Why Vacation Bible School Matters

vbs

I’m just coming off a very fun and exhausting week of Vacation Bible School with my church. Every summer Anya looks forward to attending VBS and has become one of the highlights of her summer and I’m grateful for her excitement. I volunteer each year, but this year I stretched myself and taught the 2-3 year olds. Wow! Now that was an experience! The kids are adorable, but they are 2 and 3 years old and their attention span is …well that of a 2-3 year old! Although at times difficult it was  rewarding and I have a new appreciation for what our teachers at church do for our children.

Here’s the thing… VBS is a long week and it is fun, but it is hard too! Most people work so they coming straight from work to church from around 5:45 until 9:00 at night it is a long day. Our church offers dinner and snacks and everyone appreciates their thoughtfulness and the people who are in the kitchen on a 96 degree day! Then we celebrate with a party for the kids on Saturday. It is a full week! But, VBS is  worth it because it is a consecutive period of time where brothers, sisters and children of the church serve together.

VBS is more than fun games, it is a week of unique fellowship with one another.  At the end of this past week I left with a deep sense of gratitude for how our church serves us and how every member makes a difference. I was thankful that my church invited everyone in member or not and treated them with love and respect. Not to mention how it gives our kids the opportunity  to learn valuable biblical lessons, they have wholesome fun, develop closer relationships to their peers and they witness you serving your church family. VBS is the kind of work that is fruitful.

Then there are the memories… If you’ve attended a VBS you know that the memories you create are going to last way past that week. Isn’t that what we are trying to do for our kids, create memories? Warm memories that will remind them later when they may be tempted not to attend church of how fun it was, how people cared about them and how every summer VBS was a highlight. Don’t underestimate the power of these memories they are so meaningful to your children and are planting the seeds.

So with all that said… I encourage you to attend VBS! Volunteer, serve, step outside your comfort zone and when you are exhausted after a long night try to remember that this exhaustion is a good type because it is for serving the Lord! I hope if you went to VBS you had a wonderful time and it becomes a highlight of your summer!

Leaving a Spiritual Legacy for Your Kids -Create Sermon Journals

A few years ago I wrote an article for Just Between Us Magazine entitled, “The Legacy That Matters Most.” I wrote about the spiritual legacy my grandma left me and how it has inspired me to be intentional about the leaving one for my daughter. I’ll be writing more in-depth about how I think you can do this in the future, but today I want to share one simple way. When you go to church, if you’re like me I write notes about the sermon. I have a journal and I’ll write the name of the sermon, the date and my notes. It is amazing how these journals start to increase as each year passes and I’m always blessed when I read back over them. So I’m building a library of sorts for Anya of ‘Sermon Notes’ that I’ll eventually give to her. I think this is a wonderful way to pass down a blessing to your loved ones and all it requires is  going to church and taking notes to enrich your spiritual life as well!

Just a couple of my Sermon Note Journals

Just a couple of my Sermon Note Journals

6 Ways to Nurture and Encourage Our Children’s Spiritual Gifts

God’s purpose for us is so precious, don’t you think? Have you ever known someone who is 100% on the path of God’s will for their life? Their joy is remarkable! Why? When we choose to be submissive and obedient to God’s will for our life we contribute to the body of Christ and that eternal significance has an impact on us. Each of us is made in his workmanship and created to do works that he prepared for us. When we start these works in life depends on how obedient we are to God’s will for us.

I already see so many of Anya’s spiritual gifts and how she has the potential to do great works  for the kingdom and it is my job to nurture those gifts. The nurturing process of our spiritual gifts begins very young. The enemy is always on the prowl trying to hold us back from God’s plans and all too often he delays us by his many schemes. Think about if  as parents and as a community we were intentional about revealing, nurturing and encouraging these gifts in our children. I’m not just speaking about our own children, but other children we encounter.

How do we recognize and nurture these gifts in our children?

