5 Things I Learned In Sending A Son Away To College

We are well into our years as empty-nesters. Both of our boys have finished college, one is in grad school, but both are supporting themselves and on their own.

I loved the time with our boys at home. We had great relationships. They were (and are) two of my best friends.

The first son attended a local college and lived at home most of the time. It was a different season, but we still got to spend a lot of time together. The youngest went to school 8 hours from home.

I’ll never forget the feelings of driving away from him freshmen year. Wow! It was painful. I mourned. I cried. It was a deeply sad occasion. If you’re going through that now — I’m praying for you as I type this post.

In the process of him leaving I learned a few things:

It was much harder than I thought letting go. My counseling background tells me I began a mini-depression about a month before he left and it was a few months afterwards, probably shortly after the first semester ended and the Christmas break ended, before I felt “normal” again.

I prepared my boy, but not my emotions. I am not an extremely emotional person. This changed the day I said “goodbye”, got in the car and drove back home. I was an emotional wreck.

It is never the same, but it can be better — at least in some ways. I missed seeing Nate terribly, but our talks became even more open and honest than when he was at home. As he grew to be a man, our relationship became deeper, more personal.

I couldn’t wait for his calls/texts/emails. There was a charge in my spirit when I looked down at my phone and saw it was Nate. I longed for communication. When our boys were at home we had disciplines — such as a nightly meal — where we could discuss the events of the day. We couldn’t expect those every day from college. And, most days they didn’t happen — but when they did it was golden.

It began a new phase of life for Cheryl and me. Our parenting is not over, but our role has changed. We began to make new dreams — just for the two of us. We enjoy our time with our boys when we are with them, but we love our life together. It’s a good season.

Shortly after Nate went to college I wrote him an email and posted it here. You can read the post HERE.

For some things I have learned in parenting, see this CATEGORY.

20 Things Good Dads Do In Parenting

Twenty things good dads do…

They challenge. When the challenge comes from dad we listen seriously. We know its being said with a loving concern.

They inspire. Great dads want better for their children than they achieved, so they are always pushing us beyond what we think we can do. (Sometimes they push too hard, but this, too, is an error of love.)

They build. Maybe it’s the midnight toy-factory production, the night before scinence projects or the ongoing project which provides for bonding and teaching times. (And, occasionally a lesson or two in refining patience.) But, more than anything, great dads build elements of character which last a lifetime. 

They provide. As best they can, good dads want their children to have what they need to be happy and successful in this world. And, there is a constant tension for good dads between working hard to provide and being there for the ones for whom they are providing.

They encourage. Good dads stand on the sidelines ready to cheer you to victory. Just when you think you can’t go on anymore, you’ll hear a voice from dad, “You’ve got this!” If whispered in sincerity and love that is a whisper which can last a lifetime 

They discipline. A good father is not afraid to do what is hard to achieve what is best. No discipline is easy, but when lovingly given, with purpose and intentionality, it makes all of us better.

They listen. The ears of a dad are attentive to the questions, concerns and actions of his children – also knowing what isn’t being said may be just as important as what’s said.

They counsel. Wisdom comes with time and experience. Dads sometime grow up fast when the reality of their little one comes into the world – and, then the child begins to grow up into their own person. Dads don’t always know what to say, but often what they say will only be realized as true years after they said it.

They validate. There is something powerful about the words of affirmation from a dad. When you know you have his confidence you can more assuredly face whatever the world brings.

They play. They wrestle. They tease. They dress up and have tea parties. They laugh. They make up funny songs and – just when nothing seems exciting about the day – they entertain. (And, no one else would think it’s entertaining, but we do. Just don’t do it when our friends our here, dad.)

They model. A good dad walks his talk and leaves an easy-to-follow trail. And, children are watching closely.

They pray. Knowing they don’t have all the answers, a good dad carries his concern’s and the concerns of his family, to the One who has all the answers. A dad on his knees is a dad with confidence and assurance – from his Dad. 

