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Children's bibles  are a great way to dive in to the story aspect of scripture and understand it in a simple manner. God uses them to speak not only to children - I have learned bunches as I have read them, as well. Penny received her first children's bible as a baby shower gift. Once she was old enough to sit long enough to look at pictures we read it to her. She accumulated a handful of favorite stories and we read them over and over and over. And the bible became well loved and warn and taped from reading it so much.

I love reading the bible with her but it gets a little old reading the same thing again and again and again, so we started looking for more options. I thought I would share some of our bible stash, if you will, just in case you need some options, too. We received some as gifts and found others second hand.

The Rhyme Bible: Growing up, I loved Roald Dalh and this has a Roald Dalh feeling to it. Fun and catchy phrases with intriguing sketched / water colored illustrations.

Alice in bibleland: Parallels the Through the Looking Glass concept of Alice in Wonderland but with bible stories and captivating rhymes. Each book is a difference story. 

The Beginner's Bible: Easily understandable bible stories with clear concepts and basic illustrations.

The Jesus Story Book Bible: More descriptive stories with entertaining illustrations. The artwork is more interactive (i.e. full page horizontal pictures) and great for discussing and interpreting.

Tiny Bears Bible: Charming, simple poems about bible stories for the little ones with adorable illustrations to represent them.

Praying that this gets you thinking about your child's spiritual formation, no matter the age. Praying that you would lead your child in studying the bible and that it would be a fun and memorable experience for you both. Praying that you would find materials suitable for your child that keeps questions coming and learning abounding. Praying that you would not dismiss the messages as you read, no matter how small or simple they appear; God's word is always there to teach.

Praying that you would make time to read and teach your child more about God's word if you have do not have routines set already. Praying that you and your child would see glimpses of God's glory as you learn and grow together in this adventure. Praying that the concepts learned would overflow in to your daily life and be engrained in the heart of your little disciple, God's masterpiece.

Here's to discipleship and reading and learning and growing with your child.  

Throughout high school I loved Jones Soda. The tasty flavors along with random pictures on the label and fun little fortunes on the bottoms of the recaps won my little heart. One lunch, during my gypsy-esque days, my fortune read: good luck will knock on your door. A well meaning friend optimistically responded that it meant I would soon have home with a door to knock on.

I have moved more times than I have toes and fingers to count. The longest residence in the past 15 years was at our previous address where we resided for two and a half years, which we are approaching at our current. When we first moved here, I remember speaking with my husband about the lack of that homey feeling. Since the celebrating of holidays and birthdays and adding another baby, the homey feeling has made its way here, too. Like it eventually does.

Residency and longevity and stability that an address provides is a unique thing. It gives a place to put your earthly treasures and display photos of memories past and makes a gathering spot for friends and family to congregate to make more. 

Jesus responds to a man who says he will follow him wherever he goes with:
Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58).

Once Jesus began his ministry, he did not have a home. He took the stance of a homeless man. He walked and taught and trusted God for a place to sleep. There is a lot of beauty in this aspect of his ministry. He did not need to rely on an address or possessions because he was involved in God's work and will for his life. His trust in God was so much so that he did not need to know where he would lay his head at the end of each day - God would provide.

Perhaps this person valued their comfy, safe life with their things and address. Perhaps Jesus was challenging the very thing that was a stumbling block for him, like he did with the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30). Following Jesus is never how we picture it. We would never imagine the good things that he has planned for us accompanied by the hard things we face, which are for our benefit - used to refine us.

Here's a little song about Jesus' lack of a home redone by Bethany Dillon. Fun lyrics - the wife part is interesting since he did not come for that - but fun none the less. Have a listen.

Birds have nests, foxes have dens
But the hope of the whole world rests
On the shoulders of a homeless man

Praying that comfort would subside and that trusting and following Jesus would be your main focus. Praying that you would not grow so comfy that you forget to look outside of your home to those of your neighbors. Praying that love and compassion and hospitality would reside in your home.

Praying that thanksgiving and gratitude for your home would dwell constantly in your heart and that you would follow God's leading in how to use it for his glory. Praying that your eyes would be opened to any stumbling blocks that are in view and that you would have victory over them through Jesus.

Here's to homes and comfort. 
As I sit here and write, my lack of taste is evident. I have been dreaming about a pazooki since my husband brought home vanilla ice cream midweek but my lack of taste makes it all irrelevant. What is a gooey, half baked chocolate chip cookie, topped with melting ice cream, when you cannot taste it? Colds are the current state of our home. We started the week prior with the stomach flu and moved on to colds this past week but God has been so merciful throughout it all. We have been resting and resting and waiting for our health to return, which is just what God has been teaching each new day.

