Saturday, December 27, 2014

Interview #2 with Tez Brooks

Part two of a 3-part interview with Tez Brooks,
Author of The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce


The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce(Kregel/February 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0825443602 /$14.99).


Q: Divorce often leaves a man feeling broken and depressed, yet pressured to put on a brave front. How can a dad authentically lead his children during such a dark time?
You know authenticity is important, especially when you’re trying to lead your kids through some tough transitions. There’s a certain amount of safety and refuge a child experiences from seeing their dad strongly brave the storms. Conversely, when they see a parent falling apart and becoming an emotional basket case, it does nothing to nurture a sense of security.

Still yet, they need to know we are human. I need to model for my kids that I’m nothing apart from God and that Im not capable of doing anything without Christ. So here’s the thing: the problem about a stoic “front” is it’s exactly that…a front that’s not real. It’s inauthentic. A mask, to hide behind. But true faith in God, which comes from your heart, the core of your beliefs…that’s what produces peace. That peace from God is what gives us men the strength to move forward without falling apart and crying like a baby. Trusting God is going to help us as dads. That's the thing kids need to see….the courage and stoicism that comes from a heart that believes God has got this. 

Q: The Single Dad Detour is also filled with practical advice on topics from what food to keep in your fridge to how to decorate your new house or apartment. Why are these things important? Kids need a sense of home and I talk about this in The Single Dad Detour.  There’s a reason why Hollywood portrays us as clueless single dads whose fridge contains nothing but sour milk. It’s because they know it’s often true to life. Now I know a lot of single dads out there have found real freedom in being able to display their Mad Max posters and their beer can lampshades. But our kids need photos of grandma and a living room floor that's not cluttered with tools. One of the easiest ways we can create a sense of home for our loved ones is to learn to cook and provide a safe environment for them to live in.

In the early months following my divorce I hadn’t learn this valuable lesson yet. I made the mistake of buying my son a dog bed. Yep you heard me right. You know the big round ones for German shepherds? I know I’m an idiot. But it seemed like a great idea at the time. And my son Caleb loved it! It took me about 30 seconds to hit me….My son’s sleeping in a dog’s bed. I got him a real bed the next day.

Q: It’s common for single dads to feel overwhelmed by their financial and relational responsibilities. How is The Single Dad Detour designed to bring meaningful change to a busy dad’s life? I wanted to be intentional in addressing this very issue. That’s why I developed an interactive element at the end of each chapter so they’d have some take-aways. Readers have an opportunity to reflect by answering some hard questions, reading a scripture passage, then planning some next steps. They can even quote a suggested prayer before moving on to the next chapter. These things are key to going beyond just reading a book, to discovering lasting change.

Q: You have now been remarried for 13 years and have two young children. How did navigating the difficult years of single parenting prepare you for the challenge of a blended family? I found I grew in several ways. First of all I was stripped bare of all my pride, arrogance, selfishness and more. Then the Lord spent those next 7 years re-building me into more of what he wanted me to be. My wife Christine has always said she would not have been attracted to the kind of man I was before. I can’t say that I blame her, God’s timing is perfect.

As far as being a better father. I consistently see how my single years changed me spiritually, emotionally and relationally so I could be a better dad both for my older kids and the two daughters Christine and I had together. It’s difficult to see that in the midst of your valley. Hindsight clears that up a lot.


QUESTION FOR READERS: When emotions arise in front of the kids about the divorce (sadness or anger) how do you deal with it?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Interview #1 with Tez Brooks

First of a 3-part interview with Tez Brooks,
Author of The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce


The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce (Kregel/February 27, 2015/ISBN: 978-0825443602 /$14.99).

Q: The Single Dad Detour shares insights and encouragement from your time as a single dad. You’ve said it was difficult to write it because of the memories that surfaced. What led you to write it anyway?
I really struggled for several years. I didn't want to go there, but the Lord started working in my heart and I remembered how there just wasn't anything out there for me when I was going through my own divorce. Especially with a Christian worldview. What was available was too preachy for me. So I wrote something that would encourage guys with a little humor and offer some practical advice.

