Posted in Faith

NEW BOOK – The Jesus Tree – 48 Family Devotions for Lent

The Jesus Tree - 48 Family Devotions for Lent

The newest book is ready… it’s identical to The Jesse Tree for Advent except this resource focuses on Lent and includes 48 family devotions!

This year Lent begins on March 1, so it’s a great time to grab the resources you’ll need to celebrate with your family 🙂

I have three versions – one is a small paperback book on Amazon, one is a downloadable pdf on Etsy, and one is an ebook on Kindle.

Let me introduce you to…

The Jesus Tree – 48 Family Devotions for Lent – Each devotion highlights a story of Jesus’ life, a scripture reference to read, a discussion idea and a prayer reading.

What is Lent?

Lent is a special time of year. It leads us right up to Easter and helps us focus on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Many people choose to give up something for Lent, to help them remember Jesus giving up his life for us on the cross. Others practice Lent by doing something kind for people every day. There are many ideas for making Lent a wonderful time with your family.

What is The Jesus Tree?

The Jesus Tree is one of those wonderful ideas I just mentioned! I’ve put together a set of 48 daily devotions for your family to use during this season of Lent. Included each day is a story from Jesus’ life, a scripture reading, a discussion question, and a prayer. These devotions can be made into ornaments to hang on a tree, or an Easter garland, or wherever you like! Your family will learn all about Jesus’ life – from birth to resurrection. Watch your family’s faith grow as The Jesus Tree grows!

How To Use The Jesus Tree Family Devotions

On the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesday), read the first story in The Jesus Tree book. Children can turn to the scripture passage in their Bible if they are old enough. Discuss the question(s) in the Talk About section and read the prayer with the children. Do this every day during the season of Lent, in numerical order, finishing up on Easter Monday.    

*You can also encourage the children to lead the Jesus Tree devotions with your family.*

The Jesus Tree - 48 Family Devotions for LentThe Jesus Tree – 48 Family Devotions for Lent – Each devotion highlights a story of Jesus’ life, a scripture reference to read, a discussion idea and a prayer reading.

Amazon     Etsy     Kindle

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Posted in Faith

Fun Advent Resource For Your Family

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It’s not too late to grab a fun Advent resource for your family!

Advent begins this Sunday – November 27th – so you have 3 more days to get a resource from The Jesse Tree Series for Advent 🙂

What Is Advent?

The word “Advent” means coming. The fourth Sunday before Christmas marks the beginning of Advent season. Advent is a time of waiting – for Christmas and for the coming of Jesus to our world. During Advent, we prepare our hearts and our homes to celebrate the birth of the Messiah.

What is a Jesse Tree?

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” – Isaiah 11:1

Jesse was the grandson of Ruth and Boaz. Jesse was the father of King David. The prophet Isaiah prophesied that a very special person would come from Jesse’s family. This person was Jesus Christ, the Messiah. The Jesse Tree traces Jesus’ lineage all the way back through the Old Testament. A collection of stories make up the Jesse Tree – stories of Jesus’ family and Israelite history. The Jesse Tree is a fun way to celebrate Advent with the children in your life.

How To Use The Jesse Tree

On the first Sunday of Advent, read the first story in The Jesse Tree – Creation. Depending which resource you are using and the age of the children, read the story/devotion, turn to the scripture passage, discuss the question in the Talk About section and read the prayer. Do this every day during the Advent season, in numerical order, finishing up on Christmas morning with the final story – Jesus Is Born!  *You can also encourage the children to turn to the scripture passage in their Bibles, or lead the Jesse Tree devotions with your family.*

publication3 The Jesse Tree – 28 Colouring Pages With Stories For Advent – Each page highlights a story of Jesus’ lineage or Israelite history & an illustration to colour.

Amazon     Etsy

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The Jesse Tree – 28 Family Devotions For Advent – Each devotion highlights a story of Jesus’ lineage or Israelite history, a scripture reference to read, a discussion idea and a prayer reading.

