Influencing Your Family

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I love living in today’s culture. Sometimes I listen to podcasts about the past, and I becoming incredibly thankful for all the things that we have right now. All the advances we have are incredible and the easiness it brings to our lives is fantastic. For example, I recently went back to school and received my Master’s degree in Youth and Family Ministries. It was a cake walk compared to my undergrad more than a decade ago. Was the school work lighter? No, it was more work but because of technological advances I had an easier time. Gone were the day’s of putting together a table of contents or footnotes. I didn’t have to write down the info on an index card, stick it into a pile of other index cards and then go back later for a paper. Now I could read on my Kindle, highlight, copy and paste, and boom footnote is added. If I had this during my undergrad, I might have scored a lot better in classes (Of course I might not have, I still had a lot of growing to do).

Like I said, I love living in today’s world. But as a parent, I am terrified of raising my kids in this same culture. Why? Because it is easy for students to become influenced by the wrong people. I am not just talking about celebrities or pseudo-celebrities I’m more worried about complete strangers. Currently, with social media, teens can be influenced by other’s opinions. They can get lost in body images or even use tools to alter their online appearance. Teens can be bullied by people all over the world. It’s hard to protect our students from dangers close by, but now the world is at their fingertips and the world is not always kind, especially the internet.

As a parent, I know I can’t protect my children from everything in this world and as a more hands-on parent, I don’t like that fact. However, that doesn’t mean I simply sit back and allow outsiders be an influence on my children’s lives. The primary influence on any family’s life is the parents. Students are still subjected to other influences, but it is the parent’s job to make sure that they remain the first influence over their children’s lives.

As a Christian parent, I know that my faith is the main influence I want my children to have. Biblical faith is meant to be generational. What I mean by that, is that the faith that I have should be passed down from generation to generation, so that my grandchildren will have a stronger grasp of the faith than I do right. As I grow in my faith, I am growing faith to the next generation.

3 Ideas To Influence Your Family

Part of my plan to be proactive in remaining the number one influence in my child’s life is to have intentional spiritual moments. Here are a few ways we’re doing that.

Rite of Passages Experience

At my church, we use a resource from http://www.parentministry.net, called Rite of Passages. These rituals start from birth and go to graduation and are intended to be used every year to have a special moment with your children. I recommend this resource to every church.

Family Dinners

There is plenty of research out there that shows the importance of eating meals together. Currently, we have dinner with each other almost every day, but I am slowly working up to adding more spiritual time into the supper time conversation. Once a week, we recap what they talked about on Sunday and how we can apply it to our daily lives. In the near future, we might be using a resource from D6 called Splink, which comes to my email every week for free. You can check out more at http://d6family.com/splink/

Great Family Experiment

I came across this resource a month or so back, from Connexus Community Church called the Great Family Experiment. http://www.connexuscommunity.com/gfx/ Currently there is only three experiments right now, but over Christmas break we are going to be doing the Widen the Circle material.

These are just a few ways we’re trying to be intentional in how we influence our children. I would love to hear from you, on ways you are influencing your family. Leave your ideas in the comments below.

Your Child and Being Thankful

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If you have young children, you probably have said this statement before to them,  “What do you say….?”  Then after a brief moment your child says in a muttered voice, “Thank You.”   This is almost a weekly interaction I have with my at least one of boys. I thought that after eight years, at least one of my children would know when to say “Thank You,” without being reminded.  Sometimes, they say the words, and out of habit I say “What do you say…?”  Which then I get a response of “I did” with a little chuckle that say’s “D’uh.”

This is probably an exchange of words that happens more often than you expected in your home as it does mine, because one of the disciplines we teach our children is that of thankfulness. I know for me, I strive to teach my children this discipline because I don’t want them to grow up in this world with a privileged mindset.  They don’t know the world outside of the U.S.; they don’t know the poverty and despair that is around them.  They only know, what’s in their school where young children are well-fed and they have numerous luxuries.  Even the children that are considered “poor” in their schools have more than the normal children in this world.  I want them to know, that because they were lucky enough to be born in the U.S.,  they need to be thankful for everything that is given, because they could easily have less.

Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

It is God’s will for us to be thankful.  Not just in the good days, but in every day.  Why should we be thankful?  Because of Gods indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15) of Jesus Christ.

Creating Thankfulness In Your Home

As a Christian Parent, I not only have to teach my children thankfulness, I also need to show it.  When I am with my children, there should be more positiveness coming from my mouth than negatives.  When I am in a restaurant, I need to be more thankful that I am able to spend the money on luxury foods instead of moaning that my steak isn’t properly cooked.  Our child will become the type of person that our mouths profess.  And if they hear me complain all the time, then I will be raising some complaining adults.  Be the example of thankfulness.

A great place to practice thankfulness as a family is at the dinner table.  The dinner table is a great time because food is something that we all can be thankful for.  It is something they have numerous times each day and it can be easily taken for granted.  So instead of ignoring the blessings of the food, why not give a blessing every time you eat.  Maybe even talk about something good that happened that day or share some insights on how you could have made things better.  Take that 15 – 30 minutes with your family and spend the time with positive, thankful attitudes.

To create thankfulness, you need to be the example of thankfulness and find the best opportunities to talk about thankfulness.

7 Day’s of Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is a week away, but you can start helping your children understand thankfulness by reading a scripture each day with your family. I prefer doing this at dinner time, and letting my oldest son read the scripture. But you can do it in the car ride home, before your child going to bed, during breakfast or whatever time works best for your family.

Day 1: 1 Chronicles 16:34 ESV
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Day 2: 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 ESV
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Day 3: Philippians 4:6 ESV
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Day 4: Psalm 147:7 ESV
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!

Day 5: Psalm 100:4 ESV
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

Day 6: Psalm 95:2 ESV
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Day 7: Colossians 3:17 ESV
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Helping Your Student With Friendships

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The beginning of the school year is a conflicting time of emotions. Students are excited to have something to do on a regular basis, but are bummed that it’s school. They’re looking forward to meeting new people and new friends. School is a great place to be, except for all the classes and homework.

It’s already November, more than likely your student has already made new friends. They might have invited them to hang out at home or brought them to church. While they’ve made new friends, it’s also possible they’ve lost a friend or two. In the past few months, they probably experienced both the happiness of new friends and the sadness of losing old friends.

Friendships Are A Double-Edged Sword

They bring fun, excitement, adventure, love, compassion, and many other positive attributes. Those things alone are reason to have a friend or two in our life. But, friendships can also bring sadness, drama, heartbreak, lack of self-worth, trouble, hate and other negative attributes.

Some might ask, “Is making friends even worth the adventure and possible heartache?” I believe relationships are totally worth the possibility of being hurt because once you find a friend that survives, it is an incredible experience.

Helen Keller said, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

When it comes to friendships our role, as a Christian, in that relationship should be different than that of nonbelievers. God calls us to be transformative in our lifestyle, and that needs to be evident with our closest relationships.

Romans 12:18 say’s “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

It is our responsibility to foster a relationship of peace with the people around us. If they choose to break the relationship, it should not be because of us or something negative that we did.

Your Student’s Friendships

The best way to keep peace is for them to start with the right friendships. There are some people, who are not the best match for your student and family. Growing up, I had a couple of friends that always got me in trouble. Whether it was shoplifting, lying to parents, smoking or underaged drinking. The friends didn’t make do any of those things, but being around them made doing those things a viable option.

Maybe your student has a friend that causes similar problems or maybe they have a friend that makes them have a bad attitude or unnecessary drama. There are just some people you would prefer to have your children not left alone with. That is why it’s important to teach your student what values to look for in a person. The more values they share in a relationship; the more peace will be in their life.

Tweet: Guide your teen in choosing their friend. Don’t control.

