Tackling Clutter Without Taking Tons of Time ~ Part 3

Spend 15 minutes every day on an organizing project.

It can be a kitchen cabinet, drawer, linen closet or pantry… whatever needs attention first.

When your 15 minutes are up, you’re free to stop. Repeat the next day. This gives motivation to fit in a small amount of time each day when you might not have time to do the entire project, but little by little the job gets done. When you complete your first project, start on the next and keep your new habit going! This is, again, a tip from a friend who received it from an older lady in her church (I love learning from wise women who are ahead of me in this journey! Thankful for how God prescribes for the older women to teach the younger in Titus 2!)

Keep your kitchen sink empty.

One dirty glass placed in the sink somehow seems to reproduce itself with an army before you know it. As dishes are dirtied, immediately put them in the dishwasher to await the next time you run it. Quickly wipe the water drops off the sink and faucet. Once I considered such things unnecessary time wasters to the point of being almost crazy. Now they help conserve my sanity just by giving me visual calm in that area of the kitchen (my neatnik husband is responsible for this new development in me). If I see a clean, calm area, it boosts my mental energy to tackle a not-so-tidy area.

Get in the habit:

When you wake up in the morning, make your bed immediately.

I recently read an article showing how much more productive people feel when their bed is made first thing (I am not very familiar with the author or the website so I’m not endorsing either, but it’s definitely an interesting article). It also gives you a neat corner of the house to see and encourage you that you’ve already accomplished something small that adds to the overall tidy feel of your house and motivate you to go ahead and cross another task off your list.

If you’re a mom, teach your kids this habit too and require them to make their beds first thing in the morning. Try to keep stuffed animals and dolls on the bed to a minimum and find a better (maybe out of sight) place for them instead. Abundance of these cuddly critters can complicate the process of teaching a little one to make their own bed, and finding a different place for them to belong can help teach “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

Getting into a morning routine is so helpful in maximizing your day. As seasons change, you’ll need to re-evaluate it and change it accordingly and it’s sometimes hard to transition into a new one, but keep at it till you find the morning routine that works for you. Chronic illness, the birth of a new baby, moving, new jobs and other significant changes dictate flexibility. We are in a “re-evaluating” season now as we are nearing the end of our home school year and making a plan for the summer, and I’m reminded as I’m considering the factors I need to account in creating our new plan just how crucial it is to:

Get to bed at a decent hour the night before in order to maximize your time and productivity the next morning.

Nothing like getting sufficient rest to boost your energy level and mental concentration throughout the next day!

What is your favorite tip for tackling clutter without taking tons of time? Are you working on developing new habits in this area? Have you learned any shortcuts or tips you can share with us?

 

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Tackling Clutter Without Taking Tons of Time ~ Part 2

Next in this week’s series of time-saving clutter-buster ideas is one that I just love because it makes me feel so productive even if I don’t get much else crossed off my to-do list:

Throw away 20 things every day.

Without question, this is one of my all-time favorite tips (passed on to me by a friend, given to her years ago by an older woman in her church). It feels so good to pillow your head at night with the knowledge that you now have 20 fewer junk items in your house than you did earlier today.

Your 20 things might include yesterday’s newspaper, last year’s VBS projects, shoes that your children have loved to pieces beyond what the Goodwill store would want, that lonely little sock whose mate hasn’t turned up in two months now,  junk mail… oh, junk mail!

Speaking of which, another key for me in keeping up with the clutter is:

Go through mail immediately.

Sort into stacks: urgent, important, and toss. Don’t allow anything to stay in your house that you won’t actually get around to acting upon within a day or two (establish in your mind the deadline). Coupons would be the exception to this rule, but they aren’t allowed to make a mess either: file them away as soon as they arrive in your mailbox. For catalogs, a rule of thumb that I have given myself  is that if I can find it on the internet, it probably doesn’t need to be cluttering up my house. Shred the part of junk mail containing your name and address to protect yourself from identity theft, and toss the rest. If your kids are like mine and have an eagle’s eye for when the new Toys ‘R’ Us or American Girl catalogs arrive, consider telling them in advance that if you find it laying around the house, it’s going in the garbage… and when the next one arrives, the old one goes out. If you’re continually receiving catalogs you don’t want from the same company, call that company and request to be removed from their mailing list. A short phone call can save you repeated aggravation later!

