Monday, February 27, 2012

Moving Madness

Dear Blog-World,

I may be MIA this week due to the fact that we are moving this weekend, my husband will be out of town two days this week, and I have two small children. Our apartment looks like we are auditioning for the next season of Hoarders as we are up to our neck in cardboard boxes.

I'm not sure what it is about moving, but it is making me want to purge EVERYTHING! I am throwing away all kinds of "treasures" my kids have accumulated over time...treasures like kazoos, and yo-yos, and poker chips, and little spinny tops. And in the unlikely event that it occurs to them one day that they haven't seen that paper airplane in a long time, I fully intend to "blame it on the move". I'll say things like, "Hmmm, I haven't seen that since we moved. What do you think could have happened to it?"

So, please don't be annoyed with me for taking a break from the blog. Just PRAY FOR ME instead! And I hope to see you back next week...IF we get our internet and power transferred correctly to our new place!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Glow Sticks

Last night, Caedmon provided a family fun night via his $1.00 purchase from Target earlier in the day. After dinner and PJs and the brushing of teeth, we turned off all the lights and busted out some glow sticks.

Below is a pic of Andy with a tail...

Andy's tail in the dark...

Of course, then Caedmon needed a tail...

Caedmon's tail in the dark...

Sammy had a different idea of what to do with his glow sticks.

This is the boys waving "Good-night". We let them take a few glow sticks to bed with them which they were very excited about. But neither of them actually wanted to keep them after about 10 minutes. Glad I didn't make a big fuss about it before making them go to bed without them!

This is what I found waiting for me when I came to bed last night.

And that's about all you need to know about our night last night! :-)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Experiencing Today

Today was an UNBELIEVABLY beautiful day in the Silicon Valley...the kind of day that I'm pretty sure it's borderline a sin to stay inside. The kind of day that makes me sing out loud even when others can hear me and skip instead of walk to my destination.

The Littles and I packed a lunch and rode our bikes to the playground. Well, actually, I packed the lunch and chased them (in my jeans and converse wearing a backpack) as they rode their bikes to the playground. But it was fun. And it was all the more fun because Mandy and her 3 Littles met us there! I think people think Mandy and I hang out all the time, but the truth is our lives tend to run on parallel tracks like toddlers who parallel play. We always know the other is there and most of our activities are similar, but it is a rare delight and special treat when we actually enjoy quality time together.

Mandy & I were talking by the swings while she pushed Efraim, when all of a sudden I noticed Caedmon in the bushes pulling his pants down! He was mid-squat when I yelled (in my 'Mom voice') "CAEDMON ELLIOTT!!" He jerked those pants up and stood there frozen like a deer in headlights.

When I got over to him I said, "What in the world were you doing?!?"

Caedmon replied, "I was trying to hurt myself."


He pointed to the bush with its prickly branches and I realized that he was not actually planning on dropping a load right there beside the sandbox, but rather wanted to see what it would feel like to sit his sweet lil' soft tushy on those sticks.

Mandy said, "Talk about needing to experience the world first hand!"

Maybe he's a tactile learner. I don't know, but it sure gave us a good laugh. I wish I had a picture of Caedmon's face when he got busted mid-squat. It was a combination of sneaky, embarrassed, and curious all wrapped up in a sheepish grin.

Ahhh....every family should have a Caedmon!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


The highlight of my day every Tuesday & Thursday comes from 12:00-12:10. It's those first few minutes when I pick Caedmon up from school. I'm not exactly sure what it is...I was only away from him for 3 hours, but I am always so excited to see him.

And, I might be fooling myself, but I'm pretty sure the feeling is mutual.

All the kiddos are supposed to stay in their seats until their parents have signed them out each day (just to eliminate chaos). But most days, Caedmon, who has never been known for his exceptional ability to follow rules, pops out of his seat and runs to me as soon as I walk in the door. Like some magnetic force that draws us together.

