Top Posts of 2012: Serving (#3) & Spanking (#2)

It has been another great year of blogging. I don't know how much you've gotten out of it, but I've learned a lot. As I've explained, writing helps me process and analyze my own thoughts, besides what I can help others with as well.

In case you have missed some of the top posts from 2012, I've going to give a couple of them here, and the very top one next week, besides the top posts on my Mission: Allendale blog. (I determined the top posts using a complicated formula involving number of page views, number of comments, phase of the moon when the post was published, and vowel-to-consonant ratio.)

The 3rd top post of 2012 was not even written be me. It was a story from a friend of mine who served in our church's preschool ministry. I just re-read the post, and it still gives me goosebumps. You'll want to read (or re-read) Called to Serve in Children's Ministry.

If you are a parent, you'll want to check out the 2nd top post of 2012. More on the controversial side, it was part of a handful of posts I wrote on disciplining children. Check out The Dangers of Spanking, and of Not Spanking.

Come back next week, to find out what was the top post of 2012.

**image courtesy of Ambroz via

Merry Christmas!

Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

I wish you and all yours a very Merry Christmas.

John 1:1-5 
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

My Favorite Entertainer

The person that makes me giggle more than anyone else in the world will be turning 6 years old on Sunday. Sender was born on "Christmas Adam" in 2006, although he was due on the 28th. Ever since, he has been full-speed and the life of the party.

Here he is trying to say sing the word "specific."

And for another of my favorite entertainers, here is the actual song that he's trying to sing, "Jeffery's Christmas Medley" by Julian Smith.

It's been a great year: you learned to tie your shoes and read. You've been to Florida (twice), Savannah (a handful of times), and Greenville lots of times, but you love being home in Allendale most of all.

Happy (early) birthday, Sender!

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Secret Vacation

Without a doubt, coaching football this past year was a great opportunity. But for at least three months, it was time-consuming. Practices, meetings, games, etc, took up a significant part of my week, meaning that I had dinner with my family maybe once or twice per week.

But at the end of the season, I knew that our family needed time together, to re-connect. And I also knew that I would be getting my coaching stipend as a lump sum at the end of the year. I decided that we would use part of the stipend for a family vacation, because sometimes you just need to Make the Vacation Happen.

And the trip was very affordable due to some deals and discounts we had:
  • The hotel was a 50% off bargain found on Groupon (and a $50 credit that we had)
  • For LEGOLAND, we had BOGO coupons from our free Lego magazine subscription
  • And from a credit card that I signed up for last year, we had $235 to go towards our Disney World tickets
Even more, this trip would be the vast bulk of their Christmas presents. Creating memorable experiences lasts longer than than any toys we could get them. 

The Big Secret

While Joanna and I planned the end-of-year vacation, we wanted to make it a surprise for the kids. We told each of our kids a part of this trip, and made them think that was the entire surprise, and that they had to keep the secret from their siblings. Honestly, I think this was completely for my enjoyment.

In late November, we had them reveal their secret:

The Arrival

On Sunday, December 9, we left home towards Orlando (making a stop to worship with friends at Community Bible Church - Savannah). As is customary for our family, our trip down I-95 includes a stop at the Florida Welcome Center for fresh juice and tourist brochures (everybody gets a map!).

To our kids' pleasure, we were given a room on the 7th floor, and to their double-pleasure we had a kids' suite room that included a bunk bed. They took turns sleeping on the top bunk, bottom bunk, and roll-away. And the Holiday Inn was the fanciest hotel they've ever stayed in. Nothing but the best,Clark.


We timed the vacation so that we would be in LEGOLAND on Elijah's 9th birthday (Monday). We were there from park opening (10 AM) to closing (5 PM), and had a great time. Elijah named it the best birthday he's ever had.

We loved the rides, the shows, and the incredible MiniLand creations. Here's Elijah and I on the Project X roller coaster:

Here's Sender (and Elijah) on the Driving School course:

And here are some other pictures of the fun:

In front of a GIANT Lego dinosaur

Star Wars in Mini Land

Mini Land was incredible!

Read for Driving School

Pirate Show in the bay

Ahoy, matey!

The White House (notice Santa and the Reindeer being arrested by Secret Service)

Magic Kingdom
Though not the main reason, one huge benefit of homeschooling is the flexibility we have with vacations. For example, the day we were at Disney World was projected to be one of the lowest crowd days of the year. Couple that with the threat of rain (though it rained only briefly late in the afternoon) meant that we had virtually no wait times on the rides.