Amazon     Etsy

publication1The Jesse Tree – 28 Ornaments For Advent: Family Devotions & Images To Colour – Includes ready-to-read devotions and ready-to-colour illustrations. The devotions match up with the symbolic images. Attach the coloured images and/or devotions to construction paper, wood cut-outs, string, etc. & hang on a tree or garland. Laminate for a keepsake.

Amazon     Etsy

 

Posted in Faith, Motherhood

Discovering Hope Leads to Surprising Joy

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I wrote this post 2 days ago… then I got the most amazing news yesterday… something I need to share first, before anything else…

I can officially say the Medical Clinic in the village of Ascension in Dominican Republic is FULLY FUNDED.

Can I shout it from the rooftops please? Can I get an Amen? Maybe a hallejuah? A praise God?

THANK YOU for all your prayers and your generosity 🙂 I will continue to update you about the project. I know Go MAD is sending me some pictures of the work progression really soon. And I know they are so grateful. What a blessing it has been to watch this unfold the last few weeks. Much more to come….

Back to the blog post… it’s a good one too 🙂

It starts with a dream…

I had the most amazing dream. I was invited to a night out with my Joshua. We were at the event, people were singing a beautiful song, they were happy to be there. Then the guest speaker was being introduced. It was me. I was off in the background of the location, puttering around with something, but I was holding a stack of Discovering Hope books. I wasn’t going to take the microphone. They were waiting. Josh knew I was terrified. He went to the podium and started to explain why I wasn’t responding to the invitation to speak. Something in me decided it was time. Even though I didn’t know what to say, or what words would come out once I put the microphone to my mouth, or how they would sound – I took the stage. And started talking. And stumbled. And did my nervous laugh. And didn’t make any sense. And then talked some more. And eventually I got to the point, the reason for speaking, the message that was on my heart to share with you…

I have been surprised by joy.

As I have pursued the discovery of hope – set my sights on the good, my focus on what HAS come, my vision on what IS YET to be – I have also found joy.

It can only be God.

Where once I could only see the bad, I could only focus on what HAS NOT come, I could only envision what was LOST – now there is so much more.

There is life in place of death.

There is light in place of dark.

There is hope in place of despair.

There is joy in place of sorrow.

Joy is new for me when it comes to Caleb. I have discovered ways to hope, ways to celebrate, different perspectives, restoration, and renewal.

But I’m not sure there was ever joy.

Just like in my dream as I was surprised by the invitation to come forward and share with the audience.

Just as I was so unprepared for what was coming.

Just as I had to make a decision to put one foot in front of the other and see what would happen.

So it is with Caleb – I am surprised by what he shares with the people who meet him, I’m unprepared for the ways he touches this world, and I’m in awe of every step we take as we decide to grab hold of God’s plans for him.

My son surprises me, my God surprises me – I am so surprised by joy.

Now that is a message I can share any day.

Posted in Faith

Faith in the Family – A Good Time for Devotions?

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It may just feel like there’s never a good time to talk with your kids about God.

It may feel like a big, overwhelming task to take on.

You may think you don’t have the knowledge, insight, patience, or creativity to teach your children about the Creator of the Universe.

Guess what?

It doesn’t take that long, it’s not too hard, and you don’t have to be perfect.

A few minutes a day is a great place to start.

When they are very young, read a Bible board book to your child, and sing some old favourites like Jesus Loves Me. 

When your kids are a little older make a habit of sitting at the breakfast table with them and either reading a Bible story or asking them to read a story to you. Ask a simple question or two about the story, and let the conversation take on its own direction (unless it REALLY drifts!). If breakfast happens on the way to school or daycare, grab an audio Bible for kids and listen together in the car. Bedtime is also a great time for devotions at this age. When life is settling down for the day, hearts are quiet, and the atmosphere can be so cozy. Pray together about concerns your child may have, or items of praise from the day that is now done, or what may be coming the next day.

