39 Clues to You

Summer Fun: 39 Clues Finale

Another summer adventure is in the books. We finished up the summer with a scavenger hunt that required the girls to complete tasks tied to their own unique talents. The prize was a trip to play laser tag.

I wish I could tell you that the six girls that gather around my kitchen table each week learned so much that they always make good decisions about what comes out of their mouths, they truly appreciate one another's differences and they always see themselves and others as masterpieces made in God's image.

But I can't.

The truth is that these six girls are like the rest of us.They still struggle to control their tongues, appreciate each others' differences and put the needs of others before their own.

The goal for the summer was not to end the summer with perfect children. The goal for the summer was to have the girls gain some perspective on their differences and begin to think about how they treat each other. And, in that respect, it was a success.

I've seen each of these girls take a minute to think before they act. I've seen them encourage one another. I've seen them begin to appreciate each other. And that's really what the purpose of our adventure was -- to begin to truly understand the importance of viewing each other as God's masterpieces.

Too often, I think, we expect big things when we're teaching our kids little lessons. We get frustrated when they don't immediately apply what we're teaching them. But raising kids is a process. We don't change our own behaviors overnight and neither will our kids. Yet every lesson we teach that is rooted in God's word plants a seed in our children's hearts. The time we invest is worth it even if we can't see any tangible results.

Isaiah 55:10-11 says "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

When we take the time to use God's word to teach our kids, it makes a difference in their hearts. God's word is never wasted. It always achieves His purpose. While we may not see immediate results, God's word is at work in the hearts of our kids. It may be years down the road or it may be tomorrow when we see the fruit that springs from that seed, but God's word bears fruit.

As we head into the school year, don't be discouraged if your kids fail to apply everything you're teaching. Simply know that God is using His word in their hearts. The seeds you plant today will bear fruit in their lives. It's a promise.

39 Clues to You: Week 7

I'm sure it seems like I've forgotten to update all of you on our summer's quest to help my girls and their friends recognize and appreciate their differences. We finished up our summer adventure last week, but since we were in the middle of our series on money, I decided to hold off on sharing it with you until today.

It's been an amazing summer with these girls. Each one of them has grown and learned something new about the others. I'd love to tell you that they treat each other with respect and never argue and fight anymore, but that would be a lie. They do, however, think a little bit more before they speak, understand how different doesn't mean bad and know that God gave each of them gifts and talents unique to them.

For our last week together, we returned to the topic of the tongue. Everyone has a tough time hanging onto their tongue. It seems as if our tongues have the fastest connection to our brains, and unfortunately, we too often speak before we're finished thinking.

Our verse for the week was James 3:5, "Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark."

To illustrate the permanence of words once they leave our mouths, we had a Silly String war. The girls shot Silly String at each other until their cans were empty. Then, we looked around at the mess. We talked about how our words are like the Silly String. Once they leave our mouths, we can't stuff them back in, just like we can't put the Silly String back in the can. We also talked about what a big mess our words can make, and that mess isn't as easily cleaned up as a bunch of Silly String on the ground.

After cleaning up the mess in the backyard, we came back inside to see how our words can be like a fire and leave others feeling burned. I put a piece of newspaper in a metal pan. I showed the kids the flame of a lighter. We talked about how that flame was under control. When the flame is under control, it doesn't hurt anyone -- just like a tongue that's under control. However, when that flame gets out of control, it burns things up -- just like our tongues can do if we don't control them. Then, I lit the piece of newspaper on fire. It flamed up and burned quickly. We were left with a charred mess of ash. I had the girls look at the ash, and we talked about how our tongue is like that fire. It can turn people to ash on the inside.

Our featured girl for the day was my youngest daughter's best friend. She does gymnastics and loves to play board games. So, we had her show us how to do a cartwheel and a handstand. Each of the girls tried both of those things, and we managed to avoid serious injury. Then, we went outside and tried our feet at the balance beam (which was the railroad tie border of our rock garden). We did dips and scales. Everyone learned that it's a whole lot harder than it looks to walk across a 4-inch wide beam.

