New Year = New Opportunities

Here we are, on the cusp of another year. I’m excited as I face 2016 and ready to bring on some resolutions. I am honestly not a big resolution-maker, but this year I’m committing to the following:

  • Having some sort of quiet time and reading my Bible every single day.
  • Going to the gym to continue to build muscles and get healthy and dramatically lower my sugar intake.
  • Remembering that cultivating my children’s hearts with the gospel is the most important task I’ve been given.

My daughter invited Jesus into her heart in September, and we think she will be baptized in January. She got a devotion for children for Christmas, and I am so looking forward to seeing her grow in her faith! I hope as 2016 progresses, I will also see the faith of my two sons increase as well, as little as they are.

I am wishing you the sweetest New Year. What are some of your resolutions for the year? – Jessie

Weekend Links

Happy Christmas week!

Weekend Links

Have a wonderful week!

Forget Cookie Baking & Embrace Cooking Dipping for Christmas Gifts!

Personally, I love baking cookies. But I’m also a stay-at-home mom, so I have more time at home than many. And this year, I still haven’t been in the kitchen much as I’ve dealt with sickness, school events, and just general life stuff.

chocolate dipped pretzels

If you, too, have been lacking for time to make homemade treats, I wanted to share with you my easiest tips and recipes for making a giant batch of semi-homemade goodies to hand out. 

When I was working, I would fill a Christmas tin from the thrift store for all my co-workers with these yummies. It takes just an hour or two to make all the treats, as opposed to hours baking dozens of cookies. And everyone loves them!

Here is what you need:

  • Cookies and pretzels for dipping: shortbread, Oreos, pretzel rods, pretzel twists, vanilla wafers
  • Almond bark in white and milk chocolate
  • Toppings for sprinkling: any variety of Christmasy sprinkles or sanding sugar, chopped nuts, crushed candy canes, toasted coconut, crushed Oreos
  1. Open all packages of dippers so you are ready. Place different sprinkling items on plates. Lay out wax or parchment paper for items to dry on.
  2. Melt chocolates in the microwave in large measuring cups. For melting chocolate, I always microwave on high for 1 minute, stir, then microwave in additional 15-30 second intervals, stirring after each, until completely smooth. Be careful with white chocolate or almond bark, because it is more likely to scorch.
  3. Dip each cookie or pretzel about halfway into the chocolate. Then press into a sprinkling item. Place on wax paper to dry.

With this method, you can make a large variety of treats simply by using different sprinkling toppings. So fun, and easy for the kids to help with, too, for teacher, bus driver, mail person, Sunday School teacher, pastor (you get this idea!) gifts!

Want another simple treat? 

Melt white almond bark in the microwave. Spread onto a jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes. Let cool, then break into pieces. It looks fancy but couldn’t be easier.

Do you pass out cookies or other treats during the holidays?

Photo source: Christi Johnstone via Flickr Creative Commons

Weekend Links

 

A Time-Tested Way to Encourage Good Behavior by Becky Brandvik {GIVEAWAY}

Jesus was always generous, kind, respectful, hardworking, truthful, responsible, and so much more. He’s the perfect role model for all of us – kids and adults alike!

When I was a child I sometimes spent summer vacations with my grandparents, who lived in Florida. My sister and I were allowed to eat candy for dinner, sleep in half the day, and go and do wherever we wanted. The mantra was, “Anything goes at Grandma and Grandpa’s house!” We never felt like they disciplined us, but we were always anxious to please them by doing the right thing. There was just something different about my grandparents, but as a kid I couldn’t quite put my finger on it!

My grandparents liked to teach us grandkids good behavior by modeling the life of Christ. They lived and spoke Scripture regularly. As a kid, I thought this was a goofy thing to do. Whoever heard of going around and quoting Scripture all the time? One day it hit me! This was their teaching style! They weren’t trying to annoy us– it was simply their “subliminal method” of teaching and reinforcing good behavior in their grandkids. My grandparents sincerely wanted to model to us how the Bible can be a real, living part of our lives. It’s not just a dusty old tome that you allow to rot on your book shelf. It’s a testament to how we should live our lives every single day.

God’s Word is there to help us through our time on this Earth giving us guidance, comfort, and teaching us right from wrong. My grandparents modeled this principle numerous times to us in ways that no other believer has ever done for me. They actually modeled good character by inspiring us to be just like Jesus.

