Loften Christmas Card 2010

December 17, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under General Insanity, Silliness and Rants

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Wellpst, it has been yet another crazy transition year for the Loften crew.  As you can tell from the picture, we are all handling it well.

Anywho, in the midst of a wild transition, we are very thankful to a God who has been so faithful to us this year.  Maylee and Lauren are doing well in school, have made great friends, and it didn’t take them long at all to get involved in the things they love to do.  Lauren loves playing “ninja goalie” for her new soccer team, and Maylee can’t wait to perform in her local theater debut in Feb.

We have loved living here in Fayetteville–Razorbacks! Great food, beautiful places and always something fun happening.  Our new church, The Grove, is going well with a lot of new people and energy.  The people of The Grove have been awesome, welcoming and loving our whole family.

We obviously miss all of our friends and family in Cabot/Central Arkansas.  We love knowing  that once God joins our hearts together, they are never really apart.

We hope that you have a great Christmas and that the incredible reality that the God of the universe came to dwell among us so that we could have life with him sinks deeply into your heart this season.

We love you all.

Cloften, Hloften, Mloften and Lloften

(Charlie, Heidi, Maylee and Lauren)

Oh Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say

August 31, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

7:40 is an early time to start Middle School.  I’m just sayin.  We live relatively close, yet we leave at 7:20, because apparently they are pretty serious about giving out the tardies.  I would be too if I started at 7:40, otherwise folks like me would be like, “It’s just homeroom.  We get there when we get there.”  Wait, I don’t mean folks like me, but folks with passive-aggressive tendencies who aren’t morning people.  Clearly, that’s not me.

Anywho, to leave at 7:20 and having the responsibility of getting a diva up and all the time it takes for said diva to get faboo, (Loften shortening of fabulous, which I gladly stole from Wakko from the Animaniacs.  BOOM! Dated reference.  FYI, if you google “boom dated reference” with the quotes, you get 7 hits, all from  “Hey! Cloften, get on with it!”  Sorry, feeling a little punchy this morning.) we have to get up pretty early.  So here is the morning tradition.  When Maylee gets up she texts me that she is up and getting dressed.  If I get up and I do not have said text, I text her.  If I get no reply then I go in there and wake her up (respecting the privacy).

Well this fine morning, I texted her, “U up?”  The response I got back made me lol (I’m such a hip, cool dad with my texting lingo.).  She texted back, “no.”  Where on earth would a girl get such a smart mouth?  Why on earth would Cloften’s daughter answer a straightforward question with a smartalec response?  Either you know these are rhetorical questions or you found this post by googling “boom dated reference.”

We never once had a lesson in how and when to give smart answers to questions.  No lessons in sarcastic humor.  I never once told them that they should do that, because it would make them a hipster doofus (that’s right.  say it with me now.  BOOM! Dated reference) like their dad.  Although, I will confess that I have given comedy lessons to each of daughters before.  We talk mostly about timing and keeping a straight face.  They didn’t need a formal lesson in sarcastic, silly humor and being a punk when asked a question.  They get lessons in that each and every day.

They see what they see every day, and they assume that what they see is what you should do.  If Dad does it, it’s funny and cool and I should do it as well.  It never fails to stop me in my tracks when they do something like that.  I laugh, and I’m proud.  Then I chase that with a good old-fashioned feeling of being overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed?  Yes.  They are listening to everything that I say.  They are watching everything I do.  They aren’t just putting stuff in the “funny” category.  They put all of it in the “godly man” category.  All of it.  That is overwhelming to me.

My girls are getting older.  This year they will turn 13 and 10.  The stakes are getting higher and time is running out.  God has called me as Dad to lead, to shape the culture of our home and show them what they need to become and what they need to expect in a husb…nope not going there today.

Ok, maybe I will go there briefly.  I want them to bring home someone that loves and honors God and treats them well.  Someone that I will reluctantly, but somewhat willingly hand my girls to.  That will depend, to a large degree, on what they see and hear from me.

I certainly don’t want them bringing home some Urkel (You saw this coming.  Didn’t you?  BOOM! Dated reference.)

Embracing the Fishbowl

June 3, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Well, my older daughter has a FB page now.  We had a deal worked out, in part because of the move and also as a reward for good grades.  You might would think that this is about to turn into a sappy blog post where I lament how old she is getting.  I’m going to save that one for when she asks to get her driver’s permit.  I know that some people are hesitant to allow there kids access to the social media.  However, the overwhelming number of people in her class already had one, so it can’t be too widespread.

Most people’s concerns come down to privacy issues.  People don’t want their children’s info or pictures “out there.”  The world is a scary place and there are a good number of Mervy McChestersons out there on the internets.  However we have some good controls in place that we feel good about.

