From Across the Net – “What’s The Point Of Family Devotions?”

Standard

“So what’s the point of family devotions? I wonder if it would be helpful to first consider the purpose it hasn’t served in my family. Family devotions has not been a means through which we have obeyed a specific law or fulfilled an explicit command. There is no commandment in either the Old Testament or the New that tells Christian families they must spend time reading and praying together each day. So we haven’t prioritized it for that reason.”

You can read more here

A Walk, A Birthday, And A Few Board Games

Standard

Woke up this morning and went for a walk with Tabitha. My Apple Watch didn’t record any of our walk as exercise. So if an Apple made watch doesn’t record something… did it ever happen? From the picture below, yes, yes it did.

East Texas in July

I turned 39 this week. Spent my birthday working in the office with frequent breaks to text/talk with family and friends. I loved catching up with those who reached out.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) dominated many of the conversations I had on my birthday. I’m not complaining. But I can tell that the pandemic and the information roller coaster we’ve all boarded because of it, is weighing heavily on us all.

For my birthday, I received a few new board games. My parents bought me Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective – The Thames Murders & Other Cases; Tab and Wyatt bought me Disney Villainous. I’m looking forward to playing and writing on both of these games.

Disney Villainous

As an observation, I was telling Tabitha this morning that I do not play video games like I used to–like, this surprises me–. Board games have become the thing I ask for and play more frequently. There is something about having screens off and being able to gather around the table with family and friends that is special and builds memories.

As a further thought, I am thinking about starting to write board game reviews. Trying to think of an angle that would best serve the JBG Community. All one of us. 🙂

Hope you all are doing well.

From Across the Net – “When Parents Feel Like We Are Mostly Failing Most of the Time”

Standard

Appreciated this piece from Tim Challies. Especially liked his list of principles, he has been pondering, towards the end of the article.

As parents in this digital world, it’s like we have planted ourselves and our families on a beach. Though the water is rising, we have convinced ourselves that we can somehow hold back the tide. But inevitably it just keeps creeping higher and higher up the beach until our best plans, like feeble little sandcastles, are swept away. There seems to be a kind of inevitability about it, that before long we’ll all always be staring at our devices. In fact, it seems like our devices have wills of their own, and this is exactly what they want. They want to dominate our lives. They want to be our main thing.

You can read more here

Photo by Austrian National Library on Unsplash

From Across the Net – “An Unexpected, Overlooked Benefit of Friendships”

Standard

I appreciate this post by Tim Challies on friendship. There is nothing like a friend who can tell you to snap out of it and quit being a jerk.

Photo by Anoir Chafik on Unsplash
“We ought to pursue friendships not just for what we can gain from the relationship, but for what we can give.

Often the best way to gain objectivity is to appeal to a friend for an outside perspective. It may be that each of us appeals to a personal friend or that together we appeal to a mutual friend. But either way, a close friend is able to listen, to evaluate, and to offer guidance. Some of the best counsel I’ve gotten from friends is of the “you need to stop being a jerk” variety. Friends have helped me better love those I love most.

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “What the Family Dinner Table Gave Me”

Standard

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

Dinner time is special.

Growing up I loved hearing stories like how my parents met, or why they chose my name, or what it was like when my mom finally gave birth to a boy after having three girls. My parents often asked us to share about our day and encouraged us to ask questions of one another. Even when we went through phases where we didn’t feel like talking, or we siblings rolled our eyes at one another, or we were plain grumpy from the school day, we learned how to dialogue and enter into dialogue, even when we didn’t feel like it. I’m thankful for those life skills I’m still drawing on today.

You can read more here

Adoption Update – I feel so frustrated

Standard

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

 

 

Of Paws and Pounce

Standard

Once upon a time, in a land just up the street, there lived Princess Paws and Princess Pounce.

One day, their father, mother, and other siblings struck out on a trip to a neighboring kingdom. Princess Paws and Princess Pounce were left in the care of a kindly villager family.

Days went by, Princess Paws and Princess Pounce played in the fields and adventured about. They chased after chickens, brushed up against a duck, and missed their family most of all.

Photo by André Spieker on Unsplash

One day, the kindly villager family arrived to make sure Paws and Pounce were doing okay. Princess Pounce loudly meowed, as she realized the kindly villager family were her only human playmates.

WATCH ME, SHE SAID.

Princess Paws, after much searching, was missing.

  • She was not in her kennel.
  • She was no where near the castle.
  • She was not anywhere to be seen.

The kindly villager family searched high and low. They called out:

“PAWS!”

