Rachel Tiemeyer

Dec 052015

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There are so many things my husband, Nathan, and I find ourselves regretting that we do or say as parents. But, one that I’m fairly confident we will not regret is taking the time to read to our children–especially books that encourage them to have a bigger, truer view of our God. Over the past year or so, we’ve really enjoyed reading the five devotional-type books below with our kids, ages 4, 6, and 8 at the time. (We’ve also used and liked these 7 great children’s Bible story books in the past.)

Do we read the Bible or a devotional every night with our children? Well, honestly, no. Some nights mom and dad are just too spent. But, on the whole over the years, we’ve tried to gather regularly before bed and read and pray together. One of the sweet results of this routine is that my kids expect it and even remind us at times. I hope and pray this translates to a personal love for and discipline in reading God’s Word as adults.

An important side note for parents who haven’t started this routine yet or feel intimidated: From my 15 professional years experience in children’s ministry, it’s NEVER too late to start reading the Bible or devotional books to your kids. If you’ve never started this routine or feel intimidated by the thought, don’t be discouraged. Talk with your children about the books below and maybe involve them in the decision about which one or two to begin with. And maybe explain to them that you can all learn together (I know I certainly learned a lot from the books below!). You do not have to have all the answers for your kids in order to read about God to them. I am convinced our children will remember most of all our example and heart for the Lord, rather than what we did and didn’t read or what we know and don’t know!

Some of these devotionals below are more appropriate for younger or older ages, as I’ve indicated. We’ve found one way to engage our older child is to have him read the devotional out loud to the younger children when using a “younger kid” book. We’ve also noticed that the 4-year-old really gleans more than we think when reading the “big kid” ones, and he’s learning to sit still and listen for longer and longer stretches as a result. So, don’t be afraid to try some of these with a wide variety of ages.

Here are five of our favorite devotional books and why, in no particular order. May God bless your desire to teach your children about the One who created them and loves them more than we can imagine. 

  1. Exploring Grace Together: 40 Devotionals for the Family by Jessica Thompson

Exploring Grace Together

Exploring Grace Together is one of the best devotionals I have run across for elementary-aged children. As Thompson makes clear in this book, “Children need more than behavior modification. They need the gospel.” And what I love most about this devotional is that each chapter uses a simple scenario or story of an elementary-aged child who is facing something (a trial, a temptation, a battle with sin, disappointment, a chance to serve others, etc) and how he/she can practically apply gospel-truths to his/her situation. Then, Thompson includes three outstanding comprehension and application questions at the end for parents and kids to discuss. Bravo Jessica Thompson for a well-done, grace-centered family devotional!

2) Everything a Child Should Know About God by Kenneth N. Taylor

Everything a Child Should Know About God

Everything a Child Should Know About God is probably most appropriate for ages 3-6, but older and younger children will certainly benefit from this simple yet profound children’s book of systematic theology. In each chapter, the book addresses a question about God, Jesus, Salvation, The Bible, Christian living and more, providing an engaging illustration and a clear, age-appropriate answer. Even adults can learn from this clear-cut look at the basics of Christianity.

3) The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung

The Biggest Story

The Biggest Story is intended for ages 5-8 (as a read aloud) and ages 8-11 (as a “read to myself” book). My four-year-old enjoyed and followed along just fine, though. This devotional book will give your family a view of the Bible from 10,000 feet, so to speak–helping you to see how God’s plan of redemption through Jesus for his people is the main theme of the entire Bible from beginning to end. I would say the very best part of this “big picture” story Bible are the illustrations by Don Clark. We had several in-depth conversations about what the symbols on each page might mean and how they connect to the story. I have found my non-reader and young reader thumbing through the book on their own several times.

4) Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Storybook by Starr Meade

Mighty Acts of God

Mighty Acts of God claims to be for ages 8 and up, but from our experience, ages 5 or 6 and up can participate. Instead of focusing on Bible characters in each story like many children’s Bibles, each of these 90 Bible stories focus on a particular character trait or truth about God. Each God-focused Bible story is “retold in lively, modern-day language from a Reformed perspective”. My 8-year-old, in fact, read the entire thing on his own after we read it aloud a few times. He was fascinated by all the background information included that helped him grasp more of the context of each story. Although I felt like the application questions at the end of each chapter were a bit cumbersome (and the easiest for parents to lead), overall the book is worth buying and reading.

5) Little Pilgrim’s Progress: From John Bunyan’s Classic by Helen L. Taylor

Little Pilgrim's Progress

This children’s simplified rendition of John Bunyan’s classic isn’t new. In fact, it’s been around for over 55 years, and we’ve already read it twice in our family. The reason for its popularity is that it’s both “a simple adventure story and a profound allegory of the Christian journey through life”. This delightful read, which my children (it’s especially exciting to boys) adamantly requested night after night, filled our hearts with a message almost all ages (probably ages 4 and up) can understand and remember. We were literally crying together in the last chapters as our friend Christian finally makes it to the Celestial City. Little Pilgrim’s Progress has also inspired many spiritual conversations in the car, around the dinner table, etc. A must read for all children (and adults)!

Parents, have you used a great family devotional with your kids? Please share below!

May 052015

Updated and reposted from May 2014

How to Make Your Summer at Home Count (2014)

Today is my 1st grade son’s last day of school (finally!). After one last trip to the Dollar Store this morning, I’m ready!


Summer provides a magical (well, at least at first) and unique time to pour into my three kids at home. The great amount of free time together, though, can be overwhelming. Where do I begin in trying to make these two months really count? How can I help my kids grow in some significant areas while having fun together?

Last year, I wrote a post called Make Your Summer At Home with Kids Count. It’s one of those posts that I had to write down, so I would go back and read it each year at this time. It’s about the process I went through to create goals for my children, and the plan I put in place.

summer at home ideas

This year, I’m at it again because last year’s plan really was a success for the most part. We didn’t go on any huge vacations or spend much money, but my kids still talk about our summer together and many of the things they learned last year. So, here are our family’s summer goals, daily and weekly schedule, and lots of ideas for summer chores and summer FUN! Continue reading »

Nov 242014

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What story will most capture your child’s heart this holiday season?

Children begin to form their understanding of what Christmas is about from very early on. The only real question is who or what will have the most influence in shaping it.

The biblical story of Christmas can be confusing to kids who are bombarded with our culture’s holiday icons and values at every turn. You have an opportunity this December to spend time not only decorating, wrapping gifts, and going to parties…but, most importantly, focusing your family’s hearts on who it’s all for.

Start your Christmas season off with a night that focuses all your senses on Jesus at our Family Christmas Celebration on Wednesday, December 3 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at The Crossing. Your family is invited to experience a night in Bethlehem during the time of Jesus’ birth. Visit various interactive shops, meet characters all over town, and watch the live story of the Nativity come to life.

One thing your family will make that night is a keepsake Nativity set from Caravan Shoppe like this one…

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And, as you leave, we’ll hand you a simple, hands-on Christmas devotional that you can do with your kids throughout the holiday season, too!

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This free event is geared for families with children ages 3 through 5th grade. It’s a great opportunity to invite others to hear about the Christmas story. Childcare is available for ages 2 and under by RSVP.

Sign up online HERE or in the foyer through November 30, if you plan to attend.

We hope to see you and your friends there!

Jul 252014

I’ve been struggling with headaches for two years now–ever since I was done nursing my last child. They seem to have gotten more frequent–about once a week I end up in bed.

I’ve linked them to lack of sleep, sitting at my computer/behind the wheel, lifting kids, and stress in general, at various times. Sounds like every mom I know, right? I’ve tried all kinds of remedies. Nothing has definitively worked; some have helped minimally.

