“Dip your toes in the water” she spoke, almost a whisper, like a prayer to a mere mortal. The warm July wind hummed across the the Cote d’Azur, singing softly through the trees. He stared pensively to the blue, hesitant to offer any response. Still, she prayed once more:
“Dip, just try it, dip, dip your toes in the water”. Her call was sweet, and despite her beauty, she was no siren, there was no temptress tone in her words.
The pain was still too great. The fear, crippling. For dipping would lead to heels, heels to which his head would fall over too quickly.
Her soft fingers traced down his sunbrown back. Sand stuck to his lightly sweated neck. Flinching, he was unable to dissuade her hearts call to touch.
“Just a toe” she whispered.
His cheek flinched, the sun sparkling rays of warmth into his otherwise cold soul. His raised arm over his face no match from the glare from the blue. He shifted, nestling under the protection of the vine, shielding, as if it were, from the warmth. Her words resonated. Echoed. Bounced off the walls of his heavily guarded heart. Still, her hand gently persistent, tracing ‘eternity’ around his squared, pensive shoulders.
“One dip, it’s all I ask” sweetness permeated from her lips. He wondered, picking his salt-dried lips, wondered, wondered, wondered why. The pain gripped him around the throat one more time, angrily choking the wonder from his mind.
He remembered the cruel sea. He remembered the pain of the dark blue. The storms. The angry wind, the viscous waves. The grave of the deep reaching his angry hand to drag him down. The siren of the water, that whore, promising pleasure, leaving him shipwrecked, alone, adrift.
Still, he wondered.
She stared out across the Mediterranean. Her fingers, massaging the nape of his neck, prying the anger away from his throat. Her warm fingers. Twirling a lock. Tracing the bones of his spine. Being.
They hadn’t spoken since her proclamation in Marseilles, since he shut down, wondering why she would ruin what they had with something so reckless as love. His broken heart still clenched tight, he angered at why she would dare. Why she would be so foolish as to entrust such a thing in him. Still, her fingers lingered.
“Try me” she implored once again “Just dip your toe in, just once” her words, reassuring, her repetition comforting. He found himself inching towards the thought.
He trained his eyes on the sea. The white caps of the waves, the boats rocking like distant metronomes on the water. He felt the tempest recede inside of him. He wondered, just wondered.
“Dip your toe in the water, my darling, dip it in the water, with me” her voice once again gently persistent like the incoming tide, coming up to meet him, to meet his shore.
The storm still stirred, yet he turned, turned towards her. Her eyes deep as the blue before him, he mustered a squint and a smile
“I’ll dip my toe in the water, I’ll dip it with you”.
Image from http://swim-in-the-sea-count-the-stars.tumblr.com/post/112132247487
My son came home from Kindy yesterday with some craft, as he so often does. He had brought home a picture of a bucket with things inside. He’d learned about ‘love buckets’. You’ve probably hear about something similar – needs, love banks and alike. My son exclaimed that we need to put deposits into each others love buckets. You can make deposits be being kind, saying nice things, showing someone you love them. For the record, I’m accepting deposits into my ego bank at the moment 😉 .
Why do we put deposits into someone’s love bucket? I guess some answers would be because we love them, we want to show them and we want to invest in their life.
In a sense, love is an investment. I’m quite sure we invest love into someone, because we expect some type of return – love, support, kindness, companionship, the best for them. Whilst I think it’s wrong to give, expecting some type of return (this will usually lead to disappointment), deep inside I think we all want some type of return on our investment.
So the question is, what do you do when someone invests love into you?
What do you do with the love that is shown and given to you?
Some people’s hearts are high-risk investments. They are volatile, their return fluctuates depending on a myriad of factors. Sometimes, they give a huge return, showing massive amounts of appreciation, support and love. Other times, they are a negative investment, taking all that you have to give, the return on the investment is hurt and disappointment. The giver of love is left in deficit, the taker of love has squandered the gift entrusted to them.
There are hearts that seem to be closed to deposits. You know the type – people who’ve built walls around their life for whatever reason. People, where you’ve tried to show them you’re feelings and thoughts towards them, but they just don’t seem to be receptive to you in any way. Maybe you’re married to this type of person?
