value-life

A Letter From My Mother: The Value of Life

This past Friday, the annual March for Life was held in Washington, D. C. As I thought about those people  marching for the life of the unborn, I thought of a letter my mother had written to me years ago, before her passing.

This letter is a constant reminder to me of the value life has. On days when I feel that I am not making a difference, when I am folding laundry for the twelve millionth time, cooking another meal, picking up another toy, stepping on another Lego piece or perler bead, this letter reminds me of the value my life has.

This letter is completely in her words- it has obviously come to mean a lot to me.

Our mother had a way with words that I miss so much. The grammar may not be perfect, but the words are powerful. I have interjected some things in parenthesis.

value-life

My Dearest Suzette:

Your Dad and I were married on May 19, 1973. He had said that he wanted to wait five years before we had children. After two years, I remember very clearly that I brought it to the Lord in prayer the fact that I wanted a baby. That is when I began to see God at work. He certainly does change things.

I remember that it was while your Dad and I were staying over Little Grandma’s house (our dad’s mother) that Dad said to me, “You know, Ana, I would like to have a baby.” Was I excited! This was an answer to prayer.

value-life

In February of 1975, I found out that I was expecting. It was great news! During that time, there was about ten of us who were pregnant who were attending a church in Brooklyn called “Summit”. One night, I went to church and a preacher had a word of knowledge from God. He said that there were ten women in church that were expecting and that each would be going through something during her pregnancy. He wanted the ten expectant mothers to pass forward so that prayer could be made for them. So I went to the front of the church, but I was scared. I didn’t want anything to happen to my baby. Was I glad, though, that I was there in church that night because I surely needed a Word from the Lord.

Boy, was I going to be experiencing some trials! I later found out that I had toxemia. So I was put on a very strict diet, and even with this I was considered to be high risk. (Mother’s that experience toxemia sometimes experience convulsions or in more extreme cases lose their lives or their babies.) I had been admitted to the hospital altogether about five times during my pregnancy, but the Lord faithfully delivered me from all harm.

value-life

One time, I broke out is a red rash on my legs so badly that I could not walk because of a terrible burning sensation in my legs. I was thus admitted to the hospital. While there, I overheard an employee saying that I might need to have an abortion. I did not and still do not believe in abortion. Also, I am sure this hospital employee did not know the God I served. I turned around and cried. I opened the Word of God and the Lord spoke to me and said, “There is no spot in thee.” It was then that I knew the spots I had did not affect you, my daughter, Suzette. I came out with a very healthy baby. I had a hard time during your delivery, but the Lord was with me.

The hospital staff sent me home, and we stayed with Little Grandma for a month. I am thankful to God for this because all of the family was such a blessing to us. Titi Alice, Grandpa, and Grandma were excited to have you there since you were the only grandchild around at that time (my cousins lived in Florida).

As soon as I arrived home, I had to return to the hospital. Part of my placenta had been left inside of me. So they put me in the maternity ward with other expecting mothers. I used to cry seeing other mothers attending to their newborns.

value-life

Dad was a great sport, and your grandparents and aunt took care of you. Meanwhile, Dad was busy going to the store to get his little baby girl formula. Well, guess what he returned home with on one occasion? Your first raggedy doll.

Days passed, and I came back home, yet another problem arose. I began hemorrhaging. There were no doctors or anything else {that} seemed to help. Grandma Adelaida (Little Grandma) said that we needed to pray to God to help us in this trying situation. Praise God for the prayers of the righteous and the agreement of three people according to God’s Word! The bleeding stopped.

I again realized that there is nothing too hard for the God who knows all things and can bring us out of hard situations. We can truly know He is in control. He is the all-knowing God. Before we call, He answers. God knew whom He needed to send to pray for us. He knew that I needed a Word to see me through since I would be experiencing these problems during my pregnancy. The man of God who prayed that night was known truly to be a man of prayer.

As I look back on the experiences in my life, I realize that had I not gone through all of this, I would not have a testimony of the God who knows and can foresee all things. He can see us through when we face difficult times. So have faith in God. He is a very present help in time of need. He knows all things, and He has everything under control.

value-life

So my dearest Suzette, I give you to God as my token of my thanks. If it hadn’t been for God, we wouldn’t have been blessed with YOU. Remember YOU were born to live. So continue to live the abundant life for Christ!

the-value-of-life

Needs: Theirs, Mine, and (H)ours

Imagine that you are running a 5K.

You’ve set a steady pace for yourself and you’re doing well. You haven’t spent too much energy, and if things keep going along the way they are you will finish this race with enough energy to pump your arms in the air as you collapse across the finish line.

