Loving Our Men Well

If you ask my husband how things started between the two of us, he will be quick to tell you that it all started with a pity date. Yep, you read that right. A pity date. And . . . if I’m being honest, it’s true.

It was the fall of my freshman year at college. Just a few weeks into the semester, I found myself running late to a study skills course I was taking. I rushed into the classroom and stopped short when I saw the room was full. Every seat was taken except for those  . . . in the front row. In desperation, I scanned the room once again and found a solo chair available smack dab in the middle. As the professor prepared to begin, I climbed over backpacks and people to secure that seat, stepping on many toes in the process. Feeling flustered, I sat down, quickly pulled out my notebook, and focused my attention on the lesson at hand. It wasn’t until our break that evening that I took notice as to who I sat beside and whose toes I’m sure I squashed. I turned to my left and found myself locking eyes with a young man. Little did I know that my entire life was about to change.

It was a couple of weeks after this, that I found myself walking back to my dorm with this man at my side. As we walked, he gathered the courage to ask me if I’d like to go out some time. My response came quickly. No. My answer was no because I was in a relationship with someone else. I will never forget the look that crossed his face. He looked completely . . . crushed. Later that evening, I was unable to get his face from my mind. I looked his number up, called him, and asked him to join me for dinner one evening in the cafeteria. He accepted my date, asked out of pity, and the rest, as they would say, has been history.

This summer will be 18 years of marriage. 18 years of tackling life together and dealing with the chaos that comes with raising three kids. 18 years. It sounds like such a long time, but it has gone by so quickly. And, these past 18 years have taught me a lot about my husband and the role he plays in our family. These past 18 years, God has been teaching me how to love him better, how to support him, and how to help him move toward those Best Yes assignments that God has for him. And that’s what I want to share with you. I want to share what God has been teaching me about what the men in our lives truly need. And . . . it might be different from what you expect.  

If I were to ask you what is the one thing that husbands need most from their wives, what would you say? I think most of us would agree that sex has to be number one on his list, right? Guess what? It isn’t. 

A number of years ago, a dear friend recommended that I read a book called, “For Women Only” by Shaunti Feldhahn. Shaunti, is a social researcher and author who, along with her husband, has interviewed thousands of people and written several books about the differences in how men and women think. Her goal in writing this particular book was to share the very foundations that our men’s thinking is based upon so that we are better able to understand and support them. In her research, she found that it isn’t sex that our husbands need most from us. It’s our respect and affirmation.

Respect and affirmation. What is meant by those words?  To show respect is to consider someone with high regard. It’s to have a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important and should be treated in a dignified manner. To affirm is to declare support for, defend, or to encourage someone.  Both respect and affirmation go hand and hand and are foundational for the well being of the men in our lives. Both are needed as our men walk the paths God has for them. But, how important are they really? How important is it that our men feel respected and affirmed? 

Through her research, Shanti discovered that three out of four men said that they would rather feel unloved than disrespected. Three out of four. I find that statistic astonishing. Astonishing because as a woman, I have a hard time wrapping my brain around it. For me personally, I would rather feel loved than respected. Every . . . single . . . time. But, our men, they are different. They thrive under the respect and affirmation we give them. And, it is God’s desire that we do this for our men. In Ephesians, we find these words,

“Nevertheless, each husband is to love and protect his own wife as if she were his very heart, and each wife is to respect her own husband.”

Ephesians 5:33 (VOICE)

What does God say that wives are to do? Respect their husbands. The Greek word for “respect” in this verse is “phobeo” which means to be in awe of or revere, and it’s used in the present subjunctive mood in the context of this verse. What does that mean? It means that this word “respect” is to be done now, in the present, and continuously. It’s not to be done only once or twice. It’s not to be considered done if you did it last week or last month.  God asks us to do it now and to continue to do it.

How do we do this? How do we show our men respect and affirm them? It starts by making the choice. It starts by making the choice to respect them even when it is hard to do. And sometimes . . .  it’s hard to do. 

I recently read a blog about a woman who has a hard time respecting her husband. She says, “Maybe you are married to a man who talks down to you, criticizes you or makes you feel inferior. Maybe he gets angry more often than he should, goes out with his friends more often than you’d like or simply doesn’t pay attention to you like he should. Maybe he checked out emotionally years ago. Maybe he’s rude, forgetful, or you don’t feel like you can trust him with even the simplest of tasks, much less your heart. Maybe you’re in an unequally yoked marriage where he isn’t a believer, and he’s making it very difficult for you to grow in faith with the rude things he says about Christianity and about you for believing in it.” How can we make the choice to do as God instructs and respect a man like this? 

First, reread the definition of “respect”. To respect your husband is to consider him with high regard. But, it also means that you understand that your husband has worth for one simple reason and one simple reason only. God loves him. God loves him. God created him and in His eyes, your husband is worthy. He is worthy of your respect.  

Now, this does not mean that you falsely praise your husband, that you let him treat you like a door mat, or that you can never express your opinion on any given matter. It doesn’t mean that you are insignificant, unimportant, or that you should completely dismiss his behavior when he wrongs you. It also doesn’t mean that you have the right to treat him like a child or act as though his opinions don’t matter. It means that you recognize that God is after his heart as much as He is after yours. Respect your husband for the simple reason that by doing so brings honor to God. 

Secondly, when God asks us to respect our husbands in Ephesians, it is a command. It is not a suggestion or something you just need to think about. It is something God instructs us to do. It doesn’t come with clarifiers such as: respect your husband only if he deserves it, respect your husband only if he earns it, respect your husband when you feel like it, respect your husband if he treats you well. It says to do it. It says that as a wife, I am to respect my husband. That is my responsibility. 

Now, you might be thinking, “Wait a minute. There is more to that verse than wives respecting their husbands. It also says that husbands are to love their wives and love them well. Mine doesn’t do that!” You are right; it does say that.  But, let me remind you of something. You can’t fix him. You cannot fix your husband. You cannot change him into the picture of what you expect a perfect husband to look like. Only God can change hearts, sweet friend. Only God can do the fixing. Scripture reminds us that,

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

The Street Bible says it this way,

“In their hearts, they’ve got it all mapped out, but it’s God who’s in the driving seat.” God is the one in control. He is the only one that can bring about change in your husband’s heart.”

 Proverbs 16:9 (STREET)

How does He do this? In Ezekiel, God shares how He plans to restore the hearts of the Israelites, His people whom He loves. The Street Bible puts it this way, 

“God outlines how he’s going to bring them (the Israelites) back, clean them up and give them a heart transplant. ‘I’m going to operate on you; bin (literally put in a bin) your stone heart and replace it with one with feeling, one with a new attitude. I’ll infuse you with my Holy Spirit and motivate you to want to choose life by keeping the Contract. You’ll live in the land I handed to your ancestors. You’ll be my people. I’ll be your God.’”

Ezekiel 36:26 (STREET)

He gives them a “heart transplant”. I think He has the same plans for His people today. He desires to bring us back to Him and give us a heart transplant. He desires it for us, and He desires it for your husband. Friend, we cannot change human hearts. That’s God’s job. What’s our job? Our job is to invite God into our hearts and let Him transplant away within us. Let Him work on your heart.

As you step back and allow God to do the heart changing work only He can do, it’s important to begin taking action. Make the choice to follow what God has commanded and show your husband respect. How do we do this?

To begin, it’s important to understand the areas where our husbands need our respect and affirmation. The first is in his judgement. His judgement is his ability to make wise and sensible decisions.  To respect his judgement is to respect his knowledge, his opinions, and his decisions. Now, you may not always agree with him. I don’t also agree with my husband.  But, you can still respect his judgement. 

How do we do this? Ask for his knowledge on a given subject or affirm for him that you trust his decision-making abilities. I struggle with this sometimes. The perfect example of this happened last year. We were planning a family vacation and looking at two different cabins to rent. Both were within our price range and both would meets our family’s needs on our trip. I just couldn’t decide which one was the best option. I asked my husband to make the decision which he did. But, after the decision was made, I still struggled. I was unsure if the cabin he chose was the one that I really wanted. I wasn’t sure if his choice was the best for our family. So . . . what do you think I did? Did I sit back and respect his judgment? No, I didn’t! I began to verbally question his decision. Besides driving him absolutely crazy, I think he was hurt that I didn’t trust the decision he made. I encourage you that if you know that your husband has your family’s best interest at heart, trust his decision making ability. Trust the decisions he makes and respect his judgment. 

Next, our men need to feel respected for and affirmed in their abilities. Men have this deep need within them to figure things out for themselves. They find immense joy in using their skills and solving a problem on their own. Doing so gives them a sense of accomplishment and a sense that they conquered something. I can think of two examples that illustrate this. First, how many of you know a man who prefers not to use the instructions provided when assembling something? Why might he not want to use the instructions provided? He enjoys the challenge of figuring the assembly out on his own. Or, you may know a man who prefers not to use the GPS when traveling. Why? He enjoys the challenge of figuring out how to get from point A to point B on his own. 

