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      Milestones

      Guatemala 2013 187

      Yesterday was a day full of milestones.

      Isaac finished up his time at middle school.  Leanne and I had the opportunity to go the an end of the year awards assembly to watch Isaac and his classmates celebrate their achievements from the past school year.  It was sad to say goodbye to the middle school where our kids have attended for the past five years.  And it’s exciting to envision the future opportunities Isaac will have as he heads up to the high school in the fall.

      Hannah finished her sophomore year of high school with a major milestone.  In the afternoon, she passed her driver’s exam, and we know have a licensed teenage driver in our house.  This is very exciting for Hannah, and it’s a little exciting and scary for Leanne and me.

      Life does not appear to be slowing down.  It seems like yesterday when Leanne and I were bringing each of them home from the hospital.

      I’ve shared in the past about the importance of celebrating these milestones.  Our kids are eventually meant to grow up.  Heading to high school and getting a driver’s license are just two of the stepping-stones on the way to adulthood.  And it’s essential we embrace these milestones.

      What’s next?  We’ll see.  We’re taking it one milestone at a time.

      Great job, Hannah and Isaac!  We are so proud of you.

      If you are a parent, what recent milestone are you celebrating with your kids?

      What are some of the milestones you remember from your adolescence?  How did you celebrate these milestones?

      Get A Job – Parenting Your Kids Towards Life’s Release Points

      Last night, I spend a couple of hours helping my daughter deliver her first job applications to potential employers.

      Hannah turned 16 in November, and she is a week away from taking the test for her driver’s license.  This means she will need money for car insurance and gas.  She has done babysitting for a few years, but she has never had a “real” job.  (Some of the babysitting jobs I had as a teenager were some of the most challenging, stretching experiences I had as a working young adult.)

      We stopped at a local ice cream place to drop off her first application.  I waited in the car while she went up to the window.  She had the opportunity to speak with one of the owners which I thought was a positive.  She was asked to consider whether or not she would work during the school year or not before she submitted her application.  With a busy athletic and academic schedule during the school year, this will be a tough decision for her.  She then applied on-line for another job when we arrived back at the house.

      As I thought about my daughter’s job search adventure, I tried to recall my first “real” job.  I cut a lot of grass and shoveled a lot on snow.  I was the “caretaker” for an eleven acre piece of property owned by an elderly couple from my church.  Then I washed dishes at a retirement center in the community which was connected to our church.  I worked for a land surveyor who went to the church where I grew up.  I painted one summer, and I worked for a medical billing company.  Both of these jobs were with people who went to the church where I went.  I don’t think I had to apply for any of these jobs.  They were all the result of connections.

      It wasn’t I went to college and needed a job that I actually applied for a job.  I ended up applying for a job as a dishwasher in one of the dining halls on campus.  I don’t remember the interview process, but I must have passed the test.  I washed dishes for a couple of months before being promoted to dining hall supervisor.

      As a dad, I wanted to jump out of the car and talk to the owner of the ice cream shop.  Maybe, I’ll provide a connection that leads to her first job, or maybe she’ll go through the process herself.  I want to help and protect my daughter, but I also want to make sure she has the opportunity to grow up.

      Parenting isn’t always easy.  You raise your children.  You teach them.  You point them in the direction you feel is right.  And then, you release them like an arrow leaves a bow-string hoping they will fly straight.

      We are in a series of release points with our kids.  They are becoming more and more independent.

      I pray for wisdom for my wife and me as we parent, and I pray for my kids as they approach their release points.

      How have you handled the release points for your kids?  How did your parents handle the various release points in your life?

      What was the first job for which you had to apply?

      Learning To Embrace Life’s Milestones

       

      Life goes by pretty fast.

      This was so obvious to me this weekend.

      Leanne and I took the day off on Friday, and we took the kids out of school for the day, so we could pay a visit to Messiah College and Grove City College for Hannah’s first college visits.  This hardly seems possible.  It’s a little early as Hannah is finishing up her sophomore year in high school, but we had some connections at Grove City College, and the timing was right to begin this journey.

      The weekend was spectacular.  Both of the visits went very well.  We felt welcomed at these beautiful campuses.

