Smile for the Joy of Others

Smile for the Joy of Others

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

For All Parents...(Even Grandparents)

I hope that you will take time to read the article below written by Dr. James Dobson. I know it's rather lengthy but so worth reading. If I could read this everyday for encouragement and perspective, I believe it would help me be a better parent. It would help me appreciate the time with my children, the blessings of them and the blessings of a parent.

I'm sure you parents that have experienced what he is writing can share in his emotions and the reality of what he wrote. In that I am grateful and blessed to my parents for rearing us in a Godly home and who continue to help guide us in God's will.

Dr. James Dobson's experience when his only son, Ryan left home for college many years ago but as you read, it can very much pertain to today's life as well:

"Years have come and gone since the morning our first child came into the world. An instant and irrational love affair was also born that day between this new dad and his baby daughter, Danae Ann, who took center stage in the Dobson household. How deeply I loved that little girl! She would stand in the doorway each morning and cry as I left for work, and then run giggling and breathless to meet me at the end of the day. You would have thought we had been separated for months. Could I ever love another child as much as this one, I thought.

Then a few years later, a little lad named James Ryan made his grand entrance, and it all happened again. He was my boy--the only son I would ever be privileged to raise. What a joy it was to watch him grow and develop and learn. How proud I was to be his father--to be trusted with the well-being of his soul. I put him to bed every night when he was small, and we laughed and we played and we talked to Jesus. I would hide his sister's stuffed animals around the house, and then we turned out the lights and hunted them with flashlights and a toy rifle. He never tired of that simple game. But the day for games has passed.

This morning, you see, marked the official beginning of the "empty nest" for Shirley and me. Danae graduated from college a year ago and is now building an exciting new life of her own. It was difficult for us to let her go, but we took comfort in Ryan's remaining years at home. How quickly those months have flown, and today, our formal years of parenthood came suddenly to an end. We took Ryan to the airport and sent him off to Colorado for a five-week summer program. Then in August, he plans to enter his freshman year at a college in the Midwest. Though he will be home periodically for years to come, our relationship will not be the same. It might be even better, but it will certainly be different. And I have never liked irreversible change.

Though I knew this moment was coming for many years, and I had helped others cope with similar experiences, I admit freely that Ryan's departure hit me hard. For the past two weeks, we have worked our way through a massive accumulation of junk in his room. Ryan is a collector of things no one else would want--old street signs, broken models and favorite fishing rods. The entire family took tetanus shots and we plunged into the debris. Finally last night, Shirley and Ryan packed the remaining boxes and emptied the last drawer. The job was finished. His suitcases were packed. Our son was ready to go.

Ryan came into my study about midnight, and we sat down for another of the late-night chats that I have cherished. He always liked to talk at the end of the day. I won't tell you what we said in that final conversation. It is too personal to share with anyone. I can only say that the morning came too quickly, and we drove as a family to the airport. There I was, driving down the freeway when an unexpected wave of grief swept over me. I thought I couldn't stand to see him go. It was not that I dreaded or didn't look forward to what the future held. No, I mourned the end of an era--a precious time of my life when our children were young and their voices rang in the halls of our house.

I couldn't hide the tears as we hugged good-bye at Gate 18. Then Shirley and I drove along to our home, where a beloved son and daughter had grown from babies to young adults. There I lost it again!

The house that we had left three hours earlier in a whirlwind of activity had been transformed in our absence. It had become a monastery--a morgue--a museum. The silence was deafening to us both. Every corner of it held a memory that wafted through the air. I meandered to Ryan's room and sat on the floor by his bed. His crib had once stood on that spot. Though many years had passed, I could almost see him as a toddler--running and jumping to my open arms. What a happy time that was in my life. The ghost of a kindergartner was there, too, with his brand-new cowboy clothes and his Snoopy lunch pail. Those images are vivid in my mind today. Then a 7-year-old boy appeared before me. He was smiling, and I noticed that his front teeth were missing. His room was filled with bugs and toads and a tarantula named Pebber. As I reached out to hug him, he quietly disappeared. Then a gangly teenager strolled through the door and threw his books on his desk. He looked at me as if to say, "Come on, Dad. Pull yourself together!"

My own words now come back to mind. I remember saying in my second film series, Turn Your Heart Toward Home, that the day was coming soon when "the bicycle tires would be flat, the skateboard would be warped and standing in the garage, the swing set would be still, and the beds would not be slept in. I know those times will soon be here, and I realize it has to be so. I accept it. I wouldn't for anything try to hold back our son or daughter when it comes time to go. But that will also be a very sad day, because the precious experience of parenting will have ended for me." Alas, the day that I anticipated has just arrived.

