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

GUEST BLOG: Jason Joyner, author of Launch


I’m so excited to host my fellow Little Lamb author Jason Joyner in a guest post today. He just released his debut novel called Launch. It’s a YA superhero book and I must say that my 14-year-old absolutely loved it! Once she started reading, she could not put it down! Here’s a little Q & A about Jason and Launch . . . Why did you choose this genre? I’ve always loved superheroes. I used to daydream about saving the day in elementary school, so it was natural to write about teens getting superpowers. I had pictures of a guy running so fast he burned up his tennis shoes and a girl who could control light but it meant that she couldn’t dye her hair because it kept going blonde. From there Launch started to develop. Are you a science/sci-fi nerd? LOL We prefer “geeks”. I really enjoy science and sci-fi, but I’m not so hard core that I get upset over technical mistakes in movies (unless it is medical, then watch out). I would consider superheroes more on the sci-fi side, but Amazon has it categorized in the “fantasy” side, so go figure. Why did you choose this age group to write for? I wrote an adult suspense novel for my first book, but my writing style was too light for the subject matter. I had read a lot of YA, and decided writing for teens and young adults (and adults who like these books) would be a better fit. Why do kids/preteens need heroes? I’d argue adults need heroes as well. But kids especially need to see that the dragons/villains/monsters out there can be defeated. Whether their obstacles are bullies, family troubles, or school issues, I think kids can see that victory is possible vicariously through hero stories. And of course, the greatest hero of all is Jesus, so all noble, heroic stories echo his victory over death. What makes the heroes in your book (series) special? It may sound cliché, but the teens in Launch who develop supernatural powers are ordinary kids. Demarcus needs to keep buying new shoes because he burns them up running super fast. Lily knows more about social media than her computer industry father, but is depressed by loss in her life. Then when they get the opportunity at the Launch Conference, they must decide what they will do with their gifts. Want to be … Read More

What’s Your Quick Prayer?


Was today one of those days? Maybe it started earlier than you planned and hasn’t slowed down yet. I know you meant to pray for your sweet babies. But, well . . . life happened . . . I know. Believe me, I know. You don’t always have time to pray for your kiddos like you want. Me, neither! I love to take my coffee out on the back deck and have a nice, long chat with God about life, children and more as the sun rises over the trees. But on some days, I oversleep. I overbook. I’m overwhelmed. That’s when my “quick prayer” comes in handy. Do you have one? My quick prayer is the result of 18 years of boiling down my greatest hopes for my kids for the day and sharing it with God. Every. Single. Day. The cool thing about a quick prayer is that it is so close to your heart that you don’t need your prayer journal . . . you don’t need a lot of time . . . you don’t need to make a big production about it. Simplicity and repetition in prayer is a good thing. Jesus said so! Remember in Matthew 6 when Jesus was teaching us about prayer? “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7 ESV). More words don’t make it better. In fact, The Lord’s Prayer that Jesus gave us as an example was under about 70 words, depending on the translation. So my take away is—keep it simple. Repetition is also pretty important when it comes to praying for your kids. Jesus taught about this, too. “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give … Read More

Letting Go


When my son Ethan was little he loved to eat. (He still does.) But just one of whatever he wanted—let’s say Oreos—was never enough. So, he’d grab a chocolate and creamy wonder in each of his little palms and hold on tightly. He would not give them up! Then, when I poured a sippy cup full of milk for him, his mind was blown with a hard decision. He wanted the milk bad, but he DID NOT want to set down his cookies to take a drink. He needed both of his hands to properly operate that sippy cup. But what about those precious Oreos? “Ethan,” I’d say. “Just put them here for a minute and take a drink.” The soft curls on his head shook from the force of his repeated and adamant “no.” “Well, Ethan, you have to let go of one thing to get the other.” Wow. Isn’t that the truth of it all? At the time, I didn’t realize the wisdom of the argument. We have to let go of some things to get other things. Sometimes that’s hard. Real hard. Friends move . . . little ones go off to school . . . jobs change . . . children graduate . . . loved ones are gone too quickly . . . it seems we are always letting go. I must admit: I hate change. Just like Ethan, I don’t want to let go! Then I remember Ethan’s solution. He stared at that sippy cup for a minute with brows furrowed. Looked at his two fistfuls of cookies. And without another thought, he shoved both cookies in his mouth and grabbed the cup. Problem solved! The little booger trotted off to his room, cheeks bulging, cup in hand with a smile on his face. He devoured those cookies lickety split, took a long satisfying drink of milk and went back to his Lincoln log adventure. Hmmmm. I guess it wasn’t that tough of a decision after all. I remembered this moment the other day as I lamented life’s changes. Ethan was right. Yes, what I hold in my clenched fist may be precious. But if I hold on too tightly, I’ll miss out. I need to devour it, savor it, let it become a part of me and keep reaching out for that next stage of life God has poured for me. It’ll be good … Read More

