A lesson in Endurance, Confidence, & Gratitude

There are some parenting situations where I wonder if I’m making the right decision. You know that old saying, “choose your battles”? Sometimes I think, why get all worked up about this? It’s not that important. and I’ll drop it. But there are other times when I stick to my guns and even though I’m second-guessing myself inside, when I follow through, I am pleased with the results – and my kids learn something.

Case in point: We had A’s friend birthday party this past weekend. I had the thank you cards ready to go. I wanted her to write them out herself. Why?
1. I didn’t have time at that particular moment to do it myself (enter a little bit of guilt).
2. I want her to learn from it: that it’s important to officially thank people (especially via cards in this electronic society – it’s almost becoming a lost art – one that I haven’t taken the time to teach her in the past); also the discipline of having a project and seeing it through to completion.

So I wondered, how can I make this as easy as possible for her, while still giving her ownership over it?

Here’s what I came up with:
I wrote out a script of sorts. On paper it looked like this:
Dear ____,
Thank you for coming to my party!
I really liked the _____.
Love, Aubrey

Then below that, I wrote out each attendee’s name and what they gifted her. Most gave her more than one thing, so I wrote out each item, with a line in between each girl/gift to form rows. I explained to her where to write each girl’s name, and how to write in the gifts in the “I really liked the ___” area. I told her, “You don’t have to write EVERY thing they gave you – you can choose one or two items and thank them for the ones that were your favorite. Then, check their name off the list so you know you did that person already.”

This worked out so much better than I had hoped. What started out as a time saver/discipline activity ended up being a confidence booster, learning opportunity, and very valuable life skill.

She did the thank you cards in two batches. She carefully chose which gift(s) to thank her guests for, occasionally asking me what the words said. This also served to remind her who gave her each gift. By the last few cards, she was writing some of the words herself, without looking back at the script. She’d come to me and excitedly say, “MOM!!” I wrote ‘coming’ without even looking!!!” She was so proud of herself. I rejoiced with her, and realized that this activity was also helping her memorize how to spell words – a handful which she didn’t know yet. Even when she had a couple cards left and asked me for help, I explained that she only had those two left, she was doing such a great job, and just to keep working until she was finished. (A lesson in perseverance and discipline.)

She sealed all the cards herself, and even drew decorations on the envelope of each card. (An opportunity to exercise her creativity!)image

What did I learn from this experience?
*She is absolutely capable when I encourage her and give her the tools to help her succeed.
*Encouraging my children to complete a task is always worth the valuable lessons it teaches them, even if it seems ‘hard’.
*Every day, normal situations are opportunities to teach lasting life lessons – and it’s my job to find them and take advantage of them.

And now, since she’s done it once on her own, she’ll have the confidence to know that she is fully capable of doing it again, and won’t see it as such a daunting task. I hope that she will look at it joyfully from here on out as an opportunity to not just use her manners or check something off her list, but utilize a life skill of taking time to realize and really appreciate what she has. I hope that it will become a habit that will become part of who she is – a woman with an attitude of gratitude.

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Ephesians 5:20 – Give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse God’s accomplishments is to discover his heart. To discover his heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread. It does to anxiety what the morning sun does to valley mist. It burns it up. – Max Lucado

Keeping God First Part 3

Happy Thanksgiving!!

My annual tradition when it comes to Christmas music is this: I always listen to Amy Grant’s first Christmas album FIRST, before any other Christmas music. Tuesday, since there was snow on the ground and I was feeling festive, I kicked off the Christmas music season a little early. I was reminded why I love this album: it focuses on the real Reason for the Season and family traditions instead of more commercial-sounding music (which has its place too!).

That said, what better day to finish the “Keeping God First” series than on Thanksgiving, when we are all reminded what matters most. Hope everyone has a blessed and enjoyable weekend!

**This is the third part in a three part series. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.**
**This series is part of a virtual bible study I did with a group of other ladies seeking to know God more. I will share more of these as I feel led.**

Battlefield of the Mind

Note: this week I’ve included reflection questions throughout the study, located in green. I hope they will help you examine your spirit; they can also be a guide to shape your email responses.

Our thoughts are where victory or failure begins. Inventions begin with a thought. Actions begin with a thought. Ideas, prayer, solutions all begin with a thought. On the other hand, depression, offense, unforgiveness, unhappiness also begin with our thoughts. If our goal is to keep God first, it is appropriate that we do so in the place where everything begins.

 1. What are you putting into your brain? The answer to this will give us answers to most of our problems. Let’s start with an analogy. Computers are programmed to follow certain protocols. When all they have are the instructions put there by the manufacturer of software, the software will run properly (positive input = positive output). However, if you somehow come in contact with a virus, it will download into your computer and cause software to stop working properly (negative input = negative output). Our brains function the same way. Positive input in our thought life leads to positive output in the physical. Negative input in our thought life leads to negative results in the physical. See Psalm 119:15 & Psalm 1:1-3. If we want to be successful in our daily lives, we need to spend time meditating on God’s Word. The point is to control what we think by controlling what we read, watch, and listen to. This might not mean eliminating everything except biblical teachings. Start small. Ask God, Are there areas I am spending time which could be more valuable spent somewhere else? Using the “Good, better, best” principle here is practical and very helpful.

2. What are you thinking about? How much of your time is spent thinking about, memorizing, or meditating on God’s Word? Think about areas in which you’re struggling. Most of these issues are likely impacted by what you believe about your situation, which is driven by what you’ve watched, read, or listened to on the subject; and possibly your past experiences. Thankfully there are answers in God’s Word for everything! Romans 12:2 says not to conform to this world, but be transformed by renewing our mind with God’s Word. Identifying our areas of struggle and counteracting our feelings with biblical truth will bring victory to us in those areas in the PHYSICAL. In what areas are YOU struggling?

