Fatherhood

When Your Worldview is a Tad Polished by Toddlers and Tadpoles

Toddlers, man. They run on a relentless source of energy that is highly unstable and prone to erratic outbursts, and their decision-making processes baffle even the most abstract thinkers amongst us. “Hey, let’s steal a box of food coloring and use it to dye our hands up to our wrists so it looks like we are wearing permanent purple gloves!”

“I need to throw a tantrum at 2 am because it is absolutely imperative that I change out of my pajamas into a new t-shirt NOW!”

“Toilet tank lid? I want to pick it up and hold it!”

But while we are frustratedly cleaning up their messes, rubbing our sleepy eyes, and vacuuming up broken tank lid pieces, we are also treated to their refreshingly novel perspective of the world. Things to which we have long since become accustomed and jaded, are suddenly cool and amazing and exciting all over again – such as the humble tadpole.

Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever

This month I had the amazing opportunity to embark on my first ever trip to the Smoky Mountains with my family– all planned within the week prior. It was one of those “It’s time to get away, let’s go do this,” moments. Plus it checked off a box on my bucket list to visit all the national parks in the United States (barely started). So I looked up cabin rentals on Google – found a solid one with American Patriot Getaways (highly recommend them, can’t praise them enough), booked it, and off we went.

The game plan was to break up the trip by spending the night in Birmingham on the way to Gatlinburg. This was about a 5 hour journey and approximately half way for us. Instead, we made it to Meridian, Mississippi – a whopping hour and a half away.

Thanksgiving, a Trampoline, and a Contagious Spirit of Gratitude

Thanksgiving, a Trampoline, and a Contagious Spirit of Gratitude

This Thanksgiving, I can’t help but reflect on one of my favorite home videos – in which my son is jumping on the trampoline with his baby sister. The dialogue goes as follows: Sawyer: “Mommy, tank you for getting me a baby.”

Caroline: “Where do you think we got her?”

Sawyer (without a moment’s hesitation): “At the gwocery staw.”

Besides being insanely cute, there’s a few nuggets about the nature of thanksgiving buried in the exchange:

Refrigerator Art

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“Dad, wook come see what I made!” My son’s face lit up with enthusiasm as his little hand pulled me towards the refrigerator. “Show me!” I replied, his excitement transferring instantaneously in a bold denial of the laws of physics.

“Wook!” He turned to me, grinning from ear-to-ear, tiny finger outstretched towards the scribbled mess suspended by a magnet.

“Wow! It’s amazing!” I said, turning towards him as he beamed with pride. I looked back at the piece of paper. It looked as though a game of connect the dots had gone horribly, horribly wrong. “…What is it?”

“It’s a (fill in the blank)!”

Now, I consider myself a pretty abstract thinker. Whenever my toddlers decide to show off their art to me, however, I’m usually hard-pressed to identify even a slight resemblance to whatever they confidently claim to have drawn. Nevertheless, their masterpiece commands an undeniable, rightful place on the fridge that I wouldn’t trade for a Picasso.

…why?

It’s not for the quality of their drawings – although I fail to see the distinction between their work and some of the stuff hung up in museums:

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 By Kazimir Malevich - (Transferred from en.wikipedia - was: en:Image:Black Square.jpg), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=507949

It’s a square... a square. What am I missing???

Anyway, my point here is that the picture itself is irrelevant. It’s my children’s’ inner intentions in which my heart delights.

I wonder, how much is this adoration a replicated quality of the Father in whose image we are created?

Perhaps we need look no further than “the man after God’s own heart” – King David.

At face value, David does not fit the image of piety. His dirty laundry list is abhorrent. Adulterer, murderer, family in shambles, host of concubines…all things we would not or should not want to replicate. Yet, despite his shortcomings, David possessed a deep longing to be in God’s presence; to be apart from it was tantamount to torment.

“Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight…

…Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” (Psalm 51:1-4;10-12 NLT)

David fell hard. He repented harder.

Now I’m not saying what we do with our lives is irrelevant. David paid deeply for his sins. David’s son born to Bathsheba died. His son, Absalom, rebelled against him and slept with his concubines.[1]Nevertheless, it was his heart – not his sins – that defined him.

