Devotions for Lent

hold my hand
source: RobynLou8 via Flickr Creative Commons

Lent is well underway – that six-week period leading up to Easter Sunday. To tune one’s heart toward the cross and resurrection, spending Lent focusing on Scripture is profitable and helpful for adults and children both. Here are some devotionals you can use together or separately. Just jump in wherever you are. With Easter still nearly a month away, it’s not too late.

  1. Bible Gateway Lent Devotion – Include a prayer, Scripture, quote, and something to think about it for each day.
  2. She Reads Truth – Always offers daily devotions, with the Lenten season one being slow-paced and good food for thought. For men, see sister site He Reads Truth.
  3. Trail to the Tree from Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience
  4. A Sense of the Resurrection: An Easter Experience for Families from OhAmanda has 12 sense-invoking experiences to bring Scriptures to life for parents and children.
  5. Lenten Lights at Desiring God.

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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!”


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.”


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!


Celebrating Easter with ParentLife

Beaumontia grandiflora
source: Tatters via Flickr Creative Commons

Need some advice or ideas for leading your kids through the Holy Week? Here are all the Easter posts we’ve done here on the ParentLife blog over the last six years.

Preparing for Easter by William Summey (2009)

“We went shopping this week to buy some Easter clothes for our family. This is one way many families prepare for Easter.”

The Real Reason by Jodi Skulley (2009)

“I was especially excited about this Easter since it would be Jack’s first Easter. We had a busy weekend planned. We were celebrating with my side of the family on the day before Easter with an Easter waffle brunch. …”

The Story of Jesus: Easter Activities for the Whole Family by Christi McGuire (2011)

“Challenge older children to create a song, activity, or game to go with the Bible passage. Help younger children retell the Bible story in a few simple sentences and create motions to a song.”

Not about the Eggs by Jessie Weaver (2011)

“I have nothing against Easter egg hunts and baskets and dresses and Cadbury cream eggs are one of my favorite annual treats. But it feels like just another holiday we’ve morphed into a reason to buy cards, candy, and clothes.”

A Preschooler’s Easter Dictionary (2012)

“Focus on what the Bible says as you talk to your child. Think about some unfamiliar words that your child will hear at Easter. Use these brief definitions.”

Helping Children Grasp the Resurrection by Jessie Weaver (2012)

“I want to focus on the Lenten holiday just as much—if not more!—than we followed along with the Christmas story, crafting and reading our Bible every day for a month. Belief in the resurrection is what makes our faith different from anyone else’s.”

Pausing for Passover by Michelle Lippincott (2012)

“Your family may choose to use some or all of the elements from a traditional Passover. Don’t get so caught up in ‘doing it right’ that you lose the meaning of this feast.”

Easter Crafts (2013)

“All of the chicks and bunnies floating around in Springtime are cute, but they don’t teach about the true Easter and the Resurrection. Here are some craft ideas I dug up that do help teach that to your child!”

Last-Minute Ideas for Easter Weekend (2013)

Four quick ideas.

Seeing, Hearing, Touching, Believing: Leading Your Children to Experience Christ’s Resurrection (2014)

“Parents are scared of telling their kids about blood, sin, crucifixion, murder. But as Christ’s resurrection is the absolute central truth of our faith, it’s important to start teaching it to children as early as possible.”

What to Do with Leftover Plastic Eggs? (2014)

“I keep finding empty plastic eggs laying on the floor. While I hate not to just save them for next year, we don’t actually fill our own baskets.”

Making Easter Dinner in Advance by Jessie Weaver (2014)

“I’m preparing to host them for Easter dinner in a few weeks. And today it struck me that JUST MAYBE I should go ahead and get some things ready so I won’t be so stressed on Resurrection Day.”


Celebrate Valentine’s Day with ParentLife

This blog has been around for quite some time, and we have a great backlog of Valentine’s Day posts. If you’re new around here, I wanted to share some of these wonderful older posts.

Valentine's Day Cards
source: Sarah Parrott via Flickr

10 Last-Minute Ideas for Valentine’s Day (2014)

Are you stuck at home in this snow? Our roads are actually not bad in Chattanooga, but it’s still a little gross outside and schools are canceled. Two of my kids and I were supposed to go to Atlanta to visit friends for Valentine’s Day, and I am bummed our plans have to be changed! But such is life …

5 Valentines with Scripture (2014)

Valentine’s Day will be here before we know it. Despite my indifference toward the Hallmark holiday, my kids ADORE it. (Balance Time Day, according to my daughter at 2 years old.) I like to use their infatuation as a tool to reinforce the gigantic love of God – and help them pass it on to their little friends …