This post is not to complain or have you feel sorry for me or to help me fix my headaches. The only reason I share this is that my headaches have served an important roll in my life lately. They’ve pointed me to an issue that keeps coming up over and over. God seems to use difficult or just annoying things in our lives to do that, doesn’t he? Continue reading »

Feb 082014


Keith and Christine Simon have been doing a Valentine’s Scavenger Hunt for their kids as long as I’ve known them. It began when their kids were very young, but, now that all of them are teenagers, it still continues. Christine told me that her kids used to get candy at the end, but now the hunt is more complicated and they get something like an Itunes gift card. Their kids still love it!

Nathan and I gave the Valentine’s Day Scavenger Hunt for our kids (ages 2-6 at the time) a try the last two years. My favorite part was what they receive at the end (you’ll have to wait and see)! I can’t wait to do it again soon for our now 3, 5, and 7-year-olds. Here’s how it works:

1 – I cut out colored hearts clues for each of the older children. My son got blue hearts and my daughter got pink hearts. This year, we’ll add a different color of clues for my youngest son, since he is old enough to participate, too.

2 – We then came up with different clues to find around the house for each child. Here are some easy examples for young kids, but you could make them much more difficult for older ones.

Clue for the toothbrush drawer…

valentine's day scavenger hunt for kids

Clue for the bathtub…

valentine's day scavenger hunt for kids

Clue for the toy chest or closet…

valentine's day scavenger hunt for kids

Clue for the refrigerator…

valentine's day scavenger hunt for kids

Clue for an indoor or outdoor basketball goal…

valentine's day scavenger hunt for kids

Clue for where your child keeps his/her shoes…

valentine's day scavenger hunt for kids

3 – We attached a piece of Dove Dark Chocolate to each clue and then hid them around the house. That way they got to collect some sweet treats along the way.

valentine's day scavenger hunt for kids

4 – The very last heart clue led to their Valentine’s Day treasure. It was an individual love note to each child from both mom and dad, as well as a small individualized gift. I honestly can’t remember what I got them last year for the gift. They probably don’t either. But, my and their favorite part was the love note.

For the Valentine’s love note, Nathan wrote on one side of a heart and I wrote on the other side. At the end of the hunt, we took turns with each child reading their personal letter aloud to them. The look on their faces and the big hugs were priceless. As parents in the thick of “little ones chaos”, we don’t always take the time to reflect on what we appreciate and love about each one of our kids. So this Valentine’s Day Scavenger Hunt was as special to us as it was the kids.

valentine's day scavenger hunt for kids

Lastly, I have saved and put each of the kids’ hearts in their baby books. Since I’m not the best at keeping up with writing in their books, this at least provides some yearly reflection for each child. Last week, my 5-year-old daughter pulled out her baby book and begged me to read her prior Valentine letters. Again, just a priceless time with her.

valentine's day scavenger hunt for kids

Feel free to steal the clues we came up with (or create much better ones!) and give this a try this February. No matter the age of your kids, I think they and you will love this Valentine’s Day Scavenger Hunt.

Dec 132013

Rachel Jankovic interviewHave you heard of author, blogger and mom of six, Rachel Jankovic? She penned two fantastically brief and poignant parenting books I’ve reviewed: Loving the Little Years and her latest release, Fit to Burst. I was thrilled to recently have the chance to interview her; I think you’ll understand why after you read what this.

If you have children at home, put a video on for the kids (and don’t feel guilty!), grab a hot drink and pull up a chair to the “table” with us. May her words bring a bit of cheer and encouragement to your mommy soul today…

Rachel of TH: I know I’m probably not the only one who wonders how you manage a home with six small children and write/blog, as well. How do you do it all?? (Ok, this question is bait for you. I know you don’t do it all, Rachel, because none of us do, right? I’d just love some of your wisdom about balancing children/home/work and maybe what you let go of to make your priorities a priority. I think most moms can be “The Mean Boss” to themselves that you describe in Ch. 3 of Fit to Burst.)

Rachel Jankovic: Right this second I am writing in the living room while one kid is playing the keyboard on the couch, three are doing legos all over the floor, one is sleeping, and one is by my side asking me to tear off pieces of red duct tape every few seconds, which I do without inquiring why. I am between laundry loads 4 and 5, but luckily it is all folded and sorted on the couch downstairs, except for the pile of dishcloths that Shadrach spread all around the room.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I write to myself more than to others. It is good for me to think about how the Gospel applies to my life and how I want to be living, and writing is just an extension of that. I do it in between things in our normal life, not as a separate job.

