Childhood and Summer Come to a Close.

I will soon be facing MANY changes in my little family.  In exactly one week, both of my girls will officially be middle schoolers.  Our school district decided to move 6th graders into JR. High this year, so now – both of my kids will be thrown to the wolves – I mean to middle school!  I don’t even get to have a practice run with my oldest child!

I don’t know about you, but Jr. High was awful!  Girls can be so mean to each other and for some reason – middle school brings out the worst in everyone.  Bodies are changing and awkward, hormones start to kick in, and kids begin to grow up WAY to fast for their underdeveloped brains.

I have done everything  I can to prepare my girls for this new situation.  I bought a pad lock – so they could practice getting one opened (still remember having bad dreams about not being able to open my locker),  I have given them several talks about friends and…boys (ugh), and we have role played awkward lunch room and  gym situations. Even with all of this “preparation”, I still feel nervous.  Yep, me.

Regardless of all these things, I know that I can’t completely protect them – nor prepare them for what Jr. High will really be like.  I know that once a child leaves elementary, their young childhood days are pretty much behind them.  I remember my middle school years and even though it was forever ago – I am pretty sure it’s about the same.  I remember kids talking about sex, parties, booze, and drugs.  yes, I remember it all.  And even though I stayed clear from this stuff – some kids didn’t.  And, because I didn’t have a great Jr. High experience, I find myself fearful for my girls.  I had an amazing high school experience, but Jr. High – not so much.

As the summer comes to a close, I have to realize that my girls’ elementary years are also coming to a close and I don’t like it.  I am struggling with it.  I really like being a mom and I really like my kids.  I like that they are still just young kids…and I hate that Jr. High might change that.

Through all of this, Christ has reminded me of Isaiah 41:10 – “fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” 

I know that the Lord does not want me to give into worry and fear.  I am comforted in knowing that he cares about my girls, more than I do – and he has a plan and a purpose for their lives.

So, for now I will trust in him while we try to maneuver  all things preteen –  such as lip gloss, having name brand shoes, and worries about friends and boys. And though I am sad that my girls are beginning to leave their childhood behind –  I wouldn’t miss any of this for the world.

 

 

 

 

The Shame of Government Assistance

It was a miserable, cold, winter day when decided I could wait no longer to get some groceries. It was a Saturday and I dreaded the fact that the store was going to be busy.  It was my first time going out with my EBT card (Electronic Benefits Transfer) or also known as food stamps.  I was also on WIC (Women, Infants, Children) at the time as I was 6 months pregnant and had a one-and-a-half-year-old.

Getting the groceries was easy enough.  I had my milk, eggs, cheese, and other mainly healthy selections.  I selected a line that seemed to be moving the fastest, although all the lines were very busy.  As I waited several people filed in behind me.  I didn’t pay too much attention to them as my toddler daughter was getting a little antsy.  She had been sitting for some time in the cart and she had had about enough.

Finally, it was my turn to put my things on the conveyer belt.  All which had to be sorted with each appropriate WIC check.  One check was for eggs and milk, another for cheese and so it went.  At this point, I began to hear some sighs behind me and I could feel my face getting red.  I then placed the items that were to be paid with my “food stamps” behind the WIC items.  I tried to address the cashier quietly, “how do I use this?”  Of course, she replied not so quietly, “Your food stamp card gets swiped here”.  At this point, the woman behind me started whispering and chuckling behind me.  Maybe she wasn’t even talking about me, but I could feel her eyes on me.  At this point, I was close to tears.  I was embarrassed.  I was ashamed.

Finally, the ordeal was over and I managed to get out of the store without shedding a tear, but once I was in the car – I let them fall.

Government assistance was there when I needed it.  I found myself suddenly a single mom, pregnant with my second child, and I barely worked part-time, I was mostly a full-time mom.  I couldn’t make the house payment – let alone buy food all on my own.

It was a hand-up.  It lifted me so that I didn’t have to worry about that one aspect in my life.  After I had my daughter, I worked hard – REALLY hard – and was promoted, several times.  The hand-up was not a hand-out.  It gave me the boost I needed to help me get on my feet and become successful.  I have also lived in government housing – it gave me and my children a safe home with reasonable rent.  All of which I am thankful for.

