25 Names of Jesus Advent ebook

Reposted from November 2014 

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 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!

God put this project on my heart and I have been so encouraged by the responses I have already received from it.  Feel free to share www.25NamesofJesus.com with your small group, lifegroup, mom’s group, or friends.  Sign up for my mailing list to receive your free copy!

No Facebook for 40 days: 4 things I learned and the 1 reason I’m back!

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’m including it here so it is easily accessible! 

Let me start out by saying this whole experiment kind of happened haphazardly.  I aim to be unplugged from media on Sundays, and this past year Christmas happened to be on a Sunday.  The holiday excitement around our household carried through the following week, and so I just continued to stay off my facebook account.  And then, as I examined my goals and hopes for the new year, I felt like God was asking me to continue the “fast.”  Indeed, I felt like a fast across multiple domains was in order to start the new year off right.  We are currently in the midst of a food fast of sorts, as we are getting ready to complete our first round of Whole 30.  Adding to the fasted lifestyle has included regular early morning wake ups and more structured routines in daily life.

But back to facebook.  I’ve never been one to “over share” and even putting this post out there makes me feel vulnerable.  But here are some significant lessons I learned from my #40dayfacebookfast.  I hope you can be encouraged, and challenged as well as you evaluate your use of media in the future!  One of my favorite quotes is “The unexamined life is not worth living” (Socrates).   I find that I feel truly alive and purposeful when I have analyzed and examined aspects of my life to determine if they are worthwhile, or “pruned” them to be even more fruitful and useful. Indeed, God calls us to do this and John 15:2 says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” As we consider our use of social media and facebook, where is God calling us to prune?

Here are some things I learned along the way during my 40 days away from Facebook.

LESSON 1:

It was not hard J

Let me just say that another way: I was sort of expecting this to feel more painful than it was.  Similar to when I have fasted from food, the first few days I feel famished and my body feels out of whack.  This was exactly the case during the facebook fast.  I would automatically try to click the app (I ended up deleting it from my phone so that was hugely helpful!) and I would wonder what certain friends were posting.  And then, just like in fasting from food where you body adjusts to the new normal, it became completely normal for me.  It was not difficult.  It just became the new routine. My mind and heart became adjusted in to thinking of other things, and doing other things with that time.

Lesson 2:

It puts real relationships in their proper place.

This sounds like a simple thing, but it is revolutionary.  Our culture is so addicted (and I am guilty of this as well!) to feeling connected by technology that it’s hard for genuine relationships to prosper.  This issue came to the surface about a month ago when our family went through something hugely traumatic.  During this time, our local community surrounded us on every side.  Let me give you a glimpse of the love we experienced during this time:

-Friends arranged and paid for us to have a week retreat as a family at a gorgeous secluded location: see below!

-People brought us meals…not just dinners every night, but BREAKFAST, LUNCH, and SNACKS as well.  They brought food for our whole family of 6, and even considered my daughter’s food allergies (which makes us not easy to cook for!) This made us feel so loved and taken care of!

-Friends gave my husband a ride to and from work, even though it was completely out of their way and could not have been convenient for them!

-Friends sent toys for my kids and puzzles and games to entertain them.

-They texted and prayed and emailed and sent encouragements to us.

-One friend gave me a piece of scripture artwork to remind me of truth that I have hanging in my home to remind me of God’s faithfulness. (from Gracelaced)

We were overwhelmed with love on all sides, and saw new aspects of the love and care of God through their care of us.  

The reality is that JESUS CAME.  Jesus was the INCARNATION.  He was Emmanuel, GOD WITH US.  He wasn’t God far away and God sending random messages online.  He walked and talked and touched and ate and provided in the flesh.  And those are the friendships that are worth cultivating and giving our time to.  You can have a billion likes and comments on your photos and be missing the real depth of INCARNATION FRIENDSHIPS that God wants to bless you with!!  Let this be my plea – before you log on to facebook, perhaps consider it a cue to connect with a friend that you SEE regularly.  

Fight the battle for online connection with the sword of true connection. IT IS WORTH IT!

Lesson 3:

The void is good for our souls.

Before the past 40 days, I don’t know if I would have realized this exactly. But facebook is not just a loss of “in the moment time.”  If you spend 10 minutes on facebook, you haven’t just spent 10 minutes of your life.  It is actually more – because you have to add in the amount of time you spend THINKING about what you just read or saw.  When I spent significant time away from this influx, I loved the VOID it created in my thought life.  Instead of having thoughts about what others were doing filling up my brain, I was able to devote extra time and energy to reading (I read 7 books during those 40 days), prayer, and real friendships. It made me also ask myself what I was seeking when I would have the desire to log on.  Was I seeking entertainment? Was I feeling lonely or uninspired? Was I seeking connection with a real friend? What was my heart needing?

