  Mya walked the stage and received her diploma.  There are no more little Lindsey’s to follow.

The day before graduation, Mya’s class celebrated with a splash party.  Baby pools, slip-n-slides, crazy water hoses, a bubble station, sidewalk chalk, and a shaving cream zone were set up on the front lawn.  The soon to be graduates were free to roam the area with few restraints.  Main goal:  have fun!

The kids had a blast.  Afterward, we marched in to the classroom.  Time to change into dry clothes for a pizza party.  You can’t run around burning body fuel without replenishing with some chips, cupcakes, and pepperoni and cheese.  There’s no better way to end a preschool era.

I was standing behind Mya while she was enjoying her feast.  I heard my name, “Hey, Coy.”  From across the room, another parent was calling out to me with a smile on his face.  “Hey, Coy.  Have you seen this yet?  I had not.  So, I went to check it out.

He pointed to a small sheet of paper hanging on the wall.  It was a list of each student’s name and a description of what they will be will they grow up.  Jobs were listed like eye doctor, veterinarian, firefighter, and a doctor for babies.  Careers a parent might envision for their child.  Not so with our child.  She wanted to be a ___________________________. All I could think of was, “Ohhhh, no.  Well, she has been saying it for a long time.”

I can’t tell you yet, it would ruin the ending.

The next day we are sitting in the audience watching Mya’s class graduation.  The time comes for each student’s name to be called, so they can walk across the stage to receive their diploma.  To our surprise, each child’s name is called along with the description of what they want to be when they grow up.  People are “oohing” and “ahhing” at the cute responses the children have provided.  I am a little nervous what the reaction of the crowd might be when Mya steps forward.  Thinking it might include some laughter.

Finally, it’s her turn.  The person with the microphone says, “This is Mya, and she wants to be an Ice Cream Truck Seller.”  

Our Mya wants to be a Food Truck owner and operator.  For now, we are cool with that as long as she chooses to play music other than that crazy annoying ice cream truck song that we hear everyday and is about to cause one of us a nervous breakdown.  Plus, she must be committed to keeping it clean and non-creepy looking.

For real, though, as parents you worry about what your kids will grow up to do and be some day.   Brooklyn and I are learning together that it is not up to us.  Our kids don’t have to fulfill our dreams.  They don’t have to do what we’ve done, or what we hope they will do.  God creates the dream for them that they can someday realize.   Our dreams are too small.

That doesn’t mean we can’t provide a healthy environment to help them discover God’s dream for them. It just means, we shouldn’t feel the pressure to come up with it ourselves.  Our purpose is to recognize the dream within our children and do everything we can to encourage them to follow it.

God gives your children fresh dreams.  It may or may not be to someday work as an Ice Cream Truck Seller.  Who knows?  Either way, you get a first row seat to witness God’s creative power in your child’s life.     

 

Learning Together: It’s Tough to Say Good-bye

Jessica DavisI cried like a baby.  I can’t recall a more difficult good-bye, excluding moving away to college.  My heart was hurting for those from whom my life was departing.

Brooklyn and I had only served at the church for two years.  Seems like such a short time, now.  It felt much more significant then.  It was our second pastoral assignment.  Well, Brooklyn was the only one officially assigned.  She was the youth pastor.  I was just her husband who was attending seminary.

As her husband, I was there for every ministry moment in which she was involved.  I served beside her on every Wednesday night youth group, Sunday school class, worship service, beach trip, lock-in, camp, and graduation party.  You name it, I was there.  Not begrudgingly, either.

Our hearts formed around the lives of these teenagers.  They became like family to us.  The connection was deep.  An intimate bond had been formed.

The same can be said for many of the adults and families in the church.  Brooklyn and I knew we were loved like one of their own.  We shared numerous meals together in their homes and at their favorite restaurants.  We surfed together.  We took random trips to Disney as a group.

One of the hardest days of my life was standing on the stage and saying, “Good-bye.”  Brooklyn and I were moving 18 hours away.  Our ministry time with them came to end.  Oh, it was painful.

Brooklyn and I have learned in 14 years of pastoral ministry, it’s tough to say good-bye.  It hurts to let go of a bond formed around God’s love lived out in mission together.  Sadly, we’ve also learned that in the ministry, good-byes will often come.

Now, we face another difficult good-bye to dear friends and partners in ministry.  Only, this time we aren’t leaving.  Precious friends and partners in ministry are making the move.  We have served together with them for 10 years, in 2 different states, through 5 pregnancies, and 3 separate lead pastors.

They are our “framily,” friends-family.  Much more than coworkers, we are friends who share a hard to find kind of love for another.

It’s hard to believe we won’t see them every Saturday Night anymore.  Our tradition of “Taco Tuesday” (which was actually Fajita’s) is suspended.  We’ve shared many pizza’s together after church.  And, we’ve worshipped our heart’s out with a worship leader who can sing with the best of them.

It’s time to say, “Good-bye.  We love you.  Thank you for all you have poured into our lives, and for allowing us to pour into yours.  We believe in you.  We know God will use you even more than God already has.  We will miss you.”

Good-bye, Warren, Jessica, Aubrey, Truman, and Graham.  Our family, and Highland Park Church, is forever changed by the gift of your ministry to us.

It’s a tough lesson to learn.  But, totally worth the value added to our lives and to God’s kingdom.