Reading this Summer – Picture Books

This is not a typical post, but one that I wanted to do for fun prior to the beginning of summer.  I love reading, and I love reading to my kids.  I keep hoping that someday, because of my avid reading, my kids will love to read.  I have most definitely surrounded them with lots of good books.  I have a read aloud time each day during homeschool with my littles.  I read to all but my oldest at bedtime.  

Starting a book collection doesn’t have to be costly.  I buy my books at secondhand stores, garage sales, and at abebooks.com.  Rarely, do I buy a new book.  These links are provided so you can see the book and its synopsis.  This is a random listing of some of our favorites.  Happy Reading!

Claymates: Petty, Dev, Eldridge, Lauren: 9780316303118: Amazon.com: Books

Meet the claymates: two balls of clay that can become anything–even best friends!

What can you do with two blobs of clay? Create something amazing! But don’t leave them alone for too long. Things might get a little crazy.

In this photographic friendship adventure, the claymates squish, smash, and sculpt themselves into the funniest shapes imaginable. But can they fix a giant mess before they’re caught in the act?

Brambly Hedge Collection Jill Barklem 8 Books Set (Autumn Story, Spring Story, Summer Story, Winter Story, Poppy’s Babies, Sea Story, The High Hills, The Secret Staircase): Jill Barklem, Autumn Story By Jill Barklem 978-0001837393, 0001837397, 9780001837393, Spring Story 978-0001839229, 0001839225, 9780001839229, Summer Story 978-0001839236, 0001839233, 9780001839236, Winter Story 978-0008241186, 000824118X, 9780008241186, Poppy’s Babies 978-0008282813, 0008282811, 9780008282813, Sea Story 978-0008252670, 000825267X, 9780008252670, The High Hills 978-0001840867, 000184086X, 9780001840867, The Secret Staircase 978-0008269142, 0008269149, 9780008269142: 9789123522330: Amazon.com: Books

These books remind me of Beatrix Potter, but we enjoy them more!  They have fun, whimsical pictures and are about the adventures of a little village of mice. 

The Pigeon Needs a Bath! (Pigeon, 9): Willems, Mo, Willems, Mo: 8601400583050: Amazon.com: Books

The Pigeon really needs a bath! Except, the Pigeon’s not so sure about that. Besides, he took a bath last month! Maybe. It’s going to take some serious convincing to try and get the Pigeon to take the plunge.

Mouse Says “Sorry” (Hello Genius): Dahl, Michael, Vidal, Oriol: 9781404867895: Amazon.com: Books

Mouse is late for supper. He has to hurry home, but he won’t get there without using his manners. This sturdy board book helps toddlers understand when and why to say sorry.

A Perfect Day: Smith, Lane, Smith, Lane: 9781626725362: Amazon.com: Books

Today is a perfect day for Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel.

Cat is lounging among the daffodils. Dog is sitting in the wading pool, deep in the cool water. Chickadee is eating fresh seed from the birdfeeder. Squirrel is munching on his very own corncob. Today is a perfect day in Bert’s backyard.

Until Bear comes along, that is. Bear crushes the daffodils, drinks the pool water, and happily gobbles up the birdseed and corncob.

Today was a perfect day for Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel. Now, it’s just a perfect day for Bear.

Lane Smith uses perfect pacing and vibrant illustrations to emphasize the power of perspective in this hilarious picture book about the goings-on in Bert’s backyard.

Touch the Art: Count Monet’s Lilies: aa: Amazon.com: Books

We have this book and one other in the series!  Each book contains famous paintings along with things that kids can touch, keeping children engaged.  There is also a simple, rhyming text in each book.  I love that it introduces kids to real art. 

Amazon.com: I Need a New Butt! (0800759787999): McMillan, Dawn, Kinnaird, Ross: Books

A young boy suddenly notices a big problem — his butt has a huge crack! So he sets off to find a new one. Will he choose an armor-plated butt? A rocket butt? A robot butt? Find out in this quirky tale of a tail, which features hilarious rhymes and delightful illustrations. Children and parents will love this book — no ifs, ands, or butts about it!

Note: this book is a little much since it does have drawings (obviously) of butt cracks and farts.  Despite that, my younger kids think it’s hilarious.  It’s probably not for everyone though. 

Good Night, Gorilla: Rathmann, Peggy: 9780399230035: Amazon.com: Books

Good night, Gorilla.
Good night, Elephant.


It’s bedtime at the zoo, and all the animals are going to sleep. Or are they? Who’s that short, furry guy with the key in his hand and the mischievous grin?

Good night, Giraffe.
Good night, Hyena.


