Thursday, March 31, 2011
“…there is a friend that sticks closer…” –Prv. 18:24
We said goodbye to an old friend and family member yesterday. Kipp was our yellow lab for 11 years and joins Josie and Maggie in our dog hall of fame. I’m sad today because we lost a vital part of our family and any of you who have lost a pet know what I mean. Sure, Kipp was just a dog, but she was special in so many ways.
She was loyal. Every time I came home from work, she was there to meet me. Granted, she was mostly interested in being fed, but still, she was always there. She waited every morning for Jeanie to take her for a walk. If I needed to travel through the woods to Doulos, she was always willing to go with me. When she was indoors, she followed Jeanie all over the house. When I was working outside, she trailed me all over the yard. I had many conversations with her over the years about life and she was always there.
She was unselfish. Okay, not so unselfish when it came to mealtime, but she was very understanding. Though she outweighed and outgunned our cat Tigger, more times than not she was willing to share her cozy bed with the cat. Other times she would sleep on the cold concrete garage floor and let Tigger have the bed himself. She seemed to figure out when the daily walks weren’t going to happen and would just wait at the back door for the days’ events to unfold.
She was fun. Before her arthritis started to limit her movement, she greeted nearly everyone with a tennis ball in her mouth. The message was “I have a ball (slimy ball) that I’d like you throw and I’ll go retrieve it.” She would even drop the ball at your feet, back off a few feet and wait for you to throw it. If you waited long enough, she’d remind you to throw it with a bark. She was always looking for a game to play or a something to explore.
She was an exercise enthusiast. She loved her walks and was relentless with Jeanie on the timing and length of the neighborhood trips. As soon as the leash was attached, she would grab the end of the leash in her mouth, and the race began as she pulled Jeanie up the hill! Of course, she had to smell every mailbox and leave her own marks, but she loved leading the way.
She was a protector. She patrolled the Staples property night and day, keeping out coons and possums, squirrels and cats. She loved to chase the squirrels and nearly caught one a few times. I would often hear her barking in the backyard, where I’d find her looking up a tree, barking and barking. But as I’d glance up that same tree, there was nothing there. “Kipp,” I’d say, “there is nothing there.” To which she’d stop the barking and go get a drink of water. I guess she was barking just in case…
She was a friend. That’s what we’ll miss the most. As the kids grew up and left the home, Kipp was our buddy to let in and out of the house. Whether on a walk or dropping balls, chasing squirrels or rubbing her tummy, she loved people. She helped raise our kids and I know was a friend to them when mom and dad weren’t around. She had that instinctual tendency to be a true friend. Dogs can't talk, but I think, if she could, she wouldn't have said too much. She would have just been there.
So, we say goodbye. We’ll probably get another lab, but there will never be another Kippie. It’s another reminder to appreciate the gifts God provides. Our kids, our parents, our friends, and our pets all come and go. It’s a sad reality, but a reminder to enjoy God’s gifts while we have them.
Thank you Lord for Kipp and for what a blessing she was in our lives.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
"Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered--how fleeting my life is” –Psalm 39:4
On the third day of the cruise, we made it to our first destination, Jamaica. For the next three days of the cruise, we would dock at ports, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico. The time cruising on the ship was an absolute blast, but the excursions only made the trip better. Parenting is also made better when excursions are taken. Constantly be thinking of different, creative alternatives to shake up the family. Kids love surprises and a family “excursion” could be just right for fun in the family.
Excursion #1 is called “fun.” It was in Jamaica and our official guide was named Gregory. He had a great temperament and demeanor with us on the bus. I dreaded the 2 hour drive to our destination, but he made it fun. He told us about the history of Jamaica and the people’s laid-back attitude. Hiking up Dunn’s River Falls was wonderful and we enjoyed the dolphin show, but the memory of this excursion was just fun because Gregory made it fun. It reminds me that the events and trips we set up with our family are meant for fun. But sometimes family times can be grouchy and ugly. The leader sets the tone, so it’s important for the tour guide (mom and dad) to be sure they’re prayed up and psyched up to just have fun. The kids will love it!
Excursion #2 is called “beautiful surprise.” We stopped in Grand Cayman and took a boat ride across the bay to swim with the stingrays and snorkel. Hugging the stingray was cool, but we mostly looked forward to the snorkeling. They gave us our mask, snorkel and fins and we jumped out of the boat. The instant our heads went under the water, we were hooked. It was so beautiful and so alive! The fish, plants, and coral all reflected the beauty of God’s creation. It would have been so easy to miss. Our kids are easy to miss as well. If we don't grab every opportunity as parents, then we fail to put our heads beneath the water to see the surprises that come with loving our kids.
