Timer Life Hack


UnknownOne of the best parenting “life hacks” we’ve discovered lately is a simple timer on the iPad. Our children are allowed 30 minutes of media time after doing their daily check-list. Previously, we would set the kitchen timer, expecting them to cheerfully turn off their devices when the timer beeped. Maybe it’s just our kids, but there was always “One more minute, please!” or “I’m almost done with this battle!” or “I’m at an important level!” – which led to frustration for all. My husband found a timer built into the iPad, called Guided Access, which has restored a measure of peace to our home!  Now, when our children are ready for their media time, they get their iPad, open the App they want to play, and I set the timer. It gives a 1-minute warning, and then shuts off when allotted time elapses. Hallelujah! I’m sure we are missing a “heart training opportunity,” but part of wise parenting is picking your battles, and this is one I’ve enjoyed not fighting anymore!

How the set up the timer (Guided Access) on an iPad:

  1. Open “Settings”
  1. Choose “General”
  1. Scroll down to “Guided Access”
  1. Turn “Guided Access” ON
  1. Set parent passcode
  1. Open the App that the child wants to play
  1. Triple click on the Home Button
  1. Guided Access info will pop up
  1. Enter your passcode to set timer for allotted play time
  1. A new timer is required if child wants to leave that App and play a different App
  1. They will be given a 1-minute warning
  1. The device will lock when the time is up!

Here is a more comprehensive post on how we’ve handled electronic devices in general.

Road Trip West


IMG_4706Our family just took a 12-day road trip WEST! It was a fabulous trip in so many ways. We enjoyed some fun in L.A., many beautiful national parks, a little adventure, and lots of quality time in the car together! I’ve had multiple people ask for our itinerary and notes, so here you go! (Detailed itinerary with mileage is at the bottom.)

We decided to make this a one-way trip. We flew to L.A., rented a car, and “road-tripped” home. We were able to take fewer vacation days, have significantly less time in the car between stops, and put all the mileage on a rental car.  It worked out well for us. We started our adventure in L.A., enjoying the “city life” before hitting the road and national parks!

One of the best purchases we made was a National Park Pass.  It is $80 and paid for itself by the 2nd park we visited. I also bought a National Park Passport (just one for the family to share) and we were able to stamp it in each park we visited

Day 1 we flew from DFW to L.A., ate lunch at California’s finest – In N Out Burger, picked up our rental car, and made a Wal-Mart run for our road trip snacks.

IMG_4740We spent all of Day 2 in Disneyland. In order to maximize the very expensive 1-day tickets, we stayed at the park from 8:00am until it closed at midnight!  Our hotel was within walking distance to the park. It was great not to have to deal with parking.

IMG_4832Day 3 we explored Hollywood and Santa Monica Pier. We were stuck by the L.A. traffic – it is thick all day long! We had lunch and walked along the “Walk of Stars” in Hollywood. That evening we went to a Dodger’s game in the beautiful Dodger’s Stadium. Yes, we are big baseball fans.

IMG_4873Day 4 we headed up Highway 1, stopping at a few beaches along the way. We stopped near Santa Barbara for a picnic lunch and swimming at the beach. We worked our way up Hwy 1, with the Elephant Seals near San Simeon being one of our favorite surprises. We cut East on Hwy 46 and enjoyed the best sunset of the trip at the top of the mountain range. California is such a beautiful state! We stayed in Three Rivers that night, which is right at the entrance to Sequoia National Park.

Day 5 we explored Sequoia National Park, one of our favorite stops. The IMG_4978giant trees were unreal! The kids had a lot of fun climbing on some of the huge trees that had fallen over, driving our car through a tree, and hiking to see the biggest tree of all – the General Sherman. There is a nice lodge inside the park, which would have been fun to stay in – we did enjoy a nice lunch there. That evening we drove to Bakersfield, after a stop to see some old friends in Wasco!

IMG_4988Day 6 was our longest day in the car. (Redbox for the win!) We cruised along Route 66 most of the day, which is now I-40.   The access roads are the old Route 66.   It was a long day, but stunningly gorgeous scenery to enjoy as we drove. We arrived at the Grand Canyon before sunset, which was my goal! There are no words for the Grand Canyon – it is truly breathtaking – both it’s breadth and beauty.