Have you adopted any new clutter-busting habits lately? What are your favorite clutter trail remedies?

 

 

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Tackling Clutter Without Taking Tons of Time

Clutter is so demoralizing, isn’t it? I am *constantly* fighting the battle of clutter, and as a nostalgic person {i.e., recovering pack-rat} living with a sentimental {pack-rat} daughter and a {self-described} uber minimalist husband, I am always looking for ways to simplify the process and make it as easy as possible to put some practical ideas in place to form habits that will help me get {and stay} ahead of the paper trail… and toy trail, dirty dish trail, etc.. :) Otherwise, I find clutter can mentally distract me from serving my family as well as I should, and unchecked, it has at times even become a temporary discouragement from inviting others into our home.

Spring cleaning is a nice goal, but for me, I can’t even think about digging down to the deeper level of cleaning when I’m distracted by mountains of laundry needing to be washed (or folded), stacks of junk mail and magazines or other visual clutter. So this week on the blog, I’m sharing some of my favorite clutter-control tips {mostly learned from wise ladies in my life!} Are you with me in the war against clutter? Let’s make a plan together and get a head start on that pesky visual clutter! {Or, if you’ve won a permanent victory — which I doubt any of us really have, as long as there is junk mail on the earth — do share your insights with the rest of us!} :)

First things first… prioritize! Grab a notebook and make a list of chores that need to be done and number them in order of importance. I find a written plan always helps increase my productivity.  As you number them in order of highest priority, take into account which takes the largest chunk of time and plan it into your schedule accordingly.

One of my favorite tips, (depending on how you look at it… haha!), learned from a friend, is:

Do what you dread the most first!

The less enjoyable something is, the easier it is to procrastinate and find other, more enjoyable little tasks to fill up the time and before I know it, I’m drained of time and energy and I still haven’t accomplished that task that I dreaded most…. And it’s waiting to haunt me again the next day, which zaps me of more energy just thinking about it. When I quit putting it off, grab it head-on, get it done and behind me, I’m always surprised at how energizes me to then see what else I can quickly cross off my list! {Oh, and I’m also astonished that it never takes me as much time to do the dreaded task as I expect it to when I’m busy justifying my procrastination!}

I am dreading catching up on laundry (I was already behind and then my dryer was out of commission for a few days!… though my husband surprised me by doing a couple of loads yesterday while I was running errands… thanks honey!). What are you dreading today? Are you going to go tackle it now? Leave a comment and we can encourage each other with our progress! :)

Check out Part 2 in the series too!

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Sour Cream Veggie Dip

Spring is here in our neck of the woods, and I am loving the warm {or actually anywhere between cool and hot} temperatures and sunshine we’ve had the last couple of weeks! We also just had our deck replaced and as I’m thinking about the opportunities that will afford for extending our indoor space and warm-weather entertaining, I’m thinking of recipes that fit the bill. This is a favorite that I have recently pulled out and made a couple times. My mom got this recipe from a dear friend when I was a kid and I think of precious memories with her and her family every time I make this dip. {Don’t you just love memories that come with recipes like that?!}

Super simple, cool & creamy, quick to make and if you toss bagged baby carrots and other veggies into the mix, you couldn’t ask for a simpler finger food. Enjoy!

Sour Cream Veggie Dip

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

1/2 Tbsp. seasoning salt

1 Tbp. dill weed

3 Tbsp. parsley flakes

3 Tbsp. minced onion

 

Combine sour cream and mayonnaise; add remaining ingredients. Mix well; refrigerate till serving time. Serve with raw vegetables.

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Hospitality: Love of Strangers?