And when your children are preteens or teens, encourage them to grow in their own faith by reading a verse or passage from the Bible in the morning or at night. If they like to journal, encourage them to journal about the scripture they read that day – they could apply it to their lives or process how the Bible stories fit together into one big God Story. If they have a social media device, encourage them to get an app that provides them with a Bible verse every day – there are a few choices out there!

The Shema encourages us to “talk about [God’s commands] when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deuteronomy 6:7

Sometimes God conversations are structured into our daily lives – “when you lie down and when you get up.”, and sometimes they happen when you least expect them – “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road”. Just roll with it as best you can – God will use whatever words you can muster to work His purposes in your child’s life. Say a quick prayer before answering a question about faith. And remember to listen – children have amazing insight into the supernatural – they are not bound by social norms yet, or cultural or religious rules and regulations. I have learned so much by hearing my boys out over the years. They have said the most beautiful things about God, and given me glimpses into His mysterious ways. I have seen heaven through their eyes, and realized so much more about the amazing designs of God’s creations. What a blessing!

It really only takes a little effort and planning to start a new habit of learning about God every day with your child. Set aside time at the beginning of the day, or the end of the day, or both! Take a few minutes to read a Bible verse or story, and listen to what each other has to say about it. When your children are older, be sure to keep the habit going in your own life and encourage your growing child to instill the same ongoing habit in their lives. Modeling a behaviour is always the best way to leave a trail for someone to follow after you, especially your children.

And whenever a God conversation comes up, run into it instead of away from it. You don’t have to have all the answers, you just have to be willing to learn along with your child. Sometimes our best teachers are our children.

There’s no time like the present!

Posted in Faith

Becoming A Praying Family

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Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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

These verses holds many great truths – we don’t have to be anxious about our kids, we are invited to pray about everything, we can petition God, we can thank Him, and make requests to Him about anything.

When we connect with God in prayer, we are promised that peace will be ours.  Even if the answers we seek are years in coming, or life is truly overwhelming – we are free to have peace now. All it takes is a good chat with God. That same peace is available to our children now and as they grow up.

Prayer really is just talking to God. And it’s never too early to start talking to God. We can talk to Him about whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want, and however we want.

From peaceful thank yous to frustrated screaming and ranting – He wants it all. And He wants the same thing from our children. Their prayers are just as powerful as ours, and all are music to the ears of the One who loves us most.

It’s all about relationship, and it’s not much of a relationship if you’re not on speaking terms, or if you’re not honest and real with one another.

The best way to encourage the prayer life of our kids is to model it for them. What about praying at different times throughout the day – instead of only at meals or before bed? How about on the way to school, before play dates, as an ambulance races by, as you drive by the mission, when a beautiful rainbow appears, when you see an answer to prayer, when you hear someone is sick, or when your children share a problem with you. The trick is to remember to pray out loud, so they can hear the example you’re trying to give them.

The more I put this concept of continuous praying into action, the more it takes root in me. The benefits go beyond my children, to my own relationship with God.

It’s wonderful how that works. My kids help me grow in God as I help them grow in God. And slowly but surely we become a praying family.

Family Prayer

Lord, thank You that we can come and talk to You anywhere, anytime, about anything.  Thank You for listening, thank You for answering.  Help us to become a family that prays together.  Help us to leave all our worries with you.  Grant us Your peace that passes all understanding.  Help us to bring all our praises to You.  Grant us hearts full of thanksgiving.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Here’s a list of some of the wonderful prayer resources by Stormie O’Martian.  I’ve been using her books in my own family for years:

The Power Of A Praying Woman Book Of Prayers

The Power of A Praying Parent

The Power Of A Praying Wife Book Of Prayers

The Power Of A Praying Husband Book Of Prayers

Prayers And Promises For My Little Girl

Prayers And Promises For My Little Boy

What Happens When I Talk To God?: The Power Of Prayer For Boys And Girls

The Prayer That Makes God Smile

The Power of a Praying® Kid

The Power of A Praying Teen

*This post contains affiliate links

Posted in Faith

Faith in the Family – The Shema?

faith family

My Faith in the Family journey started many years ago. I would read Bible stories to my sons – mostly at bedtime, I would pray with them – mostly at mealtimes, and I would teach them about God – mostly when they asked me questions.

