Best Book for Invigorating your Prayer Life

This past spring I was in a season of the "Prayer Life Blahh's."  Have you been there?  You know when your prayer life resembles your three year old's prayer life - you are saying the words but that's about it.  My friend Greta recommended Mark Batterson's book The Circle Maker to me.  I had heard of the book before, and certainly seen it on all the best seller lists where it has been comfortably camping out since it's release in 2011, but I had never read it.  

It's no exaggeration to say that this book has fundamentally changed the way I look at prayer.  Mark is a master storyteller and mighty local church leader - an uncommon combo - that makes this book both chalked full of theology on prayer, but also life stories that make the application of the theology accessible.  When I finished the book, I was actually sad.  Very sad! I could have flipped the book over and started at page one again.  It was that good.  I know this book will be one I reach for over and over in the coming years.  

If you are facing giants in your life, or desiring to dream dreams that seem impossibly large, this book would be a great one to pick up.  I know you would be blessed to read it.  Unlike my last two suggestions - this book is also a great book to get for your husband, son, or other favorite guy in your life.  

Best book for embracing motherhood

When the girls were 3 years old and 6 months old Pete came home from a business trip with a gift for me.  This was a first and he held the gift sheepishly behind his back.  "Ok, I saw this book, and I got it for you, but I am sort of afraid the title might offend you.  But I think it looks great."  he said. 

I wasn't sure how to receive this gift.  "Um okay?"  

He handed me Donna Otto's Finding Your Purpose as a Mom.  I'll be honest, his concern was accurate... as was his instinct to buy the book.  You see I was struggling with finding my identity as a mom.  I was feeling the push of the world that does not value stay at home moms.  I felt the call to "do something" for God with my life, and I hadn't yet come to peace with the fact that I actually was doing something for God by raising the two daughters He had given me.  

Finding Your Purpose as a Mom is a book I have come to treasure.  I have read it many times over the last ten years.  While I now work outside of the home (as well as in the home), Donna's wisdom and insight into the higher calling of motherhood has framed much of how I look at the title of mom.  If you are just settling into the role of mother, or feel weighed down by its stresses this would be a great book to read.  I think a momma who took the time to read a chapter before the kids wake in the morning, or during naptime would be greatly blessed - and so would her family.  

Best book for getting over yourself

"Get over it."  Am I the only one who needs to say that to the mirror every once in a while?  Gosh I have a lot I just need to get over, and most of it has to do with me.  I need to get over my mistakes, the ways I feel I fell short, or just plain messed up.  You see I need to get over the idea of trying to be perfect.  I know enough mommas to know I'm not the only one who needs to get over this.  Can I get an amen?  

Breaking Up with Perfect by Amy Carroll is my favorite new book to recommend to friends and fellow sisters in Christ.  Released this past July, my dear friend Amy helps women understand that our striving to be perfect, or our self-condemnation at not being, are both roads that God does not desire for us.  She shares the true freedom that is called Grace, and gives practical advice on how to kiss perfection good bye and embrace to JOY God desires for us.  

I have read this book twice in the last few months.  (Yes twice! Don't judge.)  Each time I've read it I've seen new ways God wants me to lay down the guilt I carry around, and also the freedom that is supposed to come through Christ Jesus.  Big stuff my friends.  If you find yourself exhausted from striving to meet some definition of perfect that you've created, or beating yourself up for never being good enough,  I know you would be greatly blessed by this book. 

You can learn more about Amy Carroll on her website @ www.amycarroll.org. 

Our Favorite Faith-Building Books for Moms

When I tell other moms that I wake up at 5:30 each day to have a devotion and prayer time before I wake the kids I normally get one of two responses.  #1  "That is crazy. I would never do that." or #2 "What are you reading at 5:30 in the morning!"  

If your response would be #1, may I recommend strong coffee? You can do it!

If your response would be #2, this week I would love to share some of my favorite faith- building books.  The majority of the year I wake up and read the bible, but 4 or 5 times a year I pick up a non-fiction Christian book and work my way through that.  This pattern keeps those 5:30 am's fresh and nourishing my soul.  
There are a few things I look for in my book selections.  

