Tell the Story of Your Kids

What is your story?

This week, Ashton turned 5. Hard to believe he is 5.

It meant that it was also time for me to write him a birthday letter. This is a practice I started with our daughter when she was born.

One of the things I believe a dad can do it help to tell the story of their child’s life to them. I feel like with the rise of technology and pace in our lives, we lose an aspect of stories and remembering.

So, every year on their birthday I write them a letter about what happened in their life in this past year. How our family changed, how they changed, milestones in their life. I save each letter and will give them to them when they turn 18 or graduate from college. I haven’t decided yet.

My hope is that this will be a chronicle of what happened, a way of showing them how they became who they are, where they came from. As I talk to a lot of young adults, there seems to be a loss of not only who they are, but where they have come from. A rootless feeling for many.

I want them to see their heritage, so that as they move into the world as an adult, they know where they came from and who they are.

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Today Ava is 7

Today Ava turns 7. It is hard to believe that I have a 7 year old in my house.

Spent this morning eating pancakes with the birthday girl. She requested pizza for her birthday dinner. Not my grilled pizza mind you, but pizza in an oven. Hurt my feelings but reminded myself that she is 7 and may not have a fully developed food palate yet.

One of the things I do every year on my kids birthday is write them a letter of things that happened in our family and their lives over the past year. I talk about ways I’ve seen God move in their lives, what is new, what has happened, etc. These are letters that I’ll give them when they turn 18 as a way of creating a storyline for their lives. I hope they are something they’ll look back on, have good memories.

One of the things that has impressed me about Ava in this past year is I am beginning to see how the words quiet strength are starting to define who she is as a little girl and hopefully will define her as a woman. She is soft spoken, creative and has a strength that has recently impressed me with the addition of Nehemiah to our family.

This past year, Katie and I began praying Luke 2:52 over our kids. Every night, I pray with Ava that she will increase in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

What birthday traditions do you have with your kids? What was your favorite birthday tradition growing up?

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Ashton is 3 Today

Ashton turned 3 today. One of the things I do each year is write a letter to my kids.

One of the roles I think Dad’s should play is helping to write the story of their kids lives. When kids get older, what will they remember. They might remember trips and things that happen, but what about the small things in their lives? How their personality developed, how they started a relationship with Jesus, what shaped them. So, each year I sit down and write a letter chronicling that year in the life of our child.

It is also helpful for me as I think through the pace of the life of our family. I believe that Katie and I work together on our schedules, but one of the roles of a father is to help make sure the family is pacing well. Are they in a busy season? Slow season? Doing too many activities? This helps me look back over the year as well as I chronicle it for our kids.

Ashton is fun, cuddly, always wanting to wrestle (he asks everyone who comes into our house if they will wrestle with him), will always give someone a hug and kiss.

One thing I love about Ashton because Gavin is the complete opposite and Ashton makes it easier on us is he will eat anything you put in front of him. I remember once being at On the Border and Katie tried the salsa on the table and commented about how spicy it was. No sooner had she said that and Ashton was downing it with chips.

Ashton is at that age where he wants to be around his dad. He wants to sit on my office floor at home while I work on a sermon. Always asking “when I’ll be done with work so we can wrestle or he can ride his bike.” Gavin started riding a 2 wheeler this year, so Ashton is convinced if we just let him, he could ride without training wheels.

One of the things I’ve always loved about Ashton is how he smiles with his whole face. He doesn’t simply smirk or smile, his whole face gets into it. Makes me laugh everytime we ask him to smile for something.

While he is still too young to understand the gospel, we are reminding him of how God is working on his heart when he is obedient, when he apologizes for hurting someone. It is awesome to see how even at 3, the gospel is working on him and God is drawing him to himself.

Ashton’s birthday for me is a special day, not just because we celebrate Ashton, but because we decided on Ashton’s first birthday we would adopt. Today marks 2 years ago that we began the process of adopting from Ethiopia and domestically. While God has not completed our adoption, Ashton’s birthday for me is a reminder of God’s call on our lives and his perfect timing that is found in his sovereignty. Ashton is that reminder for me because he was born in the midst of planting Revolution. Katie and I often look back and wonder what we were thinking for having a child while planting a church. Ashton is a beautiful picture of God’s sovereignty.

