Category archives: Family

Children Are Always a Blessing

by Rob Schwarzwalder

August 19, 2014

Here is one of the best quotes I’ve read in a long time; it’s by Courtney Reissig, writing at Christianity Today’s “Her.Meneutics” site:

Children are not a death sentence to our ambitions and goals. They may change them, postpone them, or even make them more difficult to attain—but they are always a blessing. We don’t earn the right to stay home or have children only after having done something important with our lives. We earn the benefit to have children simply by being created in God’s image.

Preach it, sister. Career dreams, professional attainments, academic achievements: All that are done for the glory of God are good and noble things. But to place children in apposition to them is a false alternative. I’ll let Mrs. Reissig have the last word:

Children also come to us — biologically or through adoption — at God’s timing. Despite my desire to start a family earlier, I didn’t give birth to my twins until I was 30. Even when we are open to having children, it doesn’t always happen right away and sometimes, they don’t come at all. But the church should be a place that welcomes expectant mothers regardless of what they have accomplished pre-pregnancy. Even if she never finishes her degree, lands a top client, or wins an Academy Award, bringing life into the world is a beautiful and God-honoring thing.

The Dinner Table and the Banquet

by Emma Vinton

July 28, 2014

Ronald Reagan once said that great change starts at the dinner table.

One Easter Sunday morning after the Vigil Mass, my family sat down to a beautiful yet simple brunch, still in our pajamas. It was nothing extraordinary, but it remains in my memory as one of the most harmonious days of my life, surrounded by family, in the peace of the Risen Christ.

But there is something greater that allows for a dinner table to even exist and for a family to be around it. That something is love.

In God’s first words regarding mankind in the beginning, He established the whole basis for love and marriage in the Trinity: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). This Trinity, the plurality of persons (“our”) in a singular unified entity (“image”) speaks the generative Word that brings humankind into existence. This love is the love which is reflected in the institution of the family.

In marriage, the persons of the husband and wife become one body. They take upon themselves the work of God and partake in the creative words of the Trinity. The parents also choose to make man in “our likeness.” Their unitive love produces children, just as the Holy Spirit proceeds from the communion of the Father and the Son. The family, in its unity of distinct members, becomes a reflection of the Trinity.

President Reagan also said that the strong and loving families fathers help create are the soul of a nation. The family is the most fundamental institution of any nation, so vital that it is the very animating factor of society. It is the institution that stems from and proceeds towards charity, towards the heavenly institution which it reflects — the Trinity.

When the family sits down at the dinner table, all the members come together to share in a meal made possible by the provisions of the father and the nurturing of the mother.

And as a Catholic family, my family begins our meal with the Sign of the Cross and grace; we mark ourselves in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We invoke the love of the One Name upon our one family.

The dinner table is the place where love engenders transformation, radical changes that pour out from the family to the nation. Some of those changes are immediate; others take place over time, taking root on good soil to blossom later. Yet whether sudden or subtle, the dinner table is where life is fashioned and souls cultivated, souls which set the world aflame.

This earthly table is a prefigurement of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. It is a place of communion in familial love, the starting place for change, and an earthly vision of the eternal end in the heavenly banquet.

Is Living Together the Same as Marriage? The Latest Research

by Peter Sprigg

July 3, 2014

A growing number of couples are living together in sexual relationships without bothering to marry. Are these relationships essentially the same as marriages? Research over the decades has shown significant differences in these two household forms, and the latest report from the National Center for Health Statistics continues that trend.

Here, verbatim, are the “Key findings” in a new report, “Marriage, Cohabitation, and Men’s Use of Preventive Health Care Services.”

QUOTE

Key findings

Data from the National Health Interview Survey, 2011-2012

  • Among men aged 18–64, those who were married were more likely than cohabiting men and other not-married men to have had a health care visit in the past 12 months.
  • Marriage was associated with greater likelihood of a health care visit for both younger and older men, and for men with health insurance.
  • Among those for whom blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes screenings are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, married men were more likely than cohabiting men to have received these clinical preventive services in the past 12 months.
  • Cohabiting men were less likely than other not-married men to have had a health care visit, cholesterol check, or diabetes screening.

END QUOTE

The take-away? Men, the next time your wives nag you to go to the doctor — be thankful!

