4 ways to ensure you aren’t picnicking alone
Summer invokes euphoric feelings of relaxation and fun. Children can’t wait for the last day of school so they can sleep in, play with friends and go on vacation. It’s common to visit a nearby park on a warm summer day and see families or friends sitting on a large blanket with picnic baskets and coolers, enjoying sandwiches, fruit and sweet tea while shooing the flies away.
Such simple moments often prove to be memorable. They are the moments when nothing else matters except the people in front of you and where nothing specifically profound or life altering happens, but that’s the point.
Life doesn’t have to be filled with adrenaline pumping thrills to be memorable. Sometimes it’s the uncomplicated purity of a picnic that sears an unforgettable feeling into your soul. Relationships are unique that way. It’s the unexpected, partially planned efforts to connect with another person that become lifelong memories.
Yet, we often allow the routine and mundane to suppress our intentional availability for deep connection.
Whether you care to admit it or not, you tend to imitate the people you are around the most. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, but this isn’t entirely accurate. Recent studies have shown that you’re not just influenced by your friends. You are influenced by your friends’ friends.
In a 30-year study, they found that if a close friend gains weight, you are 45% more likely to gain weight in the next 2-4 years. But here is what’s crazy. You are 20% more likely to gain weight if your friend’s friend gains weight (Christakis and Fowler).
So, you’re not just the average of your friends, you are the average of your friend’s friends and their friends. Research shows if your friends are happy, you are happier. But even if your friend’s friend is happy, you’ll be 6% happier (Christakis and Fowler).
When taking this into account, the impact and weight of the “one-another’s” in scripture become far more noticeable. You may be doing great, but if your friend isn’t doing great, it can negatively affect the collective group, not just one person. This doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for your own emotions, actions and efforts. It simply means relationships matter, and if you have a picnic with the wrong people, you may find yourself hating picnics, hating friendships, even hating the fact that you tried. What was supposed to be memorable and delightful has now turned malicious and divisive.
This fear keeps us in a cocoon of selfish introspection. Are you afraid your effort to connect with someone will leave you rejected, defeated and hopeless? Or perhaps you’ve tried before and got burned. They betrayed your trust or hurt you physically or emotionally, but you CAN’T give up. You’ve got to try again, to hope again.
Life unshared is only half enjoyed.
Relationships matter, friendships matter. Just a quick search of the scriptures and you’ll find:
- Proverbs 17:17 NIV– A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
- John 15:13 NLT – There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Even Jesus understood the meaning of friendship and not just servitude.
- He said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15 NIV).
So how in the world of overbooked schedules and incessant phone notifications, are you supposed to build deep, meaningful relationships? How are you supposed to stop the never-ending chaos carousel long enough to talk about something besides your kids, your job or your depressing trip to the gas pump?
Three words: value, moments and boundaries. In this blog series, we’ll focus on adding value.
First, you have to commit to adding value to other people. In his evergreen book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie notes, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
4 Ways to Ensure You Aren’t Picnicking Alone
Everyone loves the person who helps them succeed. If you want to build deep meaningful relationships this summer, add value to someone else’s life. How do you do that? It’s easier than you may think.
Nothing makes a person feel appreciated more than when someone takes time to actively listen, dedicating all your focus, attention and energy to what the other person is saying.
Most of the time we don’t listen to understand, we listen to respond.
- Fight the urge to make it about you.
- Listen to their words.
- Observe their emotions.
- Empathize with them.
- Provide feedback when appropriate.
When people feel heard, they feel valued. If you can fight the temptation to shift the spotlight to yourself, you’ll reap the rewards. As noted above, they’ll be influenced by you and will begin to behave like you. In no time at all, they’ll be actively listening to you, and you’ll have developed a mutually edifying friendship.
Helping someone doesn’t have to take a lot of time, energy or physical exertion. For some reason, when we think about helping, we always think about moving day. We envision lifting dressers and breaking our backs hauling insanely heavy sofa beds. But helping can look much simpler. Helping may mean:
- A 15-minute trip out of your way to pick up some eyeglasses for them.
- A text message reminding them to pick up their child at school.
- Sending an encouraging Scripture when they are having a bad day.
3. Give a gift.
Anyone who has a love language of gifts will tell you the gift doesn’t have to be expensive. It just has to be thoughtful. In his book, Giftology, John Ruhlin says, “It’s not the thought that counts, but it’s the thoughtful thought that counts.” For example:
- Give a young couple a date night by babysitting their kids for a couple of hours.
