Choosing the Right Attitude (Dinner Discussions)

October Dinner Discussions

“People have moods, you know,” announced my younger daughter yesterday as I gently reminded her to choose a better attitude.

“Yep, they do,” I thought, “and you are certainly in one.”

We’re working hard on attitude around here, and what I’ve discovered in the process is that our attitude is a choice. We can choose to let negative emotions take precedence or we can choose to not let our circumstances dictate our mood.

Poor attitudes come from discontent. Anger, jealousy and frustration all have their roots in discontentment. And being discontent is a choice.

Paul says in Philippians 4:11 says “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” If Paul learned it then contentment must be a choice we can make, and when we learn to be content, we choose to change our attitude.

Kids tend to be ruled by emotion, some kids more than others. It’s our job as parents to teach our kids to choose to have a good attitude, no matter the circumstances. That doesn’t mean our kids stick their heads in the sand and ignore circumstances that are dangerous or hurtful. It simply means that their attitude isn’t based on the circumstances. It’s based on the joy we have in Jesus.

I won’t lie. That’s a tough thing to teach our kids. It’s a tough thing to learn ourselves. We’re struggling with it right now.

What I do know, though, is that cultivating a thankful heart and helping our kids to focus on all that God has done for them will change hearts, which will change attitudes. We’re going to focus on thankful hearts next month, but this month’s dinner discussions focus on helping your kids build altars.

When God did something great for the Israelites, they built an altar (usually just a pile of stones), so they could remember it. This month, there is only one dinner discussion question, “What did you see God do today?” I encourage you to either keep a journal, write your kids’ answers on paper stones and tape them to the wall or get a bunch of real stones and build your own altar to remind your family of all that God has done this month.

Before you start this month’s dinner discussions, explain the concept of an altar to your kids. Explain that the reason to build an altar is to remember what God has done. Talk about how you’re going to build your own altar this month so you can see all that God is doing and remember the reasons we have to be joyful.

Take pictures of the altars you build; I’d love to see them at the end of the month. I’d also love to hear the stories of how this activity works in the hearts of your kids.

Linking up today with Denise in Bloom.

Kristy Westrate is the winner of the Teach Me To Serve e-book giveaway. Look for your e-book in your inbox soon. Congratulations, Kristy!

Making Your Kids Mad

Everyone else was gone, and I was still waiting for my daughter to come out of the locker room after hockey practice last night. I finally went looking for her. I found her with her nose pressed to the glass, watching the travel team, which included many of her teammates from the past two seasons, practice.

“We need to go,” I said.


Uh-oh, I thought. Here we go again.

When we got to the car and started home, I said, “Do you want to tell me why you’re mad?”


“When you’re ready to talk about it, I’ll be happy to talk to you.”

About halfway home, she finally spoke up. “I’m mad you won’t let me play travel hockey.”

Ahh. Finally. We’ve known she was upset that most of her friends tried out for the travel team. We’ve heard about how upset she was. We’ve been over and over the reasons that she couldn’t play — money, time, family — but she clearly hadn’t settled those things in her mind. To her, we’re just being mean.

So, I sent up a prayer for wisdom and tackled the subject again. I gave her a breakdown of the cost. I explained that it would split up our family nearly every weekend for five months, and then I had a stroke of divine inspiration. I explained that we had made our decision out of love. I told her that we love her and her sister too much to deprive them of time with us and time with each other. I explained that we made the decision that was best for our entire family.

It wasn’t that we didn’t want her to play travel hockey. It’s that we didn’t want to add the strain to our family. It’s that we want to spend time with her. We want to have time together as a family.

Then, I told her she had a choice: She could live in the land of “what if” and “I wish” or she could choose to enjoy the hockey season to the fullest. She could make the best memories she could with her house team. She could focus on learning and having fun every time she was on the ice. Or, she could sulk her way through the season. It was her choice.

Sometimes, as parents, we have to make the best decision we can make for our families. And sometimes that decision makes our kids mad. It’s OK to let them stomp and stew and express their disappointment. It’s OK for our kids to be upset. But it’s also our job to help our kids deal with that disappointment, to help them move on and enjoy what they do have.

Too often, kids want to focus on the things that they don’t have. They get caught in the cycle of “I want” or “what if,” and that’s a dangerous place to live. It results in discontentment and frustration. Philippians 4:11 says “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” We want our kids to learn to be content even when we make decisions they don’t agree with. And the only way we can do that is by helping our kids understand help our kids understand that we make decisions based on our love for them — not simply because we want them to be miserable.

