Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sleeping Baby in T-Minus Six Weeks

My third child is two weeks old.  I think God puts selective amnesia in parents so that we forget the first few weeks of a new baby's life.  It's the only reason every child isn't an only child.  The fatigue, frustration and fussiness work together to make you feel sub-human.

As Chloe's due date approached, several people asked if we were ready for the sleepless nights.  Each time, I responded, "NO! But I can handle anything for two months."

You see, in six weeks, my daughter will be sleeping through the night.  

Pretty bold prediction, right?  

It started six years ago.  We were at our son's two month checkup.  We were exhausted.  Our pediatrician  told us that he should be sleeping through the night.  We asked about him needing night feedings.  He assured us that he didn't and then reminded us that we're the parents and, as such, get to make the rules.

Two nights later, our son was sleeping all night.  Four years later, our daughter did the same.

Authority in the family flows from God, through the father, mother and to the children.  Our sleeping values come from Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:1-4. (... I guess all of our parenting values come from there!) 

I'm not a big believer in the "your child will tell you when he/she's ready to ______" philosophy.  My children would be drinking chocolate milk at every turn if they got to make the rules.  

Rebellion starts early and, until Jesus saves our children, must be met with an unwavering will.

Sleeping is one area in which we exercise our authority as parents.  Our children know that when it's bedtime, we sleep... in our own beds... until the clock says six oh oh.  

We're six years in and so often parenting has boiled down to a battle of the wills.  At this stage, our highest calling seems to involve lasting five seconds longer than our children.  And that battle goes smoother if we're well rested!  

If you're a new parent or a not-so-new parent with unsleeping kids, I would love to talk more about this.  It's one of our favorite parenting subjects.  

Also, check back with me on October 3, 2011.  (I don't know if we'll be starting on 9/23 or 9/30).  This could be your chance to Nelson me.  

There is hope for us, we sufferers of sleep deprivation.  There's hope.  
"Immediately the father of the child cried out, 'I believe!  Help my unbelief!'" - Mark 9:24.  (That applies here to some/most, right?)

*Disclaimer:  You should probably check with your Pediatrician about this stuff.  But I would ask, "Is there any reason he/she shouldn't be sleeping all night?" as opposed to "My goofy friend says..."*

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Denying Myself is Fun ... damentally hard!!

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me..."  -Jesus of Nazareth

"Perhaps in our affluent society fasting involves a far larger sacrifice than the giving of money."
 - Richard Foster, Celebration Of Discipline, p66

"Donuts. Is there anything they can't do?" - Homer Simpson

The thought kept coming back to me last week, "Fasting and prayer."  "Fasting and prayer."  
I thought it might be my body revolting after some jalepenos & onion straws.

But it kept coming back to me.  "I need to deny myself."  

One does not reach 350 pounds by being disciplined.  He does so by letting his stomach have whatever it wants.  

If I follow Jesus and he says that my body is a "temple of the Holy Spirit," I should treat it as such. But I don't view my form of gluttony as being very sinful.  Just like you don't view your form of (insert sin here) as being very sinful.  

We scorn the smoker who is damaging her body and chained in addiction.  We banish them to the far reaches of the property while I finish off my fifth donut and you replace the coffee iv that gets you through the day.

It's so easy to judge the speck in your eye while totally missing the log in my own.  

So my goal over the next month is to deny myself some things that I want.  (An exciting experiment, I know!)  I do so in the hopes that I would grow more dependent on Jesus and knowing that it is far easier said than done.

I'm thinking that a little bit of fasting is all it takes to lose 8 or 10 pant sizes.   Right?



Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Change I Actually Believe in

I spent Fathers Day with my family peering over the edge of a cliff at the Garden of the Gods.  That's not so revolutionary until I remember three years ago I only wanted two presents:  Peace and Quiet!  Instead, I was excited to haul my two year old around the rocks chasing my 6 year old!

It seems that I don't notice changes in my attitude/character until something crazy happens, like preferring to hike with a pregnant wife and two children rather than watch tv all day.

I was thinking how oblivious we can be, sometimes, to our own needs for maturity and growth.  How many people enjoy examining themselves searching for character flaws?   

So it wasn't a good idea to be reading a section of 1 Corinthians 11 that night.  I got stuck on the phrase, "Let a person examine himself..."  

Now I'm getting better at how I respond when a trusted friend calls me on something.  But "Examine himself"? That's coming MUCH slower.  But it's coming.  