After gymnastics, we came back inside and our friend taught us two of her favorite card games -- Spit and Snap. We discovered that some of the girls really loved the speed and strategy of Spit while others hated it. Snap was pretty much universally enjoyed.

We finished our day back where we started it, talking about our tongues and how we should think before we speak. The girls each took home a candle to remind them that we want our tongues to be like a flame that's under control, not one that's burning things up.

Summer Fun: 39 Clues to You -- Week 6

"I can do it myself." We have all heard those words (usually said in a less than pleasant tone at a less than pleasant volume). We all seem to have an innate need to be independent. I think Americans are more prone to having independent natures than a lot of places in the world. Our culture is steeped in the historical lore of men and women who came to this country and made something of themselves with nothing but hard work and determination. While this trait is good in many ways, it can also be isolating.

Because we are so determined to do things on our own and not rely on anyone else, we can unintentionally cut ourselves off from fellowship with others. We all need community. We need  people we can rely on when things get tough. And we need people who can simply share our lives with us.

Too often, our kids get caught up in a "my way or the highway" attitude, which alienates their friends and leads to someone stomping off mad. Put four kids in a room, and I guarantee that it won't take long for one of them to get upset because the other ones won't do something that she wants to do.

Today's installment of our summer adventure is going to focus on the importance of working together and respecting others. Our verses for the week are Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."

To make the point that we need one another, we're going to do a task that isn't a whole lot of fun. I'm going to dump a bunch of Legos on the floor and make the girls pick out all the blue pieces. Now, we have a lot of Legos in this house, so the task is going to seem daunting. But with six girls, they should make short work of the job.

We'll talk about how working together made that overwhelming task seem easier. If we have any frustrations with each other, we'll talk about how to resolve them so we can all work toward the same goal.

When the girls are done, we're going to talk about how God wants us to work together for Him. I'll give each of the girls three pieces of yarn. We'll see how easy it is to break a strand of yarn all by itself. Then we'll twist two pieces together and try to break that. We'll braid three pieces together and try to break that. The braided piece should be strong enough that we won't be able to pull it apart.

We'll talk about how when we add God to the mix in our relationships, we create a bond that is not easily broken. We'll talk about how when we have disagreements with our friends, we need to think about what God would want us to do in that situation. And we'll hit on the importance of taking those issues to God in prayer.

Our featured child for the day is my youngest daughter. I'm going to take them all ice skating tomorrow, but today, we're going to do one of my daughter's other favorite things: cooking. We'll make cupcakes, and everyone will get a chance to read part of the recipe and add some ingredients. When we've finished making the cupcakes, we'll talk about how all the different ingredients worked together to create a yummy cupcake, just like we need to work together to accomplish God's plans.

Before they leave today, I pray these girls will have a better understanding of their need for each other and the importance of working together.

Summer Fun: 39 Clues -- Week 5

I woke up to thunderstorms. Considering the fact that we have swim lessons, 39 Clues and soccer practice today, this is not a good thing. As I listened to the thunder rumble at 5 a.m., I was quickly thinking of all the ways I could move our 39 Clues adventure inside. None of my options are good today. So, I'm praying that it stops raining so we can have our duck race outside. Now, I'm sure you're wondering why we would have a duck race. That doesn't represent a talent of one of the kids. Today, though, our featured child is my next door neighbor's middle daughter. And if there's one thing that stands out about her, it's that she loves ducks.

She loves ducks so much that last Easter her dad thought it would be a great idea to bring home live baby ducks (without telling mom), but that's a story for another day. Suffice it to say that the ducks are now living a happy life on a nearby farm.

Ducks are what this little girl is passionate about. Oh, we're also going to have her teach us how to tap dance, which I cannot wait to get pictures of, but ducks are her thing. And that's what this summer is all about -- learning to appreciate other people and their likes and interests. I want my kids to know that just because someone else has a different interest from you, that doesn't make them weird or wrong. It just makes them different. And we need to value those differences in others.

So, today, we're going to talk about Philippians 2:3-4, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." We're going to talk about what it means to value someone else and how selfishness can rob others of their value.

