Father To Son-In-Law

This is something I should have posted last week, but here it is anyway…

We celebrated a belated Father’s Day with my dad two Tuesday nights ago. Of course we went to his favorite restaurant — Summer Palace in Shang-rila.

There are only four top hits for my dad when it comes to Chinese food…Lugang, Choi Garden, Summer Palace, and Gloria Maris.

He got his Peking Duck and steamed Lapu-Lapu fix so he was very happy. Everyone wrote him letters and cards and he read through each one aloud.

My dad has always appreciated home made cards that tell him what he means to each of us. It’s not a narcissistic thing. Like any good father, he wants to know that he made and is making a positive difference in our lives.

During the dinner, the grand kids hovered around him as he gladly received their written gifts. He was delighted to read everyone’s cards and letters, smiling and adding drama to his voice as he went through each one.

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As the night came to a close, we all asked him to give the fathers at the table his words of wisdom. This was his 3-point, very simple sharing:

1. Assume responsibility for your family’s well being – God has entrusted to you your wife and children. You are to provide physically and spiritually and you are to give direction to your family. You are responsible. Your role cannot be delegated.

2. You have to be intentional. This is about modeling Christ-likeness and spending time with your children to teach them the habits, attitudes, and life principles that will prepare them for true success.

3. Have a positive home environment. Be fun. Do not complain and grumble or focus on the small things. In other words, don’t be reactive or easily irritated.

As I listened to him I appreciated how consistent he was at applying those same things when we were kids. He has truly been an amazing father. It was because of him that all of my siblings and I became committed followers of Jesus. His example, discipline, encouragement, godly leadership, and love for the Lord made us desire to serve and follow Christ, too.

But there is something else I am really thankful for. My dad discipled his sons-in-law. (He continues to do so.) In fact, I teared up when he read Edric’s personal letter to him. Edric shared about how important my dad’s affirmation and positivity have meant to him over the years. He said he learned God-confidence from my dad.

As confident as my husband may seem, he struggled a lot with insecurity when he was younger. For example, one relative told him he was “very ugly,” which kind of scarred him. Another one made him feel like he wasn’t good enough. So he grew up with certain emotional pains that made him feel like he had to continually prove his worth. My dad helped him to understand who he is in Christ.

During a recent retreat, I heard Edric say that his life has been a story of three fathers. His first father (my wonderful father-in-law) raised him and taught him about manhood. His second father, my dad, healed him of childhood insecurities, and led him to the father of all — God the father. Edric’s third father — God — saved his life and brought meaning and purpose to it beyond his own selfish goals and ambitions.

Many years ago, my dad sat down with Edric and told him about Jesus Christ and how to have a personal relationship with him. This changed his life forever.

Before Edric married me, my dad had a “talk” with him about God’s design for sex in marriage. Sounds pretty crazy and awkward but Edric actually appreciated it.

When we got married, my dad mentored and discipled Edric. He invited Edric to join the group of men he met with weekly for accountability and the study of God’s word. And he would ask Edric regularly, “How are you doing, son?” which allowed Edric to share what was on his heart. He also gave Edric opportunities to serve along side him in ministry. My dad would affirm Edric’s gift for speaking which encouraged Edric to preach and teach God’s word to others.

My dad’s presence as a father to Edric made such a difference in Edric’s life, which ultimately, turned out to be beneficial for me and our kids! I got a husband who was mentored by two great dads — his own and mine.

In Edric’s letter to my father he wrote…Inscribed in the British pound is a quotation by Sir Isaac Newton, which reads, “If I have seen farther it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants. I want to thank you, dad, for being a giant in my life.”

What a blessing a father can be to his son-in-law when he takes it upon himself to mentor and guide him in love! Thank you, dad!

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Daddy Flashcards

Our family gift to Edric for Father’s Day was a set of “Daddy Flashcards”. I asked the kids to give descriptive words or phrases about Edric as a dad, and they came up with sentences to support their descriptions. Then we laminated the cards to make them look more “official.” (I love my laminator!) Edan helped me with this part. And presto…
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The kids wrote their cards for him, too.
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I was especially moved by Elijah’s letter.

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Edric’s favorite sort of presents are home-made ones. If we just got him a gift and didn’t write a card he would feel really sad. So this time no purchased gift but he was all smiles! Yeah!

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Kids Need Their Fathers

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Some weeks ago my third son, Titus, was recovering from a cough and cold so he had to stay away from the other kids. Edric happened to see him peering out of the window, all alone. So he called out, “Do you want to go walking with daddy?” Titus was thrilled. He ran down the stairs and put on his shoes.

Edric walked with him all the way to the park and back. And Titus talked the whole time. He is not much of a talker so this was significant. Some of the things he said were, “So you and mommy have been married 5 times right, because you have five kids?” “Someday I am going to marry Tiana.” Of course Edric corrected his understanding of marriage and explained why he can’t marry his sister. It was a precious time, just the two of them.

When Titus got back home, he announced to his siblings that “dad went walking with him.” He narrated how Edric saw him at the window and called out to him. He was very proud to tell everyone.

A child’s self-worth is very much hinged on the attention and regard given by his or her parents. But, I think this is especially true for the time a father gives to a son. There is something special about the affirmation and validation a son receives from his dad.

I know a couple of guys who admitted that they tried to compensate for what their fathers’ did not give by turning to unhealthy habits and behaviors, relationships, and friendships, or pursuing ambitions in order to feel whole.

No one can give back the years that a father was absent or heal the wounds that his flaws inflicted. However, I have also seen men who did not live with the example of a godly father or receive the love and affection of a dad recover from their deep brokenness. Their new identity and self-worth came through Jesus Christ.

