A Positive Atmosphere: changing the mood of your home

changing the mood at home | a peaceful home | creating a positive atmosphere

Sometimes I can sense it before I even roll out of bed. The kids are awake & already screaming at each other, and I cringe in frustration. I can feel it—the very atmosphere of our home is chaos and anger and impatience. Before we’ve even started the day, we already need an attitude adjustment. And it’s going to be an uphill battle. How do I change the mood in my home? How do I combat all the negativity to create a positive atmosphere?

Creating a Positive Atmosphere

My Heart. Atmosphere, I’m learning, is not about the contrived elements of my home necessarily. It’s not necessarily how I decorate or how I clean. It’s not simply the kind of music I play in the background. All of those elements can help, for sure, but atmosphere begins with the ideas that rule my life and the affections that rule my heart.

When my children disturb my peace and upset my expectations for the day, my reactions reveal my heart. Are my affections set on things around me—my peace, my comfort, my pleasure, my agenda? Or are my affections set on something HIGHER? God is much more concerned with my character and heart than my lesson plans or intentions to have a quiet cup of coffee before tackling the day. If I want the atmosphere of my home to change, than I must allow God to change my heart and affections.

My Actions. As much as a positive atmosphere is determined by my heart and affections, the mood of my home is also affected by my character and my actions during the day. It’s the difference between “do what I say” and “do what I do”; between saying “be ye kind” when my children are in strife and actually being kind to them when they are in strife; between saying that my children are a blessing and actually having joy in their presence and acting like I believe that I am blessed by them. Do these ideas rule MY life and determine my actions?

Too many times I assume the atmosphere or mood of my home is someone else’s responsibility. I blame the kids or the mess or the space or the circumstances or a thousand other things. But it comes down to my heart and my actions. I can’t confuse aesthetics with atmosphere. I influence the atmosphere of my home, my homeschool, and my life with my heart and actions.

And in turn, that atmosphere educates my children. It’s the first element of discipleship; I’m not merely parenting my children or controlling their behavior, I’m discipling by creating an atmosphere that shapes and informs their beliefs, their affections, what they value in life. The ideas that rule my life will be the same ideas that shape theirs.

If I want a loving home, I must model steadfast love. If I want an atmosphere of joy and peace, than I must be joyful and peaceful. That doesn’t mean I have to be perfect. But it means I can’t expect those character traits to rule my home if they don’t rule my life. I can’t expect in others what I can’t live out myself. And I can’t live it out without Christ.

Practical Tips for Creating a Positive Atmosphere

  • Have a battle plan. I can’t let bad moods and negative attitudes catch me off guard. If I know ahead of time how I intend to handle “those” days, if I have a “bad day” protocol, it’s very literally half the battle.  An activity or game, a high-protein/high-fat snack, a family P.E. break, a worship-music dance party—I need to have something in mind to change the direction of our day to keep me from reacting. 
  • Make a playlist of music. I actually have a playlist entitled “Battle Songs.” Over the years, this playlist has helped me so much to battle fear and discouragement. These songs help me process my emotions and direct my attention to the One who is worth it all. Here’s my playlist:

Rise (Josh Garrels)

Even If (Kutless)

Sovereign Over Us (Aaron Keyes)

Praise You in this Storm (Casting Crowns)

10,000 Reasons (Matt Redman)

Your Great Name (Natalie Grant)

  • Create a battle station. Perhaps you’ve turned your closet into a “war room,” or maybe I stow an inspiring devotional in the bathroom; maybe you’ve turned your closet into a “war room.” Wherever it is, setting up a battle station (or escape room), a place to escape to for just a few minutes, can refocus my heart and mind when everything starts to get to me. And it gives me a chance to pray and formulate a battle plan.
  • Don’t rush in. I love the stories in the Bible where everyone expects Jesus to rush in and save the day or jump to their conclusion, and instead He takes his time. He draws in the sand or takes four days to arrive or stops in the middle of going to heal someone to ask who touched Him. I think it’s a good lesson for us. I often feel the urgency of rushing into a chaotic situation; I want to make it stop. And yet, sometimes I need to delay. I need to take my time to enter the situation and pray first. I need to settle my own heart before I attempt to correct theirs.

