Build Some Routine in Your Life

Really smart, put together, “elite” families think ahead, plan well, and set up systems and habits that help them accomplish their day to day tasks.

We are not a smart, put together, “elite” family. We tend to push on and endure the growing chaos until things reach a crisis point and either my wife or myself goes to the other and declares (typically with some panic and passion) that it is absolutely certain that massive disaster and possibly a trip to a padded room are right around the corner unless something is done to fix the situation.

The Learn by Crisis Method

To date we have more or less stumbled from crisis point to crisis point in this fashion. Along our stumbling way we have learned a few things that might be worth sharing. The most important thing we have learned is that creating, implementing, and sticking with a routine is absolutely essential to both sanity and creating a life of adventure.

This may seem odd, because we live a life where our routine is constantly disrupted by both internal and external forces, but perhaps for this very reason we have discovered how valuable routine is.

The “Free Time Trap”

For most of my life I thought that the way to adventure and an interesting life lay in rejecting routine of any kind. The ultimate goal was to create “free time”, unrestricted and unassigned hours that could then be employed in doing whatever cool and nifty stuff that I felt like doing. What I quickly discovered was that I had an unlimited capacity to destroy this free time. Either the free time never actually happened because I needed to use it to beat back chores or other duties that had reached a crisis point, or when it did happen I had a depressing talent for frittering it away sitting around doing nothing while wishing that I had gotten my act in gear earlier and done the necessary planning to go camping or hiking or fishing or something.

It took me longer that it should have, but eventually it slowly began to dawn on me that the more of a routine I developed and practiced that would address and handle the day to day stuff, and the more I made a routine out of accomplishing the bigger important stuff, the more time I would have to do the big important stuff I wanted to do and the more likely I would be to use the time I had in doing things instead of thinking about doing things.

Necessity is the Mother of…Routine

Ultimately, instead of learning this lesson by being smart I had to learn this lesson by necessity and disaster. With six kids in the house the only way we can maintain any semblance of order and accomplish anything is through creating and enforcing some daily routines.

Need some routine around here....

Need some routine around here….

Here are three things we have learned about the importance of creating routines, those daily processes that we go through every day to handle the mundane, day to day stuff, and that we use to tackle the bigger, and more important projects.

1. Routine makes the day to day stuff automatic. There are certain things that have to be done every day and every week to just keep things going and life on track. Dinner needs to be made, dishes washed, laundry done, floors swept, etc. If you don’t create a repeatable process to address these realities they will only get worked on when they reach crisis level. Takeout food will become routine, the dishes will only be washed when the sink overflows, laundry happens when the dressers and closets are empty, and the floor only gets swept when the carpet starts creating topsoil. Creating a routine that addresses these daily and weekly needs means that they are accomplished somewhat automatically, and that frees up time and energy to do the more important stuff.

2. Routine creates a process and framework for accomplishment. Once the recurring chores and tasks of daily living are addressed by routine it’s time to focus energy on accomplishing the bigger and more important things in life. Past all of the urgency there are important things that need to be done that have more lasting value. Children need to be trained to be successful adults, gardens need planned and planted, important projects need to be completed, and adventures need to be dreamed up and planned. Creating a routine to address bigger projects means developing a habit of regularly talking about, planning for, and working on the important things in life.

3. Routines establishes an order that makes adventures more noticeable. Adventures are adventures precisely because they are unordinary and outside the regular routine. You have to have a regular routine, so that when an adventure comes you can notice it for what it is! Here’s an example from our life.

Not so long ago going out to eat was extremely unusual for us. It might happen 5-6 times a year. It was outside the routine, so when we did go it was a big deal, an adventure!

Recently our work has meant that we travel a lot, and we eat at restaurants so often it’s, well, routine. It’s no longer an adventure, and sometimes we are all pretty happy to be back home and have real food.

It’s the contrast with routine that makes adventures adventures, and the bigger the contrast, the more intense the adventure. The more you create a solid routine, the more interesting things will be when you deliberately (or accidentally) do something different.

Build Some Routines

Work on creating and sticking with some routines. They will make the day to day stuff automatic, create a process and framework for accomplishment, and will help make your adventures in life more noticeable!

Adventures Worth Sharing: The Importance of a Dad

A few weeks ago I wrote about how your family is the most important team you belong to and the only one where you are irreplaceable.  The following videos illustrate this point beautifully.  What other team, group, or organization that you belong to now, have been a part of, or ever will be a part of, will react this way to your return after a long absence?  Think about that.







Five Reasons Your Family Needs to Plant a Garden This Spring

Spring has finally arrived. Everything is getting green, leaves are getting ready to open on the trees, and the grass is looking like it is going to need mowed pretty soon.

All of this makes our family think of the garden. We have been planning all winter, some seeds are bought, some plants are started, and it’s about time to get our hands dirty and get something in the ground.

