Staying in the Word

Ever felt confused? Ever felt weak? Ever felt too defeated to want to try again? Ever wondered what God was doing? Ever doubted? Ever struggled?

Yeah, me too.

And several recent struggles have led me to this conclusion: I must stay in the Word. Whenever I am out of God’s Word for any length of time, I forget the truths which I know to be true.

John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

If I’m not spending time in God’s Word, I can guarantee that I will get overwhelmed by my own failures, forgetting to recognize that Christ lived a perfect life in my stead. I will believe the lie that He isn’t truly good, wasting time trying to figure out what He is doing instead of learning about who He is.

Recently, I found myself surprised by how easily I could lose my temper, live selfishly, act unloving, think unkindly, etc. I was confessing these sins and apologizing to those I’d wronged, but ten minutes later I’d find myself right back at it! One day, it finally hit me. Why was I surprised to be so quickly defeated when I had not been preparing for the battle? We are instructed in Ephesians 6:17 to “take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” One of the Spirit’s roles is to bring to remembrance the words of Christ (John 14:26). If I’m not spending time in the Word, I am not giving the Spirit much room to work with. In other words, I’m not placing the sword in the Spirits hand so that He has ammunition to work with. Instead I am allowing myself to just get knocked down repeatedly without any change in my armor. 

Simply reading God’s Word doesn’t always mean that the struggle against our flesh will immediately go away. Battles are rarely won instantaneously and obedience takes effort. Yet, I do know that if I ever want answers to my questions, if I want victory, if I want to live the christian life to the fullest measure with which God intended for me to live it, then I must stay in the Word. By spending time in the Word, I get to know more about God’s heart while He also continues to change my own.

Charles Spurgeon, one of my favorite authors, said “Defeat awaits that man who forsakes the Word of the Lord. We are to take this sword that we may be able to stand and to withstand. If you want to stand, draw the sword and smite your doubts. How fiercely unbelief assails. Never let satan get you away from the solid ground of the Word of God. If he once gets you to think that the fact of Christ being the Savior of sinners can only be proved by what you see within yourself, he will plunge you into despair.”

So, when I don’t know what else to do, when my self-will and determination have waned, when my heart doubts, His Word is my missing defense for the battle.   “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Listen, I am all too familiar with the fact that spending time with God can be extremely hard to prioritize. Trust me, summer, with its current change of schedules and pace, has added an additional challenge for me in this area. (There have been multiple times recently where I’ve gotten busy with my morning only to realize halfway through that spending time with God hasn’t even been on my radar!) But, this is a non-negotiable. God’s Word remains imperative for victorious christian living. 

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we read that  “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

I don’t know about you, but I want to be equipped for the tasks God has called me to, both big and small. And this means that I must be in the Word! However, in order to make this happen during this current season of life –when children are little and summers are busy–we may need to get a little creative.

  1. Be willing to spend time with God while the kids play at our feet. 
  2. Keep an open Bible on our counter or table. Snatch a quick verse throughout the day as we walk by. 
  3. Listen to a Bible-based podcast while we wash dishes. 
  4. Commit to reading God’s Word before getting on any social media. 
  5. Play the Bible on cd in our car as we drive around to different summer events. 
  6. Store a pack of note cards in our pockets or purse so we can easily work on some scripture memory as we keep an eye on our kids playing in the backyard, etc. 
  7. Find scripture songs to sing with our kids and learn His Word together. 

It’s July. We are over halfway through the year; less than six months to go and one more year will be marked down in the history books. How are we going to use the time we have left to dig into God’s Word?

Outdoor activities for your young children

We all know that our kids are happier and sleep better when they have gotten outside for some play time!

Here are some outdoor activities that we have done with our kiddos.

