Sender the Entertainer

Hot Tub + Bubbles = Fun at a Friend's House
Having written about how Hannah and Elijah have grown by our family living in Allendale, I figured I should also write about Sender. After all, I don't want him to be the forgotten third child.

He's always been the most out-going, playful, and energetic of our kids. So, being here has not led to so much of a personality change as it's magnified who he is. In a culture that puts a high value on relationships and entertainment, Sender has fit in just fine.

At the Boys & Girls Club, he's acted as the unofficial mascot, even getting a dedicated portion of the Talent Show just for him. He's tagged along with me when I've stopped by the high school, and he quickly befriends some of the male student-athletes while we're in the gym. He has taken naps with his Zoo Buddy.

He's cute, funny, and (often) giving. He connects with older boys and he schmoozes older girls and ladies (how does he get teenage girls to bring him food and clean up his plate?).

If we lived in Allendale for 10 more years, Sender would be just fine.

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Elijah Is Thriving

He still does like solo, intellectual activities
I wrote earlier about how we've seen Hannah be a nurturer (and then Sender as an entertainer), especially as we've moved to Allendale. And being here, we have seen Elijah (our middle child, and older of our two boys) thrive as well.

Elijah has come a long way since his Rough Start. His personality (along with with his passivity) led him to usually be not-so-enthusiastic about playing sports or with groups of boys. Plus, there were very few boys his own age near our own home in Greenville. It was hard to blame him for just wanting to sit inside the house all day.

But since he started going to the Boys & Girls Club virtually every day in 2011 (starting in April), he has thrived, almost becoming a different person. He got the chance to play with other boys every day, from board games to 4-square to soccer. The physical activity has been great for him.

He has a best friend that started coming to the Club over the summer. Elijah desired to be in the Talent Show every week. No more brainiac introvert! (Well, at least he has moments of not being a brainiac introvert.)

It's fun for me as Dad to have watched his personality change and expand, in a good way. Every man needs community, and every boy needs to start developing that.

Praise God for giving us this opportunity for our family!

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Links to Gender Issues

Following up with the previous posts Nature vs Nurture: Women & STEM and Science and Family, here are a selection of additional articles about issues regarding gender and femininity:
  • Complementari-what? (The Resurgence). What complemenatariasm isn't (chauvinism and egalitarianism), and what it is.
  • How 'Modest Is Hottest' Is Hurting Christian Women (Christianity Today, her.meneutics). A response to a new mantra among many Christian women. "Perhaps the phrase’s originator hoped to provide a more positive spin on modesty. I sympathize with that. However, “modest is hottest” also perpetuates (and complicates) this objectification of women by equating purity with sexual desire."
  • Girls and Math: Busting the Stereotype (Mind/Shift). More thoughts on the ever-constant debate in education about whether intelligence is a fixed gift or a semi-limited capacity or an open potential.

Hannah the Nurturer

We've recognized in Hannah for a while that she is really great with nurturing younger kids. Whether helping with younger kids in our church, or engaging toddlers in our home when friends come over, or taking care of Sender, she labors to make toddlers and preschoolers feel comfortable. She is very gentle and patient, for hours on end.

But this personality trait is not manifested likewise with kids her own age. She does make friends, but she tends to be more cautious. Part of this may be because she's not always quite sure how she fits in, and that she is examining and evaluating how she might do so. It’s challenging to reach out to others when you feel like an outsider.

I've been concerned for this as we've settled in Allendale. Through conversations with her, I didn't see her dramatically strive to connect with kids her own age, especially at the Boys & Girls Club. She was comfortable for sure, but not seemingly on a mission to engage her friends. Was it because she has felt like too much of an outsider to be hospitable?

But even as an “outsider” one can still be hospitable. Biblically, the idea of hospitality (xenophilia) means "loving strangers." In an isolating place like Allendale, SC, you do have to work hard to reach out. For some here, it’s about earning trust, because they have been taken advantage  of by outsiders. And for others, it’s just about being used to doing things themselves, or relying solely on close family.

