We Have A Dud

I've wanted a lab for quite some time.

What I would call a real dog. A big dog. So we finally jumped and got Lola, a charcoal lab, just over six months ago. She’s been amazing. She goes pretty much everywhere with us… on walks, to the park and to the beach. She absolutely loves all of it… or so we thought.

So a few weeks ago we went to spend the afternoon at Warren Dunes Sate Park in Michigan. It’s got a great beach and they allow dogs as well. We thought that since Lola loved the creek water in the other parks, she’d love the water at Lake Michigan. So we got our things set up, put our blankets and chairs down, and Carter and Morgan took Lola down to the water and threw the ball. Lola ran up to where the water met the sand and as soon as the wave crashed ashore, Lola went running the other direction.

The kids threw the ball a few more times, and each time Lola ran away and wouldn’t go after the ball. After about the seventh time, Carter came back to us and declared,

“We have a dud!”

And to make things worse, just 25 yards down the beach there was another lab that was running into the lake to chase down its frisbee. It was comical, sad and embarrassing all at the same time. What if we really did have a dud!?

Lola loved the water everywhere else. But she was super afraid of the sound and crash of the wave coming ashore. She just couldn’t push past her fear. But Carter and Morgan weren’t done trying.

As I looked towards the water, I could see Carter carrying our 70 pound lab out past the waves and into the lake. It was one of the most funny, ridiculous things I have witnessed. A 15 year old boy carrying his 70 pound lab into the lake all while the other lab was doing its, well, lab thing of running into the water to play fetch. I didn’t think this was gonna work. The first time the kids took Lola out in the water, she freaked out and ran back to the shore. But Carter and Morgan followed her back to where she was, picked her up again, and carried her back into the water. This time, they sat down in the water with her and petted and comforted her. Lola played for a couple of seconds then ran back to the shore. They tried to throw the ball again, but no luck. So, Carter again, picked her up, and walked her into the water. This time he walked her to her ball. She grabbed her ball and ran back to the shore.

The kids followed her back, grabbed the ball. This time, as they threw the ball, Morgan ran out into the water after it and… Lola followed her… past the waves, into the water to retrieve her ball.

Success! “We don’t have a dud!”

The rest of the afternoon was more of the same… Lola living her best life, chasing her ball out into the lake. I don’t think she has ever had as much fun as she did after she conquered her fears with the kids help.

Parenting can look super similar to this situation. There’s been countless situations where Carter and Morgan have been fearful of something. At times, they have stepped past fear and have overcome to do what they really wanted to do. Other times, they’ve given in to fear and have lived with regret for a short time. It’s painful to watch them live with regret. It’s painful to watch them give in to their fears knowing that what’s on the other side is great. But that’s life. We can only be there to hold their hand and carry them whether they overcome their fear or give in to it. The choice is completely theirs and theirs alone.

As parents… as adults… we have our own fears. And while we have friends and relatives to help us through. The ultimate parent, Jesus, is there to carry us through the fear of the crashing waves sometimes called life, just as Carter carried Lola. We just celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday. And with parenting, there are countless fears that we have to walk through. I don’t know what fears you are facing, but know this, Jesus will carry you through them. Check this out:

For I am the Lord you God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13

If you allow Him to carry you, Jesus will never drop you. He will help you through your fear to overcome. Because with Jesus,

There are no duds!

The Chipped Plate

As a parent, I'm always looking to do something unexpected.

Not like “something big” unexpected. No. I’m actually a firm believer that the small things are a lot more memorable that something huge. So, I’m constantly thinking about what I can do that would be unexpected in the mundane everyday life experiences. 

So after we moved to a townhouse eight years ago, I was going through and unpacking our things… because who wants to live out of boxes for any length of time? Not me for sure… although I will live out of a suitcase after getting back from a trip instead of unpacking. I mean, why hang clothes up or put them in drawers when I know I’m gonna wear them in the next few days. Anyways, not part of this story. Just a look inside my psyche. 