And I wonder, how can I help my children be better at this than I am?  

My goal as a dad has become to face and deal with my junk so my kids don't have to...  They'll have enough of their own!  So how do I instill in them the habit of checking their blind spots?  

I had a chance already this week.  We were eating dinner and I thought I heard my son kicking his chair.  I said, "stop" and took a bite.  The kicking continued.  I said it a little louder, "STOP."  ...

The kicking CONTINUED.  

Finally I put my hand on my son's arm, shook it a little and said, "Son, you HAVE to listen to Dad when I'm talking to you."  

And my wife says, "He's not doing that.  Your daughter is."  

Couple that with the fact that I LOVE being right and I faced a dilemma.  

I could have shrugged it off and kept eating.  I could have transferred the speech to the beautiful girl kicking her high chair.

Instead, I grabbed my son's hand and apologized.  

I was wrong and had to admit it.  I was wrong and chose not to make excuses.

Hopefully that becomes a habit with me.

But even more importantly, I hope I'm building that as a foundation in the lives of my children.  

That, and laughing at the sound of bodily functions, of course!  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Scales of JUSTICE!

"Do you want me to pick up a scale at (huge retail shopping chain) while I'm out?"

Even a year ago those words uttered by my wife would have started the marital equivalent of The Rumble in the Jungle. 

I tried deflecting...  "Uh, last time I checked (10 years ago) they didn't make scales that went high enough." 

She didn't buy it.  "I'm pretty sure they do now." 

So now we have it.  A shiny new Biggest Loser Scale.

I found myself thinking about the numbers on that scale yesterday during lunch.  I ate too much and spent the entire afternoon walking quickly around my office.  

The scale has brought my weightloss out of the vague and into the very specific. 

The thing I avoided all these years is actually an asset. 

I weighed on the scale for the first time Tuesday.  This is Thursday and it says I'm six pounds lighter.

And now, pardon me while I do a jig.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Legalist's Least Favorite Game

Let me share something ludicrous. 
                                 Playing the Game.  #3. 
                                 The judge turns over each red apple card, reads it aloud,
                                 and then selects the one he or she thinks is best described
                                 by the word on the green apple card.

The subjectivity woven into Apples to Apples drives me CRAZY.

The word is "Dirty."  I have a card in my hand that says, "The dump."  What's dirtier than THE DUMP?



Wait!  JAMAICA?!?! 

I need rules.  I need scores.  I need neat, orderly ways for me to prove I'm better than you at this game.

At the end of a round of Apples to Apples my blood pressure is up, my face is red and I'm angry at the others in the room.

Hello, I'm Jay and I'm a Boardgame Legalist.

And if I'm going to be honest, I'm just a good ol' fashioned Legalist. 

I don't smoke, I love spending time with my children (who sleep all night and obey 95% of what I say), I open doors for others and usually let a car turn into my lane in traffic.

I want the scoreboard to reflect my superiority.
We want the scoreboard to reflect our superiority.

You pass the terrible driver in front of you and graciously wave and bless them.
You're sitting in front of the woman talking on her phone as the movie starts and wish her well.
The server brings your meal and it's wrong... again and you leave a 20% tip.

Of course not!  We call the judgemental A-hole an A-hole.
We stare down the bad driver, shoosh the movie-talker and jip the server.

And all the while, we tally our score.

But keeping score is stressful.  It takes up time, wastes energy and saps our strength. 

Then I read the words of Jesus, "On hearing this, Jesus said, 'It's not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means:  'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'"

I can run faster than my pregnant wife and I boast... but in the grand scheme of things I'm racing against a highly trained Chinese hurdler.

My good isn't much when compared to God's Good.  I forget that. 

We forget that.  Right?

We put so much pressure on ourselves trying to win, trying to earn, trying to find worth in our accomplishments.

And yet we have a God who longs to bestow His accomplishment on us. 
A God that desires to give us rest and remind us that his work is sufficient.

I'm slowly learning to depend on Jesus' work on the cross instead of my own work.  I'm trying to remember that the first guy Jesus took to paradise was a convicted felon who repented right before he died.

I'm asking Jesus to tear down my scoreboard. 

I'm asking him to remind me of his grace when I'm trying to apply the rules. 

But I still can't stand Apples to Apples.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The art of Snapping Part 2: Milestones

"Dad, I CAN'T DO IT!"

