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Sunday, December 19, 2010

66 Love Letters - Prologue

Welcome SunHills gals!

Are you looking for the gathering spot for 66 Love Letters?

Then you've come to the right place!

Click HERE and be transported to where all the fun is happening.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm Stuffed!

Stuff. We all have it. Make no mistake about it, our houses, cars, rooms, cupboards and even purses are filled with it. Things you once loved or didn't, now stuffed in a closet, behind a chair, under a bed or overhead in the attic.

If you were to make a list of all the stuff you have in boxes, stacked in the garage, or tossed beneath a cabinet, you couldn't. Forgotten stuff, used only for a time, not to be remembered again.

Stuff holds us in bondage. It keeps us from moving forward, from focusing on the present. And, at times, it overwhelms us. Yet, each Christmas I want more of it. I check the Sunday ads searching for it. Not only do I want more stuff, I want to give stuff to my husband and children too.

My teenage daughter Meghan, recently told me a story her college professor shared with her class. It helped me see “stuff” in a much different way.

As the students filed into the college class for their final exam, they were greeted by their teacher. He was standing beside a table of archaic looking items. As each curious student came forward, their professor explained the odd -looking objects, and then proceeded to try and sell them to his students.

“This here is an 8-track player. I'll sell it to you for $100.00.”

“Are you kidding? Those are obsolete. No one uses 8-track players anymore.” The student smirked.

“Well, how about this transistor radio? I'll give you a deal...$40.00.”

Another student peered over the table and laughed at his teacher. “That transistor radio is a dinosaur. And it only gets AM!”

“Ok, then how about this TV?” The professor waved his arm towards the gargantuan television, towering over the table.“I'll give you a bargain...$500.00.”

A chorus of students roared with laughter. “Is this a joke? I bet that TV weighs 500lbs!” The students crouched down to get a better look. “Are those dials for changing the channels? Cmon' professor!” Their laughter had them doubled over by now.

As they chuckled and giggled, their teacher calmly shared, “Men and women... some of them your own mothers and fathers, worked long hours to bring this “stuff” home to their family. Time taken away from their loved ones was used instead to bring a couple smiles, and a few light moments to those they cared about. Not much has changed today. People are working harder and longer to give those they love “stuff”. When what matters, what really counts, is time. And in time, even your newest and neatest toy this Christmas will become archaic, odd and obsolete.”

The teacher looked around his classroom. The laughter had stopped.

This Christmas, take a moment, ask the Lord to help you discover something your husband and children can't tuck away to be forgotten in a box or on a shelf. Take a walk together. Make cookies together. Share a cup of cocoa together. Cuddle on the couch together. Play a game together. Love on one another and laugh together.

Family memories should be the “stuff” we tuck away in our hearts this holiday season.

Originally posted at Blessed...http://www.onesoblessed.com/ December 2009

Saturday, December 11, 2010

66 Love Letters

When was the last time you read a love letter? Have you ever received one? Do you remember how it felt reading words penned from the heart of someone who loves you?

The Bible is God's love letter to you.

Sixty-six books in the Bible share His story of forgiveness and hope, and a love for you that began even before He flung the universe into existence.

He loves you.

Our women's ministry is reading 66 Love Letters, by Dr. Larry Crabb. If you've never fully understood what the Bible is all about, or how and why it matters to you - get a hold of this book and meet back here each Sunday.

Written in the same way as Amy Carmichael's; His Thoughts Said...His Father Said, and Sara Young's; Jesus Calling, Author, Larry Crabb, talks to the Lord in each chapter, asking Him questions and discovers how each book of the Bible is a love letter from God to us.

You can purchase it on Amazon here, head down to your local library and check it out, or just follow along in your Bible. Each chapter of 66 Love Letters represents one book of the Bible - from Genesis to Revelation.

We will begin with chapter one in 66 Love Letters (Genesis) next Sunday (12/19) and you can comment below. Each Sunday we'll meet back here and I'll post a little something about the following chapter read and what spoke to my heart. I pray you will join us and share what God is saying to you too.

If you've never received a love letter, or if it's been years since your husband has given you one, it's time you read the greatest love letter of all...written from the hand of God to you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Traditions - Family Fingerprints

My mother had no idea she'd begun a family tradition. Distracting all of us with hot cocoa and Rice Krispies Treats, instead of arguing with each other about who would hang the prettiest ornaments, instead, our mouths were full of sugary heaven. 

Fast forward twenty-five years, hot cocoa and Rice Krispies Treats are present in each of her four children's homes. No Christmas tree is decorated without them.

Family traditions often start with little planning and even less fanfare. Yet, they hold memory-making power. They are unique family-fingerprints we leave behind for future generations.

Christmas is a wonderful time to leave a few family fingerprints on your own little ones. I thought I’d include a few fun things to do with your children this holiday season.

Read a Book – Turn off the TV and spend a few minutes each night reading a story to your children. Whether your kids are six or sixteen, it’s a sweet time that will be remembered. Click here for a list of Christmas books to read aloud this season.

