Faith At Home

How To Help Your Children Remember Who They Are

IMG_20170224_092905_585

A few weeks ago, I shared about the four words from the Wingfeather Saga that are changing my life:

Remember who you are.

But these words aren’t just changing the way I look at myself. They are changing and informing the way I parent my children. The mom in the story, Nia, spoke these words to her children, and I’ve been pondering ways I can say this to my own kids. Who are they? And how can I remind them of that?

One, day, when my boys were very little, I was praying for them, and the Lord led me to a couple of very specific verses based on the names we have given them.

“My servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly.” Numbers 14:24

“Your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord.” 1 Kings 22:19

It amazes me how every year, my understanding of these verses deepens, how they name and inform my boys’ innate personalities, but also how these words have the ability to call out the very best in them. God keeps challenging me with new depths to these two stories of men who followed hard after him: Caleb, the mighty warrior who had the courage to stand against a multitude and believe God’s promise was true, and Josiah, the zealous king who tore down idols and wept when the Book of the Law was read in his presence.

My Caleb can be downright different sometimes, and it takes someone who is willing to be different to stand against a scared mob and trust that God will do what he said he would do. And Garrett (Josiah is his middle name) responds with his whole heart in almost everything he does. When he combines it with humility, that trait makes him kind and passionate and deeply committed to what he believes is right.

I know Caleb and Garrett’s God-given identities will continue to take on flesh in a thousand different ways as they go through life and grow and change, but these verses name the very best in my kids and call it out in them. That’s why these are the words I want to be deepest in my kids’ hearts. Deeper than the enemy’s lies. Deeper than the ways I’ve accused and misunderstood them in my less-than-stellar parenting moments. Deeper than their fears or what the world says or how things look from the outside. I want them to know who they are

If you, like me, want to know who your kids are, at their very God-breathed core, but you don’t know where to start, here are a few ideas to get you going:

  • What are your deepest dreams for your child? This is not about you wanting them to play football, because those kinds things can be taken away in an instant by circumstances. Even professional players have to retire eventually, and usually pretty young. But who do you want your kids to be after they hang up their cleats for the last time? Honest? Righteous? Brave? Dream big.
  • Why did you choose your child’s name? Does your child’s name mean something special to you? Did you name him or her after someone? What do these things say to you about who you want your child to be?
  • What emerging personality traits do you see in your child? Think of both the things you love and the things that most frustrate you. Chances are, your child’s greatest challenges can be gifts in disguise. In that strong-willed girl are the seeds of a woman who won’t cave to peer pressure. That kid that cries at the drop of a hat? His compassionate heart might be one that fights to give justice to the oppressed. Prayerfully consider the ways that your child’s weaknesses could turn out to be their greatest strengths.
  • What kind of family culture are you building? What family values do you all hold? For example, in our home, Reasoners are game-players. We like to go camping. We are people who pray and worship together. We love to read. What does it mean to be a part of your family?

Once you’ve identified who your children are, and who they are becoming, make a point to call these things out in them. Here are a few ways you can begin doing that today:

IMG_20170324_144305_732

  1. Display who they are in your home

A few of years ago, I had a local artist, design and paint my boys’ verses as art I could hang in their room. They are one of my very favorite things in our home. (If you’re in Southwest Missouri, you need to check out Heather’s stuff; it’s amazing.)

  1. Make them learn it by heart

It was important to me to make my boys memorize their verses. It’s easier because we homeschool – it was the very first memory work we assigned to them this year. But even if they were in public school, I would have made a point to make them learn these words by heart. If you don’t have a verse that names your children the way these do for mine, ask the Lord to lead you to one. Or craft a statement that speaks to things you’re trying to call out in them and make them learn that.

  1. Pray these things over them

Pray both aloud and to yourself. Speak it over them all the time. Tell them who they are, and make them repeat it back to you if you have to. Show them that you see them for more than how they are acting right now right now, and you will in essence, be saying to them Remember Who You Are.

Heart

My Favorite Kids Bibles (just in time for Easter!)

