5 Back-To-School Tips To Get Your Kid Ready To Rock

Spiritual and emotional development builds a strong foundation for your child's education

Sadly, summer vacation is ending and our attention begins to turn from lazy afternoons in the sun to shopping for school supplies, haircuts, sport physicals or special adventures yet to be taken.  Preparing your kids for their new school year is more than yellow #2 pencils.  A new school year needs a good beginning which includes the spiritual and emotional development of your child giving the upcoming year a strong foundation.  Take a look below at a few ways to get this year off to a great start in your home.

Make the Unfamiliar Familiar.
There will be open houses, ice cream socials and orientations, but none will give you the intimate setting that your child needs to adapt to their new environment.  The week before school starts,  take a field trip to the school.  Park the car, walk in and ask to walk through the building with your child.  Walk the walk they make from the door they enter to the room they will call home.  If the teacher is there, make introductions, find their locker and have a rest at their desk.  If the door is locked, peek through the window.   Snoop around the building by finding a drinking fountain and bathroom near their room.  Scout out the library, lunch room and nurse’s office.  And before you go, have fun on the playground.

Make a Practice Run.
As you start getting back on school time and head to bed 15 minutes earlier, set the date for a mock day of school.  The night before pack the backpacks, set out the clothes, make the lunches, and do the whole bedtime routine together.  Practice getting out the door and to school on time.  Then, go treat yourself for a much needed cup of coffee and head to the park for play and picnic to enjoy one of your last free summer days.

Talk About It.
As you walk the dog to the school playground or drive down the same block as the school on the way to the store . . . Talk about it! While sorting through school supplies that can be used a second time around or creating the official homework nook . . . Talk about it! The “it” being school of course.  The start of school is exciting, but it can also raise up anxiousness over the unknowns for the year ahead.  Ask leading questions such as:  What are you looking forward to the most?  Who do you know in your new classroom?  What are you hoping to learn or improve on this year?  If your child has no interest in going back to school, focus on all that your child likes about school.  By developing a forum to express their concerns, you can help them work through any worries before the year begins.  Having this simple conversation will give your kids a confident start.

Bid Farewell to Summer.
Just before school starts plan something special for you and your kids as a way to celebrate being family.  This has become one of our favorite family traditions –  the back to school campout.  Whether it’s 24 hours or 3 days, an hour from home or far away, whether you camp or stay at the Hilton…it really doesn’t matter.  What matters is being intentional about spending time together.  Turn off the electronics, the phones and your calendar and make investments into being a family, which will carry you when life becomes harried.

Pray for Your School.
As the school year draw nears, put your anxious energy into prayer.  Just as Joshua walked around the wall of Jericho to prepare for battle, walk the grounds of your school and march around the building.  Start with praying for growth and development of your child, for their friends, and for the strength to stand with integrity.  Pray that they will have favor with God and man.  Pray by name  for the administration team, teachers, those that serve and the students.  Pray for great discernment of the knowledge they will receive and wisdom to sort through it. Let God lead your prayers over your school and kids.

The weeks leading to school starting can be a fun time for families.  Take smart steps so that everyone in the household eases into the transition as smoothly as possible while setting you all up for a good year.

Happy New School Year!
Joy

Violence to Violets

A story of healing that restores the heart and can restore a city

Most days I feel as if we are living in a modern day Gotham. On West 3rd 100 people break out in a fist fight during a funeral in a church. Montgomery County Fair Grounds shuts down an hour early on a Saturday night because those in the funnel cake line were angry when they ran out. A young girl is shot in her bedroom window by a random bullet. All these stories from the past week started with words flying, followed by fist, which led to violence. This is the nonsensical nature of hate.

The statistics for Dayton, Ohio are unnerving.

  • Murder rate per capita is higher than Chicago’s. In January 2017, studies showed that Dayton’s murder rate is 29.8 per every 100,000 people, where as Chicago’s is 28.
  • Dayton has recently risen to the Number 1 position for drug overdoses in the nation. In the past 6 months 365 people died from a drug overdose. The total estimate for my state of Ohio in 2017 is 10,000, this is more than the predicted sum of America combined.
  • Homelessness rises.
  • Human trafficking increases.
  • “No Vacancy” signs could be hung in jails and morgues.
  • In our city, nearly every home has been touched by the violence.

Every time I turn on the news, more deaths, more overdoses, more crimes are reported. All of which leads to a life being lost or a family being tarnished. This leaves me feeling as if I am living in the middle of Gotham. If only we could turn on our light beam to call Batman to come and save our city.

What is the answer? Where does our help come from? Is there good news? How can we stop this madness and turn our city around?