  1. Be Present and Aware: We can’t see our children’s spiritual gifts if our nose is stuck in the phone or on Facebook. We should intentionally and deliberately be watching and observing where their gifts lie. What do they enjoy doing? Where do they shine when serving? When we are present and in the moment with them we learn who they are and what abilities and gifts they have to share.
  2. Talk to the Them About Being Made in God’s Workmanship:Unfortunately, many people view their worth as something earned instead of something that IS. Instilling in our children that they’re made in the image of God and that they are carefully woven together to do his works is invaluable to their self-esteem and confidence. When children know that their worth is from God and that they have a high calling at an early age we start closing those doors the enemy wants to slip in. I can’t stress how important it is to remind our children of their unique purpose in God’s plan.
  3. Provide Opportunities: Scripture tells us we should take advantage of every opportunity. When we are aware of our children’s gifts we should seek opportunities for them that will encourage and allow them to experience their gifts. For example, my daughter enjoys teaching younger children, so some gracious bible study teachers at church have allowed her to assist them in class with the 4 and 5 year olds.  These women are providing her an opportunity to use her gift. Opportunities are avenues for our children to explore and utilize their gifts, which gets them excited!
  4. Encourage Them with Words: Our words to our children are incredibly powerful and we have to use them responsibly. Make it a point every day to encourage your children. Slip them little notes in their lunchboxes, pray over them and however you can find a way to encourage that resonates with them, do it! Encourage other kids as well! When you see a gift in your friend’s child do what you can to uplift them as well.
  5. Seek out Mentors: Our children more than ever are in need of mentors. Seek out mentors who have similar spiritual gifts as your children to guide them, pray for them, and encourage them along the way. Those sweet teachers at our church are becoming mentors to my daughter and that influence is invaluable. Be a mentor yourself! Seek out children who you can mentor and serve in a way that will motivate them to do God’s will for their lives.
  6. Be an Example: Are you taking advantage of your gifts? How do you serve? Are you living on purpose? Being an example to our children is crucial. Let them see the joy that comes from using their spiritual gifts through your example. Never devalue your own gifts, whatever they are, they are instrumental in the work of Christ and are valuable. Let your children see you not just talking, but walking the walk.

Never underestimate your children’s spiritual gifts and what they can evolve into when they are nurtured and encouraged. Start young and build them up! Reach out to other children and serve as the body of Christ to God’s most precious gift to us.

A few years ago Anya wanted to raise some money for a charity in Uganda. I loved see her servant heart at work.

A few years ago Anya wanted to raise some money for a charity in Uganda. I loved seeing her servant heart at work.

Keeping Our Kids in Church After They Leave the Nest: 4 Ways to Build A Connection

Vacation bible study last year

Vacation bible study last year

Ephesians 4:16

From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

I was reading some statistics awhile back about how once children leave their parent’s house many of them also leave behind church, which is unfortunate since we know that once they’re out there in the world they really need to rely on that spiritual foundation and  fellowship that comes with attending church. Right now, Anya is 9 and she loves church, but will it be the same when she is 16 or 18? I hope so, but I’m not naieve to the reality that kids change and outside social factors can be a big influence on our kids once mom isn’t waking them up on Sunday morning. So what do we do?

I think we need to make church more than an obligation on Sundays. Our kids need to feel intimately connected with church if we expect them to continue going without our prompting.  Church is a blessing because it is there we can learn about scripture, fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ and  serve as the body of Christ. These three things are key to connecting to the church. Here are some ideas on how to get your kids connected to the church:

1)  Take them to church joyfully!-Okay this seems like a no brainer, but think about what your attitude about going to church says to you kids. Are Sunday mornings a mad rush with everyone screaming and hurried? Or do you plan for Sunday and look forward to church? When you’re attitude is one of care and joy about  attending church, you’re teaching them to prepare their hearts and minds for a special day. You’re creating good memories associated with church that will last beyond the 18 years you have them at home.

2) Find ways for them to serve the church– Our church will sometimes ask for help cleaning previously, I’ve volunteered and took Anya with me to help clean the pews. This was a great experience for both of us. She’s also helped me decorate for the Teacher’s Appreciation Dinner.  Teaching our kids to take care of the place they worship shows respect and love through their service. In serving the church they serve the body of Christ and it becomes more clear to them on how they are connected and the importance of working together as members of the church.

3) Get involved in church- Youth programs in church are such a blessing and is one of the easiest ways your children can connect with the church, fellowship and make friends. Look into the youth programs at your church and if there isn’t one talk to your pastor and other members of the congregation who have kids to get one started. For example, my church has a bible bowl, a vacation bible study and kids classes on Wednesday and Sunday all of which really promote not only bonds but a love for church.

