Infant Routines at Our Home – Part 1

Addie asked: I was wondering where you fall on the baby wise-demand feeding continuum. What is your secret to finding a routine, but still following your intuition to hold them when they are upset? How do you care for your home, your children, and your health?

There are two different camps when it comes to infant routines and the basics of parenting, and both have led to confusion, frustration, and contention among friends and family. Some have defined the attachment approach to be the truly biblical manner of parenting because it demonstrates God’s love for his children with the practices of demand feeding, co-sleeping, infant wearing, etc. While others have said that adopting a schedule (the baby wise, scheduled feedings, cry-it out camp) is important to training your children to understand authority in their lives and good routine helps them thrive and grow while helping to establish that the child is not the center of the world. I don’t believe it is right to say one way is right and the other way is wrong…or that one way is more biblical than the other. This is certainly a liberty issue and we have freedom in Christ to determine the best pattern for our family structures. I am here today to share where the Lord has led us…a balance between the two

I have one wonderful mother who falls on the scheduling side, and one wonderful mother-in-law who falls on the attachment parenting/co-sleeping side, so both my husband and I have experienced being raised by these two different camps. And you know what? There honestly is no difference between us in our levels of security, strength of relationship with our parents, or any thing else. We both grew up fully secure in our parent’s love and both family’s were happy with the routines they adopted. Although I was taught to cry it out in learning how to go to sleep, I did not feel in any way deprived from my parent’s love and affection (in fact, I am extremely blessed with a close relationship with my parents).

I say this because I want to assure every new mother out there that there is complete grace for your situation to adopt what you feel led to practice. Don’t feel guilty if you chose a more flexible on demand approach. Don’t feel guilty if you throw in the towel on co-sleeping because its stressing your marriage, as there are plenty of more opportunities to invest in your child’s well-being, physiological development, and bonding then just sleeping together with them. Adopting either of these practices will not make you a better parent. And you need not feel like a failure if either/or does not work for your family.

I love many of the ideas of attachment parenting. I love the vision of bonding with baby by being closely knitted to them through breastfeeding. I adore wearing my baby on me throughout the day with baby wraps and carriers, and cuddling up with their sweet little heads close to my heart. But I don’t practice co-sleeping, and I don’t practice demand feeding 100% of the time.

I also love many of the ideas of Baby Wise and scheduling (my mom gave me a copy of My First 300 Babies which also helped encourage a scheduled feeding/sleeping approach). I love a good simple routine. I love knowing approximately when baby will sleep and when he/she will be awake. I love having a simple plan for our feedings, so that the other responsibilities in life would fall into place. This mommy believes in the importance of sleep so she can care for her family and household to the best of her abilities. My babies are joyful and happy when they have good regular nap and bed times.

But, I don’t believe these practices are more biblical or look down on anyone who chooses another option. We are called to strive for the unity of the body, to love one another, to support and encourage each other.

So what have we chosen to do? First off, we have chosen not to practice co-sleeping.

We function on these principles…

Our marriage is our first priority.

Above all, we want to preserve the marriage bed as a sacred place for my husband and I. We want our children to understand that our marriage is a priority. When children become center stage, it is too easy for a marriage to lack growth because no time is spent together. We believe our children need to understand that there are boundaries. We need privacy to build our marriage in our communication and sexual interaction. The last thing we need is the fear of waking a child.

“Children are not more important than God – or our husbands. For their own well-being and the well-being of your marriage, children must understand that they come after your spouse. They need to know they fit into a secure place within an established set of relationships.” -Jean Fleming

Sleep is a priority for my health and emotional/physical well-being.

I have experienced the harm of being sleep-deprived for extended periods of time when I battled insomnia for 1 1/2 years. In order to be a wife and mother that is alive and well and can effectively manage the responsibilities under my care, I need to strive to get a reasonable amount of sleep each night. Yes, it may be interrupted by little ones, but with a routine and separate bed situation, they are able to start sleeping through the night far earlier. I have also found that they sleep longer and more contentedly in their own sleeping environment. Our little ones have learned to sleep through the night naturally at 6-7 weeks in their own beds, which I am extremely thankful for.

Ultimately, in making the decision whether or not to co-sleep, please make sure you prayerfully discuss it with your husband to make sure you are on the same page. The last thing you would want to do is cause a divide in your marriage because he thinks otherwise. Remember to honor your husbands for the well being of your family.