But she was not to be found.

The royal family returned from their journey. After much searching, they found that Princess Paws had burrowed herself into a hole in her kennel. She knew she had parvo; she knew she was going to die. The family had to use shovels to dig her out. A trip to the vet did not help her.

In the end, this author was super bummed out that a friend’s black lab puppy died while in my care. There was something beautiful about watching Paws follow Wyatt around as we took care of the other animals. Almost, ALMOST, makes me want to get a puppy for him (ssshhhh, don’t tell him!).

I prayed at some point, and I told God that if there are animals in Heaven, that I hoped Paws would be there now. Such a sweet puppy.

Adoption Update – Hurry Up And Wait

Standard

We started our PRIDE Classes in April. With severe weather pushing the 40 hours of training right up against our vacation to California in early May. Our home study was turned into the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services as of yesterday. By all accounts, listening to others who have gone through this adoption process, we are moving through the required steps quickly.

Photo by Xu Haiwei on Unsplash

Hurry up and wait seems to be the mantra. We’ll go for weeks without hearing anything and then get a phone call that forces us to drop everything and complete a task. God has been good to us during this period of waiting, preparing our family for who is to come.

Wyatt was recently singing in a church service with our children’s program at church. As Tabitha and I watched him sing, I thought to myself, we could soon be watching someone else too.

The lack of an outward indicator that someone is coming, say a stomach growing due to the baby inside, is odd. So are all of the details we do not know.

BUT, we are getting closer to that day when our family grows from three to four. So many changes ahead… and we have to temper our excitement like a kid before Christmas.

Adoption Update – Home Study Completed

Standard

During our PRIDE Training, Tabitha and I were told that the interview/home study was going to be:

  • Thorough (expect 4 hours, at least)
  • Invasive (questions could/would be asked about things like frequency of marital relations, etc.)
  • Deep (we were warned that every one of our drawers could be opened/inspected)

Once we found out that our home study was going to be scheduled for this past Saturday, Tabitha and I kicked into cleaning overdrive… even though the house already looked great.

Saturday morning arrived blanketed with heat and humidity. Our Independent Home Screening Assessor pulled into the driveway 30 minutes early. Tabitha and I were nervous. We had no idea what to expect nor what questions were about to be asked of us.

Our interview ended up covering basics such as:

  • Upbringing
  • Discipline
  • Family
  • And what types of things Tab and I can and cannot handle when it comes to an adoptive child (the gamut ran from learning disabilities to types of abuse)

An hour later, we were finished with the interview. Our Home Screening Assessor took a few pictures, told us that we were great, and that she would text us when she turned in her report to our caseworker with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. And with that, we were done.

Not all monsters are cute.

I cannot stress enough how God showed up in this moment. I was sick to my stomach. And yet what I am learning, through this adoption process, is obedience. When God calls us to something, we have to be obedient and step out in faith. It is through that process of obedience that we see God work. Seeing Him fight our monsters, our giants, and stretch us in our faith.

I am excited to see what happens next. Our Home Study is due to CPS July 10. We should hear more soon! Will keep ya’ll posted.

Bryan

From Across the Net – “When They Call In The Night”

Standard

God is such a better dad than I am, and I think that’s what Jesus’ point is. When his followers wanted to know how to pray, yes, he gave them a template they could follow, but he gave them something so much more. Instead of giving them the magic formula, the special incantation that will bring God out like a genie from a bottle—Jesus gave them something so much better. When asked about how to pray, Jesus gave them an example but then said, “I want to let you in on a secret—you want to know how to pray, but let me tell you about the one to whom you are praying.” Jesus was saying that when we call in the night, it’s good to know the character of our dad.

You can read more here

 

When A Family Goes Supernova

Standard

As I announced last week (“Whichever Shoe Fits“), Tabitha and I are looking to adopt through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Adopting through the State means that we step in after parental rights have been terminated. Whatever family that existed before has been legally dissolved due to failure of court appointed plans being followed or individual situations calling for removal. The goal of Child Protective Services (CPS) is family reunification. This means that CPS and the State give parents every opportunity to be reunified with their children. Tabitha and I are stepping in because reunification has failed and these children now need a home.

Can you imagine the family you grew up in no longer existing? I can’t. Tabitha and I both come from stable homes. Homes where we were provided with food, clothing, and a loving environment to grow up in. The thought of being taken away from my parents, at any age, and put into foster care is the stuff of nightmares.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

As adoptive parents, we are stepping into a world of:

  • Hurt
  • Loss
  • Anger
  • Instability

From the beginning, I have told Tabitha that if anything, we can provide stability. A stable home where we can work through the roots of a family dissolved and grow into something new.