Other than that I am always juggling what I think is important and what isn’t – its a pretty organic/ artistic thing really. Like gardening, we are always trying to add something to the thin spots, and prune out the bushes no one likes that just keep growing.

I am sitting here trying to think of things that I have let go of and really I don’t even know anymore. Because the reality is that it is always growing. When I do let go of something it is because God has given me something else. That thing – the one that stays in my hands, really is important. A lot of the time it is us growing and acting in obedience, and concentrating on something that we believe God wants us to be doing. When a selfish desire falls out of sight in that context, it really is out of sight.

In contrast, I don’t think it is good to decide to slash things (that were God honoring things) without this kind of pressure. In other words, I don’t cut things in frustration most of the time. I cut things because they just straight up fell off the table, and I forgot they existed.

Rachel of TH: You say in Fit to Burst, “The more we are steeped in the language of the Bible, the more we will recognize when things from the world are slipping in.” I couldn’t agree more. But, speaking from my own experience, finding quality time to read, study, and pray in light of the Bible is hard as a mom. When do you find time to be alone with God and read His Word? Is that even possible at some stages of parenting?

Rachel Jankovic: I’ve been through all kinds of stages of life on this. Right now I mostly read my Bible on my phone – Olive Tree has a great app that keeps track of your Bible reading plan for you, and often I have my phone with me when I wouldn’t have my Bible – waiting at school pick-up, etc.

I think it important to have a relationship with God that runs through your day. Prayer when you are being tempted. Obedience when you don’t feel like it. Singing a Psalm when you want to feel sorry for yourself.

I do not have a lot of private time with the Lord right now, but my whole life is His. All day long I have opportunities to submit to Him, to grow in knowing Him. There was also a time when the kids were littler that I remember realizing I didn’t have to get everything together first. I could just sit on the couch and read my Bible while the kids galloped around in dress ups. Strangely, I was feeling like I needed to come up with a peaceful ambiance first, before I could go to the source of peace.

Rachel of TH: In Fit to Burst, you have a huge emphasis on sacrifice and giving, even when “the milkshake is running low” because all the kids are sucking every last ounce of energy from you. When a mom has one of those days when she feels completely emptied from giving so much, what are some practical strategies to help her keep going? What can she do or remember in times like that?

Rachel Jankovic: Turn on music, eat something. Let the kids make a fort in the living room. Put cold water on your face, make coffee. Sometimes when things get really dire I set my phone alarm for 12 minutes and lay like a pancake without worrying I will never get up. Go outside, bake cookies, sit down and knit, call my sister, text my husband. Even a little bit of physical exercise can help – get the blood flowing again. I’ve been known to run the stairs. The biggest thing is to try and lean into it. Don’t save up exhaustion like it is your precious little pet. Run right through it with joy and laughter if you can.

One of the best things to remember is that life is fleeting. This may sound morbid – but if you were standing in a graveyard, having lost these kids, you would give anything (everything) to have even your worst day back. Blessings are heavy, but so sweet. This kind of trial is the trial of being richly blessed.

Rachel of TH: What are the top three things your own parents did when raising you that you are trying emulate in your own home?

Rachel Jankovic: I don’t know that these are the top three, but three that come to mind.

1) Eating together, and talking around the table for a while after – about everything. Applying God’s word to everything gave us the strong conviction that His word is relevant in every situation. This would tie into the fact that all three of us kids always were on the same “team” as my parents. We have some deep loyalty and real connection to each other. Even in our teenage years that was the case, and I am old enough now to know that that was a precious gift.

2) Having a good sense of humor, even at your own expense. Being full of joy at all the funny things that happen all the time. Laughing as a family, even about our own misfortunes.

3) Extreme generosity – giving much, and never bringing it up again. Giving freely for reals.