Life Lessons

There are few things that offer the training opportunities for kids that a garden does. A garden takes planning and goal setting. It takes hard work and requires some sweat, and a garden has to be worked on over time. In the end a garden will provide rewards based on the work invested. Fail to plan when and how to plant the right things at the right time and you won’t get to reap the harvest. The amount that your garden will produce will be directly related to the amount of planting, weeding, and watering that has been invested. Stop halfway through the process and in an amazingly short amount of time a garden will revert back to a field of weeds. Plan well, work hard, and stick with it and you will literally be able to see, touch, and taste the results. Kids that master and understand those lessons will be pretty well prepared for life.

Kaitlyn Garden

Here are five reasons why your family should think about starting a gardening adventure this spring:


1. Being Outside. You need to be outside more. Your family needs to be outside more. A garden is outside and working on a garden means you have to be outside. It’s pretty much unavoidable. Having a garden means you will be outside working on it. That means more fresh air for you and your family.

2. Hard Work. Having a garden means work. It requires sweat and occasionally some blood. You should expect some blisters. The kids won’t get them, but you will probably have some sore muscles. What’s great about all of this work is that all it will yield results that are real and apparent and visible. The garden will go from a patch of dirt and after some blisters on your hands the soil will be turned and planted. The weeds will be coming up and crowding out the good plants and then after some sweat and work the weeds will be gone and your plants will be safe again. The harvest will be in the garden still on the plants and then after some aching muscles it will be in your kitchen and on your table.

3. Connecting to the World. Admit it. You and your family are probably too isolated from the real world. You spend too much time in the air conditioning and not enough time outside sweating. You worry too much about filtered air and mold and don’t get enough dirt on you. When was the last time you even noticed the weather unless it was extreme? A garden will connect you and your family to the world again. You will feel the sun and the wind and the rain. You and your kids will get muddy and dusty and dirty. With plants in the ground the weather will have meaning again. You will pay attention to early spring frosts, anxiously watch the skies for rain, and rejoice in a soaking shower. You will notice things about your land that you didn’t notice before. How that corner is shaded more than you thought, how that side holds too much water and needs to drain better, and how the soil in that area has too much clay and rocks. You will be connected to the world again.

4. Teamwork. You can do a garden all by yourself, but where’s the adventure in that? A garden should be a whole family project. Everyone has a job and everyone can play a role. The littlest ones can water and help harvest, the oldest children can manage a whole section by themselves, and almost everyone can participate in battling weeds. Make sure everyone has a chance to take part in the planning phase and has a say on what is planted. Watch carefully and see who is gifted in what areas. Who cares about the details and how things look and wants to plant all the flowers? Who focuses on the very practical and wants to try that mulching strategy to combat weeds? Who is really interested in trying new recipes with what you have harvested? Who is really interested in why things grow and how it all works?

5. Rewards. We all work for rewards. At the end of the day you will get out of a garden what you have invested in skill, time, and hard work. The more skill you build, the more time you invest, and the harder you work the better the harvest will be. Eating sweet strawberries off the vine, looking at rows of canned beans that you put up yourselves, eating a salad that is made entirely of ingredients that you grew in your yard, picking ripe red tomatoes, all of these things come with an almost indescribable sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Get Planting!

Convinced yet? You need to get outside.  You and your family needs to sweat and work, and raise a few blisters. All of you need to get dirty and messy and muddy. You have a team to build, a job to do, and harvest that needs to be prepared. You need to plant a garden this year.

Last Minute Adventures

There is a time for planning, for thinking, and for preparing. And then there are times that call for immediate action. Often the best kinds of adventures are the kind that happens on the spur of the moment, on an instant decision, or on the choice to take advantage of a surprise circumstance.

Seizing the advantage and having such adventures does take a little preparation, but the preparation is mostly mental. You have to be on the lookout for opportunities, and be willing to grab them when they come along, even if you have to trade some short term inconvenience.

The “Last Snow”

Where we live we are beginning to think that the White Witch from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has returned and implemented her never ending winter policy. We had several “last snows” through March.

Each time it snowed in March it was a wet, messy kind of snow. On one of those snows I was sitting inside, thinking how nice it was not to have to go outside and mess around in it. Staying warm and dry inside sounded like a great plan, and I calculated that the sun would melt off the driveway before it was necessary for me to shovel it. Then the phone rang.

Friends of ours wanted to know if we would be interested in meeting at a local park to get one more evening of sled riding in during this “last snow.” My wife and I considered the implications. Dinner would need to be changed, the evening chores would not be done, dishes would remain dirty and the house would not be straightened up before bed. All of the snow clothes that had hopefully been put away after the last snowstorm would need to be unpacked. Wet clothes would be strewn across the garage after the sled riding. The sleds would need to be drug out from under the house and the van would need to be packed. The driveway would need to be shoveled to get the van out. Goodbye nice quiet evening inside, hello confusion, chaos and mess.

Of course I said yes.

Snow Soldiers

Goodbye Quiet Evening

Then I decided to double down. If we were going to be out in the cold wouldn’t it be neat if we could serve some hot chocolate? The chaos doubled. Everyone had to hurry to get ready in half the time so we could swing by the store to get hot chocolate and disposable cups. I sent kids running to the pantry to find a large pot to heat water in and sent another to fill some water jugs.

