Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Precious Gift: Scripture Memory {Giveaway}

Last week on the ABC Jesus Loves Me Facebook Group, Allison shared Memory Verse printables that she created to help her family learn verses.  I loved what she posted and asked if she would explain more.  Here is what she shared:
What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.  Psalm 56:3
I just typed this verse from memory, the words flowing automatically, with no need to consciously recall any of them. This Scripture verse is, I believe, the first I ever memorized.

As a fearful child, my dad lovingly spoke these comforting, inspired words of David to me every night, tucking them into my heart as he tucked me into bed. Now, as a fearful adult, this is my “go-to” verse. As if on autopilot, I am reminded of this verse every time I feel anxious. My dad gave me a precious gift when he helped to impress this piece of God’s Word into my mind and onto my heart.

Through my growing up years, I memorized Scripture haphazardly for Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and my school Bible class. But it was only as a college student that I became convinced that memorizing God’s Word in chunks was a vital part of my walk with the Lord. Chuck Swindoll says it best: “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends!”

My attempts and resolutions have ebbed and flowed, but since my college years, I have memorized a few chapters of the Psalms, the first few chapters of Proverbs, the entire books of Philippians and James, and other scattered passages. I am currently memorizing Psalm 27 to help fight my fear problem.

This is all to say that I am passionate about hiding God’s Word in my heart! 

Desiring God.org says that as we let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16) the Holy Spirit uses the Word to:
  1. make us more like Christ
  2. to triumph over sin
  3. to comfort and counsel our hearts (and the hearts of others)
  4. to better communicate the Gospel with unbelievers
  5. to commune with our God
If we are persuaded of this, we can’t help but get excited about guiding our little children in memorizing Scripture. Especially in these early years, when most children have brains like “sponges,” we should intentionally pursue the lofty goal of filling their minds and hearts with as much of God’s Word as we possibly can.

So...how? The old adage is right (if somewhat cliché): if we fail to plan, we plan to fail. I fail often but this is what I am planning to make sure that I teach my kids the spiritual discipline of Scripture memorization.
•    Choose a portion of Scripture to memorize. My two oldest kids (4 and 2-and-a-half) are close enough in age that they learn the same portions together. Most often we will follow the verse provided in the ABC Jesus Loves Me Curriculum, but at times we choose a passage (or single verse) that we really want to address with our kids.

•    Write the current verse on the “My Verse” card. Stick it up somewhere visible more to remind you than the kids.

•    Depending on the needs of your child, teach him or her only portions at a time, adding gestures to make it “stick,” and accepting what your child can do. For example, my 2-and-a-half year old “recites” John 3:16 by saying “God – loved- the world – gave – only Son – believes – perish – everlasting life.” That’s all he can do right now and I’m cool with it.

•    Don’t stick too strictly to a timetable of memory completion. Try and go over the current verse(s) every day, but if it’s not going well...cut your losses and try again tomorrow. In the same way, if your little learner is really struggling day-after-day to commit a verse to memory, give it a break, choose something new, and try again in a few weeks. My kids pick up some verses in the blink of an eye, and some take f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

•    Explain to them what they are memorizing. Learning words and sentences without having an inkling of their meaning is not very beneficial. There is no need to provide an exposition on the verse, just explain the gist to your littles.

•    When your child is pretty confidently reciting the chosen verse or passage, write it on the My Verse Chart sheet and choose another! Once a week, review previously memorized Scriptures to ensure that these stay fresh in your little one’s mind.

If you are like me, our attention easily diverts to some of the secondary benefits of our kids memorizing their “verse of the week”: throwing “Scripture missiles” at them when they are less-than-godly, showing off for the grandparents, completing the week’s target verse, and patting ourselves on the backs for being great moms. But let us always remember to teach Scripture to our little people with this number one, ultimate, supreme motivation held high: that they would know God. 

Click to print the My Verse and My Verse Chart printable created by Allison. 

Allison was born in the United States, raised in South Africa, now raising her own in India. Speech Pathology and Audiology graduate turned graphic design addict. Wife to Tommie and mama to McKenna, Logan, and Tyler. Follower of Jesus.

If you love the memory verse printables that Allison made for the ABCJLM family and this blog, you will be excited to know that Allison has an Etsy store filled with more cute personalized printables.

And, Allison is giving away her personalized digital party package ($40 value) to one Our Out-of-Sync Life reader.  You will receive by email the following:
Personalized invitation
A-Z banner
Thank you card
Favor tags
Welcome birthday sign
Cupcake toppers
Name/food labels

Click on the rectangular image below to enter.  This giveaway will end on Monday August 29th @ 12:59 p.m (CST).  Winner will be announced August 30th on this blog so be sure to come back and see if you have won!
Click to enter - https://goo.gl/forms/Czk2tSS7ifUmuwyn1
One entry per household, Click to read our Giveaway Rules.

See more of the cute items Allison has available in your EyePopDesigns Etsy store.

Find out more information about using Teachable Moments and Memory Verses with the book Parenting with Scripture: A Topical Guide for Teachable Moments by Kara Durbin and this blog post

This post may contain affiliate links. Without any cost to you, when clicking on these links you are helping to support the further development of this blog and the ABCJLM website.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

When a Door is Closed...

And like that the door is closed.  I am no longer the mom of littles. 

Yesterday I delivered all four of my children to elementary and middle schools to learn, grow, and love others for another school year.  They are big kids now and I don't like it.  My babies are growing up.  

Obviously I knew this day would come but I never dreamed it would feel like this.  It's a roller coaster of emotions because while many mothers dream about having a few minutes of quiet each day, when it becomes a reality, it is not what one would think it would be.  I love having my little chicks under my wings and they are flying the coop for longer periods of time.

I also dreamed it would look different.  When I stopped teaching 12 years ago, the plan was to take an extended sabbatical and then return to teaching in the public schools when our kiddos all entered school. I loved my years of teaching and looked forward to getting back in the classroom. 

But God had different plans.  And it has caused me to question, wonder, and feel a little grief.  

Don't get me wrong.  I love the ABCJLM family!  I am beyond humbled for the opportunity that God has given me on the internet.  The fact that He has taken this blog and ABCJLM ministry around the world is breath taking.  I never dreamed how God would use our story for His Kingdom. 

It's just not what I had planned.  

You too have had your planned interrupted? 

After my sister died, I clung to the verse Jeremiah 29:11 because I needed to know that God was sovereign in all the grief I was feeling.

My plans and dreams for the future were rocked and I had to learn to stand on the promise that God knows the plan He has for me.  He is giving me hope and a future.

Obviously this new season isn't anything like grieving over the loss of my sister.  Nothing like it.  But, I realize no matter how large the grief, I need to acknowledge the feelings I have about the closed door.  It's a grief of leaving behind the season of little children in our home.  It's the grief of not being able to return to teaching in the public schools...right now. 

Then in acknowledging these feelings I can find joy in the journey God has for me and the opportunities that this new season opens for me as a wife, mom, friend, writer, and speaker.  Finding joy is allowing me to see that while God may be closing the door right now, He has a new door ready for me to open if I choose to follow in obedience.  

I don't know what this new door will have in store but I can trust Him knowing that as long as I am willing, it will further His Kingdom.  Isn't that what I desire most?

Many of you are facing interrupted expectations right now.  It could be the grief that parenting isn't what you thought it would be.   It could be the disappointment in a failed friendship or job. Maybe the grief of having to leave all you know for a new place. 

I pray whatever it is that you can find peace and joy knowing that we serve a sovereign God who is crazy about us.   Even though He is God and could do it on His own, He invites us to participate in His work to further His Kingdom.  How I serve Him may look different than I expected but being in His will is the best place that I can be. 

It's time for me to open the new door before me.  How about you?

Enjoy these lyrics from one of my favorite songs by Michael W. Smith

This post may contain affiliate links. Without any cost to you, when clicking on these links you are helping to support the further development of this blog and the ABCJLM website.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Parent's Prayer for the School Year

It's mid-August and in a blink I am closing the door on being a mom of preschoolers and opening the door to life as a mom of a middle school pre-teen and three elementary-aged children.  So many emotions in that statement. 

As I begin this new stage of life, I know that I need God's wisdom and strength.  I need His guidance and direction. 

What better way to begin this school year than with prayer!  Will you please join me?

Dear Abba Father,

Thank you for forgiveness.  Thank you for salvation.  Thank you for the promise of eternal life.  

But I want more;  I need more.  

I don’t want to talk religion.  I want to ooze your characteristics because I have young eyes watching me.  My children are learning who You are by what I do.  And I desperately want to be able to say, as the apostle Paul did to his followers, “Imitate me.” 

I want to live so close to You – to be so intimately connected with You – that by imitating my life, my children will actually be imitating You.  My heart’s desire is to be You to my children.  I want to be the greatest influence in their lives, and I want to consistently shine to reflect You.  I know that You hold my children’s future and I am trusting You to show me how to be a mirror of You to them as they travel this road to adulthood. 

I know You have created me as the mom of these children but parenting is hard.  I look in the mirror and just see mistakes and missed opportunities.  I can’t do this on my own.  I need you to make this happen. 

I surrender everything I’ve been, everything I am, and everything I’ll become to You right now.  Lord, I not only give You my life, I give You my rights as well.  I give You my very self.  I’m asking You to live through me.  Use me to bring glory to Your name.  I want You to transform me into Your image.  I want my deepest desire to be to please You, to do Your will.

Even though my spirit is willing, my flesh is so weak.  Holy Spirit, please prick my heart when I bend toward my will instead of Yours.  Speak loud when I choose my way over Your way.

Thank you for making me complete in You, and for releasing the power of Your Spirit throughout every area of my life.  Thank You that the same power that raised Your son from the dead is the power that You are using to mold in me into a daughter who will bring You glory.   Thank You that You don’t give up on me. 

In Your holy, powerful, and loving name….

Welcome friends to a new school year!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Are the Current Events Causing Fear?

I am a news junkie.  Each day I read the archaic information piece made of ink and paper after watching the news on TV.  I feel as a Christian it is important to know what is happening around us in politics and society.  

But not lately.  I know what I will hear if I turn on the news and unglove the paper.   Hate.   Lies.  Corruption.   Selfishness.  Pride.  And it makes me sick.  

We are living in a times where the enemy is seeking and destroying.   I don't claim to predict the future but from what I have read, it is not going to get better on this earth.  As man turns from God, it will only spiral downward.  

Especially as a mom, I can become easily overwhelmed with all of this yuck.  I fear for my family's safety, our life as we know it, and for our country.  My gut reaction is to run and hide. Panic.  But I am reminded that I don't have to live in fear.  

Remember the story of Peter in Matthew 14?   A storm comes up and fears are high.  Trusting Jesus, Peter hops out of the boat and begins walking on water.  But as soon as Peter takes his eyes off Jesus, he notices the waves threatening to engulf him and he begins to sink into the swirling waters.  Peter was fine until he lost focus.  

How I can relate!   The yuck in the news is swirling around me threatening to uproot everything I know.  Instead of getting overwhelmed by the mess of this sin-filled world, it's time for me to take my eyes off the towering waves and place them on Jesus.   

No, it doesn't mean that the waves will calm.  But it does mean that my focus will be on the HOPE of Jesus instead of the distraction of the enemy.  

Will you join me?

Feeling hopeless?  I encourage you to daily find hope in the Word.  Read my free ebook, A Quiet Time, Worth the Time

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tips to Taking a Smoky Mountains Family Vacation

Last week I began a two-week series of taking family vacation to the mountains.  I shared about the Rocky Mountains and our visit to the Colorado Springs areas.  This week we will travel to the other side of the US to some mountains the appear to be smoking! 

After reading an article in a travel magazine, the Smoky Mountains were added to my bucket list.  So while our kiddos were at camp and Peanut was at Camp Spoiler (aka grandparents’) my husband and I took the opportunity to make it happen.  Boy did we see some amazing things!   Sites that we definitely want to visit with the kids.  If you are headed to Tennessee and North Carolina, here are our tips.

Place to Stay

We chose Gatlinburg, Tennessee as our hub.  It is on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and very close to the North Carolina border.  We rented a very reasonably priced home on the mountain.  It had a beautiful view and gave us the privacy we desired.  From what we learned, many of the homes on that side of the mountain are rentals.  Although we didn’t use it, the home rental also allowed access to a fitness/pool center.  Pigeon Forge (to the North) would have been another option but that town seemed more geared toward tourist and less for those wanting to enjoy the beauty.  Just my observation. 

If you do rent a home, I encourage you to arrive during the day as it could be difficult to find your place when it’s dark because the streets are so crazy-curvy going up and around the mountain.

One of the perks of having a house is the full kitchen.  With a little planning you can cut cost drastically by eating in!  (See how we planned for a beach trip and trips to the Rockies.)

Things to Do

Ober Gatlinburg
On our first evening we rode the Ariel Tramway 2.1 miles up the mountain.  At the top there is an amusement park and ski area with an ice skating rink and some food and souvenir shops.  While it was super cool to ride in the cable car over the tree tops, this is an activity I would skip.  You are crammed into a tram and unless you time it correctly, you could easily be smashed in the middle and see very little.

Biltmore Mansion
The second day we drove across the border into Asheville, North Carolina to the largest privately owned home in the United States.  To say the least, I loved, {LOVED} our day at Biltmore.  So much so that this has been placed back on my bucket list with the addition of visiting for a span of few days.  Yes, I loved it that much.  The house.  The gardens and pond.  The stories about those who lived there.  The scenery.  Everything I found fascinating.

Yes, this is an indoor swimming pool!
With that said, it is very expensive to visit.  The tickets for the house were $60 a piece with the addition of $11 for the handheld audio guides.  Of course the guides are option but the information that they provide are key to experiencing the house to the fullest.  Other tours are available for an added price but we didn’t take the time to do them.  Next time...

During our visit, kids could tour for free but I saw very few young families touring the house.  Honestly, the thought of wrangling a toddler through the house makes me nervous.  I wouldn’t be able to enjoy anything if worried about a child touching gold sprinkled wallpaper (no joke!).  Audio guides are also available for children and the tour is presented through the viewpoint of the house dog.  The excerpt that I heard would be great for late elementary-aged children and older.  If we were to return with our kiddos, prior to the visit I would want to do a study of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s with an emphasis on class and how households were run.  I think this would help the children understand what they were seeing and hearing.

Wear good walking shoes as the house and gardens are spread out.  After walking a long way we realized that we could have driven to the gardens instead of walking.  Oh well…more calories burned, right?  Prior to visiting I read that cameras weren’t allowed but once in the house discovered that I could have used one without a flash.  Sadly, I had to settle for my phone camera so please excuse the poor quality of the above images.

Overall, I highly suggest visiting Biltmore but I would hold off if your children are really young.

Clingman's Dome
The next day took us to the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  It is a seven mile drive to the end of Clingman's Dome Road and then once there parking is very limited so plan to walk a ways before even beginning the ½ mile steep hike to the summit.  They suggest strollers not be used but as long as you hold tightly you will be fine.  Key:  Don’t let go!  The observation tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome offers a 360 view of the Smokies.  Unfortunately it was so fogging that we couldn’t see much in front of us.  It is a little cooler at the top so you may desire a jacket depending on the weather.  FYI:  Only valet toilet restrooms are available.

At the bottom of the summit are a few trail options.  We took the one to the Appalachian Trail and then veered back to Clingman's Dome.  Cool just to say that we touched the Appalachian Trail.  Wish we would have had more time to do the hikes as the scenery was beautiful. 

The seven-mile Clingman's Dome Road contains several pull-off places to enjoy the view.  While I didn’t see any picnic tables, these would be fun places to take a picnic lunch.

One more thing…while there we saw that a park ranger had gathered children for an information time. She shared about Clingman's Dome and answered questions.  Be sure to check times for ranger-led programs.  Many National Parks have Junior Ranger programs as well.  The NPS.gov website has information as well as suggested children’s books to teach your children about the Smoky Mountains.

Rock Streams
My absolute favorite scenery of our trip was the amazing rock streams that traveled down the mountain.  It is a must-stop to walk along the rocks.  Even as adults, we loved our hour spent in the stream.  Water shoes would have made it even more fun!  Definitely set aside time to enjoy God’s creation.

There are many trail in the National Park.  We chose the Grotto Falls hike which displays a 25’ waterfall that you can walk behind.  There are several smaller falls that you can walk along and water shoes would have been super fun to have.  This hike is a 3 miles round trip moderate hike.  Since we hike a lot, our children would have had no trouble on this hike.  Once again parking was very limited and don’t forget to take water with you!

God has surrounded us with His glorious creation.  Smoky Mountains is just one more place to experience it.

Also read:  
Hotel Rooms, Vacation, and Kids:  16 Tips to Success
Tips to Taking a Family Beach Vacation
Tips to Taking a Rocky Mountains Family Vacation

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