Take the time to explain difficult decisions to your kids — multiple times if necessary. Then, make sure they know that the choice to be content in what they consider a crummy circumstance is entirely up to them. Help them to focus on what they do have instead of what they don’t.

Our kids won’t like every decision we make, but we can help them understand those decisions and learn to be content in the midst of those circumstances.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

July Dinner Discussions

I’m sitting in my newly rearranged living room. I got a new desk and bookshelf yesterday, and I love it. In the past month, we’ve bought more furniture than we’ve bought in the entire 16 years we’ve been married. Up until this point, we’ve made do with a lot of hand-me downs and discount store furniture. And we’re still using a lot of it.

As I sit in my chair, I’m looking at my couch and chair. We are the third generation of my family to use this furniture. Neither is super comfortable, but I look at those pieces of furniture, and I’m always reminded of the connection to my family. It helps to make me content.

My new desk and bookshelf don’t match the older furniture all that well. They definitely give the room an eclectic look. And as happy as I am with them, I know that at some point in the near future, I’ll walk into someone else’s house, see someone else’s living room and lose my contentment with what I have. It won’t matter that my furniture reminds me of family. It won’t matter that my bookshelf and desk are perfect for my needs. All that will matter is that my living room doesn’t look like it came out of a Pottery Barn catalog. Contentment is that easy to lose.

All last week, we talked about contentment in our Learning to Be Content series. Because contentment is something that I don’t think we ever completely learn, this month’s dinner discussions are all about contentment, envy and joy. My prayer is that as you use these questions to spark your dinnertime conversations that your family will take to heart Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11-13: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

By keeping the focus on contentment for an entire month, we can learn the roots of jealousy, the desires of our hearts and how to learn to be content. It’s not an easy process, and it’s always an ongoing one. But contentment is something we can learn and teach to our children. And the first step is getting the conversation started.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife, Growing Home, and A Pause on the Path.

Strategies for Teaching Contentment

The gift shop was closed.

We had spent a fun day at an exotic animal farm bed and breakfast in central Kansas (I know, it’s an odd place for exotic animals). We had fed giraffes, petted kangaroos, heard a macaw say hello and ridden a camel. But all of that enjoyment was sucked away because the gift shop was closed.

My girls really wanted T-shirts to take home with them, and had the gift shop been open, we probably would have gotten them each one. But it wasn’t. It was closed, and it wasn’t going to open before we left. And our joy and contentment was gone.

It could have been a teachable moment. Yep, it could have been. But after wandering around in 100-degree heat for an hour and knowing that we still had six hours together in the car ahead of us, this mommy missed the teachable moment and went for the grumpy one. I essentially told my kids to “get over it.”

Funny how we’re talking about contentment this week, and I missed a perfect opportunity to teach my kids about being content. All they took away from that exchange was “we didn’t get we wanted and mom’s in a bad mood.”

So, in our better moments as parents, how do we teach our kids to be content — with who God made them to be, with the stuff they have and with the circumstances in their lives?

It starts with us. You’ve probably noticed that most of the posts about contentment this week haven’t included a lot about teaching your kids to be content. That’s because we have to learn contentment before we can teach it to our kids. This is one of those things that is more often caught than taught. So, if contentment is a struggle for you (and I think it is for most of us), now is the time to begin working on it. As you teach your kids, be honest with them about your struggles with being content. Knowing that you struggle will help your kids to know how difficult it is and make them more willing to open up about their struggles.

Give your kids a broader view. Help your kids understand that not everyone in the world lives like they do. Get them serving those who are less fortunate in your community. Work at a food pantry, organize a book drive or help out an after-school program. Our kids need to see people in need to understand what “having enough” really means.

Cultivate thankful hearts. Make thankfulness second nature. Ask your kids what they’re thankful for on a regular basis. Keep a thankfulness journal or bulletin board, where everyone writes down the things they are thankful for. When your kids get the “gimmes” or have hearts full of discontent, have them make a list of the things for which they are thankful. There’s no room for discontent in a heart full of thankfulness.

Have a contentment code word. Create a “code” word with your kids that you can use to remind each other to be content. Let your kids use it to remind you not to grumble, and you use it to remind them to be content with what they have. Make it something fun and appropriate that only you will know.

Memorize Philippians 4:8 as a family. Talk about the fact that contentment is something we can learn with God’s help. Remind your kids that when they feel discontent, they need to ask God to help them learn to be content no matter the circumstances.

We can all use help learning to be content. Use teaching your kids about contentment as an opportunity for you to learn contentment as well. When we support each other as a family, our entire family grows together. Put contentment on at the top of the list of things to learn together.