But really, she is already “out there.”  If you don’t believe me, look at the banner on the top of this page.  There they are.   Click on the tag “parenting” or “daughters” at the bottom of this post.  Her pictures are out there, stories are out there.  Our life is the proverbial fish bowl.

Often I have heard pastors and their families complain about the fishbowl.  Why is everybody watching our every move?  Why do they scrutinize us so?  People get frustrated and discouraged by people watching them and feel like it is undeserved and unwanted pressure.

We say, “Bring it on.”  I don’t say that because I’m perfect.  I’m not.  We’re not.  If you look (and not very hard) you will see a man full of flaws with a family that is working on stuff the way that all families are.  However, I’m going to tell you about them, perhaps even before you see them.  You are going to know me and who I am, what I’m good at and what I’m not.  The same for my family.  We are out there for the world to see.

This calls us up.  We know that the world and the church need leaders and examples to follow.  However, no one needs someone who is pretending to be something that they are not, pretending to be perfect, pretending to have it all together.  The problem with living in a fishbowl is not that people can see, it is when you have things to hide.  Mind you, I go to lengths to protect my girls’ privacy.  They are never the villains in my stories.  If it is embarassing to them, you won’t hear about it from me.

But we as a family have been called by God to lead people and a local church.  Our lives are public lives.  Here’s the kicker.  So is yours.  Jesus said that you are the light of the world.  People are looking to you to find answers.  What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?  Can Jesus in your life really make a difference?  People are watching.  What are they seeing?

What I hope they see in us is a family that is not perfect, but is honest.  A family that loves God and loves each other.  A family that wants to honor God and be the people that he has called us to be.  We can’t fight the fishbowl, because that is where we live.  That’s where you live too.

Embrace the fishbowl.  Be transparent.   Be real.  Be somebody that people want to be.

Because I Said So

April 19, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Those are haunting words that make kids fume with anger and can give those of us who are no longer kids horrifying flashbacks of the times we have heard that phrase.  You ask, “why?” and Mom or Dad say, “because I said so.” 

When you heard this growing up, you swore on anything you could think of that you would never, ever say that to your kids.  You would give them reasoned, thoughtful answers to every question that they ever ask.  Ask why once, I will give you an answer.  Twice, thrice, quadrice (?), no problem.  They can keep asking why and you will hang in there with them and keep giving them good answers to the why question.

Then it happens, they push you too hard, too far or at the wrong time and you say it, “Because I said so!”  Maybe you have chosen to mask the phrase with it’s nearly identical twin, “Because I’m your dad/mom,” but nonetheless you said it.  They overreact and then you slink back into your bedroom, close the door and weep, despondent about the loss of the idealism of your perfect always patient, gracious and thoughtful parenting style.  You have in fact, become just like your mom/dad.

I have released this.  I have become my dad.  I parent very much like he did.  The most recent example occurred at the soccer field this weekend.  My daughter in an attempt to stop the other player from attacking the goal charged the player, missed the ball, but, in fact, did not miss the player.  Had someone from Cabot High School’s football program been there, he would have wanted to talk to me and get some info on this 3rd grade prospect.  The other girl goes down hard, and rightfully, starts to cry and is carried off.

Later on at home, my mom (my folks were at the game) ask me about the incident and would it have been OK for one of my girls to cry on the field.  (Half ?) Joking, I say, “you know how I was raised, what do you think?”  “Well, you do have girls, you know.”  “Yeah, but their playing sports.  Getting hurt is part of it.  Shake it off and keep playing.  If you don’t want to get hurt, let’s take a knitting class.”  (I’m not sure if that last line is sexist, insulting to people who knit or just funny.  You be the judge.)

We all to one degree or another parent as we were parented.  You know that’s not all bad.  You turned out OK, didn’t you?  At least in some ways.  The real question is do we parent like we were parented on purpose or accidentally?  Do we not parent like we were parented for good reason or just as a continuation of teenage rebellion?  Take the good from how you were parented and gladly reproduce it.  Analyze the weaknesses and make changes when you need to.  Talk to your spouse, friends, other family and invite them to help you evaluate how you are doing.  Pray, read Proverbs.  Parent on purpose with a strategy and with consistency. 

You know, every now and then a kid needs a good, “because I said so” because your authority should be enough and they need to know it (just don’t don’t tell your parents).

p.s.  I do let my kids cry when they are legitimately hurt.  You and I may just have different definition of “legitimately.”

Hard Picks, Sore Losers and Looking in a Mirror

February 16, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

I have written about my girls playing basketball before.  Truth be known, I would talk about it all the time, because I love it.  I love watching my girls play and I love being their coach. I am very proud of them and how hard they work.

What I noticed on Saturday was a couple of things.  First, both of my girls seem obsessed with setting hard picks, playing highly agressive defense and clawing for loose balls and rebounds.  They are not particularly concerned with scoring baskets, even though they both are good at that as well.  If they don’t score, they don’t care as long as they play good defense and set good picks that allow their teammates to score easy baskets.

