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Dear Mushka,

TEN WAYS WE PLANT GOSPEL SEEDS IN OUR CHILDREN'S LIVES

TEN WAYS WE PLANT GOSPEL SEEDS IN OUR CHILDREN'S LIVES

In our home, we use passages like Deuteronomy 6:5-7 to help aid in our parenting and daily rhythms. 

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 

We certainly aren't perfect (far from!) but are frequently evaluating and adding ways to keep our home Gospel-centered.

Here are ten practices that help us.

1. The first is simple, and it's to let them see us reading our Bibles. I can tell them until I'm blue in the face that I value God's words, but they'll only really understand it when they see me physically choosing my Bible over other activities. Often times, I'll re-read what I've read in my quiet time (which takes place before they wake up) while they're awake so they can see me using my Bible in everyday life. Bonus: It also helps my reading sink in when I see the same words more than once.

This is the Bible I use, but I recommend most Study Bibles. The ESV is my favorite translation. 

 

2. We try to start our mornings off with a time of praise and devotion to to God. Right now, we're working our way through Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, and have really enjoyed the simple thoughts that provoke good conversation. I read over breakfast, they ask questions, I try to give everyday examples.

Then I lead them in a prayer that relates to what we've just read so they can practice talking to God and sharing their hearts with Him.

Lastly, we sing a hymn together. Mostly, it's me singing and them acting crazy (real life), but they're seeing how to worship God and this practice helps to start our day off right. No matter what, we've worshipped together and that's a beautiful day. 

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3. We usually read a Bible story every night before bed, but we may move this to our morning devotion time when we're done with the above book. Regardless, The Jesus Storybook Bible is a favorite, but we've also used The Big Picture Bible and hope to use The Spirit of God Illustrated Bible this year to intentionally teach our children more about the Holy Spirit. We read one story at a time and point out characteristics about God.

As you choose a children's Bible, look for one that keeps God the main focus and not ourselves. After all, the Bible is a book about God! 

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4. We try to play scripture-to-song music at least once a day (usually during lunch). We love Seeds Family Worship & Sing the Bible. Often times, we find ourselves humming + memorizing scripture without even thinking about it. I still remember some of the scripture songs I learned as a child, and hope some of these will stick with our children, too. God says His words never go out void, and I pray the scripture they're hearing softens their hearts to God's truths. 

Having your favorite worship music on in the background is a great idea, too. 

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5. An older & wiser friend once told me that she used the Fruits of the Spirit to parent and something clicked in my mind. I didn't have to overcomplicate it or come up with our family values; they were already there for me to use! So now we talk about each one, point out when someone is acting in that way vs not, and pray for the Spirit to lead us towards these characteristics through His power. It's simple & helpful as we learn to love one another. 

I made this art print for Dear Mushka, really for my own self, and have it framed in our house where I see it frequently. 

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6. At dinner, we're working towards reading a Psalm together and then talking about it. We open up our "adult" Bibles and let them listen in as Robert and I talk about what we just read.

If you haven't caught on, mealtimes are are an excellent time for us to re-focus our thoughts towards Christ. They're expected and predictable, which helps all of us establish good patterns and habits. Do we do it 3 x day, 7 days a week? Of course not. But when we've worked 21 times into our week, we're much more likely to do it 10 or 15 times than if we'd casually tried to do it when we thought about it. 

We have a Psalm only Bible that stays at the table. I also love this guide to the Psalms to spark conversation or help me understand a specific Psalm. 

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7. Beyond our Bibles, we're growing quite the collection of Gospel-themed books to read throughout our days. Reading is a skill & passion I want our boys to develop, and I think it's important to put high quality, engaging, beautiful books in their path. Here are some of the ones we read over and over (and over) again!

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8. Scripture Memory is an area I want to grow in (for myself and my children!) this year. Last year, we started with Psalm 23, one verse at a time, until my four year old memorized the whole thing. We practice it a few times a month, but this year we're starting to use The Child Pack-- a scripture memory pack I created for Dear Mushka, just for children :) I tried to a year ago and we weren't ready, but now feels more right. 

One verse every two weeks. That's doable! And then I'm going to create them one of these boxes so we're constantly reviewing. I think I'll add this to our morning time together; it will only take a few minutes. 

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9. We'd also like to grow in the area of serving others together. James 2 tells us that faith without works is dead, which really means that we can talk the talk all we want, but the proof of our faith and love for Jesus will come when we walk the walk. I want my boys to see that this world is full of need, and that God has equipped us to help one another through our actions. 

