Before Mother’s Day arrives try adjusting your expectations

At the intersection of expectations and reality can be disappointment depending on our perspective and perception.

We have a choice in how we choose to view life.

Mother’s Day on social media can bring a vast array of emotions our way. So I thought I’d share a post I wrote after Mother’s Day a few years ago – So How Was Your Mother’s Day?

I wrote this post because some Mother’s Days are simply ordinary days. We do what we do everyday. We kiss skinned knees, we prepare lunch, we read bedtime stories, we change diapers, we breakup arguments. Some of us will go to work on Mother’s Day. Some Mother’s Days will be ordinary to the fullest.

In our social media driven world, ordinary isn’t post-worthy. What seems to be worthy of the attention of the world are the pictures and captions to show a mom pampered and showered with affection. A day set aside that is not ordinary at all. A day that calls out “Look at me. I’m special.”

If we aren’t careful in our own hearts, we will miss the beautiful ordinary handcrafted for us. We will miss stepping into our ordinary with full awareness of the nearness of God.

There is no guilt and shame here. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t post our spectacular moments we want to share with our social world. This is to say that the moments we see in the lives of others do not define our own moments. They don’t judge our moments. They don’t belittle our moments. They are simply not our moments.

It’s hard to stay in our own lanes these days isn’t it? The other lane is before our eyes all day long. We have to choose how we view that lane because the reality is, we can’t focus on our lane only.

I choose to view my ordinary days as holy days. My ordinary life is His holy ground.

Motherhood is sacred. Every single drop of it.

As I wrote Illuminate, God continued showing me the holiness of ordinary life. Each moment is new life. Each moment is one that will never happen again in the exact way.

Time doesn’t have a rewind button. It moves forward. As I step with time, I step with God through mundane, ordinary life that is anything but ordinary if I choose to see the holy ground where I stand.

Step into your Mother’s Day and your everyday with eyes open to the fingerprints of God. His hand is all over your life. Even in the painful moments.

It’s easy to see God’s blessings when life is going the direction we hoped. Remember how I started this post? At the intersection of expectations and reality can be disappointment depending on our perspective and perception.

Some relationships and situations are painful, making it hard to see the hand of God. It tempts us to sit in disappointment because it isn’t what we expected. Step by step God asks us to hand it to Him, to renew our mind, and walk one step at a time.

You are held and loved by God. I felt God wanted me to remind you of this.

Maybe you should give yourself a little Mother’s Day gift today. I’ve created something that will light a path for you to begin seeing God with fresh eyes. Illuminate-Seeing God by the Light of His Word.

My boys asked what I wanted for Mother’s Day. I fired back, “A massage.” That just sounds luxuriously wonderful.

The fact is as moms, we don’t often give ourselves treats like massages and pampering retreats. So today, I want you to give yourself a gift. It’s actually a 14 day gift that will continue to give to you moment by moment.

When you order Illuminate, it will arrive quietly into your inbox. It will patiently wait on you. And when you listen, God will speak to you. I’ve prayed for your time with Him as you allow Illuminate to help you to focus your heart and mind simply on God, the lover of your soul.

It’s $10. It’s yours forever. It would make a sweet gift to yourself. You could use some encouragement and reminders of who loves you with a reckless love. Click the picture for more information.

audio devotional

 

 

13 Ways We Can Protect Our Families Online Beyond Filters and Privacy Settings

Several years ago I received an email from a blog reader in response to a post I’d written regarding technology and our children.

Turns out she is a writer too. Both of us had a passion for our faith, families, and intentional living. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Eryn’s heart shared through her blog. And now her debut book releases to the world. You will want to grab a copy.

I’m honored to have Eryn sharing her words and heart with us here today.

 

Guest post by Eryn Lynum for Renee Robinson

 

“Mom, she has a phone.” My six-year-old’s words gingerly broke into our dinner conversation. Although phones and technology are not a big discussion point in our home yet, with four children under the age of seven, he seemed to know that the topic holds weight. He continued carefully, “When will I be old enough to have a phone? When I’m ten?”

He was gazing out our back window to the next yard over, where the neighbor girl sat with her face aglow in the light of her cellphone.

“Well, Bud, it won’t be for quite a while, and not until Dad and I can teach you how to use it right. Phones can be dangerous.”

