How to control screens in your home so they don’t control your family

When I began writing about limiting screens in our family, I was surprised to discover I wasn’t alone. It seemed many of us felt the encroachment of electronics in our homes and were searching for ways to protect our time and our hearts.

One common comment I heard, and still hear, is along these lines.

I wish my kids played outside more.

I wish my kids liked to read.

I wish I could get my kids off the screen more.

I wish…..

What do you wish for your family regarding screens?

The parents who make these comments genuinely mean what they said. I hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes. They truly feel at a loss and in need of ideas, help, or direction.

Over the years, I’ve spent much time talking, reading, and listening to families on this topic.

Two things to consider in taking control of the screen issue:

  • It starts with the culture we create in our homes.
  • It starts with starting with the end in mind.

Set the Home Culture

When we moved to Nebraska and visited our church for the first time, we immediately sensed the unique culture. Over the next several weeks, we saw it was a church that had a deeply established culture of servanthood and self-feeders. The congregation didn’t show up to be served and spoon fed the Word. They showed up eager to jump in and serve. And they showed up with their Bibles having spent the week studying the Word on their own and in groups.

It started with the leadership of the church. These were values important to the leaders. They modeled and lived out the culture they wanted to create.

In a similar way, we as parents are leaders in our homes and have the unique opportunity to create a family culture. In order to do this effectively, we can’t be concerned with what “everyone else” is doing. We have to keep our eyes in our own lane. Where do we want to drive our family?

How to limit screen time

In our home we never had the tv on in the background, and we never allowed our kids to simply turn on the tv whenever they felt like it. The same holds true for gaming devices or any screen for that matter.

We have a time and place for screens. We control screens so they don’t control our family.

When our kids were small, we had dedicated tv time. From the beginning screens functioned within boundaries set by us, the parents. As the parent, this is our role to set and monitor these boundaries. We didn’t hand this over to the children because children don’t know what is best for them. Two hours on a device is like 5 minutes to a child.

As our kids grew older, those boundaries remained. They earned more time and greater freedom with age and responsibility, but our family culture remains today the way we created it all those years ago.

Start with the end in mind.

It was highly important to me to have teenagers who wanted to hang around us, who were respectful and kind, and who didn’t live in their own selfish worlds. It’s impossible to one day mold a teenager when they are 13 into what we hope they will be. Instead we begin the day they are born. We spend time with them, we pour love into them, we teach, mold, and develop for years.

With screens, because they can be so invasive in the home, we begin with the end in mind.

If I want a teenager who lives connected to our family more than a device, then I’m careful when he’s a baby or toddler not to put a screen in his hand as a babysitter. What we do in the beginning sets patterns for later.

At the same time, it’s never too late to start again. To create new boundaries and communicate your love and commitment to your family.

If I want a teenager who isn’t completely selfish, I don’t as a baby give him a screen to calm him down or get him to do what I want as we go through our day. I don’t give him a screen so I can do what I want.

It’s hard, it’s sacrificial. It’s a long haul view for sure. But it is so very worth the time and energy it requires of us as parents.

Now when parents tell me the greatest struggle is getting their kids off the screens, I ask them if they allow screens to be turned on without parent permission. I know that if from the beginning we had allowed our kids to turn on the tv or play a gaming device whenever they felt like it, that is all they would want to do to this day. They would have never chosen to play outside or read a book. But screens weren’t an option to turn on whenever they felt like it.

We grow what we feed our appetites.

If our kids feed on screens, their appetites for screens grows. Same for us as adults.

Screens must live within the family’s boundaries. If not, screens will attempt a takeover of the family, and before long, it will feel like screens are in charge.

There is hope. There really is!

Over the years I’ve received my fair share of ugly emails from people telling me how my kids will end up hating me one day. How they will feel excluded and left out. I believe this is a fear many parents have. Often we cave to our fears and begin to allow screens to rule.

When kids understand the why and the heart behind the why, they get it.

From the beginning we discussed the issues and dangers of allowing screens to dominate our lives. We discussed the heart issues. Most importantly, we focused on building the relationship. As Josh McDowell wisely says, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” Build the relationship.

Our kids understand we are for them not against them. As a family, we are on the same team. We are Team Robinson.

The issue runs deeper than many parents have yet to consider. It’s deeply spiritual. When we place screens within protective boundaries, we are training our kids to master the cravings of the flesh rather than live slave to their flesh.

One argument is to give the kids all the screen time they want so they can learn to handle it.

Well, they can’t. Instead they will often find themselves bound to it.

