The Power of a Meal

Mealtime.

Sometimes just the thought of that word can bring dread into a parent’s heart. After all, dining with young ones is never quite the relaxed experience. Spills and noise can often fill a young family’s mealtime.

But, what if we chose to utilize mealtime in a way that got our kids talking and interacting with us? What if we used the time to have faith talks with our children? You do have a somewhat “captive” audience during mealtime.

Studies have shown that sitting down and having meals as a family help children to do well in school and avoid risky behaviors. As author Miriam Weinstein explains, “Sitting down to a meal together draws a line around us for a brief time and strengthens family bonds by shutting out the rest of the world as a powerful ritual against the many forces pulling us apart.”

So how can we get our kids talking during mealtimes?

1. Start off by praying for your meal. Have you and your children take turns praying before your meals. This is a great way to model prayer for your children and also to encourage them to begin the habit of praying.

2. One informal way to start conversations with your kids is to play the high/low game. Go around the table having members of your family tell what their high and low of their day was. Another way our family asks this is to say, “What was the best thing about your day, and what was the worst thing about your day?” This is a great way to find out about everyone’s day.

3. Find a simple devotion book. This is a great time to lead your family in a small, simple devotion before, during or after your meal. Mealtimes and bedtimes are great, practical times to have faith talks with your children.

4. To learn more about what is going on in your children’s lives, put some questions together for your family to ask each other. Conversation starter questions like, “What is your favorite color?” and “What is something that makes you happy?” are great questions to get conversation started during mealtimes. Pinterest has great ideas on how to make your own conversation starter kits.

To further explore some mealtime ideas, check out these resources!

The Surprising Power of Family Meals by Miriam Weinstein
150 Quick Questions to Get Your Kids Talking by Mary E. DeMuth
The Hours that Matter Most by Les & Leslie Parrot
Dinner Table Devotions by Nancy Guthrie

Website:  TABLE GAMES

 

Grace for the Working Mom

“I don’t see how you do it.”

That’s the statement I get told so often. Juggling 4 kids and working, is a daunting, busy task.

My response? “Most of the time, I don’t do it well.”

So many times people see the end result. They see an event I was working on go well. They see my house looking nice and tidy when they come over. They see the kids all decked out in their church clothes, giving off the illusion that we are all put together when we arrive on a Sunday morning.

What they don’t see is that I was racing against the clock to get my event done… that meant that my husband and kids didn’t get the time or attention they deserved for the week. They did not see that we ate fast food 3 nights in a row, because I couldn’t remember to set out any meet from the freezer. They did not see that I hired someone to come clean the house and I consciously scheduled it right before I knew I would have company because I was so embarrassed by the state of my house. What they did not see was me yelling at my kids before we left for church because they were not moving fast enough for me, and that I had to ask my kids for forgiveness on the way to church.

The word that keeps playing in my mind in this busy season is…grace.

Grace for me. Grace for my husband. Grace for my kids. And grace for all the other mommas out there that are just trying to make it.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

This verse has been been on replay in my mind. Our days are short on this earth. I love my family, and I love the work that God has called me to do. So, how do I reconcile all the priorities I have with the little time that I have?

Sometimes, it means that my family does get the short-end of the stick, because for a couple of weeks the load at work is a lot to bear. But maybe, grace abounds from my family to me because they know that before and after this “season”, I’m actively present with them. Maybe grace abounds to my husband when he has the same struggle with busyness with work and he has to be gone several nights, because I know “this too shall pass”, and we’ll all be reunited again. Maybe grace is shown to my kids…because my busyness affects them too. Because perhaps I am mistaking their outbursts for defiance when maybe it’s a cry for attention in the moment. And maybe some grace can flow through our whole home, because being present in each other lives trumped a clean and tidy house this week.

In Andy Stanley’s Book Choosing to Cheat he says that everyday we make the decision “to give up one thing in order to gain something else. This is something we do every day. We don’t think of it as cheating. Especially when we are making what most people would consider a good trade.” Andy Stanley goes on to illustrate that he chooses to “cheat” his work sometimes when there is something at home that requires him to be there, and then other times he has to make the choice to “cheat” his family when a big initiative is going on at church and he has to work longer hours.