  • A reputable Christian author:  There are millions of so-called Christian books out there that teach information that is far from biblical truth.  Some of these authors are New York Times best sellers.  Check the author's background. Ask your pastor, ministry leader, or friends you trust which authors they read.  
  • A relevant topic:  There are only so many books I have time to read, so I look for books with a topic that meet a felt need in my life - meaning God has clearly said to me, "Wendy you have this need!"  
  • Applicable writing:  I read dozens of books a year in the evening. I think of this as my entertainment reading.  Reading a do in the morning is not for entertaining, it is to do draw me closer to the Lord, and help me become the women He has called me to be.  I look for books that are written in a way that are applicable.  Books that give me straightforward ideas to apply to my life, not just pretty words or idealized concepts.  

I can't wait to share my favorites with you this week. I'd love to hear your favorites too.  What books have impacted your Christian walk?  

 

Devotions for your Teen Daughter

This summer our family room has been full of so many words.. so... many... words.  We have been hosting a middle school girls bible study ... and oh my there have been so many words, these girls can talk.  The girls have been going through a beautiful devotion book titled, Made to Shine, by Becca Leander Nicholson and Elissa Leander Tipps.  

Each of the five chapters of the book have seven days of devotions on topics ranging from identity to relationships.  In each daily devotion girls look up passages, write out their thoughts, and form next steps to tackling some of teenagers most pressing issues such as:

Write out a list of people you are in the process of forgiving ...
Ask God to reveal and to heal the hurtful experiences that might prevent you from trusting Him...
Take a minute to pray for the relationships in your life that are strained by drama...

Made to Shine
 is a great book to encourage your daughter to use in her personal devotion time, but also to perhaps gather a group of friends to discuss.  Let's be honest, most of our teenage kids are just not very motivated to work on their faith walk.  Add in the carrot of meeting up with friends weekly to discuss a chapter (maybe with some special snacks) and you may get a lot farther with your goals for your daughter.  The social pressure of being expected to talk about a set chapter, will work in your favor for making sure your daughter does her devotions.  Giving your daughter and her friends a safe place, and the structure of their faith, to talk through the inevitable hard issues that arise in teenage friendships is another bonus for gathering a group of girls to work through a devotion book like Made to Shine together.  

 

Devotions for your Tweens

Oh the tween years.  For some reason they get a pretty bad rap, but have one daughter exiting this stage, and one in it, I have to saw tween girls can be pretty great!  The hallmarks of the tween years is having one foot still in childhood, and the other in the teen years.  This can make finding good devotion materials both difficult, and really important.  Give your tween a devotion book she perceives as "little girl" and you've lost her, yet give her a devotion book written for teenagers and she might be thrown into themes about sexuality, drugs, and alcohol that she is just not ready to handle. 

Our family loves Elizabeth George's Girl After God's Own Heart.  I first discovered this book when my oldest was entering fifth grade.  I was looking for a book to do as part of a mother-daughter bible study that I was hosting that summer.  This book was recommended by another mom, and it was the perfect fit.  The ten chapters in this book cover topics such as school, family, friends, and church.  In each chapters girls look up verses and answer questions.  It is a great bridge between little girl devotions, and more difficult and time consuming teen and adult bible studies.  I would recommend this book for girls who are 8 to 12 years old. 

The book provides small spaces to answer questions.  Your daughter may appreciate having a journal to write her answers in to give her more space.  Jim George has written a companion book for boys - A Boy after God's Own Heart:  Your Awesome Adventure with Jesus.

First Devotion Books for Girls

When my youngest turned 5 years old she received this sweet little devotion book, I am Loved by Sheila Walsh.  This book, along with Walsh's other devotional books in the Gigi series, make for great first devotion books for girls.  Pretty, personable, and full of God's truth, your little reader will love taking her first step into independent devotions with one of Walsh's books.  

