Prayer

A Mom's Prayer

moms prayer Here I am again, God. Here, on my knees. Asking for help.

You see, I've got these two precious daughters that you somehow thought I was equipped to raise. The thing is, though, I'm kind of lost.

One of them is struggling to see you, hear you and know you. She asks me questions like why didn't you send Satan to Jupiter instead of sending him to earth and why hurting hurts so much more than feeling good feels good. I have to tell you, I don't know the answers to those questions, and I don't even know where to find them.

The other one is growing up so fast. She's getting interested in boys and all the teenage girly stuff, and I'm really not ready for that. I'm not sure I'm equipped to guide her through those waters in this day of texting and social media.

With two girls in middle school, I have to say middle school is tough. The expectations are high. The world is pulling them in all sorts of directions -- none of them pointed at you.

What's a mom to do? How do I raise them and guide them and lead them to you when I don't have the answers they need. How do I protect them and yet let them spread their wings to gain some independence? How do I know we'll navigate these waters together and come out in one piece on the other side?

This age of teens and pre-teens is kind of frightening as a parent. There's only so much I can do. I miss the days when they were little and I could control so much more. This life of a pre-teen and teen mom is so much more than I thought it would be -- both good and bad.

And I can't do this on my own. I'm not smart enough or strong enough. So, here I am on my knees again asking for the strength and wisdom to get through this day. Let me show my kids grace. Let me show them love. Let me fill them with your wisdom and your strength. Let me trust you to get through to them and touch their hearts when I can't. Help me be the mom they need. Because I certainly can't do it on my own.

Teaching Our Kids to Pray (Joy Prayer Cards Giveaway)

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The Christmas season is the perfect time to focus on prayer with your kids. With so much of our energy focused on keeping our families' hearts turned toward Jesus, what better way to do that than with prayer?

Yet, too often, our kids' prayers (and even our own) become tired and rote. Instead of being a time of interaction with God, our prayer time becomes a simple litany of the things that we want God to do for us. Our kids' prayers may seem like the same prayer over and over again.

Prayer isn't just our wish list of the things we want God to do for us. It's a time of interacting with God. It's a time where we talk and God talks. It's a time for our hearts to draw close to the one who made us. It's a constant conversation throughout the day. It's a time when God can work on changing us to be more like Him.

But those things only happen when we use our prayer time well. Those things only happen when we put our focus on God and on the things that He wants. When we do that, when we begin to abide in Him, our prayers become a reflection of who God wants us to be, not a reflection of our wish list for God.

So, how do we help our kids learn to have that kind of prayer time? How do we teach them that praying is more than just asking God for things?

First, we have to lead by example. If our prayers sound similar to our kids' prayers, then we have to change the way we pray. We have to start having authentic communication with God, asking Him to change us so that we can better follow His leading. We have to show our kids how to pray.

Second, we need to give our kids tools to learn to pray. Whether it's a book about prayer for older kids or a simple box of notecards with things to pray about listed on them, our kids need tools to learn to turn their prayer time from a wish list to a time of fellowship with God.

One great tool is these Joy Prayer Cards from Kim over at Not Consumed. Each card contains a scripture about Jesus, someone to pray for, and something to pray for about yourself. These cards are colorful and cute, and they direct your kids' prayers to a deeper level than just "Thank you for today, and thank you for my mom." You can pair them with a pretty journal and cute pen and have a great gift for your kids for Christmas.

Every card is set up to use the acronym JOY (Jesus, Others, Yourself), which is a simple system for kids to remember to use even when they don't have the cards. There are four weeks worth of cards, each focused on a different topic: my family, my community, my nation, and my world. You can purchase a set of Joy Prayer Cards here for $4.99, but be sure to enter today's giveaway of a set of these great cards. To enter just leave a comment here or on the Everyday Truth Facebook page.

As you and your family enter this Christmas season, use this opportunity to teach your kids that prayer is more than just a list. Be an example to them of how to have open communication with God. Give them the tools to enrich their own prayer lives. It's a habit you won't regret teaching them.

Lessons from a Tightrope Walk

I let my girls stay up late last night to watch Nik Wallenda walk across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. My girls were fascinated. I was nearly sick to my stomach I was so nervous he was going to fall.

When he got to the middle of the tightrope, the winds were more than he could handle, so he squatted down on the rope to wait for them to calm down. Wallenda talked to himself and to God all the way across the rope. He prayed for the winds to calm down. He thanked Jesus for the opportunity and the spectacular creation. And he kept putting one foot in front of the other until he got to the other side.

When he was safely to the other side (because I could hardly breathe, much less think while he was on the rope), I was struck by how his walk across that tightrope is a great example to us of how to walk through difficult times. Keep moving, thank God for the good stuff, and hunker down and pray when it all gets to be too much.

While 99.99% of us will never find ourselves walking across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope, we will find ourselves in difficult situations. We will find ourselves in situations we never imagined we'd be in. We will find ourselves in over our heads. And our kids will find themselves in those types of situations, too.

