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Happy Birthday Angel Jessica

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Today our Jessica Ann would be 25 years old.  Jessica is our 2nd oldest child next to Jeremy Moffitt who is 29.  Today is also the 14th anniversary of the World Trade Center twin towers being attacked.  I remember both events as if it were yesterday.  I remember Jessica taking her last breath on August 5th 2001 at approximately 2 am.  I remember telling her that it was ok to quit fighting and to let go.  Jessica Ann slipped from the bonds of her cancer ridden body into the arms of Jesus in that moment.  It is our hope and belief that we will see her again along with other loved ones when we leave this life and move on to the next one.

It has been said that time heals all wounds.  I would say that time allows us the opportunity to learn how to deal with the pain and grief of losing a loved one.  Time gives us a measuring stick for our perception of the pain and feeling of loss that comes with grief.  One does not simply “get over it”.  If you are a friend or family of someone that has lost a loved one please do not make the mistake of expecting them to just “get over it”.  Grief is something that becomes a constant companion.  Over time, the pain does subside and get easier to deal with but it never totally goes away.

Today, my heart goes out to the family and friends of the 3000+ souls that lost their lives in the terrorist attack in New York City on this date in 2011.  Terrorists (aka cowards) hijacked 3 jet liners and intentionally flew them into both of the World Trade Center towers and attempted to fly into the Pentagon.  Someone said that 9/11 is the “Pearl Harbor” of my generation.   I will never forget where we were when this happened.  A neighbor called me and told me to turn on the TV and watch the news.  We sat in our living room and watched in horror as the World Trade Center buildings burned and then collapsed one after the other.  We watched as the second plane hit the second tower while the first one burned.  I remember how surreal it was to watch the 110 floor towers just collapse into the ground while millions of viewers watched in disbelief.

My heart goes out to the families and friends of the public servants who rushed to the scene to help people and ultimately paid the highest price for doing so.  Police officers and fire fighters who were trying to help victims lost their own lives on that horrible day.  This is a day that Americans came face to face with radical Islam and their act of cowardly terror.  I know that the pain of the event was and is intense for most of us.  It would be so easy to categorize all Muslim people as terrorists but I realize that is not fair.  That would be like saying that all Christians are willing to kill innocent people in the name of God.

The problem with terrorism and war is that innocent people including women and children lost their lives.  I guess that our government calls this loss of life as collateral damage.  I do not pretend to fully understand all of this.  I just know that people were going about their day to day business in the World Trade center towers and that it was forever interrupted by a cowardly act by terrorists and now they get to live with the grief.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the survivors.  May they find some sort of release from their pain and find the courage to go on despite their losses.

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Watching , waiting, hoping and praying

Watching, waiting, hoping and praying.  You do a lot of that as you watch young adults stretch their legs and head down the road of life. As a parent I found myself with a preconceived notion of what might happen as I watch my young adults go from being teenagers and morph into the next stage of life.

It seems that the older the kids get, the less influence we have on them.  Looking back at when I was their age I can remember how I felt about my parents and their warnings about life.  I thought they were idiots and way out of touch with life.  Now I sit here experiencing dejavu as I watch my kids making questionable life choices.

For the most part, Katy and I have imparted what we could with regards to them having a good foundation.  We taught them the difference between right and wrong.  We taught them to love God with all their hearts, minds and souls and love their neighbors as themselves.  We attempted to be living examples instead of saying “do as I say not as I do”.  Sure, we screwed up from time to time ,but I believe that over all we were consistent in what we said and did in our home.

Nothing pains the heart of a parent more than to see their children making bad decisions and then having to live through the consequences.  Our hope is that our children will not make the same mistakes we did.  We hope that because we want the best for them.  We want them to be happy, fulfilled and successful.  We want them to be a contributing member of society.  Eventually we want them to be able to stand on their own two feet and take care of themselves.

We have two adult children who still live at home and as they headed towards their 18th birthday I had an unreasonable expectation.  I expected them to be mature, make good decisions and follow the life path that I had preconceived for them.  You know the drill.  I expected them to finish high school and possibly go to college.  Katy and I both believe that education is a critical need that will give them more than a fighting chance in society.  Studies have shown that the more education a person has the chances of landing a better paying job goes up exponentially.

Much to our dislike and disdain we have discovered that our kids do not agree with the age old rules of society that says if you want to eat and have your own things you have to earn a pay check.  That principle is also a biblical principle.  The bible is very clear about the importance of working and earning your way in life.  All we can do is patiently wait as nature takes its course.   We have remained a refuge in this world so they always know they have a place to come to.  Our home is their home but at the same time there are rules that have to be followed.  Those rules have been in place for a long time and are designed to provide tranquility and harmony and peace.