Sneak along behind the zookeeper’s back, and see who gets the last laugh in this riotous good-night romp.

Amazon.com: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Classic Board Books) (9780689815812): Oxenbury, Helen, Michael Rosen: Books

Beloved for more than 30 years, this award-winning classic from Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury celebrates the joys of an afternoon outdoors with family.

We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one.

Will you come too? Join a father and his four young children as they cross a field of tall, wavy grass, wade through a deep, cold river, struggle through swampy mud, find their way through a big, dark forest, fight through a whirling snowstorm, and enter finally enter a narrow, gloomy cave. What will they find there? You’ll have to read on to find out!

For more than thirty years readers have been swishy swashing and splash sploshing through this award-winning favorite. Now fans of this timeless story from Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury can treasure and share this Classic Board Book edition that has an updated, colorized cover.

Good Night Mountains (Good Night Our World): Gamble, Adam, Jasper, Mark: 9781602190900: Amazon.com: Books

Designed to soothe children before bedtime while instilling an early appreciation for natural and cultural wonders, this delightful story features a multicultural group of people visiting waterfalls, glaciers, alpine lakes, the Rocky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Ozark Mountains, the Sierra Nevadas, the Appalachian Mountains, volcanic Mount Saint Helen, and Mount Washington in New England. Guiding children through the passage of both a single day and the four seasons while saluting the iconic aspects of mountains, this board book also highlights the activities associated with such destinations, including skiing, hiking, camping, backpacking, fishing, and rock climbing.

Note: This is a series.  We have at least one other.  (Maybe the ocean/beach one?)  I like that it can help the kids remember a special vacation, and it’s also calming because it says “Good night” over and over.  I find this helpful with my youngest who is always difficult to calm down at bedtime. 

Audrey Bunny: Smith, Angie, Brookshire, Breezy: 9781433680458: Amazon.com: Books

From best-selling women’s author Angie Smith (I Will Carry You, Mended) comes this sweet children’s book about a stuffed animal named Audrey Bunny who fears her imperfections make her unworthy of a little girl’s love. She’ll learn the truth soon enough, and young readers will learn that everyone is special and wonderfully made by God.

Safety vs. Security

photo of woman sitting on cliff
Photo by Andre Moura on Pexels.com

For years, I have struggled with not feeling stable and secure anymore.  It’s caused me to struggle with both anxiety and depression at times.  I have struggled with the Lord even more though over the fact that he would take these things from my children.  It was our desire for our children to have the security of growing up in a two-parent home.  We wanted our kids to be shielded from the harsh realities of life when they were young.  That just wasn’t part of God’s plan for them though. 

I’ve just recently come to realize that I have been confusing safety with security.  They are not synonymous.  While my children lost the safety their father’s presence provided, they didn’t lose their security.  Of course, it felt like they did.  However, for those of us who love Christ, our future is eternally secure in the person of Jesus.  What a valuable lesson we can teach our kids – that even when it doesn’t feel like it, their security has been paid for by the blood of Jesus on the cross.  I recently attended a parenting seminar, and our pastor mentioned that while our children need security, they don’t need safety.  God never promised us safe lives.  In fact, he said quite the opposite.  Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  When their dad died, my children no longer had “safe” lives, but their future will always be secure in Christ. 

Sweet friends, I wish I could hold your hands in mine and look into your eyes and tell you that it will be ok.  It is so hard to face an uncertain future.  The nights are most difficult when our thoughts catch up with us, and as sleep escapes us, we may worry about what the future does or doesn’t hold.  However, I want to squeeze your hands reassuringly and tell you that whatever God has in store for you will be ok.  We can rest in whatever He has for us because His plan is perfect, even when it doesn’t feel that way.  Romans 8:28 says “and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.”  What a promise!  It doesn’t say that “we think” or “we believe.”  It says, “we know.”  We can know and rest in the comfort of the promise that God will work even the darkest, most heart-wrenching times in our lives for good.  The same is true for our children.  He will take the pain they have experienced and use it for good.  We cannot see it now, but just think of how God could use them someday to impact others.  We can relate so much better to others when we have been through pain.  It makes us more compassionate.  We understand better what someone else has been through.  Friends, God can use that in our children’s lives to be a light to others in a dark, broken world.  And that is something truly beautiful.  We do not know what the future holds for us or our kids, but we can be sure that he will redeem us and make “all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”  (1 Peter 5:10)

When God Seems Silent

I never would’ve written this chapter of my life – the chapter where life is hard and I stay exhausted.  The chapter where I feel like I fail more often than not.  The chapter where chaos reigns and it takes every ounce of my strength to hold everything together.  Have you ever felt this way?  Have you ever wanted to grab the pen from God and rewrite your story? 

