Family Fun

Our family always looks forward to putting our Christmas tree up together.  This year Jordan decided to do a few short videos to preserve the progress.

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Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Day!

fairfax-fare-egg-and-cheese-english-muffin-with-bacon-2Friday morning has become something of a special treat in our house.  It’s “Bacon, Egg, & Cheese (did I mention bacon?) Day”!  I did not intend for it to happen, but I have become the unofficial cook on Friday mornings.  Honestly, it just doesn’t get much better than a hot cup of coffee and sizzling bacon, so I’m not complaining!

On this particular morning however, three of our children are not feeling well, nobody in our house got much sleep, and everyone was exhausted.  Even my coffee seemed to be dragging its feet this morning.  It’s been a long week and nothing has really gone “as planned,” at all.

So there I was, bacon on the griddle, bread in the toaster, skillet warming, eggs ready and music playing in the background.  I even had Noah contentedly sitting in his bouncy seat so Jenny could take care of some laundry.  Picture perfect. Until…

The bacon wasn’t cooking, Caleb was coughing and begging, others were wandering around in the kitchen (in the way), a couple kids disappeared, and I even tripped over the baby’s seat, twice (he did not notice and he was not injured in any way).

Hannah let me know that I’d been turning the griddle down not up.  Grace informed me that she was “starving to death.”  The egg pan got too hot.  I burned the first round of toast.  Apparently there was even a lego controversy that morning; should the castle tower have a door or not?  Oh, and Caleb informed mommy that “daddy would not give him a drink of water.”

Eventually everyone did enjoy their, albeit crispy,“Bacon, Egg, & Cheese” breakfast.

Here is the point: Go and hug your wife (and your mom), tell her how amazing she is and how much you genuinely appreciate her.  Express your love and praise for her clearly and audibly.  Believe me, you do not do this enough.

Proverbs 31:28 “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.”

“Frozen” Cereal?

15833676258_80c302e68b_z 2Oh wow,  I just heard my dad’s voice, quoting my mother, coming out of my own mouth.  Nooooo!  It cannot be.  (*hanging my head and sighing audibly.)

So I went by the store on my way home the other day.  I was on a simple mission: go in, get a few items (on my list), get out, go home.  As I passed the end-cap of the aisle those mean grocery people had placed a gimmick-cereal there in order to grab the attention of little girls and soft-hearted fathers of little girls; Frozen.

Just to make sure the big softy could not refuse, the cereal was basically just a dumbed down version of Lucky Charms.  It only had two kinds of marshmallows “snow and ice crystals.”  I know…boring colors, right?

Oh yeah, and because Kellogg knows that dads have a hard time denying their daughters happiness, the box is smaller but costs just the same.  Thanks a lot Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Kristoff and Sven.  In my defense it does say, in all capital letters, right across the top of the box “Collector’s Edition”.

So now we’re sitting at the breakfast table with little people eating their Frozen cereal.  They are smiling, fully absorbed in the cartoon images on the box, and bouncing ever so slightly in their seats.  Then it happened.

“Stop eating the marshmallows with your fingers … you are going to eat all of your cereal, not just the colors.”  Aaaaaaahh!  My dad’s voice, my mom’s words, and my own mouth.  The only consolation is that I did not employ the “there are starving children in Africa” line.

Upon recovering from this echo from my childhood, three things quickly cross my mind:

  1. It is not the end of the world if the kids only eat the marshmallows.
  2. I am so thankful for my mom and dad (especially their patience).
  3. As a father I am always influencing my children, always.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger (bad influence), but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (good influence).”  Ephesians 6:4

By the way, you’re not Jesus.

authoritarian-parents-angry-father-scolding-boyRemember that time when your child (spouse or friend), sinned against you and you went to them with eloquent, pointed, correcting words, and they immediately saw their error, dropped to their knees, and apologized with repentant tears?

Wait!  That’s never happened to you either?  I have to correct my children for the same thing over and over and over.  Why don’t they get what I’m saying?  Maybe I need to say it differently, with more force, with more gentleness, with more scripture, with less scripture.  I just need to figure out the right combination of words, then they’ll get it.  Right?

OK, so, you may want to sit down at this point.  What I’m about to say may be hard to hear: We cannot change people.

One author put it like this: “Somewhere along the way, those of us gifted with words will receive a painful reminder that it is Jesus and not our explanations that can change a heart.  Words aren’t strings.  People aren’t puppets. Eloquent speech isn’t magic.”

