summer

How to Make the Most of Your Summer Without Breaking the Bank

Every time I think of summer, I think of the summer of 2013. For me, it was the best summer ever!

It truly was.

I felt as though we took each and every day of our summer and squeezed as much fun and adventure out of it as we possibly could.

But, I could not have pulled it off alone.

As someone who loves being (and staying) at home, I needed help finding ways to get out with the kids to enjoy this season of lazy days, rainy afternoons, and looser schedules.

I discovered that our community was filled with opportunities for us to make memories together and individually by keeping my ears (and eyes thru Facebook) open for announcements. Here are some of the things we found here in our county that have worked really well for us over the last few summers.

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Library classes- Our library system does a series of classes throughout the entire summer. They are educational, entertaining, and the kids really had fun. We have brought home meal worms, planted seeds, learned about our local wildlife and participated in fun science experiments through some of the activities the library provided.

Our library also has a Summer Reading Program that encourages children to spend at least 24 hours worth of time throughout the entire summer reading. At the end, our children can earn a ticket to see the Tampa Bay Rays play. Our sports loving family really enjoyed this in years past and will continue to participate for years to come.

Check your local library system’s event calendar to find out the activities they have lined up for the summer.

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Arts and Crafts- We discovered that Michael’s Crafts Store has a program called Passport to Imagination which runs all summer long, three days a week. The cost of the 2 hour class is $4 per  child per day. It’s a great way for kids to explore their artistic side… without giving Mom a mess to clean up. That’s a win/win in my book!

Movies- Check into your local movie theater’s schedule to see what they are offering for children during the summer. We have a couple of theaters in our area that offer $1-$1.50 movies once or twice a week. We have taken advantage of these. It is a great way to get out of the house but still be in the air conditioning.

Season Passes- Do you have season passes to a local theme park? Summer is a great time to use them and get the most out of that pass. On evenings when you find yourself wondering what you could do, pull out that pass and enjoy your theme park for a couple of hours.

July 11th- Don’t forget that on 7/11 each year, 7 Eleven offers free Slurpees!

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Fruit Picking- Here in Florida we kick off our summer break with blueberry picking. It is always a great way to get us outside, and we bring home pounds of blueberries for a fraction of the cost of buying them in the stores. What fruit comes into season in the summer in your area? Look into where there may be a U-pick farm near you and have some fun!

VBS- Vacation Bible School is a free week long program that churches offer to their communities. Many times, the churches in an area or community stagger their VBS weeks so parents can utilize as many of these programs as possible.

Beaches and/or pools- Are you located near a beach? Are you a part of a community that gives you access to a pool? Do you have friends who invite you over to use their pool? Does your area have a sprayground? These are all great ways to get out into the summer sunshine, keep cool, and get that summer glow. Just be sure to keep the sunblock generously applied, hats on small heads, and lots of liquids on hand.

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Sporting Events- Baseball season is under way and football season is gearing up. Summer ballgames are almost an all-American must! Some ball fields will allow you to bring in your own food which helps to keep costs down to a minimum.

Football season is also gearing up. Our local team (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) has a Fan Appreciation Day and open the gates (free of charge) for the fans to watch a practice. Check your local team to see if there are any free fan events happening in the summer.

Cow Appreciation Day- One day our children look forward to each summer is Chick-Fil-A’s Cow Appreciation Day. The idea is to dress like a cow (as much or as little as you want). For minimal participation you get a free chicken sandwich. For maximum participation you get a free meal! Each year, we haven’t paid a dime for our dinner.

American Girl Movie Premier- I don’t know how it is in your house, but in our house the summer television premiere of the American Girl Doll of the Year movie is a big event. It is a free night, we don’t have to leave the house, Addie gets to pick out her own fashionable outfit, and I give her a special hair style using my hair supplies. It’s a tradition.

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Make the Most of the Holidays- Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day are all considered summer holidays. Why not make the most of these with crafts, special snacks, and activities? My 4th of July Pinterest board was a huge help to me last year in coming up with a week’s worth of stay-at-home activities and fun.

Kids Bowl Free- Although the Kids Bowl Free program has been around for a while, we plan on taking advantage of it for the first time this year. Through this program, children receive two free games per day throughout the summer (cost of shoes is not included). There are also discounted rates for parents to play throughout the summer, too. It’s a great way to get out as a family for some fun. (Check your local bowling alley for restrictions)

I hope I have given you some ideas on how to make this summer your best one yet. I think the most important lesson I learned during the summer of 2013 was to make a big deal of the little moments.

