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!

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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!

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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

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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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The ULTIMATE Guide to Using Biblehub.com

 

The ULTIMATE Guide to Using Biblehub.com In Your Bible Study-3

Have you ever heard of Biblehub.com? I mentioned it in last week’s post on my favorite Bible study tools, but this week I wanted to expand on all the awesomeness this website has to offer! If you’ve ever wondered how to do an in-depth word study, topical study, or read Biblical commentaries when you don’t have a huge library at your disposal – this post is for you!

They explain their mission clearly on the Bible hub website:

Our mission is best summarized as follows:

1) Increase the visibility and accessibility of the Scriptures online.

2) Provide free access to Bible study tools in many languages.

3) Promote the Gospel of Christ through the learning, study and application of God’s word.

Now that sounds like a worthwhile mission to me!

So, grab your Bible, your notebook, and some pens and pencils. Then, open up a browser window and head on over to biblehub.com and let’s get started!

1. Navigate to a passage

Lets start out with something simple – finding a passage!

Biblehub Tutorial

To find a passage, you can use the drop down menus at the top of the page, but the easiest thing to do is just type what you are looking for into the search box in the top middle of the screen. Hit enter/return and you’ll be brought to…

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… your passage!

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Now, you can use the blue arrows on the side of the passage name or the circles on the outermost sides of the page to navigate to the previous and next chapters.

 

2. Search for key words

You can also use the search bar to search for key words, names, places, etc.

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Just type in the word(s) you want to search for and it will pop up with a list of verses!

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3. Find parallel verses and cross references

There are a few ways to find the page with this information…

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The first way is to type in the exact verse that you want to look up, both chapter and verse. If you just put the chapter number this will not work, it will take you to the page that shows you the full chapter.

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That will bring you right to this page! Again, you can use the blue arrows to navigate forward and backward through the passage. However, before we get into all the goodies located here, lets look at a few more ways to find it.

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For the second way, maybe you want to view the parallel versions of the whole chapter. This time, type the chapter you are looking for in the search bar and it will bring you to this familiar page. Next, click on the word “parallel” in the second (white) menu bar.

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It will assume that you want to see verse one, so to get back to the whole chapter, click the chapter link in the breadcrumb trail in the upper left corner.

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Voila! You can now read the whole chapter in different versions side by side.

Okay, lets look at one more way…

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For this third way, perhaps you have a general idea of where the verse is, but you don’t know the exact reference. First, search for the book and chapter in the search bar. Use the blue arrows to navigate around if you didn’t get to the chapter you were thinking of. Then, scan through the chapter until you find the verse you were looking for. To see the parallel verses, click on the blue number at the beginning of the verse.

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Yay! We are back here once again! Lets have a look around…

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Over to the left we have a nice long list of parallel verses.

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To the right you’ll find the verse in context. If you start scrolling down right below it you will see a list of cross references.

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If you continue to scroll down, underneath the cross references you will find the “Treasury of Scripture” which will break the verse down and find more related verses. These two sections are so handy to have when studying the Bible!

 

4. Do a word study

If you’ve always heard about the awesome practice of doing a word study but was never quite sure how to go about it – this section is for you! Biblehub.com makes it super easy to do an in depth word study.

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First, use the search bar to navigate to the verse that has the word you’d like to study.

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Like previously, there are multiple ways you can go about this, but this way is my favorite. Once, you’ve got your verse, click on the word “lexicon” in the white menu bar.

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Clicking that will pop you over to this handy little chart. It has the verse broken down along with the Greek (or Hebrew), the transliteration (aka the way we would spell the Greek word with our alphabet),  link to Strong’s, and a brief definition and origin. If you scroll down you will find a little more info at the bottom as well.

Next, you are going to want to find your chosen word in the verse and click on the blue Strong’s number in the fourth column.

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That will bring you to this lovely page! There is a lot of information here that you can explore, but I’ll highlight a couple of my favorite things.

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Over on the left side of the page you will find word definitions from different sources. My favorite is the HELPS Word-studies. It gives an in-depth explanation of the word in a way that is usually pretty simple to understand.

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Over on the right side of the page is a concordance listing. Here, you can find other verses that use the same word in the original language. This can be of great help to further understand the meaning that the author was intending when he used that word.

 

5. Use a concordance to do a topical study

Studying the Bible chapter by chapter, verse by verse is often the best way to really dig into the text. However, it can also be fruitful to do a topical study. When you take a topic like “love” or “justice” and follow it through the whole Bible your understanding can greatly increase.

