Dream. Dream BIG. Dream Large. Dream Gigantic!

Change. It’s a word and a concept that results in many strong reactions.

There’s not a person alive who doesn’t have something they could change in order to have a better life.

More productivity. More peace. More joy. More friendships. More hope.

Less fear. Less trouble. Less trauma. Less loneliness. Less despair.

Change will more likely work out well when all five core needs are met in healthy ways. This gives us a lot to count on during the sometimes shaky transitional times surrounding change.

How do we get started? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life and legacy we celebrate in America today, believed a dream was essential. He was right.

Some Random Thoughts to Enlighten and Brighten 2017

Enjoy some random thoughts about a new year.

Have you thought of some things you want to change? Maybe some things to leave behind in 2016 and not take with you into this year? Great. Remember, you can make these decisions daily. We don’t need to wait for the year to change for us to change.

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I teach that “wishing it so won’t make it so.” If you want to change, it will take effort, diligence, perseverance, humility, … good old-fashioned work. Listen to your language. Are you telling people that you “wish you’d lose 20 pounds” or you “wish you’d be more compassionate when your kids struggle to learn”? It will take more than a wish. Let’s make work fashionable.

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Remember, it’s really hard (if not impossible) to start the next chapter of your life if you keep rereading the current one. Have you learned from the past what you needed to? Stop reading yesterday’s news and start writing the next chapter.

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We’re each one decision away from something. What decision do you want to make? Anne Frank said, How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

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We need to make sure any changes we desire for ourselves and children are appropriate and realistic. If they’re not, discouragement comes easily. I sometimes use the example of my height. I’m 6’1”. I’m not ever going to be short even if I pray a lot about it. Make sure your goals for 2017 fit. Do the same for your children. In the words of a young child, recorded in the book Really Important Stuff My Kids Have Taught Me, “If the tree had apples last year, don’t expect pears this year.”

Change is possible, but expectations must be real or disappointment and despair can set in. We can pray about and hope for juicier apples. Redder apples. Bigger apples. More apples. Tastier apples. Fewer worm-filled apples. But, not pears from an apple tree. If you want pears, plant a pear tree.

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Daily, weekly, and monthly, let’s make 2017 great. That reminds me – instead of telling the next person you talk with to “have a great day” encourage him or her to “make it a great day.”

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Do you have any enlightening and/or brightening random thoughts to add? Please leave a comment! Would love to hear what you have to share.

The Greatest Fulfilled Promise of All Time…

The birth of Jesus Christ is the greatest fulfilled promise of all time.

God keeps His Word. He keeps the promises declared in His Word. Look for them and be refreshed. Keep the miracle of Jesus’ birth alive in this way.

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” ~2 Corinthians 1:20

Choose the “Best”, Choose to Initiate

Initiative.

If you’d like something different to think about this week and next, choose initiative.

Especially if you’ll be with others, and you want to be a blessing, choose initiative. Talk with your children so they’ll do the same.

Initiative is recognizing and doing what needs to be done before being asked. Initiative is action. It’s helpful. Purposeful. Directed. About others. Tasks to bless people.

Initiative is “just do it” now.

Choose to see what you can do for the people you’re with. Have ears to hear. Help your children see and hear in these ways, too. Talk about this idea. Model the behavior. Reward it with “Thanks!”

Picture your family at your mom’s for dinner. She’s cooking when you and your children arrive and the table isn’t set. There are maybe four possibilities for your children.

  • They don’t notice the need and do their own thing. This is not good.
  • They pay some attention to their grandmother and ask, “Do you need any help?” This is good.
  • They ask, “May I set the table for you?” This is better.
  • They know where the dishes are and set the table knowing it needs to be done. This is best. This is initiative.

You arrive home with a car full of groceries.

  • Adults and children who are home pretend to not notice they could help. This is not good.
  • Someone yells from another room, “Do you need any help?” This is good.
  • Someone asks, “May I help you bring the bags in from the car?” This is better.
  • Someone stops what he or she is doing, meets you in the garage, and carries as much as possible into the house. This is best. This is initiative.

