Godly Children--Impossible Dream?

Before I was married, before I had children, one question repeatedly filled my mind: Is it possible to raise a family of godly children who don’t rebel?  It certainly looked impossible in my world. The church of my childhood was filled with families of at least 3 but not more than 6 children who were committed to attending Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night services. But even with the emphasis on church and faith, most of these families had one or more children who walked away from the church--and from God. It was the same in the church I attended during college and again repeated in the church we attended as newlyweds. There were less than a handful of exceptions, but these families gave me hope.

I want to be that family for you. I want to bring you hope that you can raise children to be adults who love and serve God wholeheartedly. Our family is far from perfect. We can be kind and loving but sometimes we get angry and we speak unkindly to one another; we are generally respectful but other times quite selfish. But we are forgiven and redeemed and, most of all, we love God. All six of us. As I write this, our daughters are ages 15-22 and they are in love with their Lord and Savior. They love, obey, and serve Him, not out of duty but out of love. Thankfully, none of them have ever walked away from God. Yes, they have been challenged and some have surely questioned their faith. But each has a relationship with their Heavenly Father that is vibrant and alive.

My husband and I can’t take credit. Yes, we may have done some things right, but you know that my list of things I’d change is a mile long. We did not cause our children to become Christians, but the grace of God helped my husband and I create the best greenhouse garden so we could to grow the seeds we were given. We were intentional and thoughtful about how to grow these precious seeds into blossoms of beauty. We carefully chose the soil where our prodigy established roots. We supplied healthy food and nutrients avoided dangerous parasites so these seeds could grow strong. We controlled the climate until they were strong enough to survive in the world. And always we directed them to the Son who is the author and finisher of our faith.  

Please don’t hear that I think I have a formula for raising perfect children that will not rebel.  Children grow to be young adults with their own ideas and the ability to make their own decisions. While we as parents do have great influence in the lives of our children, we do not have complete control over their choices and cannot take complete responsibility for their actions. If you are praying for your prodigal son or daughter to return home, don’t judge yourself. Keep praying and don’t give up. God’s heart is that all will come to relationship with Him.  I’ve seen plenty of examples of lost ones who turn their lives around and never look back. If you’re waiting for the day, I’m praying with you that it will come soon.

Your circle of friends may not include a family who has raised godly children into adulthood, but those families do exist! You are not alone. Don’t accept the world’s idea that there’s a “black sheep” in every family. It is God’s heart that families adore Him together. God has given you this heart-felt passion to raise godly children and He will walk you through, every step of the way.

With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.  (Matthew 19:26)

Granny's Orange Jello Salad

I hate to admit it, but there seems to be a Jello legacy in my family!  No meal was complete without a dish that contained Jello.  This recipe from my paternal grandmother was included in a cookbook that her church published.

Granny’s Orange Jello Salad
3 oz. orange Jello
1 c. boiling water
8 oz. crushed pineapple
1 c. sour cream
2 c. vanilla ice cream

Mix together, pour into mould and chill.

A Living Legacy

Growing in Legacy
At age seven our oldest daughter, Victoria, began taking piano lessons.  She was studying classically, but she told us her goal was to someday accompany her dad when he led worship.  At age twelve she began to play back-up keyboard on the worship team at church and focus her attention on growing in her skills as a musician.  Some remarked at how young she was, but she was only following in the footsteps of her grandmothers.  At age 12, my mother began to play piano and accordion at church for the services her minister father conducted.  At age 12, Harold’s mother began to play piano for the services her mother held.  Victoria is a living legacy.

Over the years, she grew in her piano abilities and began to play lead keyboard and to sing back-up on the worship team.  In 2009 God clearly opened more doors to grow her skills, giving her the opportunity to serve as one of the worship leaders for our congregation on Sunday mornings.  The following year she began to play for smaller groups who desired to rest in God’s presence.  Victoria continues to be passionate about using music to lead people into the peaceful presence of God.

Walking in Legacy
In July Victoria released her debut CD, a collection of worshipful songs for solo voice and keyboard, entitled Rest.  Some songs have been previously recorded by other artists, however two are original songs written by Victoria.  From the first song to the last note, the peace of God and the love of the Father pours out to the listener.  Here is what others have said about the CD:

  • Wow, Victoria!  What an amazing CD.  I love it!
  • I was listening to your CD on repeat today as I drove to work and while I was at work, as usual, and was super enjoying two certain songs.  I  looked to see who wrote them and it was YOU!!  Just wanted to say you are amazing and I LOVE the CD.
  • Love your CD. Wow, God has blessed you with a heart of worship. Thanks for sharing your gift.
  • Your music is so beautiful. Thank you so much.
  • Amazing voice and amazing CD.
  • I was listening to your CD in my car when I went to my sister’s house. I walked in and she was playing it. Then I went by my other sister’s house and she was also playing it. It's safe to say we are all fans.
  • I heard it today and, well, frankly it is amazing.  I love listening to this.  I thank God for you.

Here’s what Victoria wrote about the CD:

Contentment is the fruit of deeply rooted trust. This phrase was echoing in my head one morning as I spent time with God. Satisfaction. Happiness. Peace. My heart desires it, but when I finally take a break from the life spinning so rapidly around me I find that my heart has, more often than I'd like to admit, become discontented with the way things are. I'm worried. Fearful. Unsure. Void of hope or peace. I've often been forgetful, but over the past few months the Lord has been reminding me that trusting Him is ultimately the first step to finding rest in any situation. A gentle, unshakable hand is guiding me on a journey that requires my heart to be rooted in the truths and promises of the God I've chosen to trust. He does not fail nor forsake me. He is my refuge, my stronghold, my hiding place. In quietness and trust is my strength, because I know He is for me.

This album is a gift from the deepest part of my soul, a direct result of my desire to find contentment in trust, through rest. It's not perfect nor does it contain fancy instrumentation or the next big, chart-topping single. But my hope is that as this music fills whatever space you occupy it will become a reminder of the importance of rest, trust, and the necessity of storing the truth of who God is deep inside of you. He is for us and only when we root ourselves in that truth can we rest regardless of the storms that come our way.

To preview or purchase Rest, please visit:  http://victoriamoore.bandcamp.com

Leading from Legacy

The Gift of Music
Musical ability runs deep in our family.  Family history on my mother’s side says that around the turn of the century my great-grandfather, a music teacher by trade, courted my great grandmother with an autoharp.  I vividly remember my maternal grandmother using that same instrument to play hymns, though she could’ve also played on the piano, the organ and the guitar.  She and her husband passed on that love of music to their eight children, of which my mother was one.  Each of them learned to play an instrument for the family radio program which included hymns and gospel music followed by a sermon by my grandfather.  Six of the eight grew up to use their talents regularly for Sunday morning worship and one even graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education.  Many of the 28 grandchildren, including myself, studied music and still play.  Our family reunions seemed more like mini-recitals for the grandchildren followed by a hymn sing for the adults.

Whether it was practicing piano, singing with my mom, or studying music education in college, music was a big part of my life.  The day I met Harold, he was leading worship at my grandmother’s church.  Even before our children were born, we envisioned music to be important to our family.  It was only natural that we pass on our passion and heritage to our four daughters.  While we gave them opportunities, we did not force their participation.  Their musical gifts and talent led them to include music as a part of their lives.  All four play piano, three play a second instrument, two have sung on the worship team at church, and one has recorded a CD (Read more…) and is now studying worship full time.  Music still continues to play a major role in my life.