Those are the moments that our children will always remember.

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graduation

Why Every Homeschooling Mom Needs to Attend a High School Graduation

My kids are 9 and 5.

We are a long way off from high school graduation.

Or are we?

This week I had the realization that my daughter is entering 4th grade- the grade I used to teach in my pre-mom life. I used to think those kids were so “big,” and now many of them are graduating college, getting married, having families of their own, and sending their little ones to school for the first time.

I remember these same kids wearing their private, Christian school uniforms, sitting in class, and learning their spelling words using the say-spell-say method. These kids stood just below my shoulders and many of them (especially the boys) now tower above me.

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Now my daughter is entering 4th grade. If these last 9 nine years have flown by so quickly, how quickly will the next 9 years go? Because when she’s 18, she will graduate.

A few years ago, I attended a our local homeschool graduation ceremony. As I looked around at all of the families attending, I knew these parents had thought graduation was a long way off for them, too.

I was there for one particular student. I had known this young lady through church since she 4 years old and had the privilege of being her fifth grade teacher when I taught at the Christian Academy. When she was entering 9th grade, her mother began homeschooling her.

From the moment the processional started and she walked in, the tears began. In my mind, I could see the little 4 year year old her with two pigtails walking down the aisle…. and then I envisioned a grown Addie and Ian making that same march.

Right now, the graduation of my own children seems to be a long way off. I am still very deep in the trenches of homeschooling. Ian is entering Kindergarten, and Addie is going into 4th grade.

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There are days when I wonder why I have chosen to homeschool my kids and take on myself a responsibility that others actually get paid for.

There are days when it takes my super smart nine year old five minutes to give me the answer for a simple division problem…. not that she doesn’t know it. Her mind takes little trips and she asks me a million unrelated questions in between finding the answer and writing it on her paper….. like “Mom, why do mosquitoes bite? Is it because of Adam and Eve?”

There are days when being wife, mom, teacher, home-keeper, cook, and launderer are overwhelming.

There are many days when I have to remind myself that my goal is not to have super smart children but to raise godly people.

Attending that graduation ceremony gave me the long term perspective I needed.

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I was able to see the tape across the finish line as each parent handed their student a diploma.

I was able to remember all of the answers to my “why’s”.

I was able to picture Brian and myself handing our children their diplomas and sending them into their next life adventure knowing that we had completed our purpose in the first part of their lives.

I was able to celebrate with these families who had once been in the trenches and had now reached the end of their race.

At one point in the ceremony there was a recognition of the families who were not only celebrating their child’s graduation but the end of their homeschool journey because this was their last child to be homeschooled.

I cried… again!

It dawned on me that homeschooling does not last forever.

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This race has a finish line.

My children will not stay little forever.

I will have to let them go at some point.

I am so glad I attended that graduation. Sometimes, you need to see the bigger picture to appreciate the small strokes you are making in canvas of your child’s life on a daily basis. These strokes can add beauty or can ruin the overall portrait.

As my friend Kristi often says, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

I’ll rephrase it: the school days are long….. but the school years are short.

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Reflect the Son

This article was originally published in Strong and Courageous Women magazine issue 3. You can subscribe to Strong and Courageous Women here.

We live in a dark world. The moral compass of our culture and country is changing direction. In this dark world, we need to raise up a generation who will be a light in the darkness, just as the moon shines in the darkness of night.

In science this past year, my daughter and I learned about astronomy. The sun, moon, Earth, planets, rotations, revolutions, orbits, and galaxies.

During one of our classes, I was hit with something I have always known, something that is so elementary, but something that impacted me more as a parent than it ever did when I was a student.

The moon does not produce its own light. It reflects the light of the sun. Without the light of the sun, the moon would not shine at all. However, nothing else in space reflects the light of the moon.

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And it hit me.

In a manner of speaking, I am the moon.

I cannot produce my own light. My job is to reflect Jesus. And how often do I forget that no one is supposed to reflect me?

Yet, that was a burden I was placing on my children all the time, and sometimes still do.

I would tell them that their behavior reflected the kind of mother I am. I would tell them their behavior was supposed to make me look good.

Now do not get me wrong. I have great kids. They are very good, but they are kids, which means there is always going to be a level of unpredictability involved when we leave the house.

Yes, it’s important for my children to behave in public. The should behave in a manner that is above reproach.

But they are not supposed to reflect me. They are supposed to reflect Jesus. My light is not strong enough, it never will be.

