Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Fun: Journey Across America

"There's no place like home." That's what Dorothy said in my favorite movie, and it's so true. We just returned from a four-day trip to Denver, and while we had a good time, we were all happy to be home. Today, in our summertime "trip" across the U.S., we're coming home to Kansas today. I'm not a native Kansan. I grew up in Boston (go Red Sox!) and Chicago. Before living here, my only impressions of the state were from movies. Wheat fields and tornadoes and gun battles at noon were my only thoughts about Kansas. Living here seemed to this big city girl like it would be a form of punishment. After living here for nearly 15 years, I know that while Kansas is one of the most sparsely populated states in the U.S., it is also a wonderful place to raise my children, and the helpfulness and friendliness of its people can't be beat.

Teaching the kids about a place with which they are all so familiar is a challenge, so today, we're going to focus on the varied history of Kansas. The Kansas state motto is Ad Astra per Aspera, which means To the Stars Through Difficulties. Our focus today is going to be on how the people of Kansas have persevered through difficulty. Our verse for the day is John 16:33, ""I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." We're going to talk about how even when things are tough--when our friends are mean, school is hard and life just seems too difficult--that God is always with us to see us through.

Our activities for the day include figuring out what to take on our covered wagon as we head west for Kansas (your heirloom piano probably won't fit), how to make a house in a land with few trees (in our case, sod and chicken wire to make a sod house), how to defend your home and how to cook over an open fire. We'll touch on the Dust Bowl years of the Great Depression and the girls will also learn about segregation and the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Just for fun, we'll end the day with some karaoke to the songs from The Wizard of Oz.

The important thing for the girls to take home today is that no matter what difficulty they face in their life, God will not abandon them. He is always there, and he offers help, peace and joy, no matter the circumstances. So, westward, ho! Kansas here we come.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Living the Sporting Life

We spend a lot of time at sporting competitions in our house. My oldest daughter plays competitive soccer, and my youngest plays ice hockey. We spend three or four nights a week at practice, and our weekends revolve around games. It's getting to be a rat race, and sometimes we wonder if it's all worth it. Sometimes it requires some creative planning and even some help from the grandparents to get everyone where they need to be.

However, both my girls love their respective sports. It's great for their bodies, and it's teaching them lessons that would be difficult to teach elsewhere. No matter the sport or activity, watch for opportunities to teach your children lessons about having a Christ-like character.

This spring, my older daughter's soccer team played another team that was super aggressive. At one point in the game, a girl on the other team knocked my daughter down, then punched her in the face. (Yes, my first reaction was to want to grab the girl. I'm happy to say I stifled that impulse.) You can guess what the topic of conversation on the way home was. My daughter's first reaction was to complain about the other girl and express her desire to hit her back. Despite the fact that I thought that was a perfectly acceptable way to feel, we used it as an opportunity to talk about treating others well even when they don't treat us well.

My other daughter is learning to play ice hockey. Before she can play on a team, however, she had to take and pass five learn-to-play-hockey classes. It took her eight months to pass all the classes. There were moments during those eight months that she was frustrated to tears by her inability to learn to stop, which was one of the things she had to do to pass to the next class. Through it all, though, we talked about persevering even in the face of difficulty. The sense of accomplishment she experienced when she passed the last class was made all the sweeter knowing how hard she had to work to make it through. We were able to apply the lessons she learned about persevering to the rest of life using Philippians 3:12-15.

Watch for opportunities when your kids are playing sports to apply the lessons they take from sports to the rest of their lives, with a Christ-like perspective. When you are talking about practice or a game, pay attention to the things on which your child is focusing. Try to bring the focus away from how well they played and put it on the character issues. Ask questions like:
  • Did you try your hardest?
  • Did you listen to your coach?
  • Did you cheer your team on or did you focus only on yourself?
  • Did you respect the players on the other team? 
  • Did you treat your teammates with respect?
These are the important things that they will take away from their participation in sports. Winning is nice, but it's not the only thing. Even on a losing team, your child can develop character and leadership skills that God can use. When you see your child acting with character or leadership on the field, ice or court, be sure to point it out. Sports skills are a great thing to have, but character is even more important.

As parents, we need to be careful to let our kids just enjoy the sport they are playing. In our society, it seems the push is on for kids to become involved in competitive sports earlier and earlier. We need to be careful not to push our kids to play because we want them to be a star. God has given each of our kids gifts and abilities. Just because you were a star baseball player doesn't mean that your son will be one, too. If he wants to pursue piano instead, that may be where God has gifted him. It's ok to support your kids in their endeavors, but keep in mind that they need to use the gifts and talents that God has given to them in a way that pleases Him. It doesn't please God when parents try to fit their children into a mold that He did not intend for them to fill.

Use the rest of the season to fill your child up with positive encouragement and a focus on building character through sports. Let's play ball!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Road Trip!