If you're thinking that I am hopelessly sentimental about my kids, you're right. The greatest thrill of my life has been the privilege of raising them day-by-day in the service of the Lord. Still, I did not expect such intense pain at the time of Ryan's departure. I thought I was prepared to handle the moment, but I quickly realized just how vulnerable I am to the people I love.

In a larger sense, however, it is not merely the end of formal parenting that has shaken my world today. I grieve for the human condition itself. When Ryan boarded that plane in Los Angeles, I comprehended anew the brevity of life and the temporary nature of all things. As I sat on the floor in his room, I heard not only Ryan's voice but the voices of my mother and father who laughed and loved in that place. Now they are gone. One day Shirley and I will join them. First one and then the other. We are just "passing through," as the gospel songwriters used to say. All of life boils down to a series of happy "hellos" and sad "good-byes." Nothing is really permanent, not even the relationships that blossom in a healthy home. In time, we must release our grip on everything we hold dear. King David said it best, "As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more" (Psalm 103:15-16, KJV). Yes. I felt the chilly breeze of change blowing through my home this morning, and I understood its meaning.

What an incredibly important scriptural concept. If we really grasped the numbering of our days, we would be motivated to invest ourselves in eternal values.

Would a 50-year-old man pursue an adulterous affair if he knew how quickly he would stand before his God? Would a woman make herself sick from in-law conflict or other petty frustrations if she knew how little time was left to her? Would men and women devote their lives to the pursuit of wealth and symbols of status if they realized how soon their possessions will be torn from their trembling hands? It is the illusion of permanence, you see, that distorts our perception and shapes our selfish behavior. When eternal values come in view, our greatest desire is to please the Lord and influence as many of our loved ones for Him as possible.

I ask each of my readers this important question: If we really believed that the eternal souls of our children hang in the balance today--that only by winning them for Christ can we spend eternity together in heaven--would we change the way this day is lived? Would we ignore and neglect so great an opportunity if our eyes were fully opened to this awesome responsibility? I think not. I pray not.

Addressing myself now to the mothers and fathers of young children, I urge you to keep this eternal perspective in view as you race through the days of your lives. Don't permit yourselves to become discouraged with the responsibilities of parenting. Yes, it is an exhausting and difficult assignment, and there are times when you will feel like throwing in the towel. But I beg you to stay the course! Get on your knees before the Lord and ask for His strength and wisdom. Finish the job to which He has called you! There is no more important task in living, and you will understand that assignment more clearly when you stand where Shirley and I are today. In the blink of an eye, you will be hugging your children good-bye and returning to an empty house. That is the way the system works.

In conclusion, let me offer this thought from my book Love for a Lifetime:

In August 1977, my wife and children joined me on a trip to Kansas City, Missouri, for a short visit with my parents. We enjoyed several days of family togetherness before it was time to leave. As we drove to the airport where we would say good-bye, I asked my father to pray for us. I will never forget his words. He closed with this thought:

"And, Lord, we want to thank You for the fellowship and love that we feel for each other today. This has been such a special time for us with Jim and Shirley and their children. But, Heavenly Father, we are keenly aware that the joy that is ours today is a temporal pleasure. Our lives will not always be this stable and secure. Change is inevitable, and it will come to us, too. We will accept it when it comes, of course, but we give You praise for the happiness and warmth that has been ours these past few days. We have had more than our share of good things, and we thank You for Your love. Amen."

Shortly thereafter, we hugged and said good-bye, and my family boarded the plane. A week later, my father suddenly grabbed his chest and told my mother to call the paramedics. He left us on December 4 of that year. And now, she has also gone on to be with the Lord. How quickly it all unraveled.

Even today, so many years later, my dad's final prayer echoes in my mind. An entire philosophy is contained in that simple idea. "Thank You, God, for what we have ... which we know we cannot keep." I wish every member of God's family could capture that incredible concept.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Happenings and Such...

We've been trying to get adjusted to our new environment. I am beginning to understand how sardines feel while living in this 2 bedroom apartment.

The boys' bedroom is also my "sewing room". Some nights we put them to bed our bedroom so I can sew and then transfer them back to their room. It's funny when they wake up and say, "hey, why we in our room?" It's the best we can for right now.

We decided to sign a 6 months lease here at the apartment. We didn't want to rush into buying a house. Things were just happening too fast. I didn't expect to sale our house so quickly thinking I would have a little more time to learn the area. But God had other plans. So we put the house hunting on hold for awhile. Looking at houses, visiting new churches, meeting new friends, visiting preschools for the boys, and running my business...It was just a little more than I could handle at one time. So the apartment it is for a few months.
This is our apartment. And below is the "yard" we play in.

