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Archive for the ‘Boys’ Category

(this is an edited version of an email I sent to my boys earlier this week. Some advice, for what it’s worth, about women…)

Boys,

I remember well when I was your age – I know I look like an old fossil in your eyes, but my heart and body were young once (not so long ago), and at your ages, I had all sorts of questions swirling around in my head about my life direction.

And, especially, about my wife direction. When we’re in the 17-25 age range, what the heck do we know about lifetime covenants with those hard-to-figure-out females??

I appreciate how you seek to be tuned in to what Mom and I think (well, most of the time) about the girls you are interested in, especially now as things begin to get real and you start thinking about wife potential, not just arm candy.

So, to come right down to it – how do you know if she’s the right one?

There’s no magic formula. You won’t get a billboard descending from heaven with a huge arrow pointing at her. Actually, you might be tuned to the wrong frequency and easily miss her, so I’m going to give you my most important advice. In four simple words.

Marry your best friend.

Over three decades ago, that’s what I did. We started out – very consciously – as friends and spiritual companions. We became, in time, a romantic item, spouses, parents…but through it all and above it all, we’ve been best friends. And we still are.

You know that. You’ve seen it every day of your lives. That’s what we want for you.

The idealism of youth flickers over time. Beauty is fleeting and steadily fades. The blaze of romance and sex recedes slowly into a lower, but steadier flame. But friendship keeps you together.

If you start bass ackwards, it’s almost impossible to backfill a relationship by becoming friends later. That’s one reason why so many divorces occur in the first 10 years.

When job demands and expenses are crushing, when crying kids get you up five times a night, when fun and spontaneity increasingly give way to loads of responsibility, you’re going to want more than arm candy by your side. You’re going to NEED more just a pretty face and some nice curves.

You’re going to need your best friend (of course, it doesn’t hurt if your best friend is lovely with nice curves…just sayin’…;>).

You know what a great wife looks like. You grew up with a loving, loyal, self-giving, smart and godly woman as your mother. I’ve made a number of boneheaded decisions in my life, but choosing her to be my companion and the devoted mother of my children was definitely NOT one of them!

I have always found it difficult to choke out the words, “Follow me!” to my sons or to anyone else. But in this matter, I urge you to follow my example. Love one woman, as I have loved your mother.

Don’t be caught up in boyfriend/girlfriend pairing-off or Facebook relationship status. That’s a distraction. Don’t marry out of guilt, or fear, or irrational passion. You’ve seen dozens of times how that ends.

Love women as friends first and foremost. Marry the one you increasingly feel you can’t live without. Then love her ’til death do you part.

Do that, and you’ll do fine. And you’ll make your mother and me very happy.

Love, Dad

P.S. Listen to what your family and friends think of the “match.” They’re more objective than you…!

(and Happy New Year’s Day Birthday to Sandy, the love of my life, who is still my best friend and favorite arm candy!)

sandysteve1981

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On Memorial Day

He trains. And trains. And trains.

The pay is low. The frustrations are many.

He hasn’t been deployed to a war zone…yet. But he is ready not only to be deployed, but to risk all for his country and his fellow Marines.

For this season in his life, he is a warrior. Waiting to prove himself in battle.

He’s my son. As for his courage, he has nothing to prove to me.

This weekend, we remember the dead who gave their all.

We also remember the living who continue to answer the call of duty.

Semper Fi, David.

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Boys to Men

I was at the lake yesterday, watching some young boys do what they do best – drive their parents crazy.

Bouncing, running, jumping, yelling, tripping – parents think in terms of vectors and tasks, while boys have limited interest in predictable patterns.

It can really mess with your head sometimes.

In the midst of those years, it can seem endless. You wonder if this whirling dervish that was once so cute in his crib will even survive into adulthood, let alone become stable and productive.

This week – this morning – one of my sons will be baptized. He’s a young man, he has made his own decisions regarding the footsteps of faith. He earned his biggest-ever paycheck this week and the pride in his face made my heart leap for joy as well. He is responsible, thoughtful, and observant toward others. He chooses friends wisely. He was the one that, as a toddler, I predicted would end up at some extreme end of the scale – he had a very high pain threshold and was not particularly fastidious about self-preservation.

He grew up. Your boy will, too.

Watching two young hellions driving their father nuts yesterday, I had to remind myself that they would be men too, in very short order. It happens. They’ll be trading little plastic army men for razors and lifeguard whistles.

And you’ll feel a pride swelling in your heart that you never anticipated. “That’s my boy!” the voice will echo in your mind. And he always will be your boy.

Even when he’s his own man.

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The Starting Point

To my sons –

You started as a hope in our hearts. Your mother and I were meant to have children, and God placed each one of you in your mother’s womb so that we could love you and give you the best start possible.

And so we have tried. Failing many times along the way, but seeking to show you – to live before you – a life of godliness and faith. With a fair bit of earthiness mixed in!

Now that you’re older, you look around and you realize how much brokenness there is among your peers. You understand that a good start matters – a lot. Take this life lesson along with you:

There’s one sure way to arrive at the right destination. Pick the right starting point.

If you want to set a record sailing across the Pacific, you don’t launch out from the shoreline of New Jersey. Where you choose to begin pretty much determines where you’ll end up.

And it’s that way in all of life.

