Dinner Discussions

Choosing the Right Attitude (Dinner Discussions)

"People have moods, you know," announced my younger daughter yesterday as I gently reminded her to choose a better attitude.

"Yep, they do," I thought, "and you are certainly in one."

We're working hard on attitude around here, and what I've discovered in the process is that our attitude is a choice. We can choose to let negative emotions take precedence or we can choose to not let our circumstances dictate our mood.

Poor attitudes come from discontent. Anger, jealousy and frustration all have their roots in discontentment. And being discontent is a choice.

Paul says in Philippians 4:11 says "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." If Paul learned it then contentment must be a choice we can make, and when we learn to be content, we choose to change our attitude.

Kids tend to be ruled by emotion, some kids more than others. It's our job as parents to teach our kids to choose to have a good attitude, no matter the circumstances. That doesn't mean our kids stick their heads in the sand and ignore circumstances that are dangerous or hurtful. It simply means that their attitude isn't based on the circumstances. It's based on the joy we have in Jesus.

I won't lie. That's a tough thing to teach our kids. It's a tough thing to learn ourselves. We're struggling with it right now.

What I do know, though, is that cultivating a thankful heart and helping our kids to focus on all that God has done for them will change hearts, which will change attitudes. We're going to focus on thankful hearts next month, but this month's dinner discussions focus on helping your kids build altars.

When God did something great for the Israelites, they built an altar (usually just a pile of stones), so they could remember it. This month, there is only one dinner discussion question, "What did you see God do today?" I encourage you to either keep a journal, write your kids' answers on paper stones and tape them to the wall or get a bunch of real stones and build your own altar to remind your family of all that God has done this month.

Before you start this month's dinner discussions, explain the concept of an altar to your kids. Explain that the reason to build an altar is to remember what God has done. Talk about how you're going to build your own altar this month so you can see all that God is doing and remember the reasons we have to be joyful.

Take pictures of the altars you build; I'd love to see them at the end of the month. I'd also love to hear the stories of how this activity works in the hearts of your kids.

Linking up today with Denise in Bloom.

Kristy Westrate is the winner of the Teach Me To Serve e-book giveaway. Look for your e-book in your inbox soon. Congratulations, Kristy!

Dinner Discussions: Nurturing Dreams

My younger daughter, the one who makes the definition of petite look big, thinks she's going to play in the National Hockey League when she grows up. My older daughter, who wears jean shorts and T-shirts to school every day, wants to be a fashion designer. I'm pretty sure that neither of them will end up being either one of those things.

But I'm not interested in bursting the bubbles of their dreams. One of the great things about childhood is that you can dream about being anything you want. The future is laid out before you with no obstacles in your way.

We can encourage our kids to dream about the future. God made our kids with brains that can dream. And some of those dreams may turn into reality. Our job as parents is to nurture those dreams and help point our kids in the direction that God wants them to go, which isn't always the same direction that we want them to go.

My younger daughter is never going to play professional hockey in the NHL. If I told her that every time she mentioned it, I would crush her spirit. I would be encouraging her not to dream big. And that's not what God wants me to do. Because some day, God will give her a big dream, a plan for her life. If I've taught her to dream small or not to dream at all, then God's big plan will seem too daunting to even try. She will have learned that if it seems impossible, it is. But when the dream belongs to God, nothing is impossible.

Philippians 4:13 says "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" and Matthew 19:26 says "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Nothing is impossible for God. Even though the tasks and dreams He gives us may seem daunting, with God's help, we can do them.

This month's Dinner Discussions are all about the future. They should get your family talking about the things they want to do and the dreams they have. Nurture your kids dreams, even if they seem impossible. Because what you teach them about their dreams now will affect how they react to the dreams and plans God gives them in the future.

Linking up today with Denise in Bloom.

Making Dinner a Priority

I love to sit down to a meal with my family. It might be the only time all day that we're all gathered together in a place where we can talk and laugh together. I truly believe that dinnertime fosters communication within a family.

Yet, too often, dinner takes a back seat to activities, whether it's the girls' activities or ours. When school starts, so do all of our activities. Dinner becomes a rushed affair with everyone grabbing something different on their way to someplace else.

The dinner table should provide our family with an opportunity to recharge and reconnect. It should be a time to share our days and our thoughts. Whether your family likes to tell funny jokes, discuss the day or play dinner games, fostering conversation and joy around the table is an important part of keeping the members of our family in touch with each other.

I know a family meal every night is tough. Both my girls practice their sports twice a week. I have meetings that I attend in the evenings, and so does my husband. On top of that, we have church, homework and music lessons. Squeezing in dinner when everyone can attend is tough.

Yet, studies show that families that make the effort to sit down to an evening meal together have better adjusted kids -- kids who are less likely to get into serious trouble. Our dinners don't have to be elaborate. Proverbs 15:17 says, "Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred." They simply have to be intentional.

We have to intentionally set out to make dinner a priority in our homes. We have to make the effort to set aside the time for our families to sit down together, eat a meal, communicate and love each other. And sometimes that's harder than it sounds. It takes work. It takes planning. But it is so worth it.

If you struggle to gather your family for dinner every night, try some of these tips to make dinner an important time in your home:

Set the expectation. Let everyone know that dinnertime is changing. Make sure all the members of your household know that their presence is expected at dinner.

