Picture books- our favorites!

Recently I asked Kendra of Preschoolers and Peace if she would be willing to give some good read-aloud suggestions. She kindly responded with a great list for girls (click here) and another list of her picks for boys (click here). Also, Amy over at Amy's Humble Musings posted an entry on read-alouds, too. (Click here.)

Amy and I were talking last week about how we didn't really have much to offer in the way of read-alouds (as we're just entering this stage with our children), but we DO each have a list of picture books we've enjoyed reading with our children. So... here's my list:

Mr. Putter & Tabby books- Cynthia Rylant

If you have not yet discovered these books, you've got to check them out! You'll meet an elderly man named Mr. Putter and his cat Tabby, and Mr. Putter's neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, and her dog Zeke. Mr. Putter and Tabby go on all sorts of adventures together and usually their neighbors join in on the fun! The illustrations are excellent. There are more words per page than most picture books, but pictures accompany each page and they aren't too wordy to hold my 2-year olds attention! Our favorites are Mr. Putter and Tabby Paint the Porch, Mr. Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog, Mr. Putter and Tabby Fly the Plane, and Mr. Putter and Tabby Make a Wish.

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart (illustrated by her husband, David Small)

Here's the description from the School Library Journal: "Through her letters to her farm family, Lydia Grace tells how she brightens her uncle's dreary bakery and his disposition with a little dirt and a suitcase full of seeds."

The illustrations in this book are outstanding. The first time we checked this one out at the library I spent a good deal of time poring over the illustrations on my very own (after my children went to bed!) You'll love it!

If You Were My Bunny by Kate McMullen, illustrated by David M. McPhail

This is a good nighttime lullaby book. It begins with the story of a mama bunny putting her baby bunny to bed, then a mama bear, a mama cat, a mama duckling, a mama dog, and finally, a mama putting her child to sleep. My favorite part about this book is that you can sing all the lullabies in the book. For instance, the bunny lullaby is sung to the tune of "Hush, Little Baby". The final page has the mama pulling up the covers, giving her child a great big hug, and a great big kiss ,and saying "I love you!" My children love this book- especially the singing part! :)

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

We recently discovered this book at the library and it has become a fast favorite! This is the story of Mr. McGreely, who plants his first garden and tries to protect it from a trio of smart rabbits (he first builds a fence, then a tall wooden wall, then a deep trench,... and more!) It has a great refrain as you find that the rabbits consistently outsmart Mr. McGreely: "And the sun went down. And the moon came up. And-- Tippy, Tippy, Tippy, Pat! Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!" (Envision those bunnies eating away happily!)

And here are some of our other favorites: (*before making this list, I consulted with my husband and four-year old daughter).

Gossie & Gertie books by Olivier Dunrea
Maisy books by Lucy Cousins
Honkers by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Leslie A. Baker
If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo by Mary Jean Hendrick, illustrated by Jane Dyer
To Market, To Market by Anne Miranda, illustrated by Janet Stevens
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Corduroy by Don Freeman
Dr. Seuss books
Richard Scarry books

So. That's our list. Please leave a comment and tell some of your favorites! I'd love to hear them!

My job

I love being a wife and a mother. I find such delight in these roles, and in these being my “only” roles (true, I wear other hats at times, but primarily, this is it!)

Yesterday I was at a church prayer meeting and two other women were talking about how crazy their weeks had been, how they had been running around all over the place and how busy/tired/stressed they were. They turned to me and asked how I was doing, and I just shrugged and said cheerfully, “Well, we haven’t been running around at all this week. Not busy; just hanging out at home every day!” One of the women chuckled at that, and commented, “Right. You’re not busy. A mother of three little children.” She was giving me credit for this job of mine.

I don’t need credit. I get it every day, many times a day.

For instance, yesterday: Ella and Isaac were arguing over 3 small photo albums they both wanted to look at. I asked them to come to me and reminded them that God wants us to be peacemakers, and how do they think they could best do that right now? There was silence. The argument had stopped, but no solutions were coming to their little minds. So I gave them one: I asked my 2-year old son (who was clutching to all 3 albums) to choose one of the albums to share with his older sister. He did so, and she took it. However, as they walked away, I overheard my daughter (4) happily say, “You know what? You can have all 3 of them! I’ll sit next to you and look at them with you, though.” There were tears in my eyes, because I knew she was being a peacemaker. I went to her, hugged her, and told her so. And as I walked away, I heard my son praise her, too: “Good job being a peacemaker!”