Where was I? Oh ya. We were unpacking our things… specifically our kitchen items. Cups. Glasses. Silverware. Plates. We were pulling each of those items out and then placing them in their rightful place. As I was unpacking our plates, I noticed that one had been chipped. Not a huge chip, but noticeable for sure. It’s actually the one I used in the header image above. It didn’t really phase me. I wasn’t upset. We had more. And honestly, it could still be used. But it was tarnished. It didn’t look like the others. And it was frankly, broken. So I put it away and didn’t give it much thought.

Then, a few days later, I was pulling dishes out to get ready for dinner. As I was placing them on the table, I noticed I grabbed the one with the chip and almost didn’t put it down. And then it hit me. This plate deserves to be used just as much as the other plates. Sure it’s damaged. It’s not perfect. But it deserves to fulfill its purpose.

Stay with me…

One of the things that has been huge with me when it comes to students and parents is to make sure they have been encouraged. It’s something that has been super important to me… even in the difficult discussions… whenever possible, I want to make sure they have been encouraged. I want our house to be filled with encouragement… with encouraging words. It’s super important. 

And so, I stood there, with the chipped plate in my hand, and I thought, “This is the perfect place to do something unexpected. It’s the perfect place for a great illustration.” So that night, we sat down for dinner and I said, “You guys see that plate, it’s got a chip in it. But it’s still usable right? It still works. It still serves its purpose.” And I said, “We’re kind of like that plate.” Mind you, this was eight years ago. Our kids were 7 and 5 years old. I said, “We all mess up. We’re not perfect like this plate isn’t perfect. But it doesn’t mean we’re not loved the same… by God and by your parents.” Then I said, “From now on, whoever gets this plate at dinner gets to pray, and then we’ll go around the table and say something encouraging about the person who has the chipped plate.” 

The. Kids. LOVED. It. I mean, who doesn’t love it when someone says something encouraging about them? 

It was the perfect part of the day to do something unexpected. It was dinner. Something small. Ordinary. But that night, it became something more. Something unexpected. It was a great time to slow down and make sure that our kids know that they are loved and encouraged in even the smallest of ways. It was actually such a hit that our kids told their friends. They went to school and talked about the chipped plate. When we would watch our friend’s children for date night, they would want to be the one who got the chipped plate for dinner… and unexpectedly we would put the chipped plate down in front of one of them. 

And, even better, when the kids would be arguing and fighting throughout the day, we would make sure that one of them would get the chipped plate so that the other would have to say something encouraging to the other. 

The chipped plate didn’t make an appearance every night. But when it did, the kid who noticed it in front of them would light up. And more than that, on some nights, the chipped plate would find its way in front of myself or Jami. It wasn’t just a kid thing. It was an adult thing too. Because, well, everyone needs encouragement. And it’s always a good thing when kids can learn to encourage adults as well. It’s super important that our kids learn how to not only receive encouragement, but also give it as well. We did this on a regular basis over the last six to seven years. It disappeared for a while. But we’ve started doing it again. And even at ages 13 and 15, when it’s placed in front of them, their faces light up. 

Our children face a lot these days. They feel the brokenness in their lives. They know they aren’t perfect. They are constantly comparing themselves to others… more so now than any other generation before them. One of the things they need the most from parents and youth workers are encouraging words. Words that let them know that they aren’t damaged. They have talents and abilities. They need to know that, despite the fact that they aren’t perfect, they are loved. We don’t need to do something extravagant to make a lasting impact in their lives. The lasting things are the little things, like words of encouragement that take place over time. 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11

What’s something that you’ve done to encourage either your kids or someone else?

The Ruth Tooth Extraction

This was Carter when he was seven years old.

For a week prior to this video, I was coaching and bribing and coaxing Carter into trying to pull his loose tooth out. I’m not sure why he was so fearful of pulling his tooth out. Maybe it was the fear of it hurting. Maybe it was the fear of it possibly bleeding. Maybe it was the fear of change. I even told him that I would tie a string to his tooth and attach it to my car and hit the gas to rip it out. But that didn’t work either. (Actually, that probably made his fear worse.) Whatever it was, Carter would not even attempt to try to pull his tooth out.