Last Thursday I bounced in Caedmon's classroom with a huge grin on my face quickly scanning the room to find Caedmon. He sees me and jumps right up and runs to me, but this time with tears in his eyes. I squatted down and he buried his head in my chest and mumbles, "Today was sharing day."

My heart broke to see his heart so broken. I didn't realize that it was sharing day and therefore Caedmon didn't take anything with him to share. It was the first time that had ever happened.

I said, "Oh, Caedmon. I am so sorry! Did you feel left out?"

Sniff, sniff, "Yeah."

His precious teacher who was watching the soap opera unfold rushed to the scene and reassured him, "Caedmon, you can bring something to share on Tuesday."

Sniff, sniff, "Okay."

That helped calm him down, but he was still sad. Not mad-sad or disappointed-sad. Just genuinely sad. And it made my heart hurt and wished that I had super powers to turn back time 3.5 hours so that we could prepare something really awesome for him to share with his friends.

Later that day the thought occurred to me there will be many more occasions in Caedmon's life when his heart is dashed against the rocks. And there won't always be a simple solution like there was this time. There will be moments when his heart aches so deeply that he's embarrassed to try to express it. He will walk through pain and trials and receive wounds that leave nasty scars. And as his mom, my heart will ache with him and wish with everything in me that I could take that pain upon myself.

When my brother was in high school, he lost one of his very best friends in a car accident. My mom happened to be out of town at the time. She hadn't heard the news yet when we went to greet her at the airport. We all tried to pretend like everything was okay and said "Welcome Home!" and gave hugs and kisses. But she took one look at my brother's eyes and knew something was terribly wrong. When my dad told her what happened she wrapped her arms around my brother and they both sobbed in that airport. 

She didn't have to squat down to get to eye level with that big teenage boy and he was far too big for her to hold, but I know she wanted to. Because that what mom's do. We pick up our kids when they hurt and we squeeze them so tight and whisper things in their ears that somehow quiet their hearts.  

And we hurt with them.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 34:18 which says:
God is near to the brokenhearted. 

He's like a parent who picks us up and squeezes us close, letting us feel the rhythm of His heart. In those moments, His throne becomes a rocking chair and the praise of heaven becomes a lullaby. 

When I walk through unbearable pain, like a deep depression I suffered through for a couple of years or our struggle with infertility, I don't turn away and shake my fist at God. Why would I run from my Source of comfort? It makes me so sad when I see people turn from God when they face a crisis. We were NEVER promised the crisis wouldn't come. But we were promised the COMFORT and NEARNESS of God in the crisis. 

When you face pain in your life so intense and raging that it takes your breath away, allow yourself to feel the nearness of God. He is there with you. He is squeezing you tight and whispering His truth in your ear.  Truth that says He can turn your mourning into dancing, and your weeping and despair into praise. Trust your Father enough to believe what He says even when you can feel nothing but pain. 

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Matthew 5:4

Monday, February 20, 2012

Getting Out The Door...

Every parent knows that getting out the door with children in tow is a work of art. The process begins in my mind the night before...planning out what time we need to arrive somewhere and then backing up the time for each step in the process. Additional time must be added for the loading and unloading of carseats and if there are any children who have a thing for examining bugs along the way. Planning includes, but is not limited to:

  • what everyone will wear (and do we need to take a change of clothes just in case?)
  • ensuring tummies are full
  • checking one last time that bladders are empty
  • brushing teeth
  • combing hair
  • packing snacks/drinks for everyone
  • socks & shoes on (bonus if they're on the right feet)
  • & finally, do I have what I need? wallet, sunglasses, phone, keys
Wait a minute, where are my keys?

That's where my system stalled out this morning. I had a doctor's appointment this morning at 10:30 and the Littles were going to accompany me. I had an iPad, an iPhone, and two sets of headphones carefully stowed in my purse. I left myself more than enough time so that we would not be rushed. We even had time to straighten the house before walking out the door. But the crisis struck the moment I couldn't find my keys.

