Books & Reading · 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


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 the disciples he has entrusted to our care?

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


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


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!

Faith At Home

Our World Was Not an Accident, and Other Things We’re Teaching our Kids as Early as Possible

This is Steve.

Steve lives in an orderly world that is perfectly tailored to his needs.

It is obvious to us that this world was made by someone outside of Steve’s own kind, that it was created by someone who is bigger, wiser, and more powerful than Steve.

But Steve isn’t so sure.

Steve thinks that perhaps this world may have come into existence by accident.

Steve thinks that if you had enough sets of these exact Lego pieces and shook them up, at least one set would just happen to snap together in this particular pattern.

Do you think he could be right?

We posed this scenario to our kids a few months back, and asked them if they agreed with Steve. Could you shake up these Legos and eventually get a fully-formed Minecraft world on accident?

“That would never happen in a million years,” said my oldest son, Caleb. He laughed with us while we talked about how silly it would be if Steve didn’t believe in the existence of “a Caleb.” Because of course it takes a master Lego builder to assemble a complex brick world.

And yet, there are lots of people out there who would willingly lead our children astray with equally ridiculous ideas about the creation of our world. Their ideas are persuasive and attractive. They claim to have science on their side. And so my husband and I believe that it is never too early to being instilling in our children that there are even more persuasive arguments in favor of a Creator.

This whole idea, the study of the reasons that support what we believe, is known as apologetics, and contrary to what some people would think, it is not diametrically opposed to having great faith. Yes, there are things about our faith that we cannot and will not fully understand this side of heaven. As Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13, our current understanding is limited, and we will not know things fully until we have stepped into eternity.

But that does not mean we bury our heads in the sand and just hope our hardest that everything we believe is true. That would be a mockery to the work of the early apostles. Their whole mission was based on the fact that they were eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. In their minds, having seen the risen Lord was irrefutable evidence that everything they had believed about Jesus was true.

In fact, towards the end of his gospel, the apostle John writes, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name”(John 20:30-31).

It was an important part of the early church’s ministry that new believers would understand the reason for the things that they believed, and would put their faith not just in the apostles’ word, but on the evidence that supported the things they were saying.

If having a reasoned, well-thought-out belief was important to the earliest witnesses of Jesus, I believe it should be important to us as parents, too.

As I said earlier, we are already beginning to have some of these conversations with our children (currently aged 7 and 9), and I don’t think you can start planting these seeds in their minds too early.

I’m thankful to have a husband who has spent the last several years studying apologetics, both as a hobby, and through courses with Biola University . But this is not just for people who have a special education; anyone can learn more about apologetics as a parent and start a dialogue with your kids. Here are some great resources to get you started:

Natasha Crain’s books, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side and Talking with Your Kids about God are both excellent resources for any parent. She also has pretty extensive booklists on her website if you’re looking to learn more about a particular area of apologetics.

Another great website to get you started on the role of apologetics in your parenting is Mama Bear Apologetics. They’ve also recently released a book. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list and I’m hoping to get to it soon!

If you want to learn more yourself about the evidence for our faith, one of the very best places to begin is with Lee Strobel’s book A Case for Christ. This book was recently adapted into a movie, which was surprisingly good, and if you like Strobel’s writing style, he has a whole series of books about different aspects of apologetics.

Finally if you’re ready to begin discussing these with your kids, the Picture Book Apologetics series by J.D. Camorlinga is great for starting that conversation. (This book is the one that sparked the conversation above). We also plan to use J. Warner Wallace’s CaseMakers series in our homeschool in the coming year (I’ll share more about that soon), and will also be utilizing the free resources on their website. We haven’t read these yet, so we are not completely sure how it will go, but we will start with this book and go from there.

I hope that sparks your interest in this important topic and helps get you started. May God give you wisdom as you help your kids know the solid foundation of truth on which our faith rests!


**Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means I get a small comission from anything you purchase, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting me!

Faith At Home

How to Memorize Bible Verses as a Family (and 10 Great Verses to Get You Started)

The first Bible verse I remember learning was Romans 8:38-39.

It says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It was a mouthful, but when I was just seven or eight, I worked really hard at this verse until I learned it. My motives weren’t exactly the holiest; I was on a Bible trivia team for my church, and this verse worth more points than a lot of the others. But despite my competitive intentions, the verse stayed in my mind and my heart, and God has used it countless times throughout my life, to challenge, correct, and reassure me.