Where Do Our Babies Sleep?

So, for about the first few week or so, baby will be snuggled in with us in bed as Mommy recovers, but will transition to a moses style bassinet by 2 weeks. We then have the baby nearby in our room with until they around about 2-3 months old (and normally sleeping through the night by this point). Then our babies sleep in our closet until they grow out of the bassinet and are consistently sleeping through the night (around 10 months to 1 year).  This way we have a bit more privacy, but I can easily hear if the baby awakes and needs assistance. By 1 year old, we transition them to a crib and place them together in the same room with our other children.

More to come…

COMMENT POLICY: As this can be a controversial subject, please keep your comments considerate. We do not desire any argument or debate here. We are simply seeking to help those readers who have asked.

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Raising Samuels

Eli helping Samuel to learn to hear God's voice

From Contributing Writer, Trina Holden

Learning to hear God’s voice is a life-long journey. I want to give my kids an early start by teaching them they can learn to listen while they’re young. Here’s how we’re cultivating a listening ear in our home…

Read the story of Samuel {A Lot!}

I want my son to understand that God really does talk to 5 year old boys! He’s had the concept quite cemented in his mind through the story of Samuel, which we’ve read over and over in every version of the Bible we have.

Our favorite is the one in the Rhyme Bible Storybook. My kids love the rhythm of poetry so we read it over and over until they could recite it with me.

“When it happened again, Old Eli knew,

And he told the boy what he should do:

‘Listen, for God is speaking to you!’”

Teach Them That All Good Things Come From God

James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights”. This verse is key to helping us discern whether something we hear is from God. Is it good? Teach your children that we can’t take the credit for any of the good that comes out of us. Once they realize that the source of a bright idea or a kind thought is actually God’s Spirit, it can help them tune in to His voice.

The other day, when I got home from running errands, I reached for the screen door and found the wind had slammed it so hard it was jammed shut. No amount of yanking would budge it. I had a little moment of panic. The kids were cold and hungry — I needed to get them inside. Jesse (5) had the idea to try the back door.

“Thanks, boy, but it’s probably locked.” I quickly dialed my husband to ask “What to do?”

Undaunted, my boy ran around the corner of the house and, to our surprise, turned the handle and proudly announced to his mommy, “I got it! It’s open!”

We trooped gratefully inside for lunch. Later that day, Jesse said, out of the blue, “Mom, I think that was GOD for me to think to use the back door!”

I agreed that, yes, good ideas come from God.

Live It Out In Front of Them

Share openly with your children what God is working in your own heart. They may not grasp the concepts, but they will get the main idea – that one CAN have dialog with the Father.

One day I realized that the words I thought were over their head were still having an impact. Jesse said to me, “Mom, God talked to me today.”

“Yeah? What did He say?”

“Same thing He told you, Mom! ‘Be patient and keep on keepin’ on’!”

Thank you, Father!

More Ideas For Raising Samuels:

  • If you children are old enough, encourage them to keep a little prayer journal where they write a prayer to God and then jot down anything they hear in return.
  • If they are too young to write, let them dictate what they hear after you read a little scripture, or lead them to draw a picture.
  • Remind them that the quiet time in their bed alone as they fall asleep is a great time to talk with God.

“Allow the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God”. Mark 10:14

As you lead your children, your own heart will be encouraged when you witness their childlike faith.

How are you cultivating your children’s faith? What has worked for your family? I’m always looking for more ideas!

Photo Credit

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My Favorite Home Management iPhone Apps

Screenshot of Clear app

In the last year, I have been using an iPhone and have found it extremely useful for organizing my life and managing our household well. I love having everything in one place, from our calendar, to my to-do list, to basic note taking. It is ultimately becoming my homemaking binder on my phone. It has saved me a lot of time because it is all conveniently located on one device.

It has certainly been distracting at times, so I have found it wise to set parameters for use to prevent myself from becoming overly consumed with this easy access technology. Frequently, I delete all my social media apps so I can take regular fasts from them. I am currently taking a week fast from them. I also find it helpful to make sure I keep my phone on the counter for the better part of the day, so I am not distracted to look at it while I’m teaching school, or doing various other tasks around my home.

I wanted to share with you what applications I have found to be most useful. I have sampled many different apps, but keep coming back to the most simple, clean, and basic apps out there. It is quickly becoming my virtual homemaking binder!

All of these are also compatible (as far as I understand) on iPod touch and iPad devises.

