5 Tips for Taking a Theme Park Trip with Young Children

Are you planning a theme park trip with young children?

Last week we went on a whirlwind Orlando trip with our two kids, ages 5 and 2. Orlando is about an eight hour drive from us, so we decided to make a trip before we move away this summer. We drove there and back and visited two popular theme parks in three days. So, yeah, you could say we are a little crazy. However, our crazy ends up for your benefit. If you’re planning any kind of theme park excursion this summer with your young children, I’ve got some pro tips for you!

This post is brought to you in partnership with Legoland Florida Resort. All opinions are 100% my own. Affiliate links are also included. Your purchases through these links help keep this blog running! 

#1 Keep it laid back

When planning a visit to a theme park, its super easy to go overboard with the planning of every last detail. While it’s good to be prepared, don’t go too crazy and set yourself up for frustration when things don’t go as planned.

For our first theme park, I wanted to get there before the opening time… we woke up late.

So I wanted to get there as soon as possible… then we got lost on the way there.

I was hoping to bring a packed lunch to save money… but we didn’t have time to stop at the grocery store.

After these set backs (and more!) we could have let discouragement settle in and take hold. However, we chose to let it go, move on, and make the best of what we had – two small children who were still having a blast, regardless of whether the adults plans were flowing perfectly.

 

#2 Bring snacks and LOTS of water

If you are visiting a theme park at any time of the year, your energetic little ones are going to want a snack at some point. Unless you want to pay top dollar for theme park snacks (annoying if you’re already planning on purchasing meals there), bringing a few along is a much better option. Plus, unlike packing a whole meal, snacks are usually more portable and easy to take along. They also make great distractions during breaks – or for while big brother is riding the “big kid” rides!

If you are visiting a theme park during the summer, do not underestimate the importance of water. Sure, it’s important all the time, but I don’t know about you – I don’t normally spent 90+ degree summer days outside the entire day. If you don’t bring your own water bottles, you will either blow through the expensive theme park water, or be seriously parched.

Avoid heat stroke and bring one of these bad boys – we filled this water bottle up with ice (which stayed in there all day) and refilled it with water as needed throughout the day. Seriously, these water bottles are awesome (we got this straw lid to use with it).

#3 Use a stroller that has a basket and can lay back

While you probably don’t want to be lugging giant double jogging stroller around a theme park, having a stroller with a little room to carry your stuff is a must with small children. We brought our Britax B-Agile Stroller and it had the perfect amount of room for our snacks, supplies, and water bottles. I saw so many people with tiny umbrella strollers – I don’t know how they did it!

Another added benefit to a nicer stroller is that most have the option for your child to recline back. On both of our theme park visits, the toddler nodded off in the stroller and took a nice little nap. A must when you have kiddos used to taking a nap – especially when they are out in the heat all day! Unless, of course, you enjoy afternoon meltdowns!

#4 Let your toddler out of the stroller if at all possible

I know, I just praised the awesomeness of the stroller. However, here’s the thing, if the toddler rides in his mighty chariot all day long with his devoted parents pushing him around the park this is what you will end up with at the end of the day: a toddler with tons of pent up energy and exhausted parents. Ask me how we know.

If the park you are visiting is going to be too busy to let your toddler toddle on his or her own, I certainly won’t judge you for using a kid leash. I totally would have if I would have thought about it early enough. Even something like this would have been great for my five year old (who I’m not even worried about bolting off) because it got awfully sweaty during the times we needed to hold hands.

#5 Go to Legoland Floria Resort Theme Park

Okay, I’m going to be straight up honest with you here. We did THE Orlando theme park… you know the one I’m talking about… with the castle and the princesses and the mouse with the big ears. Sure, the kids had fun. Sure, it was a “classic” experience. However, the place was a mad house and we left feeling like… welp, don’t know that we will be spending our money on that “experience” again. (Die hard fans please no hate mail!)

We truly weren’t able to put our finger on what was missing from the experience until we went to Legoland the next day. It was a night and day difference.

It wasn’t totally over crowded.

The employees were cheery and helpful.

The atmosphere was awesome.

But the biggest thing that left us feeling like, “yes! we will be back!” was: #builtforkids.

I didn’t remember that was their hashtag until we returned home, but it fits 100%. Legoland was absolutely built with kids in mind.

We started off in Duplo Valley, which is especially geared towards the younger crowd. I think my 5 and 2 year old could have stayed there the whole day. Hands on play area (in the AC – hallelujah!), kid friendly rides, splash area – it was perfect.

But it wasn’t just Duplo Valley, the whole park was built with kids in mind. The ride lines had play areas for the kids while parents held the spot. There were free play, hands on exhibits scattered throughout the park. There were rides that were perfect for all ages. The whole experience was like a breath of fresh air compared to the day before.

A good way to describe the park is like the perfect baby of a hands on children’s museum and a theme park.

And, don’t forget the LEGO. If you have kids that enjoy Lego, they will seriously go crazy here. Awesome Lego shops around every corner, the most amazing life size Lego creations, and plenty of opportunities to build. It’s a Lego lovers dream.

After the day was over, we all agreed that Legoland was our favorite.

I hope these tips were helpful to you no matter what theme park you’re braving this summer. But seriously, if it’s an option, opt for Legoland Florida Resort.

5 Tips for a Successful Bible Time with Kids

I have a confession.

After completing the Play Through the Bible series I did a terrible job at having a consistent Bible time with my kids. We started and stopped, and started and stopped again. I had lofty goals and didn’t see them through. Most of the time I just plain didn’t know where to start.

Have you found yourself in this place too?

You know it’s important. The desire is there. But the days keep slipping through your fingers without these goals being met.

I’ve been there. In fact, I’m still there sometimes. However, over the past few months I feel like I’ve finally landed on something that works.

