Teaching Boys to be Thankful in Prayer

It has been a very difficult and trying season for my family.  Over the past few years we have walked through depression, death, divorce and financial struggles.  There were many times that I sat at the dining room table trying to figure out how to pay my bills when I had no money. There were numerous days when the cupboards were empty and I had 2 growing boys to feed. In all of those situations God was faithful and He provided.

Teaching Boys to be Thankful in Prayer via The MOB Society

The Bible tells us that when we choose to follow Jesus that we are choosing to walk a difficult path. This is something that my boys have a hard time understanding, but nonetheless is very important.  There will be times I have to tell my boys that they can’t read a book (or watch a movie) that all their other friends are watching.  There will be times when they are treated differently (and maybe harshly) because of their faith.  There are going to be times when life is unfair beyond our abilities to understand.

Lessons from the Lion’s Den

Whenever I think of an example from the bible of a young man that remained steady in his faith and thankful through his trials, Daniel comes to mind.  He is one of those figures in the bible that I am constantly holding out to my boys as a good example to follow when it comes to being a man of God.

One of our favorite stories of Daniel is when he is thrown into the lion’s den.  The thing that stands out the most to me is that even in the face of death, Daniel continued to pray and give thanks to the Lord:

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Daniel 6:10 ESV

No matter what happened to Daniel, he never forget to give thanks to the Lord. He continued to pray, he stayed true to his faith and he served the Lord wholeheartedly. This is what I want for my boys.

Helping Our Boys be More Like Daniel

What are some practical ways that we can help our boys be like Daniel and continue to pray thankful prayers even in hard situations? Here are a few things that I’ve been working with in my home:

  1. Setting a good example: I noticed that I sometimes complain when things aren’t going my way or that I slip into worrying instead of depending on God. As parents we set the tone (and example) for our children. If we can model being prayerful and thankful during the storms of life then our children will learn to do the same.
  2. Teaching our children to pray during difficult times: Whenever my children start complaining or tell me about something that think isn’t fair in their lives I encourage them to pray about it–to ask God to show them what lesson He wants them to learn and for them to give thanks to God for being there with them (just like he was with Daniel in the lion’s den).
  3. Turn to scripture: Spend some time going through the Bible and find examples of people that were grateful and prayerful during tough times (Jesus, Paul, Joseph, etc).

 

LaToya-EdwardsLaToya Edwards has a heart for equipping and inspiring women to find their passion and purpose through life coaching. You can find her blogging about homeschooling,  parenting, faith and single mom encouragement and learning to find joy in motherhood and  God’s purpose and plan in broken circumstances at www.LaToyaEdwards.net .

A Moment-By-Moment Kind of Thankful

As I sat in the vast auditorium, listening to the principal go over the events associated with Matt’s senior year, my mind wandered.  Wasn’t he just a colicky infant, seemingly tasked with keeping his older brothers awake all night? Wasn’t he just toddling around trying to be one of the big boys? Wasn’t he just consumed with building the biggest Lego castle that would reach all the way to the sky?

A Moment-By-Moment Kind of Thankful via The MOB Society

When your youngest is the only one left in the nest, you tend to spend a good bit of time reminiscing.  Feelings of wistfulness and pangs of regret can creep in. Since two sons have already sprouted up and out you realize you can’t put the brakes on this growing up and becoming a man thing that is happening before your eyes.

And you realize, you didn’t do a very good job of enjoying each mama moment.  When you are in the throes of temper tantrums, runny noses and sleepless nights, it is hard to imagine ever wishing every.single.one of those days back again.

I know

But, you will.

The next time you think you just can’t answer one more question that begins with the word “why” or you are bent low, wiping up the milk that was spilled on your newly mopped floor or you are returning your strong-willed four year old to the time out chair for the 15th time {that day}, know that you will miss the craziness of raising boys one day.

It’s okay to be exhausted and frustrated in the moment, but one tick of a clock and that moment becomes a mere memory. Ten years from now you will miss that same, exact moment in time.

