25 Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional for Families

As a mom of 4, I am always looking for ways to captivate my children’s hearts with Jesus. I want them to see Christmas as a celebration of the most important person in our lives. I want to introduce them to the characteristics and names of Jesus, so that they KNOW HIM and KNOW why it is so exciting to celebrate HIM!

I developed this Advent study several years ago to do just that, and I would be delighted to share it with your family! I know that I have the important role of creating purposeful traditions in our home and I wanted a way to make Christmas fun, intentional, and MEANINGFUL.

This Advent study is designed for families with younger children to spend time together and set their hearts on Jesus throughout the Christmas season.

Each day, we celebrate one of the names or qualities of Jesus:

 

The ebook contains 43 pages of material, with a page for each day that includes:

-a passage from the Bible and/or pages in The Jesus Storybook Bible
-an interactive activity that illustrates the meaning of the story – these are intended for kids around 2-7 years old and involve items you probably have around the house already!
-a discussion question or topic

-a way to pray

Here is an example page showing the first day of the study!

There are printables at the end of the book, including pages to make ornaments and a paper chain countdown!

 

 

My desire is that your family would be blessed by this and fall more in love with the PERSON of Jesus this season!

I created this signup form to make it accessible and keep it completely FREE for people to access.  God put this project on my heart and I have been so encouraged by the responses I have received from it.  Feel free to share this with your small group, lifegroup, mom’s group, or friends.  Sign up below to get your copy of the ebook!

 


 

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Thanksgiving Devotional celebrating Operation Christmas Child!


I wrote this devotional series two years ago to foster a sense of thankfulness and guide families through the process of packing a shoebox with Operation Christmas Child. This organization is near to my heart and I love their mission to spread the good news of Jesus and share the JOY of Christmas with kids around the world!

 

There are 5 devotionals, designed to be completed during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.  Each one includes scripture, questions to discuss, and an activity to complete.  As a family, you will learn more about gratitude and the blessings God has given us, and out of that overflow be envisioned to create a shoebox for a child living around the world!

National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child is November 13-20, 2017! Download your FREE devotionals below and learn more about packing a shoebox!

 

Click HERE to download a copy for your family!

 

 

 

2017 Booklist: August Update

I love reading!  Here are the books I’ve read so far this year.  If you have specific questions or want a recommendation of what to read, let me know!  I would be happy to answer any questions!

  January

1. The More of Less, Joshua Becker

2. Holiness for Housewives, Hubert Van Zeller

3. The Magicians Nephew, C.S. Lewis

4. Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life, Margaret Kim Peterson

February

5. Make It Happen, Lara Casey

6. Reforming Social Media, Mandy J. Hoffman

7. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

8. Hoodwinked, Karen Edman and Ruth Schwenk

9. Imagine Heaven, John Burke

10. 90 Minutes in Heaven, Don Piper

11. For Better or For Kids, Ruth Schwenk

12. You and Me Forever, Francis and Lisa Chan

13. Proof of Heaven, Eben Alexander

March

14. C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller, Geoff Benge

15. Forgotten God, Francis Chan

16. Mission of Motherhood, Sally Clarkson

17. Big Love, Kara Tippets

18. The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis

19. Raising Chickens, Jermone Belanger

20. King’s Cross, Timothy Keller

April

21. The Green Ember, S. D. Smith

22. Ember Falls, S. D. Smith

23. Growing Kids God’s Way, Gary Ezzo

24. They Found the Secret, V. Raymond Edman

25. Realign, Josh Lawson

26. We Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon’s Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven, Randy Alcorn

27. Prince Caspian, C. S. Lewis

May

28. Adventures in Prayer, Catherine Marshall

29. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis

June

30. Triggers, Amber Lia

31. The Silver Chair, C. S. Lewis

32. I Heart Heaven, Tracy H. Goza Ph.D.

33. To Heaven and Back, Mary C. Neal

34. Prayer, Tim Keller

35. None Like Him, Jen Wilkin

36. The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis

July

37. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown

38. The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul

August 

39. Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline, Catherine McNeil

40. Cultivate, Lara Casey

41. Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery

42. For the Children’s Sake, Susan Shaeffer Macauley

43. Go Make Disciples, Drew Steadman

44. Clara Barton (Landmark Book), Helen More Boyleson

45. Parenting, Paul David Tripp

Random extra books/Booklets that I’ve enjoyed this year:

How to Celebrate Everything, Jenny Rosenstrach

The Whole 30, Melissa Hartwig

100 Days of Real Food: Fast and Fabulous, Lisa Leake

Simply Clean, Becky Rapinchuk

Cut Flower Garden, Erin Benzakein

Helping Children Understand the Gospel, Sally Michael, Jill Nelson, and Bud Burk

The Majestic Names of God, Lisa Kay Hailey Blair

 