Two Sundays ago, I listened to the testimony of a man who was physically and sexually abused by his own father. He was betrayed and harmed on multiple levels as a young boy. As a result, he grew up without a compass. In his young adult years he turned to homosexual relationships and a decadent lifestyle to feel happy. But he was never satisfied with that life.

When he finally encountered Jesus Christ and understood how much he was loved, forgiven and redeemed by God, he became a transformed person. Today he is living for Christ. He admits that he is still tempted by sexual sin but he continues to pursue God’s design for him as a man. He has a peace and joy that he never used to.

I believe that no one is beyond God’s grasp. God can always redeem the mistakes of our parents. As this passage says, “Behold, the Lord ‘s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1 NASB)

However, let us not be the kind of parents who shipwreck the lives of our children. We may not be as bad as a father who beats and molests his children, but are we present to disciple, lead and train our children, steering their hearts toward God?

Most likely, you are a young woman or a wife or a mom reading this post. And if you are married to a husband who is neglecting your children emotionally and spiritually, hope in God. Pray for him. (Look at yourself, too, and pray about the areas where you need to change…we can all change for the better.)

When Edric and I had a smaller family, I prayed for him to step up as the spiritual leader of our home, that his heart would be turned towards our children. At the beginning he was great at prioritizing me and his work, but he didn’t really know how to be an intentional and purposeful father. But as we had more sons, he realized that they needed him. They needed him to model biblical manhood and to teach them what it means to love and follow Christ. And he couldn’t do this unless he spent time with them and built a relationship with them.

Today parenting is a team effort between us. We still make mistakes but we continue to refer to God’s word for guidance. We also ask for forgiveness from our kids when we fail to be Christ-like.

Just yesterday, Edric asked Titus to forgive him for being irritable. While I was correcting Titus and Tiana for speaking to one another with an unkind tone, I asked them, “Do mommy and daddy do that?” trying to point out that they should copy our example. Titus replied, “No, but daddy gets angry sometimes.” He clarified that daddy doesn’t shout but he can get irritated. Of course I passed on this observation to Edric. And he was very repentant about it and apologized to Titus, who readily forgave him.

Edric and I continue to pray for one another as we parent our kids. He prays for me to be the mom I need to be and I pray for him to have the wisdom he needs to lead our family. Author Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” I agree with this but I also believe that whether man or woman, before God, we are all broken and need repairing. If we want to build strong children as parents, we have to recognize that we can’t do it apart from Christ.

Furthermore, if we find ourselves in a season of parenting alone as a mother, then we can be encouraged by God’s tender description of himself as father to the fatherless. What an assurance that he will provide in the areas where we cannot! Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy. (Psalms 68:5 NLT) Kids need their fathers, but more than a loving, godly earthly father, they need the FATHER OF ALL.

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“To Be Continued”

The kids love it when Edric invents stories. He tells them almost every night while the kids are tucked in their beds. On nights when he misses story-telling time, he runs a tab with the kids. Like tonight. He had to make up four stories.

I am laying down in the room with the kids while they listen, completely riveted. The stories he tells revolve around 7 characters with similar traits and names to our own family. But they each have a super power and work together on different missions. He interjects spiritual truth and character traits, too. It’s like a TV series only better because the kids have to use their imagination.

Edric isn’t the type to read a storybook but he enjoys story-telling. He is so great at creating these make believe plots that are ridiculous but absolutely entertaining for the kids. I don’t know how he does it but he sits there inventing on the fly and the kids look forward to it every night. He told me he likes the challenge of his multi-level audience and getting reactions out of them. He also likes getting to know them as he studies their responses to his comedy or serious parts.

This routine started a few weeks ago when Edric saw Edan’s achievement test results. Everything was great except for his listening skills. When we discussed how we can help him to improve in this area, he said he would try telling stories. Of course I was thrilled! Since I do most of the homeschooling, I appreciate any sort of participation and input Edric can give to our kids. So far, these stories have been a creative way to get Edan to practice attentiveness and comprehension. Since he is a visual learner, he relies more on pictures and text. His ears need to be “trained.”

Although the initial intent was to help Edan, the kids have all gotten hooked on these stories. They remind Edric every night that it is story time or they tell him how many stories he owes them.

I imagine that someday the kids will remember these entertaining evenings. And while Edric’s stories are very interesting, I know it is his time that really matters to them. He is a busy man and the nights are perfect for him to wind down and relax. But he goes out of his way to be with the kids.

In the past he would make sure to pray with them before bedtime and they always asked for this. But with the added component of a bedtime story, the kids are developing a new kind of affection for him. They know he wants to spend extra time with them and it makes them feel really special.

He ended his story # 4 tonight in the usual manner he does, “to be continued” and they gave their usual protest “What?! Why?! because they didn’t want to be left hanging. But they know that their dad will be back tomorrow night with another good tale to tickle their imaginations. And what they know even better is that he loves them.

I snapped pictures of the kids while they were listening…(Edan looks depressed but that’s just his serious face. It was probably a serious part of the story. Elijah looks like he is sleeping but that’s how he listens.)

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A Father’s Arena

Between Edric and I, I tend to be the more protective one with the kids. It is probably because I am a mom. Aside from wanting the boys to stay clean and sanitary, which is often impossible, I can be concerned about their physical safety…sometimes to a fault. They are boys after all. I have definitely relaxed over the years and now I notice how younger moms tend to be more obsessive than I am. But compared to Edric, I am still the more cautious one.

I am especially concerned about them when they are in a swimming pool. First of all, I have my own issues about drowning…my worst fear. Second, I find Edric’s teaching style, as swimming coach to the kids, a little bit unnerving. I mean this in the sense that he will push them to go outside of their comfort zone so they develop water confidence.

