When my daughter was a toddler, she had a favorite phrase.
It wasn’t the typical, “Why? … “Mine,” “How come?” Or even the shouts of “No!” I mean, those were said on occasion, but rather her favorite phrase to say about anything was …
She would say it about everything:
- Brandi it’s time for a nap. “I can’t.”
- Brandi put your shoes on. “I can’t.”
- Brandi brush your teeth, eat your lunch, drink your milk, let’s go outside and play. “I can’t!” … “I can’t!” … “I can’t!” … “I can’t!”
It didn’t matter what it was, she had somehow heard the words “I can’t” and taken them on as her mantra and answer for everything. When she was two-and-a-half, it was kinda cute, but as she turned three, four, and even five it was not. It was a terrible mindset, a pattern, a way of thinking that needed to be eradicated from her vocabulary and her life.
I recall having a conversation with her when she was four years old, telling her she could do anything she set her mind to and she could be anything she wanted to be. But can you really rationalize with a four-year-old. She persisted in saying and proclaiming, “I can’t” about everything she didn’t want to do, and everything that took a little effort.
We read the book and watched the movie about the little engine that could. I thought, this will help her believe in herself and change her thinking. But it did not.
I desperately cried out to God one day asking for wisdom about how to change her thinking and her attitude about herself. God needed to have the answers because nothing I had thought up on my own had worked.
God reminded me of Romans 12:2 about renewing your mind.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (NIV).
Yes, that was it. She needed to renew her mind, but how do you make anyone, let alone a four/five-year-old child renew their mind? Then it came to me.
We memorized scriptures so I would have her memorize Philippians 4:13 and every time I caught her say “I can’t,” we would stop what we were doing and she would have to quote the scripture. I took a dry erase marker and had her write out on her bathroom mirror the entire verse so as she stood at the sink brushing her teeth, washing her hands, or doing her hair she could read and recite out loud the scripture.
It worked. Not that she stopped completely, but she did change her speech and thinking. Which then changed her attitude.
In fact, as a teenager when she would slip and say the words, “I can’t,” I would point my finger and say, what does the Bible have to say about that?
She would role her eyes and with attitude in her voice recite Philippians 4:13 out loud. Just hearing herself recite the words of scripture shifted the atmosphere around her in that moment and her attitude changed.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13 NKJV).
We, you and I are atmosphere changers. We can cause the atmosphere to be negatively charged or positively charged with our words, and our attitudes. For instance, when my daughter was five years old she participated in competitive gymnastics. Her “I cant’s” carried over onto the team.
The simple request, “Brandi do a cartwheel on the balance beam please.” Was quickly followed by “I can’t.” In fact, her other team-mates began saying “I can’t” as well. The coaches went as far as to ban those two words from the team’s vocabulary. You see, she changed the atmosphere from one that used to be charged with I will try my best and keep working at it until I get it, to one of defeat, fear and discouragement.
If you met my daughter or have had the opportunity to get to know her, you would wonder where this “I can’t” attitude came from.
Brandi is an outgoing, daredevil, with the drive for adventurer. She is passionate, creative and fearless. In fact, at three she would climb on things and jump off. She had no fear, so where in the world did this “I can’t” mentality come from?
She must have heard someone speak those two little words at some time, and she began to speak them about everything, and then began to believe them.
James 3:3-6 in The Message says:
A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!
It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.
Our speech, can change the atmosphere for good, or for bad. (Click here: For more on being an atmosphere changer).
I believe we are designed to listen to the words spoken over us whether positive or negative.
There were those who were told they could be anything, and do anything, that they were unstoppable. Then there are those who were told, they weren’t smart, or they would never amount to anything.
Even if we don’t believe the words at first, if something over time is said enough, then we begin to believe it, whether it is true or not. We can even fill in and assume things that aren’t said.
For example, growing up my family always said, I was the smart one and my sister was the pretty one. That doesn’t seem all that bad, does it? No, it doesn’t, except I heard in my heart, “Debbie’s not pretty, she’s only smart.” Now, my parents never said that, but it was a thought that stuck in my head that played over and over. It affected the way I saw myself, and even my actions.
