Tag Archives: parenting

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Helping Your Kids Build a Devotion Time with God

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by Samantha Hanni

One day when I was about nine, my mom came home from Mardel with a book for me. It was my first devotional book, with a colorful cover and fun stories that drew me in each day. I have vivid memories of this book (for some reason) and to this day, I can remember certain topics from those books, and their takeaway points became the foundation of my understanding about God and his plan for my life.

As a long-time lover of books, words, and Jesus, one of my goals has been to write a devotional book that impacts the next generation the same way the devotional books I read impacted me. I’ve worked with kids and teens a lot over the past 10 years. I know what an impact a regular devotion time with the Lord has meant in my walk, and I want to empower families to build meaningful, lasting quiet time habits with their kids.

While leading a youth small group earlier this spring at my church, I noticed several girls that would flip to the table of contents in their Bible before turning to the verse we we were reading next in our lesson. That grieved my heart. If they don’t even know where the books of the Bible are, they’re less likely to understand how the Bible is woven together. If they don’t understand that, they’re less likely to read the Bible on their own. A generation of kids growing up and not reading the Bible on their own will be a generation who are spiritually impoverished.

How can we change their trajectory into spiritual poverty into one of spiritual richness and depth? A spiritual depth that can weather all types of trials and storms? A depth that produces the wisdom needed to be a mature follower of Christ? A richness that in turn disciples others?

It starts in the home.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”

From these words in Deuteronomy 6, we see that instilling a love for God and his word starts with home life. It happens at bedtime, during lunch, on trips to the library and on family vacations (we all know we need lots of Jesus when traveling with kids). It happens in the moments when you least expect it, and sometimes it doesn’t happen when you do expect it. This process involves talking about God’s word, demonstrating God’s word, and writing down God’s word.

Demonstrate

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children.”

God’s commandments needed to be impressed first on the parents before they’re impressed on the kids. As parents, you fill your kid’s vision and scope of life more than any other adult, and those kiddos are always, always watching. In addition to large memories from my childhood, I remember the tiniest details about my parents. I remember my dad’s cologne and how it made our Honda Accord smell. I remember my mom’s rabbit cookie jar and her curling my bangs. If they don’t see you reaching for you Bible, praying over issues as they come up and talking about the things of God, they won’t make it a priority because they don’t see you making it a priority.

Growing up, I remember the Bible being a consistent theme in my life. We constantly played praise music in the car (my dad played on the worship team at church so we had an abundance of music). And what I learned at church was reinforced at home, and reinforced at school for the couple of years that I attend private school. My parents’ Bibles were well-marked and worn, and even when we would visit my Grammy or her mom, my great-grandmother, their Bibles were often out on a nearby table with a pen, journal, or Bible study book. They prayed with me, for me, and talked about scriptures. Their spiritual life was evident, even to a little kid. It was not hidden.

When my mom began homeschooling my brother and I, each day started off with a Bible study and I saw how God could be seamlessly woven into every part of my life. He wasn’t just for Sundays.

“Tie them as symbols…bind them on your foreheads.”

In a 2015 post by Ed Stetzer, he records these alarming stats.

“Christians claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word. We claim it’s God’s divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet despite this, we aren’t reading it. A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.”

If these are the stats for adults (and there are many more that confirm the same problem), what kind of example does that set for kids?

The question I would pose to parents is, do you have a hidden quiet time or a visible quiet time to your kids?

I know it’s hard to find uninterrupted time with little ones, and so “quiet time” may look different depending on the season you are in. But the point is your kids shouldn’t have to look far to see how you spend time with God. That in turn informs how they spend time with God.

Talk & Write

How do you incorporate talking about God and his word in your daily life?

  • Daily conversations over meals and while running errands
  • Reading and discussing books that present spiritual topics
  • Listening to the audio Bible in the car
  • Listening to praise and worship albums in the car
  • Memorizing scripture as a family
  • Daily prayer

It’s in these conversations and activities that kids make the connection between the Bible and everyday life. They begin to see they can pray for the sick people they know, share their toys or snacks, or tell the truth about who broke Grandma’s vase. You don’t always have to have a sit-down devotion in order to impart something worthwhile. More often than not, it is in those passing moments that a bigger truth is forever imprinted on a little heart.