Old Wives’ Guide to Birthin’ Babies


Psssst! Guess what? I recently learned my sweet niece and her husband are having a baby. Woohoo! Now, I would not be a proper Southern auntie without sharing a few tidbits of valuable info. Who needs doctors and modern medicine? Long, long ago when I became a mom, I had the benefit of expert advice from women who had been there and done that. With a wink and a knowing eye, they gave me the scoop on my baby’s sex, hair, and future without the help of ultrasounds, blood tests or bothersome modern technology. Nope. They had a better system—old wives’ tales developed from generations of . . . well, old wives. Now I’m the old wife. So, it is only fitting that I pass on the wisdom. Here ya go . . . no charge. How many children will you have? Boy or girl? The number of bows you break while opening gifts during your wedding shower determine the number of children you have. Watch it! Pluck out a strand of your hair. (Ouch! No one said seeing into the future was painless.) Tie it around your wedding ring and hold it above your palm. The ring will begin to mysteriously swing on its own. If the ring swings in an oval or circular motion that means you will have a girl. If it swings back and forth in a straight line, you will have a boy. Cut an apple in half and count the seeds to determine how many kids you will have. (An apple is so sufficient. You can also determine the letter that begins the first name of your husband by saying the ABCs and twisting the stem until it breaks off at a certain letter.) If your right eye twitches, there will soon be a birth in your family. Conceive on a full moon for a girl, and a quarter moon for a boy. If you carry the baby out front, you are having a girl. If the baby is mostly around your hips and bottom, it is a boy. If the baby rides high, it’s a girl. If it rides low, it’s a boy. Pay attention to those cravings. If you have an appetite for the cheesy or sweet, watch out for a little girl. Salty means a boy controls your taste buds. Acne problems? Are you moody? Get ready for a girl. If … Read More

How to Raise a Prayer Warrior


If you are a parent, one question is never far from your mind . . . “Am I doing this right?” I know. I’m there, too. When your baby is little, you fret about how you lay them down to sleep, when to say goodbye to the pacifier, and the best method to potty train. As they grow, you worry how quickly they can learn the alphabet or why they don’t pick up their toys. Questioning everything from discipline to rewards continues throughout grade school, the dreaded middle school years, high school and beyond. And that’s OK. It means you care. You want to equip your child to thrive long after you are gone, right? Of course! Well, here’s one tool you can offer your baby to last a life-time: prayer. Equipping your little one to be a prayer warrior is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. The ability to talk to God will give them guidance, comfort, power and so much more when they are no longer in arm’s reach. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Consider these tips to empower your child for a life of prayer. Talk it out. Engage in an ongoing conversation with your child about prayer. “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:19). It doesn’t have to be a long, involved lesson every time. Do whatever is appropriate for the age and situation. When they are small, you might talk about the reasons for bedtime prayers or prayer over meals. Share stories from the Bible about people who prayed and how God answered their prayers. Older kids can read and discuss Scriptures about prayer with you. Explain why we pray and when and where we pray as they grow in maturity. When they mention friends or others who might be struggling in life, chat about why it is important to pray for those who are hurting. During family Bible study discuss the different promises concerning prayer found in Scripture. And don’t forget to explore what Jesus said about prayer. Point it … Read More