What I’m Into {Feb/March 2017}

 

It’s 1:00pm and I’m sitting at my desk in a very quiet house.

Normally I’m at work right now, but after a grueling couple weeks, I gifted myself a vacation day.

When I woke up this morning I named this day Sit-In-Bed-And-Read. I have a gloriously tall stack of books on my nightstand and today was going to be THE DAY.

Apparently I have an inability to enjoy a lazy day. After dropping the kids off at school, I decided to do just one thing from my to-do list. You probably can guess the rest of the story. It quickly became obvious I had misnamed this day. It renamed itself Catch-Up-On-Life. It’s morphed into a day that I am doing all of the things that “I’ll just do tomorrow.” Grocery shopping. Making dr. and dentist appointments. Fixing things. And a whole lot of internet errands.

But now I take a break in completing my to-do list to share all the things I’ve been LOVING this month.

First things first.

Books

We don’t purchase books very often, but this month we decided to grab each book in the Ordinary People Change the World series. In each book, kids learn about some ordinary person who has changed the world in a big way. They are well-written and the illustrations are on-spot.

Our book club launched this month, and we read Threading My Prayer Rug, a story about a Pakistani Muslim who moves to America and begins her adult life. It’s both eye-opening and funny, a rare mix. I’m learning about arranged marriages, Muslim faith practices, and what it looks like to move to America from a very different culture.

I finished up a couple books this month that I didn’t enjoy, and I even quit a book in the middle (gasp!).  No need to fear though- I have some other promising ones on the horizon. (more…)

The Family Reading List {February 2017}

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Oh, y’all. We have had a good month of reading. Our bookshelves are oozing with a curation of interesting books, magazines, and graphic novels. Here are some of our faves.

Anaya’s Reading List (3.5 years old)

The Saddest Toilet in the World

Sam Apple

Although Anaya has been potty-trained for a LONG TIME, she adores books about potty-training. Probably because bodily functions are hilarious. She thrives on pushing the envelope of decency and humor. I will not surprised if she ends up being a stand-up comedian.

A quick synopsis goes like this: Kid doesn’t want to sit on the toilet, toilet gets sad and leaves home, boy misses toilet and family searches the city to find it. Preschoolers will love it. Parents can tolerate it.

Others to try out:

Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship
Daniel Tiger: Nighttime in the Neighborhood
In My Heart: A Book of Feelings

(more…)

What a bus driver taught me on the way to the Women’s March on Madison

As we waited at the bus stop, a woman slowed her car to a stop, rolled down her window and shouted, “Hey! Are you going to the march?”

Jake and I had the three girls with us, and before either of us could respond, the girls happily told the lady we were. “Thank you!” she yelled. “I’m so proud of you all!”

A few minutes later, the bus turns onto the street and we were relieved. It was well overdue and we were nervous we weren’t going to make it in time. Then we saw that it was full. To the brim. The message flashing on the bus’ front sign “Drop offs only.”  My heart sank. There was no way we were getting downtown by car. The bus was our only option at that point.

As I was giving Jake the “what do we do now?” look, the bus driver stops, opens the door and yells- “Hey! Do you guys want to squeeze in?”

“Oh, uh, are you sure?”

“We are very full, but it breaks my heart to leave your girls out in the cold. We can make room. Come on in.” (more…)

The Family Reading List {January 2017}

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Welcome to the first Family Reading List of 2017!

Winter weather has us staying indoors, so we’ve had more time to explore the bookshelf. Each month I’ll share with you some of the books that the kids have been enjoying.

Anaya’s Reading List (3.5 years old)

Little Big Girl

Claire Keane

Anaya desperately wants a little brother or sister. Since this isn’t going to happen (sorry little lady!), she self-medicates with reading about having younger siblings. Little Big Girl is about a girl who is little, but loves to have BIG adventures. When a younger brother comes along, Matisse discovers that maybe she’s actually.. big!

This book is super sweet, and is perfect for a little sibling with an even littler sibling on the way :).

 

Others to try out:

I am too absolutely small for school
Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color

 

(more…)

Why We Don’t Give Gifts on Christmas (and what we do instead)

why-we-dont-give-gifts-on-christmas-morningIt’s no secret that Jake and I can be a little unconventional.

But, it may surprise you that we don’t give our kids gifts on Christmas morning. None. Zero.

When we tell people this, we get a variety of reactions:

  • The wild-eyed are-you-freaking-kidding-me, what-kind-of-person-are-you look (my personal favorite).
  • An I really want to roll my eyes at you because aren’t you taking this Jesus thing a little too far look.
  • Honest confusion. Why? 
  • Ohhhh, I get it, you must be a super fundamentalists look (btw, we’re definitely not).
  • Genuine Sadness for our kids. Oh. That’s so sad. You must have a really boring Christmas.