In I am Loved, little readers have 77 short devotions to read through, each one tying back to the theme phrase "I know I am loved because..." The book also includes several reciepes and crafts that are great to do with your daughter.  

We have always encouraged journaling with our daughters.  For a first devotion book, a good companion journaling project would be to have your daughter draw a picture of something from each devotion.  It could be a picture to go with the "I know I am loved because" sentence or the bible story that was discussed.  As my daugthers have grown, their devotion and church journals have become beautiful keepsake and reminders of how God is growing each one of their faiths.  

Best Devotion books for Girls

During the month of September I am sharing our family's favorite devotion resources.  This week is devoted to the little (and not so little) girls in our homes.  Family devotions play a key role in growing faith in your child, but as our children grow we should encourage and support them in having regular independent devotions.  From the age of 5 (or when they can read) children should be encouraged to take this next step in their faith walk.  When our children head off to college we will not be there to lead them in a daily devotion, they need to have learned the life skill of studying God's word and praying on their own.  This life skill, is truly a life skill as it takes a life time to develop.  

This week I will be sharing three devotion books that our girls have used and enjoyed. These selections are for young girls ready for their first devotion book, elementary and tween girls, and teen girls who are ready to start applying God's word to their life in a deeper way.  Before I share these resources, I wanted to give you three tips for helping your daughter (or son!) succeed in independent devotions. 

1. Pick an age and reading level appropriate resource:  Nothing will kill the desire to have independent devotions than giving a child an either too difficult, or too young of a devotion book.  Take time to read through several devotions to make sure you daughter can successfully read the material and will be engaged by the provided content. 

2.  Set up a time and place: Help your child figure out when and where they will do their independent devotions.  When the "where" is decided on, help them organize the basic things they will need including: a pen or pencil, their bible, their devotion book, and a journal if desired.  If the selected location is in communal living space in your house, help them to organize their supplies in a basket or bag that can be stored in their room when not being used.  

3. Check in:  Regularly check in with your daughter, not to keep tabs (okay maybe a little) but to show interest in what they are learning, and how God is speaking to them.  Their reactions and input will help you to gauge what level their next devotion should be.  Are they complaining about it being boring?  Time to step it up.  Are they complaining that it is too confusing?  Maybe you can help them with this study and next time select one that is a bit easier.  

Family Devotions for Elementary Kids and Up

Our family has settled into the season of life of no more "littles."  Emily is in fourth grade this year, and Sarah (horrifyingly) is in seventh (wow, I could barely type that).  About a year and a half ago our family started going through a chronological study of the bible using The Family Reading Bible.  This bible is a treasure for any family with children in elementary school or older.  

There are three reading plans to work through: Short, Long, and Off the Beaten Path.  We have been working through the Long Path.  Each day you have an introduction, a passage to read, questions to ask, and fun facts to learn.  At the end it tells you which page to turn to for the next reading.  It is so easy to follow!  This bible has been the perfect step for our family to go from "children's bibles," and "story bibles" to the real deal.  The devotion guides are great for Pete and I, with no prep, and a cup of coffee either of us are ready to lead.  It takes us about 10 minutes a day to read and discuss the passage.  The review and application questions do a great job hitting our girls different developmental levels.  Questions challenge Pete and I as well, which tells me we have hit on a great resource to use for the coming years.  

If you are looking for ways to get started with family devotions but are not sure where to even begin, check out this post about creating a family spiritual growth plan.  

Next week I will be sharing our girls' favorite independent devotion books.  Before we dive into that I would love to hear of any resources or family devotion books your family enjoys.  

 

Family Devotions with 4 to 10 year olds

Most families will start the habit of family devotions when their children are between the ages of 4 and 10.  A lot happens in this age range, but in general, children in this range still want to be read to - but are ready to think through the ideas we find in scripture.  Our family teaches the preschool class at our church twice a month, and I can tell you our little 3-5 year olds can grasp and grapple with some pretty big faith concepts.  