We try to take the boys swimming often to give them a chance to get out some of their energy. Unlike most of the apartments back home, this complex has lots of yard space. So on some evenings we spray down with mosquito repellent and head out to throw and catch a baseball or kick a ball. Anything to run off some energy.

Even Gizmo tries to make the most of apartment life. She enjoys staring out the sliding glass door. She can see the cars go by through the bushes that line our tiny patio. Please excuse the hideous blinds. I wish I could take them down put up of some kind of curtain. Even a shower curtain would look better than those blinds. She's finally gotten use to her halter. She does like the pink with her brown fur.

We frequent TCBY on Wednesday for their .99 waffle cone Wednesdays. This is becoming a favorite adventure for the 4 of us. And it is an adventure. They fill the cones way high, so the boys come home sticky from chocolate ice cream. It gets on their clothes, in their hair and all over their face. But is sooo worth it. Especially since it's TCBY's 96% fat free soft serve.

Speaking of fat free....we've joined the local YMCA. I have a goal of loosing 10 lbs before my annual spa trip with my girlfriends. Hopefully, this recent joining of the gym will help that along. I've worked out every night this week...we will see. JB and the boys also. They play in the gym or run the bases of their little baseball field while I walk or workout. When touring the YMCA before joining, the little girl proudly told us of the "Catfish Rodeo" they hold every fall. She informed us that they put catfish in the pool and let the kids fish. CATFISH IN THE SWIMMING POOL! Not so sure about that one. I tend to think catfish belong in ponds, rivers, and reservoirs. I understand we are near the catfish capital of the world, Belzoni, and there are lots of catfish farms around but I seem to appreciate catfish in their rightful habitat.
We enjoyed an evening dinner with Jeremy's "boss". He's the bank President up here. He and his wife were so gracious to open their home to us for dinner. They even enjoyed the boys coming along. The boys got to feed their horse, Stonewall, a cookie and play with their boxers, Chuck and Kate.

We also enjoyed a "cookout" with other friends. The 4 of us couples are "Transplants" to Greenville. We each have been brought to Greenville for job reasons. That's typical of the area with transplants. If you aren't from here, you are here because your job brought you here. One couple...he's is the Youth Minister at one of the local Presbyterian churches. Another couple, he is the Music Minister at one of the local Baptist churches. The 3rd couple..she is a nurse at the hospital in Cleveland and her husband coaches basketball at one of the local academies. One of the couples also has twin boys. Only they will be 5 in December.
We were invited to a playdate with the other twins this past Thursday. I met another mom. She has a 3 1/2 year old little girl. She, too, is a transplant. The boys had fun playing with other boys and jumping on their trampoline. I enjoyed the adult conversation.

Tonight, I've been invited to eat with a group of girls. I think I may participate. However, they are all going to see The Time Traveler's Wife. Those who know me best, know I don't do sobby movies. I may forgo the movie. Besides, JB wants to go to the Washington vs Jackson Prep football game. Washington is just behind our apartment so we can actually walk to the game.
My business has kept me super busy. This is a busy time for my business as I fulfill fall, Halloween, football, and Christmas orders. The Lord continues to bless my home based business with loyal and new customers.
That about sums it up for the moment. Sorry for the delayed posts. It's been hard to put my thoughts together. They still seem to come in fragments.
Until next time, HB

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

4th Birthday

I know, it's been a few weeks since we had their 4th birthday party. But time just has not allowed for much for blogging.

First, I want to thank our sweet friends, Christy and Jeremy for taking the pics you see. They were so sweet to be the "photographer" for me. I appreciate them using their photo skills so that I may have memories worth keeping.

The boys spent the day with the JB and his parents and sister. They went to a local park and then his parents took them to Chuck E Cheese.
I spent the day preparing for the party. This year I reserved the pool at a local Courthouse Raquet Club. We enjoyed swimming, hot dogs and fellowship. When I asked them what kind of party they wanted, of course, each had their own idea. CB wanted a racin' car while BB wanted a pirate party. So in effort to corperate both themes I used plates, napkins and cupcake decor from each theme.

Unlike the years in the past, I decided to give picture frames instead of a monogrammed party favors. I wanted their friends to have something to keep longer for memories just in case this was their last party back home.

I say every year that I am going to be a better planner. But it didn't happen this year. In fact, this year was the worst. The menu changed as I was in the grocery store prepared to buy what I thought was going to be the menu. The frames were purchased the night before and then decorated the day of.
But all in all, they children had a good time and I doubt hardly noticed the lack of planning or scattered planning, I should say.
Thanks to my parents for helping me plan this day for the boys and to their special friends for taking time out of their busy schedule to celebrate their birthday.
See you later,