Words of Life, Part One

Gratitude Infuses Life with Joy

Words of life are powerful.  This is part one of a two-part blog on the practical ways to speak life to your family.

I was talking with a lady named Teri who, along with her husband, writes books and speaks to parents all across the country, ministering to countless families. I was sharing with her about our youngest daughter Melody who has Trisomy 18.  I happen to note that our children do not resent her, but rather love her dearly and serve her so cheerfully.  Immediately she responded, “You all must be ones who express gratitude to your children, and not criticism.”

Although I had not thought much about it before speaking with Teri, by the grace of God He had infused into our home a spirit of gratitude.  Afterward, I thought more purposefully about gratitude.  Gratitude is a powerful gift.  It is motivating, encouraging, and can infuse life with joy.

We love our little Melody, and we are deeply grateful for her sweet and precious life.  We thank the Lord for the gift of each day we have with her.  We are honored to have Melody as part of our family, but it certainly has not been without its challenges. Melody was sent home on hospice when she was born, and we had countless dicey moments with her for the first few years of her life. She is stronger and healthier now, but her life still involves an inordinate number of daily mundane tasks.  It requires dying to self, moment by moment, and serving continually.  Melody is non-verbal so she cannot thank us with words, just with her sweet and charming smile. When we have a spirit of gratitude in our home it can renew our spirits like almost nothing else and infuse joy into the mundane.

One tool that helped us establish the spirit of gratitude in our home was utilizing character pockets. It is a practical way to make words of life a way of life. I created a character pocket for each child.  I made cards with names of character qualities and Scripture to go with each one.  Throughout the day I would note the ways in which the Lord gave each child the grace to demonstrate certain character qualities. When my husband would come home in the evening I would share with him the character pockets and talk about each child and the qualities they had demonstrated that day.  It was always specific, honest, and focused on character (as opposed to skill).  It was never flattery.

One time my daughter Andrea, who was four years old at the time, walked past me after I had changed her sister’s diaper.  She took initiative to pick up the diaper and throw it away.  I put the character quality of initiative in her pocket and shared with her daddy what she had done.  She was clearly blessed by that acknowledgement.  Incidentally, I don’t think I had to throw a diaper away for the next six months – my little helper was always at my side taking initiative.

Another time we were at the table eating when my oldest daughter Hannah, age six at the time, thanked me for lunch.  I put the character quality of gratitude in her character pocket.  She sincerely thanked me consistently for meals after that.  She modeled it so well that the other children began to do the same.  Now about fourteen years later we all still consistently thank the ones who helped prepare the meal.

Utilizing this tool has helped me to grow in the grace of genuine praise for my children, or “elevating the good”, as was encouraged in GKGW.  It became part of our daily routine.  I am still in the habit of encouraging my children in the evenings when we do family devotions.  I do not use character pockets anymore because our children are older, yet it seems to be quite natural to thank them for the things they have done to demonstrate the character of Christ.

I am thankful that we had established character pockets before Melody came along, as that helped set a foundation and a tone in our home of genuine gratitude and praise (i.e. speaking words of life).

Part two of this blog will focus on how you can use words of life as labels for your children, rather than the ‘labels’ the world would use.

Jennifer Thenhaus has been married to Andrew for 22 years. They have five wonderful children ranging in age from twenty years old down to seven. They started teaching classes 18 years ago. Jennifer organized and hosted a Mom2Mom group for ten years. When her fifth child, Melody, was born with Trisomy 18 she had to take three years off from classes and Mom2Mom. She has been back in the ministry for a few years with the added perspective of having little Melody.  Read more of Melody’s story at www.Melodysstory.com 
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