5 Tips for Improving Family Relationships

“A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and a four-year old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.

The family ate together nightly at the dinner table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating rather difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass often milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. “We must do something about grandfather,” said the son. I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor. So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner at the dinner table. Since grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. Sometimes when the family glanced in grandfather’s direction, he had a tear in his eye as he ate alone.

Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence.

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?” Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making the bowl for you and mama to eat.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening the husband took grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.” – The Wooden Spoon (An Ancient Tale)

How to Improve Family Relationships – 5 Tips


The ancient tale above serves as a great reminder that how we treat our family members matters greatly. Our children are watching and learning from our interactions every day – what are we teaching them by our example?

Our family has the capacity to build us up and to wound us more than anyone else. They can bring out our best and our worst – sometimes all in the same day.

One thing I have learned as I have grown older and had children of my own is that the impact and effect of family relationships runs deep and lasts a lifetime.

Here are 5 Tips I am slowly learning to implement in order to improve my relationships with family members:

1) Release Your Expectations – Healthy relationships are interdependent, not co-dependent. Our family members will often disappoint us. They may often fail to meet the expectations that we have for them. The truth is that in order to appreciate them for what they can do, we must release them from what they can’t.

2) Forgive Often and Without Limitation – If we are going to live in a healthy and functional family unit, we must admit that we are flawed, broken people bumping into each other and often hurting one another – whether intentionally or unintentionally. When there is a premise of love and forgiveness as a foundation for relationships, we can grow together and emerge from conflict stronger than we were before.

3) Stop Being the Judge – There are many times we may disagree with choices our family members make. Fight battles that are really worth it and leave the judging to God. He alone knows the thoughts and intents of the heart.

4) Take a Good Look in the Mirror – Be self-aware of the issues and drama that you (yes, you!) bring into your family. We all have our junk and it must be accounted for. Approaching family relationships with humility will do a lot for opening strong doors for relational bonding and intimacy.

5) Learn to Laugh Together – One thing I love about my husband’s family and my own is that over the decades we have our stories – stories that have bonded us and made us who we are today. We can look back together and laugh at experiences we have been through that grew our relationships and gave us lasting memories.

As we learn to laugh about moments that in the past were tense, awkward, difficult, or just plain funny, we find healing and remember not to take life so seriously all the time.

Prioritizing healthy family relationships will benefit generations to come. What has helped you over the years to improve your relationships with your immediate and extended family members?

A Journey into Compassion


This week, I took my children to India, Uganda, and Bolivia. We only visited each country for 30 minutes each, but we were impacted in a powerful way through the lives and conditions that we encountered.

How is this possible? The Compassion Experience, run by Compassion International, offers the opportunity to witness poverty firsthand without ever leaving the country.

“Change the Story” as an “interactive, immersive display allows you to step into the life of a child who has suffered under the crippling weight of poverty.” Thank God, it doesn’t end there.

In each thirty minute journey with a child, we had the chance to hear their stories – how they moved from deep poverty, fear, and pain to a place of provision, care, and love.

Stories of Great Impact


As we followed each child’s journey, we were taken into rooms designed to look as similar to their real homes as possible, with authentic pieces of furniture, decorations, and memories. We saw how one child’s family huddled together at night in a room that is 1/4 the size of my kitchen.

They had no beds. No carpet. Only a dirt floor and two chairs – one chair they took turns sleeping in each night and the other they used to prop against the door to keep drunken and drug-induced men from breaking in.

A young boy – the same age as one of my daughters – shined shoes at the market all day just to make enough money to have one meal per day. Alas, often the money he did make was stolen by others. This meant that many days, he didn’t eat at all.

But then something happened to change his circumstances.

Or rather, someone did.

A couple from the United States decided to sponsor this child through Compassion International and he was able to find a place of peace and provision – and most importantly, to learn about the love that Jesus has for him and for all children.

He experienced what it was to be truly loved – through the director of the Center and his sponsors in the States, who wrote him letters regularly in addition to supplying him with monthly support.

He began to believe that he could have a better life and has gone on to walk out of a life of poverty and into the great plan of God’s provision for him. He is just one story of thousands that need to be told.

Why You Should Sponsor an Orphan


Throughout the last several years, we have sponsored orphans in the countries of Sudan, India, and the Philippines. We placed their pictures on our refrigerator to remind us to pray for them.