Taste is a vast part of life. It is an experience that weaves itself in to memories. A warm cherry pie may take you back to childhood and the kitchen of your grandmother or a summer picnic. Taste may drive you to fill your full tummy with yet another sweet delight or an extra scoop of mashed potatoes. Foods are longed for because of their saltiness or sweetness. But when taste buds are out of sorts, the same desired food means nothing despite its appealing lure.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8

Have you tasted God's goodness? Truly savored the forgiving grace of God? The insurmountable blessings all around you? The joy. The peace. The love. The patience. The kindness. The faithfulness. The gentleness. The self control. Have you undeniably experienced God?

When you experience the goodness of God, you are not the same. Tasting God is more than an alter call or hand raise or prayer. It is a change of heart and true forgiveness to those who have wronged you. It is an act of faith and quieting of yourself. It is learning to trust. It is waiting and resting and restoration. It involves sacrifice. It touches every part of your body, healing as it moves.

For some, God reveals himself in dramatic ways and meets you with blinding bright lights and for others it is a one on one encounter. From there, you are left with an experience you cannot deny but may not know what to do with. And you go about your day as usual.

To begin to acknowledge the goodness of God is similar to healing from a cold. It does not happen overnight. It takes time. It requires waiting. Resting is essential and listening to the advice of those who have ears that hear.

Praying that your senses would be opened to experiencing God and that the goodness would overflow to others, as well. Praying that you would quiet your heart and schedule to truly bask in the presence of God because busy and overcommitted ears are hardly open to hear.

Praying that if you have made a commitment to follow Christ that it would be more than a decision but an ongoing relationship, ever growing.

Here's to tasting and seeing. 

You are loved. You. Are. Loved. YOU ARE LOVED. Do you believe it? God loves you so much that he sent his son to pay for your sins. Anything that you have ever done has been covered by the blood of Jesus. He has made you perfectly in his image and beautiful. You are loved. No matter how ugly you think whatever you have done is. No matter what you did in the past. No matter what you have going on in the present time. You are loved.

You are more than what the world says that you are. You are more than the car you drive. More than the address on your bank statement. More than the words described by those around you. You are beautiful. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

One of my favorite verses about God's love is Jeremiah 31:3:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

God loves you with an everlasting love. Everlasting. My bible dictionary defines everlasting as perpetual or enduring through all time and to also reference eternal. This is a forever and ever kind of deal. Not the romance love until-death-do-us-part-if-we-make-it-past-the-first-few-years-of-marriage kind of thing. This is an all time thing. This is the message that we want to convey to the recipients of these handmade valentines. And to you.

There is something so freeing and comforting knowing you are loved. So please, make sure you know it and can feel it and can breathe it in and take it with you wherever you go and share it with others.

Praying you embrace the truth in love and not just in a feeling because feelings fade but truth never changes.

We are attaching this printable to the backs of the Valentines and embellishing the actual cards to our little hearts desires. There is four to a page. Click to download.

If you are in the area, we would love to have you! If not, pray about setting up a Pocket Blessings craft night wherever you reside. Someone needs to know how much she is loved and perhaps you are just the person to tell her.

Here's to all the pretty things that are popping out in the stores and the everlasting kind of love. 

For more info on what Pocket Blessings is all about here.

Throughout the years, I kept a mental list of nevers. I would never work retail again. I would never be a pastor's wife. I would never ever drive a minivan. I would never. I would never. And then God showed me otherwise. He challenged my nevers through his guidance and obedience and opened my eyes to his blessings. 

It was easy to sit back and say I would never drive a minivan until we started a family and realized the lack of options within our budget for a vehicle with three rows. A minivan became the best purchase option. And I laughed at myself as I drove home with it, thanking God for his provision yet again.

Nevers have a way of building preconceived notions on issues. Never going to forgive him for what he did. Never going to move on from that hurt. Never going to be good enough for her. Never going to find a job that fits. Never going to find Mr. Right. Never going to be physically healed. Never going to be out of debt. Never going to have a good marriage. Never. Never. Never. It is these little slivers that block the truth from pouring in to our lives.

These thoughts are toxic to our well being, especially when they become louder than what God says in his Word.

He said, "Go and tell this people: "'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' Isaiah 6:9

God warns Isaiah that the Israelites are not going to listen to his message but to tell it anyway. The people will hear it but not understand what is being said because their hearts were hard. They were filled with nevers - one of them being God would never punish them. And their false prophets assured them they were just dandy.

Sitting in church, it is easy to constantly hear the message and see what God is doing but never actually turn to him and allow him to break down your walls and take away your nevers and heal you, as he promises (Isaiah 6:10).

If you follow Jesus, are you hearing the word AND understanding what it says? Are you hearing the ringing of your nevers or the sound of Jesus singing over you with the voice of truth? 

