Family Game Night

Is your home fun? Psalm 118:15 says that “the sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous.” We, above all people, should have homes where laughter and joy ring out, homes that are fun places to be. In our Kingdom Families trainings, Myles Sweeney talks about the walls of our houses being saturated with laughter. Canadian blogger and pastor’s wife Elisha Galotti even goes so far as to challenge us, “Believe that laughter is as important for our children as proper nutrition.”

As mothers, we are extremely influential in setting the atmosphere of our home, and then RE-setting it again and again, as many times as it takes. It doesn’t mean we have to be perfect at it — but it means we do have that power. Let’s access that power to make our homes those pleasant places where people want to be. 

One excellent way to cultivate that atmosphere at your house is to schedule a family game night this summer. Playing games together builds a family culture, breaks up any routine monotony, and gets everyone interacting around the table. Our family has so many hilarious memories from game nights with aunts and uncles and grandparents. Just mention a naked mole rat to one of my boys and see where the conversation might lead…

When our boys were very young, we did our fair share of CandyLand, Chutes & Ladders, and Go Fish, later graduating to Monopoly, Scattergories, and Clue. We also like to change up the rules on the ol’ classics. Our personal versions of Yahtzee abound — roll straight down the card in order; speed round where everyone plays at once; roll 4 times each turn instead of 3. What about trying a twist on Pictionary — “Charade-tionary,” anyone? Teams take turns acting out the 5 words listed on the cards with a 1-minute time limit. Scrabble tiles can be used to build individual little crossword puzzles. Just pick up 2 additional letters every time someone uses up all their letters. Similar to Bananagrams, this quick-moving little gem is otherwise known as “Take Two.” Sometimes we pass Catchphrase around the dinner table without worrying about teams or score-keeping, and it basically turns into a happy-shouting free-for-all. 

Other Brown favorites that might be less well-known include Telestrations, Guess Who, Pass the Pigs, Ticket to Ride, Whoonu, and 15,000 (played with 5 dice). Creative brain games like ABC’s, Name 5, and logic puzzles have kept us occupied for hours on road trips. We’ve been known to hold Talent Shows, Comedy Nights, and Wii bowling tournaments when the big family comes to town for the holidays. Speaking of tournaments, a group of our friends even prints out championship brackets and awards prizes when we get serious about Marbles. (Competitive, much??) You probably have your own repertoire of favorites. Share them with us in the comments below?

Even if you don’t feel like a “game person,” even if your family members moan or resist the idea at first, I challenge you to be the initiator. This summer might be the perfect chance to shake things up! Try something new! After you get over that initial hump, I’d bet you money that everyone will be laughing and making memories in spite of themselves before the night is over. Game on, girls!!

We would like to thank Jill Brown for this blog post!

Summertime Craft Idea

If you are like me, you have a little extra time on your hands in the summer. This is the time to clean out closets, finish up a project you’ve been working on, and hopefully, carve out a little time to do the things you WANT to do! One of the things I enjoy doing during the summer is crafts. I’m not a crafty person by nature, but thanks to Pinterest and other great sites, even I can look a little creative. One craft I have enjoyed lately is STAMPED BOOKS!

Where to begin

You begin by collecting books. I look for paperback books at garage sales, resale shops, and most recently, at our library’s book sale. I was able to fill a grocery sack full of used books and it only cost $1 per sack. You want to look for books that are around 1″ thick. It doesn’t matter what shape the cover is in because you are going to tear them off anyway. The other supplies you will need include stamps and a stamp pad, plus jute or ribbon.

Let’s get started

Step 1: Carefully tear off the front and back cover, plus the spine of the book. These actually come off very easily, but if part of the cover gets stuck on the spine, you can use a razor blade or knife to carefully scrape it off. You might also want to tear off a few pages of the book until you get to a page with very few words. I like to use the title page or the dedication page because it is mostly a white page.

Step 2: Decide what you are going to write. You probably need to write it on a scratch pad for practice.