Be flexible. Busy schedules require flexibility. Be prepared to move dinner time to a time when everyone can be there. If that means you eat at 4 or at 9, then so be it. The important thing is to get everyone to the table, not to have a set, formal dinnertime. There are a lot of nights around here when dinner is at an odd time. Pick the time that day when the most people in your family can be around the table at the same time.

Remove distractions. We have a rule at our house that no toys can be at the table. I try to put the newspaper away before dinner. The only thing that's on our dinner table is food and napkins, which creates the opportunity for conversations.

Create a routine. Figure out what your family most enjoys doing at the dinner table. Some families like to share their days with each other. Have a set of questions that everyone has to answer: What's the funniest thing that happened today? What's the best thing that happened today? What's the worst thing that happened today? Other families like to discuss current events. Some families enjoy playing games. If you're stumped for things to talk about at dinner, check out our free Dinner Discussions to get the conversational ball rolling. You can find new ones every month on our Free Stuff page.

Avoid using dinnertime to air disputes. Make dinnertime sacred. Leave arguments and disagreements alone. There's nothing less pleasant than a dinner table filled with strife. Declare the dinner table to be a temporary peace zone when members of your family are unhappy with one another.

Dinner can be one of the best times of the day for your busy family. It can foster community and joy. We just have to make the extra effort to get everyone to the table together.

Linking up today with Denise in Bloom.

August Dinner Discussions: Back to School

It's hard to believe, but we're about ready to head back to school here. My girls start school on Aug. 15. We've been shopping for school supplies and clothes. We've been up to the middle school to decorate lockers and walk through my daughter's class schedule. A couple of more weeks, and we'll be back into the school-year routine.

I switched the calendar over to August yesterday, and after enjoying the relative blankness of the squares in July, I almost choked at how full the August squares are. From soccer practice to back-to-school night, those squares are filling up fast. I'm not quite sure I'm ready to move from the lazy days of summer to the busy days of August.

So, as we head back into the school year, our Dinner Discussions this month are all about school. They include fun questions about school as well as thought-provoking ones about character and actions. Use them to get your kids thinking about how God wants them to act while they're in school and away from you.

Use the time at dinner to get your kids focused on the school year ahead. Share some laughs and some thoughtful moments. Even if you don't head back to school until September, you can use the evenings in August to get your kids ready.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." And right now, it's time for back to school.

Don't miss our upcoming series "The Best School Year Ever," starting on Monday. We'll have some great tips for getting ready for the school year just like we got ready for summer. A little planning can get you off to a great start, whether you homeschool or send your kids to school. Tell your friends and don't miss it.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

July Dinner Discussions

I'm sitting in my newly rearranged living room. I got a new desk and bookshelf yesterday, and I love it. In the past month, we've bought more furniture than we've bought in the entire 16 years we've been married. Up until this point, we've made do with a lot of hand-me downs and discount store furniture. And we're still using a lot of it.

As I sit in my chair, I'm looking at my couch and chair. We are the third generation of my family to use this furniture. Neither is super comfortable, but I look at those pieces of furniture, and I'm always reminded of the connection to my family. It helps to make me content.

My new desk and bookshelf don't match the older furniture all that well. They definitely give the room an eclectic look. And as happy as I am with them, I know that at some point in the near future, I'll walk into someone else's house, see someone else's living room and lose my contentment with what I have. It won't matter that my furniture reminds me of family. It won't matter that my bookshelf and desk are perfect for my needs. All that will matter is that my living room doesn't look like it came out of a Pottery Barn catalog. Contentment is that easy to lose.

All last week, we talked about contentment in our Learning to Be Content series. Because contentment is something that I don't think we ever completely learn, this month's dinner discussions are all about contentment, envy and joy. My prayer is that as you use these questions to spark your dinnertime conversations that your family will take to heart Paul's words in Philippians 4:11-13: "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

By keeping the focus on contentment for an entire month, we can learn the roots of jealousy, the desires of our hearts and how to learn to be content. It's not an easy process, and it's always an ongoing one. But contentment is something we can learn and teach to our children. And the first step is getting the conversation started.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife, Growing Home, and A Pause on the Path.

June Dinner Discussions

The calendar in my kitchen still says May. That must be why the beginning of the month slipped right by me.

We're in the process of finishing our basement and between that and my daughter's birthday, I completely forgot about June's dinner discussions. So, here they are, just a bit late. I hope your dinnertime conversations are lively and your discussions thought-provoking this month.

Because summertime is often the season for travel, this month's Dinner Discussions focus on travel. Based around Matthew 28:19-20: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” this month's dinner discussions talk about going places and sharing the good news of Jesus.

Jesus set the example for us. He traveled from place to place, bringing the good news that He was the long-awaited Messiah. Then, He sent His disciples out to share the good news after He returned to heaven. Jesus wants us to share the good news about Him with others. He tells us to "go." That may mean we go to our neighbor or it may mean we go to Africa. But for all of us, it means go and share.

Use your dinner discussions this month to reminisce about family vacations, to learn the places that others in your family want to go and to talk about how no matter where we go there are opportunities to share Jesus with others. So, get talking around the table, then get moving to go and share Jesus.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.