We haven’t been perfect, but we have consistently had a morning Bible time together, opening the doors for lots of great spiritual conversations.

Today, I want to share with you how we made it work.

#1 Find a time that works for you

Does it seem like everyone else in the world starts their days with the picturesque scene of kids delightfully learning about God’s world around the breakfast table, but at that hour of the day your brain feels more like your gray bowl of oatmeal?

Say adios morning Bible time. 

Seriously, let it go and be you. Maybe your family works better during a quiet hour when the baby is napping or in the evening when dad is home to lend a hand.

Set a time, embrace it, and then stick to it.

#2 Keep it simple

Like, ridiculously simple.

At least for me, it is so easy to fall into the trap of feeling like I can never make Bible time “enough.” Wiggly kids, lack of time, and unmet plans leave me feeling discouraged and I eventually give up.

I finally realized that something small is better than nothing at all. In fact, it’s actually quite freeing and opens the doors for continued, yet unplanned, conversation.

And I’m not talking about a “simple” lesson plan or a “simple” list of things to get out of the Bible time. Oh no. We started with one short Bible story at breakfast.

That’s. It. 

No lesson plans. No crafts. No memory verses, songs, or lengthy discussions.

We slowly got in the habit of daily starting our day with the Bible. We built our discipline muscle. The kids started to expect the story and look forward to it. We would miss a day or two and then quickly pick it back up again because we could feel it missing.

We stayed here for a long time. We didn’t read just one story for a week and declare it mastered, starting to add new elements. This one story was our home base and we stayed and made it nice and cozy until we were able to venture out and add more.

Your home base doesn’t have to be a Bible storybook. It could be a song you sing, a simple prayer, or a chapter from Psalms. Whatever feels like home for your family in the stage of life you are in currently.

#3 Slowly add more to your Bible time

After camping out in your home base for as long as it takes to build that habit (no rushing!), slowly add in other elements to your Bible time.

Don’t feel tempted to add in a bunch of things all at once now that you’re feeling confident in your new habit. Pride comes before the fall, yeah? Make a list of the things you would *someday* like to accomplish and pick one.

Introduce that one thing and give it time to become part of the routine. If, at any time or during any particular day, your new routine starts to feel overwhelming – go back to your home base. Do just that one thing and pick back up the new the next day or the next week.

I cannot emphasize enough to take it nice and slow with no pressure. We have been doing this for at least two months now and this is what our morning Bible time looks like (with a 5 and almost 2 year old):

  • Read Bible story and briefly discuss/answer 5 year old’s questions
  • Read a few pages from God’s Wisdom for Little Boys (awesome book by the way!)
  • About ten minutes of listening to and learning a hymn

That’s all. And if we don’t do it all, that’s okay. If we miss a day, we just pick right back up where we left off. Eventually I’d like to add more, but for now we will probably be hanging out here for quite a while.

Bonus tip: when you do get to the point of adding more, do them on a rotation, instead of trying to do everything every day.

#4 Roll with the punches

It’s easy to feel discouraged when things aren’t going how you expected.

There are going to be days when your kids are more interested in the squirrel out the window than the story you are reading or would rather run off and play than sing worship songs. Life will get crazy and you will skip a day here and even a week there.

Just keep going, keep coming back to it, keep building the habit. Hold your plans loosely and keep an eye toward the future.

Remember, Bible time is not the ultimate measure of your godly parenting ability. 

While it is definitely important to set a precedence for digging into God’s Word and going to him with prayer and worship, you have many more hours in the day. Hours where just walking along side your children through the daily tasks of life can speak more into their hearts and souls than you’d ever imagine.

One of my favorite parenting passages is Deuteronomy 6:5-9…

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Let go of having the “perfect” moment and fill your home with the love of God and talk about him daily.

#5 Cover your goals in prayer

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.
-Proverbs 16:9

Don’t try and do this on your own strength. Go to God for his grace and wisdom. Spend time praying over your goals. Spend time praying for the spiritual maturity of your children.

Even with the simple steps we’ve discussed here, we will just be turning our wheels without God establishing our steps.

Take the next step

So, friend, if you found yourself knowing that having Bible time with your kids is important, but you just weren’t sure where to start, I hope you have a much clearer plan now!

If you are ready to take the next step and you could still use a little guidance – I’ve got you covered! I’ve created a FREE printable worksheet to help you plan out a Bible time that works for you.

Enter your information below to grab the free Bible Time with Kids Planning Worksheet AND gain access to the ever growing library of free printables!

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The BEST Children’s Storybook Bible

I am extremely picky when it comes to children’s Bibles.

Extremely.

I’m looking for a lot in that little package. Biblical accuracy, lack of fluff, lovely illustrations, and all done with text that is engaging and interesting to the youngest audience.

It’s a tall order.

So where, exactly, does one find a children’s Bible that meets these high standards? Perhaps you’ve walked into a Christian bookstore or browsed the pages of Amazon lately to find one. If you went into that without a plan, you probably found yourself overwhelmed. An Amazon search for “children’s bible stories” brings back a whopping 7,663 results to wade through!

And what happens if you choose the wrong children’s Bible? In your desire to begin planting God’s truth in your child’s heart, you could instead be sharing inaccurate accounts and misleading picture of God’s Word. Or worse, nothing at all could happen. The lack of an accurate and engaging story could leave your child bored, uninterested, and apathetic towards God’s Word.

What Are You Going To Do?

Well, you could spend a couple hours scrolling through Amazon, reading all the mixed reviews (do people ever agree on those reviews?). You could drive to the nearest Christian bookstore and page through all the Bibles on the shelf, maybe asking the employees for their recommendation (hopefully they’ve tested them out with their kids). Or you could hop over to Amazon right now and take five minutes to purchase our hands down, number one, most favorite Children’s Bible.