Seeing Scriptures or lyrics to worships songs written out around the house is another way to constantly keep God’s truth at the forefront of your family. Isn’t it funny how certain household items, pictures and other knick-knacks get embedded in the fabric of our childhood? Growing up, I can remember one framed item in particular that hung in our entryway. It was an embroidered image of Joshua 24:15, and it served as a reminder, not only to us, but to all who entered that we served God above all. Images like these reinforce what they learn and make it easier to remember. And if they don’t quite understand what the verses mean, it’s a great way to open conversation to talk about the things of God. What will you do today to help your kids build a quiet time?

Conversation Starters:

  • What is your favorite book in the Bible?
  • What’s something about God or the Bible you find confusing?
  • What are you learning about in Sunday school?
  • If you could ask God anything right now, what would it be?

Every family is different, every season is different, and spiritual needs vary from kid to kid. But all the more reason to dive into God’s word and let it bear fruit in your family.

 

 

About the Author

SAMANTHA HANNI is the author of “Change the Conversation” and the “Bloom” devotional series. She is also published in the devotional book “Big Dreams from Small Spaces” by Group Publishing and blogs at mrshanni.com. Her work has also appeared on Devotional Diva, To Love Honor and Vacuum, and in the OCHEC Informer. From teaching dance classes to leading Sunday school and small groups, Samantha has taught and mentored girls since 2007. Her latest book, “Bloom Book 1: Me & God” is the first in a devotional series for girls ages 10 and up, and is available for purchase through Amazon. She and her husband Kurtis live in Oklahoma City.


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How to Deal with Halloween?

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By Laura Cooper

Does Halloween have you going crazy? It does for me! For a very long time, Halloween has been a source of debate and confusion in the Christian community. Many families, including my own, have wrestled with this question: How should we deal with Halloween?

I personally know Christian families that have landed all over the spectrum in how they respond to Halloween.

Some families celebrate Halloween but abstain from scary costumes, ghost stories, and the superstitions of the holiday. Some families don’t trick-or-treat, but participate in their church’s harvest festivals. Other families that choose to celebrate Reformation Day or All Saints’ Day instead. Others have a strict no-participation rule.

I’m not here to tell you which of these responses are right or wrong. But I am here to affirm that this is an important conversation, and to give you some general guidelines that will help you make a Halloween decision for your family.

Three Steps to Dealing with Halloween

1) Integrate your Faith into your Decision

The wrong, unbiblical approach to Halloween would be to ignore it completely, or to say that it doesn’t matter because it’s “just fun”. God isn’t just the God of our Sunday mornings. He is Sovereign over every aspect of our lives! God calls us to honor Him with everything we do.

Biblical decision-making involves Scripture, prayer, and seeking advice. As you think about Halloween, read Scripture, looking for principles that will guide you towards holy living. Pray for wisdom and discernment. Seek God’s will in your quiet time. And ask other Christian mentors, leaders, and parents for advice.

2) Include your Children in this Conversation (in age-appropriate ways!)

At FamiliesAlive, we believe that open, authentic communication builds trust and models good decision-making skills for your children. Teach your children about the pagan origins of Halloween, and what the Bible has to say about the spiritual world and how we are to engage our world. Talk together as a family about what it means to honor God in situations like this. Read your children Scripture passages and verses that apply to this conversation.

3) Trust God’s Grace

We’re human, and we’re never going to get things exactly right on this side of heaven. Remember, plenty of strong, Christian families have differed across the spectrum when it comes to Halloween. We will never be perfect parents, but we do have a perfect God that is full of grace when we make mistakes. We must trust in that great grace as we make tough decisions!

A Personal Story and a Creative Solution

As I’ve mentioned before, my family has wrestled with the Halloween decision for years. In 2012, we came up with a creative solution to the problem that I would like to share with you. We call it “Trick-or-Can”.

Each year on Halloween, we gather family friends together for a potluck chili dinner.

