purposeful-dad

Four Tips to Becoming a Purposeful Dad

As we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, I thought it would only be appropriate to encourage the dads out there who may be reading this! When Suzette and Faye began the blog, I remember thinking, “I sure hope I can be a purposeful Dad to my girls!”

This post is a starting point for me to become a ‘purposeful dad.’ I am nowhere near perfect and still have a lot to learn, but here are four tips this Father’s Day I’d love to share with other dads out there who may be struggling on this fatherhood journey, especially when it comes to being intentional with your children.

1. Turn everyday tasks into family tasks. You know you’re going to have to go to the grocery store at some point. You know you’re going to have to get an oil change. There are things you’re going to have to do around the house or errands that have to be run. Instead of getting stressed or frustrated when you have to take the extra time to do those things (especially if it’s on your day off), turn it into family time!

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I have turned our grocery trips into daddy-daughter time. I block off at least an hour and a half. We all get ready and head to the grocery store. First stop? The Deli. Most grocery store delis hand out a free cookie to the kids. Now my girls get a little treat, make a memory with dad AND they stay busy while I get to work on that grocery list. Don’t forget to take a selfie! Side note: this is also a good way to give my wife a break at home!

2. Look them in the eyes. The past week and a half have been absolutely crazy for our family. From church activities, to officiating a wedding in Louisiana, to preaching at a camp… all while trying to answer work emails and spend time with my in-laws while they were in town for the week at our house! I was exhausted. Of course, I would love to come home and “veg.” As a dad, I realized my kids needed ‘dad time.’ Take the moments that you do have with your kids and look them in the eyes, tell them you love them and make them feel like nothing else matters when you’re with them.

Fortunately, I was able to put them to bed one night last week. As I put them to bed, I spent time with each child. I’m talking maybe five minutes each. All I did was look them in the eyes and just talk to them! No phone. No TV. No toys. Just me and my child. I looked them in the eyes and made them feel like they were the most important person in the world for the next five minutes. My time had been short with them, but the quality of time spent with them was high engagement and lots of eye contact.

3. Watch your screen time. This is one that goes hand-in-hand with the above mentioned. Quality time with my kids involves looking them in the eyes… and not at my phone. I found an article that showed me how to check the amount of time spent on each app on my phone. I always tell myself that I am “so busy” and don’t have enough time. And yet, when I checked to see how much time I was spending on my phone with social media apps or email, I felt terrible! How could I be okay with spending four hours on Facebook in the last seven days but not spend four minutes playing a tea party with my girls!

I realize our world is almost to the point where we can use our phone or apps for almost anything we do, so I know that having your phone always on you is just a normal routine for most people. I try to push myself to leave my phone in another room (on purpose) when I play with my girls. I also have turned off all email and social media notifications. Don’t be afraid to turn on the ‘Do Not Disturb’ button on your phone for “phone-free playtime.” My wife has also been a HUGE help in reminding me to be present when I am home and not staring at a screen (including the TV!).

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4. Pray for your wife and kids. Whether you’re the dad that stays at home and your wife works or you go to work and your wife stays with the kids, don’t forget that the most important “bread-winner” of the family is the one praying for your family. As you lead your family, be sure to lead them spiritually as well. Pray for your wife and kids. Be the father God has called you to be.

One of the ways I remember to pray for my wife and kids is by picking a day of the week to pray for them. That way I know, if it’s Monday, it’s time to pray for my wife and kids. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar. In the evenings, I lead my family in a short prayer time where I lead the prayer. I pray for the salvation of my kids and that our family and marriage would honor God. My kids will hear me and see me pray for my family. It doesn’t happen every night of the week, but our goal is to do it almost every night!

I realize it’s tough being a dad! I still have so much to learn. There are tough days being the dad and spiritual leader of my family. I continue to push myself to be a better dad each day and follow the example of my Heavenly Father. What an honor it is to be a guest blogger this Father’s Day weekend. I hope and pray this can be a starting point for you to become a “purposeful dad.”

Happy Father’s Day!