Have you been praying for something for a long time, and you still don’t see the answer?  Sometimes, I have felt like I’ve prayed continually for wisdom, claiming his promise in James 1, but then I still don’t know what to do.  What do we do when God seems silent even after our heartfelt, tear-filled prayers? 

First of all, we turn to His word.  The 400 years between the end of the Old Testament and the time Christ was born are often called “the silent years”.  The prophets wrote about the coming of a Messiah who would save God’s people.  However, the Jews kept waiting and waiting and waiting.  After a few generations, it must’ve been hard to know if a Messiah was really coming.  God seemed silent.  However, he had a plan all along.  He would send Christ at precisely the right time.  The Messiah they waited for did far more than they ever could have imagined.  Instead of just freeing them from earthly oppression, he saved them from their sins.  He saved their souls.  

There are other examples of God’s people waiting.  David was anointed king as a teenager, but he didn’t actually become king until he was about 30 years old.  During this time, he was often fighting for his life (against the current king Saul).  Joseph eventually became second in command to the Pharaoh of Egypt, but about 13 years passed between the time he was sold into slavery until this occurred.  Part of this time, he was a slave in Potiphar’s household.  Part of this time, he spent in prison for something he did not do. 

It had to have seemed like God was silent during these times, but he wasn’t.  He clearly had a plan for their lives, and by faith, we trust that He has a plan for our lives too.  Simply put, when God seems silent, He’s not.  He is simply waiting for the appointed time because his timeline is perfect.  There’s a song on the radio currently, and part of the lyrics state, “Even when I don’t see it, you’re working.  Even when I can’t feel it, you’re working.  You never stop, you never stop working.”  God is always working, whether we feel like it or not.  This is where faith comes in.  We believe in what we cannot see. 

Psalm 84:5a and 7a say, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you…they go from strength to strength.”  This is a beautiful picture.  As God’s children, we will have valleys, but we don’t dwell there.  We are just passing through the low spots in life on our way to the next strength. 

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  Again, we will have difficult periods in life, but God strengthens us to face these hard times, even when we’re exhausted.  Even when we don’t feel it. 

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  When we are going through tough times, our faith is tested.  Do we really believe that his grace is sufficient for us?  Do we really trust that He will empower us to do what He has called us to do?  During these times, we must trust and keep reminding ourselves of these promises.  Like the father in Mark 9:24, we must pray and ask God to help our unbelief.  If you come to him earnestly, seeking Him, He won’t turn you away.  He knows when we’re going through affliction, and He wants to comfort us.  He wants to strengthen us, as we depend on Him. 

“God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”  Habakkuk 3:19

Hope for 2021

This year has been hard.  It’s been full of setbacks, disappointments, and obstacles.  People have lost jobs, businesses, or loved ones.  At the very least, it’s been full of craziness and uncertainty.  For many of us, it was full of challenges and struggles.  That’s why the words I came across in Philippians today are so meaningful; Paul wrote them while in prison.  He didn’t know how his life would turn out.  He didn’t know if he would be executed, yet he wrote about joy and strength. 

In Chapter 2, he recounts the story of Christ.  Verse 8 ends with the death of Jesus.  In the world’s eyes, this was the end of the story.  Evil had won.  The religious leaders had gotten what they wanted.  However, God had another plan.  Verse 9 begins with two amazing, impactful words, “Therefore God.”  What seemed like the end was really just the beginning.  God had a purpose in the death and suffering of Christ – to give him the name above every name and to raise him from the dead.  Friends, this is hope for us today and hope for us for the upcoming year.  When we feel like life is just hard for a really long time, and it doesn’t seem like things are getting any better, God always has a purpose.  At some point in our story, he will write these words into our lives, “Therefore God.” 

I don’t know what the new year holds.  I pray it’s better than 2020, but what I do know is this – God has a purpose in all of it.  God will redeem our pain and what we’ve been through and use it as part of our story to bring glory to himself and to further his kingdom.  When things seem difficult, know that God will strengthen you.  In Philippians 2:13, we are reminded that “it is God who works in you”, and the best reminder of all is in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” 

Father, please strengthen us for whatever this new year holds.  I pray it’s better and less chaotic than this year.  Whatever comes, I pray you would help us persevere and rely on you and trust in your plan, no matter what.  I pray that you would be glorified in our lives and work all things for good.  In the name of your Son we pray, Amen. 