I think our longest wait was about 8-10 minutes, and for most rides it was a matter of a couple of minutes. From 9 AM - 7 PM, we did 22 different attractions / rides, with most of them multiple times. Three rides on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, 2 times on Splash Mountain, twice on Space Mountain, etc.

Though it was our 13th anniversary, Joanna and I did not wear the anniversary buttons. However, we did let Sender get a birthday button. After all, both Hannah (5th at Magic Kingdom) and Elijah (9th at LEGOLAND) have had birthdays at parks, but we will never go to Disney on December 23.

Some photos of our fun:
Start to the day

First Ride = Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Before the big drop on Splash Mountain

No King Arthur in our family

Pool and Downtown Disney
After two full days at theme parks, we all slept past 8AM on Wednesday. After a good hotel brunch (kids eat free!), the three kids spent some time in the pool. What a nice December weekday morning!

Then, we headed to Downtown Disney. With tired legs, they were not too excited about walking around, especially without the anticipation of more rides. But they did enjoy the toy stores, especially when we told them that they could pick out a souvenir. They all got something from the Lego store.

So after all that, we came all this way for Lego? Well, at least their new toys kept them completely entertained on the trip home on Thursday.

We had such a great time together as a family.We ate, we rested, we smiled, we laughed. So thankful that we had this opportunity! And despite our great time, it is always nice to come back home.

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To Church or Not to Church: That's the Christmas Question

What will your church (and your family) do for worship services at Christmas? There are a variety of options:
  • When I was on our church's staff, we sometimes had zero services, especially if Christmas Day fell on the weekend (we may have had just Christmas Eve services). It was an opportunity for staff and volunteers to relax, visit family, and even visit other churches, without having to work.
  • Many abhor the idea of cancelling church on or near Christmas.
  • And many in contemporary churches wish their church would be more traditional on Christmas.
  • Some have Santa Claus visit Jesus in the manger scene. I'm kidding! (I hope.)

While one could make a valid theological case for either of these perspectives (expect, perhaps, Santa), it just strikes me how strongly Christians feel about their viewpoint. Most of us are far along one side of the spectrum of "Church or No-Church," or "Casual or Traditional."

What about you? What is your church doing this Christmas? Do you wish they'd do anything different?

**image courtesy of lioneltitu via

Our Anniversary

Thirteen years ago today, sporting a rented tuxedo, I stood in front of the sanctuary at Augusta Heights Baptist Church (Greenville, SC), and our pastor asked, "Who gives this woman to be this man's wife?"

Joanna's father answered, "I can no more give away my daughter than I can give away my own heart. . . ."

(I knew he was going to say this line, but forgot to tell the pastor. So, as you see later in the video, he understandably started to panic a little, thinking there was going to be a crisis at this wedding. Sorry, Matt!)

Her dad continued, "But I will do this, I will accept Joey in our family." (The pastor was now able to breathe again.)

You Already Know How Great My Wife Is

I could go on and on about how great the past 13 years have been. After all, I married my best friend.

But I've written about much of this already, such as in the past anniversary posts like in 2010 and 2011. And maybe you've read about 11 Reasons I Asked My Wife to Marry Me.

Or perhaps you read my Mission: Allendale blog, and have heard about My Excellent Wife and My (Much) Better Half.

There is no doubt that I am a better man, and our adventure is stronger, because of who my wife is at the core, and what she does. To paraphrase Deniece Williams (come on 80's kids!), Let's Hear It for the Girl.

Helpful Resources

Do you want some resources that will help you grown in your marriage? (Of course the answer is "Yes.") Here are some that I've found inspiring, challenging, and helpful:

Jesus Makes Men New (The Resurgence). "Men, you will not pursue your wife well until you know the God who pursues you."

Nine Ways the Gospel Transforms Marriage (Desiring God). I know I can never be good enough. I need God to change me from the inside out.

How Should the Great Commission Affect Marriage? (Verge Network). You won't regret watching this 3-minute video by Paul Tripp. Note: This video is part of the same series that I referenced in Missional Kids.

