An Anchor in the Storm: One Mom’s NICU Journey

Anchored-Share-Square-31

In 2010, Kayla Aimee found herself pregnant after infertility and miscarriages. She was thrilled. But her pregnancy only began a rocky sail as Kayla delivered her daughter, Scarlette, at 25 weeks gestation and spent six months with her in the NICU.

If you’ve ever read Kayla’s blog, you know she finds humor almost by accident in every situation, especially now that Scarlette is 4 and adds quite the commentary. But alongside this humor, Kayla found deep faith, a faith she’d never really had to test before. She writes about it in Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected.

Check out this Q&A with Kayla.

How did you keep it together when you felt like your world was falling apart?

I didn’t. Absolutely I fell apart with it. I think it surprises people to hear that because on the outside I looked like I had it together, I was stoic and did the hard things in order to keep myself together when I was at the hospital. Away from that space was different, full of fear and sorrow. But it was in allowing myself to fall apart that I discovered the truth in the Scripture that says that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. I learned that God’s grace really is sufficient and the only thing that was comforting was knowing that I could just lean into that and let it do what I could not.

How would you say humor and the ability to laugh at yourself have helped you through parenting? In your marriage?

I remember the first time that I laughed after Scarlette’s birth. I was weary from weeping with heartbreak when the nurse brought me nursing pads and they were wrapped in a bag that said DANGER! HAZARDOUS MATERIALS! I laughed so hard that it hurt my stitches and I remember that was the moment when I knew that I wasn’t lost to my grief. Finding the humor in the moments that are hard helps to shift my perspective. It keeps me from being too quick to anger and makes me appreciate the little things more.

Ecclesiastes says that there is a time to laugh and a time to cry and I think that the intersection of the two is a beautiful portrait of our humanity. Plus, it just brings me so much joy to live a life that is full of laughter and so I chase that, I try to seek out the hope and the humor because that just makes everything a little bit brighter.

What is the #1 thing God taught you through Scarlette’s birth experience?

I tend to want to control things or at the very least to know what is coming. Our experience with Scarlette’s birth and NICU stay really revealed to me that I had a tendency to layer my own plans over my prayers. When there was nothing I could do I learned what it meant to genuinely trust God. I think it was this specific time that sharpened my faith, when I was the angriest at the situation and when I least wanted to be faithful was when I found God faithful to me. Not because of a happy ending but because I felt the hope of Him staying steady in the chaos.

What is your favorite Bible verse?

I love the promise of First Corinthians 13:12-13. I love that it acknowledges how life unfolds in a way that we can’t always know what is around the bend but we can find joy in the middle of the unknown in faith and hope and love.

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

What is a funny/favorite parenting story that you don’t share in the book?

Oh man, there are so many to choose from, I could write an entire book just on that topic alone! Recently we had a day where I was having to say “No” a lot and my four year old expressed her disappointment that things weren’t going her way, telling me, “I don’t like it when you say no to me, Mommy! That is very bad.” So we had what I thought was a lovely, fruitful discussion about why Mommy sometimes has to say no and why that is a positive thing, because Mommy’s job is to help her.

Later we went to the grocery store and the cashier greeted Scarlette and asked her how her day was. And my daughter responded “Well, not so good, actually. My Mommy has been saying BAD WORDS to me ALL DAY.”

AnchoredBonusPrint1

Would you like to win a copy of Anchored and this beautiful print from Gracelaced? Just use the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Why Making a Mess Can Help Your Whole Family Learn God’s Word (GIVEAWAY)

Kids are the ultimate doers.

They come home from school with a backback full of papers they’ve colored, figures they’ve drawn, and crafts they’ve made. Before their bags have even had time to make an impression on the couch, they’ve raced to the backyard or to the park with their friends where hours pass as they build castles out of sand, rainforests out of monkey bars, and as-yet-unseen worlds seen only with the eyes of their imagination.

When we grow up, it’s easy to look back at all of this activity and dismiss it as childish play – fun, certainly, but not educational. By middle school, we come to believe that real learning comes from sticking our nose into a book until knowledge mysteriously transfers from the ink-splattered pages into the recesses of our brain. The problem is that this simply isn’t true.

Don’t misunderstand: book-learning is good and necessary for a well-rounded education. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise to Christians that learning through doing is equally as important for adults as it is for kids. After all, Jesus taught with hands-on lessons and illustrations.