IMG_20170410_104527_546

I don’t know what you’re planning to give your kids for Easter this year (if anything), but I am ridiculously excited to give my kids their first real Bibles.

They have a lot of picture-book Bibles, and they were given New Testaments when they were dedicated as babies, but since they’re both emerging readers, and since they’re going to classes where it matters if they have a Bible with them or not, it seemed like time to make sure they have their own copies of God’s Word.

So, in case you’re wanting to give Bibles to the littles (or anyone else!) in your life this Easter, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorites.

For little kids:

The Jesus Storybook Bible

I cannot recommend this Bible highly enough. I bought it for my boys when they were babies, and I just bought it for my brand-new niece, too. We’ve read through it several times as a family, and my kids love the DVDs, too. I love how it shows how the entire Bible points to Jesus, and the language of the storytelling is beautiful and fun to read.

The Read and Learn Bible

This was one of the first Bibles we started using for bedtime stories when my boys were very small (maybe even under 2?). The stories are very, very short, but what I love about it is how much of the Bible it includes (it’s the only kids’ Bible I’ve ever seen that tells the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from Daniel 2), and how close it stays to the actual language of the Bible. This is a great Bible to read to wiggly toddlers.

The Biggest Story

This amazing book tells the entire narrative of the Bible in 10 short chapters. It’s such a good look at the overall picture that the Bible is telling and helps kids see where all those little stories like David and Goliath and Daniel and the lion’s den fit in the BIG story God is telling throughout history. Also, the illustrations in this are just lovely.

The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook

This is by the people behind the Gospel Project curriculum. We bought this when we were considering using their curriculum for our church, but it quickly became a favorite bedtime read-aloud in our home. Like the Jesus Storybook Bible, this shows how the whole Bible points to Jesus, but it covers a whole lot more stories. This one will take you a while to get through (I think there are about 150 stories), and there’s only one illustration per story, so this one isn’t great for the littlest kids. But we’ve found 4-6 to be a great age for this Bible, and there’s a question at the end of each lesson to help you gauge if your kids are really getting what the story is saying.

For bigger kids:

The Adventure Bible

This the Bible I had as a kid, and the very first Bible I read all the way through (for my Honor Star requirements; if you grew up in an AG church, you know what I’m talking about). This is also what we got for Caleb for Easter this year (this one). It has some child-appropriate study helps that I think will really be useful for him as he learns and grows. We chose NIrV for him (after a LOT of deliberation) because we believe it will encourage him to read this on his own, but this Bible is available in several versions.

The Big Picture Interactive Bible for Kids

This is what we got for Garrett for Easter (this version). I love that it has the same illustrations as the Big Picture storybook they’ve been reading from, and I think it will help him transition better from picture books to a big kids’ Bible, and help him stay interested in it while he is still learning to read. This isn’t available in as many versions as the Adventure Bible, but there are still a few options to choose from.

The Bible Story

This is a 10-volume set. Don’t be put off by its outdated appearance; this is a fantastic Bible story set. We only have two volumes so far, so I haven’t read every single story, but what I have read, I’ve been very impressed with. Like so many of my other favorite Bibles, these show how each story the Bible tells is part of a larger whole of what God is doing. Also, when I first became a parent, I was disappointed by how many kids’ Bibles (even some I remembered loving) presented a very works-based concept of salvation, as if the whole message of the Bible was to be a good girl or boy. This Bible doesn’t fall into that trap–it explains, in kid-friendly language, how we can’t be good enough, and that is why we need Jesus. Finally, these books are beautifully illustrated with the types of pictures I hope form my kids’ imaginations as they grow.

For everyone else on your list:

The Books of the Bible

This is one of my favorite ways to really read the Bible. There are no chapter or verse numbers to distract from the text, so this is excellent for when you want to read a long passage or an entire book in one sitting. One day recently, when we were going through the hard season at the end of our church, I was feeling frustrated and read through the entire book of Job one afternoon. I don’t think I could have done that as easily in any other Bible. It’s in TNIV, which I don’t think lasted for very long, and I’m not sure why, but as far as I can tell, most of the text is very similar to NIV (my preferred version), and like I said, I use this for reading, not for study.

