reflect-the-sun

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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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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pray

For This I Pray

 

Raising children is an enormous responsibility.

There are books a million on how to raise them, methods that may or may not work, milestones that must be achieved, and activities we feel are necessities in the hopes that we have done everything we can to give our kids the best childhood experience.

Yet so many times we forget the one thing that will do the most good. The one thing that doesn’t cost a dime, but the investment brings back a huge return. The one thing we are all capable of doing regardless of income or status.

Prayer.

I can remember my mother taking her Bible with her into her bedroom in the middle of the day, locking the door behind her, and hearing her pray for her marriage, daughters, family, and situations in her life. She would spend time crying before the Lord, pouring herself out before him, and then emerge with a confidence that her Lord had all of her most loved people and her deepest concerns in His hands.

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Between homeschooling us, helping our father in his ministry at the church, assisting him in counseling others, leading a weekly women’s Bible study, discipling women individually in our home, and being a wife and mother, one would wonder how she had the time to stop in the midst of the busyness to pray.

“If you are too busy to pray, you are busier than God wants you to be.” -Wanda E. Brunstetter

But prayer, communication with God, was a priority to her. In retrospect, I doubt she would have been able to accomplish all she did in her days if she didn’t take the time to stop and pray. And I am so eternally thankful that she did.

She prayed for us.

She prayed for our future husbands when we were single.

She prayed for my marriage after my wedding, and she continued to pray for my husband.

She prayed for God’s direction in my life.

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I cannot say that I stop in the middle of my day like she did, but because of her example, I find myself in constant communication with the Lord.

While I’m hanging or folding laundry, washing dishes, cooking dinner, cleaning a bathroom, or ever showering, I tell God everything about my day, children, husband, responsibilities and life. He already knows about all of it, but verbally talking to Him takes the heaviness of responsibility off of my shoulders and places them into His more than capable hands.

As I pray for my children specifically, this has become the prayer of my heart. I don’t want to leave their futures to chance. Instead, I prayerfully lay their futures at His feet as I take them to Him daily.

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For this I pray…

I pray that you grow to follow the Lord… and that I am a good example to you both.

I pray that you come to know the Lord personally and that you ask Jesus into your heart at an early age.

I pray that God always pours His blessings upon you and grants you favor in everything you do.

I pray that you become like Joseph, full of integrity and everything you touch will be blessed.

I pray that you are like Abraham and are considered a friend of God.

I pray that you are like Daniel, displaying wisdom and courage in every situation.

I pray that you are like David, and become a woman and man after God’s own heart.

I pray that you are like Esther and find favor with those in authority over you and that you do great things one day.

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I pray that you are like Moses, great leaders and yet known as the humblest of all.

I pray that you can make a request like Jabez and that God will grant you what you request.

I pray that God covers you with His hand, hedge, and shield of protection at all times.

I pray that your hearts always be softened to the Lord and that you are always able to hear His voice.

I pray that the voices of God and your parents are heard louder than the voices of those around you who may speak negatively in your direction.

I pray that you grow up to be like Jesus- kind, compassionate, wise, gentle, ready to give an answer, pure, in a deep relationship with our Heavenly Father- and that you grow in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man.

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book list 2017

My To Read List for 2017

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I love books.

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

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

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

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

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

to read 2017

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

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

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

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

to read 2017

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

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

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

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

to read 2017

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

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

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

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

to read 2017

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

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

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

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

to read 2017

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

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

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

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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!

dint-give-up

Dear Mom: Don’t Give Up

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

Mom, sometimes you may feel that what you are doing does not make much of a difference.

But don’t give up.

You may feel that you are constantly repeating the same thing to your child without seeing any results.

But don’t give up.

You may get tired of teaching your child what God’s Word says because it doesn’t seem that anything you are saying is sticking.

But don’t give up.

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Why?

Because when you least expect it, when you are in the middle of something completely unrelated to the lesson you have been trying to teach, when you are in a place where you cannot even fully appreciate the moment…..

it will happen.

At the moment of decision, your child will repeat verbatim the truths you have been teaching him.

Your child will recognize a lie and rebuff it with the truths you have shared.

