Our son Addison is a brilliant boy. He’s 10 now and well on his way to becoming a rocket scientist. It’s astounding to observe him in his science lab class. That is the field, so to speak, where he shines the most. When I teach his math lessons (homeschool), he absorbs new concepts as if by osmosis. Before I can even finish my spiel, he takes pencil to paper. And did I mention how handsome he is? Long lashes and tan, muscular torso. Boy howdy!
This is what we are dealing with though, and dealing hard. Addison struggles to focus. His mind is going at light speed, exactly like Steve’s at that age. This is so not conducive to school work. I am both his mom and his teacher, so I constantly redirect. He bursts with ideas and random thoughts to share; while I try to finish the lesson. This tug of war exhausts me some days. Conversely, when our son is engaged in an activity he is passionate about, it’s like he is underwater. Everything but that one thing is tuned out. “Addison, dinner time. …Addison? Addi-SON!” It’s taken me a while to understand that he genuinely doesn’t hear.
It’s Christmas and our teen daughter is finally getting a cell phone. She isn’t aware of this. She hasn’t been begging for one. Adrienne is one of the most non-materialistic kids I’ve ever known. Between her camera, her hamster and her American Girl studio, she is one happy camper. However, she joined a plethora of social groups since we moved to Florida this summer. We find ourselves dropping her off more frequently, with no great way to stay in contact. In addition, her new friends use phones to stay connected to one another.
Adrienne is always above board with us. Communication is a serious priority in ito house. Mainly because we anticipate the time in our family life when more hours each week are spent going in different directions. Far from shying away, our daughter welcomes the opportunity to talk to us all about her life.
We extend our pattern of being a connected family by clearly communicating our expectations (concerning technology). Before writing these, I read a lot of others. Many are fear based, with the underlying expectation that this is a train wreck waiting to happen. We have better results by parlaying privilege until we are tryin secure; also by talking up to our kids, like this:
Loneliness. I’d rather not admit to knowing anything about it. But the truth is, I do. Did you know that a recent study finds loneliness to be as detrimental as smoking a half pack of cigarettes a day? Right now, while I am not in its clutches, I want to write out the tricks I have learned for besting this beast.
Loneliness and I go way back. I first ran into it as a latch key kid in a ridiculously small town. We moved there from the outside, strike 1. We went to the weird church, strike 2. I was neither athletic nor musical; neither hilarious nor gregarious– strike 3. I managed okay… except when I didn’t. I felt like loneliness was always silently at my heels, even in a crowd of friends.
I visited the Berlin Wall just days after it fell. Walking towards the crumbling physical and cultural divide with my family, I could hear what sounded like tiny bells. As we drew closer, I saw the sound emanated from hundreds of people, armed with hammers and tools of all sizes, eagerly tearing down the mammoth concrete barrier that kept families separated for years. I will never forget that sight as long as I live! And this was just one of many life-changing trips I experienced growing up in a traveling family. We crisscrossed U.S., Canada, and Europe, growing closer as we discovered the world.
When Steve and I were shopping for our first house, our goal was to find a fixer-upper that would help us gain extra equity. Our quest led us to some pretty shady properties. Luckily, our Realtor Cristie was an expert at narrowing the hunt, plus she had a great sense of humor.
That first week, we toured a home with cigarette burns on the counters and an on-going pot smoking party in the basement, complete with a giant, glittery unicorn mural. As Cristie herded us out the door, the wife urged us to slow down and see the upstairs. “Thanks,” Cristie quipped, “but we’re looking for something real specific.” We three exploded with laughter the minute the car doors slammed. Her line has stuck with us and became a private joke.
Reflecting on my single years, that line comes to mind. I was definitely looking for something “real specific.” I knew I would probably become a mother and that my choice had to be perspicacious. This Father’s Day, I want to praise the man in our family. Here are 5 specifics that make a world-class father:
We have been parents for 13 years, 5 months and 27 days. When our first was born, we told the nurse that she really should come home with us. I, for one, was only a little bit joking. Take care of our very own human? Not qualified! And yet, in a series of small accumulated miracles, here we are.
Mothering a Tween
Last Friday, Adrienne’s tutorial group held a dance. She and I spent a sweet afternoon together as mother and daughter. We share a definite love for accessories, dresses, and events that call for glam. I taught her a few tricks and tips as I blow dried and curled her hair. I polished her fingers and toes with the perfect shades of magenta and cobalt. Finally, I zipped her dress and opened the box that held her first pair of high heels. Actually, I suggested that she walk around the house first to get accustomed. She replied, “Mom, I’ve been walking in your heels since I was 4!” You got me there, babe.
“The Talk,” Brendtro Style
To Find Joy, Risk Your Settled Life
Joy isn’t complicated or mystical. You don’t need a lecture to understand it. This is joy: It bubbles up out of you effortlessly on regular occasions. It settles around you like a breeze. It’s a deep breath of satisfaction and energy that pushes you upwards, forwards.
Have you felt that recently? Lassoing the experience of joy with mere words is nearly impossible. Deep joy encapsulates a moment and freezes it forever with unique clarity.