In the words of Thomas Merton, "the fact that I think I am following your will, does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you, does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing."[2]

I am well pleased just to see that desire in my children, regardless of what they bring me. In the same way, I’m convinced that God would rather we draw a stick figure and bring the scribbled mess to Him, then paint the Sistine Chapel by ourselves.

And you know what? I'm actually impressed by the scattered streaks generated by my children's toddler minds. Who knows? Maybe one of my kids will be the next Picasso after all!

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

[1] 2 Samuel 12

[2] http://reflections.yale.edu/article/seize-day-vocation-calling-work/merton-prayer

 

 

 

 

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One Hope

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The statistics are sobering. On any given day, there are over 400,000 children in the foster care system in the United States.[1] What is far more sobering, is the realization that those statistics aren’t just numbers. Each one represents a human being that was subjected to such severe neglect and/or abuse that the state deemed it necessary to intervene and remove them from their home – the very place where a child is supposed to be nurtured and protected. With the lives of so many children collapsing into shattered pieces, I’m incredibly grateful that God has positioned me in a place to make a difference through One Hope Alliance – a 501(c)(3) geared towards creating life changing moments for kids in the Louisiana foster care system.

One of the main focus areas of One Hope is Royal Family Kids Camp - a Christian based camp for children ages 7-12 in foster care. I have had the incredible honor of volunteering at the camp for three years – one as a staff member, and two as a counselor. I never expected one week to change my life so radically.

For five days, we committed to investing Christ’s love with intentionality. We held birthday parties and gave gifts to every single camper – some of which never had their birthday celebrated in their entire lives.

By the end we found ourselves exhausted – emotionally and physically – but man, did we also have FUN! We’re talking about hours every day swimming in a pond, taking bike rides, playing games, building things at workshop, singing songs, watching plays about bible stories…the list goes on and on. Each day was jam-packed with activities and meaningful moments.

There were moments that made us laugh.

One of my favorite memories revolved around the obstacle course – a unique feature of the particular campground we used. The course was no joke – it was specifically set up for local Navy SEALs to train when on leave from base.

We were walking by the intimidating course on the way to the cabin when one of my two campers turned to me with wide eyes and asked, “Is that for the kids??”

My other camper – whom I counseled the year before – turned to him and said, “Naw, man. That’s for the otters!”

Seals...otters…close!

There were moments that made us cry.

Few things can knock a man to his knees quicker than a child looking him in the eyes to ask why their mom/dad doesn’t love them.

Then there were those special moments that reminded us exactly of why we were there.

Each day we took a moment to write letters to the campers that would be handed out at bedtime.  I didn’t think that it was that big of a deal – until one of the campers in our bunk got left out. Seeing the dejection in his face, a couple of us “slipped out to the mailroom to "see if anything had gotten lost.”

We quickly wrote a couple of letters and triumphantly barged back in to show him what we had “found.”  I still tear up when I see that face lighting up in my mind. I vowed at that moment to personally write a letter to each of the campers in my cabin every single day so that would not happen again.

At the end of the day, it’s the impact to the kids that comprises the value of the camp – and we hear about it all year long as foster parents and DCFS workers relay the children’s excitement and anticipation for the next year. One of our graduated campers told us how he couldn’t wait until he was old enough to be a counselor himself. There couldn’t be sweeter words to encourage us to continue partaking in God’s transformational work through camp.  However, to continue engaging in the work, we need your support.

We are seeking 1,000 volunteers to pledge $17 a month for five years to establish a new campground and expand the reach and impact of One Hope’s ministry focus. Whether you choose to make that commitment yourself, or decide instead to make a one-time tax-deductible donation, your funds will have a direct impact on converting that dream into reality.

We also need camp counselors for the Royal Family Kids camp in the Hammond region of Louisiana.

Many of us dream of going on exotic mission trips but lack the required funding. The reality is that there is a mission field full of hurting children that exists in our backyard – and it will cost you nothing but your time to serve there as a missionary through camp. This could be your chance to look a wounded kid in the eyes and say, “I’m going to do everything I can this week to make a difference in your life, to show you that no matter how badly you’ve been mistreated and what lies you’ve been told, that you do matter, that you are loved, and that God has great plans for you.”