Suddenly, a hurdle is thrown in your path. You can either keep your pace and expect to run right through it (with horrible results) or you can pick up momentum, leap, and then resume your steady pace. Another hurdle may or may not be thrown in your path, but you never know.

needs

As a woman, you know that this 5K race is one you run every single day. Some days there are obstacles/hurdles that suddenly appear at any given point and on others days the path couldn’t be clearer while you are trying to reach the finish line in this race of life.

If you are a work-outside-the-home-mom, that hurdle might be the call from school telling you that you have a sick child that needs to be picked up. For the stay-at-home-mom, that hurdle could be the dreaded crayon incident that occurs while you are homeschooling your older child and sends you scrambling for some type of cleaner while saying “no, no, no” and trying to keep your cool at the same time (if it sounds like I know something about crayons on surfaces other than paper….. I do).

There are always going to be little things that come up during your day. Your children and your spouse need you and quite often need something of you. You have needs, too! And there are only so many hours in the day.

 

needs

So how do you keep from getting derailed but instead ending your day with a semblence of peace?

1. Put God first

It goes without saying. When you put The Lord first in your day, even if it is just having a prayer time with Him first thing in the morning, you are, in escence, handing your day to Him. It could not be in better hands than that.

2. Evaluate your responsibilities for the day

Make a list of what you and your family need to do, and then check it twice! Do you really need to get everything on that list done? What can be eliminated? Is your list overreaching what is even humanly possible to do on any given day?

3. Evaluate what your family’s needs/desires/wants are

If you have small children, mommy/child playtime is high on their list of needs/wants. Keep that in mind. What does your husband want? A nice dinner, a particular favorite meal, couple time? Keep his needs in mind. What do you need/want? A hot cup of tea or coffee during naptime, a chance to put your feet up for half and hour? Keep you in mind, too.

needs

4. Break up your day into thirds

On a sheet of paper (or open a page on a digital notebook), write down morning, afternoon, and evening.

Then take your list of responsibilities and your family’s needs/wants and fit them within the three parts of your day.

For example, my list yesterday looked like this:

Morning- devotions and prayer, exercice, dress, quick clean, 2 loads laundry, and homeschool.

Afternoon- fold laundry, blog, , begin purging Ian’s room, prep dinner, read, and play games with the kids.

Evening- watch a movie with the family, quick clean, layout clothes for tomorrow (me and kids), pack Ian’s lunch, pack Brian’s lunch, pack Addie’s back pack and lunch, clean the kitchen, and prepare for Classical Conversations Community Day.

For me as a goal oriented person, I like knowing that one of my “things-to-do” is to stop, sit, and play or interact with my kids in a fun way without thinking about what I have to do next.

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I do get “me time”, also. As long as all of the kids’ responsibilities are completed by 2:00 in the afternoon, they have a designated technology time that allows me to sit with a cup of coffee while I read or take care of my online things. For me, that is relaxing.

By getting everything done by the time the kids go to bed in the evening allows me to be available to spend quality time with my husband.

Not having an excessive amount of things on my to-do list means that when hurdles suddenly get thrown in my path during my daily race, I have time to adjust my speed, pray, leap, and keep running.

It’s a new day, Ladies! Lace up those running shoes and let’s hit the pavement at a steady pace today!

needs

year of purposeful woman

Year of the Purposeful Woman: Personal Devotions

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We’re ten days into the New Year. Our toes have touched the waters of 2017, and we are slowly adjusting to the temperature and feel of this brand new year. We’ve made our plans and written down our goals.  As I began to wade further into the year, I thought of sharing with you a kind of blueprint to make this the Year of the Purposeful Woman.

The foundation for any project is the most important part. Yes, decorating is fun, and designing is a blast, but without a firm foundation, any project will collapse.

The foundation of a Purposeful Woman is her daily time with the Lord.

My foundation is my devotional time. It’s my time to talk to God, to hear from Him through his Word, and to hear Him in the quietness of my heart.

year of purposeful woman

Growing up, we were taught to have our devotions every morning before we got up from bed. Our Bibles had places on our night stands that would allow this to actually happen for us. I remember going to kiss my mother in the morning and having her ask, “Have you had your devotions yet?”

Morning devotions were a natural part of our morning routine.

That taught me a great lesson. I needed to put my time with the Lord before everything else… before tackling the day, before that first cup of coffee, before putting my first load of laundry in the washer, or before my first bite of breakfast.

Now as a wife and mother, I start my day with a devotional time. For me, giving the first part of my day to Him means I am giving Him the best of who I am. There has been no time for me to get unnerved or put anything before Him.