And I thought (for about the zillionth time) about how wonderful it is that I get to do this, that for some this ‘job’ of mine seems exhausting and taxing (and it can be, at times) but overall it is just GOOD. This job as mommy is not wearing me down, I’m thriving. I delight in it. What an incredible blessing that this is what I get to do! Thank you, Heavenly Father!

My side of the bed

Here’s what I might be doing on any given night, (usually- in the wee hours of the morning) on my side of the bed:

-tossing and turning, trying to find a comfy, sleepy, sort of spot
-debating whether or not to look at the alarm clock to find out what time it is I’m awake this time
-replaying conversations in my head
-thinking about the following days activities
-making a grocery list
-wondering if I should just get up and GO to the bathroom already or if that would prevent with absolute certainty me going back to sleep
-making a to-do list
-trying to recall the dream I was having before I woke up
-trying to remember something
-analyzing some problem or another
-wondering if I should get up and peek at my sleeping children
-pondering our finances
-making plans

And here’s what’s going on from my husband’s side of the bed, always:


Yep, that’s pretty much it. The second my husband’s head hits the pillow, he’s out.

Last night our four-year old daughter was up a few times during the night (bad dreams). The first time my husband went to her (he usually does the middle-of-the-night-wake-ups for the very reason that when I'm awake, it's hard for me to fall asleep again). But the second time my husband was sleeping so soundly that I got up, went into her room to comfort and pray for her and then came back to bed and… worked on the above activity list. (It was 4 am; I checked this time).

My husband did mumble as I came back to bed, “How is she?” and I gave a brief explanation- (mind you, it was difficult for me to be brief (I felt quite chatty, actually) since I was wide awake at this point). At some point during my description I noticed he was snoring. Snoring! Speaking one second, snoring the next. Unbelievable. I wish I had that gift. Not to snore, but to sleep. Must be nice.

If I may add my own 'Humble Musings'...

Last night I dropped in at Amy’s Humble Musings and read this:

It is impossible to live a Biblical life while being captives to the consumer culture. It’s that easy– once you consider that Christians are called to be slaves to only one Master. It’s about being thoughtful, aware, and deliberate about our decisions. It’s about thinking through the consequences of our everyday choices. It’s about choosing how to live life, instead of just allowing “them” to tell you how to do it or just doing it because that is what we do. It is about fulfilling your purpose to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

I quote that because it’s exactly how I feel and yet could never be that articulate. (Thank you, Amy, for saying it! Do go check out Amy’s Humble Musings, but not yet, okay?)

My husband went to a meeting at our church last night. The meeting was called by some of the younger (by younger I mean 20-somethings) married couples (some with children, some without) and some singles. They wanted a platform in which to share their issues so they invited the deacons and elders to hear them out. Many topics were discussed, but my husband came home and said that the bottom line is that this younger generation desires relationship with the “older” generation, with the larger church. The young women recognize their need for mentorship from the older women, the men are hungry for discipleship from the older men. They want connection, community, relationship, and fellowship.

And it struck me that there are too many people in our church who will not extend the invitation for this kind of relationship. Do you know why? Because we are simply too busy. After all, there are TV shows, soccer games, baseball practices, school meetings, homework, movies, … and the list goes on. Our culture, or- more accurately, the enemy- is sucking us in so that we are too concerned with the STUFF of life and less concerned about the things of God, and about what He has called us to do.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14)

I am ashamed to say that about a year and a half ago, I was also being suckered. I remember our small group trying to figure out a time to meet and I said (and I’m embarrassed to share this, truly) Thursday night wasn’t even an option (because it was our ‘Survivor night’ and I couldn’t miss ‘my show’.) What a travesty- that we are missing out on the richness of the things of God because we are too busy trying to keep up with the culture, and meanwhile we are getting caught in the trappings of it. (I don’t watch TV anymore. And I don’t miss it. About a year ago I knew God was asking me to give it up (and I simply didn’t want to), and yet more than wanting to go my own way, I want to obey my God, and so I gave it up. And I cannot tell you what a blessing this has been in my life. It has freed me up to pursue the things in life that are most important to me. I see so clearly now that what seemed so harmless to me a couple of years ago (watching all my shows) was such a distraction in my life from a deeper pursuit of God.)