Just Like Jesus Storybook

There is no better way to teach children right from wrong than by showing them how to model the character of Jesus. Author and songwriter Stephen Elkins has written a great resource called I Want to Be JUST LIKE JESUS. In this fun and colorful book, stories are paired with lessons that teach about the character of Jesus. Lessons about Jesus’ character – how He was always humble, caring, hardworking, kind, honest, respectful, generous, and so much more.

When applied to everyday living, we should walk as Jesus walked and live as Jesus lived! After all, HE is the perfect role model for living our lives the way God intended us to live. So, the next time the kids misbehave ask them, “Who wants to be JUST LIKE JESUS?” That’ll get their attention for sure! They’ll strive to please God which in turn will please you as a parent!

Sneak Peek Lessons:

JESUS was PATIENT
If you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. 1 Peter 2:20

JESUS IN THE BIBLE
You must be very patient to catch a fish! Jesus showed us how to be patient. He spent three whole years teaching people about God’s love.

He was never in a hurry. He even prayed for people who did unkind things. He knew they were lost and needed His love. Jesus was “fishing” for people who would love Him back!

Want to win a copy of I Want to Be JUST LIKE JESUS? We are giving away five copies. Use the Rafflecopter widget to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Celebrating Christmas with ParentLife!

Over the years, we’ve posted quite a bit about Christmas here at ParentLife Online. As you celebrate Thanksgiving and look forward to the Advent season, I wanted to provide an easy way to look through all of the Christmas and Advent-related posts here.

Making Christmas Traditions

2009

Thinking about a Pet? – “After talking with a rep from the ASCPA about a ParentLife article, we found that many families adopt pets at Christmastime. Our monthly Real Life Solutions writer, Dr. Linda Mintle, has some good advice for families considering getting a pet.”

Holiday Safety Tips – “In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to prevent them from swallowing or inhaling small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a young child to eat them.”

The Advent Season – Three Advent books to share with your children.

That Perfect Christmas Card – “Select a photo with special sentimental value. Don’t worry about the finding the photo where everyone looks ‘perfect.’ ”

The Perfect Gift – Short review of a Christmas movie featuring a ParentLife writer!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year – “Our time with family was precious, traffic or no traffic! These are the occasions that make lasting memories for parents and children alike.”

Holiday or Headache? – “What have you been doing because it is expected or a habit but could probably be dropped from your schedule?  What truly makes Christmas meaningful for you?”

Christmas Ramblings – “I was dreading putting out the Christmas decorations with a toddler underfoot, I was sure finding time to Christmas shop was going to be next to impossible, and I was concerned that all of the holiday festivities would throw Jack’s schedule completely for a loop!”

Helping Kids Connect with Jesus – Advice from prolific children’s book author Dandi Daley Mackall.

More Childproofing Tips for Christmas

2010

Exposing Children to Drinking Relatives – A Q&A with Dr. Linda Mintle.

To Santa or Not to Santa? – “Hamlet almost had it right. ‘To be or not to be’ is a great question, but for many Christians, ‘To Santa or not to Santa’ is truly the question to ask in December.”

Choosing the Right Toys Per Age Group – “The toys your children want are not necessarily the ones that are of great quality or of any value for that matter, but they are the ones advertised constantly.”

Christmas mantle

2011

Blended Life: Making Holiday Plans – “Perhaps the hardest time to juggle a blended family is during the holidays. How should time be split? How do you even begin to decide?”

Christmas Gift Guide: Baby to 2 Years

Christmas Gift Guide: 3 to 8 Years

Real Life Solutions: Christmas with Family – “You and your husband need to make a plan that makes sense for you and that you can manage. Then talk with your families and see if you can agree on an arrangement.”

Christian Christmas Music – “I realize that perhaps saying ‘Christian Christmas’ is an oxymoron, but in our society … it’s sort of necessary.”

10 Kid Gadgets for Holiday Travel

2012

Fun Traditions and UnTraditions – “Families were encouraged to celebrate meaningfully and playfully in ways that create lasting memories, not lasting fatigue.”

Gifts That Give Back – “But I don’t know that our Christmases would have suffered without half of those things we wished for on long lists.”