Then there’s are hearts who gives a steady return on an investment. A heart that pays interest adds to the love already deposited in it. What do I mean? Unlike a bank, there’s no cost to paying interest on a deposit of love in your heart. When a bank pays interest, they have already carefully calculated the cost of paying interest. There’s no cost to paying interest on a deposit of love, however!
So how can you pay interest on a deposit of love? I think there’s a range of ways. A word that isn’t used that often is gratitude. Being grateful to the one who deposited love into your heart. Being thankful of the love that’s being deposited can be a great way to pay interest on an investment of love. It might pay to ask the best way to pay interest on the deposit of love – you may be surprised! Showing love back is a huge return on the investment put in your heart.
Is there someone trying to put deposits of love into your heart? What type of bank are they investing into?
Are they risking it all to sow into your life – will their investment tank or will you allow it to build you up?
Is your bank open to deposits? Can you allow someone to invest love into your life?
Is your heart a bank that will warmly pay interest on the love it’s been entrusted with?
Open up the bank of your heart. Be receptive to the love someone wants to invest in you. Be generous with the interest you pay that love. It’s the only investment where both people give, and both people are richer for it.
Have you ever Googled ‘Family Trees’ and checked out all the different types of family trees? Do it. Tell me what you see.
One thing you’ll notice with most family trees is they start with the trunk, and branch up and outwards.
Most family trees place the genealogy above the soil line. Everyone is just an offshoot of another offshoot. A branch, seemingly blowing randomly in the wind of existence.
I suspect, however, we’ve got the concept of family trees wrong.
In Australia, (not including Indigenous Australians, who have a rich history and identity in this great land), we really don’t have a real concept of ‘generations’. Unlike a host of Indigenous communities worldwide, plus Europe, Asia and even America, we really don’t have a strong generational connection. Many families can’t map out more than two or three generations in Australia. As a result I think, Australia has an absence of a generational family culture. Certainly, we see pockets of it with some cultural groups. We see it sometimes with special events, like Christmas or Easter when the family gets together. As a whole, however, I don’t think we have a close-knit family and generational influence culture. The reasons for this are many, and maybe we’ll explore those in another post.
The concept of ‘strong foundations’ is used in many contexts. We see it in building, for any structure that does not have strong foundations is set to shift, move and not be stable. We see it in education, where to build a love of learning needs a strong foundation of literacy. We see it in the spiritual, where adherents of a faith need to be strongly grounded in their beliefs for them to stay strong in their faith. We also see it in both individuals and families.
I mentioned above that I think we have the concept of the family tree wrong. I think we need to look at family trees in reverse. What roots have nourished the tree?
Most would agree that you are the biological product of your parents genes. You might thank your dad for your big ears or your mum for your fast metabolism. Your growth may have been stunted in utero if your mother suffered from an illness or malnutrition. Your genes may be subject to some type of abnormality if your fathers sperm was affected by chemicals. Inversely, you may have benefitted from healthy parents who gave your growing body the best chance in life.
If you go to your parents, their parents too had the primary biological influence in their lives, and so it goes, back through the generations. Your olive skin might be a gene from Mediterranean blood, passed down from many generations ago. Your crystal blue eyes could be a throwback from some Nordic gene inherited from your grandparents grandparents.
Whilst we often think about the biological traits inherited from generations past, do we ever give thought to the spiritual traits inherited from generations past? I’ve mentioned in past posts of my Christian faith. I know that my faith is the product of the prayers of generations past, proclaiming the love and faithfulness of God on offspring they will never meet. These faithful voices of yore, proclaiming love and life through the generations.
We know that a parents (and grandparents) influence does not simply stop once a baby is conceived. Family influences have a HUGE impact on the direction a child goes in life. Anyone who’s been married will attest to the influences their spouses’ family has had on their spouse in relation to money, careers, life perspective, faith, parenting, sex – actually, almost anything!
Here’s where the concepts of an ‘upside down’ family tree and a generational family culture meet the real world. Here’s where they meet your world.