Things changed in 2008. My oldest son was now 6 and we had covered all the Bible stories, watched all the Veggie Tales videos, attended church regularly, and were plugged into a wonderful christian community. We were doing our best to do everything “right”. Then I came across the Shema – the words of scripture found in Deuteronomy 6:5-9.

Verse 5 says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” I knew almost instantly that I’d just been going through the “faith” motions with my sons. Did I really love the Lord with all my heart, soul and strength? And how was I living that out in front of my children? My Faith in the Family journey suddenly took a sharp turn.

I’m sure there are a few more sharp turns coming as I continue to answer the same question over and over in all areas of my life: What does it look like to love God with all my heart, soul and strength? What does it look like in my marriage, my parenting, my health, my finances, and my community?

The next few verses – Deuteronomy 6:6-9 create an image of families growing in faith together – reading and memorizing the Bible, teaching children about God, talking about faith anytime and anywhere, and living out that faith in our families and in our world. I’m sure prayer was a big part of this image.

I WANT this for my own family – doing all these wonderful things together. When I look back at the years spent raising my children, I want my fondest memories to include learning from the Bible and living for Christ.

It all starts with a bit of a tough question for you – I’ve had to honestly answer this question in my own life many times through the years of raising my children. Here goes…

How’s your faith doing?

The hard truth is that our children learn from our example. Don’t let that discourage you, instead let it encourage you to grow in your faith. This verse says we are to love God with ALL we are – that’s huge! Loving someone that intensely requires that you really know them. How can you get to know God?

  • By reading His Word – even one verse a day is better than nothing! Just watch how God blesses your efforts and how the Bible proves itself to be the “living and active” Word of God (Hebrews 4:12).
  • By spending time with Him – pray, listen, open up the lines of communication. He’s there just waiting to meet with you, and you can talk to Him about ANYTHING!
  • By getting to know His people – pray that God will direct you to the friends He has waiting just for you.

If you haven’t already started to set a solid foundation for your own faith, now is a great time to start. My hope is to encourage you and your family in living out faith in your family and in your world.

Over the next little while this Faith in the Family blog series will focus on the Shema and how to live that out through family devotions, scripture memorization and prayer in the family.

For now, shall we pray together before embarking on this journey together? This prayer comes from a friend of mine who is on her own Faith in the Family journey…

Praying the Shema for Your Family: Based on Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Let these commandments be on the hearts of our family. Impress them on our children. May we talk about them when we sit at home and when we are out in the world, when we lie down and when we get up. Teach us to tie them as symbols on our hands and bind them on our foreheads. Help us to write them on the doorframes of our houses and on our gates. Fill us with a desire to grow spiritually and impress Your word into the lives of our children. I give our family to You believing that Your plans for us are far beyond what I could ever hope for. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

And I have a few ideas to share with you along the way – practical ways to get started on Faith in the Family (if you haven’t started already or just need some help to get the ball rolling).

Preschool Ideas:

  1. Ask your child(ren) to draw a picture of your family. Share with them how Jesus is a part of your family, and that He loves everyone in your family. Then add Him to the drawing.
  2. Let your little one(s) make hearts to give to each family member and also make one for God. As you pass out the hearts, tell your family you love them and you love God!

Elementary-Age Ideas:

  1. Check in with your children about their faith. Ask them what they know about Jesus and if they have any questions about God or the Bible.
  2. Read through the Shema with your child(ren). Ask them for ideas about being a family of faith and what it means to them. Try out a couple of their ideas!