As these thoughts have been keeping me up at night with a broken heart. In the middle of the night I am reminded of a story of hope.

I was in Dallas for Revive Texas. One afternoon, five of us went out to do ministry together. Before heading out we prayed asking God where He wanted us to go. The secrets from heaven were whispered into our hearts and we heard words such as apartment, peace and violets. At first glance this list doesn’t look like much.  We trusted God to make sense of it and set off. We parked and walked through not just one, but two apartment complexes. On this hot afternoon they appeared empty and silent. We drove a little more and came to our third set of apartments. These old brick buildings on this hot day appeared abandoned. As we slowly drove down the lane, Liberty and I both spotted movement behind a patio brick wall. We parked, said a quick prayer and took a deep breath before taking the next step of risk in this treasure hunt.

Behind the brick wall Aaron, Liberty and I found a woman in a wheel chair who was trying to clean her patio and fix her grill all in hopes to host a family bar-b-cue. There with a broom in hand she was moving and arranging her collection of Peace Lilies. I had never seen so many peace lilies outside of a green house. Here in the midst of what appeared as a forgotten neighborhood was Minnie, the person of peace in her family and home.

In that moment, all of us had no doubt that we were exactly where God wanted us to be.

Following introductions and small-talk Liberty and I helped her by lifting and arranging her peace lilies. Aaron started on the grill, which fell apart in his hands due to the rust and years of use. When the work was completed and our hearts had become familiar with one another we began a deeper conversation.

And so in the middle of this apartment complex, surrounded by peace lilies I asked Minnie the oddest question “does violets mean anything to you.” In her wheel chair, she placed her hand on her heart and she gasped, “Yes! Tears welled up in her eyes. I hate violence. It breaks my heart and it has broken my family.”

Violets to violence.
In prayer God gave the word violets to Liberty, but when spoken aloud Minnie heard the word “violence.” I never would of voiced the word “violence” to a stranger. God new the connection that this word would bring to Minnie and our limitations in delivering such a harsh word. Listening and obeying the nudges of the Holy Spirit changed the moment from serving our neighbor out of our own might to healing her heart out His might. This word changed the atmosphere. In that moment of taking the risk to speak it out and her heart connection with it moved us into a place of such intimacy that for a moment we were completely unaware that the world was spinning around us.

We asked if we could pray with her. So she grabbed our hands and together we prayed for the scars that violence had left on her family and in her city.

I believe in a big God who cares deeply about our every need. I asked Minnie about what confined her to her wheelchair. Simply, she said “arthritis.” I asked her where does it hurt the most, “my lower back” she replied. We asked if we could pray to have God to bring healing in her back. She grabbed my hand, placing it to her back. There with my hand on the location of her deepest pain, I stood with my friends and we commanded the pain to leave her back in the name of Jesus. We praised God for this moment that He orchestrated for His glory.

As we prayed, the Holy Spirit touched Minnie. Tears fell down her cheeks and a song rose in her heart. Together, we worshipped a good God who was breaking every chain of resistance and pain in her back. Her patio was filled with music as Minnie started to lead us in singing “break every chain.” Minnie stood before we even said “Amen.” She took Aaron’s hands, stood up and started to dance for the first time in years. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she declared over and over “Thank You God for healing me.”

As we worshipped together celebrating a good God who hears our cries, two more of our friends showed up and quietly unpacking their box and putting together a new grill for Minnie.

She was overflowing with joy on how God had met her that day. She danced into her apartment, taking Liberty and I with her to meet her mother who was 100 years old and her daughter. There with three generations of women we prayed, thanking God for this moment of His delight.

Before we left Minnie, she looked around at each of us…her mother, her daughter, and the 5 of us and said this “pretty good family.”

Violence to violets.
In a world where we are surrounded by violence, we often want to hide behind a locked door and give up on peace. We forget that God has given us the gift of Holy Spirit which dwells with us so that we can be distributers of peace.

The truth is this, where there is violence, The Father can grow violets. Where there is violence, healing can come. As we worship, He will bring healing to our city. God can break every chain of pain, addiction, poverty, regret or confusion which plagues the heart. In our brokenness, in our pain, in our differences we can live as a “pretty good family.”

There is Good News. He is the light for our city. He is bringing healing. He is our hope.

Joy

 

Hip Hip Hooray! Celebrate the 4th Today

How to create a patriotic banner

Hip Hip Hooray!  Create A Banner Today.

Picnics, poolside and all things that pop, boom or whistle are just a few of my favorite things that I love about the 4th of July.  My family looks forward to this mid-summer celebration for months.  Actually, in my house it marks the beginning of our summer rest when school is finally in the dust, camps are completed and we have settled down to enjoy the sunshine.