You can’t control or change what came before you. You can’t change your genes, not one iota. You can’t change your grandads violent alcoholism, your mothers cold personality, your fathers austere upbringing or your grandmothers faith. You can’t simply put roundup on the weeds in your family tree. You can however be thankful for the good, understand the bad and seek to learn from their mistakes of the past.
A tree needs ongoing nourishment to survive, just like a person. One of the best ways to nourish a child is in a family environment. A place where not only mum and dad, but grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts and cousins share their love, their knowledge, their experience and their wisdom. A place where the generations feed off each other.
Now you might say ‘but you don’t know my family – that would NEVER work!’. You know what? It might not have worked in the past, but guess what – you have the opportunity to make it work for your children.
Here’s the challenge for you, especially if you are yet to have children. What are you doing now to make sure the tree you will eventually support will have the best shot in life? What decisions are you making now to develop healthy habits – with money, physical health, spiritual development and relationally – that will positively impact on your future generations.
What will the root you spawn say about you? Will they say that your root was unhealthy? A drunk? Unwise with money or angry? Will they say that your root was healthy? That you paved the way for a healthy tree? That you faithfully sewed nutrition and life into the generations to come?
You may have gotten to a point in your life where biologically or relationally, you’ve messed it up for your children, or even your grandchildren. Maybe you were an angry father, or a distant mother. Maybe you worked too much or were financially irresponsible and have no inheritance (in any sense of the word) to pass onto your children. It’s not too late to start trying to develop a generational culture. Of trying to break those bad habits of the past. Those generational curses. Those harsh words, those seeds of unhappiness. It’s time to start developing a positive generational family culture. It will need to start with you, and it will need to start now.
Don’t be the root that stunts the growth of your family tree. Take ownership of your family tree. Start nourishing it with love, faithfulness and kindness. Believe it or not, it’s your responsibility. There’s plenty out there that will seek to grind your family tree down to a stump.
Step dads, and indeed step parents have got a pretty bad wrap. Ever since Cinderella and her evil step mother, the step parent has been the enemy. The villain. The intruder. The harassing step-dad off Hod Rod
Conservative commentators argue that children living with a non-biological parent have an exponentially higher risk of childhood abuse (physical, mental and sexual) compared to children living with both biological parents. A recent report by the Center for Independent Studies reports similar findings.
This post, however, isn’t about the evil step dad. It’s about the good one. The one that finds a gal who, for what ever reason, has kids from her previous relationship. The step dad that loves his new wife and her kids, as if they were his own.
Any parent will know that parenting can be taxing at the best of times. Discipline, showing love, setting boundaries and managing subsequent children between parent and step children can add substantial challenges for the step dad.
This is going to sound cold, but separated parents are my bread and butter. I spend 8 hours a day talking to separated parents, about money, their kids and their ex partners. Occasionally, I”ll chat to a dad who has re-partnered and who shares some of his struggles with bringing up someone elses children. He might talk about the financial burdens, if the biological dad does not pay Child Support. He might talk about the emotional strain, as he is hamstrung on setting boundaries for his step children who are only too happy to play the parents off each other. Sometimes he might just want to let off steam on this whole step parenting caper.
Some step dads have the challenge of filling the shoes of a dad who has passed away. Often, the biological dad who has passed away achieves ‘hero’ status in the eyes of the children he left behind. The dad that passed away can do no wrong – he does not have to struggle with evening homework. He does not have to enforce boundaries. Discipline. Set curfews. He does not have to juggle work, family, bills, church or friends. He does not have to contend with anything – he simply (and I say this with absolute respect) was the perfect dad, who if he was around, would of ‘understood’ his kids, unlike the step-dad who seemingly has no clue.
Many step-dads are hamstrung when it comes to disciplining his step children. So often, the term ‘you can’t do/say that to me – you’re not my real dad’ comes out when he tries to establish even the most rudimentary boundaries for his step children.
I want to perhaps give some encouragement to the step dads out there. The ones who love and care for their step children. The ones who got an ‘instant family’ when they married.
