My childhood summer happy place.


Where did your childhood summers happen—back yard, lake, neighborhood park, zoo, beach, campsite? Your summer memories probably have a lot of different settings. Mine, too. But one location was a staple no matter what else we were doing the rest of the summer. It was one of my favorite spots . . . my happy place. Every couple of weeks, mom piled us into the car and headed downtown. We parked on a street of smooth red bricks, headed down the  sidewalk and scampered up the wide steps to an old two-story house owned by the city. As mom pushed aside the heavy door, we were greeted with a waft of cold air that smelled of old paper and musty wooden shelves and tables. I loved it! To me, it was the smell of possibilities. I barely glanced around the first floor before making a beeline for the narrow staircase against the wall. It creaked and groaned as I double-stepped each landing all the way up. At the top was my spot—the children’s books. Shelves and shelves of colorful books awaited me. I knew right where to find my favorite series. I spent time carefully selecting my choices. Each book opened up a new adventure or unique place. From this location anything was possible! I could ride at full speed on a faraway beach atop a beautiful horse courtesy of The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. No mystery went unsolved with a little help from The Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope. And I glimpsed what it would be like to have an unruly baby brother in the pages of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. No matter what our plans for the summer, I’m so glad the library was a stop along the way. There are many ways to read or hear a good story these days, but the charm of a library visit cannot be matched. Today’s libraries have added features of read-aloud time, crafts, educational sessions, special guests, movies and more! As you plan your children’s summer schedule, don’t forget to look up your local library and get a list of the special events there going on all summer. Most are absolutely free. Here’s a list of just a few of the wonderful local libraries in my neck of the woods. Many of these I’ve had the privilege of visiting and reading to the kiddos. These great … Read More

Wrong day. Wrong chapter. Right message.


I missed my little daily devotional reading yesterday. Today, I opened it to the wrong day. On top of that, I misread the suggested Scripture reading and went to the wrong chapter. Wrong day. Wrong chapter. Not batting a thousand on my biblical reading commitment. Thank goodness! The Scriptures I visited by mistake were exactly right for me. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” -1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV Nice! Encouraging. Yep, just the message I needed today. I noticed my error when the commentary had nothing to do with the Scripture verses I just read. At first, I thought the devotional writer must have had an off day. But if I hadn’t been on the wrong day and in the wrong chapter, I wouldn’t have been as encouraged. Two phrases popped out to me as if they were in bold: “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” I have a living hope! Jesus gave me a gift that will never end nor fade. The hope isn’t just an Easter thing. It’s the right message for my heart every single day. “though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” Trials and challenges are a necessary part of my journey but they do not change the end game. Maybe you’re having a “wrong day” or maybe you’ve flipped to a chapter in your life that is a struggle. Here is the right message for you: God loved you enough to give you a living hope beyond this day, a promise of eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ that cannot be shaken. The … Read More

Quick Faith Lessons You Can Teach with Bubbles


It’s officially Spring so get outside and do something fun . . . like blowing bubbles. If you have young children or teach Sunday School or preschool, here are a few quick faith lessons using bubbles you can try. GOD GIVES LIFE. Blow into bubbles to demonstrate how God blew life into us. “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 1:7 ESV). What you say and do: Show kids your bottle of bubbles. “Who loves bubbles? I sure do!” Open it up and show dripping liquid. “Oh no! This isn’t a bubble. It says right here that it’s a bottle of bubbles, but this dripping mess isn’t right. Did I get a bad bottle? How do I get a bubble?” The kids will likely tell you that you have to blow to get the bubble. “How do I make this into a fun bubble? Oh, I blow into it? Like this?” Blow quite a few bubbles. “So, it’s really not a bubble unless I blow into it . . . like I’m blowing life into the bubble! That reminds me of you. Did you know that you are kind of like a bubble?” “The Bible says God breathed life into us. In the book of Genesis, we learn how God made so many things—the sun and moon, the land and sea, plants and animals. Then, when it came time for humans, Scripture says–‘Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature’ (Genesis 1:7 ESV).” “Remember that life comes from God. He loved you enough to create you and blow life into you so you can grow like this bubble, and move and bring joy and light into the world.” GOD MADE YOU UNIQUE. Show how bubbles are different shapes and sizes and remind kids that we are each unique as well with different purposes, according to God’s plan. “But as it is, God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20 ESV). What you say and do: Blow bubbles. “Look … Read More

Who needs a do-over?


