Be Crafty - Audra's pick
I love being crafty and so does my girl! Whether it be painting, baking cookies, sewing, or making jewelry, we share this love of creating. It has been such a blessing to me that we both enjoy this and can spend time together while we work. The funny thing is, most of her creations turn out much better than mine😂, but I don’t mind. I just enjoy the process with her.
Spa Date - Laura's pick
The first thing my girl wants to do when I suggest a “girls day” is to go get our nails done! I started at a very young age taking her to a nail salon for special occassions. It’s time that we can laugh and talk, all while getting pampered a bit. My hope and prayer is when she gets older and can drive or when she goes off to college, I will be the first person she calls when she is in need of some girl time.
Parties! - Rebecca's pick
I got my girl's input for this Top 5 pick because I was curious to see what she would say. And, like me, her favorite thing that we do together is host parties!! I have always tried to make her birthday extra special and pick a theme that is near to her at that age. Well, as she has gotten older, she has developed a love for hosting parties, too! She comes up with really good ideas and has an eye for details. We enjoy brainstorming themes, scanning Pinterest, and setting up the table. It's always low on budget, high on creativity, and rich in memories.
Her favorite is her Teacher 8th birthday party that we had last year. All the girls played school and absolutely LOVED it! My favorite (and most challenging) was her American Girl Kit (Depression-era) 8th birthday party where the girls played with their dolls and her Veterinarian 5th birthday party where they "doctored" their stuffed animals. And, we both loved her Jesus Loves Me Valentine party this year, too. Whatever the occasion or whatever the theme, the aim is to celebrate each season of life, make our guests feel special, and create lasting memories TOGETHER.
Book Date - Tammy's pick
We have a standing day of the week that we go out, just the two of us, for some quality mother/daughter time. Depending on the season, it could be for a scoop of ice cream or a steamy hot beverage. We find a quiet corner and catch up on life. After she's shared her heart, we crack open a coming of age book or a chapter of a book and discuss it. These are some of my favorite times with them.
My two girls are blossoming into young women before my eyes! As my role morphs from parent to coach, these dates grant me access to their hearts and minds before they step into the next season of life God has for them as thriving adults.
Shop! - Kaylee's pick
My favorite thing to do with my mom is shop! We love searching through antique or thrift stores for something unique that someone else might consider junk. We always have the best and craziest conversations while browsing for hidden treasures!
Having worked with youth for the past few (gulp) decades, I rejoice when I observe those who are thriving in their faith, walking with Jesus, and being a light in their realm of influence. However, my heart aches to see those who have preferred to walk away from the church, living opposite of the truths they were raised in.
Parenting three kiddos of my own --who are close to leaving the nest-- piques my interest in the why's and how's of those who STAY in the church. I devour books such as Ken Ham's Already Gone and LifeWay's research hungry for guidance and wisdom in raising my own tween and two teens for they are at the age where they naturally question and inspect everything, like hound dogs, sniffing out a falsehood or fake-ness.
And I'm glad they are for while they have each made a profession of faith, I don't want them to be robots who numbly walk through the motions, only to wake up one day and throw off their faith like an out of style garment.
This summer, a friend informed me of a study LifeWay conducted for a book centered on kids who stay engaged in their faith as adults titled Nothing Less. The top 5 predictors of spiritual health for young adults include:
1. Child regularly read the Bible while growing up.
2. Child regularly spent time in prayer while growing up.
3. Child regularly served in church while growing up.
4. Child listened primarily to Christian music.
5. Child participated in church mission trips/projects.
As I was chewing on this list, I thought through ways my man and I are intentionally incorporating the survey's top predictors into this oh so short season of raising future thriving, church attending adults. Here are a few ways we are being intentional:
1. Family Devotions
Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts;
let them proclaim your power.
In the Valdivia household, I've determined to step back and permit my man to lead family devotion time as he sees fit, not as I envision it. Ha! My job is to schedule it and be sure all are present and accounted for. My man does the rest. We might tackle a few verses in Proverbs or work through a book such as Tony Evans' Kingdom Quest an age-appropriate parent/ mentor led Bible study for kids.
Some nights there is an engaging conversation, while other nights they're chomping at the bit to be done and go about their activities. That's ok. All we're responsible for is to fulfill our side of the command, "Impress them and talk about them." in Deuteronomy 6:5. The Spirit is faithful to do the rest.
Family devotions lead kids to make our faith their own.
2. Family Missions.
Declare his glory among the nations,
His marvelous works among all the peoples!
1 Chronicles 16:24
For the past six years, we have traveled south to the Texas/Mexico border to lock arms with a ministry we love called United in Christ Ministries (UICM). I believe our yearly pilgrimage has been life-changing for our family. We all are stretched and challenged and encouraged in ways that propel our faith and confidence.