 

Favorite Resources

I have been asked a few times about some of my favorite blogs, books, and other resources.  I will try to keep this list updated as I discover more along the way.  Here are some of my long-time favorites:

Allison Burr (@burr_family on Insta, truthbeautygoodness.net) She is an excellent resource for intentional motherhood, theology, and posts very intentionally about their family culture and how they do life.  I love following her! I took her parenting ecourse last fall called “Building Foundations” and really got a lot out of it.
Jess Connell – she has a podcast (Mom On Purpose) and blog (jessconell.com), which I love.  She recently stopped posting and is taking an extended break, but I really enjoy her content and her views on many issues. She is a mom of many and has also lived overseas.
Risen Motherhood – I love their podcast and all the show notes that they provide as additional info. While they don’t always delve into the practical tips, they have a wonderfully refreshing gospel focus that helps re-envision my heart for mothering. It’s a great conversational podcast that I frequently listen to in the car. They also have an Instagram account and Facebook page.
Mystie Winkler – I  discovered her only a few months ago and she has a GREAT podcast called “The Simplified Organization Audio Blog.”  Most of the podcasts are only a few minutes long, but they are packed with phenomenal content.  She also has some super useful posts on her blog about home management. In the short time I have been reading her content, I have been very equipped and helped! I also listen to her podcast about “Daily Faithfulness” frequently to be re-envisioned for the day-to-day tasks!
Sally Clarkson is one of my absolute favorites. I joke that I want her to adopt me.  I settle for reading all her books and going to her  conferences! She’s an amazing inspiration and truly a pioneer in affirming the high calling of motherhood.  I’m also in a “MomHeart” group (Sally started these, and we have one in Waco) where we read through motherhood books together and ask each other questions.  It’s such a unique group – different churches, ages, and stages of mothering, but we all learn from each other.  This has been a HUGE encouragement for me over the past couple years.
Lara Casey is another favorite.  Book/blog/powersheets are all great! She encourages moms to “cultivate what matters” and this especially resonates with me.
For kitchen tips/recipes/meal planning: 
Humorous homemaking
Trina Holden
Raising Generation Nourished
(all have Instagram accounts and blogs)
Books:
Raising Godly Tomatoes (funny name but love the book and discipline method, although we don’t follow it precisely)
Growing Kid’s God’s Way
What the Bible Has to say about Child Training, J. Richard Fugate
Desperate, Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson
Mission of Motherhood, Sally Clarkson
Parenting Without Regret, Jimmy and Laura Seibert
The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Edith Shaeffer (Just thinking about this book makes me want to reread it!  So many creative tips to make your home a place of God’s beauty)
Hints on Child Training, H. Clay Trumball (This is such a classic!)
Any of the Duggar’s books (I know some people don’t like them but I think they have a lot of wisdom)
Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp
Teaching from Rest (not just for homeschooling moms – I think any mom could benefit from reading this book from the creator of Read Aloud Revival, Sarah Mackenzie)
Large Family Logistics, which has been revamped and renamed Home Management Plain and Simple. She uses a system where each day of the week has a specific set of tasks (Office day, Cleaning day, Kitchen day, etc) and has a lot of tips for efficiency.
The Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family, Mary Ostyn
A Mother’s Rule of Life, Holly Pierlot. This book really helped me analyze my schedule and create blocks of time for things that matter most to our family.

How we tackle CHORES and the flow of our kids’ days

“Many hands make light work,” or so the saying goes. And with many children, there are a lot of hands and there certainly IS a lot of work to make light of!  One of the ways we tackle this is by assigning jobs and responsibilities for everyone. This cultivates a sense of family belonging, enhances responsibility, and teaches true life skills that will be valuable in the years to come!

Today, I’m hoping to post a little about what works for our family.  I have also been asked more about our daily rhythm and I will try to do a more complete post on that in the near future!  But for today, here is a quick run down of how our kids do chores throughout the day.

Here is the overview of the day for my kiddos.  It’s not glamorous, but it’s posted on our fridge and wipeable (!!) so that it can be easily viewed and referenced throughout the day. I have found that our routine shifts slightly every few months, so having the ability to change the pages easily is crucial!

Upon waking up, my kids are responsible for attending to their bathroom needs, washing their hands, and Emery is in charge of turning off the white noise in their room.

They bring their water bottles to their seats at the table (they sleep with their water bottles to get drinks throughout the night), and then they start on their morning chores.  Here are their morning responsibilities:

Mabry (just turned 3): gets out her step stool (we use these folding ones) and sorts and puts away the silverware, then pushes in the drawer and returns her stool to the hook (the job isn’t done until these things are complete!)

Ruby (age 4): fills up water jugs with our Berkey water filter and places them in the fridge to chill, and puts away her stool when finished.

