Monday, January 30, 2012
“He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him” -Prov. 18:13
Healthy relationships have conflicts. I know, the words “healthy” and “conflicts” don’t seem to go together. But the only way to keep the relationship slate clean is to deal with the issues that mess them up. This especially includes marriages and parenting. Why? Because our family is where our most important relationships exist. The best way to approach conflict is with a sense of urgency and not “sweeping issues under the carpet.” Sometimes it’s not about who is “right”- the power to agree to disagree is powerful. And the willingness to listen is powerful too.
The other day I was walking down the hallway at the church. I remembered I needed something in the main office, so I turned to open up the door, but the knob wouldn't move. The door was apparently locked. Yet I looked through the glass and our secretary was motioning to me that the door was unlocked. She was saying, “Come on in- try a little harder.” I tried to turn the knob again. It would not move. She again motioned to me that it was unlocked. I motioned to her that it was locked. We starred at each other for a few seconds. I was firmly convinced it was locked. She was firmly convinced it was unlocked. She motioned again to turn the knob. I motioned back that I’d tried. We starred and smiled at each other.
Then, she got up and opened the door from the inside. “Sometimes the lock gets stuck,” she said. She was right. I was right. The door was locked (I could not get in) and the door wasn’t locked (she had unlocked it 30 minutes earlier). So, who was correct? We both were. When we both saw the problem from the other’s perspective, it became apparent that we were both correct. As we shared the solution together, the goal was reached and the door opened.
When we’re in conflict, we typically look at the problem for our perceptive only. We kick into “fight or flight” mode, more specifically “fight” mode. And usually when we’re fighting, we’re at our worst, focused primarily on good ‘ole #1, ourselves. To get the problem resolved and the door unlocked, there are several keys (no pun intended) that we need to possess.
We need to focus on the other person. This one is tough, because when we’re in “solve it” mode, we tend to take ultra control. We put our “blinders” on and off we go. Remember, blinders are the devices used to help keep a horse pulling the carriage forward. They keep the horse from being distracted by objects to the left and the right. In this case, the blinders can actually hinder us from solving the problem. We focus so much on the problem itself, that we miss the people who can help us solve the problem.
We need to listen first. Our first inclination in a disagreement is to speak. We can spend so much time talking that we spend little time listening. The irony is that the other person many times has the solution to the problem, not me. My words simply clog the airspace between us. I need to zip my mouth shut and truly open my heart to hear what the other person is saying. Yes, there’s a time to share my perspective, but not until I understand yours first.
And lastly, we need to be flexible. Few people like change. We like things to be consistent and steady. And many times, what we see as a problem is really just a God-ordained change. Don't hold on too tight.
So next time the door is stuck, look up, listen and relax. Perhaps the answer lies on the other side of the door.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Saturday, January 21, 2012
“And let endurance have its perfect result…” –James 1:4
One of the hardest things for us to do as parents is nothing. Many times we’re called to be right smack dab in the middle of issues with our children. But other times, we’re called to wait on the sidelines while our kids work out their own problems. Our role is to pray and encourage, but not to solve. The best thing we can do is cheer them on, but leave them alone. We run the risk of ruining the God-given lesson for them if we jump in to fix. We need to leave God’s lesson plan alone.
I cleaned our oven the other day. Jeanie was busy and I had the urge. But I didn’t use a spray cleaner or Brillo pad, I used the “self clean” feature. We have the kind of oven that cleans itself - sort of. The directions are pretty easy. Step one involves following the directions. Step two is locking the oven door and turning the dial to “self clean.” Step three is waiting for three hours while it cleans itself. Then step four is turning off the process and removing left over debris from the cleaning. Every step is crucial.
Step one is the most important. Following directions means acknowledging the need for a plan. It’s submitting to someone greater than ourselves. The Biblical challenge to “pray without ceasing” takes on new meaning when we become parents. We need prayer to give us directions for raising our kids. God gives us the discernment to know when to step in and when to back off.
Step two involves trust. When the “door is shut” on a trial in our child’s life, it’s best if we leave it shut. Sure, we’re there for encouragement and support, but sometimes we need to leave our kids alone to “take the heat.” Though it’s hot, the environment of the kiln will produce a stronger and more resilient kid.
Step three may be the hardest. It involves patience. It involves waiting. It involves letting go. When that self-cleaning lever is pushed shut and the cleaning begins, the cycle needs to run its course. Ten minutes of high heat won’t make the difference. The cleaning needs to last all three hours. Sure, the heat is high and the residual smell is annoying, but the process needs to run its course. The objective simply won't be met without time. The same is true with our kids. We can “consider it all joy” when our kids encounter trials by letting the trials run their course.
Step four is the follow up phase. Eventually, the tough basketball season, the difficult class or the broken relationship comes to an end. Whether or not the lesson is learned depends on how well the lesson is realized and remembered. That’s where we come back in. We are there to help our kids’ process through the trial and move on.
Of course, there’s another option: never clean the oven. Or, help our kids avoid all possible trials. That’s what some so-called “super-parents” attempt to do. They are involved in every single detail of their kid’s lives, there to control it all. But ovens need cleaning and people need cleansing. Even the most protective parent will concede that they want their kids to grow up and be prepared for adulthood.
So, when the self-cleaning light comes on and the trial begins, leave the oven alone and let the cleansing have it’s effect. Trust that God knows what He’s doing. The result will be a more enduring, efficient and productive child.