Teen Ideas:

  1. Prepare yourself to have an open discussion with your teen! Let them know you want to be a good role model for them in faith matters. Ask them how you’re doing so far and appreciate their honesty!
  2. Is your teen plugged into a good youth group? Get a feel for what they’re doing and learning in the group. How can you can get involved? Would your teen be open to this? Youth group is fun for both young and old!
Posted in Faith

So… You Want to Read Through the Bible?

I’ve been working on a little something…

It’s shaping up to look like another book…

I thought I’d share a glimpse of that with you this morning…

From June 2012 to May 2013 I went on a journey.  This journey didn’t take me very far in a physical sense, but I sure met some amazing people and witnessed some mind-blowing miracles!  This journey took me through the Word of God. The Bible.

This is the rough draft of the Introduction to the book – I submitted the manuscript to a Canadian Publishing contest, and we’ll see what happens with that. If not, the hope is to self-publish the book in the fall.

But first, here is the Bible Reading Plan for June – December 2014.  Join in on the journey whenever you can!

Bible Reading Plan 2014 June-Dec

Introduction

I’ve never been very good at following through with things just because someone tells me to do them. Usually there has to be a reason for me, I have to understand why and make it real. Same thing held true for reading through the Bible.

Here’s what I came up with:

  1. It is “a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105)
  2. It helps “that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11)
  3. The more I know scripture, the more I know Jesus.  He is the living and active (Hebrews 4:12) Word of God. He is the Bible made into human form. It’s pure magic.

And because I love a good challenge, I wanted to do the reading in a year, just like all these other people were doing.  The trick was to find a plan that worked for the vision I had for our family life. I really wanted one that matched up with special holy days on the calendar – like Lent, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost, and Advent.

Not too much to ask, right? Yes, it was. I tried for years to find a Bible reading plan that fit for me. I cut and pasted plans from others, but nothing seemed right. I could never make it through the whole Bible, and definitely not in one year.

Until… I decided to craft my own plan. This was no small feat, and the plan needs to be changed up slightly every year in the winter/spring months so that it lines up with Lent. But I’m definitely on to something good here, and I want to keep it going.

Journaling through the readings was key for me, simply because I am a writer who needs to put words on paper (or some sort of screen) in order for life to make sense. Again, same thing held true for reading through the Bible.

So here we are… two years later… and I DID IT! I read through the Bible from June 1, 2012 to May 31, 2013! Sharing the readings and daily thoughts on a blog and on our church’s Facebook page truly helped me gain the accountability I needed to see the journey through to completion.

And that’s why this book has come into existence. To help others as they journey through reading the Bible. To come alongside and share the load and be accountable and… quite simply, to learn more about God together.  That’s really the whole point. To know God more. And in the knowing, I think we will come to love him more too.

I invite you to join in – no matter if life is crazy and busy and overwhelming – just grab the Bible Reading Plan for the current year and read as much as you can today – as long as you’re reading, that’s amazing!  And if you miss a day, or a week, or a month(!), just see where we are on the plan and jump back in!  You are always welcome to join us!

Well, what do you say? Shall we take a few steps together on this journey and see how it goes?

Grab the plan for this year and let’s go!

I have a little advice before we begin… If you miss a day, go on to the next day’s reading.  If you miss a week, jump to the next week’s readings. If it takes you five years instead of one, that’s OK too.  The whole point is to get an idea of what’s in the Bible, and where, and to soak in as much as we can of the WHOLE of God’s story.  We’re just getting to know God and His people a little better every time we open the Good Book.

A couple of notes about the Bible Reading Plan before we get started…

  • No matter what year you pick up this book and start the journey of reading the Bible, the Bible Reading Plan for June to December will be the SAME every year. The goal is to read through most of the Old Testament before the Advent season (which starts pretty much the same time every year – give or take a couple of days).
  • The Bible Reading Plan for January to May will be DIFFERENT every year (because the Lent season changes up so drastically from year to year).  Find plans for 2015-2020 in this book, and visit http://readingthroughthebibleinayear.wordpress.com for plans in future years. The goal is to read through the gospels during Lent and then keep going to read about the New Testament church.
  • Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs are intertwined through the winter/spring readings, as those books stand alone in the Bible and are not part of the chronology.
  • Also, I’ve slotted 1 & 2 Chronicles in during Advent season, because that is a good summary of Old Testament events – from creation to the fall of Jerusalem.
  • Simply follow the current year’s plan and match it up with the journal entry for that day’s reading.
Posted in Faith

Ash Wednesday

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We write something on a piece of paper on the morning of Ash Wednesday.