I tore through the garage looking for camp stove number one. No success. I looked in the attic for camp stove number two. Fail. Finally, I settled on camp stove number three, the one that takes three people to move, and recruited the boys to help me carry it to the van and sent someone else to dig a gas cylinder out of the shed.

An hour later there was no quiet evening of warm and quiet. Instead, there was a mess of flying snowballs, lost mittens, soaked feet, inches of snow tracked into the van, spilled hot chocolate, shouts, laughter, and general “last snow” chaos.

Hello Mess

A proper dinner wasn’t served. The house looked like a snow filled tornado had ripped through it. The garage smelled like damp clothes and sweaty boots for a week. All the snow stuff would need to be dried and repacked. The kids went to bed late and some of them woke up grumpy the next morning.

A nice quiet evening was irretrievably lost.

It was replaced with a memory that will long outlive all the quiet evening remembrances.

Years from now I’m pretty certain every one of use will remember the “last snow” hot chocolate and generic ginger snaps, sled riding in the park with dear friends. I doubt any of us will trade stories about the quiet evenings at home.

Snow Ash

Your Turn

So here’s a challenge for you. What spur of the moment adventure could you have this evening? I mean today! What could you do tonight that your family would never expect that you would all be talking about a year from now?

Want to go bigger? What could you do this weekend? How could you surprise everyone, embrace some chaos and make something happen? How about making it a longer weekend? Any chance you can get Friday or Monday off from work?

Sure, it will be a bit of a pain. It might cost some money. You will definitely not get some things done that you “need” to get done. On the other hand I bet that a year from now you won’t remember any of those important things that need to get done, whether they get done or not. I bet twenty years from now the kids will still be telling stories about the time Dad and Mom surprised everyone with that last minute awesome something that you pulled off.

Go for it.

Three Things You Need to Know About Work

We live in an interesting time that is often filled with contradictions.  Take, for example, our cultural and social attitude and relationship with work.

Keep Your Job 

A sense of unease, uncertainty, and worry permeates the world of work at a macro level.  Those who are about to enter the workforce fear that they won’t be able to get a job, many who are out of work face that exact reality, and those who are working fear that they may lose their job.  Nobody feels very certain or secure, and those who have work hear the message that they should be relieved to be working at all, no matter what they do.

Get a Better Job

While at the macro level it seems like you should hold on to your job no matter what, at the micro level there is a strong message of contradiction.  This message says, at a personal level, that this is a time of amazing opportunity and nobody should settle for work that does less than pay exceptionally well and fulfills you at a deep and soul satisfying level.

Do Neither!

The practical result of these two messages is often paralysis.

Young people seeking to get in the work force are pessimistic about their chances of getting a job, but are unwilling to settle for anything less than an occupation that does meaningful “world changing” work that is so exciting it propels them out of bed in the morning.

Older workers, who have a job, are often scared to seek new opportunities, feeling like they must be thankful to have any work.  At the same time they are dissatisfied, sure that there must be a better, more satisfying work than what they are doing.

What Everyone Should Know About Work

Personally, I have been blessed to be able to do work that is satisfying and interesting and I think makes a difference in the world.  However, I have also needed to do work that is dull, seemingly pointless, and unsatisfying.

Professionally, I have worked with hundreds and perhaps thousands of young people who are working to prepare themselves for meaningful work and who are learning to navigate the professional world.  I have also worked with more than a few older workers who are making that big career adjustment and are looking for new work that is more deeply satisfying.

Based on those experiences here are three things I wish everyone, especially young people, knew about work:

JLB Caleb Ditch Digging

What are You Working for? 

1. The end matters more than the means.  Assuming that the job you are doing is neither illegal or immoral then what you are working for is always far more important than what kind of work you are doing, no matter how difficult, dangerous, or dull that work may be.

It is far more important for young workers to be doing anything, no matter how different from what they picture, than to be doing nothing.  Any job offers opportunities for mastery (see below), and builds experience, contacts, and confidence that will lead to the next and better job.

Older workers, specifically older workers with families, should never forget that the most important outcome of their work is provision.  Work that enables you to provide food for your family, a safe place for them to live, and the necessary resources to learn is by definition honorable and important work.

Four Generations Sawing 2

Be Brave Enough to Change

2. Never be afraid to change jobs or careers if the risk is right.  In a slow economy and an uncertain world the first reaction is typically to hold on to what you have.  This attitude can prevent younger workers from essential advancement and keep older workers from fully using the gifts and skills they have been given.

How do you know if the risk is right?  Here are some key questions: Does this new position help me move closer to where I want to ultimately go?  (If you don’t know where you are going, read this.)  What is the worst thing that can happen?  Will that worst thing merely cause hardship for me and my family that we can recover from, or will it endanger me or my family?

