Tag Archive for blessing

“You’re the Worst Mom Ever:” A 3-Part Blessing

It’s bound to happen, inevitable, unavoidable. Sooner or later you will set an age appropriate, loving limit on your child’s behavior and he will get angry. He will become Sauer seinfurious with you and argue. As a good parent, you will stick to your guns; after all, you know the limit is for your child’s best interest. Suddenly your child will look you straight in the eye and say, “You’re the worst mom ever. You’re so mean. I hate you. I wish I lived somewhere else!” They may not use those exact words, but you’ll feel the sting. They may not even say the words out loud, but you’ll feel the laser cold stare they shoot at you. Really, it is unavoidable. It will happen. What’s more important than when it happens is how you respond!

Children need to know their parents are bigger and stronger than they are.  They need to know their parents can and will survive their anger and harsh impulsive words. When your children blurt out the “I hate you…You’re so mean” mantra, do not strike back.  Do not return anger for anger. Offer them a blessing instead, a blessing consisting of three parts.

  1. Acknowledge their anger and frustration. “I’m sorry this is so frustrating for you” or “I can tell this really makes you angry” are the kinds of statements that acknowledge and empathize with your children’s emotions. When you acknowledge your children’s emotions, you children will know you care enough to hear and understand them. You do not fear their emotions. Instead, you accept their emotions…and them.
  2. Confirm your continued love for them. You might simply say, “I still love you” or “I love you too much to let you (insert the behavior you’re limiting).” Your children learn that even when you stare into their face of anger you love them. Your love is unwavering, not conditioned on their emotions or behavior.
  3. Stick to you guns. Yes, the limit still stands. An age appropriate, loving limit does not disappear in the wash of your children’s anger. It remains intact because it is securely grounded in your loving desire for your children’s best interest.

Your children will learn several crucial lessons from this 3-part blessing. They will learn you love them. You are stronger than their anger. Their anger will not scare you away. And a loving limit remains, even in the face of anger. Give it a try…you might be surprised at the results.

4 Tools for a Happy Marriage

Did you know you possess a “mini-toolkit” for building a happy marriage? You received it free of charge a long time ago. The tools in this kit may have sat dormant for years, but each one can help your marriage grow. When you start to effectively use these tools, you will build years of security, intimacy, and joy into your marriage. Review them carefully and use them often.

  • Dancing CoupleRespectful words tighten up loose connections with your spouse. Polite saying like “thank you,” “please,” and “I’m sorry” will bring a level of closeness to your marriage you never imagined possible. Add in respectful actions like holding a door open for your spouse, accepting your spouse’s opinion, or speaking well of your spouse in public will bring even tighter connections.
  • Forgiveness, on the other hand, loosens bolts of resentment. Every spouse needs to practice forgiveness to let go of the hurt of accidental miscommunications and misunderstandings, statements made in anger, and insensitive actions. The wrench of forgiveness has freed many a marriage from the rusted “bolt-grip” of resentment and anger. Use this tool often.
  • Active involvement allows each spouse to drill into “the thick of things” and fully participate in a growing marriage. Your active involvement in your relationship will help you know your spouse more intimately and enable you to show your spouse the depth of your love. No one wants a giant paperweight, a slug, for a spouse. We want a spouse who jumps in, gets involved, participates in decisions, and helps with the tasks of growing a marriage and family. Pull out that drill and drill into “the thick” of your relationship.
  • Blessings act like a vice to secure your individual lives into an intimate bond. When you bless instead of curse your spouse’s heart will soften. You will experience a growing intimacy in response to blessing. You can bless your spouse with compliments, encouraging words, gratitude, and affirmations. Each time you offer a blessing, you strengthen the intimacy of your relationship.


These four tools—respect, forgiveness, involvement, and blessing–will tighten connections, loosen resentments, reveal deeper love, and strengthen secure intimacy in your marriage. The greatest news—you already possess each of these tools. All you have to do is start using them. So, pull out that toolkit and start working on your relationship today!

The Good, the NOT Good, and the VERY Good

We just returned from facilitating a marriage retreat at Camp Christian in Mill Run, PA (learn more about Camp Christian here). The theme of the retreat was Blessing Your Spouse. We had a wonderful time with a great group of couples. At one point, we talked about the good, the NOT good and the VERY good of creation. Starting with the fourth day of creation, God looked at His work and “saw that it was good.” However, as His creation neared completion, familysunheartHe saw one thing that was NOT good. He saw that man was alone and said, “It is NOT good for man to be alone.” In response, God fashioned a woman out of the man’s rib…a person like man yet unique from him in many ways, a person with whom he could know God more completely. Man now had a companion who could stand face to face with him and reflect the image of God to him and with him. He was not alone! With a woman at his side, man would be able to know the relational intimacy and love that creates new life and reflects the image of God.