Our kids need to know how to successfully navigate difficult situations in a Godly way. They need to know that sometimes all God asks us to do is keep moving our feet. They need to know that God is in control no matter what. Nik Wallenda's walk across the Grand Canyon is a great object lesson for this. If you didn't see his walk, check out the YouTube video above with your kids. Then use it to start a discussion. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Talk about difficult situations. Ask your kids to name some tough situations they have faced. Ask them to tell you how they handled them. Draw a parallel to Nik Wallenda's tough situation. Ask them to think about the things that he did when faced with winds he didn't expect and a rope that was swaying beneath him.
  • Talk about how sometimes all God asks us to do is to keep moving. When Nik Wallenda got on the rope, he didn't stop to look down. He didn't get frustrated when the rope started to sway. He kept moving. He put one foot in front of the other until he reached His goal. Sometimes, the only way through a difficult situation is to simply keep putting one foot in front of the other, trusting that God knows the way.
  • Talk about thanking God in all circumstances. Even though Nik Wallenda was nearly 1,500 feet in the air, where one missed step meant certain death, he spent much of his walk thanking Jesus. He found things for which to be thankful in the midst of the most dangerous stunt of his career. He used talking to Jesus as a way to focus his mind and to remember that God has everything under control. He was the embodiment of 1 Thessalonians 5:18: "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." When we take the time to give thanks despite our circumstances, we take our focus off our circumstances and put it firmly on God.
  • Talk about prayer. When the situation got to be too much for Nik Wallenda, he hunkered down for a minute and prayed for the wind to calm. Sometimes, the best thing we can do in a difficult situation is hit our knees and pray, trusting that God is in control. Then, just like Wallenda, we have to get back up and finish the journey. When we pray in the middle of a difficult situation, we take the responsibility for getting through that situation off our own shoulders and put it on God's where it belongs. We let God give us strength and wisdom for the situation instead of relying on ourselves.

Our kids can't avoid difficulties. There will be times when it seems like they're walking a tightrope over the Grand Canyon. There will be moments when it seems like they can't take another step. In those moments, we want them to remember that God is there with them. We want them to keep moving, thank God, and hunker down and pray when it all gets to be too much.

Putting Our Kids in God's Hands

 

My dog sliced his foot open while he was running with my husband a couple of weeks ago. We bandaged it up and hoped it would heal. It didn't. So off we went to the vet who determined that it needed to be stitched up. Last Monday, we took him in to have it stitched. All week, he left the bandage and the stitches alone.

Yesterday, I decided it was time to change the bandage. The one he had on was dirty and gross. I changed his bandage, then took my girls to the store. When we came home, his bandage was gone and so were the stitches. We'll be making a trip to the vet today to see what we need to do to heal it back up.

As frustrating as it is, I can't really blame my dog. He's just doing what's natural. His foot is bothering him, so he licks it. It struck me this morning as I wondered how on earth I'm going to fit a vet appointment into a day that's ridiculously crowded that we're not that much different from my dog.

Too often, I offer up my wounds and concerns to God, only to snatch them back and worry over them. Just like my dog is incapable of leaving his hurt paw alone, I'm often incapable of leaving my worries in God's hands. Oh, I'll give them to Him for awhile, but after a bit, I want to snatch them back. Unlike my dog, though, I am capable of leaving them alone. I just choose not to.

I think what it all boils down to is a lack of trust. Especially when it comes to my kids, I don't alwayswant to trust God and His plan. What if I don't like His plan? What if His plan means things don't go the way I plan? I want to trust God, but my constant snatching back of my worries tells me that I don't trust Him completely.

We all struggle to trust God with our kids. When you love someone as much as we love our kids, it's hard to place them in someone else's hands. I often have to remind myself of the story of Hannah, who had prayed for a long time for a child and who literally placed her son, Samuel, in God's hands by having Him be raised by the priest at the temple. Can you imagine? She was barren for so long, then sent her young son to live as a servant of God. She said these words: "I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord" (1 Samuel 1:27-28).

That needs to be our prayer every day. We have to place our children in God's hands each day. He can protect them and love them so much better than we can. He can guide them and give them the strength they need for the day. When we constantly snatch back our concerns for our kids, we do them a disservice. I want my kids to have the best of everything, including all that God can offer them. To do that, I have to daily place them into God's care.

Pray Hannah's words for your children today. No one can take better care of our kids than God.

 

When Your Child Struggles with Their Faith

I have a child who is struggling with her faith. She has a lot of big questions that don't have easy answers. She really wants to believe that everything she's learned about God is true, but there are moments when it all seems too fantastical. There are moments when it's simply a lot to take in. There are moments when a loving God doesn't reconcile with what she's seeing in the world.

While it makes for some tough parenting moments, my daughter is simply trying to wrap her head and her heart around God. The process is actually healthy. She's trying to make this faith her own -- not just something she believes because mom and dad believe it. It's also incredibly difficult to watch as a parent.

We want our kids to follow Jesus. As Christ-following parents, that's the primary goal of our parenting -- to move our kids from dependence on us to dependence on God. We want them to have a strong faith. We want them to choose the right path. But for some kids that faith doesn't come without struggle. It doesn't come without questions. It doesn't come without doubts.

It reminds me of the story of Jacob in Genesis 32. Jacob was a man who had gotten ahead in life through deceit and trickery, and he was on his way to face his brother whom he had tricked out of his birthright and his blessing. Jacob spent the night physically wrestling with God. At the end of the night, Jacob came away a changed man -- he even got a new name, Israel. God would use Jacob in mighty ways to create the nation of Israel, but Jacob had to wrestle with God first.

Sometimes our kids need to do their own wrestling with God. They need to put God to the test to see if He's going to do what He says. They need to struggle with the big questions until they come out on the other side with a faith that is their own. As parents, we can't choose what our children are going to believe, but we can help them as they struggle.