Our family's favorite devotion resource for families with children in this age range is Susan Hunt and Richie Hunt's Big Truths for Little Kids.  This book combines the story of a family with catechism memory work.  Each of the 36 chapters tells a piece of the family's story and introduces several catechism questions and answers.  

Catechism memory work is a centuries old method of teaching spiritual truths by memorizing questions and their answers. This memory work gives us a strong foundation in principles of our faith.  

For example: 

Question:  Who made you?
Answer:  God

Question: Why did God make you and all things?
Answer: For His own glory

There are many different catechisms, this book uses First Catechism - Biblical Truths for God's Children.  It is specifically written from children, but parents will learn a lot to as the questions develop in complexity over the course of the book.  Our family used this book when the girls were 7 and 4 and we greatly enjoyed it.  We still fall back on catechism truths that we memorized during that year.  


Family Devotions with Young Children

Family devotions with young children can be a tricky thing.  Full of energy, questions, and wiggles,  devotions with young children can be a daunting task.  I think the resource we choose to use for family devotions is so important when dealing with young children. 

Our family's favorite devotion resource for families with young children is The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, with illustrations by Jago.  Each of the 44 chapters tells a unique story from scripture in a concise manner that is just the right length for a family devotion time.  Lloyd-Jones points each story to Jesus, teaching children from a young age that the Bible is one long love story from God to us.  Jago's creative and whimsical illustrations will keep your kids engaged, and will help them remember the stories.  What kid can forget John the Baptist after seeing a picture of him getting ready to eat a honey dipped locust! 

The Jesus Storybook bible is also available in audio and many of the chapters have video version available for free online which are both great ways to change up your routine as needed.  A family who spent a few months reading through this bible would be greatly blessed.  

Finding the Right Family Devotion Resource

Today kicks off a month-long look at resources for family and personal devotions.  This week I'll be sharing three of our  favorite family devotion resources.  On Wednesday through Friday we'll take a closer look at three of our favorites.  Before you hit that 1-click buy button on Amazon there are three factors to take into consideration when choosing a family devotion resource. 

1. Age -Appropriateness:  Different ages will call for different style devotions.  Younger children respond best to vibrant and engaging pictures.  As children enter elementary, and then middle school they need to be challenged to be engaged.  Stick with too young of content for too long and you will loose those budding minds.  

2. Plan for children at different stages: God's plan has always been for faith to be passed down to the next generation within the family unit.  Family units have always had children of different ages, so don't worry if you are trying to do family devotions with  10, 7, and 3 year olds.  Some general tips for planning foPlan around the older children.  Find a resource that will engage them.  Engaged older siblings set the tone for family devotions and model participation for younger siblings.  Little ones will get more out of your devotion time than you can imagine.  Older siblings can be encouraged to occasionally lead a younger devotion for little siblings.  They will be blessed to use their leadership skills, and little ones will enjoy the attention! 

3. How much time do you have?: Different devotion books are built around different assumptions on time.  The three devotion books I will be talking about this week each take around 10 minutes to complete a devotion or chapter.  These are a good fit for families looking to do shorter daily devotions.  If you are looking for a longer once a week option - look for a devotion book that includes hands on activities or experiences to add to your devotion time. 

 

Looking forward to Fall with The Celebrated Family

Our family has survived the back-to-school launch.  Facebook attests to the fact that many of you have as well! Congratulations on finding the correct number of plastic folders with, and without, brads, new lunchboxes, and (hopefully) dress code approved wardrobes.  I feel like I have launched a space mission, not two littles girl going to school.  How about you?  

With the return to school, our family has returned to our school year routine of breakfast time family devotions.  I love them, and it feels good to be getting back into this routine.  I blogged a few weeks ago about how to plan for spiritual growth for your family this school year.  Thank you for all of the kind emails and comments about this post.  It is near and dear to my heart.  Many of you have expressed that the biggest hurdle for your family is finding the right devotion resource - both for individual devotions and family devotions.  While the obvious answer is "just read the bible,"  we live in a time and place full of amazing devotion resources!  