We don’t place before a toddler a bounty of vegetables and candy and say, “They need to know how to handle this on their own.” No, we know what they would choose.

Over time, they would lose all taste for vegetables and find themselves highly sugar addicted. And we all know the spiral of the sugar crash in a child.

Screens are addictive. When our children are in their growing and forming years, it’s our job to protect their hearts and their minds. To teach them what is best for them.

My middle son leans more toward being a spender over a saver. When he was much younger, if he had $5 for 5 minutes that was a miracle. Money in his hand didn’t remain long. He was very impulsive too. We’d go into a store, and if he had money, he’d suddenly find something he thought he had to have.

For awhile I let him try to control his own spending. I told myself it was his money and the best way to learn is the hard way. But I began to see something quite sad take shape. He couldn’t control himself. No matter how many hard lessons, he didn’t seem to learn. In fact, the struggle only became more difficult for him.

He would feel guilt and shame over his choices. He’d be filled with sadness and regret. He saw all the lessons, but he felt powerless in the moment of decision to make the right choice.

Parents, this is so often what happens to our kids when we let them control their screen time. What takes form in their hearts is damaging over time.

So Zachary and I worked together on his spending. We discussed the heart issues. We discussed how this is a small issue now but at 20, it would be a bigger issue. He trusted me and knew I wanted to help him.

So when we went to stores, even though it was “his money”, I no longer allowed him to spend the money impulsively. If we hadn’t planned for it, we didn’t purchase it. He would leave without spending the money and spend a week thinking about it.

You know what happened? When the chemical rush wore off, he never went back to the store for those purchases.

We’ve spent years doing this with him now. He is gaining greater control by allowing us to help him by placing boundaries around his spending.

This applies to screens with our kids. They often simply can’t see what is best for them. They may not know they need us to place those boundaries, but they do.

They will never choose today based on what’s best for them in 20 years. They can’t possibly because they don’t have an adult brain yet.

This is our role as parents. It is loving and kind to place screens within our limits. When kids understand the why behind what we do, they may not love it initially, but they respect it. And over time, you may be surprised when they thank you for placing those limits around them.

I have written for the last 5 years on this topic. It’s a passion of mine because I want to see deeply connected families thriving. If you want to read more, simply choose Categories, Electronics from the Blog page or click here.

If you’d like to receive posts via email, simply click here. Bonus – you will receive some fun free downloads that will help you connect with your kids!

How to Help Your Kids Screen Less and Read More – A Free Gift!

If you are already a blog subscriber, you have read what I’m sharing today. Share this with your friends you think would love it too!

For those of you who don’t receive my emails, I have a free gift for you today I think you will love!

Read ‘em & Reap – the rewards that is

A free gift for you to encourage summer reading in your kids

Take this little quiz

  1. Would you love to walk into the room and find your kids reading? Without being asked??
  2. Do you want to limit screens without constantly telling them to put the screens down?
  3. Do you dread hearing “Mom, I’m bored!”
  4. Are you wondering how you will fill all the live-long summer hours?
  5. Would you love your child to become more compassionate, empathetic, and kind?
  6. Do you want to sneak in some learning that will actually be fun?
  7. Do you want to watch your kids have fun doing something that is incredibly good and enriching for them?
  8. Do you want some peace and quiet in your home?

Ok, if you answered yes to most of these questions, I have something we are doing in our home that is a ton of fun.

Our library summer reading program began a bit early for us and the prizes were so good my kids began reading for hours at a time. I’m not kidding.

This happens for us every single summer. School’s out, they read, they earn the prize at the library, then the reading tapers off.

My middle son, Zachary, gave me a great idea. “Mom, what if you make us prize packs for every 10 hours we read beyond the library time. I’m loving this and it will keep me reading all summer long.”

I thought it was a fabulous idea. So I did just that. I created what I called a ‘Big 10 Prize Pack.’

Within 2 weeks, Zachary logged in 20 hours of reading. (BTW audiobooks count too!) So I had to get to work fast. What I came up with had him so excited I realized I had to share it with you.

I’ve created a pdf download for you to create your own Big 10 Prize Pack. Keep it simple. Use them all in one pack or just a couple at a time.

Here’s a little video.

 

Grab your free download now by entering your email address here!

 

 

 

Happy summer reading! Here’s to many quiet hours in your home this summer!!

Grab your free download before leaving!

And if you are in need of a little bag for your books, check out the shop!