Only Jesus can change a person’s heart.  We may have all the appropriate biblical ammunition, carefully crafted arguments, and even have righteousness on our side, but none of these things can change a person.

As a dad I can raise my voice, or slow down my words (as if I’m speaking to a foreigner), but none of these things will change my children.  My words don’t have the power to change their hearts.  Only Jesus can do that.

When tension rises in a relationship, we’re immediately confronted with the fact that we are not Jesus.  We cannot cause people to be convicted of their sins, no matter how eloquently or forcefully we speak.  Only Jesus can convict a person of their sins.  Only Jesus can change a person’s heart.

We need to spend more time asking Him to work.  Yes, I mean praying.  He must change our children.  He must work in our spouse.  He must soften our friend.  Trying to do the work of Jesus in the heart of others is both exhausting and frustrating.  I know, I’ve tried many times and failed every time.  We need to (must) let Jesus do his work in his time.

[See: Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 14:10; 15:5]

Day of Discovery

We have really been looking forward to this day!  After lengthy discussions (more like debates), emotional pleas (that sound like “I really want what I want”), and child-like logic (it has to be this way because I want it to be this way) we arrived at the doctors office for the ultra-sound.  The boys wanted another brother.  Hannah and Lydia wanted a little sister.  Grace wants, well, a baby.  And Caleb just wants his space on mommy’s lap, back.

To be honest the week leading up to our day of discovery was a little nerve racking.  I had to take my sweet wife to the doctor’s office twice for unscheduled visits.  It doesn’t really matter how small the matter, when you’re expecting and things are not right, they are just not right.  Thankfully everything was fine and all is well.

Well, the day arrived.  Drum roll please . . . . . We are having a baby boy!  Well, that’s what the doctor said when he looked at the black-n-white kaleidoscope-looking mini-screen that displays shapes, bones, organs, and gender specific anatomy.

Oh wait, I can see a tiny little face!

2014-08-28 14.52.19Incredible.

The drive home was very interesting.  We talked about how the other children would respond to the news. Joy-unleashed would be a good way to describe the atmosphere. That is, after explaining that there were no winners or losers in the “what do you think the baby is” game.

Somewhere along the road my delight intersected with my reality.  I have another son to love, train, equip, and launch into manhood.  Wow.

Something I read recently came to mind: “The family is supposed to be a training ground in loving authority.  It is a ‘ramping-up’ place that God has given us to learn love, respect, honor, obedience, and trust, in order to prepare us for relating to others and ultimately to God Himself.”

Again, wow.  I love being a dad!  Please Lord, help me to be a good dad.

Children are a heritage from the Lord.

[Not sure why this did not post a couple weeks ago … oh well … here it is!]

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God has greatly blessed us with SEVEN wonderful, interesting, gifted and curious children.  Each one of them is a joy and each one of them is an adventure.

We take great delight in God’s blessings to us – even when His blessings come in the form of a very unexpected surprise …

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them…” Psalm 127:3:5a

“Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” Psalm 128:3-4

The Blessings Of A Big Family

Blessings-Word-Hanger-DecoA poem by, Jennifer L. Sylvester

“The blessings of a big family
are only seen by a few
A few of the chosen ones
that God has given this blessing too

The blessings are so numerous
it’s hard to even start
to number or to name them but
they all hold a place in the heart

The heart of every person in a
big family is unique
it’s uniqueness makes us special
and should not be critiqued

The memories that are made
are more precious than gold
from babies to weddings
from young and to old

From grandparents to grandchildren
and everyone in between
the many special relationships that are built
and could have never been foreseen

Thank you God
for my big family I will treasure
through the good times and bad
the memories could not be measured

Thank you God
for birthdays, simple get-togethers and even the tears
for I pray that these blessings
last many, many more years

To have a big family
can be a lot of work, not just play
but life is too short
so I THANK GOD FOR MY BIG FAMILY TODAY!”

IFCA Cultivate 2014

So pleased with Nathan & Jordan’s MTA at last weeks IFCA Cultivate!  Great job guys!

 

Blessed & Challenged

931210_617913124887606_615344544_nWhen Jenny and I were first married we had all kinds of ideas, goals, and plans. After twenty years I am so glad that God is in control and not us! Among our various conversations during the first few years was something like this: “So. When we are ready to have children, how many do you think we should have?” And the response, “Oh, I don’t know…definitely three, maybe four.” (As though it were entirely up to us rather than God; see Psalm 127:3 & 139:13-14.)