We stayed in hotels most of the trip, but did stay inside the park at the IMG_5022Grand Canyon. It was great!! Here is the website to book lodging – rooms fill up very far in advance. Our cabin was a 5-minute walk from the rim. It was perfect! We heard there could be long lines to get past the park gate each morning; so staying inside the park helped us avoid that and maximize our time there. There are refrigerators in the rooms, so we brought food for breakfast, and enjoyed the variety of restaurant options at the park for lunch and dinner.

IMG_5034Day 7 and the morning of Day 8 were spent at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. (The North Rim is less visited, and not open year round.) We enjoyed walking along the rim of the canyon, which has lovely views and rails! (And all moms say “amen!”) There are many overlooks, shops, and restaurants along the rim. We also hiked part of the “Bright Angel Trail” which is probably the most hiked trail at the Grand Canyon. We walked about 1.5 miles down into the canyon, and then hiked back up. (It was a lot harder going up!)  It was fun to experience hiking in the Grand Canyon. Joshua really wanted to take a mule ride, and although reservations are usually booked months in advance, there were 2 slots available, so Jeff & Joshua enjoyed that adventure!

Midday of Day 8 we headed out for Mesa Verde, and again arrived just before sunset. We tried to stop at Four Corners (Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah) but it is managed by a Navajo Reservation, and only open from 8-5! We were sad to miss that stop.

Day 9 we explored Mesa Verde National Park, the ancient Pueblo dwelling IMG_5272in the cliffs. Mesa Verde also has lovely accommodations inside the park, and we very much enjoyed staying there as well.  Again, we brought food for breakfast, and ate lunch and dinner at the park. The lodge has a nice dinning room and lounge, and there is a restaurant near the ruins. We did a few self-guided tours around the park, and really enjoyed a guided tour of the Balcony House. (Tours can fill up so making advanced reservations would be wise.) We climbed up a ladder and through tunnels on our tour an actual cliff dwelling. The kids loved this very adventurous way to see the dwellings firsthand. We drove as far as Albuquerque that evening.

IMG_5362Day 10 we drove to White Sands, New Mexico. At White Sands National Monument you can go “Dune Surfing” in the sand. There are saucers for rent at the visitor center. It was a fun & unique opportunity! We didn’t last too long, though. It was VERY hot! There is no shade or water in the desert! We drove to Carlsbad, New Mexico that evening.

Day 11 we explored Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Carlsbad, NM is about IMG_544230 minutes from the Caverns. It was Memorial Day weekend, so we experienced the biggest crowds at this stop. We enjoyed a 1 hour hike down into the “Big Room” of the cavern, ate lunch at the café at the bottom, hiked around the Big Room for another hour, and then waited 1.5 hours in line to ride the elevator back up! We drove as far as Midland that evening.

Day 12 we put the pedal to the metal and drove the rest of the way home. Texas is a great place to live, but the scenery isn’t quite as nice as California, Arizona, New Mexico or Colorado! 🙂 Lots of windmills and oilrigs!

12 days, 5 states, 5 National Parks. Our total trip covered 2,517 miles by car, and 52.63 miles by foot! We arrived home thankful for all of the family memories, and ready to spend more than 1 night in the same bed!


Day 1/ May 18/ Thursday:

  • Fly to LA (rent a car)
  • Drive to Anaheim
  • (Courtyard Marriot Anaheim)

Day 2/May 19/ Friday:

  • Disneyland
  • (Courtyard Marriot Anaheim)

Day 3/ May 20/ Saturday:

  • Tour LA (Santa Monica, Hollywood, etc.)
  • Dodgers game
  • (Residence Inn, LA LIVE)

Day 4/ May 21/ Sunday:

  • Beach/Hwy 1 Day
  • Work our way up Hwy 101 (6 h 43 min (404 mi)
  • (Comfort Inn & Suites, Three Rivers)

Day 5/ May 22/ Monday:

  • Sequoia National Park
  • Drive to Bakersfield (3 h (100 miles)
  • (Residence Inn, Bakersfield)

