Giving Your Children the Gift of Reading {And a Giveaway}

My children are typical kids—they do not love to pick up their things or do chores, and it is an area in which I am constantly working to train them. But a curious thing happened recently. They became completely captivated in a way I have never seen, while I read aloud a little story from Eloise Wilkin Stories , called We Help Mommy. It is a sweet story about a brother and sister who cheerfully help their mother with chores around the house. When we were finished reading my kids asked—begged actually—to do some of those same chores in our home. Because of this book, my oldest has developed a newfound enthusiasm for doing laundry! It got me thinking about the gift and power of good books… and this post. :-)

Loving God With Our Minds… Jesus calls us in the gospels to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. One way to encourage our kids to love God with their minds is through reading. Reading engages the mind. As my kids get older I will encourage them to read diverse authors and books because it offers opportunities to exercise critical thinking as we examine a book’s message from a Biblical worldview. Paul modeled this practice more than once— as he quoted the poets of his day and interpreted them to his audience in light of Gospel truth. (This type of critical thinking also equips us to do what 2 Co 10:5 talks about.)

Literature and books cause us to think, they expand our imaginations, they captivate, instruct, mentor, and inspire. They enlarge our understanding of and capacity to reflect Him in whose image we were made. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a love for reading. And when we give this gift to them when they are young, we lay a foundation for reading to become a lifelong habit.

Read the rest and enter the giveaway at Mom Heart.

My Stained Recliner

Whoever invented micro fiber furniture, boasting its stain resistance, obviously didn’t do any thorough research with a family of small children.  Let’s just say, our rocking recliner is now more of a magnet for messes than it is a repellent of them. But to be fair, we’ve probably allowed far too many snacks to be eaten in it, so I digress.  While I often cringe when I think of all I’ve cleaned off of this recliner, including multiple types of bodily excretions, this worn out, stain ridden chair has some lessons for me.

This past week, my youngest came down with a tummy bug.  She’s already a bit on the needy/snuggly side as it is, so when she’s sick, all she wants is to be in our arms.  And when she looks to me with the droopy eyes of fever, asking me to hold her, of course I swoop her up.  I’m happy to report that she’s feeling all better now, but my lower back is still feeling all the holding of the past few days.  And that’s where the stained recliner comes in.  As I was sitting there, rocking my sweet girl, trying to take the edge off her misery with my love, I couldn’t help but look around at all the messes that were not being tidied, going down the mental check list of all the tasks that needed doing that I just couldn’t do.  And then the whisper came, that this chair, this rocking, this girl is the  best task I can be accomplishing in any given day.  Certainly, there is a time and place for cleaning and creating a place of peace for our families, working together on those tasks.  But sometimes the greatest way we can create peace for the souls we love in our homes is to just sit still.  When Autumn was sick, when she needed me to just sit and comfort and stroke her forehead, something I do in snipets all the time, it made me think about how much my kids would love it if I did this more.  And this compulsion to keep working and doing and accomplishing, I’m learning something about my heart in it.  I think, if I’m really honest, I’m often doing those things to impress others, not with the simple motive of blessing my family.  Thoughts riddled with insecurity, equating my worth with the job I’m doing as the cleaner/organizer of our home, creep into my mind throughout the day.  But what if molding and filling hearts is more important than laundry and crumbs and papers in disarray?  What if cleanliness is really not next to Godliness as the saying goes?  I think my times of just sitting with my children, who long for those special times with me, reminds me that seasons are short, and children are little only for awhile.  But how do we really live for an audience of one?  How do we stop, in self-focus, always worrying about what others think of us?

I don’t doubt that we will always struggle with this in a world that likes to keep us busy, that tells us that moving and doing is the only work worth doing.  But we find some great encouragement straight from God in His Word that fights the world’s prescription.  Let us not forget that when we are still, to just be with and focus on the ones we love, we are following the example of our God, who longs for us to crawl up in His lap, to hear His Words, and to just be.  I’ll leave you with these verses that encourage my heart to enjoy moments of Sabbath in my days.