We have been using The Rhyme Bible Storybook since my oldest was just a small toddler and we absolutely love it. We own multiple different children’s Bibles, but this is the one we find ourselves coming back to again and again and again. (It’s also the Bible we used for the Play Through the Bible series)

And if that’s not enough to convince you to go grab it right now, I want to give you a detailed review of why we love this Bible so very much.

Biblical Accuracy

When it comes to storybook Bibles, this is probably my number one concern. In our attempts to make the stories digestible to children, are we staying true to the meaning of the actual Biblical text? In the many other Bibles I have read or flipped through, there are three common themes I see happening: too much extra fluff, important elements being omitted, and dumbed down stories. With the Rhyme Bible Storybook:

1) There is no extra “fluff” added. The author goes just a little too deep into their imagination, weaving a story that may not actually be implied in the original text. While these stories can be fun to read, they don’t always give an accurate picture of what the Bible is trying to say. The Rhyme Bible Storybook is simple and to the point, while also communicating the important aspects of the text.

2) The most important elements are included. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have another problem, vital information being left out. This especially happens with children’s Bibles that like to gloss over the more uncomfortable aspects of the Bible. I’ve seen the Fall skipped over, hard stories tied up with a pretty moral, and even the frighting omission of Christ’s death on the cross. While no children’s Bible is going to cover all the dark, nitty gritty moments in the Bible (nor should they), with its 35 stories the Rhyme Bible Storybook does a great job giving an overview of the Biblical story, including the most important aspects.

3) The stories are not dumbed down. You’ll find this especially in the story Bibles that are marketed towards the very youngest listeners. Sure, the stories are short and simple, but there is not much there either. With the Rhyme Bible storybook, the stories are simple, yet also give plenty of information that can be discussed, dwelt on, and grown into. With this Bible both my one year old and my five year old are able to listen intently while still gaining something from the stories each on their own levels.

Simple Text

I mentioned this briefly before, but I think it bears repeating. The text in the Rhyme Bible Storybook is beautifully simple. Young children and older alike will be drawn into the lovely rhyming nature of the stories. Yet, the sing-song text is not overly flowery or verbose, unlike other popular children’s Bibles that have not done well at keeping my children engaged (I’m looking at you Jesus Storybook Bible).

However, if you find that your younger toddler still has trouble following these short stories, I also recommend The Rhyme Bible Storybook for Toddlers. We have used both versions, and while we don’t love the toddler one quite as much, the stories are even shorter and simpler, perfect for the youngest children.

Beautiful Illustrations

Beautiful illustrations may not seem like that big of a deal, but I can assure you, once you’ve glanced through some of the downright goofy looking children’s Bible cartoons, lovely pictures are a nice change of pace.

The illustrations in the Rhyme Bible storybook are simple, colorful, interesting, and full of emotion.

Just a note: there is an older version and a newer version with updated illustrations. We have the newer version of the Rhyme Bible Storybook and also the toddler version with the older illustrations. We like both! Some people do have a preference though and you can find both versions on Amazon.

Well Made Product

Lets face it, toddlers and preschoolers can be rough on books. They are still learning to turn pages gently, close the cover properly, and to not chuck books across the room mid tantrum. Our copy has survived multiple years and tons of use from two rough boys. It’s looking a little rough around the edges, but still going strong. The binding is sturdy, the pages are thick, and it’s made to last.

Engaging and Child Approved

Besides being Biblically accurate, an engaging story is probably the most important part of any children’s Bible. If your child isn’t interested in listening to the stories, reading them isn’t going to do a whole lot.

Every child I have read the Rhyme Bible Storybook to, both my own children and others, have loved it. They have listened intently, captivated by the story being read. Every morning when we do our reading, every story is followed by pleas of “More! More! Another story!” And, while it’s possible that your child is the exception to what I’ve found, I think if you give this Bible a try you, too, will fall in love.

Where to Buy

While I assume the Rhyme Bible Storybook can be found at your local Christian Bookstore, the easiest thing to do is to hop over to Amazon and get it delivered right to your house. New versions of the book run for about $13, but you can also easily find it used for around $5.

Even if you already have children’s Bibles, this one would make a great addition to your collection. You won’t be disappointed! It also makes a great gift to tuck in an Easter basket or give at a baby shower. You might love it so much you buy twenty and give them to all your friends!

This is NOT a sponsored post – we just really love this children’s Bible! There are Amazon affiliate links included, which does not change the cost of the book to you, but does give me a little extra spare change to keep this blog running. Thanks for making purchases through my links!


5 Questions For When You Need A Parenting Heart Check

I could feel the frustration and exasperation welling up inside of me. My hands clenched tight and my jaw set firm. This was a recurring problem and, frankly, this morning I did. not. have. time. for. it.

My frustration boiled over and spilled out in the form of angry words spoken in haste.

What are you doing?! Nothing. You are doing nothing. Why can’t you listen? Are you even paying attention!? We need to leave NOW. 

No. Don’t talk to me. Do what you are supposed to be doing. You are going to make us all late. Let’s go! 

The anger that quickly overtook faded just as fast and all I was left with was a blindsided little boy. I managed an apology and helped him finish his task and we went on with our day.

In a way I was right, this is a recurring problem. However, in this instance I didn’t need a page from a parenting manual or 3 quick tips to get my kid to listen to me.

I needed a heart check.

Oftentimes when it comes to parenting through difficult situations we find ourselves overly focused on what we can do to change our child. To help them become more helpful, patience, obedient, or mature. However, I have found that during these times, what I usually need to do is direct my attention back onto myself. As the parent (and the supposedly more mature one), what I am doing to make sure my heart is in the right place?