One intentional act of service a month is my goal, but truthfully I pray it becomes a way of life for our family-- constantly looking for ways to serve and love our neighbors. 

Ideas: Taking meals to new mothers, visiting our elderly next door neighbors or local nursing homes, donating money to adoption fundraisers, volunteering at various organizations around town, putting together care packages for those in need, sponsoring more children though places like Compassion International, etc. 

10. Lastly, we want to be a family who prays together, always. We want to see a need and drop to our knees before our Father right away. Sometimes, this looks like praying when an ambulance zooms by. Other times, it means we ask for God's help as we learn to love our siblings instead of kicking them. 

We also want to be quick to give God all the glory when we have a fun day, see a beautiful sunset, eat a good meal, etc. 

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Of course (of course!) we don't do all of these things all the time. And the good news is that it's totally okay. We can rest assured that it is God who draws hearts to Himself, not our good actions. These are all ways we aim to intentionally plant seeds in our children's lives and set them up with lifelong habits to draw them close to God. But it is HIM who does the watering and growing. 

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. -1 Corinthians 3:7

ADVENT: WHY & HOW

ADVENT: WHY & HOW

As soon as Adam and Eve rebelled and sin separated man from God, God began instilling hope in His people through the promise of a redeemer. The Old Testament is one giant, exciting story of God's rescue plan. And, of course, at Christmas we celebrate the fulfillment of what He promised—that He would provide a way for us to be near to Him once again, despite our sin and brokenness.

The season leading up to Christmas is called advent, meaning coming. It begins four Sundays before December 25-- December 2nd this year-- and allows us to build anticipation for who is coming. For four weeks, it’s as if we’re re-enacting, remembering the thousands of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus. 

It is also a time for us to remember that we are still awaiting the second advent of Christ, when He comes again to bring us home and restore the world (John 14:2-3).

If you didn't grow up participating in advent, don't worry. I didn't either! We can learn and savor together :) There are many ways to celebrate the season, depending on tradition, background, family size, etc

· Many of you have seen or uses an advent calendar, typically made up of 24 spots containing verses, pictures, candy, etc to count down the days until Christmas. As each window is opened and the final day draws closer, our expectation increases. This reminds us of the hopeful yet anxious waiting God’s people experienced as they longed for the promised Savior to come.

In our family, we have little felt pieces that represent part of the Christian Story tucked into each slot as well as a corresponding Bible verse. We read & talk each morning and then hang our ornament on the tree. It's really beautiful to see the whole story represented there on Christmas morning. (The felt pieces go with this book but we don't use it yet-- a little over my boy's heads).

We also have this and love it, especially for littles ones who are just starting to understand the concept of Christmas. This is also a favorite around here during the month of December to simply start the conversation. It doesn't have to be fancy or complicated!

· Another tradition is using an advent "wreath" made up of four or five candles (or just candles on a tray); it focuses on the idea of Jesus Christ being the Light of the World. Each Sunday, a new candle is lit in anticipation of Christmas Eve with the idea of ever-increasing light penetrating the darkness. 

Our family doesn't do this because #toddlersandfire, but I do love the idea of ever-increasing lights as Christmas day approaches! Lighting a candle and reading a family devotion together every Sunday evening is a wonderful & completely doable idea. 

·There are many advent devotion guides and reading plans to center you each day or each week. Here are some of my favorites: 

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus-- I just bought this and really like the setup; a devotion that can be read as a family each Sunday, a short devotion to read M-F, and then a small activity to do on Saturday that focuses on the week's theme. I can't wait to begin!

Join the Advent Chorus -- a free daily e-mail from the Revive Our Hearts team. There's also a matching book, but I don't think it's necessary if you don't want to buy something. 

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus-- a book to read all month long; I did this last year and was so blessed.

Solid Joys Podcast-- a quick podcast to turn on while you're cooking, full of advent wisdom and truth from John Piper and the Desiring God team.

Treasuring God in Our Traditions-- it's not an advent book, per se, but it's full of ways to keep each holiday gospel-focused including sweet ideas for Christmas.

Prepare Him Room-- another family devotion to do all month long; I haven't done this one but have heard good things

Come Let Us Adore Him-- an advent devotion from Paul Tripp; this would be a great one for men/husband's to read and lead with!

Daily Advent Jesus Storybook Bible-- This is a free resource with an outline of how to use The Jesus Storybook Bible during each day of advent. Perfect for families!

Kids Books:

The Littlest Watchman - My 4 year old loves this story 

The Christmas Promise - Another great one for kids

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No matter what you choose to do, remember that it's not about what you're doing. It's about why you're doing it! Engage your heart, slow down, focus on Jesus first before decorations and gifts and cookies. After all, HE is the good gift. 