As long as we are alive our love for our family will never falter.  We will always welcome our family in our home and will do whatever we can to facilitate the growing and maturing process.  Looking back at my earlier forages into life as a young adult I remember how many struggles I experienced.  Most of those trials and tribulations were brought upon me because of ignorance and pride.  I believed that I knew more than my out of touch parents.  I guess when I was around 23 or 24 I came to the realization that life is bigger than I am.  I realized that I was not as smart as I thought I was.  Life began to teach me some tough lessons.

As I watch my kids start to make mistakes and make missteps in life I realize the importance of grace and mercy.  I want to be the type of father that is always willing to extend grace and mercy when it is needed.  I want to be the type of father that extends love and encouragement when the time is right.  I want to be patient and to allow my kids to make those mistakes because it is those mistakes that will make up the fabric of growth and maturity.  Just as my father in heaven extends his grace, mercy and forgiveness to me when I falter, I feel the need to do that for my family as well.

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Letting go

The hardest part of parenting is letting go. Katy and I are entering into a new stage of life as empty nesters. In so many ways I have looked forward to this stage of life. I especially looked forward to this during the difficult times, when our young people were fighting so hard to be their own individual person, and testing boundaries at every turn. All in all, Katy and I have been very fortunate to have very good children. I believe that all children test boundaries and do what they can to be different.  

Our youngest daughter Kristina has been on her own now for 6 weeks. When Kristina moved out we realized how much noise that she had contributed to the household. It was not just Kristina but also all of her friends that would come over to visit. When she moved out all of that went with her. I especially do not miss being awakened at 3 am when she would come back from concerts.  

For the most part Katy and I are homebodies. We go to work, go to church and have an occasional date night. I think that one of the things that attracted our children’s friends is that there is no drama here. Katy and I cherish peace and quiet and we have a zero tolerance for things that would disturb that.

Now that we are entering into the empty nester stage of life we realize how much time and energy has been invested in our young adults. Our son Justin will be 18 very soon and he has been spending a lot of time on the weekends with his girlfriend and her family. He is savoring the moment that he can save up enough money to get a moped and move out on his own as well.

Katy and Kristina were doing their thing yesterday running errands so I came home and asked Justin if he was hungry. Asking a teenaged boy if he is hungry is really sort of rhetorical.   Teenagers are always hungry. I can always get Justin to hang out with me if food is involved.

After we ate lunch at Subway’s I asked Justin if he felt brave enough to do some driving. He looked at me and told me that you do not have to be brave to drive. In that instance I realized that I was the one that needed to be brave. I have to let go of the control of the vehicle and let him behind the wheel. It is all part of that letting go that I am not so good at. The trip to the DMV on Leeds Avenue was uneventful, and Justin spent some time practicing his three point turns and parallel parking. Once he was done with that he drove us over to Money Man Pawn on Savannah highway. Justin is really big into musical instruments and amplifiers. He is my rock star musician in the making.

I realize that for the most part our job as teachers and mentors will take on a different meaning in the life of our young adults. Hopefully by now we have instilled our beliefs and the difference between right and wrong. We have attempted to teach them good life skills and how to make good decisions. We have taught them to think about what they are about to do and what the consequences are going to be before they do it.

I also realize that our children will always be our children no matter how old they become. I know that they will make choices and decisions that I may not agree with. Despite that we will always love them and be here for them. I can only hope that they will know they are loved and will feel comfortable enough to come to us for advice or just have someone to listen to them. I did not have that in my parents and I have sorely missed it over the years.  

Katy and I will also have to make some adjustments now that we have more time to focus on one another. We find ourselves looking at one another and saying “now what?” Now we move on to the next stage of life and learn how to enjoy life together as a couple. I am looking forward to what the future holds and see how our young adults make lives of their own.

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Praise and conflict

I am the father of four children. I have two young adults living at home. One daughter that is 20 and one son that is 17. I am very familiar with the concept of praise and conflict. Sadly enough I am probably much more familiar with conflict than I am praise. How and where did we learn our parenting skills? We learn them from our parents mostly. We learn them from listening to other people who are supposed to be subject matter experts in that field.

When I became a parent I had to try to erase the memories from my childhood when it came to parenting. My parents are long since gone and there are many things I am grateful for. Nevertheless there are some areas that they were very lacking in. Praise was certainly one of those things that I rarely experienced. As a teenager I was always doing my part to be rebellious towards them no matter the consequences. My parents constantly communicated with me that I was never good enough to meet their standards.

As I try to be an example to my young adults I constantly find myself going back to my parental example to remind myself to not do what they did. The gap in this equation is that while I am trying not to be judgemental and harsh I am trying to figure out how to do the right thing in the current situation.