Mint

We love to use Mint.com for all our household financial budgeting and organizing. With the Mint app you can categorize purchases, add transactions, check on balances, and keep tabs on your income all for free!

Craigslist Pro

Craigslist Pro makes it easy to find great deals, post your own ads, and email sellers in a few seconds. With it’s use of the Iphone camera, you can actually post your own ads in a matter of a few minutes from taking the picture, adding a description, and posting it all from your phone. Saved me oodles of time! I’ve tried many different free craigslist apps, and paying $0.99 for this one was well worth it since it is not buggy and easily navigable.

Clear

My most recent find and favorite app (thanks to my dear hubby!) has been the Clear application for organizing my to-do list. It is so simple, crisp, and colorful. Tap to add a to-do, slid to the left to delete, hold to move one around…wow. I have set up several different lists in my Clear app, including a personal to-do list, Blog tasks, Household needs, (which I also use to make a simple grocery list), Errands, Long term Goals, etc. As we run out of things around our house, I add that item to our household needs list. When I need to pick up some groceries or other items, I look at this list and can easily move things around according to food categories/aisles, etc. It is by far the best app I have used for simple home management and is only $1.99.

Shopper

So currently I find myself using Clear to make my basic grocery list, but in the past I have also used Shopper, which I found very helpful as well because I could make multiple grocery lists for the different stores that I would visit and it automatically organizes it by file and you can add the cost of each item for the budget conscious. Since I shop on a monthly basis for most things, I could just keep the same ongoing monthly grocery list.

Reminders

The Reminders app comes with the IPhone and is very useful for setting reminders for various tasks. I use it to remind me to change the laundry, add yogurt starter, put something in the oven at a certain time and it will buzz me. Sometimes I will need to remember to bring something to someone’s house, so I will set a reminder to go off 15 minutes before departure with the listed items to bring. No more forgetting things!

Home Routines

I have recently been introduced to Home Routines by my readers and am just beginning to use it. I like how it allows me to add my own morning and evening routines, cleaning schedules, etc. but also provides structure to build my own cleaning zones with reminders using the Fly Lady model. Love the built in timer to help me get tasks done in 10-15 min. Great app to keep you on track in your household management.

Notes

The Notes app also comes with the IPhone and is just a basic general virtual notepad. I use this application to keep my thankfulness list, my weekly menu, and other basic important notes that I want to remember. From this app, I can easily email my notes to myself or others for safe keeping.

Google Calendar

I love using Google Calendar for all our household and family scheduling. It is easy to synch to include my husband’s schedule and important dates and deadlines for my blog. In this manner, we make sure that we know each other’s schedule as it is easily accessible from our phones. It’s nice to have my schedule on my phone at all times to refer to especially when I am out and about.

All Recipes Pro

I find nearly all my recipes and new inspiration for crafting my own recipes from Allrecipes.com. Whenever I desire to make something new, I use allrecipes.com because every recipe is thoroughly reviewed! They recently released the All Recipes Dinner Spinner Pro app and it is awesome. I can find a wealth of quality recipes with a simple search, check out the awesome amount of reviews, and add my favorites to my recipe box within the application. It can also make you an instant shopping list with the ingredients found in your choice of recipes. Well worth the $2.99!

So there you have it…my favorite simple applications! I’ve tried a wealth of other free apps and most often they are useless or frustrating. Investing in a couple quality apps is worth the time saved!

I recently put a blurb out on our facebook fan page for recommendations for iPhone applications. See the discussion here. These are the ones that the readers have tried.

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Praying for the World Around Our Dinner Table

The Lord has been doing a stirring in my heart about the importance of prayer. It is a discipline that is easily slipped under the table. I want to be intentional about teaching my children how to pray. I want them to grow up with a heart and love for others. I want them to be aware of the great battle for the gospel that is taking place outside our doorstep. I want them to care for the lost. How can this be done?

I stumbled upon an idea on Pinterest a few months back about putting together a prayer pail. It has been the best thing we have found to help cultivate a heart and love for prayer in our family.

Basically, you take large craft sticks (the wider popsicle sticks), and write the names of individuals, countries, ministries, neighbors, and whoever or whatever the Lord might lay on your heart to begin praying for on a regular basis. We decorated a cute mug and labeled it with stickers as our “prayer pail.”

