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.    

 

 

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

At the start of Chapter 3, I mention a friend named “Rick.” A fake name for the book, but a real friend nonetheless. Rick and I were buddies from my days living in Polk County, FL. We went to church together and performed together in several drama productions at our church where I served as the Director of Theater Arts. 

On page 36, I mention how upset he was that the courts were expecting him to pay way more child support than he did before the divorce. I too, recall feeling victimized when I looked at the standard of living my kids had before the divorce and the much higher standard expected from me after the split. It was ludicrous.

But with Rick, who was now single again, it took him to some low places of depression and bad choices. In the book, I mention his descent into drinking and dropping out of community. He lost visitation rights with his daughter, then stopped his child support completely. But here’s the behind the scenes part or “the rest of the story” for Rick.

Rick and I slowly lost contact because we didn’t see eye-to-eye about things anymore. Eventually, I heard he started using drugs and had a run-in with local law enforcement. Then something awful happened. I never found out if the drugs were related to this but one day the news came that Rick had been killed in a car accident.

What a sad end to Rick’s life. His 13-year-old now had no dad and the only legacy he left behind was that of a dead-beat drug-addict. I loved Rick, even after he cut many of us out of his life.1111

Rick’s life stands as a warning to single dads. Don’t allow bitterness to have a foothold. Whether it’s toward your ex-spouse, the courts, or even a child who refuses to see you. Take the high road. Cling to Jesus and cast all your burdens upon the Lord.

He cares for you. He is your refuge–your strong tower.   

The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce released in February 2015 and became a work that is being utilized internationally to help dads all over the world. This humbles me and I’m so grateful for what God continues to do through the book. 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not a big fan of bragging about my kids. My parents had some close friends when I was growing up and all they talked about was how amazing their kids were. It was annoying. 

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As a parent now, what I do want to make sure I do is encourage my kids, without prideful statements. As a Christian, I value humility. But don’t get me wrong, I struggle with pride myself, and have to make a conscious effort to kill it every day.

It seems the Lord has given me particular talents that make this harder. I’m an actor, a speaker, a writer, and a leader. All these things are prone to increase my pride and often requires self-promotion (hate that word) when I need to market myself or my books. 

And let’s not forget, I’m male…and men struggle with the sin of pride anyway, even without talents and abilities. It’s in our nature. I could blame it on testosterone, but it’s deeper than that.

Maybe I’ll blame it on Adam. I love pointing fingers!

At any rate, because I struggle with pride, it’s hard not to see it in others too…especially my middle school-aged children. But this is when they need to be bragged about most. I see it in their eyes, that longing for approval and esteem. 

Middle school is hard for kids. They are stuck between childhood and adulthood. There’s so much pressure to be liked and approved of among peers. They come home exhausted from the social interactions alone. 

So when they brag about themselves, it’s because they are desperate for it and I’m probably not doing a good enough job reminding them how awesome they are.

Last week, one of my daughters begin talking about how good she looked. I caught myself getting ready to share the importance God places on modesty and humility, but I stopped. She just needed Daddy to mention how incredibly beautiful she was, without turning it into a lesson on humility. 

Yesterday, my other middle school daughter wrote an email to the school dean asking him to reevaluate a teacher’s decision to give a bad grade. She never asked her mom or me to do it for her. that would be helicopter parenting (but that’s a topic for another post). She was confident enough to take this upon herself and she did well. The email was mature and professional and contained no teen angst that might normally disqualify her complaint. There was no whining. Not once did she include “It’s not fair!” or “Mrs. X hates me.” 

I was proud of my child and I told her. Later, I brought it up again, letting her know I was still pondering it and how impressed I was with her maturity.

Lest you think I’m a better dad than I am, let me tell you: I don’t make a practice of this like I should. Most times I think it, but don’t say it aloud, for fear I’ll create a prideful teen. Silly, I know.

Sometimes I suck at parenting. But I’m trying.

How about you? Do you agree it’s ok to encourage your kids? What about in public, among others, where it could be considered bragging? How does this fit into your family if you’re followers of Christ? Where’s the balance? Share your thought in the comments. 

If you’re a single parent, consider Tez’s book, The Single Dad Detour, available today on Amazon.com