WFMW: Gratitude Changes Everything

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If you’re like me, you want to raise kids who are grateful. And not just one day a year. Cultivating gratitude isn’t easy and it’s not an annual thing. It’s a way of living.

I’ve been thinking about how to cultivate it in my family. How to stir it up in my own heart. How the gift of thankfulness changes everything.

Our favorite book is Running for My Life by Lopez Lomong and we spent several weeks it together last year. It’s the story of an Olympic runner who was a Lost Boy of Sudan. My kids were mesmerized and begged my husband to continue at the end of every chapter. It’s a painful story to hear–so much suffering, but it’s also miraculous and amazing.  We are about to start the book again because it has done one thing: it changed our perspective.

It’s hard to complain about dinner or cleaning up dishes when you’ve just read about a 6 year old boy who digs sand out of his handful of grain he gets every other day, as he’s being forced to be a child soldier.

4 Ways to Change Your Family’s Perspective and Spontaneously Create Gratitude:

  1. Exposure: let your kids see those with less–take them on a missions trip, even if it’s to the nearest nursing home or homeless spot under the bridge. Take blankets and food and share them. Sometimes we are reminded how much we have, by simply seeing how little others have. It’s powerful.
  2. Service: There’s just something extraordinary that happens when we serve others.  Not only can everyone serve, everyone needs to. It’s the key to unlocking fullness in life.
  3. Work: Complaining is the opposite of thanking. When my kids are griping about things in their life, it’s often best to combat it by turning the tables and letting them try a hand at hard work (laundry, making dinner, cleaning, etc). It immediately changes their perspective because it’s often not as easy as it looks!
  4. Introduction: Read books to your kids about different cultures. It easy to live in a safe, abundant bubble. Step out of it through reading and stir up gratitude. Here are some books that will do just that (that are family-friendly) are Running for My LifeKisses from Katie and The Hiding Place.

Gratitude is a way of life. Thankfulness is stopping long enough to say it or show it and making sure we pause in our busy day to receive it. In our abundance, being thankful is an act of beauty and acknowledging and appreciating the gifts in our lives makes us want to give them away.

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WFMW: Saying Yes When It Means Going Backwards

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I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster, Christy 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.

It’s been almost a year since God started tugging at our hearts. A year since He started whispering this huge change in our life. God was asking us to say yes, in the midst of our mess, in a big way; to move, to uproot, to go backwards, and to say yes to Him.

My husband and I were in ministry together, with our 3 kids for about 6 years. Titles changed, our apartment changed a lot, but the Church and people remained the same. We were doing God’s work in a place that needed it a lot, New England. We loved our life and felt that God was moving us forward.

However, in the midst God began to tug at our hearts that things were about to change. Within a few months things became clearer that He had a new assignment for us, a new place He was calling us to. God was making it clear He wanted us to go back to our home state, to my alma mater, Valley Forge Christian College. Not to teach, or to be on staff, but to go back as students, for my husband to finish.

To the outside world, to those around us, it seemed crazy. Why would we leave good paying, stable jobs, surrounded by dear friends, immersed in needed ministry to go back to school? Why would we take our family of 5 and leave a decent duplex to go to a 645 square foot apartment in a dorm? Why would we take a huge step back in our careers, in our ministry, at the peak of our lives?

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Why? Because God asked. Because He called us too. Because God opened up every door we needed Him to and walked us through all the way. Was it backwards? Technically yes, not many 30 year olds who have been married for 8 years with 3 kids willingly move their family back into their old college so their husband can be a student again. But for us, it was actually a step forward.

God revealed so much to us. That our steps are not our own, they belong to Him. That our future plans don’t mean as much as His ultimate plan. That God can pull us backward to launch us even farther forward. That sometimes we to be like the military, to retreat to eventually take the high ground.

What may be a step backwards to us, may not be that to God. When we say yes to God in our own mess, we learn things. We learn to give up the titles, to change our view point, to be humble. If God is calling you to step backwards for a season, don’t be scared, embrace it, say yes. The direction on the ladder is not as important as God’s place on your personal ladder.