As this posts this morning, my family is on our way home from our annual trek to Denver to visit my husband's dad. We are traveling across the great state of Kansas on our way home. If you've never traveled by car across the Kansas plains, let me fill you in on a little secret -- you're not missing much. The land is flat and dotted with farms pretty much from the time you leave Denver until you reach Salina. There's really not much to see.

Let me tell you another secret -- I hate riding in the car. I'm worse than the kids. I grew up in New England where you could cross six states in about three hours. It just didn't take that long to get anywhere, so I never learned to sit in the car for endless hours. My dad traveled a lot, so if we were going someplace outside New England, we flew on his frequent flier miles. My philosophy on taking a trip is "Why drive when you can fly?"

However, neither my husband nor I currently possess jobs that provide us with frequent flier miles or enough money to fly everywhere we want to go, so we drive. So far this summer, we've been through portions of seven states on our two vacations. We've spent about 50 hours traveling in the car. As you can guess from what I've just told you, I can't wait to get home.

When we were traveling out to Denver, God prodded me to realize that I'm not taking advantage of the time I have in the car with my family to point out the great variety in God's creation. A car trip is a great opportunity to not only share the beauty of God's creation with your family but is also a great time to connect with your kids. After all, you're all pretty much trapped together in the car. You might as well use the time wisely. So, the next time you're on a car trip, try some of these ideas to pass the time. You might learn something about your kids and you just might have a great time.
  • Don't miss out on the scenery. Even in the plains of Kansas, there's something to point out about God's creation. Genesis 1:31 tells us "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." That means that even the flat land of Kansas that I find so uninteresting is part of God's good plan. On the way home, I plan to point out to my kids that even though the land may not seem exciting, Kansas provides us all with wheat, which makes our bread. Cows and pigs are also part of the Kansas landscape that help to feed us. God knew that we would need large plots of flat land on which to grow our food, so He provided it. It's all part of how He cares for us.
  • Play the alphabet game -- with a twist. In the alphabet game, everyone tries to find the letters of the alphabet in order on the highway signs you pass. As you find a letter, you call it out. In this game, you still try to find the letters of the alphabet, but each person is assigned another person in the car. As you call out the letters, you have to yell out the letter and an attribute that starts with that letter that applies to the person you've been assigned. For example, "A is for amazing at math." Set the rules so each attribute has to be a good one. Remind your kids that Ephesians 4:29 tells us that we want our words to build each other up, and this is one way to do that.
  • Play 20 Questions. This is another familiar game but one that will let you focus on learning a little bit about your kids and what they think is important. Start with a topic, say favorite breakfast cereals, and have the person who is going to answer the questions think of their favorite breakfast cereal. Everyone else asks yes or no questions about the cereal to try to figure out the answer. Continue the round until everyone has gone. For the next round, choose a different topic that will delve into learning more about your kids. Question categories could include favorite school subjects, things they don't like to do, things that we struggle with or don't think we're good at. If your child is having a tough time with a certain issue but doesn't like to open up about it, work it into the game and see if a discussion doesn't develop. Take the time to query your kids about the things they chose as answers to the questions and offer some godly advice if the situation warrants.
  • Have a "Great Things God Put in (whatever state you're traveling through)" scavenger hunt. Before you leave home, think about the things you think you will see on your trip. Create a basic scavenger hunt list (words or pictures) for each child. Give it to them at the beginning of the trip and see who can find the most things on the list while on your trip. Talk about the things on the list and what makes them special and why God might have put those things in that state.
  • Read a great book together. Time in the car is a great time for a read-aloud. Choose a book that will foster some discussion within your family. Maybe you are working on a particular character quality or behavior this summer. Find a book that deals with that issue and read it in the car. Talk about the book. Before you leave home, find some scriptures that deal with the topic and work them into the conversation.
With a little planning and a better attitude than I usually take on my car trips, you can have a pleasant ride, good conversation and everyone might learn a little something about God and each other. Have a great trip.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Join the Everyday Truth Facebook Page

Want more Everyday Truth? Everyday Truth now has its own Facebook page where you'll find a weekly discussion question and more great ideas for sharing God's truth with your kids. You can join Everyday Truth on Facebook at Everyday Truth. Don't forget to hit the "Like" button to keep up with what's going on at Everyday Truth. I'll see you on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer Fun: Journey Across America

Friends are an important part of our kids' lives. They can be a surce of great joy and encouragement. However, they can also be a source of great pain. Who hasn't had a child come home from school crying because "Joanie wouldn't play with me at recess today."

It's important to teach our children how to be good friends based on the Biblical model of friendship. We also need to be teaching them how to choose their friends wisely. It's for exactly these reasons that we are traveling to Texas on our Journey Across America today. The word Texas comes from a Native American word that means friend, and the state's motto is simply "Friendship."