All of these are fair responses- it IS a little strange. But our family loves Christmas. It just looks a bit different than what other people are used to.  (more…)

Animate: A New Kind of Bible Study

I work with small groups on a regular basis, and I always have my radar up for new and interesting Bible studies. When evaluating small group curriculum, I’m looking for a few factors:

  1. Simple, straightforward prep for leaders. Leaders often feel more comfortable leading a small group if they have material they can pick up, preview, and easily run with.  A well-prepared leader is a key factor for a positive group experience.
  2. Low level of “homework”. Most small group participants will not do homework for the study (even if they say upfront they want to). Small group curriculum that comes with a set of short videos for small groups to watch together is a great alternative to requiring preparation outside of the group.
  3. Options for those who want to dig deeper. While most participants will not do homework, a couple of the rockstar members will want go above and beyond.  These participants will gravitate towards studies that provide something to mull over during the week.
  4. Challenging. The best small group experience happens when people are challenged and have the freedom to explore theological and practical ideas in the context of a safe, grace-filled learning community. Too many guardrails of what’s okay or not okay to say kills a discussion and leaves participants wondering if the weekly meeting is worth their time.

animate-series-review

 

Recently I’ve gotten the opportunity to take a look at the Animate series from Sparkhouse, and it has all the marks of a great study. Helpful facilitators guide. Short DVD experience. Journal for the participant. More questions than answers.

(more…)

An Introduction to Scripture Doodling

Over the past couple years I’ve become convinced that coloring, doodling, journaling, and drawing can all be helpful ways to connect with God. It’s easy for us non-artist types to shrug off these methods because we’re not that good at drawing. Or it feels too much like playing. Or ain’t nobody got time for that.

But, I think it’s often for these very reasons that we ought to just give it a try.

A couple years ago, I found myself locked into a particular way of connecting with God. Read. Pray. Music. Read. Pray. Music.

I needed something different. Something to engage a different part of my brain. So I began coloring.

I’ll admit that I gravitate towards coloring more than doodling, mostly because I’m good at it. I can color inside the lines. I’m decent at choosing colors. There’s an obvious finish line. Doodling, on the other hand, makes me a bit uncomfortable because I’m not always sure what to draw.

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Scripture Doodle is a half-way house for those of us stuck in between the “I really want to try this” and “Man, I stink at drawing and have no idea what to do with a blank piece of paper.”

(more…)

The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith

I have a confession:

I have a hard time liking Christian books for kids.

I WANT to like them. I want to provide my kids age-appropriate tools that will help them to grow in their relationship with God– communicating to them the depths of God’s love for them, while also not being cheesy.

Apparently this is a tall order.

One of my friends recently posted this question to a Facebook group that we’re a part of:

I have two kids who are two and three years old. Does anyone have any suggestions for age-appropriate books or cartoons that come from a progressive Christian perspective?

I struggled to think of a response. Not just for 2-3 year olds, but for older kids too.

Because of this difficulty, I’m particularly excited to share this book recommendation for kids ages 8-14. And while I’m not sure I’d throw it into the progressive category, it comes closer than most.

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The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith, is a book that helps kids grow in their understanding of the Bible, spiritual practices, and knowledge of Christian history. The author also throws some crazy stuff in there like how to make pottery, building a sundial, and learning the greek alphabet- because learning about the roots of our faith can be really fun!

Format:

This hardcover book is divided into 67 short, 2-3 page chapters. Each page is filled with colorful illustrations and has a good sense of design. The style reminds me of books like Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Guinness Book of World Records for Kids, or sport statistic books: colorful, engaging, short chapters that don’t mess around with too many words.

Content:

The content is engaging, fun, smart, and hits on a variety of topics.

For word nerds, they’ll love learning the greek (and hebrew!) alphabet, becoming familiar with some common latin phrases, and learning about ancient texting (LOL! FRT).

For kids who care a lot about friends and relationships, there are chapters on friendship, relationship with parents, and dealing with enemies.

I know there are some kids who just want to DO and TRY and EXPERIMENT. For these kids, they’ll learn how to make a sundial, pottery, and a slingshot, among other things.

Most of the rest of the chapters dive into questions about God, spiritual practices, theology, and how to read Scripture in a way that honors the intent of the author.

There’s no guilt, no “shoulds”, no mention of demanding obedience out of fear of hell or damnation or God’s unhappiness with them.

