Countdown to Christmas: Focus on Jesus

As Christmas approaches it can be a challenge to focus on Jesus, the real reason for celebrating. God showed His love in such an amazing way. He became a human, lived, suffered and died in our place. Miraculously He rose again and wants to live in relationship with us!

I wrote Christmas is About Jesus: An Advent Devotional to help my family focus on Jesus in a busy season, a busy culture, that is often sending conflicting messages about what we are doing, or should be doing, and why. The links below are to posts I have done in the past that can enhance use of the devotions in the book or help you focus on Jesus even if you don’t have the book.

Blessings to you and your family this Christmas season!

 

Fix the Leak

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

Isa 26:3 NIV

Supplies:

  • a container with a very slow leak, perhaps poke a small hole in a paper cup
  • large container to hold water
  • towel

Set up:

Fill the leaky container with water. Set it in the large container so it can leak without making a mess for you.

Lesson:

Have your children inspect the puddle. Once they have seen the puddle dry it up with the towel. Talk about how things are better now. Meanwhile the leaky container is still leaking, making another puddle in the large container. If they do not notice point it out to them. You can repeat this process as many times as they are interested.

Explain:

Read Isaiah 26:3

God promises to give us peace.  What does that mean?

Sometimes it helps to know what something is not to better understand what it is. If the leaky container were over your bed would you like that? What if it was your job to keep cleaning up the puddle? It would not be peaceful to know the leaky container is making your bed wet or always making messes for you to clean up. When the mess is cleaned up it is more peaceful.

Read Isaiah 26:3 again

What does our verse tells us about the peace God wants to give us? It is perfect peace. Perfect peace means to take care of the problem not just the mess. Perfect peace for this situation would be to fix the leaky container or replace it. Perfect peace in our lives comes because God has taken care of the problems. Jesus died so our sins can be forgiven. Jesus defeated Satan so we are overcomers. Jesus rose again so we can live forever as a friend of God.

What’s in My Heart?

I want my children to know and experience the God of heaven. God who cares about them enough to speak to them. One way He speaks is in our imagination, through words or pictures. Listening for His voice takes practice and discernment. This is an exercise we do from time to time. I’ve used it in classes of children as well as with my own. It can be a great opportunity to connect and minster to their needs.
We made a very simple book of folded paper (8.5 x 14) stapled at the edge, no cover, no binding. I love the creative options of making books, but today the focus was on our hearts. 

We looked at what was in our heart and entered it in our newly made journal.

I saw doubts, failure, and confusion raining down.
Then we asked God how he saw our hearts and entered that in our journal.

God sees through the lens of Jesus, not my sin
God saw he sent blessings as water for me to grow and all is for His glory.

I drew and wrote. One son writes, one draws. My daughter draws.

Heart of negative emotions, but God sees a strong man of God.

How they saw their heart.
How God saw their heart.


The “Next Big Thing” Blog Hop

What exactly is a Blog Hop? I learned of it last week when Kristi Burchfiel invited me to join this one.  Kristi answered the same questions I’ve answered below about her “Next Big Thing” a new daily devotional. Then she gave links to five other authors – one being yours truly. So I guess the hop comes from reading here and “hopping” over to the authors I’ve linked at the bottom or back to the authors that have already posted. Visit Kristi’s Blog.
Here’s my answers about my “Next Big Thing”
What is the working title of your book?
PEAS: Learning to Spend Time with God. This may change as I don’t know how many kids are excited about peas. The idea is an acronym for their time with God.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea came when I was doing a Bible study by Beth Moore on the fruit of the Spirit. Beth explained a pattern she uses in her time with God. I thought it was a great model and wanted to present it in a way that would work for children to use with their parents or on their own.


What genre does your book fall under?
Christian Devotional, Personal Growth, Children’s

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Hmmm. I really don’t have an answer for this one. Any child who would sincerely play a role showing a grow relationship with God and family. I’m not much of a movie goer so I have no idea. I don’t know that I would ever think of it being a movie anyway.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
PEAS is an easy to follow format to make spending time with God simple and meaningful for children.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My first two books are with Tate Publishing. I need to do more research into my options now that I have some experience before I decide.