One day when they are turning 17 and a senior in high school and you are realizing their time under your roof is coming to an end sooner than you or they ever imagined, you will look at the scrapbook (and all the photos you meant to put into a scrapbook) and you will be thankful for every single precious minute God gave you with your boys.

Because those days you lost your temper or crawled into bed thinking “I can’t do this another day” or wished for the day they would be seventeen and not need you so much–those are not what you or your son will remember.

He will remember the days you played H-O-R-S-E with him instead of doing the dishes, the days that you kissed his sweaty forehead when he was sick, and the days that you read that story for the 100th time.

You Mama, you will remember it all.

This parenting of boys is a privilege and an honor.  Every exhausting, adventurous moment is one that you will look back on and smile about.  How can you be grateful in the midst of the chaos of the younger years?  Here are a few things I encourage you to enjoy while your boys are small:

  • The “Mama, watch this” moments. Boys love to show off their bravery, whether it’s handing you a worm or jumping off the back of the porch.  I tended to wince and draw back from those moments as they were happening. Really, there’s nothing better than sharing in their discoveries and excitement.
  • The sibling rivalry moments.  I don’t know about you, but with three boys born within four years, there was quite a bit of arguing and competing for attention in the early days of La Casa Smallwood.  I remember how exasperated I would get at the bickering. Do you know that now I look back on those moments and chuckle (and so do my boys)?  We laugh at how I would make them sing “You are My Sunshine” to each other.
  • The repetitive moments.  Prayers before bed, the same breakfast request 365 days a year, watching Star Wars Episode V for the millionth time- those are all memories that you will one day hold very dear to your heart, regardless of how monotonous they seemed at the time.

I urge you to take stock of the everyday moments that have you feeling worn thin and fatigued. Ask God to show you the miracle of those moments now, instead of years from now.

 

Thankful When It’s Least Expected

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The night before school pictures our 6 year old fell and hit his forehead on the corner of a wall. He  instantly had a bump literally the size of an egg. My husband prayed healing over him right then, and 10 hours later when he woke up it was gone! He then posted a before and after photo of our son on Facebook with a testimony to the power of prayer and giving thanks to God.

A non-believing friend of ours challenged us with the following:

“If prayer worked, why wouldn’t you just pray he not get hurt? Respectfully, all you are doing is attributing all good things that happen to God and ignoring times when nothing happens, or bad things happen.”

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

As Christians we can, at times, have a tendency to publicly only give thanks to the good things. I can see where it could appear that we are only giving God credit for the good.

Thankful When It's Least Expected via The MOB Society

In everything give thanks.

Does that mean that when we drop a hammer on our big toe that we should say, “Thank you God for that hammer dropping on my toe?” I doubt any of us would celebrate such an event. However, giving thanks in everything may look more like, “Thank you God that I have a foot! Thank you that I have the ability to feel pain when others may not be able to!”

Not one for public confrontations, I steer clear from controversial subjects to avoid negative situations. My first reaction when this friend questioned me was to delete the photo and avoid further conflict. Instead, I thanked God for the opportunity to further be a witness.

We are to “Sanctify the Lord God in our hearts,” which according to the Greek meaning of sanctify we are to set apart and dedicate ourselves wholly to God. I could be thankful for my friend’s pushback because I knew that by him asking me this question, I was doing something right.

When you make it known to the world that you are a Christian, people are watching. People are waiting for you to drop the hammer on your toe and curse the pain. They are not expecting you to be thankful or focus on the positive things in your life.  Thankfulness amidst hard circumstances is attractive and as others watch you, they may wonder why you can react that way.

Unexpected pain during the rough patches and through pain points others to the One who sustains.