A Family Call
I believe that family lines often have a common destiny and that God gives gifts to achieve that call.  In the Old Testament, God set the precedent and called the family of Levi to a common destiny—to care for and serve in the tabernacle.   Throughout history, businesses and trades have been (and continue to be) passed down to the next generation in the family.  History is replete with examples of families who governed—dynasties in China, monarchies throughout Europe and Russia.  Although we in the United States have the privilege of voting for our leaders, there is often a pattern of generations of families who serve in governmental leadership.  Generation influence is also strong in the area of acting, Olympic participation, professional sports, military service, missionary work, and even pastoral ministry.

Both my maternal grandfather and my father were ordained ministers; Harold’s maternal grandmother was an ordained minister and evangelist.  The day Harold was ordained, his mother came into his office and began to pray fervently for him with tears streaming down her face. She later explained to us that she felt compelled to pass on the anointing of her mother.  It was an incredibly powerful moment.

Leading from Legacy
At some point, every child struggles to find their place.  What am I good at?  Where can I excel?  What should I major in?  What job should I get?  What is God’s plan for my life and my future?  Here are some ways to lead from the legacy God has given your family:

Consider your family tree.  When guiding children of any age, study past generations.  Do you see a common passion or gift throughout the generations?  Is there something that God has called your family to accomplish?  Ask God if your child is part of that legacy and listen to your child’s areas of interest.  Our girls are inspired when they hear of how God has used their grandparents and honored when they think about following in their footsteps.

Broaden your focus. For instance, though our family has a legacy of music, the gift of teaching has also been passed down from my great-grandfather.  Two of my aunts and several of my cousins are professional teachers.  I combined the two and became a music teacher.

Think outside the box. God doesn't always follow the same path; sometimes he does something new.  In our family, two of our four are passionately pursuing music as part of their daily life.  One daughter is pursuing education and another is pursing medicine.  To my knowledge there is no gift of medicine in our family, that doesn't mean she can’t or shouldn't pursue medicine.  God sometimes skips a generation or even establishes a new stream.

Be intentional. Before filling the schedule with more activities, be intentional.  Strengthen the strengths of your child and help him or her choose activities that grow skills or talents.  At twelve Victoria gave up ballet so that she could spend more time on the music she loved.  Her time was well spent.  Ask questions and help your child focus on what is important for today and for the future.

Redeem the gift. Maybe your family isn’t full of great examples of Christian life or ministry.  God’s gives gifts, but it’s up to us how we use them.  You can still discover hidden treasures in your family line, but God may call you to use them differently.  For instance your may be from a family of successful but unethical businessmen, but God is calling you to use that same business acumen to multiply wealth for missions or ministries.  Redeem the gift.

Search out the legacy of your family and walk in the blessing that God intended it to be.

Searching for Treasure: Saving with Coupons

Until last month, I WAS a coupon clipper.  Twenty years ago when I was a new mom, I had time to clip coupons weekly and maintain an organized coupon wallet. Time passed, more babies were born, I started homeschooling and suddenly there was no time for couponing.  With less time, I discontinued couponing, consolidated my food shopping to one store and bought as many generic brand products as possible.  Fast forward twenty years and now our economy is struggling and we have two daughters in college.  If there was ever a time that I need to save my pennies, it’s now!  I’m certainly learning as I go, but here are some things I’ve learned over the past two months:

General Principles for Couponing
Look for ways to save money on the groceries you regularly buy.  You aren’t saving money if you use coupons for items you don’t usually purchase!

  • Be adventurous and try new brands of items that you have coupons for, if the coupons make the item cheaper than your old brand.  You may find a new favorite.
  • Think ahead and stock up on deeply discounted items.  Stock up on discounted toothpaste or toilet paper—after all, you know you’ll use it!  Purchase discounted baking items in the fall so you’ll be ready for holiday baking.
  • Know how much you are spending .  Save your register receipts and write down the cost of the products you most often buy.  Use this as a guide to compare at other stores or for future discounts.

Where Are the Coupons?
Newspapers We cancelled our newspaper subscription many years ago; however, I’ve recently learned that I can subscribe to my local paper for Sunday and Wednesday delivery for 75 cents per week.  Another friend recommended purchasing a paper at a dollar store.

Mailers Even though we don’t get the paper, we still receive a weekly Red Plum mailer that includes grocery store advertisements and coupons.  You can sign up to receive the Red Plum mailer at:  www.redplum.com.

Printable Coupons There are several sites that allow you to print coupons.  These are not the same coupons that come in the newspaper, even if they have the same company name.  Most sites require you to download the coupon printer before you can print a coupon, but you need only download it once.

Weekly Advertisements Check out the front page specials of the grocery store circulars, usually featuring the deepest discounts called “loss leaders” that are designed to get you into the store to spend more money.  Don’t forget the bogo specials (buy 1, get 1) and discounts on meat.  Meat can always be frozen for future use.

Friends If you have friends that get the paper, ask them if they’ll keep the coupons for you.  Ask for pet coupons from friends who don’t have pets.  There are also organizations that facilitate trading coupons, but I haven’t explored that yet.

What’s the strategy?
Organize Your Coupons When I first started clipping coupons, an envelope worked just fine.  Sometimes I’d see other moms with fancy binders, but I had no idea how to set up one myself.  I just found this link for a binder you can make on your own:  Make a coupon binder.

Know the Coupon Policy for Each Store Each store has its own coupon policy which states how many coupons are accepted per day or per transaction, the maximum coupon amount accepted, and which coupons, if any, can be doubled or even tripled.

Use your Coupons Wisely Avoid using coupons at high-priced grocery stores.  Instead, save your coupons for shopping trips at stores that already have lower prices.

Shop on Double Coupon Day We have a local grocery store that offers double coupons each Wednesday and super doubles once a month or so.  Though this store generally has higher prices, I collect my l amount coupons, which will be doubled, and purchase just those items.  Again, you need to know how much you usually spend so you know if you are truly saving money.

Research the Blogs There are so many websites/blogs devoted to helping people save money.  Let them do all the work!  Here are a few of my favorite sites that have deals on groceries, restaurants, and other products.  Sometimes there are even free samples if you sign up for a mailing list.  Keep a look out for posts about match up items and dates for double coupon days. Here is a list of some of my favorite blogs: moneysavingmom.com southernsavers.com thecouponconsultant.com couponchallenge.com passionforsavings.com

Purchase Matchup Items Most blogs have a weekly post of match up items for a specific store—discounted items purchased with a coupon at a significant discount or even free.  The best blog for you to follow is the one that includes your local grocery stores.  Posted matchups can save a lot of money, but it doesn’t always work out that way.  I don’t always have the coupons.  Also, the matchup items are not always available at my particular store and when they are available, often the items are already out of stock by the time I arrive in the afternoon.  The early bird definitely gets the worm!

Sign Up for Group Discounts Some organizations offer discounts to their members.  One such company is Groupon.  I signed up to receive a daily email featuring a discount to a local business or service.  Most offers are available for purchase for just 24 hours and a new offer will arrive in your inbox the next day.  Generally, the discount is usually 40-50% and the coupon may expire anywhere from 3-12 months.  There is a minimum number which must be purchased by the group before the discount takes effect—hence the name “Groupon.”  After you pay by credit or debit card, you print the Groupon and present it as a coupon at the place of business.  There is no membership or handling fee.  My favorite Groupon purchase was 50% off a flying lesson at our regional airport—a Father’s Day gift for my hubby.  Groupons are a great deal for gifts or things that you regularly purchase.