Raising young adults (teenagers) is like herding cats. They are always doing their thing no matter how much you try to guide them. Not too long ago I went to breakfast with my son Justin. Justin is my 17 year old son who has taken a liking to playing different types of guitars. Since he has been working he has spent most of his monies on outfitting his room with sound equipment. Justin has always been at odds with me with regards to his hair length. Having been raised in a strict military family I was always forced to have a very short hair cut up until I was 17 where I was allowed to let it grow out a little bit.

I remember having this talk with my son with regards to him getting a hair cut. His comment to me was this. “I have spent the last 17 years trying to get your approval by being a good son”. “I do not understand how the length of my hair is such a big deal to you.”. I had to take a few moments to contemplate that statement. His comment took me by surprise. I have gone out of my way over the years to demonstrate my love towards my children both verbally and physically. I believe that it is very important that they received praise, affection and affirmation from their father. I especially understand it because of how screwed up I had been by not receiving it in my childhood.

After some quick reflection I was honest with my son and told him that there were two reasons why I insisted that he get his hair cut. One reason was because I was afraid that if I compromised with him over his hair lenght that I might be compromising with him over other things. I also told him that I had been programmed by my father to believe that young me did not have hair that was as long as a girl. Young men do not wear nose studs, tongue studs or have tattoos either.

I went out of my way to praise Justin during this conversation and let him know why I thought he was a good person and a good son. I have always been transparent with my family and communicated with them my weaknesses and my understanding on how it affected them.

I am very proud that while my young people have given me their fair share of conflict, that I have not had any major incidents to deal with when it comes to drug or alcohol addiction. I have not been awakened in the middle of the night by a police dispatcher or a call from jail or the hospital. I realize that anything can happen, no matter how hard you try to do the right thing.

No matter what the conflict I will always try to find ways to affirm my young people and give them the best advice possible. When conflict arises I try to remember that I too was their age at one point in my life. I try to remember that they are feeling their way through life and that they are seeing the world through their eyes and dealing with peer pressure and raging hormones.

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Courageous

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Katy and I went to see the movie Courageous last week.  This movie is very powerful and thought provoking.  I am hoping that every father or husband that is able to see this movie, will go to see it.  Yes, this is a faith based film.  I know that might turn some folks off.  Even if you are not someone who subscribes to a faith in Jesus Christ, I still believe that this movie is powerful enough to speak to your heart. 

I believe that a family is made up of a man, woman and children.  I believe that a marriage is made up of a man and woman.  I believe that God ordained this into existence and despite the efforts of some, it is still the truth.  I believe that children need both a father and a mother in that family.  I believe that both roles are equally important.  I believe that fathers and mothers are uniquely equipped to fulfill the role they are in.  I believe that children need both fathers and mothers in that family actively engaged in their specific parenting role. 

This movie points out some startling statistics.  These statistics illuminate the fact that children who grow up in fatherless homes or absentee fathers are more likely to make poor life choices, and wind up in trouble when they become adults.   The movie points out the fact that it is much easer to have children, than it is to be a real man, who engages his responsibilities as a father. That means that men need to be the spiritual leaders in their homes.  So many of us guys have been taught, that once we provide a place to live and provide food for the family that our jobs are done. 

It takes courage for a man to realize the need, his wife and children have of him, and to be responsible enough to provide that type of leadership in the home.  I have been a father to four children and I can attest to the fact that it is not an easy job.  Parenting requires courage, stamina and prayer.  Parenting is not for the feint of heart.  Parenting is a huge responsibility that can not, and should not be taken lightly.  Parenting requires a life time commitment.  Despite what some of us dad’s may think, parenting does not end when the children turn 18 and strike it out on their own.  In this economy, more and more children that are 18 to 25 are staying home because they can not afford to be on their own. 

Depending on the type of earthly father that you have had in your formative years, you may, or may not be, better equipped to be the type of father and husband your family desperately needs.  As I look back on my childhood I realize that while my father always provided for our physical needs he was absent spiritually and emotionally.  I was not raised in a faith based home, nor did I receive the kind of solid foundation that would provide.  As a father to my children, I have had to ignore how my father raised me, and I had to look for my own spiritual leaders and mentors from which to learn parenting skills from.  James Dobson has been one of the resources that I have listened to over the years. The bible also speaks to the role of a father and mother in the home.

No matter our situation, or how bad our childhoods might have been, there is hope.  Our hope rests in our faith in who Christ is in our lives.  Our hope rests in the fact that we can undo the chains of sin in our lives, and we can look to a heavenly father that will forgive us of our sins, wash us off and give us a new purpose.  Before we can be courageous as fathers and husbands in our homes, we need to quit playing games with God, and get down to business.  Our vertical relationship with our creator needs some repair, before we can ever hope to get our horizontal relationships with others where they need to be. 