20 Easy Romantic Ideas (All Pro Dad). Disclaimer: I've done no more than a handful of these. But maybe you will.

30 Ways to Bless Your Marriage (Family Matters). Fifteen for husbands, fifteen for wives.

The Problem with Commitment (Desiring God). A video from the same person as Jesus Makes Men New. A longer-video, so I saved it for last. A key idea for me is that a wedding doesn't mean "Mission Accomplished," but it means "The Mission Begins." Just as Jesus doesn't leave His relationship with the church in maintenance mode, and neither should I. But also, Justin Buzzard reminds us that the worst thing a husband (or wife) can do is say, "I'm going to try harder as a spouse." It's not about my  performance, but that I need to allow Jesus to enter in my lives and continually make me new.

Note: We spend our 13th anniversary on a Secret Vacation

Related Link:

Middle Child at the Front

Flipping out for his birthday

My son Elijah turns 9 on Monday.

He's our middle child. Before I had kids, I didn't give much credence to birth order (much less birth due date) theory. But we see how true it is.

Elijah tends to get squeezed out, or at least he often feels that way. He is talented, but often feels a need to boast about it, maybe as a way to make himself noticed. In other words, he is a lot like his father.

He often uses words carelessly. Since he was born, I've prayed for him through his name ("My God is YHWH), that he will proclaim the truth that God is the LORD.

But, as I've told my son, when careless words are mixed with important truths, people will learn to ignore his important words. I know God wants to use him. I don't want him to diminish his credibility and weaken his platform for Christ.

In summer, we saw him grow in a great opportunity. For almost an entire week, he stayed with grandparents, and got to be the oldest Espinosa kid (out of 5 boys). It was good for him to be in position of leadership, out front. And he thrived.

That week, he was a leader for his younger cousins, and he used that time to serve others. For example, in the sleepovers they had, he let others choose where to sleep, instead of being "the boss." He took care of his cousins, and played what they wanted.

As we've prayed for him to proclaim the truth about God, perhaps only part of that is about what Elijah will tell others. Maybe a big part of that will also be what kind of life he lives leading and serving others.

And while he is in the middle chronologically, he's just as loved and special as our other kids, and at least for one day, he gets to be the center of attention.

I love you, son. Happy (early) birthday!

Related Links:

Favorite Tweets from November

 Our football season came to an abrupt halt in early November. But the month got better with much-needed time with family and friends.

You can stay posted on all my great updates (and re-Tweets), by following me on Twitter (@espinosajoey).

Great Thoughts From Others

@tmproject"Single moms and fatherless youth are all around us. They are America's most reachable unreached people group." -

@FoundationMin"Jesus didn't come just to save us from problems we have, but from the problem we are". ~ Myron Augsberger  

@Mario_A_RussoBlack Friday: The day where people trample others to buy stuff on sale exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.

@ChrchCurmudgeonQ - Know why God doesn't want Baptists to dance? A - Ever watched a Baptist dance?

@AHud806Let my life be the proof of Your love.

@LeeBozette"There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things." ~DL Moody 

@DANweidenbenner:  "What we give the poor, we lend to the Lord" -Sojourner Truth

From Me

Where God says to go, I must go. (see Jonah 1:1-3)

Like my new hoodie? Go Tigers! @ Allendale, SC

"A lot of Christians are in a different political party than you & are excited about the election." / by

"The world needs Christians who don't tolerate the complacency of their own lives." Francis Chan (Crazy Love) 

Doctor to Sender: "Let's see what's up your nose." Sender: "A booger." Doctor: "Yep. You're right." 

A house divided. Which is your favorite?
Three missionary families that you could support with a donation: us, ,

End-of-Year Charitable Giving

What does your family do to emphasize giving and charity? For many families, this topic is especially common during the holiday season that we're in.

Money should be a regular discussion for a Christ-centered family. After all, money was Jesus #2 topic (after judgment / hell) that we have recorded in the Gospels, as it relates to one's trust in God (or lack of it). Therefore, it stands to reason that money is also an important topic as we disciple our children.

Commonly-Used Charities

Operation Christmas Child (i.e., Christmas shoeboxes) is a popular charitable program used by many families and churches this time of the year. We have done this in the past, and I'm sure many of you have, too.

What about an "Adopt-A-Child" program, where individuals or families can help provide Christmas presents for an underprivileged family? We have sponsored children through such initiatives. However, we must be careful that we don't foster paternalism by extending the period of "emergency relief" (lessons I'm learning about in When Helping Hurts).

