4 Ways to Radically Impact Your Home in the New Year

We let the stack of breakfast dishes sit sticky and we stayed around the table… for three hours. What started out as conversation evolved into an epic board game battle while my daughter and I knitted scarves and I’m pretty sure my son refined his noise-making skills. Oh, junior high boys, you are a mystery.

It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t entirely peaceful.

There were arguments with winners and losers and tangled yarn battles and annoyances.

So, basically, you know, family life.

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But there was laughter and love and the one word that has impacted our home more than any other the past few years. Togetherness. There was intentional purpose to make time to be together.

I think in a perfect world, we equate togetherness with peace. But if your world is anything like mine, reality is often chaos. There are tears and fears and giggles and grumbling. It’s a hodgepodge of emotions. But through it all, we choose to be together and that has strengthened us.

We visited House Church (think midweek Bible Study for families) and we ended up at a house without children. The leader offered a TV to my kids, but I asked if we might stay together, study together. My children sat still as church mice on the leather couch in a stranger’s house, quietly listening and I could only think how bored they must be. But as soon as our van door closed, they all talked at once how much they enjoyed the Bible Study and declared being together was the best part and could we please do that again? I smiled wide in the dark car on the way home because I couldn’t agree more.

The world will pull our families apart if we let it. It will divide and separate us and interrupt dinner and encourage us to live for yourselves and forget others. It will tell you to buy into the American Dream for your family and move out of that starter home and build your own little Kingdom of worldly possessions.

But our culture won’t tell your family breaking bread and breaking your life and giving it away is the way to really keep it together.

If you want to change your family, the world, do it side-by-side. It doesn’t have to cost a dime or even that much time. It’s about getting back to the basics and getting back together.

Go to church together. Ride bikes together. Play games together. Clean the kitchen together. Look for opportunities to bond as a family in your every day life and a new year is the perfect time to start.

My kids are getting older and I feel a pull to draw them back in.

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Start with one or two of these four goals that can radically impact your home:

  1. Eat Together – This is as simple as it sounds, but it’s not always easy. And it’s definitely not a priority in many families (especially as kids get older). When I had toddlers around the table, I just got through many nights. But I did it because it set precedence and one day, your meal will last longer than 9 minutes. As children grow, the demand to move away from the table is strong with practices and rehearsals and games. Fight against it.
  2. Read Together –I don’t have to tell you that reading to your children will change their life. But so will reading with your kids. Several years ago, we moved from reading to our kids to reading books with them. You can check out some recommendations here (I’ve updated the list). Pick a book and read one-page-at-a-time until you’re done. You won’t regret this kind of togetherness. A perfect time to do so is at the dinner table (and a chalkboard table helps busy hands).
  3. Serve Together –By far, this has changed our family the most and kids are never too young or too old to give to others in some way. (I have a huge list of ideas here). After making this a priority in our lives, I’m beginning to see that my children are becoming servants. Start with one or two opportunities a year; it doesn’t have to be about quantity to give quality to your family and others.
  4. Gratitude Together – Get in the habit of sharing the highs and lows of your day together, write down your thanks. Keep a record. Thankfulness and giving our children opportunities to work hard are great ways to defeat entitlement in our home and stir up grateful reflection. I love this one for kids: My First Gratitude Journal: A Write-in, Draw-in Gratitude Journal for Kids.

Goals are just that –goals. We don’t eat together seven nights a week, four weeks a month, twelve months a year. But we try to. We don’t schedule things during dinner. We look for opportunities to serve; we practice gratitude. We don’t always hit the mark, but we aim for it and hit much higher than we would if we led life lead us instead of the other way around.

Together.

 

This week, I’m reposting some of my most shared blog posts of 2014 with you. Thanks for being a part of this community. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

WFMW: Saying Yes In Your Weakness

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I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster, Rachel, for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

Sometimes the life to which God calls us is not at all what we expected. It may not be what we would have chosen, and it may not even make sense to us. However, we can trust that it is what is best for us and that God will use it for His glory.

