Lent

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With Lent right around the corner, I though I’d re-post this from a few years ago.

I had a sweet friend text me about adding something to her day during Lent, something she can read to learn more about Jesus and the Bible. I loved her desire to not just give up something to enrich these 40 days, but to add something to grow in her faith.

Here were some of my suggestions:

~You Version Bible App has a great 40-day Lent reading plan that takes you through the gospels.  I have not done this reading plan, but one can never go wrong adding time to read the Bible as one practices Lent; after all, isn’t the purpose of fasting to turn our hearts towards Him?  And isn’t that what He is truly after, our hearts?  What better way than to get into His Mighty Word!

The book of John is another great place to start!  It has 21 chapters so you could read one chapter a day then pick another book to read.  Romans and then 1 John would be good follow ups and there are others too!  Let the Lord guide you on this and He will!

photo 1~On Calvary’s Hill, 40 readings for the Easter season, is a book by Max Lucado and is full of Scripture and is an in depth look at the final days in the life of our Savior.  It is beautiful; I absolutely love the way Mr. Lucado writes.

~Rick Warren’s the Purpose Driven Life is another 40-day devotional book that can change your life.  It answers the many questions of our true purpose on Earth and living out the Greatest Commandment and Great Commission.

~Prayer.  Prayer is a huge part of fasting, taking our eyes off ourselves and the things of this world and focusing on God.  Fasting isn’t always easy, but if we praise the Lord and pray Scriptures when we desire what we are fasting from, it will help us avoid what we are giving up but most importantly take our focus off of ourselves and onto Him and His amazing sacrifice for our souls.  Again, isn’t this the purpose of Lent?  Let Him hear from you, He loves it!

~Memorizing Scripture.  Focus on one a week or maybe just pick one to meditate on during the 40 days of Lent.  There are so many to choose from but one of my favorites is Zechariah 4:6, “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord.”  Especially in the realm of fasting (and raising kids ha), this verse can help get our focus off of what we want with His help.  His Spirit is unending and overwhelming inside of believers!  Let’s put it to good use!

I have to admit, I have never officially practiced the 40 days of Lent, but I enjoyed reading and researching more about it from various denominations viewpoints.

For more information on Lent, click here.

I have no doubt that God can work in amazing ways anytime we turn our hearts toward Him, get in His Word and pray.  What an exciting time Lent can be and it doesn’t have to stop there!  May we continually seek the Lord every day of the year. 🙂

 

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Family Dinner Fun

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Mealtimes are CRAY in our home. I should record one sometime and post it for all to see. HA. It’s hard to keep kids in their seats and often there is a lull in the conversation. I desire mealtime to be more civilized first and foremost, but also as a time to hear about the day and visit with one another; to get the children to open up but also learn to listen to others.

img_8017When we vacationed last summer to Vail, CO (I highly recommend it!) with our oldest two children, we had dinners scheduled each night and I wanted us to really visit and not succumb to electronics (or craziness), so I found the hotel stationary and wrote out some questions. I was super excited to surprise my family with this dinner fun. We each took turns picking and answering the questions. It was a really special night. My heart felt so full and I think everyone else liked it as well.

Here are some of the questions we used:

  • Where in the world would you most want to live?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • Describe yourself in 5 words.
  • Describe the person next to you in 5 words.
  • If you could invite anyone to dinner who would you invite?
  • If you were a superhero what would your power be and what would you be called?
  • If we all loved in a zoo, what animal would each of us be?
  • What scares you and why?

This is also fun with couples! We have some friends we go to dinner with from time to time and we all enjoy this mealtime activity as well. We usually laugh so hard and aren’t ready for the questions to end.

On Thanksgiving, we had my parents and my husband’s parents join us for the big meal. We used Ever Thine Home’s “Untie Your Story” ribbon. So beautiful, festive and I love the questions. Several of us had tears in our eyes as we answered in gratefulness. Again, a special meal!

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For my women’s ministry team Christmas Party, I came up with some questions and placed a one at each seat with no assigned seating. How the Lord ordained the questions was so endearing and amazing! It was a night I’ll never forget!

I googled some of the questions and came up with some on my own but Table Topics has several boxes of questions geared to different ages/scenarios. We also just bought this set that has been fun to do at home mealtimes. img_8132Just anyway to get the conversation going, kids opening up, laughing and having fun. Try it at your next dinner with friends or family vacation and let me know how it goes!!

Lots of love, laughter and table talk ~ Sarah 🙂

Click here to look at Table Topics on amazon.

Click here to buy Table Talk by Manners Co

Click here to buy Untie Your Story ribbons.

 

My Thoughts ~ a Poem and Prayer

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Does anyone else ever struggle with thoughts that carry you away from reality? I went through a terrible season of that a few years ago. While these words are from that time, and the Lord has done a work on my thoughts and mind, I am still in continual need of mind-renewing. Grateful He is our help for just that! For more on this click here. 