Afterwards, we break into groups and head out through the neighborhood with big canvas bags, knocking on doors. As our neighbors open the door to give us candy, we explain that we are collecting canned goods for a local food bank, to help those that have less than us. Most neighbors are able to run back to their pantries to find something to donate. Since we’ve been doing it for several years now, many neighbors have come to expect us, and they have cans of food ready by the door!

Dad drives around in the family Suburban, meeting up with the different “collection teams” and putting the collected goods in the trunk.

The day after Halloween, we take all the food items to the Denver Rescue Mission, a Christian organization that supports homeless people in the downtown area.

I love this tradition because it redeems a pagan holiday for the glory of God. The kids still get the fun of dressing up in costume and getting candy from the neighbors, all while learning about serving and taking care of others. The people in our neighborhood get to see the light of Christ at work within us, and the dinner before is a great way to build community and participate in Christian fellowship.

It’s a creative solution that captures the heart of what it means to be in the world, but not of the world.

Final Thoughts

As you decide how to deal with Halloween in your family, I hope you’ll think creatively as you seek to honor God. If you’re interested in integrating “Trick-or-Can” into your family’s traditions, feel free to contact me at laura@familiesalive.org with any questions you may have!

How do you deal with Halloween as a family? Do you have any creative solutions? How did you come to your decision? Comment below! We want to hear your thoughts!

Other Resources

Here are a few articles representing widely-varying positions about Halloween that may be helpful to you as you make your decision. (The views expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent the views of FamiliesAlive, but they were helpful for me as I did research for this article):

Christians and Halloween

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

Kirk Cameron on Halloween

Seven Reasons Why a Christian Can Celebrate Halloween

Why Christians Should Absolutely Not Celebrate Halloween


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From My Heart to Yours — From Little Girl to College Graduate

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As many of you know, this month has been a big one in the life of our family. Less than three weeks ago we cheered, celebrated and rejoiced as we watched our eldest, Laura, walk across the stage to receive her diploma from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA. That great day started off the evening before with Westmont’s Baccalaureate. It was knock-your-socks-off good! What a time of worship — praising the One who has faithfully gone before our daughter (and all of the graduates) during these years of school. The music played as the class of 2015 began their procession.

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What better song could have been playing than this old hymn? I had tears in my eyes as I sang the words in my heart:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

He is the Fount of every blessing! His streams of mercy are constant. His love is redeeming. His help is great. Our beautiful inheritance is coming. He seeks and rescues. His blood intercedes. His grace is consuming. He is worthy of our loudest praise and our unabashed proclamation (which is not even good enough). Oh, praise Him for all He has done!

As a mom with olders — two college-age, one high school-age, two middle school-age, I’m asked regularly what it takes to parent well — especially in the teen years.

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You see her beautiful smile, you hear about her outstanding GPA, you discover her long list of accomplishments and the many talents she’s been given. But behind this face is a story — one that is 21 years in the making. As parents, we are a part of that story every step of the way.

I’ve been praying about what it takes to parent well. How do I answer when a mom of a pre-teen looks at me wide-eyed, fearing what might be ahead?

Let me make this short (is that even possible for me?). There are a lot of different parenting styles. I’m a big believer that one size does not fit all. That there is not one and only one way to parent correctly.

BUT…as I’ve spent some time reflecting, I realize there are some things that were critical in helping our daughter grow into the woman she is today.

Serving

This one is HUGE. It starts at home. When your child is very young, look for ways to help her (I’ll use “her” because this blog is about my first-born, a “her”) help out. She could help put Daddy’s shoes away or help make the bed for a sibling. As your child gets older, serve a sick friend by making a meal. Serve an aging neighbor by dog-walking, visiting or yard clean-up. Then, look for ways to serve your community. Regularly visit a nursing home. Volunteer in a hospital. Serve food at a local ministry. Something. Anything. Just look for ways to serve. Be intentional in this area.

Helping

Let’s be honest. It’s way easier to cook a meal without “help” from a 5-yr-old or 10-yr-old. I could sort the laundry in 7 minutes flat, but it dragged out to 15 minutes when I began enlisting the “help” of my 6-yr-old. Water gets sloshed out of the toilet when I have “help” with bathroom cleanup. It might be torture for Mom or Dad (or Grandpa, as in our case) to have “help” with preparing a garden, but these moments of “helping” are extremely valuable for our children. Get their “help”!

