04: Extending grace as parents with Majors Rob and Stacy Birks

As parents, there are thousands of questions that go through our heads each day. 

Some are strategic, such as, “Should we have a strict routine or just go with the flow?” 

Some are silly: “Is it normal that my toddler always wants to be a puppy instead of a child?” 

And some are really serious, such as, “What if my kids don’t follow Jesus?” 

We’re sitting down with Majors Rob and Stacy Birks, Mission Development Officers for The Salvation Army in Southern California, to talk about their parenting highlights, tips for parents at different stages and answers to some of our hardest questions. 

Show highlights include:

  • The Birks’ favorite memories as parents.
  • A lesson learned through parenting.
  • What was modeled for and brought into the Birks’ parenting style.
  • Their parenting style versus the one they were raised with.
  • How to make your way through harder seasons of parenting.
  • Tangible ways to disciple your kids.

Listen and subscribe to The Commons Podcast now. Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability. For more information on the people and ideas in the episode, see the links at the bottom of this post.

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Meagan Ruff: Alright. So, today we’re going to be talking about parenting. And just a heads up, we’re a little bit silly right now, but that’s perfect because I have a lot of little kids and Cassandra has a couple. And it gets silly sometimes.

Cassandra Amezquita: Yeah. How many do you have Meagan? Five?

Meagan Ruff: Well, it feels like it. Just three, we won’t name any names. But one of them maybe counts for a few kids.

Cassandra Amezquita: Yes. I’m not sure if we already mentioned this before, but our oldest daughters are best friends. We met when Emma was, unofficially Emma was like five months old right? Maybe a little bit older, but later they met at the training college when Emma was about 18 months and Isla was a little bit younger.

Meagan Ruff: So, they’re little besties, which I love because hopefully they’ll stay friends forever. And they can be grownups and be like, “Look at this cute picture of us when we were babies. And we were friends and our moms bought us matching shirts.”

Cassandra Amezquita: Yes. And they bathed together and I gave them Trolls hairdos.

Meagan Ruff: Yes. Oh my gosh. And they had their little movie parties with popcorn on Emma’s little couch thing. You know what I’m talking about?

Cassandra Amezquita: Yes I do. Okay. Well we have other kids too.

Meagan Ruff: And they love each other too. We thought talking about parenting would be great. We know a lot of our listeners are parents or will be parents someday, or they just have kids in their life and you don’t have to be a parent to care for children around you.

Cassandra Amezquita: Yeah. So actually I have a question for you, Meagan. Do you parent the way you were parented?

Meagan Ruff: Ooh, definitely not. There are some things that I find that are similar and you could even ask my dad this. My dad will say that he did not parent the way he believes he should have. And we’ve talked about that before. And so there are a lot of things that I can remember, like my parents saying or doing that I’m like, “Ooh, I don’t want to do that.” Not because I think my parents were bad or anything like that, but I just want to do things a little bit differently. And so in that way, I think probably not. There are some things that I carry on from the way I was raised. I think more in like the traditions area, there are things that we did as a family that just were kind of like a tradition every year. Like we went on this specific camping trip or we did this thing at Christmas or this thing on the 4th of July. And I really loved as a kid looking forward to those things every year. And so I like to create those things for my girls too. What about you?

Cassandra Amezquita: So some of the things that stand out for me is there is a lot of joy in our household, like in our family right now. And that’s something that I definitely experienced as a kid, just like a happy, funny, loud home. Where it always smelled of good food and a lot of people laughing-

Meagan Ruff: I want to be at your house right now.

Cassandra Amezquita: Yes, you can come over when you live near me. So one of the other things that I feel like I intentionally do not do, which my parents parented possibly in some ways, the way they were parented. And I think they chose some new things as well, but there is something in my culture called the Chancla culture. Which means we get disciplined by basically being spanked and we have to be obedient and be fearful of that. And that’s something that I definitely have intentionally not done with my children. And I noticed the difference because my children don’t run away afraid. Sometimes they draw in close when they’re in trouble and I think that’s something special that I’ve tried to instill in my kids. And also I had literally no bedtime when I was a kid. I don’t even know what time I used to go to bed every night, but it was not by 7:30 p.m.