Luke 10:38-42As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”   “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

This passage always reminds me that none of the other work I have on my to do list is as important as sitting at Jesus’s feet.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

This verse reminds me that just as Jesus is my place of rest, I need to be a place of rest for my children, not the busy, frantic, “just a minute” mom that I can be.

Psalm 46:10He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 

This verse reminds me to rest in God’s sovereignty.  Could it be that my stillness bring Him more glory than my busyness?

Matthew 22:36-40  “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

And this passage, one we’ve all heard many times, is a good reminder of God’s priority for our time.  Giving Him the best of ourselves, and giving our best to others (children/family/friends).

None of these passages us tell us to be lazy, but rather to rest with purpose.  There are many scriptures that warn against laziness, working is good, don’t get me wrong.  I think where we often get it wrong is when we see times of rest and being still as a hindrance to what we see as more important, the doing we have idolized.  Rest serves as a recharging for the work God has given us, it’s needed fuel we often neglect.

Meditate with me on these verses today as we ask God how He might be leading us to slow down for the sake of what’s most important.

On Patience and Compassion

“The word compassion comes from (com-passion = compassion, to suffer, to suffer with, to suffer with other persons); that’s where the word patience comes from (patience = patior, “to suffer”). To be patient is to experience the pain of your life. And when you experience it with somebody else, you can be compassionate.”

                        From Henri Nouwen’s Spiritual Formation

In the Bible, patience is sometimes translated as long-suffering, defined as the temper which does not easily succumb under suffering or when provoked.

Patience is a quality of God and a fruit of the Spirit. In the Old Testament, we come to know a God who is very patient—slow to anger (and rightful judgment) because of the compassion and love He has for the people of Israel. Jesus embodied these qualities, as He was willing to suffer with and for all the world—to the point of death on a cross.

As I was recently reflecting on these things, I was struck by the relationship between patience and compassion—they work together and are intertwined. Patience isn’t simply refraining from yelling or waiting with contentment—it is others-focused, relational, an act of compassion. It is a coming alongside.

Will you join me at Mom Heart to read the rest?

DIY Advent Calendar {With Printables}

Follow me over to Mom Heart today— where I’m sharing my instructions and printables for a DIY Advent calendar. There are daily activities and scripture readings (with optional discussion questions) to enjoy with your kids.

 

Thanks Giving

 

Thanksgiving comes early around here.

We celebrate it in October in Canada. It always sneaks up on me. We are usually still in the midst of harvest with combines roaring and the crop coming off, row after row. Grain by the cart-fulls, barreling into the yard to be stored. Back and forth from field to yard, the blessing is not lost on me. Which is why I think it’s so hard when Thanksgiving feels tucked into the fringes of this season.

This year’s fullness of fall activities and harvest proved to be a good distraction—  and once again Thanksgiving was upon us. Although I have been writing thanks for some time now, keeping a record of His gifts, I like to prepare for a season such as this in a tangible, fun way with the kids.

The few days leading up to Thanksgiving were full, preparing for guests and making food for the guys in the field. It occurred to me that we could spin this another way, we could begin our intentional record keeping of gifts starting on Canadian Thanksgiving and ending in a celebration of American Thanksgiving. After all I am technically American!

The trees were still full of fall leaves. We brought in branches, we made our own paper branches, and we cut out leaves from sticky notes and found apple shaped sticky notes.
This would become our tree of Thanksgiving where we could visibly see His gifts given in this short space of time. All of us, collaborating a chorus of praise.

As American Thanksgiving is fast approaching, would you consider how your family might collaborate to intentionally mark your gratitude?

Time speeds along during this season of the year—  maybe one little act could draw your family into His presence as you seek to see His gifts?

So when you come around the Thanksgiving table at the end of the month you will have seen His glory in a new way, experienced His goodness in a new way, given your kids the gift of counting His gifts. You may just decide it’s too great to stop counting!

Happy Thanksgiving from up North.

 

P.S. Ann Voskamp has an awesome free printable that could be the thing your looking for?? We will be doing this next year for sure, so lovely.

Adoption…the begining

A year ago today I met my son through a picture on my computer screen.

The soup was hot, and the girls were trying to get it down before we had to race off to dance. I’m catching up with my sweet mom who is miles away. My hands are dripping with the last of the dirty dishwater, in hopes of coming home to no more work.

