What (& How) We’re Reading {Exodus}

By the time you’re reading this post, I’m hopeful the last minute of 3,000 minutes will have been read *update…we are at 2,876 minutes…with 3 days left*. (exhale)

This month has been a doozy (having two weekend conferences and getting a weeklong cold didn’t help our efforts).

I’ll tell y’all I haven’t had the best attitude when reading aloud to the boys. It wasn’t like I expected them to listen so perfectly they could write a 20 page book report afterward. But I did hope for quiet and few distractions. Trying to read when you can’t hear your own voice isn’t my definition of “quality family bonding”.

Frequently it took an hour for me to read 20 minutes…seriously. Just as I would settle down to read, an announcement would be made from the bathroom someone needing…ahem… “assistance”. Then I’d grab the book again only to see the baby climbing into the entertainment center cabinet. Back again to reading just as a fight would start over a Lightning McQueen car. I’d start reading a sentence just as one son asked a question about how birds fly.

y’all.

So here are some ways I avoided out-sourced transferred my reading duties. Bruce often read for 30 minutes at bed time. Or Quade read as we drove home from school. Or we took a trip to Sonic. After passing out slushes to everyone I would begin reading (although that only lasted 20 minutes before Watts crushed a hole in his styrofoam cup & the baby needed a diaper change).

I just wanted you to know when I write about these books we’ve been reading don’t picture in your head four boys sitting quietly by my side hanging on my every word and halos hovering over their heads.

It’s a mess over here. But they are developing a love of books…only by God’s grace.

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Here is the beautiful book I wanted to share with you today:

Exodus by Brian Wildsmith

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Summary: 

-For Kindergarten thru 4th grade (our 3yo likes it too!)

-“Wildsmith recounts Moses’s saga from his rescue in the bulrushes by Pharaoh’s daughter to his death on Mt. Nebo overlooking the Promised Land. The writing is straightforward and simple; the story is brief but accurate. The artwork is a visual feast. The double-page illustrations, framed in gold, are panoramas of activity, crowded with the figures of the Hebrew multitudes suffering in slavery, streaming out of Egypt, traversing the Red Sea between walls of water, wandering in the brown hills of the desert, and at last, triumphantly entering the verdant Canaan.

Filled with meticulous and decorative detail, glowing with rich colors, and arranged to maximize dramatic impact, the paintings show the awesome events with excitement and beauty. The pillars of cloud and fire are shaped like huge pointing fingers. Animals, birds, and sea life abound. God’s presence is shown by a multicolored, starry shape superimposed on a sphere. The endpapers present the Ten Commandments printed on monumental, gold-decorated arks against a background of intense violet and rose.” -(Amazon.com)

Why we love it: 

Just like the Amazon summary said, it’s a visual feast. The boys will flip through the pages and retell the story…even if they can’t read. Apparently this author also has an Easter story which would be worth checking out as a gift for those easter baskets (this is how we handle easter baskets).

Today I’d love for you to share some tips in the comments on how you read aloud to your kids…go!

What We’re Reading {William Bradford}

(I know I didn’t post a book last week, but I didn’t want to interrupt your Pinterest perfect Valentine’s Day. Hope you enjoyed time with loved ones instead of reading blogs about books.)

On to the topic at hand…I started the new series “What We’re Reading” and shared a fun picture book to take on a picnic. To shake things up a bit, this week I’m going to share a chapter book…a non-fiction chapter book. I know…I know.

Whatwerereading

Remember how I shared my MOB Society post (sorry the link was broken…fixed now). I wrote about casting a godly vision for our children. One way to inspire our children to do great things for God’s glory is to read biographies of others who have followed & been used by God. This week’s story is just that…

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William Bradford: Young Pilgrim

Synopsis:

“Orphaned at a young age, he was formed by forces which were providentially preparing him for the great call upon his life. Follow his life from his boyhood in Scrooby, England through the years when he led the Pilgrims as the first governor of Plymoth Plantation.” (200 pages)

–Read aloud for ages 4-6 (may be hard for them to keep attention…but if you take time to talk them through the chapters…rephrasing for little ears they will enjoy it);

–Chapter book for ages 7-9 (depending on child’s reading level).

Why I love it:

The first time I heard about this book was when I observed the school my boys now attend. As I entered the 1st grade classroom the teacher just finished reading from the chapter book, “Squanto” and asked the children to get out paper & pencils for spelling. Then she paused and looked at one of the boys, asking him, “Are you okay?”.

The little boy started to ask about what will happen to Squanto. Apparently in the chapter they had stopped reading, men took Squanto from his village and sold him into slavery in England.