      I remember visiting Grove City College with my Dad.  It was the summer, so there weren’t any students on campus.  I didn’t know very much about the school, but there was something that seemed to fit just right when I visited to the school. My Dad and I drove seven hours to and from the school which gave us opportunity to talk about the college and about the college decision.  I remember my interview in Crawford Hall.  And I remember a feeling of excitement and fear.  I’d imagine this is what Hannah was feeling this weekend.

      I need to get my parents perspective on the whole college visiting, selection, and sending process.  I’m starting to understand that there was probably a mix of thoughts and feelings related to the whole thing.  On the one hand, there is such excitement.  Our daughter will be ready for this.  She is smart.  She is a hard worker.  She is well-rounded.  And she is becoming more and more independent.  On the other hand, there is a mix of feelings that include fear and sadness.  How could it be that we are looking at colleges already?  Why does it seems like life goes by so fast?  Once we send Hannah to college, I know that things will change forever.  Am I really ready for this change?

      Life is full of milestones.  These milestones represent a life well-lived.  It’s not always easy approaching these milestones.  It can be scary, and it can be thrilling.  Yet, we must learn to embrace these milestones.  These are the things that STRETCH us.  These milestones cause us to grow, and they take us to new places in life.

      I’m thankful we still have a couple of years before Hannah goes to college.  I want to make the most of the opportunities during these years.  I want to celebrate at her track meets.  I want to soak in the sound of her orchestra concerts.  I want to watch (and help) as she approaches some challenging decisions along the way.  And in just over two years, I want to rejoice as we send her off to college to learn and experience new things.

      What milestone are you facing soon?  What thoughts or feelings are you experiencing about this milestone?

      On Track – Life Lessons from the Track & Field is now available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.  Click the link below to get your copy today.

      As a reminder, I am offering a FREE pdf copy of the interior of the book to subscribers of The Stretched Newsletter.  Head over to the main page of the blog and sign up on the right hand menu bar to get your copy today for FREE!

      Many Hands Make Light Work

      Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.  Michael Jordan

      Last night after dinner, I recruited my wife and my son to join me outside to cleanup one of our flower beds.  We gathered our tools from the shed – a wheelbarrow, a rake, a hedge trimmer, a straight-edged shovel, and three pairs of gloves.  Then we proceeded to the flower bed by our driveway.  We started by picking up the remains of last years flowers.  Then we raked up all the leaves that were left from the fall.  Finally, we cut a new straight edge between the flower bed and the grass in the front lawn.  It took a little time, but I was amazed at how quickly it went with three of us working on it together.

      Have you heard the expression – many hands make light work?

      This was obvious yesterday as we worked together and cleaned up the flower bed in about half an hour.

      I confess that I am not always good at asking for help.  I go about tasks on my own.  The job goes much slower.  It doesn’t always get done as well.  And I miss out on the company of others.

      We must learn to ask for others help.

      We must learn to let others join us in our journey.

      Last night, I was blessed with time with my family and a clean flower bed.  I’m glad I asked for help.

      Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:12

      What are you trying to do these days?  What are you trying to accomplish all by yourself?

      How might it help to ask for someone’s help?  Who do you need to ask for help?

      Thank You Thursday – Isaac’s Example

      The Thank You Revolution is for everyone.

      My son, Isaac, is a great example for others to follow.  Last week, he had his braces removed.  It was a “fun” process for the whole family.  Isaac dealt with the pain and hassle of the braces.  Leanne and I dealt with financial pain of paying for this process.  And Leanne spent a fair amount of time carting Isaac to and from the orthodontist.

      photo(1)

      When Isaac had the braces removed and he saw the finished product, you could tell he was appreciative.  This past summer, he had the opportunity to go to Guatemala with our family.  While he was there, he saw kids and adults with all kinds of dental issues – missing teeth, crooked teeth, and decaying teeth.  I think this may have amplified his appreciation for his orthodontic opportunity.

      The night the braces were removed, Leanne and I were greeted by a thank you note as we headed to bed.

      photo(2)

      The note read:

      Thank You

      Dear Mom and Dad,

      Thank You for providing the money to get my smile correct!  I know it was a lot of money and I’ll try my best with the retainers.  Thanks again!