Ultimately, God is the source of all those things I long for in my home—love, joy, peace, stability. I can’t find those things in an atmosphere, but I can bring love and joy and peace to the atmosphere of my home if they are the fruit of my life as I’m abiding in Christ. 

Motivating YOU when your child is unmotivated

homeschool moms | encouragement | motivation

Nothing drains the energy out of a day like a sulky child. No matter how optimistic I feel at the start of the day, no matter how much coffee I consume, no matter how many Scriptures I quote to myself—pouty, sulky, unmotivated kids are rough to homeschool. So, how do I keep a good attitude? How do I stay motivated to homeschool when my kids are not? There’s no easy answer, but I try to keep 3 things in mind when I’m tempted to throw in the towel. 

It’s not my fault. 

This is such an easy trap to fall into. Maybe I haven’t made school enjoyable enough. Maybe I have the wrong curriculum. Maybe I’m teaching this wrong. Maybe I’m a terrible teacher. Maybe I’m failing at this. It’s such a vicious trail of defeat and lies. But it’s so easy to assume it’s my role to make everyone happy and my fault if they aren’t. It is my job to put learning materials and opportunities in front of them. And I do try very hard to match their learning styles and make school “fun.” But in the end, whether or not they enjoy it is their choice, not my fault. Some days, my kids are just bound and determined to not enjoy anything. I don’t prefer it that way, but their choice does not make me the “mean mom.” It doesn’t make me a failure. It just makes me the mom of a bunch of unmotivated kids having a bad day.

It is not my responsibility to keep them happy. 

It’s my responsibility to keep them healthy, to protect them, to provide learning opportunities for them. But to keep them in a constant state of happiness and contentment is not my responsibility. I fight this constantly. We can wear ourselves out looking for the next best thing, feeling as though it is our responsibility to make them love every moment of their education. I’m so guilty of this! And I have to reign myself back after some time on Pinterest and say, “You know, it’s okay that we haven’t used all of these super cool Lego Learning ideas. And it’s okay that I don’t have a cool acronym and song for everything we memorize.” My responsibility is to teach; it is their responsibility to learn. I have to consciously cast that back onto them: “I’m sorry you feel that way. That must be miserable. I would much prefer that we choose to do things this way, but I can’t be apart of your choice to….” Bottom line, my kids can choose to love learning (and I do try hard to encourage that), or they can choose to hate it all. But in the end, it is their choice. My favorite line in these moments: “If it were me, I’d prefer to enjoy learning. But if you’d rather be miserable, I’ll let you.” Most of the time, after they’ve calmed down those BIG feelings of theirs, they decide they’d rather enjoy it with me.

It is my choice.

Just like my child has a choice about his or her attitude, I have a choice about mine too. It is not my child’s fault if I join his pity party. It stinks when kids are unmotivated or in a bad mood. All the negativity can be very draining, which is why it is ultra-important (and not a bit selfish) to do some self-care. 

  • Step away (even if it’s to the bathroom). I make a point to let my kids know that I need a time-out to control my attitude and reactions. It teaches them, by example, that this is the correct way to handle those BIG FEELINGS, and it teaches them to respect others feelings. I also let them know the consequences. “I may become a Momster, and I don’t want to act that way. So I’m taking a time out.” Some times, they still don’t get the point, and I have to be a little more specific: “I feel like I’m going to either cry or scream, and I don’t want to do either. So I need you to be completely quiet all the way home.” (And unfortunately, they know I mean it. Because, yeah, I’ve done both.)
  • Supply your time-out space with what you need to regroup—an inspiring devotional, some battle verses, a cup of coffee, some chocolate, whatever it takes! I have a playlist of “Battle Songs” that I use for times when my emotions need to be redirected. I keep my Paul David Tripp devotional handy. And yes, there are times I take chocolate with me.
  • Do something shocking. Think of a car that has a dead battery. It doesn’t need a gentle nudge; it needs a giant shock! Sometimes my day needs a shock, too. Mondays tend to be our horrible, terrible, no good, very bad days. To shock our week into action, I’m trying a couple of different things: (1). taking school to a different location or (2). canceling our normal schedule to do a big learning project that we’ve been meaning to get to. Other times we’ve gone on a nature hike, watched educational movies, or taken an impromptu field trip. Make the kids do their schoolwork under the table, in a tree, or in a pillow fort. SHOCK THEM! And maybe even shock yourself. Most of the time, the thing I feel least like doing (leaving the house) is absolutely the thing we need most.

