Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How to Have a Family, Christ-Centered Easter

In the Christian Church, Easter is our biggest celebration. Why is it then that children appear to get more excited about Christmas? Is it the presents? Is it the excitement leading up to the big day? Is it the magical mystery of Santa? What ever it is, I say that kids can get just as excited, if not more excited, about Easter.  It just takes a little creativity and effort by Mom and Dad.

Here are some tips on how to have a Family, Christ-Centered Easter:

1. Start your own family traditions. If you make Easter all about Jesus, and do the same traditions year after year, it will make a BIG impact on your children. When your children become adults and they think about Easter, the first thing that comes to mind will be the 18 plus Easters they spent with you at home. What you do at Easter, starting when you are a married couple, will leave an imprint on your family. Just think about that.

2. Celebrate the Last Supper. This can be done on the traditional Holy Thursday, or which ever day your family can get together. The specific day doesn't matter. What does matter is that we gather with our family and friends to share a meal in honor of Jesus. We can teach our children that this meal is about Eucharist (thanksgiving) and Communion with God and with our family. You can teach your children about the Last Supper and about the events that happened on that very night. Older children might benefit from discussing the meaning of Communion and of the great commission and of Jesus resurrection. 

3. Do A Good Friday Activity. Good Friday is the Friday before Easter. This is the day that Jesus died on the cross and took on the sins of the world. This day has always been extremely powerful for me. When I stop, pray and remember what Jesus did for me I can not help but get emotional, drop to my knees and thank Jesus. Good Friday should not just be another day of the week. One activity that I think speaks the loudest to little ones is a hands on activity involving a wooden cross, prayer and flowers. On Good Friday, kneel down with your children at the cross and thank God for dying for our sins. Place a black cloth around the cross to represent Jesus death. On Easter, remove the black cloth and (with your children) decorate the cross with flowers. Rejoice and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Read the Easter story out of the Bible (Matthew 28:1-7) or use one of the children's Easter books listed below.

4. Easter Eggs, Bunnies & Chocolate. We can still have fun with Easter Eggs, Bunnies and Chocolate on Easter Sunday. Teach your children that we are having a celebration, a party, because Jesus was resurrected! Teach them that baby bunnies and other animals being born reminds us of new life, which is what we have when we love Jesus. When decorating eggs, use stickers with Christian symbols, talk about the meaning of Easter while doing the crafts. When giving gifts, explain why you are giving them (just like you do at Christmas).

5. Read, Read, Read. Knowledge is Power! I can not emphasize enough the importance of teaching our children, through books, the meaning of Easter. The books in and of themselves will become traditions and special memories. If you are feeling lost for words about how to talk to your kids about Jesus and Easter, the books listed below are a wonderful place to start.

I personally recommend all of the books listed below. The first book listed, which is titled What is Easter, is my 2 year old favorite book right now. Sure enough he can tell you the real meaning of Easter!

Recommended Age: Birth - 6 years. Perfect for toddlers. Teaches that candy, eggs, and bunnies are fun but that Easter is really about God and Jesus.

Recommended Age: 2-7. Written by the Author of Veggie Tales. This book is great for the child who is very excited about Easter eggs and bunnies. This fun story shares how baby animals and eggs remind us of new life and Jesus.

Recommended Age: 2- 7 :) This book tells the story of Jesus death and resurrection in a simple and beautiful way.

Recommended Age 2-7 years. This is a beautiful story of a little bear cub who wants to know what Easter is all about it. A soon to be classic in all households!

Recommended Age: 4-8 years. If your children love the Berenstain Bears they will love this book! This fun, colorful story reminds children of the real meaning of Easter.

