Author: Betty Lewis

Making the Most of Your Christmas Break // Kids Edition

The Christmas season is a time of celebration, but it can often be a time of stress and anxiety for both children and parents.

CHECK OUT THESE TIPS FROM OUR KIDS MINISTRY FOR MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR CHRISTMAS BREAK:

  • Interview your spouse and older kids // Find out what makes Christmas seem like Christmas to your spouse and to your older kids. What is their favorite thing your family does during Christmas? How are they feeling about upcoming visits with extended family? What special things would they like to make time during their school break (think hobbies, visits with friends, fun times as a family)? What are some ways they can intentionally serve and bless other family members during this special time together? This can help you have the conversations your family needs and focus the way you spend your time over the holidays.
  • Make the most of your car time // If you are taking a road trip, plan to download or borrow intentional, meaningful, fun audio books you can listen to together. Make sure you have your family’s favorite Christmas music on hand as well so you can all sing along together. These create shared experiences that draw you together. Through the years, we have found our kids sharing inside jokes from these books or singing these shared songs as we cook together in the kitchen.
  • Make connections // Proactively plan ahead with your spouse about how to facilitate time with Jesus for each family member while you are with extended family. Whether you are staying with relatives or hosting them, your rhythms and spaces change, and you’ll want to plan intentionally so that time with Jesus actually happens. Also, find time to pull away in the morning and evening, both as a couple and as a nuclear family, even just for a few minutes. This time can allow you to help your children sort through family dynamics or talk in honoring but honest ways about places where your values differ from those of extended family members.
  • Keep food prep shared and simple // Consider taking time in the days leading up to Christmas to spend unpressured time in the kitchen with your kids, enjoying the process of baking and letting them explore and develop their skills, whatever their ability level. As you prepare holiday meals, break tasks down and figure out what each child can do. Even if it is chaotic, working together in the kitchen can be a time of great joy, togetherness and memory-making. If you tend to make similar things each year, making a master grocery list for the week of Christmas will save you time when you pull it back out each year. Our list includes all the ingredients for Christmas cookies, our favorite Christmas Eve chili (keeping it simple), candy for stockings, breakfast for Christmas morning, a special Christmas dinner and supplies for s’mores.
  • Simple gifts // Consider giving and/or letting your kids contribute toward an amount of money you will give to an organization like World Vision. Once you settle on the amount, give them the World Vision catalog and let them know they must agree on what to give. Our kid “committee” spent a long time around the dining room table deliberating and persuading each other, laboring over which was more important – clean water or vaccinations, chickens or goats. They eventually agreed and were very excited about what they were able to give. This process also helps them keep a perspective of thankfulness in the midst of a commercialized Christmas culture.
  • Have a Giving Day // Before Christmas, our kids take some time to clean out their closets and toy shelves. We encourage our kids to think about things they would like to give that would bless another child, not just their unwanted junk. Thinning out their belongings and thinking about what would bless others is another way to cultivate thankfulness and generosity. It makes more impact on kids’ hearts to do this before they receive their Christmas gifts, so they are giving without knowing what they will receive.
  • It’s Classified // Arm your kids with this simple phrase. It will enable you to draw them into gift-giving without having them divulge secrets or feel compelled to resort to lying. You could take one child at a time on a mission to find gifts for another child or other family members. When siblings try to extract hints from this child, all they have to say (repeatedly) is, “It’s classified.” Drawing your kids into searching for each other’s gifts can help them grow in thoughtfulness and love for their siblings.
  • The real deal // Take time on Christmas morning to gather your kids, read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and sing some worshipful Christmas carols together.

Most of all, enjoy Jesus together as a family. You can take these steps to keep your family connected and focused on beholding the King of Kings with wonder through the Christmas season!

By Betty Lewis – Infant and Toddlers Pastor

Back to School Tips: Kids Edition

Heading back to school is an exciting time of new beginnings, but it can often be a time of stress and anxiety for both children and parents. Check out three tips or heading back to school from our Kids Ministry:

  • 1. Interview Your Kids

Most kids feel a mix of conflicting emotions about going back, and this transition is a critical milestone for reaching their hearts. One child might be itching to return to his friends, while another might dread giving up her introvert time. They might be grieving about going back without close friends who moved away. Going to a new school might be stirring up feelings of insecurity. Get a chance to talk to your child on a heart level and then pray together. It really can change his or her world. Some questions are:

What’s important to you this year?