The plan of the enemy is to stop at nothing to kill, steal, and destroy the very destiny God has placed within us. He (satan) lies to us, plants seeds of doubt, and unbelief. But satan’s truth is not God’s truth.
God’s truth is found in the Word of God. That is where we find our true identity and the very words and promises we need to turn our cant’s into cans. To make what seems impossible into possible.
Is there something in your life that you have been saying, “I can’t” about?
If there is, I challenge you to find other scriptural truths in addition to Philippians 4:13 to speak out loud over yourself.
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27 NKJV).
Trust God, and His Word. Believe in His plans and promises to you.
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What a great way to change not only your daughter’s words but attitude as well.
Thanks Debbie – it definitely worked way better than anything I had tried on my own. God has amazing ideas!
My “I can’t” attitude chose my college major for me, so I am very invested in the change process, and I love your description of changing the atmosphere. Thanks, Debbie, for another week, another party!
Wow Michele I had a similar experience but it was more believing what others told me I couldn’t do and I believed them in college. I am so very grateful to have you a part of the linkup each week! thanks for sharing your I can’t attitude and how it has caused you to be invested in change 🙂
We are so powerful with our words—what a great reminder, Debbie!
You are most welcome Jodie 🙂
I loved this story, Debbie! You’ve inspired me to think about my children’s main struggles, and to find verses that apply. We can memorize them together. Blessings to you!
Thanks Sarah and I am so glad you found my post inspiring! I pray you find just the right verse or verses for each one of your kids! Blessings to you as well.
Dear Debbie, I love the way that you spoke God’s Words to help change your daughter’s words! Cute books, and motivational speeches only go so far, don’t they? But God’s Word is the TRUTH that changes our hearts. Thank you for sharing such precious encouragement!!
Thanks Bettie! You are so right – God’s WORD is what changes our hearts and gives us the courage and faith to walk in it! Thank you so much for sharing your posts with us here and for always leaving me positive encouragement
Thank you for this reminder! I love the “YES, YOU CAN”, instead of “I can’t”! Thank you for reminding me to see the positivity and to keep a positive mindset!
Thank you Natalie! I am sorry it took me so long to reply – it was a crazy week. I am so glad you love the reminder and keep the positive mindset. 🙂
Thank you for hosting another wonderful party. Enjoy your week!
Very beautiful. I always tell my kiddos that the word can’t is not in their vocabulary and I try to live it myself.
Thanks for hosting and have a wonderful weekend.
thanks Patrick and I love that you remind your kiddos that it isn’t in their vocabulary. Keep reminding them 🙂
We can do anything we set our minds to. Thanks for hosting and have a blessed weekend ahead!
you’re welcome – I’ve had a great weekend.
This is my favorite verse, one I recite often when my autoimmune issues try to tell me I can’t!
Roseann – I am so glad you have a go to verse or verses for times when the autoimmune issues flare. Filling your mind with the truth of God definitely can say – “take that” to the autoimmune issues. Blessings to you
I need to follow your practice when I catch myself saying “I can’t.” Great lesson here, Debbie!
Thanks Lisa, it is often easy to let them slip out, but the important thing is catching them when we do.. I’ve been guilty of slipping myself.
Thank you, Debbie for these words of encouragement and affirmation! Our oldest granddaughter struggles with self esteem. I made her a print for her room at our house of Philippians 4:13, but I love the suggestion to write it on the bathroom mirror. If we think about the power of words spoken over us, perhaps we can guard the words spoken over those we love more/better.
Alice you are most welcome and I am so glad it gave you some affirmation and encouragement. Writing on the mirror is so powerful and fun too… we often stand in front of the mirror several times a day so it’s a constant reminder for us as we see ourselves too. 🙂 Blessings
I am in total agreement about the impact of the words that we speak on our own lives and in the lives of those around us.
It’s so very important that we guard our words isn’t it. Our words are so powerful and can do so much damage if we are not careful. thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. sorry I am behind on comments. 🙂