My first thought (after looking on all counter tops and checking jacket pockets) was "I must have left them in the fitness room when I worked out this morning." So with both Littles in tow, we ran (not walked) to the fitness room to find my keys. One problem. You have to have keys to get in the fitness room! Fortunately someone was in there running on the treadmill and I'm sure they were just delighted to see me banging on the door and thus forcing them to interrupt their workout to let the crazy woman and two children in the fitness room. Much to my dismay, my keys were NOT in the fitness room.

Hmmm...perhaps someone turned them in to the Leasing Office.

Crazy woman, Little #1, and Little #2 run to the Leasing Office.

There was a sign on the door that says they are closed for President's Day. But the door was cracked, so I let myself in. The alarm was going off already, so I figured I'd at least check out the front desk on the slim chance that someone had left my keys there. Rounding the corner, much to my surprise I came face-to-face with Ms. Deloris. 

Ms. Deloris is an elderly lady that lives in the Northeast most of the year, but stays with her daughter here in California each winter. We've gotten to know Ms. Deloris a little over the last 4 winters. She likes to shuffle down to the Starbucks here at our apartment complex each day to enjoy drinking complimentary water and smoking cigarettes provided by passer-byers. She is a sweet & friendly lady and my two boys make her smile. When I saw her this morning she was helping herself to the complimentary coffee provided by the Leasing Office. We exchanged pleasantries, both acting like it was quite normal that we should be in a dark Leasing Office with an alarm going off. 

Alas, my keys were not in the Leasing Office, so we all made our exit before any authorities came by to check out the reason behind the alarm.

As the boys and I trudged back to our apartment I said, "Well, I guess we're not going to the doctor afterall, kiddos. Mommy can't find my keys!" I fumbled around in my purse one last time and, what do ya know? My keys had been in there the whole time! (Unless, of course, Ms. Deloris had somehow attained them and then covertly dropped them in my purse when I was unaware. Just kidding.)

This brought Caedmon great delight and he went ON and ON about what a silly mommy I am as we sprinted to our van. I was tempted to put Sammy under my arm like a running back carrying a football, but I refrained and we still made it on time. I'm pretty sure, however, that I lost brain cells through the experience. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

How to Lead Your Child to Christ- Part 5

Today is the final post in my series on how to help your child begin a relationship with Jesus. Up to this point, I've shared some tips on how to:

In this post I'd like to offer a few final thoughts to consider as you prayerfully seek to help your child begin a relationship with Jesus. 

I believe that it is possible for children to put their faith in Jesus and truly become a Christian at quite a young age. Both Andy & I had this experience as young children. If your child shows tenderness toward the Lord at a young age and a desire to honor Jesus with his life, encourage that and help them to cultivate that relationship. If your child does accept Jesus as their Savior at a young age, it is likely that they will have another experience (perhaps in middle school or older) when they feel they make their faith more their own. This is common because as their understanding grows, their commitment to Jesus should grow deeper as well. They will transition from piggy-backing on their parents' faith to cultivating their own independent relationship with Jesus. Andy & I both had this experience as well. 

With that said, it is imperative that Christian parents don't push their children into making a decision that the child is not self-motivated to make. Making a premature decision can be very confusing for the child spiritually as they grow up AND it can create a false sense of "I'm okay with God" or "My kid's okay with God" when really that is not true at all. Due to the naiveté in children and the trust they have in their parents, most parents could convince their children to make a decision to followJesus or say that they want to be a Christian. What 6 year old, upon learning the reality of hell vs. heaven, wouldn't jump at the opportunity to be sure he/she was going to heaven? 

It's really a delicate balance...

Failing to capitalize on a child's spiritual tenderness at a young age is a HUGE mistake because if they don't learn to respond to the promptings of God on their hearts when they are young, their hearts tend to grow harder as they get older. So parents should pray fervently and work diligently toward the goal of having their children enter a relationship with Jesus. But, they have to keep checking themselves to make sure they are not pushing their child beyond what he/she is ready for. 

