1ST, 2ND, 3RD CHAIR

1ST, 2ND, 3RD CHAIR

This concept has been so helpful to me as I have helped my children navigate friendships over the years. Line up four chairs and have your child sit on an end. You sit in the chair furthest from them and explain how anyone they meet is a 3rd chair friend. You might say “hi” or ask how they are doing, but they remain far away from your heart. Move to the next chair and explain this is a 2nd chair friend. You might say “hi” and sit with them at lunch, laugh with them in class, or even hang out at the mall together. You have fun with them and enjoy being around them. But your 1st chair is the one closest to you. These people know you at your worst and best and everything in between. They make you laugh hard and have the power to influence you. No one starts in the 1st chair. They have to be invited in, and it is cultivated over time. Over the years, we have seen this played out as friends change chairs. When they come home excited about someone they have met, we celebrate the connection, but I am aware that there is a process of connection developing and asking questions along the way.

Emma came home excited one day about a new ‘best friend.’ They had fun together and giggled hard. But over time, the friend began to invite Emma to do things that went against what we stood for as a family. She had to learn she could surely still giggle and be friends with this gal but pulling her into her 1st chair would not go well with her down the road. Lauren had a friend who would love her one minute and be so cruel the next. It was a love/hate response; she never knew which one she was getting. The ‘love’ felt so fulfilling and fun that she had difficulty seeing the flip as bad. Because she was learning how to build healthy relationships, I had to help her see that this is not how 1st chair friends treat each other. It was so painful for her to back off the relationship, but years later, she still comments on how glad she was that she could create room for other friends who were indeed 1st chair worthy. I often say, “Either you influence them, or they influence you, so you better make sure you are heading in the same direction.” I have no problems with my children being friends with unbelievers (how else are we going to impact those around us?) or with children from different beliefs and backgrounds. I DO have a problem if those children become 1st chairs. How do you switch chairs? By how much or little you feed it. Help your child pull in new friends closer by inviting them over to join your family for dinner, creating a fun outing, helping them with their homework, asking them how their day went, tell them something they like or appreciate about them. Support the things they like to do, attend their sports games, text to compliment them, and invite them over just for fun. It is impossible to have a 1st chair and only do this once. Building closer friendships take intentionality, consistency, and frequency. If a child has pulled someone in too far too fast before discerning that the connection is not healthy, simply stop feeding the relationship, and it will not grow. I encourage them to sit by the person at their lunch table, say “hi,” and always communicate with the message that they are valuable. But do not invite them to connect deeper or 1:1. If they are invited somewhere, they say they are busy, or their mom says NO. I do not want to empower my children how to reject, hurt, or create a wound in someone so how they navigate their chairs matters. Pull out the chairs and teach your children today about their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd chair friendships.

HIS KINGDOM

The Kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy, yet one of the biggest reasons why Sunday school leaders have a hard time finding volunteers is because adults are uncomfortable with JOY. Teach parents how to be restored to joy, and they will be drawn to those who carry child-like joy!

I AM THEIR TEACHER

Teaching children to walk in character is a VERB, and it is best done in the home by loving parents. 

STRONG-WILLED?

Would you consider your child to be ‘strong-willed’? Then you need to be a stronger-willed parent in your resolve to equip them. Yes, these are the children who are born leaders and champions, but if they do not learn how to lead in love and submit to others, they will hurt people with their strength.

CHRISTMAS STORY

We became a single-family two weeks before Christmas when the kids were tiny. That year Santa, baking cookies, and white elephant gift exchanges felt so empty to me. I burned for my children to understand they had a Father who adored them through the gift of Baby Jesus! I wanted to see how much of the story they already understood, so I told them to go in the backroom and create a skit with Hudson being Joseph, Emma as Gabriel, Lauren as Mary, and little Ellie playing the role of a wise man. It was the most precious thing I had ever witnessed. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I heard their version of the Christmas story.

This became a parenting tool for me. I would have the children role-play, act out or give a 2-minute speech on a subject, and I did it to discern what they knew, did not yet understand, or how they saw things from their point of view. I would use their play/skit or message as a way to add more to the story and help expand their understanding. It made ‘teaching’ fun and full of joy rather than lecturing. Now that they are older, they are less thrilled with acting out a story, but I have them create a 2-minute video or speech and share it with the family. It helps them pull in deep to see what is inside of them. This has been great with topics such as drugs, slander, bullying, kindness, respect, etc. Pick any story in the Bible and ask your children to create a skit acting it out. Then add more to the story as the days roll on to help them grasp the story deeper.

THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR

Do you like the girl in the mirror? I want to encourage you with something. Maybe the battle isn’t so much in despising what you see in the mirror but what you were taught about the girl in the mirror. Our parents and grandparents were raised in a generation where women needed to have a stamp of excellence on them, which included looking immaculate at all times. It was not proper to go out without your hair done, makeup on, or dressed spiffy, even just going to the grocery store. Heck, they even wore heels to the park. Things HAVE changed in our culture, where it is socially acceptable to go to the store in your messy bun, workout clothes, and sweat. But maybe what hasn’t changed is what that taught you about the girl in the mirror. Moms lamented about their bodies and cursed their imperfections with little girls watching, which taught them motherhood = lack, being disqualified, unattractive, undesirable, fat, and not good enough. When little girls grow up and become moms themselves, they have it ingrained in them that now they are disqualified too. If this is how you feel about the girl in your mirror, I encourage you to grab hold of that LIE and push it back where it belongs. Tell that girl she is amazing, has birthed life, that there is grace in the imperfection (whatever that even means), that she has earned her stretch marks and wrinkles. Be compassionate to her and let the girl behind you see a mom who is empowered and kind to her body. You will teach a whole new generation that motherhood = beauty, character, love, compassion, grace, and true beauty. Fill in the blank below.

“The girl in the mirror is ____”.

CATCH AND RELEASE

Lauren greeted me one Sunday morning in her brand new (adorable) outfit, along with a scowling face. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, “I feel UGLY!” It was intense, and she was really feeling it. I simply hugged her and said, “Catch and release, sweetheart.” I have taught them they can catch those sneaky little lies that wreak havoc on our emotions and release them. I didn’t have to tell her it was a lie as her agitated heart was proof enough that it wasn’t of God. I have empowered her to RELEASE those pesky lies and not massage, embrace or feast on them. By the time we walked out the door, she was at peace again. I asked her later how she was doing, and she said, “Man, that lie hit me hard out of nowhere.”

Let’s face it – as adults, we don’t always catch and release this fast, but this is what the next generation looks like when they are intentionally taught from an early age that they can catch the lie and release it. Teach your child how to catch and release!

ISOLATION

As someone who endured profound emotional and mental isolation in childhood, being alone long term is not healthy for me. I know my capacity and take active steps to make sure I am in community. When I feel the most weary, I realize it is because I have come under LIES of isolation. I have to actually reset my mind and heart back to His TRUTH. Let me share them with you in hopes they will align you with His heart and break off discouragement. 

**I break agreement with the lie I am alone. 

**I break agreement with the lie that I can’t be in community right now. 

**I break agreement with the lie that isolation is my duty. 

**I break agreement with the lie that says interaction is wrong. 

**I break agreement with the lie that people are a danger. 

**I break agreement with the lie that I have to fear others. 

**I break agreement with the lie that others are a threat. 

**I DECLARE that God designed me to interact with others. 

**I DECLARE that I am called to impact others. 

**I DECLARE that my need to be heard and seen is a part of my wiring. 

**I DECLARE that longing for people is healthy. 

**I DECLARE that I have the mind of Christ in the midst of the storm. 

**I DECLARE that my Father leads me in all situations. 

**I DECLARE that my emotional needs are valued and valid. 

**I DECLARE that I am not in an emotional or relational time-out. 

Ask Jesus, “Jesus, will You please show me the strategy to connect with people today?”

TIPPING POINT

Your family’s prayers can change the world – literally! Revelations shares how the story ends. Pay attention to Revelations 8 – “The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God . . . Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth” (Rev. 8:4-5). This is not to be taken lightly or flippant. When you pray, you are filling the prayer bowls of heaven. Gather your family and place a bowl with a little water in the center of the table. Give each person a glass filled with water and a spoon. Play a game to see how many spoonfuls of water they can get into the larger bowl to make it spill over (literally). It will simply take ONE more spoon full of water to tip the water over the edge. Have fun, and let joy break out. Then share the verse above and tell them that their prayers can change the world. I encourage you to use Philippians 4:6-7 as your prayer guide as a family. Talk about the verse, act it out, and then pray in response to each line. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 

**Don’t worry about anything – make a list of the things you are worried about. 

**Take that list and pray over each item. 

**Tell God what you want and need. 

**Thank Him for what He has done in the past. 

**Thank Him for what He is going to do now.

CULTIVATING GRATITUDE

Cultivate means to: cul·ti·vate verb 1. prepare for crops or gardening. 2. to acquire or develop (a quality, sentiment, or skill). Gratefulness is a SKILL that is taught, learned, and strengthened. Kids are not born with it. It is something that needs to be tilled, plowed, dug, worked, fertilized, mulched, and weeded SO THAT it reaps a harvest of fruit in their lives. Nothing increases the favor and fruit in our lives more than a grateful heart.

GRATEFULNESS

May I encourage you to EXPRESS your thankful heart by pulling in each one of your children 1:1 and SPEAKING over them what you are so grateful for in them? I recently said to my teen daughter, “Have I told you lately how much I love you?” and she replied, “Not really.” Meaning she didn’t feel like I had said it lately, but my mind knew I spoke that way often to my children. She was highlighting to me just how much children need to hear words of value, worth, love, and kindness from their parents.