Why is that?  Why at an age when every other kid focuses so much on scoring baskets would my kids be focused on other things?  The answer is simple.  I have been their coach for 3 and 6 years and they know that is what I care about.  More than that though, I have been their dad for 9 and 12 years, and what I say and what I value matters to them.  They want to reflect what is important to me and they do.

The second thing that I noticed on Saturday was immediately after a tough loss.  We had a big lead and some might say that the referees were um, nevermind.  This is Upward Basketball and you can’t say stuff like that.  So both of us, were swelling up with frustration like an overheated water heater with no pressure relief valve getting ready to blow up the whole house.  20 minutes later, walking into a restaurant, Maylee says, “I don’t think I’m going to be OK.”  “Yes, you are sweetie.” We laughed.

Why is she like that?  I’m guessing that if you are reading and not skimming, you know that is a rhetorical question.  She reflects what she sees.  My daughters being like me and reflecting my values doesn’t only apply to what I’m good at and my good quality(ies?).  You know what I’m talking about.  You say to your spouse that one of your kids is “just like you.”  Sometimes that’s a compliment and sometimes, well, not so much a compliment.

What do you reflect?  What are your values?  Your real values, not just what you say, but how you live.  What do they see?  Trust me they see it all and you will see it right back in them.

A Nervewracking Lunch at Cabot Middle School North

February 6, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

If you told me right now that I had to speak to a group, it would be no big deal.  If you told me that group numbered in the 1000’s, I would be OK.  I would be a little nervous, because I want my talks/sermons to go well, but large group even super large group speaking doesn’t make me nervous.  (You always hear people talking about the fear of public speaking like it is what people fear most.  For real? Over death, long-term illness?)

I bring this up because yesterday afternoon, I am walking into my older daughter’s middle school with a Zaxby’s lunch for Maylee and me.  Suddenly as I am getting to the front door, I am overwhelmed with being nervous.  “I want this to go well.”  “I want her friends to like me.”  “I don’t want to embarass her.”  “I want her to really enjoy the time.”  “I want her to want me to come back.”

Some of this pressure is unique to me.  When you (and others, at least a couple of others) think of yourself as the funny one, there is some added pressure to that.  However, all of us should feel some pressure and be a little bit nervous.  You interacting with their friends matters to them.  You not embarassing them is important to them.  You want them to be proud of you, don’t you?

It’s easy for parents, especially dads, to adopt the attitude of, “I don’t care what his/her friends think about me.  My dad embarassed me and I’m passing it on.”  However, what would it be like if we put the same amount of energy and effort into these seemingly small events (that are big to them) that we put into big (big to us) events?  What would our kids think if they saw us doing our best to make these encounters the best they could be?  They would experience and feel and know what we want them to–they are incredibly loved and incredibly valuable to us.

(BTW, she came home saying, “My friends like you.”  Victory!)

Do You Want to Have Great Kids or Raise Great Kids?

February 4, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

One of my all-time favorite stories in our family history didn’t happen to me and I wasn’t even there.  15 years later, despite my tendency to exaggerate stories, I have yet to tell this story as if it happened to me or I was there.  That’s remarkable for me.

Anywho, it was the summer of 1995 and Heidi and I, who had been married one year, led a group of college students on a 6 week trip to Ukraine.  We had a great time and felt a connection with the Ukranian students that we met there.  One afternoon, after we had been there a couple of weeks, Heidi was with her translator.  Her translator Anya was about 18 years old.  They were walking together and Heidi said, “I want to learn Russian.”  Without missing a beat, Anya said, “No you don’t.”  Heidi argued with her.  Then Anya said, “You don’t want to learn Russian.  You want to speak Russian.”

What a statement.  Heidi and I use that when talking to people all the time.  So often what we want is the result but we are unwilling to do the work.  We don’t want to lose weight, we want to be thin.   This most recently came up in my mind as I was dealing with one of my girls.  One of them had a friend over and her dad pulled into the driveway.  As I tried to call my daughter and her friend, they ignored me, again and again and again . . .  You’ve been there right?

I’m trying to be cool.  I don’t want to embarass her in front of her friend.  On attempt number 6, she finally comes out loaded with mediocre excuses as to why she didn’t come and couldn’t even acknowledge me.  I held off for the 60 seconds or so until her friend was gone.  Then I gave the talk about respect (again) and how we act the same with our friends here as when they are not (again) and about making excuses instead of apologizing (again).  (Anyone ever tempted to record the speeches and play them back while they sleep so maybe it will soak in subliminally?)

After putting her to bed, I walked away thinking (again) how hard this is.  How constant this is.  There are no breaks from parenting.  You always have to be attentive.  You are constantly shaping behavior, molding a heart, encouraging, rebuking, consoling.  It can be emotionally exhausting sometimes.