Step 3: Get the stamps lined up. I start going from right to left so I basically stamp the word backward, just so that I know that I have plenty of room and the word will end at the end of the book spine.

Step 4: When stamping, make sure you don’t blot the ink heavily or you’ll make a mess on your stamp. I am careful about getting too much ink on the stamp, but don’t worry about being perfect. This isn’t about perfect. Imperfections just add character to the books.

Step 5: When you are finished stamping all of your letters, you can use a ultra fine point sharpie to touch up any areas that didn’t stamp well.

Step 6: Wrap your books in a cute ribbon to match your decor. For the 4thof July, I wanted to make some stamped books to add to my décor. All I did was find a quote I liked and then added some ribbon to complete it. You can add a flower, greenery or a cute gift tag to the ribbon to make it even more personal.

Honestly, this is one of the easiest craft projects you can do. It took longer to gather the supplies than it did to create the finished product. Other varieties of this project include using hardback books and painting the cover with chalk paint. If you don’t want to ruin the book, you can always cover with some paper of your choice and then proceed with the stamping as mentioned above. 

Use your books to add a fun accessory to your desk at work or display it on a bookshelf in your home. Whether you make these books for yourself or for a friend, it will add a fun touch to your decor.

Have fun being creative and remember that FREEDOM is never FREE! However, FREEDOM in CHRIST is a gift to those who will accept it! Happy 4thof July! 

We would like to thank Vickie Young for writing this post!

Oh Summer, I Love Thee

Let me count the ways.

I love the slower pace. I love ice cream. I love working out. I love a cleaned up yard. I love flowers. I love watching the kids swim. I love movies. I love walks with the kids and chatting with neighbors in the cool of the day. I love reading books. I love reading books. I love reading books. LOL

I love opening the sun roof on our super-sassy minivan and pumping up the bass on Kirk Franklin’s “Revolution” as the kids scream, “OOAH! OOAH!” (I don’t really know how to type out that sound, but I’ll bet if you’ll go listen to that song, you’ll figure it out.)

I love impromptu dinners with other families when they come over and bring what they have and I haven’t cleaned the house. I love when my hubby takes the girls on Triple Daughter/Daddy Dates to Sonic to get a coke. And I love how even when I say I don’t need anything, he goes ahead and gets me a milkshake. And I drink it all.

I love the chance to go to the lake with my family and watching the kids with their cousins. It is an all-or-nothing experience. There are sometimes 20 people sleeping under one roof. The kids are never guaranteed a bed and they don’t care. They love exploring the barns, of which they affectionately renamed The Kids Only Club. Summer is for reconnecting with family. And we’ve been blessed with great family on both sides.

I love that we can take naps at 9:30 in the morning if we want. I love making a list of to-do’s that the girls have to complete before they watch TV. You know those giant math consumables their teachers send home with them at the end of school??? We use them! For a moment in time, I feel like a super-intentional mom.

I love that summer gives me freedom to try new things. Last night I sat on the turquoise bench my husband made out of a bedframe his grandfather made many decades ago. I sat there with a cup of hot tea and read a book. And I started to cry because I was looking at the grass and it was so beautiful to me. I hadn’t even mowed it yet! I was moved by our imperfect yard with a whole variety of grasses and weeds growing. But they’re all green, so whatever, right??? The bench on which I was resting my rear hadn’t even been dusted. I didn’t even care. I could BREATHE. I could HEAR. I could FEEL the blessing of God allowing me to experience a moment to refresh my soul. And there were no mosquitoes. So I know that we are living in the will of God. Haha! Summer brings some of that out in me.

I love summer because it reminds me that God created a season where all of nature shouts, “THRIVE! BLOOM!” And it feels sooo good!

We want to thank Jodi LaFrance for writing this blog post!

Sibling Love

Sibling Love

Editor’s Note: This is a post from a couple of years ago. Teaching the value of loving our siblings is important. This is a great post to revisit as we begin summer!

When we really stop and think about the people who have impacted our life, there are certain qualities that they all have.

