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An Attitude of Gratitude

An Attitude of Gratitude.  Teaching gratitude to our kids starts with a change in our own hearts.It was one of those days.

By 8am I was ready to throw in the towel and the day had only just begun. The whole family seemed to wake up on the wrong side of the bed.  My oldest was upset that I vetoed her chosen outfit and my youngest was upset that she had to go to school at all.  My husband was mad no one was listening, and we were all tired from being up too late the night before. By breakfast time there had already been much crying, whining, fighting, and a whole lot of yelling.

As I sat down to the table and looked at the three unhappy faces glaring back at me I knew it was my job to find a way to redeem the morning.  A stern lecture began forming in the back of my mind.  I was ready to let them have it.  I turned to my oldest daughter, opened my mouth to speak, and then quickly closed it again.  I’m still not quite sure what stopped me, but in that moment I opted for a different approach.

Instead of lecturing, I simply said, Tell me five things you are grateful for.

Her face instantly lit up as she easily rattled off six or seven things she was thankful about.  She was grateful for a yummy breakfast and clothes and a bed to sleep in and her American Girl Doll.  She was even grateful for her sister and mommy and daddy and for her teacher and friends at school.  Her four-year old sister chimed in, declaring that she was grateful for puzzles and the monkey bars and dress up clothes and candy.  And then it was my turn.

What are YOU grateful for mommy?

I have no trouble spotting an attitude of discontentment in my children, that yearning and wanting and constantly needing something more.  No sooner do they get what they want than they are on to the next thing, pining for something else that is just out of reach.  It frustrates me that they are sometimes incapable of simply enjoying the moment, of appreciating all that they have instead of worrying about what they are missing out on.  Sometimes their insatiable need for more scares me just a little. And yet how often am I guilty of the very same thing?

An Attitude of Gratitude wallIt can sneak up on us so quickly, often before we even realize it is happening.  We order dinner at a fancy restaurant and instantly long for the dish our husband ordered.  We complete a home improvement project only to look around and see all that isn’t done yet.  We see a nicer car in the parent pickup line and wish we could afford a newer model. We read catch a glimpse of someone else’s life in a magazine or blog and all of the sudden our own existence seems inadequate.

Phillippians 4:4-7 reminds us to “rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!  Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

It is easy to bring our concerns and requests before God.  Sometimes we treat prayer like a fast food restaurant, making our order so that we can get in and out and be done.  We forget—or at least I do—that we must also be intentional about thanking God for what he has done in our lives and in the lives of others.  We have to take time to recognize all the specific ways in which we have been blessed.  An attitude of continual gratitude is the fastest way to chase away the rumblings of discontentment.  A friend of mine puts it another way.  She tells me, you can either feel stressed or feel blessed, but not both.

In my own home I have found that it helps to have frequent conversations with my kids about the things we are grateful for, to count the blessings in our lives, and to actively look for ways to serve others.  We call it our Attitude of Gratitude.  This is not a one-time conversation.  Kids don’t work that way.  We talk about it daily, when we wake up, during playtime, during homework time, in the car, and especially at the breakfast table on rough mornings.   It is a nearly constant topic of conversation.  It has to be, because if it’s not, they forget.

I forget.

Bell RingingBecause honestly, as a parent, this lesson of gratitude, of a grateful heart and a giving spirit is not something I can simply talk about.  They have to see it in me.  It must live in me.  This requires some serious prayer and reflection, and a humble & repentant heart.

It also requires me to be intentional about where we spend our time and energy and focus this holiday season, because it is not just about talking.  It is about doing too. I have discovered that there are no shortages of opportunities to serve and give back, even if my kids are small, and even if our schedule is already packed to the gills.

Some of our favorite traditions include filling Operation Christmas Child boxes, ringing the Salvation Army bell outside the local Publix, delivering Thanksgiving dinner to shut-ins, singing carols for those in need of some holiday cheer, and delivering cookies to the local firehouse on Christmas Eve to thank the fireman for working to keep us safe while the rest of us get to be home with our families.

