Great Stories for Kids at Advent

Saturday, October 22, 2016

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Some of my best Christmas memories didn't happen during my childhood, but rather the growing up years for my sons. When the oldest was in elementary school someone recommended Jotham's Journey to us for Advent. Jotham goes through a series of adventures that eventually lead him to the birth of Christ! Each night of Advent you read the continuing story that almost always ends in a cliff hanger (making your kids beg for more). After each part of the story there is a short devotional related to what is currently happening. The book also gives you a calendar of when Advent starts and also how to incorporate the candles that go along with Advent in your reading of the story each night.

The author, Arnold Ytreeide, has come out with three other books like Jotham's Journey

Each one of these stories surrounds the birth of Christ, and here is the absolutely awesome thing about these adventures...they are intertwined! Jotham, Bartholomew, Tabitha, and Ishtar cross paths in the story. So if your family reads one the first year and a different story the next year you get to see the story from a whole new vantage point. Last year, my husband and I (because our boys are now too old) read Ishtar's Odyssey together even though the boys didn't participate. We loved this angle of the story, because Ishtar is Persian and comes with the Wise Men to see the baby King. It added a whole new perspective!

So if you are looking for a new tradition for Advent these books would be a great addition to your season! The stories are captivating and the messages in the devotionals are not to be missed! Advent starts November get ready for an adventure!

Reading through the Bible

Monday, October 17, 2016

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I had tried a million times before, but I just couldn't get past Leviticus. I would stall in the layers of law unable to pull myself out from under them. Finally, in 2010, I came across a plan. Crazier than the ones before, but sometimes crazy is just what you need. I would try to read through the Bible in 90 days! This time it worked. Yes, Leviticus was still a challenge, but the speed at which I needed to go to finish on time meant that the reading of the law wouldn't last forever! It was the plan I needed to make to Revelation.

So why would a person read through the whole Bible? Wouldn't it be more effective to focus on a few verses or a book and really dive deep? Here is why the one reason you should give it and try and the many reasons you shouldn't...

Don't read through the Bible...

To get deeper understanding of all its details. That's what Bible studies that focus on a certain topic or book are for. 

To go on bunny trails. The goal is to read it to the end and not to stop along the way and branch off onto other topics. 

To get all your questions answered. I can assure you that after reading through the Bible several times (mostly with the 90 day program), I have more questions than answers.

Read through the Bible...

Because it is a complete story of God's love for you. Plain and really know the story you have to read it in its entirety. You can't get halfway through and then go to the end to see what happens (Haven't we all done this once or twice with a novel?), because you will miss along the way the ways He loves us. You read it to get the big picture...not the minute details. You read to see its Author as He paints a picture of who He really is. It isn't about depth of understanding, bunny trails, or answered questions. It's about a big picture.

Want to give it a try? Let's take a look at some resources you can use to read through all sixty-six books.

The Bible in 90 Days- This is my personal favorite way to read through God's Word. It gives you a great overview. I am a fast reader and get bored easily if a task is too long. So ninety days works for me. It is a commitment of about 45 minutes to an hour each day. So if you are wanting to do this plan make sure you are in a season in life that works for you. For example, as a teacher, I try not to do a read through during the school year.

The Daily Bible- I loved doing this chronological Bible one time when I read through. The passages are divided into 365 days and are laid out chronologically. When you get to the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes they are grouped together according to topic. A very thought-provoking way to read! As a warning through this Bible is small and has small print. It might be good to download it if that is an issue for you.

Every Day with Jesus Bible- The next time I read through I am going to do this Bible. Every day you get a passage from...

  • The Old Testament
  • The New Testament
  • Psalms
  • Proverbs
There is also a short devotional after each day's reading.

Here are a few more resources on my blog about reading through God's Word:

What Gratitude Can Do for Your Heart...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

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Ever feel grumpy? Discontent? Struggling with depression and anxiety? Click on over to His Mercy is New today as I share about how gratitude can change our hearts! I talk about my seven year journey of keeping a gratitude list and how it has changed my perspective! Also, check out the resources below if you would like to start a habit of keeping a gratitude journal.