The Farmer’s text interrupts loud, “Have you talked to Beth?” My heart beats, I tell mom I will have to call her back.

I haven’t “talked” to Beth in months, feels like years. Beth is our adoption counselor. We know she will be the bearer of good news. News that we have waited years for. News that we thought might never come.

“I am on my way home,” says the Farmer.

Typical words that in this moment bear so much weight.

Could it be that this is the beginning to bring “our” son home?

The phone rings and Beth says, “Open your inbox.”

The Farmer comes. We crowd around the screen. The girls understand what this means, we don’t need words now to explain; there has been enough of that already.

In the adoption world they call it a referral. The paper process of how this works is mystery. Why it has taken 4 years seems ridiculous but something in that moment of seeing his picture for the first time assures me that this is not a random act of paperwork being matched thousands of miles away.

That the Creator of the universe who loves me, us, and my son, has a plan that began before time—  and there is a peace that settles on this moment amidst the joy and uncertainty.

Beth explains his story. Explains what is to come. There will be phone calls to the doctor. Papers to sign and more waiting to bear, but we have a son.

A son we have dared to hope for. Many miles of this journey have been plagued with doubt. When our eyes have focused on the numbers, the paper work, other disappointments. The path can be so bumpy when we forget whose we are— whose plans are always greater than ours.

I am grateful that we have to go to dance, grateful to share the news and his sweet face with people who care and have waited with us.

These moments are not lost on the girls. They talk about their brother. It almost feels like the moment you introduce a new baby to the family in the hospital room.

He is ours, and we are his, and time stands still while nothing will ever be the same for our family. The girls’ joy is grace.

I am humbled by this road, which has produced doubt from weariness and fear. Humbled that He did have a plan that I couldn’t see or imagine. Disappointed by my lack of faith.

It’s amazing how faith can grow when a little light is shed on the path in front of you, and your clenched fists begin to unfurl to all that still lay ahead. To finally know who our son would be was all that we needed to plunge into that scary place of submission and trust and love, oh what a sweet place that is. To relinquish control and know that God holds all of our heart’s desires close to His heart is pure freedom and joy. This story, this plan, it was never going to be up to us.

I can’t stop looking at his sweet face. Wondering how long it will be until I can hold him. The weight of that journey we still have yet to forge is upon me but there is new faith and hope. Love begins to grow as I give myself permission to love this boy of mine without a shadow of a doubt of God’s hand orchestrating all things to work together for His glory and our good.
This boy, my boy’s picture will become flesh and we will be blessed by him and his birth family, but in this moment it feels like we are standing in the vestibule, closing one door while opening another. I fall asleep with a smile, so grateful that the door has been unlocked.

 

Tabletop Devotions

This is a fun and easy way to do devotions as a family. It is a combination of this post on Fruit of the Spirit Trees and something I heard from Deb Weakly (a Mom Heart Leader)—  while attending Sally Clarkson’s Mom Heart Leadership Intensive a couple of summers ago. Deb shared with us her idea to put devotions or verses in a jar on the table. When you are sitting down as a family for a meal you can pull one out and discuss it. This is a great way to get dads involved and if you do the prep — the dads can easily step in to facilitate. I know my husband appreciates when I prepare such things— he wants to do devotions with our kids but works hard and doesn’t have the time that I do to plan them.

So, to get it all ready— I stuck some branches in a vase— to be our “tree”. Then I made little paper fruits and tied strings onto them so that they could be hung on the tree.  I printed and cut out a list of verses related to the fruits of the Spirit and put them in a jar. The tree and jar of verses were placed on our table.

Each night at dinner the kids would pull a verse out of the jar. We would discuss what it means and how that fruit plays out in our lives. My kids are little, so after describing one of the traits— like kindness, we would ask them questions like, “so when you grab a toy out of your sister’s hand, is that being kind? What would be a kind way to ask for the toy? How about when you help your sister get her shoes on, is that being kind?” We gave them both negative and positive examples. You can change the scenarios to fit the ages of your kids. We always talk about how we can’t make these good choices without God’s help because we all have sin in our hearts, that He forgives us when we do make mistakes, and that he wants to help us do better next time… so that we are teaching them the gospel instead of moralistic legalism.