      Love,

      Isaac

      It was a simple note, and it left a big impression.

      You are not too old or too young to write a thank you note.

      Start today.  Express your gratitude to others.

      A simple note can change the world.

      How has a simple thank you note changed your world?  Why are you thankful today?

      6 Ways To Rediscover Patience

      This was the top post written in 2013 on The Stretched Blog (there are three posts written prior to 2013 which actually drove more traffic this year).  This post on patience was written back in early April of this year.  Reviewing this post provides some great reminders for me, and I hope you’ll find encouragement from this post as well.  I am still be stretched by the thoughts in this post.  Here goes….

      I’m Losing My Patience – 6 Ways To Rediscover Patience

      As a kid, I can remember a few times when my Dad’s fuse was shorter than normal.  Especially when he was tired and under a lot of stress, his patience would grow thin, and he would become frustrated and somewhat angry as my brothers and I would push the limits on what he could tolerate.

      Overall, my Dad is a great father, and I’d honestly be honored and blessed if I could pick up half of his qualities.  He’s a leader.  He’s wise.  He’s extremely intelligent.  He’s caring.  I could go on.  But if I’m honest, I hoped I would miss out on his occasional short patience “quality.”

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      Well, I’m afraid that didn’t completely work out.  The other night, Leanne said to me, “I think you’re getting more impatient as you get older.”  Whoa!  First, she’s calling me impatient.  And then, she’s calling me older!  Maybe she’s right.  By the end of the night, my tolerance for horsing around diminishes, and I can often tell that I’m losing my patience.  It’s not a feeling I completely enjoy.  I don’t want to be grumpy or to be known as the “wet blanket” in the house, so I need to find a way to restore my patience levels.

      Here are several ideas that come to mind for bringing patience back into my life.  Maybe, they’ll help you too!

      6 Ways To Rediscover Patience

      1. Recognize that patience comes from God.  According to Paul in Galatians, patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience (or forbearance), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23
      2. Pray for patience.  Many would consider this to be a dangerous prayer.  I’m not so sure.  If true patience comes from God, doesn’t it make sense that we should ask for it?  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8
      3. Learn the things that cause us to lose our patience.  Maybe it’s lack of sleep.  Maybe it’s financial stress.  Maybe it’s pressure at work.  It’s important to learn these causes, so we can come up with a plan to combat the problems.
      4. Take counter measures.  If it’s lack of sleep – get more sleep.  If it’s stress – find ways to eliminate or alleviate the stress.  Running is a huge counter measure for me in the battle against stress.  When I get regular exercise, my patience tends to improve.
      5. Get someone to watch your back.  Use a friend to keep your patience levels in check.  I’m thankful that my wife would call me on the carpet about my patience.  I need people in my life who build me up and who help me deal with some of my “demons”.
      6. Ask for forgiveness.  On the rare occasion when my Dad would lose his patience, he would come back and apologize.  He would ask for forgiveness if he had somehow wronged on of us.  We’re not perfect.  Not one of us gets it right all the time.  We all make mistakes.  We will lose our patience.  Admitting failure can be a positive step in the healing process and in STRETCHING us towards the personal growth we need to pursue.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  Colossians 3:13

      Do you struggle with patience?  What helps you when you lose your patience?  What thoughts can you add to the list above?

      8 Ways To Protect Your Teenagers

      Parenting is an important focus for my wife and me.  We want to raise our kids well.  We want to protect them, and we want to give them their independence as they get older.  Today, we look back at the third most popular post written in 2013.  If you are a parent or plan to be a parent, I think this post will STRETCH you.  Check it out, and let me know what you think….

      8 Ways To Build A Hedge Of Protection Around Our Teenagers

      We’re approaching a parenting milestone later this year.  Our daughter, Hannah, will be able to get her driver’s permit towards the end of the calendar year.  It’s a bit scary to imagine our little girl behind the wheel of a car.