When I was 7 years old I was asked the following questions by a friend; “Why are you a Christian? How do you know God is real?”. The only answer I could reply with was, “because, I just believe”. If I could run back to that moment and share the gospel with my friend, I would. I may not be able to change my past, but I can enhance my childrens’ future. By abiding by the old adage “teach by example” we can practice showing thanks for all things in front of them. We can educate and prepare them to answer questions about their faith at any given moment. We can shape our kids to also be a light in the world that attracts the lost.

Leading by example is the most effective way to teach thankfulness. Our children can’t practice what they haven’t seen.

  • One way to model this is a thankfulness journal, like Ann Voskamp talks about.
  • Go around the dinner table and say one or two things that each person is thankful for throughout the day.
  • Write down your thanks during November (or the whole year) on slips of paper and slip them into a jar. Go through the jar on Thanksgiving and remember all the ways God has been faithful through the year.

JanelleJanelle is a wife and stay at home mom of 4 who blogs at Queen of the House of Boys. James & Janelle own a business called Integrity Cleaning and Restoration. She is a pastor’s wife and praise and worship leader.Janelle recently retired as a retail store owner to fully embrace her calling as a mother. Bringing people together is one of Janelle‘s gifts. Whether it is managing an online support group, or organizing mentors for new families in her children’s school.  Janelle loves decorating, diy projects, cooking, and hosting gatherings. She loves learning and practicing the true Biblical meaning of hospitality. Cleaning is her nemesis.

Practical Ways to Model A Sacrifice of Thankfulness

Want to get your boy’s attention when you’re talking about the Bible? Just start talking about the slaughter of animals that used to happen as sacrifices to God. Animals, knives, weapons – they will be fascinated. And it’s a good conversation that will lead to the most important sacrifice – Jesus dying on the cross for our sins.

 Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice put an end to our need to offer blood sacrifices to God for forgiveness of our sins, but it was not the end of us making sacrifices for Him. Our sacrifices have just taken on a different form. In the gospels, Jesus talks about choosing Him over our own family members. He tells the rich man He will have to sacrifice His love of money in order to follow Him. Many of the disciples sacrificed their jobs and reputations to literally follow Jesus.
MOB-SacrificeofGratitude
We quickly discover as Christians that our life doesn’t become all sunshine and roses, and that sacrifices will pop up often if we are truly walking in His will, but not all sacrifices He requires are hard sacrifices.
Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God. Psalm 50:14
The Israelites would lay animals on the altar for sacrifice. Our gratitude should be laid at His feet in a similar manner. And it’s not just for His sake. The sacrifice of gratitude to God is as much about us recognizing our blessings as it is about thanking Him for them. Sometimes its hard to find those blessings and that’s when digging for thankfulness and presenting it to Him in even a raw form is even more significant.
I wanted my boys to learn this connection between sacrifice and thankfulness, so we did a little hands-on activity. Here’s what you need to do it with your own boys:
  • plastic animal toys or stuffed animals, preferably a sheep or cow
  • small stool or bench
  • pieces of paper
  • writing utensils
We began with reading from Numbers 15 about the rules God gave Moses for sacrifices and for what sacrifices were offered. Act this out with kids however you feel is appropriate, but my boys thought it would be fun to sacrifice the animals with their foam lightsabers. I know it’s not historically accurate, but it kept them engaged, so I went with it!
The next step is sharing Jesus’s sacrifice with them. Romans 3:25 is a great verse to share that explains how the blood of Jesus negated the need for animal blood sacrifices.
For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.
 
Since we are no longer required to offer Old Testament-style sacrifices, God calls us in Psalm 50:14 to make a new kind of sacrifice. To help the boys understand this better, we wrote down things we are thankful for on slips of paper and laid them on the altar rather than the toy animals. Instead of pretending to cut or burn this sacrifice, we knelt right there and thanked God in prayer.
This activity is a great way to make gratitude in priority in your home, but just like Thanksgiving, don’t let it end with that one day. Making thankfulness your family’s sacrifice to God is all about an ongoing mindset. Introduce it, model it, and encourage these sacrifices daily.