So, each night, for seven straight days, I would ask him… “Are you ready yet? Do you think your tooth is ready yet?” And for seven straight evenings he would reply with a, “No.” No follow up questions. Don’t pass go. This tooth ain’t ready. Carter knew the tooth was going to come out. He had lost two teeth before… two teeth that literally fell out on their own because the adult tooth pushed them straight out. So he knew that, at some point, the tooth was going to be “lost.”

You see, he wanted this one to be different. He, deep down, wanted to pull this one out on his own. He wanted to be the one to pull the tooth out and not let it simply be pushed out by the adult tooth coming in. But, he was scared. He knew that what he wanted to do was good. It was natural. And it was needed for the next step to occur. But still, night after night… day after day he was scared and wasn’t ready…

Until the night of the video.

That night, he said… “I think I want to try dad.” And, like any good dad would say, I said, “Wait, let me get my phone to record it coming out!” The video that you watched is just one minute and 11 seconds. The actual time the it took from start to finish to get the tooth out… just over two hours. Two hours of coaching. Two hours of encouraging. Two hours of making jokes to ease his nerves. Two hours of standing by his side and he pushed through the fear to extract that “fiesty” tooth as he put it.

This isn’t the first time that Carter has been scared to try to accomplish something. And it’s not going to be the last. My job as a parent is to stand by him and help him push past the fear if he chooses. To let him know that I’m by his side, cheering him on.

As a parent, we can see the other side. We can see that everything will be ok. It’s so easy to get frustrated by that. To not understand where they are at in their fear and to only focus on the end goal. But as a child, they can’t see that end goal. They can only see the immediate place where they’re at… fear. It’s our job to help them walk through that place to come out on the other side not only ok, but also a better person having learned to walk to the other side of fear, despite their fear.

You know, God does the same thing with us as well. Sure, he doesn’t physically hold our hand. But He’s right there beside us giving us comfort as we walk to the other side of our fear, despite our fear. Check this out:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Our God has promised to be with us wherever we go. Whether it’s during this time of quarantine or after, our God will never leave us. He is there. For you. For me. For us. As you walk with your child through their fears, despite their fears, know that our God is doing the same with us… through our fears, despite our fears.

Bike Rides Funnel Cakes & the Mess

I'm sitting here at home, on my couch, looking for a moment I wanted to share with all of you.

I knew I had posted it on Facebook. But for some reason, I thought it happened about two years ago. But no, it was five years ago! FIVE! In the grand scheme of things, five years isn’t that long. But when your kids reach a certain age, five years is forever ago. The amount of change that happens between five years is, CA-RA-ZY. Anyways, side tangent over.

Morgan has ALWAYS loved to ride bikes. Still does. Five years ago she would ask all the time. Like… Every. Single. Day. As a parent, you love your kids. But there comes a time when you just need, well, you need a break. This was one of those times. The day before, she had asked to ride bikes when I got home. And, well, since it was raining I said no, we couldn’t do it. She asked why. My response, “Sweetie, it’s raining. If we go for a bike ride now, we’ll get all wet. Our legs and shoes and clothes will get all muddy. We’ll be a mess. Let’s see what the weather is like tomorrow.” I could tell she was disappointed. But I just didn’t want to clean up that mess. And, I needed a break from riding bikes (my seat is terrible).

The next day rolls around. I’m driving home and it starts to rain. As I walk in the house, Mo comes running up to me and asks, “Can we go for a bike ride?” And in my head I’m thinking, “Our clothes are gonna get wet. Our shoes might get ruined. We’ll definitely get muddy. It’s gonna be a huge mess.” But when I get done thinking those things, I start thinking, “We’ll definitely get wet. It’s not cold out, it’s the middle of June. There’s no thunder or lightening. This is something I’d love to have done as a kid. We’ll definitely have fun. And it’s memories they’ll have for sure.” So I say to Mo, “It’s raining.” She says, “Awwww.” To which I said, “Wanna go for a bike ride IN THE RAIN?” Mo and Carter at the same time asked, “CAN WE?” And I said, “Absolutely! Get your bikes.”