Step dads, I want to acknowledge you’ve got a tough, tough job. A job, a task that has and is going to test you and make you wonder if these kids were worth the girl. Times when even the most simplest boundaries you set for your household are going to get tested. Step dads, hang in there.
If I have some advice for the step dad, it’s this.
You’ll never be able to fill the shoes of your step-kids dad, nor you ought too. You’ll probably never discipline right, say the right things or do the right things.
Here’s what you can be, however.
You can be a GREAT influence on your step kids. They won’t say it. As kids, they probably won’t think it, but I promise you this. They will watch you like a hawk. They will watch you to see if you’re going to stick it out. If you’re going to go the full ten rounds. If you’re going to go until the final bell with this marriage thing with their mum.
Your step kids are going to judge you for EVERYTHING you do, and everything you don’t do. Don’t be scared about this – be encouraged. What would you rather be judged for – doing what you believe was right, or talking a half-baked approach? Being deliberate in loving, caring for and respecting your step kids, or being ambivalent, only seeking to do the bare minimum? Your step kids will watch how you treat their mother. They will watch how you approach morality, faith, ethics and justice. They will find your consistencies and your inconsistencies and boy will they magnify them!
Don’t be scared to tell them that sometimes you don’t have a clue about this step parent business, but you’re working on it. Don’t be scared to be consistent, to strive to make the right choices and to tell your step kids that you’ll love them regardless. Take a consistent approach to parenting.
As a step dad, you’re going to take a heap of shots, Some cheap shots, some shots from behind, some shots you may of even deserved. Roll with them.
Here’s what I can almost guarantee. Love your step kids mother. Love your step kids, even when they are being absolute, well, absolute challenges!
Your step kids won’t always be kids. They eventually will grow up, They’ll leave the teenage years and their adults life will start.
They’ll want to choose a vocation, maybe university or technical college. They’ll want to find a partner of their own, buy a house or a car, holiday and be an adult.
Through that, they’ll want an ear to bounce ideas off. If you’ve been consistent, if you’ve stayed in the game and not given up on them, guess what? Chances are, they’ll come to you. They’ll want advice off the man who’s protected them, loved them , provided for them and even made hard decisions for then that they have absolutely hated. When they grow up, and they will grow up, they’ll realize the hard yards you put in.
They’ll have their own kids one day. If you’ve been that loving, consistent figure in their life, they won’t call you their step dad anymore. They’ll have a new name for you. That name? Grandad.
So step dads, keep up the good fight. It’s a hard one, a thankless one and many times, just plain terrible, but chin up. Some punches will floor you, but get up off that canvas. Keep fighting for your step kids, because in the future, they’ll fight for you.
Image from http://sean.famthings.com/page/2/
I’ve got a friend who’s path has crossed mine intermittently over the last ten or so years. Recently, and very sadly, his dad passed away at a relatively young age from a terrible cancer. I saw this particular mate, only really in passing about a week ago. The look of, well, grief was written all over his defeated body. It was, for me a harrowing thing to see, and it’s been on my mind a lot over the last week or two.
I’ve written before about my story, and an article that I come back to time after time about dealing with your fathers death can be read here. I’m not really going to re-hash old territory – not totally anyway.
One thing people often say to you when your dad dies (especially at a young age) is how excellent your dad was, and quite often, how much you are like him. Indeed, it’s hard not to compare yourself negatively to this giant of a man that seems to have been created around you.
After the death of their dad, many boys (and men) struggle, trying to walk in shoes that they were never meant to wear. You could call it evolution, you could call it honour, you could call it seeking affirmation – I’m not too sure what it is, but inside a boy is an INTENSE desire to be loved and respected by his dad. When his dad is no longer around (and you can also argue it’s the case with boys who’s father isn’t on the scene), so often he finds himself lost, unsure where to seek these things from. He imagines shoes for him to fill – shoes that his father walked in.
One thing that I’ve been reminded of lately is one of the measures of a man isn’t how well he walked in his fathers shoes. It’s how he walked in his own shoes.
