Putting Your Family Center Stage: Josh and Christi Straub
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No one decides, I’m planning to ruin my marriage & neglect my kids. Dr. Josh & Christi Straub show how core decisions keep what’s important center stage.
Putting Your Family Center Stage: Josh and Christi Straub
Ann: Hey, before we get to today’s program, I want you to know that Dave and I were perfect parents.
Dave: —until we had a child. [Laughter]
Ann: Exactly! And we used to think there were perfect parents, but there are no—
Dave and Ann: —no perfect parents.
Ann: That's why we wrote the book, No Perfect Parents. We're excited because now we have an online video course for you. You can go through it as a small group, individually, or even just as a couple. And to get that, you can go to FamilyLife.com/NotPerfect to find out more. Again, FamilyLife.com/NotPerfect.
Christi: It was like a whole different Josh, who was playing in the middle of his workday. He'd go out to Lowe's®, and go pick up stuff to fix this in the house, or whatever. And yet, he was more productive in his worktime. I'm looking at him, like/I was like, “I love this Josh, because I see the real you.”
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
So at year ten, we almost lost our marriage.
Dave: Oh, great; you're going to bring that up. [Laughter]
Ann: I don't know if I've asked you, but I know the answer: “Do you regret that you put so much time and energy into this call to start a church? Do you have regrets about that?—those years?”
Dave: The right answer would be: “Yes.”
Ann: Well, I don't want to hear—
Dave: No; I mean, I'm kidding. But of course—I mean, I was chasing hard after—it was easy to say, “God's call” and spiritualize it, which it was.
Ann: It was.
Dave: But it also was: I loved walking on that stage, and seeing lives changed; and the spotlight was on me. I mean, I didn't want to say it or see it then; but it was true. It's pretty awesome to walk up there, and they put a mic in front of you, sort of like right now. It's like people actually listen to what we have to say?—it's ridiculous.
But there's endorphins—there's things that happen—and it becomes addicting. Like I'd rather walk on that stage than walk in the front door, and not know what to do, and have a two-year-old in my arms—which sounds terrible to say—but you don't feel the same thing about that.
Ann: Well, it’s interesting that you felt like you didn't know what to do with the two-year-old; but you did know what to do on the stage.
Dave: Yes, I think I was trained.
Ann: I bet a lot of people feel that.
Dave: Yes; so why are you bringing that up?
Ann: We have some great guests with us today. Josh and Christi Straub are with us, back in the studio. Welcome to FamilyLife, you guys.
Josh: Thank you.
Christi: Thank you, guys. We always love being with you. Because this is stuff you don't really hear people say—they feel it—but they don't say it. I just—speaking from a younger generation—like we need to hear you say it, so thank you. Our generation/we have not seen the vulnerability displayed—and it peels back layers, like we're talking about before—you know, for a mom to feel not alone/for a dad to not feel alone when you share your experience—like I hear/I'm like: “This is repeating in our lives,”—and you don't feel crazy.
Dave and Ann: Yes.
Christi: And that/you need people like that around you, so thank you.
Dave: Well, we love you guys. Your ministry, Famous at Home, is so God-centered about: “That is the place to be famous.”
You know, I worked in the NFL 30-plus years; and they're famous people. Every day, I'd be like, “No, they're not; they're just men.” It's like: “Why in the world would people put their posters on the wall?”
We are the ones that need to be famous in our home. So that's the heart of your ministry. The book that we're going to talk about today is actually called Famous at Home—I love this—7 Decisions to Put Your Family Center Stage. And that's what you were asking about.
Dave: It's like: “What's center stage in your life in a world competing for your time, attention, and identity?”
Yesterday, we talked about where you opened the book with: “We all are on a chase.” We heard Christi’s chase; which, you know, we could all relate to. Josh, I didn't know a lot of that story,—
Ann: I didn't either, Josh.
Dave: —even though we’ve been with you before, that you wrote about in your book. Your chase has quite a journey to it.
Josh: Yes, it really does. It's wild, because you don't realize how far back some of these things go in your story when you're actually in the middle of the chase. And to be quite honest, I don't even know that I would have said I was chasing. I think that's, a lot of times, what we have to recognize, as well, is: “Oh, what am I chasing?”
