Create your own Sparkle Box from a shoebox, decorate a box from a craft store, or find the original fold-out Sparkle Box and book at the link below.
There are so many wonderful ideas to help set our families’ hearts on Jesus in the Christmas season.
I love simple ideas, so here are two of them:
1. A friend wrote the numbers 1 to 25 on a candle she gave to me, signifying the days until Christmas (see pic. of Bates below with the numbered candle). At dinner, light the candle and then blow it out before it gets to the next day’s number. The person who has reflected Jesus in some way that day gets to blow it out. My daughter was the first one to blow it out tonight because she didn’t get her way with something, but still had a selfless, stellar attitude.
2. Each day, read a chapter in the book of Luke with your kids. Since there are 24 chapters, you’ll have read Jesus’ entire story by Christmas. Some of the chapters are long, so if your child is younger, you could just read a simplified version of the Christmas story of Jesus. Then you could act it out with figures in the manger scene if you have one, or just act it out yourselves. It makes the story come alive to our kids.
No pressure to do any of these ideas. Do whatever brings you and your family joy and helps you focus on Jesus during the Christmas season.
“We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28) You might have heard that verse many times. I understood it in a new way after reading “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom.
She was a Christian evangelist who hid Jews during the holocaust and was imprisoned because of it. When Corrie and her sister, Betsie, entered one of the filthy prisons infested with fleas, both starving, they cried out to the Lord.
As they lay side-by-side on a bunk with several other women, 1 Thessalonians 5 came to Betsie: “Give thanks in all circumstances.”
She turned to Corrie and shared these words. Corrie in turn asked what on earth they could give thanks for. Betsie said that they were actually able to be together in prison and that their Bible miraculously had not been confiscated.
Then, Betsie prayed, “And thank you, Lord, for the fleas.” Corrie told her sister that she could never give thanks for fleas, but Betsie told her that it is God’s will to give thanks in all circumstances.
So, while lying on their flea- and lice-infested straw beds, they gave thanks for the fleas.
After some time, they noticed that the soldiers rarely came into the barracks where they slept. Betsie and Corrie did not know why, but it allowed them to share the light of Jesus to other women for hours during such a dark time.
One day, Betsie asked a supervisor to come to the barracks because she needed help. Betsie told Corrie, “‘[The supervisor] wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?’
Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: ‘Because of the fleas!’ That’s what she said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!’”
Corrie wrote, “My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”
Hours of ministering, changing lives, and offering hope in a dark time, all came because of the presence of fleas. If the fleas had not been there, none of that would have happened.
What is the hard thing in your life that God can use for good?
This daily shift of giving thanks always can be hard and it takes discipline. But when we change our outlook, it moves our eyes and hearts upon things eternal and puts God’s purposes over ours.
“Side by side, in the sanctuary of God’s fleas, Betsie and I ministered the Word of God to all in the room. We sat by death beds that became doorways of heaven. We watched women who had lost everything grow rich in hope.”
Whatever is happening in your life, be encouraged by these words that relate to us even now:
“In everything God works for the good of those who love him.” Romans 8:28
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving this week! I’m thankful for YOU! Here’s a fun activity I posted about last Thanksgiving. Enjoy!
1. Create a massive turkey together. We used “Art for Kids Hub” tutorial to draw it.
2. At the top, write, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:29). Then tape it to the wall.
3. When you walk past the turkey, write or draw something you’re thankful for.
Share this story from Luke 17 with your kiddos to show how giving thanks is close to the heart of Jesus:
On Jesus’ way to Jerusalem, there were ten really sick men who no one would come close to. They stood at a distance and loudly asked Jesus to heal them. Jesus walked right up to them and healed every one of them.
When ONE of the men saw he was healed, he praised God loudly, threw himself at Jesus’ feet, and thanked him. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten healed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner? Then he said to the man, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Let’s be the one who also “comes back” to give thanks to the Lord. Happy Thanksgiving!