Celebrating Valentine’s Day at Church by Christi McGuire (2013)

Want to help the families in your church celebrate Valentine’s Day next week? Here are a few ideas …

Ways to Show Love to Your Kids Every Day (2013)

With Valentine’s Day behind us, sometimes we can forget about showing love to our kids on a daily basis in tangible ways. Here are some easy ways to do that! …

The Importance of Modeling (2012)

Need a weekly nudge in your efforts to be the kind of dad your kids need? Here’s what worked for one dad. …

A Healthy Heart (2009)

It’s February and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. What better time than Valentine’s Day to think about heart health? Do you need to make any lifestyle changes? …


Joy in the Midst of the Messy by Ellen Stumbo

Joy in the Midst of the Messy
source: jjjj56cp

Parenting a child with mental health issues is the hardest thing I’ve had to do. Parenting techniques don’t apply, and trying to reason with a child who is convinced a shark will attack her while she sleeps means sleepless nights for the parents, too.

It’s exhausting.

I hear friends say, “My son used to do that too! We gave him melatonin and that helped settle him down.” Or, “My daughter used to have illogical fears too, she grew out of it.” The thing is, mental illness is not fixed with melatonin or time.

For us, mental health issues stem from trauma. We adopted our daughter before her fourth birthday from a Ukrainian orphanage. We know she endured abuse, we know there was trauma, and not just one traumatic event, the essence of her situation is surrounded by trauma.

It’s hard.

Holidays are a time of celebration and cheer, but for our family these times seem to bring out more anxieties and emotions that are too big to control. She can go from crying to laughing within minutes, unable to explain what she is feeling, or why she is feeling it.

Where do we find the joy of Christmas?

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.

Christ is in the middle of the hard. He is the middle of the messy. I can cling to Him and know that He will handle things for me. And there is no greater joy than to know I don’t have to do life alone, I do life with the One that became flesh to save me.

This is the joy of the Holidays, to know Him, to have Him, to know His great love for me, and for my hurting child.

Ellen Stumbo Head Shot




Ellen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor. Visit her

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?














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


which means “God with us”


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.










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...





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

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

Five Turkey Crafts for Thanksgiving

What is about turkeys that are just so cute? Despite the fact that most of the turkeys at Thanksgiving are, well, no longer looking adorable, it’s fun to celebrate the holiday with some turkey crafts.



1.  Handprint Turkey Placemats / Meaningful Mama

2. Paper Loop Turkey / Free Kids Crafts

3. Tissue Paper Stained Glass Turkeys / Happy Clippings

4. Give Thanks Pinecone Turkey / Creating Couture Parties

5. Paper Bag Turkey Craft / No Time for Flashcards

Operation Christmas Child: Packing Shoeboxes for Children, with Children



It’s something my husband and I have done for years and years: packed a shoebox or two full of toys and hygiene items and candy and trinkets for a child overseas. It’s not hard. It’s not very costly. And yet, it can change another child’s life.

I learned this firsthand when I got to hear Alex, a recipient from Rwanda, speak at the Allume Conference last year. (I would urge you to watch this video about Alex’s testimony, although please screen it before you show it to your kids. There is a lot about the genocide and war in Rwanda.) Alex’s life and heart were truly changed, all because someone cared enough to pack a little shoebox – and then Samaritan’s Purse was able to minister to him, following up with him, continuing to share the gospel story with him.

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, and literally millions of boxes have been delivered worldwide since the ministry’s inception in 1993. Personally I think OCC is an amazing way to introduce your children to the ideas of poverty, giving, and having a multicultural worldview.

Here are some tips for packing shoeboxes with your own children.

  • Let them choose which gender and age group to pack for. Often kids will want to pick out things that they like themselves – so maybe choose to pack for a child the same age and gender as your own.
  • Add homemade elements: ask your child to make a Christmas card, write a letter, or draw a picture to go in the box. If he or she is older, maybe he can crochet a small scarf or sew a fleece lovey or even make a rubber band ball.
  • 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.
  • Pray over the boxes and ask God for guidance on what items this child will need.
  • Make sure to include hygiene items, even though they aren’t as much fun. What toothbrush and toothpaste do you kids like? What soap? What about a comb or brush? A trip to the Dollar Store can go a long way to completing your shoebox with toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, bar soap, and a few fun hair bows.
  • Remember the rules! Here are the items you should not include: used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; chocolate or food; out-of-date candy; liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.

Will you pack a shoebox this year? Even if you don’t have time to shop, you can still put one together online on the Samaritan’s Purse site for $25. Smart!

Box drop-off is November 17-24. If your local church is not collecting boxes, you can find a collection site here.