We don’t have a traditional yearly celebration besides it always being fun.  Our celebrations are determined by the season of life we are in the midst of.  Some years the celebration has been friends in the backyard with a walk to our community firework display.  Other years it is a super-sized fun family reunion.  There have been years when we have been camping and from a mountain top we viewed several fire work displays from the hidden valleys below.  And then, there are years where it is just our family, a picnic spread and good laughter.  Funny, how they are all my favorite.

This year, to get us in the mood and build the anticipation for celebration, my daughter and I found a simple picture on Pinterest and dreamed into what could be for our own house.  After gathering the supplies, spending a few dollars,  it took about an hour to make this simple patriotic decoration that makes a big impact.

I made enough banners so that I have Hip Hip Hooray on my mantle, Hooray in a tree in my garden, flags by my front door, gift for the hostess for our July 4th plans and a pixie flag adorning my childhood keepsake…and my daughter made one for her dorm room.   A little bit a white, a red geranium and some denim and we are set for a patriotic celebration.

Enjoy your July 4th Festivities by keeping things easy and breezy!

Supplies Needed for Hip Hip Hooray Banner:

  • 1/2 yard red & white ticking fabric (length determined by how many you want to make)
  • Old pair of jeans
  • Twine or rope (embroidery thread for pixie banner)
  • White craft paint
  • Star stamp, star created cut into the half of a potato, or create a stencil and paint it on.
  • Scissors
  • Choose one:  fabric glue, hot glue gun, thread & needle or sewing machine
  • Iron
  • Straight pins & a safety pin

HOORAY!  Let’s Create:

1.  Cut:   the fabric in rectangles that are 4 x 9 inches,  Cut a  3 inch triangle in the bottom of one side of the square.  Save the triangle for a pixie size banner.  Cut out 4  – 2inch squares of denim, my daughter did the cutting and choose to go “free-style” on me creating a fun whimsical looking banner.  Cut 5 yards of rope for the HIP HIP HOORAY banner.

 

2.  Press:  the fabric flat.

3.  To make the 4 flags:  Position the denim square down 2 inches from the straight edge, while matching edges of denim and red & white ticking on the right side.  Pin into place & secure with glue or sewing.

4.  Create the Casing:  fold over 1 inch on the opposite edge of the triangle cut.  Press into place.  Glue, hand stitch or sew the fold in place.  I personally chose to sew this banner, only because my machine was set up.  To keep things quick and easy, I often hand stitch or hot glue my banner.  Anything is good.

5.  Paint:  Using the white craft paint, stamp the star on the 4 flags.  Continue creating, by hand lettering HIP HIP HOORAY

6.  Thread twine or rope in the casing. Knot the ends

7.  Hang and Celebrate!

Pixi Banner:  Follow the procedure for HIP HIP HOORAY banner with the small triangles, with the exception of using embroidery thread for the roping. 

I would love to see and hear stories of your own July 4th creations.  Drop me a line.

Happy 4th!
Joy

Shifting your thoughts to believe “I Am Enough!”

Your Abundance--Is More Than Enough

Limitations.  I live with that on a daily basis.  I am always aware of the “not enough” syndrome that can plague my heart and mind.  Not enough money, not enough time, not enough strength, not enough knowledge, not enough support, not enough love, not enough joy, not enough fun, not enough vacation, not enough youthfulness, not enough sleep, not enough …. oh, how this list could go on and on and on.

I recently read these words from my devotional, penned by Sarah Young.

“I can meet everyone of your needs without draining My resources at all.”

The following are the notes from journal.  I pray the words will move you into a greater level of understanding of how the Father loves you.  His love is so abundant.

The abundance of your Kingdom.
The abundance of your storehouses.
The abundance of your heart.
It has no limitations.
More than sleep, vacation or stillness; I desire peace which you give.
More than do-overs; I desire grace which you provide.
More than the stupid non-sense lies in my head of who I am; I desire love which is the truth that sustains my every breath.
More than a day filled with regret, should-of’s or could of’s; I desire forgiveness which you have given.
More than rejection, doubts and holding on to my own disappointments; I desire Acceptance which you give as I call to you.
More than focusing on what I don’t have in my physical or earthly needs;  I desire provision which you bestow.
The truth is this.   You make me enough.
Why?  Because you love me that much and call me your own.
Yes, I live in a cycle of claiming not enough, the world declares over me “I’m not enough” but you say …
“ENOUGH! Stop this crazy cycle of insanity.
Why do you care about what the world says?
Why do you listen to the lies in your head?
Why do you focus on what you do not have?
Do you not know, have you not heard – witnessed – experienced that I AM always enough.”
Yes, Father.
I forget that you are enough.  I let the small worries of the day eat my memory of your goodness away.  I breath life into the bigger worries of the day and allow that to consume me.  I forget what I have heard – witnessed – experienced.  I forget how you love me.  I forget that You in those moments when I feel the limitations of life creeping in on me, that in those limitations is when You make me whole.   And in that realization of my need You use that moment to teach, guide, to give me knowledge and fill me with wisdom or to provide abundantly.
Forgive me for my weak thinking.
Forgive me for letting my hope seep out of me.