Here at The Celebrated Family we are going to take the month of September to introduce you to some of our favorite family, and personal devotion materials.  The week of Aug 31st we'll look at our favorite Family Devotion resources.  The week of Sept 7th I'll share my daughters' favorite personal devotion books for girls.  The week of Sept 14th we'll take a look at our favorite devotion resources for parents.  September 21st will bring a week of Favorite Faith-building books for moms.  During the last week of September I have invited several of my friends to share their favorite personal or family devotion resource with The Celebrated Family community.  

I pray this coming month will be an encouragement to you - and you will feel equipped to get started on just the right family, and personal, devotion.  May this Fall be a season of great spiritual growth for you and your family.  

Planning for Spiritual Growth in your Family

A new school year is here.  Soon we’ll be attending Back to School nights where we’ll look to our children’s new teachers and expect to hear a plan of what our child will learn this year.  Can you imagine your child’s teacher admitting she has no plans?

 None. 

You’d ask, “What will your class study?” 

“I don’t know.”

“What books will you read?”

“I haven’t really thought of that?”

“What will our kids learn?”

“I am not really sure, but I’m sure they’ll learn something.”

You would run right?  You’d run directly to the principal and make sure your child was assigned to a different teacher.   With no plans, it’s pretty clear that teacher has planned for no growth. 

Yet if I were to ask you, “What is your family discipleship plan this year?”  Would you have an answer?   Do you know what you want your child to learn?  Do you clearly know what books of the Bible or faith resource you are going to use?

With no plan, we are planning for no growth.

I know it is intimidating to create a spiritual growth plan.  Just saying it makes it sound like something for seminary students.  But it doesn’t have to be complicated.  Through answering the following three questions you can create an effective plan for your family.

1.  When?  When will our family have intentional discipleship time together?

Family discipleship should happen 3-5 times a week for 10-15 minutes.  Many families find tying discipleship to daily routines make it an expected and anticipated time. Our family uses breakfast.  Five days a week during the school year we have a 5-10 minute devotion and prayer time.  Several of the families in my church use bedtime as their time.  Find a time that can work consistently for your family, and put it on your calendar. 

2.  What?  What do I hope my children will learn?

Keep the end goal in mind.  What do you hope your children will learn in the next three months, six months, one year? 

Your answer might look like one of these:

I want the kids to learn more about Jesus.

I want my kids to understand how we should behave and treat each other.

I want my kids to understand the history of God’s people

You may have NO idea what this answer should be.  The incredible thing about the Word of God is that it is ALL good and achieving any of these statements would be great.  (and certainly better than doing nothing.)  Once you have identified your “what,” or your goal, write it down with today’s date. Keep it as a reminder of what your goal is so you can stay on the path you have chosen.  It is a wonderful thing to look back at such goals and see progress.

3.  How?  How will we reach our goal?

So now you have a plan for the when and what.  It might look like this:

Sunday through Thursday we will spend 10 minutes together at bedtime.  Over the course of a year I want my children to learn more about Jesus. 

There is one last question you need to answer.  How are you going to reach your goal?  In other words, what resource are you going to use?  The Bible is the natural answer to this question.  Reading from the Bible daily is a habit every parent should hope to instill in his or her children. But what books of the Bible will you use to reach your goal?  If you want them to learn about Jesus, plan to read the Gospels.  If you want them to learn about how Christians should live and treat each other, plan to read through some of the epistles.  For younger children a picture bible may work well.  Reading a story a night through the Storybook Bible would be a wonderful way to spend a year with preschoolers.  Reading through The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel might be a great resource for teaching teens about apologetics.  Pick a specific resource for your goal. 

Now your plan might look something like this:

Sunday through Thursday we will spend 10 minutes together at Bedtime.  I want my children to learn more about Jesus.  We will read one chapter a night from the Gospels in order starting with the Book of Matthew.

Entering the year with a simple, yet well thought out plan such as this will help your family make sure this year will be a great year of family discipleship.    

Would you like some resource help?  Subscribe to The Celebrated Family and I will send you a free printable family devotion guide for the school year.  Our Salvation and Song will take you through the Gospels and Psalms one chapter at a time. 