- Treat someone to coffee or give them a gift card to their favorite restaurant.
Proverbs 18:16 says, “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.” A thoughtful gift at the right time could lead to a fruitful relationship.
4. Find the new.
We are creatures of habit, but sometimes those habits are boring, exhausting and detrimental to our well-being. In fact, 61% of Americans are trying to break unhealthy pandemic habits (Black 2021).
Adding value to someone may mean introducing them to something new.
- Invite them to an escape room, visit a museum and read every placard.
- Take a road trip.
- Try a different restaurant offering food they’ve never tried.
Even if they don’t like the experience, they’ll remember the effort, the thought, and the experience. You can be sure even if it’s a subpar experience, they’ll talk about it the next day at their workplace or mention it to their family members. You may find them suggesting an activity for the next outing.
It may feel counterintuitive, but if you want a friend, you must first commit to being a friend. Proverbs 18:24 (NKJV) says it this way, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.”
There are no shortcuts to meaningful relationships, and while everyone needs alone time, no one wants to spend their life picnicking alone.
Click here for our Free Summer Resources for Families.
See more of our family blogs for the summer – check out “A Beautiful Metamorphosis.”
Christakis, Nicholas A. M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., and Fowler, James H. Ph.D. “The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years.” The New England Journal of Medicine. Retrieved 5/24/2022 from https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa066082
Christakis, Nicholas A. M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., and Fowler, James H. Ph.D. “Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study.” BMJ 2008;337:a2338. Retrieved 5/24/2022 from https://www.bmj.com/content/337/bmj.a2338
Black, Michelle Lambright. 26 Jul 2021. “61% of Americans Trying to Break Unhealthy Pandemic Habits.” Value Penguin. Retrieved 5/24/2022 from https://www.valuepenguin.com/pandemic-habits-survey
Today we spoke with (in)courge Author/Speaker Jen Schmidt about her new book on hospitality, Just Open the Door.
Jen reminds us that even if we don’t feel specially gifted in the “welcoming the stranger” department, we all have something uniquely beautiful and needed in our communities.
If you are a social butterfly or just love the quietness of your own cocoon, our conversation will encourage you today.
All bets are off, it seems, when your child becomes a teenager. It can be a life stage marked by conflict, bewilderment and trepidation—for both parent and child. Your children don’t appreciate that you are new at this too—you’ve never been the parent of a teenager before. And you may not recognize that your own efforts—as you transition from parenting a child to parenting a young adult—may be confusing and frustrating to your teen. Here are some of the common blunders I see parents making:
Rules Without Relationship
Envision a line representing parenting styles. On one end is the totally authoritarian parent who is hyper-controlling. On the other end is the completely lax parent who sets no expectations whatsoever. As you adjust to your teen’s growing maturity, you may move back and forth along that line—the goal is to stay roughly in the middle. But many parents swing wildly from one end to the other when teens push buttons, test limits and fail to respond as expected. Throw in guilt and pressure from work schedules, parenting mistakes and any number of other life stresses, and you may have wildly erratic movement along the line that leaves kids disoriented. When you reach the edge of your control limits and are tempted to either react punitively or just throw your hands up… take a deep breath and prayerfully consider the right response.
Parents frequently feel bad about setting boundaries—but they shouldn’t. Teenagers may seem to communicate by their words and their actions that they want carte blanche in every area of their life, but they really and truly don’t—and unlimited freedom will be disastrous to their development. Culture today teaches children that the right to privacy, individualism and self-expression is paramount and sacrosanct. But God has given you the responsibility to train, to shepherd, direct and redirect your child. Firm and measured parental control, countless studies have shown, leads to more successful, emotionally well-developed children.
No Room to Grow
While teenagers need rules, they also should be given increasing levels of some autonomy to develop responsibility, learn to operate independently and work out their own styles. This is time to focus more on results and less on methodology. An elementary school aged child needs to be told how and when to do his homework. Teenagers, in contrast, should reach a level of maturity in which they manage the process, understanding that the parental expectation is focused on the grade. Intentionally building increasing layers of flexibility is a challenge for parents, and a task in which they often fail to keep pace with the child’s rapidly developing maturity.
Reactive parenting may work with a toddler, but it will become ineffective as your child ages. Never is intentionality more important than in the job of parenting a teen!
Suggested Intentional Living Broadcast
What’s your biggest challenge in parenting your teen? Post your comments below.