Q: Why did you use the metaphor of cars and navigating the road in your book? I wanted it to appeal to your average Joe. And that theme actually just seemed to come naturally as I began writing. I kept comparing a divorce to a car accident. I compared the similarities between finding your way through that wreck and navigating a road trip. Those metaphors just kept coming until I realized a theme was developing. I liked it because men and cars seem to go together.  

Q: Would you be willing to share a little bit about your road to becoming a single dad? Well we entered our marriage with childhood abuse that had not been dealt with, lots of selfishness, unfaithfulness, and even some mental health issues that had not been diagnosed. And we were clueless and trying to navigate through that with little to no help.

Divorce was just not something my side of the family did. But you can’t make someone love you. And you cant make someone stay. So although I didn't want a failed marriage, I saw it coming. I was married almost 10 years when I found myself single again. It was a lonely depressing time for me but I ran to the Lord in order to survive.

The kids lived with me full-time about 3 out of the 7 years I was single. They experienced a lot of loss too. As you know, no one wins. It’s a lose/lose situation. Yet here we are on the other side by the grace of God.

Q: Many men build their lives on the idea that a wife, kids and a house equals success. When that crumbles down, where can they find their identity? That’s a great question because our identity needs to be grounded in Christ to begin with. If that’s not there when tragedy strikes, we’re in trouble. That’s where I found myself. I was a Christian but I didn't really understand my identity as a child of God. I thought the American dream was where my self worth was. When that disappeared I was suddenly a man in my 30s with no real value to anyone. At least that’s what I believed.

I had embraced the world’s view of who and what I was. In essence I allowed the world to place a price tag on my forehead and suddenly that tag was marked down 95% and I was thrown in the bargain bin. It can take a long time for the message of Christ to get from our heads to our hearts. That's what needed to happen with me. Thankfully the Holy Spirit began a work to reveal the value God placed on me. It was vital to my healing.

RESPONSE QUESTION FOR READERS: What helped you to heal after your own divorce or separation? 


Friday, October 24, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pumpkin Seed Craft for the Kids

 This is a craft great for 3-10 year olds. Trace a pumpkin on a piece of paper and get some pumpkin seeds. You can even paint the seeds if you want. Then have your child glue the pumpkin seeds on their pumpkin. Or, if you want some extra flair, let your toddler color the seeds beforehand with markers before sticking them onto the pumpkin. If pumpkins are not their thing, they can try an autumn tree. Either way they have their own unique creation they can show off to the rest of the world.


Monday, September 22, 2014

"From Blender to Smoothie: 5 Keys to Blending Your Family" (a guest post by Kelvin Lott)



My wife, and I just celebrated 13 years of marriage. As I look back on that 1st year, I sometimes wonder how we survived the “blender” of bringing 2 separate families together, her 4 and my 2, and still having a house left standing! If you are in the midst of the “blender” or just starting to hit the “on” switch, we found that these 5 keys were essential to our smooth transition.


1. Have a Good Foundation

            The best foundation that any marriage, home or family (traditional or blended) can have is the foundation of a strong and active faith in Jesus Christ.  The Bible tells us in Psalm 127:1 (NIV), “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” It was our faith, obedience and trust in Jesus integrity that got us through that first year.

2. Be Patient

            For my wife, the blending process wasn’t as difficult as she thought it would be and for me, it was much more difficult than I first thought. It all boils down to expectations and patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so to have the expectation that 2 separate families will be harmoniously blended together quickly is a little unrealistic. Dial those expectations down a notch or two and be patient.

3. Make Your Own Traditions

            When you try to blend 2 families together with different views and traditions surrounding everything from birthdays to holidays to vacations, well, needless to say the “blender” goes into super high speed! For us, it happened on the first Christmas. Traditions clashed on the kind of tree, what was going on top and who was going to put it on top. That was the start of developing our own traditions. We didn’t throw out old ones; we just made some of our own that reflected the blending of our families.

4. Keep a Sense of Humor

            I cannot emphasize this point enough…you have to learn to laugh. There were times when the only thing that kept us sane was being able to laugh. Buying our first “family” vehicle is a case in point. Since there were 8 of us, we needed to find a vehicle that could accommodate us and not break the bank. We decided on a minivan. The dealer couldn’t understand why we didn’t take it for a test drive. I told him that we all fit and that that was the only test drive we needed. To this day, we still laugh about that.