The kids will each get a dollar, and I'll ask them if they want to trade that dollar in for other currency of varying amounts. The point is to get the kids to recognize that with money, some things are more valuable than others and how we care for that money shows how much we value it. If we lose a quarter, we're not going to be as sad as if we lose a $100 bill.

We're going to talk about how people aren't like money. Even though we're different, God values each of us. And He wants us to value one another as well. He wants us to treat each other as if everyone is as valuable as a $1,000 bill. We'll talk about what that means and how we can show others that we think they have value.

Then, we're going to focus on our duck-loving child. The girls are going to draw ducks. We're going to have a rubber duck race in our little kiddie pool. The kids will get a chance to practice being good winners and losers like we talked about in this space yesterday. I'm hoping to get the chance to explain that even in competition, we need to let others know we value them.

We're also going to let our featured child teach us how to tap dance as she's participated in dance for the past year. I can't wait to see how my non-dancing girls do with this activity.

We'll end the day with prayer and a challenge to show others that we value them this week. The girls will get to take their $1 bills home and put them somewhere that they can see them this week to remind them that God wants us to value others.

So, I'm hoping the rain stops, so we can spend some time today showing our friends how much we value them.  Even if it takes a duck race to do that.

Summer Fun: 39 Clues to You -- Week 4

Sometimes other people's decisions aren't the same as ours. We don't understand why they make the choices they do. When you're a kid, it's easy to think that if other people don't think exactly like you, then their decision is wrong. How many times have you heard kids argue about what the best TV show is or what the best pizza topping is? And how many times have those discussions degenerated into an "I'm right, you're wrong" argument?

This week's 39 Clues focused on helping kids understand that even though we might make different decisions about the things we like and don't like, that doesn't make those decisions wrong. It just makes them different.

Our verse for the week was Romans 12:12 "Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ." All the parts of our body don't do the same thing. They have different functions and they are intended to do different things. We are just like body parts. God intended for us all to follow Jesus, but He has different roles for each of us to play in His plan. If we try to be just like someone else, then we aren't fulfilling that role.

We had 39 Clues on Monday night this week to fit with everyone's camp and vacation schedules. We started with pizza. We had three four different types of pizza, and each of the girls got to choose their favorite kind. Before we ate, we looked at the pizza on everyone's plate. We talked about how sometimes we have choices to make that have a definite right or wrong answer. But we also often get to make choices just based on preferences.

I had the girls give me some examples of right and wrong choices. Then I asked them what kind of pizza they thought God wanted them to choose. They all laughed. We talked about how we each have preferences about certain things. Those preferences come from the way God wired us to be.

Because God wired each of us to have certain likes and dislikes, it makes God sad when we choose to ridicule others or be mean to others just because they like or don't like the same things we do. We are all part of one body, and your mouth doesn't go around making fun of your hands just because your hands are different. We shouldn't go around making fun of others just because they like or dislike different things than us.

Our featured child for the day was my oldest daughter's best friend. She loves reading and Tae Kwon Do. I gave each child some modeling clay and had them create a scene from their favorite book. Then each girl explained what their book was about. We talked about the differences in the books and I had every girl tell me whether they would read the others' books. We discovered that while we all liked different things to read, we all liked to read. I had my daughter's friend tell us the things that she likes about reading.

Then, we all went outside and had our featured girl show us some Tae Kwon Do moves. She's a high brown belt in Tae Kwon Do. She showed us some of the stuff that she can do and taught us some really simple kicks. She told us what she liked about Tae Kwon Do, and the other girls talked about whether it sounded like something they would like to do or not.

We finished up with a challenge to work together with someone else this week (like our body parts work together) to do something that is pleasing to God. We shared prayer requests and prayed together before some really tired girls headed home to bed.

Hopefully, this week, the girls will think about working together as part of one body and that will change the way they think about treating others as well.

Summer Fun: The 39 Clues to You -- Day 3

We're back on schedule with our summer adventure -- 39 Clues to You. If you missed the first two posts about our adventures, you can find them here and here. The goal of 39 Clues to You is to teach my girls and four of their friends about the value of others. Join us on our journey as we learn that it matters to God how we treat each other because each person is precious to Him. We drove home from Colorado yesterday -- that's 10 hours in the car. Now, we don't have a spacious minivan or SUV where each girl has lots of space to themselves. My car is a VW Passat station wagon (which I love, by the way). The bigger the girls get, the less room they each have -- and the more often they fuss at each other.