This year (as we have done a few times in the past), we made a donation to a program that provides sustainable help to for a family in an emerging country. As opposed to the one-time help provided through Operation Christmas Child and Adopt-A-Child, these gifts can be part of "a gift that keeps on giving."

Through World Vision, our family chose gifts that would help families in developing countries. A variety of sustainable (livestock, seeds, fruit trees, etc) and one-time (clothes, medicines, mosquito nets, etc) gifts can be selected from.

Each of our kids picked items, and when we tallied up our list, it was a little more than what we had budgeted. But our children immediately and gladly suggested that they could chip in more from their own piggy banks. My heart could not have been more pleased.

A Change for Us

We did make one big change this year -- we stopped our monthly support through Compassion International. I began supporting a child through this organization almost 14 years ago, when I was a graduate student at Furman. Since I began, I think we supported 4 different children over that time.

Continuing this support, including the regular correspondence with our "Compassion child," has been a great model for our children of how we can use our resources to love others that we have never met and probably never will.

The child we've been supporting for the past few years recently left the program. We thought this might be a good time to take a break, and to evaluate how we want to use our resources going forward. (We will not reduce our monthly giving, but simply reallocate. As I explained in My Radical To-Do List, I felt that God was directing us to give at least 10% of our income, even though most of our income is itself from donations.)

Other Options

If you are looking for other ways to make a year-end contribution, I'd like to suggest three of my favorite missionaries that could use your support:
  1. Us, The Espinosa Family. I thought of putting myself last on this list, but knew that would be due to false humility.
  2. The Osborn Family. We feel so strongly about their mission that we support them monthly.
  3. The Doster Family.  Another family we know that is soon to enter the mission field.
"Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full--pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back."  Luke 6:38

What will your family do this year for end-of-the-year giving?

Whatever you choose, be sure to use the decision as an intentional discipleship opportunity with your children.

Related Links:
  **image courtesy of CarbonNYC via flickr

Let the Boy Strut

Through their home school group, my kids have been learning archery. Last year, it was just Hannah and Elijah, but this year Sender (in Kindergarten) has also been able to participate.

The students learn safety and proper handling techniques, and how to score points. And my kids love to report their scores to me, especially when they do well.

Back in September, in one of his first week's archerying shooting the arrows, Sender got 9 points (with 5 arrows). In round 2, he scored 11 points.

Joanna, watching him with the other moms, noticed that Sender walked around with a little bit of a strut. He didn't say much (not even bragging to me about his score when I arrived home). But his chest was puffed up, and he walked with confidence.

Was this OK? Should he find satisfaction in his archery skills? Or should he be more nonchalant?

For boys, especially, having a skill is important. Boys (and men) are created with an innate desire to work and overcome and succeed. These are ways for a man to reflect the image of God.

While a man's ultimate satisfaction must come in Jesus Christ and the gospel, that satisfaction is manifested by the journey of manhood. And manhood means rejecting passivity, accepting responsibility, leading courageously, and expecting God's reward.

Let your sons strut a little, not to take away God's glory, but to reflect Him. Encourage your sons in their strengths, not for their own benefit, so that they can bless and serve others in them.

Related Links:

**image courtesy of LarryLens via sxc.h

Give Thanks

I'm sure you have a lot better things to do besides reading anything I have to write. But, just in case, I wish you and all yours a very happy Thanksgiving.

But you may need something to read to help you sleep off your dinner. (PS -- The whole science behind the amino acid tryptophan making you sleepy? Not true. You are sleepy because you have stuffed yourself full, and have dealt with untold family emotional dramas.)

In case you need a little light reading, check out this story from our family's memories, "Are They Pilgrims?"

I'm thankful for many things -- salvation through Jesus, family, health, and for the adventure that we get to be one. And I'm thankful for a faithful and encouraging blog community like you.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 107:1

**image courtesy of as012a2569 via

EOL: The Splint and Spiritual Disciplines

An Everyday Object Lesson (EOL) is a tool that uses ordinary things in life to explain spiritual concepts. They are often useful to explain truths to children. However, one must also be clear that analogies are never perfect explanations. I will do a series of posts using EOL’s that I’ve used with my children, and I hope you can modify these to fit your context, and use them to disciple your own children. 

As best I can remember, I have broken five bones in my life – three in fingers (thumb, ring, pinky), one in my right hand, and one in my right wrist. All of them have been football related, although of them happened when I was a coach. Yes, I’m such a klutz that I get hurt coaching football.