Day 6/ May 23/ Tuesday:

  • Drive to Grand Canyon (7 h 34 min (507 miles)
  • (Maswik Lodge at Grand Canyon)

Day 7/ May 24/Wednesday:

  • Tour Grand Canyon
  • (Maswik Lodge at Grand Canyon)

Day 8/ May 25/Thursday:

  • Tour Grand Canyon
  • Drive to Mesa Verde (5 h 21 min (300 mi)
  • (Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde)

Day 9/ May 26/Friday:

  • Tour Mesa Verde
  • Drive to Albuquerque (4 h 42 min (267 mi)
  • (Residence Inn Albuquerque)

Day 10/ May 27/Saturday:

  • Drive to White Sands (3 h 32 min (245 mi)
  • Tour White Sands
  • Drive to Carlsbad (3 h 31 min (196 mi)
  • (Fairfield Inn Carlsbad)

Day 11/May 28/Sunday:

  • Tour Carlsbad Caverns
  • Drive to Midland (2 h 57 min (169 mi)

Day 12/May 29/ Monday:

  • Drive home (4 h 57 min (337 mi)

Summer Rhythms


shutterstock_101924824Summer is a sweet time of “sabbath” for children – rest from the labors of school work and most organized activities.  While the down time and less rigorous schedule can be a gift, it can also create stress for both mom and children if things are too carefree.  To that end, I created a daily “checklist” for each of my children to help provide a little routine in our days, while still allowing for the needed down time.  Each child’s check list is different but it includes things like this:

  • Make bed/ clean up room
  • Eat breakfast
  • Clean up kitchen/dishwasher load or unload
  • Bible study time
  • Laundry
  • Practice piano or guitar
  • 1 chapter in a required summer reading book
  • 1 chapter in a pleasure reading book
  • Review bible verses on Scripture Typer
  • Review math facts/ other school review

I laminated their lists, and put a magnet on the back so they stick to the refrigerator.  They manage it themselves by crossing off each item with a dry erase marker.  When they have completed their checklist, they can have their media time for the day.  The reward of media time at the end is enough to keep them motivated when working on math facts is less-than-exciting. Then the rest of the day is free to play outside, swim, have friends over, or play a game.

This routine also serves to set parameters on media time.  Playing electronic games is a privilege and reward after working hard on other things.  And on a given day, if there isn’t time for Bible study or summer reading, there probably isn’t time for video games!  However, this system assumes that electronic games are not available to children at all times.  It won’t work if your kiddos have access to video games on their devices (or yours) at any time they want.  Our children do not have video games on their phones, and are require to “check-out” their iPads or play Wii only when it is designed media time.  (See this blog post for more on how we have handled electronics in our home.)

While summer can be a much-needed break for the children, I’ve learned that it’s more of a time of rest for my children than for me as a mom.  I can find myself even busier during the summer as I strive to help them have a fulfilling summer.  It has been helpful for me to recognize this and set expectations.

Often in the summer we are out town, at camp, or doing something fun for the day and there is no time for the check list. However, on the days we are home, this provides just the right amount of routine and accomplishment.  It allows me to feel like we have some rhythm and have been somewhat productive, and then I feel free to let the rest of the day feel lazy and carefree.

Family Worship


UnknownOne of the most precious parts of our parenting journey has been worshipping in church together with our children. To be honest, there were many years of training our children to sit in church that didn’t feel “precious.” But it has proved worth the investment… tenfold!

The “goal” of bringing our children into worship is not that they would fully understand everything that happens but that worshipping God with their family and the church family at large would become a part of the rhythm of their lives. Worshipping together as a family can make an impression on our children’s lives in countless ways beyond the content of the sermon.

As parents, we communicate value to our children in the experiences we choose to share with them. There are activities we participate in individually, or times we “divide and conquer” for the sake of survival! But the things we jealously guard to participate in together as a family communicates, “this really matters” to our children. What could be more valuable than a shared experience of worshipping God together? 

At our church, the preschool and children’s ministry happens during the church hour. Therefore, in order to worship together as a family, we made it a part of our family rhythm to attend 2 service blocks – we volunteer in children’s ministry during one service, and attend worship together during another service. Double the family shared experiences! We serve together AND worship together!