Using initiative honors others. It’s efficient. It decreases arguments. (Imagine not having to declare, “I could use some help in here!!” ever again!) Initiative can increase peace and joy.

Initiative feels good. A few minutes ago, while I was working on this post, my brother needed to locate the serial number on the back of his TV cable box. He moved it with one hand and had his phone in his other hand talking with the tech person helping him. There wasn’t much light in the area and I knew the numbers would be small. So, without being asked, I stopped writing, put down my laptop, and stood up and walked toward him as I turned on my phone’s flashlight. I positioned the light so Dave could see the numbers. He was able to read them for the person on the phone. He was grateful. So was I.

I’m not special. You can do this, too. So can your kids. It feels good. It is good. It is initiative.

Christmas + Children = Play Time! Here’s How The 8 Great Smarts Can Facilitiate The Joy

Christmas and children – they just go together, don’t they? Perhaps you’re looking forward to spending time with children and teens later this month. Maybe you’re still shopping for their gifts. You’re not alone. Stores are still full. Website traffic is high.

Games and toys are some of the best ways to awaken and even strengthen their eight great smarts. Here’s a short list of suggestions taken from the end of each chapter of 8 Great Smarts.

Shop strategically. If you don’t know how the children are smart just pick one or two that sound interesting. If you do know, think about whether they’d enjoy a game for a smart they’re already developing or whether to buy one to better awaken one they haven’t used as much. Or, buy both!

Word Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Scattergories: If you can quickly come up with a list of, say, things at the park, in a drawer, and that you wear that start with the letter t that no one else thinks of, you can win this game.

Play Apples to Apples: One player draws a card. Each player selects a word card from their hand that they think is most relevant to the word on that card. If the judge picks your card, you win that round. Unlikely connections among words make for lots of laughter!

Logic Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Blokus: Players take turns placing pieces of their chosen color on the board. It’s tricky because each new piece must touch at least one other piece of the same color, but only at the corners. You win if you place more pieces than anyone else.

Play Clue: Crack the murder that took place in the mansion by asking the right questions to win this classic game. Junior version available.

Picture Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Telestrations: Picture the “Telephone Game” using drawings instead of whispering something into your neighbor’s ear. Lots of laughter.

Play Pictionary: Make quick sketches that others will hopefully guess correctly. Junior version available

Music Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Cranium: Answer trivia questions, create art, hum, act out clues, and use your vocabulary skills to win. Relevant to many smarts.

Play Encore: Draw a card with a word on it and sing at least six words of a song with that word in it. Judges memory, not musical ability.

Body Smart – Let’s Play!

Play tag (or any outdoor game).

Play Twister: Give the spinner a whirl and follow the directions. Just try to keep from falling over!

Nature Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Qwirkle: Match colors and shapes and use wise maneuvers and a strategy to win.

Play Rock On Geology Game: Rock and mineral collection includes fifteen specimens and fifty-plus polished rocks and minerals; five levels of play.

People Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Headbanz: Everyone but you knows what role you’ve been assigned. Ask questions to try to figure it out before you run out of time. You could be a mouse, dirty sock, or cash register.

Play Guesstures: You only have a few seconds to use classic charades techniques to get your team to guess the word on your assigned card.

Self Smart – Let’s Play!

Do quiet things together that your child chooses, such as completing a puzzle, coloring, building with Legos, playing with dolls, or playing a car game like “Who Am I?”

Shop, shop, shop! Play, play, play!

Making Christmas Memories a Priority

Making memories might be one of the most important things to do during this month.

When we concentrate on making memories rather than just “doing things” chances are that our experiences will be richer and go deeper. We’ll pay attention to the people we’re with rather than just the tasks at hand. Therefore, stronger emotional ties will be established. Other adults and children will be blessed as we interact with them intentionally.