They show care: when you’re hurting, they’re there to see what they can do to help.

They show concern: when they see something is different in your life, they ask you about it. They’re concerned for who you are, what you’re going through and what you need.

They display kindness. They let you choose first. They give you gifts out of kindness. They speak words of encouragement over you. They smile and are welcoming. You feel and know their kindness.

Care, concern, and kindness mark the people who impact us. As I think about my boys and raising them, I’m keenly aware of who I want them to become. But I’m also aware that more is caught than taught. I’ve been asked many times, “Do your boys really like each other?  Are they really friends?”  The answer is yes.

Although friendships are never easy, especially within a home, when we model healthy friendships, it rubs off onto our kids. When we show care, concern and kindness, our children learn this as the norm.  When we remind our kids that we are people who show care, concern and kindness, it helps them remember to “be”not to “strive for “—those attributes.

Parenting isn’t easy, but really everything worth doing has its challenges.

I’d rather fight the battle at home and raise men who impact the world, than make excuses for why my children are unkind, self-consumed, and careless. How about you?

Practical To-Do’s for Siblings:
– Always say sorry
– Always say I forgive you
– Always hug it out (sometimes I make my boys sit on the couch and hug each other, or hold hands until they stop fighting…some days that’s worse than a spank)
– Remind them they will always be best friends
– Play together
– Work together
– Pray for each other
– Show gratitude and say thank you to each other

Here’s a few cheap summer activities for you and your kids:
* Go get snow cones
* Buy a decent, over-the-door basketball hoop and shoot hoops indoors
* Make tents out of blankets in your living room and watch movies, read books, have tea parties inside it
* Pour all the Legos out in the living room and build a gigantic Lego fortress
* Visit Palo Duro Canyon
* Run through the sprinklers
* Use mini marshmallows and toothpicks to build mini-tower structures
* Bubbles… all ages love bubbles
* Fly a kite
* Build an obstacle course through the house or in the backyard
* Watch your favorite sports team and make up chants
* Play video games
* Get a month free subscription to Netflix
* Have a sleepover in the living room
* Laugh a lot
* Enjoy the ones God gave you

I love my boys, as I know you love your kids. May we continually remember what precious gifts they are to us and that God has picked you to mother the children he’s given to you, and me to mother the boys given to me.

Be blessed my sweet friends, enjoy your kiddos and enjoy the summer.

This post was written by Julie Snellgrove. To read more about her, click here.

Made To Love

Editor’s Note: May is National Foster Care Month. It’s a time to recognize that we each can play an important part in enhancing the lives of children and youth in foster care.

I’ll never forget the evening I spent packing up my first foster loves’ clothes for the last time. They were going to their “real” home. And my heart was broken.

I fully believed that this was God’s plan.

I knew they were in good hands; their family loved them. But man did it hurt saying goodbye! I put a smile on my face, and I hugged and kissed them, and when an unexpected tear ran down my face,  I explained it away. “They were happy tears.” I was just so happy they were going to be with their mommy. That is what we had been working and praying so hard for! And God had been preparing my heart for this day for years.

Before I welcomed my own babies into this world, God shared 2 others with me. Though only briefly, they were mine and I’ll love them forever. But for reasons beyond my understanding, God needed them in heaven. After reflecting on that, it made perfect sense. He was teaching me how to love someone with my whole heart and hand them back over to Him. 

I wrestled with the thought of this silently for a long time. I had many conversations with God about how I was not foster mom material. They were something like:

“I’m just a regular person. I can’t save these kids.” He said, “You were never made to be their savior. You were made to love them.”

“But I am far from a perfect parent. I make mistakes daily.” He replied, “Your job is to be present not perfect. You were made to love them.

But it will be so hard…I will get attached. How can I let them go?” He answered, “Yes it will be hard but it will be worth it. And you will never be alone. You were made to love them.”

I was given this verse and man did it hit me!

