Habits: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Habits: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Contributed by
Eva Fleming

It took me a long time to get up in the morning, lace up my shoes and go straight to the park for my daily three-mile walk. I have to be honest, at first, it was difficult, and I had to devote a lot of mental energy to this task, but with time it became much easier. Now, if it’s raining or if I have an early appointment, I don’t quite know what to do with myself. I first began establishing this habit when my children were young, and I needed solo time to re-energize myself and gather my thoughts. Later it became imperative when the doctor diagnosed me with high blood pressure, and walking was the only alternative to medication.

We activate habits every day from the moment we get out of bed to the moment we go to bed.

Some habits are automatic.

We wake up, we brush our teeth and practice good hygiene. It’s second nature.

Some habits we work very hard to establish.

I love to read. For me, it would be easy to only read for pleasure. I could spend all day reading how-to articles on keeping my house organized and making healthy homemade meals. While this is great, I know I also need to read for professional reasons. One of the most challenging habits I had to develop, was learning to read research literature pertaining to my field. But after doing it over and over, I no longer dread it and instead seek out this literature on a daily basis.

Some habits we want to get rid of.

I have made up my mind to get rid of gossip. By so doing, I’m also not allowing negative people to invade my space.

Old habits are hard to break.

Through my experience what I can tell you for sure is that old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form. But through the endless repetition of failures and successes, it’s possible to establish and maintain new habits.

Why form new habits?

Why not just keep procrastinating and living life without discipline? Neuroscientists have traced our habit of changing behaviors to one part of the brain and our decision-making process to a different part. But as soon as behaviors become automatic, the decision making part of the brain goes into sleep mode, if you will.

Researchers from Duke University have shown that 40% of what we do is determined not by decisions but by habits. Can you imagine being able to perform specific tasks automatically without giving it a second thought, freeing space in our brain for a more productive living? That’s what good habits do. Good daily habits energize us; bad habits drain us. That is the absolute reality.

Start making small changes today, so that when you’re 75 years old, you can wake up healthier and happier because of the good habits you implemented today.

The key to good habit forming is planning and taking it one step at a time.

Plan what you want to do differently, put it in your calendar and fulfill that promise to yourself. Make small, manageable steps towards the goals you are trying to reach. People that try to do it all in one day are rarely successful. I started walking half a mile a day. It was what I could manage physically and emotionally at the time. But I kept doing it and slowly started adding a few more steps to my daily walk. I have friends that are runners and can do 10 miles a day, I admire them, but I don’t envy them. I do what I can, and I insist on being consistent. Success is better achieved through small daily changes that are repeated over time. So whether you want to stop procrastinating, biting your nails, smoking, snacking incessantly, recurring to gossip, or beating yourself down with negativity, start small by doing it less and less until you achieve success.

Our habits hold great influence over how we think, act and feel. We are the result and sum of our habits so don’t put it off any longer, invest in yourself. You are worth it.

What new habits would you like to establish? Which would you like to get rid of? Let us know in the comments section below.

For more tips on life and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

“Adulting” 101 – Why asking Why is important

“Adulting” 101 – Why asking Why is important

Contributed by
Eduardo Morales

As I get older and evaluate my life, I see that our 20’s has a lot of influence on how the next stages of our lives will be shaped. Why? Because our 20’s bring a lot of transition: High School to College, College to Career and Career and other Career, Singleness to Dating, (then maybe like in my case, single again several times over), then Marriage and quite possibly the Baby Carriage. But this is really a time to learn about you, see the world, experience friendships. These life experiences are some that are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. These are the memories that will turn into the good ol’ days. And truthfully, if we aren’t careful, these years can just fly by, unless we are intentional about setting a vision and living with purpose.

It is so important to have a vision for your life. Without a vision, you might be busy doing things, but you could be busy doing things without a point. The idea is to have a purpose and intention in what you do. So what do you really want to do with your life? Why am I doing what I currently am doing?

These are the questions I have been asking myself in a time of transition. As I am asking and evaluating, I think a good question to ask is “Why?” For most of us, when we were younger, we constantly bugged our parental figures with the questions of why. “Why does this happen?” “Why do you do that?” “Why this?” “Why that?” Yeah, it can get annoying, but I have found that asking ourselves the Why questions, allows us to answer and clearly explain to ourselves, why we are doing what we are doing.