I wonder why I have days where I question why I feel overwhelmed by the adoption path we are on. And then I write something like this and am reminded of the brokenness these children have experienced. If you were to ask me: Are you excited over adoption? I’d tell you yes. But I temper my excitement knowing that a family has to go supernova before they can be welcomed into mine.

The Halls Head West – Part Two

Standard

After Disneyland, our trip was a bit more low-key. We had a chance to see my Grandma (who I hadn’t seen in two years), play some Dutch Blitz with my Mom’s family, and even go bowling.

My mom won both games. That seemed to be a theme throughout our visit no matter what we played.

Tab and Wyatt studied California History this past year. So we went and visited Mission San Luis Rey. As someone who holds a degree in History-Political Science, I was super impressed with the mission’s museum.

A sheep skin hymn book.

The door from Walt Disney’s Zorro.

A letter from President Lincoln giving the Church their land back.

After touring the museum, we headed outside to walk the grounds.

If you missed Part One, click here

For Part Three, click here

Death of a Modern Woman

Standard

A daughter got up to speak at her mother’s funeral recently. She talked about how her mom was a “modern woman”. Her unspoken words silently screaming that her mother resented staying home and raising her and her siblings.

The funeral continued with another daughter stepping up to the lectern to speak. She mentioned that her mom was a life long member of the church they attended. She also talked about current tensions between siblings and made a sideswipe at her brother for his lack of talent.

Photo by Kerri Shaver on Unsplash

Sitting there, I noticed that nothing was said of the deceased woman’s faith but only of her membership. As another daughter’s words were read aloud by the pastor, I felt grossed out by the tension in this family. The bitterness smothering any love that might once have existed between them.

As Tabitha and I walked out of the church, we held hands while walking out to the car. Trying to imagine living in family, having siblings, that were so torn up and hurt by one another. In the privacy of the car, we talked about how we want to be remembered. How we want people to speak of us at our own funerals.

I walked away thinking about what holds our family together. The faith and values that Tabitha and I surround ourselves and fill our home with. I would hope that Wyatt would grow up and look back on his childhood with fondness. I also realize that we can do EVERYTHING we’d consider right and things can still go sideways. I am thankful that God is bigger than any of my own parental missteps.

I want people to remember me for my actions and not my accomplishments. I want to be remembered as more than just a life long member of a church.

Grasping at Something Tangible

Standard

This is one of those days where I know I need to post because it is New Post Thursday; one of those days where I’m not sure what to share.

matthew-sleeper-124918-unsplash

Have been dealing with the thoughts and emotions of the new adventure my family is on. Trying to grasp what the unknown looks like. Wondering how it impacts my family and what life will be like afterwards. This is one of those deals where I have peace, deep down, over the “adventure”. But I think I’m trying to control all the details, trying to grasp at something tangible.

Little things, such as someone asking me to do something, feels overwhelming. I don’t like that.

I am grinding my teeth at night.

I am dreaming crazy dreams… when I can actually sleep.

 

God is teaching me that I have to push through being overwhelmed by that “one more thing” feeling. That I have to learn to deal with stress differently. He has also been reminding me of who I have been blessed with, my family, and what makes us unique.

 

I am thankful for how God prepares us for things; thankful that this new “adventure” will take time. His time.

How do you deal with stress?

Let me know in the comments below.

From Across the Net – “4 Painful Lies Stay-at-Home Moms Tell Themselves”

Standard

Jasmine Holmes, writing from The Gospel Coalition, has a great article titled “4 Painful Lies Stay-at-Home Moms Tell Themselves“.

I’m a stay-at-home mom because I’m striving to obey God’s calling on my life. He’s given me gifts, talents, and abilities that I steward while devoting most of my time to my family. We prayerfully made these decisions for our family; they’re not a judgment call on yours.

The stay-at-home mom life doesn’t define me any more than my professional life defined me—Christ’s death on the cross does. Staying home isn’t the most important detail about me. My identity as Christ’s daughter is.

You can read more here

I’ve also written on this topic before here

A Christmas Note To Myself

Standard

On the day before December begins,

I’d like to remind myself.

That no matter how stressful work gets,

Nor how much I miss family,

Swirling down into the depression pit isn’t worth it.

At all.

I need to focus on my family around me,

My friends,

The anticipation of the Advent season.