In the days following, when I saw the kids exhibit any of the fruits of the Spirit, I let them hang a fruit on the tree. They loved it and it was a great way to train them in what is good. (I’ve found that training works best when you don’t wait until the middle of a meltdown to discuss whether something is right or wrong! It needs to be a part of our normal conversation throughout each day!)

Since we’ve finished our fruit of the Spirit devotions, we are now using Clay Clarkson’s devotional for families— Our 24 Family Ways. I photo-copied the “ways” (these are like household rules or norms— such as: we love, encourage, forgive, and serve one another) with their related verses and stuck them in the jar and we will be discussing these at dinnertime for a while.

What are some ways that you do family devotions? I would love to hear!

When Hovering Over Your Children Is a Good Thing

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” {Genesis 1:1-2}

Hovering… the Hebrew word—rachaph, means to move gently, cherish, brood (warm, protect, cover); it is a word that denotes love.

The Hebrew phrase for formless, empty void could be translated as a desolate, desert waste.

Most of us have read the creation account—in which God spoke and it was so. Yet, here in Genesis 1:2 we are shown how a desolate desert waste was transformed into the beautiful masterpiece of creation that God made: it was quite the labor of love. It happened through the hovering—that is— through loving, cherishing, moving gently, and warming. It was cultivated and that cultivation produced a masterpiece. He is God and He could have chosen to only speak this transformation into existence, yet He felt it necessary to rachaph over the empty void… maybe to show us the way?

 We mothers have been given little lives to steward and mold.  We have been given a great responsibility to carry out His work— by allowing His Spirit to work through us as we gently cherish, love, cultivate and provide protection and warmth for our children—His creation.

I want to rachaph over my children so that their souls would grow to become the beautiful masterpieces that God created them to be. Before I knew Christ I was desolate, empty and void, and I do not ever {at all!} want that for them.

The scriptures teach us that all are born into sin—and I fail many times as a mother yet my desire is to be an imitator of God—to be as Christ to them—to rachaph over them just as He has over me. At times I do lose my patience; I am not always gentle or loving, yet I have in me His Spirit who gently, lovingly shows me the way and enables me to follow it.

 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:26-27

As we fail forward in mothering our children, let us remember to invite, acknowledge, and spend time with the Spirit—that we may be enabled to do His work—the rachaph work, over our children, so that their souls are not left unattended, empty and void.

I’m not saying we should try to be or take the place of the Holy Spirit to our children and I’m not saying we need to watch over their every move, ready to correct every last thing they do. On the contrary.  As we offer them love and grace— as we imitate Him, we point them to who God is. We need the Spirit’s help, and He wants to teach us His ways— to help us respond gently instead of harshly, to cherish them instead of treating them as if they are an inconvenience, to create a home atmosphere of warmth, acceptance, and protection instead of one of yelling, shame or fear, to cover over their sin and immaturity instead of exposing them or making them feel belittled for their mistakes, to move gently instead of always hurrying and rushing about, to be intentional instead of negligent… to point them to God instead of leaving them empty.

 

The “Main Things”