Tour of Lights – When our children were young we’d tell them to get bundled up in their pajamas and jackets. I’d make hot cocoa (I’m quite the hot-chocolate-pusher.) and bring it in the car with lids for them to enjoy. Christmas music would play on the radio as we toured the neighborhood, “Ooohing and ahhhing,” over each beautifully lit-up home.

Anonymous Santa – Our children have memories of going to the dollar store and purchasing a  bag of toys. On Christmas Eve we’d park our car and black out our lights, while the children ran our wrapped gifts up to the home of an unsuspecting needy family. Don’t let money hold you back from blessing a hurting family this season. A tray of cookies and an anonymous note will touch the heart of anyone.

Operation Christmas Child – Children in other countries don’t have the Christmas morning our children have. Take your little one down to the store and fill a shoe box for a little girl or boy. If filling a shoe box isn’t your thing, most churches have “angel trees” with names of less fortunate children in your area. Pick one and bless a heart this Christmas.

Christmas Cookies—Take a plate of homemade cookies to your local police or fire department. Don’t forget your police/911 dispatchers!

Movie Night—We end our Christmas season each year with a family movie. Tired from the day, full from the food, we gather in our pajamas—pushing aside stray pieces of wrapping paper and ribbon, and cuddle up to my favorite; It’s a Wonderful Life. For me, each December 25th ends with a few tears and gratefulness for the blessings God has given me…and a reminder to Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Advent Season - Jotham's Journey

Did you know Advent season begins this coming Sunday?  It falls every year on the first Sunday following Thanksgiving. If you have no idea what Advent is, or need a refresher course—click here: The Christmas Advent Season.

Did you know each color of the candles in an Advent wreath represent something different? Does your family pay attention to this part of the Christmas season?

We didn’t.

Sure, we've heard a few teachings from pastors over the years, but we've never been inspired to do anything more. This year, our pastor shared how his family of six recognizes the coming birth of Christ and celebrates the beginning of a new Church year in his own home.

We were inspired.

They say, imitation is the biggest form of flattery. So, we’ll be Advent copy-cats this year and follow his family’s lead. I thought I’d share what we're doing with all of you, just in case you feel the desire, like our family, to create a new family tradition and make this Christmas season even more God- honoring.

Beginning this Sunday, we will light a candle and read nightly devotions from the children’s book, Jotham’s Journey. I've included an excerpt below:

Over and over Jotham screamed for his family, but there was no one to hear him. They had vanished. He was alone. Where had they gone? How long ago had they left? Through quick, stabbing sobs Jotham told himself, "I must look for my family, I must search until I find them." And so his journey begins. In this widely popular, exciting story for the Advent season, readers follow ten-year-old Jotham across Israel as he searches for his family. Though he faces thieves, robbers, and kidnappers, Jotham also encounters the wise men, shepherds, and innkeepers until at last he finds his way to the Savior born in Bethlehem.

Written as a devotional for parents to read to their children during Advent, Jotham's Journey unfolds day by day until the exciting climax on Christmas Day. Each day's installment of the story is followed by a short devotional which will challenge your family to share in Jotham's discoveries.

Recommended for ages 4 and up.

Softcover, 168 pages, with introductory notes and ideas for celebrating Advent

Head over here and get your own copy of Jotham's Journey today. There's still time!

Does your family celebrate the Advent season?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Are You a Blessing or a Burden?

The ref blew the final whistle and parents on our sideline cheered our victory—Paul and I cheered for a much different reason. The last day of soccer season is a joyous day for my husband and I, and last Saturday was no exception.

But, before we could get too excited, there was still the team party to attend. I’d printed off a coupon that would give us two large pizza’s for $20.00.

Unfortunately, when my husband made his way through the long line of families at Mountain Mike’s Pizza parlor, he was told by the gal at the register, “You’re total is $38.00.”

“What?” Paul was taken aback, and I was beckoned with a head nod and a fast wave of his hand.

“I thought you said this was going to be only $20.00 Joanne?”

“Oh no. I left the coupon in the car.” I told him, already trying to head toward the parking lot.

“Don’t bother getting it. Do you see how long this line is? I am not about to make all of these people wait for us.” He replied angrily.

It didn’t help matters when five hours later we were at the grocery store where I’d thought we were eligible for a free turkey. When the clerk charged us for the turkey and explained how I’d confused the deal they were having, my husband was fit to be tied.

As you can imagine, I was not having a very good day and neither was he. When we discussed the incidents later, I apologized and he shared, “I’m having a hard time seeing where you helped me today. You are making mistakes that create a financial burden for me. I know you didn’t do anything intentionally, but these kinds of things are happening a lot, Joanne.”

He was right. Lately I wasn’t focused on ways I could help him. Sure, I kept the house picked up and made his lunch from time to time, but how was I intentionally trying to make his life easier?

The truth was, I wasn’t.

