Perfect Gift: Express Your Hopes for a Child’s Future
Are you looking for a way to shower a newborn baby or a recent graduate with words of hope for their future? This beautifully illustrated children’s book is one to read again and again. The inside cover has plenty of space to have friends and family write well wishes at a shower, birthday party or graduation reception. Children will feel both familial love and the love of their creator when this book is read to them. It is the perfect book to snuggle with a child or grandchild to communicate to them how much you love them. This book is written and illustrated from a first world, upper-middle class perspective. I look forward to reading a sequel in the future highlighting the hopes and dreams that mothers from harder situations have for their children.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for this honest review. - Michelle K.
That's the Book: 1st Peter
When I was pregnant with my first daughter my mama gave me some great advice about labor and delivery. She said not to get wrapped up in other people’s horror stories and to face my labor remembering everyone is different. She said to try and remember the pain had a purpose and wouldn't last forever. She was right. The perspective helped. Rather than focusing on what was difficult I tried to remind myself the labor was bringing great joy.
Pain is always easier to bear when we know the outcome is a good one. Peter, the author of this little book knew something about enduring pain and then seeing the joy afterwards. He was present during Jesus' ministry and death and was one of the first to see the truth of the empty tomb. So the book of 1st Peter gives the same advice as my mama. Know your suffering is not permanent. Joy comes. It’s for great purpose.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1st Peter 1: 3-9
That was a long verse wasn't it.
I catch myself skipping over large quotes or excepts of Bible in other people's writing. I have to remind myself to slow down and read the words and absorb the truth of what God is saying. I think the devil loves it when we skip the scripture.
My words don't matter.
So go ahead and go back and read (or reread) that section of 1st Peter. It really sums up the whole book. Suffering causes you to grow, it burns out what is false, it makes the most important things clear, and suffering well draws people in.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 9 6-11
We don’t face much persecution here although our family around the world certainly does. And hardships certainly hit everyone. Cancer. Divorce. Financial loss. But what 1 Peter says is that God will carry us through those hardships. That these sufferings strip away what is lesser and reveals what is most important; Eternity. Salvation. Heaven.
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1st Peter 2: 11-12
Have you ever been around someone who was over reacting to a minor inconvenience? It’s awkward and unpleasant. Usually makes me wonder what happened in their past to trigger a harsh response.
But have you ever been around someone with a peace and joy in the middle of difficult situations?
It draws me in.
I want to know where their strength comes from.
Where their resiliency is stored.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect... 1st Peter 3: 15b
Do you see what Peter is saying? Your reaction to what hardship shows up has an eternal impact on you and those around you. Your pain is not wasted. It's not pointless. The joy is coming.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1st Peter 4:12-13
And this is the bit of the story Peter is preaching. Heaven is a guarantee. Bring people with you. Suffer well.
I was struggling with the book of 1st Peter. I usually try to read it myself first and reflect, pray, think and write. Nuthin. So I cheated and watched The Bible Project's walk through. Then I started again. Totally helped. May I recommend you watch these?
Sharing Stories Making Memories is a book which offers both a great way to connect with a grandchild and a systematic method for recording thoughts, feelings, and stories from each. While there are many journals which promote documenting a person's history, this book provides a great vehicle for a dialogue between two generations.
For my own future reference, I've personally found it meaningful to record the child's age, the date, and the event which precipitated the entries in the margin of the book. The blank pages allow for even more creative, customized Questions and Answers. Filling out these pages together with my grandchild will soon become yet another treasured tradition. This journal is recommended.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for this honest review.
What a great perspective. Some days my to do lists from #quirkyfaith and #thescrambleforthekids are burdomsome. Oppressively long. And when ministries change or partners quit it’s hard to keep on. BUT if the job is from God....which is a big if....and an important question... but if you know your task is something God has commissioned you with then it’s in His mercy and it’s a gift and THEREFORE a privilege, joy, honor and life giving to continue. Get the perspective right and the heart follows.