Remember, when life get’s tough, we all want our kids to be able to take the heat.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Saturday, January 14, 2012
“…I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life…” -1 Sam. 1:11
We’ve all read about Hannah in the Old Testament. She could not get pregnant and she prayed to God that if He would give her a son, then she would give her child back to Him. She indeed did become pregnant, Samuel was born, and after he was weaned, she gave him to Eli, to raise her son in the covering of the Lord.
I’ve often thought about Hannah’s faith and trust. Many make shallow promises like, “Lord, if you allow my team to win, then I’ll never eat a candy bar again.” Our team wins and we don't eat a candy bar for a few days. But soon, we forget the pact we made with God. Hannah did not forget. She really did give up her son.
All of us parents know the pain of giving up our kids: letting them go on that first sleep over or dropping them off for a week of camp. It rips our heart out and hurts to give them up and let go of something so dear to us. But we know we have to give them up to let them grow.
I remember dropping of Eric at Camp when he was 8 years old. He was so excited but we were so sad. We packed his footlocker and helped him carry it to his cabin. Jeanie put the sheets on his bunk bed and we hugged him goodbye. As we left him in the cabin, we had tears in our eyes. He did too. We drove home (5 minutes away) and missed him dearly. But his time at camp was invaluable to him growing up. He needed to stand on his own and find his identity apart from his sometimes overprotective parents.
I remember dropping off Elizabeth at Baylor when she was 18 years old. She was so excited but we were sad (sound familiar?). She was ready for her college experience and would be rooming with her best friend. We unpacked all her “stuff’,” organized her dorm room and paid the bills. Then, it was time to say goodbye. We cried as we prayed together. Then, we left Waco and made the 8-hour drive back to Branson. That drive is a blur, partly because it was almost 10 years ago, but also because I think we cried the whole way home. They were tears of joy for her but tears of sadness because we felt we were losing our little girl.
There is such power in “letting go and letting God.” Of course, releasing our kids doesn't mean we’ll lose them. As we let them go, they grow up and change, but we’re always their parents. Like Hannah, when we release our kids, they are primed to grow up. Like Samuel, when we commit our kids to the Lord, we release them to the providence of God. Some parents have lost their kids. They understand that our kids are a gift to us as parents, for a while. Nothing in this life lasts forever.
Eric and Elizabeth aren’t perfect (no one is), but they have both grown up into phenomenal adults. I believe it is partly due to us (reluctantly) letting them go to grow on their own.
The first book of Samuel records that Hannah gave Samuel to Eli, “after he was weaned.” It’s a reminder that our kids have to be prepared first. So, we’re challenged to raise, teach and instruct our kids, and then “let them go” to grow on their own. There really is freedom in the letting go.
Freedom for our kids and for us as well.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
Monday, January 9, 2012
“Love never ends…” 1 Cor. 13:8
For most families, time and distance prove to be the main obstacles to family “get togethers,” but they aren't insurmountable barriers. Truth is, they are obstacles that need to be overcome and conquered so that our kids can know and model their grandparents and great-grandparents.
Though we have been far from perfect in our efforts to stay connected with our extended family, we have tried hard to bridge the gap. As we’ve lived in Branson all these years, we’ve gone through multiple sets of tires driving back and forth between Fort Worth, Baton Rouge and Branson. Our families there have made the long drives to Branson too. The result has been a special relationship between our family and our extended family.
That special relationship is now extended between great-grandparents and grandkids. Over the Christmas break, we got to visit Baton Rouge and spend time with Jeanie’s wonderful mom and dad. Elizabeth and our granddaughter, Reese, got to go too. As parents and grandparents, we get to see Eric, Elizabeth, Mark and Reese quite often, but the great-grandparent connection doesn’t happen as frequently.
The weather was beautiful and we got to play outside quite a bit. Reese’s great-grandpapa carried her to the fence next door and she laughed as she looked at the dog in the yard - that moment was solid gold. These days, many kids don't ever meet their biological grandparents and great-grandparents and if they do, they only see them rarely. It’s one of the casualties of the blended family. As new parents enter the scene, grandparents of former parents often get lost in the shuffle. That can leave some missing pieces.
One piece is the connection to roots. We need to know where we’ve come from. To literally hug or shake a hand with someone who bears our same DNA is huge. I talked with someone last week who still maintains a loving relationship with her biological dad’s parents even though her parents divorced years ago. Her mom has long since remarried and she loves her new dad a bunch, but her former grandparents are important to her and she wants to keep the relationship healthy.
It’s worth taking the time to cultivate the relationship between our kids and their grandparents. Even if we have a struggle with our parents, we should set that aside and let our kids experience the joy and wisdom that comes with spending time with aging loved ones.
Another piece is the grandparent’s connection back to the kids. Grandparents have so much to offer growing kids in wisdom about life, faith and relationships. That’s how God designed it all and kids need to hear the wisdom firsthand.
As I watched Papa carrying Reese, I knew something special was going on. I knew there was a connection established on a line that goes back centuries. I knew that adventuresome spirit in Reese came from that same spirit that I see in Papa who, at 90 years old, still competes in the Senior Olympics.
Thank you Papa and Granny for the care you have shown to me and to all the Beadle clan. Your spirit and compassion are being passed on through your kids and grandkids.
That’s the DNA called love.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©