  1. Sidewalk chalk – Our kids spend hours outside drawing!
  2. Outside Bath Station – gather your kiddos plastic animals or dolls and a bucket of soapy water and let them “bathe” them and set them in the sun to dry. Or set up a “car wash” for their toy cars.
  3. Toy Ice Block- Fill a gallon ice cream container with water. Add a whole bunch of small plastic toys. Place in freezer until frozen. Loosen ice block from container by pouring warm water over it. Take outside and let your kids chisel away at the ice block in an effort to get their toys out. This will keep them entertained for hours while also keeping them nice and cool on a very hot day. 
  4. Make a water balloon pinata that kids can take turns trying to burst!
  5. Brown sugar can be used as sand for a fun (and tasty!) activity. Just hose all that stickiness off afterwards!
  6. Fill a bucket with water and give your kids big paintbrushes to dip and use on the sidewalk/driveway for a mess-free painting session that cleans up all by itself!
  7. Gather any large bowls/containers that you own, along with some measuring cups. Fill several bowls with water and let your child spend hours transferring water to other containers using the provided measuring cups. 
  8. Take your children on a scavenger hunt where they are to collect as many shades of green that they can find in leaves, grass, petals, etc.
  9. Play “I SPY” as you go for a walk. 
  10. Take lunch to the backyard for a picnic.
  11. Go on a nature walk.
  12. Make a water slide using an old tarp and your hose. (Use Johnsons tearless baby shampoo to make an extra slippery surface!) 
  13. Check online for all the parks in your area and try out one or two you don’t normally go to. Invite a friend along! 

Enjoy making memories with your kids this summer!

Thankfulness on the 4th!

Last night as our little family gathered with hundreds of others along the curb of our little town my husband was able to visit with a World War II veteran. My heart was overwhelmed with thankfulness for the men and women who have served our country and the freedoms we enjoy!

God has given us so many riches in this country! Here are a few that we are particularly thankful for this Independence Day.

Freedom to worship God (Both individually and corporately!)

Freedom to teach our children about God

Freedom in choosing schooling options for our children

Jobs

Homes

Variety of foods

Safe water

Being able to hop in our car and drive anywhere we want

Internet and apps that we can connect with long distance family and friends

Hospitals and healthcare professionals 

Beauty in our surroundings 

Fresh air

Law enforcement/government officials/emergency personnel who seek to provide safety

Libraries

Parks

Easy access to stores

Farmers and ranchers

The abundance of sound Christian resources–organizations, books, music, conferences

Outdoor recreation opportunities like parks, hiking trails, and lakes

The variety of seasons–each one is beautiful in its own way! 

Government leaders that are set up by God

And Many More!

Today as we enjoy family, friends, food and fireworks let’s thank God for the many freedoms and gifts He has blessed us with in this country! The United States of America!

Happy Independence Day!

Traveling with young kids

TRAVEL

Jeremiah and I did it a lot; growing up, college years, married life, and now with kids.

By plane and by car.

I personally prefer my feet on the ground so we drive more but we have done a fair bit of air travel too.

Traveling with kids can feel overwhelming and stressful.

Here are some things we have learned that make traveling with our kids go smoother and be as enjoyable as possible.

First off I want to acknowledge the fact that each child is different. Personality can play a huge role into how your child travels. Please keep that in mind and give yourself and your kiddo grace along the way!

Our oldest daughter has been the “perfect traveler” ever since she was tiny. She is laid back, enjoys new things and is easily entertained. Our second, however, is a mover and very interactive with a shorter attention span. God gave them very different personalities and we are learning to work with both of them as we travel together.

Prepare Them

Talk up your trip, days even weeks before. Be excited but also tell them what could be hard (long car rides, not being loud on the plane, etc.) We started prepping our girls about events at ages as early as one and it really seemed to help them calm down and do better when we would remind them what we had talked about. Little kids understand more than we give them credit for.

 

Novelty is King

Airline snacks are always a big hit with our girls because they are so unique. Nowhere else do you find airplane shaped graham cracker cookies. So stock up on goodies that are different than what you normally buy your kiddos.

Buy some activities that are new.

o   Water Wow

o   Paint with water activity books

o   Play dough (Bring along a cookie sheet for road trips)

o   Sticker Books  

 

Interact

It’s easy to hand over the ipad and it might seem to do the trick but kids need interaction with their parents to be content for long periods of time. With our kids, I have found, that if I give them media right away they wind up more cranky in the end. Rather, we save the media for last resorts and find they are happier longer and have an easier time when the devices go away. Talk to them, point out what you see, play I-spy, read a story, sing songs. It takes a lot more work on mom and dad’s part but in the long-game it’s totally worth it!

 

Media

If and when we resort to media, try apps that you can play with your child or ones that encourage learning.

o   Matching games where you can take turns with your kids to find the match.

o   Games that teach colors, letters, numbers, small motor skills or problem solving.