One such group discount is available through Homeschool Buyers Coop.  Members sign up to receive a free newsletter which communicates all available discounts on various homeschool curricula.  Each discount is available for purchase for several weeks.  There are three levels of discounts, based on how many orders are placed—more orders equals a deeper discount.  If you purchase early at a lower discount and more people purchase later, you receive price based on the number sold at the close of the deal.  You may pay by debit or credit card and the product ships after the deal has expired—which may be several weeks after you made the actual purchase.  I was able to save about $50 on a music curriculum for the fall.

 

Be Ready to Learn
Really, this is only the tip of the iceberg.  There is so much to learn--and it takes time to master the art of major savings.  If you are an “Extreme Coupon Queen,” please post a comment to this article and share your favorite secrets for saving money with coupons.

Note: Groupon compensates me for new referrals; however I posted about it because it has saved my family money, not because I'm trying to make money.

September Organization Challenge: Finances

Getting a handle on your finances takes some time, but is an inexpensive way to cut down on household expenses.  When bills are accessible, it is easier to pay them on time and save money in late fees or rush shipping.  When receipts are organized, broken items can be returned or serviced for free under a warranty—if you can find it!  The savings can really add up.

Set up a system As soon as you get the mail, put the bills and bank statements in their place—preferably somewhere above arms reach of little ones.  Don’t lay your bills down anywhere else, lest they get lost or moved by another family member.  I use a letter sorter which has enough space for a few blank business envelopes, stamps, rolls for coins, and a pen.  You could also use an expandable file folder with a sufficient number of pockets for your filing system.

Keep  debit and credit receipts Collect your debit and credit receipts in your wallet or in your filing system.  Enter them regularly in your checkbook, Quickbooks, or whatever system you use.  Keeping an accurate balance of your finances will help you avoid overspending.  Clearly mark the receipts that have been entered.  File receipts necessary for warranties, stapling them to the user’s guide or other warranty information.  We file all other receipts by month in business envelopes, in case something needs to be returned.

Print receipts for internet transactions Internet purchases can sometimes get lost in the shuffle of daily and weekly expenditures.  Print out receipts from internet purchases and file them with your bills and bank statements.  Record them regularly so there are no surprises at the end of the month.

Pay bills regularly  This seems like such a simple idea, but it is so easy to put off paying the bills until next week and then you realize that you have a bill due tomorrow!  Paying bills regularly saves money in late fees and overnight shipping.  If you need to keep a record of a paid bill, record the date and check number on the stub before filing it in your filing system.  (I’ll save that one for another article…)

Keep a file for warranties and manuals Create file folders for warranties and manuals of products that you purchase.  Staple the receipt to the manual so you have all the information for the warranty.  You can even mark your receipt if it was paid by credit card because some credit cards double the manufacturer’s warranty.  Also, record the serial number, especially for electronics.   When some of our personal items were stolen, he mentioned that he would be able to trace items if he had a serial number.  Now I record those on the cover of the item’s manual.

Technically, I have more than one warranty file: one for outdoor items such as the lawnmower and tools, one for kitchen tools and appliances (toasters to stoves), one for electronics (stereos to phones), one for everything else luggage), one for jewelry and one for kids furniture and toys.  My girls have their own file folders for items that they own.  A little bit of time could save a lot of money down the road.

Monitor bank statements Be sure to balance your checkbook, double checking all expenditures, automatic withdrawals, and deposits. Banks sometimes make mistakes.  Once out bank direct deposited my husband’s paycheck TWICE.  We were only looking at the bottom line and didn’t catch the error for two months.  It was a blow to our budget when the bank withdrew the second deposit from our account!  More importantly many banks are changing their fee structure and charging for various services.  Know if you’re being charged, what for, and how much.  Shop around and see if you can find comparable services for less.

Use cash Whenever possible, use a cash system.  Withdraw money weekly or biweekly for gas, groceries, entertainment, or clothing and store them in separate envelopes.  Before you make a purchase, consult your envelope to see how much money is available for your purchase.  This does require an amount of self-control not to spend over the limit or spend on items other than the designated categories.  You may also find it helpful to save receipts for cash purchases so that you can accurately budget for the future.

Whether you use cash, check or credit, be sure to keep receipts you might need for returns or warranty purposes.  When I purchase clothing or shoes, I keep the receipts for at least one month in case there is a defect in the product.

Make a budget—and follow it I saved this one for last because it is a little intimidating.  Making a budget does take some time and sticking to it takes a lot of self-control, but spending only what is budgeted is guaranteed to save you money.  There is no need for me to detail the process of making a budget since there are so many other organizations that specialize in budgets and finances.  Years ago we used Larry Burkett’s budget system to get out of debt.  (It’s now called Crown Financial Ministries.)  Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is another successful system for eliminating debt and living within your means.  Which one is best?  Well, it’s like a famous body builder once said when someone asked him which exercise equipment was the best.  His reply was, “The one you use.”

Sometimes life passes by so quickly that we easily fill our days meeting the urgent needs without giving thought or attention to looking ahead.  Take some time to organize your finances, evaluate where you are and set some goals for where you want to be.  Not only will it improve your bottom line, it will be time well spent.

A Secure Investment: Investing in Your Children

(Note:  This article is by no means intended to criticize working moms or moms who don’t homeschool.  God calls families to different ways to raise their children:  there is certainly more than one way to raise a godly child.  My heart is to encourage moms who have chosen motherhood as a career.  It is a wise investment.)

After investing diligently for twenty years, my retirement account still stands at zero.  It has nothing to do with my broker or with the economy, but it is a direct result of how I invested.  For more than 20 years I have been a full-time, stay-at-home mom for our four daughters.  I have invested money, time, and energy into teaching, training, and mentoring these young women and it is an investment that has paid high dividends.  (Of course my husband has also played a significant role in their development, but this article is not for the Daddies.)

Before our children were born, I was a public school music teacher who also taught several classes of hearing-impaired students.  Most of the 750 students I saw each week knew my name and some even regularly visited my classroom for extra time together.  I had a decent income, a retirement account, and summers off.  My career afforded me the opportunity to make great dinner conversation as I described how I taught music to hearing-impaired children.  I taught for two years and loved my job.  In the eyes of our culture, I was successful.

God blessed my husband and I and three days after the last day of school, I found myself at home with a newborn baby girl who wasn’t interested in my teaching success!  My ultimate career choice was to be a wife and mother, but somehow this wasn’t what I thought I had signed up for.  Everything was new to both of us and it took some time for us to learn.  Even more disappointing was the reaction of friends and acquaintances when I told them I was a stay-at-home mom.  Some of them questioned what I did all day and others politely smiled and found someone else to talk to.  It was painfully clear that society did not approve of my

No matter what the view of others, I stayed true to God’s call for me and our family.  There were joyful days and there were difficult days (when wanted to quit or resign!).  Most every day was full—full of laundry, cooking, cleaning, straightening, counseling, teaching, repeating, training, undoing, redoing, correcting, repeating, disciplining, discipling, and did I mention repeating?  We read the Bible together, prayed together, talked together, dreamed together, and cried together.  Sometimes the progress was infinitesimal and my dream of God-fearing daughters seemed elusive, but still my husband and I prayed and stayed the course.

As with any investment, there was risk.  Would it be better if we had a second income so we could provide better?  Would a one-income household limit what they could do?  Should we send them to school so they can be taught by the “experts” instead of an inexperienced mom?  What if I ruin them?  The enemy of my soul tried to discourage me and cause me to doubt our choices and my value, but I held to the truth that I am a precious daughter of the Most High God.

