4 Things Every Home Needs

“But Mom, I need that. I really nnneeeedd it.”

Do these words sound familiar?

I’ve been trying to help my kids distinguish between needs and wants for a long time. Some days in parenting we take two steps forward and one step back. Just last week, one of my kids stomped off in the store because I wouldn’t buy a new product they’d seen advertised.

I feel so defeated when entitlement rears its ugly head in my family.

I am more disappointed when I see it in myself.

But we live in a society that gets what we want when we want it. And if we can’t afford it, we can put it on a credit card. And if parents don’t let kids have it, research proves that after the 9th time of asking, we end up giving in to our kids. Because whining.

This mentality has not only imprisoned countless families in debt, it’s also trickled down to our kids, creating a spoiled culture.

We have a hard time distinguishing wants from needs. And we often place something that’s wanted in front of something that’s needed due to guilt. In our home, we talk budget and spending and saving. We try to figure out the difference between needs and wants. We don’t always get it right. But the more we expose this way of thinking, we see just how entitled we are.

We need food, we don’t need fruit smoothies from Smoothie King. We may want one and get one occasionally, but this isn’t a need. Deciphering the difference is important. And our kids are watching how we juggle the two.

I love giving my kids what they want. It’s one of the joys of parenting. But it’s not healthy for them to receive everything they want.

Because it only causes them to want more.

When we see a shift and our kids began to feel like we owe them more, we are on unstable ground.

4 things every home needs

Do you know what our homes really need besides obvious love and nurturing? It’s not necessarily more square footage or a newer car or certain brands and it really has nothing at all to do with stuff or money.

Here are 4 things we can add to our home for intentional living:

1. Homes Need Purpose: Of course,we all have the main purpose of loving one another and growing together to be better people. But when we dig deeper, I believe God has a specific purpose for every single family. He created a family in the beginning of time to bring Himself glory and He used a family to usher His Son into the world. Your family of freckled redheaded daughters or blonde-headed sons or lovely ebony-skin tones has a unique purpose that is as special as you are. He has placed you on your street, in your town, for a specific purpose. Who will your family touch that my family will never meet? We were made for more than just getting by. We were made for more than just the American Dream. We were made to leave an impact and we can only do this if we live intentionally with purpose. (Read more about parenting with purpose and writing a family mission statement in Rhinestone Jesus).

2. Families Need Time Together: I think this is why I’m such a fan of consistent dinners together. Everything is pulling your family away from each other and the older kids get, the harder it is to find time together. Dinner pulls us back to the table, to laughter and conversation and yes, spilled milk and a fair share of tears over it. Think back to your best most favorite childhood memories…they probably don’t center around toys or stuff. They are probably long road trips or camping in a tent or crazy family moments. Families were made to live and do life together. Because it’s in those moments where we laugh and talk and really love, that we grow. We argue and learn how to really get along with others. We hurt each other’s feelings and we learn how to empathize with others. We clean up each other’s messes and learn how to help others. We drive each other crazy because that’s what families do and we learn that life is messy. Don’t let busyness get in the way of time together.

3. Kids Need a Work Ethic: One of the best things we can offer our kids is the chance to work hard. Sounds fun, eh? A couple of weeks ago we planted a garden and then had a truck load of mulch dumped in our driveway. I’m not going to lie, I was more than tempted to ask the yard guys at my neighbor’s house how much it would cost for them to spread the 400 wheelbarrows so we didn’t have to. (I’m typing with a huge blister right now). But my husband and I wanted our kids to sweat a little, we wanted them to see the before and after of hard work. We wanted to spend the day unplugged, together, working hard, laughing some, chasing each other with manure and then having a loud meltdown in the yard because of it (that really wasn’t a part of my original vision, just a bonus). It’s part of God’s plan for us to work hard and in our culture of “I will pay to have it all done for me” what are we teaching our kids?

garden

4. We All Need Perspective: In order to get true perspective, we have to look up from our own busy lives and look out into the world–down the street or across the ocean. It’s so easy to stay in our safe, comfortable bubble, even when it’s not easy. But something really powerful and transforming happens when we focus as a family on other people: we get a new perspective. Sometimes we discover we aren’t alone in our struggles. Sometimes we realize we can help other people in their struggles.  But when we open our eyes to others, we always feel gratitude. Thankfulness is the gift that perspective gives us. And every family needs that.

So, while a whole host of wants may fill our Pinterest screens and our To Do Lists and our hearts, let’s shift our focus to some things we need that money can’t buy.

The Two Questions Every Christian Must Ask Themselves

A friend of mine told me about a group of women, mothers with children, who were living in absolute poverty.