I have been chronically ill for many years. There isn’t much that I can physically do, and some days I am tempted to wonder… “Wouldn’t it be better if I were able to serve the Lord by cooking meals for my family? Wouldn’t it be better if I were able to serve the Lord by teaching a women’s Bible study or a children’s Sunday school class? Wouldn’t it be better if….?” But God has not called me to a life filled with energy and “doing.” He has called me to a life of weakness.

Though there is much that I cannot do, I can serve the Lord in small ways that do not take a lot of energy. I can serve God through writing on my blog, through praying for others, and through encouraging my family. I can humbly submit to His plan for me, embracing this life and living a faithful testimony before a watching world. I can say “yes” to God in the midst of my chronic illness.

“Sometimes God’s plans don’t make sense to us. God never promises us that He won’t give us more than we can handle; He promises we won’t be alone.” – Kristen Welch

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Saying “yes” to God in the midst of chronic illness is not always easy. There are many days when it feels like more than I can handle. And maybe that is the point. I cannot handle this life on my own. My weakness is a constant reminder of my need for God. My life, lived in weakness, is the perfect place for God’s power to be displayed. Any spiritual strength or wisdom that others see in me is not from me; it is from the Lord.

“God wants us right in the middle of our mess because it is the perfect place for Him to shine through our imperfections.” – Rhinestone Jesus, page 133

I am encouraged by 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (ESV).

I am learning to embrace this life with all of its challenges. This is the life God has called me to, and He has a plan and a purpose for my chronic illness. I pray that I will be faithful to serve Him well so that He may be glorified in my weakness.
Rachel Lundy bio pictureRachel Lundy is a pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom. She lives with dysautonomia, a condition that leaves her mostly homebound. She writes at Cranberry Tea Time about life with a chronic illness and the hope and joy she has in Christ.

What Really Happens When We Give Kids Everything They Want

“I want it.

Why?

Because everyone else has it.”

It’s a conversation we’ve had countless times in our house. It doesn’t matter what it’s about–the newest technology, the latest fad, the most popular shoes- it’s treacherous ground to add it to our want list so we can be like everyone else.

These five dangerous words are turning homes upside down. When we give our children everything they want (because everyone else has it), it speeds up their childhood: We have six year olds addicted to technology, carrying around their own ipods and iphones without limitations; eleven year old sons playing bloody battles of Assassin’s Creed over the Internet with strangers instead of playing ball outside; And 13 year old daughters shopping at Victoria’s Secret, wearing angel wings across their bums, looking far older than they are.

But worse than losing a generation of children, this choice breeds a nasty virus. Because maybe if we keep giving them everything they want, they might just drive a new car intoxicated and kill four people and be diagnosed with affluenza.

What Really Happens When We Give Kids Everything They Want

The psychologist testifying for the 16 year old boy who did just that, defined affluenza as this: children who have a sense of entitlement, are irresponsible, and make excuses for poor behavior because parents have not set proper boundaries.

And when you write a little post about the warning signs of entitlement and it’s shared nearly 800,000 times, perhaps we’re all a little scared of our kids catching the same bug.

“I am an RN working on a psych unit, and I see everyday the effects of entitlement. I see adults in their 20′s and 30′s who always had everything they ever wanted given to them while growing up, and now they just don’t get it. They are unemployed, either living with parents or with one friend or relative after another, or on the street. Having been given everything they ever wanted without working for it while growing up, they don’t feel that they should work for anything now. They were raised to think they could do no wrong, but instead of growing up to have high self-esteem, they have grown up unable to function. They cannot take disappointment of any kind. So we have a generation of kids that don’t want to work and can’t function as adults. Because they have no coping skills of any kind to deal with life, they become depressed and often turn to drugs and/or alcohol to feel better. Then, they end up on our unit, depressed, suicidal, and addicted,” a comment on this post.

Why are we saying yes to our children too early, too soon and pulling in the boundaries? I’m not sure, but I think it starts here:

  1. We don’t understand the future implications of giving them everything they want right now
  2. We want them to have the life we didn’t
  3. We are afraid to tell our children no because we know there will be backlash or because we think they will feel loved if we say yes.
  4. We want them to fit in with their peers because it’s hard to be different.
  5. We feel it’s often easier just to give in
  6. We struggle with a bit of affluenza ourselves

This excellent article shares the symptoms of this nasty virus:

To conquer the affluenza virus, though, one must first recognize it within himself and ask why and from where it comes. Ask yourself the following questions:

Do you frequently buy things you do not really need?

