Confessions of a Bible Reader

The One Year Bible has been my go-to for daily Bible devotions. It’s labeled by calendar dates and has a little Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. After 365 days you’ll read all of the Bible once and the book of Psalms twice.

Most years I would read my daily prescribed scriptures almost like a vitamin. Something to check off that is “good for me.” And there was also a great deal of pride in getting to say you’ve read every word of the Bible. Thankfully, spiritual disciplines have a way of doing us good even if we’re not good.

A few years ago I read the Bible through and wrote down any verses that spoke on a particular subject. That has become my favorite way to read. It’s a way to focus on what I’m reading instead of skimming to get it done.

I’ve searched for read looking for what the Bible said about being a wife and mother. Another year, I read searching for “Statements of Faith,” anytime a person claimed “God you are…” or something similar. That year had a bunch of Psalms.

In 2017 I sought what I called “commandments to live a godly life.” Things we are supposed to do as Christians. It took more than a year for me to finish that time, and another 4 months to compile what I wrote down.

My goal was to make a piece of art with just the commandments. It turned out kinda cool, though the font is so small it’s tough to read unless you’re close. It hangs over my chair in our bedroom which is my designated devotion spot.

This year I’m doing something a little differently. I’m reading the Bible Genesis through Revelation instead of the laid out mix in a One Year Bible. And I’m reading out of the ESV Readers Bible.

There aren’t any verse numbers or notations. Only books and chapters are designated.

It makes reading feel natural. Just like any other book on your shelf.

To get it done by the end of the year I’m trying to read 5 chapters a day. I don’t get to it every day like you must with the One Year version. I’ve caught up when I can, but so far it feels less burdensome. I’m writing down things that mention God providing daily. The idea of manna is sprinkled in more than just the Exodus.

If you’re searching for a Bible plan, I highly recommend a readers Bible. I would also urge you to seek the Word for something specific to theme your year of reading.

How about you? What’s your favorite devotion reading plans, places, or ways to read?

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Merry October – Pumpkin Edition (plus a devotional thought)

Last week I completed my goal with some to spare. Every day I ate an apple filled dessert. New Years resolutions dream of being this indulgent. On Sunday I began a pumpkin dessert every day, though I made another apple cake too (it was so good) for family as well as pumpkin muffins for my 5th graders at church. Desserts really are meant to be shared.

I missed two days this week, but this pumpkin cheesecake has more than made up for my lack, and I’m sure it’s better on my calorie count to not fully achieve my dessert eating goals.

It’s all in the name of enjoying Fall, but if I may, I’ll tie a devotional thought in here. At our Tuesday life group, our leader Matt was closing in prayer. He phrases every request as a gratitude to God. It’s really humbling to hear. He closed his prayer, “We’re grateful as you season our lives and actions with your love and grace.”

I love this and I’ve been mulling (sorry) it over. When everything around us is pumpkin spice this and that, I am reminded that God is working his love and grace into me and those around me. A little cinnamon and clove and nutmeg is all it takes to bring out the best in pumpkin, but His love and grace will bring out even better things.

The next time you see a pumpkin flavored anything, join me in being reminded to be aware of His work all around us.

“Babies are Resilient” and other great advice.

My kids are in 2nd grade and Kindergarten this year.  I feel like “I’ve arrived” as a parent.  My job isn’t done, but it is changing and I’ve been reflecting on the good advice I’ve been given that has gotten me this far.

Disclaimer: Parenting advice can be so contrary, but there’s not just one right way to raise a kid.  You may disagree with the advice I like to model how I parent in this post.  You may see contradiction in it, that’s easy to do, but I’m a woman, so living in contradiction is second nature.  I hope (if what I like, you don’t) you can simply say, “Good for her, not for me.” 

“Babies are resilient,” was the very best advice (when I was pregnant with my first and scared of messing everything up) was from a seasoned dad at our church.  I don’t remember the conversation that led up to him telling my husband and I this, but we adopted it as our own and repeated it to each other along the way.  It is so true.  Yes, babies need to be kept clean and dry, warm and well-fed, but whether I had a perfect playlist for the nursery or read every parenting book beforehand wouldn’t matter.

“We weren’t raising kids, we were raising future adults.”  My dad says this a lot when he sums up his and my mom’s parenting philosophy.  They disciplined us with some would call strictness, but they talked with us about what they expected from us.  They were always teaching us about how our character mattered and how table manners would help us get past a first date.   No seriously.  That was said.  Many times.

“Never lie to your kids.” My husband brought home a sermon manuscript titled with this phrase that he printed and asked me to read it.  We decided that if nothing else, that would be our parenting strategy.  Yes, that means that we do not exchange gifts specifically “from Santa” though we watch claymation Rudolph and all that for fun, and the kids ask Dad to put something special under their pillow when they lose a tooth.  We do give our young kids a simplified answer for now and an invitation to ask later, or a “we’ll talk more about that when you’re older,” but they know that Mom and Dad will always tell me the truth.

“Don’t try so hard.”  This one I love, and I needed it at the time it was said.  A dad of four and a life-long friend of my husband’s told me this as I was failing to coral my two kids and make them do my bidding. (Read: yelling at my kids who weren’t listening as they sprinted ahead of me after church.)  He saw that I was being flustered by my kids’ behavior because I was getting embarrassed in that, “your actions are a reflection upon me,” kind of way.   But that’s kind of a personal choice.  I can yell at them and cause a scene that both embarrasses them and me and oh all the effort… or I can let them  run ahead of me to their grandparents and follow at a normal pace behind them and not try so hard just because they’re running instead of walking like cherubs.  “Chose your battles,” is another version of this, but I love the playfulness of “Don’t try so hard.”

“Capture your kid’s heart daily.”  I heard this in the last year on the Every Thought Captive podcast that some professors from my college make.  One of the guys said he was trying to capture his kid’s hearts.  Then he said that he heard this from my teaching professor and friend Peter Buckland, who is a huge role model of good parenting to me.  His kids were young when I was in college, and I loved how he would spend time individually with each of his three, hiking with his daughter or camping with one of his sons.  It didn’t surprise me to hear that, “capturing their hearts,” was out of his playbook.

It’s interesting to me that these five phrases that stick with me and guide my parenting were all said by dads.  I am blessed to know many men who take such an interest in their children and reflect the Father’s heart in their homes.  I love the wisdom that my husband shows in parenting and the way he leads our family.

How about you?  What are your one-liners that echo like a mantra in your parenting?

Photo op- Unmeasurables

Quantifiable or chart-able or measuring success is my nature. Progress reports and grade cards and gold stars, oh yeah! But this year more than ever these things feel phony, like trying to capture something that doesn’t really want to be caught.

I just finished reading this book about time management. The weekly time log you’re supposed to keep to notice all the wastes you’re making we’re starting to stress me out. Then I got sick, and really felt like I was wasting my time, though I finished this book and another.

Ordering your time to be “successful” and achieving all your dreams sounds great, but I’m not a company. There isn’t a clock to punch in my home because homes shouldn’t have those.

Quality time with my kids just happens, it can’t be rigorously planned out, though I do try to have special time with each kid monthly. What can be planned is that I’m around. I can be present. Time management feels like it keeps me from being and instead forces me to DO it all.

I love this picture of my kids at Grandma’s pool. I have a thing for pictures from behind. It captures something utterly in the moment. They’re not swimming, they’re sitting and conspiring as siblings do. They’re so present and using that gift of time right now to be friends.

My son loves to swing. He would swing all day at Pops’ house if he could keep convincing someone to push him.

In the hustle of the beginning of September, find a picture that reminds you to BE. These are mine. The greatest things in life can’t be quantified, but they can be missed. Richly bask in the unmeasurable moments you’re given.

Peaceful Mom

This summer has been excellent, especially in the amount of relaxation I felt like I got.

On vacation I walked the beach that looked like this:

Besides relaxing, I wanted to be fully present, savoring each moment and having fun with my kids. I chose to say, “Yes,” as much as possible.

At my parents’ home last week I did devotions here:

And my view from that chair was this:

I don’t want that feeling of peace to go away just because school is starting with all its schedule and appointments and I’m not on the beach or on retreat.

I want peaceful moments.

(When writing my title, “Peaceful Moments” I hit a button and it jumped out before I typed it fully and it said “Peaceful Mom,” so I kept it. Seemed right really.)

My mindset needs a do-over, a reset every day. I’m calling it Manna Living. Being sustained one day at a time. Asking for the strength I need for today, and asking again tomorrow.

A friend of mine and I are kindred especially in our draw to “do” instead of “be.” My character is all about accomplishing. But crossing off a list isn’t fun or enjoyable for me. It’s more like lifting a weight off my shoulders. Like this thing is hanging over me until it is finished.

So, fewer lists and more living off the cuff for me. Fewer to dos and more, “What’s next?” Fewer, “Maybe, after I,” and more, “Sounds fun!”

That’s my plan for peace. How about you? What is one way you live out the principle of manna or a way you reset for peace?

Devotions Starter Kit

My friend Mari Jo and I taught a middle school breakout at church camp on doing devotions and quiet time. In a nutshell: have a time, have your materials, read your Bible, and journal.

During one of our classes, we suggested to these students to ask their parents for a back-to-school or birthday shopping spree to purchase their materials for doing devotions. The next week, a student asked me to baptize her. She’s about to be a 6th grader, so I decided to gift her this devotion starter kit. I love shopping for journals and pens so it was just as much fun giving this gift as I hope it was receiving it.

First, the Bible. The best version of the Bible is the one you’ll read. At our church we encourage elementary students to read out of the NIrV (New International Readers Version), our youth group’s version of choice is ESV (English Standard Version), but I also have begun to encourage middle school students to read the Biblical paraphrase version The Message too. That’s what I purchased for this student. I found a pink one on Amazon, and it was super affordable. Pay a little more and get a super nice leather bound one, but this worked for my purpose.

Then at Target, I found this sweet journal.

And these pens…

They’re erasable?!? Of course I bought a pack for myself too.

That’s all you really need, but Mari Jo suggested to have a drink with you for your devotions. She drinks tea. I figured my 6th grader would like pink lemonade. I bought a country time mix, they have directions to make a cup at a time, and I also got her a cute melamine cup. All hers.

I wrote my student a card explaining the kit and then suggested a place to start. Now, she and I, and my other small group leaders all committed to reading a chapter of Proverbs every day in July. 31 chapters, 31 days. If you have a young adult or an friend who is new to quiet time, this starter kit would be a great gift. Other suggestions to include:

  • Noise canceling ear buds or head phones if a kid lives in a packed house.
  • A camp chair or blanket or cheap tent if the student would do best reading out doors.
  • A beanbag chair or camp chair for inside, or a new fun pillow.
  • Get into reading plans you find on the YouVersion Bible app. So many students are tech savvy. Pick one you can do together.
  • A devotional- books that supplement or lead your devotion time. Buy one you’ll do together. Our elementary students are doing this one.

Christmas in July

We’re heading out for vacation soon. We drive, so my husband wisely buys little dollar store gifts for “on the way,” but we also give gifts just in preparation for the trip.

Because of the timing (leaving in July), and because my daughter missed our church celebrating “Christmas in July” last year because we were on vacation, and probably also because my car wash’s free air freshener was pine scented (aroma inspiration) we decided to surprise the kids and throw our own. My stickler 2nd grader want everyone to know that it was Christmas in June since we did it on the 30th. (Any tips on breaking a semantically-inclined arguer????!!)

We decorated with three outdoor lights we usually put on our play set out back (they’re wonderfully tacky and yes, we saved them from large trash pick up day, so I banish them to the backyard usually).

My husband read the Christmas story with the kids out of the Bible App Kids Bible (any Bible will do or even the actual Bible App for kids).

We streamed a couple of kids worship songs.

Oh What a Special Night

And we watched this… Best Christmas Carol written by kids

Then we opened presents…

Then last night we had family over after church, ate falafel and I made the world’s most epic banana splits (future blog post soon) and the kids opened some gifts from Grandma too (great time to give their patriotic shirts for Independence Day)!

Merry Christmas in July!!!