      Over the Easter weekend, I had a chance to talk with my Grandpa who lives in the Midwest.  Our conversation was filled with updates on our family and the activities that keep us running from one thing to the next.  At the end of our conversation as always, my Grandpa prayed for our family.  He inquired about things in our family that could use prayer.  The subject of Hannah’s driver’s permit came up, and Grandpa specifically prayed that God would put His hedge of protection around Hannah and our family as we navigate these times.  He recalled a verse from Job 1 indicating that God put a hedge of protection around Job and his family:

      “Have you [God] not put a hedge around him [Job] and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.”  Job 1:10

      The teenage years can be pretty challenging.  Kids in the age group are faced with pressures from peers like never before.  They are faced with a world full of media that points people away from God and toward themselves and stars who are undeserving of such adoration.

      As parents, we play a huge role in creating a hedge for our children.  It can be such a tough thing to do – to create realistic and appropriate boundaries while fostering independence and responsible decision-making.  We want the best for our kids.  We want them to experience things that we never experienced, and we want them to have the things we never had.  In the pursuit of providing the best for our kids, we can overlook the ultimate purpose in our parenting – to point our kids towards God, His Son, and His Word.

      8 Ways To Protect Your Teenagers

      1. Keep God first in your own life.  We must lead by example.  If we expect our kids to follow God, we must seek Him first.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33
      2. Place God’s Word at the foundation of your family.  There are tons of great parenting resources today, but the Bible has to be primary resource for everything in life.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.  Deuteronomy 6:6-9
      3. Pray like you mean it – like it depends on God.  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:16
      4. Learn that ‘no’ doesn’t have to be a negative word.  Parents these days are bent on becoming their kid’s best friend.  We are scared that saying no to our kids will somehow damage them.  Saying no is part of creating a hedge.
      5. Lean into the tough conversations.  I learned this week that the best conversations can sometimes be the toughest conversations.  Talking about tough things provides an opportunity to help your teenager process and establish their world view.  These conversations help our kids navigate and discover the truth.
      6. Find the strategic opportunities to demonstrate trust.  At some point, our kids will be on their own.  We will release our kids like an arrow leaving a bow-string.  If we aim them towards the Target, we need to trust that the arrow will fly straight.  Spreading their wings doesn’t have to be an all at once thing.  It works best as baby steps.
      7. Be a constant student of parenting.  Find parents who have gone on before you.  Learn from their experiences.  Seek out resources that will teach you how to be a parent who honors God.
      8. Balance truth and grace.  Our kids will make plenty of mistakes (just like we did).  We must teach them truth, and show them grace.  We must show them love.  Love speaks truth, and love shows grace.

      Are you a parent?  How do you protect your kids?  What did your parents do to point you towards God, His Son, and His Word?

      Learner’s Permit Lessons

      Parental Rites of Passage

      Parenting provides opportunities for many milestones.

      I remember when Hannah was born.

      I remember when Hannah came home from the hospital in her baby seat in our Toyota Corolla.

      I remember when Hannah stepped onto the school bus for the first time on her way to kindergarten.

      I remember when Hannah went to high school for the first day of her freshman year.

      It’s important to remember these milestones.  Parenting teaches you how quickly life goes.  And these milestones are a great way to celebrate the next steps in the journey of life.  Despite the fact we’d like life to slow down a little bit, we want our children to grow up.  We want them to tackle new challenges and climb new peaks.

      This week, we experienced another milestone.

      Hannah got her learner’s permit on Saturday.  In Pennsylvania, you have to be at least 16 years old, you have to pass a vision test, and you have to pass a computer based driving information and safety test.  I will always remember this day.

      We drove to the testing facility where she passed the test.  She was so excited!

      On the way home, we stopped at the high school parking lot, and our driving lessons began.  I switched seats with Hannah.  We spent ten minutes or so going over the controls and safety features of our car.  We talked about the importance of being aware of our surroundings, of driving safely, and obeying the rules of the road.  Then we took several laps around the parking lot.  The first couple of starts and stops were a little jerky as Hannah adjusted to the sensitivity of the brake and accelerator pedals.  Then when it was obvious she was getting the hang of things, she took the car out of the parking lot and onto a road.  It was a little scary for both of us.  She proceeded up the road traveling safely below the speed limit.  And she arrived at the first stop sign where she stopped 15 feet behind the white stop line.  I can’t complain she was being extra cautious.  Next, we turned right onto the next street, and before we knew it Hannah had made a complete lap around the high school campus.  We repeated this a few more times until I felt comfortable enough to let her drive home.