When shopping, are you unable to control how much you spend?

Do you envy the lifestyles of the rich and famous?

Do you feel bad when your neighbors have things you do not?

Do you measure yourself by what others have?

Do you ever use shopping as a means of escape?

Do you use your possessions to impress others?

Do you compare your possessions with what your peers have? If so, do you experience a feeling of superiority that yours are better?

Do you speak often about the things you want?

Do you find yourself complaining about the things you want but cannot afford?

Do you think of spending your money more often than saving it?

Do you often think your life would be more complete if you had more money and possessions?

“Jesus, speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” Luke 12:15

So what’s the cure? 

Maybe it starts with the little word no. We aren’t going to buy, get, do that just because others are. It’s okay to want things, but there’s a big difference in getting something because you love it and getting it because you want to be loved.

Maybe it starts with deciding why you do what you do. Don’t let the culture lead your family. Because it certainly will. I heard this week the most popular word among teens in 2013 was twerking. Do we really want society guiding our children?

Maybe it starts with reality–no, not everyone has, does, gets ____ (fill in the blank). We’ve discovered other people who don’t have ____(fill in the blank), but we’ve had to look for them and pray them into our lives. The world will tell you (and your kids) you’re completely alone. But that’s a lie. There are other families swimming upstream against our society and affluenza.

Maybe it starts with a dab of old fashioned failure (I love what this teacher said below).

“Some parents don’t wish their kids to fail. I admit I want my children to. I want them to fail, so they can learn how to get back up. I want them to not get every gift they want on their Christmas list, so they can appreciate what they have and work for what they don’t. Lastly I hope all of them get at least one or two teachers they hate. That way they will learn that in the real world, they will have to work with people (and bosses) they may not like,” a teacher who left a comment on this post.

Maybe it starts with exposing them to how the majority of the world lives. Affluenza is a first world problem. Hunger is a real world problem. Give them an opportunity to serve others.

Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I really don’t think our kids want the latest technology or the hottest name brand as much as they want something else. Oh, they think they do. And they will beg and plead (and drive us crazy) for it. But deep down, they are hungry for something deeper that satisfies and lasts a lot longer than just stuff. Giving them firm boundaries, love and perspective is exactly what we can offer them.

 

This week, I’m reposting some of my most shared blog posts of 2014 with you. Thanks for being a part of this community. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

What I Want My Little Girls To Know About My Wedding

Dear Daughters,

A few months ago you were both in a wedding and between that and all the popular TLC bridal shows on Netflix and the breathtaking wedding boards on Pinterest, it’s got you asking questions about my wedding.

So, I want to tell you about it.

First of all, it was ugly.

No, really, it was. It was 1994, so that didn’t help.

Neither did my temporary romantic love for the Victorian era. My accent colors were mauve and forest green. Yeah. They were interesting colors against the burnt orange pews of the church and twinkling Christmas trees on the stage. (It was a December wedding).

The bridesmaids wore handmade mauve tent-like dresses that could accommodate an array of sizes, including a very pregnant bridesmaid. I’m pretty sure they were burned while I was on my honeymoon.

I had always planned on wearing a long-sleeved ivory Victorian gown. But instead I fell in love with a white off-the-shoulder sequined contemporary one. I had multiple themes going on.

Remember when you found my dress in a box in the attic a couple of years ago and asked if you could try it on? That kind of stuff is hard on moms.

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The reception was in the small, dimly-lit fellowship hall. There wasn’t dinner or dancing or enough satin to cover the drabness of the room. There was some sort of Sprite punch, a delicious wedding cake, groom’s cake (with a plastic fisherman on top) and some mixed nuts.

There weren’t party favors or sparklers. The guests threw birdseed as we ran to my blue Isuzu compact car, awash with ridiculous writing and a condom on the muffler (your Uncle’s contribution). I can still remember the look on the pastor’s face as we waved goodbye.

