The “Non-Hack” That Will Completely Change Your Social Media Habits

 

I can always tell the days that I have spent too much time on social media (ahem.. *Facebook*)…

My brain is foggy.

It’s harder to concentrate.

I’m unmotivated.

I’m often grumpy and irritable.

And yet my thumb still reaches for that tiny blue square.

Why?

Is it because I’m lazy? Or I just want to ignore my kids? Maybe I need better screen time limits for myself?

Could it be because I’m *addicted*?

It seems everywhere you go online right now, you’re being told to get offline. The harm of being connected 24/7 and overusing screens is well known.

So why is it so hard to put the phone down.. and leave it there?

No, you’re not addicted to your phone

The dictionary definition of “addicted” is physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects.

So, I don’t know, maybe you are addicted. However, for most of us, I think “addicted” has become a catch all term that both undermines serious addiction and is entirely unhelpful when it comes to the phone problem.

The real problem

So then what? Why does my hand grab my phone and without even seemingly thinking, press that icon and start scrolling?

Habit.

Here’s the thing, our brains love habit. Forget the path less traveled, our brains love the path well worn. Habit is the reason you can drive home while your mind is on a completely different topic and the reason you do a million other little things without even thinking about it.

Our brains love the well trodden path of the familiar. And, lets be honest, they are naturally a little lazy. If you have a brain that automatically would choose reading a heavy book over zoning out on Facebook – I want to know your secret!

Then, once you add in the fact that our brains love rewards, you’ve cemented that habit firmly in place. Cute cat video? Awww.. *burst of dopamine in the brain* Answer a question from a friend? I feel helpful! *burst of dopamine in the brain*

While scrolling social media, our brains *think* they are doing something, but in reality they aren’t. The well worn path is combined with positive feedback. We are stuck treading the same path without giving it much of a thought at all.

And when we do try and forge off path, it feels strange and unfamiliar. Our brains just want to get back on the normal track.

The solution

So what’s the solution then? How do we get off that path and forge a new one?

Well, this is where I have some bad news for you. There is no list of “5 easy hacks” to forming new habits. Forming habits is work. Often hard work.

A “hack” tells you to put a blocker on your phone or put it somewhere out of sight. A “hack” tells you to set limits for yourself. And while these hacks can sometimes be helpful, the problems is they do little to change the way our brains interact with our phones. 

We notice this when the time limit is up, the blocker is removed, and the phone is back in our hands. We fall right back into old habits.

But the thing about recognizing the power of your habits is that change is doable. The word habit doesn’t have the kind of negativity attached to it that “addiction” does, so you are already one step ahead in the mental battle.

You can build new habits.

You have a choice. 

Imagine you are at a fork in the road.

To the right is your current habit. The path is clear of obstructions. The road is level, the footing sure. It is easy to start down that path.

To the left, however, is new terrain. The path is so overgrown you can hardly see it is there. You can set down this path, but it’s going to take some ground work. However, the good news is, once that path is clear, you’ll have a new habit and a new easy path to tread.

5 “Non-Hacks” to build a new habit

So, I don’t have a hack for you, but I do have some ideas to get you started. We’ll call them “non-hacks.”

#1 A well worn path is well traveled

There is a reason they say that it takes 30 days to build a new habit. In order for your new path to be worn, you have to break it in. The more you walk that path, the more you clear it, the easier it will be to walk the next time.

Keep going. Or in this case, keep stopping. Stop posting, stop clicking, and stop scrolling. Go another way.

And when you inevitably turn down the old path, turn around and jump back on the new. Over and over and over.

#2 Replace old with new

If you wanted to improve your diet, you wouldn’t just get rid of the junk food. If you want to succeed with your new eating habits, you would also replace the junk food with new good food.

The same concept applies.

If you are going to change your phone habits, you need a replacer.

Now, there are a ton of things you can be doing instead of using your phone, but for the purpose of habit building you are going to want to pick something that is two things: 1) Simple and 2) Enjoyable.

Back to the diet example. If you are replacing your ice cream with something that is complicated to make and you don’t even like, what are the odds that you are going to stop eating ice cream? Not likely.