Lesson 4:

Distraction is remedied by FOCUS.

Again, this sounds simple but it is CRITICAL.  The enemy wants the people of God to be distracted.  He wants us to waste our time and abandon the callings on our lives. Starting out the year of 2017 with a more disciplined, fasted lifestyle has made me even more aware than ever of my tendency to veer towards my own desires and unintentionality.  But that is not the life God has called me to.  He has called me to live with purpose and to “not shrink back” from the things He has called me to do! A favorite passage of mine is in Hebrews 11.  It reads, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised…my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But WE ARE NOT OF THOSE WHO SHRINK BACK AND ARE DESTROYED, but of those who believe and are saved.” The words in that verse remind me of warriors, well equipped and well focused for their tasks.  We are truly the “army of God” and if we can live undistracted lives and not shrink back from the work God has called us to do, we can enjoy the fulfillment of God’s promises to us! (Hebrews 11:37)

So, with all these lessons learned, I also came away with a new focus for facebook.

The reason I’m back:

It is all related to stewardship and I want to steward this opportunity well.  I live in this current age where information and sharing lives gives the everyday person (like me!) an enormous platform for sharing truth and light with others.

I do not want to squander this platform. I want to have social media in its proper place.  One of my favorite “domestic theologians,” Allison Burr, uses the phrase “TOOLS NOT TOYS.”  I want to harness facebook as a TOOL for me to use constructively, and minimize its use as a toy/escape from everyday life.  I think that is the key for me in keeping priorities in order.

Another fantastic resource for evaluating my life lately has been material from Lara Casey.  She publishes “power sheets”, wrote a book, and maintains a blog, all with the same underlying message: CULTIVATE WHAT MATTERS.  I love that.  I love her heart for empowering people to live out the things that truly matter, and analyze and arrange our hours and minutes to reflect just that.

Lara Casey similarly encourages a thorough evaluation of your use of social media, and even recommends coming up with a “mission statement” of how you want to use social media. She also challenges people to join her every week for a #socialmediafreeweekend.  Put down the phone, really connect with people and family, and live life fully. Count me in!

I have been spending my Sabbath day (Sundays) without screens for about a year now, and it has brought so much refreshment to fast regularly from technology and social media. Since this #40dayfacebookfast, I have been also developing some other parameters and non-negotiables to keep my time on facebook in its proper place. I don’t want to mindlessly fritter away time on social media, and I want it to lead me TOWARDS deeper relationships and not just surface level relationships.

I want to use facebook for the glory of God, to encourage other moms and women to live purposefully, and to display the goodness of God in my life. I don’t want to conform to culture, but I want to influence culture.  I don’t want to draw attention to myself, but draw attention to God and make His name great.

I would love to know your thoughts on facebook and social media, and how you navigate your time!  What have you done or what are you planning to do to examine your use of social media? Do you fast from anything in your current lifestyle? What good things do you fill that time with instead? What helps you to step away from your phone, facebook, or instagram?

 

Full of Thanks & Giving

This is reposted from my old blog.  I’m posting it here so that it is easily accessible!

This project has been on my heart for awhile.  I love finding intentional ways to celebrate holidays with my family, and put the emphasis on God.  At the same time, I want to keep it fun and engaging for my kids to enjoy learning about God!

I volunteered throughout college with Operation Christmas Child and love their mission.  Our family has loved packing boxes for children across the globe, and this devotional series connects the heart behind giving with the practical tips for completing a shoebox.  My prayer is that your family would be blessed and know more of the heart of God as you explore the devotionals and learn about THANKS and GIVING.

There are FIVE total devotionals for your family to enjoy.  They are designed to be used for four Sundays leading up to Thanksgiving, and the final devotional is for Thanksgiving Day.  Each devotional includes scripture, discussion questions, prayers, and an activity to complete together. Along the way, you will learn more about thankfulness and create a shoebox to send to a child in need around the world!

There are also label pages included for attaching to your shoebox, and details about how to access extra resources!

 

The devotionals start on Sunday, October 30th, but feel free to jump in at any time!

Sign up for all my ebooks and get your FREE copy of the Thanksgiving Devotional Ebook and this BONUS free Scripture Printable (shown below!)