Our culture applauds individualism, self-sufficiency, and independency. We are encouraged to love ourselves. Jesus says “Love one another.” The early church was not about self-sufficiency, it was about community. “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had… There were no needy persons among them.” (Acts 5:32, 34).

That is my heart: I want to pattern my life according to the Word, not the world. I want the time that I have here on this earth to be spent glorifying my God. I want the choices I make (and that we make, as a family) to please God, not others. If we're busy, I want us to be busy serving God and loving His church. I want to challenge all that we do and the decisions we make and continually re-align ourselves to God’s Word and His commands. I want to be “his very own, eager to do what is good”.

I have a dawdler

He is the CUTEST dawdler you will ever see, but he is a dawdler. In anticipation of this entry, I looked up the word "dawdler" and this is what I found:

daw·dle (dôdl)
v. daw·dled, daw·dling, daw·dles
1. To take more time than necessary: dawdled through breakfast.

Yep. That's my two-year old. One who dawdles through breakfast. And through lunch. Through dinner, too. And on the way to the van.

This is me: "Let's go!" And we all scurry out the door, all except my two-year old. He's lagging behind, already, finding a book or a toy to bring with him. Then he will stop on the porch to kneel down and look at something (a leaf? bug? spider?) Then he pokes down the stairs, and, oh my! found a rock (heaven forbid we're in a parking lot with gravel. Lots of little rocks. I dread these occasions, truly). My daughter, baby and I are waiting (impatiently) for him to catch up. When he finally makes it to the van, it takes him SO LONG to climb into his seat. I've tried everything. "I'm going to count to 10. Everyone in their seats by the time I get to 10!" (My daughter is in her seat by 4, I'm putting the baby in so he's in within the 10. My son? 14, or so....) Or just this, "Hurry, hurry! Let's go! We're late!" Or "See how fast you can do it! Pretend you're a baseball player (he likes those). Go so fast!" Nothing works.

But mealtimes. Those are the struggle. We will put a plate of food in front of him and everyone else will be done with their second plate of food by the time this little fellow takes his second bite. I am not exaggerating. He is playing. With his food, fork, fingers, whatever there is to play with. His fork automatically becomes a "guy" and is playing with his cup, another "guy" and they're talking. Or he will have one chunk of roll in one hand, another chunk of roll in the other, and they will be talking to each other. Amusing, yes. Aggravating? Also yes.

Two nights ago we cheerfully took his plate away (after an hour; the rest of us had moved on to cleaning up the kitchen) and told him dinner was over, and that he could not eat anything else, or have any milk (his drink of choice), for the rest of the evening. No problems, actually. (Truly, I thought he'd be starving.)

The next morning when he asked for milk, I warmed up his dinner plate and sat him down, told him he could have some milk when he finished his breakfast. From 7:37am to 9:04am he ate all of 10 bites, many of those spoon-fed by yours truly into his mouth. I confess: at some point I finally said, "Four more bites and you can be done. I fed him those four bites (slowly, he chews excruciatingly slowly) and he got to get down and go on his merry way. Mind you, not without some tears during the process.

So, our new plan is this: We will have a set time for dinner. We haven't figured out a reasonable time. But, when dinnertime is over, the plates are removed, and we all move on. We're hoping he'll learn that he needs to eat within this reasonable amount of time if he wants to eat.

Back to the definition of a dawdler. Some other adjectives I came across? Dillydallier. Foot-dragger. Slowpoke. And I winced when I read the words idler and sluggard. Ouch.

As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed. (Pr. 26:14)

The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth. (Pr. 26:15)

So I am praying for my little sluggard. I'm welcoming any wisdom/ideas/suggestions, too!