Today, our investment continues to yield a high rate of return.  We have four daughters who are lovely, inside and out.  They aren’t perfect, but they know the Savior who is and they’ve been saved by grace.  They know the Word, and they obey the Word.  They are carriers of His presence who sow seeds of Jesus’ love everywhere they go.  My time as a stay-at-home mom has been the best investment I’ve ever made.

September Newsletter: Saving and Investing

The articles this month focus on saving and investing.  Our economy has certainly changed over the past few years, but we have no need to fear.  God’s word has promised that “Our God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory.” (Phil 4:19) Our part is to be good stewards and wisely use what God has given us. On a personal note, I wrote about my mom’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease in March.  (Read the article…

On August 26, 2011, my 69-year-old mother was called home by her loving Savior and best friend and on September 3, we celebrated the life of a woman who had invested in family and in His Kingdom.  She had no 401-K or retirement account, but she had been a full-time, stay-at-home mom an invested generously in her five children.  Her legacy lives on in her 5 children, 11 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.  If your parents are still living, call them or visit them--or better yet, give ‘em a hug.

Because every day matters,

Joy

Reflections on Letting Go and Launching a Daughter

Five weeks from today, our oldest daughter will begin a new season.  She will be furthering her education in the areas of Bible and worship.  For the first 17 years of her life, I had envisioned my sweet daughter finishing her high school education, maybe attending college from home, and finding a wonderful husband so that they could pursue a life together serving God.  But God challenged my ideas for her future while the two of us were serving on a missions trip to China just before her senior year. Close to the end of our time in China, we had the opportunity to take a short hike to an overlook in a remote village.  As I stood gazing at the expanse of the incredibly beautiful mountains piercing the sky, I heard in my spirit, “This is your Mount Moriah.”  Immediately my mind flashed to a picture of Abraham with his son Isaac, standing before an altar.  His heart may have been filled with pain and grief, but through his surrender came great blessing to him and the world.

God:  Are you willing to give me your daughter? Me: I did that years ago during a baby dedication service at church.  Of course she’s yours. God: But this is different.  Will you surrender her to Me—and to China? Me:  But she can’t go to China.  She’s not married yet.  Certainly you don’t want her to be here alone (God had clearly called her to China during a Kindergarten geography lesson in our homeschool, but we had imagined that would be after she was married.) God: Must she wait until I send her a husband?  What if she never marries?  Can she not return to China?  Do you trust me to take care of her? Silence. Me: (through tears) Yes.  I trust You.  She’s yours.

This whole conversation was a surprise to me.  When our children were babies we understood that it was important to commit them to God’s care and follow His direction for them.  It was no surprise that our children belonged to Him, but I had imagined that our girls would stay at home, learn a skill that could bring in money from home and then they would be married.    I had not considered the possibility that our creative God might have other plans.  When we returned from China, I shared the revelation with my husband and with Victoria.  Together my husband and I released her to follow God’s direction for her life—whatever that looked like.  She continued to pursue her love for China and training for worship while she studied graphic design at the community college.

Fast forward two years.  Victoria was about to finish her studies at the community college.  Clearly God was growing Victoria’s passion for worship and expanding her gifting.  Leaders in the church confirmed her gifts and gave her opportunities to grow.  Victoria sensed she needed further training beyond what she could receive in our area, but she was reluctant to even dream about what might be beyond our community.  We could see God’s hand guiding her and knew He was expanding her vision.  After prayer, long discussions, divine appointments, confirmations, and our blessing, she applied and was accepted to a program to study Bible and worship.  I knew it was God’s will but my heart held a seed of fear that I was losing my daughter—and my friend.

One day in my quiet time as I was praying about this situation, God showed me that my daughter was like a bird.  “She’s a bird made to fly and it isn’t good if she was allowed only to sit in your nest and sing.  She has a gift and she will bless many ‘nests’ with her voice.  A captured bird becomes unhappy and unfulfilled.  As she fulfills her call, joy will overflow—both in her life and in yours.  There will be some who prefer birds in cages and they may not understand.  But I created birds to fly.  Some fear the birds will never return, but I created migratory birds to fly away for a season and then return to the same location, a safe place.  She will always treasure the safe place of your home.”  I realize that only outside the cage can she fulfill the purpose of her Creator.  First and foremost she belongs to God and I know He loves her so much more than I ever could.  I trust that He is guiding her and that she is following His voice.

The next five weeks will pass all too quickly.  We’ll spend time together, sharing quiet moments, shopping for necessities and making more memories.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the day Victoria checks in at school is three years to the day we departed on our life-changing missions trip to China.  She may be thinking of her new adventure, but I’ll be thinking of the mountains of China and Mount Moriah.  I know that through surrender will come great blessing.

 Note:  Victoria is currently recording her first CD.  It will be available in the Daughters 4 God Shoppe in early August.       

Quick and Easy Coleslaw

Here’s a recipe that lives up to its name—quick and easy.  It’s a perfect complement to grilled chicken or burgers.

Quick and Easy Coleslaw
28oz. bag of shredded cabbage with carrots (coleslaw mix)
1 c. mayonnaise
3 T. sugar
¼ t. pepper
2 T. milk
2 T. vinegar
¾ t. salt
1 t. celery seed

Combine cabbage and carrot.  In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients.  Stir into cabbage mixture.  Chill.

July Organization Challenge: Bedrooms

Organization—Bedrooms Summer is the perfect time to organize, switch, or spruce up bedrooms.  During the school year, we try not to make major changes and try to keep everything as orderly as possible.  (I don’t have proof, but my personal experience says that an ordered world promotes better concentration and learning.)  Organizing a bedroom can be one gargantuan task that may take many hours or even many days.  Sometimes moms try to accomplish this job alone because it takes less time.  Instead, think of this as a teaching opportunity so that someday they can do it without you!  Younger ones can be part of the process so that they learn how to be organized and how to prioritize what items should be kept and share in the joy of giving to others.  For the teens, I communicate my expectations and set up a time for us to work together to accomplish the task.  Though I’m mostly moving things to appropriate piles, this is a teaching moment for them and I believe the job moves much faster with my supervision.

Last month we took 2 weeks to organize and update one daughter’s bedroom, 2 days to organize another, and I’m currently in the midst of purging another bedroom for an imminent move to college.  There is no right way to do this, but here is our plan for those who are interested.

Assess the situation before you do anything. Too often I've started a project before I counted the cost or made a plan.  An assessment is like “bedroom triage.”  (Please don’t quote me on that!)

Is the furniture suitable?  Have they outgrown it?  Are we adding or removing a sibling to the room? Does the furniture need to be cleaned, repaired, painted, etc.?  Is there adequate drawer space for storing clothing?  Do we need all the furniture in the room?  Do we need to purchase something else, such as a desk or bookshelf?

How are the linens (sheets, pillows, mattress pad, comforter, curtains)?  Do some need to be replaced or mended?  What does the budget allow me to replace?

Does everything have a home?  When I ask something to be put away, does my daughter have a place to put it?  Can she find what she needs when she needs it?  Does she need more storage containers for items she has recently acquired?