Your child will stand up for what they know is right when you are not around, and you will only know because someone else will tell you.

God knows when we need those breakthrough moments. Those are the moments that keep us going. He uses those moments to remind us that we are more than the grocery shopper, launderer, housekeeper, and cook on top of other responsibilities and titles we may hold. He uses those moments to remind us that we have an important roll in molding the hearts of our children.

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These moments do not happen in an instant. They happen after Mom has repeated herself so many times, she can say the lines in her sleep. And when Mom thinks there is no point in repeating herself one more time, her moment happens.

And that moment is the shot in the arm she needs to say the words one more time, to speak truth to her children again, and to remind them of what God says in His word. That moment fills her tank with hope that her words are not in vain and her efforts are not for naught. That moment opens her eyes to the realization that her actions have not gone unnoticed. Her labors of love have been received for what they were.

You moment will happen, Mom….

Just don’t give up.

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when God speaks

When God Speaks to Our Children

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One morning a couple of years ago, my kids were in Addie’s room. She was reading her devotional for the morning, Born Again! (I Can Read God’s Word), and Ian was sitting beside her listening.

I thought it was so sweet! I grabbed my camera to take a picture, but what I heard next touched me even more than what I saw.

when God speaks

“Ian, when we disobey that is called sin.”

I was stunned.

No where in the story she was reading did those words appear together. God had shown my daughter (5 years old at the time) a fundamental truth based on what she had been reading.

As a parent, my natural instinct was to swoop in and elaborate on the moment, over talk the lesson learned, and make sure my daughter “heard right.” After all, we are called to teach our children about the Lord.

But…

I chose not to.

I chose to step out of God’s way.

I chose not to interrupt their moment.

I chose not to somehow come across as if God needed me to clarify what He had clearly shown my daughter.

when God speaks

She obviously understood Him.

She didn’t need my “help.”

She didn’t need me to show by my actions that I thought God could only speak to parents.

She doesn’t need me to make her feel that God cannot speak to her because she is only a child.

He can!

He has!

Samuel is a great example of a time when God spoke to a child…. very clearly. (1 Samuel 3)

when God speaks

As a rule of thumb, we need to make Deuteronomy 6: 6-9 our way of life. We need to instruct our children throughout the day in the ways of the Lord.

There are times, though, when we need to give our children the space to have a real visit, conversation, encounter with God. It will cause their faith to grow by leaps and bounds.

Let them tell you what God has shown them, and fight back the need to expound, elaborate, and explain further- unless your child “figured” something out on their own and are way off base. Stepping back reinforces to your child that God really can speak to them- not just Mom and Dad.

This post was originally posted on The Joy of Homemaking.

when God speaks

a great boy

Make Him a Great Boy

This week has been all about this little boy. He turned five, which made me realize that he is one step further from being that roly-poly baby and one step closer to one day being a man.

As most mothers do, I want my son to grow up to be a great man. I want him to do great things. I want him to influence many. I want him to live his faith out loud. But then one day I came across this quote by an unknown author.

“Don’t wait to make your son a great man- make him great boy.”

I don’t have to wait for someday to come along. I can start now in the midst of 5T clothes that are getting to be too small and Ninja Turtle action figures to help him grow into a great boy who will in turn grow into a great man.

raising a great boy

As daunting as growing a great boy into a man sounds, it is possible. Although I am a mother who is knee deep in raising children and am by no means an expert on how to raise children, there is one thing I do know. If I follow God’s Word in bringing up my children, I cannot go wrong. 

While trying to raise a great boy, I decided to look to what God said about the one Boy who grew up perfectly- His own Son.

Luke 2: 52 says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

If you think about it, those are the four areas we as parents should focus on when bringing up great boys (and girls).

Wisdom- “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7  

Wisdom is knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action. I want to raise a little boy who knows the difference between right and wrong according to God’s Word (not society’s definition) and then allows his actions to be dictated by just judgment.

I don’t what him thinking that “smarts” equal wisdom. Wisdom and knowledge are two entirely different areas of growth. Before knowledge comes into play, I want my son to be wise. Wisdom comes from a heart that seeks after God, knowledge comes from the head.