I think/so I had this pattern of working really, really hard; and then, burning out/crashing and burning out. And then, I work really, really hard; and then, crash and burn out. There's a number of different stories that connect to this; but I remember getting to a point, where—I do a weekly therapy; right?—so I'd go to somebody, and see somebody on a weekly basis.
But I was paralyzed, in this one particular season, by overwhelming fear and just burn out. I mean, it was at a point, where Christi/she was just like, “You're different. Like something's not…”—like—“You need to…”—irrational fears/all that type of thing.
Ann: Is that what you mean by burning out?—like what did that look like?
Josh: Yes; I mean, when I say crash and burn out, basically, what I would get to is—I would get to a point, where I lost focus; I lost vision; I lost passion—but what it would do is it would put me right back at work, again; because that's just where I found my identity. It just felt safe; right?
When we're not feeling safe, we go to what makes us feel safe. Work just felt safe—and never mind, we can get into business talk about what productivity and busyness—like I wasn't necessarily being productive; I was just maintaining busyness, because it felt safe.
I remember calling my dear friend, Bill Lokey; and I said, “Bill,”—I was like—“I'm seeing this as a pattern now, and it's affecting our marriage. I really need to go to somebody and see a therapist.” He said, “Josh,”—he said—“I would really encourage you to do this six-day intensive; because”—he said—“I think you shut your phone down; you go away.” I was like: “Oh, wow.” I hang up the phone.
Christi: “Are we at that point?” “Okay, I guess we are.” [Laughter]
Josh: This is what he said/he said, “You'll do nine to twelve months of therapy in six days. There's a place called Onsite, outside of Nashville.” I said, “Okay.” I was like, “Well, let me get permission; let me talk to Christi.” And at that point, I think Christi was just at a point, where she's like, “Go!”; so I went.
I remember sitting in this group therapy session. It went back, for me, to this place of when my parents divorced. My parents got a divorce when I was ten. I remember my mom coming in—and it was like 6:00 o'clock in the morning/6:04 in the morning—I remember it like it was yesterday; I put all the details in the book—but she came in and she said, “Josh, I'm moving out today. Do you want to go with me or stay here with your dad?” I had never seen my parents fight; I'd never seen them argue. I had no clue that this was coming, like this was a blind-sided hit.
I had done a lot of therapy around that moment—and a lot of healing and reconciliation with my mom and all of that through the years—so I thought, “I'm good.” My dad was always in the stands for me. I can count, on one hand, the number wrestling matches he missed; because he couldn't get away from work in time, like he was always in the stands.
But in that therapy moment, I had completely forgotten about the driveway scene, later in the afternoon that day. What had happened was I watched my dad come home and find out that his wife was leaving him. I remember us, as a family, just all standing there, hugging/crying. There was this—
Ann: How old was your sister?
Josh: My sister was eight. I was ten; my sister was eight. She's two years younger than me. I remember this exchange that happened, where I chose to stay with my dad—because I watched the pain in his eyes—and I thought, “I'm going to do everything I can,” as a first-born fixer in the family.
I end up becoming a counselor. Most counselors go into therapy, because we need it; [Laughter] so I was not the exception.
I saw this man/I thought, “I'm not going to let this happen. I don't want my dad to be hurt, so I'm going to stay with him.” It was kind of like, me—there was never a verbal exchange, but it was kind of like—me, as a ten-year-old, going, “Dad, I'm going to take care of you.”
My dad was always, physically, in the stands; but in big emotional moments, my dad/he himself—and as I studied our family history—my grandfather didn't know how to be there for my dad, in his big emotional moments. Though my dad gave me the best of everything that he could, and what was given to him—in big emotional moments, in my life, my dad didn't give me that—it wasn't like he/there wasn’t an exchange of: “No, son; you're the son—you're ten—I got this.”
So this sense of responsibility—back to the group therapy—I'm sitting in there; and my buddy, who played little Josh in this scene, as all these responsibilities—our therapists—blessed Mary; she's unbelievable—she was putting all these responsibilities that I had in my life as pillows onto his hands; and they're stacking up, and stacking up, and stacking up. I'm watching all these responsibilities stack up, and this little Josh fall under the weight of all of them; and I'm just weeping.