 

 

 

 

 

Let them cry.. training your kids to love the Bible

There've been tears shed in my house this summer over the Bible.  Big, dramatic tears that can only be produced by tween girls.  Now before you get any ideas that my girls have been moved to tears by the power of the Word of God, let me clarify, these are not those kind of tears.  Nope. We've had tears of frustration.  This morning quite a few were shed. Why?  For the second year our family is spending the summer doing an inductive Bible-study called The Sword Study.    I love, love, love The Sword Study.  It's a 13-week deep dig into one book of the Bible.  This summer we are studying the book of Ruth.  

So why are the girls crying?  Because this study is hard.  It says it takes 20 minutes a day, but it takes an hour.  You have to ...wait for it.... look up bible passages.  You have to think.  You have to look up words in Greek and Hebrew.  There is so much hardness.  Call me a heartless mom but I am totally fine with the tears.  The girls are learning to study and make time, real time not four minutes, to study God's word and pray.  Amidst a few tears there has been a whole lot of growth.

I often hear from parents that they don't want to force their children to read the Bible. They think it would be best to let their children choose to read the Bible when they want to so that they won't grow to hate it.  They're trying to avoid the tears I've seen this summer but I think they're wrong. 

As parents our job is to teach our children the things they need to know to navigate their world and successfully become independent adults.  We force them to eat veggies because we know it's better for them than Twinkies.  We're rational enough to know that the day's never going to come that they pick broccoli over Twinkies if we never taught them to try the broccoli.  If we never teach them that the broccoli is better for them than the Twinkies how will they know? We understand that to be a sound argument, but we don't apply this same logic to teaching our children about the Bible. 

Ten summers ago there were a LOT of tears in my house.  So many more tears than this summer.  Why?  We were potty training Sarah.  She was not a fan of the potty.  She loved her princess pull-ups.  Even though there were tears, we persevered because we knew Sarah needed this skill.  Pooping in the corner of the living room is just  not okay for a 16 year old to do... so we had to actually teach her to poop on the potty.  When those last princess pull-ups went in the trash we were SO happy we had persevered.  Parents push through the tough days of potty training because they can see the reward coming, why do we not have this same perseverance when it comes to bible training?

I believe training our children to make reading and studying scripture a part of their daily life, is even more valuable than veggie eating, and potty training.  It's the only skill that will connect them with their Creator,  and give them the saving knowledge of Jesus.   From the time children can read, they should be encouraged to read scripture daily either as part of a family devotion, or on their own.  While I joke about the tears we have seen this summer, there's been a lot more blessings than tears.  I wish those same blessings on you and your children.  Here are three tips for training your children to study scripture: 

1. Be the model:  Our children will do what they see us do, much more often than what we just tell them to do.  The first step to helping your children grow to love studying the Word, is to let them see you loving it.  Emily and I often do our study next to each other.  This morning I caught these pictures - nothing like a little monkey-see-monkey-do.  

2. Make a specific plan:  Plan out what you would like your children to do.  Just like any other skill, you need a plan to teach it.  In the coming weeks I will be blogging more on some specific plans.  In the meantime walk into any Christian bookstore and you will find a buffet of devotion books for kids, tweens, and teens.  You can also keep it simple making a plan to read through one book of the bible, one chapter a day.  Just like with teaching our children to eat veggies, we can't just say, "hey eat your veggies,"  we have to make a plan to have them available and then give our children a goal such as, " At dinner you have to try two bites of each veggie."  Give your children the appropriate resources and then give them clear instructions and expectations.

3. Celebrate it!  From potty training to getting a driver's license, we celebrate all our children's  accomplishments, training them to study the Word should be no different.  Catch your kids in the act and praise them.  When they complete a devotion book or bible study acknowledge it as an accomplishment - because it is one! 

Wishing you joy alongside those tears as you train your children to study the Word.  