How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It’s been drumming around in my mind for at least 4 years. The first draft I guess came together really quickly – an afternoon maybe. I can’t say I have the manuscript finalized yet. I keep changing my mind about exactly how I want to format it so the manuscript is still in process.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I haven’t used many children’s devotionals so I don’t know if it would compare to any that are out there. It is not a Bible study with workbook type fill in the blanks, at least that’s not what I’m
going after. I hope children will interact with God and record that interaction, like a guided journal I guess.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Well, Beth Moore’s model, and my passion for knowing God better. Mostly my passion for my children to be better equipped than I am when it comes to living what they believe inspires me.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I think anyone who has read this far deserves to know what PEAS stands for, so here you go.
P is for praise. E is for empty. A is for ask, and S is for share. If you want to know what I mean by those then you’ll have to keep your eyes open for blog posts and the next book!
Thank you for reading!
Here are some authors who will be sharing their “Next Big Thing” next week. You may find a new favorite author!
Amy Gatliff wrote “The Power to Never Give Up.”  It is her testimony of God’s faithfulness and provision throughout her life especially in the area of finances.  Visit Amy’s blog

Ursula Gorman author of ‘Old Aquaintances’, and ‘The Wayne Brothers Book I: The Best of Us’, both are mystery/romances.
Check out her fan page and invite friends http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=388526903624&ref


Laura Abbott  author of Daddy’s Shoulders and I Love You Infinity

Sherry Rossman author of The Miracle of Rain and Guardians

Rest in the Holiday Season

Rest: v
3. To be quiet or still: to be undisturbed.
5. To be quiet or tranquil, as the mind; not to be agitated by fear, anxiety or other passion.
11. To be satisfied
12. To lean; to trust; to rely;
13. To continue fixed.
16. To abide; to remain with.
17. To be calm or composed in mind.
Definitions from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
Does this sound like your holiday season? Unfortunately it often doesn’t sound like mine. I want it to, though. I want to be undisturbed, tranquil. Not agitated! No fear. No anxiety. Satisfied – that’s a big one. How much rest and peace are lost because we are unsatisfied with our looks, house, clothes or cooking skills? Way too much in my house. Only when I remember to lean, trust and rely do I have rest. And no comparing! Comparing destroys satisfaction and therefore our rest as well.
By continuing fixed, abiding in the Prince of Peace I can be calm have a composed mind (I really have to work on that one). I can have rest. I can rest. So can you.
I posted Monday about Resting in the Holy One. I talked about planning my Holidays with God and my family.
Here’s what we came up with:
I am resting in remembering. We are using Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree Journey to remember the wonderful story of God’s love and redemption. We are also reading Christmas is About Jesus: An Advent Devotional to remember Jesus in the midst of the commercialism and different ideas we encounter in our culture.
We are choosing one baking project per week – some fun but not too much to achieve (I hope).
I want time for Jesus more than ever, more than anything.
Putting up the tree. Driving to look at Christmas lights. A few favorite foods. That’s all my children wanted. Simple. I’m thankful. 🙂
 I’ll be posting something, though I’m not sure what exactly for my annual Countdown to Christmas, Focus on Jesus.
More on that tomorrow or Friday.
Be sure to check out and enter the Christmas Blessing! Details and participating blogs.

Always Remember

How do we redeem our loss?
 Where is there peace in our grief?
 How do we find comfort and hope?
May the God of all comfort
be your hope and peace.
Only He can redeem our grief. His comfort brings hope and peace

When we lost our unborn son in May of 2003 we were given many precious gifts. As I try to simplify my life and reduce the things in my home I have had to let most of them go. It’s hard for me to part with gifts of love. It’s also hard to have things around that may cause visitors to wonder questions they don’t know how to ask. One gift I have kept is a small wooden paddle with a lighthouse and Peace. We know it is in honor of Josiah, to others it is a decoration in our bathroom. It reminds me of all the love poured out on our family.

I created this gift for my brother and his family. I hope it will do the same for them.

Frustration

I really wish I would follow my own advice. I really can be quite wise. I have stores of God’s truth and great teaching to draw from. However… lately I don’t realize it until I hear myself telling someone else. Frustrating!
Frustration is far too common an emotion for me, especially recently. We have had some big changes and losses this year as a family. Dealing with hard things in relationship is my largest weakness I think. 
My son and I often clash. This leads to frustration between us and toward ourselves. He is so much like me in his self talk. It really makes me wish I had done so much more growing before he was born, yet often I fail to do the work to grow now. More frustration. I have grown. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but I have grown. Trouble is I can’t pinpoint what changed things for me. I can’t give my son the “fix” for his hurting heart. More frustration.  Worse yet, sometimes I’m still doing exactly the same thing! FRUSTRATION!
I know that living out my growth in front of him will be most helpful. He has to know how to turn to God – no, to abide in God. He will learn it best by seeing it lived out. So I will continue to learn to abide and to grow.
Yesterday I was looking at a personality profile for some reminders on what my son needs. I remembered thinking there was helpful information for my parenting when I had taken it a couple of years ago.  One of the charts shows typical irritations for each personality type. Sources of irritation for my son include: indecisiveness, lack of – discipline, plan, purpose, direction, authority, control, and challenge (this list describes my typical day if I’m not really on top of it!) Sources of irritation for me: incompetence, disorganization, foolishness, dishonesty, inaccuracy, wastefulness, inconsistency, false impressions (the things on this list I don’t do, he does) No wonder I’m frustrated. I do most of the things on my list of irritations! If you’ll look at the list you see that means I do most of the things on his list, too!  
His responses to pressure are also like hair triggers for me and mine for him. It’s helpful just to know, or be reminded. I realized when he was very young that God was going to use my son to shape me into who he wants me to be, who I need to be to fulfill my destiny. I lost sight of that though. All I was seeing was the conflict, the hurt, the suffering relationship. I’m not sure how to keep my focus, but I will learn.  I have to. My relationship with my son may not survive and certainly won’t thrive if I do not. Neither of us would be who God designed for us to be. He will strengthen me and I will soften him. Soften not crush.
Everyone needs tools to be successful, even in relationships. My tool box is far too empty. Even the good tools I’ve picked up over the years have been going unused. My children will only know how to use the tools I use. Lately that’s been yelling, ignoring and talking too much. So it’s time to go tool shopping. As I discover new tools or rediscover old ones I’ll share them here and I hope you will do the same.