If your child is struggling to make their faith their own, pray for your child. Pray continually. Hit your knees and intercede for them. Pray that God would remove every stumbling block to your child knowing Him. Pray that God would show up in your child's life in a way that they can't deny that it was anything but Him. Ask your child what he or she wants you to pray for every day, then be specific in telling your child you are praying about those things for him or her. Point out when God answers those prayers.

Answer your child's questions honestly. We've has some big discussions around here in the past couple months. Sometimes my daughter asks questions that I don't know the answer to. If that's the case, I look for the answer. Sometimes she asks questions that there are no good answers for. When that happens, I simply tell her that I don't know but we can ask God when we get to heaven.

Let your child wrestle with God. Encourage your child to seek out answers on their own. Encourage them to have a daily time where they read the Bible on their own. Encourage them to talk to God about their doubts and questions. God will show up when your child is earnestly seeking Him. Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

While it's hard to stand by and watch our kids struggle with God, struggle to find their own faith, for some kids it's the only way they will ever make this faith their own. As parents we can pray, teach and encourage, but our kids have to choose to follow God on their own.

Friday Introduction: CrossKonnect

My older daughter left for school in tears yesterday. My younger daughter finished the day in tears. It was one of those parenting days where you just want to tear your hair out. There wasn't much I could do about either situation. Hormones and exhaustion were the root causes of all those tears.

So, I spent some time praying for my girls yesterday. Truthfully, I don't cover my girls in prayer nearly as often as I ought to. Oh, I pray for them, but I don't spend concentrated time in prayer for them. God hears all of our prayers, whether they're quick pleas for help or long, detailed conversations, but lately my prayer life has become more filled with quick pleas for help than conversations with God.

God wants to hear from us, no matter how long we talk to Him, but to truly have an effective prayer life, to truly cover our kids in prayer, we have to be having a conversation with God. Since my prayer life had become more plea for help than conversation, I started looking for tools to help me be more diligent in having a conversation with God.

I'm a smartphone girl. Everything from my to-do list to my calendar is on my phone. I read books on my phone, play games on my phone, answer email on my phone and plan menus on my phone, so I decided to see what kind of apps were available to help me organize my prayer life.

If you're looking for a simple app for your phone or tablet that will help you remember to set aside time to have a conversation with God and will help you organize your prayer requests, check out CrossKonnect. It's currently available for Android phones but the website says it's coming soon to iPhones.

This simple app includes an alarm reminder you can set to remind you to pray at certain times of the day. I use the alarm to remind me of the time I set aside for my quiet time and to remind me to pray during the day when I know my girls have something important going on. The app includes several prayer lists, including Roles of God, Gratitude List, People to Pray For, and Distractions. The app then pulls your lists into it's prayer guide, which is based on The Lord's Prayer. All you have to do is click on the prayer guide, and it will give you prompts to pray through your lists. The simple guide includes prompts to confess sins, read scripture, pray for protection, and pray for others, among other things. There's also an option to keep a prayer journal, which I find is easier to do on my tablet than on my phone.

Prayer is one of the most powerful tools in our parenting toolbox. James 5:16 tells us, "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." Prayer is effective because we may not always know what our kids need, but God does. Using technology to improve the consistency and the quality of your prayer life may just be the thing you need to use that tool more often.

 

 

Waking Up to Dog Poop

I get up every morning at 5:30 to write this blog. I always think I'm going to get ahead and get a post written the day before, but it never works out that way.

This morning, I woke up to a mess from my dog. Last night, my husband gave our dog the leftovers of our steak from dinner. We've done this before, and he's never gotten sick. But we were out of propane for the grill last night so I cooked the steak on the stove -- in coconut oil. We now know that our dog's stomach does not like coconut oil.

Our dog is really good about not having accidents in the house, but for some reason when his stomach is upset in the middle of the night, he won't bark to go out. It's like he thinks disturbing our sleep is worse than pooping in the house. As much as I hate having to get up in the middle of the night, I hate cleaning dog poop out of the carpet much more. I've explained that to my dog several times, but not being a rational being, he isn't quite grasping the concept. By refusing to inconvenience us by barking in the middle of the night, our dog creates a bigger problem in the morning.

Aren't we just like my dog, though? We refuse to take our problems to God until we can't handle them any more. We make a huge mess instead of letting God deal with the small one. We don't want to inconvenience God or we think our problems are too small for Him, so we try to take care of it on our own. Often, a big mess results.

God cares about us. He wants us to bring Him everything -- from our deepest heart's desires to our teeniest, tiniest issues. He cares that the car won't start. He cares that you're worried about that bump on your daughter's face. He cares that you need $20 you don't have. He even cares that you can't find your car keys.

We want our kids to know that God cares about everything that goes on in their lives. If He didn't, He wouldn't have told us in Philippians 4:6 to "pray about everything." God knows our problems, but He wants us to bring our issues to Him. He wants us to voluntarily turn it over to Him, to acknowledge that He is in control.

When we model this behavior for our kids, they learn that no problem is too small to take to God. They learn that God cares about them even though the decisions they have to make and the issues they're facing may  seem small in the grand scheme of things.

Help your kids take everything to God. Set aside time in your day to pray with your kids and to model how to turn things over to God. Keep a prayer journal with your kids so you can keep track of all the times that God takes care of our problems -- in ways we can't even begin to imagine.

If our kids learn to turn their problems over to God, they will learn to avoid making messes that take a lot longer to clean up in the morning.

The Popular Girls

"I don't have that many friends in middle school," my 11-year-old daughter said.

"Sure you do," I answered.

"Well, I have friends but not like the popular girls," she answered.