To reinforce the important aspects of friendship, today we're going to look at what makes a good friend. We're going to focus on Proverbs 17:17, "A friend loves at all times" and Ecclesiastes 4:9, "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work." To reinforce that idea, we're going to have a cattle roundup. The girls will work in teams of two to create a brand for their cows. I'll then give them some paper cows, on which they will draw their brand. The cows will get all mixed up and hidden around the yard. Working together the girls will have to round up all of the cows marked with their brand.

This activity reinforces the idea of working together. During the inevitable conflict that will arise when creating something together, they'll be gently reminded of Proverbs 17:17. We'll also spend some time talking about how God "marks" us as his by giving us the Holy Spirit. Just like the cowboys brand their cows so they know them, God "marks" us with the Holy Spirit.

We'll also be working together as we learn a little about the space program because Johnson Space Center is in Houston. We'll watch a clip or two from the movie Apollo 13 about the Apollo capsule that was disabled on its way to the moon, and the team on the ground had to figure out how to get them home safely. The girls will then have to work together to complete a task that will only work if they all work together. Just for fun, we'll also break out our stomp rocket to see who can shoot the rocket the farthest.

To reinforce the idea found in 1 Corinthians 15:33, "Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals,” we're going to see how hard it is to pull someone up to your level. Many times, children will make an excuse for hanging out with friends who don't make wise choices by saying they are trying to be a good influence on the other person. This activity shows just how hard that can be. One girl will stand on a chair with another child standing below her. She will then try to pull the person on the floor up onto the chair while the other person tries to pull her off the chair. What do you think will happen? The person on the chair usually falls off. It's a great example of how easy it is to be corrupted by others even if your intentions are good.

Our last activity of the day will be to make friendship bracelets out of embroidery floss, so the girls will have a reminder of what a good friend is and that they need to choose their friends wisely.

Hopefully, by the end of the day, they'll know something about Texas and a whole lot about friendship.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Let's Go to the Movies

I don't know about your family, but our family loves to go to the movies. We don't go to the movie theater very often, so it's a big treat when we do go. On Sunday, all four of us went to see Toy Story 3 with some friends. My girls are at ages where it's tough to find a movie that everyone wants to go see. They're past the age where some of the movies aimed at kids interest them, yet they're not mature enough for some of the themes found in PG-rated movies. So, it was a relief to be able to go see a movie with characters that we have all grown to love over the years and we knew everyone would enjoy.

The movie is fantastic. If you haven't seen it, it's well worth the price of admission. While we enjoyed the movie, it was the conversation in the car on the way home that put the icing on the day. The evil villain in the movie is a pink bear called Lots-O-Huggin' Bear. My oldest daughter wanted to know why he was so mean to Woody and friends even though they had treated him well. "They shouldn't have helped him," she said. This opened up a perfect opportunity for us to talk about Matthew 7:12, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." We talked about how we should treat others well because it's what God asks of us, and it has nothing to do with how they treat us.

This experience reminded me that teachable moments with our kids pop up in some unexpected places. I didn't go into the movie thinking, "We'll have a great conversation about how to treat others when we're done." However, because we were open to answering the girls' questions and ready to turn the conversation toward God, we had a quick, teachable moment after the movie.

However, we can be intentional in using movies to engage in conversation with our kids about important topics. Watching a movie together can be an easy to way to bring up some tough subjects with your kids. You can use them to open up an avenue to talk about bullying, death, friendship and even sex. Older kids will be more likely to discuss tough subjects with you around the context of a movie than in regular conversation.

So, here's some tips on being intentional in using movies to open the door of conversation.
  • Decide what topic you'd llike to talk with your kids about. Choose a movie that deals with that theme that's age appropriate for your kids. For example, if you want to introduce the topic of death with younger kids, you might choose a movie like Bambi or Finding Nemo where death enters the picture but is not the focal point of the movie. For kids that are a bit older, you could choose a movie like My Dog Skip that deals with the death of a pet.
  • Think about how you'd like to address the subject with your kids. Before the movie, look up some scriptures that back up the point you want to make. If you want to talk with your kids about how true friends act, you might use Proverbs 17:17, "A friend loves at all times." You don't need 15 scriptures. Just choose one or two that you can work into a regular conversation.
  • Watch the movie together. You can go to the movie theater or just pop some popcorn and watch the movie at home. Enjoy your time together. Don't try to talk about the movie in the middle of it. Save your conversation for the end (especially if you're at the theater).
  • After the movie, engage in normal post-movie conversation--How did you like the movie? What was your favorite part? Your child may bring up the topic you want to address or you may need to bring it up yourself. If they don't bring it up, work it into your end of the conversation. Begin with a question along the lines of "What did you think about how the characters treated each other in this movie?" Give your kids a chance to think about it and answer. From there, steer the conversation in the direction of the point you want to address. Use scripture to back up your point.
Your conversations may only take a few minutes, but you will have taken an everyday moment in your lives and filled it with everyday truth. So, let's go to the movies!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Join Me for Christmas in July

Christmas is a tough season for many households. We want to focus our family's attention on Christ, but the busyness of the season often pulls our attention to other things. The hustle and bustle and commercialization of the holiday works against us as we try to make the Christmas season about Christ.