Pick a replacer that is easy to bounce your mind to. Instead of continuing to scroll, it might look like…

  • Reading a page or two from an enjoyable book
  • Telling a joke to your kids
  • Refilling your drink cup with something yummy
  • Turning on some uplifting music

The important thing is to keep it simple and just start with one, easy to remember replacer. Think of it like redirecting your toddler: “No, no, we can’t throw the blocks, but here is a ball you can throw.” The replacer gives just enough distraction to redirect your focus. The more you do the replacer instead, the less the other habit will have a hold on your brain.

#3 Find your triggers

One thing I’ve noticed is that there are certain triggers that cause me to more easily go to zoning out on Facebook. Things like being tired, bored, or overwhelmed. When you can recognize certain things that drive you towards zoning out on a screen, it is easier to fix the root cause.

Are you tired? Take a break that will refresh you.

I don’t know how many times I’ve sat down because I’m tired and zoned out on Facebook, leaving me more tired. Closing my eyes for ten minutes could have actually solved the real problem.

Are you overwhelmed? Face the feeling head on.

When I’m overwhelmed I often like to hide. If I can’t choose what to tackle first on the mile long to do list, I’ll just avoid everything. No matter how many times this backfires, it is still somehow a temptation! Resist it. Pray and then get after that to do list.

These are just a couple of my personal triggers. We all have different ones, but the point remains the same. The more you recognize them, the easier it gets to deal with them. 

#4 Focus on the real FOMO

Speaking of triggers, once I started realizing mine I found one that seems kinda silly. But that’s the thing about triggers, even if they’re silly, they still do their thing.

Maybe you can relate though?

I found out I struggle with a serious case of social media FOMO.

Fear of missing out.

I would find myself wondering…

What’s going on on Facebook?

I wonder if anyone commented on my Instagram post?

I’m just going to check this group real quick to see if anyone needs anything…

As silly as it seems, the online world never seems to sleep and I was always wondering if there was something going on that I needed to know about.

Thankfully, once I realized this was a problem for me, I found a pretty easy solution.

Redirect the FOMO. Look at what is right in front of you.

I asked myself…

Do I want to miss out on a Facebook comment, or my baby’s sweet giggles?

Do I want to miss out on an interesting article, or my son’s cool Lego creation?

Do I want to miss out on what so and so is up to on Instagram, or miss out on a conversation with my husband over dinner?

Now, that’s some real FOMO.

#5 Find new rewards

I was reading a book completely unrelated to screen time, and it had one little snippet that wasn’t even the focus of that section of the book (It was The Law’s Guide to Nature Journaling and Drawing btw – great book!). But that one little snippet totally caught my attention.

It said that the sense of wonder we get when we discover something new about the world gives us a release of dopamine in our brains. 

That got me thinking.. if that gives us a dopamine punch, what else does?!

And if we can choose other activities that release dopamine, can we retrain our screen time loving brains to go after those things instead?

Why not?!

Here’s a list of some things that can give you a dopamine kick:

  • Doing something creative
  • Discovering something new
  • Exercising
  • Having a healthy snack
  • Listening to music (combine with exercise for a dance party – my favorite!)
  • Have some *special time* with your husband 😉
  • Check something off your to do list
  • Spend time in prayer
  • Go outside in nature

Pick some of those to focus on and retrain your brain to find pleasure in these good habits!

You got this!

Alright, it’s time to start putting this stuff into action. This might not be easy, but it is so so worth it. Since I have started figuring out these things and putting them to practice, I haven’t gotten perfect (I’m still building these habits myself!) but it has gotten so much better. And the benefits of spending less time in front of a screen are endless.

Before you know it, you’ll be looking back and realizing you just went hours or even the whole day without the urge to pop onto your phone “real quick.”

Two more resources that have immensely helped me navigate this are have been the book Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn and this article by Hands Free Mama. Highly recommend both!

I’d love to know how you are doing in building these new habits, so leave a comment, shoot me an email, or come hang out on the Steadfast Family Facebook page (hey, the nice thing about building these habits is you have control over spending some time on social media, cause it isn’t all bad!)

One last thing for you, I made this fun flow chart to help you start thinking through how you are spending your time on social media and the triggers that drive you there. I hope it helps to give you some ideas!

(Click on the image below to open a PDF)

Happy habit building!

Journey with Jesus to the Cross: A Lenten Bible Reading Plan for the Family

**Note: scroll down to the end of this post to get the FREE printable!**

Have you ever wondered why we make a big to-do about the countdown leading up to Christmas, but Easter tends to get a major lack of fanfare?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good Advent calendar. However, Easter Sunday is the cornerstone of our faith. Without the death and resurrection, the baby born in the manger is just another baby. Right?