5. Build a Refuge

            If you are going to survive the blender, then you have to make your home a refuge. We tried to allow our kids the freedom to voice their anger, their frustrations and their fears. We recognized that this transition was harder on them than on us. We also made family dinner time mandatory. These times of eating, talking, and invariably laughing hilariously became the highlight of our day.

Question:

For those who have gone through the “blender”, what things did you find helpful in making the transition successful? We'd love to hear from you.

(Kelvin pastors in Rochester, MI and has a blog at www.afathersheartblog.com)




            

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Guest post by Kelvin Lott

Four Words That Can Change Everything

I was standing at the altar with my son, Nathan. Along with everyone else we were awaiting the entrance of his bride and soon to be wife Whitney. As one of the officiating ministers, I realized that this wedding was going to be different--I was taking part in my son’s wedding. A million thoughts flooded my mind. Did I do a good job of raising him? Did I demonstrate what a Godly husband is? Did I teach him by example how to be a spiritual covering for his wife? Did I demonstrate what it means to be a man?

As the time came in the ceremony when I would make a few spontaneous remarks to the couple, I remembered a conversation that I had with Nathan a few years before. From out of the blue, he said, “Dad, I’m proud of you.” It was amazing what hearing those four words did for me. So when the time came, I looked at Nathan, with tears in my eyes, and said, “Son, I am proud of you.” I think at that moment every person in the wedding party, and many in the audience choked up. It was a very emotional moment. After the ceremony, a groomsmen said to me, “I wish I could hear those words from my Dad.” Others told me those four words are what every child desires to hear from their parents.

I'm amazed at the number of people who have never heard those words spoken to them, over them and into them. I think that those words are second only to, “I love you,” for your emotional, spiritual and physical health.

Try it. Speak these simple words into someone in your life. You may see their countenance change and a smile cross their face. Who knows, it may totally change the destiny and direction of their lives.

        What’s your story? Do you remember how you felt when someone told you that they were proud of you? Are their family, friends, co-workers, etc. that need to hear these words from you? Respond below.

         (Kelvin was a single father who remarried and became part of a blended family. He pastors a church in Rochester, Michigan. Please check out his blog site at www.afathersheartblog.com)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Effectively Launching Your Son Into the World


(Part One of an Eight-Part series)

“Once you’re out, that’s it Son. You can’t move back in.”

My father made it clear to me that I had better be sure I could make it on my own before I left. With the exception of spending summer breaks back home between college years, my dad made sure I knew his house was not a nest I could return to once I officially moved out. Unlike the helicopter parents that are so common these days, he didn’t believe in hovering nor in taking his four boys back into his household once we left. Indeed he gave me loans from time to time as I clawed my way to maturity. He co-signed for my first car, paid my first year of college and took me out to eat a lot. But these were gifts I knew I wasn’t entitled to. I received them with gratefulness.

I’m thankful for Dad’s rule of not taking me back in. It caused me to prepare for my launch with a sink or swim mentality. If you have a son and this sounds harsh, chances are you’re a softee. I know, I’m going to catch a lot of slack from helicopter parents. But that’s the price of challenging parents to re-think their launching strategies.

Granted, my father didn’t have daughters. He may have changed his policy had he raised a girl. Finding myself a dad of both genders I have stricter standards for my son than I do my three daughters. I wanted him to learn to make it out there without a net to catch him—and he did. My grown son has learned how to take care of himself and has lived on his own for several years. I’m proud of the man he’s become. But he didn’t get there without some help.

As he reached adulthood I had the advantage of knowing his exact launch date. My wife and I were moving overseas for a few years so I knew how much time I had and the exact calendar date when my son needed to be prepared to launch into the world and make it on his own.

Faced with this accelerated task, I had to choose which life skills were most important and which could be learned later (either by me or through his own life experience).

I had the advantage of a son who trusted me when I offered advice. You may not have that relationship with your son. If that’s the case it’s going to be difficult to speak into his life at all. Try anyway. Perhaps a smidge of counsel will take root. At the very least, you can say you tried. 