Come join me on July 17 from 9 p.m. to noon at Westside Family Church as we have Christmas in July. You'll enjoy fellowship, some yummy food and a craft. Most important, you'll take home a bunch of simple ideas on how to make Christ the center of the holiday season. You'll learn a new twist to some Christmas traditions that you already have, and you'll go home with your own "December box" to help keep you on track.

So grab a friend and come celebrate Christmas in July with me. You can register at The seminar is free; just bring your favorite Christmas goodie to share. Can't wait to see you all there.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Summer Fun: Journey Across America

It's been a busy week. We've been participating in Vacation Bible School at our church this week and we've had the regular assortment of soccer and hockey practices. We're dragging a bit this morning, but all of us are looking forward to our afternoon "journey" to North Carolina, the second state on our Journey Across America. For those of you who missed last week's blog, we're "travelling" across the United States this summer and learning a little history, having a little fun and learning some important Biblical truths.

We'll have a fun afternoon filled with making paper couches (North Carolina is the center of the furniture industry in the U.S.), flying paper airplanes as the state is home to the first airplane flight, racing Hot Wheels cars because Charlotte is the center of the NASCAR world and discovering clues to the mystery of the lost colony of Roanoke. The girls will be busy, but they'll be learning important facts about the country.

We're also going to focus on a message that every child needs to hear. North Carolina's motto is "To be rather than to seem." It means that its residents are people of substance -- they are real, authentic people. God wants our kids to be the people He made them to be. So often, especially among girls, our kids strive to be just like everyone else. Being different isn't encouraged much after kindergarten. Our kids need to know that they are valuable simply because God made them. As we learned in VBS this week, we are God's greatest creation.

To make that point with the girls today, we'll be talking about masks. Each girl will make a mask of some way that they try to be like others that is different from who they really are. We'll talk about how putting on that mask every morning actually forces them to live a lie. God gave each child gifts, talents and personality that are unique to them. As parents, we need to nurture those traits and character qualities because God has a plan for them.

I struggle with this sometimes, especially with my youngest daughter. She marches to the beat of her own drum. She loves race cars, monster trucks and Star Wars. She plays ice hockey in a town where few boys play hockey and even fewer girls are interested in the sport. However, she plays it with a polka-dot stick and purple and baby blue striped hockey socks. I never imagined when she was born that I would spend many days in a hockey arena and that we would own more Hot Wheels cars than we do dolls. Sometimes my dreams of the way things would be when I had two girls get in the way of my encouraging her to be exactly who God made her to be. There are days when I have to stop and examine my heart to decide if my response is based on what I think is appropriate for my girl or whether it's based on who God made her to be.

Kids face so much pressure at school and even at church to fit in whatever mold society has deemed appropriate for them. Making sure our kids know that those things that make them different are the things that God is able to use is a tough task. I'm hoping a "trip" to North Carolina is just what my girls need to get this message across.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Trusting What You Can't See

My youngest daughter is petite. For much of her life, she wasn't even on the growth chart. We've spent a lot of years picking her up so she can see what all the rest of us can see without trying. She really dislikes large crowds because she can't see over or through them. For a long time, she couldn't see over the edge of the car door to see out the window, even in her car seat. We would point something out to the girls, and we would hear "Where? I can't see it!" It was really important to her to be able to see what we were seeing so she could believe what we were saying.

For some kids, believing that God is there and He cares about them is tough because they can't see Him. It's our job to help our kids understand that God loves them and they can trust Him even though they can't see Him. Hebrews 11:1 tells us "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

Kids, especially young kids, are concrete creatures. They like to be able to see that what you are telling them is true. Since we can't see God, we need to show our children the evidence of God so that they can place their faith in Him. For without faith, they will never have a relationship with the God of the universe. Ephesians 2:8-9 says "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." Faith brings us to a saving relationship with God. It is God's gift to us, and we can do nothing to earn it.

