Tag Archives: fathers

Joseph: The Quiet One in Back

Domenico di Pace Beccafumi [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (2)

Overheard unpacking a nativity set one year when Joseph was misplaced, “You know, we really don’t need Joseph.  If we don’t find Joseph it wouldn’t matter.”

Huh?

“You have to have Mary and you have to have Jesus, but Joseph isn’t necessary.”

I beg to differ.  Joseph is INCREDIBLY necessary. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about Joseph. You can read the passages in which he is mentioned in a few minutes, but you can also paint quite a portrait of the man who raised Jesus.

Foremost, he was faithful. He was faithful to Mary and he was faithful to God.

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ ” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. (Mat 1:18-24 NLT) 

It is easy to lose sight of what is remarkable when the story is so well known.  The way that Joseph remained present and committed is commendable.  In the special needs community it is also rare.  One of the advisors of my ministry is Steve Rhatigan, an attorney who helps families plan for the financial future of their children.  On our first meeting he shared with me that all too often the dads “check out” and moms raise their children solo. He helps families deal with the hard side of that reality.  What he told me wasn’t news.  I’m far too familiar with the statistics.

What about the example of Joseph? Joseph stayed when it was hard. Joseph stayed when the custom of his day was to leave. Joseph stayed and protected the family.

After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

 14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother,  15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” (Mat 2:13-15 NLT)

It would be nice to think it was easy for Joseph to do the right thing.  I doubt it was.  He fled his country with his family under fear of death. He eventually returned with them to Nazareth where there was likely small town gossip.  He parented an extraordinary child and it wasn’t easy. I wonder, where did Joseph find support?

Today, Jeff Davidson seeks to fill that gap for fathers.  He founded Rising Above Ministry and authored the book “No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches” about his journey as a special needs dad.  Realizing the unmet need for support for dads, he founded the “No More Vacant Dads” initiative.  This is a positive ministry with a mission to preserve, encourage and equip special needs dads. Still in the start-up phase, there is a long-term vision for coaching and mentoring.  You can learn more about Jeff’s ministry through GoodnightSuperman.com.

I see Jeff’s mission in ministry as equipping dads who have the heart of Joseph. Joseph was the nurturer, the equipper, the protector and the faithful follower of God. We need Joseph in the story. He is so much more than the quiet one in the back.

Father God, we thank you for the example of Joseph and for his faithfulness to you. It is so hard when times are challenging.  It is so tempting to walk away. Nurture fathers with your courage and strength. Help each parent, mothers and fathers alike, find the heart of Joseph.  Amen.

Photo: Domenico di Pace Beccafumi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Just a Typical Day

David as Luke Skywalker

                                             I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;                                                     I will counsel you with my eye upon you. (Psalm 32:8 NRSV)

A few weeks ago I had a “quote of the day” that will not be topped for quite some time.

David (nine year-old boy): I’ve had the best year of my life.  Want to know why?

Me: Sure.  Why?

David: (Proudly) I didn’t throw up once!

David’s parents: (Shocked) David! There are things you don’t talk about at dinner!

Me: (Trying really hard not to laugh) Congratulations! Let’s hope this year is a repeat!

I had a most unusual experience a few weeks ago. Well, unusual for me. I spent the day with a typically developing child. Somehow I lost sight of the fact that typically developing children just aren’t part of my world. Being empty nesters, I’m not often around young children and when I am they usually have special needs.

I traveled to Minnesota for my ministry and mixed in a bit of fun by spending time with friends I’ve known for years. I also met in person for the first time their son David, a friendly, energetic and interesting boy.  He’s a Star Wars nerd like me so we hit it off right away. The photo above is his impression of Luke Skywalker gazing at the twin suns of Tattoine. It takes a fellow nerd to spot that pose for what it is! He greeted me with a gift, a quarter, and a thank you note for some cookies I baked and mailed to him years ago when he didn’t feel well.  He wasn’t tardy mailing it. I was tardy coming by for a visit to receive it.  He was keeping it to hand-deliver.  How sweet is that? I have his note and quarter sitting on my desk.

What I found so interesting is that throughout the day Roy and Darcy dealt with many of the same things we do as special needs parents. Social boundaries, rules, taking turns, all of it was woven into the pattern of the day. It was just plain old parenting, not the uber-steroid version of parenting so many of us experience.  I’m pretty sure no therapists, behaviorists, or compliance plans were involved.