Failure is one of those things we wish we could avoid. But as we all know, things don’t always work out as planned.
It can be tough to talk about our failures with our kids – when things didn’t turn out as we had hoped, but at some point or another, they will experience failure too. It’s so good for them to see how to handle it by our example.
My kids saw this first-hand with me yesterday. Something I had hoped would work out didn’t. I decided to share it with them. They saw a few tears and my son actually cried with me for a moment. His compassion melted my heart. But, then I told him that it was okay. I told him I had prayed about it so I could trust the Lord with it. Then we prayed together.
What an opportunity to show our kids that even in our pain, we can trust the Lord.
That even when things don’t line up as we had hoped, we can rejoice in the Lord.
That even when things don’t fall into the place we wanted them to, God is still God.
We can show our kids that we have a choice to praise him through it. That with God, there is always hope and anything is possible.
I love this line in Katie Davis Majors’ book, Daring to Hope:
“When the ministry feels stagnant and there is no astonishing growth to show for long hours of hard work, on days I don’t receive extraordinary answers to prayer, He is still glorified in my faithful pursuit of Him.”
Being faithful brings the Lord joy – not necessarily achieving goal after goal, but the continual pursuit of him and what burdens his and our hearts – one moment at a time.
It’s in the faithful seeking His kingdom comes.
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2
This is hard, hard, hard to do.
It’s painful to hope for something that hasn’t come, while others experience it.
But, it’s more painful to cling to bitterness and jealousy.
Reading the Bible and praying fills our souls with a more genuine response to others’ celebrating things we had hoped for.
It doesn’t mean we won’t struggle. We will, but how do we respond when jealousy mounts? Filling our minds with a certain verse to combat jealousy and envy helps.
Luke 1 tells us that Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, had no children because she was barren and well along in years. I wonder how she felt struggling to be pregnant.
Elizabeth finally did become pregnant and said, “The Lord has done this for me.”
I wonder about the woman who heard of Elizabeth’s news, but couldn’t have a baby. I wonder how she dealt with being on the outskirts watching Elizabeth but longing to be a mother. I wonder about the pain and bitterness that probably filled her soul.
Then I read this…
“When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they Shared Her Joy.” (Luke 1:57-58)
Isn’t that beautiful?
To share in the joy of others and celebrate them.
I assume some still struggled with the pain of not realizing their own hopes, but they still shared in her joy and celebrated with her.
What an encouragement for our kids as well. Let’s ask them, “How do you feel when someone gets something you hoped for? How would you feel if someone was mad and didn’t celebrate if you got an award or something you wanted? How can you be happy for your friends when they achieve something? How does that show them the love of Jesus?
It’s a mind and heart shift. A daily one.
As we seek Jesus, he will move our hearts from bitterness and envy to caring more about things above, his kingdom, loving others, loving him…. True Life.
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” PV 14:30
“And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:4
“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6
“Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
My instinct is to fix it all. Can you relate?
When things aren’t right in my kids’ worlds, I often want to jump in and make it right.
But over time I’ve learned that rescuing usually hurts more than it helps.
As Sissy Goff, Christian author and counselor says, “Rescuing communicates that she needs rescuing…She’s going to have a few problems along the way, and you want her to learn to think for herself and trust in her own strength when those problems arise.”
That builds confidence.
It’s good for our kids to experience the reality of life, even though it’s tough sometimes.
We don’t always need to jump in and fix it.
Sometimes they don’t like their teacher.
Sometimes they don’t get the grade they hoped for.
Sometimes they don’t make the team they hoped to make.
Sometimes the whole class gets in trouble when only two acted wrongly.
Sometimes they have to sit next to a kid in school they don’t want to sit next to.
Sometimes friendships have conflicts.
Sometimes life goes great, and sometimes it doesn’t.
It’s a good thing for our kids to learn the reality that everything doesn’t always go their way.
If our kids can learn to navigate these feelings growing up, they will be more prepared for the real world.