For a few years now, I have been wearing a number of different hats, gaining a lot of great experience. I believe the quickest way to find our sweet spot is wearing different hats and finding out what we like and don’t like. However, it’s in these experiences that you evaluate whether or not this is something you want to continue dedicating yourself to. Knowing where you stand and where you want to go – that’s having a vision. When you have a direction of where you want to go with your life, spiritual walk, your marriage, your career, you can better determine what things you currently do in your life or might come across your path in the future, that will either benefit you or hinder you.

Here are a few practical ideas that can guide you through this vision-setting process.

Look at what you’re passionate about and how you’re wired. When you start to see some common threads in your life or overlapping interests and assess your skills, this might be a good mix of information to help guide you as to what you want to invest your life into in the years ahead. So what are you good at, what are you not-so-good at? What’s your story? Are there positions you continuously find yourself in or others elect you to? Use these questions as guides in developing a vision for yourself.

Take time to breathe.A common question in interviews is where do you see yourself in 5 years? Sometimes we can be so busy plowing in the fields that we lose focus on why we even starting tilling in the first place. It’s important to take time to remind and refocus, or else, it is easy for us to get drained and suffer from burn-out. Even more so, we might find ourselves in a position where we lost the vision.

Write it out! I believe we are more apt to follow through with a goal or an idea when we write it down and keep it visible for us to see. Just like scripture, if we embed it in our hearts, if we meditate on it day and night, it will become a part of us. The reality is that we tend to forget and when we forget we lose focus. Having a visual reminder continues to keep us focused and helps combat our forgetfulness.

Ask yourself the Why’s? Ask yourself (and ask others close to you to ask you), the tough questions. It is not always about looking for the advice or opinion, but allowing mentors, or your core supports, to ask you questions that will get you thinking and seeing things from another perspective. Everyone has an opinion and advice that could be easy to give and easy to find. Plus you can search around until you find someone that fits what you’re looking for and that might not always be the best thing.

When thinking about leaving your mark on your culture, your world, your church, your neighborhood, your family, it starts with a vision. Learning more about you, your skills, your passions should help guide you in understanding your purpose. When you start living on purpose, that breeds confidence, because you’re in your element. Taking time to process this for yourself, in all the areas of life you’re involved in, will help you develop vision. So be like a little toddler for a moment and ask yourself the “Why’s?” I think you’ll find yourself developing a decision-making style that is more visionary than circumstantial.

Do you have a vision and purpose for your life? Share with us your experience in the comments section below.

For more tips on life and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

How to Love Your Partner at their Worst

How to Love Your Partner at their Worst

Contributed by
Dr. Charlie and Elizabeth Woehr

There is an old Western movie starring Clint Eastwood, titled: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Well, we humans can be like that. In fact, within every person, even you and your partner, there is the potential to at one time or another exhibit actions or attitudes that could be classified as good, bad, and even ugly!

It is easy to love a partner who is showing their good side. It is a bit harder to love a partner who is showing their bad side. It is much, much harder to love a partner who is showing their ugly side—at their worst.

To be able to LOVE your partner when they’re at their worst, you must develop, from the beginning of your relationship, a solid foundation. Here are the four elements you must integrate into that foundation, that will prepare you to LOVE in all kinds of situations:

 

L – Laugh often with your partner. Laughter has been called “the best medicine,” and there is a reason for that. Laughing together means sharing fun times, silly times, creating this way memories that will be the glue for when the tempests of trouble hit your relationship, helping to keep things from collapsing around you.

O – Open your hearts to each other; share your inner thoughts and feelings. Talk about the dreams you each have for your relationship. By opening your hearts to each other you are trusting each other with your deeply valuable thoughts and feelings. Being comfortable with each other is a prerequisite to wanting to support each other in those more difficult moments, when things are not as you would like them to be. If you have learned to open your hearts at times of vulnerability, this will create both a desire and need to get closer to your partner in difficult times, which will counter the natural tendency to move away from each other when things get tough.

V – Value the strengths each of you have and learn to expect those to be brought into play when things are not going so well. Is one of you a forgiving person? That will be brought into play when things are not going well. Is one of you a deep thinker? Value the analysis that will bring to reflection about where things have gone wrong. Your strengths will need to be known and brought to bear in difficult times.