Sunday afternoon while I observed Edric instruct Titus, I was tempted to interrupt their session. Titus was gulping quite a bit of water and tearing as Edric taught him to swim a significant distance without assistance. As I was swimming past them doing my own laps, I reached out to grab Titus. However, Edric motioned for me to go away and to let Titus be. So I trusted him and resisted the urge to protect Titus and cater to his feelings. Sure enough, by the end of their “lesson”, Titus swam across the width of the pool without holding on to anyone.


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Edric and I agree on the fundamentals and goals of our parenting, which is such a blessing, but we do have masculine and feminine perspectives that impact our approaches. Edric is able to encourage our sons’ masculine traits — bravery, perseverance, toughness, chivalry, and the like in a way that I can’t.

I remember a comment a soccer coach said about some of the homeschoolers he had to train. Unfortunately, it wasn’t positive. He shared that they seemed to be overprotected. When they felt tired or fell down, they would run to their moms, dads, or yayas who were sitting on the sidelines. He didn’t like this because he was trying to toughen them up and teach them how to resist giving in to discomfort. This made me consider my own cautiousness with my kids.

There is a place for nurturing, encouragement, and affirmation, but I have to know when it’s overkill and when it is appropriate. I have to consider what the character objective is and whether my interference will help or negate what ought to be accomplished in the hearts of my kids.

We just came back from Singapore and once again, Edric took over the training aspect for our sons. I was in charge of Tiana and he made sure the boys were disciplined and followed instructions. Whew. I praise God, too. They were very attentive to his leading. I could stroll along as we went from one activity to another. All I had to worry about was our little Tiana.

Edric used this vacation time to mentor our sons once again. He had them each carry a backpack and asked them to be responsible for their belongings and for one another. And he added teaching moments to instill character traits.

For example, since he knew that Titus was struggling with confidence in the water, he wanted to demonstrated courage. When we were at the Science Center, Edric volunteered to step inside a chamber which was zapped by electricity from a Tesla Coil. Of course it was safe but to young children, it looked like he was stepping into a dangerous situation. The kids were nervous about him doing it, but at the same time, they were proud of their dad. Afterwards, he talked about what it means to be brave and related it to their own experiences.

Edric and I share a dynamic as parents that God designed to be complimentary. There are roles we fill in that enable us to raise our kids as a team. I have to make sure I am aligned with what Edric wants the kids to do in a particular situation and avoid contradicting his approach (especially when he is not around which can be confusing for the children.)

I didn’t know what to do when I felt stressed about Edric’s swim lesson with Titus that Sunday afternoon. I wanted to step in and assert my mom instincts. However I was reminded to trust Edric’s leadership. He loves our kids and will not willfully harm them. And when I am not sure which hat to wear as a mom, I go back to what I do know. In that situation it was about supporting my husband who was trying to accomplish, not just a skill, but a character goal.

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That same day I watched Elijah and Edan, who used to be afraid of the water, jump around everywhere in the deep pool while playing the game sharks and minnows with Edric. They were swimming with ease. In the near future Titus will probably be doing the same thing…especially if I sit back, relax, let Titus “rise to the occasion” as Edric puts it, and step outside of Edric’s arena so he can better mentor our sons to become men.

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A Son Needs His Father

The other evening, Elijah was struggling with decision-making. Being the perfectionist that he is, he had been practicing his violin 3 hours every day for about a week. And he was beginning to feel stressed.

I did not ask him to do this and neither did Edric. It was his personal conviction to “try his best.” However, I became concerned when it seemed like he was bordering on legalism. He had no peace. It was troubling him deeply that he couldn’t sustain the 3-hour long practices.

So I told him, “Tonight, just practice for 30 minutes. Take a break.” He wrestled with this and replied, “But, I feel like it’s not enough, that I should do it for longer.”

“Elijah, I am your mom. I am your authority. I’m asking you to practice for just 30 minutes tonight because I want you to relax. You don’t need to practice for 3 hours.”

But this didn’t alleviate his stress. And I started to feel exasperated inside when he became emotional and dramatic.

I love Elijah. He is a tender-hearted son who is very sensitive to the Holy Spirit yet he was convinced that he wouldn’t be pleasing to God if he didn’t practice hard enough. Of course, this wasn’t a biblical perspective. He didn’t have to earn God’s favor by playing his violin.

Unfortunately, at that moment, I had to get ready for a dinner so I couldn’t have a long drawn out conversation with him. Edric, on the other hand, takes 5 minutes to get ready so he had time to spare. When he saw that Elijah was anxious and confused, he called him into our room to talk. They had a private conversation about how Elijah was feeling and what was going on in his head.

When the opportunity was right, Edric inserted the principle of obeying your parents and priorities. He reminded Elijah that God has ordained us as his authority. And he can trust that God speaks through us. So if we say he doesn’t need to practice for 3 hours then he can rest assured that following what we say is what God wants him to do.

Then he talked about priorities. He explained to Elijah that it’s a good thing to do your best. However, there are other responsibilities and activities that Elijah needs to get done in a day. So if violin eats into everything else then he’s focusing too much on his violin. Edric used the example of his own life and the decisions he has to make as a man when ordering his priorities.

Elijah breathed a sigh of relief after he heard this and he said, “Thank you, Dad. I really look up to you. When I make decisions, I think about what you would do.”

Sons need heart-to-heart moments with their fathers. I couldn’t have comforted and assured Elijah in the same way that Edric did. Since their talk, he hasn’t been plagued with unnecessary guilt about his violin practices. He has been enjoying them instead.

Edric’s mentorship provides our sons with a different kind of security and confidence than my mothering does. As our sons grow into their manhood, they look to Edric more and more to teach them how to be men and navigate through life. It amazes me how responsive they are to Edric’s guidance and I am blessed that he is present and available to meet their needs. But, I’m also reminded to keep praying for him to be the kind of father they need him to be. And more importantly, I need to pray that he will be the father that God wants him to be. Mentoring three sons is a big responsibility. As sons need their fathers, fathers need their heavenly father to direct, instruct and teach them how to lead their families.