Journaling Bible

I write a lot of notes in my Bible, and I’m happy with the Bible that I have, but whenever I’m in the market for a new one, I imagine I’ll get something like this with wide margins to give me room for more thoughts.

The Fire Bible: Student Edition

This is Jason’s go-to study Bible. The study notes are comprehensive, and written from a Pentecostal perspective. We loved recommending this to our students when we were youth pastors, and we love it for ourselves as pastors.

Heart

Remember Who You Are

IMG_20160926_084626

Some of the very best books I read last year were the four books in the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. I’ve been wanting to tell you all about it for a while, and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long, but my love for this series was so deep, I’ve had some trouble finding the right words to tell you about it.

The books are a wonderful fantasy series, with a lot of allegorical elements. If you like Chronicles of Narnia, I think you will really like these books. (They’re also great for fans of Harry Potter, but without all the stuff in Harry Potter that some parents object to.)

I’m still processing a lot of the things I loved about the Wingfeathers and their story, but one of my favorite things about it is how important the character’s names are to their identities.

I don’t want to give too much away, but at one point in the second or third book, one of the main characters gives into a hopelessness and a false promise of power, and ends up broken, changed, and struggling to keep his sanity. The thing that saves him from the brink is the moment when he is able to remember his own name, and that theme continues to play out throughout the rest of the book.

When Nia, the mother in the story, drops her children off at school each day, she leaves them with these words: “Remember who you are.” And as the battle between good and evil escalates in the story, the brothers repeat this back to each other, sometimes asking “who are you?” and sometimes declaring powerfully true identities over each other when they are too weak to do it themselves.

I was instantly struck by the parallels between this story and the very real war that we are engaged in. Though those of who have decided to follow Jesus, belong to the King of Kings and have the promise of new name, we live in enemy territory, and are surrounded on a daily basis by voices that wan to remind of us who we were, and make us believe that our past defines who we still are.

I want more for myself than who I was before Jesus. Don’t you?

I want to remember who I am.

Over the past year or two, the Lord has been revealing places in my life where I am full of fear, and don’t completely trust Him. It’s been painful to look at the parts of my heart that still need work, but it has also been so sweet to realize that Jesus knew they were there all along and has been patiently waiting for me to turn them over to Him.

In His gentle way, the Spirit reminded me who I am, not just as a child of God, but who I am, specifically. My first name, Amy, means “beloved,” and in those moments when I was most deeply struggling with my fears, God reminded me that at my core, I am someone who is loved by Him.

My middle name, Elizabeth, led me to Luke 1. This amazing woman whose name I bear was the first person in the New Testament to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and she raised a son who was fully committed to the kingdom of God and the role God gave him to play in it. Those are things I desperately want in my own life, and as I read and studied about Elizabeth, it felt like God was confirming to me that he heard my prayers and foreknew the deepest desires of my heart from the moment I was named.

Your name is not a trivial thing.

I don’t know what names the enemy will call you today, but they do not have to be your identity. Today, as you send emails, or fold laundry, or run errands, or make lunch, remember who you are.

It changes everything.

Faith At Home

Three Things We’re Doing to Build a Strong Family

I wish so badly that there was some sort of formula for parenting.

That if you fed your kids a certain number of vegetables, took them to church a certain number of times, and gave them a certain number of goodnight kisses, you could guarantee that things would turn out the way you wanted them to.

Unfortunately, like so many other things in life, there is no one clear-cut way to guarantee results in your parenting. The longer I serve the Lord, the more I realize that beyond the basic right and wrong, it is absolutely essential to be yielded to the Lord’s leading in all that we do, especially in parenting.

Remember what Mary said to the servants at the wedding in Cana? “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).

Mary knew Jesus. She knew his authority and his power. She trusted that if the servants followed his guidance, Jesus would make things right.

So before I share about the ways we are building a strong family, I want to preface it with this: do whatever he tells you. I really think that these pillars of our family culture are beneficial for all kids, and research even backs up how important and foundational some of these practices are. But you have to start with the vision God gives for your own family. If one or more of these doesn’t resonate with you in your season or particular family dynamics, and most importantly, if God is leading you to do something different, then by all means do that.