Create an intentional summer the easy way – some of my favorite summer posts on life, memories, traditions, and experiences

Summer time is my favorite time. Summer is easy if we let it be easy. Spend much time on Pinterest and you will feel like you must create amazing systems, schedules, and creative experiences. But just let all that roll by you and embrace the beauty of a simple summer.

Today I’m sharing some of my favorite summer posts over the last several years. Here’s links for a few of them.

We Only Have 18 Summers

“I’ve said it before – Lord willing, we only get 18 summers with our children. That’s it. 18 summers.

I do believe that living intentionally allows us to move from stage to stage with a deeper sense of satisfaction. There is a sense of fulfillment that comes from knowing we chose to live fully in the moments. Doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, but we can at least look back with fewer regrets over how we spent our time.”

Summer is for simple moments

Summer doesn’t have to be complicated with filled with expensive bucket list items.

Summer is for taking back time.
Summer is for championing for our families and friends. For cheering and celebrating life.
Summer is for friends. Summer is for simply investing in life-giving relationships.
Summer is for simple moments.
Summer is for slowing down and simply being.
Like all of life, summer is a gift.

Mission Mondays – A Summer Tradition

Sometimes summer can turn into a time of “all about us”. We become so focused on creating a summer to remember for our kids, we fail to remember one of the greatest things we can do for our kids is create hearts of compassion that care more about others than themselves.

Blackberry Moments (P.S. This was one of my very first blog posts when my blog turned from simply a family yearbook to an intentional ministry. While the writing has changed over time, the heart of this post remains one of my all time favorites.)

“To grab the moments, we must be available. Life needs to be a little less complicated, a little less distracted, a little less busy. Buffers of time must exist in order to capture the moments that sometimes crop up unexpectedly, without warning.

We have one chance to paint a beautiful life. Lord willing, the day will come when we have more time on our hands than we know how to fill. Our houses will be quieted. Our homes will look the same way at 7 am, 12 pm, 5 pm, and 8 pm. Because there will be no block towers built, no army scenes created, no pillow forts constructed, and no sword fights fought.”

Don’t Blink, Then I Blinked

#dontblink – a common hashtag when celebrating graduations, birthdays, a new school year, or a life change.

#theniblinked -it’s like a sudden realization that time actually does move at a pace that is frighteningly slow in real time yet megafast in the replay.

One day we are wiping smashed peas off chubby cheeks, then we seem to blink as we watch that same child wiping milk from our new grandbaby’s mouth.

Each blink is a gift full of opportunity. How do we blink through life without missing a moment?

What if we never stopped playing?

I have to work to play. Work comes easy. Play – not so much.

My kids want me in the pool with them. On the basketball court. Not on the sidelines.

I’ve come to a new conclusion on play. Play is important no matter our age. In fact, maybe play is even more important for grown ups than it is for kids.

Maybe if we played more, we’d snap less.

Maybe if we played more, we’d grumble less.

Maybe if we played more, we’d let the little things go with ease.

Maybe if we played more, we’d sleep sounder.

Maybe if we played more, we’d laugh harder and linger longer.

Maybe if we played more, we’d listen closer.

Maybe if we played more, we’d love more intensely.

Maybe if we played more, we’d rekindle what’s dwindled.

How Not To Waste A Life

I’m living my life fully spent. I’m not saving an ounce for the future because I don’t know what tomorrow holds. Each day I’m falling into bed exhausted with nothing left to give, yet sleeping with complete peace knowing I’m exerting every ounce exactly where He has me right now.

It’s a different kind of exhaustion, the kind that comes not from overcommitting or trying to do everything placed before me. It’s the kind of exhaustion from living fully right here.

I’m trading in being a saver of life so I can savor life.

 

Ok- so creating this post for you today was more for me than I realized. That is typically how God works in me through my writing. I sit down wanting to minister to you and serve you. But when I’m done, I feel God has given me an incredible gift. I stopped after 7 posts.

I don’t intend you to sit and read them all in one sitting. Save today’s post and read one or two a day. Let the Lord move you in the direction of intentional simplicity. Living life to the fullest. Life is a beautiful journey. Each moment is unique and will never exist again in the same exact way. Embrace and live.

In case you’ve missed it, I’ve created a tool to help you simply sit with Jesus. There’s a sweet joy in letting go of the frantic pace of life for 10 sweet minutes to sit at His feet. I tend to be more like Martha than Mary, working more than sitting. Jesus loved Mary’s offering.God is inviting you to simply sit at His feet. You don’t need a book, or a group, or an extra night carved out of your schedule. You simply need an email address.

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 someone the Lord brings to your mind who could use some encouragement and reminders of who loves them 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.

 

 

 

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.