Now, let me ask you something. What do we, as women, do, if our men are struggling to find a solution to a problem? We want to help right? We offer to take a look at the instructions or we offer to plug the address we are heading to into our maps app. In our minds, we are offering our help. But, in his mind, what are we suggesting? We are suggesting that we don’t believe he is capable or that we don’t trust him. And, if he feels we don’t trust his capabilities in the small things, how can he feel that we trust his capabilities with the big things? Unless your life is in danger, give your man the time and space to solve a problem on his own. By doing so, it shows that your trust him and believe that he is capable.

Another area where men need our respect and affirmation is in their accomplishments. In her book, Shaunti Feldhann shares that even though men may appear extremely confident on the outside, many of them feel that they don’t quite measure up. It is powerful for a man to feel that he has tried something, accomplished it, accomplished it well, and that someone noticed. Pay attention to what your husband is doing. Take note of those times he tries. Take note of those things he accomplishes. Then, make sure he knows that you noticed. Make sure he knows that you appreciate his efforts. Make sure he knows that you think he’s done something well. Respecting and affirming our men’s accomplishments helps them feel worthy. 

Now, let me caution you with one other point about our men and their accomplishments.  Just as your words of affirmation concerning his accomplishments can build him up immensely, your words criticizing his accomplishments or lack thereof can completely tear him down. Several years ago, we were selling our home and doing some cleaning prior to a showing. My husband folded our bathroom towels and put them away for me. When I walked into the closet, not all of the towels were pointed the same way. It sounds crazy, but in that moment, it really bothered me. So . . . I proceeded to refold all of the towels. To say that he was hurt was an understatement. He had tried to be helpful. But as I refolded those towels, my actions told him that what he had accomplished (folding those towels) wasn’t good enough. It was a long time before he would fold towels for me again. Friend, sometimes God prompts us to talk with the men we love about areas they can improve on. But, folding towels, is not one of them. Carefully choose your battles and remember that your words and actions can build him up or they can tear him down.

And that ties into the next area where we need to respect and affirm our men: in our communication. As I said before, we have the incredible power to build up our men or tear them down. With just our words, we have the power to encourage or discourage. With our words, we have the power to help or wound. Proverbs tells us,

“Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim.” 

Proverbs 15:4 (MSG)

Don’t underestimate the power of your words. They can affirm and build up our men, and let our men know that we believe in them. Our words however, when used to criticize or nag, tell our men that we don’t respect them or that they have disappointed us. When it comes to the words you use with your man, choose them carefully. Use your words wisely to respect and affirm him. Ephesians tells us,

 “Watch the way you talk . . . Say only what helps, each word a gift.”

Ephesians 4:29 (MSG)

Remember . . . each word is a gift.

This idea of choosing your words carefully applies to another area where men need our respect and affirmation. Our men need our respect and affirmation in the presence of others. Now, if you are like me, you love to tease your husband. Teasing is one of the ways that my husband and I show love for one another. But, what I’ve been learning is that it is important to not tease my husband in front of others. What I view as teasing, he may very well see as criticism. What I see as good-natured fun, he may see as a put down. What I see as a good way to get a laugh, he may see as though I am questioning his judgement. When Shaunti Feldhahn conducted her research in this area, one theme came up repeatedly. What women often saw as teasing in public, the men saw as . . .  torture.  It was painful for them when their wives criticize them, put them down, or even question their judgment in front of others. The public “teasing” caused men to very much doubt their adequacy as men. Use caution before you choose to tease your man in front of others.

Now, this applies to conversations held in the presence of your man, but it also applies to conversations you may have about him behind his back. I understand that sometimes as women we like to gather in our little circles with other women and vent our frustrations. And . . . sometimes those venting sessions turn towards the struggles within our marriages. I get it. I’ve been there. But, here’s the thing . . . there is real danger in venting our frustrations with our men behind their backs. Why? There is a verse in Matthew that says this,

“For the mouth simply shapes the heart’s impulses into words.”

Matthew 12:34 (VOICE)

From our mouths, comes the truth held in our hearts. If we make a habit of sharing our frustrations or dissatisfactions with other women, those frustrations and dissatisfactions we are feeling are going to lodge even more deeply within our hearts. If we’re not careful, what we see as harmless venting can begin to deeply root itself within us. I understand that sometimes you are frustrated with your husband. I understand that sometimes he makes you mad. I’ve been there. But, do not get in the habit of voicing  your frustration to others. Get in the habit of voicing it to God. Share with Him what you are struggling with, and ask Him to fill your heart truth. Ask Him to help you show your husband the respect he needs and deserves. Ask Him. The more we choose to show our men respect, the more our respect for them will grow. Be intentional about making the choice to respect him even when it is difficult. Make that choice. 

The last area our men need our respect in is in our assumptions. We make assumptions every day. If I find graham cracker crumbs on the floor, I assume one of my kids has been in the pantry. If someone is tailgating me, I assume that they are a jerk in all areas of life. We assume things. As wives, we do this with our husbands as well. If we ask our husband to complete a task and it is not completed in the timeframe we expected, we assume that he needs to be reminded to complete the task. Now, sometimes he honestly may need to be reminded. But, sometimes we ask our husbands to do things at a time when they are completely focused on another task. When this is the case, they honestly may not have heard us and need reminded. Often though, he does remember and intends to do it. It just may not be as close to the top of his priority list as it is yours. When we assume he needs reminded, it can sometimes be interpreted as he is incapable of remembering on his own, or we don’t trust that he will get the job done. Another area that we sometimes make poor assumptions is in the caring for our homes. We may assume that our men don’t help around the house because the don’t care about us and are choosing not to help. That is rarely the case. Often, if he doesn’t help with something we think he should, it’s simply because he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t always see the laundry that needs carried upstairs. When our kids were little, my husband honestly didn’t always hear them cry in the middle of the night. I’ve learned that rather than making poor assumptions, I need to assume the best of him and clearly communicate my needs. If I ask him to take the laundry upstairs, he almost always does it. If I need to wake him to take a turn with a fussy baby, he almost always would. Always assume the best when it comes to your husband.

One man is quoted in Shaunti’s book as saying,  “It is so true that behind every great man is a great woman. There are a lot of men out there who are mediocre simply because their wives will not support them and bring them to greatness. And there are a lot of mediocre men who are destined to become great men-who are becoming great men-because their wives love and support them. My wife expects great things from me, even though I’m a pretty ordinary guy, really. She looks at me like I’m a genius in my field. She respects me in public and affirms me in private. I love her. And like all men, I want to live up to her expectations.”  – Unknown. 

The greatest gift we can give the men in our lives is to show them respect and to affirm them. Your love and support, can help them move toward those Best Yes assignments that God has for them. Encourage them to be the men God has called them to be. 

 

www.biblegateway.com

https://equippinggodlywomen.com/marriage/how-do-i-respect-my-husband-when-hes-a-jerk/

Feldhahn, Shaunti. For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men. Colorado Springs, Multnomah, 2013.

 

 

 

Helping Our Kids Discover Their Best Yes

I’ll be honest with you . . .

This post is one that you want to read as you snuggle into your couch with a hot cup of coffee and a few moments to yourself. It’s long, but, it needed to be. Of everything I have shared with you thus far, this is the one topic that I am most passionate about. This is the one topic that is so dear to my heart and that I wish every mama could hear. This post is about our kids. It is about those precious little people that God has called us to raise. It’s about what we need to be doing as a mama to help our kids discover the purposes God has for them. It’s about helping our kids discover their Best Yes assignments.

I believe that God has specific purposes for our kids. I believe that He has plans for how He wants to use them. But, I think, often as moms, we tend to focus on what we see as the end goal. We think about who our kids will be once they are all grown up, and we spend 18 years guiding and preparing them for that. God does have a plan for their lives once they go out on their own, but what He’s been challenging me to see, is that He also has a plan for them now. He has a purpose for them today. So, the questions I’ve been asking myself are:

Am I teaching my kids this?

Am I teaching my kids who God is, and how He desires for them to be living?

Am I teaching my kids how to make wise choices that will lead them down the path God has for them?

God has a purpose for each of my kids. How do I guide them in making wise decisions that will move them towards those assignments God has for them? Those assignments for their future . . . but also for today.

I think that we have to start at the beginning. For our kids to be able to fulfill the purposes that God has for them today, they need to know who He is. I reminded you last time that the responsibility of teaching our children about God and how He wants us to live cannot be placed solely on our churches or our schools. They can be a wonderful support, but this responsibility is ours as a parent. In Deuteronomy, we are instructed to:

“Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.” Deuteronomy 6:5-8 (MSG) 

God asks us to do several things in these verses. First, He wants us to love Him, and desires for us to have a close relationship with Him.

We cannot teach our children to love and follow someone                                                that we don’t know ourselves. 