When my mind is a mess, what can I do?                                                                                 My thoughts, oh Lord, you must renew!

My heart and soul love You but my mind seems so stuck.                                                    Please, dear Father, lift me out of this muck.

Teach me your ways, help me know You are near.                                                               Teach me to live my life without any fear.

Keep the distracting thoughts at bay;                                                                                        for only You can make a way.

Reign in my heart, reign in my head.                                                                                         Only by You may my spirit be led.

May I think on things pleasing to You.                                                                                       My thoughts, oh Lord, continually make new!

In Your son Jesus’ name I pray.                                                                                                   The name above all and only way.

 

Cell Phones and Kids, Oh My! ~ 5 ways to guide and protect plus the contract we used for our 11 year old

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img_7913Although I dragged my feet for quite a while, our daughter officially has a cell phone. She’s 11 and was one of the last of her friends to get one. I know it can be a good thing, but as her mom, I want to educate her on the dangers and set it up safely.

I recorded this video before she got her phone and forgive me for saying “you” so many times– I am ALWAYS preaching to my own heart and self before preaching to anyone else! Watch the video, and then read below…

5 ways to guide and protect:

  • Set up filters and restrictions
    • Disney Circle:  Love this! You can set time limits, downtime, see search history and much more. I highly recommend this to protect your home WIFI and devices. CLick here for more info.
    • Life 360:  a good way to see locations of family members and driving speeds, etc… Click here for more info
    • Apple restrictions in phone:  When a child is added to family sharing, there are many restrictions/filters that can be put into place. From allowed websites, content restrictions, time limits, installing/deleting apps, etc… I had someone at the AT&T store guide me on this.
    • There are many others- Our Pact, BARK, Pumpic ….
    • Remove Gifs– I just realized you can do this! (go to the “…” in the bar below a message, you can remove or add certain apps (like photos, app store, animojis etc..) -I love this feature!)
  • Contracts
    • When Joe White with Kanakuk Kamps spoke at our church years ago, he talked of drawing up contracts with children. I felt a cell phone was certainly a place that needed clear boundaries in a contract. Here is the contract we drew up with our daughter. You are welcome to take and use whatever you like for your children as well and feel free to let me know of anything I might have left off!
  • Take phones up at bedtime
    • If left to their own devices, I know my children would have a hard time putting the phone down to go to sleep. We have set downtime which turns almost all apps down but I still want the phone with me during the night. Kids need sleep so badly. You can read in the contract the downtime hours for us.
    • If having a sleepover, communicate with the other children the rules of the house–no cell phones past a certain time. Take them up (depending on kids ages) or have them put them away.
  • Teach Phone Etiquette (more of this in the contract above)
    • Be mindful of what pictures are taken/sent…once it’s out there, it’s out there
    • THINK: Is it true? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind? Think before sending/taking/texting
    • Be kind. Don’t gossip on group texts. (group texting is a feature that can be removed if needed!)
    • Answer the phone when parents text or call
    • Always wrap up a call with “BYE”
  • Say NO to social media (Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, etc…)

Some things to remember:

  • To whom much is given, much is required. My mom reminds me of this often, and I’m grateful! A phone is much, therefore will require much from us and our children
  • Each child is different- don’t just get a child a phone (or social media) because all of their friends have one
  • It’s ultimately our phone and we are lending it to them
  • We are not powerless when it comes to our children and electronics. As parents, we are in charge of their cell phones
  • Use the phone as currency. Chores must be done, grades made,  good behavior at home and school, etc… or phone is taken away
  • Have a “grounded” phone to be used if main phone is taken away. A flip phone or a GABB phone would be great. (we actually looked into the GABB phone and may consider it for our “grounded” phone or other children if we need to strictly get a hold of them It seems like a great device!)

I am not an expert, I’m learning as we go. I want to share this information to help others navigate electronics in this day and age. I know they are kids and may be able to find loopholes or ways around things, but a constant prayer on my lips and in my heart is that anything hidden in the dark would be brought to light. I can trust the Lord to do this, so grateful!

Heavenly Father, because of your love, presence and Word, we are not alone in our parenting- I praise you! You have blessed us with our children for just a short time, may we be great stewards of them always. May we diligently pray for them and their friends as they grow up in a place where too much can be accessed and known too soon. May we grant freedoms according to each child, letting You help us discern that which is pleasing to You and good. Father, I pray You would continually shine light on any darkness in my life and my children’s’ lives. Keep them safe and smart. May they long to do Your will. May the phones we use be used for Your glory. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

 

What a Relief

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Relief: a feeling of reassurance and relaxation following release from anxiety or distress.

Everyday I mess up as a mom. And everyday I am given grace.

What a relief.

Everyday I need something other than myself to help me. Everyday I ask, seek and surrender I am given the Holy Spirit’s help.