Should everything currently in the room stay in the room?  Is it time to shift some items/toys to the attic, to another room, or another home?  If we need to move things, do I have a place to move them or can they live in the garage until I find a good home?  **This may be one of the most important questions you answer.  Make sure you have a plan for what will be leaving the room.  You don’t want to organize one room only to find that all of the “stuff” is merely piled in the hallway, garage, or worse yet the master bedroom!  This may determine your time frame.  If you know a friend wants the extra desk in about a month, you may want to store it in the garage temporarily or maybe wait on your project.

Make a plan. Decide how long you think it will take you to make the necessary changes.  My guess:  a whole day for a full closet and full desk, half a day each for bookshelves, dresser, under the bed, redecorating.  You may think you can go through things more quickly, but remember the goal is to organize and find a home for everything that doesn’t belong.  I also find that if we stay focused on one mini project until completion, we can stop in the middle of the whole project and still live in the room!

Organize the closet. I always start with the closet first so that we make room to store other things that may be elsewhere in the room.  Be sure to have some paper nearby to start a shopping list for things you need.

Go through hanging clothes and put them in four piles: Keep:  It fits and the child wears it.  LAY THE CLOTHES ON THE BED Mend:  It fits, the child wears it, but it needs to be mended--hemmed, button replaced, etc.) FOLD THE CLOTHES IN A PILE AND SET THEM ASIDE. Put Away/Give Away/Sell: doesn’t fit, child doesn’t wear, still in good shape.  You may choose to store it for younger siblings, give it away to friends or a charity, or sell it on consignment—or some of each!  PUT AWAY CLOTHES IN A PLASTIC TOTE, GIVE AWAY CLOTHES IN A GARBAGE BAG, SELL CLOTHES KEEP ON HANGERS AND WASH OR DRYCLEAN BEFORE SELLING. Throw Away:  Not in good shape. PUT THE CLOTHES IN A GARBAGE BAG Vacuum the closet and the baseboards before you put things back in.  All “Keep” clothes should be returned to the closet (opposite season to the back of the closet) and all other piles should be taken care of appropriately.  Be sure you have enough hangers so that there are no excuses for clothes that aren’t hung up!  Add them to the shopping list if you need more.

Sort shoes and other accessories (belts, scarves, scrunchies, etc.) Use the same four piles system, as above.  Be sure there is a home for everything.  We use boxes or hanging organizers for shoes, a hanging organizer for jewelry, a special hanger for belts, and a special hanger for scrunchies/scarves.  Add anything you need to your shopping list.  Be sure that only “Keep” shoes and accessories remain in the room before you move on.

Organize shelves in the closet. Take down one item at a time.  If you take everything down, you are stuck with reorganizing it all in one sitting—or your child has to live with stuff piled around.  (Can you hear the voice of experience?!)  Go through one box/bag/item at a time using the same four pile system that you used for clothes.  Sort all items on the shelves and wipe off the shelf before you return items to the closet.  Use the storage in the closet for things that your children don’t need access to: breakable items, or keepsakes, games with small pieces, or seasonal clothing.   All other piles should be taken care of appropriately.

Work your way around the room. I organize rooms like I clean them—starting at the light switch and working my way around clockwise.  Vacuum or wipe down the baseboards as you go.  Here are some suggestions for the remainder of the room, as you encounter each situation.

Organize the dresser. Using the same four pile system, sort through one drawer at a time.  Wipe out the insides of drawers before you replace the items.  Our drawer system looks like this:  one drawer for socks, undies, camis, and slips/hose (organized with one shoes box for each item type), another drawer for swimsuits (in a shoe box) and pjs, another drawer for seasonal everyday pants, another drawer for seasonal shirts.  Everything else gets hung up.  During the summer, we keep winter clothes--sweaters, corduroys, turtlenecks--in a clear plastic tub in the closet or under the bed. In the winter, the same plastic tub is filled with shorts, capris, sleeveless shirts.   Note:  In lieu of a dresser, we've also used a plastic drawer “cart” in the bottom of the closet, just above the hanging shirts.

Organize under the bed. Using the same four pile system, sort through all of the items under the bed.  Use storage under the bed for bins of toys, seasonal clothes or other things that your children may need access to without your assistance.

Organize the desk. Using the same four pile system, sort through the items on/in the desk.  Start with the desk drawers, one at a time.  Again, keep only what your child needs and be sure that there is a system for organization—a home for everything.  Also, if your child is using the desk for homework or school, be sure that they have all the necessary supplies (pencils, erasers, calculators, etc.)  Next, clean off the top of the desk and decide what should stay.  Discard or put away all other items.

Organize the bookshelves.Using the same four pile system, sort through the items on the shelves.  Wipe off every shelf before you replace the items.  On our shelves:  top shelf for trinkets, middle shelves for books, bottom shelf for fabric bin with stuffed animals.

Organize the nightstand. Using the same four pile system, sort through the drawers.  I call them “treasure drawers.”  Each drawer has a shoe box for the little things and space for papers/books on the other side of the drawer.  When the girls were younger, this is they kept their “treasures” that would've been destroyed by the toy box—bouncy balls, fast food toys, book marks, and other little gifts and items that I probably would've thrown away!  We periodically sorted through the treasures since affections change—and wisdom comes with age. J  Don’t forget to wipe out drawers before you refill them.

Repair, rearrange or replace furniture, as necessary. Repair or refresh furniture, as needed.  Remove and replace furniture, as needed.

Redecorate. Wash or replace linens, as needed.  Wash the windows when you replace the curtains.  Evaluate what is currently hanging on the walls using the same four pile system.  Purchase any needed items such as picture frames or mirrors.  Hang items.

Switch Rooms or Paint. That may seem like the opposite way to do things, but it’s much easier to switch rooms or paint a room with less stuff!

 

This may seem like a long process, but so worth it.  I try to do this for every bedroom during the summer.  Yes, it does take a lot of time, but much less time if we aren’t switching rooms or furniture.  In the long run, it helps our home stay neater and more organized if there is space for everything and if everything has a home.  Happy organizing!

Packing for College or Apartment Living

In about a month, our oldest daughter will be starting her first semester of college outside of our home.  Since this was a new road for me, I did some research to find out what she might need.  I found an incredibly long, but comprehensive list online.  So many things to buy.  So many things I hadn’t even considered.  So many things that would put a dent in our budget if I bought them all at one time!  I made a plan to do a little at a time and spread out the expenses. Here is the comprehensive list I found, plus some other items that we’ll be packing.  If you think of something we’ve missed, please post a comment and let us know!

January—Medical and Laundry Medicine Med Box/Container Aspirin Tylenol Motrin/Advil Cough syrup Cough drops Cold medicine Benadryl Band aids Dayquil/Nyquil First aid ointment Rubbing alcohol Cotton balls Cotton gauze pads Tums/Mallox, etc. Eye drops Thermometer

Laundry Laundry bag(s)/hamper Laundry soap Dryer sheets Stain remover: Shout stick Clothespins Clothesline/drying rack Quarters: Some schools use a card system Needles and thread (blue, black and white) Safety pins

February—Kitchen and Cleaning Supplies Kitchen Kitchen box: large shoe/boot box Plate(s) Bowl(s) Knife, fork, spoon (s) Serving spoon(s) Hand can opener Paring knife Measuring cups Measuring spoons Water bottle Travel cup/glass for making tea Pot for cooking Dish washing detergent Dishwasher detergent Brita filter Coffee maker Microwave Refrigerator

Cleaning Window and mirror cleaner Paper towels Bathroom cleaner Comet Sponges Dusting spray Dusting cloth Swiffer or mop Swiffer refills Bucket

