Archives for July 2011

Fun Friday Photo — July 29, 2011

Tired little man after a long day of work … "aka" play!


Thanks to Christy B. for this great photo! 
Photos wanted! Send us your funny, cute, or just plain fun pictures for our Fun Friday Photos. Each Friday we will post a new "Fun Friday Photo." E-mail your photo and a suggested caption describing the photo to Visit the blog each Friday to see if your photo was chosen!

Why Pets Pull Our Heartstrings

I grew up on a dairy farm. We had cows, cows, and more cows. All Jersey. All brown. Except for a couple Black Angus we were told not to get too attached to! Cows do a lot of fun tricks or anything so I moved my affections toward the smaller creatures. We also had chickens and dogs and cats. The chickens were scary, especially after I had to pluck one once after seeing him beheaded. Yikes! The dogs were our pets, our real friends. The cats basically hung around to drink milk. They weren’t pets. They did their own thing. I probably would have told you as a kid I was a dog person. Who needed cats?

Then about a year into married life a little black cat walked into our lives, Samantha. Talk about changing our thoughts about cats! We even smuggled her into seminary housing … she was our little renegade cat. Seventeen years later I will tell you that I was always a cat person and just didn’t know it. Not that I don’t like dogs, but our cats have really been part of our family, and the kids have loved them.

Unfortunately we have had our share of pet losses too. Samantha died as mature 15-year-old of cancer. This week our young Orange Tabby, Charlie, died of an apparent heart attack 4 months after being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. The boys were so sad. I really spent a long time digging in the dry ground, thinking about what to say at our funeral service. My prayer at the end of the service went something like this:

"Dear God, we are sad today because of the loss of our dear pet, Charlie. After everything you created, you said that your creation was good. We know that you thought Charlie was good. He was such a good and faithful pet to us. We know that you knew all about Charlie because you know even when a sparrow falls from the sky. Even though it makes us sad, it reminds us of how much you love us to send your only Son to die for us. We are reminded of how precious life is. Thank You for your goodness to us even on a day like this. We love you. Amen."

Our pets are members of our family, and it does hurt when they die. Children need to be allowed to grieve and celebrate the life and memory of a pet. It does teach valuable lessons about life and death and think about the things that are most important in life. There is no one size fits all plan to talk to a child about death and loss, but you know best how to communicate in a way your child can understand. 

How have you dealt with the death of a pet in your family? What are some tips you would offer to parents in helping children deal with the loss of a pet?

Cure the Summertime Blues at the Library by Darla Brantley

Going along with our reading theme from yesterday, here are some tips from Darla Brantley on beating boredom at the library. – Jessie

Summertime blues? Head to your local library. Here are some interesting ways to cure boredom and maybe sneak in some educational opportunities.

Courtright Memorial Library  

Pick a theme. Have everyone check out books about animals. Read mysteries together. For giggles, check out only humorous books such as joke books, cartoon books, or books with silly rhymes or stories.
Read your favorite author. Re-read an old favorite or look for new releases.
Pick a letter of the alphabet and check out book titles that start with the chosen letter.
Try a non-fiction day. Check out biographies of favorite celebrities or historical figures. Check out magazines with informative articles about everything from cooking to rock climbing.
Have an information hunt using reference materials such as encyclopedias, the Internet, or old newspapers. Look up information about each family member’s birth year. Find out how you favorite snack was created. Discover how hurricanes are formed.
Check out videos. Look for favorite movie releases or documentaries about historical topics.
Read a friend’s favorite. Find out what authors are treasured by your friends. You may discover a new favorite writer.
Ask the librarian for recommendations. She will know which topics and titles are currently popular.
Read the classics. These books are timeless for a reason. If your children are younger, consider reading to them from any available abridged titles.
Check out a book of plays. Pick a production, assign roles to each family member, and “act” out the entire script at home. If you don’t have enough family members, favorite dolls, toys, or action figures can fill in!
Do not forget your church library. Be sure to look for books about your favorite biblical figures or topics that teach your family more about Jesus.

Darla Brantley lives in Winfield, Alabama where she works as a special education aide and has the summers off. She visits her city and church libraries often with her husband, son, and daughter.

Have you discovered any amazing reads lately for your kids? My daughter (3 in October) is currently obsessed with Miss Fannie’s Hat and How to Be a Baby. She loves coming home with a big stack of books from the library! – Jessie

Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. Click on photo for source.


Just Too Busy to Read? by Joanne Kraft

kids' reading nook


“She hates to read!” I complained to my girlfriend.

At first, things were fine. Meghan could color, cut, and paste like the best of them. But, when it came time to teach our daughter how to read, struggles became apparent. It was hard to believe — especially when she came from a long line of bookaholics.

Fifteen years later, this same child is getting ready to graduate a year early from college. Her major? English. This same child who cried over silent g’s eventually became our most voracious reader. Her nose constantly stuck in between the bindings of a book; her junior-high girlfriends teased her when we put her on restriction from books for a week.

