Saturday, November 29, 2014

Advent Using The Jesus Storybook Bible

I can't believe how fast the month of November has flown by.  Our Attitude of Gratitude tablecloth was a hit and as I prepared my table for Advent today the children requested that I leave the tablecloth out for our final few days of writing.  If you didn't get a chance to try this this year, I highly recommend it for next year.  The girls were so excited to write all they were grateful for we actually had to limit the writing to supper time so all our thanks could fit.  We will be repeating every November from now on.  It was so fun to sit down to supper each night and all say what we wrote and why.

Gathering around the table for the "special event" really focused our home of busy little bodies so for advent this year I wanted to bring the focus there as well. So I came up with this:




Advent using The Jesus Storybook Bible.

Ava received The Jesus Storybook Bible as her three year old bible at church this year. 



It is a beautiful bible will gorgeous illustrations and all the Old Testament stories brilliantly point to the birth of Christ.

My friend Erin, over at Home With the Boys, posted this reading plan years before we had the bible and I'd never forgotten it. 





So now I'm going to put it to use. :) If you don't follow her blog, you'll want to start now.  She is sweet and uplifting and just a blessing to the blogging universe.

To make it an around the table event, I ran to Target and found this Can-O-Tags for $5. I love how heavy weight they are, the words on them, and that I will have many left for presents I wrap, tying our adventing heart to the giving spirit under our tree.


On the back of 24 I wrote the date and story title from the Jesus Storybook Bible.


Then I placed the tags around my "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" angel for advent. And, I spruced it up with the pine cones from last month's table and a few little ball ornaments from the dollar section. I adore how perfectly everything thematically fell together.


Beginning December 1 we will gather as a family around the table.  The girls' task will be to find the tag with the matching day and together we will read the bible story.

I can't wait!

How are you adventing with your littles this year?

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Being the Difference in a Broken World


If there’s anything the news has captured this week it is that even though we are a society capable of sending an email anywhere on the map in seconds and can invite people from anyplace on the globe into our living room through Facetime we still fail to bridge the gap with our neighbor. Struggles to start conversations have created chasms. Blinders have left us ignorant. And the result is brokenness.

We live in what is touted the greatest nation in the world.  Many of us have faith in a God who graciously breathes life into us and beckons us to be His hands and feet.

Yet we watch and freeze.

And I don’t know if it is a lack of awareness, or a desire for ease, or simply being overwhelmed by all the forms of tragedy tucked away in our culture but it burned me and stole precious hours of sleep.

How is one person supposed to respond to any of it?  

I don’t pretend to have the answers. I’m just as human as you.

But, yesterday morning I woke up bright and early and went to my children’s school with an excited spirit and my cup of coffee cheering me on after what basically amounted to a glorified nap the night before.

Organized by two teachers and a supportive administration, our students collected and purchased fleece thanks to the generosity of our school community and together students, staff, and volunteers worked to tie blankets for a local organization that delivers warmth (through blankets) to the homeless. Leave it to teachers. They are truly of the heart to nurture becoming better people not just create smarter learners. 

And so, through little hands tying fleece, the world shines brighter.  They worked with gusto to get their tie blanket done - one kindergartener even telling me about his strong muscles making it possible. They smiled and talked and laughed and dreamed about the children these blankets would serve. They took a step towards bridging a gap (that should rattle us all) in the spirit of peace and love.

When the day was done and my back was reminding me of my age after sitting on the gym floor so much, I climbed into my mommy minivan with pause. Tears welled in my eyes. The school is making purposeful effort for kids to help kids so that goodwill and compassion might be their way of life.

And they did it one tie at a time.

Our God created us all with different passions. Different gifts. Different burdening to different issues. But I have to believe that He did so with the perfect recipe so that if each of us acted in the areas we feel impassioned all these divides would fade away because they would all be met. Love wins. Hope fills the void. Accord begets relationship.
 
 

So today I humbly challenge you to start with where you are with the spaces that grieve your heart. Work with gusto. Make a blanket for the homeless. Bring a meal to the single mom. Become a mentor for a struggling child. Invest added time with your own children to reinforce healthy families. Lead a group. Become a foster parent. Bring food to the food pantry. Shake a veteran's hand. Get trained to help at your local crisis pregnancy center. Swing your hammer to build a community. Tutor or teach how to read. Join the fight in human trafficking. WHATEVER.
The fact is the needs of the world are big and struggles daunting, but together we can be the difference. 