Their babies didn’t have diapers. Their kids didn’t have shoes. Their homes didn’t have furniture. Their pantries didn’t have food.

I’ve met women just like them, stood on their dirt floors and been offered the last plate of food in their house.

But these mothers in this story didn’t live across the ocean, on the other side of the globe.

They live 49 miles from my front door.

They are refugees—removed from Bhutan, their country of birth, because of genocide against their race and placed in a refugee camp in Nepal, where they survived for 15 years, until more recently, when the United Nations relocated thousands of people again, to their new home in America.

They are my neighbors.

But many of these refugees have never been more than a mile away from the apartment complex that is now home. Once aid from the U.S. ended after 90 days, they found themselves in a foreign country, unable to communicate, trying to navigate a much different culture, living a minimum-wage existence where diapers and toilet paper, shampoo and soap, are a luxury they cannot afford. They didn’t know there was a food bank within walking distance. But how would they manage toddlers and babies without a stroller or cart for food and who would help them fill out the paperwork to take what was needed?

As I listened to the story, I felt moved with compassion. Because this is my heart, my calling: To empower mothers with opportunity—for some it’s an opportunity to give, for others it’s opportunity to receive. I don’t have all the answers, but I know we can help each other.

I couldn’t help but wonder, How could I help? I immediately told myself, I’m doing enough. What could I possibly do? How much more could I add to my already full plate? We give a lot, how much more can we give?

But then I realized I was asking the wrong questions.

 2 Questions Every Christian in America Needs to Ask Themselves

 

Go ahead. Ask yourself. It’s not an accident. It’s not luck of draw. There is a purpose. You have a purpose for living here and not there. What do you think it is?

I don’t think it’s a mathematical mistake that one-third of the world is rich enough to ease the burden of the other two-thirds who are desperately poor, living on less than $1 a day. It’s not a curious coincidence that we are already sitting on the answer.

It’s something we teach our children from the cradle. It’s called sharing. We have more than enough, enough to share. It sounds like a match made in Heaven, huh? Like maybe it was God’s plan all along to love others, and instead of accumulating the American Dream, there’s the chance to give some of it away.

And I believe when God asks us what we did with our talents, our resources, our land-of-the-free, home-of-the-brave opportunity, we will be accountable for our answer.

Yes, we give already. But we have been given so much. We can give more, share more, do more. Not to prove we are good people or need a bigger list of good works. We do it because it’s our purpose to glorify God. We do it because He first loved us and we love others. We do it because we have it to give. We do it because if we were reusing disposable diapers, we would want someone to share with us.

We do it because our houses and cars and pins on Pinterest are temporary.

Our stuff will not last, but people will.

When I asked myself these hard questions, I knew immediately what my answer had to be.

I started sharing this story with my friends and church community, many had the same answer. And with a pile of yeses, answers starting coming in. Moms started pulling out clothes and shoes, their excess to share. Dads moved furniture into garages to give away. Women began stockpiling diapers. Volunteers are offering ESL classes, a website is being built and a group of moms have started teaching knitting.

Once a week, for as long as I’m able, I’ll be spending the day 49 miles from home,with my neighbors. 

Is there a right answer to those hard questions? I don’t know.

But my family is starting by looking at what we have, thanking God for it and then sharing it with someone else.

I hope you will too.

Neighbors are a great place to start.

A Simple Way to Teach Family a Lesson About Complaining Less

I handed everyone at the table a rubber band and told them to put it around their wrists like a bracelet.

We slipped it on as we finished dinner and I read these instructions from our dinner time devotional:  Every time you grumble or complain, snap your rubber band. 

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The day before we memorized John 6:43, “Stop grumbling among yourselves.”

Guess who got the first “pop?”

My kids laughed as the first complaint rolled off my tongue just minutes after reading our assignment. I wasn’t even trying to show them an example of what not to do. I didn’t even know I was going to grumble about cleaning up our dinner mess. Because sometimes complaining is just our second nature.

Ouch.

I rubbed my wrist and watched my words.

We all did. Our 24 hour experiment proved to leave our wrists a little tender and our tongues a little more controlled.

We were listening for the bemoaning and bellyaching. We pointed out when we heard each other complain.

The most important thing this experiment did? It made us think before we spoke. It made us more aware.

Grumbling comes too easy. And when we try not to do it, we see how often we whine or complain–about each other, about our situations, about what we have and what we don’t.

When we really get a good look at what’s underneath all those negative words, we find ingratitude.