4) Develop and nurture mentoring in kids at church- Encourage your kids to mentor other children in church and keep an eye open for older kids that can be a mentor to your kids. Anya has been helping the 2-3 year old’s teacher in her Wednesday bible study class and I can tell she really feels like she’s participating and has a responsibility to be a role model to the younger kids. Building these strong bonds encourage them to seek that later in life.

Church is personal and I’m not saying if your child decides not to go to church when they are older that they don’t love God. But, being part of a community and the body of Christ is a blessing that I want my daughter to experience even if she’s miles away. It is that community that can support her, give her godly advice, and a place to be when home is far away. When kids view church as more than a building or an obligation they develop a deeper and more meaningful understanding of how church is a home to them and hopefully they continue to go because the desire to go resides in their heart.

Family Scripture Memorization Tip

I’m obsessed with chalkboards and there are so many ways you can use them. One way to use a chalkboard is for scripture memorization for you and the kids.We have a small chalkboard hanging in our entrance, so each week I’ll write a scripture on the board and we’ll memorize it. This is a good location for us because we’ll see it in the morning which is great because we’ll start our day out with scripture. If you have a chalkboard put it someplace central in your house and try this little tip!

Our Proverbs Scripture for this week

Our Proverbs Scripture for this week

Passing Down a Cloud of Witnesses to Our Children. Never Underestimate a Spiritual Legacy!

This simply makes me happy! Whenever I’m having a bad day I’m going to visualize this picture in my mind.

This was before bedtime. Anya had her bible, her journal and my grandmother’s bible out as she wrote and studied Genesis. She said keeping my grandma’s bible open made her feel closer to her and encourages her to study the bible. The bond Anya still has with my grandma who passed away when she was almost 2 is incredible and is from God. Again, my Eva is close to us always passing on her legacy.

It is such a gift to pass down the spiritual legacies to our children left to us from our grandparents, parents, friends, and from mentors in the church. Our kids need that rich history of people to motivate them on their on spiritual journey. The bible speaks of the cloud of witnesses, I believe each of us have our witnesses that we can teach our children about on a daily basis. By taking what we learn from those who nurtured and encouraged our own spiritual  walk and passing it down to our children we can keep a legacy of faith going.

That adage it takes a village to raise a child is true on so many fronts, especially in the spiritual realm. If you are a Christian then it is your responsibility to teach your children about Christ, help them learn his word, and surround them with those who are spiritually encouraging and nurturing. Building a spiritual foundation for our children is not a one person job, so gather your workers and start this amazing journey for your child and for the body of Christ.

Are You Still Holding Onto Your Scales that Blind You? Or Like Paul Do You Act at Once?

I’m starting a bible study on Ephesians that I hope to post on here soon. As I was writing notes on the first chapter I began thinking about Paul. Paul was quite an interesting guy with an even more interesting past. Paul’s past wasn’t anything that he would’ve been particularly proud of as a Christian.  He was a well educated zealot who was a Pharisee and he persecuted Christians. Yes, Paul who wrote 13 Books in the New Testament wasn’t a fan of Jesus! So much so that in Acts 9 Saul (his original name) went to the High Priest and asked him for a letter to take to Damascus to throw men and women in jail who followed the Way, meaning the way of Jesus. Paul was intentional about his persecution, but God had other plans for him.

On his way to Damascus a light from heaven flashed around him and he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” It was Jesus. Can you imagine what he must have been feeling when Jesus answered him and instructed him to walk into the city and later he would be told what to do. Then he was struck blind! Walking in darkness and having to be led by the men around him must have been terrifying. It is interesting that God struck him blind. Saul had already been living in spiritual darkness. He was living in the world and in total disobedience to the Lord. He was blind to Jesus and the gospel and instead he relied on his intellect and the rational of the Pharisees to guide his life. Saul lived in a dark space void of the light of Jesus and was bent on making others live in darkness by trying to make them conform to his beliefs. Finally, Jesus struck him physically blind. It is also important to note that for three days he didn’t eat or drink anything. I’m not sure if this was due to shock, or if in a sense it was a Fast, needed so that he could meditate on this life altering experience he was having with God. Every distraction was taken away from him so his focus was directed toward the Lord.