If you ever found yourself in a similar situation, here are five soul searching questions I’ve found that work wonders in shifting the focus to where it truly needs to be:

#1 Am I having a positive attitude?

When confronted with a particular parenting situation, what kind of attitude am I displaying? Am I being patient? Am I being creative? Or am I throwing as big of a tantrum as the toddler (even if I’m not the one thrashing around on the floor)?

It’s crazy how easy it is to let your emotions take over and dictate how you handle a situation. In these moments, it’s important to remember to take a step back, breathe deep, and restart.

In addition, it is easy to think that our attitudes only get the best of us in these “heat of the moment” type situations. However, I’ve found that these types of situations aren’t when we are the most in danger of having a bad attitude.

You see, when our negative emotions come flooding through the front door, we usually recognize it and eventually shut it down. But when they come sneaking in through the back, they can often go unnoticed for much longer.

Take, for example, my toddler. One and a half, full of life, and slightly crazy. He is abundantly curious, afraid of nothing, and stubborn as a bull.

He is goofy and adorable and I love this kid with all my heart. However, a few months ago I realized something was happening. Slowly our thoughts and language started to reflect something that wasn’t pretty. J was frequently called the “troublemaker”, the “difficult one”, and the like.

It was usually said with no ill-intent, but what you say becomes what you think and I realized I was constantly thinking of my sweet boy in a negative light. He was the “hard” kid, the one who took all my energy, the one who left me frustrated. I was giving him a negative label that he was going to wear for the rest of his life if I didn’t change something.

It took a major attitude shift and a lot of prayer, but now my attitude towards him couldn’t be more positive.

#2 Am I treating my child like I would want to be treated?

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
-Matthew 7:12

Ah, the classic Golden Rule. This is a big one in our house and I am often breaking up multiple fights a day asking children if they are treating the other as they would like to be treated.

However, it is easy to forget that the golden rule applies to me too.

Would I want to be treated the way I am treating my child? Would I want my husband or boss to treat me in this way? If I was being treated like this, how would it make me feel? Am I treating my child with respect as a person and image bearer, or are our interactions marked by exasperation and frustration on my part?

As a parent, you can still hold firm boundaries while also treating your child with respect, kindness, and empathy.

#3 Am I connecting with my child throughout the day?

Have you noticed that in your marriage when you aren’t spending a lot of time connecting with your spouse, it is way easier to have arguments and get irritated with each other? It took me a while to connect the way this works to my parenting.

It’s easy to get through the day and look back and wonder if we actually took any time to just be with our kids. We make their meals, help them with their chores, shuffle them back and forth to activities, and tuck them in bed, but how much did we connect?

When behavior problems come up with my son, they can oftentimes be solved just by spending some quality time together, giving him my undivided attention. When we are regularly feeling connected and positive with each other, it also makes those bumpy times a little easier to navigate.

#4 Am I having age-appropriate expectations?

It is so easy to get frustrated with your kids for being kids. We can forget that while we may have decades of life experience, they’ve only got a couple years of practice under their belts. So, when I hit a parenting road block, I often ask myself, “Is this a reasonable expectation?”

A four year old might not have the patience or skill set to clean his room on his own, a three year old can’t be expected to perfectly explain that their hunger is making them crabby, and it’s not unexpected for a 1 1/2 year old to dump half a box of baking soda in the bowl of biscuits you are making together (not that I’m speaking from experience here or anything!).

When we recognize these misplaced expectations, we can usually find alternate ways to solve the problem that work for both parent and child.

We can choose to meet our children at their level.

When giving directions, use touch, kneel down and make eye contact. Remove distractions for the easily distracted. Make a safe area for the baby and toddler to play and explore without hearing “no, don’t touch” 50 times a day.

A great way to manage these expectations is to look at the situation from the perspective of your child. Many things that seem simple and easy to an adult are a big deal for a child. Build a strong connection with your child through the use of empathy and understanding as you help them learn and grow.

#5 Am I being proactive in my parenting or merely reactive?

I think this is one of the biggest questions we can ask ourselves as parents. Are we merely putting out the fires as they pop up? Or are we being intentional in our parenting goals?

Are we making and following a plan for teaching our children character and life skills? I’m not saying you have to have a perfect plan or have a strategy for every moment, but if we aim for nothing we miss every time.

Here are a few ideas for being proactive in your parenting strategy:

  • Pray for your children and your ability to parent wisely.
  • Regularly discuss your family values in a positive way.
  • Intentionally train your children in character (try my Hero Training series!).
  • Find ways to connect with and encourage your children on a regular basis.
  • Role play difficult situations with your kids.
  • Invite your children to problem solve with you when difficulties arise.
  • Teach your children God’s Word and pray together.

Keep Asking The Hard Questions

Every day seems to provide abundant opportunities to ask myself these hard questions. Although I wish I would remember these questions before the frustration overflows, it is never too late to get to the heart of my parenting struggles.

Do you want to join me in asking these heart questions?

Enter your e-mail below and I’ll send you my free Heart Questions for Parents printable. Hang it on your mirror, fridge, or (if you’re like me) some days on your forehead. Every time you see it you will help yourself remember these important questions when faced with difficult parenting moments.

Ready to hang up your printable? Enter your e-mail below!

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Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes – Boys ages 2-14

“Oooo! Star Wars!”

“I like this bat and ball!”

“Mom, this toy is really cool! I want one.”

Operation Christmas Child is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. 

Gently, consistently, I remind my son that these gifts are not for him. These gifts are for someone who may have never received a gift before.

We finish our shopping and return home to pack our boxes. I shared what we packed last year and thought it would be fun to share again!

what-we-packed-in-our-occ-shoeboxes

This year K wanted to pack 4 boxes (because he is four years old, of course!). We kept it simple and did all boy boxes – a 2-4 box, two 5-9 boxes, and a 10-14 box.