Did we get wet? 100 percent. We were soaked. Were we muddy? Absolutely. I made sure we rode through all of the puddles. Did our shoes get ruined? I have no clue. I just know that as we were riding through our neighborhood, there was nonstop giggles and fun. It’s something they still talk about five years later. It was an absolute mess. But it was worth it.

Fast forward five years. Carter shows Jami and I a TikTok video of a guy making homemade funnel cakes, deep fried Oreos and deep fried Reese's Cups. My first thought, man, this could be a real mess. Two inches of vegetable oil in a pan. A 15 year old in charge of this little project. And powdered sugar. What could go wrong? We literally put this experiment off for a couple of days. But there was no chance that he was gonna forget about this. So, we said ok. And, it turned out to be a mess. We had dishes all over the kitchen. Powdered sugar everywhere (mostly because of me). Burnt chocolate smell. Like I said. It was a mess. But, Carter loved getting it ready, following the instructions, and watching what he did actually work. It was fun. He was successful at what he set out to do. And we made memories.

There have been times throughout the years that we have said no to things our kids wanted to do because we knew that there would be a giant mess to clean up. I wish I had those times back, honestly. In the last five years, we’ve begun to intentionally said yes to things (like our Christmas Dinner Christmas Card) because we know that sometimes the moment means more than the mess. The memories that will be created in the moment you have with your children will far outweigh the mess that it creates. And I want more memory-filled moments in our house… even if it creates a huge mess.

It’s ok to have a mess. Because the moment means more than the mess.

Morgan, Carter and Me. June 14, 2015. This moment meant more than the mess.

My Expectations for the Next Babe Ruth

I always knew I'd have a kid. I thought I'd have three.

But that’s a story for a different day. And I never thought I would have a daughter. Again, a story for a different day. (Hint… setting the stage for future blog posts.) I did hope and believe that I would have a son. After all, I grew up with two brothers. I came from a household with all boys. And as we were growing up, we all played baseball. It’s what we did for fun. In the summer afternoons, we played hotbox (no not the THC version). For those who are 40ish and beyond, ya’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s a baseball game. If you watched the Sandlot, it’s also called getting into a pickle. When a runner gets caught in between one base and the next. From a fielder’s point of view, you only wanted one or two throws max before you tagged the runner out. We played this game ALL. THE. TIME. in the summer. To say we were good at it would be a HUGE understatement. 

Baseball was in our blood. Still is.

So knowing that I would have a kid at some point, and that kid being a boy, I always knew that he would play baseball. So when I had my first child… A BOY… plans were made. Expectations were set. The only question was, “How soon till he gets on the baseball field?” I mean, with the last name of Ruth, of course he was going to play baseball. Not just for a few years. No. This kid was going to play baseball through at least high school. Remember.

It’s in our blood. Still is. 

So as soon as Carter was born, he had Chicago Cubs gear. Not some crappy White Sux gear. Or lame St. Louis Cardinals gear. And as soon as he could hold things. He had a baseball in his hand. And as soon as he could swing a bat and throw a ball… he did. He’s a Ruth. Of course he was being groomed to be a baseball player. 

Then he hit the age where we could sign him up for T-ball… We signed him up. And just like my mom and dad coached us, I signed up to coach Carter. At the same time, we had friends who had children playing soccer. And like the good dad I was, I said sure, he can sign up and play that inferior sport. He’s a baseball player… but whatever. So we signed him up for soccer too.

He finished T-ball. Finished soccer. Winter came around and passed. Then spring arrived. And we signed him up for baseball again. Coach pitch this time. Signed him up for soccer again. At this point we didn’t really know which he liked better. But he kept playing both. Then, came the next season of baseball. We’re fast forwarding a bit here. Now, he’s about nine years old. Kid pitch baseball. He’s also still playing soccer in the spring and fall season now. But right now, we’re in the middle of the baseball season. One night, over dinner, he tells Jami and I that he doesn’t really like baseball…



Wait. What. You’re a Ruth. That’s not possible. There’s expectations. Ummmmm, wait. You said… no no no no. I don’t think I heard you right. You. Don’t. Like. (Gulp) Baseball? 

