Friday, April 28, 2017

Book of the Week [Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers]

I do not typically recommend love stories. When I wrote a top ten recommending romances, I struggled coming up with 10 worth recommending, but this one made my all-time favorites list (and there are only 7 on that list). I've read many, many excellent books, but there aren't many that challenge my thinking, affect me emotionally, teach me, and entertain all at once. This book is all that and more!

Every woman needs to read this book!
There are not many books I take the time to read more than once. The is one such book. The second time through was even better than the first time. The first time I read it quickly in an effort to find out what was going to happen next; I can hardly stand not knowing how the story will end and this one definitely has a one of a kind ending worth talking about! It is, by far, my favorite part of the book. Without giving too much away, I will just say that it a beautiful picture for believers as we stand unashamed before Christ because of His incredible, never-ending, abounding love for His own.

Read my review here and then read it for yourself.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Book of the Week [If You Plant a Seed]

This book has very few words, but if you pay attention to the message behind it, it will impact your thinking while also being simple and clear enough to discuss it with your young reader. It very clearly reveals what happens if you plant a seed of kindness or if you plant a seed of selfishness. Whatever you plant is whatever fruit you'll receive.

It's a perfect one for this spring season when seeds begin to sprout! There's so much to talk about!

Such great illustrations go along with the phenomenal message behind it - making it doubly worth a look.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Toys For Any Playroom at Any Age]

I made the mistake of watching a couple of minimalist videos. Ever since I've been purging like crazy; all because of this one statement made by a mom during an interview, "I realized I was spending more time picking up the toys rather than spending time with my children!" That's my life. The less I have to pick up, the less grumpy I am about the mess (and the sloth-like mode my children pick up), the more time I have to spend with them, the happier we all are. Win, win.

As I was purging I was picking toys that met the following criteria:

  • Inspire imagination and creativity.
  • Support learning Biblical principles, letters, numbers, shapes, colors, etc.
  • Encourage unity, communication, problem solving, and working/playing together.

I came up with ten toys that children of all ages could enjoy, changing of course as they grow, but the overall idea stays the same:
  1. Books. If a child has a love for stories - fiction and nonfiction - you will foster learning, imagination, and learning. Haha, I could be a minimalist in all areas of my life except for two: books and dresses. 
  2. Puzzles. Develops fine motor skills, problem solving, and spatial skills. Bean loves doing them with me therefore it fosters working together. Plus it's an all around full-brain-workout! 
  3. Artistry stuff (coloring books, crayons, markers, chalkboard, etc.) I still enjoy coloring! This is often one of the first activities my children choose to do together.
  4. Dress up stuff. No matter who comes over to play this is one of the first places in our playroom that is destroyed. Each child, boy or girl, loves to dress up and pretend to be something. Pirates. Princesses. Super hero. Biblical character. Doctor. The options are limitless for any age and any child - no matter their interest! 
  5. Musical instruments. This was an area I realized was lacking in our playroom. We are always singing and music is always on in the background, but the ability to create their own music was missing. 
  6. Age appropriate games. We have match the cards, Chutes and Ladders, Go Fish, etc. all of which support learning, problem solving, working/playing together, etc.
  7. Legos. This is something Kyle and I really do enjoy playing with the girls. Building is therapeutic and beneficial in so many ways! This is a family activity in our home! And one that can easily be added to with each birthday and Christmas season.
  8. Balls. What kid does not enjoy playing catch? Or basketball? Or kicking around a soccer ball? Exercise. Working together. Not to mention the developmental benefits of kicking, throwing, catching, or shooting a ball...
  9. Playdoh or clay. I'll be honest. I hate this stuff, because it gets to be so incredibly messy. BUT it is one activity that meets all of my criteria and I have yet to meet a kid who does not enjoy creating and building with playdoh or clay. It's worth the mess that takes 5 minutes to clean up if it means my kids are happy, learning, and playing together. I have to get over my selfish self for this one...
  10. Play kitchen. Seriously. I remember one of my favorite activities as an older child (8-10ish) was playing restaurant with one of my friends. He was the chef and I was the waitress. It's one of my favorite memories! It's an activity my toddler enjoys as she makes food for her babies and my four year old nephew enjoys making a plate of food for his Poppy to enjoy. Boy or girl, children of all ages, understand the joy found in food.
Not everything in this list will fit every child or family, but I do hope it inspires you as you create a room for memory making, growth, encouragement, fun, laughter, imagination and creativity!