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Stature- “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

As important as it is for my son to grow physically, one thing I want him to remember for himself and for others is that what we look like on the outside is not what matters most. I want him to learn to view others and himself the way God does- by looking at the heart.

I don’t want him to value people based on the brand of clothes they wear. I want him to value their hearts. I don’t want him to like others solely by their looks. I want him to like them for their personalities. I don’t want him to be wowed by the pretty girl that shows up in youth group (Lord help me!). I want him to see her for the young woman that she is based on how she treats those around her. I don’t want him basing his self-worth on what he sees in the mirror. I want him to know he is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)

Favor with God- “For whoso findeth me (wisdom) findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.” Proverbs 8:35

We receive wisdom from reading God’s Word, but when our boys are small (before they can read), they can only hear God’s Word if we are willing to read it to them. Daily Bible reading and teaching is something we value in our home. My son will only know how to please God by learning it directly from His Word, and I have the privilege of bringing him into the presence of God each time we stop what we are doing to read God’s Word.

Right now, since my son is small, we are learning how God wants us to behave, act in faith, and show courage by reading about the great heroes in the Bible. He was amazed when God sent ravens to bring Elijah meat at the brook, he smiled from ear to ear as God answered Elijah’s prayer with fire from Heaven, and he loved hearing how David brought down Goliath with a small stone.

Our sons will learn wisdom by learning the lessons from the men and women they read about in the Bible. And as they learn wisdom, they will please God when their actions line up with his Word.

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In favor with man- “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7

We all want children that others want to be around. When people see my children, I want their instinctive reaction to be joy, not dread.

What qualities are found in children we all want to be around?

Behaviors such as being kind (Eph. 4:32), obeying and honoring parents (Eph. 6:1), and respecting authority (Romans 13) are all qualities that will endear our sons to others. Being a hard worker (Exodus 20:9), honest (Eph. 4:25), and a man of integrity (Proverbs 11:3) will bring him favor with his future employers.

My 5 year old is growing into a great boy. One day, that great boy will be a great man. But for now, I’ll enjoy every bit of the boy stage with all of the dinosaurs, cars, transformers, and legos that come with it. And as I wake up day after day to raise my great children, I will cling to Proverbs 22:6 which says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

raising a great boy

Bins Are a Mama’s Best Friend: Helping Your Child Get Organized

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“A place for everything and everything in its place.” It’s a well known saying that seems to state the obvious regarding organization, but a mama- like me- can really avoid a lot of early gray hairs popping up by heeding this popular phrase.

And while it’s definitely a piece  of advice we as adults do well to obey, we might mutually agree that it isn’t always as easy for a two year old, like my son, to follow through and do…

Or is it? 

I’m the type of person who feels that my job isn’t done unless everything is pretty much back in its place. 

Messes make me restless.

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I’m the kind of person who, if I have a pile of dishes in the sink at night or if it’s bedtime and toys are left everywhere, I just don’t feel like my job is done. I personally don’t feel like I’ve officially earned the right to “flop”(our family’s word for just kicking back and relaxing).

If “what goes up must come down”, what comes out of place must go back in place too… at least before I feel I have the right to relax.  

And since that is just how I’m wired, I find that it’s  also important to teach my son to know where things belong, so that as he grows, he can follow through in being organized as well.

No, I’m not saying that he has to be just like me, but it certainly helps a mama out if I teach my son to do the things that will make life a little easier for everyone…while also teaching him personal responsibility.

Although each person is built differently and we may not all have that inner craving to be super organized (and I’m not saying I always am), if we do happen to be around someone who prefers organization, we do well to be a blessing on our end by arranging the environment to meet that desired expectation…

Which is one reason why… I….Love…..Bins.

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While it didn’t just occur to me overnight, I’m learning that as long as I designate a place for something and continue to follow through in making that place the object’s “home”, it is much easier for my toddler to also identify that location as the designated place.

So what does this look like in my home? Well, upon walking into my son’s room, the first thing you’d probably notice is the large 16-cubby shelving unit that we purchased at IKEA. (Love that place! And I think every teacher I’m friends with does as well.)

It’s on this unit thatyou’ll find an assortment of things that range from blocks to trucks to a couple of stuffed toys…  (And this arrangement may change over time as we reorganize, rearrange, and weed out toys.)