Then he said something else…

“I just want to play soccer.”

I blacked out. I may have fainted. I don’t remember. 


Now, there’s a history here. With soccer and me. You see, the Riley soccer team practiced in the gym before we did to get ready for their season. They routinely “accidentally” went late during their practices. From what I remember, there was some bad blood between the soccer team and the baseball team. Words like, “soccer is for communists” may have been thrown around. We didn’t like them very much… ok… at all. 

So, Carter coming to us and wanting to quit baseball was one thing… but wanting to play soccer instead… Shooting me in the face would have been less painful. So, like any good parents would do, we told him he couldn’t quit baseball until he was 10 years old. Why 10? I have no idea. Maybe to give him seven months to come to his senses. In any case, 10 year old Carter came back to us and said, “Yup, I don’t want to play baseball anymore.” 

And boom. Like a punch in the gut. A kid, with the last name Ruth, decided to not play baseball anymore. All the expectations went flying out the window. The plans. The dreams. The goals. 


Replaced. By. (Gulp) Soccer.

Once I settled down. Thought about it a little bit… ok… a lot, all of those expectations and goals and dreams weren’t his… they were mine imposed on him. 

I was essentially forcing my will on him because I thought that was what was suppose to happen based upon a set of false expectations… based upon a last name. I wasn’t focused on what really mattered… letting him try and do things as far as sports go that he enjoyed. So what, he doesn’t like or play baseball. Doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. You can still learn some great life lessons playing the game of soccer. It’s not the sport that he plays that matters. It’s the kind of man that he grows up to be that matters. 

And that’s true for other areas of life as he grows up. I know that I have a set of expectations for his future as he gets older. And, like with baseball, I’m sure that most of those expectations don’t matter. The only thing that matters is…

Is he an honest boy/man

Is he compassionate with people

Does he love others well

Does he keep his word

And, (this is one where he has to decided) does he love Jesus

Everything else… doesn’t matter. What type of job does he have? Does he go to college? How much money does he make? In comparison to all those things above… nothing else matters. 

I need to be careful of the expectations I place on my kids… because in the end… they may just not matter. 

P.S. I actually love watching Carter play soccer… and… I play it now too.

Marked by Cheetos

When Morgan was little, she loved Cheetos.

And by love, I mean LOOOOVVVVEEEDDD Cheetos. When she ate them, she got the orange flavoring all over her hands. Anything she touched she left Cheeto hand prints everywhere… the fridge, the counter, table, walls…

She LOVED Cheetos. She loved them so much that she got them all over - all over her hands, all over her face, and all over anything she touched.

She loved them that much. She couldn’t help it. The Cheetos marked her, and in turn, whatever she touched she left their mark.

The same thing happens to each of us. Sure, I may not be covered in Cheetos, but there are things that I allow to mark me everyday. And the things I allow to mark me, in turn, leave their mark wherever I go and whoever I come in contact with…

My kids

My spouse

My friends

People I run into that I don’t even know

So the question is...

What am I allowing to mark my life?

It's easy to get wrapped up in the mess that's tossed at us...

The crap at work.

The anger we experience.

The families we see falling apart.

The hurt we encounter everyday.

But the question remains...

What am I allowing to mark my life?

You see, when my little MoMo ate her Cheetos, she dove in with both hands. And when she came out on the other side, she was marked. Whatever she had on her hands before was covered up by the cheesiness of the Cheetos.

I don't know what you've got going on in your life. But I know what I face each day. And I know I have a choice. Because more times than I care to admit, I allow things I hate to mark me. And in turn, they leave their mark on everything and everyone I come in contact with. So I have to ask myself daily...

What am I allowing to mark my life?

The answer I want to walk away with is...


He's the only One who can cover up the crap at work, the burden of witnessing families imploding, the anger I experience and give, and the hurt I encounter and see each day… in the news and real life. And when He makes His mark on me, in turn whatever I touch, His mark will be left wherever I go.

And so I dive in with both hands... Because I want to be marked by Jesus - and in turn, leave His mark everywhere I go.

So the question remains...