Rachel of TH: One of the funniest things I read in Loving the Little Years (and I still use this phrase about my own house) is that yours looks like the bottom of a toaster sometimes. Here’s a little challenge for you. Take a picture right now of the messiest place in your house so we can commiserate with you.

Rachel Jankovic: I have a lot on my computer because for some reason I always take pictures of these situations. In fact, it is hard to choose. I can’t decide between the coffee crime scene that is our carpet, or this one of Blaire’s recent work.

Blaire's art project

Rachel of TH: Not to put you on the spot, but any last thoughts, advice or generally funny “Rachel Jankovic-isms” that might encourage the moms who read Thriving Home?

Rachel Jankovic: When our kids are upset about something that isn’t working out for them, we tell them that you have to be good at being bad at things first. Because then you will get good at being good at it. But if you are bad at being bad at something, you will still be bad at it when you get good at it.

That’s how I feel about all kinds of domestic things, kid raising things, feeding people, actually just life in general. Just hoping to be really good at being bad at it – and maybe someday, in our old age we will get to be good at being good at it!

Nov 292013

Grabbin' Gracie 72dpi

When our firstborn son was 20 months old and I was 9 months pregnant with our second child, my husband and I sat in silence in the procedure waiting room, nervously awaiting the results of his endoscopy and colonoscopy. He had been sick for months and no one had a clue what was going on so far. The G.I. doctor who performed the procedure came in after about an hour and told us that our son had granulomas (ulcers) throughout most of his digestive track. He looked like a classic case of Crohn’s Disease, a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the digestive system. Every patient’s case is different, but if not brought under and kept under control which can be tricky, it can wreak havoc in a person’s body. That same morning, our underweight, sickly toddler was admitted to the hospital, where we stayed for several days as the staff tried to bring the inflammation in his body under control.

With no family history and very little prior knowledge about this chronic illness, we had no idea what this diagnosis meant. I remember feeling like a bomb had just been dropped in our life. What would this mean for my son? Would he be able to attend preschool? Play sports? Have a normal life at all? How would this affect our entire family? This was not what we had planned for our little boy.

We also began to ask questions of God, through many frustrated tears, that we hadn’t thought about on a personal level before. Why would He allow something like this in a child’s life? What does it look like to trust God with our son’s health and his future? We were so disappointed and overwhelmed at the time and searched to find truth in the midst of this sadness.

I know many of you or your loved ones have had similar experiences with a sick or special needs child. What do we say to ourselves when our child is suffering? How does a hurting child fit into a Christian worldview and God’s good plan for His people? Volumes have been written on the subject of suffering from a Christian perspective. My goal here is not to answer every theological question. I simply want to share 9 biblical truths our family desperately needed to hear and still need to be reminded of at times, as we traverse life with a child with a chronic illness who will suffer at various times. These are also the truths we try to encourage our child to believe, as he learns to trust God with this trial.

9 Truths to Believe When My Child is Suffering

1 – God created and loves your child far more than you do.

It’s hard to imagine someone else’s heart aching the way your own does for your child. But the Creator of the universe, the one who carefully crafted every facet of your child in the womb, loves him or her with a more intimate, eternity-in-mind kind of love than you do. Listen to what David writes in Psalm 139:13-18,

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

2 – God is God and we are not. We can trust that ultimately God’s ways are higher than ours.

One of my favorite songs is called “In the Palm of Your Hand” by Alison Krauss. A line that has remained in my head ever since I heard it in college is this:

I’d rather be in the palm of Your hand
Though rich or poor I may be
Faith can see right through the circumstance
Sees the forest in spite of the trees
Your grace provides for me

When your child is suffering, it’s easy to see the tree. It’s so hard to see the forest. But, God does. He knows the big picture, because his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. His ways are higher than my ways. We can trust that He is God and we are not, just as Isaiah records in this passage.

Isaiah 55:8-9,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

3 – God not only sees the bigger picture, but He has a good plan for the suffering experienced by those who love him.