A wife and mommy in-the-making

My four-year old daughter is a wife and mommy in-the-making. Not much makes me happier. Two things happened over the weekend to remind me of this:

We were all in the van, on our way to the Good Friday service, and from the back, this:

"When I get bigger I get to be a mommy!" (this said joyfully)

Mark and I smiled, and I turned back to smile at our daughter and said, "That's right, honey. You do! What made you think of that right now?"

She said, "I was just thinking it!"

Me: "That's a really fun thought, sweetheart. You are going to be such a wonderful mommy someday."

And that was that. But I have thought of it several times since. I can't tell you how delighted I am that my sweet little girl is excited to "get to be a mommy" someday! :)

Then yesterday we came home from church and ate a light lunch (more like a snack) before naps, because we were scheduled to be at my mom's for lunch at 1:30. The boys went to sleep, and my husband passed through the kitchen (where my daughter and I were) and mentioned, "Boy, I am hungry, though..." I turned to do something at the table and my little girl comes up to me, holding a tupperware from the fridge, and says, "Mommy. This is chicken. Do you know if there is rice in here, too?" And I said, (not knowing where this was going yet), "Um, no, sweetie. That's just chicken." I watched her then turn, walk over to the fridge and pull out another tupperware. She said to me, pleased with herself, "I found the rice!" And then I asked her, "What are you doing, honey?" And she said, very matter-of-factly, "Daddy just said he was hungry. I'm just going to cook him some lunch." And she set both containers near the microwave. I told her that was so sweet of her to be taking such good care of her daddy, and then reminded her that we were having lunch at Grandma's and that daddy would just have to wait a bit!

I was touched by her service and her industriousness: she saw a need and was moving to meet it. I am so grateful for these things I see in her! :)

Praying for my Husband

I have developed a prayer list to guide me in prayer for my husband over the next 30 days. I just finished reading The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian, and used that as a guideline for coming up with some of these categories.

I'm printing this out and posting above my kitchen sink (where I spend a good deal of time) so that I can pray for him in these specific areas throughout my day. I'm excited to do this! :) Here's my list:

1 his wife, that I would be his helpmeet, companion, friend and support
2 his work
3 his sexuality
4 his affection
5 his temptations
6 his fears
7 his purpose
8 his health
9 his protection
10 his integrity
11 his reputation
12 his priorities
13 his relationships
14 his fatherhood
15 his relationship with Ella
16 his relationship with Isaac
17 his relationship with Isaias
18 our marriage
19 his faith
20 his time in the Word
21 his tongue/words
22 his repentance
23 his obedience
24 his future
25 his leadership
26 sharing the Gospel
27 his faithfulness
28 his prayers
29 his insecurities
30 his rest

Am I missing anything really obvious? Let me know if you see a glaring obmission!

18 in 90, Room to Room

In an effort to scale down the 101 in 1001 list, I have come up with my own (less ambitious!) plan. I'm calling it 18 in 90, Room to Room.

Here's my list. (And I type this out with much trepidation, because I happen to be a little anxious about actually doing all of these things. I may be over-achieving, here. This kind of thing is not easy for me. I'm good with the following things: desire, enthusiasm, planning, making lists and putting up creative little reminder-notes all over the house. But in all honesty, when it comes to the follow-through, I could use a little work. Thus, I'm thinking these next 3 months could be a bit challenging. Challenging but good!) That said, here goes:

-Memorize Isaiah 40
-Pray for Mark daily (using Power of a Praying Wife as a guideline. Wow, wouldn't it be cool if I selected 30 specific things to pray for him for and then did that 3x over (over the course of the next 3 months?! Hm... maybe I'll try that.)