We try to see family worship as not just attending church together but rather a part of the discipleship of our children we have been called to. As parents, we don’t get the “luxury” of unhindered worship without our children there to distract us. It’s not our private quiet time – it’s corporate worship!

We try to be intentional in involving our children in the worship service with us. They are required to participate in the songs and prayers. They each have a bible and journal and take notes during the sermon. We have created a tradition of ice-cream sundaes when we get home from church – and over ice-cream we all get out our journals and share what we learned. We have had many rich conversations during this time.

We have learned that it takes time to train, and most of what is gained by children joining parents in church is gleaned over time – we’ve had to have a long term perspective. We are preparing them for what we hope will be a life-time of church participation.

The benefits of worshipping together as a family are numerous, but I’ll share some of our favorites:

• Opens doors for conversations about spiritual topics.
• Children witnessing their parents singing praise to the Lord, praying, and listening to the teaching of God’s word.
• Children becoming familiar with the leadership of the church – the pastor, elders, worship leaders, and missionaries.
• Children learning the worship songs their parents sing.
• Discipleship opportunities for how to pay attention, engage and take notes in church.
• Children hearing testimonies of changed lives.
• The Gospel witness in observing communion and baptism.
• Seeing the church as multi-generational, not just their peers.

As for the concern about children being exposed to adult themes by being in church, we honestly welcome it. Our kids are going to be exposed to these things at some point, and how much better to be first introduced to them in the context of church and family instead of media, peers, or popular culture. We have had to do some explaining and answering questions, but were always glad to do so, and it has been a springboard for good conversations. By engaging our kids in these sensitive topics, we are communicating to them that they can come to us with these kinds of questions, and that the church is not afraid to address these issues either. In some ways, having the church introduce adult themes serves us as parents with an opportunity to engage with our children about sensitive topics in a natural way.

Our prayer is that observing and participating with us in corporate worship will have a life-long impact on our children, and will be a part of the kindling God uses to light of fire of genuine worship in their hearts.

{Here are a few practical notes on training children to participate in “big church.”}

Family Mission Trips


images-1 A dream was birthed for us years before having children of our own. We were in Haiti on our first mission trip as a couple. It was an amazing week of seeing the Lord work in transforming lives. God was using us to share the Gospel and lead people to Christ. Our translator was a new believer who later became a pastor we still are in contact with today. However, more than any of these things, the most impactful part of the trip for us was a fellow teammate, a Dad, who brought his 10-year-old son with him on this trip. Some might say it was radical or risky, but to us it was beautiful!

We began to dream of making family mission trips a rhythm of our future children’s lives. And here we are, about 20 years later, having brought our children with us to Cambodia, South Sudan and Guatemala. We are on our way to Berlin, Germany for Spring Break to serve refugees. Maybe dreams do come true… with a little planning, sacrifice and intentionality.

IMG_0922 (1)

The Hamm fam in Guatemala

Mission trips provide opportunities for discipleship, for expanded worldview, for gained perspective, and a priceless shared experience. While we have been a part of some fabulous youth mission trips, we wouldn’t advocate for a youth trip in lieu of experiencing missions as a family. There are just some things that we are “jealous” to experience alongside our children.

Hamm fam in South Sudan

Hamm fam in South Sudan

We assign significance to the things that we choose to do together as a family. There are so many activities competing for a family’s time and attention. School, sports, music, church activities, summer plans, vacations, service opportunities, etc. We cannot do them all together – especially as a family of six. We do a lot of “dividing and conquering” in order to keep up with our busy schedule. However, the things that we choose to do all together – the things that go on the calendar first before everyone’s individual schedules are made – these are the things we are communicating to our children are the most valuable.


Luke, Jeff & Joshua in Cambodia

One of the biggest barriers to a family taking a mission trip together can be the expense. It is expensive for one person to travel overseas, much less a family! We knew that mission trips would not be a feasible possibility for us if we didn’t plan in advance. We were encouraged to set up a “mission trip” bank account and any time there was a little extra money we would put as much as possible into this account. Most of the time there wasn’t a specific trip on the calendar. We were saving for an unknown opportunity, but the Lord has always opened doors and we have been able to walk through them when we had the funds set aside.