In Exodus 16:12-36 the Israelites were instructed to take an omer of Manna.  God provided the provision of food, that which sustains and brings nourishment for the body.  He provided daily, enough.  It was not to be held on to from day to day.  He was teaching the Israelites to trust Him in this day, in their essential needs.  It is the same for us.  He provides for this day and ask us to allow tomorrow to take care of itself.

Matthew 6:25-34  Jesus ask us “not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Why do I forget this.  For the Father knows my needs and as I seek His Kingdom He will provide.  Jesus said, “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry …” Matthew 6:33.

I love that prior to Jesus message about worry in Luke 12 he tells the parable of the Rich Fool who stored away to save for a rainy day provision, putting his trust in Himself and not God to provide.  Our daily provision of need, if it is emotional or physical it comes out of being rich towards God (Luke 12:21)  I love how Brian Simmons writes

“Where you deposit your treasure, that is where you thoughts will turn to — and your heart will long to be there also.” —Luke 12:34

Where are your thoughts today?  Take them captive and receive the abundance of enough that the Father has for you.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  — 2 Corinthians 10:5

Dear Father,
Today, the lies in my head say “not enough.”  Remove those lies and speak Truth.
Today, your voice shouts out “ENOUGH! For I AM.”
Today, I look forward in what you are doing around me and through me.
Today, I declare that because of You… I AM ENOUGH.
Amen.

Have a blessed day!

Joy

Would love to hear from you or share this post with a friend.  Follow the links below.

As I write today, I am sharing the lyrics and song that I my heart is meditating on A Little Longer by Jen Johnson. As you meditate on the words of scripture, allow the echo of the Fathers Love to enter cell of your being.

Resurrecting the Easter Basket

Writing God's Love into Your Child's Heart

I love creating the perfect Easter basket for my children.  It fits right in to who I am and how I love, I give gifts.  Easter baskets are an excuse to package up tiny treasures and sweet treats nestled in pastel paper grass.  The gift of the Easter basket is an expression of the generous abundant love we have for our children.  It can also be an expression of the Father’s heart for us.

The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  1 Timothy 1:14

The timing — keep the main thing the main thing.

In our home the traditional timing of the visit by the Easter Bunny comes while we are in church.  We choose to do it this way to keep our Sunday morning focused on the main thing, the Celebration of the Resurrection.  As we would leave the church, anticipation begins as we travel home.  Racing the kids in the house, Dad would grab the baskets and quickly hide them outside while the children gathered in the kitchen waiting for the hunt.

The gift remembered — knowing who I am & who loves me.

Don’t over spiritualize the basket. Honestly, kids don’t get the symbolism and as they get older they really don’t care.  Just add something that gives a powerful message of God’s love for them. This year, add into their Easter Basket a handwritten note hidden in an egg detailing how unique and special they are to God and because of that, Jesus died for them. Use their basket as a way to speak the Father’s identity into who they are, how much they are loved and the bigger purpose that God intends for them.

Tips for writing a love letter to your child from a Father who even loves them more than you.

  • Choose a plastic egg.
  • A small piece of stationary.
  • Choose a scripture verse that is important to you.  I often go to www.BibleGateway.com, type in a word in their search bar and find the verse that meets my heart and situation.
  • Write the verse on the stationary.
  • Describe what the verse means for your child and what your child means to God.
  • Think about how God created your child, how he loves them, how he sees them and what dreams He placed into their heart.  Write this your child’s note.
  • Don’t sign your name.  This note is really a note from our Father in heaven.  Just end with the simple powerful phrase:
I love you!

At the end of the day when all that is left is a pile of wrappers and a basket full of treasures that will be forgotten in a few days. What will be remembered about their Easter Basket?  Let it be the gift of words that define the Fathers Love for them.

Just think how beautiful a basket of collected eggs over the years, each filled with a tiny letter written to your child of how great the Father’s love is for them.  This could become a treasured Easter tradition.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:3

Happy Easter!
Joy

Would love to hear from you.
Please leave a comment on how you will speak identity into your child on Easter.