Josh Waugh is the Associate Worship Pastor at First Baptist Church Hendersonville, Tennessee. He and his wife, Susie, have been married five years and have two beautiful daughters: Bella Grace (3) and Juliette (2). Suzette and Josh served at a church in Florida together for a season! You can follow Josh on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and blogs over at www.joshwaugh.com.

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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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legacy

The Original Purposeful Mom and Her Legacy

We as mothers hope to one day leave a legacy.

It drives us to do what we do, day in and day out. It’s why we make the choices we make on a daily basis. It’s why we get up every morning to face the challenges of the day again. Because one day our children will grow and become men and women who will either carry on our legacy- the core values we have spent our lives instilling in them in every way we could- or choose a path of their own.

Purposeful Moms would not even be here if not for a woman that God entrusted us to many years ago.

Let me introduce you to the original Purposeful Mom and the legacy she left behind.

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Her name was Ana. And she was gorgeous.

That’s not just my biased opinion either. As a teenager, she was super thin, had long, straight, bottle-blonde hair, and big brown eyes with lashes that went on forever. One day, as she was walking home, a gentlemen with a business card approached her. He told her that he was a modeling agent and his models would be featured on television that evening. He gave her the time, channel, and business card and went on his way. Ana went home that evening and turned on the TV. As she watched, she felt in her heart that she had a turning point choice to make. She could either choose to serve God with her life or choose to live a worldly lifestyle. That night she dedicated her life fully to Christ.

Her legacy taught me to always choose Christ and service to him.

Mom kept her make up very simple. Her beauty made cosmetics pretty unnecessary. But she always wore mascara. The mascara made her long lashes (which our children have inherited) more defined, and caused her beautiful brown eyes to stand out (Faye inherited her eyes). One evening as she was worshipping in church, she felt the desire to weep before the Lord, but she was afraid to because the tears would cause her mascara to stream down her face.  That night she vowed before God that she would never wear mascara again because she didn’t want to allow anything to stand between her and the worship of her God.

Her legacy taught me to care more about my relationship with God than how I look to others as I worship him.

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When she began dating my father, she chose to hold herself to God’s standard of conduct rather than society’s standard. Her purity of conduct not only carried her through her dating years but kept her faithful to her marriage vows.

Her legacy taught me to put Christ at the center of my dating relationship and marriage.

Before she married my father she prayed. She told God that she only wanted to marry my father if that marriage would be blessed by Him. As she prepared herself for her wedding day, she saw a tract in the bridal room of the church. The words on the tract said, “I will bless your marriage.”

Her legacy taught me to take my marriage to God before and after my wedding day.

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As a young couple trying to make ends meet, my parents had a strict budget to live on. They only had so much to spend on groceries per week. But one day, their church was having a get together and asked them to provide the milk and coffee for the evening. My parents knew that by doing this, they would not have enough to buy meat for themselves for the week. But they bought the milk and coffee anyway. The night of the event, the weather turned bad and the event was canceled. Someone from the church called my parents and told them that the meat that had been purchased by the church would go bad before the event could be rescheduled. They were asked if they would like to stop by and pick up some of the meat to take home for themselves.

Her legacy taught me that by giving to the Lord, He would always provide for my needs.

My father played in a band in his younger days. One night, as he my mother and his younger sister were walking back to the car, a man attempted to mug him. The man told the gals to stay quiet and no one would get hurt. My mother pointed her Bible at him and began shouting, “I rebuke you in Jesus name!” The man lowered his knife, took $5 out of my dad’s pocket, and took off running.

Her legacy taught me to call on the name of the Lord in times of trouble.

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My mother prayed for us before we were born, after we were born, when we were sick, for our future husbands, and for our well being.

Her legacy taught me to take my children before the Lord at all times for everything.

Mom taught us God’s Word on a daily basis. Until the day before my wedding, she would sit with me at the breakfast table and teach me a lesson straight from God’s Word.

Her legacy taught me that teaching my children God’s Word was my responsibility, not the church’s.

Today makes nine years since my mother passed away, yet her legacy lives on. It lives on in her daughters.