Can I ask you something? Do you know Him? Do you really know Him? Do you understand that when Jesus died on that cross over 2000 years ago, it was for you? When He took His final breath . . . it was for you. When He rose from the grave . . . it was for you. God’s greatest desire is for us to know Him and follow Him. All we have to do, is accept the gift Jesus gave us through His death and resurrection. Through Jesus, our sins are wiped clean. Through Jesus, we are promised that we will one day be with Him in heaven. But, we have to accept the gift. It’s the only way. Accept the gift, invite Jesus into your life, and then spend the remainder of your days living your life in a way that honors Him.

Secondly, Deuteronomy tells us to write the commandments He has given us on our hearts. How do we do that? We get into His Word. We get into the Scriptures. We read about how He wants us to live, we sing about how He wants us to live, we listen as others teach us how He wants to live, and then . . . we do it. We make the choice to live our lives as He has called us to do.

And as we are doing that, we share with our kids what we are learning.

Mamas, we need to be having conversations with our kids, even when they are very small, about who God is and how He has called us to live.

We need to be having conversations with our kids about those things we believe in and those things we value as a family. I can promise you that if we don’t talk to our kids about this, the world and Satan will. The world is going to try to dictate:

What they wear

What they eat and drink

What tv and movies they watch

What video games they play

What music they listen to

We have to intentionally be having conversations with our kids where we share our beliefs and our values. We have to teach them about who God is and how He wants us to be living our lives. If we don’t, the world will. Now, how do we do this?

First, we lead by example. Let your kids see your reading your bible.  Let your kids hear you praying and singing His praises. Children learn by example, and your actions will speak louder than your words. Show them what a life following Jesus looks like.

Secondly, read and talk about God’s Word together as a family. You can do this in several different ways.

One easy way is through music. When my kids were young, we always had Veggie Tales, Go Fish, or Yancy playing in the car. Now that they are older it’s Hollyn, Toby Mac, or we tune into a local Christian radio station. As my kids listen and sing along, they are learning more about God and how He wants us to live.

Another way your family can get into God’s Word together is by taking time out of your day to read Scripture and talk about how it applies to your life. For our family, we read a brief devotional each morning during breakfast. Sometimes we read articles out of a Christian Kids magazine that we have a subscription to or watch a video through the RightNow Media app. Other times, we read from a family devotional or talk through a situation my kids have encountered at school. Regardless of what I choose to do with my kids in the morning, I am intentionally giving them an opportunity to hear God’s Word before they head out the door. I am reminding them of what we know to be true before they go out into a world that is  determined to pull them the opposite way.  It is so important that we do this, friend. It is so important that we are taking time out of our days to talk about God’s Word. Now, you might find that first thing in the morning doesn’t work for your family. Maybe for you, it would work better to do this during lunch or during dinner each night. Regardless of the time, be intentional about taking the time to read God’s Word together as a family and talk about how it applies to your lives. 

In addition to our morning routine, our family also takes time to get into God’s Word as part of our bedtime routine. When our kids were small, we read to them from a children’s bible each evening. Due to their short attention spans at those ages, we kept these stories short and always ended them with a quick prayer. As they got older, we transitioned into devotionals. Typically, there is a reading for each day of the year that has a portion of Scripture to focus on followed by a short story that ties into that Scripture. They often close with a few questions to reflect on and then a prayer that can be said together. Each of my kids have their own devotional book that we are working through right now, and we read with each child individually most nights. We do this because my kids are all transitioning into different seasons of life right now. My oldest is starting to move towards the teen years, and needs guidance on how to handle some of the peer pressure he’s been facing. My daughter is a preteen and needed a devotional specifically for girls that focuses on relationships with other girls and peer pressure. My youngest, now that he is reading better, is currently learning how to look up Scripture in his Bible. His devotional is more general for elementary aged kids. Taking time to get into God’s Word with our kids is important. I encourage you to find the time to start doing this within your own families.

Another way that we can teach our kids about God and how He wants us to be living our lives is to look for teachable moments in each day. Remember, teachable moments are those times throughout the day when God gives you an opportunity to teach your child something about Him. These moments can be found as you take a walk outside and remind your child that God created everything you see. These moments can be found in the midst of your child’s temper tantrum as you remind him that God gave him to you to raise and that he is to be obedient.  These moments can be found in the quiet of your car after your daughter tearfully shares how she was picked on once again that day. God gives us so many opportunities throughout our days to teach our kids more about Him. Look for those moments, and when one is found, take the time and effort to share with your child what we can learn from it. For our kids to make good decisions that lead them towards those assignments God has for them today, they need to understand who He is and how He wants them to be living their lives. Mamas, this is where we start. 

What else do we need to do to help our kids make wise decisions? We need to know our kids well. To be able to guide our kids well, we have to know our kids well. A great way to do this is by scheduling one-on-one time with your child. This can help you gain a better understanding of your child, his gifts, his interests, and his abilities and gives you the opportunity to focus solely on that child without distraction. One-on-one time also encourages communication between the two of you. What is one way we can get some one-on-one time with our kids? Schedule a date night! Let him pick what you will do on that date (within reason) and enjoy spending time together. Your child will love the individual attention, and you will love the time getting to know your child better. Dates do not have to cost a lot of money. For many kids, just going to the park to swing alone with mommy is a thrill.

My daughter and I just had one of these on Sunday evening. My husband took our boys to a hockey game, and she and I spent time at home doing girly things. We painted our nails, did facials, and soaked our feet in a bubble bath. We talked about some of the questions she has about growing up and ended the night with milkshakes. It was a lot of fun, and as I tucked her into bed that night, she told me it was one of the best nights of her life.

Schedule some time with each of your kids. If you take the time to get to know your child well, when a tough decision comes along, you will be better equipped to guide him in making that decision.

After we lay the foundation, it’s important to actually teach our children how to make wise decisions. If you remember from last time, I shared that our child’s prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until they are 25. Until that age, they need our guidance and support when it comes to making decisions. They also need the opportunity to practice. 

Begin by modeling for your kids how to make a wise decision. Use the everyday decisions you make for your family as your examples, and involve your kids in the process. For example, you might ask your child, “Should we go get groceries today or tomorrow? If we go today, we won’t have an opportunity to go to the playground. But, if we wait and go tomorrow, we won’t have milk for breakfast.” After you present the decision to be made, walk your child through the steps you take to make that decision. Identify the resources needed to say yes to that decision, think about potential consequences, good and bad, that may come with that decision, and think about how the decision will affect others. After you have considered all of this, then confidently make the decision. 

Once a decision is made, we then teach our kids two things. First, we teach our kids that once we make a decision, we choose to trust God with the results.  Secondly, we teach our kids that once a decision has been made, it’s important to take time to reflect on the decision and ask ourselves if anything can be learned from it. By modeling decision making for your child and involving him in the process, your child will not only gain a better understanding of the steps needed to make a wise decision, but will also feel as though he is a valued, contributing member of your family. 

It’s also important to give your child practice at making his own decisions. This builds a child’s sense of independence and responsibility and gives him more confidence in his decision making skills. As you give your child practice, it is important to remember a few things. 

First, make sure the choices you are giving your child are age appropriate. Just as children grow and develop physically, children also grow and develop in their abilities to make good choices. It’s important that the choices you offer them are appropriate for their stage of development. 

Young children, ages 0-2, are very me-centered and make their decisions based upon their limited point of view. Because of this, you as the parent need to make most of the decisions for your child. However, you can give young children a choice when it comes to which snack they would prefer, which book they would like read to them, or which toy they want to take to the park. 

By the time a child reaches preschool age, ages 3-4, his personality is firmly taking shape and having the opportunity to make simple choices is important to him. Children at this age make most of their decisions based on their strong preferences for one thing over another. But, even though they have strong preferences, you will still see some children at this age that are hesitant to make a decision on their own. They will observe their environment and often make choices based on what their peers choose to do. All three of my kids were observers out in public. At home however, it was a different story! For children in this age range, you may offer them a choice of which drink they’d like with their snack or which clothes they would like to wear. Do set boundaries when you offer these choices, however. Even though your child may strongly prefer to wear shorts and flip flops to the grocery store, doing so during the winter would not be wise.

For children between the ages of five and six, providing them with the opportunity to make even the smallest decisions builds a tremendous amount of confidence and self-esteem. Children at this age are more aware of how their choices can affect others and like the idea of being able to decide for themselves. But, with this ability to decide for themselves also comes uncertainty. Children at this age will ponder for a great amount of time over the smallest decision. It is important to provide children at this age plenty of time and support as they work through a decision. (Even if it’s a decision between wearing a yellow shirt or a green shirt.) Examples of choices to offer are smilier to those for three to four year olds. Five and six year olds can choose which snack they’d like to eat, which fruit they would like bought at the grocery store, or which clothes they would like to wear. Once again, it is important to set very clear parameters when you offer them a choice as they are still learning how to make decisions that are in their best interest. 

As children grow older and improve in their decision making, it’s important to gradually expand the number of choices offered and also provide them with choices that are of increasing importance. For example, by the time a child is 12 years old, he can choose his own bedtime, which after school activities he’d like to participate in, or decide if he wants to accompany the family as they run errands. Children at this age are much more independent, but it is still important to set boundaries as needed. Always consider the maturity level of you child and their level of responsibility when offering decisions.