What a relief.

Everyday I get it wrong, say the wrong things or think unpleasant thoughts. Everyday I confess I am forgiven.

What a relief.

His death on the cross and resurrection sealed our fate as believers. Eternity with Him.

What a relief.

The words he left behind and how to live this life.

What a relief.

Yes, what a relief it is to have such a God! To send His one and only Son to die for us, to raise Him for us, to send His Spirit to help us, to give us the Bible to guide us. To give us access to Our Great Creator through prayer.

What a great relief it is.

Are we living in this relief today or merely going our own way?

Lord, help us to know these truths and live them out everyday. Thank You for paying the price for our sins and for granting us eternal life, your Spirit and your Word. You have truly given us everything we need to pursue life and godliness this side of our eternal home. What a relief. I love you. In your Son’s saving name, amen.

Rising Like Bread? Or Shrinking Like Bacon? Words for adults plus and activity for children

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I sat in church looking at the exits, imagining a shooter busting through. I wondered if I was sitting in the safest spot possible. I quickly realized I wasn’t; any seat could be a target, anyone a victim of such evil. And I remembered the verse my discipleship group and I recently memorized…

The angel of the lord is a guard he surrounds and protects all who fear him. (Psalm 34:7)

So one would think maybe this angel of the Lord wasn’t with all the churches that have witnessed such monstrosity. One may think God was asleep when those tragedies happened. One might think maybe they didn’t properly fear the Lord and so death came. I believe all these things are lies. Lies easy to believe in our feeble human minds but lies. The truth is the Lord never sleeps or slumbers. The truth is sometimes the Lord allows tragedy to bring about his glory and so others will know who He is (think about the cross…always go back to the cross).  The truth is there is protection in death for Christians.

We are protected by God. Even when the worst happens there is some level of protection we cannot even see.

So we do not fear death, although I often do because this world is all I know and all I seem to be able to wrap my head around sometimes. We can have hope in death because death of a Christian means JESUS. It means perfection. It means heaven.

The events taking place and the overwhelming excess of this place we live in can make one shrink like bacon. To shrivel up and hold in our faith. To stay home from church on Sundays because of fear.

OR….

We can do as we’ve been equipped and rise like bread when the heat is turned up. We can rise up and proclaim the name of Jesus that has saved us. We can share this hope we have. We can trust and believe that God is surrounding us and protecting us daily from things we can’t see. We can trust that death isn’t the end for a Christian.

Believers…Christians…church. It’s time we rise up. It’s time to rise like bread.

There is no hope in our circumstances. There is no hope in ourselves, others, food, drink, drugs, busyness, shopping, tv, etc…our only hope is Jesus.

As we continued to worship in church that morning, we sang these words from “Grace to Grace”: 

How wonderful, how glorious
My Savior’s scars victorious
My chains are gone, my debt is paid
From death to life and grace to grace
When I see that cross, I see freedom
When I see that grave, I’ll see Jesus
And from death to life, I will sing Your praise
In the wonder of Your grace

I was truly free. Surrendered. Rising like the bread because I was worshiping my God. I trusted him that if my death came in that place, in that moment, what mighty glory and protection that would be.

Unfortunately I’m merely human and struggle to stay in that place of surrender, freedom from fear, and awe. But going forward, how do we rise like bread? How do we keep from shrinking like bacon into our fears and flesh?

  • Know God: ask him to reveal Himself to us
  • Read His word: we have to dig into it to know it
  • Attend a Bible believing, preaching church; join a small group
  • Pray: turn fears and anxieties into our greatest prayers
  • Rest, trust and obey
  • Memorize and Meditate on Scripture

Father God…so much evil and wrong in this world, yet You are always with us. Grieving with us at the injustice. Thank you for your presence and the hope that your son Jesus has given us. We have a choice- we can be afraid and worry or we can know Your truths are true and we can rise as you’ve called us to. Help us to be bread, dear Savior. If we start shrinking like bacon, help us to notice and turn our fears into prayers so we can rise. May we all know you better and allow Your Holy Spirit to change who we are for our good and Your glory. But also, keep us safe. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN. 





An activity for children:

IMG_7908Bake bread. It starts small but rises into something beautiful. Watch it rise and talk of how we, as believers, as called and equipped to rise against the struggles, fears, and sin of this world. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to be our Helper! Go over spiritual disciplines like reading the Bible, praying, church, memorizing Scripture, etc… to increase faith and rising up.

“I will put my Spirit within you and you will come to life.” Ezekiel 37:14

IMG_7911Make bacon. Watch it shrivel up. It starts large and the heat causes it to shrink. Talk of certain “heats” your child might be facing (bullying? up coming changes at school? fear? sin?). Talk of how this is where the enemy of our souls wants us, but God has called us higher and will help us rise and not shrink.

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” Hebrews 10:39