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Their behavior is not to bring me glory. It is to glorify their Heavenly Father, not their earthly mother.

Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Our children need to know that as believers in Jesus, our behavior needs to reflect the One who lives in us. We need to shine with kindness, love, obedience, gentleness, and respect for others.

My job is to bring them into the presence of Jesus. The more they are in front of the Son, the brighter their light will shine for Him. The more I bring them into His presence, the more their moral compass will align to His, and the choices they make will reflect Him. The more they stand before Him, the brighter their light will shine in the darkness.

The way the moon shines in the darkness, I want my children to shine in this darkened world.

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Superwoman Had a Team

I am not Superwoman.

In fact, if I hadn’t been her daughter I would have thought Superwoman was a myth.

But when I look at my mother and all that she was able to do within the course of her day, I realize that she was not alone.

Superwoman had a team!

Her team Leader was The Lord, and her daily quiet times with Him gave her the recharge she needed to attack the challenges in her day.

Her partner and supporter was her husband (my father). He supported her and backed her and provided so that she could do what she did best.

Her two side kicks were my sister and me.

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My mother delegated some of the jobs within her home to us so she could homeschool us, be an assistant to my father who was serving as an associate pastor, lead a women’s Bible study, disciple one on one with women in our church, host gatherings in our home as part of my father’s ministry responsibilities, and cook and grocery shop and do the other things that “normal” wives do day in and day out.

My jobs were to keep my room clean, take care of the laundry, and kitchen cleanup after each meal. My sister had her own set of chores and responsibilities.

I don’t remember when our training as sidekicks started because helping was just something we always did. Our jobs were always age appropriate, and the older we got our jobs changed to meet our level of responsibility.

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Now I am the woman of my own home and I am finding that I don’t have enough hands (or enough of me) to do all of the jobs that need to be done. Yet I have the same resources at my disposal that my mother had.

I have The Lord, and my daily time with Him is an absolute must. It recharges me so that I can tackle the daily challenges I face. (A little secret I found is to just get up for a bit when I wake up in the middle of the night and spend my time in the Word or wake up just a little bit earlier than my family does.)

I have a partner as well. My loving, supportive husband who provides for us so that I can be home and do what I do. He encourages me in each and every endeavor, and I in turn want to do the same for him.

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I also have two little sidekicks in training. They are both learning how to help around the house by doing chores that are not only age appropriate, but are also suited to their personalities. Their help is invaluable.

With the big help my little sidekicks offer, I already feel the sense of relief that comes with delegating some of the smaller jobs that can put big pressure on me.

Sweet Mama, you do not have to do it alone. You have a team.

If you haven’t already, start getting your team in shape. Start them small. Be consistent. And remind them that they are an important part of your team.

Superwoman had a team.

I have a team in training.

You have a team.

Maybe one day our kids will think we were Superwoman.

But more importantly, our children need to know they have an important role on our team.

This post was originally featured on my blog The Joy of Homemaking.

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mom-ready-to-give-birth

To the Expectant Mother Soon to Give Birth

Jeremiah 29:11- For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Psalm 30:5b- Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Dear Mom Ready to Give Birth,

Motherhood is hard. There are so many challenges in a single ordinary day. But there is also beauty with each challenge we face. So many will be ready to remind you of each new challenge you will face- “war stories” of births and raising children. But many will fail to remind you of the beauty hidden deep within each challenge, and the treasure that you will find if you look hard enough.

I want to remind you that within each challenge hides a beautiful treasure.

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Two weeks before I gave birth to our daughter, my mother went home to be with the Lord. I thought I was going to have to walk through motherhood alone. I hadn’t read any books or listened to the “experts” because I had assumed my mother would be there to guide me down this road called motherhood. And yet as hard as facing motherhood without my own mother was, God brought beauty in a way I had not expected it.

God brought women along side of me to help walk me through the early stages of motherhood. Some of those women were there for a season and some have continued to walk beside me. God has used my aunts, mother-in-law, and other godly women to come along side me and encourage me with God’s Word. I also had the chance to see how awesome my husband really is. From changing diapers- I’m talking the really dirty ones– to quieting a colic-y baby, I was able to see the true man that he really was but had never really noticed or given him credit for before.

The beauty of discipleship from seasoned, Christian women and the hands on love from my husband were a treasure I discovered during those difficult first few months.

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Five days before I went into labor, a senior saint decided to tell me every painful and gory detail about her birth and delivery story. I listened wide-eyed and I began to dread this fast approaching event that according to her would take 3 days with no medication.

