Saturday, February 26, 2011

Nap time, Part 2 (the mid-nap)

“Cease striving and know that I am God” –Psalm 46:10

As we quietly shut the nursery door, what a relief comes with naptime. Our child is down and out for a while anyway, and barring an explosion in the front yard or in the diaper, we can relax for a while. But too often we don't slow down and we don't relax. A God-provided opportunity for chill-time can turn into busyness and worry. The same holds true for our kids at any age. There is always something to worry about.

God promises us peace, security, contentment and life. I’m 1000% convinced that there is an evil one that has made promises too. He promises worry, fear, restlessness and death. I prefer the first promise. But both promises are true and a promise is a promise.

So, as a parent, I’m left to make a choice. When my child is screaming his head off, I can be okay. When my child is sound asleep, I can be okay. I’m left to make that choice.

My child is fast asleep in the crib, I gently shut the door, and I turn on the monitor. I walk into the den and I have a choice. Relax and trust that a loving God has His child in hands or kick into worry mode. Because the worry list is long: what if he gets sick while they’re sleeping? What if our baby is susceptible to SIDS? What if the baby monitor isn't really working? What if…the “ifs” go on and on?

There’s another option and it involves trust. Jim asked, “How are you?” Nancy replied, “Okay, under the circumstances.” Jim responded, “Well, what are you doing under there?” When we choose to trust, we’re choosing not to go under the circumstances. We’re choosing to trust a loving God that loves our little one even more than we love them. We’re yielding to the loving God that gave us our precious treasure from the beginning.

If our child gets sick, we provide care and love, but we trust God with the outcome. If our child doesn't wake, we trust that a loving God is holding our precious child in His arms. If the baby monitor isn't working, we trust our loving God is listening and monitoring along the way. We simply trust.

So, we need to let our child sleep and rest. And we need to rest too. We need to be reminded that when we’re rested, we’re our best for our kids. We need chill time. We need to let go and let God be God. We need to let go of control.

One day, the naps will be replaced by other activities. They will be events that we can jump in the middle of and try to control. But again, we need to let our kids be on their own, making their own choices. We don't need to be about manipulating them to make choices for us. Sure, we’re there for them, but we need to let go and let God.

So, enjoy the naptime. Be sure and rest and take the time to relax.

Let your child sleep, turn up that monitor and maybe even take a nap yourself!!

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nap time, part 1 (the pre-nap)

“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret” -2 Cor. 7:10

As most moms appreciate, naps are a big part of the life of kids. Babies might take two naps a day and older kids one. So much is growing so fast in kids that they need the extra rest time. However, the “pre-game” preparation for the naps can be a daunting exercise.

Jeanie and I just returned from another wonderful trip to Amarillo and spent great time with Elizabeth, Mark and our granddaughter. Reese is 10 months old and such a sweetheart. Elizabeth and Mark are great parents and, of course, we’re totally convinced that she is the smartest and most beautiful grandchild in the history of…grandchildren. But, like most kids, she’s not quite as sweet when it’s naptime.

Like most kids, she resists the idea of a nap. Though she’s tired, rubs her eyes and yawns, she wiggles and squirms and tries to keep herself awake. But the appropriate resolve of mom and dad is to stay the course and within a few crying minutes, Reese is sound asleep and at peace. The momentary tears and crying are worth it because the nap is necessary for the health of Reese, whether she understands it or not. The same is true of our teenagers. It’s important for parents to stay the course if we know the outcome is for their good.

By the way, research supports the need for resilience in naptime preparation. I remember learning in Graduate School that our brains are constantly producing electrical brain waves: Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta. Our brains crave Beta wave activity and when we tire, we regress to Alpha and Theta waves (when we sleep, we are in Delta sleep). So, when we tire, we try to physiologically stir up more Beta waves. It’s why babies seemingly have more energy before they fall asleep and why kids are hyper when they tire. It’s why pre-nap time can be difficult. It’s also why we give stimulants (Ritalin, Cylert) to hyperactive kids. It’s called “paradoxical medication.” It truly is a paradox. The stimulant raises brain wave activity and settles down the child.

OK, enough scientific talk. The point is, it’s tough getting kids to relax and submit to what they need. And it can be tough to get teens to do the same. The amount of resistance we experience from our kids usually does not correlate to what they need. It’s as simple as trying to wipe the nose of a baby- they don't like it. But they need it.

Therein lies the catch. Much of what we do as parents is not popular with our kids and we like to be popular. We have to remember as parents that we’re not trying to get our kids to like us as much as we need them to respect us. Sure, we’re their buddies, but we’re mostly their coach. There is a difference.

Buddies have fun, make pancakes and play catch. And parents need to do fun things with their kids. But a coach isn't trying to be liked. A coach is teaching. A coach is thinking farther down the road to game time and preparing his players to be ready.

A coaching parent stays the course with his crying child because he knows that the nap is needed. A coaching parent lays down discipline towards the disobedient child because he knows life will be easier for his kids if they obey authority.