Praying that you allow God to move in your life and thoughts and that he would transform your nevers in to pure trust and humility because it is hard to go back on your nevers. Praying that as you hear the Word of the Lord through sermons or podcasts or bible study that you would understand what you are being taught and that it would change your perspective on life.

Praying that your mind would be renewed in the possibilities of God because all things are possible through him (Philippians 4:13). 

Here's to nevers and transformation. 
The waiting period.  

Someone shared with me recently that she did not have enough to pay her rent. She has been learning to trust God but said he was taking too long, so she went out and bought lottery tickets, instead of waiting for him to fill her need. She admitted she was wrong and had not waited and of course, her tickets did not hold the winning numbers. I thanked her for her transparency because it was a big thing to share and not often does a person see the wrongs of her ways so quickly but God had showed her and she is continuing to learn and trust and wait.

Waiting is such a fickle thing. Something you cannot quite gauge that pops up at the most inopportune times and seems to smirk as it goes along. Waiting erupts in to questions and what ifs and soon you find yourself up the creek before you ever even got in the boat. 

It can drive you to do things you would not normally do or ever think of doing. Like Sarah, who after desperately waiting for the child God promised, gives Abraham permission to take another wife to have a child (Genesis 16:2).  

Waiting can also create idols. The longer you wait for something, the more that you want it, the tighter you tend to grasp it once you have it. The bible does not mention that Abraham made an idol out of Isaac, but God does instruct Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, which God may call you to do with something you hold near and dear (Genesis 22:2). This obedient act returns Isaac back to Abraham with fresh eyes, a deeper faith and trust in God and many blessings.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Paul tells us in Galations not to become weary in doing good, which can be hard when waiting is required. Not to become weary when we are waiting for test results or the diagnosis. Not to become weary in disciplining our child for hundredth time. Not to become weary in our marriage or ministry or position because we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. God will provide throughout the waiting and lead us graciously in to the next step.

While I'm waiting by John Waller tells of how to wait. Have a listen. 

I'm waiting, I'm waiting on You Lord
And I am hopeful, I'm waiting on You Lord

Though it is painful, but patiently I will wait

Praying that as you wait, you would worship and find peace in knowing that God is in control. Praying that your waiting would produce patience and perseverance and more trust than you have ever known. Praying that you would see the benefits of not having your request answered immediately and the work that God is doing in and around you because of it.

Praying that you would enjoy the waiting period. Praying that you would not get ahead of the plans or jump through hoops that God has intended on giving doors to walk through. Praying that you would not hold your child or job or spouse or possessions so tight that you feel them less. 

Here's to waiting and trusting. 

A story was once told to me about a father who had turned to Jesus. He loved reading his bible. He spent every spare minute reading and studying and learning more - all the while his family fell by the wayside. I am sure they must have gotten a little bitter and envious of his coveted bible. I cannot remember if this is a true story or where I heard it but is such a great illustration. Even things that are meant to be good in our lives can ruin us, without set boundaries.

Boundaries are vital in our lives. God gave boundaries to the Israelites through Moses via the Ten Commandants (Exodus 20), which were for their best interest. God was telling them what would harm them, so they could avoid it. 

Because of Jesus we are no longer living under law but with regards to loving the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind and loving our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27). In following this commandment, we are still not going to murder or steal or make idols because that would be crossing over the boundary of loving our neighbor as ourselves.

God gave us boundaries that we may honor him and fully live.

Boundaries allow us to take inventory on what is important, instead of wandering every which way. In parenting, boundaries are a huge thing to establish because it lets the child know he is loved, still allowed to do X,Y or Z but that there will be consequences if the boundaries are crossed.

As an adult, setting our own boundaries allows us to prosper, as well. It is seeing our weaknesses and instilling guidelines in order to fully enjoy our days. It is committing to an eight hour work day, in spite of your workaholic tendencies of twelve. It is scheduling time with your family weekly to fully engage in their lives instead of filling your schedule with invites and practices. It is setting time limits on social media - how many times a day do you need to check Instagram or Facebook or email? Twenty times or two? It is committing to a bible study or life group at church, regardless of your desire to stay at home playing video games in your jammies.

Boundaries allow sweet spots to form and build and come to life. They help in savoring the time you commit to volunteering or outings with your children or working on special projects.

Praying that you would take an inventory on your life. Praying that you would seek God for guidance on boundaries that you need to instill in your life, whether it be more of less of bible study or family time or ministry or down time or time alone or work or hobbies. Praying this year would be a year overflowing with goodness in each aspect of your life and that they would be done well, not just good. 

Here's to boundaries and doing things well. 

While cutting an apple, one summer day, the knife slipped. It was a serrated butter knife, so it was a little sharper than normal but not so sharp as a steak knife. It slipped through the apple down to my little, nine year old, right pinky. I did not know what to do. It hardly bled but it was deep. I walked to my mom in the living room, cradling it in with my left hand and told her I cut my finger. She told me to grab a band aid. I stood there and knew it was more than a band aid kind of fix and repeated I had cut my finger. She took my hand and looked down at my pinky, straight to the bone. We proceeded to the doctors.