Emery (age 6): helps me unload the dishwasher, putting away the things she can reach.  We have a lot of magnetic baby proof locks, so I give her a key to use to help put away dishes. I put away anything that’s too high for her to reach.

After chores, we eat breakfast.  After breakfast, they are responsible for clearing their place, and take their plates to the sink and put their water bottles on the cabinet next to our water filter.

Then, we move to the nursery (Judah’s room). They get dressed, either in an outfit I have picked out for them already or in an outfit from their drawer.  We use the buddy system, and older siblings help their younger siblings.  I am with them during this time usually changing diapers and restocking wipes and diapers on the changing table or tidying the room.  This time is also used to put away clean clothes, which are folded in buckets (just cheap plastic dishpans) from the night before. Buddies help with this as well.  They also are required to put their dirty clothes in the hamper before moving on to the next task.

I am also BIG on attaching certain habits to existing habits, and maximizing time.  So, one thing we have to do every single day (with girls with long hair!) is brush out their hair.  I have memory verses saved on my “voice memos” on my phone, and while I brush their hair, I play the verses.  This helps make a tedious task a little more meaningful, and also helps to ensure that we accomplish our memory verses for the day.

Then, they move to the bathroom and brush teeth.  Jared and I floss and brush their teeth at night, but in the mornings they do this on their own or with help from their buddies. Emery also changes out the hand towel in their bathroom during this time.

Then, we move to the playroom (the girls’ shared bedroom).  They are responsible for picking up toys (there usually aren’t many because we pick up the night before).  They clear dolls and any books off the beds.  I actually make the beds for them (this seems like a task that just causes tons of frustration for them – eventually, they will get it!) and then they stack the pillows on their beds.  This doesn’t take long, but it’s nice to start the day with a completely cleaned up playroom.

Then, we all move back to the kitchen table,  If I haven’t already, I will give it a quick wipe, and we all sit down for morning devotions.  Right now, we are on our second run through of “Bible Stories to Read” and “Bible Pictures to Color” from Rod and Staff.  Each lesson/story has a coloring page, so the girls color those while I read and ask them questions about the story.

When this is finished, we add them to our family bible binder, and then we read at least 3 books.  (Sometimes, if breakfast is taking awhile, and I finish eating before them, I will read them earlier during mealtime.  But usually this is when we read at least a couple books.)

After reading time, we normally do school work at the table.  During the summer, we are more relaxed about this.  Whenever “table time” is done, they are free to play.

Around 10am most days is when we have a snack.  If we have an errand to run or a play date, this is usually the window of time when we do those things (after table time and before lunch).

Around 11:15 (usually), we work on making lunch.  I have mentioned on Instagram that we have cooking days for each of the kids, to give them more focused practice in the kitchen.  So that helper will often help me make lunch and set the table. Sometimes, if they are engrossed in play or if we are just getting back from somewhere, I will make lunch myself (for time’s sake).

After lunch (and taking their plate and returning their water bottles!) is rest time.  Judah takes a nap, and the 3 girls have quiet time.  It’s an hour and twenty minutes long. (I use the Visual Timer App on the iPad so they can see how much time is left – they aren’t allowed to use the iPad for anything else though).  If they are playing nicely together, they can all play in the playroom together.  Some days, I sense they need a little space to themselves, and separate them.  We have what is essentially a closet space we call Emery’s “Art Studio,” where she likes to go to do artwork, read, and have a little space to herself.  So, if they are separate, she will go to her studio, Ruby will play in the playroom, and I set up the pack and play for Mabry in the living room.  Mabry sometimes naps, or, more often than not, will look at books.  Audiobooks are another option during this time.

After rest time, we have a couple afternoon tasks.  We don’t accomplish these all every day, but this is the time slot for them!

-Playing outside: This is almost always in the afternoon right after rest time.  We check the garden, we might turn on sprinklers, swing, play in the playhouse, write with chalk, etc.  I love to see their imaginations come out in their free-form play.

-Exercise time: If the weather is bad and we can’t get outside, sometimes I will pull out our mini trampoline and let them take turns getting some energy out.  We also have a couple kid friendly DVDs that I will occasionally pull out that have some fun motions to get them moving and dancing around.

-CHARACTER TIME: This is a big one that we have implemented the past year or so.  I felt convicted that I really wanted to be teaching and training my children (from the Deuteronomy 6 model) but didn’t have a specific time that I was being intentional with this. Certainly, training happens all along the way, but I felt like we needed to be set apart more time for it.  So, I try to use a short segment of our afternoon to practice things like saying yes ma’am, come to mommy, how to behave in certain instances.  We talk about WHY we do things a certain way (why we want to share with others, why we treat guests favorably, why we don’t want to take a toy from sister, etc).  Sometimes I will make up simple stories and we talk about which character behaved the right way.  Or sometimes I will relate it back to our bible story from that morning and talk more about the choices that person made, or what we learned from that story. I view this time as a time to practice what they are expected to do, as well as fill their hearts with the reasons behind it. I don’t just want to have their behavior change but really have their hearts changed so that they would reflect the character of God.