This is why I LOVE Lent.

Although it is not as commonly celebrated among some denominations, the observation of Lent seems to be on the rise in recent years, which is awesome! While it is definitely not mandated to observe, Lent is a wonderfully beautiful way to spend the time leading up to Easter in reflection and anticipation.

But how do you incorporate a 40+ day holiday with kids?

When I was thinking through how I would like to introduce the season of Lent to my young children, I knew I wanted to do two things: first, make it about Jesus and second, keep it simple. 

If the goal of Lent is to direct your focus towards Jesus’ work on the cross, what a better way to do that than to follow Jesus on his own journey to the cross by reading his words each day?

40 days of meditating and reflecting on the wisdom, commands, rebukes, and comfort that Jesus spoke during his time on earth. 40 days of drawing closer to him through the reading, and the doing, of his words.

Now, if we were going to be successful at doing anything for 40+ days straight, it needed to be easy to follow and implement. I also wanted something that would give a visual to my kids of how many days we had left leading up to Easter. That is where the idea for a countdown calendar of some sort came from. Plus, each day has the verse already labeled on it, that way once you’re set up, you don’t have to do any more prep throughout the 40 days.

Setting up this devotional is easy!

First, print out the pages.

Then, cut out the pieces.

Finally, hang on the wall to create a path, placing the empty tomb at the end. Use the picture of Jesus to mark which piece of the path you are currently on.

The scriptures are listed in the general order of appearance in the Bible, but it doesn’t matter too much if a few get mixed around. Just try and start with the first one listed (Matthew 4:17) and use the pieces designated with the cross in the bottom right corner for Holy Week.

Since the 40 days of Lent do not include Sundays, there are five “Sunday pieces” with a large cross and “John 14:15” written underneath. Place these where the Sundays fall along your path and use them as a day to reflect back on what you read that week, brainstorming together ways you can actually live out the words Jesus spoke.


Excuse the mess! 🙂

Well, are you ready to get started?! You can get this printable for FREE as a Steadfast Family subscriber.

Just enter your information below and you’ll get access to *all* the subscriber resources! (Side note: there is some pretty awesome stuff in the resource library and it just keeps getting bigger!)



A Revolutionary Mindset for Family Chores

What used to be a given in the life of the family, chores are now apparently falling by the wayside, with only 28% of parents stating that they give their child(ren) chores, according to a recent study. Even in spite of the up and coming evidence that chores are beneficial to children (here, here, and here), and the old-school common sense, parents just aren’t giving their kids chores as much these days.

However, YOU are not that parent, right? Because you clicked on this post, I’m going to assume you know that chores are beneficial. You want your kids to pitch in around the house. You are, after all, not a maid. Amiright?

Herein lies the big question? HOW?

A quick search on Pinterest will only give you about eleventy-billion results for chore charts, job cards, reward systems, and on and on and on. Where do you start? And do these systems even work?

Truth is, I don’t know. I haven’t tried them. The closest I’ve come to using a “chore chart” is when I jotted down a few jobs on a piece of construction paper for my son.

However, over the last few years I have stumbled on something. Something that does work. A mindset that has revolutionized the way I handle family chores.

First, I’m going to lay out the thought process that has worked for us. Afterwards, I’m going to tell you the *secret* to making it all work.. so stick around for that mmmk?

 

First off, no rewards!

Yep, you heard me. Basic, every day chores and house work does not get any compensation from mom and dad, other than the satisfaction of a job well done. We all live here, we all make the messes here, we all help. We do everyday chores together and work on bigger house projects together too. It’s a team effort.

Plus, if you work hard now, it means less work for mama later and maybe she can actually sit down for a minute and play that game you keep asking to play.

In all seriousness though, I don’t want rewards to be my children’s motivator to do good things and work hard, so I use them very sparingly as a general rule.

Three Stages of Workers

Here is the meat and potatoes of this method. It’s an amalgamation of various chores posts and systems I’ve read over the years. The best part is that it will work with every age child in your family. Perfecto!

Stage 1: The Helper

I’m just going to say this right off the bat. The helper’s “help” is not usually very helpful. It’s the toddler who plays in the water more than actually washing the dishes, the preschooler who folds the towels all wonky, and the child who skipped over half the window you were washing.

