When birthdays become life lessons…

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Calling all the mamas out there today… Yes, you, with the child you feel like you are constantly disciplining for the same old reason.  The one who wears you out with the way you have to stay on top of them with a balance of discipline and love, wishing you could just love without the discipline for just one day.  Isn’t disciplining so exhausting?  It wears me out and makes me long for a day at the beach.  Anyone with me?

And yet, I know it’s so important, not only for the child… but for me.  Through parenting, and in those hard disciplining moments, I continue to learn so much about my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  Awhile back, I had a child – who will remain nameless, of course – whose birthday was coming up.  I was so excited to celebrate with my sweet child, and in typical mom form, was eager to give my child some really fun gifts I had purchased and knew he/she was longing for.  I get so much more excited about giving gifts these days than getting them.

As the time grew closer, however, I started to struggle with whether I should be giving more “stuff” to this child who had so much already and wasn’t acting so appreciative of what they already had.   I was tripping over toys, giving out way too many reminders to clean up, and just feeling really frustrated with the way he/she was taking care of their current belongings.  Is it really in my child’s best interests, I wondered, to be given more right now?  Perhaps some stewardship needed to be learned first.  And definitely some gratitude.

And then it hit me that sometimes, God may think the same thoughts about me as well.   Here I am praying for more, asking for more, and longing for God to do more in my life – when He just wants me to be content right now with what He’s already given me.  It doesn’t mean that I should stop longing or asking when He’s put desires in my heart.  But it does mean that I need to learn to be grateful for what I have now and steward what I have well,  so that I will appreciate and better handle the bigger gifts and responsibilities to come.  I have no idea what He’s got planned for me, or the timing of when those plans may come to fruition.

But I do know all that He’s called me to today.

The gifts He’s given me to cherish.

The responsibilities that I need to take ownership of.

And I have to believe, based on so many life stories of the people in Scripture,  that faithfulness to today’s responsibilities and gifts will result in greater fruitfulness tomorrow.

As for my child – well, we are still learning around here.  But I’m happy to report that the situation did improve before the birthday came around.  The birthday celebration was a happy time, and the birthday child ended up receiving way more than he/she deserved.  Because isn’t that how God is with us too?  So many gifts of grace.  Unmerited.  Undeserved.  Freely given in love.  But definitely delegated in His sovereign timing with the responsibility to steward them well.

My children will keep working on their gratitude and stewardship around here, and through it all, I’ll be reminded too.  Be grateful for today. Be hopeful for tomorrow.

But most of all, be content with His timing – convinced that Father really does know best.

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A call to gratitude (and a book review)

My least favorite time of year, when it comes to parenting my kids, is when the toy catalogs come out.  Right around when the holiday decorations start being seen around town, our mailbox starts overflowing with its own décor – catalogs galore.  And not just any catalogs, but catalogs that appeal to little people with big eyes.  Eyes that are prone to see all that they don’t have, that their friends do.

We are blessed to have so many family and friends around us who love our family and enjoy showering gifts on my children, and I’m grateful the Lord’s blessed me with enough to be able to give them some gifts as well.  But even with all those gifts, there are always some things they long for that they don’t get.  It’s tough sometimes to go back to school or have play dates with friends after Christmas and hear about some extravagant toy that someone else got, when they know it’s something they probably won’t ever get.   Really though… is that disappointed feeling actually a huge blessing in disguise?

Entitlement.  Don’t we all struggle with it at some point?  It started with Eve back in the garden, wanting the one thing she was told she couldn’t have and listening to the rebellious voice telling her she deserved it.  Still today, the same struggle continues.  We long for what we can’t have, forgetting all we do have.  We feel behind, cast aside, or like we don’t completely fit in when we see more things we don’t share in common with people than what we do.  And the scary thing is, that just as Eve passed her issues and her sin nature down to her children, so we pass ours down to ours as well.  Jealousy.  Greed.  Envy.  Selfishness.  The list goes on.  I’ve seen it in my own life, and in my own home.

So when I picked up Kristen Welch’s new book on Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, I expected to be given some kind of formula to curb my children’s desires for more and teach them contentment.  But what I first got was a hard wake up call to work on my own discontentment.

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“Parents who want to raise more grateful kids need to start by living more grateful lives.” -Kristen Welch

The key to a grateful life, the secret to contentment, and the way to rid our homes of this ugly issue of entitlement… it starts in my heart.  And in yours.  When we, as the examples in our families, choose to count our blessings, or to count our gifts (as Ann Voskamp so eloquently calls them)… we find the answer the culture needs to see today, that ultimately helps our children see that Jesus is truly all we need.