March—Technology and Tools Technology Mp3 player Digital camera, batteries/battery charger, rechargeable batteries Stereo CD’s DVD’s Clock radio/alarm clock Extension cords Multi plug outlet Phone Lamp(s): Desk, free standing, clamp one for your bed Hammer Nails Screwdrivers Flashlight Nightlight Light bulbs: 40/60 watt Trash can(s): Most colleges only have one Trash bags

April—Personal Items Purse(s) wallet money Watch(es) Jewelry: Earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings Glasses Sun glasses Contacts, contacts case, and contact solution(s) Nail clippers, Emory boards Nail polish, nail polish remover Cotton balls Brush/comb Hair stuff: Head bands, barrettes, rubber bands, scrunchies, styling gel, etc. Feminine supplies Boxes of Kleenex Toilet paper Cologne/body sprays Deodorant Hand lotion/body lotion Razor/shaving cream Make-up Hair dryer Flat iron Curling Iron

May--Clothes Socks: All kinds Pantyhose/knee-highs Shoes: Dress, tennis, flip flops, shower shoes! Underwear Bras/sports bras Slips/half slips Camisoles Pajamas/bathrobe/slippers Shorts: Play and dress Dress pants/slacks Casual pants/jeans Casual shirts: Long sleeve/short sleeve T-shirt: Long sleeve/short sleeve Tank tops Sweaters Vests Blouses Dress: Some colleges have winter formals Bathing suits Belts Sweatshirts Jackets: Lightweight, wind breaker, winter Gloves/mittens Scarves/hats Hangers Suitcase/duffel bag

June--Bed and Bath Bedroom Two sets of sheet/pillow cases Comforter/bedspread (Stores have special “dorm sets” that they advertise beginning in June.) Mattress pad Egg crate Blanket/throw Pillow(s) Soft butt pillow for desk chair Sleeping bag/air mattress (for guests!) Stuffed animals: College kids with stuffed animals make better grades

Bathroom Towels, hand towels, wash cloths

Bathroom rugs

Shower caddy (holder for shower supplies) Toothbrush, toothpaste Hand soap Soap/shower gel Shampoo, conditioner Shower cap Water glass/cup Towel rack for your door

July--School/Homework Supplies Computer (look for a back-to-school deal) Monitor and cables Printer and cables Lan cable: 25 feet Computer paper Ink Surge protector Calendar Day planner Notebooks/binders Pocket folders Notebook paper Stapler/staples Paper clips Scissors Sticky tack Post-it notes Push pens Pens Pencils Ruler Zip drive/jump drive/thumb drive Hole punch: Single and 3 hole Pictures/posters High lighters Permanent magic marker(s) Erasable message board with pens: These come on most of the dorm doors, but just in case, or if you want one in your room Cork board/bulletin board/magnet board Book bag Stamps/envelopes Address book, telephone numbers Year book, photo albums, pictures, picture frames Novels, books, Bibles Journal

13th Birthday Celebration

Some families celebrate birthdays in a big way and others barely acknowledge the day aside from any other.  Our family has chosen to honor and celebrate each child, on each birthday, as a confirmation of their uniqueness and identity.  Since no child is the same, no celebration is the same; however, each celebration must have the elements of honor and surprise. Recently, our youngest turned 13.  Since we’ve chosen not to use the term “teenager,” the age 13 is not so special to our family but in the mind of our youngest daughter it represented a milestone.  It was shaping up to be a pretty uneventful day since I had nothing special planned and no precious gift to give.  (A month earlier we had helped her purchase an upgrade to her violin—an early birthday present—so she would have time to get used to it before her spring recital.) Since she was already aware of her gift, we were searching for some sort of surprise that would also show her honor.

With only two weeks to spare, God inspired me to honor Abigail by inviting 13 friends—ages 5 to mid 30’s-- to celebrate with her.  (Abigail loves her family, but she is an encourager and has quite a collection of friends and pen pals!)  I chose Dad as her first friend and sent emails to the parents of 12 of Abigail’s close friends explaining my plan.  (I would’ve sent invitations, but I didn’t really consider it a party and the idea came to me kid of last minute.)  I would purchase 13 pink roses.  Each guest would arrive between 7 and 8 pm bringing one rose and a card or letter of blessing.  Cake and ice cream would be served promptly at 8 pm.  I knew that some friends had prior commitments for that evening and may not be able to participate so I asked for RSVPS’s to make sure all 12 would be present.  Amazingly, every friend but one was able to make adjustments to the schedule and participate in honoring Abigail.

On Abigail’s special day, we celebrated as we celebrate each birthday--donuts in bed.  Along with the donuts, Abigail found a small gift on her tray—a fancy green key to our home on a cool key chain.  This has become a traditional gift for 13th birthdays.  It is more symbolic than practical, but as the girls get older they sometimes have need of a key after a babysitting job.  It’s our way of saying, “You are responsible.”

In the afternoon, Abigail and I went to Starbucks for a surprise meeting with Miss Kelly, a young woman who sings on the worship team with Abigail and the one of the 13 special friends who was unable to attend our evening celebration. She presented Abigail with a pink rose tied with a ribbon and bought her a Passion Fruit Tea Lemonade.  The three of us chatted together for about 20 minutes and then Miss Kelly had to go back to work.

While Abigail and I were at Starbucks, two of my older daughters baked and frosted a cake, shined the bathroom, and delivered the roses to Abigail’s friends.  Some of the roses were delivered to the church, a central location for others to pick them up, and some to friends in the neighborhood and surrounding area.  When we arrived home, the house was completely ready for a surprise celebration.

Dad came home from work and presented Abigail with a pink rose—tied with the same ribbon.  Abigail remarked how it was the same ribbon as Miss Kelly’s, but didn’t catch on.  Dinner was Abigail’s choice, taco salad, and then she opened her presents from the family.  Just as we were finishing, the first guest arrived, followed quickly by the next friend.  By the third rose presented by the third friend, Abigail had caught on.  For the next hour, friends, siblings and parents arrived, one family at a time, until at 8 pm we all sang and she blew out the candles on the traditional Moore Family Birthday Cake.  (Recipe)

The celebration was a success.  Our sweet daughter enjoyed our special time together as a family.  She was also quite surprised and honored by her friends’ presence and their sweet words of life to her.  Daughter honored and surprised.  Mission accomplished.

 

Post a comment and tell us about a special birthday celebration in your family

The Blessing of Teen Daughters

Our parenting goal has always been to raise children who love God with all their heart, mind, and soul; however, each phase of a child’s life is unique and requires different parenting skills to achieve that goal.  Whether or not you choose to use the label of “teenager,” the ages with the word “teen” are years of enormous change, growth and development.  In our home, it has been a joyous time of great blessing and precious memories.  Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past seven years, but most apply to any age: Parenting Daughters Find joy in who she is. Focus on her good traits. Pray for her weaknesses. Make memories. Mentally record her laugh. Do it her way, sometimes. Ask if she wants help. Declare your love. Always respond with kindness. Spend quality time together. Compliment her often. Expect the best. Drink in her smile. Kiss her goodnight. Listen. Gently guide her. Share her excitement. Try something new. Be silly. Hug her tightly. Value her opinions. Enjoy her company. Tackle a challenge together. Encourage her attempts. Listen more. Take lots of pictures. Correct her privately. Think outside of the box. Speak respectfully. Dream together. Treasure the beauty of today. Trust God with the future.