Ah, the popular girls. She was talking about a group of girls she knows who seem to have it all -- looks, lots of friends, lots of boys asking them out. But that particular group of girls tends to be full of drama and quick to put down others. My 11-year-old daughter is extremely level-headed. She has never wanted to get mixed up in all the girl drama that takes place at school. She's very reserved until you get to know her, and at school she pretty much keeps her nose down and blends into the background. But even she is drawn to wanting what the world says is important.

This is a tough age. Middle school is just the beginning of figuring out who you are, who God wants you to be. It can be hard to hang onto your sense of self-worth when everyone around you seems to be smarter, prettier and more popular. Everyone wants to have lots of friends. Everyone wants to know that they have value.

When our kids are confronted with situations that rob them of their sense of self-worth, of their self-confidence, we have to be there. We have to step in and remind them that God says they are a masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). Whether they have lots of friends or just a few friends, we have to help them understand that the opinion of God is way more important than the opinion of man.

Growing up isn't easy. It never has been, but in this digital age where every minute of your life can be dissected online it's even tougher. Humiliating moments that used to be forgotten are now immortalized on Facebook and Instagram for everyone to see.

So, how do we help our kids through these difficult years as they grow into the men and women God wants them to be?

Cover your son or daughter in prayer. Pray every day for your child. Pray that they would know that they are loved and valued by God and by you. Knowing that you are praying for them each day bolsters their confidence and lets them know you love them. It opens their hearts to God's direction and places a hedge of protection around them.

Don't brush aside their concerns.Talk with your son or daughter about the things that concern them. What's trivial to you may be a huge deal to them. When your kids know that their concerns are important to you, they're more likely to bring you the big stuff along with the little stuff.

Let them know they are loved. Put notes in your kids' lunches. Text them while they're on the bus. Leave notes in their rooms. Have a special snack waiting for them when they get home. In lots of little ways each day, bolster your kids with love. Let them know that no matter what goes on outside the four walls of your home, they are loved within them.

Keep them off social media as long as possible. Don't get me wrong, I love Facebook and Twitter, but the older your kids are when they use it, the more likely they will be to understand how to use it. Set limits on their use and be aware of what your kids and their friends are doing online. Cyber bullying is a huge issue. Make sure you know if it's happening to your child.

Our kids are precious, but growing up often robs them of the sense that they have value. Every child, every person, has value to God. We just have to make sure our kids remember that.

First Friday: A Prayer of Thanksgiving

 

A few nights ago, I was reminded that prayer with small children is a lot like Chutes and Ladders.

Sometimes, you win. Sometimes, you lose. And sometimes, you take a direct slide right back to start.

But sometimes, you end up where we did that night...

Right off the board and into the land of “Not a chance anyone will ask us to share our technique on how to teach a preschooler to pray.”

EVER.

It began innocently enough.

Negotiations as to who would be first. All in all, fairly civil. And then, as I was somewhere between the fridge and the dining room table, mayhem ensued.

Underneath the dull roar of Drew’s voice, I heard Grace praying. With every word, her brother’s “I need to be first!” got louder and louder and louder. Not to be outdone, baby sis joined in with intermittent shouts of “I needs to pway!!!!”

Before Grace even reached her “Amen,” with clenched teeth, Drew yammered out something like this, “Bless this food to our body’s use and I am supposed to pray first!!!” The conclusion was equally impressive as he shouted a spit-spewing “The end!!!” in Grace’s face.

Grace, the usual peacemaker, offered to pray again. Not really sure as to what was even happening, I mumbled, “Uh, okay, but can Sophie go first?” Grace waved her on as only a princess amongst the peon public could.

Taking her cue from her big sis, Sophie broke out into her usual, “Mahna, Mahna, Mahna, Mahna...”

And just about the time you expected a merry band of Muppets to add a rousing, “Doo, Doo,” she looked up. Made sure everyone was paying attention. And finished it off with an ear-piercing, “Ameen!”

Just relieved that the noise had ended, I turned to go get the napkins I’d missed when I heard Grace saying the same prayer she’d prayed before but mumbling at warp speed. Miraculously, when she was done, Drew sat back with a certain satisfaction as if to say, “See, I was supposed to be first.”

Phew.

Just reliving that makes my eye want to twitch.

But although our prayer time landed us into the realm of “what not to do when you pray with small ones or shoot, even big ones,” I realized something that night.

The prayers I utter, particularly those of thanksgiving, often mirror our dinner blessing disaster.

Sometimes, like Grace, its just to get it done. Other times, like Drew, its just so others hear me. And even other times, like Sophie, its mimicry of words that I have uttered before.

Take the Lord’s Prayer, for instance. Our very instruction on how to pray. Words I have known since I was very small...

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)

I hear them. I read them. I know them.

And yet, somehow I have forgotten to implant the truth of these words in my heart.

A truth that should be spoken in moments of plenty and want and joy and heartache.

Perhaps that is why today, I leave you with my prayer of thanksgiving. One I hope will be rooted in my heart and will live through my hands, even on days when I fall right off the board into the precious land of “Jesus, please help me.”

And so it is, without pretense, facade or further ado, I offer up this humble sister’s heart’s cry:

Papa, how I long to be with you, know you and hold you in the presence of angels and saints and my precious Savior. May my heart remember this longing. May my life speak of your infinite majesty and love. And may Your name on my lips do what it has in this simple offering, where the mere mention of “I am” takes my very breath away.

