Kids’ Craft: Thankfulness Tree

Kids’ Craft: Thankfulness Tree

My dear friend Candace wrote a great blog here about being patient and encouraging your kids in love, especially when doing crafts with your kids.

She challenged me to do fun things WITH my kids more often even if it means it might not turn out Pinterest-perfect.  That little lesson has been tugging at the back of my mind as we approach the holidays with my almost three year old. This is such a magical age of understanding and excitement. How could I not capitalize on this finite time of being little and awesome? Well, I was not really one to enjoy group projects growing up, if you know what I mean. I’m a bit of a control freak. Guys, it’s a struggle!

BUT, I’m letting go and picking my battles because God is gracious to my ridiculousness and teaches me His ways instead. Slowly but surely. HA!

So, I’ve picked some specific crafts this year to do with my daughter throughout the season to teach and play and hopefully start some family traditions. I honestly can’t wait to include the boys next year. It will be so much more messy.

My first attempt was a Thankfulness Tree. I had grand visions of a home decor-worthy tree to accent our living room with sweetness.

Ha!

I knew I was going to have to let go and let her love the craft without taking over immediately.  Laying out the paper and sketching the tree got…sketchy. PLUS the construction paper pack I bought didn’t have brown (WHAT?!) so I guess we have a Birch Thankfulness Tree.

Anyway, this really is a easy craft to do, whether you keep it up for the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, use it the week prior, or even fill it up on Thanksgiving day with the whole family!

Here is what I did, but you could do this in so many different ways!

I purchased a standard poster board from the craft store along with a big pack of construction paper in various colors. You will also need a pencil, glue stick, tape, and scissors. But THAT’S IT!

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First, I set out a few pieces of construction paper (in white, but if you are cooler than me, you can really play around with the colors) and taped them together in a general tree shape. Next, I sketched a tree and branches with a pencil (not too detailed) and cut it out.

I then let my daughter use the glue stick. Oh, my!

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It was actually fine.

See?

After realizing I have no skill at drawing leaf shapes, I googled leaf drawings and traced a few different varieties onto lots of different colors. TIP: Fold the paper into quarters and cut the leaf shape only once to get four. This size ended up being perfect.

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My girl even helped fold the paper and draw leaf shapes too.

We had a great time.

Finally, I found a silver paint marker and wrote Psalm 107:1 on the bottom: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.”

There are a TON of great thankfulness verses! I chose this one because it was short and simple enough for my daughter to memorize.

TADA!

I hung it on the wall at about her height (mistake because her twin baby brothers have tried to destroy it, but it has survived.)

Now every night, we say the verse together. Then we write something she is thankful for on a leaf and tape it to the tree.

I’ve had to let go of the tree aesthetic–I let her choose where to place the leaves–but she loves it and is very proud of our craft.

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It has been so fun to hear what she is thankful for each day. To date, the list includes:

Apple juice, pants, lions, trees, Dad, Mimi, noses, pillows, and cars.

I encourage you to do this or something similar with your kiddos while they are small! It was SO EASY ! Even though I made it even simpler than I may have initially planned, I loved including my daughter in our craft. I think in the best ways, it is definitely Pinterest-worthy!

TIP: My mom had the idea to laminate the tree/background part so that it lasts for a few years. Then you only have to re-do the leaves. My mom is a teacher. Also, full disclosure, she made some of my leaves and hers look legitimately awesome. She has the gift. 

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Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child

The Power of a Gift

Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is one of my favorite ministries. If you’ve never heard of it, I hope this becomes one you choose to support! They say it’s the “power of a simple gift” which opens the door to transforming lives, communities, and eventually nations. The third week of November is National Collection Week and most likely there is a drop off location near you. 

The folks at Operation Christmas Child make it so easy to be a part of overseas missions. Plus, it is a fun thing to do with your kids during the holiday season. In each box goes a few small gifts or needed items, but what comes out is eternal. Think of every box as a soul, a child with whom the gospel will be shared.  Even better, OCC provides discipleship through local churches for follow up. OCC supports these churches in a variety of ways so that they can best lead and impact their communities.

Building a box is easy. Please do one this year…or five. You can even build a box online, or track it so you know where it gets delivered!

Need some ideas for what to put in the box? Consider these items:

  • Toothbrush, hair brush, comb, or mirror compact
  • Soccer ball with pump
  • Stuffed animal
  • Small doll or action figure
  • Coloring book and crayons
  • Stickers
  • Play dough
  • Clothing
  • School supplies
  • Yo-yo or Frisbee

Please take a minute to watch this video or click on the picture below to learn more about this exciting ministry.

Operation Christmas Child

Have you packed a shoe box before? What did you enjoy about it? 

Faithfulness in the “Small” Things

Faithfulness in the “Small” Things

 

Faithfulness.

It’s one of those things we cherish in others, perhaps even require in our most meaningful earthly relationships.  The definitions of “faithful” according to Dictionary.com are as follows:

1. strict or thorough in the performance of duty:

a faithful worker.

2.true to one’s word, promises, vows, etc.

3.steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant:

faithful friends.

4.reliable, trusted, or believed.