I'm going to talk more about advent over on my Instagram Stories. I'll save them to my highlights so check them out here

GIFT GUIDES FOR HER, HIM, & LITTLES

GIFT GUIDES FOR HER, HIM, & LITTLES

There are many ways to anticipate the arrival of Christ and to keep our hearts focused on Him-- lights, feasts, songs, service projects... and even gifts. 

James 1:17 says "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."

God is the very best gift-giver. Not only did He give us His son, but also every other good and wonderful thing in our lives. He takes delight in giving good gifts to us, which is why we can find delight in giving gifts to those we love. It's a way we can reflect His image!

Here are some ideas as you start planning out your gift-lists. How can we be intentional and Jesus-focused as we love our people well? 

For Her:

1. Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God- A short, inspirational book to remind her of the Godly (and very human) women who have gone before her.

2. The Promise Pack- 52 beautiful verse cards for her to put around her house or memorize, one for every week of the year.

3. A Dear Mushka Necklace- Because there is little better than jewelry that keeps our hearts and minds focused on Christ.

4. The Citizen Sweatshirt- It carries a forgiving fit and the much needed reminder that she is a citizen of Heaven. 

5. A Dear Mushka Gift Card- So she can pick the piece her heart most needs in this season.

6. Sing a New Song- A lovely breakdown of each Psalm for her to use as a guide when she's reading them. 

7. The Prayer Journal Pages- Help set her up for a more consistent prayer life in the New Year. Bonus: Print them off and put them in a pretty binder for her! 

8. Humble Roots- One of the best books I've read in a long time, she'll love it from beginning to end. 

9. An Art Print- Christ-focused beauty for her home. Bonus: Frame it for her! 

 

For Him:

1. ESV Scripture Journal Set- He'll have plenty of room to take notes inside; my husband uses these when He meets with some men to study scripture. You can also buy them individually!

2. 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You- A really interesting, scientific, helpful read as he decides when and how to use his phone. 

3. Systematic Theology- The best (easy to understand) guide for his office on every theological topic imaginable. 

4. New Morning Mercies- A gospel-focused daily devotional that he'll absolutely love. Bonus: It could be read and discussed at the dinner table with the family!

5. A CS Lewis Set- Classics he'll want to read again and again. 

6. Candle- A perfectly manly scent for him to light as he opens his Bible and prays each morning.

7. Soli Deo Gloria Tee- Glory to God alone, forever and ever. 

8. Pens- Wonderful pens to mark up his Bible and/or journal with as he learns more about God.

9. Hillsong Art- Encouraging art for his office or space. My husband loves these song lyrics... what might be best for your "him"?

 

For Littles:

1. The Child Pack- Verse cards perfect for little hearts to memorize and learn the importance of. 

2. A Baby Believer Book- There are five in the series, each one lovely for young minds with bright colors and a clear focus. 

3. Getty Kids Hymnal- Beautiful music from Getty Kids made to get your family worshiping God through beloved hymns. 

4. God's Very Good Idea- A wonderful book on God's beautiful plan to make people different from one another. 

5. ABCs of the Attributes of God Cards- Is there a better way to learn your ABCs than to focus on God? 

6. The Biggest Story- Another ABC method of focusing on God. Theologically correct and helpful. Here's the (even better) version for older children!

7. Little People Noah's Ark- Perfect for bath time stories about God. They also make a manger scene option. 

8. Bible Infographics Book- A super fun book to look through and learn from!

9. The Precious Tee- Because it's true, no matter our race, Jesus loves us all the same. 

CHRISTIAN BIOGRAPHIES: TO FEED YOUR HEART, SOUL, & MIND

CHRISTIAN BIOGRAPHIES: TO FEED YOUR HEART, SOUL, & MIND

Little has encouraged my soul and grown my faith more than the stories of Godly men and women who have gone before me. After all, we have a whole chapter in the Bible dedicated to recounting the faith of incredible people from the Bible (Hebrews 11) and the Psalms are full of directives to pass along God's wonderful deeds to the next generation. Hearing others' stories of lives lived fully, boldly, and faithfully is part of how we grow our own trust in the goodness & greatness of God! We see Him show up for them and our hearts start believing He'll do the same for us. Because He will. 

I try to read at least a handful of Christian biographies every year and thought I'd share some of my favorites (or to-reads!) here. 

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1. This is my current read, and I'm absolutely loving Brother Andrew's story. I can't wait to see how he gets from where he is now to where I know he ends up! 

