CULTIVATING GRATITUDE

CULTIVATING GRATITUDE

Gather the kids and talk about how incredible our bodies are. We have legs to run, ears to hear, eyes to see, and lungs to breathe. Each part is a gift. Ask them what part of their body they are the most thankful for. Take time to thank God for the way He created our bodies to move and our minds to work. He is so smart!

YOU BELONG

 The sense of belonging is something we all crave. It was given by God to Adam and Eve but lost when they exited Eden. God gives us families who know us intimately and provide a safe place where we can grow and learn. When that safety or trust is broken – physically or emotionally – it affects our core need to belong. Sibling relationships are where children get their greatest sense of belonging, so guarding this connection is important. When there is a conflict between two siblings, the enemy whispers, “You do not belong,” and a child who believes they do not belong will act like they do not belong. Explain this and ask if they have ever felt like they didn’t belong. Share a story from when you were a child and felt that way.

In the days ahead, when you hear siblings being rough and unkind to each other lovingly, go to them and ask them, “Are you communicating to your family that they belong?” “How can you speak to them in a way that assures them they matter?” I often say to my children, “You can express yourself in a way that doesn’t make them feel like they don’t belong.”

UNITY IN THE FAMILY UNIT

The whole job of a parent is to teach! I know some of you are saying “duh,” but some of you might be like me and have not realized just how early it starts and what all needs to be taught! Holy Spirit-led parenting is rocking my world. He is flooding us with the tools of heaven that not only makes sense to the kids but also hits me right where I need it! There is not a one-and-done answer or one magic class that can teach us as parents. It is all hands-on, and in the moment, and THAT is why we NEED Him!!

Hear what this mom had to share: One day, I brought the kids out to the trampoline. We talked about Jesus being the light and how light casts out darkness. I was using examples and reading the Scripture when my son said something along the lines of, ‘So you’re saying when there’s a gap between us, more darkness comes in?’ YES!!!! So the image below popped into my mind. I thought of the game ‘Red rover, red rover, bring _____ right over.’ We had two big guys in our class growing up. As we played this game in the gym, they sent over a smaller guy! This guy came running as hard and fast as he could, and he got LAID OUT! I’m pretty sure he got a concussion! It is the perfect imagery of just how strong we are as a family UNIT when we are UNITED!!!!! The enemy doesn’t have a chance! So I told the story as the kids held hands and then asked them to separate. How easy was it for the enemy to get into their circle and cause a big fuss when they were not a unit?”

I’m telling you. If you are ready to throw in the towel, DON’T DO IT. Get desperate. Desperate people get stuff done! Seek first His kingdom, and HE WILL ANSWER. Our families hold the answer, not the problem. 

I AM SORRY…

Is your heart caught in a cycle of saying “I am sorry” over and over from a mess you made with your children? I ministered to a mom who said with tears streaming down her face, “I will beg my son for forgiveness for the rest of my life.” I told her that needed to stop and that I wanted to help her resolve that once and for all. While the world would tell her she messed up and made poor choices, I see it differently. She is a product of choices that her parents and grandparents made. She did not have the language or tools to discern what was going on in her world. She needed drugs and alcohol to escape the torment and pain. I don’t think that is a bad mom. I think that is a mom who needs help becoming a Daughter. When we make messes with our children (we all do) and partner with the accuser, we wallow in guilt and condemnation. We then come to our children in a bent over, broken, pathetic, insecure way that only makes THEM feel unsafe. We are teaching them that mistakes are fatal. We need to be modeling for them grace, forgiveness, and connection even when we are at our worst. I coached this mom on how to forgive herself, and then I taught her how to minister to her son’s pain. Yes, he suffered heartbreak because of her choices (he was taken away when she was in jail), but IN THAT PLACE is where we get to show them who Jesus is. I coached her on how to begin to have conversations with her son that mistakes do not equal rejection or abandonment. Just like he gets time outs for his choice, mom had hers, but Jesus never left him. This mom who is becoming a Daughter just got reunited with her son full-time! If you think about them, pray for them as they continue to walk this out – together!