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Monday, November 24, 2014

How to Choose Joy When Joy Feels So Far Away

We’ve officially moved into Thanksgiving week.  People are buzzing with turkey preps, packing, family gatherings, and talk of thanksgiving.

But what for those who feel suffocated by life at the moment? How do you choose joy when joy feels so far away?

When diagnosis threatens, children go astray, job security is tenuous, marriages are on the edge, family discord makes the idea of a family table seem like an earthly version of the Hot Place, or maybe there is an empty chair there for the first time and the stuff of life just weighs like a millstone.  What then?

I pray you are not in this boat, but I know some of you are and it can make the seasonal joy feel trite.  And I want to speak into your heart today.

Joy isn’t gone.  JOY ISN’T GONE!!!!!
My bible study had me in Ezekiel this morning. Israel was dead as a nation. Hope was lost.  Days came and went but the sun never seemed to shine.  Not to unlike how life sometimes feels. In a vision, God takes Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones – a visual of the death Israel’s hearts are living.  And,
 
 

I smiled at a God who was preparing my heart for a true understanding of gratitude. 
Because I realized that of all the times that I've felt weakest in my life...


To finish reading this post and enjoy a gratitude series, please visit MODSquad here

Monday, November 17, 2014

5 Things Your Child Needs from You Today


I’ve been keeping a secret. It’s been in the works since last spring and now I finally get to tell you about it.

I’m teaching a mother-daughter dance class for moms and their first-through fifth grade daughters!!! {The same studio I grew up dancing in so how is that for awesome?!}

The dream came about when some of us danced with our daughters in the Christmas dance recital. Mothers expressed interest in the waiting area of continuing into spring, and I, a mother alongside them who also happens to work with struggling teens, realized this was the perfect opportunity.  Why not capitalize on her passion to create moments that matter?

I could give you a million statistical reasons to sell you on why together time is child important. I could tell you about the heartbreaking number of elementary school girls who are dieting without their parents knowing. I could brief you on bullying and this note that makes every parent think twice. I could share how youths who don’t know a true understanding of love often fall into the arms of counterfeit love and suffer life-changing pregnancies and STDs.  I could but I won’t. Because this weekend I found out a sweet little elementary girl lost one of her parents and suddenly statistics feel trite. In an unpredictable world, THIS is why it is important to do something unique with your child-




Your child needs your time-We “give” our children a lot of things. We put them to dance, drive them to soccer, usher them to piano, basketball, youth group, and the list goes on. We’ve been told that keeping our children busy will keep them out of trouble so taking them to good and noble things in the name of “opportunity” makes us feel better. But, if togetherness isn’t built in we are missing the most important thing to helping them stay on the track we wish for them. They don’t get to hear our heart, know what we believe and value, and understand our personal dreams. There is no substitute for YOU. A check can put your child in a lot of things, but it will never carry the same investment as bonding with you.

 

Your child needs to feel praised and secure-This world is really great at knocking all of us down, beginning with the least confident on the playground. We aren’t born with inflated self-confidence. It comes in knowing who we are. For your child to know they are loved no matter what, they can come to you with anything, and hear you speak the special qualities you identify in them will promote the emotional support they need to stand strong in trying times.

 

Your child needs you to listen- Multitasking is a trademark of our culture that may destroy more than build up. How many times is your child answering your questions or trying to talk with you while you’re making supper, answering a text, or reading something from their backpack? It happens in my house. But, when we give them our eyes and free ourselves of distraction we silently say, “you are my priority.” And, it allows our children moments to unfurl all they are needing to say.

 

Your child needs limits-Undoubtedly within this time when our children know they are secure to say whatever and we will give them our ears, some tough topics will emerge. Questions of self-worth, beauty, quality friends, how we use our words, media influence, things that make us happy and sad and what we’d like to do (all to be discussed through one-on-one directed stretch time in my class) will emerge. Older children might bring up drugs, alcohol, and sex. And, this is your time to kindly tell them what YOU believe. Contrary to popular thought, our children don’t want us to be there friend. They need someone to help steer them in a healthy direction or their friends and the media will become their compass. Known values and boundaries create security when children know the why behind it and, in a tough world, they CRAVE that.