What are you looking forward to? Fearing? Dreading?

Who are you looking forward to seeing the most?

  • 2. Figuring out the Mornings

We want our families to thrive in the mornings, not just survive, and that begins at night. As much as I might wish it to be otherwise, starting our bedtime routine at the right time really is the key to making the mornings peaceful. Figure out what your priorities are for the morning and develop a schedule around them. Time with Jesus, family devotion and a peaceful morning where we leave on time are what we want, so we have to intentionally build them in and then fight for them when the pressures of life try to crowd them out.

  • 3. Family Connection Points

Family meals are the anchor points of security in a child’s day. These become even more important as they make the transition to spending so much time away from mom and dad.

Try to sit down as a family every day for breakfast, even if it’s only for five or 10 minutes. A simple family devotion is like a rock of security and blessing for your children, no matter how chaotic it may be. If nothing else, you can open the Bible, read a Psalm. Omit a few words while you’re reading it and then have your kids try to fill in the blanks. It keeps them engaged, and gets the Word into their hearts. End by praying a blessing over their day.

Packed lunches are a great opportunity to speak encouragement into your child’s life. Include a note whenever you can… a Scripture, a word of love or an encouragement. I find stashes in my oldest kids’ rooms of lunch notes they have kept. It’s a small way to make a big impact.

Dinner gives everyone a chance to come back together and decompress from the day. Kids can talk about what happened, the joys and the struggles. Many times, we’ve had to use a timer to make sure each of our seven family members got a chance to speak, but we wouldn’t trade these times for anything.

Bed time is a chance to connect with the heart of your children. This “owl time” is when hearts are often most open and communicative. As they start school, this is especially important, as they have new experiences and challenges. This is also a vital opportunity to pray together.

As you begin your school year, make sure to carve out a family night in the middle of the rigors of soccer practice and homework. Playing board games together or going for a walk helps your relationships and it helps cement your family identity. Don’t miss out!

Most of all, be intentional as you make this transition.

It doesn’t have to feel like you’re being swept along in the current. You can take these steps to keep your family connected and focused on “More of Jesus” in the midst of back-to-school life!

By Betty Lewis

 

Give Identity

My daughter’s turning 16 today, which stirs up memories of my high school years. Though many 16-year-olds dream of a brand-new car with a big bow for their birthday, I rode the school bus through my senior year. On those times when I had to drive up to the school after hours for an activity, I got to drive my dad’s truck.

If only you could have seen this truck pull up next to the late model BMW’s and Mercedes my friends drove! It was a 20-year-old gray Dodge, which my dad modified with his personally welded tool boxes above the sides of the bed, one side higher than the other to reduce his blind spot. The spare tire had been stolen one too many times, so Dad mounted it on the front of the grill, complete with a giant padlock. The air conditioning was long-gone, so Dad installed an oscillating fan on top of the dashboard. There were usually about three sewer machines in the bed, Dad’s rubber boots and some plungers displayed prominently on the back of one of the toolboxes. The best part was the sign on the side of the truck, which pictured a black-and-white drawing of an overflowing toilet, saying “Drains Clogged? Call Grover Newman Home Services!” with our home phone number. It was like I had just driven a visual aid to my dad’s personality into the parking lot.

Driving this truck to school was one of the best gifts my dad gave me. In the face of great wealth and materialism, it forced me to deal with the comparison in my heart. There was no way I could blend in. It helped me accept who I was, helped me be thankful for my family, for the hard work of my father and for the way he helped and served others.

It helped free me to be myself and not pretend.

I Corinthians 10:12 says “…When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”
It was a great gift to me to receive such a visible demonstration of the futility of comparison while I was still a teenager.

In Response:

We live in a world where we are encouraged to give our children everything. May I encourage you to give them the gift of learning to value their own identity as a unique child of God? Speak identity over your child, and do not be afraid to allow your child’s lifestyle or possessions to look different than those of his or her friends. Listen for the voice of God about what each of your children needs, and be confident in obeying what you hear Him say.

And if you find yourself struggling with comparison and insecurity, let me encourage you to spend time with God and ask Him how He sees you. Allow God to speak identity over you and ask Him to highlight verses about your identity in Christ. When we see ourselves the way God sees us, we are also free to see others the way He sees them.

By Betty Lewis, Nursery Coordinator