PRAY FOR INCREASED DISCERNMENT

Discernment is knowing, sensing, the ability to determine right and wrong, and having eyes to see what isn’t in the natural. It is a spiritual gift that we can ask for more of. We had picked up one of the two moving trucks, and after loading it, I noticed one of the tires was low. We filled it, and it appeared okay after the 30-minute drive home. Others kept telling me it was okay, but I had the discernment that something wasn’t right and that it should really be checked out before we hit the road. The service crew came out and changed THREE different tires. He said the tire was splitting and would have blown once we got on the road. Thank You, Jesus, for discernment and the ability to determine that something isn’t right even when our eyes can’t see it in the natural.

Pray – “Jesus, thank You for giving your life so that we can access the Kingdom of heaven. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for the gift of discernment that leads and alerts us. Father, I ask for an increased measure of discernment. Strengthen my ability to see and hear what others cannot so that I may respond to Your voice in all areas of my life. Show me how to trust and listen to the gift of discernment as I partner with You. Teach my children how to walk in discernment. In Jesus’ name.”

JOY!

The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and JOY (Romans 14:17)! If we want God’s Kingdom in our homes, it has to be one filled with JOY. Many of us have heard of the Make-A-Wish foundation where they network to provide an ill child with a JOY-filled event. But what we don’t see is that the child is hours away from a major life-threatening treatment or surgery. Statistics were showing a small percentage of children surviving life-threatening illness, so they did a study on those who survived and found only ONE difference between the two groups. Those who survived had a larger amount of a particular chemical in their brain that is only produced through JOY. When God says laughter is medicine (Proverbs 17:22), He wasn’t kidding. So, they coordinate these JOY-filled encounters for children to raise the chemicals in their brain to boost their survival rate. Joy matters! My kids and I sat down to create a list of fun things you can do to keep your children’s energy moving and carve out pockets of joy. 

Create an indoor obstacle course with pillows, chairs, and jumping over a stack of books. Put kids in the shower with a can of shaving cream. Let them paint the walls. Network with a local middle school girl to see if she can come as a mother’s helper to help entertain the kiddos (it gets her out of the house, too). Mom stays home, but the mother’s helper occupies the kiddos. Blow up balloons and play indoor volleyball – my favorite! Get an indoor exercise trampoline and let them burn off some serious energy. Buy a bunch of inflatable beach balls and kick them around – Hudson’s favorite. Do a family puzzle. Finger paint with pudding. Hide-and-Go-Seek game (you can hide forks, socks, or pens – it doesn’t have to be anything big). Flashlight tag with the lights off. Walk around the mall looking for someone who needs a smile or kindness. Extra-long baths with lots and lots of bubbles. Create an indoor movie theater with another family. Bake cookies or muffins for your neighbor. Go bowling. Have a slumber party in the living room. Network with friends and have all the boys at one house and all the girls at another. Play a round of charades. Write letters/draw pictures for the firemen. Play Pictionary. Give them $5 and ask them who they can bless, and then go do it (buy someone’s coffee, give a meal to a homeless person, buy flowers for a worker). Pop some popcorn and have a quiet reading hour. Everyone in their places, even the little ones, flipping through books. Create a mall scavenger hunt with a check-off list of things they need to find and then take a photo of them with that item (a gal with a hat, a mannequin wearing shorts, a stuffed animal, a water bottle, a necklace, etc.). We did this for Ellie’s birthday, and it was so much fun. Rotate with friends taking the kids for a day and run a mini daycare giving other moms a break and allowing kids to have extra fun peer interaction. Have you heard of Studio C? It is like Saturday Night Live, but for kids and CLEAN! Have an indoor spa with pedis, manis, facials, etc. Put on a family talent show – hilarious! Have dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. Break out in a dance party – YouTube has some great ones. Skype family members and friends. Host another family for a picnic lunch in the living room. Play elimination card games to see who the winner is! 

DREAM ABOUT FEAR

I had this dream years ago and have never forgotten it. It was the kind where you wake up and fear is still in your room. I will spare you the details, but I was in a normal room with a stage in the middle. On the stage were different scenes of really awful things happening to people. My dream was graphic and vivid. When I woke, I asked the Lord what He wanted me to know about this awful dream, and He said, “You are not to be entertained by fear. It is a room you have the freedom to wander into, but I am telling you not to. The longer you stay in the room, the greater the chance of you being center stage – get out as quickly as you can.”

Whoa! I think that word is for more than just me! This is why it is so important to guard our children and what they are being entertained by. Fear is not entertainment. It is the enemy’s tool to steal, kill and destroy peace, relationships, freedom, joy, sleep, rest, connection, destiny, identity, etc. 