“Is that all?  I believe these three little words sum up the tone in our culture.” – Kristen Welch

This book comforted me while it pricked at my heart.  It gave me encouragement that it’s really OK that I’m not able to buy my kids some of the things their friends have, or live in what we might call our “dream home.”  It reminded me that when I remember to make gratitude my priority, my attitude will follow… and so will theirs.  Finally, it did give me many tools to help instill gratitude in my children, including service opportunities, intentional family time, smart choices about technology, and ways to live out God’s love here in our home.

So next year, when those toy catalogs grace us with their presence in our mailbox, they are going right in the trash.  Better yet, maybe we will take some time to first pick out a toy for a child who may not get any otherwise.  Our family blessings notebook will continue to get added to, so that one day, with a lot of work and a lot of prayer, maybe my kids will get it.

“When entitlement’s poison begins to infect our hearts, gratitude is the antidote.” -Kristen Welch

I was so overjoyed to be a part of the launch team for the Raising Grateful Kids book.  As a thankful gift (because you can’t write a book on gratitude without being grateful, right? Such a great example from the author herself!), Kristen gave us all a gratitude bracelet, made by the women at the Mercy House maternity home in Kenya, which was founded by Kristen.

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It is a white bead bracelet with three copper beads, reminding me to ask these three questions each day:

  1. Who do I appreciate today?
  2. What made me smile today?
  3. How was God good today?

 

You all, just that little exercise changes daily life so much.  The focus gets off of what didn’t happen, and on what did.  It’s off what I don’t have, and on what I do.  I challenge you to try it this week.  And be sure to pick up a copy of Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World.  Your perspective is sure to change as you learn from Kristen’s own family stories, identify with similar struggles, and see firsthand that contentment is possible.

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Book Review – Prayers that Changed History

Every once in awhile, the Lord connects somewhere I’m being challenged with a similar concept on a level my kids can relate to.  Lately, I’ve been convicted a lot about prayer… the importance of it, the power of it, and my need to do more of it.  I’ve been challenged to make prayer such a priority in my family that it becomes a habit my children see as vitally important in their own lives.  So when … {…Read More}

When it’s the heart of the matter…

Parenting sure can humble us sometimes, can’t it?  These little people that need so much direction and guidance, yet love so freely with such patience and forgiveness… well, they sure know how to bring out some truths I need to learn without their even realizing it.  If you are a parent, I’m sure you can relate. We had one of those moments yesterday when I took my kiddos to a local fun place filled with … {…Read More}

Back to school time!

It’s been a whirlwind of activity around here lately as we try to adjust to a new school year, and a new routine of school and extracurricular activities.  My kids are still a part of a wonderful hybrid classical school, where they attend three days a week and are home schooled two days a week.  This year, I joined them in going back to school… as a teacher there one day a week!  I’m greatly … {…Read More}

And so it begins…

It’s been a good summer… but a long one. I love my littles dearly, but summer now means I have to be intentional about having adult conversations. I think the combination of the heat, the length, and just a lot of overall hard going on all around us – well, it’s had me quiet and a bit discouraged.  This world can do that, I’ve learned, and I think that’s ok.  Those hardships help us to … {…Read More}

On Father’s Day…

Last week, I found myself sick and waiting for a half hour to see the PA at the CVS clinic near me… and this is what I had to look at.  It was hard.  Really hard.  I felt as bad emotionally after that as I felt physically, and maybe even worse.   It’s that time of the year that we used to love that we now dread… Father’s Day is nearing.  We used to love Father’s … {…Read More}

So they’ll always know…

One thing that has helped me tremendously in my grief over losing B, is all of the cards and letters he has written me throughout the years.  This man was a writer through and through, and from the time we first started dating, he charmed me pretty quickly with his way with words.  Compliments, encouragement, love letters… he wrote them all.    Of course now, all of those written words are even more treasured.  They … {…Read More}

I am not enough.

I am sure you’ve heard the saying that “it takes a village.” I’d be the first one to raise my hand in agreement. But I’d also be quick to go a step further and assure you that it also takes an Almighty God directing that village. At least that is how it’s looked pretty clearly in my life lately. And I don’t know if I could function a full day without that truth. I am … {…Read More}

Happy Mother’s Day…

My kids are my heroes. Yes, you read that right. This year, while the world is busy celebrating Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate Kids’ Day. Sure, part of that is probably because I have no one quite old enough to organize a breakfast in bed or the ability to take the day off to relax as my form of celebration. 🙂  But it’s much more because I am honestly just that proud of them. … {…Read More}