It’s good for our kids to remember that we are blessed to bless others, whether it’s our next-door neighbor, a local ministry, or our brothers and sisters around the world. It's also good for them to step out of their everyday lives and be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Family Missions puts hands and feet to our kiddos faith.
3. One on One Time
As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another.
With rapidly growing kids and expanding schedules, we are intentional to spend one on one with each of the Terrific Three. We've recently implemented a standing day and time with each kid to go to a local eatery and discuss the next chapter in whatever "coming of age" devotional book we're going thru with them. It's a relaxed, intentional way to pour into their love tank while checking their spiritual and emotional pulse.
One on one time keeps the door's of our children's hearts tender to the faith.
4. Let Them Choose
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
This is a tricky one and one which can cause sleepless nights. We are big proponents of our children making decisions for themselves while they are still under our roof. We set a few guidelines for electronics and curfews and schoolwork and church attendance and then hand them the reins to maneuver in those parameters as they see best. This includes wise cell phone use, where to go to church and school, as well as to date or not to date.
We maintain a running dialogue, asking good questions, and praying a whole lot. But in the end, we want them to want to make wise choices when they leave the nest, so where better to learn that skill than when they are under our roof. I could write a whole blog post on this point alone, but I'll stop here.
Letting our children make choices allows them to exercise their faith today seeing its tangibleness in their lives tomorrow.
5. Live a believable faith
Follow my example,
as I follow the example of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1
This is honestly the most important one. The apostle Paul stated it best, follow me as I follow Christ.
When I believe in the power of the empty grave, I can confidently portray it as a life worth living.
So I die to self and allow the Spirit of the Living God guide my speech and actions toward my man and my children and those around me. In a nutshell, I need to live a contagious faith. A faith which inspires my children that this gospel is true and will grant them an abundant life filled with joy, peace, and love as an adult regardless of what life throws at them.
Living a believable faith means I must model a credible gospel.
My man and I are still in the throes of this parenting adventure. There are no guarantees our kiddos will nurture their faith as adults. But I sure don't want to sit back thinking someone else will nurture their faith, nor do I wish to hyper-control every area of their lives either.
Intentional and prayerful is my mantra as it is an incredible privilege to spur my kids to thrive in their faith when they enter adulthood.
I have no greater joy
than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 4
Come on, Mommas! Let's not be caught wringing our hands in despair at all the world is throwing at our kids to lure them away from the church! Let this Top 5 guide you in living and directing your children to thrive in their faith. Like water irrigating parched land, may we be found intentionally watering our children's faith so they may grow into oaks of righteousness, firmly rooted in the faith today and tomorrow.
Tammy Valdivia - Jesus Girl. Wife. Momma. Student. Teacher. Lover of milky coffee, dark chocolate, lively laughter, deep talks, and a front row seat on the beach at sunrise.
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Our oldest, Zoë, has been talking our ears off lately. It’s both beautiful and exhausting. Sometimes all I want to do is nod and say “mmm-hmm” or just smile while I try and think through my Costco grocery list before the littlest one realizes he’s not buckled in the cart and tries some wild escapade.
This morning after our Bible reading,
Noble said, “But if you believe in Jesus you won’t die. Because heaven is our true home.”
Zoë: “Will we keep breathing in heaven?”
I responded, “Your body dies, but your soul never dies and lives forever in heaven with God. We get a new body, and every breath we breathe will be praising Jesus the King.”
Zoë: “I think that already happened to Nana.”
Later while strategically hitting up every snack sample in Costco, Zoë asked: “How do we gaze upon His beauty?”
After gathering my thoughts from such a breathtaking question, I answered, “It means that God is majestic and holy and too wonderful to comprehend and awesome and good and perfect. When we see Him as that we want to spend our lives knowing Him because there is no one else like Him.”
Zoë: “It is hard to understand why life passes through so quickly.”
My thoughts exactly, Sweet Pea. Only I was lamenting how fleeting these days are when all 3 of my babes can fit in the front of the cart, and they lean over for hugs and kisses or head butts. Alternatively, they rest their heads on my shoulder, and I feel their little arms around my neck while I try and push a heavy cart with a big ole pregnant belly.
And we’re having conversations like these.
And all three of them are talking in my ear at the same time. Or they are pestering each other by covering up the letters on the handlebar. Don’t ask. It’s maddening.
However, I was overwhelmed with gratitude this morning for this season. I love having all my babies close and the togetherness all day long (don’t hear perfect harmony) even in the midst of being at the end of my rope as Zoë so honestly and insightfully said about me on Mother’s Day: “You’re good at being slow to anger even though sometimes you’re fast to anger.”
Yup, because Mommy needs Jesus too.
