30 Day Wife Challenge

bridal-636018_1280While researching topics of marriage for our new book, I ran into this blog post, 30 Days to A Better Wife. While we have already implemented some of the writer’s suggestions, the post got me thinking.

What if, for the month of September, I led a 30 Day Wife Challenge?

Our marriages should be one of the most important relationships in our lives. However, we often spend very little time nurturing and investing in this relationship. I understand how it happens. Life gets busy!

Many of us work non-stop, whether we work outside the home or inside the home. If you are a mama, you are on call 24/7. Baby’s need diaper changes, children skip nap times, dinners don’t cook themselves, children need to be fed… non-stop… all day long… errands need to be run, households need to be managed, and toilets need to be scrubbed (sometimes daily when you have a young son learning how to use the toilet properly) – can I get an AMEN??

By the time it is bedtime, we are D.O.N.E., sometimes just barely holding on, unable to give just.one.more.thing.

Unfortunately, in these exhaustion-filled days, we have the tendency to unintentionally put off investing in our marriages. We assume the next day, the next week, the next year, we will have more time. Date night? Hmm… how about next week? And when next week rolls around, date night has been overtaken by something else… something that must have been important, but you can’t even remember what that something was anymore.

Friends, time is the one commodity we can never gain more of! So, if we want a love&respect-filled marriage, we must make our marriage a priority. So, why not in the chaos of today – we start now!!

Whether your marriage is struggling or thriving, this challenge is for YOU! If you believe that one intentional act of love, each day for 30 days can change or improve your marriage, come join me HERE! Each day for the month of September, I will be sharing one tangible act of love to remind our husbands how much we appreciate and love him!

Click here to join our 30 Day Wife Challenge!

20 Ideas to Help Children Have Happy Dreams

laugh-417268_1280Every night as we tuck our children into bed, we give them a happy thought.

This started when our children began to have bad dreams and became afraid to go to sleep. Our assurances and the night lights didn’t seem to help, so we started to give them something happy to think about to send them off into dreamland. While we’ve been doing this for at least 6 months, and they’ve worked so well for us, that we thought we’d share them with you too ! (These are also really great conversation starters for dinner time!)

  1. If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be and what would you do together?
  2. If you could make your own movie, what would it be about, and who would be in it?
  3. If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?
  4. If you were to build a boat, how would you make it, and where would you take it?
  5. If you created your own park, what would it look like?
  6. If you were asked to be on TV, what show would you want to be on, and what role would you play?
  7. If you could have any super power, what would it be, and what would you do with it?
  8. If you could plan our next vacation, where would we go and what would we do?
  9. If you created your own candy village, what would it look like?
  10. If you were in charge of school, what would you do all day?
  11. If you could have been in The Lego Movie, what character would you play?
  12. If you could be any animal in the ocean, what would it be?
  13. If you were a cartoon character, what would you look like?
  14. If you could create a brand new animal, what would it look like, where would it live, and what would be special about it?
  15. If you could do anything tomorrow, what would it be?
  16. If you were to build your own house, what special parts would you put in it?
  17. If you could give any gift in the world to one person, what would you give, and who would you give it to?
  18. If you were to create a robot, what would the robot look like, and what would the robot do for you?
  19. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
  20. If you could fly to the moon, how would you get there if you couldn’t take a rocket ship?

One thing I LOVE about these happy thoughts is that every morning at breakfast, I try to remind the kids about what they started dreaming about before they went to bed. We have some of the best and some of the oddest conversations about their ideas. But, we learn a little bit more about how their brains work, what is important to them, and how we can better love them. These conversations are priceless!

Q. Comment below! What other conversation starter ideas do you have?

5 Simple Ways to Pray for the Hurting

The Christmas season is both beautiful and so incredibly difficult for so many people. Many families might be welcoming a new child via birth or adoption or in-loves through marriages, while others are just trying to get through the holiday season as they grieve the loss of someone special through divorces, failed adoptions, or death.

As we rejoice with those who rejoice this Christmas, let us not forget to mourn with those who mourn. Here are 5 simple ways we can pray for our loved ones who are hurting over the next few days.

boy praying1) Pray for their feelings of anticipation. 

Wondering what Christmas Eve may or may not feel like when one less stocking is hung by the chimney with care, or what it may feel like to wake up Christmas day without a loved one seated at the table, is excruciatingly painful. What you may not realize is that your loved ones have probably been struggling with these feelings of anticipation on, or even before Thanksgiving ever hit.