Before we come to Christ we too are like Saul. We may not be out there dragging men and women into jail for following Christ, but we are living a life that is in direct contrast to the Lord. We are in the world without the light of Jesus. We are blind to his mercy, grace, and promise of eternal life. We’re ignorant of his sacrifice and don’ understand the glory of his inheritance for us. We can’t see anything but what the world has to offer which is why contentment eludes us because it depends on the external when we aren’t living in Christ. Sometimes God has to strike us blind so that we too like Saul can see clearly.

The Lord sends his disciple Ananias to Saul and although he is afraid because of Saul’s history with the disciples the Lord says to him, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” The man who persecuted the Way was who the Lord chose as his instrument! When I read this I am reminded that God is in absolute control over our lives and that regardless of what we do he can use us for his PURPOSE! I don’t care how awful your past is, you can be a prostitute, drug addict thief or worse but if God wants to use you for his glory that is what he is going to do and there is not a thing you can do about it! Also, he is a God of chances. He loves us and wants us to be in his flock, isn’t that obvious? Think of everything he continues to do for us and we deserve none of it!

I think Paul never forgets that he is CHOSEN. If you read through the books he wrote, he always mentions, that he is an Apostle by the will of God. Look at Romans,  Corinthians1&2 , Ephesians, Colossians, Timothy 1&2,  and Galatians all of them begin with Paul acknowledging that it wasn’t by his will or his own intentions that he became a disciple of Christ. Matter of fact in Galatians he wrote that Jesus rose him from and dead and in 1Timothy he was commanded by Jesus. Saul was rose from the dead. Jesus unleashed him from his bondage in sin and his trespasses when the scales fell off his eyes and he was baptized.

After Paul was baptized, scripture says he at once began to preach in the synagogues. He didn’t wait around he immediately started doing the will of God and the work he was predestined to do. He was the Lord’s instrument and there was no delay. I believe when Paul was baptized he saw the light. He saw the light of Jesus and it changed him forever. He spoke boldly in the name of the Lord because he knew that he was set aside, chosen and commanded to do the Lord’s work and he immediately seized that opportunity.

When we were first came out of the waters of baptism the scales we had on our eyes fell off. Suddenly all of the darkness we lived in was gone. We were in the world but, we knew we weren’t of the world. We were transformed and made a new creation, just as Paul was. Spiritually we know that God had chosen us, set us aside before creation and predestined us to do his will. We still sin because we’re human, but now with the deposit of the Holy Spirit we have an internal guide always nudging us we want to do what is right and holy. We don’t have to live in darkness any longer, Jesus rescued us and we are part of something much bigger than this world, but we have to believe that ourselves. I think the question that each of us have to ask  is, “Are we taking the opportunity to do God’s will, are we immediately saying yes to Jesus and are we making the most out of our time here?” Now that the scales are dropped are we walking voluntarily in blindness or are we like Paul and at once we are at work for the kingdom of God?”

I think God used Paul as an example to encourage us that he can change hearts and he can alter lives. He is in control and can use you for his glory and to build up the body of Christ. He can yank us from deepest darkness and bathe us in his love. God can do anything! Nothing is impossible, if you are still holding on to those scales let them fall. Let God use you and say yes to his will! Follow in the footsteps of Paul speak boldly and act boldly in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior!

Anya’s World…What a Beautiful World It Is!

I love sharing with Anya’s permission some of what she writes in her Faith Journal. This entry was from last week . We were praying before bedtime and after she asked me if she could get her journal. Although it was bedtime I said sure, because well how could I say no? Right? Here is what she wrote:

 
I’m always humbled by her sweet little spirit.

10 Reasons Why Bringing Our Kids to Church Matters

Anya Enjoying Vacation Bible School


1. Learn About God. I want to be clear that I believe parents should introduce God into their children’s lives. Our homes are the domestic church. However, church is the other side of the connecting bridge that gives them the resources they need to learn about God’s word. Church is where our kids can age appropriately start diving deeper into the scriptures and stories of the bible that will give them the wisdom they need to navigate in a culture that provides temptation around every corner.

