Thursday, December 1, 2016

5 Christmas Bible Verses to Teach Your Kids

I don't remember why I memorized Luke 2:1-20 as a child.  It may have been for a church Christmas play or a school program, but I committed that passage to memory many years ago.  I can still recall most of it today - if you're not grading me on it! :)  It's also the Scripture we read together as a family each Christmas Eve before our kids go to bed.

If your children are very young, however, that's a lot of verses to learn!  I pulled together a list of five short verses that you can use to introduce them to the whole Christmas story.

1.  "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." ~Isaiah 7:14b  Talk to your children about God's promise way back in the Old Testament that He would send His Son to save us from our sins.

2.  "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us..." ~John 1:14a  I like to use this verse to teach that Jesus was God, made in the likeness of man, who left Heaven's glories to come down and live with the people that He had created.

3.  "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." ~Matthew 1:21  Introduce the characters in the Christmas story.  God chose Mary to be the mother of the Messiah, and Joseph to be His earthly father.  I marvel at the faith these two had!

4.  "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." ~Luke 2:11  The heart of the Christmas story is here as angels announce to shepherds on a hillside that the Savior has been born.  That good news has been shared countless times in the thousands of years since then!

5.  "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him..." ~Matthew 2:11a  Here we have the addition of the wise men to the Christmas story.  These men traveled a long distance just to worship the one whose star they had seen back in their homeland.

Have you ever memorized part of the Christmas story from Luke 2?  As a mom, I especially love verse 19, which tells us that Mary pondered in her heart all that had happened around the birth of Jesus.  I think it will be neat to hear her relate the story when we get to heaven!

Related posts:
10 Bible Verses for Little Ones
10 Ways to Help Your Child Memorize Scripture
5 Simple Easter Bible Verses for Your Children

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Monday, November 28, 2016

7 Steps to Becoming a Wise Woman: Guard Your Heart

The walls in my younger daughter's bedroom are kind of bare.  We (aka my husband) painted them several months ago, but she's being very thoughtful about what she puts up to decorate the space.  On Friday, she asked to search online for some wall art with quotes that she could hang on her walls - a little daily inspiration, if you will.

We shop for about everything else on Amazon, so I let her start there.  Then we headed over to Etsy.  I helped her start the search, and couldn't believe that the first row of wall art quotes that showed up had one with filthy language on it.  I'd thought it would be a relatively safe search for us to do together, but obviously I was wrong.  I know that stuff is out there, but I just didn't expect it in that arena.

In the same way, sin can slip into my life unexpectedly.  From the magazines I read to the television shows I watch to the music I play to the conversations I have with friends, I have to guard my heart from the evil that is present in our world.  If I'm desiring to be a wise woman, I'll want to pursue and surround myself with what is uplifting, encouraging, and pleasing to God.

Proverbs 4:23 says, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."  My attitudes and actions will be determined by what I allow to infiltrate my thought life.  My desires are born out of what I dwell on, along with the ideas and principles that I embrace.

If God's Word tells me to be diligent about guarding my heart, I can know that it must be constantly under attack.  So what can I do to guard my heart?

1.  Pray for discernment. Part of being wise is realizing what I don't know. God, through His Word and through the Holy Spirit, can give me discernment regarding areas in which I need to guard my heart.  Hebrews 5:14 talks about how a mature Christian has his/her senses exercised to discern both good and evil. As I pray for God's help, He can show me an activity or a thought process that I need to remove from - or add to - my life.

2.  Evaluate what influences I allow in my life.  If I'm going to guard my heart, I need to be aware of ways in which I'm being influenced. Just a few verses after we're admonished to guard our heart, we're told to "ponder the path of thy feet." [Proverbs 4:26] Is there a place I go that causes me to do things I shouldn't? Do I notice that when I'm with a certain friend, I tend to gossip or fall into a critical spirit? Is a movie I watch promoting a lifestyle that's opposed to what I know from the Bible? Look at the positive side, too.  Hopefully, the music I'm listening to promotes praising and worshiping God. It's good to consistently have a devotional time to focus my thoughts on learning more about Christ.

3.  Use God's Word to set personal boundaries.  Once I've evaluated the influences, I need to carefully determine what I can do (or not do) to keep wrong influences away from my heart.  Your heart includes your mind and your thoughts.  Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he..."  For example, Philippians 4:8 tells me exactly what type of thoughts I should have - those that are honest, pure, praise-worthy, etc.  Therefore, when my thoughts don't line up with those guidelines, I need to pray and ask God's help to overcome my sinful thoughts.  Finding principles in Scripture that I can use as a litmus test for my thoughts and actions will help me to guard my heart.