God had now “created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” But, creation was not yet complete. To complete creation, “God blessed them [Adam and Eve]….” I am fascinated that the first blessing spoken by God was to bless a couple—a couple created by God in the image of God. After God had blessed Adam and Eve, creation was complete. He “saw all He had made, and behold, it was VERY good.” Creation was not VERY good until there was a couple, a man and a woman, created in the image of God and blessed by God. Creation became VERY good after God blessed the first couple to fill the earth, to share their love, to create life, to tame the earth, and to harness the potential of the earth for the benefit of all. The history of man began when a God of relationship, in whose reign justice and compassion join together in love, created people in His image and blessed them with the task to reign in a manner reflective of His image. And that reign begins with marriage—two people joining their lives and futures, sharing their love and knowledge, and working together to fill the earth with life and peace. What a grand calling we have when we join together in marriage and in love.

Let me end this short blog with a blessing for you and your marriage, a blessing adapted from God’s blessing of Adam and Eve found in Genesis 1:28-30:

“As a couple, be fruitful—pass on your life and your knowledge with creativity and love;

Fill the earth with your vibrant love and joy, beginning with your marriage and extending to the all those around you.

Let the glory of God shine through your marriage; courageously utilize the power instilled in you by the nature of God’s image to replace what leads to death in this world with generative, eternal life.

Rule with compassionate, loving stewardship over all created beings, both the persons & animals God may place under your care.

Know that God will always remain with you and your relationship, “even to the ends of the world.” He will care for you and your relationship emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually as you strive to share His love with one another, your children, your spiritual family, and all those created in His image.

Then God saw everything that He had mad, and indeed it was VERY good!”

3 Blessings From Family Camp-2013

This weekend we attended Family Camp at Camp Christian (click here for info on Camp Christian). Jim and Terri Jones (camp deans) organized another wonderful weekend of family time and learning. The speaker this year was Rob Grandi (for more about Rob, click here). He spoke to us about giving a blessing to our families and sang several songs of blessing as well. We had a wonderful weekend—the weather was good, the time was relaxing, the fellowship was awesome, and the teaching was excellent. Each year, I like to share a few things I learned at family camp; so, here are 3 blessings I received from Family Camp this year.

     1.   A new bridge is being constructed at the entry way to camp—the foundation of the old bridge was falling apart. Right now, the new supports are in and the foundation is up. However, the platform of the bridge is yet to be added. This weekend we learned about giving a blessing to our family—about valuing each family member enough to serve them and honoring them enough to verbally share how much we value them. That sounds like the foundation of a family, the supports that make it possible for a family to travel over the white waters of life and make it safely to the other side. Giving a blessing builds a stable foundation of intimacy and love. It supports a bridge that leads to a mature sense of personal value and acceptance. Even the bridge to camp told the lesson of a blessing!

2.   Children are one of our greatest blessings! We enjoyed the company of many children at camp this weekend…children of all ages. We even had a visit from the “world’s oldest camper” who is but a child at heart. We have now attended 11-years of family camp and had the joy of watching several children “grow up” into mature young adults. It is a beautiful blessing to see these young adults now passing on the tradition of blessing younger children with their attention, affection, and service. To those young adults who remain so active in the lives of all those attending family camp, thank you for your persistent faith; thank you for carrying forward the tradition of family camp; and thank you for sharing a tradition of loving family with the next generations. You have built a bridge over the gap of age to give us hope and confidence for the future.

3.   Our lives often come with pain and troubles. However, when those difficulties arise we have our church family. Each year, I come to better realize the importance of my church family. Our church family provides support through various difficulties and joins us in celebrating our successes and transitions. Our church family touches the lives of our children and helps them grow. As Family Camp so eloquently communicated this year, our church family blesses us in innumerable ways. So, if you find yourself in a “season of trial,” turn to your church family. Let your family support you and guide you through this difficult time. Realize there are those in our church family who have crossed the bridge over this troubled time before you. They can help you avoid some pitfalls along the way. Let them support the bridge as you cross it today…and hold you secure as you step onto the “other side.” Yes, our church family is a tremendous blessing.


