5 Screen-Free Activities To Keep Your Child Occupied At Appointments

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5 Screen-Free Activities To Keep Your Child Occupied At Appointments

This week, I’ll be taking one of my sons to see a specialist and I know from past experience that the wait in the lobby will be a long one. If you are like me, I dread taking my kids to appointments that I know will end in grumpy moods and boredom. Although this modern day of technology provides plenty of games on cell phones or tablets, I like to distract my kids by offering them something other than a screen while we wait.

Here are 5 screen-free activities to stimulate your child’s mind so you don’t lose yours!


 Give your child a dollar bill and ask them to find images like these:13 arrows, 13 stars, Roman numerals, a key, a picture of George Washington, bay laurel leaves, a pyramid, a Bald Eagle, an eye, and the number 1!


Take a quarter and spin it on it’s edge on a flat surface. See how long the quarter stays spinning and time your child to see if they can beat their original time or see who can keep a quarter spinning the longest!


 Using a piece of paper and a pen or crayons, draw a few lines, circles, squiggles, or a combination of all three on a piece of paper. Then, have your child try to make an actual picture of an object out of your unfinished design to create an original picture! Next, have your child create an unfinished drawing for you to complete!


Give your child a requirement that the animal must have, like the ability to fly and also leap 10 feet off the ground. Then, using a pencil and a piece of paper, have them draw an original animal that looks like it can meet the requirements. Come up with an original name too!


 This activity will require a little planning in advance, but it will be worth it! Bring a pair of safety scissors, some construction paper, and some tape in your bag. Have your child (or do this step yourself) cut strips of paper about 6 inches long and 1 inch wide. Then, loop them into circles creating a chain and taping the ends together. Use the chain at home to decorate for fun-or leave it with the office staff to decorate their desks!


YOUR TURN! What are some other easy but fun activities that you provide for your kids to pass the time at appointments?


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The One Person You Must Unfriend On Facebook


The One Person You Must Unfriend On Facebook

He kept writing to me every couple of years. Each time, I hit the delete button.

When Facebook came along, he sent me friend requests until I blocked him. After all, he was married. I was married. And we had history. Truthfully, there was no temptation on my part to connect with him-the relationship we had years ago was one that I was exceedingly thankful that God spared me from pursuing further.

But then others came back into my life via Facebook too. Former boyfriends with whom I thought I would one day marry and share my life with. It seemed harmless.

Except, the Holy Spirit kept nudging my heart that this was not a good idea.

My husband and I would both say that perhaps our greatest area of strength is trust. I have no concern whatsoever that he would be unfaithful to me, and vice versa. That said, we have been through some excruciatingly painful times in our marriage where I wondered how we would hold on. God has been faithful to us through our trials and even when certain years seemed like our undoing, He carried us through and made us stronger.

What concerned me is that during those times of uncertainty when we were struggling, I started to wonder about those past relationships and although I knew that I was committed to my husband, the very thought of peering into their current lives seemed dangerous. So I listened.

And unfriended.

I’m wondering about you. Do you think that just because you live far away from an ex or someone online that you have been chatting with, that you are secure?

My pastor recently said that “It is the sharing of souls that creates soul-mates.” Affairs are not only physical. They are also emotional. ANYTHING that comes between the oneness of body or heart between you and your spouse is counter to Scripture because you are no longer two, but one:

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:23-24

How can we tell if we are starting down a slippery slope or heading towards the cliff?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself with deep honesty:

1.) Is my marriage currently having difficulties?

2.) Do I sometimes think about what my exes or past flames are doing or if they ever still think about me?

3.) Have I reached out to them with the intention of receiving some form of flattery or affirmation?

4.) Do I check their Facebook pages on a regular basis?

5.) Am I doing this secretly and keeping it from my spouse?

6.) Would my spouse be upset if they knew I was connected to them or talking to them?

7.) Have I day-dreamed about what life with them would be like now instead of the one I am living with my spouse?

8.) Does the thought of unfriending my ex cause me emotional pain?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions or you feel a check in your spirit when you think about these questions, I would strongly caution you and urge you to let these people go-emotionally, relationally, physically, and mentally.