Now five years out from my son’s diagnosis, I can see how God has been at work in our lives and our son’s life. His suffering has driven us to Him all the more. It has given us compassion for and a position to encourage those who are dealing with similar circumstances with their own children. And, quite honestly, we may not see all the good God does through my son’s suffering in this life…but, we can trust He is at work.

There are so many passages and stories in the Bible that illustrate this point, but here is a promise that we’ve clung to:

Romans 8:28, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Additionally, the stories of people like Joseph in the book of Genesis and Paul in the New Testament (who wrote the verse above) are just two of the examples we have in the Bible of this principle. As my husband and I have studied people like them, it’s been encouraging to us to see how God’s promises in Romans 8 and Isaiah 55 played out.

3 – God is close. God saves.

What a comfort to know that the God of the Universe who created my child and whose thoughts are higher than my thoughts also promises this in Psalm 34:19,

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

He is near. But, not only is he near, he promises to save!

4 – A sick or suffering child is not the way it was supposed to be nor how it will always be.

Because of sin that began in the Garden of Eden with our first parents, the perfect world that God created unraveled. A consequence of our sin is that there is now death, sickness, and sorrow in this world (Romans 3:23 and 6:23). We and all of God’s creation are like “glorious ruins” now, awaiting our Savior to return and make all things new.

Paul, who underwent almost every kind of suffering imaginable, wrote these words:

2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

How can Paul write this? He seemed to know something that we don’t always grasp. He had the end in mind. I think because of the suffering we’ve seen in our little boy, one of our family’s very favorite passages in the Bible has to do with the end– Revelation 21. We all long more than ever for the day when Jesus will return and make all things new! Sally Lloyd-Jones writes these heart-rending words in the Jesus Storybook Bible about Revelation 21:

And the King says, “Look! God and his children are together again. No more running away. Or hiding. No more crying or being lonely or afraid. No more being sick or dying. Because all those things are gone. Yes, they’re gone forever. Everything sad has come untrue. And see – I have wiped away every tear from every eye!

5 – You are not an island. Reach out for help.

The Bible is clear that we are created to be in community. Life is lived best when we open our lives up to others and allow them to be a part, using their specific gifts and talents to help us. It’s not a sign of weakness to admit you can’t do this on your own. We’ve learned that people want to help if you just ask.

One of the best aspects of social media, in my opinion, is the ability to find people in the world who are struggling with the same thing you are. I’ve found a small band of mothers on Facebook whom are going through a similar struggle with their child. We share current information with one another, offer advice and encourage each other through the fight. Not only that, but our church family helped us tremendously during the hardest part of our son’s illness. We received meals, someone mowed our yard, helped with the kids, cleaned our toilets while in the hospital, and encouraged us in all kinds of ways. But…you must reach out for help.

6 – Cultivate thankfulness.

Another simple reminder in Scripture that has helped us tremendously is this:

1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Look for and thank God regularly for what you see Him doing in little and big ways through your situation. I find that the more I look for the positives in my son’s situation and cultivate a thankful heart, the more I see God at work and feel his presence. And the less anxious my heart is.

7 – God displays his glory and draws many to Him through physical suffering.

Over the years, I’ve found myself drawn to two stories in the book of John. One is of the boy who was born blind in John 9. His parents wondered if it was a direct result of their sin. But, Jesus said, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Another story that brings tears to my eyes every time I read it is Lazarus being raised from the dead in John 11. If you read this account carefully, you’ll see that Jesus did not go and heal Lazarus intentionally. He had plenty of time to do so. Instead he allowed suffering for Lazarus and his friends and family, so that “many may believe”. It’s a beautiful foretaste of the resurrection and new life that all believers in Jesus will one day experience when Christ returns. But, it’s also a reminder that God allows suffering even now so that many may believe and be saved from ultimate death and suffering. How can we show others Jesus our Savior through our child’s suffering?

8 – God produces perseverance in our life and our child’s life through trials.