Some of the people we have included:

Grandparents, Relatives
Leadership in our church
Our City
Our President
Our neighborhood
Sick friends or family
Members in our community group
Our sponsored children
Non-Christian friends we are seeking to show the love of Christ to
Other charity organizations we give to: Pregnancy Resource Center, Orphan home in India, Wycliffe Bible Translators, etc
Persecuted Church around the World
Human Trafficking
Ministries in our church

Then, every night around the dinner table, each family member takes a craft stick and prays for the listed person/ministry. For our littlest members, my husband and I will pray and have our child repeat after us, so that they can grow in understanding how to pray. Both our children absolutely love this routine. Every night they will faithfully remind us to pick a stick! And without doubt, they are eager to pray. It is the sweetest thing. We have no excuse. It helps keep us accountable and faithful in praying for the needs of others around us. Our eyes are being opened to see that there is greater needs beyond our own. And as we seek God’s face together, I am confident that God is going to do mighty things! There is power in prayer.

The prayer of a righteous man avails much!

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Screaming Toddlers & Sleepless Babies

I had an adventurous evening last night. With my husband away working extra night hours to launch his new business, this momma has been acting the part of a single mommy trying to juggle all the aspects of child care, home maintenance, and food preparation on her own. While struggling with little to no sleep, it has surely been challenging. My infant refused to go to sleep due to stuffy noses and stayed up with me till 10:30pm, while I strove to contain a pile high of laundry, amidst my toddler boy getting up repeatedly to use the toilet, always needing help in the process.

Finally coming up at 10:30, only to discover my toddler crying at the top of his lunges standing in a puddle of pee, soaked through his jammies. While he stands there crying, my infant is lying on the bed with poop leaking through her diaper onto my comforter. Running back and forth, I madly try to change each of them, nurse the baby, comfort the toddler (who gets incredibly distraught when he has an accident), and settle them all down in their beds. So much for a quiet evening to myself. And this was just the evening…we won’t get into the adventures of the day. ;)

I finally crashed on the bed, leaving the cleanups for the morning. Normally I would be stressed out, frazzled, and ready to throw in the towel. What did I get myself into? I might moan and feel sorry for myself. But tonight, God supplied me with an extra measure of grace to simply sit back and laugh. To replay the situation and see the humor in it all. To laugh at all the adventures this mothering business provides. To let go of my frustration and weariness and embrace the journey He has called me to. We will surely look back in years to come and laugh…why not do it now? Feeling sorry for myself surely won’t get me anywhere. It won’t improve my situation. It won’t increase my contentment. Laughter provides such healing to the soul.

It reminded me of Ma Ingall’s sage advice in the Little House on the Prairie tv series. She was getting all frustrated over something Pa had done and seeping in anger in her inner being. She finally declares to Pa, “It’s such a waste of time to be angry at you.” And they heartily laugh together. This struck me. She had such wisdom to discern the pointlessness of focusing on her own frustrations and disappointments. Feeling sorry for herself surely didn’t improve the situation. She realized that ultimately it is just a waste of time.

I rise this morning with several messes on hand…but the joy of the Lord as my strength! Go forth in the joy of the Lord today my friends and seek to let go and laugh. May the Lord supply us with grace to embrace the challenges, to laugh at the adventures, and to do all in the grace and strength that He alone supplies.

Remember the wise woman of Proverbs 31:25: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” I pray for this freedom to let go of fear and laugh at ourselves in our daily lives and to have such trust in the Lord that we can laugh as we look forward to the adventures of the future.

{Photo credit}

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The Man Who Taught Me the Beauty of Simplicity

Three weeks ago a dear family friend, Tony Tuck, passed from this world into glory. You never truly understand the impact of someone’s life until they have departed from this life. As I sat there pondering his story, I realized that he was the man who taught me the beauty and value of simplicity. He was the grandfather I never had.

He lived a quiet life. Just him and his lovely wife. He lived next door to our family for as long as I could remember. I was born and raised on the property that we shared a life together with several other families. Tony was a quiet fellow. He treasured the glories of nature around him. He loved growing beautiful flowers and vegetables and designing amazing creative artistic displays with various pieces of creation and reusing old tattered pieces of life. He built am amazing bridge across the creek that ran below our house out of a huge log and rope. He designed a prayer cabin out in the back woods for quiet times and solitude. He was quiet, and yet he invested in the lives of others every moment of his life. One by one he touched many lives. He never wanted to be the leader, but rather the servant of all.  The slew of kids that grew up on the property experienced his grandfatherly nature.