If we don’t shelter our kids from problem-solving and realizing they really can do it, worry will lessen and their confidence will grow.
They will be more prepared for the unseen, the challenges, the uncomfortable, the times when life doesn’t go great.
It’s okay for our kids to sit in the place where things don’t line up perfectly. Let’s ask them questions about how it feels and what they can do about it.
We’ll be sparking in them a beautiful courage that will allow them to walk through life with more peace.
Or maybe there’s nothing they need to do and nothing needs to be “fixed” – they just need to vent and maybe be reminded that it will be okay and seasons don’t last forever.
At the core of all this, among their frustrations, problems, and celebrations, let’s share with our children that God is always there and that regardless of what happens in this world,
we can ALWAYS have hope in Jesus.
He is the constant in our lives.
The One who never changes.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
When I was 26 years old and single, the Lord put something on my heart: to move to Guatemala and work at a nonprofit through a program. I would only be there for less than a year.
But before I went, I faced all kinds of pressure not to go.
A friend asked me, “Why would you move to Guatemala? Don’t you want to get married?’
People close to me shared newspaper articles with me about the many kidnappings there.
Before going, I had to read forms (and I think sign, if I remember correctly) that said in case of being kidnapped, the program did not do ransoms because that would only encourage them to happen again.
I had to create a will just in case I didn’t make it.
That was tough. But the thing is,
When the Lord puts something on your heart, there is no better place to be than where he has called you.
I had to push the noise aside because I KNEW the Lord was beckoning me there.
So I went.
Fifteen years later, my time in Guatemala continues to transform my mind and heart. The stories of what I experienced during that short time have been passed down to my kids. And, we hope to visit Guatemala with them sometime soon.
I want them to know how other people in the world really live.
I want them to see the reality of a developing country.
I want them to see the beautiful culture.
I want them to experience the kindness, joy, and simplicity of the people there.
What has the Lord put on your heart to do? It doesn’t have to be “big”.
It might be washing dishes with gratefulness because it means you have a family to wash dishes for.
It might be getting up in the middle of the night for your child with an attitude of love instead of bitterness.
It might mean serving together.
It might mean making a meal with your kids for a neighbor who is in need.
It might mean enjoying that time in the car with your children as you drive them from activity to activity, making the most of it.
What might seem small to us, is actually big in the Lord’s eyes.
Because what is big to him is Love.
When we respond and follow through with what he has put on our hearts, in the little and big things, we are obeying him and fulfilling his commandments: to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love others.
Don’t get hindered by the noise in this world.
Seek after him.
Fulfill what he has put on your heart.
There you will find true joy, peace, life, him.
“This is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another.” 1 John 3:23
Opening Our Eyes to Today
Kids are so good at being in the now – there is so much life and joy in that. These words can help us do that…
“This is the day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?…Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Jesus (Matthew 6:27, 34)
“Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.” Ecclesiastes 7:10
“Give us Today our daily bread.” Jesus (Matthew 6:11)
“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2
One of my favorite things to do with my children is to read a great book with them.
Right now, we’re reading The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe. It’s such a sweet, sweet time to connect.
What are some books you and your children have loved reading together?
Guest on a Podcast
Lastly, I was recently a guest on Jordan Burchette’s podcast where I talked about practical ways to encourage our kids to follow Jesus and his words: to love God and love others. Here it is if you want to take a listen:
Good morning! Wasn’t sleeping in with the time change so sweet this morning? (: I hope the content I’ve written below encourages you today. I’m thankful for you
The other day I was frustrated, feeling defeated as a parent.
Have you ever felt that way?
When we do feel like that, those glimmers of hope that the things we’ve taught our kids are taking root can be so encouraging.
In the car yesterday, I was gifted with one of those moments from my son, Bates.
He said that while some of them played football during recess at school, the other team started making up fake penalties.
My son’s friend told him that they should do the same thing. Bates said, “No, we shouldn’t do that because the Lord tells us not to repay.”