Dads, I’d encourage you to tell the story of your kids lives. Even if you haven’t started, start now. I look forward to the day Ashton graduates from high school and I hand him a stack of letters that help to remind of who he is, where he has come from and the grace God has shown to him and us in our lives.

Writing the Story of Your Kids Lives

Gavin turned 4 today. One of the things I do each year is write a letter to my kids.

One of the roles I think Dad’s should play is helping to write the story of their kids lives. When kids get older, what will they remember. They might remember trips and things that happen, but what about the small things in their lives? How their personality developed, how they started a relationship with Jesus, what shaped them. So, each year I sit down and write a letter chronicling that year in the life of our child.

It is also helpful for me as I think through the pace of the life of our family. I believe that Katie and I work together on our schedules, but one of the roles of a father is to help make sure the family is pacing well. Are they in a busy season? Slow season? Doing too many activities? This helps me look back over the year as well as I chronicle it for our kids.

Gavin is strong and determined, not sure where he gets that from. That shapes a lot of who he is. One of the differences between me and him is how outgoing he is. The combination of this can be huge for the kingdom of God as he grows up. I sit back and wonder how God will use these gifts the has given to him.

I love hearing him pray for our friends and family, as well as how he prays for our adoption. I can see the Holy Spirit working in him and drawing his heart to his. It is neat hearing he asks about why we are adopting, why some kids don’t have parents and how that is shaping him. I hope that between these two things, God shapes him into a man that is strong and determined, but whose heart breaks for those who have less than he does and that God will use him to serve those who are hurting.

Dads, I’d encourage you to tell the story of your kids lives. Even if you haven’t started, start now. I look forward to the day Gavin graduates from high school and I hand him a stack of letters that help to remind of who he is, where he has come from and the grace God has shown to him and us in our lives.

Yearly Letters to Your Kids

Ava turned 6 yesterday. One of the things I do each year is write a letter to my kids.

One of the roles I think Dad’s should play is helping to write the story of their kids lives. When kids get older, what will they remember. They might remember trips and things that happen, but what about the small things in their lives? How their personality developed, how they started a relationship with Jesus, what shaped them. So, each year I sit down and write a letter chronicling that year in the life of our child.

It is also helpful for me as I think through the pace of the life of our family. I believe that Katie and I work together on our schedules, but one of the roles of a father is to help make sure the family is pacing well. Are they in a busy season? Slow season? Doing too many activities? This helps me look back over the year as well as I chronicle it for our kids.

I just finished Ava’s 6th letter. Crazy that she is 6.

This was a major year for Ava. She started kindergarten and is now reading, writing and counting. We homeschool her, largely because of the schedule and pace of our family, but I love what is has done for our family, the input we have into her life and education. This was also the year that we really saw Ava’s heart change and open to the gospel. You can see how the Holy Spirit is changing her and how her 6 year old faith is growing.

I’m still blown away how fast 6 years go, but I am reminded of how important of a role I play as a father. I believe the view many kids have of God comes out of their view of their earthly father. The way Ava will allow men to treat her will be developed through how I treat her, but more importantly, how she sees me interact, love and pursue Katie.

Dads, I’d encourage you to tell the story of your kids lives. Even if you haven’t started, start now. I look forward to the day Ava graduates from high school and I hand her a stack of letters that help to remind of who she is, where she has come from and the grace God has shown to her and us in our lives.

Ashton is 2

Today is Ashton’s 2nd birthday. Unfortunately, he and the rest of our family is sick in bed and I am doing everything humanly possible to not get sick.

One of the things I think Dad’s should do is help tell the stories of their kids lives. When Ava was born, I started writing letters to each of our kids on their birthdays. My plan is to give them a stack of letters and pictures on their 18th birthday as a way of chronicling their lives. I want to highlight things we’ve done, how their personality is developing, what I see God doing in their hearts, etc.

This is also the anniversary of us deciding to adopt. While Ashton does the baby of our family well, my prayer is that through this adoption, and how it is a picture of how the gospel plays out, that he will be changed by that.