All Ages: This is a brand new 2-week Easter devotional for families. It contains daily devotions leading up to Easter. Note: I have not finished this book yet, but was so excited when I found it that I wanted to share! Although this can be done with the entire family, children ages 6 and up will get the most out of it.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 
Matthew 28: 17-20

*This Post Contains Affiliate Links. See my About Me Page for a Disclaimer 

Monday, March 23, 2015

5 Ways to Use Music at Home to Promote Learning, Enhance Creativity, and Teach Listening Skills

5 Ways to Use Music at Home to Promote Learning, Enhance Creativity, and Teach Listening Skills

To Read this article I wrote for Moms Magazine please click here Moms Magazine Article

Thank You!!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Church: Hope for the Helpers Who Have Lost Their Sparkle

I fell in love on day one. The moment I walked out of my first MOPS (Mothers Of Preschoolers) meeting at church I felt complete again. Life was good before MOPS but something was missing. 

The missing piece of my puzzle was Church. By Church I don’t mean a building that I show up to on Sunday mornings for an hour. What I mean is being a part of a body of believers who work together to serve God, serve one another, love God, love one another, grow spiritually, learn, connect and spread the word of God to the ends of the earth. 

The day my son was born my life changed completely and so did my need for fellowship. I went from being a spiritual leader and counselor to needing someone to lead me. Motherhood was wonderful but I felt lost.  

I needed to connect with other Christian moms on a regular basis to be supported, encouraged and loved. I needed a place to laugh, cry, and be vulnerable. 

I got all of that on my very first day at MOPS.  I got all that, but it’s not all about me. We are called to serve. We all have talents. We all have something to offer. The church relies on everyone to lend a hand. MOPS is just one of the many women’s groups at my church but I knew it was where God was calling me.  Although I didn’t feel like I could fit anything else into my life at the time I knew God would help me figure it out. I made up my mind to serve the following year as a small group leader. 

Talking to people about God and leading groups was in my blood. I had done it in some way or fashion for most of my adult life. My husband and I met at a Bible study in college and I received my master’s degree in Christian Counseling. Serving as a small group leader at MOPS was a no brainer for me. This felt like the best position for me.
I was a little surprised the day that I got a text message asking if I could serve as hospitality coordinator instead. The leaders were in desperate need of filling this position and wanted to know if I could do it. I gladly accepted it; however, I was a little bummed. 

Hospitality felt insignificant.  I didn’t know how to coordinate food for 50 plus people.  I didn’t want to arrive early with my impatient toddler to make coffee and cut up muffins. I didn’t want to stay late with my toddler in melt down mode in order to clean silverware and coffee pots. If I was going to arrive early or stay late I wanted it to be for something significant. I wanted to talk about Jesus to as many women as I could. I wanted to be fully present with my small group and be used by God to speak and pray with moms.

I felt bad and dirty for having such feelings about serving in this new role. Who was I to want to turn down a position that was needed?  Who was I to say that any job within the church is insignificant? I prayed about my thoughts and feelings for quite some time. God really spoke to me one day when I read about a man named Stephen in Acts Chapters 6, and 7. 

Stephen was an amazing, smart, powerful leader in the early church who was known for being a good speaker and leader. “Men began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke” (Acts 6:10).  

The early church found itself in a pickle when they started to grow in size. The 12 disciples and leaders were so focused on spreading the gospel that they were overlooking the other needs of the new church members: shelter and food. The disciples decided to appoint 7 men to be in charge of food distribution for the church so that no one would be left out and everyone would have their basic needs (food, clothing and shelter) met. Stephen stepped away from preaching to serve food because that is what the church needed. 

Stephen took this job seriously and gave every ounce of his being into serving God through this new position. Stephen ended up being the first person to die for his faith in Christ Jesus. His story is powerful and I encourage you to read it in Acts chapter 7. 

We can learn many life lessons from Stephen, but the one lesson that I learned about service is that every single job, position, and need within the church is significant and we are called by God to strive for excellence in whatever job is asked of us, no matter how small it is. Sometimes, God gives us assignments that may seem small, insignificant, or challenging because he is preparing us for something bigger. 