JUGGLING IT ALL
I've wanted to share what I've learned and experienced as a parent and being on my own.
Here I am today with a 13 and 15 year old.
Raising kids is hard, raising teens is even harder and doing it on your own feels impossible at times. As a single parent you have double the responsibility. Working a full time job, the bills, ,the housework, the grocery shopping, running all the errands. Getting the kids to church. Making sure things get done and fixed.
I've always felt overwhelmed by all I have to do and that if I cant do it all I am less of a person and even less of a parent.
A really good friend of mine made a comment to me recently that has stuck with me and has changed my way of thinking. She is married, working and raising two children. She gives a lot of her time to others and always seems to have everything together. I often think I wish I had it all together like she does. She recently confessed that she didn't get something done that she does every Spring. She told me life got busy and Spring just kinda passed by. She started her garden late.
We were talking about this and she said "You know nobody can do it all and some things just have to give."
I thought about what she said and thought, "Wow", maybe I'm not doing so bad after all, I mean if this person who I look up cant do it all then why do I need to keep torturing myself?
If she can admit she cant do it all then why can't I?
I'm also trying to remind myself why I do what I do. I ask myself if I'm doing the right things by my kids as a parent. I try and teach kindness and patience but I often find I'm losing control and doing everything wrong. I tell myself I'm failing and that I stink as a parent. After all I know nothing about parenting and didn't learn much from my own parents.
Although these thoughts go through my head I remind myself that my kids have attended church since they were born. This was something I promised myself and God I would do. I kept that promise to myself and to God. I couldn't give them everything I've wanted for them, but hopefully the seed was planted to love and follow Christ.
My hope is that they continue to follow Christ and raise their children to follow the Lord.
I have a few friends who are single mothers and it helps to have this support and not feel so alone. We face a lot of the same challenges. Don't get me wrong I know parenting is hard for people who have both parents supporting their kids. I think one of the bigger challenges is that you have no backup to help you parent in the home. Nobody to talk through the challenges with your children. You're left alone to make decisions and you just hope and pray they are the right ones.
In the end I have to remind myself that God is ultimately in control even when things feel out of control.
Why was I chosen to raise my kids this way? I'm not sure I will ever know or understand but what I do know is that as long as I hold onto him even when things suck I will be ok. Is it going to get easier? Someday I hope so. I am also reminded that we don't always get what we want or think we deserve. It can be emotionally discouraging to watch others have the things you dreamt of. Thses things are out of my control. The thing I can do is raise them in the church and hope and pray it stays with them.
There are two things I hope people take away from this whether you are a single parent or not.
1. You don't have to do it all. Do what you can and dont wear yourself out trying to get everything done. Take care of the important stuff like getting your kids to church. Also take care of yourself!
2. I am reminded of this verse often and it is part of the reason I continue to attend church.
"Start children off in the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it."
So my words to other parents is even if your struggling as a parent and your kids are making life a challenge, continue to attend church. Plant the seed.
Over the years of attending the church I have seen people leave and then 10 years later they come back with their own children. Again I say..."Start children off in the way they should go and when they are old they will not turn from it."
This is my hope and prayer for you, your children, my children and myself.
That's The Book: James
When people ask me for a life verse I have a hard time responding. I believe so much in the whole grand story of the Bible that I don’t love to take only one verse as the most important. And there are SO MANY I love. But if pressed - the book which most often challenges me where I struggle and holds me to growth is the book of James.