Rebekah & Jenni in Guatemala

Another component of a family mission trip is being in relationships with missionaries to go visit! We have been on multiple trips coordinated by our church or an organization, but we also have friends who are missionaries overseas that we have been able to visit on our own. What a gift to be able to expose our children to their lives and ministry. It has involved nurturing relationships with missionaries – having them stay with us when they are in town, having meals together, and praying for them as a family.

I remember feeling anxious before bringing our 8 year old with us to Africa – I felt like I needed to squeeze every moment and “make it count” in order to be a good steward of the opportunity. But thankfully the Lord released me from that pressure during the trip and showed me that it would be an impression on his life even if he didn’t remember the specifics of his seven days in Africa. It became a touch-point to return to again and again, and our prayer is that the impact will be life–long.  A simple way I try to preserve the memories is to make a photo memory book and strategically place it on the coffee table so the children remember and talk about their trips.


Luke in South Sudan

Some of our trips have been father/son trips, some mother/daughter trips, and some have been all six of us. There have been different opportunities for different seasons of our family’s life.

Our prayer is that our children will catch the “missions bug,” whether that looks like serving overseas long-term one day, faithfully supporting and praying for missionaries, or simply being more aware of the nations.  We want them to see with their own eyes the great big world God has made, and the Gospel implications for all the nations.. and we want the joy of experiencing that with them whenever possible!

Whole30… party of 6


UnknownOur family of 6 – kids age 8, 10, 12, 14 – just completed 30 days of “clean eating” through a program called The Whole30.  Basically no sugar, no gluten, no dairy, and no processed foods for 30 days!  We ate a lot of meat, potatoes, fruits and veggies.

Many people commented, “I can’t believe your whole family is doing this!”  Honestly, I think it was easier because we all ate the same food.  We removed everything from our panty and refrigerator that wasn’t Whole30 compliant so we really had no other options!

An unexpected benefit of doing this was the “shared experience” we had as a family.  It became quite a bonding opportunity as we grocery shopped, read labels, chopped veggies and cooked, cooked and cooked together!

The biggest challenges to the program were the expense of all the fresh, healthy foods, and the time involved with so much shopping and cooking.  We could eat very little prepared foods and there weren’t many restaurant options.  Again, that forced us to spend more time together in the kitchen and around the table.

We intentionally picked January because it is a slower month for our family as far as kid’s sports and activities.  I needed the extra time for meal planning and preparing. 🙂

Here are some shopping listsmeal ideas and menus I put together that I thought I would share in case it might be helpful to someone else!  I also took pictures as I shopped of Whole30 compliant foods that became staples for us.

No one in our family had any dramatic results, but we do all feel good and have learned a lot about healthy eating.  While there are plenty of foods we are eager to enjoy again, there are some new patterns of healthy eating we plan to maintain.

Bon Apetite!

For the Love of Books


thWe love good books in our family! Well, maybe not all our children would naturally have inclined that way, but we have created a culture of reading in our home – a little healthy “peer pressure” towards reading! 

When the kids were little, I read books aloud at the lunch table. We always had a story going. As often as possible, we have “family read time” where we all sit down and read together, including Mom & Dad, modeling for our children a love for reading. We also have created a rhythm at night of having the older children have the choice of reading together on the couch or going to bed – even the less eager readers will choose to read in that scenario.

 The majority of books I read these days are Junior Fiction. I actually really enjoy them!  My husband and I giggled as we eagerly devoured the Harry Potter series in order to “preview” them for our oldest. We read as many of our children’s books as we can to preview them, but also to have a shared experience. My husband and daughter have enjoyed many books together. Most of our family has read the Ranger’s Apprentice series. I started it to encourage my son who is the least eager reader in the family, and it worked! He’s on book 5…  I’m on book 10. I’m hooked! 

 We have also made a tradition of listening to audio books on road trips. I pick a book to download for each trip and we listen together as a family – it becomes a precious shared experience between the hours of other car entertainment.