Instead, it’s written with a tone of curiosity and conversation, focused on God’s love and rescue plan for all of creation. Sure, a part of that story is sin, death and Satan, but ultimately, the author is writing from a perspective of the bigger picture- God’s redemptive plan. The author says:

By now it should be clear that Christianity is not a religion that’s a list of advice for you to do. No, instead Christianity brings news of what Jesus has already done. It’s not about the accomplishment of your good works; it’s about the announcements of his good works.

I love it! And this is a perspective that’s missing from many books I review for kids. The temptation in these faith-based kid books are to focused good works because that’s what applies right then and there. We want our kids to obey and do the right thing. That makes sense.

BUT, without constantly putting in front of them the bigger picture- the more important picture, frankly, the gospel turns into this mucky, weird, shame-laden relationship with God that is messy to reverse later on in life.

The gospel is not good advice. It’s good news. The author gets that.

My Recommendation

I highly recommend this book for kids who are interested in learning a little more about the roots of their faith and how they can lean into the good news of the Kingdom of God and their journey with God!

Thanks to the publisher for this review copy! All these thoughts are honest and wholly mine :).

Advent Resources 2016

Here in Madison we are suffering (cough, cough) from an unbelievably mild fall.

Autumn in Madison is normally filled with sweatshirts and snow pants.

Just the other day we were wearing t-shirts without a jacket.

I don’t mean to complain or anything, but y’all, I have some super cute fall clothes that I haven’t really been able to enjoy yet.

Today, I walked into Target today and what did I see?

Yep, you guessed it.

Christmas trees and a huge banner wishing me a Merry Christmas. For the love! I can’t even think about Christmas. Not with this weather. Which reminds me– there was one Christmas that we were living in Nairobi, Kenya– and it was SO WARM. I couldn’t get into the Christmas spirit. Yes, yes, it shouldn’t matter how cold or hot it is while celebrating our sweet Jesus’ birth, but I can’t sing Christmas carols while sweating.  Christmas is not really Christmas without feeling like your phalanges are going to freeze off as you carry sleepy kids out to the car covered with freshly-scraped, but yet still slightly frosted windows and the heater on full blast.

All that being said. I am starting to prepare for Advent, which is not. too. far. away. We like to do something as a family, and I’m always looking for creative ways to observe Advent.

advent-resources-2016

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be reviewing some new (or new to me) books. They are, in no particular order:

the-most-wonderful-time-of-the-year

1. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: A Countdown to Christmas by Ace Collins

For the month of December, Collins provides a daily Scripture or inspirational reading, paired with the story of a famous Christmas song or movie, and a DIY gift idea or holiday recipe.

What I like: I’m not much of a historian, so I felt like I learned a lot regarding the history of various Christmas movies and songs after reading this book.

It was also fun that he included some DIY gift ideas. I love the idea of doing a makers Christmas, and some of his ideas sounded uncomplicated to make, and also useful. Beeswax candles. Recipe books. Photo coasters. Super fun.

What I didn’t like: In the same vein, because I’m not a historian, I tend to crave Advent book books or other resources that lean more theologically heavy. This book did include Scripture and some inspirational writing, but generally, this book is going to be great for those who are interested in looking to the past to provide meaning for the here and now.

BUT, I know some of you might really enjoy this book. If you love history and Christmas, enter to win the Magic of Christmas Prize Pack. Create new traditions this holiday season with your family and friends with the goodies included in the giveaway. One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on November 21. The winner will be announced November 22 on the Litfuse blog.

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**I received The Most Wonderful Time of the Year from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.**
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2. All Is Bright: A Devotional Journey to Color Your Way to Christmas

It’s no secret that I’ve been swept up into the adult coloring book phenomena. I’m loving pairing devotional with coloring– it connects my brain to my heart and just helps me to slow down and reflect instead of sprinting off to the next thing.
And this one is no different.
All is Bright is not only a coloring book, but an Advent coloring book and devotional. In addition to the devotionals and coloring pages for grown-ups, it also includes family devotionals and coloring pages for kids. Each family devotional includes a piece of Scripture, a couple discussion questions, and a down-to-earth prayer. Topics include generosity, making space for Jesus, love, and worship. And while the adult section has a devotion for each day in December, the family portion includes only 12 days.
And to be honest, this latter part is what really attracted me to this book. Here’s what the author says about her hopes for this space:
My hope is that as you spend some time with the children in your world coloring and talking, you’ll be able to help them escape our culture’s consumer approach to Christmas and instead spark a sense of gratitude for Christ’s first coming and anticipation for when he comes again.

I share this same hope, and have found that it’s through a constant re-orienting that we can focus on Jesus in the midst of consumer crazy. I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy. It’s very much NOT. But resources like this are a good tool in helping us on this journey.

**I received All is Bright from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.”