WHEN ROUTINE SEEMS EXHAUSTING

As a mother, don’t you sometimes feel that there are days that seem exactly like yesterday and the day after?  Days that feel like a wearying blur, waking up with a full to-do list in mind from sun up and exhausted before sun down.

As a full-time mom of two tots under 2 years old I sure have my work cut out for me, with a daily routine of cleaning up sticky hands and feet, changing diapers, scrambling at dinnertime, and battles at bedtime.  Of course I have lots of tender bonding times with my boys, plenty of teachable and memorable moments, and milestones galore… but I’m also saying “Don’t climb the table!” or “Please don’t touch!” for like the millionth time.  Okay, I’m exaggerating… at the least 6 times a day in the last year, so perhaps the 2,190th time?  Sometimes a lot of my days feel like the same routine over and over again.

While reading my Bible one day, there was one devotional that focused on the book of John, particularly the story of Jesus performing a miracle to feed five thousand people.  I love this story, and when I was a kid I would even pretend to make a lot of pieces of bread from my one piece, and secretly hoping it would multiply also.  But there was a part of the story that my devotional called attention to… a part that is sometimes overlooked (and in fact is not mentioned at all in Matthew, Mark, or Luke’s version)…

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”
6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up,
9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”
13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

Here is a boy with five loaves and two fish.  In a crowd of five thousand people there to listen to Jesus, it was this little boy who was present to volunteer his meager baon of bread and fish.  Now, it would be nice to think that earlier that day, back at home was his mother who got up early in the morning to bake the bread and prepare the fish, woke him up (possibly several times) to have breakfast.  And, as is her routine, packed his lunch before sending him on his way to listen to the great Teacher.  A mother who taught him the value of generosity and sharing with others, who performed this task of preparing his baon just like all the ordinary days before that.  Little did she know that this was no ordinary day, and that Jesus will use her little boy to perform a miracle…and not only that, but Jesus already knew beforehand what He was going to do, the miracle that will be retold for generations.

Diane is a stay at home mom, wife of Gabe and mother to Raph and Nate.

So, to all the hardworking mothers out there, by all means give yourselves that mini-vacation, or shopping spree, or even just that small break that you so well-deserve, for we all know we do (ahem), but be encouraged that even though the everyday things we do seem exhaustingly routine to us, we do them in faith and trust that God already has in mind our children and the great things He has planned to do through them, the miracles that are yet to come. :D

ELECTRONIC BABY SITTERS

There has been an increase in the usage of the modern day ‘nannies’. In and of themselves, they are values-neutral. It’s how we use them that will determine if they are good or bad for our children.

Here’s what www.schools.com found out about gadgets and our children.

Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician in Austin Texas who helped draft the  American Academy of Pediatrics‘ screen time recommendations had this list to share for the parents.

1. Create a media strategy for your family and adjust it as your children age.

2. Limit media time on all screens (including interactive ones) to two hours a day, if possible.

3. Go into a device’s setting and restrict access to content; “Don’t throw your hands up in the air and say, ‘Oh, my son knows more about technology than I do,'” says Brown.

4. Keep phones and tablets out of kids’ bedrooms.

5. Put devices (including yours) “to sleep” in a kitchen basket, 30 minutes before bedtime.

6. Evaluate your own media use and set limits. “You are your child’s role model and so if you cannot disconnect, how can you expect your child to disconnect?” says Brown.

7. Keep off all screens at dinnertime. (I’m SO guilty of this one. How else can I shovel in the spinach?)

8. Take stock of your teen’s maturity before allowing them to join Facebook or other social media.

9. Let your child know you will be joining them on Facebook or other social media. Dr Brown suggests saying, “I’m going to browse occasionally and make sure you are making smart choices.”

10. Accept that older teens need phones (especially if they drive) and middle schoolers might need phones (to help parents keep track of them).