E –  Expect to recover from difficult times you will face. Avoid generalizing by thinking to yourself that this “always” happens, or that this “will last a long time” or that “this will never end.” Rather think of positive outcomes and expect that your partner will react and come around, will ask forgiveness, and seek to restore any painful times caused by their worst moments. Expect that when the years go by these difficult moments will have made your relationship stronger. Expect is really to exercise FAITH: believing in the ultimate healing and restoration that will come, after the valley of pain or misunderstanding.

 

Want to love your partner at their worst? Start loving them at their best and put the L.O.V.E to work for you, as you prepare to weather the most challenging storms that inevitably come on the sea of life as a couple. Down the road of life, as you look back on these difficult times, you’ll be very glad you did!

How have you and your partner gotten through tough times in your relationship? Share with us in the comments area below.

For more tips on life and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

Make Time for Memories that will Never Fade

Make Time for Memories that will Never Fade

Contributed by
James Hommowun

 

 

This week, my college roommate was back in town visiting his family and made time to stop by our house for an evening.  After catching up with my wife and I and our very excited daughters for about twenty minutes, my oldest ran from the room to grab a tablet and raced back up to him to ask, “Wanna play chess?”  I was treated to half an hour of watching my old friend (who is every bit as bright as I am) nearly lose his first game of chess with my daughter – in his own words, he only got out of it because she showed him a mistake he was making and he was able to turn it around.

I should maybe mention that my old roommate moonlights as a game designer and knows more about the history and development of chess and its variants than I could ever hope to match.

Needless to say, I was incredibly proud of my daughter. And I hadn’t set her up to challenge him, nor would I have expected her to come that close to winning her first game with another skilled adult.  (I maybe should have since she finally beat me last week, but obviously I must have just not been paying close enough attention.)  But the whole reason I had this great experience is because I took the time last year to teach my daughter to play and spent the time playing with her. She took that, ran with it – she’s getting very good at defeating weak computer opponents on that tablet, and is excited to attend the library chess club this summer as one of the youngest players – and has exceeded by many times the little effort I put in in the beginning – “effort” to have funwith my child.

We get so busy with our day to day lives we can lose track of the time we spend (or don’t) with the people closest to us, the people we see every day – and this passive, unintentional neglect (we’re not tryingto not spend time with our kids, we’re just trying to keep up with all the other demands on our time) has the biggest impact on the smallest people.  Children thriveon parental interaction, they come to love what we love and they want so desperately to be like us we have but to give them the slightest encouragement and they burst into bloom right before our eyes.

If I hadn’t spent that time playing with my daughter, could I have answered a few more emails?  “Liked” a handful more Facebook posts?  Caught another episode of Stranger Things on Netflix?  Finished another chapter in my book?  Of course I could have.  In a year, will I remember any of those things?  Very likely not.  Will I remember the sparkle in my daughter’s eyes and the genuine joy my roommate took in playing with her – something that could only happen because I first played with her?  Absolutely. Maybe even for the rest of my life.

We know that finding time and balancing all the demands on us as parents is hard – it’s another Full Time job on top of any other work you do, and the hours are 24/7.  That’s why Family Bridges hosts a series of short podcasts to help young (and not so young) parents navigate the challenges we all share – we know “The Struggle is Real,” but no one has to face it alone.  We invite you to check out the podcasts, or join us on the Family Bridges App available in the Apple Store and Google Play to get some quick tips on how you can trim the timesinks that you’ll never remember and make time for the memories that will never fade.  Take the time to play with your kids – chess, baseball, chutes and ladders, dress up, the game doesn’t matter.  You may sometimes feel silly, harried, find it hard to focus – but the rewards are incredible, and they come when you least expect them, and they arethe moments worth living for.

For more resources on personal and professional development, you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

What Comes Your Way

What Comes Your Way

By Mike & Debbie Henderson

If you have received bad news or have gone or are going through a difficult experience, you may be wondering how you are going to get through it.

The morning of September 11th 2001 was different for so many people in so many ways, but for my wife and I it was a life changer. The news of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers was dominating the news and our office calls. It is a day we will never forget.