Secondly, as your children begin to practice making decisions, it’s important to limit the options you give them. Research has shown that if we are given too many choices, we can quickly get overwhelmed. This is why I love shopping at Costco. At Costco, if I want to buy toothpaste, I have one option and one option only. However if I go to Walmart, I have an abundance of choices. There’s Crest or Colgate. Aqua-fresh or Tom’s. There’s mint, cool mint, bubble gum, or strawberry. There is toothpaste with mouthwash in it, or toothpaste that is supposed to protect your teeth better against cavities. I have so many choices, and those choices can sometimes become overwhelming. The same thing can happen to our kids. Our kids can quickly get overwhelmed if they are given too many choices. Give your child limited options as they practice their decision making. Give them a choice between goldfish or pretzels. Give them a choice between wearing the blue shirt or the green shirt. Give them options, but keep them limited.

It is also important to note that we must be careful not offer our child an option when in fact there isn’t one. For example, if your child has been playing outside in the mud, it is important that they wash their hands before eating their snack. They do not have an option. But how many times do we say, “Can you wash your hands before eating your snack” instead of simply saying, “Wash your hands before you eat your snack”? I’ve done this a million times. In my mind, my child does not have an option. Yet, when I place it in the form of a question, my child sees that as me providing him with a choice. Be careful not to offer your child a choice when in reality there isn’t one. 

Another area to consider when it comes to teaching your child how to make decisions is what we will call “sizing it up”. As children are learning how to make decisions, they often are unable to discern the difference between small and big decisions. They will become stuck when it comes to making simple decisions because to them, every decision is a big deal. It is important to model and give your children opportunities to make small decisions. These decisions are made quickly and have little to no significant negative consequence. For example, give your child the choice of eating grapes or eating strawberries with their lunch. This is a small decision that can be made quickly and with both options being healthy, there are no negative consequences. For decisions that are bigger and that have potential negative consequences that accompany them, it is important to guide your child through these carefully. These types of decisions require that more time and consideration be given to them. Choosing a musical instrument or a sport to pursue would be examples of a bigger decision. Give your child practice discerning the difference between small and big decisions.

Lastly, allow your child to make poor decisions. Unless your child’s health or safety is at risk, it is important that they be allowed to make some poor decisions and to make mistakes. Why is this important? Think about what happens when you make a mistake or what happens when you make a poor decision. Often, mistakes and poor decisions lead to negative consequences. And, those negative consequences give us an opportunity to learn what a better choice might have been. We can learn from our mistakes. We can learn from the poor decisions we make. Our kids need the same opportunities. When our kids make a mistake, it gives us an opportunity to teach them how to reflect on the poor decision made and the consequences that came from it. It gives us an opportunity to teach them how to make better choices in the future. Now, I know that it’s hard as a mama to let your kids fail. I get it. It breaks my heart to see my kids hurting. But, I’d rather my kids make their worst mistakes now while I am here to help support and guide them. I’d rather they mess up now so that I can teach them how to make better decisions. Now, it’s important to note one thing here. When your child makes a poor decision, they need to experience the negative consequences that come from that decision. Sometimes, I feel that we try to shelter our kids from the negative consequences that come with poor decisions. But let me ask you this. What is that teaching them? It teaches them that they can make poor decisions repeatedly. It teaches them that they will never have to suffer negative consequences despite how poor a decision is. It teaches them that they are not responsible for their actions even if their actions hurt someone else. Our children need to learn that negative consequences come when we make poor decisions and that we are responsible for our actions. Our children need to experience this reality.

As parents, we need to teach our children how to make decisions. We need to teach our children how to make decisions that are wise and lead them towards those assignments that God has for them. Lay the foundation now. Show them what a life following Jesus looks like. I read a quote from a blogger that I’d like to close with. She said, 

“It is more important than ever to teach our kids to be Jesus-followers, not just in name, but in everything we do.” 

 “Not just in name, but in everything we do.” What kind of example are you setting for your kids? Do they see a Jesus-follower? Do they see a woman who makes wise decisions? Do they see a woman who is open to the Best Yes assignments God has for her? I encourage you to be that woman. Be that woman whose heart is undeniably after His.

 

 

https://www.allprodad.com/10-ways-to-teach-your-children-to-make-wise-decisions/

www.biblegateway.com

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/prefrontal-cortex

http://homewiththeboys.net/teaching-kids-character-jesus-follower/

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/teaching-decision-making_n_825414

https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/families/enewsletter/five-tips-help-children-develop-decision-making-skills 

https://www.parents.com/kids/responsibility/teaching/teaching-your-kid-to-make-good-decisions/

 http://www.thisnthatparenting.com/2018/04/26/7-facts-about-your-childs-prefrontal-cortex-that-are-game-changers/

 

 

See the Gift

I am usually one who like to keep a close eye on the weather. And, by close eye, I mean that I am one of those people who checks her weather app several times a day to monitor the temperature and potential for precipitation. I like to feel prepared. I like to have a general idea of what is coming. Yesterday, when I checked the app, it said that we might get an inch of snow overnight. Might. So you can imagine my surprise when I woke to see this.

IMG_6606 It was more than I expected. A lot more than I expected.  And, I’ll be honest with you . . . when I first looked out the window this morning, I started grumbling. It’s March. It’s March! Though, we usually do get some snow in March, it is also the month when hints of spring begin to arrive. My daffodils begin to peek their heads through the ground, birds begin to return after their winter down south, and the sun begins to slowly warm the soil in my garden boxes. This snow this morning? I’m over it. Completely over it. I’m longing for spring.

It was with these thoughts running through mind that I stepped out into the cold this morning. And that’s when I heard Him. I heard God say, “Child. See the gift. See the gift I’ve given you this morning.” I turned my gaze upwards and caught a glimpse of the early morning sun dancing through snow laden branches. I took in the stillness that comes only after a heavy snow. And . . . I saw. I saw Him. I saw His hand in everything before me.

Sometimes God places unexpected gifts before us. Gifts given so that we can be reminded of who He is. He is our Creator and the Giver of Life. He is our Defender and the Hope on which we stand. He is our Savior and our Healer. He is all things and is in all things. But . . . we have to choose to turn our gaze upwards. We have to choose to see Him.

Where are you at today? Are you feeling burdened by the “snows” life is bringing? If you are, I would encourage you to turn your gaze towards Him and look . . . look for Him. Look for the one who calls you Beloved, the one who loves you so deeply, the one your heart longs for. Choose to see the gift.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT)

 

Telling Our Kids “No”

“No.” A small word, but yet a powerful one. And . . . one I use often . . . with my kids. They need to hear it. Some days, it seems that they need to hear it more often than usual. It’s such a small word, but if used wisely, it can help us lead our kids towards the very path that God has for them.

That word  “no”. What emotions quickly come to mind when you hear it? For me, the word “no” often is followed by feelings of disappointment, frustration, anger, or sadness. For my kids, the word “no” is often followed by physical displays of their disappointment, frustration, anger, or sadness. These come in the forms of tantrums, screaming fits, hitting others, saying unkind words to others, slamming doors, or sobbing hysterically. Can you relate to that at all? The word “no” often brings a negative reaction when used, and I think that because it often brings a negative reaction, there are times as a mom, that I’d rather give in and say, “yes” when in reality, I should be saying, “no”. There are times that I fail to tell my kids “no” simply because I am too tired to deal with the consequences. Have you ever been there? 

There have also been times that I failed to tell my kids “no” because I was worried about being that mom. That mom who was too overprotective. That mom who was too strict. That mom who was no fun. Sometimes I said, “yes” to things that looking back on, I should have said, “no”. I only said, “yes” because I was afraid of what others would think of me. Can you relate to that? I think if we’re honest, many of us would agree that we can.

But even though, we may get a negative reaction from our kids, why is it important for us to sometimes tell them, “no”? First, kids need boundaries. They actually thrive when given boundaries. Boundaries are those limits we put in place that keep our kids safe physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I read some interesting information on brain development that shows why it is so important for us as parents to set boundaries for our kids. 

Our brains develop from back to front, and the prefrontal cortex is the last area of the brain to fully develop. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for the following: our ability to reason, think logically, problem solve, plan, focus, develop and carry out goals, and control our impulses. It also plays a key part in the development of our personality. In addition, and don’t miss this bit . . . it is not fully developed until we are 25. Age 25! Until our kids are at the age of 25, they are not developmentally ready to make the best decisions that will keep them safe. As parents, that is our job. As parents, we have to set and clearly explain boundaries that will keep our kids safe. 

Secondly, our kids need to learn how to deal with disappointment and frustration. As adults, they will not get everything they want when they want it and will face the disappointments and frustrations from being told “no”. Our job as a parent is to give them practice on how to handle these feelings appropriately. Teach them what you do when you feel disappointed or frustrated. Teach them the appropriate response when they don’t get what they want when they want it.  Kids who are given opportunities to work through disappointments and frustrations when they are young and learn how to cope with them develop into mature adults who have patience and empathy for others. 

