Behind the Blue Swing

There’s a worn patch of grass behind the blue swing.

I stand there, pushing and pushing, until my arms ache. Sometimes she giggles or sings or chats with me. Sometimes she calls “higher, higher!” and I do my best to oblige, despite the fact that she is much bigger than she was last year, and the year before that. Sometimes she sits quietly, lulled by the peaceful rhythm, soaking in the sun that filters through the branches above us.

I watch her.

The way her little hands grasp the rope. The soft wisps of hair blowing against her cheeks. Long eyelashes behind oversized sunglasses that rest on that sweet nose I love to kiss.

My eyes wander to the woods and brush behind our yard.

Green tips the ends of the branches, spring is finally coming. A tiny woodpecker circles the wide trunk of a tree, searching for the perfect spot to find a snack. A white butterfly flutters here, a bumble bee zips there. Deer, barely visible unless they move, tip toe along trampled paths, just beyond the dog’s reach. A hawk glides and lands in a tall tree, folding his wings and peering out regally from his high perch.

I want to capture the moment… the squeak of the swing, the sway of the branch, the song of the birds our only accompaniment. It’s peaceful, my thoughts are quiet, and I can enjoy just being together.

In a world full of busyness, distractions, to do lists, and noise, I hope I never forget to stop and savor the precious time I share with my little girl.

I am so thankful for her, and for the simple joy I find… behind the blue swing.

 

PS It’s been a long time! Hoping to be back with some updates soon and wishing everyone a very wonderful Easter weekend. If you’re interested, here are a few of my Easter posts from last year: While We Were, Bought with the Precious Blood, and Empty.

The Courage to Wait

Natalie is on a Cinderella kick right now.

We do a lot of fairy godmother magic together… turning invisible pumpkins into equally invisible carriages and making imaginary glass slippers appear on our feet. She sweeps her wand of pink and blue ribbons through the air and creates a palace in our family room so we can dance at the ball together.

It’s sweet and special and so much fun for me, the girl who always loved imaginary play more than anything else.

Yesterday I showed her some scenes from Disney’s live action version of Cinderella. I’ve watched it myself several times before and always enjoyed it, but as I saw it again something stuck with me in a way that wouldn’t let go.

The theme of courage stood out to me. The courage to persevere through trials and the courage to wait. A biblical truth wrapped in a fairy tale story.

It made me think of Joseph… sold into slavery by his own brothers, falsely accused and thrown into prison, forgotten and wronged. And yet, after all of that, he was raised up to be second only to Pharoah in the land of Egypt.

But what if we didn’t know the ending?

What would we think, in the midst of Joseph’s troubles, if we didn’t know that he would later tell his brothers,“Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”(Genesis 45:5)?

How would we feel, as Cinderella is cruelly mistreated, if we didn’t know her story would end in “happily ever after”?

We all have Cinderella and Joseph moments don’t we?

No, I’m not saying we all have evil stepmothers who treat us like servants, or brothers who sell us to slave traders… but we all have trials in our life. Sufferings that we can’t make sense of. Unanswered questions. Struggles that seem unfair.

And we don’t know the ending.

That’s the hardest part. That’s what takes courage. Courage to persevere and courage to wait, not for a fairy godmother’s magic, but for a very real God who has a very real plan for our lives.

Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Waiting isn’t easy for me. I like plans and clear directions and paths to follow. But the ending isn’t for me to know and I find comfort in the truth that God will never leave me (Deut 31:6), that He has overcome the world (John 16:33), and that the trials themselves serve to grow me in perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-5).

So may we have the courage to wait, even when the ending of our story is unknown.

wait for the Lord

 

 

Summer Challenge: Daniel in the Lions Den

Wow, it’s the last week of the Summer Challenge already?! I hope you and your family have enjoyed coming along with us. Thanks so much for being part of this!

Week 8: Daniel in the Lions Den

Read: Daniel 6

Talk it Through:

Prayer is very important. Each of us should spend time every day praying – it’s our way of talking to God!

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t pray or follow God. Stand up for Him, He will be with you.

Try This: 

Make a lion puppet with prayer reminders on the handle. You will need: popsicle sticks, cupcake liners, crayons, tape, marker.

The cupcake liner will the the head of your lion. Start by flattening it on the table and letting the kids color it to look like a lion’s face and mane.

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Next, tape the liner to the top of your popsicle stick. I used 2 liners to give it a little more texture and thickness.

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As a finishing touch, write a reminder of something you want to be praying for on the stick. It’s best to get your little one involved here – ask them about something they want to pray for!

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Thanks again for joining us through the Summer Challenge! Remember the words of Jesus, “let the little children come to Me”… may it be true!

 

Summer Challenge: Fiery Furnace

Week 7: Fiery Furnace

Read: Daniel 3

Talk it Through: 

Sometimes following God and standing up for what we believe means standing alone when everyone else is doing something different. But we are never really alone because God is always with us.