Monday was bad . . . really bad. After a busy week of work deadlines and a weekend sports tournament, I couldn’t find the counter under the dirty dishes. Laundry was piled up everywhere. It would be easier to just sell the house than put it back in order. I shooed the kids out the door with nothing for breakfast but leftover cake. The school cafeteria would have to pick up my slack at lunch. And, to top it off, the winter cold and rain held my beautiful sunshine hostage AGAIN. Ugh! You’ve had those days, right? As I shut the door and looked at my mess, I thought, “Boy, do I need a do-over.” When the kids were little, I remember hearing them from the other room. “Do-over!” “Ethan, you CANNOT have a do-over,” mini-mom Katie explained. Gracie’s squeaky voice chimed in, “If he gets a do-over, I get a do-over, too!” “No, you don’t.” Katie stood her ground, but Ethan insisted. “It’s in the rules, Katie. We CAN get a do-over.” I don’t remember who won the argument, but as I thought about it, I realized: We actually DO get do-overs. And IT IS in the rulebook. The start of Lent season this past week in preparation for Easter reminded me again of this blessing. Scripture says: “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true,’” (Revelation 21:5 ESV). “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert,” (Isaiah 43:19 ESV). Jesus Christ gave us a do-over pass for so many things: our sins, our mistakes, our messes. And God put it in the rulebook. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come,” (2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV). There are also lots of goodies in Scripture about other kinds of practical do-overs: forgiving each other, mending relationships, making a plan for the future, finances and more. Thank goodness! In his wisdom, God put reminders of hope and renewal in our world and daily lives. Spring comes. The sun rises. So, hang in there if you’re having a rough patch or a “no-good-very-bad day.” You’ll get your … Read More

Somebody’s gonna get hurt!


As a mom, what’s one of your most-used phrases? One of mine for sure is, “Somebody’s gonna get hurt!” When the kids were little and practiced “flying” off the toddler bed, “Somebody’s gonna get hurt!” When all three rolled on the ground in one big ball, wrestling and tickling each other, “Somebody’s gonna get hurt!” Now days, when one of them leaves the house late and speeds while driving, “Somebody’s gonna get hurt!” When they dabble in unhealthy relationships, “Somebody’s gonna get hurt!” Maybe you also spend a lot of time calling out warnings when your babies get too close to the fire. As moms, we really can’t help it. It’s what we do because we love our children so much and want to protect them from danger. When we see a bad situation, we have to call it. More often than we like, we are absolutely right. My friend Amy has three boys and I can only imagine how many times she has sent up the red flag. She’s been right quite a few times that I know of . . . broken legs, motorbike accidents, raccoon bites. (Yes, I said raccoon bites. I’ll let you know if she ever writes a book or starts a blog. It would be unbelievably entertaining!) God and Amy have something in common. In Scripture, God also spends a lot of time advising us against potentially harmful actions. But this blog isn’t about “I told you so” or “You get what you deserve.” Nope . . . it’s about WHO gets hurt. The person acting recklessly, right? Not exclusively. Let me explain by telling you that it happened again the other day. The kids were being silly . . . again. I said my famous last words, “OK, calm down. Somebody’s gonna get hurt!” Boy, was I right. Somebody DID get hurt and it was ME! My son played the I’m-going-to-throw-something-at-you-really-fast-without-much-warning-and-see-if-you–can-catch-it game with little sister. By now, she’s pretty good at the game and deflected it long before it reached her. I am not so good at the game. I was sitting next to her and the object deflected right into my eye. Ouch!! Now, it wasn’t life-threatening or too damaging, but it did hurt. I could see that one coming (hee, hee) . . . well, sort of. The point is, sometimes the one dishing out the warning gets hurt, too. Take … Read More