In the end, for my kids and myself, it’s a heart issue. And these days take lots of prayer—for my kids, with my kids, over my kids. I have my kids pray for me. And then we inch forward, in the Lord’s strength and sufficient grace. Because most days, when I’m unmotivated and losing momentum, it’s because I’m doing it in my own strength. I’m not enough for this job, even on a good day. But He is. Thank God, He is!

Why I will no longer forgive myself

Find forgiveness | no longer forgive myself | grace | healing

Yep, you read that right. I will no longer “forgive myself.” I will no longer “give myself grace.” No, I haven’t embraced some radical legalism or harsh perfectionism. I’ve just come to terms with the fact that it’s impossible. It sounds good, and I’ve read countless “motherhood” articles, many of them truly inspiring, that tell me the cure to “mommy guilt” or any guilt is to forgive myself, that the cure to exhausting perfectionism is to give myself the grace to fail. At times, I’m pretty sure I’ve been guilty of saying the same things.

But as I’ve been journaling through Ephesians, I’ve come to realize just how defeating and impossible this can be. Oh, I understand what we mean when we use these phrases, and I agree that we should stop beating ourselves up and placing unrealistic expectations of perfection on ourselves. However, the answer is not to forgive myself or to give myself grace. Let me explain the journey I’ve been on, the reason I’m no longer using these phrases.

Why I can’t and won’t be forgiving myself any longer

1. It’s not my place. When I attempt to forgive myself or offer grace to myself, I am putting myself above God, as if what He has to offer is not enough. It’s not enough that God has forgiven me, I need to forgive myself. His sufficient grace is not quite sufficient; I need to pitch in and give myself some grace. Again, I know what we intend when we make these statements, but I’m just realizing how terribly wrong we are. Only God’s forgiveness matters: I need to accept His forgiveness. Only His grace is sufficient: I need to receive His grace.

2. It’s not in my power. The only one who can forgive is the one who has been wronged. In other words, I can’t forgive myself unless I’ve wronged myself. But that isn’t the case; it doesn’t even make sense. Instead, I’ve wronged others and/or I’ve wronged God Himself. In both instances, forgiveness happens out of the abundance of God’s forgiveness through Christ. Sometimes it’s tough to accept the forgiveness of God or others. Sometimes we feel as though we need to punish ourselves, to feel that guilt for what we have done. But that’s a lie! Christ has already suffered for that sin. Was His suffering not enough? Was it incomplete somehow? I need to, instead, accept the forgiveness freely given to me and not feel as though I need to prove myself or earn it in some way.

3. It’s not possible. Bottom line. I don’t have the resources or the ability to extend grace or forgiveness to myself; it’s not mine to allocate to myself. As I’ve studied Ephesians 1, this keeps jumping out to me. Over and over God is described as rich in grace, rich in mercy. In Christ, we have access to all the treasures of heaven. My role is not to ration it out to others and be sure to save enough back for myself. No! You don’t ration boundless, endless wealth. In and of myself, I have no grace to give to myself. And why would I take any credit for the boundless grace God has given? I don’t need to give myself grace. I need to receive His.

Find forgiveness | no longer forgive myself | grace | healing |

Why am I making such a big deal about this?

Because when I use these words, I’m taking credit for God’s work. When I use these word, I rob God of His glory. And because when I use these words, I continue the endless cycle of helpless guilt this creates in my life. I’m already feeling regret and shame over all the ways I’ve fallen short. If only I could forgive myself. But how do I do this? Are there magic words I utter or a ceremony I go through? Is it a feeling I conjure up? Do you see? I’ve set myself up for yet another failure. Now, I can’t even forgive myself.