30 IDEAS FOR Celebrating the Sabbath with your Family (even with young kids!)

There are 3 main things we aim for when celebrating the Sabbath. We aim to make it

SACRED
SPECIAL
and RESTFUL.

These things are all Biblically based, yet in this modern world it is so challenging to make these things a reality. Once a week, we are commanded (yes, it’s one of the 10 commandments!) to rest from our work and keep the Sabbath HOLY.

With young children, it can be particularly challenging. There really are no “days off” from parenting! So, we have established some rhythms and habits that even include the littlest ones, and we all can participate in making this day SET APART for the Lord.

SACRED:
This truly is a sacred day.

Exodus 20:8-11 says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, not your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, not the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

We experience this sacredness as we connect with God and with people in a special way on the Sabbath. Taking extra time to nurture our faith and our fellowship with believers makes this day set apart to the Lord.

After attending The Gathering, a very special Sabbath-day gathering of thousands of believers in our city!

1. Our number one way of achieving this is by attending church. We don’t just want to be passive attenders, though. We try to pray that morning beforehand that God would particularly open our hearts to the message being preached. We want to be actively involved in what God is doing! If for some reason we are sick or we have sick kiddos, we aim to stream the church service or listen to a sermon online if we can!
2. We also love to connect with family on this day. We FaceTime frequently on Sunday afternoons with relatives that live far away. We almost always have lunch with my mom, who lives nearby. We try to surround ourselves with relationships and spend special time together on this day.
3. Another idea to use this sacred time would be to invite a missionary family over to share about their lives. Perhaps use Sundays as a day to open your home. One family I read about invited missionaries over after church on Sundays, and while the Father performed all the chores normally done by the children, the children all listened to the missionary share their experiences. Several of these children later grew up to be missionaries and preachers as well. What an impressive tradition that had lasting fruit!
4. You could also use this sacred time to connect with a sponsored child or someone you are investing in or mentoring.
5. Have a special devotional time. We have nightly family devotionals, but on Sundays we try to spend extra time in the Word. We want the truths to sink into our kids’ hearts, so we might act out a bible story or spend extra time worshipping.
6. Use meal times purposefully – maybe have some intentional questions during lunch or dinner that everyone answers (What was the most significant part of your week? What are you most looking forward to in the week ahead? How is God growing in you right now?) Use this as a touchpoint to connect with each other!
7. Do something kind together, whether it is a “random act of kindness” or doing something unexpected for someone you know.
8. Take communion together.
9. Have a “foot washing ceremony.” You probably wouldn’t do this every single week, but take time to read about Jesus washing the disciples feet and then practice serving one another by washing each others feet. Our kids really enjoy this!
10. Have a special time of encouragement. We used to have time each week where we specifically encouraged each person in the family. This is such a great way to cultivate relationships with each other.
11. Review memory verses or play a Bible memory game. I like to read through all my memory verses on Sundays. We have also played some fun Bible games on Sundays too, to remind the kids of things they are learning about the Word!

All dressed and ready for church! I try to lay out all the clothes and shoes the night before to alleviate the morning rush!

SPECIAL:
One of our aims is to make this day the pinnacle of our week. It truly is the best day! We get to celebrate God, rest, fellowship with other believers, and take a break from our usual work. We try hard to make this day super special and distinct from every other day of the week. Here are some fun ways to make the SABBATH special:

12. In our family, we have special placemats that the kids made that we ONLY use on Sunday. They are glittery and totally gaudy, but the girls love them. They serve to make the day a little extra “sparkly” and special!
13. Other ideas in this vein would be to use a favorite mug only on Sundays, or particular nice plates or china. Set your table in a special way or take extra time with the arrangement. You could play special music or hymns on this day.
14. Eat dessert first on Sundays!
15. Something fun we did recently was pick flowers during some time outside on Sundays. Maybe incorporate this arrangement into your dining table centerpiece and reflect on the beauty God created.
16. We try to take intentional time on Sundays to be in NATURE. We experience the wonder of God and Majesty of God in new ways as we are surrounded by His creation. This is a way to make the day special and take extra time to be in the presence of God and recharge.
17. Have a set apart time for a “teatime” or other special snack. We have been known to make fresh salsa on Sundays and have chips and salsa together!
18. Read aloud or listen to an audio book together.
19. Our girls are really into crafts. Having a special craft time on this day is so fun for them! The book “The Artful Parent” is a great resource for ideas! Make some homemade play dough and create together.
20. Have a special baking time! And enjoy the fruits of your labors. Make the emphasis on spending time together and make some memories in the kitchen!
21. Have a bonfire! Roast hot dogs, make s’mores, and talk around the fire. Or eat by candlelight! Talk about the Jesus being the light of the world!