Papa, I promise to be diligent about the work you have for me on this earth. Please use me up. Take every piece of me for Your holy purpose. And when I find my way Home, let me be singing and shouting and praising Your name, even if my voice has been silenced, my body broken and my mind torn apart. Let me love you that much.

Please give my soul abundant gratitude. Let me not be so caught up in the want of tomorrow that I forget the abundance of today. And should I have to look beyond this day’s limits, let me find comfort as I consider Your faithful care in all my yesterdays.

Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me.

I know the sin you’ve washed from me. Remind me daily of the grace and mercy you have poured out on me. Let my forgiveness stand ready to honor the forgiveness you’ve given me time and time again.

Papa, let me be ever mindful of the Enemy. Give me boldness. And mold me into a mighty warrior. When I have the choice to choose the world or choose eternity, empower me to choose You.

You, who embody mercy and joy and hope.

You, who originate peace and love and strength.

You, who found me, and I, who so desperately need you...

Forever and ever and ever.

May my praise never cease even as I whisper,

“Amen. Amen. A thousand times, Amen.”

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew and one-year-old Sophie. When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers. But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful.

Teaching Our Kids to Listen

My older daughter got a set of devotional cards for her birthday. She pulls one out every morning, reads it and sticks it in her pocket. (I can't tell you how many I've accidentally run through the washing machine.) Yesterday, I asked her what her devotional card was about. "Waiting," she replied.

I almost fell over. All weekend we had talked about how sometimes God asks us to wait. You see, my daughter switched soccer teams a couple of months ago. She's learning a new position and a new style of play, and she's struggling to get playing time. Through the veil of tears shed over the weekend, we talked and talked about doing your best and waiting on God. We talked about learning what you can from the situation and being a good teammate. We talked about how sometimes we learn more in the waiting than we learn in the doing.

And then, God started talking. Our sermon at church on Sunday was all about waiting on God's timing. Then her devotional card echoed the same sentiment. "It's creepy, mom," she said.

I love it when God shows up. I love it when He gives my kids tangible evidence that He's real and that He cares about what's happening in their lives. He might not write on the wall anymore, but He does make His voice heard in ways that even an 11-year-old can hear Him.

The thing is, though, my daughter might have missed God's voice. She might have ignored it. She might have chalked it up to coincidence if she hadn't been taught how to listen for Him.

Sometimes it's hard for our kids to listen for God because He doesn't often speak audibly. If we're not paying attention, then we can easily miss what God is saying.

So, how do we teach our kids to listen to God's voice?

Make sure your kids know that God speaks. At dinner one night, talk with your kids about the different ways that people communicate. Ask your kids how they could communicate with someone if they couldn't audibly speak. Encourage them to be creative in their answers. They can even act them out. Then talk with your kids about the ways that God speaks to us. Explain that even though He doesn't speak out loud, we can still hear what He has to say through prayer, reading our Bibles, going to church and listening to other Christ followers.

Encourage habits that help your kids hear God's voice. Set aside some time in your home for individual quiet times where your kids spend time reading their Bibles and/or a devotional book. Have family devotionals. Go to church and talk about what you learn.

Keep a family prayer journal. Keep track of the things that you pray for and the answers God gives. Letting your kids have tangible evidence that God answers prayer lets them see that He works in our lives.

Point it out when you see God speaking to your kids. When my daughter told me about her devotional card yesterday, I was quick to point out to her that God was speaking to her. When we point out God's voice to our kids, it's much easier for them to hear it on their own in the future.

God tells us that we are His sheep. John 10:27 says "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." Sheep follow their shepherd because they know His voice, but they had to learn which voice to follow by listening. Our kids need our help to learn to listen for God's voice so that they can follow it.

It's the last day to enter our 31 Gifts giveaway. Don't miss out. Check out Friday's post.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife and A Heart Reflected.

A First Day of School Prayer

I woke up this morning as the mom of a fourth grader and a sixth grader. It seems like only yesterday that I walked my older daughter through the doors of her elementary school for the first time. Today, I'll drop her off at middle school.

I wasn't planning to write this post as part of my The Best School Year Ever series, but as I lay awake at 4:30 this morning, praying for my girls, I felt compelled to add this one in, to share with you my first day of school prayer for my girls. I'll be printing this off and laying it at the breakfast table for them to read, so they know their mom is praying for them today. I encourage you to write your own prayer for your kids and share it with them.

May God keep both your bodies and your hearts safe.

May He help you to know the right thing to do in every situation, and may you choose to do it.

May He give you courage to be strong in tough situations.

May He make you be friends who are willing to lay down your own desires to meet the needs of a friend.

May He help you be kind to others, and let others be kind to you.

May He help you  remember to pray in sticky situations.

May He help you to watch your words. Let your words build others up and not tear them down.

May you always know that you are God's masterpiece, no matter what anyone else says.

Help me to make home a refuge for them, a place where they can rest and be comforted after a hard day.

May He help you be respectful of others, both adults and other children.

May He help you open your minds to learning, but help you remember to compare everything you are taught against God's word.

May He help you to grow this year in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Help me to be the parent that they need. Let me hold onto my patience and look to You for wisdom before opening my mouth.

Let this year be filled with joy and unexpected gifts.

This is my first day of school prayer for my girls. I'm praying that this truly is their best school year ever. Won't you join me?

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

Making the Most of Car Time

Doors slam. The key turns. The engine starts. The car pulls out of the garage. Mom's taxi service is back in business.

When school and activities start again in the fall, we spend many hours in the car. Whether it's driving the school carpool or taking a child to practice, I spend a lot of time with my kids in the car. And, unfortunately, much of that time is wasted.