Also, we have to remember that our kids are learning what it means to be a Christian by watching us live our so-called "Christian" lives. They learn how to pray and how often to pray. They learn about repentance and forgiveness. They learn how important Scripture is to every day life. They learn how to calculate God into decisions. They learn about compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, joy, and peace from watching our every move and every interaction with them. If we are following Jesus with all of our hearts, they will have a much better understanding of true discipleship then if we serve them some form of luke-warm Christianity. 

Finally, we have to remember that, ultimately, the decision is a personal decision between the child and Jesus. We cannot make the decision for them, nor can we take responsibility for the decision they make. There are so many parents who try to create the very best environment for their child and do all the right things to help their child grow spiritually, but the child doesn't respond. If that is where you are today, please know that Jesus has heard every prayer you have prayed on that child's behalf and not one of those prayers (or tears) have fallen to the ground. He has caught them all and they are precious to Him. And let me encourage you to continue in those fervent prayers because as long as there is prayer, there is hope! Trust in the God who loves your child so much more than you do!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How to Lead Your Child to Christ- Part 4

I've been writing a series of posts to give Christian parents some tools to know how to help their children begin a relationship with Jesus. I gotta be honest, I feel like I might be boring ya because I haven't gotten much feedback about these posts and I know it's not quite as exciting as pictures of me doing toe-touches. But I also know, for any Christian parent, there is nothing that we long for more than for our kids to experience the hope, peace, and joy we have found in our relationship with God. So I pray these posts are helpful and that you feel more equipped as a parent to be the leader spiritually.

Here's what we've discussed so far:
Step 1: Establish a good understanding of the character of God.
Step 2: Help your child understand their need for a Savior.
Step 3: Teach your child what it means for him to make Jesus "the Lord of his life."

Once you feel like your child is ready to make the commitment to follow Jesus, what do you do? What does the "deal-closing" conversation look like?

First let me emphasize that there is no magic formula. The Bible doesn't have a certain prayer that we must pray in order to become a Christian. There are no magical words that we say, so take a deep breath and don't get freaked out that you're going to royally mess this conversation up! The goal is to get your child to authentically express their heart and their desire to follow Jesus.

Through a series of open-ended questions (not yes/no questions but rather ones where your child has to formulate an answer without your prompting), get your child to explain to you these things:
  • Why they feel the need to ask Jesus into their hearts (sinners, need forgiveness, Jesus is the only way to have a restored relationship with God)
  • What Jesus did for them (lived a perfect life, died as a perfect sacrifice for our sin, rose from the dead to conquer sin and death so that we can live with Him in heaven one day)
  • What it means to follow Jesus (letting Him make the decisions for our lives, He's in charge, He helps us to know what to do through the Bible and we do our best to obey Him out of our love for Him)

Here's a easy way to remember it.

A- Admit they are sinners in need of a Savior
B- Believe in their hearts that Jesus died for their sins so they could be forgiven and have a relationship with Him.
C- Commit to follow Him and obey Him all the days of their lives.

After you've had a good conversation with your child and you both feel he/she is ready to take this incredible step, help your child pray to ask Jesus into his/her heart. It is absolutely okay to have the child repeat a prayer line by line after you. Or if the child is willing/feels comfortable, have them pray on their own. Again, there are no magic words or formulas here. Just cover the basics that you talked through in your conversation...I'm a sinner, I need Jesus, I believe in what Jesus did on my behalf, I commit my life to follow Him. No matter what words come out, Jesus hears the heart!

I have a few concluding thoughts that I will share in one final post tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Love Day!

Today completes the 14 Day Love Challenge and if you hung with me, you have invested a ton of time, energy, and thought into your marriage over the last two weeks. One day, as I was preparing our candlelight picnic, I thought to myself, "This is a lot of fun, but it's also a lot of work." I felt like God spoke to me in that moment to say, "How could your marriage NOT thrive when you are investing this much into it?"

Most of us would quickly affirm that our marriage and family are the top priorities in our lives. But often, those are the things we are the least intentional about. We may think strategically, set goals, and be quite disciplined in other pursuits in life. But we tend to float through family life without much thought.