Please prayerfully consider joining us on our mission of replacing hurt with hope – helping children redefine their image and change the overall trajectory of their life. The more donations we receive, the greater our influence to create a difference. The more counselors we have, the more hurting children will get to come to camp and experience the love of Christ.

At the end of the day, the truth boils down to this: All of us are broken. All of us are sinners in need a savior. All of us have “One Hope” – the hope through Jesus Christ.

"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." (James 1:27 NLT)

- Nicolas C. Day

[1] http://www.childrensrights.org/newsroom/fact-sheets/foster-care/

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The Fervent Dad Challenge

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The Fervent Dad Challenge

A daily workout for the body, mind, heart, and spirit for Christian fathers of toddlers.

Although I have never done CrossFit, sometimes I feel that just being a father to toddlers is close enough.

dadfit

As you naturally find yourself carrying them from place to place, it becomes quite evident that toddlers have the potential to be a fantastic workout tool. Plus, each day that you feed them, they grow a little bit bigger and weigh a little bit more.

In truth, however, parenting toddlers trains us in ways that supersede our physical bodies alone. This fact (and the helpful suggestions of a tremendous brother in Christ in bible study) became my inspiration behind the development of "The Fervent Dad Challenge".

As you go through the week, not only will you hit every major muscle group, but you will get a chance to connect with your kids and promote biblical growth towards other important components of your overall health.

Note that there are two main rules that require strict adherence:

  1. Don’t take this too seriously.
  2. Have fun!

Though I tailored this challenge towards my own experience as a dad, there is nothing stopping moms from participating. Should you choose to accept "The Fervent Dad Challenge", I’d love to hear about the results. Please share your stories!

Caution: Do not perform any exercise in a speed or manner that puts your child at risk of injury. If you are not comfortable, STOP. I'm contemplating releasing a more detailed guide with additional physical exercises in a future ebook (because why not?).

 

Monday

Body: Toddler Floor Press. Lay flat on your back on the floor with knees bent so that both feet are planted on the ground. Hold toddler at arm’s length with them facing you. Lower your toddler and kiss them on the head. Squeeze abs and push back up to starting position. Repeat for max reps and sets.

Primary Muscle: Chest

Secondary Muscle(s): Shoulders, Triceps

Mind: Geography. Show your kid(s) a new country on a map. Pull up an image on a tablet/smart phone that shows the landscape.

Heart: High fives. Give your kid(s) 10 high fives. Pretend each one is progressively making your hand hurt worse. Comment on how strong they are.

Spirit: Worship. Teach your toddler a line from your favorite worship song. Sing it together.

 

Tuesday

Body: Toddler Bent Over Row. With knees slightly bent, keep your back straight and bend over until it is almost parallel with the floor. Grab your toddler (perpendicular to you, facing the ground). Pull toddler to your stomach. Return the toddler towards the ground. When their feet and/or hands graze the ground loudly say “Boing!” and pull them back up again towards your stomach. Repeat for max reps and sets.

Primary Muscle: Back

Secondary Muscle(s): Biceps

Mind: Math. Layout toys in the room and count them together.

Heart: Tickles. Give your kid(s) 10 tickles. Allow them to tickle you back. Laugh hysterically.

Spirit: Prayer for the hurting. Pray with your kid(s) for someone specific that is sick or has a need.

 

Wednesday

Body: Toddler Squat. Either hug toddler or hold at arm’s length (more difficult – simultaneously works arms). Squat down as low as possible. Return to starting position. Keep a deadpan face and say “ribbit”. Repeat for max reps and sets.

Primary Muscle: Quadriceps

Secondary Muscle(s): Calves

Mind: Science. Show them a picture of a weird animal or an image from space (galaxies, stars, planet, etc.). Go for something interesting and tell them that God made it.

Heart: Funny faces. At the count of 3, everyone is to make the funniest face they can muster.

Spirit: Old Testament. Share an old testament story with your children.

 

Thursday

Body: Toddler Shoulder Press. Grip toddler under arms. Squeezing abs and keeping back straight, push toddler straight up over your head. Lower toddler and blow a raspberry on their belly. Push back up again. Repeat for max reps and sets.

Primary Muscle: Shoulders

Secondary Muscle(s): Triceps

Mind: English. Pick a word and spell it out loud together.