After offering him a light, two-minute spiel on how we can easily use a phone too much, including the confession that Daddy and I often fall into that trap ourselves, we moved on, but his question lingered in my mind.

Lately I have been thinking on a broader spectrum when it comes to my family’s safety regarding technology. My thoughts have welled over from concerns over my kids eventually holding smartphones in their own hands, to how I can protect them right now, through being intentional with what I myself post online. These concerns stem from a question I am asked on occasion: “Do you feel safe with posting photos and stories of your kids online?”

As a blogger and author, I share my family’s everyday antics with my readers, and by default the broader internet world. But when I hit “Publish”, it is not by default at all. Never do I hit publish without careful hesitation. It began at a writers’ conference a few years ago, while I was sitting under the teaching of one of my favorite authors as she spoke on the topic of memoir writing. One of her points struck me deeply, and it was this:

We must honor those in our story.

This is not only true for writers, of course. We are all living out our own stories, and sharing much of them with the online world. The characters in our stories happen to be those very dear to us.

In my case, my children can, in twenty years from now, pick my book up off the shelf and read very real stories of themselves as children. And so I must ask myself now, do I honor them? Do I respect them? Do I give them a good name? Do I protect them?

If we want to be intentional with our use of technology and in our families, then we all must ask these same questions as we share our photos, thoughts, every day antics, and stories on social media. We are not only telling our story, we are telling our family’s story. Won’t it be wonderful one day when our grown children respect us because we chose first to respect and protect them?

Here are three areas, above and beyond internet filters and privacy settings, where I believe we need to protect our children when it comes to technology.

Protecting their safety by:

  • Not posting photos of children in underwear or diapers (no matter how young)
  • Not posting bathtub photos, even if everything is covered up
  • Not posting photos that give away specific location details (we go so far as no house numbers, or places we visit or attend regularly)
  • We can also protect and respect other families by asking friends’ permission before we post photos that include their children, say, at a play date or birthday party.

Respecting our family and honoring our children by:

  • Not sharing stories that disrespect our child, or paint them in a distasteful light
  • Not sharing stories of their misbehavior without any redeeming qualities (I.E. Just to talk about how bad they are being…)
  • Not writing unkindly of someone in our family, near or far
  • Watching sarcasm. There is always a bit of truth in what is said (or written) with a sarcastic tone.

Modeling that tech is a tool, not a master

  • Modeling to them when to set the phone down. People in front of you are ALWAYS more important.
  • Teaching them that in the often dark online world, it can be good to share the beautiful pieces of life—but only to the extent that we don’t begin missing those beautiful moments themselves because our face is buried in a device.
  • Asking our child’s forgiveness now whenever we find ourselves too preoccupied with our technology
  • Helping them understand that giving technology its proper place in life will always be a struggle, but one worth fighting for.
  • Helping our children to fall in love with nature and the beautiful things of life that technology, in many ways, will never be able to replace.

Although it feels quite far away, before I know it, my son will hold his own smartphone for the first time. I pray that in that moment, my heart will not constrict with fear. Rather, I pray that I will stand confident in the lessons we prepared him with for that responsibility.

I pray that years from now looking back, I will know that we protected our family through small, intentional decisions. Tiny shifts in our own behavior, attitudes, and words hold magnificent power. This battle begins in our own hands, and what we choose to fill, or not fill them with. Let’s choose well today, for the sake of our child’s tomorrow.

__________________________________________________________

Eryn Lynum is author of the book 936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting. She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and four children, where they spend their time hiking, camping, and exploring the Rocky Mountains. She loves to travel and share at conferences, churches, and writers’ groups. But every opportunity she gets, she is out exploring God’s creation with her family, and sharing the journey at www.936Pennies.com

You can connect with Eryn here:

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How to solve impossible problems and situations

“I can’t do it. I’m so frustrated. I’m not good at this.”

“You can do it. Just take a deep breath.”

“Every time I try to solve it, I get it wrong.”

I can relate.

I sat on the edge of my son’s bed, peering over his shoulder at the math lesson on the screen.

He had worked and re-worked the problem only to come up with wrong answer after wrong answer.

I know the feeling. I bet you do too. How often have you faced a situation you have attempted to solve to no avail.  You begin to hear the taunting whispers that you’ll never get it, clothing your soul with fear and frustration.