For most of my life, I’ve thought of hospitality as having my friends over to my house and enjoying a meal together. But as I’ve begun studying the subject of biblical hospitality more over the last several years, I’ve been struck by how often strangers are in view when Scripture talks about hospitality.

In fact, the Greek word “hospitality” as used in the New Testament is a compound word  of philos (“affection”) and xenos (“stranger”). Hebrews 13:1-2 says, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (and in a later post, we will look at some instances in Scripture where godly people showed hospitality).

Hospitality to strangers was very important in Bible times. Inns were scarce and dangerous, and therefore it was expected that if a stranger was traveling by your house, he would be invited in for a meal and for lodging if he was staying in the area overnight. In Old Testament times, God instructed His people to offer hospitality to others, giving Moses specific commandments concerning treatment of the strangers who chose to dwell among them (Leviticus 19:33-34): “And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him.The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

 

In the New Testament, as the gospel was being spread, itinerant preachers relied on the hospitality of church members in each city to provide shelter for them – and in this way the hosts were actually fellow-laborers in the gospel (3 John 8). In fact, hospitality was taken so seriously as contributing to the ministry of another that John warned against offering hospitality to false teachers (2 John 1:10-11).

So how does this play into our lives, in this modern world where there are hotels and restaurants on every corner, and we’re taught as children not to talk to strangers? Keep an eye out for the next post in this series on hospitality. I love studying this topic and can’t wait to explore it further with you!

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How Can We Pray Without Ceasing?

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How many times have we heard or recited this verse? Yet how often have we stopped to really ponder it? And how can we obey it?

Reading from JC Ryle’s “A Call to Prayer” has stopped me in my tracks and made me consider my own prayer life. It is a necessary evaluation for each of us:

“We live in days of abounding religious profession. There are more places of public worship now than there ever were before. There are more persons attending them than there ever were before. And yet in spite of all this public religion, I believe there is a vast neglect of private prayer. It is one of those private transactions between God and our souls which no eye sees, and therefore one which men are tempted to pass over and leave undone. I believe that thousands never utter a word of prayer at all. They eat. They drink. They rise…  but they never speak to God. They have not one word to say to Him in whose hand are their life and breath, and all things, and from whose mouth they must one day receive their everlasting sentence. How dreadful this seems; but if the secrets of men were only known, how common.”

 

“Unceasing, incessant prayer is essential to the vitality of your relationship to the Lord and your ability to function in the world,” writes John MacArthur in his book “Alone with God,” but what does “unceasing” prayer mean? MacArthur continues:

“To ‘pray without ceasing’ refers recurring prayer, not nonstop talking. Prayer is to be a way of life–you’re to be continually in an attitude of prayer. It is living in continual God-consciousness, where everything you see and experience becomes a kind of prayer, lived in deep awareness of and surrender to Him. It should be instant and intimate communication-not unlike that which we enjoy with our best friend.”

Jesus prayed for several hours in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His betrayal by Judas. He asked His disciples to join Him in prayer, but found them sleeping instead. “So, could you not watch with me one hour?” He asked Peter. “Watch and pray that you may not enter temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40-41).

If we pray without ceasing, we will thank Him with grateful hearts when we enjoy His good, beautiful gifts, acknowledging they come from His hand (“Whoever offers praise glorifies Me” – Psalm 50:23a). We will come to God when we are tempted and ask for His help to resist it (1 Corinthians 10:13), as Jesus exhorted His disciples to do. We will seek His deliverance when trouble comes upon us, and when we face fear. “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed” – Psalm 34:4-5. When we are troubled by strained relationships, injustice, evil, or deception around us, we will take our burdens to God, asking Him to make it right and use us in the process if He so chooses, or for grace to wait patiently on Him if not. We will pray for God to draw others to Himself when we remember loved ones, or meet someone, who does not yet know Him. When our hearts are burdened, we cast every care upon Him, knowing He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). When we feel insufficient to the task at hand, we will ask for His sufficient grace to enable us (2 Corinthians 12:9).