COURTS OF HEAVEN TESTIMONY (SIBLING CONFLICT)

Like most families, we have our share of sibling issues, but something about it has always sat funny with me. It was like I could feel something working against them but could never put my finger on it. Their tones and attitudes toward each other don’t reflect the gift that they have been given. I called a family meeting and had them close their eyes. I told them we were not asking Jesus this time, nor did I want the right answer. I wanted an answer that reflected their heart. I asked them to give me thumbs up or thumbs down if they would feel something in their heart if they walked into a room and saw me in it. Everyone gave thumbs up. I asked them how their heart would feel if they saw their sister, a few thumbs halfway and one thumb down. I asked about each person, and their answers broke my heart. I was thankful for their honesty, but it pierced my heart deeply. I had them close their eyes again and asked them to give me thumbs up or down if, when they walked into a room with their peers, they felt awkward and like they didn’t belong. Each of them sheepishly put their thumb halfway or all the way down, almost surprised they were exposed to this truth of their heart. I would say all my kids are popular in that they are well-known and liked by adults and peers, yet their sense of belonging was under attack because of how they were functioning as a family. Children get their sense of belonging from siblings, not Mom and Dad. If we tolerate negative sibling connections and bullies in the living room, we are setting them up to feel isolated even amongst a crowd. I brought out the whiteboard and began to draw out our family line and how each generation has been influenced and affected by rejection. To the best of my knowledge, it started with my illegitimate great, great, great aunt who was fed rejection daily by those who called themselves family. After that, each generation hosted profound rejection between mother and child with favoritism towards one another.

I mapped out that my children will get married and have kids roughly in 2030. Their children will have children in approximately 2060, and their grandchildren will be around in 2090. Just like our ancestors of 100 years ago have affected their generational bloodline, so will they until the year 3000 – what a sobering thought. Our choices today affect future generations. We have been given a gift of life, family, and knowing Christ’s redemptive work and are called to steward it well in our lifetime. It was time to break it once and for all! We began to work as a family on our court case regarding the lack of sibling love. We argued that it violated God’s command to love each other and did not glorify His name to have such disunity. We searched for verses that backed up our case and took time to stand before Jesus, asking for forgiveness for the way we have partnered with the generation curse and allowed it to bear bad fruit. I had the children move to the same side of the room as if it were a real courtroom and had them repeat after me the court case before the Judge who judges all things. It was super powerful for all of us. One of the children heard the Judge’s gavel hit the bench, and with that, we rested our case. We put on worship music and sat in His presence together as a family. I encountered a flood of emotions as I felt the release of the conflict and was filled with His redeeming grace. Instantly I noticed a difference in the way they treated each other.

JUDGEMENTS

Let’s talk about JUDGEMENTS. Judgments are when we jump in the judge’s seat and determine the verdict about someone. When we say, “They are controlling,” we are judging them. While being discerning and aware of how people’s choices affect us is good, we are never called to act as judges. Maybe that person is ‘controlling’ because they were orphaned as a child and have never learned to depend upon someone else. Perhaps they are controlling because they are rooted in fear and need to be delivered. God judges us based on our heart and story, not our outward appearance. Here is the issue with judgments. When we judge someone, we condemn them with our words (think of how prophecy unlocks and frees a person – judgments bind and lock a person up). The Bible says when we walk around as judges, we are binding OURSELVES to the very thing we are judging. That is why children who judge their father for being an alcoholic grow up to marry one. Or the girl who judges her grandma for being overweight and struggles with her issues. 

HeartWork – Get a piece of paper and write down your JUDGEMENTS against your dad, mom, siblings, and even your children and friends. Go deep and allow Jesus to show you where you are holding onto judgments against someone. Ask Jesus to forgive you for holding them in judgment. Break agreement with the judgment over that person. Rip up the paper and declare God’s truth over their lives. Children can do this with their parents and siblings, too. 

Hebrews 12:15 – “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” 

LET’S ASK JESUS

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. “Jesus, will You show me a picture of how much YOU love me?”

Gather as a family in the living room, in the car, at the dinner table, or bedtime, and ask Jesus together. This is so empowering for children because they get to witness how God communicates with you, which increases their faith, and together you get to encounter Him. Spiritual hearing is a muscle that is strengthened by worshiping and praying. The more you do it, the stronger you become at it.

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!