I used to only be able to offer support.  "Sure you can, bud.  Just keep practicing.  You'll get it."

Then, after weeks of practice, my son showed me that he could snap.

He doesn't know what he's done!  Now I have a reference point for him to overcome his frustrations.

I ambushed him last week when he was trying to put a shirt on.  I tied him up with his sleeves and tickled him until he gave up.

We were both still laughing when he tried getting his shirt on correctly.  He slipped his head through one of the sleeve holes and couldn't find where his arm was supposed to go.

He got in one of those funks that I get in when I realize the donut I just bit into has jelly in it.  BLECH

He was giving up, pouting and getting ready to blow up when I gently reminded him...

"Jeremiah, snap for me.  Do you remember how frustrated you got when you couldn't snap?  You practiced and now you're an expert snapper!"

Now he has a memory to depend on when times get tough.  He has a victory that can remind him that he has won before and if he stays calm and keeps practicing he can win again.

A few victories on the way to being healthy have kept me motivated to stay active.

But even more than that, reminding Jeremiah to remember has made me do the same.

I'm still too big to shop in most places, but I remember my doctor saying he's proud of me for the weight I've lost so far.

I still have trouble being open about my emotions sometimes, but I remember how much my wife appreciates it and how much better I feel when I share.

I have no idea where God is calling me professionally, but I remember that he has healed my heart, repaired my marriage, blessed my children and used me where I am.

I've been challenged by my son's expert snapping.  My challenge is to not only help him remember victories, but for me to remember how God is moving in my life... even when it feels like he's not there.

Life is hard.  And rather than stay on the surface with platitudes of "being blessed" while ignoring difficulty, I need to dig deep and remember those times where God did work when I didn't expect it.

He continues to use me and speak through me even though I don't know what the future holds.

A lot of times I still feel like I'm tied up in shirt sleeves, flailing around only succeeding to make the trap tighter.

Slowly though, I'm starting to hear the voice of the Father saying, "Jay, slow down.  Concentrate."

One day I hope to become an expert snapper myself.

The Art of Snapping Part 1: Frustration

For the most part, my five year old is peaceful, joyful, jolly...  until he gets frustrated.  He could be having the greatest day imaginable and then he hits a wall.

It happened last month when he came with a simple question.  "Dad, how do you snap your fingers?"  

I showed him.  For the next three days he would ask the question, try to snap and shout, "I JUST CAN'T DO IT." 

Last week he came to show me something.  "Dad, close your eyes."   He had been practicing on his own for three weeks.  Now he's an expert snapper.

For two weeks, we've been working on tying shoes.  He has all the tools.  He knows the bunny ears.  He knows the Through the Tree.  But I hear it again.  "I JUST CAN'T DO IT."  

But before I shake my head and say, "Oh, those five year olds," I remember how ridiculous I get when I don't succeed immediately.

Over the years, I have splintered entertainment centers, treated screwdrivers like throwing stars and Leg Dropped appliance boxes.

Oh, those 32 year olds.

Sometimes I feel like asking for help equals weakness.  If I can't do something then I'm not a man.  I get wrapped up in the idea that if I successfully complete this task it will bestow more masculinity on me.  If I figure this out, I'm strong.  If not, I'm weak.

And I want life to be easy.  Failing strikes to my very core.  For years I thought I was on my own.  I believed that there was no one who could really help me...  What's worse, I didn't know if there was anyone who wanted to help me.  

Feeling alone to deal with the challenges this world offers. 

I daresay I'm not alone in feeling alone.  

And it's not just the frustrating tasks at home.

I'm already running late and now a train's crossing the tracks.  

I'm walking out the door as I spill juice on my shirt.

The smallest failure and we think we're useless...

My son is not useless.  He is not weak.  He has more strength than he knows, strength this world needs.

One of my greatest tasks as a father is to repeatedly remind my son that he isn't alone.  He has a father who loves him and will help him in times of trouble.


Why do I forget that I have the same?

Thanks to Jesus, I have a Father who loves me and who will help me in times of trouble.  

As I concentrate on putting that message in my son's heart, he's learning to snap and I notice his fuse is getting longer.

As that lesson slowly invades my thinking, I'm heaving fewer tools and breaking fewer spare parts.  

And now that he knows how to snap, on to the next challenge...

"Bunny ears, bunny ears, playing by a tree..."