I looked at the problem facing my son from a different viewpoint. I stood at the top of the hill looking down into the valley. I spotted the cleared trails and paths leading to the place he needed to go.

He stood down in that valley, right in the cluster of tall, tangled weeds. He couldn’t see the path because he was on the same level ground of the path he sought.

“Ok, listen. I see exactly what you need to do. I need you to start by taking a deep breath. Then take a step back. You need a new viewpoint.”

He shot a quick, questioning glance my way.

I watched his shoulders release the clutches of fear and frustration. I heard the held air leave his lungs.

“Ok, now step back. You need a wider view. Ask yourself this question – what is this problem asking me to do? You see, you are jumping to trying to solve, but you are missing the big picture. What is it even asking you to do from a big picture view? What is the logical path to get there?”

When I realized I had his attention, I continued.

“It’s actually easier than you realize. You approached it with a negative attitude, assuming the problem was out to get you and you would never get it right. But if you approach with a different attitude and a broader mindset, you might be surprised to find the answer was right in front of you the entire time.”

I tossed out a question. He answered. I tossed another. He answered. Each question served as the stakes tossed to mark his trail.

He arrived at the answer with no fighting or clawing. It was there in all its simple glory.

The next day a similar problem awaited him. It was the same type of problem, only it was asked with a slight variation. I watched as he began to march into the tangled weeds. It’s the way most familiar to him. He called out to me. I stood by his side.

“Remember, take that wide angle view. Switch lenses. Step back.”

He followed my guidance. I watched him climb out of the choking weeds and make his way to to the top of the hill.

I never said another word. I simply reminded him to choose the right view first.

He solved the problem.

For the next several days, I watched him reminded of the days he took his first tottering steps, unsure of his newfound skill. I remember those steps clearly. With each step, his smile grew. He’d glance back for reassurance. I’d smile back. You can do it, my smile prompted him. I’m right here to catch you when you fall.

Don’t fear the fall. I’ll help you up. Each fall brings you one step closer to your next steady step. I love you. I love you. I love you.

After a few days of my son calling out to me to guide him through these types of math problems, he realized he actually could do it. It took practice. Each one became easier. The answer was always right in front of him. He only needed to look through a wide angle lens rather than a zoom lens.

“Mom, can you come here. I think I need help.”

“I think you’ve got it, buddy.”

He got to work. I watched him take it step by step.

“It’s weird. Sometimes you don’t even need to say anything, but just your presence helps me. I wish I could do all my math problems with you by my side. I feel like I’d get them all right.”

His words hit my soul in the most healing of ways. God’s Presence is my good. His Presence is sometimes the only thing I need.

But as for me, God’s presence is my good.
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
so I can tell about all You do.

Psalm 73:28

When we stand in our impossible problems, we forget God stands high above us, yet right beside us at the same time. He has the wider view.

To solve my impossible situations and problems, I simply need to call out to Him. I need to seek Him. Sometimes He will guide me step by step and show me paths I couldn’t see on my own. But sometimes His Presence is the only thing I truly need. I just need the reminder that He sees me, He loves me, He is for me not against me. He is my everything.

He calmly caresses my back as He whispers, “Daughter, I’m here. I’m your refuge. All you need is me. I’ll guide you. I’ll care for you. When you fall on the path, don’t be afraid of the fall. I’ll be here to lift you up. I’ll wipe the dirt from your knees. I’ll bandage your wounds. Let me care for you, for I’m tender and gentle. Let your tears fall. I collect them in a bottle. I have numbered the very hairs on your head. You are my great treasure. Just seek my Presence, and together we will walk.”

 

 

 

 

What Role Do We Play After We Pray?

 

To listen to the audio version of today’s post, click this link.

 So they broke camp to cross the Jordan River. The priests who carried the ark of the promise went ahead of the people. (The Jordan overflows all its banks during the harvest season.) When the priests who were carrying the ark came to the edge of the Jordan River and set foot in the water, the water stopped flowing from upstream. The water rose up like a dam as far away as the city of Adam near Zarethan. The water flowing down toward the Sea of the Plains (the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. Then the people crossed from the east side of the Jordan River directly opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the Lord’s promise stood firmly on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan until the whole nation of Israel had crossed the Jordan River on dry ground.

Joshua 3:14-17

Trusting in God means we lay our requests at his feet before moving. Then we get up and take the next step, then the next, then the next. We take those steps no matter the obstacle we see in front of us. No matter the terrifying terrain ahead. We move expecting that as we move with God, God will move before us.