If you’re anything like me, you’ll enlist “help” for about 15 minutes, use up all your patience, shoo everyone away and finish the job yourself. *Sigh* Story of my life. Thank God my daughter turned out the way she did in spite of me.

Being in Charge

When Laura was 9, I asked her if she’d be our lunch lady. The deal was this: If she made lunches for her brothers and sister, she would not have to help with lunch cleanup. Laura hated cleaning up, so she went down to the kitchen every school day to make pb&j sandwiches, cut up apples, load carrots onto plates and pour milks. She owned it like a boss!

There were countless (and by countless, I really mean a few) lemonade stands. Our kids worked together, but they were in charge of making the signs, making the lemonade and setting up down the street.

Those lemonade stands led to an Operation Shoe Box yard sale. One year, Samaritan’s Purse had a special not-at-Christmas-time shoe box gathering for friends who were affected by a tsunami. Just six months earlier we had spent a decent chunk of money filling 12 Christmas shoe boxes. Money-making Dad didn’t really have any money to give for these special boxes, but our kids really wanted to participate. So, we encouraged them to think of ways to raise some money. Long story short, Laura led the charge and our children worked hard to hold a yard sale with the proceeds going to fill shoe boxes. I helped gather belongings we were willing to part with, but that was all the adult help they got.

As a homeschooling mama, often spread too thin, I gave Laura the “job” of reading to little brother Ben. When she was in 8th grade, she decided to read and do history and science with him. I remember feeling guilty about this, but the Lord gave me the realization that it was good for Laura and Ben to have this time together.

It’s good for our children to have something to be in charge of — whether it’s taking care of a pet or researching colleges, we must let go of the reins and push them to work independently.

Celebrating

Celebrate holidays, celebrate birthdays, celebrate milestones, celebrate the Lord’s provision. I’m not talking big, Pinterest-style celebrations here, people. Just look for reasons to sing, dance, go out for ice cream, throw confetti, make posters. Celebrate together!

These areas have all been life-giving for our children.

But, there are still speed-bumps and blips on radars along the way. Parenting is rewarding, but it is the most life-altering, self-sacrificing, challenging job out there.

If you are parenting teens, or if you will parent teens in the future, I have three words for you…

Pray

Pursue

Persevere

Be on your knees for your child.

Love your child without abandon. No matter the obstacles. No matter the cost.

Never give up.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to throw in the towel. I’ve shaken my fist at heaven and yelled, “This SUCKS!!!!!”  (and I loathe that word).

And then I think about how difficult it is for my Father to parent me. Oh, how He loves me. How He pursues me over and over again. How He never gives up on me.

May we be a generation of parents who pray, pursue and persevere.

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From My Heart to Yours — God’s a Bit of a Show-Off

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Do you ever find yourself questioning the Lord? His timing? His purposes? His lack of moving in a way you want?

I do.

You’d think I wouldn’t. After all, I’ve known the Lord my entire life. I’ve witnessed the movement of His hand time and time again. I’ve read and re-read His Word many times. I know the promises He has made and how He has never  broken a single one. I’ve been privy to His faithfulness, His goodness, His constancy, His mercy, His grace, His presence.

And yet, I find myself asking why? I find myself asking when? I find myself asking how long? 

Many times I receive His gentle, patient answer (the one He has to give me again and again. And again…You do not need to know the answer to those questions, My Daughter. You just need to rest. You just need to let go and trust me.

I know that. I do. I really do. But, sometimes I think He realizes that I need more than just a heart-reminder to trust Him. He decides to show off, and I love Him the more for it! It’s as if He says, You need more than just my words today, Becky. You need to SEE what I’m doing and be reminded that I’ve got this. I’ve got this in the big stuff and in the small stuff. So, today, I’m going to SHOW you. And I’m going to DELIGHT in showing you!