Today let’s talk about the first of an eight part series.  These are skills any son needs to learn while he’s still perched on the edge of your nest trying out his feathers. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list but these are starting points in order to give him a successful departure.

Job Interviews
I’ll be the first to admit there’s a different standard out there these days. People show up for job interviews sporting camo shorts and face piercings. Younger employers don’t seem to mind. In fact they often have more tattoos than the potential employee.

While outward appearance may no longer require nice slacks and a tie, employers still prefer someone who sits up and speaks clearly with a confident (not arrogant) attitude. Teach your son to dress as if he’s got an interview, even if he’s just picking up an application.

Coach him about what to take in order to fill out a job application. A resume isn’t a replacement for a standard application. He should be prepared that some jobs want it all on their own forms and don’t want a resume. Still, attaching one to the completed application will only make him look sharper than the other applicants. Most applications require a complete job history with gaps in employment explained. Mailing addresses for each employer and phone numbers will be expected.

Train him to have the courage to get past the gatekeeper (the Administrative Assistant) and ask if he can hand the application or resume to the manager or HR person doing the hiring. Often just a firm handshake and eye contact sets you apart from all the other unseen applicants.

Until the position is filled, train your son to understand the importance of calling back and bugging the employer weekly until he gets an interview or a firm “No, thank you. You’re not right for the job.”

During a first interview, your son should never ask about the salary or rate of pay. Nor should he ask about health insurance or other fringe benefits. Reserve those valid concerns for the second interview or phone call.  

I see a lot of parents sabotage their son’s success by being involved too much in their son’s employment. One mother actually went with her son to the interview answering some of the questions for him. When he began having problems at work the dad came in to negotiate a compromise as if the boss were his son’s school teacher. This couple failed to understand they were emasculating their child every time they stepped in to rescue him. He never could keep a job more than six months. Almost fifty, he hasn’t worked in decades. His parents still bail him out when he’s in need. It’s called failure to launch.  

My father was strict but he taught me early how to survive in a world that does not have my best interests in mind. I watched him enjoy his retirement without having to worry about supporting me. He died knowing all of us boys had survived the launch. 

A good rule of thumb is “Equip and Release.” Your son will fail sometimes. He will make unwise choices that cause you to wince. It’s good for him. That’s how he learns to fly. So give him his wings and stay out of the way. Before you know it, he’ll be flying higher than you. And isn’t that really what we all want anyway?  

Friday, August 1, 2014

Getting to Know You

Please take a moment below to respond and tell us what kind of dad are you? Divorced? Never Married? Widowed? Re-Married? Married to my child's biological mother? Other?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Kitchen Help

I was forever screwing up meals for my kids but they were always gracious when I did. I thought Id post a couple ideas from some of my dad friends:
Chili too hot for the kids? Add a spoonful of peanut butter to calm the heat. If your chili or spaghetti sauce is too acidic, add a sliced carrot to neutralize the acid. Boring lunches? Use large cookie cutters to turn sandwiches into fun shapes. Your kids might like it too.
~Cam (Florida) I keep a list of favorite foods, snacks, sweets for each of my kids. Then I surprise them by buying or cooking for them. Sometimes I tuck their favorite candy into their lunch bag. While I'm at it, I include a little note to encourage them.                                                                                               ~Ke (Singapore)

What recipes or ideas can you share with us here, to help other readers?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Just Keep Swimming

     Single parenting can change us as dads. For me, it's been a while since those days when I was going it alone, but it made me the person I am today. 

     In Disney Pixar’s movie Finding Nemo, Marlin is a clownfish and single dad who coddles his only child. 

     When Nemo is captured by some divers, Marlin crosses oceans searching for his lost son. As the fame of his heroic undertaking reaches his son in Sydney, Nemo finds the news astonishing and uncharacteristic of his dad. In the end he’s reunited with a parent who has changed entirely. The crisis has transformed Marlin, making him a better father.

     Trials have a way of reshaping all of us. In the midst of my own divorce no one could have convinced me that some good would have come out of that mess. If you’re in that place currently, chances are you aren’t ready to hear that, so I hesitated to say it. But it’s true. Each of us must wait for that period when God in his mercy reveals it to us—and he will. 