But if I look at this Biblically, the gift is already given. The Bible lays out a clear path to receive this grace and forgiveness. And it’s simple. Ask and you will receive. On my worst day, I can manage that. Not because of my inner strength and grit, but because my God is the Giver of all good gifts. He’s a good, good Father.

So will you join with me? Together, let’s decide to do this right. Let’s commit together that we will no longer forgive ourselves and instead receive the riches of what God has given to us.

3 tips to brighten your homeschool blues

ideas to recharge | homeschool blues | homeschool discouragement |

January and February are the toughest months to homeschool. Just about everyone will tell you that. I’m not sure if it’s holiday hangover or the dreary winter weather or just the fact that the newness has worn off. Whatever it is, the “homeschool blues” are in full swing this time of year. If that’s you, you are not alone. 

Our first week back to school at the beginning of the month was rough. After a month off, no one was really feeling like buckling back into the structure of daily school, least of all me. But each week, it’s gotten progressively better. My daughter’s dyslexia gave us some major challenges in that first week, but a few adjustments had her motivated and excited again. So, how do I battle the homeschool blues when they hit?

Here are a few ideas to recharge your year and get back on track.

3 tips to brighten your homeschool blues

  • Recharge with something new. Add a new subject or unity study. Purchase some fresh school supplies, even if it’s just fresh crayons or a new notebook. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or expensive, but adding anything new gives you all something to be excited about. For my daughter, I picked up a couple of new dyslexia apps for her to use and a new pack of colored pencils. She’s raring to go now. That’s all it took. Other years, I’ve purchased new binders and organizing supplies. Work within your budget, but just a little spark can add a lot of energy.
  • Bring back an oldie-but-goodie. Pull out a favorite book you haven’t read together in a while. Play a favorite game, educational or not. Spread a favorite blanket on the floor and do school on it. Take your school work to a favorite location you haven’t been to in a while. Take advantage of those fond memories. The energy connected with that fun memory can recharge everyone as you make new memories.
  • Shake things up. Don’t make this harder than it has to be. Maybe you need a new schedule or a new order of doing things. Maybe you just plan to do a few things “out of the norm” for you: a pajama day, backwards day, or star wars day. Let them dress up and do school as their favorite superhero or sports figure. Have a tea party for reading time and play legos for history. I think a lot of the “blues” comes from just needing to air out. Change the scenery. Do school at your local library one day, or at Barnes and Noble, or at the mall Food Court. Anything to surprise your kids and add a sense of adventure.

And here’s a bonus: do something that recharges you!  “Secure your oxygen mask before assisting others”—kind of thing. This is not the same for all of us. I can tell you how I recharge, but that may do absolutely nothing for you. Maybe cleaning and organizing your school area will do the trick. Add a new Bible study, exercise routine, or arts & crafts time. Or perhaps, schedule some time alone with a cup of coffee and a good book at Barnes and Noble. In other words, let’s take care of ourselves. We can’t fill cups from an empty pitcher.

In my small group at church, we are going through Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God study, and I’m journaling through Ephesians. I’m reading Uninvited by Lisa Terkheurst (my favorite author) and Craving Connections by (in)courage. And I write. Writing is therapeutic for me. I write to empty my head and shush those thousands of voices. But I’m muddling through, too. My dishes are behind, I just finally put away Christmas, and there’s a thick layer of dust and dog hair on everything it seems. I’m behind in so many areas of life. I’ve survived the holidays with no energy left for this next lap. But I know one thing: it get’s better. Yes, this lap is hard, but I’ve pushed through before and the sun does shine again. The energy does return. In the meantime, God’s strength and grace is sufficient, if I’m willing to receive it.

Hang in there, friend. If you are already feeling discouraged and burned out, don’t make recharging your homeschool something intimidating or overwhelming. Pick a few small changes to bring a little sunshine back to your day. Just a little light can go along way in brightening those homeschool blues.

Silencing Fears (& 4 Scriptures for battling a fear of man)

fear | Scripture verses for battling fear of man

Sometimes, I have to go back and reread my own posts, take my own advice, relearn what I’ve already learned. The new year is definitely a time for that. Believe it or not, January through February is my time to doubt everything we are doing.