What relational tools do you use?
What tools do you wish you knew how to use better?
Is there a need in a relationship you need a new tool for?
Personality information taken from Uniquely You Resources www.myuy.com

The Counsel of the LORD

There aremany devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.

                                           Proverbs 19:21  

LORD, I submit every thought in my heart to you for only your plans will last.

In our schooling we do a verse every week. On Friday we draw what we learned, what the verse means, whatever God puts on our hearts. They are quick sketches of an idea.

Pour Out Your Heart

As a parent I try, perhaps too much, to address the root issue rather than just the symptoms. 


Bad behavior and poor choices are symptoms of a hurting heart.


I have found it helpful to use word pictures, and as often as possible real objects to draw out what is in the heart of my children. 


This day I only used words. We’ll likely do it again and I’ll try to get pictures.
During our devotion time, on a morning far from ideal, I led my children something like this.


Take 5 minutes and imagine you are a cup. Inside of you, your cup is everything you think and feel right now.

God is holding out his hands, cupped together. Pour your cup into his hands. Give him everything. You can talk to him, you can write it down, or draw if you want to.


After the 5 minutes I continued.


Ask God to fill your cup with himself, his Spirit, his truth, his strength for the day. Again you can write down or draw anything he shows you or tells you.


One of my children was still not on track for a better day. I asked if they had poured out their cup.


I did but some stuff stayed in there.


We talked through what it was – a hurt unforgiven and grief


Grief seems so hard to pour out because it just comes back and you begin to wonder if you ever poured it out at all. I guess that’s why I like to write it down.


We talked about how letting it go gives more room for grace. 


God can only fill the empty places. Only God can fill the empty places completely, eternally.


I shared a little different take on pouring out in previous post.

Spoons of Grace



A friend shared this article with me a while back on The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino. It is well worth the read. Christine has Lupus and created The Spoon Theory to answer a friends inquiries about life with Lupus. A handful of spoons begins to represent the resources available for the day. It is a powerful illustration of the choices and mindset of someone with health issues.


While I have never had a serious illness or disability The Spoon Theory made me think about how we all need to guard our time and emotional resources instead of taking so much for granted. This came to me again as our family is dealing with some big losses. One morning when my second son was having a particularly hard time I introduced the idea of emotional spoons. Each day we start with a certain number of spoons (emotional energy, capacity). Normally we have more than enough to get through a day.

With a handful of spoons we went through a day talking about what would normally use a spoon or gain one. I took spoons away for school work, chores, and arguing. I showed when we are grieving we may be short some spoons, or they may be harder for us to hang on to. Every day is different.


Since I was using the spoons to represent emotional capacity we talked about ways to preserve spoons and to get spoons back. Being kind. Patient. Remember others are hurting, too – even if it looks different for them. Being in a family that is all grieving it is a relief that not everyone experiences the same emotions at the same time. What a wreck we would be then.

Keeping the grief inside costs you a spoon. Sharing someone else’s grief helps you both hang on to one.  


I considered having everyone actually have a container of spoons they could take from to show how they were doing. I really like the idea. It would be a great visual. However the chances of me following through to have it be meaningful are not very good. I decided we would each decorate a spoon to hang on the family board as a reminder that we all need more grace, for ourselves and each other.


While they finished their spoons I read to them from A Time to Grieve by Kenneth C. Haugk. It was helpful to hear what grief is. They felt better knowing their questions and emotions were normal and would get better. As we do more reading I’ll be posting other books we find helpful. Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebertis one I really like. It puts the process of grieving in a story that is more relatable to children.


On the Family Board