Meagan Ruff: Oh my gosh. That’s great. I definitely had a bedtime and my kids definitely have a bedtime, but they don’t listen as well as I did. Or at least that’s how I remember it.

Cassandra Amezquita: Yeah. But what’s one of the little things that helps you feel like you’re surviving or thriving as a parent these days?

Meagan Ruff: I think whenever there’s something… I don’t know, you probably feel the same way. When I am trying to teach the girls’ something, whether it’s something like school-related or church-related, or it’s just how to put away their clothes or something like that. And usually it takes a lot of repetition. A lot of days of like, “No, this is how we make our bed. We make our bed every day.” So on and so on. And then the time when they do it on their own and they do it the right way. And they’re just like so proud. They’re like, “Mom, look.” Isla, especially, she was like, “Mom look, I can make my bed.” And she had made her bed so perfectly and set up all of her little favorite stuffed animals and even folded her favorite blanket and put it at the end of her bed, just so sweetly. And I was like, oh I taught her how to do that. And now she does it on her own. And it’s kind of bittersweet because I’m happy that she learned, but also I’m like, she doesn’t need me to do that for her anymore.

Cassandra Amezquita: Yes, you’re right.

Meagan Ruff: That’s one of those, it’s a really great parenting moment, but it’s also a little bit sad to see them grow. But I don’t know every new stage there’s something more fun, I feel like.

Cassandra Amezquita: Yeah, those little milestones. There’s this parenting expert that I listen to a lot. She’s also a podcaster. Her name is Janet Lansbury. And one of the things that she says, which I’ll be butchering it, but it’s just like staying with me that someday our kid is going to be in trouble and instead of throwing a tantrum or a fit or going what we call crazy, they’re going to come to us and share their feelings. And I’ve seen that with my kids and instead of judging them for vocalizing or being kids. Instead of being frustrated about that, I just enjoy those little moments and watch them identify their own emotions. And identify those little milestones in themselves. And I feel just so proud.

Meagan Ruff: Yes. Magnolia has just started that to where she definitely has more tantrums I think then Isla ever did. And she’ll get through her tantrum and then at the end she’ll come to me and her eyes will be all puffy and sad and she’ll be like, “Mom.” And I’m like, “Yeah.” And then she’ll say, “I’m sad that you didn’t let me watch another show” or whatever it is. And I’m like, oh she was throwing that fit and I was stressed, but just kind of letting her have her moment. And then when she got through it she came back and she was able, like you said to kind of vocalize what was actually happening. And yeah. Those moments are precious.

Cassandra Amezquita: Yes, definitely. And even if we are the parents, we’re not know it alls. I know I have moments where I told Emma something like, “Emma, you need to put on your shoes or you’re going to get hurt.” And she doesn’t do it. And then later, she hurts herself. And instead of rubbing it in her face, you can tell she learned something. And I just let her experience it and empower her because she’s definitely a strong-willed one. But I know someday she will probably own a company.

Meagan Ruff: Yes. Someday, Emma’s probably going to be my boss. So yes, I’m excited for that day.

Cassandra Amezquita: And we can’t forget Eden. I don’t think we mentioned her or Mateo.

Meagan Ruff: They’re just the sweet babies. They’re so little and sweet. I mean, not little in stature. But Mateo is older than Eden though.

Cassandra Amezquita: He’s pretty huge.

Meagan Ruff: But they’re the youngest.

Cassandra Amezquita: Someday he’ll be able to carry all of them. At the same time.

Meagan Ruff: I mean, I’m kind of wondering if he could probably pick up Eden and maybe even Isla and Noli, they weigh the same. They’re almost the same height and everything. So if he can get one of them, he could probably pick up the other too. He’ll be the little boss leader of their crew.