I write about this because I remember these days all too well and how it felt.  As a matter of fact, I had to get back on assistance for a little while when I changed jobs just 4 years ago.  The loss of income affected me financially much greater than I had anticipated and I found myself putting my groceries on credit cards so I could pay my bills.  It only lasted a few months, and again – it was there when I needed a hand-up.

I believe that single moms need to do what it takes – whatever it takes – to provide the best environment for their children, this includes nutritious food on the table and a decent roof over their heads.  It would also include the health of their child.  I also believe that it should be for a season – we need to improve not just our environment – but ourselves as well.

When I was first divorced, I only had a high school education plus a 2 year associates from a Bible school and though I had lots of management experience, I knew that I would have a very difficult time paying for daycare – especially for two very young children.  So, I worked at the local YMCA in the daycare.  I didn’t make as much as I would have as a manager, but my children got to go to work with me each day and it was free to have them there.  I also benefited because I got to see my children several times throughout the day, we weren’t separated and I didn’t miss any milestones.

Today, I am no longer in need of “food stamps” however, my kids still qualify for a government insurance plan.  Government assistance should be a hand-up, not a hand-out.  It should be there to lift- up those who are struggling and vulnerable in our society.  I am thankful for the fact that I get to live in a country where as a single mom – I can thrive.  Where I have opportunity and a chance at being successful, and where my children can succeed as well.

Sometimes, we all need a hand-up and although those people in line behind me didn’t know what a mess I had just come from, we shouldn’t let shame overtake us.  WE need to remind ourselves that we are just trying to take care of our kids and doing what we need to do.

I think that sometimes cashiers and the people who look down on government assistance forget that the person standing before them has a story and that they are a person – not a statistic.

Going through this experience myself, I can tell you one thing – I have a lot more compassion for the woman in line who is paying with her WIC checks.  May we all be more compassionate to one another.

Colossians 3:12 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

 

How I Survive Father’s Day as a Single Mom.

I hate to admit this and hate even more to say it, but Father’s Day sucks when you are a mom to children who are fatherless.

My children are fatherless because their father has made some very poor choices.  He has a pattern of abusing the women in his life and is serving a 10 year sentence for his crimes.  He hasn’t played a role in our children’s lives and Father’s Day is a little hard for my girls.

I have determined every year to make the best of Father’s Day and after 10 years, I have come up with a few ways to successfully survive Father’s Day, for me and my children.

Celebrate the dads and father figures in your lives! 

My dad has played a big role in my girls’ lives.  For the past 4 years he has taken them to school almost every morning because of my work schedule.  I have been VERY blessed because I have been able to drop my kids off at my parent’s house so I could be to work early.  They eat breakfast with my parents and then go to school.  This normal, everyday, very routine activity has given my girls’ a glimpse at a two parent household.  My dad gets ready for work, eats, and takes my kids to school.  Nothing fancy.  Just a normal everyday interaction.  My girls also go to my parent’s house after-school for a little over an hour each day.  On Wednesdays, my dad is off and they get to spend a little more time with him on those days, but again usually doing very routine, normal things like go to Costco.  This interaction with my dad has moved him beyond just being their grandpa, he has become a father figure to them.

My kids celebrate my dad on Father’s Day.  We focus on who they do have in their lives and now that they are a little older – they get it.  Yesterday my oldest daughter wrote “thank you for being a father figure to me” in my dad’s card.  She is 12, I have never talked to her about my dad being “a father figure” to her.  But she gets it.  My 11 year old thanked him for “taking us to school and putting up with us”.  She get’s it.  He plays a bigger role than just that of “grandpa”.

Acknowledge that you have to roles to play. 

Everyone’s single motherhood looks different.  Some separated parents still work as a team, or try to at least.  Some kids spend some time with dad and some time with mom – so they have an active father in their lives.  Some dad’s have passed away.  Some dad’s – for whatever reason – haven’t been involved in their children’s lives.