They teach. Good dads find those nuggets of life where time presents itself a teachable moment. They instill godly principles and values into their children by what they intentionally say and do. They are grounded in truth. 

They strengthen. When a child is wondering if they are strong enough – or if they have what it takes – enter in a good dad to let the child borrow from his strength.

They endure. Through the good seasons and the bad, good dads stand the test of time. When knocked down they get up, dust off, and try again. They don’t make excuses. They move forward for the good of others (and themselves.)

They forgive. This is hard for many men, and it may take them time to process, but good dads work to be at peace with their children. They extend grace. They finish well, attempting to right the wrongs done in the past whenever possible.

They believe. Good dads believe in the best of situations. The world can’t discourage them for long. Their faith helps them overcome evil with good.

They lead. Good dads are helping their children get somewhere in life. They help them navigate through the days of uncertainty and fear. (That’s what leaders do – and good dads are leaders.)

They protect. Whether from the things which (appear to) make noises at night or the evils of this world invading the family, good dads stand strong against whatever threatens the family.

They love. Because love really is the greater gift. And, good dads love well. Love never ends.

Dads!

I had these words for several years in a post with no explanation what I was thinking with each one. As I’ve added a statement around the 20 words, I realized I’ve created quite a challenging list for us dads.

Here’s the thing – there are no perfect ones – except our Heavenly Dad – but good dads try. Every good dad I know wants to do the best he can. Don’t let this list beat you up. Let it inspire you. That’s what good dads do. You model your reactions by the way you respond to life’s challenges. 

And, some good dads have left us already – at least from this earth – and still, they do what they do through the memories and legacies they left behind.

Give a shoutout to a good dad today! Thank you God, for good dads.

If you’re reading this and none of these line up with your experience with a dad, please know I understand. I deeply understand. It was hard for me to write these and know I missed many of them with an absentee dad most of my growing years. Yet, now that he is gone, and I’m forgiven him, I can honestly say I miss him. And, see looking back how many of these may have been goals of his – many times he simply didn’t know how. 

And, even more, I also know my Heavenly Dad fulfills all these and more for me. Plus, thankfully, through my own intentionality, there have been other men who have done some of these in the role of a dad to me. Praise God for those men. 

10 Things I’d Do If I Were Raising a Son Today

I revised and reposted 10 Things I’d Do If Raising a Daughter Today recently. In this post, I will focus on raising a son.

I know a little more about this subject, having two incredible sons of my own. But, we always look at life differently from the other side of it. My boys are grown. I’m still parenting, but in a completely different way. My parenting these days is one of influence. Thankfully, both boys still come to me desiring my input into their life. There is no greater joy than seeing boys become God-honoring young men. I’m thankful to have a front row seat with my sons.

But, even knowing the incredible young men I have as sons, there are things I would do differently if I had that part of life to do over again.

I know boys become men. And, every man I know, whether or not he admits it, struggles at some level with confidence. He struggles to know he is enough, that he can do what God calls him to do. Every man is desperate for someone to believe in him.

And, sadly, we are living in the age where the absentee father is normal. It once was the exception. (That’s the subject of another post, but it’s plaguing our society. Check any statistics.)

I was mindful of these truths when my boys were young, but I’m older now. The seasons of my life have taught me so much more.

So, I would be even more intentional today – if I were raising sons.

Here are 10 things I’d do if raising a son today:

I would introduce him to Jesus from the day he was born. Every little boy likes to role play and act out their heroes – even if only in their minds, and I would engage him in the stories of the Bible. We would learn truth, faith and courage as we role played scenes of valiant warriors for God, such as David, Gideon and Daniel. (Acting out Jonah might be kind of fun too.)

I would show him I believe in him, by learning to enjoy, value and support the activities and dreams important to him – including loving his friends. I’d tell him daily I’m proud of who he is and the individual God created him to be.

I would make myself available to him when he needed me. Not only when it was convenient or didn’t interfere with my work or my hobbies, and assure him I would never leave him or reject him. I would want him to know I would be there for him all of his life – through good days and bad.