Cassandra Amezquita: He’ll make all of them laugh when he does.

Meagan Ruff: Yes, that will definitely be it. So today on the show, Cassandra kind of mentioned it, we’re not experts. Sometimes we mess up and that’s totally fine. Hopefully if you’re a parent or you’re around kids, you recognize that too. That you are not an expert and we’re always kind of growing and learning. And so in that we wanted to invite someone on the podcast that has a bit more experience than us. Some well-seasoned parents of adult children now, and we love their children as well. And as parents, like what we see in them, we really liked. And so we wanted to invite Majors Rob and Stacy Birks on the show. They are officers at the Valley Missional Communities in the Canoga Park area, which is a really awesome ministry. They have three grown children, and it’s really fun. We kind of talk about in the interview, how it’s fun to watch them interact online because we’re all kind of far apart right now and COVID has us not hanging out in person anyway.

But it’s fun to see how they interact in how their kids love them so much and love each other so much. So it was a great opportunity to say, “Hey, can we pick your brains a little bit about parenting and the things that you maybe think you’ve done right or things that maybe you would change.” And I think they gave us a lot of really great wisdom. So we’re really excited to have you hear their interview. And with that, we have Majors Rob and Stacy on parenting.

Cassandra Amezquita: Yes. Welcome to The Commons. So, the first question is where is your favorite vacation spot?

Rob Birks: Orcas Island in the San Juan islands in Washington State. But Camp Homelani is not bad either.

Meagan Ruff: Yes. I go there often. Doesn’t feel like a vacation though, because usually it’s for work stuff, but you know.

Cassandra Amezquita: Okay. That’s pretty good. So how about, what’s the most recent book you read?

Stacy Birks: Most recent book I’ve read is… Well, we’re going through a book study right now. “The Great and Beautiful God.” So, that’s the most recent. What about you?

Rob Birks: Yeah, that one. And also Phil Needham’s Lenten awakening book.

Meagan Ruff: Oh yeah. I saw that.

Rob Birks: And then also a Throwaway Thriller by David Baldacci.

Cassandra Amezquita: Okay. Interesting. And what’s your go-to song lately?

Rob Birks: What’s that? Dua Lipa. You think I’m kidding. I love it. Anyway, we won’t share that one.

Stacy Birks: In my head. The last few days has been the Willy Wonka theme song. I don’t know why.

Rob Birks: Because of Sarah Watkins.

Stacy Birks: I think Sarah Watkins, yeah. She did put out a kid’s album and it’s one of the songs she did. And it’s just going through my head. Yeah.

Rob Birks: There’s a new album by Jon Foreman from Switchfoot and we both really liked this song called “Jesus, I Have My Doubts.” Super powerful.

Cassandra Amezquita: I’ll have to look that up.

Stacy Birks: Can I go back to the book thing?

Cassandra Amezquita: Oh yeah, go ahead.

Stacy Birks: We just discovered the library online. So we’ve just been reading, reading, reading. And so that’s why I couldn’t really decide, but yeah, for Kindle. One I’ve read is “The New Jim Crow.” And then I’m reading one on Native American history in our country and they’re just really appropriate right now and important.

Meagan Ruff: I like that question because it gives me lots more reading materials. So every time I’m like writing down every… I don’t write down everything you guys say, but whenever we do the book question, I’m like, yes, I’m writing it down.

Stacy Birks: That’s right. You’re a reader. I’ve seen your questions on Instagram. It’s book suggestions.

Meagan Ruff: Yeah. Yes, I try. But a lot of times I end up watching TV too.

Cassandra Amezquita: Or listening to true crime podcasts.

Meagan Ruff: Yes, that’s true.

Cassandra Amezquita: Okay. So are you introverted or extroverted?

Stacy Birks: Well, people think I’m introverted and Rob’s extroverted, but it’s really the opposite.

Meagan Ruff: Okay.

Cassandra Amezquita: That’s good to know. That’s why you showed up to my events, Major Stacy.