Yes, the contractions came, and I experienced more discomfort than I have ever felt, but there was something beautiful about that period of discomfort. My room was filled with those who I loved and loved me. My husband, sister, in-laws, 2 aunts, an uncle, my cousin and her family, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law surrounded me. They breathed in with every contraction that showed up on the monitor and exhaled as each one dissipated.

That was the beauty in that moment of challenge. The community that God knew I so desperately needed at that very moment. He knew that I needed to know I wasn’t alone. I was watching and hearing my family and extended family feel my pain with me. The send offs and joyful laughter as I was wheeled away to deliver my daughter followed me down the corridor. The rejoicing that went on in that room when my daughter entered the world was God’s reminder that when His people “Rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those that weep (Romans 12:15)” His love is visibly evident in the real world.

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I had to have an emergency C-section, and I was faced with having an extra set of bills I wasn’t anticipating, not having the type of birth I had hoped for, and now I would have a life-long scar.

Yet, the beauty came when I realized that my husband and I would have this moment to share all to ourselves. No one else would be able to impose on this moment that was going to turn us from a couple into a family. God allowed our insurance company to not only cover the c-section, but to also reimburse us for the entire pregnancy, reminding me that “my God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory.” (Phil. 4:19) And my scar is a constant visual reminder that I would do anything for the sake of my children.

As we moved our new family home from the hospital, I began to experience the sleepless nights and midnight feedings that everyone “warns” you about with dread and gloom. As I would get up for each feeding, I would plead to God to let my baby sleep through the night. I was tired.

But the beauty came as I began to use those middle of the night times to have my quiet time. I had no room for distraction- nothing could be cleaned without waking anyone up. No one needed me once the baby had been put back to bed. Those middle of the night feedings turned into a nightly “meet-up” with God, and I began to look forward to it. When our son came along, his middle of the night feedings allowed me to continue having my time with God since I would be waking up to an energized preschooler and my day would get away from me.

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As your life changes in the next few weeks and you add this new little person into your home and family, with each challenge, look for the beauty. It will be there. Sometimes you won’t recognize it right away. But as you look back at the early days with little one, the moments filled with the most challenge are the moments you will remember most and miss once they have passed. And it is then that the beauty will start to become evident.

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bible-books-for-kids

10 of Our Favorite Bible Books and Devotionals for Kids

(Affiliate links may be used in this post. You can view our full disclosure here.)

We live in a state of moral decline- a society where there is no absolute truth. A society that has blurred the lines between right and wrong. A world where we have shaved the corners off the truth so much in an effort to give the truth without hurt that it no longer resembles itself.

But, dear parents, we can change that.

And it starts in our homes with the children God has given us.

Experts recommend that we as parents read to our children for a minimum of 20 minutes each day.  What if we, as mommas (and dads), took even a portion of those 20 minutes and used them to read God’s Word to our children?

10 minutes each day for 6 days would mean that you could spend an entire hour reading God’s Word with your children in less than a week. Now if we assume that you could read to your children 10 minutes a day, 6 days a week, for 52 weeks (approximately 1 year), you will have spent 52 hours teaching God’s Word to those most precious to you.

Those readings can lead to amazing conversations between you and your child. Those conversations can lead to strong  foundations in faith being laid, personal convictions being shared, understanding the whys of their beliefs, and Biblical principles of behavior can be taught.

We cannot change the moral decline of our nation on our own, but God can use us as we start setting the next generation on the right track here at home.

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When Do I read to them?

We try to have a devotional time together (the kids and me) in the morning before we begin our day, but sometimes mornings are a rush to get out of the house. Brian has also wanted to be an active part in the spiritual training of our children, especially Ian, and mornings don’t work for him at all. So we have begun taking some time in the evenings- he reads to and teaches Ian, and I read to and teach Addie.

There is no right or wrong time to read God’s Word with your children. You only need to find a time that works within the four walls of your home with your people.

Where do I start?

Over the years I have come across so many wonderful children’s Bibles, devotionals, or Bible story books, which I have used with my own children. Although this list does not come close to covering all of the books we have used, these books featured in this list are some of my favorites.

The List

Both of my children began with the See with Me Bible: The Bible Told in Pictures by Dennis Jones. Each story is told through illustrations, not words. After reading through the See with Me Bible with them a couple of times, my children were able to retell the Bible stories on their own. This then became the Bible they used to start them in the practice of personal morning devotions.