I would strive to personally live a respectable and God-honoring life, so he could model after me, and likewise be respectable – knowing respect will be his greatest need in life.

I would model for him how to love a woman, by valuing and treating my wife as a treasured gift from God. He would never hear me degrade anyone, but instead hear me valuing others. He would see me living a life of a servant – attempting to make a positive impact on the world around us.

I would help him build confidence by giving him ample opportunities to explore, to dream, to be adventuresome, to risk it all, even allowing him to fail under my watch, so I could encourage him to start again, explaining to him the only way to be a failure is to not get back up from a fall.

I would help him develop confidence, strength and courage through his walk with Christ, gaining the awesome reality the only limits on him would be the ones he set for himself.

I would let him know the boundaries of the house, being certain he would test them, so he could learn even in freedom there are consequences for misbehaving and sin. And, I would model for him the value of a sincere apology – learning how to give and grant forgiveness.

I would teach and model for him character and integrity – that the real value of a man is not in the sum total or his possessions, but in the sum total of knowing God intimately and when those who know him best honor him most.

I would build deep faith in him, at times, letting him see me afraid, even seeing me cry, to show him a man can be courageous and still be vulnerable. Then I would let him see me following even closer after God for direction and strength to continue the journey – even when afraid or the answers are unknown.

That’s if I were raising a son today.

Are you raising a son? Tell me about him.

Final note on these two posts, one for raising daughters and this for raising sons. They are somewhat interchangeable. Some of each list could apply to raising boys or girls. They are aspirations. There are no perfect parents.

I have observed, however, there are parents more intentional than others. There are parents who parent with the sober reality we have precious little time to mold children who will be adults longer than they are children. Parents who know it takes time, energy, consistency and intentionality to parent well. Mostly knowing it takes the grace of God to be a great parent.

10 Things I’d Do If I Were Raising a Daughter Today

I wrote this post a few years ago, but it came to my attention again after someone shared it, so I decided to revise and repost it. 

I never had a daughter. I have a great daughter-in-law, and she has a special relationship with her dad, but I never got to raise a girl. We are hoping some day for a granddaughter – should the Lord provide. 

I watch from the sidelines some of my friends who have daughters and know I missed something special without a “daddy’s girl”. (I guess that’s why we’ve chosen to have female puppy dogs.) 

Don’t misunderstand me, I wouldn’t trade my boys. I’m thankful for them and our relationship, but there is something unique about the relationship between a father and a daughter. 

One thing I have observed, even in my own life, is what an important role a dad plays in a child’s life. And, again, watching others, it seems to me if the right foundation is set, the role of a dad can help a girl have confidence, feel loved and beautiful, and achieve great things. The right foundation can help a girl avoid, or at least recover, from many of the scars life naturally will bring. Even when a girl becomes a woman. And, the dad plays a huge role in establishing this foundation – either by what he does or doesn’t do, whether fully present or completely absent. 

All women (all people) have scars of some kind. Sadly, I know a few girls – most of them now grown – who have scars caused by a dad. And, the scars caused by a dad may be among the worst.

As I’ve counseled dozens of hurt or angry girls over the years, I’ve often wondered what I would have done if I had raised a girl. Would would I do now if I were raising a girl?

Certainly the world can be a crazy place. Our children need us – perhaps now more than ever. If I were raising a daughter I would want to be wise and intentional. Maybe one dad out there will read this, consider his own role as a father, and be even more intentional in this important responsibility. 

(In my next post I will share some thoughts about raising a son.)  

Here are 10 things I’d do if I were raising a daughter today:

I would introduce her to Jesus, let her hear me pray for her daily and strive to live a godly life, after which she could model – and trust me to be consistent, although helping her discover I am not perfect, and the only real place to find fulfillment in this world is in a relationship with Christ.

I would let her see my wife is the most important woman in the world to me and encourage her to wait for a man willing to say – and live – the same.

I would dance with her, take her on regular dates, and hold her hand frequently, telling her daily how beautiful she is and that I love her unconditionally.