We serve a powerful God! He is the only one who deserves our worship.

Try This:

Campfire Night: As summer is winding down the nights are getting a bit cooler (at least around here!). If you have a spot that allows for it, have a campfire together as a family. you could even read the account of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego as you sit fireside!

Hand Print Fire Craft: “Build” a fire using your little one’s hands.

Natalie is a big fan of painting lately so we did ours with paint. Messy but fun!

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I drew in some “logs” at the bottom and added a reminder from our lesson for the week at the top…

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If you want to avoid the mess of paint, another option is to trace your little one’s hand and cut out several of them. You could use yellow paper or color them. Then glue or tape them together on another blank page in a cluster to look like the flames of a fire.

Summer Challenge: Jonah and the Great Fish

I have to share this story because it melted my heart today and reminded me of why I wanted to try this summer challenge in the first place…

Before her nap today Natalie picked out the books she wanted to read. A couple picture books were named first, then she said, “and how about some Bible stories?”

She went on to request the “ocean one” (parting the Red Sea) so we started there. We read for a while, her face lighting up when we got to Joshua and the battle of Jericho.

The lessons are sticking with her… not only because we’re reading them but also because we talk about them and reinforce them with activities.

I am so thankful for these opportunities to read and talk about the Word with her! I hope this challenge has provided some great opportunities for your family as well.

Week 6: Jonah and the Great Fish

Read: Jonah 1-2

Talk it Through:

It is important that we obey God. When we do not obey, God is disappointed, but He still loves us and forgives us when we ask Him to.

God listens when we pray.

Try This:

Make your own “great fish” with a mouth that opens wide! You can use the printable version with a pre-drawn fish (included below) or draw your own. You’ll need paper and something to draw/color with.

If you use the printed version, simply follow these steps to fold it. If you’re drawing your own fish, you should still follow these folding steps, but I suggest drawing the fish at the end to make sure it fits correctly scale when open and closed.

Holding the paper vertical, fold it in half so that the fish is inside.

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With the page still folded shut, make a second fold on the bottom half.

Now you should have a small close-mouthed fish on the front, but when you open the page again…

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… watch out for that great big mouth!

The drawing of the fish/folding of the page is a grown-up job, but once completed your kiddos can decorate and color the fish as they would like and have fun opening and closing his mouth.

For the printable fish click here: Fish Craft

Summer Challenge: David and Goliath

We returned home yesterday from a family vacation to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. So much fun!

During the trip we even enlisted the whole family to march around inside the cabin for the Joshua at Jericho summer challenge last week… Natalie got a kick out of that! Hope your family is enjoying this too.

Week 5: David and Goliath

Read: 1 Samuel 17:1-50

Talk it Through:

David trusted God and stood up for God and His people when Goliath was challenging them. Sometimes we will be in situations where someone challenges our faith or even makes fun of what we believe. We need to stand strong in our faith.

God uses us just as we are. David didn’t need fancy armor or weapons, instead he fought with a slingshot knowing God was on his side. God is on your side too!

Try This:

Goliath Chalk Sketch: Want to get an idea of how big Goliath might have been? There are differing opinions on this, but if you follow the “six cubits and one span” that puts Goliath at about 9 feet 6 inches tall!

Grab some chalk and a ruler or tape measure and head outside, then draw a line that measures 9 feet 6 inches. Next to this you can measure or even trace the members of your family to see how big he was compared to you!

Painted Pebbles: David picked 5 stones from the brook to carry with him into battle. Collect some small stones and let your kids paint them (or color with permanent markers) in whatever designs they like. You can even write some reminders from scripture on them, such as “the battle is the Lord’s” (v. 47).

 

 

 

Summer Challenge: Joshua at Jericho

Already at the halfway point! How’s it going? I hope you’ve had some good family moments together sharing in the Word and having some fun too.

Week 4: Joshua at Jericho

Read: Joshua 6

Talk it Through:

Joshua and the Israelites followed God’s instructions in the battle. They were obedient even though the idea of marching around a city probably seem like a strange way to fight! It is important that we obey God and have faith that He will follow through.

Similarly to last week (Moses and the Red Sea) this shows us again how God provides and takes care of His people. He keeps His promises!

Try This:

Jericho Blocks: Build a wall or tower (or whatever creative type of structure your kids like!) out of blocks and see how high and strong you can make it before it falls down.

Jericho March: Reenact the Battle of Jericho with a march of your own!

You will need: paper towel or toilet paper rolls, crayons/markers, other decorative options (like stickers) if desired.

Before your begin your march, you’ll need to make some “trumpets” that you can blow on the 7th round. Let your kids decorate paper towel or toilet paper rolls however they would like.

Pick a spot for your march. Depending on your space, your kids age (and energy level!), weather, etc. this could be outside (such as around a big tree in your yard or even around the house) or inside.