Being Content With What You Have

A bigger house. A newer car. Nicer clothes. More vacations. These are the longings of many of our hearts. We look around and we see what our friends and neighbors have. And we want more. We want what they have. We want to be thinner, smarter, better looking and younger. We want what we don’t have.

Have you ever watched a two-year-old play? If there is another child in the room playing with a different toy, the two-year-old will inevitably want what the other child has — and he probably won’t be shy about taking it. We’re not all that far removed from that two-year-old. Oh, we’re nicer about it. We probably won’t take it from our friend. But we want it. And sometimes we let it consume us.

When I was pregnant with our younger daughter, I wanted to move. It wasn’t so much that I wanted a bigger house, I just wanted one that had a better layout for our needs. My friends all agreed, but my husband didn’t. I pushed the issue until my husband agreed to put our house on the market. But when we had an offer on the table, my husband looked at me and said, “I’m not ready to do this.” My discontent had pushed my husband into something he didn’t want to do. And his reaction pushed our marriage to a difficult place. All rooted in discontent.

Always wanting more is dangerous, and it can be disastrous. It takes the focus off of God’s provision and puts it squarely on our wants and desires. There’s nothing wrong with having a new house or a new car, but when the desire for those things becomes all-consuming, there’s no place for God to work.

So, how do we decide that enough is enough? How do we back out of this race for more that we call the American dream?

Start by looking beyond your corner of the world. If you own a car and a house, you are among the richest people in the world. You are the 1%. Because we so often live in places where everyone else is just like us, our perspective is skewed. We forget that there are people who don’t get enough to eat, who don’t have a closet full of clothes, who don’t even have clean water to drink. When we begin to look at ourselves in relation to the rest of the world, we realize just how blessed we are, and we can rid ourselves of the seeds of discontent.

Decide when enough is enough. Set limits on how much you’re willing to spend on chasing stuff. Then put those resources to work helping those with less than you. For example, decide how long you will drive your cars before you replace them. If you’re a person who replaces their car every three years, try driving it for five. Use the extra money to sponsor a child or buy food for a local food pantry.

Stop comparing. The roots of discontentment start in comparison. We see others who have more, and we want more. Generally, we’re not unhappy with what we have until we see what others have. Ask God to help you stop comparing yourself to others. Ask Him to make it the desire of your heart to become more like Jesus, not more like your neighbor.

Make contentment your goal. Actively chase contentment. Count your blessings. Don’t make impulse purchases. Make do with what you have. Learn to be content. Make it an everyday pursuit.

We often think that having more stuff will bring us happiness, but wealth doesn’t always mean an end to our problems. Solomon was the richest man in the world, but he had this to say in Ecclesiastes 4:8: “There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.”

Stuff doesn’t bring contentment. It often leads to the desire for more stuff. Being content doesn’t mean we never get anything new. It doesn’t mean we stop trying to be healthy or educated. It simply means that those things don’t become the all-consuming focus of our lives. It means we don’t let stuff take God’s rightful place as the No. 1 thing in our lives. It means we simply know when enough is enough. It means we control our stuff; it doesn’t control us.

Are you content with what you have or do you need to gain a new perspective?

Contentment is Learned

I remember when my kids took those first steps. After weeks of holding their hands and encouraging them to walk, they finally took that first toddling step on their own. I also remember teaching them to ride a bike and how to read. I could teach them those things because I knew how to do them.

I also remember trying to teach my younger daughter how to do a hockey stop. It was frustrating for both her and me. Why? Because I can’t do a hockey stop. All I could do was tell her what I had heard other people tell her. I couldn’t demonstrate it. I couldn’t tell her what it felt like. I couldn’t tell her what she was doing wrong. It was an exercise in frustration for both of us.

We can’t teach our kids something that we haven’t learned ourselves. If we haven’t learned to be content, then we can’t expect our kids to learn to be content. Yesterday, we talked about the fact that contentment is a choice. When we choose to be content, we are choosing to learn to be content no matter the circumstances.

Paul says this in Philippians 4:12-13: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” The secret to learning to be content in all situations is to rely on God for the strength to do so.

So, how do we learn contentment? How do we stop striving for more all the time and enjoy what we have — whether it be tangible like cars and houses or intangible like talents and health?

1. Ask God to help. Being content whatever our circumstances goes against human nature. We like to complain and grumble. It seems to be a constant of human nature. To overcome that desire, we have to have God’s help.

2. Focus on what you do have instead of what you don’t. No matter our circumstances, we have things in our lives for which to be grateful. It may be that we need to be content with the weather on a beautiful day, the ability to get out of bed in the morning or the love of our family. Find reasons to be grateful and content.

