As a mom, there are days when I simply don’t know what to do. I want to raise my kids to love and serve the Lord with grateful hearts. But I also know how easy it is can be to cave when they want stuff, or when they want the rules lightened up. How many of us have heard these words from our kids: “But everyone else’s parents say it’s okay!” On those days, I often ask myself, “What would Kristen Welch do?”
Well, lucky us. Kristen is right here with a story about gratitude. Her book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, releases today. It is a game-changer. I’ve read it front to back — twice. Kristen is a friend — but she is also a mentor to me, and to thousands of others. When she writes blog posts about raising kids in an entitled world, the posts go viral. That’s because so many of us need to know that we are not alone, and we have the voice of Kristen Welch, leading the way.
Welcome Kristen to the blog.
Gratitude Starts With A P
A year ago, early on a Saturday morning, we loaded up the car and drove an hour to a government housing complex. Twenty-two apartment buildings line either side of a long street, home to more than fifty thousand refugees relocated to our city.
A few of my friends, along with our husbands and kids, had joined The Refugee Project to help clean up the “clubhouse,” where we help with a crocheting and knitting class for the refugee women. It was actually a vacant, musty three-bedroom apartment filled with an assortment of books, broken chairs, and dirty tables that needed a good scrubbing and fresh paint.
There was plenty of work to be done on this workday. We sorted and scrubbed and swept. We filled holes in the walls and stocked the shelves with books. We taped and painted, mopped, and dragged piles of trash bags to the dumpster.
Our children worked together to wrap more than six hundred crocheted bracelets onto cards that were going into the next Fair Trade Friday membership box. The cards had the word Thrive typed across them. That’s the hope of The Refugee Project—that these displaced women will find a place in Christ and thrive.
I looked around the apartment and smiled at my family. My husband who hates to paint (at least that’s what he tells me every time I ask), was completing a masterful job painting a wall. My son was wrapping bracelets, sitting next to my youngest, who was winding yarn into balls. My teen was in the bathroom creating face-paint designs on little children, with a long line of customers waiting their turns.
I stood in the center of that room and thought, My children haven’t complained once. They haven’t asked for anything. They didn’t think of themselves while we worked hour after hour. They found a need and filled it. My next thought hit me so hard I had to blink back tears: Our family is at its best—our absolute best—when we are doing something for someone else.
When our hands are busy serving others, we aren’t thinking about what we don’t have. Instead, we are thankful for what we do have. We drove an hour away from our house to step into a different culture, and it broadened our worldview.
Perspective is one of the most important gifts we can give our kids (and ourselves). And service is one of the best ways to package it. Kids are like us—their perspective is based on what is in front of them. As parents, I think it’s our job to find ways to change how our children see the world by altering their view occasionally. If we see life through only one lens, we believe the misconception that everyone in the world has what we do, and our blessings start looking a lot like expectations. We can offer a new worldview in a variety of ways, but mostly it occurs through discomfort. What we know; where we live, work, attend school and church; what we eat—all these things are familiar and comfortable. It’s not necessarily perfect or what we want, but we feel safe in what we know.
When I’m able to offer my kids a change in circumstances, I am always amazed at their reaction to being uncomfortable, touched by their compassion, and inspired by their motivation.
When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t . . . always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love. – Romans 13:8-10, MSG
It was after four in the afternoon when we piled back into the car and headed home. I was enjoying the comfortable quietness, realizing that the air was thick with satisfaction.
I turned back toward the kids. “Do you remember the sixteen-year-old refugee girl who helped us wrap bracelets?” They all nodded.
“She asked me if she could come to our class and learn to crochet like her sisters and mom and grandmother,” I said. “Because she also wants to earn money.”
“Doesn’t she go to school?” Madison asked. I explained that she did, but she wanted the money for something special. “She plays the cello and is very talented. She earned a scholarship for a music school but still needs more money to make her dream a reality.”
The car was quiet again, and I thought maybe my kids were thinking about how much they love music. Or maybe they were thinking about the instruments they own and love or the opportunity they have to take lessons. Or maybe they were wondering how to help a girl their age do the same.
“Mom,” my twelve-year-old son broke the silence. “I loved today.”
My heart nearly burst. I think we were all created to ask the question, What can I do that matters? My job as a parent is to get my kids to ask it because when they do, they might just see the big world (and others) for the first time.
*This post is an excerpt from Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World: How One Family Learned That Saying No Can Lead To Life’s Ultimate Yes
Kristen Welch blogs at WeAreThatFamily.com where she shares about parenting, marriage and inspirational encouragement. Her family founded Mercy House, a non-profit that empowers impoverished and oppressed women around the world. Kristen is an author; her newest book Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World releases today.
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