Spending the entire month of December, in a funk, sucks.

You know it, and your wife knows it. 

So stop it!

Break the cycle this year.

Tell depression to get off your mental lawn.

You’re welcome, by the way.

– A note from November Bryan to December Bryan.

Photo by Adam Birkett on Unsplash

Not sure about you, but December is traditionally a tough month for me. All through November, I’ve been watching depression circle around outside the fire light. Beckoning me to step away from the comforts of clarity and embrace the dark/warm fuzzy jacket of depression. Wanted to write a quick note to remind myself not to go down that path this year. I want to encourage you also to stay near the fire and pay attention to the words you are speaking to yourself. We can do this.

In the fog of Quil, drinking snot

Standard

How was your Thanksgiving?

We spent Thanksgiving at home and invited family over. Tab cooked an amazing meal (her Pioneer Woman Stuffing being my favorite).We had a nice day with great weather outside. Got to go for a walk, play a few games (Chicken Foot being a highlight), and enjoy time spent with family. Missed my family back in SoCal/Arkansas and my youngest brother-in-law, who was away in Houston with a special somebody/her family.

I’ve had the worst cold since Thanksgiving. NyQuil and DayQuil have been my best friends/enemies. I think a combo of allergies from mowing the yard and insane temperature shifts doomed me. Wash your hands, folks. Wash your hands and perhaps wear a mask while mowing.

Got a chance to dive into Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain over the holiday. Played all through the intro, where I encountered a fire horse/horseman (which was actually one of of the more normal things about the prologue):

Enjoyed watching video game’s Tarantino, Hideo Kojima, show off his craft.

There is something brave about opening a game with the protagonist in a weakened state. In this case, your character has been in a coma for 9 years only to wake up to special forces trying to kill you. Good times.

I’ve been a little gamer ADD lately. Picked up Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare last night. Nothing like boarding an expensive theme park ride a few years later. Price of admission is much cheaper ($4.50) but the thrills are just as good.

What have you been playing?

Adventure Is Out There – A Visit With The Arkansas Halls

Standard

This past Friday, the Texas Halls took a trip to Norfork, Arkansas to see my brother and his family (the Arkansas Halls).

We had a good time:

  • Exploring the Blanchard Springs Caverns. I found it interesting to hear that the man who did the lighting for the caverns normally lit opera houses for a living. I also thought it was interesting that the Cathedral Room is long enough to hold three football fields. If you are ever in the Ozarks, I can’t recommend visiting the Blanchard Springs Caverns enough.
  • Sticking our feet in the White River/Norfork Lake junction. The water was freezing! Felt so good.
  • Eating some BBQ at Holy Smokes in Mountain Home, Arkansas. BBQ isn’t quite what I’m used to in Texas but the sauce was solid. The smoked macaroni and cheese–while good–screams for some bacon.
  • Mowing my brother’s yard on his new riding lawn mower.
  • Hanging out, swimming, talking, and launching fireworks.

I enjoyed getting to catch up with my brother and his family. Was fun to see where they live now and experience a little taste of their new surroundings. We will return… once my brother fixes his go-kart!

Should We Homeschool?

Standard

Homeschooling is not for everyone. I was homeschooled from the fourth grade all the way through high school. I had been falling behind both academically and socially. Public school was failing me by passing me on from one teacher to the next. I had trouble with reading, math, etc. My parents realized what was going on and brought me home. I’m thankful.

Tabitha and I have always said that our children would attend public school. As long as the teachers and the overall district were willing to work with us, we’d stick with it. Our children would be good examples for others to follow. Salt and light.

Enter our son:

  • Helped teach his fellow students in kindergarten
  • Excelled through first grade
  • Has continued in second grade to consistently earn high grades
  • Reads on a middle school grade level

(I can brag as a dad, right?)

The boy wants to be pushed. He wants to learn multiplication and how to write in cursive. Our fear is that his enthusiasm for learning is going to be snuffed out unless he is challenged. We realize that public school can only do so much for him. A teacher has to teach so that all students are on the same middle ground. That means that the higher students in the class are often ignored. Not the teacher’s fault at all. Teaching is hard.

jj-thompson-142854

So how do you make the decision to homeschool?

Throw some dice?

Spin a bottle?

What?

I know the challenges that are involved with it. I have seen them firsthand. I know the impact it has on a family and on a marriage.

Social outlets are essential. Support in the form of a homeschool group help a bunch. The kids never leave the house… ever. Mental fortitude is a requirement.

But how does one pull the trigger?

Trying to figure that out.