3. Stop comparing your circumstances to other people’s circumstances. Comparison is the fastest way to kill contentment. Make it a point to stop comparing what you have to what others have. When you find yourself caught in the comparison trap, make a conscious decision to choose to be content with what you have.

4. Cultivate a heart of gratitude. Create a thankfulness wall or journal in your home. Every day, write down something for which you are thankful. It’s hard to be envious of others when you’re focused on your own blessings.

We can’t teach our kids to be content unless we have learned it ourselves. Spend some time today relying on God to give you the strength to be content — no matter what your circumstances are.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

What is Contentment?

My 9-year-old daughter sat on the couch, reading the books she had bought yesterday. She was enjoying the bargain book “Extreme Deadly Creatures.” (Yes, we have some interesting reading taste in our house.) She was perfectly content — until her older sister decided to count her money. This led to a comparison of how much money each child had saved — and contentment flew out the window.

Why is it so hard to be content with what we have? I think it’s because, many times, we don’t understand what contentment is. I often think we want contentment to just fall on us like a blanket. We want it to just come out of nowhere and fill us up. The problem is contentment doesn’t work like that.

Because contentment is a choice.

It is a learned behavior. It isn’t something that just falls from the sky or just happens. It takes effort on our part. Paul had this to say about contentment: “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). We have to learn to be content.

Contentment isn’t happiness. We can’t control whether we feel happy or not. Happy is an emotion. It simply happens. The word happy comes from the same word root as the word happenstance, which is just another fancy word for circumstances. Happiness is dependent on our circumstances. Contentment is not. We can feel content despite our circumstances. defines the word content as “satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else.” We are content when we can say, “I have enough.” When we look around our homes and at ourselves, and we don’t want anything more, then we are content.

Contentment doesn’t mean we stop following after Christ to become more like Him. It doesn’t mean that we’re satisfied to stop growing. It doesn’t mean that we stop trying to lose that weight we need to lose or earning that college degree we want to earn. It simply means that other than following after Jesus, those things do not become the source of our ability to be content.

Contentment means that if the scale goes up instead of down one week, we don’t feel like a failure. If we get a D instead of an A on a test, we don’t lose our perspective. If our kids throw a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, we don’t lose our peace of mind because of it.

Being content means we find our joy and our contentment in who we are in Christ, not in the things we own or the way we look or the achievements we’ve accomplished. Contentment comes from God, not from our circumstances.

When we understand what contentment is, we can begin to learn how to be content in any circumstance. Take a minute to examine your understanding of contentment and if you need to, change the way you think about what it means to be content.

All this week, Everyday Truth is focusing on contentment. If you missed the first part of the series, you can find it here. Don’t miss tomorrow’s post when we talk about Contentment is Learned.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife, Growing Home, and A Pause on the Path.

Learning to Be Content Series

We’re having vacation envy around our house. My girls’ best friends just found out they’re going to Orlando to go to Universal Studios in the fall, and my girls (and I) are struggling with jealousy. It’s not that we haven’t been to Orlando. We have. We’ve just never been to Universal Studios. And it’s been four years since we went on a big family vacation.

We’ve got a beautiful new basement. We’ve been on a bunch of smaller trips. We get to eat out about once a week. We have two cars. We have more clothes than we can wear. Yet, we’re still struggling with envy. We’re still struggling to be content with what we have.

Contentment is a tough thing. It’s a choice. And it’s a hard one. In the culture that we live in where everyone seems to have everything, it’s sometimes tough to not look at our neighbors and friends and want what they have. It doesn’t seem to matter that we have more than 98% of the world. In the moment, all that matters is that we don’t have what someone that we know has.

I think that learning to be content and teaching our kids to be content is one of the hardest things to do. How do we teach something that we struggle with so much ourselves? That’s why we’re going to spend every day this week talking about contentment. Join me this week for our Learning to Be Content series. Here’s the line-up for the week. You won’t want to miss a day:

Monday: Introduction

Tuesday: What is Contentment?

Wednesday: Contentment is Learned

Thursday: Being Content with What You Have

Friday: Strategies for Teaching Contentment

Contentment is an important character quality for us to have and for us to teach. When we stop striving to gain more and to have things just because everyone else has them, we can focus on the things God wants us to focus on. When we are striving to gain things, tangible or intangible, we take our focus off of God. We become consumed by things that are not from God. 1 Timothy 6:6 says “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

And that’s what I want. Godliness with contentment leading to great gain. If that’s what you want too, leave me a comment to let me know you’re joining me for this series. Then share this with your friends so they can join us, too. Let’s learn to be content so we and our kids can focus on the things of God rather than our own desires.