4.  Lean on the Holy Spirit for support.  I seem to get worked up about things more in this season of life than I ever have before - and it's often about trivial stuff. In those moments, it's not the fruit of the Spirit that I'm exhibiting!  Love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self control - if those were present in my life at all times, my heat would be in good shape!! Ask the Holy Spirit to allow His fruit to be present in your life, then refuse to let yourself get carried away by your emotions.

This fourth in our 7 Steps to Becoming a Wise Woman takes action on our part!  This week, let's be vigilant about protecting our hearts and make sure we surround ourselves with positive influences that will keep our minds focused on growing in wisdom. (And if you know of a good source for wall art quotes, let me know 'cause we're still in the market!)

Related posts:
Called to Holiness
How's Your Thought Life?
5 Ways That Daily Quiet Time with God Changes Me

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving Week Video and a Favorite Praise Passage

It's Thanksgiving week!


I shot a quick video just to wish you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving!

{If you're reading this in an e-mail or via a feed reader, you may have to click over to my blog to be able to watch the video.}

If you'd like a passage to meditate on this week, here's one of my favorites, a prayer of David's, given in 1 Chronicles 29:11-14.
Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty:  for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. 
Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. 
Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.
But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort?  for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.
I'll be back on Monday, November 28, with the fourth step in our series on Seven Steps to Becoming a Wise Woman.

Related posts:
10 Simple Ways to Show Thanks
Praise Changes My Attitude
5 Blessings of Answered Prayer

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

How to Teach Our Kids to Be Content

This is the season of birthdays in my extended family.  As I mentioned in my newsletter earlier this month, both of my daughters, my mom, my sister, a sister-in-law, two nephews, and one niece all celebrate birthdays in the span of about six weeks.

As I was texting one of my sister-in-laws earlier this week about buying gifts for our children, she said about one of her boys, "He is content with what he has, and doesn't even know of anything for which to ask!"

Few qualities in life rival a spirit of contentment when it comes to determining personal happiness.  Being satisfied with what you have and not constantly looking for "the next best thing" is a trait I want my own children to embrace.

Below I've listed seven ideas we can use with our children as we seek to teach them contentment.  (I have to admit that I haven't mastered this for myself, so this is definitely a goal we can work towards together.)

1.  Emphasize gratefulness.  When our girls were younger, it felt like I was constantly reminding them to say "thank you" at the appropriate times.  (And just to encourage moms of littles, all that reinforcement does pay off, as our children now do it voluntarily.)  Verbal thanks and written thanks - in the form of thank-you notes - help us remember to be grateful.  Yet those outward expressions stem from a grateful heart, which is what we need to carefully cultivate.

2.  Eliminate comparison.  This is such struggle sometimes, even for me.  I don't know if we can entirely eliminate comparison, but I think we can learn tactics to keep it under control.  I've written before about my struggles with comparison in Releasing Yourself from the Comparison Trap and in a review of one of my all-time favorite books I'm Happy for You (Sort Of...Not Really).  Media in general - and especially social media - leads us quickly down the road of comparison, so I'm trying to train myself to truly be happy for what I see others enjoying without feeling a sense of lack if I don't have those same things or experiences.

3.  Appreciate what you already have.  Point out, "Isn't it nice that you're able to have a warm coat to wear on this freezing cold day?"   We've also tried to teach our children to take care of their possessions by putting things back where they belong when they're finished using them, cleaning something when it gets dirty, etc.

4.  Value relationships over possessions.  Our relationship with God should be our first priority, followed by relationships with others.   We can talk with our children about how we spend our time.  Are we building friendships and encouraging people or is our focus on getting more for ourselves?  My children need to see me living this out in front of them.

5.  Show them how to be givers.  We can teach our children to be generous not only with their money, but also by sharing their things with others and by giving of their time.  Again, I need to be setting the example here.

6.  Teach them that happiness doesn't come from owning lots of stuff.  While buying that new shirt and wearing it for the first time will bring temporary pleasure, it's only a matter of time before it ends up on the closet floor or in a box headed off to Goodwill.  It's okay to own nice things, and God does give us all things to enjoy, but we won't get lasting happiness from any possession.

7.  Remind them that God provides all that we need.  Everything we have comes from God, and is what He has designated for us in His perfect will.  He gives us what we need when we need it.  There are countless blessings all around us that we can thank Him for on a daily basis.

May we as parents grow in this area of contentment as we seek to instill its value in our children!

Related posts:
Letting Go of Expectations and Entitlement
Are Your Kids Spoiled?
3 Tips for Embracing Your Current Season

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Monday, November 14, 2016

7 Steps to Becoming a Wise Woman: Trust God

A couple of weeks ago, my daughters began basketball practice with their school teams.  They have a new assistant coach who has put them on a conditioning program where they run and do some fairly strenuous exercises either before or after practice.