11. Tell your children to think before they text — only write what they would say to a friend’s face.

12. Don’t give your younger child a phone if you are always at pickup or drop-off.

SIGNS YOU MIGHT BE A BOASTFUL PARENT

I recently discovered a very helpful website (www.orangeparents.org) for parents.

The following article was written by Carey Nieuwhof on how to detect if you’re becoming a boastful parent.

I wish I could say I’ve never been guilty… but this is definitely a good reminder from Carey.

———-

Has social media become a platform for you as a parent to preen a little about the achievements and excellence of your kids?

Now please understand, I’m a big fan of social media. My personal view is that social media isn’t good or evil; it simply reveals and amplifies what’s already there.

We like to talk about the things we are passionate about. And we are passionate about our kids. But I tend to agree with a few articles I’ve read recently.

Robert Brooks makes some excellent points in this piece about how parents have taken to using social media to brag on their kids. It’s gone way beyond “My Child is an Honor Student” bumper stickers (which has more than a little swagger to it) to a full blown ego strut. If we spoke out loud at a dinner party the things that we often tweeted or updated online, we might dismissed as being rude, bragging, or showing off.

Tim Elmore has recently written a great article for the Huffington Post about the implications of bragging, over-affirming parents who, he says, are raising a generation of kids with high arrogance and low self-esteem. I find his insights piercing.

So if we reframed the question, we could ask it this way:

Have you taken to boasting, bragging, and otherwise flaunting your children’s accomplishments online?

Probably not a single one of us wants to say yes.

I’m not real thrilled about asking myself the question, but the articles have made me do some soul searching.

Do you wonder if you are one of those boastful parents? Here are 5 signs you might be one:

1. You’re as passionate about people knowing about your child’s achievement as you are passionate about your child’s achievement. Don’t get me wrong, parents are supposed to be proud of their kids. But pride may have won the moment when you become as passionate about other people knowing how awesome your kids are as you are about your child’s awesomeness.

2.  You feel a need to make your delight public. I love to keep people close to me updated on my kids’ progress. I have two sons I’m very proud of. But telling grandmas and grandpas, the wider family, and some good friends (who also care about our kids) is different than trumpeting it to everyone you know. If you feel a need to make their best moments public, you might well be prone to boasting.

3. You only celebrate your own victories. One of the reasons braggarts are so difficult to like is because they are self-absorbed. They only want to talk about themselves, and rarely ask questions about others. If you can’t share the spotlight, genuinely delight in the accomplishments of others, and not get jealous when others do “better”, pride might be gaining some real estate in your heart.

4. Your gratitude isn’t that genuine. It’s easy to bury boasting under an “I’m so thankful that….insert brag here mantra,” as in “I’m so thankful that my son placed first in his class and crushed all the other kids.” (That’s a little sarcasm, just so you know.)  Your private gratitude will always be deeper than your public proclamation. Sometimes true wonder and amazement cannot be expressed in 140 characters or less.

5. You don’t like to give credit to others. Some kids are just gifted. They actually are first in the class. They get all the trophies. And some of you have a child like that. So what do you do? I think humble parents are often last to take the credit. Many will talk about God’s grace, their kid’s hard work, solid coaches, teachers, friends and mentors, instead of giving themselves full marks. For example, “So thankful for everyone who made my daughter’s final year of elementary school such a great one” makes a much better status update than “Top of her class, again!!!!”.

The main reason I can write about this is only because I have to struggle through these things regularly. And I certainly don’t always get it right.

The battle against pride is so important. The last thing I want to do is lead a narcissistic life.

Scratch that.

Even worse would be this: being even partially responsible for the next generation losing the humility and wonder of knowing a God who is gracious to his children and loves us far far beyond our deserving.

That would be the last thing I want to do.

WINNING THE HEART vs. WINNING THE ARGUMENT

The “why” is more important than the “what”.

I’ve often been told this as a new and clueless parent (still am today):
“If you explain the why to your kids, then it will be easier for them to obey.”

However, based on experience, I haven’t been that successful.