But…..What I love the most about  this organization unit… are the bins that hide and store all of the little toys my son enjoys playing with. No, not everything has to be front and center in the room or have its own special place on the shelf. Some things can simply be categorized and tossed in a container with other similar objects.

If you notice in the picture, there are a total of eight bins on the unit. The four red bins were cheaply picked up at the local Dollar Tree (for $1 each) and the bottom blue bins were purchased at a slightly higher cost from the Container Store (for $14.99 each). This simply goes to show that it doesn’t have to cost a whole lot if you’re in the market to purchase a few items to help you organize your child’s room. Our Dollar Tree bins have worked just as well as our Container Store bins.

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In the blue bins, you’ll find one holding books, another two containing Mega Blocks, and a fourth housing play food mixed with toy kitchen items.

In the red bins, you’ll find another kind of assortment, such as: small animals in one bin, cars and small vehicles in another, coloring books and sticker books in a third, and various kinds of sports balls in the fourth (This arrangement has actually changed since I first wrote this post, but my son has definitely come to recognize where certain toys belong. Over time you tweak things to make the organization process fit even more to your lifestyle. For example, I recently decided to have books lining the entire top shelf rather than storing them in bins below.)

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In having this kind of set-up, where everything basically has a categorized “home”, I’ve been finding that my son is more equipped to help me during clean up time…something that will at first take more intention to teach but which definitely gets easier over time.

Yes, it’s usually so much easier for us moms to quickly pick up the mess of toys, and in the past and on occasion at times I still may. But while it’s true that I can quickly get the job done….Always doing this for my son doesn’t serve in helping him learn personal responsibilty for himself, which is something we need to begin teaching our children now while they are young so that it doesn’t become more of a challenge later. 

Now that my son is two and a half, though, I’m pleased to say that he has begun to get much better at cleaning up. Yes, I still have to tell him to clean up, but it’s become more of a game for him. I’ll say, “Show me (how you can clean up)!” and then leave him to it. Shortly after, he’ll come out and say “You got to see this!” As I’m going to his room, he’ll go and hide and then I’ll make a big deal about how amazing it is. He loves that…and making a big deal about it is worth the time and effort because I love the fact that he is learning how to clean up for himself.

When you first start teaching your little one to clean up, they’ll definitely need help. A big mess can be overwhelming to a little person for sure. But I noticed that by asking my son “where” things go or holding a specific object for him to put away that the task became a little more do-able. Providing simple step by step help is  always much better when teaching a toddler than giving general commands. 

For me, being purposeful in having a place for belongings as well as intentionally giving easy directions to help my son learn to participate in the cleaning process is an important key to helping things run a bit more smoothly in my home.

No, a clean and organized child’s room doesn’t happen by accident. But with God’s help, patience, continued effort and practice, I’m expecting my son to learn important skills like this that will help him not only learn personal responsibilty but also foster a well-deserved sense of pride after the task of cleaning up is finished.

Yes, it’s definitely something I need to continue working on if I want it to become a personal habit in my son, but I do look forward to one day seeing it become so much a part of his nature as we continue to work on it, with God’s help, that he won’t need reminders from Mom when he’s a teenager.

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Confessions of a “Self-Diagnosed” ADD Mom

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Bored and easily distracted… It wasn’t long before I realized my problem and decided to just go ahead and personally diagnose myself.

Let’s just go ahead and say it… I was experiencing an attention deficit disorder when it came to playtime with my son.

Okay, so no, I wasn’t always distracted… I did “try” to play, but I’ll have to admit that when I became bored of playing with cars or couldn’t find my imagination when making conversation with dinosaurs (I don’t know how many times I’ve asked how they’re doing), my mind could easily take me and my attention away from my son and either straight to social media or something else that I might find to be more interesting in that moment….even cleaning up.

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Okay, okay… you need to give a mom some grace, right? (I know what most of you are thinking. “You’re with your little guy 24/7. A mom’s job is never done. You need a mental and emotional break every once in a while, right?”)

While I certainly appreciate the love and support from you all, there was still another side of me that believed things should look differently. (Well…For me, at least.)