We learned many more lessons at family camp, some we learned as a group and some we learned individually. If you attended family camp, you might want to share a lesson you learned in the comment section below. Thank Jim and Terri for putting together an incredible weekend. Thanks Rob Grandi for the inspiring music and lessons. Thanks to the band for a great worship time.  I hope more of you can join us next year!

3 Tips to Nurture an Amazing Family Panacea

After years in the family lab (aka—my home and family) and conducting research (my kids say I “experiment” with them, but I really don’t “experiment”…I just try different things) on the many factors involved in family happiness (learning from my multiple mistakes), I have finally discovered a miracle cure for many family ails. That’s right, a single practice that can increase family energy and enhance optimism. It will also increase the social connections among family members and decrease conflict. This single practice can even build happiness while decreasing depression, envy, greed, and materialism. Even more, research has shown this practice to help people sleep more soundly, take better care of themselves, and resist viral infections better. In children, research has shown that engaging in this family panacea leads to better grades, fewer complaints of headaches and stomach aches, and better relationships with family and friends. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? However, I have experienced the effectiveness of this attitude in action in my own life and family. Maybe you have already figured out what I’m talking about…gratitude. That’s right: gratitude can do all this for you and your family (read more here or here). So, follow this simple 3-step prescription to build gratitude into your family life.

      ·    Model gratitude in your daily life. Thank your children and spouse for things they do. Thank your neighbors. Make it a point to thank the family cook, the person who washes the clothes, and the one who took out the garbage…. Thank the checkout clerks when you shop and the wait-staff when you eat out. Model an attitude of gratitude for your family to see.

·    Create a gratitude journal or a gratitude wall. Each night before bed, let each family member list three things for which they are grateful. List them in a family gratitude journal or write them on strips of paper to build your gratitude wall. If you do not like the idea of a journal or a gratitude wall, use your imagination to create a gratitude bank, a gratitude flower garden (on the fridge), or a gratitude house. Whatever you choose, take the opportunity for each family member to share what has made them grateful each day.

·    Make a gratitude visit. Think of people who have influenced your family in a positive way. As a family, talk about how they have helped you and for what you would like to thank them. Then, buy them a small gift to represent our gratitude and arrange a time to visit with them. During your visit, give them the gift you bought and explain how they have influenced your family. In the midst of the visit, remember to verbally tell them “thank you.”

Perhaps you have more ideas for building gratitude in your family. Maybe you even have a special ritual, routine, or practice you use to instill gratitude in family members. Please share those ideas with us in the comment section below. We will all benefit as we nurture an attitude of gratitude in our families.

4 Steps to a Beautiful Family Day

Here is a great family celebration idea based on the concept of Dr. Martin Seligman’s “Beautiful Day.” This family celebration will give your family the opportunity to spend a fun day together, celebrate one another’s strengths, and honor someone who has contributed to your family success. It does take a little planning, but even the planning can be fun.

First, sit down and:

1.   List the activities that each family member enjoys.

2.   List each family member’s favorite foods. Consider where these two lists overlap and where they differ.

3.   List each family member’s strengths. Make special note of how these individual strengths fit in with the activities and foods discussed earlier.

Second, reflect on the people who have contributed to your family’s success. This may include grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors…anybody who has had a positive influence in your family’s life. Have fun remembering the stories associated with each of the people who come to mind. For your Beautiful Family Day, pick one person who has contributed to your family success and you would like to thank. As a family, compose a short (no more than 300 words) testimonial to that person telling them what they have meant to your family. Include 1-2 examples of how they have contributed to your family in a positive way and thank them for that contribution. After you have written this testimonial, move to the next step.

Third, design your Beautiful Family Day. Consider what you will eat (pick something from each person’s favorites food list), what you will do (pick something from each person’s favorite activities list), and when you will begin. As you plan, include at least three things. Include a way for each family member to use one of their strengths in contributing to the day. Perhaps one person enjoys cooking and can cook a special dish for the family. One person may enjoy music and could perform a song for the family. You get the idea. Also include time to visit the person for whom you wrote the testimonial. Perhaps you can meet them for coffee or invite them to your home for dessert. Plan to present the testimonial to them (perhaps read it to them) and prepare a copy for them to keep. Finally, include at least one activity that will benefit someone outside your family. You might “Run for the Cure,” sing for 30-minutes at a nursing home, take a child you know on one of your activities, or buy a gift for a shut-in while you’re out. Use your imagination to think of what you might do to benefit someone outside your family.