I read an interview of Betsy Brown Braun who is a Child Development and Behavior Specialist. She explains what can happen if kids aren’t given clear boundaries or always get what they want.

“These are the kids who often have trouble playing nicely with others; they have a hard time socializing because they have never experienced being anything but king. They have a hard time keeping friends, a hard time interacting in groups, a hard time taking turns. They seldom know how to delay gratification; they want what they want when they want it, and they have a tough time in the world, interacting with others. Once children get beyond (preschool) and kindergarten, the real world is not going to give them just what they want all the time or even most of  the time. Their world is then full of disappointment, and they blame it on everyone else, not taking any responsibility themselves. These children aren’t able to look into themselves and say, ‘Gosh, this is happening because I wasn’t helpful or I didn’t give him a turn.’ They often see the world as being against them. A person’s ability to socialize, to interact with others cooperatively, to be part of a team, to be both leader and follower all grow out of his having learned to accept boundaries and to tolerate the frustrations that result from other’s needs and wants, in addition to his own, that he will no doubt encounter.”

We need to allow our kids to have times when they experience disappointment and frustration. We need to give them opportunities to experience delayed gratification. Kids who learn these skills at a young age will learn that they won’t always have the perfect tool for every job, and they will learn how to adapt and work through difficult situations. It is so important that our kids hear, “no” from us sometimes. 

Now, what are some situations our kids may face where we may need to say, “no”? First, it is appropriate to say, “no” when their actions might hurt someone or break something. Going back to how the brain develops, kids may have difficulty seeing how their actions may result in a bad outcome. They need our guidance in making safe choices. 

Secondly, we need to say, “no” to doing those things we do for our kids when the responsibility should be theirs. How many times have you been rushing to get out of the door on time in the morning and find it easier and faster for you to tie your kindergartener’s shoes rather than letting him do it himself? I’ve done it many times, even with my second grader. But, let me ask you this. What lesson is my child learning when I tie his shoes for him? He’s learning that even if he can do it, mom will usually step in and do it for him. And that attitude can follow him into the classroom. He may then believe that if mom will tie his shoes for him then surely his teacher will as well. From personal experience, I can tell you that your child’s teacher does not have time to tie everyone’s shoes! We need to be giving our kids age appropriate responsibilities and stepping back and letting them do them. A toddler can help clean up toys. A preschooler can learn how to put away laundry. An elementary school child can make his own lunch. Model for your child how to complete the task, offer support, and then let him do it. This teaches him responsibility. 

Thirdly, we need to say, “no” when it is a want, not a need. This ties into delayed gratification. Our kids need to learn that in life, you will not always get what you want. They need opportunities to experience the disappointment that comes from that. They need to learn that they can live without it that thing that they really wanted. 

My oldest had a birthday recently, and we got him a cell phone. He was beyond excited because he has been asking for a cell phone for the past two years. According to him, every student in the entire school has his own phone, and he was the only student in his grade that didn’t have one. While this very well might be true, when it came down to it, he didn’t actually need a phone. He simply wanted one. Sometimes our kids need to learn to live without those things they really want. 

Fourth, we need to learn to say, “no” when plans change. Life happens and sometimes we find ourselves in unexpected circumstances. Take those opportunities and teach your child the value of patience and flexibility. I think much of mothering takes patience and flexibility. Give your kids practice with both. 

Another situation that we may face when it is appropriate to say, “no” is when someone else’s needs (temporarily) matter more. Kids are naturally self-centered. It is important that you model and teach them how to care for others whose needs are greater than our own current needs. Through this, children learn to consider other’s feelings and learn how to be generous to those in need. For example, you might need to tell your child: “No, you cannot go to your friend’s house on Saturday. It sounds like fun, but we are helping your aunt move to her new house. She needs our help that day.” Sometimes, we must say, “no” when someone’s else’s needs matter more. 

It’s also appropriate to say, “no” to something you know you will regret. Our local college offers swim lessons twice a year. My younger two love going to these lessons, and I love them because they come away from those lessons having learned so much. They offer three, week-long sessions, and this is where I have had to exercise the power of “no” with my kids. If it was up to my younger two, we would attend all three sessions. That is three straight weeks of swimming lessons every night during the week. And I . . . just can’t go there. It’s too much in an already packed schedule. To sign my kids up for all three weeks would be a decision I would regret, so I’ve said, “no”. Saying, “no” to things you know you will regret will teach your children about setting healthy boundaries and how to compromise. 

And lastly, it is completely appropriate to say, “no” when it’s something that is against those very things you value most. You will have to make some difficult decisions as a parent. Make decisions that are wise for your family even when they go against everything the world is telling you. Romans challenges us by saying,

 “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” 

Romans 12:2 (MSG) 

Don’t be afraid to say, “no” to those things that go against everything you value and believe. This teaches your child the value of integrity, courage, and holding close to those beliefs that you cherish most. 

Now, how do we say, “no” to our kids in a way that is loving yet effective? First, be clear and firm as you address the behavior that is inappropriate. Being clear and firm is not yelling at your child as loud as you can. It’s getting down to your child’s level, looking directly in his eyes (this shows him that what you are saying is important and needs his attention), calmly addressing the negative behavior and reminding your child of the boundaries that have been set. “We don’t pee on our sister in the bathtub. If you need to pee, please get out and use the potty.” (This may or may not have happened in our house!) Now, there will be situations that you may need to yell, “no”. If your child is running towards a busy street, that is a situation when it is completely appropriate time to do so. Most times, however, clearly and firmly addressing the behavior with your child will work. 

Next, it is important to remain consistent when telling your child, “no”. What do I mean by this? If you are consistent in your parenting, it means that you intentionally choose how you engage with or respond to your child, and this does not vary over time. If you don’t let your son pee on your daughter today, that means that he still will not be allowed to pee on her tomorrow. Our kids thrive when we are consistent. They quickly learn that some behaviors are going to always be off-limits. Now, it is also important to note that you and your spouse need to be on the same page when it comes to your parenting and be consistent together.  A child who learns that he can get away with a negative behavior with one parent will use that to manipulate situations to get what his own way. Be consistent in how you use the word, “no”.

Lastly, look for the teachable moments. Teachable moments are those times throughout our day when God gives us the opportunity to pour truth into our kids. It’s those times when we can teach them about how God wants us to live. When we tell our kids, “no”, there are teachable moments there. When we tell our kids, “no”, there are valuable lessons to be learned. The hardest part in all of this . . .  is actually taking the time and having the patience to do it. Because, I won’t lie to you . . . it takes work. But, mama, let me tell you something. It is so worth your effort! 

And that leads me to one last thing. I want to remind you, that one of God’s greatest desires is for your child to come to know and love Him. God wants you, as a parent, to teach your child about Him and to raise your child in a way that follows the commands He has given us. We cannot expect our churches or our schools to take on this responsibility for us. They can be a great support, but we are the parents. We are the ones to whom God entrusted these little people. And He tells us how to do this. In the book of Deuteronomy we find these words,

“Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.” 

Deuteronomy 6:5-8 (MSG)

God wants our kids to grow up as independent, kind, responsible adults. I want that too. I want my kids to grow up to be adults that I actually want to hang out with. But, God also wants our kids to live lives that honor Him. He wants our kids to love Him.  As mamas, our job is to lead them down that path. Our job is to say, “no” to those things that we know will lead our kids the wrong way. Proverbs promises us the following: 

“Point your kids in the right direction— when they’re old they won’t be lost.” Proverbs 22:6 (MSG)

I love how The Message translations says that . . . “when they’re old they won’t be lost.” I can’t promise you that your child won’t stray from the path God has for him at some point. But, I can tell you this; once God has captured the heart of your child, He won’t let go.

Mama, you have been called to a great work. God has chosen you to lead your children down a path that honors Him. It won’t always be easy. Being a mama is hard, but it also brings such joy. I pray that you would continue to seek Him, and I pray that He would continue to give you the wisdom needed to fulfill this calling He’s placed on your life. You’ve got this, mama. 

 

 

References:

Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 13 Feb. 2019.

Cedar, Jill. “Why Does Consistency Matter in Parenting.” Very Well Family. https://www.verywellfamily.com/why-does-consistency-matter-in-parenting-4135227. Accessed 15 Feb. 2019.

Cleland, Tayjor. “How to Say No to Your Kids and Why They’ll. Thank You Later.” The Mother Company. http://www.themotherco.com/2015/01/how-to-say-no-to-your-kids-and-why-theyll-thank-you-later/. Accessed 15 Feb. 2019. 

Grose, Michael. “How Consistency Improves Kids’ Behavior”. Parenting Ideas. https://www.parentingideas.com.au/blog/how-consistency-improves-kids-behaviour/. Accessed 15 Feb. 2019.

Kennedy-Moore, Eileen. “When and How to Say No to Kids.” Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/growing-friendships/201712/when-and-how-say-no-kids. Accessed 13 Feb. 2019. 

“Prefrontal Cortex.” https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/prefrontal-cortex. Accessed 15 Feb. 2019.