He would bring us all together for various work projects around the property and after it was complete, he would load us all up in the back of his covered pick up truck and drive us down to dollars corner for malt milkshakes on his treat. It was such a special time. We loved Tony. We loved reading his collection of Tintin comic books. We loved his amazing “darn good noodles” and every other concoction he created. We love his homemade stone pizza oven and the scrumptious homemade pizzas we created there. But most of all, we loved Tony because he cared. He cared for us. He valued spending time with kids. They were his friends.

He didn’t have much, or at least he didn’t flaunt it. His house was simple. Clean. Comfortable. His life was far from hectic. I would watch him and his wife ride bikes around or simply stroll around the property all the time. And yet he taught me the importance of being uniquely present for each one. His presence conveyed comfort, peace, and contentment. He brought beauty into every area of life. He knew that there was more to be heard in silence than in a loud multitude. Tony and his wife welcomed all into their home.

They built a community in our neighborhood of healing and rest. I never saw them stressed, frustrated, or complaining. He loved just being out in nature and cherishing the small beauties.

As I look back, I see this man as a glorious example of simplicity. Life is too precious to rush through in the fast lane. Life is too short to overlook the beauty of creation that we are called to steward and care for. Where is the value in doing so many things and missing out on all these simple beauties? To love and touch one life at a time. That is my desire. To be fully present with each life bestowed into my care. To welcome young and old into our home to enjoy the bounty that God has blessed us with. This is what Tony taught me. And that was beautiful.

Thank you Tony for cherishing the little things. Thank you for being our Grandpa that we didn’t have. Thank you for creating beauty out of the discarded. Thank you for loving each person who entered your life without thought of what you might receive in return. Thank you for giving generously in every area of your life. Your treasure must be great in heaven with you now.

Only one life…

twill soon be past…

Only what’s done

for Christ will last.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup w/Crockpot Adaption

This soup has been a favorite on our dinner menu over the last few months…we just can’t get enough. It has such a rich flavor and incredibly satisfying for every cold night! Need I say…yum!!!

1-2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 zucchini, diced
1-2 cups black beans, as desired (or 1 -15 oz can)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup chunky salsa (we use our homemade fermented salsa – yum!)
1 tsp sea salt (add if you are using your own homemade broth, season as desired)
8 ounces corn tortilla chips
1 cup shredded cheese (we use raw cheddar, but you can use monterey or peppered jack)
Sour cream, optional

 Directions:

1. Brown chicken breasts in olive oil until fully cooked or you may boil them in a medium pot of boiling water until they are cooked through. Remove from pan, cool, and then shred with two forks.
2. In a large pot, saute onions, zucchini, and celery until soft and browned. Add cumin, garlic cloves, chicken broth, corn, black beans, chili powder, lemon juice, salsa, salt, and shredded chicken. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes.
3. Break up some tortilla chips in the bottom of each bowl and pour the soup over the chips. Top with sour cream and cheese.

Crockpot adaption: In a crockpot, combine all your ingredients, except chips and cheese. It is easiest to leave chicken breasts whole until they are fully cooked, then pull them out and shred them with two forks and place the chicken back into the pot during the last hour. Cook on low for 4-6 hours in your crockpot. Break up some tortilla chips into individual bowls and pour soup over chips. Top with cheese and sour cream as desired.

Yield: 6 servings.

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Training Our Boys to be Men – Part 2

by monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan of Harvest Ministry

To read part 1, visit here.

As moms, we have a vital role in releasing our boys to God’s destiny — through our consistent discipline and biblical encouragement. Empowered by God’s grace, our boys can hit God’s target for their lives; but we need to aim these arrows “toward” God’s bulls-eye, not merely “away” from the ground, or the sky, or some random tree. In parenting (led by our husbands), it’s much more fruitful to focus on the YES-side of advancing God’s kingdom, rather than on the NO-side of man’s legalism.

Boys long for adventure, and they long to be men.

Just look at this awesome newspaper ad from over a hundred years ago. The famous explorer Ernest Shackelton didn’t mince any words, and he didn’t make it sound easy as he was recruiting men to accompany him on a dangerous South Pole expedition . . . and thousands volunteered.

