Monday, December 3, 2018

Unfailing Hope: Devotion Eight (Plus Bonus Devotion!)

The season of Advent began yesterday. Every year, it feels like the enthusiasm to celebrate Christmas creeps sooner and sooner, perhaps even starting after Halloween. As much as I love Christmas' promise, the season of Advent is one of profound spiritual meaning and offers a healing of its own.

Advent is a season for those waiting for the promise, for those grasping for a light to come in the darkness. It knows the pain and fear of the almost but not yet. It therefore also knows the power of the hope that is to come. The following devotion challenges us to consider how Christ's promised light can meet us in our parenting.

Day 11
“In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:4–5
Being a responsible parent means we must parent even when we sometimes feel like a child and are in need of a tantrum! It can push us to our breaking points, when every ounce of patience, will, and emotional energy feels spent. We feel like we’re not enough. But the good news is that we simply weren’t designed to be enough. In our darkest times and weakest moments, the grace and light of Christ can shine the brightest. I’m discovering that parenthood at its best is not something to muster and surmount; it’s an act of surrender. When I end and Christ begins, my family sees the miracle. One little light is enough to find our way in the darkness; Christ’s light can and will find us, and it has the power to lead us through. Today, cling to that light as you parent; allow it to shine upon any place you feel hopeless or discouraged.
Further reading: John 8:12; 2 Corinthians 12:8–10

Remember, if you are enjoying this series, you can receive the whole collection of 31 illustrated and professionally edited devotions free to your inbox by following the prompts here!

Bonus! I also wanted to share a devotion from a pastor friend. He wrote it several years ago on the same verse from John with a fatherly tenderness and insight that's worth sharing. Here is Pastor Ian Rankine's reflection. Advent blessings!

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:4

I have four small children, and there are times at night when someone cries and I have to get up out of bed and stumble through the dark to see what is going on. In the bedrooms, with their room darkening blinds, there are times when the darkness is palpable. So dark in fact, that although I can hear the crying, I have no idea which way up the child is lying in the bed.
I have a wristwatch that has a little light on it. When I push the light button on my watch, even as dim as that light is, it gives me just enough light to see by to find out what is going on with the little one. 
It is truly the dimmest of lights, but when it is on, the darkness is cast aside. 
Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world.” He is “The Light of all mankind.” 
If even a tiny light on a wristwatch can dispel the darkness around it, consider the power and extent of the brightness of this One who is the Light of the World. 
Whatever darkness you may find yourself in, or whatever darkness may be inside you, it cannot overcome the light of Christ.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

God's Promises for You: Devotion Seven

While challenges are inevitably a part of life, faith gives us a special reserve to power through them — and come out better. Faith's reserve is a gift from God as he seeks to partner with us. One of the ways that we can receive this gift is by standing upon scriptural promises. The following devotion explores how God's promises can not only supply us with strength, but with joy too. Read to find out how! (And don't forget to look up the verse from Habakkuk below — it's a favorite!)

Day 13
“For the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
I once heard a pastor distinguish between happiness and joy. Happiness is situational and a feeling that is often fleeting, he said. Joy comes from a deeper, richer perspective. It is based upon unchanging principles or truths that bring satisfaction and even elation. Faith offers us many of these things. We have promises to stand on when we are fearful or full of doubt. We have an unconditionally loving Presence to guide us when we feel forgotten or alone. We have meaning and purpose endowed upon us by our Creator, which we can remember when we feel ineffectual or disappointed in our journeys. God’s gifts aren’t meant to just make us feel better; they’re meant to infuse us with strength. This strength extends beyond our own, picks us up when we’re down, and makes our feet steady even on the heights. Where are you in need of a promise of God today? The joy of the Lord can be your strength.
Further Reading: Psalm 96:6; Habakkuk 3:19; Ephesians 6:10

Come back next week for an inspiring Advent devotion, as the season of Advent begins this Sunday! In the meantime, watch for more inspiration on my social media channels. And remember, if you are enjoying this series, you can receive the whole collection of 31 illustrated and professionally edited devotions free to your inbox by following the prompts here!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Giving Thanks: Devotion Six