-Organize & declutter clothing (in drawers, closets & bins under the bed)
-Plan romantic evenings, 2x per week

-Work on kitchen clutter areas (by phone, on top of dishwasher, 5 minutes per day)
-Practice hospitality by having guests over for a meal (1x per month)

-Clean out & declutter & reorganize cupboards (throw lots of stuff away!)
-Use shower time to pray for the day/activities ahead

Kids' Rooms
-Clean room WITH them, teach them how to make their beds (1x per week)
-Extended prayer time for each child by their bed, while they're sleeping (1x per week)

Living Room
-Clean out desk drawers
-Sunday service training (each Saturday evening on couch)

School Room
-Make Chore Chart for E & I
-Individual time with each child (15 minutes per child, 3x per week)
*E- alphabet pages, practicing writing her letters
*I- puzzles, cutting or coloring together, play w/ little cars
*I- sing action songs, read board books

-Purchase gardening gloves, practice weeding, which I dread :(
-Weekly walk with the kids, just for the fun of it (ie- not 'on the way' to get somewhere, but taking our time!)

-Set specific (weekly, or twice/week) laundry day(s), and stick to it
-Have E & I help with folding and putting away laundry

Yep, I'm overwhelmed. This does seem awfully BIG. 3 months is a really long time, right?? Yikes! But I will strive to be one who "sets about her work vigorously" (Pr. 31:17)!

Stay tuned. I'll be letting you know how this goes!

A Big Idea Scaled Down

Okay, early this morning I checked in over at Preschoolers and Peace (an excellent blog, by the way!) and read of her 101 in 1001 list. This is a list of 101 tasks that she plans to do in 1001 days. I spent the rest of the morning pondering this (and marvelling, really- that someone would be so ambitious!!!)

Amy and her boys came over later this morning and it was one of the first things she brought up, too- "Did you read Preschoolers and Peace yet this morning?" She had also been pondering this, and we were both inspired to do something!

So, after a little chatting, we decided to do something similar- by way of setting some goals, but to begin a little (okay, a LOT) smaller. So, our plan is to make a list of some tasks to accomplish over the next 3 months. We spent some time debating how to best do this (how to go about setting up some categories), and decided that we would define these tasks by going through each room of our homes. We concluded that we would set out to accomplish two things for each room:

1) Do something TO the room (clean or tackle something specifically)

2) Do something IN the room (a task that you may want to accomplish with your husband or children in that room. Ie- this is something more relational!)

So, here are the rooms we've selected:

Closet (time with Jesus!)
Kids' Room
Living Room
School Room *neither of us actually have a school room, but we wanted to include this category
Laundry Room

An example of this would be:

Kids' Room:
1) Organizing their clothes, getting rid of clothes they've outgrown
2) In the evening, once a week, go into our child(ren)s room(s), kneel by their beds and pray for them. (I'm thinking they will be sleeping, that way you can get some good solid, uninterrupted prayer time in!)

So... I'm working on establishing a list of tasks and in the next day or two will post my list.

Please join us in this venture- it would be fun to be doing this with others, too! :)

We're going to begin our 3 months on April 15th, so- this coming Saturday. In the meantime, join us in setting some goals (2 goals, per "room") for your own home!

What is it with boys...?

What is it with boys and their inability to find things?! Today I was on the phone with- who else?- Amy, and she got interrupted at least twice with the request from her boys to find something (“Mama, where is the bat?” Her response: “I don’t know. I haven’t played with your bat.”) I get a real kick out of this since Amy is the only woman amongst her four, so she is asked this question MANY more times than I am in any given day!

It really is a gender thing. I can ask my four-year old daughter to find something and she promptly finds it and brings it to me. Tada! Mission accomplished.

I will ask my son (who is two and a half) to pick up the crayon right in front of his feet and he will spin around dazed and confused, like, “Huh? Where?” while my daughter and I are pointing and hollering, “Right there! No. Turn and face us. Now look at your feet. Your feet! Where are your feet? Point to your feet. Now: see the crayon?” And he stares at the ground in bewilderment. We all end up laughing and inevitably I get up, walk over to him, pick up the crayon and put it away.

My little guy also does this: I will say, holding an item, “Will you please take this into the kitchen?” He will take it and head to the kitchen, stop in the doorway, and then turn and ask, “This kitchen?” Um. Yep! (We only have the one!) He is the same with any room in the house. If you ask him to go anywhere in the house, he’ll stop and clarify: “This living room?”, or "This front door?"