By:  Joy Moore, Copyright 2011

The Family Orchestra

More than twenty years ago, I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education.  Today my musical teaching is limited to helping my daughters with their private lessons, but my mind still thinks in musical terms.  Recently I’ve been thinking about the similarities between a parent and a music teacher or an orchestra conductor. Music teachers, the first instructors for beginning instrumentalists, teach the basics and endure hours of repetitious and often out-of-tune practice.  Parenting young children is often like being a beginning music teacher—you build the foundation and repeat the same instructions though the process is sometimes tiring and you may see little progress.

On the other hand, orchestra conductors direct instrumentalists who have mastered the basics and are ready to perform with other accomplished musicians.  It is quite similar to the role of parenting during the teen years.  If we parents do our job in the early years, our children won’t need the same level of instruction during their teen years.  Instead of being music teachers, we become more like an orchestra conductors.

We make sure everyone is on the same page.  You can imagine the cacophony of sound that would emerge from a symphony if only one  player was reading music from the wrong page.  Similarly, the beautiful melody of a family can only be achieved if we are on the same page.  When the girls were very young, we tried hard to communicate what was important and why.  We talked about what it means to follow God.  We explained why we chose certain activities and didn’t choose others.  Today, Harold and I try hard to communicate our goals and expectations not only for the girls personally, but also in regard to our schedule—what family commitments we have (We keep a master calendar.) and how each person can best serve our family during a certain period of time.  Our children can’t read our minds.  If I don’t communicate, I can’t expect that we’ll be on the same page.

We set the tempo of our home. As the girls have grown, so have the number of activities and opportunities they have opportunity to be involved in.  When the girls were young, Harold and I discussed which activities were beneficial for the girls and for our family.  Today, the girls come to us with requests and together we discuss the commitment and all of the ramifications to our family life and to our schedule.  As a pastor, my husband has many responsibilities and commitments so we try to look at the calendar and set a reasonable pace for our schedule.  We live in a fast-paced world that seems only to speed up with each passing year.  We try to set a reasonable family pace, balancing busy days and busy weeks with times of Sabbath and refreshing.  Some Saturdays we declare a family day—we disconnect our home phone and Harold turns off his cell phone.   The world has much to offer to fill our days, but it’s our job as parents to set the tempo.

We direct entrances and exits. With two drivers who are very committed to church and attending college, I sometimes feel like we have a revolving front door.  Our culture tends to accept the division of children and their families—children of all ages are involved in sports, music lessons, school activities, church activities, youth group, part time jobs, etc.  None of these activities are bad in and of themselves; however when activities become a “drop and shop”—drop the kids off so you can do what you want—it can divide families.  Give thought to the “entrances and exits” in your home.  All too soon your precious ones will be exiting the front door to start their own home.

We control the volume. In a house of four girls, this one is pretty tough.  Those who know our family well know that there is a certain level of excited chit-chat that accompanies our daughters.  (Some call it noise; I call it happy sounds.)  It is sometimes easier to live a life full of noise and activity than to take time to be silent and alone.  It is important that we teach our children to choose moments of solitude so they can think, process, create, and most importantly, hear the voice of God.  If the volume is turned up too loud, we may miss the still small voice of our Father.

We encourage each one to listen to the other. In an orchestra no one instrument should stand out louder than another, unless they are playing a solo.  Each player needs to carefully listen to those around them.  Listening can be a challenge in our home.  It seems there is never a lack of response to any comment made by one member of our family.  Most certainly at least one other member has an opinion or suggestion about the topic at hand.  More often than not, I hear overlapping layers of conversation interspersed with laughter.  I believe that all individuals, no matter their age, have a desire to be heard and understood.  I sometimes feel that my job is to be the “conversation traffic police”—stopping conversations that don’t build each other up, encouraging one speaker at a time, and reminding speakers to slow down so I can understand.  Monologues are like solos, but dialogues allow the beauty of each individual to shine through so that each one feels heard and understood.

If you are a parent, you are like a music teacher or orchestra conductor.  You may not be capable of teaching piano lessons or conducting a large group, but God has given you, and your family, the ability to create beautiful music that will bring honor and glory to Him.  Soli Deo Gloria.

Summer Strawberry and Spinach Salad

Raspberry Orange Vinaigrette ½ cup canola/olive oil blend (I use only olive oil.) 1/3 cup raspberry vinegar 2 tablespoons orange juice Sea salt to taste Ground pepper, to taste ¼ cup fresh chives, chopped (opt.)

Salad 4 cups spinach leaves, washed and dried 1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled, and quartered ½ cup sliced alonds, toasted ½ cup feta cheese crumbles Combine oil, vinegar, orange juice, salt, pepper and chives, blending well with a whisk. Arrange spinach, strawberries, almonds, and feta on a platter.  Toss with ½ cup vinaigrette. Serve remaining dressing on the side.  Serves 4-6.

Modest Swimsuits: 2011 Edition

The spring swim wear search is on and I can tell that I’m not alone.  The stats on my website show that there is a lot of interest in the article on modest swim wear that I posted in May of 2010.  Here is an update on what is available for the summer of 2011: There are many more modest swimwear choices available online than there were just two years ago.  In fact, some sites offer suits that cover everything but your face—a little too modest for my taste.  My search is for suits that match our standards for daily living in regards to neckline, tightness and length; though I admit some swim skirts are slightly shorter than than I would allow for a daily wardrobe.

Stitchin’ Times This is still my first choice for modest swim wear.  Last May I posted our experience with suits we’ve purchased over the years.   Last spring we ordered two of the new two piece design—tank dress over swim panties.  The dress sizes ran pretty true, but the swim panties ran about a size larger.  Next time I’ll order a size smaller than the dress I order.  The dress was fully lined, as I requested, and the quality of the sewing was even better than previous years.  Of the two swim dresses, one was made of fabric that seemed to have more nylon in it and it has certainly worn well.  The other dress seemed to be made of lighter-weight fabric and only made it through the end of last season.  I really wish there was some way to gauge the durability of the fabric before ordering.  Overall, the dress is the most practical pattern for fun swimming or a day at the beach; however it is not practical for serious swimming.

Land’s End I’ve purchased suits from Land’s End for more than 15 years.  Unfortunately, Land’s End quality is not what it used to be.  This year you’ll find some new swim dresses which give more coverage on the bottom, but not nearly enough on top, in my opinion.  I did notice a high waist swim mini, a swim skort and low-cut board shorts as options for bottoms, but there were no tops that I felt offered enough coverage.  I suppose you could purchase a one-piece tank and then put the bottoms over top—while you swim or even after you swim.  This may be the best modest suit option for the active swimmer.

Swim Modest I mentioned last year that we had enjoyed the Swim Modest suits we’ve ordered in the past.  Although the suits are available in girls’ or women’s sizes, I think these suits are best suited to younger girls who are frequently in and out of the pool or ocean or young women who aren’t self-conscious about their thighs.  I was able to use most suits for two years.

Here are some other off-the-beaten-path websites that I discovered this year.  I haven’t ordered from these sites, but they offer alternative styles and a variety of fabrics for reasonable prices.

CL Swim Designs (Christian Living Swim Designs) Some very cute designs for girls!  I particularly like the tank top and cap sleeve options with the swim bikini with the skirt cover up.  (I think I would request the skirt be made slightly longer.)  Unfortunately, they do not offer adult sizes.

Hydrochic Stylish women’s swim wear–for a price.  Their swim shirts—short sleeves or ¾ sleeves  only—are all quite unique.  For bottoms, they offer both long and short skirts as well as swim pants.  Sizes range from XS adult to 3X adult.