As soon as I changed the way I thought about this new area of service, everything changed. The position of hospitality was not the problem, I was. By the grace of God, my attitude and my outlook on service has changed and I have grown spiritually through this new position in ways I didn’t know where possible. I now love working in hospitality, and I do still get to have great conversation with women.

Serving God is never about us, but when we serve we get an even greater reward in return. This is because the closer we get to God, the more complete, satisfied, and joy filled we feel. The feelings and gifts we get from God are permanent. 

When we give all of ourselves to God and apart of ourselves to the church we are better able to live out God’s calling for our life. 

Some of us are called to missions, some of us our called to leadership, some of us are called to women’s ministries; others of us are called to children’s ministries. The church has an endless amount of needs. There are always people who are hungry for food, and there are always people who are hungry for Jesus. 

I don’t know what God has in store for my future or for yours, but what I do know is that if I can be half of the Godly person that Stephen was, then I am on the right track. Whether I am making coffee, putting stamps on envelops, covering Christmas cards with glitter, changing diapers in the church nursery, setting up tables, decorating a classroom, building houses in Haiti, praying over a hurting soul, organizing food, cleaning out storage closets, or speaking at a women’s retreat, I need to give it all I’ve got. Every job is important. 

I once heard someone say this: there are only two things that matter in life. Where you are going when you die, and who you are taking with you.

If you already know you’re going to Heaven, then your next assignment is bringing as many people as you can with you. The church as a whole is able to reach more people than you and I by ourselves. That is why the church needs YOU to serve in whatever way you can (big or small). 

If you are involved in any sort of service then THANK YOU. You are making a difference. 
Feel like you have lost your sparkle? Remember, God will provide everything that you need to get the job done, and rock at it. Who are you leaning on for support? Who is your inspiration? Why do you serve? God. God. God. He is the answer to it all.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

The Girls in Pearls: Why We Must Save Sweet Briar College

Education is one of the most powerful tools a woman can carry with her. Any type and amount of education gives women a leg up in our society.  However, a great education is immeasurable. 

What is considered a great education? Some would say it comes down to the teachers, the curriculum or the school in general. I say that a great education boils down to each individual student. I believe that a student can have a great education if their specific educational needs are being met, and if they are putting forth effort and dedication into making the most of the education they are receiving. 

I am a prime example of someone who was drowning in school because my educational needs were not being met. I attended a wonderful public elementary and middle school in the suburbs of Richmond, VA. Many people, including my sister, thrived at this school. I, however, could not have been more lost. 

Many factors such as my personality, talents, learning disability and strong work ethic affected my ability to succeed at a large public school. The large class sizes and lack of individual attention, coupled with my learning disability, made learning in a regular classroom very difficult. My strong work ethic, desire to succeed, paired with my temperament and personality made failing in the classroom devastating to my ego. 

Thanks to my amazing parents, I was able to go to a small private high school in VA called Trinity Episcopal School.  Deciding to go to Trinity was the best decision I have ever made. The small class sizes, individual attention of the faculty, ability to foster my musical talents, combined with the unique environment were just what I needed to have a great education. 

Trinity is a college preparatory school that offers an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, AP courses as well as an individualized approach to their core curriculum. It was in essence, a more difficult school than the public school I had once attended. However, I went from barely passing in middle school to making the Headmasters list every year along with receiving an IB Diploma in music. This Diploma meant that I went into college already having college credits! 

My high school education was life changing for me. It not only gave me a great education, but it also gave me confidence that I had once lost completely. It taught me how to succeed in life by teaching me valuable life skills and fostering my Christian character. Trinity encouraged me to be physically active in sports, dedicated to achievement, and empowered. It taught me how to be a self-starter, a leader, and a public speaker. 

My high school education helped me to succeed in college and reach my highest goals. I am so thankful that Trinity, and small private schools like Trinity, exist. I would not be where I am now without this education. 