A few years ago at a crucial point in my career I was agonizing over a decision and was paralyzed and afraid to move forward with a change.  My wife finally bluntly forced the point: “What’s the worst thing that can happen?  The job doesn’t work out and we lose the house and have to live with Mom and Dad for a while?  Big deal, I don’t care about money anyway, I like Mom’s cooking, and it would only be temporary until you found something else and started again.  What are you worried about?”

All of those outcomes were far worse than anything I had imagined, but her point was that even at its very worst failure would only mean hardship, some embarrassment, and some inconvenience.  We wouldn’t be homeless and endangered.  With the risk revealed to be manageable (and the security of having the support of my wife) I was able to move forward and found better work and more success than I had ever experienced before.

Become an Expert

3. Seek to gain mastery in some area with every job you ever hold.  This is perhaps the most important attitude to maximizing your work experience and working towards meaningful, fulfilling, and rewarding work.

Here’s the cold, hard truth: Very, very, very few (if any) people spend their entire working life doing something they love every day.  You will need to work at a job that is less than exciting, fulfilling, and wonderful.  Even when you find exciting, fulfilling, and wonderful work, you will need to do certain tasks and jobs in that work that are less than exciting, fulfilling, and wonderful.  In those times, committing to seeking mastery in some aspect of what you are doing makes all the difference.

Seeking mastery means that in every job, every task, every experience you have that you commit to look for one aspect, one skill, one process that you can master that will help you achieve your bigger goals in life.  Working a manual labor job?  Commit to mastering the discipline of arriving on time, mustering your energy to work at 100% all day, and stay until the work is finished.  You may not dig ditches the rest of your life, but the discipline and commitment learned on that job will pay dividends for a lifetime.

Caleb-Karianne Lawn Mower

Working at a fast food restaurant?  Commit to mastering the nuances of outstanding customer service, doing everything with a smile, always being polite, practicing that the customer is always right, striving to make sure your customers have a great experience and leave a little happier than when they came in, and being quick and efficient in delivering the service they are expecting and more.  You will move on from asking “Do you want fries with that?” and you will find there isn’t an industry or company on the planet who doesn’t want employees who can deliver great service and a great experience to their clients and customers.

Photo by J. Reed

Photo by J. Reed

Buckle Down and Get it Done!

Sure it is a tough market out there.  Yes, you will need to do work that feels like, well, work.  No, you won’t likely leave home and find your dream job, or even know what your dream job is by the time you are thirty or even older.  Don’t be surprised, that is the way life works.  Besides, every great adventure has hardships and times of trial, otherwise it wouldn’t be an adventure.

Focus on the end and the bigger goal.  Don’t be afraid to change and do something different if the risk factor is right. Commit to mastering something in every experience.  Live the adventure!

Judgement, Responsibility, and Courage

Recently we posted about danger and the need to tolerate some risk when it comes to our families and our children.  Such a position is controversial these days, so perhaps it is helpful to add a little more justification and background to this idea of deliberately seeking danger and risk.

The very real truth is that children need some danger and need some risk for the development of some key character traits.  In order to develop judgment, responsibility, and courage, it is necessary for a child to be exposed to danger and to experience some risk.


Good judgment is one of the key differences between the wise and the foolish, and typically between the adult and the child.  The truth is that good judgment is gained more from experience than teaching.  Good teaching can help tremendously and lessen the severity of the consequences, but to really master good judgment requires experience and consequences.

Years ago, on a Boy Scout backpacking trip, we had hiked to the top of a mountain and set up camp.  The rest of the day’s schedule involved a hike without full packs to a scenic overlook.  Against the advice of our adult leaders, the boys (including me) decided to skip carrying our heavy water bottles on what looked on the map to be a short trip to the overlook.

Several hours and a missed trail later we stumbled back into camp, glad to no longer be lost, exhausted, and painfully thirsty.  We learned a critical lesson in being prepared, picking the extra work of carrying extra weight over leaving behind essential items, and ultimately of using good judgment.

Several years later we were on a major backpacking expedition out West, and had to decide before we left our base on packing just our lighter rain flies, or the heavier complete tents.  A long unsupported stretch of trail meant we were packing much more food than usual, and weight was a real issue.  By this time we had much more experience in using good judgment, and were able to discern between the doubtful need of the luxury of a full tent against the weight savings of taking just the rain flies.

The tents were left behind, the packs were lighter, the trip better, and the rain flies proved more than enough to handle what little rain we experienced.

The danger of heat exhaustion because of lack of water, and the danger of plain physical exhaustion from too much weight proved to be powerful teachers, and imparted lessons of judgment that proved to be applicable far beyond backpacking trips.


Responsibility carries danger with it.  If you give a child or a person responsibility you are essentially trusting them and counting on them to do something that will carry negative consequences if it is not done, or it is done incorrectly. Sometimes these negative consequences may include physical or bodily injury to themselves and others.

In some of our recent travels we were in another state and started talking about kids and jobs with some of the people who lived in that particular state.  This state, in order to “protect” children, has banned children from working for others before the age of 18.  They are also restricted from running potentially hazardous power equipment such as lawn mowers, string trimmers, and, specifically mentioned in the law, “gasoline powered blowers.”