Pozatek, Krissy, “Why It’s Important to Set Healthy Boundaries With Your Kids.” Mind Body Green. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-17051/why-its-important-to-set-healthy-boundaries-with-your-kids.html. Accessed 13 Feb. 2019. 

Stasney, Shelly. “7 Facts About Your Child’s Prefrontal-Prefrontal-Cortex That Are Game Changers.” This-N-That Parenting. http://www.thisnthatparenting.com/2018/04/26/7-facts-about-your-childs-prefrontal-cortex-that-are-game-changers/. Accessed 15 Feb. 2019.

Saying No

 

No. Such a small word, yet such an important one. Why do we have such a hard time saying it? Why do we have such a hard time saying no to things that we know deep down in our souls are not ours to do? I recently read a blog post by Francisco Sáez that I felt gave some very good reasons.

First, we want to help. Simple as that. We love to help others whenever we can. If someone calls me up and asks me if I can help with something, everything in me wants to say yes even when realistically it might not be possible. We don’t want to say no because we love to help other people.

Secondly, we want others to like us . . . all of the time. We would rather spend our time doing millions of things that we know are not ours to do rather than tell someone no and face possible rejection. Wouldn’t you agree? We want people to like us. Therefore, we have a hard time telling others no.

Thirdly, and this is one I hadn’t thought of, but realize I do this a lot. Sometimes we don’t say no simply because we respect someone. Think of someone in your life that you highly respect. Maybe it’s your parents, a teacher, or a good friend. If that person asks you to do something, is it easier to tell them yes or tell them no? For me, there are some people in my life that I just can’t say no to because I love and respect them so much. Do you have someone in your life like that? Do you have someone you just can’t say no to?

Next one . . .  sometimes we don’t say no because we want to avoid conflict. Do you enjoying being in conflict with another person? If you’re like me, then I would have to guess that you don’t. Often, I think it is easier for us to say yes then confront someone and say no. For me this ties back to number two. I want everyone to like me, and I avoid conflict like the plague. We often don’t say no because we don’t want to face potential conflict in our relationships.

Now, this next one is a huge one for me, and I’m guessing it’s a big one for many of you too. Guilt. We don’t say no because doing so will make us feel guilty. Guilt is that feeling we get when we think that we have done something wrong or we have failed someone. This is the one that kicks me in the gut every time. I hate having that feeling that I have disappointed or failed someone. I feel this especially in my role as a mom. I question the decisions I make concerning my kids all of the time and worry that I’m failing as their mom. Can you relate to that at all? Sometimes, we don’t say no because we feel guilty, even in those times when saying no is perfectly reasonable.

The last one is the fear of missing out on future opportunities. Sometimes, we’re afraid that if we don’t say yes when someone asks us to do something that they will never ask anything of us again. Maybe your kid’s soccer coach asks you to help lead practices this spring. You would love to say yes, but with your husband doing a lot of traveling for work and three other young kids at home, you just can’t make it work right now. But, if you say no now, will the coach consider you next season? Or, maybe your boss at work offers you an amazing promotion. You know you have the skills to do the job well and the salary increase would be huge for your family. But, you also know that with the promotion come longer hours at work, and you feel like you barely see your kids now as it is. Saying yes seems impossible. But, if you say no, will your boss think of you the next time a promotion opportunity comes up? Sometimes, we’re afraid that if we don’t say yes now, we will be missing out on future opportunities as well. 

There are many reasons that we choose to say yes when we actually should be saying no. But why is it important to say no to begin with? First of all, the more times I say yes to the needs of others, the less time I have available for those things dearest to my heart. Those things that I’m passionate about. My family. My ministry. My Best Yes assignments from God. If I am spending most of my time saying yes to assignments that aren’t mine, I’m missing out on the ones that are. 

Secondly, saying yes all of the time affects us physically, mentally, and spiritually. Taking on assignments that aren’t yours can easily lead to anxiety, stress, or even burn out. I love this one quote from Lysa Terkeurst. She says,

“Saying yes all the time won’t make me Wonder Woman. It makes me a worn out woman.”

She’s absolutely right. Taking things on that God did not create us to do can leave us feeling stressed and depleted over time. 

Thirdly, saying yes when we should be saying no can affect our relationships with others. Think about it. If you have a friend that you repeatedly say yes to when in reality you should be saying no, what is going to happen? Over time, you may begin to resent that relationship. Over time, you may begin to resent that friend. It is important to remember that sometimes we have to say no. 

Now, even though there are times that it is important to say no, there are still times that you have to say yes. You cannot say no to avoid responsibility or say no to purposefully hurt others. If you are working and receiving a paycheck for the work you complete, you are obligated to complete it. If you have given your word to someone and promised to complete a task, you are obligated to complete it. If your baby has a poopy diaper, you are obligated to change her. Not every responsibility is going to be your responsibility, but you still have some responsibilities. This lesson is not to encourage you to say no to every opportunity that presents itself at your door. The word “no” is not to be used to avoid responsibility or used to hurt someone else. 

So, how do we do this? How do we graciously and effectively say no? It’s important to start practicing what we are going to call the small no. What do I mean by that? A small no is a no given early before expectations and disappointments can build. 

Last year, our school secretary was working through some difficult health issues. Due to the lack of substitutes for that position, she often was forced to come in for work despite the pain she was suffering. I empathized with her and told her I wished I could help her out, which was completely true. I love to help people. But, I admit that when I said those words, I didn’t expect her to then ask if I would apply to serve as a substitute in the district. Immediately, I knew that this was not something I could realistically do in my current season. So what do you think I said? Yep! You guessed it! I told her I would take a look at my schedule and see if it was something I thought I could do. Deep down, I knew my answer had to be no. But rather than telling her that right away, I chose to delay my no. I chose to delay it thinking that maybe she would forget that she asked me. Now, let me ask you something. From her perspective, what did my answer tell her? It told her that I was possibly interested and that I would look into it. How do you think that made her feel? Hopeful. She was hopeful. She was hopeful that I would come on as a substitute, and she would be able to take the time off that she needed to get well. 

Delaying our no answers does three things. First, it builds hope. When we chose to not say no right away, we give the other person hope that we might actually say yes. 

Secondly, giving a delayed no prevents that person from making other plans. The school secretary was hopeful that I was going to say yes. And though I don’t know this for certain, I wonder if she held off asking others to consider subbing because she thought I might actually do it. When we fail to say no early on, it can keep others from making other plans. 

Lastly, delaying our no answers makes the eventual no so much harder to receive. After a few weeks of skirting the substituting request from her, I finally had the courage to tell her that I just couldn’t do it. She was extremely disappointed which made me feel even worse. Lysa Terkeurst says, “A small no pushes through the resistance of awkwardness and disappointment because it’s better to nip something early on. Early on, expectations and disappointments can be managed better with a small no. But the more we let things develop and progress, the harder the no becomes.” And that’s true. I delayed telling her no and when the time came that I finally confessed that I couldn’t do it, it was extremely hard to say the words. 

In the book of Matthew 27:11-26 (MSG), we find the story of Pilate. Pilate served as the Roman governor of Judea from 26-36 AD. In his position, he was responsible for seeing that the people in his jurisdiction obeyed Roman law.  After having Jesus arrested,  the Jewish religious leaders brought him before Pilate. Pilate saw the situation for what it was. He believed that Jesus was innocent and that the religious leaders arrested him purely out of envy. But rather than tell them no at the start, Pilate delayed his response. Instead of saying no he questioned the Jews and the charges brought against Jesus. Instead of saying no, he offered to pardon one prisoner. The crowed could choose to pardon Jesus, or they could choose to pardon a well know murderer named Barabbas.  Pilate delayed saying no until it got to the point where he no longer felt he had the power to do so. As the Jews threatened to riot, he washed his hands of the situation and turned Jesus over to be crucified. I think it was God’s plan that Pilate did not use the small no because I think things would have turned out much differently on that day if he had. The small no. When used wisely, expectations and disappointments are easier to manage. 

But how do we actually say no?  How can we graciously and effectively tell others that the assignment they have asked us to take on is not ours to take? Comedian John Crist gives us some example. Check out  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3oc735Ay2k. 

Just say no. He’s right. When it comes down to it, all we need to do is say no. Matthew  tells us,

“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.” Matthew 5:35-37 (MSG)

Just say no. A simple no. As a culture, we have gotten it into our heads that saying no is not nice. Saying no is selfish and hurtful to others. However, a simple no can be gracious, honest, and life giving. A simple no can be used to encourage and build others up.

When you must tell someone no, be gracious and kind. Ephesians tells us,

“Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” Ephesians 4:29 (MSG) 

When you must tell someone no, be honest. Proverbs says,

“An honest answer is like a warm hug.” Proverbs 24:26 (MSG)

Dishonesty only builds hopes and expectations. Choose to be honest.

When you must tell someone no, look for an opportunity to encourage and build them up with your words. Ask yourself what you can say that will encourage that person despite the fact that you are saying no to them. Ask yourself what you can say that will build them up not tear them down.