Excursion #3 is called “history.” We visited the Mayan ruins in Cozumel, Mexico. Our guide told us the story of the great Mayan civilization that once existed on this land. They had huge cities, technology and health care. It was an amazing society, but is only a passing story now. It reminded me that things that seem so certain now can easily pass away. Really only two things matter: loving people and loving God. They are the only things that last forever.
The excursions were a blast. We couldn't help but notice that some people just stayed on the boat and didn't take the excursions. Sure, they saved on the expense of the trips, but they also missed some awesome opportunities for fun, surprises and history.
Don't miss the opportunities with your kids. Stick your head under the water and enjoy the beauty. Then, when the journey is over, you won’t look back with any regrets.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Thursday, March 24, 2011
“…and have abundant life” -John 10:10
As we watched from the balcony, the whistle sounded and the vessel moved. The ship finally departed and the sailing began. No, this isn't like some of the cruises you take on your local lake that last about 20 minutes. This is the real deal. We sailed around 2500 miles in total. Parenting journeys begin too with thousands of miles ahead- miles filled with ups and downs, victories and defeats.
As the huge cruise boat sailed along, we passed through calm, beautiful waters and through rough, storm-fed seas. It was amazing how the ballast system of the boat absorbed the waves and left us stable and comfortable nearly the whole cruise. I went on the cruise anticipating getting sea sick, but I never felt nauseous at all. Most of the time I never felt the boat moving. Parenting definitely takes us through tough times and fun times. But God promises that He’ll be our ballast to keep us stable even when we go through the storms. The circumstances can be tough, but God remains the constant- always stable, always sure, always the rock.
As the boat sailed along, there seemed to be a million options of what to do on the boat. Some played on the waterslide, some sat out in the chairs sunbathing, some jogged on the running track, most everyone ate, ate and then ate some more. The challenge was to enjoy the life to the fullest, utilizing every opportunity available. There are so many fun opportunities in parenting. Every stage of a child’s life has challenges and opportunities to have a blast. From age 1 to age 18, there are so many chances to experience the richness of relationship with our kids. If we’re not careful, we miss the obvious opportunities. We’re like a passenger huddled in the corner of his state room, waiting for the ship to reach the next port, wasting the hours of fun and relaxation. We need to avoid wasting the chance to grow in relationship with our kids.
Did I mention there was food on the cruise? Food and meals were provided 24 hours a day, which had no affect on the quality of the meals. The food was phenomenal. Breakfast food, lunch food, dinner food, snack food, ice cream cones, desserts, fruit, dog food (OK, no dog food), multiple restaurants all geared to keep the passengers happy. And here’s the deal….all meals were pre-paid, period. Eat all you want and it all was covered. Everything was provided. It’s amazing how much grace and freedom God has allowed us in parenting our kids. Paul said it was for freedom that Christ set us free. We’re to simply eat. We’re to enjoy the fellowship. We’re to have a blast. We need to avoid the obstacles that keep us from pigging out with our kids- competition, business, too much work, and performance. We need to remember to enjoy the freedom.
The sailing days are a blast because the boat is built for fun. It’s not a shrimp boat or a garbage barge, it’s a “gillion” dollar cruise boat built for the expressed purpose of a great experience. God invented parenting too. He invented it to be a wonderful time of fellowship and fun. Even in the tough times, God intends the family to be at the core of our fulfillment as God’s children. It’s a reminder that our family is connected to the larger family of God. It’s a reminder that this parenting cruise is built for completeness and purpose.
So, get out on the deck and enjoy the sailing days. Be reminded that they’ll be over too soon. Have a blast. Laugh. Enjoy the sun. And don’t eat too much!
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Friday, March 18, 2011
“Leaving them, He again embarked and went away to the other side” - Mark 8:13
The cruise with Jeanie was awesome! We left out of Galveston on March 6th and spent a week sailing through the Western Caribbean. We visited Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico and the other days just had fun on the ship. It’s amazing how much a cruise is like the journey we take when we become parents. The key components of a cruise are embarking, sailing, taking excursions, and debarking. Parenting goes through stages too.
Every cruise has an “embarkation.” It’s a big word that means, “leaving the port.” In other words, every cruise has a beginning and so much of how the trip starts has everything to do with how it goes. Carnival cruise lines went to great lengths to make sure we at least felt like we were educated on when and how we were leaving. Signage, literature, announcements, and videos were all intended to prepare us for the big voyage.