Monday, April 17, 2017

The #1 Thing I Want My Children to Know

While watching an interview of an athlete who credited his success in life to his mother because she taught him from the time he could remember how to shoot a basketball, I began seriously thinking about what it was that I wanted to teach my girls from infancy. And I realized that nothing else in this life mattered more than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing! Nothing of this world will satisfy, or save, or have eternal value, like the work Jesus accomplished on the cross, was buried and rose again! Suddenly my purpose in life narrowed significantly because the only thing that mattered to me was their knowledge of Him and His saving grace.

Their soul depends on it.

There is nothing more important than focusing on the gospel of Jesus Christ. That He lived, died, and rose again. According to the Bible, there is no other way to God but through faith in Him. I want my girls to know faith alone in Christ alone by His grace alone found in Scripture alone, so their one ambition in life is eternally focused: to glorify God all the days of their life. 

I want my children to know that,
The only way, the only life, the only hope, the only foundation upon which we stand, the only mediator is Jesus Christ. The only hope we have of salvation is through the work of Christ when He died on the cross, taking the wrath of God for our sins, was buried and rose again. 
"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6
He isn't A way. He is THE way. And the Bible states, very clearly, that if we believe:
"Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." 1 Corinthians 15:3-5
then we will be saved,
"if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved." Romans 10:9-10
I want my children to know that,
They are justified, or declared righteous, by faith alone in Christ alone. 
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved -  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:4-10
I want my children to know that,
They are saved by God's grace alone. If God did the work to save them, then He will keep them. They do not need to live in fear of losing their salvation if they screw up. Does that mean they should continue in sin (chapter 6 in Romans) "by no means!" In fact, if they are truly Christians they should detest sin, and because of God's grace, desire a Christ-like life of service to Him and to others. 

Truly understanding that salvation is a gift given freely by God, even when we were dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:5), and even "while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8), gives us freedom to live for HIM, 
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Romans 5:1-2
I want them to know that believers are standing, STANDING, in God's grace. And because we are forever standing in His grace, as a result of faith alone in Christ alone, then we have no fear (are at PEACE with God because Jesus took all His wrath for our sin on our behalf), and can REJOICE in God because we have HOPE. 

I want my children to know that,
The only infallible and sufficient source of truth in this world is through Scripture alone. Where do they find hope? Encouragement? The TRUTH? The Bible.
"Every word of God proves true." Proverbs 30:5
"For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." Romans 15:4
Have hope in what? The gospel of Jesus Christ. THAT is the #1 thing I want them to know. I want them to know the Jesus Christ of the Bible. 

I want my children to know that,
Because of the work Jesus Christ accomplished on they cross, they have reason to rejoice all the days of their life. Glorify His Name and His Word. This should be a Christian's chief goal in life!

If they live with this truth, the truth that Jesus died on the cross was buried and rose again, they will die well. And we will all die, so the #1 thing I want my girls to know is Jesus Christ. That He came to this earth, delivered by a virgin, performed so many miracles that John declared the world itself could not contain the books had they all been written down (John 21: 25), He claimed Himself to be God, lived perfectly, was beaten to the point He was unrecognizable as a human being, died on a cross, endured the wrath of God for our sin, was buried in a tomb, and then defeated death by rising again. And that He promised that He will come back, bringing His own home to heaven with Him for all eternity.

If they believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, they will be saved. THAT is what I want my girls to know, with all certainty. Nothing else saves, therefore, everything else is as trivial as this one truth.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Book of the Week [Only God Can Make a Kitten]

This is one of those children's books that will forever be on my shelf. It is one of our all-time favorite children's books. It begins with Genesis 1:31, continues with adorable rhyme dialogue between a mother and her son and ends with poetry.