Lysa Terkeurst gives some great examples of how we can graciously and effectively say no.

    1. While my heart wants to say yes, yes, yes, the reality of my time makes this a no.
    2. I am honored by your request but I’m in a season of refocusing my priorities and have committed not to add anything new right now.
    3. After living at an unhealthy breakneck pace for too long, I’m learning to realistically assess my capacity. Though I would love to say yes, the reality of my limitations means I must say no this time.
    4. I so appreciate you asking me, but I must be brave and decline this opportunity. Saying no is hard for me but necessary in this season. Thank you for understanding.
    5. I’ve promised my family not to add any new commitments to my schedule right now. Thank you for our friendship that allows me to be honest with my realities.

I have a friend who also gave me a great example. She told me that when I tell someone no that I don’t have to give my reasons or apologize profusely. She said that she usually just says, “I’m sorry. I can’t at this time.” And . . .  that’s it. Simple, yet honest and effective.

To close, I want to remind you that God’s desire is not for us to always say no. He has assignments before us that He wants us to say yes to: our Best Yes assignments. But to make room for those assignments and to complete them in a way that honors God, we have to say no to those things He did not create us to do.  Graciously, honestly, and simply say no. It is in those moments that we turn down those assignments not meant for us that God opens the door to what He has next. Have the courage to use the power of the small no. Have the courage to say no so that you are ready to say yes.

 

References:

Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 4 Feb. 2019.

“The Psychological Cost of Never Saying No.” Harley Therapy Counseling Blog. https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/saying-no.htm. Accessed 5 Feb. 2019 

Saez, Francisco. “Why You Should Say No More Often, and How to Do So.” Facilethings.  https://facilethings.com/blog/en/say-no. Accessed 4 Feb. 2019.

Terkeurst, Lysa. The Best Yes, Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. Nashville, Nelson Books, 2014.

“Who Was Pontius Pilate?” Got Questions. https://www.gotquestions.org/Pontius-Pilate.html. Accessed 5 Feb. 2019.

Be Confident

Several years ago, a dear friend came to me with a ministry opportunity. She and I had served together for several years, and we had become quite close through that.  I loved her heart for the people we served, and I admired the wisdom and grace with which she led. She was teaching me so much, and I could see how God was using her to minister to so many. So, you can imagine the disappointment I felt when she began talking about feeling led to step out of the ministry. I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would raise up another woman just like her to fill her place, and I was confident that God would do that. But I will admit, that I was completely caught off guard several months later when she told me that she had been praying, and God told her that I was the one to take her place. Completely . . . caught off guard . . .  Caught off guard so much that I’m pretty sure I laughed at her before giving her my immediate no. Her response? She just gave me this knowing smile and told me to pray on it. So, out of respect for her, I did. I prayed on it. I prayed on it not just for a few days or a few weeks. I prayed on it for almost a year. A year. And every time I prayed, I felt conflicted, and I felt anxious. Why? When it came down to it, I was afraid. I was afraid that I might fail. I was afraid that I wouldn’t do the job as well as she had and in doing so would not only fail her, but fail the very people I served. And if I took this position in the ministry and failed at it, wouldn’t I also be failing God? I mean, if He had really told her that I was the one, and then I couldn’t do it . . . ? The thought of failing God, was more than my heart could bear.

Can you relate at all? Have you ever felt anxious, lost sleep, or felt so conflicted as you wrestled with a decision? Have you ever wondered which path before you was the one that God had for you? Have you ever been afraid to say yes because you were afraid you might fail?  Have you ever been afraid to say no because you feared that no would take you off of the path God had for you? I think many of us have this desire within us to be living our lives in God’s will all of the time, and we want to 100% sure that we are making the right choices all of the time. But, how can we be confident that we are making the right decision? 

First, it is important to remember that there will never be a perfect decision. Ever. A perfect decision implies that a decision is completely flawless and will have no difficulties associated with it at all. Have you ever made a decision like that? A perfect decision? I haven’t. Every decision, even those really good ones, have some elements of difficulty that come along with them. Remember my story about buying my daughter a horse? That has proven to be a good decision. Yet, we have faced some difficulties associated with that decision. Just a couple of weeks, our sweet little pony decided to buck during the middle of a ride. Thankfully, my daughter hung on, but it was not something I would expect that would come with a “perfect” decision.  On the flip side, poor decisions can have some elements of good in them. Have you ever made a poor decision for yourself, walked through a difficult time because of it, and then came out on the other side and were able to see the valuable lessons learned through that decision? I have. Many times. We need to remember that perfect decisions do not exist and that there are good and bad elements to every decision. 

Secondly, we need to remember that we will not always make the right choice. We are going to make mistakes. But that’s all that they are. Mistakes. Lysa Terkeurst says,

“If you desire to please God with the decisions you make and afterward it proves to be a mistake, it’s an error not an end.”

It’s an error, not an end. Sometimes I get it in my head that if I make the wrong choice, I’m going to completely mess up God’s plan. Did you hear what I just said? That I would mess up God’s plan. Who am I that I could mess up the plans of the Creator of the universe? I can’t. And neither can you. I love something else, Lysa said. She said, 

“My imperfections will never override God’s promises. God’s promises are not dependent on my ability to always choose well, but rather on His ability to use well.”

Hear that again. “God’s promises are not dependent on my ability to always choose well, but rather on His ability to use well.” I cannot mess up God’s plans. He is going to accomplish what He sets out to accomplish regardless if I am on board or not. He is going to accomplish what He sets out to accomplish regardless of whether I make the right decisions or not. He will get done what He intends to get done. And those things He intends to get done? They are for the good of the people He desperately loves. The book of Romans reminds us,

“And we know that for those who love God, that is, for those who are called according to his purpose, all things are working together for good.”

Romans 8:28 (ISV)

It might be for my good or it might be for someone else’s good. All things . . . all things are working together for good. Even . . . those mistakes I make. God can turn those around and use them for good. Remember, your mistakes, they are errors, but not an end. 

Thirdly, we need to remember that God can always be trusted. Always. We are told in Psalms,

“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.”

Psalm 9:10 (NLT),

Whatever decision we are facing, we can trust God with the outcome. If I make a good decision, God can be trusted with the outcome. If I make a poor decision, God can still be trusted with the outcome. Lysa Terkeurst said this,

“If I’m trusting myself, I will stare at all the possible ways I could fail. If I’m trusting God, I will stare at all the possible ways He’ll use this whether I fail or succeed.”

This reminds me of the story of Peter found in Matthew 14 (VOICE). After Jesus feeds the five thousand, he sends the disciples out on a boat and heads up the mountainside to be alone to pray. In the middle of the night, the disciples look out over the water and see Jesus walking towards them. Yet, they don’t recognize that it’s him and believe they are seeing a ghost. Jesus calls out to them and says,

“It is I. You have nothing to fear.”

Peter calls out to Jesus and says,

“Lord, if it is really You, then command me to meet You on the water.”

Jesus beckons Peter to come to him . . . to walk on the water. Peter begins walking towards Jesus. But then, the wind and the waves grab his attention, and Peter turns his eyes away from Jesus. What happens? He immediately begins to sink. Peter calls out to Jesus to help him, and Jesus pulls Peter from the water. Jesus then looks him in the eyes and says,

“O you of little faith. Why did you doubt and dance back and forth between following Me and heeding fear?”

How often do we dance back and forth between following Him and giving into our fear? How often do we choose not to trust Him with the outcome? Take a moment and check out the following Skit Guys video about trust. https://skitguys.com/videos/trust-fall. Did you see yourself in the video like I did? 

How often do we give in to our fear? How often do we give into our fear and not trust Him? Remember back to the beginning of the year when I asked you to think about that one thing that stirs your heart and that you wish you could do? What is holding you back from doing it? It may be that the current season of life you are in right now isn’t a good fit. Or maybe, financially you just can’t swing it right now. But, let me ask you this. Is it fear that is holding you back from doing that thing that you desperately wish you could do? Is it the fear of failing that is keeping you from saying yes to that opportunity God has placed before you?

Whatever decisions you have before you, I encourage you to do several things. First, really think about those decisions and pray on them. Think about the demands that those yeses will take and any consequences that may come from them. And . . . pray on them. Really pray on them. Ask God if this is a best yes for you now in this current season. Then, have the confidence to step out and make the decision. Make the decision and be confident that you made a good decision. How can we be confident? If we are living our lives in a way that honors God, we can trust Him with the outcome of each and every decision. Each and every one. Proverbs 3 gives us this promise:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

Trust Him. Trust Him enough to confidently say yes or confidently say no. Then trust that He is big enough to take care of the rest.

january 17:22 lesson

 

 

www.biblegateway.com

www.quotefancy.com 

https://skitguys.com/videos/trust-fall 

Terkeurst, Lysa. The Best Yes, Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. Nashville, Nelson Books, 2014.

 

 

The Gift of Release

This . . . is my front closet.

game closet

 

And . . . it drives me crazy. This is the space where we keep all of the board games our family likes to play. (Along with gift wrap and batteries because those are all logical things to keep in the same closet, right?) The problem with my front closet? It is always in a state of chaos, and this state of chaos causes my blood pressure to rise every time I open the door.