What are you allowing to mark your life?

Open Your Mouth One More Time

I love acronyms and short says...

Like… Looovvvveeee them. Just ask my kids. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said things like:

Hard work pays off.

Details matter.

You can only start from where you are. 

And now, I’ve got a new one. This one literally hit me in mid sentence to one of my kids after what was a long day of chores and frustration. We were, as a family, supposed to go to Warren Dunes, a state park in Michigan. The beach, Lake Michigan and a huge sand hill was waiting for us this day. An afternoon of fun. So as we were getting our things ready, Jami and I had to what felt like constantly correct and redirect our two kids from arguing and fighting with each other. Something that had been a consistent issue over the last two weeks. It seemed like if our two kids were close to each other, they were arguing and fighting. Both were at fault. And I could feel myself reaching a boiling point. 

We finally got our things in the car and were getting ready to back out of the driveway. And more bickering from the backseat ensued. I stopped the reverse motion of the car and addressed the kids’ behavior and words and started to slowly begin to back out of the driveway again when one of the kids decided it was a good idea to say, One. More. Thing. I’m not sure what possessed this child to feel the need to say, One. More. Thing. But it happened. The, One. More. Thing. was said. (A word of advice kids. If you find yourself in the same position and you feel the need to say, One. More. Thing. don’t. It’s not a good idea. Ever.) And as I finished backing up and began to pull forward,  the switch in my mind flipped. I don’t know if it was a slow progression of me realizing that the child had said, One. More. Thing. But the switch flipped. And instead of pulling out of the neighborhood, I pulled around the circle and back into our driveway. And I announced in a very direct way that we were not, in fact, going to Warren Dunes. Instead, we (and by we, I mean the two of them) were going to enjoy nature by doing chores for the rest of the afternoon outside. 

This in turn enabled a couple of things to happen. One, the switch in my brain was eventually flipped back up over time. At this point, it was less of a switch and more of a dimmer nob. Two, it helped Jami and I to accomplish yard tasks that we knew needed to be done but didn’t want to do them (a win for us). Three, it gave me some time to reflect one the last two weeks and the bickering and arguing and fighting between our two children. And I knew in that time that we all needed to talk. So, after dinner, we all had a little chat. 

As we were discussing the day’s events and the previous two weeks, the child who felt the need to say, One. More. Thing. decided it was a good idea again to say, One. More. Thing. And as I was redirecting the words that were coming out of that child’s mouth, it hit me. Like a punch from Mike Tyson in his prime. It hit me like Mariah Carey hitting her high notes (ok, she can’t really hit those high notes anymore… did you see the at home concert?) Anyway, in mid sentence my eyes were opened… and I realized this… for the last two weeks, I had been focusing on the kids’ behavior, their arguing, their disrespect, their words. In other words, 

I was focusing on the surface issues that were on display.

And in two point two seconds this word came out of my mouth… are you ready for this? I mean it’s kinda weird. And silly. And crazy. And super simple. The word that came out of my mouth…


I’ll say that again…


I had been focusing on the kids’ behavior. And I was suuuuuuuuuuper frustrated that their behavior wasn’t changing. And it hit me. I was focusing on the wrong thing. Or, at minimum, I was focusing on the thing out of order… in the wrong order. You should have seen my kids’ faces… probably Jami’s too. 

HAM? What? Why HAM? Said in a look of confusion. And I said, “Well, everyone likes HAM right? I mean it’s kinda like bacon.” More looks of confusion and the comment that in fact, not everyone likes HAM. And I quickly realized we were getting off topic… even though they were right. (I mean, Jami doesn’t like HAM, so they were right.) So to bring it back I said again,


You know…




And as I said that, everything made sense. I had been focusing on their behavior, their words. And it hit me… this is completely out of order. If I want their words and behavior to change, their attitude needs to change. And if I want their attitude to change, their heart needs to change. Check this out: 

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23

In other words, your attitude and your mouth will speak what is in your heart. The bad attitude and the arguing and fighting were and are surface issues. Like an iceberg, you only see the little bit on the surface. The foundation of the iceberg is below the water. The foundation of the arguing and fighting and bad attitudes is their heart. 