And the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a companion who will help him."
Genesis 2:18 NLT

God’s Word tells me I was created to be not only Paul's friend, but that I was designed to be a help to him as well. When Paul shared how I had created a burden for him, I felt terrible. And, I admit…there were a few tears. He is my best friend. I want his life to be easier when I’m a part of it, not more difficult.

It got me to thinking, how can I be a help to him? As his wife, I shouldn't be his burden-maker, I should be a bearer of his blessings.

I thought I’d share a few ways I’ve learned to be a blessing instead of a burden to the man God intentionally created me for.

  • Follow-Thru.  I have quite a few to-do's on my housework list. Many of which I've shared with my husband; organize our closet, clean out our pantry, clean the bonus room, go through the kids old clothes. It's time I became a woman of my word and began to tackle a few of those tasks. After all, he was thrilled when I organized our silverware drawer. I'm sure he'd be elated to discover his socks all in once place again.
  • Focus. Quite often I give my husband only one ear when he's talking to me. It's frustrating for him to share a story when I ask him to repeat himself over and over again. Focusing on what I'm doing also helps me to remember coupons in the car and read the fine print about turkey sales at the grocery store.
  • Find.  Find ways to help. Now, each morning I try to ask, "What can I do to help you today?" You'll be amazed to discover how much your husband appreciates being asked this question.
  • Fill. My words can be life-giving when I fill my mouth with inspiration and encouragement. There is nothing more taxing on a man than a woman who nitpicks and complains. I need to fill my husband’s ears with those life-giving words.
  • Fun. When Paul wants to relax and have fun, I want to be who he thinks of first. For fun I take him out for a coffee date, walk up and surprise him with a kiss and a cuddle, or leave a sticky-note somewhere on his office desk at home. I’ve even surprised him with ice cream and a movie in bed.

So many families today are struggling to keep their financial heads above the rising economical tide. It is no surprise that it's one of the biggest stressors in a marriage. Whether your husband is sensitive to finances in your home, a new job situation, or is just over-worked and stretched to his limit, you are his helper, the one God created to stand shoulder to shoulder and carry the load together.

How about you? Is there a way you can bless your husband today?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Teenagers & Cell Phones

At a restaurant this weekend, I couldn’t help but notice the family at the table beside ours. While mom and dad talked with their young son; their teenager furiously tapped away at her cell phone—texting. Their daughter was no part of the dinner conversation; her focus was on the credit card-sized electronic device in her hand.

“Kids spend more than 7.5 hours a day with media—TV, iPods, and the Web—plus another two hours on their cell phones...heavy media users reported lower grades and happiness levels.” According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

My husband and I love slaying the media giants in our home. The cell phone is one of the easiest to kill, in our opinion. We aren’t victim to the media feeding frenzy of this generation—because we know as parents, we hold all the cards.

“Mom, can I get a cell phone?” our oldest daughter came home one day and asked. At fifteen years old, I didn’t understand her need for one. I completely understood her want, but not her need.

“Why do you want one?” I asked.

“Everyone has one Mom. I’m the only teenager on the face of the earth who doesn’t have a cell phone. It’s embarrassing.” She whined.

My daughter didn’t realize I’d used the everyone-has-one logic twenty-five years earlier when I’d asked my parents for a Sony walkman, acid wash jeans and my very own pager.

As she rambled off the reasons why she believed she needed a cell phone, I had a flashback; standing in my childhood kitchen debating my Mother.

“But, Mom, I need a pager. Everyone has a pager. I’m the only teenager on the face of the earth that doesn’t’ have a pager. It’s embarrassing.” I whined and brushed aside my big 80’s hair for emphasis.

“Are you a heart surgeon? Does the hospital need to page you for surgery?” She asked.

“No.” I huffed.

“Then you don’t need a pager. You want one. A need is not a want.” She reminded me.

My Mom’s words haunted me now. “Meghan, you don’t need a cell phone. You want one. Who do you need to call, you’re stock broker?” I asked, using the same genetic wit passed down from generations of mothers before me.

Paul and I knew cell phones weren’t going away. Eventually, we’d need to address this electronic device. We reminded each other it is okay to say no to our child every once in awhile. Once our children were driving and had their own part-time job income, we addressed the cell phone situation again. This time we came up with a few family rules.

We Don’t Buy Cell Phones For Our Children – If our kids want a cell phone, they must have the financial ability to purchase one for themselves. We bless our children by allowing them to use our family plan. This means they pay for their cell phone and their monthly service fee—which means for us; cell phones don’t come on the scene until our kids have a part-time job.

Cell Phones Not Allowed – We have a “seen and not heard” rule when it comes to cell phones. We love to see our teen- we refuse to see their cell phone. When our teen comes home from school, their cell phone is put away in their purse or in their bedroom. If I hear it going off, it’s mine. This means there are no cell phones at the dinner table, in the car, or while visiting at their grandma’s house, ever. We’ve taught our kids it is incredibly rude to have a cell phone bully its way into a family moment by a chirp, whistle or jingle.