The Object: A Splint or Cast

The worst part of my fractures was not the pain, but the inconveniences that result. Twice I had to get casts that eliminated me from competition for a few weeks. Twice I was able to continue playing (and I toughed it out and still was able to coach with my broken finger).

The casts and splints that I’ve gotten have made other tasks difficult – like showering and taking notes (especially when I broke a bone in my right hand, during the semester that I took Biochemistry and Genetics). And for my most recent injury, the splint made it very difficult to type blog posts.

But the splints and casts serve a purpose. Don’t think so? Then ask my left pinky, which never got fixed correctly and now won’t ever straighten out, outside of surgery. (“No, thanks,” says Mr. Crooked Pinky.)

But here’s the point about splints: they do not heal the injury. Nothing about a splint or cast causes your bone to repair itself. God has designed the body to be able to heal from a bone fracture, with white blood cells and osteoclasts and osteoblasts and all sorts of other things that I wouldn’t have known except that I taught high school biology for one semester.

But the splint does not initiate the healing. All it does is provide a stable framework to hold the bone in the correct place, to allow the healing to take place.

The Lesson: Spiritual Disciplines

Many Christians make the mistake of thinking that church, Bible study, prayer, etc, will make their life better. The more good and “godly” things they have, the better they will be and the closer they’ll be to God. But it’s not true.

Spiritual disciplines (like prayer, service, Bible study, etc) do not bring healing to a broken soul any more than a splint brings healing to a broken bone. All that spiritual disciplines do is provide a structure or framework for the healing to take place.

What, then, brings about our spiritual healing? Faith in the Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit are what restore my soul to a right relationship with God.

Spiritual disciplines are good, but we must never think that they are the ultimate goal, or even that they can accomplish the goal by themselves. We need to trust in the work of Jesus and the power of the Spirit, while understanding that the disciplines are God’s instruments of grace to help His work take place in our souls.

Just as the broken bone finds healing difficult without a splint or cast, the broken soul finds it difficult to be made right without spiritual disciplines.

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The Cost of Kids

Years ago, an old college buddy called me. At the time, we had two children, and he and his wife had been married for a couple of years. They were thinking about having children.

Now, this guy was the ultimate financial planner/worrier. Even in college, he was thinking about life 40 years out and looking for ways to make more money. He sold knives, was in a multi-level marketing program, waited tables, traded stocks – all while a full-time college student.

His wife really wanted kids, and he said he did, too. But he also did the research and calculated the cost of having a child. He said something to the effect of, “A child costs one-half of a million dollars, from birth through college. That’s a lot of money, and we don’t make that much. How can we rationalize having a child?”

My first response was to remind him that God provides. I went through some scriptures (similar to what Clint Archer wrote in How Much Does a Kid Cost?). I shared how God had provided for us, and that we were never in want, despite the becoming a one-income family and adding two kids. I shared the times when we received unexpected money in the mail, from family members, tax rebates, and dividends for stocks that I didn’t even know we owned.

He knew these truths, that our God is sovereign. He knew these verses, but he still was struggling. He needed something more practical.

So, I responded to his continued doubts. I told him, “Hey, I tell you what. Don’t have a kid. Don’t have any kids, and find me in 18 years. I want to see the million dollars, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, in your bank account. Guess what? It won’t be there. Because just like God always finds a way to provide for our family when we need it, we always find a way to expand our lifestyle into our income.”


He calmly said, “That’s a good point.” And that was pretty much the end of their conversation.

Fast forward to 2012.

This couple now has three beautiful children, and one more on the way.

Related Links:

**image courtesy of svilen001 via

I Don't Know Much, . . .

If you wanted me to finish the title of this post with “But I Know I Love You,” you either:
  • Are a big Aaron Neville and Linda Rondstadt fan (there must be dozens of you still out there)
  • Know me very well.

But singing a 80’s love ballad is not my main goal here today. Sigh . . . .

Two Years Running

I have had had this blog for over two years now. In that time, over 63000 page views have been recorded; more than 10,000 of those page views have been for more than 3 minutes each (a good indicator of reader engagement). 

This blog has more than 100 regular followers (primarily Email and RSS subscriptions), plus it receives more hits through Facebook, Twitter, and Google searches. Thanks to everyone who has been a part of this community, including those who have left one (or more) of the 700+ comments.