Some special art time and reading time

RESTFUL
We really want to experience the REST that God has for us. It actually takes EFFORT to rest! Hebrews 4:11 says we should “make every effort to enter that rest…”
22. One particular tip that has worked well for us is to come home after church and put lounge clothes or pjs on right away! It certainly sets the mood for rest. It ALSO has the added restful benefit of eliminating another step in the bedtime routine that evening! If pjs are already on, that’s one less thing we have to do later with the kids when bedtime rolls around 🙂
23. We try to stretch nap time until after lunch, so that all the kids have rest time/nap time at the same time. This hour or so that our house is completely quiet is such a nice way to establish a restful day on the Sabbath!
24. Pre-prep your food! If you are serious about resting on the Sabbath, you probably have to do some extra work to prepare for it. The Israelites had to gather extra food the day before the Sabbath, and for us that looks like extra prep on Saturdays. I try my best to get meals prepped the day before so that Sunday is just reheating or doing simple kitchen tasks. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, but it makes the day so much easier when the bulk of the cooking is done.
25. In the same way, we like to do a big clean sweep on Saturday nights, in preparation for the Sabbath. It is so freeing to wake up to a tidied house and not have to think about chores or messes.
26. I do not have any normal household tasks scheduled for Sundays. I “take the day off” of laundry and try to do minimal picking up throughout the day. As much as I relish a day off, it is actually really difficult to live this out!
27. We don’t make our kids do their normal chores on this day. I really want them to experience the restfulness of this day. We try to do more than normal beforehand and let the non-urgent things slide!
28. We are intentional about NOT planning outside activities on this day. We try to not commit to outside events or meetings as much as possible and really protect this time.
29. Depending on your use of screen time, either eliminating screens or using screen time in a special way might be restful. I unplug from media on Sundays and it is particularly freeing (#screenfreesabbath). We don’t have a TV in our house, but occasionally we will watch a special show on the computer on Sundays.
30. A special soak in the tub is a very restful activity – for kids or adults! Our kids really like foot massages too, so we sometimes incorporate that into our Sabbath. (Pedicures and spa time with Mommy is another favorite that our girls enjoy!)

Sunday nap on the couch after church, when the crib wasn’t working!

All of these are merely ideas; feel free to adapt what works for your family and season and let the rest go! We definitely don’t do all of these every Sunday, and we go through seasons of what works best and is beneficial. Additionally, it is important to be diligently working on the other days of the week. Six days of work, and one day of rest is the rhythm that God has outlined for us. If we work hard throughout the week, finishing projects and even wrapping up tasks on Saturdays, then Sunday truly can be the respite it is designed to be!

Cuddling on a Sunday afternoon

I believe that practicing a weekly Sabbath and making it sacred, special, and restful is a key aspect of a healthy family.

God designed life to work best when we follow His commands and mandates! We are never perfect and will never follow the Sabbath perfectly, but I think establishing this as a PRIORITY and following God’s design will bring blessing and deepen our relationship with God and with each other.

How do you practice the Sabbath with your family? What have you found that works well? What are some ideas you have tried over the years?

Easter Ebook: Jesus the Resurrection

This project has been two years in the making, and I am so excited to share it with you all!

My hope is that each detail of this devotional Ebook – the scripture readings, the discussion questions, the action steps, and the printables – would lead your family closer to Jesus.  As you enter into this season of Lent and Easter, would your family draw near to God and uncover all that He has for your family!

The devotionals are arranged to tell the story of Easter, including the main events of Passion week, and beyond.  There are 10 devotionals in all, and each is titled with a name or quality of Jesus.  The focus is on Christ and on making Him known.

They are designed to be used alongside the coordinating printables.  There is a garland to print, which reminds you of each devotional topic and counts down to Easter Sunday.  There are also scripture verse printables to showcase the Word of God in your home.

This study is designed to be completed at your own pace.  Feel free to spread the 10 devotionals out over the days of Lent (in which case you could complete around 2 devotionals per week). You can complete them during the 10 days leading up to Easter, or as time allows. The design and desire is for it to be unifying, intentional, and relational.

Please join me and my family as we journey together, learning about the story of Easter and the person of Jesus!

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