I would let her know, in word and actions, she is more important than my job, my hobbies, my favorite sports team and my iPhone. (And, actions do speaker louder than words.) 

I would encourage her to take risks, to defy the odds, to dream bigger dreams which may seem impossible and then help her have the confidence to go for them with everything she has in her – consistently reminding her she has what it takes to do anything she sets her mind to do and to settle for nothing less than her best.

I would hold the standard high for her, but instill in her the belief I’m here for her, regardless of what she does wrong, and nothing she could ever do would cause me to turn my back on her.

I would get her self-defense training – and teach her where to kick, but most of all to know how to face all her fears with courage and conviction. 

I would encourage her talents and abilities, to discover things about herself she didn’t know she could do, and instill a belief in her that God has great plans for her and will use her in incredible ways.

I would help her understand every boy’s intentions are not honorable, the world is not always kind, but she is worthy of and should always demand respect. 

I would teach her the world does not revolve around her, but around God, and show her how to love others even more than she loves herself. I would challenge her to be a giver in this world – making a difference and leaving her legacy on it by how she lives her life every day. 

That’s if I were raising a daughter.

Are you raising a daughter? Tell me about her.

The Biggest Mistake of My Life

I hope you learn from my error...

One of our boys has always been such a deep thinker. When he was 3 years old, watching a movie with him was a chore, because he would analyze every aspect of the plot. We would try to explain to him it was only a cartoon, without a ton of hidden meanings, but it was never enough. Even today he’s the analyzer of life. He asks the deep questions.

Personally, he takes after me (although he’s much deeper than I am). I’m a questioner too – and believe it’s been a help to me in life, ministry and leadership.

The best questions get the best answers.

So it was not surprising when one day – he was an early teenager – seemingly out of nowhere Nate asked, Daddy, what’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your life?”

I didn’t have to think long.

We had owned a very successful, fast-growing business. We stood to make lots of money in the years ahead. We sold that business to buy another. It was devastating. If it could go wrong it did.

Although it’s a very long story and we felt we were doing the right thing at the time, it proved to be a very painful five year experience until we sold the business, basically walking away with nothing and starting over again financially.

I told Nate (we call him Nathaniel) that selling one successful business and buying the other business was obviously the biggest mistake of my life.

Nate countered quickly, “Yea, but you’ve said you probably would have never surrendered to ministry had that experience not occurred.

You’re right,” I replied. “I was too busy chasing a dream. God worked it for good. But, that was definitely my biggest mistake in life.”

As I said, I’m an analyzer too, so several days later, while I was in a time of prayer, Nate’s question came to my mind. I decided to ask God about it. In my prayer, I remember saying something such as, “God, why did you allow me to make the biggest decision of my life? I would have followed you if you had made it clear. Why couldn’t you let me do it another way? That was such a difficult time in our life.

(It was one of those rare pity parties I had with God. Don’t be afraid to have them. He understands.)

God seemed to interrupt me before I could continue. Now please understand, I have never heard God audibly. I’d love to say He speaks to me everyday, but, there have been a few times where I am certain I heard the impression of God on my heart – where I know God “spoke” clearly to me. This was one of those times.

(As a side note, these times will always line up with truth from God’s word. God will never contradict Himself.)

Anyway, I sensed God say, “Ron (I’m so glad He knows my name), your biggest mistake was not buying that business.”

I was surprised. I figured it must not be God to hear such a reply. So, I snapped back, almost as if I was sarcastically speaking to my own false thoughts, “Oh really, well then what was the biggest mistake of my life? Because I can’t think of one bigger.”

God interrupted again.

“Ron, your biggest mistake was following your will in your life and not mine.”

And, God was silent.

Point made. Point accepted. I had no more questions. And, God apparently had nothing else to say.

The truth is many had seen what God was doing in my life – including my wife, but I had ignored them – continually replying we are all “called to ministry”. I resisted the surrender to vocational ministry for many years.