Merry Christmas, I’m Exhausted

Friends, I feel tired all the time.  Sometimes, it’s just a little fatigued.  Other times, I can barely get my kids to bed before I crash.  I’ve wondered, “Am I just a low energy person?  Why am I so tired all the time?”  Then, it occurred to me.  I’m not just taking care of four little (or not so little) people.  I’m fighting a war – a battle for their souls. 

Paul frequently refers to the Christian life as a fight.  In fact, he tells the Ephesians to put on the armor of God daily in order to fight the schemes of the devil.  Peter says that our adversary “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8b)  We’re exhausted because we are fighting for our children’s souls every single day.  We pray with them and for them.  We do Bible study with them.   Then, we have to make them be still and quiet while we do Bible study with them.  We teach them Scripture.  We take them to church.  If you homeschool, you also educate your children.  If your kids go to school, you help them with their homework.  You cook for them.  Then, you have to make them eat it while they complain.  We remind them to speak kindly and to share.  We tell them to make good choices.  We tell them to be diligent in all that they do.  Each of these is an act of war against the one who wants to derail them, take them out of the fight.  Satan doesn’t attack those who are already his. 

So what do we do when we’re bone-weary?  First of all, sweet friends, “fight the good fight of the faith.”  (1 Timothy 6:12a)  Next, remember you’re not in the fight alone.  God himself fights with us because he loves our children too.  In fact, we need to remember that they are his, not our’s.  He loans them to us to raise, but ultimately, they come from him and are his; like us, they were bought with the blood of his Son.  Even on the hard days, keep telling yourself that God is with you.  He still loves you.  He’s on your side, even when it doesn’t feel like it.  The holidays can be especially hard, but as I’ve said before, don’t trust your feelings.  Here’s some tips for getting through this time. 

  1. Get plenty of rest. 

After your kids go to bed, it’s tempting to stay up and watch TV.  Try to resist that urge and get plenty of sleep so you’re not tired and grumpy the following day. 

  • Eat healthy and exercise.

This one is difficult.  However, taking care of yourself makes you healthier, less likely to get sick, and you’ll just generally feel better. 

  • You don’t have to do it all. 

You don’t have to do all the stuff for Christmas you normally do.  Just because you did it last year doesn’t mean you have to do it this year.  Don’t wear yourself out trying to do a bunch of crafts with your kids or putting up all your decorations. 

  • Take a break.

Go to the grocery store, and buy some frozen pizzas.  Make those for dinner and have a family movie night.  You can also just put a movie on for your kids while you eat pizza in bed and watch your own movie.  With this one, you don’t have to stand up and cook a normal meal and you don’t have to listen to your kids complain about it. 

  • Go simple and minimal with gifts.

For extended family or friends, just buy one thing or nothing at all, if necessary.  This has been a hard year, but it’s been especially hard for single moms.  If they can’t understand that, then it’s their problem to deal with. 

  • On the hard days, do something for yourself. 

Go buy yourself a new sweater or a new color of nail polish.  If you’re feeling extravagant, get someone to watch your kids and go get a massage.  Just do a little something to refresh your spirits so you can keep fighting this fight and taking care of all the little people who depend on you. 

  • This season is not forever.

This is one I struggle with.  When the hits keep on coming, it’s so hard to believe things will get better.  I don’t want to get my hopes up only to have them dashed against the rocks of difficulty.  However, without hope, we lose joy.  Without joy, we lose strength.  Without strength, it’s really hard to fight the war.  So keep on hoping. 

Take a moment and just breathe deeply.  Remember that this season is about the God of the universe, who created you with a special purpose, folding himself into flesh so that he could be Immanuel, God with us.  He’s with us today through his Holy Spirit.  He will never leave you, and someday, through faith in Christ, we will be with him face-to-face forever

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12

Accepting What You Cannot Change

True contentment lies not in liking our circumstances but rather in accepting the life God has given us, trusting that He is good and sovereign and that all seasons of life work for our good.  However, this is easier said than done, especially when our life looks nothing like we expected.  It is difficult when life is painful and hard.  It’s excruciating when we feel like God is silent, distant, and uncaring about our situation.  We start believing the enemy’s lies that we are alone, that God isn’t for us, and that things will not get better.  We begin losing hope.  That is when despair creeps in, depression and loneliness too. 

I look at the negative all around me instead of the positive.  I see my oldest one pinning down his younger brother for going into his room without knocking.  I hear my youngest pulling a fit because he didn’t get his way.  I feel like banging my head on the wall because a certain child still forgets some of her sight words when she’s reading.  I listen to the enemy’s lies that I’m not good enough.  I feel like a failure.  Maybe you have too.  I tell God that he overestimated my abilities to parent my children and to do this life he handed me. 