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Currently, Life Lessons from the Princess and the Kiss by Jennie Bishop and Susan Henson is the devotional Addie and I are using in the evenings. We have already read the book together, and this devotional serves as a companion. The devotionals begin with salvation and move on to moral purity and purity in our relationships. An important lesson to teach early and repeat often.

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Although we have not begun this one with Ian yet, Life Lessons from the Squire and the Scroll by Jennie Bishop and Susan Henson is the male equivalent of The Princess and the Kiss. We have read the accompanying book to him multiple times, and we will continue to do so before the time comes to begin this Bible study with him. This study deals with keeping God’s Word front and center in the lives of our sons in order to keep them from temptation. 

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What would Jesus Do? by Helen Haidle is an oldie but a goodie. We have been working our way through it in the mornings for a couple of months now. Each very short chapter leaves off with a question or two of personal reflection and a verse. Sometimes the reference to the passage alluded to in the story is put at the very end of the chapter. When it is, we spend the time to look it up.

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Addie has been using Veggie Tales: 365 Bedtime Devos for Girls as her personal devotions in the mornings. This devotional in designed to take your daughter through an entire year. It is done very much in the style of Our Daily Bread with a verse, a small application, and a prayer. It is a great way to get little girls started on having their own quiet time. There is also a boy’s version of this devotional.

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The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones has to be one of my absolute favorite Bible books for children. From Genesis through the New Testament, the author shows how the story of redemption and salvation is found throughout each account, all pointing to Jesus. Beautiful written and beautifully illustrated, this storybook Bible is a must have for every child’s library.

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My Big Book of Bible Stories: Bible Stories! Favorite Bible Stories Kids Will Want to Read Again and Again!  by Phil A. Smouse is a rhyming Bible storybook. The cartoon-y illustrations are engaging for little eyes, and the rhymes are fun to read. Read here for a more in-depth review.

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 My First Hands-On Bible by Group Publishing and Tyndale is a series of excerpts teaching children the main Sunday-school Bible accounts using the New Living Translation. Sprinkled among the verses are little handprints. These handprints indicate a hands-on activity for the children to do which makes the account come alive and more memorable to little ones. None of the activities are labor intensive for Mom or Dad (one might be to count all of the stars in the illustration or march around the room). Both of my children have loved this Bible. I like that we are reading Scripture with fun activities mixed in.

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Around the time that Ian came along, Brian took over the evening Bible reading for Addie. He used the Little Girls Bible for Fathers and Daughters by Carolyn Larsen. The format is laid out beautifully and it allows for a father and daughter to connect over stories from his childhood. I remember Brian reading the topic ahead of time so he could think about which story he wanted to share. Each story from dad relates to the lesson taught in the day’s devotional. There are many others in this series- mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, and fathers and sons.

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If you have read any of my reviews on the Love Letters from God series, you know I am a big Glenys Nellist fan.  Each of her four “Love Letters” books takes children through a beautifully written retelling of a Bible story or Bible character. Each story comes with a beautifully written “letter from God” which is actually Scripture that has been paraphrased and put together in a letter form. Each page is beautifully illustrated and endearing.

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Teaching our children about the Lord is not as hard as it sounds. If you commit to ten minutes a day, 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year, for the next 10 years, you will have put 520 hours of Biblical truth into your children, and they can turn this world upside down! (Acts 17:6)

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Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girls Heart: Review and Giveaway

There has been a lot of talk in the news about women lately.

Women’s rights.

Women’s equality.

It can all get very confusing to our little girls- the ones who still see life through rose colored glasses… actually pink glasses… with glitter and sparkles.

Which is why Glenys Nellist’s latest book, Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart, is such an important book for our little girls to read.

love-letters-from-god-for-girlsBy choosing 14 different girls (women) in the Bible, Glenys has chosen to teach girls not only how valuable they are, but how strong God has created them. She not only highlights their contributions, but she reminds them of how much the God of the universe loves and treasures them. And she reminds them that although He has made them strong enough to tackle the tasks set before them, He has not abandoned them to go forward in their own strength to accomplish their mission.

As a mom bringing up a girl in today’s world, these are all messages I want my daughter to hear and carry in her heart. I want her to know that she is not only beautiful, but she has a God given strength to do whatever He asks of her. I want her to know that she has been given a life with a purpose, and she has a God who will walk beside her as she walks through her life.

Glenys’s book not only shares that with our daughters, but leads the way to so many wonderful conversations about purpose, value, worth, and courage. Good conversations. Important conversations.