A few years ago we were attending a convention in another state.  When our family is working at a convention, everyone, right down to the then three year old, has a specific set of jobs and responsibilities.  Initially this includes carrying in all of the materials, display panels, supplies, and equipment needed to set up the booth.  Usually this involves 2-3 trips between the vehicle and the booth location.  Having done this multiple times we can usually unload in less than ten minutes.

On this occasion before I was even able to open the door and exit the van, a security guard was tapping on the window and informed me that for safety reasons, nobody under the age of 21 was allowed in the loading areas.  All of the children would need to stay in the vehicle.  What followed was one of the more bizarre episodes in our travel experiences, as I worked for almost an hour unloading our materials while the labor necessary to do it in less than ten minutes sat and sweated inside the van, prohibited for “safety’s” sake from participating in any meaningful or useful work.

How do children in states with these kinds of laws learn responsibility?  The answer is that for the most part they do not.

Here is the great frustration and horror of such safety minded thinking: Such restrictions may save children from some accidents and injuries, but is also creates a culture that promotes juvenile delinquency and behavioral problems.

What do kids typically do if left with nothing else to do and no responsibilities?  Typically, they get in trouble.  What is the cost of raising an entire generation of children who don’t begin to learn any personal responsibility until they are over 18?  How “safe” is that?


Courage is not about the absence of fear.  Courage is about doing what needs to be done despite the fear.  Fear is caused by danger.  Without danger there is no fear, and without fear there is no opportunity to learn, practice, or display courage.

Courage seems to be in short supply today.  As a society and as a culture, we have precious few examples of public figures or individuals who seem to be willing to do what is right in spite of the consequences.  Instead, it appears that more and more people are willing to succumb to their fear and so they trade doing what is right for remaining safe.

Several years ago I stumbled across security camera footage on YouTube of an assault that took place in a small takeout pizza parlor.  Here is the CNN version  (Warning: violent content and language).  A crowd of men were packed into a small ordering area, waiting in a line to order.  An altercation breaks out that leads to very large man exchanging words with a much smaller man.  The smaller man isn’t the one who causes or starts the problem.

Without warning, the large bully sucker punched the little man, who collapsed into unconsciousness.  The next couple seconds of footage is difficult to watch, as the large man proceeds to pick up and brutally beat the unconscious man, clobbering him around the room.

To me (and even the CNN anchors), what was even more shocking, was that all of the other men in the room, some of whom have to scramble to get out of the way of the assailant as he beats the other man, all studiously ignore what is happening.  None of them appear to do anything to help or assist the victim, or to protect him in any way.

It’s tough luck for the victim, but happily all of the others in the room have been able to remain safe by not getting involved.  Such safety is a blight on our culture and an embarrassment to our society!  We need to raise children who mature into the kind of adults who would have the courage to intervene in such a situation, no matter the cost.

The reality is that we live in a fallen and imperfect world.  It is beyond our ability and beyond reality to create a perfectly safe world, devoid of dangers, absent of discomforts, and without risk.

The answer to such a world is not to work to keep children safe from all dangers, but to carefully expose them to danger and risk in such a way that they are able to build judgment, gain responsibility, and learn courage.

People with good judgment, a sense of responsibility, and courage are precisely the kind of people that do make our world safer, and who are able to respond correctly to danger when it inevitably arrives.

Deliberate Living

If you live in the West or the “developed” world then it is important that you understand the context and implications of the place in history you occupy.  If you live in these places and you are reading this article then it is almost certain that you have wealth, luxury, and free time that far surpass almost anyone who has ever lived.

Unusually Blessed

Unlike the vast majority of people who have lived in times past, and indeed unlike a majority of people who live now, you do not need to make your daily survival your primary concern. Finding enough food to live one more day is not your first thought in the morning.  You do not spend a lot of time worrying about shelter that will protect you from the weather and from other dangers.  You assume that your children will outlive you, and you don’t expect to lose some of them to disease and accident before they reach adulthood.

The freedom from these concerns is, comparatively speaking, a rare gift and blessing when compared to the breadth of human experience.  With this freedom comes both a challenge and a responsibility.

A Responsibility

I think those of us blessed to live with this freedom from daily survival worries, and with the luxury of time that is available to be used at our discretion instead of by the dictates of necessity, have a responsibility to use this time well. This time is much too precious to be squandered or wasted.  This time should be cherished and treasured as the rare resource that it is and used well.  That is our responsibility.

Our challenge is to become aware of this responsibility and to act upon it.  Time is an odd resource in that it is spent at a constant, unstopping rate no matter what we do.  Five years from now five years will have passed.  There is nothing that you can do about that unchangeable fact.  The critical question is how will you have used that time?  Will you have just let it flow past unchallenged and unused, or will you choose to use that time deliberately?