I honestly don’t know where I would be as a Christian if not for the discipline of memorizing Scripture. If we are going to follow Jesus, we absolutely must fill ourselves with the Word of God. And it’s a true gift to our children if we can do the same for them while they are in our homes.

There are a lot of games and interactive methods you might find online to use for memorizing verses, and these work well in classroom setting, especially if you only have the kids once a week. But unless you just really want to, you don’t need to make up motions or puzzle pieces for every verse you learn as a family.

Children have an incredible capacity for memory. In fact, their brains are hard-wired for it, and if we don’t give our children something to memorize, they will memorize things anyway. (Which is why my children can recite several funny commercials verbatim.) But if you’ll make Scripture memory a habit, I think you’ll be amazed at how many verses they can learn. 

The trick is to work on the verses nearly every day.

What we’ve done in our home is to write each verse we are learning on a separate index card, and keep them all in a small file box near our kitchen table. Every morning, while we eat breakfast, we read through the verse we’re learning a few times, encouraging our kids to say it with us the best they can. Then we recite a few that we’ve already learned.

That’s it. It takes about five minutes a day, and it only takes us a week or two to learn a new verse using this method.

Ready to get started memorizing Scripture? Below are several great verses to learn with your family.

Genesis 1:1*“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”

Psalm 139:12“Even the darkness will not be dark to you, the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

Proverbs 15:1* “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Isaiah 9:6*“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. And the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Matthew 28:19-20*“Therefore  go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Ephesians 6:11“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.”

Hebrews 12:11*“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

James 1:19*“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

(Verses marked with an * are ones we have actually learned as a family.)

Faith At Home

What To Do When Kids Tattle: A Biblical Approach

“Mommy, Caleb hit me!”

“But Garrett hit me first!”

“He took my car!”

“He said I was mean!”

I’m sure your children never behave like this, right? It’s just mine who find the perfect way to push my buttons with their bickering on a weekly (daily? hourly?) basis.

Of all the things my children do, one of the things I find most frustrating is their tattling.

Some days, I’m tempted just to veto tattling all together: “Just leave me alone and figure it out for yourselves.” But if I’m honest, I reach for that solution not because it’s best, but because it’s convenient. I don’t want to be bothered every five minutes with the minutiae of my children’s conflicts.

That’s no excuse, though. God has placed me in authority over them to teach them and to model for them how to live as a follower of Jesus.

One of the things I’m supposed to teach and model is how to resolve conflict.

So when it comes to tattling, these are a few biblical principles we try to apply:

They should admit the part they played in the conflict.

In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (vs. 3-5).

Notice that he doesn’t say we should never confront sin in another person’s life. We do, however, need to be careful to examine our own hearts before we approach someone else.

When one of my sons comes to me to tattle, one of the first questions I ask is, “Were you doing anything wrong?” I want them to learn to recognize that in a conflict, both parties are usually partly at fault, and the only thing they really have control over is confessing and repenting of their own sins.

They should approach the other person privately first.

Later in Matthew, Jesus says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over” (18:15)

I have found that often, my children turn to tattling as a first response rather than a last resort, and with a little gentle guidance, many of their conflicts can be solved just between the two of them.

If they come to me saying, “My brother took my toy,” I’ll usually ask, “Did you ask him to give it back?”

Sometimes (definitely not all the time, but often enough) this ends the conflict. A simple misunderstanding can be resolved with a little communication and without much involvement on my part.

They should not accuse each other.

This is something I find myself saying to my boys whenever I hear them making a lot of assumptions about the motivations behind their brother’s behavior (ie., “He was trying to hurt me,” “he wanted me to get in trouble,” etc.)

The Bible makes it abundantly clear who our accuser is.

The book Revelation prophesies a day when he’ll be defeated: Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down” (12:10).

When we accuse each other (and this includes us, moms and dads!), we are acting more like Satan than like Christ. It is your enemy’s lying voice whispering in your ear that tempts you into assuming the worst about someone else, especially in the heated moments of a fight.

When I’m trying to help my kids resolve a conflict, if they start to accuse each other, I shut them down immediately. I don’t need to hear why they think their brother acted in a certain way. I just want the facts.

Remind them that the ultimate goal is reconciliation.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stressed the importance of reconciliation: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23).

Every once in a while, I get the sense that one of my sons is just anxious to get his brother in trouble. (Again, I’m sure your kids never do this, right?)

In those moments, I do my best to remind them, that if they involve me, it needs to be because they want to get along with their brother and they just need some help.