God showed me through this 14 Day Love Challenge that we need to REVERSE that mindset. When I set mini-goals for myself in regards to my family (like candlelight picnics and love notes and lunch dates), I am motivated to stay focused on those. It takes some redistribution of my time, but it is worth the effort and the pay-out is amazing!

Here's a glimpse at our Valentine's celebration...

The night before our Valentine's breakfast, I realized that I didn't get any decorations or special things for the table. Hmm... time to get creative. So I pulled out some good ol' contraction paper and dangled paper hearts from the ceiling, found some red napkins left over from my friend's shower, and used Swedish fish to make a red heart on each plate. The kids loved it! When Sammy walked out the next morning he said, "Oooo, look it! Decorations! I like it!"

Last night after dinner, Sammy started jumping off the couch. Instead of stopping him, I decided to take pictures of him. Which turned into all of us jumping off the couch and taking pictures of each other. We had never done this before but it was A LOT of fun and I would highly recommend for you and your family to give it a shot!

A Storm Trooper joined our party. I love Andy's face in the pic below! :-)

I think I must have started having flashbacks from my middle school cheerleading days! Ha.

I hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day with those in your life who you love so much. But regardless of what your love life is like right now, there is a God in heaven who is ENTHRALLED with you and loves you to pieces! And we can all celebrate that!

Monday, February 13, 2012

How to Lead Your Child to Christ- Part 3

In the first two parts of this series, I shared some ideas for
To get your child to say "I want to be a Christian" or to repeat some prayer after you without having this as a foundation can lead to a false sense of security for both you and your child. It is crucial that each child, to the extent that they are cognitively capable, fully understand the decision they are making. In addition to Step 1 & 2, there is (at least) one more element that is necessary for your child to understand what it means to be a Christian.

Step 3: Teach your child what it means for him to make Jesus "the Lord of his life." 

That phrase, "the Lord of your life," is a little church-y, as in you hear it all the time in the Church but if your were to say it to a random stranger they would likely need interpretation.

Jesus is often referred to as "Lord" in the Bible. He is even called Lord of lords. Really, all it boils down to is that He is the leader. He's the One with the authority to make the decisions.

Driving in the car recently, Andy asked Caedmon, "What does it mean when someone is the master?"

I'm sure Caedmon's mind immediately went to Jedi Masters so he began explaining that being a master meant that you are the best at what you do and you're in charge and tell everyone else what their missions are supposed to be.

Then Andy asked, "What does it mean to be the leader?"

After Caedmon gave his explanation, Andy asked, "And what does it mean to be a king?"

Caedmon did an impressive job of answering the questions, and then we started discussing how that is what Jesus is for our lives. Jesus is our Master, our Leader, and our King. When we decide to follow Jesus, we give over the leadership and decision making to Him. We no longer decide for ourselves what we want to do. We listen to Him tell us what He wants us to do. 

This concept is hard for a child to fully grasp, but I do not believe a child is ready to receive Jesus as their Savior until they have some level of understanding of this crucial element. 

How do you make it practical?
  • Talk through your decision making process with your kids at age-appropriate levels.
For example, our family is in the process of moving as our lease is up in March. We have talked with the boys about our decision making process and prayed with them that God would lead us to the place that He wants us to live.
  • As you read the Bible & devotional books together, talk about how your kids can apply what they are learning to their everyday lives.
There are so many Bible stories/verses that highlight generosity, kindness, self-control, courage, etc... Character qualities that are God's will for all of our lives.
  • Share with your child (obviously, in an age-appropriate way) areas of sin that you have struggled with and how you have decided to stop doing things your way and start following the way Jesus has prescribed.

In my opinion, there needs to be a time when your child recognizes that what he wants to do (i.e. punch his brother in the nose) is not what Jesus wants him to do. And in that moment he has to make a decision whether or not he will allow Jesus to be his Master or will he put himself back on the throne of his life. This is the point at which a child can grasp the concept of surrendering his rights and his life to the Lordship of Jesus. 

I will post Part 4 on Wednesday.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Happiness is...