While supplying what they need for food and education, I wish we would have written those children more letters to tell them that God loves them. That He has a plan for their lives. That they can overcome great challenges and odds and make a difference in this world.

For any children that we sponsor in the future, this is what I will do differently.

There are many different organizations that have sponsorship programs for children. We personally have sponsored children through Love-n-Care Ministries in India and Harvesters Reaching the Nations in Sudan, to name a few.

Today I will highlight Compassion International since they are the ones who sponsor the Compassion Experience we walked through this week.

For only $38/month, you can sponsor one of 100,000 children from all over the world who are waiting for a sponsor through this organization.

$38 a month in our area is less than the cost of a dinner out for two adults, but this small amount of money can change a child’s life forever.

To Whom Much is Given, Much is Required

You may have heard this line several times, I know. “For only $X/month, you can make a difference in a child’s life.” But after walking through the Compassion Experience this week, I am reminded that this is not just a sales pitch. This is the TRUTH.

And there are thousands of lives waiting –

waiting to be “pulled out of the ash heap” and into a place of safety and provision.

waiting to have the love of Christ demonstrated to them in a tangible way.

waiting to believe that someone could love them.

waiting to be told and shown that they are children of God -children of great worth.

Each thirty minute story in our journey through the Compassion Experience ended with the same scripture: “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48).

I know I have been given much and therefore much will be required of me. What will I do with what is in my hand to give? What will you do with what is in yours?

The Purpose of Anger


I have a confession to make: I never knew my own capacity for anger until I had children. Now don’t get me wrong – I know that we adults can be pretty difficult, too. But we have just learned (usually) that it isn’t socially acceptable to throw a temper tantrum when we don’t get our way or cry for an entire hour when we drop our ice cream cone on the floor.

Living with anyone will bring its challenges and living with lots of little people brings a myriad of relational issues and conflicts that are often accompanied by a strong emotion called anger.

I’ve learned as the primary caregiver for little people that my often even-keel personality can begin to simmer on a level of low-grade irritability that impacts everyone around me – especially my children.

When Anger Steals Our Joy

One night while I was lying in bed, ready to fall asleep, I thought to myself “This is not okay. I don’t want to be so easily irritated!”

I realized that when I harbored anger in my heart, my joy was being stolen and anger was keeping me from enjoying and fully embracing these precious little ones that God has entrusted to me to shepherd towards His heart.

I also recognized that while I cannot change myself, I need not feel helpless. God would never ask us to “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31) if it were not possible through the power of His Spirit working within us.

One of my closest friends who also has small children suggested that we read a book together called “Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids.

Um, yes please! I was won over by the title alone.

The Greater Purpose of Anger


A great truth that I have learned while reading this book is quite simple: Anger is a flag to us that something is wrong and we need to do something about it. Anger doesn’t tell us what is wrong; we have to take time to identify the real issue behind our anger before we can do anything about it.

While anger is a good and useful emotion to identify when something is wrong, it is not helpful for solving problems. This is biblical: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God James 1:19-20.

I am learning that when I find myself irritated and smoldering within, I need to pause and ask myself some basic questions:

What is the real problem? Am I angry about something that is being internally stimulated (perhaps my own inward struggle with something) or outwardly stimulated (by one child hitting another or traffic when I am already late).

What is an appropriate response to the issue at hand? Speaking in a loud and harsh tone to my kids does not solve the problem of my children running and wrestling in the kitchen while I am trying to cook dinner. It only compounds the issue.

Perhaps an appropriate response would be to calmly explain that it is not safe for them to run in close proximity to a hot stove and give them clear direction as to where they can safely play, laying out straightforward consequences if there is a failure to comply.

5 Main Reasons for Our Anger

Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, the authors of “Good and Angry,” identify 5 main causes of anger: Physical Pain, Blocked Goals, Violated Rights, Unfairness, Unmet Expectations.

Taking a few minutes to identify which of these is most often the cause of our anger can be the first step to identifying a healthy way to respond.

Do you often find yourself irritated or angry but are unsure how you can see change? God does not condemn you but offers you a way out through His grace and the power of His Holy Spirit.

He’s given us emotions as gifts that can bring glory to Him when they are used appropriately.

When and in what circumstances do you most often find yourself becoming angry? What are your triggers? What might be an appropriate response for those situations?

Here’s the bottom line: Anger can serve as a friend rather than an enemy when we allow it to signal a problem rather than solve it.

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