Category Archives: Nurturing a Thriving Family

ideas and experiences for enriching your family life

Be Inspired! Conversation with Julia Roller (part 2)

Be inspired! I’m excited to launch a special focus in June featuring interviews with Christian women whose stories, thoughts, ideas, and choices inspire me—and will inspire you—to love more deeply, to seek God more passionately, and to live more abundantly.

be inspired
To kick things off, we’re continuing the conversation with Julia Roller about motherhood and the spiritual life. (Click here to read part 1 – you’ll love it!). Julia’s new book Mom Seeks God honestly depicts the ups and downs—and the hidden beauties—of her journey as a mom toward experiencing God in new and different ways.

At the end of this post, read how you can easily enter a drawing to win a free signed copy of Mom Seeks God as well as a free, signed copy of my Bible study guide Awaken Your Soul!

Here’s part 2 of our conversation.

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Your book Mom Seeks God chronicles your experiences with different spiritual disciplines & practices and how they fit (or sometimes don’t) with the reality of motherhood. How has your faith-life (practices, etc.) grown and changed as a result of being a mom? What practices or disciplines seem to “work” best for you in this stage of life?

Julia Roller lowres

My faith life has changed in many ways, most of them for the better. I find that I see God more easily these days, in my children as they grow and learn, in my husband, in those around me. I feel less pressure to get everything right and more of a feeling of confidence that God can make beautiful things out of my broken and imperfect efforts.

 

The disciplines that are most dear to me right now are some of the disciplines of abstinence (of taking away rather than adding): simplicity, silence, fasting (from all kinds of things in addition to food). One of the overall things I realized after that year was that I was trying so hard to DO MORE. In order to be a better parent, to be a stronger Christian, I thought I had to add more stuff to my list—more activities, more books, more prayer, more time. No wonder I felt so exhausted all the time!

It surprised me how much I benefited from and felt close to God through the disciplines that involved doing less. As I was able to turn things off (in the practice of silence), give something up in order to increase my focus on God (fasting) and try to do one thing at a time (simplicity), I found that I was able to open up some space in my life to slow down and listen for God’s voice.

Mom Seeks God jacketWhat practices or disciplines might you recommend for other moms to try–especially those who may be new to the idea of spiritual disciplines?

Prayer is always a great place to begin. I think we often put prayer off—to a time when we have more time, when we have quiet, when we can really focus. For moms, that time may never come! I am a big fan of praying short prayers in the moment. When I tell someone I’m going to pray for them, I do it right then. When I find myself in a moment of frustration or anger, I try to take time out to pray right then. This gets easier with practice. I also encourage moms to look for that time of day that can be the best time for them to have a consistent daily time with God. For me it’s at night before bedtime; I know for many other moms, the early morning works best. I love the idea of coming before God when I am at my best and since I am a night owl, for me that time is at night, when I can reflect on my day and look forward to the next one.
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A Blessed Collision — Mom Seeks God (part 1)

Friends, to wrap up our “Be Mom” focus in May and to launch into our “Be Inspired” series for June, I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Julia Roller. She’s recently written a great new book looking at two of my very favorite topics: that blessed collision between motherhood and spiritual disciples. It’s called Mom Seeks God. Join me for a two-part conversation with Julia about the spiritual side of motherhood.

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Julia, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

Julia Roller lowresMy husband, Ryan and I have two boys, ages 4 and 7, and live in San Diego, where we are often busy driving to (seemingly) every soccer and baseball practice and game in town. I love reading so much that I do it while I’m cooking (which is probably why I almost invariably burn the garlic bread). I often wish I were more crafty, but alas, I use Pinterest mainly to find quotes about reading and new ways to trick my children into eating vegetables.

I love the title of your new book, Mom Seeks God, because it sort of describes my everyday life. Can you tell readers more about your book? What motivated you to write it?

You receive a lot of warnings about life after becoming a mom—you’ll be so tired, so covered in spit-up that you won’t even care that you may never lose the baby weight, etc.—but no one ever warned me that becoming a mom might lead to a time of spiritual dryness. As much as the incredible love I felt for my new baby taught me about the inexhaustible nature of God’s love for us, I also struggled to feel connected with God after becoming a mom because my new life seemed to leave little time for prayer and Bible study the way I had practiced it before. Mom Seeks God is the story of my journey to figure out how to reconnect with God in the middle of the busy life of a mom with small children.Mom Seeks God jacket

Yes, I totally get that. The same experiences led me to write a book too! Like you, initially, as a new mom, I found my spiritual desires sort of colliding with the reality of motherhood. The practices I wanted to do didn’t seem to fit with my reality. What are some of the specific struggles or spiritual challenges you faced as a new mom? Continue reading

Your (intimidating, awesome) Mama-job

Hey, Mom! You’re doing a great job — do you know that? It can be SOOOOOO rewarding to be a mom at times. And it can also be SOOOOOO tiring and intimidating and guilt-inducing if we try to live up to some outrageously unrealistic standard and perpetually feel like we’re failing. So let me ask you: Do you love your kids? Are you doing your best? Did you answer yes and yes? Then you’re doing great!