Of course, the gospels tell us that Jesus was a stand-out student of the Hebrew Scriptures, and He would frequently quote or paraphrase those Scriptures to His followers in order to reinforce or remind them of what God has said. But just as often, Jesus chose to teach those around Him by doing.

He walked on the water. He broke bread and fish into thousands of pieces. He raised Lazarus from the dead. He cleared the temple. He died and rose again.

Even when Jesus taught with His words, He often used parables, metaphors, and illustrations instead of simple statements of fact. He created mental playgrounds for His followers where they could feel the surroundings and circumstances of the characters. They could feel the outrage of the older, faithful brother when their father welcomed his repentant brother home and celebrated with a feast.

It will always be important to read Scripture. But as Jesus demonstrated by His own teachings, it is equally important for kids and adults alike to do Scripture.

Hands On Bible

That’s what makes the Hands-On Bible so special. The Hands-On Bible uses this same type of experience-based learning to communicate God’s Word in an active, understandable way.

With hundreds of fun, memorable activities, the Hands-On Bible is packed with activities and experiences that invite kids (and maybe even their parents!) to crawl inside the Scriptures and do God’s Word! There are over 102 Hands-On Bible Experiences, 52 Key Verse Activities, and 16 Bible Bonanza Experiences that serve as jumping off points to learning God’s Word by doing.

Whether you use it for family devotions or for your kids not-so-quiet time, the Hands-On Bible is the only children’s Bible that teaches and reinforces the lessons of the Bible in the same way Jesus taught – by seeing, experiencing, and doing. As James says, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says” (James 1:22 NLT).

Want to win a copy of the Hands-On Bible? We have five to give away! Just use the Rafflecopter below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Over 100 Bible Stories and Songs Help Kids Remember Key Bible Truths {GIVEAWAY}

My Sing-Along photo

My Sing-Along Bible provides hours of fun and activity for kids ages 3 and up. Through easy-to-understand stories, catchy songs, and colorful pictures, children will learn about God and his character. They’ll come to understand and embrace Bible-based concepts such as God always keeps his promises, we should pray every day, Jesus wants us to follow Him, and many more.

Perfect as a “keeping me busy” activity, bedtime story, car ride, Sunday school, or family devotions, these stories connect the Bible stories with sing-along songs and key Bible themes. Also included are bonus songs to help kids learn and memorize the names of the books of the Bible.

Author and songwriter Stephen Elkins is the creator of My Sing-Along Bible. His Nashville publishing company, Wonder Workshop, has been producing book, music and DVD products for over 25 years.

Want to win a copy? We have FIVE copies to give away. Use the form below to enter the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

The Perfect Road Trip Accessory Every Family Needs This Summer

The summer looms ahead, and with it we find families everywhere preparing for that American tradition: the summer road trip.

I remember road trips from my childhood. I spent many hours in the backseat, reading a book while out the window I could see towering redwood trees, canyon walls, or the reflection of the ocean in the windows. The first hour of a trip can be exciting, but we all know that soon boredom kicks in and the whining begins.

If you are looking for a way to entertain your entire family this summer on that long road trip, check out Radio Theatre’s Chronicles of Narnia from Focus on the Family.

Radio Theatre Chronicles of Narnia Set

Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre has been entertaining and enriching the lives of both young and old for decades. From timeless classics like The Christmas Carol to C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, Radio Theatre makes the stories come alive and real to a whole new generation of listeners. Radio Theatre isn’t just storytelling or a recorded book. It’s an audio movie that plays on the biggest screen of all: your imagination. Enjoying world-class actors, cinema-quality sound, and an orchestral score, your entire family will be enthralled and your car ride will pass in no time.

The entire set of the Chronicles of Narnia is available now on CD in a beautiful package perfect to keep in your car for hours of fun.

Want to win a set from Tyndale House and ParentLife? Enter using the Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Family Shares Success Story and Practical Advice in Conquering Childhood Obesity {WIN IT}

In Who’s the New Kid, releasing from Tyndale House Publishers this May, ordinary mom Heidi Bond details the healthy regimen that rescued her daughter from childhood obesity and benefited her entire family.

Breanna Bond talks about changing after obesity

In Who’s the New Kid?, Heidi Bond, a self-described “ordinary mom,” shares her story of how she helped her daughter overcome childhood obesity. She provides helpful insights and practical tips, equipping families to help their children establish healthy habits as well as lose weight. Bond’s hope for her new book is “to shine a light on the truth surrounding childhood obesity, to let other families know that they are not alone, and to show the world that childhood obesity is 100 percent reversible and can be reversed in less time than you might think.”