My ultimate goal is for them to be at peace with each other. Sometimes, that does happen through well-deserved discipline, usually on both sides. But it can just as easily happen through heartfelt apology, conversation, and the gift of forgiveness.

Either way, reconciliation is the end we’re working toward, and I try to help my kids (and myself) keep that goal in mind when I help them through their conflicts.

Now, please know that these methods are not a simple, one-size-fits-all solution to conflicts between my kids. Sometimes, when both kids are shouting over the other to be heard, tempers are high, and I’m feeling short on patience, it’s hard for me to sift through what they’re saying to the heart issues behind whose turn it is on Mario Kart.

But I do believe, that as I endeavor to faithfully teach these principles to my kids, and to live them out, one day at a time, they will, over the years, bear fruit in their lives.


Faith At Home

How to Choose A Bible Version for Your Family, part 1

When Jason and I first got married, he bought me a new Bible so that I could have one with married name imprinted on the front. It was a simple, leather-bound NIV Bible, with center column cross-references and a concordance.

It was the first really adult Bible I’d ever owned.

That Bible has served me well for almost a decade (we’ll celebrate ten years of marriage in April!), but it’s starting to fall apart, so I’m planning to get a new one soon.

I popped on over to my local Christian bookstore to take a look at what I might want, and boy, are there a lot of Bibles out there. It can be a little overwhelming. If you’ve been Bible shopping lately, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

There are literally dozens of different English translations of the Bible you can buy. It’s a lot to choose from, even if you know the merits of the different translations. If you don’t, I’m sure it’s even harder. And on top of that, I know many of you are not just choosing a Bible version for you own study, but trying to decide what version of the Bible you’ll read to your family, or what to buy for your kiddos to read on their own.

So I thought we’d take a few weeks here on the blog and talk all about Bible translations – why there are so many different versions, the controversies surrounding them, and what factors you might want to consider as you choose a version for your own family.

But before we start digging into the nitty-gritty of different translations, I want to pull back and remind us all of a few important things:

There is no perfect English translation of the Bible

The only perfect Bible books were the original writings themselves. We are working with translations of copies. So no English Bible is perfect. However, the manuscript copies of the Greek and Hebrew texts have been very reliably preserved for us, and the scholarship behind many English translations is careful and well-done. So while there’s no one right choice in which Bible to read, there are many excellent choices before us, which I think is a good problem to have.

Reading the Bible in our language is an immense privilege

Less than 500 years ago, you had to know Latin to be able to study the Bible. William Tyndale was executed for (among other things) his belief that the Bible should be in the common language of the people. I’m so thankful that I don’t have to study a foreign language to allow God’s Word to speak to me.

Reading any version of the Bible is better than not reading the Bible at all

The writer of Hebrews tells us that God’s word is “living and active.” God can speak to us through his Word, despite our imperfect understanding. I think carefully approaching different translations of the Bible can be helpful when our ultimate goal is know God better and become more obedient to His word. But it’s better to be in the Word of God, even if it’s a translation we don’t like as well, than to not be reading the Bible at all.

Next we’ll talk about the different manuscripts thye use to translate the Bible, but in the meantime, get into God’s word! It doesn’t matter what version you’re reading. Just read it!

Faith At Home

How to Talk to Your Kids About Pain & Suffering

I have Rheumatoid arthritis.

It’s an autoimmune disease, and it’s not something I like to talk about a whole lot. I don’t’ like to complain, but the reality is it’s a frustrating disease, one with lots of emotional and physical ups and downs.

And on my worst days, my pain is not something I can (or should) hide from my children. The reality of pain and suffering are one of the very hardest issues we have to tackle as believers, and our kids will have to wrestle with it also, but it can be tricky to know how to talk with them about it.

Whether it’s a death, or a natural disaster, or a chronic illness, or financial hardship, or some other hard thing, your family will most likely face pain and suffering head-on at some point. So I thought I’d share a few tips that are helping us as we talk to our kids about my health that I think are applicable to any situation:

  1. Give them just as many details that they need to understand what’s going on

One of the phrases I use with my kids a lot is “borrowing trouble.” In the sermon on the mount, Jesus tells his followers, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). When we worry about the future, we borrow trouble from tomorrow that we aren’t meant to carry today, and I’ve found that at least for my kids, giving them more details than they need tends to lead them down that path. (Same goes for me & obsessive Googling about my disease.)

My kids don’t need to know the severe complications that can come with RA, because those are burdens we haven’t been asked to shoulder yet. But they do need to know that I’m sick, and some days I may have some trouble doing everything I want to do with them. So that’s what we tell them.