Today at my church’s mom’s group, we had one of our pastors give us a pep talk and boy let me tell you, God had the message on an arrow straight to my heart!  His theme was, focusing on the main things.  As a mother of young ones, sometimes I feel like I’m always a day late and a dollar short in the cleaning, meal preparing, busy work tasks of making a home.  I have been feeling really defeated lately, frustrated at why can’t I get it all done, just sort of grumpy about it all most of the time.  But God had encouragement for me in Pastor C’s message today and it was this, “by whose standards are you living? By what expectations are you measuring your “success” as a homemaker?”  My pastor reminded us that God clearly lays out some priorities for us in scripture and here are the top two: Loving Him, Loving others as ourselves (Husband first, then children, then the family of God, then those who are lost).  Nowhere in this list do we find “Martha Stewart house pristinely clean at all times” or “perfectly fit body outfitted in the latest clothes and hairstyle”.  Those priorities come from our culture, not from Him.  And yet it hit me this morning as I was listening to the message, these are things that most often have me feeling inadequate and defeated.  I tell my children, “just a minute” about 100 times a day as I scurry around to clean a house that never gets fully clean.  It’s like shoveling snow while it’s still snowing!  Pastor C assured us that this doesn’t mean we neglect the tasks of cleaning and taking care of ourselves, what it means is that we don’t push the more important things aside to accomplish them.  He also encouraged us in the way we greet our husbands when they come home.  He asked us if we barrage our men with complaints about how hard the day was and all we didn’t get done and need help with or if we focus on loving and welcoming him home first and simply asking for help instead of playing the poor me card to earn his sympathy.  Ouch!  Boy do I do this more than I’d like to admit.  As I was thinking about it today, it’s like I feel the need to paint a sad story of my day in order to excuse the fact that I didn’t get everything done according to MY list.  When really, Travis knows what I’m facing, he knows that we are in a weary season of our lives and that I can’t be super woman.  But I think what it is is that I WANT to be, so badly!  My own desire to be perfect at everything puts me in a grouchy, complaining, defeated mood and it’s just sin, plain and simple.  When I am focusing on the “main” things, as pastor C put it, those other things will be seen with the right perspective.

Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

My children won’t remember how clean the house was or wasn’t, but they will remember the time I spend with them, doing things together, laughing, enjoying them, reading the Word together and praying.  But if I’m not careful they will also remember a mama who’s constantly stressing about all she has to accomplish and how she made them feel like they were always in the way of those accomplishments.  So what’s the balance?  Well, here’s a list of what I think homemaking is and isn’t.  I don’t claim to have it all figured out, but these are what ring true at the moment:

  1. Homemaking IS creating a place of refuge and peace for our families, which I think includes a certain level of cleanliness and organization.  Homemaking IS NOT, a perfectly clean and organized home at all times at the expense of lost quality time with the very family we are trying to create a refuge for.
  2. Homemaking IS living by right priorities with our time and energy, which can mean limiting or eliminating those things that threaten to take the tops spots.  Homemaking IS NOT holding ourselves to impossible standards or comparing ourselves to other moms who are gifted differently.
  3. Homemaking IS filling up our tanks with time with Jesus and His Word, praying throughout the day for His strength and perspective which will overflow into our families.  Homemaking IS NOT trying to do it on our own strength.  Our standards and priorities never work like His do and we can do nothing well on an empty tank.
  4. Homemaking IS preparing healthy, tasty food for our families.  Homemaking IS NOT nightly gourmet meals.  Gourmet chefery never makes an appearance on God’s priority list, only on the food network’s.
  5. Homemaking IS refueling ourselves with retreats of rest and joyful activities (the most important being time with the Lord).  Homemaking IS NOT feeling entitled to selfish pursuits or allowing ourselves to be completely derailed by laziness and selfish hobbies.
  6.  Homemaking IS having a plan.  Homemaking IS NOT feeling completely defeated when daily life doesn’t go according to it.  God’s plans are always better than ours, even when they make us feel uncomfortable.
  7. Homemaking IS including the whole family in cleaning and the work that needs to be done, expecting that perfection will not happen, but pride in contributing will.  Homemaking IS NOT feeling like you have to do it all without asking for help.  Everyone can do something , don’t play the poor martyr by doing it all.
  8. Homemaking IS practicing hospitality.  Homemaking IS NOT needing a clean home before you do it.  Be a Mary and not a Martha as the saying goes.

What is God teaching you about focusing on the “main things”?  What things would you add to this list?  Sisters, we need each other!  Not the perfect façade we may want others to see, but the real us that knows fancy words and appearances will never get us to the good stuff of true sisterhood.

