So what if your kids have to sit with you in church?

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Growing up, Sunday mornings could often become tense. While getting ready for church, words would be said and feelings hurt as all six of us hurried to get out the door.

Even with a family of three, there can occasionally be a morning where we pull up into the church parking lot and say, “Everyone smile.”

Tab and I serve in our church’s kids ministry by helping check kids in, Sunday mornings. As parents walk up to the check in desk, they will often look relieved to be dropping off their children. Maybe their morning had been harried/tense while trying to get to church? I am never sure. But I get it. I try and reassure those parents with a sincere smile and a quick, “Hey, ya’ll made it today.” Sometimes merely getting to the destination is the biggest family battle of all.

Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

In the wake of the pandemic, my church has started meeting once again. This week will be week five of meeting physically, together. We’ve been meeting with some rules/modifications in place:

  • Not shaking hands, although elbows are encouraged
  • A row of spacing, behind and in front of, each occupied row
  • No passing of the offering plate.
  • Masks and gloves offered to those in attendance (not mandatory)
  • And this week, we are beginning to offer an earlier service for those ages 60+/vulnerable

Our small groups have yet to restart and have been meeting online.

One of the bigger changes now is that our children are sitting with us in the service.

Sunday morning, during the worship service, I got looking around. Trying to see if any of my little friends were in attendance; kids I used to check in each week. A few of the kids were there, sitting alongside their parents or even grandparents. For the most part though, the kids from our kids ministry have vanished.

  • I understand the need to practice social distancing.
  • I understand a parents desire to want to keep their children healthy.
  • I understand wanting to protect the vulnerable.

At some point though, I wonder if there is another reason I’m not seeing my little friends anymore. I wonder if their parents do not want to sit with them in the service.

Serving in the kid’s ministry, I have seen how amazing our children’s minister is. I have sat through her teaching time; I have seen the way she handles the kids and the expectations she holds them to. Yes, your child can sit through the service without getting up to pee.

Get’s me thinking about the way we can pass our children along to others, expecting them to teach/raise them. I see this pandemic time as the perfect time to model through action how to sit in big church. Pulling out, if needed, items to help your child:

  • Coloring books
  • Dot-to-dot books
  • Blank pages to draw on
  • And, depending on age, maybe even–gasp!–an iPad (with headphones)

I’m not sure about your church, but our children’s minister offers a kids sheet for sermon notes. Our pastor, each week, provides notes for his sermon. This is a great way to encourage our kids to engage in the service. I’m not interested so much in behavior as I am in teaching our children how to worship God.

I get tired of parents treating their children like they are the plague. Yes, I am a parent of one (and God-willing, more one day) but that doesn’t lessen my experience… nor my overall encouragement to bring your kids to church right now. This is the perfect time to grow spiritually as a family.

In closing, I say this with love: Some of us need to stop hiding behind this virus and using it as an excuse to forgo meeting with fellow believers. So what if your kids have to sit with you in church?

I love ya’ll. Until next time.

Adoption Update – I feel so frustrated

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Leaving church Sunday, someone walked up to Tab and I and asked how the adoption process is going. I replied, “I feel so frustrated.”

Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, we were sent an email from our adoption caseworker. The email contained a picture and a brief description of a little boy who is/was up for adoption. We were told that our home study had been submitted and to email our caseworker back if we were not interested. We didn’t email back. 🙂

Weeks went by, the deadline for caseworkers submitting interest in this little boy came and went. I followed up with our caseworker to see if she had heard anything, nope. Silence.

Another week went by, we received an email from our caseworker saying that we had not made the initial selection process. I felt gutted. So many questions filled my mind:

  • Were we not picked because of hold old Tab and I are?
  • Were we not picked because of the age different between Wyatt and this little boy?
  • Why?!?

I knew I couldn’t dwell in the land of why too long… so instead I kind of shut down.

It’s been about a week since we found out that we weren’t selected. This morning, I feel like I am waking up from a haze. With my mental fog clearing, I can tell that I’ve been distant with those I love, mourning someone I will never know.

There is something about a picture and a description that opens your mind to possibilities and dreams. Excitement about what could be is good; checking out when things don’t go as planned, not so good. I am learning through this adoption process. Learning about:

Trusting God when things don’t make sense / have gone off the rails

Strengthening my own personal mental armor / being stretched

Yes, I am still frustrated about the adoption process. But I realize that the word “process” is key. The process, the journey if you will, is helping prepare Tabitha, Wyatt, and I for the day we change from a family of three to a family of four. While my pessimism towards the process tells me that that day could be awhile off, I have to admit that I have no clue / it’s all out of my hands. Next week could bring a new email, a new child to dream about and consider.

