The Friday Family Bag


As Friday’s lend themselves to playing catch-up, here is some Internet Gold that I’ve loved over the past few weeks.

The Gospel and the (Im)perfect Marriage - “Depending on how well we do in our own eyes, perfectionism can play out in a variety of negative responses: feelings of worthlessness, inordinate preoccupation with the opinions of other people, paralyzing fear, impatience with others, and a sense of superiority.”

Shaping a Child’s Soul: A task to Important to be Entrusted to a Professional –    Efficiency is not the goal of gospel-motivated ministry.”

How to Save Money around the Home - Sometimes we put these small changes off because we forget just how much money we could save if we do them.”

The Secret to Raising Emotionally Healthy Kids - “We live in complex times. As I work with thousands of parents and faculty each year, I’m increasingly convinced we have a more engaged set of adults who care about kids today than at any time since I began my career in 1979. Simultaneously, however, I am observing a more troubled population of kids, especially by the time they reach their teen years. It appears at first like an oxymoron. How can such a cared-for generation experience such emotional difficulties?”


Celebrate the Differences



  • One is hyper organized, moderately controlling, quick to ask forgiveness, and genuinely compassionate with others.
  • The other is charming, a rock solid friend, super fun, and is not ashamed to give out a hug when it’s needed.
  • The third one has a deep desire to be a good friend, is a strong and vocal leader and reminds us all the most of her mother.

These are my 3 children in a nutshell. So many different qualities, and so many easy to assume futures. I understand birth order, but I don’t buy it entirely. Just because my middle child is funny and gregarious, doesn’t mean he can’t grow up to be thoughtful and sensitive. My first-born is classic in so many ways, but I don’t want him locked into that ‘first born syndrome’ his entire life.

I believe that God can and will shape my children in ways that their ‘birth order’ will not make sense of.

Here is how I protect their differences, while waiting with expectancy about what they are still yet to become.

Celebrate them. I celebrate what they are today. It’s so easy to talk about what’s ‘wrong‘ and ‘needs fixing‘ in their lives, but I work hard as a father to celebrate the greatness I already see. My daughter is so gentle with her baby dolls, and while I know that is not a guarantee that she becomes a great mother; it’s ignorant to pass up the opportunity to talk about how that compassion towards an inanimate doll could be a gift of compassion developing somewhere in her heart.

Stay undecided. What they’re good at today, may not be what their good at tomorrow. Vice versa that as well. There is the obvious, but there is also the ‘just under the surface’ stuff there as well. Sure, my 9-year-old struggles with multiplication. But does that mean he will struggle with all math the rest of his life? Of course it doesn’t. It breaks my heart when parents tag their kids giftings too early. Let them breathe, let them grow and then learn to …

Dream with them. Never stop asking questions, “What do you want to become?” I use my questions to talk about things they’d want in a future spouse, what parts of the country they’d want to live in, and where certain jobs and careers could take them.

As a parent, it’s my responsibility to help my kids grow, learn, dream, and become the adults God wants them to be. I want them to hear God’s voice, respond to that voice, and then depend on Him to carry it out. It all begins with just letting them grow.

They don’t belong to me anyways, right? I have a suspicion God has much bigger plans for them then their mother or I could ever have.

Lighten Up

I was agitated. I had a long day at work. The lasagna I made took 4x as long to make and clean up than it did to eat, and no one was even all that impressed by it.

I was busy getting the last of dinner put away before we needed to jet out the door to get to my 5th grade son Ryan s baseball game. As I rinsed the final dish I said to my 1st grade daughter, Lauryn, I need you to brush your hair and get your shoes on your feet. Right now. We ve gotta go.  I ran upstairs to toss a load of clothes in the dryer and pull on my shoes.  Jog back down the stairs to see Lauryn still sitting in the middle of the living room floor.  Hair a mess.  No shoes.  Clearly day dreaming.

The agitation I mentioned in paragraph one had now escalated.

I stopped. Looked at her. And thought, I cannot think of a consequence for her at this moment.  My brain is fried.  I am annoyed.  I am late.  She is not ready to go.  What consequence is appropriate here .other than letting loose with the Are you KIDDING me right now?!?! speech that I wanted to spew all over her messy-headed self.  In my agitation, I was baffled as to what I should even say or do.

Then, in that still small voice, I hear the Lord say If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask the Father who gives graciously to all without finding fault.

Okay then, Lord.  I need some help here.  I need some wisdom.

Then, Look at her.

I see her, Lord.  She s shoeless with messy hair and she is making me late.

Look again. Look.

I see her, Lord.  Okay, yes.  Yes . [deep breath] I see.  She s seven, and precious, and caught up in her own sweet world that s full of innocent daydreams. But Lord, she clearly disobeyed.  I told her to brush her hair.  Find her shoes.  She didn t.  What now?



Yes. Grace.  Lighten up.  She can put her shoes on in the car, and the baseball fields don t require combed hair for entrance. It s okay.  Take a breath, and enjoy her.  Gather her up sweetly, guide her with shoes in hand to the car, and go watch your boy play some baseball.