But like I said, I think for most families these three things will help, over time, to build a foundation for a resilient, close-knit, healthy family.

  1. Share stories

14054994_921512514958_7468120198367657584_n

Stories matter. Did you know that one of the biggest predictors of a child’s ACT scores—more than race or gender or socioeconomic status—is whether or not that child’s parents read to him or her? But even if it didn’t virtually guarantee academic results, I’d still read my kids stories. Jesus told stories. The Bible itself is a story. Stories show us who we are and who we can be like nothing else can, and being able to pass that on virtue and character to our kids through stories is a priceless gift.

  1. Share meals together

There are so many studies that point to the overwhelming importance of regular family meals. Kids whose families eat together are less likely to be overweight or become addicted to drugs. They are also more likely to do well in school, and be resilient in the face of adversity. But again, I think there is a strong case for eating with your family even if these factors were not in play. Food plays an extremely important role in the Bible, and if Jesus spent time eating with his disciples, shouldn’t we eat with ours?

I know that, at least for me, the time and effort it takes to make regular family meals happen can be a challenge. Soon, I’ll share some more strategies for making this a little easier, but there’s one big thing that really helps us make family meals a priority: we eat breakfast together.

Several years ago, another pastor’s wife shared with me that family breakfasts worked better with their weird schedule, and I instantly realized what a game-changer that would be for us. Now, I feel more off-kilter when we haven’t had a sit-down breakfast in a few days, than when we’ve missed a bunch of dinners in a row. If dinner works for you, that’s awesome. But if it doesn’t, know that it doesn’t have to be at night to count as a family meal.

  1. Share time in nature

20160822_152500-2

Kids absolutely need time outside. Period. Not only does it help their physical bodies, but it’s so much easier for us to wonder at the mystery of God’s creation when we are out in it. Standing at the edge of the ocean, climbing to a mountain peak, sleeping under a canopy of stars—these are the things that absolutely take my breath away at the beauty and majesty of our God. I want to pass those same experiences on to my children, so we try as much as we can to explore and camp and go on hikes.

And one more, as a bonus:

  1. Play Games

    12096600_10153181405268715_9077729617002680062_n

I would be remiss if I left if out because this is such a big part of who we are as a family. Jason and I both come from game-playing families, and playing games together was an early part of our relationship. We love sitting around the table and playing games with our family (the big people) and we would love for that to be true with our own kids when they are grown. I don’t know if there’s any research backing up the importance of a regular family game night (something we’re trying to get more consistent at doing), but playing games teaches kids to be gracious winners and losers, to cooperate, to think strategically, and a host of other skills. Plus it’s tons of fun!

So, that’s what we are doing. Like I said, there’s no formula, but I think if I can do these things consistently over the next decade or so, these habits will eventually bear good fruit in my kids’ lives. So now you tell me: did I leave anything out? What do you do to build a strong family? And do you have any tips or tricks to make it easier to implement these habits? Let me know in the comments!

Home

How We Take Long Road Trips without a DVD Player

img_20161011_090651

When I was a kid, we took a lot of vacations.

On one particularly epic road trip, we drove to Texas for my dad to interview for a job, from Texas along the gulf coast to Florida for a week at DisneyWorld, then back home to Missouri. It was something like six full days in the car. (Yes, I said car. We had a sedan, not a minivan or station wagon.) And did I mention that my sister and I were six and eight years old at the time?

When Caleb was a baby, we traveled a lot and it was easy, but once he was mobile and we’d added a second baby to the family, traveling felt kind of impossible. I marveled that my parents didn’t kill me or my sister on all those long road trips. But lately, with our recent move to Nashville, we’ve been taking lots of trips, and it’s been surprisingly manageable. It’s even been kind of fun.

Please note: part of the reason all of this works is the age of our kiddos. For us, the magic age of successful trips was about 4 or 5. The kids were (finally) potty-trained, and a whole lot better at understanding how long they would be in the car and why. If you have little-bitty kids, road trips might just be plain hard. Hang in there.