Rob Birks: Yeah. That’s right. That’s a good example.

Meagan Ruff: And that’s why you didn’t show up to our events, Major Rob. I’m just kidding.

Cassandra Amezquita: And the last question is, what is your go-to coffee order?

Rob Birks: Americano.

Stacy Birks: Double tall, non-fat latte. If we’re at Starbucks.

Rob Birks: If it’s a hot day, iced Americano.

Meagan Ruff: Oh yeah. You guys are good coffee people. That was like super fast. I think on our other ones, I can’t remember if they answered as quickly. But that would be me. I would be like, oh yeah, I got it down.

Cassandra Amezquita: Okay. So we’re going to go into the questions for the parenting episode now. So Meagan, do you want to go first?

Meagan Ruff: Yeah. Okay. So let’s start with this one. What are some of your favorite memories as parents?

Stacy Birks: We had fun thinking about this. I just picture my kids in their pajamas and hanging out on a day off or Saturday morning or something.

Rob Birks: Yeah. For me, it was just a lot of laying on the floor, especially when they were younger, smaller laying on the floor with them playing, throwing stuff up in the air, catching it, keys or balls or whatever was around. Yeah, just those times being down with them on the floor and just letting them crawl all over me, that kind of stuff. Horsey back rides, all that…

Stacy Birks: And now as they get older, we just love hearing them make each other laugh.

Rob Birks: Yeah.

Stacy Birks: It’s fun.

Rob Birks: Yeah. The memories now have less to do with what’s happening and more just like when we’re with them, especially when we can all be together. It’s the best.

Meagan Ruff: My kids are in the horsey ride stage right now. That’s all they want to do all the time. To the point where if we say no, or we can’t because we’re doing something else, then they start giving each other horsey rides, which is a little bit more dangerous, but it’s still fun.

Cassandra Amezquita: Everybody’s in trouble when Mateo is trying to get horsey rides. He is really heavy.

Stacy Birks: Do you know the one where you put them on your knee and you hold their hands and you go “Horsey, horsey, go into town.” Do you guys know that one?

Meagan Ruff: No, but I know a similar one. It’s like a different saying, but you put them on your knee and you like start out slow and you go faster and then you go crazy.

Rob Birks: And you drop them down to your foot.

Meagan Ruff: Yeah. Yes.

Stacy Birks: That was fun.

Cassandra Amezquita: In my culture, the grandmas and the tias sing the Mexican hat dance on the knee. 

Meagan Ruff: Oh yeah.

Cassandra Amezquita: So all of the older… When I was at church, when they grabbed the kids and you hear them, that’s like they’re caring.

Rob Birks: Oh, that’s cool. That’s very cool.

Meagan Ruff: That’s fun.

Cassandra Amezquita: So the next question is, what’s an authentic struggle in parenting or a lesson learned that you can share?

Rob Birks: We have a friend who… When you’re watching a movie and you’re like, “I don’t know how this is going to happen or how this is all going to work together.” And she would say… Or I don’t know what’s going on. She would say, “Let it unfold.” And as we were talking that came up. I think that’s how Stacy parented. I think if I could change things, which I can’t, but if I could change things, I would do more letting things unfold than trying to respond right away and figure it all out. So, that’s a lesson learned.

Stacy Birks: So, be relaxed and not uptight.

Rob Birks: Well said.

Meagan Ruff: That’s a good lesson. I think we definitely have that struggle often between me and Aaron. And it switches who is more relaxed and who’s not, but we’re usually not both relaxed at the same time, which is not great. It’s something to definitely work on. Okay. So here is another question. Is there anything that was modeled for you? So either by your own parents or parents that you were around, maybe before you had kids that like you intentionally took into your parenting style. You saw this done and you were like, I want to do that as a parent.

Stacy Birks: There’s one specific. We talked about Rob’s dad that he said build memories.

