Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lucky Number Seven

My wife and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary last night. Here's a little before and after for your viewing pleasure...
Somehow, she's stayed just as stunning as she was in that gorgeous white dress. I definitely out-kicked my coverage, as they say. 

Seven years by no means makes me an expert on marriage, however, so I'm always looking for the wisdom of others to speak into my relationship with my wife. And I've discovered that wisdom can come from anywhere, so I pretty much ask anyone for their input. For instance, I noticed that our chef last night was wearing a wedding ring, so Christina and I started to talk to him about his marriage and kids, etc. He mentioned that this marriage (his second) was going on twelve years, so I asked him what advice he would have for us. He said to make sure that we laugh a lot (which we do), but he said that we need to make sure we keep communicating (always working on that one!). So, to our chef Damon at the Pepper Tree Restaurant (which was really good, by the way, for my COS readers), thank you for building into our marriage. We appreciate it!

Where's the most unexpected place you've ever received relationship advice?
What advice would you add on how to keep a marriage strong?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The First Priority of Fatherhood, Part 2

On Tuesday, I talked about why it's important for a man to make his wife his first priority. It's one thing to say it, but something completely different to walk it out. And I don't flatter myself to think that I'm any kind of expert - my wife will tell you I still put my "husband" pants on one leg at a time - but pulling from seven years of experience (on Monday), there are a few things that I've found that actually work that I'd love to share with you.

Continue to pursue your wife - Those of you who know our story, know that I relentlessly pursued my wife during our dating relationship. Many of us guys are good at that, and have worked tirelessly to make sure that she knew how amazing she is and how we would move heaven and earth to make her ours. But then, and I'm sure you've read stories like this, for some reason we have this mentality that this stops once we get married. And then once we have kids, life gets even more hectic, making the effort required to plan time away even more difficult. Make the effort anyway. Your wife (regardless of what she might say) needs the time away, and the two of you need the time to reconnect to continue to work on making your marriage strong.

Choose her over them every time - Whether they mean to or not, your kids will try to divide you to get different answers. If they succeed, they undermine your relationship with your wife, which is never a good thing. When my wife and I do disagree on parenting strategies or discipline methods, we continue to show a united front to our children and then talk about it later. Our kids need to know that their parents are a team, and nothing they can do will change that.

Solve conflict in front of them - Wait, didn't I just talk about how important it is to show a united front and now I'm talking about fighting in front of them? I don't mean have a knock-down, drag out fight at the dinner table a la "American Beauty", but, again for the sake of modeling, good conflict resolution is important is show to your kids. Don't feel like you have to excuse yourself from the room every time you want to have a different opinion, but show them healthy discussion and conflict, and that will show them that fair fighting does exist, and can, in fact, play a crucial role in a couple's relationship.

Tell (and show!) her how much you love her in front of them - I remember when I was growing up, seeing my dad kiss my mom, flirt with her, or even say, "I love you," made me want to cringe. But I also remember never doubting that my parents loved each other, which gave me an amazing sense of security about their relationship. It'll gross your kids out when you're affectionate, but don't let that stop you from being obvious with your wife about how much you love her.

What are your thoughts on these? What else would you add?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The First Priority of Fatherhood

My dad had this sign in their bathroom when I was growing up. As you can see, it's pretty plain. No stunning vista in the background, sports paraphernalia, or even "manly" font. But I believe that the amount of flashiness is indirectly proportional to the importance of the message - "The most important thing a father can do for his children is love their mother." Based on the fact that my parents celebrated 44 years of marriage earlier this year, it's something that my father believed in as well.

Some of you may read this and wonder, "How does loving my wife translate into loving my kids?" Let me give you a couple of ways that happens...

1. It gives your son a model for how to love his wife - When Caden gets to that point where he is pursuing a woman for the purpose of marriage, I want him to be able to look at how I treat Christina as examples of what to do, as opposed to what not to do.

2. It gives your daughter a model for how she should be loved by her husband - I see so many women in my experience in college ministry who don't believe they ever will treated well, much less think they deserve it. I want Caylah to see how her mother is treated to know what to expect of her future husband.

3. It gives your kids the best chance at being raised in a two-parent household - Loving my wife well is the best bet to never make divorce an option. And I'm hard-pressed to find hard evidence that a child is better off being raised by one parent than two (normal) parents.

The only thing that qualifies me to say anything is seven years of marriage, but on Thursday I'll offer up some practical ways that I've loved my wife well.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

News Flash!

I think I may have the world's next Diane Sawyer.

I'm serious. Caylah gets so many exclusives and breaks so many stories that I fully expect CBS to give her the main anchor desk tomorrow.

Just this morning, she ran over to us with her latest scoop...

"Mommy! Daddy! Baby Cakey awake!"

Watch out, Barbara Walters, you're about be replaced.