We all want to be the best spouse, parent, friend, co-worker, homemaker we can be. But maybe we can’t be all those things at exactly the same moment. Things have to give, things have to ebb and flow. Priorities and hats have to change sometimes hour to hour. Grace has to flow.

And, I’ll make you a deal…if we are to be at each other homes in the near future, I’ll look past the spilled milk on the floor if you ignore the tumbleweed of dog hair rolling past your foot.

 

The Bible is Better than Gold

Teaching preschoolers about the Bible can be difficult when preschoolers can’t even read yet. Here’s some tips on speaking with your preschooler about the Bible.

Be careful to always reference the Bible and it’s “rules” regarding how we should live. Sure, children need to be corrected and they need to know what God’s standards for our lives are, but more importantly, they need to know the love of God and how He came to rescue us. If we as parents focus more with our children on the correcting and rebuking part of the Bible, our children will miss the biggest theme of the Bible: God sent us His Son so that we could know Him and spend forever with Him.

Teach your preschooler that the Bible is about God and His Story. The Bible is not all about me and what I should be doing – it’s about God and what He has done. Teach your preschooler that the big story of the Bible is about the love of God for His children and how He came to rescue us. And that love…never stops, no matter what we do. Talk about the ultimate super hero!!!

Reference biblical characters and their strengths AND weaknesses. The cool thing about the Bible is people have gone through what we struggle with today. Some did it well…some did it not so well. There are stories of people who struggled with fear, disobedience, selfishness, and the stories of how they overcame it. These stories remind preschoolers that they are not alone! And the God of the universe helped them. Because of this, I can know that He will help me!

Make the Bible apart of your life. If you want God’s Word to be in them, it has to be in you. If you want your children to know that His Word is precious to you, they need to see you spending time in it. What you love, you spend time with. Preschoolers catch onto what you are teaching them when they see it modeled out with their own eyes. They will know the Bible is the greatest treasure when they see you treating it like the greatest treasure!

 

Making the most of your time

Trying to have a conversation with a preschooler can sometimes feel as fulfilling as banging your head against a brick wall. Little ones can obsess about a certain subject, give one word answers, or better yet, give you no answers at all. The church tells you that you need to have meaningful conversations with your preschoolers to start laying the foundation of their faith, but is it really possible? More than that, HOW?

Sitting down for a formal devotion never quite pans out in the world of preschoolers. You may get their attention for 2 minutes per age of the child, and that’s only if you’re bringing your “A” game…puppets, video and a bag of tricks. Intimidating? These days there is so much competing for your child’s attention visually. In the days of Xbox, Kindles and TVs, what’s a mom to do?

You need to capitalize in everyday life. You look for the times that you have a captive audience. Meal time, bath time, bed time and drive time are great times to talk to you children about faith.

Meal time: Saying a blessing or having your child say the blessing before a meal demonstrates a thankful heart to God. It shows your child that we can talk to God. It also reinforces a habit of praying. A great activity to do with your child at mealtime is to make a conversation starter kit. You can place questions in a jar that your child can pick out for you to ask. These need to be open-ended questions that can start a dialogue. They can be fun questions like, “If you were a bird, where would you fly?”. Or maybe you can ask a little more serious question, “What makes you feel afraid?” That question alone can lead to a reminder of “God is with us always.”

Bath time: This can be a great time to talk about how God made your child special. As you’re washing their arms you can tell the about how God made their tiny arm. Children need to hear that they are special and they are loved just as they are by you the parent and by the Creator of the universe.

Bed time: Bed time is a great time to read a bible story to your child. A picture storybook bible helps to keep their minds engaged as you are reading. A prayer to God after reading helps to reinforce spending time with God, a habit you want them to develop later in life.

Drive time: Why not take advantage of the time you have your child strapped down? Talk about a “captive” audience! Most vehicles these days have a DVD player, and they are most always playing something. Why not take the time to play a Veggie Tales (italics) or something else with a special emphasis? Does your child love music? Play some fun songs that your child knows from Sunday mornings.

Always remember… when you feel frustrated because you don’t feel like you’re getting through to your preschooler, they are observing a parent that is engaging with them. They may not remember the exact spiritual topic you are trying to convey, but they will remember a parent who spent time with them and who was pointing them to Jesus. One of the best ways you can show your child how to spend time with Jesus, is to let them see you spending time with Jesus.