But the more I observed her, I think it's fine that she doesn't feel the need to dramatically strive to connect. Why? Because to her, being in Allendale and making friends here is really no big deal. The kids look different, and they come from different backgrounds, but so what? Hannah, being a nurturer, just wants to be a kid who hangs out with other kids.

I like that. I like that she sees herself as fitting in with all these new friends in Allendale.

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It was one of those things that, when my kids were little, I never saw myself letting happen. I let my kids ride on a 4-wheeler (all-terrain vehicle) a few weeks ago.

It's not that I was against them. I'm not that panicky helicopter parent, that doesn't want my kids to climb trees and walls. I mean, I know they can be dangerous, but that wasn't my main reason. I was just never into motorcycles and ATV's, and I sure wasn't going to buy one. So I never thought about when they'd have the opportunity to ride one, and if they would want to.

But I'm glad that they had the chance to do so, when we visited with some friends over Christmas break. One of their sons took our kids for slow rides -- Hannah and Elijah through the woods, and Sender around the yard.

Here's a picture of Elijah getting geared up:

And here's Hannah after her ride:

And here's Sender:

Thankful for our friend who was careful with my kids! Nothing too dramatic, but good for the first time. Certainly not as crazy as their Golf Cart Driving.

Summary: Education Options for Your Child

image courtesy of cienpies via
In case you haven't kept up with the update on my new jobs in Allendale, I am currently investing in three different educational systems:
  • We homeschool our own children.
  • I teach two classes at a private school (albeit a non-religious school).
  • I work for the public school system as a tutor and a coach.
As you can see, I think there is value in different types of education.

Last year, we had a series about different options for educating our children. For those readers who are in the midst of evaluating their options, I hope this series can help.

Remember, there are two main issues to consider. The first is the basic need to educate the child, not just filling him with facts, but to give him the desire and tools to think and learn.

The second issue is that regardless of which option is chosen, we need to redeem education, to focus on how God can be glorified in our lives and the lives of our children.

Any choice we make can be made with fear or with faith. The method is not nearly as important as the motive.

Here are links to last year's posts:
  1. Introduction
  2. Quick Comparison
  3. Home School -- Part 1 and Part 2
  4. Private School -- Part 1 and Part 2
  5. Public School -- Part 1 and Part 2
  6. Response to "A Case for Homeschooling"

Let me know if you have any other comments or questions about these.

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A Dream for My Kids

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”  
A couple of Sundays ago, I took my kids to a newly renovated park in Allendale. There were already some children and parents there, including some that we know, on this warm and sunny day. The kids enjoyed playing around and making up games with old and new friends, before we headed back home.
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
As we were leading up to this day -- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day -- I used our dinner time conversation as an intentional teaching moment. I explained how great it was that they could enjoy playing with other kids who look so different and come from a different background. Praise God that my kids think this is nothing special, but I reminded them that opportunity wasn't always the norm.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. 
I'm thankful for the leadership and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And I'm thankful that God has given my children the chance to experience the fruits of his work, firsthand.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I'm thankful for his dream, and my reality.
I have a dream today.

image courtesy of chelle2008 via

God Still Speaks

Leading up to Christmas, as I was reading the accounts of Jesus's birth (especially from chapters 1 and 2 from the Gospel of Matthew), I was struck by God speaking to people through visions and dreams. Does it still happen today? I think so.

What are some ways that God still speaks to us?
  • The Bible (His written word)
  • Through community and others around us (especially those that follow Him)
  • Visions and dreams (maybe a little controversial of an idea nowadays, but can we rule it out completely?)
  • Directly to our hearts and minds
I wrote about this last point about 18 months ago, on Grace Church's Children's Ministry blog. I told the story of how I thought God spoke to Hannah. I figured it was worth re-posting in full here, with some edits.