OK… glad to get that out of the way. I needed to hear that and to say that and I hope you took it to heart. Now on to this week’s topic . . . which can, unfortunately, actually BE a source of said frustration and sense of failure. Let’s talk about the faith we impart to our kids.

b.w. girls playing bike

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 charges us with the weightiest of responsibilities and the most amazing of opportunities: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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.”

So, let’s be candid. Do I literally do all this? No. If we understand this as an exact literal directive, it’s impossible to achieve. (And, to be honest, it would make my kids very annoyed. We don’t want our non-stop God-talk to end up sounding like Charlie-Brown adults, bwah-bwah-bwah, bwah-bwah-bwah…) But if we understand it as casting a vision for us — making plain a principle — it’s so inviting and exciting and invigorating. It’s about weaving discussions of faith in and through everyday life. It’s pulling God-talk out of the van-on-the-way-home-from-church box and sprinkling it into all those other moments of living. It’s turning plain-moments into God-moments with a bit of intentionality. And one crucial ingredient to cultivating such moments? Adding FUN!

And so, without further ado, here are 12 ideas for you of ways you can transform fun experiences with your kids into meaningful faith-metaphors: Continue reading

Be Mom Series

Mom! Mom! MOM!!!!!!!!!!!

This is a sound I often hear. Let me be honest: My gut-instinct response is often irritation  because whoever is yelling my name is probably in trouble (danger), creating trouble (messes, experiments, etc.) , or is about to get in trouble (for summoning me as if I were a maid or butler).

But the truth is, I’m deeply grateful to have this moniker. And, behind all the exhaustion and stress and work and irritation of motherhood, I need this reminder of my gratitude. This job, this privilege, this name is a blessing.

be mom seriesAnd so, this month, I’m excited to invite you to join me for a new series: be mom.

We’ll look together at how we can be more proactive as parents in taking on this great privilege of momhood.

We’ll consider how parenting both challenges and enriches our spiritual lives.

We’ll think about how we have the power to foster an environment within our homes that can profoundly shape our kids and strengthen our relationships.

AND we’ll have fun sharing great, creative ideas.

Join me . . . be mom.

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An important caveat. I hesitated in choosing this topic because I know some of you, dear readers, are not mothers. You may, in fact, long to be a mom — and this may be a painful topic for you. So please know that you, too, are welcome in this conversation. You, too, are a mother to the younger people you know and love — nieces, nephews, students, neighbor kids. I hope that this series still feels welcoming and inviting to you — a place where you can engage with ideas and find encouragement. 

While the theme this month is on motherhood, the broader focus of this blog is spiritual encouragement for all readers. We are each more than the roles and labels that attempt to define us. My hope is that we all can find nourishment here as we each, on our own journey, draw closer to being — being ourselves, being with God, being true and whole and loved.

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For the Kids: Never, Ever Alone

My book Faith-Filled Moments is a collection of all sorts of ways parents can use games, recipes, outdoor experiences, crafts, science experiments, and more to help your child connect with God and love him more.

Faith-Filled.Moments.coverSo in the spirit of our theme be presentI want to share an idea you can do with your kids that’s similar to the activities in Faith-Filled Moments. (If you like this, you’ll love the 80+ unique moments that you’ll only find in the book!)

Never, Ever Alone

Use the card game Old Maid to help your child understand that she always has a partner in life: God.

Supplies: children’s deck of Old Maid playing cards

Experience

The classic card game Old Maid can be played by kids as young as 3 or 4 years old…and it’s lots of fun! The basic idea of the game is to find a matching partner for each of your cards; there will always be one card left over at the end of the game—the Old Maid—and she doesn’t have a partner. (See the printed rules on your card deck for specific play instructions.)

Connection

In this game, each card has a partner, but the Old Maid is left alone. A very simple an obvious spiritual point can be made using this game: We are never like the Old Maid…we are never, ever alone! Share with your children the crucial truth that, when we have a relationship with Jesus, he is always with us. We are never alone in life; we always have a partner. You might say something like, “Even during times when you may feel lonely, you actually aren’t alone. God is with you!” You may want to share Jesus’ promise in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always.”

Also, take the opportunity to make this real to your child by calling attention to the present moment. Continue reading

15 Ideas for Observance

How can you make this Advent and Christmas season a meaningful one for you and your family?

candle flameI’ve got 15 ideas for ya.