To pray without ceasing, then, means our “life becomes a continually ascending prayer,” MacArthur concludes, as all of our “thoughts, deeds, and circumstances become an opportunity to commune with [our] Heavenly Father.”

Why do we not pray more? In the familier words penned by Joseph Scriven over a century ago:

“What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!”

 

 

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Company’s Coming! Mocha Layered Cheesecake

Sometimes you need something quick and easy for unexpected company, but at other times you’ve planned in advance and you want to serve something that’s extra special. This cheesecake perfectly fits the bill for such an occasion — or for a Sunday dinner since you bake it the night before and chill for several hours… and despite its grand appearance, it’s also quite easy to make!

I found this recipe several years ago and my mouth watered at the photo, though I doubted it could be as good in person as it looked on the page. I am happy to report that it is just good, if not better, than it appears. Because it is very rich, you may want to cut it in extra small pieces… unless you’re like me and you don’t know any such classification as “too rich.” :)

One thing I like to do when I have long-term or repeat guests is try to note their tastes and preferences to refer to the next time I am hosting them. I believe the first time I made this cheesecake was when we had a young college student living with us for a couple of months. He loved it so I used him as an excuse to make it again. :) Later on when he was dating my sister, I made it for dessert the night my husband and I, with two of my other sisters, made a special meal for just the two of them. That was the first time my sister tasted it, and she loved it too… so much so that a few years later, they chose this for their wedding cake. {best wedding cake ever!}

Read instructions carefully through before you get started as you will be dividing the batter and flavoring each half differently. Enjoy!

 

Mocha Layered Cheesecake

Crust:

2 cups Oreo-style cookie crumbs

¼ cup butter, melted

Filling:

2 ½ Tbsp. instant coffee granules

1 Tbsp. hot water

¼ tsp. cinnamon, optional (Normally I don’t like cinnamon and chocolate mixed – but in this recipe, it’s yummy!)

4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened

1 ½ cups sugar

¼ cup flour

2 tsp vanilla extract (not imitation!)

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups (12-oz. pkg) semisweet chocolate chips, melted

Ganache:

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

3 Tbsp. butter

Garnish:

Chocolate-covered coffee beans

 

Directions:   Place greased 9-inch springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Wrap foil around pan securely.

Make your crust: In small bowl, mix cookie crumbs and butter. Press onto bottom of prepared pan.

Flavor the two halves: In another bowl, mix coffee granules, hot water and cinnamon; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. (A stand mixer will make this task easier and faster if you have one!) Divide batter in half. Stir melted chocolate into one portion; pour over crust.

 

Stir coffee mixture into remaining batter; spoon over chocolate layer.

 

Hot water bath: Place springform pan in a large baking pan; add 1 inch of water to larger pan. Bake at 325° for 60-65 minutes or until center is just set and top appears dull. (My oven usually requires up to 15 or 20 additional minutes.) Remove springform pan from water bath; remove foil. Cool cheesecake on a wire rack for 10 minutes; loosen sides from pan with a knife, being careful not to cut into sides of the cheesecake. Cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight.

 

Next day, remove rim from pan and prepare ganache.

Ganache & garnish: Melt chocolate chips and butter; stir until smooth. Spread over cheesecake. Place coffee beans in a line around top edge of cheesecake. Let sit a few minutes so chocolate can firm up around coffee beans. Don’t skip the coffee beans… they make it look sooooo pretty! (and taste sooooo yummy!) Yield16 servings.

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Thoughts on Good Friday & Easter Treats that Teach

I love Easter Sunday. I love being at church where we are all gathered for the same purpose — to worship the risen Christ and to remember the suffering and agony and weight of sin and separation from God the Father and death He bore in our place, but also His triumph over death, sin, hell, and Satan by rising again three days later. I have come to love the greeting “He is risen!” and the response “He is risen indeed!” Of course we rejoice in this all year round, but it seems especially meaningful to remember each day of Holy Week what Jesus was going through at that time on my behalf.