 

Your child needs something shared with you-To have an activity/event to do together one-on-one creates connectedness. It’s like a love language without words that naturally continues bringing your child back to you so that you can nurture the parent-child bond, ensuring opportunity to be together, chat, laugh, and cry. {My hubby gets this through All Pro Dad and daddy/daughter dates. I’m excited to make this my special time.}

Every child needs these keys from their parent to grow up healthy and strong.  I encourage you to be intentional to build in this time with your child(ren) today. In doing so, you will keep the lines of communication open and ensure that you will remain their go-to person. I’m grateful for an opportunity to teach a class focusing on this with my young ones. It will enhance that foundation before adolescence hits J

Mom and dad, YOU matter!

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

3 Kids, 3 Stages, Books to Enjoy Throughout the Ages {National Young Readers Week}

It’s National Young Readers Week! As an author it makes me giddy with excitement to celebrate the love of reading with littles. As a mom, I get nostalgic watching my kids work for their free Pizza Hut personal pan pizzas I loved as a child.

Needless to say, when I was inspired by Casper to share our family’s favorite bedtime stories I was all in.  I mean, what greater joy is there than climbing atop a comfy mattress and getting lost in good book?

Since we’re at three different ages and stages in our house, my husband and I get in on three very different reading levels. These are their favs-

Ava (3) loves:
 

Just In Case You Ever Wonder by Max Lucado- This is probably my favorite children’s book of all time. Beginning with “Long, long ago, God made a decision – a very important decision…one that I’m really glad He made. He made the decision to make you ,” the story shares everything that we want our children to know. They are special, unique, chosen, and loved regardless of circumstance. Through sweet wording children hear how their parent wants to be there and talk them through it all, and how God will embrace and forever bind us. This book cannot be over-read. {Note: This story is equally fitting for adoption and makes an a very special baby gift}

 


Peppa Pig Ballet Lesson by Elizabeth Schaefer- Ava’s two primary loves in life at this point include dance and Peppa Pig. The combination of the two is priceless entertainment in her world.


 

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.- Eric Carle’s eye catching pictures make this fun to pick up and the textual idea repetition make this an easy toddler first read. Hence, when we have Bible time at night right before prayers this is Ava's contribution because she likes to read on her own and feel “part” of the tradition. :)

Hannah’s (7) favorites include:



The Chicken of the Family by Mary Amato- This hilarious story is about a family with three sisters, which resembles our own. In it, the older two harass the baby, telling her she’s a chicken rather than a human. Through conniving techniques, they get Henrietta to actually believe it is true and she finds the feeling of home at a chicken farm down the road. When her sisters come to get her and persuade her home before they get in trouble, lots of laughter ensues.

 
 
 
 

Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo-   Every one of these books is a hit. Unlike most pigs, Mercy loves cookies and toast with butter, dressing up, and sleeping in a human bed. She’s Mr. and Mrs. Watson’s pet that acts more like a child, and each story takes readers on a fun adventure in her life.

 


I Am Loved by Sheila Walsh- From the Gigi, God’s Little Princess line (which I’ve posted about before here and here), this devotional-like gem takes real issues girls in this season of life face and encourages them through readings, promises, prayers, and Scripture to help empower them and deepen their trust in their Maker. Hannah shares a section of this each night at Bible time.

Grace’s (9) go-to grabs include:



Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney– This laugh-out-loud line of books is the story of a family that has its own problems and strengths.  Greg, the main character, is in middle school. He’s got two “annoying” brothers – Manny, the toddler, and Rodrick, his older band-playing brother. Throughout the series, he encounters troubles with them as well as his crush, Holly Hills, and in his attempts to resolve them hilarity usually results.

 


Secret Keeper Girl Fiction Series by Dannah Gresh- This is a fun four part fiction series packed with an eternal message. In each of the books, the featured girl faces a real-life issue – a crush, breaking a school rule, embarrassment over parents, and wanting to be part of the “cool” lunch table – resulting in a decision that lands her in detention. While there, the main character finds acceptance in a group of positive peers called the Secret Keeper Club. In this healthy friendship, messages about dangerous obsessions, materialism, forgiveness, and being yourself prepares young readers to close the book a strong, more God-centered girl.  

 
Connect Bible (Augsburg Fortress)– This awesome Bible is complete with visually appealing icons and connects that help young one’s/readers navigate their way around the story and see God’s loving hand and consistent message shared throughout Scripture. Grace reads a passage each night at family Bible time.  


What do your young readers like to read when you snuggle up?

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