Is our history as effective as it could be?

Am I doing a good enough job with science or writing or math?

Would the kids benefit from doing this or that differently?

Maybe what we’re doing isn’t best.

And while some self-evaluation is healthy, I often succumb to a lot of unhealthy fears, mostly an enormous “fear of man.”

  • a fear that my kids will become discouraged or will suddenly dislike learning
  • a fear that they won’t know what other kids know (like the scientific method or the Pledge of Allegiance)
  • a fear of what others will think of my kids or me or homeschooling in general

And on those days, when I feel like I’m living in a Dr. Seuss illustration with my doubts looming in monster-like form, I remind myself that the fear of man is a snare, and I work through my battle plan for escape.

4 Scriptures for battling the fear of man

  1. “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.” (Proverbs 29:25 ESV) Whoever trusts in the Lord is safe—what a promise! I’m safe from fear, from guilt, from the snare of comparison and from needing approval. When I’m trusting in Him, His is the only approval that matters.
  2. “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10 ESV) In my moments of fear, I need a quick reminder about who it is I’m living my life for. I’m not living my life for the grocery store cashier or the person in the waiting room quizzing my kids on their multiplication facts. I live my life and raise my kids before Christ alone.
  3. “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4 ESV) This is one of my all-time favorites: only God defines my faithfulness. Only He sets the standard. Only He determines my success.
  4. “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 ESV) The end of the matter—don’t we just need to hear that, in the midst of those loud voices of disapproval in our hearts? This is the end of the matter. Period. My whole duty summed up in one verse: fear God alone. He is the only opinion that matters.

I also pray for wisdom—and grace—and direction—and a huge red light if I need to stop or a huge green light if I’m okay. And then? Then, I make breakfast, pour a cup of coffee, write in my planner, and the day starts once more with my Dr. Seuss monsters shut tight in their respective cages, for the time being.

Download a free bookmark to remember your battle plan.

free printable download, Scriptures for battling fear of man, need for approval

Sign up to download your free bookmark.

Already a subscriber? Click here for your download.

Sadness at Christmas Time: more than a happy ending

sadness at Christmas time | Christmas depression | Christmas hope

Christmas is supposed to be a feel-good time of year, at least, that’s what all the stores and commercials and Christmas specials and traditional songs tell us. It’s a season full of joy and peace, the bustle of friends and celebration, and lots of food. But for many, there is more sadness at Christmas time than hope and happiness. One family is losing a precious little one that has been fighting for his life for quite awhile. Another family is separated and fighting to reunite. Another family is escaping an abusive relationship. Our hearts hurt, and all the words of Christmas greeting seem trite and empty.

And yet, sorrow is just as much a part of the Christmas story as joy and peace. I love the traditional Christmas hymns for this reason, because they capture this tension so well. While the stores play tunes about home for the holidays and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, the hymns remind us that before the joy and thrill of hope there was sorrow and pining and dismay.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

 

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.

 

God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay. For Jesus Christ, our Savior was born on Christmas Day to save us all from Satan’s powers when we were gone astray. Glad tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy! Glad tidings of comfort and joy.

Why do we need comfort? Why does a weary world rejoice? Because there IS sadness at Christmas time; sorrow is just as much a part of the Christmas story as the peace and goodwill. But in retelling Christmas through the years, we’ve skipped the climax and gone straight to the happy ending. The result is that we’ve left many this time of year feeling as though they can’t relate to Christmas. And yet, those among us weeping and sorrowing probably have a better picture of Christmas than anyone else, because these friends start at the beginning of the story.

The Christmas story starts with hopelessness, sorrow, death, exile, mourning, fear, powerlessness, and pain. Why was there such joy that night? Because the light that shone in that sky heralded the beginning of the end of our struggle. There is healing and freedom and restoration through Christ.

Our mourning and sorrow does have a place in Christmas; there is a place for sadness at Christmas time. And yet, our weariness and fear and anxiety isn’t the end of the story. There is a thrill of hope, there are tidings of comfort because there is an end to all the suffering. That’s the Christmas story we can all relate to.