Psalm 25:4 Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths.

I found these scrapbook pages in my old files from 4 years ago…It was something the kids and I made for Edric.

 

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Wanted: Father.

When Edric and I first became parents, we were wet behind the ears. Most of what we knew about raising our kids was theoretical or passed on from our own experiences as children. Eventually, we learned about biblical parenting principles and we applied them. We are still learning…

When we had Elijah, we were thrilled to be parents. But we didn’t quite get what it meant to be intentional and purposeful in raising our son. Edric was often preoccupied with doing his own thing when he got home from work — like turning on the TV or playing computer games, going out in the evenings for basketball with friends. Edric didn’t ignore Elijah, but their interactions with one another were minimal. The baby stage was foreign territory to him and I didn’t blame him for feeling like he couldn’t relate to a bouncing boy who pooped and peed on himself and wanted to be with mommy to breast feed. He would play with Elijah once in a while but father and son bonding occasions were not in his radar.

As Elijah got older and we had more kids, Edric began to change as a father. I remember an evening when we were sitting around the table for dinner and Edric asked Elijah how he could improve as a dad. Elijah must have been about five years old when he made the statement, “You can spend more time with me.” He used his hands to show that he had this imaginary meter for spending time with dad, and he explained that Edric was at the bottom of the meter. We all started laughing out loud because it was very candid and unscripted. He said it just like it was. “Dad your level is at 0.”

Of course, Edric wanted to improve! And I prayed for him, too. One of the things that really changed in his parenting style was the desire to be present and purposefully available to our kids, especially our sons. At a certain point, he recognized that God gave us three sons for a reason and he had to prayerfully consider what kind of father he needed to be. The boys were not going to grow up to be godly men by accident or osmosis. They needed guidance. They needed their dad.

So every year, he would sit down with me and talk about our goals for the kids. He would share about the areas he felt they needed to work on and how he intended to play a big part in mentoring and teaching them. I always appreciated this because it made me feel very secure and confident as a wife that my husband was in charge, that he actually had a plan and direction for the family. (In fact, I often tell him that this is one of his more attractive traits.)

During the second week of January, we had a meeting to talk about goals for the kids. He asked me to prepare my homeschool goals and we aligned on what I would work on and what he had itemized as a priority list for each of our kids. Some of the list covered spiritual and emotional aspects and others were practical skills.

One of the practical skills Edric outlined for our six year old, Edan, was to acquire the ability to swim and bike. Living in the city has put constraints on the amount of time we spend outside and this means we don’t have as many opportunities to expose our children to biking, swimming, climbing trees, playing in parks, etc. Sadly, our kids would be well-content to stay indoors and let their muscles atrophy too if Edric and I did not do anything about it. But since we grew up being outside for most of our childhood, we want our kids to experience the same joys and adventures we had. Plus, they need Vitamin D!

So…swimming and biking it is for now. Edric started Edan’s training program two weekends ago and I must say, it is impressive to watch him “coach” Edan. I am not talking about doggie-paddling stuff. Edric used to be a swimmer so he knows all the drills. His first hurdle was getting Edan to overcome his fear of the water and then putting his head under water and blowing bubbles. Well, I was amazed last Sunday when I saw Edan swimming in the big pool! He touched the bottom of the pool with his hands and he swam a significant distance all by himself. After just two sessions with his dad, Edan was laughing and thrilled that he accomplished so much. I was clapping my hands and cheering everytime time he would pop his head out of the water for recognition. (That’s my role in this swimming and biking training…the over-affirming cheerleader.)

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Edric is able to do, in a fraction of the time, what would take me days and days to achieve with the boys. With him, they learn quicker. They develop confidence and masculine traits. They overcome their insecurities. I actually enjoy being on the sidelines spying on them. For one thing, it is fun to check out my husband. (Did I already say I find him so attractive earlier?) My second delight is seeing the expressions on my sons’ faces when they have Edric’s full and undivided attention. I see the way they look at Edric. Admiration, respect, desire to please, assurance, favor, love…it’s all mixed in there.

I get puppy eyes for sympathy when they need a hug or when they want me to say yes to a request. Okay, on occasion, I get sparkly eyes when they are excited about learning. Of course, I get the love look. The point is, I am not perceived as the hero. That sort of adulation is reserved for Edric. And it doesn’t make me envious. I want the boys to gravitate towards him. After all, I have my own little acolyte and her name is Tiana.

When Edric and I got home from “swimming lessons,” we talked about Edan’s progress. I also thanked him for following through with his commitment to teach Edan. He went on to say that Edan didn’t want to get out of the water because he was having so much fun, and then Edric started to get teary-eyed which caught me off-guard. “Are you okay?”, I asked him. Spontaneous tears seemed like a hormonal thing that would have been much more characteristic of me than him.

He answered, “I don’t know. I guess it is because I live for these moments, seeing our kids bloom and mature and being able to be a part of that. I enjoy ministry and I know that it is important, but you guys are my first ministry…you and the kids.”

Who had the love look now?! Me, of course! I fall in love with my husband all over again when he says things like this. I have always appreciated Edric as a husband, but in recent years, I have been so grateful to the Lord that he has embraced being a father. His commitment to family is a blessing that I attribute to the Lord’s work in his life. Many years ago, I really prayed that he would recognize how irreplaceable he is in the lives of our children…that they need him now, not just later, not from a distance, but up close. When Edric developed a burden to disciple, teach and train our kids, I knew that it was God who put that desire in him and continues to do so.

The reality is Edric is still very busy and he is not able to be with the kids 24/7 but he came up with a game-plan for our kids about 4 years ago. He told me we were going to use Luke 2:52 as a reference for how our children should mature. It reads, “And Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God and men.”