Rob Birks: Yeah. My dad who went to be with Jesus last June 2020. That’s just kind of his life advice to us was to build memories. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it growing up, but definitely when it came time for us to start parenting, that was a big deal. Actually, verbally saying that to them and yeah, that was huge.

Meagan Ruff: Yeah. That’s a great piece of advice. So, how did you guys do that? What were some of the ways that you intentionally did that?

Stacy Birks: This might go into another question too, but we have a group of friends that we did vacations with every year and we called it Mother’s Day camping. And our children are all adults now, but they’re all still friends. And when they talk to friends from college or growing up, it’s very unique that they have friends that they’ve had their whole life. At least that’s what we heard from them. So we build memories like it with our own family, by making sure we took those holidays every year, but also for our children. They just have so many with all these other families and friends that are still in their lives today.

Rob Birks: Yeah. Another modeling from my parents for sure was that we were talking that they never argued in front of us. They never, I can’t ever remember my parents fighting or disagreeing on things in front of us in a negative way. So, that was huge for us. And I think we pretty much… I mean, now that they’re adults, we fight in front of them all the time just to make them a little nervous. Just to worry them like, oh it’s all going to fall apart after 32 years. It’s not true. Let me say that again.

Cassandra Amezquita: It’s so they check on you guys.

Rob Birks: Yeah.

Meagan Ruff: They’re like, “We’re grownups now, but we still need to check on our parents.”

Rob Birks: Yeah, for sure.

Meagan Ruff: Do you find your parenting style to be different from your parents or really similar?

Stacy Birks: I think I’m similar to mine.

Rob Birks: For sure.

Stacy Birks: What about you?

Rob Birks: I think I’m mostly similar to mine. I think we’re similar to mine, except for that my parents are older and so they were from a different time. So, it was definitely more of a father-knows-best type of a situation. And ours has been more of a team effort.

Cassandra Amezquita: On that same idea. What are some things that you did to get through some tough times in parenting?

Stacy Birks: We’ve had them.

Rob Birks: We have had them.

Stacy Birks: Different stages. And I think space is good, time outs when they’re little. Spanking never worked when we’re talking about discipline, at least for us.

Rob Birks: I know the right answer is prayer, but I want to say prayer. There’s so many times as a parent, as you both know and any parent that is paying attention knows, that we just don’t know what to do. We don’t know the answer. Don’t know how things will turn out. So that’s also where that let it unfold comes in, but also prayer. Prayer and let it unfold. We did that a lot. Still do it. Yeah.

Stacy Birks: Probably a lot more now. As they’re adults.

Meagan Ruff: That’s what I was going to ask, not to like out your kids of when they were difficult and when they weren’t, but your kids are adults now, do you think there was really difficult times in every season or were there some seasons that you were like, “Oh yes, that was super difficult at that age. I’m glad that they’re older now” or whatever it is. If that makes sense?

Stacy Birks: I think with our occupation, we’ve moved quite a bit in our life and that affected one of our kids at a younger age and another kid at an older age. Those are two different times.

Rob Birks: I don’t think we look back and oh. But the main reason is I think because we’re both really proud of how our kids navigated all that. By God’s grace, we showed up and loved them, but they really navigated things well. And so I don’t think we look back with regret on a lot of things.

Stacy Birks: There wasn’t one that stood out as really hard, just maybe some seasons in there and we just loved every stage of parenthood.

Meagan Ruff: That’s good.

Cassandra Amezquita: Yeah. And you can tell your kids were well loved. They look like they have a close relationship with you. That’s special these days.

Stacy Birks: We’re so thankful for that.

Rob Birks: Super thankful.

Cassandra Amezquita: Especially the funny pictures they post for you guys online. I really like the one of like the preachers and sneakers.

Stacy Birks: There is always that camera that’s hidden down. We know when they’re doing it, they’re not really sneaky.

Rob Birks: We know.

Cassandra Amezquita: Okay. So what are some tangible ways that you discipline your kids?