2) Pray for peace.

When one is grieving it can often feel as though the world is moving around you, while you stand still. The holiday seasons (especially the first) without a loved one is SO difficult, with rapidly changing emotions from despair to panic to stress to anger and everything in between. To find peace in the middle of this emotional chaos is often so difficult.

3) Pray for ALL members of the family. 

Often times some family members will get overlooked during times of grief. A child who may not be able to verbalize their pain. A spouse who doesn’t want to talk about what happened. A parent who is still struggling with the shock of their loss. If you know of a family who is hurting, pray for each family member by name.

4) Pray against Satan attacking your loved one’s weaknesses.

When one is grieving, it is very easy during the Christmas season to look around at what everyone else has and end up in a spiral of emotions.

5) Pray for courage and strength to continue taking one day at a time.

Grief is unpredictable and there is no one way to go through it. Sometimes we must take one day, and sometimes – one hour at a time. Christmas day will likely be one of those one-hour-at-a-time kind of days. As you spend time with your family and friends on Christmas day, take time to pause and pray for others you know who are hurting!

And friends, let me tell you, prayer is AMAZING and your family and friends who are hurting, so desperately need this right now. But, please don’t stop there. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, send a message or pick up the phone and call someone going through a tough situation and let them know you are praying for them. Please don’t feel like you are reminding them of their loss. They are already thinking about it… every hour of every day. Reaching out will mean the world to them as you remember their family and hold them close in your thoughts and prayers!

12 Gifts of Experience

The other day I shared how our family ENJOYS the Christmas season by keeping our gifts simple, yet thoughtful. One of the ideas that resonated with a lot of people was our gift of experience. Many of you asked what our 12 Family Fun Nights would be for next year so I wanted to go into more detail about that today.

gift-490828_1280I will individually wrap 12 envelopes filled with a theme and gift cards/cash that correlate with each activity. Half of the nights will be focused on our family, while the other half will be focused on loving others. We will wrap this gift with calendars for each of the kids and on the first of each month, we will choose a date that works well with our schedules. When it is time for our family night to begin, we will randomly unwrap one of the envelopes and go off on our adventures.

Inside the envelopes will be…

1. $25 GC to purchase indoor snowball fight items. We want the kids to get creative, think outside the box, and most of all have fun with this. We recently made yarn snowballs and the kids have had so much fun with this.

2. $25 Restaurant GC to secretly pay for someone else’s meal.

3. $25 Bed, Bath and Beyond GC to purchase some kind of make-at-home kit. This might be ice cream, s’mores, a gingerbread house, whatever we see that night that sparks an interest.

4. $50 GC to buy food and supplies to bring to a local food pantry.

5. $25 GC to purchase items for Crazy Dinner. Each person chooses what they want to eat for dinner that night and we have a potluck dinner. Most often we end up with something like fruit salad (daughter), cheese balls (son), something frozen (hubby), and dessert (me).

6. $20 in ones and a role of tape to take to a dollar store and secretly tape $1 bills on random items.

7. $25 Movie Theater GC to see a family movie together as a family. This is not something we do regularly, so my hope is this will be a special treat for the kids.

8. $50 GC to put together a couple care packages for missionaries overseas.

9. 4 small gift cards ($5 each) + names of each member in the family. Each person will draw a name and then purchase a small gift for that person.

10. $25 GC to purchase ingredients to bake cookies and bring our treats to our neighbors.

11. $25 Lime Mexican Grill GC to check out a new restaurant with the family. We actually purchased a $25 GC and received a $5 bonus GC for free!

12. $50 GC to purchase baby items to bring to a local Pregnancy Center.

dollars-426026_1280Our total cost for this gift: $365 – a dollar a day (I really wish I could say that I did that on purpose), or $91.25 per person for a year of monthly adventures.

Three reasons I am super excited about this gift:

1. We are being intentional about spending time together and building memories as a family.

2. The ideas are already thought out, so my husband and I aren’t looking at each other at 6pm going back and forth, wondering what we should do.

3. The family nights are already paid for.

 Three tips for planning a gift of experience like this for your family:

1. Trade in credit card points to receive gift cards for free. (We did this for a few of our gift cards, so our out of pocket expenses were even lower!)