I see the first part of my day as my first fruits.

Exodus 34:26a says, “The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God.”

year of purposeful woman

God’s Word brings peace. When I let myself get so busy doing other things I feel overwhelmed and stressed. When I am in the Word, reading it daily, and really being open to what God is trying to tell me, I am at perfect peace. And what a sweet place that is to be.

Are you unsure where to start?

We live in a wonderful time where there are options galore. I like to alternate among several options to keep my devotion time fresh.

Pick up the Bible and just read– No matter what you read or where you start, God’s Word will always have something for us to learn, glean from, or apply to our lives. If you’re still not sure, John is a great place to start.

Proverbs- There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs. Try reading one chapter every day for a month. It is a great place to start since Proverbs is a book of wisdom. As you are reading, ask God to give you wisdom. He will. (James 1:5)

year of purposeful woman

Bible.com offers plans in every topic imaginable. At the end of 2016, I went through the plans and saved all of the plans dealing with “Joy“- my favorite being this one by C. S. Lewis.  Are you looking for something on marriage, parenting, singleness, faith, prayer, forgiveness, or worship? There is a plan for that.

Good Morning Girls– Are you looking for a devotional that you can do in the quiet of your home yet offers the accountability we often need to get into the habit of daily time with God? This is a devotional that is offered as a small, closed Facebook group. A daily application question is asked about the passage read that day, and each member of the group answers the question in a thread. The group I have been with for a few years now has reached the point where this is the first group of ladies we turn to when prayer is needed in personal situations. You just have to be willing to be real.

First 5 app– For a time, life got really busy. This became my go-to devotional. Because may of us keep our phones right by our bed, grabbing it in the morning, opening this app and giving God the first 5 minutes of our day, can make all the difference.

Devotional books– There are a whole host of devotional books on the market. Although this was not written to be a devotional, Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman was one book that really drew me into a quiet place in my heart and brought me to the feet of Jesus many times.

One thing I know for a fact, no matter which method you choose, you will not regret starting your day with the Lord.

Take this month to work on building a personal devotion time into your routine. It’s the first step towards being a Purposeful Woman.

To read more in this series:

year of purpose

book list 2017

My To Read List for 2017

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I love books.

I was the kid who read a couple of chapter books a week for fun, the teenager who waited for the newest installment of the Left Behind series and finished it in two days (before I had any real responsibilities).

As an adult, wife, and mother, my time to read is not nearly as much as I would like, but I still manage to read a good number of books each year. One way I manage that is by having a mandatory 30 minutes of silent reading time scheduled in our day.

I have an unrealistic amount of books on my “to read” list this year, but I do have a few that are on my “must read” list. Here they are in no particular order:

The Lifegiving Home and 12-Month Guided Journal by Sally & Sarah Clarkson This was on my Amazon Wishlist, and I was so thrilled to get it on Christmas morning. My goal has always been to create a home that was a haven, safe place, and provided an environment of love and learning. Because I do not believe in living a status quo life or being comfortable in a rut, I am  always looking for ways to tweak and improve our home life.

Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America by Glenn Beck In the fall, our Classical Conversations studies will be focusing on American history. What better way for my children to learn about history than for them to see me learning along side them.

to read 2017

Living Well Spending Less by Ruth Soukup I am currently reading another book by Ruth Soukup, so I thought I would read the book named after her blog and learn what she has to share about living well without spending a lot.

The Smart Parent by Gary Ezzo When I was pregnant with Addie, I read Gary Ezzo’s book On Becoming BabyWiseAlthough the idea of sleep training can be controversial, we had great success with our kids and putting them to bed. Since he is a Christian counselor with a Biblical perspective on child-training, I’m interested in reading this book.

Night by Elie Wiesel Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel passed away this year. His book, Night, opened the eyes of many to the horrors of the Holocaust. As a homeschool mom teaching my children using the classical method, original sources are a huge part of learning. I began reading the preface as soon as I received it and am already hooked.

The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Amy Hollingsworth I loved Mr. Rogers as a child. Although I knew he was a believer and even a pastor, I would love to know more of this gentle man and how his faith in Jesus affected his influence on children.

to read 2017

Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford We live in such a digital age. Between texts, phone calls, and checking my social media accounts, I’m sure I can learn something important about being more hand free than I am. Ironically, this book is an e-book that I have to read from my hand-held device…

Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World by Shauna Niequist  I just love Shauna Niequist! After listening to the audio book version of her book Present Over Perfect this year, she has become one of my favorite authors. And since part of this blog has to do with sharing our stories with our readers, I look forward to learning more of how my story can help others.