     Good will rise from this tragedy, but you won’t see it until, like Marlin, you reach your own Sydney. After you’ve made it through all the jellyfish, sharks, deep sea creatures, whales, and nets—then you’ll be able to look back over that ocean of trouble and see how the Lord has sustained and changed you. 

     It happens in small increments, too tiny to notice. Adjustments here and modifications there. My friend Ernesto was fifty-one when he and his three teens found themselves in a broken home. As he adjusted to life apart from his children, he often panicked when he discovered special moments were occurring without his presence.

     “I had to learn to focus on the big picture, not think about the small stuff,” Ernesto admits. “My teens 

also had to develop a big-picture mentality.”

     Sometimes God tweaks you like he did Ernesto, so slightly you don’t notice until years down the 

road. Other times he makes huge, uncomfortable adjustments in a short amount of time, like Marlin 

experienced. You may not yet see the big picture, but rest in the understanding that God has you.  

     When it was all said and done, Ernesto came out the other side a more godly man, a guy who hopes 

in Christ more now, because the Lord adjusted his worry and changed it to trust. 

     What about you? How have you experienced change as a single dad?




Friday, June 20, 2014

Keeping up Appearances

The temptation to look like you’re on top of it all can be strong. When impressing others becomes your goal, you’ve not just lost your way—you’re headlights are off and the bridge is out.

I’m still learning that short of being a Stepford dad, it’s virtually impossible to be the perfect parent. You’d think by the time Christine and I had our two youngest, I would have this parenting thing down pat. However, Jadyn and Anicah are nothing like my first two. These little girls are constantly teaching me things about fatherhood I hadn’t learned with my older children. Raising kids is like owning electronics; just when you figure them out, something new comes along and you have to relearn everything.

Relearning changes a person too. One thing I really enjoy is raising these two youngest along with my wife—the way God planned it to be. I had never experienced this, and it’s nothing less than lovely.

Yes, I used the word lovely. That’s one consequence of living in an all-female household these days. Dare I mention how much I know about Barbie, mermaids, and fairies? I’ve grown soft around all this prettiness. Where’s Caleb when I need him?

Whether you ever remarry or not, people aren’t really looking to be impressed by your fathering. I wasted a lot of energy worrying about what people thought about me. During the early years of single parenting even my Christmas cards revealed some insecurity. They included the kids and me wearing dark sunglasses and sitting on a cool-looking balcony. After all, I had to keep up the image that I was fine and having fun.  I probably fell into each of those roles over the seven years I was fathering my kids alone. It wasn't until my Heavenly Father helped me see my true worth was in being myself that I finally became a Sedan.  

Today I try not to deplete my energy on appearances. I care very little these days about what people think of me, allowing myself to be weak, transparent, and full of flaws so the Lord can show his glorious strength.

I trust this blog in no way portrays me as someone who has it all together. I still tick off my grown kids when I get too preachy. I yell at my little girls until they cry. Sometimes I punish them so harshly I can almost see their little hearts curl up like a Styrofoam cup in a fire pit. I’m selfish, and I talk over them and get impatient when they can’t express themselves. I get frustrated if they aren’t fast enough. I complain when they break things and threaten never to buy them anything again. The list goes on.

I lie in bed and wonder how I can be so soft some days and so hard the next. How can I feel God using me sometimes to train them in the ways of the Lord, then turn around and in mere seconds let my flesh undo everything I taught them about God’s love? Have I learned nothing about parenting kids? Are all four of my children destined to need counseling because of my stinkin’ Tez-ness?

Then I see it. Those little eyes full of unfaltering love and admiration for me. Those sweet little smiles full of unconditional forgiveness. I’m reminded of God’s grace and mercy in all four of my kids’ faces. His love that covers a multitude of my sins. His love that erases from my kids’ minds and hearts so many of my failures. In my kids’ eyes I see something that gives me hope.


Dads, you’re gonna goof up. We all do. Be encouraged in knowing you have a high priest interceding for you. Your identity isn’t in your shortcomings. It’s in what you are becoming day by day through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit working in you, perfecting you, until one day you will be all he wants you to be. 

What are some ways you are most tempted to look like you have it all together?