The first day or two, my girls were in misery!  They came home talking about how sore they were.  But as each day passed, they were able to get through it a little easier, and could move and stretch without soreness the next morning.  By using muscles that hadn't seen much action lately, they built them up, so now it's far less painful than it was at first.

I think that taking this next step to becoming a wise woman - trusting God - is like that in a way.  The more we practice trust, the more easily we're able to do it.  When a trial comes into our life, trusting God gets a little easier and becomes a bit more second nature to us.

My favorite verses on trusting God are Proverbs 3:5, 6.
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."
I want to grow in my walk with God to the place where I wholeheartedly trust God, acknowledge that His way is best, and follow His plan for me.  So how do I build my trust?

1.  Praying.  Trust begins when I recognize that I need to take my problems to God.  That part is often easier than what comes next - actually leaving my request with Him.  Trusting God to bring about the outcome that is for my good and His glory can be difficult.  I may need to take it to God in prayer over and over and over again!

2.  Resting.  By this, I mean letting go of what I perceive as my control of a situation and resting in the promises I find in the Bible.  Psalm 9:10 says, "And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee; for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee."  I know that God loves me, He sees and knows all, and He is trustworthy.

3.  Remembering.  When I can look back and see how God has taken care of me in the past, I know He'll do it again.  God is faithful.  Ann Voskamp describes it this way in her book One Thousand Gifts.
"Trust is the bridge from yesterday to tomorrow, built with planks of thanks.  Remembering frames up gratitude.  Gratitude lays out the planks of trust.  I can walk the planks - from known to unknown - and know:  He holds. 
Remembering is an act of thanksgiving, this turn of the heart over time's shoulder to see all the long way His arms have carried."
I love what the Bible says my reward is as I learn to trust God.
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee:  because he trusteth in thee." ~Isaiah 26:3
Perfect peace.  How I want to have that present in my life as I seek to become a wise woman.
Simply trusting every day;
Trusting through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus that is all.  
Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by,
Trusting Him, whate'er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all 
Is there a situation in your life in which you're failing to trust God? Let's pry open the fingers of our control and release it to Him, accepting His direction and trusting Him fully.

Find earlier posts in this series here.

Related posts:
Afraid?  Trust
Still Learning to Trust
From the Why to the Who

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Saturday Salutes

If you want to do a bit of planning ahead, Jennifer shares how to Take the Stress Out of Your Holidays.

Sarah Ann tells us The Blessing of a Parent Who Says No.

Deb lists 10 of the Best Ways to Thank God.

Crystal gives us A Hope-Filled Reminder:  You Are Chosen.

Shelly has Fun and Frugal Thanksgiving Ideas for Kids of All Ages.

I'm hoping to have my girls make these Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies very soon!

Even though I've personally passed this stage of parenting, I can relate! ;)

35 Funny Pics for Your Friday | 8 Bit Nerds:

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What Can You Celebrate in This Season of Parenting?

This week there have been scenes that made my heart melt, that trickled my emotions right down my cheek.

Standing in church on Sunday night, singing a hymn, glimpsing a dad bending over his young son, pointing out each word on the page of the hymn book as we sang.

The dentist telling me my "baby" (at 13) has no more baby teeth....realizing my tooth fairy days are officially over.

My brother texting a picture of his 5-year-old son in a quiet moment, when you wonder what he's thinking and what wonderful plans God has for his future.

Seeing my 15-year-old, confidently dealing with the nurse and the doctor at her sports physical, realizing how quickly I'm working myself out of a job.

Sitting in the school parking lot, seeing a sweet 7th grade girl head to her dad for a hug when he arrives to pick her up.

Hopes and heartaches shared with mom friends as we sit at soccer games and basketball practices, wanting all that is best for our children, and knowing there's so much of it they'll have to figure out on their own.

Parenting moments shift from highs to lows almost as quickly as a teenage girl's mood swings.  Sometimes celebrating the little things is a big deal.  So I challenge all of us to find something to celebrate today about the season we're in. Here are ten ideas that come to mind.

Let's celebrate...

1.  A hug before school
2.  Singing along to a song together in the car  
3.  A chore done side by side - setting the table, cleaning out the dishwasher, cooking supper
4.  Reading a book aloud, snuggled together on the couch
5.  Saying "I'm proud of you for...."
6.  A joke - or anything funny - you can laugh about together
7.  Praying together, before a meal, about a struggle, at bedtime
8.  A meal shared as a family, in spite of spilled drinks and bad table manners
9.  The sound of our child's voice saying "Mom" or "Dad"
10. A child's peaceful breathing as she sleeps in her bed after a long, hard day

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:" ~Ecclesiastes 3:1

What can you celebrate about your season today?

Related posts:
3 Tips for Embracing Your Current Season of Life
Accepting the Season I'm In
7 Tips for Handling Change

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