Our family of 5 is now immersed back into college life. But through it God has opened up a whole new village for us to share life with. My husband is studying late at night. But through it God has given him opportunities to encourage the other students around him. I’m juggling a family in a small space while working full time. But God has opened up doors for more family time and new ministries, all beyond what I imagined. I never wanted to go backwards. But God is faithful!

In “Rhinestone Jesus” Kristen says “Saying yes is more about courage and faith than opportunity and success.” Going back to college may open up opportunity and success later, but it may not. But for right now, when there is none of that, only courage and faith remain. So does the reminder that when God asks and you say yes, you are not alone. Do not fear the backwards steps God may call you to, they will be hard and they will be scary, but they are not by accident and you are not alone.

Bio: Danielle Christy is a Christian, pastor, pastor’s wife, mom to 3, and writer. She chronicles Life in Ministry, Life with Kids, Life with Jesus over at www.christyswithkids.blogspot.com

WFMW: 3 Ways to Help Your Kids Connect With God [The Ultimate Christian eBook Bundle]

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At my house, there is a window of time after dinner that is very important.

It’s imperfect.

It’s messy.

It’s my favorite.

It’s the pause in our day when we have meaningful conversation. Sometimes it’s a hilarious attempt at intentional time that ends in failure (like last week, with Bibles wide opened and something triggered a conversation about bodily functions and names for body parts. Yeah, we just had to scrap the whole thing.) And then sometimes, we uncover a gem of a moment, when we ask hard questions and press into our faith.

This is where we connect and grow. It’s also when we open the Bible together as a family.

There’s no perfect or right formula for breaking Bread together. We have tried a variety of options. Some have worked, others haven’t, but we continue to try.  Family devotions will look different for every family. But even in the messiness of our lives, we can uncover life-changing moments. Sometimes we read inspirational Christian non-fiction books. A few months ago, we passed out spiral notebooks-one for each person- and put our Bibles in a basket near the dinner table. A few nights a week, we each write down 1-2 verses (we started with I John), then we take turns reading what we wrote in the different translations. Next, we write down a sentence or two of what we think the verse is saying…what we observe. Then we write down and share how we will obey the Scripture. Something about this practice, for this season, has been very right for our family.

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Other times, we do family devotionals like the companion eBook I wrote earlier this year with the launch of Rhinestone Jesus. It’s 30 lessons for around the table, with some hands-on activities and conversation starters, plus fun printables. I’m excited to announce that my eBook is included in the Ultimate Christian Living eBook Bundle that is available for a short time, starting today! (I’m including my author affiliate link)

This complete Christian Living Library includes more than 75 eBooks and several bonus gifts. It’s valued at $1141 and it’s on sale for only $34.95–a 96% savings!

There are so many great books in a variety of categories, from Business to Personal Finances to Children, Marriage, Parenting, Inspirational Fiction and more. Here are about half of the eBooks that are included:

Don’t miss out on this fabulous deal on an inspiring collection of life-changing eBooks!

We can’t leave our children’s Christian education up to the church or youth group. One or two hours a week isn’t enough. We can help them connect with God by connecting with Him ourselves. Reading the Bible together as a family and learning from inspiring books is a great place to start.

 

WFMW: Why It Matters To Say Yes In Motherhood

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I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster, Kayla 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 I stare at a blank screen and a blinking cursor and think that I just want to shut this whole thing down. I mean, there are so many bigger stories, ones belonging to better storytellers.

Plus, there is just so much to do today. Like laundry. And mopping. I don’t even remember the last time I mopped. Please don’t look at my floors if you come over, that is what I am saying.

(Maybe don’t look in the laundry room either. Just stare straight into my eyes to be safe.)

So most mornings the cursor is blinking at me and I take a deep drink of coffee because it is so early that the sun has yet to break over the hills and I start typing.

Because this is what I have said yes to.

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Motherhood is messy time to say yes to pursuing your own passions.

