This Life I Live // Rory Feek

I have to admit that I don’t listen to country music. If I do hear a country song, it is purely by accident. So, there are a lot of country music stars that I simply don’t know. I may recognize a name or two, but couldn’t pick them out of a line up or name any of their popular songs.

And here’s another thing I must admit: until I received a copy of This Life I Live, I didn’t know the names Rory or Joey Feek.  I didn’t know their story or their music or the fact that they have a TV show.

Several weeks ago I happened to be watching the TODAY show and there was an interview with Rory.  Matt Lauer was talking to him, asking him questions and referenced Rory’s story like everyone watching knew it.

I didn’t.

But after reading This Life I Live, I’m glad I do.

The book tells the compelling story of Rory and Joey’s relationship: how they met, the fact that she saw herself marrying another man even while talking with Rory, the courtship and marriage that followed, the birth of Indiana and her battle with the cancer that ultimately took her life.

Rory and Joey’s story is both real and powerful.  Each chapter in the book reads more like a journal entry than a typical biography and Rory writes from his heart.  It was more like having a conversation with him and he was transparent about his successes and his failures.

While This Life I Live is the story of Rory and Joey, it is so much more than that.

The first half of the book gives Rory’s back story: about his upbringing, his family’s constant moving and the on and off again relationship with his father.  All of that leads into the man he is as he begins his relationship with Joey.

While This Life I Live is the story of Rory and Joey, it really is the story of how God was working in the life of Rory to make him the man he is today.  Through a rough upbringing, many broken relationships, a lot of mistakes, successes and failures, parenting, marriage, having a child and losing his wife to cancer, God used all of that to shape and mold Rory.

A quote that jumped off the page at me is from chapter 52 where Rory writes about his daughter Indiana. She is born with Downs syndrome and this was his conclusion:  I have a feeling – I’ve had it for a while now – that Indiana is here to teach me something.  To teach me everything . . . She will teach all of us.  Just because she’s different. Her extra chromosome will be the thing that changes our DNA. What we’re made of and what’s down deep inside.

Her extra chromosome will be the thing that changes our DNA.

This Life I Live is ultimately about change.  And growth.  And growing up.

While This Life I Live is the story of Rory and Joey, it’s really about how God doesn’t give up on His children and will teach us and grow us as long as we allow Him.

You can see more about Rory and Joey on their website which features a blog, videos and information where you can get a copy of the book.

Why Should We Be Kind?

We know we are supposed to be kind, right?

It seems like the good thing to do.  The nice thing to do.  Even the neighborly thing to do.  We should be kind.

But why?  Why should we strive to be kind?  Because someone has been kind to us? What if they are unkind?  Does that mean we are released from the responsibility of being kind?

As my wife and I are raising our now three-year old, it’s something we have had to think through again.  As good parents, we want him to be kind.  But if you have ever had the experience of convincing a toddler that he or she should be kind (or share or say “thank you” or “I’m sorry”), you know that it can be somewhat challenging.

I was reminded of an important truth we all need to hold to as I had a conversation with him one evening.  I asked him, “Why should you be kind to other people?”  His answer fell into the space of “because mommy and daddy said so.”

That’s not a bad answer, but then I remembered that there is a deeper reason for him, or any of us, to be kind.

So I told him, “We should be kind because God has been kind to us.”

Because God is love, we should love others.

Because God is truth, we should speak truthfully.

Because God forgives us, we should forgive others.

Because God is compassionate, we should show compassion.

That conversation is one I know we will have many times with our son, but it’s also a great reminder to us, especially to those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus.

God has been kind to us through His Son Jesus and we should be grateful for His kindness.  Then, we should strive to be kind to others because of God’s kindness to us.

Paul says it this way in Ephesians 4 & 5:  “…be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”

So, as you go through your week, be kind.  Because God is kind and He has been kind to us.

Her First Post – The Blend @DaytonMomsBlog

Yesterday I shared that my wife is a contributing writer for Dayton Moms Blog. This morning her first post went live. It’s called The Blend. 

Enjoy!

The grocery store had kale on sale. 2 bunches for $1.00. I had to get some, there was a soup recipe that I wanted to try that needed kale. The soup was delicious. I still had one heaping bunch of kale in my fridge. Having heard of kale smoothies, and their amazing health benefits, I googled some recipes. I couldn’t imagine how this bitter and pepper vegetable would taste in a smoothie with coconut milk and blueberries, so the search continued for the perfect blend in a smoothie recipe.

About a decade ago, I found myself in a different blending dilemma. I needed to figure out how to blend some sweet, salty, bitter, peppery and even some bruised all into something delightful or at the very least palatable. 

I was divorced, with two little boys when I got out my blender. I needed to blend a broken man, two shattered teens and a bitter ex with my two wounded boys, a damaged heart(mine) and an absent ex. I began reading anything I could get my hands on about blending families, I was sure that I could read up on the topic and “fix” things in record time. The first book I read caused me to put the blender away. The Smart Step-Family by Ron L. Deal was a great book in my blending venture. Deal writes “The average stepfamily takes 5-7 years to form a family identity”. I read and reread that over and over again, 5-7 years to blend? I wanted to be blended NOW! The book provided me with great tools and practical guidelines to help in the blending of our families. So I took out my blender again and decided it was worth the effort and time.