Art and the Word

Monday, October 10, 2016

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If you read last week's post, you know that I don't know much about art. I am not even really artistic. However, I love dabbling with paints, colored pencils, and other media. For me, it is relaxing to create even if it doesn't turn out to be a masterpiece. Recently, I incorporated an art insert in my Faith Journal so when I want to mix creativity with God's Word I can. 

When a certain verse jumps out at me as I am doing my Scripture writing plan (You can read more about this plan called, Think On These Things.) or as I am reading His Word sometimes I am inspired to create with it. I open up to my insert and then draw, paint, or creatively represent the verses. Sometimes it is really simple (see the above picture, bottom left-hand corner) in which I represent with words what the verses how what we think about ourselves (in the thought bubbles) is not what God says about us (conversation bubbles).

Other times I get more creative. I have to confess that many times I go on Pinterest and look up different "doodles" to help me with my drawings. Remember: I am not very artistic, but I can somewhat copy what others come up with. Connecting art and His Word has been a rewarding experience for me. I focus more on what is being said while at the same time being creative. I also find art to be relaxing for me to do. If you are looking for more inspiration try Instagram.  Sephras Sketchbook is one of my favorites! She does her work in a separate book, but if you are looking for art done in a journaling Bible, check out Monika's Instagram, Mon Creates. So many beautiful ideas!!

Here are a few of my Pinterest boards that I keep for inspiration:

Feathered Friends (birds are one of my favorite subjects)
Scripture Art
Adult Coloring Pages

What to do with Your One Broken Heart

Sunday, October 9, 2016

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For several years now, I have been lost. Left with the pieces of a broken heart, I have fumbled through life as I try to heal. There are days I feel whole and there are the other days...the ones in which I grieve for what was once my life. So when I heard about Ann Voskamp's new book, I knew I had to read it. A book on brokenness? Yes. Exactly what I need.

I don't know how to proceed. You see, my brokenness with a family member and with a church I spent about two decades with has changed me. I am not who I was. I used to be the one eager to make connections with others. I used to want to serve. I used to want to have "community" around me. These days I am content to be on my own. I have struggled with what to do with those feelings. I simply don't know. I am more cautious in relationships. I want fewer connections. I am more focused on my family instead of the outside world. I am more dependent on a God that won't turn His back on me, manipulate me, or condemn me. Are these things wrong? Not necessarily. However, I have felt  I am living life small, in a closed circle. Letting others in is hard these days, because all I want to do is avoid the agonizing pain all over again. That's why reading Ann's new book, The Broken Way, has been good for me. Ann's one goal is to ask the question, "How do you live with your one broken heart?" It's the question I have been asking myself for three years now...

Can I tell you? Do I dare be honest? I didn't like Ann's answer. "You live with your one broken heart by giving it away." Precisely what I have not wanted to do. I have wanted to close in on myself. Stay safe in my own little world. Frankly, people are scary, and because of my life story, I find Christian women to be incredibly frightening. I don't mean to offend if you fall into that category (The irony isn't lost on me...I am a Christian woman...yep, I am scary, too.). It has just been my experience. So when Ann suggested that in order to live with your brokenness you must allow God to use it by giving yourself away I freaked out. Yet, I know she is exactly right. "Giving away the heart- heals the heart", she writes. It is exactly what I need to do no matter the fear that rises in me.

If you are living with brokenness...oh, how my heart aches for you. I understand the depth of the pain. Some days it can be insurmountable. Healing takes time, effort, and a willingness to face the events that broken your heart. It isn't easy. May I humbly suggest Ann's book? It comes out October 25th. (See for more details.) It is such a good read for anyone who is struggling. While you wait for the book to come out, check out Ann's post with a calendar on how to be the GIFT and give your heart away. In it, she gives you a daily challenge you can do to bless someone else in your life, because the only way to live with your one broken heart is to give it away.

Also, if you have been doing Think On These Things (my monthly Scripture writing challenge) with me this year, follow along in November as our theme will be "Mended". We will explore verses about brokenness and becoming whole. The downloadable file will be available October 24.

I wrote pages and pages of quotes from the book down in my faith journal so that I can go back to them later; however, I will leave you with a few of them now...

Let's rise to the challenge...because in giving our hearts away we may not only heal our brokenness, but also the heart of another...