There are a couple ways you can begin your topical study. One easy way is to enter the topic you are studying in the search bar, like we did in tutorial #3, bringing up a list of verses with that word in them. However, if you are looking for more information, try scrolling down to the “bible study tools” section.

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Once you are there, click on “concordance.” (“Topical” will get you the same place)

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Then, enter your topic in the “concordance search” box.

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That will bring you to the “topical search” page where it will break your topic down into sub-categories. Scroll through and click what you would like.

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That will bring you to this page which is full of info! You’ll find entries from dictionaries and encyclopedias, information on the original languages, books from their library, thesaurus and concordance entries, and a lit of subtopics and related topics. Whew! All that info right at your fingertips!

 

6. Access commentaries

Alright, now let’s look at some ways to access the many commentaries you can find on bible hub!

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First, there is a drop down menu on the top of the page that lists the commentaries and some different topics you can explore.

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For a more complete list of their commentary options, scroll down to the “bible study tools” section and click on “commentary.”

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That will bring you to this awesome “Bible Commentaries” page. If you scroll down you will find over 50 commentaries broken down into various categories and by book of the Bible.

Okay – let’s look at one more way to get to the commentaries. This time for if you are looking for commentary on a specific passage.

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Enter the passage you are looking for into the search bar on the main page. Then, click on the “comment” button in the white menu bar.

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That will bring up a list of all the commentaries they have starting with the first verse in that passage. Use the blue arrows on the left and right of the page to navigate forward and backward in the passage.

 

7. Chapter Outline

Sometimes it can be really helpful to have an overview of the chapter you are studying. Here is a quick way to find one!

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Using the search bar, search for the passage you want to outline. Then, on the bottom blue menu bar, find the little bitty outline icon (it looks like three rows of a dot followed by a line) and give it a click.

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Then, you’ll get a page with lists of the people and places and an outline of the passage. Everything is conveniently a clickable link, so you can easily find more information on the different topics.

 

8. Atlases

Using atlases to actually be able to see where the people and stories you are reading about are taking place can be very helpful. Let’s look at two ways to find some!

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On the main page, scroll down to the “bible study tools” section and click “atlas.”

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Type a name, location, or key word in the “atlas search” box. (I searched for “Moses”)

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Scroll through the results that pop up to find what you are needing…

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…and you’ll get a page with a nice map, plus a bunch of other helpful info!

Here’s one other quick way to get to an atlas…

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For this, just enter your passage into the search bar and right to the left you will see a couple related maps pop up! Click on any of them to bring up the page with all the additional information.

9. Parallel Gospels

If you’ve never used a parallel gospel, it is pretty neat! It takes the accounts in the gospels, arranges them in chronological order, and lines them up so you can see the same stories side by side. It’s especially helpful when you are studying a passage in one of the gospels and you want to see the same account from the other gospel writers.

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Just scroll down on the main page to the “Bible Study Tools” section and click on “Par Gospels.”

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That will bring you to this page. If you scroll down…

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…you will find the chronological list of the contents of the gospels.  Click on the topic you are looking for…

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…and it will bring up a page with the passages in any of the gospels they are found in!

10. Bible history timeline, Library of Christian works, Weights and Measures and More!

There is lots more to explore on Bible hub, but here’s a last few quick things!

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This timeline comes in handy! Especially when you are trying to sort out the order of events in the Old Testament. If you click on “timeline” under “Bible Study Tools” it will take you to a complete timeline of the Bible.

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huge resource they have is their library of Christian works! From the early church fathers, to Bible studies, to church history, and much more! Just click on “library” in the “Bible Study Tools” section to see the whole collection.

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I thought this was a neat feature – a list of weights, measures, etc. It’s a handy list for any unfamiliar unit of measure that you may run across in your studying.

Well, that’s all I have! There is definitely more you can discover on Bible hub, but hopefully that will get you started! Do you want to see more Bible study tutorials? Just let me know what you need in the comments below!

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Ready for an Old Testament Adventure?

 

 

 

My Favorite Bible Study Tools: 5 Simple Things to Help You Dig into the Text

My Favorite Bible Study Tools_ 5 Simple Things to Help You Dig into the Text

As Summer begins to come to a close and the new rhythms and routines of Fall come near, I am realizing that I have done a terrible job with personal Bible study over the last few months. So, as I prepare to get myself back in gear and (re)start some good habits, I want to share with you my favorite Bible study tools! They are nothing terribly groundbreaking, but they do a great job of helping you really dig into your Bible.