Childhood obesity is a pervasive problem in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.” In 2012, over a third of American children and adolescents were diagnosed as overweight or obese, which is concerning because according to the CDC, “childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on health and well-being.” Despite the alarming rates of childhood obesity and related health risks, the CDC confirms that healthy lifestyle and habits, “including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.”

Who's the New Kid?

These statistics were all too real for Heidi Bond. At nine years old, her daughter, Breanna, weighed a whopping 186 pounds. Just walking up the stairs to her room was a challenge. Her legs chafed to the point of bleeding from rubbing against each other, and her school days were filled with hurtful taunts of “Hey, Fatty!” Watching her daughter suffer like this was devastating for Heidi, prompting her to action. Heidi helped her daughter lose weight without the aid of fad diets, medication, or surgery, and in her new book she details how other parents can do the same for their kids.

To help Breanna, Heidi instituted a daily regimen of healthy eating and family exercise. In just over a year, Heidi’s plan worked! Breanna dropped 40 percent of her body weight and was transformed from a morbidly obese child who spent her days in front of the TV eating chips and chocolate to a vibrant, healthy, energetic little girl.

Filled with helpful diagnostic tools, easy-to-make recipes, eye-opening nutritional information, fun exercise ideas, and practical tips and advice, Who’s the New Kid? will not only show parents how to help their kids lose weight naturally, but will also introduce them to simple and effective lifestyle changes that will benefit the entire family.

When asked why she wrote this book, Heidi Bond responded, “We needed to share our journey to give people hope and inspiration, and to show them that change is possible. My goal in writing this book is to let others know that they are not alone. I know firsthand the fear and hopelessness that surround this epidemic.”

Heidi Bond on mothering an obese child

Heidi Bond has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, and The Biggest Loser. A sought-after speaker, she has helped thousands of parents who are struggling with overweight, underactive children. Heidi lives in Clovis, California, with her husband, Dan, and their children, Breanna and Nathan.

Jenna Glatzer is the author of 23 books, including Unthinkable by Scott Rigsby (Tyndale), Never Ever Give Up: The Jessie Rees Story (Zondervan), and Unbroken: A Memoir (Thomas Nelson). She has written hundreds of articles for magazines and online publications.

Want to win a copy of Who’s the New Kid? We have five to give away. Just enter using the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Faith That Sticks {GIVEAWAY}

I am a firm believer in teaching children to love reading at a young age. As soon as my children were old enough to maintain eye contact, I was reading to them. They loved listening to my voice and looking at the bright colors. Soon they were big enough to turn the pages on their own and understand the story. Before I knew it, they were sounding out words and reading me stories all by themselves!

We rarely went anywhere without a book or two tucked in a bag, ready to bring out at a moment’s notice. As a result, I raised two kids who still value reading and love to immerse themselves in a book—so much so that when my son started to drive he kept getting lost. He had spent his riding in the car time reading books and therefore he didn’t know how to get to basic places like the store or his school.

To help build the value of reading in your child, check out the new line of Faith That Sticks books by Tyndale House Publishers. Filled with faith values and Bible stories, these books not only teach important lessons, but engage the child to understand the story by encouraging parent interaction. The stories also include stickers and activities to help keep children involved and reading the story over and over.

Picture2

Enter to win copies of the five latest Faith That Sticks books—just in time for Easter! Or check out the full line of Faith That Sticks products at faiththatsticks.com.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Big Thoughts for Little People – the New App and a Giveaway

Tyndale House Publishers is excited to announce its first children’s app. Released to the iTunes store in January, 2015, the Big Thoughts for Little People app is the perfect companion to the bestselling alphabet book with the same name, written by Dr. Ken Taylor (over 560,000 sold).

big thoughts

In the app, each letter of the alphabet is accompanied by five unique interactive games designed to teach children letter recognition and beginning word identification skills. Activities include matching games, coloring activities, puzzles, picture comparison, and much more!

The Big Thoughts for Little People app will encourage kids to remember that God has created each of them and the world they live in. This app is a worthwhile investment in any child’s spiritual and educational growth.

BTLP-1024x1024

—-

Courtesy of Tyndale House, we have 5 copies of the book Big Thoughts for Little People to give away. It’s a beautifully illustrated, hardcover book that would be wonderful for your kids or to give awy. Enter using Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Equip Yourself for the High Calling of Raising Kingdom Kids by Dr. Tony Evans {GIVEAWAY}

Raising Kingdom Kids

In the Evans’ home, we took the idea of raising kingdom kids seriously. But sometimes, we got distracted.