II Timothy 2:1-7, and 19-22, contains 7 KEYS for training our boys to be men:

vs. 1 “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

KEY # 1: Let’s train our boys . . . to to be strong in God’s GRACE — We need to teach our boys to love God and to obey whatever He says, not relying on their own strengths or abilities (or being discouraged by their weaknesses or inabilities), but trusting in God’s grace and relying on His power. What God will tell our sons to do, He will enable them to do.

vs. 2 “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

KEY # 2: Let’s train our boys . . . to LEARN and to LEAD. — We need to train our boys to be teachable and completely submitted to God. They need to learn how to be under authority, and how to be servant-leaders — so others can eventually follow their leadership.

Our boys being boys -- Patrick, climbing a mountain -- Josh, killing a rattlesnake -- Mark, riding a quad

vs. 3 “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

KEY # 3: Let’s train our boys . . . to ENDURE HARDSHIP.– Let’s raise our boys to not be wimpy, but strong and uncompromised; to have a heart for the persecuted, the lost, and the needy; to stand-firm against injustice; and to boldly advance God’s kingdom and His righteousness.

vs. 4 “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”

KEY # 4: Let’s train our boys to be . . . UNENCUMBERED and SOBER-minded. — We need to train our boys to not be like the world, bogged-down, selfish, or distracted. They need to learn to guard the gates of their lives (their mind, eyes, ears, and tongues) — to focus on God’s glory.

vs. 5 “And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”

KEY # 5: Let’s train our boys . . . to GIVE it ALL they’ve GOT! — to be men of integrity and character, with discipline in every area of life — spiritually, mentally, financially, educationally, socially, and even physically.

Our son, Mark (preparing to "ride" a giant sturgeon), and son Philip (with a trophy salmon)

vs. 6-7 “The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.”

KEY # 6: Let’s train our boys . . . to WORK HARD. – We need to teach our boys to understand the value of money, and to know how to invest in the future — to make a generous difference for God’s kingdom, with self-control and financial patience.

vs. 19-22 “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity. “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

KEY # 7: Let’s train our boys . . . to be SET-APART for God.–We need to raise our boys to more than “ordinary” and “common” guys, but boys who are God’s chosen vessels — set-apart to push back darkness, and to advance God’s kingdom.

Our son-to-be, Trae Childs, doing rugged missions in Niger, W. Africa - and my husband Jon in E. Africa

My husband and I have always believed seriously in the need to train our boys to be men. Today’s world needs righteous men to advance God’s kingdom, not just sons who aren’t “too bad” or merely “good little boys.” As women, as wives and as moms, let’s release our husbands, our young men, and our boys — to rise up and take leadership against the sins and injustices of this world, for the glory of God.

Let’s train our boys to be men.

“That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth . . . ”
Psalm 144:12

Comments { 37 }

Training Our Boys to be Men – Part 1

by monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan of Harvest Ministry

A while back, at a ladies retreat, one of the women’s speakers began to passionately address the needs of today’s Christian men. As she asked a hypothetical question, “Where are all the MEN today?” several young women pointed toward me and shouted, “They’re at the Dunagan’s!”

Wow. As everyone laughed, I shook my head and smiled, and enjoyed an incredibly proud momma-moment (and I could hardly wait to get home to share the story with my guys!).

My husband, and our five sons (currently ages 11 to 25), have definitely had their share of adventures — climbing mountains, hiking into remote unreached villages, running triathlons and a marathon, sleeping all night in frozen igloos, and bringing justice into war-torn areas (both in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the midst of a Rwandan genocide, or preaching during civil wars in Sudan or Congo; or for one son, in commanding USMC snipers in front-line military battles). Right now, I have one 15-year-old son tanning a bear hide in our backyard; one college son preparing for a mission trip to Germany; and one newlywed son starting a remote Bible school in SE India. They’re tough guys, physically and spiritually. They do pullups. They know how to pray. And they know how to give their mom some big strong hugs!

Our college son, Daniel, on top of Mt. Hood -- and preaching the Gospel in East Africa

My husband, and our boys, are dangerous men for the kingdom of God; and they’ve lived through more dangerous situations than I can remember: smuggling Bibles into Communist China, preaching in a tin building being stoned by angry Islamic rioters, and surviving a life-threatening storm on an Antarctica-bound expedition.

So as a woman, and as a mom, how do you think that affects me?

Well I’ll tell you one thing. As a wife and mother who wants her men to be mighty for God, I have learned that “worry” is not my friend. Being fearful is not the “responsible momma-attitude” to have; being worried is not the same as showing love; and fear doesn’t do anybody any good.