You didn’t choose to be born, nor did you choose all your early influences. But now, as you start moving into adulthood, you have choices to make about your personal starting point. With each year, Dad and Mom let go more and more. With each year, you take growing responsibility for your own direction. And all that we have sought to teach you comes down to this one starting point, this one heart-commitment that will make or break you in the future.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Personality, abilities, knowledge, friends – these things can move you along the current of life. But they can also move you into inexorably toward the reef, if you decide that you’re smarter than the God who created you. For a time, living without God and without wisdom might seem fun. But if the bright skies and fresh breeze of today are heading you toward a typhoon tomorrow – and you choose to turn off the forecasts and the navigational aids in favor of another beer before the shipwreck – what have you accomplished?

You will seek your own pleasures and fear the displeasure of your friends. Or, you will seek the pleasure of God. Two very different starting points. Two very different lifestyles and outcomes. No middle ground.

Half-belief is unbelief.

Now, your friends may consider you a whack job for giving up a self-directed life of sin, and starting over from a place of humility and wisdom. But if you are to be a true friend to them, you will show them godliness, and a better starting point, rather than drifting downstream with them toward destruction.

Real men stand with God, even if that means standing alone. And with the fear of the Lord, and the grace of Jesus, you are never truly alone. You have a Friend who stays closer than a brother.

I’m sure we failed a thousand times in giving you the best start. But it’s always been our goal that you boys would not merely follow us, but far exceed us.

Get started.

Love, Dad

(Image credit)

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Two of my boys are young adults, two are teens (and one is 9-going-on-17). Therefore, I get to see and hear about how girls behave around attractive young men.

What are these girls thinking?

Based on a smile and a brief social encounter, handing some relative stranger your phone number? Bombarding some young man with texts after one date? Call me old-fashioned, but I think you’re selling yourselves way short, gals.

I can tell you right now, the fastest way to earn DISrespect is to be over-eager. If you throw yourself at a man, you might get some short-term attention, but because you obviously don’t think much of your own dignity and self-worth, neither will he.

If you’re a woman of value, and intelligence, and character, then you’re worth being pursued. And a man worth his salt wants to pursue; he wants to be forced to earn your attention and affection by being noble and self-controlled.

Men have the capacity to rise to great heights of responsibility; but we are also (especially in youth) hormone-crazed animals that can be tempted by short-term gratification and superficial pleasure. Which far too many women are willing to provide. In the male calculus, easy to bed is easy to despise.

There’s a lot of chaff out there, for sure. The best way to sift through it is to maintain your dignity, tell overly-forward young men to get their hands off you, cease the drama-queen manipulation games, and regain the lost, alluring art of being hard-to-get. Be picky. Why? Because you’re worth it.

The best men want a women who earns respect. They really want (beneath the superficial machismo) a woman who will challenge him to be a better man. They need to prove themselves – to you, and to the man looking back at them in the mirror.

Help them. Help yourself. Be hard to get. Please.

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One of the viral pieces of news this week was the tongue-in-cheek site Please Rob Me, underscoring the potential consequences of broadcasting your location (such as, not being at home!) too broadly on social media. You know, inviting bad guys to break in while you’re Four-Squaring at the mall…

Well, right now I’m more concerned about a different kind of digital invasion. Namely, as parents – how do we encourage the responsible use of digital media by our kids while preventing “screen addiction?”

We still have 3 boys at home – 2 teens and an 8-year old. We have TiVo (so glad to no longer be subject to broadcast schedules and commercials!) and Netflix on-demand; a family iMac with all the usual web destinations a click away; a Wii; and each kid has an age-appropriate handheld device.

We’re really not big TV watchers, and my kids aren’t sedentary couch potatoes, but let’s face it – all this stuff can be an endless parade of sight and sound that is an easy default (instead of, say, walking the dog, exercising, reading books – all that boring analog stuff!).

Even Dad has to be reminded at times to put away his iPhone (ahem!).

Now, we don’t want to be rigid and spin out all sorts of rules and timetables and impossible-to-enforce schedules, but at the same time, we need to build SOME fences around this stuff so that it does not overwhelm us entirely. For instance, on the iMac, each child has an account, with a preset time allotment of one hour per day. But that’s just one of the digital conduits!

I’m betting all of you who are parents are struggling with this. How do you handle it (apart from, say, moving to Lancaster County and joining the Amish)? What’s working for your kids/family? Have you figured out strategies to allow healthy use without feeling like you’ve walked onto the set of the Invasion of the Family Snatchers? Please share in the comments!

(Image credit – no, not my kids, but very cute!)

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Those three words are still echoing in my mind and heart. They only brushed past my ear for a few milliseconds today, but the vibration of them continues, an acoustic double-espresso of emotional energy.

“Love you, Dad!” Tossed over his shoulder as one of my adult sons headed out.

A simple phrase, really. Easy to tune out or even brush off. Until your kids grow up, that is.

Thinking back, the “I love you’s” flow easily when the kids are young. Then they get older, and it’s not so cool to say it. What was once taken for granted dries up, replaced by the silent hope that it’s still true. The unspoken is now taken for granted.

You get used to silence after a while – uncomfortably reconciling yourself to a season of affections assumed, though your ears miss the words even as your eyes interpret the almost imperceptible gestures. You were there, once, some years back – you know how young men keep it in check. Especially when their budding independence comes up against your not-quite-so-confident-anymore leadership.

Then, as they leave the cocoon into the responsibilities and privileges of adulthood, their parents seem to undergo a metamorphosis as well. No longer a mere “bad cop” figurehead at the helm of a prison ship, or some retro dunce from another planet, those parents transform into human beings again.

Mom and Dad again.

And every “Love you, Dad!” rings that much louder. Makes the moment that much brighter. Means more than the young man can possibly know.

Fame, titles, riches – they all have their place. A pretty distant second place, overall. Every “Love you, Dad!” is pure gold.

————-

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