Daily, I have to give this process to God. Let go. Let Him do His thing.

Until next time,

Bryan

 

 

Making Room

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We often treat our children as if they are invaders in our home. Pillagers of our everyday items (free kitchen cabinet content removal) and destroyers of all that is good (throwing ALL media off shelves onto the floor). I don’t think much about it now, but Tabitha and I fought against the invader mentality. Instead, we invited our son into our spaces.

The Cabinet Battle

When Wyatt was little, he liked opening the kitchen cabinets and throwing the cabinet contents out onto the floor. Typical little kid stuff. Tupperware, pots and pans, you name it, all over the floor to trip on. Our Solution: Tabitha gave Wyatt his own kitchen cabinet. A place where we could intentionally put just a few things for him to pull out. This created a boundary we could enforce, as all the other kitchen cabinets were off limits. A small mental shift that made our lives much easier in those early years.

Bottom Line: Invite your children into the kitchen, let them play in their cabinet while you cook.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Welcome to the Living Room

Most kids have all of their toys in their bedrooms. As Wyatt grew older, we set up all of his toys in a corner of our living room. At this stage, he liked to be near us while he played. With his toys in the living room, he would:
  • Walk over and play with us for a moment. I could easily eat some plastic cheese and then he would move on.
  • Grab us to come play cars on his large car mat.
This set up allowed his bedroom to solely become his sleep room. With his toys in the living room, we could watch, play, and still go about our business. A win for him and us!
Bottom Line: This one might drive some of you nuts… having your children’s stuff out in the open. Trust me though, with the toys out you play more. Who cares if you have guests over and they realize that you have children (This one was hard on me. Thankful for my sweet wife for helping me through this.).
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

They Grow Up

Over the weekend, we created a new space for Wyatt. A place where he can hang out when friends come over. Tab and I took half of our mud room and :
  • Put some carpet square samples from work down to define his space. We’ve found that the carpet squares work great as area rugs with a little Gorilla Tape holding them together.
  • Bought some bean bag chairs.
  • And put a TV/DVD player for gaming and movies. (I will note that nothing is connected to the internet in his space. All about smart parenting, people.)

Make Room

I watch other parents fight the kitchen cabinet battles; I watch some of them act as if they can erase any trace of having children in their home (I hate homes that feel like museums… another blog post though.). I can tell you that there is an easier way to fight the “invader”, include them in your spaces. Make room for your children.

Be Silent, Don’t Talk

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Sometimes I want to feel like I can talk out loud. I want to talk about what it’s like not being able to have more children. How years upon years can go by and nothing happens… and how bad that hurts. I want to talk about the lies that constantly swirl around about not being whole… the lie of being a failure for not being able to produce. Whenever my wife and I open up about where we are, people say the most insane/insensitive things:

“You should be quiet, you already have one.”

“You should focus more on others.”

“You should come up with a plan to adopt and be ready to start next week.”

Why can’t others just listen? Why can’t we mourn together? Why is it so hard to just pray and be?

Eric Schumacher wrote a post yesterday titled “Dads Hurt Too: A Father’s Memoir of Miscarriage“. Made me cry. Even though my wife and I haven’t experienced a miscarriage (that we know of… there are different types of miscarriages), I get where he is coming from. I’ve heard the same lies:

Comparison pointed a paw at our living children—three of them, then four, then five—and demanded, “What right have you to mourn a child you never knew, when you have all these?” Comparison thrust the faces of friends before my own—friends who could not conceive, friends without a living child, friends whose children died in the crib or in college—and mocked, “You mourn, but not as those who have no kids. Others are worse off; stifle your sorrow.”

There comes a point where you feel like you should just be silent. The hurt experienced from opening up and talking in community not worth the price.

  • Why do we, as Christians, go silent when others who are hurting pour their hearts out?
  • Why do we act like we have no power when we claim Jesus lives in us?

I feel like I should be able to talk, especially around fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and yet I can’t.

Introducing: The Long Hall Podcast

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Well, I finally did it. I finally:

  • Sat down and planned things out
  • Scheduled a guest
  • Recorded
  • Edited (I may hate Audacity)
  • And Posted

All that said, I would like to introduce you to my new podcast project, The Long Hall.

Take a listen to the pilot episode and tell me what you think in the comments below.