How do we change this?  By looking to the cross.  Jesus displays the best, most submissive example of acceptance.  The night before he was crucified, he begged God, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  (Matthew 26:39b)  Jesus asked God to change his circumstances, but he trusted God, no matter the outcome.  Friends, that is what we must do.  We pray and ask God to relieve our pain and to make life better, but we trust Him even if he doesn’t. 

This brings to my mind the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  They acknowledged that God could save them from the fiery furnace, but they diligently trusted God even if He didn’t.  (Daniel 3)  What would this look like for us?  It means trusting God even when we don’t know how our story ends.  It means choosing to find the joy in today rather than hoping you will find it in the future.  We resolve to praise God for the things that are going right in our life rather than dwelling on what is not.  Do not listen to the voices of criticism in your head or from others.  Listen to the words and promises God declares over you. 

            He will exult over you with loud singing.  (Zephaniah 3:17)

            He chose you before the foundation of the world.  (Ephesians 1:4)

            He has a plan for you.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

            He will not leave you or forsake you.   (Deuteronomy 31:6)

            You are precious in his eyes, and honored, and He loves you.  (Isaiah 43:4)

When life is hard and not what we wanted, we must choose daily (and sometimes minute by minute) to not give in to the voice of the evil one but rather preach truth to our heart from the heart of God as displayed in his living and active Word. 

I have a little wooden sign in my living room that says, “God is faithful in every season.”  He is good in all seasons of life, not just the good ones.  We trust that He is doing something in our lives, even in the winters, and we know that no suffering is without purpose in the plan of God. 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When Life Doesn’t Get Easier

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What do you do when pain is your constant companion?  How do you keep on going when life stays hard and uncertain?  It’s then that our faith kicks in.  When life gets really tough, I’ve asked God, “Why?  Why me?  Why did you decide to take my husband?  Why did you look at my children and decide they didn’t need their father?”  I also tend to beg God to remove my difficulties.  However, there’s a much different example in Scripture of how to deal with difficulty.  In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were beaten ruthlessly for helping a slave girl.  After being fastened in stocks in a jail cell, they didn’t complain.  They didn’t question God’s love for them.  They didn’t ask God why.  Do you know what they did?  Verse 25 says they were praying and singing praises to God.  Later on, we discover that as a result of their faith, the foundations of the prison were shaken.  Other prisoners heard the gospel and the jailer’s family became believers.  God had a purpose in their suffering.

In Deuteronomy, the Israelites are beginning to conquer the promised land.  In Chapter 7, God tells them that he will help them conquer their enemies little by little.  They would end up spending years at war to defeat the peoples that lived there.  God tells them that he won’t let them conquer their enemies too quickly, “lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you.”  (Deuteronomy 7:22b)  Ideally, they would’ve quickly defeated their enemies, but there was something more that God saw.  He could see the future repercussions of a quick victory – wild animals that would become too prevalent and pose a danger to them.  Sometimes, when we beg God to remove a trial in our life, we can’t see the other consequences.  We must trust that God has a reason to leave us in difficulty, just as He had a reason for not giving immediate victory to the Israelites.

One of the hardest things about being stuck in a trial is it sometimes leaves us feeling inadequate.  Have you ever felt like God overestimated your abilities when he decided to take your husband and leave you to raise your children alone?   I certainly have.  In the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, a little boy offered Jesus his two fish and five loaves of bread.  Jesus didn’t criticize him for not having more to offer.  He just took what the little boy offered and made it enough.  God can do the same for us.  He knows he left us with a monumental task.  We need to do our best, but then instead of feeling shame for what we can’t do, know that God will take what you offer and make it enough.

Lord, please help us surrender our questions to you because, at the end of the day, no amount of answers can heal our hearts.  Only you can.  Help us to have the kind of faith that would shake the ground we’re standing on and bring honor and glory to you.  Help us to trust that you will take what we can offer and make it enough.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen. 

When we can’t change our life circumstances, it can help to change what we can change.  Buy a new dress.  Change your hairstyle.  Redecorate.  It’s not a long-term solution,  but it can help to give you something else to focus on for a little while.  Sometimes, that’s all we need to lift our spirits a little.  It also helps to just take a break.  Make an easy dinner and snuggle with your kids while you watch a family movie.  Purposefully plan a weekend where you don’t do much.  These little things can go a long way toward helping us keep on going.  Know that someday things will get easier.  In the meantime, trust that God has a plan for you.

mom snuggling with kids