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I asked my daughter to share some of her thoughts with me about Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart. Her answers touched me more than I expected them to. My interjections are italicized.

What do you like about the way the book looks?

I like the colors, the flowers with the girls’ names on them, and the butterflies. (Once again, Rachel Clowes did an amazing job with the illustrations!) It looks really girly. I really liked Esther’s dress. I like how the letters from God are not the same shape or color. They are different from each other. (Some are horizontal and some are vertical.)

What is your favorite part about the book?

The Letters, because God is talking to me in the letters. (Glenys uses verses paraphrased to share God’s heart from His Word with the girls.)

I like the stories also. Some stories I never heard before and some stories I have.

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If you could be like any of these girls, who would you want to be like?

That is a tough question. All of them! Miriam took care of her little brother. Rahab saved two spies of Israel. Esther stood up for the Jewish people. Mary had (gave birth to) the best King in the world. The servant girl who told Namaan about Elisha and how he could be saved from his leprosy. The widow who gave Jesus all that she had.

Why?

Because they all have special things (qualities), and God used them and their lives to teach a lesson.

Addie lit up when we reached the end of the book and there was a place for her to write her own letter back to God. I asked her what she would write in her letter.

Dear God, I love you. Thank you for the awesome girls in the Bible because they did great things. Please help me to be just like them. And help me to make better choices. Amen.

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Sometimes hearing the author share about the importance of their work helps us understand the heart of their writing a little bit more. In this video, Glenys shares a little bit of the background of Love Letter from God: Stories for a Girl’s Heart. (I absolutely could sit and listen to her all day!)

Because Glenys has such huge heart and a love for children, she and Zonderkidz are giving away a free book to one of our readers! We at Purposeful Moms are so excited to share this giveaway with you. We hope you will take this opportunity to enter below to win this beautiful book for a special little girl in your life and then share this giveaway with others you know who may have a little girl who could benefit from this book.

***Please note: Zondervan cannot ship to P.O. Boxes or internationally. All entrants must be U.S. residents with a physical address.***

Love Letter from God: Stories for a Girl’s Heart has definitely found it’s way into our hearts.

Update: Thank you to all who entered the giveaway! Congratulations to Elizabeth B!

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Purging the Clutter

When we were first married, I didn’t know what my home style was. I relied on others to tell me what I “needed” to have. After a while, I found that I had enough in our home that I didn’t use, didn’t like, and was taking away from the sense of peace and calm I craved.

The summer we celebrated our one year anniversary, I decided to make a change. I purged each and every room in our home and had a series of garage sales to eliminate the excess. The sense of relief I experienced led to a change in how I approached our stuff, and I began a constant cycle of purging.

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Why Purging Is Important?

Let’s look at purging from a realistic viewpoint as opposed to a sentimental viewpoint.

  1. Our homes are only so big- When you consider the size of your home, the people living within the walls, your four-legged family members, basic furniture, and necessities, you have already given up a chunk of space within your home. Add to that the years of mementos you have collected from your past, each child, and other family members, and pretty soon, there isn’t any room left for new memories, hobbies, or mementos.
  2. Interests change- I used to be an avid scrapbooker. My kids used to like Elmo. Brian used to scuba dive. “Used to” being the operative words. Since these are all things we have left behind, why would we hold onto the “stuff” that went along with them? By removing these items from our space, we have created more space for our current interests.
  3. Our children outgrow their “stuff”- Have you noticed how quickly children grow? With each new size they grow into, there is a size they grow out of. Keeping all of their clothes because of some sentimental value it may hold will fill your space with unusable items.

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What About the Sentimental Stuff?

Granted, we all have a few items that we hold dear. My mother’s last Christmas, she returned some of the gifts we had given her (she must have sensed she would not be around much longer) and used the money to buy the shoes that my daughter would wear at her baby dedication. Those shoes have been put aside for safe keeping, but the outfits my little one wore as an infant (even the ones my mother gave us for her) have been given away or sold at garage sales and consignment shops.

  1. Be ruthless about what stays and what goes- If your items are serving a useful purpose or have an actual monetary value, consider keeping them long term. If it is a piece of furniture that a family member handmade for you, definitely keep it and be sure to make good use of it. But seriously consider the necessity of holding onto every craft your child made in class.
  2. Take photos- For my baby shower, my mother made a diaper cake using size 4 diapers. It was beautiful, and after she passed away I held onto it as it was the day of the shower. Eventually, however, my daughter reached size 4 diapers, and I had a decision to make- was I going to go out and buy a package of diapers or use the ones my mother had put into the diaper cake? I pulled out my camera, and snapped a few pictures of the cake, and promptly used the diapers. If certain items are sentimental but you do not feel compelled to keep the items, snap a photo and make a choice that works for you and your home.