Think about all the things you have scheduled and other tasks to accomplish. What if you think about them in the context of memory making? You might’ve already done some of things I list at the end of this post, but maybe you can now have rich conversations to still broaden the potential for positive memories that last.

What would it take for these activities and things on your to-do list to become memories that are thought of fondly next year? If you think back to past Christmases, what do you remember? Why do you remember those things and those people? Your answer to these questions may help you do things differently to create richer memories for your family this season.

Did humor make your list? I suspect it did because it’s often during times of joy and laughter that bonds are deepened. Look for opportunities to really enjoy each other this month.

Did you think of something that involved a surprise? That’s often the case for me as I reflect on strong memories of my childhood and even adult years. For your family this month, add something surprising that you’ve never done before. Or you could add a twist to something you have typically done. This will make it more memorable.

I was reminded this past weekend that some of the best memories are those about small and seemingly insignificant things. Seeing my sister-in-law putting newly-baked Christmas cookies into a tin that belonged to her mom and has been used for maybe 40 years or more. Hearing a song on the radio and remembering who I was with when I heard it performed at a concert last December. Wrapping paper that my mom would’ve loved. A recipe that was hers that her grandchildren still love. Dessert plates hand-painted by my grandma when she was about 18 that we still use at my brother’s home.

It’s the conversation surrounding these things that make the memories – and, therefore, the people involved – come alive. Let’s purpose to talk a lot about meaningful things as we’re out-and-about and in our own homes. Let’s get pods out of ears and eyes off of devices and talk. It can be done! Expect it. Have high expectations. Listen and talk. Talk and listen.

No one in our family would know about the Christmas cookie tins if Debbie wouldn’t tell us. My nieces and nephew wouldn’t know their great-grandmother painted the dishes their cake is on if we didn’t tell them. They wouldn’t know that the food they enjoy was first served by their grandmother to her father on Christmas Eve many, many years ago if my brother and I didn’t tell them.

Make memories, not just cookies. Make memories, not just a clean house, make memories, not just purchases. You get the idea.

How might concentrating on making memories influence the way you do tasks like these?

Choosing a tree. Decorating a tree. Shopping for a present for your child’s teacher. Choosing presents for friends and loved ones. Wrapping presents. Planning menus for times when family and friends will come over for dinner. Choosing outfits to wear here and there. Watching favorite Christmas movies together. Choosing recipes to make for different events. Making them together in the kitchen. Practicing the piano for an upcoming recital or to play for a visiting relative. Making cookies together. Eating some with hot chocolate in candlelight. Driving to see Christmas lights and decorations. Visiting shut-ins. Surprising neighbors with flowers, Christmas cookies, or something you know they would appreciate. Singing Christmas carols. Cleaning the house so it’s more ready for relatives to arrive. Attending church. Having meaningful conversations in the car on the way home. Practicing for and then attending church or school Christmas programs.

This Thanksgiving week, let’s look for things we can agree to be thankful for. Although there are times when agreeing to disagree is essential and healthy, with our family and friends this season, let’s find and talk about things we agree about. It will do us good.

Thanksgiving Traditions Offer Opportunities for Cherished Memories

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We were all there, seated at the large oval table in my brother’s dining room. Dave and his wife, Debbie, were hosting us for Thanksgiving, 1986.

Deb’s parents were there. My parents were there. Betsy, 13-months-old, was in her high chair. Our expectations for good food and a good time were high.

As was the family tradition, each of us had three kernels of corn at our place. We knew that when we’d be enjoying our pumpkin pie, we’d also take turns adding each kernel to a jar as we declared what we were grateful for. It was never hard coming up with three things. Going beyond the obvious – God and family – so our answers weren’t always the same was maybe a bit challenging.

Everything was going along like normal. Then everything changed.

Dave started with his three statements of thankfulness and then passed the jar to his right. Each of us took our turn. Some tears were shed as we talked about our love for each other. After my turn, I handed the jar to Debbie.

I don’t remember the first two things she talked about. I remember thinking she was getting very excited. That’s when it happened.