-Afternoon chores: These are more “deep cleaning” type tasks and not necessarily things that need to be accomplished every single day like their other chore tasks.  Below are some of the tasks for them to complete. I have a little basket with these slips in them, and they each pick one or two to do that day.  I assist them as needed, and often use this time to fold laundry from the day.

 

-Occasionally I will need to run a few more errands; if so, there is usually space here in our schedule to add that in.

-Snack: We do another snack around 3pm every day.  I have found that limiting the snacks to 2 times a day (10 and 3) has improved my kid’s appetites at meals and given us a sustainable schedule (instead of me being in the kitchen endlessly catering to the incessant snack demands of one child or another!)

-Reading Aloud – we have a set apart time for reading in the mornings, but we also will pick up books throughout the afternoon and read together as well.

-Various errands/playdates: sometimes these fall into this afternoon time slot as well.

We like to do a quick EHAP before Jared gets home from work as well, to ensure that the house is nice and tidy for when he gets home! (EHAP stands for Everything Has A Place, a concept I borrowed from Mystie Winkler).

My kitchen helper for the day helps me make dinner, while the other 3 play somewhere other than the kitchen.  To help get ready for dinner, they bring their waters and help set the table.

I have also found that attaching chores to mealtimes (before breakfast and after dinner) makes for an easy system and helps ensure that they are actually completed.  After finishing dinner, they take their plates to the sink and I load and run the dishwasher, while they do the following chores, in this order:

  1. Emery cleans the items off the table, delivering water bottles to beds and taking dirty cloth napkins to the laundry basket.

2. I give Ruby the wood spray and a dishrag, and she wipes down the table.

3. Mabry uses the Makita and vacuums under the table to pick up crumbs (I heard about the Makita from Allison Burr – it’s a super simple handheld vacuum that even the smallest kids can use.  It only has one button – they really can’t mess it up – it’s great!)

I will cover more about our evening routine in another post, but this hopefully gives a good grid for chores and the tasks that our kids have throughout the day!

This schedule might seem really rigid when it’s all laid out like this, but in real life it really isn’t. With these anchors in place, there is a lot of time for free play and for “life” to happen. We drop things when we need to and sometimes our day is morphed into something else entirely due to visitors, sickness, or other special events.  I have noticed, though, that having a clearly defined plan has made my time seemingly MULTIPLY.  It seems like I have so much more free time than before, and the same is true for my kids.  I know we are getting the important things done, and I’m not having to constantly wrack my brain wondering what we are forgetting or what we should do next.  It’s all on a simple list for us, and it saves us so much hassle.

Also, this plan is in place for our Mondays-Fridays.  I’ve blogged about our Sunday Sabbaths here.  We don’t require our children to do chores on Sundays.  On Saturdays, though, to prepare, we do some extra chores and house cleaning and meal prep to prepare for Sudndays. In general, though, our Saturdays are very fluid and we don’t follow such a concrete rhythm on those days (usually because we have so many other events or plans on those days, we just have to plan each Saturday as it comes).

It has helped me immensely to compare notes with other moms about chores.  I love to see what other tasks their kids do around the house.  Another great resource is the book “What every Child Should Know Along the Way.” There are chore lists by age in the back, as well as lots of other helpful lists of manners and safety.  Allison Burr uses a clipboard system for chores that would work really well for older kids, which I plan on adapting in a few years.

Another idea that has helped me, especially for morning chores, is thinking what we can all do in the same room together before we move to the next room or set of tasks.  I have realized that it doesn’t work, especially for little kids, to be scattered all over the house accomplishing different things.  We need to be together and I need to be able to see them to direct them properly and make sure they are not getting sidetracked.  So our morning flow goes from dining room/kitchen to nursery to bathroom to playroom, and back to the dining room.  This also saves time, since we are not moving back and forth from one room to the next for each individual task.  We all accomplish the tasks in one room before moving on to the next!

Lastly, and most importantly, my suggestion and hope is this: that you would take these ideas and prayerfully consider how your family can seek Jesus together and intentionally focus your days on Him.  No suggestion or chore tip is going to make your life better if Jesus is not at the center of it all. I hope that giving a glimpse into our days is helpful – it feels kind of vulnerable to put all this out there.  But even if none of this resonates with you, I would love for you to spend some time asking God what ways you can be more intentional with your time and with your kids’ time. I believe He has something in store for you as you plan your time and even as you incorporate chores and responsibilities for your children.

I would love to hear how you implement chores in your house.  How old are your kids, and what jobs do they do around the house? Let me know in the comments!