Fear is the opposite of faith.

Do you realize the Bible tells us in Philippians 4:6, to “be anxious for nothing.” Moms, did you hear that? NOTHING. That means NO THING. NOT EVEN ONE THING. No worries. No fear.

We’re not to worry about money. We’re not to worry about the future. We’re not to worry about our husbands. We’re not to worry about our boys.

NOT EVEN ONE THING!

Try that when your husband is preaching in an area controlled by witchdoctors who want him dead, or when your son is fighting in Afghanistan and you haven’t heard from him in a month.

Our son, Patrick, commanding his USMC platoon, and returning from Afghanistan

But by God’s grace, it’s possible, and it’s a thrilling way to live.

If I want my men to be dangerous for the kingdom of God, I need to be dangerous too. Over the years, God has shown me that I need to be WARRIOR in prayer and intercession, and not a WORRIER.

Today’s world desperately needs REAL MEN; and as mothers in God’s kingdom, we need to do our part to raise our boys to make a difference.

Recently, William Bennett addressed the situation of today’s men. In an article, “Why men are in trouble” he writes how woman have made huge strides in achievement, but men are falling behind. Did you know that men now account for less than half of today’s college degrees? Young men are lacking in maturity, in work skills, and in the discipline (and desire) necessary to provide for a family.

The current situation has led many young men, even in the church, to be floundering. Many guys are without self-control, without work, and without a fervent passion for God. Young men hunger for adventure, yet their desires will never to be met by watching high-action movies, or by becoming an expert in video games. And they don’t need us as women and as moms to tell them to just sit still in church and be good little boys.

Our newlywed son, Josh, ministering at a Bible school he recently started in SE India

We need to release our husband from our fearful (we can do it better) control; and together as a husband and wife, we need to raise our boys for daring kingdom leadership.

As wives, and as mothers, we need to let our men be men.

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Intentionally Celebrating Lent & Easter as a Family

I have been convicted lately considering how much thought and intentionality I love to put into preparing our hearts for the birth of Christ during the Advent season and then how little thought I take to preparing for the ultimate accumulation of Christ’s life in his death and resurrection that is the focus of our Easter celebrations. It usually just comes upon me with little to no thought or preparation. In light of this, I felt like this was the year to begin cultivating more intentionality in celebrating this glorious occasion which is the foundation for our faith. I am beginning early by preparing a list of activities that our family could complete during the lent season of preparation. There are 40 days of Lent, which starts on Wednesday, February 22, this year. I have decided to compile these activities on cards that could be completed throughout this 40 day period. These activities are primarily for young children but could be adapted as necessary. Pick and chose any of these ideas for your own use as desired. I hope to do 2-3 of them each week during Lent.

1. Make a Jesus Tree.
During the Advent season, we like to make a Jesse tree with symbols representing stories throughout the Old Testament that led up to the birth of Christ Jesus. For Easter/Lent celebration, why not make a Jesus Tree with images or symbols from the life and death of Christ. Find ideas to make your own Jesus tree here or buy a complete kit here.

2. Start a Garden.
Start a garden indoors to help your children understand the death and rebirth of Christ. Plant little lettuce seeds or whatever seeds you desire. Explain how the planting symbolizes the death of Jesus and how the sprouting seed symbolizes His rebirth. When Easter arrives, transplant your seedlings to your yard.

3. Make pretzels.
Pretzels were a common fasting food among early Christians, and they were traditionally made of flour, water and salt. The shape of the simple food signifies the arms crossed in prayer. Share your pretzels with a neighbor or family you are seeking to reach out to.

4. Make hot cross buns.
Hot cross buns are also a traditional Lenten bread. Make some with your children while explaining how they are important in the celebration of Lent. The buns may have originated in the 12th century, and the frosting is applied as a cross. Younger children can make simple, bread-shaped crosses to give to grandparents, friends and other family members.

5. Make Easter Story Cookies.

6. Make a Salt Dough Crown of Thorns. An alternative idea: make a crown out of playdough and toothpicks.

7. Make a “Stained Glass” Cross.

8. Encourage a Heart for World Prayer.
Lent is a season of focused preparation and a great opportunity to focus on praying for the world around us. Traditionally, the first Friday in Lent is celebrated as a World Day of Prayer. Chose a continent to focus on during each week leading up to Easter.

