Dear Family and Friends,
“Daddy, you’re my best Daddy! I want to be like you when I grow up!” said Jonathan not too long ago. Our oldest three are constantly asking if I get to stay home from work. If it’s a work day, then they’re sad, but if it’s a day off, then they start thinking of all of the fun things they’d like to do.
“Can we play bear trap (a tickling game I learned from my Dad)? Ride bikes? Go hiking? Have a picnic? Play at the ocean?” They have all of these fun ideas, while I see a day off as an opportunity to finally get some projects done. How can I satisfy both of these objectives? Well, some days I do better than others. If I plan to work on my rock garden (on which I can literally spend days), I’d give each of them a bucket and a shovel and give them a project working next to me. I’d often praise them and thank them for their help. Amy especially wanted to know if she was really helping me. Some days they’d have fun with their Daddy and I’d get some work done; never as much as I’d like, but some. There is a price for this, however. They all (especially Stefanie) like to get on all fours and dig. Steffi usually gets done looking like she just rolled over in a mud puddle!
There are other times, like when I was building a playground that I felt too pressured for time and just worked and let them play on their own. This, I thought, was the most efficient use of my time and energy. But what I found out afterwards is that they still wanted some quality time with me―they wanted something precious to me that I was not willing to give up―my time. What do you say to your child when he/she says, “Come on, Daddy, let’s do something fun!” and the sun is going down on Sunday night…and it’s time to get ready for bed? Sometimes they’d ask with a glimmer of hope, “Daddy do you get to stay home tomorrow?” It’s not easy to take watching that glimmer of hope fade into sadness when you say, “No, I have to go to work.”
Don’t think that I don’t spend quality time with our children, but it seems that the more you give, the more they want. Have you heard the song, “Cat’s in The Cradle” by Harry Chapin? Hopefully, I’m not dating myself too badly. In the song, there’s a conversation between a son and his Dad. “My son turned ten just the other day, he said, ‘Thanks for the ball Dad, c’mon let’s play! Can you teach me to throw?’ I said, ‘Not today, I’ve got a lot to do.’ He said, ‘That’s okay’ And he walked away, but his smile’d never end, he said, ‘I’m gonna be like him, yeah, you know I’m gonna be like him.’” The song is sad. The father was his son’s hero, but the father failed to take the time to develop that relationship. The father and son ever got to know each other. The son’s hops for a close father-son relationship were never fulfilled. Sadly, the son grew up to be just like his Dad. This world is so fast-paced, so many deadlines to meet, so many obligations to keep. Children are not wired for this type of stress and this pace. They can get left behind if we allow the world’s standards to dictate our lives.
On some days, I feel like I’m being pulled in so many directions―my work, Lori (my wife), our children, the house, repairs, chores, etc. I want to be the best doctor, best husband, the best Daddy, the best handyman, etc. A couple of weeks ago, Lori gave me some of the best advice. She said, “Rich, you need to prioritize your life.” I knew she was right, but now what? It was sobering to realize that the decisions I make not only affect myself, but also Lori, our children, co-workers, patients, and friends. It is even scarier to think that as the song eluded to, my children, like it or not, will be much like me. They will be with us for only a short while. Soon they’ll be on their own. What can they take with them that will give direction and meaning in their lives and joy that no person, illness, circumstance, or hardship can take away? One verse speaks to my heart, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). I often pray for them that this would be true in their lives just as I’m trying to have that true in my life. I know they have their own freewill, but God has given us the great privilege of training up our children in the ways of God.
It seems that I have been talking mainly about myself. Well, enough about me and some of those precious people in my life. My wife, Lori, has been so patient and understanding. As we learned at a Focus on the Family Physician’s’ Conference, it is not easy to be a spouse of a physician because of the many stresses and demands that medicine places on the family. Lori really is special. I am beginning to believe that God wired men and women differently. I can hardly believe all that Lori accomplishes in a day. Keeping these children clean, fed, and answering their ten zillion questions and attending to their voracious appetites for attention, being held, or attending to, is more than a full day―I’ve tried it and it is exhausting. Lori not only handles all of that and the discipline during the day, but she homeschools the older three, helps lead a Bible study, sews, plays piano at church, and even has time and energy leftover for me. We have been married for nine years. Sure, some of them have been hard but there is no one else more precious to me than Lori.
Amy is 6 1/2. She loves ballet, AWANA (a Bible club), homeschool, and she just started taking piano lessons. One thing I appreciate is her h love for God and people. She loves to tell others about Jesus whom she loves. She wants to be a missionary when she grows up. She is a kind-hearted, precious daughter.
Jonathan is 4 1/2. He also loves AWANA and homeschool. He is so good especially with the younger children. He is so gentle with Bethany and they love to crawl over each other. He, often on his own, lets Stefanie have his toy or ride his bike. It is hard for him, but he is good at telling the truth. He is becoming a real gentleman. He wants to go to Promise Keepers with me someday. He says we need to stick together because we are the only “men” in our family.
Stefanie is our petite 3 ½ year old. She always has a smile, a sparkle in her eyes, and a big hug for you. That smile probably saved her from some discipline. She also is doing well in homeschool. She lives each day with excitement. It brings me back to my carefree days. I never heard someone get so excited over a fire in the fireplace, “big on little specials” (a flannel graph story book) or a walk around the block. An update about “Baby” from the previous Christmas Letter. As you may recall, “Baby” is Steffi’s doll and had one cheek and nearly two cheeks bit through. Well, “Baby” now has no cheeks, no nose, and no mouth. It is quite a sight. Even though it draws quite a laugh from those who do not know “Baby,” “Baby” is all Steffi wants when she snuggles up in bed. I’ll keep you informed of “Baby’s” condition next year.
Bethany is 1 and growing fast. She is ready to walk any day now. She sure crawls fast though. One thing that I’ve noticed which is so different about her is that when she finds a paper or a pen, instead of putting them in her mouth like the other children, she looks around for us to give it to. We’re hoping that that may mean she is going to be a compliant child. She also has a smile for you and loves to play with mustaches if you have one.
Well, for those who haven’t heard, Lori and I are expecting our 5th child sometime in May. Lori and the baby are doing fine. We are all excited knowing that this child is a precious gift from God. Lori is already feeling our baby kicking. Our children’s questions sure bring up some pretty interesting subjects on how the baby got there and how the baby is going to come out. Thankfully, simple answers appease their curious minds. We are in the process of adding to our house. When we had Bethany, we outgrew our Corolla into a minivan and this new child will max out our 3-bedroom house, so we’ll add on. Hope to be done in January. We’ll now have room for guests, so if you are out this way, come and visit! Come during the summer months of July or August unless you like rain. It is gorgeous here. Our family loves camping, going to Mt. Rainer or the Olympic mountains, caching crabs or collecting sand dollars on seashell along the beaches or just hiking. We’ve seen killer whales and streams filled with spawning salmon. The beauty of God’s creation is quite evident here. I think we are used to the rain now and it sure makes you appreciate the sunny days when they come. When the sun comes out, Lori often stops school and takes the children for a walk.
This Christmas season as we reflect on the birth and life of Jesus, may we realize that He also had a very busy schedule and a time frame of only three years to train up His followers. Time was precious to Jesus, but He was not too busy to touch and heal the lepers, to pray, to hug little children, and to tell others about the good news of salvation. Jesus had His priorities straight. I hope I can. I hope all of us can. May this Christmas season draw you closer to Jesus and closer to those who are dear to you.
Merry Christmas! Rich, or our family