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How Should I Purge?

Each and everyone of us has a different situation we are working with. You may be a working woman or you could be a stay-at-home mom. You might be a work-from-home gal with some flexibility in your schedule or you may have a tight schedule because in addition to being Mom you are also a taxi service and your car is your second home.

Whatever the case, here are three ways to purge the clutter from your home and hopefully bring some calm to your space and life.

  1. The Cycle Purge- With the Cycle Purge, start at one end of the house and begin the organizing/purging process one room at a time. By the time you make it all the way around the house, it has been about 4-5 months and it is time to begin the process all over again. This method keeps things from having a chance to build up around you. It also makes the next cycle of organizing and cleaning out easier because fewer things have had a chance to accumulate.
  2. The Seasonal Purge- There are certain times of the year when purging specific areas is easier than others. At Christmas time, I use what I am going to use, and the rest of it goes into a tub for a future garage sale. While the items for a particular season are out and available, go through them and decide what has served it’s purpose and is ready for retirement and what is still useful and has some years left in it. Purging our clothes with each season (what doesn’t fit anymore, what has holes, what didn’t we wear) is also a good idea.
  3. The Twice a Year Purge- When I was teaching, I would go through our house twice a year. The first purge happened during Christmas break, and the second purge happened during the summer (my two big breaks). I would go through my closets, drawers, cabinets, and garage, toss what was unusable, give away or sell items that were in good condition but would not be used again, and keep only what I needed. What are the two times a year that make sense in your world?

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When It’s All Said and Done, Then What?

Once you have purged the unnecessary, don’t keep it around. Use one or more of these ways to eliminate the excess.

  1. Donate- Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and your local church can use some of what you have.
  2. Garage Sale- If you are one income, finding ways to make a little extra cash for your family can come through selling what you already own.
  3. Consignment Shops- I love taking items to our local consignment shop. I provide the clothes and toys (must be quality items to be accepted), they provide the store and access to customers. I make a percentage of the sale and use my earnings to purchase clothing for our kids. Another great option for one income families.
  4. Online sales groups- (use at your own risk) There are so many online options for selling items  (especially great for larger items). Always choose to make your purchase exchanges in a public area and not at your home, if at all possible.

Sometimes having a friend over while you purge can be helpful. She can help you look past the sentiment of an item to the actual value (or lack of) it gives to your home. Having a buddy to talk to also makes the process more enjoyable.

As we enter the season of Spring Cleaning and organizing ourselves for the summer, add a little purge into your plans. You will be glad you did.

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Year of the Purposeful Woman: The Evening Routine

Do you ever wake up in the morning wishing you had gotten some of your tasks done the night before?

It is so easy to have that hindsight regret. But by establishing an evening routine, you can easily avoid having rough mornings and instead set sail into your day smoothly.

Establishing an evening routine is not as easy as it sounds. You’re tired. You’ve just completed a long day. You want to put your feet up and just rest.

But by disciplining yourself to establish and stick with your evening routine, in time, your evenings will be something you look forward to and not dread.

My evening consists of two things that help set the stage for my day- planning and setting up.

Planning entails looking over the calendar/planner and seeing what my day will consist of and having a mental idea of what dinner will be and how early I will need to prepare or start it.

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A good day starts the night before

There are several reasons why planning the night before is key to having a good day.

  1. You are too tired to be unrealistic– You have just completed your day. You are too tired to make unrealistic demands of yourself. Keep your “must do’s” limited to three items that can realistically be done with the amount of time your day will afford you.
  2. When you wake up you know what to expect… for the most part. Do you have a dentist appointment scheduled for your kids? Is there an important meeting you need to be at? Is tomorrow a day you can just relax and stay home? Having looked at your calendar the night before gives you a heads up on what to expect the next day. But keep in mind that the best laid plans are subject to change at a moment’s notice. A call from school. An emergency doctor’s appointment. You son jumping on the bed… (true story…)

Going over your plan for tomorrow is not enough to make your day run smoothly, though. By doing some of the leg work in the evening, you will save yourself some steps in the morning.