This week, in honor of Thanksgiving, our devotional theme is giving thanks. Stay tuned to the end of the post for more encouragement on building this important spiritual muscle! And remember, if you are enjoying this series, you can receive the whole collection of 31 illustrated and professionally edited devotions free to your inbox by following the prompts here!
And this post wouldn't be complete without a big thank you to author Laura Sassi for being my guest last week. Laura's post wasn't just featured here, but a version also appeared on the TODAY Show Parenting Team. Her appearance included a giveaway for her newest children's book, Love is Kind. Though many registered, I'm thrilled to pass along the name of the winner who took advantage of a bonus entry: C. Mallon! Watch for an email from me to claim your prize!

Day 31
“I will thank you forever, because of what you have done. In the presence of the faithful I will proclaim your name, for it is good.” Psalm 52:9
Staying mindful of our blessings is an important way we can bring calm to any chaos moment. How easy it is to focus on our problems rather than foster gratitude in the moment! James 1:17 says, “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” God has blessed each of us richly. Acknowledging our blessings and thanking God for them has the power to hold our hearts in perfect peace, regardless of our circumstances. The goodness of God has inspired praise for centuries. When is the last time you recounted the ways God has been faithful in your life? Choose three things to be thankful for today and watch the fruit it transpires ... even better, do this with your children!
Further Reading: Psalm 107:1; Philippians 4:6–7

Want more encouragement on being thankful? Read my article for my writer's guild, "Lift Your Perspective, Change Your Life." Also, don't miss last year's endearing Thanksgiving post. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

BONUS: TODAY Show Parenting Team Feature!

I'm excited to report that this week's post with best-selling author Laura Sassi was picked up by the TODAY Show Parenting Team for their Grinch/Kindness Challenge! Please visit me over there and click "Vote Up!" — and leave a comment to let me know you stopped by! Thanks, friends!


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Guest Post and Giveaway: Celebrate WORLD KINDNESS DAY with LOVE IS KIND

I'm delighted to welcome back author, educator, and dear friend Laura Sassi. Laura is no stranger to my show nor website. Here are her words for us in honor of World Kindness Day today as we celebrate her newest children's book, Love is Kind:

After reading LOVE IS KIND with children, one of the takeaways I share is that every day is a gift. As children and adults, we can choose to live that gift in a spirit of love and kindness (as Little Owl chooses to do in LOVE IS KIND) or not. The kids and I ponder what our choices will be and marvel at how wonderful it feels to both receive kindness and extend it to others. We also acknowledge that love can take many shapes and forms; showing kindness is MUCH bigger than just giving someone a box of chocolates (as Little Owl wants to do in the story). Kindness, we conclude, is its own gift and much better than even the tastiest box of chocolates!

Where does this gift of kindness and love begin? It begins in our hearts — and in the hearts of our children. And it’s never too early nor late to nurture it. One easy way to do that is to let children brainstorm concrete ways that they can show kindness each day.  

In celebration of World Kindness Day today (and really every day should be kindness day), here’s a list of ways to be kind — gathered just for this post — from kids from across the country! Thank you to each one of them for their ideas, and may they jumpstart a nice conversation with your own children!

