Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sometimes With Our Kids We Have To Let Go

In three days our hearts are going to break - again. No, there's no divorce or funeral or rejection letter coming that I know of at least. Rather, my daughter, son-in-law and two of our grandsons (almost one and three) will be moving from a home fifteen minutes away to over six hours from us.

The two adult kids that we love and their boys who we watched be born, babysat and played with often will suddenly be in another city that requires a good part of a day to reach.

We won't be able to just get in the car last minute and drop by, invite them over for dinner or take the boys to the mall for an hour or two of fun.

Why the move? Well, Amy and David will be involved in a ministry to college students at Texas Tech. They will be making a difference in the lives of students who need God's direction and involvement in their worlds.  They will be loving on people they way we would want our kids to, they will be doing something that matters for eternity. Who in the world doesn't want to see their children grow up to be world-changers?

To be honest, years ago we did the same thing to our parents and to this day don't live nearby either of our moms who are still living. Yes, they had some years like we did being near us and our children but I'm sure they wanted more. We do too. But there are no guarantees. Sometimes we have to let go so that our offspring can be all that God intended for them to be.

In fact a lot of parents never let go even when the kids are nearby. They expect the same involvement every weekend or holiday, they continue to make decisions for them and even obligate them to stay close through large loans or gifts of money and other resources.

The reality is that our children were merely on loan to us in the first place. And yes we have a right to long for and enjoy those years we do get to be near them. We plan to do as much as we can to be involved in our kids and their kids' lives during the years ahead. But we dare not stand in the way or use guilt or other manipulations to somehow keep everyone together. That's usually more about our getting our own way than about letting our kids fly and blossom wherever God calls them to be.

There are several haunting and poignant verses about this in the Gospels, one of which is found in Matthew 10:37, a portion of which says, Anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. I like to joke that it doesn't include grandsons or granddaughters but that misses the point.

Sometime God may ask us to accept the fact that He may want our kids to go somewhere that is not near us. God may ask them to even go overseas. And our faith and commitment will be stretched like never before. Thankfully, technology is allowing us to connect in ways we didn't even dream about a few years ago. 

Nonetheless, the tears will still come and the lump in the throat may persist for awhile. It won't be the same as having them down the street or in the next community. But it will be worth it and God will honor our sacrifice. Let's not mess up the great things God wants to do in the precious children He gave us by simply refusing to let go of the rope we've had around them all these years.

Remember, God had to let go of His Son for awhile, too.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Danger In Doing Too Much For Our Kids

There are few parents out there who don't want to give their kids the best of everything - education, opportunities and experiences. Many of us who didn't have that much growing up certainly want our children to have more than we did. And there is nothing wrong with that perspective and goal.

However, as I look around at a lot of society today, I see many parents who perhaps are offering their children too much and as a consequence can cause harm rather than help. Summer is a great example. Once school is over kids are off to one week of camp, two weeks of sports tournaments, another week of lessons, a summer seminar, etc., etc.

During the year these same families run from event to practice to lesson to church activity with mom and dad serving mainly as the chauffeurs and bankers for all these commitments. What's the potential downside? There are several.

First, our kids can begin to think they are the center of our universe. They start to feel entitled to more airplane tickets, equipment, clothing and shuttle service to get them to all of these events and activities. Life becomes more about what they do and need and little about serving or helping others. Mom and dad become these necessary providers of transportation and money so that they can succeed.

Second, our other relationships, especially our marriage, can suffer in the process. I talk with parents all the time whose marriage is starving while they keep feeding energy and resources into their children's lives. Many parents have no time or finances for each other because their entire resource account is spent on the kids.

Third, much of our spending will be spent on things that really don't matter as much as we think they will. How many of our kids will be great athletes and actresses and musicians and brilliant scientists? Why not help our children focus on one or two things each year that will still help them develop a talent, build character and learn to work hard? Do they need to do it all? Can we afford to let them do it all?

What are we to do?  Well, if you have the courage (and it will require courage), start to downsize your family's commitments.  Do less that is organized and more that is spontaneous. Take a real vacation not just one around a child's activities. Focus your kids on one or two key areas of involvement and stop the rest. Spend more time together at home and less in the stands or on the field. Serve others more together in your church, community or city.

We all only have a limited amount of time with our kids. Use it wisely. It will be gone too soon.

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ten Things Great Dads Do or Don't Do

In several years of blogging at this site I've not written a post related to Father's Day.