WISDOM: Are they able to discern right from wrong and make wise choices?
STATURE: Are they developing their physical abilities and talents?
FAVOR WITH GOD: Do they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and do they have the heart to know, love, obey, worship, and serve him?
FAVOR WITH MAN: Are they learning biblical character traits and applying them with family members and others?

These four areas have simplified our parenting to the essentials. It has helped me to think through the goals I set for our homeschooling and Edric can major on the major to maximize his time with the kids. Just the other night, he reminded me again that it boils down to, “passing on a godly legacy.”

Being an intentional father doesn’t mean a dad has to quit his job and spend 14 hours with his child everyday. It’s about setting aside purposeful moments that are devoted to discipleship with resulting big impact.


The statistics on fatherless homes are so compelling, I thought I would include some highlights here to encourage all of us to pray for our husbands. We need them to lead spiritually and by godly example, and we need their effective discipleship in the home.

From http://fatherhood.gov/library/dad-stats:

Children with actively involved fathers display less behavior problems in school.
Amato, P.R., and Rivera, F., 1999, “Paternal Involvement and Children’s Behavior Problems,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 375–384.

Girls with strong relationships with their fathers do better in mathematics.
Radin, N., and Russell, G., 1983, “Increased Father Participation and Child Development Outcomes,” in Fatherhood and Family Policy, edited by M.E. Lamb and A. Sagi, Hillside, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 191–218.

Boys with actively involved fathers tend to get better grades and perform better on achievement tests.
Biller, H.B. 1993, Fathers and Families: Paternal Factors in Child Development, Westport, CT: Auburn House.

Research shows that even very young children who have experienced high father involvement show an increase in curiosity and in problem solving capacity. Fathers’ involvement seems to encourage children’s exploration of the world around them and confidence in their ability to solve problems.
Pruett, Kyle D. 2000. Fatherneed: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child. New York: Free Press.

From First Things First

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 million U.S. children now live in single-parent homes. Only 3.5 percent of these children live with their fathers.

“….the absence of the father from the home affects significantly the behavior of adolescents and results in greater use of alcohol and marijuana.” Source: Beman, Deane Scott. “Risk Factors Leading to Adolescent Substance Abuse.”

A 15-year-old girl who has lived with her mother only is three times as likely to lose her virginity before her sixteenth birthday than one who has lived in a home with both parents. Lee Smith, “The New Wave of Illegitimacy,” Fortune 18 (April 1994) 81-94.

85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control) Fallen Fathers, 2008.

80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average. Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26

85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction- Fallen Fathers

From The Fatherless Generation

Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to get A’s in school.

Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to enjoy school and engage in extracurricular activities.

Children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors such as drug use, truancy, and criminal activity compared to children who have uninvolved fathers.

Studies on parent-child relationships and child wellbeing show that father love is an important factor in predicting the social, emotional, and cognitive development and functioning of children and young adults.

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Fatherlessness is being passed on from one generation to another like a cancer that is killing the families of today and tomorrow. Sadly, the cure is not found within ourselves. We cannot cure this ill without being healed by Jesus Christ first. Why? We have been separated from our own father — God the Father — by sin. But Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

I think of Edric and my own dad as great fathers but God is still the best father of all. He loves each one of us perfectly and unconditionally, and he desires to have a relationship with us for eternity. If you came from a fatherless home or live in one, you don’t have be a victim of this trend. Come to the Father of All and experience his love through Jesus Christ. He will be father to you. He will love you as you long to be loved.

Ushering Boys into Manhood

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Sometimes raising boys makes me a little crazy…their seeming inability to modulate their voices, the perpetual movement, the mess, the competing and clashing of their titanic personalities…It is like trying to reign in wild horses. Thankfully, they have learned obedience and submission to authority which helps a lot. However, they still push back and want to assert their manhood and ideas very often. And I must be careful not to quell their natural inclinations towards leadership. On occasion, however, I want to say, “I surrender! Edric, please take over! I need to go get my toenails done or do something to get away from all this testosterone!”

The past couple of weeks have been wonderful because Edric had some time off from his ANC tapings and TMA Homeschool. So he spent one-on-one time with each of the boys and he has been 100% hands-on with training them. Last week was like Daddy Boot Camp because we had no house help. (I am not going to do that again. It was novel for a short period but exhausting!)

Edric reigned in our three stallions — Elijah, Edan and Titus. Edric’s authoritative manner got the boys to listen and comply with his rules. They were actually eager to follow a plan, a system, and they had a healthy fear of disregarding Edric’s “policies.” He was stern but not mean.

He had a couple of things that he implemented:

1. No leaving the table without excusing yourself when you are done eating or you stay 10 extra minutes.
2. Clear everything you use from the table and bring it all into the kitchen.
3. Follow the four step rule of taking a shower, brushing your teeth, putting on your pajamas, and then calling dad when you are ready for bedtime prayer.
4. Fold your clothes neatly if they are not dirty.
5. Throw or give away toys that you are not using and store new ones so you have something to look forward to. (In an afternoon, he got the boys to sort through their toys. There was a mountain in the living room but he got them to stack everything neatly so we can now put them into boxes for storage.)

The boys readily submitted to Edric like good soldiers. It certainly made my job of focusing on the home less difficult. And beyond this, he really sought to take the opportunity to mentor them. Elijah needed help with being more focused and responsible about his belongings. Edan needed to be encouraged toward courageousness. Titus had to be refreshed about immediate obedience.

Some days ago, Elijah forgot to excuse himself from the table and Edric made him sit there for 10 extra minutes. Elijah was frustrated because he wanted to run off and play. So he started to tear. A few hours later, he broke his glasses because he left them thoughtlessly on the floor. He really cried when this happened. One of the lenses had popped off and we could not put it back into the frame.