Timeout: take a minute right now to recall the last time you were truly lit up with joy. Where were you, who was beside you, and how did it feel?
Our society has a shortage of people deeply satisfied with their life. Many settle into a comfortable life, one that seems to work okay, but not one that regularly takes their breath away. Their ability to dream and to take a fresh risk is frozen. Just keeping up is a full-time job that keeps them from looking ahead.
Risking a Settled Life
Five years ago, Steve and I were busy in our church and with our jobs — doing everything right and waiting for it to pay off. And yet, life stretched in front of us in a monotonous stream. Gazing into our future no longer summoned up excitement as it once did.
We lived a predictable life, though secretly we were born adventurers. Our kids, Adrienne and Addison, were getting old enough to embrace opportunities with us, if only we took the time to dream them up.
Acknowledging our longing for more was scary. It brought us to a crossroad where we asked questions that felt risky: Why are we bored? Is it okay that our life pattern, while good enough for everyone else, no longer fits us? Can we put our family first and still please God? Can we leave a faith community that makes us all feel like square pegs? Can we move our business and restart life in another city? Can we make new friends? Can we juggle our budget to travel together frequently? What will happen to us if we step out of the only life we have known as a family?
Worth the Risk
As it turns out, God partners eagerly with us when we ask those kinds of questions. The shake-up actually leads to deeper trust and dependence on Jesus; it leads us out of the realm of what we can do all on our own and deeper into the right blueprint for our lives. Far from being a rigid and exasperated deity, we now know God tailors brilliant opportunities for us.
The last few years have been revolutionary. We moved away from Kansas City to Nashville, and recently again to Pensacola. We have accrued priceless new friendships from our travels across the U.S., people we never would have met if we had stayed put. We even explored the Yucatan and just booked Costa Rica. Our family has grown infinitely closer to one another through every single experience, even the scary ones.
Joy sprouts from the freedom to pursue the unknown, to follow adventure beyond the boundaries of the predictable. Those things we were afraid to let go of look small and simple in the rearview mirror. There is a deep joy to be found by stepping out of your normal and into the undiscovered with Jesus.
Why Not You?
So, when was the last time pure and effortless joy came surging up from the core of your being? Only you know if something is missing. I know it’s worth the risk. Explore your options; shake things up. Partner with God and ask all your scary questions. He wants you to lead a joyful life, and you cannot do it without discovering who He created you to be.
All it takes to unlock a joyful adventure is bravery, trust in God, and the willingness to shake up a settled life. You are not alone!
OUR TRIP TO MEXICO
By Adrienne Brendtro, age 13
Over spring break, I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks in Mexico. While there, I began to see how other people live and the kinds of things they do. We stayed in a resort on the Yucutan Peninsula close to the salt flats. People lived by them in these really run down houses. Some of them didn’t even have roofs! When they ran out of room to build, they would knock over a building into the salt flats and build another one right on top of it!
We also looked around in shops in Merida and Progresso, two towns nearby. Almost every shop has hammocks! Since it’s a poorer country, they all sleep in hammocks instead of real beds. They don’t really understand that Americans don’t need hammocks, so they try to sell you every single one in their shop! It is pretty funny.
We swam in cenotes as well. A cenote is a large, natural hole in the ground filled with freshwater. There are cenotes all over Mexico connected by an underground river system. The one we swam in was so clear, you could see all the way to the bottom, thirty feet below. There’s also cute little fish that nibble at your feet! I was drying off and a Canadian tourist screamed as the fish started touching her feet, which was pretty funny.
At the Mayan ruins we went to, we saw a Mayan basketball court! Their version of basketball was much different than the game we play today. The ball was made of solid rubber. The players couldn’t touch it with their hands, but instead had to bat it with their hips and head! The captain of each team ran up and down a six foot ledge on each side of the court, trying to hit the ball into a small hoop 40 feet above the ground! The captain of the winning team was sacrificed because in their culture, being sacrificed was an honor! You got to go straight to their version of Heaven.
Overall, it was a life changing experience. To see how Mexicans live really makes you grateful for what you have. I really enjoyed it, and I definitely encourage you to go!
Many of you follow Life of the Family because you know us personally, or you share our desire to build a connected family. Over the past year, we’ve shared bits and pieces of our story on this blog. We’ve tried to be so careful, because our goal isn’t to cast blame or cause hurt. In fact, sometimes we stay silent for a while, to rest and process while our story continues to bloom. We only ever write out of a place of joy.
Recently, we were in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, where few go to vacation. We spent two weeks exploring all the Mayan ruins and strolling on nearly empty beaches. Each afternoon, the wind and waves are so loud that they drown out all other sound. I found myself on these long walks along the shore, talking to God. I unzipped my whole bag of questions and really opened up my heart to hear Him answer. It ended up being pretty loud and emotional. (Probably a couple Canadian tourists will never forget that one crazy lady.) But it was amazing! There’s something powerful about pouring out your guts, no holds barred, to the One who created it all.
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