This week at South Bay, we are kicking off a brand new series called, "Happiness Is..." In a country where the 'pursuit of happiness' is one of our highest values, it is amazing how illusive happiness can feel. Just beyond our reach.

One time a doctor told me that he prescribes more anti-depressants than any other form of medicine. I've never met someone who wanted to be sad or depressed, but I've met a ton of people who are. I have been there as well, trying to find my way out of the seemingly never ending tunnel of depression.

When all of our pursuits for happiness leave us empty-handed, or at best with a few good memories, we are left feeling like there has to be more to life and happiness than this.

That is what we're going to be talking about in the coming weeks at South Bay Church, and you don't want to miss it. And I know all of us know of a few people in our lives that would benefit from being there as well. So you get there, and bring 'em with you!

All ya need to know:

WhereDon Callejon School 
                4176 Lick Mill Boulevard
                Santa Clara, CA 95054
When:   Sundays @ 9:00, 10:15, or 11:30 AM
Kids?:   BayKids is an awesome interactive & fun kids' program that runs at the same time as all the services

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to Lead Your Child to Jesus- Part 2

Yesterday I began a series of posts to provide parents with some helpful principles/practices in leading their children to a relationship with Jesus. Establishing a good understanding of the character of God is key in laying the proper foundation for any spiritual transformation. I listed that as "Step 1", but these steps are more concurrent rather than sequential as these things will all be taking place at the same time.

Step 2: Help your child understand their need for a Savior

In our culture, which has such a strong emphasis on promoting self-esteem and tolerance, parents can feel like they are going to scar their children or squelch their unique identity in providing strong boundaries, firm consequences, a clear instruction on what is okay and not okay. On the contrary, parents do their children a great disservice in allowing the child too much freedom. Children are free to THRIVE in an environment where they know where the boundaries lie and what to expect. There's plenty more to say on that topic, but not in this post...

The most important lesson for a child 0-5 years old to learn is that they are under authority, and you, as their parent, are that authority. That may sound harsh, but take a second to play out in your mind what the consequences will be for them if they don't learn that lesson. They will not respect their teachers in school. They will not respect their boss once they get a job. They may not respect various laws. And they will undoubtedly have trouble accepting spiritual authority.

Your kids need to know that you, as the one who loves them more than anyone else on this earth loves them, will make decisions on their behalf as to what is okay and what is not okay. And out of your love and desire to protect them, you will provide consistent consequences to train them to obey. This mirrors our relationship with our loving Heavenly Father, so our kids are learning how God relates to us by how we relate to them.

The reality is our children will disobey. (Intentionally, frequently, and often with great fervor!) When they disobey, your response is paramount. You certainly do not want to shame a child, but neither do you want to make them immediately feel okay. The goal is for the child to feel remorseful over their sin, to realize that there is a standard and they're not hitting it. They need to experience a sadness regarding their failed attempts to make good choices.

If a child never feels that discrepancy between who they are and who they want (and God wants) them to be, they will never feel their need for a Savior. When you see that remorse in your child's heart, you have the amazing privilege of sharing with them the gift of forgiveness! That kind of forgiveness, when someone feels desperately in need of it, is like healing balm to the soul. They can clearly see that they cannot meet the standard in their own power, no matter how had they try. They are in need of the mercy and forgiveness of a Savior.

So, let's get really practical. How do you get your child to feel remorseful over their sin? By asking heart-probing questions.

Don't just address the sinful behavior, but the heart behind the behavior. Peel back the layers on the motivation behind the choice. Guide your child, through your questions, to discover the sin in their hearts.

Caedmon threw a roll of packaging tape at Sammy this morning and hit him in the mouth. Our (private) conversation went like this...
Me: "What happened?"
C: "I threw the tape at Sammy."
Me: "Yes, and it hit him in the mouth. Was that kind or unkind?"
C: "Unkind"
Me: "What does the Bible say about the way we're supposed to treat others?"
C: "Do to them what we want them to do to us."
Me: "How would it make you feel if I threw the tape and hit you in the mouth?"
C: "Bad"
Me: "And what else?"
C: "Sad"
Me: "So how do you think it made Sammy feel?"
C: "Bad"

And then we went through the appropriate apologies. Thinking back on it, I could have probed deeper. I could have addressed what he was feeling when he threw the tape (possibly annoyed or angry) and tried to get to the root of that.