Today is Good Friday, the day Jesus bore the sin of the world — my sin — and the full wrath of and separation from God the Father, so that I might have full forgiveness and be able to draw near to God.

Consequently, he [Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
(Hebrews 7:25)
This is the day Jesus prepared for by praying with great sweat drops of blood when His disciples couldn’t stay awake to pray with Him. This is the day that dawned after a sleepless night, betrayal by His friend, and six unfair trials. This is the day a bleeding, bruised Jesus was forced to carry His own cross till He could carry it no more. Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” as he was beaten, tortured, mocked, nailed to a cross.
On the day Christ was born, the night sky was filled with light and angels singing His arrival. This is the day that the earth went dark from noon to 3pm as its Maker hung on a tree though He had power at His disposal to call thousands of angels to rescue Him, to obliterate the earth if He wanted.  This is the day He cried, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” This is the day that one cross-bound thief beside Jesus joined in the mocking, and the other rebuked him, reminded him of their guilt, their just punishment, and Christ’s innocence, saying, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom,” to which Jesus replied, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
This is the day the veil of the temple was torn in two — from the top to the bottom, showing that no man had split it — God did. This is the day Jesus cried, “It is finished!” and gave up His Spirit. This is the day the centurion watched Him die and testified, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” This is the day when the crowds who had gathered to watch this spectacle returned home beating their breasts when they saw what happened. This is the day that the earth shook, the rocks were split, the tombs were opened, and many bodies of deceased saints were raised. This is the day Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body, wrapped it in linen and laid it in his own tomb with the help of Nicodemus, fulfilling Isaiah 53:9.

In addition to meditating on the sufferings of the Savior, I try to do an activity each Good Friday with my daughter that focuses on an aspect of Christ’s work. This year (and most years) we made Empty Tomb Rolls (directions & photos below). One year we got together at my mom’s house with most of my siblings and their families and as we talked about Good Friday, out on the deck in the warm evening air, we began singing hymns, one after another… the ones that really talk about Jesus’ suffering and death and resurrection. Music is such a powerful way to help your mind dwell on the glories of Christ.

“Kids always remember stuff they can make, eat, and hold in their hands,”  says Nicole Whitacre on the Girltalk blog, and I have found that to be true with these ideas for hands-on teaching about Easter.

Easter Treats that Teach

Cross cookies – I have a set of nativity scene cookie cutters that I love using at Christmas time, so I was delighted to find a set of Resurrection-themed cookie cutters in my grocery store a few years back. Set of 4 cutters included a lamb, Bible, cross, and church. Usually we just stick with the cross, using it to cut out sugar cookies which we bake and then I pipe icing messages such as “He is Risen!” or “Hallelujah!” or whatever is concise enough to fit on the small cookie.

 

Resurrection Cookies –   Here is a recipe that we are trying for the first time this year – each of the ingredients has symbolism, as does the preparation process… a sober reminder of what Jesus suffered and what his followers must have been thinking as He was placed in the grave.

Cross cake – My mom has had a cross-shaped cake pan for years that I often used to bake a cross-shaped cake or used as a jello mold. I’ve also used my lamb cake pan to bake a cake reminding us of “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29).

Coloring Eggs – I didn’t know the background on this tradition till a friend sent me this Gospel Coalition article:  “In Medieval Europe, Christians would abstain from eating eggs and meat during Lent. Eggs laid during that time were often boiled to preserve them and were given as Easter gifts to children and servants. Some traditions claim the Easter egg is symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus, with the shell of the egg representing the sealed Tomb and cracking the shell representing the Resurrection. Christians in the Middle East and in Greece painted eggs bright red to symbolize the blood of Christ.”

We may or may not do these from year to year, but when we do choose to dye/decorate eggs, I like to buy a dye kit that includes the white crayon so we can write Bible verses or messages pointing to the Resurrection on the eggs (“He is Risen!” “Hallelujah!”) that becomes visible when the egg is dipped in the dye. Then we enjoy the eggs’ addition of protein to our Empty Tomb Rolls for a quick breakfast before church.  :) Other years when my husband has to work on Easter Sunday, I get an earlier start so we can have a special breakfast before church since there isn’t time afterward for a leisurely dinner.