This may seem extreme for some of you, but the truth is that when you play with fire, you can expect to get burned. And your marriage won’t be the only relationship to suffer. Your children will be devastated. You will most likely lose friendships. In-law relationships will be damaged. In some cases, it will force you into or out of the workplace. One thing is certain. The illusion you have that this extramarital relationship is what you have been missing out on is simply that. An illusion.

It’s not worth it, ladies and gentlemen.

God warns us that our enemy is cunning and active. He says:

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Jesus makes a comparison in Mark, telling us to take our sin seriously-to the extent that it’s better to cut off our hands, feet, and pluck out our eyes if they cause us to sin:

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. Mark 9:43

Those are strong words. Surely, we could also then say if your Facebook friendship with a former romantic interest causes you to stumble, you should cut it off too. Some of you need to hear it plainly: If you keep telling yourself that the communications are innocent, they probably are not.

God doesn’t mince words about adultery. Mark 5:28 says:

But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

What’s more important to you? Honoring your vows and putting a hedge of protection around your marriage and heart and your testimony as a Christian, or this online relationship?

Discipline yourself to use social media for good-it’s not about doing what is right because it’s easy. It’s about doing what is right because it honors God. As a Christ-follower, your happiness is not the ultimate goal. Following Jesus is the ultimate goal.

I’m thankful that my own marriage is stronger than it has ever been before, but it’s not by accident. Guy and I have spent the last 8 years building that trust with one another and no other relationship is worth jeopardizing our unity. It wasn’t worth it when things were tough, and it’s not worth it now.

Fanning an old flame will only create a wildfire that you can’t control. Go ahead. Unfreind that past boyfriend or girlfriend and focus on the one you vowed before God to love on your wedding day like I did. And in so doing, you will extinguish the possibility for disaster in your life and the lives of your loved ones. Unfriended equals protected, and that’s an action worth taking every time.

YOUR TURN! Have you unfriended old flames like I have?

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To The Mom Who Feels Guilty For Using A “Sleep Crutch” With Her Kids


To The Mom Who Feels Guilty For Using A Sleep Crutch


I read all the books that said not to give your kids a “crutch” to sleep with-and that included laying by their bedside until they fell asleep.

I tried it.

And then I ignored all that advice. I know those methods work for some, but I sensed the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart that it was okay to let it go.

But guess what? My older boy falls asleep without me just fine and those moments that I lay beside my youngest ones while they fall asleep? I don’t regret them one bit. I also believe in letting them have that pacifier/sleep blanket/stuffed animal/nightlight as LOOONNGGGG as they need it. If you are that mom that feels guilty for singing your baby to sleep, this is for you.


One More Minute

And when the morning comes and you are  little more tired for having stayed up rocking your child, remember this: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13. Put aside the guilt mom. It has no place in the heart of a mom who is loving her child well.

YOUR TURN! What “sleep crutches” do you allow at naps and bedtime? 


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Fun Toys And Gifts For 2014 That Keep Kids’ Attention

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Fun Toys And Gifts For 2014 That Keep Kids' Attention

Some of the best gift ideas have come from other moms who have recommended their kids’ favorite items to me. I thought I would do the same! These are a few of the tried and true favorites that my kids continue to play with year after year-because let’s face it, there is nothing worse than a child opening a gift only to play with it for a week before tossing it aside. THESE items will be worth every penny and offer lasting enjoyment! Click on the affiliate links for more information and reviews!


Big Boots- These awesome little guys are what they claim to be! The “big boots” on their feet allow them to land on their feet every time! My kids play with these EVERY DAY-even in the bathtub at night. These slim packs of Big Boots are great for stocking stuffers and they have amazing vehicles to go with them! This might be my boys’ most played with toy of all time regardless of their age!


We first discovered Kinetic Sand at a friend’s house. This stuff is AMAZING. My boys can play with this sand for an hour at a time-and they never focus that long for much else!


I know this is a large item, but I can’t tell you how many days I sat watching my boys jump in this Bouncy House in our yard (or basement!) and thanked God for the blessing of it! They LOVE it and it helps them get exercise too. I love that it inflates in moments and folds up to store in a closet or space in the garage. It was EASY to set up and put away! This may be the best thing I have ever purchased for my kids!