We've found the trip home always seems longer than the trip out, probably because everyone is tired of each other and just plain tired. Yesterday, our girls started the trip bickering with one another. It wasn't so much what they actually said to one another as how they said it.

My girls are old enough to know better than to flat-out insult one another, but they are experts at making sure their tone conveys exactly what they think of their sister at that moment. It's frustrating, and we've been trying to impress on our girls that our tone and what we are thinking is equally as important as the words that actually come out of our mouths.

Today's 39 Clues adventure focuses on the importance of treating others respectfully with our words. But I'm not going to lecture on what words God wants us to use or not use. Giving the kids a list of rules to follow simply makes God seem like a hard taskmaster. No, today, we're going to go after the root of the problem and take a look at our hearts.

Our memory verse for today is Luke 6:45: A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

It's what's in our hearts that determines what comes out of our mouths. If we're filling our hearts up with anger, frustration and meanness, then that's what's going to come out of our mouths. However, if we are spending time with God each day and letting Him fill us up with His love, then words that reflect His love will come pouring out of our mouths.

To illustrate this point with the girls, I'm giving them each a cup and a bowl. We're going to pour water in the cups until they overflow into the bowls. Then we're going to talk about what we expected to come out of the cups. We poured in water, so why didn't we expect orange juice or hot chocolate to come out when it overflowed?

We'll talk about how our hearts are like the cup. We can't expect love to overflow out of our hearts into our words, if we're not filling our hearts up with God's love. We'll spend some time talking about what our speech will sound like if it's overflowing with God's love. And we'll discuss how words really do matter. We can't take them back once they're out, and they can hurt worse than an actual punch to the arm.

Before we use our cups in our illustration, I'm going to have the girls use Sharpies to decorate them with hearts. Part of their homework will be to drink out of their cups everyday to remind them to fill their hearts up with God's love every day.

Our featured girl for the day is my next-door-neighbor's oldest daughter. I'll hand out the clues, and we'll figure out which girl we're going to learn about today. She's a gorgeous girl who is a lot of fun. She's super smart and  is an excellent problem solver. She loves to play piano and volleyball. So, today, she's going to teach the rest of us about her two favorite skills. We're going to get a little piano lesson, and we're going to head outside to bump and set our way through the afternoon.

After our activities, we'll come back inside and talk about how hard or easy each of them was. And, we'll talk about what we liked or dislike about each one. We'll have my neighbor's daughter talk about why she loves each of those activities.

We'll wrap up with a reminder that God made each one of  us different and our differences are what make us useful in God's plan. Even if some of the girls dislike the activities, they'll have a new appreciation for how difficult each one of those things is.

The girls will leave today with a devotional page that takes them through 1 Corinthians 13 in the next five days to help them spend time each day with God. They'll also leave with a challenge to write down the times this week when their words reflect God's love.

Hopefully, by the time they leave today, they won't just have a better understanding of the talents of one of their friends, but they'll be more aware of their words as well.

Summer Fun: The 39 Clues to You -- Day 2

Today is the second day of our summer adventure “39 Clues to You.” Two weeks ago we kicked off our adventure with a day dedicated to learning about how each person is God’s masterpiece – the best thing that He can make. If you missed it, you can read about our first day here. The goal of this summer’s adventure is to help the kids understand that each person is important to God. Each of the girls gathered around my kitchen table has special gifts and talents that God will use. Because God made each person different, we need to respect and appreciate those differences. How we treat others matters to God.

Today, our lesson focuses on being the image of God. Our memory verse for the day is Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

God created us in His image. That means we are created to be like God. We aren’t exact replicas of God, but because we are created in God’s image, we should reflect the character qualities of God. To illustrate this point with the girls, I’m going to have them draw an image of themselves on a piece of paper. We’ll talk about how that image reflects their physical characteristics. Then we’ll talk about how we are made in God’s image, not to reflect His physical characteristics but to reflect His character. We also need to be aware that if we claim to follow Jesus, then our actions show the world a picture of God. We want those actions to be an accurate reflection of who God is.