So in honor of this FD weekend, let me offer my Top Ten List for dads of things great fathers do:

  1. They love their wives.
  2. They keep their word to their spouse and kids.
  3. They act like an adult most of the time.
  4. They still have a childlike heart.
  5. They take care of themselves physically but aren't obsessive about it.
  6. They live out their faith in everyday ways.
  7. They laugh a lot for the right reasons.
  8. They initiate important communication with other family members.
  9. They pray every day for the family.
10. They live like they are dying.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Great Ways To Save $ In a Tough Economy

When I was a young boy my grandfather took me on a train trip from Detroit to Niagara Falls.  I don't remember a lot of that jaunt but I do remember being so thrilled to travel with my grandpa and to ride on a train, something I'd never done before.

Apparently before we left for home, however, he suggested that we get a present for my grandma, my mom, dad and sister. So we found a souvenir store and he let me pick out the ones I wanted. But as we headed for the cashier, he noticed that there was one extra gift in my stash and he asked, "Who's that for?"  To which I happily replied, "That's for me!"

It's interesting that the desire for more, especially for us, starts early in life. And there's nothing wrong with having some nice things and enjoying the blessings God has given to us and our country as a whole. But the recent economic struggles are perhaps reminding us more and more that things may not always be so easy to come by and that we need to stretch our money a bit further.

And when we save we give more away to others who need it more than we do.  So let me suggest some ways that you and your family can very easily save a bit of money while teaching that  in most cases we already have enough without getting one more gift for us.

1. Get more books and videos from the library. I rarely read a book twice, especially novels, and I only own a few videos.  I don't have time to re-watch many of them anyway. So saving money by using the local library is a wise idea for most people. \

2. Eat out more reasonably.  I'll talk more in a minute about eating at home, too, but you can save money when you go to a restaurant as well. Drink water more often instead of alcohol, iced tea or soda. With a family of four those kinds of things can add ten to twenty dollars to your bill.

3. Eat at home more often. Our restaurants are full most every night because many people are too exhausted to think about meals at home. But if you work at it you can figure out some ways to prepare easy meals by using a crock pot, having the kids put something in the oven at a certain time, etc.

4. Vacation more wisely. Yes, staying home would save the most money and that's one idea. Pick some local places you could go that are nearby and fun. Even get away overnight but use the internet to find rooms that are a bargain even in very nice hotels. If you do go away, shop around online. Don't take the first option that comes along for hotels, rental cars and flights.  We're off to Colorado next week and by waiting and looking my wife got us a full-sized car for 8 days for $150 including taxes and fees.

5. Make do with what you have more often and longer. Do we really need the latest car, iPhone, basketball shoes? Can we live without another manicure or massage a bit longer? Can we survive without being in the club again this year?  Do we really need twenty shirts, dresses or shoes when we already have eighteen?

6. Keep better records. Most families in financial trouble have little idea what they are really spending. They put a wad of cash in their wallet and it suddenly disappears. Or they use their credit card over and over but never get a receipt or write down what they've spent. If you look honestly at your outgo you will probably be shocked and begin to rein in your spending.

7. Give more resources away . . . to the needy, to your church, to local organization, etc. When we have less to spend we spend it more wisely. And when we give to others, God does something special in us that mere getting will never do. We begin to focus more on what matters and the needs of others, not our own.

So you can save, you can overcome your financial challenges and you can enjoy some freedom with your money. Try some of these ideas and others you know about and really make a difference this year.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Don't Avoid All The Pain in Life . . . It Can Serve a Purpose

I recently endured two somewhat painful procedures. One was to remove some melanoma from my scalp. The second was to have a wisdom tooth extracted. While not equal to that of childbirth (though at times I wondered), each event resulted in some significant pain that I would have rather skipped, thank you.

However, both doctors involved reminded me right up front that to avoid this pain meant that I would likely incur far greater hurt, discomfort or, in the case of the melanoma, even death later on. And when my doctor uses the word fatal in one of our discussions I listen!

I know that at other times in life I've also wished I could have avoided all sorts of relational or emotional pain as well. Struggles with family, friends, coworkers, for example. Difficult situations with my children or a close acquaintance have all brought their share of pain.

And while there is nothing wrong with trying to lower our pain at times, like taking medication for a migraine, we need to sometimes embrace and accept some of our less controllable pain as potentially helpful and able to make us grow beyond where we might have gone without it. Why?

Pain helps us understand the pain of others better.  So often we're called on to be there for someone else and many times we really don't know what they're going through. As a result we say too much, do unhelpful things and trivialize their struggle.

Pain can teach us to receive help from others.  When my wife Jackie went through her cancer we received food, rides and many other gracious touches that we were almost embarrassed to need. But our weakness actually gave other people the opportunity to be blessed and to serve us. Our humility grew.

Pain can remind us that we often put too much worth on our comforts and easy lifestyles.  As a result we get inward-focused, we leave God and faith out of our life for the most part and miss seeing the needs of others around us.

So while I hope you can find some relief for your current challenges, I also encourage you to use these times for good - to open your eyes, give you new appreciation for what you have and to be a better friend and companion. Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.  Tim Hansel

Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.