Hoodwinked: Ten Myths that Moms Believe and Why We All Need to Knock It Off by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk Let’s face it, we all live our motherhood lives based on myths we believe are true. My friend Amanda had read this a while back, and every time she shared a snippet of what she had read, I knew this was a book I needed to read.

Raising Uncommon Kids: 12 Biblical Traits You Need to Raise Selfless Kids by Sami Cone I want my children to be world changers. World changers are uncommon. As I read God’s Word, God shows me what I need to do in my own life and for my husband and children. I also love reading what God has shown others that I can also benefit from.

to read 2017

What’s It Like to Be Married to Me? by Linda Dillow When I first was married, I read a book by Linda Dillow recommended to me by my mother. It was wonderful, especially as a newlywed wanting to be the best wife I could be for my husband. Now after 12.5 years, I still want to be the best wife I can be.

Raising a Modern Day Joseph by Larry Fowler Joseph was taken from his parents early in his life, yet he never lost the faith his father had taught him. As a mother, my desire is that my children follow and serve the Lord whether I am standing right next to them or if they are spending time with a friend. Larry Fowler is one of the founders of the AWANA program, a ministry my own children are a part of, designed to teach and instill God’s Word in children around the world.

Traces of Mercy by Michael Landon Jr. and Cindy Kelley Since I have gotten married, I have not read much in the way of novels. But… I found this book by Michael Landon Jr., son of the late Michael Landon of Bonanza and Little House fame, and I am excited to read it. Michael Landon Jr. is a professing Christian and is the creator of the Love Comes Softly television series based on the books by Janet Oke. If I like this book, I may just have to read the other two in the series.

Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning by Nancy Pearcey In the summer, I love reading books that will inspire me in the teaching of my children in our homeschool. This is one of the books recommended by Classical Conversations.

to read 2017

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman What is it that you were created to do? What was I created to do? I love how the author simply sums up the purpose of her book on the back cover- “Creating a life of meaning is not about finding that one great thing you were made to do, it’s about knowing the one great God you were made to glorify–in a million little ways.”

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lisa TerKeurst There are so many things pulling for our attention. We say yes to so many good things that sometimes we have to say no to the best things. I know I am guilty of that! I look forward to getting some courage from this book to say no to the good so I am available to say yes to the best.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp This will most likely be one of my first books this year. Ann Voskamp has skipped the bucket list and asked herself how she could find joy in the midst of the everyday. Perfect for my word for 2017!

Restless: Because You Were Made for More by Jennie Allen This is another inspirational book encouraging us to take the passions God has given us and use them to glorify Him and bless others.

to read 2017

Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have by Annie Downs How many of us feel that we are not living life with everything we have? Is it because fear is holding us back in some way? as a coffee lover, I love that each chapter begins with the name and city/state of the coffee shop she wrote that chapter in.

God’s Word must always be our first book to glean and gain understanding from, but I do believe that God gives insights to others to share. Everything we read needs to be filtered through the Word. As long as what we read lines up with His Word, I believe we can learn tremendously from those books.

What is on your to read list for 2017? Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? Is there an author who you really enjoy? Feel free to share in the comments.

to-read-2017

word for 2017

What Is Your Word for 2017?

I am not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. Resolutions set me up for failure. I am successful for maybe the first three weeks of the year, and then it is all downhill from there.

However, a word to focus on, character quality to work on, or a verse to live by has been a  tremendous benefit to me. It keeps me focused and working, and it gives me a goal to strive towards without ever feeling like a failure.

So with that being said, I have been really thinking about what my word for 2017 will be. And our Christmas season has played a huge part in the word I have chosen.

My word is JOY.

word for 2017

JOY is different from happiness. Happiness stems from our circumstances. We had a good day, our kids had a good day, the party we went to made us smile, we had a great experience with family and friends and we are happy.

But happiness comes and goes.

JOY is a Conscious choice that has to be made every day despite what my circumstances look like.

JOY is experiencing God’s peace in my heart regardless of the circumstances. Joy is knowing that my salvation is secured no matter how unstable our world feels. Joy is being content with what I have been blessed with and not wishing or wanting for more.