There are many gifts I will give my kids this year, but I know the most important thing I can give them is an Attitude of Gratitude, and to show them, through my own example, things like faith, joy, peace, hope, contentment, & compassion.  I can’t help thinking those are the best gifts of all.

xoxo,

Ruth Soukup, LivingWellSpendingLess.com

Can We Teach Gratitude?

“He got more than me.”

“Why did she get the last piece?”

“I don’t like this place, it is boring!”

Have you ever heard these beautiful statements from your kids?

Have you ever heard them after planning the perfect evening for them or doing something really special you thought they would love?

I know I have.

When it happens it makes you wonder if your kids will ever be grateful.

How do we teach our kids to be grateful in a culture of plenty?

Well I don’t have it all figured out, but I have done some things that have certainly helped with gratitude.

I work on my gratefulness throughout the day; mom and dad are the best role models.  If they see that you are not grateful they will have a hard time believing they should be.

We now keep gratitude journals.  This is a practical activity that reminds your kids to be grateful for all the blessings that come their way.  Remind them to not just be thankful for material things, but also for the special moments that arise, in God’s creation,  and in answers to prayer.

Make them aware of the world we live in.  Sponsor a child through Compassion or World Vision (pray for them and write them letters).  Take them to nursing homes and to feed the homeless.  This is just another reminder that there are hurting people who have NOTHING or very little.  If they never hear or see this part of the world how will they know?

Have your children say three things they are thankful for from their day, at bedtime.  I saw this idea and other tips from this video.  We started this and it is WONDERFUL, your kids will start thinking about the things during the day they want to share with you at bedtime.  Also, Ann Voskamp has some great ideas and free journal printouts on her blog for gratitude for you and your children.

Remember that your children are children.  No matter what we do God has to do the work in their heart.  Pray about gratitude in them and yourself.   Don’t have such high expectations that you make your children feel like they have failed you.  Remember it has taken us many years to grow in Christ and gratitude.

The Bible reminds of us of this in 1 Corinthians 13:11: When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

What are some things you have done to teach your children gratitude?

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Angela’s new blog is launching in early December called Mom With Heart, she has already started a facebook page where you can stay updated on the launching

Laundry: A Mom-Life Metaphor

Laundry and Motherhood

Laundry.

It’s one of the least glorified yet wholly necessary household tasks.  Without it, toddlers would run naked through the streets, men would wear the same underwear for a week (you know it’s true), teenagers would pluck favorite jeans from the dirty clothes pile and women would don their best-loved black yoga pants again and again and again.

Those who “do the wash” understand terms such as “monotonous”, “repetitive” and “routine” because after handling approximately 4,392 articles of soiled socks, mildewy towels, poopy diapers, dusty rags, muddy jeans, stinky t-shirts…

…AND separating the darks from the lights from the delicates from the brights…

…AND ensuring special items are folded flat, hanged to drip, or tumbled for only minutes in the dryer…

…AND folding garments only to refold them after the toddler – thinking it a fun game – empties the six baskets of neatly stacked clothing…

…AFTER ALL THAT… they enjoy 12.2 seconds of sweet, glorious {albeit short-lived} VICTORY… until… it all. begins. again.

While it’s probable that a laundry strike would wreak havoc on households everywhere, it’s also reasonable to guess that this valued and imperative chore goes unrecognized and even unnoticed… until something goes awry.

Kind of like motherhood.

Laundry and motherhood have a lot in common. Motherhood, like laundry, is often monotonous, repetitive and routine.

We wake with our babies – whether their age is six months or sixteen years – to make meals and clean clothes and wipe noses and hold hands; to feel foreheads and comb cowlicks and make beds and scrub floors; to cry through math and cheer at t-ball; to soak up vomit and organize carpools; to give counsel, and pray hard, and rest our hands upon their tousled curls and feel the warmth of their cheeks as we lay them on their pillows again at night.

And we wake up the next day and the day after that performing these very same duties and chores and responsibilities until slowly… graciously… God transforms us, and the duties and chores and responsibilities become our privilege and honor and pleasure.