Fourth, enjoy your Beautiful Family Day. I know it will be a busy day. You will have a pretty full schedule. You may even decide to break it up into two or three days over the summer. Either way, when the day ends you will have wonderful memories of a Beautiful Family Day, memories that will give you a lifetime of joy! 

“Shut Up & Put Up” to Ruin Your Marriage & Family

The “shut up and put up” strategy sounds inviting at first. You know, avoid the conflict and just go along for the sake of peace. After all, everyone enjoys a harmonious relationship filled with peace and quiet. Some people will put up with almost anything to keep the peace. “Little irritations…no big deal, I’d rather maintain harmony than rock the boat.” Unfortunately, those little irritations can pile up, getting heavier and heavier, until we feel smothered. In anger, we begin to lash out at minor irritations, packing them together into giant cannonballs that we can fire at our family. At that point, we know that the “shut up and put up” strategy has backfired and turned into a “lash out and stone ’em” reaction. The “lash out and stone ’em” reaction results in family pain and disconnection. If the “shut up and put up” strategy does not work, what’s a spouse to do?
Talk. Talk to your spouse about the behavior that bothers you; but, before you talk to your spouse, take time to think about the behavior and what it teaches you. Think about what you can learn from the irritating behavior about: yourself first and your spouse second. Here are some questions to guide your learning:
·         How does this behavior bother you? Why does it irritate you? Does it represent some desire or priority that you feel is missing in your life?
·         Does the behavior contribute to feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness? Does it make you feel unloved or unacceptable?
·         Does your reaction to this irritation have anything to do with past events in your life–events first experienced in your family of origin or previous romantic relationships?
·         What is your spouse’s intent in this behavior? What is their positive intent?
·         Is this behavior a response to your behavior? For instance, does your spouse engage in this behavior when you make certain statements, jokes, or expressions?
·         What are some ways your spouse makes you feel loved, accepted, and valued?
Once you take the time to learn what this situation can teach you about yourself and your spouse, talk to your spouse about it. Here is a simple way to approach this discussion. 
First, tell your spouse at least one thing you appreciate about them. If you know that they had some positive intent in the irritating behavior, acknowledge it. Thank them for the positive intent, positive behaviors, and positive investment they make in your relationship. Doing so sets the stage for a more congenial interaction. Your spouse will know that you approach them in love and they will feel safer opening up to you. They will have an easier time hearing what you have to say since they feel appreciated. In other words, let your first statements be statements of love and appreciation, setting the stage for an open and loving interaction.
Second, give a specific example of the behavior that bothers you. Make it brief. Limit yourself to only one or two sentences in which you explain that behavior. By giving a specific example you help to limit arguing. Most people will not argue about an objective event that occurred. By keeping your description of the behavior brief, you limit the desire to become defensive or just “shut down” as they listen.   
Third, make one statement that explains how this behavior makes you feel. Once again, only one statement. “When you do this, it makes me feel….” The specific example of the behavior is an objective description. This statement is a subjective feeling. Say it calmly, without accusation. Then move on to the fourth step.
Fourth, offer an alternative and more pleasing behavior that could accomplish the same goal. Offer a solution to the whole situation. Put it altogether and you get a simple, and brief, alternative to the “shut up and put up strategy.” Consider these two examples:
     ·         “I realize you avoid telling me some things because you don’t like to see me upset and you want me to feel better. I appreciate your concern for me. However, when you interrupt me while I’m explaining a troubling situation to you and offer a solution, I feel unimportant to you and devalued by you. If you could just listen to me and let me know you understand my feelings, I would really feel better.” 
     ·         “Honey, I know that you really like a neat house and I appreciate how beautiful you keep our home. You are a great home maker. However, when we come home after a lovely night out and you immediately start cleaning, I feel like the house is more important to you than I am. If you could sit down with me for a half hour and talk when we get home, I will help you clean afterwards.”
Give it a try and check out the results. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised!

