our first man.

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His eyes, his smile, his heart, his delight…it’s what I notice every time I see my husband play with our kids.

He stretches his arms out, and they leap.

He hovers over like a monster, and they run.

He turns on the lawn mower, and they jump on his lap.

He slips on his shoes to head outside, and they squeal with anticipation.

He lays down beside them, and they listen to his voice.

My husband…he knows how to play. I love that.

My husband…he offers provision and protection and strength. I love that.

My husband…he teaches and cuddles and laughs. I love that.

Their daddy…he’s the first man in my kids’ lives. I love that.

My husband and I have had numerous conversations about our dads and how they’ve shaped us – their words, their tones, their action (or in-action), their jokes, their conversations, their attitude, their work, their presence. We always come to the same conclusion…the first man in our lives have deeply impacted our view of masculinity and fatherhood and how valuable the feminine soul is. And, we also have come to understand, that what we experienced in our fathers has also deeply impacted the way we have come to view God.

A father’s role – it’s powerful. He spills into us in subtle and profound ways.

As we enter yet another “family” holiday this Sunday, I hope to be a voice who encourages us to celebrate the fathers in our lives. Dig a little ways back – to the days when you lived with your father or male caretaker. What do you remember? About him? About his heart for you? About his heart for your mom? About his heart for others? About his heart for God? Who was he? Really. I don’t mean how did he live out of his brokenness and hurt, but rather, in what ways did he image God? What was he amazing at? What ways did he tell the world that being a man was a good thing? For sure there were hard parts about our relationship with our father, but who did God create him to be and how did you see and experience that in him?

And then, if you’re a dad, how do you see those good things in you?

And, if you’re a mom, how do you see those good things in your husband?

And, if you’re a son or daughter, how do you see those good things in your dad? Still. Today.

You may just have gained more than you thought from your dad. It’s amazing how so much good gets passed down. Sometimes it just gets hidden behind fear or work or hurt or shame or others.

Maybe we need to open our eyes a bit wider so that we can see, really see…our father, our husband, their daddy.

And then, let’s shout out and affirm and celebrate what we see…in our home, with our friends, to the world.

So dads…as you sense a little extra love this Sunday, may you know that we are rooting for you. We believe in you. The best parts of you show up in us, in our kids. We love that.

May you know that you are honorable, respectable and good.

And, may you be even more aware of God’s eyes, God’s smile, God’s heart, God’s delight. Upon you.

Happy Father’s Day!


3 Reasons to Let Your Kids See You Struggle

So excited to have my second guest blogger! Welcome to Jane Graham…an insightful woman, a supportive wife, an intentional mom, a creative blogger, and a committed follower of Jesus. I love that while a West Michigan suburb surrounds her, she lives and thinks and acts in ways that push her forward, into a life that is deeper and wider than how her culture would want to define her. And, at the same time, embraces the people and spaces in that culture. I know you’ll be encouraged and challenged as she writes about what it means to invite and allow our children to enter our suffering.

This past May, our firstborn child turned ten.

He has grown so that his hair presses into my nose now when we hug. He wistfully scoots off to the bus stop without even a passing glance at my face in the kitchen window. His physical presence reminds me that a long line of months have been strung together since I rocked him while the rest of the world slept.

It’s hard to believe that a decade can dissolve into thin air when the days seem so weighty—so impossible at times.

Despite my own admission of the growing need for his independence, rooted deeply inside my own heart is a mother’s instinct to protect; to keep him tucked away from any part of this world that might corrupt his innocence. To cocoon his heart from the difficulties of life; spare some of the tears that come with humanity.

It happened this spring when the white-knuckled fingers of disappointment choked our family, and my gut told me to pack away my own trials. It told me to bury my personal hurts so that he (and my other two children) wouldn’t have to see a parent walking through hardship.

It was my instinct. And for a while, I allowed it to dictate my actions.

