This is the third in a series of behind-the-scenes blog posts regarding the book, The Single Dad Detour.

Page 39 includes a story about the infamous unwanted grapefruit tree my first wife and I received as a gift. What you don’t know is that the tree was a Christmas gift from my in-laws.11

A nice enough gift if their motive had been right and if I was more mature. But we were both wrong. They gave us the tree merely thinking it would grow and they would get some fresh fruit in return.

In their defense, they were not thinking about the time and money it takes to grow good citrus in Florida. Fertilizer, pruning, and pest control (rats) were added chores that came with owning a fruit tree. At the time, I held an out-of-town job and commuted to work. I was away from home 12 hours each day. I rarely had time to do extra work.

Oh and let’s not overlook my identity to a yard. To me, the yard was a reflection of who I was—-much like house decor reflects the woman who lives there. I was particular (maybe too much) of what I put in my yard. I carefully considered the type of grass, each flower and tree, the kind of landscape bricks—-everything.

So when I saw the potted tree on Christmas morning, I was not sure how to respond. The look on my in-law’s faces clued me in to smile big and thank them. But as they dove into their expectations of reciprocated bags of fruit, my grin faded. I had visions of fat, fruit-fed rats taking over my yard and home, money spent of pruning tools and fertilizers, a heater to keep the tree from freezing during the winter months. Yes, central Florida often gets freezing temperatures that ruin entire citrus groves.333

I dutifully planted the tree and watered it. Then, under cover of night, so my neighbors couldn’t see me, I poured gasoline on the roots of that sweet little tree.

So good for the environment.

I never bothered to stop and ask God what I should do. Instead, as Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way.”

What a coward and a fool I was. I might have enjoyed years of fresh produce but I was too self-centered. I forfeited the joy of receiving a wonderful gift and the opportunity to provide sweet treats to my wife, kids, and in-laws.

22In this story shared in The Single Dad Detour I go on to explain how, if unchecked, our attitudes and actions lead us down roads we later regret. 

Being led by the Holy Spirit is key to surviving, whether it’s a Christmas gift you don’t want or a spouse that doesn’t want you. How often we take matters into our own hands.

When things don’t go as planned, pray. That’s the lesson here. Pray for wisdom, pray for humility, pray for maturity. The Lord is an ever-present help in time of need.

The rest of the story? Well, that poisoned tree lasted about 4-5 days and died. Then I pulled it out of the ground and tossed it in the trash can. I thought my problems were solved. In actuality, that dead tree represented a much bigger problem I was of yet unaware. 

The devil had poured poison on my family and I was about to discover my marriage was dead. But you’ll have to read the book if you want to know more about that.    

 

 

111111How does your morning start on Christmas Day?

As a parent, do you have plans or do you let the day carry you as it may? I’ve found I need to strike a balance between spontaneity and intentional planning. 

If you are a single parent, chances are you may have to share holidays with an ex-spouse. BLended families have even more adjustments. So being purposeful is important, especially if you only get Christmas with your kids half the day….or worse, every other year.

But strategy has its downsides and sometimes being less organized can be quite relaxing and fun.

I tend to lean more toward planned and intentional activities with my kids on and around Christmas. Rather than reading the Christmas story from scripture on the morning of, together we read verses from the birth of Christ in bite-sized portions throughout the month. This keeps our minds on Him continually.

Then on Christmas Day, I wake the kids to a favorite Christmas song and we dig into our stockings first. Afterward, we hand out presents and watch each person in turn, open their gifts.

But what about those parents who can’t have a perfectly planned morning? What about families who open gifts on Christmas Eve? Or those who have kids with special needs? Christmas isn’t the same for every family, nor does it have to be.

If you have limited time with the kids or you wake up to find Johnny has the flu, being flexible is the key. Don’t lose heart if your child isn’t patient enough to listen to the entire story of Mary and Joseph. If your ex shows up early and you’re not done opening gifts, learn to go with the flow. 

Each kid is different and each year is different. There are things out of our control and we must learn to trust God when our plans have to be altered.

In the end, God is bigger than any plans I might have and I’ve learned to trust him. Nothing catches him by surprise. He is bigger than any plans that go awry.

Relax, trust God and have fun.

Yes, we must be intentional about honoring Christ during this holiday. But whether or not Christmas ends up being about Jesus or the presents this year, I have to remind myself, the kids will remember most the atmosphere in the house.