50 (Almost) Kid-Thought-Of Ways to Show Kindness 
  • If someone is feeling lonely, I can go over and sit with them.
  • If someone needs a friend, I can play with them.
  • If I want something, I can say “please.”
  • If somebody doesn’t have a friend, I can say, “Come and play with us.”
  • If somebody is sad, I can can cheer them up.
  • Tell someone you love them.
  • If someone is feeling sad, I can go over and hug them.
  • I can be kind and clean my room.
  • I can smile at my worst enemy.
  • I can donate food to someone who doesn’t have any food.
  • If someone new moves onto my block, I can welcome them.
  • I can hug family.
  • I can help my Mom carry in the grocery bags.
  • When someone is sick, I can bring food or tea.
  • I can let my little brother pick the first piece of cake.
  • I can give someone a compliment.
  • I can stand up for someone who is being picked on.
  • I can help animals. 
  • If someone hurts themselves, I can go see if they’re okay.
  • If someone falls, I can help them up.
  • If someone is bleeding, I can get them a bandaid.
  • I can help my Mom and Dad around the house and garden.
  • If someone drops their school folder, I can help them put the papers back in.
  • I can help my little brother or sister reach something up high.
  • I can help my Mom and Dad make dinner. 
  • I can play with my grandparents.
  • If someone drops their trash, I can pick it up for them.
  • I can follow my Mom’s directions.
  • I can clean up after myself.
  • I can be a good listener.
  • I can help a friend if they fall and get hurt.
  • I can play nice with my dog (and my little sister).
  • I can share toys with others. I can take turns.
  • I can be patient and wait my turn.
  • I can do my chores and follow rules.
  • I can think of the feelings of others before I speak.
  • I can try to put others first.
  • I can encourage a friend to do their best.
  • I can ask someone who looks lonely to play.
  • I can include others.
  • I can help shovel the neighbor’s sidewalk after a snowstorm.
  • I can tell someone they look nice today.
  • I can give a friend a hug.
  • I can share toys with my friends in class.
  • I can share toys with my baby brother even when I don’t want to.
  • I don’t have to race to be the first to get everything. 
  • I invited a girl from school that others don’t really like to my birthday party. When they spent time with her, they had fun with her.
  • A friend of mine is having a lot of trouble at home because her parents are not happy, so I try to invite her to my house a lot so she can relax and have fun with my family.
  • I gave some of my birthday money to a fundraiser at our school for kids who don’t have fun things for their recess.

The latter few ideas are my favorite — so cute! Want to learn more about Laura's book that inspired this list? Watch here. And to win your free copy, register here. All entrants must be US residents with a street address (no PO boxes) for shipping purposes, please. I will announce the winner this coming Monday, November 19th, on my website! That means you will have until next week to register, and watch for bonus entry options! (Please note: I will not give your information away to any third parties, but you will receive an optional invitation to subscribe to my website!) Good luck! Want more encouragement on kindness? Don't miss my devotion this week. Thank you, Laura!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Growing Kindness: Devotion Five

Did you know that tomorrow is World Kindness Day? In honor of its international celebration, I have TWO special days planned for you this week!
First, enjoy this week's installment of our devotional series. Kindness often starts at home by what we model as parents, so I hope this devotion encourages you to tap into Christ's reservoir of support as we seek to grow kindness''s not always easy, but Christ is here to help!
Second, I'm welcoming back best-selling author Laura Sassi to my website tomorrow to reflect upon ways that children themselves can be kind. She's polled children coast to coast for practical ideas in honor of her new book, Love is Kind, which I will be giving away to one lucky reader! Don't miss it!

Day 16
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
As parents, we often deal with fruit. Like the fruit a toddler has lovingly smeared all over the floor. Or the fruit a school-aged child refuses to eat and possibly hides in interesting places (such as the under the table, which happened to me recently). But this passage is about the intangible fruit that our actions produce. On bad meltdown days, I might not want to think about it! Ultimately, however, I want all that I do to edify the family I am working so hard to build. That means I want to consider the teachings of Jesus before I respond, even if that means locking myself in my bedroom for a brief minute of composure first! God will multiply every small act of humility. What’s more, God will provide us with the strength to do it in the first place. If we’re intentional, those actions will also trickle down into the choices our children make in their daily lives too, reaping an abundant harvest. Today, do at least one thing for your children specifically in the name of Jesus.
Further Reading: Psalm 90:17; Hebrews 13:20–21

Remember, if you are enjoying these devotions, you can receive my entire devotional series in ebook form sent right to your inbox for free by following the prompts here. And come back tomorrow to read an endearing post from Laura and win your free copy of her new book!

TODAY Video Clip