Debbie threw the third kernel of corn into the jar with such enthusiasm that it bounced out and landed on the floor. As she threw it, she screamed, I’M PREGNANT!!

I think we all jumped up while we screamed, cried, and laughed. We ran around hugging everyone. Debbie and Dave confirmed that we heard her correctly as we kept asking, What? How can that be?

Betsy, their precious daughter, was a most beautiful gift through adoption. Debbie’s doctors had made it clear that she and Dave shouldn’t expect to conceive any children. This baby God allowed them to conceive was a most beautiful miracle. A shocking surprise. Definitely someone worth the third kernel of corn.

Six months later, on May 12th, Kathryn Arlene Koch was born. There’s much I’ll always love and remember about Katie. How we found out about her is among my favorites.

What are you currently grateful for? Gather with family and/or friends and declare it!

The kernel of corn tradition is based on stories from the Pilgrims. During their first winter, their daily ration of food was only five kernels of corn. Yet, they were a grateful people.

Cultivating Gratitude Year Round

Maybe what we need between now and Christmas is a change of heart...

If you have read Screens and Teens you know that cultivating gratitude is something I think we need to be consciously doing on a regular basis. Giving thanks cannot be something we do one day a year. Being thankful should be something we are.

What if we all determined to choose thankfulness between now and the end of the year and beyond? Yes, what if it truly becomes a habit that it’s a part of us? As I write on page 80, “Gratitude can be a built-in part of our identities. This is what allows us to be thankful “in all circumstances” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ).”

Rather than complaining about the entitlement easily observable throughout our culture and many people, let’s do what we can. We’re not responsible for everyone else. We can’t even change our own hearts, but Jesus can.

My hope for many people between now and Christmas is a change of heart. Is this relevant for you and/or your children? Would praying for God’s perspective be helpful? Would it help to pray for eyes to see what you have instead of what you don’t have? Would discussions and prayer about contentment be a good idea?

Truth can reign. We can model truth, talk about it, pray that it becomes believed, and more. We can ask God to show us the conversations to have with children to help shift their perspective.

What if these passages truly informed us during this season and beyond? Can you think of others to talk with your children about this season?

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 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.” Colossians 3:14-17

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Scripture is, of course, so important to being transformed more and more into the image of Christ. We can also take action. Waiting for the truths of Scripture to totally change hearts before stepping out in obedience isn’t necessary. Acting on truths can help especially children see the truths. They’ll believe the Scripture and continue to act on it.

For instance, what if we established something new during the upcoming Christmas season? What if, as we add new things to our home, we give away things from our home? This might happen the week after Christmas as toys, clothes, dishes, and more are put away where they belong. We can talk now about the expectation.

I know some families who collect things Thanksgiving week to give away to shelters and the like. This makes room in their homes for new things. And, more importantly organizations and struggling families looking for “gently used things” during December will benefit from what we give away.

We all have clothes we no longer wear, dishes we rarely use, toys that are no longer fun for our children, CDs we don’t listen to, DVDs we don’t watch, and more. Others can benefit. But, only if they’re not collecting dust in our homes.

When we and our children recognize how much we have that we don’t need, thankfulness should be easier. Contentment can reign. Let’s make this our story.

Hiding is Never Healthy, Healing Can Happen

Today, I’m not thinking about children who wear masks and costumes one day of the year. I’m thinking about children and adults who feel they must wear masks and costumes every day of the year. They have no one they can trust with their stories, their pain, and maybe even their joy. I’m sad for them and I’m concerned.

Hiding is never healthy.

Look for these children and adults. Maybe they’re silent and trying to be invisible. Maybe they’re inconsistent because they don’t know which side of themselves people will approve of. Maybe they’re way too eager to always please. Maybe they frequently cancel opportunities to get together.

You could be the key that unlocks their pain. Can you be the trustworthy one? Can you let them know you’re safe? Will they take off their masks and costumes and be real with you?

Healing can happen.