You shall teach them diligently to your children,
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,
and when you walk by the way,
and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Isn’t this what Scripture means when it says to teach God’s words to your children when:
- you sit (in the car in rush hour traffic) and
- walk (up and down the grocery aisles) and
- lie down (but not in your own bed because your 5-year-old still has too much to say at the end of the day) and
- rise (before the sun because everyone in your house is staging a coup against sleep).
Even when you think they’re not listening and you feel every thought you’re trying to share is interrupted by some catastrophe, they catch little drips at a time that become impressed on their tender hearts and will one day overflow. That’s what I’m striving for anyway in all the ordinary, mundane rhythm of life.
So here’s to keeping those babies close and entrusting their hearts to God.
Noel McKenna is a wife and a mommy who blends a pile high stack of books on CD and outdoor play with a whole lot of Jesus into her journey through motherhood. She and her husband, Nathan, have been married for 8 years and juggle this leg of their lives with grace and humor. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram for more of her beautifully honest glimpses into this life she now lives.
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Tuck Them In - Audra’s Pick
We try to be intentional at night time when putting our kids to bed. We always make a point to tuck them in, talk through the day, pray as a family, and let them ask any questions they may have. This is a sweet time to be able to unpack what has happened in everyone’s day, since the school year is such a busy time!
Scripture Memory In the Car - Laura's Pick
I can’t take credit for this one, but my husband is so good at using the undivided attention during the car ride to school. He drops our daughter off at school every morning and they memorize a scripture each week during that 5-7 minute drive. Usually on Monday or Tuesday she tells me what verse they are memorizing and then by Friday she is reciting it to me.
Pray Out Loud For Them - Rebecca's Pick
When one of my children is facing a big day, I like to pray out loud for them as we are driving to school. I will ask the Lord to give them quick recall and clarity during their test. Or, I'll ask Him to take away their anxious spirit and replace it with a spirit of peace before presenting a project. As I pray, I try to ask for specific things (not just that they would "do well") so that they will be able to see the undeniable answers to that prayer and give thanks to the Lord. On days that I don't pray aloud, I always pray for them after everyone is dropped off.
Verse Flip Book - Tammy's Pick
One of my "Terrific Three" struggled greatly with anxiety. After praying for direction, the Lord gave me the idea to make her a verse flip book to help her learn to allow God's Word to comfort her heart.
1. I purchased a flimsy $1 photo book.
2. I looked up my favorite "God is with me" verses and printed them.
3. I inserted them into the photo book and gave it to her as a reminder that while I won't always be with her, God is!
My print and cut and stuff version is pictured below. You can make it as fancy or as simple as you want. This verse flip book is from a couple of years ago. She still carries it in her backpack to this day.
Teach them to be independent without nagging -
We have a white board on our fridge that lists what my boys need to do before school, after school, and what types of food can be packed in lunches. This allows them to check the list when they aren’t sure if they have everything ready and I’m not asking each child a million times if they filled their water bottle. On the first day of school this year, my boy that loves routine asked for the list to be re-written as it still had summer lists on it. You better believe I wrote it after drop off!
Back to School Time! As each new school year approaches, I find my wishes and dreams are sky high! Yet I often find myself deflated months later in the middle of crazy schedules, overcommitments, self-inflicted sleepless nights, and longing for the next blissful season. Am I the only mom that feels like I’m failing because my checklist of draining items outweighs the life-giving details? This year I resolve to be different.
This year I will be the peace.
As we roll into this new school year and have a clean slate to start fresh, I am challenging myself to be the “Peace” to my family. Not to be the peacemaker, or the person spouting about peace, but to actually be the peace and calming influence in my home.
This will look like me
- listening to my kids work things out rather than trying to problem solve for them.
- saying “no” to good things, to allow my family to get more rest or more time together.
- setting aside stuff I want to do for myself until a later time.
- having my kids plan a day of family fun that they want to do.
- planning school supply shopping earlier, or online, so I'm not all stressed out and yelling.
- stopping myself from spewing worry and frustration from my mouth because I am nervous about my kids starting school.
Here are the top 5 ways I will be the peace in my home at the start of this school year.
1. I will be excited about the endless possibilities of this new school year.
I will not allow my fears and worries transfer onto my children. Any concerns I have over the new school year, I will take to the Lord rather than speak them out loud for my children to hear.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
II Timothy 1:7 NKJV
2. I will speak words of life over my children
I will speak only life-giving words about the new school year. I will encourage my children to speak to God about their own back to school butterflies.
“Don’t worry about anything,
but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God.”
Philippians 4:6 HCSB
3. I will Say “No” to excess.
I will say “No” to the things that add too much to my plate. “No” to the things that don’t give me life. “No” to the invites for good things that will have me forego great family times. I will let these last weeks and days before school starts be intentional and not chaotic.
“God’s curse blights the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the righteous.
He gives proud skeptics a cold shoulder,
but if you’re down on your luck,
he’s right there to help.