As we sat in the little room, I was terrified. I did not want stitches. My mom asked the doctor if there was any way I could forego them, and the doctor agreed - fixing it with simply three small pieces of surgical tape, holding it all together. Stitches were probably the best fix but the doctor's grace gave me another option. It took weeks to heal. The bandage could not get wet, so I spent the summer floating in an inner tube with my hand wrapped in bags, so I could still enjoy our backyard pool. Eventually it healed and but there is still the scar on the bottom of my right pinky to prove it.

When Jesus rose from the grave after three days in the tomb, he had scars to show, too. The holes from the nails that were driven in to his hands and feet were visible for all to see. They told a story. They told his story of defeating death and triumphing over sin for all of humanity. They showed more proof of his status as God's son. Proof to doubting Thomas, who said he would not believe unless he saw the nail marks in his hands and put his finger where the nails were, and put his hand into his side, he would not believe (John 20:25). And of course, Jesus shows up. He shows him his scars and lets him touch his side, so he would stop doubting and believe (John 20:27).

Jesus shows up to everyone differently at different times and places in life - ready to heal wounds and scars. Scars from past hurts - physical or emotional, if you let him. You may be a skeptic or a doubter. And. That. Is. Okay. That is a place to start. Without doubting you may never ask questions or ponder meaning or search for answers. Without skepticism you may never find the truth and be able to dive in to the healing of God.

God is a healer. He is bigger than any scar that you will ever face. There is no one like him. No one like Jesus. The lyrics of Chris Tomlin's Our God ring out these truths. Have a listen.  

Our God is Healer,
Awesome in Power, 
Our God!

Praying that you would show your scars to someone this week and share the healing that you have received. Praying that if you have unhealed scars, that you would share them, as well because in order to start the healing process, you have to recognize that they exist. Praying that you would take the precautions that come with the injury and journey on accordingly, knowing that in due time, you will be fully healed - either in this life or the next. 

Praying that you would seek and question and get answers if you find yourself doubting. Praying that you would find the truth in Jesus and join in the worship of the King of Kings. Praying that nothing would stand against you as you go along your journey. Praying that someone who has shared similar scars would be put in your life to guide you as you travel through it, encouraging you and praising the Lord along the way. 

Here's to scars and sutures. 

For Christmas my husband bought me a new mug. It was really sweet and had a verse picked out just for me by him. It was to replace the one and only mug I had that he had accidentally broke weeks before. I had had my eye on a few mugs. Ones with pretty handles in fun shades of color. Ones that were generous in size with fancy writing and would hold my warm cup of chai perfectly.  As I unwrapped the box Christmas morning, I was more than a little bummed to see a small, black, chalkboard style one inside with a verse about a cup on it. A cup verse on a cup?!

Usually, these sorts of things do not bother me. I generally love his taste in gifts, so I could not figure out why this upset me so much. Gifts are not my love language but I felt like I was ten years old again unwrapping the off brand ice cream maker because the Baskin Robbins ice cream maker had been sold out (although for the record, I did get it for my birthday the following year and it was all I hoped for - my love for ice cream started young).

I know my husband had great intentions and very thoughtfully picked it out. He apologized about the size when I confessed it was a little small and said he would return it. This was the part where I was super convicted of my ungrateful heart.

So often we are given gifts and they mean nothing. They are not what we wanted. We asked and hoped and prayed for something TOTALLY different. The old - we asked to go to France and ended up in Holland. So we return what we can or re-gift it or throw it in a drawer somewhere to eventually end up in donations.

God knows how to give gifts. He knows us better than anyone. He knows when we lay down and when we go to sleep and when we rise (Psalm 139:2). He knows what we need better than we do. And it is not that he gives bad gifts - the complete opposite of it is true -  the reality is that we are not always good at accepting them.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

It is not easy to accept the gifts we did not ask for or ever dream of. The ones that seem mediocre and hardly appear worth a thank you.  The ones that get jumbled in the day. The gift of another sunrise and beds filled with sleeping children and cupboards stocked with choice food and closets full of clothes and cars to drive and shoes to wear and an office to work at.

Praying that this year your cup would overflow. Overflow with grace and compassion and thankfulness. Praying that this year would be the year that you see past the gifts to the heart of the giver. To heart of the one who thought so deeply about you and what would be the most beautiful present for you at this time in your life.

Praying that you learn to embrace each good and perfect gift that you receive with joy and gladness.

And because I could not help it, here's a little print to start your overflowing new year. Click to download an 8 x 10 print.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. 
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
 Psalm 23:5