Then she's like, “Okay, Josh; now, I want you to sit there.” All of a sudden, all these pillows are on my hand. I put my hands on my knees; and my buddy looks at me, and he goes, “Dude, you can't do that, like actually hold them up.” [Laughter]
Ann: —to feel the weight.
Josh: Yes; “You’ve got to feel the weight of this.”
I just lost it because I realized my chase in my life was all about making sure everyone around me was okay. In our conversation yesterday—where she said, “Why don't you ever ask me about what's on my heart?”—for me, I'm doing everything I can. When I feel like I'm not taking care of her—and I'm dropping a responsibility here, and I'm dropping responsibility there—my chase kept leading me back to work; I would just get busy. I would withdraw from everything, because I felt like I was losing control of it all. That was my chase.
Today, I have a lot of accountability around me to make sure that I don't fall back into that level of feeling like I have to have control of making sure everyone around me is okay and holding all of that responsibility.
Dave: Christi, have you watched that change?—I mean, he's not crashing and burning like before?
Christi: Yes, it's funny: you know, we just got back from a three-week trip. We went/my family's all in Canada; we went up to Canada, and that was beautiful. I watched him for the first time—I could cry—just leave work behind—like took three weeks y'all; that's a long time. He just was present; he just let it go.
We came back. Normally, that would be like then over-drive; right?—like he’d been gone three weeks/like: “We’ve got all this stuff to do.” It was like a whole different Josh, who was playing in the middle of his workday. And yet, he was more productive in his worktime. I'm looking at him, like/I was like, “I love this Josh, because I see the real you,”—like—“You're living again. You're not—
Ann: —in freedom.
Christi: —in freedom, totally. And talk about just countercultural—it's just to fight the tide that tells you that more work is better—like somehow, that's a badge of honor to be exhausted, and burned out, and tired all the time, and busy all the time. To watch him walk through this fight to recover a version of him, that's fully alive, is just/it's brought—and let me say this: “It's brought the whole family to life: the kids/me,”—like the transformation of what your home feels like. That's what we mean when we say the atmosphere.
I mean, you know what an atmosphere is when you walk into a friend's home. Always, like every home has a smell—but there's an atmosphere, both spiritual/natural; but you know, it could feel tense, or chaotic, or peaceful—and you leave, feeling a different way than you came.
It's transformed the atmosphere of our home, and I am just really proud of you.
Ann: You guys, we probably all have a chase; do we?
Josh: Yes, I think so.
Ann: Are we all chasing?
Josh: Oh, I think so. I think Tim Keller talks about this. He talks about how we're all spiritual addicts. We all have idols in our lives; right? We all have things that give us significance/that give us some sense of affirmation, where we're seen. When we feel unseen, or we feel insecure/we feel unsafe, we turn to those idols. I think we all have them—I think we all have things that we turn to—to numb out from the realities of life.
For a lot of us, those things can serve us really, really well for a season; but there comes a point that it doesn't serve you well anymore. You have to say goodbye to it in order to live fully alive. For me, I wanted to live fully alive; because the research shows that our children will not outgrow our emotional or spiritual maturity while they're under our roof. When they go out—and they have coaches, and teachers—and all that—and people who are mentoring them, and pastors—then they can grow.
But under my roof, I want to raise my ceiling so that I'm raising my children's floor from which we get to launch them out into the world, both emotionally and spiritually. If I'm walking around, burned out and fearful, my kids are going to pick that up. There's a trickle-down effect, generationally, for those types of things, as Christi was talking about: the atmosphere. I was like, “I am going to do everything I can to change.”
To me, that's what being famous at home is about: is changing your generational patterns—as I said earlier—from my grandfather to my father to myself. To me, there's no greater honor to my dad, and to my family lineage, than to take what he's given me and to level that up for my kids.
Ann: That's really good.
Let's talk about entering our children's worlds. I thought the story with that—that you shared about the woman, had a child in the hospital—she had a five-year-old that she was dropping off to kindergarten. Will you share that?
Josh: Yes; so that was a—you know, it's fascinating to me how we get so busy that we tend to look at our children's emotions and their behaviors—or we see their emotions as/or their anger, maybe, as disobedience—we see their behavior; automatically, it’s like: “Oh, you're being disrespectful,” “You're being disobedient.” We just punish the behavior as opposed to going underneath and: “What's going on in/behind our child?”