God’s counsel that morning has proven true so many times, as I reflect back over my life and the decisions I have made. The greatest failures in my life always seem to be a result of when I do what I want to do rather than what God wants me to do.

Here’s hoping someone learns from my mistakes.

7 Thoughts for Parenting a Young Family During the Presidential Election Season

And other scary times of life.

Can we just admit this has not been our favorite presedential election season? I’ll admit. I’m one who tends to see the more positive in every scenario and it’s honestly difficult to do this time.

A man with a young children asked me recently how should he and his wife parent their family during this season. Great question. Regardless of whether or not your choice for president is clear, tensions have never seemed higher. This is true even among believers. Children surely have sensed the tension in us. 

I don’t have all the answers – and, my children are grown – but, I have a few. 

Please understand. This is not a political post. This is a dealing with life around you as a parent post. And, I would suggest these for other times when their world is scarier than normal. 

Here are 7 suggestions for parenting children during this presedential election:

Help them see hope.

There is always hope, right? If you’re following after a Savior named Jesus who has overcome the world – there is always hope! Children will seldom be more hopeful about their future than you are hopeful about yours.

Don’t shelter them.

Everything should be age appropriate, but pretty much every newsstand and every television has something about this election. They hear it at school and in the restaurants and stores. They see you react to Facebook posts. There really isn’t much of a way to escape it completely if they are old enough to carry on a conversation.

Don’t overexpose them.

I certainly don’t think I would sit an elementary child in front of the television every night – and, really, this is regardless of what’s on television. Again, the child’s age is important as well as their interest level. When I was in elementary school I actually cared about current events. I wanted to watch the news. I do think as parents we should monitor not only how much they watch, but also how it seems to be affecting them.

Allow them to ask questions.

It’s probably best to see if they have questions and let them guide the discussion with how much or how little they want to know. No question should be off limits and I don’t think there should be many “we’re not going to talk about it anymore” rules. If children are curious enough they will find information somewhere and where better than from you?

Read Scripture together and pray for and with them.

The ultimate answer for our day is the truth which never changes. I find great comfort in the Psalms. Children love to read. Find a good Bible for children and read truth together. And, I have often heard and said, “Prayer doesn’t always change the circumstances, but prayer always changes me.” The same is true for children. There is a comfort in prayer – when you “take all your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.” Children learn faith from you. Share your faith with them. (The Scripture and prayer time will help you also.)

Teach them Biblical principles of how to respond to the world.

Regardless of the times, we are to love our neighbors, care for others, and strive to live in unity. We even have to respect authority – unless it differs from the commands of God. Those are timeless Biblical truths. You can certainly teach them principles of government you adhere to also, but mostly we should be shaping the character of our children – of course, ultimately into the character of Christ. And, wow, wouldn’t it be great if the character of Christ impacted our politics today?

Have some fun with them.

You need it and so do they. The fact is when we’ve been living under the cloud of our times like this election has done for many of us our own energy level might be drained. You may be missing some enthusiasm you usually have. But, children need to laugh and play. They need to have fun within the safety of their parent’s strength. Maybe turn off the television, play a game, or do watch something which causes everyone to have a big belly laugh. Coudln’t we all use one of those about now?

Those are just a few thoughts to get you thinking. I have written similar thoughts before on helping children respond to fear from tragedy. You can read another post HERE. What would you add to my list?

(And, I’m really not looking for political commentary here – just trying to help some young families parent.)

When our boys were at home

Reflections for parents of young children.

It seems like only yesterday our boys were living in the home at 9 Canterbury. The house was full.

The house was loud. (What does “inside voices” even mean to an 8 year old boy?)

Balls were constantly flying through the air. (A lamp or two may have lost its life during these days.)

The floor was used as a wrestling ring. (And, I usually got to hear one boy squeal and Cheryl say, “Someone’s going to get hurt!”)

Every night seemed like it was filled with a practice or ballgame. (We ran a taxi service it seemed at times.)

We had little “free time” for ourselves. (And, thankfully we stole every moment we could.)