James 1:2-3, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

James 1:12, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

A physical, mental or social challenge isn’t one we would ever hope for our child. But, every one of us at some point in life will be faced with difficult circumstances and setbacks. Our children have a jump start on learning to face very real adversity from a young age. We, as parents, have an opportunity to help them grow in their character, as they learn responsibility in caring for their bodies, perseverance when they feel like giving up, compassion for others who are hurting, and so much more. With our help, we may find that our child’s difficult road will prepare him/her to succeed later in life in ways we can’t imagine right now. And, most importantly, James reminds us that ultimately our child’s suffering can produce perseverance so that our child “will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” This is the promise of heaven (see point #4)!

9 – God loves to give wisdom, mercy, grace and peace to those who ask.

Walking through hardships with our children can either make us run to God or run away from him. When we humbly turn our eyes to Him and entreat Him, though, He gives great promises.

Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Hebrews 13:20-21, “Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

May these 9 biblical truths give you hope in our great and loving God when you have to walk through a time or a lifetime of your child suffering. Place your child in His capable hands. Rest in his mercy, as you meditate on his promises and fight to believe what is true. You can do this… because He has ultimately won the fight against sin, sickness, sorrow and death. We await our Savior. Hurry the day when our child will be made whole again, Lord.

Nov 222013

3 Questions to Ask a Child Who Has Done Wrong

Proverbs 6:23 says, “Correction and instruction are the way to life….”

Did you know that spending time correcting our children (or the children whom we even teach on Sunday mornings) the right way doesn’t just lead to the shallow, short-term effects of behavior modification? It actually leads to LIFE, according to the Bible. The kind of soul-satisfying, abundant life that God intends for them. Do you believe that? I know I do…but easier said than done, right?

Last year, I had a chance to attend a heart-based parenting conference put on by the National Center for Biblical Parenting that had some practical suggestions for how to correct children. (In fact, we have these same speakers come in for a parenting conference on Friday, February 21 from 6:30-9 p.m. Mark your calendars now!) The focus of the conference was on building a child’s character and not just “whipping the kid into shape.” Here are some pointers I learned and am putting into practice around our house.

First, as parents, we need a plan for correction. The three heart-targeted questions below will help parents and caretakers correct children in a way that is more than just behavior modification. These questions get to the core issues in a child’s heart and prepare him/her to deal with sin rightly before God and others for a lifetime.

Secondly, we must allow time for correction. It takes time to have conversations, and we must make space in our day for this by not packing our schedules. How hard is this for American families? When we have to rush from one thing to the next, it’s hard to have substantive conversations that can produce the fruit in a child’s life that God wants for them.

Lastly, we need to deal with each child separately, if there is more than one involved in the offense. Each child usually has a part in a conflict, even if they are only 10% to blame. Remind each child that “how you respond is your own responsibility.”

As part of the correction plan, the speakers at the conference suggested asking three heart-targeted questions to kids when they do wrong. I’ve found these to be very helpful! Note: Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post for a free printable of these questions that you can post on the fridge or have handy.

3 Questions to Ask a Child Who Has Done Wrong

1 – What did you do wrong?

  • Help child identify his part in the offense and have him say it.
  • This act of saying the wrong teaches him the biblical act of confession.
  • Send back into “break time” to think about what happened until he/she is ready to talk.

2 – Why was that wrong?

  • Note the question is NOT: “Why did you do it?” That question allows kids to shift blame.
  • This question gives a chance to discuss the heart issue (i.e. selfishness, disobedience, etc) behind the behavior.
  • Provides an opportunity for teaching about what God says is wrong about it.
  • Wise Words for Moms by Ginger Plowman is a resource I use that’s full of ideas of Bible verses or more questions dealing with specific sins kids struggle with.

3 – What are you going to do differently next time?

  • Help your child think of practical ways to deal rightly with the situation next time.
  • Remind the child to ask for forgiveness from those he/she offended.

End the correction time with forgiveness and affirmation.

  • Pray together, asking God for forgiveness and help.
  • Remind child of God’s forgiveness and perhaps share 1 John 1:9 (or the idea behind it), “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
  • Affirm (and hug!) your child before leaving the time together. Some ideas of phrases to say:
    • “I love you and you are forgiven.”
    • “Time for a new start now!”
    • “Go try again. I know you can do what we talked about.”