Why I can't teach my girls to serve the poor

This week our church is having it's annual Big Serve week.  A week dedicated to being intentional about living out our church's value of helping the hurting.  There are projects for families to participate in each day of the week so everyone can find one that fits their gifts and schedule.    

I was excited going into yesterday's service which would kick off the Big Serve week.   I was excited for my girls to hear the message. I think all kids need to hear the passages of scripture that clearly point out that there's more to this life as Christ follower than Jesus Loves Me, and Amazing Grace.   The ones like James 1:27, and Matthew 25: 31-46 that teach us that God actually does want us to be doing something with our time here on earth.  Between the now, and the eternal, there is work for us to do in serving those in need.

 Toward the end of the service we were asked to pull out of our programs the sign up form for the service projects of the week.  We were asked to pick one project to work on.  I sat staring at that little piece of paper.  For as inspiring as the message was, my heart was heavy. You see, if I am honest I have to admit, I don't really want to do the work of serving the poor right now.  There I said it.  It's easier for me to write a check, or fill a shoebox, then to actually do any work to help the least of these living in my own community.  I feel that I am too busy.  I am tired.  Our schedule overwhelms me.  Nursing homes smell.  The food bank makes me nervous.  That's the sad truth. 

I held the sign up sheet thinking it was important for my girls to learn about kingdom service.  I needed to set a good example and teach them about serving the poor. For the girl's sake,  I reached for the pen in the back of the chair in front of me, but it was missing.  Emily already had it.  She was holding her own sign up form and whispering hushed words to her sister.  They plotting and planning, and I held my breathe to see what project they picked for this week.  They circled the food drive, the first choice on the paper, and I quietly breathed a sigh of relief.  I'll fill some bags with food and bring it to church next week. I can do that. 

But Emily kept going.  With her sister's consent, she circled the nursing home bingo night.  They talked some more, and then circled helping at the food pantry on Saturday morning.  Emily passed me the form so I could fill in my email address.  Then she took it back so she could make sure it got deposited in the designated bucket at the back of the church.  

As we sang the last two worship songs together I thought that a family's faith journey isn't as simple as parents teaching their children.  Living out faith together as a family, means everyone is on the journey, and that includes me.  I'm on this journey with Pete and the girls to grow in our faith, and I am freshly reminded that I am not always going to be in the teacher role.  Somedays I need to play the role of student, and go where my girls can so capably lead me.  Their hearts did not factor in that the nursing home will smell, or that Saturday morning is the only morning we could sleep in this week.  Their hearts heard the Word of God, and they responded.  I have nothing to add and nothing to teach them on serving the poor, but they had so much to teach their momma.  While I am see obstacles in our budget and schedule that serve as useful excuses to not help those in need around us, my girls read verses like Matthew 25:35-36

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.

   ...and they just do think they should do that.  So I am following their lead this week.  We left church with not one bag to fill, but 15, because Emily was sure our friends and neighbors would want to fill a bag too so we should get some for them.  I sent an email out to our neighbors last night and so far 9 families have asked us to drop them off a bag today, so I guess she was right.

What faith lessons are your children teaching you these days?  I would love to hear about them.

When God is Quiet

I was talking with a friend this morning and she shared how God has been speaking to her so lately in her devotions. She is excited about all she has been hearing from God.  My end of the line was quiet.  Hmmm.  I wasn't sure how to respond.  I finally admitted, " I am in a quiet season." 

God has been quiet for several months in my life.  There have been no burning bushes and very few devotion times when I felt that I heard from God.  It's a stark contrast to the last year of my life which was a season of God speaking loud and clear. As I look through last year's journal entries I am blown away with how day after day for months on end I was hearing clear direction, encouragement, rebuking, and training - oh so much rebuking and training - from the Lord.  A very loud season has transitioned into a very quiet one, yet in both I know God is present.   