The blending didn’t happen overnight. It was not as easy as throwing in some kale and blueberries and coconut milk and pressing puree. It took time, and I have learned that blending a family is sometimes like a pressure cooker, and not as easy as an Insta-pot. Ron Deal makes the analogy that blending families is more like using a crock pot, it is slow and takes time. I personally liked the idea of a blender, throw everything in and press a button and there you have it, easy clean up, easy to put away and manage.

I’ve just hit the 6 1/2 mark of The Blend. It has indeed become more of a crock pot experiment over the years. Our once salty teen has become a loving, giving affectionate person. Our peppery teen is now a warm and sweet adult. The most surprising is that bitter ex, is now a friend. The bruised have healed and are healthy and the absent is present. It has taken time, you can’t rush these things, even if you want to. 

The Blend has changed me. I learned to focus more on what was best for my kids and less about me and how I felt. I put myself and my needs aside to understand how the salty and the sweet and the bitter felt. I changed. I changed to help the blending. I looked for ways to compliment the salty and bitter and add to make things better than hide or mask the taste. I am far from putting the blender away. I have to continue to change the recipe to make our family identity taste the best it can. The recipe changes with weddings, adding children, college, jobs, children moving away and any other life changing events. So I keep the blender handy, I know that it really is more of a crock pot deal…….and given time, it smells and tasted delicious…..it’s just not catchy to say you are “crock-potting” a family.
Now where is that kale………

My Wife the Blogger @DaytonMomsBlog

 

dayton_logo_circle-1-copy-300x300Recently my wife was added as contributing writer for the Dayton Moms Blog.  Her first post will go live on Friday, February 3.  She was excited about the opportunity to be a writer for the blog and has been working hard on some posts to share.

Dayton Moms Blog is a collaborative blog written by more than 20 local moms who share their stories “covering anything from diapering to discipline.”  The blog publishes content five days a week.

While I’m sure I will be sharing some of her great content here, you can check out the other posts at Dayton Moms Blog.

You can also check out the Blog Team and read a little bit about each mom.  Here’s one of my favorite writers.  Enjoy!

my-wife-the-blogger

 

Losing Sleep Over Social Media

You know that feeling, don’t you?  You post a picture on Instagram or share something on Facebook or even write something meaningful (or at least you think so) on your blog and then you wait.  Will anyone see it?  Will they like it? Perhaps even share it or retweet the wisdom you just shared?

Following yesterday’s post regarding the number of selfies we see filling social media comes this article about teens that lose sleep over social media.

According to the research one-fifth of teens wake up during the night to check their social media feed.

The research comes from outside of the US, but I have to believe this is true in our country as well.  I remember hearing about teens who put plastic over their phones so they could have them while they showered because they were afraid they would miss something while separated from their device.

There have been other studies that have looked at teens texting at night.

While this information is neither new or surprising, it does shine a light on how connected we can become as people to social media and technology.

Youth speaker and author Jonathan McKee offers these suggestions for parents in addressing the issue and helping students make wise choices regarding social media use and technology in general.

1) Have conversations about the effects of social media. Not lectures… conversations! Read them one of the articles linked above and ask, “Is this right?” Then ask, “What do you think is a wise way to prevent this?”

2) Don’t think mere rules will solve the problem. The answer isn’t as simple as just limiting screen time (which isn’t a bad thing) or buying the newest parental tracking software for your kids’ phones (which isn’t fool proof by any means). Instead take the time and effort to teach your kids responsibility with their mobile devices. Here are 5 steps to actually doing that.

3) Look for ways to connect with your over-connected kids without have to say, “Put that stupid phone away.” Give them opportunities to enjoy “tech free” zones. Here are the top 5 of these connections I return to again and again.

If social media is keeping your teens up at night (or even you for that matter), this is good information for parents and those who work with students.

Refuse to Drown

Refuse to Drown front onlyIn the epilogue of his book, the author made this powerful observation and statement: “At some point in the process, my eyes were opened to an incredible truth: we can’t do this thing called life alone.” As Tim Kreider shares his painful and powerful story of walking through the incarceration of his son, he underscores the importance of involving and inviting other people into our lives.

When I received Refuse to Drown I already knew the premise of the book – that the author’s son was involved in a murder and the father had to make some difficult choices that would have lasting impact on his son. Knowing the backdrop of the book did not diminish the power of Kreider’s story. Walking with him through the facts of the murder, the emotional struggles of his son, Alec, the discovery of his son’s involvement in the crime, how it impacted both himself and his other children and the heartbreaking choices he had to make, I was drawn into his narrative. As a parent, I found myself hoping for some twist in the story, some unforeseen change that would redirect how the story would end. Unfortunately, that didn’t take place.

What Refuse to Drown does is underscore what Kreider shared in his epilogue – we can’t do this life alone. Alec’s story is a stirring reminder that we need to allow other people into our lives, even when it is difficult and uncomfortable. It was encouraging through the book to see how various people – both friends and strangers – spoke into Tim Kreider’s life and offered the support and assistance he needed.