We spread out all our goodies and got to packing…

Operation Christmas Child

First, we divided everything into the appropriate categories.

Operation Christmas Child

Think it’s all going to fit?!

 

Boy 10-14

Operation Christmas Child

In this box we packed a:

Operation Christmas Child

All snug!

Boy 5-9

Operation Christmas Child

In this box we packed a:

  • Soccer ball
  • Pump
  • Marbles and canvas bag
  • Stuffed animal
  • Assortment of farm animal figures
  • Toothbrush, case, and toothpaste
  • Cup
  • Two pairs of socks
  • Hot wheels car
  • Soap and washcloth
  • Rubber ball
  • Crayons
  • Pencils
  • Harmonica
  • Plastic container
  • Twine
  • Pad of paper

Boy 5-9

Boy 5-9

Operation Christmas Child

In this box we packed a:

  • Soccer ball and pump
  • Marbles and canvas bag
  • Cup
  • Stuffed animal
  • Two rubber balls
  • Assortment of farm animal figurines
  • Soap and washcloth
  • Twine
  • Pencils
  • Socks
  • Notepad
  • Hot wheels car
  • T-Shirt (I realized after I took the picture that the size was a 4-5, so I switched it to the 2-4 box)

Operation Christmas Child

 

Boy 2-4

Operation Christmas Child

In this box we packed a:

  • Sticker set
  • Puzzle
  • Light up ball
  • Washcloth and soap
  • Toothbrush, holder, and toothpaste
  • Plastic container
  • Harmonica
  • Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Cup
  • Card game
  • Note pad
  • Farm animal figurines
  • Hot wheels toy
  • Stuffed animal
  • T-shirt

This box seemed a little empty, so I threw a few other random things in there later.

Operation Christmas Child

We used clear plastic shoeboxes for the first time this year. One thing I noticed was that it made it really easy to see empty spots you could fill better – so I’ll have to remember that for next year!

 

occ-mini-devo

Are you looking for a fun way to be intentional as you pack your OCC boxes with your kids? Check out my FREE OCC Mini devotional! To gain access to this free resource and many more just enter your e-mail below!

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Need more help packing a shoebox? Check out this ultimate round-up of great ideas!

Operation-Christmas-Child-Round-Up.jpg

Did you pack a shoebox this year?

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Feeling stressed about the holidays? Make this your new mantra.

feeling-stressed-about-the-holidays-make-this-your-new-mantra

Thanksgiving countdowns, new recipes, fun activities, and perfectly decorated houses.

As I scroll through my Instagram feed, I can feel my chest begin to tighten. The thoughts start playing in my head…

You really should do that.

That’s a great idea.

Why aren’t you doing that?

I wish I had time for that.

I try to muster up plans to execute some of these great ideas I see beautifully displayed before me. Maybe I can squeeze the prep in after bed time. Perhaps we can do the activities quickly after breakfast.

My heart beats faster – but it’s not from excitement. It’s from panic. 

I’m in a season of life right now where I just don’t have time for a lot of extra activities. Honestly, I’m struggling to just get the essentials done. The thought of planning out and executing holiday activities, no matter how amazing they are, makes me feel a bit queasy.

Not exactly how you want to feel headed into a season of joy.

So, if the sight all all the holiday ideas, activities, and stuff is making you feel like crawling into a hole for the next two months. I want to share with you my favorite holiday mantra:

That’s a fun idea. Maybe next year.

Repeat after me: Maybe. Next. Year.

Feeling Stressed About the Holidays? Make this your mantra.

Why This Works

No one likes to feel like they are missing out. Whether it’s getting your house to look just the way you want or doing fun activities with your kids to guide them through the meaning of the season, we want to embrace all the excitement of the season.

However, reality says we only have so many hours in the day. Whether you have impending work deadlines, volunteer responsibilities, or spend your day keeping small children alive you are going to have to say no to some things. Maybe even a lot of things.

Fun things.

Good things.

How do you do that without feeling majorly bummed out?

That’s a fun idea. Maybe next year.

The mantra works for two reasons:

  1. You recognize that it is a fun idea. You don’t roll your eyes or say “pphhht, who has time for that?” You don’t devalue the hard work someone else put into their idea. It’s cool and you admit it. Let others be themselves without feeling like you need to be them too.
  2. You hold onto the hope that – if you still want to – you have the option to do it in the future. You don’t need to throw yourself a pity party because you can’t do allthethings. Screenshot it, pin it, or file it away and revisit it next year. I ogled Truth in the Tinsel for a few years before we were able to do it. And this year it probably won’t make the cut again. However, next year we will revisit and hopefully do it again!

Next time you find yourself pining over a sweet idea, try the mantra and see how you feel.

Stressed about the holidays? Make this your mantra.

 

Do This Instead of Doing It All

So, you can’t do it all. Then, what do you do?

First, check your focus. What truly matters the most during the holiday season?

I conducted a survey last year asking people what their favorite Christmas memory was. The results were staggering. Almost every single person’s memories revolved around relationships. 

Focus your attention and effort on the relationships around you. Make sure you don’t forget about your relationship with the One whom the season revolves around either.

Then, once you’ve got your focus right, here’s what you can do:

Pick one thing. 

Not one thing for now, one thing for tomorrow, and one thing for next week. Just one thing for now.

Just focus on that one thing.

Maybe you want to be intentional with discipling your kids during the holidays, maybe you really want to make your house feel cozy and festive, maybe you just really want to make time for a nap. Pick one thing and do it.

Once you’ve finished that one thing, revisit and pick another if you feel up to it.

Stressed about the holidays? Make this your mantra.