(That’s not even a metaphor, there is literally an explosion of silly string in my living room right now.)

(Why do we even own silly string? I feel as though this was not our best idea ever.)

And this thing that I love to do, this little bit of writing that ministers to my heart and in it’s own small sphere, it feels sometimes superfluous in the midst of all the other things that need to get done around here. It would be easy to let it go in the middle of the mess, to say that there is no time for this because there is just never enough time, is there?

There are carpools and appointments and dinner that is currently burning in the oven on account of how I forgot about it while trying to remove silly string from the couch.

(And the dog.)

And sometimes it feels like it isn’t worth it to say yes to this dream that was God-bourne in my heart because maybe it matters less than all of the pressing things on the never-ending to-do list.

But every day I push that stray piece of hair back behind her ear, the one that always falls down in front of her wide gray eyes, and I tell her about God’s love. And I will tell her to chase hard after God-sized dreams. I will tell her the ways that He has gifted each one of us and how beautiful it is to follow dreams and share those gifts in community.

I want her to see me believe it.

I want her to see me live it.

We are all bestowed with something with something wild and precious.

Kristen unclipped a Rhinestone Jesus pin and said yes to building a home halfway around the world and her children watched.

I trembled and said yes to binding these words and the inscription bears the words “for my daughter.

This yes is my calling and it is intricately entwined with my motherhood.

What is your yes?

Because whatever it is, it matters.

BIO: Kayla Aimee is a writer, mother and slightly spirited southern girl who spends her days uncovering hope and humor in unexpected places. She makes her home and garden in northern Georgia with her husband and toddler. Kayla shares stories of faith, family and her favorite and her first book releases with B&H publishing in Summer 2015

 

WFMW: Yes to Being Still

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I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster Julie 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.

A couple of years ago, I had a big, ugly argument with a friend from our church. It took the wind out of my sails. I was so angry and sad, I spent several days in prayer. I remember praying to God while running the vacuum and asking Him to let me know if I was wrong. I wanted to do something. Make a phone call. Stomp my foot. Kick. Scream. Something? Anything! Instead, I discussed the situation with my husband. And then, I waited.

The next night, I was awakened from a sound sleep. I can’t describe it, but I can tell you that it had never happened before and it has never happened since. The split second I came out of sleep, it was as if I audibly heard the words: Exodus. And fourteen.

I got out of bed, grabbed my Bible and went into the bathroom, eager to check out this chapter.

As I opened my Bible, I sat down on the toilet lid and wondered if I had lost my mind. I couldn’t remember ever reading the entire book of Exodus, but I remembered that it was in Exodus that Moses led the Israelites out of slavery. What does slavery have to do with my current situation, Lord? I had never experienced “that still small voice” that I had heard about in the small Baptist church that I grew up in, but, I also had no other explanation for the words that I heard as clear as if they had been spoken to me.

And to this day, I still don’t.

Exodus 14.

As I read through the first several verses, nothing really stuck out to me.

But then I came to verse fourteen.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

I sat in awe.

So many times over the past few days I had wanted to act.

To react.

To be heard.

To say something.

To spout off.

But now?

I knew better.

It was if the Lord himself had spoken to me and said, “Girl, shut your mouth and listen.”

Do you know how hard it is for me to be still?

I mean, really still?

When you’re as mouthy as me, saying YES to God when he says, “Will you be still?” is tough.

But this time, I knew that being still is exactly what I needed to do because I had asked God to show me His will for my life. He wanted me to be still, so that I could be fully aware of His presence.

I am confident that “the big, ugly argument” was not about me or my friend, rather, this particular situation was simply about me saying YES, I trust You, Lord.

Fast forward several years later.

I received a call from someone very special whom I had spent years praying for. I had prayed that the Lord would soften his heart and that he would be back in my life. On this day, it was his voice that I heard on the other end of the telephone line and he was asking if I would pick him (and his friend) up at the bus station in our town. (He lives three states away). As it turns out, this very special person was in need.