As far as finding good content, I try to research books before buying them – there are many good parent preview websites available. I am more careful about what books we own (and therefore will be read over & over) versus a book we might borrow or check out from the library and read once.

What am I most careful about? The age of the main characters. If my 8 year old is reading a book with teenage main characters, I might need to pay more attention. Adult characters acting like adults are usually fine. I am much more concerned about the influence of teen romance in books than most other things. I think that to “stir or awaken love” before its time is a much more realistic concern for our children than their becoming wizards, for example. As for violence, we try to look at the context. Is the book about soldiers or knights, and is it historically appropriate, or is it modern day teens acting violent in ways that seem realistic to our children, and behavior they could pattern?

I’ve made a list of some books we have enjoyed. As you can see, we are especially drawn to series. For one reason, some of my children read so fast it’s hard to keep up with providing good books for them. A series keeps them busy longer. It also allows us the joy of lingering longer with the characters and story.

Book Recommendations:   (* our personal favorites)

Series for Younger Readers:

  • Imagination Station *
  • Magic Tree House
  • Nate the Great
  • Boxcar Children
  • 39 Clues
  • Little House on the Prairie *
  • American Girl books
  • In Grandma’s Attic

Series for Elementary Readers:

  • Narnia (Christian fiction/allegory) *
  • Roman Mystery (Christian historical fiction)
  • The Door Within  (Christian fiction)
  • Ranger’s Apprentice (fiction) *
  • Wingfeather Saga (Christian fiction)
  • Wormling Series (Christian fiction)
  • Wilderking Series (Christian fiction)
  • Kindgom’s Dawn (Christian fiction/allegory)
  • Dragons in Our Midst (Christian fiction)
  • Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew (the classic version)
  • The Black Cauldron series (fiction)
  • Artemis Fowl series (fiction)
  • Mysterious Benedict Society (fiction)
  • Anne of Green Gables (classic/ fiction)
  • YWAM Christian Heroes: Then & Now biographies*

Series for Middle School Readers:

      (content where the main characters are teens)

  • Harry Potter *
  • Percy Jackson (Books 1-5 only)
  • Anomoly (Christian fiction)
  • Muirwood (fiction)
  • Seven Wonders (fiction)

Stand Alones:

  • The Hobbit *
  • Swiss Family Robinson
  • Tom Sawyer
  • Robin Hood
  • Dangerous Journey */ Pilgrim’s Progress
  • King Arthur
  • Treasure Island
  • Space Trilogy
  • Screwtape Letters
  • Lamplighter Stories
  • Patricia St John Books
  • The Secret Garden
  • The Hiding Place*

Favorite Read Alouds:

  • Trumpet of the Swan *
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Mr. Poppers Penguins
  • Hardy Boys * (Father/Son read aloud favorite)
  • Homer Price
  • Cricket in Times Square
  • The Hobbit
  • Farmer Boy *
  • Narnia books
  • Stories with the Millers
  • The Railway Children *

Favorite Audio Books:

  • Classic Pooh stories
  • Beatrice Potter stories
  • Narnia series (Focus on the Family Radio Theater)*
  • Jim Weiss audio books
  • Wizard of Oz
  • Lamplighter stories
  • A Christmas Carol

The Hand-Off


Lately I’ve become sentimental, thinking about our oldest starting high school next year. Only 4 years left with her in the home. Only 4 more summers all together. Only 4 more years to impart to her all the wisdom and character and life skills we have yet to make time for! We were told over and over again to “cherish the little years – for the days are long but the years are short” and now it seems SO TRUE!!


In light of the brevity of our time left with our daughter at home, the temptation could be to tighten the reigns of control to make the most of the days left of training. However, instead, it seems that the path of wisdom is to begin a gradual “hand-off” of ownership in different areas of her life.


We realized recently that the time had come for such a hand-off of ownership when we heard our daughter speaking of “your values” and “your guidelines.” We realized we needed to transition her to formulating her own values and guidelines in certain areas.


We don’t want our children to leave our home simply having followed our guidelines based on our values. We want to impart to them the wisdom to formulate their own values, and principles of action consistent with those values.