Parenting has a beginning too. Before we have kids, we are given all kinds of literature and are required to attend classes on the basics of parenting. NOT! Someone said, “Our kids have to be the most important items we own that have no owners manual.” Most of us get married and plan to have kids after we’ve bought a big house, saved thousands of dollars and figured it all out. Nearly all of us are surprised at God’s timing in sending us our beautiful kids. But we know He knows when we’re ready.
So the parenting ship “embarks” and the journey begins. I know we were always thankful for God’s grace in giving us 9 months “pre-embarkation” time to prepare to be a mom and dad. Be thankful you’re not a pigeon, most of which have an 11-day gestation period. Can you imagine finding out you’re pregnant and then 2 weeks later, you have a child? Or you could be an elephant, of which some breeds have a 2-year gap between conception and delivery. 2 years!
Whether 2 weeks or 2 years, the journey eventually begins and though the preparation doesn't include a written manual, God does promise to never leave us alone to do all the sailing by ourselves. He designed the two parenting system to man the ship. Now let me say that single parenting can be 100% effective in raising healthy kids too. I know so many single moms and dads who do a tremendous job in difficult situations raising awesome kids. But most would say they’d love to have a partner sailing with them.
On the cruise, the captain introduced himself to us that first day and explained his “purpose” for the cruise: for us to relax and have fun. And he assured us of his role in keeping us safe. It’s important for us to remember that the Lord is the captain of this journey we call parenting. Though we may feel unprepared and fearful as we begin the parenting journey, Jesus promises He will give us the strength we need to raise our sweet children.
We can begin the journey confident in our love and care for our kids. There is no greater opportunity to practice true love as we die to ourselves and love our child. We choose to surrender our world for theirs and the boat leaves the port and the journey begins.
We can rest assured that the journey will be fine because someone wiser, smarter and more experienced is at the helm. So the journey will be fine, even without an owner’s manual.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Friday, March 4, 2011
“…He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place” –Matt. 13:14
OK, I’m pretty sure the above scripture doesn't mean that Jesus went on a cruise with the disciples, but he did long for time to relax away from the crowds (which seemed to always follow him everywhere). That’s where Jeanie and I will be for the next week or so –away from the crowd and enjoying time together.
So, no blog posts for a while as we head south to the Western Caribbean for a cruise. We have the sunscreen and Bermuda shorts packed and we’re ready to go. We’re celebrating 30 years of marriage on March 7th.We’ve been given tons of good cruise advice from family and friends, but one thing we plan to do is to simply relax and to celebrate God’s grace in giving us all these years together. I am so thankful for my Jeanie and what a blessing she has been in my life.
She has been my friend. Scripture says “a friend sticks closer than a brother” and Jeanie has stuck by me through the good times and the tough times all these years. She has been a great listener through the trials and a voice of reason in tough decisions. Oscar Wilde said “a true friend stabs you in the front.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I think part of it means that a true friend is willing to be gentle, tough and honest at the same time. She has been all of that to me and more.
She has been my helper. I knew when I married Jeanie that I had married way over my head. I did not nor do I deserve a woman of her caliber, talent and beauty. She selflessly has stood by my side and helped me when I didn't believe in myself. She’s been an encourager and an uplifter all these years. I was raking our yard last week. If you’ve seen our yard, you know it’s pretty rough. It took my almost six hours to rake all the sticks, rocks and junk that had accumulated on it through the winter. About hour five, when I was just about to collapse, Jeanie came to help. She had tons to do for our guests coming that night, but she came to help me. I told her, “thanks honey- you’ve been helping me with stuff like this for 30 years.”
She has been my sister. The most important trait we share is our love for the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what brought us together that hot summer afternoon at Kanakuk Camps over 30 years ago. We knew that we both had allegiance to Jesus first and everything else followed suit. He has been so good to us over these years. We’ve been able to enjoy fruitful ministry together and experience so many blessings. No doubt, our greatest blessing has been raising two wonderful children. They have been such a joy to us. I’m so glad I get to spend eternity with Jeanie.
Lastly, she has been my wonderful wife. She has been my other half and my completion. Whatever God’s intention in His invention of marriage, she has brought joy and fulfillment to my life. Sure, we have tough times, but they don't last too long. Our love has stayed pure through forgiveness.
So, we’re turning off the cell phones for a week (calls from the ship are super expensive) and we’re just going to have a blast, Bermuda shorts and all!
By Eric Joseph Staples ©