But the book of Acts tells of something different: it tells of shared trials. Expected trials. Trials faced with joy—not avoidance. So as I studied the account of the early church, I decided that I should, in fact, be walking with my children through my own disappointments and hurts—not stacking them away in a cupboard of denial. And I decided there are some pretty important reasons to do so:

  1. Being open in times of struggle allows your children to see Christ in you. It gives you the opportunity to model patience when quick and angry words would be justified by the world’s standards. It allows you to verbalize how you look for the best in others and think on what you know to be true, not what you’ve assumed to be true. (Phil 4:8)
  2. Sharing your struggles demonstrates honesty and transparency. If we want our kids to grow up and share their hurts with us…to be open about confusion and questions and wounds that are still raw…we have to be that first. Doing so allows us to look into the eyes of our children and say, truly, “I understand. I’ve been there.”
  3. When kids see parents struggling, it invites a spirit of prayer. Is there anything that captures your heart more than hearing your child’s sweet and tender prayer? Why not ask them to pray for you? Tell them, in appropriate detail, about the challenge you’re facing. Ask them to petition specific requests such as asking for wisdom (James 1:5) or greater love (1 John 4:11). Give them the privilege of approaching the throne on your behalf, and then, if God sees best to say “yes” to that prayer, tell your child! “God helped me control my words at work today. Thank you for praying for me! I could totally tell the difference!” See their face light up and watch the roots take hold.

Are you appropriately honest with your children about your struggles? How have you seen God work in your moments of transparency?

Jane Graham views travel as her “love language” and enjoys New York City as much as summer rodeos in Wyoming. She ponders faith, life’s journey, and living with a Jesus-worldview at www.girlmeetspaper.com. While the cookies are baking, Jane loves to create teachable moments with her kids and blogs about some of them at www.unofficialhomeschooler.com. You can find her on Twitter at @girlmeetspaper.

becoming family.

I’ll be honest. Back in the day when I strolled through life more carefree (and sometimes carelessly), there were a few things that when I imagined being a mom, I never wanted to be.

I never wanted to be that mom who desperately yelled her kids’ names, especially in public.

I never wanted to be that mom who sat in the dirty, germy, way-to-loud play area in the mall.

I never wanted to be that mom whose kid screamed at the top of his lungs while I frantically tried to keep him in the cart at the grocery store.

I never wanted to be that mom who sat her kids in front of over-stimulating kid shows because I needed a babysitter.

I never wanted to be that mom who drug her kids around with boogies and snot dripping from unknown crevices.

I never wanted to be that mom who used lollipops as bribery and broke all my own rules so my kid would obey.

I never wanted to be that mom whose car was loaded with goldfish and french fries in car seats and under seats.

I never wanted to be that mom who frolicked around town sporting stains on her clothes…and didn’t know it.

Yet, here I am…that mom.

(By the way, there really should be some beautiful shirt with jewels and glitter and lots of color that sings “I am too sexy for this life” that us moms get to wear whenever we want.)

OK, let me focus…

Before you have kids, it’s SO easy to think of what you don’t want to do, who you don’t want to be, and what you don’t want to look like. Thinking about what kind of parent, what kind of person you want to model for your kids is something many of us don’t do and find hard to do before we enter that role. Let alone, to think about what kind of home, what kind of space you want to create…for one another.

When your growing up years are defined by hard places and faces (or for some, “perfect” places), it’s easy to focus on what you don’t want to do, don’t want to be, as a parent and as a family. But I’m finding that in the midst of giving myself permission to not do the things that were so unhelpful or hurtful, that it’s just as important to imagine and be intentional about what you want to do differently, what you can do differently.

So, I’ve been reflecting and dreaming the last few years…of what kind of home I want to create for my children. As they enter and exit each season of their lives, what will they find each time they enter the door and play and sleep and grow in our house? What will they remember about how we defined and delivered the meaning of family? What picture will be seared into their memory?

For us (and we’re pretty new to this), there are some themes that we hope to be the umbrella over how we step towards our kids, so they are equipped and empowered to step into the world…to show others how good God is and how much he deeply loves…everyone.

You are wanted. You are loved. You are good…no matter what you say or do.

Your body, mind and spirit are worth investing in and connecting with.

We delight in you.

We believe in you.

We celebrate you.

We will be parents who are fully present to you and your needs.

Both brokenness and beauty have a place in our home.

Our home will be a safe place, a sanctuary.

God made you for us and he also made you for him.

Maybe, just start by asking yourselves, “What words or phrases describe our home right now?” Ask your children. Their answers could be surprising. And then, “What words or phrases do we want to describe our home?” Or, maybe, begin with asking God what kind of home he wants to create with you. Listen. Let his voice guide you.

So, as the summer warmth arrives and you find your children running in circles around you (or you around them), and as you experience both the extraordinary and ordinary, find what you do well. Discover what unique gifts your family has to offer. Go after that…in your children, in your home.

And then, may you be an expression of those heavenly things to the world…because you GET to show the world how good God is.