I can hear some of you men reacting to this, as I write it.  OH COME ON NOW MAN, who do you think you are talking to anyway?  I do the best I can with what I have been given.  I know you are thinking these thoughts, because I too have those thoughts.  I do believe that most of us love our families, and want the very best for them.  I also believe that we can be better fathers and husbands.  I  believe that our families NEED for us to be better than mediocre husbands and fathers, who are just sliding by.  They need for us to love them, like Christ loves the church.  They need for us to serve them selflessly and to be willing to sacrifice ourselves for them. 

This is a challenge to YOU, fathers and husbands.  Please join me and many other men who want to know how to be courageous.  Watch the movie and let it speak to your heart.  Use this movie as a tool in which to retool the most important relationships of your life.  Your relationship with God, wife and children are the most important relationships you will ever have.  I believe that you will find that your family will respond to you, in a positive way, as you renew your commitments to them to be the best husband and father that you can be. 

Will you join me?  How can we help each other?  Tell me what you are doing today to be more courageous in your homes men. 

 

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Raising young adults

Living in a house with 2 teenagers, who have 2 dozen friends the same age, is like herding cats.  Raising young adults is not for the feint of heart either.  I keep saying “raising teenagers” and someone much older and wiser than me reminded me of the fact that they are becoming young adults.  I have been suffering from a slight case of WPOR as the parent of said young adults.  WPOR stands for Warped Perception of Reality.   In my day dreams I imagined my young adults turning 18 years old, graduating from high school, going to college and moving out of my house.  That would leave Katy and I with peace and tranquility that we treasure.

I do not get to spend much time in my WPOR induced stupor.  Every day seems to be an adventure.  There are times that we attempt to look into the future and determine which child is more likely to be successful than the other.  They say that as parents we are not supposed to have favorites.  Hindsight is always 20/20 and to this day all my predictions have been blown out of the water.

Approximately one year ago we moved from Johns Island to West Ashley.  When we moved to Johns Island it was to be in a better neighborhood and for me to be much closer to Kiawah.  The 90 minute commute each day was getting old and costing me a fortune in gas.  What I did not realize is that the schools in Charleston county, especially on Johns Island suck.  We wound up having to enroll our teenagers in online curriculum through the state and that did not work out very well.  I suppose that the older the child gets the more they require socialization with other teenagers.  My teenagers let me know this in many different ways.

Recently I have decided that Katy and I have missed our calling as Foster parents.  We typically have 4 to 15 teenagers at our house.  I guess you could say that the socialization of our teenagers has improved quite a bit.  The only problem with that socialization is that their choices for friends sometimes leaves things to be desired.  I do not believe that any of these kids are bad. I believe that all of them, including my kids, are good kids at heart.  What we have learned is that most of these teenagers come from broken homes.  My son told Katy the other day that we are the exception to the rule.  He said that most of his friends live in homes where the mom and dad are either divorced or getting divorced.

Just recently we wound up dealing with a teenager whose parents keep kicking her out of the house.  This young person is 16 years of age and is in a very ugly situation.  I attempted to be a responsible parent and reached out to the mother of this teenager.  We had long talks and I made suggestions to her in which way she could go with dealing with their issues in their home with their daughter.  Whether or not those suggestions fell on deaf ears or not remains to be seen.  At first the parents of this young person were ok with their daughter living with us and did not say a word.  They knew our address and phone number and at any time they could have driven over here to retrieve their child.

For the life of me I do not understand how any parent could “disown” their child.  That is what my adoptive parents did to me and my sister at different stages of our life.  These parents have no problems with slamming the door on the young person’s face and tell them they are not welcome and they are filth.  On several occasions the mother dropped the young person off at a gas station and left her standing there with the clothes on her back.  I never knew that this was an option for parents.  I thought that parents were responsible for the well being of their offspring no matter what.  I also thought that parents were supposed to love and support their children no matter how many bad decisions the young person makes.  I thought that is what parenting is all about.  Helping the young person to learn from their mistakes and make better life decisions.

Yesterday the step father gets on the phone with me and proceeds to give me the riot act for being disrespectful to his wife and for sticking my nose into their business.  What gave us the right to give his daughter a place to stay.  We allowed his daughter to stay with us because she is a friend of our daughters and we did not want her to be living on the streets of Charleston.  The parents knew where she was the entire time and knew they could come get her.  At no time did they lift a finger to come get her.  After my brief encounter with the angry step father I advised him to come get his daughter and I had her pack her stuff and go outside to wait for him to arrive.

As of today the young adult has gone back home and her grand mother is coming down from North Carolina to take her back with her.  Hopefully things will settle down for this young lady and she will be able to go to school there and get life back on track. We want her to be in a safe place that is devoid of hateful and angry remarks.  We want her to be in a safe place where she does not have to worry about her step father provoking physical confrontations between the wife and daughter in the front yard.  With this obstacles out of the way maybe she can start to make the appropriate adjustments with some of her life choices and make better decisions as to whom she should spend time with.

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