Operating Hours – We discovered through our first teenager; cell phones come to life when everyone goes to bed. After three days with her first cell phone, we realized our oldest child was addicted to her phone—we were sure of it. Like a crack addict, she couldn’t be without it. While she figured out how to handle this new toy, we asked her to put her phone to bed in our room at night. That way, we knew our teen wasn’t going to be interrupted by a text from a girlfriend at 11pm. It’s amazing how young adults are electronic wizards, yet are unable to find the “off” button. And, surprisingly, just like an addiction, stopping cell phone use cold-turkey is a great way to curb a bad habbit.

Your Cell Phone is My Cell Phone – If our child has a problem controlling their calls or texting habits, we have no problem taking it from them. It’s a great disciplinary tool. And, one we only needed to follow-thru one or two times to work well. If our child reminds us, “You can’t take my phone. I bought that phone and pay for it myself!”

My husband reminds him or her, “Yes, and you have that great monthly service fee because you’re on our plan. Go ahead; try getting a plan on your own. Oh, that’s right; you have to be eighteen years old to sign up for a cell phone plan.”

Reality is a cold bucket of water on a teenage cell-phone-fire.

How about you? What are some of the boundaries your family created for cell phones?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Do Your Children Rest?

“Look both ways before crossing the street. Eat all of your carrots. Did you say thank you?” Every loving parent has said these words more than they'd care to admit. We are faithful to teach our little ones the importance of safety, good health and good manners. What about their spiritual health? How often do I encourage my children to keep God's commandments?

Parents want their child to know what God says about honoring their mother and father and His rules about stealing and lying. But, what about honoring the Sabbath? What about that one? It sounds easy enough. Go to church and you can check that one off your list. At least, that's what I used to believe. Honoring Sundays as a family has now become the best part of our week.

God created our bodies with a Sabbath DNA. He has placed this spiritual genetic matter within each cell that makes up our miraculous body. We can't help it, it is how we are wired. There is no possible way for the human body to keep busy for days and weeks at a time. Resting is part of our bodies' routine maintenance.

While teaching my Sunday school class a lesson on the ten commandments, I asked the children if they knew what a commandment was. Immediately one little boy's hand shot right up. “A commandment is what a king gives.” I thought that was the perfect answer. God's commandments are rules with benefits. Yet, one of the easiest commandments to keep, Honor the Sabbath, was the one our family was having the hardest time honoring.

God didn't make the Sabbath day a gentle suggestion, He made it a commandment: remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. The word holy means to set apart. This day has been set apart in worship to Him. Jesus says in John 14:15 “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” It is not out of obligation my husband and I have made this change, but out of a love for our Savior, our King. If it were obligatory, it wouldn't be a lasting change. Out of love, honoring the Sabbath as a family is a continual desire.

When I started thinking about the Ten Commandments, I discovered I have a very bad habit of rating them on a sliding scale:

Do not murder. -Very important!
Honor your father and mother. - Important.
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. - Not too important.

Now, after church we try and make our day as restful as possible. On Sundays, my husband and I usually read the paper together. We keep this day as open and commitment free as humanly possible. It has become a free-time family day.
Our children have a day to themselves to play together, go for a bike ride, or just hang out and read a book. We try to keep their busyness to a minimum too.

There are lots of ways to honor Sundays as a family:

• Have lunch together, or invite extended family over for a Sunday visit.
• Turn off the TV.
• Make Sunday the day your children play outside all day, hurricane warnings permitting.
• Turn off all video games, iPod's, DVD players and computers.
• Encourage your husband to sit back, relax and take a load off.

Two of our four children are teenagers. Their genetic makeup gives them a physical need for music. One of the changes our family has made to honor the Sabbath is to play only worship music on this day. These small changes have made quite a big difference in our home already.

As parents, Paul and I understand the importance of raising our children in a way that is God-honoring. To teach our little ones respect and honor of God's commandments, we must first show them how we do it.

Who would have thought we would have to teach one another how to rest? After almost nineteen years of parenting I’m still learning the best way to lead them along the narrow path is by example.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bible Studies For Your Teen

Church youth groups can be a great teen experience. Like everything, there are good youth groups and not-so-good ones. As a parent, we desire our children to be in a youth group that is God honoring and encourages our children to bring their Bible in hand for a teaching. When we were recently on the hunt for a solid youth group, we made a point to visit the youth group and meet with the youth pastor.

Some youth groups try to be so fun, they lose their purpose. Instead of a place where kids can grow up together in their knowledge of Jesus Christ, they draw kids with Skittles and Guitar Hero and follow up with little or no Bible study at all.

Don't get me wrong. I think Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and ping-pong make a mean combination. But, I have to ask myself what kind of lesson are my kids walking away with? We make sure to place our children in youth group that desires to teach about God in fun ways. Not teach about fun alone.

Scavenger hunts are great, but when my children grow up and need hope or faith in their life, they won't be seeking a paper clip or a 1945 penny.

Now, before you start thinking I'm being way too hard on the church, I believe our Christian walk begins at home. It is ultimately our job as moms and dads to raise up our children in the way they should go. That is not the sole responsibility of a youth group. It is ours.