The example at hand for us was modesty. Our daughter respectfully agreed with our values on modesty, saw the biblical basis for those values, and submitted to the family guidelines. However, they were very much “our values.” That needed to change! “Our values” won’t be as effective to her in college or as a young adult when she is no longer in our home. We want her to have “her values” established. Now seems like the time for this transition to begin. And with ownership comes both privilege and responsibility.


She was tasked with the job of coming up with her personal values on modesty. I had her spend some time looking up bible verses and reading some examples of modesty guidelines. She wrote out her own thoughts on the subject – first her values, and then her guidelines based on those values.  This order is significant – first values, then guidelines!


Then we then did a really brave thing… we told her that we would allow her to make some of her clothing decisions based on her value statement, even if they were a little different than ours. There would be some clear “no’s” but she would have more freedom in the grey areas as long as she was being consistent with her values. It feels more important to teach her to develop and live according to her own biblically-based values and principles than to have her adhere to our specific set of rules.


This could easily apply in the area of technology as well. As parents, we are rightly trying to impart “our values” and “our guidelines” to our children about technology usage. For little ones, that is called good parenting! For teens, it may be time to begin the hand-off. Perhaps you could ask your pre-teen or teen to spend some time formulating his or her own value-based guideline for technology usage. And then let him or her try to live it out. Allow for successes and failures. These are life lessons that are better learned in the safety of home.


Similarly, there could be a hand-off of ownership in making decisions about music, movies & TV. Currently, when a song, book, app or movie comes up that I am not familiar with, I research it on a parent preview website. (My favorite is Common Sense media.) However, perhaps it is time to start transitioning our children into going through this process themselves, in order to learn how to make wise choices about what music to download or movies to watch.


It seems that all of parenting involves transitions and hand-offs. It takes wisdom from our Heavenly Father to know when and how to implement these important transitions. Every child will be different, even within the same family! However, ultimately, our goal is not to raise children who respect our values and obey our rules only while living in our home, but adults who live according to their own biblically-based values and principles.

Helicopter Parenting?


how-to-draw-a-helicopter-for-kids_1_000000010237_3I find it interesting that “helicopter parenting” has such a negative connotation in our society. Perhaps it is because the phrase originally referred to parents of college-age students who probably did need to hover back a bit. However, we now hear this term used to shame parents of little ones for being overly protective. Perhaps we have created a straw man in the “helicopter parent,” which in turn has made many good parents second-guess their parenting.

I would argue that wise, biblical parenting involves a little helicoptering – with a few caveats.

The purpose of hovering, in my opinion, is to be in close proximity to our children for the purpose of training in character, not to protect our children from every danger or to micromanage their lives. It is also not to accomplish success in areas such as education, music or sports. As Christian parents, we “hover” to train in godliness – something that cannot be accomplished at a 10,000 foot altitude.

And here is the important caveat… the helicopter needs to hover close to the ground when our children are little, and then gradually rise higher as they grow and mature.

When our kiddos were little, we felt like we practically needed to be within arms reach in order to parent effectively and consistently. If I wanted my 2 year old and 4 year old to play nicely together, I needed to be close by in order to train them in taking turns, using kind words, and showing self control. Left to themselves, things would go downhill quickly to fighting and frustration. I think too much unmonitored playtime is a way we can provoke our children to anger. I wonder if sometimes we speak against helicopter parenting to excuse not engaging with our children? Part of parenting little ones simply involves being present! There are a multitude of little issues that come up daily and are most effectively dealt with in the moment. It is hard for a 3 year old to remember and talk about a bad attitude they had an hour ago.

However, the helicopter should begin to hover higher & higher as our children grow and mature.  I no longer have to sit upstairs or outside with my children to monitor behavior while they are playing together anymore, unless I just want to join the fun. They are able to resolve conflict on their own, and/or come find me and ask for help… at least that is what they are supposed to do!

It seems like one of the big challenges of the “little years” is not growing weary. And I’m finding that a challenge of the “middle years” is not growing lazy.

