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?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Father's Day Blues

A guest blog from Michael Klumpp, author The Single Dad's Survival Guide (Waterbrook Press 2003) 

Grim title, right? But blue is how many single dad’s feel on Father’s Day. Whether because in the exchange of kids with exes or just because we are aware of our failures in a broken and fallen world, Father’s Day can be a grim day for single dads.

The problem is it’s the one day of the year we celebrate fatherhood. Although the holiday should be celebrated, if our fathering paradigm is less than perfect, we have cause to mourn. So our feelings can range from bittersweet to just plain bitter.

You see, fatherhood is a calling that we enter into without adequate preparation. There’s no manual for success. It’s a full time calling and the celebration needs to begin in our hearts—not from outside. If we wait for acknowledgment in order to feel adequate, we may likely never feel up to standard. But there is God, the one who called and trusted us to lead our family in the first place.

As fathers we are the leader of the family. With the Lord’s help we can move forward with assurance, knowing that we are likely to succeed and fail—and that’s okay. No father, however confident, believes for a moment they are incapable of mistakes. Rather than celebrate failure we can learn from it, ask God to help us improve and celebrate success. With God’s grace we can mark the moment and then push on, because tomorrow comes with new challenges. We can‘t afford to linger on the past.

Epictetus once said, “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do”

This Father’s Day celebrate by:
·      Recognizing your best efforts and trusting God more.
·      Thanking God for giving you strength to give what you gave.
·      Make up your mind to move forward with humility.
·      Forget what lies outside your control and push on.

When we remember not to judge what we did yesterday by what we know today—then we can live with no regret—no bitterness. Because it’s counter-productive.

I’m proud of all you fathers—especially you single dads.

Happy Father’s Day.

Mike Klumpp is a writer, martial arts instructor, and former pastor who became a single dad when his four children were between five and fifteen years of age. Mike is now remarried and living in Texas.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Friday, June 6, 2014

Dear Diary

I have a couple notebooks full of journals and records I kept during the years I was single fathering. Although many entries are filled with immature and embarrassing, emotion-laden raging, I found it helpful to look back and see how God had answered prayers. You may not be a journaling type of guy, but I recommend giving it a try for just five minutes each day. If not as a spiritual discipline during this season, then do it at least so you have a record of your thoughts that your kids can read someday when you have left this earth. It will be precious to them. 
Beginning this splendid habit can be daunting, I know. All those blank, white pages are staring at you. You’re wondering if it’s really safe to put your thoughts or prayers in print.
I don't recommend using your computer. It’s too easy in the heat of the moment to cut and post things you think others need to read. Much harder to do so using a real pen on a page. It’s also too easy for you to return to the entry and edit it, erasing all the rawness of the moment. Try some of the following exercises to help get you started.
1.              Make the first entry an introduction. Explain why you want to journal and what you hope to gain.
2.              Switch it up. Some days you might feel like just writing to yourself. Other days you might write to God. Still other days you might make an entry to your child. There’s no rule for how you share these thoughts. Nobody ever has to read them. It’s more about getting those thoughts out of your head and on paper for your own growth. Doing this can also release that pressure valve of sadness or anger.
3.              Just write. It might come out mundane at first, but at least you’re making the ink flow. The more you write the more thoughts will begin flowing as well. If you can’t get past your writer’s block, write about your job, your spiritual journey, your childhood, the book you’re reading, today’s top news story, or even your death. What makes you irritable, happy, scared, calm, or desperate? The easiest entry for me is to ask myself, “What is God showing me today?” Any topic works as long as you’re writing regularly.
4.              Pour out your heart to God. You don't have to write down private thoughts and prayers. Especially if you’re afraid your entries may get into the wrong hands. If you’re not comfortable being frank, then don’t be. You’re not a wimp if you decide to omit confessions of porn addictions or daydreams of your ex-wife’s accidental death. Just write what you’re comfortable writing.
5.              Include your frustrations or victories specifically related to the divorce and your kids. These will be valuable to you one day as you review how God sustained you through it all. Those early entries will be a springboard for your future journals. Hindsight is a beautiful gift.

6.              After about ninety days, go back and read some of your entries. Additionally, review what you wrote in the interactive portions at the end of each chapter of this book. Even those responses you entered are a type of journaling. How have things changed? Reflect on what the Lord has shown you. Write it down.
What about you? Does the thought of journaling overwhelm you? Why?