Another thing for your student to learn is about healthy boundaries by learning and using the word “No.” Isn’t it amazing our students can tell us “no” on a regular basis, but when it comes to their peers, it is rarely used? Helping your student in making healthy decisions is critical for them to learn how to stay away from bad relationships and the bad decisions that may result from those friendships.

Finally, as a parent we can’t protect our child from every person they meet. They will be hurt by someone at some time in their life. Knowing this, we need to make sure we are available for them to express their anger and frustration. You’re relationship, and God’s relationship with them should be a consistent place of love, grace and mercy.

When Your Child Fails

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It was my fifth-grade year; I don’t remember much from this year, but I do remember it was the year of the Science Fair. Every student worked on a project for the fair, except for me. I don’t remember how I forgot, but I do remember waking up one morning knowing that the fair was today, and I had nothing. How could I be in a class all year, a class that was preparing for a one-time event, and come out with nothing to show? What does a child do when a deadline comes, and they are not ready? Why, do what every teenage sitcom does to avoid big situations, and play sick. I remember getting up, telling my mom who was getting ready for work that I had a headache and wasn’t feeling well. She allowed me to stay home with my illness, and I played video games and watched The Price Is Right. The next day, I went in, and my teacher didn’t say a word to me about the science project. I had gotten away with it… until report cards came and I realized that the project was worth a whole lot of points. I didn’t fail the subject, but it was very close.

My parents didn’t fight for that grade to change or complain that because of “illness” I missed school that day. Rather, my parents allowed me to fail. I learned an embarrassing lesson that day; failures will happen. I don’t think my parents wanted me to fall short, but they were not going to protect me from my own consequences. I was lazy; I didn’t prepare, I lied to avoid the situation and I paid the price. It was my mistake.

Everyone fails

Not one person will go through life without failing at something. You can avoid a lot of things, but you can’t avoid taxes, death and failure. When our children are young, we want to protect them from failure. We check on their homework to see if it’s done. We protect them with safety equipment, so when they fall it doesn’t hurt. We fight for them to be treated fairly. Those things are all good things to do, but sometimes we go overboard to the point where we try to prevent them from experiencing life and consequences.

Does it stink when our children fail? Yes, it is horrifying. It is almost like your stomach gets turned inside out, and you feel terrible for them. But, instead of worrying about prevention, we should work on perseverance and grace.

Romans 5:3-5 says “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

When we fail, we will suffer. It could be suffering spiritually, physically, emotionally or all three. When we are suffering, we can either be traumatized by it or we can be transformed, and that goes the same with our children. We can make it part of who we are, or we can use it as a building block to something greater. For you and your children, to be transformed, you need to persevere, which builds character and hope. And although failures feel embarrassing and shameful, we shouldn’t be ashamed because of God’s love that is given to us.

As a parent, to help our children persevere, we can show them God’s grace which is the ultimate sign of encouragement

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 say’s “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

Tweet: Every failure, our children encounter is another time to teach and experience the grace of God.

Does this mean, we push them to fail? By no means, that would make us terrible parents, but we can’t protect them from every failure. Your child will fail at some point, so take those opportunities to teach and experience the grace of God.

Helping Your Child To Trust In God And Not To Fear

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I love being scared, which makes October one of my favorite times of the year.  Before I was a Christian and a parent, I spent a lot of time watching horror films. Even though, I no longer indulge in horror movies, there is something about being scared that I still love.  Whether it’s from entertainment, roller coasters or even a haunted house. And while I like being scared on purpose, I do not like to be scared unintentionally.  I don’t like normal people jumping in front of me trying to get me to jump back.  It’s not fun. If I am going to be scared, it has to be my choice.

No one wants to be fearful for real.  There is a different type of fear when you are in a haunted house or watching a scary movie, than having fear in your real life.  It is scary when something jumps out in front of you, but having fear of losing your job is terrifying.  Freddy Kruger is scary, but the bank wanting to foreclose your home is worse.