Give it a Spin

I really hope you give this a try! It might not help with all your holiday stressors (navigating family get-togethers anyone?), but I think it will truly help relieve the pressure of holiday perfection we so often feel.

As I continue my Instagram scrolling, I repeat my mantra a few more times. I put my phone away and attend to the life in front me.

My chest loosens. I take a deep breath.

I think our holidays are going to be just perfect as they are. 

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5 Great Resources for Teaching Your Kids the Old Testament

8-reasons-to-teach-your-kids-the-old-testament

In my last post, I gave 8 reasons why I think you should be studying the Old Testament – both personally and with your kids.

This week, I want to quickly pass on five great resources for doing just that!

These resources will cover a wide range of ages and levels, so you should be able to find something for everyone in your family!

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1. Play Through The Bible

Let’s start with the itty bitty kiddos. Play Through the Bible is the very first series I did on my blog. It is, to date, the most popular resource I have available.

When my oldest was a toddler I wanted to start being intentional about teaching him the Bible, but couldn’t find the kind of resource I was looking for. So, I created it myself!

Play Through the Bible takes tots and preschoolers through an entire children’s Bible, covering 25 of the major stories of the Bible. It meets them right where they are with super simple crafts, hands-on activities, and kid friendly discussions.

I am currently revamping the entire series and cannot wait to release it as an eBook in Summer 2017! However, you can still get the entire original series here.

 

IBI Case of the Mixed Up Timeline2. Case of the Mixed Up Timeline

I wanted to share one more resource you can find here on Steadfast Family before I move on to some others.

Case of the Mixed Up Timeline is a unique kids devotional that I released this past summer. If you and your kids are looking for a super fun way to introduce yourself to some of the main stories of the Old Testament, this will be perfect for you!

In this devotional, a villain named “Dr. H” has traveled back in time and destroyed the Timeline of Biblical Heroes. As a special agent, your child must travel back in time to complete the case files and set the timeline straight once again.

Each Biblical Hero has an incomplete case file and your child must solve the clues to discover the information on each Hero’s story. They then use that information to put the timeline back in order. Each case file also contains a “mission” – a hands on activity to further experience the story.

Read more about the devotional here!

3. Future Flying Saucers Bible Lessons

The Future Flying Saucers blog has a ton of hands-on, kid friend, and just plain awesome Bible lessons. On this page you will find at least 39 Old Testament specific lessons and a lot of other lessons and ideas as well!

4. The Bible Road Trip

Okay, so I haven’t used this resource myself, but I have heard nothing but good things about it! It is described on the website like this,

Bible Road Trip is an exciting journey which places you and your children in the driver’s seat! Aimed at youth grades PreK-12, Bible Road Trip will allow your family to survey the Bible cover-to-cover in 3 years ~ with breaks for summer. There are notebooking pages available for the Lower Grammar (Grades 1-3), Upper Grammar (Grades 4-6) and Dialectic (Grades 7-9) levels. Students at the Rhetoric level (Grades 10-12) will keep their own notebooks and be busy sharing their information with others!

I absolutely love how the whole family can partake in this Bible curriculum together! I highly recommend checking it out!

5. Intoxicated on Life Resources

Intoxicated on Life is another fabulous resource for all things family discipleship. There are so many great materials on this website, but they also have multiple resources specifically for studying the Old Testament. Pop on over and check it out!

Am I missing anything? What is your favorite resource for studying the Old Testament?

 

 

 

 

Not Teaching Your Kids the Old Testament? 8 Reasons to Start

 

Not Teaching Your Kids the Old Testament? Here's 8 Reasons to Start.

I always have to give one of my good friends a hard time about how when we started college she didn’t realize that the David of “David and Goliath” was the same person as King David. And she even grew up in the church! We like to joke about it, but it’s kind of a shame that this fundamental knowledge wasn’t passed down to her at an early age.

So often in children’s ministry settings (and even in the big church too!) the Old Testament stories are glossed over or even altogether skipped – presumably for the sake of focusing on the “gospel.”

You might be nodding your head here – Yes, yes, we should be focusing on the gospel. After all, we are under the new covenant now – why should be focus on the Old Testament?” Or maybe you began a study of the Old Testament with gusto until you got stuck somewhere in 1 Chronicles, thinking why am I doing this again?

Great questions! Today I want to share eight reasons why I think you should teach the Old Testament to your kids (and study it yourself!). And I’m talking about in it’s entirety, not just a few of the popular stories here and there – made fluffy and given a “moral at the end of the story” like it’s Aesop’s Fables instead of the Word of God (I’m looking at you Jonah!).

So, without further ado, when your kids learn about the Old Testament they will….

1. Gain a better understanding of the full scope of God’s character

The mighty hand of God that created everything from the vast universe to the invisible atom.

His loving-kindness delivering His people from Egypt.

His justice displayed in the words of the prophets.

Studying all the different stories, experiences, time periods, and people represented in the Old Testament give you so many windows through which to catch a glimpse of God’s character.

2. Understand the full story of our sin and God’s goodness

The gospel is powerful. It is rightly the center of our faith. However, we have to avoid the temptation to believe that the gospel story begins in Matthew. Yes, it begins with Jesus – but it begins with Jesus in Genesis 1:1.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. -Genesis 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. -John 1:1-3

The story of God’s love and redemption through Christ is woven throughout the entire Old Testament. As we turn the pages of God’s story we find prophetic words, metaphorical foreshadowings, glimpses of His plan and purpose.

Through stories like Adam and Eve, Noah, and David we are brought down into the depths of the depravity and fallenness of humans. Only when we see ourselves in our place among the broken can we truly understand the magnitude of God’s love and mercy – and our need for His gospel offer.

Praying child.