JOY has order: Jesus first, others (my family) second, and you (myself) last. When I keep that order in mind, serving my family becomes an extension of serving Christ and my attitude changes. After all, who knowingly serves Jesus with an attitude? When I voluntarily put myself last in the order, I choose to give up my “rights” and choose to serve my family with a joyful heart. The grumbling spirit that says, “I am not your servant” changes to, “I choose to serve you with joy.”

word for 2017

For the Holiday issue of Strong and Courageous Women, I made a set of pillows that spell out the word JOY (you can get a complimentary issue of SCW here). It sat on my bed for a few months and moved into the living room for Christmas. It is a visual reminder to me of the word I have chosen for the year. Even when the letters are played with and end up on the floor or the O is used for human ring toss (true story!), as I pick them up and put them back in place, I am reminded of the attitude I have chosen to have. Before I begin complaining about how long it took me to hand sew the letters (because the sewing machine needle broke in the process), the very act of picking up these three particularly chosen letters quiets my heart. How silly I would look putting the letters J-O-Y on our sofa with a huff and a grumpy heart?

How Can a Purposeful Woman find JOY in the every day?

word for 2017

How can we as Purposeful Women find JOY on a daily basis? When we remember that JOY is not based on our circumstances, we will see all of the situations in our lives where JOY can be our modus operandi.

I can show JOY despite my dress size.

I can show JOY despite how long or short my to-do list is or how well my children follow the daily routine.

I can show JOY regardless of how a fellow customer or cashier treats me as I run my errands.

I can show JOY when the dishes are piled high and the laundry is begging to be folded.

As much as I want to pursue JOY, I cannot do it in my own strength. I must have God’s help. Finding out what He has to say about JOY is important. After all, JOY is one of the Fruits of the Spirit. Here are three verses that have spoken to my heart as a woman and a mother in regard to JOY.

John 15:11- These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

Habakkuk 3:18-Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation

3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

As I go into 2017 with JOY on my heart, I pray that His JOY is reflected here at Purposeful Moms.

If you are tired of resolutions and are looking for a change in your New Year’s focus, I hope you consider finding a word for God to work on in your life and heart. Search the Scriptures for His input on how to  approach your year, and may it be your best year yet!

If you choose a word, feel free to share it with us. We would love to hear from you!

word for 2017

what to do with kids Christmas break

Things to Do with Your Kids This Christmas Break

It will be here before you know it…

Christmas break!

And I just heard it…. the cheer of little ones embracing their upcoming freedom, and the gasp from moms who are looking for ways to fill their children’s time for the duration of the break.

If you are going away for some of the break, then half of your battle is already won, since leaving home is an adventure all its own and comes with its own entertainment for young ones. But if you are staying home during your break, then filling the hours of your days is a daunting challenge.

Because I homeschool my children, I am always looking for ways to keep my kids on their toes after our schoolwork is done with fun, meaningful activities that I can plan and prepare for the night before. They are not stress inducing activities or even complicated in their preparation, but my children feel as though they have been thought of and have even expressed their appreciation of these planned times.

what to do with kids Christmas break

Each activity comes with a time limit so the activity is ended before boredom sets in and leaves anticipation for the activity to be repeated in the future.

We do not do all of these activities each day. This is just a list that I use to choose from when planning our day.

At Home:

  • Silent reading (30 minutes)- My son who recently turned 5 has been doing this for a while now and can sit for the duration of the time. He cannot read a full book at this point, but he is a pro at looking at pictures and even doing some picture search books.
  • Read aloud (30 minutes)- This does require Mom’s involvement, but that’s okay! Choose books that are related to the season you are in (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, etc.). Having a book basket helps with this. This would also be a great time to begin a classic or novel with them (we have read the Winnie the Pooh collection together).  You will be amazed at how their understanding and communication skills grow with this simple activity. During this time, I pull out the blocks and perler beads and my children quietly create while they listen.
  • Color/Draw (20-30 minutes)- Coloring and drawing is an important childhood skill that our kids need in order to develop fine motor skills among other things. [source]

what to do with kids Christmas break

  • Play-doh (20-30 minutes)- Kids love play-doh, and moms can easily use this time for some therapy. Squishing play-doh is relaxing and has the ability to keep kids entertained without any effort on our part.
  • Bake cookies (30 minutes)- This one requires a little bit of work, but there is no hard and fast rule that you have to make your cookies from scratch (we don’t always). Kids love the process of mixing and seeing their work turn into something they can actually eat.
  • Play games (30-45 minutes)- This is a fun one! Grab all of those you have hidden away in a closet and play a few. Depending on ability, the games may even get a bit competitive. A few of our favorites are Shopkins Uno, Candyland, Dominoes, Go Fish, Sorry, Guess Who, and Connect Four.
  • Watch a show (30-120 minutes)- This activity is great when Mom just needs to sit with a cup of coffee in a quiet room for a bit. Pull out a video (your children’s ages and attention spans will dictate the length of your movie), put your feet up, and enjoy the quiet. If your children know that movie time only comes at a specific time of the day, they will appreciate that time even more.
  • Play outside (30-60 minutes)- This is the stuff of childhood and the maker of good naps for little ones. Fresh air, sunshine, and the ability to run unrestricted are all great for a child’s well-being and also is important for Mom. Pull out the bicycles, roller skates, scooters, hula hoops, and sidewalk chalk or let them enjoy your personal jungle gym. No matter what they do, it will be a win for everyone. Need more ideas? 15 Minutes Outside by Rebecca Cohen is a great book with 365 outdoor ideas.