In all of the craziness of the day and for all its meaning, I will never forget the phone call from my wife. It was around 11:00 AM on that somber morning. My wife called and said. “Mike, the doctor just called, I have breast cancer”. As the tears welled up deep inside, all we could do is cry.

There were a lot of things we didn’t know. We didn’t know how bad it was and we didn’t know if it was life threatening, so we just cried. Those moments seemed like eternity for both of us. Inside my world was crashing down.

The news around the world shook me and caused me to wonder what was going on, but the news of my wife’s cancer was more devastating than anything either of us had ever faced before. It was during our conversation on the phone that my wife and I had determined that we both wanted answers.

I sat in my office chair trying to comprehend the news of my wife and cancer. I prayed and I prayed and then I would cry some more. My wife, at home, was doing the same thing. We were stunned. We both struggled inside.

I remember feeling inside that I had to let my wife go…a very difficult thing to do. As I was contemplating releasing her over to the Lord, a sinking feeling overwhelmed me. I remember praying, “Lord I don’t understand and I don’t know why but I give my wife to you. I don’t know what you have in mind but I am going to trust you for this moment.” I opened my bible and this verse jumped off the page at me. It is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (The Message Bible),

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.”

It was comforting to me to realize that others have had to face this same problem also, and in some cases, so much more, and they came through it okay.

The days and months passed. I was at my wife’s side the whole time as she went through six months of chemotherapy and three months of radiation treatments. Admittedly, some days were harder than others.

I remember one day in particular when my wife had her third chemo treatment. She was lying in bed, hurting and unresponsive. She said, “Mike, I can’t do this anymore.” I could sense her desperation, so I laid down next to her and said, “Honey, let’s look at the clock and let’s try to make it just five minutes.” After we had made that first five minutes, we would do it all over again. We must have looked at the clock some 20 times that day. HE helped us get through a very difficult day

The 1 Corinthians 10:13 verse that jumped out at me hung on our refrigerator door for over a year. It was always there as a constant reminder to us the Lord Jesus was with us. It was so comforting to know that He promised we will never let us be pushed past our limit, even when everything inside says you are.

Today, my wife is cancer free. Praise God! I thank the Lord for her and for what HE has done in our lives and in the lives of my children. What we as a family learned during that difficult time has changed all of us.

About Mike & Debbie Henderson

Mike and Debbie have been married 41 years, have two children and four awesome grandchildren, ages 7,4,3,and 1. Mike, with the full support of Debbie, has been the Senior Pastor for the K-LOVE and Air1 radio networks for 17 years. They are listener supported ministries with 10 associate pastors on staff responding to our listeners’ needs all around the country and the world.

To learn more, visit www.Klove.comwww.air1.com and www.crisisresponse.org

Mike and Debbie Henderson

30 Day Devotional

This resource can help you and your family encounter Scripture together and make deeper connections with God and each other. This has been designed to be used during the month of July, but you can use it at any time. We suggest you begin Day 1 on a Sunday because some activities are designed around the weekend and Sunday worship. God bless you!

Family Bridges App

Books too “last century” for you? This customized app will give you access to resources to manage your own growth or even take the journey with a group of friends. What are you waiting for?

Resolving Conflict

Resolving Conflict

By Bill Ferrell

Where are you in your marriage/significant relationship? How are you at resolving conflict? Do you move towards one another in a healthy way in order to address issues, or do you avoid conflict?

I picked my wife up from the airport as I did every Thursday night. She travels for her job and this was part of our weekly ritual. This reunion was always a highlight for both of us.

As we drove through Chicago to our home, we reconnected. She told me about her day and I told her about mine. I described a conversation I had with the neighbor. It involved a rabbit and a rotten oversized tomato. She laughed. I laughed. We felt connected. Ah – life is good.

Once we got home she went to the pantry to get some Trader Joe’s biscotti. She loves their biscotti. She swung the doors open, looked in and suddenly a perplexed expression crossed her face. She looked at me and asked, “Did you buy the biscotti this week?” “No,” I said.

She looked back into the pantry and stood there for a minute. Silently. As quickly as we had connected earlier – it felt like we were suddenly disconnected. Without saying another word, she walked up the stairs and to our bedroom.