Celebrating Jesus’ Birthday – “Use a child-friendly manger scene to teach the Christmas story to younger children. They can make their own manger scene out of blocks, fashioning figures from toilet paper rolls.”

Helping Children Celebrate Christ This Christmas -“With the celebrations of Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Santa Claus, it is easy for many messages to be infiltrated into the true message of Christmas.”

Need a Gift Idea? – Reviews and comparisons of some of the craft/toy subscription kits like KiwiCrate, Citrus Lane, and Green Kids Crafts.

Real Life Solutions: Divorce and the Holidays

Strategies for Reducing Stress During the Holidays – “If she is terrorized by the sight of a big stranger in a red suit, respect her emotional distress and show your support by not forcing her to sit on Santa’s lap.”

Christmas Break Training 101: Making Yours a Success – Whether you’re sleep training, potty training, going to a big kid bed, or more, Christmas break might be a great time to do boot camp.

Merry Christmas from William Summey

The Doggie in the Window – “Christmas is an exciting time to bless our children, and you may be thinking about finally giving in to their request. Here are some things to consider before adopting a new pet.”

Keep It Going: Service after Christmas

2013

Preparing for Advent – A little about the popular resource Truth in the Tinsel and another fun Advent family activity.

15 Unique Advent Calendars

He Sets the Lonely in Families – “Bless others by taking them into your family and loving them. It will set a wonderful example for your children and who knows … you might be entertaining angels (Hebrews 13:2).”

5 Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes

Real Life Solutions: Preventing Kid Mayhem During the Holidays – “Remind yourself that during the holidays, kids are out of their routine, sleep in strange beds, get little sleep, eat too much sugar, and get a lot of attention from family members”

Wrapped Up with a … Oh Wait, I Forgot the Bow – “The thing is, if you love cutting out letters while listening to carols and sipping peppermint tea, I think it can be holy. Perhaps wrapping gifts is one of your favorite things. Perhaps it is a gift God gave you to bless others. It’s just not mine!”

Special Needs Families Can Celebrate the Season Too! – “Special needs parents often feel isolated. I encourage you this season to reach out. Reach out to just one other family, or friend. It might take some work, but it will be worth it!”

2014

Operation Christmas Child: Packing Shoeboxes for Children, with Children – “Explain gently that these will probably be the only gifts this child will receive this Christmas. Answer questions in a straightforward and truthful manner, but don’t over-explain.”

The Relief You’ve Always Wanted for Christmas by Ann Voskamp

Joy in the Midst of the Messy – “Our joy is not found on the presents – although that is a pretty great part of the season – or the traditional Christmas events. Our joy is found in knowing that Christ is with us now. In these moments, in the middle of our circumstances.”

2015

Building Holiday Traditions within Your Family – “While struggling to celebrate this most commercial of American holidays without letting the secular emphasis take over, we found a mixture of fun traditions balanced with sacred traditions that did the trick for us.”

A Simple Gift Kids Can Make

 

I will update this list as we add to it this year and in the future!

 

Weekend Links

Have a wonderful weekend, friend! Enjoy the fall weather, give thanks, and let us know what you’re thankful for, too!

Activities for Little Hands: Thanksgiving Crafts

thanksgiving 9
source: Harris County Public Library via Flickr Creative Commons

Having a hard time keeping your little one out of the kitchen while you prepare for Thanksgiving’s festivities? My daughter thinks the oven is her personal playplace, much to my chagrin. Thankfully, we will be spending the holidays with extended family and letting others cook for us (and the baby in my 36-week-pregnant belly rejoices).

Here are some activities for distraction … I mean, education …

Thanksgiving door hangers would be a fun addition to the front door even a toddler can help decorate.

Older kids can do a Thanksgiving Day word search. You could have your kids cut out the word search and glue it to sheets of construction or scrapbook paper for any children coming to your Thanksgiving feast. It will give the kids something to do while they wait on the food! Fall or Thanksgiving-themed scrapbook paper would give the word search a festive feel.

Oreo Thanksgiving turkeys are adorable to see, easy to make, and yummy to “gobble” down!

Napkin rings made of paper-towel tubes and scrapbook paper add a festive touch and keep little hands busy gluing while you’re basting the bird.

Even toddlers can rub a leaf on newspaper. You can cut them out and then together string them on some twine to hang. Adorable!

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving craft?