what to do with kids Christmas break

  • Video games (30-60 minutes)- Kids enjoy video games and technology is the wave of the future, but that doesn’t mean our kids should have unlimited access to it. Schedule time for your kiddos to play some of their video games. By scheduling time for this activity, your kids won’t spend too much time in front of a screen, they won’t tire of their games too quickly, and video game time will become a very special time for them.
  • Free play (1-2 hours)- Free play is so important for children.  Not only does it give them the ability to decide for themselves what they want to play, but it gives them a chance to pull out the toys and stretch their imaginations. And with Christmas just around the corner, it will give them a chance to really play with their new toys.

Quick trips

Sometimes, you just need to leave the house, but you don’t want to spend a lot or be out all day. Here are a few ideas for taking quick trips that don’t involve shopping or stores. Don’t forget to schedule in travel time.

  • Library (1 hour)- Libraries are so much more than warehouses for books. They are now being upgraded with play areas, puzzles, learning games, and story time. Take advantage of these amenities that your library has to offer and spend an hour in a quiet but fun atmosphere.
  • Local park (30-60 minutes)- If you don’t have a swing set, your local park is guaranteed to have a great jungle gym (take proper safety precautions). From playground equipment and open areas for unhindered running to walking paths and  bike trails, your park has much to offer that a backyard can’t. Pack a lunch and make your adventure last a little longer.

what to do with kids Christmas break

  • Donut/ice cream run (30 minutes)- Have the kids been really good for you on a particular day? Why not treat them to a donut shop or Ice cream shop run? Encourage their good behavior with a small treat and a quick adventure outside of the house.
  • Visit a friend (1-2 hours for littles 3-4 hours for bigs)- I am a firm believer that visits with friends need to fall into a reasonable time frame, especially if you are spending time in their home with little ones. Your visit has time to end on a good note before little ones begin to get too antsy.
  • Bounce house or kids gym (1-2 hours)- Do you live in an area that has a bounce house or kids gym? Take advantage of these. Purchase a membership if it is something that can be used quite often by your family. This is a great way to fill a couple of hours of your day, give your kids ample space to exert plenty of energy, and give you a fun place to escape to on rainy days when a park visit wold not be possible.

What are some other ways you can inexpensively provide meaningful activities for your children during a school break? Feel free to share them with us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

the best christmas pageant ever

When You Get into a Christmas Rut

Have you thought about the Christmas Story?

I mean really thought about it.

When you have grown up going to church your whole life, hearing the Christmas account, and setting up your family’s Nativity scene, it can be so easy to glaze over the beauty, reality, and people involved in the account.

If you have found yourself in a Christmas rut and the Christmas account no longer moves your soul to awe, wonder or tears, I have found the story for you.

the best Christmas pageant ever

In The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, the most unlikely children help a church remember the beauty of the Christmas account.

The Herdman’s are possibly the worst children ever. Through a series of hilarious events, they become part of the church’s Christmas pageant. As these children are hearing the Christmas account for the first time, they ask questions. Good questions. Questions that make those of us who have known the account our whole lives actually think about the characters we have become so familiar with.

But it isn’t until the actual pageant that the true beauty of the story comes out. This story has a way of revealing the prideful, self-righteous attitudes in our own hearts and the beauty of a sincere heart hearing of Christ for the first time and coming to him with the only thing it has to offer. It reminds us that maybe, just maybe, the angel’s announcement of “Unto you a Child is born” was announced with joy and thrill.

the best Christmas pageant ever

I had a hard time reading the last two pages of the book as my voice cracked at the end of each sentence, and my son came to “console” me as I read the last line.

The tears were not from sadness… well maybe they were.

Maybe the tears came because I have gotten so comfortable with the Christmas account in Luke chapter 2 that I have forgotten to read it with the awe and wonder it deserves. Maybe they came because children have a way of seeing things more clearly than adults do, and the children in this story helped me see the Christmas account again for the first time.

This book took us two days to read through, but we could have easily finished it in one day. It’s a small book with seven chapters and is completely entertaining (if you are a Classical Conversations family, like we are, your children will have to read it in the Challenge years, so it’s a good story to get familiar with now). We laughed through chapters one through six, and then saw the beauty of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Wise Men, and the angels in chapter seven.