As a son, you never want to walk alone, and rightly so. As a man, some roads you walk down will be lonely. You will be faced with decisions, just like your father did – decisions you will need to make on your own. Sometimes, you know you have made the right decision, but walking down the right path can sometimes be a lonely road. Sometimes you’ll make decisions which turn out to be the wrong decision. We all make decisions with imperfect information – that’s half the battle of life, and indeed manhood itself – making decisions when all the bits of information isn’t available. That’s manhood. It’s about making a decision with the best information you had. It’s about being able to evaluate your decisions and confidently say Í was right’, or sometimes even ‘I was wrong’.
Sometimes, as a ‘fatherless son’, you long to hear your father correct you. Isn’t that strange! There are some decisions that you make, and you know full well that they are wrong, and you just long, long, long for his voice of correction, then restoration over you.
Y’know, your dad, without a doubt, made mistakes, as did his dad and his dads dad. It’s what made them who they are. You’ll make mistakes and you’ll learn from them. Those mistakes wont define you, but they can mould you for the better, if you let them.
Learn from those mistakes. Feel the burn of correction. Tie your shoes up again and keep walking.
Your dad had his path. There would have been times in his life when he didn’t have anyone to turn too. When he didn’t have anyone to bounce an idea off, to sound off or just shoot the breeze. He would have made difficult decisions and felt alone.
There will be times when you do the same. You’ll be looking down the barrel of a hard decision, and in that time, there are only one pair of shoes you can walk in. There’s one pair of shoes you need to put a shine on. To lace up. To put on. Shoes that you need to walk in with the consequences of your own decisions. Your own.
Image from http://sojo.net/blogs/2013/03/13/economy-and-pair-shoes
Continuing in the theme of me totally stealing ideas from my Grandparents whilst they are in Israel, I’ve been thinking about the importance of ‘affirming life’.
Without a doubt, Middle East politics is a hotbed of debate at the best of times. It’s been like that for the best part of 4000 years and I expect will continue that way for a while longer. The ongoing conflict in Israel is constantly splashed across the media, with both sides going toe-to-toe for their survival.
During their trip, my grandparents went to a conference where both the Israeli Prime Minister and President were in attendance and gave speeches.
What would you expect these much loathed-and-loved men to talk about? How they are going to crush Hamas perhaps? Ridding the world of the Iranian nuclear threat? Israel’s’ response to ISIS perhaps?
They spoke about the importance of affirming life. Of speaking life. Of living life. Of cherishing life.
This tiny nation of Israel looks at death every day – bombings, kidnappings, missiles and the ongoing propaganda war against them. In looking at death (and responding to it in very forceful ways), these leaders continued their commitment to life. Can you imagine that?
Closer to home, we have the important task of choosing life every day.
There’s something spiritual, something important about what comes out of our mouths. Indeed, the scriptures confirm that ‘death and life is in the power of the tongue’. The Lord commanded the Israelites to affirm his Word to their children every day, as they rise in the morning, as they walk during the day and as they lie down at night.
I think there is two important truths in this – firstly that as parents, we need to talk to our children (and listen!); secondly what we say to our children, and by extension, those around us, needs to be life affirming.
I know as a dad, I’m sometimes guilty of not talking to my children. How strange does that sound? It’s easy to come home from work, get on with the nightly ‘happy hour’ duties, dinner, dishes, read to the children and put them to bed, without too much interaction. For some reason, I think the Lord commands dads to talk to their children – as they wake up, as they travel during the day, as they eat and as they go to sleep. Why? I don’t presume to understand what the Lord intends, however, I suspect that his desire is to see dads and children connect on a real way, to be in constant communication, trust and of course love.
I’m acutely aware of my own failing on not ‘speaking life’ into situations. I enjoy a joke as much as anyone, but sometimes I have to stop and think – does this joke have a sting in its tail? Probably more dramatic is when I get angry and I say things that aren’t life affirming – especially to the ones I love.