2. Creates a Spiritual Foundation. We have a responsibility to give our children a spiritual foundation and the church helps to build that foundation in conjunction with what we instill at home. When we bring our children to church on Sundays, for bible study, for youth group, VBS we are building up their foundation rock by rock and fostering a love for God.

3. Fellowship with Peers. Church is a wonderful place for our children to meet friends whose families share the same belief and similar values. It is spiritually healthy for our kids to be around other children who display a love and excitement for God. They can encourage one another in their spiritual walk which is a blessing in a world where we are getting further and further away from God. This is their time to praise and worship with kids their age who want to glorify God. In a culture where kids are face an enormous amount of temptation, having friends they can talk to that have the same belief system is going to help them make wiser decisions and not to feel bad about them!

4. Role Models and Mentors. In today kids are starving for good role models. Now, I’m not saying that everyone in the church is perfect, none of us are we are all sinners right! Let’s give them other role models that aren’t on television getting famous for bad behavior. But, in church our children can find godly examples of how men and women who love God behave. Many of our brothers around sisters in Christ can become wonderful mentors for our children. Sure our kids love us and hopefully they will comfortable to come to us with any issue, but we always want them to have another adult that can provide sound guidance for them and that they can count on.

5. Church is a Safe Haven. In a world that is so opposed to God, our children are spiritually challenged every day and need an earthly refuge.Yes, our home is a safe haven, but giving our children a place to go to worship, be loved  and to participate in a community of believers is a gift. At church they can let their guard down and feel supported and loved by the body of Christ.

6.  Develops a Life Long Discipline. Church shouldn’t be something we legalistically do every Sunday, if we make it just a routine our kids will pick that up and to them church will have very little meaning except an early wake up call on Sunday. This is a discipline we should do with joy and sincere love and our attitude will make all the difference. When we take our children to church every Sunday and we show enthusiasm, and prepare the night before, and not make it a chore but a privilege and something to look forward to our children will most likely continue to go to church long after they leave our nest.

7. Church is Inspiring. Nothing compares to going to church on Sunday morning and hearing a beautiful sermon. When our children go to Sunday school or bible study they are reading and learning about godly men and women who were faithful and they are hearing a testimony that they can apply to their own lives. They can be inspired of how God can work in their life which builds up their faith!

8. Spiritual Formation. We were babes  craving milk, just as our children are starting out on their journey into their own spiritual maturation. The more we take them to hear the word the more they internalize it and begin to develop their own spiritual formation. When they are surrounded by followers of Christ they are observing and learning. Even if sometimes it may not seem like it when they are swarming in their seat. Kids are sponges so remember they are soaking it in even when we don’t think they are.

9. Helps to Develop Their Spiritual Potential. I am amazed at the spiritual potential in our children. Anya leaves me in awe at the things she will say or do that just shows her incredible spiritual potential to do God’s work. I have no doubt that attending church has contributed to this blessing. It is never to early to develop your child’s spiritual potential and I believe the church can help us do this. Even if your kid is 2 bring them. My friend’s son who is 3 gave his brother who was ill a “helmet of protection,” he made at church so he could feel better. Don’t tell me God’s word doesn’t seep into the hearts of our little ones!!!

10. Families Need the Church. Mommas we need to be worshipping God together with our children. We need to show our children not only through words but through actions that we are serious in our walk with the Lord and our faith. Going to church as a family is a bonding experience that brings us closer together. When we fellowship with our children we are strengthening our relationship with them through Christ. Not to mention that we are developing meaningful traditions that can be passed on through generations that can nurture and create spiritually strong and stable families.

Learning Scriptures On A Napkin Holder! A Fun Way for Kids to Learn Memory Verses!

I’m always trying to discover creative and fun ways to teach Anya scriptures. Today after a balmy Labor Day, we made a quick trip to Target to pick up a few last minute items for the first day of school on Thursday. I love a sale and I came across this cute little wooden napkin holder with a blackboard on each side for $4.98. Now, I rarely use napking holders but all of a sudden a light bulb went off!

So I purchased this little ditty and decided to put a scripture on each side in chalk. I’m going to write two memory verses for the week and the plan is to memorize it, talk about, and learn it and what greater time than when spending time around the dining room table! So if you are near a Target you may want to pick one up and try this too! Take a look!