I remember when our kids were small. We took them to Disneyland and experienced the sights, sounds, and excitement of all that makes it wonderful.

We were looking around and enjoying ourselves. But somewhere between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, we lost track of our youngest child, Jonathan. I looked up, and I couldn’t find my son.

Panic set in, because there were thousands of people all over the property. And so we began a search for our son. We looked and looked. We fanned out, and we couldn’t find him.

Minutes went by; it seemed like hours. Our child was lost, and we didn’t know where he was. We called security to help us find Jonathan. I don’t really remember how long it was before we located him. He was looking in one of those windows, at all of the fancy stuff–the prizes and glitz and glitter. It’s surprising how some of that plastic, under just the right lighting, can become so alluring.

We all too easily become distracted.

We had lost track of him because we were looking at the things around us, too. He had become distracted. I had become distracted. We had become distracted. In the midst of enjoying a blessing for our family, we lost each other.

We did everything we could to locate him. When I found him, I hugged him (even though a part of me wanted to spank him). But I hugged him because of the joy of finding a child that was lost.

Our world today distracts children from parents and parents from children.

We are in a kingdom today that has plenty of distractions. These distractions have caused us to lose our children.

This earthly kingdom is set up to distract parents from children and children from parents. Parents are distracted by work, career, entertainment—even church can sometimes shift our focus from what we as parents ought to be doing. Our kids are distracted too. Online media, peer groups, social pressure, and entertainment vie for the attention of our kids.

Distracted parents produce children with a weak faith.

The result is a distracted family, acting separately, living anything but in unity, and treating this dysfunction as the norm. And then we wonder why our kids grow up with a weak faith.

Kingdom Parents have the high calling of raising kingdom kids.

Parents, you have been called to raise kingdom kids–in God’s kingdom. Kingdom parenting isn’t perfect parenting, it’s purposeful parenting, helping children learn to live under God’s divine authority, both today and in the future. I am here to assure you that you are equipped with everything needed to accomplish this high calling. I know this because God chose you to be parents.

Sure, you will get distracted once in a while. But kingdom parents will regain their focus on what really matters–advancing God’s kingdom in your immediate realm of authority, which begins with your family. Wherever you’re starting, it’s just the right point to say, “Okay God. Starting today, I’m about your business of raising kingdom kids.”

Raising Kingdom Kids

Raising Kingdom Kids Group Video Experience: Giving Your Child a Living Faith is a powerful tool created by Dr. Tony Evans. Based on the top-selling book, Raising Kingdom Kids, this multimedia package is designed to equip parents to advance God’s kingdom in their own family. It is great for individual, small groups, Sunday school classes, retreats, and church outreach events.

WIN a copy of this video experience from Tyndale House and ParentLife Online! Just use the Rafflecopter widget to enter. We have FIVE copies to give away!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dr. Tony Evans is founder and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, founder and president of The Urban Alternative, former chaplain of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, and present chaplain of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. His radio broadcast, The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, can be heard on nearly 1,000 US radio outlets daily and in more than 130 countries. For more information, visit TonyEvans.org.

Winner Winner!

The five winners of the Unwrapping the Greatest Gift giveaway are:

Michelle La

Jenny Rapson

Jeanne Nation

Erin Fullam

Jill Anderson

Congratulations and thanks all for entering! We will be in touch via e-mail.

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

The kids have Adore Him playing and they’re singing along and off key.

And the house wafts of sugar cookies and anticipation and names of neighbors to bless!

“You done drawing now, Mama?”

Kai’s leaning hard over my shoulder. “Can we just call it done?” And I’m thinking so, and we cut out this little hand drawn cookie envelope template. Shalom and Levi have angel and nativity cookie cutters all over the table.

And Kai cuts out these envelopes for each cookie. And Shalom slides in cookies shaped like angels and stars and a wee silhouette of that God-Baby Who came to the manger & the Cross & offers Himself as a Savior for the world — and who doesn’t need the gift of Him most, again and again?

DSC_8068

DSC_5361

DSC_8031

DSC_5246

DSC_8052

DSC09661

DSC_8086

DSC_5332

DSC09429

DSC_8036

DSC09572

DSC_5275

DSC_1096

It’s written right there on the liner for every cookie envelope:

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,

and they will call Him

Immanuel

which means “God with us”

Matt.1:23

God with us — is the only comfort for the wounds within us.