The Journey

I started this blog as a way to assist parents, church staff, and volunteers, but also as a way to express my thoughts, and to allow others to do the same. I believe this blog has been helpful to others (at least I hope so), but it has also provided an outlet for me.

Never claiming to have all the answers, I called this blog “A Different Way,” because I felt it could give different perspectives on parenting, compared to what is seen in the culture and even what is heard from other Christian leaders.

Along that lines, I have tried to explain the dangers of “Biblical” parenting and how some churches fall short.

I’ve answered common parenting questions, such as:

I’ve enjoyed interviewing other parents we know, especially those who think and do things differently than we do. We asked some friends why they are a Santa Family. We asked three other couples why they have chosen Public School, Private School, or Homeschool educations for their children.

I’ve ventured into more philosophical questions. On one fateful day, I posted a link to my blog post How Do We Know that God Is Real? on a particular website. I never expected the 2000 hits I would get, nor the viscous comments, nor even the defense from an unknown atheist.

And I’ve shared stories, photos, and videos from our family. Maybe these have brought a smile to your day, or given you an idea. Or, it’s just been a way to collect and catalogue memories for our own family.

The Changes

Since I started this blog, so much has changed for us. My kids are older (including having a middle schooler!). We moved from Greenville to Allendale. On this blog, I had a tag for Fairfax Fridays, where I shared my experiences in Allendale (at the time, I was living and working in Fairfax – the 2nd largest town in this county).

Fairfax Fridays grew into a separate blog, Mission: Allendale (which itself has over 16000 page views in just over a year). More and more of my writings have been on that new blog. Due to time constraints, I now limit my writings on this blog to two days per week.

What I’ve Learned

In my journey on this blog, and in my parenting, I’ve learned that I really don’t know much. For everything I begin I learn, another 10 questions / worries / doubts arise in my head.

To be honest, I really thought I’d be a much better parent than I am. I would have thought that I'd have been a lot further along in 11 years of parenting, and several years of blogging. I don’t know much – about parenting, blogging, or ministry. But I think that realization is good. It makes me depend on God all the more. I fail often, and I realize that I am weaker and more in need of grace.

In my parenting, marriage, ministry and everything in my life. I need Jesus. And I must remember that I am not marked by my successes or failures. My identity is in Jesus, and what He has done for me.

In the words of Jared Wilson in A Gospeled Man:
“I have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and now by God’s grace I am empowered to love well and serve well and husband well and daddy well and pastor well.”

I’ll close with a few stanzas from “Jesus Paid It All” --

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim;
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down,
All down at Jesus’ feet.


And thanks again for being a part of the journey.

How Do You Get Your Kids to Stay in Your Bed?

Do your children wake you up in the middle of the night? Do you want them to stop?

Last month one parenting magazine advised parents in training children to sleep. Apparently, when a child wakes you up in the middle of the night, you are supposed to calmly tell them, “Thank you for waking me up. Now, let’s get you back to bed.”

Another source says that the child should have options that he or she can decide between in the middle of the night.

Ahem. That's not exactly how it goes in our home
It’s a matter of principle and character. After all, saying I’m thankful that you are waking me up would be a lie. (Isn’t being kind and loving a character issue, too? Yeah, but let’s not go there.) And I don't know how many 4-year-olds can rationalize to make good choices at 3 AM.

Rude Awakenings

Our 5-year-old son Sender has been on a recent streak of waking us up. And by “us” I mostly mean Joanna, since she is closer to the door.

Wanting to protect my wife, Sender and I had this conversation one morning a few weeks ago:
Me:  “How about you stop waking Mommy up?”
Sender:  “Can I wake you up?”
Me:  “Well, on second thought, . . .”
Later, we continued our conversation:
Me:  “Why are  you waking Mommy up?”
Sender:  “I need to ask her a question.”
Me:  “What question could be so important?”
Sender:  “My nose is stuffy.”
Me:  “That’s not a question!”

Losing It

If you think I’m being insensitive to him, you should know I could be (and have been) much worse.
Elijah, Sender, and B (December 2006)

For the first 5 years or so of his life, he was very attached to a particular “blanket bear,” which we all called his “B.” He always had to sleep with it, and even wanted to carry it around during the day.

Of course, he’s lucky he was the third child. Being as Baby Wise as we were, we never let our oldest child develop a sleep crutch. But with Sender, all those rules went out the window. We just needed him to get to sleep.