Each time our family has relocated to a new state, we’ve learned to trust God in a deeper way. We’ve learned that He is completely faithful. Each move God has showered us with rich relationships. Of course He would. God is relational. He created us to be first in relationship with Him, second with others. His desire is to be glorified in and through our relationships with His people.

Because of this, one of our top prayer requests since moving a year ago revolved around friendships.

I think sometimes we pray for situations then we simply sit back not realizing we might need to take an active role. Over time we see nothing happening and we become frustrated or disillusioned. We believe the lie that God doesn’t hear us.

We desire the miracle, yet we don’t always fully trust the Miracle Maker.

One of our greatest privileges as parents is to cultivate a wonder for the God of miracles in the hearts of our children. If my children develop an attitude of God as a far off God in the sky who may or may not listen when we speak, that will be a tragedy.

I delight with each opportunity to point the hearts of my children to their Creator. To teach them to watch and wait with excited expectation just how He will respond. And He will respond.

Sometimes to see God’s answers requires active participation. God created humans, not robots and puppets.

God invites us into His great big story. We have a choice in how we will play our role.

At some point a few months into new life in Nebraska, a friend invited me to a meeting about a homeschool group for teens wanting to serve the community. I showed up late to the meeting and quietly slipped into a seat in the back of the room.

I listened with interest but quickly discovered the dates wouldn’t work with our other homeschool group commitments.

I knew God had me at that meeting for a reason.

A woman sat in that meeting with her three boys. They looked about the same ages as my boys, who were not with me at the time. They seemed to be respectful and kind boys. I noticed they actually listened during the meeting rather than distract themselves in the world of phones. I wanted to meet this family.

As the meeting drew to a close, I wrote my phone number on a slip of paper and stalked the woman to her car.

She might have thought I was crazy, but the way I looked at the situation is like this – I’ve been praying for friends for my boys and here might be some. Now is my opportunity to actively participate with God.

I caught up with this woman in the parking lot, told her we had just moved to Nebraska, were fairly new to homeschooling, and we’d love to have their family over.

Then she and I actually followed up with each other. We invited them over. They came. Then another outing and another. Fast forward many months and this family, and these boys, have become friendships we absolutely treasure.

This is what I want my boys to see. God is a God of abundance. He does nothing on a small scale. Everything He does is miraculous and other-worldly. We can expect with 100% confidence that when we ask according to His will, He will respond with a resounding YES.

Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.”

1 John 5:14-15

When we asked for rich friendships, we already knew God said yes. The exciting part is waiting and watching as His yes after yes unfolds.

The day I met my new friend, I came home elated. Not because I knew I had a new friend (though this was exciting to be sure) but because I had just tasted the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”

Psalm 27:13

Nothing lights my fire like seeing God at work. Nothing.

When my faith fire dwindles, all I need to do is blow on that flickering flame with my whispered request. He answers by setting that fire ablaze all over again. Those sparks spread to my family.

I view my primary role as mom to be teaching my children to know God truly. Not the version the world has created, but the actual One True God. The only God. Yahweh.

The way to know Him is through His Word. First and foremost. The Word is first a story of who God is. Once we meet Him there, it’s easy to see Him everywhere in our world.

And so on a Friday night, a year into moving across the country, Steve and I sat on the sofas of our family room. I curled with a book listening with contented peace to the loud ruckus in the basement as 6 boys played ping pong, basketball, wrestled, ate pizza and brownies, and ended their night with a movie.

I marveled at the graciousness of God.

When God, with supernatural speed, brought us a buyer on our North Carolina home, He blessed us with a home in Nebraska with a basement of our dreams that we knew exactly what to do with. That basement and this home would be a place to invite people in as often as they would say yes. To fill it with love and laughter, gifts from our Father. To have a home to graciously and generously show the love of the Father.

The key in parenting is connecting the dots of God for our kids until they learn to do this on their own. Actively participating with God is drawing it out for them until they learn to connect their own dots.

“Boys, remember how we prayed and have continued to pray for friends? Well, think back to how we met this family to begin with. We prayed, but then we had to take a step. We had to place ourselves in places where we’d want to meet friends. And then when we noticed people the Lord was divinely bringing our way, we had to step again.”