Adoption Made Me Love Superman

by Haley Halverson

June 18, 2014

Are Superman’s parents aliens, too?”

My nine-year-old brother, Eli, turned to us with curiosity.

No,” Jonas, my teenage brother, replied. “Superman is adopted.”

Eli’s eyes immediately lit up, and a new obsession was born.

Eli is adopted from South Korea. He was brought home to America when he was seven months old, and every year since then we always celebrate that day as a family. He loves hearing us tell the story about how God had a special plan for our family and how excited we were to hold him for the first time.

I was eleven when Eli was born, and so I recall vividly the lengths my parents went to in order to adopt. They had been talking about it ever since I could remember, but demoralizing obstacles continued to get in their way. Birth mothers who backed out, concerns about parental rights, a baby born who only survived for a few days because of mistakes the mother had made while pregnant all seemed to be standing in the way of a successful adoption. Even as a child I couldn’t help but notice the heartbreak each disappointment caused my parents.

Nevertheless, the call on their hearts to adopt only increased as the years passed. Most of all, I remember my dad getting home from a long day at work and rushing to join my mom at the kitchen table. There they would sift through cascading piles of paperwork, make phone calls, and sort through adoption agencies. Eventually, as American agencies continued to be problematic, my parents turned to international adoption and South Korea.

While most children are born out of a few hours of labor, my brother was brought home only after years of labor.

The joy we felt when we were finally matched with Eli by the agency was inexpressible. My family huddled around the picture of him as a newborn. I remember looking at his picture and knowing, beyond a doubt, that I loved him.

Growing up in a small Midwestern town, people were friendly but occasionally naïve about our experience with adoption. Especially once Eli was home, and people would see us at the store or in the park. My family would receive comments like, “You are so generous to have rescued him from wherever he was before this.”

Questions like these reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of adoption, and as an eleven-year-old, I could never understand what they meant. It was difficult for me to comprehend how anyone could consider this overwhelming blessing in my life to be something as one-dimensional as a “rescue mission” or charity. While adoption is, in ways, a charitable act mirroring God’s compassionate adoption of all Christians into His family, it is also so much more. The lessons and love that come with a new child or sibling are independent of the means by which they are joined with the family. There was never a single moment that Eli was categorized in our hearts or minds as an outside individual whom we just happened to bring into our home. Instead, adoption was simply the medium through which God united us with the next member of our family. Despite years of setbacks in the adoption process, God used each disappointment to lead us closer to a specific agency, at a specific time, so that we were matched with the person He had always intended to be my brother.

Now, nearly nine years later, I indulge Eli’s obsession with Superman and watch the 2013 movie Man of Steel with him on repeat. It’s what sisters do.

And although this caped crusader isn’t necessarily my favorite, there is one part of the movie that always stands out to me: the moment that the young Clark Kent realizes he is adopted. The young boy looks up at the man who’s been raising him his whole life, and with a quivering voice, asks, “Can’t I just keep pretending I’m your son?” His father immediately embraces him in a hug, and says firmly, “You are my son.”

The first time Eli saw this scene tears began streaming down his face.

It’s almost impossible to explain the depth of my love for Eli, and how it has no distinction from my love for anyone else in my family. To anyone considering adopting, know that it blesses you in ways you can never imagine. I will forever be grateful that God made our family whole through adoption.

Vincente Del Bosque, Spain’s Greatest “Football” Coach, and Pure Love

by Chris Gacek

June 17, 2014

The quadrennial playing of the World Cup soccer (“football”) tournament began last weekend and will last several more. As the tournament approached, many, many articles, especially in European papers, have focused on this worldwide competition. The Financial Times (FT), for example, published a small section with several lengthy feature articles about the World Cup in its June 7/8 weekend edition.  The weekend FT is a wonderful amalgamation of articles on a wide variety of international topics including the arts, sports, travel, real estate, books, gardening, and hard news.

This World Cup section contained a brilliant article by Jimmy Burns on Vincente Del Bosque, perhaps the greatest soccer coach in Spain’s history. Presently Del Bosque is the coach of the Spanish national team that received a drubbing at the hands of the Netherlands last week.  That said, Spain’s only World Cup tournament victory came in 2010 under Del Bosque’s leadership. There have been many other victories and honors in his career, and Burns provides a masterful overview of the coach’s professional achievements.

That said, it was another aspect of the story and Del Bosque’s life that gave the article a transcendent quality.  At the beginning of the piece, Burns informs us that Del Bosque, 63, has three children including Alvaro, age 24, who has Down’s syndrome. It is here that Burns describes a touching dimension of Spain’s 2010 World Cup campaign:

While Del Bosque’s Spain was winning the country’s first ever world cup in 2010, Alvaro became an unofficial member of the squad. Afterwards Del Bosque wrote him a letter, now reproduced with his permission in a new Spanish biography. “It wasn’t Iniesta’s goal, or Iker Casillas kissing Sara, his journalist girlfriend while being interviewed by her on TV which moved me to tears. It was seeing you on TV, saying that you felt proud of your Dad, that you always wanted to help, that your heart was with him.”

How beautiful. The article then proceeds at length to discuss Del Bosque’s career and the current state of Spain’s 2014 World Cup efforts.

As Del Bosque and Burns take leave of each other, Burns returns to Del Bosque’s family and Alvaro:

Our meeting ends as it began, with family. Del Bosque’s daughter, Gema, 21, picks him up in the family car. “Can I give you a lift anywhere?” Del Bosque asks me. Before we say goodbye, I ask about his son Alvaro. A big smile comes over his face as he shows me a photograph of Alvaro in a suit working behind a desk. “We’ve achieved what we set out to achieve, which is to find him work.” Alvaro, he says, has come to mean more to him than anything else. “I’m not very expressive of my feelings. I am not a great one for words. I am not very lyrical. I am quite a practical person. But when I think of pure love, it is what I feel for Alvaro.”

Isn’t it fascinating that so many parents of Down’s children say similar things about the exquisite nature of these innocent souls? Del Bosque is known for being a “big-hearted” decent man: “Spain’s Man of Honor,” as the article’s title informs us. Is it unreasonable to suppose that Alvaro is responsible for many of those qualities? I don’t think so.

Our Father

by Emma Vinton

June 13, 2014

When I was young, my father used to take each of his children out to spend a day with him. Whether it was playing putt-putt golf, getting lunch, or spending a day with him at work, our “day with dad” was always an anticipated treat. Then, those days were times devoted to bonding and having fun with dad. Now, those days have built memories and lasting foundations of love that I would not trade for the world. I was learning to walk in Dad’s footsteps.

When we celebrate our fathers on Father’s Day, we honor men who have ultimately given their lives to the vocation of fatherhood. We are not recognizing men who are handy with tools, or who like cars, sports, and beer, as Hallmark cards so often try to sell us on. We commemorate men who have chosen fatherhood as a primary role in life and who regard all other occupations as inferior. Rather than submitting to the materialist mindset so prevalent, the recognition of the significance of fatherhood grows more potent every day. This is why it is vital to celebrate fathers in a society that degrades strong male figures and attacks traditional fatherhood.

Scripture tells us that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church, and to lay down his life for her if necessary. Earthly fathers are figures of our Heavenly Father, and they direct us upward to him. Father’s Day reminds us that, though it is a day to celebrate our earthly fathers, everyday should be one spent with our Heavenly Father, from Whom all blessings flow.

In a letter written to his son on the topics of love, manhood, and marriage, Ronald Reagan said, “There is no greater happiness for a man than approaching a door at the end of a day knowing someone on the other side of that door is waiting for the sound of his footsteps.”

I’m always listening for your footsteps, dad.

As the years pass and simple days of childhood fade into tempestuous reality, one thing remains: the Trinitarian love reflected in the family, flowing from the father. I have learned from my father what true manhood and fatherhood are: the willingness to pour out one’s love and life in sacrifice.

So to the man who taught me about the importance of tradition, family stories and family prayer, whose generosity to the family and to strangers astonishes me still, and who revealed to me, most especially, that doing small things with great love is the road to holiness… Thank you. Thank you for the memories of simpler days when the path of truth was illuminated over lunch and putt-putt, for being a caring father, and for being a father whose footsteps I still wish to walk in.

Hamilton McCallum: Joyful. Committed. Gift-giver.

by Cindy Mouw

June 12, 2014

My father loved life with exuberance and wanted to help everybody else love it as much as he did. He sought out bargains on ponies, snowmobiles, and motorcycles so his five daughters could experience new adventures in the world that so enamored him. Knowing that a family requires the nourishment of joy and fun, he set work aside for two weeks each summer to bring his family to a cottage on Bass Lake.  He recognized that God loved the world and was pleased with those who sought to experience all its joys and delights. But a depth of wisdom matched this exuberance. He was a listener and a pragmatic advisor for everyone he knew. Down to earth and in love with his family and his world, he knew how to offer good gifts and love.

 

As a man of faith, my dad wasn’t vocal, but he lived out a commitment to Christ for years without wavering. He readily admitted that he didn’t understand the depth of biblical stuff; instead, he lived what he believed.  When I think of the fruits of the spirit I think of him.  I think of a man who practiced love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. As kids we could count on him being home from work every day at 4, and we knew that he’d take us to church every Sunday. He provided all of his daughters with a Christian education, knowing that he was investing in long-term formation. He made these daily choices without complaint or comment; they were a given. I am thankful for this every day.

 

He knew how to do the important stuff — praying at dinner, coming home on time, taking his family to enjoy the lake — over and over again. Father’s like him know that what matters in life should be practiced, recited, lived out each day. He was a Christian tradition in an Irishman’s body, someone I could always count on to joyfully live the commitments he made. 

Rob Schwarzwalder: Love. Wisdom. Fun.

by Christopher Marlink

June 12, 2014

Rob Schwarzwalder is the kind of guy you hope to work for when you sign on at an organization like Family Research Council. He’s a man of deep faith and conviction. He’s stubbornly gracious with his interlocutors, often affording to them unrequited courtesy. To his friends, Rob is encouragement personified. Think of the character Faithful in Pilgrim’s Progress, and you’re about there.

I’ve had the pleasure of working for and with Rob at FRC for a number of years now, and he’s someone I’ve come to admire and value as a friend and mentor. Rob has embraced the character of his heavenly father, who has adopted us all into his family (Eph 1:5), by becoming an adoptive father himself.

Rob was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the adoption process, and to share what he’s learned about fatherhood along the way.

 

CM: Rob, for some men, fatherhood catches them off-guard. Not unwelcome, but perhaps unexpected. You had the experience of becoming an adoptive father, which entails a significant process, and a kind of fierce intentionality. Describe your reaction when you got the news you were going to be a father?

RS: We had had a couple of fall-throughs in which the birthmothers who had committed her child to us changed her mind, so I was somewhat guarded.  Actually holding them at the adoption agency and then driving home with them in car seats behind my wife and me was surreal (but joyous!).  My wife had prayed for twins for about 16 years, so of course our hearts were full of praise.

CM: How can family and friends best encourage those couples struggling with infertility and perhaps going through the adoption process?

RS: Don’t give trite, dismissive advise (“Well, you’d probably get pregnant if you’d only relax”) and listen a lot.  Encourage the couple with the fact that Jesus was adopted (his Davidic lineage came through His adoptive father Joseph) and that all Christians are the adopted children of our Father.  So, adopting places you in good company. -J

CM: Do you have a favorite Father’s Day memory?

RS: Going to an Outback Steakhouse and watching my then-two year-olds come close to obliterating our table with grease, sauce, napkins, etc.

CM: How has fatherhood changed you?

RS: It has filled a vast empty place in my soul.  It’s forced me to recognize the depth of my selfishness and also that I have reserves of physical and emotional fortitude that surprised me; and it has made me more fervent in prayer than I otherwise might have been.

CM: What fatherhood/parenting myth would you most like to see suffer an ignominious death?

RS: Two, actually: That you are doomed to repeating your father’s mistakes and that you must always be the source of complete wisdom and even-temperedness – saying, “I don’t know” and apologizing after getting angry count for a lot. That’s not to excuse anger, but to remind that anger is almost unavoidable – the key is to strive against it and, when you fail, take responsibility for it.

CM: What do you and your children enjoy doing together? Favorite pastimes or hobbies?

RS: All kinds of things – hiking, watching movies, church activities, throwing the baseball, wrestling, etc.

CM: If you could give new dads a piece of advice or a bit of wisdom that’s been helpful to you, what would you say?

RS: (1) The best gifts you can give your wife and children are your love for Jesus Christ and your time; (2) everyone who has ever had a child thinks he’s an expert, so take un-asked for advice with a grain of salt; (3) read Christian parenting books with discernment – there is no mechanical template for raising children, only principles that must be applied with wisdom and grace per the needs of the child; and (4) boys need to wrestle and rough-house – accept no substitutes.

Ken Frieling: Faithful. Steady. A great smile.

by Keri Boeve

June 12, 2014

What greater joy is there than to share about one’s dad in honor of Father’s Day? I can think of none greater, particularly since I know many are not blessed with a father in their life or one they would care to honor.

I would describe my dad in this way: faithful, steady, and has a great smile. This description may not carry much pizazz for an occasion of honor, but to me it typifies who my dad is and why he is so special to me.

Let’s start with the obvious – his smile. My dad’s smile is the best. It radiates joy, brightens his whole face, and makes his eyes twinkle. What makes it even more special is the fact that his dad, my grandpa, smiled the same way, as do my uncles, Dad’s brothers. It is a trademark “Frieling man” smile. Perhaps that is why it is so endearing to me. When I see my dad smile, I can subconsciously say, “Yep, that’s my dad.”


My dad was the anchor in my family as I grew up. His quiet, even-tempered personality combined with his love for his family made him a steadying influence in our family of seven. Aside from the unfortunate tango with a wasp’s nest, Dad could usually keep his cool and display a level head, even when tempers flared and siblings fought. He was always there when you needed him. As a child, I know his steady presence in my life gave me security, comfort, and confidence. As a teen, his presence (and questioning) kept me on the straight and narrow. To this day I know my dad will be there when I call, ready to help.

Finally, and most importantly, my father’s faithful walk with the Lord has provided a powerful example to me of a “life well lived”. I cannot recall any deep, theological conversations with my dad, but I do vividly remember getting up in the wee hours of the morning for school (or so it seemed in high school) and finding my dad sitting in his recliner quietly praying and studying the Bible. He has a servant’s heart and an unshakeable faith that can only be found in a close walk with God. Our family has experienced many joys and sorrows over the years, and my dad has faithfully trusted in the Lord and prayed through each and every one. Nothing warms my heart more than to have our now grown family gathered, all 27 of us including spouses and grandchildren, and have my dad lead us in prayer. What a legacy he is creating, and what a blessing I have been given to have this faithful, steady, and yes, even smiling, man to call father. Happy Father’s Day, Dad, you are the best father this girl could ever ask for.

Leslie Morrison: World traveler. Life saver. Hero.

by Robert Morrison

June 12, 2014

I can still remember when Pop woke me up before dawn. Big news in the world: Stalin had died. I was just seven years old, but my dad interpreted the world for me. He had spent 17 years in the Merchant Marine; he sailed to every continent, visiting 47 countries in all. Whenever there was a story about a rare rhino in Africa or an unusual Boa in Brazil, or a shakeup in Russia, Pop could explain it all. He had been there.

Like most World War II vets, he never bragged about what he had done in the war. Only much later did I learn that he had made several dangerous crossings of the U-boat infested North Atlantic. There, if your ship went down, the other ships in the convoy had strict orders not to stop. Pop told us about the time his ship was sunk by a U-boat sixty miles due east of Durban, South Africa. With the ship sinking, Pop ran back to get his camera and took the only pictures of the lifeboats. Only a decade after he was gone did I learn from a surviving shipmate that Pop had run around the deck of the stricken freighter unlatching the pelican hooks that griped down the rubber boats. Had he not done that, his shipmate told me, most of the crew would have died. They could not have survived 18 hours in those frigid waters. Instead of talking about his role as a lifesaver, Pop always told us how nice it was to be put up in a five-star hotel for six weeks and to be able to play tennis daily with the South African women’s champion!

From the day Pop returned from the sea in 1952 until the day he died in 1998, we knew where he was every night of his life. He was the one we turned to when neighborhood bullies threatened. He taught me to defend myself and only call on him if my tormentor brought a gang or a knife to the fight. But if I had to call on Pop, the whole neighborhood knew to watch out.

My father taught me what it meant to be a man. Today, 48% of first-borns in America are born out-of-wedlock. Who will teach those dear children what it means to be a man?

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