I was confused. What happened? Why the sudden shift? I may be a little slow but I have been married long enough to know that something was not quite right. I traced back the order of events since I had picked her up. We had hugged, talked about our kids, discussed the weekend ahead, I told her the rabbit and tomato story, we came in, she looked into the pantry, and then that’s when it happened.

The sound of silence.

That was my first clue. Actually, it was my only clue. But that was enough. No biscotti. I know she loves her biscotti, but it couldn’t be that. Or could it?

I stood in the kitchen and looked at the clock. It was 10:30 p.m. I had a decision to make. Do I go upstairs and try to work this out with her tonight – whatever “this” is? I know from experience that it will take time and work.Or do I follow her lead, keep quiet, shut off the lights, and go to sleep? I knew the answer before I even seriously contemplated the question.

I went upstairs and waded in. It took a few questions to get to the core issue of her upset. And it wasn’t the lack of biscotti. No real surprise there. That was just a “trigger” for feelings she had experienced in our marriage for years – feeling neglected and unloved.

So I sat on the bed and listened. I worked at not being defensive or critical. The end result was that she felt loved and valued and we re-established the connection we had before. But it was actually even stronger.

Previously, I had spent too many years of our marriage avoiding conflict, which had damaged our relationship. I had been fearful of what might happen if I had addressed difficult issues head on. So I had chosen the path of least resistance. The result was a marriage that lacked true intimacy.

One day while reading the Bible, God spoke to me about how I had been in my marriage from this Scripture passage:

Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

God was encouraging Joshua to be the leader He had created him to be – and not to fear. There was no need to be afraid because God was with him.

This is not your typical marriage verse. And yet it was exactly what I needed to hear. I needed to be strong and courageous in order to be the husband God had called me to be. I needed to reject passivity and take the initiative to resolve conflict.

In the last six years we have worked hard on our marriage. It has required trusting God through some very honest and difficult discussions. There has been a lot of pain – but it has been pain with a purpose.

Along the way I have constantly been encouraged to be strong and courageous because God is with us. The result is a marriage that is far greater than anything we ever could have imagined.

About Bill and Leslie Ferrell

Bill and Leslie have been married for 31 years, have 2 children and 2 adorable grandchildren: ages 1 and 3. Bill has been in vocational ministry his entire adult career and is currently the Executive Director of Pinnacle Forum – a ministry to marketplace leaders. Leslie is the CEO of Big Idea, Inc., the makers of Veggie Tales. And she does love her biscotti!

Bill and Leslie Ferell

30 Day Devotional

This resource can help you and your family encounter Scripture together and make deeper connections with God and each other. This has been designed to be used during the month of July, but you can use it at any time. We suggest you begin Day 1 on a Sunday because some activities are designed around the weekend and Sunday worship. God bless you!

Family Bridges App

Books too “last century” for you? This customized app will give you access to resources to manage your own growth or even take the journey with a group of friends. What are you waiting for?

What makes a Good Friend?

What makes a Good Friend?

Contributed by
Analiese Fernandez

On the days that hang low in the valley and the ones that soar at the mountain peak, we tend to lean deep into our friendships for support. One of the areas in my life that I continuously work to invest in is the area of friendships. As a millennial, I find that as I get older, it’s harder to establish lasting friendships. When you do have one, you realize it’s a valuable, rare treasure and you do what you can to nurture it. Does anyone else agree?

Three best friends hugging each other in the city.
Three best friends hugging each other in the city.

I have always strived to keep my circle of friends small and intimate. I don’t desire to call a plethora of people my friends, but preferably two or three like-minded individuals who want to run this journey of life with me. I recently moved to Arizona from Florida with my husband. As newlyweds, we uprooted our lives and all that we know to begin a new chapter across the country. I left my job behind, we both left our families, our homes, and the safety of our comfort blanket. We also left behind our cherished friendships. The ones that have withstood the test of time and have walked with us through some pivotal seasons of our lives. How blessed my husband and I are to have friendships so wonderful to miss. We know our friendships back home will always have a special place in our hearts; however, my husband and I know it is important to connect with community. With that being said, in a completely new city as millennials, we question where to even begin. It feels like starting over. What exactly makes a good friend?