      I’ll confess there were times when I was clutching the passenger door handle a little tightly.  There were also a couple of times when I quickly reached over to the steering wheel to make sure she stayed of the shoulder of the road.  But all in all, it went pretty well for her first time driving with her permit.

      Sunday afternoon, we went out together for another hour.  This time, Hannah had a bit more confidence (and so did I) as she eventually made her way to church and home again.

      I’m sure we’ll have many more adventures like these as she continues to learn the finer points of driving.  This is an adventure and milestone I wouldn’t miss for the world.

      I don’t know where you are at in the parenting journey.  Maybe you’re new to the parenting thing.  Maybe your kids have moved on to college or kids of their own.  Maybe you haven’t quite crossed the line into parenthood just yet.  Here’s something I’ve been learning along the way.  Enjoy each moment.  Remember each milestone.  Don’t rush through it to get to the next thing.  The next thing will come sooner than you can ever imagine.

      Make the most of each and every opportunity – in parenting and in life.

      Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Ephesians 5:15-16

      What milestone(s) have you experienced recently?  What are you doing to cherish these moments and milestones?  What do you remember about getting your learner’s permit?

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      Sweet 16

      Guatemala 2013 612

      Today is Hannah’s 16th birthday!

      Wow, time flies.

      16 is a big milestone.

      She is officially eligible to get her driver’s permit today.  This is a bit scary for Leanne and me.

      She is in her middle teens.  She is definitely moving into young adulthood.  She’s taking more responsibility.  She’s starting to look at colleges and to consider career aspirations.

      And she is taking responsibility for her own faith.

      To Leanne and I, it seems impossible we are already at this milestone.  We will always think of her as the little girl with the bobbed haircut who takes charge bossing her brother around and organizing backyard circuses and afternoon teas for her friends.  It seems like yesterday we were bringing her home from the hospital in her car seat or taking her to her first day of preschool or watching her climb on the school bus for her first day of kindergarten.

      This is my prayer for Hannah on her 16th birthday.

      Dear God, Thank you for Hannah.  Thank you for the amazing gift you have given me in my daughter.  Thank you for the honor and responsibility of raising her.  God, I pray you will continue to work in Hannah’s life in a mighty way.  Help her to continue to grow in beauty – inside and out – in the years ahead.  More importantly, I pray that you will guide and protect her as she gets older.  Thank you for her heart to serve others and to honor You.  Use her in a mighty way.  I know you have big plans for her.  Help me to do my part in preparing her for the future, and help me to know how and when to let go at just the right time so she can continue to grow and serve.  I pray she will keep Your Word in her heart.  I pray she’ll surround herself with positive influences and that she’ll continue to look out for the needs of others.  Thank you for these 16 years.

      What do you remember about turning 16?

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      The Results – District 1 AAA Cross Country

      District1XC2013 023

      Here’s a rare weekend post to give you the results of Hannah’s cross-country meet.

      As I mentioned Friday, Hannah ran in the District 1 AAA Girls Varsity Cross Country Championships on Friday morning.  I took the day off of work to enjoy the day of racing and festivities.  And I can’t wait to return next year.

      A few people of asked me how Hannah did in the race, so I thought I’d share the results along with some pictures.

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      District 1 is this biggest district in the state of Pennsylvania, and AAA is the grouping of the larger schools in the district.  The starting line is like a scene out of Braveheart as the runners race across a big open field to get onto the more narrow section of the course.  Hannah finished 149th out of 330 (and 5th on her team).  She beat her previous 5K PR (personal record) by over 30 seconds running a time of 20:34.  She was a little disappointed, because she wanted to break 20 minutes.  Otherwise, she was pretty happy with her performance.  As a dad, I couldn’t have been more proud.  She did a great job!

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      She has a great base to work from for indoor and outdoor track, and she should be running with the top girls on the team next year.  I, on the other hand, don’t know how much longer I can keep up with her.  While at Lehigh University (where the District Championship was held), I enjoyed a nice five-mile run over most of the college cross-country course.  The rest of the day was spent enjoying the other races and the team tailgate.

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      Hope you’re having a great weekend!