We immediately stopped at a fast food restaurant where I dumped a pint of birdseed from my underwear on the floor of the bathroom. That was wrong. But it was itchy.

I can’t think of a single pin-worthy picture from the day.

It wasn’t trendy or lavish.

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There wasn’t a dance floor or fresh orchids and chandeliers hanging from trees.

But I wouldn’t change a moment of it.

Somehow even with our less than glamorous wedding photo album and honeymoon on an extreme budget to exotic Arkansas, your dad and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage this Christmas.

Because we understood that a marriage isn’t about a wedding.

We discovered that a lifetime of love and commitment trumps an event any day. We learned that starting our new life together debt and doubt-free was a gift to each other.

Yesterday, I read that 70% of girls creating wedding boards on Pinterest, aren’t even engaged yet. With every other marriage ending, do we have time for all this planning and pining for one perfect day?

It makes me sad that the world you’re growing up in concentrates more on the wedding than the marriage. It’s over in a sunset and it’s easy compared to the long marathon of becoming and staying one with your one and only.

I want you to know marriage is more than a venue or a menu. It’s far more than The Perfect Day or saying yes to the dress.

And I know you will probably want all of the above some day. And that’s okay.

I just want you to spend more time praying than planning. I want you to sacrifice more than you spend. I want you to understand your commitment to the man of your dreams is more than a certificate—it’s a covenant to God.

Most of all, I want you to know love. The kind of love your dad and I have that lasts through heartache and headaches. I want you to know that you are loved. You don’t have to earn or achieve it. It’s not dependent on a good hair day or bad. It’s not something you can lose. Whether you’re swept off your feet or remain a confidant single woman, you are enough.

I have seen how fast time flies. I know the days are long and the years are short. I put away the toys and clothes you outgrow regularly. I know while I write this, one of you is practicing eye shadow upstairs and the other is practicing cartwheels in the yard, and I will blink and it will be time to give you away.

You are just beginning to dream. Don’t stop.

And on this regular Monday, I want you to know that my wedding wasn’t much.

But my marriage is more.

Love,

Mom

 

This week, I’m reposting some of my most shared blog posts of 2014 with you. Thanks for being a part of this community. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

Christmas Is For Nobodies

I spent two nights in New York City with my man this past weekend, celebrating 20 years.

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It was my first time there and it was magical.

But nothing makes you feel quite as small as a big city at Christmas.

We pressed through crowds on the streets, in the subways, in the stores.

There were people everywhere: nameless faces, a melting pot from all over the world.

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Terrell and I are people watchers. We wondered at the homeless man’s story, the girl crying on her phone in an alley, the stiletto-heeled lady in front of Saks 5th Avenue, the waiter in Chinatown and the Muslim taxicab driver who chatted with us about long work days in a place like New York City.

In a crowd, it’s easy to feel like a nobody.

But I was reminded that’s exactly who Christmas is for. The nobodies.

I couldn’t help but think about  the question my youngest asked before we left for the airport, “Is it Christmas everywhere? Even in Africa and New York City?”

Yes, Christmas is everywhere.

Because He came for everyone.

He came for the huge masses. He came for little you.

We’ve been studying our way verse-by-verse through the book of Nehemiah at church. Nehemiah, cupbearer to the King, was the son of a nobody. His dad was unknown. He came from a long line of regular, insignificant people.

And he was cupbearer to the King–not because it was a secure job, but because it’s where God put him.

He had a dream and yet he served faithfully, quietly.

Sometimes we think waiting is meaningless.

Sometimes we think in order to do something great, we have to be somebody.

But Jesus became a nobody at Christmas–a helpless, dependent babe-to show us He came for the nobodies.

God used a nobody like Nehemiah to rebuild and reestablish the city of Jerusalem, in the perfect time.

Because the place God puts us may not be the place we would put ourselves and we may not like where we are or who we are, but He doesn’t waste any of it.

And this Christmas Eve, wherever you are, whatever you’re feeling, whatever you’re waiting on, it’s not a mistake. It takes faith to look past our present circumstances and see God has us right where you are for a reason.

God came to a stable as a nobody, so we could be somebody in Him.

Merry Christmas!