Clothes were left lying on the floor. (No matter how many times you warned them not to be.)

The toilets weren’t always flushed. (And, that’s all I’ve got to say about that.)

The boys usually didn’t help around the house unless forced to do so. (It was like they didn’t even notice everything which needed to be done.)

They left the top off the toothpaste. (One of my pet peeves – and they often squeezed the tube in the middle – another pet peeeve.)

They didn’t want to go to bed on time. (And, they had a million excuses why they needed to stay up later.)

They didn’t want to get up in the morning. (Does “We’re going to be late” even motivate a child?)

I hated science projects. (And, they had lots of science projects – all announced to us days before they were due – sometimes even the night before they were due.)

There were endless hours of them performing “shows” for us. They would pick out one of their favorite songs – “Dancing with the Dinosaurs” by Steven Curtis Chapman first comes to my mind – and “perform” a dance routine for us. And, of course, we were expected to be their biggest fans. (They may hate I shared this one.)

We sacrificed a lot for them. They really did take a lot of our time. Just being honest, in some ways, they ‘cramped our style’. They consistently altered our plans, so we could help them with their plans. And, they never seemed to realize it either. 

And, you know what?

I miss those days. A lot. 

Some days more than ever. Those days were some of the best days of my life.

Do you still have kids at home?

Those days pass so quickly. One day you have clothes lying on the floor and it seems like only the next day you have an eerily empty bedroom.

Don’t neglect the good days.

One day you’ll miss them too!

7 Tips for Building Strong Relationships with Children

Which will last a lifetime

Most parents want to develop a close, lasting bond with their children which goes beyond the years a child lives in the home. Having a relationship with children which transcends time begins early in a child’s life as the heart of the child bonds with the heart of the parent.

I’m happy to say my boys are grown, but they are two of my best friends. And, they call or text frequently to discuss life and seek my input. I couldn’t ask for more. I realize now there were some things we did along the way which built the bond we have even today. Some of it may have been “accident” on our part. They don’t have to be for younger parents.

Here are a 7 tips to help build strong, lifetime relationships with children:

Choose activities to do together that they enjoy.

It’s a great plus if they enjoy your hobbies, but you will have better success in connecting if you do the things with them they enjoy most. Don’t try to create a clone of you. When they begin making choices for themselves, learn to love their activities and play times.

Don’t force yourself on your children.

As children get older and begin developing outside interests, do not be the parent who always has to tag along. Be there if you are invited, but allow your children some freedom to explore. As they get older, welcome other adults you trust to invest in them. This is one of the great values of being active in a local church. Men I admire made huge impacts on my boys.

Remain accessible to your children always, but especially during busy or stressful times.

Children cannot handle or understand stress the way adults can. They just know when they want or need their parents. Make sure you are available as much as possible when the desire strikes them. We made sure our boys knew they were never an interruption and we were always there when needed. This meant building our schedule around time planned with them. The busier I was and more stressful life became, the more I protected our family time. We wanted our boys to know we would always be there for them – even when they made mistakes. Never cause your child to question your accessibility.

Communicate on their level and with their interests.

Understand the language of their age and learn about the things they have interest in doing. I never knew much about soccer or wrestling, but one of our boys did, so now I do. Wanna wrestle?

Learn to love their friends.

This is huge and will show you value their choices in friends and relationships. We sometimes had to gently guide them and we even distracted them from some friends, but we wanted them to love everyone. Be patient with them. They should not be expected to have the maturity of an adult yet. They will make mistakes and will not always make the decisions you want them to make. Help them form good values then honor their ability to make choices while you are still there to help them recover when they make bad ones. They’ll need good decision making skills for a lifetime.

Slow down.

Life races by and before you know it the kids are gone. Believe me when I say this – it passes fast. Too fast. In your race to provide them all the right opportunities, all the stuff, make sure you give them what they need most. – YOUR TIME.

Be intentional.