When I ask myself that question, I immediately think of my closest friend, Sara, who has been there for me through some of my recent young adulthood years. We supported one another in our season of singleness; ensuring that we didn’t get discouraged. We were each other’s voice of reason when the rest of the world would try to sway us off track. We would remind each other of our worth and that in the waiting, we had our friendship to cultivate and watch grow.

Shortly after, we both met the men who would later become our future husbands. When it was my time to get married, I saw Sara’s friendship on a whole new level. A level of sacrifice and love that I will forever cherish. When I was engaged, Sara had already become a wonderful wife and a new mother. In the midst of a major transition in Sara’s own life, she never once hesitated to make herself available for every detail of my wedding planning (despite living an hour away from me). When I reflect back on wedding planning, I think of Sara who willingly and joyfully sacrificed to see my special day come to fruition.

So when I think of the qualities of a good friend, I remember that I have to surround myself with like-minded people. How I would define that would be by surrounding yourself with people who are running by your side in life. People who share common values, qualities, interests, and passions. Those who won’t hold you back from all that God is calling you to be but will help propel you forward. A good friend is someone who is loyal and supportive but will also be able to give you tough love when you need it if it means it’s going to help better you as an individual. As the Proverb says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Perhaps consider tough love to be an opportunity to be sharpened and be sure to reciprocate it for your friend who might need it one day too. Also, being capable of expressing empathy and being an active listener are essential qualities in a good friendship.

All in all, the thought I keep coming back to is striving for life-giving and intentional friendships. Ones that leave you feeling rejuvenated and encouraged at the end of a conversation. A friendship where you and that person truly understand each other’s sense of humor and find yourselves laughing often. As millennials, we learn first-hand about “adulting” and the challenges it can bring at times, so laughter is essential and liberating. Strive for intentionality where both you and that other person make the same effort to cultivate your friendship. When I think of “cultivate,” I think of gardening; making preparations and caring for crops to one day reap a harvest. When we apply this mentality to our friendships, taking care of them and being intentional, we can one day hope to see the fruit of lasting, life-giving friendships.

What other characteristics do you think would make a good friend? Comment below.

For more tips on life and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

Never Underestimate the Value of a Father’s Loving Hand

Never Underestimate the Value of a Father’s Loving Hand

Contributed by
Dr. Alicia La Hoz

I vividly recall my father’s long fingers and open hands as he spoke and welcomed others into his presence. I wisely knew not to interrupt him when I saw his face buried in his hands as he was deep in thought. I appreciated his big hands when he carried me to the emergency room a few times for accidents I had while playing imaginatively. And I tried to follow his teaching on how to appropriately grasp a baseball for a fast ball or a curve ball. Four years since his passing and what I mostly cherish were his embracing hands that would drain out my worries of the world.

There are many unique features about hands. You probably know that fingers carry unique fingerprints. Did you know that the hands carry more sensory receptors than any other part of the body? So, in a way, we carry our feelings in our hands. We also can pick up on how people feel just by observing their hands. I was fortunate enough to enjoy the privilege of being raised by a father who emoted love through his hands. He was welcoming, kind, loving, and also protective – never overstepping his boundaries. Instead of being a father who is remembered by angry hands that hurt and can’t be trusted, be a father who through his hands welcomes, guides, and loves.

  • Welcoming hands: Assume an attitude and a posture that invites your children to come to you with questions about the world, about the relationships in their life, and about life in general. When they approach you, go down to their eye level; hold their hands; look into their eyes. Take them in and be as present as possible. By giving them the gift of your presence, you are telling them that they are welcomed, that they are valued, and that they matter. This will forge in their lives a strong sense of identity that will help them be confident adults.
  • Guiding hands: Take the time to teach your children. Invite them to join you while you work on the car, while you fix a door handle, or while replacing a light bulb. Not only are you giving him/her the opportunity to learn practical day-to-day skills needed in the real world, but, in so doing, you will connect and bond. As you work on projects together, teach your kids about your values, hopes, and wishes.
  • Loving hands: Embrace your children. Carry them; tickle them; play with their toys; smooth over their hair. Create memories that remind them that you love them. Ensure the memories you create are not filled with closed fits or painful stings. Ensure that your hands are not ones to be avoided but ones to be cherished. Teach them through your example what is appropriate and not appropriate and how to establish appropriate boundaries.