Yes, being a mom is a 24/7 job, filled with to-do’s like changing diapers, feeding hungry bellies, cleaning house, and kissing boo-boos. But what I was finding was that the quality of my focus and attention during playtime with my son became diluted if I allowed distractions to freely come as they pleased. Thus, my real priority in that moment- my son- could easily take a back seat to the things that really weren’t that important at all.

Facebook was a good example of that. (Um…. At least for me it had been.) …Which is why I had to delete the app off my phone…

“What?!!! No!!!” You gasp.

Oh…….believe me. It was hard at first… And, no… No  one asked me to do this…

(Now, please don’t misunderstand me… And my wonderful Facebook friends can even tell you…. I AM still on Facebook. However, now in order to access it, I must go onto our office desktop. Yes, my app is gone. And although I can and still do share photos via IOS on my iPhone, I have been extremely intentional in not using my phone to actually view Facebook newsfeeds, comments, messages, “likes”, etc. Our office desktop is now where I must go to do that…making it less convenient for me to access it during a normal weekday, and that ‘s just how I want to keep it.)

This came out of necessity and in some sense out of obedience. Let me explain.

A while back, a phrase came to my mind out of the blue which I believe is something I really needed to hear at that time (and still do)…and that phrase was… “Eliminate distractions”. I honestly believe this was God speaking to my heart, but to be perfectly honest, I didn’t begin working on this until about a month ago. Since taking that step, though, I’ve begun to notice that my focus and engagement in the present moment has greatly improved.

You see, over time, I began to notice that social media so easily became a welcomed distraction for me when I either got bored or didn’t feel in the mood to play, and it really wasn’t doing much to help me build quality time with my son. 

It’s kind of sad to think how we as adults are so quick to judge kids and young people these days on their lack of attention in school or their lack of engagement with their families… And yet, when you think about it… Do we as adults even realize the things that are distractions in our own lives, preventing us from focusing on what mattters most? Are we really enjoying the moments? Or is something else occupying our mind and our attention as well?

purposeful-moms-iphone-distraction-social-mediaYou see, just as we, as adults, get “bored” playing with cars or dinosaurs- which may not make much sense to us or be as fun as checking social media- our kids too will face those same kinds of challenges when they are also expected to learn and focus on something new (and maybe not as engaging as their favorite games, toys, or activities).

So, if there’s something I’m learning through this, it’s this… The same expectations I have of my child, should also be the same I have of myself. And furthermore… Being engaged and focused during time with my little guy are gifts that tangibly demonstrate my love for him, especially as I’ve noticed quality time to be one of his primary love languages. (By the way, if you haven’t read The 5 Love Languages by Gary D. Chapman, I highly recommend you do.)

No, I’m not saying I have to play with cars and dinosaurs 24/7 or even have the greatest ability to do so. But in this moment… For this 30 minutes of playtime and throughout my day when I know I should be giving him my fullest attention… It’s in these moments that I must remind myself that I am there for someone else- not myself. I am there to be engaged and present in his life… To show love in practical ways by putting myself aside so that he can have joy in this moment.confessions-ADD-mom

And you know what? I’m actually beginning to enjoy my days a whole lot more because of it. It’s funny how even over a brief timespan, you can already begin to see changes happen. And that’s how it is with many things in life. (Sometimes, it takes making a somewhat “hard” decision- in letting go of the familiar and the convenient- to help you begin seeing the results you always wanted but just didn’t know were there for you to have.)

Over just a short amount of time, I’ve really begun to enjoy playing with my son. Not only have I seen myself grow in my “career” as a Mega Block engineer and a fan of Mighty Machines, but even more than that, with God’s help, I’m becoming more creative just in general during playtime.

For me, being a “self-diagnosed” ADD mom is choice… And, while I still have opportunity to grow in this area, I’m finding that as I continue to allow the Lord to work in my heart, and as I continue making the daily choices to focus on what matters most, my days are becoming more filled with God’s peace, rest, and opportunities to tangibly demonstrate love to those closest to me.

And these are the choices that one day, with God’s help, I’ll look back on and be thankful that they weren’t sacrificed for something that was less worthy of my attention.
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