28 December 2017
Mom & Dad,
As of this year, I have been a father five times over. What the heck! The longer I have been a parent, the harder and deeper I have thought about parenthood. It has not only shaped my view of my own life and the weight of my thoughts, words, and actions, but it has also shaped my view of God as my Heavenly Father, and my view of you as my parents. My being a parent combined with my own kids getting older has caused me this past year to reflect more on my own childhood and upbringing, and of course of both of you. I have set certain parental goals for myself and, after realizing just how hard they are to navigate, I wanted to share with you how great both of you did in your roles as parents. I love you and I know that I am beyond blessed that the Lord gave me to you to raise.
Thank you for showing me Jesus and letting Him shape my view of the world.
The older I get the more I see the power of Jesus in saying “let the little children come to me”, because the odds of cynical, hardened adults allowing the radical transformation of the Holy Spirit to take place is small. I meet so many people who, due to calloused upbringing by parents who were themselves hardened and cynical, have a very depressing and hopeless view of the world. They seem to be almost animalistic and cold-blooded in their “dog-eat-dog” treatment of others. I have always fought hard to resist becoming an uncaring person, and I attribute that to Jesus and Him working in you as my parents to let my view of people and the world be shaped by His Holy Spirit.
When we were in Washington DC recently, Lanae saw a mom and baby sitting outside the subway asking for money. She asked if we could please give her some money to help her, and I went with her to talk to her and give her $20. Her compassion was moving to me, and I was immediately taken back to a time when I did the same thing with you, mom, for a pitiful looking woman on some street in Mexico. You probably don’t even remember it, but her image is forever seared into my mind. I remember other times, dad, when you would willingly purchase food for hungry people or drive a church van to pick up kids who many would have said “wouldn’t change” or were coming “for the wrong reasons”.
So many people, many of whom fill up church pews, respond with cynicism and bitterness to people and consciously or unconsciously pass such views of humanity on to their children. But, you showed me Jesus in dealing compassionately with people, and you did in powerful ways. You are both deeply caring people who, in different ways and instances, showed me Jesus and let me what it looks like to walk with Him. I pray that the Lord will help me do the same for my kids.
Thank you for seamlessly transitioning from parent to friend.
I see so many people who either want to be their kids friend too early or be their parent for too long. It is easy to mock them and point out their flaws, but it sure is hard to know when to make that transition yourself. Obviously, none of my kids are at the stage where I am their friend, but I pray that when I reach that stage I will transition as seamlessly as you did.
In the “Christian Academy” circles I tend to run in, the struggle for most is knowing when to let their kid go and recognize that they are a child no more. They try to parent too long, and their kid responds by pushing them away or rebelling against them or the church or a number of things. The fear of “messing up” as a parent, is real for me, and I will rely heavily on the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit as my kids – and especially all these girls – hit their teenage years. I know that you must have lost sleep, sweat, and brain cells on raising kids and navigating when and how to make that transition, but you did it so well. You really did. I know it probably felt clunky and awkward to you, but I just wants to tell you how amazing you both did at being first a parent, and now a best friend.
Thank you for stability that I didn’t even know I needed.
I talk to parents often about their behavior making things “normative” for their kids: if you cuss, that becomes their normal; if you consume sex; that becomes their normal; if you lie, that becomes normal for them. But, if you love, that becomes normal; if you pray, that becomes normal; if they know that you have their best interest at heart, that becomes normal.
A couple of years ago, Lanae had her first experience of having a friend whose parents were getting divorced. She had to start splitting tome with mom and dad, and both her mom and dad went into a tailspin of sorts after that. For her, that will be normal.
I think back on growing up, and I am so thankful that both of you provided me stability which built a healthy and solid foundation for the rest of my life. Some kids that grow up in broken homes find that stability, but they really have to fight for it much of the time; mine was just there because I knew that I had two parents who loved each other and who loved me. But for the grace of God and you being my parents, I could have been completely screwed up, making a mess of myself, and on the fast track to death and destruction. Thank you.
Thank you for building resilience in me.
The older I get, the more important resilience becomes to me. Circumstances happen that suck, unforeseen events occur which can be life-altering, and people can completely turn their back on you. And yet, one of the elements that seem to separate people is the ability to deal with and keep moving, or getting knocked down and not being able to get back up.
Romans 8, among other Scriptures, talks about Christ being with us and in us all the time, and that nothing on Earth being able to separate us from the love of God. That in and of itself should build resilience in the Christian. But, to see someone that you know, love and respect model that resilience and endure and maintain is a huge part of developing it for yourself.
This comes out in little ways and big ways: sticking with a sport even when you don’t like it, getting back on the bus even when someone is being mean, or mowing one more yard even when it’s dinner time. But, I have also been privileged to watch and observe resilience by watching you not want to move, but do it and do it well, or by getting a job done even when you didn’t feel like it, or keep going to a church when the Lord hadn’t released you yet. I can remember, mom, going to church with you when I can imagine there is no way you wanted to go with your kids, and yet you did. I can remember, dad, cutting grass with you after you had already worked all day. I can also remember watching you interact with customers who were a pain in the butt, but you would be kind with them and do more than I thought you should have done. Those little things teach monumental lessons, and I am so thankful for it and I love and respect the heck out of you both for it. Thank you. Last but not least:
Thank you for letting me grow into who Christ made me to be.
I see so many people who seem to want to live vicariously through their kids. It is selfish and does the kid absolutely no good. They wanted to be a great ballplayer, so they try and make their kid a great ballplayer. They want their kid to get into a great school and be a doctor or lawyer, so they push and push and push regardless of whether or not the kid has any passion or desire to pursue that path.
Now, as a parent, I can see the difficulty in that! There are certain attributes about kids that you want to change: this one is too emotional, this one is too serious, this one is anti-social, and so on. I know that I started and quit more jobs than either of you were comfortable with in my teens and early twenties! I know that I was a terrible, lazy student in school and got worse grades than I should have. I know that getting engaged at 18 and married at 19 must have brought fear and trepidation into your soul…and yet, you let me grow and let Christ work in me without trying to kill my spirit or control who I became and how or when I became the person that He created me to be. That seems like perhaps the single most difficult aspect of being a parent, and yet, looking back, you did it so well. I got the privilege of watching you trust Jesus to work in me with a willingness to guide along the way. Thank you.
I know parenthood is an art and not a science, and that almost every parent worries that they are doing it wrong. We remember our failures far more than we remember our successes. But, this year, I wanted to say thank you and remind you of some of what I see as your greatest successes. There are so many more things than I could include in here, but I just wanted you both to know how wonderful I think you are. I don’t think you could have done a better job. Merry Christmas. I love you.
Just a man trying to save his thoughts and correspondence