But even with bigger kids, a long day in the car can be a little daunting. Like my parents back in the day, we don’t have a minivan. We have a 13-year-old compact car and 17-year-old truck. (Nissan and Toyota, in case you were wondering. They’re been amazing vehicles for us). We’ve done road trips in both, and neither has a DVD player. So a movie marathon to kill the day is out. But it’s not been as big of a deal as I thought might be.

Here are a few ways that we make it through the day (and still all like each other at bedtime):

  1. Let your kids be bored

This one requires the most advance planning, but it is so worth it. If your kids are used to you coming up with things for them to do every twenty minutes throughout the day, they will expect the same thing when you’re in the car. And unless you pack a whole suitcase full of things for them to do, you will run out of ideas way before your first pit stop.

But resourcefulness comes from boredom. Let your kids come up with their own games on a regular basis at home, and they’ll be equipped to do the same thing on the road. On our last trip out to Nashville, the boys spent about 45 minutes making tents with their coats draped over the backs of our seats. Go figure.

  1. No limits on snacks

This is what makes trips fun. We bring snacks along to curb impulse buys at convenience stores, and try to keep the snacks on the healthier side (jerky, trail mix, crackers, fruit), but for the most part, if my kids ask for something to eat when we’re on a trip, the answer is yes.

This means they are eating almost all day long, and don’t eat great at meals, but for a little peace when we’re all cooped up in the same space all day, it’s a worthwhile exchange.

  1. Audiobooks and audiodramas

This is one of my absolute favorite ways to pass the time during long stretches in the car. A good book or story makes the trip fly by. Listening to something together as a family is something even the driver can be involved in, and as opposed to a movie, kids have to be really quiet to catch what’s going on in an audiobook.

Some of our favorites are:

  • Little House on the Prairie
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Adventures in Odyssey (I LOVED this one as a kid)
  • A Bear Called Paddington
  • Charlotte’s Web
  1. Easy activities

For me, a good car activity doesn’t require my help, takes up very little space, and doesn’t make a mess. Some of our favorite things to bring along are:

—————————-

So, that’s what we do on road trips. What do you do to keep your kids occupied for those long strechs in the car?

Heart

January Reading Pile Update

I’m still getting lots of questions about the reading pile pictures I’ve been sharing on Instagram the last several months, so I thought I’d take some time here, at the end of the month, to go back through, tell you what I’ve actually finished and what I thought of them.

img_20170102_161908_717

Book: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe // C. S. Lewis
Progress: Read aloud to the boys; finished
Thoughts: What can I say? This is one of my all-time favorite books, and I’m considering making reading it aloud an annual family Christmas tradition. If you’ve never read this book, please do so immediately.

Book: Not By Sight // John Bloom
Progress: Finished
Thoughts: It has short chapters, I read one or two in the mornings before the boys were up. I read the follow-up, Things Not Seen first, and loved it. This one totally lived up to my expectations. Highly recommend.

Book: The New Year’s Quilt // Jennifer Chiaverini
Progress: Finished
Thoughts: I learned about this series a little over a year ago from a dear friend, and have loved these stories about quilting, especially the ones that are historical fiction. This is the eleventh both in the series.

Book: The Unschooling Handbook // Mary Griffith
Progress: Finished
Thoughts: Totally disagreed with some of the principles in this book: I don’t think it’s right for parents to let kids have complete say over their curriculum. Sometimes, kids need to know something they may not want to learn, and I want my children to understand that doing things that are hard or not our favorites is a part of learning perseverance and self-discipline. But this book also speaks to the thousands of ways kids learn all kinds of things without our help, and how children are really learning all the time, that was encouraging and helpful.

img_20170112_110410_090

Book: The Fellowship of the Ring // J. R R. Tolkien
Progress: Still reading (Still on chapter 1, actually)
Thoughts: The last time I read this I was in college. I’m really looking forward to rereading it, but it just keeps getting pushed to the bottom of my stack. I hope to get a little farther next month!

Book: Wingfeather Tales // Andrew Peterson
Progress: Finished
Thoughts: Such a delightful follow-up to the Wingefeather Saga! What I wasn’t expecting is that it’s a compilation of stories by multiple authors; I discovered a few new ones through this collection, and my reading list exploded.