God Speaks to Hannah
The other week, our daughter Hannah determined that she wanted to clean out a bunch of stuff from her room, to give to Goodwill. Part of it was just for the sake of clearing out clutter, but she also wanted to give to others in order to be a blessing. (Though clearing out the clutter is a blessing in itself to her Mom and I.)

For example, I asked her if she wanted to give her Barbie set to a younger girl that she knows, and she asked "Does Goodwill help people? Like when you buy things there, what do they do with the money?" I said that I think they provide job training, so that people can have jobs and provide for their families. She said that she'd rather the toys be sold so the money could help people.

By Tuesday evening, she had collected a laundry basket FULL of clothes, toys, and stuffed animals, and was planning to gather more on Wednesday morning. Before breakfast on Wednesday, she and I were reading our Bibles (when our schedules allowed, she would join me at the table for her own devotional time). Her verses for the day were 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, which encourage us to give freely and generously, in order to bless others. As soon as she read her verses for the day, she said, "Hey! This is exactly what I've been doing!" 

Hannah thought it was a neat coincidence that what she had already been doing (collecting things to give away) was what she read about.  I told her that I thought what happened was a huge deal.

How? I explained that I think that it was the Holy Spirit who had spoken directly to her heart days earlier, and that this reading confirmed that it really was something that God wanted her to do.

Sometimes when we have thoughts in our head, we may not always know if they are from us or from God.  For the majority of us, most of the clear direction we receive from God is from Scripture and from a community of believers, not from Him speaking directly to us. I rejoiced with Hannah and encouraged her that God spoke to her heart, and that she obeyed, and then God confirmed His words to her.

I have shared with my children the few times in my life that I heard directly from God, when He wanted to give me specific direction.  These include:

  • During the closing days of my athletic career at Furman, in a difficult losing season, I asked God, "Why should I continue working hard?  I basically all finished here." Immediately, I heard a voice in my head saying, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" (from Colossians 3:23).  I later discovered how God used my time on the team to be a testimony for Him to others. (I wrote about this event on my other blog.)
  • More than 10 years ago, I was serving in a ministry that required hours of work every single weekend (Saturday night and Sunday afternoon), and could often get very monotonous. I asked one evening as I was cleaning up, "God, how much longer will I be doing this?" I heard Him say, "Just pour yourself out. This won't go on forever." Within a year, that ministry opportunity was completed.
  • Two years into my marriage, I felt like God was wanting something more from me, to be able to pour myself out for a short period of time. The immediate thought was "mission trip," which I had always been set against me doing. But I took steps of faith and God kept opening doors. In March 2003, I went on my first overseas mission trip to Nicaragua, an experience that such a blessing for me.

Don't discount the truth that God still speaks to us. In fact, if you are in a relationship with Him, it should be a regular occurrence. As in this the video in this post, God should be telling us things (as encouragements, commands, corrections, etc).

image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev via

Total Hannah Makeover

We were in Greenville for a week last month, which included a handful of doctor and dentist appointments including Sender falsely accusing me of abuse. (And, FYI, all those fillings you get when you're a kid apparently have a shelf life of about 25 years, so I've been having to get them replaced over the last few years.)

Hannah was eagerly anticipating getting her braces off. She's had them for almost 2 years now, and has done a great job taking care of them in that time. We love our orthodontist!

After that appointment, Joanna took her for a haircut. Besides a room cluttered with "decorations" -- like around Christmas and Hanukkah -- one of Hannah's biggest recurring issues is her hair being full of knots. A trim would do her good, we figured.

But when they arrived, the hair stylist asked if Hannah if she wanted to get enough cut off to donate. It was shorter than we originally anticipated, but it looks so cute! And for a great cause (it's the 2nd time she's donated for Locks of Love).

And no more knots (at least for a while)!

Lazy Parenting

It was a number of years ago, when we had only Hannah and Elijah, when God smacked me in the face with the realization of yet another way I was falling short in my parenting. Hannah must have been 4 years old -- and Elijah 2 -- but I was doing something that showed how lazy I was.