So, how do we bring God from the realm of faith into the world of the concrete for our kids?
  1. Point out to your child all the things that he does that require faith. We can't see what holds up an airplane, but we have faith that it will fly. We can't always see what holds our furniture together, but we have faith that it will hold us up when we sit in it. When your kids go someplace, they can't see you, but they have faith that you will come back and get them.
  2. Point out the evidence of God to your child. Everything from the rocks to the rainbow scream of God's existence. The beautiful variety of plants and animals show evidence of a Creator.
  3. Help your child remember times when she has seen God work. For older kids, have them keep a journal of times in their lives when they have seen God work. It can be simple things, like when they prayed to do well in their soccer game and did. Or it can be big things, like if they prayed not to be afraid during a tough time and God gave them peace. In the Old Testament, the Jewish people built altars every time God did something amazing in their lives. It helped them remember the things God had done for them. Keeping a journal, helps your child create altars of their own. When things get tough, and they don't see evidence of God in a situation, they can go back to their journal and see the evidence of all the times God has shown up in their lives. If you have younger kids, keep a family journal of the way God works in your family's life.
  4. This activity requires at least two people. Blindfold your child. Have another member of your family give your child directions to walk through an obstacle course. When they have made it through the course, talk with your child about how hard it was to have faith in the person giving the directions because they couldn't see that person or where they were going. Explain that sometimes having faith in God is like that. Sometimes we can't see where we are going, and we can't see God. We simply have to have faith that He is there and that He is leading us safely to the other side of whatever trouble we are facing.
Faith is the central component of the Christian walk. The earlier we can help our children trust God even though they can't see Him, the easier it will be for them to continue to place their faith in God as they get older.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

In the past week I've had a couple of people tell me that they love this blog, but they feel guilty after they read it because they aren't doing many of the things I've talked about. If you feel like that, I have two words for you -- Stop it! The point of this blog is to encourage you, not to make you feel guilty. I don't have perfect kids, and I'm not a perfect mom.

Sometimes, being a parent is discouraging. There are days when I look at my kids as they put their dirty feet on the kitchen table, belch at the dinner table, hit one another, offer disrespectful comments to my requests to do their chores and provide excellent examples of selfish behavior and think "Did they even listen to anything I've been saying?" And there are other days when I miss golden opportunities to talk to my kids, lose my temper when I shouldn't and say things I don't mean and think "Am I ever going to get this right?"

As moms, we tend to judge ourselves against other moms. We tell our children that they are special and wonderful just the way God made them, but we forget that fact when it comes to ourselves. God gave each of us a different style of parenting, and He made each of us with a different set of talents to use when we parent. Psalm 139:14 tells us that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" by God. We believe that about our kids, but we tend to look at other moms and think that they are "doing it better."

Figure out what your strengths are, and use them to your advantage. If you are musically talented, use your musical talent to teach your children about worshipping God through song. If you're an artist, you can use your artistic talent to teach your kids about the beauty God has created in the world. If you are athletic, there are lots of lessons you can teach your child through sports, such as how to play fair, how to be an example of Christ to others on their team and how God can use failure to strengthen us. Think about what you do best, put it to work for you and quit comparing yourself to others.

Some of you may be thinking, "I really want to put some of this stuff into practice, but my kids are getting older. I didn't start soon enough." To you, I say start now. In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul says "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." As we journey the road of parenthood, we need to keep pressing on toward the goal, which is to raise Godly children, and forget the mistakes we have made in the past. God can use what we offer in ways we can never imagine, but we have to make the effort to step beyond whatever mistakes we have made and begin anew with a spirit open to God's leading in the way we approach our children.

So, as you go throughout your week, remember to look for opportunities to teach your children, and use your particular gifts and talents to do so. Keep pressing on toward the goal and let God's words, your friends and this blog encourage you to run the race well.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Saddle Up, Partner!

It's Vacation Bible School week at our church. It's a cowboy theme this year, so our building has been transformed into Saddle Ridge Ranch by our great team of children's workers. Our church does a fantastic job with VBS. My girls love to go and all of us look forward to it every year. We're all exhausted by the end of the week, but it's well worth it.

One of the things I've learned in getting ready for this year's theme is that cowboys rarely work alone. They work in teams. Ever heard the phrase "Howdy, partner"? It's a cowboy expression. Cowboys know it's easier to do their work with a partner.

As parents, we need to recognize that the church is our partner. Too often we look at the church and think our kids should learn everything they need to know about God without a lot of effort on our part because we take them to church once or twice a week. The truth is we need to be partners with the church and not rely solely on the church's teaching to guide our kids.

If your child was studying for a test, would you assume that he would learn everything he needs to know at school or would you help him study at home? You would help him study, right? So, why do we assume that in an hour a week at church our kids will learn enough about Jesus and God to form a lasting relationship and learn all they need to know to stand firm in their faith despite all the pressures of this world telling them to do just the opposite?

Our kids need constant teaching. That's why Deuteronomy 6:6-9 tells us to be constantly teaching our kids. It doesn't say "Take your kids to church and ask them four questions about what they learned on the way home." We need to look at our church's children's programs not as the beginning of our kids' spiritual instruction but as a supplement to what we're teaching at home.