Empty Tomb Rolls – This is one of my favorite visuals that we’ve done several years now! Also called “Resurrection Rolls.” Children can help dip a marshmallow in butter and then cinnamon & sugar, representing the spices His body was anointed with.

 

Then wrap the marshmallow in a crescent roll, tightly sealing the edges so marshmallow won’t ooze out.

 

Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

 

When you bite into them (or cut into them – I like to show my daughter the cutaway view before we eat them), the marshmallow has disappeared leaving hollowed the space that it occupied. Amazing visual for kids! I’ll never forget the look of understanding that crossed her face the first year we made these. I’d told her about the empty tomb before, but this visual really helped her grasp the wonder of it. (These also make a yummy breakfast coupled with all those hardboiled eggs. :) Use the verses or thoughts you’ve written on the eggs as a starting point for your discussions on the resurrection to start out your Easter Sunday morning.

 

How do you observe Good Friday?

 

 

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Easter Baskets & Intentionality

Today I’m simply sharing a few ideas for good Easter basket gifts that I’ve come across the last several years as we strive to continually be more intentional with pointing our family to the resurrection of Christ as the reason we are celebrating. While the “Easter Bunny” never shows up in our celebrations, I do prepare an Easter basket for our daughter each year, including gifts chosen purposefully to help teach her about Christ’s work and the real reason we’re celebrating. Instead of just candy, I look for something that clearly spells out the story of the resurrection on an age-appropriate level that will help her understanding of it. A few things are usually added just because they are some of her favorites or a special treat, but either way, we major on the fact that there would be no reason for celebrating anything without Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and the new life and forgiveness of all sin, past, present and future, that He gives to those who trust in Him.

Before delving into my list of ideas for Easter basket fillers, I want to acknowledge that Christian families may choose vastly different ways to celebrate Easter. Some prefer not to mix the sacred with the traditional. If your family is one of these, you may still find these tools helpful in preparing for discussions over Easter. And if you already choose to do Easter baskets, maybe you will find an idea or jog a memory of something meaningful you’d like to include this year. So my purpose is not to prescribe a certain way as “the way” to celebrate Easter Sunday, but to promote reflective thinking through why we do what we do and to make sure that whatever ways we choose to celebrate, that our focus is ultimately on His work on the cross.

Items I’ve put in my daughter’s Easter basket over the years:

-First “real” children’s Bible – small enough to easily carry to church, in a simplified version but still includes both Old & New Testaments in their entirety along with interesting illustrations interspersed throughout

-Easter Celebration! coloring book & special crayons for church … she sits in church with us during the main service and the repetitive nature of coloring seems to help her absorb what is being said.

-Easter Celebration! Hymns CD that I found the following year — same series as the coloring book

-Jesus Storybook Bible (LOVE!) I actually don’t remember if I gave her this for Easter or Christmas, but I will never get tired of reading it to her – and she never gets tired of hearing it! Can’t say enough about how this book gives an overview of God’s redemptive plan and shows how each story in Scripture points to the overall Story of the Prince who left his home and suffered to save the one he loves…

 

-New Testament sticker book by Dorling Kindersley…

A few of the stickers were pretty graphic (unnecessarily so, I thought, and I took those out of the book) and their brief summary statements didn’t begin to do justice for what they were portraying, so if you search for this, be aware of that and prepared to tell the stories yourself.

-“He is Risen Indeed!” book – absolutely love this! This hardcover book is full of beautiful paintings that illustrate the story, which is completely made up of texts from the gospel accounts – no man’s words added!