I was parenting them "in the middle."

Instead of considering their individual needs, I was parenting both of them as 3 year olds. In lieu of focusing on Elijah's masculinity and Hannah's femininity, I was blending it together. As opposed to training them according to their unique bent (as many theologians interpret Proverbs 22:6).

I was thankful that God woke me up from this slumber. Though I do still slip back into this laziness (especially now with 3 kids), at least now I can more easily recognize my tendency to do this.

Of course, I'm lazy in a number of other ways in my parenting as well. Working on it.

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image courtesy of mommyof9 via

Family Goals for 2012

Do you or your family do resolutions each year? I like to call them "goals" more than resolutions, and setting them has been helpful for me in leading my family.

Our family had some goals for 2011. Let's see how we did:
  1. Get a new job (even Sender wanted this for me last year), since I did not have one as of the start of last year. God provided one by the middle of the January.
  2. Get to Allendale by April. Check. It was a long 13 weeks of weekly commuting.
  3. Sell or rent house by June. Again, God provided some great friends to rent our house.
  4. Climb a mountain (Hannah's idea, ever since We Took a Hike). We didn't do this, but the kids did go to the beach three times.
  5. Have a 9-day vacation. I realized this a few years ago that I need at least 8 days to be able to unwind. We sort of had this, as we had time at the end of the year to get out of town and relax and have minimal responsibilities. We were in Allendale for 36 hours in the last 15 days of December, with trips to Greenville, south Florida, and Savannah.

Here are some family goals that we have in 2012:
  1. Start giving the kids an allowance. I mentioned this earlier this week, as I gathered feedback from readers and other friends.
  2. Do more Bible memory with the kids. They do some of this with their schooling, but I need to be more involved, and do it for my own sake as well.
  3. A 2-night get-away with Joanna. We've done this every year of our marriage, and need to keep it going. It's a great time to dream, discuss, and plan.
  4. Another 9-day family vacation. Now that I'm aligned with the school calendar with my jobs, this gets trickier. But we need to try to do this. (Hannah still has "climbing a mountain" and "Disney" on her list, but we'll see.)
  5. Visiting some family that we haven't seen in a while, in-state and out-of-state.
  6. Figure out our family's ministry in Allendale. This was the Best Part of My Job in 2011, and we'll miss it. We're looking at doing camps during spring break and summer.
  7. Go somewhere. Honestly, I'm not sure exactly what this means. It's more of a feeling than a goal. But whether it's me going on a mission trip, or taking the family to a new place, I think some sort of adventure is needed. (If you know how much of a homebody I've always been, you'll know that this is pretty odd.)

One advice that a friend gave me recently: for this adventure that we are on in Allendale, be sure to make it fun for our family. Yes, there is work and sacrifice, but I want my kids to remember this as one of the best times of their lives.

What about you? Do you have personal or family goals for 2012?

Edit:  Here are our Family Goals for 2013.

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image courtesy of jcantroot via flickr


Dental Hygienist:  "How did you lose your teeth?"
Sender:  "My Daddy knocked them out with an axe."

Good thing the dentist knows me. DSS was about to be alerted.

Do You Give Your Kids an Allowance?

We're thinking about starting this for 2012. We don't want it tied to responsibilities or chores, but just as a way to help give them more responsibility with money. Overall, they are good with the basic principles of money -- they know they need to allocate for Giving / Saving / Spending, but we think they could use more regular "practice."

I'd love to know what you do (or, if you don't do anything at all). You don't need to tell me how much (but you could).

Does it depend on the age of the kids, or do they all get the same? Do you increase each year? What have you taught them to do with the money (as I said, we do Give / Save / Spend, but another friend of ours does God / Others / Self).

Please leave a comment, or email me your thoughts.


(Edit: You can read the follow-up post, More on Allowances and Responsibilities, and also check out a blog post from Art of Manliness, Giving Kids and Allowance.)