Linking up today with The Better Mom and Graceful.

The Danger of Comparison

Courtesy David Castillo Dominici

My younger daughter has in inflated sense of justice. She always wants everything to be “fair.” If she thinks something isn’t fair, she’ll be sure to let you know.

Last night, she and her sister were cleaning up the kitchen, and she was bemoaning the fact that she had more jobs than her sister. This was not her first attempt to correct unfairness as she saw it yesterday. It had been an ongoing theme. I was done hearing about it.

I finally looked at her and said, “You know when you worry about whether everything is fair, when you compare what you’re doing to someone else, you just make yourself discontent.”

“What does discontent mean?”

“Unhappy with what you have.”

“Well, I don’t want to be discontent.”

I don’t know that we’ve solved the problem, but it definitely gave her something to chew on. And it gave me something to chew on as well.

Being content with what we have — whether it’s things, a job, our marriage or our kids — is tough. Human nature has us always comparing ourselves to others, always striving to be better and have more than someone else.

When we do that — when we compare our lot in life with someone else’s — we nearly always find that our life comes up short. We don’t have as much money. We don’t have as well-behaved children. We don’t have as nice of a house. We aren’t as smart. And we’re left with a feeling of discontentment.

Suddenly, all the gifts that God has given us aren’t enough. They seem inadequate. We seem inadequate. All because we decided to compare ourselves to someone else.

While human nature has us always striving for more, God wants us to be content with what He’s given us. In Philippians 4:12, Paul says, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry,  whether living in plenty or in want.” Being content is a learned reaction. And it’s not something we can do ourselves. The very next verse in Philippians gives us the key — “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

To be content, we have to rely on God. We have to believe that He’s given us enough of everything. And we have to stop comparing ourselves to others.

The next time you or your kids are caught in the discontentment trap, try this. Read Philippians 4:12-13. Ask God to help you be content, then list what you do have and thank God for it. It’s nearly impossible to be discontent and grateful at the same time.

Our kids won’t learn to be content with what they have if they constantly see us wanting more or comparing our lives to others. Learn as a family how to be content with what you have. Ask God for help because He wants you to be content with what He’s provided.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home  and Word Filled Wednesday.

Joy Busters

I was tempted this morning not to finish out this short series on joy and contentment. It’s not been the best week with a sore body and a wrecked car. On top of that several things have broken, my kids have been at each others’ throats because we’ve been stuck at home and I’ve struggled to get anything done.

I got up this morning thinking today would be easy. My kids are spending the next four days at GrandCamp, their annual summer camp with Grandmommy and Granddaddy. My days are open. The only other creature I have to look out for is the dog.

Ah, yes, the dog. Our beautiful German short-haired pointer who never has accidents in the house. The first thing I got to do this morning was clean up a lovely present he left for me in his crate. I really don’t think he was any happier about it than I was, but I have to tell you my attitude of joy and contentment has already been sorely tried this morning.

After cleaning up his mess, I sat down here at the computer to write only to discover that my Internet isn’t working. My whole day today revolves around catching up on my freelance projects, which requires an Internet connection. Joy and contentment were not the first words that came to mind.

I don’t know about you, but it seems the more I focus on having an attitude of joy and contentment, the harder it becomes. Satan loves to throw things in my path that make me work for that attitude.

And, you know what? I can’t have an attitude of joy and contentment on my own. I’m simply not strong enough, nor focused enough. Joy and contentment come from God and only through His strength can we achieve a consistent attitude of joy and contentment.

Philippians 4:13 tells us “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” That includes finding our joy and contentment in Him.

There’s always going to be something trying to tear our focus off of God. When we lose our focus on Him, we lose our source of strength. When we rely on our own strength to find contentment and joy, we fail. When we rely on God’s strength to find contentment and joy, we are filled up with His strength and we can remain focused on Him, the source of joy and contentment.

Illustrate this for your kids by hanging a picture on the wall. Tell them to walk from one end of the room to the picture while looking at the picture. Repeat the exercise, only have them look at something else in the room while walking toward the picture. Lastly, blindfold them and have them walk to the picture.

Explain that when we keep our eyes on the picture, we can walk in a straight line to it. When we lose sight of the picture, either by looking at something else or not being able to see it, it’s much harder to walk toward the picture.

God is the picture. When we take our eyes off of Him, we wander away from the source of our strength. We want to keep our eyes on Him so He can give us the strength for whatever comes our way.

Don’t let whatever frustrations that come your way today rob you of joy and contentment. Keep your eyes on God and let Him fill you with the strength and joy that only come from Him. In that, you will find contentment.