As many readers would know, I grew up in and around church and have been blessed to meet many wonderful people. Of those people, I’ve been blessed to spend time with some great ministers – men and women who have taught me much about faith, life and family. Of those, the ones that have impacted me most are the ones that visibly and demonstrably love their family. I was in a Bible-study group once with a minister who I love and revere so deeply – his knowledge and love for the Lord is just amazing. It’s what he does with his family that touches me more. I was at his home one evening, doing a Bible study when one of his children came home from work. He stopped the study, got up off his chair and gave his daughter a warm, loving greeting. He embraced her, told her that he was so happy to see her and asked about her day. She embraced her dad in return, affectionately telling him about her day.
Don’t kid yourself – life isn’t all roses, happy words and good times. To the contrary. I think sometimes it’s easy to get swept away in the tide of negativity. That’s why it’s so important to speak life into those around you.
I’m sure most of you don’t follow a particular faith or believe strongly and I don’t want to sound ‘preachy’. What I do want to impress upon you (and myself) is the importance of speaking life into those around you. Season your conversation with things that will build up. I’m sure we’ve all come across people who have had a lifetime of negative words spoken over them – cruelty from a parent, abuse from a partner and negativity from those around them. Maybe, just maybe, your life affirming word is the only positive thing they’ve heard in a while. How do you think your interactions and relationships would be if you took the first step to affirm life in others?
Speaking life takes practice. Affirming someone isn’t something that comes naturally – certainly not to Aussies, with our culture of ‘taking the piss’. I dare you though to try it –practice giving life. It costs nothing to speak life into someone, but can mean the whole world to the receiver.
Picture from http://realtruth.org/articles/100607-003-family.html
So you want to date my sister?
First up, this has no relation to my sister, or that boy that keeps showing up in her Instagram photos. Or any of my brothers who are hell bent on protecting our sister from teenage boy tomfoolery. No relation what so ever. Everyone in this blog is purely fictional. Please, if you think this is in relation to you, it’s not.
So, you’ve taken an interest in my sister?
That’s nice. So have others.
When you started showing up in my sister’s Instagram photos, I joked with her that I’d probably start checking the police database and googling your name, just to do some preliminary searches. You know, you can never be too careful, can you now?
So after joking that you might wake up next to a horse’s head, my sister told me that you could ‘easily’ beat me in a fight. Now, I expect that she’s right in that respect. Just to dispel any lingering doubt, we probably should go toe-to-toe. I’m usually a bareknuckle man, but we can use gloves if your hands are particularly dainty.
I need to mention that I’m on first name terms with police in every reporting district in SE Queensland and Northern New South Wales. For some reason, I thought you might like to know that.
Well boy, I expect you are quite nice. By the look of those Instagram pics, you certainly have kind and soft features. Let’s not beat around the bush – many gals these days enjoy the company of a ‘beta’ guy. Naturally, I’d prefer my sister to be keen on someone more masculine, but each to their own.
So if this relationship is meant to be, I expect we’ll be seeing a whole lot more of you. Of course, we will love to warmly welcome you into the family. I think I speak for my brothers that we are all looking forward to meeting you and getting to know you.
I’m sure my sister has mentioned it, but every year all the brothers like to go away for a fishing and camping week – we’d love to extend an invitation to you. You can fish, can’t you? I could not see any evidence of fishing, hunting, camping, fire-making, drinking home brew or any other usual manly activities on your Instagram, facebook or snapchat messages that seemed to have made their way into my possession. I remember two years ago with the annual boys camping trip when we brought our sisters last boyfriend, Wayne. Gosh, he was a nice guy, but it’s a shame he left the camping trip mid-week and was never found again, not even by police or emergency services. I do hope Wayne turns up, he was such a nice guy.
Again, I do eagerly await getting to know you some more and spending some time with you.
p.s. a word of advice – when you meet my sisters parents, please, for the love of God, dress up. A shirt, dress pants and highly polished shoes as an absolute minimum. Please come prepared with your resume, your parents last tax assessments and your fathers occupation and of course, yours and your parents birth certificates, if they have been issued in Australia or similar Commonwealth country (Canadian or British preferably) – I’m sure you’ll agree you don’t want to be dating ‘outside your own kind’!