After reading through the book, we watched the movie on Youtube (I’m a firm believer of reading the book first and then watching the movie). The movie follows the book very closely with very little creative license taken. (NOTE: In the movie one child says, “They talk about sexy things,” which isn’t true, in her efforts to get the Herdman children kicked out of the pageant because one of them got the part she wanted.)

The best Christmas pageant ever

This book is also available in a condensed version as a picture book for younger children and has the same effect in reminding us of the awe and wonder of the Christmas account.

If you find yourself getting into a rut, if you can’t see the wonder and awe of Jesus coming as a baby to the world because of all of the “grown up” stuff that gets in our way, then maybe you need to take a small break in the busyness of the season and look at Christmas from the perspective of a child.

when you get into a Christmas rut

keeping-christmas-simple

How to Keep Christmas Simple

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I am a huge fan of Christmas!

HUGE!

I love the feeling in the air, the decorations, the lights, the glitter, the way stores are decorated (in December… NOT September), and giving to my family.

But how many years did I go into the Christmas season with gusto and grand ideas only to burn myself out mid-December? Pretty much every year.

Each year I go into the Christmas season with the idea that this is going to be the best Christmas ever!

keeping-christmas-simple

I figure out how many fun Christmas related activities we can fit into our schedule, and I cram all of our days and weekends with something to do.

My kids end up tired.

I end up frustrated that no one appreciates the effort I put into making this the best Christmas ever.

And then we are ready for Christmas to be over and done with and to move into the New Year.

But not this year…

I have always been a fan of simple living, of not making things more complicated than necessary, of believing that less is more. But Christmastime has never reflected that.

keeping-christmas-simple

This year, we don’t have to see every Christmas pageant in our county.

This year, we don’t have to attend every Christmas party or activity.

This year, we don’t have to plan to do something Christmas related every night.

This year, we don’t have to have an advent calendar that involves a ton of extra gifts for me to purchase, wrap, and remember to distribute each day.

Instead…

keeping-christmas-simple

This year, we’ll stay home more evenings than we go out and watch the old Christmas cartoons I grew up watching like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and the Little Drummer Boy. And because I homeschool my kids, we can stay up as late as we want to watch these shows and sleep as long as we need to the next morning.

This year we will delight in the simple joy of finding our little monkey pal, Melk, in the mornings and learn something about the character of God.

This year, we will limit the parties we go to, and, if bringing an exchange gift is necessary, we’ll bring something simple but sweet.

This year, if there isn’t a Christmas moment on the calendar, we won’t make one up just for the sake of it. We’ll just carry on as usual.

This year, we will make paper chains and countdown to Christmas the old fashioned way.

Because…

Satan’s mission has always been to destroy what God has created- to interfere with the message that God loved us and sent his Son (Awana Cubbies key verse). How are we supposed to stop and reflect on the purpose of Christmas Day if, during the time of the year that we are supposed to remember and recognize the giving of God’s gift to us, we get so busy and distracted and we keep our kids running from one activity to another?

keeping-christmas-simple

This year, rather than focusing on the “show” of Christmas, I want to focus on the message. That God loved His creation and gave us a gift, the most precious gift He could give- His Son.

Trendy wrapping paper with a perfect bow was not the wrapping of this gift. Strips of cloth were the wrappings of this gift.

His surroundings were not Pinterest worthy. A barn with hay and animals was the setting for His birth.

Those who came to see him that night did not come with $5 gifts for a gift exchange. They came with empty hands, but sincere hearts.

I want our Christmas to reflect those ideals.

So here is your Christmas challenge…

Before you are swept up in the tinsel and show of Christmas…

Before you are knee deep in the quicksand of activities and parties…

Before you find yourself drowning in receipts and wrapping paper…

Take an hour one evening to think through what you want your Christmas to look like.

Figure out your non-negotiable calendar items.

Next, determine in advance how many activities you will be a part of.

Decide how many $5 dollar exchange gifts your budget will allow for.

For your sanity to be kept in tact, set in stone how many evenings you need to stay home each week.

Establish your gift giving list early and stick to it.

And then, sit back and enjoy this Christmas with your family and closest friends.

simple Christmas

chocolate peanut butter treats

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ritz Treats

I look forward to the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season. This is the season of family get togethers, good food, laughing till it hurts, cousins sitting around the living room remember when we were kids while watching our kids play together, and eating desserts that typically only come out at this time of year.

One dessert I pass everything else up for is a three ingredient treasure- chocolate, peanut butter, and Ritz crackers.