Ideas #1 through 10: In 2007, my dear friend Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence & I wrote an article for TCW describing 10 fun & meaningful ideas for Advent. Though TCW shortened the article, you can find our full, longer version here (FREE!).

Idea #11: One resource I LOVE and personally use most years during Advent is Preparing For Jesus by (my creative writing prof from Valpo & National Book Award winner & pastor) Walter Wangerin, Jr. This unique devotional resource envisions the people and events of the Nativity story in a deeply enriching way.

Idea #12: OK, it’s sort of cheesy, but I LOVE this YouTube video of “Mary Did You Know?” from The Bible TV mini-series. It’s been a great discussion-starter for me and my kids, opening the door to talk about various events from the Gospels (& Acts) and the ultimate purpose of Jesus’ birth. Watch it with your loved ones to open up a spiritual conversation.

Idea #13: A new experience for us this year is reading through The Christmas Mystery by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder. It’s a whimsical Advent-themed novel with a mini-chapter to read each day (starting December 1). We’ve only read the first few chapters so far, but it’s amazing!

Idea #14: Check out my TCW Advent Calendar with day-by-day ideas to deepen your spiritual experience all this month.

Idea #15: Just in case you missed it, you can click here to find some fun winter/Christmas-themed recipes to enjoy with your family.

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Holiday Treats

color lightsThe holidays are a great time to make some fun treats with your kids . . . and gobble them up together! Here are recipes for 3 of my faves.

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Snow Ice Cream

(Excerpted from my book Faith-Filled Moments: Helping Kids See God in Everyday Life; Wesleyan Publishing House, with permission)

Ingredients

8 to 10 cups fresh, clean snow
1 14-oz. can Eagle sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

 Instructions:

Help your child use a measuring cup to fill a large mixing bowl with 8 to 10 full cups of fresh, fluffy snow. In a separate bowl, stir together the condensed milk and vanilla. If it’s not thinned down enough, add 1 teaspoon of whole milk and stir it in. Slowly pour the liquid into the bowl of snow while you gently stir it in. When it’s mixed sufficiently, serve it up in bowls with spoons and start eating. Yum!

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Microwave Manger Cookies 

(Also excerpted from Faith-Filled Moments; WPH, with permission) Continue reading

Advent Ideas

Advent may be my most favorite time of the year. It’s a time of darkness, shivers, and cold . . . but also of starlight, snuggles, and hope!

red berriesIt’s a time we focus on God’s amazing promises–on his plan of redemption weaving both subtly and powerfully throughout human history. It is the time we dwell in the beautiful truth: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).

Do you desire to deepen your own spiritual experience of Advent? Or are you looking for ways to make it a meaningful season for your kids? Throughout this month I’ll be featuring a variety of ideas for you–spiritual encouragement, fun activities, and great resources you can use during Advent. 

This first week of Advent, let me encourage you to  zero in on God’s messianic promises in the Old Testament. Spend time in the beauty of words of hope like these:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this. 
(Isaiah 9:6-7)

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Stay tuned for 3 fun holiday recipes to enjoy with your kids… I’ll be posting them later this week.

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Also, if you haven’t checked it out yet, here’s a day-by-day devotional calendar I created for Today’s Christian Woman. This resource is packed with spiritual encouragement and some of my favorite ideas for marking the season with God and with those you love. Each weak of this calendar delves into a key biblical theme of Advent, helping you and your family connect with God in profoundly meaningful ways.

 

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A Deeper Advent, Day by Day

cold morningAdvent — the four weeks preceding Christmas — begins this Sunday, December 1. I’m excited to share with you a day-by-day devotional calendar you can use on your own (or with your family) to delve deeper into the meaning of this season. This devo calendar includes Scripture study, contemplation, service to others, interaction with prayers from church history, music, creative avenues of worship, fun food and crafts, and other hands-on experiences.

Check it out here at Today’s Christian Woman — and be sure to share it with friends and family.

Happy Thanksgiving . . . and blessed Advent!

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Continue on the journey . . .

CherishYourFamily CVR-1Thanks for joining me this month in our discussion of what it can look like for us to intentionally cherish our families! If this is a topic that’s important to you, consider spending some time journeying through my new Flourishing Faith Bible study guide Cherish Your Family. Using a wide variety of experiences (study, Scripture meditation, prayer, hands-on projects, insights from church history, meaningful interaction with others, and much more), this resource will help you translate good intentions into real-life love. (If you want to do the study with friends, click here for a free discussion guide you can download and print.)

Stay tuned for October in which we’ll explore a critical spiritual word: be.

(And then in November we’ll explore it’s partner: do.)