Happy Thanksgiving from the ParentLife staff and Jessie, Resident ParentLife Blogger!

 

Originally published November 24, 2010

Bold Middle School Faith {Bible GIVEAWAY}

Bold Middle School Faith
photo credit: Lauren Macdonald via Flickr Creative Commons

Tweens feel like they are in a constant state of change. And they’re right. With all of the adjustments they go through physically, mentally, and emotionally, nearly every aspect of their lives is changing! If you know anything about middle school, you know it can be a pretty tumultuous time. Sometimes friends embarrass each other on purpose because they think it’s funny. Gossip and B.O. abound. Blending in is a survival tactic. First crushes develop. Things get plain awkward, scary, and upended at this age. Most who survived middle school would never willingly return.

Could you imagine if you knew then what you know now—about the Bible, God, faith, and prayer?

You may have heard about God’s unconditional love and His faithfulness back then, but the longer we walk with God, the stronger our faith becomes. Chances are, you’ve learned to depend on God much more as you’ve seen His faithfulness and consistency play out in your life. Most likely you’ve learned to extend grace to others more freely as you’ve experienced God’s mercy and unconditional love firsthand.

Imagine if your middle-schooler’s faith was resilient and flourishing at this young age!

What would happen if your middle schooler prayed more faithfully? worried less? trusted God more? navigated friendships and hurtful or humiliating situations with more grace, care, and understanding? What if your middle schooler had bold faith?

Each one of us is on our own journey. Our particular paths may look different, but as Christians we are all seeking to follow Jesus every day of our lives. We are continually gaining new perspective on life and faith and seeing more clearly our purpose here on earth. To walk with God is to be in a constant state of change, not unlike middle school. The minute we become stagnant in our relationship with God, our growth suffers.

How can we help tweens fully embrace their faith in God and live boldly?

The Bible is God’s love letter to us. Every word in it was written just for us. God speaks to us through the inspired words on the pages of Scripture, and the more time we devote to reading God’s Word—the Bible—the stronger our foundation will be.

One of the most significant influences in your child’s faith is you. What are they learning about God by observing your actions, your words, and your prayers? Do they see you reading your Bible? praying? depending on God in tough times? modeling bold faith?

Practical ways to encourage middle schoolers to be bold and courageous in their faith:

  • Model it for them!
  • Pray and ask God for wisdom and insight into how you can encourage and deepen your child’s faith.
  • Seize the big and small opportunities to encourage your child’s relationship with God each day.
  • Reflect on ways you can help them notice and discover God working in their lives.
  • Talk about what they have read in their Bible, then explore how God might be speaking to them each day through their Bible reading.
  • Discuss ways to apply the Bible to their own life in specific situations they are going through currently.
  • Talk about what God is doing in your life. Share ways that you personally are depending on God, or ways that your family is.

As we teach middle schoolers to always trust God—even when things get hard at school, with friends, or at home—they can develop a faith that withstands the trials. God loves them as much as we do—and way more! God speaks to them through his Word, and he speaks directly to their hearts.

Faith becomes real for kids when it connects with their world, and the New Living Translation is great for tweens because it is so easy for them to understand. The language isn’t archaic or difficult, which can cause barriers to understanding and application. Instead, they can glean more from reading their Bibles with confidence. When tweens read the Bible and understand what it says, God can work in their hearts!

Girls SlimlineGuys Slimline

The Girls and Guys Slimline Bible covers were designed just for tweens! In fact, they were chosen by a focus group of tween students! The Bibles also include a dictionary/concordance to help tweens look up key words and find passages on subjects they are interested in, full-color maps, a matching ribbon marker, and a presentation page. The extra-special Girls Slimline Bible has a BOLD FAITH theme on the back cover and endsheets, and the cover is made of soft, bright neon material with a glittery silver lining around the edges! The Guys and Girls Slimline Bibles make great gifts for the tweens in your life! Be encouraged as you begin (or continue!) the exciting and joy-filled blessing of walking alongside your tween on their faith journey through middle school and beyond.

Want to win a copy of one of these Bibles for a tween in your life? Let us know in the comments whom you would give it to and whether you’d want the Girls or Guys version! We will choose a winner from the comments on November 15.

Giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winners: Debbie, Angela Barnes, Ken Ohl, Marianne Sandling, and Charles-Linda Bradshaw.