Imagine the life-long impact we can have on the little hearts that God has entrusted to us if we take the time to have a conversation like the one above regularly. I’ll be praying for each parent or caretaker who reads this post, as you strive to deal with correction in a heart-targeted way. May God bless you as you lead your child to the way of LIFE.

For more on this parenting topic, you can read the full blog post called How to Cultivate a Heart That Obeys: Strategies for Dealing with a Whiny, Insolent Child.

Photo Credit for image of girl: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Oct 212013

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A toddler splashing in a bowl of bubbles at the Little Ones Area. Parents and teenagers laughing uncontrollably as they nearly escape collision at the Human Rubberband. Children with ketchup-and-chocolate-lined lips dancing to the Currey family’s “Dueling Banjos”. Another year of Fall Fest has come and gone.

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The Gospel isn’t preached from a stage at this event. Specifically “Christian music” isn’t played. But, God was evident in the surrounding corn fields, gleaming blue sky, and laughs of children. He was at work as relationships were strengthened between family members, our Crossing church family, and people from outside of our church, too.

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Thank you to all the volunteers who were a part of what we prayed for and what God did at Fall Fest. Serving hotdogs to families or being the “gate keeper” at a bounce house isn’t a glamorous job but it is significant work for the kingdom of God.

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What was your family’s favorite part of Fall Fest this year?

Sep 232013

Sometimes lessons about what is most important in life come in the form of signs.

Not miraculous signs from God like the pillar of smoke or the parting of the Red Sea that the Israelites witnessed. Not like the disciples watching Jesus being transfigured on a mountain. But, a sign in the most mundane of forms.

“Auction: Sold to the Highest Bidder”

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The house two down from ours was recently full of life. Now it and its contents sit in wait for a bevvy of bidders. The elderly couple who own it are in their late 80s. They would slowly walk past my house holding hands in the evenings up until last year (my heart melted when I saw them). The husband used to take great pride in mowing his yard when we first moved in, much like my own husband does. But as of late, I would see him on the back porch just looking over his own lawn, perhaps aching to once again cultivate and manicure the somewhat overgrown yard. Now they are both in a nursing home. Their corner house—the one with mature blooming rose bushes on the north side and abundant daffodil bulbs lying dormant in the front yard—along with most of their furniture and the lawn equipment have tags on them. They will sell to the highest bidder.

Every time I walk by the auction sign with my squirrely kids in the stroller, I ache a bit for these people I don’t really know. And I mourn for what I imagine may be my own fate someday. It reminds me of a life-changing truth that I want to remember all the days of my life that God gives me.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21

This sign in my life provides a wake up call, seeming to say…

Rachel, don’t love this house. Don’t treasure these walls that your kids color on and put dents in. Don’t place your hope in your bank account. Don’t you dare think your ultimate satisfaction lies in your next vacation. Or the next success at work. Or being in shape. Or having all the laundry finally done.

All these things will be gone soon. Many of them will go to the highest bidder. And, what then? Are you living for what God says counts most?

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things (what you truly need) will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:28-33 (my own note in italics)

Seek first after what God loves. Place your highest bid on God’s promises. Lay your chips down on what He says will last.

“’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Matthew 22:36-39

Do this, Rachel, and you may still mourn when your life is up for auction. But you will not mourn without hope.

Jesus is your hope. Don’t ever get past that. He died for you and your contorted view of what’s important. He died for you and your tendency to look for satisfaction in what can’t deliver. He died for your selfishness, greed, and all the other ugly sins you don’t want anyone to see. And he rose again, defeating death and sin forever. He died and rose to give you a new and eternally satisfying life.

So, love God. Love others. Don’t stop asking Jesus to help you do that more and more each day, Rachel. And, when the auction sign goes up in your life, look forward to the entire eternity that awaits you with all the treasures of heaven–the chief one being Jesus.