The helper works beside you, often getting in the way, often undoing what you just did. Sometimes the helper gets a “job” that serves only to keep him or her occupied for 5 minutes.

However, in this stage the importance does not lie with the end product. No, the importance is the feeling being helpful, of being included, and the beginning of family work becoming a habit.

So, take a deep breath… and let the toddler join you at the kitchen counter.

Stage 2: The Apprentice

This is where the real work starts. No, not for them, for you. 🙂 In this stage, you are no longer just doing damage control on their “help” – you are the coach.

It’s best to start with one task at a time. Want your child to be able to clean the bathroom? Be prepared to stand there the entire time, explaining what cleaner to use, how to scrub the toilet, and what exactly a clean counter should look like. With tasks that have multiple steps, it is helpful to have a check-list nearby to aid in independence.

In this stage you are going to be demonstrating, observing, helping, and reminding. With your training, gradually they will need your help less and less, but don’t expect it to happen overnight.

Stage 3: The Expert

It’s the stage you’ve been waiting for! You say the magic words: “please go do your laundry” – and they DO IT. Correctly. Without you. Did you hear that? You did not do the laundry. They did.

All that work has finally paid off. Your child is an expert in the chore(s) you have trained them in. Now, don’t be surprised if their memory seems to fade and they need a little time back in the apprentice stage. However, overall, you’ve got fully functioning members of the family.

It’s time to have a party! A cleaning party that is. 🙂

Moving through the stages

In our home, if you are under 5/6 years old, you are probably still firmly in the “helper” phase. I don’t even think about trying to venture out towards independent cleaning or checklists, or any of that. I just pull a stool up to the counter and call over a helper.

That said, if you haven’t done much by way of chores (or even just certain chores) an older child might still need to be in the helper phase. Let them help you make breakfast a few times (just cross your fingers there’s no egg shells in your food), then slowly move towards the apprentice mindset. Soon, they’ll be able to make a dish, then a meal, and their skills continue to expand.

A child can also be in multiple stages at once. He could be helping with kitchen work, apprenticing bathroom duties, and an expert at making his bed. It is less about having a complicated system, and more about having a mindset of slow growth through the stages.

How we set it up right now

Currently, what this looks like for us is this…

After lunch is our “chore hour.” We all work together for the hour between lunch and quiet time to do our chores and get the house feeling nice(r). The rule is this: first you do your assigned chore (apprentice stage), then you pick up your bedroom. If there is any time leftover, you help someone else with what they are working on.

Currently my 6 year old is apprenticing in cleaning floors (sweeping, vacuuming, mopping). If he has time after picking up his room, he helps me with other tasks (kitchen, laundry, etc). The toddler generally stays by me and “helps” or sometimes I’ll send him to help his brother.

The six year old also has a cooking job, which is currently training on how to prep veggies. Both boys enjoy helping in the kitchen at other times.

The SECRET to making it work

Okay, I promised a secret. So, here it is… (hopefully we’re still friends after this revelation)…

This is HARD WORK

Ah! Mind blowing, right?

Okay, okay, you’re probably thinking “Obviously! I know this is hard work! How does that help me make it work?”

Because expectations are everything.

If I expect my child to do their chores without my help and then they do them sloppily and half way, what happens? I get frustrated.

If I expect to make dinner without a toddler dumping spices all over the counter, what happens when the mess comes? Same.

Training little ones how work hard and function as productive members of society when they are grown is HARD. It is way easier to send them to their room while you fold laundry, put on a movie during dinner prep, or shoo them outside so you can mop. The struggle is real!

But, heres the thing…

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” 
-Galatians 6:9

Don’t give up! Keep the future goal in mind and it will make all that hard work worth it.

So lean on God, roll up your sleeves, grab a kid, and get to work.

Twelve Gifts of Advent: Waiting for the Promised One

The word Advent comes from the Latin word that means “coming.” Traditionally, Advent is the season of waiting and preparing for the One who is coming. And as amazing as the Christmas story of the babe in the manger is, its meaning becomes a whole lot deeper when we understand the story that came first.

The story of creation and fall, and of the long waiting for the coming of the promised one.