I explained to the boys that the day I followed my friend to her car, I could have simply left the meeting that day, never crossing paths with her again. I wouldn’t know what I had missed. It makes me never want to miss an opportunity the Lord puts in front of me.

He answered my prayers for friends by nudging me to the meeting, bringing our families together, but it took a step only I could take to bring it to fruition. How cool is God?

This is what I desire my kids know. God is real. He is alive and active. He inclines His ear toward us. He desires to pour out His blessings.

If only the whole world knew the God He really is. I can’t change the world, but I can influence the very ones He has placed in my life. For as long as I have breath, I will proclaim His goodness.

“Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits–“

Psalm 103:2

I have created a tool to help our souls forget not all His benefits. Illuminate – Seeing God by the Light of His Word releases soon. You can find more information here including a video trailer. Illuminate is for us all. Women, men, and parents who desire to remember who the Lord is. It’s to encourage us to create the discipline of keeping our eyes fixed on who God is. Practicing the art of remembrance.

In our home, we’ve used this as a time of family devotion. Gathering in the family room and listening together. Continuing the conversation throughout the week.

It’s 14 days that I believe will change your life. It’s changed mine because it’s gotten me into His Word to seek out His character as revealed by Him.

“Renee Robinson has used her gifts to bring us one – a 14 day primer for anyone desiring to go deeper as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Unwrap it and be blessed.”

–Tara McClary Reeves, speaker and author of Is Your Dad a Pirate and Point Me to Jesus.

 

 

 

Why My Christmas Can Be Incomplete

For the audio lover, click the player below to listen to today’s post read to you by me.

 

We have so many Christmas traditions in our home. Many are small, but size doesn’t matter.

My children are quick to remind me if we are in danger of not checking off our imaginary list. They don’t need to remind me though.

Each tradition we completed this season, I released an internal sigh of relief, knowing that one more thing was complete.

  • gingerbread house – check
  • Seeking Christmas – check
  • Christmas lights – check
  • live nativity – check
  • every Christmas movie ever made – check
  • homemade cookies – check
  • served others – check

I can go on.

I have the same dreams every Christmas. The ones where the family is gathered by the tree ready to open gifts, and I realized I’d forgotten to buy gifts, or I’d bought them but not yet wrapped them. In my dreams, I go racing to all my hiding spots, pulling out tucked away gifts, frantically wrapping.

Once I have the gifts somewhat wrapped and arrive to the patiently waiting family, I realized I forgot to make our Christmas morning breakfast tradition (Pioneer Woman’s Blueberry French Toast Casserole).

In my dreams I failed to bring our traditions to completion.

But you know what? The message of Christmas is the antithesis to traditions. And in the first Christmas, there was no completion. It was the beginning of the fulfillment of the great rescue mission. Completion would come approximately 33 years later when the baby King grown into a man, fully God and fully man, would find Himself murdered on a cross.

On the cross He was completion. On the cross it was finished.

The manger to the cross to the empty tomb, that is completion.

It is a kind thing to do to release myself from the burden of fulfilling all our traditions.

The kinds of traditions we keep aren’t bad ones. They don’t turn us away from Jesus. But if we think about traditions in terms of religion, we see the ones who killed the Messiah. We see traditions being the thing that made it impossible for some to see the Messiah for who He was and is.

Christmas birthed the trump to traditions. Christmas birthed hope, peace, love, joy, and mercy unlike anything the world had ever known.

I’m reminding myself this season that Christ was born to set the captives free. To release the prisoners from the bondage of sin, religion, and yes, tradition.

We will continue our family traditions with joy and freedom. We will wonder, watch, and wait. We will laugh and play and marvel at the miracles. We will make memories.

We will continue marking off our traditions with freedom and gladness because we can, not because we are bound by them. And when we fail to “complete” everything by Christmas, we will remember that Christmas was never the picture of completion.

I pray you have a very Merry Christmas. Love to each of you from our family.

 

The Best Gift You Can Give To Yourself This Year

I begin the Christmas season and the month of December excited for the slow unwrapping of Advent. The anticipation builds as I day by day, unwrap and reveal a new piece of the Christmas story.

December gives birth to slow, reflective thoughtfulness. Or crazy, insane, and frantic. Seems there is little in between. I tend to slow during December. In December I say no in order to say yes to what matters most.