When I reported this to Edric, initially, he felt aggravated and frustrated. He was really tempted to be angry with Elijah for his carelessness. He had a talk with Elijah. Edric didn’t get mad, but he did tell Elijah that he needed to improve on being more focused.

Afterwards, Elijah repeated a similar mistake which again showed that he lacked presence of mind. In private, Edric shared with me his irritation as a father. I shared my own perspective on Elijah. From my observations, Elijah was beginning to feel very discouraged about his lack of focus and clumsiness. But I suggested that he is growing up so fast mentally and physically that perhaps this contributes to his inability to be “all there.” Edric decided to pray about it and give it more thought.

The next day, he called Elijah over the phone and told him, “I experienced being unfocused while I was working today and I remember that I was prone to the same changes when I was your age. I just want to let you know that I understand. Don’t be discouraged. I love you no matter what but I also want you to realize that Daddy is committed to helping you improve and become better.” (I asked for a replay of the dialogue from both of them!)

In response, I saw Elijah’s face soften as he thanked his dad for the encouragement. And he ran off to play a happy boy, confident that his dad was there to offer him grace, support and the mentoring he needed.

As for Edan, our cautious and calculated child, Edric got him to wade out in deeper water at the beach when we visited Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar this past weekend. Edan was afraid to try but Edric didn’t let him be mastered by his fear. He took him out to where they could jump the waves and after a few minutes, Edan grabbed Edric to embrace him and he said, “Daddy, I really like it when you are with me.” He expressed how fun it was out in the deeper water.

Very recently, Edric told me, “I have been thinking a lot about being a dad and the kind of father I want to be. I don’t want to be a father who is there just for the moments, the celebratory occasions. I want to be present and I want my kids to be able to say, someday, that I was around, that I was there for them.”

When I reflect on what it means to usher our sons into manhood, I think of Edric’s role in the lives of our boys. They come to me when they are hungry, need sympathy, assistance on their homeschooling, or a referee for their disputes, etc. But they have a deep respect for their father. They look at him with a kind of adulation that I don’t get. The boys grow up when he affirms them and gives them his attention. I get puppy dog eyes to butter me up when they want something.

I asked Elijah what he thought of his dad. He said, “100%. He is the best dad in the world!” He also added that when he has one-on-one time with his dad it’s important because “they can talk about men stuff that women don’t understand.”

Parenting is such a challenge, especially raising sons. I know that I would be overwhelmed without Edric around. I often feel that Edric is God’s grace to me…his leadership in our home. He steers the ship that is our family towards the Lord. Seeing him at the helm provides me with a great assurance, not because he always knows what he is doing (he would be the first to admit that he makes mistakes, big and small). What makes me feel secure is his desire and consistency in trying to do what God wants him to, as a husband, as a father. This is better to me than someone who has a facade of perfection and appears to have it all together. His dependence on the Lord for direction and his desire to please him is what real manhood is about.

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

Family Culture

One of the things I have always appreciated about my parents is the humility with which they receive correction, especially when that correction comes from their kids.

Weeks ago, my dad found out about Elijah’s eyesight grade. When I told him that Elijah’s grade was 400/425, one of his first comments was, “Well, you are partly to blame. It is your fault for not feeding him the right food. You have to be very intentional about what you let him eat.I see the way he eats his food and he is lacking vegetables…” Here I was, hoping for some word of encouragement, but he was giving me a lecture. And he doesn’t see what Elijah eats every single meal so it wasn’t even an accurate observation on his part.

I was hurt when he said this and I retaliated with a joke. “Actually the doctor said it’s genetic and I don’t wear glasses, so it might be from you, dad.” We both laughed when I said this, but I didn’t tell him right there and then that his comment made me feel like a failure. I know my dad. He is a teacher at heart and his intentions are usually good. But there are moments when he errs on his style of correction.

Days after, I visited him in his home and went up to his study room to talk to him. He was seated at his desk studying and reading his Bible. “Dad, can I tell you something?” My dad stopped what he was doing. I said, “I felt hurt when I shared with you about Elijah’s eyes and you corrected me right away. I know you meant well because I know you, but I was surprised that your first instinct was to say that I didn’t feed him the right food.”

At this point, my dad turned his chair around and gave me his full attention. “Really?” He asked with utmost sincerity and concern. When I expounded on how it made me feel, he asked for my forgiveness and spoke kindly and gently to me.

The conversation continued and I added, “You know I was just wondering if you do that with other people. Like people who work for you. Maybe they might feel de-motivated, especially if they look up to you.” He had this thoughtful look on his face, and he said, “You are right. I can improve in this area. I need to be more encouraging and positive. Other people have told me that.” There was no defensiveness on his part. He really meant what he said.

As far back as I can remember, dad has been the kind of father who listens to the correction of his children. My dad instituted this kind of culture in our home. We were allowed to speak up and express our feelings, concerns, and share how our parents could improve. In fact, both my parents would ask us regularly, “Is there any way we can improve?” Then they would listen intently and openly to our suggestions, take them to heart, and really make the effort to change.

Well today, I visited my dad again. I went up to his study room (his usual hang-out) and I had a long chat with him about the message he was preparing for Sunday worship. He gave me a sneak peak into the topic he was going to preach on. We exchanged ideas and dialogued about possible illustrations and bible passages.

At some point, I interjected and said, “Dad, I just want you to know that you were a good example to me when you listened to what I said about Elijah’s eyesight…about my getting hurt and all. It meant a lot that you were humble enough to say sorry. I also wanted to tell you that I noticed you have been trying to be really positive with the men you are mentoring. I saw you go out of your way to encourage a couple of them the other day at church and I have been very blessed by your efforts to change.”