I originally had the idea for this advent devotional a few years ago when we were doing resurrection eggs at Easter time. If you’ve never heard of resurrection eggs, they are Easter eggs in a carton, each with a small object inside. Each object helps tell a part of the Easter story. This simple way of telling the story was fantastic. It was hands on learning for my young son and so simple for me. Once the eggs were assembled, all we had to do each day was open one up and read the corresponding scripture.

This devotional works much in the same way. Each day, you open a gift. Inside the gift is an object that helps to tell the story of Advent – waiting for the coming of the promised one. The objects really help in remembering the story! Do all twelve days in a row, or spread them throughout the season – it’s up to you!

**CLICK HERE TO SKIP RIGHT TO THE eBOOK**

Here’s a video I made that shows everything I put in our boxes…

 

How to Make the Advent Boxes

Most of the items for the boxes can be found around your house, but for ones you may need to purchase I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. All you do is wrap up the object and add a tag with the corresponding Bible verse to be read.

DAY ONE – CREATION 

Genesis 1

Globe ball

DAY TWO – FALL

Genesis 3

Tree branch

DAY THREE – PROMISE

Genesis 3:15

Rainbow

DAY FOUR – PEOPLE

Genesis 12:1-3

People figurines

DAY FIVE – MESSENGERS

Isaiah 6:8

Envelope

DAY SIX – LIGHT

Isaiah 9:2-7

Battery operated twinkle lights

DAY SEVEN – SAVIOR

Isaiah 53

Life saver candy

DAY EIGHT – SILENCE

Malachi 4:5-6

Earplugs

DAY NINE – ANGEL

Luke 1:5-25

Angel ornament

DAY TEN – GIRL

Luke 1:26-33

Girl figurine

DAY ELEVEN – BABY

Luke 2:1-21

Baby doll

DAY TWELVE – CROSS

John 3:16; 19:17-18

Cross made from two sticks

Want to make this even easier?

I’ve put together an awesome resource for you! It’s everything you need to make these gift boxes a fun Advent tradition for your family.

Introducing.. Twelve Gifts of Advent: Waiting for the Promised One – a hands on family Bible study!

For only $5, you get more ideas and instructions, a devotional guide for each day, printable tags, and more!

Here’s an example of day one…

The devotional goes through each day, explaining the significance and making it really easy for you to lead your family to a fuller understanding of everything that came before the baby in the manger. There’s even printable images for you to use if you don’t have time to get physical objects together for the gift boxes!

And I wanted to make it super affordable for you, so for only 5 bucks, it’s a no brainer!

Thankful for Who He Is – Psalm 136 Fall Banner Craft

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Today I want to share with you a fun fall activity that we did recently. Not only was it a fun way to play with the pretty fall leaves, but it also was a great opportunity to get ready for Thanksgiving and dig into some theology – learning about who God is!

Here’s a video I made for the Steadfast Family Facebook page if you prefer to see the craft that way!

 

Okay, let’s get started!

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

 

First, you are going to want to collect some leaves. This is a whole activity in and of itself, so feel free to do it at a separate time. If you live in a climate that doesn’t have pretty leaves, never fear, just print some off online (like these or these)!

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Once you’ve got all your leaves collected, pop them into your scanner and make a few copies. Now, you could skip this step, but I wanted our banner to last a while without the leaves getting all crumbled up and drying out. This was a fun way to accomplish that!

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Next you are going to want to cut out the leaves. Which is a good opportunity to practice patience! haha 🙂

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

After all your leaves are cut out, it’s time for the Bible lesson portion. Open your Bible to Psalm 136. We read about the first half and that was the perfect amount for my almost 6 year old. Then, we talked about Thanksgiving and giving thanks to God for all the amazing things about Him and all the great things He does.

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Then, I wrote on one of the biggest leaves: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is…”

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Together, my son and I came up with things about God that we could be thankful for and we wrote each one on a leaf.

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Once something is written on all the leaves, it is time to string them together. Cut two slits (by bending the leaf a bit and cutting with scissors) toward the top of the leaf and then string them all on a length of yarn or twine.

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Once you are finished, hang your beautiful fall banner up to remind your family of all the wonderful things we are thankful for about our amazing God!

Thankful for Who He Is - Psalm 136 Fall Leaf Banner Craft

Bonus Note: Play the song “Forever” by Michael W. Smith. It is perfect for this activity and my kids love it!

Still Feeling Burned Out After Your “Me Time”? Here’s Why.