Innocence Doesn’t Have To Be Lost

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A few days after ordering curriculum for homeschooling–yes, we are doing it!–, the boy came home from school:

“I learned the word for the middle finger today.”

“What word is that?”

He proceeded to utter the f-bomb, which actually sounded funny coming from his mouth. After I finished laughing, I reminded myself that I am the parent. Time to put the serious face on.

We talked about how cuss words have no power of their own; about how our American culture gives them power. How there are some words we do not say in our house. This is one of those words.

Relaying this story to friends and family, I heard, “I’m surprised that he did not learn this word sooner.”

As if children learning cuss words, at a young age, is a natural occurrence. A sort of twisted cultural rite of passage.

Loss of innocence will happen, is that what we are saying?

My own childhood, as a homeschooled student, taught me that we do not have to accept what is “normal”. There is always another way.

Yes, childhood innocence will fade away. Growing up does that. Yet, we do not have to accept the norm. We can dodge, we can roll, we can allow kids to be kids.

Our job, as parents, is to help our children process and navigate the world. That world does not have to be dirty nor uncouth.

What has happened does not have to be what happens. Innocence doesn’t have to be lost.

The Aetherlight Bible NLT

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The Aetherlight Bible is tool, a companion piece meant to help players navigate through the fog. Presented in the New Living Translation, this Bible is easy to read for both children and adults. Built with the desire to connect players of The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance with Biblical truth, The Aetherlight Bible features:

  • A soft cover and overall size that feels sturdy and fantastic to hold
  • Inserted pages that tie in-game characters with their Biblical counterparts
  • A Dictionary/Concordance
  • A 365-Day Reading Plan
  • Words of Christ in scarlet
  • Footnotes, in the Old Testament, that point players towards Christ
  • And my favorite part, at the bottom of some pages, Aethasian sayings such as:

Build for others what you would want them to build for you.

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From the outside cover to the smallest details found inside, The Aetherlight Bible is a video game tie-in done right. Each page, from the watermarks to the quotes, show that much time and love went into the creation of this Bible.

However, I dislike how the page numbers are situated near the spine of the book. But, I realize that this formatting choice could force readers to actually learn the Books of the Bible. Clever.

I recommend this Bible to the hardcore players of The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance and to those not familiar with the game.

Parents, grandparents, this is the Bible you want to buy your kids/grandkids.

The Aetherlight Bible’s cover is inviting. Almost begging the reader to pick it up, read it, and embrace the adventure.

I was given a copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own.

Pushing Through the Fog of School

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Sending your child to school isn’t easy. You’re sending them off into the unknown. Sure, you know that there is safety and structure, but you have no clue what their teacher might be like. No clue what is going on in the classroom or the playground. Unless you ask.

To cut through the fog of school, you need to frame questions in a specific way. Questions that move beyond simple one word answers.

Instead of asking: How was school today?

Ask: Who did you play with today on the playground?

And as a follow up: What did you play?

Parenting is all about playing the role of the detective. Ask questions and then listen. Be present. Avoid distracting thoughts. Your child knows when they have your full attention.

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Questions to further push through:

  • What made you laugh today?
  • Who did you sit by at lunch?
  • What was the most fun part of your day?
  • Did anything surprise you today?
  • What did you learn in music (P.E., computer lab, etc.) today?

As you listen to your child, you’ll discover what frustrates and excites them. Don’t be afraid to turn one of their answers into a teachable moment. It is your job, as a parent, to help your child make sense of the world. To cut through the fog.

What questions do you ask your kids?

From Across the Net: “Sharing FFXIV with my kids”

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Enjoyed this piece by Justin (aka Syp) titled “Sharing FFXIV with my kids“.

And then I tasked them with helping me find on-screen clues leading us to the poacher, so there were three sets of eyes combing the screen and pointing to anything with a name tag over it. “Is that it?” “No, that’s another player.” “What about that?” “That’s the same player.”

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2015 – A Year In Review

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2015 has been a roller coaster year.

We’ve Explored

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Should Men Put Video Games Away As “Childish Things” For Their Wives / Girlfriends?

I have known countless guys who have given up their favorite hobby due to a spouse or girlfriend disapproving– I am sure that this is true for the female species as well. Once upon a time, these guys enjoyed playing video games. They used them to drop stress levels, rest, and relax. For some reason though, chemistry, the alignment of the stars, who knows, they end up coupling with someone who disapproves/looks down upon their hobby. So they have to quit, have to walk away from something they love to be in love.