This little boy in the book is curious about the world he explores with his mom and asks lots of questions beginning with, "Mama, look!" But it's the mother's response that amazes me...

"Mama, look!"
A tiny sprout!
Who made this sprig of spring pop out?

He who knows our every need. 
Only God can make a seed."

My favorite is the poem at the end when mom explains the world around him,
"God shapes the birds, the plums, and trees. 
He makes the rain and salty seas. 
Ancient stones he molds just right. 
And distant stars that shine so bright. 
God makes seeds to grow and grow. 
He paints the flowers, blows winter's snow. 
God fashions fish. 
Kittens too. 
Yes, God makes wondrous things it's true. 
But best of all, God made YOU!"

It's a wonderful book that I highly recommend adding to your forever library. It teaches. It's thought provoking. The illustrations are wonderful. The theology is biblically sound. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Ways to Celebrate Easter with your Kids]

After a conversation with my sister about how Easter needs to be as big or bigger than Christmas, my husband and I decided we needed make Easter a BIG holiday in our home. After all, it's the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ that defines us as Christians! The gospel needs to be our central focus It just makes sense that the time we celebrate Christ's resurrection should be a HUGE celebration. Through Christ alone we have life, why not make the day as big and special as Christmas itself?

Here's ten ideas on how to do that:

1. Easter Countdown. Like an advent calendar, do something that gets your kids excited about the upcoming day, while focusing their minds on Jesus. This year we did 20 Easter eggs. Inside each egg was something that gave a clue to one of the names of Jesus. (Examples: Lindt's lamb chocolates to introduce Jesus as the Lamb. Miniature books to discuss Him as the Author.) We had 20 names and verses we learned, and my understanding of Jesus grew ten-fold, I can only hope and pray the same for our girls. 

2. Easter Coloring Book. There are endless ideas floating around out there. I just googled events in the Easter story (i.e. Palm Sunday coloring page, Jesus on the cross coloring page, empty tomb coloring page, my favorite: Jesus on the throne) and then created a chronological coloring book to color and discuss together.

3. Come Celebrate Easter Sticker and Activity Book that coincides with The Beginner's Bible my Briella Bean owns. It is definitely for younger children, but it goes through each event and has the kids do an activity. Some of the activities are not as good as some, but my girls thoroughly enjoyed doing a page a day.

4. Make Easter themed snacks! There are lots and lots of ideas out there, like the empty tomb rolls or this one: 
From: Today's Kids Ministry
5. Eat Jelly Beans alongside the Jelly Bean poem (downloaded here):
Red is for the blood He gave.
Green is for the grass He made.
Yellow is for the sun so bright.
Orange is for the edge of night.
Black is for the sins we made.
White is for the grace He gave.
Purple is for His hour of sorrow.
Pink is for a new tomorrow.

6. Like Christmas, decorate your home. There's lots and lots of wonderful ideas for this season. One of my favorites that we did together was an empty tomb garden. The girls LOVED doing this together and it made a wonderful addition to our decor.

7. Like Christmas, wake up to gifts! We are filling their egg hunting bucket with goodies. Some ideas for little girls that I hope gets your brain rolling for kids of all ages, boy or girl:
8. Crafting. Do you know how many Christ centered crafts are out there. I had so much to choose from it was overwhelming! Like a cross centered stained glass window we did when we talked about Jesus being the light. Or the plethora of ideas for a lamb and lion when we talked about how Jesus is the Lion and the Lamb. etc. etc. 

9. Read Paul E. Maier's The Very First Easter that offers thought provoking details to the events leading up to Jesus' death on the cross and His resurrection. Or Rhonda Gowler Greene's One Lost Sheep where children learn that God, like a faithful shepherd, will never let them stray. 

10. Read the Bible story together beginning when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey leading up to His resurrection, each day talking about a specific section.