I want to have great kids.  I want them to be awesome young ladies that go into the world and become incredible women.  However, if I want to have great kids, that means I have to raise great kids. There’s not even a Rosetta Stone shortcut.

Security of the Believer and Holding Hands in the Parking Lot

Today was church in the ice day.  Tim Lundy was supposed to come to Cabot today and preach, but the weather kept him from being able to come.  So what does that mean?  It means it’s impromptu sermon time.  I decided to take what we were going to talk about at Community Group tonight and turn it into a sermon.  It’s from one of this week’s Fellowship Journal readings.  We discussed Romans 8:28-39. 

Paul is assuring us that the relationship that we have with God is secure.  God will finish what he started–those he calls, he justifies and those he justifies, he glorifies.  God is the one doing the work, not us.  If God is for us, who can be against us?  No one can bring a charge against us because God is on our team.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Paul could not be more clear in this passage that our relationship with him is secure and that nothing can separate us from him.

However, we spend so much energy worrying about whether or not our relationship with God is secure.  We worry and fret as if our security depends on us.  Our security does not depend on us but on God.  I was reminded of what our Lauren was like when she was 2.  She would run as fast as she could in one direction with reckless abandon until she crashed something full speed.  She would then get back up and do the same thing in a different direction.

Needless to say, she caused us a lot of anxiety, especially in parking lots.  So any time we were in the parking lot or crossing the street, we would teach her to hold hands.  She wasn’t very good at it.  She didn’t want to hold hands.  She wanted to run.  Do you think her safety depended on her ability to hold my hand?  No way.  I would have a death grip on her arm.  There was nothing she could do to separate herself from me in the parking lot.  In the same way, there is nothing that we can do to separate ourselves from the love that God has for us.

(p.s., author’s note, one more thing.  In this post I am not trying to resolve a centuries old debate.  This is just a small excerpt from a sermon today.  If you have questions, let me know.)

Ice Days, Cancelling Basketball and Gender Stereotypes

So here we sit as a family on what people call a snow day.  However, considering that there is minimal snow on the ground, we will call it an ice day.  We got an automated call at 5:30 this morning that school was cancelled (nice system, keeps me from feeling the need to check every hour in the middle of the night.  OCD anyone?).  Then, much later, after I got up, I saw an email that the girls’ basketball games had been cancelled for tomorrow.   (Even though I am a native Arkansan, I do not understand the cancelling due to weather the day before.  But that is a matter for another day.)

Really, what I am concerned about today is that the games were cancelled, regardless of the fact that it is likely the right call.  I want to play.  I love watching them play basketball.  They have an unbelievable intensity on the court.  If someone touches a loose ball or, heaven forbid, attempt to take the ball from them, they both get this look on their face that says, “how dare you.” Then like a wild animal they will, in fact, get the ball back.  Even Maylee, my girly girl princess, (actually especially Maylee), has this switch inside her that transforms her from the diva strutting during the introductions, to a destructive basketball force that gets every rebound, allows the girl she is guarding to score no points and sets picks that would make a grown man cry.

As always, this is the point where you, the reader (noun intentionally singular), says “what is the point?”  I dunno, to brag on the girls? To make you want to come to one of their games?  Stereotypes of genders are real.  Sometimes we may not like or appreciate them, but some of them are real.  However, in this house we do not let those things define us.  My girls may be emotional, they may love pink, and they may even both hate math.  On the other hand they play basketball with aggression and passion and intensity.  In the same way, your boys may run with the energy of a perpetual motion machine, throw every toy they have, and make guns out of Twizzlers.  Let them cry, let them express emotion.  Let them be balanced men. 

Maybe in 30 years, I will let one of them date one of my daughters.

I Can’t Fight This Feeling

January 28, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under General Insanity, Silliness and Rants

I have been on a serious post kick lately.  Not what cloften reader(s?) expect.  So I will tell you this story.

As is typical around our house someone (this time Maylee) was singing.  I told her, if we’re going to sing, let’s sing an 80’s classic.  (I can make this happen easier now, because she has a CD from Glee which apparently has made some 80’s songs cool again).  So then we all start singing “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon.  I mean all of us, and not just the chorus or 1st verse.  2 verses, the chorus twice.  It ended with Lauren and I doing the chorus again in a more country riff.  Which then prompted Heidi and Maylee to critique the performance, American Idol style.  They both appreciated how we made the song our own.  It showed who we were as artists. 

I’m hesitant to say that this was a normal occurence in our house, because of the word normal.  I can say that it is typical.  I’m telling you.  If any of you know any reality show producers, I think you could get a relatively funny reality show out of our house.  I mean, it would be no Cake Boss, but then again, what is.

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