Family Life Radio artist Josh Wilson and his wife welcomed a new baby boy recently. They did not want to know the sex of the baby before it was born so they named it “Pat” temporarily. Other ways they prepared were pretty normal and included buying and putting together a crib while decorating the nursery. Asher is their first child so they were excited and concerned about how they would be as parents.
So, in what ways is it best to build up your new parentness so that you can enjoy every moment? Vickie Iovine in her book The Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy has several suggestions that one girlfriend could share with another.
- Pack a bag for yourself – lip balm, your going-home outfit (not just one for baby), flat shoes because you might still be groggy, a book on nursing, shampoo, soaps and lotions, your pillow, slippers and lots of socks. You will also need to include everything maternity that you have been wearing including a nursing bra. Leave your jewelry at home and you may want to give your husband the heads up to plan for a gift shortly after the baby is born (don’t make him read your mind)
- Pack a bag for baby – include a going-home outfit that includes a t-shirt, diaper, footsies, a cap so other mother’s think you know what you are doing, a pacifier, a blanket, a burp cloth and a neck donut for the car seat. Do not forget the car seat! And go ahead and splurge on something stylish for that ride home and pictures.
- Don’t forget the car seat! Hospitals and doctors will remind you over and over again that you can’t leave without one but take the time before delivery to practice getting it into and out of the car. Some of them are like Rubik’s cube to latch so don’t hesitate to go down to the local police department and ask for help learning the in’s and out’s.
- Now, relax and take a deep breath. The majority of first babies give you a lot of warning before they arrive so reassure yourself and your husband that the picture of you sitting on your suitcase in the driveway while your husband speeds off to the hospital in an empty car only happens in the movies.
You are on a path to parenthood and now prepared for that moment of special wonder. And just think, you will do it all over again just so the grandparents won’t keep fighting over the one baby and you get addicted to that smell that precious babies get right after a bath!
How did you prepare yourself to become a new parent? We’d love to hear your stories. Post your comments below.
The evening news is filled with loss, grief, disappointment and disaster. Children are forced to deal with issues in their world on a daily basis that twenty years ago didn’t exist. Our world today wrestles with what it means to experience hope.
As Christians, we have the hope given to us by Christ Jesus and can live each day by placing our hope in Him. Many followers of Christ know the end of the story, but still live in hopelessness and, sadly, raise their children with that same hopelessness.
Intentional Living is about recognizing our need to live today the way we are intended to become in Christ tomorrow. As parents that means demonstrating that lifestyle and living it out in front of our children. That raises the question, “What were we intended to become as followers of Christ?” The place to start is with our relationship with God. We were intended to experience the hope we’ve been given in Christ—hope for eternal salvation—hope in the promises God made to you as an heir of salvation found in the Bible. If you’re not experiencing hope in your life today, then I would challenge you to ask yourself, “How intentional am I in my faith?”
Take some time with that question. It may really surprise you. Look at your head (thoughts), heart (feelings) and hands (actions) when it comes to your faith.
- Is your thinking in alignment with the things God says in His Word about you—His child?
- Are your emotions in check when it comes to your relationship with God and those He has placed in your life?
- Do you choose actions that bring pleasure to Christ as you go throughout your day?
When you bring your head, heart and hands into balance by thinking and behaving like Christ, you will find the hope and assurance that you need to begin your journey toward becoming all God destined you to be, and in turn provide that same hope to your children as you parent them.
Here are seven ONE THINGS you can do to help your child grow in their relationship with God, keeping in mind his or her unique personality. Check off each one you are willing to do. Choose the most important “one thing” to practice starting today. Once you become consistent in that, do the next right “one thing” on the list.
- Tell my child how important my own relationship to God is.
- Take my child to church.
- Show my child the effects of having a relationship with God in my own life.
- Make sure my child meets other godly people who are genuine, interesting and impressive.
- Choose a church that truly understands how important children are to God. As my child becomes a teenager, I will ensure that adolescents receive proper discipleship opportunities.
- Demonstrate godliness to my child, beginning with keeping my promises.
- Show my child the unconditional love that God gives me.
Suggested Intentional Living Broadcast
How are you helping your child develop a relationship with God? We’d love to hear your stories. Post your comments below.
By Heather Hatch
God’s Word presents us with ideas which are great for setting up useful boundaries for living, but they often come with a level of confusion. The following two passages of scripture dive into the topics of honor and obedience, and at first glance they might appear to contradict themselves.