When my eldest was 8 years old, my wife Jenn and I would explain to him why it was important to eat vegetables – the nutritional value and meritorious reasons of developing this habit.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t working.

So we reverted back to “just-do-as-I-say” method.

As the years came by, and as 3 more kids came, I’ve realized an important lesson.

Yes, the “why” is more important than the “what”.
But more important than the why is the relational trust the child has with the parent.

I have yet to recall a time when I gave wonderful explanations of the rules and then my children would reply,

“Oh, daddy, now we realize the critical importance of what you just explained. You’ve shed light into this matter. Because of that, from now on, we will do exactly what you say!”

That would be the dream but unfortunately it only remains to be a dream.

The problem with rules and reasons is that you can argue with them point by point and debate issue by issue.

But here’s the truth – YOU CANNOT DEBATE A TRUSTED RELATIONSHIP.

The answers we give to their questions never carry more weight than a healthy and trusted relationship.

Listen to what Reggie Joiner has to say…

“One of the most powerful things a parent can do is to learn to communicate in a style that values the relationship.”

It actually is possible to win the argument and yet lose the relationship.

The goal is not to win the debate. The goal is to win the heart.

BUILDING HISTORY AS A FAMILY

Every summer, one of the things I look forward to is our annual Me and My Dad Camp.

While it’s only an overnight trip, it can be one of the best moments a father can have with his son/daughter and vice versa.

While it takes a lot of effort to set up the tent, cook your own food, travel to the camping place, what that does is that you build history together as father and son.

Looks more like a science experiment than dinner…

There are things that you cannot accomplish if you are at home, especially with the distractions of iPads and TV.

Building history together includes stories at night before going to bed, cooking your meal even if they’re burnt, sweating and jumping in the pool to cool off, getting a splinter and helping your son take it out… These and many more that will add to having history together.

I remember Steve Murrell (founding pastor of Victory) telling us a story of a very successful pastor who has a congregation of thousands. This particular pastor’s son approached his dad during one of the church activities designed for families and disclosed that he couldn’t remember a time that he had fun with his dad.

Now that’s a bomb no father would ever want to hear from his son.

Dads, build history with your children. Find the opportunity to build memories. Remember, it’s something that can never be taken from them. Cars will rust. Medals can get lost. Money can get stolen. But memories? That stays for a very very very long time.

Reminder from my wife on day 2.

MOTHER’S DAY BLOG BY A DAD

Before I begin, I need to say that this Mother’s Day blog entry is primarily for the men. Somebody I knew once said that the way you treat your mother today is the way you’ll end up treating your wife when you get married. I want you to let that sink in because, for the most part, I now believe it’s true. Now take note, I’m talking about when you were still single and living under your mom’s roof. How you treat your mother after you get married doesn’t count because our tendency is we develop a whole new level of respect for them when we have our wives. Living alone and raising a family all of a sudden opens up our eyes to the difficulty they encountered, and we suddenly appreciate them. But how was it when you were living under your mom’s rules and instruction? What did you think of her hard work back then? How did you react to her when she had to correct you or when she told you what to do or when she wanted to just sit and talk with you? Did you married men just make a quick comparison? Has it sunk in yet? Not married yet? Good. Now go and appreciate your mom because this is training for your future wife.

