It’s that time of year again. Here in the next week or so we will start to see the sweet pictures on Facebook and Instagram of kids heading out the door on their way to school. For some it is their first day of preschool and for others it may be the first day of their last year. Some go to public schools while some study at home. Regardless of the age or location, one thing remains the same, it can be a scary, exciting, and challenging time for the kiddos and the parents. But this time can also be used to have some powerful conversations with your child.
So here is my back to school advice….I don’t have much….just one lesson, one tip, one challenge for you.
Focus on the people they are, not the places they will go. In 1990, Dr. Seuss wrote the national best-seller “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” This is a great book that has some profound lessons for each us; but more essential than our child’s journey is their identity.
Undoubtedly there is excitement in the places they can go and it can be healthy to challenge them toward future goals, but there is much more fulfillment in helping them answer the question, “Who am I?”
As parents we have a duty to bless our children for who they are – a child of God created with infinite value, dignity and worth – not for what they may or may not do.
You see when we accidently or unconsciously build a link in our child’s mind connecting their acceptance or approval with their performance (or the places they may or may not go) we miss the mark.
So before your child heads out the door this school year bless them!
Remind them that they are chosen, loved, and accepted….fully and unconditionally.
Remind them that your love is in no way tied to performance….performance in a class room, performance on a ball field, performance in life.
Enjoy the school year!
(If you want to know how Liz and I practically do this with our two boys click here.)
Day 5: July 15th / 10:45pm local time.
Every night this week, all 61 of us gather outside in a little pavilion, sing a few worship songs, and “download” our experiences for the day. But tonight was different.
Tonight I sat on a concrete floor and listened for over two hours as student after student got up and spoke.
Tears flowed as I heard our young ladies hurt for the local women they served at House of Hope.
Tears flowed as the young men spoke about the mantle of leadership they inspire to hold within their schools and at church.
Tears flowed as adult leaders continually praised the students, many of them they have known since preschool.
Tears flowed as student and adult spoke about how God had used them even in the mundane.
I ended the night by quickly reviewing our theme for the week, “It’s not about me” and then I reminded them of the 2 previous questions we have discussed:
- What breaks your heart?
- What does love require?
Our last question this week was: “Where are my feet?”
You see this week many of our students have talked about what they wanted to do in the future. Tonight I wanted to remind them that it is important for us to remember that we don’t have to wait. For all of us, our feet are currently resting within the exact geographic circle of God’s calling on our lives. In the future God may call you outside that circle but it is where He has us for now. Our obedience to Him only matters in the present!
There are many more stories to hear about this week. Find one of our students, sit down with them, and ask them to share. You’ll be inspired…..I was.
Day 4: July 14th / 10:30pm local time.
Today was our last day of service. Our students have been working extremely hard this week and it showed this morning. However, as expected, these young men and women rallied and finished their last day with the same energy and enthusiasm as day one!
Tonight during our download time we paused to thank the Loftsgard Family. Marilyn and her husband Eric are missionaries in Nicaragua. They have been serving the people of this country for over 18 years and have been partnering with Kingsland for over a decade. They have seen dozens of our teams come in and out of here and always welcome us with open arms. This is probably why so many of our students through the years refer to their family as “our” missionaries!
This week Marilyn has been our hero. From buying bottled water to translating to keeping us on task, Marilyn was the key to our success this week. She made all the pre-trip arrangements and her attention to detail and has made our stay so much easier! We could not have done any of this without her!
But even more admiring is her patience and grace with us. She handles our complaints, questions, and comments with such poise. I can see why the people of Nicaragua love her so much!
We were also blessed to have Marilyn’s daughter Leah serve with us. Leah was our point person at House of Hope and showed our teams what true service and unconditional love is all about. Seeing a family so united in service is humbling.
Tomorrow we take a day to enjoy the other parts of Nicaragua. Weather permitting we hope to tour a volcano, take a boat ride around the lake, and enjoy some time in the local market. Our team is definitely looking forward to tomorrow!
Keep your prayers coming!
Day Two: July 12th / 10:30pm local time.
Day 2 was amazing! Our kids woke up tired but were immediately energized when we made it to our job sites.
Just a snapshot of our day:
- Mowing a yard with machetes
- Making home visits to shut-ins from the local church
- Playing with kids at House of Hope while their mothers made crafts to sell
- More sanding and painting
- Digging up tree stumps
- Listening to the testimony of a 27 year old women who had spent over seven years of her life as a prostitute. Watching as a few of our girls surrounded her after her story and prayed for her.
- And more stories of service and love.
After dinner tonight we spent the evening in worship at Centro de Fe y Vida Nueva. This event was unique but powerful. The local congregation made us feel extremely welcome. The music was beautiful and the message (shared through an interpreter) was strong!
Each of these leaders are the epitome of “lead by example.” From sanding and painting to simply playing a late night game of cards, these leaders are authentic and available! I am blown away by their love for this group of students. They took off work not to watch their kids serve, but to serve with them! This is a beautiful picture of the Empowered Homes core value our church shares. The kids and I are blessed to have them.
Keep your prayers coming!
Quite often during this time of year, we reflect on our Nation’s Founding Fathers and ponder their service and sacrifice….well maybe we used to. We might mention names like Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Henry, Hamilton and many others in the American History Hall of Fame.
Have you ever wished you could ask them what they think of us now? Have you ever wondered what advice they would give us in our present circumstances?