Here they are…

#1 A simple notebook

What kind doesn’t really matter. It could be a plain composition notebook, a journal, a sketchbook, or whatever. It just needs to provide a place to write down notes, prayers, verses and quotes, doodles, and whatever else you can think of jotting down.

#2 Colored pencils

I like using colored pencils over pens to write in my Bible or notebook because they are not quite as permanent. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the color bleeding through to the other side of your page. I just recently bought this Sargent set for my son as a step up from Crayola. They are really nice and I think I’m going to have to swipe them for my Bible study. 🙂

#3 Commentaries, word studies, Bible atlas, concordance, etc

While we do have quite a few commentaries and the like, I’m going to be honest, they don’t leave the shelf all too often. That is because my absolute favorite resource for studying the Bible is found in a super convenient place – online!

I love biblehub.com for pretty much anything you could need for studying the Bible. Commentaries, word studies, maps, concordance, different translations, devotionals – they have it all!

If you are looking to take your Bible study up a notch, I highly recommend giving this website a try.

#4 The Bible

Of course! Can’t have a Bible study without one of these important little books. 😉 For the longest time I used an NIV Bible until it was finally falling apart like crazy and I bought a new one. I had seen how popular Bible journaling was and I loved the journaling Bibles. So, I decided to buy an ESV Journaling Bible. I love it!

I’m definitely not one of those super amazing artistic Bible journalers, but I love having extra space for making little doodles or writing notes.

#5 A Bible Study Guide

Now, I definitely don’t think a devotional or Bible study guide is at all necessary to have a great personal Bible study. However, it can be helpful to have a plan and a little help as you dig into the text. Right now my personal favorite Bible study devotional is the “Journal and Doodle Through the Bible” series by Kari Denker. If you are looking for something new and fun that will also dig you deep into the text – look no further. Go grab her free Ephesians study right now! (I also reviewed Kari’s studies right here.)

Well, those are some of my favorite tools for studying the Bible. Are you getting ready to start a new study this fall? What are some of your favorite tools?

 

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7 FREE resources to start building a steadfast marriage today!

Are you looking for some great resources to help build your steadfast marriage? I always enjoy finding ideas and guides for building up my marriage, so today I wanted to share some that I’ve found recently. I’m excited to dig into some of these materials and I know you will be blessed by them too! And the best part is that they are all FREE!

7 FREE resources to start building a steadfast marriage today!

1. Intentional Conversations with Your Spouse {The Guide} by Your Intentional Family

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An intentional conversation is a dialogue between you and your spouse that will help open the flood gates of communication and uncover any issues that need to be addressed in your marriage.”

Are you looking for something to help start some meaningful conversations between you and your spouse? Check out this awesome resource from the Dutton’s at Your Intentional Family.

2. 40 Prayers to Pray Over Your Husband

More and more I am learning that real change and growth truly begins on your knees. I love this list of wonderful prayers to pray over your husband from Kaylene Yoder.

3. 30 Day Prayer Challenge for Your Husband

Here’s another great marriage prayer guide from ibelieve.com. On their site they describe the challenge:

Here’s how the challenge works. Every day for the next 30 days, you will pray in a specific way for your husband. Some days there will also be an opportunity for you to read a related article, or watch a short video. Other days you’ll be encouraged to journal or write down your thoughts about a particular marriage related prompt. Every day will also have at least one verse for you to study and pray over your husband.

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4. 36 Tips to Bring Sexy Back to Your Marriage by Sheila Gregoire

Need some Christian tips for how to spice up your marriage? Sheila never disappoints! You can read her blog post on the topic and then sign up for her newsletter at the bottom of the post to receive the whole (free) ebook!

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5. Simply One In Marriage

This is a neat website for marriage building that has a blog, couple’s Bible studies, ideas for fun things to do as a couple, and more! They have a whole list of free resources that are great for building your marriage.

6. Marriage Retreat Printable Guide from Embracing a Simpler Life  

Have you ever taken time away from the hustle and bustle of life to intentionally plan and dream what you want your marriage to look like? I think that sounds like a marvelous idea! Even if you can’t get away during this season of your life I bet this printable would still be able to guide you and your spouse in some great conversations.

7. Creating a Marriage Purpose Statement from Embracing a Simpler Life

Another great resource from Embracing a Simpler Life. I have never thought of making a marriage purpose statement, but that might be something we need to get on soon! She also has a great printable – 90 Date Night Questions!

 

What marriage resources have you found recently?