Several things will make your partnership with your church more effective.
  1. Find out what your kids are learning in their classes. If you know what they are studying at church, you can reinforce it at home.
  2. Get to know your children's staff and use them as a resource. When you're stuck on how to deal with an issue in your child's life, give your children's minister a call. He would love to help you figure out the best way to deal with the issue.
  3. Know your children's teachers at church. Most of us spend a lot of time getting to know our children's teachers at school, but we don't pay nearly as much attention to their teachers at church. These adults can be a great partner with you. Plus, every child needs to know that there are other adults who share the same convictions as mom and dad. Sometimes hearing the same thing mom and dad are saying from another adult they respect makes it seem more plausible to a child.
Take advantage of the great programs your church offers for kids, but don't let that be the end of their spiritual instruction. And the next time you walk through the doors of your church, stop and think "Howdy, partner!"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It's Their Birthday, Make It Special

It's birthday party day at the Fairchild house. In just a few hours our house will be transformed into the magical world of Narnia for my oldest's ninth birthday party. She and her best friend will both celebrate their birthdays with a sleepover at our house. Pizza, a scavenger hunt, movies and giggles are all on the agenda.

I love to plan birthday parties. My mom thinks that I like planning the parties more than the kids like having them. It's my way of letting my girls know they're special. We've had Star Wars parties, racing parties, American Girl parties and princess parties over the years. I try to tailor each party to my girls' interests and needs.

Birthdays are a great time to remind your kids that they are special -- in your eyes and God's eyes. Birthday parties are my way of saying to my kids, "You're special, and I love you," but you may have a different way. The important thing is that no matter where you are or what you are doing on their birthday, make sure your child knows that the day they were born is a day to celebrate.

A lot of years, we're on vacation on my oldest daughter's birthday. That makes it tough sometimes to make the day special. We always try to set aside some time just to celebrate with her. Some years that means I make a birthday cake in a teeny-tiny kitchen at a campground. But, we always make the effort because it's important for our kids to know that we value them.

Think about what traditions you can create around your child's birthday. Make it a point to have some of those traditions remind your child that they are special to you and to God. They don't have to big or expensive -- they just have to remind your child of his or her value. So much that our kids encounter in the world tells them that they are not valuable. The world tells them they need to be just like everyone else. The truth is that God made each of us to fill a special purpose in His kingdom. We are valuable to God, just as He made us.

Use some of these ideas to reinforce that truth to your kids and to make their birthdays special:

1. Before your child blows out the candles on her cake, have each person in the family say one thing that they think is special about the birthday child. Go around until you have mentioned a quality for each candle on the cake.

2. Write your child a letter each year on his birthday. Tell your child how much you love him and the good qualities that you see in him. Be sure to mention ways that you see how God uses those positive character traits in his life. The great thing about writing a letter is that your kids can read it over and over again and be reminded of how much you love them and how much God loves them.

3. Break out the china for the birthday dinner. Many of us don't like to let our kids use the fine china -- they might break it. You know what? That's ok. If it gets broken, it can be replaced. Using the china for her birthday dinner lets her know that you value her enough to offer her the best on her birthday. It's a tangible way to show your child how much you think she is worth.

4. Have a birthday conversation each year. Sit down with your child and talk to him about all the good qualities you see. Talk about how you see God working in his life. Let your child tell you what he thinks about the year just passed and ask him to share what he would like to see happen in the next year.

Use any of these ideas or come up with your own. As long as your child feels valued and special, you've done a good job. Remember to incorporate some scripture into your conversation. Some good ones to start with are Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" and Psalm 139.

Whatever you choose to do for your children on their birthdays, do it with an eye toward building them up into the men and women God wants them to be. Wish me luck -- I'm off to build a wardrobe.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summer Fun: Journey Across America

My kitchen has been transformed. It is now covered with posters about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. A big map of the United States covers the picture window. Big USA letters hang in the window. No, we're not celebrating the Fourth of July early, we're setting out on a Journey Across America.

Today is one of my favorite days of the summer. It's the day we kick off our summer-long learning experience. My girls go to public school, and last summer I decided that we were going to spend our summer learning about some things that have been forgotten in the elementary school curriculum -- things like geography, pride in being an American and serving others. Last summer, we went on a trip around the world where we learned about five different countries and the missionaries who served there. We learned about what makes other countries different from the United States and how lucky we are to live in a country where we have plenty to eat, where we can go to school and where no one can tell us we can't believe in Jesus. We finished the summer with our own version of The Amazing Race.

In January, my girls and the four friends we included last summer started asking me what we were going to do this summer. Today, they find out the answer. Instead of going around the world, we're going to take a trip across the country. By the end of the summer, we will have "visited" eight states and every region of the U.S. I've taken the state mottos and created a Bible-based lesson around them.

Every Wednesday that we meet, I plan to blog about our lesson for the day. While this blog is mostly about things that you can do in a few minutes a day, this is something that takes planning and time, but the experience is so worth the effort.