What’s exciting, yet humbling, is that we have a glimpse of their advice to us. You see in the spring of 1777, almost a year after the formal signing of the Declaration of Independence and still over six years away from the Treaty of Paris that would end the Revolutionary War and recognize the sovereignty of our nation, John Adams penned a simple letter to his wife Abigail. In this letter, our future 2nd President sends us a message. Although short it is quite powerful. Here is his message to us.
Posterity! (That’s us – future generations that he can never imagine – future Americans!) You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.
Read it again, it’s worth it.
So what are we supposed to do with this Freedom? What does he mean by “make good use of it?” I believe we can do a few of things (among many) to make good use of this freedom.
I believe we can strive to do what’s just, not what we can simply justify.
I believe we can strive to do what’s responsible, not what’s permissible.
And lastly, I think as we examine ourselves and the actions of those we elect, we can remember that these individual rights we enjoy assume an individual accountability…..to our fellow man and to our God.
Happy Birthday America!
I originally posted this last year. I find myself needing the reminder often….
Every year around May and June, I am routinely intrigued and sometimes entertained at the number of celebrity commencement speakers at universities across our country. Some commencement speeches are dull, some are grandiose, and some get made into Top 40 hits. But some, some are truly motivational. Last year was one of those moments.
In 2014, the University of Texas at Austin invited Admiral William H. McRaven to share his philosophy of leadership with the recent graduates. At the time of his remarks, Admiral McRaven was serving as the head of the U.S. Special Operations Command. Before commanding all of our nation’s most elite warriors, McRaven, a Navy SEAL for 36-years, had been at the tip of the spear in the war on terror since 2001. He had commanded a squadron in the legendary Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team Six, and even oversaw the planning and execution of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. On this day, he choose to share ten lessons learned from basic SEAL training. Although all were compelling I found lesson #1 especially convicting.
Lesson #1: “If you want to change the world….Make Your Bed”
McRaven shared that how every morning in basic SEAL training, his instructors would show up in his barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was his bed.
McRaven elaborated, “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right…..And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
McRaven’s statement may sound a little far-fetched, but his advice is undoubtedly worth considering: if you want to make an impact on a large scale, you have to be comfortable making it on a small scale too.
This made me wonder: As a parent and spouse, how often do I overlook the importance of the small mundane tasks.
Do I spend more time planning for a great trip or vacation but neglect the blessing of an early afternoon off with the kids?
Do I shoot for the moon on my wedding anniversary but totally miss the target on scheduling regular date nights?
Do I overlook the importance of the hours I have today while focusing on my 5 year plan?
Like Admiral McRaven, I too am convinced that we all need to be reminded that success in most parts of our life revolves around doing the simple things really well.
Do you want to have an impact on this generation…start by making your bed!
(After making your bed, I highly recommend reading the other 9 leadership lessons McRaven presented that day http://news.utexas.edu/2014/05/16/admiral-mcraven-commencement-speech)
“For every man has a mission to perform in this world which his talents precisely fit him; and having found this mission, he must throw in to it all the energies of his being, seeking its accomplishment, not his own glory.”
Fourteen years ago today, on April 22, 2004, Pat Tillman was killed by gunfire while on patrol in a rugged area of eastern Afghanistan. The unfortunate death of this young man occurred in Southeastern Afghanistan in Operation Mountain Storm—a subset effort of the larger Operation Enduring Freedom designed to weaken al-Qaeda forces and the Taliban government. If you don’t know who Pat is let me quickly introduce you to this soldier.
Patrick Daniel Tillman was born the oldest of three brothers in San Jose, California. He played linebacker for Arizona State University, where during his senior year he was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. In 1998, Tillman was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals. He became the team’s starting safety as well as one of its most popular players. In 2000, he broke the team record for tackles with 224. In May 2002, Tillman turned down a three-year, multi-million-dollar deal with the Cardinals and instead, prompted by the events of 9/11, joined the Army along with his brother Kevin, a minor-league baseball player. The Tillman brothers were assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment in Fort Lewis, Washington, and did tours in Iraq in 2003, followed by Afghanistan the next year.
In today’s world of instant gratification and selfishness, it might not make sense for a man to leave a profession that pays him about $1.2 million a year for a new career that pays about $20,000 a year. However, it makes complete sense when you understand who Tillman was.
Here is a man that was defined by words like loyalty, honor, passion, courage, strength and nobility. He was a low-key guy. By the time Tillman enlisted in the Army in 2002, after four years in the NFL, he understood how the media worked. Still, he decided not to talk to any of them about his decision to enlist. When Cardinals head coach Dave McGinnis asked Tillman how he was going to announce leaving the NFL for the service. Tillman’s reply was: “I’m not. You are.”
What is interesting with the Pat Tillman story is the two narratives that typically accompany it.
The first and probably the most popular theme presented assumes that fame and money is the highest mark of success and happiness; therefore we then refer to Pat’s detachment from it as the “ultimate sacrifice.”
The other narratives assumes Pat was naïve for trading the riches of a professional football career to chase Osama bin Laden.
Both are wrong….
I think the narrative that should follow Pat Tillman should simply communicate the story of a man following his calling…his purpose. The money, the fame, even the military service are all secondary to this point! As his former head coach said, “Pat Tillman represented all that was good in sports. He knew his purpose in life and proudly walked away from a career in football to follow his calling.”
To most of America, Tillman is symbol of patriotism.
To others, he is a hero for choosing service over wealth.
To me he is a man who followed his heart….and it led him from the football fields of Arizona to the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.
Pat Tillman discovered his calling, his purpose, his mission and he was willing to risk and sacrifice everything for it. Do you pursue your calling with the same energy?