I listen to the radio. My older daughter plays on her phone. My younger daughter looks out the window.

When one of the girls does talk to me, too often, it seems like an annoyance rather than a gift. Yes, a gift. Those moments in the car, especially those moments when I only have one child in the car with me are a gift. They are precious, and they shouldn't be wasted.

When we look at time in the car with our kids as a gift, rather than just another trip to the store, school, practice or church, we will find better ways to use that time. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 tells us exactly what to do with our car time: "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." 

See those words, "walk along the road?" That's our car time. The Israelites walked everywhere. God is telling them that that is a perfect time to talk with our kids about the important stuff. It's a great time to impress upon your kids how God is an important part of their lives.

So, make the most of your car time with your kids this school year. Try a few of these tips to get you started:

Stay off the phone. It's tempting to take those few minutes in the car to make a phone call that's been waiting for you. Resist the temptation. If you're picking your kids up from school or an activity and you're still on a work call, try to finish up before you get them. Give your kids your attention in the car.

Turn off the radio. When one of your kids wants to talk in the car, turn the radio off. That one, simple act lets your son or daughter know that he or she has your attention.

Have a plan for car time. Keep a list of topics or conversation starter questions on a notecard in your car. Attach it to your visor. When you have time with your kids in the car and nothing to talk about, choose one of the topics from your notecard. You can get a printable one to start you off here.

Listen. When your child begins to talk with you in the car, listen to what they are saying. Don't tune them out or listen with half an ear. Kids will often bring up the things that are bothering them in the car because they can do it without looking you in the eye.

Pray. When you're in the car together and a topic of concern comes up, take the time to pray with your kids right then and there. Keep your eyes on the road, but engage in prayer with your kids.

Be silly. If no one has anything to talk about, engage your kids in other ways. Play word games or I spy games. Sing along to the radio. Enjoy the moment.

Remember, that time with your kids in the car is a gift. If we view it that way, then we'll be more likely to make good use of it. So, as the school year gears up, make the most of your car time.

Linking up today with The Better Mom and Graceful.

Kelly Ross is the winner of our $10 Walmart gift card. Congratulations, Kelly!

Starting With Prayer

My daughter had a friend sleep over last night. Now, we always end our days with me praying for my girls individually before they go to sleep. Now that we've hit the pre-teen years with my older daughter, I'm acutely aware that sometimes I can embarrass her. So, last night I asked her if she wanted me to pray or just kiss her and leave the room. She responded that she wanted me to pray for both her and her friend.

I've found that praying with my girls at the end of the day helps them, and it helps me. My girls know I'm praying for them, and I learn what's bothering my girls.

Prayer is powerful, and knowing that someone is praying for you is a boost.

As we head into the new school year, we need to make sure that we are covering our kids in prayer -- and that our kids know it. James 5:16 says "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." Prayer is powerful and effective. God is listening, and He wants to hear your heart for your kids.

There are going to be times during your kids' lives where there is nothing you can do to help a situation. You won't be able to make them learn the material, you won't be able to solve a problem with a friend, you won't be able to change the hard teacher, but you can pray. And prayer is powerful and effective.

Break it down

So, as you send your kids out the door to school or you sit down in your schoolroom at home, start your planning and preparation for this school year with prayer. Specifically, pray for your kids in these areas:

Spiritual -- Ask God to help your kids grow in their relationship with Him this year. Whether your child is 2 or 15, they can learn more about God and draw closer to Him during this school year. Ask God to help them stand strong for Him.

Emotional -- As kids grow, they begin to learn to deal with more and more emotions. Ask God to help them to learn to handle those emotions in an appropriate way. If your child struggles with a particular emotion, ask God to step in and help your child to control it.

Physical -- Pray for health and safety for your kids this year. My girls tend to be accident prone (we're frequent fliers at the ER), so this is a big one for us.

Mental -- Ask God to help your kids do well in school. We won't all have A+ students, but we can ask God to help our kids live up to their potential. Ask Him to help your kids focus on their studies and give their best effort every day.

Relational -- Pray for your kids to choose friends wisely. Ask God to help them make good decisions even in the face of peer pressure. Pray for your kids' friends, that they would be a good influence on your son or daughter.

Start with this list and personalize it for your kids. Pray specifically for the things that they struggle with. You can find a printable list to get you started here.

Create a prayer station

And don't forget to let your kids know you're praying for them. This year, we have a bulletin board that hangs in our kitchen. We'll be using that as a family prayer board. Everyone in our family can write a prayer request on a slip of paper and tack it to the board at any time. The other members of our family will be praying over those requests. This is a great tool to get your kids to let you know what's on their minds without them having to tell you face to face. And it's a great way for your kids to know that you are praying for them.

It doesn't have to be a bulletin board. You can use a jar or a window or a wall. But creating a station in your home where your kids can bring things to be prayed over helps them to know that prayer is powerful and effective. It helps them to understand that loving someone means you pray for them. Encourage your kids to pray for each other when they know something big is going on in the other child's life.

Covering your school year in prayer -- and continuing to pray throughout the year -- can make a big difference for your kids. Because prayer is powerful and effective.

It's not too late to enter the drawing for the $10 Walmart gift card. Just check out yesterday's post to enter.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife and A Heart Reflected.