There are a couple great books on this. Shepherding A Child's Heart and Don't Make Me Count to Three have been great resources for me.

The bottom line, your precious, adorable, sweet little angel needs to realize that he/she is not perfect! They are under authority and cannot, on their own, live up to the standards set by that authority. They are in need of forgiveness. And most importantly, they are in need of a Savior.

Part 3 of this series coming up next week...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How to Lead Your Child To Jesus- Part 1

In keeping with my theme for the week of sharing our faith, I thought I would share a few ideas for how to share your faith with your child.

For a Christian parent, one of our most important roles in all of life is to lay of strong foundation of faith for our children...teaching them about who God is, what Jesus did for us, and how we fit into that story. Most parents deeply desire for their kids to have a strong relationship with God, but many don't know where to start. The task seems too big and overwhelming, so it gets outsourced to the church. But God's intentions have always been that the family would be the petri dish for faith to grow and flourish.

So, where do we get started? I'm going to break it down into steps for clarity sake, but of course you know that life never breaks down into neat little steps. It's more like a bowl of spaghetti.

Step 1: Establish a good understanding of the Character of God

Our kids have to know WHO GOD IS before they can decide for themselves if they will love Him, trust Him, and obey Him.

How do you do this? Layer by layer.

There are probably a zillion creative ideas out there, but let me just give you a couple simple ones. Get a few age-appropriate children's Bibles and devotional books. I really like this Bible, but there are tons of options out there. It's nice to have a variety. There are also devotional books specifically for boys or girls and focused on certain ages. This is a good website to browse.

Each night before bed, snuggle up together for a few minutes to read a story from one of these books. We may read any variety of books throughout the day, but our kids know that bedtime stories are always going to be from the Bible.

Another very important way our children learn about the Character of God is though our conversations with them. As you are training them, include lessons about God. For example, if your kids are being mean to each other you could explain to them how God wants us to treat others with kindness because He is kind to us. At Christmas we give gifts because God is a generous God who gave us the most special gift of all through Jesus. When we're outside, we can thank God for his beautiful creation because He is the Creator. When your kids are playing make-believe or building something, we can praise their imaginations saying that God is a creative and imaginative God, too!

These two techniques (reading the Bible together & talking about the character of God in everyday life) can be used with ANY AGE! It is very easy to adjust the content to be age appropriate.

The other day, Andy asked our two boys (ages 5 & 3), "What do you think God is like?"

  • Caedmon said, "I think He's nice." (the kindness of God) 
  • Sammy said, "God loves me!" (the love of God)
  • Caedmon added, "And He's really strong, too, Dad." (the power of God)
At BayKids, Sammy learned a song about Jesus being his best friend. All week he walked around singing, "Best friend, best friend, Jesus is my best friend!" Recently Sammy and I were talking about Caedmon and I said, "Do you love Caedmon?" Sammy- "Yeah." Me- "Is Caedmon your best friend?" Sammy- "No! Jesus is my best friend!"

That child can't count to five, doesn't know the color blue from orange, and has only been exposed to English for 18 months. But he knows two things: God loves him, and Jesus is his best friend. I'll take that over numbers and colors any day!

Monday, February 6, 2012

I just had to tell you...

Recently, Andy & I got a new mattress. We'd been saving for it for some time and then decided to give it as a gift to each other for Christmas. It is UH-MAY-ZING, a total game changer for us.  After we got it I found myself telling everyone about it. I'd be having a conversation with someone about their lemon tree and unsuspectingly blurt out, "I got a new mattress!"Both of us would look at each other kinda surprised by the sudden change of topic. But I just could not keep it in! I wanted everyone to experience the good sleep and comfort I was experiencing.