The book of James is a letter to believers from James, the brother of Jesus. Imagine those two boys growing up. Interesting family dinners. The gospels indicate that Jesus’ family was not in support of his early ministry and had even come to try and bring him home. (see Matthew 12). Our pastor says the only thing that would make a skeptical brother a devoted disciple is the resurrection. I love the humble language of this brother in reference to his sibling. Lord and Savior. Yes - Jesus is our best friend and closest counselor. But he is also Creator, Judge, Lord and Savior. And that weight is part of the reason James calls his readers to act seriously on their faith. Nike's slogan could sum up the book of James. Just Do It.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and preservers, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1: 22-25
My daughter had the flu last week during VBS. She missed the first night and bawled her eyes out. She was symptom free for over 24 hours so she went for the second night and only made it through half the night. Seriously bad flu. But if she learned her church family runs to the rescue and we can talk about hard messy things then I’d still call VBS a win. I felt fine during VBS but woke up Saturday morning and promptly moved into the bathroom. In my fever and bathroom obsessed brain I keep thinking about the bathroom mirror. And those lovely and challenging verses in James.
These ones get me too.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but decides his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure an undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1: 26-27
My mouth can get me in trouble. James knows this.
I remember one time. I was going into the bank to do a wire transfer from our fundraising account to our friends in Rwanda. The funds were to be used to pay school fees so the kids could attend. Time was sensitive. I squish non profit volunteer work into my regular life. Like most people its too full. So I was harassed. Hit the bank and stood in line. Turned out the branch manager who had to do the international wire transfers was out of the office. If you wire money to Africa and you mess it up you don’t get the funds back. SO I crabbed at the bank teller. Scowled. Said something slightly snarky. I don’t remember the words but I do remember the tellers’ face.
There I showed her!
Drove off to the other branch and sent our hard earned funds off to the needy children overseas. Seriously crushing the helping widows and orphans bit of the Bible!
And then it hit me.
I had cranked and verbally harassed a totally innocent bank teller – while processing Jesus’ money – on an account with my church’s name on it.
I’m a total jerk.
The tongue is a nasty beast.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire. And the tongue is a fire a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. Fore ever kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3: 6-8
I hauled my unwilling body back to the first branch, hung my head and apologized.
Honesty about my flaws and forcing myself to apologize is one of the best ways to teach my heart to grow. James knows this too.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one and another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5: 13-16
When I got a message at VBS that my child needed me - I dropped everything and when and found her. I thanked the volunteers who had come to our help. I loved my kid, stepped into the mess, cleaned her up. Threw out the clothes. We didn't need that reminder.
This is the exact same thing Jesus does for us.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you .Cleans your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4: 7-8
When we take the faith seriously and draw near to God - He draws near to us. Cleans up the mess. Throws out the clothes. We are a new creation and if we are reminded of our sin and shame its not Jesus doing the talking.
The flu is no fun. Neither Is apologizing. But both memories moved my soul. And I'm better for it.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing. James 1:2-4
And perhaps that’s the point of James. James wants believers to be obedient to Jesus' teachings. DO what it says. Embrace the actions of the faith. Even in the mess of life.
Here is your link to The Bible Project's talk about the book of James. Watch it. Really - they know their stuff.
I'm choosing this week to listen to the voices that tell me to embrace joy. Those that tell me I'm a child of the Creator and I'm able to stand in places where pain is and make a difference. I'm not listening to the not good enough, too hard, too much crowd. Nope. Need some encouragement this week? Try this one. Turn it up.
Stand in your Love by Josh Baldwin. My fear doesn't stand a chance when I'm standing in your love. SO GOOD.
That's the Book: Hebrews
A couple of days ago I took a walk, grabbed my gear and parked myself at a favorite view. I sat and painted and pondered Hebrews. I've noticed some parallel lines.
The book of Hebrews is a visual book. It draws pictures of how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection mirror the heavenly reality. Hebrews spends a lot of time explaining how the temple, priesthood and sacrifices on earth are shadow copies of the more real ones in heaven. The things on Earth, while temporary, are important because they mirror the permanent ones. The forms help us understand our situation and our need for salvation. Hebrews then details how Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the sacrificial system which gives him the authority and position to act as high priest for our relationship with the Father.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain that is his body, and since we have a great priest over the houses of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10: 19-23.