“Self care”

“Me time”

“Fill your cup”

The world seems to practically scream at you these days: “Tired? Overwhelmed? Burnt out? You need to take time for yourself!” Self care is the catch all solution to practically all your ailments.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love some good alone time (Hi, my name is Liz and I’m an introvert!). Even Jesus had alone time! However, here is the problem: Have you ever woken up from your nap or returned home from your “me time” at the coffee shop to find out something crazy?

Your life is still there! 

Seriously, I don’t know how many times I’ve been like, “okay, I just need a little down time and I’ll be good,” but then moments upon reentering normal life I am just as stressed out (or maybe more if the dishes magically piled up in my absence) as before!

What gives? I thought “filling my cup” was supposed to fix all these problems!

What is the answer?

A few weeks back I was listening to the sermon at church. I honestly don’t even remember what the general topic of the sermon was, because there was one illustration that totally rocked my world.

The pastor was talking about how we often view the power that comes from God like gas in a car. We “fill up our tanks” (through Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, etc) and then try to go about our days, using that “stored up” power. However, that’s not how it works. We don’t run on gasoline, we run on electricity. As long as our wires stay connected to the source, the power keeps flowing.

In John 15:5, Jesus says:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

We can’t fill up at church on a Sunday morning, or even in our morning quiet time, and expect to run on that until we can “fill up” again. And we definitely can’t expect a monthly girls night, a nap on the weekend, or taking time to do our makeup in the morning to be able to give us the strength to face our days with love and patience.

It’s not that those things are bad (they can be very good!), they just don’t have that kind of power. Only one person does. 

Change your mindset

This simple revelation totally changed my mindset. Time with God is no longer another thing to do in my day, it is the lifeline that gets me through my day!

A good way to envision it is this…

Imagine you are swimming in the middle of a large body of water. The water is still, the skies are blue. You are enjoying yourself during your refreshing swim.

The wind starts to pick up a bit, but you are doing fine. However, time passes and the wind blows harder and clouds cover the blue sky. The waves start to roll, getting bigger and bigger.

It begins to rain.

The wind whips the rain into your eyes. The water below you is swirling all around. It is dark now and hard to see. The pleasant swimming you experienced before is only a memory. It is taking all your effort just to keep yourself afloat in this storm.

All of a sudden you look up. A boat has come near. Someone throws you a life preserver ring and it lands within your reach.

You turn to the source of the device and cry in despair: “Can’t you see I can barely stay afloat? How am I supposed to hold on to something while I am already so overwhelmed?!”

Ridiculous, isn’t it? Of course you wouldn’t say that. You would grab that thing for dear life and never let go. You would cling to it in the midst of the storm. 

I just can’t seem to make time

How many times have you said this in regards to spending time with Jesus? “I just can’t seem to make time.” How many times have I said it? We beat ourselves up for missing our quiet time, for skipping our Bible study because of the demands of life. Life swirls around us and we wonder, “when was the last time I prayed?”

Dear friends. God is not someone that we arrange a daily meeting with. To get our instruction and correction and then be sent out to face the world alone. No, God desires to be the life giving power throughout your day. Jesus is your vine. Your life preserver. Your rock.

In the words of the great hymn:

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
  Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior!
    I come to Thee.

Stay connected to the vine

The truth is, when we are tired, weary, and overwhelmed, taking a nap, having some alone time, or even doing a Bible study is an easy answer. It is simple. It is a concrete action we can take. Clinging to Jesus is not. It takes practice to continually turn our minds to Him. It takes relying on the work of the Holy Spirit within us, instead of on something that we can do for ourselves. However, the power is in Jesus, not in our ability to make time for self care.

So cry out to Him..

…when the kids are going crazy.

…when the baby’s been up all night.

…when your marriage is going through a difficult time.

…when you are overwhelmed.

…when you aren’t sure what to do next.

Go to His Word. Not just to study like a textbook, but because it is the very life-breathing Words of God. 

Sing praises to him throughout the day.

Whisper a prayer or two or three during the moments that try you.

Come to Him again and again for forgiveness and a fresh start. He is not looking for someone who has perfect prayer and Bible study time, but someone who humbly goes to Him again and again for his mercy, grace, and strength.

So yes, take some time for yourself. Get that breather, enjoy your moment of peace. But when the trials of the day return, stay connected to the vine. Cling to the one who really has the power and the strength you so desperately need. 

That is something no amount of self care will ever give you.