Sending Them Out – Back to School

A lot of thought and prayer and seeking the Word went into our decision to send our children out of our home to school.  I know that most of you who read this blog made similarly agonized over decisions about how to academically educate your children, some landing on homeschool, others on different types of school outside the home.  Before I say another word, I think it’s important to remind us all that pride has no place as we talk about these personal decisions of Christian freedom.  I hope that we can keep an atmosphere of love, humility, and bodily unity on this blog.  I’m sure that what we can agree on is God’s call to us as parents to model and teach Biblical truth and the power of the Gospel to our children whenever we are with them.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9- “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Each year, when the air gets cooler and a fresh start to a school year is upon us, when the smell of new school supplies intoxicates me (yes, I love that smell!), my heart goes back to the callings and promises of God when it comes to my precious children.  It’s at this time of year that we get ready to send them out each day, which means a huge part of my heart is not in my physical presence each day, a small taste of the launching that will eventually take place when they’re older.  As we’re mapping out the year and making fresh goals for our family, I’m tempted to fear, tempted to doubt God’s ability to give me the wisdom and insight to do this well… but as I pray, the assurance comes, that these are not MY children, they are HIS.  His love for them is far more than I could ever give, His care of them far more complete than any sheltering tactics I could employ.  He has called me to love them, to care for them, to lead them, to teach them, to train them, to steward them well, but ultimately He has called me to trust Him with them.

Proverbs 22:6- “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

I hold to this promise and hold to the promise that God has plans for each of my children according to His sovereign will.  It is my job to be an overflowing cup of HIS love, HIS grace, HIS presence, HIS word, to be craving after Him for the filling up that only He can do so that I can be used by Him and for Him in the lives of my children.  I am so thankful for the blood of Jesus, that His power is made perfect in my weakness, that it is not up to me to attain perfection in my parenting by trying hard enough, but rather to lay flat on my face before a perfect God, begging Him for wisdom, begging Him to do His work in my children through me and through whatever means necessary to give Him the most glory.

Philippians 4:6-9- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

This Philippians passage is not only a huge encouragement to my own heart, but a passage I read to my kids often, truths I want them to hide in their hearts for the times they’re not with me.  Because the One who is always with them, even when I am not, He is the one I want them to turn to, I want them to know what a personal walk with God looks like, a relationship that is their own.  And hiding these truths of God’s Word in their hearts, I think this is one of the best ways we can send them out prepared to face a world full of lies, because it is God’s Word that has power, not our “superior” parenting.  It is the Holy Spirit who convicts and inspires right choices, not our constant lecturing.  Here are some verses we’re going to hide in our hearts this year:

Romans 12:9-21- “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Proverbs 4:23- Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Colossians 3:23-24- “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17- “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

James 1:19-27- “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

James 5:16- “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

Philippians 4:11-13- “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Psalm 18:2- “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4- “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Isaiah 41:10- “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

I know God’s Word is full of beautiful truths to hide in our hearts, so please share some of your favorite scripture memory verses for kids with the rest of us.  I think one of the most important ways we can prepare our kids to be sent out is to teach them the very reason we are to go out into the world at all.  We are called to let our lights shine in a world full of darkness, and that call is not just for grown-ups, it is a call to every child of God, every person saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ into the family of God.  In fact, this is one of the foundational scriptures that God used to lead us to our decision to send our children to school.

Matthew 5:13-16- “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

And so we pray for our children, every single day, all throughout the day, that God will protect and lead and comfort and strengthen them, and that most importantly He will use them.  We pray that His light, shining through them, shining through our family, will permeate the classrooms and halls, the hearts of lost children and families, that He might use our family in the mission field of our school, to demonstrate God’s love and mercy and power to give new life.  And when I let this charge ring true in my heart, all fear melts away.  And I take a deep breath and smile as I face this new year.  And this prayer that Paul prays for the Ephesians gives me new courage:

Ephesians 4:14-21- For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Practical Ideas:

- Love notes and scriptures written on their lunch napkins

- Verses on pretty note cards to tape inside their desks

- Praise songs in the car to get hearts in the right place as we start the day

- On the way home, when they’re sharing about their days, take the time to pray for situations and people that come up.

- Surprise them by having lunch with them some days

- Organize some play get togethers with other families in the kid’s classes

- Arrange to trade off childcare of your younger children with another family in the school so you can volunteer in your child’s class regularly

- Have regular date nights with each of your kids so you can get that precious one on one time

- Set regular times each day to pray specifically for each of your children

- Make a special after school snack and spend time sharing it with them while you have a good chat

- Don’t fill their after school schedule up too full, less is more even though our busy culture would tell us otherwise.

Please share your ideas too!

m4s0n501