Family Bridges’ vision is strong families for purpose driven children. For more resources on parenting and fatherhood, be sure to download our Podcast, The Struggle Is Real.

This panel-style podcast is led by three hosts and a special weekly guest where the discussion is based on professionally executed skits that show parenting techniques that work.

What impact has your father had in your life? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

For more tips on life and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

My Dad, My Inspiration

My Dad, My Inspiration

Contributed by
Veronica Vasquez

If you ask me, who I admire the most in this world I’d tell you over and over again, Israel Vasquez. No, he is not a celebrity; his neighbors barely know his name. He is not a professional, he cleans the floors of a company. He is not a scholar, he stopped showing up to school by the second grade because his father thought education wasn’t necessary for success. Who is this man you may ask? This man is my father.

At his 62 years of age he’s still up and running around like if he were a teenager. He really doesn’t have a stop button, especially on the weekends. I look at him and only wish I could have that same energy he does. Not only is he full of energy but you should see this man’s faith and how much God has blessed him. He has been an inspiration not only to me but to others who get to know him and let me tell you why.

My father was born and raised in Cuetzala, Guerrero, Mexico. He is the fifth child out of 11. His family was kicked out of town because people believed his father was part of the mafia and he was “dangerous” to the people. My grandpa and his family left town and moved to a mountain where there was no electricity. My father became the man of the house at the age of eight, when his father was murdered. He had no choice but to work in the fields from sunrise to sunset to give his siblings the education they deserved.

My father was so illiterate that he was clueless when his birthday was or how old he was. It wasn’t until he was 16 that he asked his mother if he could fatten the sow for his birthday. My grandmother said to him “for what? Your birthday was three months ago, there is no point”. My father saw the need to better himself but lacked the money to do so. He attempted to cross the border not once, but twice in 1977. So yes, you are correct if you’re thinking he’s an immigrant.

His destination was Chicago and by the second day of his arrival and without him knowing the language, a simple word like “excuse me” got him a job. He was a dishwasher of a restaurant located in the city with a view of what used to be the John Hancock tower. Over the next 10 years, he had met my mother, had two children (my siblings) and had just bought his first house in Wheeling, IL.

Two years later in 1990, his biggest headache arrived; me, his youngest daughter Veronica. As a child, I remember my mother telling me she was going to get married to my dad. I used to hang from the kitchen’s doorknob and cry hysterically because I didn’t want her to marry the little short man who I called dad. Up to this day, he teases me about what I said but honestly, I’m glad my mother did not take up on my advice and married him.

It was not until my adolescent years that I finally understood why my father did not know how to read and write well. I understood his past and began to see the great effort he had been putting in throughout these years only to give us the best.

The little reading and writing that he knew was because he had picked up a book, The Bible. He’d write Bible verses over and over again, only to tell me that by the start of my school year all my notebooks had disappeared because he had used them up. I felt the obligation not only as his daughter but as someone who got inspired by his story to keep helping him grow, and so we read the bible together as a family. Our favorite verse is Deuteronomy 6:

Love the Lord Your God. These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 

To this day, his writing is not perfect, but he has improved. His reading is slow, but he loves to read and he is not ashamed of it and neither am I. Nine years ago, in 2009, he passed the U.S Citizen test. Not only did he accomplish that but he passed the test in the English version. And just four years ago, his first house became officially his.

 The past few years he’s been battling Pulmonary Fibrosis which has no cure. He was recently diagnosed with a rare skin disease and squamous skin cancer on his right ear. But despite all of that, his faith and trust in the Lord continues to grow and that is what has gotten him this far. There is not a day this man doesn’t get down on his knees and gives thanks to the Lord for his family. Now that, to me, is worth more than him having a Masters degree or a PhD title. Our relationship is not the best, I run after him, watching his every move, as if he were my child, but I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Thank you, dad, for all that you do for your children, your wife, and now your granddaughter.We love you. Happy Father’s Day!