“Oh really?” He replied with his big smile. He thanked me for the encouragement and went on to talk about how he really needed to grow in the area of affirming, fathering, and mentoring the men he disciples. I lingered in his study room for a wee bit longer as he finished discussing the rest of his outline for Sunday’s message.

I enjoyed visiting with my dad. I always do, and so do my siblings and our spouses. My parents established a family culture that has been about open communication, unconditional acceptance and love, peace among family members, predictable joyfulness, as well as mutual respect and honor.

By saying these things I don’t want to make it seem like I am elevating my parents or giving them all the credit. The real secret to this family culture has been Jesus Christ. My parents have walked with him, followed him, and lived by his principles which made our home a wonderful place to always come back to, even when we were grown up. My dad has this joke that he can’t “get rid of us.”

Well, Edric and I are trying to develop this same culture in our home. Just two days ago, Elijah corrected me for having a bad attitude about my cell phone. I had tossed it on the car seat in an exasperated way when it didn’t turn on. When we got back to the house, Elijah confronted me and said, “You had a bad attitude, mom.” He did not say it disrespectfully, he was merely pointing out an obvious reality. For a split second I was tempted to defend myself, but somewhere in my subconscious I must have remembered my dad’s example of humbly receiving correction and I responded by saying, “You are right, hon. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have behaved that way. Will you forgive me?” Elijah readily forgave me, hugged me, and then went to go play with his brothers.

Family culture matters. Can our children correct us? Are we willing to change when they do? Do we say sorry when we are wrong? Is forgiveness readily given? Is conflict resolved quickly and in a way that honors God? Do our children feel important, loved and treasured? Are family members joyful and at peace?

Maybe it is just a theory but if families tried being like this, I really think grown up children and their spouses would look forward to visiting mom and dad more often! They would want to keep coming back!

What Children Teach Us About God

Over the past couple of months, one of my sons has been learning how to deal with failure and blocked goals. It has not been easy for him to accept it when he feels he cannot do something. In fact, he has admitted to Edric and I during several occasions that he struggles with pride. He likes to win, to be excellent, and to feel accomplished and competent. While these aspects of his personality may not necessarily be bad, they can be rooted in pride (which is the bigger character issue.) When we ask him to keep trying, he will sometimes say, “I don’t want to.” As a result, he stops short of experiencing the blessings of humility and obedience. We are working on this, but admittedly, it’s not easy for me to be patient with my son’s emotions. He gets into some sort of emotional tunnel-vision and struggles to listen to truth and act upon it.

For example, I took my kids wall climbing with some friends. My son and his cousin easily scaled the first few walls. However, when my son was confronted with a physical challenge that he couldn’t overcome he acted like it was the end of the world. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t finish one of the harder walls and he flipped out. But it really was a challenging wall. There is no way I could have done it. It was for very skilled climbers.

So there I was, trying to help him manage his frustration and expectations of himself. After all, this was part of growing in maturity — learning to deal with failure positively and having the right perspective.

But he said, “I don’t want to go again. I can’t do it!” And he broke down. The other kids around him asked me why he was crying. I knew this was an uncomfortable moment for him. I hugged him, but I also whispered in his ear, “You’ve got to suck it in and be a man. Try again. This is your first time to really go wall climbing. You already climbed three walls. This is a difficult wall. You just need to practice.” I assurred him that it was okay not to be able to get it the first time. Yet, he kept focusing on his inability to do it. He did not want to listen to me.

Finally, I kept quiet. I realized that my comments were not really helpful. Be a man?! Really?! What the?! Was that my best pep talk?! So I just put my arm around him and let him settle down first. After a while, he climbed again. However, despite his best effort, he couldn’t complete that one wall and he remained disappointed with himself.

I discussed this incident with Edric when we got home. Edric was familiar with this same behavior in our son.

We both understand that parenting is not an overnight thing. It requires commitment to the end goal of raising our kids to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. So helping our son to change requires patience, creativity, unconditional love, lots of prayer, and selflessness on our part. It also entails that we prioritize heart and character transformation over external, behavioral fixes.

Well, I praise God for a husband like Edric, who does not give up on our kids and throw his hands up in the air and say, “I have had it!” (Which is sometimes what I am tempted to do!) Instead, he very wisely strategizes ways to disciple and mentor our kids.

With this one son, he planned bonding time which involved trail biking. During his first attempt, our son stumbled here and there, and got frustrated and angry with himself because he struggled through the trails and almost got lost. Again, he wanted to give up. But Edric did not let him. He planned another bike trip very early the next day for “character training — round 2″.

This time our son didn’t want to wake up. He told Edric, “I don’t think I can do it, dad. I don’t think I am ready.” But Edric said, “Yes, you can. Let’s do this.” It was our son’s obedience that had to kick in at this point. He got himself up, put on his gear and headed out the door with Edric.

I don’t know how to explain it but there is something magical that happens when fathers spend purposeful time with their sons. Boys become men. As opposed to me ineffectively saying, “be a man” and giving him no reference or example to follow, Edric was able to guide him, teach him, encourage and affirm him man-to-man during their bonding activity.

By the end of their ride, they had scaled four hills and one very challenging incline. Our son managed to stay on his bike until the last part. He did have one bad fall at the tail end of their ride but he got back up and finished well without tears and with a positive spirit.

What was the secret? Edric explained to me that he was firm but affirming. He narrated to me their experience and how he would continually remind our son, “just follow me and listen to my instructions.” He kept saying, “You can do it!” and profusely complimented him when he would make a climb or difficult turn.

When I talked with my son, he told me his version. “I obeyed and followed daddy, and I didn’t get lost. When I got to the hard parts, the hills, daddy told me to shift my gears so I would be able to go up easier and I did. And daddy was so proud of me because I did it and I did not fall (until the last part). What I learned was to listen to daddy and to overcome.”