So, what did we do that helped encourage her hunger for the written word? We took a radical sabbatical, a year-long break from soccer, from dancing lessons, which gave us more time to read together as a family — especially after we kicked our TV to the curb. It’s been almost three years without a television. It’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made. When the TV isn’t constantly on, the kids will actually reach for a book.

Does your family enjoy reading? Do your children spend more time with video games than with books? I’ve included a few tips to making readers out of all of your children:

  • Read in the car. When we drive our kids around, they know to bring along a book. One of our children gets carsick, so he’s off the hook — he listens to books on tape instead.
  • Family date with a book. Borders and Barnes & Noble have cafés, which meant Paul and I would grab a mocha and pull up a chair in the children’s’ section. While their dad and I read books, often they climbed into our laps with a request, “Can you read me this?”
  • Turn off the TV. Give a child the choice and they’ll choose passive entertainment every time. Turn off the TV and hand them a book. We did. As a matter of fact, we’ve been TV-free for almost three years and our kids have survived.
  • Be an example. The greatest way to instill a love of reading in your children is to let them see our love of reading first. So, when was the last time your son or daughter saw you read a book?

When our family was just too busy, we didn’t have time to read. During our twelve-month time-out, it was miraculous how much time became available for us. Reading became one of favorite family pastimes!

How do you encourage your kids to love reading?

JoanneKraft_sidebarPhoto.jpgJoanne Kraft is the author of the nonfiction book Just Too Busy: Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical. A sought-after speaker, Joanne has been published in Today’s Christian Woman, In Touch, ParentLife, Kyria, and P31 Woman Magazine. She lives with her husband Paul in the California Sierra Nevada Foothills, where they are raising their four children.




Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. Click on photo for source.

Products We Love, July 2011

Products We Love button


Every month we have a long list of products we want to share with you, but only a few can fit in the printed magazine. That’s why it’s so great we have this online space! Here are a few things we couldn’t squeeze into the July and August issues.


I Wish Daddy Was Here by Katherine DeMille was created from military wife Kat’s desire to let her daughter know it’s OK to be sad about missing a loved one. Highly praised as a great book for kids of deployed parents. will turn your old fatigues into a custom handbag or blanket. What a sweet way to show your devotion to the USA and remember a loved one who is deployed!

On the Danger Rangers Web site, kids can play games and watch videos pertaining to safety. The site also includes parent and educator guides as well as activities and coloring sheets that go along with the episodes.

coolcastcovers.jpgDoes your child have a broken arm or leg for the summer? Bummer. She can at least look cool with a removable, washable fabric cast cover. Check out the styles at Prices for arm covers (Armz!) start at $16.99 and leg covers (Legz!) start at $21.99.noahsarkfornintendods.jpgTap and Teach: The Story of Noah’s Ark : This educational game for Nintendo DS is an interactive retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark. The tap and teach format boosts the reading skills of children ages 3 to 6 as they imagine what it might have been like for Noah to build the ark and find the animals who floated safely on the water with him. 


Fun Friday Photo — July 22, 2011

Teaching our 3-year-old an important life skill. ๐Ÿ™‚

112_FunFridayPhoto_July22.jpgThanks to Jason S. for this great photo!

Photos wanted! Send us your funny, cute, or just plain fun pictures for our Fun Friday Photos. Each Friday we will post a new "Fun Friday Photo." E-mail your photo and a suggested caption describing the photo to Visit the blog each Friday to see if your photo was chosen!

The Great Commission for Moms by Helen Lee (with GIVEAWAY!)

The Great Commission, Jesus’ command to go into the world and make disciples, stands at the heart of evangelicalism โ€• yet what does this mean for stay-at-home mothers? This calling to engage the world for Christ is given to every believer, and it does not change when we become mothers. But it is also true that when children enter the picture, our lives are changed dramatically.

Not all moms are called to pick up their families and move to a needier neighborhood; not all moms are meant to lobby in front of world leaders. But a mom who chooses to say, “I am willing. And God can,” can have a powerful missional influence wherever she is.

missionalmom.jpgThere is no formula for how to become a mom who engages with the world. But here are four steps to consider if you would like to move from a posture of retreating from the world into one that addresses its needs.

  1. Place yourself where you can see, hear, and become aware of the needs around you. Read newspapers and magazines to keep current with what is happening in the world. Sign up to be a part of the One Campaign.
  2. Pray that the Holy Spirit would speak to you if there is a particular issue He wants you to address or confront. Ask specifically that the Spirit would move in your heart in a strong way so you can discern God’s leading.
  3. Probe to gain a deeper understanding of a particular issue that is calling for your attention. You can start simply by responding to the tugging on your heart by doing more research to understand the issue better.
  4. Participate with God in helping combat the issue with concrete steps of action. These actions can be as small as picking up the telephone or signing an online petition in support of legislation; they could be bigger steps of faith as you grow in your knowledge and understanding of how God wants to use you. As you begin to take concrete steps of faith, your way will become clearer regarding how God will use you to make a difference in the world.

As you adopt a missional outlook, I encourage you to keep your eyes, ears, hearts, and minds open to where and how God might want to use you. You may never relocate your family to a poor neighborhood or fly off to Africa, but God can use you in big and small ways, if you will let Him.

