Our student ministry has been posting short devos called “Insta Devos” to our Instagram and Facebook pages. It’s been a fun way to see students interact with scripture and share their insights with one another. This week, our youngest – Zach – who is moving up into the youth group in a few weeks, did one as well! I’m super proud of him … it’s my favorite Insta Devo!
This past month three of my sons went on mission trips, two of them with me. Zach, my youngest, went with me to Belize, Caleb went to Kentucky, and Micah went with me to Bolivia! It was an amazing and exhausting month. This past Sunday, all of the teens reported on the mission trips; the above video is Zach, Caleb, and Micah’s report!
I recently wrote a review of Dr. Jeremy Clark and Jerusha Clark’s book, “Your Teenager is Not Crazy: Understanding Your Teen’s Brain Can Make You a Better Parent”; you can read it here. One of the things they wrote about in the book I found particularly fascinating and find myself continuing to think about.
Essentially, they explored research by neurobiologists regarding brain chemistry, relationships, and a predictable ninety second pattern to emotions. Basically, any emotion that we feel generally will rise and fall in the space of a minute and a half “if proverbial fuel isn’t added to the fire” (Kindle location 1412). What this means is that if we have a surge of joy, it will generally settle within ninety seconds, and if we have a surge of anger, it will generally calm in ninety seconds. However, what often times happens is that we have a surge of anger, fire off a retort of some sort, triggering the same surge of anger in the recipient, who reacts in kind and the cycle continues to escalate with neither side taking the time to let their emotions settle so they can approach the disagreement in a calmer fashion.
As authors of a book for parents, their advice was simple; when parents face a situation where they are angry with their adolescent … step away for two minutes, gather their thoughts, and return to the conversation when their emotions have settled. They further suggested that over time, modeling this approach to conflict would translate to parent’s children learning to adopt it as well.
I’ve always heard advice to “count to ten,” or “take a deep breath.” It’s always made sense, but something about the neurobiology of this really intrigues me. I like that they’ve actually mapped it out, it’s a measurable, predictable cycle. The way I’m wired finds that very appealing; it’s certainly something I want to get better at doing – not just with my children, but in all relationships.
It was a little bit spur of the moment, but Heather and I decided to take a road trip to Tennessee with the boys to see the eclipse last week. It was kind of a wild ride; we left on Sunday right after church for what should have been a nine hour drive. It ended up taking twelve hours on the way down, we spent the night in Pigeon Ford, then traveled over to the Foothills Parkway to watch the eclipse … then hit the road back home not realizing between eclipse traffic, road construction, and college traffic we were starting an 18 hour drive home.
So, in case you missed it, we spent 30 hours driving round trip in about 48 hours so we could see less than two minutes of eclipse totality. And it was totally worth it.
What an amazing thing to see. I thought I knew what it would be like, but words really don’t do it justice. It is no mystery why ancient civilizations were shaken by them. Without the knowledge we have today, how could it be interpreted any way other than the gods bringing judgement or warning of doom?
I took a ton of photos; a few turned out pretty good – certainly better than my camera should have been able to do. I essentially held my eclipse glasses against the lens and snapped away. I used a Nikon Coolpix L340.
And yes, we’re already planning our 2024 solar eclipse trip.
This past week we had another check-in with Noah’s primary doctor regarding his Localized Scleroderma. You can read my previous updates on his battle with it here; essentially it’s a disease that attacks his skin, tissue and bone structures near the skin. There hasn’t been a cure discovered yet, and while it’s a lifelong condition it typically attacks a region of the body for about eight years.
When Noah was two years old he first started showing symptoms. It took two years for doctors to finally figure out what was going on; it’s an incredibly rare condition that most don’t know to look for. The medications are powerful, and have the potential for serious side effects, which required him to have regular blood work done to keep track of how he was responding. I’ll never forget holding him down for that first round of blood work, him sobbing and struggling, and me being overwhelmed with the thought that this was going to be our routine for who knew how many years.
He’s tough, and over the months and years, through all the tests, surgeries, doctor’s appointments, procedures, and whatever else, he took it all in stride. Often times he saw the bright side of things when we would be upset. And just like the doctor predicted, after almost eight years the disease seemed to stopped progressing. Months ago we stopped giving him the medication to see if it was just the drugs keeping it at bay or if it really had run its course.
And last week the doctor told us it’s dormant! We’ll go in to see him again in a year, but more for Heather and my peace of mind than an actual need. I have to be honest, after so many years, it doesn’t totally feel real! Yes, we do still have to keep our radar up for its possible reappearance, but in the mean time, after spending the majority of his life on some seriously powerful medicines, Noah is off everything and thrilled about it!
Quite the answer to prayer!
Last Sunday the children’s ministry signed the Lord’s Prayer during both worship services at our church. Zachary, our seven year old, had a blast doing it!
The more I think about it, the more I realize that 2015 was a year of reflecting and calming for me. Which is weird to say. The last several years have seen a lot of transition and challenges, both difficult and rewarding. My church spent the last few years transitioning from a senior pastor who first started there in 1975, I have been a full time student pursuing a Masters of Divinity, my own children have become adolescents – forever changing my perspectives on student ministry, I became an adult child of divorce after my parents separated, as well as other heartbreaks throughout the extended family. For the first time in years we have begun to feel like our son’s battle with localized scleroderma has become manageable. Heather and I celebrated our fifteenth anniversary. I turned 40.
I’m still recovering from that last one.
In some ways it has been a wild few years. It’s not so much that the last year has seen those things lessening; there is still a lot of transition surrounding me. But my focus has settled and broadened, if that makes sense. There is a different level of peacefulness throughout, which is probably weird to say considering my house is full of LOUD boys. It has been amazing to see God working through the circumstances. My sons continue to grow into young men that I am proud of. Heather and I still are building and collecting memories – fifteen years already?!?
Even the transitions in church have given new perspectives; during the six months between senior pastors, I was pulled away from the student ministry a lot. Thankfully, our church has an amazing team of youth staff and volunteers that really stepped up to enable me to be able to help in other areas of the church. The biggest unexpected fruit for me, however, was that in being pulled back a bit for a season meant that I gained some different perspectives on our student ministry as a whole – I’m excited about some of the behind the scenes conversations I’ve been having with our new senior pastor and youth ministry staff about how we can really take our program to another level, both in developing disciples and seeing the students integrated even more so in our church as a whole.
All that to say, this post is a couple weeks overdue, but I’m excited about 2016. I’m excited to see how things continue to grow in develop personally, in my family, and in the ministry.
Micah (our 8th grader) and Caleb (our 6th grader) have been performing all over the place this Christmas season with the homeschool choir they are a part of! This is Caleb’s first year, Micah’s third year. This particular performance is the one they did at Brandywine Valley Baptist Church on December 3rd.
Last month Noah (my almost ten year old) and I went on a weekend mission trip with our church’s children ministry to Philadelphia with the Philadelphia Project. It was a pretty amazing weekend; the age group was third through fifth grade, which was a first for me. Noah was really excited for the trip and even with his broken arm never held back from jumping in and working.
We spent the weekend in a combination of great worship times put together by Philadelphia Project, education about inner city Philly, and serving on various work sites. Noah and I were were with a group working to gut a room so that future groups could come in and do the actual remodeling. Which meant we spent the day scraping, pulling down a ceiling, cleaning, and generating a lot of dust. It was pretty impressive to see what a group of nine to eleven year olds can accomplish when they’re given the opportunity!
All in all, it was a great trip. It was fun to build some memories with Noah as well. Out of my four sons, the only one left who hasn’t gone on a mission trip with me yet is Zachary! But we’ll let him get a little older, first …