Talking to Your Kids About the Tough Stuff

Like most of you, I woke up Friday morning to the news that someone had killed 12 people and injured more than 50 by shooting up a movie theater in Colorado. Yesterday, my eyes opened to the news of the NCAA placing sanctions on Penn State for covering up horrific crimes against children. It's tough enough to process those things on my own -- but then I had to explain them to my kids. No matter how hard we try, we can't always shelter our kids from the ugliness of life. We can't keep them ignorant of the evil in the world. Even if you keep the radio and the TV off and don't subscribe to the newspaper, your kids will hear things from friends or from overhearing adults talking about it.

As much as we'd like to ignore it, as much as we'd like to put a bubble around our kids so evil can't touch their innocence, we can't. And if we act like it's not a big deal or we refuse to discuss it with our kids, then we let someone else shape their perception of the world. We let someone else shape their perception of God. Because if we don't answer their questions, they'll keep asking people until someone does.

So, if we can't ignore the evil in the world, how do we talk about it with our kids without scaring them and without making them question the good in the world?

Be honest. Don't try to gloss over the horror or the magnitude of something like the Colorado killings or the Penn State abuse scandal. Your kids need to know that it's a big deal. They need to know that you're horrified as well. If we pass it off as no big deal or something our kids don't need to worry about, then we teach them that those types of things aren't worthy of our attention when the truth is that those types of things should break our hearts, just as they break the heart of God.

Keep it at their level. Give your kids only the details that are appropriate for their age. Last night at dinner, my girls wanted to know about the Penn State scandal. One of the questions they asked was "What did that guy do to the kids?" We didn't want to put those images in the heads of our kids, so we simply told our girls that he abused the kids and we didn't really need to know exactly what he did. It's enough to know that he hurt children. If your child is very young, keep things simple. Explain that sometimes people do wrong things and they hurt a lot of people and that makes God and us very sad.

Deal with their fears. One of my girls said she didn't want to go to the movie theater after the Colorado shooting. We talked about how uncommon what happened in Colorado is. We talked about the fact that it's news because it doesn't happen very often. We also talked about how God is in control no matter what, so even if it did happen to us, we would know that God would take care of us. It's important to let our kids share their fears with us so that we can put them in perspective. Otherwise, they can become out of control and keep our kids from doing everyday things.

Look for the good. On the flip side of horrific events like the Colorado shooting, there are usually stories of amazing heroism. Share those stories with your kids. Let them know that one evil act by one person doesn't negate the inherent good found in most people. We want our kids to view every day as an adventure and other people as trustworthy. We don't want to raise kids who are suspicious of everyone and everything. By reminding them that even in bad situations, good things happen, we are focusing them on the good instead of the evil and we are robbing Satan of the opportunity to create a spirit of fear and distrust in our kids.

Grab the opportunity to teach. There are valuable lessons we can teach our kids when tragic things happen. Our discussion of the Penn State scandal last night gave us a great opportunity to talk about how important it is to do the right thing even when it seems like the consequences will be bad. We also talked about how our choices rarely affect only us and how wrong choices can have far-reaching effects that we never dreamed of. When it seems the world has gone crazy, look for the lesson in the madness -- and share it with your kids. Real life is often the best teaching tool we have.

Pray. Encourage your kids to pray for the victims of the evil act. Encourage them to pray about their fears. When we hand everything over to God, we acknowledge that He is in control even when it seems like evil is winning. Cover the situation and your family in prayer. It is the most powerful tool we have against evil.

Unfortunately, evil is a part of this world. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." When Satan gets his moment through the evil actions of people, we can stop the effect he has on our kids by simply turning the tragedy into an opportunity. We can help our kids process the tragedy and draw their focus back toward God.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife and A Heart Reflected.

Reckless Love and a Birthday Prayer

Eleven years ago, I was impatiently awaiting the arrival of our first child. She was five days overdue, I was huge and miserable. I was also a bit scared of what was to come. It was my last day before motherhood arrived.

Tomorrow my firstborn child turns 11. I've often said that monkeys could raise her; she's that easy. She was the baby who never cried unless something was wrong. She was the child that always sought to follow the rules. And she is now the young lady who seeks to create compromise and works to include everyone. But God didn't give her monkeys; he gave her me.

Before she arrived on June 1, 2001, I thought I knew what it meant to love someone. I had no idea. I didn't know that motherhood meant that I would hurt when someone hurt her. I didn't know that loving her would sometimes turn me into a "momma bear." I didn't know how hard it would be to let go of her hand on the first day of kindergarten or how many tears I would shed on the last day of elementary school.

In the song "All of Me" by Matt Hammitt, there's a line that says: I'm gonna recklessly love you, even if I bleed. I had no idea what that type of reckless love looked like until I became a mom. I didn't know that I would bleed when she did until those bright blue eyes looked into mine for the first time.

As my older daughter stands on the cusp of the teenage years, I pray these things for her:

I pray you always remember that you are a masterpiece in God's eyes. Never let anyone else's words take away the power of God's words.

I pray you continue to seek God's direction for your life as you begin to make more decisions on your own.

I pray the world will never make you lose the compassion you have for others.

I pray you'll always have a forgiving spirit.

I pray you'll never lose your grit and determination.

I pray when tough times come, you'll always know you're loved.

I pray you'll make wise choices when it comes to friends -- and, yes, even boyfriends.

I pray you'll always feel free to be yourself.

I pray you'll never forget that God loves you -- and so do we.

 I know the next few years may be tricky -- for both my daughter and me. Navigating the waters of the preteen and teen years is never easy, for parents or kids. I know that she'll have days where she's hurt, and I'll have days where the reckless love of mommyhood means I'll bleed. But I also know that she'll always be a "heritage from the Lord" (Psalm 127:3) and I'll do my best to help her "grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52).