The Jesus Stocking


It’s finally the Christmas season and there are so many wonderful ways to share the Good News of our Savior’s birth with children. Recently, I combined some of my favorite illustrations on the precious gift of Jesus—he’s actually so many gifts wrapped in one—into The Jesus Stocking. Try The Jesus Stocking with your young children or let your kids help fill a few to share with others throughout the season. I hope it helps you unpack all that the gift of Jesus means for those you love. Here’s how you get started. Purchase or decorate a stocking. Write The Jesus Stocking on it or on an attached tag. Below are some items you can place inside and a message with each to help you explain what it represents. You can also write or print out the Scripture and message on a label or tag for each. Heart-shaped cookie or heart-shaped Dove chocolate. Jesus came to show you God’s love. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16 ESV See this awesome heart. Did you know that Christmas is all about love? Yep! It’s about God’s love for you. He sent someone he loved, Jesus, to be separated from him for a while to help you. And Jesus agreed to come . . . to be away from his father. Can you imagine how hard that would be to be away from your parents even for a little while? I bet they would be so sad to be away from you for a while, too. Well, that’s what God and his Son Jesus did out of love for you. Mini-flashlight. Jesus came to give light to this dark world. “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” –John 8:12 ESV Have you ever been in a room when the lights went out accidentally? Or maybe you woke up in the middle of the night when it was completely dark. Pretty scary, huh? The best thing you can have in the dark is this . . . a flashlight! When I have a light like this that I can turn on in the dark, I feel so much better. I can see everything more … Read More

Leo the Leaf: A fall story about change for your kids


Fall always reminds me of the beauty of change. Changing leaves, changing seasons and changing temperatures breathe new life into a world scorched by the harshness of late summer. Of course that’s a little too deep when you are trying to convince a young child that change is a good thing. “How about something different than mac-n-cheese for supper?” “No!” “We’re moving and you get to change schools this year, isn’t that great?” “No!” “Mom got a new job. You’ll be staying in the after-school program.” “No!” It’s tough for children to deal with change. Adults don’t like it that much, either. So, if you have some big changes in your life that your little one is struggling to get through, here’s a story about a leaf named Leo who can relate. He had no idea that dreaded change would bring him the greatest adventure of his life! Maybe Leo can help you talk about the benefits of life’s changes with your favorite kid.     Leo turns a new leaf Leo the Leaf does not like change. He sits atop the highest branch in the maple tree, surrounded by leaves who . . . . . . are bright green. . . . flutter gently in the wind. . . . and hold fast to the tree. Nothing much changes and Leo is happy. *** From his tip-top perch, Leo sees the same view each day . . . . . . the sun rises and sets. . . . birds fly by. . . . and The Family’s children play in the yard below. Nothing much changes and Leo is happy. *** Until one day Leo notices some things are different. He . . . . . . turns from green to yellow to orange to RED! . . . flutters even more as the wind blows harder. . . . and finds it difficult to hold onto the limb. Things are changing and Leo is NOT happy. *** Leo’s view begins to look a little different . . . . . . the sun sets much earlier in the day. . . . more and more birds start flying in one direction. . . . and The Family’s children begin wearing coats and hats. Things are changing and Leo is NOT happy. *** Soon the wind blows Leo out of his tree . . . oh no! … Read More

Somebody sees you.


Confession . . . I didn’t pay attention at all in church this week. No offense, Pastor, your sermon was great. Well, I think it was. You see, I happened to sit behind two precious toddlers and I couldn’t focus on anything else. The little boy kept peeking back at our row with big, serious eyes and those fluffy, drooping cheeks. His baby sister toddled to and fro, grinning at everyone with her brand new teeth. She kindly gave out hugs to those on the nearby rows and even across the aisle. They reached for things with dimpled arms, squealed on occasion and colored their Bible story sheets with fervor. I couldn’t stop watching them! My teenagers gave me the same look I used to give them when they weren’t paying attention in church. I couldn’t help it. I was fascinated. By focusing on them for just a few minutes, I could see their personalities. I could see what they wanted. And I could see they were about to get into trouble. Uh-Oh. A thought hit me, “Jesus sees me with that focus and an even greater understanding.” These children weren’t even my own and I was captivated. How much more so does God see His very own children? Our Heavenly Father is interested in me . . . in you. He sees you. How many times have I heard coaches on the sidelines yell out to young players when they make a special effort? “I see you, Johnny! Great try. I see you!” Try to imagine God looking down into your life. “I see you praying for your children, Mama. I see you!” “I see you working, making supper and cleaning house. I see you!” “Dad, I see you making those sacrifices!” The Bible is full of those kinds of stories. Here are a few that remind me how Jesus truly saw people. He saw the poor widow who gave all she had. (Luke 21:1-4) He saw Zacchaeus who was up in a tree! (Luke 19:1-10) He saw through the crowd to a grieving mom. (Luke 7:11-15) He saw the man at the Pool of Bethesda who had been waiting so long for help. (John 5:1-15) He saw the man who was born blind and stopped to give him healing. (John 9:1-12) He sees you, too. When you think no one notices you, He sees your sacrifices, your challenges, … Read More

A little advice . . .