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Some ideas for setting up your day can be some or all of the following:

  1. Lay out clothes for you and the kids- By laying out the clothes down to the socks and shoes, I know that we have everything we need in the morning. Have you ever spent ten minutes looking for that one lost shoe in the back of your daughter’s closet? So have I, which is why I began laying every item out. The time and sanity it saved us on busy mornings was priceless.
  2. Quick clean (make sure the main part of your home is in order/ not a time for deep cleaning)– Taking a few minutes to pick up your main living area will go far in your attitude in the morning.
  3. Clean the kitchen (dishes in dishwasher, counters wiped down)– I love waking up to a cleaned up kitchen. Admittedly there is usually a coffee mug or two in the sink and a pot from my husband making popcorn as a snack, but otherwise, clear counters and a dishwasher filled with clean dishes greet me in the morning. Waking up to clean yesterday’s mess is no fun for anyone, so take a few minutes before putting your feet up to make your kitchen greet you with a smile.
  4. Prep the coffee pot- The sound of a nice, hot pot of coffee percolating in the morning is enough to make anyone smile before they even open their eyes. For me, a mom who has learned to hear every sound in the house while asleep, waking up to the sound of my coffee pot is so much nicer than hearing the annoying BEEP BEEP of the alarm. And because it has such a soft sound, it doesn’t wake my husband at all. It is also helpful on those busy mornings when we all need to be out of the house by 8 o’clock to not have to remember to do one more thing and make the coffee.
  5. Prep all lunches- Are you making sandwiches for lunch? Is it something that won’t leave the bread soggy? Can you set all lunch box snacks on the counter or in the boxes for easy packing in the morning?

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Mornings are hard. Having an evening routine can make your morning easier. Be sure to give yourself time and extra grace as you work on establishing a routine that works for you and yours. You will be glad you did.

To read more in this series:

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Why You Need to Attend a Secret Keeper Event

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The messages our little girls are receiving on a daily basis are so conflicting.

As mothers, we try to teach them to conduct themselves as little ladies, making sure that they conduct  themselves in God honoring ways and dress in ways that maintain their innocence. Yet when they turn on the latest kid show, style and modesty seem to clash in a battle for the innocence and purity of our girls.

But, sweet Mama, you are not alone!

Dannah Gresh was the mom of a tween. She not only saw what was going on in the popular culture, but she chose to do something about it. She began taking her daughter on dates  planned out with the express purpose of teaching principles of godliness, beauty, and modesty while spending a meaningful time together.

secret keeper girlAfter being encouraged by her husband to put these dates into a book for other mothers to do with their daughters, Secret Keeper Girl took off and became a touring program which invites mothers and daughters to come together for a night of high energy fun, laughter, and teaching moments.

Not only is the music used during the program high energy, but the words are powerful and easy to catch on to and remember. We purchased the Secret Keeper Girl soundtrack, and have been dancing and singing our way through our chores while having biblical truths weave their way into our hearts with each beat in the music.

We recently had the opportunity to not just attend a Secret Keeper Girl event, but to be in the actual program with several other moms and daughters from our church. My daughter and I are still talking about our time at SKG and how much we look forward to making this a yearly event.

The most impactful moment of the evening for me was when each mom was asked to pray over her daughter. I have always prayed for my children, but to have my daughter hear my heart, to have her hear me take her to the throne of God affected me more than I expected it to. I got as far as “Dear God,” when my voice cracked. I eventually got the rest of my prayer for her out, and she instantly snuggled into me and we pretty much sat snuggled up to each other throughout the rest of the evening.

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I was “modeling” the ugly sweater style of 90’s while “dancing” to the “Friends” theme song. Lots of laughs. Lots of fun!

Many times, after having such an incredible experience, there is a bit of a let down because the experience cannot continue. However, Dannah Gresh has written so many mother/daughter (and even father/daughter) activities, that the fun just keeps on going. From  mother/daughter devotionals to books on encouraging girls to recognize the true value God places on them, there are enough materials to keep a mom and her girl going for quite some time.

One of my favorite take aways from this event was the intentional use of date time with my daughter. I purchased the book, 8 Great Dates for Moms and Daughters: How to Talk About True Beauty, Cool Fashion, and…Modesty! by Dannah Gresh, and we are excited to start working our way through it. I am thankful for the opportunity to be the one to talk my daughter through modesty, beauty, and fashion, and that I have the opportunity to build her views on these topics from the foundation.

If you and your girl have an opportunity to go to a SKG event, let me encourage you to go. You will not regret it. For my girl, it was a beautiful evening reminding her that she is a princess- created and loved by the God of the Universe.

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