Children, do what your parents tell you. This is only right. “Honor your father and mother” is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, “so you will live well and have a long life.” —Ephesians 6:1 (MSG)
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. —Matthew 10:34-37 (ESV)
What??? How do we honor our family by being prepared to literally sever all ties with them?
Honor and obedience are not contradictory; rather they are two different things. We can honor a parent, teacher, friend or a stranger. Honoring someone has a lot to do with how we treat them as a human being. It is also easy to see how being kind and showing respect to others can be a basic advantage in life.
The rub is in obedience. When are we required to obey a parent, teacher or stranger? We are required to obey a parent, teacher or stranger only when they are leading within the sovereignty of our Heavenly Father. Only God is right all the time. Parents, teachers and strangers are only right when what they ask of us lines up with God’s Word.
Looking back at the previously mentioned scripture we can see how it is possible to honor a parent and at the same time not be in accord with their thinking if it does not honor God. We can disagree but still honor others by being courteous and respectful.
This is especially important as we teach our children about dealing with other people. A teacher may not share a student’s belief in God, but respect is vital to honoring them, which in turn is a benefit to the student.
We are required to honor people; but obedience to others must first be filtered through obedience to our Heavenly Father.
Suggested Intentional Living Broadcast
Do you talk to your kids about honoring their parents, teachers and elders? Do they know the difference between honoring someone and being obedient? We’d love to hear from you. Post your comments below.
A Second Chance – Part I
You’ve found love for a second time, and you’re looking forward to a better future with your new husband and children.
Bringing children into the marriage makes it even more important to find success this time. More than 65 percent of second marriages end in divorce. So it’s important to discover ways to invest in your marriage and make it successful.
Going into the marriage with a willingness to work and communicate will help the relationship. Instant adjustment is not realistic for everyone, so remind yourself to be patient.
- Get expectations out on the table: Start by learning as much as you can about your spouse’s past and, specifically, what really went wrong in previous marriages. Be honest about your own past relationship problems, and make sure those issues have been dealt with. Then put those things behind you and look ahead.
- Parents take the lead: The biological parent must be the primary enforcer of discipline with their children. The other spouse is to be supportive of the biological parent, not argumentative or disagreeable in front of the children.
- Clarify new roles and develop a shared vision: Stand closely shoulder-to-shoulder in developing this vision. There are going to be many forces coming against you. Be unified in love and hope for your future.
Half of all families are blended. According to a new poll, 40 percent of Americans say they’re part of a step family. In second marriages, 65 percent involve children from previous marriages and form blended families. Choosing to work together as a team and family, offering communication and love can result in a great blend.
A Roadmap for a Successful Blend – Part II
One of the biggest challenges with blending families today comes with children trying to cope with the loss of one parent to divorce or death while also struggling to accept a stepparent and new brothers and sisters.
Through setting a goal and taking intentional actions, you can set a course so that together you can succeed.
- Allow your children to grieve their losses.
- Take time to listen to your children without trying to fix the problem.
- Don’t allow them to divide and conquer the parent team.
- Keep your conversations about the kids private.
- Stick together as parents and as a family, like a mighty army marching shoulder to shoulder.
Intentional Living Moment Video: Ten Commandments for the Intentional Parent
It’s vital for you and your new spouse to stay in agreement while coming to an understanding on all issues:
- Make the needed decisions or goals clear: Dig deep to the real core of the issues facing your kids. What are your options? What, if anything, do you need to change to make your desired outcomes a reality?
- Lay out your options: List them out for each issue. Talk with a trusted friend, pastor or counselor if you feel stuck or confused.
- Create the plan: Make your roadmap with specific action steps to accomplish your goals.
- Act on your plan: Start with the first step to address the first issue, and go from there.
When you create a roadmap for your blended family, you’ll succeed in ways you never thought possible. You’ll take a huge leap forward in living intentionally.
Suggested Intentional Living Broadcast
Do you have a blended family? We’d love to hear your success stories. Post your comments below.
by Matt Elkins
The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus offers us real help, as individuals and families, because He sympathizes with our weaknesses as we face trials and temptations. Don’t we face lots of challenges trying to raise a family? What’s the best thing to do in those trials? In Hebrews chapter four, the writer gives us the first solution we should hold on to. The most advantageous thing I can do when facing a trial is to humbly and confidently seek God’s help through prayer.