Be Deliberate

I think this issue of using time deliberately is the key to fulfilling our responsibility and redeeming the precious and rare gift we have been given.  As we have discussed before time seems to speed up in joy and slow in grief.  The rest of the time it will seemingly pass slowly in the daily rhythms of life, but the passage of time will appear to accumulate rapidly.  How does one effectively use the time that passes in the daily rhythms of life?

It requires deliberate living.  What is deliberate living?  Deliberate living requires two things.

First, it requires awareness and imagination.  Deliberate living is when you are aware of the passage of time and you are also aware that it is impossible to know how much time is left.  It is when you regularly exercise your imagination and travel to the place in your life when your time in this world has ended and look back and ask yourself what it is you have accomplished and if you are pleased with your results so far.

Second, it requires thought, planning, and action.  You need to take the time and spend the effort to think about what is valuable and how it is you want to use your time.  Then, you must decide on a plan to actually use your time to accomplish what you think is valuable.  Finally, you must put your thoughts and your plans into action.

A Plan

To live deliberately you must do the following:

1. Allow yourself to travel in your imagination to the end of your life and look back.  Ask yourself if you are pleased with how you have used your time so far, and what else you hope you use it for before the end.

2. With your perspective from your imaginary trip to the end of your life still fresh in your mind, take some time to deliberately think about and identify what is most important in your life.  What are the things that you will regret not having done at the end of your life?  What are the things you will regret having done?  Ask yourself what changes you need to make so that you can change the picture that you will see at the end.

3. Map out a plan for achieving the things that are most important.  Set goals, make plans, adjust your schedule, figure out what it will take to deliberately employ your available time to achieve what is most important.

4. Take action!  The only one who will be able to make these changes is…you.  Nobody else can do it.  Take the action and make the changes needed to redeem your time and write the story you want to read at the end.  Ultimately time will pass, the question is whether you will allow it to pass quietly and unchallenged, or whether you will seize each moment and use it deliberately and live the life worthy of the time that is granted to you.

Your Permanent Adventure Team

Recently I have been extremely busy with work and other things, doing a lot of traveling, and working on a lot of projects.  Often when I feel underwater with work and projects, I find that I will drop some of my more serious reading and find myself picking up some fiction.  I guess it’s a reaction against everything else, and a chance to escape from the real world and rest a little before returning to the grind.

Time to Read

Regardless of the reasons, I found myself reading two books recently that depicted two very different times, but that had characters that had a lot in common.  Song of War by Cliff Graham is a fictional depiction of David and his Mighty Men during the wars and fighting that took place at the very beginning of David’s reign.  It is third in a series, and I believe two more novels are planned before the conclusion.

The second book, which I am reading now, is Shattered Trident, a modern military thriller by Larry Bond.  Shattered Trident is also part of series, with three novels preceding it.  The central character is Jerry Mitchell, who serves in the US Submarine Service.  In Shattered Trident, he is commander of a nuclear attack submarine and finds himself in the middle of modern war between China and an opposing alliance of Asian countries.

The time periods couldn’t be more different with ancient warriors fighting with slings, spears, and clubs depicted in Song of War, while Shattered Trident portrays the most modern and recent aspects of warfare: nuclear submarines, remote controlled underwater vehicles, helicopters, missiles, aircraft, and every kind of modern technology that is employed in war.

Elite Teams

Despite the differences in time and technology, there are interesting commonalities between the elite band of warriors fighting for David and the elite crew of naval officers and crewman under the command of Jerry Mitchell.  Both teams are highly and superbly trained, fiercely loyal to their commander and each other, and convinced they are fighting for a much greater cause than their own lives.

This training, loyalty, and dedication to a higher cause are the hallmarks of good military teams throughout history, regardless of nationality.  We immediately recognize the value and necessity of this kind of training, teamwork, and purpose, in regards to a military team.  We will often demand the same kind of values of our professional teams.  The stakes are usually not as high, but in our professional lives we value expertise and training, loyalty and teamwork, and ultimately we all want to work at a job that has meaning and purpose that is beyond just our needs and ourselves.

Limited Time

The most elite military teams in the world often serve together for less than two years.  For many people in the military, their total service record will be less than a quarter of their professional working life.  All of the training, all of the camaraderie, all of the teamwork, ultimately ends. The crew is split up, the team is disbanded, the company becomes something new as the old leave, and the new recruits arrive.

Your work with your company is similarly limited.  New hires will be made, and current team members will retire or will change jobs and companies.  The cold truth is that well run companies should be designed and managed in such a way that when you leave there should only be a brief pause before your role is replaced with someone new, and the company is able to move on without you.

All of the investment in training, teamwork, morale, and company culture, is temporary.  There is the hope, and sometimes the reality, that the mission accomplished or company goals achieved will have a lasting impact on the world, but the team that accomplished that mission and those goals will always be transient and temporary.  That’s not necessarily bad; it’s the way life works.

A Permanent Team

All of this is reversed when it comes to your family.  Your family is permanent.  We believe it is eternal.  While your family will not always exist in its present form and organization, family ties and family bonds are permanent, not temporary.  Even families that don’t like each other typically still get together once or twice a year for holidays!  At the end of your life it will be your family that takes care of you, not your company or former colleagues.

