Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

It's amazing the difference gratitude makes.

Yesterday in my Timehop there were links from two of my blog posts 4 years ago. It was obvious from reading them that I was really struggling with depression which is pretty common this time of the year for me. Between Thanksgiving and the end of February I often live under a cloud of depression that makes it hard for me to come out from under the covers for days at a time.

I was really struggling with depression earlier in this month as well. Glenn is gone this month and add that to my normal propensity toward depression, things were not going well for me emotionally or in any other way.

But God (don't you love those words?) had a plan.

When we got home from Christmas with Glenn's family there was an envelop in the mail with a Gratitude Bracelet on a card like this one.

It was my first clue: I WAS IN!! I had requested to be on the launch team for Kristen's new book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, because I have loved so many of the posts that Kristen has written on her blog. Her kids are close in age to my kids and they live counter culturally, help refugees and women overseas and I have learned a lot from her. I also really do want to raise grateful kids in this entitled world and could use any help I can get in doing so. I really didn't expect to make the cut because I don't have a huge following and somehow I had missed the email telling me that I was on the launch team so when I saw the bracelet I was so excited!
 This book is a great read. Kristen doesn't sugar coat how hard it is to be a mom.  It's not written from an "I have arrived do what I did" standpoint. She is still in the trenches of this parenting thing. She shares some successes and some failures. Some things she shared made me think, "I'm glad we don't struggle with that" but so many other things she shared about made me think, "I'm right there with you" or "Oh, we need to get there." In many areas her family has had to back track and make changes in their family which has not been easy but gives me hope because my children are no longer babies either and there are some changes we need to make around here.

In the book she navigates some tough waters: child-centered home problems, selfishness, delayed gratification, comparison, complaining, technology choices, relationships, responsibility, obedience, gratitude.

There are so many great quotes in the book but one quote that stuck out to me was: "Here's the simple truth that isn't so simple: Raising kids to be different from the world really does make them different from the world." We have this discussion around our house often, about how weird we are. We're weird on purpose and they like being weird most of the time (I think). We're trying to raise our kids to think differently about the world, to see the needs of others and to help, and to think of others more than they think of themselves. We are not always successful but occasionally my kids are praised by people who are amazed at them when my kids just feel like they are doing something normal, something that everyone should be doing. This is often hard for my kids because they have seen the blessings of serving, of giving, and of reaching out to others and looking for the good in every situation and they can't understand why everyone wouldn't want to do those things.

Here are a few more quotes that stuck out to me:
* "When we have everything, we are thankful for nothing. When we have nothing, we are thankful for everything."
* "All that time I thought she wanted to be rescued, and instead she just wanted to know that I would rescue her if she needed me to. Part of our job is to reassure kids that we will be there for them, and we are, but the rest of the job requires that we walk away. Kids will continue to let us rescue them if we continue to rest in their side."
* "most kids will let us continue to solve their problems if we play along. I'm obviously not against helping my kids out. Mistakes happen and we all get busy and forgetful, but when it becomes a habit and we consistently bail our kids out, we are entitling them to continue the pattern. And this mentality has produced a society of adultolescents."
* As a parent, more than anything else, I want my kids to follow Christ. It’s higher on my list than success, happiness, financial stability, and education. I don’t want them to attend church out of habit or duty. I want them to have a deep, abiding relationship with Him because I’m convinced this is the only road to contentment, true success, and happiness in life. I don’t know what the future holds for Madison, Jon-Avery, and Emerson. I can’t foresee the joy and pain they will find on life’s path. I can’t predict the victories and the earth-shattering defeats. I can’t always protect them, but Jesus can. He can be with them in life when I can’t be. And He will walk with them in every season. At the end of my life, I want Psalm 127:1 to be my legacy: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain”
*  "The humble person says that life is a gift to be grateful for, not a right to be claimed."
* "If we are going to compare ourselves to those who have more, we must also compare ourselves to those who have less."
* "But I learned it's never too late to apologize. And that's what I did. I confessed my wrongdoing to my child and asked for forgiveness. I would give anything to go back and change what transpired if I could. But I learned something valuable from it: "Winning" a fight with our kids only makes two losers. We have the opportunity patiently walk with them through their pain and try to understand the root of their attitude or negative behavior. But we have to take it."
* "When hands are busy serving others, we aren't thinking about what we don't have. Instead, we are thankful for what we do have."

There is so much more good stuff in Raising Grateful Kids but one thing I love about the book is that at the end of each chapter Kristen gives 2-3 quick, practical, age appropriate suggestions to try to apply what she talked about in your life as parents, with your toddlers/preschoolers, with your elementary kids, and with your tweens/teens that you can try right now.

I really feel like reading this book and being on the launch team has helped me get through this month. It helped me to think of others and not to wallow and get lost in my cloud. One of the biggest blessings was the Instagram challenge that we were given to post about people we appreciate, things that made us smile and how God has been good. As a family we have always done "thank Yous" at night before we go to bed but having that challenge helped me to focus specifically on being thankful more and encouraged me to really look for and think about and truly be grateful for things and people in my life more than just the for the few minutes when I'm desperately trying to get my kids to go to bed at the end of a long day. I've always known gratitude was important but this month I was able to see it actually break through the fog of my depression and for that I am very grateful.

There are so many things I need to grow in as a mom and in this book Kristen has given me many ideas, challenges and so much encouragement. I highly recommend it.

One final quote:

"Our kids are watching us. And when we feel like we are failing or we don't know what to do next, the answer is always to get closer to Jesus because when we do, those around us just might inch closer too."

Monday, January 04, 2016

Grateful for the Scenic Route

This morning I was given a glad reminder about our good Father. We were reading about the Israelites leaving Egypt and we were handed a map (pictured below) and we read:
"When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, "Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt." But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea..." Exodus 13:17-18
Looking at the map it would make the most sense to take the route from Goshen to Canaan that I traced in pink. It's short, easy, a couple of weeks max. That, obviously to me, is the best route but it isn't the route He led them on. He led them on the long circuitous route traced in blue through the wilderness because He knew them and He knew what was best and that they would learn so much along that route that they would never learn if they took the short cut.

This map is a great picture to me of the path we have been on. Back when we were first married at the all knowing ages of 19 and 21 we thought we knew the path we were going to take and just how long it was going to take and what it would look like and that we would arrive at our planned destination quickly and easily.

That is not how it has ended up. He knows us and He knows what would have waylaid us had we taken the quick, easy route so He, in His wisdom and grace, has granted to us the scenic route. It has not been easy. It has not always been beautiful. There have been many painful experiences along the way but He has proven His goodness and His faithfulness to us time and time again through it all and I love Him all the more because of what He has taught me about Himself (and about my own sinful self) on the scenic route He has led us on. I am thankful for the wilderness because I know that I have learned so much in it that I would never have learned had He granted to us the easy way.

Related side note/ example: Time and time again I have thanked God that I didn't have my babies during med school and residency. He knew that I wouldn't have been able to handle that well and sometimes I feel bad that med school entrance may have been delayed as a blessing to me as but it has been so nice to be able to sleep through the night and have "big people" to talk to during the countless hours Glenn is away. He knew best.

One more kind of silly example from today: Tonight I was able to Facetime and text through Whatsapp with Glenn though he is on a rotation on the other side of the world. It made me think: had we been on our plan and our timing he would have been at this point in his training seven-ish years ago and I don't think such opportunities for easy communication existed back then. I'm thankful for the technological advances that allow us to keep in touch.

I give Him all the glory. He is faithful. You can trust Him. Even when the way is long and hard and doesn't make sense.