I think that should be the heart behind why we share our faith. It's not because we are commanded to in the Bible. It's not because we think we have all the right answers or want to conform the whole world to be just like us. The reason we have to share our faith is because we just can't keep it in! We have found something so over-the-top wonderful, so life changing and life giving that we have to tell everyone we care about because we want them to experience it too!

That is the story of Fred & Evelyn. In this beautiful video, you will see how they simply could not keep South Bay Church a secret. God was changing their lives in such a remarkable way that they wanted everyone they loved to experience the blessing. It wasn't about twisting arms or forcing their beliefs on other people. They had found a Source that was good, and there was plenty to go around.

Watch this inspiring video and be blessed.

If you live in the Bay Area, South Bay is hosting a "Go and Tell" Seminar tonight that will equip you to share God's love with those YOU love in a practical, non-wierd way. Change your plans if you have to, but get there if you can. Details here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I'm an expert carpet cleaner...

This morning, instead of enjoying a nice quiet time of Bible study while the Littles watched a show, my activity looked a little more like this...

As I scrubbed the poop out of the carpet this morning it reminded me a little too much of this incident. Fortunately this was a first time event for Sammy, while Caedmon was a recurrent offender. (I have the pictures to prove it.)

To be sure, that is not the way I was hoping to start my day this morning, but my kids have provided me with several laughs this week that I thought I'd share.

  • Caedmon told me that when he grows up he plans on working at BayKids on Sundays and being a ninja the rest of the week. I thought it sounded like a pretty good plan.
  • As we were driving down the road, 3-year-old Sammy said, "I make plan, Mommy." Already intrigued I said, "Okay, Sammy, what's your plan?" He replied, "I go meeting. I go playground." Sounds like important stuff to me!
  • When I told Caedmon I love him, he said, "I love you more!" I said, "NEVER!" So he said, "I love you just as much!" And I said, "NEVER!" So he said, "I love you 8 times less." 
  • The other day Andy said to me, "One thing I love about my job is that I have 3 or 4 really high-capacity people who directly report to me." I replied, "I have 2 really low-capacity people who report to me." Andy agreed. 
So today, Moms & Dads, I hope that you are able to find something to laugh about with however many low-capacity people are reporting to you!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Thankful Journal

Perhaps the best addition to my life in the last month and a half has been buying a "Thankful Journal". 

Just a regular, blank journal that has totally been transforming my life and the way that I think. 

I'd heard of the ideas before...of keeping a journal of all the things I'm thankful for. But I never actually bought a journal specifically dedicated to that purpose. I just figured I'd include it in my journal that I keep for everything else- sermon notes, prayer requests, learnings from my quiet time. But in December, after being challenged by this awesome book on marriage, I finally bought a journal set aside only for thankfulness. 

I'm trying to write in it every Monday. Sometimes I write in it multiple times a week, but at least every Monday. I use it to focus my mind on the things that I am thankful for about my husband, my kids, my church, my position in life, whatever comes to mind.

I've found that the things in my life I feel most grumpy about are the things I need to force myself to find a reason to be thankful for. 
  • Is one your kids driving you nuts? Thankful journal
  • Do you find yourself nagging your husband? Thankful journal
  • Are you frustrated about your job? Thankful journal
  • Are you walking through a painful trial or crisis? Thankful journal
Whatever your situation, YOU HAVE A REASON TO BE THANKFUL. We all do. 

I tell you what, this new discipline is transforming my mind. Because whatever we focus our attention on (be it the gripes or the gratitude) THAT is what grows in our lives. 

Do you need a reason to be thankful? Start by focusing your mind on all the things in your life that you can already be thankful for, and I promise you that your blessings will begin to multiply. We miss out on so many blessings that God sends our way simply because we fail to recognize them and be thankful for them. I'm not talking about blowing sunshine and pretending like everything is wonderful in your life. I'm saying, even in the pit when everything around me is falling apart, I will choose to focus my mind on what is good. 

What are you thankful for today?