For me, I have had to play the role of mother and father.  I am in mother mode about 95%.  I am a comforter, a peacemaker, a caretaker, a cheerleader, and overall a big softy. My “father” side has to be strong and steadfast, a provider, protector, bread winner, disciplinarian, firmer – not how I typically want to act or respond, but my children need it.  I know that there will be tons of people who disagree with me, but my nature is nurture.  I think that most moms are that way and dads typically aren’t.  But nurture is only a portion of what my kids need, they need so much more.

There is a joke between me and my mother that I am the mom to my girls and she is the dad.  I pull her in when I need back up, she is tougher and more experienced than I am. When we REALLY need back-up, we pull my dad in.  We all need back-up when it comes to raising kids, some families have the dad available, and others don’t.  I would encourage you to find someone you can pull in when you need back up.  But the fact remains, for some moms – we have to roles to fill.  We can try, but we can’t ever truly fulfill the dad sized shoes that are missing in our kids life.

I reflect on this every Father’s Day.  I acknowledge the difficulty in the task of being both mom and dad – and sometimes I even do something special for myself.  I also pray for my children’s dad.  I pray for his salvation, his protection, and that he would be restored.  It can be challenging to pray for someone who has hurt you, but with practice – it gets easier.

Do something special with your kids.

Be sensitive to the fact that Father’s Day can be difficult for your children.  Do something fun with them.  Go to a movie, get fast food and eat at a park, have an adventure!  I know a single mom who takes a weekend trip with her daughter every Father’s Day weekend. They don’t do anything super fancy, they just get in the car and go somewhere new. Make Father’s Day weekend special in your own way.  Celebrate the dads and father figures in your life, reflect on the roles you play, pray, and enjoy your kids.

 

 

 

 

Broken Dreams

Last night – I had a dream.

In my dream, we were preparing to renew our wedding vows.  I had put on my wedding dress – which still fit (so I know for sure I was dreaming) and we were waiting for our guests to arrive.  He looked so handsome in his tux and we were both beaming, excited to renew our vows and renew our commitment to each other.  We knew the past few years had been hard, but we were looking forward to beginning anew – a stronger commitment to each other and to the Lord.  I felt loved, wanted, treasured, safe, and beautiful.  And then…

I woke up.

When I awoke, my eyes were wet and I realized that I had been crying in my sleep.  My heart was filled with grief for what I don’t have, what I never had, and mostly likely will never experience.

I am determined not to remarry, I believe that this isn’t in my future.  It isn’t because I’m extra tough or a strong feminist type.  It isn’t because I’m not attracted to the opposite sex.  And it certainly isn’t because I want to be alone.  I believe that the Lord has told me that I will remain single and the truth is, I don’t want to go through that kind of pain, fear, disappointment and heartache.  Ever. Never. Again!

I choose what I believe is best for my kids.  I choose what I believe is best for me.  Most importantly, I choose what I believe the Lord has for me – singleness.  It isn’t what I would have chosen for myself.  It isn’t what I had hoped my life would look like – but it is what I have.

I had made a vow to the Lord several months ago that I wasn’t going to grieve or lament after that which I didn’t have, including a husband and father for my girls.  If my dream has shown me anything – it is that deep down within the very depths of my soul, I still grieve.  On the outside, I look like I have it all together.  For the most part…I do because it is the Lord who holds it together for me.  But, deep down inside – I am sad for my children an myself because we are broken.

My children’s father is in prison.  My desire to be a wife didn’t work out, having to work full-time outside of the home wasn’t what I had wanted for my children.  Going to parent-teacher conferences, my children’s concerts and activities by myself wasn’t what I had planned on. Life for me isn’t cookie cutter perfect.

Even though I have broken dreams, I have an amazing life.  I have hope, peace, and real joy.  My greatest desire is to help other single moms realize that it is possible to have these things – even with broken dreams and imperfect lives.

I know I won’t become a viral sensation, but if I can help encourage a mom who is struggling as a single mother – then THAT will be enough.  I want my broken life and broken family to used for good and for God’s glory.  I am a thriving single mom.  Not because I am perfect, but because I allow Jesus to perfect me – to work in my life and to make my brokenness whole.  That is why I thrive.  That is why I love exactly where I am.