Because at this age our children don’t demand as much of my physical energy, it can be easy to start checking out – not to engage, not to enter in. I have to fight against laziness and engage in opportunities for interactions and conversations. I have to choose to be selfless with my time. It’s a choice now – when my toddler needed a diaper changed, there wasn’t much of a choice. But when my 10 year old wants to tell me (again) about the Top 10 sports bloopers of the season, I can choose to joyfully enter into the conversation.

Any “helicoptering” at this stage is birthed out of a desire to be in relationship with our children. Their character training now comes in spurts.  It’s not 100 reminders a day to say “yes ma’am” and share your toys.  It’s less frequent but longer conversations about how to think Godward in areas such as friendship, clothes, social media and sports.  Our goal is not to overly control or protect, but instead to cultivate community with our children, which involves closeness.  Relationships can’t be developed from 10,000 feet any better than toddlers can be trained from afar!

Hovering for training in godliness looks different in different life stages, but with the discipleship of our children as the end goal, it will be a God-honoring endeavor.

how to study your bible… even without a bible study


Bible and coffeeI’m increasingly aware of what seems to be a dependence upon formal Bible Studies in order for many Christians to be faithful to study the Bible regularly.

I’m involved in a fabulous women’s Bible Study, which is not only teaching women a book of the Bible each semester, but also giving them the tools to study the Bible on their own. But sometimes I wonder if we don’t know that we have these tools for self study. Repeatedly, I will hear women say, “I’m so glad we are starting Bible study again. I haven’t been consistent in reading my Bible since the last study.”

My two older children were involved in a Middle School Bible study last semester, which had them faithfully studying daily. Now that the study is over, they are struggling to be in the Word daily on their own.

Are we doing a disservice to the church if Christians are only studying the Bible when there is a formal Bible study to be a part of? Perhaps the real test should be, “What do participants of our Bible Study do the morning after the study ends?”

We are blessed to have the opportunity to participate in so many excellent Bible studies, but do these leave many Christians intimidated to study God’s Word on their own?  Why is this? Is it the lack of structure and accountability when there is not a group to study with?  Is a lack of discipline? Or perhaps do we not know how to study on our own?  I would argue that often we have the tools to do so, but maybe don’t realize how simple it can be.

Here is what I have found helpful.  Many Bible study teachers have broken up the study of God’s Word into 3 parts – observation, interpretation and application.

Yes, we often need help with the interpretation piece. There are scholars and commentaries to help us understand background and context in order to interpret passages accurately. That is why the gift of teaching is so important to the church. God’s people need to be taught things they wouldn’t be able to understand on their own. This is clearly a benefit of being in a formal Bible study, and we will learn things there that we would never pick up on our own.

However, we do not necessarily need a teacher to observe the text. I am convinced there is so much to be learned from the simple practice of observation. Using the grammar tools we learned in school, there are many gems to be discovered in God’s Word that do not require a teacher or commentary to unearth.

Here are some observation tools:

  • Look for adjectives that are associated with God – what is He like? What are His attributes seen in the text? What names are given to God?
  • Look for verbs associated with God. What is God doing in the text? Make a list of God’s actions. God is active!
  • Are the verbs in the past, present or future tense? This is usually significant.
  • Look for verbs associated with man. What are we being called to do? Make a list of responses/actions.
  • Make a list of contrasts you see in the text.
  • Note repeated words or ideas.
  • Look up the definition of important words in the English dictionary.  Look for synonyms and antonyms.
  • What is the context of the passage? What comes before it? After it? Who is speaking? To whom?
  • Copy a verse that seems significant to you.

Application will flow from both observation and interpretation. There will be some applications that can only come after the text has been interpreted by a teacher or scholar. However, many applications can be applied after making observations. For example, when we read that God is holy, we can apply the text by responding to God’s holiness in worship, even if we don’t understand all the implications of God’s holiness that might come with the help of scholarly interpretation.

Here is a very simple Bible Reading plan I put together for my children, which could easily be adapted for any use. This could be taped in the front of a journal and be a guide to you in studying God’s Word on your own.  Maybe it can be a tool to use between participation in formal Bible studies.

My guess is that there are more tools in our tool-boxes for studying God’s Word on our own than we realize.  Let’s take out the simple tool of observation and put it to work towards the regular and faithful study of the Bible… even without a Bible study.