Oh. Okay. Yes. I guess I can do that.




At the ball fields, a hat covering up that unbrushed hair!

And so off we went. The Holy Spirit gifted me with a change of heart: From agitation to enjoyment. From wanting to discipline her (not for her benefit, but because I was annoyed) .to extending grace.  He is so, so good to answer when we call to Him. Sometimes the answer saves the mood of the entire evening. I so enjoyed riding to baseball singing along to the radio together, rather than spending the drive lecturing!

Obviously, I am all for kids learning to be quick to obey, and I expect that my kids respect me by doing what I ask. But I m grateful for a God who sees the whole picture and knows when a mom needs to be reminded to just take a breath and lighten up. Sometimes, it s just a pair of shoes.


Extracurricular Paradise


Baseball, soccer, and  gymnastics  make up many afternoons and evenings in our house. It would seem that we enjoy the sports-scene, and that is very true. I love watching my kids run around a baseball field, learn to get better at soccer, and take on the challenge of a new gymnastics routine. However, I also know there are limits to every good thing. There is a place we can get into with extracurricular  activities  that begin to push us beyond a healthy pace.

Here are the Cliff family guardrails to help keep these outside interests in proper perspective:

The kids have to enjoy it. Yes, they are forced to finish what they commit to. Yes, they are forced to attend practices. No, I do not force them to sign-up each season. I want my kids to enjoy the experience, and if they are only doing it because I like them to do, then it won’t last. The fun has to be there for it to really work.

They have to do something extracurricular. While I don’t require them to do one thing over another, I do require them to do something outside of the normal. It could be sports, music, or art classes. We’ve had them involved in each of those at one time or another.

There is an end date in view. Baseball is a spring sport. It is not a fall sport for our family. Soccer is 10 weeks long, not 25 weeks long for our family. Granted, my kids aren’t yet teenagers, but we work hard to make sure the experience has a clear ending time.

All normal rules apply. They need to make wise choices, they should treat others the way they wanted to be treated, and they will use the experience to show Christs love in a practical way. Extracurricular isn’t an escape from reality, it’s a new arena to practice all that life expects from us.

Give our best. Giving your very best involves practicing, trying hard, and never giving up when things get tough. In fact, that’s probably why I lean so strongly towards competitive sports. There is something to working together as a team to accomplish a goal that I love my kids to be involved with.

Of course, there are always exceptions. These are just some healthy ways we keep all that we do in the right perspective. We are a family FIRST, we are not baseball players first. We are a family FIRST, we are not slaves to gymnastics practice. We are a family FIRST, we are not victims of the soccer schedule.

How do you keep things healthy for your kids in these busy seasons?




Rhythms that Work for My Family: Running Errands


A rhythm is something we do with regularity. Maybe it’s everyday, or every few days, but it’s something that you could set your clocks to because it will happen. It’s my goal to leverage my normal rhythms to make the investment that lasts in my kids lives.

We are a family of 5, and inevitably every few days entails Starr or I running an errand. Whether it’s the post office, grocery shopping, pharmacy, grocery shopping for what we forgot the first time, or just skattershooting around town; we spend a lot of time in the car out and about. While it can be tempting to let the kids stay at home, and do my stuff faster, I’m learning to resist that and take them along. Here’s how it works for me:

They have to want to go.|| I don’t make my kid go with me to the store, unless they just have to. I’ll tell you that if you can make the trip worth it a few times, then they’ll be begging to be with you.

Give them a job. || Always, always, always find a reason that you could use their help on your journey. Pushing the basket, carrying something into the house, or holding something in their lap while you drive there. I sincerely do need their help sometimes, and my kids have all loved feeling needed in this way.

Ask Questions. || So you want some private, alone time with that 9 year old? Here you go. The kid is buckled into their car seat and you have them with you for however long it takes to get where you’re going. I’ve talked about this many times before, but learn to ask leading questions and use the conversation to get to know these great young leaders in new ways.

Create a secret. || I’m not a huge fan of buying my kids junk at the store, as it breeds selfishness and begging down the road. However, there are times that stopping for a milkshake and encouraging them to drink it before we get home is a golden moment to a 7 year old. I’ve bought things when we’ve been out, let them start the ignition with the car key (with me behind the wheel), shift the car into reverse and drive, sit up front on a short drive, and pick their own music on Spotify from the iPhone. All of these things are “our secret” and they love it.

Be exceptionally patient. || With 3 kids shopping, it can be an unnerving experience sometimes, but with one kid I can afford to take my time, and let them figure out things on their own. Maybe this is my issue alone, but I find it much easier to slow down when only having one kid at a time on an adventure.

Here’s the real fear parents: Your kids won’t always want to go with you. I know that day is coming and it scares me to death. Join me in making the most of the time we have and leveraging every opportunity to let our kids know us and us to know them.

Have you discovered any creative ways to connect with your kids on daily rhythms?