5.adhering or true to fact, a standard, or an original; accurate:

a faithful account; a faithful copy.

6. full of faith; believing.

Faithfulness is a foundational component of love, commitment, and trust.  That is probably the reason we crave it from our friends, family, and loved ones. I believe we also need it because faithfulness is a key attribute of God and how He relates to us. God is love. God is faithful, and he keeps His promises. He is constant, He is to be trusted, He is thorough, and His word is true.

New Perspective on God’s Faithfulness

As an adult, I have reread the Old Testament with new perspective about how it is really telling us the story of Jesus and God’s plan to save a troubled and corrupted world.  When I was young, I always got “trust and obey” out of Old Testament stories. But as I grew up, the Lord showed me that His perfect faithfulness was demonstrated time and again.  Layers and layers of faithfulness. (Thanks to the Jesus Storybook Bible, I find it much easier to communicate some of this to my kiddos.)

What is a greater story of faithfulness than God’s commitment to all his promises to the Israelites?  The first chapter of Joshua comes to mind. After God told them to finally enter the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership, he tells them this:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  (Joshua 1:8-9 ESV)

Be Strong and Courageous

Not Always Obvious

I could go on and talk about all the proof in the New and Old Testaments of God’s unending faithfulness, including the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ, but it is more difficult to understand faithfulness in your own day-to-day life. God’s faithfulness is sometimes easiest seen in hindsight. It’s not something that always seems obvious when we are in the midst of something hard or terrible, or even joyous. But I assure you, He is Faithful. All. The. Time.  If we know Him, and we know His Word, we know He is with us wherever we go.

Faithfulness in Big and Small Ways

In my own life, this is sometimes how the Lord urges me to trust and obey in the hard things. He reminds me how He has been faithful in so many “small” and “big” ways.  One “small” way in which God has been faithful in my life is that He consistently provides someone to meet my needs on days I just feel weary. Whether it be a friend in a lonely place, ladies from church to help bring meals or offer extra helping hands when you have a newborn (or two), or the person at the grocery store who lets you go ahead of them because your kids are losing their minds, and even a husband who brings dinner home after a long day.

These are “small” examples, but nonetheless, it is powerful to know that He cares about the small things in my life as much as the big things. It helps me change my perspective. When I look back on the Lord’s faithfulness in my life, especially in tragedy or heartache, it overwhelms me. But his faithfulness exists even in times of joy. I can do nothing else but know the same will be true in the future.

God is Faithful because He Loves You

Finding His faithfulness in the “small” things each day makes it so much easier to find comfort when everything, or even just one thing, seems to be falling apart.  God is Faithful, All the Time.  He is faithful because He loves us; He loves us more than anyone in this world is capable of loving us. Meditate on that for a while. God loves you. He has a plan for our lives and He is faithful through it all. It may not always look the way we expect. It may take time and reflection, perhaps even years down the road, or perhaps we will never know the full extent of His faithfulness in our lives.

Regardless, know this truth: God is faithful.

My favorite verse is Romans 8:28  (NIV):

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his Note that it says-purpose.”

Please note that this verse doesn’t say all things are good in this life, but says that HE works things together for THE good OF those called according to HIS purpose.

He is sovereign; He is great. But He is love, and He is faithful to those who serve Him.  Do you know what is even better? He is faithful even when we fail. 

I implore you to seek God in all things, but especially during times of trial.  Trust in Him who is faithful. Even if we don’t understand His ways in the present, we can be assured that He loves us more than we can imagine.

John 16:33 (ESV) says:

 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

How have you seen God’s faithfulness in your life?

Splinters: Allowing God to Heal and Restore

Splinters: Allowing God to Heal and Restore

Last week my nearly three year old son had a splinter in the bottom of his foot. I told him to wear shoes outside on our wooden playset, but he chose to disobey and took them off before climbing the ladder. Lo and behold, he got a huge splinter. And it hurt him a lot.

My husband was working late that evening so it was just me versus the splinter. BIG SIGH.

I tried a few different tactics with my little boy trying to gain access to the bottom of his foot with my needle-nose tweezers, but he screamed and wiggled before I even touched him. I found myself contemplating sitting on him to keep him still. Seriously.

Finally, I grabbed him up in my arms and held him tight. I told him I needed him to relax and calm down and focus on the movie I turned on so I could help his foot feel so much better. He looked at me with tear-filled eyes and cried, “But mommy, no! I love the splinter.”

Suddenly, it struck me how similarly we act when we have a “splinter”–something harmful we hold on to when God is trying to make us new. But we can’t seem to let it go.

Whether it’s a particular sin we are struggling with, something we aren’t trusting the Lord with in our lives, a pain we are holding on to, or lack of obedience in our lives–how many times have you held on to your “splinter” and said you loved it instead of letting Christ heal your heart?

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Psalm 31:19 says:

How abundant are the good things
    that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
    on those who take refuge in you.

It also reminded me of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce when he describes the man with the Red Lizard.  I found a partial transcript in Christianity Today if you want to read a longer segment, but pick up the whole book if you haven’t already. In this story, a man has a lizard on his shoulder which represents sin in his life. It’s a startling allegory about what separates us from God.