And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deut. 6:6-9 NLT

You don't have to have a theological degree to read through the Bible together. Start with the book of John, or Esther if you have a daughter. Our youngest daughter Grace (11) LOVES the story of Esther. Our son Samuel (9) reads the story of King David in his daily devotion time, his favorite story in the Bible.

Paul and I made a point to take time each week in a study when our children hit the pre-teen years. Meghan (18), and our son David (15) have experienced a few over the years. We have enjoyed the one-on-one time we've shared with each of our children. It has given us moments that have been a blessing to all of us.

Bible studies are a great bonding time. Paul and David work on theirs on our back deck, or at our local coffee shop. Meghan and I used to enjoy having our time away from the house at our local coffee shop too. Whatever you decide to do, your children will welcome having one of their parents all to themselves.

I've included below the Bible studies we've experienced first hand and highly recommend to you.

Fifty interactive Bible studies for teen girls provide a Christian perspective on relevant topics such as beauty, jealousy, fear, partying, self-acceptance, eating disorders, mood swings, perfectionism. Amazon Review

Andrea Stephens has been where many young girls dream of being--on the front page of a glamour magazine, modeling the latest fashions and turning heads everywhere from her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, to the big city of New York. But, in her own words, it was a ''God thing'' that taught her the meaning of real beauty. And now in book one of the B. A. B. E. book series, her encouraging, upbeat writing style, speaks directly to teen readers right where they're at. Using real-life examples and simple exercises, Andrea leads these young women into the meaningful ''B. A. B. E. sisterhood,'' where they will learn to see themselves through the eyes of a loving, purposeful Creator.About the series: The B.A.B.E. books teach girls that true significance is not about their hips or their hairdos, but about their hearts-hearts that are beautiful, accepted, blessed, and eternally significant. Amazon Review

This groundbreaking book shows readers the glorious design of women before the fall, describes how the feminine heart can be restored, and casts a vision for the power, freedom, and beauty of a woman released to be all she was meant to be. By revealing the core desires every woman shares-to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a grand adventure, and to unveil beauty-John and Stasi Eldredge invite women to recover their feminine hearts, created in the image of an intimate and passionate God. Further, they encourage men to discover the secret of a woman's soul and to delight in the beauty and strength women were created to offer. Amazon Review

**Meghan did this study while in her high school youth group. She LOVED it.**

In this revised edition of the best-selling book The Measure of a Man, Gene Getz delivers the newly enhanced message of what it takes to be a man of God. Men will gain encouragement for what they can be in Christ-as fathers, husbands, and mentors to other men. Since 1974, The Measure of a Man has taught hundreds of thousands of men around the world how to live according to God's direction-faithfully, lovingly and spiritually. True masculinity is not measured by a man's strength, but by these 20 biblical guidelines. With life applications and words of inspiration, here is Gene's greatest work-fully rewritten and updated to reach the new generation of modern men. Amazon Review

**Even though this book is not faith-based, it's lessons on good character and solid moral conduct gave my husband Paul the ability to bring every chapter back to God's Word and what He says about these  topics.**

Based on his father's bestselling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Sean Covey applies the same principles to teens, using a vivacious, entertaining style. To keep it fun, Covey writes, he "stuffed it full of cartoons, clever ideas, great quotes, and incredible stories about real teens from all over the world... along with a few other surprises." Did he ever! Flip open to any page and become instantly absorbed in real-life stories of teens who have overcome obstacles to succeed, and step-by-step guides to shifting paradigms, building equity in "relationship bank accounts," creating action plans, and much more.Amazon Review

Get away with your preteen or teenager for a one-on-one adventure of a lifetime! Passport2Purity will guide you and your son or daughter through biblical principles for life's most difficult challenges, including dating and those other difficult topics to discuss. Let Dennis and Barbara Rainey lead you through an encouraging do-it-yourself retreat full of discovery, communication and fun. The kit includes a leader's manual, a student manual, CDs featuring Dennis and Barbara Rainey, a passport, and seals. Family Life Review.

It's never too late to begin a study together. Take a moment and mark out this special time on your calendar at home.

Your kids will never forget it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Faith and Fear are Mutually Exclusive

Our son David is in Australia. We put our fifteen year old son on a seventeen hour international flight, so he could walk through a door the Lord had clearly opened for him. He is experiencing three weeks on our dear friend's sheep ranch. He is in his element and having the time of his life.

For days before he left, I fought my fears.

As a parent, I struggle with mom-fears like everyone else; kidnappers, homicidal maniacs, drunk drivers, the list is long. A checklist of concerns play through my head before one of my children attempts to do anything or go anywhere.

As I allow my fears to play in my mind over and over again, like a broken record, these fears work a deep groove into the recesses of my innermost thoughts. Until, finally, they are what I think of first, before anything else, including God's word.

God's word says, Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. (Hebrews 11:1) Jesus said to his disciples, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. Matt. 8:26

Paul saw a chance for a hard-working lesson, "We won't help you fund this trip, son. The Lord has opened a door for you. You and He will have to work this out together."