This teacher calmly & patiently reassured this young boy, “I know it seems like Squanto is suffering greatly. But God will make it right. Remember William Bradford? How his parents died & God provided William Brewster as a mentor? That relationship brought William Bradford to the new world. God will use this trial to bring about His purposes in Squanto’s life. You will see. It will be good.”

So when my son brought home this chapter book, I looked forward to reading this redemptive story…God making right the wrong of William’s life.

I also love the mentorship relationship. Just like I wrote about with casting a godly vision for your children, W. Brewster guided W. Bradford to seek God in his life.

“You have a good mind & an earnest one.  We don’t know yet for what purpose God gave it to you.  But let us make it ready for whatever work He gives you.”

Enjoy!

**Disclaimer: we may be a little biased in loving this book since we discovered my husband is related to William Brewster. 😉

What We’re Reading {Roxaboxen}

This monday a major event began at my son’s school…the Reading Rally. What’s “reading rally”, you ask?

Think of a jog-a-thon…but instead of getting sponsored to run laps around a track, students are sponsored to read books (1-2 cents/minute). Each student sets a reading goal for the month. There are medals to be earned. Big stuff people.

Of course, for Quade there was no other option but go for gold. Which means we will be reading at least 3,000 minutes this month. Whew.

He’ll read aloud and I’ll read aloud and Bruce will read aloud. It’s gonna be epic.

I figured since we would be spending so much time reading it’s the perfect time to start a new series…

Whatwerereading

Being a speech-language pathologist (SLP), I know the importance of reading to your children. But it wasn’t until Quade started attending a Classical Christian school that I understood the difference between quality literature & “twaddle”.

As an SLP my requirements for a “good book” were: simple sentences, theme-based vocabulary, and interesting illustrations. I looked for books with few words per page, ones which allowed me to ask good “Wh-” questions, facilitated further conversation and helped teach story prediction skills.

Now I have new requirements for books we read. I want books which instill values, demonstrate desirable character qualities, encourage creative play, and affirm importance of nature, animals & older generations. The richer the characters, the imagery, the story line…the better.

“What we become depends on what we read after all the professors have finished with us.  The greatest university of all is a collection of books.” -Thomas Carlyle

Thankfully his school provided a wonderful list of books which fall in this category of quality literature.

For the “What We’re Reading” series I will share a book a week, give a quick synopsis and share why we like it. (maybe someday it will become a link-up?)

Our first book is one we love to read while eating lunch on our back porch or at the park.

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Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran (for ages 3 to 8 years old)

Synopsis:

Across the street on a rocky hill children found old wooden boxes, rocks, cactus, and thorny ocotillo (you’ll learn what those are in the book). Adding imagination to these simple materials they create a wonderful world, called Roxaboxen, with homes, ice cream shops, and a city hall. Rocks became currency. Twigs became a steering wheel for a car. A stick and string transform into a horse. Those ocotillo’s become weapons in the great war of boys versus girls. Best of all, no matter the season or the passing years, “Roxaboxen was always there.”

Why we like it:

Having grown up with several acres of woods behind my house, I love the idea of creating a world with natural elements. I remember my best friend and I found trees full of vines and imagined an entire carnival and town in those trees.

This book reminds me of simpler times. All a child needs is a stick and his imagination and unplanned hours of play. Fun to give my boys a vision of what they can create when they play outside.

What are you reading? (have you ever read “Roxaboxen”?)

The Book I Needed a Year Ago {“Desperate” by Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson}

When enough people tell you to read a book, you start to listen. Several bloggers received advance copies of Sally Clarkson & Sarah Mae’s latest collaboration, “Desperate”. These blogger friends kept saying, “Have you read Sarah & Sally’s new book?”, “I think you really should read their book.”, “Make sure to get a free copy of “Desperate” when you are at Allume.”

The positive peer pressure won me over.  A free copy of “Desperate” if I wrote a book review blog post? Sounded like a win-win situation.

During a rare quiet moment in my hotel room in Pennsylvania I read these words from Sarah Mae:

“Dear Sally, I’ve taken personality tests that say I’m an off-the-chart extrovert, but I don’t feel extroverted anymore.  I just want to be alone more and more these days.”

And later in the chapter she wrote,

“What happened to my resolve, my strong ideals and convictions? I still loved my children completely and wanted the best for them, but something was dying inside me.  I didn’t feel like the vibrant woman I used to be; I felt dull.”

Weren’t these my feelings this past year?