Book: The Winding Ways Quilt // Jennifer Chiaverini
Progress: Finished
Thoughts: Devoured it. Can’t wait to read the next book in this series.

Book: Jane Steele // Lindsay Faye
Progress: Finished
Thoughts: Just (finally) finished my reread of Jane Eyre, and was excited to dive into the stack of adaptations that came out last year, this one included. It had some elements I’ve come to expect from most mainstream books (a little language, and some bits that touch on physical intimacy) but was much cleaner than some I’ve picked up unaware. If you can imagine Jane Eyre as a thriller, you’ll like this one.

img_20170120_084423_978

Book: The Great Divorce // C. S. Lewis
Progress: finished
Thoughts: I think I mention this book in conversation one more time, I might drive my husband crazy. But it is SO GOOD, you guys. I just can’t stop thinking about it.

Book: The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic // Jennifer Trafton
Progress: still reading this one aloud to the boys
Thoughts: We haven’t finished it yet, but this feels destined to become a new favorite. Jennifer Trafton’s writing is silly and poignant at the same time. We are having such fun reading this aloud.

Book: The Long Winter // Laura Ingalls Wilder
Progress: Reading aloud to the boys, and listening to the audiobook, narrated by Cherry Jones; still reading
Thoughts: This is a classic that I’ve read several times, but it’s the boys’ first time through the Little House series, and they like it more than I was expecting. This is one of my favorites in the series despite the fact that the words always make me feel cold to the bone. If you’ve never read it, it’s a fantastic story of triumph in the midst of hardship. Very inspiring.

Book: Good Enough Parenting // John Philip Louis and Karen McDonald Louis
Progress: Finished
Thoughts: So insightful about breaking dysfunctional patterns in families and making sure your kids’ emotional needs are met. Also, while I was reading it, I learned that it’s a textbook for some family counseling programs, so that makes me even more confident in recommending it. I’m sure this is one I will come back to again and again.

img_20170124_112625_285

Book: Different // Sally Clarkson
Progress: Still reading.
Thoughts: LOVING it so far.

Book: Reader, I Married Him // Tracy Chevalier
Progress: Still reading
Thoughts: I just got started on this one last night, but I like it so far. This is the second short story collection with multiple authors I’ve read already this year, and some intriguing names contributed to it, including Francine Prose and Audrey Niffenegger. I’m genuinely excited to read this.

Book: The Madwoman Upstairs // Catherine Lowell
Progress: Just finished this one yesterday!
Thoughts: Another great take on the Jane Eyre story!

Book: Felicity’s Surprise // Valerie Tripp
Progress: Haven’t started
Thoughts: If I have time, I’m going to read this today. (It’s only 70 pages). I read all of  these as a kid. I am rereading them now because I would love to find something similar to read to my kids that features little boys in similar historical fiction (if you have any recommendations, please pass them my way), but in the meantime, I may see if these hold their interest, and I wanted to preview them first.

Heart

A Prayer for Inauguration Day

Father God, I look to you on this day, when power over earthly kingdoms is transferred from one man to another.

May your sovereign will be done on earth as is it in heaven, today, and always.

I lift up Donald Trump to you, just as you commanded me  to do (1 Timothy 2:1-2). May I live a “peaceful and quiet [life] in all goodness and holiness” during Trump’s presidency, and may it lead many to the saving knowledge of Jesus.

May I rightly understand the role that earthly authority plays in the life of a Christian. Help me not fall into the idolatry of worshiping my leaders as the ones who save. But also protect me from thinking I can call them my enemies and get out of loving them.

I am humbled by your unmerited favor towards me on this day, God. Your mercies are new every morning. Why me, God? Why was I not born in an impoverished African village or a war-torn Middle Eastern country? Why now? Why wasn’t I born in the middle ages or in the 1930s?

Help me to discern my right now purpose, in this nation, in this time in history.

Bless my president, Lord Jesus. Bless him with your wisdom and grace.

And may our hope ever rest in you, our steadfast, unchanging God.