Hebrews 10:14 – For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

 

 

 

 

 

Overcoming the “More Likely’s” in Our Life

 

 Proverbs 2:7  –  He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless.

Every since I became a single mom, I have had one nagging fear  – “as a single mom, I am going to ruin my children”.  We’ve heard the comments and statistics shared on television, Christian radio, “well” meaning friends, heck – even from the pulpit.  Kids are who are raised by a single parent are “more likely”.  Here are some examples I have heard over the years –

Kids who are raised by a single parent are more likely –

  • To live in poverty
  • To have behavioral problems
  • To drop out of school
  • To become pregnant as a teenager
  • To never go to college
  • To become addicted to alcohol and drugs
  • To become divorced

If this wasn’t bad enough, my kids also have a father who has been incarcerated for almost all of their childhood, so lets add to the list that my kids will be more likely –

  • to live on welfare
  • to engage in criminal activity themselves
  • to have an unstable home
  • to be placed in foster care
  • to have mental health issues

And this is just barely touching the surface.  After reading these “statistics” or hearing these comments, it’s easy to see why a single parent could be fearful.  The fact is – our mistakes impact our children.  My kids have had to live with a lot emotions that I never had to experience as a child – like shame, embarrassment, and fear.  They are ashamed to have a father who is in prison and are reminded of it any time they are asked about their dad.  They live in fear – what will it be like when he gets out?  They also struggle with feelings of abandonment – why doesn’t he call us anymore?

Having to see your children go through these emotions is heart-wrenching.  I hate it.  I hate that THIS is their reality.   I hate the shame and stigma that surrounds them – and me.

When people get to know us, their preconceived ideas of “single mom” homes usually goes away.  But the fact remains – it is there.  I currently work for a Christian non-profit and I almost didn’t get the job because I am divorced.  I had to explain to them during my interview WHY I was divorced.  That was embarrassing.  I don’t typically like to share with strangers that I was in an abusive relationship. In the Christian circle –  I feel that I am constantly having to “justify” my divorce, which on one hand it understandable – especially if you are working for a ministry.

Even though we have this cloud of “stuff” hanging over us, I am determined to not let it define us.

I was blessed with an amazing experience last week.  My girls just completed the 5th and 6th grade and due to some changes in our school district, BOTH will be attending Jr. High next year.  Their elementary school was holding an awards ceremony and a “sending off to Jr. High” party.  My girls begged me to go and I was able to find someone to cover for me at work.  My oldest daughter, Abby, called me at work the day before to make sure I really was able to come because she had just been notified that she was receiving some very special awards.

During the ceremony, my children were presented with many awards and I was beaming.  I am so proud of my children because these awards showed me two things – they are hard workers and they are kind.  As a mother, I couldn’t ask for more than that. It really isn’t about the awards themselves – but what my kids had to do to receive them. They both work hard at school.  They are both leaders in their classrooms.  They are both kind to other children.

I was in awe of the Lord’s goodness that day as I remembered all the “more likely’s” that my children face.  The Lord showed me that we are ALL “more likely” to fail in this life, but with hope, perseverance, hard work and kindness towards others – we can overcome the “more likely’s” when our eyes are fixed on Jesus.

My encouragement to you would be simply this.  Don’t focus on the “more likely’s”, but focus on Christ and His ability to overcome.  Through him, we can do ALL things – including overcoming the cloud of “stuff” that surrounds us and weighs us down.

 

 

 

Children Come First After Divorce

When we are married there is no earthly relationship more important than that between a husband and wife.  When one divorces however, things need to shift and your children become the most important earthy relationship, period.

I know several people who think I am crazy, I have literally been mocked because I believe that I should remain single.  I believe that remaining single will give my kids their best chance at a stable home.

For several years I use to teach a course at the Billings Family YMCA where I worked as the Family and Youth Program Director.  The course was simply called “Childhood Abuse Prevention”.  Although this course was directed towards childcare workers and how they could help a child who may be experiencing abuse, I learned a lot that I applied to my own life and my own reasons as to WHY I feel led to remain single.  This particular blog will focus on my #1 reason for staying single, I have several – but to me, this reason is a no-brainer.