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As a Purposeful Mom, I pray that one day I leave a legacy for my children.

A godly legacy.

A legacy that will lead them to the throne of God on a daily basis.

That is a true legacy.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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year of purposeful woman

Year of the Purposeful Woman: Personal Devotions

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

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:

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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

invest your marriage

Investing in Your Marriage Without Spending a Fortune

You know how it goes.

Wedding day comes and you are ready to spend your life with this man who didn’t just steal your heart- you gave it to him willingly. You dream of the impromptu dates that will occur- a late night run to Starbucks to get coffee because really who needs to sleep! In your mind’s eye, you imagine talking deep into the night and waking up fully refreshed the next morning.

You plan weekly date nights. Since you are both working, you think nothing of the cost of going out for a sit down dinner weekly. You’re in love and nothing else matters.

invest your marriage

Then one afternoon a few years into marriage, you wait for your sweet husband to come home from work so you can give him the news you were both hoping for. You’re pregnant!

Once the baby comes, you determine to not give up on your date nights because connecting with each other is important…. but you can’t go out weekly because the budget won’t allow it. Your income may have been cut in half and now there is one more person pulling from it.

So what do you do?

Committing to our marriages is so important. Marriage takes work and time.

Is it possible to getaway from it all without breaking the bank?

When you add up the cost of babysitters, dinner, a movie, maybe a coffee and dessert, it can put a real dent in the budget and your attitude about date night.

invest your marriage

Or you can get creative!

My sister, brother-in-law, husband and I have figured out an arrangement that works for us.

Every other month we get a weekend.

This past weekend was Brian and my weekend. Faye and Jim had our kids from Friday thru Sunday, and Brian and I had the weekend all to ourselves. Next month, we will watch my nephew, and Faye and Jim will have their weekend.

This is the time we can go out to a leisurely dinner together. We can leave our county and head into the “city” for more options. Because the kids are with Faye for the weekend, we don’t have to rush back to relieve the babysitter.

Babysitter= Free

One of the things we enjoy doing on our weekend is seeing a movie. Theaters are always an option, but we have found a way to keep those costs down, too. Have you checked your debit card points? Our debit card had been earning us points that we didn’t know about. When I stumbled onto this, I discovered that we could purchase movie tickets with our points.

We also keep track of which movies are being put on Amazon or into our local Redbox kiosk. My husband gets coupon codes sent to his email (for Redbox), so we are able to rent a movie and enjoy it from the comfort of our own couch and our kitchen is our concession stand.

invest your marriage

Movies= Free or cheap

One of our favorite things about our weekends is the rest factor.

Because the kids are being cared for elsewhere, I can sleep deeply, not having one ear and eye open (moms can relate). No one wakes us up early. We sleep in, and we are fully rested when our children return to us.

Nightly accommodations= Free

We are homebodies. Although we enjoy an adventure, rest and relaxation means staying home in our pjs and chilling. We eat what is in the fridge, freezer and pantry. Going out to eat for at least one meal on our weekend is part of the fun. Sometimes we have gift cards which help keep costs down significantly, other times we don’t.

Food= almost Free

On Sunday, whoever is watching the children returns them. The one receiving the children prepares dinner for all to share. We sit at the table, share our weekend adventures, listen to the kids retell the fun they had, and feel full in our hearts from a hearty weekend investing our marriage.

Investment in our marriage = Priceless

invest your marriage

We look forward to this time every other month. It is refreshing for us as a couple and as parents. The time it gives us to pour into each other and ourselves personally is so necessary but so often neglected. We are able to pursue our hobbies without feeling mommy or daddy guilt. “Mom and Dad” talks to decide the direction we want to go with the training of our children, to figure out what has worked and what needs to be adjusted, and to encourage each other on parenting successes are possible without interruption. We are able to establish short term personal, marital, parental, and financial goals since we can reevaluate every other month.

As a couple, find what works for you and is safe for your children. Investing time into our marriages and being responsible parents are crucial for our families.

There are ways to invest in your marriage without spending a fortune. Sometimes, you just have to be creative.

invest marriage