Heart: Funny faces. At the count of 3, everyone is to make the funniest face they can muster. Do this at least three times.

Spirit: New Testament. Share a new testament story with your children.

 

Friday

Body: Toddler Swing. Get into squat position with feet shoulder width apart. Grab toddler under arms. Squat up and swing toddler forwards, exploding the hips and making a sound like a rocket blast. (Optional: toss the toddler a short distance in the air and catch). Swing toddler back down to starting position.

Primary Muscle: Hamstrings

Secondary Muscle(s): Low Back, Deltoids

Mind: Art. Draw a picture together. Hang it up on the fridge for a week.

Heart: Animal Impersonations. Pick an animal and have everyone pretend to be one. Do this with at least five different animals.

Spirit: Thanking God. Let everyone pick out three things that they are thankful for. Pray and thank God together.

 

Saturday

Body: Toddler Wagon Pull (or Car Push). Load your toddler(s) and any additional weight desired into a wagon. With one arm, pull the wagon for a sizeable distance. Make race car noises as you do this. Switch arms and repeat. To increase difficulty, perform on grass or sand (hardest). Alternatively, if you do not have a wagon, buy one immediately – they are one of the most useful tools in the world for parents of toddlers. In the meantime, load your kid(s) into any toy vehicles they have and push them at a sprint instead.

 

 

Mind: History. Lookup a historical fact to share with your kids. Loads of options here. Do a web search for “on this day in history” if you have no ideas.

Heart: Hugs. Hug kid(s) for at least ten seconds and tell them how great they are.

Spirit: Love of Jesus. Tell your kids five things that Jesus love them more than (i.e. ice cream, toys, etc.).

 

Sunday

Rest and reflect on the amazing week you had with your kids! Ask them which activity was their favorite. Repeat challenge as desired!

"Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!..." Psalm 127:4-5 NLT

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

 

 

 

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Relentless Pursuit: God and Moana 

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Okay. So the polytheistic-riddled Moana isn’t exactly the film I’d pick to model the Christian faith. For that very reason, my wife was asked her thoughts on it by several mothers in her bible study that were wrestling over whether or not to show it to their kids. She was able to share with them the Christian movie reviewing resource that we consult from Focus on the Family whenever perusing new movies for the kiddos: www.pluggedin.com (letting my Dad flag fly a little here). Maoana gets the thumbs up from pluggedin for a couple of reasons. Firstly, since it is loosely based on Polynesian mythology, the historical element can spark a terrific conversation with your children about the importance of spreading the truth of the gospel to the unreached. Secondly, it does a good job of broadcasting the positive message that “striving to do what's good and right will result in a better world,”[1] And for a third (selfish) reason, it's action packed with adventure that makes it way more enjoyable for Dad than all the girly singing in Frozen. For those reasons, Moana can make for a fantastic, family-friendly, popcorn-filled movie night.

Now that I’ve watched it about fifty times with my toddlers, I can’t help but reflect on a song that resonates with my faith. Without giving too much away, this occurs towards the end of the movie where Moana is singing a song to Te Ka (fiery, volcanic monster thing) as it scrambles screaming towards her. Lyrics as follows:

I have crossed the horizon to find you

I know your name

They have stolen the heart from inside you

But this does not define you

This is not who you are

You know who you are

 

Let’s break this down with biblical references.

I have crossed the horizon to find you

Immediately this brings to mind the fact that God will go anywhere and everywhere to relentlessly pursue and rescue His lost sheep.

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him...” II Chronicles 16:9 NKJV

 

I know your name

Did you know that God has a unique name for each of his children? It blows my mind that the creator of the universe cares for us on such a deep, personal level.

“...To everyone who is victorious...I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:17 NLT

 

They have stolen the heart from inside you

Having sinned and fallen from the glory of God, love for the things of the world has stolen our heart away from our Creator.

“because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:21 NKJV

 

But this does not define you. This is not who you are. You know who you are.

In Christ, we are made new. No longer are we defined by our old, sinful past. Instead, we live each day covered by God’s grace. The Word and the Holy Spirit grant us this recognition in our lives.