I visited with a group of ladies recently . . . you would have loved them. I did. You see, I was scheduled to speak for their monthly luncheon. But they taught me more than I could ever imagine sharing with them! As I sat down at one of the tables, the laughter and chatter filled the room. Looking around (and eavesdropping a bit), I could tell each one had experienced a lifetime of day-to-day ups and downs just like you and me—health troubles, inconvenient repairs, crazy schedules, raising children, heartbreaks and more. Yet, they survived it all! There they were with a quick smile, a twinkle in their eyes, and a story to tell. Who could pass up an opportunity to learn from women who have experienced so much life? Before I left, I invited the ladies to each share a simple nugget of wisdom for you. Some jotted down a note or two. So, enjoy a few words of advice from some wise women who have walked the path ahead of you. “Never worry too long. Remember, today is the day you worried about yesterday!” –JoAnn Truth! It’s all a matter of perspective. Some worries and fears don’t seem so urgent with a little time. “Keep a good sense of humor in all you do. It’s the only way to cope with all the curve balls life throws your way.” –Karen That reminds me . . . one sassy lady came bustling in to the lunch at the last minute. “I’m so sorry I’m late,” she exhaled. “Me and the plumber were both in the bathroom this morning.” She made me giggle a little . That unexpected home repair issue couldn’t rob her joy . . . or keep her from making her lunch date. “Just smile. A simple ‘no’ will do.” –Susie B Let that one sink in for a moment. It hit me in a lot of different ways and I’ll let you interpret what that means for you. I love what one lady wrote even though she didn’t leave her name, “Listen. You can hear wonderful things.” If you want to know how you can make a difference in the world, Pat and Loretta had some suggestions: “Live this day; striving to let God’s love shine through to those around you.” –Pat “Put God first. Be grateful for every day. Be obedient to God.” –Loretta And, finally, Georgia … Read More

31 Days of Back-To-School Prayers for August


It’s almost August . . . oh my! I’m completely unprepared for fall. How about you? I haven’t purchased one school supply or one article of clothing for the year. But, it’s all good. Because, I am ready with a plan of action for the MOST IMPORTANT thing I can do to prepare my kiddos for the new school year. PRAY! Prayer is our most powerful spiritual weapon. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Want to know what makes prayer even more powerful? Praying together! Jesus said so, “if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). With all my heart, I believe that as we stand together for our babies through common prayer, heaven takes notice. And as we pray together for specific promises and blessings on our children, miracles will happen! Here are 31 days’ worth of topics for August to pray for your child as school begins. Let’s do this . . . together! DAY 1: Invite God into your child’s school and your home this school year. DAY 2: Pray that God blesses your child this school year and prepares him or her for their future. DAY 3: Pray that your child grows closer to Jesus this year. DAY 4: Pray for safety at school for your child and others. DAY 5: Pray for good health for your child. DAY 6: Pray your child exercises God’s wisdom and discernment in dealing with friends, adults and assignments. DAY 7: Pray for God’s help as you parent this year. DAY 8: Pray for your child’s teachers. DAY 9: Pray for your child’s coaches. DAY 10: Pray that God surrounds your child with friends who will be a good influence and love them for who they are. DAY 11: Pray for the administrators at your school. DAY 12: Pray for the administrators of your school district. DAY 13: Pray for wisdom for school board members. DAY 14: Pray for the support staff at your school—cafeteria workers, librarians, aides and custodial staff. DAY 15: Pray that God will help your child focus on what matters this school year. DAY 16: Pray that God will give your child strength and endurance to handle the educational rigor and extra-curricular activities throughout the school year. DAY 17: Pray for your child’s attitude—that … Read More