The quiet has a lesson too.  Quiet from the Lord does not mean that He has turned His back to me.  It does not mean His eyes are not on me.  It doesn't mean that He does not have good things for me to learn in this season of my life.  It just means there are different things for me to learn.  My friend Amy told me that a season of quiet can be a season of maturing.  I see that as true.  It's easy to wake up and dive into your morning devotions or Bible study when you enjoy it, or when you are hearing clearly from the Lord.  It's a lot harder to not hit the snooze button when you do not perceive to be getting anything out of your study and prayer time. I hear the Lord quietly asking, "Will you still come talk to me if there is only a quiet wind and not a burning bush?" 

I believe the Lord is teaching me steadfastness in this quiet.  He who has been steadfast for me, desires the same in me.  He who has walked long with me, desires me to walk long with Him.  Steadfastness requires a surrendering of my immature attention span that seeks the perpetually new in exchange for a new mindset  - one set on eternity. Steadfastness requires loyalty for the long haul.  

In Sunday school lessons and bible movies we have a tendency to skip over the steadfastness of God, and of His people.  We flash from the scene of Abraham looking at the stars to Sarah giving birth without dwelling in the years between.  We hop from the parting of the Red Sea to the stopping of the Jordan without pondering the 40 years between.  We love stories of Daniel in the Lion's Den and David killing Goliath because in one night, in one stone, God moves.  We desperately want God to move in one night, or with one little stone, against the lions and Goliaths of our lives.  Sometimes He does.  He has for me.  Sometimes for reasons we will not understand in the moment, the movement we need from God is just not going to take a night.  I need steadfastness to walk out the good path God has for me.  I need steadfastness to take the same love I have for Pete into the next 20 years of our relationship.  I need steadfastness to mother my girls as they enter the prickly and distant teen years.  I need steadfastness to keep writing, and speaking, and leading in ministry when it feels very difficult.  

Perhaps you are in a season when God is quiet.  Perhaps you feel life has been a long season of God being quiet.  I pray steadfastness for you.  Steadfastness to faith that your heavenly Father is with you.  Steadfastness to studying His word to store it up in your heart.  Steadfastness to the tasks He has set for you as a parent, a worker, a child of God.  

I'd love to hear what God is teaching you in this season of your life.  

 

Oh good, the kids are bored

The kids are bored this week, just as I hoped they might be.  Our school year programmed lives transitioned into a different brand of programmed lives called day camps for most of the month of June.  The girls have been up and out of the house most days.  They have had a great time and experienced wonderful things, but their weeks have been planned down to the hour. This week was a planned week of no plans, and the girls are so happy about it.  Pete arranged to work from home for a few days, and I did as well.  The girls have sort of floated through the days. Sarah's true status of emerging teenager got to come through as she slept until 11:00 every day.  Emily's true status of still little girl got space to come out as she spent hour after hour with her American girl dolls and Webkinz, setting up little worlds for them.  In the afternoons the girls got to be each other's companions and friends.  I came home from work one day to find that they had found a forgotten kit for building a remote control car.  They had built it together and drawn a chalk world on our driveway to challenge their driving skills.  They played with the dog,  and laid on the floor and talked.  They have just been sisters.  

I am so happy for them.  What I remember of summer is days where you got to wake up and wonder what you might do today. Days that were long and empty and full of opportunities of your own making.   I believe there are wonderful things to discover about yourself, and your sibling(s), when your parents don't plan out all your days.  My girls have had their scrabbles this week, and they worked it out.  They have felt bored and had to make a plan all their own.  They won't get to do it much this summer - next week they are back to camps and Pete and I will be back on our regular work schedules, but this week they got to be bored, and I'm so very grateful for it.  

The Very Best Worrier of Them All

If there were mom awards like senior class awards I might just win The Very Best Worrier of Them All.  It's true.  I have mad skills in the worry department.  I can come up with stuff to loose sleep over with the best of them.  I can imagine dangers lurking around my kids at the drop of a hat. ... Pete found a copperhead snake in the garage last week, what if the girls had been bitten?  Sarah is at sleep away camp and it is 100 degrees, what if she gets dehydrated (she never drinks water!).  Will Emily make friends at day camp this summer?  Do the girls feel neglected because I work too much?

Worry ...

Worry ...