What impact has your father had in your life? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

For more tips on life and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

Budgeting for a Baby

Budgeting for a Baby

Contributed by
Freddie Beckley

Congratulations – you’re having a baby! Now get to work! … Just kidding. You may only have a few short months to get ready for that bundle of joy, but this time should be fun, pleasant and downright enjoyable. Not just for you and your spouse, but for the baby too. Studies have shown that newborns are heavily affected by their parents’ stress levels. Even when they’re in the womb, a baby can hear what’s happening around them, and you don’t want them to hear you arguing or stressing. So, with the emotional wellbeing of your child in mind, below is a list of easy things you can do to alleviate one of the most stressful parts of being a parent – finances.

1. Wait before Buying in Bulk

When my wife and I were preparing our home for baby, we wanted to have enough of everything. We didn’t want to be without baby Tylenol or a thermometer or a diaper in the middle of the night when we needed it most. As a result, we bought a lot of things up front, and we had to donate or get rid of some of it. A great example of this is the pacifier. We bought about a dozen and were gifted another dozen more. The only problem is, our baby doesn’t use a pacifier. Oh well, at least we have little baby shower gifts for our friends over the next few years…

Bottom line: there are certain staples that will never expire and you can never have enough of, for instance baby wipes or formula, but a lot of items are time sensitive. Diapers and clothes, for example, won’t always fit. Be wary of overbuying every little item just because you want to feel prepared. Buy enough for the first month, and then once you have a better sense of your needs, continue to shop.

 

2.  Bottle it Up

We were concerned that our baby wouldn’t take a bottle unless it was the exact right shape and size, so we bought about 9 different types. This wasn’t a bad idea, but it was a little overkill. We’ve come to find that our daughter doesn’t care what kind of bottle she drinks from, and we actually prefer the cheapest one on the market because it fits with my wife’s breast pump.
Bottom line: grab a few different kinds of bottles to be safe, but wait to see what your child prefers before buying more.

 

3. Learn to Share

I was SO excited to become a dad that I started stocking up on my gear immediately. I bought my own diaper bag and filled it with blankets, a changing pad, baby shampoo, ointments, etc. My wife did the same, and now we have 2 fully-stocked diaper bags. This sounds good in theory but, since we don’t have twins, we only ever take 1 diaper bag out at a time. The other one sits at home.
Bottom line – communicate with your partner to share the essentials. You don’t need 2 of everything.

 

4. Shop Early and Shop Often

My wife is brilliant. Let me tell you why. She started shopping for clothes as soon as we got pregnant, up to 12 months. When our daughter was born, she had all the shirts, pants, onesies, mittens, hats, jackets, sweaters, socks, and swimsuits she would need until her first birthday. Because we spaced it out over 9 months, we only shopped in the clearance sections of baby stores. Did you know winter outfits are 60-90% off in the Spring? Now you do.

Bottom line – Go ahead and buy the clearance clothes 6-12 months early and not only will they be much cheaper, but chances are your baby will be the only one with that cute Christmas outfit since they stopped making it. #win

P.S. Look online for items too. We buy formula and baby wipes in bulk online and end up saving a pretty penny.

 

5. Find the Free

I looked it up, and the number one financial regret of newborn parents is wasting money on toys and presents the baby can’t appreciate. Avoid the same mistake! If you want to give your baby a 6-month birthday present, give them a box. If you want your baby to have an awesome experience, don’t take them to Disneyland. Take them to the park. It’s free.

Bottom line – find all the free things you can and live it up with baby. Many libraries and bookstores have story time. A place in our neighborhood offers a free music class for babies. As your children grow up, they may want more and more expensive things. Enjoy this sweet time when they have no idea what’s going on.

 

6. Baby Swap

Not that you don’t love your baby, but there will come a night when you and your spouse need a night out. When that time comes, don’t waste money on a babysitter. Find a friend or family member you trust to watch your child for a few hours. It’s even better if they have a baby themselves. That’s why I like to set up Baby Swaps. Take turns with other parent couples watching each others’ babies. When you and your spouse are watching your friends’ baby, your baby will get to work on their social skills. When you and your spouse want to go on a date, you’ll be more comfortable leaving your baby with a trusted friend than a hired hand.

Bottom line: babies always seem to come in waves. In the last year, 8 of my close friends have become pregnant. Find those friends with a child about the same age as yours and ask if they want to trade off with you.

What’s been your experience when budgeting for a new baby? Share your experience in the comments section!

For more tips on finances and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.