Back in Pennsylvania, a fortuitous elevator ride allowed me to look Sarah Mae in the eyes and say, “Thank you for writing this book. Thank you more than you will ever really understand. This is the season I am coming out of and moms need your words. Thank you.”

If you are a mom of little ones this book is for you. The subtitle, “Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe”, perfectly describes the book’s purpose.

Life with young children can feel like a game of Survivor. Drowning in a sea of constant needs and responsibilities and dirty diapers. Like the comedian Jim Gaffigan said, “Do you know what it’s like to have a 4th child? You’re drowning and someone hands you a baby.”

What makes this book different from anyone I’ve ever read is the combination of a younger and older mom. A living out of the Titus 2 command, for older moms to teach younger moms how love their husbands and children.

Sarah’s memory is still fresh with the exhaustion and frustration of motherhood. She wrote my thoughts, the honest and struggling ones. Then Sally answered Sarah’s questions with understanding and wisdom. 

“Dear Sally, My house is a mess and I’m so overwhelmed I just wish I had someone to help me clean it. I clean one room, and ten minutes later it’s wrecked again…”

the reply:

“Dear Sarah, …Housework has never been my strength, and dirty dishes in the sink will always make my heart drop.  Yet I focused more on the atmosphere of my home, the rhythms of keeping it going, and in time my capacity to work became stronger and I didn’t feel quite so overwhelmed…”

Sarah’s words make you feel understood. Sally’s words give you hope & direction. 

This book did not give more “to-do’s”, but permission to be proactive. Instead of surrendering to a desperate, miserable mothering existence, Sarah & Sally give you practical ideas on how to enter into a relationship of love & beauty with your children. 

These women echoed the message I hope to communicate on my site. Both directed the reader to seek God’s voice over the voices of others. To live a God-centered life. To serve selflessly, yet not miserably. To enjoy the life you’ve been given.

“God calls each of us to seek Him, to look for His wisdom and to follow where He calls us by faith, and it will be a different story for each family, marriage, and individual mom and dad.” –Sally Clarkson

Words that encouraged me as I’m coming out of my season of lamenting were in the chapter entitled,“When the Dark Invades.” Sally gives a plan that helped her lessen the impact and duration of depression. It’s a little checklist which perfectly targets the areas of my life which were out of “whack” this past year:

  1. Do I need sleep?
  2. Have I been reading my Bible?
  3. Do I feel alone?
  4. Am I watching my health?
  5. How can I get help?
  6. What do I need to invest in the joy factor of my life?

If you are in a parenting “rut” or if you feel desperate, I highly recommend this book.

“God lives in my home, but sometimes I ignore Him and don’t hear the music He is playing just for me.” –Sally Clarkson

If you are looking for a place for community and support while reading “Desperate” you can find various Facebook groups. Also there will be a book discussion group on www.theBetterMom.com starting January 29th. Or gather 5 or 6 of your mom friends and start your own discussion group (check out the giveaways if you order 8 books). Maybe even go on a limb and ask an older mom to read it with y’all and share her wisdom.

 “A happy mom who is secure in herself and at ease in her life is a rare gift that children love and appreciate” –Sally Clarkson

Desperate Book Tour - desperatemoms.com

Earthly Fathers Created to Reflect Our Heavenly Father {Wisdom from Murray}

In honor of Father’s Day, chapter one of “How to Raise Your Children For Christ”…

Andrew Murray’s 52 short chapters are Scripturally-based, starting with Genesis.  Today’s chapter is entitled, “The Family as God Created it”, from Genesis 1:27-28a:

“So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it,”

Being created in God’s image, we reflect God in the following ways:

  • Dominion over the earth–> Power of God
  • Mental powers –> All-wise God
  • Morality –> Righteous and Holy God

Yet, the greatest reflection is His love.

God is love. He must have a worthy object for His love. Since God is the only & all-perfect One, the Son (Jesus) is the perfect recipient of God’s love.

“The deepest secrets of the Godhead in the fellowship of the Father and the Son by the Holy Spirit were to be shown in the family.” -Murray

In our homes here on earth through the love of a husband and wife, parent and child, we are given the opportunity to reflect our heavenly Father’s love.  

If God created families to be image bearers of the trinity, we should want to study and know more about the Father’s love & “home”. Vice versa…

“Every experience of the love and blessing of a home on earth can be a ladder by which to rise up and get nearer to the great Father-heart in heaven.“-Murray

Yet sin entered the world. It ruined the perfect relationship of fathers to children.  Sadly, some fathers allow their sinful state to inhibit them from being a blessing to their children. The home then becomes a “path not to heaven, but hell.”