A mighty angel approached the man and asked, “Would you like me to make the lizard quiet?”

“Of course I would,” said the Ghost.

“Then I will kill him,” said the Angel, taking a step forward.

“Oh—ah—look out! You’re burning me. Keep away!” said the Ghost, retreating.

“Don’t you want him killed?”

“You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.”

“It’s the only way,” said the Angel…. “Shall I kill it?”

“Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”

After much discussion and indecision, the man finally allows the Angel to kill the lizard. As the lizard dies, it transforms into a dazzling white stallion.

The man, now free from his torment, climbed upon the stallion that had been his sin and rode into the glowing sunrise toward the Savior.

That is available to all of us. We can be free from our torment. Free from the sin in our lives.

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Galatians 5:1 assures us, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” {sin}

Walking around life with “splinters” in our feet is slavery. What pain, what agony, what self-inflicted misery we can wallow in if we don’t seek the forgiveness, restoration, and loving healing of Jesus Christ.

Why is our old nature so hard to let go of sometimes? We think it will hurt, and it might a little…but life will be so much better afterward.

Do you have a “splinter” in your life that you need to surrender to God? Have you experienced the forgiveness and healing of Christ? Did you know that even though it seems incredibly hard to be refined by God through repentance and obedience and trust in the Lord, that He loves you and wants to see you restored, healed, and following Him?

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Romans 8:1-4

 

Ten Years Ago, We Fell in Love

Ten Years Ago, We Fell in Love

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Note: Our story is our story; marriages can be quite different and face unique challenges. We just hope to encourage those with what we’ve learned in our life.

Best Decision of My Life

On Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I will celebrate ten years of marriage. We were very nearly babies when we wed–I was twenty years old and he was twenty-one. We were very grown up, or so we thought.

Honestly though, despite being young, it was the best decision we ever made. I remember hearing people who had been married for twenty years say they were more in love than ever with their spouse. At the time, that concept made no sense to me. I couldn’t imagine being more in love with this guy.

We dated for three years, half of which was our engagement.  Despite my “plan” to have a career before I entered into a serious relationship, we fell in love pretty early on in our relationship. We attended a Christian liberal arts university and I was bound and determined not to be there for my “MRS.” However, God had other plans for my life.  We married before our senior year of college. After we graduated, we moved out of state so my husband could attend law school in his hometown.

We Fell In Love, Yet I Was Miserable

Year one was a breeze. I thought marriage was not hard.

Year two was the most stretching year of our relationship.

He was in law school, I was in a new town, surrounded by everyone who knew my husband and his family but not me, and I was working but incredibly lonely. What happened to college where all our friends had time to hang out every day and come over any time? How fair was it that I was being a “grown up” starting my career while he was still in school? Why was this town so small and why is there no decent retail? These were all things my twenty-two-year-old self was struggling with daily.  I was married to the love of my life. I worked in my degree field in a job that was a great fit. And yet, I was miserable.

I did not understand why the second year was so much harder. For goodness’ sake, we were in love! We had even gone through two premarital counseling sessions for “extra-good premarital preparedness training.” Because I thought that both of us being believers, doing extra premarital counselling, plus having successfully married parents, made us experts. Oh, and don’t you know, we knew each other incredibly well and had discussed everything under the sun.  (Cue eyeroll…remember, I was twenty-two).

Or did we?

Our new church family became the reason we have the marriage we do today. They challenged us in our own relationships with Christ in new and profound ways. We realized we both had a lot of spiritual growth to do. I realized that as amazing as my new husband seemed (and is), he is a human and will let me down somehow. He doesn’t mean to, but it happens. And I let him down, even though he has never told me as much, but I’m sure I have at some point.  We learned a lot of things about each other, but most importantly we learned how to live for Christ, to die to ourselves, and to grow in our faith more deeply than we had before.

It came down to this: the closer each of us grew in Christ independently, the better and deeper our relationship grew together.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

As it turns out, that’s also a progressive transformation.

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The Secret to a Great Marriage

Over the years, we’ve participated in some awesome and challenging marriage studies with small groups, such as Eggerich’s Love and Respect, John Piper’s Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and Saving your Marriage Before It Starts by Les and Leslie Parrott. Each one provided great tools and things to consider or work on in a new way, but it comes down to your own relationship with God. You will be a better spouse when you are working on your relationship with the Lord. It’s not magic. It all takes time and intentional investment, but that’s the secret.

Ten years and four kids later, I can now say that I’ve never been more in love with my husband. I understand him in a deeper way. He challenges me to be in the Word, and works tirelessly to “fill my love tank” daily (see The Five Love Languages).  He leads our family devotions each night and parents better than I do, and none of it has anything to do with me.  Yes, we both are very different people than we were ten years ago. Little by little, we’re becoming new people in Christ. If we were the same people we were ten years ago, I don’t know if our marriage would have lasted. (I hate to think that, but the selfishness in both of us was unsustainable.)

There are still occasional tough days, and we each still have a lot of work to do. But there are a lot of wonderful days. I can’t wait to see where we are in another ten years.

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