2. Katie Davis grew up just a few miles from me with a very similar upbringing. God used her story to open my heart up towards adoption + increase the boldness in my prayers. Her second book, Daring to Hope, was just as beautiful. If you haven't read these, order now or find them at your library. 

3. Elisabeth Elliot has been a spiritual mentor in my life, and this book forms the basis for her subsequent ones. If you don't know her & her first husband's story, it will blow you away. Read on. 

4. Dare I say The Hiding Place is one of the dearest books I've ever read? If you didn't have to read it in High School, read it now! And then read all her other books because oh my heart, Corrie is just the sweetest spit fire for the Lord. In My Father's House tells about her life pre- The Hiding Place and Tramp for the Lord tells about what happened right after The Hiding Place. 

5. My brother told me to read The Heavenly Man and I'm so glad I listened. His story is incredibly different than anything we experience in the Unite States and my eyes were opened & challenged. I almost think I need to re-read this every few years as a reminder that God is so (so) much bigger than I allow Him to be in my life. 

6. Noel Piper put together this book highlighting the stories of five faithful women... and their extraordinary God ;) It's an excellent place to begin if you're just starting to read biographies (it's a pretty small book) & would be extra fun to read with a group of women. It's always fun to see which woman's story ends up speaking directly to each person's heart. 

7. Ah, George Muller. Few people have encouraged my prayer life like him. This book moves a little slower than the others, but I was so blessed by it. 

8. Oh Sister, you want to read this. It helped me understand both the Muslim faith  & the Christian faith in a deeper way and had me praising God for appearing to people in dreams. So good. 

9. Probably all of you have heard of C.S. Lewis-- this is his book that talks about how he went from being an atheist to a Christian. It's enlightening and beautifully written. 

10. Another Elisabeth Elliot book, but this time she's telling the story of Amy Carmichael. I actually haven't read this, but I'm off to order it ASAP because I've heard only the best things about it. 

11. Real talk: This has been sitting on my shelf for a year. It's a big, intimidating book! But I know it's going to be amazing when I actually dig in. Have you read it?

12. Last, Evidence Not Seen. There is something extra special about women reading the stories of women and this is a beautiful one. 

 Have a favorite? Let me hear it on Instagram! @dearmushka

BOOKS FOR TEEN GIRLS ON SELF-WORTH AND BEAUTY

BOOKS FOR TEEN GIRLS ON SELF-WORTH AND BEAUTY

The other day, a follower on Instagram asked if I had any book recommendations for her teenage daughter struggling with self-worth. I remember sitting in those struggles myself (oh, the angst!), but hadn't read a book on the topic in a long time.

As usual, you all came through. Here are the top ten suggested over and over again by you! 

(CLICK EACH PHOTO FOR A DIRECT LINK)

1. Enough, Kate Conner || Many of you suggested this one and I believe it also comes with a version for both adult & teen to read together, and a study guide, too. Lots of resources here!

2. Lies Young Women Believe, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth || I haven't read this book, in particular, but I'm a huge Nancy fan and know this book will be full of nothing but truth & wisdom. She also has a version for adults as well as many other online resources. 

3. Tailor Made, Alex Seeley || This was one of the top recommendations. I haven't read the book, but I read all about it + the reviews and it looks beautiful. 

4. Authentic Beauty & Set- Apart Femininity, Leslie Ludy || Both of these Leslie Ludy books were recommended countless times... it looks like she's onto something here! 

5. Captivating, John & Stasi Eldredge || Oh goodness, I remember reading this book as a young girl and feeling like it was written just for me. I still can't look at a starfish without thinking of it. I'm so glad to hear that it's still a widely-suggested book for teen girls today! 

6. In His Image & None Like Him, Jen Wilkin || None Like Him was the book God used to remove my low body image, turning my eyes off myself and onto Him, instead. In His Image is just as wonderful. I highly recommend both; they're full of Godly wisdom and truth.

7. Live Fearless, Sadie Robertson || I haven't read this book, but I adore Sadie and think she has a heart completely set on following Jesus + leading other girls to do the same. I imagine her words here would be exactly the truths so many teens long to hear. 

8. Uninvited, Lysa TerKeurst || I listed to a podcast interview with Lysa and she sounds like she has a heart of gold. I haven't read this but gosh, the subtitle sucks me right in. We've all had these feelings!

9. His Revolutionary Love, Lynn Cowell || Many of you suggested this or the 365 day devotion by the same name. 

10. Girl Defined, Kristen Clark & Bethany Baird

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