This woman had come to me, and she said, “My child is/you know, I'm dropping him off at kindergarten; and he's like reverted back to this separation anxiety thing, where he's physically hurting the teachers because he's kicking and protesting me dropping him off.” She's like, “I don't know what to do about it.”
I asked her about the other kids. One of the biggest things I ask is like: “When did it start?” and “What went on or what was going on in that season of your life?”—like—“Was there any major changes, especially to his life, or that type of thing?”
One of the things she said was: “Well,”—she said—“I have an older child; he's [kindergartener] the middle child, and then I just had a baby. My oldest was in the hospital, and so I was spending a lot of time at the hospital; and I was nursing the baby. The middle child just was, you know, I was trying to get time with him and that type of thing.” I was like, “Okay.”
Stanley Greenspan, who is a big researcher, has this thing called floor time, where you spend 20 minutes of command-free time a day with your child; in other words, you enter into your child's world. You don't do what you want to do; you do what the child wants to do. And you don't dictate the play; you enter the child's world and play what they want to play. I think this can go, you know, from infants to toddlers to teenagers—
Dave: Oh, yes; definitely with teens.
Josh: —and even, your adult children, like, “Hey, what do you want to go do? Let's go do—I want to enter into your world—show me what you’re learning.”
Dave: I hope they say, “Golf”; but yes. [Laughter]
Josh: I just said to her/I said, “Is there any way you could get 20 minutes a day, with just him, before you got to the hospital?”—you know, before the baby was up or whatever. She said, “Well,”—she said—“you know, he is up before everybody else.” She's like, “It'd be a good time to do that.” She started spending 20 minutes of command-free time with him, right away in the morning, one-on-one attention. She said, within a week, he wasn't kicking and screaming anymore.
Josh: I'm not saying that's like the magic cure-all to everything your children are dealing with—but we're already famous at home—we are the most famous people in the world, to our kids, are us; and they just desire our time and attention. When we can just take 15 to 20 minutes a day—enter into their world; do what they want to do; learn from them—it just changes things.
Ann: I've seen that, as a parent. I remember one of our—I think it was our youngest son—you know, our life is busy; we're going all over the place, and he was just acting out. I was like, thinking: “Am I not disciplining well?” “Am I not…” But sometimes, we don't go to: “Am I giving him enough of my time and attention?”—like looking him in the eyes.
I remember thinking that same thing, Josh: “I'm just going to go…”; and I said to him, “What do you want to do for 15?” It was/for me, it was just 15 minutes—this is before dinner—was just this chaotic time. We started playing basketball—and he/you know, and for 15 minutes, that was it—we just talk and we play—we did: “That's it.” He was/it was unbelievable, like, “That's it?”—he just needed me to see him/to know him.
Josh: And that was 15 minutes you remember.
Christi: I think that's what's been profound for me is seeing how much that time—I'm doing it for them—or you know, I think I'm doing it for them. [Laughter] And then, you know, we have this thing, at the end of the day, where it's just like: “What's your favorite part of the day?” I remember my son asked me one time, “What was your favorite part of the day?”; and I realized it was the time I'd spent with him: like it was the time, one on one. I think part of it is I felt like a kid again, because I wasn't trying—you think of, as a parent, how much transactional communication we have with our kids—like, “Okay, sit down to dinner”; and then it gets all—
Ann: “Go get your shoes.”
Christi: —directive, like we're being like camp—I always call it “Camp Counselor”—because you feel like you're just like being a camp counselor, and getting everyone organized; but you're always telling them what to do.
But in order to get into their world—like you don't get to be in charge of that—that's their world. It actually feels really good, as the parent, to not have to be in charge for a minute and to just let them take over. You play things that like I—creativity, like to go into like imaginary play and stuff—I'm like, “Oh, this is so painful.” But there's something in you that comes alive; you just have to kind of lean into it. I just want to be like: “Let's build something,” or “…do something constructive.” But it is the thing that I will remember, at the end of the day, like, “That was worth it.”