Something specific we want to work on during Lent, something we want God to work on in our lives.

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I’ve written down things like FEAR and WORRY in the past.

Though I still struggle with these in my life, they are loosening their grip on me as I grab on tight to God’s hand in the struggles.

I know my word for this year, but I’ll keep it a secret for now…

Then we burn the paper…

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and make a cross with the ashes…

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and watch the “something” turn to dust in light of the cross.

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In previous years we’ve drawn crosses on our foreheads, but this year we painted with ashes, and Josh made a beautiful picture out of what was once our secret “something”s.

God knows us, He knows our struggles, He made us from ashes and one day we will return to ashes.

He came to us, to take our “something”s and turn them to dust with His grace.

And at Lent we especially remember this.

Posted in Faith, Motherhood

We Prayed for Joy… We Got Joy!

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Driving to school that first day of the 2013-2014 academic year, we prayed for this new season of learning.

This is a regular in our family – praying in the car just before the boys are dropped off outside the school. We give God the day, we ask for fun and laughter for the kids, energy and patience for the teachers, love and encouragement all around.

Needless to say, some days go a lot better than others.

This time around, on that first day of school last Wednesday, Josh threw something new into the mix.

A unique request that I’ve never heard before in all our morning prayer times.

He asked for Joy.

He talked to God about the possibilities for us to find the joy in the year ahead.

We arrived at the school and unloaded boys and backpacks.

Josiah ran ahead in his usual style of anticipation and excitement (he’s a seize the day kind of guy), and we sauntered into the schoolyard with Elijah.

Josiah fends for himself as much as possible these days – he’s an independent, responsible, organized young man of 12 years of age. I love watching him go.

We found Elijah’s friends and chatted with the teachers who were locating their students, and we met Elijah’s teacher for this year.

Her name?

Joy.

We found Joy.

On that first day, before classes even started, we found Joy.

Elijah loves this story, he wants me to tell it to the world.

How we asked for Joy, and God provided it right away as only He can.

I love to watch Him go too.

Have a fantastic school year boys – learn from the hard days, enjoy the good days to the fullest, and I’ll be there to watch as you both grow up a little more over the next 10 months.

Posted in Faith

Prophecies of Jesus Activity Leading Up To Ascension Day 2012

Ascension Day 2012 is Thursday, May 17th.

I woke up early this morning, remembering this activity about the Prophecies of Jesus.  We tried it last year, and it worked pretty well, considering we were crazy-busy with mission trip planning and experiencing!

The activity goes a little something like this….

The odds of one person fulfilling all the Biblical prophecies of the Messiah is one in 10 to the power of 157!

We cut out a ton of prophecies from this chart (there is a print button on the top right side of the page that makes this easy to print and cut out the prophecies).

We placed the prophecies in a crystal bowl (la-dee-da!) and picked one every weekday (well, not quite every weekday last year!) to look up and read aloud together.

We taped a couple of zeros every day from this paper…

…to a poster on the wall.  I realized near the end of the activity that this page only has half the zeros required (!) so keep in mind that you need double this amount of zeros.

It was really interesting to watch the zeros pile up, and try to comprehend with the boys just how impossible it is for someone to live up to every single Biblical prophecy about the Messiah – that is, impossible unless that person IS the Messiah!

This year I’ll print out a page of zeros for each son – if we tape 3 per weekday, per son, to the wall, then 1 per day during May 13 – 17, that should do it (?) – we’ll see if my math is right as get closer to the end!

Enjoy your day!