So when things don’t go as planned, I can either emit peace or turmoil during this season. A peaceful spirit eventually makes room for Christ–but rigid control never welcomes Jesus into the mix.  222222

 

 

 

 

 

My 29-year-old son hasn’t spoken to us in almost four years.Prodigal-Son father

The last time he communicated he made it clear he didn’t want any of us (me, his step-mom, his little sisters, his uncles/aunt or cousins) in his life. I won’t go into the bad choices he’s made nor the consequences he’s suffered. All I know is my heart is broken and I’m hurt. Both by how he’s living and how he’s treated us. 

We were once so close. Now, for some reason (maybe shame?) he refuses to give a valid reason for breaking off this relationship. So how do you pray for a child who you no longer know? When you have no idea where he is, where he works, or if he’s even alive? 

I just pray. I pray in generalities–for his health, his mental state, his relationships, and most of all I pray for his spiritual life. I ask God to steer him back to Christ. I pray dangerous prayers like, “Whatever it takes God, bring my son back to you.”

That’s the desperate prayer of a father who longs above all else to see his son walk upright. I long to see him in a deep relationship with his Creator. That’s how I raised him. 

You might have a prodigal. A son or daughter who has drifted from or refused to take part in the godly inheritance meant for them. How do you pray when you’ve run out of words–run out of energy?

Here’s a few points to jump-start your prayer for him or her:

          Dear Heavenly Father,

  • God, transform me and my attitude. Take away any bitterness and grudges against my child so I can pray with a pure heart. Give me the strength to continue in this battle. When I’m tired and just plain sick of it, give me compassion and mercy. Not to be taken advantage of, but to mirror Christ’s love. Help me remember that speaking truth might be hard, but it doesn’t have to be harsh. 
  • Lord use my son or daughter’s friends. Use even his/her questionable friends to speak truth into their life. Bring godly people into their life. Surround them with loving community. 
  • Father if you must, let my child hit rock bottom. Cause them to see their desperate need for a Savior. Prevent people from enabling them or rescuing them too early. Allow my child to feel the reality of being at the end of the rope. 

Coming back to the Lord is a process, not an event. So don’t give up. Keep on praying. Keep believing. You never know what God will do. When you pray for a loved one who seems hardened against the Lord, or against you, pray that the eyes of their heart might be opened so that the light of God can come flooding in.

Do you have a prayer that has helped you cope as you await the return of your prodigal? Please share it with me. I need it this week. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WD2018-Winner SealI’m humbled to announce that this month I received an award from Writer’s Digest for an inspirational article “practicing the Habit of Forgiveness” which I wrote 10 years ago, but never published. Some readers, out of curiosity, wanted to read it. So if you’d like to see it, email me at tezwrites@gmail.com and I’ll send you the link.  

 

So what’s it gonna be? What new leaf are you planning to turn over?

Mine is a manuscript. I want to finish my 4th book (working title…”Pre-Launching: How to Prepare Your Teen for Successful Adulting”)

My agent is anxious to see the first few chapters and that has me both excited and nervous. Afraid of failure or rejection.

What if this book isn’t good enough? What if my agent can’t find an interested publishing house when he tries to pitch the idea? B

It’s enough to make me give up. After all, I’m not a great parent. I fail all the time. What do I possibly have to offer? Add in another dozen or so self-defeating comments and I’m ready to call it a day.

Ever feel like that? Especially when it comes to New Year’s resolutions?

Our resolutions for parenting are the worst. I’m gonna be more understanding. I’m gonna yell less. I’m gonna be more involved at their school. Cook healthier dinners. Start a family Bible study. The list goes on.

We set so many high standards for ourselves, it’s pretty easy to fail.

It’s funny. I have no problem accepting grace from God when I need it (which is pretty often). But I can’t seem to give it to myself. Why is that?

I think it comes from a belief that people are bigger than they are. That somehow, what they think of me is so important that I forget to care what God thinks of me. In essence, people are big and God is small.

Yikes! Sorry, God.

In reality, if we are his children, He thinks you and I are pretty awesome. He views us through rose-colored glasses.

Does this mean we should stop trying to improve ourselves? Of course not, especially when it comes to walking closer to God.

But accepting who we are and how God made us is important. God created you to be the perfect parent for your child(ren). He paired you up with your kids because you’d be perfect together as a family. Sure we’re gonna fail as parents from time to time. Sure we could use a few New Year’s resolutions when it comes to parenting.

But I’m learning not to base my proposed improvements on what I think society wants me to be. Rather, I want to be all that God created me to be and desires of me. Flaws and all. AThere’s a lot of new pressure for a new year. But Philippians 3:12 reminds me, “I don’t mean to say I’m perfect. I haven’t learned all I should even yet. But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ saved me for and wants me to be. ” (Living Bible)

How about you? What areas do you struggle with when it comes to other’s opinions of you as a parent? How do you navigate through that? Share with us in the comments.