 

The BIG Mistake You Might Be Making With Bible Memory

I still remember one of the first verses I had my son memorize.

Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

He probably wasn’t even three years old yet, but he enjoyed memorizing the short verse and then showing off his skills to daddy, grandma, or whoever would listen.

Fast forward a few years. Our scripture memory regularly gets derailed, but I continue to try and pick it back up. He memorizes the classic John 3:16 and works on all the verses from Hero Training. Bad attitudes come up so we learn to “do everything without complaining.” Him and his brother struggle with getting along, so we memorize 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 and work on doing “everything in love.” 

*Everyone* knows it is important to have your children memorize God’s Word and he was memorizing scripture, so though we needed to work on our consistency, I figured we were on the right track.

Well, that was until a few weeks ago.

I was just scrolling Facebook – like ya do – and stopped to read a comment thread on a post asking for advice on what verses to have their children memorize. I took note of the different suggestions as I scanned through the replies, but then I read something that made me stop in my tracks.

The simple, but profound wisdom I’d never considered

Instead of suggesting a verse, one mama shared a brilliant piece of advice.

When thinking through what verses to have her kids memorize, she looked to the future. She envisioned her children as missionaries, or possibly without a Bible and in a scenario where they needed to lean on God. What kind of scripture did she want them to have hidden in their hearts? What truth did she want them to be able to draw on in those moments?

Boom. I immediately felt the conviction. Right then and there I realized that the majority of my children’s scripture memorization was not done for them, it was done for *me* out of a desire to change my children’s behavior.

On the outside I may have looked like a “godly parent” trying to disciple my children with God’s Word. However, the truth was I was in danger of raising little pharisees who have been trained to parrot God’s commands without knowing God in their hearts.

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
(Matthew 15:8)

What good would it be if I had wonderfully well behaved children, who know God’s law inside and out, if they did not know and love God himself?

So, moving forward, here are some guidelines I will be using as I choose scripture for my children to memorize…

1. Pray for guidance on what scripture would be best for that child to be currently memorizing

How often have I been in a situation where the Holy Spirit brought to mind a verse I had tucked away in my memory in just the right moment? Only God knows what these moments will be like for your child. Only he will know the situations your children will find themselves in and the perfect Words they will need in that moment.

Pray for wisdom and guidance in choosing what scripture to have your children memorize. Let God use you to hide His Word in their little hearts. Whether it is just what they need now, or will be many years down the road, He will bring fruit from it in His time.

2. Choose scripture that will help the child know God more

Instead of focusing on memorizing verses that tell your child something to do, focus on verses that tell your child who God is. Let them build up in their hearts all the marvelous vastness that is God’s character and goodness.

It is hard to follow someone you do not know and it is hard to love someone you do not care about. Sure, the child may learn to act lovingly toward his neighbor by memorizing certain passages, but if that love does not flow from a relationship with God, what is it worth?

Choose scripture that will give your child a foundation rooted firm in God’s…

…sovereignty and they will be steady through all of life’s trials.

…love and they will always know their worth

…kindness and compassion and they will never be alone

…justice and they will not need to be angered

…strength and they will live in courage

3. Think of future situations the child will benefit from God’s Word stored away

In the original post that I read, she wrote that she would picture her children as missionaries and think of what scripture they may need. Though we do not know the futures ahead of our children, we can ponder this and consider it as we choose passages for them to memorize.

Will they face trials and need to remember God’s goodness? Will they feel alone and scared and need to know that God will never leave them? What scripture will they need to draw upon in moments where a Bible is not nearby?

4. Choose longer passages of scripture when possible

Snippets and fragments of scripture rarely display the same beauty and truth of longer portions. Memorizing random verses taken out of context not only puts us in greater danger of misinterpretation, but it also robs us of the fullness of longer passages.

Instead of doing one separate verse at a time, try selecting a longer passage and slowly make your way through it verse by verse. Passages such as Ps 23, The Lord’s Prayer, and John 1 are great places to start.

All Scripture is God-Breathed

In conclusion, let’s not forget that “all scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Even if you have fallen into the same trap that I did, if you are memorizing scripture with your children, that is still marvelous and can be used by God.

Let this just be an encouragement to both of us to continue teaching our children God’s Word – not for us, that we may somehow selfishly benefit, but for them, so they may grow closer to the heart of God.

 

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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*Affiliate links included.

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!