I’m not really sure why he does this. Or why he can’t locate anything. But I sure love him. He is the cheeriest, sweetest, most affectionate, dearest little boy. And I could weep for the thought he will ever leave me. Okay, I can have that thought no longer. I will seriously start to cry.

A favorite: ABC Bible Verses

My favorite book for preschoolers? And parents of preschoolers? Hands down, it's My ABC Bible Verses, by Susan Hunt. We love this book! Susan Hunt has found a verse for each letter of the alphabet. Some examples:

A soft answer turns away wrath.

B lessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

C hildren, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.

My favorite part about this book is how helpful it has been for me as a mommy to instruct my children using God's Word. I can't tell you how many times since we began going through this book I have been able to use one of these verses in correcting or reminding my children. Or, even better, I have overheard my children using the verses we've learned in their own interactions. My daughter will tell her little brother, "Remember our Bible verse? 'Children, obey your parents in all things...' You need to obey mommy. That makes God happy!"

Each verse is from the New King James Version or the King James Version of the Bible. For each verse, there is a story that accompanies it as well as a few questions and a suggestion for prayer. For the A-verse, the story is about little Missy and her friend Janet. Janet wants to do something and gets angry when Missy doesn't want to (Missy won't because, in her words, "I can't disobey my mom."). When Missy's friend responds with anger, Missy remembers Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, and chose to give a soft answer to Janet, and it stopped the argument.

We've been reading our ABC Bible Verses after dinner. Before we begin a new verse, we repeat all of the verses we've learned up until that point. Then daddy reads the verse and the story and we pray together at the end. This is a highlight for my children- they love this, and are always eager to learn the next verse, or practice all the verses we've learned so far! It's so easy for them to remember because of the connection to the alphabet. Even our two-year old, with very little prompting, can say each verse we've learned to date.

Right now we're on K eep your tongue from evil. Psalm 34:14).

You can imagine how often we'll get to pray over that one, asking God to hide His Word in our hearts and help us obey!

Our alphabet pages

We're not actually homeschooling yet, as our oldest is only four. So instead of schoolwork we end up doing a lot of projects. The purpose behind this one was to help my daughter learn her letters and to have fun in the process. We go through the alphabet, one letter at a time (currently we're on P), and spend some time with scissors and magazines, cutting out all the P's we can find (we do capital letters) and all the pictures of things we can think of (or find) that begin with the letter P. Today our daughter (and daddy!) worked on her P-page. She starts by writing the letter on the page.

Then they found lots of P's as well as pictures of a puppy, peanut butter, pillows, peas, pants, paints, pizza, peaches and pens- all on a piece of pink paper. They even glued a penny on. When we finish a page we hang it up in our living room. (We're using 12x12 paper, though, so we're quickly running out of hanging room! :))

We have lots of fun with this. We did our F-page on a piece of foil. Whenever we can we cut out pictures of family and friends and put them on our pages, too! :)

"Impress them on your children..."

About a year ago, in our small group, we were reading through Shepherding a Child's Heart and were discussing it. I was sharing an illustration from our home- an interaction with my daughter after disciplining her, and one of the other moms was intrigued by some of the things I said. In fact, I think it was in reference to me telling my daughter that her heart was dirty because she had sinned and that she needed to tell Jesus what she had done and then ask him to clean her heart. This friend of mine said, "I've never heard that before." I asked, "Heard what?" And she said, "I've never heard that. About the dirty heart, asking Jesus to clean it." And I said, "Really?" She asked where I'd heard it. And I said, "My mom, I guess. I don't really know. It's just something I know and say." She then said, "Wow. My mom never did that; she never talked that way to us. I never had that." She shared that since she'd never had that example and model she wasn't sure how to be that to her own children; it didn't come naturally to her.

On the way home from small group, I shared with my husband that this had surprised me. I guess I had taken for granted how blessed I am to have had a mom (a stay-at-home-mom) who was home with us all the time and who modeled for me how to be the mom that I am today.