Fear hoped he couldn't raise enough money. Faith desired my child to run through the Lord's wide open door.

On Wednesday, I will be throwing my arms around my son as he returns home from his trip. I'm grateful the grooves in my mind are slowly cutting a new path. God's word is the best for filling in the cracks in my wrong-thinking.

Faith and fear are mutually exclusive. Fear will forever hold my children back and keep them from all the Lord has for them. Faith must always be my first response.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. 1John 4:18

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One Step at a Time

Have you ever had a strong feeling you were in God's will? It's difficult to explain, but it's a deep understanding you are a part of something good, something purposeful.

We've been Christians long enough to know how feelings can be far from accurate, but there's an unspeakable peace we have that lets us know we are doing what we've been created to do.

Stepping out into the unknown is both scary and exciting. It's not something we do lightly, or without much prayer and seeking of the Lord. We've tried to ignore His still small voice, pretending we didn't hear it, denying we both heard Him at all...when we did. We've procrastinated and deliberated, each time coming up with the very same conclusion.

He is asking us to peer over this amazingly high ledge and take a step of faith.

Each move we take together, His presence is there, wrapped in an unspeakable peace. We desire to encourage families through His Word, not because we have all the answers, but because when He asked, we said, "Yes!"

For those of you who know me from my blog Blessed, and have enjoyed laughing along with our family over the years, are you in for an amazing treat. My husband is the funnier half of me. I do hope you'll follow along and see what I'm talking about.

God knows our hearts and knows we desire what He desires - to see lives changed from the inside out.

This has been a year of open doors for us. As He continues to swing this next door open wide, we plan on walking through it together.

We hope you'll join us.

Lord, you will give us peace: for all our works are the outcome of your purpose. Isaiah 26:12

Monday, May 17, 2010


Grace. God gives it to me every day.

Grace. The covering I received when I believed Jesus for the very first time.

Grace. A lifetime won't be long enough to thank Him for it.

Only five small letters, yet they pack a mighty punch, don't they? As a parent, it comes easier for me to share grace than my husband. I am the one our children come to when they want an extra cookie, a longer curfew, or a sweeter deal of some kind.

Paul would call me "the weak link."

I'm the "Grace" of Grace & Truth Parenting. Though I'm far from a pushover, it's second nature for me to be over my frustrations by bedtime and serving hot cocoa and marshmallows to little crumbcrunchers released early from bedroom-incarcerations.

There is nothing I don't want to give my children. Whether I'm at the grocery store, a garage sale, or a walk around the block, my children are quite often on my mind. For me, ways to bless them have nothing to do with how they may have treated me or talked to me earlier that day.

That's where my husband Paul, old Mr. Truth comes in. As much as I'd love for grace to be the only way I spend every parenting moment, truth is needed too.

We believe Grace & Truth are key elements needed in raising children today. We look forward to encouraging parents and help to remind them that  along with love and forgiveness, grace and truth are blessed ingredients to helping our families to be "in the world but not of the world."

Jesus changed our lives from the inside out. He can do the same thing with your marriages and your children - grace and truth are just the beginning.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Hello from the Truth side of Grace and Truth. As you'll soon learn from your journey through our site, I'm not the writer of the group. That distinction belongs to Joanne. So, I would suggest that you read her post first - since everybody enjoys apple pie more than broccoli! And since this is my first blog post ever, it may seem more like overcooked, mushy broccoli.

Joanne and I have four children. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, but I have to disagree. What it takes are two parents who care enough to show up every day ready to parent. Fortunately, we don’t have to do it alone. We have a Father in Heaven who shows up every day, never tires, never leaves, always loves, and is full of “Grace and Truth.”

As Christians, we need grace and truth: in varying portions and intervals. But it is needed nonetheless. We all prefer grace and don’t always enjoy truth. That includes me.

In our family, Joanne is known as the “grace” parent. Need a shoulder to cry on, she has a Kleenex ready. Had a bad day at school, brownies and a glass of milk await. Don’t do what she told you to do, it’s ok as long as you do it soon. That is not to say that Joanne is pushover, just that she is more compassionate.

As the “truth” parent, I am all about logic. Had trouble with your friends today? Find new friends. Lost your permission slip? Enjoy your time in the library. Left your lunch at home? Welcome to “Hunger City” – population: You.

Regardless of whether you are the “grace” or “truth” parent, it is important to remember that your model is always to be our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. That is why we have chosen our signature verse as John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. [NASB].

Jesus dwells among us whether we are dispensing truth or grace. He is right there to provide guidance and instruction for us as we try our best to raise the gifts He has given us. Jesus was full of grace and truth, and each of us has some grace and some truth.

What is our goal for this ministry? Why are we doing this?

We believe that the cornerstone of a strong society is a strong, Godly family. And the family is only as strong as the parents that are leading it. Families are teams and parents are the coaches. Have you ever seen a football team win the Super Bowl with a coach that everyone thought was ineffective and knew nothing about football? While it could happen, it is very unlikely.