That’s it.

chocolate peanut butter ritz treats

We just call them Chocolate Peanut Butter Ritz Treats, but they should have a better name considering how delicious they are. And don’t expect them to fall under any of the “healthy” categories of food these days…

…we’ll just pretend they are calorie free!

You can definitely involve your children in making these treats. One can spread the peanut butter…

…one can sandwich the crackers…

…and Mom can dip them in the melted chocolate.

How easy was that!

chocolate peanut butter ritz treats

At this time of year, you can often find the ingredients on sale. Does it get any better than that?

These treats are so easy to make and are so loved, my sister requested my aunt (maker of this treat) to make them with white chocolate instead of milk chocolate as favors at her wedding. She had them boxed in little white boxes with ribbon to match her wedding colors and placed at each table setting. Simply beautiful.

chocolate peanut butter ritz treats

Ingredients:

Ritz crackers
Peanut butter
Melted dipping chocolate (packaged as almond bars)

Directions:

  1. Using peanut butter and Ritz crackers, make little sandwiches.
  2. Dip Ritz peanut butter sandwiches in melted chocolate.
  3. Set on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and put in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
  4. Sit back and enjoy.

I would love to hear of any quick or simple recipes you enjoy around the holidays. Feel free to share with us your recipe or the link to one on your own blog in the comments.

The original post can be found here.

chocolate peanut butter ritz treats

must have Christmas book

Your Must-Have Christmas Book

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Every holiday has one iconic book that traditionally gets pulled out year after year. For our family at Christmas, this will become that book.

Christmas Love Letters From God by Glenys Nellist is the third in her “Love Letters” series. These beautifully written and illustrated books have one purpose- to remind children that God loves them and has a great purpose for their lives.

must have Christmas book

From the moment I looked through Christmas Love Letters from God, I was in love. The colors, the illustrations, the story-telling, the poetry, the “God’s promise” verse, and, of course, the letter all blended together to make a perfect Christmas experience on paper.

The Illustrations

Choosing where to begin was a hard decision. With each turn of the page, I always let my eyes settle on the illustrations. Rachel Clowes has followed the style of illustrations found in Love Letters from God and Little Letters from God and has done a brilliant job. From the main focus illustration to the little accents scattered around the page, the eyes of your little ones will always have someplace to look as you read the story aloud. The illustrations tell the story for little ones who cannot yet read.

Colors definitely set the tone of this book, yet instead of being harsh, the muted shades of red, green, and blue bring the feel of Christmas without harshness, and draw you in. I couldn’t help but grab a cup of coffee, sit in the living room with the fireplace on, and just look through each and every page, soaking in the illustrations and colors, before I even read the words.

must have Christmas book

The Story-Telling and Poetry

I have yet to meet or talk to author Glenys Nellist in person, but I imagine her having the gentlest, softest, most peaceful voice based on her style of writing. She chooses words that are quiet, effective, and beautiful. She tells the story concisely with enough words to keep the attention of little ones, but in a way where nothing is lost.

I love how Glenys began her book with the Prophet Isaiah. A surprising way to begin a Christmas book, yet a very appropriate way. Isaiah’s prophecy is featured in Handel’s Messiah, yet so many Christmas accounts overlook him. It makes for a great conversation starter in sharing how long God’s people had been waiting for their Messiah.

In the midst of the narrative story-telling, Glenys does what she does best. She takes a quick detour and tells part of the story through poetry. I am always amazed at how she is able to find the right words to tell the story with rhythm and rhyme.

must have Christmas book

God’s Perfect Promise

When you turn the page, you will find the story for the evening finishing up, and “God’s Perfect Promise”- a quick Bible verse promise that wraps up the part of the account just read printed on an illustrated tag. The verse is paraphrased so it is easy for little ones to understand and even memorize.

The Letter

Our favorite part is the “letter from God”, which is where the book gets its name. Each letter is a lift-the-flap attachment on the page. Paraphrasing Scripture and making it personally applicable, she begins each letter with “Dear ____________”. The rest of the letter is God’s promises personalized and related to the account just read. After reading the account of Jospeh, children are reminded in the letter that when God asks them to do something, He will also give them the grace to accomplish it.

A beautiful addition to this book which is different from the previous letter books is life-the-flap letter from the child to God. When my daughter saw it, she was so excited! After reading and hearing all of the letters from God to her, she was going to be able to write one to him!

Christmas Love Letters from God has already become my favorite Christmas book. I look forward to reading it with my children again and again over the next two months. Whether you choose to read a chapter each night or use it over the course of Advent (which could most definitely be a use for this book), it is a definite must for any home’s library.

must have Christmas book