Over Christmas, our kids received four new games that were added to this closet. When I took this picture, game number one was hanging precariously, ready to tumble to the floor at any moment having been shoved in front of another game that was already on the shelf. Game number two fell off of the shelf it was placed on and now was on the floor. Game number three was on our kitchen table because I didn’t know quite where to shove it. And lastly, game number four (which hadn’t even been removed from its wrapper) was MIA. It might have been in the closet, but I honestly cannot confirm that.

This closet. This closet can best be described as chaotic, and if I’m honest with you, this is sometimes how my life looks as well. When decisions come my way, I say yes. I say yes and add to an already overloaded schedule. I say yes before I consider the trade.

Consider the trade. What do I mean by that? To trade means to give up something in exchange for something else. With any decision we make, some type of trade is involved. With any decision we make, something is given up in exchange for something else. Let me explain further.

When faced with any decision, big or small, we have to first remember that we have a choice. We always have a choice. We can choose to take the path God has placed before us, or we can choose to go our own way. Matthew 7:13-14 (VOICE) tells us,

“ There are two paths before you; you may take only one path. One doorway is narrow. And one door is wide. Go through the narrow door. For the wide door leads to a wide path, and the wide path is broad; the wide, broad path is easy, and the wide, broad, easy path has many, many people on it; but the wide, broad, easy, crowded path leads to death. Now then that narrow door leads to a narrow road that in turn leads to life. It is hard to find that road. Not many people manage it.”

Whichever path we take, we need to remember that we always have a choice.

Secondly, we need to remember that with each choice we make, comes a consequence. These consequences can be good or bad, but each one has an effect on us in some way or another. Lysa Terkeurst says, “Choices and consequences come in package deals. When we make a choice, we ignite the consequences that can come along with it.” In Scripture, we see numerous examples of people who faced consequences based on the choices they made. In the book of Genesis, we find the story of Adam and Eve. Eve was faced with the decision to obey God or listen to Satan and eat the forbidden fruit. Her choice? She disobeyed God. Her consequence? She and Adam were cast out of the Garden and sin entered the world. In the book of Exodus, we find the story of Moses. A Hebrew baby raised in the home of the Egyptian Pharaoh whom God calls to lead the Israelites out of captivity. Despite his fear over this task, he chose to obey God. His consequence? He watched as God work wonders and released his people. In 2 Samuel, we find the story of King David. David chose to follow his lustful desires and slept with another man’s wife. When it was discovered that she was pregnant, David had her husband killed. His consequence? That child that was conceived would die. When facing a decision, it is important to consider the possible consequences before you say yes. 

Lastly, it is important to remember that with each decision we face, comes an opportunity for release. To release is to let go of something or to set something free. As women, we take on more than we can realistically handle. We say yes and add more and more to our already wearying schedules. We trade our time, our finances, our emotional health, and our peace in the names of our families, our homes, or the expectations of others. And then, we wonder why each additional yes leaves us feeling stressed and weary. Friend, with each decision we face, there is always an opportunity for release. Always. We need to become women that are in the habit of releasing things we have previously said yes to, to make room for our best yes assignments. We need to let go of those things that are no longer ours to do or those things that were never ours to begin with. Why don’t we do this?

I think it boils down to fear. We are afraid. We are afraid of the what ifs and the what could have beens. We are afraid to say no because it might mean we are missing out. Missing out on things that might be important down the road.

How many of you are like me and have a closet full of clothes that you literally cannot wear right now? I look at my closet and see plenty of clothes that fit me right now, but, I also have clothes that are too big for me. I’ve worn them in the past and might need them again if I continue to eat  Christmas cookies at the rate I have been these past few weeks.   I also have clothes that I have not worn since I first got pregnant with my first child. Since before I first got pregnant with my first child! Why do I have them? We both know that after you have a baby, things never go back to how they once were! Yet, I hang onto this hope that maybe, just maybe someday, I’ll be back to a size 10. Can you relate? Please tell me that I am not alone in this.

I think back to my front closet as well. Many of the games in there are ones that we haven’t played in years. Yet, I’m afraid to let them go because maybe, just maybe we will want to play it sometime. We are afraid. We are afraid of missing out. We are afraid that we may release something that might be important sometime down the road. 

Sometimes, however, it’s more than just the fear of missing out that keeps us from release. Sometimes we are stubborn and just plain out refuse to release something. We refuse to release it even though we know that harsh consequences are likely to follow. We refuse to release and as a result, we may miss out on some of the best things God has for us. We can see this in the examples I gave you earlier. Eve. She refused to release her desire for the forbidden fruit. Because of this, she and Adam missed out on Paradise. Moses. I shared how he obeyed God, but we also find in the book of Numbers that he disobeyed God as well. The Israelites were wandering in the desert and ran out of water. Now, this had happened before. The last time, God instructed Moses to strike a rock with his staff and water poured from it. This time however, God instructed Moses to just speak to a rock and water would come forth. Moses doubted God and struck the rock instead of speaking to it. Moses refused to release his fear and as a result, he missed out on entering the land God had promised his people. David. He refused to release his desire for Bathsheba. Because of this another man lost his life and David lost his son. He would miss out on watching his child grow up to be a man. Just like Eve, Moses, and David, we also will flat-out refuse to release things from our lives even though we know that there will likely be harsh consequences for us to follow. Have you ever done that?

Lastly, sometimes it isn’t the fear that we’ll be missing out or the flat-out refusal to let something go that keeps us from release. It’s our inability to make a decision. Sometimes I can’t let things go because I’m unsure of what decision will be best. I put off the decision in hopes that my circumstances will improve or the direction I should take will become clearer. I tell others that I’ll pray on it for a bit. Have you been there? Have you ever known deep within you the decision that must be made, but simply put it off? You put it off because you are uncertain which direction to take or are afraid of the consequences that will come with that decision. Lysa Terkeurst says, “Not making a decision is actually a decision. It’s the decision to stay the same.” She’s right. She’s absolutely right. My decision to put off a decision is me choosing to stay right where I am. And often, right where I am is filled with uncertainty and chaos.

To close, I want to share with you a book that I stumbled upon a few years ago. It’s called The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger. It tells the story of a small yellow oak leaf. Though fall is nearing to an end, the leaf refuses to join the other leaves as they fall from the tree. He keeps telling us, “I’m not ready yet.” Because he refuses to release himself, he misses out on dancing in the air with the other leaves. He misses out on experiencing the fun that is found in being piled up with other leaves and having children jump on you. He finds himself feeling very alone. Alone because he chose not to release. How often are we just like that little leaf?

Friend, we have to let go. We have to release so that we can move forward in the plans God has for us. Lysa Terkeurst shares a story in her book, The Best Yes about a time that she visited a friend in Connecticut. Upon her arrival, she discovered that they had just received twenty inches of snow . . .  in the middle of the fall. As they left the airport, they passed pile after pile of not just snow, but broken trees as well. You see, the leaves had not yet had an opportunity to release themselves from their branches. The snow clung to the leaf filled branches, and they broke under its weight. Lysa says, “The trees weren’t designed to face snow before releasing their leaves. They weren’t made to carry more than they should. And neither are we.”

 She goes on to tell us that this process of release . . . it’s a gift. Just like those trees in that fall snowstorm, we cannot carry the weight of two seasons at the same time. We were not created to carry so much. Lysa says, “In the violent struggle of trying, (we’ll) miss every bit of joy each season promises to bring.” This process of release is a gift my friend. A gift from our Father. When we have the courage to release those things in our lives that are no longer ours to do, it opens us up to being in a place ready to receive what God has for us next . . . what God has for us in this current season. Isn’t that our desire? To be right where God wants us right now? 

Going back to my front closet. This is what it looks like now.

closet 2

I made the decision to release some of the things that I had been holding on to. I released some of the old to make way for the new.

Is there something in your life, something in your closet that you’ve been holding onto so tightly? Have the courage to release it, friend. Release it to our Father. You can trust Him with it. Isaiah 26:3-4 (VOICE) tells us,

“You will keep the peace, a perfect peace, for all who trust in You, for those who dedicate their hearts and minds to You. So trust in the Eternal One forever, for He is like a great Rock—strong, stable, trustworthy, and lasting.”

Whatever you are holding on to, whatever you are afraid to let go of, release it. Release it, lift your eyes to Him, and then step onto the path He places before you. You can trust Him. You can trust Him. 

 

 

References:

Bergin, Carin. The Little Yellow Leaf. New York, Greenwillow Books, 2008.

Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 31 Dec. 2018.

“Why Was Moses Not Allowed to Enter the Promised Land?” Got Questions. https://www.gotquestions.org/Moses-promised-land.html. Accessed 31 Dec. 2018. 

Merriam-Webster.  https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trade#synonyms. Accessed 31 Dec. 2018.

Terkeurst, Lysa. The Best Yes, Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. Nashville, Nelson Books, 2014.