The same is true of families. If the family “coaches” aren’t effective leaders, then the family suffers. When families are broken, so is society. While no football coach succeeds alone, no parent does either. If you are a single parent, this applies to you as well. You need to put together a “team” that includes your pastor, youth group leader, grandparents, neighbors, and anyone else that wants you to succeed as a parent and raise great kids. Word to the wise: the first sign that someone wants you to fail is when they tell you that you can do it alone.

We don’t pretend to have all the answers. What we are willing to do is share with you our struggles and trials, victories and defeats. Along the way, we hope to reap far more then we sow.

So, pull up a computer and grab a glass of milk. You finished your broccoli…now read Joanne’s post and enjoy your apple pie!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We'd Love the Opportunity

Speaking Topics

The Radical Sabbatical

There is a common affliction known to parents today; A.D.D. - Activity Denial Disorder. The prognosis is good and the treatment sounds simple enough - slowing down. The first step to recovery is recognizing you are sick to begin with. Our family of six took a twelve month activity time-out. Some have called it our radical sabbatical. For an entire year we made the decision to say no to all after-school activities and yes to monthly family field trips. It was our journey from busy to blessing.

He Makes All Things New

Paul and Joanne met over a homicide call, while working at a busy police department. He was a police officer and she was the 911 dispatcher. Be inspired by the testimonies of both. Discover how the Lord is patient as He waits for us. Learn that there is hope for all of us. Be inspired to see how His promises are new everyday and leave grateful knowing our history is His-story.

Grace and Truth Parenting

Parenting is the toughest job on the planet. Raising up both boys and girls, Paul and Joanne understand everything from poor attitudes and pimples to temper-tantrums and texting. Learn two of their favorite sayings, “You can tread water longer than they can make it rain.” and “We don't negotiate with terrorists!” They will have you laughing as they share a few of their own parenting truths learned through the lens of God's grace.

Legacy Parenting

Every President of the United States desires it and every parent underestimates it- their legacy for future generations. Parenting is a living legacy. Time is the tool that molds and forms our legacy into something of beauty. Learn what a godly legacy looks like. Be encouraged. No matter what our child's age, it's never too late to change our legacy. Be encouraged to step into your parenting legacy.

Grace and Truth Marriage

A family is only as strong as the marriage within it. Learn what the Lord says about a Godly marriage. Find ways to guard and protect one another, while building each other up daily. Discover simple ways to grow closer to one another, romantic ways to keep the fires burning, and the three rules Paul and Joanne created to enhance their marriage vows.

Worth the Wait

Paul and Joanne have a heart for young people. The world says one thing about dating and marriage, while God's Word says something completely different. Be encouraged to grow up into who you are in Christ before marriage. Choosing your life-mate is the most important decision you will make. Waiting is never fun, but very necessary, and more than worth the wait.

In But Not Of

As Christians, we are called to be salt and light in the world. As much as we love fellowship with others who are like-minded, be gently reminded He placed our families here with a purpose, His purpose. Be inspired. Your family can be an “in the world” family without being an “of the world” family.

Paul and Joanne will work with you to share a fitting message with your group or church body. The above topics are ones they enjoy sharing to encourage and teach.

Paul and Joanne are available to speak separately to both men and women's groups. Please email them with any questions in regard to their speaking calendar.


Just too Busy - Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical

Our family fought busyness and won. We took a year-long activity time-out, some have called it our Radical Sabbatical, and broke free from the bondage of busyness and the captivity of activity.

The Radical Sabbatical comes from the deep well of life experience. For almost nineteen years, I have been both a full time working mom and an exclusive stay at home mom. All the while, attempting to juggle my husband, children, and umpteen activities.

As a Christian woman, I believe an authentic Christian walk can only come from a transparent life. I've written Just too Busy - Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical in a way that is refreshingly transparent while remaining God-honoring. Writing gives me an opportunity to share with honesty what the Lord has done and is doing in our life. Humor is the anesthesia that numbs the pain, so the truth can go deep.

Just too Busy
Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical

Release Date June 2011 - Beacon Hill Publishers
Excerpt Below

We aren't much different you and I. Not long ago, I too was searching the bookshelves for anything, something, some bit of help for my chaotic, topsy-turvy life. Everywhere I turned I couldn't swing my purse without hitting books for Busy Moms, “The Busy Moms Recipe Book – You too Can Make a Fourteen Course Meal in Eight Minutes!” “The Busy Moms 4.2 second Devotional Book” “How to Change a Flat Tire – for Busy Moms” Sure, there were lots of books that spoke specifically to me, a busy mom. Unfortunately, they all seemed to accept the fact that I was busy, too busy.

I needed help. I needed answers. I needed to hear from someone who had walked a mile in my tired, worn out mommy-shoes. Could there be survivors in a head on collision with busyness? Had anyone been declared victor after jousting the insanity of over-activity?