 

Let them move

Air travel: I know the feeling of waking halfway across the airport and just wanting to collapse in a chair at your gate. But remember, if your kids are sitting now, they will want to move later so let them get their wiggles out whenever possible. When the seatbelt sign finally turns off while in flight, take the chance to follow your toddler up and down the aisle. That light is going to turn back on all too soon and your little one (and your ears) are  not going to fare well if he hasn’t gotten any chance to move about.

Road trip: Your kiddo is actually happy or entertained when you pull into the gas station and the temptation to leave her in her car seat is strong. Don’t do it! Take every opportunity to let them stretch their legs even if it just means letting them climb around inside the car. It may mean a melt down when it comes time to buckle back up but in the long run it is better for their physical and mental stamina!

 

Most of all, pray and ask God for grace and help, wisdom and ideas! Prayer does not mean that everything will go hunky-dory the entire trip. However, God loves to answer our petitions, and prayer will put our hearts in the right place to extend love, patience and grace to our kids as we travel!

 

~ Rachel

Summer Recipes


Summer is finally here! Yay!

For most, if not all of us, summer often brings many gatherings with friends and family, whether they be in the backyard, at the park or playground, in the church basement, or around the dining room table! Whatever the setting, these gatherings usually provide opportunities to make something yummy to eat while we also seek to encourage and edify one another.

Here are some summer recipes that we have found easy to make for a crowd!

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Sub Sandwiches for a Crowd
It can be tedious to make sandwiches for a large group. However, this method is super easy and sure to please on a summer day.

Ingredients:
Loaf of french bread (one loaf makes about 8 sandwiches)
Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing
Lunch Meat (ham, turkey or chicken)
Sliced Cheese
Your favorite sandwich toppings

Directions:

Slice the loaf of french bread down the center long ways.

Open and spread Caesar Dressing on both sides.

Layer lunch meat and cheese on the bottom half of the loaf.

Put top of loaf on over the meat and cheese and slice into 8 sandwiches.

Arrange toppings on a plate and let your guests add what they like.

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Ham and Pineapple Kabobs
I add colorful pepper chunks to these fun kabobs to make a bright and appealing appetizer. You can also serve over white rice and make it a meal! Delicious!

I use this recipe from All Recipes.com: Ham and Pineapple Kabobs

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Stromboli
Instead of serving pizza at your next get-together, try making this similar-tasting stromboli that your guests are guaranteed to love!

Here’s the recipe I use: https://laurenslatest.com/how-to-make-stromboli/

 

 

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Pulled Pork with a side of Mac and Cheese
This is a classic combination that never gets old. Try this easy freezer meal recipe for Mac and Cheese that allows you to prep days in advance.

https://www.passionforsavings.com/easy-freezer-mac-cheese-recipe/

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One-Dish Taco Salad 

This is an easy dish to make for potlucks.

Ingredients:
1 pound hamburger, browned and seasoned with taco seasoning
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 – 8 ounce package shredded cheddar cheese
1 large head of lettuce, finely chopped
1 – 12 ounce package Doritos Nacho Cheese chips (or regular tortilla chips), lightly crushed
8 ounces Greek Goddess salad dressing
8 ounces Coleslaw salad dressing

Directions: 

In a large serving dish, mix all ingredients together and serve immediately.

Note: Do not mix together until immediately before serving. Leftover salad does not keep–the chips and lettuce get very soggy. When taking this dish to a social gathering, I have found it helpful to prepare the ingredients as follows:

Place beans, cheese, and cooled hamburger in a Ziploc bag.
Place diced tomatoes in a separate quart Ziploc bag.
Place lettuce in a Ziploc bag.
Keep chips and dressing separate.

When ready to serve, simply dump all the ingredients together and mix together.

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Fruit Trifle
One of my favorite desserts to make in the summer is a fruit trifle, because you don’t really need any specific flavors or measurements in order for it to taste good. You can literally just use whatever you have on hand and you’ll end up with a light and delicious dessert.

What you will need:
1/2 cake, baked
I box instant pudding, prepared
3 c. fresh fruit, chopped or whole
1 container whipped topping

Instructions:
Cube the cake and layer the bottom of a bowl with it.

Add a layer of pudding and fruit, followed by a layer of whipped topping.

Repeat process over and over until your bowl is completely full. (Trust me, you’ll want the bowl full because this is one dessert that disappears quickly!)

Garnish with fresh fruit.

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What is your favorite dish to bring to a summer evening get-together?