As adults, we know the difference between real fears and ones that are made up.  We know Freddy isn’t real, but you can lose your home.  Because one is real and one is fake, we are able to put up safeguards so the real fears don’t happen.  But, your children do not know the difference between things they should be fearful or and things that are fake.  They do not know that a scary movie is fictitious and cannot harm them.  As a parent it can be difficult to shelter your children from fictitious fears during this time of year,  While watching football, scary previews are shown during the commercials.  Neighbors put up Halloween decorations that may not be the most kid appropriate.

 

So what can we do, if our child gets scared?

Whether it be a real or fictitious fear, there are some scriptures we can use to limit our fears.

1. Trust In God

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
Psalm 56:3 (NIV)

David was being pursued by his enemies and instead of fear taking over his life, he put his trust in God.  There is nothing in this world, that should make us fearful.  Trust in God fully, and fear will leave.

2. Give Your Fears To God.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

We can give our fears to God with thankfulness, no matter what the situation is.  And then God’s peace will guard your life.  It won’t keep fear away, but when it does come back, we simply need to pray with thanksgiving and the peace that passes understanding will be back in  your life.

3. God Is Always With You

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

The Israelites were afraid to enter the land that was promised to them by God.  Our fears can cause us to not fully trust God.  However, we can know that no matter what happens, God is always with us.

 

Something to Try

Here is a simple game you can play with your child.  It’s called “Trust Walk”.  All you need is a blindfold and a good size space to walk around in.  If you have a messy playroom, that will be perfect.  Blindfold your child, and tell them to follow your commands and to trust your words.  Lead them around the area of obstacles  for a short period of time and make sure they stay away from anything that is harmful.

Once you’ve navigated them safely around the room, take off their blindfold and show them the path you took them through and the obstacles they avoided.  Explain that they were able to make it through because they trusted in your voice.  Then make the point, even though we can’t see God, we can trust in Him to lead us through life.

Tweet: Even though I can’t see God, I can trust when I am afraid that He will lead me through life.

Those verses not only apply to our children, but can be applied to us as well.  We can allow our realistic fears to take over our life.  Some fear is good, because it prevents us from crossing dangerous lines, but too much fear restricts us from God’s blessings in life.

Teach your children to trust God fully, but also apply that same teaching to your own life.

Your Child’s Friendships Are Important

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God gives us our relatives, thank God we can choose our friends. ~ Ethel Watts Mumford

Friendships have a powerful impact in your life, health, and well-being. Having the right friends can cause you immense joy, while having the wrong kind of friends can cause you aggravation.

The Mayo Clinic shares some of the benefits that comes with a good friendship. Here are my favorites.

  • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose.
  • Boost happiness and reduces stress
  • Encourages you to avoid unhealthy lifestyle behaviors
  • Improves self-confidence and self-worth1

That is the power of a good friendship, and that is a great reason to know your child’s friends.

Importance of Knowing Your Child’s Friends

You can’t be around your child 24/7. But you can help your child be around other children, who are a positive influence, when they are away from your home, especially if your children are more susceptible. But even if they are susceptible, knowing the children they call friends is important.

Tweet: You can’t be around your child 24/7. But you can help your child be around other children, who are a positive influence

When you know their friends, you can make confident decisions about hang-out times, sleepovers, parties, etc.. If their friends are bad influences, do you want them to stay overnight at their house? How would you know if you don’t know their friends?

Helpful Advice

Maybe you don’t know your child’s friends, where do I start?

First thing you can do is to stand back and watch your child. Sometimes we are too busy in our life, to take moments to watch but it is important to see and listen to your child interact with their peers. Take them to a safe activity, where they can interact with each other comfortably and then watch and listen to their interactions. Some key factors

How are they treating my child?
What kind of language are they using?
How does your child treat them?