My first reaction was anger.

I mean, who does that?

Who just arrives at a bus station unannounced needing a job, a car and a place to stay?

My next reaction was sadness.

How does one end up in a position of having nothing except a couple of trash bags full of necessities?

And my next reaction was, What the heck do we do, now?

My husband and I had talked at length about purchasing them a return bus ticket home. It would cost us a few hundred dollars, but they’d be out of our home and out of our everyday lives. I had contacted shelters in their area and was stunned to find out that you can’t just show up at a homeless shelter and stay here. There is an application process and even if you get accepted, in many cases, there is also a waiting list. How was I going to fix this?

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I am a stay-at-home-mom. I enjoy the peace and quiet in my home while the boys are at school and my husband is at work. When we are all home, I enjoy our band of four being together. Our home is organized and I like everything to run smoothly. In a matter of minutes, the pretty wrapping paper had been ripped wide open on my simple, neat, organized life package. Its contents – now vulnerable and exposed – seemed out of my control.

Out of my control. 

That’s hard for a control freak to grasp.

“But here’s the deal” when God is in it, He doesn’t need us to control a thing.” Rhinestone Jesus.

After three days of having unexpected guests in our home, I pulled into McDonalds for breakfast. Sitting alone at that table, I prayed to the Lord, and I said, “Lord, please show me what we’re supposed to do. I don’t have peace about this situation. I want to feel your presence and know your peace.”

Within five minutes of my prayer, a McDonald’s employee was sweeping the floor just behind me. A customer, on the way to a table, shared this exchange with the employee.

Customer: Hey, how’s it going?

Employee: I’m ok. A lot better than I was doing. It’s been a rough couple of weeks. My mother-in-law has been staying with us and we finally kicked her out last night.

Customer: Where did she go?

Employee: I don’t know. She’s homeless. I don’t really care. I just knew she wasn’t staying with us one more day.

Customer: Well, you know the Bible says, “If your enemy is hungry, and you have food, you should feed them. And if he’s thirsty and you have drink, you should give them something to drink.” 

The conversation continued, but I had heard the words the Lord wanted me to hear loud. And clear.

You see, when we seek God and His will for our lives, we should be ready when He answers. It might be messy. It might be hard. But He will meet you there.

In the first situation, I had worked up several scenarios in my head. All of which included me flying off the handle and handling things in my way. And quite honestly, that’s the way I was used to doing things. I have a horrible temper (just being honest!) and it is a chore keeping my crazy reigned in. Had I reacted the way I wanted to, I would have felt good for about forty seconds. And then, I would’ve spent Lord knows how long regretting my words and pleading for forgiveness, both from Christ and from my friend.

In this most recent situation, the easy thing to do would have been to spend a couple hundred dollars on two bus tickets, pack them a lunch and send them packing. And in doing so, I would’ve regained the privacy and peace in my home. But you see, there wouldn’t have been peace in my heart.

Saying “yes” is never about us. It is acknowledging that God’s plan is not our plan. It is trusting that He will turn our big, ugly MESS into a MESSage of grace, mercy, forgiveness and love. He is present. He is in control. And He sees the big picture, as messy as it may be.

Saying yes isn’t really about doing it all. It’s about saying yes right where you are. It may seem small or insignificant, but any ime you love someone or care for another person’s needs, you’re changing their world, and yours, too. It’s about looking up from your everyday life and seeing opportunities around you to make a difference. It’s about loving others as we are loved.” – Rhinestone Jesus.

Sometimes, saying YES in our mess is as simple as saying Yes, Lord, I will listen. I will seek. I will follow. I will trust.

 

BIO: Julie McCollam lives in West Virginia with her husband and two young sons, Stevie and Alex.Before becoming a stay-at-home-mom (who rarely stays at home) she spent eight hours a day in jail, counseling inmates. She traded her handcuffs for Nerf guns and serves up a daily dose of crazy at From Inmates To Playdates where she writes about her family, her faith, domestic duties, the daily DVR docket and of course, her time in jail.