When our boys were young I didn’t have a smart phone. It was probably a good thing they weren’t around yet. But, I was busy, as all parents are. I worked hard running a business we owned, was active in dozens of professional and spiritual activities, including holding public office, but I rarely missed a ballgame or practice. Their time went on my calendar first. FIRST. (Even as adults, my boys still have the opportunity to interrupt just about any meeting with a phone call.) And, I had no problem saying no to other opportunities. There are always unexpected interruptions, but those should be the exception not the every week occurrence. (And, I still contend pastors can make this commitment. There are others in the church who can help with ministerial responsibilities.) 

To be clear, none of these are excuses to give children everything they want or to allow them to set the standards for your home. I believe parents should parent. For more on my parenting philosophy here read other posts under the category of PARENTING.

Connecting with children in a way which lasts beyond the years they must connect with you, however, begins early in the child’s life and takes a consistent effort on the part of the parents. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the fact I have known parents who seemingly did everything right and things didn’t turn out as they had hoped. Their children went astray, they are no longer close – I even talked to some godly parents recently who said they haven’t talked to a child of theirs in four years – even though they’ve tried. Children are unique individuals – all of them – and, just as Proverbs are principles, not promises, this is what I’ve attempted to share here. When you’ve done all you know to do – pray like crazy! 

3 Ways to Find Family Time in a Busier Than Ever World

Finding family balance in a busier than ever world – it’s tough.

It has to be one of the most frequently asked questions I get from other pastors and leaders. Frankly, I’m glad they are asking the question. I especially see this true among the newest generation of leaders.

Cheryl, the boys and I were talking not long ago. They wanted to know how we did it? How did we keep the balance between a busy life and a healthy family life?

They knew we were busy. We had lots of responsibilities.

I was on the local city council. Served for a time as vice-mayor. We owned a small business with many employees depending on us to keep a business going which could feed lots of families. (You don’t know stress until you feel the weight of making payroll for 35-40 people every week.) I was on dozens of community committees and was active in the church, where I served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher.

Cheryl spent more time in the home than me during this season, but she also worked in our business. She served in the church. She was active leading in the schools where our boys attended – often serving as the president of the parent organization.

Yet my boys knew we rarely missed anything they were doing. Ball games. Practices. School events. Church events.

And, they felt we had lots of time for just us as a family. We ate dinner together most evenings. We threw and kicked lots of balls in our back and front yard. They felt we invested a lot of time in them.

They wanted to know how we did it – how we figured out the balance.

And, honestly, I have to admit – we didn’t really know what we were doing. We were figuring it out as we went. Plus, everything seems busier now. Travel ball. Travel dance. Social media. You know you’ve got to update your status often or your social media stats will suffer.

How do you do all you feel you have to do and still find balance?

Well, it may be harder today than 15 or so years ago, but I think the same principles we used then still apply.

Say no to some good things.

And, this is hard, isn’t it? Because you want your kids to have every opportunity they want. You want them to be exposed to lots of different things. You don’t want them to miss things their friends are doing. How can you say no?

But, sometimes as a parent you have to make the hard decisions for your kids they aren’t mature enough to make for themselves. Of course, they want to do it all. They are kids, but you have to ask yourself – is this the wisest decision for them today, based on where they need to go someday?

One day they’ll be gone and you’ll wish for more time with them. Some moms, like Cheryl, will wish you could wash some dirty clothes or pick up some socks from the floor (yea, funny how that works). Some dads, like me, will miss coming home tired from work and still getting outside to play catch.

But, right now your kids need you. More now than ever. They need your influence. And, you develop influence with them over time – when you’re with them. So, which is the greater good — another sport – another activity – or more time with you?

You’ll have to decide, but I suggest you consider the word “no”. It’s a good word. And, I would say it’s vital to having a balanced family life.

We limited the number of activities we allowed our kids to do. They got to choose, but they couldn’t choose everything. And, we said no to outside social invitations many times so we could have family time together.

Say yes to intentionality.