Another thing is to ask a friend about some of their favorite activities. You will be surprised how honest children can be about their home life. One of son’s friends (1st grader) asked me if I played the new Grand Theft Auto game. I said I hadn’t played the game, and then he went on to tell me about the game. Now if his parent is willing to let their young child play a very adult game, what other things are allowed in their household?

If you find your child’s friends are not the right influence of your child, you can find ways to limit interactions away from the safety of your home and find ways where you can be a positive influence in their friends lives. I know for me, and I had great 2nd dads and moms outside my home that helped and shaped me more spiritually today. And you can be that same influence in their friend’s lives.

Teaching Your Teen To Become Someone Greater

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It wasn’t a long time ago, when I was watching my two boys growing from babyhood to a childhood.  It was cool to see their first steps.  Their first words.  When they finally able to get dressed by themselves (still working on matching clothes). The day when they learned to use the potty.  Those moments were magical,  amazing, and a relief to experience.

For many of you, your child has moved from childhood into teenagers and now are transitioning their life into adulthood, which, unfortunately, is not so magical.   I have never seen a parent enjoy the transition into adulthood as they enjoyed the childhood transition.  You will never hear a parent say, “Let’s have another teenager!” after graduation.

Although it is not as magical (and stressful), it is just as or even more important than any transition period in the child’s life.  Because, you are not raising a child anymore, instead you are now raising an adult.  They are moving into the society at large and hopefully are guided to become functioning adults who are participating in the greater community.

Important Question To Ask Yourself

If you are a parent of a teenager, this might be the most important question you can ask yourself right now

“Who Do You Want Your Child To Become?”

This question has nothing to do with an occupation or what class you want them to be in, but rather about your child’s identity.

What qualities do you want them to have?

What characteristics?

What values?

Those things are about their identity, and this should be a question all parents need to ask themselves!

Teenagers Are Not Looking Ahead

Maybe you asking yourself, “Why do I have to answer this question?”

Well, let’s be honest, teenagers don’t think that far in advance.  Maybe they have an idea in what they want to do.  Maybe they have some schools narrowed down.   But they are not thinking of whom they are going to become.  That is where you, the parent needs to step in. The parent needs to step in and become an assistant in helping the child transform into something better than they know.  They don’t know the benefits of discipline, or patience.  They don’t know that being selfless will benefit the community.  Those things are so distant from their minds, unless you help them realize the greatness that awaits in them.

Tweet: The parent needs to step in and become an assistant in helping the child transform into something better than they know.

It is important to note, how you answer the identity question, will dictate how you parent from this day forward as well.

Who Do You Want Your Teen To Become?

For example, my goal right now for my children is to become a Christian.  That means, I need to be the best example of Christ.  I need to be able to show grace, mercy, love, compassion, etc….  I need them to understand the importance of the church community without making it a place of burden.  I need to pray with them daily.  Open His word and express the importance of following them.  Be giving. Be forgiving.  Be humble.

If I want my child to become this when they are adults, then that needs to be evident in raising them in that direction, but it also needs to evident in my  life.  I am not a perfect Christian, so that means that I need to continually growing as well.  In other words, I need to practice what I preach.  I cannot tell my children the importance of this qualities if these qualities are not important to my  life.

Try This With Your Family

Take the time this week with your teenager and talk with them about the importance of identity.  Talk with them about becoming something greater.  Maybe share with them your stories of immaturity and how you have grown over these past decades.   Finally, pray with them.  Pray with them daily.  Pray over them while they are sleeping.  Allow the Holy Spirit to work in your household, because you are going to need some divine intervention as your teen grows up.

Helping Your Child With Their Fears

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Everyone in life will experience fears, but it get be difficult when our children start becoming afraid of things in the world. It starts off small, like a loud noise or a room filled with people, to later in life when they start fearing rejection or being home alone. Even as adults, we have fears from death to budget concerns.

Fear is just a part of life, but our children don’t know that yet. And telling them it’s normal can be very discouraging to hear.