For this reason, I am very passionate about supporting small schools at all educational levels.   Students have different educational needs.   Therefore, it is essential that a wide variety of elementary, middle and high schools exist. In the same way that we need small private college preparatory schools, we also need small private colleges that offer something different than your average large public university. 

Sweet Briar College, located in Amherst, VA, is one of those unique small colleges that is truly remarkable. Sweet Briar College is a small, liberal arts, all-women’s college of about 500 students.  As you can imagine, their average class size ranges from about 2-20 students. Most of the students and faculty live on campus and absolutely love it. The amount of school pride that the students and faculty have is as high as can be. Their colors are pink and green and they ALWAYS rock their pearls.

The students and alumnae that were blessed to attend Sweet Briar College are classy, smart, empowered, confident, hard working women who leave college ready for success in all avenues of life. Sweet Briar College is not a finishing school. The students at SBC are given a rigorous, individualized education.  Students are challenged academically while still being able to pursue their personal interests and talents. 

Virginia used to have a handful of small all-women’s colleges. However, over the years they have dwindled. Virginia is down to three all-women colleges: Sweet Briar, Hollins, and Mary Baldwin. 

Sadly, Sweet Briar College is under the threat of being closed due to financial reasons. The alumnae are outraged and have taken it upon themselves to do whatever they can to keep Sweet Briar College open for the long run. 

Sweet Briar College might not be the best choice for every woman, but for some women, it is the best.  For some, an all-women’s education is what a women needs to feel focused, safe, challenged and confident. For others, the small class sizes and attention from faculty are what students need to have a great education. 

Although I did not attend Sweet Briar College, I feel passionately about helping this school stay open so that the current 500 students that attend can continue in their education, and so that we don’t lose another unique college like Sweet Briar that is so greatly needed. The two women that I personally know that attended the college are exceptional, smart, confident women who are making this world a better place.

I want my children and your children to have a wide variety of schools, colleges and universities to choose from that meet their educational needs. Therefore, we can’t afford to lose another gem of a college like Sweet Briar. There is no other college exactly like it and there are such few colleges today that are even slightly similar. 

If you would like to help the alumnae of Sweet Briar preserve this wonderful college then please visit where you can make a donation, volunteer, and learn more about how you can help. At the time this article was written #SaveSweetBriar has had over $2.8 million pledged out of a $20 million goal. 

Please consider sharing this article and using the #SaveSweetBriar and #thinkisforgirls to spread the message on social media. 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

You Know Your the Mom of A Boy When...

You Know Your the Mom of a Little Boy When...
  • Everything in your house becomes a weapon.
  • Any noise that sounds remotely like a fart is hilarious to everyone in your house except you.
  • There is pee everywhere, all the time. How hard is it to make it in the potty?
  • You get hit in the head with a ball at least once a day.
  • You know more about trucks, sports, super hero's and dinosaurs than you know about anything else.
  • 2 minutes of silence in your home while the boys are awake is more frightening than the sound of a tornado and fire alarm combined.
  • There is continuous movement from the moment he wakes to the moment he sleeps.
  • Clean clothes become completely overrated. 
  • You never thought you could love living in a house full of stinky boys (and men). 
  • You never realized how much a boy needs his Heavenly Father in order to become a real man.
  • The unexpected hug, kiss, snuggle or hand held makes your heart melt a million times.
  • You would not want your life any other way and you pray daily for time to stop, so you can cherish every moment of being your little boys mom. 

God, You have placed in my life a precious boy who has eyes like mine and a smile like dad . I want more than anything to be the mom that You want and know I can be. Give me wisdom to teach him about You, and strength to discipline. Give me self-control to let him go and explore, and a six sense to know when to step in. Give me compassion and guide me in my everyday mothering. Let me be nothing but a wonderful example of what a Godly, loving, woman and spouse is like. May I never hold him back or influence him in a way that goes against Your plans for him. Thank You God, for this boy. Every day with him is a gift.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

When You Ask Me What I Did Today

It’s the same routine day after day. You call me when your work day is done and ask me “How was your day?” “What did you all do today?”