This book is a compelling read, but especially for those who may be going through a dark season in life. It is a stark reminder that the decisions we make in private eventually become public and that we aren’t alone in our struggles. If you or someone you know is struggling, Refuse to Drown is a helpful reminder that we can’t live this life alone.

“affluenza”

affluenzaI’ve posted in the past about information shared through Tim Elmore’s Growing Leaders blog. Today, I learned a new word – affluenza.

I guess it has been around for a while (since the 1990’s) and refers to a condition in which children — generally from rich families — have a sense of entitlement, are irresponsible, make excuses for poor behavior, and sometimes dabble in drugs and alcohol. Elmore references a court case where affluenza was used as a defense by a man who hit and killed four people with his truck.

I have copied Elmore’s blog below regarding this “condition.” As I read his thoughts, it kind of hit me from two sides. First, as a parent, am I or have I been guilty of contributing to this “condition” in my own kids? Also, as one who works with students on a regular basis, where do I see this showing up? Interesting to think through.

You can read Elmore’s thought on his Growing Leaders blog and offer your comments as well.

Some journalists are using a term when speaking about parents and the problems they have raising their kids today. It’s called “affluenza.” At the court hearing for a tragic auto accident in Texas, where teenager Eric Couch hit and killed four people with his truck, the defense attorneys cited “affluenza” (when one is raised with wealth and never given limits) as the cause for his crime. He’s been sentenced to ten years of probation. The term “affluenza” was popularized in the late 1990s by Jessie O’Neill, in her book “The Golden Ghetto: The Psychology of Affluence.” It has since been used to describe a condition in which children—generally from rich families— have a sense of entitlement, are irresponsible, make excuses for poor behavior, and sometimes dabble in drugs and alcohol.

Like a disease, affluence, or living as if you have it, can harm a child as they’re growing up. Today, moms are sending birthday invitations out, with a gift registry inside the card, letting guests know where and what gifts to buy their child. Many parents assume they are “poor parents” if they don’t provide their children everything they want.

Obviously, when the bar is set this high, a child’s sense of entitlement increases. They start believing they deserve all the latest gadgets, tablets, smart phones, name brand clothes, expensive tutors and coaches, and costly vacations that are always better than last year’s.

What we’re finding is—this “afflluenza” begins translating into the notion that students deserve good grades just because they showed up, especially if mom and dad paid for this expensive school. Some college students have even sued their alma mater for not guaranteeing a job when they graduated.

I do not claim to be a parenting expert. I develop students and student leaders. But allow me to comment and offer some common sense.

We live in a day of “encore problems.” We expose our kids to so much so early in their life that it becomes difficult to engage them as they move into adolescence. They have been on trips and vacations; they’ve attended amazing ballgames, and they own incredible technology by middle school. What more is there to experience when they grow up? The problem is, the “more” they want is probably unhealthy.

Parents and teachers must navigate this “affluenza.” We must figure out how to pace our students, exposing them to measured amounts of possessions, and appropriate experiences as they mature. Often, they get exposed to things today before they’re emotionally ready for them. Most elementary kids have watched a sex scene on TV, on a computer, or at the movies. Most have watched violent acts and murders, and seen people do illegal drugs. It’s tantalizing.

What To Do

In his latest book, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell discusses how difficult it is to lead kids today, when there is too little or too much money. Obviously, a family living below the poverty line finds it difficult to raise kids well, because their focus is mere survival. They are living paycheck to paycheck. On the other hand, upper middle class and wealthy families find parenting hard because they cannot honestly say to their children who beg them for a new iPhone: “We can’t afford that.” That moment requires an emotional conversation, where the parent explains to the child why it’s helpful to learn to delay gratification.

Yeah. Good luck with that conversation.

The research tells us that an income of about $70,000 is the median income, to make parenting neither too hard because of poverty or too hard due to wealth. Outside of those lines, we will have to learn to pace our kids. This means our job may change:

Pace the sequence of possessions and experiences, allowing for a bigger and better one, as they mature. For instance, you might plan a trip across the state for them in elementary school, a trip across the U.S. when they’re in middle school, and a trip overseas when they’re in high school.

Don’t fall into the trap of comparisons. Other parents may win brownie points with their kids because they give them too much, too soon. Those kids are “wowed” in the moment, but are over-exposed and may have difficulty managing expectations as young adults. Do what’s right, not what’s popular.

Always have a reason for every “gift” (possession, experience, trip, etc.) that you give your child. Have a plan, to progress into bigger and better “gifts” in the future. I even explained my plan to my kids by the time they reached fifth grade. They realized there was a method to my madness and they “got it.”
Prepare to have meaningful conversations with your young people. Get ready for emotional exchanges as they learn to wait, to listen, to handle envy of their friends, and to save up their own money, perhaps, before getting what they want. This is what maturity is all about.

Just remember, leading students is a marathon not a sprint. In fact, it’s a pace, not a race. Pace yourself. Pace your kids.