As moms we need to encourage ourselves and our husbands, sin does not continue to hold us back. God has restored us unto himself through grace. Now we need to focus our energies on restoring home life to they way God intended.

“Let every parent who feels conscious of his own shortcoming, longing for wisdom and grace to do aright the work entrusted him, look back in faith and hope to the heavenly origin of family life.”-Murray

God originally created the family in this way, to bear the image of the trinity. Once ruined, He redeemed the family. He continues to watch over the family, promising to provide His “Father-love and blessing to every parent who desires to be the minister of His holy purpose.”

If you desire to follow God’s will for your family and raise children for Christ…

“Look to God as the author of your family life; count on Him to give all that is needed to make it what it should be.”-Murray

My take-away: Stop being so focused on discipline and training that I miss the joy of loving children and being loved. In the day-to-day, trusting God with my family. Trusting Him to give me what I need to raise up godly men. Eventually I will be confident He is molding my family into the “bright reflection of His own” family.

Prayer (updated version of Murray’s): 

“Lord, great and holy creator of men! You have made me a parent of children who are wholly dependent on me. You have given me the happiness of living a life of love, the joy of loving and being loved. You have placed me in a home, that is to be the image of the home in heaven, where the Father God and the Son Jesus live in everlasting love.

O Lord, I confess how little perfect love, joy, purity, and brightness of heaven have been reflected in our home. How little have I understood my calling or truly aimed at the high ideal You have given me. Forgive me Father.

Hear me when I beg you to guide my thoughts and help me study Your Holy Word so I may learn more what Your purpose for parents. Teach me to know You in Your infinite fatherliness. To study and experience You, the divine, original, from which a parent’s heart was created. May your Father’s love and blessing rest on our home. Amen.”

Principles of Training {Wisdom from Murray}

I mentioned I would call this series “Tuesdays with Murray” (my husband’s suggestion)…based on the widely popular book “Tuesdays with Morrie”. However, I don’t typically blog on Tuesdays. So I’m going with “Wisdom from Murray”. Without further ado…

Murray’s book “How to Raise your Children for Christ” was written more than 100 years ago. He had 8 children, wrote over 240 books and loved God. My desire is to make his Biblically based, parenting wisdom accessible to busy moms. I plan to summarize his book (given the complicated language) & present it in bite-size pieces on my blog.

Before his 52 short chapters based on Scripture, Murray established the principles of training. He believed training children & helping them love Christ required careful thought and “earnestness”. Today we would use the word: “intentionality”. He also believed wisdom in training children can come when we ask God for it (“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5)

Murray’s Six Principles of Training:

1. Training is more than teaching- 

On this point he said it best…

“Teaching makes a child know & understand what he is to do; Training influences him and sees that he does it. Teaching deals with his mind; training, with his will”

2. Prevention is better than cure-

I “LOVE” this. Instead of waiting and watching for mistakes (which I am prone to do), we should watch and prevent mistakes. Similar to my “Cast a Vision” post, Murray stated one should lead a child to know he CAN obey and do right. That he CAN do it easily and successfully.

3. Habits must precede principles

Here Murray pointed out a child will act more easily and naturally out of habits than based on “principles” he has been taught. His habits will be stronger. Influence a child’s habits then he will obey based on principle. For example, taking their dishes to the sink can become a habit. Later on they can obey and clean up based on the principle of responsibility.

4. The cultivation of feelings precedes that of the judgment

Young children are full of feeling and emotion. They are also sensitive to your emotions and feelings. Murray encouraged the parent to “create a feeling favorable to the good, to make it attractive and desirable.” Basically create a positive environment where good is rewarded and verbally praised versus constantly criticizing and focusing on the bad.

I have seen this lived out in our home. Days in which I am positive and encouraging the boys are encouraging of one another and choose to do good. Days in which I am exhausted and constantly disciplining wrong choices, they are fighting more and misbehave. Even though I know this truth, I’m still prone to fall into a negative pattern.

5. Example is better than precept

You have heard this before…it matters more who you are and what you do than what you say and teach. In living out our daily lives we are training our children. I can’t expect my boys to show grace and use gentle words if I haven’t done so.

“It is by living the Christ-life that we prove that we love it, that we have it; and thus will influence the young mind to love it and to have it too.”

6. Love that draws is more than law that demands

Whoa! convicting…particularly after today. He suggested the God-centered model. Training requires self-sacrifice. Murray called it “mother-love”, that doesn’t seek its own but lives and gives itself for a child. To focus only on rules is to focus more on the sin and “wrath”.

“Love gives itself with its thought and strength to live for and in the other and breathes its own stronger and better life into the weaker one. Love inspires, and it is inspiration that is the secret of training.