June 1, 2001, was a day my life changed forever. It was the day I gained the name I'll be known by for the rest of my life, "Mommy." And I wouldn't change it because even though it means tears, heartache and frustration. It also means laughter, fun and joy beyond any I've ever known.

Happy birthday, firstborn child of mine.

 

Memory Monday: Teaching Prayer (Ephesians 6:18)

Family prayers at the dinner table lately have gone something like this: "Dear God, thank you for this day, thank you for this food. Amen." It seems like every meal, this is what our girls pray. Now, I know that God enjoys hearing the prayers of children, but I think He probably prefers that little thought goes into the fact that we're talking to Him. Our dinnertime prayers have become habit, but they have not become heartfelt.

And, you know what? This is a failing on my part. I haven't taught my kids to pray. I thought they would just figure it out on their own, which is silly because Jesus taught His disciples to pray. If He had to teach them, why wouldn't I have to teach my kids how to pray?

I'm out to change our family's prayer life. While I want my kids to feel free to talk with God, I don't want their prayers to become rote.

I want them to talk to God from their hearts.

I want them to know that they can take anything to Him.

I want them to know that He answers prayers.

They aren't learning that from their current repetitive prayers.

Ephesians 6:18 says "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." God wants to hear from us. He wants to hear what is on our hearts. He wants to answer "all kinds of prayers and requests."

So, in our house for the next few weeks, we're going to consciously be working on prayer. We're going to learn what God has to say about it and how to pray. We're going to start being intentional in our prayers and learning that God wants to hear from us all the time. Here are some of the things we'll be doing.

  • Setting an example. It dawned on me the other day that my kids rarely hear me pray. They don't have an example to follow because we're not giving them one. It's not that I don't pray during the day, I just don't do it out loud. When Jesus wanted to teach His disciples how to pray, He prayed an example prayer for them. His disciples heard Him talk to God. I'll be making a conscious effort to pray out loud when my girls are around.
  • Being intentional in sharing requests. I pray for my kids all the time, but it rarely occurs to me to ask them to pray for me. That's about to change. We have a new piece of artwork in our house. It's a painted bulletin board that will hang on the wall. It's our prayer board. Whenever someone has a prayer request, we'll be sticking a prayer request on it. Others in the family will read them and pray over them.
  • Praying for others. So many times, my girls' requests center around themselves. We're going to start being intentional about praying for others. One night this week at dinner, we're going to make a list of people we want to pray for. We'll drop their names in a jar and pull one at every night and pray for them.
  • Keeping track of answered prayers. Learning to pray is easier when we can see how God is answering our prayers. We'll be keeping a prayer journal where we'll write down our requests, then write down when God answers them. This will give us a record of how God has worked in our lives and will give my girls a tangible reminder that God does answer prayer.

Prayer is an important thing to teach our kids. It's the number one way we communicate with God. This summer, the blog will spend a whole week focusing on praying for your kids and teaching them to pray, but we're going to get started around our house this week because talking to God is too important to put off.

Linking up today with Graceful and The Better Mom.

Little Bear Blue Moments

This is Little Bear Blue. He's one of my youngest daughter's favorite stuffed animals. Every morning when my daughter gets out of bed, she brings me Little Bear Blue for his morning hug. When my daughter comes home from school, Little Bear Blue comes out to get his afternoon hug. Before she goes to bed at night, Little Bear Blue has to be hugged and properly tucked in.

You see, my daughter has decided that Little Bear Blue runs on hugs. According to her, Little Bear Blue won't have enough energy to get through the day if her doesn't get the appropriate number of hugs. We're not that different from Little Bear Blue -- if we don't fill ourselves up with the right stuff, it's tough to get through the day.

It's easy for our families to get caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle of our schedules and forget to find time to fill ourselves up with God's love and grace. Like giving Little Bear Blue his daily hugs, filling ourselves up with the good stuff God has for us has to become a habit -- an ingrained part of our schedule.

We're using Little Bear Blue's daily need for hugs as a three times a day reminder to seek God and ask Him to fill us up. While we're filling up Little Bear Blue's hug meter, we're also reminding ourselves to check in with God. You may not have a Little Bear Blue in your home, but you probably have things you do every day at certain times. Help your family create a habit of checking in with God based on something you do every day. Whether it's brushing your teeth, sitting down to a meal or tying your shoes, find some everyday task that you can use to remind your family to spend a minute with God every time they do it.

You see, God wants us to seek Him out, and He wants us to do it on a regular basis. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says "pray continually." Matthew 6:33 says "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness." Psalm 55:17 says "Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice." Talking with God needs to become an everyday habit for us and our kids so that when crises hit, the first place we turn is to God.

The other day, I told you about my youngest daughter and I facing our fears and working our way across the very high jungle gym at The City Museum. As we sat at the entrance to the highest tube, my daughter looked at me and said "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." While I was worrying about the welds on the tube holding, she was placing her trust in the One who offers strength. She did that because it's become a habit. Every time she faces a challenge, I recite that verse to her. Over the years, it's simply become ingrained that that's the way she should handle a problem.

Creating the habit of checking in with God on a regular basis should be a priority for us as we raise our kids. Find a Little Bear Blue moment in your everyday life and start creating that habit today.

Take a minute and share with us  in the comments a task in your family's everyday life that you can use as a Little Bear Blue moment.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife, Growing Home,  Write It, Girl and A Pause on the Path.