Stacy Birks: Okay. This we could probably learn from, I don’t think we were really intentional with this. We may have tried to leave that up to youth leaders in our corps, but we did family devotions at home with our meals at night time. We made sure we did that every time we were home for dinner, stressing to read their Bibles and having a Bible and the whole discipline of going to church and praying, like all of that. But individually, I think we might’ve dropped the ball on that. I’ll give you an example.

Rob Birks: Okay, I was wrong. We do have regrets.

Stacy Birks: Well, it’s true. It’s just true. We were busy and thought maybe, thought they absorbed it, I don’t know. We’ve learned now that it was our responsibility and should have done more. But, so when they were younger, our son had a comic book Bible, and we said, “When you read that all the way through, you can get a grownup Bible.” He loved to read and he still loves to read. And so he did. So we got that Promise Bible and he started in Genesis. And there’s some stories there that little kids shouldn’t be reading, probably don’t understand. And he put that down and didn’t want to pick it up for many years later. So, that could have had more one-on-one attention with that. Don’t just read your Bible. Let’s point out some things that are probably more beneficial and age appropriate.

Rob Birks: Instead of spiritual direction, that was like spiritual indirection.

Stacy Birks: Exactly. Oh, shoot.

Rob Birks: Darn. Let me parent again, no. That’s good.

Stacy Birks: How do you guys disciple your kids?

Meagan Ruff: So we have, I don’t know when this was made, but we have the Jesus Storybook Bible. It’s the whole Bible. It goes through the main stories and it always is tying back to Jesus, even in the Old Testament stories. Talks about Noah and the flood. And in the end of the story, it kind of wraps it up in a way that little kids can understand, but then it says, but God was preparing another way to save the entire world. And it kind of does that in each one. So in that way, it kind of helps with the Genesis stories that maybe you don’t want young kids quite learning at five or six. But it’s a way to kind of wrap their mind around why is this Old Testament stuff important? Oh, because of Jesus. And so we read through that, especially with Isla and Magnolia at this point. And some little things like you said, we call it our sunny part and stormy part of our day at dinner.

And so we talk about what was the sunny part, what were the good things that happened and the stormy part. And then we ask them, what did you learn today? And just trying to kind of keep the conversation happening with them and not just me and Aaron talking over them, even though they’re so young. And then also as much as possible tying Jesus into that. So I don’t know if we’re doing it right.

Stacy Birks: Sounds like it.

Meagan Ruff: We want to have a parenting episode but Cassandra and I both only have five years, six years of experience. So we need other people.

Cassandra Amezquita: For us, my grandma and my mom, they were very intentional about having us memorize Scripture when we were little. So, every night we would practice a specific Scripture until we memorized it. And when they knew we were confident and they would teach us a new one. So I mostly know Scripture in Spanish because my grandma taught me in Spanish. But now I’m doing that with Emma, since she’s more vocal and she already has three or four Scriptures memorized and she’s only five.

So that’s a good thing that every time we’re going through something tough, I just remind her, “Say your Scripture.” And she’ll repeat it out loud. And she can kind of connect the dots. Like this is real life and this is what I know in my mind. So I see the Bible and I see God playing through real moments. And when I need him, I can go to these parts in my mind that bring me comfort. That’s a little example of something we do. I mean, not all the time. It’s like butterflies and rainbows, but at the base of it, I know she’ll carry that with her forever. Like I do. So.

Stacy Birks: Yes, she will.

Rob Birks: Just as an encouragement to both of you, since we know you both, I think it’s safe to say that if you’re intentionally discipling your kids, you’re doing it right.

Meagan Ruff: That’s good. Thank you. That’s good encouragement.

Cassandra Amezquita: I think that will look different in every family, but as long as we have Jesus’ love somehow seeping through our interactions, I think that is what’s important.

Meagan Ruff: I feel like… Not to be like, oh, we’re doing it right. But it’s funny, Cassandra and I will send each other videos of Isla and Emma. And both of them are such little preachers and social justice warriors. Emma has the sweetest videos of caring about people and loving all people, no matter what. And Isla has these little videos where she’s like, “Jesus can be in your heart, he’s in my heart. He can be in your heart.” And then she ends it with, “Send this to the kids who don’t know Jesus.” And so we’re on the right path, as long as we can keep that going with them. I mean, they’re five.