Scripture text is taken from the English Standard Version which I love because it’s a great translation that isn’t difficult for children to understand. Begins with Luke 23:44-49 (darkness covering the earth and the curtain of the temple torn in two before Jesus called out, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit!” and the response of the centurion) and follows through different texts in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John through Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to His disciples and ends with John 20:30-31 ~ “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

-“The Priest With the Dirty Clothes” book by R.C. Sproul was actually a gift to my daughter from my brother’s family this past Christmas. It would make an excellent addition to an Easter basket. It is an allegory of a young priest who wants to preach before the King but gets his robe dirty and obviously can’t appear before the King in dirty clothes. Given a second chance, he tries and tries to clean his priestly robe to no avail. When he appears before the King again, Malus (representing Satan) accuses him and mocks him. Then the Prince has him change clothes with Him. The Prince takes on the young priest’s dirty robe and gives him His own spotless princely robe which makes him accepted to stand in the King’s presence. Oh, how I love this allegory!

This year’s plans include (shhh, don’t tell!) the book “The Very First Easter” by Paul Maier and a cross-shaped necklace in addition to some edible treats.

What are your favorite ideas for intentionally pointing your family to Christ at Easter?

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Celebrating the Resurrection: Ideas for Making It Meaningful for Your Kids

It’s been a blessing these last several days to read through the gospel accounts of the week leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus as I’ve used this little book “Why Easter?” with my daughter. I’ve also found several different blog posts edifying as well in encouraging deeper thought through the implications of the resurrection, such as Desiring God’s resources, as well as some links I’ll share below on making it real for your kids. The more I dwell on these realities, the more my heart is filled with gratitude to my Redeemer. Let’s purpose to use this week before Easter to prepare our hearts to truly ponder who Christ is and what He has done, praise Him for His greatness, and love Him more!

 

Intentional Devotionals & Activities

 Resurrection Eggs

I purchased a set of Resurrection Eggs from Lifeway Christian Stores, but you can make your own too. This plastic carton contains 12 colored plastic eggs and a devotional booklet to work through. For the 11 days preceding Easter Sunday, read the corresponding devotional and open the appropriate egg to reveal the hidden item inside. We encounter a donkey, symbolizing the colt Jesus rode on into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday;  silver coins, reminiscent of the silver for which Judas agreed to betray Jesus; a cup, representing the Last Supper Jesus shared with His disciples as He gave thanks, passed around the cup and said, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

On Easter Sunday we open the final white egg to reveal… it is empty! It alone has nothing inside, symbolizing the empty tomb. “He is not here, for He is risen!” You could also use them for an egg hunt and do all the devotionals together on Easter Sunday or however works best for your family; maybe have neighborhood kids over and do it with them too. Although I chose to purchase mine, I did a quick search to find instructions for making your own (http://faithfulprovisions.com/2012/03/08/easter-egg-ideas-resurrection-eggs/)  to save some money.

Why Easter? (book) I wrote a blog post last week about this book. We are loving working through it this year! I can see the wheels turning in my daughter’s head as she is pondering the truths it presents, prompting lots of questions from her and discussions about Jesus’ work. I love that it includes so much biblical background & context, including some of the prophecies fulfilled by Christ.

Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones is my favorite Bible storybook. The chapters surrounding Jesus’ death, burial & resurrection are great fodder for conversations with your kids concerning what Jesus came to do. Not to mention it’s just a great all around summary of the greatest story ever told!

Salt & Flour Tomb – This is an activity my mom used to do with me and my siblings when were young, which my sister just did today with my daughter. Find instructions and photos of this project on my mom’s blog.

 

Others have addressed similar themes better than I can. I encourage you to read this post by Noel Piper.  My friend Heather shares a great idea on her blog as well as she shares her thoughts on creating a meaningful Easter. I also enjoyed this post on the Girltalk blog.

I have several more ideas to share but chose not to include them all in this post for the sake of space… look for them Thursday on the blog! In the meantime, the greatest thing you can do to help prepare your children’s hearts for Easter is to prepare your own. Purpose to read through the gospel accounts of the Holy Week and take time to reflect on the work of Christ on our behalf. Follow Christ’s steps to the cross, mourn with His followers at the great cost of sin, and rejoice that on Sunday, they found the tomb empty for He is not there — He is risen, as He said!

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