So the next time your kids resist your instructions, resolve that the course is the right one, stay the course, and lay them in the crib, whether they like it or not.

And pray they sleep well.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Post Valentines

“…walk in love…” –Eph. 5:2

Valentines Day 2011 was awesome. Most men bought beautiful roses for their wives, gave away boxes of candy to their sweethearts, purchased tons of chocolate (which I love), had special meals out at their favorite restaurants and gave cards to express their love for each other. I know Jeanie and I had a special weekend. Bottom line: it’s a great day to express love. It’s also a great day to be an example of love to our kids.

What about the day after Valentines Day? Roses begin to wilt, chocolate is already half price at most stores, and dinner out tonight is at McDonalds. Granted, every day can't be a party, but what happens to the romance when the day designated for romance is 364 days away?

We’ve all heard the story about the wife who told her husband, “You never tell me you love me anymore.” The husband replied, “Hey, I told you I loved you the day we married and if that ever changes I’ll let you know.” Too often marriage is equivalent to buying a battery at Wal Mart. We prefer the “maintenance-free” version and really only engage if there’s a problem.

I’m not suggesting you go out and hug your battery, but I am reminding us all that the gifts God provides us in the form of our spouses, children and friends, are precious, valuable and fragile. I know not everyone had a sweetheart to woo on Valentines Day, but we all have those we love and are dear to us. We all need to realize that the choice to love is an everyday decision.

Most of us men figure if we schedule a big vacation once a year, then we’ve spent adequate time with out families. What we fail to realize is that a few scoops of ice cream every night is better than a gallon at the end of the week. All of us need to be reminded that the most precious gift we can give those we love isn't candy or bracelets, but our time- pure, uninterrupted, focused time.

So, how about for the next 364 days, until Valentine’s Day 2012, we keep practicing what we preached on Valentines Day. Roses, gifts and chocolates are easily replaced with serving, listening and praying together. Those gifts are free, but they really cost us quite a bit. They require us to die to ourselves and regard the ones we love as more important than ourselves. We have to pay the price through self-denial. And our kids will tend to notice and model what they see in us.

But like many gifts given, we wind up being the true benefactors of the gift. When God chose to send His Son to die for us so that we could enjoy fellowship with Him, we became the benefactors of His grace. Nearly every scripture about loving others mentions that fact. If we need an example of true agape love, we needn’t look any farther than Jesus.

So, keep eating those stale chocolates and sift through the wilting roses and remember that Valentines Day is every day we show love to those we hold dear.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, February 11, 2011

Weather warnings

“…be quick to listen” –James 1:19

Extreme weather can be bad, but weather warnings are good. I’ve often wondered what it must have been like 100 years ago when storms just showed up with no Weather Channel updates. Scary. Our kids give us forecasts and warnings as well. If we watch their “channel” and listen, they often give us fair warning to approaching storms.

Nearly 20 years ago, we were in my hometown of Fort Worth and had just had a wonderful holiday vacation with my parents. We were scheduled to leave the day after Christmas to drive back to Branson through Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Then came the announcement: WINTER WEATHER WARNING- HEAVY ICE AND SNOW EXPECTED THROUGH OKLAHOMA. They had predicted winter weather beginning the afternoon we were leaving, so we left early to get home “ahead of the storm.” As we journeyed toward Oklahoma, the storm began early and when we reached Tulsa 8 hours later (typically a 4 hour drive), we were exhausted but safe. We spent the night in the Holiday Inn and, by God’s grace, made it back to Branson late the next day. We had driven on ice for almost 15 hours. We collapsed in the house, joined hands and thanked the Lord for watching over us. It was a crazy experience.

But here’s the deal. The “crazy experience” didn't have to happen. We could have waited a few days to drive in safer conditions. Had I heeded the warning and relaxed, sure we would have been off schedule, but we also would have been safe and warm with my parents in Fort Worth.

Yesterday, Jeanie and I planned to drive to Amarillo from Branson to be with Elizabeth, our daughter, Mark, our son-in-law, and Reese our 10 month old grandbaby (definitely not in that order. Just kidding, Elizabeth and Mark). Over the weekend came the announcement: WINTER WEATHER WARNING- HEAVY SNOW EXPECTED THROUGH OKLAHOMA. Sound familiar? My first thought was, “oh, we can do this. I have 4-wheel drive.” My second thought was, “Staples, you’re an idiot.” Jeanie and I discussed it and we’re planning on going next week. Perhaps I learned to heed the warning and yield.

When our kids are overly frustrated or angry for a length of time, recognize the symptoms. Remember that depression in kids and teens is usually expressed through anger. Have your sensitivity radar up and running with your kids so that when there is potential for stormy weather, you can be prepared.

The A-number one most important factor in reading the forecast of your kids is time. Good old-fashioned time. When you’re with your kids, eating meals, helping with homework and picking up after a game, you are tuning into the right channel. Text messaging and Facebook don't cut it. That’s like trying to find the weather forecast watching ESPN. It’s not there. Our kids will only give us the forecast if they trust us, and that trust is built through time together. Sure, most of us have to go to work, but kids understood that too. Just give them the time you can and they know if you’d like to be giving them more.