Art mimics reality. Or reflects reality. Or it tells us something about truth we didn’t notice previously. In the same way, the temple reflected the real truth. When people get obsessed with rules, or the church’s structure or the legalism of a religious order they are forgetting that those symbols only reflect. They should point us to the real eternal truth. The symbols aren’t the valuable things themselves. And art, while lovely, doesn’t reflect perfectly. Especially for an artist in training.
However. Jesus himself reflects God perfectly.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and though who also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right had of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. Hebrews 1:1-4
Hebrews is calling us to live lives that reflect the glory of God. And faith -while not flawless- is strong enough to carry us to the finish line where it will be perfected.
Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case - the things that have to do with salvation. God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. Hebrews 6: 9-12
And then we come to one of the best sections in the entire New Testament. Hebrews chapters 11 and 12. If you feel like quitting these are the verses to read. Read them out loud to your weary soul. Shout these promises. Write them on walls. I promise God will strengthen your resolve, steady your quacking limbs and put some starch in your spine.
Chapter 11 summarizes the stories of the Old Testament and calls us to notice how these people of faith did great actions and stood for truth in the midst of hardship by holding fast to the promises of God.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that her rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6
The end of chapter 11 is a great reminder we are not alone in any sort of suffering. The stories in the Bible include torture, flogging, chains, stoning, persecution and mistreatment. The world was not worthy of them.
Then chapter 12! The author calls you to apply the lesson to your own life.
THEREFORE, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes onJesus, the pioneer and perfecto of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12 1-3
I’ve been trying to learn how to draw trees for years. Finally can do a passable fir tree. But my leafy trees still look like green blobs. Kinda like a large green stuffed garbage bag. Not a tree. So earlier this week I saw a post Jini77 had put on an urban sketchers Facebook page. I decided to try and copy it. Perhaps my hand and eye would crack the code to the elusive deciduous tree. So I penciled in a simliar study. Inked and water colored. And while not nearly as nice as the original artist - I think my trees look more like trees than garbage sacks. Yay for progress.
When I looked around and mimicked someone who had it down I did better in my own art. And this is what chapter 11 and chapter 12 are saying. Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. Not perfect people. But faithful souls who were reflecting the deep truth of God. Since we can see their lives let’s run like them. Not because they are worthy but because they reflect God so well.
I fussed over this painting. I second guessed the color. I enjoyed the time outside and wasn’t at all crashing on myself but I also wasn’t ready to post it anywhere. I had it laying on my desk at work while I pondered how art reflects what is good. And my friend came up and said she loved it. Said it was great. Said she wanted to hang it up.
See - when our lives reflect Christ we don’t have to second guess everything or over criticize. We can be a mess and slip frequently and still the reflection is what reminds people of truth. And so its worth painting. And running our race well.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled but rather healed. Hebrews 12:11-13
If I fall and get back up people around me gain more courage to get back up. When I quit their load is heavier. When you stay the course - you become a part of the great cloud of witnesses that tells others to keep their eyes focused on heaven and their feet on the narrow path. Keep on my friends. This dark time is not the end of the story. Don’t let your light go out. Don’t buy into the lie that its too hard. Too much. Too late.
I believe in Christ and His ability to carry you.
Therefore, since we have a great hight priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. h=Hebrews 4:14-16
Hebrews is a loud cry into the battle field to the other believers to NOT GIVE UP.
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Hebrews 10:39
Jesus is the sacrifice therefore our sins are covered. Jesus is the priest therefore we have access to God. Jesus gives believers power to persevere therefore we can be faithful. The lines are drawn and we can hold onto that picture. Isn't it just gorgeous?
When we talk about art reflecting the glory of eternal ideas then we have to mention the team at The Bible Project. Their art definitely amplifies the glory of God and expands understanding for the viewers.
The team at New Spring Church has some fairly fantastic art in their infographics. Here is one for Hebrews.
www.chetsmom.com. had this beautiful rendering of Hebrews 12:1
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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