Jenga! My boys (even my 3-year-old!) love to play this nerve-wrecking game! Easy to set up, and lots of fun for all ages, the object is to keep the teetering tower from toppling over as you pull wooden pieces from the sides and middle and then place them on top!


Lego Juniors! I have one boy who loves Legos and one who gets frustrated by them. Lego Juniors are the perfect solution because they are a tad “easier” to manipulate. There are sets for GIRLS too!


The Electronic Toy Violin was a big hit with our boys! It plays dozens of tunes and looks realistic. They would play tunes for and put on little concerts! It’s not something every kid on the block has either, so it’s uniqueness was also part of the appeal!


Glide Bikes are a parent’s dream when it comes to teaching little ones how to balance and ride a bike. These bikes allowed our kids to go straight from a glide bike to a regular bike without training wheels because it teaches kids how to balance! Designed without pedals, there are footrests that can be removed if desired. This bike is best for kids 4 and under but my 5 year-old still loves to cruise around on his because it’s so FUN!

YOUR TURN! What are some of your kids’ favorite gifts or toys?

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I Prayed For A Harvest, How God Answered In A Personal Way


I Prayed For A Harvest, How God Answered In A Personal Way

(Here we are with two of our amazing writers, Brian Bird and John Wierick)

The first trip I ever took alone was from my home in Los Angeles, California on a road trip with friends to their home in a far corner of Idaho. I was ten. Most of the community spent their days farming spuds and their work patterns and surroundings were as different as what I experienced as a city-girl could possibly be.

We spent nights spread out in sleeping bags on their massive trampoline for slumber parties and took long trips into “town” to buy supplies or go bowling. But the thing that remained constant there were reminders that this was potato country-a place where farmers drove dangerous machinery that scattered the golden landscape, where men labored early in the morning, and that in time, there would be a harvest.

For the last several years, I have felt much like I imagine those farmers felt. My husband and I are producers for TV and Film and our goal is to reach an underserved market of faith and family-friendly audiences with shows and films that honor God and inspire others.

But the soil here in Hollywood is tough to plow through. The seeds we scatter don’t spring up at regular and steady intervals. And though we labor day and night, the crops we seek takes years to produce.

This week, we have two shows in particular that we have been working on for years in one way or another. We have created the ideas, written the documents, gathered the team, and offered our goods to those who sit in places of power, and now we wait for the rain to come and we watch to see if this will be our long-awaited for season of harvest.

As much as this week sits pregnant with possibility, it also symbolizes for us a deep faith and trust that God knows what is best and we do not-that His timing is divine and also good and that a physical harvest may not be the only harvest we will see.

The potato is predictable and once planted and nurtured will grow and materialize into something of sustenance. But for the faith-friendly Hollywood producer, nothing comes with a guarantee and the timelines are almost always longer than you want them to be. It builds faith, character, and perseverance-which we know produces hope.

So here we are, settling into hope knowing that when our trust is placed in the Creator of the harvest instead of the fruit itself, that we already have an abundance of plenty.

God is a personal God and He speaks to our hearts in specific ways if we are willing to listen.

Yesterday, I posted an update on my Facebook accounts and asked my friends to pray for us-to pray for these two TV shows that will be decided on this week. I asked them to pray that this would be “a season of Harvest” for us.

This morning, I woke and turned to my daily portion of Bible reading. This is what it said:

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29

God, in His providential way, spoke to my heart.

I don’t know if this week will result in one or both of our shows being picked up and moving forward. I can’t predict what conditions will be put in place or if the deals that may be offered-if any are offered at all-will be good for our company. But I do know that sewing the seeds has meaning and value regardless of the results because my husband and I continue to listen for that still small voice of God whispering to us, “this is the way, walk in it.”

Write shows that bring life and edify those who watch.

Be sincere and kind to everyone you encounter, unconditionally.

Keep your word, even when it costs you something.

Take time to rest and pour your lives into your precious sons.

Be like a tree planted in the desert that neither wilts nor breaks when the winds blow hard.

And continue to leave the risks of pursuing God in a Godless place up to Him.

From my vantage point on the eve of seeing a harvest, the crops look full of beauty and ready to be gathered. It’s a spiritual seed that has been planted in our own hearts and watered with the Word. It’s a harvest that will never disappoint.

As I think back to those long summer days, walking down dusty roads among fields of potatoes, carefully being cultivated into food for the body, I know that life for the believer is about planting seeds for the soul. Whether our earthly work comes to some measure of success or not doesn’t really matter in the end. The harvest will come, indeed. And we are relishing in its bounty, even now.


YOUR TURN: May I ask you to pray about these TV shows for us? I would be SO deeply grateful!! How about you? Are you waiting in a season of planting and looking for a “harvest” too?

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One Mom’s Confession: I Give Curses For Curses, Do You?


One Mom's Confession I Give Curses For Curses, Do You

I stood at the bottom of the slide watching. The older girl didn’t want to give a “ticket” to my son who was pretending to be the gatekeeper, so she just shoved him hard and climbed over the top of him. My eyes grew wide as I watched the unceremonious scene.

“Mommy, she called me an idiot” he whimpered.

“Okay, son. I’m sorry. You are not an idiot. Next time she comes by just speak to her and use your words. Tell her that you would like her to speak kind words to you and not call you names.” He nodded, sadly.

Up she came to the top of the slide. The man with the heavy Australian accent lumbered over. My son calmly began to say what I had encouraged him to say but then the air was split by a loud boom.

“Hey, you get out of her way!” he screamed. I was stunned.

“Sir, my son is just doing what I asked. He’s simply talking to your daughter to ask her to use kind….”

“I don’t care! She wants to go down the slide!” He interrupted.

My son stood there, as surprised as I was. I motioned for him to move aside.

“Your son just called my daughter an f-ing %&*#@!” he bellowed.

“Listen, Mister. My kids don’t even know those words.” I tried to remain calm as my blood began to boil.

Miraculously, he closed his mouth immediately. I think he knew when his bluff was up. I simply wondered where my husband and protector had disappeared to on the other side of the park. Thankfully, the tourist gathered his unruly tribe and decided it was time to move along the beach away from the park. He was a grown up bully and I wanted nothing to do with him.

“No wonder his daughter is like that” I angrily thought to myself.

Another mom nearby looked at me and shook her head in disbelief. We both tried to shake it off and my kids went on to enjoy the rest of our time at the beachside park, but I was disheartened.

This “encounter” came on the heels of a week where God had been pounding Romans 12 into my head. But apparently, I have not quite gotten the message:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. Romans 12:9-21 (MSG)

I admit, I didn’t feel one bit of a desire to bless this man as he cursed us. There was no time to think-he wouldn’t even let me finish my sentence, for crying out loud. And the very urgency of it is what revealed my heart.

I still have a long way to go. I still have dirty nooks and crannies in my heart and logs in my eyes. I didn’t even come close to offering to buy him lunch.

It just seems crazy, doesn’t it? Like being taken advantage of? This idea that if we bless those who curse us that we are being a doormat?

And then I see Him. Trudging along the dusty road with His cross on His back, stumbling under the weight of it. Blood dripping down from the crown of thorns and pooling along the pathway as the angry mob followed. Doormat indeed. Jesus was the ultimate.

Here’s the thing, sisters and brothers. When we willingly lay down our need for revenge, to fight back, or to justify ourselves, we are never being a doormat. We are exuding an unparalleled strength and other-worldly control. We are being Jesus to the lost, the weak, and the needy. Counter-culture. Christ-like.

The man left before the scene could escalate, but I tell you what. I would not have backed down. I would not have stood there and taken it. I know that about me. I understood why Peter reached out to slice off the ear of the soldier.

It comes out in other situations too-when drivers in Los Angeles blast their horns and flip me off for going the speed limit.

When that person in my family tells me that the work I am doing as a writer is stupid and a waste of time.

When that friend decides to have nothing to do with me because I hold a different belief than she does.

When that kid at school continues to badger my son.

I long for the day that my immediate reaction is one of unconditional love and grace towards others. My desire is that when my kids are having a banner day of disobedience and I start to feel like it will never change, that what comes out of my mouth is forgiveness and what floods my heart is hope.

I’m not advocating that we place ourselves in harms way and I know there is a time and place for healthy boundaries with others. But the every day scenarios of living life with broken people in a fallen world are opportunities for me to love and let go of my need for vindication.

Maybe you need that too.

Perhaps your spouse left a jagged hole in your heart and though you are committed to staying with them, you keep punishing them. Maybe you have hardened your heart towards a friend and you won’t even pray for them. Perhaps you wake up each day expecting the worst, instead of living out your best through the Holy Spirit.

I wish I could rewind to yesterday and breathe deeply, exhaling a gentler word to that man at the park. I regret that I didn’t follow up with him and offer a different approach-one without justification. I’m thankful for the reminder that God’s not done with me yet. I’ll have new opportunities this week to bless and not curse, and I’ll be grateful for your prayers for me.

And I’ll ask you the same question I’m asking myself “Are you willing to get the best of evil by doing good?”

It starts with honest prayer to God and leads to freedom. I’m itching for that kind of freedom where I don’t internalize the evil around me but quench it with the Fruit of the Spirit. Sometimes we need to “hold on for dear life to good” don’t we?

Here’s to living out our true identity this week and loving “from the center of who you are” as a passionate Christ-follower. Joy always follows obedience and victory is ours for the taking as it flows out of our hearts, one blessing in exchange for a curse at a time.

YOUR TURN! Is this a struggle for you like it is for me?


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12 Strangers And A Redwood Tree


12 Strangers And A Redwood Tree

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I’m about to embark on a 10 week journey with 11 complete strangers. The twelve of us will meet for the first time this week, babies on our hips and Bibles in our hands. And hopefully, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, we will resemble Redwood trees.

Several months ago I started hearing a whisper to my heart. Our church, like many of yours, provides support for small groups, or what we call “Life Groups” so that our fairly large church body can better fellowship and build relationships with one another as it describes in the book of Hebrews:

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25

The goal is to “do life” together in community-just as God desires us to do! But as moms with young children, it’s not easy to get away for a couple of hours every week to meet and talk about Spiritual things.

That’s when I began to consider offering to host a group where moms could come and study God’s Word with toddlers in tow and where babies were welcome on laps while we talk about how God desires us to live.

It will be noisy. Peppered with interruptions from 2 year olds. Someone will fall and scrape their knee and need to sit on Mommy’s lap for prayer time.

My new Labrador puppy may bark her head off while we try to talk about our need for just a little bit of peace and quiet once in a while.

Moms will rise early that morning and make several trips to the car loaded down with diaper bags, and blueberry muffins to share. Keys will dangle from their mouths while they hold a baby bottle in one hand and much-needed coffee in the other. It will take 20 minutes to load everyone into the car and shift it into gear. Someone may cry because they left their binky behind. Everyone will wonder what they got themselves into.

And it will be worth it.

As one of our pastors shared this weekend, the reason we make such efforts for community is because it matters so much to God that we gather together and encourage one another on towards love and good deeds. The goal is to resemble the startlingly majestic Redwood Trees whose heights reach 350 feet tall.

You would think that such an enormous tree would require deep roots, but that’s not the case. Shallow roots of only five or six feet deep sustain these giants-because they grow in groves, enabling roots to spread nearly 100 feet from the trunk, entwining and fusing with the roots of their neighbors. As a community, growing together and linking arms, they can withstand the forces of nature-whether toppling winds or raging floods assault them.

I can’t imagine what will befall any of us as we gather for this next Life Group session. We can’t guess what winds of change or deep waters we may face nor can we determine what victories and triumphs we will get to rejoice over together. But we do know that when we make ourselves available despite our obstacles, that God will not waste that time.

He will show up with all the Holiness of Heaven at our disposal and He won’t mind when we have to duck out of our discussion to change a diaper or settle a squabble. And one by one the 12 of us will stand a little taller as we go out from our fellowship together. We will feel a little more sure-footed, and our chins will lift a bit higher to the sky. The trees that canopy above us as we meet in my backyard will take on new meaning as our hearts fuse together, much like the roots of the grand Redwoods.

YOUR TURN! Do you meet together in a Bible study or Life Group? What challenges do you face? Has it been worth it?


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