I thought our son’s experience was a great example about our relationship with God. God is committed to transforming us. He doesn’t let us remain us we are, but customizes circumstances to teach us life lessons that will draw us closer to himself. If we refuse to cooperate and obey, we miss out on the victory he has in store for us. And worst of all, we do not experience intimacy with him — the greater blessing. But if we listen to him and obey his voice instead of focusing on ourselves, our inabilities, our fears, our disappointments or our doubts, God faithfully comes through for us. We may not be exempted from pain or hardship, but God never leaves us or forsakes us. He goes with us and he goes before us. We just have to follow and trust him.

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Yesterday, our son told me, “I want to grow up to be strong like Daddy.” In the same way, when a person walks closely and intimately with God, he finds himself saying, “I want to be like you, Lord. Help me to be like you.”

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Our kids are still growing and maturing, and Edric and I always have to remember that we are in it for the long haul as we teach them what it means to be Christ-like. Parenting is not a sprint. It is marathon. Character transformation in our children does not happen in an instant. It is lifelong.

Character transformation in our lives is the same way. It takes time to become the persons God wants us to be. And, unlike earthly parents who can fail at their commitment to teach and train their children, God, as our heavenly father, does not fail us. God will never fail us!

Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand
.’ (Isaiah 41:10 NASB)

When Boys Go Biking with their Dads

Edric took Elijah, our eldest son, for a bike ride around the city. And it was magic for building his manhood.

As for me, I am glad I wasn’t there because it would have freaked me out to know that cars were passing closely beside my son or trying to dodge him while he biked on the main thoroughfare near our place.

It was Edric’s idea to include Elijah and it was his invitation for dad and son bonding time that mattered so much. So off they went on their merry way — father and son.

Well, they had a blast. Elijah came into the study room to see me when he got home. He was drenched in sweat but smiling from ear to ear. After catching his breath, he told me about their biking adventure. He was obviously excited and happy as he narrated his experience.

He also told me a funny story about a bird that chased Edric. I half-believed him at that point and thought that maybe he was exaggerating until Edric told me the same thing.

Apparently, Edric was going up a grassy hill when a bird swooped down and started chirping wildly. Then it followed him and flew close to his head as if it was going to attack him. It was so bizarre and Edric had to evade it. In fact, he nearly got thrown off his bike because he was trying to get away from that crazy bird.

As for Elijah, his most memorable part was going through the off-road areas that were overgrown and unpredictable. Edric saved a tidbit of their conversation to pass on to me, thinking that I might possibly want to write about it. And here I am doing just that.

It was not easy for Elijah to navigate through all the difficult parts on his bike but Edric kept encouraging him and not allowing him to give in to his fear or emotions. So Elijah pushed on, peddling hard and trying his best. At one point, however, Elijah could not make his way past the tall grassy areas so Edric instructed him to follow right behind him. And he did.

Then he said something that I feel is emblematic of a father and son relationship. As Edric conquered the terrain, Elijah was able to move through the same way with greater ease. He even said, “Dad it’s amazing! Your bike is able to create a path for me so it is easy for me to follow.”

I just thought this statement gave good insight into the necessity or a husband and father to take the lead. Sons need to have a clear path to follow. Fathers help to carve out that path for them. But they make the most impact when they are in front, leading the way…by example.

I am sure an occasion like this made a big deposit in Elijah’s heart. May he have many more of these magical father and son bonding moments with Edric!

Dad Matters

As I was leaving TMA Homeschool’s office the other day, I grabbed my boys’ stuff — two violins, a music bag, a backpack and a lunch bag and made my way towards the kids and Edric. They were sitting in the consultation room finishing their lunch. I almost got to them when I was intercepted by my older son, who noticed that I was carrying all their things. He quickly came to my aid and said, “Mom, let me help you. I don’t want dad to see you carrying our things.”

A part of me wanted to carry everything myself so we could get out of the office quicker. I had another activity to attend and it was an hour away. However, our son was very insistent and I knew that he wanted to please his dad by being responsible for his own things. So I said, “Thanks, hon. You’ve gotten so strong. I really appreciate you helping me.” I noticed he flexed his muscles and was motivated to exert more effort as he took the bags and violins from me.

The desire to take charge of his things was instilled in him by Edric. And I really appreciate that Edric is taking his role as a father seriously, even in the little ways. On Thursdays, our older sons come into the office with him to attend their violin and Taekwondo classes. He uses this time to mentor them. One of the things he has trained them to do is keep track of their belongings and be responsible for them. It doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but for our boys, taking care of their things does not come naturally. Left alone, their closets and toys would be in a constant state of explosion!

One thing is for sure, Edric has a special way with our sons. His input, mentoring, feedback, guidance, and encouragement does wonders. I love it because it makes my parenting a whole lot easier. But more than that, our sons are growing up with a clear understanding of what it means to be a man because Edric is so hands on with them and present in their lives.

We know many fathers who are purposeful with their sons and we can see the difference — the confidence, sense of security, and masculinity exhibited by the boys, young men or grown men who have spent alot of time with their dads. In fact, just today we had lunch with a homeschooling family in Cebu and Edric and I asked the sons (a 13 and 15 year old), “What is one thing you appreciate about your parents?” The 13 year old son said, “Quiet time with dad.” We asked what that meant and he shared that it’s when he gets to spend one on one time with his dad to ask and talk about anything. Edric and I took note of this because our sons are still young but they will need Edric more and more as they grow up.

In a world where gender confusion is so common, I thank God for a husband who recognizes his integral role in raising our sons to be men. I pray that all fathers would realize how much a dad matters, especially to their sons. And I also pray they would remember that being the kind of dad the matters starts with having a relationship with our heavenly father. (A friend reminded me to include this last part.:))

“He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” (Malachi 4:6 NASB)

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