John 13:34-35 “A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

What God told me was all these expectations I had put on myself of what the perfect parent was supposed to be, didn’t matter. He wanted to use me in some of the most difficult situations these kids will have to live through. My job is not to be perfect, just to show them His perfect love and to love them so much it hurts, because they deserve it!

One Sunday the sermon jumped out and slapped me in the face. I will paraphrase because as far as I’m concerned this was what I was supposed to hear.

When you step out and follow your calling it’s not going to be easy. Get over yourself and the fears that tell you you’re unworthy. It’s going to be uncomfortable…do it anyway.

Luke 9:23 “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Ok God, I hear you.

That day Brandon and I went for lunch and randomly he brought up the idea of fostering. I think he was a bit shocked when I jumped right on it. I explained how this had been laid on my heart as well and how I had secretly been looking into an agency already.  

We later had a conversation with our kids. This decision would change their world, too. How would they feel about sharing us? Will they understand the why? The answer was yes! Our son said “Mom, if we can show 1 kid that there is good in the world and teach them how we love, then we have done our job.” He gets it!

Fast forward to the heart wrenching day Brandon and I had to send home our 2 foster loves. By the end of the day we had received 2 calls from our agency; more children were needing homes. We were faced with a hard decision. Who do we take next, and how can you choose?! There are children right here in our community that are hungry, neglected and feel alone. God calls us to rise up and love them.  

Our world has been flipped, tripped and thrown upside down. And what a blessing it has been! We are planting seeds of love in their hearts and although we may never see the end results, we are doing what we were called to do. We were made to love.

We want to thank Misty Rowell for writing this blog post!

Undo Shame

In Brene Brown’s words, “Shame is an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we have experienced, done, or failed to do make us unworthy of connection.”

Shame is one of the first things introduced into the world after Adam and Eve sin. And what did they do as a direct response to their sin? They hid. They covered up. They lied. They blamed. I can identify with their shameful feelings and their reaction to those feelings. What are some things you and I hide behind or use to cover up our shame? We use busyness, procrastination, alcohol, pride, eating, social media, vanity, shopping/spending, our careers, perpetual lying…

Self-identity shame comes in all forms and fashions. This is a list of some lies I have believed during different seasons in my life directly resulting from shame:

  • I will never be good enough.
  • I am unclean.
  • I have failed.
  • Something must be wrong with me.
  • I am not qualified.
  • I am unwanted.
  • I’m not as pretty as {insert name here}.
  • I am unworthy.
  • My kids literally acted like animals in public. I must be a bad mom.
  • I literally acted like an animal to my children. I must be a bad mom.
  • My kids were rude to a bunch of people today. I must be a bad mom.
  • Why doesn’t my marriage look as happy as theirs? I must be a bad wife.

Can anyone relate??

Have you ever thought about how our culture makes money off of making women feel less than? That if you would just buy that one thing it will make your life better. For example, if you use this product on your cellulite, it will make it go away and you will be prettier. So therefore, if you have cellulite, something must be wrong. Hmmmm. You just took a bite from the forbidden fruit called marketing. So, you buy the cellulite product only to see zero results. Then you stop using it and swallow the lie that you just won’t ever be perfect enough.

BOLOGNA!

And what about social media? How does it tell you daily that you are less than? I’m not even going there. Ladies, so much of our brain power goes into shaming ourselves for the way we look. Something, somewhere is always screaming to us that we are defective. The truth is: we have been fed lies and manipulation for years.

We learn to fixate our thoughts on those feelings. For many years, I believed the lies the devil was feeding me. I strived and strived to become good enough. I stuffed and stuffed to become happy enough. I hid and hid to seem “ok” enough. It was a toxic, vicious cycle. That affects everyone at some point.

How did I break it?