Ann: I think, with our teenagers, that was true too. We would be butting heads; we may be getting into some arguments—but I would take them—like once a week, we’d just do something that they wanted. I remember, in that time, we'd also have something to eat; but it was the time that I wanted to speak life into them, like: “I see that you're struggling, but I see this is who you are: I'm amazed at your gifts.”—like—“I can't wait to see how you impact the world and friends,” and “You're amazing.” It was amazing; it was a balm to the relationship, and it brought us together in a way that was pretty remarkable.
Dave: Yes; we even had, when they were little boys—so about the ages of your kids right now—once a month, I did a boys’ day out, where it's like—it really started as: “I'm going to give Ann a break for the whole day,”—I mean, she could do whatever; but I'm going to have them until four or five o'clock. Every time, it was: “What do you guys want to do?” And so they directed the day; it was a special time.
All I would add, as we end this one, is: we're old enough to be able to look back. I mean, we're probably 20-some years older than you guys. We represent some of our listeners; you represent others. And all I can say is this: “What you're teaching and what you're talking about is all that matters.” [Emotion in voice] We can say this from looking back; I'm getting teary thinking about this.
Christi: I’m getting teary, hearing you say it; yes.
Dave: Older parents would tell us: “You're going to blink, and they're going to be gone.” And in that moment, we're like, “Whatever.”
Christi: Yes; there’s times, where you're like, “Cool; that'd be great. [Laughter]
Dave: You just didn't really believe them; because you're up at night, and it was just chaos almost every second. And now, I look and go, “They’re right.” You blink; and they're off the college, or off to their—and we have grandkids now—and being famous at home: we can just say, from wisdom: “That's all that matters: your walk with God/your family.”
I chased things that really didn't matter; and as a pastor of a church, it wasn't that important compared to this—those are your greatest disciples—there's nobody else is more important than those two, or three, or five. You've got three; we had three. I just want to remind parents: “Do whatever it takes to put your family center stage, and this book will help you do it. These seven decisions—
Ann: Yes, it's great.
Dave: —"will put your family at center stage.” You'll be glad—20 years/30 years, you'll look back and go—“I'm glad I made that decision then, because I'm reaping the dividends now.”
Josh: Thank you for saying that; it means a lot to us, yes.
Shelby: Our guests today have been Josh and Christi Straub. They've written a book called Famous at Home: 7 Decisions to Put Your Family Center Stage in a World Competing for Your Time, Attention, and Identity. This is such important stuff. We'd love to send you a copy as our “Thanks,” when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and give to help more families learn about God's plan for family and marriage, including a mom with young kids, who wrote in. Here's Dave and Ann.
Ann: I think one of my favorite things about FamilyLife Today is one—
Dave: —is me? [Laughter]
Ann: Yes; [Laughter] but when we get letters or comments from listeners. This one mom wrote: “I was so thrilled to find FamilyLife Today. I'm a mom with elementary-aged kids and these episodes give me so much encouragement, as well, as practical biblical advice for my life, marriage, and kids. Thank you.”
It feels good to get those; doesn't it?
Dave: Oh, it's awesome; makes your day.
And I want to say, “Thank you” to our FamilyLife Partners, these are people who financially support this ministry; we can't do it without them. And comments like that come in every single day—and you should feel thankful yourself, say—“I am a part of that.”
Ann: I'm thinking: “Maybe, you've listened for a while, but you've never been a Partner or given. I want to personally invite you: ‘Join our team; be a part of changing lives, and hearts, and marriages. We need you.’” And we also thank those of you, who have already given, like, “Way to go!” And thanks for being with us.
Shelby: Yes, thank you so much. And you can help continue to make all of this possible by going to FamilyLifeToday.com to make a secure donation to this ministry.
And while you're at FamilyLifeToday.com, as a listener, we are incredibly thankful for you. We want to make you aware of this upcoming opportunity to walk alongside our mission and participate. Because it is the holiday season, you can participate in the Christmas Gift Guide. Now through November 28, you can get up to 60 percent off on 12 different resources that we have available for you; things like, Weekend to Remember® gift cards, the No Perfect Parents small group course, and even a book that I wrote called Pressure Points: A Guide to Navigating Student Stress. You can head to FamilyLifeToday.com to find the entire FamilyLife Christmas Gift Guide.
And tomorrow, on FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson share a story about Ann having a cancer scare and the power of a spouse, being there, through it all. That's tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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