Hebrews 4:15-16. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Confidence that He is our Father
We should not underestimate the value of confidently approaching our Father. Yes, He is all-powerful, glorious, without equal, dwelling in inapproachable light [I Tim. 6:16] and we will fall in worship at His feet when we see Him in Heaven. [Rev. 15:4] But, through His power and sovereignty, which cannot be thwarted, He has made a way to welcome us into His family through Jesus Christ. God our Father does not think of us with an attitude of harsh judgment and condemnation [Romans 8:1], but He gives us His own attitude of power, love, and a sound mind. [II Tim. 1:7] God places a very high value on humility and a contrite, poor spirit, because we are sinners saved by grace and everything we have is from Him. [Is. 66:2] He is everything and we are nothing, but He opens the door wide and invites us to embrace a confident attitude in prayer as a prerequisite to the activity of praying.
So, as you face trials in your family, remember that you are a child. A spiritual child. And there is nothing standing between you and your Father. He does not want you to doubt the reality that He fathered you spiritually. He invites you to freely come into His presence and into His arms to express your needs and desires and struggles. To confidently pray is to have complete assurance of what your Father has given you as His children.
The New Testament writers have told us the importance of a confident faith:
Hebrews 11:6 (NASB). And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
But, we’re sometimes afraid that too much confidence borders on pride, or we’d rather err to being more humble than being more confident. But, in God’s mind, our confidence is a character quality that is necessary to us having sufficient faith in Him.
Hebrews 10:19 (NASB). Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 22a, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…, 23, Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24a, and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds…
James 1:5-6a (NASB), But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting . . .
In the Greek language, the language spoken and written by the original writers of the New Testament, the word “confidence” held great value and a rich meaning that can fuel our faith and give us strength when facing trials. For the New Testament reader, “confidence” essentially meant having freedom to pour out every word or thought you had, without reservation, without fear of being reprimanded or cut off by the hearer. Confidence enables us to state a matter clearly, free from confusion.
So Biblical confidence is an asset, our first line of defense when facing trials and temptations as parents, as children, as a Christian; because it keeps us squarely where we ought to always be – right in our Father’s arms.
Matt Elkins serves as Production Director at Family Life Communications ©2015 All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Suggested Intentional Living Broadcast
How has prayer impacted your family? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Post your comments below.
by Anna Mae Ludlum
Go to the bookstore and look in the memoir section. Do you see a pattern? Pain, loss, heartache, confusion, and trauma line these shelves. Sometimes memoirs end on a hopeful note and sometimes the writer wonders where their suffering might lead them and if closure can be found. Though none of us know exactly when or how our story will end, you can walk the rest of your days with the powerful truth that you are forgiven and pursued by a most devoted Father.
Traveling across the country, Big Daddy Weave’s My Story Tour gives daily opportunities to take notice of the many ways God reaches into each of the lives of the five bandmates. Lead singer, Mike Weaver, is very open about how aspects of this broken world pierce into his life and affect him and how he has learned to recognize God using these trials in his own life to draw him into greater reliance with Him. As Weaver struggles to understand how he has been made in the image of Christ, God continually assures him, and Weaver holds fast to this freeing truth.
The 10 albums released by Big Daddy Weave have been described as intimate reflections of the human soul and of their personal relationship with God. This particular album, Beautiful Offerings, might play like an audio memoir in which each chapter sings a joyful declaration of God’s promise of our salvation and guaranteed ultimate hope. Beautiful Offerings is a testament of God’s never ending pursuit to connect with His sons and daughters to reassure you of His presence and your value.
The song My Story, featured on the album, was co-written by Mike Weaver with the intent that it demonstrates the renewal we experience as disciples of Christ. This standout song inserts bits of the classic hymn “Blessed Assurance” written in 1873 and is proof of the ways God can use us and His work in our lives to draw others closer to him nearly 150 years later.
Weaver states he is fully ready and willing to walk away from his highly successful music career when God directs him to do so, but until that time comes this is his ministry. He is wholly bound to God and the direction God calls him to and walks in the peace that his final moments have already been written.
As a child of God you know how your story ends. You will be standing before God blessed by His mercy and grace and you know this is true because of the continuous assurances He gives to those who accept the gift of His Son, Jesus. Our lives are chapters of our memoirs filled with incalculable moments strung together by a connecting thread, a thread being woven by God for “everything to work together for the good of those who love” Him (Romans 8:28).
You would hear victory over the enemy
And if I told you my story You would hear freedom that was won for me
And if I told you my story
You would hear Life overcome the graveMy Story, Big Daddy Weave
Big Daddy Weave’s My Story Tour will end November 22 in Greenville, Tennessee.