One way to adopt a missional outlook is to understand your home as a missional outpost โ€• a place where you nurture and raise your children for a lifetime of participating in God’s mission to the world. Your home is a base for powerful missional activity to take place: invite neighborhood kids over for lunch and pray together before the meal, sponsor a child in a foreign country, or have your kids help you pick out grocery items for your church’s food pantry.

Whether you are in a vocational setting, a school volunteer committee, at the grocery store or school music rehearsal, or a neighborhood playgroup, you have the chance to do God’s work โ€• in other words, to be missional.


helenlee.jpgHelen Lee is the author of The Missional Mom: Living with Purpose at Home and in the World, which released in January from Moody Publishers. Helen is a homeschooling mom of three and lives with her family in Chicagoland.

Would you like to win a copy of The Missional Mom? We have FIVE copies to give away! To enter, simply comment with one way you (or your wife … or someone you know!) tries to be missional in their parenting.

Winners will be picked July 27, 2011. One comment person person, please. USA only. LifeWay employees are not eligible to win.

Our Big Apple Adventure


Last week was an adventure for our family … literally! My 2-year-old … make that 3-year-old (he turned 3 last Monday and I’m still having a hard time making the switch) had the privilege of partcipating in the Big Apple Adventure at our church. It was an exhausting week but a GREAT one!

This is Jack’s third year of VBS but it’s the first year he’s made it the entire week. Being at church for 4.5 hours (or more) for five days in a row is exhausting for a baby or toddler. Who am I kidding? It’s exhausting for the adults too!! The past two years, Jack has ended up at his grandma’s house for at least one or two days of the week in an effort to recover. But this year, he was there every day and he was thrilled to be there!

I’m so thankful for all of the hard work, time, energy, and love that VBS workers pour into the kids every year … even the babies and toddlers. Jack had such a great time and made some amazing memories. I know VBS plays a large part in helping establish a strong foundation for spiritual development. I’m praying that each year Jack will look forward to this special week and truly enjoy learning more about God and Jesus.

So sing it with me now … "Bi-bi-bi, Bi-bi-bi, Big Apple Adventure." I think we’ll be singing the theme song for months to come! Jack loves it!


Have you seen the theme for VBS 2012? If not, check it out at! I can tell you right now, Jack is going to love it! It’s going to be "amazing"!!

Tell us about your VBS experience this summer … or about your favorite VBS memory as a child! We’d love to hear from you!

Internet Safety at School

How easy would it be for your children to see Internet content they’re blocked from at home at their school? Donna Sawyer tackles "School Technology Problems" in our August issue. Here are some more tips from her.

computer lab

Characteristics of a Responsible Internet Safety Program

  • A balanced approach to using online resources emphasizes guidance in showing students how to safely navigate the Web. Teachers select sites which support the curriculum and point students toward developmentally appropriate information sources, which have been evaluated and proven valuable for classroom use.
  • Teachers receive quality training in how to equip youth (and others) to safely, responsibly, and productively use technology. This training incorporates knowledge from child development research to support the development of the whole child, ensuring their academic as well as their emotional, social, and physical development.
  • Students receive in-depth training in online safety and digital citizenship before gaining access to the Web.
  • Students are acquainted with consequences for misuse of technology, which address the child’s need for direction instead of treating technology as a reward that should be taken away. For example, rather than merely removing the child’s access to technology, the school responds proactively.
  • There are dynamic community outreach activities where local businesses show parents how to set parental controls for cell phones, gaming devices, or computers at the point of sale and parents are trained to guide their children’s use of the Internet, with a focus on appropriate ways to monitor safe use of the Internet.


computer class

  • Procedures are in place for parents and students to indicate they will share responsibility for ethical and responsible use of school technology.
  • The school staff models appropriate use of technology and firmly enforces reasonable age-appropriate standards for online behavior at the beginning of the school year.
  • The school uses subscription-based social networking tools (e-mail, blogs, wikis, etc.) with no ads and a full range of protection features.

 What do you think about Internet usage in your kids’ schools?

Photos used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. Click on photos for sources.

Fresh Air Fund – Hosts Needed

THE FRESH AIR FUND, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer vacations to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Nearly 10,000 New York City children enjoy free Fresh Air Fund programs annually. In 2010, close to 5,000 children visited volunteer host families in suburbs and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada. Three thousand children also attended five Fresh Air camps on a 2,300-acre site in Fishkill, New York. The Fund’s year-round camping program serves an additional 2,000 young people each year.

The Fresh Air Fund is in need of host families for this summer. Families host a child for a week or two, allowing them to spend some time outside the city on a vacation their family could not afford.

Families are needed throughout the Northeast, from Virginia up to Maine. Would you be interested in making a difference in the life of a child? There is more info on hosting here.

Remember that God says:

"So My word that comes from My mouth
will not return to Me empty,
but it will accomplish what I please,
and will prosper in what I send it to do" (Isa. 55:11).

Allowing a child to live in your home and hear the Word of God could make a big difference in his or her life.