9. Take a Nature Scavenger hunt and collect items that remind you of the life of Jesus.
Two sticks could be used to form a cross, a stone could represent the stone across the tomb, a thorn could represent the crown on Jesus’ head, an acorn shell to represent the cup at the Last Supper, long branch to represent a whip, something black (for sin), something red (blood), something white (a clean heart), something green (growing in Christ). Older children can go on a digital scavenger hunt, taking photographs of items that remind them of Easter.

10. Have a foot washing for your family.
Fill a bucket with water. Grab a few towels, and discuss how Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and commanded them to love one another (John 13:34-35). Pray for one another.

11. Read an Easter related book. (See recommendations below)

12. Paint your doorpost for Passover.
Allow your kids to paint red paint on the (paper covered) doorpost to a particular room or the front door of your home to represent the Passover. Read Exodus 12:1-42. Explain Christ’s death as the ultimate sacrifice for sin and discuss the significance of God giving up His firstborn son.

13. Help your child understand that Jesus was called “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7-8). Make a lamb craft project with your kids by gluing cotton balls to a paper plate, then add pink and black construction paper eyes, ears, muzzle, nose and hooves.

14. Discuss as a family something that you could give up and give to another or use the money saved on that regular purchase to give to a charity ministry.

15. Listen to Handel’s Messiah.

16. Make a “He Is Risen” or “Our Redeemer Lives” poster and hang in a prominent place in your home on Easter morning.

17. Bake something for a shut-in or needy family.

18. Make palm leaf crosses.

19. Act out the “parade” of Palm Sunday as a family.
Take turns being the donkey, Jesus, and the part of the crowd. Discuss that “Hosanna” means “Save us, we beseech thee.” Read John 12:12-13. Make palm branches out of green construction paper and decorate the dinner table with your creations.

20. Dye Easter eggs and discuss the new life that has been a symbol of spring since ancient times. Discuss the “new life” that we experience in Christ.

21. Make a sand craft.
Sand is a Lent symbol of how God led the Israelites in their journey in the desert and how Jesus faced temptations for 40 days in the dessert.

22. Collect purple things from around your home.
Discuss how purple is the color of Lent. Purple symbolizes the pain and suffering leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. It is also the color of royalty and symbolizes the kingship of Jesus in our lives. Wear something purple for the day.

23. Make a Jesus is Risen Tomb Craft. Discuss the significance of Christ’s resurrection.

24. Watch The Passion or Animated Passion as appropriate for your family.

25. Get Buried in Grave-clothes.
Read Matthew 27:57-61. Wrap up one of your children in toilet paper, or “grave clothes”. Allow the child to break free from the toilet paper and talk about how sad the disciples must have felt and how happy they must have been when they saw that Jesus had conquered death.

26. Find your own grave stone.
Go to a park, search for an oversized boulder and try to move it. Read Matthew 27:62-66; 28:1-4. Discuss how a large stone couldn’t keep Jesus in the tomb and how surprised the soldiers must have been when it was rolled away.

Sources:

Christian Lent Activities for Children

Great Books/Resources for Easter:

The Animated Passion Film
The Passion Film
The Gospel of John film
(this is our favorite adaption of the life of Jesus)
From Trail to the Tree: A Family Devotional for Lent from Ann Voskamp (with printables for your own Easter/Jesus tree)
Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter - deep thoughtful articles from many classic authors (C.S. Lewis, Bonhoeffer, Chesterton, etc.). A great choice for a couple to read together or for families with older children.
Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross by Nancy Guthrie – another wonderful compilation of short articles by various authors that will help draw your heart to the Cross during this season.
A Season of Lent - devotional guide for the seven weeks leading up to Easter with a focused thing to fast from each week
The Very First Easter
The Tale of Three Trees – a fun children’s story
Benjamin’s Box (best used with the Resurrection Egg symbols)
The Legend of the Easter Egg – a fun children’s story
Resurrection Eggs – we have used these cute visual and select Scripture passages for meaningful discussion on Easter. Hide them and have kids find them and open one by one as you retell the story.
Felt Easter Banner – check our the Heart Felt Truths etsy shop for this fun homemade easter banner that provides you with meaningful visuals for Holy Week with felt icons and Scriptures passages for discussion. Very cute! Make your own instructions here.

(Some of the resources recommended here are affiliate links. We always seek to recommend products that we have used and love! If you purchase through our affiliates, you are helping to support our orphan home in India. Thanks!)

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