Dad’s, I’d challenge you to be the story tellers of your kids lives. When they grow older, how will they know who they are? Legacy is not just who you become, but where you came from.

Top Posts for August 2010

In case you missed them, here are the top posts for August 2010:

  1. 10 Characteristics of a Growing Church
  2. Life Lessons: Don’t Dance in the Street
  3. The Most Important Thing Parents Do
  4. Saturday Night Mind Dump… (8/7/10)
  5. How a Staff Supports a Lead Pastor
  6. Saturday Night Mind Dump… (8/28/10)
  7. You Become What You Think About
  8. Ava is 5
  9. Be Clear
  10. I Actually Hear the Bible at my Church

Gavin is 3

Today, Gavin turned 3. Every year on our kid’s birthdays I write them a letter. My plan is to give them a stack of letter’s when they turn 18 as a way of chronicling their lives and telling them the story of how they got to where they are. I hope that it will give them a sense of history and who they are, but also to explain why they are the way they are. All of us have stories, but few of us chronicle them and I think this is a great role for a dad to fill.

This year has been amazing to watch Gavin grow. His personality is huge and he is the life of whatever party he enters. He loves the spotlight, whereas Ava is very timid and does not like attention of any kind. He loves basketball, music, his scooter, his air guitar. Always finishing whatever song he just played with “Thank you good night.”

It has been interesting talking with Gavin about our adoption. He always wants to know why there are kids who do not have mom’s and dad’s. That is a question I never expected to have to answer for my kids. As we sit and talk about why kids are orphans, you can see the wheels turning and he always says, “Maybe they could be in our family.” It has been cool to see his heart come out as he thinks about kids who don’t have what he has, how that creates thankfulness in him and how that will shape him.

Makes me excited about the coming year.

Saturday Night Mind Dump…

  • What a night
  • I got to teach on a topic I’ve never preached on but found myself feeling very passionate about it:  the topic of being a woman of God and raising daughters
  • I think too many women give in and settle for what culture offers and calls them to be instead of shooting high for what God intends for them
  • Today is Ava’s 5th birthday, so I preached my sermon tonight from the perspective of my dreams for her
  • I finished my talk tonight by reading a letter I wrote her, you can read it here
  • One of the jobs I have as a dad is chronicling the life of our kids, so every year on their birthday I write them a letter talking about what has happened in their life and our family in the last year
  • I plan to give them a stack of letters on their 18th birthday
  • If you missed tonight, you can listen to it here
  • If you want some practical advice on raising girls, here are some things worth checking out:
  • Whatever happened to modesty
  • Raising girls
  • 10 practical tips on being a dad
  • We had a baptism tonight, I love doing that as a church
  • That is the win for Revolution, seeing lives changed
  • We are having a newcomer’s brunch tomorrow and I think we have more people signed up for it than any other brunch we’ve had
  • I looked out tonight and I was blown away
  • We had more adults there tonight than ever before
  • Found out that one of the kids in Planet Rev became a Christian tonight
  • That never gets old
  • Reading two really good books right now for my coaching network:  Zero to Sixty and Cut to the Chase
  • It was awesome to see one of our elders baptize his daughter tonight
  • Praying that day will come soon for me
  • Got to take a day of solitude this past week up on Mt. Lemmon
  • The longer Revolution goes on and the more it grows, the more this becomes important for me
  • Always helpful to get away and spend some quiet time with God and just listen
  • Read a great book that really spoke to my soul while I was there
  • Pretty excited about our staff team meeting on Tuesday as we are talking about what it will take for Revolution to get to 250 – 300 and beyond and what that means for all our teams and ministries
  • Love the vision and energy and passion that our leaders have and how bought in they are to seeing people find their way back to God
  • My dad comes out next Saturday, always excited to have him out
  • He will be doing Q & A with me next week as I talk about “Raising a boy to become a man”
  • Should be fun
  • Wondering why there aren’t more bands out there as good as The Avett Brothers, seriously, they are amazing
  • We are doing another adoption rummage sale on August 14th, mark your calendars and come out and buy some stuff to help us raise money
  • One of the things I love about twitter and facebook is that after church I get to read what God is doing in people’s lives and hear stories of how people are changed and getting better connected at Revolution
  • What a great tool
  • That’s it for now
  • Next week, do whatever you have to do to get every man you know to Revolution
  • If you know someone who is thinking about getting married, is married, raising sons, whatever, get them to Revolution
  • Seriously

Ava is 5

Today, my little girl turned 5. It really is hard to believe. Every year, I write a kids a letter on their birthday chronicling their year, what they learned, what is happening in our world as a family, etc. When they turn 18, I plan to give them a stack of letters as my way of helping to chronicle the story of their life.