When you’re home be home. Turn off the phones. Put down the laptop. Turn off the television. Be radical with your scheduled time with them. And, yes, my family went on my calendar – trumping other good things.

I know this is hard also. You’re tired – and the recliner and remote are your escape. I get it. You have one more email to answer. You need to check your Facebook or Instagram posts to see who has interacted with you.

I cover this more in the next one – but since time is limited you’ve got to make the most of it. Every moment must count. Every night is another opportunity. An opportunity which quickly disappears with a fast moving calendar. (If there is one thing I hear empty-nest parents say it is they got to this stage quicker than they thought they would. Time passes fast.)

And invest in your marriage too. Intentionally shut everything down often enough so you stay connected. Yes. It’s crazy. It takes time away from an already busy schedule. But , it’s life giving to the marriage and your sanity.

We weren’t perfect at this, but our boys knew they had our attention. One example, I didn’t play golf for years – even though I loved the game – because my boys never took an interest in it. I thought time was better spent with them. We didn’t turn on the television every night – and not for long periods on the nights we did.

Be creative with your time.

You’ve got to learn to use teachable moments. Learn to love the activities your child loves. Throw balls together. Learn to love dancing at home. Play with action characters. Build science projects together (oh I hated those – miss them now). Use bedtime and dinnertime and breakfast time – and car circles – and trips to the garbage dump – whatever you have, whatever it takes, use the time you have with your children well. Use it creatively.

There isn’t one moment to spare when you’re intentional in raising a busy family. Not one moment. Intentional is the key word in the last sentence. You have to be intentional. And, it is hard work, but the rewards are worth it. Every. Single. Time.

We didn’t really do family devotion times in our home. It didn’t work as well for our boys. But, we talked about God’s Word, principles of life, values we should hold as followers of Christ – along the journey of life. Every time a ball was in the air I knew I had a captive audience with two eager soon-to-be men. And, I took advantage of the opportunity. I knew it would pass too soon.

You can find the balance<. It is hard. There's nothing more important.

The Dad Challenge: The Nurturing Father

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

Fathers are not usually seen as the nurturing ones in a family. When my boy’s got sick, they didn’t want me, they wanted Cheryl.

The Bible, however, tends to also place the father in a nurturing position. We are told not to “exasperate” our children, which means not to wear them out with correction, but to “bring them up”. The phrase literally means we spend time with them on a regular basis and encourage them in the development of their character.  

Sounds like nurturing to me.

The Bible tends to lay a huge responsibility on the father to help set the tone or the climate of the home. A father, who is consistently harsh or is never satisfied with his children, will tend to produce children who lack the confidence to face tough situations in life.

On the other hand, a father too quiet and passive to be intimately involved in the lives of children will likely lead to adults who cannot connect well with others, either in the workplace or in their own marriages and homes.

Fathers are often one of the best determinates of a child’s future success in life.

Wow, this is a sobering statement, but it’s true!

If a boy never feels he meets his father’s approval, he may become either an underachiever or an overachiever, but he will likely never feel that he “measures up” in life. A girl whose father fails to affirm her will often seek that approval from others – often in seeking inappropriate or less than ideal relationships. She may enter marriage unrealistically expecting something from a husband he may or may not be able to give.

I haven’t even mentioned the impact of an absentee or abusive father. Some reading this know this impact well – including the writer of this post (me).

The biggest impact in the life of a child whose father never nurtures is they often have a harder time realizing the nurturing aspect found in a loving relationship with a Heavenly Father. Without the model of an earthly father, they may see God more in the role of Judge than of “Abba” – which is the Hebrew term for our modern “Daddy”.

I’m thankful for the grace and mercy of God, which allows so many second chances for fathers who have missed the mark – but if we desire to be Godly fathers, we will strive to nurture our children in love.

How’s this for a Dad Challenge? I love investing in other men. We are in this together! I want to encourage you today! But, we have great work to do, men. Let’s do it to the glory of God!

For more thoughts on parenting, click HERE.

Ask yourself – what changes do I need to make to be a more nurturing dad?