Remind your kids of the instructions God gave – 6 times around in silence, but on the 7th time you will blow your trumpets and shout. Then…. forward march! For added drama, fall to the ground after the 7th time around.

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Summer Challenge: Moses Parts the Red Sea

Thanks to everyone who has joined us so far! Hope you’ve been enjoying it! Here’s week 3…

Week 3: Moses Parts the Red Sea

Read: Exodus 14

Talk it Through:

What do you think it must have looked like to see the sea parted? How do you think you would feel if you were there with the Israelites?

Sometimes we experience things in life that seem hard or even impossible and sometimes we feel afraid. But God is always with us and He will make a way for us. The Lord will fight for you! (vs. 14)  God takes care of His children.

Try This:

Edible Red Sea: Make a tasty treat together and decorate it to remind you of the miracle God did when He parted the Red Sea.

Our choice was Rice Krispie treats with blue frosting, but you could make cookies, cupcakes, brownies, etc. For a non-baking alternative you could use blue jello.

You will need: ingredients for your treat, blue frosting

Bake your treat of choice. If your little helper is like mine and loves to bake, enlist her help!

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Decorate your treat with blue frosting. Put a little frosting on both sides to look like the water but leave a strip clear in the middle to represent the dry land that the Israelites walked through.

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Then eat up! Yum!

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PS As a heads up, one of the activities next week will use empty paper towel or toilet paper rolls, so if you end up with any of those in the coming days, hang onto them!

Summer Challenge: Noah and the Ark

Welcome to week 2 of the Family Summer Bible Challenge. Thanks for joining us, again or for the first time!

Week 2: Noah and the Ark

Read: Genesis 6:12 – 9:17 (This is a very long one! If you want to read a shorter passage, I recommend chapter 7 which focuses on the flood itself, however this leaves out the reason for the flood and God’s promise after the flood)

Talk it Through:

Discuss why God sent the flood (because of the evil and wickedness of people) and why He saved Noah and his family (because He was righteous). This is a great opportunity to also talk about what God did later in history to save all mankind from our sins by offering His son Jesus to pay the penalty in our place.

Talk about God’s promise in sending the rainbow. Emphasize that God always keeps His promises!

Try This:

A Trip to the Zoo: Take an outing to the zoo (or a petting zoo, farm, even a pet store if a zoo trip isn’t feasible). Talk about all the kinds of animals that Noah brought on the ark and try to imagine what it might have been like! What else would he have needed to bring to take care of them?

How Big Was the Ark: So often we see picture books and kids toys about the ark that the picture we have in our minds, especially for little ones, is of a small cartoon-ish boat with a giraffe sticking it’s neck out the window. But the ark was actually about 510 ft long!

Share the following comparisons to help put this size into perspective, then see if you can make comparisons of your own. Find something familiar to your kids (like your car) and do some math to figure out how many of them you could line up to equal the Ark.

  • It would take almost one and a half football fields to equal the Ark’s length
  • Three NASA space shuttles laying nose to tail could fit on the Ark’s deck
  • To float the Ark in an Olympic size swimming pool (good for the upcoming Olympics this year!), you’d need to line up three of those large pools in a row

The size comparisons were taken from Putting the Ark Into Perspective, by Answers in Genesis. You may also want to check out a cool diagram on Thinking Outside the Box (also by Answers in Genesis) which shows the Ark next to some famous ships like the Titanic.

If you have access to a wide open space (sports fields at a school work well for this) and some measuring tape, you can take this a step further and measure out the actual length of the ark with your kids. I did this once as a kid and it was really amazing to see!

Create a Haven

Linking up today for Five Minute Friday. The word is “create” and the timer is set for 5 minutes… ready, set, go…

We watched the news last night. Horrified at the tragedy that happened in France. Horrified at the growing death count and the thought of such evil and loss of life.

I took Natalie outside after dinner. We found a feather on the ground and started to talk again about God’s creation as that has been the focus of our Summer Challenge this week. We talked about the day God created birds and fish… the days He made trees and flowers and the moon and people.

It was simple and beautiful. Still warm from the setting sun, but with the moon visible in the clear sky. We colored with chalk on the driveway and kicked a ball through the dry grass.

I think of the sorrow and the evil in this world and of my innocent little girl. I know that as she grows she will come to see and understand that this world isn’t always beautiful and happy and safe.

I wish it wasn’t that way.

But we will create a home for her that is a haven within this world. A home full of love and honesty. A home where you can be yourself, a safe place to know you will always be loved exactly as you are. A place to learn about the God who created the birds and created us. The One who holds us all in His hands, and who continues to provide and care for us always.

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PS I smiled at seeing the word “create” today as it does match so well with our theme for this week in the Family Summer Bible Challenge. We’re studying and doing activities around Creation. I’d love to invite you to join us if you haven’t already!