3. Learn from a rich history of the saints and sinners before us

While I think that trying to tack on a neat moral to every Old Testament story does a disservice to the text, that doesn’t mean there is not a ton to learn in these pages. We learn of the characters strengths and successes and their sins and failures. We see God’s people love and obey Him, and also turn and forget Him.

One of the biggest lessons we see time and time again in the Old Testament is that God can and will use ordinary sinners just like me and you to take part in his big plans. We don’t have to be perfect to serve God, just trust Him and follow His commands.

4. Marvel at the perfectly planned lineage of Christ

To us, genealogies can often seem dry and boring. However, they too are an important part of God’s word.

Take, for instance, the genealogy of Christ found in Matthew 1. It would be easy to just skip on over it and get on to the story. However, have you ever stopped and looked at the names found in this passage?

Abraham (wife was barren) …

Rahab and Ruth (both non-Israelites) …

David (murderer and adulterer) …

… And the list goes on!

When we read of these people and their stories in the Old Testament we can see God’s faithfulness and plan in bringing his promised Messiah into the world.

5. Understand themselves in light of God’s story

Like I mentioned before, the Old Testament connects us with stories that mirror our own brokenness. We learn of our depravity in the story of Adam and Eve and see our same brokenness played out in the stories of God’s people time and time again. The Old Testament does not let us pass by without an understanding of our humanness, our dependance on God, and our lowly position before him.

However, in spite of our lowly position, the Old Testament also shows us how much we are loved and chosen by our creator. We see His plan to redeem His beloved people, no matter the cost. We see his love, patience, and mercy played out in the lives of ordinary humans. Ordinary humans that he allows to do great things for Him. Ordinary humans just like you and me … and your children.

8-reasons-to-teach-your-kids-the-old-testament

6. Be taught, rebuked, corrected and trained

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3: 16-17

Timothy didn’t stutter when he said “all scripture.” In fact, during that time, the Old Testament probably would have been the primary scripture he was referring to! If you skip over the Old Testament as you seek to disciple your kids you are missing out on a huge chunk of what God has given to equip them.

7. Deepen faith through wrestling with tough topics

The flood, Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, the story of the hardships of Job – these stories (and many others) aren’t Disney fairytales. The stories of the Old Testament are big, messy, and often hard to understand. When we wrestle with these stories, the concepts they hold and the questions they bring, we deepen our faith and understanding. This provides our children with a steadfast foundation that will stand the test of time.

8. Develop a deeper awe and reverence for God (and gratitude we can have a relationship with him)

Something that can often be missing in churches and Christians these days (including myself!) is a reverence, fear, and awe of a holy God. We get so focused on his love displayed through Christ that we can easily forget about his justice, power, and holiness.

Generally speaking, as they are set before the work and grace of Christ, the Old Testament stories give us a great picture of what it looks like to be in awe of a holy God. The creation account shows his strength, majesty, and sovereignty. The accounts of worship in the temple displays the lengths to which sinful people had to go to come anywhere close to God and his glory. Over and over again God’s chosen people and prophets declare themselves unworthy to stand before him.

These accounts do two things. First, they deepen our awe and reverence for God. Second, they make us all the more grateful for the relationship we can have with God because of the work of Christ.

Ready to get started?

Hopefully these eight reasons have encouraged you to give the Old Testament a chance. There are so many great reasons to dig in!

Plus, at the very least, you’ll know who King David is. 🙂

Do you have any more reasons you’ve found for studying the Old Testament?

EDITED TO ADD: I compiled a post with some great resources for teaching the Old Testament – find it right here!

Ready for an Old Testament Adventure?

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3 Thoughts for the Weary Mom

3-thoughts-for-the-weary-mom

I walk down the stairs. Laundry is piled high on the couch (like, seriously high), dishes are still strewn about the kitchen from dinner, toys are scattered across the floor. It is 8:30pm and I just tucked my boys into bed over an hour late. As I type this, I’m sitting here praying I don’t hear screaming over the baby monitor in five minutes.

My husband is gone this evening. It was supposed to be my quiet night to myself to put the boys down at 7, quickly clean up, and watch some non-husband approved tv while catching up on that laundry. Mostly just enjoying the peace and quiet (hello introvert!).

However, instead I had a toddler who fell asleep in the stroller at 6:30 and after multiple failed attempts would not transfer over to his crib. So I gave up and let them both play outside with friends, enjoying the slightly cooler weather this earlier sunset has been bringing.

We came in and restarted the bedtime routine for the second time tonight. Baths, (skipped toothbrushing – shhh!), pajamas, stories, prayer, hugs and kisses, and goodnights. Finally in bed.

And now, the dishes are calling me, the dog is giving me the “I’m hungry” look, and the rest is going to have to be transferred to tomorrow’s already bulging to-do list.

What can a tired, busy mom do to find that balance between those little people who need all of you and that to do list that threatens to run you over at every turn?

A few things are spinning around in my own sleepy head tonight…

#1 Always remember that your kids are people, not another item on the to do list

Bath – check. Clothes – check. Food – check. School – check. Discipline – check.

It can be so easy to make parenting a part of the to do list – at least for me. I’ve found that I really have to slow down, look my little people in the eyes, and remember just that – they are people too. People with needs and hopes and fears and feelings and thoughts of their own. 

They need a mom who connects with them, not treats them like yet another list of things to accomplish in the day.

It seems so simple, that your children are people too, but when I keep it on the forefront of my mind I find it really changes the way I view things.

#2 Stuff’s still gotta get done

It’s also easy to get stuck in the feel good chatter…

“Be present.”

“Babies don’t keep.”

“The dishes will still be there tomorrow.”

All very legitimate statements. Truth all around. But am I the only one who finds that when they follow the “the dishes will still be there tomorrow” mentality I find myself starting tomorrow already feeling behind and stressed?