  1. Attending Freedom in Christ – This was a huge part pf my healing. My eyes were opened to the unconditional love my Savior has for me. For the first time, I heard the truth that I am right with God. There is nothing that I have done in my past, nor will do in the future, that will change my value in Christ. Mistakes, failures, scars, and all, he accepts it and loves it! I learned that my works-based righteousness wasn’t going to help my issues. I couldn’t do better, act better, or be better to please God. This took time breaking my old thought patterns and creating new ones, but daily surrendering those and allowing the Lord to speak his truths over my heart changed me!
  • A loving friend called me one day and said, “JuLea, I think you need help”. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking for her to tell me that and, quite frankly, I was embarrassed. But I knew she was right. I reached out for help. I started seeing a counselor and still do to this day. There is such a stigma associated with counseling, but what is so crazy about seeking wise help?

When we learn to identify this within ourselves, we can then start the change. Undoing the shame of my struggle was a catalyst to my healing.

The lies women struggle with are all different. But the path to identifying those lies are all the same. Don’t let fear hold you captive to your struggles. Shame has a way of isolating us. And isolation FEEDS our shame. So the result is more isolation and more shame. Exactly what the devil wants.

Shame is simply an emotion. Emotions are part of every human experience. You are human. Offer yourself grace TODAY!

Breaking these thought patterns about ourselves takes time, patience, and a lot of will power. Breath by breath, you will rise out of the waters. To not drown, you HAVE to move your arms, lift your head, and MOVE forward. Shame will begin losing its power over you. God helped me face and overcome shame and He will help you, too!

The good news is the discussion about your value and ability is OVER. It was decided on the cross.

YOU ARE GOD’S MASTERPIECE. Created for good works. God made you just the way you are. God is a perfect God – He doesn’t make mistakes.

You are WHOLE, COMPLETE, FLAWLESS, LACKING NOTHING. Jesus is your righteousness and your provider of everything you need. Philippians 4:19

Here are a few practical ways that can help you start winning your battle over shame that helped me:

  1. Pray, pray, pray in the spirit on every occasion without ceasing.
  2. FORGIVE YOURSELF.
  3. Live in a constant state of worship.
  4. Write notes on the bathroom mirror or the car to remind you of your value.
  5. Set an alarm every 30 min. to declare a truth of scripture over yourself. (Really, JuLea?!? YES, do it!!)
  6. Hang around life giving people who speak life into who you are in Christ, not who you were.
  7. See a counselor. Get help. Reach out to someone. Bring it to light. (This was huge!)

Believe what your Heavenly Father says about who you are today… not your social media. Our minds are a battlefield. Jesus died on the cross and has already won that battle you are facing today. Claim that ground back. Defeat shame and claim victory today.

We would like to thank JuLea Bouma for writing this post.

All Things Made New

Life group was a life changing experience for me. Although I am an extravert most of the time, I am very much an introvert when it comes to being around people I don’t know. 

Like most folks, we came to Harvest from a church that had literally beaten us to death! We were so broken and hurt, I wasn’t sure I’d ever open my heart again to another human being. My husband and I were in the process of restoration and rehabilitation in our marriage and desperately needed the support and love of others to help us stay on the right path, but I was terrified to open myself up again and let anyone else in. 

Our first Sunday at Harvest was amazing! We were only coming to visit, and 6 years later… (well, it didn’t take very long!) we joined and started attending life group. I was very quiet, and just listened as we met each Wednesday.  

Slowly, I began to enjoy the fellowship and prayer time with other women. I prayed with them but not out loud. I prayed silently.

As I learned to open my heart to God, I learned to open my heart to other women, and my life has literally changed before my own eyes. 

God healed the brokenness, healed the wounds, and led me to a place that I could love and trust other women again. He showed me that there are women who have a heart like His and want the best for His daughters! 

I cherish the relationships that God has provided through the women in life group, the women of Harvest! I became a life group leader because I want to pass on what God has blessed me with! I want other women to know the love of my Dad, Jesus! I want them to feel special and treasured like Jesus treasures me. We are daughters of the King, and I want other women to know what it means to be His princess!

Through the relationships that are born in life group, we learn how much we’re loved by Father, and can pass that love on to others. Life group is a life line and keeps us connected to the body of Christ!

We would like to thank Janie Keller for writing this post!