Knowing a storm is coming doesn't stop the storm, but it does help us prepare for one. When we’re in the right mind, we can be a better source of encouragement for our teen’s when the storm arrives. When we’re “prayed up,” we can more easily be used to help our kid’s weather the storm.

Be a weatherman. Listen. Watch the gauges. Test the wind. Look to the sky.

Then, when the storm begins, you’ll be there, ready to help.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Monday, February 7, 2011

Color Andy's

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” –
1 Cor. 10:13

Sometimes days can just seem difficult, especially in the world of parenting. Sometimes we feel like we’re doing everything wrong. And sometimes we feel like our kids aren't doing anything right.

I was having a rough day last week. I wasn’t feeling well (I’d taken a hard run the day before), my schedule was packed and I was running behind schedule for lunch. But I made the 8-minute drive home from the church and fixed myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (my favorite). I turned on the TV and waited for the solution to the stressful day: another episode of the Andy Griffith show. But as the commercial ended, here came Andy and Opie with their fishing poles.

And then it hit me. The episode was in color! COLOR. I was bummed. No Barney. No Gomer. And I would have to put up with Warren for 30 minutes. I was bummed. My plan for peace and contentment had fallen through.

But happiness and contentment based on the Andy Griffith show always falls through (unless it’s an episode with Barney and Earnest T). The same is true of finances, health, power, and the success of our kids. Deep down, if we’re honest, even when those things are going well, we have a discontented spirit. We desire something more.

That more is nothing less than a friendship and assurance that we are okay with the very God who created us. Most “rough” days are days when I’m in the drivers seat, not my loving Lord. “Rough” is always relative. A difficult day for one person is a day without a meal while a hard day for another is when their newly washed BMW gets dirty driving through a mud puddle.

The same is true in parenting. God has entrusted our precious children to our care for a season. And as we continually give them over to our loving God, peace and contentment are available to us. Peace, true peace, is available to us no matter our circumstances.

As a mom and dad, be ready for the temptation to look to performance rather than trust. And when the urge is there to lean on the circumstance, take the way out and lean on Him. Otherwise, you’ll lean on your kids and you’re a big load for them to carry.

Continually give your kids back to the loving God who is at work in their lives and rest in that peace. While you’re at it, give Him everything else too. Realize again that we’ll never have enough money and we’ll never be in perfect shape. It is like grabbing air- there’s no substance in leaning on those things.

And we’ll find out again that when we give it over to Him, life has peace and purpose again.

And Andy in color isn't so bad after all.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


“…persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer” –Romans 12:12

How often do we pray for our kids, I mean really pray? It’s seemingly a given that we would “pray without ceasing.” You would think that we would soak in prayer our most prized possession, our kids. But too often we don't. And what we model for our kids is a parent that worries without ceasing, frets without ceasing and annoys without ceasing. Be a parent that prays and let that pervade all that you are. Trust me, it will spill over into your everyday life and your kids will notice the difference.

The message at church today was about faith. It was a reminder to us all that God is in the business of producing faith in our lives. So we prepare and in essence “brace” for the trials that God brings along. We “consider it all joy when we encounter various trials.” But what about when our kids encounter those “various trials?” We’re okay walking through the trials ourselves, but it seems more difficult when our kids are struggling. We want to fix it for them instead of realizing that their faith needs to be increased as well.

As we were leaving church, an older couple that I deeply respect commented that they needed to hear the message on faith. “We are having difficulty with one of our adult kids,” they said, “and we realize that the best thing we can do for them is pray for them.”

“The best thing we can do is pray for them.” I wonder how many of us parents really believe that’s the best thing we can do? The problem is that we’re not really convinced that prayer makes that much of a difference. We are convinced that meeting with the coach or having the teacher conference will fix things, but we struggle shaking the feeling that prayer won’t fix the situation.

We fail to realize and remember that, “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). When we pray first, we’re acknowledging that God calls the shots and that God is truly in control. When we pray first, we’re submitting to His plan and letting Him have His way. When we pray first, we’re admitting that the plan that we have for our kids may not be the best plan.

My kids are adults now, but as I think back on their victories and defeats, I’m reminded that the tough times they encountered taught them (and me) more than the victories. When they didn't win first place, they learned that doing their best with their talent was enough. When they didn't make an A, they learned that B’s are okay too. When friends left them out, they learned that God is their best friend.

When I’m a parent that prays, I’m able to let go of the hyper control of my kids and let them be kids, mistakes and all. And kids tend to model the peace and contentment that a praying parent possesses.

So be a parent that prays. Turn off the car radio and pray for the details of the day for your child. Pray on the way to school with your kids. Pray for the classes, pray for the practice in the afternoon. Pray that the day will make a difference in your child’s character, not for the day to be easy.

And remember that the best thing you can do is pray for them.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©