“…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

 

Again, though the movie is grossly inaccurate theologically, it is a family friendly hit with a moment that served as an encouraging reminder that God loves me and that He would pursue me across the whole earth. Hope you enjoyed the read. Now excuse me as I go “Away, away!”*

 

- Nicolas C. Day

 

*This is a Moana joke. If you didn’t get this, then it’s time for you to watch the movie already.

[1] http://www.pluggedin.com/movie-reviews/moana-2016/

 

 

 

 

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Parental Quiz: Would Jesus Say That?

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My wife and I recently conducted a rather convicting parenting exercise. We collected a list of some of the phrases we say to our children and attempted to picture Jesus speaking those same words to us. We quickly realized that some of the words spewing out of our mouths would never be found on the lips of our Lord and Savior. Here's some of our highlights/lowlights (let me know if you can relate to any of these):“I don’t respond to whining.” (Often accompanied by “ask like a man” when talking to my son).

I can just see Him now, throwing His hand up in my face as I cry out in desperate need, “Stop whining, and speak like a man, Nick.” Yikes. While we are to “do everything without grumbling or arguing” (Philippians 2:14 NIV), God does invite us to lay our worries before Him. In fact, He wants you to bring your concerns to Him. “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7 NIV.

Note the distinction here between grumbling and anxiety. In 1 Corinthians 10:10, Paul refers to the grumbling of the Israelites in the desert using the Greek word “gogguzó” – meaning “murmur, grumble (generally of smoldering discontent).”[1] Contrast this with the Greek word “merimna” in 1 Peter 5:7 – meaning “care, worry, anxiety.”[2] Consider also the many lamenting Psalms that beseech God with their complaints in an appropriate manner of prayer.[3] For further reading on “complaining to God” check out this article: http://matthewsleonard.com/is-it-okay-to-complain-to-god/.

 

“You’re a big boy/girl, do it yourself.”

Imagine God saying, “Why do you need My help? You’re a big Christian now, do it yourself.” I think some people may have the false perception that God does take that stance due to the often misquoted “God helps those who help themselves.” Not only is that not in the bible, but also it is contradictory to what Scripture teaches. Jesus wants us to depend on Him – not do things by ourselves. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 NIV.

Just as my toddlers are in a constant state of need, so am I utterly dependent on my Father’s help. Whereas I consider my necessities more complex then needing a diaper change and/or finding a lost toy/sippy cup/pacifier in the middle of the night, my children probably share a similar sensation of being completely overwhelmed and helpless to address their problems. Thankfully, God promises to be there to help us through the hard times – even if it doesn’t look quite like what we expected. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” - Isaiah 41:10 NIV.

 

Daddy needs some space.”

This is a polite way of telling my kids to leave me the heck alone. This statement typically emerges when my three year old asks “why” for the millionth time that day – or when I am lying down on the ground in exhaustion with my three kids literally jumping up and down on my head. God, however, doesn’t need “space”. He doesn’t ask for a “Daddy break”. Instead, Jesus is constantly beckoning us towards a closer relationship with him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28 NIV.

 

Pretty sure if Jesus said some of the things I say to my children to me it would crush me into a tiny little heap on the ground. But that’s not usually the first thing that runs through your mind when you’re a sleep deprived parent with a three year old, a two year old, and a one year old clinging to your legs while screaming/whining/persistently asking random questions/all the above.

The fact is, parenting is hard. Really, really hard. Or as my wife would say, “parenting is the perfect opportunity to practice grace.” As hard as we try, we will certainly fail at times – and that’s where it is helpful to remember the following:

1. “Jesus paid the penalty for every moment when you fail as a parent.” (Parenting, Paul David Tripp)

2. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV)

Clearly I have some spiritual maturing to do in the realm of parenting. It gently convicts and humbles me to admit this – evidence of God nudging me with His (far better) act of parenting.

Ultimately, I know that no matter how many parenting books I read, I cannot be the father I am called to be without the purifying work of the Holy Spirit. That is just one of the countless reasons that I am thankful for being adopted by the perfect Father in heaven.

“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” - John 1:12 NLT

Pray for me.

 

-Nicolas C. Day

 

[1] http://biblehub.com/greek/1111.htm

[2] http://biblehub.com/greek/3308.htm

[3] http://www.crivoice.org/psalmtypes.html

 

 

 

 

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