Going the Distance in the Family Marathon

Family relationships are an ultra-marathon, not a sprint. Having all the skills and techniques in the world will only go so far unless you develop the endurance to “go the distance.” So, here are a few suggestions to help build endurance and help you “go the distance” in your family life.
  • Slow down to increase endurance. Slow the pace of your life so you can spend time with your family. Just hang out with individual family members or with your family as a whole. Have meaningless conversations. Spending time expresses value for the one you choose to be with. Family members consider you presence a sign of enduring love and care.
  • Fill your speech with kindness. Kind words have tremendous power to build an enduring family. So, encourage one another. Say “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” Go the distance-keep your words kind and polite, even when irritated, angry, or tired.
  • Every day, list at least one way you saw each family member make a positive investment in your family. Keep the list in a notebook or on your calendar. This will demand that you maintain a relational focus and keep your eyes open for positive contributions, even when you start feeling tired, angry, or begin to lose focus. Find a way to thank them for their contribution to the family on at least a weekly basis.
  • Every day, list at least three things you appreciate about each family member. What character traits do you find endearing? What mannerisms do you enjoy? What do you admire about them? Keep that list each day and tell them one thing from that list each day.
  • Make weekly goals about how you will show family members how much you value them. How will you show your love for each family member this week? How will you let them know how valuable they are to you? Once again, you will build endurance as you find creative ways to express this value week in and week out. It will demand some variation and creativity on your part; but, the results are amazing.
To really “go the distance” requires prevention as well. A yearly checkup can help to diagnoses various health conditions before they get bad, making treatment easier and more effective. The same is true in relationships. In fact, a yearly relationship check up can save a marriage, strengthen parent-child relationships, and lead to more satisfying family relationships. And, a family check up is free. That’s right, you can monitor the progress yourself. Here are some suggestions.
  • Each year write a letter to your spouse and children telling them how much they mean to you. Include 2-3 things you admire about them and an example to support each of those traits. Areas of admiration may include personality, areas of growth, or other things about them that have special meaning to you. After writing the letter, share it with that family member. Make the sharing a special occasion, an opportunity to spend time together talking, reminiscing, and enjoying one another’s company.
  • Ask your spouse and children what you can do to improve your family relationships. The following questions might help. The answers to these questions can be difficult to hear. However, we grow through constructive feedback. Asking for feedback shows your desire to grow personally and as a family. It shows how much you value your family and family member’s opinions.
    • What can I do to make you feel more loved? Respected? Secure? Understood?
    • When you think of me, what is the first thought/image that comes to mind? How do you think of me?
    • What do you think I value most?
    • Is there one characteristic you would like me to develop? An area you want me to work on improving?
    • What are some things I can do to show you how much I value having you in my family?
    • How do you envision our future together? What can we do to achieve that goal together?
By following these simple steps, you can add depth and longevity to your family relationships. You can “go the distance” and experience greater relationship health and happiness.

You Are Truly Rich

A woman from our church family passed away at the end of January. She was 98 years old. She was a retired school teacher and students from fifty years ago still called her Mrs. Carlson. Friends and those who met her during retirement, called her Eva. Those who had the privilege of growing up in the church she attended call her Aunt Lou. Everyone loved her. She was one of the most gracious people I have ever met. People who have known her their whole lives honestly look back and say that she never said a harsh word about anybody. She only had words of kindness, encouragement, and grace.
She and her husband taught me a lot about family. They had no biological children of their own, but children in their neighborhood gathered on their porch to share time with them, children at church called her Aunt Lou, and women my age look to her as a mentor and example of a loving, gracious woman. I recall going to Eva’s home for Sunday dinner. She always prepared a great meal. Afterwards, she helped her husband clear the table and he washed the dishes. Her husband, a tough WWII vet, stood over the sink washing dishes and sharing loving words of gratitude with his wife. He looked at me and said, “You remember this, your wife is kind enough to cook dinner, you wash the dishes.” These are simple words of wisdom to recognize, in a very practical way, how family members contribute to family life. Eva smiled and gave him a kiss. Sharing grace and gratitude made their marriage strong.
When my wife and I started a family of our own, Eva would always ask about our children. She asked about our children’s interests and education. No matter what, the conversation always ended with her saying the same words, “You are rich…truly rich!” She was right, family gave me “true riches.” Anyone who has family is “truly rich.” She knew the value of family because she had built her own family on shared grace and honor, not just with her husband and her brothers’ families, but with her “family” at church and in the community. We can all learn the lesson that family makes us rich, truly rich. And, we build those riches on grace shown to one another.
Perhaps you have an Eva in your life. If so, you have been truly blessed…you are truly rich. If you would, share your stories about the “Eva’s” in your life. As you do, you will be sharing your riches with us all.