I received an advanced copy of the book as I am a part of Ann's launch team for The Broken Way. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Journaling the Word

Monday, October 3, 2016

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I am not really much of an artist. I can't sing. I can't play an instrument, but I am highly creative. My medium is WORDS. So when a few years ago, journaling Bibles came out I knew I had to get one. I have loved mine ever since. It is the one Bible I use over and over again. I highlight and I write thoughts that hit me as I interact with God's Word. Writing words down on paper solidifies in my brain what I have learned (I know that that is not the case for everyone.). It helps my jumbled thoughts. I also love the fact that my Bible with all its notes, ideas, and quotes has the potential to bless someone else when I am long gone. So here's a look at what I do in my Bible...

First, if you are looking at getting a journaling Bible I would highly recommend the book, Writing in the Margins. Throughout its pages, it talks about the benefits of writing in the margins of your Bible and how you can leave a legacy for others through your words. I read it about a year ago, but I think I may go back and re-read to remind myself of all the great ideas that Lisa Nichols Hickman talks about in the book.

So let's take a look at what I do...

Here is a longer set of notes about how our speech should be filled with grace and seasoned with salt. I will have to admit that normally I don't write as many notes like this, but this verse really hit me last year as I was struggling with how much grace do we give others and how much truth do we say.

If you know anything about me or have read my blog for awhile, you know I struggle with the fear of man and rejection from people. I will probably struggle with it off and on for the rest of my days. So that is why these verses in Romans are so precious to me.

Recognizing a theme here? Yes, more on how to handle rejection from others by running into the arms of a loving Father. Notice that sometimes I make a note of another verse that correlates with the first verse.

Sometimes the words I write in the margins are not my own, but rather quotes I have read from great books like When People are Big and God is Small.

A favorite passage of mine on forgiveness.

Sometimes my notes are more light-hearted.

Once again, using a quote that fits the verse I highlighted.

As I read God's Word I wonder about the events and ideas that are talked about. For example, when Jesus ask the Samaritan woman for a drink did He ever get it? Or did their conversation sidetrack her getting Him water? Or like this passage above...I had never thought about God singing before until I read this. I had to chuckle at the fact that He sings loudly. How precious though that He will sing over us!!

So as you can see filling the margins of your Bible can bring deeper connections for you. Here are a few more posts on the subject:

Jounaling Bibles as Gifts
Journaling Bibles and Healing (Emotional)
My Favorite Highlighters for a Journaliing Bible
Journaling to Remember His Love

Pray the Word

Monday, September 26, 2016

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Have you ever felt at a loss as to how or what to pray? Do the words not come to mind? Years ago, I read Beth Moore's Praying God's Word, in which she encourages us to use Scripture as our words in prayer. The book's aim is to breakdown strongholds in our lives, but really, praying God's Word back to Him is an excellent idea no matter the circumstances. So here are some resources and information if you would like to use Scripture in your prayer life.

One great place to start is at His Mercy Is New. Candace has tons of resources for praying God's Word.

How Praying God's Word Can Change You
Ten Benefits to Praying God's Word
12 Months of Praying the Scriptures
Praying the Psalms

Here's a quick look at how I pray through a passage. Recently, I read Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Left Out, Less Than, and Lonely and the author Lysa TerKeurst suggested using Psalm 91 and praying through it as you deal with rejection in your life. So I have been writing out the psalm in sections (in black...See below.) and then personalizing my prayers for each section. This exercise has really helped me work through some of the issues I have been having. Not only am I focusing on Scripture, but I am also using it to pray precisely. It cuts down on me kind of "babbling" to God and gives my prayers so much more meaning. It has been such a precious time with Him, and I have drawn nearer to Him as I pray back and meditate on His words.

Since many of the Psalms were originally prayers, the longest book of the Bible may be a great place to start. Here are a few psalms you can use when you are experiencing certain circumstances in life...

When others rise up against you- Psalm 3
When you are walking through dark times- Psalm 23
When you fear others- Psalm 27
When you need hope- Psalm 42
When you have sinned- Psalm 51
When you hunger for God- Psalm 63
When you need reassurance that His love endures- Psalm 103
When you need help- Psalms 121
When you need to know you are precious- Psalm 139

So grab some index cards or maybe even a journal and write down a few verses to get started. Pray the words back to Him. It will be so worth it!