Let me tell you a little story that spoke volumes to me…

This past Friday our homeschool group went on a field trip. We met at the Colorado State Capitol in downtown Denver. I’m not a big city-fan. I don’t really care to drive in the city, to navigate the one-way streets. I keep forgetting that I’m now an owner of a smart phone, so instead of asking Siri, I google-mapped directions to a couple of parking lots — the cheaper ones. I was ready to pay $8 tops.

Well, wouldn’t you know…googlemaps made a mistake. They wanted me to turn right (the wrong way) on a one-way street. I panicked for just a moment when I realized I’d have to navigate myself the rest of the way. The good news? I could see the Capitol building. The bad news? I couldn’t find any of those cheaper parking lots. At this point, I didn’t care.

All I kept thinking was, Just keep your eyes on that Capitol, Becky! You can do it. We will not be late. The tour guide won’t be rolling his eyes as you run in waving your hands in desperation, smoothing back your disheveled hair.

I may be exaggerating a bit, but I did have a moment of freak-out.

All that to say that when I found a parking lot right beside our destination (after traveling 8 blocks the wrong direction and circling back around), I was willing to pay anything. My $8 tops turned into $15. I think that’s highway robbery, but I was just relieved that we made it. I was also relieved that I figured out how to work the pay-for-my-parking-spot machine. Whew! Done.

Just after I swiped my credit card, while we were waiting for our receipt to spit out, a voice behind me said, “I hope you haven’t paid yet!”

Turns out there was a woman who had already paid her $15 fee (there were no hourly rates, just a flat rate to park for as long as needed). She had paid to park and didn’t need the spot for very long, willing and ready to hand off the parking pass and share her space.

Here’s what you need to understand…we are the recipients of generosity on a regular basis. The Lord knocks our socks off with His provision. Sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small. The person in front of us at Subway pays for our order, the new cashier at the movie theater can’t figure out how to refund our money after she accidentally charged us for the 3D show instead of the regular. Because it took a call to the manager and an extra 10 minutes, causing us to miss the previews, we were given the tickets for free. We actually tried to argue that we hadn’t missed any of the movie, but the manager would not hear of it. Once we were at Dairy Queen with gift cards (4 of our kids won some school contest). All 8 of us ordered, but there was a problem with the cash register. For some reason it would not register our gift cards. The manager tried and finally gave up. He said, “This must be your lucky day. I just can’t get it to work, so your ice cream’s on us.” We’ve been given cars (5, to be exact), furniture, athletic equipment, clothing, vacation homes to stay in, a late anniversary trip to Orlando.

Laura learned how to drive in one of our "gift" cars. :)

Laura learned how to drive in one of our “gift” cars.

We know the Lord’s hand of provision well.

So, it surprised me a bit that we had already paid for our parking ticket when this nice woman walked up to give us hers.

We thanked her and continued on our way. That was when I questioned the Lord’s timing. In fact, I remember telling Him, “That was a waste. Why didn’t you just slow us down by 30 seconds and let her give it to us?”

My ways are not your ways.

“Yeah, but it still feels like a waste.”

We entered the Capitol, went through security and found some friends from our group. I chatted briefly with a mom I met last year, she introduced me to a new family to our group, then I turned to greet some other families. As I walked away, the mom I met last year got my attention again…”Guess what? I pulled in right after you and was walking up to pay at the machine. A lady was getting into her car and gave me her parking space. She saved me $15!”

Here’s what you need to understand…The mom I was talking to has been in a pretty tough financial situation. She and her husband have both been out of work just trying to make ends meet, while they search for jobs.

I just grinned. His ways are not my ways, and it wasn’t a waste after all.

What the Lord taught me that day was that I didn’t need the $15, but He knew who did. Somehow He knew I needed to see that there was no waste. He knew I needed to be reminded that He provides for me and my family and that He provides for my friend and her family.

I learned more than just state history that day! :)

I learned more than just state history that day! :)

$15 seems like such a little thing, but it was His loving care of this family that was huge. And, it was His showing me, His more than just a heart-reminder to trust Him message to me that was huge!

We serve a BIG God. A big God who knows how to relate to us. A big God who makes Himself small, coming right to me at my level to show me who He is and what He does — just to remind me how big He is.

Show-off! ;)