Rob Birks: We need them, the world needs them.

Meagan Ruff: Okay. So the next question, this one’s kind of funny. If you could go back like 15 seconds before you became parents, so you only had this little frame of time, what piece of advice or encouragement would you give yourself about the journey ahead now looking back?

Rob Birks: This is the one that we had talked about with our friend about the movies and letting it unfold and not relaxed, but just let it unfold. Not everything has to be figured out right away. And it won’t be figured out right away, right? So just to let it unfold.

Meagan Ruff: I like that.

Rob Birks: When we were starting our current ministry, Valley Missional Communities, we interviewed a lot of people that had started… I know this is not parenting, but I hope it relates. We interviewed a lot of people that had started ministries from scratch. We asked them the same, not rapid fire question, but we asked them the same five questions. And one of the common answers was, it’s not going to look like you think it will look like. And just thinking about parenting with you guys and talking about it, that’s about right for parenting. It’s not going to look like you thought it was going to look like. It’s not going to look exactly like your parents or your upbringing or a TV show but if the two of you or one of you, if it’s a single parent household, is trusting God and loving their kids, it’s got to be the way to go.

Cassandra Amezquita: Yeah. I’ve found when I trust who God made my children to be and let them just be free in that little spirit of theirs, they just have like a joy. They feel accepted. Like my son, he loves to dance. It’s not always appropriate in the locations we’re at. Now I’m just like, whatever it’s fine. You’re happy. And my daughter she’s like so strong-willed and I like fought with her so many times about simple things, but now I’m just like God made her this way and I have to redirect and keep her safe. But at the same time, just let her be who God made her.

Rob Birks: I heard a long time ago and I don’t know the exact accuracy, but the verse that talks about training up your child, the way they should go and when they’re older they’ll not depart from it, has been interpreted differently than I learned growing up. Kind of think of like, oh a strict, rigid way to grow up. And then they’ll not depart from it, they’ll stay with the Lord. This person said, “We’re all created by God. We’re unique. We’re uniquely created. We have different personalities, we dance when it’s inappropriate.” Those kinds of things. And so train up your child the way that they should go, meaning they’re bent the way they were created to be humans, fully humans, train them that way. And then they’ll grow up and be fully human as God created them to be. So that, again not totally sure of the accuracy, but I love the poetry of it.

Meagan Ruff: Yeah, definitely. I like that.

Cassandra Amezquita: The next question for you is, this one’s a little bit more serious, but did you ever worry or consider that your kids wouldn’t be Christ followers?

Rob Birks: Yes. When we talked about this, not because of them. Not because of the way they acted or didn’t act or the way they dressed or the way they fit in with our ministry, just because we’re parents. And we wanted them to grow up to be adults who loved God and loved others. So we worried, but not as a reflection on them, just more as a reflection on us, huh?

Stacy Birks: Yeah. And I think the time that it was most on our minds and in our hearts was when they left for college. Not because we didn’t have control of them, but because they were choosing to go to church or not, or to read their Bibles or not, or they didn’t have us saying, “Okay, get up. Get dressed.” They had to decide. And that’s scary to watch that it doesn’t look like what we would do, right? But it’s how God is leading them or they’re following him. So I hope that answers your question.

Meagan Ruff: Yeah. Okay. So our final question to wrap it up, what kind of challenge would you give to parents?

Stacy Birks: We forgot.

Rob Birks: I felt like I should let them unfold the whole time.

Stacy Birks: No, that was not the answer for all of them.

Meagan Ruff: That’s okay if it was the answer for all of them, because that’s a good answer.