Thinking back I can’t help but cringe at our brazen audacity (that’s a nice way of saying self-centered, self-serving, thinking). At the same time, it is equally wonderful to think back and recognize God’s patience with us and amazing grace extended to us!

Today? Well, today we have the joy of seeing God’s manifest blessings in our home. Each one is totally unique and individually an absolute treasure. Nathan is a poet. Jordan is an athlete. Hannah is a voracious reader. Josiah is a hard-working cowboy. Lydia is gentle and sweet and tender and sometimes not gentle. Grace is an aspiring princess. And Caleb is beginning to reveal a very complex (and fun) personality.

To top it all off, God has blessed me with a beautiful, wonderful, long-suffering, spirit-filled, Christ-exalting, God-honoring wife whom I adore, favor, and love passionately! Oh wait…I was talking about the kids.

Anyway. I wanted to share a couple quotes that really blessed and really challenged me today:

“In the family, life is brought not only to our doorstep, but into our kitchens, bedrooms, and dens. In the family, life is happening all around us, and it begs to be questioned, evaluated, interpreted, and discussed. There is no more consistent, pregnant, dynamic forum for instruction about life than the family, because that is exactly what God designed the family to be, a learning community.” ~ Paul David Tripp

“An ideal Christian home ought to be a place where love rules. It ought to be beautiful, bright, joyous, full of tenderness and affection, a place in which all are growing happier and holier each day. There should never be any discord, any wrangling, any angry words or bitter feelings. The home-life should be a harmonious song without one marring note, day after day. The home, no matter how humble it is, how plain, how small – should be the dearest spot on the earth to each member of the family. It should be made so happy a place, and so full of life, that no matter where one may wander in after years, in any of the ends of the earth – his home should still hold its invisible cords of influence about him, and should ever draw resistless upon his heart. It ought to be the one spot in all the earth, to which he would turn first, when in trouble or in danger. It should be his refuge, in every trial and grief.” ~ J.R. Miller (1882)

Hairbrush Hero

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The Crisis: I was sitting quietly at my computer enjoying a cup of coffee and contemplating the deep things of God when Lydia approached me with sadness and fear. “Daddy,” she said, “Have you seen my little pink hairbrush?” Do you have any idea how much hair-brushing is required in a house that contains four females? Wow.

Initial response: I admit it. I was not very gallant in my response to the hairbrush crisis. In fact I was rather brutish. “Sweetheart,” I said, “Daddy doesn’t use your brush and daddy did not have your hairbrush. Now you go find it like mommy said.”

The interruption: Grace tapping my arm, waiting, tapping, waiting, “daddy,” waiting, tapping. Lydia walks away head down, disheartened, and unable to solve the mystery of the missing hairbrush. I finally looked at Grace and said, “Yes Grace. What is it?” “Umm. Daddy,” she says, tilting her sweet little face to one side. “Yes Grace. I’m busy. What do you need?” Grace, “Umm. Do I look pretty daddy?” Sigh. “Yes sweetie. You look pretty.”

The Hunt for Red October: OK, so I didn’t really organize the entire Russian fleet of nuclear submarines to find the hairbrush. Actually, I didn’t even get up from my coffee and computer. About an hour later I happen to be walking down the hall and saw the little brush underneath a chair against the wall. I have to be honest, I walked on by shaking my head and leaving it lay.

An opportunity lost, recovered: Another thirty minutes past and I overheard the troubled voice of little Lydia trying to explain that the little pink hairbrush was gone. Jenny, being much more considerate than I had been, responded with encouragement and counsel. In that moment I remembered seeing the hairbrush!

The moment:  I leapt from my seat (not really), swept little Lydia into my arms (yes I did), whisked her to the top of the stairs like a knight in shining armor (in my head), crawled on my hands and knees under the chair, recovered the brush, and on one knee held forth the little pink brush to my now elated little girl. Hero.

You don’t have to defeat all of the host of Mordor in order to be a blessing to your family. You don’t have to be a Jedi Knight to be a hero to your wife and kids. You just need to give them your time, attention, and affection. You know, act like you like them.

Points to ponder: Psalm 127:3; Deuteronomy 6:7-9; Ephesians 5:25; 1 Peter 3:7