Most resources will tell us that every year in the United States, over 3 million children are abused.  This abuse would include, physical, sexual, emotional, and neglect.  What is more difficult to find is a breakdown of WHO is doing the abusing.  One great resource that I had found is actually on the Department of Health and Human Services page here. Now, you have to read carefully and not just look at the graphs to find out exactly what the break down is.  For example, the graph will look show you the big picture – that 51% of ALL charged cases of abuse came from the biological father.  However, the breakdown of the percentages of what type of abuse comes a little later and shows us this:  50% were charged with neglect only, 26% were charged with physical abuse only, 7% were charged with emotional abuse only, 7% were charged with sexual abuse only, and 11% were charged with some combination of the above.

To me, being a single mom wondering about dating and someday remarrying, I was really interested in what percent of abusers were boyfriends and stepfathers.  Here is what they found of all charged abuse cases.

Boyfriends of the mother: 31% were charged with neglect only. 30% were charged with physical abuse only. 20% were charged with sexual abuse only. 6% were charged with emotional abuse only. And 13% were charged with some combination of the above.

Stepfathers: 20% were charged with neglect only. 34% were charged with physical abuse only. 30% were charged with sexual abuse only.  4% were charged with emotional abuse only. And 12% were charged with some combination of the above.

Moms, are you paying attention here?  In reality, The percentage points remained some what close – except in the area of neglect and sexual abuse.  Biological fathers are more likely to be neglectful and less likely to sexually abuse their children when compared to boyfriends and stepfathers.  HOWEVER, Boyfriends and Stepfathers are MUCH more likely to sexually abuse your child.  Much. More. Likely.

I want to also point out that these numbers are based only on those who have gotten caught and who have been charged with the crime.  According to the Department of Justice, only about 30% of sexual abuse is actually reported to authorities.  How much higher are these numbers really?  The point is, much higher than we think.

My choice for remaining a single mom is my choice.  I believe that protecting my children is more important than having a companion.  I am not ignorant to the fact that children are also abused by uncles, cousins, older kids, and even women.  As a mom, I have also done everything that I possibly can to prevent this from happening.  I also know that sometimes really bad things happen.  However, I have made the personal commitment to NOT bring it into my home and to keep my home a safe place for my children.

I think that if more moms are aware of these statistics, it can help them guard their children from abusers.  Take steps and the actions needed to guard your children because the fact is – once the sexual abuse has happened, it’s happened.  Their lives won’t be the same.

The real question is this mom, will you do anything differently knowing this?

Mother’s Day for a Single Mom

Let’s face it, sometimes “special days” can be hard on single moms.  For young children, daycare and school will often provide them with a special gift for their mom.  But when they get a little older (about 3rd grade for my kids), they are no longer given help or an opportunity to plan something.

When I was kid, my father would remind us that Mother’s Day was coming up and he would often help us “plan” something special, like hand-made cards and lunch out.  When we were a little older, he would take us to the mall so we could purchase a little something with our allowance money.

It can be tempting to feel down on days like this because our children may forget and didn’t make that sweet homemade card.  It is easy to feel disappointed, but we can’t put unrealistic expectations on our children.  We can however take control of the day and turn it into something truly special.

First things first!

Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate and honor moms.  That means it’s your special day and you can plan the day however you would like!  Make a plan, decide what special things you would like to do with your kids.  Maybe it’s having a pajama party and watching movies all day (because mom could use a break) with pizza and popcorn.  Maybe you would like to treat yourself to an afternoon at the zoo and finish it off with a nice dinner at a favorite restaurant.  Whatever it is that you would like to do, plan it!  Don’t sit at home all sad and depressed – take control and make it a fun day for you and your kids.

Announce it in the Morning

When you wake up your kids, ask them – “hey, do you know what today is? “If they don’t know – tell them with lots of excitement in your voice!  Let them in on the fun!  If they didn’t make you a card, you might find one later on your pillow.  Let your kids get excited and join in on the fun, trust me – they will be excited to share a special day with you.