Stacy Birks: It really is. You know, I just remember one time when our kids were all really little, probably like two, four and six or around that. Where it’s really intense and I’m working full-time and he’s working full-time and being dad. And somebody came up to me and just said, “You always seem so stressed. How can I help you relax?” And that was so offensive at the time. But it was a long time ago and I still remember it. And I just think nothing’s really that important or big of a deal to get so worked up about that I can’t just be in the moment with my kids or with whoever I’m with at work or at church.

Rob Birks: We attended a Zoom meeting, a retreat, as many people do these days recently. And it was a psychiatrist on there or psychologist; I always get those confused. He had a doctorate degree in psychology and he was a follower of Jesus. And he said one of the best things I’ve probably ever heard. Because he’s talking about coming out of COVID and all of us have all our own stresses and our own worries about things. And he said, because he’s talking to a bunch of people in ministry, “If you were coming to yourself for pastoral care, what would you say to yourself?” You said it more eloquently, but I was just thinking in the context of parenting and especially for any parents that are following Jesus and want their kids to follow Jesus, I think that’s good advice. What would you say to other parents if they were stressed or if they were going through a hard time and then say those things to yourself in those times. So it’s not aspire to be the best parent you can ever be, but it’s more like extend grace to yourself, encouragement to yourself.

You are on the right track, even though everything’s crazy that day, next day starts and just like way more grace, way more grace.

Meagan Ruff: That’s a really great piece of advice because I definitely, as a parent, I’m way harder on myself than I would ever be on another mom. The things that I think about my parenting sometimes on my worst day, I would literally never say to Cassandra. I would never say like, “Oh, you’re like totally dropping the ball” or whatever. So, that’s great advice. Obviously, I’m still going to have those moments. Other parents are still going to have those moments, but to stop and think, okay I would never talk this way to another parent. There’s always more grace. And I really love that.

Rob Birks: And what we keep finding is, when we’re told to love your neighbor as yourself, right? But many of us just jump to the neighbor part, but we can’t. So as parents, we’ve got to keep loving ourselves in that sense. Just don’t be so hard on yourselves, grace.

Meagan Ruff: I love that.

Cassandra Amezquita: Yes. And having friends that you can reach out to, and they’ll remind you of that. Grace is so helpful, especially when you’re stuck in that moment and you can’t see beyond it, that little text that I send Meagan sometimes. And I’m like, “Okay, I had a really rough day. My kids were just really mean to me.” Or “I was really mean to my kids.” And we just encourage each other. And I think those Godly friendships in parenting are so helpful.

Stacy Birks: Yeah. What a gift you are to each other.

Rob Birks: It is a gift. I was just thinking too, that it’s not a fine line, but I think parents should be careful to definitely make those connections and be connected with other people and not compare themselves with other people. So God gave you those kids to parent and you and your husband or you and your wife or you alone. A man or a woman raising kids, a mom or dad, God’s given them to you. And so the way that you work it out between you and the trinity and them, and get advice from wherever you can. But not to compare, “Oh, they do it so much better.” Or, “Oh, their kids are always dressed so well.” Or “Their kids went to the right colleges” or even went to college. Any of that, that’s a trap from the pit, I think, to compare ourselves generally, but certainly as parents. Yeah.

Meagan Ruff: And that’s definitely harder too, with social media and all of the things, especially through a pandemic everyone’s on social media all the time, because what else are you going to be doing? And so seeing that yeah. That I can see that’s definitely hard.

Rob Birks: Yeah. We didn’t die to that. There are no comparisons.

Cassandra Amezquita: Yeah. Thank you so much for you sharing your words of wisdom and your experience. It’s very valuable to us and I’m sure it’s going to be valuable to our listeners too. So, thank you for your honesty and your vulnerability. And thanks for being also good examples of what good parents look like.

Rob Birks: That’s too kind.

Stacy Birks: You’re welcome. Can I say one last thing? Don’t do such a good job at parenting that when they’re adults, they always want to be with you. I think we did something wrong. We just can’t figure it out.

Rob Birks: Let me say what she said again. We’re so happy to be with our kids. We love them. 

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