She comes to us multiple times a day with these kinds of headlines: "Me eat strawberries!", "Me wear cat shoes!", and, my personal favorite, "Baby Cakey toot!" running to us like if she doesn't tell us right then, the world will stop spinning. So, even though we were right there when all of this is going down - the eating, the wearing, the tooting - she believes that she's telling us this for the first time (every time) and, if it weren't for her journalistic instincts, we'd never know what really happened. 

And, of course, my wife and I act as if this really is worth getting excited over, and that if she hadn't told us, we really would be left in the dark. Why? Because she's not even three yet, so we don't expect her to recite Charles Dickens or Aristotle to us (that will come when she's five, right?). We're just glad she's communicating. We love the interaction. We are excited that she wants to connect. When we talk about her day before she goes to sleep, I want her to tell me everything she's done, even if I've been with her every second of it. She's my daughter and it puts me over the moon to have her engage with me.

Oh, how I wish I had that same mindset when it came to engaging with the Lord. I know He knows everything that I do, every place that I am, every worry that I have. He knows me better than I know myself. Consequently, I'm much more apt to just go about my day, knowing that God's there and watching over me, so it would be kind of silly to "fill Him in," wouldn't it?

In actuality, God's just like me with Caylah (I realized the huge theological dangers of comparing me with God, but just go with me on this). There's absolutely nothing that I can say that will surprise Him. No chance I can ever go to the Lord of lords and have Him respond with, "Whoa? Really? Totally didn't see that coming!"

He just wants me to engage. Wants me to desire to build the relationship and that intimacy. He doesn't expect me to recite Dickens or Aristotle (or whatever the God-equivalent of those guys is), He just wants me to talk to Him.

So whatever it is, I'm gonna to chat with the Lord today. Big or small, He already knows it, but I want to come running to my Abba with the same big eyes and excitement that I get from Caylah.

"Daddy! Me drink Starbucks!"

What can you talk to the Lord about today? 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"Guys With Kids", Part 2

I don't know if I plan to make this a weekly occurrence, but since the series premiere of "Guys With Kids" failed to satisfy last week, I wanted to give a follow-up from last night's episode.

One of the overarching themes from last night was parents comparing themselves to other parents. I hit on that here, so I won't rehash it, but I appreciated the struggle.

There were two aspects of the show that I really enjoyed (aside from the "almond-y milk" thread), especially as it relates to being a dad. Nick and Emily's daughter, Violet, was taking things from their friends' apartments, and I appreciated that Nick took the lead on confronting Violet about it. He didn't bumble it, come off as weak, or shy away from the opportunity to discipline. He treated it seriously, talked to Violet the same way that I want to speak to Caylah when we get in those kind of situations, and really handled the exchange well, I thought.

I also loved the community aspect of the guys that was highlighted in last night's episode. As I wrote about in an earlier post, the group of guys that a father has around him is crucial to his development as a father and a husband, and I really loved that they touched on that, especially as it relates to their respective relationships with their wives.

As it moves forward, I hope to see some more solid "fathering" moments. I've seen some in the previews that still haven't been in an episode, so I'm hopeful that those are still to come. Overall, though, definitely an improvement over last week.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the show - what did you like? what do you want to see?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Exhaustion and Stubbornness

Caden had his first case of being overtired yesterday.

There wasn't anything special to the day; he just chose not to sleep. Dads, if you've ever had a small child that was overtired, you know the havoc that it can wreak on a household - lots of crying, lots of wailing, but no sleeping. Ironically, when you're overtired, you don't sleep.

But there's something else that Caden wouldn't do because he was so exhausted...


Twice yesterday, my wife was trying to feed him, and he refused to take the food. He was so busy crying and wailing and being upset. He was so focused on being miserable that he didn't even take the food that was right in front of him.

I sat there helplessly trying to figure out what I could do - rubbing his head, shushing him, I even busted out a little "Mary Poppins" - nothing worked. Caden just laid there, screaming and ignoring the nourishment that was being offered.

I wonder how many times I do that. I wonder how many times we do that. Where we get so focused on how we feel, or what's going on in our lives, that we completely miss the blessings that are right in front of us. How many times have I woken up at the beginning of a day and decided to be mad, or upset, or bitter, and consequently was completely oblivious to all the great things that were going on around me.

I doubt if, as a three month old, he was aware of that dynamic, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. We miss the blessings that are going on around us every day - my daughter who wants to dance with me, my wife, who has cooked an amazing meal that I don't even really pay attention to because I"m so busy being upset, even my son, who needs to be held, and I get to be the one to do that.

Does life sucker punch us in the gut sometimes? Of course it does. Do the events that happen to us make us feel weak and tempt us to throw in the towel? More often that any of us would like to admit, probably. The truth is, though, we have a choice. We have a choice to let ourselves be taken out of the game - as dads, as husbands, as men. Or we can choose in - we can choose in to relationships, we can choose in to fatherhood, we can choose in to seeing what we've really been given, not what we haven't.

I'm going to choose the latter. That's how I'm going to dare to be daddy today.

Have you experienced events that threatened to take you out before? Did you choose to stay in? How?