Why was my life moving faster and becoming more difficult? Slow and easy, that's what I wanted. I looked everywhere for it. I found TV shows that explained simple ways to decorate my home for Christmas, simple ways to make a delicious pot roast, simple solutions for annoying pet odors, but where were the simple solutions for slowing down? How could I get back some of this stolen time? I even bought a magazine with the word simple on the title, thinking surely they would have the answer. Only to discover that anything I did, no matter how simple, really wasn't. Slowing down was easier said than done it seemed.

The captivity of our family's activities were the handcuffs that put us in bondage to busyness. I felt like a prisoner. Our busyness was slowly eroding the joy from our lives. I was being held against my will, while time was dragging our family along for one wild ride.

When I was a fresh-faced newlywed, I dreamed of the day my husband and I would have children. I imagined the life we would make together. As my family-fairy-tale came into focus, I would be cuddling on the couch to read a book with one of my toddlers. The next chapter in my fairy tale included relaxed family dinners around our kitchen table, smiles and snuggles and joy-filled conversations as my babies grew up before my eyes. The scene would then change, my clumsy toddler now a sure-footed teenager sitting on my kitchen counter, keeping me company as I made dinner, seeking a bit of wisdom and guidance. But sadly, the fairy-tale wasn't our reality.

Each day I was given another twenty-four hours and each night I couldn't have told you where all the time had gone. Stories read with my toddlers were in a frustrated rush. Dinner together was almost non-existent, and my teenager wasn't sitting on my kitchen counter. She was seeking advice from the front seat of my car. Her guidance counselor was a middle-aged me. Any wisdom given was in between cynical comments to traffic jams and slow drivers, in between a pick-up or a drop-off.

As a family, we were doing more than we ever had before, accomplishing much less - and growing farther apart in the process. It was depressing. What in the world was happening? A voice in my head reminded me, “This isn't the fairy tale life I'd imagined so many years ago.”

Busyness had become our new normal and I couldn't take it anymore. It was time to make a change. The answer I received surprised me. I had no idea the solution I'd been searching for would be considered radical.

Just too Busy
Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical

Fun Stuff

Raising up a family is not only hard work, it can be lots of fun. We've included a few sites above to help assist you with ideas to make your life at home a fun one.

We'd love to hear how your family has fun together!


The ministry sites above are by no means all inclusive. If you know of a site that's helped you grow, please email us and let us know. We've included these resources as a first step to help equip you in your walk with Christ.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Who & What


Welcome to Grace & Truth Living! We are so happy you stopped by. Our site was created with two things in mind; to encourage families and to lift up of the name of Jesus Christ. We pray that before you leave, you will experience both.

Who We Are

Paul Kraft loves the Lord. He has a gift for teaching complicated truth in simple terms. As an attorney, it comes quite natural for him to speak in logic and truth. He is the “Truth” of Grace and Truth Living.

Paul received his Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice and went on to Law School. He received his Master's Degree from McGeorge School of Law. He enjoys teaching junior college and watching a good football game. His favorite thing? Spending time with his family.

Joanne Kraft loves the Lord, too. As a writer, her work has been published in Today's Christian Woman, Thriving Family, In Touch, and ParentLife Magazines. She's been interviewed by Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, and CBN.com.

Her first nonfiction book Just Too Busy - Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical encourages busy moms to slow down. Stop by her website to download a FREE leader's guide or sign up for her newsletter.

Joanne considers her husband and their four children her greatest blessings and highest crowning achievement. In her down time, she hangs out at coffee shops and enjoys making her husband laugh... sometimes intentionally.

What We Believe

We believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God and that it is relevant and applicable to man today. Therefore, we place great emphasis on the teaching of the Word to our family.

1 Timothy 4:13, 2 Timothy 3:16-17

We believe God is worthy of all praise, reverence and love. It's our goal to worship Him with our whole lives, whether at home, at work, or in church.

Colossians 3:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

We believe every believer is called to be an active part of the body of Christ by abiding in Christ through His Word, prayer and fellowship, and by the yielding of our lives to the Holy Spirit for His equipping and empowering.

Ephesians 4:15-16

We believe Christian service is the responsibility of all believers. As parents, our goal is to demonstrate and encourage ministry within each of our four children, inspiring them to use their God-given gifts for His glory.

Ephesians 4:11-15, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

We believe love is the greatest demonstration of the reality of Jesus Christ. Love should be exhibited in our lives, by our words, as well as by our actions.

John 13:34-35, Philippians 2:3-5

Test Post

 I've been around ALOT of brand-spankin' new fathers.
None compare to my little brother.
George gets top-billing for the happiest new dad ever.

George and Bonnie at the hospital...before the epidural.

 Impressive, huh?

We had to wear hospital stickers with our names on them. 
Check out George's. 

I had the privilege of being in the room when Bonnie and George delivered their first child.
I captured this picture as they worked together to bring their baby girl into the world.

(It's a miracle any of my pictures came out. I was a blubbering mess.)

I just love this shot.

On March 17th, a miracle came into the world,
 and took her rightful place in our hearts.

 Lydia Louise
One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.
Acts 16:14