Because while motherhood – like laundry – is full to the brim with tedium and schedule and dullness, weariness and uniformity and uneventfulness, it also bursts at the seams with VICTORY:  the toddler finally yells, “I did it!”; the teenager squeezes your hand saying, “I love you, Mom – beyond words”; one child asks another for forgiveness, siblings hug, and reconciliation ensues — this time without Mom-intervention.

When we lean into the work with willing surrender, hearts spilling over with love and gratitude, thinking *I* get to be their mom… what happens is this: we recognize those 12.2 seconds of victory, and we celebrate, holding onto every. single. second. knowing that right. then. we are building a legacy of victories that will carry us through the doldrums.

We live — really live — not from one triumph to the next, but in preparation for and in hope of the next sweet success.

Because, like the never-ending ever-growing pile of laundry, the work of motherhood is always upon us, threatening to wear us thin.

So stay strong and endure, fellow moms!  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 NIV).

Because the sweet satisfaction of laundry completed pales in comparison to the pure joy of children matured into the people God planned them to be.

And THAT, my sweet mom-friends, is the wildly significant purpose of motherhood.  Take care that it doesn’t get lost beneath the mountains of laundry.

Blessings,

Rhonda

How dying rather than trying produces fruit in our families

How dying rather than trying produces fruit in our families

“Following is not about trying every day; it’s about dying every day.”

(Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan)

Sister, follower of Jesus, are you like me, desiring, striving, and trying to be the best mother possible, only to be filled with dismay when you fail, when your child makes a foolish choice, and when, for all your efforts, there seems to be no fruit?

We pick it up from those around us:

“I did the best I could,”
“All we can do is try,” or
“Just do your best, and let God do the rest.”

We look at our teenager in exasperation and mutter, “I’m trying my hardest…”

We follow the mantra, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Perseverance is a great character quality.

But trying again and again, striving is not what God asks of us, His followers.

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

Luke 9:23

We’re not asked to try. We’re asked to die.

Sacrificing extra sleep so that we have a little time with Jesus;
Making breakfast for the ever-hungry mob when a deadline looms;
Meeting the needs of our special child that parents of “typical” kids can’t understand;
Changing sheets that were fresh only last night.

It’s all dying. It’s all letting go of the ease we crave, the comfort we’re convinced we need.

Dying rather than trying produces fruit in our families.

Sometimes it’s deeper than we want to go…

Responding with grace to piercing, angry words;
Refusing to indulge the desire to scorn and belittle our child’s foolishness;
Serving, encouraging, and blessing a child whose poker face masks even an hint of gratitude.

As our dreams of what motherhood and family would look like crumble at our feet on a daily basis, we feel it…

Death.

Death to all that we hoped would be ours.

Those dreams of normal, no, extraordinary children were ours.
Those longings for a marriage and family that were the envy of all were ours.
The desire for a Pinterest-worthy home and Facebook-worthy life was ours.
The determination to remain in control of it all is ours.

And if we are true followers, to each of those we must die.

It hurts. Death never feels good.

But death is not the end.

John 12:24

 

Do you see it, dying friend? The incredible hope offered here? Oh, what a beautiful mystery, that each time we deny ourselves, take up our cross and die to self, we are planting a seed.

And that dead seed that leaves us feeling so hopeless, so inadequate, is the only kind of seed that can bear fruit!

It’s not up to us, moms, to try to make a harvest. Our striving will produce nothing but weariness, even bitterness in our own hearts and those of our children.

No, if we want to see the fruit that God has planned, we must follow the example of our Savior. It’s the hard road. It’s painful. It feels like the end of dreams. It’s the loss of all control.

But, this process of dying to ourselves places everything in the hands of the Giver of Life.

And what could be better for our families than Life?

*Let’s encourage each other, moms! We all know what it feels like to die to self, but some of us are still waiting for the harvest. When have you seen the miracle of a dead seed bringing forth much fruit?

Blessings,

Jennifer

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