Fear begins when our imaginations start developing. That coat in the closet can easily become a person. That shadow on the wall could be a monster. Imagination plays a big role in fear in our children.

But as the child develops, fear also happens through observations from their parents. A parent being uncomfortable in an environment will cause the child to be afraid. One time, we were on a trip away from home with the youth and a storm was coming. As the adult leaders, we were well prepared and knew the dangers. We were calm and collective, but a parent back home wasn’t and called their child. Calling their child in panic, caused their child, who was hundreds of miles away, to get fearful of a storm that we knew was coming.

As parents, we can do a couple of things to help with your child’s fear.

First, we need to stay calm and confident. I know it can be hard to be calm especially if you awoken every night. And sometimes we don’t have confidence because we don’t have the right solution to fix their problems. But what you can do, is walk and talk with them about their fears and show them that there is nothing to be afraid of. Say that with sincerity and confidence will come out.

Second, reward bravery. Do not worry if the accomplishment is small or big, it is an accomplishment. Reward them with something that fitting for the task. For example, if they are afraid of the water, and they decide to take on their fear. Reward them with a trip to their favorite dinner spot.

Finally, relieve your child’s fear by allowing them to tell you what will comfort them, even if it sounds dumb. Let them lock the door or window, if they are afraid of someone coming. Give them a night light, if the dark is causing problems. Let them tell you what will make them feel safe and if it’s reasonable let it happen. Obviously there are some realistic boundaries, and if something comes up that is unrealistic, give them a better option.

There is no doubt about that life is scary, and there are realistic fears in this world. We cannot protect or keep every fear away from children, but we can help them know that there is comfort, and there is peace in this world as well.

What kind of tips do you have with dealing with fears? If it is constructive, let me know if the comments below.

Photo Credit: Medo / Fear by xaimex via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Take Hold of Your Schedule and Stop Being So Busy

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Growing up during the big technology boom of the 90’s, people either lamented about robots taking over the workplace or praised that technology was going free up more time. Well, it’s been over 20 years, and we haven’t been overrun by our robot overlords, and it seems we have less time than ever before.

Even though, technology has helped us in many ways in time-management (like easier calendar integration or easy access to social interaction), and we are running around more often to fit in everything in our 24 hour allotted time that God has given us.

Why?

I think, especially in the U.S. culture that it is taboo for us to be lazy. I think it even goes as far as the appearance of laziness, is just as bad as being lazy. Why do I think that? Well, for one we like to tell people that we are busy, even if we had a relaxed week. Think about. When you are chitchatting with someone on Sunday morning, and if you ask them how was your week, the usual response is one simple word. “Busy.” Where they busy? I don’t know, but saying, “busy” is an acceptable answer in our mind.

Busyness is a problem in our society. It makes us more stress; we lose more sleep and depletes motivation. But I think the biggest problem of busyness is the affect it has on the family, especially children.

Gone are the days of just hanging out with the family on a Saturday morning or eating at the dinner table. Hopefully, in the next ten years, it will change but as of today 2014 it is insane. I have seen families pull into their driveway, run in the house with school clothes and run out with sports clothes. I have seen families sprint out of church, to make their next appointment. Everyone has that speed walking stroll that you would normally see in mornings at the mall.

Maybe instead of being busy, we should be a little more relax. How bad would it be to tell your children, we are taking a season off from sports? How bad would it be, to take a stay-cation, to sit back with the family to eat pizza, play some board games and have a day to relax at the place you pay the bank to stay in?

I want you to look at your life and your calendar. Before school starts take a giant red pen and ink out a couple of days where nothing will happen that day except to relax and have fun as a family. Then on Sunday morning, when someone asks you, “How was your week?”, you can say “Great because I spent a day with family at home.” You will be surprised by the reaction, and most people will say, “I wish I could do that.” Well, guess what, anybody can as long as you are intentional.

Take hold of your families schedule and be intentional in taking breaks for your family.

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