Now if you’re married with kids, then of course your wife counts as a celebrant for Mother’s day as well. What does that mean? Any responsible mother will take it upon herself to provide your offspring with the best care her physical body can give short of killing herself while trying to oversee the maintenance of the house you live in. She doesn’t get paid to do this, but it doesn’t make it any less vital to your life as a husband and father. That’s what your wife is doing as a mother. Our tendency as men is to overlook this because, in our own minds, we do our share. We go out, work hard, bring home the bacon, and make sure that the bills get paid so that makes it even right? Did you just nod? Oh I hope you didn’t. Because it’s this kind of thinking that will begin to tear a marriage apart. When one side feels that they are entitled to certain rights (like the right to be a couch potato after work) because of what they think they do, then the failure to appreciate and resentment at not receiving appreciation ensues. You eventually begin to seek that appreciation outside and if found from another source you begin to prefer that person and the marriage is jeopardized. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The bottom line is, we often fail to appreciate the work our wives do as mothers because we’re too busy making sure to fulfil our own list of duties. I’m sorry guys, but you do not get credit for doing what you’re supposed to do. The company already gives you that by paying you money. Appreciating your wife is going to take an extra step and it isn’t even a very big one so don’t whine. Sometimes it’s just a simple thank you, a bar of chocolate, a night of doing your own dishes or just several text messages saying that you love her. A little bit here and there won’t kill you. Now our wives are not going to remind us to appreciate them so it’s up to us to remember, and Mother’s Day is not the chance to make up for the other 364 days you missed. It’s a chance for everybody to appreciate all moms everywhere. You get that chance to appreciate the ones in your life every single day.

—–

Gabe Gabriel is husband to Diane and daddy to Raph and Nate.

SECOND BEST DAD

I got this note from my eldest son.

When I first read it, I was wondering what he meant.

I know he’s my real son.
I also know that we didn’t adopt him.
Furthermore, I’m his real dad.

I thought again and understood what he meant.

I’m glad he thinks this way.

While I want to be the best dad to him, I know I can’t be a perfect one.

I’m thankful he knows who is the Perfect Father… the One who will take care of him even if I’m no longer there.

It’s that quiet assurance knowing that God takes care the ones we care most about.

HOW CAN I FORGIVE MY DAD?

Understanding that we’ve been forgiven empowers us to forgive others.

Here’s the story of Raquel who understood the forgiveness of Jesus in her life and now is able to forgive her father as a result.

Here are a few Bible verses on forgiveness…

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace… (Ephesians 1:7)

The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; (Daniel 9:9)

as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:12)

So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.” (Luke 17:3)

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

ON TALKATIVE CHILDREN

On the way home from a family reunion, my 4 year old, Joaquin, kept on talking incessantly.

Part of my conversation with him went this way…

ME: “Joaquin, you love to talk…”

JOAQUIN: “Not really. Only when I’m sitting… and when I’m standing… and when I’m lying down.”

Well, that sounds like all the time.  I didn’t tell him but that’s what I thought.

Parents, your kids go through seasons when they’re talkative and seasons when they want to just be silent. My teenager is in the stage where I will have to draw out his thoughts from within him.

If you have a talkative toddler like Joaquin, enjoy it and have fun.

If you have a teen who is less talkative, God is able to give us parents grace how to ask questions without the feeling of interrogation and teach principles without ‘sermonizing’.

Either way, put down the cellphone or iPad.

Take the opportunity to connect with your child.

The window is for a brief period.

Time flies as they say. To some, time zooms faster than a flight.

A DIFFERENT VOICE

Janina (feeling Audrey Hepburn) with Carla and friends.

A few days ago, my daughter met with one of our closest friends, Carla, together with some of her peers.

Since Janina was a young girl, we’ve tried to connect her with people who can bring input in her life. We were deliberate and intentional. We wanted to look for adults who have the same principles and convictions as we have and impart those values into the lives of our children.

How come?

We wanted to find key individuals who can be the right kind of influence for our kids.

According to a research conducted by Mark Kelly of Lifeway,

“Teens who had at least one adult from church make a significant time investment in their lives … were most likely to keep attending church. More of those who stayed in church – by a margin of 46% to 28% – said five or more adults at church had invested time with them personally and spiritually.”

But more than staying in church, we’re more concerned about “staying” and cultivating the relationship she has with God.

The older they get, the more important it is for them to have other perspectives and different voices in their lives telling them the same things but in a different way.

You would probably be able to relate with me when your child quotes a teacher, coach, mentor and act on what they’ve heard while you’re there on the sideline saying, “But I’ve been telling you that for the past 13 years!”

They were hearing it in a different way because they were at a different stage…

Plus they just needed a different voice.