We went to a botanical garden to enjoy the fall foliage and brisk north wind, a real treat for a Texan in October! It was a bit dull for David with no playground and plenty of signs warning, “Keep Off the Grass.” Following the rules, check. Carrying on a four way conversation, taking turns and figuring out how to jump in with something to say, check.  Practicing table manners, check. Sharing appropriate table conversations, check! Parenting is constantly teaching and redirecting, and my friends are great at it. I marveled at the energy Roy and Darcy had to keep up with David. I was impressed by the constant attention and consistent approach they brought to parenting.

As special needs parents we may feel a bit of envy at what appears to be an easier path for some. It seems to me that it ought to be simpler to parent a typical child. After my day with David I do not think that is necessarily true. Sure, there are things that we deal with that other parents don’t, such as therapy appointments, behavior plans, developmental limitations and medications. But parenting itself, the teaching and forming, the shaping of behaviors, is a lot of work. Being good parents has much to do with and the gifts and graces we share with our kids as we shepherd them toward adulthood. I thank my friends Roy and Darcy for reminding me that all parents share this same bond. It may have been a typical day for them, but it was a day of learning for me.

Loving Father, thank you for shaping us with love, leading and teaching us to live in ways that are pleasing to you. Help us to be for our children the parents that you call us to be, formed in your image. Forgive us for the times when we fall short as parents and help us learn to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes. May we grow in your grace as we grow in our roles as moms and dads. Amen.

Photo by Roy Mayeda

Fathers: The Unsung Heroes

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; (Matthew 1:18-24 NRSV)

It’s hard to find much in the Bible about Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father.  He’s sort of the unsung hero, missing entirely from Mark, mentioned in passing twice in John and only a bit more often in Luke.  His star shines the brightest in Matthew with the story of his dream about Mary’s pregnancy, and later a story about another dream to flee to Egypt for the safety of his family. I’ve heard it said that Joseph could be missing from a nativity set entirely and it would be just fine.  You have to have Jesus. You have to have Mary. But Joseph… I think it must have been hard to be Jesus’ earthly father. Where does a father fit in with a child like that?

I see parallels with many special needs fathers I know.  Where does the father fit? I think they are often the unsung heroes in the midst of special needs.  A friend of mine who is an occupational therapist says he encounters fathers at school IEPs and the dads are often omitted from the conversation.  He started wondering what the dads had to say and began a gathering for special needs dads. Turns out they have plenty to say, but the system the way it stands does not give them a voice in the process. There is a strong bias toward the mom.  I know an amazing stay at home dad who has four children, one of whom has a history of extreme health issues as well as autism. He is the one scheduling therapies, doing medical interventions as needed and doing the day to day running of the house. Yet, in the special needs world, he also wonders where the father fits. When trying to get medical information from a nurse he was told the nurse was only willing to talk to his wife. That has happened many times. While trying to attend play groups with his children he is constantly asked, “Are you babysitting today?” Again, where does the father fit?

Looking back at my early journey with our son with Asperger’s, I am so grateful for what an amazing father my husband was, and is still, to our son.  We brought different skills to the table.  When I decided to leave work in order to meet Craig’s needs, I was the one running the after school therapy schedule and helping with homework.  I was wiped out by the end of the day, especially in the summer months.  Mark would get home, offer a perky toot of the car horn from the driveway signaling Craig to come steer the car into the garage from his father’s lap.  After dinner they were off to the community pool, where Mark was the “cool dad”, happily launching child after child into a barrage of mid-pool cannonballs.  And let us not forget the super-soaker wars the summers of the early 2000s. Epic! He’d had a long day too, but he craved time with Craig. I brought structure, he brought fun. I prepared the meals, he provided a paycheck to pay for them. When I thought there is no way to get this child to go to sleep, he had the magic formula that worked every time.

Mark is a great father, but not one who wants a fuss made about it.  For Mother’s Day I am typically combing reviews for the latest place for brunch and making reservations weeks in advance.  I can easily rattle off a short list of items I might enjoy as a gift if he asks.  For Father’s Day, my husband prefers ribs at Chili’s. Finding the “just right” gift?  That’s a challenge!  Of course, he has no list of suggestion, even when threatened with receiving a shirt.  Father’s Day is very quiet and simple, per his preferences.

Maybe Joseph set the mold by parenting without accolades, yet offering loving dedication to mother and child, fierce protection of family and great faith.  Perhaps men like that don’t want an over-the-top celebration once a year. It’s not their style.  Perhaps regular appreciation to match their tireless dedication is the key to celebrating these unsung heroes who fit into our lives and hearts beautifully.

Prayer: Loving God, I thank you for fathers who lead by example, love without measure, and do their best to be the fathers you have called them to be. Amen.