In summary,

  • Training differs from teaching…dealing with the “will” more than the “mind”
  • Encourage a child he CAN obey
  • Establish habits of behavior, then explain the principle behind them
  • Create a positive environment
  • Live a life worthy of being followed. Live and love the “Christ-life”
  • Love first. Inspire training with love.

My biggest take-away from this chapter is giving myself and my boys more grace. Focusing on loving and enjoying one another. Paying more attention to my choices instead of obsessing over their poor choices (I’m like a hawk sometimes waiting for them to make a mistake).

What are your thoughts? Let’s discuss.

Few Favorites Friday: Home Alone edition

On Monday I shared that my husband Bruce would soon be going out of town…the truth is he had already left that Sunday afternoon and was gone this week. Fortunately, he arrived back safely last night. Whew. We survived. There were definitely moments that I hope my children block from their memories (don’t know if I will ever forgive forget them myself).

One lesson I learned this week is the value of community & allowing community to step in and help. A few gifts of grace:

  • Phone call from my mentor reminding me: “This is the day the Lord has made…” Which helped me focus on seeing the positive in my day.
  • Offers to have us over for dinner or bring us dinner.
  • Enough food from one friend that fed me for 6 meals!
  • A kind dad at Pump it Up who included my boys while he played with his own child (they needed some big jumping, wild, fun).
  • The worker at Pump it Up who let me slide down the big slide with my boys without wearing the required socks.
  • New exhibit at the Nature & Science Museum…great conversations with the boys about weather.
  • A sister who came over…held Knox while I put the boys to bed, then folded laundry for me.
  • Knowing all the people who I could call and they would help me in a heartbeat.

Here are a few more specific favorites:

1. Frito Salad:

My friend Kari brought us a yummy salad this week. I thought I would share it with y’all because it’s pretty simple, delicious…& just a little naughty. 😉

2. Pizza Making {Mommy Break}

This week I got a text from one of our babysitters. She asked if she and her fiance could come over and make pizza with the boys for dinner. I answered with a: “Um, yes! Yes you can!”

She texted me the day before asking what kind of pizza they liked. When they arrived she looked at me and said, “We’ve got this, you can go do whatever you need to do….even if it’s just sit down & breathe.” <—an angel in disguise, right?

I went upstairs to fold laundry (which did require me to sit down & rest). A few times I snuck downstairs to snap some pictures of their work in progress:

Making Dough

Spreading the Sauce

Voila! Mac Brothers’ Pizza (coming to a street near you!)

Our sweet sitter (& fiance) also completely cleaned the kitchen & took the trash out to the alley! Truly gave me the boost of energy I needed. Amazing.

3. Hot Chocolate & God

During the #hellomornings* Spreecast (basically a video conference call with 78 other women!), Kat Lee ( from inspiredtoaction.com) shared a super idea. One of the participants asked: what should she to do if her child wakes up while she is  having her early morning quiet time? (remember #hellomornings is waking up FOR my kids, not TO my kids).

Kat shared how when that happens she makes her kiddos hot chocolate. They grab a Bible/books to read through. Then they chose a name written on a stick of someone they will pray for.

Well, on Wednesday I told my boys about this idea and they loved it. We wrote names on popsicle sticks and placed them in a jar labeled “prayer”. The next morning, since Bruce was out-of-town, we all sat at the table. They had their hot chocolate and Bibles, I had my tea and Bible. For about 5 minutes we sat and focused our hearts on God.

To be honest I didn’t think such a thing would be possible with 3 boys. However, they proved me wrong. It wasn’t the deepest, most meaningful quiet time I’ve ever had. But it was the sweetest. I will treasure these pictures…

*If you are curious about #hellomornings…check it out here or the link on my side-bar. Sign-ups for the Summer Session are going on now. Session runs from May 14th thru July 8th.

4. Little Lights Missionary Biographies” by Catherine MacKenzie–Ashley

 My friend Ashley (who has 3 adorable little girls) sent me this favorite. I definitely want to check them out & buy some for our “hot chocolate hellomornings”.

“These biographies are sold separately. There are eight books in the series, including biographies about: Amy Carmichael, George Muller, Corrie Ten Boom, David Livingston, and Hudson Taylor. I would recommend them for ages 4 and up. Each book is about 24 pages long and presents the gospel beautifully. I adore children’s books and have many favorites on our bookshelf. I love how these tell true stories about brave men and women who gave so much of themselves in order to further the Kingdom. Good for kids to read some nonfiction!”

What were some of your favorites this week? What are your survival strategies when your husband travels?