But when he was about two-and-a half years old, he misplaced his “B” – we later discovered that he put it in a big toy chest, mixed up with lots of dress up clothes. At bedtime we assured him that he could sleep without his treasured “B,” and he did go to sleep in his crib without too much trouble. He did not cry.

At least, not until 1 AM.

I heard the banshee-like wails. As I stumbled down the hall to his room, I heard what the fuss was about.

“I want my ‘B’!!! I need ‘B.’ I . . . want . . . my . . . ‘B’!!”

I threw open his door, to see him standing up in his crib, holding on to the rails, as if that gave him the leverage he needed to scream his point across his room, down the hall, to my pillow, and through my eardrums.

What did I do? Well, of course, I thanked him for waking me up. I was gentle and considerate. I gave him some options.

Really? No way, Jose.

Actually I cut off his screams sternly, 
"Sender, YOU lost your ‘B.’ We told you he needs to stay in your crib, but you wouldn’t listen. It’s your fault he’s missing. Now, you CANNOT keep every awake because of your mistake. That is rude and selfish. So you need to lay down, be quiet, and go to sleep!”
I would have loved to know what he thought of me in that moment. Who is this monster? All I asked was for a little stuffed animal, and this crazy man walks in. Why didn’t Mommy come? She would at least have given me a hug.

He slunk to the back corner of his crib, getting as far from me as possible. Eying me with suspicion and fear, he slid down, back against the rails. Then, he curled up and lay down. He never made another sound all night.

Let’s not think of the deep psychological scars he has from that fateful night.

A Warning

Like Sender, Hannah also had a season in her preschool years where she insisted on getting up, both at nap time and in the middle of the night.

Sometimes she would come to the side of my bed and stand there. I had no idea how long she remained there, or if she tried to wake me up. All I know is that my eyes would open, and there she was, staring at me. I often wondered if we had one of the Children of the Corn.

Back then, before I was worn out from having three kids, I actually was a lot more sensitive. I would just carry her back to her bed, tuck her in, and give her a kiss.

Despite the numerous instructions, consequences, and pleadings, she continued to walk right out her door to come see us. Not knowing what else to do, I had an idea. I made a STOP sign out of construction paper and taped it next to her doorknob. I figured that as she reached for the door, she would see the sign, and remember to STOP and go back to bed.

And, surprisingly, it worked. Most of the time.


So, if your child is waking you up in the night, here are my suggestions:
  1. Finagle it so your spouse has to deal with it.
  2. Scream at your kids to instill fear in them.
  3. Make a simple art project.
Note:  Elijah was our good sleeper. You would tuck him in his bed, and he'd stay there. He would stay flat on his back, even if you checked on him hours later. We said it was like putting him in a coffin each night.

What about you? Do you have kids that like (or liked) to wake you up? What did you do?

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Election Day 2012

On this election day, I'm not going to give a defense of any political position. I rarely do that (and much prefer to point out each side's problems). Instead, I want to remind you that our ultimate hope can never be in which political group is in power, or what laws are enacted. Our hope can only be in the truth that Jesus Christ is working in and through all things to redeem this world.

Here are some links to articles that can help us remember this:

Christian America?.  An article that I wrote earlier this year that challenges the idea that the USA has even been a "Christian" nation, or that we should ever hope that it needs to be.

Dual Citizens: Getting Oriented During Election Season.  Justin Taylor warns us that some of us care too much about politics, and some too little. We do need to care, but for the right reasons -- for God's glory and to love others.

Politics and the Kingdom of God.  "Neither an overly pessimistic nor an overly optimistic view of politics serves Christians well. Those who act as though politics are the primary way God has determined to bring about the kingdom of God will inevitably downplay the significance of the church as God’s agent through which the Spirit works in the world. On the other hand, those who avoid all political or cultural involvement as inherently evil will miss or downplay the social and cultural ramifications of the gospel of Jesus."

Against a "Christian Government."  On one of my favorite, newly-found blogs (the Cripplegate), Jesse Johnson makes a solid case that a government with religious pluralism actually helps to spread the gospel.

Why I Voted.  Mike Glenn reminds us that Christians are commanded to be blessings to others, even the government. And that's irregardless of who is in charge.

Now, all that being said, I do have one particular candidate that I love and support in Allendale. Lottie Lewis has been working to Make Hope a Reality.

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**image courtesy of woodsy via