About a week ago a friend of mine (due to have her first baby- a girl, any hour now) emailed me this question: “How do you talk to your children about the Lord? You’re so good at it.” Well. I don’t buy the ‘you’re so good at it’, part, but I will share what I shared with her. I’ll share because some of these things come naturally to me due to the wonderful influence of my mother (and whatever else I’ve gleaned along the way). This is what I replied to my friend:

My encouragement to you is to talk, talk, talk... talk about God a lot. I always talk about Jesus like he's right there next to us, watching us, listening to us, loving us. I'll say to my daughter, "Jesus loves so much to hear you sing to Him! He loves your voice!" I'll tell them how much I love reading the Bible and what I'm reading about.

Sing and listen to praise songs/CD's. We do a lot of singing around here. My children are always 'making a joyful noise', and 9 times out of 10 (the 10th being when they're making up their own song), they are singing praises to God. I love this, and I'm sure this blesses the heart of their Father, too! :)

Pray aloud. We do lots of that: if we’re driving somewhere and bringing someone a meal or gift or going for a visit, I try to remember to pray. I’ll say, “Okay, let’s pray right now that God will use us to bless this person. Let’s pray for them.” And we do. I do, at first. At some point they will chime in, too. We pray for all owies, big and little. We pray for daddy when he’s away from us. We pray that God would help us change our hearts during the day if we are being unkind or impatient or disobedient. (This includes me: my four-year-old daughter will sometimes say, “Mommy, you’re talking crabby to me right now.” And I will say, “You’re right. I am. I’m so sorry. Come sit by mommy for a minute, I’m going to pray and ask God to change my heart.”

I try to take advantage of every opportunity, too. If we see an ambulance or an accident, I’ll say, “Uh oh. That means someone got an owie. Let’s pray for them right now.” Or we’ll see someone in a wheelchair and pray for them, that God would heal them or give them comfort or hope. Or there are times I’ve remembered throughout my day that I had told someone I’d pray for them (but had since forgotten), so I’ll say, “Oh! I told grandma I’d pray for her today… let’s pray right now” and I’ll just pray out loud.

At some point my children pick up the slack for me. Every siren, every accident, every owie, every thing gets prayed for- they initiate this now. They have utter faith that God loves us, that God cares for us, that God hears our prayers; that we can ask anything of him at any time of the day. Isn't that a wonderful thing?


It’s Friday. I do not look forward to Friday mornings. (The word dread actually comes to mind, but that’s probably a little strong.) This feeling actually comes sometime Thursday night sometime. I used to really like our Friday mornings. On Fridays we have pancakes, which my children look forward to all week. We like the pancakes. That’s not what I dread. It’s when 10:30 rolls around, and it’s time for us to walk to the nursing home that sits in our neighborhood. And I don’t really want to go. I’m not proud of this admission, but it’s true.

Let me back up. A few weeks ago after dinner we learned the memory verse “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” As we memorize verses with our children, we talk a lot about how it’s not important just to hide God’s Word in our hearts, it is important to obey His Word.

So I was definitely convicted on that one. What was I doing with my little ones to show them the importance of that? What were we doing to OBEY that Word? And I came up with absolutely nothing. Sure, we have a few non-believing friends in our lives, and yes, we do pray for them with our children, but what else could we be doing?

Instantly I thought of the nursing home in our neighborhood. Mind you, I have had this thought before: once- a couple of years ago, I even called them to ask about coming up with my then one child to visit the elderly and I was told in no uncertain terms that there was a process to this kind of thing. I would have to wait, first, until the activity director got back from vacation and then I would have to come in and fill out some paperwork and get checked out. Then, if I was ‘okayed’, they would call me to determine a time. At the time I thought, “I’m not applying to manage the facility, for crying out loud, I just want to visit from time to time!” And here I thought they’d be delighted to get my call. Needless to say, I didn’t call again, nor did I stop in to fill out any paperwork.

So a few weeks ago when I had this thought, it was not a welcome one, it was practically accompanied by a groan. Nonetheless, I decided to give it another go. I told my husband my thought, he thought it was a great idea. The next morning I prepped my children: “Today we’re going to go to a nursing home. It’s a place where lots of great-grandpas and great-grandmas live. Some of them are very lonely and no one visits them. Some of them don’t know Jesus. And we’re going to go talk with them and hopefully get the opportunity to tell them about Jesus.” And as wonderful as my children are, they were delighted and acted like this was the most normal thing in the world. My son chattered all morning about going to “great-grandpa’s house”.