  1. Tell them about the power of prayer

The stories that we read in our Bibles every night are more than just fairy tales. We believe that God really did part the Red Sea, that the walls of Jericho really fell, and that Jesus really raised Lazarus from the dead. And we believe that the God who did those things still answers prayers today.

We want our kids to see us praying faithfully for the things we need, trusting God for big things we can’t tackle on our own. I can’t, in my own power, make myself better. But God can. So we pray, and we let our kids hear us pray, and we ask them to pray to with us.

  1. Explain that God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want Him to

This is the hardest one. I remember the first time Caleb prayed for something a couple of years ago, and it didn’t happen right away, and he was disappointed. He asked me why God didn’t answer his prayer. I didn’t have a perfect answer for him, because it’s not something I fully understand myself. Sometimes, we pray and pray and pray, and things don’t turn out the way we wish they had.

But God, in his infinite wisdom, sometimes reaches down and delivers us, and sometimes stays his mighty hand of deliverance for some greater purpose that usually beyond our understanding.

I believe God has promised to heal my arthritis. But I do not know when or how He will choose to do so, and so for right now, we continue to pray and wait.

I don’t understand why He has asked me to walk this road, and I don’t understand why he hasn’t healed me yet, but I do believe God is working in the midst of my suffering. I’ve been praying for my children to grow in compassion, and God is using what is going on in my body right to answer that prayer. This isn’t the answer I wanted, obviously, but I’m thankful for the fruit it’s bringing in my kids’ lives, even though it’s difficult.

I hope these tips help you and your family if you’re currently navigating through something hard. If you’ve already dealt with something hard as a family, how did you talk with your kids about it?

Church · Faith At Home

Why My Kids’ Discipleship Isn’t My Church’s Job

Christmas Service

One of the most memorable and influential books that Jason and I have read throughout our time in in ministry together is Think Orange. It talks about the importance of integrating the family and the church into ministry. That’s the whole reason behind the title – if you picture the church as light (yellow) and the home as a heart (red), when you mix them together you get orange.

The most paradigm-shifting thing I read in that book was the vast difference between the amount of time a church gets with a kid versus the amount of time they spend under their parents’ influence:

Reggie Joiner says: “At best, with those who attended our church consistently, we would only have about forty hours in a given year to influence a child. When we calculated holidays, sick days, custody issues, sports, vacations, and other factors, we realized how limited our time with children really was. The same fourth-grader who would spend nearly four hundred hours playing video games and studying math would spend forty hours in our environments with our teachers and leaders. That same day we calculated another number that shocked us: the amount of time the average parent had to spend with their children. It was three thousand hours in a single year” (Think Orange, 85, emphasis added).

We had suspected the limits of our influence with the teenagers in our youth group before we read this book. The longer we were in ministry, the more we noticed that most kids, for better or for worse, became the type of Christians their parents were.

We had a handful of kids who went through rebellious stages. But those that came from solid, godly homes seemed to find the right path again eventually.

And we had some kids who came from non-Christian homes, or homes with marginal faith who were wildly passionate about the Lord throughout their time in our youth group. It was incredibly disheartening to see those same kids walk away from the church just a short time after graduating high school.

Of course, there were a few who broke this mold, but in most cases, the influence of the parents prevailed.

If that alone doesn’t convince you of the enormous amount of responsibility that we as parents have to teach, disciple, and model Christ-like love to our kids, consider these words of Moses as he was giving the law to the Israelites:

These commandments that I give you today are to be on 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” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

Over the years, I think the church has unintentionally communicated to parents that the spiritual education of their children is best left up to the “professionals.” Best to let the pastor handle that.

But not only will this mentality severely limit the amount of time that your kids have a chance to absorb Biblical knowledge and principles, it goes expressly against what the Bible teaches.

The responsibility to raise godly children rests squarely on the shoulders of the parents.

I know this is intimidating. I get it. I’m a mom, and we’re even pastors, and sometimes, when we look at our two little boys, the thought of shepherding them into adults who love and follow Jesus seems like an overwhelming responsibility. We’re in the same boat as you, just trying our best as we go, trusting God’s grace to fill in the gaps, and praying for them as hard as we can.

We need the church, too, of course. Not to raise our kids into godly adults for us, but to stand beside us and offer us tools to we need to disciple them.

The church’s responsibility is to come alongside your family, to resource you, to show you what it means to really follow God, so that you can model that for your children.

But it is not their job to disciple your children. If you are a parent, that’s your job.