You hold a unique and completely irreplaceable place in your family that can never be filled or replaced by someone else.  If you leave your family, either voluntarily by abandoning them or involuntarily through death, you won’t ever be replaced.  Your family may move on and recover to some degree.  There may be a remarriage and your role may be filled by another, but unlike in a company or a military team, your absence will never really be fully replaced.   There will always be a missing piece, and a hole that can never be completely filled.

This is the only role in your life that you will ever play where you truly are irreplaceable.

This is the only team that you will ever be on that is really permanent.

Are you investing in your family with these truths in mind?

If you really understood these truths would you do things differently?  What would you do differently when it comes to training and teaching your family team?  What is your level of loyalty to this permanent family team that you are part of?  Is your permanent family team committed to a higher, greater cause than just yourselves?

Big Possibilities!

These may be uncomfortable questions that cause you to reexamine some priorities, but they are meant to be much more than that!  These should be exciting questions that bring you face to face with an exhilarating truth.  This family that you are a part of, it’s a big deal!  It’s the only permanent team that you get to be a part of.  It’s the only team where you occupy a completely irreplaceable role.  If you commit to training hard, working together, taking care of one another, and fighting for a bigger cause, your mission and your work together can have truly eternal implications!

This is your primary adventure team, with a mission and a purpose greater than any other project or organization that you will ever work with, and a bond that will endure past even death!

How much more excitement and mission do you need?


Book Recommendations

If you’re interested in the books mentioned above, start the Lion of War series with Day of War by Cliff Graham, and start the Jerry Mitchell series with Dangerous Ground by Larry Bond.

Some quick notes about the books: The Lion of War series by Cliff Graham is violent, and Graham fully admits that while it is based on the Biblical David, it is a fictionalized account.  I didn’t find the violence gratuitous, and I found Graham respectful of the Biblical account.  The stories are fiction and not to be confused with being scriptural, but the overall effect for me was one of bringing some depth and life to the Biblical accounts that made them all the more exciting and interesting.

The Jerry Mitchell series by Larry Bond seems to be somewhat exceptional for a modern war series, in that it is almost devoid of foul language.  Not all of Bond’s books share this trait, but the Mitchell series is exceptionally clean in this regard.  Bond writes compelling novels, with interesting characters and plots, that are hard to put down.

Tough Sledding

Recently one of our girls suffered a pretty horrible wound.  She was sledding in a neighbor’s yard, got a little off course, and slammed her knee into one of the 4×4 support posts on their deck.  She limped back to our house where we quickly discovered she had a gaping cut that exposed the bone in her knee.

ER Visit

Nothing gets you through the triage line at the Emergency Room as fast as entering with a little blond girl in your arms with a horrible looking cut with the bone showing underneath.  A relatively short time and seven stitches later we were on our way back home.  There were no broken bones, and besides a wicked looking scar she has made a complete and full recovery.

Taking it all together my reaction has been one of extreme relief and thankfulness for the many blessings we experienced. It was her knee and not her head, there were no broken bones, and we had easy access to good medical care and a great staff at the hospital that did a great job.  Our little injured girl put on a brave face and smiled through the whole experience, amazing her Dad and the ER staff.  As I have reflected on it perhaps the most amazing blessing is that I have six children and this was my very first visit to the ER.

Second Guessing

This is the kind of “adventure” that as parents we fervently hope to avoid.  It is also the kind of experience that makes you look back and do some second guessing.

Why didn’t we think of her hitting that post?  How did we let her go down that hill?  Sled riding is so dangerous!

From now on it’s going to be hot chocolate and coloring books inside when there’s snow on the ground kids!  No more opportunities for ER visits!  What if that had been her head?

To some extent this looking back is a normal and healthy reaction.  If your choice of a sled riding hill includes cliffs, a pond at the bottom, and requires a well timed duck to get under the barbed wire fence midway down, then a post-stitches reflection that leads to a new sled riding venue may prevent a much more serious injury.


The problem is that such a healthy reaction is often replaced by a very unhealthy overreaction.  This overreaction rides on the sacred call of safety, and it wields as its sword the irresistible emotional appeal of  ”if it saves just one child!”  This unstopping and unswerving pursuit of safety at all costs, backed by the seemingly righteous and holy cause of  ”saving just one child,” brings with it enormous consequences that are often hidden or overlooked.

The charge for total safety has brought us playgrounds with nothing interesting to play on, children that are kept inside or behind fences for protection, and volumes of restrictive, stifling, freedom destroying, and opportunity robbing laws and regulations, all justified under the “save one child” mantra.

Bigger Consequences

A world of total safety is a world without risk.  A world without risk is a world without risk takers.  A world without risk takers is a world without courage and ultimately a world without adventure.

A world without adventure is a world where kids don’t get the opportunity, training, and experience to become the kind of courageous, responsible, and prepared adults that become the leaders that we desperately need.