I always answer the same, in a way that makes absolutely no sense. It doesn’t matter if it was an errand, a play date, trip to the playground, MOPS or school, I always mention whatever activity we did out of the house first. Then I follow it up with something like “we just spent the rest of the day at home, you know, a normal day”. 

If we didn’t leave the house at all I usually say something like: “We just stayed home today; we didn’t have anything going on.” Or, “It was raining all day so we stayed inside.”

 What is wrong with me? Why I respond in this way bewilders me. These sorts of responses that I give completely undermine what I really did all day, and give you no information about what really happened during the day. 

Me telling you that we went to the grocery store, and then stayed inside the rest of the day because it was raining is like you telling me that you used your windshield wipers in your car on your way to work and then ate lunch. 

I have been telling you the least important aspects of our day. 

Here is the truth: the real, juicy, fruit producing work that happens in my job as a stay at home mom occurs during the 12 plus hours that we spend interacting with each other during the day. That is when the hard, challenging, rewarding, and exhausting work is done.

So husband, I want to change my answer. Do you want to know what I did today?

·         I taught our son life skills. We spent 45 minutes getting ready for the day because he is learning how to brush his teeth, use the potty, pull up his pants, brush his hair and put dirty clothes in the hamper. 

·         I fed him healthy meals. I entertained him by playing hide and go seek with Elmo, while eating my breakfast and making him breakfast.

·         I played the same, boring, mundane game over and over again (you know the one). I did it with a smile and used my imagination to spice it up and make it even more fun for him.

·         I was challenged mentally and emotionally as I stood, facing the kitchen sink, pretending to ignore his temper tantrum. I prayed and reminded myself that it was the best thing for me to do as a parent, all while being tugged at the heart strings and second guessing myself.

·         I cried. My heart felt heavy and my eyes filled up as I watch our sweet one wipe the last tear from his check and decide on his own he was done with the tantrum. I pretended to go to the bathroom so he wouldn’t see me cry.

·         I was a teacher: We read books-lots of books, counted numbers, drew pictures, problem solved, and explored.I spent time preparing educational activities.

·         I hugged, kissed, cuddled and showed him as much affection as he could stand.

·         I made our home safe, warm and loving. It’s my job to make sure he isn’t exposed to anything inappropriate, scary, or harmful. This means that I refrained from turning on the TV or listening to anything other than Christian, classical, or children’s music.

·         I responded to e-mails and texted with my sister while playing with play dough. I then once again felt guilty for not giving him 100% of my attention (it’s a constant battle).

·         Most importantly, I had another day with our son to teach him about Jesus. I had another day, here on earth with our little miracle, using every tool in my box to make sure someday we see him in heaven. I spent my devotional time, my shower time, and my washing dishes time praying for our son, our marriage, and for you. I prayed for your safety, and for our son’s future wife. I prayed for your happiness, and for our son’s health. I prayed for my parents, I prayed for your parents. I spent our son’s nap time writing articles that would inspire women to know God and then spent 45 minutes folding laundry, eating lunch, meal planning, and cleaning toilets. 

Maybe that is why I answer so simply and shortly.  How can I possibly put into words all that I did? I did so much and half of it is too detailed and complicated to explain after a long day. 

I know you value, appreciate and know how hard I work at my job. Seriously, I could not ask for a better cheerleader than you. You thank me all the time for what I do at home and I appreciate that. Sometimes though, I need to remind myself, that my day was so much more than going to the playground for an hour and getting our dog’s heart worm medicine on the way home. 

Some days, for whatever reason, I might give you a short response. Now you know, those were probably the hardest days where my heart and mind were heavy and I can't wait to see and kiss... you.

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