Because as much as it is a goal of mine to be present, enjoy the fleeting time with my kids, and leave those darn dishes for tomorrow, the truth is it’s all got to get done sometime. Tomorrow arrives and sure enough, the dinner dishes are still there, and now the breakfast ones are too.

So, I’ve found that I have got to have a plan. Cut back on the non-essentials, schedule our days wisely, and be diligent in not wasting time (I’m looking at you Facebook!). When I can stay on top of this, the stress subsides, making it a lot easier to be present with those babies who truly don’t keep.

My blogger friend Kayse has a great e-course that does an amazing job helping you with this by the way, I highly recommend it.

This takes a lot of adjusting, trial and error, and practice (well, at least for me – some may be naturally gifted). Practice, practice, practice. For some reason this surprised me. 7 years of marriage and 4 1/2 years of parenting later and I think I may slowly be starting to show some improvement. 😉

#3 Lean on the Jesus

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, inhardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I have always loved this verse. It is often misquoted – “when I am weak, He is strong” – probably because of the popular children’s song. And while, of course, He is strong, the beauty of the verse is the paradox that it is when we are weak that we are strong. Because it is when we are weak that God’s grace and power can shine through in our lives. Instead of acting like he had it all together, Paul boasted in his weakness because it meant Christ’s power was in him!

So remember that, as much as we’d like to, we don’t have to have it all figured out. We don’t have to be strong on our own. And we definitely don’t have to be supermom.

I may never find that balance between the kids and the to-do list. However, I do know that God has called me to this job and He is the one who will provide the means to accomplish it. I just need to remember to turn to Him.

Well, my husband will be home any time and those dishes are calling my name. Here’s to another night with small children, I pray Christ’s strength for us all!

Seven Year Itch? Seven Things to Make Year Seven The Best Yet

Seven Things to Make Year Seven The Best Yet

Have you ever heard of the “seven year itch”?

According to Wikipedia,  “Divorce rates show a trend in couples that, on average, divorce around seven years. Statistics show that there is a low risk of separation during the first months of marriage. After the “honeymoon” months, divorce rates start to increase. Most married couples experience a gradual decline in the quality of their marriage; in recent years around the fourth year of marriage. Around the seventh year, tensions rise to a point that couples either divorce or adapt to their partner.”

Simply put, whether fact or urban legend, time passes, frustrations build, and at year seven things are thought to finally reach a boiling point. 

I found out about this so called “seven year itch” as we were nearing the end of our seventh year and I was intrigued. Why, you ask? Because I thought our seventh year had been the best year of marriage yet!

So, my husband and I took some time to talk over the things we did this last year that led to it being so great and what we want to keep working on so we avoid any “itchiness” in the years to come!

Seven Things to Make Year Seven The Best Yet

#1 Make intimacy a priority

You know what I’m talking about.. marital relations, bedroom time, coitus.. wink wink, nudge nudge. There is something about this God given aspect of marriage that flows over into all the other areas, helping to smooth things over and bring unity. Because of that, we (especially me) realized we needed to cut the excuses and just do it. 😉

#2 Make intentional time for just the two of us

With two young children and a seemingly always changing and busy schedule, this didn’t mean anything neat like regular planned date nights out. It looked more like ice cream and Netflix on the couch, working out together (cause of all that ice cream ya know?), working on projects around the house, and chatting while driving in the car.

Regular date nights are awesome, but I’d venture to say that there are more of us than not who are in a stage of life where it’s just not possible. So, we found that we had to be intentional about using the small moments we did have, or we’d end up living two separate lives in the same house.

#3 Be more positive with each other (the 5-1 ratio)

A while back my husband had a training at work where they talked about how it is optimal to say five positive comments for every one negative comment. They don’t need to be elaborate praises either. A simple “thanks” or “good job” will do just as well.

This is something that we have been working on, but need to keep getting better at! I think it is so easy to get into the habit of taking your spouse for granted. You get into that day to day rut and forget to take note of the positive. However, it is amazing what a difference such a simple thing can make. It can totally change the atmosphere of your home.

#4 Have quality family time

In addition to having one on one time with your spouse, family time in general is so important. Seeing your spouse care for your kids just brings about those warm fuzzy feelies. Being together draws you all closer together. So, put down the phones, turn off the tv, and do something. This year, we found that taking walks and having less TV time made a big difference for our family.

#5 Spend time figuring out what makes your spouse tick

After those initial fun “getting to know you” dating days, it is easy to stop learning more about your spouse. However, the more you know about each other, the closer you can become! I love that my husband knows me better than anyone else! Plus, having an understanding of how my husband works (and him me) has saved us from a ton of unnecessary conflict.

If you are looking for ways to get to know each other even better, I highly recommend the personality test the Enneagram. It is the most in-depth, spot on personality test I have ever used. You can get started digging into it at the website 9types.com but I highly recommend the book “The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective” by Richard Rohr. Author Shauna Niequist also has a great overview of the enneagram here.

#6 Pray more together

I’ll admit, we did way way better at this in the early days of our marriage. We seriously could use some improvement in this area because I know how important it is to make God the center of your marriage. I think these ideas from Sheila at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum are great and we need to get started working on this asap!

#7 Talk about the big stuff

Intentionally discuss the big topics. Have healthy fights. Get on the same page in life.

You can’t avoid these types of discussions because of the possible conflict they might bring. In fact, we’ve found that it is often because of these healthy conflicts, not in spite of them, that we grow closer together.

This also includes things like making marriage and family goals. Where do we see ourselves in 5 (10, 15, 20) years? What do we want to work on this year? How can we improve? What goals do we have in the big areas of parenting, faith, money, and health? Tackling these goals as a team can make all the difference.

What about you? Have you ever heard of the 7 year itch? What have you found to be important for building a steadfast marriage?

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