Each week, we’re going to focus on the gifts and talents of one girl. This week, our clues will lead us to learn more about my oldest daughter. The girls will get six clues that they must put together to figure out which girl we’re focusing on. As we reveal the clues, we’ll add things to the “picture frame” stuck to the wall, which represents the masterpiece God created when He created that child.

Each child will be asked to identify something that they like about my oldest daughter and write it down. We’ll add those items to the “picture frame” as well.

My oldest daughter loves to play soccer and draw, so our activities for today include learning some soccer moves and playing a soccer game. She also enjoys drawing, so we’ll be learning how to draw a few simple items. When we’re done learning these things, we’ll talk about whether they were easy or hard. We’ll discuss how we can’t all expect to be good at the same things, but we should appreciate the talents that our friends have.

We’ll finish the day with a reminder that each person is made in God’s image and we should act as if what we do reflects back on God because it does. The challenge for the girls this week is to get caught being a reflection of God in their actions toward others, which is a good challenge for all of us to take on this week.

Summer Fun: The 39 Clues to You

Today is the first day of our summer vacation. It means a new schedule and a lot more time with my kids. It also means it's time to begin our summer "camp." Many of you know that every summer, my girls and four of their friends gather in my kitchen to spend time having fun and learning about God. This summer, our little group is going to embark on the "39 Clues to You" adventure. Despite a doctor's visit for a severe ear infection in my youngest, which has caused us to rearrange the schedule a bit, we are going to get our adventure under way today.

Each week, I'll be sharing with you what we've done. And the great news is that this year, I'm writing up the curriculum as I go and hope to have it available to you in the fall, so you can use it with your own kids next summer.

I'm almost as excited as the girls. This summer's adventure focuses on the idea that God made every person unique so they can fill a spot in His plan. Every one of us is God's masterpiece -- the very best thing that He can make. Because of that, I want the girls to know that not only did God make them unique and special, but He made others to be unique and special, too. That means that we need to place value on others and treat them with the same care and respect that we would use with a Renoir painting.

Each week will focus on a different girl in our group. At the beginning of the day, the girls will receive six clues and they'll have to figure out which girl we are going to focus on that day. We'll learn to do something that she excels at. Eat some food that she enjoys. Read part of a book that she really likes and find out some of the things that she is passionate about.

At the end of the summer, we're going to have a challenge that will force all the girls to work together and use their specific talents to complete the challenge.

Today is our kick-off day. The girls will get three clues that focus on how each person is loved by and special to God. The answer to the clues is "You." After that, they will receive their T-shirts and their totes. While they decorate their totes, we'll talk about the plan for the summer.

After they decorate their totes, they will each have to choose from an assortment of snacks. Each girl will have to explain why she chooses the snack she does. We'll talk about how each person has different likes and dislikes and how that's important because it keeps us from all being the same. If we all only ate tomatoes, then it would be hard to feed all of us.

Our big project for the day will focus on Ephesians 2:10, which says "For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." We will look at pictures of art and architectural masterpieces and talk about how a masterpiece is the best that we can achieve.

We'll discuss how God says that we are His masterpiece, so we are the best thing that He can create. We'll also talk about how art masterpieces are treated -- with care and respect. We'll learn that God wants us to treat other people as if they are masterpieces -- with care and respect.

Each girl will get an artist's canvas, so she can create her own masterpiece with paint. We'll write Ephesians 2:10 on them. They will get to take them home and hang them in a place where they will remember that they are God's masterpiece.

As they leave, they will receive a challenge for the week that encourages them to treat their siblings as if their siblings are a masterpiece. When they come back next week, they'll need to know their memory verse and have written down one way that they treated their siblings like masterpieces to receive their prize.

I can't wait to see how God works in the hearts of these girls this summer. I just know that we're going to face August with a new respect for how God has created other people. And my prayer is that we'll have changed hearts in the way that we deal with others.