2. Each month in 2015 pick up a gift card and jot down a couple ideas of how your family can do a family night. By doing this, you spread out the expense of this gift over a year and can incorporate this cost into your budget.

3. If you have children, get them involved. Find out what they’d like to go do and make sure there is a family night idea that is something they will be really excited about.

My hope is to blog through our family adventures next year to share with you all the fun, and the unexpected. So, if you aren’t already connected with me on Facebook, I’d love for you to join me! I am truly excited to see how this gift plays out next year and can’t wait to get started.

Let’s get creative. What other family night ideas do you have?

How to ENJOY the Christmas Season

Somehow Thanksgiving has already come and gone, and the mad dash for Christmas gifts has already begun. In the chaos that tends to come of the next 24 days, I wanted to share an excerpt from my newest book (coming soon), What the Bible Says: Oils and Spices Revealed to give you something to consider this Christmas season.

the-three-magi-160632_1280When the Magi came to worship Jesus Christ, they brought three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The gift of gold was a gift of providence for the family of Jesus, but could also have been significant of the Magi paying tribute to Jesus Christ as their King.

Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him. Matthew 2:2

The gift of frankincense was a gift of experience. Known in the Bible to be a symbol of the divinity of God (Song of Solomon 1:3, Malachi 1:11), when Frankincense is burned the aroma is both fragrant and pleasing. Having the wisdom and discernment to understand the foretold prophesies, this gift could have symbolized the Magi’s recognition of the divinity of Jesus Christ.

They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.” Matthew 2:5-6

The gift of myrrh would have been a highly unusual gift to give to a child, as it was primarily used in the Bible for embalming the dead. However, this gift could have symbolized the Magi’s recognition that Jesus would fulfill the prophesy of Isaiah and ultimately die to provide salvation to those who would call upon His name.

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.‪ He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.‪ Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.‪ But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. Isaiah 53:2-5

Our Three Gifts

bow-22254_1280Quite a few years ago my husband and I started a Christmas tradition in our family. Instead of unleashing a torrent of toys on our children, we choose three gifts to give to our kids (in addition to their stockings) on Christmas morning. Following the example set forth by the Magi, we give our children a gift of value (gold), a gift of experience (frankincense) and a gift of practicality (myrrh). As parents, we desire to not only set a tone of gratitude in our children, but to continually point our kids back to God, who gave us the most incredible gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

The gift of value might be a toy or item the kids really want or have been asking for. The monetary value doesn’t need to be high, but we look more at the item’s value through the eyes of our child. Last year, this meant Lego® sets for our son whose eyes would go wide any time he saw those tiny middle-of-the-night torture devices. For our daughter, this valuable gift was a children’s educational tablet where she could play games, draw, read, and create her own videos.

The gift of experience is something we can do together as a family. Sometimes this is a gift we use all year long; other times this is a one-time event. Over the last few years, we have chosen experiences such as a family trip, local Zoo or Science Center annual passes, or creating a gift that encompasses all the ideas our kids come up with of, “Mom, can we go…”

This year, we are wrapping up gift cards to create twelve family nights, one to be used each month of 2015. We have gift cards to be silly and goofy, as well as gift cards to look out for the needs of others. For instance, we have a gift card to buy items that can be used to create an indoor “snowball” fight; another gift card to purchase food items and supplies for a local food pantry. Our purpose with the gift of experience is to create life-long memories with our children by spending quality time together and sharing God’s love.

The gift of practicality may seem boring to most, and perhaps may need to become more exciting as our children get older. But for now, we have chosen to give something our children are in need of. This may be a winter jacket, pajamas or a bathrobe, a new outfit, or new comforter/sheet set for their beds.

Celebrating Christmas this way enables our family to ENJOY the Christmas season instead of dreading the weeks of self-induced stress. Our gifts are simple, but well thought out and meaningful! Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. This is a day of celebration and joy that we don’t want to rush through or miss because we are consumed by sales, crowds, and the commercialism of Christmas. Instead, we have more time to build gingerbread houses, and decorate cookies, and watch over-the-top sappy Hallmark movies, and spend time together every night Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. The pressure is off and our days leading to Christmas are relaxed which allows us to enjoy and soak up the season for what it truly means, instead of what it has become.

I’d love to hear from you, what Christmas traditions does your family have?