Feeling inadequate? Meditate on scripture from last week about God’s perfection.

Feeling unhappy? Read Nehemiah 8:10 & John 10:10, about JOY.

Feeling inner chaos? Read Phil 4:7, about PEACE.

Feeling defeated? Read John 16:33, about VICTORY.

Philippians 4:8 reminds us what we should be thinking about.

Look at Ephesians 2:3. Don’t accept every thought that falls into your brain as truth. As I’ve said, most of our thoughts are based on past experiences or input. We shouldn’t follow our flesh, because we are not of this world. Remember, we are a soul, we have a spirit, and we live in a body. I think of it this way: our soul is the true image of who we are in Christ, who God created us to be. Our body is the physical shell in this world that our soul is housed in. Our spirit is what connects the two; it helps our true self, our soul, to manifest in the physical body on earth. Almost like a walkie talkie from our soul to our physical body. But if our walkie talkie is on the wrong channel (tuned to the WORLD and not the WORD), our soul will never manifest in our physical body. God’s Word describes the truth about our souls, so we need to know it to ensure our thoughts line up with it. The devil is tricky in this area. He is patient and will continue to lie to us in our thoughts until we believe him. You may be familiar with this: FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. Satan gives us false evidence, and we need to come against it with the weapon God gave us, His Word. If we let Satan control our thoughts, we allow him to control our life. In one of her teachings, Joyce said, “Satan usually deceives people into thinking the source of their misery or trouble is something other than what it really is.” He wants us to think our misery is due to our circumstances, but it’s really what’s INSIDE us. We can choose our attitudes and reactions. Are you actively and purposely changing your initial wrong reactions? What are you focusing on?

See Psalm 48:9. Like we saw in Matthew 14, looking at our problems doesn’t solve them. Do you look at your problems, or God’s solution, Jesus? David’s response to feeling depressed was to meditate on the good works God had done in the past. HE CHOSE TO CHANGE HIS MIND, even though he may not have FELT like it. We have to be an active participant in our own victory by not just allowing the Holy Spirit to work through God’s Word, but purposely meditating on it in our areas of weakness. Joyce says it this way: if we do what we can do, God will do what we can’t.

3. What are you dwelling on? See Mark 4:24. Jesus tells us that the effort we put into filling our mind is equal to the measure we will get back in rewards or failures. Basically, what we put INTO studying God’s Word is what we will get OUT of it. Renewing our mind as in Romans 12:2 is not something we do once. It is something we must do constantly. John 16:33 guarantees us that life will have trials – we will have new trials for each stage of life, but Psalm 30:5 is encouragement that joy comes in the morning! ‘Dwelling’ is also applicable in our interactions with others. When our husband, or child, does something to upset us, do we dwell on their mistakes, or do we remember and focus on the good they’ve done and their intentions?

Phil 4:8 tells us to meditate on what is lovely and lovable, kind and gracious, and worthy. So we have 2 options:

OPTION 1

Focus on: their bad behavior

Results:

– Anger, frustration, disappointment

– Harbor unforgiveness based on past experiences, repetitive lies from devil

– Pity Party

OPTION 2

Focus on: personal corrective, positive verses from God’s Word; their good intentions

Results:

– Peace, freedom from negative results in Option 1

– Quick forgiveness, outward love

– Holy satisfaction in following God’s Word

– Rewards from family & God

If you want things to change, you have to believe according to Matthew 8:13. Be positive by thinking positively! Positive thoughts encourage faith and hope; negative thoughts encourage fear and doubt. If your thoughts are negative, so will your mouth be, which causes your life to be as well.

Joyce says if you aren’t sure of God’s will for you, to simply think and pray this: “I don’t know God’s plan, but I know He loves me. Whatever He does will be good and I’ll be blessed.” (See Romans 8:28) She also says, “Our past may explain why we’re suffering, but we must not use it as an excuse to stay in bondage.”

4. How do I change? Read Ephesians 6:12 & John 8:31-32. As we’ve been seeing throughout this study, knowing and holding onto God’s Word is the answer to changing our life. Joshua 1:8 is biblical proof that meditating on God’s Word brings success in our life. Satan WILL lie to us, and the only way we’ll know when is to know God’s Word so we can compare the two. In Luke 4:1-13, we see how Jesus effectively used the Word to defeat Satan in the desert. We should remember his example when we are fighting spiritual battles. Here is another description of how it’s done: 2 Corinthians 10:5.
To give you a parting word of confidence: 1 Corinthians 10:13. Any time you start doubting if your life is capable of change, you can remember that God will be there to help pull us through.

Key Points

  • Do not accept every thought that falls in your head as truth. Instead use 2 Cor 10:5 & Jesus’ example in Luke 4:1-13 as a guideline.
  • We have to actively change our minds with the weapon of God’s Word.
  • The measure that we put into transforming our minds (Rom 12:2) will be equaled in the results we get OUT (Mark 4:24).
  • We cannot control our circumstances or the people around us. What we can and should control with God’s help are our thoughts and responses.

Closing Prayer
Lord, thank You for showing us where our true battles lie, and winning them for us! Thank you for including in Your Word the ways we can bring that victory into reality through our thoughts. Let these teachings sink into our spirits, and let us take this seriously and treat it with vital importance. Give us revelation when we are thinking thoughts that do not line up with your Word. Guide us to the places in the bible where we can find the answers to correct our bad thinking. Thank you for being the ultimate teacher! We love you Lord.