We ponder. We anticipate. We expect. We focus.

Maybe we need to allow ourselves to unwrap and hold onto the gift of December.

I like December because I stop focusing on me so much. Daily I seek Jesus. I’m overwhelmed with how a familiar story can continue to dive deeper in my soul.

The unexpected gift of December is a month where I think of others above my own self. I think of Jesus. I think of humanity. I think of buying gifts for my family. I think of serving those who need. I think of who I can show hospitality to. To think of others is a surprise gift of freedom to our souls.

I’m finding I want to hold onto December. I want a year of Decembers.

In December people are nicer, decorations are cheerier, givers are more generous. In December homes are open. Parties are hosted. Invites are extended. Hospitality prevails.

In December we give ourselves permission to slow. We’ve allowed ourself a guilt free pass to stop running pace with the rest of the world. We’ve mercifully tended to our soul in the downshifting of life.

In December we become intentional. We carefully plan activities, moments, and memories with our children. In fact, some of us plan something every day.

In December we have fun. We hide elves, make gingerbread houses, watch cheesy movies, and bundle up to sing carols door to door.

In December we are together.

December is the month that brings the year to an end, yet it’s the month that gives birth to the hope we cling to.

December is remembering. We remember a baby that was born to die for us. We remember the stories from old. And we remember our own lives over the past year.

We begin to look back. Amazing how much can change in a year. Or a day. Or even one minute.

For some of us looking back over the year brings sorrow and grief. We’ve had to let go of hands we wanted to hold forever. We’ve had to accept a diagnosis and learn a new vocabulary. We’ve moved, leaving behind what was known to discover new work, new people, new places. We’ve released dreams unfulfilled. We’ve grieved the ending of a season we will never have again, accepting the new season and learning new rhythms of life.

Despite the pain, grief, and sorrow, for the one held in Christ, December whispers birth and hope. Hope never dies because our Savior lives. We cling to the hope that one day He will wipe away every tear. We will dance and run. We will sing forever.

So December, you are an interesting month. A month of reflection. A month of review. A month of renewal. A month of remembering. A month of rebirth.

Remembering the birth of my Savior, I cling to the birth that happens in my own soul. He is the picture of hope. He is joy. He is love. He is forever and unending.

How quickly I’m able to turn a page though.  The day is over. The month closes. We box it up, flip the calendar. Pack away the advent to countdown His arrival, toss the year’s calendar, and we move on.

We match pace with the world. Our inbox  and newsfeed fills with images telling us we need a new ‘us’.

We begin the purge. The focus on a New Year. New goals. New body. We get back to focusing on our life. And for the next 11 months, that is how it goes.

This year maybe I will treat each month like it’s December.

When it’s January, may I think of how I can love others well rather than simply how I can make my body more pleasing to my own eyes.

When it’s February, may I intentionally create activities, moments, and memories with the ones I love. May February hold a small gift each day of time we spend together.

When it’s March, may I open my home and invite others in. May I release the pressure to have it perfectly decorated or spotlessly cleaned. May I stop looking at the Instagram pictures of how others do it and simply do it the best I can with what I have.  May I let the love pour out of us into the ones who come through these doors.

When it’s April, may I tenderly care for my soul by allowing myself to rest. May I allow myself to produce less, accomplish less, and be in Him more. It’s in this place He will renew me so I can do far more than I envisioned.

When it’s May, may I keep unwrapping Him slowly. Day by day. May I find myself surprised that something I’ve read 100 times times revealed a new hidden treasure.

When it’s June, July, and August, may I have fun. The kind of fun that brings a smile back, a reminder to laugh. It’s good for my soul, but it’s better for the ones who do life with me.

When it’s September, October, and November, may I generously give. May my gifts bear fruit in someone’s life. May I give out of my little or my abundance because what I have isn’t mine to begin with. I’ve only been entrusted to manage it well. It’s easy to be a generous giver when it’s not mine to begin with. And it’s not.

And when it’s December again, may I begin again to remember. May I remember who God is. May I remember that though a year has passed again, a year full of joy mingled with sorrow, He never left my side. May I remember that December brings the calendar to a close, but it gave birth to a calendar that will never end.