Kai looks up from his cutting out of the verse — “Mom? God really came, didn’t He?”

And I nod — He came.

He gave up the heavens who were not even large enough to contain Him and lets Himself be held in a hand.

He forsook the boundlessness of space and confined Himself to skin and He gave up the starfields and took on shape and wore the bones.

He gave up the River of the water of Life that flows from His Throne Room to float the nine months on the amniotic waters. And He who carved the edges of the Cosmos, He curved Himself into fetal ball in the dark, tethered Himself to the uterine wall of a virgin, and lets His cells divide, light all splitting white.

The mystery so large becomes the baby so small and infinite God becomes infant.

“Yeah, Kai,” I fold one of the cookie templates, “The story of Christmas is about a baby who came — for the greatest give-away ever. To be the Gift.”

This is what I tell the kids making up Christmas packages for the neighbors — He came, love come down.

Love that gave — but not to those who loved Him.

Love that gave — but not to those who could give back.

Love that gave — to those who were the poor, the bankrupt, the enemies.

DSC_3269

DSC_8093

DSC_5355

DSC_5279

DSC_8096

DSC_5342

DSC_5354

DSC_8113

DSC_3284

Love that gave even to the likes of us. “And I don’t know… ” I am telling the story again now to me.

Who will give away, and with their lives? Why is the world hungry when God’s people have bread? Are bread? What is there more to be in this life than to be bread for another man?

And Hope looks up from the oven. “Remember, Mama?” She turns off the timer. “We’re calling Christmas the Greatest Give-Aways — and Jesus is the Gift!”

That’s really all we have to get ready for Christmas – our hearts. We need to get our hearts ready to welcome Jesus into every part of our lives.

And guess how you best get your heart ready for Jesus? Come to Him just as you are.

God gives Himself as the greatest Gift, and He doesn’t keep any truly good thing from you. Because the greatest things aren’t ever things!

God never, ever withholds the greatest Gift from you – Jesus!

Jesus is all good, and He is all yours, and this is always your miracle – your greatest Gift.

Jesus is the Gift and we keep giving Him away, down the road and around the corner and the world — He is the best Christmas to give — because when we share Christ, we most have Him.

And on the backside of that little verse liner, we write a Christmas note to our neighbors and tape up the back of the little cookie envelope — and tuck The Greatest Gift cookie envelope in with a little love-something for the neighbors — a hot chocolate mix, a bag of coffee, a good book, a little candle, a loaf of bread.

“Look at how many cookies we have got done now!” Kai grins from the table.

And Shalom, she counts a bit giddy, this giving away that gives the Great Gift...

 

 

 

DSC_3268

Weary mamas? Wound-up kids? This December? Could be The Greatest Christmas! This is the relief you’ve always wanted for your Christmas.

Open this book & your Christmas will begin where you never expected — and it will end where you only dreamed.

A book that is like your own larger-than-life Advent Calendar, opening up to 25 wondrous stories that tell the family tree of Jesus, from Creation to His Coming.

Because if we want our Christmas tree to really stand full of wonder & real meaning? The tree we need to understand & be astonished by —- is the wonder of the family tree of Jesus! Because this is your family’s real family tree, your real story.

Each day’s story has its very own ornament, one for each day of Advent — all unwrapping a bit more of a story that’s far better than the greatest fairy tale you’ve ever read —- because this story is all true. So come Christmas day — your kids, and your Christmas tree with all 25 ornaments, will be telling the full love story of Jesus’ coming, right from the very beginning!

Full colour, vibrant 2 page spreads. Romping, shimmering words — for every kid from ages 4- 94.

Known through the ages as the Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree, named after Jesus’ ancestor, Jesse, the father of King David, this is one Christmas experience your family will never forget — that they will be passing down from your Christmases to their Christmases — because this is the gift we all want.

What better gift to give the whole family this Christmas — than the wonder of the full love story of Jesus?

Check out all the Free Resources available, free ornaments, free cookie envelopes for the kids, free Jesse Tree ornaments for the kids, all over at www.TheGreatestChristmas.com

Ann Voskamp is a farmer’s wife and homeschooling mother to 6 children. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling book One Thousand Gifts.
________

Want to win a copy of Ann’s new book for Advent, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift? Enter using the Rafflecopter below. (Subscribers may need to click through.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway