Am I Really THAT Important?

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Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?

Clarence, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

I don’t know of anyone whose had the pleasure of having a ‘George Bailey’ moment. Do you? You know the one I mean. A fateful night when an angel comes down to earth and shows you exactly what life would be like if you had never been born. Like George, maybe every once in a while, we could all use a reminder of just how important a role we play.

am important. You are important. What lofty positions do we hold which allow me to write these words; senator, president, prime minister, or king? Nope; we are even more important than all these.

First, assuming you are a Christian, you are a child of the One True God; a child of the King. How could you not be important, especially to Him? He created you; you were not an accident. He came to earth for you, lived as an example for you, died for you, rose again for you, and is coming again for you. Yeah… you are definitely something special.

Second, He has a plan for you. If you are following His path for your life, you are fulfilling a purpose. No matter where God called you to serve and minister, you are doing God’s work. Take joy and comfort in that.

Not everyone is going to be a super star, much less hold a government office. That doesn’t mean the role you fulfill has any less meaning or importance! Being a Christian holds so much for those who follow God’s call in their lives. Being married gives a living example of Christ’s love for the church. Parents are imparting wisdom to the next generation. Those working outside the home have the ability to minister in an even wider arena. While you might not see the benefits of your hard work now, take heart. If you are walking according to God’s purposes, you are making an impact for His kingdom.

Now that I think about it, maybe you are an ambassador after all… an ambassador for Christ, reaching out to the lost and sharing hope to those who are willing to hear. A pretty important job; don’t you think?

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
II Cor. 5:20

We’d love to know… For those of you who are Christian, share a Bible verse which encourages you in your calling. For those who aren’t Christian, and might have some questions for us, we’d love to hear from you, too!

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Review: Nothing by Natalee Creech

It has been said a picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps this is why picture books continue to draw people in, no matter our age. When we find a book which perfectly blends the magic of illustration with the gift of words, we know we’ve found a keeper. A recent family find, Nothing by Natalee Creech, published through WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, not only fits the bill but is using the medium of picture books to share the Love of God. It doesn’t get much better!

Worthy Publishing Group is an established book company whose mission is, “To help people experience the heart of God.” Of their vast selection of titles, WorthyKids creates vibrant children’s literature including Nothing by Natalee Creech. Together, former teacher turned librarian, Ms. Creech, and talented illustrator, Joseph Cowman, bring to life this beautiful picture book expressing the heart of Romans 8:38-39.

“NOTHING can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: note death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.”

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Nothing is a hardbound, full-color picture book with over thirty pages of beautifully created illustrations. Readers will find this to be a book of highest quality. From the dust jacket to the pages within, Nothing is a well-crafted read. Suggested for children aged four to seven, Ms. Creech’s rhymes are sure to delight and teach the depth of this passage, while Mr. Cowman’s art will draw them in.

I no longer have littles in our home. (There are days I am still coming to terms with this sad fact.) However, a good picture book should always be appreciated, no matter our age! I specifically wished to review Nothing as my husband is an illustrator and the cover of the book immediately caught my attention. I also have the privilege of having little people visit me on a regular basis and having new picture books to share with them is a treat. Nothing was no exception.

Upon receiving our read, I was immediately impressed with the quality of the book. The illustrations were everything I previewed online and more. The cover and dust jacket are simply magnificent. A mix of mat and high gloss layers, with a rich color palette, this book pulls you in and begs to be read. The pages within are well bound, easy to turn, and equally charming to behold. And while the illustrations are worthy of many moments of admiration, the text itself is no less lovely. Through her gift of rhyme, Ms. Creech reminds readers there is nowhere we can go where we are separated from the love of our God. Her ability as a writer, her heart for children, and her love of the Lord shine through wonderfully. Readers could visit this book regularly and never tire.

We mentioned Nothing is suggest for children aged four to seven, but we would slightly disagree. While we find the reading level to be accurate; frankly, we would recommend this read to anyone who has an interest in beautiful picture books and a heart for poetry. Nothing might be intended for the young, but will bless those of any age. Myself and my children, ages ranging from seventeen to twelve, all agree; this is a beautiful book.

From time to time, everyone should be reminded that nothing separates us from the love of Christ. Even us adults. Especially when we are deceived into thinking we are unlovable or our mistakes too big to be forgiven. Nothing is a heartfelt, touching reminder for all of us, from the young to the old, that we are loved beyond anything we could imagine.

If you’d like to learn more about Nothing by Natalee Creech or WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group please visit them at their website and on FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, or Instagram!

To read additional reviews like this one, and gain more insight into this fantastic read, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew.

Review Crew Disclaimer

We’d like to know… What was the last picture book you read and with whom?

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Teaching Curriculum vs. Teaching Our Children

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“Why isn’t she moving faster? Doesn’t this child understand I want her to get through the material in the next half hour! I really want to get through with this part of our day so we can move on to other things. It really, really, shouldn’t take this long.” As I anxiously watch my daughter from across the room, the Lord uses this as the perfect opportunity to speak to my heart and teach me something vitally important. Am I teaching the curriculum or teaching my child? Oops; guilty as charged!

I think, sometimes, we homeschool parents can get caught up in the wonderful resources we have available to us. We ooh and aah over new-found books, get excited about special projects, and store up on awesome resources. In all our enthusiasm, I wonder if we have completely forgotten why we do what we do.

Are we getting caught up in buying resources which seem wonderful, and pushing our children through the motions, without bothering to ask ourselves if this is helping our children actually learn or – though learning is taking place – they are enjoying the learning process? Heaven forbid I force my children through hours of lessons every single day just so I can say I finished a book we purchased. Lord help me if I am pushing my kids to finish material in a certain amount of time simply because I have other plans for the day.

Now, don’t get me wrong. In our learning, we most certainly have a wide arrangement of resources available to us and I highly recommend using them to the fullest. However, I need to be careful the resources are being used as a help and not as the driving force behind my children’s education.

Ultimately, I don’t want my children to simply learn how to finish a book. (Although that is a good skill to be learned.) I want my children to love learning! I need my children to fully understand the world in which they live and the impact the Lord wants them to make in their own sphere of His creation.

The books, games, projects, and field trips we have before us can be used wonderfully in each of our learning endeavors. However, I want to be careful of how I am putting them to use. At the end of the day, if the only thing my kids did was push through a stack of paperwork so I can say we were productive, I have failed in my job. Getting through the books isn’t the goal. The goal is to teach my children, to reach their hearts, to minister to their souls, and to encourage a love of learning.

I need to make sure I am teaching my children and not merely the curriculum!

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.”

~ Isaiah 54:13

We’d love to know… Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a lesson and suddenly realized this is not working? How did you redirect your learning to be more productive for your children?

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Are You in the ‘Dead Zone’?

I could feel it coming on; a total shut down. I had, once again, overloaded the organ currently called a brain and put it into meltdown mode. Too much information was being entered, a mass amount of work was being done, and my body was calling it quits.

How often do we do this to ourselves? Personally, I do it far too often. From the minute I wake up ’til the minute I get the kiddos down – and sometimes beyond – I am rushing at the speed of light, trying to accomplish more than is humanly possible. The result of all my busy-ness? The dead zone. A temporary state of mind where I have to literally stop everything and just breathe. A point in time when, if I don’t stop, I’ll careen myself right into shortness of breath and a massive headache.

What causes the dead zone? An overload of activity or activity which I had not planned for. On occasion, it can also be caused by my own foolishness; namely, me choosing to do far too much on any given day. Unfortunately, that’s usually the one that gets me.

Last week is a prime example… We needed to get learning done in the morning. I got the kiddos started. While they were wrapping up work, I did a list of chores and cooked some food. We rushed through lunch and headed out the door. We handled a special event and ran two errands before I dropped the kiddos at home with their pop. I headed back out to do a few more errands, only to come home and start another list of things I wanted to get done before the day was over. Did I mention all of this took place before dinner time?

Now, mind you, every day is not like this! (Thank the Lord!) But I have noticed a trend. More and more days are becoming like this. It needs to stop. Having a busy day once in a while is alright and understandable, but doing this several times a week is just too much.

The sad part is, the main culprit is me. No one is putting pressure on me to get this much accomplished. There is no manager standing behind me, ordering me to finish this list of “to do’s”. This is all me. I need to learn how to say, “no”; even to myself. I need to realistically look at my day and understand I am not Superwoman. Yes; I could rush around like a mad woman and get all this accomplished – and some days I do – but those days should be few and far between. If I am managing my time well, the days will be full, but not overwhelming.

Most importantly, I need to stop telling myself that the more I do the more I am worth. This is not a competition, even one against myself. Just because an activity could get done today, doesn’t mean it should. If something comes up at the last-minute, I need to take stock and realistically decide if this can get done; without me ending up in the ‘dead zone’.

I truly hate to admit it, but I do not need to get this much done in one day. If all of my days are filled to the brim with busyness, even for a ‘good cause’, I might be missing out on something just as important; those quiet moments with my kids and the ability to just relax. Before I run myself into the ground, it’s time to slow down. It might just be a short season of our life, but I am tired of being stuck in ‘the dead zone’.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to [His disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”
~ Mark 6:31

We’re curious… Do you ever find yourself overworked to the point that your brain decides to call it quits?

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Senior Trip! What Senior Trip?

Hooray! We have somehow managed to survive thirteen years of home education and this amazing child is about to graduate. In these final months a multitude of activity fills our calendar. Senior photos, yearbooks, caps & gown, honors, and so much more. Then a passing acquaintance asks a question which sends us into a tailspin, “Where is your daughter going on her senior trip?” Wait… what? What senior trip? You mean that’s a thing!

Apparently so. One acquaintance was sharing the joy her oldest daughter had on her trip to France. Her second daughter was thinking London might be more her style. We’ve had friends who’ve gone to Mexico and others to Hawaii. Sometimes it becomes a family trip, other times one parent adventures with the graduate. On occasion the senior globe-trots with friends.

I’ll confess. These all sound amazing. I would love to be able to do this with and for my children. I would also argue there is nothing wrong with these parents choosing to do so and applaud their desire to bless their children. If they can afford it, why not go for it?

But what about those of us who just… can’t? For whatever reason – finances, work situations, life – prevent us from giving that “Instagram worthy” vacation our children have always dreamed about. Our friends are sharing their fantastic plans. Our children’s friends are sharing their fantastic plans. Social media is presenting the image that everyone else has fantastic plans. And we’re… Well, we were planning on heading to the local ice cream shop, getting two scoops of ice cream and perhaps going to the beach. That comparison game is tough, isn’t it?

Just thinking about it is enough to stress some parents out. Or worse. Start a bout of parental guilt. We bemoan all we cannot do for our children but would like to. We stress that our children will be unhappy or harbor feelings of resentment for not having a life which allows us such pleasures. In short. What started out as a simple question, “What are your plans for a senior trip?” becomes the start of a spiritual battle.

Friends, we’re right there with you. But the enemy doesn’t have to win! It’s all a matter of perspective and thanksgiving. If we choose to focus on the celebration of all God is doing in our child and the plans He has for their future, the momentary event holds less weight in our lives. Graduation is not about the party, but the next step in a grand adventure. How we approach the celebration is entirely up to us! Those two scoops of ice cream and a beach trip can be a wonderful senior trip. As could a picnic in the park, having a family party, or any other way we choose to commemorate the occasion. (Plane tickets need not be involved.) It’s all a matter of perspective and a heart of thanksgiving cultivated in ourselves and our children.

What is truly important is that our child know they are special to us. What matters is that they understand we are proud of their accomplishments and celebrate them, not the event. The ceremony, the certificate, is one tiny step in a bigger adventure. We rejoice together over a job well done and go forth in prayer for the steps to come. Graduation honors God’s faithfulness in bringing us this far and anticipating all He will do in their future. It is thanksgiving, grace, mercy, and love. And that cannot be outshined by exotic locations.

In one short month our oldest girl will be graduated. Honestly, I’m not sure where the time has flown. It seems like we just got started. But here we are. God has indeed been good to us. In so many ways. Our family will celebrate, in our own way. A small trip might be involved. We’ll see. And while I would hope she fondly remembers this small adventure, I hope it is merely one of the many which has brought her to this point. For, in my eyes, this isn’t the cherry on top, but one of the many sprinkles which already decorate the large scoop of life the Lord has put before us.

“And we pray… that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in the knowledge of God…”

Colossians 1:10

We’re curious… When you graduated, did you have a senior trip?

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I Don’t Need This! (Or Do I?)

The following article was written for our monthly PSP newsletter. With permission from our principal, we are sharing this with you; praying you are blessed by the heart of his message. Enjoy!

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“I Don’t Need This!” How many times have I uttered those words? Probably more than I can count, certainly more often than I recall. The chapter of the old year is quickly coming to a close, and a new chapter in our lives is just beginning. Many of us tend to look back at the past year, either rejoicing, or thanking God it is over. I am no exception. As I look back at the year, I too am glad, in a sense, that it is done. In truth, some chapters are darker, scarier, or less cheerful than others, to say the least. In my own case, the second half of the year was definitely in the trials category.

James tell us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

To be honest, I struggle with verses like these at times, particularly those hard times. But in light of God’s Word, I have to conclude that my opening question does indeed have an answer. That answer is, “Apparently, I do.” If I truly believe that my Father is in control, is sovereign, and has a perfect plan for my life; and if I trust that, like Job, nothing can come my way that hasn’t been okayed by Him first, then I must conclude that my trials, however unpleasant, weighty, or dark they may seem, have been allowed by Him for some reason, likely more than one. I can only conclude one thing from this: God uses trials to work on me.

God has a LOT of work to do in me, so maybe that is why I seem to have so many trials? Back to James. It says to “count it all joy… knowing that the testing produces patience…” My first inclination, whenever things get difficult, is to immediately cry out for relief, strength, and praise to God for His wonderful sustaining grace… NOT!! Sadly, my first inclination is to complain, bemoan my circumstances, and wonder, “When will this end?”

I am not, by nature, a very patient man, just ask my wife and kids. My Father, however, is working on that. His ultimate goal is not my creature comforts, but that I may, personally, be complete, lacking nothing. In order for that to happen, I need to learn patience, because, at least according to James, patience has a work to accomplish. That work cannot be accomplished quickly, easily, or without trial, because patience is only needed when one has to wait. If all of my trials ended in a split second, when would patience be built up?

According to Paul, I am supposed to rejoice in the Lord always. (Php. 4:4) James said to count it all joy. This does not mean that I am supposed to enjoy the trials, there is nothing pleasant about what we are enduring, but I am supposed to rejoice in Him during it. The fact that He is working on me is a joy, because He is working toward a perfect end, and the fact that He is working on me at all proves that I am His.

Not only am I impatient, but my natural tendency is also to wander, roam, and get distracted. I am like the little boy whose father is constantly saying, “Come here, stay close to me.” Every time a trial comes along, I run back to my Father because, like that little boy, I am afraid, overwhelmed, intimidated, or perhaps simply had some sense knocked into me. This being the case, I can also conclude that God uses these trials to keep me close to Him, which is where I need to be.

In the words of a contemporary Christian artist: “Now, I don’t want to sound like some hero, ’cause it’s God alone that my hope is in, but I’m not gonna run from the very things that would drive me closer to Him; so bring it on.” (Steven Curtis Chapman, “Bring It On”)

As I put this all together, I am coming to understand a key fact: It is one thing to praise God during a trial… it’s not always easy, in fact, it rarely is… but it’s another thing entirely to praise Him for the trial, which is where I need to go if I am to count it a joy when I fall into one. May the blessing of the Lord abound in this new (learning) year as you stay close to Him.

We’d like to know… During your summer break, in what ways are you being purposeful in drawing closer to the Lord so that you might be refreshed for the coming adventures in learning?

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Are There Gaps in My Children’s Education?

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Let’s face it. No education is perfect. If that were so, you would know absolutely everything upon graduating and no further learning would be needed. The truth is every education is going to have some “gaps”. The question is rather where are the gaps in my children’s education?

While I believe in giving our children the best education I possible can, I only have so much time and so many resources available to me. It would be physically impossible for me to cover each area of study perfectly. It is also quite unfair for me to expect our children to absorb all of that information and retain it.

No; it seems gaps are inevitable. Somewhere along the line an area of study will not be covered quite as thoroughly as I could have or, heaven forbid, might get skipped over entirely. (Remember my whole tying the shoes error? Totally skipped that all important lesson; accidentally, of course.) So, the question doesn’t seem to be whether or not our children will have gaps in their education, but, rather, where those gaps will be found.

Where would a gap in education not be acceptable? Theology, including worldview apologetics and logic. No other area of our children’s learning is more important or more fundamental to the rest of their lives. Theology should, and will, be the most solid part of their education.

Why theology? Theology is the study of God and religious belief. It is our belief that how you view God and your relationship with Him will help determine the remainder of your worldview. Knowing what you believe, and why, will affect your study of science, history, literature, and more. If we expect our children to have a proper foundation in all other areas of learning, it must first begin with theology. (For arguments regarding forcing religion on your children, please read THIS article.)

While we strive to keep those “gaps” in learning as little as possible, they are bound to happen. Instead of being caught up in spending every minute of every day learning all there is to possibly know, let us instead focus our energies on those things which are foundational to both their worldviews and their potential futures. When a proper foundation for learning is established, there is a peace about the walls that are built upon it.

“…and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:15-17

We’d love to know… Do you perceive any “gaps” in your children’s education and in which areas of learning are unwilling to compromise?

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Easter Fun Series!

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“On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed [is] the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.“
~ John 12:12-15

Aside from Christmas, Easter is the most significant holiday for Christians. This is more than just an opportunity collect eggs, wear cute bunny ears, and hoard candy. Easter is amazing, redeeming grace. For our family, this is a time to put aside outside responsibilities and simply focus on the true meaning of this holy occasion. For the next few weeks, we will focus on all things Easter.

It is our desire to use this time not only for encouraging our family, but to learn from yours! Join us as we focus on the true meaning of this special holiday. We hope to share some of our favorite games, activities, crafts, and recipes which all point towards Christ and His love for us.

Easter Fun: Easter Week Begins
Easter Fun: Resurrection Eggs
Easter Fun: Books
Easter Fun: Egg Decorating
Easter Fun: Resurrection Garden
Easter Fun: Resurrection Rolls

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,”
~ John 11:25

Share with us… What is your family’s favorite homeschool resource for learning the true meaning of Easter?

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Helping Our Children Move Past Failure

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Some of you may have children that always seem to succeed; there is no hoop they can’t shoot and no test they can’t ace. Eventually though, both our children and ourselves have to deal with the reality of failure.

Through homeschooling my children, I have often seen them experience moments of failure. At times it is an arithmetic test, losing their self-control, or not winning a competition. It often amazes me that they put more pressure on themselves than I ever would place there. They have a goal and become distraught when their own expectations are not met. How do we show our children that it is okay to fail; that failure is merely a life lesson, helping them to grow and learn? How do we help them move on?

Congratulate them on giving it their best. One aim for my children is that they do their best, no matter the circumstance. Even when they don’t quite reach their goal, they should still be congratulated on giving it their best shot.

Let them talk it out and offer empathy. My kids often need the opportunity to vent their frustration and “talk it out”. They want to figure out where they went wrong and how they can fix the problem. There is no need for me to get upset; I simply need to listen and then offer a comforting hug.

Don’t lecture, ask questions: Instead of telling my child what they could have done and should have done, I try asking them what they would have done differently. By allowing them work the problem out for themselves, we are helping them to grow and mature.

Offer personal insight. It sometimes helps when our children know we can personally relate to their circumstance. If we can explain how we have dealt with the same struggle, it will encourage them to keep trying and eventually succeed.

Help them to keep trying. My kids need to be encouraged not to let the situation get the best of them, but to use this as a springboard. If they can’t succeed in a particular field, I help them to explore other options. No matter what, we “try, try again”.

Please let me be clear. While we firmly believe in helping our children move past failure, we do not believe in rewarding effort only. Not every child is going to receive an award; nor should they. We encourage our children to do their best with the understanding their best might not get them a physical award or reward. They are doing their best for the glory of God, and the improvement of themselves. Children who assume every effort earns them a trophy are being set up for life-long failure.

Part of growing up and maturing, is failing. The key is learning to dust ourselves off, learn from the lesson, and move on. With compassion, understanding, and a lot of love, our children can learn this important life lesson.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
~II Corinthians 12:9-10

We’d love to know… How do you help your children move on from failure?

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Do My Children Struggle with Confidence?

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Of all the subjects taught in public school, self-confidence seems to the most valued lesson. Our children need to learn to take pride in themselves! Our girls need to have self-assurance! Ironically, the lessons aren’t accomplishing quite what the schools had in mind.

It has been mentioned, once or twice, that my children do not lack in self-confidence. I have even been asked what I have done to instill this in them. Honestly, the observation took me by surprise. I never set out to teach them self-confidence; it just wasn’t on my top list of priorities.

If my children are confident, where does it come from? Let’s give that a little thought…

I think our children learn confidence from us. When we exhibit poise, our children see this and model their lives in the same pattern. Here is where we need to be careful. It can be all too easy to have confidence in the wrong things.

I do not wish to have foolish confidence, assured of things which have no value. I should also avoid over confidence, believing myself to be worthy of so much more. Instead, I wish to have confidence in Christ and the wisdom He has given. What I know, what I am capable of doing, and the assurance to proceed with decisions should all come from a solid understanding built on Christ; not of my own worth. This isn’t about me, but how much He can do through me.

When our children see our confidence in Christ and His ability to work through us, they too will develop their own sense of assurance. Their courage will come from Him with an understanding that He will see them through no matter what.

If we truly wish our children to exhibit confidence, let it be done in the right manner. Let us model a solid faith in our Lord and all that He can do through a willing servant. When they see the results, they too will become bold for Christ.

“For the LORD will be your confidence And will keep your foot from being caught.”

~ Proverbs 3:26

We’d love to know… What has God been teaching you in your parenting journey lately?

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