What We Should Really be Scared Of 

The thought of one of my children being seriously hurt or injured terrifies me.  Being wise and protecting them as needed is part of what it means to be a good parent.

What should terrify us even more is raising protected, insulated, isolated kids, who have never risked, never hurt, never tried, and never really achieved anything.  Such children cannot become truly competent adults who achieve big things.

Be Smart – But Don’t Avoid All Danger

So use your common sense and don’t be stupid, but don’t be afraid to risk bouncing off a few posts and getting some stitches.  Some blood and pain are often the cost of wisdom and experience, and there is rarely a shortcut.  You and your children need to risk a little from time to time.  The world is not and will never be “safe,” and to be properly prepared for a dangerous world it is necessary to experience some danger.

Family Signals – 8 Sign Language Strategies for Your Family to Try


Being able to communicate without talking is a practical and fun skill to teach your kids. I can’t count the amount of times we have relied upon our family hand signals to fix problems or convey important information to our kids.

Taking the time to think of some signals and practicing them can save you a lot of shouting, make your life easier when you are out in public with your kids, save you and your children from embarrassment, play an important role in family safety, impress your friends, build family identity, and most of all it is a lot of fun!

Eight Signals to Try

Here are eight signals that we start teaching our children as soon as they are able to walk (usually before they can talk) that we use almost every day.

1. Yes and No. These simple American Sign Language (ASL) signs are so useful you will wonder how you ever got along without them. We have admit that we use “no” a lot more than “yes.” Being able to silently and discreetly signal to your child that you approve or disapprove can be helpful in all kinds of situations. We use it a lot in combination with some of the other signs below.

2. Stop. The ASL sign for stop is probably our most used sign for any child under five. We use it to silently correct and reprimand in public, and to remind a child not to do something they know they shouldn’t do.

3. Sit. This is our number one sign we use in church and is often combined with stop – as in, “Stop! Now sit down!” We also use it to silently stop kids from tearing around in a public gathering and take a seat and calm down.

4. Slow Down or Easy. This may be our own invention. Two hands palms downwards, alternating going up and down slightly. We use this to tell kids to calm down, slow down, and to let them know that this may be the last warning before a stop and sit sign. We use it in public settings to tell children to settle down, to be a little more quiet, or to just generally be a little more under control and not as wild.

5. I have to go to the bathroom. Easily the most useful sign we have ever used. This is the ASL sign for “T”, shaken slightly. In a perfect world our kids use this to discreetly tell us they need to use the restroom. This happens occasionally, but more often this is used by one parent to signal to the other parent why they are suddenly disappearing with a kid – or why the other parent needs to quickly disappear with a kid.

6. Gather Up! This is my favorite and it is the sign most likely to impress your friends. We use one finger in the air, moved in a circle. It means drop everything you are doing and immediately and quickly come to the person signaling. We teach our kids that if one kid sees this sign they are to immediately tell all of their siblings. All of the practicing and teaching for this sign is worth every second the first time that you catch the eye of a kid on a crowded playground, give the signal, and watch as the word is quickly passed and everyone comes tearing over to you – and all this happens without a single word being said!

7. Time to go. This is primarily a parental sign, but we have developed a discreet, silent signal that tells the other person, “Wrap this up, it’s time to leave.” We have used it to end conversations, discreetly let the other one know that we are out of time, or sometimes to get the other parent to disengage from whatever social situation is going on so that they can go deal with a parental issue that needs addressed. Ours is secret, so you have to create your own version!

8. Names. As early as possible we develop specific signs for each child. Usually we use the ASL letter sign for the first letter of their first name, combined with a gesture that has something to do with their personality. Once everyone knows the individual sign for each person then things get really fun. You can signal to the kid that is paying attention to tell the kid acting like an idiot to “Stop!” and “Sit Down!”, or we can tell one kid to tell the other one to slow down and ease up. We can also tell the other parent which kid needs to use the bathroom, or tell one kid to come over to you without calling all of them in at once.

These are the 8 signs we use the most. The number of signs and what you use them for are limited only by your imagination and by how much time you want to spend teaching them. We suggest you pick 8 or less that are the most useful and start with them and see how it goes.

Practice and Make it Fun!

We teach our children the signals really early and make sure that we praise heavily every time they notice and obey any signals. We also make sure that we make it abundantly clear that it is NEVER OK to ignore a hand signal, and that doing so will have instant consequences. While each child typically needs an immediate consequence or two for ignoring a signal they don’t want to see, we have found that this is an exception, and kids love learning and using the signs. We make it really fun to learn, especially the Gather Up! sign. All kids like the intrigue of learning some secret signals and using them.

Give it a try! Get a book from the library or go online and pick some American Sign Language signs to learn, or go super secret and make up your own set of secret signals. You can start with the list above and then create some signs for your own unique family and their needs.

Don’t forget to practice them a lot and make the practice really fun. You may find yourself grinning to yourself the next time you need to call the kids from the playground or when you need to share with your spouse that the smallest child needs to make a restroom run!