Wise living gets rewarded with honor;
stupid living gets the booby prize.”
Proverbs 3:33-35 MSG
4. In the words of Elsa, I will “let it go!”
If I forgot to order the personalized backpack in the perfect color, I will let it go.
If I am almost done with summer and my bucket list hasn’t even been touched, I will let the guilt go.
If I am upset that my child didn’t get in a class with their best friend, I will let it go.
I will let go of the back to school clothes shopping. I will instead turn it into a fun September activity together rather than a knockdown, drag-out stress-ball of time for back to school. (Honestly, the weather is still as hot as anything, and they won’t wear the cute fall clothes for a few months anyway!)
This is an opportunity to choose peace over being frazzled.
“And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colossians 3:17 HCSB
5. I will be there.
Once school starts, I will just be there for my child without overloading my schedule. Those first few weeks of school can be difficult for kids. They may not know anyone in their class, get a teacher they don’t like, struggle with remembering their new schedule, or are just plain tired.
I will not be on the phone at school pick up. I will hug them. I will sit down for family dinners. I will share about my day, inviting them to share about theirs. I know they will talk when they are ready, but I will make sure I am there for them to have the opportunity to talk.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB
My prayer is to find a way to let some things go and make a choice to be an influence of peace in my home this back to school season.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13 NASB
Denise Slater - I’m a mom to 12 year old triplets and a wife to a college professor. We both have relocated to Tennessee by way of Michigan (Go Blue!), Missouri and Arkansas, which means we have lots of family to visit during the summer. We are blessed to travel quite often during the summer as my husband’s job during this time can be done anywhere with a modem.
'A car not my own sat in my driveway this morning. Two other cars were in its spot last night. This is the new phase of parenting we're in, one where my kids and their friends drive. Not only do they drive, but they now choose where they want to go and hang out.
As I was pondering the bittersweet beauty of this season, I reflected on a few of the recent comments made by my kiddos' friends:
"Thank you for always letting us crash here."
"I feel at home in your house."
"You always make us feel welcomed."
I share these comments not to brag on myself, because it's not me, it's Jesus. Yet since I gave birth to my firstborn, I wanted to be the house where my kids and their friends wanted to come. Making that a joyful reality is a daily feat in itself because there are
- Shoes and dirt and wrappers and pillows everywhere.
- Late night laughter and early morning pancake making guarantee a less than ideal 8 hours of sleep for this momma.
However, I wouldn't have it any other way.
It's not about a beautifully clean house or a pantry abounding with snacks. It's about loving and accepting my kiddos' friends as if they were my own. Noticing them, loving on them, feeding them (ha), and speaking life to them.
It's having the eyes and ears of Christ.
The command to "practice hospitality." (Romans 12:13) and "show hospitality to one another without complaining." (1 Peter 4:9) is not bound by age restriction or stage of life requirement. It's just a command to share your life with those who walk thru your door:
Open your home to young and old alike with a cheerful attitude.
And oh, my friend, the ministry opportunities I have as they are noisily eating salsa and dip at my table or quietly slipping in my door at 10:30 at night. These are the opportunities to speak life and truth and peace into my kiddos' friends, these friends they choose to hang with, listen to, and do life with. Priceless!
Hospitality. It certainly is not what I pictured 17 years ago as I was rocking my firstborn to sleep. It's much more beautiful. It's an always/anytime open door to my physical home, but more importantly, it's an open door to my heart and my time, regardless of age or season of life.
Come on, Mommas! Throw open the door! This generation needs us. Who better to speak truth and life into our kiddos' friends than us Jesus Girls!
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Hey! It's Laura and I am so excited to have Amberly on the blog today. She is actually our first Friend Friday Vlog (that means video, in case you're technologically challenged like me)! Amberly and I met over ten years ago through our husbands and we were actually pregnant with our daughters at the same time too! I have watched as the Lord has totally turned their world upside down for His glory! Today she shares about how the Lord has called them into foster care.
You only get a six minute video today, but you MUST go follow their family at Growing Up Houser because you will want to know more about them! The Houser's let you into their crazy life with laughter, tears and complete transparency...that's what I love about them the most!
I am a mother, wife, and self-proclaimed hot mess. My husband Matt and I began our journey as foster parents in 2017. We currently parent 6 kids: 3 biological, and 3 foster siblings that we love dearly. By day, I am an elementary school teacher. By night, I drive kids to and from practices in my big blue bus while blaring Jesus music. Donuts are the way to my heart, followed closely by witty t-shirts and Bible journaling. I constantly pray that God will show me the front of the puzzle box but He just keeps handing me one piece at a time. Someday's I am thankful for that and other days I'm bitter. Jesus loves me anyway. I believe I can accomplish anything in a day with a cup of coffee, dry shampoo and fake lashes. This is the story of my life and what it's like to Grow Up Houser.