 

9 Screen Free Non Toy Gift Ideas for Teens and Kids Of All Ages

I think we all want to give gifts that matter and last beyond Christmas morning.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this topic. I wrote a post a few years ago, 15 Non-Toy Gift Ideas To Give Kids At Christmas.  It’s worth revisiting. Especially in light of all we now know about the screen addictions and dangers our children our facing.

Maybe it’s time we become intentional in the protection of our kids in the area of screens by giving them gifts of a different nature.

WHY IT MATTERS WHAT WE GIVE

Our lives and homes are filled with stuff, clutter, and noise. Toy closets and playrooms have to be purged prior to the holidays to make room for all the new toys arriving in the younger years. In the older years we begin to see clutter of a new kind. The digital clutter that infects the soul.

The easy gift is anything with a screen. This is the gift sure to delight our child who thinks in the short term. However, is a screen gift the best gift?

Do our kids really need more games, more toys, another doll?

How much is enough?

For many parents the temptation is to buy according to peer pressure. All of our kids’ friends will receive the latest iPhone, tablet, etc. The keeping up with the Jones’ passes down the generational lines.

I hear this cry from parents. Why can’t Christmas be simpler? Why can’t we focus on what really matters?

Well, one reason is because we spend the majority of our season shopping and pondering what to buy. Maybe it starts with us and has little to do with our kids.

Some parents believe in giving enormous amounts of gifts. Other parents believe in giving only a handful of small gifts. To each their own, neither is right or wrong, simply family values and convictions. Whichever camp you reside in with your gift giving, this list will provide you a few thoughtful ideas.

 

 Screen Free Non Toy Gift Ideas:

  1. Investment Account– Before you breeze by this one, consider your teen or tween who is interested in learning about the stock market. Open a custodial account with someone like E Trade.  Purchase a few small stocks. They will love watching their money rise and fall and learning about the investment world.
  2. Business Start Up – Help your budding entrepreneur. Does your teen have an interest in business, an entrepreneurial spirit? Buy gifts to help their venture. Our boys have a snow shoveling business in the winter and lawn business in the summer. Equipment is expensive, and they are required to buy their own. This would be a great opportunity to purchase equipment they need or supplies to help them in their efforts to become more efficient in their craft.
  3. Collection of gift cards – Pick 5-10 of their favorite restaurants or shops and purchase small denomination gift cards. Kids love to have their own money to spend when the time arises.
  4. Concert tickets – Look at the year ahead. Is there a favorite band coming to town? Buy tickets now and gift at Christmas.
  5. Trip – Is your family planning to take a trip next year? Make it part of the Christmas surprise. Give gifts to go along with the trip. Last year we knew we planned to take our family on a cruise. We decided that this would be our Christmas gift to the kids. The gifts they unwrapped held the clues about the big gift. Swim trunks, sunblock, new shorts and tops, etc. The grandparents gifted along as well and provided excursions for the trip. This allowed us to take the trip of a lifetime without double spending.
  6. Audio Books or Dramatizations – So many options here! Christian Heroes Then and Now and Adventures in Odyssey are some of our favorites that make the gift list every single holiday. We use them on road trips to alleviate screen time in the car and to enrich our lives at the same time. Chronicles of Narnia Radio Theater by Focus on the Family is amazing.
  7. Memberships and Season Passes – Zoo, science museums, children’s theater, amusement parks. There are so many places in your town.
  8. Tickets  – Sky Zone, Defy Gravity, Skating, Bowling, Ice Skating. These are all places our family likes to go but are too expensive to do frequently. Groupon often has incredible deals to your favorite places.
  9. Hobby/Skill  – Grow an interest in a hobby or a skill set your see in your kids. Sewing, woodworking, painting, music lessons, art lessons, camps, photography equipment. Hobbies are expensive. My kids have lots of interests but we are unable to fund everything they would like to do. If your kids have been begging to take drum lessons, maybe this is the time to invest. A year of lessons or the equipment.

For additional ideas (especially for younger kids), read my post on 15 Non Toy Gifts to Give Kids At Christmas. Also you might find it helpful to read this post if you have a child who struggles at Christmas when surrounded by kids who receive the latest and greatest of everything. Dear Boys, When You Compare What You Get To What Everyone Else Gets  .

For a Christmas that matters, one which focuses on the true meaning of Christmas, while providing your family thoughtful, intentional ideas for creating memories, experiences, and traditions centered on Christ, check out Seeking Christmas – Finding the True Meaning of Christmas.