Erin-Mohring-300x300Lover of Jesus, family, home. Wife, mommy, writer, runner.

Erin finds joy in her life as a Jesus-follower, doctor’s wife, mama to three handsome guys, writer at Home with the Boys, and co-founder of The MOB Society. She has a passion for healthy living, fashion, and encouraging families to form strong bonds based on faith!

Thank You for My Used Minivan

He sat in the back as our car sped down the street on the way to school that morning. His backpack in one hand, lunch in the other, and his eyes surveying his surroundings. My son sat in the very seat where residual from last month’s melted crayon episode could still be felt. Soda stains from two years back could still be seen, and the crumbs (quite possibly left over from the used minivan’s previous owner), lay scattered on the floorboard of our vehicle. This car—this used minivan of ours—is most definitely broken in and on its way to breaking down. So as my boy looked around at the mess before him that morning, slightly embarrassed, he asked:

“Can Dad take me to school today instead? I want to go in his car.”

Dad’s big work truck is a vehicle with all the bells and whistles, the latest and greatest in technology, an air conditioner that properly works, and clean inner cabin.

I get it.

Thankful for My Used Minivan via The MOB Society

What I Don’t Want for My Son

Like me, my son desires the very best this life has to offer. He’s drawn to the shiny objects, the ones that look (and feel) nice. He’s excited when it comes to new toys…new anything, really. But you know what? This isn’t what I want for my boy. I don’t want him growing up with a desire for the finer things in life (yes, you heard me right), because in all honesty, they serve as a distraction…from God, from those in need, from service to others, and from the appreciation (I hope) he’ll possess for all he’s been blessed with. Already, he is a child with so much…one who has yet to truly realize it; the food in a full cupboard, the toys in his room, the clothes in his closet. And yes, even the not-so-snazzy minivan he rides in.

It Starts With Me

However, this attitude of gratitude? It starts with me. See, I need this lesson too. I need to appreciate my blessings.

Every.

Single.

One.

Of.

Them.

I need to humble myself before the Lord and offer him praise–in the middle of my mess, in the middle of the dirty floors that I can’t bring myself to clean, in the midst of the dirty dishes that continually mount, in the meals that must be prepared…and in the minivan that still reeks from last week’s milk mishap. In every aspect of the seemingly mundane, I must be thankful. I’ve got to model this behavior for my children, lead by example and show them, I’m thankful for it all.

Thankful Even When We Don’t Feel Like It 

How do we give praise for broken down cars, unrelenting laundry, and urine on the toilet seat (yah, I went there). How do we give thanks for the things that don’t always feel like blessings? And how do we teach our children to do the same?

Practical Application:

  • Bow low. That’s right, we must humble ourselves. We must look at our surroundings and place a filter over our eyes. Rather than see all the negative, all that’s bad, or what bugs us, we have to change our way of thinking…our perception.
  • It’s easy to be grateful when everything is going right, Amen? It’s in those hard times where our attempts at gratitude feel forced. And hard. But that’s the Enemy working overtime, friend. Resist his attempts, by finding the good in every day, and in every situation. Hard as that might be.
  • Remember Who’s Watching: We are modeling the behavior our children see. And they see it all. They watch us grow frustrated, they hear our grumbling, they feel that angst when times are rough. Let’s work on this. Let’s exhibit that gratitude each one of us is capable of expressing…and passing on.

HOW ABOUT YOU?

In order for our kids to truly appreciate their blessings, in order for them to understand all that they have, they must see it from us, first.

 

Jenny-SulpizioJenny Lee Sulpizio is a Christian wife, mother to three, and author of the recently released, “For the Love of God: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Faith and Getting Grace,” along with “Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe: On a Mission to Save Sanity, One Mom at a Time.”

Through her personal website, blog, and as a contributing writer for numerous mommy sites, there’s always plenty of information to relate to, encouragement to absorb, and a whole lot of comic relief to go around. Connect with Jenny by visiting www.jennyleesulpizio.com.