Today, we're going to visit New Hampshire. New Hampshire's motto is Live Free or Die. We're going to learn about how the early New Hampshirites (did you know that's what people who live in New Hampshire are called?) lived out that motto. We're also going to learn about Galatians 5:1: It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. We're going to talk about how Christ came so we could be free from sin -- not so that He could set up a whole bunch of rules that we have to follow to have a relationship with Him.

The girls will all get matching shirts and hats and will get to decorate their travel bags. Each girl gets a travel journal in which to keep track of our journey. We're going to make maple syrup muffins, learn about Mt. Washington and build some ships.

We're also going to be collecting books for the Urban Scholastic Center as a way to live out what we're learning. So, if you want to donate some books, we'll gladly take them.

This summer, I plan to hear lots of giggles mixed with some Biblical truth coming out of  my kitchen. I hope you'll find a way to incorporate some of that into your summer, as well.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Be Aware of the Moment (Even When You Want to Pull Out Your Hair)

We went go-karting while we were on vacation last week. After the ride, my 7-year-old and I got into a heated discussion about who won (I did). She was insistent that she and her dad had won and got very mad at me when I pointed out that her sister and I had won. In case you can't tell, my youngest is a wee bit competitive (I wonder where she got that from). She got so mad, in fact, that she hit me. Now, the one thing you do not want to do in our house is hit an adult. Neither of my kids has ever deliberately hit us once they passed the age of about 2. It's a major criminal offense in the Fairchild household.

Needless to say, I was not at all happy with my daughter. I immediately pulled her out of the group to the first secluded spot I could find, which was behind the dumpster. (I highly recommend finding a better spot than behind a dumpster on a hot, Tennessee day to discipline your children.) My first instinct was to light into my daughter, but in writing the Everyday Truth Bible study and this blog, I've discovered that there's this still, small voice that follows me around and reminds me that these are useable moments. So, instead of giving her the piece of my mind that she probably deserved, I got some wisdom from the Holy Spirit that simply said "Use this moment."

My daughter knew she had messed up. As soon as she hit me, her eyes got really big, and you could tell she was thinking "Uh-oh, I've done it now." I simply asked her if she had hit me. She said yes and burst into tears. I calmly informed her that the consequences of making a bad decision were that she would not be allowed to play games in the arcade with her cousins. That may not sound like a big punishment, but to my youngest, it was the end of the world. She loves a good arcade more than just about any other activity. Her response was to start crying VERY loudly. Always remember, when your child is bordering on the hysterical, it is not a good time to teach them anything.

I went inside with my older daughter and left my younger one out on the porch with her dad. Once she got herself under control, I went back out, and we discussed why she was missing out on the fun. We spent some time talking about why we don't hit our parents and about how God wants us to honor our parents. The teaching part of the episode took about five minutes. The whole agonizingly embarassing episode took about 30. But, my daughter took away something besides mommy is mad because I hit her.

I'm telling you this story, not because I want you to think I'm the perfect mom. (This is one of the successful times in dealing with my children. I'm not sure it makes up for the other 30 times when I've lost my temper.) I'm telling it because it's a great example of the ability we have as parents to take a horrible moment and turn it into one that teaches something.

The important thing for us, as parents, to remember is that we are going to have moments where we want to yell at our kids. They probably even deserve it. But, we need to listen for the prompting of the Holy Spirit when he tells us to use the moment to teach our kids something. As adults, we need to be able to hang onto our tempers and follow God's prompting. God's way is always more effective than our way, and the whole point of discipline is to teach our children something.

So, the next time your child crosses the line and does something you consider horrible, take three seconds and ask God how He wants you to deal with the situation. I guarantee you'll be pleased with the result.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Summer Fun: Garage Sale

Summer means lots and lots of garage sales. We're getting ready for a garage sale at our house right now. We've been sorting through lots of the girls' old stuff -- things they have outgrown or simply don't play with have all gone into the garage sale pile.

It struck me the other day, that a garage sale is a great way to teach your kids about the idea of sacrifice. Sacrifice is giving up something of yours to help someone else. If you're planning a garage sale, don't do a sneak attack on your kids' rooms. (You know, where you go in and clean it out yourself, and then look at your kids with a blank expression when they ask what happened to some toy they haven't played with in a year.)

Sit down with your kids and choose a worthy organization to which you want to donate some or all of the proceeds of your garage sale. Then, plan a time with each child to go through their rooms and sort out what will go in the garage sale. If your kids are anything like mine, they will want to hang onto just about everything. Help them to understand that their sacrifice now will help another child. Help them to decide how to price their goods.

On the day of the garage sale, let your kids help you with the sale. You can even help them set up a lemonade stand or cookie stand to earn some extra money. Be sure to post a sign telling your garage sale patrons why you are raising money (often they will pay extra for the cookies or lemonade).