We had memorized that verse in 1 Peter 3 months ago. It had taken root and I had no idea.
I wasn’t on the football field. I didn’t get to see it. If he hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have known.
If you’re feeling discouraged as a parent today, be encouraged that the seeds you’re sewing are taking root far deeper than you might see. ❤️
Call It Out
When you notice your kids doing something well,
Call It Out…
Bates, thanks for helping me with the dishes – I really felt loved when you did that.
Gracie, that was so cool how you helped make your sister’s bed when she didn’t even ask.
Brooklyn, that was awesome how you invited that kid sitting alone at lunch to join you and your friends. Way to love the Lord and her by doing that.
When we call it out when our kiddos love well, they’ll be more likely to do it again and will also notice first-hand what it means to love the Lord and others.
Involving Our Kids
It’s easy to get annoyed when our kids ask us a million questions about what we’re working on if we’re in the middle of something.
I love how my friend told me recently that she often involves her kids when they ask questions.
One time when they asked what she was doing, she told them she was designing a client’s house, showed them the pictures, and asked for their thoughts and ideas on certain things. I just love that.
When my kids ask what I’m doing and I say, “Nothing,” they tend to want to peek more, interrupt more, and jump in more.
Oftentimes the questions simply come because they’re curious.
But, if we actually let our kids in on what we’re doing, and take five seconds to explain things, they will often be satisfied and move on.
I can’t always do this, but when I can, I try to.
Whether it’s writing, cooking dinner, helping someone, baking, or something else, when my instinct is to say, “oh, I’m doing nothing”, I try to explain what I’m doing, sometimes ask for their ideas, and if I can, ask them to join in.
They tend to stop nagging, the million questions dissipate, they learn something, and we connect.
It’s a win, win.
My mind was spinning as I thought of our hectic schedule with sports, activities, and school.
As I prayed, I remembered Jesus’ words: “Give us TODAY our DAILY bread.”
I want to notice
the praying mantis on the rock,
the funny thing my son said I might have overlooked,
the stellar handstand my daughter did when she repeatedly asked, “Watch!”.
This is what happens when we are in this day; this moment; this memory.
We don’t miss it. We slow down. We see it.
I asked the Lord to help me be in today. To just give me what I need today. To help me SEE today. To really see it.
The spinning of a million things loosened, and I could breathe.
I felt time slow down.
None of us are promised tomorrow.
But we do have a choice to live in today.
I want to do that.
I don’t want to miss the cool praying mantis trying to camaflouge himself on the rock, I don’t want to miss my son’s funny saying, my daughter’s handstand, my other daughter’s cool creation, or the little things I love about my husband.
I see so many more things when I open my eyes to today and close them to tomorrow.
Lord, help us not to miss it. Help us see the wonder of today. The wonder of You. Please give us today our daily bread so we can slow down, notice, and really live today. In Jesus’ name, amen.
A Simple Illustration of God’s Love
I remember being shown this when I was a kid and it has always stuck with me.
In the picture on the left, God’s hand grips us tight. No matter what. Even when we mess up (shown by the other hand coming loose). When we mess up and when we don’t mess up (represented by the picture on the right), God is ALWAYS with us- he never leaves us.
This is a simple way to show our kids (and us) that nothing can get in the way of God’s love for us.
Better said in Romans 8:39: “Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen.
Ecclesiastes 7 spoke so much this morning. Verse 10 reminds me to be content in the now. Jesus, help us do this.
Help us follow your words in verses 8 and 9 too. When our spirits feel provoked, please settle them as we focus on you.
When our minds laser in on every issue, it dismantles us, but Lord, when our minds are steadfast on you, our Rock, it brings us peace.
Please be our peace. Where there is anxiety, replace it with your presence and calmness. Where there is anger and pride, settle it with your peace and humility. Where there is confusion, replace it with a clear focus on You. When we are too serious about everything, replace it with laughter and joy. Where we have preoccupation with ourselves, please replace it with a heart to love you and others. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.