Count your Blessings

Most importantly, count your blessings.  Be thankful for your children and for the many blessings that you have in your life.  It’s pretty difficult to be down when you realize just how much you really have.

Take the day to be thankful and to give back to others, celebrate motherhood with other moms around you.   Do you know other single moms who might be struggling on Mother’s Day?  Maybe you could plan something with them and their children, spread the joy and the excitement.  One of the best ways to feel celebrated and loved is to celebrate and love others!

Even though Mother’s Day may not look like the way you had always hoped and dreamed, you can choose to feel celebrated and choose to enjoy the day with your children.  Refuse to give in to feelings of disappointment and take charge of your day.

I would love to hear what you planned for your special day, post in the comments below!

Happy Mother’s Day and have fun!

 

Life After a Non-Traditional Student Graduates

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

Here I am, 38 years old and finally a college graduate!  Now what?

I have been asking myself this for the past several days.  I have been working towards this goal for the past 4 years.  To accomplish this goal, I had to go to school for 3 semesters a year.  Spring, summer and fall…so it has been a constant in my life for 4 years.  It gave me something to work for, a purpose – more than the usual day to day of going to work and caring for my kids.  I am finding myself empty right now, relieved – but empty.

I thought that after school, I would begin to look for my “dream” job.  However, I have become attached to my co-workers and the place that I work.  The schedule works out REALLY well for my children, I get home only a little over an hour from when they are out of school.  I have some flexibility where I am currently at, which is really important as a single mom.  I have some sick time and some vacation time – more than most moms in my situation.

The thought of ministry keeps coming to mind.  I have always wanted to help other single moms because when I felt that I needed some help and encouragement –  I found it lacking.  That was over a decade ago, is this something that is still needed today?

As you can see, I am struggling.  I guess I sort of thought that I would have it all figured out when I finally arrived at this point, but I don’t.  I might be even be more confused about my future now than I was BEFORE I started college!

I obviously don’t have a clear picture of what my future will look like now, but I do know that there is one constant in my life that will never change and that is the fact that God is in control.  He knows the desires of my heart.  He knows what is best for me and my little family.  He has a plan for me and even if it hasn’t been revealed yet, I know he has one.  And for now, that will have to be enough.

For now, I feel led to continue writing to single moms and to have an encouraging presence on social media.  I know that being a single mom – especially as a Christian, can feel lonely.  Who knows, maybe I will write a book and get to do all the things I had hoped for when I became a single mom.  Whatever the road I take, as long as the Lord is walking beside me, then I will know it is good.

He has plans for me.  Plans not to harm me…but to give me a hope and a future.  That sounds pretty good to me.

Teaching Gratitude to Your Children

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Having a life filled with gratitude and a heart of thankfulness takes practice and purpose. As with anything that we are attempting to teach our children (such as using good manners), the truth is – they learn most by watching us.  If I don’t make the effort to make sure that I am saying “please” or “thank you”, no matter how often I tell my children to do so – it isn’t going to stick.  Why?  Because if it isn’t genuine and true in my life, they aren’t going to take it seriously.

I didn’t really think about this much until about 2 weeks ago when my 10 year old told me how kind and nice I am to other people, “even the fast food workers”.  I thought this sort of cute at first (we were getting food from McDonald’s) and didn’t think about it much.  I quickly explained to her that fast food workers probably don’t get thanked very often or told that their service is appreciated.  The truth is, most people don’t hear this and most jobs are thankless jobs.

Living in a state of joy and thankfulness is intentional.  It might be easier for those who see the glass as being “half-full” compared to those who tend to be more pessimistic, but I believe that anyone can learn the art of gratitude.  We are told that THIS is a part of God’s will for us, therefor – I know it’s possible.