Tonight, I preached on “Raising a girl to become a woman” as part of our parenting series. You can listen to it here. I finished my talk by reading the letter I wrote for Ava this year and thought I’d share it with you:

Ava,

I am amazed that right now I am writing this letter while you sit in the first week of kindergarten. Right now, I am sitting the middle of a rain storm on the porch of a coffee shop on Mt. Lemmon. The last 5 years of your life have been incredible, they have also been tumultuous for us as a family. In 5 short years, you have lived in 5 different states and 6 houses. I have worked in 4 different churches. Most recently, we started Revolution Church in Tucson which is home.

While I hope and pray that this does not adversely affect you, I am beginning to see how it has shaped you. You have learned how to interact with many different people. Moving around has seemed to create in you a soft heart.

By the time you read this, you will have probably heard all the jokes about pastor’s kids and how terrible they often turn out, how they tend to be more sinful than any other child in the church. I’m praying that will be different for you and I am beginning to see why I believe that prayer will be answered. It has to do with your heart.

Right now at Revolution, I am preaching a parenting series called the perfect kid. The idea behind the series is that unless God gets a hold of a child’s heart, nothing matters. I can’t make you love God, I can’t make you act like a Christian or even talk like one. I can’t make you have a kind, generous, serving heart. God has to change your heart to be that way. Right now, your mom and I are beginning to see how God is changing your heart. How he is making you into a little girl who looks and acts like Jesus.

Everything from how you pray for people at night, you ask if we can pray for people who are hurting, you ask about the needs of people, you share and are a good example not only to your little brothers, but to those around you.

This year, we decided to pursue adopting a child from Ethiopia. While this is a huge leap of faith, and will drastically impact our families in ways I don’t think we even realize. It has been awesome to see how you have wanted to learn about Ethiopia, why little kids don’t have a mom and dad and how we can help. While you could fight and scream, make life difficult as we go through this process and try to raise money for it, you aren’t doing that. Instead, you are helping, talking about it with people, praying for the baby sister (you want a sister, your brothers want a brother) that will one day be a part of our family, a child that God has already picked out for our family.

In fact, in three days (on your birthday) I am preaching about how to raise a girl to become a woman. I’m using Titus 2 as my text. In it, it lays out that if your goal is to move the kingdom of God forward, if your goal is to be a gospel centered woman who pursues God’s dreams for your life, this is what you look like. My sermon is really my prayer for your life. It is what I hope through the power of God to instill in you. It is what I hope you become:

  • To love your husband and children:  It is my job to instill in you the values you need to know how to choose a husband. I will walk with you through this process. I will not send you alone to do the job God has created me to do. I will teach you that love is not just a feeling, but it is a choice of the will that you make that is followed by an emotion. You will have to choose each day to love your husband and your kids. You will not feel like it everyday, but God will give you the power to do so. One of the things I love about your mom is that she models this beautifully, everyday.
  • Self controlled:  I dream that you will be able to know your values and stick to them, even it means missing out on something that you want or desire. Being self controlled means having a long range view on life and seeing things from an eternal perspective. Not giving into to your heart, but protecting it. Not giving it away to every guy who enters your life, but saving it.
  • Pure:  I will teach you the difference between virginity and purity. Being a “virgin” does not make you pure. Purity is so much more. It is protecting your mind, heart and your body. We will talk about what you read, watch, who you hang out with and ultimately, who you marry. A man worth marrying will care about protecting your mind, heart and body as much as I care about protecting your mind, heart and body.
  • Focus on your family and home first:  The world we live in will push you to look out for number 1, it will tell you that having a career is the greatest aspiration you can give your life to, it will tell you that you can have a career of climbing the corporate ladder, memberships to the best country club, the perfect marriage, the perfect kids, you can have it all if you pursue the American dream. It is a fascade. You can’t have it all and you don’t need it all. The greatest thing you can give your life to is eternity. To focusing on your kids to push the kingdom of God forward. You can accomplish more by raising them up to pursue than you can on your own. The power you will hold in your husband’s life is unlike any other power in his life. No one holds the keys to his life the way you do. My life was changed forever when your mom made the choice to stop pursuing her dreams and give her life to the dream of eternity. To push me to be all I could be and to raise you kids to be all God called you to be. While you will not always feel like you are changing eternity, know that you are.
  • Kind:  By this time in your life you have probably met some women who are not kind. Sadly, you have probably been gossiped about and stabbed in the back by people who were supposed to be your friends. I am sure that in 18 years, I as your father have dropped the ball countless times. When I do, know that I will apologize and ask for forgiveness, but it does not take the hurt away right away, scars still exist. Don’t be bitter. If the gospel has transformed your heart, kindness will come out because that is what is in your heart. There is something so attractive about a woman who is kind. People want to be around her, they seek out her counsel and friendship, they want to be her. I want you to be that woman. I want you to not allow scars and pain to define you, but I want God to define you. Your identity is not in your hurt, your dreams and your wants, your identity as a follower of Jesus is in Jesus. That is where your beauty comes from. If a man is not attracted to your character, he is not worth wasting your life on and he will have no shot when he sits across the table from me and asks for your hand. I will have a gun.
  • Submissive:  In the process of helping you find a husband, we, together will look for a man who is worthy of submitting to. He will be what Scripture calls him to be:  a prophet, priest, protector and provider. If he is only 3 of those, he does not pass. He must be all 4, you are worth it and scripture demands it and I have not done my job if he is not all 4. You will want to lead your family, you will want to be in charge, if you are like most women who get married, you will be more talented and smarter than your husband. This is God’s design. Each day, you must choose to follow his lead, to push him to be the pastor of your family, to follow him as he follows God. You must be strong and speak up, challenge him when it is appropriate, but you must also follow him when it is time. You must never disrespect him in front of your kids, always build him up. Your mom is always talking about how strong I am, how hard I work, how I provide for our family in front of you kids. Even writing that makes me want to cry. You must not put him down in public, never bash his work, never say he doesn’t make enough, always encourage him and praise him in front of others. If you find out that you are the only woman you know who does this (which you probably will find out), know that when other women are bashing their husbands, they are bitter, not kind, unfulfilled and they have decided that God’s ways are not the best ways, that the gospel is not powerful enough. Stay on track.
  • That the gospel may not be reviled:  This is the goal of your life and mine. As a follower of Jesus, which I pray everyday for you to become a follower of Jesus, I pray the gospel will be so attractive to you that you can’t imagine life without it. When that day comes, your life and goals and dreams change. It now becomes about moving the gospel forward and honoring God. All the things in this list honor God. It is a different way of living. You will have a hard time finding women who encourage you to become this list, you will have a hard time finding books and mentors who encourage and challenge you to be this woman. I want you to know who will encourage you, me, your mom, your church and God. I will stand with you, challenge you to give your life to a bigger dream. Don’t settle. Life is too short, too precious to not give your life to the transforming power of the gospel and not become this woman that I just listed. You can do it.

This will be a challenge, but one thing I have seen in your 5 short years on this earth is that you step up to challenges. You never give up, you push and push. That will serve you well. God’s dream for you as a woman and women in general is to be a strong woman, a woman with values, a woman with an opinion, a woman who voices that opinion, a woman who challenges and pushed her husband and her kids to be all that God created them to be. You will find that in the life of your husband and your kids, you are the most powerful person in their life. Never forget the power you hold and never forget that God created you with a specific way of using that power and that way is so that the gospel goes forth and lives are transformed and the world is changed.

You are 18 today. I don’t know where you are in life, I don’t know what has happened in the last 13 years, but know that everyday I prayed and begged God for you to have the character of this woman. Your mom and I have given our lives to becoming this woman. And by God’s grace, as you read this, you are that woman.

Love, Your Dad