When your garage sale is over, let the kids count up the money they have earned from selling their stuff. If you are donating the money, take your kids with you to drop it off, and let them present the gift. If you have chosen to use the money to buy something for an organization, let your kids go with you to pick it out.

All through the process, remind your kids that God calls us to take care of the poor. No matter your financial situation, if you live in the United States, have a car and a TV, you are one of the wealthiest people in the world. Much of the world, lives each day on what we spend on a cup of coffee.

Use these verses when you talk to your kids about sacrifice and giving:
  • 2 Corinthians 9:7 -- Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
  • Luke 21:1-4 -- As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.
After you have had your garage sale and donated your money or items, ask your kids how it made them feel to help others. Ask them how they think it makes God feel when they do things like that. Be sure to let your kids know how proud you are of them that they were willing to sacrifice for others.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Summer Fun: Jello Fight

We are currently on vacation with my extended family. For the first time, all the kids are sleeping together in one room. We have six kids ranging in age from nine to two. Of course, lots of talking and giggling ensue after everyone gets in bed. The other night, we went in and told them to be quiet. We had to go back several times to persuade the kids to be quiet. The next morning, my youngest daughter explained to me that it wasn't her fault that the kids were talking and got in trouble because the other kids in the room made her talk. We had a long discussion about being responsible for your own actions, but that reminded me so much of the way all of us look at sin. We all want to blame someone else for making us sin.

The truth is everyone sins, and that's an important concept for our kids to understand. If we didn't need someone to wipe away our sins, then Jesus didn't need to die on the cross, and we wouldn't need God. If we could just pass the blame and the consequences off on someone or something else, there would be no need for grace. These are big concepts that might be tough for your kids to wrap their brains around. One great way to point out how sin can dirty up our lives and only God can wipe it away is to have a Jello fight.

I'm sure some of you are thinking "Is she crazy?" Well, probably, but I guarantee they won't forget the fight or the lesson behind it, so let go of your reservations, find some old clothes and let the kids have a great time and learn something in the process.

Dress your kids in old clothes and make up a big batch of Jello. Give each child a different color of Jello to throw. Take them out in the yard and let them throw Jello at each other until they run out. They will be covered in it when they are done. The thing about Jello is that it's sticky and hard to get off of you and your clothes.

Explain to your kids that sin is kind of like Jello. It sticks to us and covers us up. It separates us from God, just like the Jello separates them from other people, because who is going to let a Jello-covered kid into their house? No one would probably take a hug from a kid who's just been in a Jello fight. God can't get close to us when we're covered in sin.

Now, turn on the hose and hose your kids down until all the Jello is off their skin and hair. Explain to them that Jesus's death and resurrection allow God to wipe away our sin, just like the water from the hose wipes away the Jello. God offers to wipe away our sin for free, just like you didn't charge your kids for the water to clean up. All we have to do is recognize that we are sinners and ask for forgiveness, and God separates our sin from us.

Here are some great verses to use while talking to your kids:
  • Psalm 51:7 -- Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
  • John 3:16 -- For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
  • Romans 6:23 -- For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Romans 3:23 -- For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
When you've finished your Jello fight, take your clean kids inside for a Jello snack. I promise, they'll love it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Summer Fun: The Zoo

Kids love the zoo, and it's a great summertime activity for the whole family. While it's fun to walk around and look at the animals, it's also a great opportunity for you to show your kids the awesomeness of God's creation. The next time you head off to the zoo, use these ideas to change your kids' perspective on their zoo visit.
  • Before you go, look up some facts about your kids' favorite animals. Use these facts to point out the differences between the animals and the diversity of God's creation. For example, somewhere in my life I learned that elephants actually walk on their tiptoes. When we go to the zoo, I remind my children of this fact, and we always spend a moment in awe of how God made such a huge creature, and yet it balances itself on the toe bones of its foot.
  • Before you go, create a scavenger hunt for your kids. Give them different challenges as you go through the zoo. Have them find three animals with wings or three animals with long noses. Have them look for the animal with the longest neck or the smallest animal at the zoo. Use the scavenger hunt to direct your kids' attention to how each animal is different and God made them that way so they could best feed themselves or protect themselves. Talk about how God made different animals to eat different things, so that there would be enough food for everyone.
  • The zoo is a great time to talk about the story of Noah's ark. Ask your kids what they think life on Noah's ark was like. Remind them that the story of Noah reminds us that God always keeps His promises. You can also remind them that Noah and his family were saved from the flood because they obeyed God even when it seemed like it was a crazy thing to do. Imagine how many of Noah's neighbors and friends thought he was crazy.
  • Use these verses to talk to your kids while you're at the zoo.
    • Genesis 1:21 -- So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
    • Psalm 104:24-25 -- How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small.
  • Don't forget to have fun and enjoy the day with plenty of laughter and joy.