Go to my Pinterest board titled, Spring is in the air! to see more ideas for Easter fun, so you don't forget IT IS FINISHED! HE IS RISEN! And those two facts are worth celebrating!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tuesdays Top Ten [Things In My Existence That Give Me an Eternal Perspective]

I feel like things are finally back to "normal" after the crazy month of March. When craziness happens there are only 4 things I focus on: God, Husband, Children, Discipleship (in that order). Since "blogging" doesn't fit into that list, it takes a back burner when I don't have time. So if you don't see a post, I'm busy. Crazy busy. These last few weeks I've barely had time to sweep my floor, much less read my Bible. Honestly, I hate that kind of crazy, so you have no idea how good it feels to have the time to write this! And today's particular topic has been on my mind a lot lately, because crazy busy schedules made the list (see #9).

The top ten things I encounter that help me look forward to an eternity of perfection with Jesus because of my faith in his death on the cross, burial, and resurrection:

1. Seasonal Allergies. Oh man the stuffy nose is one thing, but when you add itchy eyes, nose, tongue and ears, I would be extra celebratory if Jesus came back when ragweed pollen was good and strong.

2. Spiders. I'm not saying there won't be spiders in heaven, I'm just saying that the fear of them will be gone. They seriously give me the hebejebees.

3. Stomach bug, especially when it makes the rounds in my family. Being sick is one thing, but when you're sick and you have to take care of your sick children, it's ten times more miserable.

Speaking of children...

4. Whiny, weepy, disobedient children. Disobedient is one thing, but when they constantly whine and cry over the most insignificant things - I think I despise that more than disobedience. It grates on every last nerve. It's in these moments I think, "Lord, if you came back now that would be fantastic."

5. Dramatic Facebook posts and the horrible comments I see with it. That is the #1 reason why I "un-follow" people. We lack filters, kindness, respect, and self-control. It is completely evident when I scroll through my Facebook feed, which makes me disgusted. I have not been perfect with self-control and kindness myself, so it's something I'm constantly working on. I definitely do not want to be the source of someones irritation. And I am deeply sorry if my words did not reflect or glorify the almighty God I serve.

6. Horrible Events in the news and the equally as horrible comments I see with it. This is related to #5 with people lacking filters, kindness, respect and self-control. When something happens and I want to read about it, I have to steer clear from people's comments. Too many people ignore the facts, immediately react to their emotions, and say something really, really, really stupid and heartless. Whenever I find myself reading the comment section, I also find myself praying, "Jesus, I can't stand it anymore here! I just want to be with you!" 

7. Political seasons. Talk about heartless, and people lacking in kindness, self-control and respect! Politicians are absolutely horrible in how they treat one another. I hear more about the person they are competing against than I do about their own stance on a particular issue. I do not care about what the politician thinks of so-and-so, but I do care about what they believe about the constitution and their job to uphold it. When I see another one of those berating commercials I pray, "Jesus! Every knee will bow to YOU as our King! Just come back now!"

8. Back pain. God has promised that if we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior that we will spend a painless, tearless eternity with Him. Whenever my back injury from 11 years ago rears it's ugly head, I cannot wait for the day I meet Jesus face to face.
9. Crazy busy schedules. When life gets so busy I feel like I haven't had the time to truly enjoy time in God's Word, or take the time to love on my husband and my girls, I cannot wait for the eternity with Jesus praising His Name forever and ever and ever. Time will never be an issue and when people ask "How are you?" I'll never have to say again, "Crazy busy."

10. Voice Of the Martyrs. I recommend all Christians to subscribe to this free magazine. The stories in it will inspire you in your faith. VOM supports persecuted Christian's all over the world and when I read their stories, I beg Christ to come back and relieve these individuals suffering for HIS NAME SAKE. Reading their stories make this particular list of mine so insignificant. They have many more reasons to pray for Christ's return and ache for eternity with Him. I admire their steadfastness, their undying faith, their willingness to spread the gospel no matter the cost. If they can endure, then I can too. How much more do I have to be thankful for in this blessed life I live? While I'm thanking Him, I'll also continue to look upwards, when my faith becomes sight and I finally meet Jesus face to face.