To help teach your children the art of gratitude, you can begin with evaluating your own thoughts and heart.  When I am struggling with thankfulness and joy in my own life, I begin to list out or say out loud the things that I am thankful for and blessed with.  For example –

  • My kids (see an easy one)
  • A roof over my head (some don’t have this – ESPECIALLY in most parts of the world)
  • Food (again, most in the world don’t know where their next meal will come from)
  • A soft bed with warm blankets (again, more than what most have)

Then keep going…you will see just how much you have to be thankful for!  If you are ever in doubt, just look up how people live in 3rd world countries – trust me, you will be thankful for what you have (I know because I have done this – several times- to get things back into perspective).

Now, other than needing to live out thankfulness and gratitude in your own life – what are some ways you can help your children?

I have come up with a 7 days of Gratitude Challenge for me and my girls.  Here is what we are going to do and you could do it too!

Day 1 – Count Your Blessings – Together.   Make a game of this! Go around with your children to list off things that each of you are thankful for.  Write them down and try not to repeat anything.  It will knock your socks off at the things your children will say.

Day 2 – Wall of Gratitude – (or refrigerator door).  Get some colorful paper or have your kids color and cut out leafs.  On each leaf, write down something that you are particularly grateful for.  Then put them on display!

Day 3 – Verbal Expression of Gratitude –Ask your child if their is someone who has recently done something kind to them or given them something (maybe a gift) that they would like to call to thank.  Help your child call the person up and let them express in their own words how they appreciate that person and what they did.

Day 4 – Thank Someone in a Thankless Job –Write a note – to a teacher, the mailman, a clerk, anyone who could use some gratitude.  You can make the note generic and ask your child to hand it to someone you come into contact with that day who does something to help you.

Day 5 – Make/Buy a Special Treat – Who doesn’t love treats!  You and your child can pick up some muffins and take them to the administration office at their school, or maybe take some down to the local police or fire station.  There are LOTS of people who do work that most of the time goes unnoticed.

Day 6 – Show a Family Member How Grateful You are For Them –  Do you have a family member who goes above and beyond for you and the rest of the family?  I sure do!  Take them out to lunch or invite them to join you for dinner and have the kids help!  Tell them how much they mean to you and why you are so thankful for them.  Even though you may thank them often verbally, show them they are really special!

Day 7 –Reflection and Thanksgiving.  The day that all of this has been leading up to!  Before you begin your family festivities and meal preparations, stand with your children in front of your Wall of Gratitude and take some time to soak it in and pray – thank God for all the blessings he has given to you and your kids!

 

 

 

An Attitude of Gratitude

Give Thanks in all circumstances: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

1 Thessalonians 5:18

I have to admit, this is my favorite time of year.  Here in Montana the weather is much cooler and usually we see signs of snow and winter.  I love to dress in warm clothing (hello – cute hats, sweaters, and flannel), I love to drink hot tea and make homemade soup (who wants hot drinks or soup when it’s 90 degrees out) and I love the Holidays.  It begins with Halloween, then all of a sudden we have a season filled with food, family, and celebration.

With Thanksgiving just a week away, I have been thinking about gratitude and the reason WHY we celebrate a day set aside for “thanksgiving”.

We all think of Thanksgiving as the holiday that began in 1621 where the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians shared a meal – to celebrate their bountiful harvest and to give thanks to God for all that they had endured.  However, this is just a VERY small part to Thanksgiving (which actually has quite the history).  I tend to look at the first proclamation of Thanksgiving which was given by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.  The United States was in the midst of civil war, the country was torn and brother was fighting brother.  It was during this that President Lincoln found it appropriate to set aside a day devoted to  giving thanks to God.  In his proclamation, he say’s:

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.    

For me, it is a reminder that even when I am faced with troubles, worries, and the hard things in life – there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for.  We are told to give thanks in ALL circumstances, not just when life is good and easy.

Today, I have a lot to be thankful for –

  • Healthy, happy kids
  • A roof over my head
  • A soft bed to sleep in
  • Food on the table
  • Loving Parents
  • Siblings who make life interesting
  • A car that gets me to work and back
  • A job that pays the bills

To name just a few, but best of all – a Savior who loves me and who has given me the gift of Eternal Life, even though I don’t deserve it.

Will you join me this week on focusing on the blessings in our lives and not the troubles?  I have a feeling when we get to Thursday, November 24th we will have an attitude of gratitude!