This isn’t something that I didn’t know before. But for some reason, I had been only focusing on their behavior. And their behavior wasn’t changing. And I had become so frustrated. And so the punch between the eyes. The eye opening moment was so freeing for a couple of reasons. One, because I was focusing on their behavior, I had begun to believe I could control their behavior and their attitudes and their words to each other. And because I thought I could control it, I had become super frustrated because it wasn’t changing when I told them to change it. But when I realized that I was focusing on things out of order, when I realized again that their behavior, their words, their attitudes come from their heart, a sense of calm came over me. Why? Because it takes my control over their words and behavior away. No matter how much control I think I have over their words and behavior, it won’t change unless their heart changes. And while this seems strange to think about, I have no control over their hearts. 

I have control over what I do to help their hearts point in the right direction. I have control over what I can do to help fill their hearts with the right things…


Love for Jesus. 

Love for others.

I can’t control whether or not their hearts change. But I can control how I help fill their hearts and with what their hearts can be filled with. And that is a completely freeing feeling because now I can focus on what and who I can control… me. And I can control what and who I focus on and know that out of that focus, I will help fill their hearts with life and not death.

What is my focus? Great question. Here it is. It’s a prayer really. So let’s end this post with this prayer:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God." Ephesians 3:16-19

Scared to Let the Poop Out

Potty training a child can be a challenging time for parents.

I know. We have two children who are now ages 13 and 15. Both were very different when it came to potty training. One evening, when we were in the midst of the potty-training life, Jami and I, and the child who will remain nameless, were at a very nice optical boutique. The nameless child asked to go potty. (We say pee in our household, but we’re trying to keep it classy here.) As the nameless child sat down, the child said they couldn't go because the poop was blocking the pee (at this point, it had been THREE days since the child last went poop in their pull-up).

Then, five minutes later, I noticed out of the corner of my eye the nameless child running and hopping through the store while holding their butt screaming, "I HAVE TO GO POOOOOP!" Ding ding ding. Can you say, "turtle head?"

So I scooped the child up and took them to the bathroom where the child yelled and screamed about how they didn't want to poop on the potty. I then said that the poop was going to come out whether they wanted it to or not, and to just poop it out and everything would be just fine. So, the child did. And the pee came out that was “blocked” by the poop earlier, which splashed off the rim of the toilet and onto my glasses (which is another post on its own). I think you have to be a parent to be able to look past the piss on your face to cheer for your three-year old who purposely pooped on the potty for the first time. This will probably be a life lesson to be learned even in the teenage years.

So, as I'm thinking and laughing and telling people this story, it hit me. Why was the nameless child so scared to do something new? Something that is good. It's not like it was going to hurt the child or kill the child. But the nameless child was so scared.

Maybe they were scared of change.

Maybe this signified to the child they were going from baby to big boy or girl.

Maybe they were scared of the unknown.

Maybe they were scared of what people would think of them.

And as I thought about the nameless child and the struggle to poop on the potty, I couldn't help but connect his/her crap to my crap... why am I scared to start something new? Why am I scared to tell people? Maybe I'm scared of change. Maybe I'm scared of the unknown. Maybe I'm scared of what people will think of me. Starting something is good. It's new. It's cool and exciting. If we're honest, a lot of us have been struggling with what the nameless child has been going through… Change.

During this time of quarantine and global shutdown, now might be the perfect time to pivot. Now might be the time to change things up. Maybe it’s a change in a job situation. Maybe it’s trying something new. But fear grips us all at times… from the three year old potty training… to the 43 year old getting back to his roots… to the 68 year old knowing that God is calling them to a life change. Fear of change can hold you. Check this out:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1st John 4:4

In other words, God is greater than the giants you face.

In the end, it took the nameless child trusting his/her daddy telling him/her that it will be ok to poop on the potty… trusting that it will be cool and exciting and sa-weet and good. And, I've got to get to that place too... to trust my daddy... my Abba. And I think I'm finally there… most days. Thanks to the nameless child for the perfect illustration.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17: 7-8