Read more here

We’ve Been Real With One Another

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Longing For That Missing Person

Social media is filled with photos of babies. Beautiful children who are all snugly and cute. While I am excited for my friends and family who are pregnant, there is always this void that gnaws at my soul.

Read more here

We’ve Shared In The Joys Of Parenting

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Boys Club

Best part of our day was in the backyard. Wyatt wanted to go outside and play Transformers. So we each picked a weapon. I grabbed a foam sword, he grabbed a Nerf gun. Somehow we never got around to playing. Wyatt was too concerned with making up rules, structure, to our play. I got bored. So I grabbed his gun and took off. There were tears over my dual wielding weapons.

“You can’t have two!”

Read more here

We’ve Read Some Great Books

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Scary Close – Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy

I first discovered Donald Miller in college. I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t sure about my Christian faith anymore. There was a disconnect between the Christians I read about in the Bible and the Christians I met everyday. Tired of the hypocrisy, I found honesty in Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. Someone was finally writing from a perspective that felt authentic. God used Miller’s words to remind me of the freedom we have in Christ; He used Donald Miller to bring me back to Him.

Read more here

We’ve Called Each Other To More

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A Call: Moving Beyond Artificial Relationships

Surface level relationships will never go beyond the surface. Diving equipment, time invested in person, allows us to get to know one another better. Being purposeful in our pursuit, this is key. We have to make time to have time to spend with others; We have to get over ourselves, move beyond technology.

An invitation to go for a walk, time set aside to enjoy nature and listen. Spending the lunch hour eating with a friend. Time invested. Physical time. We need more of this. We need to do this.

Read more here

I’m not sure of the places we’ll go in 2016. But we can explore, share, and be real together. Here is to another great year. Happy New Year!

Do Video Game Developers Have No Regards For Children?

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My son and I are gripping our controllers, leading our small group of Avengers to victory. But wait, even though the screen is split, the onscreen action blinds us both to our positions in-game. Lego Marvel’s Avengers fails to provide a visual indicator to note where ones character is on screen. There is no “player one” or “player two” designation. The game’s camera pulls too far out of the action for the player to be able to follow their hero.

I am frustrated; my six year old son, even more so.

Lego AvengersThe Lego games have always frustrated me. There is so much potential with the Lego properties, squandered in the name of shoddy controls and split screen mode. What frustrates me more, as with Disney Infinity, is that developers market this half-assed game design to children. We love playing videogames together. My son is able to hold his own in Guacamelee. His skills increase every time we sit down and play. But Lego games block our fun together.

I would like to say that videogame developers hate children. But that isn’t true. Videogame developers lack a certain awareness of how kids play.

Kids games need to:

  • Provide clear visual cues
  • Make it easy for players to find themselves: a simple portrait of a superhero, in the top right corner of the screen, doesn’t cut it. For a great example, check out Diablo 3.
  • Offer different camera distance so that players can see the action
  • Give players control over the environment that engages motor-skill and muscle-memory

My son and I will probably continue to play Lego Marvel’s Avengers. I just wish it was more finely-tuned to my son’s early skill levels.

The Onion Layers of Time

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As I posted yesterday, the book Quitter is really make me re-consider different things in my life. Amazingly, Jon Acuff has been able to put into words things that I have thought about but have never been able to articulate.

As we advance in years, I believe that we all wish that we would personally be able to grow and mature with time as well. For some, growth and maturity are unattainable due to personal life choices; for others, growing in maturity and stature are a knowingly made decision.

Before I was married, I had all the time in the world to pursue what I wanted to pursue. If I wanted to go out with friends for coffee at 2am, I could. If I wanted to sit down and play a videogame every evening, for hours on end, I could do so as well. I was a free man and time was all mine.

As I dated and was soon married, my time quickly became our time. No longer did I have the freedom to do what I wanted to do. I had to now take my wife into consideration. What did she want to do? What could we do together? There was nothing wrong or bad about this change in the way I spent my time. Like an onion, I had simply discovered a new layer of personal depth; like an onion, my time had also grown thinner in peeling away that new layer.

The birth of our son set into motion the equation of: my time + our time = his time.

Age, growth and maturity force us to constantly evaluate the things that matter to us. Are we spending our free time pursuing the things that we love or the things that we simply like? This got me thinking about videogames and my constant struggle to figure out where they place in my life. Do I love them or just like them? Are they keeping me from pursuing the things that I love?

What about you?