Sewn By Di For a more economical option, try these custom suits for girls, teens, and women up to 5X, including nursing and maternity suits.  Customers can choose the type of sleeves and length of both skirt and leggings as well as fabric.  Though there is no online store for purchase, you can place an order by email.

Dressing for His Glory These patterns are a little more traditional than the other sites I mentioned.  Separates include jumpers, shirts, t-shirts, culottes and swim skorts for girls and women (petite, tall, and women’s sizes).  All available fabrics are solid colors.

Meant to be Modest Another choice for a modest swim dress!  They only have one pattern, but so many choices of fabrics.  Seller will adjust skirt and legging length by request but requires that knees be covered by either skirt or leggings.  Sizes range from 2T to women’s XL.

Some of the suppliers above have ready-made inventory, but most custom make suits to your specifications.  Be sure to order soon so your suit will be ready when the pool opens!

NOTE: The companies listed above are not relationally or financially connected in any way to Daughters4God.

Help Your Child Develop a Prayer Life

Many Christian parents want to pass on their faith to their children. We are no different; we want our girls to have a vibrant relationship with the God who loves them so much.  That relationship is built through spending quiet time in God's presence, reading His love letter the Bible, and communicating with Him through prayer. Like any goal, it doesn’t happen by accident; it requires a plan of action. In our home, we have used different strategies for different ages.

PRESCHOOL 

It’s never too early to introduce your daughter to the power of prayer. Preschoolers are capable of praying more than “God is great; God is good.”  When my youngest was only two, we visited a 99-year-old saint who attended my church when I was a young girl. During our visit, we had a time of prayer. Each of us placed our hand on this precious prayer warrior and offered a prayer of blessing. The last to pray was the 2-year-old who babbled something incomprehensible. The woman was moved to tears that such a young child would pray for her. Here are some to introduce your preschooler to prayer:

  1. Explain that prayer, talking to Jesus, is like talking to their friends.
  2. Remind them that God hears every prayer they pray.
  3. Give them opportunity to pray from their heart. If they have trouble thinking of anything, start off with “Thank you, God, for...” and let them fill in the blank.
  4. Pray before each meal--even at restaurants.  This lets them know that God is important no matter who is watching.
  5. Make a prayer book. Place pictures of your family, friends, pastors, missionaries, etc. in an inexpensive photo album. As you flip through the book, your daughter can pray with you or repeat after you: “God bless____________.” Unfortunately, I didn’t think of this while my girls were preschoolers.

ELEMENTARY 

When our girls were old enough to read on their own, I made them a prayer card that doubled as a bookmark in their Bible. This simple tool helped our daughters develop their own prayer life. You can make this card on a computer, but these directions are for doing it the old-fashioned way, by hand. Be sure to write clearly and print unless your daughter can read cursive. Here’s how to make a prayer card for your daughter:

  1.  Choose a 3×5 card, with or without lines. Look for one in your daughter’s favorite color or use a white card and make it colorful with markers or stickers.
  2. Begin on a side with no lines. Hold the card in a vertical position with the longest side going from top to bottom. Begin by listing names of your family, one name per line: Ex. Dad, Mom, brothers, sisters, grandparents, other close family members.
  3. Next, (on the same side) list pastors, missionaries, teachers, or others in authority.
  4. Lastly, include things on the heart of your child like a friend who is ill. My oldest daughter included the country of China because she felt called to missions at a very young age.
  5. The opposite side is for your daughter. Choose one or two character traits that your daughter needs to work on. (ex. honesty, diligence, contentment) List the positive trait and a Bible verse about that trait. For example, if you need to work on truthfulness, then you may want to copy Psalm 34:13. If you’re struggling with diligence, you could copy Proverbs 10:4. Each day your daughter can read the verse and pray that God would change her heart. If your daughter reads the scripture each day for several weeks, she’ll memorize it without any trouble.

Of course, the card will not be accurate forever and will have to be updated every 3-6 months. Involve your daughter as you make changes. Pray together about which trait(s) your daughter needs to develop and encourage her as you see growth in her character.

UPPER ELEMENTARY/MIDDLE SCHOOL 

Encourage your daughter to begin a prayer journal. Many Christian and non-Christian bookstores carry bound books with lined or unlined blank pages or create your own with a 3-ring binder and dividers. Here are some suggestions to help your daughter prepare her journal:

  1.   Use a prayer plan like ACTS: Adoration – telling God how great He is Confession – repenting for what you’ve done wrong Thanksgiving – thanking God for His blessings Supplication – bringing your requests to God Prayer isn’t a laundry list of requests; it’s about building a relationship.
  2. Make a list of daily prayer requests, similar to the list above or help your daughter divide the requests: Monday for Missionaries, Tuesday for neighbors and those who are sick,  Wednesdays for Pastors, Thursday for family, Friday for Friends, Saturday for School.
  3. Make a chart for prayer requests, include a space for the date you begin to pray for the request, the date it was answered, and the answer. Seeing so many answers to prayer will grow your daughter’s faith.
  4. Record the scripture you read each day. Write one sentence summarizing the scripture in your own words and one sentence about how it applies to your life.
  5. Write your prayers to God. Encourage your daughter to write her feelings, reminding her that written words should be respectful and represent only what she would speak to others.
  6. Listen to God. In my own journal, I record my thoughts and prayers in cursive writing and what God is impressing on my heart in all caps.  Later, I can easily look back and focus on God's encouragement to me.  Prayer is a conversation, not a monologue.

Prayer is such a key part of a relationship with our God. The earlier we teach our children about prayer, the earlier they establish that vital spiritual discipline.  Earlier is better, but it's never too late to start.  If your child is older, model to them the importance of prayer by praying before meals, talking about how God has answered prayer, and offering to pray with them about challenging situations in their life.  My dear mother prayed blessings over us each day just before we walked out the door to get on the bus.  And of course, pray for your child and ask God to give them a desire to be in relationship with Him.

These are just a few ideas God showed us to teach our daughters about prayer.  Ask the Creator of creativity to show you how to best reach the heart of your daughter and help her develop a vibrant and powerful prayer life.  I'd love to hear ideas from your family about how you have taught your children about prayer!

Special Mother's Day Gift: "Circle of Love Bracelet"

One of my favorite things to do for fun is to design and make jewelry.  I enjoy the process of choosing colors, beads and findings to design the perfect gift for a family member or friend.  One of my favorite designs is the "Circle of Love Bracelet." As my mom's memory was fading, I wanted her to have a tangible way to remember that she had a big family who loved her very much.  I created a bracelet of birthstones of my dad and each of her children and her grandchildren.  She loved it and wore it every day for many years.  Since then, I've made bracelets for my mother-in-law and for other dear friends. If you are looking for a creative gift to give your mom this Mother's Day, look no further.  I am now taking orders for the "Circle of Love Bracelet."  Each bracelet is made of 6mm bicone Swarovski crystal birthstones with a simple sterling silver toggle clasp.  If there are fewer family members, I use each birthstone twice in the design or I alternate a single birthstone with white Swarovski pearls, depending on the requested size of the bracelet.

I am also able to customize the size for the recipient--Medium is about 7 inches for the average wrist, Small is approximately 1/4 in. smaller and Large is approximately 1/4 in. larger.  You may also send the wrist measurement if the gift isn't a surprise.

The cost of each bracelet is $30.  Orders will ship 2 business days after the order has been placed.  All orders must be placed by midnight May 4 for delivery by Mother's Day. Order here...