Christmas is over, and the Jesse Tree is packed away…Bummer! So what do we do now?!!
The first year we began the Jesse Tree it was the FIRST consistent time Richard and I had done anything regarding a family “devotional” time. It was such a blessing to spend time in God’s word together that it kickstarted a passion and desire in me to continue creating more purposeful moments in God’s word with my kids.
No matter what your experience was this past month with the Jesse Tree–whether you were able to complete the devotional each day or some days, or none–it is NEVER too late to tell your kids about Jesus. And as you know the Jesse Tree takes us to the pinnacle of Christ’s birth but there is much more to tell…so don’t stop there! Take your kids all the way to the climax of the cross and the resurrection. Tell them about the disciples, the early church, and the joy of Christ coming again! Let’s finish the story!!
There is debate over how many days it takes to form a “habit” but we know that “knowing God” and “making Him known” is a lifelong habit and love so we make time together as a family growing in our faith a BIG priority. Now we do not do ALL that I am about to share with you every single day! Everyday I pray and ask the Lord to show Himself to us in SOME way that day. We have lots of tools and whether we do lots or none, He has been so faithful to provide opportunities to pray, spend time in His word, or sing a song to set our hearts and minds on Him.
I want to share with you some of our most favorite resources that have helped us as a family create a ‘habit’ of family devotionals.
Before I can share with you what I like to do with my kids, I have to tell you how I start my day, and how it has changed my life.
The One Year Chronological Bible.
I love this Bible! It has helped me to stay in God’s Word during this very busy season of life in manageable 15 minute readings a day. I love how God’s Word has become one story with the chronological aspect, and it has helped me to understand the Bible even better. And I know that I cannot love and give to my husband and my kids in my own strength. I need God’s word as my food so I can feed my family. The biggest impression we ever are going to make with our kids is through our lives and how they see us live. So God’s word and our time with Him is our greatest priority!
Find a good storybook Bible or devotional book that you and your kids will LOVE!
Here are just a few 🙂
These have all been tried and tested, and our family has loved them. A quick run down:
For toddlers and preschoolers, I love the Read Aloud Bible Stories from Ella K. Lindvall (Volumes 1-4). My kids still love to look through these books. Big pictures, simple stories, and a basic truth at the end of each story. These are so precious to me that I often give them to new moms as a shower gift!
For preschoolers to any age, I love The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. I mean LOVE this. They also have DVD’s out now where your children can watch the story. We followed this book up with The Children’s Illustrated Bible by Selina Hastings. This Bible was great because it has little blurbs and real pictures to give you context for the story. For example–clothes, dishes, what things looked like in Bible times. My kids really got into the pictures and I will find them often just looking through it on their own.
For grade school age, we are presently reading The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos. (Andrew is 4 and loves this Bible too.) This is my absolute favorite. The Bible’s text is close to Scriptural account and very easy for kids to understand. The pictures are nothing fancy but my kids often ask me to read more. I have learned so much from this Story Bible myself and we are on our second time reading through it. I often pencil in questions my kids ask and it is so fun to see how much their understanding has grown in a year!
We also have begun reading through Big Truths for Little Kids by Susan and Richie Hunt. This is more of a catechism book but in a totally non-boring way! Each chapter has a story where Cassie and Caleb learn an important truth about God. There are questions and application at the end of each chapter too. My kids have responded well to the stories, and I love that they are learning BIG truths about God.
My daughter and I have also enjoyed Jesus Calling for Kids by Sarah Young. These are letters written from God with accompaning verses that teach truth and application for kids. If I could only get through one of these without crying!! There is something so powerful in hearing God’s words to you in the form of a letter–as if He is talking directly to you…I have loved the special moments and conversations these pages have brought about with Eleanor.
Andrew has loved the Read with Me Bible by Dennis Jones and now The Action Bible by David Cook and Sergio Cariello. The illustrations in these Storybibles are amazing!! Andrew will just look at the pages over and over, and we often end up reading a story out of either of these at bedtime. Great for boys but my daughter has loved them too!
A family that prays together stays together!! Pray!!
I grew up always being so afraid to pray out loud. I was so terrified of NOT knowing what to say that I just did not say anything at all. The blessings of starting out praying together as a family is one–the kids see you doing it and that gives them a model, a frame of reference for how to pray…and two–it becomes a part of their life at a young age and they get to practice in the safety of their own home and family.
Here are a couple of things we have used to help encourage our kids to pray, and also to help us to know what to pray. We write down names of family, friends, or anyone we may meet on a popsicle stick and put it in our prayer cup. At meals or bedtime we will pull out a few sticks and pray for those people. This helps me to remember to pray too! For little ones who cannot read I encourage you to print out pictures and glue to the stick or create a little picture album for them to flip through to encourage prayer. Guess what we use all of our Christmas cards for?
Our church also has a flip book of missionaries our church supports. We use this, or sometimes I will let my kids just walk over to our world map and pick out a place and we pray. These are such simple and easy ideas but I have been amazed at how it has helped us create a habit of prayer and thinking of others.
Make a GIVE jar to encourage supporting a ministry, person, cause, or unknown need.
(This is not my idea! It’s Sally Clarkson’s from The Mission of Motherhood.)
Sally would have her family eat oatmeal once a week and would put the money they otherwise would have spent on the meal (We do $5) in a jar to give to others. Right now our dear friends who are preparing to move overseas and minister full time are the beneficiaries. We have some good friends that have a jar that goes towards saving money to donate shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child next fall.
Sometimes we eat oatmeal, sandwiches, pancakes, rice and beans, leftovers…just anything that we usually have on hand in the pantry that is simple and serves as a reminder that we are choosing to eat what’s on hand and give the money away. And you know what’s great about this too? You may just find that your kids are inspired to give more and contribute some of their own money they earn or receive towards the GIVE jar!
Scripture Memory–Hiding God’s Word in their hearts…
This is an area I so struggle with myself and this has been the biggest blessing to me as we have put this habit into practice. I learn the Scripture right along with my kids, and I so need His word hidden in my heart too!! Now, I don’t have any real special tricks or creative ideas for this one–we just DO IT.
I usually pick out a verse, or a Psalm, or passage of Scripture and we say it every day until we know it. Many times we are learning Scripture that might go along with a holiday (like Luke 2 for Christmas, 1 Corinthians 13 in February, or Matthew 28 for Easter). If we are dealing with a particular sin struggle (which we always are!), we will learn Scripture to help us walk in the Spirit. My favorite way that has helped my kids learn Scripture is Tabletop Truths placemats. Everytime they eat, they see their fun placemat, and we talk about it, and say the verses.
Sing a new song to the Lord!
This goes hand in hand with memorizing Scripture because there are some wonderful CD’s out there that put Scripture to music. We love SEEDS Family Worship CD’s, and they have helped us learn so many Bible verses. When the kids were really young we loved Steve Green’s Hide ‘Em in Your Heart CD’s.
We also learn tons of hymns at our house which I attribute my love and desire to teach my children hymns from the school I taught at previously to having children. I had never seen children LOVE hymns before until I taught there.
The text and music in hymns has so enriched my worship, and given my heart so many rich words to praise Him! I love to hear my kids around the house humming or singing a hymn. We also like to get down with a little DC Talk too and any music that gets us moving and praising!
It’s a new year and natural to make resolutions for things you want to do better in 2014…As I hope you experienced with the Jesse Tree–kids love stories, love time with you, and will imitate what they see. Let’s resolve to show them more of JESUS this year!!
What are your ideas and ways you spend time with your kids and Jesus? Please do tell.