Because let’s face it:  we probably all can find something to gripe about. But when we think before we speak, we can always find something to be thankful for.

the happiest people

Try this simple lesson today (and if rubber bands won’t work for you, keep tally marks on the kitchen calendar or cheerios around a yarn bracelet and break one off with every complaint).

 Here’s what a lesson in complaining less does for all of us:

1. It forces us to admit how often we grumble or whine or speak negatively about ourselves or others

2. It causes us to think before we speak

3. It gives us the opportunity to choose gratitude over grumbling.

And while this lesson won’t necessarily rid our homes of complaining (ask me how I know), it will certainly give us something to (think) and talk about.

What Scares Me More Than Being Inadequate

I used to think my greatest fear was inadequacy.

I believed these words for a very long time.

You could never do that.

You aren’t good enough.

You cannot make a difference.

You will fail.

But the day I said yes to something bigger than my capability, I discovered being inadequate -not having all the answers, not being successful, not being enough–these weren’t my deepest fears.

My deepest fear was rooted in the unleashing of my yes. I realized the unbelievable, unspeakable power of that little word would thrust me into an unknown world of faith-walking and desperation for Jesus.

And that terrified me.

Because I’m still inadequate. No matter what I do, what I learn, there’s always something I don’t know.  We cannot rescue or save or even get our kids to listen half the time. How dare we have the audacity to help another human being?

I live in that place.

Rhinestone_JesusPrintables_4

But when we hush that voice and step out anyway, we aren’t depending on ourselves. We are trusting the God of the Universe to act through us.

And that is where our fear lies. What if He asks me to something that is hard? What if I have to give up something I love? What if He uses failure instead of success to reach others and change me?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -by Marianne Williamson

Incredible.

We were created to shine. We were born to make His glory known. We were fashioned to unleash the power of God.

Being inadequate is scary.

But never saying yes is far more terrifying.

Dear Parents, Let it Go

There are problems.

And then THERE ARE FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS.

Like these real comments left this week on Disney’s Facebook page by irate mothers who can’t find Frozen merchandise for their children (source):

I have been staying up late every night checking the site. I didn’t think the site would refresh during the day. SO irritated! My girl has been waiting for a classic Elsa doll since Christmas. She can’t understand why Santa didn’t get her one since it was what she wanted most. Now she is hoping that the Easter Bunny will put one in her basket. She has been so patient. I really think this might be what stops her believing in Santa and the Easter Bunny. I can’t afford to spend over $100 on eBay for a $16 doll. This whole situation makes me so sad and angry. Thank you Disney for killing the magic for my 6 year old.”

And there’s this gem:

WHAT IN GOD’S NAME IS THE HOLD UP, DISNEY? ARE YOU STAFFED ENTIRELY BY SOULLESS. DREAM-CRUSHING MONSTERS??[...]UGH. I AM FURIOUS. HENCE ALL THESE CAPITAL LETTERS. [...] UNACCEPTABLE, DISNEY. YOU’RE LITERALLY RUINING LIVES WITH YOUR EVIL WAYS. FOR SHAME.

These are just a couple of the hundreds of complaints against the mouse-magic-makers. And parents are in crazy bidding wars on ebay trying to buy $150 deluxe character dresses for over $1000.00 and $30 plastic dolls for $300.

Not to mention the speculation about how Disney is meeting this demand in some factory in another country…

So, this is what it’s come to, huh? Blaming a huge money-making empire for ruining Jesus’ birthday and His Resurrection because we can’t give our kids more stuff?

Y’all.

This is the culture we live in–we are waisting time and money on nothing. That doll or costume or whatever it is we chase and pursue and spend so much of our attention on won’t last. It’s embarrassing.

In an effort to create a magical childhood, we are forgetting what our kids really need: an intentional one. This isn’t about making our kids happy. That’s not even our job.

This is about the competition to keep up and the guilt that drives us to think that more stuff will make our kids happy. This is about winning some game that’s not worth playing. This is about scoring the latest fad or being the highest bidder that might fill some void in us.

I know most of you are probably like me and would never pay outlandish prices for the latest must-have thing. My 7 year old got some Frozen merchandise for her December birthday.

By the way, they are now for sale.

We can let them go… Kidding.

I get it. I really do—this urge to give our kids what they really want or what we really want for them.  But what price will we pay? How far will we go to create “happy” kids.

Because this isn’t just about stuff. It’s about making disposable things more important than they are.

How often do we freak out over the mess on the kitchen floor or try to control our children (impossible, ask me how I know) or waste hours on trivial things that are temporary.

Seriously, let’s remember what really matters–

And let the other stuff go.