We set out for our short walk to the nursing home, and on the way there we prayed together that God would use us to bless these people we were about to see. And while I wouldn’t say I was excited, I was definitely expectant and happy to be doing this with my sweet children. When we got inside, I quickly located the person-to-talk to and waited patiently for her to look up at us since she was reading over a file or chart. I waited a little longer than I was comfortable with, so I took a step forward. She then said, “Is anyone helping you?” What I thought was, “Um. No. Apparently you didn’t notice that we just walked in the door and came straight here and have been waiting ever since for YOU to help us.” What I said was, “No. Not yet.” So she said, annoyed-like: “Well, what do you need?” I explained, gesturing to my children, that we lived in the neighborhood and would like to visit with some of the residents. She said, “Oh. You need to talk to the blonde lady in there” and sort of waved behind her towards another room. I was sort of stunned at her welcome. And at that point I considered turning around to walk right back OUT the door, but thought better of it and proceeded in the general direction of her wave. Any happy feelings I had had about this venture had disappeared.

As we walked into the room, searching for a blonde lady (whom I figured shouldn’t really be too difficult to locate), I spotted her, noting on her name tag that she was the activities director. She was in the process of wheeling a woman up to a table. She looked up at us, with a you-are-an-imposition expression, and said, “Are you looking for someone?” And I again explained our desire to visit. She said, “I don’t know about that. I’ll have to go check.” And as we walked further into the room she moved past us and out of the room, presumably to “go check”. I’m not sure who or what she was checking. My goodness! Can one not visit people in a nursing home anymore?!

About 5 minutes later she reappeared. By this time some other woman had asked us to go sit at the edge of the room and wait. Miss Activities-Director walked up to us, awkwardly pulled out a chair, and said something about “due to the circumstances”, with a vague wave at my children (I had no idea what she was talking about. What “circumstances”? But I tell you, they sure do like to wave at this place.)- and something about health concerns. She finally said we may visit but only when she herself was there and only in this particular room. We could not go to anyone’s individual room or visit with anyone outside of this room. I said, “Great, thank you”, and we discussed the best time. I was still befuddled about the ‘circumstances’, until I pondered this later and realized that she was probably concerned that my children were going to pass viruses to the elderly. A valid point, I get that, but still. We’re not going to come if they are vomiting or feverish. Or even if they have bad colds.

So then I asked, “Can we visit today?” And she said sure and waved again in the direction of the men and women who had been wheeled up to the tables in what I’d figured by this time was the Activity Room. So off we went, me holding my 11-month old, holding my two-year old by the hand and asking my four-year old to follow us. We squatted beside an elderly man, found out his name was James, and spoke with him for a few minutes about our local-ish major league baseball team and my boys: he was quick to point out my youngest son should have a baseball hat in support for the team. We then met a sweet woman named Hazel. On the other side of her, a sweet woman wearing more make-up than I’ve ever worn in my life, and with her nails brightly polished! named Jane. Then around to Margaret, who was beautiful and sweet-I reached for her hand as we spoke and she held onto it. Then it was time for us to leave for lunch.

I was perturbed as we walked home at the reception we’d received from the staff. It made me irritable throughout the day as I relayed the events first to my husband, then to a friend on the phone, then the following morning to my mom. And yet I had to keep coming back to this: I was not doing this to please man. (Although, really, a wee bit of gratitude would have been appreciated.) We did this because we love God, because I wanted to lead my children in obeying His Word, because “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” That’s why. Because regardless of what others may think or say or do, I want to live such a way that I am pleasing to God, that I bring glory to Him. I want to love James, Hazel, Jane, Margaret, and Alice (who we met the following week) as my God does.

If you spent a bit of time in our home, you would probably hear me say to one of my children, “How does God want us to obey?” And they would respond, “Right away, all the way, and with a happy heart!” (*I wish I could take credit for this one, but I can’t. I found this phrase in Ginger Plowman’s book, Don’t Make Me Count to Three).

Time to work on my own happy heart.